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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Home country: USA
Current location: Deep in Red State Hell!
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,210

About Me

Godless democratic socialist, look towards northern Europe for inspiration on what role-models our economy should aspire towards. Love the ACLU and donate heavily to them each year, wish they'd get with the program and defend the Second Amendment with as much fervor as they do the rest of the Bill of Rights. Proud member of the 99%.

Journal Archives

On "Gun Nuttery" and SYG

First let me preface this by saying that I'm a pretty strong Second Amendment supporter, and think most gun control laws do more harm than good. Criminals by nature don't obey the law, so most of the time you're only restricting law-abiding citizens and giving the NRA reasons to rile gun owners up and GOTV, as with the recent recalls in Colorado.

But it's hard not to notice the marked increase in news stories of minor altercations escalating into shots fired lately, more often than not without any good justification. But the burning question is: what can be done about it? Most of these incidents appear to involve folks with no prior criminal records, so universal background checks won't solve anything. All of these incidents seem to involve either handguns or old-fashioned bolt-action rifles, so an Assault Weapon Ban won't help, even if it really did ban more than just cosmetic features. As the economy continues to flounder and things get more stressful for more people, I don't see such random acts of violence getting any rarer either.

So what can we do? The "toothpaste is already out of the tube" so to speak, no way to "put the genie back in the bottle," -- guns are here to stay. Expanding access to mental health services might help, but only if the aggressive behavior is detected in time.

I know the statistics show that crimes of violence (including gun violence) are on a 20-year decline, but it sure doesn't feel that way with all these news stories lately. Are we really to the point where such random acts of violence are just the price we have to pay to live in a free society? I mean, I'm not even sure repealing SYG would be effective in those states, unless their self-defense laws were all changed to mandate fleeing from all conflict if at all possible. Just seems like these nutcases don't give a damn about the law anyway, they just shoot first and answer questions later.

Is this really the new "normal?"

Bill Moyers: Can a Left-Right Coalition Bring About Real Prison Reform?

Editor’s note: On Friday, the “Smart Sentencing Act,” which the ACLU calls “the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years,” passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. You can read the ACLU’s press release here.

There’s not much that Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats agree on these days. Surprisingly, one of them happens to be scaling back mass incarceration, the subject of a live-streamed meeting today of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The motives vary among and between key legislative leaders as ideologically disparate as Republican Sens. Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY) and Democrats Patrick Leahy (VT) and Dick Durbin (IL). But whether motivated by concern for civil liberties, unsustainable state and federal budgets or a New Testament-inclination for giving second chances, one fact trumps all differences: The US houses by far the largest incarcerated population in the world at 2.2 million people as of year-end 2011. That smudge, as well as unsubtle championing of sentencing reform by attorney general Eric Holder, has galvanized a relatively quiet bipartisan effort over the past five years. Advocates say Congress is taking on mass incarceration one reform at a time. The latest are tucked into the 1,582-page FY2014 omnibus spending bill, and other reforms are coming down the pike. Below, a guide to these new developments.


It's not just the Tea Party either, even some "Establishment" neo-cons like Newt Gingrich have been making some gestures lately indicating that America's out-of-control prison growth needs to be reigned in.

(Of course, their motivation is probably freeing up more money from wasteful domestic spending to wage some more wars abroad... but finding some common ground over prison reform would be nice.)

Dang, This Obamacare News Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Some of you may recall my OP back in early October, I was one of the lucky few who was able to successfully enroll (or so I thought) through the Healthcare.gov web-site that second week after its rocky debut:


Well, I just found out a couple days ago that not only do low-income folks qualify for the premium tax credits that lower the monthly premiums you have to pay, but for folks under 250% of poverty-level income, you also qualify for cost-sharing which lowers the deductibles and max out-of-pocket costs on some Silver plans. (Indeed, there were error messages when I enrolled back in October, and the cost-sharing was never taken into account.)

So I ended up going with a Platinum plan back in October which I thought was a good deal with its only $85/mo. premium and $1500 max out-of-pocket (covers 90% of costs) -- but after plugging my info back into the "Browse Plans Before You Buy" calculator that they just recently added to the Healthcare.gov web-site, I discovered that several of the Silver plans are actually much better deals than even the Platinum plans, covering 94%(!) of costs, with only a fraction of the monthly premium:

I ended up going with the plan on the far right, which has a MUCH bigger provider network (PPO) than my Platinum plan did, only $1000 max out-of-pocket, and only a third of the monthly cost!

So if you are low income and signed up back in October, take a second look at those Silver plans! Despite what the Healthcare.gov online chat support reps tell you about how you can't change plans after you've paid your first month's premiums, THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE. In my case, I paid my first month's premium on my Platinum plan, but was able just yesterday to get on there, TERMINATE ALL COVERAGE, delete my erroneous application, and go through the whole application and enrollment process (successfully this time, without error) and see those true lower rates I was eligible for, on those much better Silver plans with cost-sharing kicked in!

Even on my low-income, $26/mo. is very affordable, and more than makes up for my Republican-controlled state not expanding Medicaid eligibility, as many more providers recognize this PPO insurance I will now have, whereas not as many accept Medicaid.

Just thought I'd let you all know.

Kalashnikov 'feared he was to blame' for AK-47 rifle deaths

The inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle apparently wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church before he died expressing fears he was morally responsible for the people it killed.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died last month aged 94, wrote a long emotional letter to Patriarch Kirill in May 2012, church officials say.

He said he was suffering "spiritual pain" over the many deaths it caused.

Kalashnikov had previously refused to accept responsibility for those killed.


Interesting article... the AK-47 (and its variants) definitely changed the landscape of modern warfare.

Curious that the proliferation of his 65-year-old invention caused him such mental anguish in his final days...

But how much can the inventor truly be blamed? If not the Kalashnikov, surely some other automatic rifle would have filled the void... maybe not as simple and elegant of a design, maybe not as rugged and inexpensive, but equally efficient killing machines none-the-less.

Doesn't it all still boil down to human nature and malicious intent? Or is the tool truly to blame in this case?

It is thought that more than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide.

It definitely had an impact, that's for sure...

Grandmother says her heart goes out to his family, she never intended to kill the young man.

Police say the teen barged into her home carrying a shotgun and demanding money out of the safe."And as I was unlocking the safe and I prayed to God to give me strength, to get through this, it'll be me or him," said the woman.

"And that's when I fired my gun and hit him with the first round," said the victim of a home invasion in the 3000 block of Morningside Drive in Shreveport.

She says when she realized she only had coins in the safe she began fearing for her own life , the life of her granddaughter, and great grandson.

The terrified 63 year-old grandmother and great grandmother doesn't want to be identified. She tells KSLA News 12 she got the drop on the alleged robber when she distracted him by handing him the bag of money with one hand. With the other hand, she says she shot the sixteen year- old in the chest.


"55 dollars in coins, and he lost his life."


My Parents Are 57 and 61, Both Smokers, Finally Got Through on Healthcare.gov

They were originally going to go with the cheapest Silver plan, but it had a $2500 deductible and $11,600 max out-of-pocket. So I suggested they check out the Gold and Platinum plans, just for comparison. They are both in pretty good health (besides their smoking habit) but my dad had to undergo an angioplasty a few years back, clogged arteries. My dad got laid off his long-term job as an HVAC salesman a couple years ago, had been drawing unemployment and paying into a COBRA plan that cost over $500/month just for himself. My mom has been uninsured for years since arthritis stopped her from working. (She never applied for disability.)

They both have a modest 401K which my dad has been drawing on these last couple years which about to run out, but Social Security kicks in for him next year so that should help somewhat. Then my mom can start drawing on her 401K until she makes it to 62 herself. They were surprised to find out they qualified for a $611 monthly tax credit. They ended up going with a Platinum plan, the premium which costs just over $647/month for the both of them. $0 deductible, and only a $3000 max out-of-pocket. Not too bad considering their age and the fact that they admitted to being smokers on the application.

I'm trying to get them to quit smoking, try e-cigarettes or something, so they can save an additional $100/month on their insurance, then they would only be paying around $550/month for a Platinum plan. This will be much better coverage than they ever had their whole working lives, which is especially important now that they are at that critical age where they are at most risk: over 55, yet not quite old enough to qualify for Medicare. I'm just glad they will both be covered again. I was worried about my mom going so long without insurance.

The ACA really is making a difference in many people's lives. I hope they are able to get the kinks worked out and make this thing work. At least until we finally get around to expanding Medicare for all. One step at at a time...

State Cop Shoots at Minivan Full of Kids

TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) - A simple traffic stop turned into a wild scene with a 14-year-old rushing a state cop, a high-speed chase and another officer firing at a fleeing minivan full of kids.

Now the driver and her son are facing charges while New Mexico State Police are investigating the officers involved.

It all started Oct. 28 on a state highway south of Taos. A State Police officer pulled over Oriana Ferrell's minivan for going 71 mphr in a 55 mph zone. In the minivan with her were her five kids. The Taos News reports the children range in age from 6 to 18.

On dash cam video released to KRQE News 13 Friday you can see Ferrell and the officer argue after Ferrell couldn't decide whether to pay the $126 fine or contest it in court. The officer instructs her to turn her vehicle off and stay put before walking back to his car.


She shouldn't have drove off, but that doesn't justify the violent police response -- one of the kids in there could have easily been killed.

Cops needs to chill the fuck out instead of play Rambo all the time.

"Measured response" is the order of the day.

That is all.

I Will Say One Thing About the Catholic Church...

They sure have harbored some incredible minds.

Many Catholics, both clerics and laypersons alike, have made significant contributions to the development of science and mathematics from the Middle Ages to today. These scientists include Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Nicolas Copernicus, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Gregor Mendel, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Pierre de Fermat, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Marin Mersenne, Alessandro Volta, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Pierre Duhem, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Roger Boscovich, Pierre Gassendi, and Georgius Agricola, to name a few.


For an institution so steeped in tradition, superstition, and folklore, they sure did evolve (even before the Renaissance) to lay the very foundation for modern science itself.

We're covering Gregor Mendel right now in Biology, his insightful contributions to the study of genetics.

I can't help but to think, if it wasn't for the Church back in the day with all their monasteries allowing such "philosopher monks" to be able to focus all their free time on on matters of the mind instead of endless busy-body work, we would have never gotten out of the Dark Ages.

I'm not so sure that the Church is really all that necessary any more, in this era of free-flowing information and esteemed secular institutes of higher learning, but I will give them props for the role they played back in the day, laying down the building blocks of the explosion of human knowledge and scientific discovery over the past 500 years, especially over the past 200 years alone.

It gives me great hope for the future of humanity, that even from the most guarded halls of dogma and ritual that such forward-thinking perspectives could arise, and even thrive.

Maybe even Islam will eventually come around and change its ways. Come back to contributing to the greater human knowledge like it did in its early days, instead of trying to drag us back down to pre-civilized levels of endless sectarian violence and hate.

We can hope, right?

Today We Learned How to Make Crack Cocaine and Kevlar!

So today we learned about amines and amides, in Organic Chemistry. (For those not familiar, it involves organic compounds with a Nitrogen component.)

This is cocaine:

Chemistry professors sure seem to know a lot about illegal substances... crack is a lower purity form of free-base cocaine that is usually produced by neutralization of cocaine hydrochloride with a solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3) and water, producing a very hard/brittle, off-white-to-brown colored, amorphous material that contains sodium carbonate, entrapped water, and other by-products as the main impurities.

Someone in class asked why it is that rich people tend to be the ones who do the pure cocaine, whereas poor folks tend to be the ones who do crack. She wasn't sure, but said she'd get back to us.

But what was really cool is we learned what kevlar and many fire-proof and bullet-proof vests are made of:

Those red balls are oxygen atoms, the blue balls nitrogen, white balls hydrogen, and black carbon.

It's amazing that just these 4 simple elements, when arranged a certain way, produce properties that make them so impervious to penetration.

This class has been nothing short of fascinating, it really is amazing how chemistry ties in to so many aspects of our lives. It really is the central science.

If I wasn't so dead-set on becoming a biologist, I'd definitely pursue chemistry instead.

The things we've learned in just the past 200 years since chemistry was founded as a science really have changed everything.

Everything boils down to chemistry. Everything.

I Finally Got Through on HealthCare.gov! UNBELIEVABLE Rates!

Holy smokes!

I've been trying to register since Day 1, only to have it keep erring out over and over again, no matter what time of day I tried. Multiple unsuccessful attempts, a couple user account names "lost in limbo", but the third try was the charm.

Took me well over an hour to answer all the verification questions, but I was finally able to look at and compare plans.

To be on the safe side, I ended up over-estimating my income a bit, as my current part-time job only pays around $10K/year, which isn't enough to qualify for subsidies. (My current home state of Idaho is one of those backwards GOP-controlled states that didn't expand Medicaid. Assholes.) But I expect to be able to take on a work-study job through my community college next semester, which should be just enough to put me over the $11,490 threshold for full subsidies to kick in.

So I checked out the default Silver-level plans which looked very affordable. With the $203/month subsidy, I found two plans that only cost $20/month: one with a $1000 deductible and $5800 max out-of-pocket, and another with a $3500 deductible but $3500 out-of-pocket. While that isn't too bad, just for fun I took a peek at the other level plans. I could get a Bronze plan for free, but they had way higher deductibles and max out-of-pocket expenses, too risky. The Gold plans weren't much better than the Silver it didn't seem, and still had pretty high deductibles and co-pays.

Then I was completely blown away: I could get a fucking PLATINUM plan for only $85/month. NO DEDUCTIBLE, $1500 MAX out-of-pocket expenses, worst-case scenario. Only a $35 primary doctor co-pay, a $50 specialist doctor co-pay, and $10 generic drugs. Even though its over 4 times as expensive as a Silver plan, I'm seriously leaning toward this option. The extra income from a work-study job would more than cover it.

No fucking wonder the GOP wants to shut this down before word gets out! Even without subsidies, that Platinum plan is only $288/month, and from the looks of it far superior to many employer-offered plans. This is really going to give corporate insurance plans a run for their money. Employers won't want to look like cheapskates offering less benefits than what the uninsured can get on the exchanges, so I imagine it will force them to reduce, if not eliminate, their high deductibles as well.

If this is really what we have in store, then 2014 is going to be a blood-bath... for the Republicans.

*** ETA: I'm 36 years old, single, non-smoker:

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