I enjoyed the hell out of covering his misdeeds in 2005. I hope he can provide the world with more fodder for hilarious tales of corruption in the years ahead. Given his lack of contrition (he regrets pleading guilty!), I think that’s likely. →
So says Republican leaders in Georgia. The UN! Agenda 21! Rural broadband! RAND! Obama’s 2008 election yielded the Tea Party. His reelection may breed an even stupider brand of nutjobs. →
Thank God. What an embarrassment it would have been for Virginia if this casually vicious racist had won. He fashioned himself in the image of the unreformed old southern racists of the 1960s, and never bothered to update his mindset, only how to fake it for brief stretches. In the meantime, Virginia—and the whole US—changed around him. Maybe he can spend even more time now fighting against anti-Semitism, since he told Wolf Blitzer in 2006 that he’d “use [his] time on Earth” to do just that. I wonder how that’s been going in the intervening six years? →
In 2008, Focus on the Family wrote this letter from the future, warning their members about life in 2012 if Barack Obama were elected president. It’s hilarious. Comedy gold. Everybody’s gay, children watch porn, electricity is all but illegal, prayer isn’t allowed…it’s a hoot. If it wasn’t for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I don’t think there’d be any media outlet that would later revisit and evaluate these sorts of claims. I wonder what Focus on the Family is claiming Obama will do with his next four years? And who would believe them? →
In the March issue of their newsletter, a “Whitehouse [sic] Watchdog” column signed by newsletter editor Ponch McPhee concludes by declaring that “we shall not have any coarse [sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November.” (It’s on page 7 of the PDF.) “Treason” is the word that we use for that, right? →
Quiet discussions are beginning, behind closed doors, about bringing back earmarks. Why? Because legislators can’t pass spending bills on their own merits. In order to get 218 votes, they need to festoon bills with funding for congressmen’s pet projects. It’s easy for legislators cast spending as “wasteful spending” if it doesn’t funnel money directly into their district. (Funny how billions in “wasteful spending” are rendered non-wasteful with a few million well-targeted dollars.) I think earmarks can be made acceptable, with plenty of transparency in both the process and the allocated funding. →
A New York Times analysis of voting behavior of House members shows that freshman Republican aren’t the voting bloc that they’re presented as. A far better predictor of voting behavior is membership in the Republican Study Committee. →
Forget the presidential race—the other responses are pretty amazing. Only 14% believe that the presidentis is Christian (45% believe he’s Muslim, 41% don’t know). Just 26% believe in evolution. One in five believe that interracial marriage should be a crime, with just 67% supporting its legality. It’s little wonder that these two states generally show up at the bottom of nearly any state index of success or well-being. →
- Science News: Columbus Blamed For Little Ice Age
Here's a fun theory of the origin of the Little Ice Age, lasting from around 1550–1850: that massive losses of New World population, as a result of disease spread by explorers, resulted in reforestation of huge swaths of the Americas, removing billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, decreasing its capacity to hold heat. The theory itself isn't new—it was first proposed six years ago—but this new theory is based on a combination of evidence that CO2 levels dropped then and archeological evidence that charcoal accumulation plummeted during the period, evidence that the smaller populations weren't burning trees to clear land for crops. No doubt the link between exploration and climate would have struck people as impossible at the time. Kind of like how many Republicans will feel about it now.
- LA Times: Dietary supplements linked to higher risk of death in older women
A longitudinal study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that women who take multivitamins regularly die younger than those who do not. Of all of the supplements studied (B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and more), only calcium appeared to lower the risk of death. More and more data show that supplements simply aren't useful, save for to compensate for a shortage resulting from a health problem, and prescribed by a doctor.
- AP: Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax
Republicans are complaining about how 46% of Americans pay no income tax, despite that the fact that half of them make no payments because of income tax cuts that Republicans championed and, in many cases, enacted. (The other half have little to no income, which makes criticism of their lack of payments particularly heartless.) "I'm so angry that my agenda has been enacted!"
- New York Times: Herman Cain is a Candidate Writing His Own Campaign Rules
Running for president? Nah. Herman Cain has decided he'd rather go on a book tour. Much like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, Cain appears to view running for the Republican nomination as a cheap method of getting national press.
- MSNBC: Secret panel can put Americans on “kill list”
- New York Times: Farmers Strain to Hire American Workers in Place of Migrant Labor
It turns out that if you don't hire immigrants then Americans will not, in fact, do the work. That's the experience of one Colorado farmer, who raised his wages to $10.50/hour. Only 2/3 as many people showed up as he normally gets, and most of them quit within the day. The work is just too hard. I don't want to harvest onions. Do you?
- Bloomberg: Koch Brothers Flout Law With Secret Iran Sales
The Koch Brothers have secretly, criminally sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, an enemy of the United States with whom it is unquestionably illegal to do business. This is no aberration for these bastards—they're out for a buck, and they don't care how they get it.
- Commonwealth Data Point: Expenditures by Agency
Wondering what the state spends its money on? Here's the state's checkbook, by agency, so read to your heart's content. A warning: good luck with the weird menu system. Somebody apparently thought that rather than menu items, it would be fun to just give people a single letter to try to decipher. O? F? S? P? I don't get it.
- MSNBC: Bachmann condemns Arab Spring, blames it on Obama
If stupid were bricks, she'd have a lot of bricks.
- MSNBC: Santorum—GOP not ‘anti-science’
Good for Jon Huntsman for acknowledging that the first step to getting the Republican Party out of the intellectual wilderness is to stop being anti-science. (Anti-science is anti-facts, and being anti-facts doesn't work for long.) Unsurprisingly, Rick Santorum says that his party isn't anti-science. He claims, by inference, that Huntsman asserted that believing in God is anti-science. That's a pretty fringy assertion that obviously Huntsman didn't make.
- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: A new way to detect secret nuclear tests—GPS
GPS signals are affected significantly by atmospheric disturbances, and compensating for those disturbances has always presented a challenge. These researchers have devised and successfully tested a method of using that problem for the purpose of detecting nuclear explosions anywhere in the world. This is brilliant.
- ThinkProgress: Just One Week Into His Campaign, Rick Perry Disavows His Nine-Month-Old Book
"Why, that old thing? That book is what I thought LAST year."
- CBS News: Like Every Administration, White House Defends Obama "Vacation"
President Obama has taken 38 days of vacation so far in his presidency. At this point in Bush's presidency, he'd taken 102 days of vacation.
- Rick Perry’s Texas A&M Transcript
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's academic record is on par with President Bush's—which is to say, very poor—but perhaps most telling is the "D" that he earned in Principles of Economics. That's about right.
- Los Angeles Times: Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say
How could we have known that shipping 21 C-130s to Iraq full of $12,000,000,000 in cash to be distributed without any sort of bookkeeping or audit trail would end badly? I mean, who could have forecast such a thing?
- Wall Street Journal: Perry Points to ‘Idiotic’ U.S. Rule That Doesn’t Exist
In Rick Perry's imaginary United States, things are going very badly indeed. No doubt he has some imaginary solutions to propose.
- Physorg: Human precursors went to sea, team says
130,000 year-old stone tools have been found on Crete. What with being an island, that means that hominids that predate homo sapiens managed to cross open water. That was an ability that researchers had long chalked up to being one of those things that makes us special, but it looks like that's not so. If this turns out to be true, it'll really shake up our collective understanding of early hominid history.
- New York Times: Crashing the Tea Party
A Notre Dame political scientist and a Harvard professor of public policy (Robert Putnam, no less) have interviewed thousands of people to understand who comprises the Tea Party and what Americans think of them. The short version is that your average Tea Party member is a white, Republican, Christian, social conservative who doesn't like blacks or immigrants, and places a higher value on establishing an American theocracy than on reducing the size of government. Their values are almost entirely out of step with most Americans’. It is perhaps suitable, then, that public opinion of the Tea Party is awful. They're less popular than Republicans, Democrats, atheists, and—ironically—Muslims. On a related note, remember when the Tea Party pretended to be "nonpartisan"?
- Library of Congress: Lincoln and Johnson Poster
What strikes me about this 1864 Lincoln/Johnson campaign poster is that as much ink is used naming the electors as the candidates. Then, as now, we don't actually vote for president but, instead, we vote for a slate of electors who will represent our state in the Electoral College; it is those 538 people who actually vote for the president. These days, that's information that would surprise many people to learn, whereas in 1864, apparently it was just an accepted part of the electoral process.
The post-debt-ceiling poll numbers are in, and they’re not good for Republicans. A CNN poll released today finds the Republican Party is down to a 33% approval rating, vs. a 47% approval rating for the Democratic Party. Speaker John Boehner’s approval rating has dropped ten points in the past three weeks, down to 33%, while his unfavorable rating shot right past it, up to 40% from 32%. Even less popular than the Republican Party is the Tea Party, at 31% approval, with a majority—51%—expressing disapproval.
Especially interesting is the steady erosion of support of incumbents in Congress. In 2006, 57% of voters believed that their own congressman deserved reelection, but that’s dropped steadily down to a current level of 45%, which is exceeded by the 48% who believe that their own congressman doesn’t deserve to be reelected. (Googling around, I can’t find any major survey that has ever found those results.) Compare that to 23%, which is the portion of registered voters who believe that “most” members of congress deserve reelection. 39% believe that most Democrats should be reelected, while 31% believe that most Republicans should be reelected. As always, people like their own congressman more than everybody else; unlike always, they like a hypothetical new congressman better than their own.
- The Washington Post: Fewer dinners mean meaner politics
Since Gingrich's cohort of Republicans came into office in 1994, there has been a steady decline in bipartisan socialization and, indeed, socialization at all. He exhorted freshmen to return to their districts whenever possible, to be in D.C. only when absolutely necessary. The result is a dangerous loss in bipartisanship. It's easy to see opposing opinions as evil if you don't actually know anybody who holds those opinions.
- AP: Surry County to Open Poll for One Voter
There's just one guy in the 3rd Senate district in Surry County. State law requires that a polling place be open all day, staffed by three people. It'll cost $2,000. Bang-up job on redistricting, legislature. It's these little things that really show the attention to detail.
- New York Times: Public Views Congress as Top Culprit in Debt Debate, Poll Finds
Congress is at its highest-ever disapproval rating. If you were one of the people insisting last year that the majority had lost the right to lead Congress because of their low approval ratings, this might be an occasion for a little hypocrisy gut check.
- New York Times: Nutrition Label Gets a Design Overhaul
Some of the ideas to overhaul food nutrition labels are pretty clever.
- New York Times: After Aiding Republicans, Business Groups Press Them on Debt Ceiling
The Chamber of Commerce threw the full weight of their support behind getting Democrats replaced by Republicans in last year's congressional election. Now those very Republican Congressmen are refusing to raise the debt ceiling—or support anything that Democrats or the president would agree to—and that's making the chamber crazy. (Businesses know it's essential to raise the debt ceiling.) The chamber has nobody to blame but themselves.
- The Brads: This is Why Your Newspaper is Dying
Nine examples of obvious mistakes that nearly every newspaper is making online. And, no, "paywalls" are not on the list.
- Tabulaw: What Congress Does When it Runs Out of Numbers
Congress recently passed a bill that created section 139D of the tax code. But there was already a 139D. No problem—they just kept the existing one. So there are two section 139Ds. Given my work on codes, this makes my head feel all explodey inside.
- New York Times: G.O.P.’s No-Tax Stance Is Outside Political Mainstream
The concessions that the president is offering to Republican leaders aren't just to the right of what the country wants, they're to the right of what Republicans want. But they're not far enough to the right for Eric Cantor and company, who are willing to cooperate on absolutely nothing. I'm left wondering why somebody unwilling to cooperate would be a member of a legislative body.
- The Atlantic: Sarah Palin Movie Debuts to Empty Theater in Orange County
What if they made a documentary about Sarah Palin, and nobody came? Seriously. Nobody. Just the reporter, all alone in the theater.
- GAO: Replacing the $1 Note with a $1 Coin Would Provide a Financial Benefit to the Government
Getting rid of the $1 bill would save the government $184M/year. Not an enormous amount, on the scale of the budget, but there's no getting around that $184M is a very large amount of money indeed. Ten years ago, it would have saved $522M/year, but the Treasury has improved the technology that they use to identify and destroy worn notes—it used to be overload broad, but that's fixed, allowing lots of bills to stay in circulation longer.
- The Economist: America’s debt—Shame on them
The Economist, a relatively staid and conservative publication, has run an editorial in which they describe Republicans' stance on the debt ceiling as "economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical." They go on to describe Republicans as "unprincipled," as not being "real tax reformers," and conclude by declaring that "the blame falls clearly on the Republicans" in debt talks. Yup.
- PolitiFact: Allen says China owns more U.S. bonds than Americans
It's not even close. Of $14.3T of national debt, China owns $1.2T. The U.S. government owns $6T. $3.8T is privately held. When confronted with the facts, the Allen campaign claimed that they were talking only about debt held by ordinary American investors, but the numbers that they cited to back up that claim actually proved the opposite. I hope NBC-29 runs a correction. Lord knows Allen won't admit that he's full of shit.
- Chris Frashure: Virgil Goode Running for President?
Remember when Goode was a Democrat? Remember when he was an independent? Remember when he was a Republican? Well, now he's a member of the Constitution Party, and he wants to run for president. This should be hilarious.
- ThinkProgress: Herman Cain Pledges Not To Sign Any Bill Longer Than Three Pages
What a dope. His own restaurant's menu is too long to pass his test. I'll warrant this man's never read a bill in his life—he just pulled an arbitrary length out of his ass. Government is complicated. It's hard to run a country. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying or a fool.
- UChicago News: Psychologist shows why we “choke” under pressure – and how to avoid it
"In one study, researchers gave standardized tests to black and white students, both before and after President Obama was elected. Black test takers performed worse than white test takers before the election. Immediately after Obama's election, however, blacks' performance improved so much that their scores were nearly equal with whites. When black students can overcome the worries brought on by stereotypes, because they see someone like President Obama who directly counters myths about racial variation in intelligence, their performance improves." Whoa.