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John Scalzi, in his WHATEVER blog, recently had an entry entitled "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is". It was a well thought out, clearly written piece, and it used an analogy that I thought was wonderful (even if not perfect). Unfortunately, many readers seemed to be from clue-free environments, and did NOT get the point. I have included a link here, so that others may go directly to the source and read it.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

Scalzi is a professional writer, with several published science fiction novels to his credit, including (but not limited to) the following:

Old Man's War (2005, Tor Books, ISBN 0-7653-0940-8)
The Ghost Brigades (February 2006, Tor Books, ISBN 0-7653-1502-5)
The Last Colony (April 2007, Tor Books, ISBN 0-7653-1697-8)
Zoe's Tale (August 2008, Tor Books, ISBN 0-7653-1698-6)
The Sagan Diary (February 2007, Subterranean Press, ISBN 978-1-59606-103-3; April 2008, Audible.com)
Questions for a Soldier (chapbook, Subterranean Press, December 2005, ISBN 1-59606-048-4)
After the Coup (eBook, Tor.com, July 2008, ASIN B003V4B4PM)

Check them out.
niall_shapero: Fox Mask (Default)
The Governor of Wisconsin has been trying to bust unions for some time, but he doesn't strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed. Why do I say this? It appears as though someone made a prank call to the Governor, pretending to be one of the Koch brothers (the billionaire brothers who have contributed a great deal of money to conservative causes - among which appears to be union busting).

For one news article, see the following:

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/23/6116072-wisconsin-governor-pranked-by-koch-brother-impersonator

The Governor's intent was not so much to try and fix a budget problem (caused in no small part, it is to be noted, by the Governor's tax cuts to corporations - which turned a state budget surplus into a deficit) as to bust the unions. He was offered, by the public workers' unions, monetary "give backs" that would have basically given in on all his monetary demands in his proposed budget repair bill. But that wasn't enough - he was and still is insistent upon taking away the public workers' unions ability to bargain collectively.

This isn't the first time in his history that the Governor has done this sort of thing - arrange a deficit through corporate giveaways, then use that as an excuse to try and bust a union.

He is, at least, consistent. Consistently opposed to the very existence of unions (public worker unions go first, then the already crippled private industry unions are easy pickings.

His screams about "outside agitators" creating all the problem, of course, reminds me of another group that claimed that all the problems they were experiencing were the result of "outside agitators". Anyone with a memory that extends back fifty or so years will understand.

His scheme to trick the Democrat state senators back into the State is not likely to work, now - he told too much to the prank caller. If I can find the detailed reports of his statements on the Net, I am sure that they can, too. And they are unlikely to fall for a strategy that has now been published. The Governor of Wisconsin may try to whitewash his screwups in responding with what I assume was the truth in this call. I don't think he'll be successful. If he were brighter, he would have jolly well lied (yes, I know - it's not nice, but "how do you tell if a politician is lying? His lips move" - the Governor of Wisconsin should NOT say anything on the phone that he doesn't want to hear on the Internet and shouted from the cable for at least 24 hours).
niall_shapero: Smirking Fox face... (SmirkingFox)
Before today's events in Nevada, the Republicans were planning on scheduling a vote on a bill to repeal the health care law passed last year. While the Republicans have enough votes in the House to pass such a bill (242 representatives are Republican, 193 are Democrat) they do not have enough votes to pass such a repeal bill in the Senate (the Republicans hold 47 Senate seats, and the Democrats hold 53 seats, counting independents who caucus with the Democrats). But even if the Republicans could, by some strange twist of fate, get their bill passed in the Senate as well, there is no chance of the repeal becoming law, since Obama can be expected to veto any such bill, they must be prepared to override the veto.

From: http://www.senate.gov/reference/glossary_term/override_of_a_veto.htm
override of a veto - The process by which each chamber of Congress votes on a bill vetoed by the President. To pass a bill over the President's objections requires a two-thirds vote in each Chamber. Historically, Congress has overridden fewer than ten percent of all presidential vetoes.

The Republicans would need 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate to override a Presidential veto, and that would require that the Republicans pick up some 48 Democrat votes in the House and 20 Democrat votes in the Senate -- assuming that every single Republican voted to override a Presidential veto.

This is NOT going to happen. What has happened is that, by refusing to pass a budget, and having a continuing resolution, the funding remains constant from the previous year's budget - in which there WAS no funding for the health care law. So no funding for the law this time. Of course, since the non-partisan CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimated that the health care law would reduce the deficit, defunding it actually ends up costing the American taxpayer more than funding it would, long term (long term starting the first year).

So don't look for the the Republicans actually repealing the Health Care Law - just expect them to not fund any of its provisions, and to make sure that there's no funding for any government organization intended to regulate the health care industry, or to enforce any provisions of the law. In this fashion, a law may be left on the books, but since no one is paying for it, nothing will be done, and we'll be left with something worse than status quo ante.
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The president has signed the repeal of DADT into law, and the Senate has ratified the START treaty. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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To be fair, the link that follows (http://www.mcslibrary.org/program/library/declaration.htm) is to the full text of Margaret Chase Smith's Declaration of Conscience (from June 1, 1950).
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McCain Daughter on Tea Party Racism - Keith Olbermann
niall_shapero: My "SF" foxy face.... (Foxhead)
Though Southern apologists have repeatedly said that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, they are I believe mistaken. And that is the kindliest interpretation I can make of the facts. The reasons given at the time for secession are far more openly "pro-slavery". Now there were economic factors involved (certainly, if the slaves had all been freed and no compensation offered to the slave holders, it would have cost them a great deal of money). But at the core, the Southern politicians of the time seem to have recognized that it was slavery (or rather, the rise of an anti-slavery movement outside their own slave holding states) that was the reason they had to secede.

What follows are extracts from the articles of secession for Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. The full texts for these articles can be found at http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html.
========================================
From the Texan articles of secession:

By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.

From the Georgian articles of secession:

Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican party, who have been called by their own votes to administer the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States. We know their treachery; we know the shallow pretenses under which they daily disregard its plainest obligations. If we submit to them it will be our fault and not theirs. The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquillity.

From the Mississippi articles of secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

From the South Caroline articles of secession:

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation

Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
========================================
The kindliest interpretation that I can make of the Southern Civil War apologists is that they are sadly misinformed. The harshest interpretation is that they are attempting to spread a Big Lie: that the Civil War was the fault of the North, and that the racism and pro-slavery stances of the Southern states had nothing to do with the treason that was committed.
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According to the news tonight, eight Republicans joined Democrats in a 65-31 vote for the repeal of the DADT law and Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Wednesday. According to the LA Times, Secretary of Defense Gates said that the repeal will not occur immediately, as the services will have to put new policies regarding gays and lesbians into effect. Of course, with the old law repealed, the President can issue an executive order and be done with it, so now (worst case) only one man is needed to make the decision.

It took 17 years, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel - and it wasn't an oncoming train.
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In 1948, President Harry S Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces shortly after World War II, a major advance in civil rights. Using the Executive Order (E.O.) meant that Truman could bypass Congress.

The order, in its entirety, follows:

=======================
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981
Whereas it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.

2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.

3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.

4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.

5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for the use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.

6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive Order.

HARRY S. TRUMAN
The White House
July 26, 1948
=======================
From The Volokh Conspiracy, regarding Gays in the Military:

http://volokh.com/2010/02/10/will-allowing-gays-in-the-military-really-impair-unit-cohesion/

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
=======================
Many of the arguments against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military are the same as those used against integrating units and allowing non-whites to serve along side whites in US military units. We integrated the US armed services by presidential order in 1948, and while there were some difficulties involved in the integration process, they were managed successfully (and a darn sight faster and earlier than in the civilian world). Further, several allied nations have permitted gays and lesbians to serve in their armed forces (Israel and the UK among them) and have not suffered any particular loss of unit morale, cohesion, or combat capability. When polled, enlisted and officer personnel in all but the US Marine corps responded favorably to the idea of gays and lesbians serving openly. (There was a slight majority of Marines in combat units that preferred to NOT have gays in the military, though if I recall the results of the polls correctly, when the figures for ALL marines were tallied up, the result was a slight majority favorably inclined to allow gays to serve).

So, why the heck can't we get off our duffs and do away with DADT?
=======================
When I was a software department manager, some years ago, my stated policy was that I didn't care if an engineer had green furry antennae, as long as that engineer could do the design/code/test job of software engineering well. Where someone is willing to "walk the wall" and put their body - their life - between harm and me and mine, I say: let them do so, so long as they are able to physically carry out the duties of the position that they want to fill. And after they have served, treat them with all the respect (and support) that we owe to ALL of our warriors (weekend or otherwise) who risk their ruddy hides to keep us safe and secure. I see no reason other than bigotry and small mindedness preventing the repeal of DADT.
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The first entry I could find on the net for "Taxed Enough Already" (admittedly, not an exhaustive search) was at the FreedomWorks site, with a 2 July 2009 date. FreedomWorks is an interesting organization - it is a lobbyist organization directed by Dick Armey and was, in no small part responsible for the astro-turf movement self-identified as "the teabaggers" (until someone told Armey and company that "teabagging" was a slang term for a homosexual sexual act). FreedomWorks points with pride (I would assume) to their part in the initial astro-turf Tea Party movement. A quote from their website (to be found at http://www.freedomworks.org/about/about-freedomworks) follows: "The real work of spreading the Tea Party brushfires was done by a small knot of take-no-prisoners young conservatives who worked at [FreedomWorks HQ] ... Their offices had the Red Bull-and-beer spirit of a fraternity or political campaign." —Kate Zernicke, Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America

The Tea Party movement, as it now calls itself, has become something of a true grass roots movement, but it is a "grass roots" movement of the worst kind. At its core, it is a racist, bigoted movement - the "I've got mine, Jack" movement of a segment of the American populace that feels threatened by blacks, by immigrants, but most importantly, by the most horrible thing of all, change.

They haven't, I'll wager, been happy since Brown v. Board of Education struck down Plessey v. Furgeson.

In all the rallies I've seen (in media from MSNBC and CNN to FOX), I've see a dearth of non-white faces. Oh, there may be a couple out there (there's a Republican congressman-elect from Florida who is black and who spouts the Tea Party line pretty well -- you know the one I mean, the one who said that he held a "higher security clearance than the President" (a thought that anyone with ANY knowledge of the system must find ridiculous). But, then, there have always been (and doubtless will always be) Quislings willing to sell themselves out along with their country, if they think that they can gain some momentary advantage or position of minor authority.

I've seen it before; I'd have hoped to never see it again. But I think the country is in for some nasty times ahead (when we might almost wish that a Nehemiah Scudder[1] type had won out, instead).

[Read IF THIS GOES ON by Robert Anson Heinlein.]
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Ronald Reagan made supply-side economics a household phrase, and promised an across the board reduction in income tax rates and an even larger reduction in capital gains tax rates. (Case & Fair, 1999: 781, 782). When vying for the Republican party presidential nomination for the 1980 election, George H.W. Bush derided Reagan's supply-side policies as "voodoo economics". However, later he seemed to give lip service to these policies to secure the Republican nomination in 1988, and is speculated by some to have lost in his re-election bid in 1992 by allowing tax increases. (See: "Read my lips: No new taxes".)

The centerpiece of the supply-side argument is the economic rebound from the 1980-1982 "double-dip recession", combined with the continued fall in commodity prices. The "across the board" tax cuts of 1981 are seen as the great motivator for the "Seven Fat Years". Critics of this view point out that the "rebound" from the recession of 1981-1982 is exactly in accordance with the "disinflation" scenario predicted by IS/LM models of the late 1970s: essentially that the increases in fed funds rates squeezed out inflation, and that federal budget deficits acted to "prime the pump". This model had been the basis of Volcker's federal reserve policy.

In 1981, Robert Mundell told Ronald Reagan that by cutting upper bracket taxation rates and lowering tax rates on capital gains, national output would increase so much that tax revenues would also increase. Mundell claimed that the economic expansion would also mop up excess liquidity and bring inflation back under control. After the tax cuts were implemented, nominal revenues quickly returned to—and ultimately surpassed—previous levels. While revenues dropped as a share of GDP, supply-siders note they intended for this fall to happen, since cutting tax rates would preclude a rise in taxes collected relative to national income.

The question of whether the tax cuts proved Mundell's predictions correct has sparked much debate between supply-siders and mainstream economists. While nominal revenues rebounded after the tax cuts, mainstream economists note that comparing nominal tax collections over time fails to take into account inflation. By converting tax revenues from nominal to real terms, these economists have shown that tax revenues did not surpass their 1981 levels until 1987.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply-side_economics#Reaganomics

Bluntly put, cutting the tax rates killed revenues for multiple years thereafter.

In 2001, with the Bush II tax cuts, we again had a serious drop in federal revenue (in constant dollars).

That the proponents of supply-side economics will still claim that revenue will increase when taxes are cut (in particular, marginal rates and capital gains taxes) could be seen as another example of "people wanting to do the same thing with the expectation of a different result" (one of the definitions of insanity). To be honest, I don't think that the supply-siders are insane. What I think is that they believe everyone else is innumerate (unable to understand numbers) or that they have a far more insidious goal in mind: to so bankrupt the federal government that no social welfare programs are possible, even in the far future.

The hope that such restrictions (on revenue) would restrain federal government spending hasn't worked so far, and I doubt it will work in future. This is like the idea that the way to get rid of a tapeworm is to stab your patient in the stomach (an analogy I am blatantly stealing from Paul Samuelson). The consequences of a bankrupt federal government, however, are a debased currency (no restrictions on M0, remember? They just print as much as they want) which steals from everyone - but preferentially from the poor and middle classes.

Based on the CBO report, I would be against extending the Bush tax cuts, but what the heck do I know? I'm just an engineer, not a paid political hack. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that extending the Bush tax cuts of 2001-2003 beyond their 2010 expiration would increase deficits by $1.8 trillion dollars over the following decade (see http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/69xx/doc6908/12-01-10PercentTaxCut.pdf). The CBO also completed a study in 2005 analyzing a hypothetical 10% income tax cut and concluded that under various scenarios there would be minimal offsets to the loss of revenue. In other words, deficits would increase by nearly the same amount as the tax cut in the first five years, with limited feedback revenue thereafter.
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Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas, in WALL STREET, in 1987).
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Someday, the idiots will recognize that the "power of the people" is considerable. And representative Boehner may learn sooner than he might wish that saying stupid things can get you broadcast all over the net...and turned into a ruddy laughingstock.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpOUctySD68

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