November 2009 Archives

Climategate

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You got to wonder at the tenacity of people to deliberately remain not just ignorant, but willfully stupid.

'Climategate' Swiftboating: 'Everybody's Scared To Be A Skeptic'

By Brad Johnson

Thousands of emails from the webserver of the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) -- a top climate research center in the United Kingdom -- "were hacked recently" and dumped on a Russian web server. Global warming deniers are sifting through the illegally obtained letters of private correspondence for "proof" that the scientific consensus on climate change is actually a global conspiracy to suppress "skeptics."


This week, Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of SuperFreakonomics, embraced the fevered "Climategate" ravings of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and other global warming deniers in an interview with Fox Business Network host David Asman. Dubner purports that the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails reveal that the supposed consensus on global warming is because "everybody's scared to be an outlier, everybody's scared to be a skeptic." After Asman compared climate scientists to Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler -- Dubner did his own Glenn Beck impression, accusing "potent" scientists of "colluding" to "tell Al Gore what to say," and "distorting evidence" to "make their findings be right for their position":

You can't read these e-mails and feel that the IPCC's or the major climate scientists' findings and predictions about global warming are kosher. You can't. They may be, but if you read these you have to have a whole lot of skepticism about that. And of course, coming into Copenhagen these are going to have a big effect how the world looks at you. They're going to say, "Wait a minute. You say these climate scientists have been telling us we have to stop burning fossil fuel tomorrow?"

Watch it:

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, Washington Times, and other news outlets are participating in this Swiftboat-style smear campaign, following the lead of actual Swiftboat smearer and former Limbaugh and Inhofe employee Marc Morano -- instead of bothering to understand what the scientists were actually talking about in the hacked emails.

However, as climate scientist Richard Somerville explained yesterday, "The ice has no agenda." Arctic sea ice is at historically low levels, Australia is on fire, the northern United Kingdom is underwater, the world's glaciers are disappearing, and half of the United States has been declared an agricultural disaster area. And it's the the hottest decade in recorded history.

By asking whether "we have to stop burning fossil fuel tomorrow," Dubner -- a top blogger for the New York Times -- gets to the heart of why this bizarre theory of a cabal of all-powerful climatologists is getting support from conservative media and politicians. The incontrovertible science -- based not on manipulated data but on decades of basic research -- is that the burning of fossil fuels is drastically reshaping our planet's climate and acidifying the oceans. And the only known way to restore conditions to those safe for human civilization is to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels. Doing so, however, would affect the incredible profits and power of the oil and coal industries, and of their ideological allies.

In fact, if we stop treating our atmosphere like a sewer, the climate system will heal itself over time, potentially more rapidly than we expect. That our past inaction will continue to bear consequences into the future is a reason to act with greater swiftness, not to dither further. The longer we delay, the more difficult and expensive the challenge to reduce pollution while adapting to a hostile world becomes.

A new video from The Low Anthem

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Featuring Fat Boy Slim with Macy Gray.

I love this.


Snappy comeback # 231

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Atheism is a "religion" like not collecting stamps is a "hobby". - Ouroboros

Frontline's New Target

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Airs on the November 24th

The Card Game...credit card game that is.

C'mon Obama, Get Real

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I like this clarion call from Dowd for the president to reconnect to his grassroots.

Visceral Has Its Value

by Maureen Dowd

It's easy to dismiss Sarah Palin.

She's back on the trail, with the tumbling hair and tumbling thoughts. The queen of the scenic strip mall known as Wasilla now reigns over thrilled subjects thronging to a politically strategic swath of American strip malls.

The conservative celebrity clearly hasn't boned up on anything, except her own endless odyssey of self-discovery. And she still has that Yoda-like syntax.

"And I think more of a concern has been not within the campaign the mistakes that were made, not being able to react to the circumstances that those mistakes created in a real positive and professional and helpful way for John McCain," she told Bill O'Reilly.

Yet Democrats would be foolish to write off her visceral power.

As Judith Doctor, a 69-year-old spiritual therapist, told The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz at Palin's book signing in Grand Rapids, Mich., "She's alive inside, and that radiates energy, and people who are not psychologically alive inside are fascinated by that."

Barack Obama, who once had his own electric book tour testing the waters for a campaign, could learn a thing or three from Palin. On Friday, for the first time, his Gallup poll approval rating dropped below 50 percent, and he's losing the independents who helped get him elected.

He's a highly intelligent man with a highly functioning West Wing, and he's likable, but he's not connecting on the gut level that could help him succeed.

The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out.

People need to understand what the president is thinking as he maneuvers the treacherous terrain of a lopsided economic recovery and two depleting wars.

Like Reagan, Obama is a detached loner with a strong, savvy wife. But unlike Reagan, he doesn't have the acting skills to project concern about what's happening to people.

Obama showed a flair for the theatrical during his campaign, and a talent for narrative in his memoir, but he has yet to translate those skills to governing.

Senate Debate on Health Care Moved to Floor

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Step 1.

The Senate voted 60-39 Saturday night to proceed with a floor debate on Majority Leader Harry Reid's $849 billion health care bill.

The vote to prevent a Republican filibuster against starting debate broke down along strict party lines. All 58 Senate Democrats -- along with independent Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- supported bringing the measure to the floor. Almost all of the 40 Senate Republicans opposed the motion.

A minimum of 60 votes is required to break a filibuster in the 100-member body.

Idiocracy Forever

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Sirota calls out the ivory-towered journalists who are exhorting Obama to dismiss considered reflection on the Afghan conflict and adopt a knee-jerk decisive position no matter what the outcome even if it leads to a catastrophe. How did we possibly get to such an immoral and retarded state?

Intelligentsia Against Intelligence

By David Sirota

In the parlance of our times, the term idiocracy means a nation run by idiots--and the term idiot is defined by the dictionary as "an utterly foolish or senseless person" who exhibits "a mental age of less than three years old."

There are obvious reasons to believe America is becoming an idiocracy--a series of horrendous government and business decisions strongly suggests that we've seen the ascension of utterly foolish, senseless people, many with the mental age of infants (yes, W., I'm looking at you). And if there remained any flicker of hope that we aren't turning into a full-on slobbering idiocracy, that hope was snuffed out last week by two of the Washington intelligentsia's most respected voices.

First came a now-famous column about Afghanistan by The Washington Post's David Broder. The "dean" of the press corps attacked President Barack Obama not for choosing any particular policy, but for simply taking time to meticulously consider his options in the Central Asian quagmire. "The urgent necessity," Broder asserted, "is to make a decision--whether or not it is right."

This was followed by Jackson Diehl, the Post's foreign policy "expert." He wrote that the White House's assiduous Afghanistan deliberations are not a sign of reassuring prudence after the bring-it-on Bush years, but instead a "compelling cause for unease about this president." Diehl's rationale for such an incendiary statement? He alleged (without proof, of course) that "there is unanimity in the Pentagon and considerable agreement in Congress and among the NATO allies" that a military escalation has to happen--and therefore Obama "knows [the pro-escalation] course he must take" but "can't bring himself to embrace it."

Let's set aside the nauseating spectacle of two well-heeled journalists, comfortably protected far away from the front lines, demanding a president immediately send thousands of soldiers to their potential deaths without regard for blood-and-guts consequences. Let's just, if we can, put that grotesque immorality in a corner and pretend it's not important--and let's go to the deeper, even more disturbing message.


LHC Fired Up Again

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Finally. This just going to be so cool when the serious work begins in January of 2010.

cms-higgs-event.jpg

Proton beams circulate in Big Bang machine

By Alexander G. Higgins

GENEVA - Scientists switched on the world's largest atom smasher Friday night for the first time since the $10 billion machine suffered a spectacular failure more than a year ago.

It took a year of repairs before beams of protons circulated late Friday in the Large Hadron Collider for the first time since it was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault.

Circulation of the beams was a significant leap forward. The European Organization for Nuclear Research has taken the restart of the collider step by step to avoid further setbacks as it moves toward new scientific experiments -- probably starting in January -- regarding the makeup of matter and the universe.

Progress on restarting the machine, on the border between Switzerland and France, went faster than expected Friday evening and the first beam circulated in a clockwise direction around the machine about 10 p.m., said James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

"Some of the scientists had gone home and had to be called back in," Gillies told The Associated Press.

The exact time of the start of the Large Hadron Collider was difficult to predict because it was based on how long it took to perform steps along the way, and in the end it happened about nine hours earlier than expected, Gillies said.

This is an important milestone on the road toward scientific discoveries at the LHC, which are expected in 2010, he said.

Another writ from the forums

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Originally posted by toots2375:


Does racism drive my opposition to Universal Healthcare? No. What drives my opposition to universal healthcare is robbing from the rich to pay for the poor. I am a firm believer in self sufficiency and survival of the fittest. Let's look at it in the most basic sense.
1) We want the BEST of the human race to reproduce. We want smart and beautiful people to procreate so that our species thrives and survives.
2) Those that "can't afford" healthcare, "can't" do so for a variety of reasons:
a)Poverty (meaning not smart enough to get an education)
b) Priorities- meaning they make the money to pay for it but healthcare is not a top priority in their lives. Why should we steal someone's money and make them pay for something they do not desire to have?
c) Those that "need" healthcare are the weak ones in the pack. Do we want to keep breeding those with mental and physical ailments that will pass on to their offspring, thus making our species weaker and weaker rather than stronger and able to survive?
d) Lifestyle choices- Everyone makes decisions about their diet, their exercise, etc. Why should other people who live responsibly, taking care of their body and living a healthy lifestyle be forced to pay for those that sit on their butts, eating bon bons and fast food, while sucking down cigarettes and booze?

I don't want to pay to keep ol people alive well past the time they should be dead. I don't want to pay for the preventative maintenance a diabetic who WILL die from the disease- with their body organs rotting and ceasing to work or having to be cut off to prevent gangrene from spreading, as well as the medical supplies and prescription drugs that are used merely to make them THINK that they are living any quality of life. I don't want to pay to keep your "special needs" child alive-p you chose to have that child, YOU can provide for it, not the taxpayers.

No, it has nothing to do with race, it has to do with the natural order of things. We will ALL die. I shouldn't have to pay for YOU to fight the inevitable, for as long as YOU want to. The human will to live is strong. If you can't pull off your own survival, then the weak one in the herd is merely fulfilling its destiny.

Originally posted by singledad:
Originally posted by toots2375:


... I am a firm believer in self sufficiency and survival of the fittest. ...

Then America does not need any Military or Police, since that prevents self sufficiency and the survival of the fittest. In fact, let's take that to its ultimate level. No Government or no Societal Protections of any kind. If you can't survive on your own, you don't deserve to live.

If you can not agree with this, then you are compromising your beliefs to save your weak ass.

Originally posted by toots2375:

LOL Single... I am able to shoot a gun and kill someone who is a threat just as easily as a soldier. I am more than willing and able. I have no qualms about killing someone who is a threat to my life. I simply don't have to because other members of my family voluntarily join the military to protect those that are unable. I am able. Are you? My family serves their country, does yours? We have sacrificed enough for the ungrateful wretches that live off others dedication and hard work, have you? Eventually, those that give and give have to say ENOUGH. Stop taking what you did not earn. I am one of those people. I have had enough taken by the government for those that won't/can't do for themselves. It started with food stamps, HUD housing, medicaid, etc. Now we are moving to healthcare for EVERYONE? Enough is enough. We're turning into a bunch of penned pigs. I for one, am not drinking the Kool Aid.

Originally posted by toots2375


I for one, am not drinking the Kool Aid.

Just Ayn Rand's. When a drunk broadsides you in accident and you're left hanging unconscious out of your car bleeding to death, I'll pull out my stop watch and see how long its takes you to bleed out and kindly remove your sorry unsurviving azz from the gene pool. You're the sort who would have let the genius Stephen Hawking die because of his genetic disease, right?

I've got a couple of old brown shirts you can have if you want to form a movement or anything based on your philosophy.

quote: Originally posted by toots2375:


I wouldn't have let Hawking die.. That would have been up to his parents. But I sure as heck don't appreciate the government knocking on my door demanding money to pay for Hawking's medical care. They had the sex, they made the choice to have him and they are responsible for taking care of him. See how that works? YOU make a decision and YOU pay for that decision.... Not YOU make the decision and other people pay for it.

I wonder, can you be any more self-centered than that? Society is about interdependence, that's how we got here. Perhaps you fail to recognize that altruism is a survival mechanism, not a drawback. Secondly, there can be no individuals without social interaction and support. Human individuality is a lateral effect of human socialization, it will not arise of its own accord outside of the group.

Its quite literally true that no man is an island . You owe everything you are to the evolution of culture that brought you languages, preserved continuity of manual and intellectual skills, use of tools and refined adaptability. Your sense of pride for your individualism is really a false vanity used to dismiss the very responsibilities for yourself which you nevertheless demand from others. I think a more mature attitude is to recognize that we are all in this together on this little ball of dirt speeding along in the middle of nowhere and that to help others is the best way to help ourselves.

Colbert Pounds Palin's Book

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You know the one : "Being intolerant of my intolerance makes you intolerant too."

Here's my answer to that:

Being intolerant of another's intolerance does not make you personally intolerant anymore than being forced to kill someone in self-defense makes you a murderer.

A Patriotic 9 Year Old

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An Arkansas 10-year-old says he won't pledge to the flag until gays and lesbians have equal rights. This kid knows what's what and it's good to see he has such a great supportive dad.

On sending more troops to Afghanistan

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I say we buy them off instead. Throw money at them and pull the majority of troops out.

Meet Our Afghan Ally

By Patrick Cockburn

Just when President Barack Obama looked as if he might be railroaded into sending tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan the American envoy to Kabul has warned him not to do so. In a leaked cable to Washington sent last week, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Gen Karl W. Eikenberry, argues that it would be a mistake to send reinforcements until the government of President Hamid Karzai demonstrates that it will act against corruption and mismanagement. General Eikenberry knows what he is talking about because he has long experience of Afghanistan. A recently retired three star general, he was responsible for training the Afghan security forces from 2002 to 2003 and was top US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

There is a dangerous misunderstanding outside Afghanistan about what 'corruption and mismanagement' mean in an Afghan context and a potentially lethal underestimation of how these impact on American and British forces. For example, the shadow British Defense Secretary Liam Fox argued that though 'corruption and establishing good governance' are not unimportant, 'we need to recognize that Afghan governance is likely to look very different from governance as we knows it in the West.'

Leaving aside the patronizing tone of the statement, this shows that Mr Fox fundamentally misunderstands what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan. Corruption and mismanagement do not just mean that the police are on the take or that no contract is awarded without a bribe. It is much worse than that. For instance, one reason Afghan villagers prefer to deal with the Taliban rather than the government security forces is that the latter have a habit of seizing their sons at checkpoints and sodomizing them. None of our business, Mr Fox, who may be British Defense Secretary by this time next year, would presumably say. We are not in Afghanistan for the good government of Afghans: 'Our troops are not fighting and dying in Afghanistan for Karzai's government nor should they ever be.' But the fact that male rape is common practice in the Afghan armed forces has, unfortunately, a great deal to do with the fate of British soldiers.

There was a horrified reaction across Britain last week when a 25-year old policeman called Gulbuddin working in a police station in the Nad Ali district of Helmand killed five British soldiers when he opened fire with a machine gun on them. But the reason he did so, according to Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times, citing two Afghans who knew Gulbuddin, was that he had been brutally beaten, sodomised and sexually molested by a senior Afghan officer whom he regarded as being protected by the British.

The slaughter at Nad Ali is a microcosm of what is happening across Afghanistan. It is why Mr Fox is wrong and General Eikenberry is right about the dangers of committing more American or British troops regardless of the way Afghanistan is ruled. Nor are the events which led to the deaths of the young Britoish soldiers out of the ordinary. Western military officials eager to show success in training the Afghan army and police have reportedly suppressed for years accounts from Canadian troops that the newly trained security forces are raping young boys.

Mr Fox's approach only makes sense if we assume that it does not matter what ordinary Afghans think. This is what the Americans and, to a lesser degree the British, thought in Iraq in 2003. They soon learned different. I remember visiting the town of al-Majar al-Kabir in June 2003, soon after six British military policemen had been shot dead in the local police station. The British army had unwisely sent patrols with dogs through one of the most heavily armed towns in the country, famous for its resistance to Saddam Hussein, as if the British were an all-conquering occupation army.

we don't drive to work
wearing crash helmets in trucks
at 10 miles per hour

Reflections

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reflectingonreflection.jpg
Barry Blitt

More Heroes Like This

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A hero to being human and to self.

Troubled vet journeys back to Vietnam -- to offer help

By Moni Basu

vietnamhero.jpgHe is a former Marine who has lived with battleground nightmares for 40 years and now plans a return to the land that haunts him. But Kevin Roberts' decision is not fueled by remorse. Nor is it about healing a life defined by 13 stinging months in Vietnam. Rather, late-in-life altruism has led him to volunteer to build houses for poor families residing along Vietnam's Mekong River.

"I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, I blew up half the country and now let me go and build it back," says Roberts, 64, of Pleasantville, New York, a small town 30 minutes north of Manhattan, where he owns a house-painting business.

As for a sense of closure: "I hate that word," he says without hesitation, thinking both about the war and his 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who died in 1995 from a congenital heart problem.

"I was there and did what I did; that's not going to change," he says. "My daughter died and is not coming back. Things like this don't close."

So why, after years of heroin addiction, alcoholism and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, has Roberts decided to do something good in the land he remembers as bad? And how will it affect him?

That last question may be best left for doctors who treat him at the Veterans Affairs hospital in nearby Montrose, New York. But Roberts has a single word he repeats when discussing his pending journey: anxiety.

Will he still be seen as the enemy? Will he still be hated?

Kucinich Asks

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Kucinich: Why Is It We Have Finite Resources for Health Care but Unlimited Money for War?

Following a statement on the Floor of the House of Representative, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement:

"Why is it we have finite resources for health care but unlimited money for war?

"The inequities in our economy are piling up: trillions for war, trillions for Wall Street and tens of billions for the insurance companies. Banks and other corporations are sitting on piles of cash of taxpayer's money while firing workers, cutting pay and denying small businesses money to survive.

"People are losing their homes, their jobs, their health, their investments, their retirement security; yet there is unlimited money for war, Wall Street and insurance companies, but very little money for jobs on Main Street.

"Unlimited money to blow up things in Iraq and Afghanistan, and relatively little money to build things in the US.

"The Administration may soon bring to Congress a request for an additional $50 billion for war. I can tell you that a Democratic version of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is no more acceptable than a Republican version of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Trillions for war and Wall Street, billions for insurance companies... When we were promised change, we weren't thinking that we give a dollar and get back two cents."

You Say You Want a Revolution

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Well, you know
we'd all like to see the plan
you say its in the constitution
that Reagan was the Man...

TheRevolutionIsAliveFISH500.jpg


Scary, eh?

Google Offers Opt Out Village

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A near miss last Friday

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Who knew? Whooosh...

A NASA graphic traces the asteroid 2009 VA's path within the moon's orbit and past
Earth. Each dot on the 2009 VA line indicates an hour of time along the route.


asteroidva2009.jpg


Asteroid-watchers say a space rock about as big as a garage came with 9,000 miles (14,000 kilometers) of Earth last Friday, just 15 hours after it was detected.


Experts quickly determined that the asteroid 2009 VA would miss us - and even if it came directly at us, it wouldn't have caused a catastrophe. Nevertheless, the close encounter serves as a reminder that someday a much bigger rock may well hit us and that it's best to be prepared.


In this week's recap of the event, NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office reported that 2009 VA came well within the moon's orbit - so close, in fact, that the asteroid's orbital path was bent by Earth's gravitational pull.


NASA and other space agencies around the world have been keeping increasingly close track of near-Earth asteroids and comets, with a strong assist from amateur astronomers. In this case, the object was first detected by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona. It was quickly identified by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., as a close-approaching asteroid. Then NASA experts worked out its orbit and gave the all-clear.


Why wasn't the rock found sooner? Well, smaller objects are more difficult to detect in advance, and this one was estimated to be only 7 meters (23 feet) wide. That's nowhere near as big as the 10-kilometer-wide (6-mile-wide) object that apparently did in the dinosaurs 65 million years ago - or even the 30-meter-wide (100-foot-wide) Tunguska object that was thought to have wreaked destruction in a Siberian forest in 1908.

For what it's worth, the Defense Department's Joint Space Operations Center tracks about 19,000 orbital objects down to the size of 10 centimeters (4 inches), and NASA tracks bits of space junk that are even smaller. But incoming near-Earth objects are trickier to track until they're almost upon us.

In the close-but-no-collision category, this one was No. 3 on NASA's list for cataloged asteroids: A meter-wide (yard-wide) asteroid came within 6,150 kilometers (3,821 miles) in October 2008, while another space rock about the size of 2009 VA passed within 6,535 kilometers (4,060 miles) in March 2004.

If 2009 VA had entered the atmosphere, it almost certainly would have blown itself up before hitting the ground - just as a larger asteroid did a month ago, without warning, in the skies over Indonesia. A somewhat smaller asteroid met a similar fate in the skies over Africa about 13 months ago. (Months later, students in Sudan found 4 kilograms (8.7 pounds) of meteorites that fell to Earth after last year's blast.)

Such atmospheric blow-ups release energy equivalent to about a kiloton of TNT. In comparison, the Hiroshima atomic bomb set off a roughly 15-kiloton blast.

So Long Lou

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Ya know, I used to like Lou until he went fringoid with his take on immigration. Its weird how a single issue can become so obsessive that it infects so much of the rest of a person's thinking. It's more than probable he'll head to Fox and die there with the rest of the crazies. Too bad.

Lou Dobbs to Quit CNN

Lou Dobbs, the longtime CNN anchor whose anti-immigration views have made him a TV lightning rod, said Wednesday that he is leaving the cable news channel effective immediately.

"Some leaders in the media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond my role here at CNN and engage in constructive problem-solving," Mr. Dobbs said just after 7 p.m., suggesting that he would remain involved in the civic discourse, but perhaps not on television.

"I'm considering a number of options and directions," Mr. Dobbs added.

Wednesday's program will be his last on CNN, one of his employees said earlier in the evening.

Mr. Dobbs' contract was not set to expire until the end of 2011. He told viewers that CNN had agreed to release him from his contract early.

Mr. Dobbs informed his staff members of his intentions in a meeting Wednesday afternoon, catching some of the staffers off-guard.

Well known for his political positions, Mr. Dobbs is an outlier at CNN, which has sought to position itself as a middle ground of sorts in the fractious cable news arena. The CNN employees said Wednesday that they did not know if Mr. Dobbs was moving to another network.

Mr. Dobbs met with Roger Ailes, the chairman of the Fox News Channel, in September. At the time Mr. Dobbs was viewed as a potential hire for the Fox Business Network. But a Fox spokesperson said Wednesday, "We have not had any discussions with Lou Dobbs for Fox News or Fox Business."

Mr. Dobbs has been with CNN since its founding, save for a two-year stint at a Web site called Space.com. He has evolved over the years from a straight-laced business anchor to an outspoken commentator who rails against illegal immigration and taxpayer bailouts, among other subjects.

Lately, though, he has saved most of his opinions for his afternoon radio show, which made its debut in March 2008. It is on the radio show that he talked repeatedly about the conspiracy theory claims that President Obama is not a United States citizen. When he mentioned the citizenship issue on CNN over the summer, his bosses were forced to call it a "dead issue."

More recently, Mr. Dobbs' views on immigration provoked a protest by Hispanic groups. Members of the groups complained that CNN was allowing Mr. Dobbs "to spread lies and misinformation about us each night."

Last month the New Jersey State Police were called to Mr. Dobbs home to investigate a report of gunfire. Mr. Dobbs suggested that his family had been singled out because of his views on illegal immigration and border security.

In thrall to high finance

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There's really no way around it. The only thing left is some sort of revolution that will break the toxic hypnotic trance by which high finance has paralyzed the American culture and economy.

Steve Fraser on the Crisis of Capitalism

On a mid-December day in 1932, ex-President Calvin Coolidge confided to a close friend, "We are in a new age to which I do not belong." He punctuated that insight a few weeks later when he died.

History has confirmed Coolidge's premonition. The Great Depression and the New Deal are considered watershed events in America. Only the Civil War had a more profound effect on the character of American society and on the nature of its political culture and political economy. Only the trauma of the Civil War left behind memories even more enduring than those associated with the cataclysm of the Great Depression. One speaks of antebellum and pre-Depression America to signify how different the country looked before the abolition of slavery and the advent of the New Deal. Both moments are rightly identified with the passing away of an ancien régime and the birth of a new order of things.

Today virtually every reflection on the nature of the current global financial collapse and what, for the moment at least, is being called the "Great Recession" invokes the specter of the first Great Depression and the promise (or for some the threat) of the New Deal. Is our dilemma like that one, as severe or less so? Will it reform or even revolutionize public policy? Does it call capitalism itself into question? Should we expect the kind of social upheaval that made the 1930s so unforgettable? Will it go down as a turning point in American political history the way the elections of 1860 or 1932 did?

Every early-on-the-ground indication suggests otherwise. The first 100 days (now as I write the first 200 days and counting) of the Obama administration are a failure. At least that's so when they are measured against the only other first 100 days anyone really cares about, namely Franklin Roosevelt's. Those famous few months compacted together an extraordinary legislative/executive response proportionate to the unprecedented dilemma facing the country even if those responses were not always consistent, coherent or effective. It included a national bank holiday and law guaranteeing bank deposits, an "Economy Act" severely slashing government expenditures, legislation separating commercial from investment banking, two recovery acts aimed at reviving industry and agriculture, a securities bill to bring the stock market under public scrutiny, an agency that saved hundreds of thousands from foreclosure and eviction, a lightning-fast work relief program, a major infrastructure-building project, and an unprecedented federally directed effort at regional economic planning and development. The atmosphere was electric with a sense of alarm, anger and accomplishment. Walt Disney's "Three Little Pigs" cartoon debuted in 1933 to wild popular enthusiasm because it seemed to allegorize the country's plight: Its regrettable recklessness during the intoxicated devil-may-care Jazz Age '20s, its rediscovery of the virtues of frugality, and its determination to confront the "big bad wolf," those Wall Street financiers who had laid the country low.

Matters couldn't seem more different now. On every major issue from health insurance to financial regulation, from energy policy to foreign policy, from economic recovery to labor law reform, the new regime and its sizable majority in Congress equivocate, seek allies on the right where there are none, and convey a sense of paralysis. If top officials talk plenty about historic opportunity, they seem incapable of seizing it. On the contrary, after some official verbal rebukes directed at the financial oligarchs responsible for the crisis, the "big bad wolf" has so far escaped unscathed; indeed the "bailout" state has resuscitated those "too-big-to-fail" institutions on extraordinarily generous terms at taxpayer expense and left them largely under the old management, which continues to reward itself with unseemly sums for its repeated failures.

I'm somewhat amazed that the amendments covering gay benefits were not vehemently opposed by the right. Hopefully they will not be removed during the shake out when the Senate and House bills are finally merged.

Labels and Gay Benefits in Health Bill

By Robert Pear

Lower taxes for gay couples who receive health benefits from employers. Nutrition labeling requirements for snack food sold in vending machines and many restaurants. A new program to teach parents how to interact with their children.

Those are some of the little-noticed provisions in a mammoth health care bill taken up Saturday by the House of Representatives.

The main purpose of the bill is to make health insurance readily available to all Americans. To that end, it would expand Medicaid and provide hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help moderate-income people buy insurance.

As a high-priority bill for Congressional leaders and President Obama, the legislation has become a vehicle for many other initiatives large and small.

Supporters of gay rights have long been trying to change the tax treatment of health benefits provided by employers to the domestic partners of their employees. In effect, such benefits are now treated as taxable income for the employee, and the employer may owe payroll taxes on their fair-market value.

Under the bill, such benefits would be tax-free, just like health benefits provided to the family of an employee married to a person of the opposite sex.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who proposed the change, said it would "correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans."

Joseph R. Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said federal tax law had not kept up with changes in the workplace.

"I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits," he said. "But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with the benefits."

M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said employees with domestic partner benefits paid $1,100 a year more in taxes, on average, than married employees with the same coverage.


Used tea bags use

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Rich ruminates on the after effects of New York's 23rd Congressional District election.

The Night They Drove the Tea Partiers Down

By Frank Rich

For all cable news's efforts to inflate Election 2009 into a cliffhanger as riveting as Balloon Boy, ratings at MSNBC and CNN were flat Tuesday night. But not at Fox News, where the audience nearly doubled its usual prime-time average. That's what happens when you have a thrilling story to tell, and what could be more thrilling than a revolution playing out in real time?

As Fox kept insisting, all eyes were glued on Doug Hoffman, the insurgent tea party candidate in New York's 23rd Congressional District. A "tidal wave" was on its way, said Sean Hannity, and the right would soon "take back the Republican Party." The race was not "even close," Bill O'Reilly suggested to the pollster Scott Rasmussen, who didn't disagree. When returns showed Hoffman trailing, the network's resident genius, Karl Rove, knowingly reassured viewers that victory was in the bag, even if we'd have to stay up all night waiting for some slacker towns to tally their votes.

Alas, the Dewey-beats-Truman reveries died shortly after midnight, when even Fox had to concede that the Democrat, Bill Owens, had triumphed in what had been Republican country since before Edison introduced the light bulb. For the far right, the thriller in Watertown was over except for the ludicrous morning-after spin that Hoffman's loss was really a victory. For the Democrats, the excitement was just beginning. New York's 23rd could be celebrated as a rare bright spot on a night when the party's gubernatorial candidates lost in Virginia and New Jersey.

The Democrats' celebration was also premature: Hoffman's defeat is potentially more harmful to them than to the Republicans. Tuesday's results may be useless as a predictor of 2010, but they are not without value as cautionary tales. And the most worrisome for Democrats were not in Virginia and New Jersey, but, paradoxically, in the New York contests where they performed relatively well. That includes the idiosyncratic New York City mayor's race that few viewed as a bellwether of anything. It should be the most troubling of them all for President Obama's cohort -- even though neither Obama nor the national political parties were significant players in it.

Health Care Step 1

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And many steps to go...at least the foot is in the door.

Landmark health insurance bill passes House

Tough fight still ahead in Senate, and two versions have wide differences

pelosi.barack.jpgIn a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry.

The final vote was 220-215. Only one Republican -- Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana -- voted for the measure; 39 Democrats voted against it.

Obama praised the House in a statement and said he is "absolutely confident" that the Senate will pass its version of the legislation. "I look forward to signing it into law by the end of the year," he said.

Passage was an exhilarating triumph for Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who earlier likened the bill to passage of the government's Social Security pension program in 1935 and Medicare health insurance for the elderly 30 years later.

But the Senate has yet to begin floor debate on its own version of insurance reform. That debate may be weeks away, with Senate Democratic leaders still negotiating over the details of their legislation.

If the Senate enacts its bill, conferees from House and Senate would then meet to negotiate a final compromise measure.

Stewart's genius satirical take on Beck

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Going Up?

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The "space elevator" idea has been around for quite some time now. The fact that people are trying to make it real is pretty amazing.


space.elevator.jpg

Can scientists make a space elevator?

By Doug Gross

"The question Artsutanov asked himself had the childlike brilliance of true genius. A merely clever man could never have thought of it -- or would have dismissed it instantly as absurd. If the laws of celestial mechanics make it possible for an object to stay fixed in the sky, might it not be possible to lower a cable down to the surface, and so to establish an elevator system linking earth to space?" -- Arthur C. Clarke, 1979, "The Fountains of Paradise"

It sounds like science fiction. And it was.

Now, 30 years after "2001" author Arthur C. Clarke wrote about an elevator that rises into outer space, serious research is happening all over the world in an effort to make the far-fetched-sounding idea a reality.

The benefits of a fully realized elevator would make carrying people and goods into space cheaper, easier and safer than with rocket launches, proponents say, opening up a host of possibilities.

Restaurants and hotels for space tourists. Wind turbines that provide energy by spinning 24 hours a day. A cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly way to launch rockets.

Scientists envision all of the above -- possibly within our lifetimes.

"Space elevator-related research is valid, but there are hurdles to overcome," said David Smitherman, a space architect at NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.

This week in the Mojave Desert, three teams of engineers are competing for $2 million offered up by NASA for anyone who can build a prototype of an elevator able to crawl up a kilometer-high tether while hauling a heavy payload.

"We haven't had any winners yet, but we truly do expect to have at least one winner, probably more [this year]," said Ted Semon, spokesman for The Spaceward Foundation, which has run the competition for the past several years.

Why Evolution is True

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Excellent talk by famed geneticist Jerry Coyne

(via RichardDawkins.net)

Climate Change a Myth

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Two Lyrics

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I don't know why people say they don't understand my lyrics.

Reason to Live

a tiny breath of mankind
strode a breathtaking wire
strung across an open sore
like shipwrecking winds for hire
so many potatoes don't live underground
they dance above clouds of steaming grease
where pimpled fat chicks ruin nylons
with torn fingernails meant to please
her tiny hand stroking dick
a clocked tic tock schtick
a hard body is burning at the stake
there's hardly a puritan who won't take a lick

holding their infants face to the fire
the big guys swear that life is love of fear
wives in welding gear screaming desire
while a bowling team in #1 place
are seen retiring their queer
his last walk was a dumbo-dive
straight off a 32nd floor balcony
where there is smoke there are salmon eyes
and windfalls spilled
from the great bird's beak


- or -

Say it's Not True

hitler drew a hand
on a canvas nobody would ever alter
there stamped in his palm
were us witnessing
all lawyers at the altar

so you don't want to die alone
in this great big dying sky
well, take hitler to the mall then
and show him the heights

arcade babies feel digital
there's a piggie gone to market
arcade babies look like dinosaurs
to the piggie coming home

so you say you don't want to die alone
in this crowded well-lit sky
well, take the piggie to the mall then
and let piggie wear your tights


this doomed one walks with you
on a bad dream naked isle
where the conch is telepathic
and wears a smile
you dreamed the clam got a job
pushing angels on the mob
but nobody ever questioned you
or the three sugars you took
to add to your black kiss and tell

do you wonder sometimes
which moon is yours?
are there others to stumble to?
is there anything left
of this mask that was torn away
before we could open the rift?
go ahead,
look me in the eye and say,
"Its not true."

Excellence

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Congrats dude and dudette!


First American man since 1982 wins NYC marathon

marathonnyc.jpg

For the first time since 1982, an American man won the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Meb Keflezighi, 34, broke the tape in the 26.2-mile course with a personal best time 2:09:15.

Born in Eritrea, Keflezighi emigrated in 1987 to San Diego, California. One of 11 children, Keflezighi fled with his family from war-ridden Eritrea during its bloody conflict with Ethiopia. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998. He won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and was the runner-up in the New York marathon that year.

The female champion, 37-year-old Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia, was neck and neck with Ludmila Petrova of Russia until the last leg of the race, when she sprinted ahead to victory with a time of 2:28:52. Tulu, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000 meter race in 1992 and 2000, won the London marathon in 2001. The defending female champion, Britain's Paula Radcliffe, took fourth place among women.

The marathon, which began in 1970 with a mere 127 runners, now hosts 38,000 athletes from around the globe, according to the marathon's Web site. Known for its diverse, punishing terrain, the annual event spans all five of New York's City's boroughs, finishing in the heart of Central Park.

Keflezighi and Tulu will each receive $130,000 in prize money.

Military Women Salute

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armywomendb.jpg

Should Petition Names Be Private?

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When you sign a petition do you expect your name to be withheld from public scrutiny?

Should people who sign petitions have to be willing to stand up publicly for what they are endorsing?

These questions and others are presently being argued in the courts. The questions are particular pertinent when the petition deals with controversial issues such as gay rights or abortions.

We get to cast votes privately, what about signing petitions?

Here's an article and excerpt on the subject:

Privacy Looms Over Gay Rights Vote

....The case, legal experts say, could chart new territory well beyond Washington State. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had ordered the release of the signatures , said the case presented "novel questions of whether referendum petition signatures are protected speech under the First Amendment.

Some advocates for releasing the names who support the expansion of the state's domestic partnership rights say they want to post the names of petition signers as a check against fraud but also to encourage potentially "uncomfortable" conversations with the people who signed the petitions.

Knowthyneighbor.org
, one of the groups, in the past has posted on the Web the names of petition signers in Arkansas, Florida and Massachusetts.

Signing a petition, these groups say, can be a step toward making law, and in fact, many ballot measures are intended to bypass or override the legislative process. That argument echoes one made by the Washington secretary of state's office, which was barred by the courts from releasing the names even though the state's public records law does not exempt the signatures from release; the office has released names of petition signers on other ballot measures in the past.

"Our disclosure law demands that we know who's influencing the legislative process," said David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican.

Opponents of releasing the names, led by Protect Marriage Washington , the group behind the referendum, say gay rights groups are threatening free speech by intimidating petition signers. James Bopp Jr., the lead lawyer for the group, filed affidavits from people who said they felt threatened for taking their position on the issue. Larry Stickney, the campaign manager of Protect Marriage Washington, has also complained of feeling threatened, he said.

To that last paragraph I would would say it's pretty hypocritical for someone who is threatening to remove the civil rights of someone else to be worried about free speech and their reaction to you.

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