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Toke Up, Johnny

I don’t know how I missed this, but a study that I have to share just showed up in one of my social media feeds. It’s about medical marijuana, which isn’t really one of my top ten issues.

I’m for legalizing marijuana for any use under the sun. Recreational, medicinal, I don’t care. The war on drugs has only been good for the private prison industrial complex. Throwing people in jail and destroying their lives has turned into a profit center, and it’s not helping anyone in this country, other than a handful of utterly talentless people who can’t manage to make something people want to buy so they had to get into the incarceration business.

I probably missed this story because this isn’t one of my main issues, and I’m already on board with legalization so I rarely click on the pot stories. This one is really interesting, and may move people who are on the fence regarding this issue. In states where medical marijuana is legal, they are seeing a 25% decline in pharmaceutical opioid overdose deaths.

According to the study, these numbers started to change precipitously, and almost immediately after legalization happened in each of the 13 states that allow for legal medical marijuana use. If that isn’t a crazy good basis for legalization, I don’t know what is.

To be clear, the study doesn’t pinpoint how this is happening. Are chronic pain patients substituting some of their oxy with pot? Or are recreational Vicodin users just turning to pot because where medical marijuana is legal, marijuana is that much easier for everyone to get? We know that it’s impossible to overdose on pot, so is that the reason?

Who gives a damned. We can drill down to get details later. The pattern is clear; fewer people are dying from overdosing on pain killers. I say, let the nationwide legalization begin!

Sorry Purdue, but you rode that addiction gravy train for nearly 100 years. That’s right, oxycodone was first used in its current form to treat pain in 1916. Marijuana might finally take a bite out of Purdue’s outrageous abuse of the pharmaceutical patent system. It’s time for people to live, and for you to actually discover a cure to something in order to maintain your stock price.       


Fuck Your Breath Is SOP

Remember the "fuck your breath" incident in Tulsa? Remember, that was when Eric Harris was accidentally shot by Reserve Deputy Robert Bates? You know, Bates is the rich 73 year old insurance salesman who got to play cop because he donated enough to the Tulsa PD to earn himself a gun and a badge? And then Eric Harris was shot and laying on the ground bleeding, saying, "I’m losing my breath". Remember? Then that fine officer, Joe Byars compassionately replied, "fuck your breath"? You remember, that all happened 3 weeks ago.

It’s starting to feel like "fuck your breath" is standard operating procedure. We had another incident in Baltimore where a seriously injured (and subsequently dead) ward of the police didn’t get medical treatment when it was clear that he needed it. Details are really sketchy right now, even though the incident occurred 2 1/2 weeks ago, but let me tell you what we know. Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12th for no reason that we’re yet aware of. According to "the city", Gray made eye contact with a couple of cops near an apartment complex. Gray then ran, and since this isn’t illegal, cops naturally chased after him. We don’t know what happened immediately after they caught him, but we have video of the incident after he’s in handcuffs and being dragged into a police van.

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He’s obviously badly hurt at this point. The police report states that Gray “was arrested without force or incident” so he wasn’t fighting to get away once they had caught him.

I’m going to backtrack for a second to address something I said earlier. Running from cops is not a crime. Cops chasing after someone who runs away from them is completely understandable. Arresting someone for running is not at all understandable. I would think that once they catch the runner, the next step would be to search him and run his name to see if he has any outstanding warrants. If there’s no reason to arrest the runner, the runner should not be arrested merely for running. We would most definitely have heard the reason for the arrest by now if there was one, because what better way to say that he deserved what he got, than to explain what he was arrested for? Police have said that he had a switchblade on him, but since we don’t know the exact size of the blade, it’s safe to say that there was nothing unlawful about his possession of it. We do know that Gray had been charged with crimes on eighteen different occasions before this incident, and we know that he’s spent time in jail.

But we have no idea why he was being taken to jail this time. It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since this happened, and a week and a half since he died, and we still don’t know.

Okay, back to the timeline of what happened. So he’s arrested, he’s screaming out in pain, and his legs aren’t moving. He’s thrown in the van at 8:42 am. According to the attorney representing the cops, Gray was not seat belted into the van. This is referred to by cops as "the nickel ride". I’ll get to that later. According to the police, the van was stopped at 8:46 because Gray was "acting irate". I guess this is considered unusual, since most people who are sitting in the back of that van are usually singing "Tomorrow" from Annie. So when they didn’t hear "Tomorrow", they felt they needed to stop? They say they stopped the van “so that paperwork can be completed, and at that point Mr. Gray is placed in leg irons and put back in the wagon.” At 8:59 something ambiguous happens. The van driver requests another unit to drive over and check on Gray. There is no description of that "check" in the police report. He’s handcuffed and is in leg irons, but you need for another unit to check on him? Huh. Sometime between 8:59 and 9:24, the can picks up another suspect who, as far as I know has not yet been identified. At 9:24, they’re at the police station and call for paramedics. The Baltimore Sun laid out a timeline and included a map to help sort out what happened.

So it was about 45 minutes from the time of the arrest and the time the paramedics were called. Did I mention that Gray, who is asthmatic asked for his inhaler at 8:42, but doesn’t appear to have ever gotten it? We don’t know if someone actually said the words "fuck your breath", but we know that their actions indicated that sentiment.

The preliminary autopsy shows no injuries to Gray, other than his 80% severed spinal cord. According to the attorney for Grey’s family, three of his vertebrae and his voice box were crushed. So there were no injuries to his legs and he wasn’t beaten up. His legs not moving in the video at the time of the arrest would be consistent with the spinal cord injury, but that’s entirely speculation on my part. I don’t know how severe the injury to his voice box was, and if he could still scream out after that injury happened, but we do know that he was screaming out in the video. Note that he wasn’t screaming out words like cussing out the cops. He seemed to be screaming out in pain.

We know that the injuries to Gray couldn’t have happened casually. In other words, they were a result of serious trauma. That’s according to medical experts The Baltimore Sun spoke with.

Now would be a good time for me to explain what a "nickel ride" is. This is a term used by police for when they throw a suspect in the back of a van without a seat belt and drive the van quickly, taking as many fast corners as they can so as to teach the suspect a lesson by throwing him around the van. You know, harmless fun.

Except for the fact that in 2005 Baltimore paid out $6 million to Jeffrey Alston, who was paralyzed from the neck down because he was taken in harmless nickel ride. He was originally awarded $39 million by a jury, but he ended up settling for $6 million because by 2004, he had been paralyzed for seven years. There’s also Dondi Johnson Sr, who became a paraplegic after his nickel ride in Baltimore in 2005. He received a $7.4 million settlement. His arrest was for public urination. His award was reduced to $219,000 because there’s a state law that caps such damages. Yeah, you read that right. I didn’t drop a zero. He got less that a quarter of a million dollars because the cops turned him into a paraplegic. I’m sure he won’t have a financial woe in the world now. There’s also Christine Abbott, who mercifully wasn’t paralyzed. She is in the process of suing because she was given a nickel ride in Baltimore in 2012. From the article in the Baltimore Sun;

"According to the suit, officers cuffed Abbott’s hands behind her back, threw her into a police van, left her unbuckled and "maniacally drove" her to the Northern District police station, "tossing [her] around the interior of the police van."

"They were braking really short so that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really wide, fast turns," Abbott said in an interview that mirrored allegations in her lawsuit. "I couldn’t brace myself. I was terrified."

The lawsuit states she suffered unspecified injuries from the arrest and the ride.

"You feel like a piece of cargo," she added. "You don’t feel human."

The van’s driver stated in a deposition that Abbott was not buckled into her seat belt, but the officers have denied driving recklessly.

Those are just the cases I found in Baltimore. I don’t know what happened, but I know that the city of Baltimore isn’t explaining it. I know that a 25 year old man who was healthy enough to run, died a week after he was placed in the care of Baltimore PD of spinal cord injuries. I know that we have another black corpse, and four cops who are on (say it with me) paid administrative leave.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but it does seem like "fuck your breath" was the prevailing mindset for around 45 minutes, while Freddie Gray was in that van, as well as the minute or so before he was thrown in it. The city admitted that much anyway.    




A Trans Republican?

So all the jokes about Bruce Jenner’s deviant lifestyle choice in being a republican have been put out there. I made a few myself because it’s a inexplicable choice.

I’ve chosen to post articles about all of the anti-trans (specifically) legislation that republicans have put forth in various states. These bills really address no problem at all. They’re designed to humiliate, ostracize, and dehumanize members of the trans community. Some of these bills involve fines for peeing without producing ID. Others involve handcuffs. Some incentivize people to seek out and turn in a trans person peeing in the "wrong" bathroom by enticing them with $2500 in compensation for the emotional trauma they went through, what with peeing next to someone so icky and all.

These republicans claim that they’re goal is to "protect" the public by preventing the sexual assaults that have never materialized, but need preventing anyway. Republicans don’t see the trans community as human.

So Bruce Jenner really is inexplicably stupid and self destructive in his support of the republican party. Except that I think I can explain it, although I can’t make it less stupid. Bruce Jenner will never be fined for using the wrong bathroom. Bruce Jenner will never be jailed for using the wrong bathroom. Bruce Jenner will never have this done to him;







This is Veronica Bolina on two weeks ago. Cops in Brazil did this to her.











This is what she normally looks like.

That’s never going to happen to Bruce Jenner. Not by cops, and not by anyone else.

Bruce Jenner will never have to deal with being trapped in a body he knows he doesn’t belong in because he can’t afford the surgeries, medications, and therapy involved in getting where he knows he should be.

In short, Bruce Jenner’s primary concern is with keeping his money. Like most republicans in California, he gets to be a republican because democrats have created an environment where they have that luxury.

California spent money on all of the things that you need to spend money on to attract business and grow an economy. According to a study by Endeavor, entrepreneurs choose where they want to start their companies based on several factors.

  • Access to a skilled and educated talent pool. California had set up a great higher education system that was accessible to all until Reagan killed free tuition to state schools. Even though a great education isn’t available to as many people in CA, it’s still there.
  • Access to clients and suppliers. California invested in the kind of infrastructure that makes people want to live in a certain place over another. Local transportation, airports, and highways are all means of attracting people to a city or state.

Wanna know what these entrepreneurs didn’t cite as a factor in deciding where to start their companies? Low taxes. Only 5% of entrepreneurs included that on their list of factors.

California did the opposite of what (for example) Kentucky is doing. They’re sitting around and whining about being piss poor because the big, mean government won’t let business squeeze every last bit of natural resources out of the land and sets taxes too high for anyone to want to start a business there. California in the mean time, ran out of gold a long fucking time ago but since they invested in building infrastructure and universities like UCLA and Berkeley, they are now the world’s seventh largest economy.

California spent the money it needed to in order to create a climate for California republicans to prosper, and have no worries other than how not to pay to maintain the environment that enables their wealth.

Bruce Jenner gets to focus on his taxes because he doesn’t have the needs of a poor transgender person living in a red state. He doesn’t have to worry about being the victim of a hate crime because California is a much more open and accepting place than other states. Let’s keep it real, his wealth largely protects him, but living in an accepting culture doesn’t hurt.

Don’t misunderstand me, my intention is not to blame Jenner for his views or to diminish the positive impact I believe he’s going to have on trans acceptance in the US. I’m just trying to explain how someone in his position may have come to hold republican view. He’s completely sheltered from the destructiveness of conservatism. You can’t be responsible for now knowing what you don’t know. He’s living in a bubble (okay, it’s actually more like a circus tent) where he’s not exposed to these efforts by republicans to humiliate and denigrate him.

He’s lucky enough to spend time worrying on how to keep as much of his money as he can so that he can pass it down to his lovely family, who will undoubtedly create more jobs that Google, if only they get the chance to inherit all of his money without paying any taxes on it.       



Pull Up Your Pants

Or we’re going to electrocute you to death, sans the chair. That’s what happened to Ervin Leon Edwards in November 2013. He was taken to jail in Baton Rouge because (I’m not making this up) his pants were too saggy, and therefore didn’t comply with bright red Louisiana’s small government pant regulations.

I’m going to sidetrack for a moment to state something that should be fairly obvious. When you pass a law telling people how to wear their clothes, you cannot call yourself a "small government" republican. It appears there’s nothing small about a any government run by republicans. Over and over again, these red states have laws designed to regulate not business (that would be a bridge too far), but you and personal choices that you may want to make.

When you pass a law making saggy pants illegal, your only goal is to create anther reason to harass black people. Let’s not pretend this law was anything more than that.

Back to Ervin. Police were called to a gas station where he and his girlfriend were having a verbal fight. The fight was over by the time the cops got there but Ervin’s pants were past the legal sagging limit, so in the interest of protecting the public, he had to be taken to jail. Can you guess how this ends? If your guess was that it ends with the corpse of Ervin Leon Edwards, you would be correct.

Let’s start with that the cops said happened. According Officer Dustin McMullan, he tased Ervin for five seconds in order to subdue him when he (Ervin) got combative. Five seconds is one cycle for that particular taser. The cop claims that he holstered the taser after that five second burst because it had no effect on Ervin. After he put the taser away, the cop said that he helped other officers use “empty hand control techniques” to remove the restraints from Edwards’ ankles and hands before leaving the cell. They also said that a deputy went in to check on Ervin at some point and found him breathing and moving his arms.

So let’s watch the video that was finally released yesterday to see how much of that was actually true:

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So you can see that there are six cops in the room. Seems to me like a six to one ratio of force would make the use of a taser completely unnecessary, but that’s just me. Maybe all six of these cops have very low testosterone levels and sperm counts. They need all the tools they can get their hands on in order to subdue anything bigger than a kitten, because they’re barely men at all.

Just to explain what you’re seeing in the video, Officer Dustin McTase A Lot is the cop directly under the really big one who’s standing up, so you can’t see everything he does. At the :32 mark in the video, you can see all of the cops (but especially the one closest to the door) jolt backward. That’s when the taser was first turned on Ervin. At :34 you can actually see it because the big cop steps back. That taser stays on Ervin’s body until :47 where the sadistic cop lifts it for a split second while he gets his balance so that he can really dig the thing into Ervin from a more steady angle. That motherfucker kept that taser in place until the 1:25 mark in the video. Everyone is leaving the room, Ervin isn’t moving at all, and that piece of fucking shit cop is still tasing the (at that point) body while the other cops are pulling the corpse’s pants off. Can you tell that I’m enraged? Three minutes later, you see someone looking into the room. I guess this is when they checked in on him and found him breathing and moving his arms? Two minutes after that, someone else looks into the room. Five minutes after that someone can finally be fucked to enter the room, with no seeming sense of urgency, and solely for the purpose of kicking the body’s foot. I guess this is some new fangled form of CPR that I haven’t yet heard of.

Remember how I told you that this happened in November, 2013? You must be wondering (as I was) why we’re just now seeing the video. The incident was investigated by internal affairs and lo and behold! They found no wrongdoing. Quelle surprise! We’re seeing the video because of a wrongful death civil suit filed by Ervin’s family.

Every article I’ve read on this says that the cops fucked up by not checking in on him and administering any CPR or making any effort to save his life (or make sure that he still had one). So that relentless tasing thing, that’s just swell. I guess that it falls within the parameters of this book we keep hearing that everything is being done by. If pumping 50,000 volts of electricity into a human for nearly a full minute isn’t considered totally shitting on the book, the book needs to be radically edited. So according to police procedure, the misconduct didn’t start until the moment the tasing ended and everyone left the room. By "according to police procedure", I mean not according to internal investigations, who found that everything was done by the book, and there’s nothing to see here.

Ervin’s cause of death is officially "undetermined", a result of “acute cocaine and phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication in association with restraint by law enforcement”. So naturally, we’re starting to get some of the same victim blaming bullshit we got with Eric Garner. He was a drug addled fatty who would be alive today if he’d put down the drugs and the donuts years ago. Or maybe he could have kept doing the drugs and eating the fried chicken, just as long as he kept his pants over the legal limit?

So now the DOJ and the FBI both have the files on this case, although there’s no confirmation that they’re investigating. If past if prologue, here’s how this is going to unfold. The family will receive a big settlement from the city. It won’t go to trial, they will just throw as much money at it as they have to, in order to avoid a trial. Think about it, how many police brutality trials do we hear about, relative to video of police brutality instances we see? The taxpayers of Baton Rouge will have to pay that money, as well as the salaries and pensions of every cop who was in that room, since none of them will ever face any consequences for what they did. The best case scenario is that he sadistic taser-happy piece of crap will be taken off the streets or (not likely) fired (with his full pension intact).

The incentive structure is not set up to produce good cops or promote good behavior by cops. There are seldom any consequences for bad behavior. If there aren’t going to be any consequences, why would these guys ever stop? That piece of shit that killed Eric Garner had three previous complaints of brutality or impropriety brought against him. Two of which had been settled before he killed Eric Garner. Every time he got away with humiliating or assaulting a black man, his sadist wings grew and he let his shitty cop freak flag fly until he finally murdered someone. And he still has his job.

So to recap;

Saggy pants = jail because that’s the only way to get the criminal element off the streets.

Murdering cop = no jail, keep your job, retire with a full pension because the criminal element on the streets is something the community should pay for and value, as long as it’s wearing a uniform.

I don’t see how we’re not encouraging more of this behavior when over and over again, we see communities paying to be brutalized by their police forces.     


Your Estate Is Now Safe

By "your", I don’t actually mean yours. I guess I do, but only if you own one of the top .2% of the biggest American estates who have been suffering under the onerous and tyrannical estate tax system. It’s tyrannical because the government actually claims that your heirs should have to pay taxes on money they inherit from you. You know, like they would have to pay on lottery money or unemployment benefits that they’ve been contributing to their whole working lives. If you ever need to take advantage of that unemployment insurance you’ve paid for, you have to pay federal taxes on that money. But dammit, taxing your heirs for receiving money they didn’t earn is a bridge too far!

I am a firm believer that if you had the forethought to be born into a filthy rich family, you shouldn’t be penalized for having better boot straps than the poor bastard who thought that being born to poor people was a good life plan. Why the fuck should you pay taxes on the money that you didn’t earn, but watched (when you weren’t at your tennis lesson) your parents earn. Or worse yet, weren’t around when your grandparents earned it, but are clearly bootstrapped to. I mean, being born to wealthy people is hard work. Why should a rich person have to pay taxes on money that drops out of the sky for them, the way you pay taxes on the money you spend 40 – 60 hours a week working for? I mean, it’s not the rich guy’s fault that you’re the kind of sucker who obtains money by working for it. Why are we punishing the innovation of being born rich?

We all know that the best way to stimulate the economy and create jobs is to let Paris Hilton have her grandfather’s money for free. She’s obviously going to spend it in a much smarter way than the government, who will probably squander it on a road or a republican war that even republicans don’t want to pay for.

Let me explain how the estate tax works for the 99.8% of you lazy moochers who aren’t familiar with it. In 2015, any inheritance you (again, I don’t mean you, you fucking loser) get is tax free for the first $5.43 million dollars. I’m sorry, when I said $5.43 million dollars, I mean per person. So if you’re inheriting from Mummy and Papaaa, you get $10.86 million dollars of free money. Just to give you a little context, the amount that was free in 2001 was $650k per person.

To recap, right before we launched two wars, heirs of large estates got $1.3 million dollars of free money from Mamaaa and Papaaa. Today, since we’re still paying for those wars, they get $10.86 million dollars of free money. That’s today, but don’t worry because republicans in the house just voted to make things more fair. They want to make the entire estate free for the heirs. They really are a party of the people. There are precisely 5,500 people whose estates will be affected by this bold move to fight the power and stand up for the middle class.

Obviously, the estate tax is an attempt to loot money from hard working children of billionaires, and it must not stand! Let’s review the origins of the estate tax. The estate tax was born in 1916, and it was proposed and passed under the auspices of fair taxation. Cordell Hull, who sponsored the legislation said,

"I have no disposition to tax wealth unnecessarily or unjustly, but I do believe that the wealth of the country should bear its just share of the burden of taxation and that it should not be permitted to shirk that duty."

Representative William Cox, who supported the estate tax said,

"It is the first successful attempt to make wealth bear its just and proportionate burden of taxation."

At its original implementation in 1916, the estate tax was set at 10% of all estates worth over $5 million dollars. It went up very quickly. For 1917, it was 15% on all estates worth over $5 million dollars. But in 1917, it was raised again to 15% of net estate in excess of $5 million plus war estate tax 10% of net estate tax in excess of $10 million. Huh. So because we were at war, the legislators at the time thought that raising taxes would be the prudent and fiscally responsible thing to do. Oh, but we’re just getting started on the increases. By 1932, the estate tax was 45% of net estate in excess of $50 million. And then here a’come FDR to raise it to 60% of net estate in excess of $50 million in 1934, but that didn’t last long. By 1935, he increased it to 70% of net estate in excess of $50 million. And then came 1940, where there was another war to pay for. He increased the estate tax to 70% of excess of net estate over $10 million plus a defense tax of 10% of the total tax computed under the basic and additional estate taxes (in effect, maximum tax was 77%). From 1941 until 1977, they decided not to fuck around with all that language and just set the estate tax at 77% of excess of net estate over $10 million. Can someone remind me when the golden era of economic expansion in the US was again? Jimmy Carter came in and changed the tax to 70% of excess over $5 million. And then Ronny, patron saint of the wealthy, set it at 65% of excess over $4 million for 1982, 60% of excess over $3.5 million for 1983 , and 55% of excess over $3 million for 1984 – 1988. For 1987 – 1998, the rate was set at 55% of excess over $3 million (effectively 60% for estates in excess of $10 million but less than $21,040,000 because of a surtax to phase out benefits of the graduated rates and unified credit). That was as low as Ronald Reagan could conceive of dropping it. But fear not, Buckley v Valeo was starting to being in dividends. For 1998 – 2001, Bill Clinton set the rate at 55% of excess over $3 million (effectively 60% for estates in excess of $10 million but less than $17,184,000 because of a surtax to phase out benefits of the graduated rate).

To be clear, the intention behind an estate tax was twofold. It was the best way to pay for things because what better time to tax someone, than when it’s on money they didn’t break their backs earning? The second purpose was to prevent oligarchy. FDR correctly said,

"Great accumulations of wealth cannot be justified on the basis of personal and family security. In the last analysis such accumulations amount to the perpetuation of great and undesirable concentration of control in a relatively few individuals over the employment and welfare of many, many others."

I don’t care if you like that or not. FDR was right, and there’s nothing you can say to change that empirical fact.

Huh. As soon as we lowered the Paris Hilton tax, wealth started to become mega-concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of people. Today. 400 people own the same wealth as 50% of Americans. That is not a fucking accident. Taxation is always a redistribution of wealth. It always had been, and it always will be. First worlds have never been built in any way other than through an involuntary taxation system. The question is, do we want to redistribute across, or up?

During the time when the top estate tax was set at 77%, the top corporate and income tax rate was higher (at 91%). This forced reinvestment in companies and the country. There was no incentive to loot money from your company or your country because you were just going to pay it all out in taxes. That’s what created the greatest economic expansion in the history of our country. Again, I don’t care if you don’t like it. It is what it is and all of your theorizing and quantum physics, parallel universe nonsense isn’t going to change the empirical facts of what happened.

So let me share some estate tax fun facts so that you can really see (in case you’ve been confused for fifty years) who republicans champion.

  • In 2013, among estates that paid any tax at all, the effective tax rate was 16.6%. To put that into perspective, if you make 40k per year, your federal tax rate is 25%.
  • In 2013, a total of one hundred and twenty (that is the largest nonpartisan number I could find) small businesses and small farms paid any estate tax at all.
  • The largest estates are comprised of 55% in unrealized capital gains. This is money that has never been taxed. Not once. Capital gains become "realized" when you sell them. That’s when you pay taxes on them. If you’ve never sold stocks, that your parents bought for you when you were born, taxes have never been collected on that wealth. So a billionaire would have a very large amount stashed in unrealized capitalized gains, since they’re never really having to face a situation where they have to sell the stock they’ve been sitting on for generations, so that they can buy a sandwich.
  • Repealing the estate tax entirely, as republicans want to do, will cost $269 billion dollars over the next ten years.

So you decide: is the GOP the party of the people? Are you the person they’re fighting for? Let’s be clear, someone is going to have to pay that missing $269 billion dollars. Just like someone has been paying for every top tax rate cut. That unicorn republicans keep referring to, where spending less is an option has never happened. Remember, they never paid for their last two wars. Wars that will cost us money until their invention ISIS, and every other terrorist group that forms as a result of destroying Iraq are completely eradicated. And bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bombing Iran isn’t free either. So if you’re opposed to negotiating with Iran, you’d better get ready to pony up your share of that war plus the $269 billion dollars you want Paris Hilton and the Walton miscreants to have.

Someone has to pay. Who do you want that someone to be?               



The Anecdotal Obamacare Story That Matters

If you’re even casually familiar with me, you know that I have almost no use for anecdotal "evidence". Anecdotes are not evidence of anything other than what one person believes they’ve seen at one specific moment in time. Obamacare has brought a glut of anecdotal Obamacare horror stories to my various social media pages. Statistically speaking, every single American who got screwed by this law has ended up finding me on social media. No seriously, the numbers simply don’t support these claims of devastation and woe. One guy claimed that his insurance premiums increased by 250%! Holy shit! Surely Fox News would have found him if this were true, right? I mean, they paraded a bunch of Obamacare "victims" whose stories all turned out to be 100% bullshit. Fox was really in need of a legitimately fucked over insurance consumer. Why didn’t this guy take this opportunity to possibly become a right wing hero a la Cliven Bundy? Why? Because he told me he was in Arizona. I looked up the stats for his state. Turns out that in Arizona, rates went down by ten percent for 2015. Oopsie! I never heard back from him after I shared that data with him. I guess he died at home alone, of a stubbed toe that got infected because he couldn’t afford the one million dollar copay that came with his wretched Obamacare plan. Poor bastard.

And then there was the vet who insisted that the VA was the worst health insurance in the world, and that Obamacare was going to destroy the previously awesome private insurance market. When I pointed out that the VA has always had a higher satisfaction rating than private insurance, he got huffy and played the "I’m a vet and you’re not" card. I let him know that I would be happy to ignore his attempts at acting intellectually superior with actually being intellectually superior if he could find me a single year in which the VA’s approval rating was lower than that of private insurance. He didn’t even bother to do that, instead opting to insist that he knew better because of his first hand experience. I assured him that the curmudgeon contingent was included in those approval ratings. He was unmoved by reason, logic, or anything that might not fit with what he "knew".

These are just a couple of anecdotal examples of why I have no use for anecdotal "evidence" (see what I did there?) Wanna know where I’m going next? Yep, I’m going to share an anecdotal Obamacare story. This is the story of James Webb, a fifty one year old self proclaimed teabagger and veteran. He hates commies and Obama. He does love guns though. He really, really loves guns. He loves to make videos of himself shooting guns. Lots and lots of ‘pew, pew, pew, pew, pew’ videos on his youtube channel. He hates the fact that the gays have ruined The Walking Dead for him. He refers to the Ferguson protestors as the "cesspool of America", who come from "generations and generations, and generations of living off the government". He’s been posting videos on youtube for seven years now so if after reading this, you decide that he was a plant, let me assure you that he isn’t.

Anyway, James posted a video last week that will double the one million views mark he crossed last month (congrats James), in a matter of days. James posted a video explaining why he might vote for Hillary Clinton. See, James retired last year because Obamacare set him free from having to work for health insurance. He’s not interested in losing the awesome and affordable coverage he has. Before I get to the latest video about who he’s going to vote for next year, let’s watch a video he put up seven months ago, explaining how Obamacare allowed him to retire at the age of fifty.

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Notice how he starts off by saying that, "In the Obama administration, the least [sic] you work, the more you get. Now I know it used to be you worked hard, you saved hard and you retired, but not anymore". But as he kept talking he says, "I’ve been pulling that wagon for thirty-one years. It’s my turn to ride in it, and I’m going to ride. I’m going to ride in that wagon, and I deserve it." This is a guy whose right wing programming is at odds with what he’s seen and lived.

To republicans, if you don’t work until you die, you’re lazy. I know I’m skipping ahead but let’s get into some of the replies he got to the video he posted last week. Some republicans weren’t happy with his considering voting his own self interest in 2016. One woman said, "Heaven fucking forbid you have to go back to work. Since when is retiring at age fifty acceptable?…..Get off your fat ass and go back to work…..You are what’s wrong with this country." This is my favorite part of the stupid twat’s email to him, "People who vote based on what’s best for them are fucked up people. You need to be thinking about what’s best for society as a whole and future generations, and our planet, and humanity as a whole." Yeah, she said that to justify voting republican. WOW! That just redefined the parameters of cognitive dissonance. Another guy writes James to call him a troll. He demands that James explain himself and the affliction that justifies his early retirement.

These people aren’t morally outraged that James is retired at the age of fifty. They’re enraged that they can’t. And the reason why they can’t, is because they’ve bought the whole line of right wing bullshit that keeps them slaves to the billionaires who bought their party. They have Stockholm Syndrome and they can’t allow anyone to suffer less than they expect to have to suffer. These are the same dumb dumbs who insist that welfare recipients should be subjected to drug testing. I post statistic after statistic about state after state, where testing welfare recipients has unearthed very little drug use while costing taxpayers a lot of money. I always get replies to those statistics, proclaiming that "if you’re on welfare, you should be drug tested". But I just showed you that doing that wasted a whole bunch of your taxpayer dollars for no good reason at all. But NO! People on welfare must be punished, and reason, logic, and fiscal responsibility are irrelevant! These people are not rational. They’re probably not even hateful by nature. But their struggles make it necessary to punch down at people who they need to be on the rung below them. Because if there’s nobody suffering beneath you, what does that make you in the grand scheme of society?

I always ask myself, as part of deciding where I land on an issue, "who are you advocating for?" If you want to humiliate poor people, even though it’s going to cost you money to do it, who are you advocating for? If you’re insisting that James’ lazy ass need to get a job right now, who are you advocating for? We see James himself do it at the beginning of the video I posted above, when he said that under Obama, people no longer need to work hard. He can’t even hear his own contradiction when he goes on to say that he’s put in thirty-one years of work, and deserves to enjoy his life. Here’s the difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives believe that they’re the worthy exception to the rule. Whether it’s taking food stamps, collecting unemployment insurance because of a layoff, or signing up for Obamacare; they earned it but everyone else is a moocher. Liberals believe that everyone who needs help should have it. The exceptions are the teenie, tiny ( I can post dozens of examples) few who abuse the system.  

Here’s a couple of other things about James that I noticed. He went from the military, straight into a government job where he became eligible to retire at the age of fifty. That dreaded big government he and his ilk hate, is who he worked for. And that dreaded government he worked for provided him with the pension that Ronald Reagan and the republican party don’t want anyone to have. That’s why they invented 401k’s. They weren’t funneling enough money to Wall Street, or enough company profits up to the top with pension plans so they concocted 401ks to steal (I urge you to watch that video) more from you. Everything that James has gotten for his hard work, is something that he’s voted against having. He says that he’s voted republican for thirty-two years.

And by the way, that finish line at age sixty-five wouldn’t exist at all, were it not for democrats. Republicans never wanted, and still don’t want you to have medicare or social security. They also don’t want for you to earn a living wage in exchange for working hard. Is anyone under the impression that cleaning office buildings is work for lazy people? Are they too lazy to work and too lazy to bootstrap themselves into college with that $7.25 an hour they wouldn’t even be earning if republicans had their way? Their whole fucking system is designed to keep you a lifelong wage slave. The only way you get anything in republican paradise, is to be born into it. If you’re not born into a family that can send you to college, you’re literally shit out of luck. You’re worse than shit out of luck, because they will treat you like a lazy piece of crap for not being able to get yourself to college on the crap wages they insist you should earn. I showed you in a post last week, that if you’re born poor in America, 70% of you will stay poor. Republicans like it that way. And poor republicans have been programmed to like it that way. That’s why they avail themselves of the opportunity to shit on someone else, every time they get a chance.

This post is already longer than I intended, so I’m going to wrap it up soon. The reason why James’ anecdotal Obamacare story matters, is because it runs contrary to his ideology. What he realized isn’t what he expected to realize. That just makes him more credible. Here’s the video where he talks about his struggle with his 2016 vote;

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And here’s a follow up he posted yesterday; 

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Notice how the second video lacked explanation? I wonder if that’s because it’s just an inexplicable decision? I believe that James will ultimately vote his own self interest because once the thinking starts, the programming really can’t reassert itself. I don’t know who the nominees are going to be, but I’m pretty sure that James won’t be voting republican.


Thanks Homophobic Pizza Hillbillies!

If you follow me on social media, you know that I never bought the idea that the pizza place in Indiana who proudly stated that they would refuse to cater a gay wedding raised $842,000. Everything about that GoFundMe campaign looked fishy. First of all, the donations were nearly entirely anonymous with no messages of support. Who the hell makes a political statement donation without making a political statement? On any other funding campaign, the majority of donations have a name and a comment from most of the contributors. This one had virtually none. The next thing was the dollar amount. Something happens after a while in fundraising campaigns; people will go to contribute and after a certain amount has been raised, they don’t end up contributing. Wouldn’t you think that at (say) 200k, contributors would tell themselves that the pizza hillbillies don’t need their money because they’ve raised plenty?

My suspicion is that they were getting robodonations from a big anti-gay group like Focus On The Family, Brian Fisher, or any other group that has the nerve to use the word ‘family to push their family busting agenda forward.

But this post isn’t about that. This post is about thanking the pizza hillbillies and their allies. Because they allegedly made so much money letting their bigoted freak flags fly, other bigots felt empowered to let let their hate rip. Their really stupid strategy to grab some short term headlines, has really put one of the last remaining nails in the homophobe coffin. The most predictable thing in the world happened, when the pizza hillbillies appeared to get rich because of their hate. Another homophobe boldly came out, thinking that he would mine him some of that hate gold from them thar hills.

Enter Brian Klawiter, a car repair shop owner who has been victimized enough, and he’s going to use the few literacy skills he possesses to let everyone know:

Enough is enough.

Our rights as conservative Americans are being squashed more and more everyday. Apparently if you are white (or close to it), you have a job, go to church, and own a gun… T , that translates into racists, privileged, bigoted, conspiracy theorist. Too many of us say nothing. Well, freedom of speech isn’t just for Liberals,. THEY are the ones that need to learn to "co-exist", coexist. THEY are the ones who need to WORK to be "equal" equal.

Therefore, in the spirit of freedom (whats left of it) and MY right to operate MY business as I see fit:

Guns ARE allowed at DIESELTEC, so much so in fact that we will offer a discount if you bring in your gun. ("On duty" cops are excluded because thats not their gun,. Thats my gun bought with my money,. off duty absolutely! Armed off duty officers are welcome to take advantage of this offer)

I am a Christian. My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)

We, as a team, work hard for whats ours. We are not protected by unions or contracts. We absolutely MUST provide our customers with a service level that would make them come back or tell their friends about us. We don’t have a "right", and we are not "entitled" to our pay. We must EARN it.

I am not racists,. You are for assuming I am, however, I am really quick to judge... if it acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

It IS a free country and I support your right to your opinion,. That being said, if you don’t like what I have to say, I reserve that same right to tell you to go cry to your momma (cause your daddy would probably smack ya’,. Better yet, yes, go tell your dad.)

I took the liberty of grading it, although I did leave the colloquialisms in for fun. I hope you don’t mind.

Naturally, a GoFundMe page went up because….he was anticipating losing business? Felt he deserved to get paid for extra effort in doing a racist/ homophobic/ ammosexual/ Christian victimhood quadruple axel? Apparently, just saying something stupid and hateful is reason enough to panhandle the world. No actual cause or need is necessary. Just allowing fellow haters the satisfaction of throwing a dollar in the hate jar is justification in itself. GoFundMe ended up taking the page down after a few hours. I couldn’t find a cache of the page, but it apparently only raised five bucks from a married lesbian mother of three who commented, “Will you except [sic] my money? Or is it too gay for you?”

The single five dollar contribution in the form of a bitch slap is awesome. It actually demonstrates the opposite of what the pizza hillbillies’ page supposedly demonstrated (and it makes that page that much more suspicious, thereby adding credibility to my theory). I hope that more people try this because I am certain that they will get the same result; virtually no public support. By the way, I don’t agree with GoFundMe taking down pages. If your website is a conduit for people to raise money for a cause, you shouldn’t censor those causes. Let the murdering cop raise money. Let that cop’s victim’s family raise money to civilly sue the fuck out of the cop. Let the hateful hillbillies raise money. Let anyone donate to anything. You don’t get to act as a moral compass for a small but vocal segment of the country. The easiest way to let people judge their own morality, as well as the courage of their convictions, is to not allow anonymous donations. I wouldn’t be opposed to GoFundMe doing that, but I don’t feel comfortable with their selective removal of fundraising campaigns. I guess that’s just me. I believe that over time, my views will prevail because they’re the morally correct ones. If a loathsome person raises a few hundred thousand dollars along the way, that doesn’t bother me because it’s a nice reality check on where the country is on issues. I promise you that there won’t be a nickel in donations for homophobic, "Christian" pizzeria owners (who nonetheless serve sausage) ten years from now. Let them raise as much money as they can, until they can’t anymore.

That five dollar protest donation isn’t the only response the illiterate, homophobic car repair guy got. Cummins Inc, a huge car engine manufacturer contacted Deiseltec and told them not to use their logo in their store window. That happened a day after the illiterate and homophobic rant.

But my favorite response (so far) came from Jeffrey Mapes, a bankruptcy lawyer in Grand Rapids, MI. He posted the following letter on his practices’ website;

Dear Dieseltec:

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jeffrey Mapes, and I specialize in bankruptcy law — helping individuals and corporations when things go wrong. I noticed your post on Facebook where you decided to alienate most of the general public by stating that you will refuse service to openly homosexual people. This is certainly an unorthodox business strategy, and perhaps it will work for you, but I get the feeling you will need a bankruptcy attorney pretty soon and I wanted to offer my services. Like you, I am white, male, Christian, a business owner, and a gun owner. Unlike you, I provide services to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation because it doesn’t matter to me — I hope this won’t be a deal breaker for you.

If that upsets you, let me tell you a little bit more about our office to try and persuade you. The first thing you will notice is how friendly and compassionate the office staff is. Despite your inane, incoherent and just plain dumb comments, we know that everyone makes mistakes and we want to help you overcome them. They will also be more than willing to help you with some basic grammar that you seem to struggle with.

If you still need more convincing, let me assure you that we will make certain that your bankruptcy petition is filed correctly and there are no errors. You stated in your post that you would incorrectly assemble a vehicle in order to prove a point. I want to let you know that despite the fact that I would love to prove a point to you about tolerance, I won’t compromise my standards of quality to do so. After all, I have to look in the mirror at the end of the day and if I didn’t do my best for everyone, I would have trouble sleeping. Perhaps you could give me pointers on how you sleep at night?

Just a few other housekeeping items. While I certainly don’t encourage people to bring guns into my office, so long as you have the proper permit and handle it responsibly, you can bring your gun along. I would only ask that you refrain from menacingly stroking your weapon while you quietly sing David Allen Coe songs to yourself. I also think you have a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment and how it works, but that is a long discussion and we should save that for when we meet in person.

Well Dieseltec, I hope I’ve convinced you that Mapes Law Offices is the right place for you to file your bankruptcy. I would like to leave you with some words of inspiration from the dramatic film Billy Madison and I hope that you will take them to heart:

"What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."


Jeffrey D. Mapes

I like it. I think that people should be able to speak their minds (unless their mind is full of death threats or any threat for that matter), whether that’s with their words or with their contributions. Why? Because I’m not worried about opposing views. I’m confident that mine will win in the long run.

So please, homophobes, racists, anti semites, lay here on the word’s couch and tell us how you feel. And everyone else, feel free to reply. But for fucks sake, can we cut the crap with the threats? How fucking insecure are you, about your point of view, that you have to resort to threats of violence?   



Never Forget That NBC Is Owned By GE

The New York Times broke a giant story yesterday that was largely unnoticed. This story is huge because it’s about our media and how much propaganda we’re being fed. 

The story took place in Syria. Two years ago in December 2012, Richard Engel was reporting on the civil war in Syria when he and four other journalists were kidnapped. They were (ostensibly) forced to record a video urging their governments to help them get home. Engel was one of two journalists from the US in that video so his plea included urging the US to "cease its activities in Syria". Watch:

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Remember, that was about the time the US was deciding to which extent it was going to help the rebels in Syria. So the implication of the video was that the kidnappers were pro-Assad forces. The writing on the wall behind the hostages was comprised of pro-Assad messages and well known Shite references. That is in fact, how Engel reported the event. In several interviews, he plainly stated that the kidnappers were aligned with Assad, and that they were rescued by rebels.

Here’s how Glenn Greenwald reports Engel’s recounts;

As but one of many appearances, Engel appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on December 21 and recounted in detail what happened. He described how he was in “a very rebel-friendly area,” traveling with a “rebel commander” and his team, when they were “ambushed” by “government people”: pro-Assad forces. “We knew it was government by what they were saying,” Engel explained.

Engel then described how the rebel commander heroically tried to sacrifice his own life to save the journalists, but to no avail: the “pro-government forces” brutalized, tortured and threatened the reporters and even executed some of the rebels:

"And so, we knew we were with pro-government forces. The rebel commander was saying to them, kill me, these guys are journalists, they have nothing to do with it. Kill me, I’m a rebel commander. Let them go …

They drive from there to one of their safe houses, don’t know exactly where, but roughly in this area up here. So it is a farm house. They take the guard, the rebel commander’s guard out of the truck. Kill him. Execute him …

And then they took all of us, including the rebel commander, in the safe house. He continually said let them go. … We were here, they wanted to move us here, to Fou’a. And Fou’a is a place that is very hard core Shia, very loyal to the government. It’s mostly surrounded by the rebels, it is being air-supplied by the Syrian government. … So this is a hand-in-glove relationship between the government and this very nasty militia group.

The ordeal ended, Engel said, only when his pro-government captors accidentally ran into a rebel checkpoint, where the rebels heroically killed some of Assad’s forces and freed the journalists, treating them with great compassion:

I don’t know who are these guys and we talk to them a little bit and it was quite clear they were from the rebel group and they couldn’t have been nicer to us. They were hard fighters, clearly good shots. … And then they brought us back to the headquarters, gave us food and water, let us make a phone call. And then they escorted us personally to the border.

Three days earlier, in a December 18th appearance on Maddow’s show, Engel — after describing how brutal and inhumane his captors were — actually linked them to both Iran and Hezbollah in response to a question from David Gregory:

I think I have a very good idea of who they were. This was a group known as the Shabiha. This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al Assad. They are Shiite.

They were talking openly about their loyalty to the government, openly expressing their Shia faith. They are trained by Iranian revolutionary guard. They are allied with Hezbollah.

  To be clear, there’s no reason to think that Engel was lying or that he didn’t believe what he was saying but that doesn’t mean that other people didn’t have doubts. As Greenwald points out;

There were ample reasons at the time to be suspicious that this was a scam (perpetrated on (not by) Engel and his fellow captives) to blame Assad for the abduction. There was skepticism expressed by some independent analysts — although not on NBC News. The truly brilliant political science professor and blogger As’ad AbuKhalil (who I cannot recommend enough be read every day) was highly skeptical from the start about the identity of Engel’s captors, just as he was about the pro-intervention case in Syria and the nature of the “Free Syrian Army” generally (in August 2012 he told me: “Syria is one of the biggest propaganda schemes of our time. When the dust settles, if it does, it will be revealed”).

On December 18 — the day the Engel story became public — Professor AbuKhalil published an email from “a knowledgeable Western journalist” pointing out numerous reasons to doubt that the kidnappers were aligned with Assad, including the fact that prior kidnappings had been falsely attributed to pro-Assad forces. He argued that the Engel abduction “seems very much like a setup, like the kidnappers wanted him to think he was taken by Shiites.” AbuKhalil himself examined the video and wrote:

I looked at the video and it is so clearly a set up and the slogans are so clearly fake and they intend to show that they were clearly Shi’ites and that they are savages.  If this one is believable, I am posing as a dentist.

Of course, I am not saying that Engel was [in] on this plot. I think that they were really kidnapped but that the kidnappers of the Free Syrian Army typically lied to them about their identity, which has happened before.

Greenwald also links to other people who expressed doubts (you should read his article, linked above). Let me repeat that no one, not Glenn Greenwald nor the Times is suggesting that Engel knew, although I do find it curious that he would be certain of what he was saying, given the plausibility and veracity of what others were saying.

But what Engel knew isn’t all that relevant since NBC executives knew enough to doubt the story. From the Times article;

Interviews by The Times with several dozen people — including many of those involved in the search for NBC’s team, rebel fighters and activists in Syria and current and former NBC News employees — suggested that Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.

The group, known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade, was led by two men, Azzo Qassab and Shukri Ajouj, who had a history of smuggling and other crimes. The kidnapping ended, the people involved in the search said, when the team was freed by another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, which had a relationship with Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj.

NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals. Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.

NBC’s own assessment during the kidnapping had focused on Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj, according to a half-dozen people involved in the recovery effort. NBC had received GPS data from the team’s emergency beacon that showed it had been held early in the abduction at a chicken farm widely known by local residents and other rebels to be controlled by the Sunni criminal group.

NBC had sent an Arab envoy into Syria to drive past the farm, according to three people involved in the efforts to locate Mr. Engel, and engaged in outreach to local commanders for help in obtaining the team’s release. These three people declined to be identified, citing safety considerations.

Ali Bakran, a rebel commander who assisted in the search, said in an interview that when he confronted Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj with the GPS map, “Azzo and Shukri both acknowledged having the NBC reporters.”

Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the rebel efforts to court Western support.

So the network had more than just suspicions about who the kidnappers really were and yet, they hustled Engel on every freaking show they had, to tell of his harrowing ordeal with Shiite kidnappers.

Why? Because NBC is the propaganda apparatus for GE, whose primary source of revenue comes from war. It doesn’t matter which war, or who is involved. GE makes money supplying war toys to people who need them. And the best way to get them to buy war toys is to convince them that they need to buy war toys.

Some people in the US deride media outlets like RT or Al Jazeera because they’re state owned (by Russia and Qatar, respectfully). That’s a perfectly legitimate reason to deride a media outlet, but at least we know what RT and Al Jazeera are. We know who they’re speaking for, and we know what the underlying agenda is here. I am not among those who dismiss these two outlets. I find that Al Jazeera does some great reporting, and I’ve seen interesting articles on RT that prompted me to look for more information. To be clear, I wouldn’t turn to Al Jazeera for unbiased reporting on any oil rich Middle Eastern country. Nor would I turn to RT to find out what the hell Putin is up to in Ukraine. But that’s because I know what they are and I can weigh credibility armed with that knowledge. Likewise with Fox or MSNBC. I know what they are, and I can weigh credibility accordingly.

Unfortunately, most Americans use that information to pick the network that will give them maximum confirmation bias. They pick the propaganda they find most yummy for their tummies. MSNBC viewers know that they’re tuning in to hear about republican malfeasance. Fox viewers turn to Fox so that they can hear sweet little lies about the political team whose jersey they wear. I say lies because not even a Fox news viewer can name something the republican party has done for them in the past thirty years. The lies aren’t so much about polishing the unpolishable turd that is the GOP. The lies are about keeping the lemmings on board with voting against their own self interest.

But most Americans turn to network news, and think that they’re getting news that doesn’t play for a team. That’s partially true; network news doesn’t play for a political party team. ABC and CBS play on their advertisers’ team. Did you ever wonder why you were seeing commercials for products you can’t buy? Like the ‘YAY Bechtel’ or the ‘YAY fracking’ ads? Those ads aren’t there to drum up business. That’s not what the millions of dollars of airtime are being bought to do. The point is to make sure that ABC never does a segment on flaming water in Pennsylvania. NBC’s ovarall agenda is GE, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be rented by Koch industries.

Network news is just as shitty as cable news. Figuring out what the hell is going on in the world is getting harder and harder, but it still can be done. I don’t get my news on tv because I don’t have time to waste on watching stories I may or may not be interested in, that were selected for me. I can’t sit through a 3 minute piece on how my dryer lint may be killing me. I get my news online. I don’t dismiss very many media outlets. I do go to the network sites and to Fox, but not as a primary source of information. The only way to get remotely close to the truth is to read a myriad of different sources from several different countries, reporting on the same topic. You start to see patterns in where information overlaps, and what the outlier "facts" are. If you do this for long enough, you start to develop a sixth sense and can smell the bullshit right away. Once you’re able to do that, debunking the bullshit part of the story becomes really easy.

But I digress. The primary point of this piece is to remind you that our media is not much better than Russia or North Korea’s. Yes, we feel like we have a free press, but we don’t. That said, you can still find the truth if you apply yourself. I always say that if you can’t find a story in a newspaper, it’s probably not true. But the fact that it’s in a newspaper doesn’t make it entirely true. You have to read the same story in several credible outlets before you can feel reasonably sure you got the truth. There’s no such thing as a 100% credible outlet. The easiest way to tell if you should put a modicum of faith in a media source, is to see if they’ve ever apologized for getting something horribly wrong. Getting stories wrong happens, but how the mistakes are handled is what’s important. The New York Times admitted that Judith Miller wrote hack propaganda pieces about Iraq at Dick Cheney’s behest. They apologized and fired her. Rolling Stone just openly acknowledged and apologized for a bogus rape story they published.

It is possible to sift through the massive amount of information we now have access to. You just need to approach it critically and with an open mind.    



All Bootstraps Are Not Created Equal

That should seem like an obvious statement, but it’s one that doesn’t seem obvious at all to republican voters. The "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" crowd simply refuse to acknowledge that bootstraps come in different shapes, sizes, and are made of vastly different materials.

Republicans and libertarians live in a utopia where everyone starts off equal, so there’s no reason for any attempt at leveling the playing field in order to ensure that some of us don’t fall off. Actually, that’s not true. Republican operatives and politicians know. The clueless ones are their voters, who are being played and bootstrapped into voting against their own self interest. They need their Horatio Alger fantasy more than they need a living wage and an opportunity to get an affordable education.

How unequal is the playing field? There was an interesting piece in the New York Times that took a closer look at how the circumstances of your birth affect the outcome of your success.

Here are some of the statistics they came up with. The author only looked at male baby boomers, and the probability that they would achieve the same level of success as their fathers. The sexism made looking at just the men seem like the most accurate way to examine the situation. He looked at the presidency and calculated that the son of a president is 1.4 times more likely to become a president, than others in his peer group. That’s obviously based on too small a sample size, but it’s a fun fact nonetheless. The more statistically sound thing to look at is governors. He estimated that one in fifty sons of governors became governors themselves. That’s a rate 6,000 times higher than that of non-gubernatorial bootstrap owners. But if you really want a career in government, you need to make sure that your bootstraps are born to a senator, which would make your odds of becoming a senator 8,500 times more likely than sons with non-senatorial bootstraps. Here are some more statistics;

  • The son of a basketball player in the NBA has a 1 in 45 chance of getting into the NBA. That’s an 800x advantage over the non-NBA bootstrap. He didn’t provide numbers, but he said that they were much lower for baseball and football players (probably because of the height factor in basketball).
  • The son of an army general is 4,582 times more likely to become a general. So much for the military being a true meritocracy.
  • The son of a CEO is 1,895 times more likely to become a CEO.
  • The son of a Pulitzer Prize winner is 1,639 times more likely to become a Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • The son of a Grammy winner is 1,497 times more likely to become a Grammy winner.
  • The son of an Oscar winner is 1,361 times more likely to become an Oscar winner.
  • The son of a billionaire is 28,000 times more likely to become a billionaire.

People think of the US as the land of opportunity. Those people would be wrong. Compared to other large economy, developed countries, the US second to last in upward mobility, after the UK. If you want the best shot at upward mobility, that filthy bastion of socialism, Denmark is where you want to be. Your next best bet is Norway, where the socialism also runs rampant. The next most desirable place to live if you want a chance at upward mobility is Finland. Wanna guess what it costs to get higher education in Finland? Yep, just like Denmark and Norway, Finland’s higher education system is plagued with socialism.

Seventy percent of the people born into the lower economic quintile in the US, don’t make it to the middle class. The good news is that upward mobility hasn’t gotten worse in the past 30 years. It’s just always been shitty.  

Huh. It almost seems like giving everyone an equal opportunity at an education creates more opportunity for upward mobility. Weird. Could it be that the most common use of bootstraps are to bitch slap poor people into staying in their economic lane?   


Both Parties Are Exactly The Same, Part I

I hear this nonsense a lot, so I thought I would start a series of posts highlighting how completely untrue this mantra is. "Both parties are exactly the same" is truly the view of someone who doesn’t like to think, but enjoys having an opinion nonetheless.

By the way, correcting that fallacy does not mean that the person who is doing the correcting is doing anything other than correcting the fallacy. That leap to, "you’re crazy if you think democrats are awesome" isn’t well reasoned. Telling you you’re wrong about the false equivalency isn’t the same as saying that democrats are eighteen flavors of awesome. That would be the leap of a lazy thinker. I’m aware that neither party is laser focused in the poor and the middle class. I’m aware that democrats aren’t fabulous. But pointing out that every decade or so, democrats do something meaningful to help you is a fact. It’s a fact that isn’t true of republicans. Do I think that throwing me a crumb every ten years is sufficient? Not even remotely, but it’s a difference that makes the "they’re exactly the same" argument a lie.

No one I’ve ever gotten into this conversation with has ever been able to come up with a single thing that republicans have done to improve their lives. That should be a clear indication that the "exactly the same" argument isn’t true. And yet, the person who makes the claim usually soldiers on with their losing opinion.

So I’m going to highlight differences as they come up. Part one starts in Texas. Oh Texas, how I love you.

We have all seen copious amounts of footage of cops behaving badly in the past year. As a result, we’ve all spent the past year or two talking about outfitting these cops with body cameras to ensure that we have video of every incident involving any cop. The public seems to be in agreement that body cameras are a good idea. Everyone doesn’t necessarily agree that the body cams alone will solve the problems we’ve been seeing, but everyone agrees that they need to be more widely used. There are a small minority of people who don’t agree with putting body cams on cops.

That small minority includes cops, their unions, and a handful of legislators. One of these legislators is state representative Jason Villalba of Dallas, who introduced house bill 2918. This bill makes recording a cop a class B misdemeanor. You can’t record from within 25 feet, or 100 feet if you’re armed. Let’s be honest here, this is Texas. Who isn’t armed (don’t email me, I’m kidding)? Anyway, he’s getting lots of shit for this bill from freedom loving Texans (and Americans at large).

He claims that the bill is designed to prevent videographer from "interfering" with law enforcement. I guess he’s concerned about citizens interfering with incidents of misconduct, police brutality, and murder by a police officer.

Did I mention he’s a republican? YAY small government conservatism!

At virtually the same moment that freedom loving Jason Villalba is attempting to make taping cops a crime, state representative Ron Reynolds from Missouri City filed a bill that would require all police officers who come in contact with the public to wear body cameras. Reynolds introduced his bill a week after the video of Walter Scott’s murder came out and completely contradicted the murdering cop’s fanciful account.

Did I mention that Representative Reynolds is a democrat? 

His bill didn’t make it out of committee, by the way. Killing it appears to be a joint effort by both republicans and democrats.

But still, Reynold’s bill was a natural (and widely held) reaction to the Walter Scott video. What was Villalba’s bill a reaction to? 

Villalba got so much shit for his bill, that he’s retracted it for now. If you think he learned something from the reaction, think again. He’s going back to rewrite it. The Dallas Morning News spoke with him. What he had to say them was interesting. From the article;

The Dallas Republican conceded flaws in the bill, written by outside police groups, and he takes responsibility for not properly vetting it before filing.

So he got a bill from an interest group (police union) and just filed it without reading it? Okay that’s not unusual even though it’s always outrageous, but republicans really are much more comfortable with this process. They’re used to just putting a bill out there, as it was written by a special interest. They’ve been selling out for much longer than democrats have.

But wait, listen to what he thinks the problem was with his bill;

Villalba said he’ll fix the biggest problem — that the legislation would subject a citizen to arrest if the citizen photographed his own encounter with police……….Of course, he said, a person should be able to video his own detainment. He said the bill should have made clear the proposed 25-foot cordon around a police scene pertained only to third-party onlookers.

Oh, well that solves the problem and preserves freedom. So if you’re witnessing a cop beating the shit out of a homeless man, you would still be committing a crime by taping the incident. But if you’re the one who’s being beaten, by all means, get out your iPhone and tape away. Is this asshole serious? 

Does this new version sound more "conservative" to anyone? Does this bill sound like it’s aim is to serve anyone other than dirty cops?

Please spare me the "they’re all the same" mantra. While I’m at it, I’m also tired of that "republicans want smaller government" bullshit too. Can we finally put that to rest once and for all?

As I said earlier, I will be posting more examples of the differences as they come up. I wanted to write about these two bills because they were both introduced within three weeks of each other. The bill protecting the public isn’t going to go anywhere because members of both parties have been paid off by police unions. But at least someone (a democrat) tried to protect the public.

Republicans are always in 100% lockstep with throwing the public over in favor of the special interests that serve them. Okay that’s not actually true. There are a handful of republicans on a local level that aren’t 100% corporate shills, but on the national level, my 100% figure is entirely accurate.

Wanna prove me wrong? Awesome. Show me something republicans have done for you in the past forty years. Until then, stop telling me they’re exactly the same.