Member since: Sat Mar 27, 2004, 03:35 PM
Number of posts: 24,331
Number of posts: 24,331
Since this has been going around, the myth that wouldn't die, I suppose I need to take a few minutes to correct the facts.
There is a widespread belief and claim, pushed by various people for various reasons, that Social Security has had money "borrowed" or "taken" from it by the government to be spent on whatever, and that therefore it's really secretly empty, been stolen, filled with IOUs, or whatever other story you want to spin. Usually this is pushed in the same breath as implying (or outright stating) that both parties are conspiring to kill seniors and that Social Security is a fraud. Despite that, this storyline has found a substantial home on the left, particularly among the "attack the Democrats" faction.
Here's the thing though: This claim is false. It's not "sort of" or "controversial," it's just outright false. Anyone who pushes this claim is either misinformed or outright lying.
This money has not been "stolen" or "spent" simply because it's not all sitting in one giant vault somewhere gathering dust. It has been invested, in the same way that putting your money into a certificate of deposit isn't the bank stealing from you just because that money is no longer sitting in your pocket. Frankly, I expect to hear that kind of ignorant pseudo-sophistry from the Ron Paul types who live off paranoia and a failure to understand monetary policy, but it always annoys me to hear some on the left claiming something not just wrong but blatantly intended to deceive and undermine confidence.
The Social Security Trust Fund currently contains about $2.6 trillion dollars in assets, mostly in the form of US treasury bonds. These investments are there for the same reason that any money is invested anywhere: to produce returns, in this case increasing Social Security revenue through interest. An interest rate of 2.4%, which is the average that the SSTF collected last year, doesn't sound like much... but on $2.6 trillion dollars, that's $63 billion a year extra that's being collected by the Social Security system. Not to mention that if you simply piled cash in a vault, not only would it not grow in value, the SSTF would actually shrink due to inflation. Because of its investments, Social Security is MORE financially sound, not less, and with no substantive risk since it's based on legally binding US treasury bonds. US bonds are, in fact, legally enshrined in the constitution, with the 14th Amendment establishing that their validity "shall not be questioned."
In summary, the claim that the trust fund has been "stolen" or replaced by "IOUs" is patently wrong, akin to saying that if you can't physically see your money sitting in a bank vault it's not there. It's an absurd claim, and one we should put to rest for good.
Posted by TheWraith | Tue Apr 24, 2012, 12:51 PM (164 replies)
Off a thread about five elephant poachers being killed in a battle with the Kenyan park service, after which they recovered 110 pounds of elephant ivory.
I hate poaching but I am not going to cheer the death of five likely poor men who were trying to find a way to feed their families. You guys are fucking gruesome. The poachers are very much the victims here as well. If you were starving you mean you would not try to kill an animal to feed your kids? Show the same anger against the Chinese and demand we quit importing their shit instead of dancing on the graves of some poor men.
At Sat Apr 21, 2012, 10:59 AM you sent an alert on the following post:
Once again, this sort of thing--combined with jury comments like "let the MIRT handle it" while voting to PREVENT the MIRT from seeing the post, and responses like "reply with WORDS not CENSORSHIP!!!11" to vile, hate-filled broad brush attacks on various groups like police, transfolk, etcetera--make me seriously wonder what percentage of DU jury members actually bother to understand what they're doing, and also to wonder whether I would need both hands to count up to that number.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a laundry list of very, very good reasons that every other forum in the breadth of the internet uses an assigned team of moderators to keep the peace. I should know this, I managed a large moderator team for five years. There's equally good reasons that juries in the real world do not consist of six people pulled at random off the street and asked to make a decision without clearly understanding their responsibilities and instructions. The jury experiment has been interesting, but it isn't viable over the long term if one wants to actually maintain a forum for discussion instead of a mud pit where the loudest and most obnoxious voice wins.
Posted by TheWraith | Sat Apr 21, 2012, 12:03 PM (23 replies)
I've said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating for all of DU: don't bother listening to the "legal analysts" that every news channel is going to drag on-air to talk about the Zimmerman case. There's two main reasons why you should ignore them.
First off, they have no reason to accurately talk about the case. Quite the opposite: they have a vested interest in making everything seem as up in the air as humanly possible, to get more people to tune in and more airtime for themselves. So they will pretty much be constantly spinning for whatever side they think is the underdog.
Secondly, like political pundits, they're usually working as legal analysts because they're no longer qualified, trusted, or competent to actually work in the field that they rant about. But that doesn't stop them from pretending to be smarter and more in the know than the people who've actually seen and handled the evidence every step of the way, even though they've never seen one iota more of the facts than whatever rumor and innuendo leaks out to the media.
Posted by TheWraith | Fri Apr 20, 2012, 01:04 PM (7 replies)
I live in a ridiculously rural area filled with basically almost nothing but Republicans. Those of you who live in similar areas can no doubt understand what I mean when I say that there is a constant attitude in places like this where even mentioning that you're a Democrat makes you a target for people to degrade and ridicule.
I came to DU more than eight years ago because it along with other places I started going around that time offered a safe haven where one could be a Democrat without being subjected to barrages of abuse.
So what happens here? The place becomes overrun by people who use it as a venue to degrade and ridicule Democrats. And yet it gets tolerated, because it comes from the 1% of the country that despite claiming to be on the "left" hates Democrats far more than Republicans.
Posted by TheWraith | Wed Apr 18, 2012, 05:00 PM (80 replies)
After once again seeing a big steaming load of pseudoscientific dung dropped here a little while ago, in the form of an article claiming that cell phone towers and radio waves will make you sick, I thought it was about that time for our regular reminder: they don't.
Every major scientific study has concluded that there is no tangible health risks from radio waves, in the same way that every major scientific study has shown that exercise is good for you and the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. This is not controversial at all. There are no real health risks associated with the average person's exposure to radio waves. And people who claim to be sickened by wireless devices have long since been debunked, since despite claiming immediate ill effects, they're unable to tell the difference between a wireless device which is transmitting and one which isn't even plugged in.
If cell phones actually caused cancer, with now something like 90 cell phones in the US per 100 people, science would dictate that cancer rates would have gone up, whereas they have actually gone DOWN slightly since cell phones became popular. Furthermore, if radio waves were actually in any way harmful, you'd think people would have experienced that from being near radio and TV stations which transmit at a hundred thousand watts, rather than cell phone towers which transmit at a few hundred.
The wild claims you hear about people being sickened by WiFi or getting rashes from cell phone towers are, simply put, junk. You might as well say that they were cursed by a witch--it has as much scientific validity. Either they're people who are hypochondriacs and don't understand that just because something exists doesn't make it dangerous, or they're simply misinformed.
Posted by TheWraith | Fri Apr 13, 2012, 02:07 PM (71 replies)
Since we're talking about charges, I thought it might be useful to be clear about some definitions.
The highest degree of murder is, obviously, murder in the first degree. Murder in the first is defined as a murder committed with intent, premeditation, and planning. For instance, if someone schemes out to murder their business partner and make it look like an accident, that would be murder in the first degree. First degree murder depends on the ability to prove premeditation, which is nearly impossible if the killer and the victim didn't previously know each other.
Just below that is murder in the second degree. Murder in the second is functionally identical to first degree murder, but without premeditation and planning. An example would be if someone got into an argument at a bar and ended up stabbing the other person to death, that would be murder in the second degree.
Manslaughter encompasses all other forms of homicide which don't rise to the level of murder, including cases where the person has a temporarily diminished capacity for rational judgment, or deaths arising from negligence or recklessness. For instance, if you had a bar fight that was provoked by the revelation that someone's spouse was cheating on them, and one of the participants ended up dead, that could be manslaughter. Likewise, if you have a fistfight and one of the participants falls and cracks their head open on the pavement, that could also be manslaughter. Or, someone provoking a fight which then ends with them exercising lethal self defense--even if they met the legal definition for self defense, reasonably fearing for their life, they would still be culpable for starting the confrontation which resulted in death, making it manslaughter.
Zimmerman will most likely be charged with either manslaughter or murder in the second. A conviction for manslaughter would be basically a lock in this case, since even Zimmerman's own story basically would incriminate him for that. Murder two is also possible, however this depends heavily on what the prosecutor thinks they can get a conviction on. Most prosecutors will probably go for a 100% chance of a manslaughter conviction over a 75% chance of a murder two conviction simply to eliminate the risk of an acquittal, particularly if the point is to show that someone is not getting away with murder.
The penalty in Florida for murder in the second is a minimum of 16 3/4 years in prison, with up to life in prison or up to life probation at the discretion of the judge.
The penalty in Florida for manslaughter is a minimum of 9 1/4 years in prison, with up to 15 years in prison and/or up to 15 years probation at the discretion of the judge.
Posted by TheWraith | Wed Apr 11, 2012, 01:57 PM (54 replies)
72 years ago last night the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, began removing Polish prisoners from the camps where they had been kept since last September, when the Soviet Union overran half of Poland in concert with Nazi Germany's invasion of the other half. The Polish Second Republic enlisted anyone who had graduated college as at minimum a reserve officer in the Polish army, meaning that the 8,000 officers the Soviet Union had captured included many of Poland's best and brightest: dozens of university professors, hundreds of doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and journalists. They had also arrested 6,000 police officers, and another 8,000 civilians on suspicion of being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests."
The Poles were told that they were being released and allowed to return home after their six months of captivity. 395 of the prisoners were deemed to be "of value" by the NKVD; the rest were taken out in groups of 250 every night.
They weren't being taken home. It had been decided a month earlier that if the Poles were released, they would likely end up opposing Soviet rule of Poland. Instead, most were being taken to an isolated location near Katyn Forest. There, they were searched for valuables. One man, named Adam Solski, was writing in his diary about the NKVD taking his wedding ring, when mid-sentence they came to get him.
Each man was placed on his knees in a specially soundproofed cell, and shot in the back of the head. Their bodies were stacked in trucks, and taken out to the forest to be dumped into open pits. When one pit was filled with layer upon layer of bodies, it would be covered over with dirt and a new one used.
Between the killings at Katyn and four other prison sites, by the end of the night over a thousand men were dead. By the end of a month's time, the NKVD executed at least 21,768 people.
One man, Vasili Blokhin, chief executioner of the NKVD, was reported to have personally shot 7,000 of the prisoners. He had supplied himself and the other executioners with German-made Walther pistols, primarily because the Soviet service pistols available were too powerful and had too much recoil--after the first few dozen murders, the executioner's hand might get sore.
I post this not just in remembrance of the victims, but in remembrance of history. In my opinion, the greatest problem in American politics right now is a failure to know and understand history. From the idealization of a rose-colored past as some kind of time of milk, honey, and American values, to the misuse of phrases like "police state" and "fascism," to the repeating of mistakes learned about long ago about progress and prohibition.
It's not a "police state" or "fascism" when you have to have healthcare coverage, or pay taxes, or can't indefinitely camp on other people's property, or someone gets arrested for committing a crime. If you want to know what fascism means, read about the Polish Jews who were rounded up by the SS in late 1939 and forcibly marched away from their homes, hundreds of miles on foot. The old or sick who fell behind would be shot. Some of the troops would take women away at night and gang rape them, followed by a bullet to the head. When the survivors reached the river that divided German-occupied Poland from the Soviet side, their shoes fallen apart and feet bleeding, some cut to the bone, they were forced at gunpoint to swim the river. Ninety lived to make it across: when the march had begun, there had been almost a thousand of them.
Fascism means you might be murdered because you might oppose the government, or because your mother was a gypsy, or your uncle was a dissident. A police state means having the bodies of your family, still inside the wrecked train car where they died in a collision, hastily buried alongside the track where the accident happened because it might embarrass the government, and being forbidden to take personal effects, photos, or even to talk about it--which is what happened in China just last July. Repression is having military units shelling civilian neighborhoods because the people there had the audacity to demand free and fair elections.
Using words like that to describe a policy in a democratic country, even policies you disagree with in the strongest terms, not only devalues and disrespects the struggles of the people who suffered, died, and still do today under repressive and autocratic dictatorships, but it represents the kind of bourgeois attitude to history and fact that makes rational discourse impossible as a nation.
Posted by TheWraith | Thu Apr 5, 2012, 04:54 PM (26 replies)
An excerpt from Florida's self defense laws, via Wikipedia. Emphasis is mine.
776.041 Use of force by aggressor. —The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
In plain English, having provoked the confrontation with Martin, no matter what happened from that point on Zimmerman's only legal recourse was to attempt to retreat.
Posted by TheWraith | Wed Mar 28, 2012, 08:56 PM (6 replies)
I've seen a bunch of posts here tonight basically cheering on the Republican-led effort to try and destroy the Affordable Care Act, on the belief that that would somehow pave the way for passing a single-payer plan, on the grounds that based on one poll two thirds of the public supports it, and therefore it means that Republicans would be forced to vote for it. This belief is so wrong that it's hard to explain it without comparisons to the tooth fairy, but that's not the point of this. The point is, it is a mistake to ever think that the Republicans are there to serve the public, or to react to public opinion, or that they can be "forced" to do anything by virtue of it being either right or popular.
Public opinion has NEVER influenced what the Republicans do. Ever. How many Americans want bipartisan work on the economy? How many Americans want extended unemployment benefits? Take a look at the 2010 "lame duck" session: even though the votes were there for many of President Obama's goals, the handful of Republicans who later crossed over refused before the election to vote for THINGS THEY SUPPORTED specifically in order to campaign AGAINST them, because by campaigning against them they can hurt Obama and the Democrats.
The Republicans specialize in doing exactly what the public DOESN'T want, and then trying to blame it on someone else. If the Affordable Care Act is destroyed, that event will be exploited by the Republicans as a set piece to push the line that government can't handle healthcare, and as an excuse to promote the elimination of Medicare and Medicaid. If you believe something else, I have to ask what rock you've been living under the past three years. The Republicans are not bound by public opinion, and never will be as long as they can get away with gaming the system. The only means to push back on that is to expose them as obstructionist, and to work our asses off district by district to replace them with Democrats.
Posted by TheWraith | Tue Mar 27, 2012, 08:35 PM (128 replies)
Without the local police doing their utmost to cover up for Zimmerman, this would be a relatively open and shut case. Self defense has nothing to do with it; Zimmerman's actions aren't protected by self-defense laws in Florida or anywhere else in the country. But not only did the police go out of their way to avoid doing all the normal things that would have been done in other cases--drug and alcohol testing for Zimmerman, interrogation, a more robust investigation--but they also have been reinterpreting witness statements to support Zimmerman's story, as well as blankly deciding that he wouldn't be charged. That's far more than incompetence, and reaches well into the territory of deliberate coverup.
Posted by TheWraith | Thu Mar 22, 2012, 08:04 PM (58 replies)