U.S. Posts Biggest Monthly Budget Surplus in Seven Years, A Simple Math Lesson

The boost in receipts narrowed the U.S. budget deficit for the previous 12 months to $460 billion, from $510 billion in March and $499 billion in the prior year. It was the lowest annual deficit since last November and the second lowest since September 2008.

Over the past 12 months, revenues are running 9% above their year-earlier level while spending is running 7% higher.

The figures illustrate how, despite growing unease over income inequality, the taxes that America’s rich are paying on their rising incomes are yielding a windfall for the U.S. Treasury. Payroll taxes rose 6% from a year earlier in April, while other individual taxes, including those on capital gains and self-employment incomes, were up 18%.

via U.S. Posts Biggest Monthly Budget Surplus in Seven Years – WSJ.

So…again…real world results.

If the question is “How do we deal with massive deficits?”, the answer now shown to be a resoundingly good one, “Raise taxes on the wealthy”.

We’ve got quite a bit more room to go on both of these before the problem is solved, as it were, but we know now this is a solid strategy.

Democrats introduce bill to end gerrymandering

The cumulative effect over time has resulted in a U.S. House where today only about two dozen of the 435 seats are considered competitive by non-partisan election analysts, and Republicans — who controlled more state legislatures in 2012 when the current maps were approved — are favored to maintain control of the House until the next reapportionment round ahead of the 2022 congressional elections.

via Democrats introduce bill to end gerrymandering.

And there you have it.  More stats and data on this (hopefully) soon.

WooHoo A New PPM Record for CO2

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says in March, the global monthly average for carbon dioxide hit 400.83 parts per million. That is the first month in modern records that the entire globe broke 400 ppm, reaching levels that haven’t been seen in about 2 million years.

“It’s both disturbing and daunting,” said NOAA chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. “Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down.”

And somewhat disturbing is that the political party that legislates stuff (like funding for NOAA) completely and utterly denies this basic scientific fact.

In fact, they go beyond denying this fact, and call anyone who *does* delusional. They do this over and over and over again, with the backing of many of the richest people on the planet (who make money off selling the stuff causing the rise in CO2).

So that’s where we are at…a place no human civilization has ever been.

And rising.

The great thing about this is that the GOP, which controls funding for these agencies, in planning to gut it in order to not get any more reports like this one.

Chain of Life Firmed Up on Chemical Grounds

More of that “here’s how it happened” style evidence/explanation/chemistry re: panspermia.

Anyway…what someone figured out *this time* is that certain basic compounds, when exposed to various other compounds and/or heat/light combinations, create other compounds than allow for the basic coding of genetic information.

What we have *here* specifically, is an actual compound that works as the pre-cursor, which they have previously been trying to to match to other known compounds (which failed). Now there is a “intermediate molecule” that acts as the stepping stone to the RNA model without the need for separate “sugar” and “base” molecules.

Great stuff, and hopefully in school in 20 years, the first five years of science in school will be a long, empirical and experimental proof on how life came into being (and curiously without the need for a supernatural being, just a series of chemical reactions over *to those students* an impossibly long time).

Researchers are nearing a better understanding of the chemical reactions that created life on the young planet.
NYTIMES.COM|BY NICHOLAS WADE

Clinton Stakes Immigration Ground as GOP calls out “Rats and Roaches”

She’s married to one of the greatest political minds of the 20th century, so this type (expert level) of triangulation is to be expected. Or maybe he’s the one that is married to one of the greatest political minds of the (young) 21st century .

Regardless, if it runs that way, I think she’ll make a wonderful President to our many new citizens (with whom we’ve been living for a generation).

This week, Hillary Clinton called for a broad path to citizenship for many of the 12 million people in the United States illegally. Doing so opens Clinton up to charges of…
WWW.NPR.ORG

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And here you have the GOP’s response….

The mother-in-law of Citizens United president David Bossie compares immigrants to rats and roaches [to wild cheers].

http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4537174

On Sanders the Socialist

Ya know…there’s a quick and easy conventional wisdom on the Presidential campaign of one Bernard Sanders, and it’s simply this….there’s no way a socialist can win a national election.

Oh, that’s also proceeded by, “I love the guy, don’t disagree with much he does, he’s honest, and does what he says he does.”

Also, he was born in 1941 and will have *just turned* 75 in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

We actually have a socialist running for President of the United States. A real one.  A “self-avowed” one, if you will.

This is going to have a number of interesting effects. First and foremost, in the primary season…folks are going to get to see *WHAT AN ACTUAL UNAPOLOGETIC SOCIALIST* sounds like.

And it’s going to be a crotchety, 75-year old man that thinks the system is unfair to young people and workers.

And knows how that system works.

It’s not going to be scary. It’s not going to be Stalin. Socialism, through the curious lens of American culture, is going to be cool again.

This will likely go down as (another) of the great mistakes of the GOP. You see, having cast *Obama* as a socialist, the GOP has already broken that ice. The latest 3 generations of Americans weren’t as programmed as the Boomers (and above) to hate the very notion of the sound of the word of “socialism”, so they see *and feel* the term much differently.

Particularly those who have spent their sentient years under the rule of a “socialist dictator” as so many on the right think of Obama (I’m not joking, this is a common comment on the President).

To see *an actual* socialist in campaign mode will no doubt be good for the country, as we get a chance to re-engage a term that is not actually political poison in the rest of the world, but simply a general term for a system of government that trends opposite of our current oligarchy, for better or worse as such trends dictate*

Do I think Sanders can win the upset campaign? I’m not so sure, if only because he’s waited so long to really start.

Going on the Sunday shows was not the strategy to lay the groundwork for a successful Presidential campaign at 75. Doing it at 63, and 67, and 71 was, as RON PAUL did for his own “ism” of the liberte variety.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Sanders fairs with the grueling pace of the campaign, and how he looks under the lights and the contrast he allows for Clinton. Where and how they disagree will be useful, if only as a lesson as to what words mean.

Like “socialism”, which we are about to get a solid dose of, one way or another.

* to be clear, I think income/wealth inequality is our biggest societal challenge, about to be made *MUCH WORSE* by automation, and as such, a healthy dose of socialism is exactly what we need to prevent (or merely push back) societal collapse.**

**. I say with my usual comic over/understatement.

Meet the Press goes Full Chipotle

LOL. Ok. I turned off Meet the Press. Not watching it.

Watch “the Daily Show” clip making fun of our press, as that is faaar more worth your time than this crap.

It’s really a testament to the sorry state of the GOP and our corporate media when *all* of the GOP panel members bring up the “Chipotle Video” (close circuit video of Hillary Clinton ordering a burrito without fanfare) as an example of how Clinton is out of touch and old and boring.

Nothing about policy, or experience or reality…just spinning a close circuit video. The political punditry TV class is like a weird papparazzi, that just takes pictures of itself taking pictures of others.

I noted this during the latest season of “House of Cards” where all the “journalists” in Washington were playing themselves playing themselves on TV. I think, for a lot of them, the job is scripted, and all about acting out said script.

The Press is not supposed to be like that. When we “Meet” them, as it were, what we are seeing is what they are now, which is a caricature of what the job should be.

I know, I know, it’s a constant Sunday morning lament. But it’s a really sorry state of affairs, and there’s little wonder as to why folks lose interest so quickly in sorting through it all.

Correcting Rubio (re: Net Neutrality)

This is what happens when a (former) High School teacher grades a Senator’s op-ed on a technological subject.

That Senator is running for President, BTW.

Mark Takano's photo.

I only break out the red pen on special occasions. So when I saw Marco Rubio’s recent op-ed on Net Neutrality, you know I couldn’t resist. It is intentionally m

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2016: The Supreme Court Election

Just thinking a bit about the context of the upcoming Presidential election. For those that don’t know, I tend to write a good bit about such events, largely doing such writing as an (unpaid) job for the last 3 of them.

Certain themes arise around them, and a friend of mine, I think, struck the bass chord of this one….it’s about the SCOTUS.

For those unfamiliar with the term, let’s get introduced. SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States. SCotUS, if you are a stickler for capitalization, but that looks weird and is also hard to type, so SCOTUS, is often used as an abbreviation.

Here are the current Supreme Court Justices and their ages…

John G. Roberts: January 27, 1955 : 60 yrs.
Antonin Scalia: March 11, 1936: 79 yrs.
Anthony M. Kennedy: July 23, 1936: 78 yrs.
Clarence Thomas: June 23, 1948: 66 yrs.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: March 15, 1933: 82 yrs.
Stephen G. Breyer: August 15, 1938: 76 yrs.
Samuel Anthony Alito: April 1, 1950: 65 yrs.
Sonia Sotomayor: June 25, 1954: 60 yrs.
Elena Kagan: April 28, 1960: 54 yrs.

Now comes the kicker….via google (and it’s one of those common answers)…


78.7 yrs. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Supreme Court justices are retiring later and later. Before 1971, the average age of retiring Supreme Court justices was 68.3.

Even at 79 years…that puts three justices over that range *at the start* of the next President’s term (and one right on the cusp). Scalia and Ginsburg are on opposite ends of the spectrum, Kennedy is often a swing vote.

So it’s a 2-1 or 1-2 split on the “old guard” judges, if you will, pushing the limits of what the human mind can endure. The next President is likely to shift that to a 3-0 split, one way or the other, in finding their replacements.

This turns a court that has been on the 5-4, 4-5 knife’s edge for the last 20 years into a 6-3 machine that can decide some law….one way or the other.

There is, to my eyes as a consistent watcher, a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE in the ideologies that drive the important decision making in our political parties. From voting rights to access to healthcare to women’s rights to foreign wars to regulating Wall Street to accepting established science to…seriously…freaking science…to many other things…there are just soo many differences.

And these differences show up in legal theory. The SCOTUS is one-third of our government, it’s a BIG DEAL. It’s not very often that we get such a clear and straightforward VOTE in which direction it goes.

This Presidential election we do. We get to decide the Supreme Court.

I’ll be coming back to this theme, again and again and again, one would assume, but I do think it is terribly important. That’s what this election is about, to me.

The personalities are somewhat secondary, although endlessly entertaining/frustrating. It’s just important to keep sight of what is important in the chaos, and in this election, what’s important is the Supreme Court.

The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct

The biggest extinction event in planetary history was driven by the rapid acidification of our oceans, a new study concl​udes. So much carbon was released into the atmosphere, and the oceans absorbed so much of it so quickly, that marine life simply died off, from the bottom of the food chain up.

That doesn’t bode well for the present, given the disturbingly similar rate that our seas are acidifying right now. Parts of the Pacific, for instance, are already so acidic that sea snails’ shells begin dissolving as soon as they’re born.

via The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct | Motherboard.

Just another one of those observable effects of that human civilization is having on our planet.

 

Note: these are denied utterly and completely by the GOP.

GOP passes massive tax break for millionaires (well, folks with 10 millions) and billionaires. Does not Pay for It

The final tally was 240 to 179, with nearly every GOP lawmaker voting for it and nearly every Democrat voting against it.

When describing Republican tax proposals, it’s not uncommon to talk about policies that disproportionately benefit the very wealthy. GOP proponents will say a bill benefits all taxpayers, but they’ll brush past the fact that the rich benefit most. This, however, is altogether different – today’s bill, called the “Death Tax Repeal Act,” quite literally benefits multi-millionaires and billionaires exclusively.

It’s not an exaggeration to say House Republicans, en masse, voted for a $269 billion giveaway to the top 0.2%. Under the plan, GOP lawmakers, who occasionally pretend to care about “fiscal responsibility,” would simply add the entire $269 billion cost to the deficit, leaving future generations to pay for a massive tax break for the hyper-wealthy.

Wait, it gets worse.

via GOP passes massive tax break for millionaires, billionaires | MSNBC.

Perhaps the most galling, and blatantly hypocritical, aspect of this situation is how blatant and galling it is.

You have GOP folks out there *campaigning* on the issue of income inequality…but they are saying the exact opposite of what the GOP is actually doing.

I mean…this is such a blatant and obvious payback to the GOP’s (small number of) extremely wealthy (and old) donors.

You have this party funded by like 40 billionaires in their 80’s….OF COURSE THEY ARE GOING TO PUSH THIS CRAP.

What’s really confounding is how anyone who isn’t an 80-year old billionaire supports this crap.

That’s the strange part, to me.