Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Call

April Fool's Day is the best day on the intertoobs.

Ever wanted to make your next long-distance journey seem that little bit more epic? Well now you can, thanks to a new 8-bit version of Google Maps. Similar in style to old Enix (now Square Enix) games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) era, this new way to view Google Maps will definitely give your next journey that sense of adventure.

The pixel style map can be accessed by visiting the regular Google Maps website: all you have to do is click the 'Quest' option, alongside the usual 'Earth' and 'Satellite' buttons. Once clicked, the map you are viewing will be transformed into 8-bit goodness.

I love this.

Chart Of The Day

The Obama administration explains what the Affordable Care Act means for women:

Do we understand now why a national health care law is necessary and why "leaving it to the states" is a bad idea?  Good then.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Via John Cole, I see the National Review's Rich Lowry is going race bating with the deaths of other young black men "liberals don't care about".

There is no comparable epidemic of half-Hispanic neighborhood-watch volunteers like George Zimmerman shooting young black men. Nor is there an epidemic of cops doing the same. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that in New York City, there were nine civilian victims of police gunfire last year, whereas there were “several hundred black homicide victims in the city, almost all shot by other blacks or Hispanics, none of them given substantial press coverage.”

An allegedly racially motivated killing, though, gins up the outrage machine in a way the routine murder of young blacks doesn’t. Cable-TV outlets get to host fiery debates. Chin-stroking commentators get to urge more “dialogue.” Black leaders get to relive the glory of a civil-rights cause that won its major victories decades ago when it took real courage to be on the front lines. And everybody gets to evade the intraracial mayhem that blights the country’s inner cities.

An injustice may well have been done in the handling of the Martin shooting, but let’s not fool ourselves. Zimmerman could be arrested, convicted, and hanged tomorrow, and it will have no effect on the lives of young black people in communities beset by social disorder. Whatever happens to Zimmerman, the drip-drip of spilled blood will continue, all but ignored except in the police blotter. In America, the lives of young black people are cheap, unless they happen to fit the right agenda.

I'll let Cole take it from here.

That’s one reason why the Trayvon Martin case is different. We know precisely who killed him, yet he walks free and clear. That is why the outrage is so loud. Trayvon Martin was killed for the crime of walking while black, the cops did nothing to investigate his death and appear to be actively impeding any investigation, they basically gave his killer a pat on the back before sending him on his way, and then they slapped a John Doe tag on his corpse and threw him into the morgue’s lost and found pile.

Yes, each and everyone of the murders that halfwit Lowry mentioned is awful. Yes, black on black crime is awful. But in each case above, the victim’s family are receiving some semblance of justice.

And that is all anyone wants for Trayvon Martin. Justice.

Lowry just can’t be that stupid.

He's not being stupid.  He's race-baiting on purpose.  He's trying to deflect the anger of Martin's killer going free by saying the rest of liberal America, particularly black America, doesn't get outraged about black teens killing other black teens, so that there's no moral high road for them to complain now.

Of course that's completely false for the reasons John Cole lists above.  When a black teenager kills someone, odds a pretty damn good he or she is going away for a very long time.  The police investigate.  The killer is arrested, tried, and if the evidence proves it, convicted.  Sometimes the evidence is less than sound and the black teenager is convicted anyway.  That happens to white killers too, I understand.  Sometimes the killer goes free in the opposite effect where a jury acquits on technical grounds or they just decide otherwise.

But the one thing that nobody is doubting here is the fact that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.  And as Cole says, he hasn't been arrested for that.

Hence the outrage.  Hence also why Rich Lowry is full of shit.  All the people trying to make it about Al Sharpton being involved or black/liberal/human outrage or Trayvon Martin's school suspensions or anything else is a distraction designed to excuse themselves from the very same behavior that Lowry is projecting onto everyone else.

Trayvon is dead.  His killer has not been arrested, charged, or even indicted yet, even though he has admitted to shooting him.  And yes, there's a racial component to Martin being denied justice and to the efforts to exonerate Zimmerman.  And this effort did not start until President Obama weighed in last week and carefully made the point that this was a tragedy.

What has happened since is a hate-by-proxy battle, where people are projecting their anger at President Obama onto a dead black teenager.  And there's a racial component of that as well.  Melissa Harris-Perry explains along with her panel today:

The outrage, Richie, is at guys like you doing everything you can to obfuscate, confuse, and obliterate the fact that Zimmerman killed Martin.

Period.  It's race-baiting.  That makes you an asshole.  Period.

Post Racial America My Ass

Jamelle Bouie at the American Prospect points out this poll:

You mean there's something wrong in America with being black in 2012?  More on that poll:

We don't need to have a national conversation on race, we need to have a national intervention on race.

Follow Up: Mindful Eating

A while back, I posted about mindful eating, which is just what it sounds like.  Putting everything else aside and focusing on what you are eating.  The results were interesting.

First, how do I normally eat?  Zandar has seen me in both eating modes, picking at food and going through a buffet like a wood chipper.  My eating habits vary, but one thing that remained the same is that I am always busy and eating became my time to plan the next several moves in [insert project].  Even when I sat down and didn't work (rare) I was still not mentally present for my meal.  Most of the time, I'm the worst about cramming down a sandwich while writing, and when it's gone I'm not satisfied so I reach for something unhealthy to finish the job.

For the last four weeks exactly, I have done something new.  Now, I didn't go so far as to meditate on every bite, but I stopped what I was doing and paid attention to the taste, texture, and difference in each bite.  I chewed carefully and didn't let myself rush, I set 30 minutes aside to eat and I could not do anything if I finished early, so there was no temptation.  Because I'm not the type to meditate, I instead thought about myself in general.  How did I feel today?  How did I sleep? Was my blood sugar spike related to stress?  Instead of putting off problems, I would solve them instead.

A month later I've lost eleven pounds, and I feel great.  I sleep better, and through no awesomeness on my own, I am now inclined to eat better foods.  I look forward to my daily meals as a much-needed break.  My blood sugar is much more stable and I have noticed the two o'clock slumps pass me by more often than not.  My blood pressure is textbook perfect (it wasn't bad but about 15 points higher than the doctor liked).  Though I work 60 minutes less per day, I accomplish more than ever.

Some of this is surely eating better.  I have always had a temperamental digestive system, so simply eating better food had an effect.  I also attribute a lot of it to the mindful aspect.  When most people hear the phrase "thinking about myself" there is an instant repulsion.  It's selfish and vain to sit and think about yourself, right?  No.  First, I didn't think about things I wanted, necessarily.  I took that time to communicate with my body, and it told me a lot.  By listening, I feel better than I have in years.

If anyone else gives it a try, please let me know how (or if) it worked for you.  I think the lack of interruption and reboot helped as much as the food, but your ideas are welcome.  It took two weeks or so before I felt a real change, but once I started to feel better it came by leaps and bounds.  I hope it works for those who give it a try!

Well We're Moving On Up

Just a programming note, as Angry Black Lady announced Friday, ABLC is moving to become part of Raw Story over this weekend. Both Bon and I will still be contributing over there and hopefully that means we'll be getting some more exposure for ZVTS.  Long time readers will note I tend to pull at least one of my StupidiNews stories every day from Raw Story and post stories from there on a fairly regular basis, and that will continue too.  It's an excellent news site and both Bon and I are really glad to be joining ABL over there.  In effect, nothing's going to really change, other than we'll get more folks at ABLC and hopefully we can pick up some new readers for here from Raw Story readers.

You can still find me at Balloon Juice and Bon at Dead Shuffle too.

And as always, we continue to thank you, the readers.

Soft Power Is Coming

While you (like me) are eagerly awaiting the season two premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO Sunday night, ThinkProgress writer Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a deliciously clever piece in Foreign Policy last July detailing the modern foreign policy lessons of the kingdom of Westeros and the application of diplomacy, war, and soft power.  It's definitely worth a re-read for fans of the books and the show.

When George R.R. Martin began his epic fantasy saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, back in 1996, he started with a domestic story about a king who was struggling to manage the country he'd seized in rebellion and the man he chose to help him rule. Fifteen years after the publication of the first book in that series, A Game of Thrones, Martin's series is an Emmy-nominated HBO show of the same name, the fifth New York Times-bestselling book has just been released (A Dance With Dragons, out last week), and the story has evolved from a dark domestic fairy tale of wicked queens and kings to a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga with complex and shifting rules of engagement -- and a surprisingly large number of lessons for the foreign-policy-inclined reader.

It turns out that, apart from the dragons and giant magical wolves, the Westeros of Martin's novels is a familiar place: The challenges of international relations are pretty much the same whether you're an American president or a feudal king; whether your national debt is due to the Chinese government or to a mystically powerful foreign bank that employs professional assassins; whether your unsavory trading partners are oil cartels or slavers; and whether your enemies are motivated by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam or by a priestess who sees the future in sacrificial fires. 

It goes from there (and yes, there are spoilers, you have been warned) but for fans of the books like myself, it's very interesting to see the similarities.  Adam Serwer at MoJo writes a more detailed piece focusing on season two (and its corresponding book, A Clash Of Kings) and how Tyrion Lannister is far better equipped as a leader than Ned Stark or Robert Baratheon, for that matter.

That we have shifted from identifying with the patriarch of the Stark family to the black sheep of their sworn enemies, the Lannisters, is more than in keeping with Martin's themes of moral ambiguity and conflicting motivations. It's one of several areas in the series where the shift from the written word to the small screen actually improves on the original story. It helps that Tyrion is no less devoted to his family than Stark—it simply happens that his family is full of moral monsters. Sean Bean's Ned Stark was the archetypical fantasy protagonist: Strong, loyal to a fault, capable in combat. Tyrion, a dwarf, requires the constant protection of his sarcastic and capable sellsword Bronn and has only a utilitarian commitment to social mores. Yet it becomes immediately apparent that he is more suited to running a kingdom than Ned Stark could ever have hoped to be.

Finally, there's an excellent NY Times piece on Emmy-award winning actor Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister in the series.

Enjoy.  Winter is coming.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Last Call

Boy, corporate America must really hate Barack Obama.

U.S. stocks closed mixed Friday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending their best first quarter in over a decade, as investors weighed a report on consumer spending and a boost in the eurozone bailout fund. 

u.s. stock market

Wow, up 8.2% for the quarter, DJIA has doubled since hitting its lows in March of 2009.

But American businesses are being crushed under Obama's regulatory tyranny and need to have Republicans like Bush take back over, so we can go from 13k to 6k again.  That'll be good for the economy and your 401(k), I'm sure.

It's all Obama's fault.

Current Affairs

Looks like Keith Olbermann has been fired from yet another network.  Again.  Jeez.  Current's brilliant idea?  Replace him with...Eliot Spitzer.

We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.  Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year.  We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.

All of these additions to Current's lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal -- the goal that has always been central to Current's mission:  To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voice is too seldom heard.  We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.

Olbermann's statement is brief:

I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better.  But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I've been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff.  Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.  To understand Mr. Hyatt's "values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty," I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee.  That employee's name was Clarence B. Cain.
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out.  For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one.  That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

"I'm sorry that my employers were douchebags who suck rat poop" is an interesting tactic, but I think the much larger problem was that my cable company didn't care Current to begin with, so I don't really miss the guy.

But seriously, if you get tossed off Current for being too much of a fringer, it's time for an intervention.  I like Keith the newsman.  I don't like Keith's Ego, the newsman.  Really.  Yes, seeing a liberal voice go out like this is awful.  But KO is not entirely without fault, either.

We'll see how long Spitzer lasts, I guess.

Do These Guys Ever Get Tired Of Being Wrong All The Time?

Power Line's Steven Hayward:  "Obama's finished!  Through!  Done!  Over!  Kaput!  GOP permarule is imminent!"

It is typical for politically-engaged people to note the weaknesses and defects of their own side, while overestimating the strength and prowess of their opponents.  This is not a bad instinct, but sometimes it’s worth stepping back and trying to view the whole scene from a neutral perspective.  It is possible a neutral or objective observer would conclude that the Left has just had about the worst month in longer than I can recall.

So, cue the observers.

President Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead over GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in hypothetical general election matchups, according to a new poll. And a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday also indicates that the president's approval rating has inched over the 50% mark in CNN surveys for the first time since last May, when the polls were still registering the after effects of the death of Osama bin Laden. The number of Americans who say the economy's in good shape has jumped 13 points since January, though the survey shows a majority still think it is in poor shape.

Yep.  Worst month for the left in memory.

A Refreshing Change

It's truly not my intent to start another minimum wage discussion, but I want to honor any attempt to take care of American workers and take care of the people who are building and maintaining our country.

WASHINGTON -- Legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Thursday included a litany of measures aimed at boosting income for low-wage workers, most notably raising the minimum wage significantly and pegging it to inflation.

Along with spending on school modernization and renewable energy development, the Rebuild America Act calls for raising the minimum wage from the current federal level of $7.25 to $9.80 -- a 35 percent hike -- over the course of two and a half years, then indexing it so it rises with the cost of living. For restaurant servers and other tipped employees, the minimum wage before tips would leap from the current $2.13 to $6.86, and then track at 70 percent of the normal minimum wage.

It gets better, with talks about required paid sick leave and increased ability to join unions. If we are lucky, Harkin can start high, negotiate to the middle and come out with some benefits that help people on the brink of going under.

In the middle of the other news, I was encouraged by this. I hope you are too, even if just a little.

Boy Arrested When He Came Back To Get His Tricycle

You can't make this stuff up, folks.  Read the full article here.

FORT WALTON BEACH — A 10-year-old boy was charged with felony burglary after he allegedly stole a $400 bicycle and an Airsoft rifle from a garage.

While the woman who lived at the address was inside the house, the child came into the garage and took her son's air rifle, then came back and took her bicycle, according to a Fort Walton Beach Police report.

The boy rode his tricycle to the house and left it there when he stole the bicycle, according to the report. He came back later to get his tricycle and was spotted by the woman's fiance.

He was arrested in front of his parents, for burglary of an occupied dwelling. It's laughable and horrifying all at once.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Greg Sargent asks on SCOTUS this week:

How did so many commentators predicting this would be a slam dunk for the Obama administration get it so wrong?

Because there are four GOP teabaggers on the Supreme Court, Greg.  And they are just as awful as the 228 teabaggers in the House and the 47 teabaggers in the Senate.

These people are crazy. At bare minimum by doing anything less than calling them crazy, you enable them.

She Scienced Me, We're Blinded

Anti-science conservatives are now the norm in the United States, and their trust in science has now hit a new all-time low.

It's not just the vitriol surrounding this year's upcoming election: More conservatives than ever distrust science, according to a report released Thursday.

Just 35 percent of conservatives said they had a "great deal of trust in science" in 2010, a 28 percent decline since 1974, when 48 percent of conservatives—about the same percentage as liberals—trusted science. Liberal and moderate support for science has remained essentially flat since 1974, according to Gordon Gauchat, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He published his findings in the journal American Sociological Review.

About 41 percent of Americans identify as "conservative," according to an August poll by Gallup, up from 37 percent in 2008.

Gauchat says conservatives' rebellion against the "elite" and the shifting role of science in society is to blame for the decline. He argues that the conservative minority has rebelled against science in the same way it has against media and higher education.

Gauchat has a real point here.  Anti-science, anti-education, anti-critical thought dogma makes control of the populace easier, as well as making them poorer.  Conservatives keep talking about how self-made billionaires are the greatest people on the planet -- Bill Gates dropped out of college! -- and that education is a fool's game for those who can't afford to pay cash.

For the wealthy of course, well they go to school.  Republicans want you stupid, pliable, and uninformed.  You're much easier to fleece that way.  Look at all the conservative media telling you college is for suckers, that evolution is fake, that science itself is fatally flawed because it can never be 100% proven, unlike faith in a higher power.

Leave it all to God, they shout.  And also give us all your money.  Or those smart people will end up being your bosses or something!  Stupidity is Freedom, my friends!

Take the percentage of people worldwide who believe in evolution.  How successful have the anti-science jagoffs been?  This successful:

Notice in America how 40% of us believe evolution is true, 40% believe it's false, and 20% in the middle aren't sure.   Science isn't politicized?  Judging by these numbers, science and politics are the same.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last Call

Remember, it wasn't the "Senate" that refused to vote to end oil subsidies for companies making record profits, it was Republicans who filibustered it.

The Senate on Thursday thwarted Democratic plans to strip billions of dollars in tax breaks from the largest oil companies, just an hour or so after President Obama urged the chamber to kill off the deductions.

Lawmakers voted 51-47 to move forward with Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) bill. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure.

Two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine — crossed party lines and voted to repeal the tax breaks. Four Democrats — Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jim Webb (Va.) — voted against the bill.

The outcome of the vote was not a surprise, given that a similar plan failed 52-48 last May. But the decision to take another shot at passing the bill— and the decision by the White House to wade into the fight — underscore the political salience of rising gasoline prices in an election year.

The senators bought and paid for by big oil made sure they get to eat from the government trough even though they collectively made billions in profits last year.  Good ol Mitch the Turtle complained that the oil companies would immediately turn around and punish consumers if they lost their fat government subsidies, so it was in fact Republicans who were protecting you from higher gas prices.

No, stop laughing.

The free market is necessary.  Except when the government is paying corporate donors.

Chris Bag O' Matzohs

So with all the "will he or won't he" speculation about Marco Rubio being the Marquis de Mittens Liason To The 99% or something this week, I wondered what our old friend Chris Christie is doing in the meantime when all the attention is on Marco here.  Don't feel too bad for Christie though.  Turns out he's heading to Jerusalem for Holy Week on somebody else's dime.

In a trip billed as a "Jersey to Jerusalem Trade Mission", Gov. Chris Christie will travel to Israel during Holy Week to expand business opportunities, experience the culture and meet with world leaders. He will also spend time in Jordan with King Abdullah II.
A delegation of business and religious leaders will join Christie, his family and staff, the administration announced this afternoon. The Republican governor will be in Israel from Sunday through Thursday and Jordan until Easter Sunday.
“I think it’s important for me to continue to get a greater awareness of the world around me as a leader and someone who now has a bit of a national voice,” Christie said in an interview in Washington in late February. “I think it’s important for me to continue to open up my mind and my experience to things that are outside of the state of New Jersey.”

Good general advice for anyone, I would think.  Worked for Dubya, after all.  Heck, the same group that inflicted him and Mittens on Israel is picking up the tab for Christie here, the Republican Jewish Coalition.  He may not be the flavor of the month, but he's still on the fast track to be the face of compassionate austerity for the party.  Who knows.

So no, the GOP hasn't kicked Chris off a cliff or anything.  They're still investing plenty in him so he'll plague us later.  Oy vey.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

And Tom Maguire at Just One Minute goes there on the new police station surveillance video that shows a relatively uninjured George Zimmerman being brought in to the Sanford, Florida police station after killing Trayvon Martin.

AND NOW A TOUGH ONE:  Ok, where is the wound on the back of Zimmerman's head on this ABC News video?  The best view is at the 1:01 mark, and I don't even see anything that looks like a band-aid.

Minimal damage would not have surprised me, especially to the face - normally broken noses and black eyes reach their flowering the next morning, so clean off his face and he might look fine that night. But the cut to the back of the head mentioned in the police report?  Where is that?
Well, unless this is a massive police cover-up with phony reports released to the public, someone saw bloodHmm, 'Truthers' become 'Trayvoners'...

Yes, because the folks who believed Dubya killed thousands on purpose are just as insane as people who believe black folk might get shafted by police when the killer is the son of a retired judge, because that never happens. Jesus seal the airlocks.

Need A Cheap Hobby? Try Stalking.

For only $3.99 per month, OnStar customers can now track drivers of their vehicles.  They can tell where you are, how fast you drove, where you stopped, and how long you stopped there.

But noooo, that's not over the line.

Sure, concerned parents can use it to monitor their kids.  Psychos can use it to stalk their significant others.  Law enforcement and OnStar have the ability to go way beyond our expectation of privacy. We don't just have to look at this service, but how it can be used against us, because that is inevitable.  For every alibi verified, or teen spared from teen stupidity, how many will be snooped without knowledge or permission?

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  There are apps and other ways to show a person's location, there is no need to give even further intrusion.  You can slap a sticker on it that says concerned parent, but I'm not buying it.

Screw That, Man

An Illinois couple is behind bars after a man allegedly beat his 12-year-old stepson, made him eat two screws and then forced him to do hundreds of pushups.

James Jennings and his wife, Lashawn Jennings -- who is the victim's adoptive mother -- were charged with child endangerment and other counts after the boy reported the alleged assault to his school nurse, CBS News reported.

He was also beaten with a wooden paddle until it broke. His back and arms were bruised. Nobody is even trying to pretend this is the first time. What did he do? He ate a cookie and got crumbs in the floor.  I cannot imagine what abuses and terrors he suffered that built up to the event that brought it all down.  I hope he is safe tonight, and is placed with someone who will care for him.

Eating screws?  Please let me follow up and report they didn't get away with this.

Supreme Superlatives, Part 2

Lyle Denniston, of SCOTUSblog, ladies and gents.  Shorter SCOTUS:  "Bill's too long, didn't read."

The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that.  A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress.  They could not come together, however, on just what task they would send across the street for the lawmakers to perform.  The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself.

The dilemma could be captured perfectly in two separate comments by Justice Antonin Scalia — first, that it “can’t be right” that all of the myriad provisions of the law unrelated to the mandate had to fall with it, but, later, that if the Court were to strike out the mandate, “then the statute’s gone.”  Much of the lively argument focused on just what role the Court would more properly perform in trying to sort out the consequences of nullifying the requirement that virtually every American have health insurance by the year 2014.

The Wednesday morning argument offered the Court three mutually exclusive options: strike down all of the Affordable Care Act along with the mandate (the challengers’ position), strike down only two core changes in the way the health insurance system works (the government position), and strike down nothing but the mandate (the position of a Court-appointed lawyer).   Not one seemed to be especially appealing to members of the Court, and each of the three lawyers who came to the lectern faced tough and often skeptical questioning, from across the bench.

Congress’s capacity to react in a sensible way also came into some question, particularly from Justice Scalia and, in a way, from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, both of whom seemed to harbor doubts that the lawmakers would be up to the task of working out a new health care law if this one failed, either totally or partially.  Scalia noted the problems in the filibuster-prone Senate.  Kennedy wondered whether expecting Congress to perform was a reference to “the real Congress or a hypothetical Congress.”

At this point it's looking like the health care law will stand not on its legal merits, but because the only people less inclined to expend energy to fix the law than Antonin Scalia is Congress itself.

Awesome.  Washington is full of awesome.

The Rock Biter's Guide To HCR

"So," they said.  "We don't think SCOTUS will repeal the entire health care reform law, or gut the law and effectively end it, because that would put all the pressure on the GOP to replace it with something.  There would be a hole in one-sixth of the US economy.  They'd have do something about it."

And as anyone who is familiar with The Neverending Story can tell you, the GOP is all about embracing the Nothing as far as health care reform (and with it, government itself).  As the Rock Biter said when asked what was destroying his peoples' lands and what was left as a result:

A hole would be something. No, it was...Nothing.

Steve Benen points out that the GOP is perfectly okay with the HCR Nothing taking over. Repeal and Replace is now just Repeal and The Nothing.

When the debate over health care reform got underway in earnest in 2009, Frank Luntz and other GOP pollsters/strategists warned the party that Americans expected improvements to the dysfunctional system, and Republicans couldn't simply say "no" to everything.

Three years later, that's effectively where the party has ended up: wanting to go back to the mess "Obamacare" is cleaning up.

But what about McConnell's main idea? It's one of the GOP's favorite talking points: we don't need real reform; we just need to let consumers buy across state lines. President Obama and the Affordable Care Act allow this, but set minimum standards that states must abide by. McConnell and his party want to go further, removing, or at least severely weakening, those standards.

This is generally called the "race to the bottom." Under McConnell's vision, state policymakers would tell insurers that if they were to set up shop in their state the rules would be written in the industry's favor. The industry would go with the state that offered the sweetest deal -- which is to say, the most lax oversight with the fewest restrictions -- and before long, it would be consumers' only choice. Why? Because every insurer would move to that state, leaving Americans with no other coverage to buy.

That's exactly what happened with the credit card industry, and it's a model to be avoided, not followed.

But tossing us all into The Nothing is what the GOP wants. They "want to give the power to the states" because it's FREEDOM and junk, and instead we'll get the same awful abuses that the credit card industry has been perpetrating on consumers for years, only far worse because this time it will involve health insurance and health care itself. The cheapest, meanest policies that cover the least in health care and have massive deductibles will be the only ones left for the vast majority of Americans and the insurance industry will pocket the difference.  Can't afford it?  There's Nothing you can do about it.  Keen observers will note that the Nothing applies to any social government functions:  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and retirement, environmental protections, education, food safety, financial products, everything.  You can't provide it yourself because you can't afford it?  You get Nothing.

So no, I don't believe for a second that the GOP will have to replace HCR with something. That would be something, after all. What they want is Nothing.

And the folks that are expecting single payer to rise from the ashes should HCR get mauled?  With a GOP House?  No.  the rocks must be delicious in your world, but single payer ain't happening until there's a seismic shift in the red/blue ratio.  Unless you think this particular SCOTUS is going to rewrite the universe and declare that Congress has to pass a single payer law, in which case the rocks are delicious in your world and they're made of 100% unicorn poop.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Last Call

Megadeth rock icon Dave Mustaine:  Birther idiot.  Santorum supporter.  Oy.

Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine said in an interview with a Canadian television show “The Hour” that he “has a lot of questions about him [President Obama], but certainly not where he was born. I know he was born somewhere else than America.”

“Well, then you’re a birther,” said host George Stroumboulopoulos, who had asked Mustaine directly whether he was one.

“No I’m not calling a question to it, I just, you know, what’s the point?” Mustaine said, who then proceeded to say that Obama had been “invisible” until he became President.

Earlier in the interview, Mustaine had lamented the state of American politics, casting aspersions on nearly all the Republican candidates as well, except for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Mustaine previously said that he hoped Santorum would make it to the White House, and then said he hadn’t actually given his endorsement, essentially citing some semantics about what he meant.

In the new interview, Mustaine said that Santourm “…just looks like he could be a really cool president, kinda like a JFK type of guy.”

OK, sort of a birther idiot, sort of a Santorum supporter.  Sort of.   Still a douchebag.

Husker Do (Or Don't)

Early PPP polling from Nebraska shows pretty much what I expected:  Bob Kerrey is in deep trouble after his "will I, won't I, maybe" dance to get into the Senate race and as a result, he's likely to lose Ben Nelson's old seat in November to GOP Secretary of State Jon Bruning unless he gets his ass in gear.

PPP's newest Nebraska Senate poll finds that Democrats are in a much worse position with Bob Kerrey as their candidate than they would have been with Ben Nelson, and that Jon Bruning is now a strong favorite in both the primary and general elections.

Kerrey's campaign rollout has not been a success. In October his favorability rating in the state was a +5 spread at 39/34. Since then it's dropped 20 points on the margin to -15 at 36/51. Kerrey's stayed steady with Democrats but has seen large drops with independents (from 47/24 to 36/38) and with Republicans (from 23/47 to 16/74).

Kerrey trails the top 3 Republican contenders by double digits. He's down 17 to Jon Bruning at 54-37, 14 to Don Stenberg at 52-38, and 10 to Deb Fischer at 48-38. In PPP's last poll before he announced his retirement Ben Nelson trailed Bruning by only 4, Stenberg by 3, and actually led Fischer by 2. This does not appear to be one of those instances where a retirement left the party better off.

There are two things a Democrat has to be able to do to win in Nebraska: peel off a lot of Republican votes and win independents by a wide margin. Zeroing in on the match up with Bruning, Kerrey is doing neither of those things. He's actually losing 18% of the Democratic vote to Bruning, more than the 12% of the Republican vote that he's winning over. And he trails 44-42 with independents as well. 

In other words, there's strong evidence Ben Nelson would have been a better choice to hold the seat, and he dicked the party over by ducking out just weeks before the filing deadline, leaving the Dems with Bob Kerrey.

And it looks like Kerrey may lose by 20 points.

However, this was to be expected, so we'll see.  It means holding Ohio and backing Sherrod Brown is even more important.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

There's a really simple reason why unemployment is higher in red states:  Republicans fired far more state and local employees in order to pay for additional tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, which...surprise...did not create additional jobs!

Nearly all of the job losses took place at the state and local level, and they were most severe in a handful of GOP-controlled states. In other words, erosion of public sector employment isn’t a problem affecting the entire country equally—it’s a problem in particular states, thanks to very particular legislators. As the following chart shows, seven states laid off more than 2.5 percent of their own state and local workforce. Other states lost, on average, less than half a percent of their workforce.

Of the eleven states in which Republicans came into power in 2010 – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – five were among the seven states that lost more than 2.5 percent of their workforce from December 2010 to December 2011. The remaining 42 states lost an average 0.5 percent (there is no data for Mississippi).

So yeah.  It's been a nightmare for these states because the GOP fired hundreds of thousands of people to pay for more tax cuts for really rich people and businesses.

Do we get it yet, America?

Arguably The Biggest Dick Move Ever

Ladies and gentlmen, the National Rifle Association.

The National Rifle Association has a new item in its online store: hoodies, with a special pocket designed to conceal a handgun. Hooded sweatshirts have taken on new meaning in the last week as a symbol for Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed while wearing one last month. Last week, Geraldo Rivera speculated that it was Trayvon’s hoodie that was to blame for his death, sparking widespread criticism. “We want concealed carry to fit around your lifestyle — not the other way around. That’s why we developed the NRAstore exclusive Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt,” reads the product description. If enough people buy them, Rivera may be right to assume some hoodies can be dangerous.

This is pretty much the most singularly repugnant and amorally insidious middle finger to the black community and human being with a conscience than I have seen in a very long time.  I am convinced that this has to be an Onion parody or the best hack Anonymous has ever pulled.

Since it's not, it's basically a giant eff you to everyone backing Trayvon Martin.  And a not-so-gentle reminder that the NRA thinks people who wear hoodies really are dangerous.

For liberals, that is.  Well played, NRA.  Well played indeed.

12-Year-Old's Probation Revoked

A probation officer has moved to revoke the probation of a 12-year-old St. Johns, Ariz., boy who killed his father four years ago, alleging that the child repeatedly threatened staffers and damaged property at a treatment center in Phoenix.

Christian Romero was 8 when he shot his father, Vincent Romero, and family friend Timothy Romans, with a .22 rifle. As the youngest defendant ever in Arizona, his case became tangled in legal questions about competency to stand trial, and about where he would be placed upon conviction.

After 14 months of negotiations, Christian pleaded guilty to the negligent homicide of his dad and was sentenced to indefinite time in residential care, with probation until age 18.

When he was eight, he ambushed and murdered his father and another man, and due to his actions they are going to make sure he never sees the outside of a mental institution. It's sad to know a man will live a lifetime behind bars for what he did when he was eight, even if I totally understand that he is a danger to others and shouldn't be set free. His case is so rare that unless something impressive is missing, he may be the only child I ever heard of who was so careful... and successful.

Senator Facepalm Strikes Again

Just...effing seriously, Rand Paul?  Kentucky families are putting record profits in oil companies' pockets and you say "Hey, let's fleece the rubes even more!"

Instead of punishing them, you should want to encourage them. I would think you would want to say to the oil companies, “What obstacles are there to you making more money?” And hiring more people. Instead they say, “No, we must punish them. We must tax them more to make things fair.” This whole thing about fairness is so misguided and gotten out of hand.

Which would be great, except that even making record profits, the goddamn oil companies LAID OFF11,000 PEOPLE.

Meanwhile, the oil industry is not using its profits to hire more people. Paul falsely claimed the oil companies employ 9.2 million people — in fact, there are only 2.2 million jobs in the entire oil industry, and 40 percent of those jobs are minimum-wage work at gas stations. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP have shed their U.S. workforce by 11,200 between 2005 to 2010, according to a report last year. Big Oil isn’t investing in renewable energy or in reducing oil spills, either.

So no, you moron, try again.

“We as a society need to glorify those who make a profit,” Paul concluded.

Then why do they need subsidies?  Jesus hell, I cannot wait to vote this asshole out of office.

Supreme Superlatives

The even-handed Lyle Denniston at the indispensable SCOTUSblog recaps day two of the Supreme Court's oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, focusing Tuesday on the individual mandate.

If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive.  If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and a majority along with him.  But if he does not, the mandate is gone.  That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior.

If the vote had been taken after Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., stepped back from the lectern after the first 56 minutes, and the audience stood up for a mid-argument stretch, the chances were that the most significant feature of the Affordable Care Act would have perished in Kennedy’s concern that it just might alter the fundamental relationship between the American people and their government.   But after two arguments by lawyers for the challengers — forceful and creative though they were — at least doubt had set in and expecting the demise of the mandate seemed decidedly premature.

The Justices will cast their first votes on the mandate’s constitutionality later this week, and there are perhaps three months of deliberations that would then follow.  Much will be said and written within the Court in private during that time, and that obviously could affect the ultimate outcome.  The argument on Tuesday pointed the Justices in opposite directions – the first hour against the mandate, the second hour cautiously in its favor.   Curiously, that was just the opposite of what the lawyers were seeking out of their side of the hearing.

In other words, the government's side is getting 4 votes, period.  It's not at all clear if the challengers will get more than 3.  Chief Justice "sensible centrist" Roberts is leaving the door open to make it 6-3 should Kennedy side with Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan and Ginsburg.  While nobody really sees Roberts and Kennedy going opposite ways on this, it's possible.  But a 5-4 vote on a case this big would be a disaster for the court, much like Bush v. Gore.  Roberts knows this.

I still say the law survives as is.  But if I'm wrong, it would be that the law was overwhelmingly struck down with the expectation of a new law...perhaps one influenced by the courts.  I don't know (but that seems like a court-ordered single payer plan would be the longest of shots and not within the realm of reality).

Yes, Verilli was pretty awful.  But it was the four liberal justices who did a better job of explaining the government's position than he did, and even Kennedy and Roberts came around to attack the states' lawyer, Paul Clement.  That says volumes.

In my mind, Roberts is the one giving this away as a 6-3 decision in favor of the government here anyway.  We'll see.

More on the entire case this week at The Economist.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Last Call

O, Canada, she cried.

A Canadian court on Monday quashed portions of a law banning brothels and living off the avails of prostitution, lifting key barriers which it said put sex trade workers at risk of harm.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, however, upheld a ban on communicating for the purposes of selling sex.

The ruling would effectively decriminalize prostitution in Ontario province. However, it was suspended for 12 months to give parliament an opportunity to redraft the legislation if so chooses.
It may also be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The effect of these laws is "grossly disproportionate to its goal of curbing problems such as noise and congestion caused by street prostitution," said the court of appeal in its decision.

The panel of judges said the ban is excessive also because it "prevents prostitutes from hiring bodyguards, drivers, or others who could keep them safe, and may actually increase the likelihood that prostitutes will be exploited by forcing them to seek protection from those who are willing to risk a charge under this provision."

Canada.  Still 20 years ahead of us in so many ways.  Except for your filthy poutine and crappy pop stars.

Still, this kicks ass in all kinds of ways.

Too Hot To Handle, Too Cold To Hold

The world's climate scientists are now warning that we've just about passed the tipping point on being able to stop global warming, and the rest of the century will now almost certainly consist of "Just how extreme weather and climate will be and how many will die from it."  Have a nice day.

For ice sheets - huge refrigerators that slow down the warming of the planet - the tipping point has probably already been passed, Steffen said. The West Antarctic ice sheet has shrunk over the last decade and the Greenland ice sheet has lost around 200 cubic km (48 cubic miles) a year since the 1990s.

Most climate estimates agree the Amazon rainforest will get drier as the planet warms. Mass tree deaths caused by drought have raised fears it is on the verge of a tipping point, when it will stop absorbing emissions and add to them instead.

Around 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon were lost in 2005 from the rainforest and 2.2 billion tonnes in 2010, which has undone about 10 years of carbon sink activity, Steffen said.

One of the most worrying and unknown thresholds is the Siberian permafrost, which stores frozen carbon in the soil away from the atmosphere.

In other words, with the ice sheets screwed, the rest of the planet goes into a positive feedback temperature loop.  The more ice melts, the more carbon goes into the atmosphere and the hotter things get...melting more ice and releasing more carbon.  And the earliest that anything might begin to happen on the side of carbon reduction is 2020.

In other words, extreme tornado seasons and summer temps in March are just the beginning.  It's like a wobbly wheel on an axle, soon the wobble gets so bad that the wheel falls off.

And we're about to get rolled.  Our kids?  Resource wars and in serious trouble.  Our grandkids?  Maybe they'll survive the wars.  Dunno.

But we're about to pay the price for dong nothing and letting the climate deniers win.  We all will lose as a result.

Dear America:

"It's better for America's elderly to be disposed of, broke and in landfills, then to subject them to living longer lives under the Kenyan Colonialist's socialist hell.  Just push them out onto the iceberg where they will die free rather than live in slavery.  Also, get rid of the death tax."

--John Hinderaker, Power Line

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:

My own preference is to phase out Medicare. The Constitution gives the federal government no general responsibility with respect to the medical care of its citizens, elderly or otherwise. 

The rest of that paragraph goes on, but there's no need to.  You're on your own if these guys get their way, America.  But at least you'll have the freedom to die because you couldn't afford health care, like Grilled Cheezus and Ben Franklin wanted.

Oops! I Did It Again Edition

From CNET, who rarely covers this type of thing, but even they couldn't pass on this one.
The beauty of gall is that it is sometimes boundless.

You might feel that the story of 21-year-old Brit Ivan Barker proves this handsomely. For he recently stole a laptop belonging to Jacque Mathley.

Not too long afterward, as the Daily Mail tells it, Barker went back to Mathley's house in Stoke-on-Trent and knocked on the door.

He told Mathley he'd come to apologize. He told Mathley the police had instructed him to do it. Mathley, who is wheelchair-bound, seems to have believed this explanation, as he let Barker into his house.

At some point during their conversation, Mathley went to the restroom. When he returned, Barker was gone. So was Mathley's replacement laptop.

That's right, he did it again. After apologizing. Then tries to tell police his apology was sincere, he got all stressed out and stole the other laptop.


So this wasn't worth a Special Place In Hell tag, but a guy so impulsive and entitled will likely be back on our radar.  Until next time, Mr. Barker.

George Zimmerman: One Simple Fact

George Zimmerman now has a few friends coming out to defend him.  One article makes a point to let us know that his black friend Joe says he's not a racist.

There has been a lot of back and forth on this.  Some try to make us feel bad for Zimmerman.  His friend Joe tells us how he's cried, and how his mother-in-law lost her job over this, and can't see her daughter.  He implies we are bullies who are making this poor guy feel bad.

There are a lot of different motives at work.  In the end, it comes to this.  He was told to stand down.  He was told specifically not to pursue his "suspect" and he did.  Because of those actions, an innocent young man is dead.  He feels guilty because he is guilty. This was 100% preventable.  George Zimmerman made sure he pushed a confrontation, and his remorse is too little too late.

Of course it had to do with race.  It had to do with a man deciding to go hunting for a little excitement too, I wager.  Zimmerman had driven his neighbors nuts, because he wanted something to happen.  He found a chance, and now he has to pay for his mistake.  He shot an innocent, unarmed boy who was on a candy run.  And when you get down to the bare bones, it all came from the moment he decided to ignore the order given by law enforcement to let police handle it.

The Kroog Versus ALEC

Paul Krugman arrives at a pretty solid conclusion about our friends at ALEC and their cloning of Florida's deadly "Stand Your Ground" law across the country.

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along. 

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future. 

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote? 

Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim. 

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population

Krugman, the Nobel laureate economist, simply follows the money.  Shocking, I know.  It doesn't take a Nobel Prize winner to figure ALEC's game out, either.  But Krugman is dead on the money here.  The privatization of government services is worth big money to corporate America, to the tune of trillions in guaranteed revenue.  The "small government push" is all about getting the profit margin into your water, phone, sewer, fire, police, ambulance, and public safety services.  If you can't pay, then brother, you don't play.  And you're going to pay.  Big time.

Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me

Things truly are larger in Texas.  Just...not the employees at one Texas hospital, apparently.

A Victoria hospital already embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit filed by doctors of Indian descent has instituted a highly unusual hiring policy: It bans job applicants from employment for being too overweight.
The Citizens Medical Center policy, instituted a little more than a year ago, requires potential employees to have a body mass index of less than 35 — which is 210 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-5, and 245 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-10. It states that an employee’s physique “should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients.
“The majority of our patients are over 65, and they have expectations that cannot be ignored in terms of personal appearance,” hospital chief executive David Brown said in an interview. “We have the ability as an employer to characterize our process and to have a policy that says what’s best for our business and for our patients.”
Employment lawyers say Citizens Medical Center’s hiring policy isn’t against the law. Only the state of Michigan and six U.S. cities — including San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — ban discrimination against the overweight in hiring.

As Americans are expected to get larger, expect hiring policies like this to become more prevalent, especially in the health care sector.  And I'm saying this as a big guy working in the health care sector who wouldn't make the 35 BMI requirement.  Our friends in the GOP will tell us of course that employers should have the right to be able to hire and fire based on weight and that it makes good economic sense to do so in order to stay competitive with healthier employees, never mind that the same GOP tells us that pink slime in our burgers and pollutants in our food and water are FREEDOM and stuff.

I honestly think that weight is going to be the next major issue in employment discrimination, and you'll see SCOTUS get a case involving this before too long.  Still, not everyone is okay with this policy at Citizens.  Existing employees will keep their jobs and will get help in losing weight, but...

A doctor at Citizens who declined to be named acknowledged that employees — and patients — who are overweight cost the health care system more. But he said body mass index as a primary measure of obesity is not a good indicator: A professional football player might have a body mass index of 32, which is technically obese, but only have 7 percent body fat.
And unless obese job applicants have other precipitating health factors, he said, their weight wouldn’t get in the way of being a successful hospital employee. “If more people knew about it,” the doctor said of the employment policy, “they would be justifiably pissed.

Consider this my contribution to the whole The More You Know thing.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Last Call

The most interesting part of William Saletan's NY Times book review of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's dissection of the partisan brain, The Righteous Mind, is that Saletan's snide construction that today's liberals prove Haidt's theories is in and of itself proof of Haidt's theories.

Let's follow this meta rabbit hole, shall we?

To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided. The funniest and most painful illustrations are Haidt’s transcripts of interviews about bizarre scenarios. Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it? Under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why. 

The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. Haidt shows, for example, how subjects relentlessly marshal arguments for the incest taboo, no matter how thoroughly an interrogator demolishes these arguments. 

To explain this persistence, Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends

And since conservatives put a whole lot of stock in those underlying moral institutions and control them, it's why they keep winning.  Home field advantage.  Or as Tommy Lee Jones put it best in Men In Black:

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

Saletan continues with what that means for the mighty backlash against liberalism in 2012:

One of these interests is moral capital — norms, prac­tices and institutions, like religion and family values, that facilitate cooperation by constraining individualism. Toward this end, Haidt applauds the left for regulating corporate greed. But he worries that in other ways, liberals dissolve moral capital too recklessly. Welfare programs that substitute public aid for spousal and parental support undermine the ecology of the family. Education policies that let students sue teachers erode classroom authority. Multicultural education weakens the cultural glue of assimilation. Haidt agrees that old ways must sometimes be re-examined and changed. He just wants liberals to proceed with caution and protect the social pillars sustained by tradition. 

Another aspect of human nature that conservatives understand better than liberals, according to Haidt, is parochial altruism, the inclination to care more about members of your group — particularly those who have made sacrifices for it —than about outsiders. Saving Darfur, submitting to the United Nations and paying taxes to educate children in another state may be noble, but they aren’t natural. What’s natural is giving to your church, helping your P.T.A. and rallying together as Americans against a foreign threat. 

How far should liberals go toward incorporating these principles? Haidt says the shift has to be more than symbolic, but he doesn’t lay out a specific policy agenda. Instead, he highlights broad areas of culture and politics — family and assimilation, for example — on which liberals should consider compromise. He urges conservatives to entertain liberal ideas in the same way. The purpose of such compromises isn’t just to win elections. It’s to make society and government fit human nature
The hardest part, Haidt finds, is getting liberals to open their minds. Anecdotally, he reports that when he talks about authority, loyalty and sanctity, many people in the audience spurn these ideas as the seeds of racism, sexism and homophobia. And in a survey of 2,000 Americans, Haidt found that self-described liberals, especially those who called themselves “very liberal,” were worse at predicting the moral judgments of moderates and conservatives than moderates and conservatives were at predicting the moral judgments of liberals. Liberals don’t understand conservative values. And they can’t recognize this failing, because they’re so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment

In other words, the point of liberalism is to try to move cultural and moral institutions forward, just not in a way that makes meaningful changes to cultural and moral institutions.  It's almost like change is hard or something, and being stuck in a social rut is a lot easier.  Go figure.  But Saletan lets us know that Haidt is convinced that being stuck in these moral institutions is freedom and open-minded inclusiveness.  Hey, conservatives have been doing that number for years now.

So yes, if you're going to toss logic and reason and argue that changing social institutions is the only way liberals can win, then yes, it's going to be hard.  Only took 232 years to get a black President, after all.  But if human nature is so awful, why should the goal be to make society and government fit it, rather than try to improve human nature through society?

If anything, trying to change society and government to fit human nature is exactly what the problem is with the Republican Party.  It doesn't mean liberals should as a rule give up.

Haidt's theories have some merit, but even Saletan sees where it falls apart:

But to whom is Haidt directing his advice? If intuitions are unreflective, and if reason is self-serving, then what part of us does he expect to regulate and orchestrate these faculties? This is the unspoken tension in Haidt’s book. As a scientist, he takes a passive, empirical view of human nature. He describes us as we have been, expecting no more. Based on evolution, he argues, universal love is implausible: “Parochial love . . . amplified by similarity” and a “sense of shared fate . . . may be the most we can accomplish.” But as an author and advocate, Haidt speaks to us rationally and universally, as though we’re capable of something greater. He seems unable to help himself, as though it’s in his nature to call on our capacity for reason and our sense of common humanity — and in our nature to understand it. 

Haidt is reasonably trying to explain to us how conservatives are unreasonable, so that liberals should just compromise.  It's certainly different to see someone take this approach from a scientific perspective, but it's just the same Sensible Centrist Village nonsense we've been fed since the Clinton era:  you guys will at least compromise, and the conservatives will never do so, so just give in already, will you?

No thanks.

A Little Good News For A Change

An 85-year-old woman with cancer who was robbed in front of her home last month has received free eye surgery from a generous doctor and a $500 check from a one-time thief trying to make amends, Live 5 News reports.

Ida Sue Collins of Charleston, S.C., was returning home from the bank last month when a man stole her purse in broad daylight.

Collins had just cashed in $400 worth of birthday checks which she intended to use for eye surgery.

Desperate to not lose her money, Collins fought off her aggressor as much as she could.

Needless to say, when a criminal and an octogenarian collide, the criminal usually wins.  Collins lost her purse, her money, and her hope for surgery was bleak.  However, Dr. Millin Budev was so touched that the surgery was done for free.  Collins was a nice lady, and people wanted to help.

Then Collins got a check in the mail for $500.  It was from a reformed thief who was trying to make things right for a purse he stole years ago.  He was unable to find the woman he'd stolen from, so he decided to do the next best thing.  Which, as it happens, was a pretty spiffy thing.

Collins says she will use the money for her medical bills.

I Wonder What His Brother Jake Looks Like

Elwood is one of the "ugliest" dogs around, but he's proved -- with his inspiring good works and legions of adoring fans -- that you don't need to be beautiful to change the world.

Winner of the 2007 World's Ugliest Dog Contest and named New Jersey's 'Most Inspirational Dog' by New Jersey Monthly magazine, Elwood and his owner Karen Quigley of Sewell, N.J. have dedicated themselves to helping homeless and abused animals while spreading a message of kindness and tolerance, reports.

And boy, is he ugly. But he is a happy dog having a happy life, and a little tolerance and animal love is a good thing. Elwood was saved from death by euthanasia, and his owner has made him a celebrity.

But boy, is he ugly.

Counselor Videotapes Student Sex In His Office

(Reuters) - A Northern California high school drug counselor has been jailed on charges of molesting one student and secretly videotaping sex acts in his office between various other students, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

Gilbert Olivares, 34, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 19 felony counts of sex crimes in Monterey County Superior Court, according to his attorney Andrew Liu. The next court proceeding in the case was set for April 3.

The investigation of Olivares began after the drug and alcohol abuse counselor was accused of grabbing the buttocks of a 14-year-old boy on two occasions, and sending sexually explicit messages to him and another minor male victim.

Deputy District Attorney Rolando Mazariegos said police searching Olivares' cell phone and his residence in Salinas found 13 videos of students, aged 14 to 18, having sex in his office during school hours.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, including how he introduced the idea or got the kids to participate, who else may have been in on it, and how many kids in total have been affected.

Just another child predator getting away with outrageous crimes.  Carry on, citizen.  There is nothing to see here.

Finally! Facebook Violation Gets Attention

SEATTLE (AP) – Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but the legality of it remains murky.

It's this murkiness that will be used against us. Digital privacy must be defined and declared where all parties understand how their information can be used. Otherwise, we are participating in a blind state, where we do not know our own rights.

I think digital correspondence should be treated with the same respect as other correspondence. Employers are not allowed to read your mail or flip through your family photo albums for any reason. Why should online versions be any different? There is no reason. However, if they are going to say it is subject to search, then let the people know so they can conduct their online lives accordingly.

It's almost like they should be less obsessed with our sex lives and pay attention to regulating stuff that legally affects the people who elected them to serve.  Isn't that nice for a change?

Well That's A Relief

If Florida winger Rep. Allen West's argument as to why the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional is the best argument opponents have for striking it down, then the law is perfectly safe.

The 2012 Supreme Court must determine whether the Founders had any intention of mandating the behavior of private enterprises and individuals.
To me, the answer is obvious: absolutely not.

You know, like slaveholders.  Slaves were commerce, you know.  Founders didn't have any real problem with that, either.  Allen West:  legal eagle.  Bonus argument:  "Hey you stupid Supreme Court people, please ignore all the previous legal arguments up until now and go with the intent of the Founders only.  DO YOUR JOB.  Signed, Allen."

I so want to see this argument used.  Really, I do.

And The Redemption Of Trayvon's Killer BeginsIn Earnest

Retuers gives us this story where supports and friends of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin last month, say Zimmerman is now hiding because he's afraid for his life.

George Zimmerman, who has claimed he shot Trayvon Martin on February 26 in self-defense, is staying in an undisclosed location after widely circulated death threats and word of a $10,000 bounty to find him, said legal adviser Craig Sonner, who said he would represent Zimmerman if charges are filed.

Widely circulated death threats? A bounty on his life?  From whom

Members of the New Black Panther Party are offering a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin.

New Black Panther leader Mikhail Muhammad announced the reward during a protest in Sanford Saturday. And when asked whether he was inciting violence, Muhammad replied defiantly: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Oh, of course.  So, we have to worry about all black people now turning into feral killers on short fuses.  How silly of me to miss the obvious.  I forgot the New Black Panther Party represents every black person everywhere under the Transitive Properties Of Blackness.  Just like Stormfront and the militia movement represents all white folks, right?

This is going to get far worse before it gets better.
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