Alternative fuel

Why this is not on the table is mind-boggling. Even if you are someone who doesn’t believe in climate change or that pollution causes severe health problems (Which is just as stupid as not believing in math), then either way, oil is not going to last forever. We need fuel for our ships, our cars, our airplanes. Fuel is the reason we can cross the shores quickly, it’s how we get food from an agricultural state like California to a state like Utah that has more people than the land can provide food for. Only a fool would think this oil will last forever. It took 64 million years to make petroleum. It takes about 64 days to ferment a plant into alcohol. Even is a monetary sense, the idea of drilling is more costly because the methods of reaching oil have become pricier. Why is this not being discussed? The only thing we do have in terms of “renewable” is that 10% ethanol at the pumps and that’s only there because the Corn Lobby wanted to prove they have a bigger dick than the Oil Lobby.

To be fair, there is a push from the airlines to produce biofuels and there has been some traction going on with that. But that’s only because the airlines feel a huge weight around their neck from gas prices and it costs them money. For us, the consumer, we don’t have that type of power. It’s either fill your tank or you’re fired. Still if there was a way to make it more available, it’s better to do it now than to wait until all the problems of an oil shortage stack up.

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Bill Maher To Democrats: Stand Your Ground, Stop Being Wimps And Embrace Jimmy Carter

Via HuffPo:

Bill Maher points out the obvious- Democrats are mostly political invertebrates, and they are headed for a disaster this November if they don’t find some courage.

“When a Tea Partyer says Obamacare is a government takeover, say ‘I wish!’ Because that would mean Medicare for All. And you know, Medicare is hugely popular in America. So let’s see — getting behind something that’s hugely popular, for all… No, too hard a sell.”

Also, Jimmy Carter was right about energy and so much else. Why are Dems ashamed of him?

UPDATE:
Let’s recall that President Obama dragged his feet for more than four years before putting solar panels back on the White House — because he didn’t want Faux News Channel to compare him to President Carter.

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Connecticut Enacts $10.10 Minimum Wage

Chris Rock

Via Think Progress:

This week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed it into law yesterday.

If implemented nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would put it in line with where it would be if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, although far behind the increases in workers’ productivity since then. It would also lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty, close the gender wage gap by 5 percent, and reduce spending on public programs by tens of billions of dollars. There is also real world and academic evidence to suggest that it won’t hurt job growth and could benefit the economy.

Given that the November midterm elections (like 2010) are expected to be dominated by Faux-News-watching senior citizens, it really looks like President Obama will be the only president since FDR whose administration did not enact any increase in the federal minimum wage.

America needs a raise!

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

UPDATE:
Half A Million People With College Degrees Are Working For Minimum Wage

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What Happened To Gary Care?

Gary Herbert is the governor of Utah. Many fast food workers are moments away from having to spend more then they can afford to get any healthcare. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen our governor out there every day to promote his plan to give them the Medicaid plan that might save their lives.

It’s probably too late to prevent the fast-food workers from signing up for the plan, even if Herbert came clean and rejected the Republican plan to oppose Obama at any cost.

Americans shouldn’t have to give up everything they have if they get sick. We should care for our fellow veterans and people by paying taxes. Grover Norquist can go to hell.

We need single-payer healthcare; NOT something that was dreamed up by the “Heritage Foundation”, or the “Americans For Tax Reform”. We need REAL organizations in our country, but who has time?

Update: I changed the post a little, because I have procrastinated on signing up for Obamacare, and it actually looks pretty darn good. I would still prefer single-payer, of course.

Update: I take it back! They are saying that Obamacare is working now, but I can tell you it isn’t! I have spent ten hours listening to music that fades out and skips like a broken record. Maybe I should have told them I was 22 instead of 62, but I can’t get through.

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Quick Thoughts about Hobby Lobby’s Opposition to Contraception

I’m deeply cynical about claims to religious freedom made by religious conservatives about things like contraception.  My opinion is that opposition to contraception is usually just a form of mysogyny.

However, there’s an important point I want to highlight:

We’ve already discussed one of his crucial points, namely that there is no contraception “mandate.” Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all.  The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se.  What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards.  As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.

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Half of Americans are Poor or Low-Income

Poverty graph
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

h/t Paul Buchheit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Relative Poverty Measure (see Table 4), which is “most commonly used in developed countries to measure poverty,” 18 percent of Americans are below the poverty threshold and 32 percent are below twice the threshold, putting them in the low-income category. In other words, half of Americans are poor or low-income.

The bottom half of America own just 1.1% of the country’s wealth, or about $793 billion, which is the same amount owned by the 30 richest Americans. ZERO wealth is owned by approximately the bottom 47 percent.

Our politicians can either do something about inequality, or Americans will do something about our political system.

Recommended viewing: Jacob Kornbluth’s film “Inequality for All” with Robert Reich. Now on Netflix.

More info:
Inequality for All

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

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Best Political Cartoon of the Last Forty or Fifty Years

Modern “conservatives” pull over “the thinker”.

thinker

Says it all, don’t ya think?

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Keeling Curve At 400 ppm Again – Climate Change Denial Continues

Keeling Curve

From Climate Central:

In 1958, Charles David Keeling began making daily measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. These measurements were begun as part of a one-year initiative, the International Geophysical Year, but because of Keeling’s persistence, the daily record has continued through the present, almost without interruption. The Mauna Loa record, now known as the Keeling Curve, continues to be collected under the direction of Keeling’s son, Ralph.

Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.

“We’re already seeing values over 400. Probably we’ll see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever,” said Ralph Keeling in a blog post.

To preserve a livable planet, climate scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.

Right-wing Republicans remain unconcerned. Recently Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the vice chair of the notoriously anti-climate change House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on “Meet the Press”: “Now, you know, when you look at the social cost of carbon, and there is a lot of ambiguity around that, what you also need to be doing is looking at the benefits of carbon and what that has on increased agricultural production.”

“The President should realize that Congress has taken action” on climate change policies, Blackburn said. “We have said no.”

More info:
350.org

UPDATE:

World’s Oldest Direct Measure Of Atmospheric CO2 May Lose Its Funding

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Robert Reich: The ‘Paid-What-You’re-Worth’ Myth

Inequality graphs

As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).

“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.

…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.

…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.

…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.

It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.

UPDATE:

Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.

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This Commentary NAILS It!

The battle isn’t between the “conservatives” and “liberals”, it’s between the pro-corporate and the pro-worker Democrats.

Sorry conservatives, you have “Blown in the Wind”. You have no political capital whatsoever and that’s why you are openly stealing elections because even YOU can’t trust the corporate voting machines. You are going to win the house again because of your gerrymandering, but the youth are onto you and your time will soon be up. Averse to what George-the-lesser thought, stealing elections doesn’t give you any political capital, and the so-called millennials understand that.

Buckle up. It’s going to be a wild ride!

Thank you, MSNBC:

PLUS:

If this dude is a comedian, he better find another job:

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Vaccines- everyone’s favorite topic

I’ve written before about the importance of vaccines and vaccination.  Despite copious actual scientific evidence, some folks, for reasons or no reason, refuse to vaccinate their children.  Vaccines are known to have adverse effects – the CDC page on the topic is worth your time. A recent post at Kos caught my attention for addressing the anti-vaxer phenomenon.

But pseudoscience can gain a life of its own, divorced from facts or evidence. An entire anti-vax profession had developed, it now depended on hyping the danger to sell books and generate page views. This professional class of anti-vaxxars spun ever more elaborate conspiracies and ominous consequences to explain away the growing body of evidence against them and short circuit skepticism in the minds of frightened parents, and they haven’t stopped since.

Some smart folks realized the anti-vaxers are a problem.  In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in outbreaks of preventable diseases in the US.  Consider the case of the Texas megachurch:

In Texas, a (most likely now formerly) anti-vaccine megachurch is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that so far has infected 20 people.[snip]

The Eagle Mountain International Church is led by pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons, daughter of televangelist Kenneth Copeland. (The church is part of his ministries.) Pearsons claims she’s not anti-vax, but the church does promote faith healing, and in August Pearsons voiced concern over vaccinations and autism, a link which has been thoroughly debunked. Kenneth Copeland has promoted anti-vax and anti-science nonsense on his television show in the past (start at 20:10 into the video).

Apparently, the measles virus was introduced by a visitor to the church who had recently traveled overseas (a common way the virus gets into the population). All these measles cases are reported to have been in families that chose not to vaccinate, and all the children infected to have been home-schooled.

This church was not an isolated case – all it takes is one person to get the virus and they walk into a room of un-vaccinated people.  Measles can kill.  It can lead to other problems.

So, some very bright folk realizing this is a problem decided to test ways to counter anti-vaxer nonsense.  It did not go well.

According to a major new study in the journal Pediatrics, trying to do so may actually make the problem worse. The paper tested the effectiveness of four separate pro-vaccine messages, three of which were based very closely on how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself talks about vaccines. The results can only be called grim: Not a single one of the messages was successful when it came to increasing parents’ professed intent to vaccinate their children. And in several cases the messages actually backfired, either increasing the ill-founded belief that vaccines cause autism or even, in one case, apparently reducing parents’ intent to vaccinate.

My personal theory is that public health campaigns in earlier eras had an easier sell.  People had seen the effects of measles, mumps, rubella and polio.  They’d seen people suffer, they knew people who had died from these diseases.  A vaccine to prevent suffering that people see and experience is an easy sell.

But don’t live in that world.  We live in a world (at least those of us in North America) where diseases are manageable.  The flu is treated as miserable, but manageable disease – we endure it but it’s not deadly (nevermind that people die from the flu every year).  Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids are making a bad choice for a seemingly rational reason – nothing in their experience tells them diseases are deadly; they hear about vaccines causing problems and conclude that the vaccine is the greater risk.  The now thoroughly debunked autism claim is a good example of this dynamic at work.  If your entire experience of disease has consistently been you get sick, it sucks, you get better, you move on then the threat of lifelong ailment like autism has a huge impact.  To my mind, it’s a form of sample bias.

I’m fairly certain I don’t have a solution.  I do have some thoughts.  If, tomorrow, there were a definitive, workable vaccine for cancer, people would be knocking down the doors of clinics to get it.  Why?  Because people know cancer kills and even those it doesn’t kill the treatment is thoroughly miserable.  The problem is we think of communicable diseases (mostly) as the common cold, not cancer.  Our frame of reference is wrong.  So we make bad decisions.  Fixing that means fixing the frame of reference.

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No, Americans Are Not All To Blame for the Financial Crisis

EITB?

Writing in The New Republic, Dean Starkman counters the narrative still being repeated by the PTB and the media. The claim that Everyone-Is-To-Blame (EITB) for crashing the economy is not true. Wall Street financiers and predatory lenders are the guilty parties. Consumers didn’t suddenly start committing fraud on a massive scale in 2004 – that was the mortgage industry.

Why blame the victims? Because six years after the fact, no significant Wall Street figure has been criminally prosecuted. That’s a good enough reason, if you’re one of the crooks who got away with it.

Writes Starkman:

I’m not suggesting that Wall Street has gotten a free pass on its role in the crisis. People get it, sort of. But we also grade on a curve that assumes that banks’ criminal or quasi-criminal conspiracies are par for the course, Wall Street just being Wall Street. …Borrowers who wound up underwater, by contrast, are pitiful at best. Either they were greedy or dumb or both. They really should have been more careful.

…Sorry, everybody was not to blame. “We” didn’t all do it.

UPDATE:
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 65 percent of Americans say the country is “on the wrong track,” and 57 percent say they believe we’re still in a recession. Republicans actively pursue measures to worsen the economy for average Americans (e.g. austerity budgeting, refusing to extend unemployment insurance), in the hope that their sabotage will be rewarded at the polls in November. There’s something really wrong with the two-party system if they can get away with this.

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