Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bachmann Channels WorldNetDaily Craziness

A few days ago, I mocked Joseph Farah, editor and owner of World Net Daily, for his ridiculous stance that God is trying to get our attention by sending an earthquake and a tornado.  That's right.  God, who could, if he wanted, make the clouds form the words "Yo! Listen up!" decided to get our attention by setting off some naturally occuring events that we would mistake for an earthquake or a tornado.


So natch, presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann gets on the bandwagon. Speaking in Florida:

She hailed the tea party as being common-sense Americans who understand government shouldn't spend more than it takes in, know they're taxed enough already and want government to abide by the Constitution.

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people, because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet, and we've got to rein in the spending."

That's right.  The earthquake and hurricane that missed (but came near) D.C. were both about fiscal restraint.

UPDATE:  Her campaign manager does damage control: "She was joking".

Riiiiiiiight.  Let her say that.

The Saddest Casualty of Irene

The Bartonsville Covered Bridge was a wooden covered bridge in the village of Bartonsville, Vermont. It was built in 1870 by Sanford Granger. The bridge was a lattice truss style with a 151 foot span across the Williams River.



Irene Post-Mortem

The talk this morning seems to be, "Well, it wasn't as bad as predicted for NYC and other areas.  So did local officials over react?"


First of all, the North Carolina coast saw some heavy damage, and so did Vermont.  So if NYC and other areas in between managed to go relatively unscathed, then it was only a matter of luck.

Second of all, at the risk of sounding obvious but apparently some people need to be reminded, weather forecasting is not an EXACT science.  I mean, the number of factors that go into whether there will be coastal flooding on any particular beach are huge.  There's the wind speed, the timing of the tides, the amount of rain, the topography of the beach, the topography of the ocean floor, etc.  There's absolutely no way any forecaster can predict exactly how it will be for every inch of coastline.

Which brings me to the local officials, some of whom are being criticized for exercising an overabundance of caution by calling for evacuations, etc.

Don't listen to your critics, guys.  You are supposed to exercise an overabundance of caution.  We learned that from Katrina, if nothing else.

Fox News Makes Stuff Up, Part 294

Fox News says:

President Obama has declared Aug. 26 — which marks the 91st anniversary of the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote — to be "Women's Equality Day." 

Wrong.  Congress decided that August 26th is Women’s Equality Day.  In 1971.  Obama is merely following in the path of past presidents.

UPDATE:  Oh dear.  The ankle-biter over at Patterico is all in a tizzy over my post, apparently still obsessed with me while pretending not to be.  

He seems to think that *I* think the news story is slanderous of Obama.  Oy.

My point, which needs to be spelled out for some mouth breathers, is that Fox News got the story wrong.  President Obama did not declare Aug 26 to be Women's Equality Day.  That was done by Congress, a relevant fact that I assert Faux News omitted in order to make it look like this was Obama's doing.  (It's called red meat for the conservative masses).

Aaron would like to suggest that "declare" is synonymous with "proclaim".  However, they are NOT bilaterally synonymous.  When you declare something, you state it formally, for the first time.  As in "declaring bankruptcy" or "declaring war".  Proclaim CAN mean the same as "declare" in that sense, but "proclaim" can also mean a mere affirmation of something already existing.  "Declare", on the other hand, cannot.

It is incorrect to say that Obama formally "declared" something, unless that thing did not exist prior to his declaration.  Since Women's Equality Day had already been declared as August 26, Obama merely affirmed it by proclamation.

Other writers seem to understand the difference between "declare" and "proclaim", and can use them in a grammatically correct manner.  But the ankle-biter does not.  Then again, he has reading comprehension problems, so he gets a pass.

UPDATE #2:  On the other hand, another reader points out something obvious that I regrettably overlooked… i.e., that the story came from Reuters.  So Fox News didn't fashion the story in a way to make it red meat for its readers.  On the other hand, the story is poorly written and grammatically incorrect, and I can see why it appears that Fox, and ONLY Fox, seemed to pick it up.

Fixed/Updated Live Webcams

My rolling webcams section in the right column was looking sad, so I took out webcams that didn't work, and added some new ones (like Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica).

Irene Update

The latest NOAA discussion notes that Hurricane Irene has weakened slightly, which is (quite obviously) good news.

However, the important word is "slightly".  For the next 12-24 hours, it probably won't change much in strength (either way) which means it will still have maximum winds as high as 105 mph.  Nothing to sneeze at.

By comparison, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was a Category 3.  This will only be Cat 1 when it hits New England.

For NYC:


Nate Silver thinks this could be a very expensive disaster for NYC.  Probably because of the storm surge.


For us here in Winston-Salem (central NC), it'll be almost nothing.  The real winds will be in New England, as the chart below shows.


Current Projections Put Irene On A Direct Path to NYC

Direct hit on Sunday, it looks like.

It will have weakened some, but sustained winds of 50 mph and more are certainly possible, with gusts as high as 100 mph.  Don't expect any flights to/from NYC that day.

Then there's the storm search which could bring waters right into the heart of Manhatten.

Just saying.


A Different Idea — How To Fix The Housing Mess

Problem:  The housing market is still a drag on the economy.  But policymakers say we don't want to simply force the banks to eat homeowners' debts, because doing that would undermine the industry. They also don't want to have the government simply eat the losses, because it'd be a political problem — the feds would be "telling the people who are making their mortgage payments that they're going to have to pay for the people who aren't making their mortgage payments."

Possible interesting solution

The Obama administration is considering further actions to strengthen the housing market, but the bar is high: plans must help a broad swath of homeowners, stimulate the economy and cost next to nothing.

One proposal would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today's lower interest rates, about 4 percent, according to two people briefed on the administration's discussions who asked not to be identified because they were not allowed to talk about the information.

A wave of refinancing could be a strong stimulus to the economy, because it would lower consumers' mortgage bills right away and allow them to spend elsewhere. 

There are apparently other ideas under consideration, but the refinancing approach, the details of which still need to be worked out, would have the biggest bang for the buck: homeowners, many of whom are currently under water, would stand to save $85 billion. They'd still have a mortgage payment to make, but they'd find it easier to afford and would have more money to spend on other things.

Economist Christopher Mayer at the Columbia Business School explained, "This is the best stimulus out there because it doesn't increase the deficit, it accomplishes monetary policy, and it reduces defaults in housing."

I like it.

Dick Cheney Really Was As Scary As We All Thought He Was

He's got a new book coming out, and apparently, it's going to make you glad that President Bush had a level head at times.  An example:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in a new memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site in June 2007. But, he wrote, Mr. Bush opted for a diplomatic approach after other advisers — still stinging over “the bad intelligence we had received about Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” — expressed misgivings. 

“I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Mr. Cheney wrote about a meeting on the issue. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.” 

Mr. Bush chose to try diplomatic pressure to force the Syrians to abandon the secret program, but the Israelis bombed the site in September 2007. Mr. Cheney’s account of the discussion appears in his autobiography, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” which is to be published by Simon & Schuster next week. A copy was obtained by The New York Times. 

Mr. Cheney’s book — which is often pugnacious in tone and in which he expresses little regret about many of the most controversial decisions of the Bush administration — casts him as something of an outlier among top advisers who increasingly took what he saw as a misguided course on national security issues. While he praises Mr. Bush as “an outstanding leader,” Mr. Cheney, who made guarding the secrecy of internal deliberations a hallmark of his time in office, divulges a number of conflicts with others in the inner circle.


Darth Vader indeed.

UPDATE:  The Drudge Report adds:

  • In a chapter entitled, SETBACK, Cheney is blunt about failures in Bush Administration foreign policy, especially in the second term. He criticizes 'concessions delivered' to North Korea 'in the naive hope that despots would respond in kind,' and says the president was badly served by his State Department, including through advice that was 'utterly misleading.' 
  • Cheney excoriates Colin Powell for standing by silently, knowing that his deputy Richard Armitage was responsible for leaking Valerie Plame's identity to the press. 
  • Says that it's not Guantanamo Bay that hurts America's image abroad but rather critics like Barack Obama who 'peddle falsehoods about it.' 
  • Says that Attorney General John Ashcroft approved the controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program that tracked terrorist communications no less than 20 times before his deputy, James Comey, objected. In a briefing delivered by Cheney and NSA Director Mike Hayden, Democratic congressional leaders Pelosi, Daschle, Harman and Rockefeller unanimously agreed the program should continue and that the administration should not seek any further authorization from Congress. 'The view around the table was unanimous… They feared, as did we, that going to the whole Congress would compromise its secrecy.' When it did leak in the NEW YORK TIMES, Cheney writes that the NEW YORK TIMES clearly violated the law by printing information about classified communications intelligence programs. 
  • Unrepentant on Iraq. Even in hindsight, Cheney asserts it was the right decision, even taking into account mistakes on intelligence. Says those Democrats, like John Kerry, who supported the war and then flipped for political expedience and accused the president of 'peddling untruths' are guilty of just that themselves. 

God Is Threatening To Kill Us

Joseph Farah, owner and operator of WorldNewsDaily:

Many Americans are scratching their heads today wondering what in the world is going on with a rare earthquake hitting the East Coast to be followed by a hurricane a few days later.

It reminds us that our world can change very quickly.

Things don't always stay the same.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for most of us on the East Coast, next Monday will look a lot like two days ago.  So I ain't buying the premise.

Occasionally God really does shake things up as a sign to us of the consequences of disobedience and indifference to our Creator.

Oh, come on.  You don't really believe that.

Yes, I really believe that.

I welcome the ridicule that will inevitably come from a statement like that.

You're an idiot, Mr. Farah.

And you're welcome.

It sounds like foolishness to anyone whose life is not centered around the Creator of the universe.

There will always be mockers and scoffers, the Bible tells us.

But there's an old saying that applies, "There are no atheists in foxholes."

It's amazing what trials and tribulations can do for the soul.

We need them. They are for our own good.

No atheists in a foxhole, huh?  So lemme get this straight.  God, who created us, is trying to scare us into accepting Him…. by sending down 5.8 earthquakes?  Yeah, THAT makes sense.

No, God doesn't want to ruin our day or take our life. He wants to give us every opportunity to take advantage of eternal life and fellowship with Him.

Yes, I really believe that we are all accountable to a sovereign God, maker of heaven and Earth. If we ignore His laws and disobey His commandments, there is a price to pay. If we keep doing it, we pay with our lives.

So the earthquake was just a warning sign, a shot across the bow — kinda like a horse's head in our bed.  

"Gee, nice planet I created for you," says God. "Be a real shame if something happened to it."

I don't mind the wisecracks a column like this always provokes. I don't mind the darts and the brickbats. I really don't mind at all.

It's my job – as a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – to proclaim the truth.

Silly, huh?

Well, yes, Joseph.  Just a bit.

Look, this earthquake turned out to be a warning only, without loss of life or serious property damage. But there will be a bigger one coming, as everyone should understand.

Right.  On May 21, 2011, wasn't it?

Your life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye.

I don't know what to expect from this hurricane on its way toward the East Coast. It could be devastating for some or nothing at all.

As could your car ride home from work.  Or tomorrow's lunch.  Or, or, or just about anything you can name that you might come across!  Just saying.

Nevertheless, it's always a good time to get right with God.

Your life can be snatched away at any time without warning. So, when we get them, we should take heed.

Listen to God. Read His book. Obey the commandments. Listen to His voice. Seek forgiveness for your sins. Pray for the redemption of your loved ones. Pray for the redemption of your country.

I say this in love to everyone reading.

Right.  You love me as you're telling me that God is going to kill me.

You can laugh about it. You can cry about it. But take the message seriously.

It is offered earnestly in love.

Yeah, I feel it.

Washington, D.C., deserves more than the wallop it got today. It needs a much bigger shaking up than it got. And I have no doubts that it is coming – unless there is a real change of heart in the leadership of this country.

"Basically, a meteor needs to come down and maim and kill millions of people in the D.C. area.  Especially Georgetown.  No, not a meteor.  That's too quick and easy.  A pestilence of some sort.  A horrible plague that makes people suffer as black bile oozes from the eye sockets and they piss blood."

"I say this in love, of course."

But seriously, Joseph… HERE'S SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  The most serious damage done in Washington wasn't the crack in the Washington Monument; it was the millions of dollars of damage done to the National Cathedral.  

So…. uh….. What happened there?  Is God pissed at the church?  Or did the infallible God just "miss"?

After all, if America doesn't face judgment soon, God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. And God doesn't offer apologies.

So… then, he won't be apologizing to Sodom and Gomorrah.

He does, however, offer second chances, third chances, fourth chances …

Wait.  How many chances?  Sounds like I'll have plenty of them.  What's the rush?

He's trying to get your attention. Are you paying heed? What will it take?

How about something that's NOT a naturally-occuring phenomenon like the shifting of tectonic plates underneath the earth's surface?  Something like… oh, a talking rainbow unicorn?

Will your world have to be turned upside down before you recognize what's happening? Would even that be enough?

Turn the world upside down?  Literally?  Upside down in relation to what?  Where's the "up" in space?  (Joseph, you're an idiot).

I know. I know. It was just a little earthquake – and just another hurricane. They happen all the time. What are you making such a big deal about, Farah?

You're right. We escaped this time. No big deal.  But when your world is shaking, you tend to think about the things that really matter.

"And that's when it's time for me to swoop in and take advantage of your fear."

And what really matters is our relationship with our heavenly Father, our Creator, the Lord of the universe.

He is trying to tell us something. His message is very clear. Don't say you weren't warned.

Really?  His message is VERY clear?  Really? How does this article start… oh yes…. "Many Americans are scratching their heads today wondering what in the world is going on with a rare earthquake hitting the East Coast…"

If we're all scratching our heads, I guess the message WASN'T very clear, was it?  Because if it was clear, then we wouldn't need this article from you telling us what the earthquake meant, would we?  Right?


Still, he's not as bad as the homophobic rabbi who things gays are responsible for the earthquake:


How Animals Reacted To The Earthquake

An interesting press release from the Smithsonian National Zoo on how animals reacted (and foretold) the earthquake.  The winning earthquake predictor appears to be the red ruffed lemurs.

Great Apes

  • The earthquake hit the Great Ape House and Think Tank Exhibit during afternoon feeding time.
  • About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a Western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit.
  • About three seconds before the quake, Mandara (a gorilla) let out a shriek and collected her baby, Kibibi, and moved to the top of the tree structure as well.
  • Iris (an orangutan) began “belch vocalizing”—an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation—before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake.

Small Mammals

  • The red ruffed lemurs sounded an alarm call about 15 minutes before the quake and then again just after it occurred.
  • The howler monkeys sounded an alarm call just after the earthquake.
  • The black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew hid in his habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding.

Reptile Discovery Center

  • All the snakes began writhing during the quake (copperheads, cotton mouth, false water cobra, etc.). Normally, they remain inactive during the day.
  • Murphy, the Zoo’s Komodo dragon, sought shelter inside.


  • One of the volunteers at the Invertebrate Exhibit was feeding the cuttlefish and it was not responsive. The water is normally very calm in the tank, but the earthquake caused the tank to shake and created waves, which distracted the cuttlefish during feeding.


  • Keepers were feeding the beavers and hooded mergansers (a species of duck) when the earthquake hit. The ducks immediately jumped into the pool. The beavers stopped eating, stood on their hind legs and looked around, then got into the water, too. They all stayed in the water. Within an hour, some of the beavers returned to land to continue eating.

Great Cats

  • The lion pride was outside. They all stood still and faced the building, which rattled during the quake. All settled down within minutes.
  • Damai (a female Sumatran tiger) jumped at the start of the earthquake in a startled fashion. Her behavior returned to normal after the quake.

Bird House

  • The Zoo has a flock of 64 flamingos. Just before the quake, the birds rushed about and grouped themselves together. They remained huddled during the quake.

Front Royal

  • During the quake all Eld's deer and tufted deer immediately ran out of the barns and appeared agitated.
  • The Prezwalski’s horses and scimitar-horned oryx hardly noticed although those that were inside did amble outside eventually.
  • Immediately after the quake the female Eld's deer herd began alarm calling (a high staccato barking sound) until they were called by their keeper and subsequently all congregated in the corner of the pasture nearest the keeper for a short time.

Giant Pandas

  • According to keepers, the giant pandas did not appear to respond to the earthquake.


The Right’s Frenzy About Obama And The Earthquake

Steve Benen is right.  Can this be any sillier?

So, there was an earthquake. The president was made aware of it. There was no serious damage, no casualties, nothing for emergency response teams to do, and nothing for Obama to do. He was kept apprised and went about his afternoon. I don't know why this is supposed to be interesting.

I realize conservatives are a creative bunch, and can manufacture outrage out of whole cloth, but even for the right, making a fuss about this is just childish. Indeed, at a certain level, it's counter-productive — shouldn't the right be more selective, going on the attack when Obama actually messes up, so it would have a greater impact?

In the case of the earthquake, if there'd been an actual disaster, and Obama sat around reading a children's book while Americans were dying, I could see conservatives getting upset. If Obama had been told a month ago that a serious disaster was poised to happen, and he told the geologists, "All right, you've covered your ass now" before ignoring the warnings, the right would have plenty of room for criticism.

But this is weak tea. When pundits are reduced to wanting to see the president "pretend to do something," you know the discourse has badly gone off the rails.

Indeed, if we're going to have a substantive discussion about politics, policy, and natural disasters, perhaps the better place to start would be with Republican efforts to cut funding for the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes, and mocking investments in studying seismic activities.

Given the circumstances, this seems far more interesting.


Earthquake? (Why, Yes)

Up on the 16th floor.  I was bouncing a little.

UPDATE:  They're evacuating buildings in D.C.  Facebook is going nuts.

The map below shows self-reports of who felt it and where:

5.9 is the official number.  It was a shallow quake, which is why it was felt up and now the Eastern seaboard.  

UPDATE:  Jeez, my mother in New Hampshire felt it.

Favorite tweet (so far) is from John Hodgman – This guy in the cafe and I agree that we liked the earthquake when it first started. But now it's like, the wrong people are into it.

* And there was a rare 5.3 in Colorado earlier today?  And Hurricane Irene's coming?

UPDATE:  Actual tweet from conservative pundit Roger Simon, about 1.5 hours after the rather undevastating earthquake:


RIP, Jerry Leiber

He only wrote the music for "Stand By Me," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Young Blood," "On Broadway,"  "Yakety-Yak", "Spanish Harlem" and one of my faves: "Stuck In the Middle With You".  I would consider it my life's achievement if I wrote only one of those.

GOP Opposing Tax Cuts For The Working Man

I'm not kidding.

After fighting tooth and nail to preserve the Bush tax cuts whcih predominiately went to the wealthy, Republicans are now lining up to fight against an Obama plan which will extend the payroll tax cut:

News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes.

Impossible, right? GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?

Apparently not.

Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different "temporary" tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.

The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a "payroll tax" on practically every dime they earn.


At issue is a tax that the vast majority of workers pay, but many don't recognize because they don't read, or don't understand their pay stubs. Workers normally pay 6.2 percent of their wages toward a tax designated for Social Security. Their employer pays an equal amount, for a total of 12.4 percent per worker.

As part of a bipartisan spending deal last December, Congress approved Obama's request to reduce the workers' share to 4.2 percent for one year; employers' rate did not change. Obama wants Congress to extend the reduction for an additional year. If not, the rate will return to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1.

Obama cited the payroll tax in his weekend radio and Internet address Saturday, when he urged Congress to work together on measures that help the economy and create jobs. "There are things we can do right now that will mean more customers for businesses and more jobs across the country. We can cut payroll taxes again, so families have an extra $1,000 to spend," he said.

Social Security payroll taxes apply only to the first $106,800 of a worker's wages. Therefore, $2,136 is the biggest benefit anyone can gain from the one-year reduction.

The great majority of Americans make less than $106,800 a year. Millions of workers pay more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.

Tax cuts for wealthy, such as those in the Bush tax cuts, are the single “least effective way to spur the economy and reduce unemployment,” according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, because wealthy Americans were more likely to save their money than spend it.

Conversely, payroll tax cuts are one of the most efficient ways to stimulate economic growth, because low- and middle-income earners are more likely to spend their extra cash right away. But this analysis and similar ones from Moody’s and other experts has not disuaded Republicans from their myopic focus on tax cuts for the the wealthy only.

The Fall of Ghadaffi

It's amusing to watch the GOP deal with the inevitable fall of Ghadaffi.  They spend the past few months criticizing Obama for going into Libya and supporting the rebels in the first place.  Now that the rebels are on the brink of victory, the GOP cannot find the words to credit Obama's Libya policy.

Think Progress picks up the story:

Republican presidential hopefuls have been offering giving their reactions to the fall of Qaddafi’s regime, giving praise for many involved save for — perhaps predictably — President Obama, who many of them attacked for endorsing the NATO intervention earlier this year.

Rick Santorum: “Ridding the world of the likes of Gadhafi is a good thing, but this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph.”

It’s hard to see how that statement bears any resemblance to reality, considering that many in Santorum’s own party attacked Obama for doing too much in Libya. In fact, Santorum himself accused Obama of “dithering” and”do[ing] nothing” in Libya in April, saying Obama “really missed an opportunity.”

Mitt Romney: “The world is about to be rid of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people. It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done.”

In March, Romney accused Obama of being “weak” with the Libya intervention, suggesting Obama’s foreign policy “can’t prevail.” “He calls for the removal of Moammar Qaddafi but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and United Nations,” Romney added. In a blog post for National Review in April, Romney warned of “mission creep” and approvingly quoted former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who Romney said “rightly notes that Obama has set himself up for ‘massive strategic failure’ by demanding Qaddafi’s ouster.” Of course, Obama’s approach did “prevail.”


Bank of America to Rick Perry: “We’ll Help You Out”

Bank of America.  

The mortgage-fraud syndicate that we had to bail out.  

The one that announced today that it’s laying off another 10,000 workers.

The one that was caught employing a military contractor to conduct “cyber war” against business journalists who were reporting on Bank of America’s constant crimes. 

The one that saw a 50% plunge in stock value this year, helping to destroy the pension funds and 401ks of millions of relatively innocent Americans.

Here’s some BofA executive talking to GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry. What’s he saying?


He's saying "We'll help you out".  WE, plural.  Meaning, the Bank of America.

There you have it — Rick Perry, corporate crony.

23 Polls Say People Support Higher Taxes to Reduce the Deficit


Can/Should the Budget Deficit Be Reduced with Spending Cuts Alone or Should There Be Some Increase in Taxes?
Some/All Taxes
No Taxes/All Spending

Are you listening, Democrats on the Super Committee?


Mother Listens On Phone While Her Daughter Gets Eaten By Bears

This is, uh, unusual:

A Russian mother listened helplessly on a cellphone to her teenage daughter crying for help earlier this week as she was eaten alive by bears.

The horrified mother of Olga Moskalyova, a 19-year-old psychologist in training, heard her daughter's desperate pleas for help after receiving a call from her daughter on a mobile phone.

Tatiana Tsyganenkov listened in horror to the screams as her daughter was attacked by a brown bear and its three cubs Wednesday nearPetropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in eastern Siberia.

According to The Daily Mail, Moskalyova screamed, "Mum, the bear is eating me! Mum, it's such agony. Mum, help!"

Tsyganenkov said she initially thought her daughter was joking but quickly realized there was a desperate struggle going on and that her daughter was fighting for her life.

"I heard the real horror and pain in Olga's voice and the sounds of a bear growling and chewing. I could have died then and there from shock," Tsyganenkov said, according to NineMSN.

Moskalyova and her stepfather, Igor Tsyganenkov, were camping near a river in Russia when the mother bear attacked him. It reportedly broke his neck and smashed his skull. Having witnessed the attack, Moskalyova attempted to flee but was able to run only about 70 yards before the powerful brown bear grabbed her leg and forced her to the ground.

During the struggle, the girl's calls to her mother were cut off at least three times. The girl somehow managed to call her mother back each time. A helpless Tsyganenkov could only listen in horror to her daughter's screams for mercy.

In a second call to her mother, Moskalyova said, "Mum, the bears are back. She came back and brought her three babies. They're… eating me," The Daily Mail reported.

When the call was disconnected, a panic-stricken Tatiana Tsyganenkov contacted police in the nearby village of Termalniy and begged them to rush to the river where the attack was taking place.

Moskalyova spoke with her mother one last time roughly an hour after she made the first call.

"Mum, it's not hurting anymore. I don't feel the pain. Forgive me for everything. I love you so much," she said.

When authorities later arrived on the scene, they found Igor Tsyganenkov's body. The mother bear was still devouring his remains when they came upon the scene, Dubai Media reported. Moskalyova's badly mauled body was found not far away. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two points.

(1)  I call "bullshit".  And it's the Russian media.  They have their National Enquirers, too.

(2)  Why would you call your mother three times if you were being attacked by bears?  What about 9-1-1?  Also, wouldn't you have dropped your cell phone in one of the bear  attacks?  Or while running?  I would think so.  And if I was attacked by a bear, and called my mother, I know what she would say: "Well, I'm sorry Kenneth but what do you want me to do about it?  Get yourself out of there.  There's not much I can do from here."… which, when you think about it, is really the only thing one CAN say in that situation.

Shorter Patterico Bigot: “Real Racism Is When Blacks Don’t Attack Obama”

Seriously, this is the kind of bile you get from the right these days.  Here's the background:

During a sometimes-raucous session of what’s being called the “For the People” Jobs Initiative tour, a key member of the Congressional Black Caucus told an audience in Detroit Tuesday that the CBC doesn’t put pressure on President Obama because he is loved by black voters.  But at the same time, Rep. Maxine Waters said, members of the CBC are becoming increasingly tired and frustrated by Obama’s performance on the issue of jobs. Even as she expressed support for the president, Waters virtually invited the crowd to “unleash us” to pressure Obama for action.

“We don’t put pressure on the president,” Waters told the audience at Wayne County Community College.  “Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud to have a black man — first time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.”

The problem, Waters said, is that Obama is not paying enough attention to the problems of some black Americans.  The unemployment rate for African-Americans nationally is a little over 16 percent, and almost twice that in Detroit.  And yet, Waters said, the president is on a jobs-promotion trip through the Midwest that does not include any stops in black communities.  “The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president too,” Waters said.  “We’re supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired, ya’ll.  We’re getting tired. And so, what we want to do is, we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he’s prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any black community.  We don’t know that.”

Now comes the ugly commentary from the author, Aaron Worthing:

Now, look, I gave most African Americans a mulligan on the last election. 

Note the superior attitude right away.  How big of you, Aaron, to give millions of people the benefit of your benevolent doubt.

I understood that after 400 some odd years of ugliness towards them that they were entitled to believe that the day had finally come where a black man 1) who was qualified to be president 2) might actually win the office. 

That's one of the most fucked-up and arrogant sentences in the history of punditry.  First of all, since when is possessing a belief in a black president an "entitlement"?  And even if it is, why does one have to endure "400 some odd years of ugliness" in order to hold that belief?

Oh, but it gets worse.

They were obviously right about the second part, and wrong about the first one. 

Aaron Worthing is saying, in all seriousness and with a straight face, that Barack Obama is not qualified to be president.  He's not saying that Obama is merely a BAD president; he's actually saying that Obama lacks the qualifications to be one.  Worse than that, Worthing is saying that black people were WRONG to think that Obama IS qualified.

Nutjob.  Now, if Worthing's point is that Obama is a bad president, that's his opinion.  But even then, he's still disparaging an entire race — saying that "they" are wrong — simply because "they" do not hold the same opinion of Obama as he does.

How is that not racism?

But if there is any doubt to Worthing's bigotry, read on:

But that decision—to believe Obama was more ready for the job than he evidently was—was a deviation from Martin Luther King’s dream.  They were judging him not by the content of his character—which demonstrated that he was not ready to be president—but by the color of his skin.  It’s wrong, but it’s human.

Interestingly, Worthing is the one deviating from "King's dream", for he is painting Obama's black supporters (the "they" in the paragraph above) with the same broad brush.  In other words, he's making an assumption – an assumption about "their" views of Obama — based on the color of their skin.  "They" — the black people — voted for Obama because of his skin color, says Worthing (and "they" were wrong to do it).

How does Worthing know this?  Does he have facts/figures?  Does he have special powers that allows him to see into the collective black mindset? And what makes him think there IS a collective black mindset?  Isn't that the hallmark of bigotry — to assume that black people voted for Obama because Obama was black… and not because of his character, or his policies, or any one of a dozen other reasons?  And how does Worthing explain the failed  candidacies of Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisolm, and Al Sharpton, among others?

The notion that blacks voted for Obama because he was black is a tired, overly simplistic, and, yes, racist canard.  It re-enforces the pre-Civil Rights notion that blacks lack the capacity to vote and/or they can't or won't vote for the "right" reasons.  (Yes, Aaron, you DID say that blacks voted for Obama for the "wrong" reasons).

But here's the objective truth: Obama got the votes (from all races) because he was an energetic figure who excited the country.  But if Obama hadn't won the 2008 Democratic nomination, African-American support would have gone to Hilary Clinton because she was also focusing on issues the mattered to blacks.  It's that simple.  Yes, Aaron, despite your bigotted beliefs, black people *are* capable of choosing candidates based on the issues, rather than skin color.

And even if the fact that Obama had black skin was a FACTOR for SOME black voters, that doesn't amount to a repudiation of King's dream.  This has been addressed over and over again, but bigots like Aaron Worthing keep recycling the myth.

Seems like someone is looking at black voters through a racial lens, Mr. Worthing.  And it isn't Maxine Waters. After all, she recognizes that black people CAN disagree with Obama (she is one herself).  No, the bigot here is you, Mr. Worthing.

Having made wide-scale assumptions about black people and the reason why they are behind Obama, now comes the part where he tries to hide his bigotory:

But just how long is this going to go on?  Can’t we all agree that black people are proportionately speaking just as likely as white people to make a good president, but not the idiot presently in the White House?

No, apparently not, Mr. Worthing.  You just got through saying that a man who graduated #1 from Harvard Law School, and was a sitting Senator, and was duly elected by a majority of voters, isn't qualified to be President.  Pray tell, what black person would be, in your eyes?  Seeing as how minorities statisticially swing to the left, I don't think YOU would find it possible to reach the conclusion that black people are "proportionately speaking just as likely" as white people to make a good president.

He warbles on….

And at the same time, how is this whole fake dog whistle episode is not racial discrimination?  After all, would this be done to a black man?

For instance, as much as liberals are freaking out about Perry’s religion, Obama sat in a racist church for twenty years and the media barely batted an eye.  He took the title of one of his books from a racist sermon, and again barely a reaction.  Blatant racism—or at least tolerance of blatant racism—was excused from Barack Obama, and yet Perry is defamed with selective editing in order for liberals to claim he is a racist.  There can be little doubt that they wouldn’t have tried anything like that with Herman Cain?

Here's the problem with Aaron Worthing (and there are many).  The only "blatant racism" he specifically acknowledges seems to exclusively exude from black people (and Worthing apparently has an odd definition of "blatant").  He never seems to see it in white people. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

UPDATE:  Not surprisingly, Worthing's thinly veiled racism is resonating with overt bigots and racists.  In the comments section, you'll find things like:

The average black IQ is one standard deviation lower than the white IQ (85 vs. 100), for reasons largely related to their origins in an African climate that required less intellectual capacity to survive compared to a cold and icy European climate.

Given that higher intelligence is found at the extreme right of the intelligence bell curve, there are markedly fewer blacks at that level than whites. Even if the population of whites and blacks were equal, there would be five times as many whites with a 115 IQ or greater than blacks because more whites (16%) fall into that category than blacks (3%).

Given their low intelligence and other negative attributes, it is entirely rational for blacks to vote for the party that gives more handouts and get mad when those handouts do not materialize. Of course, right now, they are extremely loath to go against their affirmative action President in White House for racial reasons.

Yup.  The bell curve bigots — they're still around.  Aaron, if your message is striking a chord with people like this, then you really need to reconsider your message.  Or at least openly admit your bigotted stance.

UPDATE #2:  Worthing addresses my criticisms by, well, NOT addressing them.  He starts off by making the patently false claim that I bought into the Rick Perry/black cloud controversy.  Well, obviously, you can read the blog.  Never mentioned it once.   Worthing is, quite simply, a liar.

But does he deny that he paints black voters in the 2008 elections with the same brush?  He does not.  He does not, because he cannot.  Does he deny that, in doing so, he is making a judgment about a group of people based solely on the color of their skin?  He does not.  He does not, because he cannot.

All he manages to do is eke out a weak "Hey, I said that whites can be bigots, too."  Yes, Aaron Worthing, you did say that.  But you never write about them.  When you write about racism, you only write posts about black racists.  Why is that?  

You know…. it's almost like you threw in a sentence about about white-on-black racism so you can point to it later and say "See???  I acknowledge that there is white-on-black racism".  Which is exactly what happened!  Isn't that interesting?

Tea Party Ranks Less Popular Than Muslims

Are they done?

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

The Pro-Bully Agenda: “It DOESN’T Get Better”

With the clear trend moving in favor of same-sex marriage and acceptance of gay lifestyles, anti-gay groups appear to be getting more desparate.  They seem to have set aside their "family values" tactics and opted instead for outright pro-bullying social stances.  One such group, called MassResistance, seems to be spearheading this effort.  Today, for example, one can read this OneNewsNow “article” by MassResistance’s Brian Camenker, which serves to remind people of the group’s campaign against the “It Gets Better” project:

CAMENKER: The homosexual movement discovered in the early 1990s that they could use this tactic of claiming safety or anti-bullying or anti-suicide to do anything. They’ll scream and holler that if you don’t let them into the schools to give their program, then you favor kids killing themselves.

MassResistance also maintains a page designed to rebut the “It Gets Better” campaign as well as The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention resources for young people. Here are the four “big lies” MassResistance worries that these LGBT-affirming resources provide:

“LIE” #1: “You were born that way and can’t change.”
“LIE” #2: “It gets better.”
“LIE” #3: Suicide is caused by hate and intolerance.
“LIE” #4:  Promoting homosexuality as being normal and natural is good for troubled kids.

MassResistance would rather young people get the following messages:

1: Homosexuality is an “addiction,” and “the worldwide ex-gay movement has shown that people can heal and change if they desire.”

2: “It DOESN’T get better,” because “male homosexual behavior takes 20 years off one’s life” and “loneliness and depression are par for the course.”

3: The real reason gay (“gay”) teens contemplate suicide is “because they’re horrified at the disgusting things they’re doing to themselves.”

4: Promoting homosexuality is “psychological trauma” that harms kids “emotionally, psychologically, and certainly medically.”

One hopes that the mainstream media will ignore the outright lies of MassResistance and groups like it, rather than presenting them as serious "other side of the coin" debaters.

Why The Eleventh Circuit is Wrong on Obamacare

Larry Tribe says it in plain (well, plain-ish) English:

According to the Eleventh Circuit, decisions not to purchase health insurance are not economic activities subject to the aggregation principle of Wickard v. Filburn but are instead non-economic activities indistinguishable from the possession of a gun or a violent attack on a woman. This bizarre conclusion neglects the fact that a decision to forgo health insurance is equivalent to a decision that someone else will eventually pay for one’s inevitable consumption of health care. Gonzales v. Raich expressly holds that “consumption” is economic activity. It follows plainly from this characterization that decisions about how one’s consumption of health care will be funded are indeed economic decisions subject to regulation under the commerce power. The fundamental fallacy in the Eleventh Circuit’s approach is to view the decision not to purchase health insurance in what the dissent properly described as “a freeze-framed still, captured, like a photograph, in a single moment in time.” But nothing in the Commerce Clause – in its text, its structure, its history, or the precedents construing it – justifies any such insistence on stopping time in its tracks.

The Eleventh Circuit also worries that, if Congress were permitted to impose the individual mandate, there would be no limiting principle demarcating the boundary of its commerce power. This worry is overstated. The Supreme Court has already articulated significant limiting principles in United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison: under those decisions, Congress may not regulate noneconomic activity based solely on the aggregate effects of such activity on interstate commerce. Recognizing that decisions to forgo health insurance are economic when viewed not in a freeze-frame but over time, and that the individual mandate accordingly falls within the power of Congress to regulate those economic activities that, in the aggregate, have a significant impact on interstate commerce, in no way detracts from this already extant limiting principle.

Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit was wrong to worry that Congress could impose all manner of mandates if the health insurance mandate were upheld. For example, it does not follow that Congress could also require everyone to keep a firearm in his home or apartment – a mandate of the form that the City of Kennesaw, Georgia, has adopted – on the theory that would-be burglars would be deterred from invading homes to steal what they might otherwise purchase commercially. This is so because, just as a decision to possess a gun in a school zone is “noneconomic” under Lopez, so too is a decisionnot to possess a firearm in one’s home “noneconomic”; accordingly, the aggregate effects of refusals to possess guns do not bring those refusals within Congress’s commerce power. Nor does it follow that Congress could compel everyone to purchase liability insurance. Decisions to forgo health insurance are decisions about who will pay for one’s inevitable consumption of health care. Decisions to forgo liability insurance, for example, are not of this character even though, as the Eleventh Circuit noted, all of us are subject to a risk of eventually causing harm through a reckless or negligent act at a time when we might not have the means to make the injured party whole.

One might certainly argue, as the Eleventh Circuit does, that factors such as “inevitability” are not “constitutional” in character. But this objection misses the point. The purpose of talking about such criteria as “inevitability” is not to establish new “constitutional principles” that delineate the boundaries of the commerce power. That task has already been accomplished by Lopez and Morrison, which together supplied the key limiting principle: Congress may not regulate purely noneconomic activity based solely on its aggregate effects on interstate commerce. The point of talking about such factors as “inevitability” is simply to explore whether this already articulated limiting principle enables one to distinguish the reach of the Affordable Care Act from that of other imagined federal legislation requiring all citizens to purchase particular goods or services. And the answer is that it does, for the tight link between an individual’s decision not to purchase health insurance and that individual’s eventual consumption of uninsured health care establishes that the individual’s decision to forgo health insurance is an “economic” one.

To be sure, some uninsured individuals will ultimately be able to pay for health care when they need it; they will not, at the point of consumption, shift costs onto others. Thus, the individual mandate might be said to be “overinclusive.” But in Raich, the Supreme Court held that Congress need not “legislate with scientific exactitude” when using the commerce power. To the contrary, when “the total incidence of a practice poses a threat to a national market,” Congress “may regulate the entire class.” Congress properly concluded that the “total incidence” of the practice of going without health insurance poses a threat to the health-care services market; it may therefore regulate the “entire class” of that activity, even if particular instances in that class do not contribute to that threat. As Judge Marcus’s dissent from the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling puts it, “The fact that an exceedingly small set of individuals … can afford to go it alone poses no obstacle to Congress’ ability under the Commerce Clause to regulate the uninsured as a class.”

Turning to the argument that the individual mandate is in any event supported by the Necessary & Proper Clause, the Eleventh Circuit suggested that the individual mandate cannot be “Necessary and Proper” to the broader regulatory scheme because the enforcement mechanism Congress established is “toothless.” (In effect, all the government can do under the Act as drafted is reduce any tax refund owed to an uninsured individual; it may not use criminal or civil sanctions, or even impose levies or liens.) This argument is wide of the mark. Whenever Congress wishes to encourage particular behavior, it has available to it a wide variety of mechanisms, ranging from tax credits or subsidies for engaging in the desired conduct to criminal sanctions for failing to engage in it. Of course a penalty that is enforceable only through the reduction of tax refunds will not provide as powerful an incentive as a criminal law. But it provides an incentive to get insured nonetheless. And it is therefore a means rationally related to a constitutionally permissible end, which is all that the Necessary & Proper Clause has been understood to require ever since John Marshall’s landmark interpretation of the clause inMcCulloch v. Maryland in 1819.

Finally, the Eleventh Circuit’s conclusion that the individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power to tax rests entirely on the proposition that the penalty through which the mandate is enforced cannot be appropriately characterized as a “tax” in light of Congress’s intent in enacting it and Congress’s way of describing it in the Affordable Care Act. This is at bottom an argument not about congressional power but about statutory interpretation.  But fundamental questions of congressional authority vis-à-vis the reserved powers of the states turn not on what Congress had in mind but on what Congress did and on whether its exercise of power fell within the boundaries of Article I. Here, what Congress did was to adjust the income tax liability of certain taxpayers in accord with whether they have or have not purchased the health insurance mandated by the Act. This means of measuring the tax liability of individuals cannot serve to turn the law from a valid exercise of the taxing power into something else. As the Supreme Court held in United States v. Sanchez, “a tax does not cease to be valid merely because it regulates, discourages, or even definitely deters the activities taxed.” This continues to be true “even though the revenue obtained is obviously negligible.” The revenue that the CBO projects will be obtained from the individual mandate (about five billion dollars a year by the decade’s end) is far from negligible, so the proposition that a tax may also be a regulation has even more force in this context.

More importantly still, the scheme established by the ACA is functionally identical to another scheme that would be plainly constitutional. The constitutionality of the Social Security System (see Steward Machine Co. v. Davis) would of course be a decisive precedent for the constitutionality of a system under which Congress creates a single-payer health-care system funded by a tax on everyone with incomes above a given threshold. And if Congress could constitutionally institute such a single-payer health-care system operated by the federal government itself, then why may it not also authorize private insurers, regulated by federal statute, to administer the same system with the money raised by the tax? And if it may do that, then why may it not eliminate the federal middleman and simply increase the income tax liability of anyone who fails to purchase a qualified insurance plan from a regulated private insurer?

The Eleventh Circuit, reflecting what appears to be a widely held public sentiment, opined that Congress cannot “mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.” Shorn of the rhetorical flourish – and viewed in terms of the power of Congress to “lay and collect Taxes” under Article I, including “taxes on incomes,” as specified by the Sixteenth Amendment – this is simply an objection to the form in which Congress has chosen to use the federal tax structure to encourage insurance coverage that it could have directly compelled just as it compels participation in Social Security and Medicare through payroll taxes that the Supreme Court upheld decades ago in Steward Machine. It’s not as though Congress has sent a swarm of federal bureaucrats into individual homes to drag citizens kicking and screaming into the offices of federally specified insurance executives and forced those citizens at gunpoint to sign lifelong agreements with the companies that those executives operate! Those who would prefer to meet their health-care financial obligations through paying the tax penalty levied by Congress are left entirely free to do so – the very feature of the Affordable Care Act that the Eleventh Circuit found objectionable when analyzing the ability of the measure to survive challenge under the Necessary & Proper Clause.

Put otherwise, Congress may undoubtedly use its taxing power to mandate that individuals pay for coverage supplied by private insurers, so long as it acts in two steps: step 1, impose a tax, and step 2, use the proceeds of the tax to fund privately provided health insurance for each individual.  If Congress may accomplish this objective in two steps, why not in one? No federalism or liberty-related concern, whether the dignity of the states or that of individuals, is served by denying Congress that authority.

Read the whole thing.

The Straw Poll, Etc.

In case you hadn't heard, Bachmann won.

Ron Paul pulled a surprising second, and he had twice as many votes as the third-place candidate, Tim Pawlenty.  This was such a disappointing outcome for Pawlenty, that he dropped out of the presidential race.

Mitt Romney did not take part in the straw poll; neither did Texas governor Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy the day before the straw poll.

Which only goes to show that the straw poll is virtually meaningless, unless you do really badly.

Most astute political observers believe there are only three candidates who have the legs for the long run to November 2012: Romney, Perry, and now Bachmann (now described as a 12th seed who made it to the Final Four).  Perry and Bachmann are batshit crazy, and Romney doesn't appeal to the rabid GOP base.  Any way you slice it, it looks good for Obama in 2012.

By the way, Bachmann probably won because she was offering concert tickets:

This is like LCD Soundsystem to Iowa Olds.

11th Circuit Rules That Obamacare is Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the individual mandate exceeded congressional authority under Article I of the Constitution because it was not enacted pursuant to Congress's tax power and it exceeded Congress' power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.  It was a split decision, with one judge dissenting.

This, of course, means that there is a split in the circuits, given the Sixth Circuit ruled that Obamacare is constitutional.  Clearly (and as everyone predicted) this is going to the Supreme Court.

The dissent in the 11th Circuit (by a Clinton appointee, but a Republican) is pretty scathing. "Quite simply, the majority would presume to sit as a superlegislature, offering ways in which Congress could have legislated more efficaciously or more narrowly," he wrote. "This approach ignores the wide regulatory latitude afforded to Congress, under its Commerce Clause power, to address what in its view are substantial problems, and it misapprehends the role of a reviewing court. As nonelected judicial officers, we are not afforded the opportunity to rewrite statutes we don't like, or to craft a legislative response more sharply than the legislative branch of government has chosen."

The opinion and dissent are below.

UPDATE:  It appears (from my cursory review) that the 11th Circuit would sever the individual mandate from the rest of Obamacare, which it finds to be okay constitutionally. 

Florida et al v. Dept. Of Health & Human Services et al

Dow Up 500

About time.

UPDATE:  If it stays where it is now (above 500), it'll be the 4th largest singel-day gain in the Dow in Wall Street history.

UPDATE #2:  Some end-of-the-day selling caused it to close at 423.  Not bad.

And A Mormon Just Believes!

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed "spiritual marriages."

In all fairness, he's not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "the Mormon Church"), but an offshoot of that church: the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Actually, Jeffs LDS Church is more in line with that envisioned by Joseph Smith, but…. let's set all that aside and watch this:


Comments From God’s Blog

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.




Not sure who this is for. Seems like a fix for a problem that didn’t exist. Liked it better when the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.

Going carbon-based for the life-forms seems a tad obvious, no?

The creeping things that creepeth over the earth are gross.

Not enough action. Needs more conflict. Maybe put in a whole bunch more people, limit the resources, and see if we can get some fights going. Give them different skin colors so they can tell each other apart.

Disagree with the haters out there who have a problem with man having dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle of the earth, and so on. However, I do think it’s worth considering giving the fowl of the air dominion over the cattle of the earth, because it would be really funny to see, like, a wildebeest or whatever getting bossed around by a baby duck.

The “herb yielding seed” is a hella fresh move. 4:20!

Why are the creatures more or less symmetrical on a vertical axis but completely asymmetrical on a horizontal axis? It’s almost like You had a great idea but You didn’t have the balls to go all the way with it.

The dodo should just have a sign on him that says, “Please kill me.” Ridiculous.

Amoebas are too small to see. They should be at least the size of a plum.

Beta version was better. I thought the Adam-Steve dynamic was much more compelling than the Adam-Eve work-around You finally settled on.

I liked the old commenting format better, when you could get automatic alerts when someone replied to your comment. This new way, you have to click through three or four pages to see new comments, and they’re not even organized by threads. Until this is fixed, I’m afraid I won’t be checking in on Your creation.


One of them is going to eat something off that tree You told them not to touch.

Adam was obviously created somewhere else and then just put here. So, until I see some paperwork proving otherwise, I question the legitimacy of his dominion over any of this.

Why do they have to poop? Seems like there could have been a more elegant/family-friendly solution to the food-waste-disposal problem.

The lemon tree: very pretty. The lemon flower: sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon? Impossible to eat. Is this a bug or a feature?

Unfocussed. Seems like a mishmash at best. You’ve got creatures that can speak but aren’t smart (parrots). Then, You’ve got creatures that are smart but can’t speak (dolphins, dogs, houseflies). Then, You’ve got man, who is smart and can speak but who can’t fly, breathe underwater, or unhinge his jaws to swallow large prey in one gulp. If it’s supposed to be chaos, then mission accomplished. But it seems more like laziness and bad planning.

If it’s not too late to make changes, in version 2.0 You should make water reflective, so the creatures have a way of seeing what they look like.

S*H*O*E*S!!! Manolo Jimmy Choo Vuitton Prada +++ All sizes Great deals Free shipping! @@@ []

Penguins are retarded. Their wings don’t work and their legs are too short. I guess they’re supposed to be cute in a “I liek to eat teh fishes” way, but it’s such obvious pandering to the lowest common denominator.

There’s imitation, and then there’s homage, and then there’s straight-up idea theft, which is what Your thing appears to be. Anyone who wants to check out the original should go to (And check it out soon, because I think they’re about to go behind a paywall.)

Putting boobs on the woman is sexist.

Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to start. So the man and his buddy the rib-thing have dominion over everything. They’re going to get pretty unbearable really fast. What You need to do is make them think that there were other, bigger, scarier creatures around a long time before them. I suggest dinosaurs. No need to actually create dinosaurs—just create some weird-ass dinosaur bones and skeletons and bury them in random locations. Man will dig them up eventually and think, What the f?

Epic fail.


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Get Ready To Tumble

That's what the headlines are saying right now about the stock market, which opens in ten minutes (as I write this).

And why?  Because late Friday, S&P did the unthinkable: the downgraded the ratings of U.S. T-bills.

First of all, let's take this moment to note that S&P is one of the big three ratings agencies who continued to give a thumbs-up to credit default swaps, which got us into this economic crisis in the first place.

Just sayin.  Or as Reich writes:

Had S&P done its job and warned investors how much risk Wall Street was taking on, the housing and debt bubbles wouldn't have become so large – and their bursts wouldn't have brought down much of the economy. You and I and other taxpayers wouldn't have had to bail out Wall Street; millions of Americans would now be working now instead of collecting unemployment insurance; the government wouldn't have had to inject the economy with a massive stimulus to save millions of other jobs; and far more tax revenue would now be pouring into the Treasury from individuals and businesses doing better than they are now.

Secondly,  it’s worth emphasizing the extent to which the agency pointed the finger at congressional Republicans. It not only directly attributed blame to the GOP hostage strategy of the past few months, it lamented the very idea of allowing “the statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default” to “become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy,” before complaining that “the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.”  The chairman of S&P's sovereign ratings committee freely admitted that the downgrade decision was "motivated" by the Republicans' debt-ceiling hostage strategy. A National Journal analysis concluded, “[I]t’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans.”  

Yes, the same S&P analysis pressed Democrats on the need to consider entitlement changes, didn't Democrats do that?  Democrats did put entitlements on the negotiating table, only to discover that Republicans would refuse to compromise.

The downgrade, in other words, was the direct result of Republicans playing a hopelessly insane game with the full faith and credit of the United States, and then refusing to consider even a penny of tax increases on anyone at any time. 

Not that Republicans will admit this.  They are basically saying, "Well, the downgrade happened in the Obama administration.  Therefore, it is Obama's fault."  Right.  So did the recession, nimrods.

NOTE:  One minute after the bell rang and the Dow is down 212.  It'll come back up though, right?


NOTE #2:  One hour until the closing bell and the Dow is down 500.  It was down 600 earlier.


NOTE #3:  Dow closes down 632 — the fifth worst day drop in history.  Thank you, tea party, for making me work another three years before I can retire!

Controversy of the Day

In video one, a Central Park horse gets tired and/or trips.  The woman rider freaks out.


Question:  Was she over-reacting?

In video #2, the same woman sees that the horse is back in the carriage line, having returned to work.  Again, she freaks:


Question: Is the woman right to be concerned about the horse?

I'm siding with the carriage driver (who I thought was remarkably restrained).  First of all, the woman is all over Youtube complaining about the inhumane treatment of the horse, when the video clearly show that he first concern was NOT the horse, but herself.

Secondly, as one commenter put it:

As someone who grew up around horses these horses are bred to be work horses and towing these carriages really isn't bad for them. It keeps their muscles toned and keeps them healthy as they should be. he got spooked and tripped over a curb, it's not like he was hit by a car or shot. If the horse was really in pain it would be making noise, just like people do when they are in pain and it would still be on the ground.

In other words, this woman doesn't know what she was talking about.

There is nothing to suggest that this horse is weak or malnourished or had been treated badly (in fact, it looks well cared for).  Here's what happened — it got spooked and tripped.  People trip, too, but they go on with their day.

Conservative David Frum Chastises The Right Wing

He's seeing how his own side just obfuscates the truth:

Further to yesterday’s post about the respective economic acumen of the Wall Street Journal editorial page vs. Prof. Paul Krugman:

My conservative friends argue that the policies of Barack Obama are responsible for the horrifying length and depth of the economic crisis.

Question: Which policies?

Obama’s only tax increases – those contained in the Affordable Care Act – do not go into effect until 2014. Personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates are no higher today than they have been for the past decade. The payroll tax has actually been cut by 2 points. Total federal tax collections have dropped by 4 points of GDP since 2007, from 18+% to 14+%, the lowest rate since the Truman administration.

If so minded, you could describe Barack Obama as the biggest tax cutter in American history.

We have not seen a major surge in federal regulation, at least by the usual rough metrics: the page count of the Federal Register has risen by less than 5% since George W. Bush’s last year in office. Trade remains as free as it was a decade ago.

While the Affordable Care Act itself will eventually have major economic consequences, most of its provisions remain only impending.

Energy prices have surged, but that’s hardly a response to administration policies. Conservatives complain about restrictions on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but on a planet that produces 63 million barrels of oil per day, a few thousand more or less from the Gulf will not much budge the price of oil. Rising oil prices are a story about Chinese and Indian consumption and Middle Eastern political instability, not about US drilling or lack thereof.

The Dodd-Frank bill does somewhat curtail the activities of some banks and investment firms. But is it seriously argued that this could be the cause?

Conservatives complain about excess government spending. Fine. But isn’t the evil of excess government spending supposed to be inflation rather than recession? And where’s the inflation?

There’s a strong case for condemning Barack Obama for the things he might have done, but did not do. He might have cut payroll taxes more and faster. He might have pushed for more expansionary Federal Reserve governors. He might have designed a better stimulus. All true. But the things he did do? Texas Gov. Rick Perry today urges us to believe that the economy is gripped by the worst slump since the Great Depression because Obama spoke disrespectfully of the owners of private jets. To which I can only say: Really? That’s the indictment? Really?

David, you're not going to get invited onto Fox News with talk like that.

I Call Shenanigans

In Vermont:

BARRE — Despite a smaller-than-expected turnout, a Vermont group unofficially qualified for the Guinness Book of World Records on Sunday by playing the longest baseball game.

Organizer Bobby DeAngelis of Rutland said the teams played for 200 innings, totaling 48 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds at the Barre Recreation Field. The mark of 48:09:25 was set by a St. Louis group in 2009.

“Basically, we were short-handed. It was amazing to even get to that point,” DeAngelis said. “Once we broke the record, it happened to be the 200th inning and we decided to end it and call it a weekend.”

DeAngelis had hoped to have 40 players but only 29 arrived for the first pitch at 1:15 p.m. Friday. By Saturday, that number had dwindled to 27.

“Somehow we got it done. I still don’t know how it happened,” said DeAngelis, who played for 45 hours. “It was quite the show. We are happy to be alive — and no one got injured.”

Other highlights include: 

— The Blue Team was the winner, defeating the Red Team by a score of 210-114; 

— One player pitched for seven straight hours; 

— Four players pitched at least 25 innings.

DeAngelis said he will submit video, game logs and media clippings to Guinness for official verification. That process should take several weeks, he said.

Rutland Country Store was the event sponsor.

The score ended 210-114???  Wait.  You can't do that.  You can't play 200 innings if you're not tied after nine innings.

Not Feeling The Economic Pain

As of this writing, the stock market is down 225 points today.  And my retirement?  $7,000 flew out the door last month.

But all is not sad news:

The rich are (almost) spending like it's 2006

Luxury goods are flying off the shelves, even with the economy staggering

Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin “Bianca” platform pumps, at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz said it sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in any July in five years.

Even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy. Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering — they are zooming. Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price.

“If a designer shoe goes up from $800 to $860, who notices?” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at the consulting firm Kurt Salmon, and the former chairman and chief executive of Saks.


The recent earnings reports of some luxury goods retailers and automobile companies show just how much the high-end shopper has been willing to spend again.

Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy 
Tiffany’s first-quarter sales were up 20 percent to $761 million. Last week LVMH, which owns expensive brands like Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, reported sales growth in the first half of 2011 of 13 percent to 10.3 billion euros, or $14.9 billion. Also last week, PPR, home to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands, said its luxury segment’s sales gained 23 percent in the first half. Profits are also up by double digits for many of these companies.

BMW this week said it more than doubled its quarterly profit from a year ago as sales rose 16.5 percent; Porsche said its first-half profit rose 59 percent; and Mercedes-Benz said July sales of its high-end S-Class sedans — some of which cost more than $200,000 — jumped nearly 14 percent in the United States.

The success luxury retailers are having in selling $250 Ermenegildo Zegna ties and $2,800 David Yurman pavé rings — the kind encircled with small precious stones — stands in stark contrast to the retailers who cater to more average Americans.

The so-called "job creators" don't create a ton of American jobs as they buy their Swiss watches, German cars, and Italian fashions — do they?

What Citizens United Hath Wrought

Last year's Citizens United case was, for most court watchers, one of the worst-decided case in Supreme Court history.  Worse even, some say, than Bush v Gore.  That case allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on political advocacy (but mostly corporations since they had the $$$$).

What we have now is a huge infusion of money into politics, and we have no idea where that money comes from.  The latest:

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for "high net worth individuals," according to corporate records and the lawyer's bio on her firm's website. 

Who owned W Spann LLC? We don't know. What kind of business did it do? We don't know. Did it even have an office? We don't know.

What we do know is that W Spam LLC came into quiet existence, threw $1 million at a Super PAC backing the Romney campaign, and then quietly dissolved, never to be heard from again.

Ben Smith adds, "This is more or less how money moves around Russian politics. For all we know the Delaware corporation is owned by another corporation, registered in the Cayman Islands, with its directors another set of anonymous lawyers. Its money could come from, say, the government of Pakistan, which has recently shown an interest in illegal contributions to American pols."

That may sound excessive, but it's entirely fair. Under our current system, a foreign government could conceivably set up a dummy corporation, invest heavily in Mitt Romney (or some other candidate), then dissolve the "business" and fade away.

Sound right to you?

What Reich Said

Robert Riech:


Anyone who characterizes the deal between the president, Democratic, and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics.

The deal does not raise taxes on America's wealthy and most fortunate — who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been in eighty years. Yet it puts the nation's most important safety nets and public investments on the chopping block.

It also hobbles the capacity of the government to respond to the jobs and growth crisis. Added to the cuts already underway by state and local governments, the deal's spending cuts increase the odds of a double-dip recession. And the deal strengthens the political hand of the radical right.

Yes, the deal is preferable to the unfolding economic catastrophe of a default on the debt of the U.S. government. The outrage and the shame is it has come to this choice.

More than a year ago, the president could have conditioned his agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts beyond 2010 on Republicans' agreement not to link a vote on the debt ceiling to the budget deficit. But he did not.

Many months ago, when Republicans first demanded spending cuts and no tax increases as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, the president could have blown their cover. He could have shown the American people why this demand had nothing to do with deficit reduction but everything to do with the GOP's ideological fixation on shrinking the size of the government — thereby imperiling Medicare, Social Security, education, infrastructure, and everything else Americans depend on. But he did not.

And through it all the president could have explained to Americans that the biggest economic challenge we face is restoring jobs and wages and economic growth, that spending cuts in the next few years will slow the economy even further, and therefore that the Republicans' demands threaten us all. Again, he did not.

The radical right has now won a huge tactical and strategic victory. Democrats and the White House have proven they have little by way of tactics or strategy.

By putting Medicare and Social Security on the block, they have made it more difficult for Democrats in the upcoming 2012 election cycle to blame Republicans for doing so.

By embracing deficit reduction as their apparent goal — claiming only that they'd seek to do it differently than the GOP — Democrats and the White House now seemingly agree with the GOP that the budget deficit is the biggest obstacle to the nation's future prosperity.

The budget deficit is not the biggest obstacle to our prosperity. Lack of jobs and growth is. And the largest threat to our democracy is the emergence of a radical right capable of getting most of the ransom it demands.

Emphasis mine.

Birth Control: Free For All Women

The Obama Administration does something right:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced sweeping new guidelines for women's health care which will change everything from distribution of birth control pills to administration of breast exams — and will mean insured women will no longer pay anything out of their own pocket.

Beginning Aug. 1, 2012, all private insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services without a co-pay or deductible. The move is intended to help women have the chance to stop health problems before they start.

Expect a cry from social conservatives (despite the fact that free and more effective birth control leads to fewer abortions).


It’s Not A Compromise

It's a ransom.  Republicans threatened to crash the economy, on purpose, unless a series of radical demands were met.  And for the most part, those demands were met. The White House fact sheet is pretty detailed and worth reviewing, but here’s the long and the short of it:

According to officials in both parties, the deal would raise the debt limit in two stages. The first increase would total $900 billion, with the Treasury gaining access to $400 billion in additional borrowing authority immediately. The other $500 billion would come later this fall — unless two-thirds of the members of both chambers of Congress objected — permitting the Treas­ury to pay the bills through early next year.

The second increase would raise the debt limit by at least $1.2 trillion, also subject to a resolution of congressional disapproval. That process would place the entire burden for a debt-limit increase on the White House, because Congress is likely to vote to disapprove the request, forcing Obama to veto it. But the process virtually guarantees that the debt limit will rise, because Republicans lack the votes in the Senate to override Obama’s veto.

The agreement would also cut agency spending by roughly $900 billion over the next decade and create a new legislative committee to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in additional savings by the end of this year. 

To clarify an important point, the debt ceiling increases that cover us through the end of next year will occur in phases, but there will only be one vote.

That said, there are a few noteworthy angles: (1) if the trigger kicks in, Medicaid and Social Security would be walled off and protected, and while the domestic cuts could affect Medicare, the cuts would be limited to Medicare providers, not beneficiaries; (2) triggered cuts for the 2012 fiscal year are practically non-existent, so it won’t hurt the economy in the short term; (3) a surprising amount of the overall deal targets the bloated Pentagon budget, which makes more painful domestic cuts less necessary; (4) there won’t be another debt-ceiling fight until 2013, giving the GOP one fewer hostages to grab for a while. 

And most importantly, everyone lives to fight another day.

See anything in there about tex revenues?  Of course not.  Yet there is not a single serious economist who sees it as possible to continue with the incredibly low taxes we have.  And there’s nothing in this deal to promote economic growth and nothing to create jobs. 

The Wall Street Journal may call it "a Tea Party triumph", but I think the entire process we have seen over the past week only shows the extent to which our government is dysfunctional.

Julian Zelizer of CNN writes "This is no way to run a government" and he is correct:

Just because a drag race doesn't end with someone getting killed, it doesn't mean that drag racing is a safe thing to do.

Even though it looks like Congress will raise the debt ceiling, this is no way to run a government.

Many pundits have pointed to the crisis over the debt ceiling as further evidence that Washington is dysfunctional. They say the inability of President Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans to reach a deal is another example of how partisan polarization, political incivility and 24-hour media have left our nation's leaders unable to make deals. In their minds, we should not be surprised about what has happened. This was virtually inevitable.

While placing battles in historical perspective, it is also important to recognize when we are seeing something new. The "Washington is dysfunctional" argument has confused chronic institutional problems with the partisan strategy that has been used by the GOP.

The trigger to this crisis, which threatens the health of the nation's economy, was an aggressive move by tea party Republicans — hesitantly supported by the House leadership — to hold routine debt ceiling legislation hostage until they received exactly the spending cuts they demanded. Lacking the votes they need for a clean vote on them through the budget process, they have instead forced everyone's hand. Obama has little leverage to do anything but agree to their cuts.


What we are seeing with tea party Republicans is something even more dramatic. The new Republicans have been the driving force behind the decision to prevent a routine vote on the debt ceiling — a routine vote with potentially devastating financial consequences — to obtain massive cuts in federal spending.

When Obama and many Democrats moved toward their position, they were also unwilling to compromise on how to reduce the deficit. When the president proposed that revenue-raising measures should be part of the package, they refused to budge. House Speaker John Boehner barely received the number of votes he needed for his legislation late last week.

To be sure, this is not the first time the political parties have used the debt ceiling to make a point. In 1966, for example, every House Republican but one (former Speaker Joseph Martin) voted against raising the debt ceiling because, they charged, President Lyndon Johnson was lying about the size of the deficit.

"I think the president probably in a couple of months will come up and say that to win the war in Vietnam, we need a tax increase," warned Missouri Republican Thomas Curtis. "I would much prefer to increase taxes to place a further burden on the national debt." More recently, some Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, spoke against raising the debt ceiling to protest President George W. Bush's policies.

The difference is that this time around, tea party Republicans have been willing to follow through on the threat, and they have control of the House. This is what has made the situation so dangerous. Previous opposition to raising the debt ceiling has been primarily symbolic.

Usually, the politicians making the argument knew the vote would happen anyway, or they were prepared to change their mind in the end. Tea party Republicans are not kidding. They forced their own leadership to bring the nation to the brink of disaster. They are not doing this through the normal budget process, and they are taking no prisoners.

More than ever, it is incumbent on the Republican leadership to push back against its own members who use these tactics. Even Boehner has seemed to be aware of the economic and political dangers that loom. One can see throughout this debate that he was at pains trying to contain the right wing of his party.

The consequences of default would be potentially disastrous for all Americans, red and blue, and recovery would take a long time. There are other ways Republicans can push for their objectives. In the future, they must do so.

I wouldn't hold my breath.