Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Click here for a PolitiFact article by Aaron Sharockman in the Tampa Bay Times (home of PolitiFact) entitled MSNBC, Fox, CNN move the needle on our Truth-O-Meter scorecards.

Takeaway: Fox News not only lies a lot (surprise, surprise), but it's lying more now than previously -- that is, since PolitiFact last did this survey, in September 2013. (MSNBC and CNN lie less, and are lying less then previously).
At Fox and Fox News, 10 percent of the claims we’ve rated have been True, 11 percent Mostly True, 18 percent Half True, 21 percent Mostly False, 31 percent False and nine percent Pants on Fire. That means about 60 percent of the claims we’ve checked have been rated Mostly False or worse.
At MSNBC, 44 percent of claims investigated were found Mostly False or worse; CNN was the best of the bunch, with 80 percent of claims found Half True or better.

The article includes a disclaimer of sorts: 
As we have said in the past, be cautious about using the scorecards to draw broad conclusions. We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything.
PolitiFact is considered to be generally nonpartisan, but both left and right howl with indignation when a "fact-check" goes against them.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Don't Mess With Vincent (Tom Cruise, Collateral) -- No, Seriously, Just Don't.

Killer (no pun intended) scene from Collateral:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tighten Your Belts, You Greedy Poors!

This article by Paul Krugman in the NYT is so short I'll reproduce it here. Entitled Paging Robert Burns, it links to Burns' poem, To A Louse, which includes the line: "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!" (And I love the Times tag line for the article: "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us yada yada." I prefer "yadda, yadda, yadda," but ...)

This Bloomberg report from Davos is making the rounds:

Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Later in the article: Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week …

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Super-Rich

Excellent Signature Lines

In his regular Cheers and Jeers column at Daily Kos, Bill in Portland Maine salutes some of the signature lines "(links, quotes, or other words of wisdom that automatically appear when you post a comment---you can create a "sig" at your user profile page)" of his correspondents. My favorites:

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
he was never reasoned into” --Jonathan Swift

It's disturbing how much exercise and extra fries sound alike.

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... it is about learning to dance in the rain." --Vivanne Grenne

In Honor Of Martin Luther King Day

Click here for an article by HamdenRice at Daily Kos entitled Most of you have no Idea what Martin Luther King actually did. King was born on January 15, 1929, and the official name for the holiday, celebrated on the third Monday in January, is Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

HamdenRice says he learned from his father during an angry discussion that "Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south."

Many people seem to feel that King "gave that great speech," and "marched." Yes, he did, but he did so much more. Happy birthday, Dr. King.


Charlie Pierce on the Civil Rights Movement

Click here for Charlie Pierce's post on his blog at Esquire, entitled The Ownership of America: Selma And The Way We Look At America. I haven't seen the movie, but I'll be thinking of Pierce's opinions when I see it. This is Charlie's (sometimes quite lyrical) take on the Civil Rights movement.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Education" in South Carolina

Click here for an article at Mother Jones by Hannah Levintova entitled South Carolina Law Would Make Kids Study Second Amendment for 3 Weeks Every Year.

If passed, the Second Amendment Education Act would require that three consecutive weeks of each year in elementary, middle, and high school be spent studying the second amendment. As Ian Millhiser at Think Progress points out, that's an enormous chunk of the school year, especially given that some South Carolina schools devote just two weeks to slavery and a week and a half to World War II.

The law would also require that every December 15—the day after the anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook school in Newtown—be designated "Second Amendment Awareness Day." To celebrate the occasion, schools will be required to hold mandatory poster or essay contests at every grade level, with the theme "The Right To Bear Arms; One American Right Protecting All Others."

The curriculum would require students from first grade and up to get into the weeds of constitutional scholarship on the Second Amendment. Students will be asked to study Supreme Court cases "including the United States v. Cruikshank, the United States v. Miller, the District of Columbia v. Heller, and McDonald v. Chicago." (The majority arguments in Heller and McDonald grew out of the push by pro-gun researchers to redefine the Second Amendment.) The bill also mandates that students learn about "the constitutionality of gun control laws," the causes of mass shootings, and "the impact of legislative reactions to gun violence on Constitutional rights and the impact on reducing gun violence, if any."

Here is the Second Amendment, in its entirety:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

South Carolina ... sigh ...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dogs In Cars - Miami

Golden Gate "Zipper Truck"

There have been 128 head-on collisions on the Golden Gate Bridge over the years, resulting in 16 deaths. Part of the problem is the "suicide lane," the center lane of the bridge which is reversed during the day, carrying an extra lane of traffic into San Francisco in the morning and out of the city at night, responding to rush-hour traffic.

The video shows a "zipper truck" that can move 3,500 barriers that weigh 1,500 pounds each along the length of the bridge in a matter of minutes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beware, World ... (John McCain)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Economic Recovery Despite Republican Obstructionism

Click here for an article by Jon Perr at Daily Kos entitled "Democrats saved the economy, Republicans tried to kill it."

It's a long article, with charts and graphs, but well worth the read. It's a comprehensive discussion of how the U.S. economy has performed during the Obama administration. It's the story of how, as Obama took control, the downturn was proving to be much more severe than had been forecast; how TARP, the stimulus, and the auto industry bailout slowly brought the economy back from the brink of disaster, as Republicans howled in anger over Obama's "destructive" programs; how the Republicans blocked and hindered economic progress at every turn, calling for cutbacks and austerity, predicting imminent catastrophe -- we're Greece, I tell you, Greece! -- which somehow never materialized.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Maher And Rushdie On Real Time

My apologies: It's hard to format a reproduction of blog comments.  Anyway, here's a comment by "Bung" from a Salon article on Maher's "Real Time" program with Salman Rushdie:

"My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it.

"So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century."
Noam Chomsky
Which prompted this, from "Basho":

I couldn't agree more.  Excellent quote.
And this, also from "Basho":

Here's an idea:  If you want to know why Islamic terrorists do terrorism, why not just ask them.   Well, it's been done - thousands of times.  And what is their universal and consistent answer?  It's Abu Graib.  It's Guantanamo Bay.  [Might I add: It's Fallujah. It's drone strikes killing innocents in Pakistan and Yemen. It's the plight of the Palestinians.] They don't say it's because the prophet said, "Kill the infidel."

Just think about the videos of ISIS beheadings.  Remember the victims wearing orange jumpsuits - just like the ones tortured prisoners at Guantanamo wear?  
And how does ISIS recruit new fighters.  Do they read passages from the Quran?  No. They show pictures of Abu Graib and Guantanamo as well as pictures of innocent Muslims killed by drones.  We are dealing with blowback, not rotten apples from a bad orchard.
We all thought GW Bush was stupid when he said they kill us because they hate our freedom.  Isn't it also stupid for Bill Maher to say they kill us because their religion teaches they should.
This prompted a reply by "carlos gonzales figueroa":
Ok Why the children murdered in Pakistan by the taliban are responsible for Guantanamo?, Why the girls kidnaped by Boko Haram are responsible for Abu Graib? What you have to understand is that is violence is due to the teaching of the Quran and the Hadith, and even more bizarre, the main victims of this madness are Muslims that are considered hypocrites by the fundamentalists,
To which "Basho" replied:
My post is based on empirical fact.  Yours is based on a vulgar prejudice and a vile theory you and Bill Maher pulled out of your butts.  The Quran clearly states that violence is justifiable only in cases of self defense.  Read history:  Islam has had centuries-long peaceful co-existences with non-Muslims.  Also, there is nothing in the Quran to justify what Boko Haram has done.  It is simply a coincidence that they are Muslims.

About the Taliban:  I don't like them, but quite frankly, the people of Afghanistan would be better off under the Taliban than under our so-called "liberation" - just as the people of Iraq would have been better off under Saddam than under the mess we have created.  And we are far from innocent.  We murder innocent women and children by having someone in Virginia sit at a computer and push a button.  Our secular government kills from a distance; they kill up close.  Both ways are reprehensible.  And it was we who invaded their territory, not the reverse.  Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
You condemn fundamentalists and so do I. I would add that the New Atheists who post on Salon are - as a group - fundamentalists and purveyors of irrational  hate.    
Pablogonzales15 chipped in:
"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the Towers, but after the situation became unbearable—and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon—I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed—when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way: to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."
— Osama bin Laden, 2004
7 July 2005 London bombings
Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.
                                  Mohammad Sidique Khan
Pakistan was attacked because under international pressure ( people who are far away and safe from taliban retaliation pakistan will face) they took on the taliban  guys jumping the afgan pakistan border. ( not there mess ) which po the taliban off and they started to attack pakistan civilans and military

This brought a reply from "akasidney":
Sure, that works.  And to stay in the same vein Maher uses in his quote of Cheney, I guess you'd argue that to find out the real reason we invaded Iraq would be to ask them... Cheney and Bush and Rummy and all the neo-cons "Why did you invade Iraq" and take their answer at face value.  See where I'm going with this?  And how silly your argument is?
To which "Basho" replied:
Poor analogy.  A better one would be asking ordinary Americans why they support attacks against Muslim countries.  They would say it is because of 9/11.  Both sides defend their homeland, their culture, their neighbors and friends.
I'm not naive enough to take Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld at face value.  I will concede that Bush called the invasion of Iraq a crusade and one of our generals boasted that our God is bigger than theirs - but in a way that proves my point.  Flaunting religion and claiming God is on your side is never the real reason for attacks.  It's just a technique to win over hearts and minds.
It seems to me "Basho" has some good points.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter

The Franklin News-Post is the newspaper of Franklin County -- "Serving The Land Between the Lakes - Philpott and Smith Mountain", published in Rocky Mount, Virginia. One of its reporters, Bethany Rodgers, wrote an article entitled "Shreve raises staffing, parking concerns" about Billy Shreve, a former councillor for Franklin County. Shreve expresses his dissatisfaction with the new council following an election in December 2014 in which he lost his seat. He complains, among other things, about lack of assigned parking spots for commissioners. The article includes the following sentences:

"Councilman Kirby Delauter, who is also a former commissioner, has joined Shreve in concern over parking for elected officials."

And later:

"Delauter, R-District 5, has asked Gardner to take parking spaces away from her government affairs liaison and her chief administrative officer and designate them for the council."

Those are the only mentions of Delauter in the article. But that was enough for Delauter to write the following on "social media" -- Facebook, I believe -- prompting a reply from Rodgers:

Okay; so far, so good. But Delauter replied:

"“Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start.”

That prompted an editorial in the Franklin News-Post entitled "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter":

Knowing Councilman Kirby Delauter as we do, we weren't surprised that he threatened The Frederick News-Post with a lawsuit because we had, he says — and we're not making this up — been putting Kirby Delauter's name in the paper without Kirby Delauter’s authorization. Attorneys would be called, Kirby Delauter said.

In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can't be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?
Round about then, we wondered, if it’s not a joke, how should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can't use his name (Kirby Delauter)? Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but “Kirby Delauter” repeated over and over again -- Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter? OK, imagine we agreed because of temporary madness or something funny in the water that week, how would we reference "Kirby Delauter" and do our job as journalists without running afoul of our lack of authorization?

Blanks? Sure, we sometimes use hyphens in the case of expletives. Perhaps we could do that: "K---- D-------." Or, perhaps, "Councilman [Unauthorized]." We giggled a bit more than we should have when we came up with "the Councilman Formerly Known as Commissioner Kirby Delauter," which doesn't seem as funny written down in black and white and includes his name, which defeats the point. Maybe we should just put his initials, "KD," with an asterisk to a footnote (KD*), or refer to him as GLAT, the acronym for his campaign: "Govern Like A Taxpayer." We could even make it sound a little hip-hop with a well-placed hyphen: G-Lat. Speaking of, could we get away with "K-Del"? Or we could simply go with the Harry Potter-esque "He Who Shall Not be Named." (Cue the lightning strike and peal of thunder.)

Yet we could take the low road down even further and childishly mangle "Kirby Delauter" into references you, the reader, would still understand. "Sherbert Deluder," say. Or "Derby Kelauter." "Shirley Delaughter" (and don't call me Shirley). We found a great automatic online anagrammer that generated all kinds of alternatives and could make it a challenge for our readers to decode each time we have to reference the councilman: "Rebuked artily." That was a good one. "Bakery diluter" is just silly but does have a ring about it. "Keyed rural bit" was another that caught our eye as somewhat telling, because Kirby Delauter's pretty keyed up. We're sure there's a joke in "Brutelike Yard" somewhere.

Discernibly, though, Kirby Delauter's ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda. Generally this "fact" is bleated when the facts on the ground differ from conservative talking points. Take Councilman Billy Shreve's abstract, almost nonsensical defense of KD*: "I think media outlets are cowards and they hide behind the label of journalists and that's a bully pulpit to expand their liberal” agenda. Cowards? Tell that to the families of the 60 journalists killed in 2014, or the 70 in 2013, or the 74 who died in 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All in pursuit of the truth, or the most reliable version of it at hand in the most dangerous regions of the world.

Edifying as it may be to lapse into name calling -- and yes, we allowed ourselves a little childishness above and maybe a little bit below -- we need to make one serious point the councilman needs to hear and understand: We will not bow to petty intimidation tactics because a local politician thinks he can score political points with his base throwing around empty threats.

Legally, Kirby Delauter has no case.

And why? Here's how Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh, who "teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law," nicely sums it up:

“Uh, Council Member: In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avantgarde experiment, to be sure, but we’ve had some success with it." You know, that whole First Amendment thing.

That's why we're taking his threat with a pinch of salt. We've seen this behavior before (not just from Kirby Delauter) and it’s worth highlighting again. Bullying seems to be the only way Kirby "Don't say my name" Delauter feels he can lead. Only now, the target is not the public at hearings or occasional "punk" staff member, an arrogant, self-serving, whining middle school teacher or fellow "moron" commissioner, it's The News-Post. Instead of taking his job seriously like the voters demanded and the rest of the council seem to grasp, he's grabbing at distractionary shoot-the-messenger tactics that make a lot of noise but, to quote Shakespeare, a man who knew drama when he saw it, noise that "signifies nothing." Frederick County has big issues to tackle in 2015 and we have yet to hear Kirby Delauter sound out one single, sensible idea. He used the word "govern" in his slogan. Maybe he should apply that to his temper first.

Enough. Seriously. What's Kirby Delauter going to do? Sue everyone who's making fun of him on Twitter using the #kirbydelauter hashtag, or on Facebook? Boy, his attorney will be able to retire off that.

Reasonable men (and women) are required to move Frederick County forward. All Kirby Delauter is doing yet again is displaying his inability to control his temper, embarrassing himself, his district, the county and those who voted him into office. If he wants to govern like a taxpayer, he needs to respect the taxpayers whose money provides his paycheck, stop this silly, inflammatory nonsense, and get to work.
Aside from the title, that's 25 unauthorized uses of the name "Kirby Delauter." As an added bonus, the first letter of each paragraph spell out K-I-R-B-Y D-E-L-A-U-T-E-R.

When I first saw this story, I Googled "Kirby Delauter" and got about 14,000 hits. The next day, the same search brought up about 160,000 hits; just now, the number of hits is up to 435,000. I think Kirby Delauter has a lot more instances of unauthorized use of his name to worry about.

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”  –Salman Rushdie