Friday, March 30, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) This weekend marks the annual observation of Earth Hour. So please turn off all your electronics at 8:30 PM Saturday March 31 to honor Gaia.
2) The lies continue. The brother ought to be arrested as an accessory after the fact for the shameless way he's trying to cash in on the death of an innocent young black teenager.
3) You want to know how badly the right wing is trying to play catch up on the Martin case? Bill O'Reilly is calling for caution and prudence in not trying the case on TV. BILL. O'REILLY!
4) Jelly Belly jelly beans latest flavor: Santorum
5) And as if you need anymore reminding, a half BILLION dollars is up for grabs tonight.
6) Some boys have all the luck. I couldn't score with my high school cheerleaders.
7) Well, now we know why Newt met with Mitt in a hotel room yesterday. It wasn't the hot man-on-man sex, unless you consider Shelly Adelson a man
8) Hey! Rush Limbaugh really IS a comedian!
9) Now this is very cool.
10) And no surprise here: science demands intelligence and rigor in your thinking.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

They Say Success Begets Success


Your Newest Trope


Y'know, the idiot numbnuts on the right ought to learn to shut up and not reflexively defend the white guy against the black kid:

Sanford police Sgt. David Morgenstern on Wednesday confirmed that the video being shown by ABC News is of Zimmerman. The 28-year-old's head and face are visible throughout and he is dressed in a red and black fleece jacket. Police are shown frisking Zimmerman whose hands were handcuffed behind his back. They then lead him into a police station.

"This certainly doesn't look like a man who police said had his nose broken and his head repeatedly smashed into the sidewalk," Ben Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, said in a statement. "George Zimmerman has no apparent injuries in this video, which dramatically contradicts his version of the events of February 26."

If you view the video, you'll see little evidence of a man who claims to have been knocked to the ground and all but concussed. he doesn't stagger around, his eyes are clear and he seems lucid and responsive to the police who examine him. One cop even looks at the back of his head, checking his injuries, whatever they may be.

He does lean briefly against a wall, but given that he just murdered a young man in cold blood, I think we can forgive him a moment of weakness and doubt.

There are serious questions as to why Zimmerman was allowed to go free, even if you accept the police version of the events at face value. Given the lack of injuries on the part of Zimmerman (he didn't even bother to go to an emergency room for stitches) and even allowing that Martin "got the jump on him," the fact that Martin twice asked Zimmerman about following him should take this murder out of the domain of self-defense, and at least make it an aggravated homicide.

And I'm not sure I accept the police version of events at face value. Neither, really, do I accept the version told by Martin's girlfriend at face value. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

And don't you find it interesting that, in a gated community where crime was rampant enough to warrant a vigilante squad, not one surveillance camera caught a single moment of the action as it unfolded? I do. I find that suspicious, in fact. After all, these crimes were burglary and breaking and entering. It seems to me that you wouldn't be able to spit without hitting a camera.

That Sanford police have threatened reporters covering the story with arrest speaks to me of a force desperately trying to cover up their own incompetence.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm Thinking Mitt Is Feeling His Oats

Slamming Santorum with a backhanded compliment on Leno speaks volumes to me.

Predictive Posting

There's a theme in my thinking with respect to this nation that, eventually, some large-scale changes are going to occur, and that they might occur suddenly and perhaps even violently.
American culture is based on three things: democracy, faith, and capitalism.
There's a basic disconnect in there. Those three things are, jointly and separately, untenably conflicted. Somethings have got to give, because it's within the human nature that one of those things aligns.
A basic drive of humanity is self-protection: food, clothing, shelter are all manifestations of our primal drive to survive. To believe that, somehow, that urge ends just because we satisfy those basic needs flies in the face of modern marketing, Maslow's theory notwithstanding.
Capitalism takes this into account when it says that each of us acting in our own self-interest will create a general good for society. Capitalism is the only one of the legs of the stool upon which American culture sits that speaks to the most basic inner needs of the individual.
The other two, a faith in a higher power (including science) and the democratic process, speak to the more noble sentiments of community and caring.
Democracy and faith both require humility: an understanding that the individual is not bigger than the whole, that there is something "out there" bigger than we each are.

Democracy serves the best interests of the community by polling the combined wisdom of that community, group-sourcing decision making. Faith serves the best interests of the community by reminding us that the components of that society, people, are just like you and I and share the same ultimate fate.
Both of those are very humbling concepts, but capitalism not only ignores the best interests of the community-- it has to, by definition-- it is antithetical to humility. Capitalism breeds ego and the most successful capitalists tend to be those with outsized egos and overinflated senses of self. Think about it: you set a goal to earn a million dollars a year. The average income of an American is somewhere south of $50,000, 1/20th your goal. You have to be pretty self-involved to believe that you can do that, that you are 20 times better than average.
Democracy and faith are inefficient. Indeed, they both reward inefficiency: democracies take forever to make major decisions, taking into account all arguments before casting votes. That's why we in America chose a representative democracy, where we elect people who presumably have our best interests at heart.
Too, faith rewards inefficiencies. Most faiths speak to a reward in the hereafter: a heaven, or 72 virgins, or to be written into The Book and memorialized, or reincarnation. This is antithetical to living life in the now, to be rewarded immediately relative to the work and success you attempt. A powerful, perhaps the most powerful, form of learning. Hell, we can teach rats and pigeons with this method.
Capitalism rewards efficiency and-- particularly the gruesome form practiced in America-- punishes inefficiency: a dollar given to a charity is a dollar that doesn't go into the pockets of the shareholders. And also unique to American capitalism (although this is sadly spreading), the rewards are tallied up every three months and woe betide the CEO who doesn't beat expectations, much less last year's books!
It has been said that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can lace up its boots. Substitute American capitalism and democracy/faith, respectively, and you begin to comprehend the full impact of this dynamic. Long before we can enact laws or get the flock to stop a particularly noxious economic behavior, the damage is done.
This is why liberals believe in the so-called "nanny state": by getting ahead of the curve, by getting ahead of the behavior, we can mitigate and perhaps even prevent the damage.
Sadly, capitalism has one-upped this: by infesting not only the democratic process by dangling dollar bills in front of the elected representatives, but also by stepping squarely into the arena of faith. Indeed, my suspicion is that corporate America is more in bed with the religious right than even you suspect, and we can't even really prove this, because churches do not have to pay taxes so they don't really have to report income or where they get it from.
It's an opportunity to exploit an inefficiency and as we've seen already, capitalism exploits inefficiencies and punishes those who indulge in them.
I don't know what the answer is and I don't even really know what the question is, but I do know where the question lies: in the corporatocracy.
Specifically, the investor class. See, we might blame the American corporation and there's some truth to this, but it's also true that the rules themselves are designed to reward this behavior and punish behavior that would be more compliant to society's benefit. If a corporation were tomorrow to decide to pull its profit-making back a little in order to make the community a better place, its stock price would plummet. Unless they can prove it would make an immediate return on investment, of course.
No, we need to look deeper, into the bowels of the markets themselves and see the inhumanity that reigns there: the quantification of human beings and economic activity. The software that detects the slightest deviation from maximum profitability and exploits the inefficiency for its own benefit (after all, software that fails to do this is abandoned-- killed off-- and my thinking is there's a certain amount of consciousness amongst all those chips and wires.) Most major investment decisions are now done by computer and that means efficiency will reign supreme.
Which means you can kiss democracy and faith goodbye.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Can Santorum Win This Thing?

Emphatically, no.
Scenario: Gingrich drops out in exchange for two things-- a spot on the ticket and a podium at the convention. Combining Santorum and Gingrich into one superticket ahead of the convention now gives a legitimate contender for the NotMitt voters. Mitt falls slightly short of the magic 1,144. It goes to a floor fight, and by the third vote, delegates are now uncommitted.
This is the (unlikely) scenario that Mitt Romney dreads. He would have to either dip into his general campaign funds or his personal fortune and start literally buying votes.

Wabbit Season

Herman Cain can't understand why people find this ad offensive.

Caught Speaking Plainly

It's somewhat interesting that campaign rivals are making hay about this "gaffe"
Obama was caught on an open mic assuring Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that after this November's election, he would have more room to manuever, more flexibility to negotiate on the European missile shield.
This is simply realpolitik writ small: Obama has a pretty clear path to re-election, and a fairly strong chance of garnering majorities in both houses of Congress.
That's a plain truth, and no amount of whining by the losers is going to change all that.
Too, even if he were to lose, any deal he cuts now would have to be reviewed by the incoming President, as the Senate would undoubtedly hold up a treaty in filibuster.
It would be a signature accomplishment for Obama's second term if he was able to bring home a bilateral disarmament treaty, seeing as how the previous administration reneged on the long-standing SALT agreements (with not much protest from then-Russian president Vladimir Putin). The European missile defense platform has been a long-standing thorn in Russia's side and it's about time we faced that reality.

For Nudes, He Charges Double

Poor Newt. Literally.

False Equivalence

Unwittingly, George Zimmerman's lawyer may have done his client more harm than good here:

It has come out that the unarmed teenager was suspended from school, and is accused of beating up the man who then shot him dead.

Martin's parents claim authorities are now trying to sully their son's reputation, after his tragic shooting.

There were several protests Monday in Sanford, where Martin, 17, was shot by George Zimmerman.

State and federal investigators were to be back at it Tuesday, reviewing the original controversial police investigation that's sparked a firestorm.

The central questions remains: Was the decision not to arrest Zimmerman the right one, and should he be arrested now?

First, by linking his apparent suspension from school-- Martin's parents don't seem to deny it, correctly pointing out that it's irrelevant to his murder-- Zimmerman has decided to try to paint an innocent child as some sort of wild-eyed hoodlum.

With a marijuana bust? Really? Not even the most stoned meth-head in Clearwater is going to buy that one, Zim!

Second, the claim that Martin turned around and beat upon Zimmerman-- keep in mind that Martin weighed only 140 pounds, while Zimmerman is a beast of 250-- is only going to feed the impression that Trayvon felt his own life was in danger and rather than running, he turned and decided to "Stand Your Ground," which is precisely what that law allows for: the use of force, even deadly force, if one feels one is in harm's way or in mortal danger. After all, who picks a fight with someone twice as big as he is unless he feels its the only way to safety?

And that is the only conclusion that can legally be drawn from Zimmerman's own words and the 911 call tapes.

See, the "Stand Your Ground" law is very specific: it doesn't matter what the intent of the apparent attacker is, what matters is the intent perceived by the defendant. In fact, the law is so loosely drawn that the authorities are not permitted to even question that perception the moment the defendant claims he acted out of fear for his safety.

Zimmerman had followed Martin for quite a while if the 911 tapes are accurate, long enough that the dispatcher asked him to stop following Martin.

If someone twice my size started following me down a street, I know I would feel threatened, and while my first instinct would be to run away, under Florida law, Martin was not required to: he merely had to turn and use deadly force against Zimmerman.

So under Florida law, it is Zimmerman who is guilty of assault, and it is Zimmerman who rightly should be lying dead from the use of deadly force under "Stand Your Ground." Martin was not armed, however, so Zimmerman should thank his lucky stars he'll live to see trial.

By Zimmerman's own testimony, he should be arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome Signs

It is possible, now that Kim Jong Il is dead, China may finally start to shed the North Korean monkey from her back.

King Of The Underworld!

Tip your hat to James Cameron, who completed a dive to the deepest part of the ocean over the weekend.
Most of us would flip out diving a few metres down in a submarine. He dove seven miles down in what amounts to a steel bottle.
I've done solo dives (shhhhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone!) and I've done them in the darkest of night, and let me tell you, it's creepy. Really creepy. I have never felt this alone as on a moonless night in the depths of the ocean, and I dove without any light, except the lights of my video rig which I kept shut off most of the time in order to keep curious fish away. It's really close and eerie.
But those were to a depth that I could reach the surface easily and quickly if an emergency happened. It took hours to get this ship back up.

A Clear Case of Jealousy


When Will The Mainstream Media Quit Babying Rick Santorum?

He said it. You ought to publish the precise words, and make him back them up.

Trayvon Martin Update

1) Trayvon is still dead, despite whatever piss-poor regrets his murderer has.
2) Glenn Beck proves he's still a low-rent shit-stirrer.
3) The anger is welling, and not just in the "black community". I put that in quotations, because it's clear that the victim's race played a huge part in whether Zimmerman would have shot or not. Had it been a white boy, I'm sure Zimmerman would have followed him, but would have avoided confrontation. Zimmerman shot out of fear, that much is clear, but he weighs 250 lbs. Martin weighed 140 lbs. You do the math. This would never have happened if it had been a scrawny little white high school kid.
4) I don't agree with Spike Lee that publishing Zimmerman's address was doing the right thing. We're not Michelle Malkin, and I don't care what his kitchen countertops are made of.

Healthcare Spotlight

Today will be an interesting day in the battle over President Obama's healthcare reform bill. Oral arguments are scheduled to be made in front of the Supreme Court of the United States today, with a final decision on the bill not due for about three months.
The administration's argument is grounded in the Commerce Clause-- that the Federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, with some expansions that have occured over time:

The inception of contemporary Commerce Clause doctrine dates to the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, regulating railroad monopolies, and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, designed to curb monopolies and trusts. The Court upheld the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1905 -- in Swift and Company v. United States, 196 U.S. 375. However, the justices based that decision on the finding that the effect of price-fixing by Chicago meat-packers on interstate commerce was not "accidental, secondary, remote or merely probable" but immediate. The opinion reinforced the traditional literal view of Congress's Commerce power.

The Supreme Court case that established the constitutionality of the expanded interpretation of Congress's commerce power was National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, 301 U.S. 1, in 1937. The case originated in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where Jones & Laughlin was penalizing and discriminating against workers attempting to unionize. NLRB ordered Jones & Laughlin to end its coercive union-busting tactics; the firm refused to obey. After the circuit court refused to enforce the NLRB's order against Jones & Laughlin, the NLRB appealed to the Supreme Court.

Jones & Laughlin argued that Congress could not regulate its labor practices because manufacturing is an intrastate activity, not interstate commerce. The firm based its argument on then-standard reasoning stemming from a 1918 Supreme Court case, Hammer v. Dagenhart, 241 U.S. 251. In Hammer, the Court allowed a father to commit his son to child labor in a North Carolina textile mill despite the Keating Owen Child Labor Act of 1916, reasoning that mill work was part of intrastate manufacturing, not commerce between or among states.

Rejecting the firm's argument and ruling in favor of the NLRB, the Court stated for the first time that Congress could regulate activities with "a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce." The NLRB decision marked the replacement of the strict criterion that regulated activities must be part of the "stream of commerce" with the "substantial effects" doctrine still in use in Commerce Clause cases.

Based on other SCOTUS decisions, notably United States v. Darby, it seems pretty clear that a firm can be forced to purchase health insurance for its employees if it's engaged in anything close to interstate commerce.

The real question is, can an employee be forced to buy it? There is some precedent for mandating individual action-- or rather inaction-- when it comes to farm subsidies and paying farmers to not grow crops, since the aggregating effect of the individual mandate could affect interstate commerce.

This is a pretty strong argument, to be sure.

There's also a side issue to the case, involving the recusal of some of the Justices. For example, Clarence Thomas probably should recuse himself, based on his wife's activities working against the bill in the first place. Antonin Scalia attended a public dinner held by the Federalist Society, a group who is arguing against the mandate, altho I'm not sure that rises to the level of recusal.

And the most ridiculous recusal argument, that Elena Kagan should recuse herself based on her possible involvement in drafting the defense of the bill will likely be ignored.

Should Thomas recuse himself, the bill could conceivably end up deadlocking the court.

And then what?

In case you needed reminding as to why this healthcare reform legislation, as paltry as it is, is so important, here you go.