July 2011 Archives

Burning Down the House

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With the Tea Party members inside...at this juncture it seems almost like a good idea.

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Tempest in a Tea Party

By Maureen Dowd

So I was chatting with Chris Coons, the new Democratic senator from Delaware who had a rare win over the Tea Party when he beat loony Christine "I've Dabbled in Witchcraft but I Am Not a Witch" O'Donnell in the midterms.

Coons is a smart guy who's alarmed at finding himself in a vicious combat zone that makes "Shark Week​" look like a guppy party.

He said he felt as if he were in "an alternative universe." He wonders if the president, rather than using an analogy about late credit card payments, should explain that failing to raise the debt ceiling is like the nation's refusing to pay its mortgage. And he glumly noted that there would be a "bouquet of blame" for everyone if Congress and the White House allowed the country to "Titanic."

"You know," I told the suffering senator, "there is an easy solution."

He looked up hopefully.

"Witchcraft," I beamed. "Too bad we don't have a senator who knows some spells."

Ancient incantations and eye of newt -- not that Newt -- would be the only way to conjure up a less embarrassing group of leaders.

The world is watching in fearful -- and sometimes gleeful -- fascination as the Tea Party drives a Thunderbird off the cliff with the president and speaker of the House strapped in the back. The Dow is hiding under the bed with a glass of single malt. Can it get more excruciating? Apple has more cash than the U.S. government.

Amid the chilling anarchy, there's not a single strong leader to be seen -- not even a misguided one. All the leaders are followers. You have to wonder if President Obama​ at some level doesn't want to lead. Maybe he just wants to be loved.

The citizens of this country tremble at the thought that these are the people governing them. Should we stick our money under our mattresses? It's not only the economy that gets nourished by confidence; it's also politics.

The maniacal Tea Party freshmen are trying to burn down the House they were elected to serve in. It turns out they wanted to come inside to get a blueprint of the historic building to sabotage it.

Abolish the Debt Ceiling

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OR...issue a 5 trillion dollar coin.


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The $5 Trillion Coin

Gimmicks the government could use to resolve the debt-ceiling debacle.

By Annie Lowrey

The countdown clock to the Debtpocalypse now stands at four days, give or take. Soon, the Treasury will start receiving bills it cannot pay, and the United States will fall delinquent on billions of dollars in promised payments to Social Security recipients, government contractors, and so on. Congress remains deadlocked. So, the chattering classes have started getting creative. If you cannot lift the debt ceiling, maybe you can vault over it.

One option is coin seigniorage--aka, the "really-huge-coin workaround." The United States has a statutory limit on the amount of paper money in circulation, but no such limit on coins. The Treasury secretary has the authority to mint certain coins of any denomination, with no need for the value of the metal to equal the value of the coin. (It gets a bit technical.) But the idea is that Secretary Timothy Geithner could order the Mint to make a, say, $5 trillion coin. It could then use the coin to buy back and extinguish debt from the Fed, pushing the country back under the ceiling. Or it could deposit it, and the Fed could counteract the inflation by selling government debt.

The idea originated in the lefty blogosphere; FireDogLake writer "beowulf" wrote about this "escape hatch" or "subway tunnel" all the way back in January. Most commentators dismissed it as fanciful. But it does seem to be entirely legal, and is getting renewed attention and a wee bit of credibility as the negotiations drag on. Yale constitutional law professor Jack Balkin floated it as an option in a CNN op-ed this week.

The Poor GOP

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Earth Infected by Major Virus

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Earth to hit 7 billion mark this year

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Earth will become home to 7 billion people later this year, and most of the planet's growth will affect the developing countries the most, straining those regions' limited resources, a Harvard University professor said Thursday.

The world's growth has been dramatic: It was just in 1999 that the global population reached 6 billion. United Nations projections call for the population to reach 10.1 billion in 2100, according to David Bloom, a professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, in an article published in the July 29 issue of Science.

By 2050, about 2.3 billion more people will be added, nearly as many as the total living on the globe as recently as 1950, Bloom said. Humanity grew slowly through most of history, taking until 1800 for the population to hit 1 billion.

In the past half-century, the population grew from 3 billion to about 7 billion.

About 20% of the American population are emotional and intellectual cripples who operate out of rigidity, fear and magical thinking. A perfect description of these type of people and the damage they do can be found here. We really need to stop accommodating and remove these folks from the levers of government because they are toxic to the body politic.

get these mutts away from me
i don't find this stuff amusing anymore
- paul simon

The Centrist Cop-Out

By Paul Krugman

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren't complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats -- who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether -- have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it's not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can't bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of "centrist" uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Some of us have long complained about the cult of "balance," the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read "Views Differ on Shape of Planet." But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won't punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. As you may know, President Obama​ initially tried to strike a "Grand Bargain" with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times's Nate Silver​ pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter's preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter's preferences.

But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? "Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric." A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side -- or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he's in danger of falling over -- is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

Which brings me to those "centrist" fantasies.

Deficit Truth

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Why all corporations are as mortal as humans and cities are not.



Maher: Americans Don't Want to Think

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when the lights go out in the city
don't the future come to mind?
if those bureau-cats seem so thoughtless
we should not be so surprised
they tell us: "keep the bridges open now,
the best is yet to come"
but the survivors look to the great quake
thinking, "now wouldn't that be fun?"

- cul heath ("Talkshow")



Maher talks frustration with Obama

Maher, a fan of President Obama, explained his current frustration with president over the debt negotiations. Maher confessed to being "terribly frustrated" with him, saying "I don't know what's going on in this man's mind." It's a must-see Last Word interview.

Wisconsin Voter Suppression Documented

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ala Daily Kos:

WI DMV Tells Boy His Bank Account Doesn't Show Enough "Activity" To Get a Voter ID

A video has surfaced of a boy trying to get one of the new Wisconsin Voter ID's that were ushered in by the signing of new a voting law in the state. Shot by the boy's mother with the clear intention of indicting the process, the video shows the pair going from station to station at the DMV, asking all of the right questions as to why there are so many hurdles to acquiring this constitutionally guaranteed ID card.

The first station clerk determines that the boy's bank account does not display enough "activity" to constitute a proof of address form. This is not only absurd ("does he use it?") but a clear privacy infringement as is the follow up question of whether or not the account is of the "checking" or "savings" variety. "Oh, it's just a savings," the clerk remarks. The mother throws a subtle jab, countering that "he's unemployed."

Good one, mom.

The mother-son hidden camera team manages to satisfy the bank account busting first clerk and eventually makes it to the third clerk where they discover that unless you explicitly specify that you have come to the DMV for a Voter ID, you will be charged $28. The clerk admits that there is no difference between the Voter ID and the non-Voter ID -- they're literally the same physical object -- but that it's the policy of the establishment to leave the honus for making this distinction on the customer: no signs, no warnings, just a box on the form you have to hope you notice and check.

The mother asks for the clerk's superior who is somewhat helpful. She then asks for the superior's superior which we can assume the mother gave hell to when the camera was off.

Watch in awe/disgust below and then read about the closure of DMVs in highly Democratic districts.

I love this mother's approach and sense of civic duty.


Wealth gap widens between whites, minorities

By Hope Yen

The wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics, according to an analysis of new Census data.

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The analysis shows the racial and ethnic impact of the economic meltdown, which ravaged housing values and sent unemployment soaring. It offers the most direct government evidence yet of the disparity between predominantly younger minorities whose main asset is their home and older whites who are more likely to have 401(k) retirement accounts or other stock holdings.

"What's pushing the wealth of whites is the rebound in the stock market and corporate savings, while younger Hispanics and African-Americans who bought homes in the last decade -- because that was the American dream -- are seeing big declines," said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in income inequality.

The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks, according to the analysis released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Those ratios, roughly 20 to 1 for blacks and 18 to 1 for Hispanics, far exceed the low mark of 7 to 1 for both groups reached in 1995, when the nation's economic expansion lifted many low-income groups to the middle class.

The white-black wealth gap is also the widest since the census began tracking such data in 1984, when the ratio was roughly 12 to 1.

"I am afraid that this pushes us back to what the Kerner Commission characterized as 'two societies, separate and unequal,'" said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, referring to the 1960s presidential commission that examined U.S. race relations. "The great difference is that the second society has now become both black and Hispanic."


A Great Ratigan Rant

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Phony Debt Ceiling Debate

Submitted by Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger on Turley Blog

Humorist Tom Bodett observed on NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" this weekend that if we raise the debt ceiling any higher, we won't be able to paint it. In addition to being funny, his comment was more intelligent than most of what passes for debate on the issue.

Raising the debt ceiling is hardly a difficult decision to make, requiring that Congress answer only the following questions:

1. Are we unable with existing revenues to pay our debts as they become due?

2. Do we have the ability to borrow the funds necessary to cover the shortfall?

3. Will the additional borrowing push us over the existing debt ceiling?

If the answer to these questions is "yes," the debt ceiling needs to be raised. Congress has always managed to get through the process rather easily, voting to increase the debt ceiling 74 times since 1962. So why the current impasse on a routine matter?

The answer, of course, is that the debate is about something other than the national debt. That something is the trilogy of programs known as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Republican efforts in the past to privatize Social Security disappeared in the Washington fog. The Ryan budget, which includes the elimination of Medicare, has as much chance of passage as I do of appointment to the Supreme Court. (Medicare is already getting hammered throughout the country, even as severe unemployment has increased the number of eligible recipients.)

But Republicans view the debt ceiling debate as an opportunity to move forward with their plans for the Great Dismantling, strongly encouraged by two factors. The first is the large number of freshmen Tea Party representatives who share with the average college radical the notion that compromise bespeaks a lack of moral integrity. The second is the President's propensity to compromise first and ask for something in return later. The strategy has already borne fruit; the Obama administration has offered cuts in Social Security and Medicare without extracting a single binding promise on revenue increases. Fully expecting a complete collapse of Democratic nerve, Republicans are now treating the public to something resembling the drag racing scene in "Rebel Without A Cause."

So is it nevertheless an honest debate? Not by a long shot. For one thing, everyone knows the debt ceiling must be increased regardless of any other considerations. Congressional hypocrisy is thicker than Louisiana sorghum on this point. The phrase "debt ceiling," after all, is a misnomer. The limits imposed by the statute apply to borrowing authority. The actual debt ceiling is whatever Congress decides it will be through its enactment of spending bills. When Republicans exacted continuation of the Bush tax cuts last fall, they certainly understood that the additional debt burden would require increasing the debt ceiling. Therefore, opposing an increase in the statutory debt ceiling is equivalent to refusing to pay debts one has already incurred.

Moreover, there is nothing honest about hiding one's real agenda. Insisting on spending cuts which one knows cannot be accomplished without seriously damaging so-called entitlement programs is stealth politics posing as principled resolve. The budget cut debate can take place at another time, and the Republican leadership knows it.

The mature solution is to terminate the present negotiations, adopt a reasonable debt ceiling increase as a stand-alone bill and take up spending and taxing measures separately. Bookies aren't taking bets on political maturity in the present Congress.

Idiot's Fantasy

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Idiot Anders Behring Breivik, the right wing psycho from Norway sees himself like this:

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It's just incredible how stupid national and religious identity makes people.
Note the Iron Cross on his fantasy hazmat suit.

The reality is that right wing thinking historically lends itself all too frequently to national chauvinism and racial/tribal bigotry...which inturn lends itself to sociopathic violence.

But, Pick a cause...ANY cause...take to the extreme and you get fascists willing to kill and die for that cause. THAT is the enemy.

The only cure is an educated tolerance garnered from dismissal of blind faiths, group and tribal identities while embracing long term intermixing of cultures. Hate is just another mask of fear and fear is the result of ignorance. Nothing is more dangerous than willful ignorance.

Related article and comment:

cofresi
Back in America

Not a monster.

This is a rational thinking person who's head is filled with ideas that circulate widely in our societies, and are voiced by many among us. The sooner we face that, the better. There are plenty of people who espouse these very same sick ideas, and gladly speak every day about harm to other people that they see as foreigners.

The sooner we admit that our society has many many people who believe and gather together and give voice and get profit from these sick ideas, the better.

Of course many of you will find ways to deny this. Go ahead. Deny.

I for one am not surprised that yet again, some self-righteous person believes it is their God-given patriotic mission to go out and act violently against other people who are threats -- to rid their world of muslims, or americans, or communists or jews or immigrants or whatever. And these people do not act alone, and do not think alone: they are acting out on what others advocate in public rhetoric, and tone, and ideology. Violence is simply the physical acting out of the ideas of hatred.

What is truly cowardly is for all those other people who speak the rhetoric of hatred on a daily basis, to now suddenly pull back and act as though this is an aberration, only the act of a madman. Because you can be sure, those who speak the ideas of hatred every day will now backpedal and say that only a madman would do this. They will say this is a lunatic, a deranged psycho, a loner, etc. And they will continue to deny and hide behind their "free speech rights" and voice yet more ideas of hatred against any and all "foreigners".

And I refuse to be surprised when this happens yet again.

Nostalgic Racism of the Conservatives

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A longing for the time when people could be owned unashamedly and women and queers knew their place.

Republican Goofery Isn't Limited to the Tea Party

By Bill Boyarsky

teaparty.jpgThere is a deep-rooted wrongheadedness about the Republicans as they drag the country toward fiscal disaster. Those afflicted with this harmful thinking range from tea party extremists like Michele Bachmann to pundits such as Peggy Noonan .

The irrationality of Bachmann and the rest of the conservative House Republicans is well known from daily news accounts of their refusal to negotiate on the debt limit. Digging into the politicians' lesser reported speeches and reading the pundit musings give an even clearer picture of the conservative Republican mind-set.

Take, for example, the way Bachmann and fellow right-winger Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, have been campaigning in the rural Midwest against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $1.2 billion settlement of a class action suit brought by African-American farmers. The farmers wanted compensation, saying they had been victims of generations of prejudice by local Agriculture Department officials who denied them loans and other aid.

This settlement and a previous one were praiseworthy efforts by the federal government to right a wrong done to black farmers, who, according to the website The Root, owned 15 million acres in 1910 but only 1 million a century later. The lead plaintiff was Timothy Pigford, and the two cases bear his name.

Bachmann and King spoke of the settlement this month while touring flooded portions of the Midwest. Bachmann said, "When money is diverted to inefficient projects, like the Pigford project, where there seems to be proof positive of fraud, we can't afford $2 billion [her figure] in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River." King, who has compared the settlement to the notion of "modern-day reparations" for African-Americans, said a large part of the settlement had been "paid out in fraudulent claims."

There is a racist tone to these statements, with their unsubstantiated accusation of fraud against African-Americans long denied loans and other aid that has been given to whites. As The Root noted in describing the difficulty of getting a settlement, "Black farmers had to show that a white farmer in the same situation had received USDA assistance when it was denied to the blacks. Most black litigants didn't have the time, money or means to do such research."

Rep. King, by the way, showed his racist credentials in his defense of the police stops sanctioned by the Arizona immigration law. He said law enforcement could identify and stop a potential illegal immigrant by using "common-sense indicators."

"Those common-sense indicators are all kinds of things, from what kind of clothes people wear--my suit in my case--what kind of shoes people wear, what kind of accent they have, the type of grooming they might have, there are all kinds of indicators and sometimes it's just a sixth sense and they can't put their finger on it," he said.

Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has none of the crudeness of Bachmann and King. I doubt she would refer to the African-American beneficiaries of the Agriculture Department settlement as frauds, nor would she praise King for his discourse on how to spot an illegal immigrant. She's much too refined for that.

Yet they are all on the same track, yearning for an older, more peaceful, blander America, an America where only whites appeared on television, in the movies or in public office, where the president was not Barack Obama .

Mars to Get 12 lbs of Plutonium

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NASA Picks Rover Destination: Mountain on Mars

Kenneth Chang

NASA's next Mars rover -- the ambitious, beleaguered, delayed Mars Science Laboratory -- finally has a destination.

Mission scientists announced Friday that the rover, a nuclear-powered vehicle the size of a small S.U.V., would head to Gale Crater, a 96-mile-wide depression near the Martian equator. What attracted them there is a mountain that rises upward nearly three miles at the center, making it taller, for example, than Mount Rainier outside Seattle.

"The thing about this mountain is it's not a tall spire," John P. Grotzinger, the project scientist, said at a news conference at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. "It's a broad, low, moundlike shape. What it means is we can drive up it with a rover. So this might be the tallest mountain anywhere in the solar system that we could actually climb with a rover."

Scientists initially identified 100 possible landing sites, which were narrowed down to four finalists. All of the four were intriguing, Dr. Grotzinger said, and getting the scientists to agree on one was like getting a group of people to decide on one flavor of ice cream.

"In the end, we picked the one that felt best," he said.

Scheduled to launch after Thanksgiving, the Mars Science Laboratory -- less formally known as Curiosity -- is to arrive on Mars the following August, landing on the flat portion of the crater. The area is covered by sediments that were probably washed there by flowing water long ago.

As the rover climbs upward during its two-year mission, it will pass different geological layers, much like those at the Grand Canyon.

"It's like reading a novel," said Dr. Grotzinger, a professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology, "and we think Gale Crater is going to be a great novel about the early environmental evolution of Mars."

In particular, the rover will look at outcrops of clays and sulfates, minerals that form in the presence of water.

If the rover continues to operate after two years, it could keep climbing up the mountain to investigate even more rocks.

The Mars Science Laboratory is much bigger and heavier than the last two rovers NASA sent to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity. Unlike those two, which were solar-powered, Curiosity will generate its electrical power from heat produced by 10 pounds of plutonium. That will make it less susceptible to the changing Martian seasons and to dust storms that block sunlight. And it will mean that the rover can carry more sophisticated instruments, like a laser to vaporize pieces of rocks and machinery to identify elements of the resulting smoke.

Takin' It to the Streets

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from the Turley Blog:

Gay Barbarians at the Gate!

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Yesterday, a group of "gay barbarians" entered Marcus Bachmann's Christian counseling center in Minnesota and demanded to be disciplined by Marcus himself.


Prescience

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"The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.... corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

- Abraham Lincoln


Ferengi and the Boston Shuffler

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Kevin Slavin argues that we're living in a world designed for -- and increasingly controlled by -- algorithms. In this riveting talk, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can't understand, with implications we can't control.

PSA: Illegals

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The United States Border Patrol is asking citizens to keep on the lookout for a red 1951 Chevy that they suspect is being used to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico and into points along the U.S. Border. If you see the vehicle pictured below and have reason to believe that it is the suspect vehicle, you are urged to contact your local police department or the U. S. Border Patrol.

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First Domino to Fall

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Democratic Wins First Wisconsin Recall Election

Wisconsin state Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) handily won Tuesday's recall election, giving Democrats a victory in the first of nine contests being held this summer.

With 65 percent of the vote in, the Associated Press called the race for Hansen, who had more than double the votes of his Republican challenger, David VanderLeest.

Democrats quickly put out statements declaring the race a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker's (R) agenda.

"Scott Walker and his cronies pulled out all the stops trying to defeat Dave Hansen, and the people of the 30th Senate District said loudly and clearly Tuesday, 'Enough,'" said the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

"Sen. Hansen's victory is a validation of the lengths he and the rest of the 'Wisconsin 14' went to in their efforts to stall the Wisconsin GOP's extreme right-wing, anti-working family agenda," said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Michael Sargeant. "His constituents understand that he fights for them, not for extreme ideologues."

Former Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold also tweeted, "Congratulations to WI Senator Hansen on his victory. We are one step closer to stopping Gov. Walker's agenda. Forward."

Throughout the campaign, VanderLeest was dogged by questions about his legal and personal troubles. He has $25,000 in unpaid property taxes and a history of domestic abuse.

An Adult Moment

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House Democrats reminded the GOP of the importance of raising the debt ceiling -- in the words of President Ronald Reagan. He's the president Republicans love to quote, particularly when it comes to economic policy.

Today, Nancy Pelosi tweeted, "If House GOP won't listen to economists, perhaps they'll listen to President Reagan."

A newly released video offers remarks he gave in a radio address on September 26, 1987. Reagan discussed the severity of the U.S. meeting its financial obligations to avoid defaulting on loans. Text on screen pops ups reading, "That's an adult moment."

The tone seems to be shifting in debt negotiations to be more positive. In a press conference today, President Obama applauded the bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six, for coming with new deficit reduction plan "broadly consistent" with his goals. He urged lawmakers to use it as a blueprint to work off of before the August 2 debt limit deadline.

Obama on some levels is even worse than Bush.

The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia

Jeremy Scahill

somalia_terror.jpgNestled in a back corner of Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago, is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted "combat" operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia's National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners. The existence of both facilities and the CIA role was uncovered by The Nation during an extensive on-the-ground investigation in Mogadishu. Among the sources who provided information for this story are senior Somali intelligence officials; senior members of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG); former prisoners held at the underground prison; and several well-connected Somali analysts and militia leaders, some of whom have worked with US agents, including those from the CIA. A US official, who confirmed the existence of both sites, told The Nation, "It makes complete sense to have a strong counterterrorism partnership" with the Somali government.

The CIA presence in Mogadishu is part of Washington's intensifying counterterrorism focus on Somalia, which includes targeted strikes by US Special Operations forces, drone attacks and expanded surveillance operations. The US agents "are here full time," a senior Somali intelligence official told me. At times, he said, there are as many as thirty of them in Mogadishu, but he stressed that those working with the Somali NSA do not conduct operations; rather, they advise and train Somali agents. "In this environment, it's very tricky. They want to help us, but the situation is not allowing them to do [it] however they want. They are not in control of the politics, they are not in control of the security," he adds. "They are not controlling the environment like Afghanistan and Iraq. In Somalia, the situation is fluid, the situation is changing, personalities changing."

Amazing Grace

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18-year-old gives his $40,000 scholarship to other teens

By Laura T. Coffey

This is a story of a teenager who did something so generous -- so big-hearted -- that it's making plenty of adults swoon.

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Allan Guei, 18, was a star basketball player at Compton High School in the Los Angeles area before he graduated last month. He also had a GPA above 3.0, and his good grades made him eligible for an unusual competition: A free-throw contest in the Compton High gymnasium. The top prize: $40,000 in scholarship money.

Guei, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Ivory Coast, knew how much that financial aid could mean for his family. So he was feeling a fair share of pressure as students and teachers crushed into the gym to watch Guei and seven other randomly selected, academically successful students make foul shots.

Guei won the free-throw contest by one basket and netted the $40,000. But it's what he did next that's truly astonishing.

'The right decision'
In the weeks following the March free-throw competition, Guei learned that he'd scored a full-ride basketball scholarship to California State University-Northridge. NCAA rules allowed Guei to accept the athletic scholarship and also keep most of the $40,000 he had won.

But Guei couldn't stop thinking about the seven talented runners-up from the free-throw contest. They, too, had dreams -- and very real needs. So, he asked Principal Jesse Jones to make a surprise announcement at Compton High's graduation ceremony: Guei wanted to donate the $40,000 to the other seven students.

"I've already been blessed so much and I know we're living with a bad economy, so I know this money can really help my classmates," Guei said in a statement. "It was the right decision."

Guei elaborated on his decision to give the money away in an interview with ESPN: "I was already well taken care of to go to school, to go to university for free. ... I felt like they needed it more than I did."

The beneficiaries of Guei's generosity were ecstatic.

"It was a shock," said Omar Guzman, 17, a runner-up who plans to use the money to attend San Diego State University . "I'm really grateful there are people like that out there. It was generous."

Another of the seven runners-up, Donald Dotson, also plans to start at Cal State Northridge in the fall. Dotson described Guei as "a very deep, intelligent and warm person."
Story: Prosthetic helps golf prodigy drive ball 200 yards -- at age 10

"He's going to go really far in life," he said in a statement. "Because of what he's done for us, God will bless him. That's what life is all about -- stepping forward to help other people."


Cain Disabled

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Not only is this guy a blatant bigot, but he's a moron on top of it. Mind you, I guess those two things go hand in hand though, don't they? I'm beginning to think that conservatism is an actual genetic disease which causes the brain to lack basic neural connections that control for empathy. Hopefully Herman will find himself relegated to same time out corner as the other David Dukes of the world.

Cain: Communities have right to ban mosques

By Bruce Schreiner

herman.cain.jpgRepublican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Sunday that communities have a right to ban Islamic mosques.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday ," the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said protests and legal challenges to a planned mosque in Tennessee city are an example of local residents pushing back.

Cain said his view doesn't amount to religious discrimination because he says Muslims are trying to inject Shariah law into the U.S.

Shariah is a set of core principles that most Muslims recognize and a series of rulings from religious scholars. It covers many areas of life and different sects have different versions and interpretations of the code.

Asked if his view could lead any community to stand up in opposition to a proposed mosque, Cain replied, "They could say that." He pointed to opposition to the planned mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., as an example.

"Let's go back to the fundamental issue that the people are basically saying that they are objecting to," Cain said. "They are objecting to the fact that Islam is both religion and (a) set of laws, Shariah law. That's the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes.

"The people in the community know best. And I happen to side with the people in the community."

Make the Bastards Pay

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Letting Bankers Walk

By Paul Krugman

Ever since the current economic crisis began, it has seemed that five words sum up the central principle of United States financial policy: go easy on the bankers.

This principle was on display during the final months of the Bush administration, when a huge lifeline for the banks was made available with few strings attached. It was equally on display in the early months of the Obama administration, when President Obama reneged on his campaign pledge to "change our bankruptcy laws to make it easier for families to stay in their homes." And the principle is still operating right now, as federal officials press state attorneys general to accept a very modest settlement from banks that engaged in abusive mortgage practices.

Why the kid-gloves treatment? Money and influence no doubt play their part; Wall Street is a huge source of campaign donations, and agencies that are supposed to regulate banks often end up serving them instead. But officials have also argued at each point of the process that letting banks off the hook serves the interests of the economy as a whole.

It doesn't. The failure to seek real mortgage relief early in the Obama administration is one reason we still have 9 percent unemployment. And right now, the arguments that officials are reportedly making for a quick, bank-friendly settlement of the mortgage-abuse scandal don't make sense.

Before I get to that, a word about the current state of the mortgage mess.

Last fall, we learned that many mortgage lenders were engaging in illegal foreclosures. Most conspicuously, "robo-signers" were attesting that banks had the required documentation to seize homes without checking to see whether they actually had the right to do so -- and in many cases they didn't.

How widespread and serious were the abuses? The answer is that we don't know. Nine months have passed since the robo-signing scandal broke, yet there still hasn't been a serious investigation of its reach. That's because states, suffering from severe budget troubles, lack the resources for a full investigation -- and federal officials, who do have the resources, have chosen not to use them.

Instead, these officials are pushing for a settlement with mortgage companies that, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, "would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices."

Why the rush to settle? As far as I can tell, there are two principal arguments being made for letting the banks off easy. The first is the claim that resolving the mortgage mess quickly is the key to getting the housing market back on its feet. The second, less explicitly stated, is the claim that getting tough with the banks would undermine broader prospects for recovery.

Neither of these arguments makes much sense.


Prisoners in the isolation wing of the high security Pelican Bay jail are refusing meals and water to protest what they say are inhumane conditions



Barbarous Confinement

By Colin Dayan

More than 1,700 prisoners in California, many of whom are in maximum isolation units, have gone on a hunger strike. The protest began with inmates in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. How they have managed to communicate with each other is anyone's guess -- but their protest is everyone's concern. Many of these prisoners have been sent to virtually total isolation and enforced idleness for no crime, not even for alleged infractions of prison regulations. Their isolation, which can last for decades, is often not explicitly disciplinary, and therefore not subject to court oversight. Their treatment is simply a matter of administrative convenience.

Solitary confinement has been transmuted from an occasional tool of discipline into a widespread form of preventive detention. The Supreme Court, over the last two decades, has whittled steadily away at the rights of inmates, surrendering to prison administrators virtually all control over what is done to those held in "administrative segregation." Since it is not defined as punishment for a crime, it does not fall under "cruel and unusual punishment," the reasoning goes.

As early as 1995, a federal judge, Thelton E. Henderson, conceded that so-called "supermax" confinement "may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable," though he ruled that it remained acceptable for most inmates. But a psychiatrist and Harvard professor, Stuart Grassian, had found that the environment was "strikingly toxic," resulting in hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. In a "60 Minutes" interview, he went so far as to call it "far more egregious" than the death penalty.

Officials at Pelican Bay, in Northern California, claim that those incarcerated in the Security Housing Unit are "the worst of the worst." Yet often it is the most vulnerable, especially the mentally ill, not the most violent, who end up in indefinite isolation. Placement is haphazard and arbitrary; it focuses on those perceived as troublemakers or simply disliked by correctional officers and, most of all, alleged gang members. Often, the decisions are not based on evidence. And before the inmates are released from the barbarity of 22-hour-a-day isolation into normal prison conditions (themselves shameful) they are often expected to "debrief," or spill the beans on other gang members.

The moral queasiness that we must feel about this method of extracting information from those in our clutches has all but disappeared these days, thanks to the national shame of "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Guantánamo. Those in isolation can get out by naming names, but if they do so they will likely be killed when returned to a normal facility. To "debrief" is to be targeted for death by gang members, so the prisoners are moved to "protective custody" -- that is, another form of solitary confinement.


Sermonette #343

| | Comments (2)

from the fabulous Dredd Blog

The Virgin MOMCOM

churchtank.jpgThe sanctuary of the holy war.

The sanctuary of the jihad.

The sanctuary of sacrosanct military spending.

The sanctuary of the new American Religion.

Holy imperialism fat man.















Check it out.



Father and Son Reunion

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Father and son at shuttle's start and end

Alan Boyle writes:

They're just a father and his son, out taking pictures at a shuttle launch. But these pictures reflect 30 years of history. On the left, Chris Bray and his father, Kenneth, stand out in the crowd that gathered to watch the first space shuttle lift off on April 12, 1981. Thirty years later, Chris and Kenneth commemorated the last shuttle launch by striking the same pose.

nasa_father_son_lg.jpg
click pic to enlarge -- click title for full story

RATrFOCrs

| | Comments (3)

Good idea.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hunger Horrors

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300 Somali children left for dead in drought

'He tried to cry before he died, but he could not... He died peacefully from hunger'

somalianhunger.jpgDADAAB, Kenya -- Trying to escape starvation and East Africa's unforgiving drought, hundreds of Somali children have been left for dead on the long, dusty journey to the world's largest refugee camp.

UNICEF on Thursday called the drought and refugee crisis "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world." The international Red Cross signaled "great alarm" this week at the nutritional state of Somali children.

Thousands of Somalis are walking days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex known as Dadaab, in hopes of finding food.

But the journey is claiming untold numbers of children as victims.

Andrew Wander, a spokesman for Save the Children, said his agency is providing care to more than 300 unaccompanied children who were found on roadsides after their parents died or abandoned them on their way to Dadaab.

"More children have died of malnutrition in the first four months of this year than in the whole of last year," he said.

With a population of almost 400,000, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in north-east Kenya is beginning to resemble a city, with up to 1,500 new arrivals everyday, according to NBC News.

Dadaab was originally built for 90,000 people; more than 382,000 are now here.

Radio Free Dylan

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Ratigan, that is.
Well worth your ears.

ratigan.gif







dylantest.jpgLittle known fact: when Dylan's television show goes off the air at 5PM, he just keeps talking. Sometimes, to himself. We at DylanRatigan.com decided to harness this extra energy and put it towards something productive -- out of that, the idea for Radio Free Dylan was born. Broadcasting from an abandoned radio studio deep in the basement of 30 Rock, this free-wheeling show digs in on covering the biggest political, economic and financial issues facing our country.

Obama Snookers the Right

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Lawrence explains why the normally disciplined Congressional Republicans are now in all-out panic.

You cannot make it up

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The possible jokes are endless...bear with me here.

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Found dead handcuffed to water bed; death likely accidental, coroner says

An exotic-animal owner who made headlines last summer when one of his bears mauled a woman to death has died after apparently choking on a sex toy, authorities said.

Sam Mazzola, 49, was found dead in his Columbia Station home on Sunday, face down on a water bed. He was bound to the bed with handcuffs, chains and padlocks, Lorain County Chief Deputy Coroner Dr. Frank Miller told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Mazzola had a sex toy in his throat, which apparently obstructed his breathing, Miller said. He was also wearing a leather mask with the eyes and mouth zipped shut and a two-piece metal sphere covering his head, the coroner told The Morning Journal.

Job Creationists

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American Religious Psychosis

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Obama's Strategy

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A Cautionary Tale

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They will be coming and if you are in the habit of speaking out against the economic elites or the government in general, don't suppose that you will not be included. The following report of assault on citizens by paramilitary police units happens thousands of times every year.

Carlos Montes and the Security State

by Chris Hedges

montes.jpgOn May 17 at 5 in the morning the Chicano activist Carlos Montes got a wake-up call at his home in California from Barack Obama's security state. The Los Angeles County sheriff's SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests, as well as being accompanied by FBI agents, kicked down his door, burst into his house with their weapons drawn, handcuffed him in his pajamas and hauled him off to jail. Montes, one of tens of thousands of Americans who have experienced this terrifying form of military-style assault and arrest, was one of the organizers of the demonstrations outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and he faces trial along with 23 other anti-war activists from Minnesota, as well as possible charges by a federal grand jury.

The widening use of militarized police units effectively nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the armed forces for civilian policing. City police forces have in the last few decades amassed small strike forces that employ high-powered assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, elaborate command and control centers and attack helicopters. Poor urban neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of the estimated 40,000 SWAT team assaults that take place every year, have already learned what is only dimly being understood by the rest of us--in the eyes of the state we are increasingly no longer citizens with constitutional rights but enemy combatants. And that is exactly how Montes was treated. There is little daylight now between raiding a home in the middle of the night in Iraq and raiding one in Alhambra, Calif.

Montes is a longtime activist. He helped lead the student high school walkouts in East Los Angeles and anti-war protests in the 1960s and later demonstrations against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was one of the founding members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano group that in the 1960s styled itself after the Black Panthers. In the 1970s he evaded authorities while he lived in Mexico and he went on to organize garment workers in El Paso, Texas. He and the subpoenaed activists are reminders that in Barack Obama's America, being a dissident is a crime.

"It was an FBI action, as I recall," Sgt. Jim Scully told reporters of the Pasadena Star-News. "We assisted them."

Montes was arrested ostensibly because he bought a firearm although a felony conviction 42 years ago prohibited him from doing so. The 1969 felony conviction was for throwing a can of Coke at a police officer during a demonstration. The registered shotgun in his closet, bought last year at a sporting goods shop, became the excuse to ransack his home, charge him and schedule him for trial in August. It became the excuse to seize his computer, two cellphones and files and records of his activism on behalf of workers, immigrants, the Chicano community and opposition to wars. Prosecutors said Montes should have disclosed his four-decade-old felony charge when he bought the shotgun at Big 5 Sporting Goods. Because he neglected to do this he will face six felony charges. The case is to be tried in Los Angeles.

Advertisement
"The gun issue was clearly a pretext to investigate my political activities," he said when I reached him at his Alhambra home. "It is about my anti-war activities and my links to the RNC demonstrations. It is also about my activism denouncing the U.S. policy of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their support for Israel and the Colombian government. I have been to Colombia twice."

"I thought someone is breaking in, somebody is trying to jack me up," he said. "I was a victim of an armed robbery in December of 2009 in my home. I do have a gun in my bedroom for self-defense. I was startled. I jumped out of bed. I saw lights coming from the front-door area. They looked like flashlights. I saw men with helmets and rifles. I gravitated towards the front door. I didn't take my gun. I could have done that. I have it there. It is a good thing I didn't pick anything up and put it in my hand."

"I yelled, 'Who is it?' " he said. "They said, 'The police. Carlos Montes, come out' or 'come forward,' something like that. I approached the entryway. They rushed in. They grabbed my hands. They turned me around. There were two police officers on each arm. They brought me out holding my arms. I have a little patio. They handcuffed me and patted me down. I am on a little hill. I looked down the street and [it was] full of sheriff's vehicles, patrol cars and two large green vans. They were bigger than vans. People could stand in there. They didn't have any logos on them.... I thought it was an Army truck at first. Later on I found it was from the sheriff."

Man Made

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Who let the greedy in
And who left the needy out
Who made this salty soup
Tell him we're very hungry now
For a sweeter fare

In the cookie I read:
"Some get the gravy
And some get the gristle
Some get the marrow bone
And some get nothing
Though there's plenty to spare"

- joni mitchell (Banquet)


No, We Can't? Or Won't?

By Paul Krugman

Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you'll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy's short-run problems (reminder: this "short run" is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action -- notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy's weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity -- a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.

Excuse No. 1: Just around the corner, there's a rainbow in the sky.

Remember "green shoots"? Remember the "summer of recovery"? Policy makers keep declaring that the economy is on the mend -- and Lucy keeps snatching the football away. Yet these delusions of recovery have been an excuse for doing nothing as the jobs crisis festers.

Excuse No. 2: Fear the bond market.

Two years ago The Wall Street Journal declared that interest rates on United States debt would soon soar unless Washington stopped trying to fight the economic slump. Ever since, warnings about the imminent attack of the "bond vigilantes" have been used to attack any spending on job creation.

But basic economics said that rates would stay low as long as the economy was depressed -- and basic economics was right. The interest rate on 10-year bonds was 3.7 percent when The Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03 percent.

How have the usual suspects responded? By inventing their own reality. Last week, Representative Paul Ryan, the man behind the G.O.P. plan to dismantle Medicare, declared that we must slash government spending to "take pressure off the interest rates" -- the same pressure, I suppose, that has pushed those rates to near-record lows.

Excuse No. 3: It's the workers' fault.

Unemployment soared during the financial crisis and its aftermath. So it seems bizarre to argue that the real problem lies with the workers -- that the millions of Americans who were working four years ago but aren't working now somehow lack the skills the economy needs.

Yet that's what you hear from many pundits these days: high unemployment is "structural," they say, and requires long-term solutions (which means, in practice, doing nothing).

Well, if there really was a mismatch between the workers we have and the workers we need, workers who do have the right skills, and are therefore able to find jobs, should be getting big wage increases. They aren't. In fact, average wages actually fell last month.

Excuse No. 4: We tried to stimulate the economy, and it didn't work.

Everybody knows that President Obama tried to stimulate the economy with a huge increase in government spending, and that it didn't work. But what everyone knows is wrong.

Think about it: Where are the big public works projects? Where are the armies of government workers? There are actually half a million fewer government employees now than there were when Mr. Obama took office.

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn't the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn't 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved.

It's also worth noting that in another area where government could make a big difference -- help for troubled homeowners -- almost nothing has been done. The Obama administration's program of mortgage relief has gone nowhere: of $46 billion allotted to help families stay in their homes, less than $2 billion has actually been spent.

So let's summarize: The economy isn't fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it's because it was never actually tried.

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you'd think the problem was "no, we can't." But the reality is "no, we won't." And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.

Circular Foreplay

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Over the billions of years that life has been evolving it has come up with strategies for solving every problem we can imagine. The trick is to learn and apply them so that our technologies enhance rather than destroy the world that nutures us.

In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry, Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.

Printing a 3D Playmate?

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Ooh... that shiny new future has arrived.




hat tip to Jenny

Don't take consciousness for granted

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An incredible journey back from the abyss and into an even more incredible future.

After a catastrophic car accident that left him in a coma, Simon Lewis found ways to recover -- physically and mentally -- beyond all expectations. At the INK Conference he tells how this remarkable story led him to concern over all threats to consciousness, and how to overcome them.

What's Iowa Politics About this Year?

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Rick Perry vs the Anti-Christ Oprah and the signing of the Pledge to prevent Anal Incontinency...seriously...

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

One Last Shot

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Light up the night

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twispl.jpg

Keiny Andrade

Supporters of Santos greet their team during a match against Penarol as part of the Santander Libertadores Cup on Wednesday, June 22 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

US Blubber

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How heavy is your state?

Percentage of obese adults in all 50 states


  • Mississippi: 34.4

  • Alabama: 32.3

  • West Virginia: 32.2

  • Tennessee: 31.9

  • Louisiana: 31.6

  • Kentucky: 31.5

  • Oklahoma: 31.4

  • South Carolina: 30.9

  • Arkansas: 30.6

  • Michigan: 30.5

  • Missouri: 30.3

  • Texas: 30.1

  • Ohio: 29.6

  • North Carolina: 29.4

  • Indiana: 29.1

  • Kansas: 29.0

  • Georgia: 28.7

  • South Dakota: 28.7

  • Pennsylvania: 28.5

  • Iowa: 28.1

  • Delaware: 28.0

  • North Dakota: 28.0

  • Illinois: 27.7

  • Nebraska: 27.6

  • Wisconsin: 27.4

  • Maryland: 27.1

  • Maine: 26.5

  • Washington: 26.4

  • Florida: 26.1

  • Alaska: 25.9

  • Virginia: 25.9

  • Idaho: 25.7

  • New Hampshire: 25.6

  • New Mexico: 25.6

  • Arizona: 25.4

  • Oregon: 25.4

  • Wyoming: 25.4

  • Minnesota: 25.3

  • Nevada: 25.0

  • California: 24.8

  • New York: 24.7

  • Rhode Island: 24.3

  • New Jersey: 24.1

  • Montana: 23.8

  • Vermont: 23.5

  • Utah: 23.4

  • Hawaii: 23.1

  • Massachusetts: 22.3

  • Connecticut: 21.8

  • District of Columbia: 21.7

  • Colorado: 19.8

The Verdict

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I am so proud of the jury in the Anthony trial.

I avoided watching the entire trial because I saw it as emotional theater and instead waited until the closing remarks from both sides, which I watched in it's entirety. My conclusion at the end of that process was that the state's case was based on pure circumstantial evidence and speculation and that they had not proven her guilt.

The outrage from the many people who had already convicted her in their minds was astounding.

Beyond Self

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Just when you are ready to hand in your final draft resignation from the human race comes this...

Mystery heroine risks life to rescue toddler from burning house

A woman risked her life to enter a blazing building and rescue a two-year-old boy.

Rob Parsons and Mark Blunden

firerescue.jpgCCTV footage shows the unidentified woman rushing into a blazing house in Tottenham to save Arafat Hassan, who was stranded inside.

The toddler was fighting for his life today in intensive care after suffering severe burns when the blaze swept through his family's terrace home in Antill Road yesterday afternoon.

The courageous woman was helped in the rescue by a paramedic and a chef from a nearby restaurant, who also ran into the blazing building.
Neighbours said she was driving past the house when she heard Arafat's pregnant mother screaming for help. The boy's father, Sadir Hassan, was apparently struggling to get inside, having been beaten back by the flames while helping other
people to get out of the house.

According to eyewitnesses, the woman, wearing blue jeans and a green vest top, leapt from her car and ran inside with little thought for her own safety.

She appeared moments later carrying the child and took him to a restaurant across the street. Josh Berkovits, a paramedic, also helped to get Arafat to safety and gave emergency medical treatment.

Mr Berkovits, 35, who works with Hatzola, a local ambulance service run by the Jewish community, cut off the boy's clothes, applied burns gel to his wounds and wrapped him in cling film to stop infection.

"The boy had burns to about 80 per cent of his body," said Mr Berkovits. "When we got him to the restaurant he stopped screaming. He had breathed in a lot of smoke so was very quiet."

The chef, Javier Fajardo-Toledo, 40, from Ecuador, said: "When the lady got the baby into the restaurant I tried to help but he was burnt very badly. The lady was really brave, she didn't think twice."

Four fire engines and 20 firefighters were called to the blaze, which destroyed the two-storey house. Today, the Hassan family, believed to be from Somalia, said the mystery woman was "amazing" but were too shocked to comment further.

Neighbour Matthew Miller said: "The little boy was so badly burned, all over his face and arms, but he was totally quiet.

"What all three people did was amazingly brave, they are heroes. Most people just wouldn't."


Good of the Union

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The impending disasters that await us, ecological and economic, are already visible on the horizon. If we do not sever ourselves from established systems of power, if we do not become in every action we undertake agents of rebellion, then the ecological, economic and, finally, human distortions that arise in times of confusion, suffering and collapse will overwhelm us.



Ralph Nader Is Tired of Running for President

by Chris Hedges

The most important moral and intellectual voices within a disintegrating society are slowly discredited when their nonviolent protests and calls for justice cannot alter intransigent and corrupt systems of power. The repeated acts of peaceful civil disobedience, efforts at electoral and political reform and the fight to protect the rule of law are dismissed as useless by an embittered, dispossessed and betrayed public. The demagogues and hatemongers, the purveyors of violence, easily seduce enraged and bewildered masses in the final stages of collapse with false promises of vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. And in the spiral downward the good among us are reviled as naive and ineffectual fools.

GoodOfTheUnion-300.jpgThere is no shortage of courageous dissidents in America. They seek to thwart the imperial disasters, looming financial insolvency and suicidal addiction to fossil fuel. They have stood in small knots on street corners week after week, month after month, year after year, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have occupied banks, shut down coal-fired power plants, attempted to halt mountaintop removal, interfered with whaling ships and walked in blustery weather to the White House, where they were arrested. They are struggling to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on a ship called the Audacity of Hope. But because the corporate state and the two major political parties are indifferent to principled calls for reform, and because the mass of the public still buys into the myths of globalization and the American dream, the plundering and destruction continue unimpeded.

When most Americans face the nightmare before us, when they realize the irreversible devastation unleashed on the ecosystem and the economic misery from which they cannot escape, violence will have a broad and terrifying appeal. Those of us who demand a return to the rule of law and remain steadfast to nonviolence will find ourselves cast aside--the useful idiots Lenin so despised.

I watched this happen in the social and political implosions in El Salvador, Guatemala, the Palestinian territories, Algeria, Bosnia and Kosovo. I watched the same cocktail of despair, economic collapse and callousness from a corrupt power elite mix itself into potent brews of civil strife. I watched the same untiring efforts by those who detested the violence and cruelty of the state, and the nascent violence and intolerance of the radical opposition. I covered as a reporter the disintegration that tore these societies apart. Those who held fast to moral imperatives, including Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo, were thrust aside and replaced with killers on both sides of the divide who embraced violence.


Mr Fish Goes to Washington

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Happy Indetention Day

Happy_Indetention_Day-500.jpg


4th of July--
the dog under the bed
bares its teeth



Karma Tenzing Wangchuk



Opposite of War On Drugs

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Portugal drug law show results ten years on, experts say

LISBON -- Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal's decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.

"There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered "problematic" -- those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users -- had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.

"This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies."

Portugal's holistic approach had also led to a "spectacular" reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added.

A law that became active on July 1, 2001 did not legalise drug use, but forced users caught with banned substances to appear in front of special addiction panels rather than in a criminal court.

The panels composed of psychologists, judges and social workers recommended action based on the specifics of each case.

Since then, government panels have recommended a response based largely on whether the individual is an occasional drug user or an addict.

Of the nearly 40,000 people currently being treated, "the vast majority of problematic users are today supported by a system that does not treat them as delinquents but as sick people," Goulao said.

In a report published last week, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said Portugal had dealt with this issue "in a pragmatic and innovative way."

Drug use statistics in Portugal are generally "below the European average and much lower than its only European neighbour, Spain," the report also said.

"The changes that were made in Portugal provide an interesting before-and-after study on the possible effects of decriminalisation," EMCDDA said

No Joke Irony

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NY motorcyclist dies on ride protesting helmet law

Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike's handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse.

State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.

Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.

We've got to stop pretending that capital punishment is a viable method of producing justice and not just a means of producing revenge which in turn does nothing positive.

Illinois' death row officially shuts down

by Don Babwin

After spending years at the center of heated national debate over capital punishment, Illinois' death row officially died Friday when a state law abolishing the death penalty quietly took effect.

killingiswring.jpgThe state garnered international attention when then-Republican Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium in 2000 after several inmates' death sentences were overturned and he cleared death row three years later. One man who came within 48 hours of being executed was among those later declared innocent.

The fate of executions in the state was sealed in March when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation ending the death penalty, following years of stories of men sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit and families of murder victims angrily demanding their loved ones' killers pay with their own lives.

Illinois has executed 12 men since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated, but none since 1999.

Quinn subsequently commuted the sentences of the 15 men on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Fourteen are now in maximum security prisons, while one is in a medium-high security prison with a mental health facility.

Ironically, the state's death row at the prison in Pontiac, about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, has been turned into a place where inmates go when they're deemed worthy of leaving the state's super-maximum prison in southern Illinois, the Tamms Correctional Center, and enter a less-restrictive program.

"It is a step down from Tamms," said Stacey Solano, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections. "When they transition out, it is a restrictive environment but not as restrictive as Tamms."


Scale of the Universe

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An amazing interactive flash toy for exploring the relative sizes of things in the universe.

Click on the pic for the website..


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This is a product of the Huang twins Cary and Michael...other cool stuff can be found on their website, http://htwins.net/



hat tip to old friend Baker

Anonymous Hits Orlando Over Homeless

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We can't have tourists visiting Mickey Mouse's hometown being assaulted by the sight of homeless people being fed in city parks now can we? Doesn't this make you want to reach out and "touch" someone?

Citing Homeless Law, Hackers Turn Sights on Orlando

orlandohomeless.jpg

By Don Van Natta Jr.

The hacker group Anonymous has declared a cyberwar against the City of Orlando, disabling Web sites for the city's leading redevelopment organization, the local Fraternal Order of Police and the mayor's re-election campaign.

Anonymous, a large yet loosely formed group of hackers that claimed responsibility for crashing the Web sites of MasterCard and the Church of Scientology, began attacking the Orlando-based Web sites earlier this week.

The group described its attacks as punishment for the city's recent practice of arresting members of Orlando Food Not Bombs, an antipoverty group that provides vegan and vegetarian meals twice a week to homeless people in one of the city's largest parks.

"Anonymous believes that people have the right to organize, that people have the right to give to the less fortunate and that people have the right to commit acts of kindness and compassion," the group's members said in a news release and video posted on YouTube on Thursday. "However, it appears the police and your lawmakers of Orlando do not."

A 2006 city ordinance requires organizations to obtain permits to feed groups of 25 people or more in downtown parks. The law was passed after numerous complaints by residents and businesses owners about the twice-weekly feedings in Lake Eola Park, city officials said. The law limits any group to no more than two permits per year per park.

Since June 1, the city police have arrested 25 Orlando Food Not Bombs volunteers without permits as they provided meals to large groups of homeless people in the park. One of those arrested last week on trespassing charges was Keith McHenry, a co-founder of the first Food Not Bombs chapter in 1980 in Cambridge, Mass. He remained in the Orange County Jail on Thursday awaiting a bond hearing.

This week Anonymous offered a "cease-fire" if no volunteers were arrested during Wednesday evening's feeding of the homeless. But the police arrested two volunteers, and on Thursday morning Anonymous disrupted the Web site Downtown Orlando, which promotes redevelopment there and is run by the city. An organization spokeswoman confirmed the attack but declined to comment, referring questions to the mayor's office.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer, whose re-election campaign site was disabled on Tuesday, called the attack on the Downtown Orlando site an "inconvenience." She said the city would not change its policy of arresting volunteers who feed homeless people without a permit.

"We will continue to enforce the city ordinance," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified out of a concern she would become a target of Anonymous. "We must continue to focus on what our Orlando residents want and not the desires of others from outside the community."

Even though the people of S Dakota voted down two previous versions of this anti-abortion legislation, their conservative representatives took it upon themselves to try to enact it anyway. No keeping a good zealot down. Fortunately a judge put a stay on the law for the time being.

Judge blocks new SD abortion law from taking effect

Law forcing three-day waiting period before abortions was to take effect Friday

A federal judge on Thursday barred a tough new South Dakota abortion law from taking effect while it's being challenged in court.

The law, which would have taken effect Friday, requires women seeking abortions to face a three-day waiting period and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortion. The waiting period would have been the longest in the nation.

Also taking effect Friday is a strict new licensing law for abortion providers in Kansas. On Thursday, the state avoided becoming the first state without an abortion provider by granting a license to a Planned Parenthood clinic. The law's regulations also are being challenged in federal court.

Both laws are part of an unprecedented surge of anti-abortion legislation that has advanced through Republican-controlled legislatures in many states. Collectively, the measures create an array of new obstacles -- legal, financial and psychological -- for women seeking abortions and doctors performing them.

The tactics of other states that have passed anti-abortion legislation have varied: mandatory sonograms and anti-abortion counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In South Dakota, Planned Parenthood argued in a lawsuit that the law violates a woman's constitutional right to abortion established under the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

In her ruling, Chief Judge Karen Schreier said that Planned Parenthood demonstrated that provisions of the law are "likely" unconstitutional, in particular the pregnancy help center requirement.

"Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being," read the court order, obtained by msnbc.com. "If the preliminary injunction is denied, many women will have been denied their right to free speech and effectively forced against their will to remain pregnant until they give birth."

Big Bear Wises Up

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The Russians took a look at the Hubbard SciFi quasi-religion and said, "Ah...Nyet!"
Good for them.

Russian court bans Scientology books

A court in a Moscow suburb has banned works by the founder of the Church of Scientology, officials said Thursday.

The Shchyolkovo court ruled that "What is Scientology?" and other books by L. Ron Hubbard "contain calls for extremist activities," the Prosecutor General's office said in a statement.

It said that once the court decision comes into force, scientology books will be put on the federal list of extremist materials banned for release throughout Russia. The court made the ruling following a request by local prosecutors.

Attempts by Russian authorities to ban Scientology literature have been overturned recently. In May, the Russian Justice Ministry removed Hubbard's books from the list of banned literature after a decision by a court in Siberia was overturned.

Scientology officials said they would protest the latest court decision.

"There have been many legal violations, the case is unfounded and the trial was hasty," the group's attorney Sergei Korzikov told The Associated Press. "We could not defend our legal interests."

The group's spokesman in Russia, Yuri Maximov, said that Russia is home to "tens of thousands" of Scientology devotees. Russian media have claimed that some powerful businessmen and officials are among Scientology adepts.

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