Recent Articles

Tax breaks are as big as the deficit

| May 29, 2014 | Reply

According to the National Priorities Organization:

In 2013, the cost of tax breaks was equal to the entire U.S. discretionary budget [1]. However, the discretionary budget is subject to an annual appropriations process, where Congress debates the proposed spending. Tax breaks, on the other hand, remain on the books until lawmakers modify them. As a result, over a trillion dollars a year in lost revenue – more than 1.6 times the 2013 budget deficit – goes largely unnoticed.

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Chris Hedges on the NDAA

| May 29, 2014 | 1 Reply

From Truthdig:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

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Re-paint

| May 28, 2014 | Reply

Last month I carefully sanded and painted the passenger side rear corner of our 2001 Dodge Caravan. It didn’t look perfect, but it was more than passable. Yesterday someone scraped the same part of the same car while it was sitting on a parking lot. So tonight I rode the same bicycle back to the same auto parts store and the same guy sells me another can of the same type of paint as I stood there wearing the same bike helmet that I wore last time. “Have we met?,” he asked. I explained, “Yes, you’re the guy who insisted that I use grade 2,000 sand paper last time, and I refused, saying that it would make that part of the car look too nice–and it all would have been for naught. I explained why I had returned, then asked, “Did I CAUSE that jerk to scrape my car yesterday by choosing to paint it last month? He said, “Yes. That’s how life works.”

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The promise of fecal transplants

| May 28, 2014 | Reply

Some patients are having astounding success with fecal transplants, and a DIY community is growing. BBC reports:

There is growing recognition that faecal transplant is the best way to treat [some] patients. In the first randomised trial of the technique published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, 94% of patients were cured by the treatment, whereas a course of antibiotics cured just 27%. The disparity was so huge that the researchers stopped the trial early, on the grounds that it was unethical to deny the better cure to the cohort assigned antibiotics.

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Deepak Chopra nonsense generator

| May 26, 2014 | Reply

This nonsensical Deepak Chopra quote generator will make as much sense as many of the quotes of Chopra himself. And yet you won’t wince when you read these because you’ll know that they are supposed to be random strings of words.

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Why vote?

| May 26, 2014 | Reply

I wish I could say I disagree with this Harper’s article from 2012. Excellent points by Kevin Baker. Full title: “Why vote? When Your Vote Counts for Nothing.”

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How long is the iTunes terms and conditions?

| May 24, 2014 | 1 Reply

How long are the iTunes terms and conditions? 32 feet. The set of iTunes disclosures was printed out in 8 pt font and measured by Omri Ben-Shahar’s and Carl E. Schneider. They have written a new book on the failures of consumer disclosures titled: More Than You Wanted to Know. In the following video, Ben-Shahar characterizes mandated consumer disclosures as the “most common and possibly the least useful form of regulation.”

Watch the demonstration of the physical length of the iTunes contract here.

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Short history of the NRA and the Second Amendment

| May 24, 2014 | 1 Reply

The Brennan Center for Justice recently published this history of the Second Amendment and the NRA. The Second Amendment was construed entirely differently in years past than it is now. The NRA was an entirely benign organization until a few decades ago. It’s amazing to see how something can evolve into its opposite, but that is par for the course for a symbolic species like human animals.

In the end, it was neither the NRA nor the Bush administration that pressed the Supreme Court to reverse its centuries-old approach, but a small group of libertarian lawyers who believed other gun advocates were too timid. They targeted a gun law passed by the local government in Washington, D.C., in 1976—perhaps the nation’s strictest—that barred individuals from keeping a loaded handgun at home without a trigger lock. They recruited an appealing plaintiff: Dick Heller, a security guard at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, who wanted to bring his work revolver home to his high-crime neighborhood. The NRA worried it lacked the five votes necessary to win. The organization tried to sideswipe the effort, filing what Heller’s lawyers called “sham litigation” to give courts an excuse to avoid a constitutional ruling. But the momentum that the NRA itself had set in motion proved unstoppable, and the big case made its way to the Supreme Court.

The argument presented in District of Columbia v. Heller showed just how far the gun rights crusade had come. Nearly all the questions focused on arcane matters of colonial history. Few dealt with preventing gun violence, social science findings or the effectiveness of today’s gun laws—the kinds of things judges might once have considered. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to own a weapon “in common use” to protect “hearth and home.” Scalia wrote the opinion, which he later called the “vindication” of his judicial philosophy.

After the decision was announced, Heller stood on the steps of the court for a triumphant press conference. Held aloft behind him was a poster bearing that quote from Patrick Henry, unearthed by the scholars who had proven so important for the successful drive: “Let every man be armed.”

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About Farrell Morris

| May 22, 2014 | 1 Reply

The first five notes of Margaritaville are well known. You know, da-da-da-DA-da . . . Farrell Morris was the marimba player who played those notes (and a lot of others) on the iconic recording sung by Jimmy Buffett. I had the opportunity to get to know Farrell, but it was because he was a sculptor as well as a Nashville musician. He and his wife Bobbe traveled to art fairs to sell his works, including the annual Shaw Art Fair on the street where I live (Flora Place). I met them both about 15 years ago, liked Farrell’s work and bought a sculpture (see photo).

IMG_2136 Farrell Morris sculpture

I thought of Farrell today when moving his sculpture to another part of the house. I looked him up on Google and was sad to read that he had been battling cancer and died in 2012. The first time we met, he played a djembe we handed to him, and it was amazing to watch what he did with it. With merely two hands, he struck, stretched, tapped and palmed the skin of the drum to make amazing sounds–in fact, it sounded like multiple instruments. Beautiful rhythms of a veteran percussionist. He was truly a gentleman too. He loved life and loved art. He and his wife returned to STL several times. I spent quite a bit of time visiting with them between customers. They were a wonderful couple. I remember on their last trip here, maybe 12 years ago, Farrell was not playing music anymore because of arthritis that affected his hands. My assumption was that this must have been devastating, but he seemed to be taking things in stride. After all, he was already had a long successful career as a Nashville musician, with hundreds of recordings on his discography, including many musicians who were household names.

This has been my brief tribute to Farrell Morris. Maybe you’ll think of him too when you next hear the first few notes of Margaritaville.

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