Saturday, April 22, 2017

Austin March for Science - Earth Day 2017

Future scientist carefully examines dead bird. . . .

. . . pokes it with a stick.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What we could have had, what we got

When I was growing up, going to school in the 50's and 60's, there were never any kids with disabilities in my classes. No kids in wheelchairs, no deaf kids, no blind kids. It never even occurred to us that this was not okay. Sad, but it's sad that a kid that had had polio couldn't walk, or that a deaf kid couldn't hear, or a blind kid couldn't see.

Of course none of these kids could go to school. How would the kid in the wheelchair get up the stairs to their class room? How would a deaf kid hear the teacher, or a blind kid read the textbook?

When Hillary graduated from law school she could have gone to work for a law firm and made lots of money writing contracts for corporations and setting up trust funds for the children of the wealthy and filing lawsuits for squabbling relatives fighting over who gets Daddy's millions.

But she went to work for the Children's Defense Fund. She went door to door to find the children that were listed on the census, but not in school, to find out why they weren't in school. As the CDF suspected, these were the children with disabilities. They simply sat at home while all the other children in their neighborhood got on the schoolbus or their bicycles and headed off for school with their friends each morning.

Armed with the data, the Children's Defense Fund filed legal challenges and lobbied Congress. In the end, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed.

Years later, after the insurance industry spent tens of millions of dollars on misleading and intentionally frightening "Harry and Louise" ads to defeat Bill and Hillary Clinton's attempt to provided health care to the uninsured, Hillary worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) to pass the Children's Health Insurance Program. Today, over 8 million children are covered by health insurance thanks to CHIP.

All of this that I've written so far is "political policy." Which we are told is boring and irrelevant to average folks. Those of us who do care about such things are accused of being elitists who don't understand ordinary Americans. I remember one young woman explaining to me that she wasn't interested in politics in the same way that she would have explained that she wasn't really interested in Pokemon or French cooking.

But political policy, is in the end, about the lives of average folks and ordinary Americans. It affects us all.


Sara's and Martha's lives would have been very different if Hillary hadn't gone door to door looking for kids like Sara who weren't in school. If she hadn't fought for CHIP. Before the election, I was filled with hope that we'd see more like this.

Instead . . .


Night before last was the first night I haven't waked up at 4am with these two videos running side by side in my head. What we could have had. What we got instead.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Best description of why I hate that term

I avoid the vaguely Stalinist 'politically correct', used now as a blunt object to bash people who try to treat others respectfully.

-a comment on this video

Sunday, April 21, 2013

No shit

I hate to give Ron Paul (whom I find despicable) or Chris Christie any credit for anything at all but they certainly are right about this:

The War on Drugs is a Failure

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

People who watch Fox News are . . . old

Fox News is losing younger viewers with amazing speed.

Latest ratings compared to one year ago:

• Overall, lost 22% of viewers 25-54

• In primetime, lost 17% of viewers 25-54

• The O'Reilly Factor lost 25% of viewers 25-54

• Hannity lost 19% of viewers 25-54

• On the Record lost 38% of viewers 25-54

• Fox and Friends lost 17% of viewers 25-54

84% of Fox News's audience are over 55. Only 16% are under 55.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ardent fans of the U.S. military

[Texas Senator Ted] Cruz notes that the Senate has "two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel." Describing the nominees, Cruz added, "Both of whom are very prominently...less than ardent fans of the U.S. military."

John Kerry is a decorated war hero who was awarded combat medals including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who was awarded combat medals including the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Cruz has never served in the military.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You don't own me

I always loved this song - knew all the words and belted it out along with Leslie every time I heard it on the radio. I was . . . 14? 15? at the time. The maker of this video writes:
Personally, I'm struck by the fact that we are teetering dangerously close to a situation where my daughter won't have the same rights I've enjoyed my entire life and that scares the heck out of me. Women constituted 60% of last elections voters. We can win this thing. We just have to agitate, motivate, and get out the darn vote!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The War on Women

So Republicans get the vapors over Democrats saying that the R's have declared a "war on women." To recap:
In Republican-controlled legislatures in statehouses across the country, more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions were introduced in 2011.

Seven states either fully defunded or made moves toward defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception and cancer screenings to millions of women each year.

There’s the invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound mandates, personhood amendments, redefining rape, countless anti-contraception measures, attempts to end Title X and proposals to let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Then there’s the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The landmark measure had broad bipartisan support when it was created in 1994, and when it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. But in February, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to oppose it.
When you kill people to further your ideological agenda - that's war. That's what war is, basically, (either that or a grab for more territory).

Botched illegal abortions kill women. Not having access to cancer screenings kills women. Not having access to birth control kills women when women whose health can't handle a pregnancy get pregnant or become suicidal due to pregnancy. And, well, refusing to do an abortion to save a woman's life pretty obviously kills women.

I don't even want to look up how many women die each year due to domestic violence. What kind of sociopath votes against The Violence Against Women Act?

Yes, Republicans are waging a war on women.

Will the people who vote for them finally understand this when it's their sister, wife, daughter who dies?

Thursday, October 18, 2012


There was no crowing about the delicately coordinated bombing campaign (and the covert actions on the ground which helped it succeed) that brought down a tyrant. No "Mission Accomplished" banners, no bold predictions about the future of a remade Middle East thanks to our military efforts. But Obama got results. For less than a thousandth of the cost of Iraq, and with no lives lost until September 11th, Obama gave us a democratically elected Arab ally, an ally whose people -- not their leaders, their people -- are so grateful for what America did and how we did it, that after the death of our Ambassador they poured into the streets in outrage, and attacked the Islamic militias responsible.
Republicans seem to think that this is some kind of huge gotcha moment.... But I suspect they're caught up in their own echo chamber, the same one that insists Obama wants to take your guns away and has spent the past four years apologizing for America. But the more they dive into the conspiratorial weeds on this, the worse they look to ordinary Americans who don't really mind that President Obama waited a few days to sift through the evidence instead of going off half cocked within a few hours.

Retail sales

See that grey line labeled "2009"? That's when Bush left and Obama was sworn in. Tell me again why we'd want to go back to having Republicans in charge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does Romney ever NOT lie?

From the debate transcript:
And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said. . ."Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.
According to someone who was there at the time:
Not a true story.

What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I've checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I've just presented it is correct -- and that Romney's claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sen. Jim Webb's response to Romney on veteran's benefits

(At the end, Sen. Webb is referring to this.)

Who doesn't pay income tax?

One thing that disturbs me about the 47% rhetoric - which Romney certainly didn't invent - is that it's based on dividing Americans into Us vs. Them.

In this narrative, there are makers vs. takers, producers vs. parasites. These are descriptions of who someone is, their essential nature. The makers and the producers work hard and always take care of themselves. The takers and the parasites are, by their nature, lazy moochers who will always have their hands out for their government checks.

In fact, getting a government check isn't something that's a permanent condition for the vast majority of Americans who get one. Most of us get a government check at some point in our lives. "Government checks" include student loans, veterans benefits, disability payments, social security benefits, disaster assistance, medicare.

The vast majority of Americans work and pay taxes for most of their adult lives to pay for those benefits. But from year to year, our circumstances change. The economy is good, the economy is bad. We find a job, we get laid off. We have a baby or get seriously ill. At some point we either die or get old.

Most of the children who get free lunches while they're in school grow up, get a job and pay taxes that in turn provide free lunches for another generation of poor children. Most people who collect unemployment benefits do so only until they find another job. The very old get Medicaid to help pay for their nursing home care after a lifetime of work and paying taxes.

So who doesn't pay federal income taxes?

The key point in looking at this graph is that it shows a snapshot of who's not paying federal income taxes at one point in time.

People who don't pay income taxes are:

On social security - 10.3% of Americans pay no federal income taxes because they are elderly, drawing a Social Security "government check," and most, if not all (depending on your total income) of Social Security benefits are non-taxable income. But of course, they worked and paid taxes before they retired.

Romney's view of retired Americans on social security: " All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims . . ."

Veterans - Disability pensions for combat-related injuries are not subject to federal income tax. Veteran's education benefits aren't either. I suspect that most of my students who are veterans don't pay income tax because those education benefits are the biggest part of their income. Most have families, are full-time students, working hard to get the education they need to do well in a new career now that they're out of the military. Many were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Ordinary military pensions are taxable, but like many retired people on social security, between their retirement income being lower than what they were making when they were working and the extra deduction for being over 65, they don't owe any income tax.

Romney's view of veterans: " All right, there are 47 percent . . . who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them."

Deployed troops - pay received while serving in a combat zone is non-taxable. Romney's view of our troops serving in a war: " . . . my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility . . ."

Disabled people - Supplemental Security Income is not taxable, Social Security Disability Insurance is covered by the same rules as regular social security benefits, so most people on Social Security Disability Insurance won't have a high enough income to have to pay income tax. About 5% of Americans, receive SSDI or SSI, so they're most of the "Nonelderly, income under $20,000" in the chart above.

Romney's view of disabled Americans: "All right, there are 47 percent . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them . . ."

Working but don't owe income tax - 28.3% of Americans pay no federal income taxes, but they do pay Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax, so that tells us that they have a job or are self-employed. More than a quarter of all Americans are working and paying federal taxes, they're just not paying federal income taxes.

Why don't these working Americans - more than half of Mitt's 47% - pay federal income taxes? For most of them it's because the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and the Child Tax Credit zeroes out the federal income taxes they would otherwise owe.

For millions of American families, this is a common story: They have a baby, one parent - usually mom - quits her job and stays home with the baby for a year or two, then she goes back to work. While they're living on one income, the family doesn't owe that much in income tax and then the EITC and the Child Tax Credit wipes that out. And most Americans who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit only claim it for one or two years. Source

Romney's view of working class and middle class families with children: ". . . there are 47 percent . . . who pay no income tax... my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

And of course all of these Americans pay all kinds of state and local taxes - sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, etc.

So who are Romney's 47%? This is who they are:

The thing is Romney didn't come up with this 47% nonsense himself. Right wing bloggers and talk show hosts have been going on about "Half of Americans don't pay (income) taxes!" for at least the past year that I've been hearing it. We heard it at the Republican primary debates and on the campaign trail.

There were demands that all of these moochers should have to pay taxes so they would have "skin in the game."

Right. Apparently this is how Republicans see tax fairness:

Old people on social security? Tax 'em! Honor our troops injured in war? Tax 'em! Fighting in a combat zone? Tax 'em! Disabled people struggling to get by? Tax 'em! Stay home with your kids while they're small? You need more taxes! The maid who cleans your motel room for minimum wage, the single mom with two kids? Tax her!

Given his description of the 47% of Americans who don't pay income tax in a given year, you'd think he thinks that they're all on welfare. Well, as I said before, I guess that depends on your definition of "welfare." Unlike Mitt, I think most Americans don't think social security benefits, combat pay, veterans benefits, disability payments, etc. are "welfare." Or maybe he knows very well that that's not true and he's just lying and pandering to his wealthy donors.

But I think he really doesn't know. And not just because he's so rich that he's out of touch. (Though there is that - see the heart-warming story of how he and Ann struggled during their student days when they had to - gasp! -sell some stock that their parents gave them to get by.)

No, I think what ails him is a combination of narcissism and gullibility. He just believes whatever talking points the TV talking heads and radio talk show hosts are repeating at the moment. He really has no curiosity about the vast majority of Americans. He just doesn't care enough to give any thought to why 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes in a particular year. He thinks they're parasites. It's their nature. He has no idea that most of them paid income tax in the past and will again in the future. Not to mention all of the other taxes (payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc.) they pay.

But can we afford a president who has no idea why 47% of Americans don't pay income taxes?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nobody says it like Samuel L. Jackson

NSFW, of course. It's Samuel L. Jackson, for fuck's sake.

Manufacturing jobs

On the radio as I drove to work today, listening to Romney rant about how many manufacturing jobs have been lost and that this proves that "trends are going in the wrong direction under Obama." Looks like it's Bushes (both of 'em) that tend to make American manufacturing jobs disappear.

The BGOV Barometer shows U.S. factory positions have grown since early 2010, arresting a slide that began toward the end of the 1990s. It’s the best showing since the era of Bill Clinton … “This is the first sustained increase we’ve seen in a long time,” Macpherson said. … The progress so far also contrasts with the job losses seen during the recovery from the 2001 recession, when George W. Bush was president, he said.

Monday, September 10, 2012


It would even reach the once inconceivable point—with Joe Biden’s speech, and John Kerry’s, and veterans striding across the podium—where Democrats had and have the advantage on national security.

And that wasn’t just about the death of Osama bin Laden, who, as Kerry observed, is not better off than he was four years ago.

The GOP ceded—inexplicably, yes, idiotically ceded—the high ground here when their nominee failed to mention the war in Afghanistan or to deign to acknowledge the Americans fighting there and finally coming home.
I honestly think they just plain forgot our troops and our veterans. They're not people they think about very often. When asked why he never mentioned the troops at the convention, Romney's response?
ROMNEY: When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Romney: Troops? What troops?

OK, so he never served in the military himself. Instead he spent the Vietnam years being a missionary in France, which he lied about (not exactly a new thing for Romney). Conveniently, although most Mormon missions are for one year or two, Romney spent almost three years in France missionarying which of course kept him from getting drafted.

He was totally gung ho for the Iraq war, but none of his five sons served, memorably explaining that “It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation, and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president." Because working on your dad's political campaign is totally the same sacrifice as serving in Afghanistan.

Our veterans and those who serve are just . . . well, "those people." I'm reminded of a story I read two or three years after the war in Iraq started that was written by an Army recruiter. They went to a high school, as they often did, and kids who were interested could sign up for the recruiters to come by their house, talk to the parents, etc. When they went to one house they were sure there was some mistake. It was a very wealthy neighborhood, and they'd never gotten a request from anyone in a neighborhood like that. A middle aged woman answered they door wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with an American flag. When they explained why they were there, she appeared shocked. "No, no, there must be some misunderstanding. We . . . don't do things like that. The military? No, no. Our son would never . . ." All the while, they could see the boy who'd signed up for a visit (they remembered him from the school) standing behind her.

So Romney is itching for war with Iran, but of course, no one in his family or even anyone he knows will end up fighting it if he gets his way. Which must be why the troops still fighting completely slipped his mind when he accepted his party's nomination in Tampa.

Conservative columnist Bill Kristol asks, What War?
The United States has some 68,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan. Over two thousand Americans have died in the more than ten years of that war, a war Mitt Romney has supported. Yet in his speech accepting his party's nomination to be commander in chief, Mitt Romney said not a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned.

Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney's silence, and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama next week. What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we're fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we've been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?

A more personal question about why Romney apparently forgot the troops serving in Afghanistan from Mormon mom Joanna Brooks at Religion Dispatches:
I spent my Labor Day on the beach at Coronado—home to the North Island Naval Station—with two military families we count among our closest friends.

As we watched our kids play jump rope with kelp strands, a friend recalled something Mitt Romney left out of his keynote address to last week’s Republican National Convention.

“No mention of the men and women deployed in Afghanistan,” she said, echoing a concern voiced by conservative commentators like Bill Kristol. “If it’s not worth mentioning us in a national political convention, maybe we shouldn’t even be in Afghanistan.”

Her husband faces possible deployment to Kandahar in February.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The President at the DNC

One of Sullivan's readers:
I felt like he was being square with me. But more than that, I felt not so much hopeful as proud. I'm a liberal, and mostly a cynic about politics and patriotism - but last night, I felt proud! I feel like what Obama accomplished last night was to co-opt all the best values and aspirations of the formerly moderate Republican party - hard work, self-reliance, frugality, the notion that change is best when it is slow and steady - and stitch them seamlessly into everything that is good about the values of the Democratic party - inclusiveness, shared sacrifice, community, generosity, fearless forward thinking. And it seems to me that's quite an accomplishment.

Comment of the day

The firebaggers aren’t really to the left of you—or at least, they aren’t really to the left of me. Most of them aren’t really about policy, or even politics. They’re full of outrage-for-the-sake-of-outrage, and some weird psychological kink makes them lash out not at the enemy but at the savior whose buckle isn’t quite swashed enough for their taste. They’re the emotional equivalents of the teabaggers in congress: if it’s not one thousand percent of what I ask for, then burn it all down.