Saturday, January 04, 2014

President Obama: 'Time to Pass Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance'

Barbara Morrill    Sat Jan 04, 2014

Saying that it is a time to "look ahead to all the possibilities and opportunities of the year," President Obama uses this week's address to call on Republicans to extend emergency unemployment insurance:

Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline – the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job. Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire. And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all. [...]

So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order of business should be making this right. Right now, a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment insurance – and if they pass it, I will sign it. For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today. Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.

Email your member of Congress now and demand that they restore benefits to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

Complete transcript below the fold.

Hi, everybody, and Happy New Year.

This is a time when we look ahead to all the possibilities and opportunities of the year to come – when we resolve to better ourselves, and to better our relationships with one another. And today, I want to talk about one place that Washington should start – a place where we can make a real and powerful difference in the lives of many of our fellow Americans right now.

Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline – the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job. Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire. And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all.

We make this promise to one another because it makes a difference to a mother who needs help feeding her kids while she’s looking for work; to a father who needs help paying the rent while learning the skills to get a new and better job. And denying families that security is just plain cruel. We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough – we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.

What’s more, it actually slows down the economy for all of us. If folks can’t pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers. That’s why the independent Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress restores this insurance, we’ll feel a drag on our economic growth this year. And after our businesses created more than two million new jobs last year, that’s a self-inflicted wound we don’t need.

So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order of business should be making this right. Right now, a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment insurance – and if they pass it, I will sign it. For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today. Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.

After all, our focus as a country this year shouldn’t be shrinking our economy, but growing it; not narrowing opportunity, but expanding it; not fewer jobs, but doing everything we can to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires.

That’s my New Year’s resolution – to do everything I can, every single day, to help make 2014 a year in which more of our citizens can earn their own piece of the American Dream.

After five years of working and sacrificing to recover and rebuild from crisis, we have it within our power, right now, to move this country forward. It’s entirely up to us. And I’m optimistic for the year that lies ahead.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Originally posted to Daily Kos

Friday, January 03, 2014

Do we care that Republicans stop accepting evolution?

  By ericf on Wed Jan 01, 2014   Daily Kos

How did evolution, in the biological sense, come to be a partisan issue? Let's start with a recent poll by Pew Research showing that such is happening. h/t TPM. 60% of Americans accept it, at least in some form, including the maybe-God-is-directing-it sort of acceptance, 33% deny it, which are about the same proportions as the same poll in 2009. The partisan difference is interesting though. 67% of Democrats accept evolution, but only 43% of Republicans. The Democrats have ticked up from 64% since 2009, while Republicans have dropped from 54% ---  statistical evidence Republicans have made themselves more delusional.

Do we care if they think the world's biologists are making it all up? I used to say no. Do we decide to build highways or railroads based on whether life on Earth has always been exactly like it is now? Do we predicate tax rates on opinions about the age of the universe? Based on the rule "your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins", I looked at my unbloodied nose, and formerly didn't care if anyone wouldn't distinguish Darwin and the devil.

The key word is "formerly", as in something dawned on me eventually. It wasn't being wrong on one scientific question that mattered. It was how they got there and where it leads them. The problem is the attitude that science is just another opinion, and I, with an opinion based on my gut or preferred belief or evidence-optional whatever, have least as good an opinion. So if evolution and the big bang, with the mountains of evidence supporting them, can be readily dismissed, what about questions that are less clear but clearly involve public policy? Where getting the answer wrong might proverbially bloody my nose? OK, now I care. If your opinion based on what feels right is equal to someone else's reams of data, this is bad, though it does explain why some issues are so controversial. If you can reject overwhelming evidence as just another opinion just because of anything, how much worse when such evidence runs into not only religious belief, but into someone's investment, someone's fears of job loss, someone's whatever emotional context they bring to it.

So yes, it absolutely is worth getting out of other people's heads that one opinion is as good as another regardless of evidence, and disturbing that Republicans have grown less willing to accept science. It's not surprising, at least to anyone who has followed debates on environmental issues, but still disturbing. Maybe new data came out that put evolution in doubt, and only Republicans were informed. Seems a bit unlikely. Dare we hope the drop in accepting evolution is just a matter of reality-based people being less willing to identify as Republicans?  Even at that, 40% believe evolution is false or don't know. Ouch. Not a new ouch, an old-news sort of ouch, but ouch nonetheless.

So what to do? Worry about how people got there rather than where they ended up. Start with ourselves. "Feels right" isn't an argument. Certainty has no relation to correctness. Hopefully even the most epistemologically closed mind will accept those starting propositions. And Democrats, come on: we're supposed to be the reality-based community, right? Yet one-third of us either don't accept evolution or think it's as likely one way as the other. If Republicans are turning creationist because that's a requirement for membership, here's hoping the slight uptick in Democrats who accept it isn't just a matter of membership, because that's the right conclusion for the wrong reason. Or dare we hope that reality-based people are identifying as Democrats?

That feels right, so I'll believe that one.

Originally posted to ericf on Wed Jan 01, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Tips For Living in a Surveillance State

Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill

  To view the full graphic go HERE.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The 10 Dumbest Public Figures In 2013

  From Addicting Info comes the list.

2013 was a very stupid year.

This past year has been rich with the stupid. From crazy right-wing preachers whining about how “Christians” are being persecuted to dumb politicians who just can’t STFU, we have a stellar list of people who made America’s collective IQ take a dip in 2013. There are also a few Honorable Mentions. And you can add anyone we’ve missed in your comments. It’s a rousing good time for all. Well, except those we mock. Come on, let’s get started…

10th most stupid person: David Lane.

In June, Lane — who has helped many Republican candidates get elected — posted a very stupid op-ed on World Net Daily. In his rant, Lane called for a War for the “Soul of America”:

“Where are the champions of Christ to save the nation from the pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage, homosexual scouts, 60 million babies done to death by abortion and red ink as far as the eye can see on America? Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?”

Lane says that those who support tolerance “know little and practice nothing” of Christianity. He declared that Christian love is regulated by principle, not impulse. By calling for churches to get more political, Lane seems not to know or understand about the Establishment Clause. But hey, if churches want to be political, let them. As long as they give up their tax-exempt status. The vehemence with which Lane denounces homosexuality makes one wonder how long it will be before he is caught paying for gay sex. You can bet we will cover it when he is.

9th most stupid person: Mark Kessler.

The former sheriff of Gilberton, PA first came to our attention when he was threatening violence against Democrats and fomenting rebellion against the government. He made the stupid decision to shoot video of himself doing these things, as well as firing his AK-47 at a target which he referred to as Nancy Pelosi. He was suspended for 30 days soon after. Then he took over a town meeting with his militia pals, blocking the entrances to prevent citizens from attending and speaking. He created such a threatening atmosphere in the small town that a petition was created calling for the National Guard to step in and protect the citizens. Like the idiot he is, as his suspension was nearing its end, Kessler posted another video of himself. This time, he was none-too-subtle about threatening two Gilberton city council members, Eric Boxer and Danny Malloy. Kessler was placed on indefinite suspension at that point and was, ultimately, fired. He tried to mount a write-in campaign to get re-elected but it came to naught. Gilberton’s new sheriff, elected on Nov. 5, 2013, is Joseph Groody — a Democrat. Kessler got 657 write-in votes out of 21,889 votes cast. He can now, thankfully, sink back into his well-deserved obscurity after this last mocking.

8th most stupid person: Matt Barber.

Conservative radio host of the Liberty Councils Faith and Freedom show, Barber had a lot of stupid things to say this year. He was a signatory on the petulant letter that a bunch of anti-gay hate groups sent to the Supreme Court. It was the equivalent of them stomping their feet and pouting. And it did about as much good. In April, Barber likened contraception — specifically the mandate in the ACA — to Islamic terrorism. This fall, he joined fellow anti-gay bigot Peter LaBarbera in denouncing the NALT Christian Project. The NALT — as in Not All Like That — Christian Project was founded to fight the hijacking of Christianity by the bigots and other pseudo-Christians. Of course, Barber and LaBarbera called NALT “apostasy” and asserted that it pushed a “radical, dangerous sexual anarchist agenda.” Barber has shown time and again that he is ignorant of what Jesus actually said and taught.

7th most stupid person: Ted Yoho.

The freshman representative from Florida got off to a good start in the most stupid House member category. In January, he came out in favor of every American owning military-grade weapons. Rep. Yoho was relatively quiet until August when, apparently comfortable airing his insane views, he went on a roll at town hall meetings. From saying that people who collect food stamps should be allowed to starve to calling the tanning bed tax racist, Yoho scored lots of points in the Teabagger olympics. He supported the government shutdown, telling constituents that it would help the economy (it didn’t). Then he said that the workers who were furloughed during that shutdown didn’t deserve back pay (they did). He supported Steve Stockman’s birther legislation, came out against marriage equality and favored cutting food stamp funding out of the farm bill (saying that wouldn’t hurt anyone — it did). But his crowning achievement in stupid was his comments about immigration:

“I talked to a guy that works with Hezbollah, they call him the 007 of Hezbollah, they call him and find out he’s brought over 1,500 people here illegally that don’t like us, they want to blow us up.”

Um… yeah. I’m guessing that Rep. Yoho watches way too many action movies. And, possibly, has way too few brain cells. Just guessing, here, but the evidence is tilting that way. I can’t wait to hear what idiocy springs from him in 2014. Should be fun.

6th most stupid person: Bryan Fischer.

Oh, the head of the American Family Association was busy this year! When he wasn’t getting his hate on for the gay, he was espousing crazy conspiracy theories. Just like Jesus would want him to. He told a caller (who happened to be gay) that, if you can’t stop being gay, then you should be celibate. In March, Fischer called atheists “the American Taliban.” Stunning case of projection, there, don’t you think? He supported the firing of a gay physical education teacher in April, burnishing his homophobia bona fides. He reached new heights of paranoia and Obama-bashing with his theory that the President was “Photoshopped into that picture…” of the White House situation room during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yes, it was a good year for Bryan Fischer’s brand of stupid. Next year should be just as interesting.

5th most stupid person: Louie Gohmert.

Beating Ted Yoho for the most stupid member of the House, Gohmert had a banner year of dumb. His attack on John McCain was a high point: Gohmert claimed that McCain was in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. Yes, really. He also blames Benghazi on McCain. I’m betting they don’t sit together in the Congressional dining room. He lost it (further) when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA, saying that it was the end of civilization. Gotta love his reliance on hyperbole, don’t ya? He also stated that it would lead to bestiality. WTH is up with Republicans and animal sex? There’s a doctorate dissertation there somewhere. Gohmert is a true pioneer, becoming the first GOP Rep. to compare the national debt to slavery. He can’t tell the difference between Hispanics and Arabs — not that he cares, he hates all brown people. He told a woman who was testifying about a “fetal pain” bill that she should have carried her brain-dead baby to term. Well, you can’t blame him for sympathizing with someone who had the same affliction as he does. According to Gohmert, poor people eat too much, so cutting SNAP benefits is good for them. He equated sex education with communism (he might look into getting a dictionary).

In one of the most embarrassing and stupid moves of the year, he flew to Egypt with fellow Teabagger crazies Michele Bachmann and Steve King. The three stooges made complete asses of themselves while remaining totally oblivious. That takes some real chutzpah (pronounced as Michele does, of course). Gohmert was part of Ted Cruz’s cabal that met secretly to sabotage negotiations over the government shutdown. Louie spent a lot of time trying to hang the debt default that he helped cause on the President so that he could use it as a basis for impeachment. Gohmert believes that Muslim Brotherhood members are infiltrating the government through Obama’s administration, and that Obama will establish a “new Ottoman Empire.” Of course, Gohmert wouldn’t be a good Teabagger if he didn’t make some allusion to civil rights and what they could be compared to. He chose animals. Yep. To ol’ Louie, the civil rights of African-Americans are exactly the same as “…the Delta Smelt, the snail darter, various lizards, the lesser prairie chicken, the greater sage grouts and so many other insects…” So, in light of his profusion of hate combined with true lunacy, Louie Gohmert takes the title of stupidest member of the House of Representatives.

4th most stupid person … er … group of people: Westboro Baptist Church.

Yes, okay, it’s a group. But since they appear to think like a hive mind, I’m treating them that way. They began the year slowly, picketing the second Obama inauguration. They spent much of the year trying to negate the impact of the house across the street, to the amusement of many. They picketed the funeral of Roger Ebert (one of my personal heroes) in April. They made hay over the Boston Marathon bombing, picketing funerals and marching around downtown. They were, of course, blaming the gay for the tragedy. They picketed the concerts of singer Taylor Swift (which one of my acquaintances ran into when arriving at one venue early for a show the following night). WBC haters also picketed the funerals of 19 Arizona firefighters, drawing the ire of everybody who wasn’t a member of their hate group. They announced that they were going to picket Nelson Mandela’s funeral but apparently they chickened out on that one. Too bad. It would have been interesting to see how South Africa would have dealt with them. Their latest demonstration of hate involved picketing the offices of A&E in support of fellow hater Phil Robertson.

WBC is so stupid, they were also epically trolled this year on several fronts. Ex-members spilled about the inner workings of the church. Two of Fred Phelps’ granddaughters skipped town, denouncing the practices of their grandfather. A member who had been excommunicated joined the NOH8 campaign. And Fred’s son, Nate, wrote a book about his horrific childhood. Anonymous, who hacked the WBC website last year, did it again this year, causing the hateful church to accidentally raise $8,000 for Oklahoma tornado victims. Westboro also ran into community backlash in California and Rhode Island. People aren’t just complaining about WBC anymore — they are taking matters into their own hands to non-violently stage counter-protests. Perhaps the weirdest one was the punk band that shot a porno flick on the WBC’s own front lawn. But Westboro’s biggest stupid act this year had to be the flier that went out for the Rhode Island protest. It was meant to point out that the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman. The question they asked was, “Is the United States Population ILLERATE…?” Yes, you read that right - in a flier charging people with illiteracy, they misspelled “illiterate.” The stupid… it burns!

3rd prize winner for most stupid person of 2013: David Barton.

Beloved by the right for his revisionist history, Barton always seems to have an opinion on everything. Of course, his pseudo-Christianity colors everything that comes out of his mouth. Especially when it comes to atheists. According to Barton, atheism is slowly taking over the country because… well it just is. No prayer at a graduation? Atheism’s fault. It couldn’t possibly be that disallowing a prayer at a public school event keeps the school from trampling on the Establishment Clause. Barton can trace every bad thing that happens back to America not following biblical teachings. Like climate change — caused by abortion. Didn’t you know? Even though the bible says nothing about abortion. But it does address PTSD… well, in Barton’s fevered brain it does. He found a biblical passage that, though it was written for ancient Hebrews, he managed to twist to mean that our modern soldiers should never worry their heads with anything like guilt. And PTSD is just them not reading that passage. He caught some flack for that, but not enough to apologize. Barton’s book of lies about Thomas Jefferson drew such ire from actual historians that his publishers shelved the thing last year. But that didn’t scare Barton. He just keeps on spewing the stupid, revisionist history. His latest bit of stupidity involves the Second Amendment — which he believes only he can adequately interpret. According to Barton, the Second Amendment allows for every American to have any weapon, of any kind that they so desire. Up to and including fighter jets, tanks and heavy artillery. Barton’s brand of stupid won’t go away anytime soon. Not with the constant attempts by conservatives to re-write history to fit their ideology.

2nd prize winner for most stupid person of 2013: Ted Cruz.

The right’s “new Jesus” has had a year full of stupid. Naturally, he and his followers don’t think it was anything but perfect. I beg to differ. He came a long way in less than a year. He first garnered national attention in February when he as much as accused Secretary of Defense Chuck Schumer (then-nominee) of working for North Korea and/or Iran. Then had the temerity to whine when he was called out on it. Soon after that, he built up his reputation as the new Joe McCarthy by claiming that Harvard (the President’s — and his own — alma mater) harbored at least a dozen communists on its staff. Sound familiar? Despite being smacked down by everyone from Janet Napolitano to Jon Stewart, Cruz stuck to his guns, polishing his Teabagger reputation all the way. He introduced a bill in the Senate which would block anyone without a state-issued ID from voting. Who cares if its unconstitutional, right? But it was the government shutdown that really gave Cruz a boost among his adoring sheeple fans. His fauxlibuster was a bust: he didn’t last as long as he boasted he would. But while he was addressing an empty room (oh yeah, his fellow Senators took off during the stunt), he was certainly entertaining in a gawking-at-an-accident kind of way. His reading of Green Eggs And Ham will go down in the annals of Senate idiocy. His colleagues in Congress — from both parties — have come to dislike him intensely.

Save for a handful of sycophants (looking at you, Mike Lee!) he has nobody’s ear. He is, rightly, now blamed for the shutdown, which cost the country over $24 billion. Yes, pretty much everyone with a functioning brain blames him. Even the Houston Chronicle, which endorsed him in his Senate run, has turned its back on him. But, to his Teabagger sheep, he can do no wrong. In fact, they compare him to Jesus. Really. Ted Cruz is a snake-oil salesman. His brand of useless “medicine” is the repeal of the ACA with a chaser of racism and a large dose of arrogance. He lies. He plots. He gives kids coloring books about himself (it’s never to early to begin indoctrination, ya know). His resemblance to Joseph McCarthy is much more than just physical. Cruz is heading along the same course as McCarthy did. He has presidential aspirations (even though he actually was born in another country). He is adored by those he has hoodwinked. His downfall will be so satisfying when it comes. Why is he stupid? Because he doesn’t see it coming.

1st prize winner for most stupid person of 2013: Gordon ‘Dr. Chaps’ Klingenschmitt.

My choice for the most stupid person of 2013 is the man who was kicked out of the Navy chaplaincy for being such a head case. His advocacy of “exorcising” the gay keeps him on the radar as a hate-monger of the highest order. He’s another of those rabid nutjobs who can’t seem to stop bringing bestiality into the discussion. He was, as to be expected, a signer of the anti-gay letter to the Supreme Court. He advocates killing homosexuals. He lies constantly about the ACA. He keeps up a steady stream of ignorant ideas, like saying that Christians will be forced to “starve to death” if they can’t hate on the gay. Sure, he’s being hateful but now he is showing his stupidity by running for office in Colorado. Why is this stupid? Because if he thinks he has been in the media spotlight before, he ain’t seen nothing! He is so thin-skinned that he has been filing bogus claims with You Tube against Right Wing Watch. That group posts video and audio of Klingenschmitt as part of their information on dangerous right-wingers. You Tube keeps falling for these insubstantial copyright claims, unaware of, or uncaring that, fair use applies in this case. For his unending stupidity about homosexuality, his total misunderstanding of Jesus, his belief in demons everywhere, his insinuating himself into every topic he possibly can and his inept reading of copyright law, Gordon Klingenschmitt is the most stupid person of 2013.

Honorable Mentions for the 10 most stupid people of 2013.

Kevin Swanson (women’s wombs are graveyards for tiny fetuses), the KKK of New Smyrna Beach, FL (recruiting in a mostly black neighborhood), Larry Klayman (“put down the Koran and come out with your hands up”), Darrell Issa (“An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack”), Capital 8 Theaters in Jefferson City, Missouri (hiring fake gunmen for a movie premiere), NH State Representative Peter Hansen (referring to women as “vagina’s” [sic] in an official email) and Rep. Randy Neugebauer (for berating a National Park Ranger for doing her job).

There’s my list. Everyone on it got there by merit –or lack thereof. They are all right-wingers because that section of the population just does and says more stupid things than anyone else. It’s a gift. I suppose.

Creative Commons-License