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Smokin’ Irony!

Reynolds American, the maker of Camel cigarettes and the second-largest producer of tobacco products in the US, has decided to ban smoking from its corporate offices. A corporate spokesman says “We’re well aware that there will be folks who see this as an irony, but we believe it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Not only that, but the CEO of Reynolds is urging the FDA to take faster action in regulating e-cigarettes. Yes, the company who used cartoon characters in a despicable attempt to get more children addicted to smoking, knowingly lied for years about the dangers of smoking, and bitterly fought regulation of its products is now complaining about lack of regulation.

So what’s really going on? I think tobacco companies are trying to promote their e-cigarettes, which look and feel like traditional cigarettes, but instead heat up liquid nicotine to generate a vapor that is inhaled directly by the smoker. Because they don’t produce any smoke from burning tobacco, they avoid some of the problems of traditional cigarettes, like second-hand smoke.

So while Reynolds is banning traditional cigarettes, it will still allow e-cigarettes. Could they be using the apparent irony of banning traditional cigarettes to help promote their new product? Indeed, the tobacco industry has been touting the health benefits of converting smokers to the new technology of e-cigarettes.


Profiles in Irony

Thom Tillis, Republican candidate for the US Senate in North Carolina.

Last year, as Speaker of the assembly in North Carolina, Tillis led the fight to pass a bill rejecting Medicaid expansion (a key part of Obamacare). According to Tillis “An expansion of Medicaid would cost North Carolina taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through 2021.” He also said “If these liberal activists were truly serious about reducing the cost of health insurance, they would be in Washington protesting Obamacare, an abomination that has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket for working families.”

Tillis backed efforts in the Senate that led to the government shutdown, saying “I believe Obamacare is a mortal threat to our economy. It will decrease healthcare quality and raise healthcare premiums and Republicans should do everything in our power to undo it.” In his current campaign for the Senate, his website calls Obamacare “a cancer on our national economy.” During the primary, he boasted in TV ads that he “stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold. It’s not happening in North Carolina, and it’s because of Thom Tillis.”

But now, his opponent in the Senate race has been winning supporters by blasting him for opposing Medicaid expansion, so what does Tillis do? He appears on TV and claims that the state should consider expanding Medicaid. He even said that he doesn’t have any ideological objection to expanding the coverage.

As recently as August, Tillis was still claiming that he absolutely wanted to repeal Obamacare, but was starting to hedge his bets, talking about a transition period and maybe keeping some components of the law.

At least on some issues, Tillis is being consistent. In the same interview this week, he said that there is no simple explanation for what causes climate change.


The Big Lie

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique that involves telling a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” It works mainly because it is almost impossible to dispute it, because almost anything you can say just lends credence to the lie itself. After all, in order to argue against a lie, you have to tacitly admit that it is something worth a rebuttal.

Lately, the Big Lie has been even more effective, as the media has somehow come to believe that in order to be “fair” and “balanced” you have to consider all opinions, including ones that are pure lies.

Incidentally, I first thought the young person in this comic was supposed to be a slightly older version of Jonathan Krohn, the wunderkind who took the political world by storm at the age of 13 when he wowed ‘em at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But it’s not, especially as Krohn gave up being a conservative a few years later.


Late Night Political Humor

“They just announced that the budget deficit has shrunk to only $486 billion, which is the lowest it’s been since President Obama took office. Obama said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll just have to work harder … Wait, is that good news?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“They’re getting ready for Halloween at the White House. The pumpkins they’re carving came out of Michelle Obama’s garden. She raised the pumpkins, and the knife they’re using to carve came from a guy who hopped over the fence.” – David Letterman

“Today President Obama gave a speech in California to motivate young voters by discussing his commitment to new technology. Ironically, nobody heard him because they were all staring at their phones.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama’s in Los Angeles tonight for a night of fundraising and traffic jamming.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Traffic is so bad here to start with, and when the president comes in it just gets so much worse. Here’s the thing: Obama has no understanding of commuting because he works from home. He has a home office.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Tickets for the fundraising event ranged from $1,000 to $32,000. For $32,000, you can meet President Obama. That seems very high, especially considering the fact that you can jump the fence at the White House and meet him for free.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Traffic aside, it’s kind of nice to see people in L.A. raising millions of dollars for something that doesn’t involve ‘Transformers’ for a change.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This week a spokesman for Harry Reid said that even though Joe Biden makes a lot of mistakes, he is still able to connect and tell us what’s on his mind. That sounds less like a vice president and more like a chimpanzee that knows sign language.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Nobody had seen North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a week, then a month, and now six weeks have gone by and nobody’s seen him. They really started to get worried when he didn’t show up at the Clooney wedding.” – David Letterman

“Kim Jong Un has been out of the public eye and North Korean officials say that it’s because he needs a total of 100 days to recover from his foot ailments. When asked what kind of foot ailments, they said ‘liposuction.'” – Seth Meyers

“Over 200 airplane cabin cleaners at LaGuardia Airport in New York have gone on strike over fears about the spread of Ebola. But then they saw LaGuardia Airport and decided to take their chances with Ebola.” – Seth Meyers

“New York state is spending $750 million to open a solar plant in Buffalo, which will create thousands of jobs. Most of those jobs will be shoveling the snow off the solar equipment.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Bookmakers have listed Pope Francis as the odds-on favorite to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. So if you’re placing a bet on the results of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize … you have a gambling problem.” – Seth Meyers


Conservative Utopia?

This blog reported in August about how Kansas senator Sam Brownback was creating a conservative utopia with no taxes for businesses, and massive cuts to schools and other social programs. He had plenty of help from the Koch brothers, who are headquartered in Wichita. And the state legislature, after getting rid of most of those pesky Democrats even purged all their moderate Republicans.

Even back in August, their “conservative experiment” was showing signs of not working out like they said it would.

Well, it has gotten even worse, as reported by the Daily Show:


Late Night Political Humor

“A survey found that more than half of Americans see President Obama’s time in office as a failure. While the rest said, ‘You saw him in his office? When?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Obama was actually in his office yesterday. He met with his Secret Service director to talk about the recent White House security breaches. First they had to address the elephant in the room. Not metaphorically — an actual elephant wandered into the room. Security’s just awful.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today is the 10th anniversary of when Martha Stewart had to go to the penitentiary. Martha was in a minimum security facility, like the White House.” – David Letterman

“A new study estimates that only 3.4 percent of Americans will vote in the midterm elections next month. But on the bright side, 100 percent will still complain about the results.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Last night they had one of those special lunar eclipses called a blood moon. The moon was glowing red, which means that the Republicans have gained another seat in the Senate.” – David Letterman

“t’s rumored that a sequel is in the works to the 1996 movie ‘Independence Day’. I’m not sure how scary it will be. An alien invasion would be only like the fifth worst thing we’re dealing with right now.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Kim Jong Un is missing. Nobody’s seen evil North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for about a month now. And his daughter, Kim Kardashi Un, is worried sick.” – David Letterman

“This weekend a man in Oregon who is an advocate for the open carry of firearms was robbed at gunpoint. The thief apparently made off with the man’s entire argument.” – Seth Meyers


Dress for Success, Period!

OMG! Stephen Colbert is hilarious:

He even cracks himself up a few times.


Late Night Political Humor

“Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. He celebrated the way he always does: having someone try his cake before him.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, as those of you who are friends with him on Facebook know.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Vladimir Putin turned 62 years old today. It must be tough buying him a gift. What do you get for the man who has everywhere?” – Jimmy Fallon

“Putin turned 62 today. To celebrate, he took a trip to Siberia — you know, the place they send other people in Russia as punishment? That’s where he had his birthday party.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. When he got his presents he said, ‘You didn’t have to get me anything. I could have just taken it.'” – Seth Meyers

“It’s interesting that in spite of all of Russia’s troubles, Putin has an 80 percent approval rating, which I guess is something that happens when your pollsters carry machine guns.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A group in Russia has nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize. When Putin heard this he said, ‘I’m all about achieving piece — piece of Ukraine, piece of Poland. I hope to win many more pieces.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Evil Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He will not be able to attend the ceremony. That week he will be invading Poland. ” – David Letterman

“Former CIA Director Leon Panetta said it seems like President Obama has lost his way. Apparently, it’s gotten so bad that this morning Obama was seen asking a White House intruder for directions.” – Seth Meyers

“The White House dismissed former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s criticisms of President Obama, saying he has faced some of the most difficult issues of our time. That would be a great defense if EVERY president didn’t face the most difficult issues of their time. That’s the job.” – Jimmy Fallon

“On Saturday the San Francisco Giants beat the Nationals in Washington in 18 innings. It was the longest postseason game in baseball history — proving that even in sports, it takes forever to get something done in Washington.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Archaeologists in Arizona have discovered the remains of a 1,300-year-old village. They found dwellings, stone tools, and hundreds of ballots cast for Senator John McCain.” – Seth Meyers


For Sale?

Tom Toles
© Tom Toles

With free shipping and next day delivery, and complete secrecy guaranteed by the Supreme Court!

Our favorite data-driven prognosticator of elections, Nate Silver, is predicting that the Republicans have a 62% chance of winning a majority in the Senate, while the Democrats have a 38% chance of keeping the majority. 538 Politics That’s a whopping 24 point spread. And over the last few weeks, the GOP chances have been increasing.

How is this happening? Simple, money.

More than $100 million has been spent on just one Senate race in North Carolina. That flood of money bought around 80,000 TV ads — at one point this month that means that there were three TV ads running every five minutes, and that’s just for a single race.

Campaign spending has exploded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door to more money from corporations and labor unions. Critics say that gives wealthy donors a disproportionate voice.

“The most affluent donors are calling the shots,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “They’re picking races to target … that offer an opportunity to flip the Senate and therefore shift the balance of power in Washington.

And it isn’t 1% anymore. According to the NY Times, in the 2012 elections 1% of 1% of the US population accounted for 28% of all campaign contributions. And that’s just the money we know about. In the upcoming election we now have no way to know where the majority of the money is coming from:

More than half of broadcast advertising in the midterm elections has been paid for by groups that reveal little or nothing about their donors. Overwhelmingly, the main beneficiaries have been conservative organizations.

UPDATE: Just a day later and Nate Silver has now raised the GOP odds of taking over the Senate to 63.2%, increasing the point spread to 26.4.

UPDATE2: It hasn’t even been 24 hours since my update this morning, and now Nate Silver has raised the GOP odds of taking the Senate to 65.7% (and the point spread to 31.4%).


Late Night Political Humor

“Secret Service Director Julia Pierson stepped down after two major security breaches at the White House. It turns out Pierson’s first job was actually as a costumed character at Disney World. I’m guessing the character was Sleeping Beauty.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Julia Pierson hopped over the fence and turned in her resignation.” – David Letterman

“Pierson told her colleagues that the Secret Service actually needed to be more friendly and inviting like Disney World. I guess that’s why all White House intruders got a $30 photo of themselves hopping the fence.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned, and in her closing statement she said, ‘I’m leaving, not because of the breaches in security, but I don’t think I can take the pressure of the upcoming trick-or-treaters.'” – David Letterman

“They’re doing everything they can to tighten security at the White House. Today, on the roof of the White House, they added one of those fake owls.” – David Letterman

“The Obamas celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. It was a quiet late-night supper. It was just the Obamas and a couple of White House fence jumpers.” – David Letterman

“Scientists are suggesting that Pluto should be considered a planet again eight years after it was classified as a dwarf planet — and Americans are suggesting that scientists cut the crap about Pluto and figure out how to stop Ebola.” – Seth Meyers


Why Conservatives are Afraid of Ebola

Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science

by Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.

In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.

“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”

Additionally, he worries about a “slippery slope” situation, “in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts.”

At the end of the day, though, Dorrinson hopes that such a doomsday scenario will not come to pass. “Time and time again through history, Americans have been exposed to science and refused to accept it,” he said. “I pray that this time will be no different.”

Reagan and AIDS


Late Night Political Humor

“After all the recent security breaches at the White House, Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, resigned today. She said she’ll miss being in the White House, but knowing the Secret Service, she should be able to come back any time she wants. The door is always open … literally.” – Jimmy Fallon

“It was reported today that the recent security breaches at the White House could cost the director of the Secret Service her job. Luckily, after she’s escorted out of the building, it should be pretty easy for her to get back in.” – Seth Meyers

“Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned. She hopped the fence and thanked President Obama.” – David Letterman

“Today the Secret Service director submitted her resignation. Actually she jumped the White House fence, ran across the lawn, dove through a window, and handed it to the president.” – Conan O’Brien

“We’re having a special night. Everybody here in the balcony is a White House fence jumper.” – David Letterman

“Today the director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, resigned. She’s being replaced by the White House’s new state-of-the-art security system – a scarecrow.” – Seth Meyers

“The Secret Service maintains they can use lethal force to stop someone from entering the White House. After hearing this, President Obama invited tea party leaders over for lunch.” – Conan O’Brien

“Autumn is a beautiful time of year. At the White House, squirrels are rounding up nuts on the lawn, which is more than the Secret Service is doing.” – David Letterman

“Julia Pierson resigned but she remained in good spirits on her way out. She even politely held the door for some weird guy who was coming in.” – Seth Meyers

“The Secret Service let an armed ex-convict ride on the same elevator as President Obama. No word yet on which NFL player it was.” – Conan O’Brien

“A few weeks ago President Obama was riding in an elevator, and it turns out a guy on the elevator had a gun. This is pretty scary stuff. Not as scary as riding in an elevator with Ray Rice, but still scary.” – David Letterman

“This week a reporter asked Mitt Romney if he would run again for president in 2016, and Romney said, ‘We’ll see what happens’. Incidentally, that’s also what he says anytime his wife asks him to dance.” – Jimmy Fallon

“In a new interview, Mitt Romney referred to Hillary Clinton as an ‘enabler’ of the president’s foreign policy. Which would be a big deal if that wasn’t the definition of being secretary of state.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The gay rights group GLAAD has released its annual report on TV. The History Channel got a very poor grade from GLAAD, which is why today the History Channel announced its new show, ‘Gay Hitler.'” – Conan O’Brien

“In California yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the first state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores. I think it’s very interesting that a guy named Brown is forcing us to buy paper bags.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Scientists in northern California and Oregon found that marijuana gardens are threatening the salmon population. I don’t see the problem, really. Everyone loves baked salmon.” – Seth Meyers


Another Casualty of the War on Drugs

The casualties are the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to our Constitution.

The 4th says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” The 5th says “… nor shall any person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Seems pretty clear, right? And yet we have this thing called “civil asset forfeiture” that allows police to seize billions of dollars, cars, and other property even without charging you with a crime. Even worse, it turns our system of justice upside down, forcing you to prove that your property has not been used in any crime in order to get it back (and how do you prove a negative?)

How bad is it? A store owner had his bank account seized because he made cash deposits of his daily receipts in the bank across the street every night. He was never charged with any crime. A man was going to buy a used car and got pulled over by the police. When they discovered the $8,500 in cash he had with him to purchase the car, they seized it. Another man was driving with $28,500 that belonged to a church where he served as secretary, and was going to pay for a parcel of land where his church was planning to build. A cop pulled him over because he looked Mexican (he is from El Salvador). They never even issued him a traffic ticket, but they seized his church’s money.

Actual reasons used by police to justify stopping someone before they seized their property include tinted windows, air fresheners, trash in the car, “a profusion of energy drinks”, “a driver who is too talkative or too quiet”, signs of nervousness, driving over the speed limit, and (my favorite) drivers who were obeying the speed limit were suspect because their desire to avoid being stopped made them stand out.

Two of the main people who established civil forfeiture and ran the federal Asset Forfeiture Office published an editorial recently saying that it has gotten so bad that it can’t be reformed, and should be abolished.

The big problem is that it has become a big money maker for police departments, especially in this era of shrinking local and state budgets. The police have a huge incentive to concentrate on crimes where there is a chance they can seize lots of money or other assets and keep them. And of course, statistics show it happens disproportionately to minorities.

So how did this happen? Well, the police got tired of drug dealers hiring expensive lawyers and beating their convictions, so they decided that the solution was to take away all the money that even looked like it was the proceeds from drug sales before the person was convicted, so they couldn’t hire those expensive lawyers during their trial. To nobody’s surprise, the people who most looked like drug dealers were minorities who had lots of cash on them (no matter what the reason). After all, it is far less suspicious when a white person has lots of money, right?

How did they get away with it? The confiscation of money was done under civil law (hence “civil asset forfeiture”) rather than criminal law (which has far stronger safeguards). Civil law is the law normally used when one private party sues another one, like when you sue for divorce, sue to determine a property line, or sue to obtain compensation for injury. To make it even more confusing, the thing being sued in civil asset forfeiture is the property itself, so there doesn’t even have to be a criminal conviction. And it up to the owner of the property to prove where the money came from (prove that none of it came from potentially illegal activities). Even if they can do that, it is very expensive and time consuming, and recall that the person whose money was seized no longer has anything to pay a lawyer.

According to a judge, civil asset forfeiture is “institutional corruption“. It must be abolished before it makes an even bigger mockery of our legal system.

UPDATE: John Oliver is magnificent showing the absurdity of civil asset forfeiture:


Late Night Political Humor

“Congratulations to Chelsea Clinton, who gave birth to a baby girl named Charlotte on Friday. Or as Hillary described the baby, ‘Third in line to the throne’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Congratulations to Chelsea Clinton. Over the weekend, she gave birth to a baby girl. The baby girl will not confirm or deny whether she’s running in 2056.” – David Letterman

“Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a baby girl. And get this, she’s already said her first word: ‘Iowa’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a daughter named Charlotte this weekend. Hillary Clinton was really excited until she remembered that you have to be 18 to vote.” – Seth Meyers

“North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has not appeared in public for weeks. There are rumors he’s sick due to too much cheese, fried chicken, and beer. Sounds like someone is applying for American citizenship.” – Conan O’Brien

“Evil dictator Kim Jong Un has not been seen in three weeks. I hate it when a recluse disappears, don’t you?” – David Letterman

“Kim Jong Un didn’t even show up at Clooney’s wedding.” – David Letterman


What would you answer?

Anna Redi
© Anna Redi

And don’t tell me that we should just stop all flights from Africa to the US. That would make things worse (as pointed out by Jon Stewart and others). Besides, it wouldn’t stop anyone who really wanted to fly to the US, because they could just fly somewhere else, then fly to the US.

The truth is that we should have helped Africa prevent this outbreak in the first place. In fact, one of the few things that Dubya did that I applaud wholeheartedly was his work helping Africa.