September 2011 Archives

And yes I got It

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Deference : The Better Part of Valor

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hat tip to callmeishmael

How Dumb Are Republicans?

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Large segments of the G.O.P. reject climate science and even the theory of evolution, so why expect evidence to matter for the party's economic views?


Phony Fear Factor

By Paul Krugman

The good news: After spending a year and a half talking about deficits, deficits, deficits when we should have been talking about jobs, job, jobs we're finally back to discussing the right issue.

The bad news: Republicans, aided and abetted by many conservative policy intellectuals, are fixated on a view about what's blocking job creation that fits their prejudices and serves the interests of their wealthy backers, but bears no relationship to reality.

Listen to just about any speech by a Republican presidential hopeful, and you'll hear assertions that the Obama administration is responsible for weak job growth. How so? The answer, repeated again and again, is that businesses are afraid to expand and create jobs because they fear costly regulations and higher taxes. Nor are politicians the only people saying this. Conservative economists repeat the claim in op-ed articles, and Federal Reserve officials repeat it to justify their opposition to even modest efforts to aid the economy.

The first thing you need to know, then, is that there's no evidence supporting this claim and a lot of evidence showing that it's false.

The starting point for many claims that antibusiness policies are hurting the economy is the assertion that the sluggishness of the economy's recovery from recession is unprecedented. But, as a new paper by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute documents at length, this is just not true. Extended periods of "jobless recovery" after recessions have been the rule for the past two decades. Indeed, private-sector job growth since the 2007-2009 recession has been better than it was after the 2001 recession.

We might add that major financial crises are almost always followed by a period of slow growth, and U.S. experience is more or less what you should have expected given the severity of the 2008 shock.

Still, isn't there something odd about the fact that businesses are making large profits and sitting on a lot of cash but aren't spending that cash to expand capacity and employment?



What's Worse Than Hypocrisy?

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Outright exploitation via purchased propaganda.

How did you know it would involve the Koch Bros.?

Check this out:

What Is It?

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Here it is


Part 1:

Part 2:

Tony Baloney Gets Nailed As a Phony

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New video came out today of the police officer who pepper-sprayed Occupy Wall Street protesters without any provocation. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell has more in the Rewrite.

Mountains Get Eroded One Drip At a Time

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"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector."
- Plato


Even Those Cleared of Crimes Can Stay on F.B.I.'s Watch List

By Charlie Savage NYT

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is permitted to include people on the government's terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped, according to newly released documents.

watching.the.watchers.jpgThe files, released by the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, disclose how the police are instructed to react if they encounter a person on the list. They lay out, for the first time in public view, the legal standard that national security officials must meet in order to add a name to the list. And they shed new light on how names are vetted for possible removal from the list.

Inclusion on the watch list can keep terrorism suspects off planes, block noncitizens from entering the country and subject people to delays and greater scrutiny at airports, border crossings and traffic stops.

The database now has about 420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans, according to the statistics released in connection with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. About 16,000 people, including about 500 Americans, are barred from flying.

Timothy J. Healy, the director of the F.B.I.'s Terrorist Screening Center, which vets requests to add or remove names from the list, said the documents showed that the government was balancing civil liberties with a careful, multilayered process for vetting who goes on it -- and for making sure that names that no longer need to be on it came off.

"There has been a lot of criticism about the watch list," claiming that it is "haphazard," he said. "But what this illustrates is that there is a very detailed process that the F.B.I. follows in terms of nominations of watch-listed people."

Still, some of the procedures drew fire from civil liberties advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which made the original request and provided the documents to The New York Times​.


Best Robot Ever

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I really like the dub mix of the Foster the People tune ( "Pumped Up Kicks" ) too.





Moments of Clarity

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Also check out Dredd's : Life In The Ferengi Home World




Hate the Money Corrupted Politics?

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Then start here managing your anger and sign the damn petition:

It's Time to Get Money Out of Politics

Bailouts. War. Unemployment. Our government is bought, and we're angry. Now, we're turning our anger into positive action. By signing this petition, you are joining our campaign to get money out of politics. Our politicians won't do this. But we will. We will become an unrelenting, organized wave advocating a Constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.

As the petition grows, we can use my show on MSNBC as a platform to force this issue to the center of the 2012 elections. Join us. Sign up. Tell your friends. Facebook it. Tweet it. #GetMoneyOut.
From our Washington Insider, Jimmy Williams, here is our Constitutional Amendment:


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

The Amendment:

"No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office."

Pig Watch

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

If You Never Eat

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...why would you need mandibles strong enough to snap a pencil in half?

The Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus) is the longest known beetle in the Amazon rainforest and one of the longest insect species in the world. It is from the family Cerambycidae (longhorn beetles). The titan beetle is the only member of its own genus. It is known from the rain forests of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the Guianas, and north-central Brazil, where it is most commonly collected by the use of mercury-vapor lamps, to which the males are attracted. There is a local 'cottage industry' in French Guiana of leading tours specifically to collect specimens of this beetle (which can command prices over US$500), and other countries' ecotourism agencies mention these beetles in their advertisements.

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Adults can grow up to 6.5 inches (16.7 cm) in length.[2] It is said that their mandibles can snap pencils in half and cut into human flesh. Adult titan beetles do not feed, they simply fly around to find mates. They are attracted to bright lights after dark. There is an extensive sequence towards the end of Sir David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth series (in the version released in the UK) which prominently features a hunt for this beetle. In it, an adult specimen was found by American entomologist, the late Frank Hovore (he died in 2006, very proud of finding Giganteus - http://www.unl.edu/museum/research/entomology/workers/FHovore.htm) and brought back to Oxford University. Because the adults do not eat, this specimen was cared for until it died.

The larvae have never been found, but are thought to feed inside wood and may take several years to reach full size before they pupate. Boreholes thought to be created by titan beetle larvae seem to fit a grub over two inches wide and perhaps as much as one foot long.

Christian Apocalypticism and Politics

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Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power. - Eric Hoffer

Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics

By Matthew Avery Sutton

The end is near -- or so it seems to a segment of Christians aligned with the religious right. The global economic meltdown, numerous natural disasters and the threat of radical Islam have fueled a conviction among some evangelicals that these are the last days. While such beliefs might be dismissed as the rantings of a small but vocal minority, apocalyptic fears helped drive the anti-government movements of the 1930s and '40s and could help define the 2012 presidential campaign as well.

Christian apocalypticism has a long and varied history. Its most prevalent modern incarnation took shape a century ago, among the vast network of preachers, evangelists, Bible-college professors and publishers who established the fundamentalist movement. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and independents, they shared a commitment to returning the Christian faith to its "fundamentals."

Biblical criticism, the return of Jews to the Holy Land, evolutionary science and World War I convinced them that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Basing their predictions on biblical prophecy, they identified signs, drawn especially from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, that would foreshadow the arrival of the last days: the growth of strong central governments and the consolidation of independent nations into one superstate led by a seemingly benevolent leader promising world peace.

This leader would ultimately prove to be the Antichrist, who, after the so-called rapture of true saints to heaven, would lead humanity through a great tribulation culminating in the second coming and Armageddon. Conservative preachers, evangelists and media personalities of the 20th century, like Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, shared these beliefs.

Fundamentalists' anticipation of a coming superstate pushed them to the political right. As the government grew in response to industrialization, fundamentalists concluded that the rapture was approaching. Their anxieties worsened in the 1930s with the rise of fascism. Obsessed with matching biblical prophecy with current events, they studied Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, each of whom seemed to foreshadow the Antichrist.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt troubled them as well. His consolidation of power across more than three terms in the White House, his efforts to undermine the autonomy of the Supreme Court, his dream of a global United Nations and especially his rapid expansion of the government confirmed what many fundamentalists had feared: the United States was lining up with Europe in preparation for a new world dictator.

As a result, prominent fundamentalists joined right-wing libertarians in their effort to undermine Roosevelt. That this mix of millennialism and activism seemed inconsistent -- why work for reform if the world is destined for Armageddon? -- never troubled them. They simply asserted that Jesus had called them to "occupy" until he returned (Luke 19:13). Like orthodox Marxists who challenge capitalism even though they say they believe it represents an inevitable step on the road to the socialist paradise, conservative Christians never let their conviction that the future is already written lead them to passivity.



Long Live the Doodle

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Studies show that sketching and doodling improve our comprehension -- and our creative thinking. So why do we still feel embarrassed when we're caught doodling in a meeting?

Sunni Brown says: Doodlers, unite!

Hostages of Hopelessness

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K'Naan, now famous musician and poet in the West writes sadly of return to his Somalian homeland

A Son Returns to the Agony of Somalia

By K'NAAN

k'naan .nyt.jpgOne has to be careful about stories. Especially true ones. When a story is told the first time, it can find a place in the listener's heart. If the same story is told over and over, it becomes less like a presence in that chest and more like an X-ray of it.

The beating heart of my story is this: I was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. I had a brief but beautiful childhood filled with poetry from renowned relatives. Then came a bloody end to it, a lesson in life as a Somali: death approaching from the distance, walking into our lives in an experienced stroll.

At 12 years old, I lost three of the boys I grew up with in one burst of machine-gun fire -- one pull from the misinformed finger of a boy probably not much older than we were.

But I was also unusually lucky. The bullets hit everyone but me.

Luck follows me through this story; so does my luckless homeland. A few harrowing months later, I found myself on the last commercial flight to leave Somalia before war closed in on the airport. And over the years, fortune turned me into Somalia's loudest musical voice in the Western Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, my country festered, declining more and more. When I went on a tour of 86 countries last year, I could not perform in the one that mattered most to me. And when my song "Wavin' Flag" became the theme song for the World Cup that year, the kids back home were not allowed to listen to it on the airwaves. Whatever melodious beauty I found, living in the spotlight, my country produced an opposing harmony in shadows, and the world hardly noticed. But I could still hear it.

And now this terrible year: The worst famine in decades pillages the flesh of the already wounded in Somalia. And the world's collective humanitarian response has been a defeated shrug. If ever there was a best and worst time to return home, it was now.

So, 20 summers after I left as a child, I found myself on my way back to Somalia with some concerned friends and colleagues. I hoped that my presence would let me shine a light into this darkness. Maybe spare even one life, a life equal to mine, from indifferently wasting away. But I am no statesman, nor a soldier. Just a man made fortunate by the power of the spotlight. And to save someone's life I am willing to spend some of that capricious currency called celebrity.

We had been told that Mogadishu was still among the most dangerous cities on the planet. So it was quiet on the 15-seat plane from Nairobi. We told nervous jokes at first, then looked to defuse the tension. The one book I had brought was Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." I reached a chapter titled "Hunger Was Good Discipline" and stopped. That idea needed some contemplation. The very thing driving so many from their homes in Somalia was drawing me back there. I read on. Hemingway felt that paintings were more beautiful when he was "belly-empty, hollow-hungry." But he was not speaking of the brutal and criminally organized hunger of East Africa. His hunger was beautiful. It made something of you. The one I was heading into only made ashes of you.


Culturomics

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Have you played with Google Labs' NGram Viewer? It's an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words.

Before you do play with it, watch this TED video for an explanation of how it came to be and what it is for:

No Such Thing As a Deserved Execution

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Neutrinos Clocked Faster Than Light

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This discovery is so astonishing that I will wait for the confirmation from peer reviews to even consider it real.

An astounding discovery: Faster-than-light particle

CERN scientists ask for confirmation of discovery that could rewrite laws of nature

By Frank Jordans and Seth Borenstein


cern100.jpgA pillar of physics -- that nothing can go faster than the speed of light -- appears to be smashed by an oddball subatomic particle that has apparently made a giant end run around Albert Einstein​'s theories.

Scientists at the world's largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos traveling faster than light. That's something that according to Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity -- the famous E=mc2 equation -- just doesn't happen.

"The feeling that most people have is this can't be right, this can't be real," said James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The organization, known as CERN, hosted part of the experiment, which is unrelated to the massive $10 billion Large Hadron Collider also located at the site.

Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.

"They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they've done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements," he said Thursday.

Scientists at the competing Fermilab in Chicago have promised to start such work immediately.

"It's a shock," said Fermilab head theoretician Stephen Parke, who was not part of the research in Geneva. "It's going to cause us problems, no doubt about that -- if it's true."



Update: New test nixes findings about faster-than-light neutrinos


Seriously, Who Gives A Crap

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Economic Laws Are Not Made By Nature

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There is no "invisible hand" of the market.
Except the one shown below

When Socialism Saves Capitalism

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

Have you noticed that one of the Obama administration's most successful programs is also its most "socialist" initiative?

wall-street-hand1.jpgOK, the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was not socialist in the classic sense: the government was not looking to hold onto the companies over the long run. Their turnaround was accomplished in significant part by tough, capitalist management steps.

But, yes, this was socialism--or, perhaps, "state capitalism"--because the government temporarily took substantial ownership in the companies when no one in the private sector was willing to put up enough capital to prevent them from going under. Today, the companies are thriving.

More than that: the auto industry exemplifies how unions can do their best to protect the interests of their members while also ensuring the prosperity of the companies that employ them.

This month, the United Auto Workers and GM reached a tentative four-year contract that will add or save some 6,500 jobs, provide workers with a $5,000 signing bonus and enhance a profit-sharing agreement.

Note that increase in profit-sharing. The union and the company are seeking to align the interests of workers and shareholders. The idea should be as American as a Chevy or a Ford: When a company does well, its employees should do well, too.

The UAW's bargaining approach belies the notion that unions don't care about the well-being of the companies whose workers they represent. On the contrary, the UAW made extraordinary concessions to keep the Detroit-based auto industry alive. Now, its members can fairly claim a right to some of the benefits.

"When GM was struggling, our members shared in the sacrifice," said Bob King, the UAW president. "Now that the company is posting profits again, our members want to share in the success."

Anybody have a problem with that?



Troy Davis Murdered by Georgia

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There is a demonstrated error rate of 1 innocent person for every 7 persons executed (or more than 14%).

Would you get on a plane that operated under such a rate of failure that you knew that every 7th plane would kill everyone on board?

There is no purpose to capital punishment at all except retribution, ie revenge. It does not act as a deterrent. It does not provide closure for families or the society. It in no way serves to lessen crime rates or solve the original problem. In fact, it makes the situation worse by sending the message that violence and murder are a valid way to solve problems.

Most civilized societies have concluded that capital punishment is an antiquated and infantile approach to justice and have abandoned it as irrational behavior.

The idea that someone would be sentenced to die solely based on eyewitness testimony (especially when 7 of 9 of those witnesses have recanted) is nothing short of barbaric and insane.

It is also telling that the people who clamor the most for executing people are the same ones who claim to be so concerned with the sanctity of life when it comes to abortion issues. There is no lower form of duplicity and hypocrisy than those who would murder a murderer and consider it justice.

In a better world, the Davis case would provoke a call for sanity and a re-banning of the death penalty. But given the absolute barbarity and stupidity of around 25% of the American populace it's unlikely we will see any improvement for some time to come.

To The 'Let Him Die' Tea Party

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I say, Fuck You!

But here's a better, more powerful response :


Nader's Point

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I've got to admit it's a good one.

Ignorance Is Not a Virtue

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It is better to be a human being unsatisfied
than to be a pig satisfied.
Better to be Socrates dissatisfied
than to be a fool satisfied.
And if the fool or pig
are of a different opinion,
it is because they only know their side of the question

- John Stuart Mill.

DADT is DEAD

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Finally!!

Humanity wins a large victory over bigotry.

dadtdead.jpg



A Gay soldier stationed in Germany calls home to tell his father in Alabama that he is gay today:

Foo Fighters Whack Westoboro

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Proving once again that ridicule is the very best weapon against bigotry.

Westboro Baptist Church Counter-Protest With 'Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)'

Unafraid to get political -- and goofy -- the Foo Fighters​ put the two together in a surprise counter-protest against a notorious anti-gay hate church on Friday.

Set to play a concert in Kansas City, Missouri that evening, the band put on a incredible show hours before the first tickets were even ripped. Led by lead singer Dave Grohl​, the group showed up at the Westboro Baptist Church's picket against their performance at the city's Sprint Center, riding in the back of a rig truck and rocking out.

Playing their fun, faux-country trucker ode "Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)," the Fighters dressed in the same costumes that they wear in their nudity-filled spoof video for the song. And so as the hate spewed forth from the lips of the small, vitriolic group, their words were drowned out by amplified phrases, such, as "Driving all night, got a hankering for something/Think I'm in the mood for some hot-man muffins/Mmmm, sounds so fine, yes indeed."

During an interlude in the song, Grohl announced, "God Bless America! It takes all kinds; I don't care if you're black or white or purple or green, whether you're Pennsylvanian or Transylvanian, Lady gaga or Lady Antebellum​. Men loving women and women loving men and men loving men and women loving women -- you all know we like to watch that. But what I'd like to say is, God Bless America, y'all!"

Here's the video of the event, which was reported by the city's NBC Action News. The actual uncensored video follows the report.





NYC Protests Start of Something Big?

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Maybe.

Protesters invade NYC Financial District

Demonstrators invoke Mideast rallies, call for end to corporate greed favoring rich

nycprotest.jpg

NEW YORK -- More than 1,000 demonstrators descended on New York City's Financial District on Saturday for what could be a days-long protest of what they said was corporate greed favoring the rich at the expense of ordinary people.

The rally, dubbed #OccupyWallStreet on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook where word was spread, spurred the New York Police Department to lock down Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, local media reported.

Police set up checkpoints to allow only those who could prove they lived or worked on Wall Street to enter, the New York Daily News reported.

Pictures posted on Twitter and elsewhere showed police and barricades around the famous bronze Charging Bull statue on lower Broadway at the north end of Bowling Green park.

"A protest area was established on Broad Street at Exchange Street, next to the stock exchange, but protesters elected not to use it," police spokesman Paul Browne said in a statement reported by The New York Times.

Demonstrators gathered in parks and plazas in Lower Manhattan and said they were determined to stay at least through the weekend so they could confront Wall Street workers on Monday morning.

Some protesters said they would stay weeks or months and likened their rally to demonstrations earlier this year in Egypt, Israel and Spain.


Welcome to the genomic revolution

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Wake up and get with the program. Advances in gene therapy and individual information is accelerating at an unbelievable pace. Now is the time for we-the-people to harness and control how these technologies will be utilized for good or ill.

Constitutional Conundrum?

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How about a law which unconstitutionally mandates observance of the Constitution?

A Byrd told me.

Happy Illegal Holiday!

by Kent Greenfield

constitution.jpgToday is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. Since 2005, by Congressional mandate, all educational institutions receiving federal funds -- from preschools to universities, whether public or private -- are required to provide relevant educational programming to observe the occasion. Boston College, where I teach, generally hosts a symposium; the local middle school offers skits about the First Amendment. The Constitution Day mandate was a brainchild of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, who believed it was necessary to address the nation's lack of appreciation for our founding document.

Ironically, Constitution Day is probably unconstitutional. One liberty the Constitution protects is the right of individuals and institutions not to applaud it. The laudable message that Congress wanted to send -- our Constitution should be celebrated -- is muddled by its method of mandatory commemoration. The mandate violates the academic freedom of the targeted institutions.

You might argue that observing Constitution Day is not actually mandatory because the schools have a choice: if they believe that observing Constitution Day is a violation of their autonomy, they can refuse federal money.

As a matter of constitutional law, however, this kind of choice can be unconstitutional. The issue turns on the "unconstitutional conditions" doctrine, an often puzzling area of Supreme Court jurisprudence. Sometimes the court says Congress can make funding conditional on a waiver of constitutional rights (as when it upheld a restriction on abortion counseling attached to family planning grants to hospitals). Sometimes the court says the opposite (as when it struck down conditions on legal aid that restricted recipients from bringing civil rights suits).

But let's not allow constitutional niceties to distract us from reality. Constitution Day does not pose a true choice. Few primary or secondary schools are financially secure enough to refuse federal grants. Universities cannot risk millions in federal dollars used for research or financial aid to make a constitutional point. And no school wants the negative attention that voicing a loud objection would certainly attract. So everyone dutifully falls into line.

While a small number of institutions might try to subtly neutralize the patriotic spirit of the holiday by hosting discussions of the Constitution's flaws -- for example, the clause counting slaves as three-fifths of a person, which gave slave-owning states disproportionate power until the Civil War -- the reality is that most observances will be laudatory, as Congress intended.

Since Constitution Day is not a particularly well-known holiday, its mandatory patriotism may not seem like a big deal. But mandatory patriotism is corrosive even if accomplished bit by bit.




Cheering Selfishness

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Let's face it, compassion isn't just out of fashion for the GOP base, it's out of fashion for the entire culture, though conservatives, being inherently self-centered about what it is they want to preserve, simply example the overall cultural lack of empathy and compassion more blatantly.

Corporatism, consumerism and immediate gratification are all of piece and I'm sure if some study charted the growth of these things over the last 50 years one would see perfect correlations in the rise of them all.

The hyper growth of media and it's role in creating such an overwhelming homogenization of not only products, but also perspectives, is majorly responsible for a lack genuine personal interconnectedness that normally defines a community in which individuals care and lookout for one another.

The process has left us with a tale of two deeply divided intellects, one which is past oriented and the other future oriented. I doubt that it is necessary to label which political stripe goes with which orientation.

Free to Die

by Paul Krugman

Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series "Free to Choose." In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.

But that was then. Today, "free to choose" has become "free to die."

I'm referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday's G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, "That's what freedom is all about -- taking your own risks." Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether "society should just let him die."

And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of "Yeah!"

The incident highlighted something that I don't think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.

Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed -- or at least they would if they hadn't been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that's a fantasy. People who can't afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have -- and sometimes they die as a result.

The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer's hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.

So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding "Yeah!"

Think, in particular, of the children.



God bless America ?

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If The Tea Party Held the Miss USA Pageant

The Miss USA pageant was held at the Theatre for the Performing Arts in Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas , Nevada on June 19, 2011.

It was the 60th anniversary of this show. As in the past, contestants are graded on
beauty, charm, poise, skills, and their ability to respond to questions.

One of the questions asked of the 2011 contestant was:

"Do you think math should be taught in school ?"





hat tip the wonderous Mr Baker

When Bureaucracy Kills

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I've studied this case for a couple of years now and from the evidence I've seen this man is innocent.

663,000 names on petition protesting Troy Davis' execution

Supporters of convicted cop killer Troy Davis say time is running out.
Unless something dramatic happens, Davis will die by lethal injection next week for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail.

Davis, 42, is set to be executed at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and since his 1991 conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.

Many people fighting for Davis' life are feeling the pressure.
"We honor the life of Officer MacPhail," said Edward DuBose, Georgia state conference president of the NAACP, but he added, "You cannot right a wrong by offering up Troy Davis, who we believe is not the person responsible."

The NAACP joins several groups advocating for Davis, who also counts former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI and singer Harry Belafonte among his defenders.

The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network plans to hold a candlelight vigil Friday for Davis at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Sharpton will speak at the rally at 7 p.m. ET.
Supporters Thursday delivered a massive petition containing more than 663,000 signatures in support of clemency for Davis.

They're worried that won't be enough, as all legal appeals have been exhausted and only Gov. Nathan Deal or the state Pardon and Parole Board can call off Wednesday's execution. The board denied clemency in 2008.
"In some ways, the board has an opportunity to look at this case afresh," said Laura Moye with Amnesty International USA, which has long denounced Davis' conviction.

A new witness who testified during a 2010 evidentiary hearing said he saw another person shoot MacPhail. Supporters hope that fact will be considered by the parole board.
"So why is it that we are willing to believe what they said in 1991, but are not willing to believe what they have to say today," Moye said. "Most of (the witnesses) have recanted or contradicted their testimony and additional testimony has come forward to implicate this alternative suspect."

MacPhail's family has steadfastly asserted that Davis was the killer, and the district attorney who prosecuted Davis has maintained his position that Davis is guilty. He does not have much confidence in witness recantations.

"I'm just disappointed so many people have been led to believe nobody has paid attention to these recantations. It is simply not the case," former Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton once told CNN affiliate WTOC. "On what grounds are the recantations more believable than the testimony in court? None."

Reviewing Davis' claims of innocence last year, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia found that Davis "vastly overstates the value of his evidence of innocence."
"Some of the evidence is not credible and would be disregarded by a reasonable juror," Judge William T. Moore wrote in a 172-page opinion. "Other evidence that Mr. Davis brought forward is too general to provide anything more than smoke and mirrors," the court found.

Hire the Hackers

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Despite multibillion-dollar investments in cybersecurity, one of its root problems has been largely ignored: who are the people who write malicious code? Underworld investigator Misha Glenny profiles several convicted coders from around the world and reaches a startling conclusion.

Republicanland

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Rachel describes the false premises Republicans argue from:

How Corrupt is Perry?

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Well, he says he can't be bought for a measly five grand.
Ok...so how much then?

New GOP Bumpersticker

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Or get ready for the Dark Ages

The magical world of voodoo 'economists'

by Steven Pearlstein WaPo

If you came up with a bumper sticker that pulls together the platform of this year's crop of Republican presidential candidates, it would have to be:

Repeal the 20th century. Vote GOP.

repealing20thcentury.jpgIt's not just the 21st century they want to turn the clock back on -- health-care reform, global warming and the financial regulations passed in the wake of the recent financial crises and accounting scandals.

These folks are actually talking about repealing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970s.

They're talking about abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, which passed in the 1960s, and Social Security, created in the 1930s.

They reject as thoroughly discredited all of Keynesian economics, including the efficacy of fiscal stimulus, preferring the budget-balancing economic policies that turned the 1929 stock market crash into the Great Depression.

They also reject the efficacy of monetary stimulus to fight recession, and give the strong impression they wouldn't mind abolishing the Federal Reserve and putting the country back on the gold standard.

They refuse to embrace Darwin's theory of evolution, which has been widely accepted since the Scopes Trial of the 1920s.

One of them is even talking about repealing the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution, allowing for a federal income tax and the direct election of senators -- landmarks of the Progressive Era.

What's next -- repeal of quantum physics?


Harnessing HIV to Good Purposes

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An amazing and long awaited breakthrough in the use of attenuated virii to deliver remedial genes to unhealthy cells has arrived.

An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

by Denise Grady

gene_therapy.jpgA year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose.

Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells -- a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors -- and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig's veins.

At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.

Complete remission
There was no trace of it anywhere -- no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.

A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.

"I have my life back," he said.

Mr. Ludwig's doctors have not claimed that he is cured -- it is too soon to tell -- nor have they declared victory over leukemia on the basis of this experiment, which involved only three patients. The research, they say, has far to go; the treatment is still experimental, not available outside of studies.

But scientists say the treatment that helped Mr. Ludwig, described recently in The New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer.

And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach -- which employs a disabled form of H.I.V.-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients' T-cells.


The Secret of Oz

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A special hat tip to Diana for the heads up on this spectacularly enlightening documentary:

What's it about?

It is well known in economics academia that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 is loaded with powerful symbols of monetary reform which were the core of the Populist movement and the 1896 and 1900 president bid of Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

The yellow brick road (gold standard), the emerald city of Oz (greenback money), even Dorothy's silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers for the movie version) were the symbol of Baum's and Bryan's belief that adding silver coinage to gold would provide much needed money to a depression-strapped, 1890s America.

We believe Baum's symbols represent the only solution to relieve the growing economic hardship here in America -- and the rest of the world.


Intro

"In 1996, in a documentary called "The MoneyMasters", we asked the question why is America going broke. It wasn't clear then that we were, but it is today. Now the question is how can we get out of this mess. Foreclosures are everywhere, unemployment is skyrocketing -- and this is only the beginning. America's economy is on a long, slippery slope from here on. The bubble ride of debt has come to an end.

"What can government do? The sad answer is -- under the current monetary system -- nothing. It's not going to get better until the root of the problem is understood and addressed. There isn't enough stimulus money in the entire world to get us out of this hole.

"Why? Debt. The national debt is just like our consumer debt -- it's the interest that's killing us.

"Though most people don't realize it the government can't just issue it's own money anymore. It used to be that way. The King could just issue stuff called money. Abraham Lincoln did it to win the Civil War.

"No, today, in our crazy money system, the government has to borrow our money into existence and then pay interest on it. That's why they call it the National Debt. All our money is created out of debt. Politicians who focus on reducing the National Debt as an answer probably don't know what the National Debt really is. To reduce the National Debt would be to reduce our money -- and there's already too little of that.

"No, you have to go deeper. You have to get at the root of this problem or we're never going to fix this. The solution isn't new or radical. America used to do it. Politicians used to fight with big bankers over it. It's all in our history -- now sadly -- in the distant past.

"But why can't we just do it again? Why can't we just issue our own money, debt free? That, my friends, is the answer. Talk about reform! That's the only reform that will make a huge difference to everyone's life -- even worldwide.

"The solution is the secret that's been hidden from us for just over 100 years -- ever since the time when author L. Frank Baum wrote "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

What You Don't Get to See

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from truthdig

Modern Censorship in Corporate Media

Project Censored, a media research program founded by Carl Jensen in 1976, has for a long time drawn attention to stories that mainstream media for one reason or another censor or ignore. The project will publish its 2012 edition this month, highlighting the most censored stories in the last year.

But in the age of boundless information via the Internet, just how useful is such a book?

In an interview with Truthout reporter Mark Karlin, former project director Peter Phillips and current director Mickey Huff explain why disseminating misinformation and propaganda is as relevant as ever. --BF

censored2012_300.jpg
Truthout:

MK: Journalistically, when a story is literally censored, is it known as being "spiked" by an editor or publisher. How are subjects censored in the modern-day corporate press due to the current "culture of mass media" as compared to actually being "spiked"?

PP: Stories are still deliberately spiked! We call this managed news. And it is quite widespread. On October 25, 2005 the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) posted to their website forty-four autopsy reports, acquired from American military sources, covering the deaths of civilians who died while in US military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002-2004. The autopsy reports provided proof of widespread torture by US forces. Twenty-three of the reports said the cause of death was homicide. The balance of the reports mostly indicated that the cause of death was heart failure. The conditions of the bodies indicated clearly that these people were tortured to death. A press release by the ACLU announcing the deaths was immediately picked up by Associated Press (AP) wire service making the story available to US corporate media nationwide. A thorough check of Nexis-Lexis and Proquest library data bases showed that at least ninety-nine percent of the daily papers in the US did not pick up the story, nor did AP ever conduct follow up coverage on the issue.

Read more

re: use of the falling man picture

There is a line from the Tennessee Williams play "Suddenly Last Summer" spoken by the poet through his mother whom he had taken to the Galapagos Islands to witness the mad scramble of the freshly hatched baby turtles to the waves.
During that beautiful survival and creation affirming scramble, dark shadows appear and hungry, screeching gulls begin picking off the babies one by one as the poet points to it and yells,

"There, Mother, that is God!"

It is the same for this picture.

I say, live with it...because the picture, like Hedges essay, is telling you the truth of it...and many of us, sadly, cannot bear to watch or see it.

A Decade After 9/11: We Are What We Loathe

by Chris Hedges

911jumper_300.jpgI arrived in Times Square around 9:30 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A large crowd was transfixed by the huge Jumbotron screens. Billows of smoke could be seen on the screens above us, pouring out of the two World Trade towers. Two planes, I was told by people in the crowd, had plowed into the towers. I walked quickly into the New York Times​ newsroom at 229 W. 43rd St., grabbed a handful of reporter's notebooks, slipped my NYPD press card, which would let me through police roadblocks, around my neck, and started down the West Side Highway to the World Trade Center. The highway was closed to traffic. I walked through knots of emergency workers, police and firemen. Fire trucks, emergency vehicles, ambulances, police cars and rescue trucks idled on the asphalt.

The south tower went down around 10 a.m. with a guttural roar. Huge rolling gray clouds of noxious smoke, dust, gas, pulverized concrete, gypsum and the grit of human remains enveloped lower Manhattan. The sun was obscured. The north tower collapsed about 30 minutes later. The dust hung like a shroud over Manhattan.

I headed toward the spot where the towers once stood, passing dazed, ashen and speechless groups of police officers and firefighters. I would pull out a notebook to ask questions and no sounds would come out of their mouths. They forlornly shook their heads and warded me away gently with their hands. By the time I arrived at Ground Zero it was a moonscape; whole floors of the towers had collapsed like an accordion. I pulled out pieces of paper from one floor, and a few feet below were papers from 30 floors away. Small bits of human bodies--a foot in a woman's shoe, a bit of a leg, part of a torso--lay scattered amid the wreckage.

Scores of people, perhaps more than 200, pushed through the smoke and heat to jump to their deaths from windows that had broken or they had smashed. Sometimes they did this alone, sometimes in pairs. But it seems they took turns, one body cascading downward followed by another. The last acts of individuality. They fell for about 10 seconds, many flailing or replicating the motion of swimmers, reaching 150 miles an hour. Their clothes and, in a few cases, their improvised parachutes made from drapes or tablecloths shredded. They smashed into the pavement with unnerving, sickening thuds. Thump. Thump. Thump. Those who witnessed it were particularly shaken by the sounds the bodies made on impact.

The images of the "jumpers" proved too gruesome for the TV networks. Even before the towers collapsed, the falling men and women were censored from live broadcasts. Isolated pictures appeared the next day in papers, including The New York Times, and then were banished. The mass suicide, one of the most pivotal and important elements in the narrative of 9/11, was expunged. It remains expunged from public consciousness.

The "jumpers" did not fit into the myth the nation demanded. The fate of the "jumpers" said something so profound, so disturbing, about our own fate, smallness in the universe and fragility that it had to be banned. The "jumpers" illustrated that there are thresholds of suffering that elicit a willing embrace of death. The "jumpers" reminded us that there will come, to all of us, final moments when the only choice will be, at best, how we will choose to die, not how we are going to live. And we can die before we physically expire.

The shock of 9/11, however, demanded images and stories of resilience, redemption, heroism, courage, self-sacrifice and generosity, not collective suicide in the face of overwhelming hopelessness and despair.

Reporters in moments of crisis become clinicians. They collect data, facts, descriptions, basic information, and carry out interviews as swiftly as possible. We make these facts fit into familiar narratives. We do not create facts but we manipulate them. We make facts conform to our perceptions of ourselves as Americans and human beings. We work within the confines of national myth. We make journalism and history a refuge from memory. The pretense that mass murder and suicide can be transformed into a tribute to the victory of the human spirit was the lie we all told to the public that day and have been telling ever since. We make sense of the present only through the lens of the past, as the French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out, recognizing that "our conceptions of the past are affected by the mental images we employ to solve present problems, so that collective memory is essentially a reconstruction of the past in the light of the present. ... Memory needs continuous feeding from collective sources and is sustained by social and moral props."

Faiths Are a Ruse

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And that's all there is to say about that...

except perhaps:



Its the Man Who Makes Babies People

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...Or so those people who believe in the twin fantasies that life begins at conception and that "personhood" begins with it, are inferring (see article below).

Neither idea is even remotely supported by science, yet these articles of faith are being foisted by anti-abortion groups to promote personhood legislation in various States (the latest being Mississippi).

phts2.jpgConferring "personhood at conception" by way of legislation is the key these groups think in their incessant pursuit to overturning Roe vs Wade and finally achieving a total ban on abortion.

The T-Shirt ad lifted from their website to the left demonstrates the push by the Mississippi group to get their religiously based philosophical stance enacted into state law is fairly organized.

Aside from the obvious lack of scientific fact in their arguments, I don't really care if people want to believe in such nonsense - until, that is, they want to supplant my philosophical views with their own by dint of law.

Like every other attempt by a zealous minority to codify their sense of morality into the secular sphere by way of legislation, there is always the need by the rational majority to stand up for the constitutional separation of church and state.

Below is an article that outlines the truly weird type of thinking these moral zealots are operating on and the potentially dangerous consequences those thoughts infer.


Personhood Laws Are Even Weirder Than Imagined

By Amanda Marcotte

Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel reviews an NPR segment on these new "personhood" bills being considered in states such as Alabama and Mississippi. Personhood bills intend to enshrine into law what I call the male-centric view of baby-making, the belief that a man creates a baby by ejaculating and that a woman's contribution of nine months of pregnancy and childbirth are just a delivery system for the man's efforts. They do this by declaring that fertilization is what makes something a "person," even though fertilization occurs before pregnancy begins and an estimated half of fertilized eggs never even attach to the uterine wall. You could be the mother of dozens and not even know it, ladies.

Even some anti-abortion groups oppose personhood bills, not because they disagree with the aims of the proponents---who want to ban all abortion, IVF treatment, stem cell research, and many forms of contraception---but because it's bad and confusing law. And part of the reason for this is that it creates a lot of confusion over the gap between belief and fact. For instance, it's clear that many supporters of personhood laws hope the laws can be used to ban hormonal birth control and IUDs, which they argue work by killing fertilized eggs. However, attempts to use the law in this way are complicated by the fact that this is not how these contraception methods work; hormonal methods work by suppressing ovulation and IUDs work by making the uterus a hostile environment for sperm (which isn't going to do much to quell the emasculation concerns of anti-choicers). Realistically speaking, if you believe fertilized eggs are "people" and losing one is equivalent to losing a child, then women who use the pill to prevent ovulation are actually the least murderous amongst us, since they are losing the fewest number of fertilized eggs. Using these laws to stop the distrbution of these kinds of contraception would likely depend on a number of factors, including judges' willingness to treat made-up beliefs as equal to scientific information.

There's way more at stake than even abortion and contraception
, in fact. The haziness of these bills could create all sorts of nightmarish scenarios. For one thing, they would absolutely make IVF illegal, but it would also call into question how you handle all the embryos that have already been created in labs. With IVF being banned, it's pointless to keep them around anymore, but disposing of them is killing "people." Are we prepared to throw people in jail for this? There's also a concern about how miscarriages are handled once you've determined that a "child" has been lost every time a woman miscarries, no matter how early in her pregnancy. These laws open the possibility of every woman miscarrying being detained for a legal investigation to determine if she has criminal liability for miscarriage. If you think I'm being ridiculous about this, consider that women are already being thrown in jail for giving birth to babies that don't survive. Personhood laws could roll back the clock on your criminal liability to before you were even pregnant. Unfortunately, there are zealots in law enforcement that are willing to throw a woman who miscarries at eight weeks in jail because someone saw her drinking in a bar six weeks ago, before she probably even knew she was pregnant.

And because under personhood laws, it's possible that you've got a "child" before you are even pregnant, these laws could be used to restrict women's rights and movements just on the grounds that they might have a fertilized egg inside them that hasn't implanted yet. A law that states that your society can have people in it that aren't detectable by ordinary scientific instruments opens the door to all sorts of weird legal abuses.

Wall to Wall 9/11

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roadkill_500.jpg






















And Lest We Forget
the people to blame and mindset that causes it all :

Shake up your story

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The relationship between having access to multiple perspectives and empathy

When Space Junk Comes Screaming Home

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7-ton NASA satellite set to fall

By Alan Boyle

NASA says a defunct seven-ton satellite is due to re-enter the atmosphere -- with the potential to rain debris upon Earth.

7tonsatellite.jpg

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is expected to come down in late September or early October, the space agency said today in an advisory. "Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere," NASA said.

The agency said it's too early to say exactly when UARS will make its final plunge, or exactly where any debris will come down. Russian news reports suggested that Moscow was "in the zone of risk," but that projection was based merely on the inclination of UARS' orbit.

"The orbital track and re-entry location are going to be more refined as the days pass," NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey told me today.

UARS was deployed from the shuttle Discovery in 1991 to study Earth's atmosphere and its interactions with the sun. The $750 million mission measured the concentrations and distribution of gases important to ozone depletion, climate change and other atmospheric phenomena. NASA says readings from UARS provided conclusive evidence that chlorine in the atmosphere, originating from human-produced chlorofluorocarbons, is at the root of the polar ozone hole.

The satellite was decommissioned in 2005. "They had put it in a disposal orbit at that point, and that disposal orbit reduced its orbital lifetime by about 20 years," Dickey said. One NASA account suggests that the satellite was at one time projected to come down in the 2009-2010 time frame.

NASA says it plans to post updates about UARS' status weekly until four days before the anticipated re-entry, and then daily until about 24 hours before re-entry. Further updates would come at 12 hours, four hours and two hours before re-entry. The Joint Space Operations Center of the U.S. Strategic Command at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base​ is monitoring UARS' status around the clock, NASA said.

The satellite's current orbit is 155 by 174 miles (250 by 280 kilometers), with an inclination of 57 degrees. NASA said. That means the satellite would have to descend into the atmosphere somewhere between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south. NASA estimated that the debris footprint would stretch about 500 miles.

What You Don't Know About the Origins of 9/11

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It still comes down to corporate malfeasance and oil money, but both Britain and Pakistan were heavily involved in cover ups and money transfers to the States prior to the attacks.

Evidence of British and Pakistani Complicity on 9/11

by Behrouz Saba

britishandpakistani.jpgIn the hours immediately after the 9/11 attacks, before so many theories muddied the airwaves, there was the clear sense that the scale of the operation would have had to involve at least one foreign sovereign state.

By mid-afternoon, then-CIA chief George Tenet laid the blame squarely on Al Qaeda. Mohamed Atta and 18 other hijackers were identified within 72 hours.

In November 2001, U.S. forces in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, uncovered a videotape which showed Osama bin Laden gloat about his victory.

End of the story--or so it seemed.

Connecting the dots, and the Bush Administration's seeming failure to do so, obsessed the media for weeks and months to come. Doing so, however, despite officially touted "complexities," was in fact exceedingly easy, some of the key events having taken place right under official noses in Washington, D.C.

By October 2001, ABC News, Fox and CNN were reporting a fund transfer of $100,000 in early August of that year from Dubai to two Florida bank accounts held by the 9/11 ringleader Atta. On October 6, CNN identified the man who had sent the money--one Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Yet, when questioned about him, the White House in its news briefings managed to prevent the story from gaining further traction by creating confusion through usage of aliases and alternate spellings for Sheikh's name.

In his memoir, "In the Line of Fire," former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf writes, "Omar Sheikh is a British national born to Pakistani parents in London on December 23, 1973. . . . He ... went to the London School of Economics but dropped out before graduation. It is believed . . . that . . . he was recruited by the British intelligence agency MI-6."

The Bush Administration knew that Sheikh had been sent by MI6 to Pakistan to cooperate with its counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). Protecting Britain and Pakistan as two "allies" took precedence over disclosing the truth.


Cleverbot is funny

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cleverbot.jpg


How the Cleverbot computer chats like a human

Last week, an artificial intelligence computer named Cleverbot stunned the world with a stellar performance on the Turing Test -- an IQ test of sorts for "chatbots," or conversational robots. Cleverbot, it seems, can carry on a conversation as well as any human can.

In the Turing Test -- conceived by British computer scientist Alan Turing in the 1950s -- chatbots engage in typed conversations with humans, and try to fool them into thinking they're humans, too. (As a control, some users unknowingly chat with humans pretending to be chatbots.) At a recent Turing competition, Cleverbot fooled 59 percent of its human interlocutors into thinking it was itself a human. Analysts have argued that, because the chatbot's success rate was better than chance, the computer passed.

So what magnificent algorithm lies in the gearbox of this brilliant machine, which can seem more human than not? How have its programmers equipped it with so much conversational, contextual and factual knowledge?

The answer is very simple: crowdsourcing. As the chatbot's designer, Rollo Carpenter, put it in a video explainer produced by PopSci.com, "You can call it a conversational Wikipedia if you like."

GOP Debate Error Control

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Aside from the brief "Home of the Whopper" segment from the Maddow show, the article following demonstrates some of the completely false assertions made during the course of the latest GOP debate:




Attacking the Democrats, but Not Always Getting It Right

By John M Broder, Nicholas Confessore, and Jackie Calmes

During more than an hour and 45 minutes of intense debate on Wednesday night, the Republican presidential candidates did not shy away from exchanging blows with each other. But some of the toughest criticism -- and some of the most factually problematic -- was reserved for the policies, programs, and principles traditionally associated with Democrats, from tackling climate change to broadening access to health care to providing retirement insurance for the elderly.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, assailed the federal government and President Obama in particular for what he said were overbearing regulations on oil drilling, coal mining and nuclear energy.

"We are an energy-rich nation and we're living like an energy-poor nation," he said, asserting that Mr. Obama had halted offshore drilling, blocked construction of new coal plants, slowed development of nuclear plants and failed to develop natural gas trapped in shale formations.

But those claims are largely untrue. While Mr. Obama declared a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill in 2010, the government began granting permits again earlier this year and activity is approaching pre-spill levels. The administration recently announced a major lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico and gave provisional approval to a Shell project in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska. And while a number of utilities have canceled plans to build new coal plants, that is largely because demand for electricity has slowed, not because of new federal regulations.


What the GOP Is Really Up To

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Or as clear as it gets...

Goodbye to All That:
Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

by: Mike Lofgren


Barbara Stanwyck: "We're both rotten!"

Fred MacMurray: "Yeah - only you're a little more rotten."

-"Double Indemnity" (1944)


gopmoney.jpgThose lines of dialogue from a classic film noir sum up the state of the two political parties in contemporary America. Both parties are rotten - how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot. The main reason the Democrats' health care bill will be a budget buster once it fully phases in is the Democrats' rank capitulation to corporate interests - no single-payer system, in order to mollify the insurers; and no negotiation of drug prices, a craven surrender to Big Pharma.

But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King​, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill​. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages.

The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism. Republicans were willing to lay off 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, 70,000 private construction workers and let FAA safety inspectors work without pay, in fact, forcing them to pay for their own work-related travel - how prudent is that? - in order to strong arm some union-busting provisions into the FAA reauthorization.

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole​ era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was "bring it on!"

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.



National Security Out of Control

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The 1st of a 5 chapter must-see report by Frontline:

Top Secret America

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

The Pip-Squeak Dork That Is Rubio

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Right loses sight of what makes us different

By Dan Gelber

www.dangelber.com

In a recent speech at the Reagan Library -- part of which was excerpted in these pages -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio asserts that the decision of America in this last century to collectively care for those that have fallen behind "actually weakened us as a people." While his words may have been a dog whistle for the right wing, I took a double take.

Was this the same Marco Rubio who first ran on a platform of early childhood education and affordable housing for the elderly? Rubio's thesis, packaged in lofty prose, is an extreme political view that parrots a bedrock tea party premise that America's problems somehow stem from government doing too much for people from whom we expect too little.

These programs, Rubio argues, made our country weak, bankrupt and threatened the "exceptionalism" that defined us. There is nothing novel about blaming your problems on a boogeyman. Whether immigrants, or communists, or witches, or those that have been left behind or can't fight back, the American experience suggests it can be an effective political strategy for at least the short term.

Of course, the notion that the social programs of the last century -- namely Medicare and Social Security -- fostered irresponsible behavior is patently absurd. No American became sicker or older because of the existence of these programs. Americans are living longer, healthier lives, in part due to the security they created.

No, it's not that American Exceptionalism is being lost, it's that Rubio and the tea party have lost sight of what makes America exceptional.

Our collective decision to make sure our weakest, oldest, and infirm are cared for is not a national failing -- it is one of our greatest strengths. No, it has not been a wealthy few that defines us as exceptional -- rather it has been our commitment to raising all boats in the harbor and supporting the middle class.



Re-closeting Gays

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The latest attempt by California anti-gay groups aims at preventing educators including sexual preference information about historical figures and events, ie, making the point whether those people were in fact gay. It also doesn't want gay-based milestones such as the Stonewall riots mentioned. Its basically a pathetic and seriously doomed attempt to shove homosexuality back into the closet.


'Stop SB48' Referendum Faces Uphill Battle

SAN FRANCISCO -- At churches, shopping centers, schools, and local tea party meetings in California, fired-up volunteers have started gathering signatures for a ballot referendum that would repeal the nation's first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay people and gay rights' milestones in school lessons.

Organizers of the Stop SB48 campaign_ Senate Bill 48 was the law approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July - are telling would-be voters the new mandate would inappropriately expose young children to sex, infringe on parental rights and silence religion-based criticisms of homosexuality. Those are talking points successfully used by proponents of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.

But so far, Mormon and Catholic church leaders and conservative groups who spearheaded the Proposition 8 campaign have not joined the effort to qualify the gay history referendum for the June 2012 ballot, leaving less-experienced Christian conservatives to lead the charge without the organizational prowess and funding to hire paid signature gatherers.

Political operatives say they can't recall any citizens' initiative that made the state ballot without professional petition circulators in almost three decades.

"If someone wrote a million-dollar check, we would be guaranteed to get this on the ballot," said Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus, whose legal aid firm wrote the proposed measure and is co-sponsoring the signature-gathering effort. "That's not the case at this point... We are counting on people in churches and communities and families making the extra effort to get it done."

Supporters have until Oct. 12 to collect 504,760 signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the ballot. Conventional wisdom among political consultants is that it will be difficult to meet the requirement with such a short window and only volunteers.

Sacramento political consultant Wayne Johnson, whose firm has worked on more than a dozen ballot initiative campaigns, said that with the same-sex marriage ban tied up in the courts, a presidential election on the horizon and many Christian parents with children in private schools, conservative groups with the most cash and experience may sit out this fight.

"We are in a different environment and a different economy," Johnson said. "How much of your resources and energy can be devoted to preserving the status quo?"

Still, no one is ready to write off the repeal attempt, especially if a donor steps up in the next few weeks to fund professional petitioners. If ever there was a measure that could galvanize the electorate, it's one dealing with gay rights and school children.



Evolution Made Simple

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"Nothing in biology makes sens except in the light of evolution."

If You Want a Job

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Kill a Republican. It will be considered self-defense.

The Fatal Distraction

By Paul Krugman

Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, "My God, what have we done?"

One of these numbers was zero -- the number of jobs created in August. The other was two -- the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result.

Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. Pundits and media organizations insisted that the biggest risk facing America was the threat that investors would pull the plug on U.S. debt. For example, in May 2009 The Wall Street Journal declared that the "bond vigilantes" were "returning with a vengeance," telling readers that the Obama administration's "epic spending spree" would send interest rates soaring.

The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 percent. As of Friday, as I've already mentioned, it was only 2 percent.

I don't mean to dismiss concerns about the long-run U.S. budget picture. If you look at fiscal prospects over, say, the next 20 years, they are indeed deeply worrying, largely because of rising health-care costs. But the experience of the past two years has overwhelmingly confirmed what some of us tried to argue from the beginning: The deficits we're running right now -- deficits we should be running, because deficit spending helps support a depressed economy -- are no threat at all.

And by obsessing over a nonexistent threat, Washington has been making the real problem -- mass unemployment, which is eating away at the foundations of our nation -- much worse.

Although you'd never know it listening to the ranters, the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we're experiencing de facto fiscal austerity. State and local governments, in particular, faced with the loss of federal aid, have been sharply cutting many programs and have been laying off a lot of workers, mostly schoolteachers.

And somehow the private sector hasn't responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree.


Saga of the Real Tea Party

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And how it has nothing to do with the astroturf organization by that name acting on behalf of corporate interests today.

Watch this video and be amazed at the polar opposite irony :

hat tip to Mike Spindell, guest blogger for the Turley Law Blog

That's Just How It Is

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What is Compassion?

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Getting Shultzed

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Ed Schultz let forth with a nearly 14-minute, highly emotional rant directed at Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on his Thursday show.

The monologue was the latest in the feud between Schultz and Rubio. It began when Rubio made a speech about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, saying they had "weakened our people" by making the government, rather than family or society, the dominant provider for senior citizens. Schultz criticized the speech on his show. In response, Rubio used the attack to go after Schultz (as well as Rachel Maddow) in a fundraising pitch, calling him a "liberal extremist."

Schultz was clearly outraged by the fundraising attempt, and he unloaded on Rubio. He started by saying that he had invited the senator to come on his show, but that Rubio had refused. Schultz called Rubio a "political coward" without the "guts" to debate his views. Then, he turned to Rubio's speech.

"This man is suggesting that there is a generation of Americans that care less about their parents because of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," Schultz said. "This may be one of the most offensive things I have ever heard a United States Senator say about the people of this country."

He talked about his mother and father, who both benefited from Social Security and Medicare. He said his mother was a high school teacher and his father was an engineer who was "not dependent on anyone else because he worked his ass off throughout his entire [life]." He also said that his sister had cared for their mother through her final years as she battled Alzheimer's, and used this to reject Rubio's assertion that people had been "weakened" by the programs.

"You owe my family at least an apology," he said, "or at least be brave enough to give an explanation in front of the camera to explain what the hell you're really talking about."

He said Rubio was "so stupid he doesn't even know he's offensive," and that he "didn't give a damn about any of the Americans."

"You're nothing but a damn political phony, Senator," he summed up. "I don't know how the hell you got into office."

Extraordinary Nihilism

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Eric Cantor has turned himself into a self-serving blight on the body politic.

Eric and Irene

By Paul Krugman

"Have you left no sense of decency?" That's the question Joseph Welch famously asked Joseph McCarthy, as the red-baiting demagogue tried to ruin yet another innocent citizen. And these days, it's the question I find myself wanting to ask Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who has done more than anyone else to make policy blackmail -- using innocent Americans as hostages -- standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Cantor was the hard man in the confrontation over the debt ceiling; he was willing to endanger America's financial credibility, putting our whole economy at risk, in order to extract budget concessions from President Obama. Now he's doing it again, this time over disaster relief, making headlines by insisting that any federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Irene be offset by cuts in other spending. In effect, he is threatening to take Irene's victims hostage.

Mr. Cantor's critics have been quick to accuse him of hypocrisy, and with good reason. After all, he and his Republican colleagues showed no comparable interest in paying for the Bush administration's huge unfunded initiatives. In particular, they did nothing to offset the cost of the Iraq war, which now stands at $800 billion and counting.

And it turns out that in 2004, when his home state of Virginia was struck by Tropical Storm Gaston, Mr. Cantor voted against a bill that would have required the same pay-as-you-go rule that he now advocates.

But, as I see it, hypocrisy is a secondary issue here. The primary issue should be the extraordinary nihilism now on display by Mr. Cantor and his colleagues -- their willingness to flout all the usual conventions of fair play and, well, decency in order to get what they want.

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work.

But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Of course, Mr. Cantor would have you believe that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. But that's no more than a cover story.

Should disaster aid, as a matter of sound public finance, be offset by immediate cuts in other spending?



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