Nel's New Day

March 30, 2020

People Dying in U.S. from Dunning-Helzer Effect

COVID-19 has made another celebrity, perhaps the person who Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed in his misguided foot-dragging that is killing thousands of people. Richard Epstein, a lawyer at the conservative Hoover Institution, predicted in a mid-March column that the world would see only about 50,000 death with about 500 in the U.S. He did correct his predicted U.S. number of deaths to his March 23 column, originally 500, to 5,000. He called governors’ numbers “hysterical and sloppy” because New York had only 122 deaths in the nine days following March 14. In the nine days, 1,220 more people died.

On March 23, the day that Epstein published his misguided column, DDT said that he would probably stop efforts to block the virus on Easter, “a beautiful day.” DDT’s close conservative associates and officials had been circulating the column called “Coronavirus Perspective” which played down the disease’s threat. Epstein is not a virologist, not an epidemiologist, and not a physician.

Epstein tried to make up for his error—500 deaths instead of 5,000 deaths—by granting an interview to Isaac Chotiner for the New Yorker. A defense for his major blunder, which sent up a red flag about his abilities, was to say, “The question to ask, Isaac, is not whether I chose the right number but whether I had the right model.” Chotiner’s article points out a series of errors in Epstein’s mistakes.

Epstein has no understanding of COVID-19. He claimed that “a strong version of the virus” will kill everybody who is “fragile and old. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the infectious-diseases division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said no evidence shows “that there are strong and weak variations of the coronavirus circulation.”

Epstein has no basic understanding of how the virus is transmitted. He assumed that people who died at the Washington nursing center “probably” received “large doses” of the virus through “hugging and kissing.” He used these deaths for his model. Albert Ko, professor of epidemiology and medicine and the department chair at the Yale School of Public Health, responded, “There is no evidence that you have a higher risk of dying from contact from someone in the facility than if you had contact from some other source.”

Epstein has no understanding that deaths almost immediately stop from “an evolutionary tendency.” He said that a “change in genetic viral behavior” along with changes in human behavior would lead to an “adaptation,” altering the course of the virus. Failure to consider the “adaptation” led to governors’ overreaction to the virus’s possible impact. Ko said, “There is absolutely no evidence for [an evolutionary tendency]…. To the extent we see that evolution taking place it is usually over a much vaster timescale.”

Epstein doesn’t know that some viruses don’t weaken over time. Ko said, “We did not see SARS or Ebola weaken over time. It is only appropriate public-health measures or vaccines that have helped to control those epidemics.”

Epstein’s methodology and conclusions lack any evidence or proof. The concluding dialog of the interview:

Chotiner: I know, but these are scientific issues here.

[Epstein]: You know nothing about the subject but are so confident that you’re going to say that I’m a crackpot.

No. Richard—

That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That’s what you’re saying?

I’m not saying anything of the sort.

Admit to it. You’re saying I’m a crackpot.

I’m not saying anything of the—

Well, what am I then? I’m an amateur? You’re the great scholar on this?

No, no. I’m not a great scholar on this.

Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!

O.K. I’m going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I’m able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should’ve thought harder before writing it.

What it shows is that you are a complete intellectual amateur. Period.

O.K. Can I ask you one more question?

You just don’t know anything about anything. You’re a journalist. Would you like to compare your résumé to mine?

No, actually, I would not.

Then good. Then maybe what you want to do is to say, “Gee, I’m not quite sure that this is right. I’m going to check with somebody else.” But, you want to come at me hard, I am going to come back harder at you. And then if I can’t jam my fingers down your throat, then I am not worth it. But you have basically gone over the line. If you want to ask questions, ask questions. I put forward a model. But a little bit of respect.

O.K. Let me ask you this question. All my questions are asked with respect.

That’s not the way I hear it.

Caught in his mistakes, Epstein’s increasingly confrontational behavior led to his reversal of opinions, some of them written in his columns, and his insistence that his “skill of cross examination” as a lawyer qualified him to interrogate the evidence and substitute his own judgment for that of experts in the field.

Epstein wrote:

 “Our government fiats will probably save very few, if any, lives saved over what we can obtain through more focused voluntary precautions.”

According to data, including a map, enforced stay-at-home mandates and restaurant closures are contributing to rapid reductions in the number of people with fevers. Over half the U.S. population in 30 states, the most recent order today, are told to stay at home. After watching the trend, DDT extended this recommendation until April 30. One exception to the reductions was in New Mexico, where the state order was made only the day before the most recent data, and adjacent counties in Colorado. The other area were parishes surrounding New Orleans, infections possibly caused by the Mardi Gras infection spread.

Graphs following fevers and restrictions show that voluntary compliance doesn’t affect the number of people with fevers. The turning point for improvement in Manhattan came on March 16 when schools were closed. The next day bar and restaurants were closed, and the stay-at-home took effect four days later. Tracking also showed the soaring fever levels during Florida’s spring break. Although the state’s governor Ron DiSantis finally closed the beaches, he still has issued no stay-at-home orders and banned a reporter at his press briefings because she asked for social distancing. School closing did no good, but bars and restaurants closures caused the number of fevers to drop. By now, however, COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing in the state. The dropping numbers of fevers won’t take effect in hospitalizations, however, for days.

Twenty GOP governors still refuse to enforce even social distancing, and Mississippi’s governor has prevented cities from taking any action against the virus increase. They, too, have probably been reading Richard Epstein. The conservative National Inquirer promotes fake cures, and The Federalist published a column by a retired dermatologist advocating coronavirus parties to intentionally contract the disease like people did with chicken pox. Ann Coulter shared this chart showing the virus to be deadlier than the flu but claimed that it proves the opposite. 

Epstein claimed he was applying “standard Darwinian economics … to this particular case.”

Epstein, DDT, and most of DDT’s appointments suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, their illusion of superiority because they cannot assess their own lack of ability. According to social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, people of low ability believe they are superior whereas those of high ability evaluate their abilities far lower than they are. In 2011, Dunning wrote: “In short, those who are incompetent, for lack of a better term, should have little insight into their incompetence—an assertion that has come to be known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.”

In 2014, Dunning and Helzer described how the Dunning–Kruger effect “suggests that poor performers are not in a position to recognize the shortcomings in their performance.” They call the effect a “dual burden.” People are not only incompetent, but their incompetence also takes their mental ability to realize how incompetent they are. They simply overestimate their own skill levels.

DDT is a textbook case.

Today, March 30, 2020, 37,815 people have died from 785,777 confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world. The number will probably double tomorrow from the 400,000+ on March 24. In the U.S. 3,165 people have died of COVID-19 in one month. The U.S. is still #1 in the world with 164,253 confirmed cases.

April 7, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-three – Besieged on All Fronts

The possibly precarious mental state of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has become more and more normalized. The media largely ignored the fact that DDT doesn’t know he lives in the White House. He began his speech to children at the 140th Easter Egg Roll by saying by referring to the White House as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it.” His claim that the unnamed place being in “tippy-top shape” was a segue to telling the children about the great economy of the United States and how the military would be “at a level it’s never been before” with the “$700 billion” funding.

DDT is also trying hard to keep the unethical EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, still suggesting last week that he might make him the DOJ Attorney General despite new scandals. Yet Pruitt’s unethical scandals keep pouring out with Scott Pruitt continues to have ethical problems. Added to scandals after my blog post earlier this week are his lies that his lobbyist renters didn’t have any business before the EPA (they did), the armored car that he wants taxpayers to give him, his failure to pay his pittance of rent without being hassled for it, the citation for his renters because they lacked a license to rent digs to Pruitt and his daughter, and the emerging scandal of former employee Samantha Dravis who unexpectedly resigned this week.

Pruitt called Dravis his “best friend,” and they had dinner together several times a week, and she carried out much of Pruitt’s anti-regulation agenda. She was among the staffers he took to Morocco to get business for his lobbyist renter although the trip had nothing to do with “environmental protection.” A Paris stop for the taxpayer-paid trip led to an extra day for them in “the city of lights” because they missed their first flight home. Dravis also got paid for three months when she didn’t show up at work. She was also the live-in girlfriend of Rob Porter, DDT’s helper who was fired for domestic violence, and reported him for abuse to WH counsel Don McGahn after she saw Porter with Hope Hicks. The information about Pruitt may have come from Porter as retribution for Dravis’ reaction to his dumping her for Hicks.

As Vanity Fair asked, “Can Scott Pruitt poison the environment enough to save his job?”

In the Russian investigation,

DDT waxed enthusiastic about being just a “subject” (not enough evidence to charge) instead of a “target” (lots of evidence), but investigator Robert Mueller moves forward like a bulldozer. DDT’s legal “team” can’t find replacements, and Mueller is amassing a report of DDT’s actions in office and pushing for interviews with DDT. The result could be an obstruction of justice. Politico has tracked DDT’s connections to Russia in these seven charts. According to DOJ documents, collusion is a crime, no matter what DDT claims.

The collusion information between DDT’s campaign and Russia was partially initiated by his adviser George Papadopouos getting drunk at a London bar two years ago and bragging to an Australian diplomat. Last week, he got tipsy—again—in a Chicago bar and told a new acquaintance, computer engineer Jason Wilson, that AG Jeff Sessions knew about the connections between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta who told him about the Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in “thousands of emails.” Papadopoulos told Wilson that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out everything about the hacked Clinton emails.

Alex van der Zwaan pled guilty to lying to Robert Mueller’s investigation in the hopes that he would be out of prison before his wife gave birth in August. Apparently the tactic worked because he got a short 30-day sentence, probably by spilling lots of beans to Mueller.

A judge seemed to reject demands from Paul Manafort’ lawyer, Kevin Downing, to stop continued indictments from investigator Robert Mueller. Downing also argued that Mueller’s investigation exceeded the scope delineated by DOJ’s Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein but withdrew part of the civil suit dealing with this issue.

After missing deadlines for a congressional law, the Treasury Department issued sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies associated with them, a “state-owned weapons trading company,” and 17 government officials. Much of the vast profits made by these people and groups are stashed in the U.S. and UK.

Mueller has proof that Erik Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of Blackwater, lied about his meeting with a Russian banker in Seychelles to “establish a [back channel] line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.”

The investigation has gone into the involvement of DDT’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to examine DDT’s business dealings, including those in Russia. DDT denies he has had any involvement, but former partner Felix Sater has talked about their pursuit of a hotel in Moscow with financing from the Russian bank VTB that is sanctioned by the U.S. government. DDT sought deals to put his name on a huge hotel in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, and taken out copyrights on a large variety of products in across the former USSR and Iran.  Partners of the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan are relatives to a wealthy government minister with connections to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s infamous military unit.

Joseph Schmitz, a DDT foreign policy adviser, pushed U.S. intelligence agencies to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from the dark web.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want information about DDT’s “Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust” from the Office of Government Ethics. The purpose is to pay legal expenses for DDT’s campaign aides caught up in the Russian investigation, and the reason may be to obtain more favorable testimony for DDT. The Fund allows secret, perhaps prohibited, donations, but public documents don’t explain how it will vet donors.

On Easter, DDT tweeted that there will be no deal to help DACA youth, called on tough punitive immigration legislation, and threatened to close down NAFTA. Then he went to church to celebrate the resurrected person of color honored on that day. After eliminating the DACA program himself, DDT turned down 13 bipartisan agreements for saving DACA, some of them even his own suggestions.

DDT decided to withdraw troops from Syria because he thought we had defeated ISIS before he decided to leave the troops there. In the meantime, he’s sending the National Guard from consenting states to the Mexico border as leverage to get his wall although the military cannot enforce any laws without their being federalized by Congress because of an 1878 law. DDT’s idea was inspired by Fox’s segment called “Caravan of Illegal Immigrants Headed to U.S.,” an annual migration of over 1,000 migrants to protest U.S. immigration policy. Most won’t try to cross the border. Fox’s Tucker Carlson described Mexico as a “hostile foreign power.” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who continues to say that Mexico is not paying for DDT’s wall, cancelled his plan to visit DDT.

Texas is sending 250 National Guard members to the border, but lawmakers there are unhappy. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) explained why this action is unnecessary, using a town in his district as an example:

“McAllen is at a 32-year low in crime. We’re at a 46-year low in illegal entries. It’s the wildest thing in the world for us to hear that they want to bring National Guard troops to the border region.”

Arizona is sending another 150 members of the National Guard. George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the border in 2006 because of border agent shortage, and President Obama sent 1,200 in 2010. Ann Coulter wants the military to “shoot the illegals” coming across the border because “just standing there doesn’t do a thing.” Ted Nugent wants all Democrats shot and killed like “rabid coyotes.” DDT has already said that drug dealers should all be killed, and on a Christian political show, Idaho state Sen. Bob Nonini called for the death penalty for women having an abortion. Caught in a backlash, Nonini said that he “NEVER said or agreed the death penalty should be considered,” but his words are on tape.

Congress returns this coming week, and conservatives are pushing to remove spending increases from their recent budget law for $1.3 billion spending. A 1974 law allows these revocations. Several Republicans, however, aren’t excited about the plan and say that they’ll wait to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who hasn’t even declared himself for re-election yet. Concerns about reversing the law include tough votes from the Democrats and negotiation in future spending deals which must be bipartisan.

HHS Office on Women’s Health has removed a website on breast cancer and other reproductive health information, including insurance information for low-income people such as no-cost breast cancer screenings. Much of the information has also been removed on a page dedicated to mammograms. The same agency has also removed LGBTQ health resources from its website.

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards’ new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead, tells how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner offered her more funding for PP if she stopped abortion services.

The latest polling of DDT’s approval rating from the ultra-conservative Rasmussen survey came in at 47 percent, but DDT, never concerned about accuracy, claimed it was 51 percent—and then told people to add seven or eight percent to the poll. DDT’s average among polls is currently at 40 percent.

April 9, 2014

The ACA: Hell Freezes Over

I never thought it would happen: hell just froze over! After voting at least 51 times to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, House  GOP members voted to expand coverage choices as part of the legislation that stopped cuts for doctors’ Medicare payments. The bill, passed by the Senate and promptly signed into law, eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies in both federal and state exchanges.

The attitude change isn’t permanent, and hell is warming up. Until the ACA, major laws were always tweaked for improvement—Social Security, Medicare, even Massachusetts’ “Romneycare.” All the GOP wanted to do to ACA, however, was eliminate all its benefits. When Mitt Romney’s choice of news source, the extremist far-right Drudge Report, condemned this tweak, Speaker John Boeher’s (R-OH) office tried to explain that the new law actually repealed part of the ACA.

Image: CPAC's Annual Conference in Maryland

[Republican Governor from Louisiana Bobby Jindal at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, USA, 06 March 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA]

Republicans are woefully short on ideas about changing the ACA, as Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, demonstrates. Almost a year ago, he told the GOP that they had to stop being “the stupid party” before he joined the stupid curve to be considered as a presidential candidate. His new ideas for a healthcare plan are just plain confusing.

Jindal sticks with conservative positions of Medicaid block grants, Medicare vouchers for private plans, and limiting malpractice lawsuits, but he recommends cutting tax breaks for employer healthcare plans and using the revenue to provide deductions for individuals to buy insurance. He also wants to set aside $100 billion for pre-existing conditions with federal funding instead of the current practice of spreading these costs across the market through n insurance mandate.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study of Jindal’s ideas found that replacing the tax exclusion with a deduction “would likely cause employer-based health coverage to seriously erode by encouraging employers to discontinue their coverage.” Conservative health policy experts James Capretta and Tom Miller estimate that high-risk pools aimed at covering up to 4 million people would cost between $150 to $200 billion over 10 years showing how low Jindal’s figure is. The governor’s policy director said that states, already saddled with far more costs than a decade ago, could pay the rest of the money.

Before the GOP turned farther right, Republicans promoted an individual mandate. Only after President Obama supported their model did the GOP reject the idea. Jindal is dreaming if he thinks that the House Republicans would support high-risk pools. Last year, it turned down a bill from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for just $3.6 billion on high risk pools that would be fully paid for with cuts to Obamacare.

Jindal’s plan would repeal the ACA, cancel millions of healthcare plans, do away with more insurance plans by eliminating employer-based care, and erase the ACA financing while at the same time making Medicare into a voucher scheme. Even the ultra-conservative National Review found Jindal’s plan “too disruptive.”

In the House, GOP leaders are avoiding any concrete healthcare ideas. After waiting almost five years, all people  hear is that the plan is being delayed “at least a month,” as Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Bloomberg News this week. The GOP has an excellent reason for their procrastination. A “congressional GOP health aide” anonymously said that they can’t come up with an alternative that doesn’t look like the existing healthcare plan.

The Republicans know what the rest of the country is learning: people hate the word Obamacare, but they love everything about it. In a discussion about healthcare, they ask if repeal means that the popular parts will be gone. The answer is “yes.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) took the bull by the horns and said that the GOP can’t reinstate these popular provisions because they are too expensive. On Bloomberg’s Political Capital with Al Hunt, Ryan was asked about specific provisions: coverage for pre-existing conditions, parents’ insurance covering children until they are 26, the ban on annual and lifetime caps, different rates for people whose jobs include physical labor, etc. He said that these reforms “basically make it impossible to underwrite insurance.” He admitted that the GOP wants to erase healthcare coverage for millions and eliminate consumer protections for the rest of the people who manage to keep insurance.

Popular provisions would be too expensive under GOP policy because they will kill the individual mandate. Under GOP rule, insurance companies could go back to elaborate underwriting forms that demand answers to private details of health histories so that they can discriminate against people with health issues. All the ACA asks is age and tobacco use.

The biggest fears that people have about the ACA is its cost and its ability to refuse people insurance. Ann Coulter tried to tell a horrifying story about a “friend’s sister” who supposedly died of cancer because Obamacare took away her insurance. Politifact rated her tale as “pants on fire,” saying that if Coulter’s story was accurate, then the woman elected to drop her coverage.

A new piece on the internet blames drastic increases in premiums on the ACA. It started with a Forbes column from Scott Gottlieb, connected to the American Enterprise Institute. He refers to a non-existent survey and has no background information for his assertions. No right-wing major newspaper repeated this information, showing that they think it is fraudulent. The only premium increases are “off-exchange” and non-employer plans. PwC’s Health Research Institute reports that the average cost of premiums on ACA exchanges are 4 percent less than employer-provided plans with comparable benefits. Another “pants on fire.”

Yesterday, the Rand Corp. released its study of the ACA’s effect on health insurance coverage:

  • At least 9.3 million more people in the United States have health insurance than in September 2013, almost all of them because of the law.
  • The number of people getting insurance through their employers increased by 8.2 million.
  • Of the 3.9 million people counted by Rand as obtaining insurance on the individual exchange market, 36% were previously uninsured. That ratio is expected to rise when the late signups are factored in. Medicaid enrollment increased by 5.9 million, the majority of whom did not have insurance before signing up.

And this is just the beginning. Experts expect more enrollments as other changes occur.

The Medicaid increase comes from only half the states because the other half have refused to take federal funding for the program to insure their indigent, uninsured people. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped design the healthcare systems in both Massachusetts and the United States, talked about the conservatives in the states that rejected Medicaid:

“[They] are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.”

Gruber described it as “nothing short of political malpractice.” Virginia is a prime example of this evil. Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion, but the commonwealth’s legislature blocks these benefits for 400,000 lower-income Virginians in the healthcare coverage gap, those who can’t afford to buy healthcare but make too much money for the extremely low Medicaid qualifications.

charlene dillIn a real story about a real person, 32-year-old Charlene Dill, mother of three who worked three part-time jobs to make $9,000 a year, dropped dead at one of her jobs having no health insurance for her chronic heart condition. She was in the coverage gap. GOP legislators are literally murderers in half the states.

The other evil-doers are the huge corporations who are making money while trying to keep people from having health care. While Koch Industries and other conglomerates are spending millions against the ACA, they are benefiting because the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program pays health insurance costs for those not covered by Medicare. Other companies benefiting from ACA are UPS, Union Pacific Railroad, Altria Client Services, AT&T, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline—all companies that paid to elect anti-healthcare legislators. These corporations are also murderers.

Although a variety of polls show that a little more than half the people support or oppose the ACA, the surveys do not indicate the reasons for opposition. Personally I and many others would opposed it to get universal healthcare. I try to imagine what the polls would have said if the conservatives had not sent billions of negative messages about the ACA.

April 26, 2013

The First Nine Constitutional Amendments, An Easy Lesson

Until the rants of the Tea Party started to take over the media, the U.S. Constitution was looked upon as an important part of our heritage that courts used to determine whether laws fit into the overview of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. Less than five years ago, people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared that everything the liberals do is unconstitutional, and three years ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) required that the entire constitution be read at the beginning of the 112th Congressional session so that all the bills would conform with the Constitution.

Representatives tried to read aloud with varying success–only a few glitches such as leaving out the piece blacks being only three-fifths of a person and skipping part of it because a couple of pages got stuck together. That part guaranteed “to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

They also left out the part written by the infallible Founding Fathers about runaway slaves, that if they escaped to a free state, the Constitution required that they not be freed but rather “delivered up” to their owners. Notable, too, was the omission of how the electoral college works, perhaps because the conservatives plan to get rid of it so that they can elect a GOP president.

Now Jon Stewart has brought to life the first nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution through playing clips of Fox pundits on The Daily Show, pontificating about the recent Boston bombing.

As Stewart said, “Anybody can toss away the lesser known amendments. Only a true patriot can set a course straight for the First.” And Bob Beckel, a host on The Five, did exactly that when he asked that the U.S. “cut off Muslim students from coming to the country for some period of time.” That eviscerates the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, religion, and press as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Eric Bolling wanted wiretapping in mosques, attacking the Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause.

Fox folks were highly incensed about suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being read his Miranda rights, claiming he should be declared an enemy combatant and “intensely interrogated.”

“In the wake of an assault on our freedom and way of life, we have quickly jettisoned the Sixth Amendment–right to a fair and speedy trial–and the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination,” Stewart said. “What’s next?” Stewart left out the violation of the Seventh Amendment that provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.

Sean Hannity doesn’t “believe” that waterboarding is torture. “There goes the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” Stewart continued. “Any others?”

Actually, yes there were. Ann Coulter said, “I want to know about this wife… I don’t care if she knew about this. She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab.”

To Coulter’s impassioned plea, Stewart responded, “And down goes the Ninth Amendment! Down goes the Ninth Amendment! Ann Coulter doesn’t just want a police state. She wants a fashion police state.” (I had to look up the Ninth Amendment: it protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution.”

Thus Stewart showed that Fox wants to ignore seven of the first nine constitutional amendments in the treatment of the 19-year-old suspected of setting off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston marathon. It seems that Fox didn’t address the forced quartering of soldiers—but that’s only in peacetime, and the government seems to have declared the United States permanently at war somewhere.

Stewart asked if there were any constitutional right that Fox wants to keep after the Boston bombing.  “Since we’re just throwing amendments away willy-nilly, what if we wanted to track the weapons that any of these America haters bought, or do a background check?” Stewart said.

Visuals juxtaposed the 3,400 deaths from terrorism in the United States during the past 30 years with the almost one million deaths from guns during the same time. That was followed by a montage of clips from Fox, extolling the virtues of bearing arms in any situation and as many as people might want.

“Yes, it turns out there’s only one amendment in our constitution’s pantheon that is exempt from statistical analysis or emotional freak-out-itude, and it is the Second. So god help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well regulated militia.”


The written word does not do justice to this segment of The Daily Show. You can find the video here.  Send it to everyone you know, and make it go viral!

GohmertStupidity about the Boston bombing is as rampant in Congress as on Fox. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) accused President Obama of being influenced by Muslim Brotherhood members in his administration. On a radio interview yesterday, he said, “This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

Gohmert didn’t think this up on his own. Almost a year ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government, pointing a finger at top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Her false accusations led to Egyptian protests against the Secretary of State when she went there and the need for Abedin to have police protection because of threats against her life.

At that time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) condemned Bachmann’s statements, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) described her claims as “pretty dangerous.” Even conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) defended Abedin.

Gohmert, who gets his information from extremist right-wing media media such as World Net Daily, sits on the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Meanwhile the conservatives are busy creating conspiracy theories: the government staged the attack to take over the government; the First Lady is hiding a Saudi student who was the real bomber; the Fox cartoon Family Guy predicted the bombing; the marathon organizers knew about the bombing before the race; the suspects’ uncle worked with the CIA; Facebook pages memorializing the blast were created before it happened; the dead suspect was an FBI informant; he’s not actually dead; and photos of the suspects at the scene of the crime were photoshopped.

Now Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) believe that a nationwide shortage of ammunition has resulted from the Obama administration’s stockpiling. To stop this and create more “transparency and accountability,” they introduced the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act, AMMO act for short. Finally, a gun control bill from the conservatives!

These two Congressmen probably got their news from fringe websites like Drudge or Alex Jones’s Infowars. Even, known for its crazy stories, described the idea as “based more on panic than fact.” These are the people who keep our country from moving forward.

September 6, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day Two, Extraordinary

Topping the first day of the Democratic convention was difficult, but the second day  displayed as much–if not more– electricity with non-stop speakers throughout the evening, capped by a 48-minute speech from former President Bill Clinton.

Many of the convention speakers, in contrast to those at the GOP convention last week, have been non-politicians. For example, three workers from Bain-controlled companies talked about problems of Mitt Romney’s leadership. Randy Johnson began by describing how Bain bought his company in 1994 and fired hundreds of employees without any warning. “They rushed in security guards to walk us out of our plant. We weren’t even allowed to take our personal items.”

Cindy Hewitt, a worker at Dade Behring, told how Bain drop her company, an important part of the community, was driven into bankruptcy, destroying 850 jobs.

David Foster, worker at a steel mill said, “When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt, and within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy. They fired 750 steelworkers while they pocketed $12 million in profit. A steelworker at GST Steel would have had to work 240 years to make $12 million.”

Sister Simone Campbell, who led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour for social justice this past summer, used her seven-minute speech to decry Paul Ryan’s budget: “Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Sandra Fluke, the activist who has fought for contraception from insurance companies and called a slut and worse by Rush Limbaugh, talked about the alternate futures, depending on who is elected as president. ”Six months from now, we’ll all be living in one or the other. But only one. A country where our president either has our back or turns his back; a country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward, or one that forces our generation to re-fight the battles they already won; a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) said, “My friend Paul Ryan talks about fiscal responsibility but voted to put two wars on a credit card. He voted to spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He voted for a prescription drug benefit with no plan to pay for it. He abandoned the bipartisan principle that we must pay for what we buy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said that a vote for Democrats in the November election is a vote to preserve Medicare and Social Security and a vote in favor of women.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claims that President Barack Obama is weak on Israel make “no sense” and are “ludicrous.” Earlier in the day when during an MSNBC interview, she said, “I think we do not know what Gov. Romney’s position on national security is, frankly. He has advisers that are some neocons, some of the people that brought you the previous policies under the [President George W.] Bush administration and he barely talked about foreign policy in his speech.”

Elizabeth Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, talked about how “the [financial] system is rigged” but that President Obama is working to give everyone a chance at a “level playing field.” She described the GOP approach to governing in this statement:  “I’ve got mine; the rest of you are on your own.” Aiming at the GOP, Warren said, “Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do! They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said, ‘Corporations are people.’” She finished her speech by quoting the Bible: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”–Matthew 25:40.

Bill Clinton was the highlight of the evening when he shredded all the arguments from the GOP convention speakers about President Obama’s four years. “He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”

In answer to the objections that life is not better under this president, Clinton said, “Are we where we want to be? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office with an economy in free-fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes.” He continued, “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” he said. “No president–not me or any of my predecessors–could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Andrea Mitchell said, “As a political document, this speech was extraordinary,” providing an “explanation of all of the policy points.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed GOP nominee John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do [what Clinton did tonight].”

Blogger Michael Hayne said, “In short, the 42nd President of the United States beautifully encapsulated how Obama has consistently extended the olive branch to Republicans and they have proudly taken that branch, ripped it up into a million pieces, stomped it into the sand and buried their heads with it so that the economic worsened and they could easily say ‘vote Republican’ in 2012.”

Unlike Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s speeches in Tampa, Clinton’s speech was on policy and gave specifics in amazing detail, so much that there isn’t enough room for it here. Even more amazing, no matter how much and USA Today scoured the multitude of facts that Clinton provided in his speech, the two organizations could not find anything false. This is far different from their investigation of Ryan’s and Romney’s speeches when they had trouble finding anything true.

Asides: The reading level for Michelle Obama’s speech was Grade 12; Ann Romney’s speech was seven grades below. [Note: Is this what each person thinks of her political party’s education?]

Clinton said, “Though I often disagree with Republicans,” he said, “I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.” Ann Coulter’s tweets show how vicious the far right is:

“Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…”

“To get Bill Clinton to speak at the convention, Obama had to agree to carry his bags.”

In another hateful spate, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama isn’t actually black because he lacks any slave ancestry. Not that it matters, but one of the president’s ancestors is the first documented slave, John Punch, according the The New York Times. 

The ADP National Jobs Report reported the addition of 201,000 private-sector jobs in the month of August, almost 50 percent more than the estimated increase of 140,000 jobs. It also revises the number of jobs added in July up to 173,000 from 163,000. In addition, the Department of Labor’s weekly report today showed the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits had fallen by 12,000 when Wall Street had expected only 1,000.

Things are looking better!


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