Wednesday, April 30, 2014

So This Is 'Post-Racial America

(Cartoon by Joel Pett, published 4/29/14 in the Lexington Herald Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)
So, the National Basketball Association has brought the hammer down on Donald Sterling, gazillionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers (at least for the nonce) for his appalling racist remarks.  Actually, I have no trouble with the NBA's actions, even though I'm a staunch supporter of Free Speech.  Yes, Mr. Sterling has the Constitutional right to spout such horrid nonsense, and, no, the government shouldn't punish him, but the private club he belongs to does have a right to step in and assess a fine and whatever other penalties for such egregious behavior is on their books.

Bill Plaschke, one of my favorite sports writer does have a few well-chosen words in his column for the Los Angeles Times:

Four days after the release of audiotapes on which Sterling is heard making racist comments, the NBA has banned the Clippers owner for life.

“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,’’ said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday morning. “They simply have no place in the NBA.’’

Sterling was also fined the maximum $2.5 million, but, for the eccentric billionaire who viewed his team as a way to be accepted among his social circle, the lost money is nothing compared with his lost status.   [Emphasis added]

I think the Republican drive to make voting difficult, if not impossible for African Americans, poor people, and elders is far more worrisome and damaging for our democracy.  Joel Pett's cartoon captures both issues beautifully.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Funnies

(Cartoon by Joel Pett, published 4/18/14 in the Lexington Herald-Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.)
(Cartoon by Jack Ohman, published 4/18/14 in the Sacramento Bee and featured at McClatchy DC.)

(Cartoon by Mike Luckovich published 4/18/14 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)
As always, click on image to enlarge.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Chimpanzees

Photo by Christine Dell'Amore and published in National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about how chimps construct their 'nests'.  Oh, and click on image to enlarge.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Just Don't Get It

(Cartoon by Lee Judge, published 4/15/14 by the Kansas City Star and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm serious:  I just don't get it.  I don't get how, during the holiest week in the Christian calendar and on the eve of one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, some dude decides to be the new Hitler.  Or something.

From the LA Times:

The elderly man was well known in this slightly faded farm town for his failed attempts at elective office, his libertarian leanings, his Southern charm.

But Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who also went by the name of Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., was known even more for his white supremacist beliefs that led him to try to incite a race war, pepper local papers with anti-immigrant letters and get into a shouting match with a Jewish student at Missouri State University.

Police arrested Cross on Sunday on suspicion of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Boy Scout and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan., and a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living center. ...

Sunday would have been Franklin's 64th birthday. And Monday was Passover, one of the best known Jewish holidays.

Little is known about Cross' alleged motives, but Beirich posited that the avowed racist and author of a memoir called "A White Man Speaks Out" "has got emphysema, and this is a twisted, white supremacist bucket list."   [Emphasis added]

As some of you know, I have emphysema (actually, COPD) and congestive heart failure and the hospice people who pay for some of my drugs and I both know that my time is greatly foreshortened.  For me, it's not a matter of years but (at best) a matter of months. 

I can't envision facing my maker with the blood of another on my hands.  Rather, I've been working hard to show love, not hatred, especially to those here in the Cuckoo's Nest who also are living out their last days even when I disagree with their politics and their view of humans of a different color, creed, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Life is too precious to waste on such garbage, so it's not on my bucket list.

May God have mercy on Mr. Cross.  I'm working hard right now to open my heart to wish that for him.  But I have to.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Funnies

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 4/13/14 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Cartoon by Kevin Siers, published 4/11/14 in the Miami Herald and featured at McClatchy DC.

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 4/10/14 at the Daily Kos.

(Click on each image to enlarge.)


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Panda Cub

(Photo by Christopher Aldred and published by National Geographic.  Click on image to enlarge and click on link to learn more about these adorable critters.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Mine.  All mine.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

I Answered My Own Question

(Cartoon by Alfredo Marterina and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Yesterday my post was on the three California state legislators indicted for corruption.  I asked why their salaries and plush benefits weren't enough.  In today's L.A. Times, I learned that even after a finding of guilt for bribery, a Los Angeles city official can continue to receive his pension:

A veteran Los Angeles building inspector sentenced last month to prison in an FBI corruption case will continue to receive a yearly pension of more than $72,000, according to a high-level retirement official.

Samuel In, 66, pleaded guilty last year, admitting as part of a plea agreement that he took more than $30,000 in bribes while working as a senior inspector. He was sentenced last month to 2 1/2 years in prison after a federal prosecutor argued against leniency, mentioning his "substantial" pension.

Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure requiring public employees convicted of a felony to give up retirement benefits earned during the period when their crimes were committed.
But the forfeiture requirement doesn't apply to Los Angeles because it is governed by the City Council under a voter-approved charter, and the City Council manages its own pension systems.   [Emphasis added]

It's not just Mr. In who will continue to partake of the city's largesse after shaking down Korean businessmen for favorable reports, miscreants in other city departments (which are subject to the City Council) will also be able to collect their pensions because the state law is superceded by the voter approved Charter.  It will take action by the City Council to change this state of affairs:

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said imposing a pension forfeiture requirement on workers at two city pension systems — one for public safety employees, the other for civilians not employed by the Department of Water and Power — would require, at minimum, a vote of the City Council.

If enacted, such a change would apply only to employees hired after the new law took effect, he said.   [Emphasis added]

So, what's to be done?  Well, the City Council is apparently already discussing the issue with the City Attorney's office:

In's pension payments troubled Councilman Mitchell Englander, who said he would support city legislation targeting the retirement pay of employees found guilty of public corruption crimes. "If you are convicted of a felony and were utilizing your position" at a government agency, "you should have to forfeit the entire thing," said Englander, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee.  [Emphasis added]

I would hope that those talks will be fruitful.


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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What? Their Salaries Aren't Sufficient?

Yes, another cartoon from Ted Rall, this time from his blog post of April 3, 2014.  I've been watching the news on this subject, specifically the federal indictment of Leland Yee and two other state legislators for corruption.  Yee's is the 'sexier' story because he was party to a plan to smuggle arms into the U.S.

The genesis of today’s cartoon is a barroom argument I found myself having at least 20 years ago with a Chicagoan. “The Illinois state legislature,” he stated confidently, “is the most corrupt in the country.” I made cases for my home state of Ohio and my adopted home of New York. Overhearing us, a third man approached, loaded for bear, to make clear that anyone who challenged Harrisburg, home of Pennsylvania’s state house, as the stinkiest cesspool in all of American politics would have to deal with him and his voluminous knowledge of the Keystone State’s seemingly infinite list of dirty deeds.

There was never any doubt that this week’s piece would be about Leland Yee, the pro-gun control state senator accused of attempted arms smuggling. As they say, you can’t make these things up. To think that people still ask me where I get my ideas! ...

...Rather than single out Yee as a bad apple (whom, thanks to the FBI, we can feel happy has been extracted from the newly virtuous political gathering in Sacramento), I depict his corrupt colleagues bemoaning their own lack of ambition and scope compared to Yee’s staggeringly over-the-top perfidy. Given the string of recent scandals out of the state capital, from Roy Ashburn (the gay state senator who voted against gay rights, arrested for DUI) to Michael Duvall (the family values conservative caught bragging about his affairs over an open mic), Yee’s arrest does not likely signal a 99-44/100ths pure state assembly.   [Emphasis added]

What really upsets me is that all three of the most recent busts are three Democrats.  So much for the "but we're the better party" that seems to be the prevailing meme this election cycle.

I picked the wrong decade to quit drinking.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

This And That

(Cartoon by Jim Morin published 4/4/14 in the Miami Herald and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I don't have much today.  The news has left me too drained emotionally to think clearly, much less type.  So, I'll give you a few links and let you take it from there.

First, Mike Hiltzig takes a look at the refusal of Hoag Hospital in Orange County, California to perform abortions now that it is affiliated with a Roman Catholic system of hospitals.

Next, there was that horrific shooting at Fort Hood last week, and the analyses of just how it could happen -- again -- continue.

But even amongst all the bad news (and there was plenty), I did find a story that just warmed my heart: it's about some women reaching out to those less fortunate than they.

That last article is enough to sustain me, but only after I get a little more rest.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be a bit more coherent.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Funnies: Variations On A Theme

Cartoon by Steve Sack and published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Cartoon by Jack Ohman and published in the Sacramento Bee.

As always, click on the images to enlarge.



Saturday, April 05, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Zebras

(Photo by Brian Hilsmeyer and published in National Geographic.  Click on the link to learn one theory of why zebras have stripes.)

Still Fighting After All These Years

(Cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and located here.  Click on image to enlarge and then hustle on back.)

Mike Luckovich's cartoon is as timely today as it was when it was published last year (at least I think it was last year ... ).  We're still fighting the War On Women, and what is particularly disheartening is that there are women fighting on the wrong freakin' side!  Robin Abcarian had a particularly thoughtful analysis of this phenomenon in one of her recent columns for the L.A. Times.  In it, she noted that three conservative women spoke on a panel at an Heritage Foundation event.  (She has happily provided a video of that panel at the top of her column.)

Has feminism made women miserable?

Oh God, are we really having this discussion?

Yes, we are.

That, in fact, was the gist of an all-female panel discussion at the conservative Heritage Foundation which chose to "celebrate" Women’s History Month last week by inviting a trio of professional women to trash the very movement to which they most assuredly owe their status in the workplace.
Not to mention the respect they are accorded by formerly male-dominated political bastions like the, um, Heritage Foundation.
But why let details like that stand in the way when you are, as the panel promised, “Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures and Its Future”? ...

It took a few minutes of watching the video before I realized that these women have nothing good to say about "feminism" because, by their definition, it’s the ideological opposite of "conservative."

To them, it does not stand for the political view that men and women are equal, that women should be able to control their own reproductive fates, that no government entity, educational institution or business should be able to discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender. Instead it's a synonym for “liberals” or “Democrats.”   [Emphasis added]

 I suppose I should be amused by the fact that the three women who indeed "owe their status" to the feminist movement.  Mona Charon (newspaper columnist, occasional talk show guest), Mollie Hemingway (Senior Editor of the Federalist), and Karen Agness (founder of the Network of Enlightened Women -- for college women) all seem to be clueless as to the unlikelihood of their achieving what they have without the movement pushing ... pushing ... pushing.  But I am not amused at all.

Like too many conservatives, these women have taken the stance of their male counterparts:  "I've got mine and to hell with the rest of you."

I'm gonna hate myself for this, but all I can say right now is, "You stupid bints!"

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Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

No Real Surprise Here

(Click on image to enlarge.)

That's a pretty apt cartoon by Ted Rall, as were the brief comments accompanying it on his blog:

The US Supreme Court has ruled to abolish overall caps on federal campaign contributions, bringing an end to most meaningful limits on the influence of money on Congress. Yeah, there’s going to be even more corruption. But think of the bright side: Congress can ask their sponsors for even more money! If nothing else, it will stimulate the economy. 

While equally concerned about the possible increase in political corruption, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times also reminded us that there are still some restraints on campaign donations:

On Wednesday, conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court continued their project of undermining reasonable attempts by Congress to limit the corrupting influence of money in election campaigns. The same 5-4 majority that lifted limits on corporate political spending in the Citizens United decision struck down long-standing limits on the total amount a citizen can donate during an election cycle. As in Citizens United, the majority held that the restrictions violated 1st Amendment protections for political speech.

This decision does not disturb limits on how much a donor can give to a single candidate or committee (so-called base limits). Even so, it will open the floodgates for campaign donations by wealthy individuals. Before Wednesday's ruling, a single donor was barred from giving more than $123,200 in total to federal candidates and party and other political committees. Now a donor will be able to contribute the maximum to as many candidates and committees as he likes (the ceiling for donations to a candidate is $5,200). That sort of largesse will not be ignored.   [Emphasis added]

Furthermore, I do not see that this will in any way affect the federal and state rules on requiring candidates to report on campaign contributions on a regular basis.  Assuming that remains the case,  the electorate should still be able to glean some information on donors from places such as Open In fact, these good people have several posts up on the issues raised the Court's decision, including this one:

McCutcheon v. FEC, freeing individuals to give to an unlimited number of candidates, parties and PACs, could have a profound effect on this year's midterm elections.
The decision overturns the limits on how much individuals can contribute overall to federal candidates, parties and PACs during a two-year period. Until today, the aggregate limit stood at $123,200 -- no more than $48,600 to all candidates and $74,600 to all PACs and parties.
The opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts leaves in place the caps on how much can be given to each of those: $2,600 per election to each candidate, $32,400 per year to each national party committee, $10,000 per year to each state party and $5,000 per year to each federal PAC. But within these limits the totals can add up quickly.   [Emphasis added]

Look, what with the lobbying swinging door and the general ethics of entirely too many congress critters at present, I doubt that this decision will be the end of democracy as we know it, especially these days.  And, Pollyanna that I am, I also suspect that this will be the end of the machinations behind too many 501(c)4 groups.  Now that designation, no longer sullied by the corrupt, will refer to groups truly educating the populace.

And wouldn't that be nice.


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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Granny Bird Award: Paul Ryan

Today's Granny Bird Award, one given from time to time to those who actively seek to harm or impair the rights of elders, goes to Rep. Paul Ryan (Asshole-WI) for his proposed 2015 budget, re-introduced in the House Of Representatives just in time for 2014 campaign purposes.

Yesterday, I examined his proposed cuts to the safety net, with an emphasis on Medicare. Today Granny Bird wants to point out his deceptions and misrepresentations with respect to Social Security.  Michael Hiltzik quite nicely assists in that endeavor:

...what concerns us here is his description of the Social Security trust fund, which currently holds close to $3 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, all purchased with payroll tax income paid by working men and women since 1983.

The idea of building up this trust fund was to bank excess tax revenues against the looming wave of baby boomer retirements, which has now begun. But the trust fund is still growing, because Social Security's income streams--the payroll tax, interest on its bonds, and revenues from income taxation of benefits--still are sufficient to cover current benefits, and then some.

Ryan wants you to think different. Here's the passage in question, from page 66 of his plan.

"Any value in the balances in the Social Security Trust Fund is derived from dubious government accounting. The trust fund is not a real savings account. From 1983 to 2010, it collected more Social Security taxes than it paid out in Social Security benefits. But the government borrowed all of these surpluses and spent them on other government programs unrelated to Social Security. The Trust Fund holds Treasury securities, but the ability to redeem these securities is completely dependent on the Treasury’s ability to raise money through taxes or borrowing."  ...

...The money has been invested in U.S. Treasury securities, just as you might do by purchasing Series EE savings bonds, or TIPS. Why do people invest in T-bonds? Because they're the safest securities in the world. The U.S. has never, ever defaulted on them (although the Tea Party wing of the GOP seems to think that would be a good idea). The money isn't invested in corporate securities or anything else, because Congress hasn't allowed that.

The Social Security trust fund's bonds are backed by exactly the same commitment of the U.S.' "full faith and credit" as any other Treasury security. Keep your eye on that ball, because Ryan is going to try to palm it.

When one buys a T-bond, one is effectively lending the money to the government, which then uses it to do things. So, yes, Ryan is correct in stating that "the government borrowed all of these surpluses and spent them on other government programs unrelated to Social Security."

Right. On national defense. Two wars. Construction of roads, school buildings, courthouses. On the salaries of congressmen like Rep. Ryan. What of it?

Was this money wasted? Hardly. The U.S. economy has more than doubled in size (adjusted for inflation) over that time, in significant part because of the infrastructure and services provided by government--including with that borrowed money.

...there's no "dubious government accounting" involved here--the dubious accounting is all Ryan's.
The trust fund is indeed a real savings account, involving deposits and interest. Yes, the government borrowed the money, and it has paid interest on it every year (duly recorded and published, down to the last dollar, in the annual reports of the Social Security trustees).

And yes, "the ability to redeem these securities is completely dependent on the Treasury’s ability to raise money through taxes or borrowing." What Ryan doesn't say is that the Treasury's ability to raise taxes and borrowing is effectively unlimited.

The most important factor is the one that people like Ryan want you to forget: The money in the Social Security trust fund came directly or indirectly from the payroll taxes paid by millions of American workers--100% of it. It was paid by workers in the trust that the government would pay it back. Paul Ryan is hinting, pretty strongly, that he doesn't want to pay it back.   [Emphasis added]

I quoted the column extensively because Hiltzik's argument required it and I'd recommend you read it all.  His point (and mine) is that Ryan and his rich benefactors would be happier if we took our money and paid it into Wall Street brokers' hands.  And once we do that, we should just die.

Paul Ryan never met a rich campaign donor he didn't like and a "taker" elder he did.

How long, O Lord.  How Long.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014


(Cartoon by Drew Sheneman/Tribune News Services and featured at US  Click on image to enlarge.)

What's old has become new again.  The force behind this miracle?  Why, it's Paul Ryan, who has decided it's time to re-introduce his already rejected budget.  No surprise here.

From the L.A. Times:

House Republicans will revive Rep. Paul Ryan's lightning-rod proposals to slash the federal safety net, beef up military spending and reduce taxes for the wealthy in a budget unveiled Tuesday -- an election-year calling card that Democrats are poised to use against the GOP.

The blueprint from Ryan, the party's former vice presidential nominee, is expected to be met with stiff opposition not only from Democrats, but also from hard-line Republicans who want deeper austerity cuts to more quickly balance the budget. ...

 ...House Republicans will return to the core ideas from Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, that have come to define the party's approach: Cut federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that make up the federal safety net, while reducing top individual and corporate tax rates to  25%, which Republicans argue will spur economic growth. ...

Drafting the budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins in October, was a challenge this time because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected sluggish economic growth. That made it more difficult to achieve Ryan's goal of eliminating federal red ink within 10 years.
To get to balance -- especially while protecting Pentagon accounts -- Ryan shifts the burden of reductions onto domestic programs.

He suggests money can be saved by cutting food stamps, capping college Pell grants, imposing more welfare work requirements, eliminating federal arts funds, even selling off public lands. He leaves the details to the House committees to sort out.  [Emphasis added]

And guess what?  The old-but-new-again budget was introduced just in time ... for the 2014 elections, that is..

What a surprise, eh?

And that old-but-new-again budget just might garner Mr. Ryan an award or two.

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Cuckoo's Nest: The Earth Moved

It wasn't the typical weekend here in the Cuckoo's Nest, the assisted living joint I happily reside in.  About 9:00 PM on Friday a 5.1 earthquake rolled through, waking me from a sound sleep.  I lay in bed for about 5 seconds before I realized just what was going on, and just as I was reaching for the clothes and shoes I set out each evening for the next day, it stopped.  I got dressed, turned on the light, and opened my door to see what was happening outside my room.

Not much.

A few people were in the TV room, and they motioned me in to hear the news that had just been posted. The epicenter was about 20 miles away, which explained why we had just a gentle rolling motion.  A 5.1 on the Richter Scale is technically a "moderate" quake, but I lived through the Whittier and Northridge quake, so this one was merely cookies and milk.  Still, I went to the USGS site to get further data, and discovered while nosing around the site that Oklahoma was having a lot of earthquakes.



Every state in the union has geological faults running through it, which I knew, it's just that most of them are not as active as they are in California.  So I did a little more searching on the internet and came across this article in The Nation:

The US Geological Survey found that from 1975 to 2008, central Oklahoma experienced one to three 3.0-magnitude earthquakes a year, compared with an average of forty per year from 2009 to 2013. And it looks like that number is going to get bigger. It’s only February, and the state has already logged more than twenty-five quakes of 3.0-magnitude or larger this year, and more than 150 total quakes in the past week alone.

This startling graphic, from The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday, shows a massive spike of 2.5-magnitude or larger earthquakes, starting last year (the yellow portion of the last bar represents earthquakes that took place between Maddow’s shows on Monday and Tuesday):

(Click on image to enlarge.)

No one is disputing that such a dramatic spike is unusual. The question is why it’s happening now, and science suggests that the fracking boom may be, at least in part, to blame.

Scientists have drawn links between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells used for oil and gas production, including fracking. Researchers say the toxic wastewater, stored thousands of feet underground, reducing friction along fault lines, which can trigger earthquakes. The ongoing fracking boom has led to a growth in national demand for disposal wells, according to Bloomberg. [Emphasis added.]

So, not only does fracking foul the water supplies and pollute the land, it also may be causing earthquakes in places where earthquakes are not common.  And then, to complete the picture, once the oil and/or natural gas is obtained and then burned, it pollutes the air.  All so a handful of people can go from billionaires to trillionaires.

And that's no joke.

Note:  go check out the USGS website.  It's very educational for all sorts of things.

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