The Good, the Bad, and the Habitual

Today’s question:

Do you think you have more good habits or bad habits?

I thought about going a little zen on this question and simply saying “yes.” I have good habits, I have bad habits, I don’t know that I ever bothered comparing the two. I suppose I’d like to think I have more good than bad, and there are people who might disagree.

Sorry, not the best post. But hey, yesterday you got a good rant!

In Closing: Stingray; the London Stone; Women of the Senate; with more people identifying as liberal, I wonder when politicians will stop fearing the word; climate denial; policy; and the Real Johnny Appleseed.

Double Feature

I don’t normally talk about the so-called “rape culture”.

However, if what I am reading about what happens on our college campuses is even halfway true, we should all be outraged. All students — regardless of their gender — have a right to attend school without fear of assault, sexual or otherwise. The idea that some colleges want to cover up these assaults rather than make sure that criminals are prosecuted is absolutely outrageous. It is a travesty that some students feel that the only thing they can do is take matters into their own hands.

Of course, not all rapes happen on campus. It is a sad fact that all too many women have to deal with these issues, and sometimes little is actually done to help them.

More on the freaking NSA.

Glenn Greenwald has been been making the interview circuit, both bringing attention to how little has changed when it comes to the NSA and hyping his new book on the topic. Let’s not forget that he wouldn’t have the story without this guy. In the meantime, remember how we were told that it would be harder to catch terrorists with this information out there? That might not be quite true.

In Closing: on Net Neutrality; what a 10′ sea level rise means to the United States; on nutrition information; Oktoberfest was originally a wedding festival; and you are a great leader.

5 Things Happening that are More Important than Cliven Bundy




Ok, the Bundy thing is still going on, and I do appreciate that it’s a local news story with national coverage. Not sure why anybody cares who says what about him on Facebook. However, while all of us are watching the circus, here’s 5 things we’re not paying attention to:

The President is in the Far East trying to get the TPP rammed through. Never mind the fact that it’s bad for most people.

Did you know that Afghanistan had a presidential election? Abdullah Abdullah faces a run-off, but he may well be the next Afghan head of state.

Iraq is having an election too. It’s this coming week. They also have some unrest ahead of the event.

Issues are not resolved in the Ukraine. Yeah.

Meanwhile in the United States, severe weather blows. Yeah, ok, bad pun.

And a bonusThe FCC wants to “save” Net Neutrality by destroying it.

All this and two new Saints in the realm of Catholicism. Even elections in far-flung lands probably have more bearing on you than the actions of one Southern Nevada rancher. But no, we prefer to hear about some guy who wants to let his cows wander his neighbor’s property without paying for the privilege.

Hot Hot Hot

Not a long post today. The projected high around here is 115, and we are on track to set a new all-time record high of 118 on Sunday. And guess what? July is our hot month! Helicopters are grounded (just as well, I hate helicopters). Planes are taking the unusual pattern of landing from the West, and let me tell you the 757s and 777s look like they are coming in mighty low from where I sit.

So, I hope nobody was really thinking that mortgage rates were going to stay near “record lows” forever.

And now, let’s have a bunch of relevant items on the NSA, spying, and Mr. Snowden.

And for desert (yeah, I meant desert), a bunch of relevant items on abortion, pregnancy, and Texas.

Too Late

Great. Swell news. Twinkies will theoretically be back on the shelves next month.

Whatever, nobody cares anymore.

Go ahead. Visit a grocery store or a quickie mart. That shelf that used to have Hostess products is full of knock-off baked goods: Little Debbie; TastyKake, Mrs. Freshly’s; Bimbo Bakeries; even Krispy Kreme. Some of it even tastes better than what it replaced. That space is gone, taken over probably forever. That means no more room for Twinkies.

Stick a fork in Twinkie the Kid, he’s done.

In Closing: Paula Deen; a couple items on climate change; malicious prosecution; and falling wages.

Things I learned


Last night, I completed my first semester of for credit college classes in a couple decades. Over the next few days, I will be sharing a few of the things that I have learned. Let’s start with generalities:

  • This is the sort of college where “admissions requirements” are pretty much “has a valid credit card.” As a result, there is a great variety of students: the fresh out of high school; the “holy crap my parents were right years ago when they told me I needed more education” crowd; more than a few recently discharged Veterans of varying ages; people embarking on an Xth career; etc.. In some ways, the place is remarkably like a less-funny episode of Community.
  • Some have the drive to succeed, and some just don’t. Some have the desire, but not the skill set. Some have the desire, but life gets in the way.
  • An alarming number of my classmates have woefully inadequate reading skills. That is despite the fact that free reading (and math) placement exams are available, and there are plenty of opportunities to improve one’s skills. Without the ability to quickly read and understand things like textbooks, assignments, and tests, a student is doomed.
  • Not surprisingly, the parking lot was much emptier the last week of class than the first week.
  • The irregular attendance of some of my classmates baffles me. They all paid good money for this class; you would think they would at least try to maximize their chance of passing!
  • Not all counseling departments are created equal. Some are there to get you the help you need — this is partly a matter of self-preservation, since that makes the student more likely to continue to pay tuition. Others are there to point out hoops that need to be jumped, come back when you’re done.

Next, we talk about my classes.

In Closing: book; or, we could admit that something that needs wheels is by definition not a carry on; or, we could enforce existing law; yeah I remember those days; blood pressure; what?; is this going to be what reins in drones?; 97% of scientists agree; and truth… Truthdogg.

America Knows Best

Sorry for the little hiatus. Finals are coming Real Soon Now and my writing has been monopolized by a paper on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells. Fascinating stuff. For a minimally sciencey version, check out this biography.

Depending what day it is, the world news front is likely to say something about Iran, North Korea, and/or Syria. Iran is developing nuclear technology, and probably weapons. North Korea is more open about their weapon development. The US is warning Russia that they had better not send Syria better missiles, particularly since Syria is accused of using chemical weapons.

Now make no mistake. I don’t think anybody really wants Iran or North Korea having nukes. I don’t think most people think a better armed Syria is a good thing. But here’s the thing: who gave us the right to enforce our opinion?

Who is the United States to tell another sovereign nation what weaponry it can or cannot have? Under what authority? What if some other country decided that the United States shouldn’t have nukes? Or aircraft carriers? Or [insert fancy piece of military technology here]?

I know a lot of people in the West don’t think much of Al Jazeera as a news source, but they are right to point out that the American bargaining position regarding Iran — and truly, all 3 nations — is a lot like trying to negotiate with Republicans: the only possible option is “do it our way or else.” Or, if you prefer to be more patronizing if not outright racist, “everything would run so much better if you brown people would do it our way like civilized people!”

Maybe, just maybe, international issues could be resolved more smoothly if we treated other sovereign nations like big boys and girls rather than little children who need our guidance.

In Closing: soda; I suspected as much; Jesus is coming, look busy; the Borgias are coming, look busy; um yeah, you can’t do that; student loan debt is officially bad for the economy; consumer spending is up and late mortgages are down (good news!); eVerify; Too Big To Fail must be Too Big To Exist; side effect; don’t forget that Federal law always trumps state law; and riiiiight, exactly where I want to go on Mother’s Day. Not.

Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Shorties

I haven’t been as posty as I’d like lately. As some of you know, I have recently gone back to school. That means I have a lot of reading, and a bit of getting used to classmates who occasionally make me feel like this:


I remind myself that I am old enough to be mommies to some of them. So without further ago, shorties.

Social Media: It’s embarrassing that social media is now little more than yet another way to send me ads.

Social Security: There’s only a crisis if you want there to be one.

Too much Social, too little work: Up to 80% of a worker’s internet time might be spend “cyberloafing.” It’s easier to hide that you’re doing nothing at the computer than at the water cooler.

Bad Association: Turns out that Countrywide kept doing “business as usual” after B of A took over. I hope this surprises none of you.

Social Promotions for Educational Reforms?: I still like Kevin Drum.

Social Studies: The Avengers and The Breakfast Club.

Fitting in to Society: On immigration reform.

Vegas: Visitors are at a record high despite reduced convention traffic.

Reducing the deficit without slashing our own throats: From the progressives. But it won’t happen because the conservatives really want to make the majority of us into modern serfs by slashing the safety net instead.

Speaking of modern serfs: A third of student loans are subprime. They can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. They are creating a generation that may always be in debt.

Obesity is bad for you: even if you are the Governor.

On Republicans: From a Republican woman (endangered species, I know).

Gee, you don’t say!: Global climate change might adversely effect agriculture. Who knew?!?

No Reason to Subscribe to Fortune

Let’s cut to the meat:

[I]f America fails to enact historic, structural reforms in spending, an entirely new source of revenue will be needed. And it’s likely to be enacted in haste and near-panic, as the only option to forestalling a crisis. “The gap between revenues and outlays will be simply too large,” says J.D. Foster, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former budget official under President George W. Bush. “Three points of GDP need to be closed to make budgets sustainable. Either government spending gets back near where it used to be, or we’ll need an completely new type of tax.”

The new levy will need to be big, so big that the most probable choice is a European-style value-added tax or VAT. That looming revenue machine is the phantom in the room, the tax that’s still invisible to most Americans, but that threatens precisely the group that’s supposed to emerge from all the deal-making as the Great Unthreatened, our middle class.

Now then, let me explain why a VAT — particularly a hastily enacted VAT — is absolutely not going to happen. It’s called the 16th Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Congress has two ways of taxing us. The first is a tax based on the number of people in the state. It should be obvious that it’s not entirely fair to make your tax bill based on state population without regard for your ability to pay (it seemed like a good idea in the 18th century), so the 16th Amendment had to be passed to make income tax legal. I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar, but I don’t see a damn thing in the Constitution or Amendment 16 that makes a national sales tax legal.

Anybody who wants a VAT had better start working on an amendment to the Constitution. That cannot be done in haste.

This article is supposed to scare you and I into insisting on austerity rather than implement this improbable, middle class “crushing” tax. Heaven forbid we should raise additional revenue through higher taxes on the wealthy at the rates they were under Reagan, or Nixon, or heaven forbid Eisenhower (all “conservative” Republicans of their day). Nope, easier to frighten you into giving up the things your taxes have paid for: well maintained roads; safe water coming out of your tap and safe food available at your local grocer; police and fire services; public schools that make sure businesses can hire literate employees anywhere in the nation; a minimal retirement income you already paid for. Nope, gotta cut back somewhere.

In Closing: scientific method suggests that when your experiment doesn’t work, you change the hypothesis; what a sleeze; let’s not lock kids up in solitary; wealth gap grows; agreed; women will die because their parents are afraid they will think sex is ok; I find it hard to believe that’s cost effective; “Just how many female-headed single-parent families with two children under 10 are there in the United States making $260K/year, anyway?”; and wouldn’t that be a waste.