Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Non Sequitur, by way of the Yahoo online editorial comics: Doesn't this just say it all, about the tea party and the GOP?

Wisconsin Injunction: Good, But Not Good Enough, Your Honor!

From this morning's STrib:
A spokesman for Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said he had nothing new to say beyond his previous statement that he didn't believe the judge had the authority to interject herself into the affairs of the Legislature given the separation of powers.
With respect to your clarification, your honor, Republicans understood your order.

They don't care.

Republicans have flipped you the proverbial bird, they willfully have flouted your order.

You did not go far enough, your honor.  Again, with respect, if you do not make it clear that there will be consequences for those actions, if you do not make it clear that law is what rules not Republicans, if you do not at least WARN them they can be held in contempt, they will continue despite this clarification.

Republicans have consistently made it clear, they will run roughshod over law, over due process, and over transparency. They have no interest in representing the citizens of Wisconsin. They are acting only to serve the corporate interests that seek to exploit the state of Wisconsin.Your honor, I applaud you making it clear that this law was not properly published and is not in effect.Your honor, I applaud you making it clear that this law was not properly published and is not in effect.

Don't believe me, your honor? Read the papers.
Wis. GOP signals it may ignore judge's warning, press on with divisive union bargaining law
By SCOTT BAUER , Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's Republican leaders appear to be taking the same confident and bullish approach to implementing their divisive collective bargaining law that they took to passing it, suggesting they may ignore a judge's warning there would be consequences for moving ahead while challenges to the law are pending.

"It's dangerous. Arguably they're in contempt of court already," University of Wisconsin law professor Howard Schweber said Wednesday, referring to preparations under way by Walker's administration to begin deducting more money from most public employees' paychecks for health and pension plan costs and to stop deducting union dues.
"I cannot understand the legal rationale of attorneys who are apparently advising this administration to ignore this order for whatever reason," Democratic Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco said Wednesday. "The very fabric of a just society is based on the rule of law. We don't have the option of which law we will obey and we don't have the option of which court order we'll ignore."

The Republicans are walking a political fine line by moving ahead as if the law is in effect while apparently defying the court, said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor.

"They naturally want to continue to support their side of the argument, but I think they run the risk of making this look like a claim to being able to do whatever they want regardless," Franklin said. "At some point strength starts to look like arrogance."

Republicans are acting as if the only authority they recognize is force.  I will be surprised if anything less than an order employing force suffices.  Professor Franklin, they stopped looking strong, and were clearly arrogant some time ago.  Try to keep up with events.

One can only surmise their corporate masters are cracking the money whip a little harder on the backs and the behinds of Wisconsin Republicans...  they hate any impediments to raking in all the money they can get their greedy, dirty little hands on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fixing the gun checks system

I emphasize that this is about reducing ILLEGAL guns, and preventing illegal gun owners.  I hope that readers will consider signing this petition.  Fix our gun check system; fix it NOW.  We will all be safer.
“Enacting this legislation will help prevent other families from experiencing the terrible loss that we have suffered.”
That’s what Ross Zimmerman, father of Rep. Giffords’ slain staff member, Gabe Zimmerman, said at the Fix Gun Checks rally yesterday in Tucson, AZ. This was the first time that victims of the January 8 mass shooting stood with civic leaders to call for a specific change to our nation’s guns laws.

It was a truly powerful event as families and civic leaders came together to call for critical gun reforms. Speakers at the rally included Dr. Peter Rhee, Chief of Trauma at UMC and the attending surgeon who treated Rep. Giffords, victims Randy Gardner and James Fuller, and Patricia Maisch, who stopped the deranged killer from reloading.

Watch the video from the Tucson Rally and share it with your friends and family.

Our National Drive to Fix Gun Checks began one month after the tragedy in Tucson, and since then our team has traveled from coast to coast, raising awareness of the 34 Americans murdered with guns every day and building support for the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011.

Each stop on the tour has moved us closer to our goal of fixing the broken background check system. But the Tucson rally was a deeply personal and important milestone for everyone involved.

Now, as the Fix Gun Checks truck heads back east, we’re counting on supporters like you to build on this momentum and keep the pressure on Congress to take action.

See highlights from the Tucson Rally to Fix Gun Checks and share the video today.

Thank you for standing with the Tucson community and supporting their efforts to stop these senseless shootings.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

P.S. -- You can follow the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks on Facebook or Twitter.

Gifford's Doctor Speaks at Tucson Rally

Consider this a Penigma Public Service Announcement to fix our gun regulation - most notably the lack of compliance in providing names to the NCIS gun check data base, and the loopholes in gun show sales without checks.  Please, note the emphasis here is on stopping ILLEGAL guns, not on denying legitimate gun ownership or 2nd Amendment rights.

Please, consider signing this petition.

From Mayors Against Illegal Guns

“Enacting this legislation will help prevent other families from experiencing the terrible loss that we have suffered.”

That’s what Ross Zimmerman, father of Rep. Giffords’ slain staff member, Gabe Zimmerman, said at the Fix Gun Checks rally yesterday in Tucson, AZ. This was the first time that victims of the January 8 mass shooting stood with civic leaders to call for a specific change to our nation’s guns laws.

It was a truly powerful event as families and civic leaders came together to call for critical gun reforms. Speakers at the rally included Dr. Peter Rhee, Chief of Trauma at UMC and the attending surgeon who treated Rep. Giffords, victims Randy Gardner and James Fuller, and Patricia Maisch, who stopped the deranged killer from reloading.

Watch the video from the Tucson Rally and share it with your friends and family.

Our National Drive to Fix Gun Checks began one month after the tragedy in Tucson, and since then our team has traveled from coast to coast, raising awareness of the 34 Americans murdered with guns every day and building support for the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011.

Each stop on the tour has moved us closer to our goal of fixing the broken background check system. But the Tucson rally was a deeply personal and important milestone for everyone involved.

Now, as the Fix Gun Checks truck heads back east, we’re counting on supporters like you to build on this momentum and keep the pressure on Congress to take action.

See highlights from the Tucson Rally to Fix Gun Checks and share the video today.

Thank you for standing with the Tucson community and supporting their efforts to stop these senseless shootings.


Mayors Against Illegal Guns

P.S. -- You can follow the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bad Job, Congressman Cravaack; Allow Me to Explain Why

Dear (redacted):

Thank you for contacting me regarding the proposed federal funding cuts to the international affairs budget proposed in H.R. 1, the Fiscal Year (FY) Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011. Your thoughts on this issue are most welcome and appreciated.
I think that is empty nonsense, Mr. Cravaack; you don't listen honestly to your constituents.  You listen only to the further right of the GOP and the more extreme members of the Tea Party.  The center is tiring of the conservative agenda which has only so far: 1) tried to promote a far right culture war on the citizens of this country; 2)  caused job loss and financial distress without providing a single new, good, constructive idea to resolve our economic problems.  And 3) any policy which does not thoughtfully address revenue income and relies exclusively on budget cuts will only harm what slow economic recovery we have, while further burdening the middle classes on downwards - a majority of the nation. 

Your sham claim, Congressman Cravaack, that thoughts on this issue are welcome only makes sense if you believe corporations are people - people who have greater importance than human beings, as in Orwell's Animal farm where different varieties of animal represented different people,
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Rather your approach resembles another quote from Orwell,
"All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome."
The course of action of the current Congress represents a complete failure to 'listen to the people' promised by conservatives generally, and tea partiers in particular.  You and your partisan colleagues on the right are NOT LISTENING, and you do NOT genuinely welcome constructive criticism or any input other than your own ideology from anyone.  So, please - spare me the empty platitudes; they only add insult to injury.

Cravaack's response to my contact continues:
The United States currently holds a national debt that is over $14 trillion and the President has requested that we borrow an additional $1.5 trillion. In order to maintain this extreme level of spending, the United States must borrow forty cents out of every dollar that we spend. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if the President’s budget is enacted, the total national deficit would be 90% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020. Most experts agree that this is not sustainable, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform established by President Obama.
Mr. Cravaack, you only present the facts which suit you.  President Obama has presented a much better budget, one which does not grossly disfavor the majority of citizens as your party's budget does.  Your budget cuts disfavor those people who you believe to be Democrats or democratic leaning, while grossly giving advantage in the form of tax cuts to the wealthy and other benefits to very few.  The net result is to shift the burden of taxation that should be shared by the wealthy and the corporations with the middle and less affluent classes almost entirely onto the shoulders of the latter. 

I repeat, Mr. Cravaack, (pay attention) we need to increase revenue income to solve our current problems, and the sources that are NOT contributing fairly are the wealthy and corporations.  If you REALLY were welcoming in put, you would acknowledge that an overwhelming majority of this country favors greater taxation of those individuals and corporations.  Here are a few examples, Mr. Cravaack:

Don't you believe that you should be listening to people, not corporations, Mr. Cravaack? Let me help you there as well:"
"A campaign to strip corporations of personhood would have a similar populist and popular appeal. A recent Quinnipiac poll reveals a whopping 79 percent public disapproval of the Court’s ruling. A Washington Post-ABC News poll puts the figure even higher at 81 percent. And as Dan Eggen of the Post writes, “The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).”

But win or lose, a campaign against corporate personhood would allow us to regain control of a narrative we lost in 1980 when Ronald Reagan declared in his Inaugural Address, “government is the problem” and initiated a process that has resulted in the greatest concentration of private wealth and power in American history.

People may not know exactly what Goldman Sachs is, but they know it is not a person. A person doesn’t have unlimited life or limited liability. A person is responsible for her decisions. If she makes a decision that kills or maims people she will go to jail. If a CEO makes such a decision she, at worst, receives a golden parachute.

Unlike a real person, a corporation lacks a conscience. It is guided neither by ethics nor morality but rather by laws that required its Boards to elevate the maximization of profits above all other concerns.

A real person is an independent actor, subject to many influences that affect how he votes. Warren Buffett, for example, thinks it is in his and society’s best interest for him to be required to pay more taxes. A corporation that made this decision could be taken to court by its stockholders."
You would be wise, Congressman Cravaack, to pay attention to the reaction among American citizens to the news that is front and center at the moment about how 2/3 of America's corporations do not pay a dime in taxes.  We are not happy.  Instead of relying on a spending-cuts-only solution, you should be addressing a major overhaul of the tax code so that while the base line percentage of taxation is lowered, that is made up for in closing loopholes which allow corporations to off-shore profits for tax purposes, and which discontinue incentives for corporations to out-source American jobs overseas.  THAT would be far more useful, along with ending the disastrous Bush tax cuts, than your current simple-minded course.

In his letter, Congressman Cravaack continues:
In an effort to prevent a government shutdown, the House recently passed H.R. 1, which would provide funding for the government through the remainder of FY 2011. This bill was over $100 billion less than the President’s budget for the rest of the year. I was very proud that the debate surrounding this legislation was the most transparent in recent memory. The House Majority allowed for an “open rule” that allowed any Member of the House to offer any germane amendment to the bill. Over 500 amendments were filed and the House ended up taking a vote on over 100 amendments in the course of over 90 hours of debate.
I agree that global humanitarian aid, funded through the international affairs budget, provides important resources to those in regions where civilian populations are the most vulnerable. However, the current economic climate of our country forces us to consider every budgetary item to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. I am committed to getting people back to work across the country. An important way to create jobs is through cutting the runaway government spending that is currently crowding out our job creators in the private sector.
H.R. 1 is only a first step in putting this nation back on the path towards fiscal responsibility. Any permanent solution to this issue must involve a comprehensive review of all federal spending. Congress is going to have to make many hard decisions and work toward balancing our budget just like every family in Minnesota.
In the coming months, I hope that Congress and the President can come together in a bipartisan manner to find solutions to this problem. Thank you again for contacting me and please feel free to stay in touch if you have further thoughts on this or any other issue. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Chip Cravaack
Member of Congress
Mr. Cravaack, I have no faith in you or the conservative majority.  You do not come together in a bipartisan manner, your conservative-dominated congress has NOT been transparent either.  Your majority in Congress has not created jobs, nor do you offer any suggestions or proposals other than those which have been proven in the past under other Republican administrations to be utter failures. 

I would suggest, Chip, that you remember the lessons of history, before you are doomed to repeat them.  The single phrase which most contributed to Bill Clinton winning office was this one "It's the economy, stupid."  We're not happy.  You're not listening, and you are making stupid mistakes.  Change that or we change who is sitting in your chair.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Three Mile Island, Happy Anniversary, Learning from History

This is particularly pertinent to revisit, in view of the events unfolding in Japan where the reactor partial meltdowns have been rated significantly worse than the accident at Three Mile Island.  I was struck by the similarity in the official messages to the public.

From the contemporary New York Times article :
Middletown, Pa., Thursday, March 29 -- An accident at a three-month-old nuclear power plant released above-normal levels of radiation into the central Pennsylvania countryside early yesterday.

By last night, officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had still not determined the full extent of the radiation danger, but they said the amount of radiation that escaped was no threat to people in the area. Major amounts were released into the building housing the reactor, but workers were not believed to have been endangered.
I was struck by the similarity in the assurances that no one was endangered by radiation from the vented steam.

There is an excellent article on wikipedia that summarizes the partial melt down:

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core nuclear meltdown in Unit 2 (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979.

The power plant was owned and operated by General Public Utilities and Metropolitan Edison (Met Ed). It was the most significant accident in the history of the USA commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, and less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerous iodine-131.[1]

The accident began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss-of-coolant accident due to inadequate training and human factors, such as human-computer interaction design oversights relating to ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant's user interface. In particular, a hidden indicator light led to an operator manually overriding the automatic emergency cooling system of the reactor because the operator mistakenly believed that there was too much coolant water present in the reactor and causing the steam pressure release.[2] The scope and complexity of the accident became clear over the course of five days, as employees of Met Ed, Pennsylvania state officials, and members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tried to understand the problem, communicate the situation to the press and local community, decide whether the accident required an emergency evacuation, and ultimately end the crisis. The NRC's authorization of the release of 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste water directly in the Susquehanna River led to a loss of credibility with the press and community.[2]

In the end, the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until much later, following extensive investigations by both a presidential commission and the NRC. The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that "there will either be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them. The same conclusion applies to the other possible health effects".[3] Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation releases from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, though these findings are contested by one team of researchers.[4]
Contrary to this conclusion cited in Wikipedia is this:
Three Mile Island Cancer "Extremely High" Leukemia rates were up by 600 to 700 percent.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A second look at a landmark study on the 1979 Three Mile Island radiation release has found that people near the nuclear reactor are suffering from extremely high rates of cancer.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scientific Breakthrough in Male Fertility: How Will This Be Received by the Women Haters of the Right Wing?

Scientists at Newcastle University have made
medical history by using stem cell research
to create human sperm. Pictured is a
microscope image of artificial sperm
photo courtesy of the mail online article, UK

I was intrigued to read about this, as I have an ongoing interest in theriogenology - the veterinary specialty relating to reproductive science.  But I couldn't help wondering how this new scientific potential will translate into public policy if the current conservatives maintain their ideology-driven anti-science strangle hold on funding, and restriction. 

I would predict that like the public funding of crudely styled 'boner pills' for treating erectile dysfunction, Viagra, Cialis, and so on, that this treatment for male infertility will receive at least some applause on the right in their rush to promote every possible occurrence of human reproduction - and male empowerment.  So, while the right has objections to in vitro fertilization and to nearly all forms of stem cell research, this should produce some difficult temptations for them to overcome any ethical prohibitions against it.  Male reproductive medicine appears to receive far greater sympathy on the right, and funding, than female reproductive needs; and any medical procedure or product which promotes reproduction seems to find support on the right, while any measure for female health, especially that enabling control of reproduction, including all forms of contraception, appear to generate opposition and hostility, not support and not funding.  They appear to embrace all possibilities for reproduction, while being oddly opposed to human sexuality in many of its more common and natural forms.

Woody Allen, as a spermatozoa in
"Everything You Always Wanted
to Know About Sex*
But Were Afraid to Ask"
 While this is not yet a technology that benefits humans, it is almost certainly only a matter of time.  There seems to be some disagreement over who grew sperm from testicular tissue first - the Japanese or the British; both claim 'firsts' - see below:
Sing along now - you know you want to!
(Newser)  – Japanese researchers have grown sperm in the laboratory for the first time, reports Nature. If the breakthrough with mice transfers to humans, it could open up IVF treatments for infertile men, notes the Guardian. Scientists created the sperm from the testicular tissue of mice and successfully produced a dozen baby mice with it.

The tissue worked even after being frozen, suggesting that men—or even boys too young to produce sperm—could freeze tissue for later use if they were undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that can cause infertility. "The report is quite exciting because it represents the fulfillment of a goal held by many reproductive biologists over many years," says an expert in the field at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Labor Laws, Frances Perkins, the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Fire - March 25th in Women's History Month!

I wrote this piece before I saw the STrib coverage, which included this:

"Perkins was appointed to the Factory Investigating Commission, convened in response to the Triangle fire, and the panel held hearings all over New York state before drafting 20 laws aimed at improving workplace safety. Some of the new laws required fire drills, set occupancy limits in buildings and required exit signs to be clearly posted."
With multiple states attempting to repeal or at least weaken child labor laws and all business regulation along with union busting, the Right continues their headlong efforts to regress history.  They're not just 'clock stoppers' they want to turn back time to the bad old days for the modern robber barons to whom they appear to have sold out their legislative agenda.

Examples include Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who wants to overturn the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which coincides with the term of Ms. Perkins as Labor Secretary under FDR.  As was noted:
"The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law in the 1941 United States v. Darby Lumber decision, overturning Hammer, on the basis of the constitutional authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It has hardly run into controversies since."
No controversies...until NOW.  Or in Missouri, state Senate bill 222.
" [294.021. No child under fourteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work at any occupation at any time; except as provided in this chapter.]."
And in Minnesota it was written as well as anything I could do  (from John Ferman - here):
About two weeks ago, TPTV ran an hour long documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in NYC in about 1911. Many workers were trapped on the upper floors and burned to death and many of those were 13, 14, 15 year old girls. There is now no one alive who can tell us what a worker's life was like in the days of the sweatshops - there are only books. In those times, a kid only needed an 8th grade education and the bulk of those kids went into the sweatshops. All of the State's Cities had sweatshops and most of them still stand, remodeled into eating and drinking spas - if one goes into any of the WarehouseDistrict buildings in the dead of night and you concentrate will you hear the moans and cries of the 12 year olds laboring through the
night. When Minnesota joins Missouri it will be as a return to the19th Century.

Thursday, March 24, 2011 - Pump it UP! Is Obama to Blame for $4 a Gallon at the Pumps? (NO!)

From my email inbasket today, from the nice people at the Annenberg Public Policy Center:

Is Obama to Blame for $4 Gasoline?Democrats, Republicans spin oil data in dispute over high gas prices.
March 24, 2011

Conflicting, false and misleading statements on oil production and gasoline prices have become the currency of politicians lately, as oil tops $100 per barrel and gasoline hovers near $4 per gallon. Among some of the claims that got our attention:

Top Republicans blame President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling for rising gasoline prices. The moratorium delayed drilling of some new wells, but did not affect the output of wells already in production. A projected drop in total domestic oil production this year should amount to six-tenths of 1 percent of all U.S. consumption of liquid fuels. A Wall Street oil analyst told us the moratorium has had "zero" effect on prices.

Obama said domestic oil production last year was its highest since 2003. That’s true — but U.S. oil production is projected to drop this year.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy said "under this administration our output has gone down 13 percent." McCarthy is wrong — U.S. oil production was up in 2009 and 2010, and is projected to decline only 2 percent this year.

Sarah Palin said Obama is "allowing America to remain increasingly dependent on imports" from unstable countries. But there has been a decline — not an increase — in total oil imports from Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as countries identified by the State Department as "dangerous or unstable," since Obama took office. (There's more - follow the link!)

Budgets & Bus Seats Slashed

As we contemplate all of the many and varied budget cuts being proposed by the GOP and Tea Party, who apparently are unable to grasp that an all-spending-cut budget isn't a proposal that produces good government, I came across this news story.  It prompted me to wonder how it is that we are going to provide the security to prevent this from happening again - given that there has been a chronic shortage of school bus drivers for the past several years, and that with schools closing and reorganizing, there will be less individual familiarity with students.  And of course, with fewer teachers, and fewer police, as the GOP and Tea Partiers, go after the public unions, there will be less safety as well as less quality of education generally in ALL areas of our schools.  So.......this is what we want to risk? Rather do that, than taxing those richer upper few percent of our population?  Seriously?

faceless person in a hoodie
Could you tell who they were,
or, if they were a pervert?
Our innocent kids, on our school buses.
(image -
It makes me have to ask, again, the question - Who is the real constituency of the right?  Clearly they worry more about the wallets of the wealthy than our children.  Because they are not budgeting the money we will need to prevent things like this from happening, again.   Think about this incident, among other concerns, the next time you hear a politician talking about allocating money, like gaming / gambling revenues to a Vikings stadium instead of to education and public safety.

From KSTP tv News on their web site:
Police: Man Boards School Bus & Performs Sex Act

A man in his 30's or 40's boarded a school bus along a Minneapolis Public Schools route Thursday morning, slashed several seats with a sharp object, and then performed a sex act while up to nine students were onboard, according to police.

No children were hurt and it's unclear how many realized what was happening.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Appl'ause for Apple Gay-Hate App Going, Gone!

If you signed this petition here - thank you, for a humanitarian act, one of the better aspects of the power of the blogosphere to contribute to the direction of current events.
Amazing! After more than 150,000 petition signatures from members and saturation media coverage, news outlets worldwide are reporting that Apple has pulled an iPhone application launched by Exodus International that claimed to help "cure" gay and lesbian people.
This is a huge, public victory against the dangerous myth that gay young people can and should be "turned straight" -- a falsehood that contributes to the plague of depression and suicide afflicting these kids and young adults. Our friends at Truth Wins Out, the organization that started the petition on, are absolutely thrilled.

Apple did the right thing because an incredible 151,125 members -- including you -- stood together to demand it. We spread the word on Facebook more than 55,000 times. And together we attracted the attention of media around the globe, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, and hundreds of newspapers and blogs.

It's simply amazing. Thank you for making this victory possible.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fox News Fakes It Again - Right Wing Propaganda Alert!

After reading this, I had to ask myself WHY?

Why would Fox News send someone all the way to Libya, giving them the potential for genuine, non-right-wing propaganda NEWS?  The answer that occurred to me would put their media in a proper perspective.  They don't want to promote NEWS, they want to promote an anti-Obama world view of disinformation and misinformation; accuracy or any pretense of reporting be damned!  Information is not the reason anyone in their 'right mind' would watch them.   Well - right mind maybe, sane mind......not so much.

If there is one purpose I hope to address by blogging, it is to prompt readers to question everything they see and hear and read, asking first and foremost the question "Is this true?"  I hope I encourage fact-checking - fact checking me, and every other source of information and opinion.

This is precisely the kind of thing that would play well to the right-winger audience, the same audience that follows Rush Limbaugh and the right wing talk radio media, and the right wing blogosphere.  This continues to promote division in our country, and extremisim in our politics.  We cannot find consensus or common ground unless and until we first find the facts from the fiction; Fox promotes a very calculated 'fiction' of propaganda and disinformation which results in greater partisan animosity.  I would hope that every time someone listens to the bloated fool, Rush Limbaugh, or turns on Fox News, or otherwise gets their information from a right wing media source with a bad track record for accuracy - or a right wing politician with a bad track record for accuracy, that they begin to stop, and reconsider doing so in favor of a better, more accurate source.  Not a left wing source, but ANY source which places a priority on facts - preferably seeking out a variety of such sources.

Genital Electric Shock to Pray Away the Gay? Update 2 to the App(le) of Evil

Rotten app-p-p-p-apple?
(photo from
Despite the misrepresentation and distortion of the legitimate research of  Dr. Gary Remafedi, U of MN professor of pediatrics, and the petition which had 130,000 signatures as of last check, Apple has been unresponsive on this issue. (If you haven't already signed, please consider doing so now.)

I was horrified to learn further disgusting, appalling things about Exodus International; I thought lying was bad enough, and practicing harmful homophobic pseudo-psychology, but NO - there's more.
"Considered harmful and damaging by mainstream scientific organizations, reparative therapy is a set of practices built around the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be fixed. Using that as a starting point, reparative therapists use masturbatory reconditioning; social skills training; prayer groups and even aversive treatments, such as the application of electric shock to the genitals, in an attempt to turn gay men and women straight. (my emphasis added - DG)

While these shocking practices aren't, as far as I can tell, recommended on the app itself, they are supported by the organization behind it. By allowing this product into the iTunes Store, Apple is sending mixed signals."
Seriously - is this the kind of group Apple wants to give a platform - a platform which provides FREE downloads, mislabeled as safe for children?  Could anyone promote something which exemplified a more offensive promotion of cruelty and self-hatred than this organization's approach to human sexuality?

Lets hope Apple responds sooner than later, because this is only becoming more rotten with time. 
apple time
(photo :

Tic tock tick tock tick tock..........Zzzzzzzzzzzzzt Zap!

Electrical shock
(photo: flickr)

Apple - are THESE the people, the extremists with views about sexuality out of the worst of the 19th century, the repressive Victorian era, with whom you wish to do business?  That's not really the technology forward 21st century association you seem to want to cultivate.

Reconsider.  Reconsider quickly, before more harm is done.

Monday, March 21, 2011

UPDATE to the Apple Bit

There is a product called bitter apple used by some people to persuade their dogs not to chew on the wrong things.

I hope that Apple, with their iconic logo with the bite out of the apple will re-orient to the lesson of the bitter apple product, teaching them to be careful what they select to chew on. 

In this case, their choice has come back to bite them in the behind.

On the Monday, March 21st edition of ABC;s 'the View', there was an outcry against this app.
And in the Star Tribune from the same date, there is an article by Paul Walsh:
A University of Minnesota professor is demanding that Apple remove from its online store a smart phone app that he contends distorts his research as supporting the argument that homosexuality is a behavior that can be changed.

Dr. Gary Remafedi, director of the Youth and AIDS Projects and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, sent a letter Monday to Apple founder Steven Jobs and its interim CEO, Tim Cook, about the Exodus International app.
In his letter to Apple's top executives, Remafedi wrote that the app "erroneously cites my research in support of claims that homosexuality can be changed. ... Associating my work with that of the ex-gay ministry and other unfounded treatments is professionally injurious and grievous."

Remafedi, in a telephone interview Monday afternoon, said Exodus' app falsely cites his research as saying the young people are "confused" about their sexual orientation. He said he has challenged many misrepresentations of his work over the years and has had "100 percent" success in doing so.

The professor said that an Apple administrator sent him an e-mail in response to his letter. "They said they are on it," Remafedi said. "I am simply pointing out a problem. I'm sure they will do the right thing." (my emphasis added - DG)
Science is NOT on the side of the homophobes.  Truth is not on their side either, which is why they incorporate such dishonesty into their message, along with their false facts to try to justify their outdated, antiquated, and just plain WRONG right wing notions.

Join the petition, add your name, to help persuade Apple to spit this app out into the trash where it belongs.  And lets hope that Apple rethinks their support for homophobia in the future - and that this will be a wake up call for Exodus International that their homophobic hate message is discredited and false, and should be abandoned.

Eve and Evil, with Apple in the middle?

Apple, BITE this: shame on Apple Apps, a Public Service Announcement & Petition

(photo from
Unless Apple is eager to feature 'apps' for things like do-it-yourself in-home appendectomies, they have no business promoting heavily repudiated do-it-yourself psychology that could do a very different but equivalent harm to users. 

Don't take my word for it; take the word of the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association - along with every legitimate, serious, science-based (not fundamentalist un-scientific religion based) equivalent organization.

I hope our Penigma readers will seriously consider following the link to this petition, and signing it.  Stand up and push back against ignorance and intolerance on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.  This App is hateful, it is wrong, it is bad, and it should go away.

Exodus International is a heinous group that has been rocked by scandals  like this one which should reasonably discredit them in the eyes of Apple, if they bothered to do even the most minimal research.  They are not a credible organization deserving of a business relationship with Apple.

No one can genuinely 'pray away the gay'; the claims made by this and other groups are specious.  Sexual orientation is a personal matter deserving of respect.  Sadly, groups which seek to stigmatize orientation promote dishonesty, including false accusations of pedophilia, promoting made up statistics which have no basis in reality but which are embraced by those who operate solely on ideology.

Tell Apple to remove a dangerous "ex-gay" app from iTunes

"Curing" gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people? Yep, there’s an app for that -- unless we can convince Apple to get rid of it.

A controversy is erupting around a new application for the iPhone that claims gay people can be "cured," and that gay kids should be put through therapy to "fix" their sexual orientation.

Believe it or not, Apple is providing Exodus International -- an organization that promotes "conversion therapy" to try to brainwash gay people into turning straight -- a platform on iTunes for their homophobic iPhone app. This, despite the fact that Exodus believes that LGBT people should be confronted with "spiritual warfare," and that "freedom from homosexuality" should be a societal goal.

Worse, Apple has given the Exodus app a 4+ rating on iTunes, labeling the app "non-offensive," even though the group tells gay kids that their sexual orientation is "immoral," "satanic," and in need of a cure -- factors that contribute to teen suicide.

The grassroots group Truth Wins Out has started a petition on, asking Apple to follow their own editorial standards -- and remove this dangerous "ex-gay" app from iTunes now. The more signatures they deliver, the more likely Apple executives -- like Steve Jobs -- will do the right thing. Click here to add your name.

Apple has been a strong ally to the LGBT community for years, even donating $100,000 to defeat California’s Proposition 8, the state’s ban on marriage equality. Just a few months ago, Apple actually removed another app from iTunes that labeled same-sex couples "immoral sexual partnerships" following pressure from members and others.

Exodus International’s "ex-gay" app deserves to be pulled from iTunes as well. "Conversion therapy" has been universally condemned by every major medical and scientific organization around the world. The American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and American Counseling Association have all rejected "ex-gay" therapy, saying that it results in catastrophic damage to the mental health of its victims. (my emphasis added - DG)

Please click here to sign the petition to Apple executives, asking them to stand up for equality and remove this dangerous iPhone app from iTunes now:

Thanks for joining us -- and sharing this petition with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. With your support, we know Apple will do the right thing.

- Eden and the team

P.S. We’ve got some wonderful news. Last week, more than 50,000 members signed an urgent petition in support of Nikki Peet -- the high school senior who courageously fought for a Gay-Straight Alliance group at her Corpus Christi, Texas, school -- and won! Under national and community pressure, Nikki’s school board voted to allow her group to establish a safe space for LGBT kids and their allies. On behalf of Nikki, thank you for taking a stand for kids and equality.

Sign the petition; push back against ignorance and intolerance.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Red State, Blue State, Crime and Prison - How Do They Compare? Part 1

Yesterday's fact checking led me to inquire how red states stack up in comparison to blue states, as a reflection of their political ideologies reflected in statistics.  This should provide us a glimpse into what we can look forward to here, if the Republican legislature succeeds in pushing through their agenda.

Conservatives claim they want less government (usually while intruding their version of government even more deeply, not less, into peoples' private lives).  What they fail to acknowledge in their simplistic assumption that their idea of less government is somehow better, is to provide a way to evaluate if that is true or if their measures are successful.  If we look at the nations which really ARE number 1 among the industrialized nations of the world, the nations with which we should be compared, ALL of them are more socialized than we are, while remaining every bit as free, and every bit as governed by law and elected representative government. 

The proper question to ask in evaluating government is does it work to benefit the country of the governed, and effectively and in a cost-effective manner achieve the goals we choose by  consensus?  THAT, not ideology, should be the determining criteria for what is and is not appropriate activities for government.

An example, instead of imposing the beliefs of a narrow religious minority of fundamentalists on people in areas like abstinence only sex ed, the better question is "what works most effectively to promote the lowest possible levels of unwanted teenage pregnancies and the lowest possible levels of sexually transmitted diseases" and then DOING THOSE THINGS as our public health and education policy, regardless of stupid biases by the right about ideology or whether that education is 'Christian enough' or does it track with the writing of the founding fathers reflecting 18th century ideas in the 21st century.  To govern by ideology, not rationality, not pragmatism, not objective measurement of goals by consensus is insane, and it is stupid.

I looked at the issue of crime and incarceration statistics from the premise that conservatives tend ideologically more to take the approach of criminalizing and penalizing problems in an attempt to reduce them, rather than the more liberal approach of seeking out the causes of problems, and correcting those which government and society can affect or change for the better by legislation and public policy choices.

An example of this political divergence in looking at our problems with education would be the right attacking teachers, while the left and center look at issues like the correlation between poverty and poor educational performance, particularly aid to funding lunch programs for students in K-12, based on the correlation between nutrition.  The Right wants to cut so far as possible all such assistance, claiming it is socialism and welfare, and therefore BAD.

In the area of crime, I think it can be argued that there is a greater desire on the right to lock people up, and in some states, to execute people, as a way of dealing with crime, and also a greater willingness to criminalize problems.  Lets look at the number of people in jails and prisons, which is important, because we have the highest rate of putting people behind bars of any country in the world.  Per good ol' wikipedia:
"Though home to a little less than 5% of the world’s population, the US holds 25% of the world’s prisoners.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The U.S. incarceration rate on June 30, 2009 was 748 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, or 0.75%.The USA also has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 7,225,800 people at year end 2009 were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population, or 1 in every 32 adults.
Not exactly something where we want to scream "We're Number One! We're Number One!"  This is a very important subject for a country where the right likes to throw out the word "Freedoms", like beads off a float in a Mardi Gras parade in 'the Big Easy'.
Lets use this map  from wikipedia to show red and blue, and purple states:

Summary of results of the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections:

States carried by the Republican in all four elections
States carried by the Republican in three of the four elections
States carried by each party twice in the four elections
States carried by the Democrat in three of the four elections
States carried by the Democrat in all four elections
 In contrast to states by politics, I looked at a similar map (sorry, I couldn't reproduce it here) from page 7 of the 2009  Pew Report who got their figures from:
SOURCE: Calculation includes offenders in state and federal jail, prison and community supervision and is based on data from the U.S. Census State Population Estimates, the Bureau of Justice Statistics Correctional Surveys available at, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Administrative O€ce of U.S. Courts and the Pew Public Safety Performance Project.
The ten states with the highest percentage of people incarcerated, as of 2007,
 and D.C.(compared to 1 in 31, the national average):
Georgia - 1 in 13                                 Delaware - 1 in 26
Idaho - 1 in 18                                     Indiana - 1 in 26
District of Columbia - 1 in 21             Louisiana - 1 in 26
Texas - 1 in 22                                    Minnesota - 1 in 26
Massachusetts - 1 in 24                     Rhode Island - 1 in 26
Ohio - 1 in 25
Six are red states, including the top 3, 1 is a purple state, and only 3 are blue states. states high in violent crime by red state / blue state, the top ten with the highest rates of violent crime are:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Libya (myth busting)

Many of my conservative friends like to claim that anyone to the left of Jesse Helms doesn't understand the reality that "the world can be a tough and ugly place." They seem to want to channel Col. Nathan Jessup (a fictional zealot who has one of his troops beaten, inadvertently causing his death) while claiming to stand-up for liberty and a willingness to pay "that price" so that all of the rest of the "soft" masses can sleep easily at night. A task for which we are to thank him and be on our way.

Of course, just as in the movie, where the irony of Jessup's conduct counter-balances his sacrifice in that he needlessly brutalized his troops (denying them the liberty he professes to cherish) in a very selfish and self-serving way, the reality in life is that such prices are sometimes warranted, sometimes needed, and it's hardly the case that recognizing such is the sole province of the "ready, shoot, aim" crowd (e.g. the ultra-conservative, xenophobic and ethnocentric violence lovers on the far right).

Libya was, under George W. (Dubbya) Bush, declared a "friendly" Arab/Muslim nation. One which had changed it's "evil" ways, abandoning (supposedly) weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and Libya AFTER being declared "not so bad" by Bush, was found to have been trying to buy Uranium Hexaflouride (U-Hex) from North Korea - something the Bush crowd attempted to ballywhoo as justifying their animosity toward North Korea UNTIL it became known that the U-Hex was tran-shipped through Pakistan (with Pakistani governmental assistance) and was being shipped through (you guessed it), Dubia - including being handled by Dubai Ports World (the company to which Bush wanted to turn over security control of the majority of the US' major ports). Irony indeed.

Now, we find out that ole' Moamar Qadhaffi isn't perhaps the changed man he was proclaimed to be. We find out that he's killing his citizens while proclaiming they love him. Apparently the only good and loyal Libyan rebel is a dead Libyan rebel in Qadhaffi's eyes.. and of course, the UN and the US are seeking to prevent genocide in this civil war. So here's the thing, Qaddafi was a problem under Bush - this action certainly could have been taken after 9/11 - rather than invading Iraq. Qadhaffi (like Hussien) sponsored Hamas in Lebanon. He has killed his own citizens - but apparently if you're a cooperative "little Muslim" all's well - especially if you make oil available. But in truth, "realpolitik" is a poor approach to the world - he's a thug, has been for decades, and it's damned well time for him to go. Having an army so that you can invade a country to take it's oil (as was done in Iraq - make NO mistake) is a crap-poor reason to have an army. Having an army to stop genocide, like we did in Bosnia (and the right bitched about without stopping during a time of war), is exactly why you have an army, it's the noble and right(eous) thing to do - I support it wholeheartedly, and I don't need to ask you to be grateful - it is one of the best things about America that we have the will and strength to act when others won't. Sometimes violence is the last act of diplomacy and sometimes it's necessary. This is one of those times.

A Small Wisconsin Victory Over the Union Busting Legislation

Per the Star Tribune a few minutes ago - excerpts from an AP story by Jason Smathers:
Wisconsin judge temporarily blocks implementation of law curtailing public worker union rights

MADISON, Wis. - A Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the state's new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect, a measure that drew tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol and sent some Democrats fleeing to Illinois in an tempt to block a vote on it.
The judge's order is a major setback for Walker and puts the future of the law in question.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order, which was requested by that county's District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat. Ozanne filed a lawsuit contending that a legislative committee that broke a stalemate that had kept the law in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin's open meetings law. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure and Gov. Scott Walker signed it last week.
Secretary of State Doug La Follette planned to publish the law on Mach 25, but the judge's order will prevent that from happening, at least for now.
 Lawmakers are not scheduled to be in session again until April 5.
People opposed to the law converged on the state Capitol over the past month with massive demonstrations that went on for days on end.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Tax the Rich or Corporations! GOP Regressive Taxation

First read this, from earlier, from
Early this month, Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights appeared on C-SPAN’s "Washington Journal," public affairs television program where viewers phoned in to ask her questions.
A caller who identified himself as James, an Akron small-business owner, discussed some of the tax write-offs he uses as a small businessman, and said larger businesses "game the system" by writing off things like parties, food and clothes.

Fudge agreed with him, calling for an overhaul of corporate tax policy, saying: "There are corporations in this nation, some of the biggest corporations in this nation, who do not pay taxes."
Then read this, from this afternoon online STrib article:
The high-octane political fight over taxes at the Capitol got a new source of fuel Wednesday: a statewide study that finds lower- and middle-income households are hit hardest by Minnesota's tax system.

"Minnesota's tax system is more regressive than it was a decade ago," acting Revenue Commissioner Dan Salomone said Wednesday. "Despite a slight improvement over the last study, the system remains notably more regressive than the historical average since 1991."
How much more clearly do we need to connect the dots that our conservatives want a bad, regressive, unfair tax policies, which benefit the rich and which benefit big corporations - in other words, their donors, not citizens of this state or this country, including not the small business owners?

Fact Checking Mitch Berg and Conservative Notions of Superiority

My friend and sometimes mentor Mitch Berg wrote something today on his blog that I could not let go unaddressed without a good fact check - something regarding which his blog is consistently lax.

Here is the link to the immodestly, but hilariously titled post:
"We Are Better Than You In Every Meaningful Way",  By Mitch Berg
Empirical research has proven in recent years that people who favor smaller government, by whatever label – conservatives, Tea Partiers, whatever – are smarter, better-informed, better-educated and more generally successful at life, are generally happier, more generous, and are even better in bed than big-government people by whatever label (liberal, “progressive’, yadda yadda).
and then he goes on to assert that conservatives are also less racist.

For the smarter, better informed, he linked to a conservatively biased web site that used a single poll of only three questions, while pretty much ignoring all the evidence to the contrary, like this much larger, more complex study.

For the happier and more successful, he used this New York Times article.  The problems with his assumptions come when you read it, including this sentence which directly refutes his assertions about racism:
The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people. (my emphasis - DG)
And yet polls of most American citizens - regardless of their race - indicate they still believe racism, discrimination against blacks continues, suggesting tea partiers and Republicans are in active denial of the realities of race in the United States:
PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent USA Today/Gallup poll finds most Americans saying racism is widespread against blacks in the United States. This includes a slim majority of whites (51%), a slightly higher 59% of Hispanics, and the vast majority of blacks (78%).
The science tends to back up the perceptions of most of us that racism directed against african americans is continuing, but then the conservatives seem to be at best selective in the science they embrace, at worst they seem anti-science / science deniers:

Corporate Taxation, and Congress - gets Green for St. Patrick's Day

Thanks to in Ohio for this one, and the journalists at and the Plain Dealer .

"There are corporations in this nation, some of the biggest corporations in this nation, who do not pay taxes."

Marcia Fudge on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 in an interview on C-SPAN

Rep. Marcia Fudge says some of the largest corporations pay no taxes

Early this month, Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights appeared on C-SPAN’s "Washington Journal," public affairs television program where viewers phoned in to ask her questions.

A caller who identified himself as James, an Akron small-business owner, discussed some of the tax write-offs he uses as a small businessman, and said larger businesses "game the system" by writing off things like parties, food and clothes.

Fudge agreed with him, calling for an overhaul of corporate tax policy, saying: "There are corporations in this nation, some of the biggest corporations in this nation, who do not pay taxes."

"It is not that they are cheating," Fudge continued. "It is not that they are doing something wrong. We have given them tools." (my emphasis - DG)

We thought examining Fudge’s tax claim would be worthwhile, since representatives of some of the nation’s biggest companies, such as Cincinnati’s Procter & Gamble, argue that Congress should be cutting business taxes.

A St. Patrick's Day Quiz, by way of a little celebratory fact checking of the holiday

Take our St. Patrick’s Day quiz, courtesy of the Philly News

By Peter Mucha Inquirer Staff Writer

Which of the following statements are true?

1. St. Patrick wasn't born in Ireland, and first set foot there as an abducted slave.

2. St. Patrick's real birth name was Seamus Flanigan.

3. March 17 is the day St. Patrick supposedly died.

4. Ireland never had any snakes for St. Patrick to drive out.

5. The first St. Patrick's Day parade was celebrated by Irish soldiers in Boston in 1762.

6. Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle is supposed to confer the gift of gab.

7. The area best known for the confections called Irish potatoes is the Philadelphia area.

8. A shillelagh is a long-stemmed pipe.

9. Irish poet W.B. Yeats said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

10. Scientists using slow-motion video have proven that bubbles can flow downward in a glass of Guinness.

11. "Erin go Bragh" is the name of Ireland's version of Victoria's Secret.

12. Irish whiskey is the ingredient that supposedly helps cream float on Irish coffee.

13. "Skirts and Kidneys" is the name of a popular Dublin casino.

14. Notre Dame's nickname, the Fighting Irish, goes back to Irish soldiers in the Civil War.

15. Qantas is the Irish airline.

and here is the link to the answers

 If you enjoyed that one, I offer this as a shorter, but more serious quiz with which to finish!
the only Irish Snakes
are those found
in Celtic Knotwork!

Can You Find It, Can You Name It?


This is more than challenging - it's humiliating for most of us.
I hesitate to call it fun, but actually it was.
No wonder we don't understand what's going on over there!
Drag the country's name onto the map.
There is no score or time limit. This is a learning tool.
Don't be afraid to make an error, try again [and again, if need be!]
and once you have finished the puzzle you will know far more
about the geography of this very intense part of our world.
Click HERE to play

(Thanks to my friend Sara for sharing this with me - and now I share it with you.  Should I mention - I miss PBS's 'Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego?")

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Governor Walker - This One Is For You

A thank you again to the brilliant political cartoonist, Ed Stein, by way of Yahoo Comics, for this insight into the politics taking place across the border, for his reflection on the history of labor in this country, much of what we take for granted originated in Wisconsin. 

Can you spell O-V-E-R-R-E-A-C-H, Governor Walker? 

In the words of the late great educator on Public Television (and Presbyterian Minister), Mr. Fred Rogers, "I knew that you could."  I can only imagine that Mr. Rogers is rotating in his grave at an all time high speed...

Rep. King - This Is For You, and Your Hearings

Thanks to editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent, by way of Yahoo Comics for this all too apt rendering of the recent hearings where Rep. King rode roughshod over our fundamental values and the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

You have made us less safe, Congressman King, not more safe, by alienating Muslim Americans. 

You have made all of us less free Congressman King, by making them the target of your McCarthy-esque witch hunt.  When one group becomes less free, we are all less free whether we are the immediate targets of government persecution, or not.

You have made us less respected and less respectable domestically and internationally by your disgraceful and unrepentant arrogance, Congressman King.

Are you ashamed yet of your hearings, Congressman?  You should be.  We are ashamed of you, and we are certainly shamed by you.


Happy St. Urho's Day

Why?  Because we have a large Finnish American population in this state...and because most of those who will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day on Thursday are not necessarily Irish either.  But most of all, because it is simply fun, I offer our Penigma readers this, from

Saint Urho Welcomes You!

St. Urho is said to have chased the grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the grape crop.

The legend of St. Urho originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950s. However, there are differing opinions as to whether it began with the fables created by Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji, or the tongue-in-cheek tales told by Richard Mattson of Virginia. Either way, the legend has grown among North Americans of Finnish descent to the point where St. Urho is known and celebrated across the United States and Canada, and even in Finland.

St. Urho's Day is celebrated on March 16th, the day prior to the better known feast of some minor saint from Ireland, who was alleged to have driven the snakes from that island.

The legend of St. Urho says he chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen" (roughly translated: "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!"). His feast is celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green. St. Urho is nearly always represented with grapes and grasshoppers as part of the picture.
So enjoy a glass of grape juice or a glass of wine, in preparation for tomorrow's green beer or Irish whiskey, and have a good chuckle.  We have plenty of ersatz holidays in the U.S.; this is as legitimate as many of those - and yes, there are greeting cards for the occasion, if you know where to look for them!  (or, if you have even the most basic grasp of a search engine)

We can't be serious ALL the time!

from Zetetos - Culture War Legislation Continues

cross-posted from Zetetos:
The anti-choice politicians running the U.S. House of Representatives are out of control - they've declared a War on Women.

They are working to end insurance coverage for abortion and make it as difficult as possible for any woman to access this care - even if it is necessary to save her life.
H.R.3 is one of two bills where anti-choice politicians tried to redefine rape. Thanks to massive public outcry, our opponents backed down on that front. But even without a rape-related provision, these two bills could change women's access to abortion forever.

H.R.358 would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care, even when necessary to save a woman's life.

Getting Screwed, with Real Screws!

I would call our readers' attention to one of the blogs listed on our blog roll, an EXCELLENT site for those who are interested in the U.S. economy, in politics, and in issues like unemployment and deficits.  That site is the Alliance for American Manufacturing.  Read it; read it regularly. They have an excellent article on currency manipulation which is pertinent with the G20 meetings coming up soon:
"But what exactly is this currency manipulation problem?

Starting in 1994, China began to explicitly peg its currency, the yuan, to the dollar at a set, low rate. No matter if the dollar rises or falls, the Yuan remains in place with the dollar. And since the Chinese economy has been growing faster than the U.S. economy, the result is that the yuan has remained significantly undervalued. This makes China’s exports to the U.S. relatively cheaper than they should be and also makes U.S. exports to China more expensive.

The main consequence is that a flood of artificially cheap Chinese imports has driven many domestic U.S. manufacturers out of business. In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China has risen from $30 billion in 1994 to as high as $268 billion in 2008. China's policy of currency manipulation is intentional, and has helped it become the world's leading exporter.

But along the way, it has also earned the ire of the EU, Japan, and the WTO for continuing what is essentially an illegal practice. As long as China's currency remains significantly undervalued, Beijing will continue to enjoy sizeable exporting benefits. Unfortunately, the repercussions of this are a growing distortion in world markets."
In other words, we in the U.S. are having to compete with China on a tilted playing field rather than a level, fair playing field. Our manufacturers have to compete under an unfair handicap of currency valuations. We have had growth in manufacturing, but we should have had more growth for the effort:
The U.S. had the sharpest increase in manufacturing productivity — output per hour of work — in 2009 of the 19 industrialized economies for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps data: 7.7%
We are having to struggle with our hands tied, in effect - because of REPUBLICANS.

Currency manipulation and our trade deficit is as important to our economy as our budget deficits; in terms of recovery for our economy, more so.
Campbell Fittings, a maker of precision screws and couplings used by petrochemical, mining, and construction companies, is nothing if not efficient. A typical employee in its factory in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, supervises two machines that each stamp out a new screw every 12 seconds. Yet its Chinese competitors sell nearly identical screws in the US for at least 40 percent less—well below what Campbell pays for raw materials. It's no secret why: For years, the Chinese government has kept the yuan trading at 40 percent below its true market value, making its exports that much cheaper. "I can fight companies," says Joe McGlynn, Campbell Fittings' vice president. "I can't fight countries."