Saturday, November 19, 2011

Annoucing the not-so-big Move to Word

Please find future posts for Penigma on

Today (Saturday, November 19th 2011) is moving day!  We hope you will like the features available there. Please be patient while the new site is still undergoing some construction.

New Developments in Libya

I wonder if this is something that 'we need a leader, not a reader' anti-intellect candidate Herman Cain will notice?  Or is it yet another instance where he will be caught unprepared and inadequate when faced with a challenging (rather than softball) question?  I'm betting that if he hasn't yet, Cain will be paying someone soon to read for him.  Or to him.

From MSNBC news and news services:

Libyan commander: Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam arrested

Younger Gadhafi captured with two aides while trying to cross into Niger, commander says 

NBC, and news services
updated 2 hours 28 minutes ago
 breaking news
Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam was captured in a southern Libyan city along with two of his aides who were trying to smuggle him out of the country, a militia commander said on Saturday.
Bashir al-Tlayeb of the Zintan brigades said that Seif al-Islam was caught in the desert town of Obari, near the southern city of Sabha about 400 miles south of Tripoli. He didn't elaborate on how Seif al-Islam was captured, but said that he was brought to the city of Zintan, the home of one of the largest revolutionary brigades in Libya.
Al-Tlayeb said that it would be up to the Libya's ruling National Transitional Council to decide on where the former Libyan leader would be tried.
However, NBC News reported that according to sources, al-Islam would be tried in Libya, not handed over to the International Criminal Court.
Al-Tlayeb also said that there was still no information about wanted former intelligence director Abdullah Senoussi or where he is located.
Libya's interim justice minister told Reuters that the younger Gadhafi was in good health.
Interactive: Gadhafi's children (on this page) Seif al-Islam is the last of Moammar Gadhafi's sons to remain unaccounted for.
Secret negotiations over a surrender?
Born in 1972, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is the oldest of seven children of Moammar and Safiya Gadhafi.
He drew Western favor in previous years by touting himself as a liberalizing reformer but then staunchly backed his father in his brutal crackdown on rebels in the regime's final days.
Seif had gone underground after Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces.
Story: Libya: Gadhafi son offers to surrender to Hague The International Criminal Court had earlier said that it was in indirect negotiations with a son of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi about his possible surrender for trial.
This is a breaking news story. Please check again for more updates.
NBC News, staff, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

The Science of Clean Water, and the Implications

Today I'm indulging my enjoyment of the sciences.  Clean, safe drinking water is a problem world wide.  It is a huge problem after natural disasters; the problems in Japan after their tsunami damage is just one example that comes to mind. Water supplies also remain a problem for countries that have experienced the ravages of war, like Iraq, which destroyed so much of their infrastructure.

So this is about more than JUST science; it also has ramifications for not only economics but also diplomacy.  This is something that could be hugely influential in helping to prevent disease, and the sickness that goes with abject poverty in third world countries.

This is wondrous, this is the future.  We should be noticing.

Also from

Plasmas sterilize water cheaply

Steve Graves
A brief spark in air produces a low-temperature plasma of partially ionized and dissociated oxygen and nitrogen that will diffuse into nearby liquids or skin, where they can kill microbes by generating reactive chemicals.
Ionized plasmas like those in neon signs and plasma TVs can sterilize water and make it antimicrobial as well, according to researchers studying the potential to use inexpensive plasma-generating devices to create sterile water in developing countries, disasters areas, and battlefields.
Plasmas are the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid, and gas. They are formed when gases are energized, stripping atoms of their electrons to create a collection of free moving electrons and ions.
Researchers have known plasmas will kill bacteria in water. Now, a new experiment shows that water treated with plasma killed all the E. coli bacteria that were added to it within a few hours of treatment and still killed 99.9 percent of the bacteria added after it sat for a week.
The ionized gas, or plasma, creates various chemical like ozone, nitrogen oxide, and other radicals. When the plasma is put next to water, "the chemicals diffuse to the water, they absorb in the in water, and they have various reactions in the water," David Graves, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, explained to me today.
The chemical soup includes well-known antimicrobials such as nitrates and nitrites as well as hydrogen peroxide. Bacteria on our tongues, for example, convert nitrates in leafy green vegetables to nitrites.
However, the concentration of these known antimicrobials dropped over the course of the experiment, yet the water was still able to kill off E. coli that were added to it seven days after the plasma treatment. "So it seems like there is probably chemistry going on that we don't know about yet."
The finding is published this month in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. Graves envisions using inexpensive, spark-plug-like plasma generating devices to sterilize water for medical purposes in natural disaster zones or deep in the wilderness. Whether or not the water is safe to drink, however, is unknown.
"It is possible," Graves said, noting that breast milk, for example, is loaded with nitrates and nitrites. But before he recommends the plasma-treated water for drinking, safety tests need to be conducted.
In earlier experiments, the team also found that plasma can kill dangerous proteins and lipids such as prions — the infectious agents that cause mad cow disease — that standard sterilization processes leave behind, according a news release on the findings.
For more information, check out the release and paper.

The Right, the Left; Science and Partisan Political Theater

Also not about firearms, but interesting, and shows a common bias on the Right

This is about energy, but it is also about a larger issue which is annoys me.  There have been a number of people on the right who misrepresent science and grants.

Sarah Palin did it when she made stump speeches ridiculing fruit fly research that she was too stupid and ignorant to understand, and characteristically, too lazy to research before running her mouth.

Tom Coburn did it in April of this year, when he wrongly and unfairly criticized grants made by the National Science Foundation in a report that got a lot of attention, but which did not receive the appropriate critical thinking that would have revealed the flaws and errors it contained.  The anti-science right does that sort of thing regularly.  An example of the coverage that did not receive the appropriate credit to DIScredit Coburn was this one :
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has long railed against wasteful government spending and urged his colleagues to shrink the federal budget. His latest salvo is a 73-page report released today that accuses the National Science Foundation (NSF) of mishandling nearly $3 billion. The document follows a well-trod path of asserting that a federal research agency is funding trivial and duplicative research in addition to exercising inadequate oversight of existing programs.
But the report, The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope, is itself filled with errors and questionable analyses, say science lobbyists. "The bottom line is that attacks on 'silly grants' are silly and irresponsible," says Howard Silver, executive director of the Consortium of Social Science Associations and former chair of the Coalition for National Science Funding, which advocates for larger NSF budgets.
Silver points to Coburn's criticism of several NSF awards in the social sciences as a prime example.
The biggest "savings" that Coburn identifies is actually a misreading of federal statutes, according to NSF officials. The report accuses NSF of failing to recover $1.7 billion in "expired grants," that is, money grantees didn't spend in the course of doing their research. But that's not true, says NSF. The number reflects all the money that has been obligated for multiyear grants, and the amount (as of last fall) drops as researchers tap their accounts over the duration of their project. "It's being used for exactly the purpose for which it was intended," explains one budget official who requested anonymity.
Only a tiny amount--roughly $30 million a year--is actually left on the table once a researcher has finished his or her project. And that amount is returned each year to the Treasury. "You'd think a U.S. senator would understand how the federal government funds multiyear research projects," says one lobbyist.
There were hearings held, as a result of Coburn's report.  I was never able to find any results from that hearing that supported Cobur's conclusions. It seems that despite the shrimp on a treadmill videos going viral that when examined by Congressional hearings ,  rationally, NONE of Coburn's claims of waste proved true.  I find it sad, but not really very surprising that the anti-science assumptions and attitudes seem to mostly fall along partisan lines.  It is a shame there was no comparable scrutiny of the wasteful expenditures of Senator Coburn in preparing his bogus, flawed hatchet job report, or the cost of hearings which generated NOTHING of value for the taxpayer money they cost.

It is a shame, that there is no similar inquiry which challenges the expenditure by Senator Coburn's office in generating the flawed report, or the cost of the hearings which were a waste of time and money...unless you count the entertainment value of political theater. 

Those expenditures produced nothing of value in return for the expenditures, unlike the results of the NSF grants. I don't see the right asking the very important question of their propaganda pushers, the question 'is that true'. There is a lot of political theater by both sides, but the right seems to have a more 'red meat' audience, and to engage in more factual inaccuracy and outright dishonesty.

So, I wonder in that context, how the following will be treated in the media.

From to turn spent grains into energy

Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaskan Brewing Co. received a nearly half-million dollar grant to install a steam boiler fired entirely by spent grain.
The U.S. government is giving a nearly half-million dollar grant to a beer maker in Alaska that aims to install a first-of-its-kind boiler that is fueled entirely by spent grain.
All brewers are confronted with mountains of spent grains — mostly barley. Many get rid of the waste by routing it to farmers for animal feed, a noble service that can help grow a steak to accompany your fine ale.
For the Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau, this has involved an added step, since the closest market for its grains is a long-distance, boat-ride away in Seattle.
To keep the grains from decomposing during transport, the brewery first dries them in a machine that is heated by a biomass burner that uses about 50 percent of the spent grain as a fuel source.
Now, with the help of the $458,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America program, the brewery is installing a machine that will use the dried grain to power a biomass steam boiler.
"The new boiler will eliminate the brewery's use of oil in the grain drying process and displace more than half of the fuel needed to create process steam," the company said in an emailed statement.
Brewers use process team, for example, to boil the sugary water called wort, created when sugars are extracted from the grains, a key step in brewing beer.
The boiler will cut the brewery's overall energy use from oil, and corresponding carbon emissions, by more than 70 percent, according to Alaskan Brewing Co.
The system also eliminates the need to ship the grain south to cattle around Seattle, Ashley Johnston, a company spokeswoman, told me.
The grant is one of eight announced Thursday by the agriculture department, all of which are aimed at helping rural businesses to lower energy costs so that they can stay competitive and, potentially, hire more workers.
In total, 52 projects received over $31 million in grants and loan note guarantees through the program this year. The grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Recalls Seem to Be Going Well; Maybe It Is Time to Impeach Thomas and Scalia

The following story raises some very deep and troubling questions about our current Supreme Court Justices.  The LA Times Story below is not the only instance  where the Justices appear to have relationships, including financially benefiting from activities, that compromise their appearance of propriety, as shown here in the New York Times from earlier this year.

We should be pursuing removal of these two Justices from the bench, and we also should be pursuing adding a requirement that the Supreme Court abide by the same judicial rules of ethics as lower courts.  This is not an unreasonable thing to request of the members of a body that have so much power; rather this should be mandated precisely because of the power and authority of the courts. 

I adamantly believe that the right is correct in that Justice Kagan should be recusing herself from participating in the Supreme Court decision on the health care reform legislation that the right likes to call Obamacare.  I will be surprised and disappointed if she does not do so; for her to participate would be very wrong.

But if both Justices Scalia and Thomas do NOT recuse themselves from participating in this SCOTUS decision, they should be removed from office for corruption.

Where the difference occurs is that Justice Kagan has a clear conflict of interest because of her role in the White House during the legislative process that produced the health care reform.  She absolutely cannot be an impartial person in this matter.

But Thomas and Scalia have personally BENEFITED, materially and substantially from their relationships with one side of the case, prior to the matter coming before the court. And now apparently DURING the time the matter has come before the court as well; there is a clear bias on their parts as well as profit.

Read the story below; apparently these two conservative Justices no longer consider it worth their while to even pretend to be unbiased or impartial.  Maybe they think the right is so used to crony capitalism, SuperPacs and dirty money, that no one will notice, or care.  They are beyond shame.

They are wrong on both counts. It's time they were off the bench, in disgrace. That disgrace should be shared by the people and entities which were willing to behave unethically, and by the Presidents who nominated them for the Supreme Court.

From the L.A. Times:

Scalia and Thomas dine with healthcare law challengers as court takes case

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to a policy forum in Washington last month.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to a policy forum in Washington last month. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.

The occasion was last Thursday, when all nine justices met for a conference to pore over the petitions for review. One of the cases at issue was a suit brought by 26 states challenging the sweeping healthcare overhaul passed by Congress last year, a law that has been a rallying cry for conservative activists nationwide.

The justices agreed to hear the suit; indeed, a landmark 5 1/2-hour argument is expected in March, and the outcome is likely to further roil the 2012 presidential race, which will be in full swing by the time the court’s decision is released.

The lawyer who will stand before the court and argue that the law should be thrown out is likely to be Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.

Clement’s law firm, Bancroft PLLC, was one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles. Another firm that sponsored the dinner, Jones Day, represents one of the trade associations that challenged the law, the National Federation of Independent Business.

Another sponsor was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, which has an enormous financial stake in the outcome of the litigation. The dinner was held at a Washington hotel hours after the court's conference over the case. In attendance was, among others, Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican and an avowed opponent of the healthcare law.

The featured guests at the dinner? Scalia and Thomas.

It’s nothing new: The two justices have been attending Federalist Society events for years. And it’s nothing that runs afoul of ethics rules. In fact, justices are exempt from the Code of Conduct that governs the actions of lower federal judges.

If they were, they arguably fell under code’s Canon 4C, which states,A judge may attend fund-raising events of law-related and other organizations although the judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program of such an event.“

Nevertheless, the sheer proximity of Scalia and Thomas to two of the law firms in the case, as well as to a company with a massive financial interest, was enough to alarm ethics-in-government activists.

Scalia and Thomas have shown little regard for critics who say they too readily mix the business of the court with agenda-driven groups such as the Federalist Society. And Thomas’ wife, Ginni, is a high-profile conservative activist.

Moreover, conservatives argue that it’s Justice Elena Kagan who has an ethical issue, not Scalia and Thomas. Kagan served as solicitor general in the Obama administration when the first legal challenges to the law were brought at the trial court level. Her critics have pushed for Kagan to recuse herself from hearing the case, saying that she was too invested in defending the law then to be impartial now. Kagan has given no indication she will do so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jon Stewart Nails the Republican Debate... and So Does Stephen Colbert

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - Mercy Rule Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook
followed on Comedy Central by this:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2012 - Sorry, Oops
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
Just an observation, but I don't think Rick Perry can afford to get rid of the Department of Education just yet; he clearly still needs some serious education himself.

I don't find 'oops' to be presidential, but then most of what he proposes lacks merit or depth of thought or a legitimate factual basis.

A Little Taxation Education, Courtesy of the Weekly Update

I find the political right to be consistently and chronically dishonest on the subjects of the economy, the 1% of the wealthiest citizens, and especially on taxation issues.

The following is about a common right wing lie which always annoys me. Along with the bullshit about not taxing the wealthy because they are 'job creators' (they aren't, in fact they are routinely job exporters and job destroyers) is the oft-repeated lie about small business and taxation. 

I would only add to the concluding statements at the end of this article from, that there are also other ways of structuring their businesses which would allow small business owners to handle their business taxation separately from their personal tax returns, and that the conserns claimed by the right are easily remedied by a good tax accountant or tax attorney. 

Further, many if not most of those who qualify as 'small business' are not small in the sense that most of us use the word; some of those entities that qualify as 'small business' by definition, are in fact HUGE operations, in terms of money, the dollar value of their commercial activity, and number of locations and employees, and not what most of us think of as 'small businesses' at all.  It is how the right disadvantages the 99% of us, while pandering to their 1% donor base among the ultra-wealthy.

Without further ado, from
House Speaker John Boehner claimed that “small-business people” make up more than half of those who would be hit by a tax increase on “millionaires.” Not really. Only 13 percent of those making over $1 million get even as much as one-fourth of that income from small business, according to government tax experts.
Old Exaggerations
Republicans have for years greatly exaggerated the extent to which higher taxes on upper-income individuals would fall on owners of small businesses. And we have repeatedly pointed out the inflated figures they’ve used in the past.
This time, Boehner was responding specifically to a question about a “millionaires” tax. The exchange was on ABC’s “This Week” on Nov. 6.
Christiane Amanpour: Some 75 percent of Americans agree with an increase in tax on millionaires as a way to pay for these jobs provisions. Do you not feel that by opposing it you’re basically out of step with the American people on this issue?
Boehner: Well, over half of the people who would be taxed under this plan are, in fact, small-business people. And as a result, you’re going to basically increase taxes on the very people that we’re hoping will reinvest in our economy and create jobs. That’s the real crux of the problem.
Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, quickly admitted that the speaker was mistaken. When we emailed him asking for backup, he said: “He could have worded it better.”
But Steel then went on to repeat an older exaggeration — about a different tax proposal. He said that “a tax increase on over $200/$250k hits 50 percent of small-business income.” That’s not the tax proposal Boehner was asked about. Furthermore, that old claim refers to half of small-business income, not the number of “people,” the term Boehner used. And even more important, a lot of that supposedly “small”-business income is really from giant firms bringing in over $50 million a year.
Steel was referring to a July, 14, 2010, report from the Joint Committee on Taxation that  analyzed the effects of President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, which, among other things, called for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for people making over $200,000 (or for couples making over $250,000). And as we’ve pointed out over and over, the JCT study doesn’t back up the claim Steel and other Republicans constantly repeat, as the JCT itself made very clear:
Joint Committee on Taxation: These figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered ‘small.’ For example, in 2005, 12,862 S corporations and 6,658 partnerships had receipts on more than $50 million.
‘Millionaire’ Small-Business Owners
But what about the “millionaires” tax? Are half of the people making over $1 million actually small-business owners? It so happens there was an in-depth report that speaks to this very point, issued in August by experts at the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis. It is a “technical paper” by career employees, not a policy document, and the most sophisticated look at the issue that we’ve seen thus far.
This report notes that the definition of small-business owners that Republicans have often used in the past is “overly broad,” which puts it mildly. That definition counts as a small-business owner anyone who reported any “flow-through” business income on his or her personal tax return. So it takes in owners of large firms as well as small, and also people whose business income is negligible and who earn their living primarily from other means.
For example, a partner in a Wall Street hedge fund would be classified as a “small”-business owner even if he or she raked in $100 million from trading securities. And a corporate executive making $1 million in salary and bonuses would be counted as a “small-business owner” if he or she also received a few dollars from the incidental rental of a ski condo or beach house.
That old, sweeping calculation was often the best government agencies could do, but new data sources allowed the Treasury to take a more precise and nuanced measure of small-business owners. The new Treasury analysis improves on earlier efforts in two major ways:
  • It eliminates millions of “businesses” that don’t really have any business activity (such as passive investment vehicles, or the occasional rental of a vacation house).
  • It distinguishes businesses that aren’t really “small.” Only businesses with less than $10 million in gross income or deductions are counted as “small” in this analysis.
And what does that tell us about Boehner’s claim? He would be correct only if we count as “small-business people” all those who get any income at all from a business making less than $10 million. Under that definition — which the Treasury paper calls “broad” — about 273,000 of these “millionaires” were classified as small-business owners. That comes to about 70 percent of all “millionaire” returns. By that measure, Boehner’s “over half” estimation would be correct with plenty of room to spare. But for most of those taxpayers,  the small-business income is incidental.
The Treasury paper also supplied an alternative “narrow definition” of small-business owners, counting “only individuals with active net income from small businesses that equals at least 25 percent of the taxpayers AGI [adjusted gross income].” That still includes a lot of people who get the majority of their income from sources other than their small-business income. But it gets us a lot closer to the mom-and-pop small-business owner many of us envision when politicians speak of “small-business people.”
And under this more precise measure, the millionaires’ picture changes dramatically. Only 51,000 of the 392,000 millionaires were small-business owners under this not-so-narrow definition. That comes to about 13 percent. Nowhere close to half.
“We note that our revised methodology is but one reasonable approach that could be used to identify small businesses and their owners,” the report qualifies. “However, we believe it represents a significant improvement over previous methodologies that were constrained by data limitations.”
Job Creators?
Since Boehner argued the tax would hurt those who create jobs, here are two pieces of additional perspective from the report:
  • Small-business owners in general are often lauded as job creators. But “millionaires” make up only a tiny fraction of the small-business owners. How tiny a fraction? According to the Treasury experts’ “broad” definition, 1.4 percent, and according to the narrow definition, 0.5 percent.
  • And contrary to the “job creator” image, being a small-business owner doesn’t mean you actually employ anyone. In fact, most don’t. According to the Treasury report, “We also find that slightly more than one-fifth of small businesses conform to our definition of an employer.”
As we’ve always said, Republicans do have a point when they say raising individual tax rates results in raising taxes on business owners whose business income flows through to their personal returns. And standard economic theory holds that raising business taxes tends to dampen employment to some degree. But rather than stick to the facts, Boehner and other Republicans exaggerate greatly the number of employers who would be affected by raising taxes on upper-income individuals.
– Robert Farley

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ohio Senate Bill 5 Overwhelmingly Repealed
"Conservative Overreach" Undone
Moderate Republicans Join Democrats to Push Back the Extremists

Republican Governor John Kasich had his butt handed to him on Tuesday. 

Republicans overreach, they do it every time they win majorities in elections that they believe give them mandates, mandates which they mistake for support for right wing extremists.  But after the 2010 elections, they outdid themselves.

Kasich, along with Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, were in the front of the right wing Union Busting, in the false name of making a friendly business climate in their states.  Their careers and their 'centerpiece' legislation was heavily funded by the right, notably in some instances by the Koch Brothers directly and indirectly.  Kasich is consistently noted along with Wisconsin Governor Walker (who has a 47% disapproval rating) and Florida Governor Rick Scott as the most unpopular governors in the nation.  Walker faces a possible recall after only a year in office, despite attempts to change the recall process to save his job.

The numbers appear to indicate that more people voted to repeal Senate bill 5 than voted to elect Governor Kasich.

The legislation was repealed by a vote of 61% to 39%, by one report, while an AP source in Cleveland puts it at 63%.  This is a landslide, this is overwhelming, in the face of yet more attempts at voter suppression by the right, and is more noteworthy than ever that this occurred in an off-year election, and was distinguished by unprecedented numbers of petition signatures to initiate the ballot initiative.

Along with this signal repeal were other significant elections rejecting the extremists on the right.

Remember all those claims by the right to justify their voter ID measures that they were only supporting fair and honest elections?  In Ohio, as has been the case in other locations, the Right - funded apparently by the Koch Brothers - have engaged in dirty tricks in an attempt to cheat to win elections.   If they can't buy elections outright, they will try to buy elections through dirty tricks.

In Ohio, it failed. In Ohio, people won and big money lost.  But in Ohio, despite the overwhelming numbers, the right wing extremists are staying bought by their wealthy would-be union-busting wealthy interests; they are going to attempt to RE-pass the same provisions of the legislation that was repealed as separate bills.

Just a hunch, but I'm betting that won't be a successful re-election strategy.

According to Politico (bold emphasis mine - DG)
COLUMBUS - Republican Gov. John Kasich warned Democrats that they needed to support a hard-edged anti-union law or get run over by “the bus” — but on Tuesday Ohio voters left serious tread marks on Kasich and, quite possibly, the national GOP.
Unions hung a humbling defeat on Kasich, who has fast become his party’s poster boy for conservative overreach, by rolling back Senate Bill 5, a new collective bargaining law that bars public sector strikes, curtails bargaining rights for 360,000 public employees and scraps binding arbitration of management-labor disputes.
and this summed up the rejection by the center of the extremist right:
“Hey, I’m a Republican, but I’m telling you, Republican firefighters and police officers aren’t going to be voting Republican around here for a while,” said Doug Stern, a 15-year veteran of the Cincinnati fire department who joined the non-partisan “We are Ohio” coalition that helped repeal the bill.
“We’ll see what happens in 2012, but our guys have a long memory. We’re angry and disgusted.”
and Politco further wrote: senior state Republican blamed the governor, whose approval rating languishes in the low 30s, for “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” by alienating labor-friendly independents in the state.
Look for more posts later today about the dirty right wing political tricks of voter suppression.  Look for more posts about OTHER elections, including unprecedented numbers of successful recall elections, notably the Republican President of the Arizona senate Russell Pearce and in Michigan, also in a recall election, Michigan State Representative Paul Scott was removed from office. In Virginia a recount will determine if their state senate will change to a Democratic majority; and in Iowa, the election of an Independent keeps their state senate in the hands of Democrats.

In an equally important rejection of an extremist right wing position, extremely conservative, extremely anti-abortion Mississippi overwhelmingly rejected the attempts to change the fundamental definition of personhood to conception, a position which has no scientific justification but is promoted by the extremists on the religious right.  If this doesn't fly in Mississippi, where it appears to have been rejected by 55% of voters, it is not going to succeed ANYWHERE.  This is going to pose a problem for many of the current crop of GOP Presidential candidate wannabees, who in an attempt to move further right in order to win primary support, have embraced that position. Look for a separate post on that in the near future.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ohio's Senate Bill 5 - Today's the Day They Vote In Ohio

What is widely expected to be a referendum that will be a significant indicator for the 2012 elections, in Ohio they are voting on Senate Bill 5 (read the text here), relating to the rights of people to engage in collective bargaining -- in other words, unions.  The Republicans in the legislature along with the governor, stripped those rights away, along partisan lines.  Today, Issue 2 on the ballot (read the text here) could reverse that legislation, repealing it.  If that happens, it is predicted that the gains made by the right in 2010 are likely to largely be reversed in 2012.

Ahead of the November 2012 elections, it could also be prophetic for the direction that recall next door in Wisconsin of Governor Walker.

One of my favorite sites, non partisan and factual, for following these elections and issues is of course Ballotnews, featured on our blog roll.  Check them often; they are an excellent way to stay factually informed in a quick and easy and effective way.

While no election or referendum is over until the last voter casts their vote, and given that there have been numerous upsets and surprises in history, the following graph from the Ballotnews coverage of this issue strongly suggests that when it comes to Issue 2, repeal is more likely than it continuing:


The following is a line graph of poll results taken since April 2011. The graph represents five polls taken throughout the course of the year. All polls represented in the graph asked whether or not voters supported or opposed Senate Bill 5. The average number of those surveyed from all polls was 1,454 registered voters. The average margin of error among those polls was +/- 2.6 percentage points.[1]
I look forward to seeing who is, in effect, going to be given a thumbs up or a thumbs down on this key issue.  Watch this space for the Ballotnews updates as we get closer to the voting results being announced, complete with results analysis of what happened to union busting today in Ohio.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who Was It That REALLY Targeted Black Women and babies ?
Contrary to Herman Cain, who wrongly blames Planned Parenthood, it was a governmental Eugenics program.

Planned Parenthood is under attack, nationally and here in Minnesota.  The right-wingers like to malign it with factually inaccurate accusations.  One example would be Michel Bachmann's fear-mongering that there was a danger of children being taken by school authorities to Planned Parenthood for abortions, and then getting on the school bus at the end of the day to go home as if nothing had occurred.

That Planned Parenthood lie by Bachmann was debunked pretty effectively. And we posted the debunking of the lie about Planned Parenthood told by Herman Cain repeatedly as well, here, citing the research into his statements by the excellent

But in the face of the Eugenics / Involuntary sterilization controversy currently taking place in North Carolina, which you can read about, here, there has been a problem in the past, mostly from the 1920s through the 1970s that is currently center stage.  There HAS been targeting of certain groups, which in North Carolina included a disproportionate number of blacks, for sterilization, not abortion. But clearly, sterilization DID disproportionately limit the number of black children being born.

So, what are the facts about black women and babies being targeted?  You certainly will never hear the truth about it from any of the 2012 GOP Presidential contenders.  In fact, there is seldom an accurate statement from any of them on the topic of sex, reproduction, gender orientation, or human sexuality.

But the North Carolina controversy DID make me curious about Eugenics programs in the state of Minnesota.  Being fact-oriented and not factually challenged when it comes to facts relating to sex, gender, or sexuality, I did a little digging, as I am known to do from time to time.

What I found was this fascinating brief history of Eugenics in Minnesota at the Minnesota Historical Society's web site, where you can read more, here:


Minnesota Eugenics Society & Founder Charles Fremont Dight

Charles F. DightEugenics was a movement to improve the human species by controlling hereditary factors in mating. The eugenics movement began in the late 1800s in Britain. Francis Galton, an English scientist, coined the term in 1883 and founded the Eugenics Society of Great Britain in 1908. Galton’s philosophy was that humanity could be improved by encouraging the ablest and healthiest people to have more children. Galton’s vision of eugenics is usually termed “positive eugenics.” The eugenics movements in the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia favored “negative eugenics,” which advocated preventing the least able from breeding. The American Eugenics Society was organized in 1926.
In the early 1920s, Charles Fremont Dight, a physician in Minneapolis, launched a crusade to bring the eugenics movement to Minnesota. He combined the moral philosophy of eugenics with socialism and espoused the idea that the state should administer reproduction of mentally handicapped individuals. His main lines of approach included eugenics education, changes in marriage laws, and the segregation and sterilization of what he called “defective” individuals.
Dight organized the Minnesota Eugenics Society in 1923 and began campaigning for a sterilization law. In 1925 the Minnesota legislature passed a law allowing the sterilization of the “feeble–minded” and insane who were resident in the state's institutions. For the next several legislative sessions Dight fought unsuccessfully for expansion of the law to include sterilization of the “unfit” who lived outside of institutions.
Dight continued his legislative efforts as late as 1935. He spoke and wrote on the subject of eugenics, including over 300 letters to Minneapolis daily newspapers, a 1935 pamphlet on the History and Early Stages of the Organized Eugenics Movement for Human Betterment in Minnesota, and a 1936 book entitled Call for a New Social Order. In 1933 he sent a letter to Adolph Hitler and included with it one of his letters to the editor in which he commended Hitler's work in Germany.
The Minnesota Eugenics Society became moribund by the early 1930s. Dight died on June 20, 1938, in Minneapolis. He left his estate to the University of Minnesota to found what became the Dight Institute for the promotion of Human Genetics.

That made me even more curious; a doctoral dissertation Neal Ross Holtan, from earlier this year on the history of eugenics and the U of MN put the end of the Dight institute at 1988 when it became the Institute for Human Genetics, not the 1960s, as stated in an MPR article from August 2011.  That places our eugenics history a couple of decades more recent, if relatively inactive for sterilization during those later years. 

There was this information on forced sterilization from this University of Minnesota web site:
Number of victims
In total, there were 2,350 victims of sterilization in Minnesota.  Of the 2,350, 519 were male, and 1,831 (approx. 78%) were female. About 18% were deemed mentally ill and 82% mentally deficient. The sterilizations in Minnesota accounted for 4 percent of all the sterilizations in the nation (Lombardo, p. 118).
Period during which sterilizations occurred
The sterilizations took place predominantly between 1928 and the late 1950s.  Sterilizations were relatively high in the 1930s and early 1940s (Paul, p. 393).  During the war, there was a shortage of staff, which may be the reason why there were fewer sterilizations from 1942 to 1946 (Paul, p. 396).
And there were several sources which identify Minnesota as having been one of, if not the most, eugenics conscious states in the U.S.  What I haven't found yet is if the law passed in the first part of the 20th century has been repealed, or if court decisions have simply made it no longer applicable.......or if its provisions have been replaced by other legislation.

Bachmann is that the claims about Planned Parenthood appear to play on the abuses of eugenics sterilization as part of their fear mongering repressive and regressive policies towards sex and reproduction, and especially wrong and bad in the policies they advocate for the terrible failure, abstinence only sex education.

I knew that in some other states, right wing sex paranoia took forms like banning sex toys including vibrators, and that Minnesota had at one time enforced draconian sodomy laws until they were overturned by our State Supreme Court.  What I did not know though turned up in this article, from of all places, that right wing bastion of propaganda, Fox News (you can read the whole article, here):
"Outdated, unthinkable, erotophobic and downright ridiculous, we should thank our lucky stars that enforcing them is another matter.
Sex toys are banned in some states, such as Alabama. Sexual intercourse between unmarried couples is illegal in Georgia. Flirting is banned in San Antonio, Texas. Oral sex is banned in Indiana. Anal intercourse is banned in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sexual positions beyond missionary are illegal in Washington, D.C. Sleeping naked is illegal in Minnesota."
When I hear Herman Cain, or Michele Bachmann whinging on trying to propagandize culture war issues relating to sex, it seems to me that at least as regards abortion, they are playing on our real history, as a state, and as a nation, of eugenics abuses.  In Minnesota, we turned Eugenics into a study of Genetics, something which empowers people.  If we listen to Cain or Bachmann, and follow their recommendations, we might as well return to that inglorious, backwards and fearful era of another century.  I for one have no desire to return to a right wing dark ages of human sexuality.  Part of pushing back against that right wing fear mongering about abortion targeting blacks and Planned Parenthood being racist is to know our factual history, to recognize the false conflating of abortion and sterilization in the face of right wing fraud.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hate Speech

Recently, a vile man (sorry, but his comments define him as nothing less) decided the proper course of action in reacting to a comment he didn't like (and admittedly, the comment was mildly demeaning), well, he decided the proper course of action was to engage in speech which any of us, standing on a street corner and hearing, would make us think the man was unhinged, vulgar, and disgusting.

That sort of speech isn't tolerated, obviously not here, but it isn't tolerated really anywhere by ordinary citizens. That isn't to say we deny the person the right to say them in public, far from it, but rather that react viscerally to such speech and call the person out for being precisely what they are, bigoted, hateful, and behaving in a way which calls into question everything they say. That is the normal reaction, and has been, to this kind of person, since the founding of our country. Someone who stood upon a soap box and claimed that they were allowed to kill anyone they desired, that women should be whipped regularly, that rape was merely the improper denial by a woman of any man's sexual rights, we looked at as someone not deserving of our respect or time.

Such was the conduct of Serr8d. This man followed folks from blog to blog to assert that he, and he alone, knows the mind of God. That he, and he alone, can decide what his rights are, and that he alone is so smart that he, and he alone understands what rights are "his" and which rights he reserves to himself, but he can otherwise take away from others. Any disagreement is met with prurient, recommendations of sexual violence, quite frankly suggesting someone who has repressed issues with sexual liberty and dealings with the opposite sex. He goes on to threaten with real violence anyone who disagrees. It is his right, or so he claims, to attempt to deny others a right of speech he claims is God given to him, but apparently not to anyone he doesn't agree with. Apparently, God has said he (Serr8d) should go and take those rights away from others if they aren't preaching the "proper" word, a word which only Serr8d understands (how convenient).

In the past we have correctly deemed such people to be at best "off kilter" and at worst, dangerous, not dangerous like an Army Ranger (i.e. tough, well-trained), but dangerous like David Koresh, or the Reverend Jim Jones - dangerous claimants of divine authority, dangerous in that they may act out violently, not only because they claim that ONLY THEY know the truth (so who can argue with them or stop them?), but also because they are liable to act utterly inappropriately, failing to apply proportion to their acts. They seek, like Eric William Rudolph, some sort of pseudo-moral outcome (the end of abortion), but their steps in achieving such outcomes are morally outrageous and hypocritical (he blew up buildings, killed innocent people). They claim to be on a "mission from God" so their mission justifies their acts, in short, they are on their own little "Jihad."

The bottom line is that it is people like this who society again needs to "walk on the other side of the street" from, we need to call the likes of Strom Thurmond (who openly advocated racism) out, we need to start to reply and denounce the extremist, intolerant, "God filled" voices who espouse a word which is neither pious, loving nor moral - and we need to do so in ways which drives these nut-cases either back into the dark closet created during their own tragic childhoods from when they've sprung, or requires them to seek true engagement and moreover, to use proportion and decency in dealing with others. We don't shoot people for jaywalking, we don't blow them up for worshiping a god we don't believe in, and we sure as heck don't engage in threats of violence, and use images of rape in response to being accused of being hateful. Not only have we stepped over the line into the "insane", we've proven the person right.

Is This Right Wing Racism?

Herman Cain has been promoting lies, including the most convincing kind of lies, the ones that have some grain, some detail, of truth in them.

Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States

August 2011


• Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.[1] Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.[2]
• Forty percent of pregnancies among white women, 67% among blacks and 53% among Hispanics are unintended.[1] In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.[2]
• Each year, two percent of women aged 15–44 have an abortion. Half have had at least one previous abortion.[2,3]
• At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.[4,5]

Cain’s False Attack on Planned Parenthood

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Herman Cain has offered an alternate version of history in claiming that Planned Parenthood’s founder wanted to prevent “black babies from being born.” We find no support for that old claim. Cain also states that the organization built 75 percent of its clinics in black communities, but there’s no evidence that was true then. And today, only 9 percent of U.S. abortion clinics are in neighborhoods where half or more of residents are black, according to the most recent statistics.
The GOP presidential candidate made these comments back in March, telling an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation that “[w]hen Margaret Sanger — check my history — started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world.” He called it “planned genocide.”
In an interview on “Face the Nation” on Oct. 30, Cain did not back down from those allegations. Here’s his exchange with host Bob Schieffer:
Schieffer: … you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies –
Herman Cain: Yes.
Scheiffer: — before they were born. Do you still stand by that?
Cain: I still stand by that.
Schieffer: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?
Cain: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history — secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community — and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word “genocide,” but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.
Cain isn’t the first to believe that birth control advocate Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) wanted to stop the birth of black babies. Just do an Internet search and see what happens. Sanger made more than her share of controversial comments. But the quote many point to as evidence that Sanger favored something akin to “genocide” of African Americans has been turned on its head.
Sanger, who was arrested several times in her efforts to bring birth control to women in the United States, set up her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In the late 1930s, she sought to bring clinics to black women in the South, in an effort that was called the “Negro Project.” Sanger wrote in 1939 letters to colleague Clarence James Gamble that she believed the project needed a black physician and black minister to gain the trust of the community:
Sanger, 1939: The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”
It goes on to characterize beliefs such as Cain’s as “extremist.” The project says: “No serious scholar and none of the dozens of black leaders who supported Sanger’s work have ever suggested that she tried to reduce the black population or set up black abortion mills, the implication in much of the extremist anti-choice material.”

Friday, November 4, 2011


I am making the decision to now more stringently enforce the ban on Ser8d from commenting here.  This is in response to extremely offensive comments on Penigma, my 'home' blog where he followed me from posting and commenting on another blog where I write.  

I believe his comments are not only offensive, but can be reasonably construed as sexual harassment.  It does not appear that I am the only person he has followed back to their own blogs to behave abusively or offensively. 

Therefore I will also be filing a complaint with the people at Google who operate the / blogger platform to file a complaint for violating their terms of service, and with his IP.  If Ser8d does not abide by the ban, and continues, I will take the next step of following up with a police complaint.  It is my understanding that the authorities are quite efficient in working with their counterparts in the jurisdiction of the offending poster/commenter, and that they are quite capable of identifying that person, their location, and address.

I will not repeat the comment itself here, but our stat-counter service on Penigma shows the following information, redacted so as not to publish private personal information here, in compliance with the terms of service agreement.

This Ser8d appears to be you:

Nashville, Tennessee, United States
IP Address:
Fleet One ( [Label IP Address]
Referring URL:
Entry Page:
Exit Page:
and this documents you made the comments:
4 Nov11:42:38
4 Nov11:42:45
4 Nov11:43:55
4 Nov11:45:04
4 Nov11:45:04

Harassing me, harassing any of our commenters, is unacceptable conduct.  

Don't come back.  

If I see you are visiting this blog, by way of the stat counter service or if I have any other reason to believe you are doing so, I will again contact both google/blogger/blogspot, and the police and put the matter in their hands and in the hands of your internet service provider.  It is regrettable that you cannot conduct yourself appropriately under the terms of service, and the posted blog rules, but clearly you lack the judgment and self control to do so.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crime and Self-policing the Occupy Protests

This addresses the problems with homeless and drug addicts, others, who are NOT PART of the protests mingling with protesters. Some of the more pertinent sections are near the end.


Sex assault arrest highlights security concerns at 'Occupy' protests

NEW YORK -- Highlighting growing security concerns at “Occupy” protests around the country, a 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a woman at the encampment near Wall Street where the movement was born.
Tonye Iketubosin, a Brooklyn resident, was arrested late Tuesday and remained in custody Wednesday while the incident was investigated, police said. He had been working in the encampment's kitchen.
The Wall Street Journal reported that police were investigating an alleged attack by Iketubosin on an 18-year-old woman from Massachusetts. The woman told police she accepted his offer to let her sleep in his tent while he went to work at the kitchen early Saturday, but later returned and raped her, the newspaper quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying. Charges were pending.
Iketubosin allegedly groped a 17-year-old woman days before that incident, on Oct. 24. He has been charged with third-degree sexual abuse in that case, the newspaper reported.
Brendan Burke, 41, of Brooklyn, who helped start the “Occupy Wall Street” security team, said there had been three or four assaults since the protest began on Sept. 17 committed by two men.
In such cases, he said, protesters “go straight to the police.”
Burke said the security team, which consists of up to ten members and has help from outside groups to help keep the site safe, has non-violent measures for handling aggressors, including encircling them and shouting them down. A community watch group, akin to neighborhood watch, also monitors the site overnight, he said.
“People forget this is the middle of the street,” Burke said. “All walks of life are in here, so it’s not like a bunch of crazy people are in this park. But there is an element in this park that is eating free food, living in tents and being subsidized by the movement. It’s one of the weak parts of the movement, but it’s changing. … It’s just a thing everyone’s working out as we go along.”
He said the protesters attempt to integrate such interlopers into the movement when possible.
“We have also a track record of including troubled kids into the fray of working groups …  and  becoming part of the movement,” he said.
Protesters find allies in ranks of the wealthy
Security issues have bubbled up at some “Occupy” sites around the country in recent weeks.
“Occupy Boston” is looking at measures to deal with taking troublemakers out of the camp, protester Ravi Mishra, 25, said Tuesday. There have been no reports of sexual assault, though they have had to deal with people who are rowdy, drunk or have substance abuse problems, he said.
Some people who were not really a part of the movement have shown up and gotten “up to no good,” Mishra said.
“We’re doing our best to navigate, you know, both sides of the line,” he said. “On the one hand, we want to make sure that we’re not being exclusive by any means, on the other hand, we do understand that there is ... a degree of realism that we have to take with these issues.”
Old guard back in the trenches at "Occupy" protests
“Occupy Dallas” also has had a few security issues arise with people coming to the camp who were not associated with the movement, protester Michael Prestonise wrote in an email.
“Our position is one that might run counter to the continued accusations of our movement primarily consisting of hippies and freeloaders,” he said. “We actively work with the police to enforce the law.”
Prestonise said the protesters had dealt with theft by announcing stolen items at “general assemblies” and conducted their own investigations in some cases. A fire watch team also coordinates security and organizes shifts to maintain an all-night safety patrol, he said.
Both Occupy Boston and Wall Street have tents for women only. Burke said the camp is safe, but people should not think it’s a crime-free zone.
“There’s a myth about this … that it’s not every day America,” Burke said. “We’re just Americans doing our constitutional right. It doesn’t mean that there is a magic spell that will protect you from crime.”