Saturday, June 30, 2012

Main Stream Media has a Right Wing Bias -- the Fast and Furious Expose

I'm tired of hearing the whining and complaining and the unsupported blaming from the right that they dont get fair coverage in the media.  The Nut Gingrich claims of media bias in his campaigning was just one example.

Right wing media simply makes things up, or fails to multi-source or otherwise accurately report news.  They play to conspiracy theories and insane premises that demonize the left -- notably the claims of voter fraud and of union corruption.

Consistently, they have no proof for their conspiracies, but they flog them mercilessly. 

Consistently, they largely ignore any stories, no matter how well researched and credible, that differ from that conspiracy flogging propaganda they promote.  We are far from the days where our media was held to a better standard of fact, the days of Edward R. Murrow, the days of Walter Cronkite.

Our low-information voters believe that it couldn't be reported in the media if it weren't true -- like those good old days of factual journalism, where the media had standards. 

We are in a 'post-truth' era -- and that should make us angry, and that should move us to push back for an era of truth.

There are still GOOD reporters, the reporters who deserve Pulitzers, reporters who fact check thoroughly, and who are careful to tell the truth, to be factual and not to overreach beyond what they can prove or demonstrate.

Locally I saw that in the reporting of Dan Browning.  I was impressed with his journalism; he was a meticulous researcher, and an ethical reporter of facts. 

Nationally, I am similarly impressed with the exceptional investigative reporting efforts of  Katherine Eban.

Fortune magazine, which produces the Fortune 500 lists every year, is no rag, no tabloid, no Daily Mail.  It has been a prestigious magazine, a rival to Forbes, dating back to its founding in 1930 by Henry Luce.  It has been for nearly a century one of the most respected magazines in this nation, primarily for business and economic reporting.

Eban wrote an award winning book about tainted drugs and counterfeit drugs in our health care system.  Her reporting has appeared in a wide range of media, both print and broadcast, notably in the New York Times, and on Night Line and 60 Minutes. 

Eban's reporting stands up to the closest scrutiny and to the most rigorous challenges -- like good reporting used to do regularly.  Her reporting is UNlike the right wing media, which consistently cannot stand up to scrutiny or factual challenge.

For a long time, I have wondered why it is that anyone would believe the ATF or the DoJ simply overlooked the transfer of guns over our borders.  It has never made sense to me that they were just incapable of tracking those guns, or that they didn't care very much about NOT allowing firearms to fall into the wrong hands. 

That was implausible on the face of it.  Why would they do that?  The explanation of incompetence did not seem justified; the ATF and the DoJ are not incompetent, and when they have a failing - and agencies sometimes DO have failures, including some massive ones (the Department of Interior has had some horrific ones, for example), they aren't like this, they follow a different pattern.

When there are massive failures in government, regardless of which party is in charge, consistently if you follow the money trail, someone is profiting.  There was no such trail claimed or demonstrated in the case of the ATF and DoJ. 

No motivation was ever posited, except for another ridiculous conspiracy theory spouted by the NRA that was more full of holes than a target at a shooting range.

When you factor in that the program began under George W. Bush, but was only being used to discredit Obama so very selectively, the stink factor of something rotten from the right got much stronger. 

What I don't understand is why this wasn't being investigated sooner, and better, by anyone other than Eban.  And what I don't understand is why the larger media, both print and broadcast, hasn't been doing more to announce this stunning expose.

The criticism from the lunatic fringies like the Breitbart blog, or distortion non-journalists like Fox News, don't offer credible facts to counter Eban's reporting.  There is NO credible evidence that refutes her research and documentation.

From Eban's Report on Fast and Furious:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.
How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically Dodson’s anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election. (A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general’s report is submitted.)
“Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false,” says Linda Wallace, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit who was assigned to the Fast and Furious team (and recently retired from the IRS). A self-described gun-rights supporter, Wallace has not been criticized by Issa’s committee.
Isn't the question that should be asked, how was it legal for these straw purchasers to buy these guns in the first place?  Isn't the logical question, why weren't local prosecutors or law enforcement at the state and local level arresting or prosecuting these crimes? 

It was never the case that the surveillance by ATF was watching the ONLY straw purchase activity.  That activity has been documented over and over and over; it was widespread.

It is STILL widespread in Arizona.  Where is the outrage that it continues and that the laws in the state of Arizona and elsewhere ALLOW it?  This is clearly not about restricting legal gun purchases to lawful gun owners; this is purely and entirely about stopping intentionally ILLEGAL gun traffic.  This is something over which we should all be able to unite, so why is it the Republicans and the NRA are opposing it?

Oh yea -- that might reduce gun sales, and given the role of the NRA as lobbyists for the gun manufacturers, in ALEC and more directly, that would cut into the illegal gun sales that make money for those special interests, money which can fairly be termed bloody money.

Follow the money -- who profits from this activity? The gun dealers do, and the gun manufacturers do, and there is a clear trail of money as well to the right wing politicians. 

The same rule appleis that always applies.  Follow the money, in this case the dirty right wing blood stained money.

The right likes to give loud and repetitive lip service to the word Freedom.  When you hear that kind of abuse of the word, it should alert you to the fact that there is misdirection present, it should put you on notice that they are trying to disguise the reality.

It is a clear case of the wonderful line from the Wizard of Oz, "don't look at the man behind the curtain'.

Eban looked, Eban wrote, and Eban is still pointing.  You should be looking too, and sniffing the stink of right wing corruption, and objecting.

Our own state of Minnesota, and the city of Minneapolis receive a mention in the Eban expose.  We do things differently here than in gun-crazy Arizona:
Voth was a logical thinker. . He lived by advice he received from an early mentor in law enforcement: “There’s what you think. There’s what you know. There’s what you can prove. And the first two don’t count.”
But he was not operating in a logical world. The wiretap represented the ATF’s best—perhaps only— hope of connecting the gun purchases it had been documenting to orders from the cartels, according to Hurley. In Minneapolis, the prosecutors Voth had worked with had approved wiretap applications within 24 hours. But in Phoenix, days turned into weeks, and Group VII’s wiretap application languished with prosecutors in Arizona and Washington, D.C.
No one has yet explained this delay. Voth thinks prosecutor Hurley’s inexperience in wiretapping cases may have slowed the process. Several other agents speculate that Arizona’s gun culture may have led to indifference. Hurley is an avid gun enthusiast, according to two law-enforcement sources who worked with him. One of those sources says he saw Hurley behind the counter at a gun show, helping a friend who is a weapons dealer.
We need an investigation into lax laws and into prosecutorial incompetence, or possibly corruption.  I am guessing that we won't see anything of the kind from the inherently dishonest Congressman Issa, who is simply playing at dirty politics.

We need more reporters like Eban, we need more integrity and less right wing post-truth ideology from the new media of the blogosphere, and more critical thinking and fact checking.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Turns Out it was the NRA-promoted lax gun laws responsible for Fast and Furious!!!!!

The right wing engages in the most ridiculous of conspiracy theories. The latest one has blown up in the face of the right wing like a whole keg of gun powder exploding. Could this folly promoted by the NRA result in the gun zombies being laughed into extinction as an organization?  If it doesn't - it should. This is another example of  the classic non-facts idiocy that gun nuts swallow because of their utter and total lack of any ability whatsoever at critical thinking exacerbated by their total lack of knowledge of facts and a complete and devestating inability to discern and discover FACTS. I coined a new term for the gun lunatic, gun zombie (mindless repetition of "must have guns") lexicon.  It is  more than a fract, defined as a minor singular deviation from objective and verifiable reality; it is a full-blown 'Fuct', a false piece of progandized information that is so massively stupid and inaccurate, on which the gun nuts rely that it is larger than a mere fract, and more foundational -- and more stupid on the part of the gun nutz. This is one of the latter,  a full-blown, neon-flashing, siren blaring 'fuct'. Turns out Fast and Furious is NOT even remotely as the right wingers and especially the NRA have portrayed it, and as is far more logical, it turns out that the responsibility for the  2000 firearms that ended up in Mexico, and the dead federal agent lies squarely on the doorstep of the pro-gunners and the NRA. Given this took place in ultra-conservative pro-gun to a disastrous fault Arizona, it is a reasonable speculation that the majority of these prosecutors who would NOT ALLOW the ATF to arrest straw purchasers were CONSERVATIVES, TEA PARTIERS and REPUBLICANS!!!! Your consciences, individually and collectively must by now be smoking, shrivelled and blackened beyone recognition. Here are the details of OBJECTIVE REALITY, not the gun lunatic NRA promoted fantasy conspiracy for the ignorant gun lunatics, from a well regarded and prestigious investigative reporter for a nationally respected journal. Prepare to hang your heads in SHAME for all the times you tried to represent this differently. Your skin should be brick red flushed with shame from your scalp down to the soles of your feet for EVER having believed the NRA about this (or anything else).  More than shame for yourselves, if you have ANY INTEGRITY WHATSOEVER you should be repudiating Rep. Issa as a dishonest reincarnation of the despicable witch-hunting cold war era Sen. Joe McCarthy.  I tried unsuccessfully to cut the clip to the proper length; the Fast and Furious interview begins at aprox. 4:00 in.

Comical World of the Affordable Care Act,

Steve Sack in the past two days has brilliantly summed up the nature of our political system which is being badly damaged to the point of being so corrupt, so bought-and-paid-for, that we need to fix it.

A case in point was the many freight trainloads of money spent to oppose the much needed health care reform before it passed.  Now we see those same trainloads of money being spent to support repealing it, delaying it, but most ly LYING about it to those gullible low information voters and the ideologues who choose consistently to believe propaganda not fact because it is what they WANT to believe.

From the brilliant resident Strib artist:

 blown gasket elephant

politician buying it

Satire Illumines our Public Discourse -- and it's more fun

I'm laughing at the 'eat broccoli' government over-reach argument. Who should know more about government overreach than the chronically over-reaching Republicans?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cable News Gaffe on Obamacare Supreme Court Ruling
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John Roberts as Obamacare Swing Vote
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Obamacare & The Broccoli Argument
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Obamacare & The Broccoli Argument - Emily Bazelon
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Life Imitates Art on the Healthcare Decision

Was it wishful thinking?
How long before the right wing nut conspiracy theory crazies try to portray this as some sort of one world order, or the illuminati, or the U.N. hijacking the real SCOTUS decision? Did Faux news nuts even notice that the report was wrong? They're so fact averse, they so consistently receive factually inaccurate information, they might not figure it out for days. The Colbert Report predicted something like this earlier this week, in response to the pre-recording of multiple health care decision outcomes:
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From the Guardian:
Healthcare ruling: CNN and Fox News report wrong decision
CNN apologises for reporting too quickly on the supreme court ruling, but they weren't the only ones to get it wrong

CNN fixed their mistake within minutes, but not before the error went viral. Photograph: It was one of the biggest news days of the year so far, and within minutes of the supreme court ruling, "CNN" was trending on social media networks worldwide. Unfortunately for the news channel, it proved to be the wrong kind of trending – CNN was being lambasted for reporting precisely the opposite of what had actually happened. "Individual mandate struck down," the breaking news banner on CNN's US domestic news network proclaimed. "Supreme court finds measure unconstitutional." In fact, the supreme court had actually upheld President Obama's healthcare law. The confusion arose because it declared the individual mandate – which obliges most Americans to secure health insurance – as unconstitutional in terms of what is know as the "commerce clause" but allowed it to stand as a tax. CNN was not the only news organisation to get it wrong – Fox News also declared the individual mandate unconstitutional. But it seemed that Fox was let off lightly compared with its more middle-of-the road rival.

Whoooo HOOOOOOOOOOOO! Yippppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Supreme Court announces that they upheld Obamacare/ more correctly known as the Affordable Health Care Act!  Hooray!

In the context that it is a gift to see ourselves as others see us, I'm going to turn to the Guardian in the UK for our 'Obamacare' news.  They have an excellent continuing update here that refreshes every 60 seconds, and they also provide excellent analysis -- which it is sad to say, is often better than their American counterparts,:
you can follow that coverage with additional updates, analyses and other coverage HERE.

Supreme court ruling on healthcare law – live coverage

The US supreme court rules today on the fate of President Obama's healthcare reforms – follow live coverage here

10.21am: In the detail: the supreme court appears to have also redefined the commerce clause and tightened its use. The clause's power has been trimmed by the court in recent decision, but this is another attempt to box it in further.
10.20am: Here's the key quote to maintain the individual mandate as constitutional, from Roberts's opinion:

Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.
That's clear, right? Me neither.

10.17am: Once again, this is a long, complex and multi-layered decision by the supreme court, and the voting may have differed on different points – so take nothing for granted.

But it appears that John Roberts joined the liberal wing in upholding the healthcare law and individual mandate. This is significant in itself and news that will sink the US conservative movement into deep gloom.

10.16am: Wow: it appears that the so-called swing vote on the court, Anthony Kennedy, actually joined Scalia, Alito and Thomas in voting against the law – and that Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold.

Now there's a turn-up for the books.

10.15am: Opinion seems to be that the Affordable Care Act has been upheld – but there's a lot of detail in there, so more as it comes.

10.12am: So the individual mandate appears to have survived as constitutional, not under the commerce clause but as a tax, and that Chief Justice Roberts has joined the "liberal" wing of the court on the issue.

More important news: the Medicaid expansion is slighty limited but not invalidated by the decision. The devil is in the details but if that's broadly the case that's another big win for the administration.

No news on votes or dissents yet.

10.10am: As suggested earlier – this is a complex decision, so it's worth waiting to see what the whole decision reads.

It appears that the individual mandate may survive as a tax – but that may need further Congressional action.
More as we get it.

10.08am: Hold on – while Roberts appears to have invalidated the individual mandate under the commerce clause, ScotusBlog is saying the mandate has survived as a tax. Let's wait and see how this plays out.

10.07am: Here we go: Chief Justice John Roberts is reading the decision on healthcare law now – so that means he wrote the decision – and the mandate fails under the commerce clause.

More as we get it.

10.02am: The court has published its first decision, but it's about something else involving the first amendment. Oh it's the Stolen Valor act – which bans people falsely claiming they have won military honours (surprisingly common in the US, for some reason).

Anyway, it's unconstitutional but Congress can redraft it. Apparently it's not illegal to lie. Thomas, Scalia and Alito all dissent.

10am: While we are waiting, here's a nice photo of the supreme court justices.

The justices of the US Supreme Court, front row (L-R): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, chief justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back row (L-R): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

They all have a great health insurance deal.

9.55am: Five minutes to go. There's a tiny but non-negligible chance that the court will punt on the whole issue, thanks to the Anti-Injunction Act that holds that taxes cannot be challenged in court until they are first levied. Which hasn't happened yet. But it's not likely.

But if the court did, that would be really bad for everyone's health.

9.49am: Fifteen minutes to go – and when the healthcare rulings come, it's likely to be a complex one with many layers and possibly multiple dissents – as the Arizona immigration ruling on Monday showed – so beware of over-caffinated responses declaring victory for one side or the other.

The fate of the individual mandate is only one aspect, although it's obviously the biggest one. Another, perhaps more far reaching in constitutional terms, is how the court redefines the commerce clause that the government is using to justify the mandate.

And then there's the so-called Medicare expansion issue, offering healthcare coverage to an additional 16 million people but from which some states are asking the court to allow them to opt out. That alone could be even more significant than a decision on the individual mandate.
9.40am: In all the political excitement over today's ruling, let's not forget what's at stake: the nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance.

9.35am: In the event of the supreme court upholding the Affordable Care Act, how will the Republicans react? After the apoplexy has faded, here's what Speaker of the House John Boehner said yesterday:
If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what's left of it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We Aren't, But We Can Be

I just watched perhaps the best 2 minutes in television I've seen in at least 10 years, more like 20.  I watched the opening of HBO's new series "Newsroom."

When I write, I struggle (often) to convey what I'm thinking as clearly as I'm thinking it.  I'm guessing I'm not alone.  When I am successful, I very nearly always am channeling Dennis Leary - going off on some free-thinking, free ranging tirade during which at some point, what I'm trying to say bleeds it's way through.  Leary is a genius at this, I'm an amateur on my best day.

I just watched Jeff Daniels, the star of the show, go off on a Dennis Leary like tirade, answering the question, "What makes America the best country in the world."

His answer was simply this.. "It isn't...

It isn't because we're 47th in life expectancy, 138th in infant mortality, 7th in math scores, 4th in exports, 3rd in median income, and so on (I don't remember the rest).  We're first in three categories; incarcerated people per capita, percentage of people who believe in angels, and military spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries, 25 of which are our allies.

But, we used to be (said Daniel's character), we use to dream big, make war for ethical reasons, stood up for ethical things, we reached for the stars,  we made war on poverty not on the poor (and so on)...and we weren't so easily afraid."

This show had the guts to say what has crossed my mind, but I declined to say.  More importantly, it spoke truth to power, it challenged the propaganda we hear every day.  It took guts to do it.

It said, in short, those things which made us great were our beliefs in doing the right thing, for the common good.  We, those of us who grew up prior to 1992, we remember the principles we had, the belief that intelligence was a virtue, that facts were how we armed ourselves to make the right decisions, we didn't believe we made our own reality.  We stood up for making the world a better place, we fought for really sound things, like stopping oppression.  We had great thoughts, greater principles, all while having highly educated children and the greatest economy (as Daniels' noted).

We are not the only place with liberty, but we have among the lowest level of economic liberty in the world - the liberty which the right so often beats their chest about - namely the "liberty" for the rich to pursue wealth by stuffing the airwaves with nonsense and suppressing the pay (and pensions) of the middle class, isn't the reason we are a great nation.  If that were it, Switzerland and/or Dubai should be acclaimed the greatest places ever.

No, we were once the greatest place for the same reason we can be again, we believed in doing what was best for all of us without trampling on the liberties of any of us.  We seem to have forgotten what standing up for what was right meant, it meant when the ACLU defended the KKK, we applauded, we felt that imprisoning people without charge was totally unacceptable, and defrauding the US populace of their right to freely vote was an offense to our democracy.  Once our people knew these things, or at least most of them did, and the kinds of things which happen today WOULD NOT have been tolerated by the US people of 1970 or 1947.  THEY fought too hard to protect those rights, and importantly, those who could not defend or protect themselves.

We once were the greatest nation on earth, we could be again, but first we must learn to respect the truth, teach our kids to think and question, and most of all, to stand up for that which helps us all, all around the world, again.

The show was non-partisan, it insulted liberals and conservatives, and it spoke to the need to simply do the right thing, to seek the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  The show has a promising start, perhaps it will even help.  It is more articulate then I'll ever be and I encourage all of you to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Steve Sack on immigration

The Era of Post-Truthism: Teaching K-12 the Loch Ness Monster is REAL, and Darwinism is Wrong

What is sometimes called "post-truth" politics is a euphemism.

What it IS, what the term really means are lies, and deliberate aversion from known facts, because the facts and the truth are NOT what the adherent to post-truth politics wants to hear.  It results in an entire political party on the right - the GOP and their subgroup, the Tea Party - making the deliberate choice to disregard fact in favor of fiction, and to make legislation and to raise money instead on bigotry, superstition, and fear mongering ideology.  It is wrong, it is bad, it is hateful.  It is unpatriotic, it is divisive, it is the worst possible development for our nation.

We live in the real world, the objective and fact-based reality, not their quasi-religious hate-based fantasy world.  This video clip of a larger show presents an excellent view of the problem.

Let me be clear - if you follow the fact checkers, you will find them faulting the left as well as the right.
But the difference is, the way the left errs will be a number might be off, or a statistic might be out of date, or they just get something wrong as an honest mistake.  The overall intellectual structure in which they act is fact based; there are negative consequences for being wrong, there is a push to be accurate, and to engage in factual information and legitimate ideas.

That is not equally the case on the right - as I noted yesterday in my post on the anti-science bias of Republicans chronicled by science writer Chris Mooney in his books Republican Brain, and his book The Republican War on Science (part of the larger culture war against reality and the people who live in it in spite of right wing ideology).

In that context, I offer you the example of a Louisiana School, with the approval and permission of the state education regulators, teaching that the Loch Ness monster is real, as a means to justify that creationism is correct and Darwinism is not.  It should come as no surprise that southern schools typically score less well  in metrics relating to education than less backward, less faith driven curriculum states.  They WORK at being stupid, they live it, they teach it, they vote it, and they get very angry when their alternate universe is challenged by the real, objective reality world.  People like this will ensure that we continue to slide in relation to other nations, and will continue to create an accomplishment disparity between regions of our nation.

I recognize that there are some conservatives who aren't birthers or truthers or the other conspiracy theorists; their are conservatives who aren't drooling fundies. But the problem is, the right has embraced and encouraged them, and has pandered to them for money, and has legislated for them in order to gain numbers.  The right has embraced the stupid, the ignorant, the bigots, and the racists, and in the process they have sacrificed their morals and their ethics and their values and their principles. 

It was too high a price to pay for what they got in return.

There have been places I have traveled that were dangerous for Americans; I have stopped short of denying my nationality, but in those places as a matter of prudence, I have also not made it a blatant point that I am an American.  I have allowed people to mistake me variously for a Brit, a Canadian, and a white South African.  Those were instances where discretion was the better part of valor.  That was a case of being careful to avoid the kind of incident from which my country might not be able to protect or save me.

These people simply make me ashamed of my country and my fellow citizens and their blatant and offensive ignorance.

From the HuffPo:

Louisiana Private Schools Teach Loch Ness Monster Is Real In Effort To Disprove Evolution Theory

Some students at private schools in Louisiana are being taught that Scotland's fabled Loch Ness monster is real, a claim that is then held as evidence disproving Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, the Scotsman reports.

Thousands of students across the state are eligible to receive publicly funded vouchers to allow them to attend private Christian schools where textbooks published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) claim the monster was actually a dinosaur that existed at the same time as man, an assertion which conflicts with the theory of evolution.

The Times Educational Supplement, a British publication for teachers, published an article in 2009 that included an excerpt from Accelerated Christian Education's Biology 1099 textbook, which was published in 1995:

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all."

Loch Ness monster tour guide Tony Drummond, 47, told the Scottish Sun the curriculum is "ridiculous propaganda."

And Bruce Wilson, a researcher specializing in the American political religious right, told the Scotsman that one of the texts also claims "dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons."

"It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It’s more like medieval scholasticism," Wilson told the paper.

According to Scotland's the Herald, one of the textbooks also provides a somewhat controversial look at the Ku Klux Klan.

"The [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross ... In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians," the textbook reads, according to the Herald.

Laci, you can stop laughing now - but I'm sure you happier than ever that you were educated in the UK instead of here.

Rachel Maddow on Fast and Furiously Ridiculous

"Bang" is different than "Oooops!"

I thought this was a bit of a faux controversy, as there was never at any time an attempt to make a political statement about Dubya.  No one deliberately set out to sneak in a fake decapitated head depicting the previous president, appearing to sort of kinda maybe place George W. Bush's noggin on a pointy stick in the HBO dramatization of a pseudo-medieval fantasy book series, Game of Thrones. 

Subsequent to the discovery, and the resulting controversy, DVDs have been altered to obliterate any possible claim of resemblance to a real person, a former President of the United States. There is no indication that the prop head used in filming Game of Thrones looks like George W. Bush full face, or from any other angle, contrary to the report in this story. This was not apparently a specifically Bush-look-alike prop, it was just a generic prop.  This not only was the right thing to do for clarity of their intentions in the controvery, it puts an end to any continuing of it in future copies.  Those who have the earlier version may now have a trivial collectible.

That someone thought AFTER seeing the footage that there might be an unintentional resemblance in a very oblique angle, where no political statement is being made is very different from simulating lethal violence towards an actual sitting president, which I wrote about here. 

There is a significant difference from an unintentional resemblance in a prop that is background set dressing, and pretending to assassinate with deliberate lethal real violence towards a recognizable full-on likeness that has publicly been used specifically to identify the current sitting president. as a deliberately adversarial political statement.

So, I applaud that beyond acknowledging something they could have ignored, and apologizing for the offense their accidental inclusion caused.  It was the proper thing to do because it was a mistake, even though it was accidental.  AND because deliberate or not, the larger scene was about a character in a leadership role being beheaded as part of a military and political intrigue. I applaud the producers for going over and above the minimum necessary, to put doing the right thing, setting the right example, in spite of the cost of doing so.  

It was a good solution, the kind that should also be good business, as it removes any cloud that might otherwise hang over their series. Here is the updated news post, with the before and after images involved.

From MSN entertainment:
 'Game of Thrones' alters George W. Bush's head after decapitation controversy By Tim KenneallyTheWrap
HBO has found a way to calm the fury over "Game of Thrones" creators' decision to decapitate George W. Bush: They've removed most of his chin.
The network, which caught heat when series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss revealed that they placed the 43rd president's head on a spike during the show's first season, has replaced the offending segment with an altered version of the footage featuring a new head, which sports a much smaller chin and is generally of a smaller size, The Washington Post reports.
HBO pulled the scene from its online platform and halted shipment on its DVD release of the show's first season, after Benioff and Weiss made the reveal in the audio commentary of the DVD. "The last head on the left is George Bush," Benioff said, as a series of severed heads mounted on spikes appeared on the screen. "George Bush's head appears in a couple beheading scenes," Weiss added. Benioff was quick to note that use of Bush's head wasn't intended as an insult to the former chief executive. "It's not a choice, it's not a political statement," he said. "It's just, we had to use what heads we had around." Nonetheless, when the use of Bush's head was pointed out, the criticism came fast and hard, leading to equally swift apologies from both HBO and the "Game of Thrones" creators. "We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste," HBO said. "We made this clear to the executive producers of the series, who apologized immediately for this inadvertent careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production." "We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc." Benioff and Weiss said. "We can't afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush." The pair went on to note, "We meant no disrespect to the former president and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Makebate : Word of the Day

Troll is shorter, harasser might sometimes be more accurate, but this is a wonderful word of the day to describe what many of us have encountered in our cyber-experiences:

from the Word of the Day, from
         Word of the Day for Monday, June 25, 2012
makebate \MEYK-beyt\, noun:

A person who causes contention or discord.

The man was a hater of the great Governor and his life-work, the Erie; a makebate, a dawplucker, a malcontent politicaster.

-- Samuel Hopkins Adams, Grandfather Stories

But after all he pays well that pays with gold; and Mike Lambourne was never a makebate, or a spoil-sport, or the like.

-- Sir Walter Scott, Kenilworth

Makebate stems from the Middle English word bate which meant "contention".

The best way to expand your vocabulary is to use the newest words you learn right away.

So I propose commenters provide their own uses of the word makebate in a sentence left in a comment.

I'll go first, providing my own example:

Michael Brodkorb, notorious horror and whorer, should be rechristened MAKEBATE Brodkorb, under truth in labeling laws.

Ayn Rand and the Conservative Conundrum

The right claims to love Ayn Rand, to be inspired by Ayn Rand, to promote the ideas and ideals of Ayn Rand. Except they do not, and one has to wonder if the right has bought Ayn Rand's books so as to appear to have read them, or perhaps to use as doorstops or to stabilize wobbly table legs. Because they appear to DISAGREE with pretty much every thing she stood for, wrote, or DID in her life.

This documents the superficial love affair between the extremist right GOP and Libertarians with Ayn Rand, and the inherent contradictions of that relationship.

Among the contradictions, we have one of the core premises of Ayn Rand's movement of Objectivism is that we must use reason, and objective reality, as the ultimate desideratum.  Republicans and other conservatives profoundly reject any and every form of objective reality, of fact, that does not conform to their ideology, to what they WISH to believe.  This is evident in their rejection of science, particularly among the religious right with creationism and intelligent design.  The rejection of objective reality has been well documented in a variety of venues, notably in non-fiction books like those by science writer Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, and his well-researched work, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality.
From the precis of the latter book (from

From climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing, as is the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy and much more. Why won't Republicans accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts?
Science writer Chris Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.
Goes beyond the standard claims about ignorance or corporate malfeasance to discover the real, scientific reasons why Republicans reject the widely accepted findings of mainstream science, economics, and history—as well as many undeniable policy facts (e.g., there were no “death panels” in the health care bill).
Explains that the political parties reflect personality traits and psychological needs—with Republicans more wedded to certainty, Democrats to novelty—and this is the root of our divide over reality.
Written by the author of The Republican War on Science, which was the first and still the most influential book to look at conservative rejection of scientific evidence. But the rejection of science is just the beginning…
Certain to spark discussion and debate, The Republican Brain also promises to add to the lengthy list of persuasive scientific findings that Republicans reject and deny.
There is an expanding body of work, not just the writings of one science author, on the intellectual disconnect between the right and reality.  There is no more core premise than objective reality if one is truly an adherent to the intellectual body of work of Ayn Rand, and to reject it is to reject the foundational premise of Objectivism.

In contrast Ayn Rand's position was  "If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows." That is a position that is neither anti-intellectual, nor anti-science, and certainly not anti-objective reality or anti-fact.  It puts Ayn Rand strongly in opposition to our current crop of conservatives.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fast, Furious, Funny

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Unraveling the "Fast & Furious" Scandal
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Of course, Fake news omits to mention that this was a Dubya scheme, that it involved 2,000 guns in the larger traffic of tens of thousands across the border FROM the U.S. TO Mexico. THAT is not creating a fake crisis. It is gross misrepresentation of the problem. Why does the right support these lies? Where are their values? But it gets better, when Colbert goes after Joe-the-Candidate-for-Plumber. Btw, if you watch the Dos Equs ad that precedes it, there is a very nice, very representative example of my dog breed of choice lying in the "trophy wife" beer ad. Home invaders are more afraid of encountering that in the dark than they are of guns; it operates around corners and you don't have to be able to see your bad guy to get him, especially when there is more than one, and they know how to work cooperatively on their prey, including nocturnal hunting.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Controversial Gun Control Ad from Ohio Congressional Candidate
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

A Little Friday Mass Media

Operating on the assumption that with weather like this, after our bad weather experiences, many of you are looking to be outside, not focusing on blog reading. So to ease that transition into the weekend, a focus on Friday topical humor in more audio and visual forms, beginning with a wonderful Marke Fiore animation:

From the fantasy world of animated fiction, we make what is in this case a very short jump to the objective reality of economic facts and figures. What Fiore does with humor and animation is done by serious experts of economic history, here, expounding on why Keynes was right, and how right wing ideology doesn't work in practice, and why. It isn't ONLY true of Latvia that austerity is a disaster, not a success. It is true in other countries as well - Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Greece, the UK.

US, or Us.

From the Guardian, earlier this year:

Why expansionary austerity doesn’t add up
Rex Nutting
Commentary: If everyone tries to save at once, the economy collapses

Meet Richard Koo, leading proponent of the idea that the global economy is now suffering through what he calls a balance-sheet recession. He says that austerity will only make matters worse, leading to a lost decade. The problem in the economy, he says, is that households and businesses are frantically paring back spending and reducing debts, and it does no good if the government follows suit.
If we all try to cut back our spending, then nobody will have any income. Why? Because your spending is my income, and vice versa. If you add up all the spending, it will equal all the income.
Koo, who is chief economist of the Nomura Research Institute and a leading expert on Japan’s lost decade, says that ordinary monetary policy is ineffective in a balance-sheet recession, because the private sector has little desire to borrow money at any interest rate, even at zero. At the same time, banks are reluctant to lend to the households and the businesses that took on too much debt during the bubble years. Banks themselves are repairing their balance sheets by reducing their lending.
“The key difference between an ordinary recession and one that can produce a lost decade is that in the latter, a large portion of the private sector is actually minimizing debt instead of maximizing profits following the bursting of a nation-wide asset price bubble,” Koo wrote in a recent paper. Read Koo’s paper “The world in balance sheet recession: causes, cure, and politics.”

And we have, from the Chicago Tribune and Reuters, this report on Sweden:

Wealthy Sweden spending too little: policy adviser

May 14, 2012
Niklas Pollard and Johan Sennero

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's centre-right coalition government is being too tight-fisted with public finances that are likely to remain strong for years to come, a think tank charged with evaluating policy said on Monday.
The Swedish Fiscal Policy Council, a state agency that evaluates government policy, said it saw little risk the country would breach spending ceiling rules in the coming years and instead urged the government to slacken spending constraints.
Unlike most countries in Europe, strong export revenues and firm domestic demand have helped Sweden rapidly shrink its debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) over the past decade, leading to rising net wealth for the public sector.
"Sweden is becoming an oil country, only without the oil," Council Chairman Lars Jonung told a news conference.
While relentless austerity measures are driving debt-laden countries in the euro zone into recession, the government forecasts Swedish public debt to fall to 37.7 percent of GDP this year and a mere 22.5 percent in 2016.
Many economists expect official data on Tuesday to show the euro zone as a whole entered its second recession in just three years at the end of March, adding to pressure on the bloc's leaders to moderate austerity with measures to stimulate growth.
Sweden has remained outside the euro zone after failing to get a public mandate to give up its crown currency.
The Swedish council said the policy conducted by Finance Minister Anders Borg tended to entail extra safety margins in terms of public spending compared with what was required under law, especially in times of economic uncertainty.
The slowdown as the euro sovereign debt crisis worsened during the second half of last year would thus have warranted a more expansive policy by a government that has made keeping a role as guardian of public finances its top priority, it said.
"One should have been a bit more generous," council member John Hassler said.
Borg defended his position, saying the debt crisis had led to a rapid worsening of Sweden's public sector finances.
"In a normal situation extra safety margins beyond what is required in fiscal policy framework are not needed. But what we have experienced lately can hardly be described as a normal situation," he said in a statement.
It is worth noting that Sweden spends roughly twice what the U.S. spends on their infrastructure and social safety net - somewhere in the vicinity of 50%.  If done well - a key IF - it appears very much NOT to be a bad thing for capitalism, but rather supports capitalism functioning well by providing greater stability for their economy and their society.  Sweden has a much better outcome for example in terms of cost effective health care, while that health care is also BETTER than the standard of health care in the United States, where there are large numbers of people dying because of a lack of health care, or experiencing economic disaster from the costs of the health care they do obtain.  Sweden spends more on education as well, with a better outcome than the United States too. 

Conservative austerity appears to be more an emotional response to our crisis than an intellectual one; it is based on fear, not logic, not analysis, and certainly not a solid economic understanding.  While more Keynesian style spending might seem counter-intuitive for conservatives, or more taxes for the rich -- which has been part of the Swedish success model -- that doesn't make it wrong. 

What we need to shrink in this crisis is not government spending, it is right wing amygdalas.  We need to be fact and analytically based, not fear and rejection of intellect.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Right Wing busted with Lies and Hypocrisy -- Jon Stewart Shoots Down the media vermin, Fox

Did you happen to notice how the right edits things on a regular basis so as to misrepresent the content?

This is a perfect example of the kind of very dishonest editing done by that sleazy weasel who is NOT a legitimate journalist, James O'Keefe.

Seriously, it has become the right wing's standard operating procedure, both candidates and elected politicians, and right wing media. 

Did anyone else happen to notice that when the opposition has to LIE like this, they clearly must be losing, must be utterly without a valid point or facts supporting their side?  If he right didn't have racism and bigotry working for them, it is hard to know what else they WOULD have for immigration issues, or anything else.

Bloomberg praised in The Lancet

For those of you who vaguely recognize the name, The Lancet is a world-wide renowned medical journal, somewhat like the UK counterpart to JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, only older by 60 years.

To provide a little background on The Lancet , for context, it is safe to say this is not a tacky tabloid:

The Lancet
In the 2010 Journal Citation Reports, The Lancet's impact factor was ranked second among general medical journals, at 33.63, after The New England Journal of Medicine (53.48).[2] 
So it carries some weight( pun intended), intellectually speaking that The Lancet came out earlier this month in support of the various public health measures of Mayor Bloomberg in improving both the quality and quantity of life in New York City -- a very dramatic improvement in a short period of time.

Here is the article, Redefining public health in New York City.
New York City's life expectancy is rising faster than anywhere else in the USA, as its health department pioneers tactics that could transform the practice of public health. Ted Alcorn reports.
“If you want to live longer and healthier than the average American, come to New York City”, pronounced New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he released updated data on the city's life expectancy last December. The numbers gave him reason to crow: from a nadir in 1990, when life expectancy in the city trailed the US average by 3 years, it had lengthened by 8 years to 80·6 years, surpassing the country.
In the national context, the increase in New York City's life expectancy stands out (figure). The Institute for Heath Metrics and Evaluation recently estimated the life expectancy for each of the USA's 3147 independent cities and counties. Manhattan's life expectancy rose 10 years between 1987 and 2009, the largest increase of any county, and the other four counties that make up New York City were all in the top percentile.
By contrast, national life expectancy lengthened only 1·7 years per decade, and the USA—already trailing the world's longest lived countries—dropped back further. “What we see in the United States sends an alarming, alarming message”, says Ali Mokdad, who led the research. “We are not catching up with what everyone else is achieving. And in many counties in the United States, we are falling behind: our life expectancy is going backward.” In this context it is all the more urgent to understand the improvements witnessed in New York City, and the lessons that can be applied elsewhere.
For the lip-service-only fact-averse right wing patriots, the people who like to run around chanting 'we're number one! we're number one!", insisting on our exceptionalism fantasy, this should be a wake up call - a very LOUD wake up call.

We used to be number one in most if not all of the desirable categories; we haven't been number one for a very long time now.  It is time to wake up and smell the coffee, time to sit up and recognize that we cannot continue to try to promote past glories as something innate to us.  We are failing.  The first step in reversing this terrible trend  of expanding failure, in our health and health care, in our longevity and other public health issues, in our educational failings, in our wealth and income disparity and our declining ability for our citizens to succeed is to acknowledge our problems.  We need to honestly identify them, find and fix the causes for our drop from that pinnacle of success.

I don't REALLY care if we are number 1 or number 5 or number 8.  But we should be worrying about why it is we are not among the world leaders in significant categories that measure both quantity and quality of life.  We should be concerned about why it is we are declining, and we should be concerned about what we can do about it.

The answer is NOT giving more money to the wealthy under the guise of pretending they are job creators; if THAT worked, we would have more jobs than we have people, given our extreme gap in wealth and income between the top 1% and the remaining 99%.  So why does anyone, especially on the right, even try to pretend that claim makes sense any more?

The answer is NOT less regulation to be more business friendly; if that worked, we wouldn't have had the financial disaster arising from fraud and disastrous business practices that sent us into a world financial crisis.  We have had more growth and better quality and quantity of every economic metric during eras of more regulation, not less.  Less regulation simply allows big business and the wealthy to shaft the majority of us to benefit a few special interests.

What does NOT work is to reduce government spending or government efforts at public health and public education.  What does not work is to be fact averse or anti-science.  What does not work is more ideology and more right wing religion dominating the public square.

What clearly DOES work is optimum regulation, and constructive public health measures.  People experiencing addiction make very different decisions than people who are not.  Sugar, like the nicotine in tobacco, or the long term effects of alcohol, is addictive. 

What do we know about sugar and addiction, and when did we know it?  The research has been accumulating for the past 25 years.  You no more override addiction by simply exercising your individual liberty, given the changes to your brain activity and chemistry, than you can just decide to not be drunk after consuming alcohol or decide not to be unconscious while under general anesthesia.  That is not how our bodily organs work, no matter how much bumper sticker thinking you repeat about your individual ability at independent decision making.
Sugar addiction 
A 1987 study showed sugar acted as an analgesic drug whose effects could be blocked by a morphine blocker.[2] In her 1998 book, author Kathleen DesMaisons outlined the concept of sugar addiction as a measurable physiological state caused by activation of opioid receptors in the brain and hypothesized that dependence on sugar followed the same track outlined in the DSM IV for other drugs of abuse.[3]
2002 research at Princeton began showing the neurochemical effects of sugar, noting that sugar might serve as a gateway drug for other drugs.[4] The research group fed chow to the rats as well as a 25% sugar solution similar to the sugar concentration of soft drinks. After one month the rats became "dependent" on the sugar solution, ate less chow and increased their intake of the sugary drink to 200%.[5] The sugar industry asserts that similar effects have been reported for rats given solutions that tasted sweet, but contained no calories.[citation needed] However, some scientists say that caloric value may not be the issue. Researchers say that sugar and the taste of sweet is said to stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites, the same chemicals activated in the brain by the ingestion of heroin and morphine. [6]
In 2003, a report commissioned by two U.N. agencies at the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization was compiled by a panel of 30 international experts. It recommended that sugar not account for more than 10% of a person's diet.[2] However, the US Sugar Association asserted that other evidence indicates that a quarter of our food and drink intake can safely consist of sugar.
A 2008 study noted that sugar affects opioids and dopamine in the brain, and thus might be expected to have addictive potential. It referenced bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization, and gave each of them operational definitions in order to demonstrate behaviorally that sugar bingeing is a reinforcer. These behaviors were said to be related to neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur during addiction to drugs. Neural adaptations included changes in dopamine and opioid receptor binding, enkephalin mRNA expression and dopamine and acetylcholine release in the nucleus accumbens.[4]
Part of the problem in people making intelligent decisions is that they are unaware of how much sugar is added.  You expect sugar in candy bars or other sweets; you are less aware of it in ketchup, or crackers and peanut butter, or salad dressing, items labeled health foods like dried fruit, etc.  Your intention is to eat something else, not selecting for sugar.

The blog Chemistry on Your Table, about the intersection of science and food noted:
The average American consumes approximately 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which adds more than 320 calories to our daily diet. On average, 16% of Americans’ daily caloric intake comes from added sugar.
Added sugars in processed foods may be listed (or disguised) in the ingredients under a range of names such as:

The increase in sugar consumption is not an accident; it is big business, complete with Big Agri-business subsidies and lobbying.

 is the term for the relationship between sugar and various aspects of food addiction including: bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization. Some scientists assert that consumption of sweets or sugar could have an addiction like effect.[1]
is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals.[1] The Lancet was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, an English surgeon who named it after the surgical instrument called a lancet, as well as after the term "lancet arch",[citation needed] a window with a sharp pointed arch, to indicate the "light of wisdom" or "to let in light". It publishes original research articles, review articles ("seminars" and "reviews"), editorials, book reviews, correspondence, as well as news features and case reports.