"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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Aww. . . . (Updated)

Guess who's running out of money:
ProtectMarriage.com, the advocacy group defending a California gay marriage ban now under review by the high court, showed a $2 million deficit in its legal fund at the end of 2011 - the third year in a row that expenses exceeded donations, federal tax records show.

The 2012 accounts are not yet available. ProtectMarriage.com says it has since covered the 2011 shortfall. However, it is still $700,000 short in fundraising for its Supreme Court costs, according to a ProtectMarriage.com attorney, Andrew Pugno. That message has gone out to donors, with some urgency, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in March in its first thorough review of same-sex marriage.

"Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff," ProtectMarriage.com said in an email to donors earlier this month.

This, coupled with the fact that they were outspent in the 2012 marriage initiatives, and lost all four. My take is that being anti-marriage is becoming toxic, particularly given the viciousness of the rhetoric from the likes of Brian Brown and Tony Perkins. Pugno differs:

Pugno says that fundraising for ProtectMarriage.com has never been easy. However, he said he does not think changing attitudes are the problem.

"I don't detect a decrease in enthusiasm," he said. "What I detect is a certain degree of fatigue after having to essentially fight this issue non-stop since 2004, when the mayor in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses."

First off, no one asked them to start a fight -- that was their decision. And don't tell me fundraising has never been easy -- that's total bullshit, when you've got the LDS Church and the Knights of Columbus funneling millions into the Prop 8 campaign. My take is that the LDS Church got stung by the blow-back on that one, and isn't quite so willing to fork over for a losing proposition, particularly given the scrutiny it had to endure last time -- they don't like being in the public eye. And the Church has even been supportive of gay-inclusive civil rights laws in Utah.

And if Pugno doesn't think that changing attitudes are the problem, he's been spending too much time looking at his own polls.

A little comparison:

At the close of 2009, ProtectMarriage.com had a deficit of roughly $220,000, but the trial was expensive: Cooper's firm billed $4.5 million in 2010 and total expenses came to $6.1 million, for a year-end deficit of $1.8 million.

ProtectMarriage.com raised $2.5 million in 2011, but it still fell more than $200,000 short of that year's expenses, leaving a cumulative deficit of $2 million. Pugno said that debt was paid by the end of last year and that grassroots donations in 2012 were down only 3 percent from 2011.

By comparison, the American Foundation for Equal Rights - which sponsored Olson and Boies' challenge - reported a $2.7 million surplus at the end of March 2011. AFER outraised ProtectMarriage.com, but the gay rights group also got a much better deal from its lawyers: Olson and Boies' two law firms billed about $1.5 million during the trial year
.

I think that says something about changing attitudes.

Poor things.

Update:
Of course, with friends like these. . . .


Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Is It

That when I hear "bipartisan plan" from anyone in Washington, I cringe?

Image du Jour


This is priceless:


Via Crooks and Liars.

I Keep Tellin' Ya. . .


Your message did come through -- that's why you lost.

Paul Krugman nails the "Party of Personal Responsibility" to the wall:

The point, I think, is that right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval — but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are).

And I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved with a slight change in the rhetoric.

Via Digby, who elaborates from an exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul:

“A healthy, 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides: You know what? I'm not going to spend 200 or 300 dollars a month for health insurance, because I'm healthy; I don't need it,” Blitzer said. “But you know, something terrible happens; all of a sudden, he needs it. Who's going to pay for it, if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

“In a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him,” Paul replied. Blitzer asked what Paul would prefer to having government deal with the sick man.

“What he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself,” Paul said. ”My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not before —"

“But he doesn't have that,” Blitzer said. “He doesn't have it and he's — and he needs — he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?”

“That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.,” Paul said, repeating the standard libertarian view as some in the audience cheered.

“But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die,” Blitzer asked.

“Yeah,” came the shout from the audience. That affirmative was repeated at least three times.

I'd love to ask Paul my basic question: "Why do people form societies?" But I wonder if he'd even get it.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hey, Congress, Are You Listening?


I've been holding up Iceland (and Germany) as two countries who did it right in handling the economic meltdown of 2008-09. Here's Iceland's president explaining what they did and how it worked:


Our "economic experts" -- at least the ones that get listened to in Washington -- keep recommending the strategies that led to Greece and may cause the Eurozone to collapse.

If it weren't so damned cold and dark for so much of the year, I'd move the Iceland -- it's soon going to be the only place you can get a job, besides China. And I hear jobs in China don't pay so well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tarsiers


This may be more than you wanted to know, but it's too funny to pass up:

Today's Must-Read


The uses of language have always fascinated me -- the ways in which we use words to shape concepts and discussions of ideas is a key element, I think, in understanding what we're really saying -- or hearing. David Sirota has a great piece at Salon on the way our political discourse has been corrupted by the way in which politicians, pundits, and the media describe agendas and policies.

Yes, indeed, I’m fixated on how this Orwellian scheme by the elite media, politicians, pundits and lobbyists constantly shifts the rhetorical boundaries so that political debates are narrowed to preference outcomes that serve monied interests. Why am I fixated? Because this scheme is as powerful a corrupting force in our politics as campaign contributions, yet unlike bundled checks and anonymous super PAC donations, this scheme goes almost completely unnoticed.

Via Tristero at Hullabaloo.

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Question


I've been seeing the reports of accidents at gun shows celebrating "Gun Appreciation Day" (although I see that the national campaign got rid of the white supremacist sponsors). Digby has a run-down here, but I have one question: Why in the hell were these guns loaded?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chutzpah, Squared


I've had a hell of a week -- flu, dental work, and for a grand finale, I threw my back out -- but this story deserves some notice.

Some Very Serious Recommendations from the Parasite Class. From CNBC:

Executives of the Business Roundtable are urging Congress to raise the Social Security and Medicare age eligibility to 70, from the current 67, and to adopt means testing for wealthier retirees, in order to keep the entitlement programs solvent longer-term.

"When you look long-term at the U.S. fiscal health, you have to look at these questions," said Business Roundtable President John Engler during a meeting with reporters in Washington Tuesday.

The idea is not likely to be popular. The Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction committee saw opposition when it suggested lifting the retirement age to 69. The Roundtable executives argue that raising the level gradually for those less than 55 years of age now will provide substantial long-term savings to the entitlement programs, while still giving Americans time to adjust to the new requirements.

"It's the power of compound savings here," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, and vice chair of the group's health and retirement committee. "If you start to save now, it really adds up."

Stephenson's pay last year was roughly $22 million. I can't see him hurting for retirement income.

And this bit really pissed me off:

The CEOs said they are looking at pragmatic options which provide a long-term solution to the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending.

That is pure, unadulterated horse-pucky. First off, Social Security and Medicare are not "entitlements" -- they are earned benefits. They're insurance programs, and I can see where these bozos are trying to model them on private insurance companies, which are possibly the biggest legal racket in the country. (The only thing I can think of that's more blatant is military spending.) It's like the health insurance industry -- you get sick, they cancel your policy.

There are a couple of realistic "fixes" on this. For Social Security, it's probably too simple for the 1% Club to fathom: lift the cap on the payroll tax. Ta-Dah! Solvency for at least the rest of the century, and probably beyond.

And here's my Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, with a fix for runaway health-care costs:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


The really depressing thing about this is that the parasites from the Business Roundtable will be lobbying Congress, and the members of Congress will listen to them, rather than tossing them out on their asses.

I guess you get what you pay for.







Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm pretty much done


with this kind of crap:

Aaron Swartz was found hanging by a rope Saturday, having committed suicide at the young age of 26. Swartz was brilliant — called a “boy genius” by none other than Lawrence Lessig — and was considered a co-founder of the wildly popular Internet social media sharing website Reddit. He also helped create RSS — which is used by almost every news organization and blog in the world — helped launch Creative Commons, and founded Demand Progress, an organization that rallied over one million people to SOPA and PIPA, the Internet regulation bills that ultimately, fortunately failed.

From all accounts, his death is the result of aggressive prosecution by prosecutor Scott Garland, working under U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz -- in short, he was bullied to death. It looks like another case of someone's political ambitions getting in the way of her reasoning ability.

For what it's worth, here's a petition on the White House "We the People" petition site, calling for Ortiz' dismissal. Let's see if "We the People" have any clout.



Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I Have to Post This


It's sort of old news, but I think it's wonderful. Madame Secretary is back at work:


Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides handed Clinton a box, saying, "As you know, Washington is a contact sport."

"Inside was a football helmet with a State Department seal, lots of good padding and also a football jersey that said Clinton on the back and on the front it says #112 which symbolizes the number of countries she visited as secretary of state," Nuland said.

"She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton she wanted to get right to business."

Although I have to admit, I'm surprised the right blogosphere isn't having hysterics. I fully expect Daryl Issa (Chairman, House Witch Hunt Committee) to investigate.

Via just about everybody.

Better Late Than Never


From Pam Spaulding, this bit of news:

Former service members who are part of a class action lawsuit challenging a Defense Department policy that cuts in half the separation pay of those who have been honorably discharged for “homosexuality” will receive their full pay after a settlement announced today.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico had filed a class action lawsuit against the policy, which was not part of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" statute and so was not changed when that law was repealed.

“There was absolutely no need to subject these service members to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the armed forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,” said Laura Schauer Ives, managing attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico. “This decision represents a long-delayed justice to these veterans.”

The thing about any institution as hydra-headed as the military -- or any other government agency -- is that they'll make sweeping announcements of grand gestures, and the forget about the ancillary stuff.

Here's a little more background from Box Turtle Bulletin.


Cool Thing du Jour


It's not just that two jaguar cubs were born at the Milwaukee zoo, and not just that their father was captured in the wild (new addition to the captive gene pool, and that's a good thing) -- it's that he's something of a celebrity.

Their father, Pat, was captured in Central America after being deemed a problem jaguar for attacking cattle, so he was a bit of a celebrity at the Belize Zoo before coming to Milwaukee in 2008. The estimated 15-year-old animal also has a book named after him, "Pat the Great Cat: A Jaguars Journey," which was written by children in Milwaukee and Belize as part of a literacy program.

Multi-tasking, done right.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Neil Steinberg to Cardinal Francis George


Cardinal George has been a vocal proponent of enforcing Catholic doctrine on the citizens of Illinois, as Neil Steinberg points out in this piece from the Sun-Times:

I should be clear at the get-go, since so many readers have such a hard time with this: I am not Catholic, and my concern is not about what Catholics do or don’t do in practicing their own religion. It’s a free country, sort of, and all may follow whatever faith they like. As the leader of Chicago Catholics, you have a duty to tell your flock what being a good Catholic means. And were that the extent of your letters, I’d never dream of arguing. It would be none of my business.

But that is not what you’re doing. What you’re doing is instructing Catholics to pressure legislators, and pressuring them yourself, joined by like-minded clerics, to craft laws that force non-Catholics to follow Catholic doctrine. That makes it everybody’s business. It is the right — I would say duty — of non-Catholics to resist religious notions being imposed on Illinoisans through law.

Cardinal George is apparently concerned about being known as a bigot, when his attempts to pressure the Illinois legislature spring solely from his Deeply Held Religious Beliefs(TM). (Ahem.) I'm afraid the only response I can come up with to that one is very gay, indeed:

But yah are, Blanche!

Too Cute


I want one:

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

"A mere billion years. . . "


after the earth formed, it says here:

Scientists analysing Australian rocks have discovered traces of bacteria that lived a record-breaking 3.49 billion years ago, a mere billion years after Earth formed.

If the find withstands the scrutiny that inevitably faces claims of fossils this old, it could move scientists one step closer to understanding the first chapters of life on Earth. The discovery could also spur the search for ancient life on other planets.

These traces of bacteria "are the oldest fossils ever described. Those are our oldest ancestors," said Nora Noffke, a biogeochemist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk who was part of the group that made the find and presented it last month at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.

One thing that I find fascinating about this is that the cyanobacteria they're discussing are responsible for the first mass extinction: they're the ones that started pumping oxygen into the atmosphere and killed off all their anaerobic brethren.

But still -- "a mere billion years"? I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Something to think about.