Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Health Care Haves and Have Nots

Right now, I'm thrilled to live in California. We have a well functioning state health care exchange. As as result, I and millions of others fortunate enough to live in a state where their politicians care about their citizens, will retain our stable health care premiums.

Conversely, people in those states mostly run by Republicans that see their citizens as worthless pawns to sacrifice in bizarre political games face massive, and mostly unaffordable, increases in their premiums. Republicans, of course, are jubilant and plan to blame the premium increases that they have caused on Democrats.

The end result, which is entirely the goal of Republicans, is to divide the nation in half. The half with Democratic leadership will be healthier, more prosperous, and happier. The Republican half will be sicker, poorer, more miserable, and angrier. As Ted Cruz can tell you, poor and angry people are the most fertile ground for growing Tea Party fanatics.

Reality Check: The ruling by a three judge panel will be stayed and referred to the entire D.C. Circuit Court which will over turn the ruling by the two partisan Republican judges. Republicans, in turn, will appeal that judgement to the Supreme Court where the odds are, by the same 5-4 vote, they will reaffirm their judgement on the ACA. At the same time, Democrats will introduce simple legislation in the Senate to correct the problem, block Republican efforts to amend the hell out of it, and pass it onto the House which will bury it deeper than Argonaut Mine (in California, over a mile deep).

Friday, July 18, 2014

California - Drought or the New Normal?

California. Lush, beautiful, a land of orchards and fields. Is that all just history? Is California now just a big desert?
Folsom Lake was built a half century ago to hold a million acre-feet of water (One acre-foot is enough water for a family of four for an entire year). The levels are higher now than this photo, when the reservoir was at 17% of capacity, but still low.
Ironically, this sign at Folsom Lake was not intended to be low comedy.

Oroville Lake is the keystone of the California Water Project that ships water to agriculture, industrial, and residential users throughout the state. At 3.5 million acre-feet maximum capacity, it is the largest reservoir in the state. It currently sits at just a third of that capacity.

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, is at its lowest level since the reservoir was first filled during the Great Depression. The water level is 100 feet below its average and just 75 feet above the lowest limit where water can be pumped out of that ever shrinking mud hole.

Speaking of the Colorado River, by the time it crosses the border between the United States and Mexico, that once mighty river has ceased to exist. That broad expanse of desert pictured above is all that is left of the Colorado River delta.

But all is not lost. If you are a millionaire you can find all the fresh water you could ever want extravagantly wasted on the high-end golf courses of Palm Springs. Pictured is the TPC at La Quinta.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The California Divide Initiative

The plan to cut up California into six different states is just another example of a billionaire, Tim Draper, who needs to have his taxes raised because he has way more money than good sense. This initiative did not come out of any popular desire for a break up, although it does reference a couple of long standing regional gripes. There was no actual thinking or planning. It's just an initiative born of an egoist and his money.
1. Silicon Valley
Besides being a silly name for a state, this is the only reason for the initiative. Draper's real goal is a separate country (probably called Draperstan) but, baby steps. The state of Silicon Valley would be, by far, the richest state in the nation with a per capita income twice that of New York State.

2. Jefferson
Logging interests in Northern California have long wanted to break away from the rest of the state and join with logging interests in southern Oregon to form a new state. The effort was never more than a joke when it began in 1941.

3. Southern California
Conservatives from Orange and San Diego counties have long hated sharing a state with Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Of course, when Ronald Reagan was governor it was LA and SF who wanted to cut Orange and San Diego out of the state.

4. Central California
Central Valley farmers resent the fact that so much water passes through their region on the way to SoCal without them getting their fair share (they believe their fair share is all of it).

5. West California
An irrational construct into which Draper dumps the rest of the LA metroplex that isn't Orange County.

6. Northern California
An even more irrational construct that make no geographic sense whatsoever.

If, by some perverse miracle, this initiative passes it will fuck up all the water allocations within the state. The Colorado River compact is for the entire state of California. Nevada and Arizona will demand renegotiation and a much bigger share of the river. The Los Angeles Aqueduct starts in the Owens Valley, which would be in a different state that will want to keep that water.

I can't wait to see the TV commercials on this initiative.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dog Days of Politics

These are the dog days of summer, so called because the Dog Star, Sirus, is in the night sky. It is also the time of year that politicians get bored and do abysmally stupid things to get attention.
  • There has been a rash of blatant racism, and the N-word, in public discourse. Perhaps the most amusing was a Chamber of Commerce press conference in Wisconsin where a speaker complained that "a n****r" was in charge in Washington.
  • Republicans have begun their traditional second term "Impeach the Democratic president" activities flavored this time by plans to sue President Obama for, literally, everything he has ever done.
  • A half century ago during Freedom Summer people fought, and died, to gain the right for blacks to vote in Mississippi. Today, Radical Republicans are aggressively pushing the political theory that blacks voted illegally last month.
Chris McDaniel objects.
  • The three Supreme Court justices (Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) who belong to a radical Catholic sect that believe the government should impose religious law on everyone, frequently get their way in the summer session probably because the mainstream Catholic conservatives (Roberts and Kennedy) are more compliant in the heat. Therefore, the summer rulings tend to have a sharia law flavor.
  • Summer is the traditional killing season in Iraq. This year is no different but, at least, this year Americans are not doing most of the killing. A fact Republicans find intolerable.
  • Summer is also the traditional killing season in the Gaza Strip where the Israel Defense Force bombs that densely populated region, killing a few Hamas combatants along with a whole lot of innocent civilians.

Monday, June 30, 2014

French Quarter Tourist Shooting

Thanks to Bobby Jindal and a rubber stamp legislature, gun laws in Louisiana are so loose they would make any 19th century resident of Dodge City cower in terror. It is perfectly legal to wander down Bourbon Street in New Orleans carrying a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a loaded gun in the other.

The result was on display this weekend when two men got into an argument in the famed French Quarter, both unholstered their guns and began firing. Nine innocent tourists where shot in the melee, two critically. The police only showed up after the carnage was over and they spent their time putting up yellow tape and walking back and forth examining pools of blood and listening to the moans of the injured.

Thanks to Jindal, it is legal to carry guns almost everywhere in the state, including businesses that serve both food and alcohol. It is legal to load your gun with explosive bullets, as long as you are carrying under five pounds. Louisiana has the highest rate of death by gun in the United States, 72 people are shot to death every month (per capita, that is five times higher than Massachusetts). Jindal describes this as a "Sportsman's Paradise."

I guess, if you describe "sportsmen" as "maniacs with lethal weapons," he's right.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tea Party Protests Blacks Voting

Lots of Tea Partiers are outraged that Thad Cochran (R-Miss) appealed to African-Americans in winning his runoff election. The Tea Party had send "poll watchers" to try to intimidate blacks trying to vote. Echoing the Jim Crow era, Sarah Palin is now charging that blacks voted illegally.

Some Tea Partiers say blacks who voted for Cochran who don't intend to vote for him in the general election are criminals. There are vague suggestions that Mississippi law requires the state to compel blacks who voted in the runoff to vote for the Republican or risk prison.

There are no reports of blacks who voted being lynched. Yet. But the Tea Party candidate, Chris McDaniel, is a renown neo-Confederate with ties to the KKK.

It's a weird, and totally frightening, return to the Mississippi of 100 years ago.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Satan a God?

Last night I had a dream where I debated the polytheism of Christianity with one of those door-to-door religion salesmen where I made this point. It was so much fun I'm kinda hoping an annoying bible thumper knocks on my door this weekend. There are so many delicious points to make.

Christians Are Polytheists
Especially Catholics.

Chock Full of Saints
Starting at the bottom, there are over 10,000 canonized saints in the Catholic pantheon. They are prayed to, worshiped, and intercede in the lives of mortals. That is the definition of a god. Because they are deified mortals with a limited focus they are exact parallels of the petty Greek Gods. Aristaeus for the Greeks and St. Ambrose for Catholics are the patron gods of beekeepers.

Lots of Little Angels
Christians believe there are billions of angels watching over us, protecting us, and frequently doing a shitty job of it. They are in numbers and job description just wood nymphs and house elves.

Archangels Among Us
If Jehovah is the supreme god, like Zeus, then archangels are lesser gods created by the supreme god then they are like Ares and Athena. They are immortals and superior to humans but not, themselves human. They are spirits that can take both human and non-human form. There are seven named archangels in most Christian sects; Roman Catholics have fewer while Mormons add more.

Lucifer Makes Eight
The biggest problem with any truly monotheistic religion is that there is no antagonist. Heroes need anti-heroes, otherwise you have a damn boring religion. Lucifer wants to dethrone Jehovah and rule all of creation. We are not talking about the Pine Crest Little League All-Stars challenging the New York Yankees. He thought he had a legitimate shot at pulling off a coup. This is a contest of near equals, more like the Boston Red Sox against the Yankees. What is nearly equal to a supreme being god? Why another god, of course.

Council of Gods
Facing a hard case who believes the Bible is infallible holy scripture. Refer him to Psalm 82:1. Right there in the Bible, Yahweh is sitting at the head of a Divine Council addressing his fellow "elohim." Elohim is a Hebrew word meaning "gods." Plural.

Satan is a god, like Loki or Kali. He is the equal, or nearly equal, to the creator god, Yahweh (aka Jehovah). Yahweh hold court with the other gods of the firmament known to us collectively as the archangels.  Beneath these dukes of heaven, if you will, are a massive population of lesser spirits and demons that any good pagan religion would also call gods.

By the by, Islam is also polytheist believing in jinns (demons made from smokeless fire), angels (slaves to Allah), and the devil (called Iblis). Although their creator god does not have a Divine Council and his opponents are mostly humans who defy him. But being all-powerful means that Allah is rather capricious, inflicting evil on innocents just to test them. Basically, he treats humans like they were his lab rats.