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Discriminating Discrimination

This is a new one. Republicans have introduced a bill that prevents states from discriminating against religious organizations that discriminate. So if a faith-based organization discriminates against someone (because of their religious beliefs), then the state can’t discriminate against that organization by reducing funding to them.

It was bad enough when the “religious beliefs” of companies (like Hobby Lobby) trumped the religious beliefs of their employees. But now religious organizations can discriminate against the people they are being paid to serve, and the states can’t do anything about it.


Fractured Flickers

As a sign of how fractured the Republican party has become, a Republican group called the American Action Network (with ties to the House GOP leadership) is funding advertising against sitting Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert. The ads say:

Global threats against our security are increasing … and some in Washington are playing political games with our national security. Tell Congressman Gohmert: Fund Homeland Security.

Gohmert voted against funding DHS, saying that any funding resolution must include language that restricts President Obama’s immigration executive order. So in effect, the Republican group is advocating for Obama.

Will wonders never cease?


Late Night Political Humor

“How many of you watched the Oscars last night? And how many of you are still watching it?” – Seth Meyers

“I don’t want to say the Oscars ran long but the kid from ‘Boyhood’ just moved into a senior living facility.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I don’t want to say the Oscars ran long, but the best picture Oscar was awarded on ‘Good Morning America’.” – Seth Meyers

“All I could think of all day yesterday while watching all of the Oscar-related shows was how much I miss football.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“The ratings for last night’s Academy Awards hit a six-year low. So few people saw the Oscars that it’s been nominated for an Oscar.” – Seth Meyers

“The Oscar telecast went smoothly. It helped that Bradley Cooper was in the balcony with a rifle in case any of the speeches went on too long.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“During her Oscar acceptance speech, Patricia Arquette called for equal pay for women. Then Oprah stood up and said, ‘She’s right, I can’t live like this. I can’t take another second of this living hell.'” – Conan O’Brien



Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

Dan Perkins is a genius.

I absolutely cannot believe that our national media was obsessed with what Rudy Giuliani said, about whether our president loves our country. Seriously? It is the kind of thing 12-year-old kids would argue. Wait, it actually is!


Late Night Political Humor

“Sunday is the 87th annual Academy Awards. It’s the time of year when all the biggest movie stars get together and try to piece together what happened after they blacked out at the Golden Globes.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Academy Awards are passed out on Sunday. It’s voted by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Or as I call them, 50 shades of white.” – David Letterman

“I heard that this year’s Oscar nominee gift bags are each worth over $167,000 and include items like free luxury car rentals and a stay at a five-star hotel in Tuscany. As opposed to the Emmys, where we get an AOL CD and two loose Twizzlers.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama is giving fourth graders and their families free admission to [National] parks for a year. You can tell kids don’t get outside enough, because the last time they saw a sunset they said, ‘Hey, there’s that thing I saw on Instagram.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“The FCC has delayed the decision on the Time/Warner Comcast merger. So how do you think those folks like being put on hold?” – David Letterman

“Kim Jong Un shaved his eyebrows and got his hair sticking right up. How would you like the leader of your country looking like Lady Gaga? Even Dennis Rodman told him he looks weird.” – David Letterman



One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it promotes disintermediation, also known as “cutting out the middlemen“. This can happen for more conventional products, where websites like eBay directly connect sellers and buyers.

But on the Internet, the primary product is content: music, video, information, opinion, etc. And net neutrality is a boon to both creators and consumers of content. Not so long ago, someone who wanted to create a TV show had to sell it to one of three networks, who acted as gatekeepers. Later, they had to sell it to a cable channel.

Likewise for movies. If you were an aspiring director the gatekeepers were the movie studios. If you were a musician, the gatekeepers were the record labels. Once upon a time, the TV networks, movie studios, and record labels were the heart and soul of Hollywood. So it is marvelous to see that Hollywood is cheering the new FCC net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality is a boon to writers, actors, musicians, and other content producers. New outlets like Netflix,, and YouTube “have sparked a surge in entertainment jobs that has helped drive employment in Hollywood to the highest level in a decade.”

Don’t underestimate the tectonic size of the shift in media consumption brought on by the Internet, even for more traditional content. For example, around 70% of the audience for the NBC show “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” watches it online. This makes the audience larger, because viewers can watch it when and where they want (rather than sitting in front of a TV set at 11:35pm when it airs).

The people who will benefit the most from net neutrality are the next generation of content producers, who have turned directly to the Internet as a way to reach consumers. For example, Christopher J Smith, who created an innovative faux documentary series that is distributed online, says “There’s no reason that anyone that creates content should be filtered by a fast track or a slow track. The Internet, when it’s the open platform it was designed to be, allows for a sense of equality — and for folks like me, ownership — that is not the norm in Hollywood.”

Another content producer makes a show that is distributed directly on YouTube. “I didn’t need anybody’s permission. You can make stuff, put it online and go directly to an audience.”

Net neutrality is also good for diversity, making it easier for Latino, Black, and Asians to create content and reach consumers. For example, the National Hispanic Media Coalition began lobbying five years ago for net neutrality. “We were unhappy in how we were underrepresented and stereotyped on the traditional media networks. We saw the Internet as a tremendous tool to share our stories and help organize our community for social justice.”

The Nib


Kicking the Can

For people who thought that Congress couldn’t get any more disfunctional — you were wrong. As the Daily Beast put it:

It used to be that Congress was broken, and was forced to repeatedly kick the can down the road. Now it seems that Congress can’t even properly kick the can down the road.

The first few steps happened as they have in the past, but with a new twist. As they did when they didn’t control Congress, Republicans attached some bizarre demand to an almost completely unrelated bill that had to be passed, just daring the Democrats not to pass it.

In this case, what remains of the GOP Tea Party faction is incensed that Obama is not immediately deporting every last illegal immigrant out of this country, even though kicking out over 10 million people (3.5% of the US population) is not just a virtually impossible task, but also one that would severely damage our economy (not to mention our landscaping!).

So what does the GOP crazy wing do? They threaten to defund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unless Obama gives in to their ultimatum. Yes, they are willing to sacrifice the security of the US in order to piss off Latino voters (the people who Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush desperately need to court for the presidential election).

Never mind that while US Citizenship and Immigration Services is part of DHS, it is almost completely funded by fees from its users, so defunding DHS would have no effect at all on deporting illegal immigrants (if anything, lack of funding would make it more difficult).

So Congress tried to kick the can down the road for three weeks. Three measly weeks, and they couldn’t even do that. In the end, with less than two hours to go before DHS funding expired, they managed to punt the issue for seven days; then they have to try again.

Instead of rebuking Obama, it was Speaker John Boehner who was embarrassed as conservatives in his caucus once again showed how little control he has over the far-right Tea Party faction in the House.

Even Republicans are disgusted.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk called for an end of “attaching bullshit to essential items of the government.” And Rep. Peter King, former chairman on the House Homeland Security Committee, slammed a potential lapse of DHS funding as “wrong politically” and “wrong morally.”

Meanwhile, during the next seven days we will have the spectacle of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before Congress as part of his re-election campaign. So if you thought that now it can’t get any worse, you are still going to be wrong. Very wrong.


Late Night Political Humor

“Jeb Bush gave a speech yesterday. He had a pretty rough time. He accidentally said that ISIS has 200,000 men instead of 20,000, and then he mispronounced the name of the terrorist group Boko Haram. So if history has taught us anything, Jeb is well on his way to winning the White House.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday during a speech on national security, Jeb Bush mispronounced Boko Haram and got confused between Iran and Iraq. When reached for comment, his brother George W. said, ‘He sure sounds presidentiary to me.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Do you know who is ready to go with the presidential campaign? Jeb Bush. Jeb already has plans to end the war in Iraq that his brother started. All he needs is a hot tub time machine.” – David Letterman

“The Oscars are this Sunday. Host Neil Patrick Harris said he hopes the broadcast will include a ‘Kanye moment’. Unfortunately a Kanye moment may not be possible because that would require a black person to be at the Oscars.” – Conan O’Brien

“Sunday is the Academy Awards. Every time an actor says, ‘I didn’t expect this,’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg will do a shot.” – David Letterman

“Gallup, the polling company, released its annual well-being index where they rank the health and happiness of residents of each of the 50 states. Alaska finished first and Hawaii was No. 2. It’s interesting that the top two happiest states are the ones that are farthest away from the rest of us.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“During a trial in Brooklyn this week, it was revealed that a member of al-Qaida posed as a woman to attract less attention from authorities. It would have worked better if he had remembered to shave his beard.” – Jimmy Fallon


Neutrality for the Win!

Today, the FCC made two important decisions that will have a profound effect on the future of the internet.

Most widely reported is their vote to reclassify the internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the communications act. The immediate impact is that telecoms cannot charge extra for internet “fast lanes”. All traffic must be treated equally, which is the whole point of “net neutrality”.

Title II allows regulation of prices of telecommunication services, but the FCC has explicitly promised that they will not do this for broadband service.

Also today, the FCC voted to allow public broadband providers to compete against commercial internet providers. This allows cities to provide municipal broadband networks for their citizens, and overturns a bunch of state laws banning local governments from building or owning broadband services.

Personally, as someone who makes his living from the internet, I think these two decisions are VERY good news. In my opinion, the telecoms have done a terrible job providing fast internet to US citizens. The FCC decisions are a good balance between limiting the monopoly powers of the telecoms while leaving the internet free enough to continue to innovate.

Not surprisingly, the vote at the FCC split precisely down party lines.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has a good article about the issues. Also includes a good quote from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who attended the FCC meeting and afterward said that the FCC action is “an indication that the people can sometimes win. This is a victory for the people, the consumers, the average Joes.” And indeed, if you look at the companies supporting the FCC decision, they are innovators like NetFlix and Twitter, while those opposed are the old-guard monopolies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.


We’re Not in Kansas, Toto!

I’ve posted a number of stories (here, here, or here) about the conservative experiment going on in Kansas sponsored by the Koch brothers. It involves (in case you can’t guess) massive tax cuts for business (they pay no taxes), and massive cuts in education, roads, and social services.

Ultra-conservative governor Sam Brownback predicted “enormous prosperity” for the state. Instead their economy is going to hell in a handbasket, accompanied by massive deficits, high unemployment, and – perhaps worst of all – being made fun of by The Daily Show.

But there has to be a silver lining, somewhere. And there is, a few states away in Minnesota. In 2010, that state elected billionaire Mark Dayton to be their governor and now they have one of the best economies in the country. Dayton also turned a $6.2 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus. How did he do it?

He raised taxes on the rich. Minnesota now has the 4th highest tax rate in the US.

He raised the state minimum wage, and passed a law guaranteeing equal pay for women. Minnesota’s median income is now $8,000 more than the national average.

He made education a budget priority. One third of the budget surplus is going to public schools.

That’s right, Dayton did all those things that right-wingers say will kill jobs and make businesses move somewhere else. But the opposite happened. In fact, Forbes recently ranked Minnesota the 9th-best state for business, and the state’s economic growth is one of the highest in the US.

But comparing Minnesota to Kansas is like comparing apples to oranges, right? Well then, how about comparing Minnesota to Minnesota? The previous governor of Minnesota was Tim Pawlenty, a former Republican candidate for president who called himself Minnesota’s first true fiscal conservative in modern history, and prided himself on never raising taxes. Yes, he’s the schmuck who left the state with the $6.2 billion deficit. And employment in the state increased by a measly 6,200 jobs during his eight year tenure as governor.

Under Dayton, in the last four years the state added 172,000 jobs.

But Kansas still believes in trickle-down economics. And if you have an opinion to the contrary, you better keep it to yourself.


Instant News

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

One of the things I love about doing a blog is that it gives me the luxury of waiting until the initial internet and 24-hour news hysteria dies down. That way I can do a bit of reading, investigating, and thinking. Of course, my job is to find the irony, hypocrisy, and just plain humor in the situation. I leave actual news to others!


Agressive Obama?

Speaking of ISIS, according to Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), the Obama administration is “more aggressive toward Americans, Republicans, conservatives, Christians” than toward ISIS.

First, how many bombing runs has Obama made against ISIS? Around a thousand or so?

How many bombing runs has Obama made against Republicans, conservatives, or Christians?

Second, how many terrorist attacks have been committed by right-wing extremists? Not counting anything prior to the 2001 September 11 attacks (which means we leaving out things like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others), right-wing extremists have committed at least eight lethal terrorist attacks in the US.

How many terrorist attacks has ISIS carried out in the US?

Third, how aggressive was the US government against left-wing groups during the anti-war and civil rights movements? Way more than anything that has ever been done against right-wing groups in this country.


What ISIS Really Wants

There is a somewhat long, but fascinating article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood, which explains something that the mainstream media has gotten totally wrong.

What is ISIS (or ISIL, or Islamic State, or whatever the press is calling it this week)? What motivates them? Why are they beheading fellow Muslims? Why are some Muslims flocking to join them and other Muslims condemning them? Or as the article puts it:

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

If you have any interest in understanding what is going on in the Middle East, I urge you to read it. After all, we have no chance of defeating them unless we have at least a passing understanding of them and their motivations.


Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama spent Monday playing a round of golf in sunny California, and then flew back to Washington on Air Force One. And 10,000 people stranded at Boston’s Logan Airport just became Republicans.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama has appointed a new head of the Secret Service. The new Secret Service director was so excited that he jumped over the White House fence for joy.” – Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday a federal judge suspended President Obama’s executive order on immigration. When asked if he’s mad about being overruled, Obama said, ‘You know I’ve been married for 23 years, right?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“First lady Michelle Obama revealed that she has banned boxed macaroni and cheese from the White House. It’s been tough on Biden because he couldn’t make his wife any jewelry for Valentine’s Day.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A recent poll shows that New Jersey residents feel Hillary Clinton has the ‘right look’ to be president, while Chris Christie does not. Then today, Christie was spotted at JCPenney, trying on pantsuits.” – Seth Meyers

“Last night during a speech, Chris Christie said, ‘There’s only one Chris Christie, and this is it.’ I don’t know. It still looks like at least two.” – Seth Meyers

“Chris Christie addressed recent stories about his change in personality and said, ‘There’s only one Chris Christie.’ He said the only time there are two Chris Christies is when he’s buying seats on a plane.” – Jimmy Fallon

“I spent the past four days in Cuba shooting a special episode of this show. I returned and today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Cuba, which explains why the Cuban government asked America to ‘please stop sending us your ambiguously popular celebrities.'” – Conan O’Brien

“I had an amazing experience in Cuba. People there are fantastic. But I do have to say it’s very nice to be back home in front of all of you capitalist pigs.” – Conan O’Brien

“Congress is considering a law that would allow commuters to bring their dogs and cats on Amtrak trains. It’s all part of their plan to make Amtrak smell better.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Ukrainian officials say that while Vladimir Putin was announcing a ceasefire agreement today, over a hundred Russian military vehicles and weapons crossed into Ukrainian territory. Said Putin, ‘Is not Ukraine. Is My-kraine’.” – Seth Meyers


Oklahoma Education

Jon Rosenberg
© Jon Rosenberg

It really is true. An Oklahoma legislator is successfully pushing a bill to ban the teaching of an advanced American History course because it is not patriotic enough. He claims that the AP history course focuses on “what is bad about America” and fails to teach “American exceptionalism”. Considering that Oklahoma was the destination of the infamous “Trail of Tears”, rewriting their history to avoid negative things might be a bit difficult.

The bill also includes a long list of documents that would be required to be taught, including several Christian sermons like “A Model of Christian Charity”, and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

The bill’s sponsor is part of a group that is dedicated to tearing down the “false wall of separation of church and state.” So apparently he isn’t very well acquainted with actual US history.