Archive for July, 2011

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

There are two ways to increase your chances of winning an election, get more voters to cast their ballots for you, or get fewer voters to cast their ballots for your opponent. The GOP had decided to pursue the latter option.

There is nothing more sacred in a democracy that the right to vote, so an attack on voting rights is an attack on democracy. That is exactly what is happening in many states across our land. Republican governors and legislatures are passing laws making it extremely difficult for certain Americans to vote.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

We left Gascony with the kids with a deep love for the region and its people. Leslie and I joined our friends in climbing to the top of the église du Heux next to the Chateau to look over the Gascon countryside one last time. The Church was built in the 13th Century with additions in the 17th Century. After obtaining the keys from Madam Fezas (of the winemaking family next door) we climbed the ancient wood stairs to the top. It is quite a journey in which you have to crouch up winding stairs occupied at night by bats. When you emerge, you are greeted by a wonderful sight of rolling hills and vineyards.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

The July 24th catastrophic crash of a high speed train in Wenzhou, eastern China, made world wide headlines. The dead and injured totals as of today, July 30th, stand at 40 dead and 192 injured although earlier reports indicated as many as 210 injured including 2 foreigners. The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but the preliminary facts indicate that train D301 in service from Beijing South Station to Fuzhou (in Fujian province) and train D3115 in service from Hangzhou to Fuzhou, were derailed when D301 struck the stationary D3115 at around 8:30pm local time. Although both trains are limited to traveling at a maximum of 250km/h (~155 mph), it is uncertain how fast D301 was moving at the time of the accident.

This is more than just a human tragedy for China, but possibly an economic tragedy as well. With China looking to compete globally to sell high speed rail systems that are going to become increasingly important to countries around the world as fuel prices rise, their systems have been plagued by unstable performance and this crash caused the stock of state owned CSR Corporation to plummet 14 points on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Although CSR is technically the world’s largest manufacturer of high speed rail equipment, it faces stiff competition from German and Japanese manufacturers who have more mature and refined products. While none of this is unfamiliar to anyone who has followed businesses in the wake of a disaster in the West, what is unusual is what happened next.

Lawyers were told not to take plaintiff’s cases related to the rail accident.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Bonneau is a quiet little town in the “Low Country” of South Carolina.   Boasting plenty of southern charm, it covers about 2.9 square miles and sports 354 residents. Not much going on except good red beans and rice and some pleasantly hot summer boat rides on Lake Moultrie. Pretty Mayberry-esque except  it’s also the epicenter for  a debate on South Carolina’s obscenity laws which prohibit motorists from  displaying bumper stickers, decals, or devices depicting “sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body in an offensive way as determined by contemporary community standards.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

While everyone was distracted with the hullabaloo surround the artificial “debt ceiling crisis”, Congress did manage to get some work done.  Unfortunately that work was in furtherance of eroding your right to privacy.  Thursday, July 28, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee submitted a bill (H.R. 1981) under the politically motivated and misleading name Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, which was quietly lobbied for by conservative Republicans and the Department of Justice, voted in committee to advance regulations requiring Internet service providers to retain your account information.  This information preserved would include not just your IP address, but customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers as well.  The Judiciary Committee approved this bill in a 19-0 vote, rejecting a last minute amendment that would have required the retention of IP addresses only by 7-16.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless schizophrenic, is shown on the left, after his confrontation with Fullerton California police officers, and on the right before his brutalization. He was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange County in critical condition on life-support and died five days later. Kelly was unarmed, had a slight build, and of medium height.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Photos courtesy of Allison Mabe McBane

One of the greatest finds of this trip was not that difficult to find.  Surrounding the Chateau Du Heux of my host are great fields of wine grapes.  These vines belong to Domaine Chiroulet – run by Phillipe Fezas and this family.  They are the latest of their family who have made wine in the Ténarèze soil for 150 years in six generations. The Fezas are a prototypical Gascon family – joyful, friendly, and generous.  They are also incredible winemakers.  Phillippe is a fascinating study.  He may be the most knowledgeable man I have ever met on oak and its role in wine-making.  A consultant for the leading houses in France and widely respected in the field, he has a variety of Russian, French, and American oak barrels at his operation.  More on this later.  What he also has is a splendid Gascon wine that should find itself in every American wine store.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Mike Appleton (Guest Blogger)

The debate raging in Congress over increasing the so-called “debt ceiling” makes for wonderfully frenetic headlines.  It allows Republicans to play pin the blame on the donkey and Democrats to respond with accusations of irresponsible brinkmanship.  In the end it is likely that a bill in some form will be passed because the government must pay its bills.

But lost in the frenzy is a fundamental question.  The budget is determined by Congress through the appropriations process.  Therefore, Congress essentially determines the amount of the nation’s debt.  The borrowing authority granted by Congress to the Treasury provides flexibility in financing that debt.  The executive branch cannot spend more than is appropriated, nor borrow more than is needed to service debt.

So, since Congress controls the purse strings, and the power of the President is limited to implementing the fiscal will of Congress, why is it necessary to periodically debate Treasury’s borrowing authority?  More specifically, is there any logical reason for the imposition of the misnamed “debt ceiling”? (more…)

Read Full Post »

Day 4-5: Heux, France

Church in Condom

We began this day with just Leslie and I (and Madie) running to the store to buy the makings for a dinner for tonight. We quickly became sidetracked in Condom and went into the glorious church at the center of town. Outside we found a statue of the Three Musketeers – who all came from this region, including d’Artagnan came from this immediate vicinity. Putting asides its prophylactic name, the town is uninhibited, well-populated, and quintessentially Gascon. Narrow roads are filled with shops for pastries, bread, antiques, and other distractions. We returned laden with escargot, cheeses (including one of my favorites – the Petit Basque), fresh bread, and Gascon cakes. [Note:  our internet access was lost for a couple days in Gascony.  We are now posting from a hotel in Rennes]

(more…)

Read Full Post »

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

It’s a common claim from the Right, but it’s not true. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), in a Senate floor speech,  claimed “Fifty-one percent — that is, a majority of American households — paid no income tax in 2009. Zero. Zip. Nada.” At least he used the often omitted “income” adjective. However, those individuals still pay payroll taxes, like Social Security and Medicare, sales taxes, and often property taxes.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Coin seigniorage (CS) is the net revenue derived from the issuing of coins. It cost less than one dollar to mint a dollar coin and the difference between the manufacturing costs and face value (one dollar) is pure profit for the Treasury. The United States could just print more paper money, however, there is a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency in circulation at any one time.

There is not, ironically, a similar statutory requirement on the amount of coinage. The idea of using CS to solve the debt crisis is garnering a lot of serious attention.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

GOP – Special Victims Unit

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Jon Stewart at his best.

If someone knows how to embed videos from The Daily Show, let me know.

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The battle over raising the debt ceiling has made some interesting bedfellows and even more intriguing and perplexing moments. At this instant, we are awaiting the vote on Speaker Boehner’s Plan which has been delayed to allow the mainline Republicans to scurry about coaxing tea partiers off their high horses named “No Taxes,” and “Cut Government.” For his part, Boehner has the distinct look of the bridegroom anxiously waiting at the legislative altar while the cavorting bride finishes up at the  ‘No, no Nanette” (you’ll recall that ditty, “Tea For Two.’) themed bachelorette party over at Michele Bachmann’s encounter group/ chapel/ballroom.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

Among the ongoing battles in anthropology and paleontology since the mid-Nineteenth Century to now, is the distinction between the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon Man. Specifically this devolves down to what happened to the Neanderthals, since the fossil record appears to show their extinction about 20,000 years ago. My assumption is that most readers are familiar with a lot of this material. It is easily attainable through Google or Wiki. What I find most interesting in this ongoing debate is the impact that Social Darwinism might have played in the original depiction of Neanderthals and in the assumptions made by some scientists about this species.

“Social Darwinism is a term used for various late nineteenth century ideologies predicated on the idea of survival of the fittest.[1] It especially refers to notions of struggle for existence being used to justify social policies which make no distinction between those able to support themselves and those unable to support themselves. The most prominent form of such views stressed competition between individuals in laissez-faire capitalism but it is also connected to the ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism,[2], Fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism

The first skull of the Neanderthal had been discovered in 1926, but it was the discovery in 1856, in the Neanderthal Valley, in Germany that gave the species a name. We all know that the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” in 1859 set off a firestorm of both intellectual excitement and angry social resistance. By the end of the Nineteenth Century scientists, sociologists, physicians, philosophers, and politicians had misused Darwin’s phrase “survival of the fittest” to justify a host of theories that boiled down to two intertwined propositions. The first was that White People represented the apogee of human civilization and the second that among white people the Anglo-Saxon Teutonic strain represented the elite. This justified Eugenics, Imperialism and even the attempted genocide of the Native Americans. In politics, it also represented a definite anti-democratic strain, articulated prominently by Theodore Roosevelt, who believed that those of Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic origin should rule the Nation since the “rabble” was incapable of civilized behavior without their strong leadership. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Back in February, Professor Turley wrote a blog post titled Teacher Suspended for Writing Critical Comments on Her Personal Blog. Many people who commented on the post sided with Natalie Munroe, the teacher who had been suspended. I did not. I thought the school administration did the right thing after I read some of the critical comments Munroe made about her students and comments she said she’d like to be able to note on her students’ report cards.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,713 other followers