Thursday, March 31, 2011

Colbert PAC

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert PAC - Trevor Potter
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Stephen Colbert's first segment, about pimpmeister James O'Keefe, is funnier, but this Colbert PAC really intrigues me.

Note that a PAC can run ads about a candidate even when the candidate doesn't want them to. Well, that's obvious, considering all the PAC-funded attack ads we see. But what if Stephen Colbert maintains his right-wing persona, running ads supposedly praising a candidate, but actually showing just how loony they are?

This really has promise, don't you think?

Let's face it, PACs are mainly a way for the wealthy to get around spending limits. They're just another way - along with corporate donations, if you want another example - we're turning our democracy into an oligarchy.

But we can't do much about that unless we sane people start winning more elections. PACs exist, so they're a tool we can't ignore. I doubt if Colbert PAC will have too much effect, but you never can tell. And it should at least be good for a laugh, don't you think?

Race to the bottom

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - Base Race - Bachmann, Cain & Gingrich
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

"Would you let a Jew drive you to the airport? Would you play golf with a Catholic?"  Heh, heh. And frankly, Gingrich has been saying so many loony things, I think I could just post nonstop about him.

But I don't want to imply that any of the other GOP candidates are sane. I swear, each Republican candidate just gets loonier than the last. It may be the "base race," but I think it's clearly a race to the bottom.

This continues with Santorum, Barbour, and Trump - three more complete loons - in the next segment, embedded below the fold:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Those radical atheist Muslim secularists

From Indecision Forever:
Newt Gingrich on the terrible, terrible future of America
"I have two grandchildren… I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

First of all, great point! If America doesn't win in this battle against what America is all about, America will never be what makes America America. I've never heard this put quite so succinctly.

However, I remain unconvinced that America will become "a secular atheist country… dominated by radical Islamists." I think it's entirely possible that it could become a reform Jewish country dominated Zen Buddhists. Or possibly even a fundamentalist Zoroastrian country dominated by apathetic Hindus. Or we might just get eaten whole by John Travolta.

Anything can happen. It's a very scary future.

Tell me, do Republicans even try to do more than string a bunch of scary words together? How stupid are their supporters, anyway? And Gingrich is supposed to be one of their "intellectual leaders"!

Yeah, we're going to have a secular atheist country (I wish) dominated by radical Islamists (and no doubt run completely by Sharia law, huh?). That's crazy even by Gingrich standards!

In reality, of course, separation of church and state is the last thing radical Muslim fanatics want. And frankly, it seems to be the last thing radical Christian fanatics want, too.

In so many ways, it's the far-right Republicans who seem to be on board with radical Muslim thinking. I'm reminded of this quote by Juan Cole:
On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government  policy to God's will and climate change, Sarah Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Maine squeeze

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Maine Squeeze
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

FYI, here's the interview with Michael Moore.

Those greedy, parasitic, selfish public unions...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up - Pay Anything...
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Monday, March 28, 2011

Newt Gingrich debates himself

Heh, heh. Can you believe this guy is supposed to be a serious candidate for the United States Presidency?!?

Of course, look at the other folks the GOP is stuck with. There's apparently no one left in the Republican Party except the bottom of the barrel.

PS. If you want the transcript of Gingrich's conflicting remarks, check here.

You wouldn't expect the rich to pay, would you?

QOTD: The GOP may be losing some support

Quote of the Day:
WSJ editorialist Stephen Moore, in the course of urging Wisconsin Republicans to hold firm, gently acknowledges that things have not gone exactly as planned, politically speaking:
On Wednesday, Republicans held a "unity" press conference that was attended by all but one senator, Dale Schultz. But a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that 62% of respondents oppose curtailing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits suggests that the GOP position may be losing some support among independent voters.

I love all the qualifications: a poll showing the the public siding against you 2-to-1 suggests that the party may be losing some independents. That's one way to put it! Also, Scott Walker is looking at 57% disapproval. According to Rasmussen, no less.

As Emperor Hirohito put it on August 15, 1945, "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage." Of course, Hirohito was arguing for surrender. Moore's conclusion, on the other hand:
"Republicans can't turn back in Wisconsin," says Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Foundation. "This will only embolden the unions and weaken efforts at reform all over the country." It's foolish to believe that backing down will satisfy the unions. If history is any guide, more than 90% of union money will be used to defeat Republicans no matter what happens.

You mean the budget, right? It's about the budget, and preventing bankruptcy and saving the children, and so forth. Not crippling Democratic fund-raising. You almost forget there for a moment. - Jonathan Chait

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Legie is an adventure game by Czech indie developer Sudokop. I was bored and thought I'd give it a try, but I'm afraid that was a mistake.

I keep notes on games I might want to try, and as I say, I was bored. So I downloaded the Legie demo. I'm not crazy about adventure games, but I liked the fact that this one seemed different. You play an assistant bartender whose initial duties involve wiping up vomit. Heh, heh. Your character really doesn't seem to be the heroic type.

But the demo is very short. About all I could tell from it was that the English translation is terrible. But that's not such a big deal. And although I've seen the full game advertised for up to $17, it was only $5 on the Sudokop website. It had to be worth that much, right?

Sadly, no. OK, tastes vary. And let me point out this review on Bytten which gives it an 85% rating. I can't imagine that, but who knows? Maybe you'll agree with him more than with me. Let me tell you about my experiences with the game, such as they were. (Warning, there are spoilers below.)

Money is extremely tight, at least at first, and the game seems designed to make you waste what few coins you get. You can make three or four coins - nearly doubling your total - through gambling in the tavern, but then the gambler refuses to play anymore. However, he keeps your bet!

Anyway, the demo ends when you leave the tavern. There's not much to do inside it, but there's not much to do outside in the town, either. There are several other doors, but they're all locked. There's a well, where you're told to cut the rope, but you have no knife or other tool with which to do that.

The blacksmith sells a few weapons and a couple of pieces of armor, but he only takes gold for them, not your pitiful handful of "metal coins."

There's also the "Cheater," where you can buy wine (apparently, this restores your health, though that's not indicated anywhere), torches (at one coin each, and they don't last long at all), and tobacco (no idea what that's supposed to do). But you really can't afford to buy anything much.

Now your immediate goal is to find out what happened to the missing wagonload of beer. I'll admit that there's a fairly clever way of getting out of town. But otherwise, there's really nothing much in the town at all. I went around and around trying to find something I'd missed - and maybe I did - but there just doesn't seem to be much there.

Outside the town, there are also few places to go. Most of those are also quickly explored, without much result, but you do find the missing beer. Unfortunately, the whole wagon - horse, driver, and all - have been caught in a flood. You tell the driver you'll return with a rope.

But you can't, not in time to save him. Since that's a plot element, apparently you can't save him. You still can't get that rope from the well, either. But now you can buy a rope from the Cheater, for four of your precious coins.

Note that you couldn't buy the rope ahead of time, because it's not an option before you find the wagon. And no matter what you do, it's always too late to save the drowning man. This seems to be just a trick, to get you to waste four coins (which left me precisely one left, as I recall).

That seems especially the case since you can now attempt to tie your new rope to the well. But if you do that, you drop it down the well, and it's apparently gone for good!

So far, you've had virtually no choice in anything, and you still don't. The one difference, after you fail at retrieving the load of beer, is that one formerly-locked door will now open for you. That doesn't do much except give you your main quest, apparently. Try as you like, there's really only one path for you, into the mine.

Note that you still don't have a weapon, a shield, armor, or any money. If you haven't wasted any, you'll have a torch or two, and that's it. Now, if you enter the mine and turn left, a bat will kill you. If you turn right, you can find a club, which finally gives you a weapon.

However, that didn't seem to do me any good, anyway. Combat is "real-time" (unfortunately), and clicking on the bat didn't seem to do anything at all most of the time. Occasionally, I'd hit the bat with the club, but that didn't seem to do anything, either. (Who knew bats could take so much punishment?)

I couldn't afford wine for healing, even if I could manage to drink it in the heat of battle. So the bat just proceeded to kill my character. The second time the bat killed me, I quit the game for good.

Legie has a neat - or at least an unusual - premise, but that's about all it has going for it. It's far more frustrating than it's fun. It seems to be horribly linear, and the game seems designed to trick you out of the few coins you can actually find. And the combat, from my brief experience with it, seems badly flawed.

There's a good game in there somewhere, I suspect, but right now, it's not worth $5 (let alone $17). I'm sorry to say that, because I like to support indie game developers. I really do wish Sudokop the best of luck. But Legie is a real mess. There are free games far better than that.

... And I think I'll go play one of them now. Crush the Castle is a simple little online game that seems similar to the cellphone hit, Angry Birds. There's a sequel, too, and they're both free. If you want to idle away a few minutes in mindless fun, you could do worse.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

QOTD: Why I'm an amoral, family-hating monster

Quote of the Day:
Today is my wedding anniversary. I've been married to the same woman for 31 years, without ever straying. Newt Gingrich has been married 3 times, divorced one wife while she was recovering from surgery, and has had extra-marital affairs.

Guess who is considered the defender of traditional sexual morality?

It's a strange situation where the political party with more ex-wives than candidates, that houses and defends a disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators is regarded as the protector of the sanctity of the family. They're anything but.

I think I understand, though — it doesn't matter what you do, all that matters is what you say. The Republicans support a version of marriage that rests on tradition, authority, and masculine dominance, and everything they do props up one leg of the tripod or the other. Public piety reinforces religious tradition; the insistence that there is one true form of marriage, between a man and a woman, which represents a legal and social commitment is part of the authoritarian impulse; and of course, if a man steps out of the matrimonial bounds, it's an expression of machismo and patriotism and entitlement.
There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing it. I found that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness.

Gingrich was cheating on his wife, but it's OK — because he also tells us that it was wrong and inexcusable, and then he wraps it all up in God and country to make excuses for it. Hypocrisy is acceptable as long as the right words are said to reinforce the public face of propriety. - PZ Myers

Newt's patriot hormones running wild again

Thursday, March 24, 2011

QOTD: Do conservatives have good ideas?

Quote of the Day:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacks the Obama administration's proposal to speed up the date by which states can opt out of the Affordable Care Act structure and create their own health care plan. Why? Because the plan requires that, to receive a waiver, states must hew to "the same liberal priorities." Those priorities:
Any state that the Administration decided deserved a waiver would still need to cover the same number of uninsured, and its coverage would still need to include the same comprehensive benefits and be as "affordable" as the Administration says it should be.

(Excellent WSJ use of scare quotes around "affordable," by the way.) It's true that the administration requires that any alternative cover as many people at the same level. The mere fact that conservatives object so strenuously is all you need to know. It exposes the lack of workable conservative ideas that don't simply involve denying people fairly basic coverage.

Consider this part of the Journal's argument:
The reality is that the liberals who wrote this bill really do think they have a monopoly on good ideas, and they do not include markets. Democrats are more than happy to give the states more freedom, as long as the states use it to impose comparable government control. ...

Again, there's nothing in the bill that forbids innovative uses of markets. Indeed, the bill sets up a workable individual health insurance market that does not currently exist. The Journal is admitting that "markets" and "freedom" simply mean denying basic coverage to people who can't afford it on their own. - Jonathan Chait

A mind-numbing deficit

Cutting back on blogging

Now that winter is over, I really need to cut back on posting here. I just don't have the time. And yet, and yet,... my problem has always been that there are too many things I really want to blog about, too many things I really need to blog about.

For example, here's Karl Rove who, after presiding over one of the most secretive presidential administrations in U.S. history, has now decided that he loves the Freedom of Information Act. How can I keep from blogging about a slimeball like that?

And speaking of slimeballs, there's Newt Gingrich, who demanded a no-fly zone over Libya up until the very moment when President Barack Obama imposed one, at which point he switched positions completely. In less than 24 hours, he went from complaining that Obama hadn't imposed a no-fly zone to complaining that he has.

Tell me how I can keep from posting about hypocrites like Gingrich? And this particular hypocrite, this defender of marriage who cheated on his first two wives (so far, I haven't heard if he's been faithful to his third), is actually running for president! How can I let this sort of thing go?

And then there are those right-wing nuts like Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, who claims that freedom of religion, as enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution, applies to Christianity only. Yeah, unless you're a Christian, forget about being free to decide for yourself.

How can I avoid blogging about that? How can I keep from posting my certainty that, as soon as these loons get religious freedom taken away from Muslims and Jews and Hindus and atheists, they'll decide that Mormons and Catholics aren't "really" Christians, either.

These days, it's just one thing after another. Which of these do I skip? Which of these do I let slide under the radar? As it is, I haven't been able to post about even half of what deserves my attention. Heck, far less than that, in fact.

And now I need to cut back even further? How do I do that?

But I really have little choice. So I'm going to try. (I've been trying, already, in fact.) I won't necessarily post every day. And when I do post, it might just be a "Quote of the Day" or a cartoon, since those take little time.

But it's not going to be easy. There's far too much crazy going on. Plus, I've got book reviews I'd like to write. And, well, just all sorts of things. I kind of hate to skip anything, but I've got to do it.

Well - heh, heh - at least it's likely to bother only me. :)

The ten things everyone should know about science

Here's an interesting list from the Financial Times of the ten things everyone should know about science.

An excerpt:
Scientists have been complaining for decades that, while they would be ashamed to admit knowing nothing about Jane Austen’s novels, literary colleagues can get away with total ignorance of relativity and quantum theory. As Larry Summers noted on his installation as Harvard University president in 2001, students rarely admit to never having read a Shakespeare play but find it “acceptable not to know a gene from a chromosome or the meaning of exponential growth”. ...

Inevitably, such a list is somewhat arbitrary. Concepts that just missed the top 10 include risk, plate tectonics and the laws of thermodynamics. But compiling this list was simpler and less contentious than, say, choosing the best 20th-century novels – let alone the most important concepts in literature – because fewer candidates are available for selection, and there is more agreement among scientists than literary critics about what really matters.

Indeed, I've seen many lists of the essentials when it comes to literary matters, but I think this is the first I've seen about science. And these days, it's far more important to be scientifically literate, I'd say. You really can't be an informed citizen - especially if you actually plan to vote, as every citizen should - without some basic knowledge of science.

And frankly, I'm often astonished at the levels of scientific ignorance in America. Even politicians - maybe especially politicians - regularly show that they don't have the slightest understanding of even the basics of science. How can that be, in one of the most technologically developed nations on Earth?

Heck, in the GOP, at least, politicians are often proud of their ignorance. Well, you don't want to be one of those elites, do you? And if you actually understood science, you might have to accept some things that you really don't want to believe.

Here's an example from that festering sewer of ignorance, the Texas legislature:
Bill Zedler: Evolutionists will go "Oh, it just happened by chance." ... When was the last time we've seen someone go into a windstorm or a tornado or any other kind of natural disaster, and say "Guess what? That windstorm just created a watch."

Zedler might as well have "scientific idiot" tattooed on his forehead, since he just demonstrated that he doesn't know the very first thing about evolution. This is something he should have learned in grade school!

You can't be an informed citizen with this degree of ignorance. But apparently you can be a Republican politician. And don't think this is just Texas, either. If the 2012 Republican presidential candidates have any better understanding, you can bet they won't admit it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Atheists of color

I see Greta Christina has put together a list of prominent atheists of color. It's meant as a resource for atheist conferences, to help organizers put together a diverse mix of speakers.

And the same general idea is behind this list of awesome female atheists, too. Yeah, in a perfect world, we wouldn't need these. But we live in the real world.

No one is advocating quotas or tokens. It's just that it's all too easy to overlook the diversity in the atheist community. I'm glad my fellow atheists are thinking about this issue.

Yes, you should expect lies from Fox "News"

I hope this reporter has learned better than to expect anything but lies from Fox "News." That's certainly all I expect. Frankly, I wouldn't trust Fox any more than I'd trust Qaddafi.

Saudi Arabia owns us

Are you surprised by the difference between our military actions in Libya and our muted response to the protests in Bahrain?  You shouldn't be. Saudi Arabia owns America.

Come on! That can't be a surprise. Our foreign oil addiction was clearly demonstrated during the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970s, but as long as our fix kept coming (though at ever-higher prices), we refused to do anything about it.

We've had nearly 40 years to end our addiction to oil, but we couldn't muster the will or the wisdom to fight it. We could have started a new Manhattan Project or Race to the Moon - a dedicated, well-funded attempt to research and develop energy alternatives.

But instead, we took the path of Ronald Reagan and his spiritual (and political) descendants:  Don't worry, be happy. Cut taxes and watch a Rambo movie. Don't bother to create a great America when you can just fantasize about how great we already are, instead. Read your horoscope and pray that Jesus will return before the oil runs out. And ignore those annoying scientists.

After all, work is just too much... work. And it costs money to actually invest in America. Sure, it will pay for itself in the long-term, but why should we care about our children and grandchildren? Besides, I want to spend the money now.

Like every other addict, we've got plenty of excuses. Basically, most of us would prefer to believe what we want to believe, rather than face reality. In other words, we tend to be foolish and short-sighted cowards. But we insist that everyone acknowledge how exceptional we are. Heh, heh. Yeah, I'm real impressed.

OK, I love my country, and we do a lot of things right. Heck, we elected a black man to the presidency. That is progress. And recent polls show that a majority of Americans support gay marriage. That's not just progress, it's progress at lightning speed. I'm astonished - and impressed - at how quickly attitudes are changing when it comes to gay rights.

But we're still embarrassingly ignorant, superstitious, bigoted, apathetic, short-sighted, and yes, cowardly. We need to stand up and face reality, and then work to create the kind of future which will make us proud. Forget the excuses. This is our chance to make a better world. We'll never have another opportunity. This is it. Use it or lose it.

Saudi Arabia owns us. It didn't have to be this way. And it doesn't have to be that way in the future. But it gets harder and harder to change as time goes by,... and we've wasted 40 years already.

QOTD: Liberals win again

Quote of the Day:
Not such a big surprise, actually. Liberals usually win in the long run, because they look forward, not backward. Forward being the way we are going, and all.

The latest victory is polling showing that gay marriage is now supported by more than half of Americans, and in a democracy, you know what THAT means! It means that it will soon become legal as long as it’s okay with the rich, who now fund the elections. And it probably will be okay with them since some of their best friends are gay. But mainly because it isn’t a tax hike on them which is all they really care about.

And why were liberals right (again) on this one? Um, they THOUGHT about it, rather than simply deciding that the way it used to be is better. Also, what they thought about were the ideas of EQUALITY, and JUSTICE and FREEDOM, American ideas which conservatives just like to talk about, and only then when it comes to unfettering assault rifles and rich people. So liberals win again, but nobody ever thanks them or remembers the next time. - Tom Toles

Monday, March 21, 2011

Teach a man to fish...

QOTD: Palinphobia spreading among conservatives

Quote of the Day:
Sure. Tossing an aluminum bat over to an escaped mental patient and them letting her loose in your house may seem like a fun way to chase all the unwanted guests away from your birthday party, but the problem with it is that some of the guests you actually like are going to end up with broken heads, too. Plus, how do you get the mental patient to leave at the end of the night?

These guys know what I'm talking about
Palin’s flamboyant rhetoric always has thrilled supporters, but lately it is coming at a new cost: a backlash, not from liberals but from some of the country’s most influential conservative commentators and intellectuals…

This year, the conservative intelligentsia doesn’t just tend to dislike Palin — many fear that her rise would represent the triumph of an intellectually empty brand of populism and the death of ideas as an engine of the right.

"This is a problem for the movement," said [conservative columnist George] Will about what Palin represents. "For conservatism, because it is a creedal movement, this is a disease to which it is susceptible."

Do you know what you could do is just let a bigger crazier escaped mental patient into your home, and that should fix that problem. Of course, then you'd need an even bigger and even crazier escaped mental patient to fix that one. And then you'd need, um… well…

But, hey, this is the Republican Party we're talking about. There's practically an infinite supply of escaped mental patients. - Dennis DiClaudio

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Governing with the GOP

Trickle-up economics

QOTD: The "rationing" switcheroo

Quote of the Day:
One thing that should be obvious about death panel arguments a la Huckabee — but which I haven’t seen pointed out — is the game of three-card monte that goes on over what it means to “ration” health care.

The switch goes like this: reformers argue that Medicare needs to make choices about what it will pay for; people like Huckabee then scream that the government is going to tell people that they can’t get medical care it disapproves of.

But nobody is proposing that the government deny you the right to have whatever medical care you want at your own expense. We’re only talking about what medical care will be paid for by the government. And right-wingers, of all people, shouldn’t believe that everyone has the right to have whatever they want, at taxpayers’ expense. The Declaration of Independence did not declare that we have the right to life, liberty, and the all expenses paid pursuit of happiness.

And of course Huckabee knows this; he’s being completely cynical here — and his whole party is going along. - Paul Krugman

How "New Age" philosophy works

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How could we have been so stupid?

After their sweeping win in November, Republicans are trying to outdo each other in crazy. In Minnesota, for example, they're trying to make it illegal for poor people to use money.

From Fight Back!:
Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all.

On March 15, Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee testified in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on House File 171. Buechner told committee members, “We would like to address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of the MFIP grant - and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?”

But that's just Minnesota, right? In fact, we're seeing crazy stuff like this in every state where Republicans have taken control. It's just one lunatic thing after another.

And nationally, the lunacy is just as bad, now that Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives again. Here's Mother Jones:
Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans' "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they'd have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion. ...

In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.

Note that these new GOP IRS agents/abortion cops would be asking victims about their rape. And this is the same bill that wanted to redefine rape as "forcible rape" only. In other words, if you were drugged with a date rape pill, it's not really "rape." Sorry, no abortion for you. Statutory rape? Nope. It's not rape unless children are violently forced. You'd better hope your bruises haven't faded - and not just those on the inside.

This so-called party of smaller government sure doesn't seem to be concerned about creating a whole new force of abortion cops, does it? But is that any surprise? They claim to be concerned about the deficit, too, but the first thing they did was greatly expand the deficit with more tax cuts for the rich. And they're working hard to destroy a health care reform plan that does lower the deficit.

Every day, in every way, Republicans are just getting crazier and crazier. How could we Americans be so dumb as to elect them again, after the complete disaster they've made of the past decade? I just can't understand it.

Crooks and liars

Here's Crooks and Liars with, appropriately, Fox "News."  Sorry to put you through a Sean Hannity clip, but I enjoy seeing Anthony Weiner stand up to these buffoons.

Why does Sean Hannity need to invite Bachmann at all, since he's so clearly determined to push the GOP side himself? But Weiner doesn't let himself get railroaded here. Yeah, they talk over him, they refuse to let him say anything without interruptions, but he doesn't let it go without a fight.

What, a Democrat who's not a complete doormat? Wow, that's unusual, isn't it? Ordinarily, I think that Democrats should stay off Fox "News" entirely. After all, it's not a news network, it's the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Why give them any credibility at all?

But someone like Weiner makes me question that stance, just a bit. Still, how many Weiners are there in the Democratic Party. And did he actually accomplish anything? He didn't really get much of a chance to confront Hannity's claims, and since it's Hannity's show, no Democrat ever will.

But as I say, it's a real pleasure to see a Democrat with a spine! Too bad it's so rare.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sharia law, Republican law, what's the difference?

QOTD: Can't wait for those GOP cocktails

Quote of the Day:
Elise Foley reports that the House Republicans, having eliminated biodegradable cups, have replaced them with styrofoam cups supplied by... you guessed it:
Former Koch Industries executive George Wurtz owns WinCup, which supplies the styrofoam cups now littering the building following the House GOP's decision to phase out biodegradable cups from a Capitol lunchroom.

House Republicans announced in January that they would end a program to place compostable cups, containers and utensils in the House-side mini-cafeteria, a direct shot at former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "Green the Capitol" initiative, which did away with styrofoam cups in 2007. Suspending the program resulted in business for Wurtz, a former executive of Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia-Pacific LLC.

Next week the cafeteria will begin serving cocktails made from the tears of children thrown out of Head Start. - Jonathan Chait

The blind leading those with poor eyesight

From Mother Jones:
"Why do we still have apes if we came from them?" state Sen. Stephen Wise of Florida rhetorically asked a Tampa radio host in 2009. He'd just introduced a bill that would have required public school teachers who cover evolution to also discuss intelligent design.  At the time, the ravings of (the ironically named) Wise looked like little more than the quixotic roars of a political dinosaur.

Not anymore.

Wise now has a bunch of new friends in Tallahassee, courtesy of the tea party movement. They've appointed him to the chairmanship of Florida's Senate Education Committee.

I know it's inevitable that some Americans will always be this ignorant. Hey, it's a big country, and the tail of the bell curve is always going to contain some real losers.

And I suppose that, given American political apathy, a few of these dullards will always show up in our legislatures. Well, maybe it's good to have a little comic relief on occasion.

But the morons have taken control! The inmates have been elected to lead the insane asylum! This scientific illiterate, this complete ignoramus, is not just some random loony, muttering on the street corner. And he's not even stuffed away out of sight in the Florida Senate's smallest office. He's chairman of their Education Committee!

It's just astonishing, isn't it? Why put their most poorly educated legislator in charge of education? Or - an even worse thought - maybe he's not even the worst? Please tell me this isn't the best Florida can do! What, has Cuba put something in the water down there?

And hey, if you don't understand why that initial question is so hilariously dumb, so rolling-on-the-floor, laugh-out-loud funny, so astoundingly, extravagantly stupid,... well, you really need to educate yourself just a bit. That's something you should have learned in grade school - high school at the very least.

How could one of the most advanced nations on Earth become so filled with dim-bulb hicks who apparently don't know the first thing about science? It's just astonishing, isn't it? And we're not only electing them to public office, we're putting them in charge!

Jeebus help us!

English to gun nut translation

Thursday, March 17, 2011

QOTD: Dicken's London was not a utopia

Quote of the Day:
Jane Cunningham, a Rethuglican (of course), has sponsored a bill in the Missouri congress that will disillusion you a little further today. Behold, SB 222!
This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed. Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.

OK, that's enough. I'm not reading any more email this morning. Instead, I think I'll zip down to the liquor store and pick up a gallon jug of rum and curl up in a corner, weeping. - PZ Myers

Guns, blood, and Congress

Here's a fascinating article in The New York Times "Disunion" series of the events in America 150 years ago:
Representative Charles H. Van Wyck of Orange County, N.Y. had been returning late to his lodgings in the National Hotel on the fateful – and nearly fatal – night of Feb. 22. As he walked past the north wing of the Capitol, shadowed beneath a row of trees, he was suddenly set upon from ambush. Before he knew what was happening, a strong arm had seized him from behind and the blade of a bowie knife was flashing straight toward his heart. ...

Wheeling around, Van Wyck – whose mild exterior apparently belied an almost ninja-like fighting prowess – punched the man hard in the jaw, sending him staggering. Almost instantly, a second attacker was upon him, striking with his bowie knife. The congressman deflected the blade with his left hand, knocked this man down as well, and in almost the same instant drew his gun and fired at the first attacker. The villain dropped to the ground. ...

No sign of the attackers was ever found. Nor did Van Wyck or the police discover any hint of a motive. But many people were convinced that the legislator had been marked for death because of the words he had spoken on the House floor almost exactly a year earlier, on March 7, 1860.

On that occasion, Van Wyck had delivered one of the most blistering denunciations of slavery ever uttered in the Capitol.

It's exciting stuff. And you have to wonder, as our nation seems nearly as divided now as it was back then. We've seen increasing hysteria on the right, since the election of our first black president. How bad will it get?

Well, I'm not going to claim that we're heading for a new Civil War, despite loony "by ballot or bullet" Tea Party signs. I have to admit that these Disunion articles make me think about such things, but mostly, they're just really, really interesting.

Thank God we're solving this problem

I've posted clips of Rep. Anthony Weiner before. As I said then, we need more Democrats like this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Freedom of religion? Well, sort of....

QOTD: Tim Pawlenty's depressingly symplistic rhetoric

Quote of the Day:
Tim Pawlenty's speech this weekend to the Tea Party Patriots is filled with depressingly simplistic expressions of the current state of right-wing thought. Here is Pawlenty offering up what has become a common strand of right-wing argument, but one that is far more inflammatory than many people realize:
“This is our guide, this is our constitution, ” he said, waving a pocket-size edition. “We the people of the United States will rise up again. We will take back our government. This is our country. Our founding fathers created it. Americans embraced it. Ronald Reagan personified it. And Lincoln stood courageously to protect it."

Why do I say this is inflammatory? Because conservatives are writing President Obama completely out of the American political tradition. Conservatives claim not only to have a superior vision for securing American prosperity, which is an understandable thing for a political movement to believe, but to represent the sole legitimate custodians of the Constitution. It follows from all this that Obama represents a unique threat to American freedom, and moreover -- a point that is often made explicit -- that the threat he poses requires a response that goes beyond normal politics. The whole metaphor of the Tea Party is to re-imagine conservatism as a proto-revolutionary guerrilla response to tyranny, rather than a movement that operates through normal political channels.

Obviously, political rhetoric gets heated. It's always possible to follow a politician's excited claim through enough steps to some wild conclusion. But the shocking thing about contemporary Republican rhetoric is how short the space is between mainstream political speech and incitement to violence. - Jonathan Chait

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I'm an adult, but I lose track, too

QOTD: Controlling Medicare costs

Quote of the Day:
Ask yourself, what do we have to do to control Medicare costs? We can save some money, maybe a lot, by reforming payment systems so that providers are paid for overall treatment rather than on a fee-for-service basis. But over the long term, the fundamental issue is going to be to decide what Medicare will and won’t pay for. We need, as Henry Aaron has often said, to learn how to say no.

Notice that this is very different from the issue on Social Security. You can propose simply cutting retirement benefits by 25 percent,and that’s doable. But you can’t decide to do only three-quarters of every operation and test that Medicare pays for (and no, you can’t demand that patients pay 1/4 of the cost without effectively denying care to many Americans.) So Medicare cuts are an inherently harder problem than SS cuts. In fact, I suspect that’s one reason, beyond the political motivations, why inside-the-Beltway types love to talk about Social Security, a trivial concern, while avoiding the vastly more important Medicare issue.

So how are you going to make decisions about what not to do? Um, you need good information about which medical interventions work, and how well they work: comparative effectiveness research. And no, that information isn’t already out there: doctors know surprisingly little about how effective procedures are relative to one another.

Why, then, are Republicans opposed to this kind of research? Some of it is sheer stupidity and/or anti-intellectualism — hey, those researchers are probably atheistic Democrats, you know.

But you should always remember that the GOP comes to bury Medicare, not to save it. The favored “solution” on the right is to replace Medicare with vouchers whose value will systematically lag behind medical costs; so it will be up to insurance companies and patients to say no. There is absolutely no reason to believe that such a system would work; in practice, it would mean denying adequate coverage to all but the affluent. But that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. - Paul Krugman

Monday, March 14, 2011

The sacred cow of Congress

QOTD: Ant trails and intelligent design

Quote of the Day:
If you’re into ants—and who isn’t?—you can’t do better than follow biologist Alex Wild’s excellent blog Myrmecos (the study of ants is called “myrmecology”). It’s one of the best taxon-specific blogs around.

Alex doesn’t like to deal with creationists, but made an exception when Intelligent Design (ID) advocate William Dembski started making pronouncements on ants. Noting that ants tend to take the shortest path between colony entrances (they also do this when travelling between a colony entrance and a food source), Dembski, writing on February 18 at the ID site Uncommon Descent, pronounced this feat inexplicable by natural selection (ergo Jesus)...

Well, if Dembski had bothered to learn anything about ant trails (and this takes only a few minutes of Googling), he would have realized that embedded in the ants’ tiny brains is not an evolutionary algorithm for solving the Steiner problem, but a simple rule combined with a fact of chemistry: ants follow their own pheromone trails, and those pheromones are volatile. As Wild explains, ants start out making circuitous paths, but more pheromone evaporates from the longer ones because ants take longer to traverse them while laying down their own scent. The result is that the shortest paths wind up marked with the most pheromone, and ants follow the strongest scents.

Wild shows a nice simulation video on his site, demonstrating how, given these simple assumptions, ants wind up taking the shortest trails.

Before we say that evolution can’t explain a behavior, it behooves us to learn as much as we can about that behavior. Dembski didn’t learn jack. And we shouldn’t underestimate the capacity of insect brains to store complicated information, or of evolutionists to decipher how that capacity evolved. A good example is the waggle dance of honeybees.

Alex is actually pretty soft on Dembski, for after pwning him Wild says,
In Dembski’s defense, his error is a common one. Ant societies share enough superficial similarities to human ones that the tendency to anthropomorphize is strong. It is too easy to assume ants solve complex problems the way we humans do, with smart individuals applying brainpower to puzzle them out.

I am not as forgiving. Dembski is not just an average joe expressing bewilderment at the “swarm intelligence” of ants. He is supposedly conversant with evolution and biology, and is making a pronouncement against evolution in a prominent place. He should have done his homework. Thanks to Alex for correcting him, and for demonstrating the unjustified eagerness of creationists like Dembski to say “evolution couldn’t have done that.” - Jerry A. Coyne

More on the new McCarthyism in the GOP

Why do we refuse to learn from history? And why would we think this a good idea, anyway? Does persecuting American Muslims really seem to be a good way to make them less radical?

Maybe we should consider accepting them as equal citizens, with the same rights - including freedom of religion - as the rest of us, instead. Maybe we should show them how tolerance works in a diverse modern democracy. (How radical is that!?)

It's as if Republicans don't actually believe in America. They seem to think our freedoms make us patsies, that our commitment to civil rights for all Americans is just foolish, too naive for the real world.

Then there's Peter King's blatant hypocrisy:

Republicans couldn't have picked a better person to demonstrate their hypocrisy on this issue. But I don't think Republicans can actually detect hypocrisy. I don't think they have the mental capacity to recognize it. It's a blind spot for the right-wing (one of many).

And so they cheer on dim bulbs like Michele Bachmann as they lecture us about the Founding Fathers, while getting the basic facts of American history wrong. (Yes, she's considering a run for the presidency, too!) They applaud people like Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, and David Vitter as they "defend the sanctity of marriage."

Honestly, they couldn't make themselves look more ridiculous if they tried. And yet,... it just doesn't seem to matter, does it? No matter how crazy they get, they don't seem to lose support. What has happened to my America?

Mike Thompson's commentary:
The official title of Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearing says it all. The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security began hearings last week on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.”

The implication is that the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community is a foregone conclusion and all that’s left is to determine just how far over the edge this segment of American society has gone. It’s sort of like trying to determine the extent of someone’s involvement in a crime before determining if a crime actually took place.

According to a report compiled by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and published on the organization’s Web site, since 9/11, “(T)here were 80 total (terrorist) plots by U.S.-originated non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States,” while during that same time period, “there have been 45 total plots by U.S. and foreign-originated Muslim perpetrators...”. In other words, since September, 2001, non-Muslim Americans have hatched far more terrorist plots against this country than American and foreign Muslims combined. So do you think Rep. King will hold congressional hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American non-Muslim Community and that Community's Response”?

Nah, what crass political advantage can be gained by attacking a majority group?

Of course, militia groups and other right-wing fanatics tend to be Republicans. In fact, they're more or less the GOP base. This is the result of the party's longtime "southern strategy" of deliberately appealing to white racists.

The elderly white supporters of the GOP are easily scared by non-white, non-Christian peoples. And Republican leaders, from Fox "News" on down, are eager to keep them scared.

But shouldn't we Americans be better than that?

We've made progress in this country, despite the right-wing continually dragging its feet. We ended slavery. We gave the vote to women and racial minorities. We created Social Security and Medicare as a safety net for our elderly. We've done a lot of good things.

And we'll continue to make progress. Younger people tend to be more open to diversity - and, in general, they're far harder to frighten with bogymen - so the country will continue to move forward. But what disasters will we create for ourselves in the meantime?

And how much harder have we made it for ourselves, now that our Supreme Court has decided that corporations are just people, too (but people who can spend unlimited amounts of your money to influence political campaigns)? How much harder now that we've got Fox "News" spreading lies with impunity? How much harder now that the rich are the only Americans with enough money to lavish on politicians?

Yes, grandstanding politicians are a fact of life. And they'll continue to be a fact of life as long as we keep electing such people (so, as long as human nature doesn't change, I suppose). But we don't have to be dumb enough to let it happen without consequences. We don't have to keep electing such people.

Still, Muslims, just like everyone else, must realize that democracies aren't perfect. Not even close. It's just that we've never found another form of government that's better.

However, democracies do need intelligent, informed, rational citizens - intelligent, informed, rational voters - if they're to survive for long. And these days, with seven billion people busy destroying our planet, that need is absolutely critical!

We can't afford to let politicians pander to our bigotry. We can't afford to let them pander to our fantasies. If we can't stand up and face the real world, honestly, boldly, intelligently, we're going to be in a world of hurt - a world that will make today seem like a Golden Age.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

QOTD: How Democrats can win the jobs fight

Quote of the Day:
Democrats lost the fight for public opinion over the stimulus -- indeed, they lost so badly that the entire debate now focuses on how much anti-stimulus we should impose. Yet I don't think they should give up on using this issue against Republicans. You have, basically, the entire economic forecasting field predicting that the Republican budget would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's a powerful political weapon.

Republicans are pushing back on the economic forecasters by noting that those forecasters also supported the stimulus, which is true. If the public opposed stimulus, the reasoning goes, they should support anti-stimulus.

But I think the actual thought process of the majority of the public is a lot messier. People don't trust politicians, especially when economic conditions are worsening. People won't believe that a politicians' economic stimulus is saving jobs. At the same time, that same cynicism could lead them to believe that another politicians' plan is costing jobs. Conservatives want to believe they won the public opinion war because the public is deeply committed to Austrian economics, but the truth is that, in a bad economy, people will tend to believe the negative claim over the positive one. Now that Republicans are the ones trying to change the status quo, that factor is a powerful weapon for Democrats. - Jonathan Chait

Rand Paul

Big crime news in Nebraska

I'm not kidding. Here's the headline of a story in the Lincoln Journal Star - the local crime section - this morning: Opossum kills chickens, bites farmer in Malcolm.

Malcolm is about 11 miles from Lincoln, our capital city. And yeah, this opossum got into a chicken coop and killed two chickens. When the farmer grabbed the opossum, it bit her on the hand:
The woman's skin was not broken, but she had a small red bump.

Quite a crime, huh?

I wish I could say all of our crime is this minor. Still, if you don't grab opossums with your bare hand, you can probably avoid anything too serious.

I've lived in Nebraska all my life, and the only time I've been a victim of any crime was when some drunk (presumably) drove over my mailbox.

And yet, oddly enough, many Nebraskans seem to be just terrified of crime, insisting that everyone needs to start carrying guns - even in our schools - to ward off the criminal element (i.e. anyone who isn't white).

Well, we watch a lot of television.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Want to feel depressed?

So, do you want to feel really, really depressed about the state of America these days?

I'm not kidding. Do you want to feel soul-crushing despair? If not, then don't click on this link (from PZ Myers' Pharyngula).

It's a compilation of Facebook entries responding to the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, and yes, it will destroy any last hope you have for America. Don't say I didn't warn you!

OK, if you did look, despite my warnings, I've also got something which might make you feel a little better.

After all, what cure for despair is better than a big belly laugh? And this will make you laugh out loud if anything will. It's Calvin and Hobbes, the best comic strip ever, freely available online.

This link is to the introductory comic - the very first, where Calvin and Hobbes find each other. Read a few of them. I guarantee you'll be laughing out loud before you get very far.

We can't, after all, change much about the world we live in. And for us Americans, it often seems like our countrymen are getting stupider by the day. Certainly, the Republican Party just gets crazier and crazier without, apparently, losing any support. And then there's the bigotry, the racism, the... cowardice in refusing to face the real world (which I think might bother me most of all).

But we can still laugh. In fact, I think ridicule is one of the best weapons we rational Americans have. But even if it's not a matter of fighting back, even when it's just about keeping ourselves sane, and reasonably free of complete hopelessness, laughter is good medicine.

So give Calvin and Hobbes a try. I don't know about you, but it's been a big help for me.

A Democrat defends science

Nice response, huh? That's Rep. Edward J. Markey (D - MA). Why can't I have a Congressman like that?

Oh, yeah. I live in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, the reason he had to give that brief statement is rather depressing. Here's PZ Myers:
Lately, I've completely given up on giving any credit to the Rethuglican party at all — where once I could have grudgingly admitted that perhaps some conservative policies were sensible, the current party is no longer conservative, but simply insane. As an example, I give you The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, a Republican-sponsored, Republican-promoted exercise in outright science denial blessed by Koch Industries.
To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas due to concerns regarding possible climate change, and for other purposes.

It simply blatantly redefines "pollutant" to exclude carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and any other substance that science might discover contributes to climate change, and says the EPA cannot regulate them. As you might guess, the oil and coal companies, as well as agribusiness, are drooling over the prospect of gutting the EPA.

The hearings on this bill have been a series of scientists testifying to the lunacy of it all, with Rethuglican ignoramuses responding with canards and stupidities.

And yes, one of those Rethuglican ignoramuses was a Nebraskan - not my own representative, but still, to my intense embarrassment, from this state.

QOTD: Not enough bureaucrats

Quote of the Day:
There’s a new article in the Washington Monthly making the point that we need federal bureaucrats to manage spending, including spending on private contractors, and that understaffing the government — which we’re doing already, and will do more of if the right gets its way — actually increases the deficit. I agree. And with perfect timing, we have a new report finding that tens of billions have been wasted on undersupervised contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What’s happened in American political discourse is that constant repetition has drilled in the message that government officials are always engaged in pointless activity, and that private is always better — even if you’re hiring private contractors to do government work, which means that there’s no market competition. None of this is true. Federal offices, in my experience, are quite thinly staffed and overstretched, despite having very real jobs to do. And the experience with outsourcing to contractors has been mixed to bad across the board.

The thing is, any private corporation would have no trouble understanding the argument that you need more auditing, more supervision, to keep costs under control. But when it comes to government, the myth of the useless bureaucrat persists. Of course, that’s the way the contractors like it. - Paul Krugman

Food for action

I got these links from cartoonist Mike Thompson, who starts out like this:
Some interesting items to consider during the coming months as Republicans in Congress and in Michigan tell you that there simply isn’t enough money in the public coffers and so we must cut money for a tsunami warning center, slash funding for the government program that offers nutrition assistance to the poor, squeeze public employee unions and slash funding to your child’s school...

He's right. These are interesting items - so interesting that I thought I'd comment on each of them.

First, there's this examination at of Michael Moore's seemingly wild claim that, "Right now, this afternoon, just 400 Americans -- 400 -- have more wealth than half of all Americans combined."

Guess what? That's true. The wealthiest 400 Americans have more combined wealth than 155 million of the rest of us.

Imagine that. And these are the people to whom Republicans keep giving tax cuts. These are the people for whom Republican keep working to cut estate taxes, so that we can have a permanent aristocracy of wealth in this country. These are the people who can't pay just a little more in taxes at a time when everyone is screaming about how broke we are (mostly because we gave them tax breaks in the first place).

In fact, they just got another big tax cut, thanks to the GOP. Think about it. Why couldn't we have used that money to pay down the deficit, if we really thought that deficit-reduction was important? But what's really important to these people, and therefore to their purchased politicians, is their never-ending tax cuts.

OK, that's pretty shocking, but how about this, from Robert Reich's blog? (Reich served as Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton.)
Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

So think about that, why don't you? This guy made $5 billion last year, and he probably paid a lower tax rate than you do. That's not a measly $5 million a year, which I'm sure you'll agree (with Fox "News") is barely over the poverty limit, but a thousand times that much.

But we can't tax him as much as we tax you. (And, according to the GOP, his heirs should inherit all that money tax-free.)

It's bad enough that we've lowered the capital gains tax so much, since it's overwhelmingly the rich who make significant capital gains. If you get a paycheck, you pay ordinary income taxes on it. But you pay far less if you're wealthy enough to own stock.

(I should admit here that I live on investment income, myself, and so I benefit personally from lower tax rates on capital gains. But I still don't think it's right.)

Yes, that's bad enough. But what's really disgusting about this is that hedge fund managers shouldn't get this kind of tax break, not really. There's a loophole in the tax code written just for them. Well, we wouldn't want to tax these poor billionaires, would we? Making them pay as much as the rest of us would just be "class warfare."

So what about corporate taxes? Republicans are always claiming that they're too high (anything that benefits the wealthy is a concern to the GOP). And now that corporations are just people, too - according to our loony right-wing Supreme Court - we want to treat them right, don't we? Otherwise, how could they afford to buy all those politicians?

Well, here's Thompson's final link, to a report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Corporate tax revenues are now at historical lows as a share of the economy, at a time when the nation faces deficits and debt that are expected to grow to unsustainable levels. Although the top statutory corporate tax rate is high, the average tax rate — that is, the share of profits that companies actually pay in taxes — is substantially lower because of the tax code’s many preferences (deductions, credits and other write-offs that corporations can take to reduce their taxes). Moreover, when measured as a share of the economy, U.S. corporate tax receipts are actually low compared to other developed countries. ...

During the 1950s, federal corporate tax revenue averaged 4.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). But by the most recent decade (2000-2009), corporate taxes had fallen to just 1.9 percent of GDP (see Figure 1). As a result of this trend and other policy changes, the corporate tax now contributes considerably less to federal revenues than it once did: between 2000 and 2009, 10.7 percent of federal revenues were collected through the corporate tax, down from 29.8 percent of revenues in the 1950s.

In recent decades, and especially since the start of the 1980s, corporate profits have increased as a share of GDP — but corporate revenues have not followed suit. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently summarized the upshot of this trend: “Despite concerns expressed about the size of the corporate tax rate, current corporate taxes are extremely low by historical standards, whether measured as a share of output [i.e., GDP] or based on the effective tax rate on income.”

Between 2000 and 2005, the share of corporate operating surplus that U.S. corporations pay in taxes — a proxy for the average tax rate — was the second lowest among the studied G7 leading industrialized nations and nearly 3 percentage points below the average of member nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a 2007 Treasury Department report...

(For sources, and other good information, check out the report itself. In fact, all of these links are work checking out directly. I'm just trying to summarize, since it's hard to find the time to read everything online.)

The top statutory corporate tax rate is relatively high. But that doesn't tell you anything by itself, since there are so many loopholes and exemptions in our tax code. You really have to look at what corporations actually pay.

And that brings up another issue:
This reduces economic efficiency by creating an unlevel playing field for different forms of investment, which encourages firms to invest in areas that would not have merited such investments in the absence of the tax breaks.  In fact, there is a strong case for tax policy changes that raise revenue and reduce the deficit even as they lower the statutory tax rate, increase economic efficiency, and boost competitiveness.

This kind of tax code is horribly inefficient. What we see are corporations playing political games in order to get subsidies and tax breaks. That's inefficient, it's unfair, it almost guarantees corruption in our political process, and it keeps us from being as competitive globally.

As this report suggests, we might indeed be better off lowering statutory corporate tax rates, but only if we get rid of all those loopholes (which are determined more by political power than merit).

Still, corporate taxes in general aren't too high. In fact, at a time of record-breaking deficits, when we're constantly told we're too broke to afford good schools or efficient infrastructure, I'd say it's pretty clear that corporate taxes are too low. And so are taxes in general, especially those for the wealthiest of Americans.

That's not "class warfare." It's just common sense.

PS. My thanks to cartoonist Mike Thompson for the above links. They are indeed food for thought and action.