2010-12-27

Climate Scientist Responds to Monckton

If you want a deeper understanding of the science, or just want to watch Lord Monckton get nailed, check this out.

Global Warming and the Sun

Cribbed from Slashdot:

"While we are well along into solar cycle 24, there remains a significant gap between the predictions of where we should be, and where we actually are in the progression of the cycle. Recently, the sun went spotless again, and the solar Ap geomagnetic index, an indicator of the solar magneto, hit zero. It is something you really don't expect to see this far along into the cycle. In other solar news, scientists monitoring the SORCE solar satellite have found that solar ultraviolet emissions have dropped significantly in the past few years. The Solar Irradiance Monitor on the satellite 'suggests that ultraviolet irradiance fell far more than expected between 2004 and 2007 — by ten times as much as the total irradiance did — while irradiance in certain visible and infrared wavelengths surprisingly increased, even as solar activity wound down overall.'"
Oh dear.  This continued minimum will continue to hide the CO2-forced temperature increases, further dooming us.  Great.

2010-12-19

Sarah Palin Hunting



She doesn't know how to load the gun. She doesn't know how much kick to expect. She can't hit the animal cleanly, ensuring a kill. That's "Real America."

Apparently it's not as easy to kill things when you're not shooting wolves from a helicopter with a shotgun, where the shot-pattern is going to be 15 feet in diameter and leave the animal writhing in agony to a slow death. Go Sarah Palin.

2010-12-12

Zakaria vs Beck

Oh, Fareed. You sexy, sexy man.



Well done.

2010-12-01

Anderson Cooper with the Definitive Birther Beatdown

Ouch. This one stings.



I ended up feeling bad for the poor crazy Birther.

The Confederate Party - Steve King Edition

Rep Steve King is one of the crazies, but this is raising the bar even for him:
"Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president, and what does he do? He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim."

"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.' That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim."
THE PRESIDENT IS BLACK! LIKE, SUPER BLACK. BLACK BLACK BLACK!

Does it even need to be said that his argument is idiotic?  He's claiming there are more claimants than there are farmers, but of course the whole point is that USDA discrimination against black farmers caused many of them to lose their farms!  And just because the class of affected people are black by definition, doesn't make it slavery reparations.  What about all the descendants of slaves who weren't farmers during the 80s and 90s?  Wouldn't they have to be included as well to make this slavery reparations?

It's like they don't even try to make honest arguments.  It's so monumentally frustrating.

The Confederate Party

The new House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, is supporting a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow states to overturn federal laws. Here's Cantor:
The Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around. In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction.
They are still the Confederate Party. Hell, just call it Nullification already.

2010-11-22

Shimkus Expands on his Theological lack of fear

My God, Rep. Shimkus is an idiot. Local news gave him an extended interview about his theological views, and how they bear on policy. Here's the video:

 

And here is a breif response to his core points:

"The climate change debate is based on the premise that the earth is going to be destroyed."

IDIOT.

"When the end times come, that'll be at God's hand, it's not going to be based on some faulty premise of carbon monoxide melting all the glaciers and flooding the earth. Of course, that's the genesis story."

IDIOT.

"Even if you believe in evolution, the climate has changed through history and it's going to continue. To think that man can control the world's temperature, I find very arrogant."

IDIOT.

"All we're asking for is the scientific theory to be presented - and it *is* just a theory. A theory is defined as an educated guess, and until they do that, it is not proven."

IDIOT.

I'll leave the explanations of idiocy as an exercise for the reader.

2010-11-09

Meet the New Energy Chairman!

This genius is running for the Chairmanship of the Energy Committee:



He believes that man can't hurt our environment since God said that he would never send another flood to destroy the world. And he's going to be making policy that should be based on science.

2010-11-08

Climate Science since 1956

An interesting video showcasing the understanding of Global Warming we've had since 1956.



It's just shocking that people aren't serious about this problem.  It's like the Is-Tobacco-Bad-For-You Debate, except in this case the pro-Tobacco scientists are winning.

2010-10-26

Curb Stomping

Holy crap. A Republican in KY literally curb-stomped a woman protester.



Holy Crap.

I'm sure there's examples of Democrats doing the same thing, though, right? Cuz there's anger on both sides... right?

2010-10-23

8 Things People Shouldn't Know

This is awesome. I'm simply quoting in full:

There are a number things the public "knows" as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs.
Here are eight of the biggest myths that are out there:
1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush's last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama's first reduced that to $1.29 trillion.
2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the "stimulus" was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.
3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the "stimulus" with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be "non-reviewable by any court or any agency.") The bailouts passed and beganbefore the 2008 election of President Obama.
4) The stimulus didn't work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.
5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.
6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.
7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is "going broke," people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.
8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on "welfare" and "foreign aid" when that is only a small part of the government's budget.
This stuff really matters.
If the public votes in a new Congress because a majority of voters think this one tripled the deficit, and as a result the new people follow the policies that actually tripled the deficit, the country could go broke.
If the public votes in a new Congress that rejects the idea of helping to create demand in the economy because they think it didn't work, then the new Congress could do things that cause a depression.
If the public votes in a new Congress because they think the health care reform will increase the deficit when it is actually projected to reduce the deficit, then the new Congress could repeal health care reform and thereby make the deficit worse. And on it goes.

2010-10-21

What Science is Like

Someone has an idea that might be crazy, but might explain things - in this case, a theory of a holographic universe:

"Scientists at Fermilab have decided that it's high time they build a 'holometer' to test the smoothness of space-time. Theoretical physicists like Stephen Hawking have proposed that space-time is not smooth but it's been a lot of math and no actual data. By building two relatively small devices that act as "holographic interferometers" to measure the shaking or vibration in split beams of light traveling through a vacuum. If the team finds the shaking in their measurements and records them, the theory of a holographic universe will have some evidence of non-smoothness in space-time and perhaps a foothold in bringing light to the heavily debated theoretical physics."

That's science. Take your potentially crazy idea, figure out a prediction it makes, and then figure out how to test that prediction. If all of these components are not present, what you're looking at isn't Science.

2010-10-03

Good News Poll!

The people trust the Democrats more than Republicans on every issue save Terrorism:
Simply put, in the NEWSWEEK Poll, voters said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle pretty much every problem currently facing the country: Afghanistan (by 6 points), health care (by 12), immigration (by 2, though that figure is within the margin of error), Social Security (by 14), unemployment (by 12), financial reform (by 14), energy (by 19), and education (by 19). Voters even prefer Democrats to Republicans on federal spending (by 4 points), taxes (by 5), and the economy (by 10) -- the GOP's core concerns. The only area where Republicans outpoll Democrats is the issue of terrorism, where they lead by a 6-point margin.

Still, voters are split on which party should control Congress after November -- 44 percent went for Republicans, 46 percent for Democrats -- and most experts are predicting sizable Republican gains in both the House and the Senate.
The first paragraph is awesome. The second paragraph is a sign of our broken political/media system. It takes quite a sustained effort at distortion to make Americans vote for the party they trust less.

2010-10-01

GOP Blows Up the Deficit

From the GOP's Pledge to America: "We offer a plan to stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of the government."


You can read their unimpeachable methodology here.

2010-09-23

GOP's Pledge With America

One more data point in the "GOP isn't even trying with minorities anymore" theme that I documented previously here.  Check out this collage of all the photos in the newly released Pledge With America, and see who is missing:


That's right.  One black woman out of hundreds of whites.  It's Southern Strategy all the way for the GOP.

2010-09-10

Quran Burning Wackos

From the TN pastor who is going to burn a Quran today, about the FL nutjob backing off:
"That shows how strong his convictions are," Old said, according to The Tennessean. "My event is about establishing who is God and who is not God. I will be burning a Quran, I'm not going to change my mind no matter who calls me."
I'm most interested in the "establishing who is God and who is not God" part.  Burning the Quran establishes that Allah is not God?  So burning a Bible would establish that Yahweh is not God?  Really?

2010-09-08

Science Rules

This is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a while.  It's a timelapse simulation of asteroid discoveries between 1980 and 2010. You'll want to change the resolution to one of the HD options to see the full glory.

Imam Rauf Finally Weighs In

In an Op-Ed in the Times:
Lost amid the commotion is the good that has come out of the recent discussion. I want to draw attention, specifically, to the open, law-based and tolerant actions that have taken place, and that are particularly striking for Muslims.

President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.

The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift.
Duh?

Maybe it's the time I've spent living in radically different cultures than my own that makes this type of understanding trivial... I don't know.  I just can't understand how people can be so incapable of putting themselves in another's shoes.

2010-08-30

Data Points on the Muslim Thing, Ctd.

Via TPM:

I was just looking at this piece in a local paper about the as-yet-unconfirmed report of gunshots being fired at a mosque construction site in Murfreesboro when members of the congregation were inspecting damage from suspected arson-vandalism the night before.

Here's one of the comments ...

2010-08-29

More Data Points on the Muslim Thing

So the problem with the proposed Park51 community center in New York is it's proximity to Ground Zero, right?  Then why did opponents set fire to a Mosque in Tennessee.
Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson.

Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.
Biggoted Racists.

2010-08-26

Data Points on the Muslim Thing

A man walked into a mosque with a wine bottle in hand, shouted some lovely racial slurs, and pissed on the prayer rugs.

What fun this is.  Thank you, Republicans.

2010-08-25

"Are You A Muslim?" If Yes, Get Stabbed.

These are the wages of the divisive hatred that the professional right continually spews.

According to Detective Marc Nell, at 6:12 pm last night, the driver picked up Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, NY, at the intersection of 24th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The cab proceeded to drive north, and Enright asked the driver, who Nell identified as a 43-year-old Asian male, if he was Muslim. After the driver responded that he was, Enright allegedly stabbed him repeatedly with a Leatherman tool, according to police.
"[Enright] stabbed the driver in the throat, right arm, left forearm, right thumb and upper lip," Nell said.


From TPM:
Our reporter Eric Lach just spoke to the NYPD. They confirmed the key details of the story and said the attack will be charged as 2nd degree attempted murder and a hate crime. The suspect in the case is Michael Enright, 21. Full report soon.
"But we don't support violence!  We just think that Muslims aren't real Americans, that all Muslims are Jihadists, and that they want to dominate America with their Sharia Law!"


In fact, this crime reminds me of this near assault by the Tea Partiers:


2010-08-08

Evolutionary Computing, Ctd.

New Scientist points us to yet another amazing result in evolutionary computing.



Very cool.

2010-08-03

Inglis on the TeaParty

More from Inglis on meeting with his constituents:
I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, ‘What the heck are you talking about?’ I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, ‘You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!’ And I said, ‘Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things.’ And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.
Wow... I wish all defeated Republicans would do so much talking.

2010-08-01

Right Wing Terrorists, part 26

There was another right wing terrorist arrested this week after a shootout with the cops. He had loaded a mini arsenal into a pickup truck, and was heading to the ACLU and the Tides Foundation to "start a revolution."  Where have you heard of the Tides Foundation, you ask? Well, Hannity has mentioned it twice, but the only other person in the media to have mentioned it is Glenn Beck, who flogs it constantly.

Here's Dana Milbank, doing good work:
Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid." Most every broadcast has some violent imagery: "The clock is ticking. . . . The war is just beginning. . . . Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. . . . You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. . . . The other side is attacking. . . . There is a coup going on. . . . Grab a torch! . . . Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers. . . . They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. . . . They are putting a gun to America's head. . . . Hold these people responsible."

Beck has prophesied darkly to his millions of followers that we are reaching "a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out." One night on Fox, discussing the case of a man who killed 10 people, Beck suggested such things were inevitable. "If you're a conservative, you are called a racist, you want to starve children," he said. "And every time they do speak out, they are shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?"

Here's one idea: Stop encouraging them.
Those quotes are shocking. Of course, when someone does exactly what he constantly advocates, he throws his hands up and says he had nothing to do with it.

2010-07-28

Glenn Beck and Goldline, Visualized

The good people over at Ritholtz.com have produced this beauty:


It is, as you can see, quite huge.  Click on it to get the full version.  It's both informative and funny.

2010-07-27

Fox News and the Southern Strategy

John Chait on Fox News' renewed attempts to stir the Southern Strategy.  Keep in mind that this was written before the further validating example of Shirley Sherrod.
One of the very few impressive things about conservatives over the last few years is that their opposition to President Obama, though frequently unhinged, misinformed, hypocritical, or outright dishonest, has generally lacked much in the way of racial animus. Obviously you can find some exceptions -- Rush Limbaugh is a notable one, casting health care as "reparations" and trying to make his listeners fear that "in Obama's America," black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Limbaugh has largely been an exception against the general trend of de-racialized nuttiness on the right.

What you're starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama. The putative issue is the claim that the Obama Justice Department is failing to prosecute a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. If you're interested in the merits of the case, which are extremely flimsy, a good rundown can be found at Fourth Branch. Even if the conservative interpretation of this event were actually true, it's obviously a tiny matter. Nobody has produced a voter who even claims to have been intimidated -- the voters at the polling station were virtually all black anyway -- nor is there any credible claim of anything remotely approaching a systematic attempt to intimidate white voters at the polls.
It's a well made case.  Worth the read.

Southern Strategy, Alive and Well

From The Hill:
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested a hearing to investigate alleged racial bias within the Department of Justice, according to a letter sent Friday to committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The request came in relation to a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that was first prosecuted as a civil action in January 2009, then dismissed for two of the three defendants the following May. An injunction was issued for the last defendant.

House Judiciary Republicans also moved for further investigation on Thursday, urging President Obama in a letter to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for the case.
Remember, two of the last three RNC Chairmen admitted to using the Southern Strategy. The current RNC Chairman has said the GOP has been pursuing the strategy for "the last 40-plus years." Looks like it's sticking around.

Also, keep in mind that the New Black Panther story is completely made up.  So sayeth honest conservatives.

2010-07-24

A Liar Freaks Out

Ahhhh, good old Breitbart. Can we stop paying him any attention now?

2010-07-17

Final Word on New Black Panthers

Steve Bennen references the events in the items I posted earlier, then concludes with this, which I will quote to the end:

That should be the end of it, but in some Republican circles, this exceedingly dull story is being treated as a major scandal (at least, they're pretending to consider it a scandal, in the hopes of generating racial tensions before the midterm elections). In just the last few weeks, Fox News has aired 95 segments -- that's not a typo -- about the issue. Megyn Kelly, the hyper-partisan activist/anchor, not only aired 45 segments in 15 days, she lashed out at a conservative guest who dismissed the relevance of the story.
To his credit, Politico's Ben Smith ran a piece late yesterday that effectively ends the "controversy."
A scholar whom President George W. Bush appointed as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Abigail Thernstrom has a reputation as a tough conservative critic of affirmative action and politically correct positions on race.


But when it comes to the investigation that the Republican-dominated commission is now conducting into the Justice Department's handling of an alleged incident of voter intimidation involving the New Black Panther Party -- a controversy that has consumed conservative media in recent months -- Thernstrom has made a dramatic break from her usual allies.



"This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration," said Thernstrom, who said members of the commission voiced their political aims "in the initial discussions" of the Panther case last year.



"My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president," Thernstrom said in an interview with POLITICO.
Those pushing this garbage aren't exactly subtle in their intentions. Why hyperventilate about a two-year-old story that Bush's own Justice Department found too insignificant to care about? Because some Republicans hope to generate racial animus before the elections, trying to get white voters angry with the Obama administration.

Jon Chait explained this week, "What you're starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama.... There has been a great deal of right-wing insanity unleashed over the last year and a half, but this is the first time that the fear has an explicitly racial cast. You now have the largest organ of movement conservatism promoting Limbaugh's idee fixe that the Obama administration represents black America's historical revenge against whites."

It's as disgusting as anything we've seen from the right in the past 18 months.

2010-07-16

Bobby Jindal, Tool

Not only has Bobby Jindal refused to call up the full allotment of National Guard Troops Obama has put at his disposal, but he's also the main guy that pushed for the barrier islands.  "We could have had blah blah blah miles of islands constructed already, but the federal government wont let us!"  That's right, Bobby, technocrats who actually care how well a policy works, and not how much noise you can make about it on TV, consulted scientists and found the idea to be almost totally without merit.  Only a few barrier islands were allowed to be built... this is why:






Those pictures were taken on June 25, July 2, and July 7.  Brilliant.  In the course of  two weeks, those thousands of truckloads of precious sand washed away.  And they're not good at protecting marshes even if they weren't washing away so quickly.  From Discovery.com:
The trouble is, building such ramparts could choke off the marshes by impeding the natural ebb and flow of the tides. Fish and wildlife may not be able to access the fertile estuaries, which they use as breeding ground. And the whole delta is sinking anyway (while sea level rises), making it just a matter of time before the levees are over-topped by a strong storm.

"Building what they call 'the Louisiana wall' makes sense at first, but the science doesn't support it," Bahr said. "The science should be leading this issue, but it isn't. It never has."

Unfortunately, the berms project has charged ahead in this vein, seeking to build (and spend hundreds of millions of dollars) first, and ask questions later.
That's right, because Republicans don't give a damn about Science.  It's always telling them things they don't want to hear.  This is another case of deciding on the conclusion, then picking your argument to fit that conclusion.  This is how you twist yourself into a pretzel, and you get nonsense policy as a result.

2010-07-10

CNBC on the Jones Act

Wow.  You don't see this every day, but I wish to god we did:



What a beatdown.

2010-07-09

Re: Apologetics

This is the quote I've been thinking about for months, describing the process of religious apologetics:
When looking at the bible one must first assume god inspired the authors and preserved them from error and mistake.  The reader must start the process of inquiry by assuming a certain outcome - don't look for the most likely hypothesis suggested by the evidence, nor the one that is most likely straightforward or reasonable.  Start by believing that a certain conclusion is true and examine the evidence through the lens of that conclusion.  Ask yourself,  "what explanations or interpretations can I come up with that would allow me to maintain my belief that these texts are not contradictory."  If you can find any at all then you have succeeded in your task.  By implication, if you cannot, then the problem lays with you and not the text.
This is exactly the point I've been trying to make in regards to politics.  Too many people work backwards from the conclusion, with evidence be damned, and in the process are forced to contort themselves into partisan pretzels.

Deficit Reminder

Just a reminder from the Wall Street Journal about who is to blame for the deficit.


What was I thinking posting these facts?  We all know it's Obama's Debt!

Palin's Mama Grizzlies and Race

I wont link to the contentless, argument-free trash.  You've no doubt seen it.


The striking thing to me is the departure from what I've come to expect from GOP promo videos.  You need to have those strategically placed minority faces in order to try to fool some of them into thinking you're not the Party of Racists.  (Not elusively racist, of course, but if you're a Racist, you're almost certainly a Republican.)  Remember George W. Bush's Compassionate Conservatism Gallery at the White House?  Of the 21 photos, 19 were of President Bush talking to the blacks.


Anyway, I was struck by the distinct lack of non-white faces in that 2 minute Palin video.  At first I thought there weren't any minorities in the video, but I figured that couldn't be right.  So I went back scene by scene and counted, without recounting people from the same event twice.  I also didn't count Sarah every time she appeared.  I also didn't count white people that weren't clearly visible.  Of 340 people shown in that video, only four were nonwhite.  Two of those were security guards, and one of them only had a hand flash through the corner of the frame.  The remaining two brown people were both women, but both were part of the background of the scene, away from the focus of attention.


That's amazing.  It's like they're not even trying to hide it anymore.  Obama has driven them mad.

Rep Inglis(R) Is Now Free To Speak

Republican Representative Bob Inglis has been making a splash lately.  He lost his GOP primary because he had the gall to try to lead his constituents away from the fever swamps by telling them to "Turn turn the television off when Glenn Beck comes on."  Remember, Inglis was a 1994 Republican Revolutionary, and no moderate.  Of course, Rep. Inglis lost to his Tea Partying opponent.  There is no room in the Republican Party for anything but the most hard core conservatives.

Luckily for us, now that he's not beholden to his crazy-ass voters he's giving "straight-talk" to the AP:
Inglis, 50, who calls himself a Jack Kemp disciple because he has emphasized outreach to minorities as the late Republican congressman did, thinks racism is a part of the vitriol directed at President Barack Obama.

"I love the South. I'm a Southerner. But I can feel it," he said.
Racism. It's the Teapartiers, my friends.  When your spiritual leader is someone that's convinced Obama is ruining the economy on purpose in order to give him the chance to make reparations to the blacks for slavery, then Racism is par for the course.
"There were no death panels in the bill ... and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery," said Inglis, one of three Republican incumbents who have lost their seats in Congress to primary and state party convention challengers this year.

Inglis said voters eventually will discover that you're "preying on their fears" and turn away.
Ahhh, honesty. Refreshing.
"I think we have a lot of leaders that are following those (television and talk radio) personalities and not leading," he said. "What it takes to lead is to say, 'You know, that's just not right.'"

Inglis said the rhetoric also distracts from the real problems that politicians should be trying to resolve, such as budget deficits and energy security.

"It's a real concern, because I think what we're doing is dividing the country into partisan camps that really look a lot like Shia and Sunni," he said, referring to the two predominant Islamic denominations that have feuded for centuries. "It's very difficult to come together to find solutions."
Very nice, Rep Inglis. Way to Lead.  Better late than never.

Brown People Are Bad Risks


The short version of that chart is that the rich are defaulting at a way-higher rate than the lower classes.  I'm sure some libertarian apologetic will come out about how it was only the "forced lending to bad credit risks that Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton and their ilk forced the banks into with the CRA" that lead to the housing bubble, and that without the bubble, The Rich wouldn't default.

Apologetics... all that matters if if you can find a seemingly plausible series of steps from A to B.  Of course, the Apologists never see the contradictions their contortions force them into.

2010-07-08

Certainty and the New Black Panthers

I had a wonderful discussion today about the Black Panther voter intimidation with one of my conservative friends, and although I presented ample evidence and argument, his ultimate response was along the lines of "Well, I've got my interpretation and I'm sticking to it."  He would like to believe that Bush Administration lawyers acted to incorrectly protect the Black Panthers from an election tampering charge on the day Obama was elected, so he does.  It would require so many people acting against their political interests that it strains credulity, but he sticks to it.

Doesn't that strike you as religious thinking?

Well, here's another data point, from the conservative bastion National Review, making my case:
Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation -- the charge -- are very high.

In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only three Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far -- after months of hearings, testimony and investigation -- no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.

A number of conservatives have charged that the Philadelphia Black Panther decision demonstrates that attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have racial double standards. How many attorneys in what positions? A pervasive culture that affected the handling of this case? No direct quotations or other evidence substantiate the charge.

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes a perfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provision differently.
There you have it. As I said to my friend, the evidence just wasn't there for a conviction, so they left it at civil charges rather than criminal. The Obama Administration then went on to slap the baton-wielder with the maximum penalty still available.  How does that count as the Black President giving special favors to Blacks?

Oh wait, I forgot the rule: the National Review is probably a liberal plant!

GOP on the Side of BP, AGAIN

After the Barton appology to BP for Obama jawboning them into paying claims rather than dividends, we thought they had learned their lesson.

But now we find that the GOP has been blocking the extension of subpoena power to the commission investigating Deepwater Horizon and offshore drilling. Once again, they act to protect BP. Despicable.

2010-07-07

Boortz Call - Oil Leak Rebuttals

Neal just loves leaving out relevant facts.  Here I am adding some of those back into the discussion on the BP Oil Leak:



Specifically, he's been making flagrantly wrong accusations about the Jones Act and the US refusing help from other countries because they don't meet the EPA regulations.  It's just wrong.  (Of course, I flubbed the Jones Act regulation - I meant "inside 3 miles" instead of "outside 3 miles")

While I was at it, I threw in some information on the underutilization of National Guard troops.

He sure does love burning through my time with nonsense interruptions, doesn't he?

Mitt on START

Kaplan has a comprehensive takedown of Mitt Romney's critique on the new START treaty.

Senator Lugar(R) went to town on him as well.  Here's a quick quote:
Governor Mitt Romney's hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty in the July 6 edition of The Washington Post repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context. In advancing these arguments, he rejects the Treaty's unequivocal endorsement by the Defense Department led by Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also distances himself from prominent Republican national security leaders, including Jim Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft, who have backed the Treaty after thoughtful analysis.
Rough.

Boortz Call - Israeli Flotilla




Here I am calling in and giving Neal Boortz the business over the Flotilla incident.  I think I did well.  I even had enough time to set up the audience and deal with his attempts to burn through my airtime.

(I barely avoided badmouthing Florida's diving... they've got enough to deal with without someone on national radio talking down their tourist draws.)

Tax Foundation on Health Care Reform

From those horrible lefties over at the Tax Foundation:
If the Medicare cuts in the health care bill are to be believed and CBO's estimates pertaining to the health care bill are to be believed, President Obama has already done more to reduce in magnitude the long-term budget problems for the U.S. than the previous administration, who undoubtedly made the problem worse. That's true despite the amount added to the deficit from the stimulus bill and the costly coverage provisions in the health care bill
Booya.

2010-07-06

Black Panthers Followup

Just to debunk the constant lies and manufactured outrage, here's some perspective on the whole "Black Panther Billy Club" incident. It is not that the Obama Administration treated them with kid gloves because "No black president is going to prosecute the black panthers." It is, in fact, that the Bush Administration decided to only file civil charges against the Black Panthers, rather than criminal charges.

Here are the citations:
Bush administration chose to file civil complaint, not criminal "charges," against Panthers
Before President Bush left office, the Department of Justice filed a civil complaint asking for an injunction against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. In a January 19 editorial,The Washington Times reported: "Career lawyers at the Justice Department decided as early as Dec. 22, 2008, to seek a complaint against the two Black Panthers onsite as well as Black Panther National Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz and the New Black Panther Party as a whole. Mr. Shabazz and the party were charged with having 'managed, directed and endorsed the behavior, actions and statements' of the other two. The Justice Department formally filed the civil action on Jan. 7, 2009, with approval at the highest levels of the department."
DOJ "sought and obtained" "maximum penalty" against one of the individuals
In December 3 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, Department of Justice assistant attorney general Tom Perez testifiedthat "[t]he case was not dismissed," and that the attorneys who reviewed the case "made the determination that, based on the law of the Third Circuit, that the case against the person who wielded the stick, that we should indeed seek the maximum penalty, and that maximum penalty was sought and obtained, and the case against the other defendant should be dismissed, and the case against the national party should also be dismissed."
It's good stuff.  Reality almost always diasgrees with what the Murdoch Space presents as the narrative.

2010-06-29

What Financial Reform Means

What is in the soon-to-be-passed Financial Reform Bill?  Kevin Drum does the work so I don't have to:
  • Companies selling mortage-backed securities will be required to retain a portion of the risk on their own books. The originate-to-distribute model, where dealers bundled up loans and immediately turned around and sold off the whole package, created a system where bundlers had no incentive to make sure the underlying loans were any good. This provision helps rein this in.
  • Commercial banks will face restrictions on the amount of proprietary trading they can do. This is the so-called Volcker Rule, and although it was watered down in conference (banks can still trade up to 3% of their capital for their own accounts) it's still a pretty good safety valve for the banking industry.
  • A Consumer Finance Protection Agency will be set up within the Federal Reserve. I was initially opposed to housing the CFPA at the Fed, but I came around to the idea based on the argument that this will allow the CFPA to offer higher salaries and attract better talent. This is a significant win, and Elizabeth Warren says she's pretty happy with it.
  • Derivatives trading will largely be forced onto public exchanges. Certain standard derivatives will still be offered over-the-counter, which is too bad, but more complex instruments like credit default swaps will be made considerably safer by this rule.
  • Dick Durbin's interchange regulation for debit cards was adopted. This doesn't affect the safety and soundness of the banking system, but it's a good step forward for transparency and consumer protection.
  • Capital requirements for large banks will be increased. Together with the Basel III requirements currently under negotiation, this is a key step toward making the entire financial system safer and less leveraged.
  • Other changes that are good, though watered down from where they ought to be, include ratings agency reform, resolution authority, systemic risk regulation, and SEC authority over hedge funds.
Thank you, Kevin.

2010-06-23

2010-06-18

Fusion Ignition Time

They say it's always 10 years away, but Laser Ignition is more encouraging that the toroidal approaches:
The question, Moses said, is "Can we build a miniature Sun on Earth?" The recipe involves a peppercorn-size target of hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium heated to 200 million degrees Fahrenheit for a couple billionths of a second. To get that micro-blast of heat, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) uses lasers---coherent light---at a massive scale. Laser engineer Moses notes that photons are perfect for the job: "no mass, no charge, just energy."

Moses ran a dramatic video showing how a shot at the NIF works. 20-foot-long slugs of amplified coherent light (10 nanoseconds) travel 1,500 yards and converge simultaneously through 192 beams on the tiny target, compressing and heating it to fusion ignition, with a yield of energy 10 to 100 times of what goes into it. Successful early test shots suggest that the NIF will achieve the first ignition within the next few months, and that shot will be heard round the world.
And the bastards that oppose moving to renewable energies will be convinced they were right, when it was only luck that saved civilization from the end of oil. Oh well. I'll take the win.

2010-06-12

RAND on Health Care Reform

Excellent news:
The new U.S. health care reform law was the best option for providing health insurance to the largest number of people while keeping federal government costs as low as possible, according to an analysis by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit policy think tank.

Researchers used a specially designed computer model to simulate more than 2,000 different policy scenarios and found that the only alternatives to the new health reform law were all politically difficult because they would have included much higher penalties for noncompliance, lower government subsides, and less generous Medicaid expansion.

Under the new health reform law, about 28 million Americans will be newly insured by 2016, according to the analysis.

"Of all the proposals on the table that would expand health insurance to more Americans, the final health reform law included those that covered the largest number of people at the lowest cost to the federal government," study author Elizabeth A. McGlynn, a senior researcher at RAND, said in a news release from RAND.
That makes me happy.  It's nice that a technocratic process can lead to an optimum policy.

2010-06-09

2010-05-23

Abiogenesis, Here We Come! Ctd.

Heads will explode:
In a development that seems likely to stir a firestorm of controversy, researchers said Thursday that they have used genes made in the lab to create a synthetic species of bacteria.

"We're here to announce the first synthetic cell," said J. Craig Venter, head of the self-named J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and leader of one of the teams that decoded the human genome.

He told reporters that the new species -- dubbed Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 -- is similar to one found in nature, except that the chromosome that controls each cell was created from scratch. The research is reported in the May 20 issue of the journal Science.

The new species, Venter said, started with researchers digitizing the genetic code for the new species on computers, then assembling the nucleotides using "four bottles of chemicals" into sections of DNA. The DNA sections were assembled in yeast cells to form a synthetic chromosome, which was then transferred to a related species of bacteria, M. capricolum.
Yup.  Just a matter of time.

Here's a great line from later in the piece:
"This is the first self-replicating species that we've had on the planet whose parent is a computer," Venter said.
Gotta love scientists.

2010-05-22

Why Republicans Don't Go on Rachael Maddow

Not because she's unfair. Dr. Paul announced his candidacy on her show, you know. I'll let the video speak for itself:



Find the point of contention, then pursue it doggedly, from many angles, until you get an answer. She created this story, by being good at her job. David Gregory would have dropped it after a halfhearted followup. Of course, Dr. Paul could have stopped it from being a story by simply saying, "I believe the Federal Government has the authority to force integration of privately owned, publicly operating businesses and resources." Or something to that effect.

The problem is that he doesn't believe government has that authority, since he's a libertarian teapartier. Because if it has that authority, then he's given up the ideologically pure position and opened the door to all sorts of regulation.

2010-05-20

More Right Wing Terrorists

Here's video of the middle aged white guy carrying his can of gasoline and his pipe bomb, right before he used those things to destroy a Mosque in Florida:



Tally another one for the hate-motivated, talk radio right, eh?

This happened 10 days ago... imagine if it had been a middle aged Islamic Guy, attacking a Catholic Church. Something tells me we would have heard about it.

2010-05-16

Sweet Mother of Crude

This is catastrophic:
Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

"There's a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water," said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. "There's a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column."

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. "If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months," she said Saturday. "That is alarming."
New estimates based on the video recently released by BP put the leak at up to 80,000 barrels a day. That's over 3 million barrels a day. That's an Exxon Valdez every four days.

This has really affected my emotional state this morning.

2010-04-30

Limbaugh's On To Us!

I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig.... Now, lest we forget, ladies and gentlemen, the carbon tax bill, cap and trade that was scheduled to be announced on Earth Day. I remember that. And then it was postponed for a couple of days later after Earth Day, and then of course immigration has now moved in front of it. But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist whackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they're sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they're sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing here.
Yup. He's got us!  There's nothing environmentalists love like causing an oil spill that could be many times as large as the Exxon Valdez.  Right.  Cuz that's good for the environment... in the long run, obviously.  The short run is a series of horrors, granted, but you can't make an omelet without dousing a few million water fowl in sweet crude, eh?

How's that Drilly Spilly Thing Workin Out For Ya?

Weep.
The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels -- or 210,000 gallons per day.

If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate, perhaps up to 150,000 barrels -- or more than 6 million gallons per day -- based on government data showing daily production at another deepwater Gulf well.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons total. The Gulf spill could end up dumping the equivalent of 4 Exxon Valdez spills per week.
Only Communists think we should get off the CO2 Economy.  Oh, I guess Communists and people who like beaches and wildlife.

Student Loan Reform

Upon request, I've just spent 15 minutes trying to look into competing CBO scores for the Student Loan Reform that was passed in the HCR reconciliation package, following the assertion that after making the scoring process more "fair" the reform actually ended up costing us money.  It turns out, of course, that this once again provides an example of the right wing simply lying to their poor, trusting voters.

Of course, with all of these large bills, there has been an open and gradual revision process, generating CBO scores all along the way.  After all, now that a Democrat is in the White House everyone cares about CBO scores and actually, you know, paying for things.  Go figure.  In this case, the CBO originally scored the reform at saving $62 billion over 10 years.  After some revisions were made to make the score better conform with reality, the figure was revised to $40 billion in savings.  This is where the dishonesty starts.

I wont link to them, but here's the relevant part of the story my friend saw:
Moreover, the debate on savings has overshadowed the fact that the planned reforms still add to the deficit. As the CBO explains,

“Whereas on average over the 2010-2020 period a representative loan issues in the direct loan program has a negative subsidy rate of 9 percent under FCRA (meaning that it reduces the deficit), the same loan has a positive subsidy rate of 12 percent on a fair value basis.”

So while the reform may reduce the deficit compared to the current broken system of a private-public hybrid, that is not the same thing as saying it will actually end up in the black.
How stupid does this author think we are?  Of course the student loan program costs the government money! We're not trying to run a profit on educating our future generations!  The government is not a business!  The question is not whether the entire program will be in the black, the question is whether the reform that just passed made things better or worse.  The answer?  On every front, it made things better - more loans will be given, more Americans will be educated, and the whole thing will end up saving us tens of billions of dollars over the status quo ante.  "The reforms still add to the deficit."  No they don't, you twit.  The Program adds to the deficit.  The Reforms reduce the deficit.

I guess this author might not have been intentionally dishonest.  The "Are they Stupid or Dishonest" question is an evergreen topic.

2010-04-29

Datamining Snopes

Mr. Bell runs the numbers:
After eight years in the White House (with Snopes.com around all that time), George W. Bush has been the subject of 47 internet rumors. After less than two years in office, Barack Obama has been the subject of 87, or nearly twice as many.

Even more telling is the relative accuracy of those stories. For Bush, 20 rumors, or 43%, are true. Only 17, or 36%, are false. The remainder are of mixed veracity (4), undetermined (4), or unclassifiable (2).

In contrast, for Obama only 8 of the 87 rumors, or 9%, are true, and a whopping 59, or 68%, are whoppers. There are 17 of mixed veracity and 3 undetermined.
Interesting, eh?  Not surprising, but interesting.

Reagan the Anti-White Racist

Here's how Reagan went about picking Supreme Court nominees:
In the course of our discussion with Reagan the first time we were talking about the candidates . . . we had talked about Scalia. Reagan had asked me whether Scalia was of Italian extraction. I think he used the word 'extraction,' and I said, 'Yes, he's of Italian extraction.' Reagan said, 'That's the man I want to nominate, so I want to meet him.' We brought Scalia in. . . . The president met Scalia, and he offered Scalia the job right on the spot, in about 15 minutes, very little ceremony here. Scalia accepted on the spot. He was delighted. That was it. . . .

I think [Reagan] felt that it would be great to put an Italian American on the Supreme Court. He had all the usual American instincts: 'We don't have an Italian American on the court, so we ought to have one.' He really felt good about doing that. It wasn't principle so much as that kind of emotional commitment.
What an affirmative action loving, anti-white racist.

Epistemic Closure: Bruce Bartlett

There's been a raging debate on the right side of the blogosphere since Health Care Reform passed, started by reformers within the conservative movement, about the intellectual insulation the movement has cultivated. The term being used is Epistemic Closure, which is interesting in itself.  Epistemic refers to Epistomology - the field concerned with understanding how we know things to be true - and Closure is a mathematical and logical concept that's a little harder to explain.  For example, a Sphere is Closed under the operations performable by an ant.  He can crawl any way he likes, for as long as he likes, and he will never leave the Sphere.  In terms of this conservative debate, the analogous problem is that within the Sphere of Orthodox Conservative Thought, there is no series of moves that can lead to an unorthodox conclusion.  Or, put another way, "boy, movement conservatives sure live in their own world, don't they?"  (More examples of this are available by clicking the "Alternative Reality" label at the bottom of the post, or here and here)

Bruce Bartlett, who I'm sure has been a liberal plant since he was in Reagan's Oval Office or Bush's Treasury department, has the following to say on conservative Epistemic Closure:
What it seems to mean in terms of the current discussion is that conservatives live in a cocoon or echo chamber in which they only read conservative magazines like National Review and the Weekly Standard, only listen to conservative talk radio, only watch Fox News and only visit conservative web sites. It's a closed loop in which any opinions or facts that conflict with the conservative worldview are either avoided, ignored or automatically dismissed on the grounds that they must be liberal or come from liberals.

I believe this view of how conservatives think is correct and want to pass along the moment when I first realized it in 2004.

Earlier that year, journalist Ron Suskind had published The Price of Loyalty based on extensive interviews with former George W. Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. This book made many charges about the insularity of the Bush White House, the president's unwillingness to listen to any opinions that didn't confirm those he already had and others that have been confirmed by subsequent reportage.

I liked Ron's book and wrote a favorable column about it leading him to call me. We hit it off and would chat every once in a while afterwards. Basically, we were both trying to figure out the same things: What makes Bush tick? Where does he get his information? Why is he always so sure of himself? Is he capable of admitting error?

Then one day in mid-October I got a call from a woman at the New York Times Magazine saying she was fact-checking an article by Suskind that mentions me. I didn't think too much about it and confirmed that I had indeed said the things I was quoted as saying. What the fact-checker neglected to tell me is the context in which I was quoted or the extent. I learned this a few days later when the Suskind article went out on the wire.

I had been scheduled to do a radio show in Detroit on Wednesday about something or other and was asked if the subject could be changed. I asked what they wanted to talk about. They told me that they wished to discuss the big article about me in the New York Times Magazine. In fact, they said, the first two words in the article were my name and the first several paragraphs essentially quoted me verbatim.

I didn't see the article itself until Saturday night when the Times posted it online. Here are the first three paragraphs:

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

The reason I bring all this up is because of what happened subsequently, which relates to the question of epistemic closure. A few days after the article appeared I was at some big conservative event in Washington. I assumed that my conservative friends would give me a lot of crap for what I said. But in fact no one said anything to me--and not in that embarrassed/averting-one's-eyes sort of way. They appeared to know nothing about it.

After about half an hour I decided to start asking people what they thought of the article. Every single one gave me the same identical answer: I don't read the New York Times. Moreover, the answers were all delivered in a tone that suggested I was either stupid for asking or that I thought they were stupid for thinking they read the Times.

I suppose this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. After all, the people I was questioning weren't activists from the heartland, but people who worked on Capitol Hill, at federal agencies, in think tanks and so on. They represented the intelligentsia of the conservative movement. Even if they felt they had no need for the information content of the nation's best newspaper, one would have thought they would at least need to know what their enemies were thinking.

This was the first time I really understood what is now being called epistemic closure. In the years since, it appears to have gotten much worse.
What was the deal with Reagan hiring so many closet liberals?

47% of People Pay No Income Tax

Why is that, exactly? Here are the answers:

http://keithhennessey.com/2010/04/15/off-the-rolls/

http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/blog/_archives/2010/4/15/4506088.html

Short version: Both parties have instituted policies that have raised the percentage of people that pay no income tax. Generally, these policies are to incentivize work.  Finally, the Stimulus Act has temporarily raised the number from 38%, and those provisions expire this year.  Next year, we'll be back at that more moderate number of 38%.

And always remember that those people who pay no income tax still pay an effective tax rate of 15-20% on money they make. That's lower than the effective rate paid by many millionaires.