With the killing of two humanitarian aid workers/al-Qaeda hostages on Thursday, the drone strike death count stands at well over 4,000, including nearly 500 folks now described as "innocent" and eight American citizens. And, as you might expect when you're fighting an undeclared war from far away, the CIA can't tell if it's killed innocents and/or Americans until weeks after it's done the deed, at which point I'm sure "we tried our best" is a tremendous comfort to the mothers of the dead, as well as to those of us who still do not consider due process "quaint." Hate to get all Star Trek, but this is why war should be hard.
President Obama suggests that our complaints about the Trans-Pacific "Partnership" "free" trade deals are rather like the whole "death panels" dust-up during the Affordable Care Act debate. Well, no: right-wingers took an obscure end-of-life-planning component of the ACA and blew it up into "death panels," whereas "free" trade opponents have made very specific complaints based on very specific leaks of TPP text, and these complaints are nowhere near as outlandish as "death panels" were. And it's evil for Mr. Obama to tell us that certain members of Congress have access to the text, but "forget" to mention that these members are sworn to silence about what they see in the text. I mean, sure, it looks like typical Democrat weakness, but it's evil.
Rex Nutting describes "How the Stock Market Destroyed the Middle Class." A more accurate title would be "How Stock Buybacks Have Destroyed the Middle Class," since I do not assume (though I'm often tempted to assume) that buying stock itself is evil. Still, the story will sound familiar -- our government once presumed it evil for big corporate titans using corporate profits to buy back stock, because that left less corporate money to invest in workers and infrastructures, but in the early 1980s our government started believing that getting executives to "think like owners" by making them owners would make them more invested in their corporation's success, when actually it just makes it easier for executives to drain the wealth of corporations. Why, it's almost like that was the idea.
In the wake of news that FBI forensic hair analysts have, over the decades, given "flawed testimony" in criminal cases virtually all of the time, ProPublica reminds us that a lot of the CSI-style forensic techniques actually don't have much of a basis in scientific research. A National Academy of Sciences study from 2009 found only nuclear DNA testing backed by a significant amount of "peer-reviewed, published studies." Ask some Republican Presidential candidate about this and I guess he'll answer, "well, I'm not a scientist," like that would excuse his responsibility as a leader to make decisions based on the best science.
Speaking of science, Factcheck.org reminds us that regardless of what Gov. Christie says, we cannot say with certainty that pot is a "gateway drug" to the harder stuff. The moment I read that plenty of folks who use pot also use harder stuff I thought correlation isn't causation, and then there it was in paragraph four. One would more reasonably conclude that people who use pot are people who are already more likely to use drugs generally. Research suggesting that pot "primes" the brain for other drugs isn't conclusive, and I'd like to see the study that (in the manner of the famous "Rat Park" experiment) gives rats pot and then offers them heroin, but has them in a cage where they have other stuff to occupy their minds.
Finally, Rick Santorum now argues that the "wall of separation" between church and state, as described in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, means the government can't legalize same-sex marriage. I get profoundly tired of giving basic civics lessons to people who should know better, but I'll do it again: our government could very easily legalize same-sex marriage as performed by the state, while leaving it up to churches whether they want to perform them as well. Not that such arguments could possibly penetrate Mr. Santorum's mind -- he'll just do like all right-wingers do, and ignore it, and then spout his argument again like no one had ever refuted it. The best way to silence Rick Santorum is to shame his stupid ideas and then wait for him to die. After all, it's not like his works will outlive him.