"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, March 06, 2015

It's the Economy, Stupid: Compare and Contrast

Via Digby, this interesting piece by Steve Benen comparing the economic performance of neighbors -- in this case, Minnesota and Wisconsin:

Wisconsin and Minnesota have long made fascinating bookends. As longtime readers may recall, the two neighboring states have similar sizes, similar populations, similar demographics, and even similar climates. But they don’t necessarily have similar politics, at least not lately.

In the 2010 elections, the Badger State elected Scott Walker (R) governor and gave control of the legislature to Republicans, while the Gopher State made Mark Dayton (D) governor and, in 2012, elected a Democratic legislature*. The former got to work targeting collective bargaining and approving tax cuts, while the latter raised taxes on the wealthy and boosted in-state investments.

So guess which state is doing better economically:

Nearly five years later, one of these two states is doing quite well. Policy.mic had an interesting report this week.
Since 2011, Minnesota has been doing quite well for itself. The state has created more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Huffington Post. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.6% – the fifth-lowest in the country, and far below the nationwide rate of 5.7% – and the state government boasts a budget surplus of $1 billion. Forbes considers Minnesota one of the top 10 in the country for business.

As Patrick Caldwell recently explained very well, Minnesota’s gains come on the heels of tax increases on Minnesota’s top 2% and higher corporate taxes, both of which state Republicans said would crush Minnesota’s economy. As for their neighbors to the east:

By a number of measures, Wisconsin hasn’t fared as well as Minnesota. As the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports, Wisconsin’s job growth has been among the worst in the region, and income growth is one of the worst in the country. It has a higher unemployment rate than Minnesota. And the budget is in bad shape.

It doesn't surprise me that Republicans keep peddling voodoo economics. What surprises me is that people keep buying it. Digby's comment is germane here I think:

And yet all the smart money in political establishment circles has it that Walker is a real threat. Because even though he was elected in a Republican sweep year and then quickly recalled, he managed to hang on and then barely win in another Republican sweep year. This makes him a brilliant politician. He can't make a public statement without looking like an out of touch fool. And now we find out that he's barely doing better than Sam Brownback who has made Kansas into a toxic supply side petrie dish. A winner for sure.

And there you have it: the Koch brothers' dream ticket: Walker/Brownback.

They should have floated that idea at CPAC: I'm sure the 'baggers would have eaten it up.

Sooner Than I Expected

It was fairly obvious that the "Christian" right would be reacting to the impending Supreme Court opinion on marriage equality -- and at this point, while I hesitate to say that anything with this Court is a foregone conclusion, unless it involves corporate interests, from the weight of Circuit Court opinions and the complete lack of rational justifications for state bans, it does look as though the Court has no option but to find in favor -- I hadn't realized how quickly they would be piling on. The latest is from Oklahoma, with the "Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015" -- although no one seems to be able to explain why something that has not been taken away needs to be restored. The excuse -- because it sure as hell is not an argument -- is close to what we've been seeing from the "Christian Martyrs"™ who bake cakes and arrange flowers:

Silk told The New York Times in an article published today, that the "L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions."

Forget the fact that the same arguments have been used against every advance in civil rights for every group. See, Sen. Silk is being "sensitive," because he has "homosexual friends." The reactions to that statement have not been kind.

The other prong of the attack that's come into play recently can be found in this bill being considered by the Texas Legislature:

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above) would prohibit cities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law.

The Texas Observer reports:

Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. If passed, Miller’s bill would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances.

Texas is a little behind the gun on this one: a similar law passed in Arkansas late last month.

Matt Baume has a couple of videos on these and other tactics and how to deal with them:



And, last but not least, sue. The courts are our last defense against this sort of thing (which is why Anti-Gay, Inc., hates the idea of an independent judiciary), and my own feeling is that if anything is going to make it obvious that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression should be included in suspect classes, it's this kind of back-door, systematic discrimination written into the law.

Image(s) of the Week

For some reason, I've been concentrating on figure studies, landscapes, and still lifes in this series, but both Bernice and I have some good city scapes. For example, Bernice just sent me this one:


So of course, I went searching through my files to see what I had and came up with this:


Nice pairing, isn't it?

And now that the weather is getting better, I may find myself out shooting more. It's about time.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Just Discovered: "Eureka"

OK, I admit it, I added Eureka to my Netflix list because Colin Ferguson is the star. Watched the first couple of episodes and it looks like fun -- sort of a lighthearted Haven.


(By the way, I discovered Ferguson in Season Four of Haven.)

(And I just realized -- it's another series that takes place in Oregon.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Coming May 1: Avengers: The Age of Ultron

And of course I'm going to go see it. This is billed as a "trailer." Sorry -- it's a teaser:


Culture Break: Harold Budd: "The Gunfighter"

I'm not sure when or where I first ran across Harold Budd -- I'm sure it must have been in my New Age days, when I ran across a lot of interesting music -- and even more that was not so interesting.

At any rate, Budd is one of those artists who has worked with everyone -- Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, you name it, he's probably collaborated with them on something.

It's also almost impossible to find a video of his music that is actually a video -- that is, moving pictures. This one's rather expressionistic, especially compared to the music, which is from Lovely Thunder, which is the first of his albums I got my hands on, and still one of my favorites.


(Be warned -- this is from a playlist, which means it will keep going to the next video unless you tell it to stop.)

The Latest in Air Travel

Your very own woodpecker:


The backstory, in case you've somehow missed this one, is that the weasel (a very young weasel, please note) was trying to kill the woodpecker to eat it. The woodpecker took the weasel for a bit of a joyride, and then left.

The best laid plans. . . .

The (Alabama) Supreme Court Has Spoken

Somehow, the Alabama Supreme Court seems to think it is the final authority on questions of civil rights. (Ahem.)

Weeks after a United States District Court judge in Mobile ordered a probate judge there to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state.

"As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman," the order said. "Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty."

Apparently, their lessons on the federal Constitution did not include sessions on Article VI, Par. 2 (the Supremacy Clause) or the Fourteenth Amendment. There also happens to be long-standing Supreme Court precedent that directly contravenes their action, namely Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1859), which found that state courts do not have the authority to overrule federal court decisions.

Here's the full ruling, but be warned: the justices quote Robert P. George as an "authority."

My own opinion, in which I am not alone, is that this one is going down in flames as soon as someone files a federal motion.

Via Joe.My.God.

The two funniest reactions so far:

From Mat Staver, whom Ed Brayton calls "the dumbest lawyer in America not named Larry Klayman:

The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country.

That's just the beginning.

And this one:

 


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Giggle du Jour

You know what we really have to worry about if we legalize marijuana? Stoned rabbits:

Wild animals could “cultivate a taste” for marijuana if Utah lawmakers permit medical use of the plant, according to testimony by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Agent Matt Fairbanks, a member of the state’s “marijuana eradication” team, warned Thursday that wildlife would be constantly stoned and lose their fear of humans if the medical marijuana bill passed, reported the Washington Post.

“I deal in facts,” Fairbanks said. “I deal in science.”

Something tells me agent Fairbanks has been smoking the evidence.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Marriage News Watch, March 2, 2015 (Updated, and Updated Again)

Texas lawmakers are gunning for the judge who let two lesbians to get married. Meanwhile, homophobic lawmakers celebrate the 10th anniversary of the state's marriage ban. There's just one problem: the law will probably be overturned before it actually turns ten. Plus various native American tribes are in the process of legalizing marriage.


Here's more on that complaint from Tony Tinderholt:

Tinderholt wrote out a two-paragraph complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Then his staff called reporters.

But Tinderholt’s publicity ploy had problems:

▪ First, he complained about the wrong judge and case.

▪ Then, he applied the law the wrong way in his complaint.

▪ Had he managed to apply the law the right way to the right judge, he still would have come out wrong.

Tinderholt, 44 and in his fifth marriage, said in a published statement that he wants a judicial system that “respects the laws” and separation of powers, as if judges shouldn’t declare the Texas Legislature’s laws unconstitutional without prior permission from the Legislature.

I hate to deal in generalizations, but it's Texas.

I mentioned the shenanigans in Iowa, among other things, here.

Update: Via Joe.My.God.:

A federal judge has struck down Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage.

According to an order filed in federal court Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon said 'all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage.' The order is effective March 9 at 8 a.m.

Update II: Nebraska has filed a Notice of Appeal.

Why do I think they were expecting that decision?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Today's Must Read: Speaking of the Economy

Because everyone's always talking about the economy, there's a very interesting post by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

Demos research associate Sean McElwee's post this week reviews economic research showing that "Democrats make the pie bigger for everyone, while Republicans redistribute income toward the rich and whites." But you already knew that. Still, McElwee's link-filled column at Aljazeera compiles a lot of supporting studies in one convenient location.

Examining changes in poverty, unemployment and income under every president since 1948, political scientists Zoltan Hajnal and Jeremy Horowitz found that blacks, Latinos and Asians fare better under Democratic presidents. But so do whites[.]

Some very interesting information, including a long section on what Democrat Mark Dayton has done for Minnesota, following Republican Tim Pawlenty's abject failure to do anything -- well, anything positive. (Sadly, Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner, seems determined to follow in the footsteps of Pawlenty and the Republican party's latest great white hope, Scott Walker (R-Koch Industries).)

It all just bears out something I've noticed: Republicans, eager to establish the state religion of voodoo economics, manage to screw up the economy, and then Democrats have to come in and fix it.

Today in Persecuted Christians

I seldom comment on CPAC -- I see it as little more than the clowns gathering to try to fit themselves into the car (by the way, Rand Paul won the straw poll -- again; that should tell you something), but this is sort of cute:
Columnist Cal Thomas, radio host Dana Loesch, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins took part in a CPAC panel on religious freedom Saturday. . . .

None of whom actually believe in religious freedom for anyone but themselves.

This says it all:
“I feel like it’s time to make Christians a protected class,” Dana Loesch said, as the discussion reached a fevered pitch of self-pity.

Thomas chimed in that “our commander in chief” — who is Jesus, not President Obama — instructed his followers that they would experience persecution.

Then Thomas and Loesch admitted that it just wouldn’t be worth being a Christian if you couldn’t feel persecuted.

“And since we have the victim competition in the United States,” Loesch added, “I think we win.”

It gets better:

Tony Perkins's answer also sounded like a warning.

"The loss of religous freedom," he said. "People are losing their businesses because they're refusing to leave their faith at home."

"Our future is only as bright as our religious freedom is," he remarked. "It requires personal effort and action."

Even though the Ten Commandments are being driven out by the courts, pray at home, he said.

"We should be able to take it into the workplace."

Um -- do you suppose he ever read Matthew 6:6?

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

More cafeteria Christians.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Llamas!

I'm sure you've run across this little episode in the annals of Sun City, Arizona (where but Arizona?), but now it's been set to music:


What more can I say?

Saturday Science: They Ate Clams

You don't think of Peru as a place to find crocodiles, and these days, you'd be right. Thirteen million years ago, however:
Thirteen million years ago, as many as seven different species of crocodiles hunted in the swampy waters of what is now northeastern Peru, new research shows. This hyperdiverse assemblage, revealed through more than a decade of work in Amazon bone beds, contains the largest number of crocodile species co-existing in one place at any time in Earth's history, likely due to an abundant food source that forms only a small part of modern crocodile diets: mollusks like clams and snails. The work, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, helps fill in gaps in understanding the history of the Amazon's remarkably rich biodiversity. . . .

Before the Amazon basin had its river, which formed about 10.5 million years ago, it contained a massive wetland system, filled with lakes, embayments, swamps, and rivers that drained northward toward the Caribbean, instead of today's pattern of eastward river flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Knowing the kind of life that existed at that time is crucial to understanding the history and origins of modern Amazonian biodiversity. But although invertebrates like mollusks and crustaceans are abundant in Amazonian fossil deposits, evidence of vertebrates other than fish have been very rare.

We should keep in mind that the eastern range of the Andes, the area in question, only began to form about 10 million years ago, much later than the western, coastal ranges. The Amazon River itself only started forming 11 million years ago, so the present configuration of the whole area is fairly new.

So, 13 million years ago, the Amazon basin was a swamp full of crocodiles digging for clams.

This model is a life reconstruction of the head of Gnatusuchus pebasensis, a 13-million-year-old, short-faced crocodile with globular teeth that was thought to use its snout to "shovel" mud bottoms, digging for clams and other mollusks. Model by Kevin Montalbán-Rivera.
Credit: Copyright Aldo Benites-Palomino

Something to think about.



This Needs to Happen More Often

Democrats need to nail their Republican colleagues to the wall more often. Barbara Boxer:

Some highlights:
The Center for American Progress, states it would cost more than $50 Billion to deport the entire population that the president is protecting.

And here's the deal - I've never heard of a Republican (and I will stand corrected if any Republican corrects me) I've never heard of a Republican complaining when President Eisenhower used his executive order power to help immigrants, when President Nixon did the same thing to protect immigrants, when President Ronald Reagan, their hero, protected immigrants, when George Bush Sr. protected immigrants, when George W. protected immigrants, they all used their authority.

Show me one Republican that stood up and said, 'Oh, this is outrageous! Let's impeach the president!' But it's President Obama. And they're annoyed because he won twice. Sorry. Sorry. Wake up and smell the roses. He IS the President. And he is doing the right thing for America, because he loves America. So I say to my Republican friends. There's a presidential race coming. Forget this last one. Get over it. Okay? Let's work together. Listen, I served with five presidents. I'm a strong Democrat. Everyone will tell you that. But I respect the office of the presidency. If I didn't agree with Ronald Reagan, I came down here and said it. But we had the respect back and forth. If we lost, we lost. And we moved on. And that worked both ways. I know what it is not to like the policies of a president. I get it. But don't overdo it and make it so personal. Get on with it.

Grow up. Do your job, you know? Do your job! Have respect for the office of the presidency.

Don't suddenly say executive orders are bad when the president you don't like does it, but you don't say one word when a Republican president does the same thing!

Offhand, I'd say she's a little annoyed. It's worth watching the whole clip.

Via Crooks and Liars.