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Here's a thought experiment: What if someone shouted "Fire!" in a crowded theater...

... and every person in that theater knew that in the case of a fire, the very last thing you should do is panic? If every person in that theater knew that "FIRE!" means that you get up and walk calmly to the door -- no pushing, no shoving, no trying to muscle anyone else out of the way...

... why, then, in no time at all, you'd have an empty theater. Which, of course, could mean a waste of ticket and/or babysitting money, to be sure. But that's nothing compared to the carnage that even a false alarm can create if panic ensues, as it almost always does.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. (Yes, I do fear a few other things; among are them global warming, toxic waste, and Justin Bieber. But none of them can threaten us through this site. Let's just pretend Roosevelt was addressing Kossacks when he said that.) Whether paid or unpaid, skilled or unskilled, anyone trying to stir the pot will only be as successful as we allow them, or their dogs, to be.

So I really don't care if there are paid trolls running around here trying to stir up trouble. I urge one and all of you to be at least as apathetic. I can't imagine a worse waste of community resources than trying to sniff out who is or isn't a paid troll.

Personally, I rolled a 3 for telepathy, and I know damn well that the rest of you did too. So any attempt at sniffing out the paid trolls is pretty much guaranteed to result in way more harm than good. That goes at least double if the paid trolls have the chutzpah, after all the fuss we've made over them, to not even exist at this site. (And you know those paid trolls are just sneaky-sly enough to pull a stunt like that.)

This isn't a theater. Your life isn't in danger if someone yells "FIRE!" when there isn't one, or even if they don't and there is. So, when you suspect you've spotted a paid troll, try treating them with kindness and respect. Instead of calling them out for what you think they are, just stick to the facts of the case at hand. Most likely, they'll get bored. Or very possibly you'll confuse the heck out of them. Or maybe, just maybe, they might even learn a thing or two. Well, at least their dogs might.

And stop feeding the meta-trolls who write meta-diaries like this one. My fondest wish is that this diary should collapse in a puff of human kindness.

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To start with, I Am Not A Lawyer. I studied some Constitutional law as an undergraduate mumblety-mumble years ago, and I occasionally read Supreme Court cases for fun. But I Am Not A Lawyer. So in the imprecise field of divining the Supreme Court's intentions, I'm pretty low on the ladder.

But having read through the transcript of today's arguments in Hollingsworth vs. Perry, I found some things that seem noteworthy, and that may contravene the current conventional wisdom. Come with me over the begaveled croissant...

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This will be short, but it looks important.

This morning, Mitt Romney told a crowd of middle-class Ohioans that his tax cuts would not offer much to the middle class, because he'd be lowering deductions and exemptions:

"We have got to reform our tax system," Romney said at a morning event here. "Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don't be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people."

The comments were either a flub on Romney's part or an admission that many of the deductions and exemptions that he will have to target in order to make his tax plan deficit neutral will end up affecting the middle class.

It will be interesting to see how the campaign spins this one.
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The Board of Selectmen in Belmont, Massachusetts -- home of the unfinished basement that Mitt Romney proudly called home -- had a meeting this past Wednesday. As you may already have guessed, this wasn't an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Board of Selectmen meeting. Nay, the agenda included one item so urgent that Tagg Romney, the proud owner of that very same unfinished basement, left his father's campaign to add his voice to the discussion.

The urgent issue at hand was the question of whether the town should sell a 2.5 acre parcel to an out-of-town real estate developer, who planned to construct an 18-bed hospice on the site. This 2.5 acre parcel happens to be on the same road as that unfinished basement. That same road also provides access to the Belmont Country Club, so it's not as if it's unused for any commercial purpose.

Oh, but wait:

The turning point of the meeting occurred with Greensbrook Way resident Tagg Romney expressing the collective zeitgeist saying a hospice will eventually bring down property values "dramatically" in the area and [a]ffecting negatively town tax coffers, noting also that nearly two dozen children under the age of 16 live on his street.

Romney... said the neighborhood has received word that a growing number of residential developers are keen to build on the lots.

"We have been wishing that the town would put the land back out to bid so I or someone else could put homes there," he said, to applause from those attending.

Under pressure, the selectmen decided to offer the land for bid to residential developers. Like Tagg? Not so fast:
Romney said he would not seek to bid on the parcel this time around, rather being happy that any future project will likely be residential.
I guess for Tagg, some things are more important than getting his father elected. Things like defending his property values from dying people, and preserving unfettered access to the country club. But not sullying his hands in real estate development. At least not yet.
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Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM PDT

Thank You, Mitt Romney. Really.

by Nowhere Man

Seriously: Thank you, Mitt Romney.

It would have been enough for you to have been so instrumental in enacting the Massachusetts Health Care Reform statute, which led the way to PPACA. Yet you did even more: At a time when it seemed like no health care reform would get through Congress, you wrote an influential op-ed urging that the lessons of Massachusetts should be brought to the nation as a whole.

And they were.

And today, the SCOTUS upheld the mandate. Unpopular as it may be, the mandate is what makes the needed reforms possible -- as you yourself have noted.

So while I never thought I'd be saying this, I'll say it again: Thank You, Mitt Romney!

And I urge my fellow liberals, progressives, Democrats, and Kossacks to thank you too. Repeatedly.

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Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 05:20 AM PDT

A simple way to end the pie wars

by Nowhere Man

This diary will be short, to the point, and possibly ill-advised. Nonetheless...

I wish to offer a simple technique for ending and/or averting pie wars: Respond to the writing, not to the writer.

Dump out those mental databases of "good folks" and "bad folks". There's little use in attacking people on (what you perceive as) their personality traits. Obvious trolls will be obvious. Many other "trolls" will turn out to be real, sincere, and possibly misguided people. Some "trolls" will even turn out to be right.

Seek not for trolls, for the troll you seek just might be you.

And if this means a few purity trolls or concern trolls are allowed to post unhindered? Meh. Maybe, if they stop getting the responses they're looking for, they'll get bored. Maybe not. But keeping this site troll-free isn't worth the bother.

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Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 05:33 PM PDT

Life found on Mars? Maybe.

by Nowhere Man

A research team has just published a new analysis[PDF] (abstract) of 36-year-old data from the Viking lander. According to the researchers, statistical analysis of the data shows that the Viking lander did, in fact, find evidence for life on Mars.

I'd really like to believe it, but I'm skeptical. Follow me over the paramecium for some ramblings and ruminations. And please add your own in the comments.

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I'm pleased to let folks here know about the opening this evening of a new art exhibition: OUTSOURCED!, by Robin Holder. (Robin and I crossed paths in the distant past, and recently re-connected.) The exhibit is hosted at the headquarters of the 1199 SEIU, a union local with a long and proud history of working for and with progressive causes. Their address is 310 West 43rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), New York, NY.

I'll let Robin describe the exhibit in a moment. I just want to add that this was planned well before the Occupy movement got underway, but it couldn't be better timed than now.

These images express how my modest middle class lifestyle exists at the expense of child slave labor around the world. It's about the brutal inequities of global economics.

Each work reveals two discordant interconnected human experiences that exist simultaneously in the design, manufacture and distribution of items used in my daily life.  

The top layer in each work symbolizes the situation of a child laborer connected with an item I have acquired. This part of the image is a surface-rolled inked stencil monotype with muted monochromatic colors. The layer underneath in each work is painted with vibrant colors and reflects my individual personal perspective and relationship to the manufactured item.

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You probably heard about the flight into Detroit yesterday, where two men and a woman were arrested and detained for "suspicious behavior" that apparently consisted of the two men using the bathroom.

This is the woman's story.

Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy. I figured most people would choose not to fly that day so lines would be short, planes would be lightly filled and though security might be ratcheted up, we’d all feel safer knowing we had come a long way since that dreadful Tuesday morning 10 years ago.

But then armed officers stormed my plane, threw me in handcuffs and locked me up.

Please read the woman's story. It's chilling.

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As a capitalist, I agree with the proposition that people who put money into an enterprise such as Walmart or Microsoft deserve to reap the profits that they earn, even if I don't personally like the effects of those enterprises. But it seems that America has been paying short shrift to the means by which we've created and sustained an economic environment where such enterprises could succeed. I.e., we're killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. As a prime example of this inattention, I present to you the Republican frenzy to downsize government.

That's right: "Big" government, American-style, is good for business and good for the economy. Its downsizing would make things worse, not better, for big business.

Take Walmart (please!). In Part I, I briefly touched the ways that mass automobile ownership has benefited our economy. Let's start with a closer look at cars, and highways in particular, and how Walmart benefits from them.

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Low taxes. Less government. We've seen this movie before.

Whether it's a class war, or whether it's mere trickle-down economics, the Republicans are determined to press their small-government, low-tax agenda on America. It's business as usual for the party of big business: relieve the wealthy of the burdens of taxation and regulation. Let the middle class pay more, and let the buyer beware.

There's only one problem: The wealth of the wealthy largely comes from, and is largely supported by, the middle class. As the middle class loses its prosperity, the rich are going to lose as well. It won't be as fast, but by and large their fall will be the greater.

I'm not talking Marxist class struggle here; I'm talking straight capitalist economics. Come with me over the flip, and I'll explain.

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