Wednesday, October 31

Romney fakes storm relief event

From the Atlantic Wire:
"Mitt Romney was really concerned that his 'Storm Relief Event' in Kettering, Ohio yesterday would look like a dud, so he and his team stocked their donation tables with $5,000 worth of supplies at Walmart. The props, according to Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins, were things like granola bars, canned food, and diapers which were strategically placed to make sure that the photographs taken at Romney's 'Storm Relief' campaign didn't a show very un-busy, un-stocked relief table (what else do you expect when you give people short notice to donate their canned goods?)."
This sort of disingenuous gesture reminds me of something his running-mate did a few weeks ago.

A $5,000 Shopping Run to Walmart Turned Romney's Campaign Stop into a 'Relief Event' (The Atlantic Wire)

Tuesday, October 30

The Most Anti-Science Candidates in America

Mother Jones has compiled a list of the nine most anti-science candidates currently running for U.S. House and Senate seats. A few highlights:
  • Paul Broun, Republican candidate for US Representative of Georgia's 10th congressional district (incumbent): "...all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang Theory—all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." 
  • Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for US Senate in Indiana: "He calls climate change 'the greatest hoax of all time' and says basing energy policy off of it 'is a threat to our national security.' At a news conference last week, he also told reporters, 'I believe God controls the universe…I don't believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion.'"
  • Todd Akin, Republican candidate running for US Senate in Missouri: He "...has an unusual perspective on climate change. 'In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that's a good climate change,' he said in 2009. 'I don't want to stop that climate change you know.' Despite confusing the change of seasons in Missouri with global climate change, Akin serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with Broun."
Somewhat surprisingly to me, not all of the anti-science candidates listed in the article are Republicans.

The 9 Most Anti-Science Candidates in America (Mother Jones)

Censorship, embraced in the Academy?

The American university is not a place where one can expect respect for free expression.

Greg Lukianoff's new book "Unlearning Liberty" is not a feel-good opus. In fact, it ought to leave us feeling very concerned about the attitudes being taught in universities across America. Why? Greg offers a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "the philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow." Greg presents a disturbingly persuasive case that the philosophy of the American classroom today is intolerant of dissent and accepting of all sorts of censorship.

Quick review with related links of plenty of examples.

Monday, October 29

New research shows economy healthier under Democratic presidents

From Bob Deitrick and Lew Godlfarb's new book, "Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box":
  • Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year)
  • Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end)
  • Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents
  • The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations
Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat! (Forbes)

Sunday, October 28

"Fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious."

Excerpted from “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.
"Assholes largely share a thick sense of moral entitlement. Just as hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, late 19th and early 20th century businessmen like Cecil Rhodes, Albert Beveridge and John D. Rockefeller all felt a need to invoke entitlement on a cosmic scale, in effect sensing that something might be majorly amiss. In stark contrast with the grandiose reasoning of the era of colonialism, the asshole in more recent modern life often requires little or no pretext of larger cause for the special privileges he feels entitled to enjoy. He will usually have some sort of rationalization ready at hand — he is not the psychopath who rejects moral concepts altogether — but the rationalizations are becoming ever thinner, ever more difficult to identify. This newer, purer style of asshole often just presumes he should enjoy special privileges in social life as a matter of course and so requires little by way of reason for taking them as the opportunity arises."
"...on philosophical grounds, however, this view [that in a capitalist society, a free market, people get what they deserve] is exceedingly hard to defend. That is true according to none other than the archconservative twentieth-century apologist for capitalism, F. A. Hayek. He writes:
" 'There is little a man can do to alter the fact that his special talents are very common or exceedingly rare. A good mind or a fine voice, a beautiful face or a skilful hand, a ready wit or an attractive personality are in a large measure as independent of a person’s efforts as the opportunities or the experiences he has had. In all these instances the value which a person’s capacities or services have for us and for which he is recompensed has little relation to anything that we can call moral merit or 'deserts.' '
"The billionaire investor and oracular philosopher Warren Buffett echoes the point:
" 'My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.'
"In other words, ideas of deserts just don’t justify the going rate of rewards."
How Fox News created a new culture of idiots (Salon)

Obama On Paul Ryan’s Hero: Ayn Rand Is Something You Pick Up When You’re "17 or 18 and Feeling Misunderstood"

I love this, and I'm so glad that Obama had the stones to say it:
"Q: What do you think Paul Ryan’s obsession with her work would mean if he were vice president?
"Obama: Well, you’d have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else …  that’s a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a 'you’re on your own' society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party."
I suppose I run the risk of being labeled an intellectual snob when I say this, but I just can't help myself: If you still hold on to Rand's philosophy as you progress into your 20s and 30s, you have a serious disconnect from the rest of the world, and might need to be treated for your blinding narcissism.

Link to original post, in The Daily Dolt.

Saturday, October 27

Debunking Romney's ad claiming Obama went on an 'apology tour'

[The ad] selectively edited Romney’s statements — much as both campaigns have done with their opponent’s words. (A Romney spokesman declined to comment on why the excisions were made.)
Here are the relevant quotes, with the words that have been removed in bold type:
And then  the president began  what I’ve called  an apology tour of going to various nations  in the Middle East  and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.” 
Mr. President , the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And,  by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region.  But you went to the other nations. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive.  You said that  on occasion  America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”
Pretty clever, right? The net effect is to suggest Obama made those supposed apologies to Arabs, without actually saying so, because that would be incorrect. But even careful editing still does not fix the basic problem in the first place — there was no apology tour.
Romney doubling down on debate misstatements (Washington Post)

Wednesday, October 24

Saudi Arabia, the world's second-largest producer of oil, is focusing its resources on renewable energy, while back in the U.S., fossil fuels dictate energy policy

Enjoying the policy contrast, everyone?
"The Saudi government targets 41,000 megawatts of solar capacity within two decades. That would save as much as 523,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent, according to Ka-Care.
"That target is 'not just a short-term measure to meet energy demand,' said Amin of the Irena industry group.
"'It’s a strategic approach through which Saudis are slowly beginning to compensate for internal consumption and to develop the possibility that they can become exporters of renewable energy, particularly solar,' he said. 'It’s at the beginning point, but it’s happening.'"
Mecca Seeks to Lead Saudi Arabia’s Solar Energy Expansion

The crazy, Tea Party-fueled fight against evolution and science in school textbooks

"The Revisionaries", a new shoestring-budget independent film focuses on the battle between science and young-earth creationists over Texas school curriculum.
"As a Tea Party zealot, fundamentalist Christian, young-Earth Creationist and, for a while, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, [Don] McLeroy became nationally notorious for his efforts to undermine scientific education and sneak covert religion into textbooks. One of the great things about Scott Thurman’s film — a low-budget but thoroughly watchable documentary, largely funded on Kickstarter – is that it helped me see the world from McLeroy’s point of view, which I might previously have considered impossible. He feels almost painfully oppressed by arrogant experts with fancy university degrees who insist on a difference between scientific evidence and faith-based personal opinion, and he genuinely believes that the half-baked, cherry-picked 'weaknesses' in evolutionary theory expose the ideological underpinnings of modern science."
"The Revisionaries": Texas schoolbook battle — crazier than you thought! (Salon)

War, Made Permanent

The kill list will outlast this administration.

Monday, October 22

Congressional Research Service finds no correlation between a low top marginal tax rate and economic growth

In short, evidence points to the conclusion that trickle-down economics is a myth.
"The top income tax rates have changed considerably since the end of World War II. Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The average tax rate faced by the top 0.01% of taxpayers was above 40% until the mid-1980s; today it is below 25%. Tax rates affecting taxpayers at the top of the income distribution are currently at their lowest levels since the end of the second World War. 
"The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie."
Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945 by Thomas L. Hungerford

Friday, October 19

GOP contractor arrested for destruction of voter registration applications

"A 31-year-old man working for the Virginia Republican party was arrested on Thursday after he was caught throwing out voter registration forms, Richmond, Va., the Rockingham County sheriff's office confirmed to CBS News.  
"The man, Colin Small, faces 13 felony and misdemeanor counts relating to voter fraud, including one count of obstruction of justice, four counts of destruction of voter registration applications and eight counts of disclosure of voter registration applications."
CBS News Link

Thursday, October 18

68 Nobel Prize-Winning Scientists Endorse President Obama’s Science Policies

"President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America, has delivered on his promise to renew our faith in science-based decision making and has championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy. He has built strong programs to educate young Americans in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and programs to provide Americans the training they need to keep pace with a technology-driven economy. 
"His opponent supports a budget that, if implemented, would devastate a long tradition of support for public research and investment in science at a time when this country's future depends, as never before, on innovation. He has also taken positions that privilege ideology over clear scientific evidence on climate change."
Article & Letter

Wednesday, October 17

If you are a business person, if you truly understand the laws of supply and demand, you cannot in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney.

The facts: 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) comes from consumer spending. Around 80% of U.S. households make under $100,000 per year. This is the middle (and "working") class. All the credible analyses of Romney’s tax plan indicate that it will take purchasing power away from the middle class and below (see link).

If you take purchasing power away from the middle class, you drag down the largest part of the economy…END OF STORY!

Please don’t call yourself a capitalist if you don’t believe in GDP growth.

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform (Brookings)

Tuesday, October 16

Without permission, Paul Ryan shows up to manufacture a photo-op washing dishes at an Ohio soup kitchen

Perhaps one of the most blatant examples of the disingenuousness of the Romney/Ryan campaign. Do the middle and working classes really believe that these guys are looking out for them?

Monday, October 15

Women are ‘too emotional, too diabolical’ to vote, says Mississippi tea party leader

Janis Lane, president of the Central Mississippi Tea Party:
"Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I don’t see that in men."
I'll just let this one speak for itself.

Friday, October 12

Woman at VP debate calls Obama a Communist, Chris Matthews calls out her stupidity (video)

A woman at yesterday's Vice-Presidential debate called Obama a communist. When reporter Chris Matthews confronted her on the statement, she couldn't explain what a communist is. 

Transcript of the video:
Matthews: Who said communist down here?  What did you mean by that?
Woman: Well, all you have to do is study it out.  Just study it out and you'll see.  You haven't done your homework, buddy.
Matthews: And what do I need to study?
Woman: Go to somebody else.  He's a communist and those of us who are not voting for him know it.
Matthews: What do you mean by communist?
Woman: You don't know?
Matthews: No, just tell me.  Help me out here.
Woman: You don't know?
Matthews: I just want to know what you mean.
Woman: Oh, I know what I mean.
Matthews: Well, help us out.  You're on national television.
Woman: Oh, I know I'm on national television.
Matthews: Well, tell me what you mean when you've just accused a guy of being a communist.
Woman: You just study it out.
Matthews: Do you think he's American?
Woman: Oh no.
Matthews: He's not an American?
Woman: No.
Matthews: What is he?  What country's he from?
Woman: Just 'cause he was born here doesn't mean he thinks like us.  He's a communist, buddy.
Matthews: Okay, thank you.
By the way, the phrase "study it out" comes straight from the Latter Day Saints scriptures. Classic.

Paul Ryan lied when he said, "I never asked for stimulus." The letters exist to prove that he did.

"After repeated denials, Paul Ryan has admitted he requested stimulus cash even after sharply criticizing the program.
"Ryan had denied doing so as recently as Wednesday, when he spoke to ABC’s Cincinnati affiliate, WCPO, in Ohio.
"'I never asked for stimulus,' Mitt Romney’s new running mate said. 'I don’t recall… so I really can’t comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work.'
"Two years ago, during an interview on WBZ’s NewsRadio he was asked by a caller if he “accepted any money” into his district. Ryan said he did not.
"'I’m not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money,' the congressman answered.
"But as we’ve now learned, Ryan did write letters. He did request stimulus funds."
Presented With Letters, Ryan Admits Requesting Stimulus Cash (ABC News)

Thursday, October 11

Contrary to Romney's claims, lack of health insurance is linked to thousands of U.S. deaths per year

Mitt Romney claims that people don't be because of lack of health insurance.
“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’  ” he said as he offered more hints as to what he would put in place of “Obamacare,” which he has pledged to repeal. 
“No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” 
He pointed out that federal law requires hospitals to treat those without health insurance — although hospital officials frequently say that drives up health-care costs.
Here's a Harvard Medical School study that links uninsurance with mortality.

Romney: 'We Don’t Have People Who Die Because They Don’t Have Insurance'

Science Vs. Religion Over the Years

Via Reddit user Wertecs.

Monday, October 8

We should wake up from the delusion that the private sector can do everything better - Honey Boo Boo as case study

"People forget or did not know that once upon a time The Learning Channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as an informative/instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite. Then it was privatized in 1980 (Reaganism) and was then named the Appalachian Community Service Network. In November 1980 this name was changed to 'The Learning Channel', which was subsequently shortened to 'TLC.' From then on we have a sad decline to the abomination of child and poverty exploitation of the TLC’s current hit freak show 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo'." ...  
"So when Mitt Romney and the Republicans talk about how much better off PBS would be de-funded and privatized, remember what privatization did to TLC and how TLC went from NASA beaming information into student classrooms to the disgraceful programs it runs today (many of which exploit children)."

Friday, October 5

The next time someone tells you that the U.S. can drill its way to energy independence, tell them they're full of ... crude.

"Fuel demand from China, India and Brazil -- three countries with a combined population of 2.7 billion -- is the chief factor behind rising prices." ...  
"The U.S. can drill all it wants but it's hard to find anybody who expects greater domestic production to move gas prices by more than, say, two percentage points in the next six months. The problem is that the market for oil is global and U.S. supply is too small to make an impact."
What Determines the Price of Gas: A Visual Guide (The Atlantic)

Thursday, October 4

God apparently created the earth about 1,000 years after the Sumerians invented glue

"...more than half our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue."
Sam Harris, from "Letter to a Christian Nation"

Related: Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World (The Onion)
Maybe, there's a better way.

Wednesday, October 3

Paul Ryan apparently does not like operating in the realm of facts

"The Romney tax plan is premised on a mathematical impossibility. It promises to reduce tax rates by 20 percent and cover the lost revenue by eliminating tax deductions, exempting tax breaks for investment income. Even making a series of assumptions ranging from friendly to impossibly friendly, it can’t add up. The lost revenue from the tax rate cuts on income over $250,000 exceeds the available revenue from eliminating deductions. Even Republican attempts to disprove this finding have inadvertently confirmed it."
The Paul Ryan Legend Dissipates (New York Magazine)

Tuesday, October 2

If most women vote in November, Barack Obama will be re-elected

"An 18 point lead among women puts President Barack Obama ahead of Gov. Mitt Romney 49 – 45 percent among likely voters nationwide, and voters expect 54 – 28 percent that the president will win the debates, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.
"The president leads 56 – 38 percent among women and 94 – 2 percent among black voters, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Men back Romney 52 – 42 percent while white voters back the Republican 53 – 42 percent. {…}
"President Barack Obama won only about 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, so his current standing among whites tracks his earlier winning performance,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “If the president can match or exceed his 2008 showing among whites it will be difficult to impossible for Romney to win.
"It is also very difficult to win an election when you are getting shellacked among women, the group that makes up about half the electorate."
 EclectaBlog Link

Monday, October 1

Severely Obese Are Fastest Growing Group of Overweight Americans

"The proportion of Americans who are severely obese -- those people 100 pounds or more overweight -- continues to increase rapidly and much faster than those with moderate obesity, but the rate of growth has slowed, according to a new RAND Corporation study. 
"The RAND study found that from 2000 to 2010, the proportion of Americans who were severely obese rose from 3.9 percent of the population to 6.6 percent -- an increase of about 70 percent."
Science Daily Link