Friday Reads: The Ides of MarchPosted: March 15, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bobby Jindal, budget, Eric Cantor, Higgs boson, imagine no religion, mars rover, Paul Ryan 28 Comments
Ah! The Ides of March and today’s political men with that lean and hungry look are upon us! Let’s check out what Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan are up to. All of them have that creepy angular look that makes my skin crawl. I always wonder if their supporters are as odd looking and grinch-like?
Ryan “looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes” and is trying to ride the same old budget that the voters soundly rejected in November.
Ryan’s budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.
The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in “fiscal cliff” taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in “Medicare cuts” that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.
Ryan’s basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite studies showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.
The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating “tax expenditures” — only he reveals none of those that he would close. Studies show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more — and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn’t want to reveal what’s behind the curtain.
Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to estimates of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.
Ryan would cancel the “sequestration cuts” for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services — education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. — would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.
His budget is expected to pass the House yet again even though there is no chance in the Senate and no chance that “Obamacare” will be repealed. Yet, he’s consistent which is more than we can say about Eric Cantor recently. You know Cantoe. ” Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort s if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.”
Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. Cantor explained why he argued at the retreat against using the debt ceiling as political leverage. He had been hearing from donors on Wall Street and in the business community about the potential impact on the markets. “Most people would say incurring debt at this point is allowing money for bills that you already incurred,” he said. “It’s to pay the bills.” Eight days earlier, at a press conference, Obama had made the same argument.
Besides, there were better fights to come. Conceding the debt-ceiling vote was a simple way for House Republicans to prevent the U.S. government from going into default, which would be disastrous for the economy here and abroad. It also meant they could save their leverage for the coming fight over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. “We’re not trying to sit here and just obstruct,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to solve the problem, and we’ve been put in this position, I guess, perception-wise, that all we want to do is obstruct. So this is an attempt for us to get on firmer ground.”
To win over the right, House leaders promised three things. They would demand that the Democratic-controlled Senate write a formal budget, which Senate Democrats have avoided doing for several years; if the senators didn’t pass a budget, they wouldn’t get paid. Second, they promised conservatives that the cuts in the sequester would be kept intact or replaced with something equivalent. The final promise was far more daunting: Paul Ryan would write a budget that balanced within ten years. “Big goal,” Cantor said, and he sounded relieved that it wouldn’t be his job; Ryan’s last budget, which included severe spending cuts, didn’t promise to come into balance until the late twenty-thirties. “People were concerned that it took too long to balance,” Ryan said. To make the budget balance in a decade, the level of cuts will have to be extreme. Cantor may have led his colleagues out of the debt-ceiling canyon only to get them trapped in another one.
I pointed out that, because the fiscal-cliff deal included more than six hundred billion dollars in higher taxes over the next ten years, Ryan’s job might be a little easier. Cantor flashed a mischievous grin. “Irony!” he said.
Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project said he fears a financial blow to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“At a bare minimum, a tax overhaul should not be an excuse to make the state’s poorest citizens pay more, and they would suffer the most from the governor’s proposal to raise sales taxes,” Moller said in a prepared statement.
Barfield said something will be proposed to offset any increase for low- and lower-middle-classes.
“They would be in no worse position than they are today,” Barfield said.
Barfield said the administration wants to encourage job creation and economic growth, which help elevate the poor.
One has to wonder how the national ambitions of these men jibe with voters given their agendas benefit very few people. I suppose the idea is to appease the big donors and hope that every one else just votes based on name recognition and glossy mailers. Still, Jindal’s popularity sits at 37%. As mentioned above, Cantor’s popularity sits at 27%. Ryan’s last poll was the election.
“This is the start of a new story of physics,” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.
“Physics has changed since July the 4th – the vague question we had before was to see if there was anything there,” he told BBC News.
“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?”
The results reported at the conference – based on the entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 – much more strongly suggest that the new particle’s “spin” is zero – consistent with any of the theoretical varieties of Higgs.
“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela.
As is often the case in particle physics, a fuller analysis of data will be required to establish beyond doubt that the particle is a Higgs of any kind. But Dr Weidberg said that even these early hints were compelling.
“This is very exciting because if the spin-zero determination is confirmed, it would be the first elementary particle to have zero spin,” he said.
“So this is really different to anything we have seen before.”
Even more data will be required to explore the question of more “exotic” Higgs particles.
This HuffPo article suggest that there will even be fewer Americans for those Republicans to fool in the future as religion in America hits new low!!
The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.
Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of “nones” — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990.
But since then, the number of people who don’t consider themselves part of a religion has increased to 20 percent.
No wonder Republicans want to tank public education. I’d say there’s a bit of intelligent life left here!
Finally, the Mars Rover “Curiosity” finds some astonishing things on Mars.
The verdict is in: Mars’s Gale Crater was habitable in its distant past, perhaps during the same period in which microbial life was establishing itself on Earth between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago.
That is the conclusion scientists have reached after NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity analyzed the first sample ever culled from deep in a rock on another planet. Curiosity used a first-of-its-kind drill to extract the sample.
Now, only seven months into its mission – a period set aside primarily for testing the rover’s various instruments – Curiosity has already given researchers the answer to the broad, basic question they set out to answer: Did Mars ever host environments suitable for life?
The issue of habitability is “in the bag,” said John Grotzinger, a planetary geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the mission’s lead scientist, during a press briefing announcing the results on Tuesday.
The minerals in the tiny, gray, ground-rock sample exposed by Curiosity’s drill speak of abundant standing water, conditions neither too acidic or too alkaline for life, and the minerals that would have provided a ready energy source for microbes, if any had been there.
Wonder what Pat Robertson will say about this?
and what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Tuesday Reads: Natural and Human-Made Fireworks, the God Particle, and MorePosted: July 3, 2012 Filed under: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Health care reform, Media, morning reads, religion, Religious Conscience, the GOP, U.S. Politics | Tags: Amelia Earhart, Chief Justice John Roberts, energy field, explosions of Republican rage, fireworks, god particle, Higgs boson, Mormon resignation ceremony, polls, power blackouts, SCOTUS, storms, thunder and lightning, weather 50 Comments
Someone in my neighborhood has begun celebrating Independence Day already, so I’m writing this with the sound of firecrackers in the background.
That may soon be followed by thunder and lightening, so I shouldn’t have any trouble staying awake long enough to finish this post. As long as my power doesn’t go out, everything should be fine!
That’s downtown Boston in a thunderstorm. Isn’t it gorgeous? Now let’s see what the morning papers have in store for us.
Everyone is agog about physicists’ discovery of a new particle–is it the “god particle?”
Physicists in Europe will present evidence of an entirely new particle on Wednesday, Nature has learned.
But more data will be needed to officially confirm whether it is indeed the long-awaited Higgs boson — the particle thought to be behind the mass of all the others.
Even as rumours fly in the popular media, physicists have begun quietly cheering at CERN, the European particle-physics lab near Geneva in Switzerland. “Without a doubt, we have a discovery,” says one member of the team working on the ATLAS experiment, who wished to remain anonymous. “It is pure elation!”
For nearly half a century, physicists have predicted the existence of a particle that helps to endow others with mass. Named after theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, the boson is the upshot of a mathematical trick that unites the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces into a single ‘electroweak’ interaction. It is considered the final, crucial piece of the standard model of particle physics.
I’m fascinated by physics, but this thing is beyond my comprehension. From what I can figure out it has something to do with an energy field that permeates the universe; so to me it sounds like confirmation of something that has been talked about by mystics for centuries.
“We think the Higgs boson really gets at the center of some physics that is responsible for why the universe is here in the first place and what the ultimate structure of matter is,” said Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab….
“You can think of it as an energy field. We believe there is a Higgs energy field spread out in the whole universe,” Lykken said. Photons — light particles — are unaffected by this field. But as other elementary particles move around, he explained, “they feel this energy field as a kind of sticky molasses that slows them down and keeps them from moving at the speed of light.”
When enough of that field is packed into a small enough space, Lykken said, it manifests as a particle — the Higgs boson.
A group of researchers will leave today to mount a search for the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane.
Organizers hope the expedition will conclusively solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century – what became of Earhart after she vanished during an attempt to become the first pilot, man or woman, to circle the globe around the equator.
A recent flurry of clues point to the possibility that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, ended up marooned on the tiny uninhabited island of Nikumaroro, part of the Pacific archipelago Republic of Kiribati.
“The public wants evidence, a smoking gun, that this is the place where Amelia Earhart’s journey ended,” said Richard Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). “That smoking gun is Earhart’s plane.”
The expedition was scheduled to begin yesterday, but the group’s departure was postponed because of an administrative issue. The trip will last 16 days, with 10 days spent on the search for the wreckage.
One of my cousins works in the White House, and her power has been out since that big storm the hit the mid-Atlantic states. According to my mom, many people in Indiana are also without power. Hundreds of thousands in the Eastern U.S. are in the same boat, and there is a likelihood of more blackouts. During a heat wave like this, that can be more than inconvenient–it could be dangerous.
Electrical utilities are advising customers in and around Washington that it may well be a whole week before all power is restored after the unusually potent storm that ravaged the mid-Atlantic region on Friday. Many customers are outraged as to why it would take so long.
More than two million people in the eastern United States, including more than 400,000 in the greater Washington area, were still without power on Monday.
The storm, which claimed at least 22 lives, shuttered businesses, stores and gas stations and littered the region with fallen tree limbs and downed power lines, many of which are still strung along poles above ground.
It hit during a period of record-breaking heat and immediately shut down air conditioning systems across an area well known for its hot, humid summers and poor air quality.
As evidence grows that Chief Justice John Roberts changed his vote on the Affordable Care Act case at the last minute, Republicans are gnashing their teeth and cursing their former idol as a traitor to the cause: Scorn and Withering Scorn for Roberts
The day after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing to uphold the health care overhaul law, he appeared before a conference of judges and lawyers in Pennsylvania. A questioner wanted to know whether he was “going to Disney World.”
Chief Justice Roberts said he had a better option: he was about to leave for Malta, where he would teach a two-week class on the history of the Supreme Court. “Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress,” he said on Friday, according to news reports. “It seemed like a good idea.”
The chief justice was correct to anticipate a level of fury unusual even in the wake of a blockbuster decision with vast political, practical and constitutional consequences. The criticism came from all sides. And it was directed not at the court as whole or even at the majority in the 5-to-4 decision. It was aimed squarely at him.
Read the rest at the link. The NYT tried to “balance” their story by claiming that liberals are angry too. Seriously? Even they admit the wingers are “particularly bitter.”
Former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson describes “John Roberts’ alternate universe.” And Marc A. Thiessen asks, “Why are Republicans so awful at picking Supreme Court justices?”
While conservatives agonize, a new Kaiser Health Tracking poll finds that 56% of Americans “would like to see the law’s detractors stop their efforts to block its implementation and move on to other national problems.” More evidence that conservatives are out of touch with reality and headed for disaster in November unless they can manage to buy a clue.
CNN also ran a poll on reactions to the ACA decision–also asking respondents about their attitudes toward the Supreme Court.
According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday, the public is divided on last week’s ruling, with 50% saying they agree with the Supreme Court’s decision and 49% saying they disagree. And there is the expected partisan divide, with more than eight in ten Democrats agreeing with the decision, more than eight in ten Republicans disagreeing, and independent voters divided, with 52% disagreeing and 47% agreeing…..
“Despite howls of protest from many Republican leaders, only about one in five Americans – and only 35% of the Republican rank and file – say they are angry about the decision,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “And despite victory laps by many Democratic leaders, only one in six Americans – and only one in three Democrats nationwide – say they feel enthusiastic about the court’s ruling.”
But attitudes toward the Court generally have changed.
“As recently as April, Republicans and Democrats had virtually identical positive opinions on the Supreme Court. But not any more,” adds Holland. “That’s the biggest change that the court decision has created.”
The court’s approval rating among Democrats jumped by 23 points; to 73%. Among Republicans, it fell by 21 points, to 31%. Approval of the Supreme Court among independents edged up five points, to 53%.
I’ll end with a story that is a few days old, but still interesting: Mormons quit church in mass resignation ceremony.
A group of about 150 Mormons quit their church in a mass resignation ceremony in Salt Lake City on Saturday in a rare display of defiance ending decades of disagreement for some over issues ranging from polygamy to gay marriage.
Participants from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and elsewhere gathered in a public park to sign a “Declaration of Independence from Mormonism.” [….]
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its culture of obedience, and the mass ceremony was a seldom-seen act of collective revolt.
After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.
At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of “Freedom,” cheered, clapped and hugged.
The reasons participants gave for leaving their religion included the Mormon church’s political activity directed against the LGBT community, racism and sexism in the church, and the church’s efforts to cover up its own troubling history, which includes violent acts and polygamy.