Monthly Archives: February 2013

Your Paranoid Delusions Are Well Founded

It’s really crappy decision week at the Supreme Court.

First up on the list, FISA.  FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  It’s the ultra-secret act that our wonderful government uses to spy on Americans suspected of being bad guys.  The Court ruled earlier this week that it is impossible to bring a suit against the Federal Government unless you can prove they are spying on you.

“How are you supposed to prove that a super secret federal program is spying on you”, you ask?  What a great question!  I’m pretty sure the answer is, “you aren’t”.  So with this final hurdle, the Supreme Court has now given the Federal Government carte blanche to spy on its citizens.

The Legislative Branch wiped its ass with the 4th Amendment in 2001, 2007, and 2008 when they passed the bills.  George W. Bush wiped his ass with the 4th Amendment when he signed each bill into law.  Barack Obama wiped his ass with the 4th Amendment when his administration defended the Act in the courts.  And now the Supreme Court has finally wiped its ass with the 4th Amendment and flushed it down the toilet.

God bless America.

There Is A Hole In My Soul

And by soul, I mean sole.  Can you think of a worse day to discover a hole in the bottom of your shoe?  I can’t.  Slushy snow.  Deep puddles.  Unshoveled side walks.  Wet socks.  Luckily, the environmental maintenance in our building is a bit shaky so there are a plethora of space heaters to borrow to dry said wet socks.

Plethora, what an awesome weird word.  Do I say “there are a plethora” or do I say “there is a plethora”?  Neither sounds quite right.

Whenever I Was Sad, My Grandma Would Give Me Karate Chops

This is an absolutely beautiful video about bullying.  The author of the poem is Shane Koyczan.


The Sunlight Foundation Is Awesome

Presenting Open States!  It’s a website dedicated to aggregating all state level legislative activity in one place.  How cool is that?

It’s always seemed funny to me how more people pay attention to national politics than they do to state politics.  I include myself in that bunch.  Much of it is because national politics gets covered in much greater quantities.  (I was going to say detail, but that is certainly not right.)  State politics just isn’t easy to follow.  This is a perverse reality since your state’s politics is generally much more important to your everyday life than the crap that’s happening in Washington D.C.  Maybe sites like Open States will change that and allow us to keep better tabs on our state legislators.

Don’t Worry, There Is No War Against Women

Republicans like women just fine.  As long as they fit a very specific mold.  First, you have to be attracted to men.  But not too much.  No sleeping around.  Viagra, yes.  Birth control, no.  Second, you have to be attractive to men.  But not too much.  Aim for something sexier than a burqa but not as sexy as yoga pants.  Your sexiness level will be individually judged by every man you meet.  You must please them all.  Third, you really only should get beat up by men who are your significant others.  All that talk about lesbians and transgendered folks really creeps Republicans out so stop being all non-cisgendered.  Fourth, you really should try to be white.  You should especially not be Native American.  Well, no, that’s not quite true.  You can be Native American, but white people can do what they want with you and don’t come running to us when the law doesn’t protect you.

Never say that Republicans aren’t highly principled.  Their principles just happen to be abhorrent and they’re willing to scorch the earth to defend them.  “Only the women that we recognize as real women will be protected from violence or no women will be protected from violence.”  Class acts, all of them.

Real Cardinals Of The Vatican

Am I the only one who thinks that the myriad problems that the Catholic Church faces would be solved by a reality TV show featuring all the Cardinals who are vying for Pope?  Think about it.  There is more intrigue and backstabbing and double dealing at the Vatican than with any group of Real Housewives.  You have a Pope unprecedentedly resigning.  You have banking scandals.  You have a butler who was selling Vatican secrets.  You have a Cardinal resigning for allegedly ringleading a gay group inside the Vatican.  You have coverups galore.

Let’s face it, the Vatican is already exactly like the Real Housewives in every respect including the fake piety.  This is what happens when you get a group of people who live extremely insular lives and stick them together.  Reality no longer has any meaning.  They simply define their own reality at this point.  Anything can be justified because you’re doing it for the church.

Reality television is a misnomer.  It really should be called unreality television.  And there can be no greater unreality than the Vatican.  I think I need to start a petition drive to get this show made.

Movie Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 1/5 stars

a.k.a. Die Hard With a Paycheck.  a.k.a. A Good Day to See Any Other Movie.

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Raphsody In Infrared

There is so much beauty in this world that is completely invisible to us.  Take the infrared for instance.  There is so much light swirling around us all the time that we never see with our primitive eyes.  Luckily, though, we have science!  And that’s how we can get videos like this:

I found this through my main source for all things beautiful in the universe, Phil Plait.  While watching the video, I noticed that certain things like the sky seemed to be coming through in color and I thought to myself, “Wait, that can’t be right…”.  If it’s in infrared, the sky almost certainly shouldn’t be blue.  I then read Phil Plait’s explanation of the video and he pointed it out as well!  I love it when I notice things that don’t seem quite right and then get confirmation of my doubts.  Skeptic-sense engaged!

This Is Not The Budget Deficit You Are Looking For

The United States has a long term budget problem.  That problem has nothing to do with too much spending on defense or building bridges to nowhere.  That problem is almost entirely a healthcare problem.  Medicare and Medicaid are, by far, the largest drivers of our deficits.  If anyone tells you otherwise, they either don’t understand large numbers or they are deliberately trying to mislead you.

As the Baby Boomers get older, the costs of Medicare and Medicaid will increase dramatically.  Or will they?  Yes, yes they will.  But!  But, it’s looking likelier that things are not nearly as bad as everybody predicted they would be.

You see, the problem has been that, for decades now, the cost of healthcare has been growing much faster than everything else in the economy.  So, predictions of future costs has always assumed that Medicare and Medicaid would continue to grow much faster than the economy.  For the last few years, that hasn’t been true. Healthcare appears to have started growing apace with the economy.  This changes everything.  Those massive predicted deficits almost disappear.

Of course, the $500 billion question is if healthcare costs growing apace with the economy is a new normal or a temporary adjustment.  I believe that it is a new normal.  It seems economically dubious that healthcare spending would continue to grow faster than the broader economy forever.  I can’t think of another industry that has had this long of a run rising costs for customers.  Healthcare isn’t like other industries, though, so maybe that thinking is flawed.  With Obamacare and the level of governmental oversight that it brings, I’m guessing that healthcare spending will slow down as a greater emphasis is placed on bring costs down.

Goodbye Voting Rights

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging a key component of the Voting Rights Act next week.  Given the current makeup of the Court, his does not bode well for free elections.

At issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is the section that gives muscle to the Act.  There are certain states and certain counties in those states which shall remain nameless (*cough* The South *cough*) which have an unfortunate history of disenfranchising people who, shall we say, are a shade darker than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Section 5 requires those states/counties to seek Federal approval (preclearance) before making changes to election laws.  This can, at times, be a significant burden.  Simple things like changing polling places to across the street requires Federal approval.  But because of the counties’ history of changing polling places to across the county, these things need to be done.

There are recent examples of state laws being rejected because of Voting Rights Act violations.  South Carolina’s Voter ID law for instance.  The number of rejects has certainly dropped significantly since enactment, though.  But that isn’t the point.  The entire Voting Rights Act has been deemed Constitutional in the past.  The current Court, though, is only in favor of precedent if it fits within their narrow world view.  And their narrow world view is likely to ignore Constitutionality and precedent and say to the world that things are better now and those states and counties no longer have to seek preclearance.

I am somewhat sympathetic to complaints that it is unfair to single out certain states and counties for preclearance.  Can their past sins ever be legislatively forgiven?  If we lived in a fair world, the answer would be yes.  But this is far from a fair world which is why we need the Voting Rights Act in the first place.

This past election cycle has shown that preclearance is still a good idea.  I think the ideal outcome would be to rule preclearance Constitutional, but the singling out of certain states and counties Unconstitutional.  The result would be to force all states to request preclearance before changing voting laws.  This would certainly be unwieldy at first.  That could be fixed by a 21st Century Voting Rights Act that deals away with the bothersome portions of preclearance like moving a polling place across the street.