Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Brownback Obeys Court Order: Kansas Legislature Raises Taxes $471 Million

We saw this one coming. The Republicans in Kansas have no choice but to raise revenues because state law prohibits them from running a deficit in the state budget.

The main problem that Republican legislators face is not a federal court ruling. The problem is embedded in the Kansas state constitution, which says that "the Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance” of public education.

In earlier rulings, Kansas state courts consistently found that

"it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas and U.S. Constitutions to make the education of a child a function of or dependent upon the wealth of the district in which the child resides."


Yet that is precisely what Brownback and his Republican pals decided to do, claiming that money did not make any difference to the quality of education received. But once again, the courts disagreed, citing studies that showed almost a one-to-one correlation between spending on education and student achievement. The courts not only told the state of Kansas how much to spend on each student, but also insisted that the amount of money spent in poor districts be equal to the amount spent in wealthy districts.

[Note to Paul Krugman: The Kansas state courts do in fact declare that inequality is a major cause of problems.]

Which brings us to the present day, when Kansas Republican legislatures have decided to raise taxes to bring educational spending up to the level ordered by the courts. That means they will need to raise $471 million, the largest tax raise in Kansas history. These are Tea Party Republicans, mind you, so they're not very happy about doing it. They are raising taxes directly on the poor, of course, by taxing alcohol and cigarettes heavily. Rich people will have to pay as well, but rich people are well able to afford extra spending on alcohol and cigarettes. Poor people are not.


True, poor people probably drink too much, and no one should smoke. But taking a fix from an addict is still reprehensible. These people did nothing to deserve such treatment, aside from being poor.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cop erupts at NY cabdriver

Driving in NYC can be hell. It's particularly hellish when another driver starts shouting at you. That's the way some people drive. In an environment where there is no courtesy, no understanding, no forbearance, only honking horns and shouting insults, it's no wonder that many New Yorkers refuse to drive cars there.

Yet the cabdrivers must drive. That's how they make a living. This video shows road rage that is way too common in our cities, where aggressive drivers use their cars to threaten other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

This chaos of shouting and insults is caused by a lack of regulation. Traffic should be calmed. Dangerous maneuvers, like parallel parking on a busy street, should be banned. Cars should be banned altogether from the most impacted parts of the city.

Anger and frustration have become a way of life in our cities. We need to take heed and pass reasonable regulations to avoid the causes of road rage and make our cities more pleasant to live in. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

What Scientology Teaches Its Members

We've all heard about the foundation myth of L. Ron Hubbard's church of scientology. Naturally, the myth is completely devoid of any scientific proof. South Park did everyone a favor by encapsulating the myth about aliens inhabiting human bodies into a brief cartoon segment. Here it is:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Robert Reich comments on fraternities and sororities

I’ve been getting angry responses to the view I expressed on Larry Wilmore’s “The Nightly Show” that college...

Posted by Robert Reich on Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Steve and Steve: The visionary and the tech-wizard

Apple Computer was founded by two young engineers, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Since Jobs died in 2011, the media has spent a great deal of time publishing stories about his life, his brilliance, and, most of all, his money. The primary characteristic of Jobs was, according to the main stream media, that he had a lot of money. When he died, Jobs had a net worth of more than $10 billion.

When a person is very wealthy--especially when he happens to die--he automatically becomes a genius as well, as is shown by this passage from http://www.bornrich.com/steve-jobs.html, typical of encomiums paid to Jobs recently:
Steve Jobs was a tech-wizard and visionary who revolutionized every industry he touched in his lifetime. Starting from personal computers with Apple, to user interface with Macintosh and I Pod/Pad, Animation with Pixar, and the music industry with I Pod and I Tunes, he set new benchmarks to be followed.
This description, which contains what most people believe about Jobs, is not factual. To begin with, it describes Jobs as a tech-wizard and a visionary. These are terms commonly applied to Steve Jobs, but they are not accurate. The word "tech-wizard" describes someone who uses technology in a new and brilliant way, in fact in a seemingly magical way.


John von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician who applied mathematics to physics, economics, and computer technology. He was a tech-wizard. Alan Turing was a mathematician who made valuable contributions to computer theory. He was a tech-wizard. Nicola Tesla was a physicist and engineer who made valuable contributions in the field of electricity and wrote numerous patents for electrical devices. Tesla was a tech-wizard.

Steve Wozniak is a tech-wizard. Wozniak put together the first Apple computer from parts that he assembled himself. Not only did he create the first practical personal computer, he made it so inexpensively that ordinary people, who never before thought of owning a computer, could afford to buy it.


Steve Jobs sold the computer that Wozniak built. That does not qualify him as a tech-wizard, but it might make him a visionary. In business, a visionary is a person who has an idea that becomes reality. Henry Ford was a visionary--as well as an engineer. Ford envisioned an automobile that could be owned by the average man. He created that automobile and mass-produced it.

Steve Jobs resembled Henry Ford in that way. He was a salesman and an industrialist. He made inexpensive computers and mass-produced them. He built a large company based on classic principles of profit and loss. Jobs succeeded in making a product that was more valuable than the sum of its parts.

Jobs sold 100 Apple 1 computers for $50,000 before the first one was built. There were a lot of false starts. Hewlett-Packard and Commodore both had the chance to make the Apple 2, but neither company wanted it. The Apple was too small, too cheap for Hewlett-Packard. It was too complex for Commodore--it had color!

Jobs also made the deal with Mike Markkula that set up Apple Computer with $250,000. Wozniak did not want to run a company. He just wanted to be an engineer. The other thing that Wozniak wanted to do was enjoy life. He was married and passed up a chance to move to Corvallis, Oregon, with Hewlett-Packard because his wife didn't want to move. If he had moved, Apple Computer would never have been born because he was the soul of Apple Computer during its first few years.

But Wozniak left Apple Computer when he became convinced that the company was going in the wrong direction, as he put it. He obviously disliked the Macintosh. I think what he disliked most about the company's direction was its turning away from making a game-playing machine toward making a business machine in competition with IBM.

For game designers, the decision to give Macintosh a black and white monitor--and a small one at that--was a deal-breaker. Wozniak did not want to run the company but he had definite ideas about how it should be run. Gamers deserted the Macintosh en masse and started writing for IBM, which still had a color monitor. Some Apple employees left the company to start Electronic Arts, where they could concentrate on making games. They eventually founded 3DO and produced a game console to compete with Sony and Microsoft.

Macintosh Windows

What about those other inventions that bornrich.com mentioned in conjunction with Steve Jobs? Jobs did make the decision to use a graphic interface for the Macintosh, but he "borrowed" the idea from Xerox Parc, a research and development center set up by Xerox in silicon valley. The engineers there developed a graphic interface, but Xerox did not want to use it. Jobs asked them if he could use it for the Macintosh, and they agreed, but Jobs never formalized the acquisition with Xerox, which actually owned the patents, if any. Jobs was a visionary in the sense that he promoted the inventions of others.

The decision to copy the Xerox interface, without permission, on the Macintosh was a serious blunder. Years later, a patent court refused to rule that Microsoft had infringed on the Macintosh interface, even though they copied it, feature for feature, detail by detail, because Apple did not actually own the rights to the Macintosh graphic interface. Jobs' decision to do things on the cheap wound up costing the company billions in lost patent revenues.

Jobs had the persuasive capabilities of a great salesman, but lacked the understanding of engineering that Wozniak possessed. Some claimed that Jobs created a reality distortion field by talking to you until you believed that whatever he was telling you about was actually possible, even if it wasn't. Jobs abandoned the Lisa project to build the Macintosh. This trait of unreliability and questions about his business judgment led to his firing from the company he founded. The Apple Board of Directors asked Jobs to hire a successor, John Scully, then fired Jobs and promoted Scully to CEO.

Wozniak Leaves Apple

Wozniak claimed that many of Apple's problems, including the failure of the Lisa and the lukewarm reception of the Macintosh, were due to Jobs' youthful enthusiasm. Wozniak pointed out that Jobs built the Apple Macintosh too cheaply. Jobs decided to make a small-screen version with very little computing power. The memory the Mac shipped with was so small that a user had to buy more memory before he could actually use the machine. Wozniak considered the Jobs version of the Mac "lousy".

Jobs intended the Macintosh to compete with the PCs that ran with operating systems licensed by Microsoft. He felt he could dispense with the large screen. In actuality, the small screen was a handicap for nearly every use to which the Macintosh could be put. In particular, game developers stopped designing games for the Macintosh due to its lack of color. Jobs thus abandoned many of the faithful developers who had made Apple successful.

Jobs invested $10 million in the animation division of LucasArts in 1985. George Lucas had a cash flow problem and had to sell the division at a bargain price. The new company was called Pixar. Jobs was interested in the company as a computer hardware company and possible successor to Apple, not as an entertainment company that would produce blockbuster movies. As such, Jobs's vision was a failure. He considered selling the company, of which he had become the majority stockholder, to Microsoft.

Pixar struggled as a hardware company until Disney released Toy Story in 2005. The movie was an instant hit. Jobs then began negotiations with Disney to sell Pixar, eventually getting a price of more than $7 billion. If there was ever a case of a person being hit by a money truck--becoming rich almost by accident--this was one.

At the same time, Jobs was managing another company, NeXT Computer. He intended this company also to be a successor to Apple Computer. NeXT, too, failed as a hardware company, but proved successful for Jobs. The problem with NeXT was its entry into an already crowded field. By 1985, BeOS, Taligent, IBM and Apple were developing new operating systems and vying for market share that just wasn't there. But NeXT had a big advantage. It had Steve Jobs. Eventually, Apple acquired NeXT and used its operating system for its new Macintosh platform, OS X. Jobs came with the deal and became once again CEO of Apple.

Two Steves

Two Steves founded Apple. One of them enjoyed putting electronic gadgets together. The other seemed to enjoy nothing more than making money. Like many people who catch this bug, there was never enough money. Steve Jobs died as one of the world's wealthiest men. Steve Wozniak is still around, enjoying life, playing games.

Which one would you rather be?

Monday, February 2, 2015

no-kill animal shelters

Note: This article is copied from http://www.peta.org/living/companion-animals/nathan-winograds-redemption-kill-clue/. I have omitted a picture of an injured pet from the site because I find such postings tasteless and offensive. Otherwise, I have not changed the article.

If you have ever spent time volunteering at an animal shelter, you’ve seen it: the endless stream of dogs and cats—scared, lonely, confused—aching for a kind word or a reassuring touch. Some of them have been abandoned by their guardians, others have been rescued from the streets, but they all have one thing in common: They are victims of companion animal overpopulation. Nathan Winograd, former executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA in New York, has seen the crisis firsthand but somehow maintains a firm “no-kill” position.
Every year, 6 to 8 million animals are left at U.S. animal shelters and half of them must be euthanized. The statistics alone show the severity of our country’s companion animal overpopulation crisis. Yet one so-called animal advocate, Nathan Winograd, is trying to convince the public that animal overpopulation doesn’t exist.

Nathan Winograd Misplaces Blame

In his crusade to make all animal shelters “no-kill,” Nathan Winograd blames the shelter workers—who have devoted their lives to caring for homeless animals, giving them a chance at a home, and providing them with a painless death when no other humane alternative exists—for the euthanasia of millions of animals every year. This is akin to blaming hospitals for deadly diseases. This false “logic” lets the real culprits off the hook: people who breed (or fail to spay or neuter) their animals and people who buy animals from pet stores or breeders instead of adopting homeless animals from shelters. No one wants to see animals euthanized—least of all, those who have to perform it—but denying that a crisis exists and blaming those who have devoted their lives to ending it is misguided and solves nothing.

Too Many Animals, Too Few Homes

Nathan Winograd’s calculations ignore the hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens produced by breeders and sold in pet stores every year. When these animals are added to the millions of homeless animals who enter shelters each year, the number of animals in need of homes far exceeds the number of homes that are theoretically available to them. What’s more, not every household that is considering acquiring a cat or dog (even those that currently have animals) is a “responsible” home that would pass a shelter’s screening requirements.

The Key to a ‘No-Kill’ Nation: A No-Birth Nation

Our goal is a future in which no animal must be euthanized for lack of a good home, but that time will only come if we stop the problem at its source, by spaying and neutering animals to prevent more of them from being born. Even if we could somehow find homes for the 6 to 8 million cats and dogs who will enter U.S. animal shelters this year, what about the 6 to 8 million animals next year and the year after that? Let’s stop this cycle by practicing our ABCs—animal birth control. Always spay or neuter companion animals, and never buy them from a breeder or pet store.

Crowded Cages, Disease, and Death

Being blamed by their detractors for euthanasia, while the real culprits for the massive companion animal overpopulation crisis go unchecked, has intimidated many open-admission animal shelters into implementing dangerous policies and practices in an attempt to reduce their euthanasia statistics.
  • After the Tompkins County SPCA in New York—where Nathan Winograd served as executive director and implemented a “no-kill” policy—became extremely crowded, it began accepting animals by appointment only and stacked animals in cages throughout the facility, including the laundry room and kitchen. According to a subsequent shelter director, the shelter slashed its adoption fees and lowered its standards for the homes in which it places animals—significantly increasing the risk of abuse and neglect—in an effort to move more animals out the door.
  • Austin Animal Services announced reaching “no-kill” status in January 2012. In July 2012, The Austin Chronicle reported that the department was seeking a $1 million increase in funding because the Austin Animal Center (AAC) “is way past full. Hundreds of animals are in foster homes, and shelter staff have had to be creative in order to house the overabundance of animals sleeping under AAC’s quonset [sic] hut roofs. As of last week, wire crates filled with kittens could be found on tables in the shelter’s main conference room. For months, staff has been finding room for dogs in cages in the stray- and surgery-holding areas.” A City Council member “referenced anonymous statements from shelter volunteers claiming that the staff is overburdened, that health and safety issues are being overlooked, [and] that they’d seen one dog receive chemical burns on the pads of its paws after being returned too quickly to a recently cleaned cage.” In June 2013, the city released a news release with the headline “Animal Shelter: Find a home for your pet, do not bring it here” and gave away animals free of charge when the shelter had 100 dogs and cats for whom there was no housing. The city reported that the shelter was housing 1,000 animals at the time.
  • The owner of Angel’s Gate animal hospice was charged with cruelty to animals months after investigators searched the facility. The official investigation was prompted by an undercover investigation by PETA, which documented that paralyzed dogs were dragging themselves around until they developed bloody skin ulcers while their wheeled carts hung on a fence unused, animals with open wounds and respiratory infections were deprived of veterinary examinations and care, and animals were kept in diapers for several days, causing urine scald.
Examples like these abound when shelters are pressured to put lower euthanasia statistics above animals’ welfare.

Turning Animals Away

Promoting adoptions, utilizing foster homes and volunteers, and encouraging guardians to work through behavioral or other issues that may otherwise cause them to relinquish their animals are all good policies that every shelter should follow. But when the shelter is full and there is no place to put even one more animal, what does a “no-kill” shelter do? Most simply refuse to take animals in, which leaves them at the mercy of people who don’t want them. This, too, often results in tragedy:
  • At the Hancock County Animal Shelter in West Virginia, a man purposely ran over two kittens in the facility’s parking lot after being told that the shelter couldn’t accept them.
  • At the Venango County Humane Society in Pennsylvania, a man who tried to surrender his dog threw the dog from his truck and repeatedly ran over him after being told that he needed to make an appointment and come back later.
  • After being told she would have to come back another day because the Mahoning County Dog Pound in Ohio did not have room for four dogs for whom she could no longer care, the animals were abandoned in a nearby nature preserve, including an epileptic Chihuahua in need of medication.
  • A Mississippi news outlet reported that some animals who are turned away from “no-kill” shelters are then “dumped alongside roads, abandoned at a neighbor’s house or shot and killed.” As a woman took her three dogs to an open-admission shelter, her husband said, “It was either that or shoot them.”
It’s true that “no-kill” shelters don’t euthanize animals, but by turning animals away, they sometimes condemn these same animals to terrifying, painful, and violent deaths. Open-admission animal shelters accept every dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, rat, and any other animal who comes through their doors. They don’t pick and choose, accepting only the young, healthy, behaviorally sound animals who might be quickly adopted. They pledge to help every animal in need, even when the best they can offer is a painless release from an uncaring world. Please support open-admission shelters and help end the need to euthanize animals for lack of good homes by having your animals spayed or neutered and by urging everyone you know to do the same.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Benghazi Coverup

I frankly don't care what happened in Benghazi. 4 people were killed. I regret that. But I look at the big picture.

The Republicans and Fox News talk about Benghazi non-stop. 4 people were killed. Suppose it was all Obama's fault, or Clinton's fault.

Benghazi dead: 4

But Obama ended the war in Iraq. 4,493 people died there. Bush was responsible for that. So we could make a little arithmetic problem that even Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina can understand:

Bush responsible for deaths in combat: 4.493
Obama responsible for deaths in combat: 4

But of course, Obama also ended the war in Afghanistan. 3,387 people died there.

Also, Bush ignored intelligence warnings that a terrorist organization was planning to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. This led to the 9/11 attacks that resulted in 2,996 deaths.

Bush responsible deaths in Iraq:              4,493
Bush responsible deaths in Afghanistan: 3,387
Bush responsible deaths on 9/11:            2,996
Bush responsible deaths total:               10,876

So we have the totals here from my special investigation of deaths caused by US Presidents:

Bush: 10,876
Obama:      4

All right, Republicans. You've spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours investigating 4 deaths in Benghazi. Now tell us what you've done to investigate the 10,876 deaths caused by Republican lies and stupidity in the Bush administration.