Slow Monday – Obama’s American Family Tree

Many Republicans are so obsessed with trying to paint Barack Obama as the ‘other,’ an ‘outsider,’ and a Kenyan they sometimes forget (are you reading this Dinesh D’Sousa?) that Obama’s mother’s family trace their lineage in America back to colonial days, well before the Revolutionary War.  As is true with just about every family that can trace their roots back to the mid-1700s or earlier, the list of Obama’s direct ancestors and collateral relatives is rather astonishing.  In 2008, from an official genealogy [source now forgotten], I wrote down the names of some of the famous people related either directly or collaterally to Obama.  BTW, Obama and George W. Bush are directly related to each other through Samuel Hinkley, 12 generations back.  In fact, since Obama’s first ancestors arrived here in the 1630s and Bush’s around the early-middle 18th century, their genealogies have a surprising number of common relatives.  Okay, here goes – relatives of Barack H. Obama through his mother: Lyndon Baines Johnson,  Park Overall (actress), Penelope Tree (model), Margaux and Murial Hemingway, Charles Addams, John Steinbeck, Christopher Reeve, Alfred Kinsey, Harold MacMillan (former PM of UK), The First Earl of Stockton, Howard Dean, Sarah Palin, Jimmy Carter, Katherine [More...]

Austerity – the Republican Path to a New Depression

I’m amazed that, in both parties, there are so many people who believe that our financial crisis was caused by debt and the deficit (which has shrunk in each of the last 3 years and is projected by the CBO to shrink even more in 2013). You don’t try to pay down debt and the deficit when the economy is weak. This is basic Economics 101 – like the first day at airline pilot’s school when the instructor tells the students “Don’t shut off the engines while you are still in the air!” As England, Ireland, and other European countries are learning to their great pain, austerity has only deepened their recessions, lowered their GDP, and heightened joblessness. Austerity causes economic contraction and recession, and the only force that can cushion that contraction is monetary policy support from the FED. Given that interest rates are now, for all intents and purposes, zero, the FED has no room to maneuver to stave off the destructive consequences of austerity. Basic economic theory (as opposed to the fringe Austrian School, a heterodox economic philosophy that was considered pretty much a joke among economists until Ronald Reagan and succeeding Republicans embraced it) says that [More...]

A Tale of Two Constitutional Rights

The reactionary Right in America are fanatical about the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, or at least their own interpretation of it as an absolute right (even though it  is the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights that begins with a qualifier).  If you were to parse it into today’s English from the convoluted 18th Century Noah Websterish phrasing, it would read something like: As long as a well-regulated militia is considered to be necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. The primary reason for the Second Amendment (for you Strict Constructionists and Original Intenters) is that the Founding Fathers did not want to have a standing army (its why Congress can only fund the Army for 2 years at a time). As an alternative to a standing professional army, they envisioned state “militias” the structure of which would be defined by Congress (Article I, Section 8) and could be called out in case of invasion and TO PUT DOWN SEDITIOUS INSURGENCIES (not to arm loonies to start a seditious insurgency).  In national emergencies, the President as Commander-in-Chief [More...]

Just What Is an Assault Rifle?

It is a widely-spread falsehood by the NRA and assault weapon supporters that the AR-15 civilian versions of the M-16 are not “military-style assault weapons” because they are semi-automatic (you have to pull the trigger for each single round), while military versions support full automatic fire.  In fact, M-14s, Most versions of M-16s, and several versions of the newer M-4, do NOT support full automatic fire. The M-14 (predecessor to the M-16) was originally fully automatic, but due to the extreme difficulty soldiers had in controlling the weapon under full auto (due to the large 7.62 x 51 NATO round it was chambered for), the full automatic option was disabled. Making its appearance during the Vietnam era, the M-16 came in several models, only some of which supported full auto on their selector switches. The M-16 was chambered for the smaller, lighter 5.56 x 45 NATO round, so the lighter ammo was easier to carry and the weapon easier to control on full auto. M-16 rifles were made in several models, some of which did NOT support full auto. The original M-16 and M-16A1 had a 3-position selector switch for safe/semi/full automatic. Concerned with the tendency of all but the [More...]

One Group Will Suffer Immediately If We Go Off The Cliff

While there are a number of governmental tricks that can be employed to delay many of the cuts in spending and rises in taxes if we go over the cliff, there is one critical group who will feel immense deprivation immediately – with no recourse to fiscal or parliamentary tricks.  Many of these people were only informed through their State UI centers in the past week or two that 12/31/2012 is their absolute cut-off date (no matter how much money is still in their “tier” to be disbursed). As one would expect, they are the most vulnerable group in the country – the over 2 million people who are currently collecting federal Unemployment Insurance.  All EUI will be cut off completely at the stroke of midnight on Monday, December 31, 2012.  This will leave the 2+ million who rely on UI as their sole source of survival.  Remember, these are not the GOP’s “lazy takers,” but people who have worked, consumed, and contributed taxes their entire lives, who are currently out of work through no fault of their own, primarily as a result of the economic crash of 2008 that the GOP brought about themselves. People on UI are the [More...]