Friday, November 21, 2014

Things that Matter: Vegan Dessert, a Starry Night Bike Path, and Moral Character makes you, you.

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Things that matter today...

Vegan Desserts?

I am not a vegan, have never been a vegan, and don't ever plan on becoming one but this vegan dessert sounds absolutely delicious!! And easy to make I might add. This is an important aspect if like me, you can be cooking challenged at times, and is helpful considering the holidays are right around the corner.

Source: One Green Planet.


CALORIES 
200 

INGREDIENTS 

3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped 
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (pat dry if needed) 
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

TOPPING
  
1/2 cup oats 
1/2 cup sliced almonds 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
2 tablespoons coconut oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla

The 'Starry-Night' Bike Path

Source: Vocativ

The photograph you see here is a picture of a 3-D bike path in the Netherlands commemorating the Dutch post impressionist Van Gogh's painting "The Starry-Night."
One of coolest of these commemorations is the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path, which opened just last week in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Created from a design by Daan Roosegaarde, it’s a special twist on the already existing Van Gogh cycle route that connects various heritage locations in Brabant, Van Gogh’s homeland.
The original painting.



Morality is the key to self-identity.

Ever wondered who you are and why you are the way you are? Well...Nina Strohminger explores what makes you...well...you. Her conclusion is that moral-character makes us who we are.
Recent studies by the philosopher Shaun Nichols at the University of Arizona and myself support the view that the identity-conferring part of a person is his moral capacities. One of our experiments pays homage to Locke’s thought experiment by asking subjects which of a slew of traits a person would most likely take with him if his soul moved to a new body. Moral traits were considered more likely to survive a body swap than any other type of trait, mental or physical. Interestingly, certain types of memories – those involving people – were deemed fairly likely to survive the trip. But generic episodic memories, such as one’s commute to work, were not. People are not so much concerned with memory as with memory’s ability to connect us to others and our capacity for social action.



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Obama's Immigration Executive Order

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Tonight the President let the cat out of the bag, or at least he let five million illegal immigrants out of it. Here are the generalities of what Mr. Obama is proposing...courtesy of the Hill.
The president will also announce plans to shift enforcement efforts, ordering federal law enforcement officers to narrow their focus to those illegal immigrants with criminal records, gang affiliations or ties to terrorism. 
[...] 
The biggest change to the immigration system will be a new program that allows the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for work permits and deferred deportation. 
An estimated 4 million parents will be eligible for the initiative. They are people who have been in the United States for at least five years and have no felony convictions but are currently in the country illegally. 
The program is modeled on a similar initiative — known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — that Obama launched in 2012 for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. 
The administration is also expanding eligibility for the current deferred action program. Previously, those brought to the United States as children needed to have come to the United States before 2007, and to still be under 31 years of age, to apply for the new status. Now, any qualifying immigrant brought to the United States before 2010 as a child is eligible, opening the program up for at least a quarter-million more people. 
Those receiving deferred status will also now be protected for three years — not two, as was originally the case under the program. Administration officials say they expect the program to be fully implemented by spring. 
Separately, the Department of Homeland Security will overhaul its handling of immigration enforcement, focusing efforts on “deporting felons, not families,” according to one official...
This new "executive action" was wryly constructed with, and by my best assessment, the intent to sequester any potential GOP attempt to suppress or desist this activity. Conversely though Republican oppositionists will undoubtedly create tenable opposition either through legal or parliamentary tactics as soon as their creative juices start to flow. Of course conservative opposition to this is expected however, the question still remains is Obama acting within the bounds of his prosecutorial discretion--the rationale behind this action. And even if it's deemed Constitutional is this case of "just because you can you should?" David Bernstein, at the Volokh Conspiracy comments on this and the longer termed ramifications for the Executive branch.
What’s needed, and what has been largely missing in this administration, is a president with the humility to recognize that his own immediate political interests and policy goals, his own pursuit and exercise of power, are and must be subordinate to the greater long-term public interest in the Constitution and the rule of law. Just because a president can do something, doesn't mean he should. And if doing something means establishing a precedent that it’s okay for presidents to look through the U.S. code for loopholes that allow him to circumvent the normal legislative process and enact important policies not only without Congressional input, but in the face of affirmative Congressional opposition, when there is no exigency requiring immediate action, then he definitely should not.
On the question of the constitutionality of the President's executive action, Prof. Steven Schwinn of the Constitutional Law Prof Blog offered up a plausible deficiency which might sway in favor of the GOP.
Finally, as to the third, OLC said that the President lacks authority to implement deferred action for DACA parents. OLC said that the considerations here are similar to considerations for deferred action for parents of U.S. citizens, but are different in two key respects. First, while immigration law expresses concern about keeping families together, it expresses this concern in the context of citizens and lawful residents, not DACA'd individuals (who "unquestionably lack lawful status in the United States"). Next, deferred action for DACA parents "would represent a significant departure from deferred action programs that Congress has implicitly approved in the past.
Needless to say where this goes from here is assured to be interesting.






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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guns and Crime: Correlation does not equal Causation

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Many of the social sciences provide useful insights to problems, trends, provide metrics and measurable data for humanity as a group (social) or on an individual basis. Over the decades, they have gotten more sophisticated and advanced in study methodology, data collection techniques, and interpretive approaches. However, and despite all of these advancements, they are still circumspect to some, there have been charges of political bias, the narrowness in the backgrounds of the subjects in some social science research—think WEIRD—and problems with subjectivity and thus research bias being introduced into investigation methodology.  All valid points, to a point.  But the worst violators of using social science data to prove a point is not necessarily the researchers, but the people who popularize the research; media, politicians, ideologues, etc.

Case in point, the Washington Post’s own Wonk Blog. WB, in an attempt to discredit a gun rights advocate based study that indicates “More guns, less crime,” is now popularizing a recent study which purportedly “debunks” this study.

The notion stems from a paper published in 1997 by economists John Lott and David Mustard, who looked at county-level crime data from 1977 to 1992 and concluded that "allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths." Of course, the study of gun crime has advanced significantly since then (no thanks to Congress). Some researchers have gone so far as to call Lott and Mustard's original study "completely discredited.
One of the major critiques of the study came from the National Research Council, which in 2004 extended the data through the year 2000 and ultimately concluded that "with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates." Or in other words, "More guns, less crime?  ¯\_ () _/¯ 
 Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard's original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.  
"The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates" of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws…

All I can say in response to “more guns equal more crime is “not really.”

You see, according to one study I found from the Congressional Research Service—Congress’s think tank-- on Gun Control Legislation (1993-2011) the impact of increased gun ownership apparently correlates to a drop in fire-arm related murders.

First let’s look at the number of guns in the United States, “The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reported in a national survey that in 1994, 44 million people, approximately 35% of households, owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns.” In 2009 the CRS estimates that the “estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.”

Now that we have established that there was a rise in weapons availability the next step is to at least try and get some sort of estimate to the number of weapons owned in the United States within recent years. According to Pew Research, Social and Demographic Trends, “The 2007 Small Arms Survey, conducted by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva (Completing the Count, 2007), estimated that 270 million firearms were owned by private citizens in the U.S. that year,13 or about 90 firearms per 100 people.”

So…from these two studies we can conclude that from 1994 until 2007 there was an increase in gun ownership of approximately 78 million weapons.  Moreover, since 2007 we can further reasonably deduce that gun ownership has steadily risen keeping pace with typical trends.
Now we will take a look at the amount of murder rates, firearm related murder rates, and non-firearm murder rates found in the CRS study.



From the early 90’s until 2011 there is a significant drop in total amount of overall murder rates. Specifically though in 1993 the firearm related murder rate was 6.6 per 100 thousand and in 2011 it measured 3.4 per 100 thousand. Subsequently as we see an increase in not only the availability of firearms but the ownership as well, there is a distinct and noticeable drop in the number of firearm related murder rates. But wait…it wasn’t just murder rates that were included in the Wonk Blog article, it was other additional crimes. Let’s take a look at the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Reporting Statistics and make a comparison.


As you can see since 1993 there have been dramatic reductions in the categories which are considered to fall under the description of violent crime.The very same categories indicated in the Wonk Blog article which are purportedly increasing. But there is a stark difference which must be mentioned and that is the study cited in the WB article has a very narrow field they are analyzing and that is the effect of right to carry--aka conceal carry--laws.  Conversely though the tone of the post doesn’t lend itself to that line of rhetoric, you are left with the impression by Wonk Blog that an increase in the number of guns directly correlates with an increase in violent crime. Take their comment in this paragraph which is an erroneousness observation. (Emphasis Mine)

Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard's original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.

First off if correlation denotes causation which it doesn't always do, we have shown based on other sources that there is an ample pool of evidence contrary to the point Wonk Blog is attempting to make. Secondly if the Stanford study concentrates on Right to Carry laws, this is a completely different argument than stating that an increase in guns increases crime. You see “right to carry” does not increase the availability of weapons in purchasing or manufacturing terms, it is about your access to your personal weapons that are already in your possession. Even this is something I would remain skeptical of. 

The larger point here is not really my advocating for gun rights but how a journalistic grifter, or an equally gifted gun rights swindler for that matter, can use a case study to gin up the faithful and maybe sway fence sitters to their side. Being a charlatan can roll both ways when it comes to your personal agendas.

Addendum: Just for the record and integrity of this post I am a second amendment guy who supports gun rights advocacy. However, that support is limited by my candor.  
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Politics and Critical Thinking now on Facebook

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Politics and Critical Thinking is now moving more into the 21st Century. We have taken the liberty of creating a Facebook page where will not only share posts from the blog but also anecdotal pieces that catch our interests. 

Just hit up the Facebook button on the top right of the blog page which will take you to our FB page, and then please like it.  

In the near future please keep an eye out for our twitter account when we get off our asses and create it. 
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Things that matter: Bilingual Brain Bodybuilders, Adolescent Adults, and US Ponce gets a laser induced make-over.

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Things that matter today...

Brain Bodybuilders

Only speak one language? Maybe you should get out and purchase a copy of Rosetta Stone and learn another...it might make you a brain bodybuilder according to Live Science.

Brain bodybuilders In previous studies of people's eye movements, Marian and her colleagues found that when bilingual people heard a word in one language, they often looked at objects whose names sounded similar to that word in their second language. In the new study, the researchers looked at how the ability to filter information manifests itself in the brain.  
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 35 people from the University of Houston, including 17 who were fluent in both Spanish and English and 18 who spoke only English.  
During the experiment, volunteers heard the name of an object and simultaneously were shown a picture of that object, as well as an object with a similar-sounding name, and two unrelated objects. For example, they might hear the word "cloud," and see pictures of a cloud, a clown and two other things. As fast as they could, the volunteers had to pick the picture that showed the word they heard.

Adult-Children...4 Tips to help you not to become one.

The advice featured in this linked article is more geared towards college kids...but it is unarguably VERY applicable to those of us over thirty as well. Heed its advice if  you ever wanna become a cultured rube.
You know that conversation in the cafeteria flows better when you mention a tweet by Katy Perry, not the morning’s Wall Street Journal book review. The trivial social-media culture of your classmates seems to drown out their interest in politics and times of prayer. In high school, your intellectual interests earned you more ridicule than respect. You live a new counter-culture without any of the libertine pleasures of the old counter-culture. 
Some of you have written to me and some have spoken, expressing concern and dismay, requesting a way out of the hyper-social circuit and into the civic and ideological contests of our moment. You sense the juvenility of media habits. You realize that leadership requires different exposures. You’re sick of selfies and tired of Twitter, because you draw a disconnection between what you observe in your friends, and what you think a nation needs from its rising generations. You want more and better, but everything in youth culture conspires against that escape, the media, marketing, games, and devices, combined with the desire not to be alone, yielding a coercive climate that urges, “Send more texts, get more tweets, make more calls, check Facebook, take and share pictures, chat, comment,” etc.
U.S. Navy goes Laser

With all the hubbub about the Chinese trying to close the technological gap with the United States in weapons systems, the U.S. Navy just upped the ante by deploying its first shipborne laser on the USS Ponce.
The U.S. Navy has deployed on a command ship in the Persian Gulf its first laser weapon capable of destroying a target. 
The amphibious transport ship USS Ponce has been patrolling with a prototype 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System since late August, according to officials. The laser is mounted facing the bow, and can be fired in several modes -- from a dazzling warning flash to a destructive beam -- and can set a drone or small boat on fire. 
The Ponce “provides a unique platform” to deploy the new capability “in an operationally relevant region,” Vice Admiral John Miller, the 5th Fleet commander, said in an e-mailed statement. The ship is the 5th Fleet’s primary command and control afloat staging base for operations 
Since 2011, the Navy has boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s traded oil flows. Equipped with naval mines and small vessels that practice swarming tactics to attack larger warships, Iranian officials have periodically threatened to close the waterway.
Pretty cool!



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Liberal Bullshit: Sorry I am allergic.

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William Voegeli--senior editor for the Claremont Review of Books--has a rather humorous but accurate article at National Review Online aptly titled "Liberal Bulllshit," where he breaks down why Liberals are more interested in personal aggrandizing their efforts, rather than "making statements that correspond scrupulously to empirical or causal reality."
A bullshit prescription, by the same token, might actually work to some degree, but any such efficacy is inadvertent and tangential to the central purpose: demonstrating the depths of the prescriber’s concern for the problem and those who suffer from it, concerns impelling the determination to “do something” about it. As the political project that exists to vindicate the axiom that all sorts of government program X’s can solve an endless list of social problem Y’s, liberalism is always at risk of descending into prescriptive bullshit. Liberal compassion lends itself to bullshit by subordinating the putative concern with efficacy to the dominant but unannounced imperative of moral validation and exhibitionism. I, the empathizer, am interested in the sufferer for love of myself, Rousseau contended. Accordingly, an ineffectual program may serve the compassionate purposes of its designers and defenders as well as or better than a successful one.
 
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things that matter: Satellite goes fishing and catches comet, Alaska goes red, and Cell Phones and brain tumors.

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European Satellite went fishing and it caught something.

In the annals of fishing today was a doozie, a small European Space Agency satellite/robot went fishing for a comet and guess what....it caught one!!! Very cool stuff!!


Wait, we're landing on a comet?

Yes!

Which comet?

It's called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; it was discovered in 1969 (and named, as you may have guessed, for its discoverers). And it's small. Its nucleus—the solid part of a comet, sometimes called an "icy dirtball"—is only about 2.5 miles, or 4 kilometers, wide.
The comet is 311 million miles from Earth, and traveling through space at more than 34,000 miles an hour.

And what's actually doing the landing?

A robot named Philae—a lander about the size of a washing machine, andweighing 220 pounds. It's named after Philae Island in the Nile—the site of the discovery of the obelisk that was used, along with the Rosetta Stone, to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

So how do you land a robot on a comet that's hurtling through space?

It involves, in this case, a pair of spacecraft. The Rosetta craft, which the European Space Agency launched in 2004, has spent the past 10 years traveling to 67P. It has been orbiting the comet since this August. And, today, it's essentially dropping Philae onto the comet.


Here is access to an ESA provided live stream and twitter account courtesy of Obsidian Wing's.

Alaska falls Red.

It is now being reported that the state of Alaska has fallen into GOP hands, extending their control in the Senate officially to fifty-three seats. Only Louisiana is left with a run-off between incumbent Democrat, Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger, Bill Cassidy.

Republican Dan Sullivan won Alaska's U.S. Senate race, defeating first-term incumbent Democrat Mark Begich. 
Sullivan led Begich by about 8,100 votes on Election Night last week and held a comparable edge after election workers had counted about 20,000 absentee, early-voted and questioned ballots late Tuesday. Thousands more ballots remained to be counted, but the results indicated that Begich could not overcome Sullivan's lead. 
The Alaska seat was initially considered key to the Republicans' hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate, but that goal was accomplished before the Alaska race was decided. 
Sullivan, in a statement, said he was humbled and sounded a note of inclusion. While it was a hard-fought race, moving forward "I want to emphasize that my door will always be open to all Alaskans," he said. 
"While we have challenges to address, the opportunities in Alaska and our country are limitless," Sullivan said. "Today, we are going to begin the process of turning our country around and building a brighter future for our children." 
Begich was not conceding. His campaign manager, Susanne Fleek-Green, said in a statement that Begich believes every vote deserves to be counted and will follow the Division of Elections as it continues toward a final count.
Smartphones may be smartly killing you.

Remember when cell phones really became popularized in American culture there was a certain amount of hullabaloo that overt use might cause brain cancer?  Most of the claims, if I remember correctly, were dismissed rather early and fell away. Well a new report might be bringing it back to vogue.

The link between cell phones and brain cancer could ring true after all. 
Swedes who talked on cell or cordless phones for more than 25 years had three times the risk of one type of brain cancer, compared with people who used those phones for under a year, a new study in the journal Pathophysiology suggests. 
The longer someone talked on their phone — in terms of hours and years — the more likely they were to develop glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer. 
The new evidence contradicts the biggest study so far on the topic: The international Interphone study, funded in part by cell phone manufacturers, didn't find strong evidence that cell phones increased brain tumor risk. But the good news about the latest study results is that the odds of developing glioma — even when they're tripled — are still low. Slightly more than five out of 100,000 Europeans (.005%) got diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor between 1995 and 2002, according to one 2012 study. That rate tripled is just .016%.

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Progressives Lost the Election and Their Ideas Caused It.

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Throughout my years of political investigation I have come across puff pieces, produced by both Republicans and Democrats, that stretch, bend, and twist data in order to illustrate the positive impact of their policies on the lives of Americans. Unfortunately, honestly scrutinizing hard data and exploring the consequence of policies, positive or negative, seems to be a practice lost on political demagogues and zealots. For sure this latest article from the Atlantic's Richard V. Reeves--designed to soothe the souls of Progressives after their mid-term loss--falls into the aforementioned vein.

Progressives, these days, are a gloomy bunch, and it's not just because of the outcomes of last week's election. As they see it, there's much to be gloomy about: Poverty levels are stuck, they say, with little improvements made in recent decades. What's more, according to the standard progressive line, income inequality is soaring, and back to levels last seen in the roaring '20s. And, to top it all off, middle class incomes are flat, or even falling. 
But here's the thing: Each of these claims is a significant overstatement. In fact: Progressives have every reason to be celebrating right now. Why? Because by and large, things aren't so bad as progressives claim, and the reason things aren't so bad is because progressive policies are working...
The first point emphasized by Mr. Reeves is that "Poverty is Down."  Here is his chart--with some emphasis I have added--that he uses to correlate the drop in poverty from 1965 until present day.

The Atlantic, Progressives Lost the Election, but Their Ideas Are Winning, 2014.
Illustration modified by Politics and Critical Thinking.

I have taken the liberty to add some lines which shows the boom/bust cycle, aka recessions, to this chart. As you will notice there is a distinct rise in poverty which correlates to these recessions officially beginning, or right before, and a relatively substantial drop after they abate.  The two exceptions are the 1990-91 recession and the Great Recession in which the poverty rates actually rose or are continuing to rise.

Why is this important? What drove and does drive poverty reduction is not the usage of government programs such as wealth transfers and tax credits; it is job creation. When the boom cycle starts, jobs flourish, people become employed, make better wages, get promoted, etc. and are removed from the poverty rolls. What wealth transfers and tax credits accomplish is keeping already poverty ridden people from sinking lower, which is a good and moral thing to accomplish. It, however, does not push them off of poverty and when these policies are left to their own devices they cause stagnation. There is no no chance for upward mobility or opportunity.

Again...progressive policies have NOT kept forty million people out of poverty, what these policies do is keep people from falling further down. As stated before it is job destruction which has the propensity of putting people there and hence it's job creation which keeps them off. This is the most basic of economic thought and fact and will not change no matter how you parse it.

Next Mr. Reeves tackles inequality.
Inequality: Mostly in Check 
One of the staple progressive mantras is that income inequality is soaring, with the minority at the top vacuuming up most of the national income. But the picture is much more complex, and more positive, than that. Critically, the most dramatic figures for inequality are generated by looking at "market income"—i.e. before any taxes and transfers. 
Between 2000 and 2010, the biggest gains in real after-tax income were actually at the bottom of the ladder: 
The maintenance of incomes at the bottom of distribution is the result of strenuous government efforts to mitigate the effects of inequality, especially by cutting taxes and/or providing tax credits to lower-income Americans. Without this government action, inequality almost certainly would have risen quite sharply in the bottom 90 percent.
One thing often overlooked by Progressives about income inequality is that inequality is not the problem per se but a symptom of a deeper problem; "wage stagnation." Simply put this can be explained as a ratio between the cost-of-living:purchasing power. In terms of wage stagnation this ratio can be expressed as living expenses rise, wages, which among other factors, determine purchasing power, stay at a fixed point; neither rising nor decreasing.

Then it must be the riches' fault? Not exactly, income generation versus wealth generation are two different phenomena. Income generation can be explained as "earned compensation for performing a service, selling goods or property." Whereas wealth generation "having enough of said money and valuable possessions to preserve your current lifestyle without having to work to do." This is done through savings, investment and then return, and lowering debt. Many of the upper one economic quintiles do not live off of income, but rather returns on investments. (Consequently this is why it is ultimately ridiculous to call for raising the income tax on these people, since most of their wealth is generated through other means besides income.) Lower wages are a not a consequence of the upper one percenters stealing a part of the pie from the lower quintiles. While there is no denying that a minority has a larger share of the "pie" than most, they did not acquire this through theft of wages from the lower economic quintiles. That would be an impossibility since the "pie" is always contracting or expanding.

Therefore, if there are companies to invest in and people have capital available to invest in them, and these firms are successful, there will be a return larger than the primary investment.  Hence you will see the rich accruing more profit and the gap growing between them and the persons who rely on income--which is stagnant for the most part--for their living.

So what can we do about it? Well...Mr. Reeves hit on a small right-wing mantra which can help, but is not the sole solution, tax cuts/tax credits. Particularly, tax cuts allow for a small and incremental amount of money to be returned to workers which allows them to either expand their month to month purchasing power, increase savings, pay down debt, or invest as they see fit. Tax credits will allow for them to possibly acquire a negative tax burden and receive a lump sum in the form of a tax return which they can apply as well.

But as already mentioned...these are hardly Progressive ideas. In fact the idea tax cuts opposes the progressive philosophy since it takes away from the funding mechanisms, i.e taxes, which make government run safety nets possible. Tax-cuts and to a lesser degree tax credits are more of a right-wing function and perception.


In conclusion...progressive philosophies and their impact are usually grossly overstated. While they have provided us with a more humane way of dealing with poverty they are stagnating, stifling, and expensive. They are mechanisms to be used when adequate or necessary, but should be returned to the tool shed when they are no longer applicable. Becoming solely reliant on these ideas as our nation's philosophical cornerstone will generate nothing more than a dependance class, truly and 99% versus the 1% society. 
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Things that Matter: Jonathan Gruber, HR 10-Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, and Russia

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Things that might matter to you today...

A video, brought to us via the Daily Signal, just surfaced of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, and his comments about how the bill was written, passed, and why the American electorate might be, in his words, "stupid."



Considering the sordid history of how this bill was crafted, presented, passed, and implemented these comments should be of very little surprise to anyone who is familiar with the nuances of the ACA (aka Obamacare).

H.R. 10- Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

A good bill to watch if you are a proponent of charter schools.

It deals with consolidating two programs, "the state grant program for charter schools and the charter credit enhancement program," into one bulk delivery system.

However, the Center for Education Reform--a pro-charter school initiative--is concerned that this will lead to "the federal government is taking too much of a direct role in defining “quality” and “high performance” of charter schools."

Certainly a valid criticism considering the federal government's piss poor management of the United State's public education system. However, one major problem with the bureaucracy of our government is the redundancy issue and the money it wastes.

Putin is flexing the Russian Bear's muscles.

From Bloomberg Business Week,
Russia’s military is engaging in “dangerous brinkmanship,” according to a new report documenting dozens of recent incidents in which Russian warplanes and ships have taken aggressive or provocative actions, often in locations far away from the fighting in Ukraine. 
The report by the European Leadership Network, a London-based group including former European political and military leaders, says the actions, taken together, present a “highly disturbing picture.” According to the report, the incidents include “violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, simulated attack runs and other dangerous actions happening on a regular basis over a very wide geographical area.”
Ironically former Soviet General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev,  just warned about a new "cold war" developing.




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Friday, November 7, 2014

In 2014 the "War on Women" was a Fluke...a Sandra Fluke

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Historically speaking, minority participation in mid-terms is usually low. This fact is usually troubling for Democratic operatives who now, like in mid-terms past, have opted to target the female demographic, in order to make-up the lost share of votes that are otherwise cast by racial minorities.

So...if you are targeting women then it only seems reasonable that you would dig into your political bag of tricks and bring out an oldie but a goodie, the perpetual Republican "war on women."

Beyond using the ass-beating Democrats took in the mid-term as a metric for success, there is a far more humorous and snide way of determining whether or not this "strategy" was effective.

Enter...the Condom Fairy Princess, Sandra Fluke.

Mzzz. Fluke gained a certain bit of notoriety in early 2012 by testifying in front of the Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "importance of requiring insurance plans to cover birth control."  Fluke was then repudiated by Conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, as a "slut" and a "prostitute." Needless to say this catapulted Mzzz. Fluke to upper echelons of Liberal hierarchy and sympathy; even garnering her a shot at California state Senate seat this past election cycle.

Well...Mzzz. Fluke lost that contest to a fellow Democrat and a man!! And lost it quite handedly I might add.
Fluke lost to fellow Democrat Ben Allen, a Santa Monica-Malibu school board member, by over 21 points.
Subsequently, it seems that the "war on women" adage isn't even resonating with hard core liberals of the California variety. But on a brighter note, maybe with this defeat it might be the last we see of Mzzz. Fluke. Well maybe until Liberals want to recycle identity politics of Christmas past and dust Mzzz. Fluke off for the next go-round.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Republican Victory...Republican Governance

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Ok...the GOP won BIG TIME in the 2014 mid-terms! Fifty-two seats on election night alone, Louisiana hangs in the balance until December, and Landrieu will lose, Alaska looks like a another lock for the GOP as votes are still being counted, and a small possibility in Virginia that a recount could unseat incumbent Democrat, Mark Warner.

This makes their control of the Senate reach upwards of 55 seats. Then there is possibility of snagging up two wayward members of the political herd--Senator Angus King (I-ME) and centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)--to caucus with the GOP. Needless to say, this would put them in super majority territory. But the question that remains is what will the Republicans do with all of this new-found power and authority? My first reaction, which is based on their past history, is snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

However despite my personal reservations about future GOP performance, the Republicans did do a few things right that they deserve credit for. During the Senate and House campaigns the GOP successfully tapped the anti-Obama sentiment that permeates the country. Accordingly their efforts to nationalize the election as a referendum on the President and thus Democrats, was very fortuitous.

Also there was the gift that keeps on giving; the Democrat candidates proclivity to the Todd Aiken disease. That is the inevitability of a candidate to say something stupid that is used against them in a campaign ad. Conversely, the Republicans seemed to have learned from their past mistakes of moving gaffe-prone candidates into the limelight.

From Politico,
In an effort to avoid any Todd Aiken-like gaffes, the National Republican Senatorial Committee put on a media-training bootcamp for candidates ahead of the midterms. NRSC trackers met the candidates at the airport, watching them as "soon as they poked their heads through the security doors." Then, it was two full days of training.

As I have already eluded to, my expectations as a member of the Right are very low in way of GOP governance. Their past actions--not including excellent parliamentarian maneuvering--was less than lackluster. Agenda speaking they have not provided much to be enthusiastic over other than an expectable mid-term drubbing of Democrats.
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Freeman Dyson, possibly the best and wisest view on "anthropogenic global warming."

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Who is Freeman Dyson? Glad you asked. Mr. Dyson--born in Britain in 1923--is a theoretical physicist and mathematician who is known for his work in "quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy, and nuclear engineering." Dyson, spending most of his career at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the same place where other notable physicists and researchers such as Oppenheimer and Einstein were tenured as well, teaching theoretical physics.

Beyond being well known for astute mathematical abilities and incredible conceptual abilities Professor Dyson also has gained a certain notoriety among the Climate Change Cult which can be considered infamous.

You see...for the better part of a decade and perhaps even further back Professor Dyson has believed that the modelling processes used for measuring climate change are basically bogus. Conversely though, this ardent liberal and Obama supporter, does affirm that anthropogenic global warming--human induced  climate change--exists.

Here is Professor Dyson in his own words on the problem(s) facing present day atmospheric modeling procedures.

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