Friday, April 29, 2011

Racism on the Right; Is Racism Real in America?

I hear and read how the right denies they are racists.  Not all of them are; but many of the views they express are either racist, or have racist elements that unfairly and negatively make negative assumptions about people as groups.

Research suggests this is true of some members of the right wing.  Read this, and then ask yourself how well the qualities identified track with current right wing culture wars.  They sound remarkably authoritarian to me, and they seem to incorporate exactly the same qualities of personality and the same points of view identified by Altmeyer and others.  Even brain differences are tending to support such observations.

What the authoritarian right does NOT represent is the mainstream view of the real majority, the center, of the United States.  The reaction to the authoritarians is playing out in the 2011 and 2012 political conflicts on a daily basis.

One of the first psychologists to examine political views and social views from the perspective of psychological and personality traits was Canadian academic, Bob Altmeyer:
Altemeyer suggested that authoritarian politicians are more likely to be in the Conservative or Reform party in Canada, or the Republican Party in the United States. They generally have a conservative economic philosophy, are highly nationalistic, oppose abortion, support capital punishment, oppose gun control legislation, and do not value social equality.[2] The RWA scale reliably correlates with political party affiliation, reactions to Watergate, pro-capitalist attitudes, religious orthodoxy, and acceptance of covert governmental activities such as illegal wiretaps.[2] Although authoritarianism is correlated with conservative political ideology, not all authoritarians are conservative, and not all conservatives are authoritarian. 
The experience of members of the groups which experience racism say they are wrong, that they are racist, and as those who are discriminated against, they have a better basis to know if they encounter prejudice than those who have a vested interest in denying they have that practiced that prejudice.

At the same time it is from the right that we hear things like Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh denying the genuine academic accomplishments of people like President Obama.  It is from the right we hear how they deny that individuals from racial or ethnic minorities face greater obstacles or prejudice in achieving their success.

Racism continues to exist in this country; denying it perpetuates and continues it, rather than advancing the elimination of racism.  Rather than rely on the observations of those who are recipients of racism, or the denials of those who want to excuse their racist views, is the third option, independent trained, objective outside observers.  I can find numerous examples of people who meet that criteria identifying racism in the United States, but none who have those criteria that deny it continues to exist.
As Mr. Doudou Diène, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, stated after visiting several states in the U.S., "Racism and racial discrimination have profoundly and lastingly marked and structured American society.

The U.S. has made decisive progress. However, the historical, cultural and human depth of racism still permeates all dimensions of life and American society."
Donald Trump, as an example of a voice on the right that believes he isn't racist, while speaking in a quite opposite manner, has been touting how good his relations are with 'the blacks'.  Someone ought to explain, in words of few syllables to Donald the Clown, or Bozo Trump, that is probably not a very successful way to speak about that demographic.  The very fact that he would do so illustrates how very out of touch he is with racial and ethnic segments of this country, and with the main stream.

But he sure does appeal to the same base that embraces racist birther conspiracies, and shallow, ill-conceived notions of foreign policy.  In fact, Trump fits right in with the other authoritarians on the right wing.  Just watch who supports him.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A PSA and Update on the WI Recall Petitions

This is just one of the organizations that is participating in the unprecedented recall of Wisconsin state legislators.

The provocation in Wisconsin is not so different from attempts by the conservatives in Minnesota, which is just one reason of many for posting this update here as a public service announcement for our readers (with minor edits and redactions).  As this effort continues and grows, the recount for the Wisconsin Supreme Court election from earlier this month also continues, with modest gains for the Democratic candidate, although so far nothing that would unseat the incumbent Republican, but one may hope.  Wisconsin continues to be a volatile state politically.
Today, Democrats in Wisconsin are submitting the petition signatures to have the SIXTH Republican state senator, Sen. Robert Cowles, put on the ballot for a recall election.

That's six -- Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Sheila Harsdorf, Alberta Darling and now Robert Cowles -- of the eight GOP senators eligible for recall, and it covers all of the senators who are considered most vulnerable. A net gain of only three seats is needed for the Democrats to take control of the Wisconsin Senate.

Things are heating up! If things go as planned, we expect the first recall elections to be held in early July. That gives us just over two months to stage a targeted and strategic mobilization effort and send as many of Gov. Scott Walker's cronies in the state senate packing as we can.

Republicans have filed recall petitions against three of the 14 Democratic senators who stood in solidarity against Gov. Walker's attacks on Wisconsin's working families -- Sens. Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch. So we have to play defense as well as offense.

People For has organized a presence for our Wisconsin members at rallies and other events across the state -- including Sarah Palin's recent speech to hers and Gov. Walker's Tea Party supporters in Madison. We've been directing volunteers to help with the recall petition effort. And now, as we move into the election phase, we're holding meetings this week to determine our advertising and communications strategy for the campaigns. 

Wisconsin is vitally important for the entire country because it is the front lines of a national right-wing attack not just on workers' rights, but on the middle class as a whole.

The petition effort to undo a similar attack on workers' rights in Ohio is under way and we're fighting the demonization of public employees and legislative attacks on workers in a growing number of states.

Republicans in Washington recently voted to pull the plug on Medicare and Medicaid and remain hell bent on paying for more tax cuts for corporations and billionaires with deep cuts to vital services.

Just this week it was reported that one of the country's leading unions, the International Association of Fire Fighters, is so strained by fighting off anti-union attacks in the states that its PAC won't be participating in federal elections next year -- playing directly into the Right's plan to weaken progressives by attacking any institution that offers them political support.

We need to send a message in Wisconsin and we need to do it with these recall elections. Help us let the GOP know that their attacks on the middle class come with a serious cost ... and with Gov. Scott Walker eligible for recall in 2012, let him know that we're coming for him next.
I believe they are serious, and so should the conservatives in Wisconsin! 

The last count I had was that there were filings to recall three Democratic state senators, and efforts were in play to recall four others of the group which had fled the state to thwart legislation passing.  To date insufficient numbers of signatures existed to do so.  Interestingly, a group in Utah appears to be one of the driving forces behind the Democratic recalls, the "American Recall Coalition".
Additionally, adding to the volatility in Wisconsin, Congressman Paul Ryan has been booed and challenged at town hall meetings by unhappy constituents. 
I don't think the Conservatives have anything like the mandate they seem to think they have...

Re-Post - Tax Fairness

In a recent post, a respected commenter here posted that the incomes of those making more than 200k per year totalled roughly 1.3 Trillion, and that if we taxed those folks at 98% it still wouldn't be enough to pay off our current national deficit of 1.35 Trillion.

If those figures were correct, then truly we'd have a real mess. They'd present a couple of really big problems; First, no one (nor any collective set of us) could possibly pay back the debt we are incurring. It would mean we are institutionalizing our deficit and making an insurmountable national debt service because, if true, it is certainly the case that the remaining 95% of us CANNOT pay back this debt. According to 2007 data, that richest 5% get roughly 40% of all income. They, quite frankly, are the only group with the assets to pay off the debt this nation has incurred while they have gotten vastly more wealthy (as a group) than they were in 1980 or even 1995.

Second, and the really big "bummer" is that they certainly don't WANT to pay the tax bill to pay off that debt, and definitely not if they are going to be asked to pay at a 98% rate. They have the power to stop any such attempt, and you can be darned sure they would do so. It would be horribly unfair to ask them to pay at a 98% rate, we wouldn't do it, and it wouldn't pass.

Third, and this is really important, even if we stopped all spending, right now, today, we're still 14 Trillion in debt. This means even if we never spent another dime beyond our current national debt, if the wealthiest 5% of people would have to be taxed at a 98% rate to cover our annual deficit or pay off our debt in anything like a reasonable time, it means as said above, it will never, ever happen.

Fortunately, it isn't true. Fortunately, as we say in the late 1990's, the nation can and did run a surplus's when times were good. Fortunately, we don't have to pay off our annual deficit the year it's incurred. In lean times, in times of true national crisis, it is expected and understandable to run a debt, to fuel the economy with public works jobs. In boom times, it is time to save the excess (rather than give tax breaks to the rich), so that we have the money to pay for those lean times.

But even more fortunately, the figures themselves are completely wrong. They appear to be a byproduct of the same propaganda that tells us the Earth isn't warming, that Obama is a maybe not born in the US (as 40% of Republicans believe). With all intended respect to my conservative commenters, I wanted to move the discussion to its own thread so that facts can be debated correctly, reviewed correctly. And those facts are (from the US Census Bureau and the IRS).

In 2007, the total of personal income in the United States was 11.9 Trillion (source, US Census), of that, the wealthiest 5%, those making about 200k or more per year, was 38% of 11.9 Trillion, or about 4.2 Trillion. By 2010, the total income is 12.5 Trillion. If the percentage of what the top 5% make is the same as in 2007, and it's higher actually, then in 2007 the wealthiest 5% made 4.75 Trillion.

In 2007 (and really for the past two decades) the percentage of income each 20% (or quintile) paid in total taxes has been relatively identical (varying from about 16 percent to about 18% for each quintile). While the top marginal rate federal tax rate is 39%, through deductions, very VERY few people pay anything close to that. Those in the top 20% averaged (approximately) 17.5% (iirc) in total taxes - state, federal and local. They have obviously the highest amounts of disposable income, but they pay essentially the same tax burden as the poorest of us. The poor pay little to no federal income tax (in fact the poorest 20% of us contribute less than 4% of all federal tax revenues), but by contrast the bite that property and especially sales taxes take, is a far greater percentage of their income.

I have a great many more figures which buttress these, so if you have some questions about the income disparity and PERCENT of income paid in taxes, please just ask, but I don't want to clutter up the article more than necessary.

The point is, the top 5% make a great deal more than 1.35T per year. Even if we wanted to ask them to cover the entire budget deficit per year, it wouldn't require taxing them at 98%, more like 50-53%. But, certainly I think we very nearly all agree that asking everyone who makes say, between 250k and 2M to pay 50% in income tax is profoundly unfair.

Just like the following situation wasn't fair or ethical ... In 1985, Ronald Reagan and the Democrats in Congress enacted the largest tax increase in history. It wasn't an increase on personal income (per se'), but rather was an inc ease in the Social Security tax rate. It was forced on Reagan by Claude R. Pepper, a long-time Senator from Florida who took Reagan to task when he suggested "privatizing" retirement planning. Unlike now, a conservative Southerner (Pepper) scoffed at Reagan, pointing out that if the government (on behalf of cutting taxes for the rich), hadn't raided the Social Security Trust Fund in the late 1950's (done by Republicans) and in the 1980's (Republicans), Social Security wouldn't need a "fix". But.. since it had been, and apparently paying that I.O.U. wasn't very darn likely (an IOU written out to Social Security from the general fund of the Federal Government (both in the late 50's and again when Reagan tripled the national debt) - we would have to instead have the current workers pay more - and so, under intense pressure from the elderly (who saw Pepper as their champion), a tax increase funding Social Security well off into the future was passed. Rather than short-change our parents, or ask the elderly poor to suffer so that the rich did not have to, Pepper and a few others with some backbone stood up to the "give money to the rich and they'll share it crowd." The country did not crumble, jobs had already fled despite cutting the marginal tax rate for the richest Americans in half, and the only economic calamity stemmed not from raising that tax, but instead from rampant speculation by Savings & Loans in real estate - which President Reagan addressed by forming a Resolution Trust Corp and buying up all the bad assets (does this sound familiar to anyone?). Asking our elderly and poorest to bear the primary burden (or for that matter the middle class) of paying off the debt, losing services, living on less, is abjectly unfair.

As always though, the details are more complex than any simplistic approach of paying off any debt the year it's incurred. That approach is silly. First, in economic recession (or Great Recession as we are experiencing now), income goes down and costs go WAY up as I said before. What you ought to do, what private citizens and businesses alike do, is you sock away funds in good times, and you use that savings to cover the extra costs in bad times. It is EXACTLY what was done in the design of Social Security. There is supposed to be a huge stockpile of cash in the Social Security Trust Fund, and there would be if it weren't raided to give the appearance of more balanced budgets (as many Presidents did over the past 30 years, but especially so by George W Bush).

Instead, you pay off such debts by ensuring your revenue stream is sufficient to meet costs in normal times, you don't cut taxes by 450 Billion per year on the rich - as was done in 2001, and which never produced the jobs promised. You don't extend that tax cut when you are running a 1.35 Trillion dollar debt. If you are SERIOUS about addressing the debt, you don't FURTHER cut taxes on the rich as the Republicans did as their first agenda item following the 2010 elections. In fact, asking the richest 5% to pay the 450Billion would amount to a 10% marginal increase, taking them to an average 28% percent, not 98%. Having them pay that 450 Billion, if it had been done since 2001, would mean there wouldn't be the kind of debt we have today, Bush wouldn't have taken the national debt from 4.8 Trillion to 9.3 Trillion.

But, in economic down times, you spend more than you take in, and sometimes, like we did in 2009, you do so to keep the economy from collapsing. Some people believe that we should have allowed AIG, Goldman, Citibank, and Morgan Stanley to fail. Please, if you accept anything, accept that I work in this industry and EVERYONE, without one exception, conservative or liberal, radical or reactionary, everyone I know says the same thing, if we hadn't acted, if OBAMA hadn't done what he did (to his credit), our economy would have collapsed as badly or worse than it did in 1929-1932. Hoover's mistakes in the period (which Roosevelt repeated in 1937), was not in acting too much, but instead in not taking the risk seriously enough. We had to spend money to keep employers afloat for a time, we had to spend money to keep our auto industry afloat, and we HAD to spend money to simply keep money moving. Failure would have resulted in your friends, many of them, many many more than you saw, losing their jobs and their homes. We would have had soup lines, we would have had social upheaval. The one failing is that by saving those financial firms, we also save the most wealthy and those most wealthy KEPT Washington from passing the kind of reforms we needed. I don't like that at all, but better that than 30% unemployment. THAT is the kind of thing you SHOULD run debt to prevent, that's the EXACT kind of reason, and Obama, like him or not, like his other policies or not, acted in the best interests of this country, in a way which was politically unpopular, and may well mean he is a one term President. It took guts, the kind Bush never showed, it took bucking the political trends, but it was needed.

Lastly, the fact is we don't have to pay for this solely with personal income taxes. Social Security should be fixed with (unfortunately) a change in the Social Security rate (as we did in the 1980's,), but also with a law preventing the raiding of it (as Al Gore proposed in 2000- funny how prophetic he was, huh?).

Medicare should be fixed by fixing the way we pay for and deliver health care.

But the overall budget gap should be fixed by what we should NOT do. We should NOT reduce capital gains further, we should NOT extend the cut to it enacted in 2001. We should NOT extend the inheritance tax, but rather should raise the limit on exemptions.

The Ryan proposals as well as proposals from various tax policy fairness institutes (conservatives and liberals alike) all point more or less strongly to needing to increase revenue. Most proposals INCREASE not decrease the rates the very wealthiest pay, not primarily the top 5%, but rather the top 1%, the 1% who have estates above $10 Million. You see, it isn't in personal income taxes alone that revenue is derived. Institutionalizing wealth, making economic kings and queens (through inheritance) of the children of the ultra-wealthy is very bad for our country, we get Paris Hilton, and candidly, George W Bush - it locks up money, creates a two class society, and reinstates something our country was founded to stop, namely the perpetuation and establishment of a super-privileged ruling class of elites. They may not have the title of Prince or King or Baron, but they have everything else.

Bluntly, if we make those changes, and perhaps as the current proposals envision, we increase the tax rate on the wealthiest by 5 or 7%, over time, there wouldn't be a running federal debt - well, except for needing to pay back Social Security of course, and for dealing with health care of course, in short, exactly the things Obama has said we must address.

In short, we must PLAN, we must set our income at a rate which meets needs in normal times, lock away excess in boom times, and tap that excess in bad times. Rather than using highly distorted and or misleading figures, we must work together to reassert that the nation does best when we greatest number of us propser. We must address our problems in a serious way, rather than blaming the poor for overutilizing health care. As good and decent people (christians among us) we must NOT ask our poorest to eat less often so that our richest can drive 100' yachts.

We must repay social security of course to ensure it is solvent for our children's children, and we must do so by asking those who were vastly benefited by the Bush (and Reagan) tax cuts, to finally pay the fair share they should have been paying all along. It means rather than paying at an average marginal rate of 17%, they should pay at a rate of perhaps 25-33% (depending on the place in that upper 5% that they are), which while it is a certainly a real increase, it is also roughly half what it was 30 years ago. Cutting taxes on the rich did nothing to save jobs, to spur growth, create factories, all they did was incur vast debt. It is now well past time to recognize it didn't work, will never work, and now that the chickens have come home to roost, we're supposed to ask the poorest and elderly among us to AGAIN do with less??? instead of asking those who were SUPPOSED to save us but didn't, to pay? Well., not me. In the spirit of Claude Pepper, we cannot ask our children to pay for our mistakes. We must pay as we go, and we must ask those who benefit the most to pay in proportion the how much they benefit. To do less is hardly fair, and sure as hell isn't just.

Ed Stein, Political Cartoonist, Consistently Brilliant on the Obama Birth Certificate

Obama has claimed all along that nothing would satisfy the birthers, so there was no point to releasing his long form birth certificate.  He was right, because the right wing wing nuts haven't missed a beat in their hysteria of trying to deny the right of this black man to be an American citizen, and our president.  It is not slowing them down one bit over at right conspiracy slanted News Nuts Daily!

I enjoy, for saner commentary, which is why  it is linked on our blog roll.
Obama Releases Birth Certificate: What's the Law?
By Stephanie Rabiner on April 27, 2011 5:48 AM

The Obama birth certificate is officially out, with the President caving to detractors who have continually asserted that he was born in Kenya, not in Hawaii, making him ineligible for office.

If you're wondering why it even matters whether he was born in the U.S. or abroad given that his mother was a U.S. citizen, it has to do with one little constitutional clause and a whole lot of common law interpretation.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states that "No person except a natural born Citizen...shall be eligible to the Office of the President."

The entire Obama birth certificate fiasco rests on the interpretation of just what is required to be a "natural born citizen."

Though interpretation and law have varied over the years, courts have generally adopted a meaning that comports with English common law, as that is what was intended by the founding fathers.

According to the Congressional Research Service, English common law dictated that every child born in England, regardless of parentage, was a natural born subject.

This means that if President Obama was born in Hawaii, he is a natural born citizen.

However, the law is less clear about whether a person can be a natural born citizen if he was born to a U.S. citizen while abroad, which is at the center of the Obama birth certificate debate.

It's clear from federal law that these people are U.S. citizens, but there is a question of whether they are naturally born.

In 1790, the first Congress enacted a law that defined the term as including persons born to U.S. citizens abroad. Between this act, common law principles, and Supreme Court statements, the Congressional Research Service has found that the majority of constitutional scholars believe that President Obama, regardless of where he was born, is a natural born citizen.
(Any bets on which one Larry the Cable Comedian reads?)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If You Think This is Funny YOU Are the Problem

I received this in my private email earlier today.  I'm offended, not the least because of the factual errors in the content, and the stupidity of the ideas it contains.  Many of those ideas are promoted by self-identified conservatives.

Let me 'fisk' this for readers - for those unfamiliar with the verb: fisk (fɪsk) - vb
slang to refute or criticize (a journalistic article or blog) point by point, after the use of this technique by Robert Fisk (born 1946), British journalist, to criticize articles]

From Larry, the farmer next door.
"Larry" looks a lot like Larry the Cable Guy from the blue collar comedy programming; aka Daniel Lawrence Whitney.
A lot of what Larry promotes as humor is crude, not funny; he regularly appeals to what can fairly be described as the lowest, least informed, least thoughtful demographic.

And the truth be told!

Sadly, 'Larry' wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on his capacious backside.

Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in Our Country lately:
Illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, alligators attacking people in Florida .....
Not me -- I concentrate on solutions for the problems -- it's a win-win situation.

Defining the problem accurately and correctly IS the only means of identifying and solving our nation's problems.  Larry does neither, and only in his deluded imagination is this a win for anyone.
* Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border.
* Send the dirt to New Orleans to raise the level of the levees.
* Put the Florida alligators in the moat along the Mexican border.
Any other problems you would like for me to solve today?
            Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border :

Digging a moat, or building walls, or any of the other many proposals to recreate the great wall of China on our southern border have been flawed by failing to actually stop illegal entry into the country, while maximizing very real problems economically and environmentally.  It has resulted in the process of eminent domain destroying the property rights of a large number of American citizens who live along the border.  It doesn't work, it costs a lot of money that we cannot afford that would be better spent on more effective border security measures, it causes flooding problems and is badly engineered.  In short, it is an unmitigated disaster; but conservatives LOVE it.  It gives them a false sense of security while pandering to their bigotry.
From the Wall Street Journal back in 2009:
Opponents of the fence have petitioned the Obama administration to halt construction. Environmentalists are demanding a top-level review of the route, which they say would block such rare species as the ocelot from critical habitat. Property owners are contesting federal seizure of their land. Engineers are struggling to address flooding concerns.

And all the while, drug smugglers and illegal immigrants continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs. The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.
The problems of the levees in New Orleans is not an absence of dirt; rather it is about problems with the concept of the design of the changes made to New Orleans by the Army Corps of Engineers, an absence of understanding the ecology of the wet lands that had been buffers, and most of all, the problems of corruption.
Apparently tragedies like Hurricane Katrina seem a legitimate topic for humor to Larry and those who find him funny.  It doesn't amuse me; promoting this as humor simply continues the ignorance that contributed to this being a problem in the first place.

Don't even get me started about the alligators or other wildlife issues.  Suffice it that the suggestion is every bit as ignorant and ill-conceived as the rest of Larry's crap.  Stupid isn't funny, it isn't clever, it isn't witty. 

It's just stupid.

Further, the number of illegal immigrants has been steadily declining for years; current estimates are not at 11 million, but closer to 7 to 9 million.  Of those, an estimated 40 to 50% are not people who entered this  country illegally at all, but rather people who overstay legal entry paperwork.  Those who promote bigotry, racism, and ignorance would like people to believe that the issue is entirely or nearly exclusively, a crisis of Hispanic people sneaking over our southern border.  It is not, but this treatment of immigration issues allows conservatives to define the problem as an us versus them dichotomy.  Disguising this 'they're not like us' paranoia as humor is an attempt to camouflage the ugliness as something more acceptable.
The United States has a major problem with visitors overstaying their visas, taking jobs and staying illegally as if they were immigrants. A chief reason for the problem is that we have no effective tracking system for visitors to our country. The most recent estimate of the INS is that about 40 percent of the nine to eleven million illegal alien residents in the United States originally entered the country with nonimmigrant visas.

There are a tremendous number of legal entries every year of nonimmigrants — in fiscal year 1996 the number of nonimmigrant entries was 24.8 million — and our business and tourist visitors are an important part of our economy. Nevertheless, the large number is not sufficient reason for having no effective systematic tracking system. The number of credit card transactions in the United States each year dwarfs the number of visitors, yet no one would suggest that the number of credit charges was too large to keep track of.

At present there is only a partial record of nonimmigrant entries. Foreign visitors who arrive at airports and ports of entry are required to complete an entry record (form I-94) to present with their passport and visa. Although the visa requirement is waived for several countries that have been determined to have little or minor abuse, they still fill our the I-94 form on their arrival. In 1996, nearly half (45%) of all of the nonimmigrant entries were by persons admitted under the visa waiver program.
Think about these:
1. Cows
2. The Constitution
3. The Ten Commandments
Apparently 'Larry' has trouble working past the first three letters of the alphabet.

Is it just I, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the state of Washington? And, they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.
Let's begin with your awkward grammar problems Larry.  Correct grammar would read "Is it just me", the correct first person singular pronoun.  Mad Cow Disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in humans it is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  It is zoonotic illness, a disease which can be transmitted between multiple species, including humans.  It is a tragic neurodegernative disease; it has resulted in millions of animals having to be destroyed, and hundreds of people have been affected.  The disease has no known cure and is always fatal.  Yup, funny stuff, that mad cow disease.

The mad cow scare in the United States was NOT three years ago; it was in 2003, some 8 years ago.  Occurrences in humans are monitored by the Center for Disease Control, even more effectively than the USDA monitors the occurrence in animals.

Comparing immigrants, legal or illegal, to cows and disease epidemics  is racist, it is bigoted, it is hugely insulting, degrading and demeaning to human beings.  It is NOT funny, it is not witty; it is not humor.  It is an ugly way of thinking masquerading as humor.        I find it amusing that it is the conservatives who least seem to know or wish to maintain our United States Constitution that most want to gut it, to drastically change it to something that would be unrecognizable to our founders of this country.  As noted by Bob Evans, in his August 2010 article, Spin Meter: Republicans Hot, Cold on Constitution: .
THE CONSTITUTION: They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq ...why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore.

Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia won his seat in Congress campaigning as a strict defender of the Constitution. He carries a copy in his pocket and is particularly fond of invoking the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

But it turns out there are parts of the document he doesn't care for — lots of them. He wants to get rid of the language about birthright citizenship, federal income taxes and direct election of senators, among others. He would add plenty of stuff, including explicitly authorizing castration as punishment for child rapists.

This hot-and-cold take on the Constitution is surprisingly common within the GOP, particularly among those like Broun who portray themselves as strict Constitutionalists and who frequently accuse Democrats of twisting the document to serve political aims.

Republicans have proposed at least 42 Constitutional amendments in the current Congress, including one that has gained favor recently to eliminate the automatic grant of citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

Democrats — who typically take a more liberal view of the Constitution as an evolving document — have proposed 27 amendments, and fully one-third of those are part of a package from a single member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. Jackson's package encapsulates a liberal agenda in which everyone has new rights to quality housing and education, but most of the Democratic proposals deal with less ideological issues such as congressional succession in a national disaster or voting rights in U.S. territories.

The Republican proposals, by contrast, tend to be social and political statements, such as the growing movement to repeal the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship. The problem with such a view, says constitutional law scholar Mark Kende, is that divining what the framers intended involves subjective judgments shaded with politics. Holding up the 2nd Amendment as sacrosanct, for example, while dismissing other parts of the Constitution is "cherry picking," said Kende, director of Drake University's Constitutional Law Center.
Virginia Sloan, an attorney who directs the nonpartisan Constitution Project, agreed.

Sloan said that while some proposals to alter the Constitution have merit, most are little more than posturing by politicians trying to connect with voters.

"People are responding to the politics of the day, and that's not what the framers intended," she said. "They intended exactly the opposite — that the Constitution not be used as a political tool."
Nothing says devotion to the Constitution like wholesale draconian changes to it!  But that's not funny; that's just cheap, sleazy hypocrisy.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS: The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this -- you cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' , 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians; it creates a hostile work environment.
No, Larry; the reason we can't have the ten commandments posted in a courthouse is that we are a secular government with a respect for the separation of church and state, not a theocracy.  We are forbidden under the establishment clause from giving preference to any religion or religions over other religions, or over agnosticism or atheism.  We respect the individual's right to belief.  Displaying the 10 Commandments is promoting the beliefs of the Abramic religions over other faiths.  Don't let respect for that U.S. Constitution of ours get in the way of a cheap shot Larry; again, not witty, not clever, not funny.  Just one more instance of the promotion of stupidity in the guise of appealing to ignorance and conservatism.
Also, think about this ....
If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone --
While I agree that being politically correct can be carried too far.......this is simply an attempt to rationalize the very real pricking of one's conscience for promoting stupidity, bigotry, and ignorance.  YOU, Larry, or whoever wrote this in your name, are the problem, as are those who found anything in this email purporting to come from you even remotely amusing.  Nor is the attempt to present this as good natured, simple-minded humor and 'common sensical thinking' much of a disguise for the calculated manipulation that this presentation really is.  This is ignorance, hatred, paranoia and racist bigotry masquerading as wholesome patriotism.  It is anything but that; what it more resembles is the attempt through association to do what Jonathon Swift did in his "A Modest Proposal", but for far less benevolent purposes.

In the Center Ring of the Circus, Obama's Long Form Birth Certificate

Julie Pace, of the AP released this story yesterday which appered nationally, including our own STrib.

In the article, she quoted Bozo the Clown, aka Donald Trump, as taking credit for this:
"He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue," Trump said."

You don't get the credit for anything, fool, that the president does or doesn't do, any more than the large number of Republicans who have been birthers can claim credit for anything other than stupidity, and reducing serious political discussion to trivial idiocy.  You have done nothing other than lump yourself into the same batshit crazy category as Orly Taitz, proving that all of your vaunted investigators in Hawaii have nothing.  Maybe they were just yanking your chain and picking your pocket, proving only that fools like you get parted pretty easily from their money, Trump.  You never had a legitimate issue; you don't have one now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pt. II And the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth.......thanks, MN Central!

Matthew 5:5  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

In case anyone wanted to have a quick bit of Bible sources, noting this sentiment occurs in both the old and new testament.

Thanks to commenter Minnesota Central for bringing this cartoon to my attention.  It is, indeed, apt.

Donald Trump: Mouth in Gear, Brain in Neutral

Donald Trump likes to run his mouth.  Like media whore Ann Coulter, he doesn't much care what it is that he says, so long as it gets him attention, so he tends to focus on the sensational and ignore the factual.
This appears to be appealing to at least a segment of the conservative base, who also don't seem to care very much about a factual basis for their beliefs, and are almost exclusively ideology driven.

We have rights to privacy in this country.  While there is a definite segment of our society which is sickly voyeuristic, consuming the most intimate details about the lives of celebrities and others, there is no entitlement on their part just because they want information to get information. 

There are individuals and organizations which ARE entitled to verify data.  That has been done, in the case of the president to the satisfaction of the appropriate government entities.

Trump is the worst kind of panderer, appealing to the lowest common denominator, when he makes statements like:
NEW YORK -- Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president's birth certificate.
Trump does not hesitate to make a statement as if it were fact, based on unconfirmed gossip.  This is not the conduct of a serious presidential candidate.  It is the conduct of a media clown, not unlike other right wingnuts, like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Michele Bachmann.  Sadly, this reduces the level of our public discourse, and diminishes the value of our method of representative government which is based not only on one vote for each person (human being person, not corporation), but is also dependent on an informed and intelligent electorate - not ignorant idiots.

Trump goes on to run his rather nasty, stupid mouth:
"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."
Heard......from whom?  Birther queen batshit crazy Orly Taitz?  News bulletin, Donald - you don't have the right to pry into anyone else's life, and the very idea that you think you do raises some of the same issues about anyone intruding and invading privacy as the discussions over abuses of the Patriot Act to snoop on American citizens. 
Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York in 1983 with a degree in political science after transferring from Occidental College in California. He went on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude 1991 and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
Unless you can prove some factual basis to assert that Obama didn't deserve to graduate magna cum laude, or that he didn't honestly get elected president of the Harvard Law Review by his fellow students after qualifying as a candidate for that position, you are promoting a very hateful position, a racist position, Mr. Trump. The bar for such a factual basis must of necessity be very high.

Further, Don, you are displaying precisely why it is that no respectable, responsible person in this country should give you the time of day, much less a vote for any office.  That this garbage appeals to conservatives is a potent reminder to me of why I am no longer a conservative, and why I find people like you, Mr. Trump, repugnant.  Don, you diminish all of us.

And incidentally - the decision to wear your hair in that ludicrous way is far more reminiscent of Bozo the Clown than it is either dignified or presidential.  We had a joke in office for two terms, prior to Obama.  We don't need another one; we've only just begun to regain our position in relationship to the other nations of the world again.  Let's not blow it this quickly, shall we Mr. Trump?  We can all see you're wearing a badly styled comb over.  It didn't look good when Rudy Guiliani did it, it doesn't look good on you.  Obviously you think we are all so stupid we are fooled by this - we're not.  There is nothing wrong with a man being bald; it can be very sexy, very virile.  This, what you are doing is just silly.  It insults us, it doesn't benefit you.  That's unlike you Donald; you're usually better at being self-serving.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Go Gabby Giffords! Positive Update!

The Congresswoman continues to defy and defeat the aggression of the (possibly) insane Tucson assassin from this past January, by her perseverance, according to reports by the AP.  This woman is an incredible example to all of us in how to endure and triumph in the face of incredible challenges and adversity.  That her husband could go forward with the challenges of his job, while demonstrating such devotion to his wife, is a credit to both of them.  It touches all of us.

Until Congresswoman Giffords returns to her place in the House of Representatives, and until the legal process is concluded, I would like to call the attention of Penigma readers to the black and white loop of ribbon in the photo posted in the upper left of this blog, in solidarity with Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.  Both remain in our prayers, and we hope, in yours as well.

from the AP article:
She speaks most often in a single word or declarative phrase: "love you," "awesome," those close to her said.

There were hopeful language signs even in March when Kelly said Giffords learned about the people killed during the Tucson rampage Jan. 8.

Kelly said he was reading a newspaper story about her out loud when she noticed he skipped a paragraph. That paragraph told of the casualties in the Tucson shooting — news that set Giffords grieving.

"So many people, so many people," Giffords repeated. Poteet said she would find Giffords with heavy looks on her face, repeating "no-no-no-no-no."

For that reason, Kelly said he hasn't told her that the victims included her friends and colleagues Gabe Zimmerman and Judge John Roll, or a 9-year-old girl, and three others, the kind of older constituents she loves to help.

Kelly said he wants her to be able to process the emotions without fighting so hard for the words.

"The challenge is she knows what she wants to say, and she knows everything that's going on around her," Carusone said, but can't always express it.

The Republic reported that Kelly comes in the morning with coffee and the newspaper, heads to work at NASA, and returns to Giffords at night to talk. Sometimes, he takes a nap with his wife in her hospital bed, holding her close.

When he comes into the room, Giffords breaks into an oversized smile, Poteet said, reaching out her good arm to beckon him to her side, give him a half-hug.

Though doctors have not yet approved the trip to Cape Canaveral for the shuttle launch, they said it should be safe.

"We're very comfortable with her traveling," said Kim.

Kelly, who has been to space before, said his job "will be a little bit harder this time, just because I want to look out for her."

He intends to phone Giffords during the mission, but he expects the conversations will be different than on his last flight.

Now, he will ask her "how things are going and how she's doing and what's her day like," he said.

They have a particular phone goodbye, "but that's a secret," he said.
My hope for Kelly and Giffords is that she has minimal memory of the actual events to overcome in her grieving, and as close to complete physical recovery as is humanly possible, which seems likely.  I wish them as speedy a return to normalcy as they can achieve.

Cartoon originally published January 27, 2011, but as applicable today:

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Paleo-Earth Project - Happy Earth Day

For those of you who are used to seeing the rotating image of the earth as a kind of stat counter along the upper left hand side of Penigma - look more closely at the image on the left, and then at the one below.  This is a glorious way to celebrate the anniversary of the Hubble telescope, and it delights my inner science geek.  I hope it pleases our Penigma readers as well.  Looking at it from this angle, from this perspective, earth day takes on a different meaning.  It provides us a more thoughtful way of looking beyond our immediate horizons and interests to the longer view of our evolution on this planet, and the marks we leave behind.  It is humbling; it is exhilarating; it is provocative.  Enjoy!
From the introduction to the Paleo Earth project, based in Puerto Rico:
The goal of the Visible Paleo-Earth project is to visualize in true-colors the evolution of Earth surface from paleo-climates to today. We are using paleogeography and paleoclimate reconstructions combined with NASA satellite imagery to generate our best interpretation of the global visual appearance of Earth in the last 750 million years, as seem from space.

We are using the information of NASA Blue Marble - Next Generation to recreate the color of our images. The “blue marble” image (right) is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer of our planet.

Here we show a sample of two (below), current Earth and the Late Cambrian Period. The four top views correspond each to the same 90°rotation angles, centered in the 180°, 90°, 0°, and -90° longitudes, respectively. You can compare how much the same face of the Earth changed in each frame during its history.

Our images will be also generated with true optical physical effects, including specular reflection and atmospheric effects, to better simulate the view from space. The two full rotation video compositions shown at the end took over two hours each of computing time to be rendered. These are available as high definition movies in 720p QuickTime format for Earth today and 500 Mya.

Additional versions of the poster figures will include features labels and climate information. We will also work in a Visual Neo-Earth, to visualize future terrestrial scenarios including vegetation shift due to climate change. These images can be used in studies of the terrestrial evolution of visual albedo, color, light curve, climate, and habitability. The images and animations will be available for scientists and educators.
It is not a project about our modern earth; the Paleo Earth project is about a longer view of our planet's history.

UPDATED: The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth - but only after the right has polluted it so badly it is uninhabitable

Updated April 23, 2011.
From the EDF which partners with business, governments and communities on solving environmental issues:
"Now, to actually cause poisoning or a premature death you have to get a large concentration of mercury into the body. I’m not a medical doctor, but my hypothesis is that’s not going to happen! You're not going to get enough mercury exposure or SO2 exposure or even particulate matter exposure! I think the EPA numbers are pulled out of the thin air!"

Congressman Joe Barton in a Congressional Hearing, April 2011

On a conservative web site, the validity of the EPA's statistical claims were challenged.  No, no one actually had a legitimate basis for claiming the numbers were inaccurate, not any more than Joe Barton did.  Their objection boiled down to because the EPA in their summation didn't go into elaborate detail explaining the sources for their numbers.

So far as I can tell, they were not asked to do so.  I don't see any video anywhere showing Joe Barton actually ASKING anyone from the EPA for an explanation; he just launches into an assumption, so far as I can tell, completely unjustified, that their numbers are inaccurate.  How can he be so certain they are inaccurate, if he doesn't know how they were derived? He doesn't actually KNOW anything of the kind; he just wants to use any pretext, any occasion to justify the big bucks that big oil pays him to act as their agent, their representative - rather than the representative of his constituents, human being citizens not corporations.

So I took a look at how mercury is measured, and evaluated as a hazard to human beings in the U.S.  I looked at the EPA - 'Human Exposure to Mercury',; and I looked at the Center for Disease Control's resources on Mercury poisoning, where they break it down into elemental mercury poisoning, organic and inorganic mercury poisoning.  I looked at the NRDC web site on Mercury poisoning,,.  I looked at the mercury pages on the web site for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is also part of the CDC,  I looked at quite a few sites, and quite a few sources of academic and other research data on the subject of mercury - too many more to list here.  The EPA numbers seem reasonable and fact based, consistent with the literature on the subject of mercury hazards.

You know what I found?  There is an awful lot of data available from which the EPA appears to have drawn their conclusions.  More than that - those other qualified sources DON'T, so far as I could find, have any significant problems with the conclusions of the EPA.  In fact, there wasn't anything on any of those sites that I could find that seriously challenged the validity of the EPA's conclusions.  There is some minor questioning of the conclusions of the CDC over the effects of minute amounts of mercury in vaccines.

But no, not about the conclusions of environmental mercury dangers as reflected in the EPA numbers. Nada.  Joe Barton is making up, out of his backside, his objections to those numbers.  He has no scientific basis for his crackpot hypothesis.  In fact, he bends over like a cirque de solleil contortionist to ignore all of the many ways in which our exposure to mercury is cumulative - and dangerous.

Sadly, like other Republican members of Congress, along with Republicans at the state legislature level, their numbers are the ones pulled out of thin air - or in the case of pollution, thick air; THEIR numbers are the ones which lack any credible empiric value or scientific merit.  Whether it is Michele Bachmann making incredibly ignorant AND stupid statements about carbon dioxide, or Barton making ignorant, stupid, ill informed statements about sulphur dioxide and mercury, or media whore Ann Coulter misleading her followers about the very real, very serious risks of radiation - and that's just from the beginning of the alphabet - the pattern is consistent.  The right promotes an anti-science, anti-reality, anti-knowledge world view that promotes pollution and fawns obscenely at the feet of big business while worshipping at the feet of more profits for the rich.  They consistently ignore their own self-interest, or any community concerns; all they see is money, all they have is some vain hope they will some day have those big bucks too - with little hope of that happening, and less probability of it all the time.

How dumb is that?  Let me demonstrate.
Sulphur Dioxide - cardiovascular / blood toxicant, liver toxicant, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant,  respiratory toxicant
This is a high volume chemical, occurring in significant quantities in at least 4 major industries; production exceeds 1 million pounds annually in the U.S.
Mercury - developmental toxicant, cardiovascular / blood toxicant,  endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinal and liver toxicant, immunotoxicant, kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin and sense organ toxicant; it is ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds to human health and ecosystems
This is what the right doesn't want regulated; this is what the right falsely assures people won't hurt them or kill them.  This is the information that the right LACKS when they criticize the EPA.  The right will look the other way on ANYTHING, no matter how harmful, so long as someone waives money under their noses.

And no one is more crooked than Joe Barton in so far as he takes HUGE amounts of money from industries like big oil, and with bravado and bone ignorance, he will say anything to benefit them, regardless of how it harms YOU.
thermal image of pollution
Happy Earth Day 2011.  Stop putting the stupid in charge, vote against the right in 2012.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Because I Am a Woman, and a Feminist

I care about the efforts of this organization -

This email quiz came through my private email this morning, and I thought it was worth sharing here because the questions were so interesting.  According to, 90% of the people who take this 'now or then' quiz get this first question wrong.  That is a lot of people.  It is also a quiz against the backdrop of culture wars in congress by Republicans and other conservatives against women.

Please take this quiz, and if we have managed to pique your interest, then please look at the page "Because I am a Girl" at afterwards.


1. At which time in India could a girl as young as 8 years old be forced into marriage?
    Both now and then

(I will post the answers from PlanUSA at the bottom of this post - DG.)

2. A shocking 1 in 10 girls born in this time and place would not be expected to survive past their first birthday:
   Today in Sierra Leone
   1950, in Brazil
   Both now and then

3. When might a girl be kidnapped and SOLD to work in a wealthy household?
   Today in Nepal
   1850 in the U.S.
   Both now and then

4. Though many of their brothers may have access to education, 62 million girls growing up in _______ are not enrolled in school.
    2011, Worldwide
    1980's, South Africa

5. In what time and place would most girls be unable to read?
   Today in Niger
   1780 in Amsterdam
   Both now and then

1. 1920; child marriage is no longer legal in India, but thousands of girls under 18 are forced into marriage.  Child marriage is still legal in some countries, and an estimated 100 million girls under 18 are expected to marry in the next decade.
2. While Brazil has drastrically improved infant survival rates, Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant mortality rates, and 70% of these deaths are caused by malaria.  Plan's programs in Sierra Leone are directly benfitting 7000 children in 1,126 communities across that country.
3. Slavery in the U.S.  wasn't abolished until the 13th Amendment in 1865; girls in Nepal are still sold into bonded labor, sometimes by their own families, sometimes as a result of kidnapping off the street.  These girls are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse; some are trafficked to brothels in nearby countries, including some which promote sexual tourism.  Plan has helped rescue over 2,000 girls in Nepal from bonded labor since 2005.
4. 2011 Worldwide; more than 62 million girls are not in school, limiting their potential and contributing to the cycle of poverty. An extra year of primary school education increases a girl's future potential wages by 10-20%.  Plan is working to give thousands of girls an education by building girl-friendly schools, providing supplies, and training teachers.
5.  Today in Niger; in 18th century Amsterdam approximately 2/3 of girls could read.  Less than half of the girls in Niger today are taught to read.  Plan is working on 68 school projects.  We take skills, like reading, for granted.  We shouldn't.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Conservative Legislative Fail - Arizona Immigration Law

From the excellent resource (listed on our blog roll),

Arizona SB 1070: Court Refused to Lift Injunction
By Stephanie Rabiner on April 11, 2011 1:28 PM

In a decision that declares that there are likely to be no circumstances under which the challenged portions of Arizona's S.B. 1070 are to be found valid under the Supremacy Clause, the 9th Circuit affirmed the District Court's injunction prohibiting enforcement of the controversial immigration law.

The court's refusal to lift the injunction is a big win for S.B. 1070's opponents, not only pinning Arizona's hopes on a fickle Supreme Court, but signaling to other states that similar laws will face tough challenges.

The 9th Circuit's decision deals with perhaps the most objectionable portions of S.B. 1070.

These include provisions that punish undocumented workers that apply for employment, and immigrants who do not carry registration papers; warrantless arrests of illegal aliens; and inquiries into immigration status when a person is stopped by police.

In incredible detail, the court analyzed each of these provisions, pointing out just how S.B. 1070 legislates in areas fully occupied by Congress, as well as how they create an obstacle to and contradict Congressional intent and objectives.

The court also was not very fond of just how S.B. 1070 has negatively impacted foreign relations, particularly with Mexico.

As of last month, at least six other states had S.B. 1070 copycat bills in the works. Such a strong legal analysis is sure to make state legislators question the validity of these laws, or, at the very least, tone them down.

They, however, may wait until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear an appeal. If the Supreme Court refuses, it will likely be taken as a signal that the Court agrees with the 9th Circuit, signaling the unconstitutionality of S.B. 1070 and its cohorts.

Another Conservative Tries to Buy an Election, Railroading His Way Through Honest Campaign Contributions

I'm always struck by the way that conservatives seem to have difficulty distinguishing between their pockets, and corporate pockets.  They too often treat them as if they are the same thing.

I wonder how long it will be before an example comes forward where either there is a more clear cut corporate reward in promotions, or maybe an outright paying of people to make donations - in effect, to buy their name to use in donations, in addition to reimbursing people.

From today's Minneapolis STrib:
Wisconsin railroad executive to plead guilty to making illegal campaign donations to governor
Article by: TODD RICHMOND , Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - A Wisconsin railroad magnate accused of illegally donating to Gov. Scott Walker's campaign said Monday he would plead guilty but didn't realize he had done anything wrong when he asked employees to donate tens of thousands of dollars and then reimbursed them.

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company chief executive William Gardner was charged with one count of excessive political contributions and one count of unlawful political contribution. Both charges are felonies that carry a combined maximum sentence of seven years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

Gardner struck a plea bargain calling for him to plead guilty. Prosecutors in exchange agreed to recommend he serve two years on probation. His company, meanwhile, has paid a $166,900 forfeiture, and seven employees have each agreed to pay a $250 forfeiture, state election officials said.

Gardner said in a statement he cooperated with investigators and didn't realize he had violated the law, which limits individual gubernatorial contributions to $10,000 per election and prohibits furnishing money to others for political donations made in their names.

"My employees had every right to assume that what I was asking them to do was legal. But it wasn't. I failed them and everyone else miserably," Gardner said.

According to court documents, state election officials and Milwaukee prosecutors launched a secret investigation into Gardner's campaign donations in May 2010 after Gardner's ex-girlfriend, angry that he hadn't returned all her things, alerted election officials to his activity.

In April 2010, Long warned the attorney mediating the property dispute between them that she had been speaking with state election officials about the contributions. She said she had been withholding Gardner's name but threatened to reveal it if she didn't get all of her things back.

Gardner responded directly to her, saying "Knock yourself out. I did nothing wrong and have broken no law ..."

Investigators learned that Walker's campaign managers believed Gardner was working to raise $100,000 for them. Between November 2009 and April 2010, Gardner reimbursed himself out of the railroad's expense account for $10,000 in donations he made to Walker and another $4,000 he gave to the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and former Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan.

He also asked a handful of railroad employees to donate to Walker's campaign and reimbursed them with company funds.

Gardner came forward about a week after the probe began and told election officials that he had used company money to reimburse employees for making political donations and turned over information about it. Walker, who was in the midst of a primary at the time, promptly returned about $40,000 in contributions from Gardner and Wisconsin & Southern employees. Gardner said in his statement he has donated the money to charity.

Walker's campaign issued a statement through the state Republican Party stressing it returned any known contributions from Gardner.

The Assembly committee has since donated its contributions to charity, election officials said. Sheridan, who lost his re-election bid in November, also has given some of his donations to charity, they said.

Gardner warned one of his employees to keep the arrangement quiet, telling him in an email exchange "Let's not blab this around." The employee responded, "I kinda figure that, my lips are sealed," according to court documents.

Gardner's attorneys said he was concerned about looking like he was spending extravagantly on political contributions even though the railroad has had to cut wages.

Gardner didn't overtly coerce or threaten employees if they didn't comply, but "there's an expectation you're going to support his political desires," Chisholm said. (emphasis added - DG)

Gardner said in his statement he never tried to hide any of the reimbursements. Wisconsin & Southern relies heavily on state grants and loans to operate, according to court documents, but Gardner said the Walker campaign never offered anything in return for his support.

"My sole aim, which I went about in an illegal, wrong and stupid manner, was to support candidates I thought would do a good job," he said. "I had an obligation to make sure what the law was before getting myself, the company, and others involved. But I didn't."

The court documents indicate Gardner had been contributing to political candidates from both parties and reimbursing himself through the railroad's expense account since at least 2005.

That same year Gardner paid a $1,000 forfeiture after he made a $5,000 political contribution to Walker even though Gardner was working as a lobbyist. Walker returned the contribution to him months later, but on the same day Gardner had his daughter donate $5,000 to Walker and he reimbursed her.

The railroad's lobbyist, Ken Lucht, testified he prepared a summary of Wisconsin campaign contribution limits for Gardner in January 2010.

And now Fails Donald Trump! Crazy Crackpot Conservative Birthers

And to flesh out the last post by Penigma about Donald Trump, now weighs in with more instances of really sorry, pathetic conservative fact-failures.

Why would (the) Donald tell his conservative audience these lies? Because they LOVE them, they want to hear these things - they vote for this stuff.  Not true? They DON'T CARE!  They live and vote in a fact-free zone, living not on love but on ideology.

If Donald Trump worked for us, we’d have to say: "Donald, you’re fired — for incompetence." The successful developer and TV celebrity says he’d make a good president, and maybe he would — we take no stand either way about that. But when it comes to getting facts straight, he fouls up again and again on the basics of President Barack Obama’s birth. As a rookie reporter, he just wouldn’t make it.

■He claims the president’s grandmother says Obama was born in Kenya. In fact, the recording to which he refers shows Sarah Obama repeatedly saying through a translator: "He was born in America."

■He claims that no hospital in Hawaii has a record of Obama’s birth. Hospital records are confidential under federal law, but Honolulu’s Kapi’olani Medical Center has published a letter from Obama calling it "the place of my birth," thus publicly confirming it as his birthplace.

■He insists that the official "Certification of Live Birth" that Obama produced in 2008 is "not a birth certificate." That’s wrong. The U.S. Department of State uses "birth certificate" as a generic term to include the official Hawaii document, which satisfies legal requirements for proving citizenship and obtaining a passport.

■He claims that there’s no signature or certification number on the document released by Obama. Wrong again. Photos of the document, which we posted in 2008, clearly show those details.

■He says newspaper announcements of Obama’s birth that appeared in Hawaii newspapers in 1961 "probably" were placed there fraudulently by his now-deceased American grandparents. Actually, a state health department official and a former managing editor of one of the newspapers said the information came straight from the state health department.

■He claims "nobody knew" Obama when he was growing up and "nobody ever comes forward" who knew him as a child. "If I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten," Trump said. Well, two retired kindergarten teachers in a 2009 news story fondly recall teaching a young Barack Obama.

The evidence that Obama was born in the U.S.A. is so overwhelming that we haven’t had much to say lately about the sort of bogus claims that Trump repeats. Hawaii’s top official in charge of vital records stated long ago, for example, that the confidential records underlying Obama’s official birth certificate show that he was born in Hawaii and is "a natural born American citizen."

But when a leading prospect for the Republican presidential nomination embraces and repeats these spurious claims and groundless conspiracy theories on national television, we are forced to wade into this swamp once again. For details of where Trump goes wrong, and full documentation of the facts, please read on to our Analysis section.


Trump made several incorrect statements of fact in an April 7 appearance on NBC’s "Today Show," and later in a call-in to MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." In each instance he echoed claims that are often repeated by those who wish to believe Obama is not a natural-born American citizen and thus not qualified under the Constitution to be president.

The proof of Obama’s citizenship has long been apparent to us and, we think, to any reasonable person with a mind open to evidence, regardless of his or her party. The conservative National Review agreed as long ago as July 2009, when it wrote that "a few misguided souls among the Right" had bought into the sort of "foolishness" that Trump now embraces. "Like Bruce Springsteen, he [Obama] has a lot of bad political ideas; but he was born in the U.S.A.," the Review’s editors said.

The proof is not just the official birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii, and made public by the Obama campaign in 2008. As we wrote when we published detailed photographs of that document in our "Born in the U.S.A." article, that document constitutes legal proof of citizenship sufficient to meet all U.S. Department of State requirements for issuance of a passport.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Birther Worth

Donald Trump aka "The Donald", has surged to being ranked second among likely Republican primary voters.

Some facts about "The Donald":

1. He started working for...his father, in fact his "Trump Organization" of which he is CEO, is something his parent's created.

2. He has twice had to have his casino operations declare bankruptcy

3. He is twice divorced, after the second divorce (from Marlena), he married a stick-figure model who is 24 years his junior. His comment on the point was that he was married to "his life" meanign his work, and his ex-wives weren't comfortable with that. Sure..I'm sure Ivana Trump was really unhappy you worked hard. Maybe it was that you treated her like dirt and never paid any attention to her (or your joint children) - most women I know can stand some separation, but they don't much care for being treated like cast-off toys.

4. At one time he wanted to be a film director

5. He supports socialized medicine

6. After the 2008 financial crisis, he apparently defaulted on payments to Deutsche Bank (or rather his casino did)), he claimed that the crisis was a "natural disaster" and he invoked (apparently) force majeur protections in the contract. Deutsche obviously didn't agree.

7. He spends a LOT of time golfing

8. He believes that Barack Obama isn't a citizen

He's neither self-made, nor is he particularly socially "pure" on issues many conservatives use to judge others. He is a bombastic, smart, ego-centric man, he's not Mr. "common sense" nor is he someone who made billions (as he claims) from his smart real-estate dealings, his parents and he appear to have been closer to starting as slum-lords than as Frank Lloyd Wright reborn. All of which I say with a healthy respect for the man, he gets his name in lights, he lives very well, and SOME things he's done have borne out very well indeed. If you want to be larger than life, you don't get larger than "the Donald."

However, the point of this post is to discuss the last point in the list - his support for the "birther" movement. The issue isn't about whether Obama is a citizen, has produced his bona fides to satisfy his most virulent and extreme critics, it is about Trump's (and others) support for such demands that Obama do so. The bottom line of the birther movement is this, Barack Obama COULD produce his long-form birth certificate and, according to the birthers, that is what he should do.

That raises two very important questions:

Presumably, or at least that's what we all assume, were Obama to do so, that would be the end of the discussion. My question for you is, do you really believe that? (and if so, why?)

The second is, if Barack Hussien Obama were instead named John Thomas Martin, and rather than being born in Hawaii, he'd been born in Panama to American parents, would you ask for this from him?

I'll address the first point first. Barack Obama has complied with the same law every other President has complied with. He has provided his birth certificate, it has been validated, and he has been accepted as the President. In short, he's met the requirements of the law. To ask him to do more would be asking him to take time from his job to answer foolish, irrelevant questions. What if the question was whether Obama was truly a man? Should he allow "independent" doctors to examine him? What right of privacy exists in this nation when a man can be compelled by mob rule to expose his medical records for their prurient review? Should he submit himself (and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY) the Office of the President of the United States, to the stupidest and vilest barbs of those who will not believe this person, because of their own political belligerence, no matter what he says?

I suspect very strongly that if Obama released his long-form birth certificate, too few of the 45% of Republicans who question his citizenship would be satisfied (because anything other than about 99% would be far too few), they would ask for more, and more, and more. It would not stop here. It will never stop. Someone who makes this kind of demand isn't concerned with facts, they believe Obama is a Muslim because they hear it but mostly because they WANT to believe anything which is (in their mind) defaming or derogutory. The issue of his birth isn't the issue, the issue is the conduct and easily manipulated feelings of those so filled with fear and hate that they'd believe Obama secretly wants to create "re-education camps" or is willing to kill your grandparents.

On the second point (and then I'll tie these together), this question is steeped in religious and racial bias. Barack Obama should no more be obligated to provide his proof of citizenship (and no less) than John McCain, Ronald Reagan, or John Kennedy. It is akin to asking a black man to prove he is allowed to vote, when you never ask a white man to do so. It is pathetic, it is a disgusting reminder of our racist under-current, it is revolting, and it is wrong. On this principle alone Obama is not only right to refuse, he is OBLIGATED TO REFUSE, for he is obligated to support and defend to the law, not to respond to the ugly, hate-filled and deranged demands of those who despise him with all their soul (like Limbaugh). And they hate him for no reasons other than they don't like his politics or his color or his religion (or all of the above). His job, not just as President, but as a citizen, is to absolutely refuse to allow this unlawful intrusion into his privacy. To do less would be to do something "truly unprescedented." To do less would be to agree that any elected official should be compelled to respond to any question, no matter how deranged, even if the official has fully complied with the law. This question isn't reasonable, this isn't asking him what he had for breakfast, it is a side-long stab at maligning his reputation, and he absolutely should not dignify it with a reply.

And that's what weaves both these points together; this is about the precedents we set, both in respecting the rule of law, and in what we demand of the Office of the President. Someone like Donald Trump, who ought to recognize the need to not distract the country or that office onto garbage, thinks only in the frame of "why not put this to rest" since so many have questions, rather than saying what should be said, "Those of you with questions can go to hell, he owes you nothing, and for the respect of the Presidency, let alone his personal right to privacy, he should absolutely NOT give you anything more." Trump proves he is totally unfit for the office not because he wants to "satisfy" constituents, but because he believes the question should be addressed at all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Politifact Pants-on-Fire: Donald Trump and Reince Priebus RNC Chair

Because they can't win simply telling the truth, and because apparently, (if you look at the popularity of people like Beck, Limbaugh, or Bachmann,) conservatives don't care about facts or reality.

Putting Trump to the Truth-O-Meter

Donald Trump, described on his Wikipedia page as "an American business magnate, socialite, author, and television personality," has become a significant player in the Republican campaign for president.

The new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows him tied for second with Mike Huckabee) with 17 percent of the Republican vote. (Mitt Romney was first, with 21 percent.)

Trump has said he is seriously considering running and lately has made appearances on many television shows, including Daily Rundown, Morning Joe and, this morning, the Today Show.

We've put him to the Truth-O-Meter twice so far and found both of his claims to be incorrect.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said that, "The people that went to school with (Barack Obama), they never saw him, they don't know who he is." We found that ridiculously false and rated it Pants on Fire.

We also checked his claim that South Korea doesn't pay the United States for troops. We rated that False.

We're checking another Trump claim and should have it posted later today.

Meanwhile, we've also done some recent checks on:

● RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who said that under President Obama, 26 million jobs have been lost. That earned a Pants on Fire.

● House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said that under a Republican appropriations bill, 6 million seniors would be deprived of meals. We rated that Half True.

● Senator Debbie Stabenow, who said that a government shutdown could disrupt veterans benefits. That earned a True.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Congrats to Dems! on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Win

It was just announced:

Wisconsin Supreme Court election
Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg finishes with just a few hundred votes ahead of incumbent Justice David Prosser according to reporting from the Associated Press and WTMJ in a record-setting spring election that saw one and a half million voters go to the polls. This close and unofficial tally means a recount is likely and definitive outcome days away.

In special primary elections to fill open Assembly seats, Democrat Rick Aaron has won in assembly district 60, Duey Stroebel appears to have won the GOP nod.

Democrat Steve Doyle and Republican John Lautz have survived to meet each other in May to fill the 94th assembly district vacated by Walker cabinet appointee Mike Huebsch.

Per a mass emailing by Democracy for America, Kloppenburg won by a significant margin in the district where State Senator Dan Kapanke is facing a recall, with a recall petition listing a sufficient number of names just filed.

Yes, this is close, and yes, this will go to a recount.  But more than that, is the record turnout, exceeding wildest expectations.  Governor Walker is trying to claim this is not a referendum on his policies, but no one believes that - I doubt the Governor does, least of all.

Maybe the conservatives will 'get' this message; if the don't, and don't change their ways, then I guess Wisconsin will change them right out of office. 

Change you can believe in....?