24 Aug 2011

Rick Perry, The Killingest Governor Ever

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Rick Perry by Gage Skidmore"]Rick Perry[/caption]
When one is a governor, one is going to be the final say in executions in one’s state. We’ve all seen the movies or TV shows, where the planned execution is getting perilously close and everyone waits to see if the Governor will extend clemency on the (usually in dramas) not guilty convict.

Take a guess who has the record for executions performed in his state? You peeked at the title didn’t you? That’s right Gov. Rick Perry has had more people put do death by the machinery of the State than any other governor, ever.

In his 11 years in the Gubernatorial Mansion the state of Texas has executed 234 people. Gov. Perry has extended clemency to exactly one person in that time. Without a doubt you can call him the Killingest Governor in the Nation.

Let me be clear from the start. I actually support the idea of exacting the ultimate penalty from those who are so dangerous or so depraved and callus that they will only ever inflict harm on their fellow man. However, just because there are people who commit acts that warrant death, I don’t support the death penalty.

We as a society are not careful enough or wise enough to administer this kind of punishment without error. When you have a punishment as permanent as death you have to be able to have surety of guilt and our system is not even close to that

23 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – Being Able To Win is not the Same as Being Best to Govern

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It is no secret that I am a total and unreconstructed political junkie. I don’t just love the cut and thrust of campaigns, I am a big fan of legislating. Yeah, that sausage making that we’re not supposed to really watch, I love it.

Which leads to a problem for me. You see over the last few cycles, and especially in presidential politics there has been a tendency to have candidates who are ready and able to win, but are not really ready to govern, including the current president.

Part of this is structural. The job of a candidate is to do exactly two things and only those two things, talk to people and raise money so they an talk to more people. That’s it. All the really fun stuff, speech writing, strategic planning, data analysis, micro-targeting, all of it, is done by other people.

Even the talking to people is not that great. Basically as a candidate you develop a serious of two minute or less mini-speeches and then go on to repeat them ad nauseum. When you are running state wide or nationally there are a lot of people to win over and when you have what the campaign thinks is the optimum patter, you have to go out and say it to millions of people.

For anyone with a sharp mind this part of being a politician is a real trial. Yet so much depends on your ability to do it that the incentives have become skewed. How many times have you seen one party or the other worry about nominating a presidential candidate that is “electable” over one that speaks to its values?

In 2004 we got John Kerry, who while being a decent man, was not the firebrand we needed to really get the Democratic base to turn out and reject the fear that the Bush Administration was peddling. If Kerry had managed to invigorate the Democrats the (probable) vote fraud in Ohio would not have been enough to swing the election.

22 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – Gov. Rick Perry Tries to Walk Away From His Own Book

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Governor Rick Perry by eschipul"]Governor Rick Perry[/caption]

Candidates talk all the time, so it is easy for a single instance of in-artful phrasing to get out there. A slip of the tongue (accidentally telling the truth more often than not) can lead to the need to disavow a statement.

It is one thing to say you did not quite say what you meant when it contradicts your position, but it is quite another to disavow an entire book you spent several months writing. It’s almost sad that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is in the position of doing just that.

You see Gov. Rick penned (apparently on his own, there is no second author listed) a little tome called Fed UP!: Our Fight To Save America From Washington. In this book he goes out of his way to say what he thinks the Federal Government is doing that is unconstitutional, and the list is long.

The Texas Governor believes that child labor laws are unconstitutional, so is the Clean Air Act and, of course, Medicare. This is not particularly surprising for a gung-ho conservative.

The thing is now that he is running for President, that kind of stuff is a lot more problematic than when he was as a just a governor flirting with secession based on an 1850’s understanding of the 10th Amendment.

People like Social Security and Medicare, they like it so much that when the Ryan Budget passed it dumped the GOP’s popularity like a load of medical waste in a land fill. Now these positions that Gov. Perry takes are bread and butter to a lot of the Republican base, but they are anathema to all those Independent voters and even the moderate Republicans still left in that party. To become President Perry he needs those votes.

So what is a candidate to do? Well you get your communications director out there to try to spin it before it snowballs. This is what the Wall St Journal ( that very lefty rag) reported what the Communications Director said:

But since jumping into the 2012 GOP nomination race on Saturday, Mr. Perry has tempered his Social Security views. His communications director, Ray Sullivan, said Thursday that he had “never heard” the governor suggest the program was unconstitutional. Not only that, Mr. Sullivan said, but “Fed Up!” is not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix the program.

The issue bubbled up Thursday, when a gaggle of protestors confronted Mr. Perry outside a café in Portsmouth, N.H., accusing him of trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare. Mr. Perry didn’t respond when one of the protesters inside the café accused him of believing the Social Security system was unconstitutional.

In an interview, Mr. Sullivan acknowledged that many passages in Mr. Perry’s “Fed Up!” could dog his presidential campaign. The book, Mr. Sullivan said, “is a look back, not a path forward.” It was written “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The campaign’s disavowal of “Fed Up!” is itself very new. On Sunday evening, at Mr. Perry’s first campaign stop in Iowa, a questioner asked the governor to talk about how he would fix the country’s rickety entitlement programs. Mr. Perry shot back: “Have you read my book, ‘Fed Up!’ Get a copy and read it.”

22 Aug 2011

What Next for Libya?

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So it seems that, against the expectations, the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi is in the process of falling. At the time I type this reports have come out of the Tripoli that the rebel forces have entered the city, that they have captured two of the dictators sons and, according to them, the Republican Guard has surrendered.

There are still reports of fighting in the Libyan capital, but there is nothing like the all out bloody battle that Gaddafi had been calling for since the start of the uprising. So it seem, barring major reversals of fortune that another autocratic regime has fallen to the Arab Spring.

This then begs the question; What next? Unlike Egypt and Tunisia this was an all out civil war, instead of a peaceful and mostly bloodless overthrow the anti-government forces have taken control of their nation by arms. Will that make things better or worse?

Revolutions can go a lot of different ways. Overthrowing the government is really just the start, not the end game in a revolution. Revolutions can replace one dictator with another or can devolve in to horrible campaigns of terror.

21 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – US not the Only Place with Anti-Science Wackos

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Scientific? Nope...Terific! by afagen"]Scientific?  Nope...Terific![/caption]

There is a nationalism that I think that people here in the US indulge in all the time. We tend to think that we are the ones with all the grade-A nut cases when it comes to being anti-science.

I call it nationalism because, being Americans, we tend to think we have the most and best of everything, even if it is the best of the worst. But sadly for everyone on the planet it just is not so.

Take this article from Guardian’s Observer on-line magazine. It details the lengths to which sufferers of myalgic encephalomyelitis, or the more commonly know Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, go to squelch any hint that the condition might have a psychiatric component.

One researcher told the Observer that a woman protester who had turned up at one of his lectures was found to be carrying a knife. Another scientist had to abandon a collaboration with American doctors after being told she risked being shot, while another was punched in the street. All said they had received death threats and vitriolic abuse.

Even after 20 year so research there is no well defined single cause for CFS, there are lots of theories but nothing concrete. There is some evidence of viral involvement, some genetics as well, but neither of them really pin down the whole story. Which is where the idea of psychological involvement comes in.

Now it should be said that CFS is pretty horrible. It is a set of conditions that include post exertion malaise, unrefreshing sleep, wide spread muscle and joint pain and mental and physical exhaustion. To make matters worse, it can come on at any time to previously healthy people. Just about your worst nightmare of a disease.

Now, for me, I don’t think that I would care what the freaking cause is as long as they are finding a way to treat it, but this does not seem to be the case for a small but militant group of CFS activists. They have taken to harassing any British scientist that even vaguely makes a connection to a psychiatric cause or component.

21 Aug 2011

Food Sunday – Grand Marnier Birthday Cake


Happy Sunday Bread Heads! This week (today) is the love of my life’s birthday. Since that is the case we are going to make Grand Marnier Birthday Cake! I am not the best with decorating cakes. I’ve had the classes but being a lefty and, frankly, having less love for a gaudily decorated cake than most I just don’t practice enough to be great at it.

However that does not mean that I can’t make a lovely caked that will be devoured to the last crumb, and today I am going to show you all how to do the same. This recipe is a classic white cake with Grand Marnier meringue butter cream frosting.

The classic white cake is super versatile, you can make it into round cakes, or a sheet cake or a nice thick cake in 9”x 13” pan for squares. The best part, and we’ll get back to this later is that you can make it in advance and refrigerate it for up to week or even freeze it for up to 2 months!

But enough of that, let’s bake!

20 Aug 2011

Late Night FDL: Dawn Probe Sends Picture of Snowman Craters on Vesta

In June the Dawn probe from NASA decelerated into orbit around the mini-planet. Since then we have been getting more and more images. The picture above is one such. It is three large craters that overlap just enough make them look like a snowman.

20 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – For the Tar Sands Protesters

So as you probably know our Founder Jane Hamsher, as well as Scarecrow, Dan Choi and Bill McKibben were all arrested today while protesting in front of the White House against the Tar Sands Pipeline. This is the first day of a two week push to put this issue on the map.

Well, Jane and some of the locals have been released, but it seems the Park Police are going to be keeping the rest of them until at least Monday as an example to anyone who might want to use their First Amendment Rights to petition their government.

This being the case I thought that I’d send a song out to all the protestors, those in jail and those who were released and all the ones to come. I am betting this is your song. Tom Petty and Heart Breakers, “I Won’t Back Down”


What is on your minds Firedogs? The floor is yours!

19 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – The President Does the Right Thing on Deportation Enforcement

The FSM knows that the president does not always get it right, and often times it takes him way to long to do so, but he should get credit when he actually acts in a way that progressives can support. That is what he has done yesterday.

According to the Hill Newspaper:

Under the new rules announced Thursday, officials at the Department of Homeland Security will perform case-by-case reviews of those in line for deportation, weeding out violent criminals and other high-priority cases while closing the books on those considered no threat.

Since being unable to get the DREAM Act passed there has been a lot of pressure on the administration to use it’s executive power to change the enforcement policies of ICE. The so-called Secure Communities initiative was supposed to focus on the criminal element in the informal immigration community.

The theory was that people who were committing serious crimes in addition to their undocumented status should be the first ones that were found and deported to their country of origin. It is actually a decent idea, spending the limited amount of money we have for this kind of enforcement on actual criminals who don’t contribute to our society.

Of course the problem is that they are not as easy to find as say a undocumented immigrant without a license caught in a traffic stop. The Obama administration has been deporting more undocumented immigrants than the Bush administration every did, but they have not all been the hardened criminals like the Secure Communities program envisioned.

Changing the emphasis and closing the books on the cases of non-violent, non-criminal undocumented immigrants is the right thing to do. How can we tell? Because xenophobic Republicans are already howling to the moon about it, here is what the reprehensible Representative Peter King (R-NY) had to say about it:

“This new non-enforcement policy announced by the Obama Administration Thursday is a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country.”

Rep. King is the same fellow who spends a bunch of committee time looking for radicalized Muslims. But he is an equal opportunity hater, if you are brown he is pretty sure that you are out to ruin the United States.

In this case though, he is going to be about as affective as box full of mewling kittens. This is completely within the powers of the Executive branch to use its prosecutorial discretion to decide which cases it wants to take to court, be it civil or deportation court, and which it will give a pass to.

18 Aug 2011

Water Cooler – IBM Announces a Chip That Can Learn!

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Depending on your point of view the news from IBM today is either really great or really freaking scary, or perhaps both. You see the venerable office electronics company has announced that it has created a chip that mimics the way that the human brain processes information.

That’s right; there are not two chips that actually learn. They are smaller than normal chips and they use fewer transistors since they are more efficient than the standard architecture.

What would you use such a thing for? Well according to IBM it is more a question of what you wouldn’t use it for. They are talking about using learning computers in traffic lights so they can identify when road conditions are becoming dangerous and change the length of the lights.

Or in all your electronic devices, so that they could learn how you want to use them and respond accordingly. Or maybe being able to monitor all the sensors in the world for tsunami activity and issue the warnings themselves when they see the conditions that they have learned mean a tsunami.

There is one area that they will not be used in, and that is to augment the human brain. Even though they mimic the processes of thought and learning, they are still going to have the two big barriers to putting extra processing power in your skull, speed and heat.