"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." --Bishop Desmond Tutu

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fa, la, la, la, la...


Chrysler is shutting down a number of plants and laying of, albeit temporarily, 46,000 workers. Who picks up the bulk of the tab for this? Why, we all do through unemployment benefits! You can pay me now, or you can pay me later!
This will impact 46,000 UAW workers, according to Chrysler. Chrysler says these employees will receive state unemployment benefits as well as supplemental payments from Chrysler during the layoff according to a union negotiated formula.
But what about the white collar workers? Do they need to file for unemployment? Hell no!
There will be an unknown number of white collar workers who will not be working as well, but the expectation is that they will continue to receive their regular salaries during this time.
Some have said that there is lowered demand for the cars produced by the American auto manufacturers. This may or may not be true, but it seems that the obstacle to new vehicle purchase has less to do with the product and more to do with the financing.
The company says dealers are telling them there are buyers out there, but they can't get financing and as a result, have lost 20 to 25 percent in sales.
This would explain the sales slump in the foreign Dixie car manufacturers as well, Toyota, Honda and BMW.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The death of the hedge fund?

Gee, look. Another Wall Street scandal involving fraud and billions of dollars.
Bernard Madoff ran a hedge fund which ran up $50bn (£33.5bn) of fraudulent losses and which he called "one big lie", prosecutors allege.

Mr Madoff is alleged to have used money from new investors to pay off existing investors in the fund.
Sounds like a classic Ponzi scheme to me. But typical of the current crop of Wall Street types. Is it the death of the hedge fund? Perhaps...

Many investors have been pulling money out of hedge funds in an effort to reduce their exposure to risk.

"This is a major blow to confidence that is already shattered - anyone on the fence will probably try to take their money out," said Doug Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners Management, a hedge fund.

Another victory for secularism!

Looks like a judge has issued an injunction against the South Carolina Christian license plates! Hooray! Another victory for separation of church and state!

Remember, you gotta keep 'em separated!

Culpability


The party of Herbert Hoover committed seppuku over the auto bailout last night. They were lead into this act of self-destruction by Mitch McConnel, Senator from the right-to-work state of Kentucky. These bastards voted for a war that's costing this nation $10 billion a month, but they won't lend the flagging auto industry $14 billion to preserve 3 million American jobs. What does that mean? It's a big "Fuck You!" to the American workforce and 20% of the American economy. That's a hefty price to pay in an effort to break-up the UAW. But it will secure your party's place forever as the Hoover party.
A bailout-weary Congress killed a $14 billion package to aid struggling U.S. automakers Thursday night after a partisan dispute over union wage cuts derailed a last-ditch effort to revive the emergency aid before year's end.

Republicans, breaking sharply with President George W. Bush as his term draws to a close, refused to back federal aid for Detroit's beleaguered Big Three without a guarantee that the United Auto Workers would agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with U.S. plants of Japanese carmakers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.
Some of my friends, usually sensible liberal types like me, broke with the position that that supporting the auto industry was necessary and opposed it. They sided with the party that voted for an unnecessary war, illegal wiretapping and that now seeks to finally kill organized labor in America. They are as ideologically driven to ignore the reality on the ground as the GOP. They are equally culpable for the looming depression in their opposition to this aid for the auto industry. It's shocking when people put ideology (union busting or environmental sustainability) over the lives of real, on-the-ground people. Both shirk their responsibility to their fellow American's in ways that truly upset me.

Well, now we'll get to see what happens when America bleeds 3,000,000 jobs over the next 18 months. Maybe it won't be that bad. But even if it's half that number, it's going to be a bloodbath. I hope that they are prepared for the rise in welfare rolls, food stamp rolls and soup kitchen lines. The lack of compassion shown by those who oppose this bailout is staggering to me. In this economy, if you're not supporting workers, you don't really understand the real problems we face.

So let's look at a few photographs of what we can expect to see if the Big Three collapse.









While the past never repeats itself, it often rhymes. Well this is a dissonant tune that we're playing and it's a shame that we're going to hear it again. I hope that, when we emerge from this looming depression, the American worker is armed with a new sense of purpose and the unions emerge as a political force to be reckoned with. This sums it up nicely.
In the future I think it will be difficult to explain why this happened, perhaps even more challenging to explain why this key national decision was left in the hands of lame duck senate Republicans.
Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is it too late to get this on my wish list?

I could use one of these... Let me introduce you to the PrayerMAX 5000!

Christmas time is here by golly...

Now here's a Christmas Carol I can get behind...



I've been told that I met Tom Lehrer once, as a very young child at a cocktail party at Harvard. I must have been totally drunk, because I don't remember a thing about it...
Tom Lehrer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Semantics is cold comfort when it comes to humanity..."

Once again, Jon Stewart puts the MSM to shame with his probing, in-depth interview of Mike Huckabee about his position on gay marriage. This is really, really good.

Marriage: Bible Style


DailyKos (aka The Orange Menace) has a list of the new marriage rules taken directly from the bible. I expect fundumbmentalists everywhere to adopt these rules immediately or be exposed as the hypocritical haters they really are.

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Given that rates of divorce are much higher in the bible belt states where most fundumbmentalists live, the adoption of E.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Science is cool!

Sometimes the creativity of the scientific community leaves me breathless. A programmer in Sweden who specializes in genetic programming decided to tackle proving evolution this weekend for fun. He was able, though his program, to recreate the Mona Lisa in under 1,000,000 generations. It's pretty amazing. Of course, like any good science experiment, this leads to more questions than answers. Hopefully he will spur more folks to tackle this kind of problem in the future.

The separation of Christ and his bigoted followers

Newsweek has an important article this week on same-sex marriage and what the bible really says about it.

Sometimes the hypocrisy is more than I can stand. Take religious fundamentalists, for instance (please!). The ongoing brouhaha over same-sex marriage is predicated, from their side, on the adherence to scripture. Now, it has been pointed out repeatedly that Christian scripture, as defined in the bible, is at significant variance to the way these people live their lives. For instance,
Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists.
Polygamy was rampant in ancient Israel. In fact, it was the norm. It still is in Islamic countries who share many of the same cultural foundations with so-called Judeo-Christian culture. But what's more fascinating is what the New Testament has to say about marriage!
The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered.
Hardly a ringing endorsement of marriage, is it? For Paul, it was a "last resort." Yet our fundamentalist friends seem to think that the bible is all about the "traditional" definition of marriage.
The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."
TEH FAIL!!!!! How special that this so-called Reverend doesn't even know what his own holy book says or doesn't say. Amazing, isn't it? I think so. So special to use non-existent concepts in your so-called "holy" book to justify your own hatred and bigotry and then to preach that hatred and bigotry from the pulpit.

Go read the rest of the article for the full scoop on what the bible really says.

Does this mean that gays are born that way, too?

Another conservative religidiot mathom falls by the wayside. Apparently, using that wacky technique called "science," some smart people figured out that having an abortion does not cause depression, or so-called "post-abortion syndrome." (NOTE: so-called "post-abortion syndrome" is a meaningless term in the same way "enemy combatant" is a meaningless term)
A team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women and found the high-quality studies showed no significant differences in long-term mental health between women who choose to abort a pregnancy and others.
150,000 women seems like a good statistical sample to me. And they studied all English language studies from 1989 and 2008 to draw these conclusions.
"The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not," they wrote.
Isn't that amazing?
Science. It works, bitches!

Sam Zell: Flaming Asshole of the Day!

So the Tribune Company has filed for bankruptcy. No surprise, the pressure on print media is intense these days. Papers are folding left and right, being replaced by more aggressive on-line media outfits and by the citizen-reporters on blogs. But the Tribune case is special because the guy who scooped up all these papers risked his employee's pension plan to finance the deal.

There is a lot of blame to go around, and much of it will be directed at Mr. Zell, the real estate baron whose knack for buying when everyone else is selling earned him a fit sobriquet for the news business these days: The Grave Dancer.

Advertising is in a free fall, and every newspaper is suffering. But Mr. Zell literally mortgaged the future of Tribune’s employees to pursue what one analyst, Jack Newman, at the time called “a childhood fantasy.”

Mr. Zell financed much of his deal’s $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan and taking a huge tax advantage. Tribune employees ended up with equity, and now they will probably be left with very little. (The good news: any pension money put aside before the deal remains for the employees.)
What an asshole. What's worse is that he gets to stand in line with the other "creditors" when the liquidation sale happens so his risk is significantly lower than the risk faced by his employees.
Granted, Mr. Zell, 67, put up some money. He invested $315 million in the form of subordinated debt in exchange for a warrant to buy 40 percent of Tribune in the future for $500 million. It is unclear how much he’ll lose, but one thing is clear: when creditors get in line, he gets to stand ahead of the employees.
Like the CEO of GM who whines about being a "sacrificial lamb" because he has to give up his bonus, Zell risked everything up front, but expects others to take the fall on the back end. What a tool.

Monitoring your Morality

This is a very clever dig at Christian hypocrisy. Let me introduce the MoralityMaster 2.0 Morality Monitor!

Monday, December 08, 2008

GOP run from mommy and daddy's basement

Apparently that's where things are heading in Nevada. Let me be the first to say

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

How special is THAT???
How bad have things gotten for Republicans in Nevada? Pretty soon, they won't have a home in Las Vegas.

Over the weekend, volunteers helped pack up the Nevada Republican Party's Southern Nevada offices for what was billed as a "move."

In fact, the GOP's possessions were headed for storage as its headquarters temporarily relocate to Northern Nevada, according to the party's executive director, Zac Moyle.

Moyle said he's planning to live at his parents' house in Reno and work out of the party's Carson City office until the legislative session ends in mid-2009.

"Hello Dad? Can I run a disreputable political party out of your basement for awhile?"
"Sure, Son."
"Thanks, Dad, you're the BEST!"

AP reports 5 Blackwater killers surrender


In this bit of breaking news, 5 of the men responsible for the September 2007 killing spree in Baghdad have surrendered to Federal authorities in Salt Lake City. They are facing manslaughter charges for the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in that 2007 massacre.
In Washington, the Justice Department planned to make public the manslaughter indictment it obtained last week. And in Utah, the five guards were to surrender and question the legitimacy of the government's case.

They will be the first public events in an FBI investigation that has been carried out in secrecy since the September 2007 shooting, which left 17 Iraqis dead and strained U.S. relations with Iraq.

The five guards face charges including manslaughter and using a machine gun in a crime of violence. The latter falls under a law that passed during the height of the crack epidemic. It carries a mandatory 30-year prison term.

Justice delivered? Let's hope so.

Atheist charities

If you're interested in contributing to any atheist / free thought / rational charities this solstice season, this blog post has an excellent selection.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Canada now located SOUTH of America


So it appears that Canada has become a Banana Republic overnight. In an unprecedented move, the Canadian Prime Minister, the detestable Stephen Harper, has asked for and received from the Governor General, permission to dissolve Parliament until January 26th thereby preventing a guaranteed No Confidence vote from taking place.

Governor General Michaelle Jean -- the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada's head of state -- agreed to Harper's request to shut down Parliament until Jan 26. Parliament was reconvened just weeks ago after the October 14 election.

Harper's request for suspension was unprecedented. No prime minister had asked for Parliament to be suspended to avoid a confidence vote in the House of Commons.

Such a vote had been set for Monday and the Conservatives almost certainly would have lost it, and faced the possibility of being replaced by a coalition of opposition parties.

For those who don't follow Canadian politics or the Canadian governmental system, Canada is a constitutional monarchy with the Prime Minister as head of government and the Queen of England as the head of state. The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada and does have the power to dissolve Parliament in the Queen's name. But it's never been done before. It's the equivalent of the Queen dissolving the House of Commons in the UK. It never happens. Ever.

So what happens next?

The New Democrats and Bloc maintained their insistence that Harper could not be trusted and must be removed, as did some members of Dion's Liberal caucus.

"You can run but you can't hide," said Bob Rae, who is looking to become Liberal leader when Dion steps down early in May. He predicted the opposition would topple Harper early next year.

You can run, but you can't hide. I like the sound of that.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Where is the U.N.?

Zimbabwe continues it's slide into abject misery and horror. Beyond the staggering 1,200,000% inflation, the population now faces a cholera epidemic. This is all the fault of a single, tyrant: Robert Mugabe. Isn't it time for the U.N. to say "enough is enough" and step in? How many thousands must die before the international community does something to help the people of Zimbabwe?

The UN says at least 565 people have died from the cholera outbreak, which began in August, though correspondents say the real death toll could be much higher.

At least 12,545 cases of cholera have been recorded over the same period.

The outbreak comes as Zimbabwe is crippled by economic meltdown and political stalemate.

The hospitals are "non-functional" and lack even clean water to treat patients. There is no medicine available. A protest by doctors and nurses in the capital was broken up by riot police.

Are we going to ignore this situation the way we ignored Darfur because there is no oil? Or because these are black people who are dying?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

F(au)x News on the recession

Schadenfreude, baby... schadenfreude! Watch the F(au)x talking heads demonstrate how incompetent they really are. The thing that ties this all together is Peter Schiff who, like Cassandra, tells the truth but nobody at F(au)x will believe him. Watching the talking heads pitching Merril Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Lehman is hilarious. Listening to them talk about the continued housing boom is just precious. "Dow at 16,000." Yeah, baby!

Another shot at organized labor


Now it's the turn of Federal law enforcement personnel who are in the sights of the anti-labor policies of the lamest of ducks.
President Bush issued an executive order on Monday that denies collective bargaining rights to about 8,600 federal employees who work in law enforcement, intelligence and other agencies responsible for national security.

Mr. Bush said it would be inconsistent with “national security requirements” to allow those employees to engage in collective bargaining with respect to the conditions of their employment.
Yes, let's piss off the people who work hard to keep us safe. Nice work, Chimpy! I can't wait until the White House door hits you in your fat ass.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ugh.. Homeland Security meets Religidiot

Kentucky is apparently protected by a special clause in their homeland security bill: "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God."

State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.

As amended, Homeland Security's religious duties now come before all else, including its distribution of millions of dollars in federal grants and its analysis of possible threats.

The time and energy spent crediting God are appropriate, said Riner, D-Louisville, in an interview this week.

"This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky," Riner said. "Government itself, apart from God, cannot close the security gap. The job is too big for government."

So can I get a provision demanding that Superman be recognized? We can't possibly be safe without Superman. Or what about Batman? Or the Easter Bunny? Or the Tooth Fairy? How about Tinkerbell? Robin Hood? Shrek??? What other fantasy figures do we want to include in our discourse on public safety. Seems the sky's the limit in Kentucky!

Not everyone is pleased with this turn of events.

But state Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said Homeland Security should worry about public safety threats instead of preaching religious homilies.

"It's very sad to me that we do this sort of thing," said Stein, a frequent critic of efforts to mix religion and government. "It takes away from the seriousness of the public discussion over security, and it clearly hurts the credibility of this office if it's supposed to be depending on God, first and foremost."

Ya' Think?