Oh NOooo! This is bad. The Heathen Republican, who curtailed his thoughtful conservative contributions to internet writing, will be deleting the website. We all have 30 days to find and copy favorite posts. Better get digging.
Another week, another killing in a movie theatre. This time the victim is a guy in Florida texting his little girl during previews, before the movie itself. The perpetrator says existing stand your ground law entitled him to use deadly force. Meanwhile, expand those very laws.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, reports a different angle of the recent massive West Virginia chemical spill. Seems the company will dodge financial accountability for the damage by filing for a limited bankruptcy. As Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court reminds us, the company is a person.
James Wigderson considers character over party in endorsing one of three candidates for City Attorney of Waukesha, WI. A partisan Democrat is rejected because he signed an anti-Governor Walker petition. The Republican is rejected for helping destroy evidence on behalf of a Republican ally of the same Governor.
- Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes sees life as moments. He sees lost moments as a source of human tragedy. He sees slavery as stolen time, and so stolen life. He celebrates freedom.
Albert Einstein proposed his new theory, special relativity, in 1905 and quickly became famous. It was a strange and exotic set of propositions. The follow up general theory of relativity really shook things up. It was pretty much accepted in physics within a few years.
You might say that Einstein generated a big bang of his own. There followed an explosion of sorts. The merging of time into spacial dimensions brought forth variations. Elementary particles begat lesser particles, then sub-sub-particles. Those particles were just theoretical, explained by strange twists of quantum mechanics in which opposite, mutually exclusive, states of existence could simultaneously be true.
Some scientists felt compelled to assure the public that the wonderfully bizarre reality that operated on a sub-atomic level had no relationship to the world we experience every day. One skeptic, physicist Erwin Schrödinger, proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate the absurdity of the only-true-for-submicroscopic-reality postulate. He suggested a set up involving a Geiger counter and a radioactive substance, a bottle of arsenic, and a cat, all in a closed box.
A random subatomic event might or might not trigger the Geiger counter which might or might not break open the arsenic which might or might not kill the cat. If the prevailing new theories were right, the cat would be both dead and alive until the box was opened and the state of the cat was settled.
As scientists predicted new particles and states of reality, math began to run ahead of experimentation. Little in science is truly static. Settled fact can become open to contradiction as new evidence is uncovered. In fact, mainstream science holds statements to be meaningless unless they are both falsifiable and verifiable by some path of evidence.
The laptop computer, the cell phone, the television, the nuclear bomb all depend on absurd, largely theoretical, operations of the subatomic universe. Many of the ever new particles that scientists visualize in the complexities of their advanced mathematics can only be inferred. There is hope that, one day, advances in measurement will combine with future epiphany to provide at least some tenuous proof of what will never be seen directly.
In the meantime, the theories work. All things wonderfully electronic and modern come from the counter-intuitive, often unproven, theoretical world of exotic subatomic physics. Who needs Schrödinger's cat when we have cable television?
I had just microwaved dinner and was watching a broadcast on the device Isaac Newton would have dismissed, when I came across a political story that reminded me of the wonderful world of unproven particle theory that nonetheless works.
It has been documented past the point of redundancy that voter fraud is a rare, rare event. It most often happens when some public official wants to declare residency in order to run for office from a pretend residence. In one case it happened when a woman seeking to hide from an abusive ex-spouse tried to disguise her residence.
What doesn't happen is individual voters trying to influence an election by voting illegally. That is true for three main reasons.
It's amazingly easy to get caught.
Penalties against those who are caught are extreme. Fines and prison time can haunt a citizen for a long, long time after the debt to society is paid.
- Backroom tinkering with results is a lot safer, a lot more effective, and therefore a lot more common than any voter fraud.
There have been efforts to document voter fraud, the individual kind, not the backroom tally manipulation. In Pennsylvania, a city commissioner from Philadelphia found 700 cases of voter fraud over several years. When they were looked into, they pretty much turned out to be something else. The grand total was one.
In Colorado, the Secretary of State found 155 cases. Upon investigation, they were found to be legitimate voters. It seems the Secretary had included the names of immigrants who voted. He neglected to check, so he didn't know they had become citizens first. It turned out that citizens can legally vote.
During the George W. Bush administration, a nationwide search for voter fraud involved a detailed combing of records for every national, state, and local election over 7 years. It took five years to pour through every vote, then follow up in a search for voter fraud. They did find a handful of double registrations and fewer than ten actual fraudulent votes. That's nationwide over 7 years.
Around the country, voter ID laws have been carefully restrictive. Lots of minority voters and older folks and students just turned 18 don't drive. So traditional forms of identification have been discarded. These folks are now required to have drivers licenses or their equivalent to vote. And the equivalent have been made hard to get.
The number of voting booths have been reduced in minority areas. Voting locations have been moved to places that are hard to get to. Voting times have been reduced.
A recent study confirms what is apparent to most folks who have thought about it. The idea is to keep a lot of legitimate voters from voting. The state of Texas is even arguing that it is okay to attempt to discriminate against minority voters if, in their hearts, politicians are only motivated against voters who will support Democrats.
A few observers have labeled the new tactic James Crow, esquire, or Jim Crow, Jr. or Jimmy Crow. It isn't exactly the same as the poll taxes and literacy tests of old. The racial motivation is not always primary, but the target is largely the same.
The story in North Carolina's Raleigh News Observer was about voter suppression, moves against voter fraud that will only keep actual voters from voting, and voter fraud itself that is pretty much nonexistent. It seems Republicans are pushing local voting boards pretty hard to keep voters from voting, even when local officials know better.
The story begins this way:
RALEIGH — One of the longstanding arguments against voter ID laws has been that there is no history of significant elections fraud.
But advocates of North Carolina's new elections law have been making their way across the state to county elections boards to try to make the case that fraud has existed but has been inadequately investigated.
- Raleigh News Observer, January 12, 2014
That's what brought the higher mathematics of subatomic physics to mind. Illegal voters are like the newest class of particles.
Republicans are sure they exist. They simply haven't found any way to observe them.
But in the world of voter suppression, the theory works. Yes indeed, it does work.
In Response to comments by Jerry Critter regarding
Hawaii and What's Behind Genetic Modification
Ah, the old slippery slope argument.
- Jerry Critter, January 10, 2014
Where? I asked you a question: if more information is good, why not include even more information on the label? Why just stop at "GMO Food"? Surely there is more information that some people want to know.
The point is that, in the absence of both a *right* to know and a *legitimate reason* to know, there is no good reason for a business to label its food as GMO, given that some people will avoid it on that basis alone. And whether or not there should be a right to know should depend on whether or not there is a legitimate reason to know.
Too much information is bad...and who is to judge when there is too much information? You?
In the interest of maximizing information, please send me all of your bank account and credit card details. You see, I'm just better off knowing--and who are you to say no?
Actually people can eliminate or, at least, greatly reduce their consumption of GMO foods by eating organic foods.
I don't know why you brought this up. I didn't deny it.
They are preventing voluntary labeling! And you say that is not censorship?
You bring up a new issue--one I am only reading just now--and suggest that I support a ban on voluntary labeling on the basis of my previous comment, which concerned only involuntary labeling?
Here is my actual position:
Censorship is sometimes justified--think shouting "Fire!" in a theater--according to the harm that it prevents. We all disagree on the point at which censorship is appropriate, but we all seem to agree that it sometimes is, even in our government.
Accordingly, I can understand and sympathize with the reasoning behind the government's refusal to allow organic producers to label their food as GMO-free. However, since I suspect that allowing it would cause minimal harm, I don't support the government here.
Involuntary labeling is another matter because it involves forcing a business to likely lose money for no legitimate reason. Moreover, it seems more likely that people would *stop* eating foods newly labeled GMO than that they would *start* eating foods newly labeled non-GMO. So, I can reject the one (the original issue) and support the other (your article) without being inconsistent.
Ryan is a frequent and generous contributor. He also writes for his own site where truth is not modified, genetically or otherwise. Please visit Secular Ethics.
Jerry Critter's always pithy, usually witty, and frequently wise comments are always appreciated. He can be found, in pure organic form, at Critter's Crap.
Georgia NBC station WSAV 3 Exposes GOP Rep Jack Kingston's Taxpayer-Funded Lunches after he lectures poor children about accepting school meals.
Ripples Could Join into Tsunami to Reverse Income Disparity (5:19) - Click for Podcast
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Republican Cryoseisms Are Not Political Earthquakes (5:06) - Click for Podcast
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Infidel 753 reviews available analysis of the Christie bridge to snarls and conludes that it doesn't really matter if the Governor's deniability is plausible. The Christie Presidential run is stillborn.
Progressive's for a while have said that the country's slow leftward direction can't be measured by self-labeling. Folks think of themselves as conservative even while endorsing liberal policies. The Moderate Voice reviews polling that now indicates even political labels are beginning to tack more leftward. The Moderate Voice is skeptical of over-interpreting the label and explores possible reasons.
- Jonathan Bernstein, now writing for Bloomberg News, wonders whether political polarization is as bad as pundits are painting it.
What is most urgent is not always what is most important. The progressive focus is on immediate need. Nutrition programs are important because at least children and the elderly and the disabled will experience deprivation right away. Unemployment benefits are important because families will find themselves living in alleyways very soon. Injured veterans returning from combat need treatment. Police officers are fighting crime. Infrastructure repairs mean bridges stay standing.
The focus is important because the suffering targets real human beings. The urgency comes because that suffering is not on some distant horizon. It is a darkness that is right around the corner.
The impetus is strengthened by the crassness and transparency of foolish arguments against obvious moves. Children will learn the value of industrious ambition if they go hungry before starting classes. The unemployed are indolent, and would easily find work if we stopped paying them small amounts to stay unemployed. There seems to be an almost universal meanness in the obstruction of rescue efforts.
The shortsightedness involved adds to the urgency. Conservatives insist that budgets be balanced right now. Deficit scolds hold sway. Unemployment benefits might be worthy of consideration as long as they are paid for by cutting breakfast programs for little kids.
Dumb arguments against action are a good motivator for action.
Mainstream economists agree that economic downturns, including the recession that continues now, are shortened by increases in deficit spending. The time to balance budgets, then create surpluses, is when prosperity returns. Higher deficits in harsh economic times. Pay it back during good economic times.
The ironic fact of life is that safety net programs are the best economic stimulus there is. Providing help to the desperate has a side benefit to everyone else. Recipients do not hold onto benefits. They are spent on life's desperate necessities, and they are spent right away. The multiplier effect becomes an exponential effect.
The fierce urgency of now has become fierce indeed.
But there is an even greater importance in the larger picture. Our economy has gotten top heavy and unstable. Income inequality has become detached from any rational measure of economic contribution. It began in the early 1980s and has accelerated with each passing year. The downside of each economic cycle has been a burden carried disproportionately by the poor and economic middle class. Each upturn has disproportionately benefited the top 1%.
The twentieth century is replete with examples of top heavy economies, oases of wealth surrounded by those whose lives are spent in economic struggle. These societies have often been accompanied by nominal democracies that are not democracies at all, where voting rights have been restricted, where oligarchies rule.
There have been brief periods of disproportionate flow of wealth in American history. This has usually happened in economically desperate times. Some local remedies have have brought mixed results.
Huey Long's Louisiana squeezed oil companies to provide a sort of redistribution through a roads-roads-roads construction program. The policy was mixed with a strong dose of racism. The economic part was eventually overtaken by Roosevelt's jobs programs, then by the huge spending made necessary by World War II. The closest reprisal of the Huey program minus the racism came when Alaska Governor Sarah Palin dramatically increased direct cash payments to state citizens financed by oil revenues.
More realistic steps seem to be popular.
Unemployment benefits help those who are getting back on their feet. Head Start and other programs provide an extra boost for that magic bullet that cures so much - education.
A growing body of evidence shows that large increases in minimum wage will have their own multiplier effect. Not only do such increases fail to reduce employment. They result in indirect wage increases across the board.
Shifting the tax burden from the middle class to the top 1% will eventually become legislatively possible. It is already politically popular.
Increasing Social Security benefits, increasing the quality and scope of care for veterans, feeding kids, helping families stay together sheltered and fed, increasing the work of repairing bridges, roads, schools, police stations, and firehouses. Staffing those schools and police stations and firehouses with trained professionals.
Each step fulfills a specific need. Each step also provides an incremental advance toward a larger goal of economic equity, a more sensible balance in income flow.
In the end, everyone will benefit. Even those who will scream the loudest and obstruct the most.
It began right around Christmas in parts of New England. In Vermont, employees of Enterprise Car Rental thought some uncontrolled vehicle had collided with the back of their building. WCAX in Burlington carries the story:
"It actually sounded like there was a truck or something that hit the back of our office and I went out back to see if ice had fallen or something like that, but nothing there," says Enterprise employee Phil Seidel. "I was checking a car back in a little later in the afternoon and I actually tripped over this crack here."
Reporter: "And so you guys definitely didn't notice this before then?"
Seidel: "No, absolutely not."
- WCAX, Burlington, Vermont, January 3, 2014
Now there are numerous reports from Canada. Lights in the night are followed by explosions. The ground shakes.
At first, people swore they were experiencing earthquakes. But now, scientists are explaining something different.
The culprit is cryoseism. The cryo part refers to sudden cold. Like cryogenics. These phenomema are often known as ice quakes or frost quakes. They happen when there is extreme cold, at least by human standards, that comes suddenly. This began happening about the time of the explosive ground shaking. That's where the seism part, as in seismic, comes from.
When water turns to ice, it crystallizes. That makes it expand. It's the crystallization that does it. It's not like the expansion and contraction that makes your old-style thermometer or thermostat work. Metals and liquids tend to expand as they get hotter and contract as they get colder.
But when some liquids turn to solid, like water to ice, they crystallize and expand. This happens pretty much every winter here in Missouri, and it happens without a lot of weird lights and shocks to the foundations of homes. That's because it happens gradually. When water turns to ice and expands it creates a strain in the earth. That strain dissipates.
When the drop in temperature is extreme and happens suddenly, the strain is great, and we see these short term effects that wake populations out of peaceful slumber. There are other conditions. A heavy rain just before the temperature drop, for one. And snow coverage after the rain must be slight or non-existent. That all drenches the ground and provides minimal insulation.
For the most part, the only damage comes from the frightening of neighborhoods, with occasional parking lot cracks. Sometimes the sounds and the shaking are startling. Most folks think EARTHQUAKE. But we're not looking at seismic plate type stuff. Ice expansion is short term and the displacement results mostly in sound and short term fury.
When my loved one mentioned news reports about sudden proliferation of cryoseism in Canada, my mind, being what it is, went to politics.
I think Obamacare is a wonderful improvement over what has been our healthcare system up to now.
Politically, it's given the President and Democrats a terrible beating. That has been mostly because of a combination of distortions (death panels), political ineptitude (you can keep your coverage), and technical failure (the website from Hell).
The falsehoods are beginning to flee in the face of actual experience.
The President's you-can-keep-your-coverage was a direct reference to a provision that exempted existing plans that did not meet new standards. But it lives for a while as a "lie". You have to remember that these are the same conservatives who will insist that "you didn't build that" referred to something other than infrastructure, business environment, and educational preparation. Transmuting the President's assurances to a promise that insurance companies would not behave as ruthlessly as they had always done was not a huge moral step for conservatives. Some now insist that "you can keep your doctor" means that physicians will never retire or die.
Conservatives are enraged at preliminary calculations that indicate both that the website is handling huge volumes successfully, and that there are huge volumes to be handled.
Earthquakes come from the friction of political seismic plates. Policy changes the landscape. So does political structure. Obamacare will prove to be a success. And the Republican Party will continue its helpless slide into extremism.
Distortions, faux-scandals, technical glitches, and even single election cycles, when they all come together in just the right combination of explosive confluence, do make a lot of noise.
But, in the end, they're just frost quakes.
Michael J. Scott at Mad Mike's America brings us news of a seeming decline of evolution knowledge in today's Republican Party. Does this signal an increase in malfunctioning synapses? Michael provides alternate possibilities.
I remember when the acronym "WASP" wandered a bit from its original meaning. John F. Kennedy was once labeled a CASP, Catholic Anglo-Saxon Protestant. PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, reacts to a more literal lament from the Wall Street Journal. An editorial laments that actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are losing control of American politics and policy.
The Moderate Voice repeats the newest accusation against Pope Francis. Seems he is not properly respectful of the extremely wealthy. Something to do with some silly thing said by some guy from Nazareth.
Normally, I wouldn't be inclined to pay much attention to local municipal politics in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but conservative James Wigderson is a talented writer who has a way of making controversies, issues, and personalities interesting. Entertaining, even.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot has one plus a baker's dozen observations to carry us into the New year, beginning with the insane tyrant of N. Korea going through to Texas Republican primaries. I'm thinking there are no direct connections.
- Max's Dad finds a largely non-analyzed, under-reported aspect of football that turns Max's Dad into a rabid fan.
Chris Christie, the Bridge, and a Canterbury Indictment (5:51) - Click for Podcast
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Why do we have to do this, Sir? gives a Christmas sermon based on his crazed conversation with ever-creative adolescents as he explains the difference between advent and nativity (Are we there yet? Are we there yet?). He finds a lesson on the power of tradition.
Mad Mike's America looks into efforts by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ to ban books with ideas they don't like. We do not need to look beyond our own actions to discover how others often see us.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite takes the vocal defense of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson by conservatives to heart and presents 10 Culture War Heroes Not Afraid to Talk About Jesus and the Bible and God.
Phil Robertson rags on gays and longs for the good old days in Dixie before bothersome civil rights, when all the black people he knew in the south smiled a lot. Max's Dad responds to yet another reaction from the Palin family.
Why do serious news people even pay attention to Darrell Issa anymore? The folks at News Corpse hold their noses and look into the latest. Issa charges the Obama folks with releasing the Obamacare website with known security risks. He releases selected portions of documents to prove it. Sure enough, they say there were security risks before the release. Further investigation by skeptics reveals that Issa forgot to include that the security problems were listed for fixes, all of which were completed early on, before the release. Oops. Oh well. On to the next flim flam.
boskolives at Dog Bless Us One And All, brings us a free online program of 25 questions on your preferred word choices and pronunciation that reveal your geographical origin. It's based on Harvard research into regional dialects. I took it. Amazingly accurate.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, looks into recent brain research, and a scholarly review, and finds the review humorous, and the research little more than warmed over theories from the past. Pretty pictures, though.
- Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot finds an old Mad magazine and spins off a parody of We Three Kings as a cautionary rhyme on drinking and driving. Let's be safe on the road.
Does an Increase in British Economy Prove Austerity Works? (8:50) - Click for Podcast
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Why Does President Obama Refuse to Listen to Tom Price? (6:25) - Click for Podcast
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Joe Scarborough and the Situation Room Photo Conspiracy (5:38) - Click for Podcast
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Why do we have to do this, Sir? argues that the advent is less about waiting than about impatience, that John the Baptist had his anguished doubts, and that impatient, anguished doubt is accompanied by a mustard seed of humble birth.
Last Of The Millenniums notices arguments that the first amendment guarantees a position on your own reality show, and answers that highly selective cherry picking from scripture is no excuse for ignorance of what is in the rest of the Bible.
Mad Mike's America is not surprised by Duck remarks. Phil Robertson has not been shy in expressing opinions about gays for years.
The Moderate Voice quotes the great Ta-Nehisi Coates in reaction to Duck Dynasty views on happy, singing, black people who had no problem with Jim Crow in the good old pre-civil rights days.
Rumproast waits to applaud the budget play of Murray and Ryan until the second act, in which Paul Ryan announces he intends to shut down the government after all.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for A Plain Blog about Politics, suggests that, as healthcare reform becomes a success, Obamacare will disappear from the national vocabulary. Conservatives will refer to it as something else.
Conservative James Wigderson has a straight forward report on an alderman who used his influence to sex offenders evicted in his district by threatening the landlord with investigations into code violations. The alderman is now investigated for abuse of office. James' own reaction, or lack of it, serves as a sort of Rohrshack test for the reader. Well done, James.
- Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot continues his week by week chronicle of 150 years ago, as a Union charge up a hill succeeds because it was so unexpected. It was unexpected because the charge was pretty much accidental.