Monday, January 31, 2011
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 3:01 PM
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Sudan is about to split into two countries. The largely non-Muslim southern part of the country just voted overwhelmingly to be an independent country. This new country would be poor and land locked. Although what oil reserves Sudan has seem to be in this part of the country. The Chinese are the major players in developing those oil fields right now.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 3:49 PM
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 10:21 AM
Friday, January 28, 2011
I didn't think I could like congressional Republicans any less.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
Thank God this won't make it past the Senate. But these people are an election away from running this country!
Posted by Bell Curve at 10:38 AM
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Egypt is balanced on the thin edge of a knife tonight. We have seen "people power" uprisings enough over the past 30 years to know that what happens on Friday evening in Cairo may be dispositive. If the police and army turn out in force and brutally repress, then keep it up for a few more days, the government may survive. We have seen this happen in Tienanmen square in 1989 and Tehran in the summer of 2010. If they waiver and crowds grow, it may be all over very quickly. I can foresee terrible violence or a million people out in the streets of Cairo, plus huge crowds in all the other major cities, demanding Mubarak to leave. Mohammed El Baradei has come to play the role of Vaclav Havel, Cory Aquino, and many others who have offered themselves as a crisis solution. Because 2/3 of the population is under 30 with large unemplyment, the prospects for massive demonstrations of people that have known nobody but Mubarak as president are huge. At this point, the odds of the Egyptian government surviving are still better than even, but waning fast.
That's the situational read. But here's the deeper commentary I want to make. We've seen this over and over again and are still trying to understand how suddenly, one day, a seemingly stable regime can collapse in a matter of days. Politics normally moves at a glacial pace. But sometimes a situation can become entirely fluid. That metaphor may be helpful or not for understanding a phenomenon we could call sudden political flux. Here's how I offer to explain the situation. We can call a state an "institution" but in the end it's just a bunch of people. The body politic is a human thing. The primary mechanism for sustained political structures is expectational. We see the same thing in markets. While the stock market normally moves slowly, it can suddenly move into periods of wild fluctuation as we saw in the Fall of 2008 and into 2009. The metaphor of "free fall" is not bad either - it describes a sudden, unexpected, but accelerating and seemingly uncontrollable event. We have also seen sudden breakdowns of order in places like Los Angeles in the 1992 riots, 1968 riots nationwide. In fact, one lessons of the past 30 years, both political and economic, may be that crisis is endemic to human social, political, and economic systems.
I do not know if a model can be made to predict when crises will occur or how they will resolve. It may be possible, but part of what makes them crises - sudden political flux, market collapse, riots - is that they are not predicted and the relevant actors are unprepared for them. Their spontaneity is their main feature. Moreover, organized premeditated attempts to create political flux through general strikes are rarely effecive. They also involve a set of decisionmakers not normally involved in political decsionmaking. What happens on the streets of Cairo tomorrow will be decided by huge numbers of individual, ordinary people -- protestors, police, soldiers -- in addition to the normal actors, their commanders and powerbrokers. The prerequisite to sudden political flux is mass communication - not mass media. The ability of vast numbers of human beings to participate in political drama is necessary for crises to occur. It may be observed that market crises also appear to be connected with bubbles and mass participation.
So we wait anxiously to see if Egypt will suddenly change its political system over the next twenty four hours.
What may be observable about political crises of this kind is that, like market crises, they cannot be handled by slow ameliorative efforts. It only spirals further out of control. To use another metaphor, a situation like this is referred to as a movement. Only brutal, dramatic, swift, and stunning action can arrest (literally and figuratively) a movement in its tracks. The situation tomorrow may be determined in a matter of an hour.
Posted by The Law Talking Guy at 3:37 PM
During the State of the Union, the President commented that the United States has fallen to 9th place in terms of undergraduate degree holders,and he made several references to China and South Korea, indicating these are our competitors.
So I did a little fact checking. In fact this statistic is a bit off. We have fallen to 9th place compared to OECD countries, i.e industrialized nations. Neither China nor South Korea are in the OECD. That doesn't mean we shouldn't look at what these nations do to pick up on good ideas. But the comparison is unfair and inaccurate. It plants the idea, although in very diplomatic terms, that we should watch out for the "Yellow Peril".
Furthermore, when you adjust Elementary & High School test statistics for poverty (i.e dump the test scores of kids on school lunch programs and special assistance) the U.S. suddenly ranks much higher.
According to the is Census in 2009, 49.1% of the U.S. population has an AA degree of higher. According to the OECD in 2007 45% of 25-64 year-olds had and AA (upper Secondary) or higher. This puts us in 12th place among OECD nations. But it represents about a 4% drop since 1997.
My employer pays for many of its employees to get BA, MA, and PhDs in fields related to it's mission. This is a great, but many of the schools are on-line schools like University of Phoenix, Chapman, etc. The people going to the local CSU are taking several years to complete their degrees because the class loads, assignments and the like are heavy enough that they can't take more than one or two classes a semester. The people going to Chapman are done in a year. That is a huge difference, and I am not convinced it's a good one. The end result is not the same. The CSU grad is much more professionally prepared than the others who are doing the "resume-building" degrees.
So many universities are offering on-line programs for primary degrees that this frightens me. I can see running an Executive Program On-line because the students often have work experience in the field and university degrees from reputable programs. But I worry about the quality of education being offered for higher degrees. I know that these universities offering on-line degrees are money makers and that they make education more available to more people. But I ask the Citizens, is this really a good idea? Is it "education on the cheap" so to speak?
You still need the professor and the classroom time where critical thinking and discussion can take place. I don't think that a blog or Web cam discussion can really replace that. I read a lot of stuff in college that without a classroom discussion or lecture, I wouldn't have understood. The best schools are still offering that. Or am I just old fashioned?
Posted by USWest at 10:25 AM
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Many on the right like to argue that society is breaking down, that law enforcement agencies in particular are incapable of protecting law abiding individuals. They argue from this premise that allowing as many law abiding citizens to cary concealed hand guns will enhance the personal safety of the armed individual as well as general public safety. The logic is that when criminals are forced to consider that any given potential victim may be armed, they will not attack/rob as many people as often.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:31 PM
Friday, January 14, 2011
Tunisia is undergoing a period of severe political instability. Massive street demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Zine Ben Ali who has been a relatively benign dictator since 1987. The latest reports have Ben Ali fleeing the country with the Prime Minister he appointed having taken power. These demonstrations have been going on since December but the rest of the world has taken little notice (probably because Tunisia isn't a major oil exporter and the government doesn't take high profile anti-western or anti-American positions). You can see Tunisia's CIA World Fact Book profile here.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 8:47 AM
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Governor moonbeam is back! And his opening salvo reminds us why we love practical Jerry. He opened by proposing that 48,000 state employees turn in their cell phones . This represents a 50% cut.
One commentator suggested that he also look at all the unused landlines that the state is paying for, but that are not being used. The article mentions that in a 2009 audit, they found 8000 unused lines in LA county alone. The annual cost: $1.5 mil .
Brown is an interesting and parsimonious character. He never moved into the governors' mansion in his first term, and brought to bear his monk's frugality to Sacramento. Then there is the story about the A $100 million hole in the carpet in the governor's office. Before leaving office, Ronald Regan offered to replace the carpet in the governor's office at his own expense. Brown refused. Near his desk, a hole opened up in the carpet. One day, Davis informed Brown that GSA has been scheduled to fix the hole. Brown was angry. "Don't you understand -- that hole has already saved us a couple of hundred million dollars. "People can't come in here and rail against me for not funding something, when there's a whole in the governor's rug."
So far, he refused office space on K Street in Sacramento for his transition team, preferring to use his Oakland campaign offices.
Posted by USWest at 9:13 PM
So you have all heard by now that Sarah Palin claimed that those who drew a connection between Saturday's Tucson massacre and right-wing rhetoric are engaged in a "blood libel." What is a blood libel? The term comes from the late middle ages. It specifically refers to the false accusation that Jews used the blood of Christian babies as part of their matzoh recipe for passover. It more broadly refers to the related accusation that "the Jews" were and are responsible for the death of Jesus. A blood libel is not just another word for "false accusation of resopnsibility for murder," however. When abstracted from the context of anti-semitism from which it arose, the "blood libel" could be defined as follows: a false accusation that an unpopular ethnic or religious minority engages in unspeakable, secret crimes employed to encourage hatred of and violence against that group. The first key to understanding the terror of the blood libel is the power relationship: the ability of the majority which controls the public narrative to "libel" a minority. The second key is that the crimes are secretive and hard to prove, so that the accused group is forced to try to "prove a negative." How can Jews prove that no baby blood was used in the matzoh? The third key is that the crime is unspeakable: rather like accusations of pedophilia, the accusation alone creates a permanent stain. Cannibalism used to be like that - less so now because it is viewed rather as fantastical.
First, it is obviously absurd for conservative Christians - or Conservatives of any stripe - who just won the last election to claim such a minority status or victimhood. They are as close to "the majority" as you get in this country. Certainly they cannot be said to be analogues of the Jews at any time.
Second, nobody is accusing Tea Partiers of engaging in regular assassination or such a thing. It doesn't even look like a blood libel. Blood libel is not "guilt by association."
Third, there is no such odiousness about he accusations being made. Liberal commentators, even at their worst, are not accusing right wing commentators of doing unspeakable things like pedophilia or cannibalism.
What is happening is a discussion that we need to have. People show up with guns to Tea Party rallies and mutter about the Second Amendment. Some talk openly about resistance. Militia members prowl around with their guns and their heated anti-government hate and rhetoric. They have dark thoughts about cabals and the need to take matters into their own hands. Conservative groups have helped produce a theory they embraace - entirely false - that the Second Amendment enshrines a right to use violence to resist the federal government if you consider it to be tyrannical. There is a short road from saying that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is about the right to defend society against abstract tyranny to the statement that guns are needed now to defend against this Obama-tyranny now. The more mainstream conservatives don't endorse this Second Amendment construction openly, but they don't engage or deny it either. They want the votes of these extremists, so they won't contradict or condemnt them. And in subtle ways some even knowingly encourage these extremists a little. Coded language communicates that "I'm on your side" even without explicitly endorsing them. Even now we hear condemnations of this murder but not condemnations of the notion that political violence is enshrined in the Second Amendment if you really think the US government is tyrannical and unjust. And what is worse, the rhetoric used by even mainstream conservatives to describe Obama, the Democrats, and Health Care Reform are already every bit as bad as they could possibly be (tyranny, Nazis, communists, gulag). Those are the words that would justify political resistance with violence if taken literally, and if you believe the Second Amendment enshrines violent resistance with guns. That is what they are being called out on.
Posted by The Law Talking Guy at 2:27 PM
Monday, January 10, 2011
The defensive response from many on the right that their rhetoric is not violent or doesn't incite violence is just offensive. Here is a great example of what passes for humor on the political right. It's a hunting license for killing Democrats. You can buy one at the "patriot shop" (the name of course implying that if you don't like what they sell you must not be a patriot).
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 2:42 PM
Sunday, January 09, 2011
The big story right now is the murder of a federal judge, John Roll, and the attempted murder of Representative Giffords (D-AZ) by a deranged young man (the police have him in custody and are currently seeking a possible accomplice) at a mall in Tuscon. A number of other people were also killed and wounded including a 9 year old girl. The Sheriff has publicly called out the right wing demagogues who whip up "prejudice and bigotry" and lamented that Arizona seems to have become the "capitol of it."
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 5:38 AM
Saturday, January 08, 2011
So the Tea Party has turned to murder, at last, to the very "second amendment remedies" Sharron Angle advocated earlier. An Arizona Congresswoman was gunned down at a grocery store I used to shop at when I lived there. A federal judge was killed in the attack; she may live. Her husband, it turns out, is an astronaut.
The goal of this attack is to try to literally make Democratic politicians afraid for their lives so they won't take certain courageous votes. That's political terrorism pure and simple. I don't suppose the GOP will let us punish it in the manner they claim is 100% OK by the US Constitution and that they have written into law: by locking the perpetrator up indefinitely overseas, by torturing him for months at a stretch, all as part of an endless "war on terror," then using the laws barring material aid to terrorists to shut down all the tea party cells and Fox News.
The almost unbelievable part of this is that it is a tempest in a teapot. Americans by and large want solutions to the problem of unaffordable health insurance and aren't horrified by the prospect of buying health insurance, something that 80% already voluntarily purchase. Yet this is the cause celebre of these right wing lunatics.
Posted by The Law Talking Guy at 2:46 PM