Terror Alert Level

Friday, December 31, 2010

Legal Costs

It appears there is a sheriff in Florida who doesn't understand the basics of the Constitution.

Atheists of Florida Inc. intends to file suit against the Polk County Sheriff's Office over its donation of jailhouse basketball goals to churches, the nonprofit's legal coordinator said Thursday.

The equipment belongs to the taxpayers, and donating them to churches clashes with the 1st Amendment, hence the lawsuit.

Judd seemed to relish the opportunity to tangle with the group over the issue, and said a Lakeland law firm -- Valenti Campbell Trohn Tamayo & Aranda -- has offered the Sheriff's Office free representation.
"They have no idea how much I look forward to their silliness," Judd told reporters.

Silliness? Asking someone to obey the law is silly? I'll tell you what's silly. Removing the basketball hoops from the jail in the first place because you don't think the people locked up there deserve recreational opportunities.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is known for his no nonsense approach to crime. Once again, he is laying down the law -- this time, in the Polk County jail.
He says from now on, there will be no more playing around there. Judd is removing the inmate’s basketball hoops.
"It just bothered me that people would drive by and say, 'I'm working hard, and the guys are sitting in the county jail playing basketball,'" Judd told FOX 13 on Thursday. "Well, no basketball, no more."

Which people said that? Remember, this is a jail, not a prison. The people incarcerated in jails generally are serving terms of under one year or are being held for trial, you know, the innocent until proven guilty types who are there because they've been accused of a crime, and cannot afford bail.

I'm not surprised though. This sheriff seems to be setting himself up as the next Joe Arpaio, doing things in an attempt to get the media's bright lights shining upon him. He's the fellow who create a fanfare for arresting this guy, and as appalling as Greaves book is, I'm pretty sure its protected under the First Amendment as it doesn't depict illegal acts. If Polk County succeeds in convicting Greaves, you could theoretically arrest and charge William Pierce (yes, I know he's dead, and can't be charged, that's not the point) or Tom Clancy for writing "how to books" for terrorists.

Well, perhaps the taxpayers of Polk County will enjoy paying the legal costs of this fiasco, but then again, perhaps they wont.

Via Friendly Atheist.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Come There's No One Working??

You should read the entirety of Amanda Marcotte's piece, but the final paragraph says it all.

I hear all the time from conservatives about how evil it is that there are government workers out there drawing paychecks to do things like rebuild roads. And the first time that we start to get an inkling of libertarian paradise, where no one is there to plow your street because god forbid we tax people to pay for it, all of a sudden it’s time to blame the liberals. And it’ll work, because deliberate dumbassery is the order of the day for conservatives.

Labels: ,

This Is The End

Of Kodachrome.

The very last image ever made with Kodachrome is a civil war cemetery in Parsons, Kan.

And the very last lab that still processes the film will processes it no longer.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What The Deuce?

Tucker, step away from the microphone, and take a deep breath.

Filling in for Sean Hannity on Fox News, Tucker Carlson reworked the penal code and dropped a small bombshell, saying that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick "should have been executed" for killing dogs.
"I'm a Christian. I've made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances," Carlson said as he filled in as host of Sean Hannity's Fox show. "But Michael Vick killed dogs and he did it in a heartless and cruel way. I think personally he should have been executed for that. He wasn't."

Yeah, that's really very Christian of you Tucker. I'm not a dog fighting advocate, but Vick, as despicable as his actions were, paid the price for his criminal acts. So Carlson believes in second chances, but not for Vick, who should be killed. What is it with so-called Christians like Carlson, whose first instinct is to kill people who do things they don't like?

Wonder if Carlson thinks this guy should be executed as well?

Labels: , , ,


This is precisely the reason why I'd never want to live in a development with a homeowners' association and restrictive covenants.

Donald Henderson knows not to overdo it on Christmas decorations. A week after Thanksgiving, Henderson placed a tasteful wreath on the front door, strung a few lights along the front porch railing, and, just to elevate his game a notch or two, plopped an inflatable Mickey and Minnie Mouse on his front lawn, wishing all "Season's Greetings."

Tucked behind Mickey and Minnie stood one last touch, a small blue sign that reads, "Happy Birthday Jesus, Come Let Us Adore Him."
In this era of culture wars and all-powerful homeowners associations, what came next seems all but inevitable: When Henderson opened his mail on Christmas Eve, he found a letter from the New Bristow Village management company informing him that he had violated one of the development's covenants.
The problem was not with the inflatable. Although the sign marking Jesus's birthday had been up for three weeks, the Community Management Corp. ordered that it be removed. No signs - except for real estate or security signs - are allowed in the Prince William County development.

When you buy into one of these communities, you also buy into their restrictions. As one who believes in the First Amendment, I find these types of restrictions repugnant. IMHO, its the man's property, and if he wants to put up a sign advocating his religion, he should be able to do so. Unfortunately, he made the conscious decision to surrender some of his Constitutional protections when he purchased a home where he did. More:

"This is a matter of a private contract, and HOAs are entitled to have declarations, and whatever those declarations are make up the laws of that community," said Mike Inman, a Virginia Beach lawyer and co-publisher of the Virginia Condominium & Homeowners' Association Law Blog. "But it would seem to me that the 'Happy Birthday Jesus' item was not necessarily a sign, but yard decor for the season."

Now read that again...."HOA's are entitled to have declarations, and whatever those declarations are make up the laws of that community." That sounds an awful like "The Government" to me! And can a homeowners association, functioning is essence as the government, really restrict a fundamental right like that? Apparently so! We're not talking about grass length, paint choices, the existence of a clothesline, or unsightly trash cans (although I think HOA's should butt out of those issues as well), we're talking about free speech.

People complain about their local, state and federal government? Overzealous neighborhood government seems a bigger threat.

Labels: , ,

Blow Jobs

Lsqrd, our resident electrical engineer, power generation and transmission expert, and semi-professional photographer, sends along this article detailing the problems our friends across the Atlantic are having with wind based electrical power.

The cold weather has been accompanied by high pressure and a lack of wind, which meant that only 0.2pc of a possible 5pc of the UK's energy was generated by wind turbines over the last few days.
Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), gave warning that this could turn into a crisis when the UK is reliant on 6,400 turbines accounting for a quarter of all UK electricity demand over the next 10 years.
He said the shortfall in power generated by wind during cold snaps seriously undermined the Government's pledge on Friday to build nine major new wind "super farms" by 2020.

I think that green energy sources, such as wind and solar, have a role to play in meeting electrical demand, but only as a supplemental source of power. The wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. These sources of energy can take some of the demand off coal-fired generation, but they cannot replace it, and for a number of reasons that I can't explain (Lsqrd can) but do understand, you cannot easily base a distribution grid on renewable energy sources. Small scale (home or neighborhood based) solar or wind systems can help ease some pressure, but just cannot replace large power plants that are able to adjust output to meet demand.

Coal, however, is not a desirable long-term option either, given the health hazards of stack emissions (on which the Post-Gazette recently did a most illuminating series of stories) and the concern for global warming.

This leaves in my mind, but two electricity generation options for general large scale use: hydroelectricity and nuclear. Both are objectionable to many of my fellow liberals due to the immense amount of habitat destruction that hydro creates (although I'd argue that hydroelectric impoundments create as much habitat as they destroy, just a different kind of habitat) and what I consider an irrational fear of The Atom.

Nuclear power produces no stack emissions. The biggest drawback of course, is the nuclear waste produced, but as I've typed before, compare highly concentrated, relatively easily tracked spent nuclear fuel to the danger of stack emissions which go wherever the wind takes it, and the hazard posed by impoundments to contain the fly ash produced by burning coal.

Hydro is non-polluting. No stack emissions, no spent waste to contain. A big lake that can serve as a drinking water source and/or recreational uses. Its probably been explained to me before why it isn't done, but I've never understood why the multitude of flood control dams on the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela rivers cannot have small hydroelectric stations associated with them.

So my friends, what would YOU rather have? I say replace the coal fired plants as they end their useful life with nuclear and hydro, but continue to use fossil fuels as a bridge technology until we're able to generate enough power with non-polluting sources. Subsidize small scale wind and solar systems to take some of the pressure off the coal and oil fired plants, and construct larger scale solar plants and wind farms where conditions warrant, such as the southwest and along ridgetops or off the coast.

Perhaps someday, controlled fusion power generation will be a reality.

Labels: , , , ,


Went through the blogroll and removed some inactive blogs, added some new ones, fixed some broken links and tried to do some general cleaning.

New additions are:

Balloon Juice

Blag Hag

Austin Cline

CSI Without Dead Bodies

Friendly Atheist


Oliver Willis

The World According to Tony Polombo

Check 'em out!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Personally, I find area code overlays very confusing, and prefer that when a new area code is created, it be carved out of an existing area code. I do understand though, how finding yourself with a new area code can be a burden in the short term.


Do I Need A Box?

It appears that today is Boxing Day in the U.K. I have no idea what it is, or what it means, other than some type of holiday.

I Have No Words


A New Jersey woman who hopes to become the fattest woman in the world got 30,000 calories closer to her 1,000lb goal with a festive feast that could have fed dozens of revellers.
46-stone Donna Simpson, sitting in a reinforced metal chair, chowed down on the world's biggest Christmas dinner as she ate for two straight hours on Saturday.
The single mother-of-two tucked into two 25lb turkeys, two maple-glazed hams, 15lbs of potatoes (10lbs roast, 5lbs mashed), five loaves of bread, five pounds of herb stuffing, four pints of gravy, four pints of cranberry dressing and an astonishing 20lbs of vegetables.

After polishing off her enormous main course, she still had room for dessert and ate a 'salad' made of marshmallow, cream cheese, whipped cream and cookies.

Sorta hoping this is an Onion piece, but it ain't. I guess its good to have goals, but sheesh!

Via Spork.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cognative Disconnect

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Kinks - Father Christmas - HQ AUDIO / Christmas Version

Tingles, The Christmas Tension

Places to Look for Your Christmas Presents

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear U.S. Christians,

Wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is not an assault on Christianity.

Following the law by prohibiting agents of the government from leading school children in prayer is not an assault on Christianity.

Prohibiting the government from favoring your brand of religion over another brand of religion is not an assault on Christianity.

Atheists putting up billboards is not an assault on Christianity.

However, this IS an assault. This is persecution of someone for their religious beliefs:

On December 18, Hindu fundamentalists beat two dozen carolers, including young women, and took them to the police station in a Mumbai suburb, charging that by singing Christmas carols they had insulted Hindus.

Doesn't matter what the "flavor" of a particular religion is. Fundamentalism, be it Christian, Hindu, Islam, or whatever, makes people nuts.

Too many Christians in this country feel that if any viewpoint, other than their own, is expressed, it is somehow an "assault" on their beliefs. Austin Cline has a pretty good summary of some recent incidents that illustrate this.

...if atheists insist in being treated as equals and Christians then complain so loudly that whatever program it is must be halted, it's always the atheists who get blamed. It's the atheists' fault for actually expecting equal treatment; it's never the Christians' fault for expecting special privileges or kicking up such a fuss that the program can't continue for anyone.
We see it around the holidays when atheists insist on being allowed to erect displays on public property just like Christians are accustomed to doing. If the prospect of atheists getting an equal public voice is too much for some local Christians to stomach, the local government prevents anyone from having public displays on public property -- and atheists are blamed for "spoiling" things. When kids are allowed to take home advertisements for religious programs and atheist groups request the same, Christians become outraged at the prospect of atheists advertising to kids and the program is eliminated.

Its not just atheists either. Wiccans and recently, Muslims feel this same backlash when they demand the same public access enjoyed by Christians.

This is why the "War on Christmas" is such an overblown sham. No one in the U.S. wants to "eliminate" Christmas, in fact, so long as there are Christians, there will be a holy Christmas. Nor is anyone trying to "stifle" Christians right to expression. No one is physically assaulting Christians, and if they did, they'd be arrested and charged with a crime. Christians are free to put up billboards, worship as they please, and pray however they want. They just cannot, nor should they expect, the government to accord their beliefs a privileged status. Ostracising a person or business for daring to say "Happy Holidays instead of "Merry Christmas" is crazy, as Christmas isn't the only holiday this time of year.

So to close, on this Christmas Eve, Merry Christmas, AND Happy Holidays. We live in a wonderful nation where we are free to worship, or not worship, as our beliefs allow and without government coercion.

Via Hemant.

Labels: ,

Saturday TV Funhouse , TV Funhouse - Black Sabbath

In other words, I got nothing this morning.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ummm, FDA? Department of Commerce?


There’s interesting news about something that just happened in Australia, and needs to happen all over the globe... The makers of the ridiculous plastic "Power Balance" bracelet, which is selling by the millions everywhere, have been forced to publish a comprehensive statement from which we extract:

In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

Labels: ,

The Story of Festivus

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Periodic Table of Woo

Amazing work from Crispian Jago. You can pick up a copy here.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cause Of The Lost Cause

Nice to see this in a South Carolina newspaper, especially as that state celebrates the anniversary of its treason.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Methodists, Get Out!

Via Spork, we learn of the next target of teabagger insanity. The Methodist Church.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has a dream: "No more Methodist Church."

A blog post on his Tea Party Nation page says that on Friday he walked by the United Methodist Building in Washington D.C., which had a sign that said, "Pass the DREAM Act." Phillips wrote: " I have a DREAM. That is, no more United Methodist Church."

Phillips explains that he was formerly a member of the church, but he left because it's "the first Church of Karl Marx," and "little more than the "religious" arm of socialism."

Methodists may be surprised to learn this.

Labels: , , ,

Ham Ham Ham Ham

We have ham-fisted silliness going on in Spain.

The parents of a Muslim boy who attends a secondary school in La Línea, Cádiz province, have reported their son’s teacher for an incident in the boy’s geography class which the child said caused him offence as a Muslim.The teacher, with more than 20 years in the profession, was explaining to the class how the cold climate in Trevélez, Granada province, aided in the curing of the village’s most famous local product, jamón serrano. The boy told his teacher that hearing the word ‘ham’ in class was offensive to him because of his religion and asked his geography teacher to stop referring to the product which caused him offence.

This is akin to Christians in this country getting bent out of shape when someone wishes them "Happy Holidays," or objecting to evolutionary theory being taught in schools.

Via PZ.


Sunday, December 19, 2010


Good job Teabaggers!

Even before taking office, Republican Govs.-elect John Kasich (OH) and Scott Walker (WI) swiftly delivered on their “promises to kill America’s future” by rebuking a total of $1.2 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail projects in their states. Shunning the $810 million for the long-planned Wisconsin rail project, Walker promised to kill the Milwaukee-Madison link if President Obama tried “to force this down the throats of the taxpayers.”

Note that this is money already appropriated. Its going to be spent, it just wont be spent in Wisconsin and Ohio. That money now goes to other states, along with the nearly 30,000 jobs the projects are estimated to create.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Repeal Passes

About freakin' time.

With just a signature from President Obama, a ban on openly gay servicemembers will no longer be the law of the land.

By a vote of 65 to 31 this afternoon, the Senate voted to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.


This is related to the two earlier posts on Fox News editors manipulating reporting to convey a partisan view.

Via 2 Political Junkies, we learn that:

In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

Watching Fox makes you uninformed. They distort, you comply.

UPDATE: Fox responds with a red herring.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Just A Thought

The 8 billion dollars in earmarks that sank the omnibus budget bill amounted to less than 1% of proposed expenditures.

To the media, less than 1% of something translates to "earmark ladened" and "earmark filled."

Labels: , , , ,


Via Hemant, we learn that atheists in Florida were instructed by agents of the government to remove or cover up their t-shirts at a public meeting because they were deemed offensive. The shirts read "One nation, indivisible" over a US flag image, with "Atheists of Florida" printed underneath.

Looks like someone needs a refresher course on the 1st Amendment.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Supporting Data

This chart belongs in the comment thread for the Fox News global warming memo, but I don't know how to embed it in there, so I threw it up here as a visual.


Ummm...You have to ask? Might want to reevaluate that omniscient claim.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More On Fox

It was just a few days ago that I posted the information from MediaMatters For America on how Fox's news editors instructed news staffers to use language favorable to the Republican party's agenda in reporting on health care reform.

Looks like they did it with climate change as well:

In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."
The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."

Facts have a well known liberal bias.

Labels: , ,


Via Spork, we learn once again, that certain people will go to great lengths to whine about "assaults" on their beliefs. This time its Sen. Jon Kyle.

"It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out," Kyl said today, "frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff."

Reid isn't suggesting that the Senate meet on Christmas day, just that they return to work the following week. You know, like just about everyone else working for a living.

Perhaps some history is in order, especially for the "original intent" crowd.

The Roman Catholic Church broke from churches in the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire by celebrating Christ’s birth on Dec. 25, the same day as the birthday of the Invincible Sun, worshipped by a solar cult in the first few centuries.The first written mention of Dec. 25 was in a Roman city calendar in 354 AD. Christmas was celebrated in England, especially in the 1500s.Then came the overthrow of the English monarchy, and Parliament prohibited the celebration of Christmas. In America, the influence of the Puritans was even stronger and the banning of Christmas observances was uniform across New England.Before our Civil War, Congress regularly met on Christmas Day. The influence of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert brought Christmas back to popular favor. The South was the first part of America to officially recognize Christmas.

So, Christmas wasn't particularly sacred in the antebellum U.S., and the modern "tradition" is a Victorian construct. I really don't care if Congress meets on Christmas day or not, but to whine about having to go back to work the following Monday is churlish.



Here we go again. A far right fanatic objecting to the curriculum in a public high school personal finance class because some of the materials do not conform to the family's views. This time, its Barbara Ehrenreich's award winning book, "Nickled and Dimed."

"We had almost PhD people letting this fumble through their fingers, and they all said it was grand," said Dennis Taylor, a conservative Christian. "I think there should be a review of these individuals and perhaps some firing done."

The Taylor's don't like anything about the book, but but much of their ire seems focused on a single paragraph:

"Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say," Ehrenreich writes.

From a theological standpoint, that's hardly controversial. There's more:

The author is a known social Marxist, hates everything American, everything that America stands for or was built on," Aimee Taylor said. "I mean when you read the book you see that strongly in this woman's agenda. It's horrible."

Marxist? Hates everything American? Ehrenreich is certainly a member of the Democratic Socialist party, and certainly has a message in her book, the overriding one being that it is next to impossible to make a living at a low wage job, and that the minimum wage should be raised, but that doesn't make her a hater of all things American.

From the Amazon review:

Essayist and cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich has always specialized in turning received wisdom on its head with intelligence, clarity, and verve. With some 12 million women being pushed into the labor market by welfare reform, she decided to do some good old-fashioned journalism and find out just how they were going to survive on the wages of the unskilled--at $6 to $7 an hour, only half of what is considered a living wage. So she did what millions of Americans do, she looked for a job and a place to live, worked that job, and tried to make ends meet.

I read this book shortly after it was published, and from the standpoint of a personal finance class, it has its place. Ehrenreich details her income, expenses, working conditions, etc, and if anything, students reading it should be impressed with the need for a good education so they don't have to rely on low paying service jobs, as they get to experience through Ehrenreich's words the experience of trying to keep your head above water at 6 bucks an hour (events in the book take place from 1998-2000, when the minimum wage was $5.15). Wikipedia's entry on the book is pretty good, as far as Wikipedia goes.

That said, there are some controversial (in a school setting way) parts to the book, mainly, in my opinion, dealing with recreational drug use, but still, its a good insight into the lives of the working poor. If this were the only printed material offered by the course, I'd say there was a problem, but I find that highly unlikely.

The real "controversy" is that the book conflicts with the economic worldview of a right-wing, conservative christianist family, and we just cannot have anything in school that might challenge their narrowly held views.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Conflict of Interest??

Oh my!

Henry E. Hudson, the federal judge in Virginia who just ruled health care reform unconstitutional, owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform. You don't say!

As the Huffington Post and others first noted last July, Hudson's annual financial disclosures show that he owns a sizable chunk of Campaign Solutions, Inc., a Republican consulting firm that worked this election cycle for John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, John McCain, and a whole host of other GOP candidates who've placed the purported unconstitutionality of health care reform at the center of their political platforms. Since 2003, according to the disclosures, Hudson has earned between $32,000 and $108,000 in dividends from his shares in the firm

This is not, of course, an example of "judicial activism." That only happens if the judge is appointed by a Democrat.

Digby digs deeper:

This was always going to find its way through the courts, so nobody should be surprised. I came to believe that the public option presented at least something of a backstop on this because a judge would not have been able to use the same rationale -- we are all mandated to pay for government services that we might not use. After all, many of us don't live to be 65, but we do pay into Medicare. At the very least they would not have been able to make the private/public distinction. And if the mandate were struck down, the public program would still be standing to take all those people who would be immediately priced out of health insurance.

To expand, you cannot opt out of paying for defense, as defense benefits all. On the local level, you cannot opt out of paying school taxes if you don't have kids, because having an educated population benefits all. This is why the public option was a much, much better choice than the private mandadte. And who's idea was the private mandate? The Republicans, of course.

The individual mandate was the brainchild of conservative health economist Mark Pauly, who developed the idea for George Bush, Sr, to counter the employer mandate Democrats were supporting at the time.

Pauly, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says the idea was borne of several economists and market-oriented, health policy people, who decided to devise a health reform proposal that was free market friendly but would also achieve universal coverage.

The group concluded that the individual mandate was the best approach. Conservatives liked the individual mandate because it did the best job of eliminating what economists call the "free-rider effect." That's a person who chooses --out of individual choice-- not to buy insurance and then gets in an accident or becomes terribly ill. With no insurance, that individual can't pay, but that person will still get medical care and the cost of treatment remains. It gets passed on to other policy holders.

This, of course, is the situation that exists today. Individuals who cannot affford insurance forgo treatment until they are so sick that they must go to the emergency room. Hospitals cannot legally, or morally, refuse treatment to a person in need, so they treat the person gratis, and pass the cost along to those who are lucky enough to have insurance through their jobs, or wealthy enough to afford individual insurance, driving up overall costs.

So who would you rather pay taxes to? The government, which benefits all, and in which you have a say, or your insurance carrier, which benefits the shareholders, and which you have no say?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why I Don't Get Pizza From Dominos

Well, not really. I don't get Dominos because its crappy. However, Bill Donohue really needs to get a grip. He now has his panties in a bunch because a single YMCA in New York decided to replace one fictional character (Santa Claus) with another (Frosty the Snowman).

"Christmas is not about Jack Frost; it's not about snowmen," fumed Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. "We're not talking about some secular organization that has no religious roots. If they can't celebrate Christmas, then they should check out. What a bunch of cowards."

What does the modern image of Santa Claus, an image from Coca-Cola ads, have to do with religion? Sure, St. Nicholas was a Catholic saint, but the North Pole dwelling, toy making elf of children's stories? Sheesh Bill, get a freaking grip. This isn't an assault on your religion.

The New York Post's framing of the story doesn't help either. The comments section there is a wonderful primer on bigotry though.


Friday, December 10, 2010


Harry Reid, take note. This is the way its done. If you had forced the Republicans to actually filibuster, instead of the pretend filibuster you let them get away with, the Democratic party wouldn't be on its heels.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Croc Poop

I don't mean this as disrespectful, but nature is a cruel mistress. Carnivores are gonna do, what carnivores do.

An acclaimed outdoorsman who wrote movingly about testing himself against nature is presumed dead after a crocodile snatched him from his kayak while he led an American expedition from the source of the White Nile into the heart of Congo...

Coetzee's body has not been recovered.

Um...he's croc shit now.

We react in horror when a human falls victim to a predator, but is it any different if it were an antelope?

Its NATURE. You go into the wilderness, then you take the chance that you just might become part of the cycle of life. Deal.


Can we stop calling them a news outlet now?

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts....

Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option" instead.

Luntz argued that "if you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," but that "if you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it."

Hannity is a commentator/pundit, so him using the phrase "government option" isn't an issue, however, when editors direct allegedly "straight news" reporters to use politically charged phrasing in order to sway public opinion, we have a serious problem.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Now Wait Just A Minute!

Ummm, did Republicans, with President Obama's help, manage to kill Social Security Monday?

The tax deal reached Monday by the White House and congressional Republicans would cut worker payroll tax contributions by about a third. The White House said the arrangement will put more money in workers' pockets at a time when there is considerable concern about weak demand for goods and services undermining a fragile recovery.

That might be true in the short term, but lowering payroll taxes by 2% will drain money out of the trust fund. Although described as temporary, the "cut" is scheduled to expire in 2012. Seeing what we just saw with Republican strong-arming over extending the Bush tax cuts, which would have expired at the end of the year, does anyone really believe that in an election year there will not be the same clamor to extend the cut, further draining income from the Social Security system?
The payroll tax is a flat tax, which means higher income earners will see most of the savings. The 2% cut might have been a good idea if in exchange the earnings cap (currently at $106,800) was lifted, in essence requiring every earner, regardless of income, to kick in 4.2%. That didn't happen, and I think Social Security is now doomed. It will be a slow, painful death, put the poison was administered, and Democratic politicians do not have the backbone to administer the cure, and Republican politicians don't want to.

Republicans acknowledged that the expiration of the tax holiday will be treated as a tax increase. "Once something like this goes into place, a year from now, when it expires, it'll be portrayed as a tax increase," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). So in a body like Congress, precedents matter and this is setting a precedent. I think that certainly is going to create some problems down the road if it passes."

Given that Congress, under Democratic control, can't gather itself to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, members of both parties are convinced that letting the payroll tax rate revert back to its current spot will be near impossible.

Nice job Mr. President! Seriously, which party do you belong to?

Think I'll be buying Nestle stock. They own Ralston-Purina, the makers of Friskies cat food. Since that's what many baby boomers will be eating in 20 years, it seems like a good investment.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Bus Ad Backlash

Atheists in Fort Worth, TX are running ads on busses. What does the advert state? This:

"Millions of Americans are Good Without God" This simple, factual message caused a religious freak-out.

Austin Cline has the reaction.

UPDATE: More from Texas. This time from a parade.

The atheists weren’t insulting anyone, or mocking anyone, or being even remotely threatening to anyone. They weren’t even “influencing” people.

They showed up. That’s the controversy. It just proves that we don’t have to do or say anything to be controversial. Our mere existence is enough to drive some Christians crazy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


A cool, lazy Saturday. What better thing to do than make homemade beef stock?

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Ahhh, England!

I found this paragraph in a story about cold temperatures and snow in the British Isles illustrative.

A woman who dialled 999 to report the theft of a snowman from outside her home in Chatham, Kent, was labelled "irresponsible" by police. During the call the woman said: "It ain't a nice road, but you don't expect someone to nick your snowman."

Labels: , ,

Classical Vandals

Its An Alien!

Or not. When the news broke yesterday that a new form of life was discovered in a lake in California, I was intrigued.

In a bombshell that upends long-held assumptions about the basic building blocks of life, scientists have discovered a a whole new type of creature: a microbe that can live on arsenic.
It is unlike every other lifeform on the planet - from the simplest plant to the most complex mammal.

Looking a bit deeper, it appears that this bacterium has just replaced phosphorus with the chemically similar arsenic in its chemistry, and it isn't a radically different "new form of life."

Now, I'm very interested in science, and I am probably better read on the subject than the average Joe, but I'm no biologist, so trying to wrap my head around what's actually occuring in this critter isn't the easiest thing to do, especially with the media freak-out. Luckily, PZ Myers rides to the rescue!

Scientists started out the project with extremophile bacteria from Mono Lake in California. This is not a pleasant place for most living creatures: it's an alkali lake with a pH of close to 10, and it also has high concentrations of arsenic (high being about 200 µM) dissolved in it. The bacteria living there were already adapted to tolerate the presence of arsenic, and the mechanism of that would be really interesting to know…but this work didn't address that.

Next, what they did was culture the bacteria in the lab, and artificially jacked up the arsenic concentration, replacing all the phosphate (PO43-) with arsenate (AsO43-). The cells weren't happy, growing at a much slower rate on arsenate than phosphate, but they still lived and they still grew. These are tough critters...

What they also found, and this is the cool part, is that they incorporated the arsenate into familiar compounds*. DNA has a backbone of sugars linked together by phosphate bonds, for instance; in these baceria, some of those phosphates were replaced by arsenate. Some amino acids, serine, tyrosine, and threonine, can be modified by phosphates, and arsenate was substituted there, too. What this tells us is that the machinery of these cells is tolerant enough of the differences between phosphate and arsenate that it can keep on working to some degree no matter which one is present.

So what does it all mean? It means that researchers have found that some earthly bacteria that live in literally poisonous environments are adapted to find the presence of arsenic dramatically less lethal, and that they can even incorporate arsenic into their routine, familiar chemistry.

It doesn't say a lot about evolutionary history, I'm afraid. These are derived forms of bacteria that are adapting to artificially stringent environmental conditions, and they were found in a geologically young lake — so no, this is not the bacterium primeval.

On an unrelated note, PZ also gets some interesting e-mail from loving Christians.

Here's another take from an actual biologist.

Look, it's an exciting discovery, but everyone is over-hyping it. This bacteria is not an arsenic-based life form in the sense that we are carbon-based life forms. It does not use arsenic as a source of fuel. It does not exclusively build its DNA backbone using arsenic. It doesn't even really like to do that at all in the wild - it incorporates arsenic under laboratory conditions that force even higher concentrations of arsenic upon it. It is not a different type of life that arose separately from phosphate-using lifeforms.What it is is an excellent example of evolution. While coming from a phosphate-using ancestor, this bacteria has somehow adapted to an extreme environment that would kill most other organisms. I'm more interested in how it avoids death by this toxin than the fact that it incorporates a molecule extremely similar to phosphate into its DNA.

More here from an evolutionary biologist.

The truth is hugely less earth-shattering, but still very interesting. Rather as Lenski did with different chemical insults, these researchers kept bacteria in an arsenic-rich environment and selected out a strain that could tolerate arsenic. They went on to show that the bacteria evolved the ability to substitute arsenic for phosphorus (the two elements are an octave apart in the periodic table, and share many properties, which is precisely why arsenic plays such a starring role in our murder stories: the body can't easily distinguish arsenic from vitally needed phosphorus and then discovers its mistake too late).

So what we have here is a bacterium that adapted to survive in a very hostile enviroment, and utilize a resource in that enviroment that other organisms cannot use. Its a very cool example of evolutionary theory in both the lab and the field, but it is not a completly new form of life as the media implied.

(BTW, if you are unfamiliar with the Lenski experiment, it is fascinating in its own right)

Labels: ,

Queen of the Kitchen

Guess who rules the roost at Granddaddy's and Grandmama's?


Rangel Censured

Public scoldings are sooooo Victorian.


Thursday, December 02, 2010


I've been saying this for years now. Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic:

What we've observed these past two years is a political party that knows nothing but scorched earth tactics, cannot begin to see any merits in the other party's arguments, refuses to compromise one inch on anything, and has sought from the very beginning to do nothing but destroy the Obama presidency. I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years...

The two parties are evenly spread in this 50-50 country, but only one can brook no compromise in its accelerating rush to the far right. And that is what it seems we have to contemplate for the next two years - total paralysis in the face of urgent problems as part of a game of cynical partisan brinkmanship. They simply cannot bear that another party might actually have a role to play in government.
This is not conservatism, properly understood, a disposition that respects the institutions and traditions of government, that can give as well as take, that seeks the national interest before partisan concerns, and that respects both the other branches of government and seeks to work with them. These people are not conservatives in this core civilized sense; they are partisan vandals.

Its been going on for longer than two years. Its been happening since 2006, when the Democrats took control of Congress. Its been happening since 1994, when the Republicans took control of Congress and essentially locked Democrats out of the legislative process.

There simply is no point in trying to negotiate with the modern Republican party, because the Republicans aren't interested in negotiation or bipartisanship, haven't been since the Tom Delay era, and it gets worse and worse with every passing day. The Republicans idea of bipartisanship is to get Democrats to do exactly what the Republicans want them to do, with no compromise or quarter given.

Now, we've got a neo-Confederate element in the Republican party that seems to be calling the shots. Virginia is calling for a return to nullification, and teatards are discussing bringing back property qualifications in order to vote. What's next, poll taxes? Bringing back the 3/5's rule in the interest of honoring the Founders' Orginal Intent?

Its the 1850's all over again, and President Obama is looking a lot like James Buchanan.

UPDATE: Limbaugh says the poor shouldn't be able to vote.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?