Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theories of Evolution and Gravity

Just to ensure that you understand where my true bias lies: I'm inclined to think that evolution has far far more evidence and usefulness than alternative theories. especially intelligent design which is little more than a devil-citing-scripture way to sneak a twisted form of creationism into public schools.

That said: I'm a bit annoyed by gravity and evolution comparisons, such as when someone defends the theory of evolution by pointing out that gravity is just a theory. I'll try analogy to explain.

The existence of life is to us not floating off into space as evolution is to theories of gravity.
It is a fact that life exists and it is a fact that we do not float off into space. However we don't have much past that. Last I've seen we've still not detected gravitons nor have we managed to fit gravity into the framework of the other three major forces (I admit I'm a bit behind the times on this, so please, correct me if there's something new). In other words, the theory of gravity is entirely different from the fact that we do not float off into space.

That said, we've seen evolution and natural selection in progress, so perhaps the theory of evolution has more evidence than explanations of the phenomenon known as gravity, or as I've named it "not floating off into space".

That said, I cannot promise that I will never again respond with a snarky "so is gravity" when confronted with an "evolution is just a theory" stance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's put the Republicans back in power

No really, I want a Republican president again. A specific Republican president. A war hero. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and our 34th president.

Under him the unemployment rate was a mere 5.4%, an impressive figure considering how many soldiers were being demobilized following the biggest war the world had ever seen.

Of course I'm leaving out a few important things. Such as the fact that Eisenhower was a big government high tax weak on defense liberal, saying such things as this.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.

And of course this
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Or there was his growth-inhibiting tax policy with a top tax bracket of over 90%. Can you imagine playing 90% of your income as taxes? Of course not, because no one does. The debate over taxes has been wonderfully distorted with misleading figures, such as the constant stating of the top tier tax rate, ignoring entirely that only the highest tier of income is taxed at that rate and that as you go down the scale incomes are taxed lower and lower, to the point that for many people the majority of their income is not taxed at all. Throw in tax breaks and loopholes and income taxes are in the 10%-15% range, hardly the 30% that gets thrown around so easily.

Not to suggest that the tax system doesn't need reform. It certainly does.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Right finally stands up to foreign money in politics

Earlier I wrote about the blatantly illegal actions of the US Chamber of Commerce in using foreign money to influence American elections. Well finally the unending patriot Rush Limbaugh has taken a stand on foreign money in politics by...

Going after an American citizen
George Soros, a naturalized citizen for 50 years, made a donation to a media watchdog group known as Media Matters. Mr. Limbaugh jumped on this, as did many other right-wing extremists. Is it obvious liberal manipulation of politics? Well, sure! But it's not "foreign money in politics" and it's hardly comparable to the secretive, undisclosed donations to right-wing organizations. That's beside the fact that it's far more justifiable for an individual to donate money than someone like Rupert Murdock essentially stealing from FOX shareholders to fund the GOP.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Who jumps into a bushel of bad apples?

Illinois is in a tough spot. Our budget is terribly unbalanced, Chicago is about to get turned upside down as mayor Daley leaves, unemployement is over 10%, the entire region is in the middle of an economic shift, I could go on. Short version: bad things.

The Senate seat held by Obama was handed to a career politician named Roland Burris. Or possibly sold. Now it's up for the taking with a close race between the Republican Mark Kirk and the Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Normally I might just go ahead and punch the party ticket for Giannoulias to help maintain some Democratic control in Congress. But I don't think that would help anyone (besides Giannoulias of course). He strikes me as the sort of Democrat who ruined legislation in the first place by refusing to do the right thing without first getting all sorts of deals and handouts (which I suppose makes it the wrong thing). So he's worthless for that. Instead it could be useful to have someone reasonable, such as Mark Kirk.

But he has a problem: he's a Republican. That isn't really the problem. Instead it's the sort of consultants who hang around Republicans. An otherwise decent guy can end up as a heartless sociopath in no time. Just the other day he whispered a little line about "voter fraud", which while certainly something we want to avoid, in practice tends to be a great way to remove voters, certain voters in certain places with certain voting tendencies. But let's set that aside, I mean, a guy's got to win after all, and this is Illinois. I'd be more worried if he didn't appear slightly crooked, because then we'd know just how well he can hide it.

No, what truly worries me is a Mr. Karl Rove. This man has a consistent habit of corrupting all he comes in contact with. He turned the Republican Party from an essential balance to the Democratic Party into... well... Okay I'll just get to my point: Karl Rove is like a sneaky version of the Antichrist. He turns the best of intentions to evil ends. He lies. He deceives. He cheats. He is a worse threat to America than every terrorist in the world combined. Oh yes, he has a secret weapon: being an American political insider. Terrorists can only kill people. Political manipulators can kill people, imprison people, torture people, and worst of all: take away freedom.

I don't mean take away freedom the way liberals do with food regulation or social security. I mean take away freedom by shredding the bill of rights. Figuratively of course. The literal act would be too obvious.

He's the bad apple and he's rotting the entire Republican Party. I makes me sad to see Congressman Kirk in the middle of the bushel.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foreign money is influencing elections in America

The Chamber of Commerce is doing just what we should expect from it: using a mix of lies and budgeting tricks to hide that foreign money is buying attack ads in America.

They claim that foreign donor money only goes to non-ad expenses. Which I'll go ahead and believe. But that doesn't mean that foreign money isn't still funding the ads. Yes, that is a contradiction, that's what happens when you're dealing with greedy people who don't give a damn about law or principle.

Here's how foreign money funds ads:
Let's say base expenses are $100, things such as offices and staff and the things that you need even if you're not doing much. Any money after $100 can go to ads. If $100 are given by Americans, then any money after that can go to ads. Even foreign money. Foreign money fills up the base expenses, meaning that more American money can go to ads. Since money is money, that means that in effect, the foreign money has purchased the ads, even if there is not an explicit money->ad transaction, the mere donation of the money will allow for more ads.

This is of course blatantly illegal.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

The following groups and individuals are considered "foreign nationals" and are, therefore, subject to the prohibition:
# Foreign governments;
# Foreign political parties;
# Foreign corporations;
# Foreign associations;
# Foreign partnerships;

These are the ones giving money to the Chamber of Commerce, money which indirectly funds political advertising in the US.

So when can we expect to see the Chamber brought to trial?


Oh right, I forgot, laws don't apply if you're rich enough.