Monday, July 30, 2012


First, a little background on the anti-gay Chick-Fil-A backlash. From Wikipedia:

On June 16, while on a syndicated radio talk show, The Ken Coleman Show, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy made what was seen as an inflammatory statement. Cathy stated: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage'. I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

On July 2, 2012, the LGBT watchdog group Equality Matters published a report with details of donations given by Chick-fil-A to organizations that are opposed to same-sex marriage, such as the Marriage & Family Foundation and the Family Research Council. Also, on July 2, Biblical Recorder published an interview with Dan Cathy, who was asked about opposition to his company's "support of the traditional family." He replied: "Well, guilty as charged." Cathy continued:

"We are very much supportive of the family - the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. ... We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized. "We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

More here.

The controversy appears to be just tearing up my facebook newsfeed right now, and even though I haven't personally posted anything about it, it's damned difficult not to comment when others post.

Like one friend did earlier today:

Stephanie: If you're going to boycott anything, why not boycott child labor? Until you're boycotting all of the companies I've listed below, then let me enjoy my chicken sandwich in peace.
She then goes on to list some fifteen or twenty companies that use child labor. And that's when I waded in, with, of course, a detractor quickly joining in the fun:
Ronald But Stephanie, you've got to choose your battles. I mean, you can't just decide to boycott the entire economy outside the context of something already going on. Otherwise, you're just screwing yourself, and it won't affect anything else. But the movement against Christian Chicken Company is organized, with a lot of support, a lot of visibility, and may very well stand to change for the better, at the very least, public attitudes about gay marriage and business. In contrast, not shopping at Walmart, for instance, simply means paying more for stuff.

Daniel Except, Ronald, that this movement is not going to change things for the better. It's a political absurdity at its best. A company is entitled to spend its money how it sees fit. That's the very basis of free enterprise and the capitalistic society that our country is based off of. People are entitled to their opinions, and that's what Dan Truett expressed: his opinion on what marriage is and should be. Nabisco posted a picture of a rainbow colored Oreo, indicating their support of gay marriage, but you didn't see the media create a big deal out of that, did you? The one-sided leftwing media is generating the negative publicity in an effort to force a man to give up on his convictions. What kind of person would he be if he were unable to stand by his convictions in the face of pressure?

As people who live in a society of free expression of speech and religion, Dan Truett is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to eat a chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A if I agree with his opinion just as others are entitled to NOT eat for the opposite. It's what makes this country so great. You can do what you want with your money as an expression of the support you give. But oh wait, isn't that what Chick-Fil-A did by giving money to support traditional marriage, the very thing they are under attack for? So, if you wish to boycott Chick-Fil-A, then you must also recognize their right to support traditional marriage, lest you embrace hypocrisy as well.

Ronald On the contrary, Daniel, it has already changed things for the better. It has kept the gay marriage movement visible. It has identified economic forces which oppose gay marriage. It has involved more people in the movement. It has shown that it's not all about just a guy and his opinion, but how such a guy, when he has a bunch of money, uses that money to amplify his opinion above and beyond guys who don't have a bunch of money. Success is not to be measured simply in black and white change/don't change or persuade/don't persuade terms. Social movements are rarely linear and overnight; this particular manifestation, the battle against Christian Chicken Company, is just one chapter in a series of books. That is, it's about literally changing the American culture, which is happening slowly and incrementally.

So go on eating your Christian Chicken. That's fine. You do not have to participate especially because you disagree. But this is how democracy works. Free speech and economic power versus free speech and economic power. Personally, I'd love to see the economic power part taken out of the picture, but until the SCOTUS reverses Buckley v Valeo, we gotta use the boycott, the only economic power really available to people who aren't rich. That and the labor strike.

Daniel I guess you and I will just have to disagree on what "better" in this scenario is. I don't agree with gay marriage as marriage is a religious sacrament. Governmental laws are about behavioral issues, not theological issues. I don't have an issue with gay civil unions, as this would be a law giving equitable (fair) treatment to people who live together. Marriage, however, is a covenant between God and Man, the joining of a man and a woman, and therefore is in the realm of theology.

But let's be honest here. If the media had never raised cain about Truett's donation, would you or I have known about it? I don't think he was trying to elevate his opinion. But I also think he wasn't willing to back down when asked about his perspective on the matter. This is a respectable trait, even in disreputable people (not implying that Truett is disreputable, fyi).

Also, don't think your inflammatory, and intended to be derogatory, name for Chick-Fil-A is lost on me. It undermines your position, because it indicates that you cannot fight your battles on fair ground but must resort to underhanded tactics such as snide comments. In other words, lose the name calling and stick to the high ground. Smearing mud on your opponents really only serves to get you dirty.

Ronald I totally reject your first paragraph. I mean sure, if you're religious, marriage is a religious sacrament. But if that really was the issue, there'd be no issue. Nobody's telling any church what they can or cannot do. The gay marriage debate is ENTIRELY about marriage as a secular legal institution. That the anti-equality crowd tries to conflagrate the two notions, religious sacrament and secular legal institution, does nothing but purposely confuse an already complicated issue. So you ought to stop doing this. Your church can do anything it wants with marriage; it's totally irrelevant.

Left wing news sources, real ones like AlterNet or the Nation, not to be confused with the so-called "liberal media," brought the Christian Chicken Company position to my attention at least a couple of years ago. So yeah, I already knew about it, and am very glad that it is now getting some mainstream attention. Sure, I respect Chicken Christian Company owner for sticking to his guns, but public image is something with which businesses must concern themselves, and that's just a cost of doing business. Remember the Southern Baptist boycott of Disney for hosting gay days at their theme parks? This is all fair game. So is "buy American" or flack about television shows one thinks is sending out inappropriate messages. That's America; that's democracy; that's freedom.

Finally, you're offended by the phrase "Christian Chicken Company"? Too bad. It's actually quite a light jab given the current political atmosphere. And for that matter, it really is a Christian chicken company. In what universe do you find this to be insulting? You've got to get a thicker skin.
This is particularly enjoyable to me in that it is an issue allowing me to put into play my ideas about how to debate religious ideas within the public discourse. For my money, I'm being just as respectful as I ought to be, no attacking people simply for being religious, no attack of religion itself. Just ideas. That this guy was offended by such a slight rhetorical device intended to remind that this isn't just about some innocent businessman, but rather about a business using its economic power to affect the public debate, is par for the course: fundamentalist Christians insisting that their opponents adhere to an unfair and unreasonable standard because of...God...or something.

Here's another thought on gay marriage more generally, from another facebook discussion thread:
Anyway, marriage, as we understand it today is, in fact, NOT a six thousand year old tradition. Indeed, it is relatively recently, going back to the 19th century, that we start to think of marriage as a romantic proposition between a man and a woman who love each other. Before that, and even to some small extent today, it's all about property: the way to ensure that your wealth is passed on to your rightful heirs, without DNA tests, is to control the sexuality of the woman who is their mother. Thus, marriage, an ancient institution FOR CONTROLLING WOMEN. Women, and their foul, sinful sexually promiscuous ways. Given that marriage as we understand it today is, in fact, not an ancient tradition, and given that its roots are utterly misogynistic, I'd say it's high time to "change the definition."
Okay, 'nuff said. For tonight, anyway.


Former FDA Reviewer Speaks Out About Intimidation,
Retaliation and Marginalizing of Safety

From TruthOut courtesy of BuzzFlash:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is often accused of serving industry at the expense of consumers. But even FDA defenders are shocked by reports this week of an institutionalized FDA spying program on its own scientists, lawmakers, reporters and academics that included an enemies list of "actors" and collaborators.


During development, if reviewers say things that companies don't like, they will complain about the reviewer or they will call upper management and have the reviewer removed or overruled. On one occasion, the company even told me they were going to call upper management to get a clear requirement for approval that they did not want to fulfill eliminated, which I then saw happen. On another occasion a company clearly stated in a meeting that they had "paid for an approval."

More here.

And people wonder why I'm not an Obama supporter.

This is a prime example of how our political system can no longer be characterized as democratic. Corporate forces have successfully performed an end-run around the democratic process. It no longer matters who you vote for. The Democrats are the friendly-faced corporate party, favoring gay marriage and good vibes all around; the Republicans are the taciturn-faced corporate party, clucking at free love and non-Christians, except for Jews who support Israel, wallowing in anger and pessimism. But the operative word here is "corporate." Both parties are owned and operated by corporations, solely for the benefit of corporations. And there's nothing you or I can do about it within the formal political process.

I've gone on at great length about the various ways big business has bought our nation, campaign funding, lobbying, ownership and use of the mass media for propaganda purposes, but I've only touched on this one a few times, regulatory capture. That is, the vast forces of wealth have successfully wormed their way into the vast regulatory apparatus overseen by the White House. There are numerous ways that this is really fucking bad, but it's probably all summed up by the old adage about the fox guarding the chicken coop: once various industry insiders have achieved a certain density of occupancy within a given regulatory agency, those insiders then move full speed ahead in using that agency for the benefit of the industry they're supposed to watching over. That is, these foxes who have been mistaken for dogs commence a veritable blood orgy of chicken eating. And fuck the farmer. And fuck the chickens.

That's the country we now live in.

So click through and read the article, if you dare. It paints an extraordinarily depressing picture of how bad things have gotten. We really no longer know if the drugs and medical devices doctors use are actually safe. It's that bad.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hubig's Pies bakery destroyed by fire in Faubourg Marigny

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Firefighters were on the scene at 2417 Dauphine Street within five minutes of the call and sounded the second alarm at 4:35 a.m., according to Williams. He said it was raised to a five-alarm fire about an hour after that.

Assistant Superintendent Tim McConnell said the building was an entire loss. He said thirty-five units were on the scene with 95 firefighters. He added that the units parked in front of the building had to be moved as they anticipated the collapse of the front of the building.

No one was injured in the blaze, McConnell said.


Andrew Ramsey, a member of one of the two families which own the company, watched the scene from across Dauphine Street. He was visibly upset about the loss and expressed concern for the firm's 40 employees. But he vowed: "We'll be back."

The company has been an integral part of the Faubourg Marigny since its founding. Simon Hubig expanded his pie business from Texas to New Orleans in May 1921 when he leased the Dauphine Street property. He bought the property in 1924 for $16,000 and settled in for good.

More here.

Well, drat.

This isn't of much significance, I suppose, in terms of what I usually write about. I mean, it's culture, in that Hubig's Pies is local and cool, and I've written about the company before, getting its shit together after Katrina, but it's not Republicans and Democrats, or Jesus, or sex, or rock and roll. But so what? This is a drag, and worth mentioning. And their pies are good, with weird flavors, like pineapple or coconut or strawberry, that Hostess doesn't do. I'm bummed.

I imagine that store supplies are gone by today, or dwindling at least. In fact, I've got to get some cat food; I'm looking to see if the drug store has any Hubig's left.


Friday, July 27, 2012



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


Romney In London: Not A Smashing Success So Far

From NPR:

First there was the kerfuffle over remarks, attributed by a British newspaper to an anonymous campaign adviser, that Romney understood the shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the U.S. and Britain in a way President Obama didn't. Those comments were viewed as racist by some and were disowned by the Romney campaign.

Then the candidate himself caused a dust-up by saying he found "disconcerting" security and other glitches in the run-up to Friday's opening ceremony. It didn't help that at the same time, he appeared to express doubt about the eventual success of the games:

"You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney said.


And as if that weren't enough, Romney breached British protocol by telling reporters publicly that he met with Sir John Sawers, the head of the British intelligence agency known as MI6. Such meetings are typically not acknowledged, according to British news outlets.

This was the start of a three-nation trip including Poland and Israel whose purpose was partly for Romney to demonstrate his foreign policy chops and stature on the world stage. It obviously wasn't getting off to the best start.

More here.

As I wrote when I posted a similar article on facebook earlier today, "The guy who thinks Obama doesn't understand the 'special relationship' between the 'Anglo-Saxon' cultures of the US and UK goes to England and pisses off the English." The inherent racism in the "Anglo-Saxon" comment, attributed by a British newspaper to a Romney staffer, is bad enough, but the fact that the former Massachusetts governor doesn't seem to understand how to speak to the UK is potentially worse: if Romney is pissing off our closest and best ally in the entire fucking world, how's he going to offend everybody else? Seriously, everybody continues to believe that the GOP is traditionally better at foreign policy than the Democrats, but Romney seems to be as adept with diplomatic language as he is at appearing to be a regular guy, that is, not at all.

Frankly, it's time for the Republican reputation for excellence in foreign affairs to go; after eight years of Cowboy Bush, and now Romney's "let them eat cake" attitude extended to our closest ally, how can anybody at all think the GOP knows jack shit about diplomacy?

But the real reason I posted this was the delicious irony. Romney's campaign issues a statement essentially saying that only a white man can understand the profound nuances of the British/American alliance, and then goes onto illustrate that said white man, Mittens himself, is a total fucktard when it comes to things British. How will the usual demagogues spin this one?


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Greenland Ice Melt Reaches Unprecedented Level

From the Huffington Post:

According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland's surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.

In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland's surface ice cover.

More here.

Obviously, this is far beyond any sort of look-out-the-window conservative calculation about global warming. That is, this is unprecedented in the modern era. Actually, as far as I know, Greenland hasn't been this green since it was discovered by Vikings in the Dark Ages. You know, over a thousand years ago. This is fucked up, very fucked up. It means climate change is happening right now, not in the proverbial not-so-distant-future.

I must admit that I continue to have difficulty getting my arms around this, at least, on an emotional level, but I get it intellectually: the very nature of reality on Earth is rapidly changing in unanticipated ways for which the human race is totally unprepared; people are already dying because of this, and it is highly likely that many, many more are soon to follow. I'd be freaking out if I could accept it in my heart of hearts, and maybe it's a good thing I'm not, but at least I know what's going on.

What I want to know is why events like the rapid melting of Greenland's glaciers don't freak out conservatives. How can they be okay with this? And how can they be so certain that fossil fuels play no role? I mean, I understand the whole herd mentality denial thing, but this isn't simply a hardcore hurricane we're talking about; it's motherfucking weird.

I think it's finally safe to say that the conservatives, like Krypton's Science Council, have doomed us all.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


From Talking Points Memo courtesy of a facebook friend:

What the London Daily Telegraph calls one of Romney’s “advisors” told the paper that Romney was better positioned to understand and respect the ‘special relationship’ between the US and Great Britain than President Obama, whose father was from Kenya.

Said the advisor: “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”

It’s all of a piece with the constant refrains that Obama is an outsider to whatever is essential about the American experience of simply being an American. But it’s getting closer to the surface.

More here.

You may know the story. When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1965, he is reported to have said "we've just lost the South for a generation or more." Actually, it was more; we're at two generations going on three now, and the once "Solid South" for the Democrats is now solidly Republican. But it wasn't all just a spontaneous reaction to President Johnson's seeming race-betrayal. Indeed, the Republicans swarmed the new opportunity like flies on shit, implementing their "Southern Strategy" to push the process along as quickly as possible.

A big part of this was/is coded political rhetoric. You know, politicians appealing to Southern racist sensibilities without actually coming out and saying it directly. So Ronald Reagan spoke about how welfare is anti-work and un-American and all that, but he also described welfare recipients as "strapping young bucks" or Cadillac-driving "welfare queens." Invariably, these images, in the minds of racist Southern voters, had black faces. Republicans have spoken repeatedly, and continue to speak, about "states' rights," ostensibly in a framework of "new federalism," but fully understanding that such a phrase has reverberations in the South that go back to before the Civil War--this is very old school and understood in the South for what it really is. In short, the GOP has gone well out of its way to let Southern racists know that they have a home in the Republican Party.

But the code has been breaking down lately. I mean, our first black President has had the right-wing in a state of profound panic since he was elected in 2008. All the birther nonsense, all the Kenyan anti-colonialist bullshit, all the "foreigner" language Romney's been using lately. And now, apparently, a Romney campaign staffer is saying that only a white man can understand America's relationship with the UK. I mean, that's what "Anglo-Saxon" means, "white." That's hardly coded at all.

Things might seem depressing right now, but I think the paranoia, fear, and group hysteria we've been seeing these last four years on the right can only mean one thing: their days are numbered. It might take a decade or two, but these guys know the jig is up. And they're running scared. Actually, while tacky and racist, this "Anglo-Saxon" comment signifies good things to come.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012


From the Huffington Post:

Only Christian Victims Of Colorado Shooting Going To Heaven

Perhaps more disturbing were Newcombe’s comments on a segment on the American Family Association dedicated to understanding the shooting tragedy in Colorado. In taking about the deaths, Newcombe separated the afterlife fate of those who died as Christians and those who did not:

If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place ... on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ ... if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.

More here.

If you've been reading here enough, then you've gotten my thoughts on religion in the public sphere, specifically on how one should walk a fine line between criticism and respect: that is, religion, in all its iterations, should be respected because it is culture, and deeply embedded in the identities of believers. On the other hand, when religion thrusts itself into the public discourse, the gloves must necessarily come off; now it's a debate about how I ought to live my life, and I'm definitely entitled to my opinion, definitely entitled to speak that opinion.

The above linked story is exactly what I'm talking about. And keep in mind, this isn't a statement made from a pulpit inside a worship space: this comes from a spokesman for a Christian evangelical organization. It is a deliberate foray into the public discourse. Well, okay. They have that right, just as I do. And my level of respect and reverence must necessarily drop.

Because this is a heinous thing to say. To say two or three days after innocent victims were murdered in a senseless bloodbath that they're going to an afterlife of eternal torture and torment is beyond the pale. Yes yes, I know; these are their beliefs, to which they're entitled. But what an awful thing to say. I mean, this is on the level of the Westboro Baptist Church people picketing the funerals of gay men who have died of AIDS, picketing the funerals of fallen US servicemen and women because they fought for a gay-friendly nation. It's a great big "fuck you" to pretty much everybody grieving this event. Like I said, there are times when talking about religion that must necessarily dictate taking off the gloves, and this is one of them.

So here you go: Fuck off, assholes.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

US poverty on track to rise to highest since 1960s

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.

The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.

Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.

More here.

What do you get when you spend thirty years dismantling Great Society poverty programs and financial regulations? Why, you get a financial collapse that brings on a massive recession, a recession some economists are now referring to as a depression, followed by a massive uptick in poverty. Pretty simple. The article goes on to observe that 1965 is the year LBJ got those above mentioned Great Society programs passed, so this is, indeed, pretty significant.

Meanwhile we argue over whether Obama is a socialist and watch from the sidelines as Congress engages in eternal gridlock. This is shameful, and makes America look really really bad. Not to mention how shitty it is to be in poverty.


Saturday, July 21, 2012


Jonsing a little early for some football? I sure am. My older brother dug this up and posted it on facebook, originally sourced from a site called Steelers Depot. So what if it's not your team? This is some classic stuff, with classic players, Terry Bradshaw quarterbacking for Pittsburgh and Fran Tarkenton taking the snaps for Minnesota. I've only watched a bit into the first quarter, and it looks like a good game. And this thing is in its entirety, complete with commercials, which I amazingly recall to some extent from being the tender age of four--well, four going on five in a couple of months. What's fascinating is the slowness of game coverage. That is, everything about today's sports storytelling is extraordinarily fast paced, mirroring today's overall media environment; back in the day, of course, the television people didn't feel like they had to be in such a mad rush to keep viewers' attention.

Whatever. It's football, and it's good football. Take three hours and enjoy.

First half:

Second half:


Friday, July 20, 2012



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!



The facebook exchange about which I posted last night continued today:

Greg Ron, sorry, late getting back here. I have to sleep at night. I didn't miss the point at all. You can go as deep as you want about the whole job creators thing because that statement has nothing to do with job creation. It has to do with people being successful. I actually agree with Obama's whole statement right up until he says the part about people who own a business not building it. That's complete and utter crap. Was the government there with the guy who started his own restaurant and made it into a success? Was someone from DC sitting there next to that person while they worked 14 plus hours a day for years on end, working over spread sheets, checking inventories, etc? No. The government may have given the guy a few tax breaks but it also imposed tons of regulations that the person had to follow as well. If Obama wanted to say "Rich people don't create jobs" he should have said that.Instead he pointed at every business owner and said "You think you worked hard and built your own business but the credit goes to the government because we built it, you didn't". If you can tell me how that is so in the example I just provided I will be glad to find some agreement with you. Problem is, you will have a hell of time convincing me of it.But again, I Do think the reaction to the statement is a little over the top but it's all politics.

Ron ‎@Greg: "I actually agree with Obama's whole statement right up until he says the part about people who own a business not building it. That's complete and utter crap."

That's because his statement doesn't mean what you think it does. Here's more of the context:

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that."

If you look at that last sentence, and ONLY that last sentence, then sure, it means what you think it does. But the sentence comes at the end of a paragraph. I mean, this is a classic ninth grade English composition construction, with a topic sentence, explanation, and conclusion sentence. So the word "that" in the conclusion sentence NECESSARILY refers to the content of the overall paragraph, teachers, the "American system," roads and bridges, NOT the business one owns. This is pretty easy to understand.

That we are arguing about it is weird when you step back for a moment's reflection. Obama's statement is not controversial in any way. Yes, OF COURSE, capitalism exists within an overall economic context of which the government is, and always has been, a huge part. No businessman creates his business in an economic vacuum. He depends on countless aspects already being in place that, outside of his own personal tax contributions, he didn't spend a dime on. I mean, businesses just don't spring from the forehead of Zeus fully grown. They need educated workers, start up capital, police protection, public infrastructure, and on and on. But like I said, this is obvious and non-controversial. We are only arguing about this because the conservatives have been so successful for so long in their multi-decade propagandizing that touts government as "the problem," that has convinced numerous Americans that there is some sort of line of demarcation separating the entity known as "the government" from this magical thing called "the economy." Of course, that's BS: government is inextricably intertwined with the economy, no way to sunder the two, and it would be a bad idea in any case.

It is only in this bizarre socially constructed "reality" where people can remove a single sentence from an overall thought and assign new meaning to it to make it signify something that is totally absurd. I mean, why the hell would Obama say something so obviously stupid? Answer: he didn't, and was actually pretty clear about it in the first place.

Also, lucky you. You get to work in the day.

Ron Another thought regarding the compositional analysis of the President's original full statement: the concluding sentence creates a parallel structure vis a vis the topic sentence, which also makes it pretty good writing. That is, both sentences are if/then statements. If you're successful, then you had help. If you've built a business, you didn't build it by yourself. And because we're talking about a topic sentence and a concluding sentence, the latter is essentially a repetition of the former. I mean, no way to mistake this. Unless, of course, one is totally uneducated in English usage, or one simply doesn't care what he learned back in ninth grade. Either way, this whole controversy is based on bullshit.
Did you notice the subtle jab about having to sleep at night? Given the overall context, it's hard not to take that as some sort of assertion that he has to work for a living while I...what?...drink rum out of coconut glasses on the beach all day? In any case, I've hit a wall of frustration with this guy. It seems there is nothing I can say that he's actually going to take into account when he formulates his response. That is, it's like we're having two conversations such that I'm trying to find some common ground between us while he's talking to some guy in his head.

Yeah, this is just one discussion with one guy, but the fact that this whole "you didn't build that" line of attack has gotten the conservatives so excited empirically indicates, shows a real world example of, some stuff I already knew about the Conservative Movement. It doesn't matter what you or anyone says about anything. You can make point after point after point, but they will simply behave as though you said what they already think you're going to say, and respond in kind. It may very well be impossible to talk to these people in any way that might be called constructive.

But I'm going to keep on trying.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Republicans pouncing on Obama's 'you didn't build that' remark

From the Los Angeles Times:

If you haven’t already, you will soon encounter an email, blog post or hashtag mocking President Obama for his recent comments about business and success.

“If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that,” Obama told a crowd in Roanoke, Va., on Friday. “Somebody else made that happen.”

“You didn’t build that” has been a slow-building theme since – pushed by every corner of the GOP. Romney added it to a stump speech Monday. It’s a hashtag, of course, with House Speaker John Boehner and other prominent Republicans feeding the Twitter mill. No Romney surrogate worth his or her salt has spoken in the last few days without mentioning it. Romney’s campaign is raising money off the quote, with an email solicitation that describes it as nothing less than “a slap in the face to the American Dream.”


Like that comment, Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comes with some context that helps explain why someone actually wanting to win an election would ever say such a thing. The president was arguing that public investment in education, infrastructure and research fosters private business. In return, so the argument goes, successful business leaders have an interest in supporting government programs. (Obama was actually borrowing this riff from Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, a provenance that doesn’t do anything to defuse conservative attacks.)

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama said. “There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

More here.

And sure as shit, this image ended up on my facebook wall yesterday:

I'll just let the fb comments below the pic tell the story:

Ron Yes, but computers were invented for the government to use for calculating artillery angles. And government contracts, from the Pentagon, NASA, and other agencies, kept the industry going, indeed, directed the industry, for many decades before the personal computer market even started. Oh yeah, the government created the internet, too. In fact, the whole high tech industry owes its existence to the government. There wouldn't be one without it. Airline industry, too. So, I'm pretty sure the conservatives are totally taking his comment out of context.

John ‎"Yeah, peace. I love peace. I'd be out of a job for peace." -Tony Stark

Greg Just to be fair, Ron, you mention NASA and the airline industry. Those two can trace their existence back to the Wright Brother's invention of the manned aircraft which was a completely private endeavour. All technology begins somewhere. It starts with people recognizing a need and having the dream to fulfill it, and, yes, probably make some cash as a result. The PC and the Mac were not the first computers but the people who built them took the information in front of them and built them when nobody else would or could. It's like saying Man didn't invent the wheel because something round already existed. I heard the full speech Obama made and the commend is blown a little out of proportion but the script writers should have seen that coming. It was a really dumb thing to say.

Ron But Greg, this misses the point entirely. The reason Obama has to point out that business success cannot be attributed solely to owners and entrepreneurs is because Republicans have been going on and on with all this "job creator" crap, you know, cut taxes for the rich because they're "job creators." For anybody who thinks about it for, like, two seconds this is obviously not true. I mean, businessmen play their role and all, but so do workers, consumers, and the government. Our whole economic paradigm has for too long weighted itself toward only a part of the economic big picture, toward the rich, toward the capitalists, and we've suffered greatly as a result. So sure, we can pretend like we're doing that "Connections" tv series about history all day long, but that's not what this particular debate is about. That is, it wasn't a dumb thing to say at all. It NEEDS to be said, again and again, until all this "job creators" crap goes away.
Arguing with conservatives sometimes gets really annoying. I mean, the notion that business cannot exist outside of a context created by the government is totally uncontroversial, but it's an idea they just can't seem to get their arms around. They seem to think there's some real line of demarcation between the entity known as "the government" and this thing called "the economy." The reality is that it's impossible to separate the two, and the real questions are about what the exact relationship between the two will be and how we're going to manage that.

But no. For conservatives it continues to be, as it has been for some thirty years, all about "getting the government off the little guy's back." Just so you know, "the little guy" in this assertion is often Exxon or GE. Or JPMorgan Chase. Whatever.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Boy Scouts reaffirm ban on gays

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both leaders and Scouts.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

The president of the largest U.S. gay-rights group, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, depicted the Scouts' decision as "a missed opportunity of colossal proportions."

"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."

More here.

My best guess is that the Boy Scouts will allow open GLBTQ individuals to participate within a decade or so, maybe a bit sooner, maybe a bit later, but I just don't see it not ever happening. Indeed, what some have called "the fastest civil rights movement in history" has made some breathtaking gains in recent years, what with multiple states legalizing gay marriage and the military ending DADT. But the movement isn't through yet. There continues to be a great deal of cultural resistance to the mainstreaming of gay Americans.

And the BSA is essentially a conservative operation. I've always smiled when I remember the moment in the 80s patriot flick Red Dawn when the Cuban military commander describes the Boy Scouts as "a paramilitary organization." Because, you know, that's kind of what it is. They wear military style uniforms, hierarchically embrace a military organizational structure, award medals and badges, go on maneuvers in the wilderness, and on and on. During the height of the Cold War, scouting was all the fucking rage. For white people, at least. These days, it's strictly for kids from mostly conservative families, families who want to instill these kinds of values in their children--to be fair, I'm a liberal, and if I had a son, I'd encourage him to check out the BSA, but as one of those old school bedrock American organizations, the Boy Scouts are definitely coming from an old school point of view. Mazzuca is very likely correct when he says the ban on gays in scouting is what these kids' families want.

On the other hand, this policy is very clearly bigoted and discriminatory. And therefore exceedingly lame. But like I said, give it about ten years. The gay rights snowball continues to roll.


Monday, July 16, 2012


From AlterNet:

Though they campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit and ridding wasteful spending, more than a half-dozen Tea Party congressmen have collectively spent over $100,000 in taxpayer money on personal vehicles.

ThinkProgress examined spending records for the 112th Congress and found seven GOP freshmen — Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Bill Flores (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Steve Womack (R-AR) — who had spent an average of $15,000 on cars for themselves. All together, their taxpayer bill totaled $106,643.

More here.

As the article observes, this is entirely legal, but it does starkly illustrate that elected representatives of the Tea Party point of view have absolutely no problem with helping themselves to taxpayer dollars, just as long as it personally benefits them, and not all those other lazy, filthy, shiftless, welfare recipients and what not. I mean, what's wrong with driving your own car and paying for the maintenance yourself, you know, like most people do? Really, this is part of a more wide-ranging problem with Congressional perks, but it becomes poignant when you factor in Tea Party outrage over taxes being "redistributed."

I've heard somewhat similar conservative arguments: if you don't like the oil industry, then why are you driving a car? Well, I drive a car because public transit is shitty, uses fossil fuels anyway, and I'm poor and need to work: economically handicapping myself does nothing to change the problem. But this isn't the same thing. These are fucking Congressmen, who have the power to do something about tax dollars, and went to Congress in the first place for that very purpose. Going to town on your official personal transportation budget at the taxpayer's expense is beyond hypocrisy. It means you have contempt for your own political position.

And that's the rub here. As Chris Hayes keeps pointing out on his MSNBC show, it's not really all about big government/small government; rather, it's about who benefits and who pays. The conservatives want the benefits for themselves and they want everybody else to pay for it. But they hide that reality with their bullshit about saving money.

They don't want to save money. They want to spend it. Actually, they want to spend your money. Fucking assholes.


Policy and the Personal

New Paul Krugman:

A lot of people inside the Beltway are tut-tutting about the recent campaign focus on Mitt Romney’s personal history — his record of profiting even as workers suffered, his mysterious was-he-or-wasn’t-he role at Bain Capital after 1999, his equally mysterious refusal to release any tax returns from before 2010. Some of the tut-tutters are upset at any suggestion that this election is about the rich versus the rest. Others decry the personalization: why can’t we just discuss policy?

And neither group is living in the real world.

First of all, this election really is — in substantive, policy terms — about the rich versus the rest.


In that case, however, why not run a campaign based on that substance, and leave Mr. Romney’s personal history alone? The short answer is, get real.

Look, voters aren’t policy wonks who pore over Tax Policy Center analyses. And when a politician — say, Mr. Obama — cites actual numbers in a speech, well, there’s always a politician on the other side to contradict him. How are voters supposed to know who’s telling the truth? In fact, earlier this year focus groups given an accurate description of Mr. Romney’s policy proposals refused to believe that any politician would take such a position.

More here.

That is, as Krugman goes on to observe, the vast majority of the electorate is poorly informed about the actual issue specifics, which necessitates heavy usage of symbols and narrative. Indeed, this is how most voters approach politics, anyway, informed or not, in terms of stories and symbols. The GOP has understood this, perhaps intuitively, since the Reagan era. And they've been using this approach to eat the Democrats' lunch for just about as long.

Americans, for better or worse, don't want dry policy analysis: they want mythology. They want a dramatic narrative. They want a story with good guys and bad guys. And, finally, it's starting to look like the Democrats get it. I mean, don't get me wrong: I continue to have profound problems with the Democrats. But as far as strategy is concerned, as far as speaking to people in a way that they will understand, a way that will motivate them and capture their hearts, this is a very good development.

Go fuck 'em up, Barack!


Sunday, July 15, 2012


A friend of mine lost her father last week, and I wanted to do something for her. I collected the links for the series I wrote here at Real Art back in 2007 recounting the week my mother died back in October of that year. Actually, going back and scanning these through was kind of tough for me, even though the fifth anniversary of her death is approaching. I guess that was kind of the point in writing the thing in the first place: at the time, I felt like what was happening to me was profound in some way, and I wanted to make a record of it.

At any rate, I had been meaning to collect the Grieving Notes series in one post, if only so I could add it to the Real Art's Greatest Hits section. So here it is:

Prelude: A Death in My Family

Grieving Notes: Introduction

Day One: Monday, October 15, 2007

Day Two: Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Part One: Morning and Afternoon

Grieving Notes: Interlude

Day Two: Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Part Two: Evening

Day Three: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day Four: Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day Five: Friday, October 19, 2007

It's probably some of the best stuff I've ever written, but that makes sense because I was trying to be honest. It's also the most difficult stuff I've ever written, for obvious reasons. Hopefully, I won't be writing anything else like it for a while.


Friday, July 13, 2012



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!



It's been a while since I posted one of these, but my former student Matt and I had a pretty good discussion a couple of weeks ago, which he finally managed to post on his site the Warzone. The first big chunk is on religion and my and Matt's own personal relationships with it, respectively as an agnostic and an atheist, who both grew up in religious homes. Then we move on into Trayvon Martin and other topics. It's fun, and a little less than an hour and a half.

Click here to download.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bring back the 40-hour work week

From TechRepublic, courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

In today's ever-increasingly cutthroat work environment, a common notion among employees and bosses alike tends to be, he who works latest works best. And while it seems that the 40-hour work week has been largely dispensed with in our hardworking culture, new studies show that working more very seldom produces better results. Employees work many more hours now than they have in the past, but it's coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity.

More here, with cool and informative info-graphics.

And this doesn't even seem to be addressing people at the lower end of the wage scale who work two and three jobs just to stay afloat, thereby circumventing the entire concept of the forty hour week. Call me old fashioned, but I deeply believe that people should only work one job, and that forty hours a week is too fucking long. Unless, of course, you really do love your job, in which case it isn't really a job, and you're one lucky motherfucker. Most of us don't really love our jobs and do them because we need the money. And that's fine because we need to work in order to keep society functioning. But work should not be life's sole focus.

Everybody with whom I've ever discussed this line from Dead Poets Society agrees with it:

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
So why the fuck don't our politics reflect it? Why do our leaders allow the wealthy to treat citizens like they're fucking robots? Why aren't we hard at work creating a society that's all about living life to the fullest? We certainly can't appreciate "poetry, beauty, romance, love" when we're working all the time, when we're worried about losing it all at any moment, when a day off is rare, rather than the norm.

America is sick and demented, and nobody wants to admit it.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Former GOP Prodigy Lowers the Boom on the 'Grand Old Party'

From Crooks and Liars:

Jonathan Krohn just came out with a scathing and funny piece at yesterday called "I was a right-wing child star". CNN had him on to talk about it. And no doubt Krohn would be completely insufferable if he didn't seem to have a wicked sharp sense of humor and perspective on things.

This sort of stuff won't make conservatives happy campers:

But then, earlier this week, Politico released an interview in which I announced I wasn’t a conservative anymore — and the proverbial crap hit the fan. Since then, I have been treated by the political right with all the maturity of schoolyard bullies. The Daily Caller, for instance, wrote three articles about my shift, topping it off with an opinion piece in which they stated that I deserved criticism because I wear “thick-rimmed glasses” and I like Ludwig Wittgenstein. Why don’t they just call me “four-eyes”? These are not adults leveling serious criticism; these are scorned right-wingers showing all the maturity of a little boy. No wonder I fit in so well when I was 13.

More here, with video.

Heh. Good point about fitting in well with conservatives at such a young age. This guy, if you click through to watch the interview, is obviously intelligent and articulate, so it's no wonder that the Republicans pulled him into their freak show four years ago. Sort of like a talking dog, or a bearded lady: Come one, come all and see the amazing conservative teen, who makes as much sense as any of us!!! Roll up, roll up!!! And that's kind of the point. Who really gives a shit what a thirteen year old kid has to say about the way the world works? I mean, it's nice when I hear young teens mouthing liberal platitudes and all that, but I entertain no serious notion that this is how that kid will be thinking in a decade. Same with conservative kids. They've barely figured out how to shave, if even that, much less what's going on outside their homes and schools. So it's a meaningless freak show, whether it's the Democrats or the Republicans, when you hand over the podium to some articulate kid to speak for the party.

On the other hand, I'm sympathetic. I used to be that guy to some extent. As a middle and then high school debater, I fucking loved politics, and was definitely more informed than most of my peers. Because of the family, church, and part of the country in which I came of age, I was a conservative. Sure, I thought that I freely chose my ideology. I thought that I understood both liberal and conservative arguments and had, after careful contemplation, rejected liberalism as impractical. But I didn't know shit. I was conservative because there were social rewards for being conservative. Because it made my parents happy. Because it made church elders praise me. Because Reagan was the President. But I didn't know shit. I was just a kid.

So, in the end, it doesn't matter one way or the other what ideology this young guy is currently embracing. He's only seventeen. I hope he keeps moving to the left, but even he probably won't know what he's about for another decade or so. But like I said, I'm hopeful: the so-called Millennial Generation is apparently much more liberal than my sucky Generation X.

It's always about the fucking children, isn't it?


Monday, July 09, 2012

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Refuses To Implement ‘Obamacare’

From Talking Points Memo, courtesy of AlterNet:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Monday he will not implement ‘Obamacare’ provisions such as the Medicaid expansion and the insurance exchanges. The decision could mean that Texas ultimately loses an opportunity to cover half of its uninsured residents and relinquishes to the federal government more control over its health care system.

After informing the Obama administration of his intentions in a letter, Perry went on Fox News to explain his position. “If anyone had any doubt, we wanted to put it clearly to bed that Texas wasn’t going to be a part of expanding socializing of our medicine,” he said. “So we’re not going to participate in any exchanges. We’re not going to expand Medicaid.”

One in four Texans are uninsured, the highest rate of any state. The Medicaid expansion would cover 49.4 percent of uninsured Texans by 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The program is broadened to cover Americans within 133 percent of the poverty line — currently the eligibility for a working Texan parent cuts off at 27 percent. The federal government will cover the full cost of the first three years and pay 90 percent thereafter.

More here.

If you didn't already think that the right wing is batshit crazy, this is some new evidence to consider. The Medicaid expansion would bring my home state's uninsured figure down to one eighth of the population, something that not only isn't otherwise on the horizon for Texas, but is also something Perry simply does not acknowledge as being an issue: later in the article, he brushes aside his state's dismal health care coverage figures by asserting that Texas has "some of the finest health care in the world." I guess so, if you can pay for it.

So is this about ideology that's so important that leaving large percentages of the population to die young is a price worth paying, or is about stupidity, insanity, or both? Actually, it's all stupidity and insanity. What kind of fucking ideology kills people just to make a point? Well, Nazism, or socialism as practiced by the Soviets or Khmer Rouge or the Red Chinese, to name a couple. The American right wing is in good company, that's for sure.

Fuck you poor. Fuck you self-employed. Capitalism's got nothing for you. Why don't you just go back to Russia, where you belong.



An old friend from high school said this as part of a comment on this article I posted on facebook earlier today:

I think you have too much time on your hands trying to stir up controversy on Facebook.

Here's how I responded: really think discussing the important issues of the day, in a democracy, no less, constitutes "stir(ring) up controversy"? And that this is something that is only done when one has "too much time" on his hands? On the contrary, in a democracy, it is every citizen's patriotic obligation to discuss vigorously the important issues facing the nation. That we don't do this is our nation's shame. That most people couldn't care less about what happens to this country, and that others describe relevant comments and observations about our nation's affairs with which they disagree as "stir(ring) up controversy" is really why the United States is now a democracy in name only. That is, the citizens have relinquished their responsibilities leaving rule to a self-appointed elite.

Personally, I think I'm doing everyone a favor by "stir(ring) up controversy." At the very least, I'm being a responsible citizen.
Bill is, indeed, an old friend, so I tried to phrase this as nicely as possible, but the more I think about it, the more fucked up his notion of "stir(ring) up controversy" becomes. For starters, I'm not the one stirring up controversy, at least not for this particular post. I was simply making an observation about it; the controversy already exists, and I'm just joining in the debate about it. Second, the issue, about public money going to private religious schools, is one that gets to the very essence of the establishment clause of the first amendment, a philosophically enormous issue that has faced America for a half century. To suggest that trying to engage fellow citizens in discussion about such an issue isn't much more than rabble rousing is downright anti-American.

Yeah yeah, I know we're not supposed to talk about religion and politics, as surely as the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but avoiding talk of religion and politics immediately cuts the legs off the entire concept of democracy. That is, you cannot have democracy, cannot have an engaged citizenry, if society considers engaging in democratic activities to be impolite. I mean, really, this is pretty damned weird when you get down to it. Acting like a free citizen in a democracy is somehow impolite.

Nonetheless, lots of Americans really are turned off by such discussion. Well, fuck 'em. No sympathy. I'm not going to let socially driven ignorance shut me up. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, talking about the fate of our nation. Just as you should be doing, too.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Controversial conference draws racial lines

From CBS42 in Birmingham, Alabama, courtesy of a facebook friend:

Down a dirt road near the imaginary line that separates Marion and Lamar counties there is a gathering of people seeking a very different sort of divide - along racial lines.

Flyers for the three day event say "Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited."

The organizers say they are just following their religious faith and not motivated by racism. It's put on by Christian Identity Ministries and the Church of God's Chosen. Organizers say some of the church members are also members of the Ku Klux Klan, but KKK membership is not required to participate. However, being a "white Christian"- is.

"We don't have the facilities to accommodate other races and we have nothing not one bit of animosity no racism whatsoever," said Pastor William J. Collier, Christian Identity Ministries.

Some people who live in the area are outraged the flyers that promoted the event- and the idea behind them.

More here.

Clearly, this is just a white supremacist event--the Christian Identity movement has long been understood to be nothing more than Southern race hatred cloaked in religious imagery. So this is just a manifestation of kooky old school KKK styled racism. I mean, this is not as if some actual Christian church was having a whites-only conference. These are fucked up redneck assholes, and if you click through to see the video report, you can even see how their spokesman is missing some teeth. Seriously. White trash scum.

But what gets me about this story is how the hardcore racists use the same rhetorical tactic, or perhaps, the same kind of intellectual denial, that countless mainstream whites across the US employ: "Yeah, it's whites only, but that doesn't make it racist; there are no racists here." I mean, obviously, these guys are, in fact, total racists. But what about all those Republicans who support voter ID laws that ultimately suppress the non-white vote? They say they want to combat voting fraud, which isn't really a problem, but support laws that are the modern day equivalent of Jim Crow. They don't think they're racists, either. What about all those anti-welfare voices that go on and on and on about how people ought to work? You can bet your booty that the face of the welfare recipient they're seeing in their heads is black. These people insist they're not racist, too. What about people who are scared shitless of street crime? What about people who support the War on Drugs? What about people who freak out about people speaking Spanish?

It's like, what the fuck is racism, anyway?

If you support ideas, philosophies, and policies that end up oppressing non-white people, then you support racism. You're a racist. You may very well be willing to break bread with black people, may very well be willing to have a friendly conversation with people who are not white, but how the hell does your hospitality ethic and sense of good manners get you off the hook for supporting keeping people of color down?

So many whites think the era of racism is over, but all that happened is that these people simply found a clever way to think of themselves as not racist. Redefine racism in a way that gets you off the hook and, poof, you're no longer a racist--you're one of the good guys. That's why these well mannered white people who don't care if you're black, brown, pink, or green totally freak the fuck out when you call them on their bullshit. They fucking said they're not racist, so they're not racist. How dare you call them racist?

We've still got a very long way to go.


Friday, July 06, 2012



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


Scientists Say Ongoing Weather Extremes Offer Proof of Climate Change

From AlterNet:

But the run of extreme weather offers real-time proof of the consequences of climate change, said Kevin Trenberth, who heads climate research at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado – itself the scene of devastating wildfires.

"We are certainly seeing climate change in action," he said. "This year has been exceptionally unusual throughout the United States."

Jeff Masters director of meteorology at the Weather Underground website, told Democracy Now: "What we're seeing now is the future. We're going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we're seeing from this series of heat waves, fires and storms."

He added: "This is just the beginning."

More here.

It doesn't matter whether you buy this or not. This is the science. You can say you don't believe the science, which makes you an ignorant weirdo, but unless you're a climatologist, you don't have a seat at the discussion table. This is what the science says. And it's not at all good news. Shit, man, even Exxon agrees that this is real and happening. Of course, their response is that mankind will adapt to it. Trouble is, we're not adapting to it. Global warming is happening right now, and any and all efforts either to reverse its effects or take measures to "adapt" are bogged down in stupid political and economic bullshit.

Politicians and self-proclaimed champions of the American way go on and on about how this is the best country in the world, about how our democracy is the greatest form of government ever created: clearly, our system is inferior and fucked up; we can't seem to do anything about this.

And our great civilization is doomed to utter collapse because we can't get our shit together.


Thursday, July 05, 2012


From the Huffington Post:

Mike Lee On Individual Mandate: 'I Don't Think It Was A Tax'

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) backed up a top Mitt Romney adviser -- and the Obama administration -- on Wednesday, saying he does not personally believe the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act is a tax. But now that the Supreme Court has ruled that it is one, he believes it's fair game as a political attack.

"The Supreme Court said it was a tax. I don't think it was a tax,” Lee told “Congress didn’t think it was a tax. The president assured us that it wasn't a tax. There's nothing about the text or the structure of the Affordable Care Act that suggests it was a tax. But the Supreme Court concluded that it was."

Lee's stance isn't entirely surprising, since he once served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was part of the dissent that ruled that individual mandate was unconstitutional, period. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, ruled that the mandate was constitutional not under the Commerce Clause but under Congress' power to levy taxes.

More here.

I have to admit that I like the outcome, that I really like that Obama's fucked up health care law survived the Supreme Court. Like I said the other day, I have big problems with such an industry giveaway bill, but it does represent a small baby-step forward. So, I'm pleased. But this was an absolutely awful ruling.

Because the Republicans are right: a "penalty" is not a "tax." Indeed, the Democrats fell over themselves to craft the mandate such that it could not in any way be considered a tax, for obvious reasons, which the GOP is now trying to exploit. That is, the law that came before the Court required people to have health insurance, and punished people who broke the law with a penalty imposed by the IRS. After Chief Justice Roberts was done writing the majority opinion, however, the mandate became a tax levied on all citizens, but one that could be deducted in full by people with health insurance. See the difference? I mean, in the end it's virtually the same effect, but that effect is achieved in an extraordinarily different way.

That is, as the minority justices asserted, the majority ruled on a law that did not exist. Of course, it exists now. Now that the SCOTUS has "legislated from the bench."

Really, the issue was whether Congress, under the authority it derives from the Constitution's commerce clause, can require average ordinary citizens to buy a product they wouldn't necessarily have bought of their own free will. And to be honest, I'm kind of uncomfortable with Congress having that power, but, what the hell, countless previous SCOTUS rulings have allowed Congress to do all kinds of shit under the commerce clause, so I was willing to bend over and take it, myself, just because we desperately need some kind of health care reform. And, for the record, I have no problem with Congress doing what Roberts claimed they were doing as far as the mandate being a tax goes.

It's just that Congress didn't write the law Roberts says they did.

It's pretty clear that the conservative Chief Justice was up to something. Rumor has it that the other four justices in the majority were ready to approve the law under the commerce clause when Roberts approached them with this tax scheme and managed to quickly win them over. So what's going on here? We can only speculate.

The best guess I've heard so far is that Roberts was truly worried, after tons of crazy right wing Supreme Court decisions going back to Bush v Gore, that his institution's reputation was in severe danger of being perceived as intensely partisan, rather than objective and judicial. But he couldn't just turn himself into a liberal, couldn't expand federal power, so he pulled the tax thing out of his ass, thereby giving liberals what they wanted, and buttressing the Court's reputation for years to come--a sort of corollary speculation is that he might also be trying to lay the legal groundwork for a massive rollback of federal power by way of weakening the commerce clause, but, of course, we don't really know.

One thing's for sure. This decision represents in full the concept of "judicial activism" that has outraged conservatives since the 1960s. And now that I've seen this shit happening before my very eyes, I'm having kind of a bad taste in my mouth, too. That is, in regard to conservative justices embracing "judicial activism," as Han Solo said, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Roberts did not become a liberal with this decision. He's still a conservative.

What's he got in store for us?