Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Paul Ryan Links & Notes

This is my Paul Ryan post compiled in 2012 when Mitt Romney chose him to be the vice-presidential running mate for that year's election.  Rather than a string of entries about Paul Ryan, I decided to start with one and add to it as the days pass.

What follows is the list accumulated at that time. Except for his ideas for amending Social Security I don't know how much of this may have changed since that time.

► This list from the Milwaukee paper looks like a good place to start. (Links at the source.)
As they say, you can't make this stuff up!
  • Interest group rankings
  • American Conservative Union: 92% lifetime score (2011) 
  • American Civil Liberties Union: 0% (2011) 
  • The John Birch Society: 70% (2011) 
  • Citizens Against Governmental Waste: 95% (2010) 
  • League of Conservation Voters: 20% lifetime score (20
  • National Journal: Conservative Foreign Policy score: 57% (2011)
  • National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, guns rights positions: A (2010)
  • AFL-CIO, labor positions: 28% (2011)
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: 6% lifetime score (2011)
  • NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby: 25% (2012)
  • Family Research Council, social issues: 90% (2011)
  • Vietnam Veterans of America: 100% (2011)
  • National Organization for Women: 13% (2008)
  • National Federation of Independent Business: 90% (2011) Source: Project Vote Smart
Rep. Paul Ryan loves noodling catfish
Ryan said he planned to head to Oklahoma on Sunday and take his children fishing on Lake Texoma, then indulge in another favorite activity in the afternoon: “I’m going to go out with some of my Okie friends, and I’m going to do something that I’ve been doing for a number of years, and that’s called noodling catfish.
“And I want to say something to you Texans — because you understand freedom, you now legally recognize a man’s right to catch a catfish with his own bare hands.”
How Stuff Works...

If you're lucky, a catfish will swim out and, in an attempt to defend its nest or escape, will bite you. Some catfish may just nip at your fingers, but others will clamp onto your entire hand. Although catfish don't have super-sharp teeth, those teeth are plentiful. They curve inward, and noodlers say they feel like coarse sandpaper. The sandpaper feeling alone might not be so bad. But after a catfish clamps down on something, it tends to spin, which can rub your skin raw.

If the fish doesn't clench your hand, you'll need to pull open its mouth to get a good grip. Then, wiggle your fingers to work them into the fish's gill cover, the respiratory area on the sides of the fish's head. Grabbing it by the gills makes it more difficult for the fish to bite you during a struggle. It also helps you hold on a bit tighter. Once you get a firm hold on the fish, pull that prize to the surface. A flathead catfish could weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 22.7 kilograms) or more, so this is no small task.

More gory details at the link. Get ready, Mr. Biden.

Widow's peak -- Wikipedia

A number of fictional people have a widow's peak. In stories and on film this trait is often associated with a villain; Count Dracula is an example. Eddie Munster – from the television program "The Munsters" – also had this distinctive hairline. Another villain depicted as having widow's peak hair is The Joker from "Batman" comic books and films.Hannibal Lecter is described as having one in the novels that feature his story. Villainous Natasha Fatale from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" has a widow's peak.

Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005   [Updated]

Climate Denier, Conspiracy Theorist, Koch Acolyte
A favorite of the Koch brothers, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He has implied that snow invalidates global warming.
Meet Janna Little Ryan, Who Wants To Be America's Second Lady 
She's a former Washington, D.C. lawyer and lobbyist with deep roots in Oklahoma Democratic politics. Her husband, Rep. Paul Ryan, just became Mitt Romney's running mate.

==> This is not a hit piece. It's an excellent survey of Mrs. Ryan's backstory -- respectable educational and professional (if political) roots.

► Paul Ryan: Randian poseur   Salon -- Mitt Romney couldn't have chosen a better example of the fakery at the heart of today's GOP By Joan Walsh
...Paul Ryan represents the fakery at the heart of the Republican project today. It starts with the contradiction that Mr. Free Enterprise has spent his life in the bosom of government, enjoying the added protection of wingnut welfare benefactors like the Koch brothers. If Herman Cain is Charles and David Koch’s “brother from another mother,” as he famously joked, Ryan is the fourth Koch, swaddled in support from Americans for Prosperity and other Koch fronts. The man who wants to make the world safe for swashbuckling, risk-taking capitalists hasn’t spent a day at economic risk in his entire life.
► Less than twenty-four hours after the announcement of the Ryan pick I am thinking about another presidential election offering a famous "Choice, Not an Echo" in 1964. A Google search turned up a delightful link featuring part of Barry Goldwater's website announcing in his own words his decision to run for president against LBJ. As in this year's election the famous book by that title describes "how the liberal 'Rockefeller Republican' wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party's choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination."

Does this ring any bells?
I’ve always stood for government that is limited and balanced and against the ever increasing concentrations of authority in Washington. I’ve always stood for individual responsibility and against regimentation. I believe we must now make a choice in this land and not continue drifting endlessly down and down for a time when all of us, our lives, our property, our hopes, and even our prayers will become just cogs in a vast government machine.  
I was once asked what kind of Republican I was. I replied that I was not a “me-too” Republican. That still holds. I will not change my beliefs to win votes. I will offer a choice, not an echo. This will not be an engagement of personalities. It will be in engagement of principles. 
I believe that we can win victory for freedom both at home and abroad. I believe that we can be strong enough and determined enough to win those victories without war. I believe that appeasement and weakness can only bring war. I’ve asked and will continue to ask: Why Not Victory–why not victory for sound, constitutional principles and government–why not victory over the evils of communism? 
I’m convinced that in this year 1964 we must face up to our conscience and make a definite choice. We must decide what sort of people we are and what sort of world we want–now and for our children. 
My candidacy is pledged to a victory for principle and to presenting an opportunity for the American people to choose. Let there be a choice–right now and in clear, understandable terms. And I ask all of those who feel and believe as I do to join with me in assuring both the choice and the victory.
And choose we did. That year the electorate buried Mr. Conservative in a historic landslide.
Now there's this...

Joe Biden debating Paul Ryan, 2012.
Posted by Brandon Weber on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Notes on Taxes -- What is "Fair Share"?

This Facebook post links a National Review column by Thomas Sowell. It's the usual bait-and-switch argument misrepresenting the thrust of arguments, in this case an argument to correct the inequities of a tax code that has directed nearly all new wealth to those already at the very top of the wealth scale
Contrary to the way some people on the left conceive of the world, neither rich people nor poor people are inert blocks of wood, to be moved about like pieces on a chess board, to carry out some grand design from on high.

Even outright confiscations of people’s wealth, including whole industries in some countries, have failed to spread prosperity, and have even led to collapsing economies.
For future reference (lest I forget) this is my comment an a response lifted from the comments thread...

John Ballard -- About half of Americans have so little income they pay zero taxes, and about 80% of those who do pay tax take the standard deduction (not itemizing). In other words, all that offshore money Sowell mentions is not part of their lifestyles. I don't have a magic remedy, but I know there is a difference between INCOME (revenue from all sources) and WEALTH (revenue minus liabilities).

Until those two terms are no longer used interchangeably (and the word "rich" abandoned altogether) this is and will remain an incoherent discussion. Meantime, nearly every dollar of NEW WEALTH continues to be acquired by a small minority at the top of the population. Call that group anything you like, but until NEW wealth gets spread around, not much will change for the rest of us.

Richard L --  You mean new wealth like Steve Jobs? Like Mark Zuckerberg? New wealth gets spread around every day. Guys are coming up with innovative new ideas and getting rich. What democrats want is new wealth spread THEIR way. How is that going to work. Old money creates new wealth everyday too. Today's generation creates new ways to protect their return on capital. They have the right and responsibility to keep what is theirs and pass it down to subsequent generations. I don't get the idea that someone should benefit from wealth they didn't create.

JB -- To Richard L   No, I do NOT mean newly-created REVENUE streams. Those are a function of the economy as a whole. I mean that portion of already existing revenue streams (like those of the majority of ordinary people) for whom any new wealth -- or wealth accumulation, if you prefer -- is what remains after the expenses of living are taken into account. Or in business terms, what profit remains after all expenses are taken into account.

The business acronym EBITDA -- Earnings Before Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization -- illustrates my point, but pretend that someone's INCOME (from work, investments, gifts, gambling winnings, whatever) only exactly equals their lifestyle expenses. In that case there will be no wealth accumulation. Every dollar will be used to maintain the lifestyle. Even those with extreme earnings (sports and entertainment stars, lottery winners, entrepreneurs like the ones you mentioned) can very easily piss away all that revenue as fast as it comes in and the result will be zero wealth accumulation, or even going into debt. The biographies of movie stars and musicians have many such case studies -- a lifetime of vast revenue either stolen by agents, companies or unscrupulous family members. This is not a hard concept to grasp.

Consider the case of a newly-graduated medical doctor, lawyer or engineering super-star who lands a six-figure job with a ton of benefits. If that person has a big student debt, gets married and starts a family, signs a mortgage, buys a car or two and runs up credit card debts on top of all that -- that person may have a handsome income (revenue stream) but will not reach the "wealthy" category until all those liabilities are liquidated or at least balanced with accumulated assets. The home value may become more valuable than the original mortgage (equity), some kind of savings plan can be started (a good beginning), their might be generational assets from another source (inheritance, gifts, etc.), the kids may have funds being fed a little at a time, and some kind of retirement arrangements may be started (Roth, 401(k), etc.). But until the total of all those assets = all those liabilities, there will be zero wealth accumulation. Period.

I hope that explains what I mean by new wealth. Most of those challenges simply do not exist for the vast majority of ordinary people who will be lucky to reach retirement with anything more than the fragile social safety nets now in place -- Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and Meals on Wheels.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mark Carman Discusses Gun Safety

GUN OWNERS 2nd Amendment See:
Posted by Mark Carman on Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

US Airstrike Hits MSF Hospital in Kunduz

Afghanistan / 04.10.2015

Lajos Zoltan Jecs, photographed during his previous
Médecins Sans Frontières placement in Kabul
in 2013. © Andrea Bruce/Noor Images
Médecins Sans Frontières nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs (photographed above in Kabul in 2013) was in Kunduz trauma hospital when the facility was struck by a series of aerial bombing raids in the early hours of Saturday morning. He describes his experience.

It was absolutely terrifying.

I was sleeping in our safe room in the hospital. At around 2am I was woken up by the sound of a big explosion nearby. At first I didn't know what was going on. Over the past week we'd heard bombings and explosions before, but always further away. This one was different - close and loud.

At first there was confusion, and dust settling. As we were trying to work out what was happening, there was more bombing.

After 20 or 30 minutes, I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body.

At that point my brain just couldn't understand what was happening. For a second I was just stood still, shocked.

He was calling for help. In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain. We did what we could.

"We saw the hospital destroyed, burning"

I don't know exactly how long, but it was maybe half an hour afterwards that they stopped bombing. I went out with the project coordinator to see what had happened.
What we saw was the hospital destroyed, burning. I don’t know what I felt – just shock again.

We went to look for survivors. A few had already made it to one of the safe rooms. One by one, people started appearing, wounded, including some of our colleagues and caretakers of patients.

We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.
The airstrikes destroyed the hospital operating theatres,
and killed many patients and staff. © MSF.
"...patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere..."

We looked for some staff that were supposed to be in the operating theatre. It was awful. A patient there on the operating table, dead, in the middle of the destruction. We couldn't find our staff.

Thankfully we later found that they had run out from the operating theatre and had found a safe place.

Just nearby, we had a look in the inpatient department. Luckily untouched by the bombing. We quickly checked that everyone was OK. And in a safe bunker next door, also everyone inside was OK.

And then back to the office. Full - patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere.

"We saw our colleagues dying"

It was crazy. We had to organise a mass casualty plan in the office, seeing which doctors were alive and available to help.

We did an urgent surgery for one of our doctors. Unfortunately he died there on the office table. We did our best, but it wasn't enough.

The whole situation was very hard. We saw our colleagues dying. Our pharmacist - I was just talking to him last night and planning the stocks, and then he died there in our office.

The first moments were just chaos. Enough staff had survived, so we could help all the wounded with treatable wounds. But there were too many that we couldn't help.

Somehow, everything was very clear. We just treated the people that needed treatment, and didn't make decisions - how could we make decisions in that sort of fear and chaos?

"I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable"

Some of my colleagues were in too much shock, crying and crying. I tried to encourage some of the staff to help, to give them something to concentrate on, to take their minds off the horror. But some were just too shocked to do anything.

Seeing adult men, your friends, crying uncontrollably - that is not easy.
I have been working here since May, and I have seen a lot of heavy medical situations. But it is a totally different story when they are your colleagues, your friends.

These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people... and now they are dead.

These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.

The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.

What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.


The U.S. Gunship that Slaughtered Doctors and Patients in Kunduz
The crews of the AC-130, a low, slow plane bristling with guns, don’t have to follow the same rules as those in other U.S. warplanes

The American warplane that apparently struck a Doctors Without Borders clinic in the embattled city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on October 3, killing 22 people, was probably an AC-130 gunship — a lumbering, four-engine transport modified to carry a powerful arsenal of side-firing guns.

Maybe the gunship’s crew knew exactly where the clinic was in Kunduz, maybe it didn’t. Maybe there were Taliban fighters nearby, maybe there weren’t.

Regardless, the AC-130 blasted the vicinity of the clinic for more than an hour, repeatedly striking the medical facility. And the U.S. military’s lax rules allowed it to happen.

Packed floor to ceiling with high-tech sensors and radios and boasting a wide range of weaponry including 25-millimeter and 40-millimeter cannons plus a 105-millimeter howitzer, the AC-130 is supposed to be more accurate than other warplanes—and thus safer for innocent civilians in the line of fire.

But the Pentagon's rules for using the gunships actually make them less safe. Eager to take advantage of the AC-130’s firepower, the military actually requires relatively little scrutiny of the target area before a gunship crews opens fire, compared to the much greater restrictions the Defense Department imposes on the pilots of other aircraft types.

Owing to these loose procedures, the AC-130 could actually be one of the most dangerous U.S. warplanes for civilians caught in the crossfire. And yet it’s also the plane that American commanders sent into the chaotic combat in densely populated Kunduz, where U.S.-backed Afghan forces were locked in battle with Taliban fighters who captured the city in late September.

And where Doctors Without Border was working to save people, including children, who’d been injured in the fighting—unaware that their clinic was about to become a slaughterhouse.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters attacked Kunduz in the last week of September, quickly routing a much larger but poorly led Afghan National Army force. Encouraged by their American advisers and backed by U.S. warplanes, Afghan soldiers counter-attacked. Kunduz’s 300,000 residents were caught in the middle without adequate medical care.

Doctors Without Borders, a Paris-based humanitarian organization that’s also known by its French name Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), sends medical personnel into even the most dangerous war zones. It has been at work in Kunduz for four years. The group said that on September 29 it relayed the exact location of its clinic in Kunduz to the U.S.-led coalition, in order to prevent the facility and its 180 staff and patients from coming under attack.

It’s not clear whether the military got the memo.

At 2:08 in the morning local time on October 3, the first munitions struck the clinic. The blasts continued at 15-minute intervals until 3:15, according to Doctors Without Borders. “The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched,” the group stated.

“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” Heman Nagarathnam, in charge of Doctors Without Borders’ programs in northern Afghanistan, said in the statement. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again.”
Owing to these loose procedures, the AC-130 could actually be one of the most dangerous U.S. warplanes for civilians caught in the crossfire.

“When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames,” Nagarathnam added. “Those people that could had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds.”

Ten patients and 12 staff members died and 37 people were hurt, Doctors Without Borders stated. At least three of the dead patients were children, according to the group. The remaining medical personnel scrambled to get the surviving patients to hospitals in other Afghan cities, in some cases driving hours on rough roads.

On October 4, Doctors Without Borders said it was shutting down its Kunduz operation. “No medical activities are possible now in the ... hospital in Kunduz, at a time when the medical needs are immense,” spokesman Tim Shenk told The New York Times.