Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Cool Side of Prince Charles

I'll bet you didn't think there was one.

Newt Zombies

Children under the age of 16 should be sent out of the room before you view this video:

God save America.

Update: The Gingrich national campaign apparently discovered what the "Newt Hampshire" folks had done, and ordered it taken down. The Republic is safe.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Romney's Taxes

So Mitt Romney says he's not going to release his tax returns. Instead, "I will provide all the financial info, which is an extraordinary pile of documents which show investments and so forth.”

Well, if you're going to do that, why not release your tax returns, which has been SOP for presidential candidates for decades?

Steve Benen makes a suggestion:
Only the candidate knows for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Romney, worth about a quarter-billion dollars, makes just about all of his income from “dividends, interest, and capital gains,” which means he pays taxes at a much lower rate.
In a campaign context, that means the multi-millionaire Republican pays a lower tax rate than working families and — this is important — intends to pursue tax policies as president that would keep this advantage for people like him in place.
Romney could be more forthcoming on these facts, but he’s running for office for Pete’s sake.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jesus Responds to Rick Perry's "Strong" Ad

Via Chicago Ted, I've learned that Jesus was annoyed enough with Rick Perry's Strong ad that he has prepared a response. Watch it here.

What Happened to All the Prostitutes?

I knew that would get your attention.

But this is just a sidebar item that came up as I was researching a Chicago photographer named Alfred Brisbois. At the time of the 1880 Census, Brisbois was living in a boarding house in Leadville, Colorado, along with people whose occupations were listed as saloon keeper, miner, prospector, roustabout, and – yes, the reason you're still reading – prostitute. Hey, it was the Wild West.

The raciest picture ever to appear on Sempringham.

I've looked at a lot of census records in the last 40 years, and I've come across prostitutes there before, but it still got me wondering: How have census takers handled the issue of ladies of the evening over the years? So I took a few minutes to try and find out, and here is what I discovered.

Before 1850, the U.S. Census recorded the name of only the "head of household" of each family.  Everyone else was just counted in "number of males 10-18, number of females 10-18" and so on. No occupation, no country of birth, no information about the parents. The 1850 census was the first to record a name, age, and occupation for each person it counted. Genealogists everywhere are forever in its debt.

Out of curiousity, I searched the decennial censuses for "prostitute," and it gave me the following numbers.

1850 - 0
1860 - 0
1870 - 0
1880 - 4,723
1890 - 0 (The 1890 census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C., on Jan 10, 1921. Records of only 6,160 of the 62,979,766 people enumerated survived.)
1900 - 2 (one in Delaware, one in Texas)
1910 - 6 (five in Montanta, one in Wyoming)
1920 - 0
1930 - 0

For privacy reasons, the 1930 census is the last one that is currently available to the public.

Wanting to be careful in my research, I pulled out my Roget's Thesaurus, looked for synonyms of "prostitute," then searched for the synonyms. The only thing that got hits was "concubine":

1850 - 0
1860 - 0
1870 - 0
1880 - 25
1890 - 0
1900 - 929
1910 - 326
1920 - 19
1930 - 0

So what happened there? Was there an outbreak of concubinage at the turn of the last century?

Drilling down into the numbers, looking at the individual census entries, the word "concubine" appears in the relationship field (denoting their relationship to the "head of household"), rather than the occupation field, where the description "prostitute" appeared. The "concubines" were women who lived with a man, with children that shared the man's last name, even though the women did not. They lived in the South: Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky. And guess what! They're black. So there's obviously something else going on there – something in the mind of the census taker, maybe?

Anyway, I thought this was all weird enough to share, even if I'm not sure what it means.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All-American Muslims

Two must-see episodes from the Daily Show.

Go to Talking Points Memo and scroll down.

In fairness to Lowe's, they were in a tough position. They had to choose between their moral and ethical responsibilities to their stockholders (and their employees, for that matter), and morality and ethics on a higher plane.

Nothing is pure.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Death Penalty

Seems like we should have heard about this before now. Colin Woodard at The Washington Monthly writes:
Last week, the American Bar Association urged Kentucky to indefinitely suspend executions, after its researchers found that 50 of the 78 people who’ve received death sentences there later had their convictions overturned on appeal. Trial attorneys for ten of these falsely convicted persons have since been disbarred, at least five of them for conduct related to the capital cases, the ABA reported.
The optimist will say, "Hey, the system works!"

I guess I'm not an optimist. Just because your conviction has been overturned, doesn't mean you didn't do it. But, still ....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Little Public Grief

Suellen J. Miller
September 23, 1951 - December 10, 2010

Her first of many trips to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago

A student at St. Gabriel's School in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Suellen tells the photographer exactly how many seconds he has to take his camera out of the church kitchen while she's preparing Thanksgiving Dinner for 100.


She had her picture taken in front of this same mailbox in Lincoln, England, 10 years apart. This is the later picture.

At the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge. Lawrence of Arabia's brother served as model for this statue, so Suellen got to combine two loves: Lawrence and Polar Exploration.

Napping with Waveland, her "Kitty in a Big Boy Suit." Waveland was Suellen's cat, no doubt about it. It was 6 months before he acknowledged I was good for anything except opening cans and cleaning poop out of his litter. He'd drop me in a second if she walked back through the door.


"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," Rick Perry tells us in this ad,  titled Strong, just before launching into a little hate mongering against gays in the military. He then fantasizes that "our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas, or pray in school."

This is a guy that George Will thinks is one of two viable candidates to come out of the Republican Freak Show. Which tells you everything you need to know about George Will.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell ended in September 2011.  Despite the predictions of some, implementation was a non-event.

In a Gallup poll taken last December, 67 percent supported repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

People who attended church monthly supported repeal 64 percent to 32 percent.

People who attended church weekly supported repeal 55 percent to 40 percent.

Why would anybody be ashamed to admit that he's a Christian? Maybe because of Christians like Rick Perry.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again!

Finally! Mitt Romney has pulled off the gloves and gone after Gingrich with attack ads.

Time to dust off this 2008 political ad from the same people who brought you Libertarian Paradise.

Democrats for Romney!

Two (Short) Good Reads

Don't miss Gail Collins' last Herman Cain column. Several good chuckles there. I considered a career as a motivational speaker, but every one I've ever heard has depressed me. (That statement might seem less of a non sequitur after you've read the column.)

Then, if – like me – you've become curious about the shooting of Utah Senator Arthur Brown, you can find a good summary here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Social Security Payroll Tax Cut

Anyone trying to understand what's really happening with the Social Security payroll tax cut is going to find him/herself dealing with a) people who don't know what they're talking about, and b) people who know what the story is, but are trying to mislead you.

In Category A, among legions of others, we can put David Welna of National Public Radio, who authoritatively reported today:
Fact No. 3: The payroll tax holiday that Congress approved a year ago reduced Social Security's revenues this year by $145 billion.
An erratum added to the story later said:
A previous Web version of this story incorrectly said that the payroll tax holiday approved by Congress a year ago reduced Social Security's revenues this year by $145 billion. The correct amount is $105 billion.
Actually, the correct amount is $ 0.00. The payroll tax cut has resulted in absolutely no loss to the Social Security trust funds. That's because of section 601 of the Tax Relief Act, which states:
There are hereby appropriated to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund established under section 201 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 401) amounts equal to the reduction in revenues to the Treasury by reason of the application of subsection (a). Amounts appropriated by the preceding sentence shall be transferred from the general fund at such times and in such manner as to replicate to the extent possible the transfers which would have occurred to such Trust Fund had such amendments not been enacted.
In plain English, the section provides that the payroll taxes lost to the Social Security trust fund because of the payroll tax cut are replaced out of general revenues. Now you can say that's a good thing or a bad thing (I'd say "almost certainly bad," but that's a different post), and it's certainly increasing the debt, but you can't say Social Security's revenues have been reduced.

Reporters need to do their homework. The web makes it a lot easier than it used to be, and if Welna had done a simple Google search, he could have written an accurate story.

So thanks to Amy Bingham at ABC News, who reported:
The one-year cut to Social Security’s funding stream decreased federal revenues by $112 billion in 2011, but the already-dwindling trust fund for Social Security remained untouched  because the government borrowed extra money to fill the gap, adding instead to the $1.3 trillion deficit.
Then there's Category B, the people who are trying to mislead you. Among these are Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, as this video of a statement he gave in front of an empty Senate chamber clearly shows:

Listen to him as he talks about proposals that would "underfund" Social Security by $250 billion. These proposals have the same mechanism as Section 601, above, so they do not underfund Social Security. But keep listening past the short sound glitch in the video, and you discover that he knows it's not true! He knows it, but he's saying it anyway.

We know he knows it because he starts talking about the injustice of replacing Social Security tax revenues with U.S. Treasury Bonds that are rated less than AAA. The bonds are the payment from the general fund.

But, whah? Where did he think the payroll taxes were going, into a sock? They're going into special U.S. Treasury Bonds. And they're rated less than AAA only because of that little episode where the Republicans threatened default on America's debt if taxes were raised on millionaires.

 It's like the old story of the guy who killed his parents, then begged the court for mercy because he was an orphan. Well, not exactly like it, but you get the point.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Republican Freakshow

Andrew Tobias points us to this column from the German magazine, Spiegel. The title: The Republicans' Farcical Candidates: A Club of Liars, Demagogues, and Ignoramuses.

A taste:
As it turns out, there are no limits to how far they will stoop.

It's true that on the road to the White House all sorts of things can happen, and usually do. No campaign can avoid its share of slip-ups, blunders and embarrassments. Yet this time around, it's just not that funny anymore. In fact, it's utterly horrifying.

It's horrifying because these eight so-called, would-be candidates are eagerly ruining not only their own reputations and that of their party, the party of Lincoln lore. Worse: They're ruining the reputation of the United States. [My emphasis]

They lie. They cheat. They exaggerate. They bluster. They say one idiotic, ignorant, outrageous thing after another. They've shown such stark lack of knowledge -- political, economic, geographic, historical -- that they make George W. Bush look like Einstein and even cause their fellow Republicans to cringe.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Musical Interlude

Jim Messina wrote this song for his brother, Danny, to celebrate the birth of his son, Tyler. So it's called Danny's Song.

I wish I could write songs for my brothers and sisters.