January 2012 Archives

Always With the Snakes

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Those big snakes are here to stay

by Carl Hiaasen

hiaasen.jpgNow that federal regulators have outlawed the importation of humongous, gator-eating pythons, all Floridians can breathe a grateful sigh of relief. Finally we are saved from this insidious reptilian plague!

Sorry, but no. We might as well try to ban fleas.

As anybody who knows anything about the Everglades will tell you, the giant Burmese python is here to stay. If last year's hard freeze didn't kill off the tropical snakes, nothing short of a nuclear disaster will do it.

The import ban on the Burmese and three other species of constrictors -- which was announced last week -- is being hailed by the Obama administration as a victory for Florida's native environment. In reality, it's just a classic lesson of how Washington mulls and stalls until things are out of hand.

That there was an actual debate about the invasive snake crisis is incredible to the point of satire. Some reptile dealers and breeders, joined by a few clueless Republican lawmakers (none of whom had experienced a 15-foot python in their swimming pool), claimed that a ban on imports and interstate sales would be "job killing."

As one who once collected and bred snakes, I cannot overstate how laughably bogus that position was. The realm of commercial reptile dealing, which has always had a sketchy element, is full of clever folks who always find ways to market different exotic species when one becomes unavailable. Not one real job would have been lost.

Still, the "herp" industry -- wholesale and retail herpetology enthusiasts -- hired lobbyists to fight the proposed ban, and the big-snake argument dragged on for six ridiculous years. During that period, untold thousands of baby pythons were hatched in the wilds of South Florida and dutifully commenced to devour the local fauna.

By the time the ban was approved, the government's original list of "injurious" snake species had been politically pared to four -- the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda and two species of African pythons.

Spared from the blacklist was the common boa constrictor, one of the most popular species among pet owners, and one of the most likely to be turned free when it becomes a little too interested in the family poodle. Boas don't grow as hefty as pythons, but they are equally fond of our sunny climate and tasty bird population.

The fact is, there are already so many of these snakes being captive-bred in this country that a ban on imports is essentially meaningless. Most serious reptile dealers buy from U.S. breeders who specialize in extravagantly hued strains, the product of years of genetic tinkering.

It's true that certain exotic species won't mate in captivity, and must be caught in the wild and then shipped here. However, that's not the case with the four snakes named in the new federal ban.

Pythons and yellow anacondas reproduce exuberantly, with no shyness, in robust, rat-like numbers. The time is long past when their importation is necessary to the trade.

The significant part of the federal ban, which takes effect in March, is the illegalizing of interstate sales of Burmese pythons, their eggs and hybrids. That will sure impact the sales of some reptile dealers, but there's nothing to prevent a customer from purchasing as many snakes as they want from an in-state breeder.

And it doesn't matter if you're a reptile fancier in South Florida or North Dakota. If you've got a nice warm room in your house and a lovestruck pair of pythons, you will have bushels of fertile python eggs.

The snakes that now roam the Everglades are most likely descended from those set loose when Hurricane Andrew flattened rural reptile farms in the summer of 1992. The jumbo specimens might well be original refugees from that storm, their love lives spiced by chance encounters with ex-pet pythons whose owners had lost (or purposely ditched) them.

So ubiquitous is the python presence that the notoriously slug-like Florida Wildlife Commission last year took steps that practically bans private ownership of the Burmese and seven other species, for new collectors. Herp lovers who already owned the snakes could keep them if they bought a permit and agreed to implant microchips before July 2010.

When it comes to environmental protections, rarely does the state of Florida take a leading role over the feds. The delay speaks to the embarrassing gridlock in the nation's capital, where even a pernicious snake infestation generates pious, ideological fuming.

Sen. Bill Nelson and others worked long and hard to get the Department of Interior to do something, and a ban is a probably a good thing to have on the books as a precedent before the next invasive species settles in.

But as a way of containing the Burmese python, it's way too little, way too late. They're here, they're hungry, they're happy -- and they're getting it on.

The Most Important Man in America

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I just discovered him this morning on the a segment in which he appeared as a guest on Chris Hayes' MSNBC program "UP" (1st Sunday jan 29), which in turn led me to Google him and find the youtube vid below and further led to this post and credit Mr Daisey with it's title. He is a genius on so many levels it's difficult to describe him any other way.

http://mikedaisey.blogspot.com/

Related Article:

Moral Issues Behind iPhone and Its Makers

By Charles Isherwood

I hate to tell you this, but your best friend has a dark secret in his past, the kind of shameful history that might just have you looking at him (or her?) a little sheepishly, with a furtive, sidelong glance instead of the former adoring gaze.

I speak not of a human being, mind you, the walking and talking kind of best friend, but of your cherished electronic companion, that stylish helpmate, warm intimate and source of delightful entertainment known as an iPhone. As I look at mine this morning, I can't help feeling a bit guilty, and a bit betrayed. I fear some of the magic has gone out of our relationship.

This seismic shift in my consciousness came about thanks to Mike Daisey, whose latest theatrical monologue, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," is a mind-clouding, eye-opening exploration of the moral choices we unknowingly or unthinkingly make when we purchase nifty little gadgets like the iPhone and the iPad and the PowerBook.

To be fair, while Mr. Daisey's particular obsession is the product line of the Apple corporation, the ethical problems he explores are not exclusive to owners of MacBooks and iPods. As he points out in this meditation on our wonderful world of technology and the troubling economic imbalances that underlie it, any number of other electronic gizmos filling up our homes and taking up our time are similarly morally tainted goods.

About half of all consumer electronics sold in the world today are produced at a single mammoth factory campus in Shenzhen, China, according to Mr. Daisey. His illuminating trip to this campus, the sprawling Foxconn Technology plant, forms the dramatic spine of his smart, pointed and often very funny exploration of the rise of Apple and the career and vision of Mr. Jobs, who died this month after a long battle with cancer.

Mr. Daisey has been creating monologues on various subjects -- "How Theater Failed America" and "21 Dog Years" are among his best-known -- for more than a decade. His methods are simple. Here he sits, behind a glass-topped table with just a few pages of notes and a glass of water before him, looking like a big boy who never lost all his baby fat. (Or maybe any of it.) His performance style mixes the quiet reflectiveness of Spalding Gray with more histrionic colorings.

In relating his giddy relationship with his Apple products, and impersonating fellow obsessives, Mr. Daisey transforms into a cackling mad scientist of creaky thrillers, and at his most fervid he recalls the jabbering, slightly unhinged aspect of the comic Lewis Black of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." When it comes to discussing the sobering discoveries he made at Foxconn, which employs some 430,000 people in its compound in Shenzhen, Mr. Daisey speaks more gravely and with a charged intensity.

Clouds on the Political Horizon

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Can an individual, a town, a city, even a state really "go it alone" when the weather turns genuinely threatening? Of course not, these sorts of emergencies are exactly what being part of a nation is all about. Like the ads say, "Like good neighbors we are there", because we're talking survival here. All the anti-government sentiment roiling about the media these days becomes moot when your house has been crushed by a tornado or swept away by a flood. It may well be the major climate and weather changes coming that will end up changing the political attitudes more than anything else.

Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Big Government

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By Christian Parenti, TomDispatch

Look back on 2011 and you'll notice a destructive trail of extreme weather slashing through the year. In Texas, it was the driest year ever recorded. An epic drought there killed half a billion trees, touched off wildfires that burned four million acres, and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and buildings. The costs to agriculture, particularly the cotton and cattle businesses, are estimated at $5.2 billion--and keep in mind that, in a winter breaking all sorts of records for warmth, the Texas drought is not yet over.

In August, the East Coast had a close brush with calamity in the form of Hurricane Irene. Luckily, that storm had spent most of its energy by the time it hit land near New York City. Nonetheless, its rains did at least $7 billion worth of damage, putting it just below the $7.2 billion worth of chaos caused by Katrina back in 2005.

Across the planet the story was similar. Wildfires consumed large swaths of Chile. Colombia suffered its second year of endless rain, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage. In Brazil, the life-giving Amazon River was running low due to drought. Northern Mexico is still suffering from its worst drought in 70 years. Flooding in the Thai capital, Bangkok, killed over 500 and displaced or damaged the property of 12 million others, while ruining some of the world's largest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage in Thailand at a mind-boggling $45 billion, making it one of the most expensive disasters ever. And that's just to start a 2011 extreme-weather list, not to end it.

Such calamities, devastating for those affected, have important implications for how we think about the role of government in our future. During natural disasters, society regularly turns to the state for help, which means such immediate crises are a much-needed reminder of just how important a functional big government turns out to be to our survival.

These days, big government gets big press attention--none of it anything but terrible. In the United States, especially in an election year, it's become fashionable to beat up on the public sector and all things governmental (except the military). The Right does it nonstop. All their talking points disparage the role of an oversized federal government. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist famously set the tone for this assault. "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government," he said. "I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." He has managed to get 235 members of the House of Representatives and 41 members of the Senate to sign his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" and thereby swear never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes.

Alliteration Practice

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Alphabetical alliterations blithely bandied continuously causing deeply deferential emotional elation flowing from generously gifted humans having insightful ideas joyfully jump kitchily keening like lemmings marauding meaningfully nowhere near opprobrium or penultimately proscriptive query queerly ratiocinating sinister syllogisms that timidly undermine uluating veritable veracities without waxing xenogenic, xenophobically zapping zaniness.


Not easy. Use two words per alliteration. Give it a shot and see what I mean.

Massive Solar Flare

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Sunspot unleashes a parting shot

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By Alan Boyle

The sunspot responsible for setting off a colorful round of northern lights over the past week got off a doozy of a parting shot today, just as it was about to pass around the edge of the sun's disk.

Sunspot 1402 let loose with an X-class flare, the most powerful class of solar outburst, at 1:37 p.m. ET today, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a sequence of ultraviolet images as the blast went out. Fortunately, this one was not directed right at Earth.

SpaceWeather.com says NASA's Goddard Space Weather Laboratory detected a "spectacular" coronal mass ejection blasting away from the sun at 5.6 million mph (2,500 kilometers per second). CMEs send out electrically charged particles that can eventually interact with Earth's magnetic field -- but here again, this particular ejection is not heading directly for Earth. There's a chance that it might strike a glancing blow on Monday or so, sparking another bout of auroral displays.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center reports that the flare created R3-level radio blackouts at about 1:30 p.m. ET today. That level can result in wide-area loss of high-frequency radio comunication, as well as a temporary degradation of low-frequency GPS signals, but no significant problems came to light immediately. Solar radiation levels are elevated -- which may lead to the rerouting of some airline flights. NOAA's guide to space weather scales explains what's what.

SOHO View

Greedy Bastards . Com

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It goes like this Greedy Bastards.Com

(Be patient and let all the greed load)

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The Key: From the Bottom Up

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Top This Card Trick

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The Insanity of Free Market Prisons

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Think of it...incarceration as a growth industry.

Nobody invests in and starts a business they don't expect grow over time. And of course businesses will lobby for their industry to make that growth more likely. In the case of the private prison industry that lobbying includes clamoring for tougher sentencing and jail time for even the smallest crimes as well as trying to defeat policies that will reduce crime and jail time. The last thing the private prison industry wants is a more compassionate or rational judicial and penal system since that will threaten their profits. Talk about walking down the wrong path.

No Way Out: Private Prisons Or Conservative Sponsored Gulags?

By Stephen D. Foster Jr

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Ever heard of private sector prisons? Up until a couple of years ago, I had always assumed that prisons were owned and operated by state and federal government. It was only while researching the Arizona death panels that I discovered the existence of privately run prisons. Something that didn't shock me was the fact that Republicans were the ones pushing for the privatization of the American prison system. That's a scary prospect considering how desperate the right wing is to take total power and legislate every aspect of our personal lives. Add the fact that Republicans are literally trying to destroy their political rivals and competition and you have a recipe for tyranny that becomes easier with the addition of private prisons.

Republican support of private prisons is rapidly growing. GOP governors in many states have increased funding to these institutions and while it may seem like Republicans are only trying to support more free market ideas, the prospect for the abuse of the private prison system is very real and has already happened and is spreading.

In Ohio, Republican Governor John Kasich and many Republican state senators have proposed a plan that would privatize nearly half of the state's prisons. In Florida, the Senate President has also put privatized prisons on the table and in Arizona, Jan Brewer recently awarded several million dollars in tax payer money to the private prison industry. This is occurring in several other red states as well.

The number one private prison company is also America's first company of its type. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first, for-profit private prison company in America has taken the lead in this quest to make money by imprisoning people. The more people imprisoned, the better the profit. But even though CCA is making profits in the millions, it treats its employees like crap and the conditions inside the prisons is substandard. Even the safety record of CCA is terrible. The list includes, failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in its prisons; substandard conditions that have resulted in prisoner protests and uprisings; criminal activity on the part of some CCA employees, including the sale of illegal drugs to prisoners; and escapes, which in the case of at least two facilities include inadvertent releases of prisoners who were supposed to remain in custody. You can blame the company's labor policies for most of its problems. Prisons are very labor intensive institutions, so the only way a company like CCA can sell itself to government as a cheaper option while still making a profit, is by using as few staff as possible, paying them as little as possible, and not spending much on training. Sounds like the GOP platform, doesn't it?

The relationship between the Republican Party and private prison companies runs even deeper. At the federal level, CCA has given more than $100,000 to the Republican Party since 1997 as well as political action committee contributions to individual members of key Congressional committees. Not only that, CCA has close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful force that promotes the conservative policy agenda among state legislators and writes bills and pushes them to get passed. CCA has been a corporate member and a major contributor to the Council and a member of its Criminal Justice Task Force and its executives have co-chaired the Task Force over many years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have also been contributed to Republicans at the state level. But here's where it really gets scary.

The goal of a for-profit prison or any business for that matter, is to make money. To achieve this goal, it is the interest of any business to have as many customers as possible, or in the case of prisons, as many prisoners as they can get. Every person imprisoned represents more profits for private prison owners. This opens the door to an increase in prison sentences and, in some circumstances, an increase in innocent citizens being sent to prison. This is already happening. In a plot to get rich, a former Juvenile Court judge in Pennsylvania was convicted of racketeering in a case that accused him of sending young offenders to for-profit detention centers in exchange for millions of dollars in illicit payments from the builder and owner of the lockups.

The Libertarian Lie about Free Markets

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Just as libertarians have to ignore that the collective effort of the group or society is the primary source of their worship of the Individual, insofar as there cannot be individuals sans culture of some sort, so must the magical thinking of those who claim the free market alone is the miraculous source from which all invention and innovation arises, ignore the contribution of tax payer funding to the process.

The Plow and the iPhone:
Conservative Fantasies About the Miracles of the Market

by Robert Jensen Nation of Change

A central doctrine of evangelicals for the "free market" is its capacity for innovation: New ideas, new technologies, new gadgets -- all flow not from governments but from individuals and businesses allowed to flourish in the market, we are told.

That's the claim made in a recent op/ed in our local paper by policy analyst Josiah Neeley of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Austin. His conclusion: "Throughout history, technological advances have been driven by private investment, not by government fiat. There is no reason to expect that to change anytime soon."

As is often the case in faith-based systems, reconciling doctrine to the facts of history can be tricky. When I read Neeley's piece, I immediately thought of the long list of modern technological innovations that came directly from government-directed and -financed projects, most notably containerization, satellites, computers, and the Internet. The initial research-and-development for all these projects so central to the modern economy came from the government, often through the military, long before they were commercially viable. It's true that individuals and businesses often used those innovations to create products and services for the market, but without the foundational research funded by government, none of those products and services could exist.

horseplow.jpg

So I called Neeley and asked what innovations he had in mind when he wrote his piece. In an email response he cited Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. Fair enough -- they were independent entrepreneurs, working in the late 19th and early 20th century. But their work came decades after the U.S. Army had provided the primary funding to make interchangeable parts possible, a transformative moment in the history of industrialization. In the "good old days," government also got involved.

As Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway explain in their book Merchants of Doubt, the U.S. Army's Ordinance Department wanted interchangeable parts to make guns that could be repaired easily on or near battlefields, which required machine-tooled parts. That research took nearly 50 years, much longer than any individual or corporation would support. The authors make the important point clearly: "Markets spread the technology of machine tools throughout the world, but markets did not create it. Centralized government, in the form of the U.S. Army, was the inventor of the modern machine age."

That strikes me as an important part of the story of the era of Edison and the Wrights, but one conveniently ignored by free-marketeers.

The Clown Car vs The Adult

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Obama's State of the Union Address

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Atheism 2.0

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What aspects of religion should atheists (respectfully) adopt? Alain de Botton suggests a "religion for atheists" -- call it Atheism 2.0 -- that incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence.

I don't accept his ideas fully, especially regarding art, but they are definitely worth hearing.





Tin Foil Hat Alert

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Hide your sisters, hide your kids...

Solar eruption sparks biggest radiation storm in seven years

Wave of charged particles expected to force rerouting of polar airplane flights

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A powerful solar eruption is expected to blast a stream of charged particles past Earth on Tuesday, as the strongest radiation storm since 2005 rages on the sun.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a huge eruption on the sun overnight (10:59 p.m. ET Sunday, or 0359 GMT Monday), according to SpaceWeather.com.

The solar flare spewed from sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has become increasingly active lately. Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory and the STEREO spacecraft, observed the massive sun storm.

A barrage of charged particles triggered by the outburst is expected to hit Earth at around 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [Video and photos of the solar flare]

I've got to admit it's getting better

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At least in terms of the satire...

Colbert's Super PAC ad attacks ... Colbert

SOPA Blackout

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I will not be posting to this site for 24 hrs and here is why:

SOPA Blackout Set For January 18th: Here's All The Info

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Lists and Stuff

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My universe is 99% stuff needing to be done and .01% consequential if it isn't.
I used to be a manic list writer. I even had lists of the lists I needed to make...then I started to realize that most of the things I felt to list never got done anyway.

So I started writing my lists as usual and then I would put them in the kitchen junk drawer. After a week had gone by I would take out the list and see how many of those important things that needed to be done had been. Usually, there would be maybe two out of ten items that could be satisfactorily crossed off as accomplished and somehow life had gone on and the universe had survived without the remaining items having even been attempted.

Eventually I stopped making lists that projected chores or events that would extend beyond one day. This had the effect of liberating me from the anxiety which the former list writing had stemmed from in the first place.

Not that the anxiety went away of course; it simply found an outlet in me smoking more cigarettes or in an increase in one of my other compulsive habits. But at least I got to cross off "list making" on my several lists of things to stop doing.

No Capacity for Shame

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"The Republican debate audience has been an incredible measure of what the GOP believes. They have booed a gay soldier, cheered for executions, cheered for letting a sick uninsured man die, and cheered child labor. And now they have booed basic Christian law laid down by Christ himself. The Republican Party should be ashamed to call themselves Christians."

This is because the right wing has no capacity for shame

Conservative Audience Boos 'The Golden Rule' During GOP Debate

By Stephen D. Foster Jr.

As if the Republican Party hadn't already damaged itself enough since August, the audience of yet another GOP Debate has booed something that seriously questions their claims of being true Christians.

During the Fox News/Twitter Debate in South Carolina on Sunday, the conservative audience booed the Golden Rule which is a pillar of Christian law in the Bible. In Matthew 7:12, Christ says "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."

Well, when Ron Paul suggested that the United States practice the Golden Rule in foreign policy, the Republican audience booed him.


RON PAUL: "My point is that if another country does to us what we do to others, we are not going to like it very much. I would say that we maybe ought to consider the golden rule in foreign policy. Don't do to other nations what we don't want them to do to us. We endlessly bomb these countries, and then we wonder why they get upset with us?"

AUDIENCE: [Boos]

Here's the video:

Atavists On the Right

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It's hard to believe this sort of thinking still goes on. One of the main reasons I left religion in the dust in my youth was the blatant baloney of attributing human emotions and physicality like sexual division to a god. How petty can it get?

Santorum Staffer Says Women Shouldn't Be President
Because It's Against God's Will

By Marie Diamond

In an article about the reasons Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign fizzled, the Des Moines Register points to "sexism among conservatives," singling out an offensive email written by a staffer to Rick Santorum:

Rival presidential candidate Rick Santorum's Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, sent out an email saying that children's lives would be harmed if the nation had a female president. [...]

"The question then comes, 'Is it God's highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will, ... to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?' " Johnson's email said.

Johnson, who remains on Santorum's staff, complained that the email was "blown out of proportion" and should not be held against him because it was sent from a personal email account.

But he refused to back away from the substance of the email, saying "I was sharing my personal reflections with a friend...[T]hey were reflections on over 25 years of formal, theological study [based in] classical Christian doctrine."

After Bachmann left the race, several of her advisers pointed to sexism as a contributing factor. "We did believe that sexism -- I use the stronger word misogyny -- was at play," said Peter Waldron, her faith outreach coordinator. Waldron said that several influential pastors called for her to drop out of the race, reasoning "that a female could not be a civil magistrate." Johnson himself is a pastor at a central Iowa church.

Obama's Necessary Economic Icon

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This should be the image made iconic for the Democrats Economic arguments for the 2012 Election. Just keep the image constant to fight the complete and incessant BS propaganda foisted by the Republicans.

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Political Education by Satire

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What a joke, indeed.

Stephen Colbert's PAC Parody Explains Campaign Finance To America

by Paul Blumenthal and Dan Froomkin HuffPost

Part 1




Part 2




This is the first part of a five-part series by The Huffington Post exploring Stephen Colbert's explanation of the nation's campaign finance laws to the public. Stay tuned through the week of Jan. 16, 2012, for the rest of the series.

WASHINGTON -- Two years after the Supreme Court voided many of the country's bedrock campaign finance laws, much of the American public is still confused by the change -- and stupefied by the often-impenetrable jargon that frequently encumbers any discussion of the topic.

But one public figure has managed to pierce the veil of dullness to actually demonstrate -- in an electrifying way -- just how dangerous and corrupt the current system of political campaign financing has become.

In an indication of the desperate state of campaign finance laws -- and the mainstream media -- that person is a comedian: Stephen Colbert, who plays a right-wing blowhard on the Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report."

Colbert has spent much of the past year on a crusade to accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals in order to make political statements and lavish himself with luxuries. In so doing, he may have helped bring the troubling issues surrounding campaign finance to the public's attention more than either the reform community or traditional media.

The comedian has often used his on-air persona's actual participation in events to help educate his viewers about what he says are the craziest elements of the United States' political system. This journey began on March 30, 2011, when Colbert announced on his show that in order to influence the 2012 elections, he would be forming a political action committee.

"If you wanna be a political playa in 2012, you need a PAC," he said.

Policy Revolution Is the Only Way Out

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Occupy the Dream: The Mathematics of Racism

by Russel Simmons and Dylan Ratigan

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr​, it appears we are a far less prejudiced country than we once were. Individual expressions of racism are less tolerated than ever, we have an African-American President, and African-Americans are increasingly being accepted into executive suites. Yet when we look closer, we find that Greedy Bastards have rebranded racism and made it acceptable again, by calling it "the war on drugs."

These statistics compiled by New York Times columnist Charles Blow and author Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow) are mind-blowing.

Since 1971, there have been more than 40 million arrests for drug-related offenses. Even though blacks and whites have similar levels of drug use, blacks are ten times as likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.

"There are more blacks under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."

"As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race."

In 2005, 4 out of 5 drug arrests were for possession not trafficking, and 80% of the increase in drug arrests in the 1990s was for marijuana.

There are 50,000 arrests for low-level pot possession a year in New York City, representing one out of every seven cases that turn up in criminal courts. Most of these arrested are black and hispanic men.


Why is this happening, when personal prejudice is so much less common, medicinal marijuana initiatives routinely pass around the country, and illicit drug use is accepted enough that Steve Jobs​ could praise psychedelic drugs as key to his creative success at Apple Computer?

The modern drug war in politics can be traced back to political operative named Clifford White, an advisor to Barry Goldwater​, who recognized that there were votes to be had in the backlash against the civil rights movement. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the war on drugs became convenient code for politicians who wanted to appeal to certain working class white voters with coded racist appeals. President Reagan​ used this political support to escalate the war on drugs.

A Federal law passed in 1986 allowed law enforcement agencies to seize drug money, and use it to supplement their budgets. Grabbing cash connected to drugs meant that police departments could buy more tools and training. Like the fee-for-service model in medicine, that pays doctors for performing procedures, not for making people healthier, the "forfeiture laws" effectively pay the police departments for making busts - not for reducing the drug trade.

In fact, if the war on drugs was ever won, it would be a financial disaster for law enforcement. There's so much dirty money funding law enforcement agencies that now, according to NPR, some police departments have become "addicted to drug money".

The second significant institutional incentive is of more recent origin, though it too has its beginnings in the Reagan era - the development of for-profit prison companies and their vast lobbying and political apparatus.

Prisoners now manufacture and assemble products for Microsoft, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, as well as body armor for soldiers and handcuff cases for law enforcement officers.

In 2007, taxpayers spent 74 billion on prisons, with the largest percentage increase of prisoners going to for-profit prison companies.


The Justice Policy Institute noted that these companies make more money through longer prison sentences, but you don't need a report from a nonprofit group to know that. Just look at their own investor reports. The Corrections Corporation of America​, the largest for-profit prison company in the country, lists as a business risk in its 10K to the SEC "any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them." CCA also told investors it would make less money if there were lower minimum sentences and more eligibility for inmates for early release for good behavior.

Putting people in jail and keeping them there is good for business. So that's what these companies lobby for. According to the Justice Policy Institute, these companies "have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts." They are large donors to state-based think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who market harsh immigration, drug laws, and prison privatization laws to state level politicians around the country. While the rationale is no longer outright bigotry, the net effect, in terms of stripping millions of blacks of political and economic rights, is the same.

This is the face of racism today. It isn't the racist sheriff in Alabama turning hoses and dogs onto protesters, or the all-white development or country club, but the smooth lobbyist and campaign contributor discussing the efficiency of private prison initiatives or the politician too cowardly to act on decriminalizing marijuana for fear of antagonizing a powerful lobby. It's racism, Greedy-Bastards-style.

What's the alternative? David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has highlighted a very simple common sense approach known as hotspotting. He advocates for sitting down the gang members that perpetrate most of the violence, police, prosecutors, and community leaders to talk about their shared problems and the consequences of crime. Such an approach has dramatically reduced homicide rates in Boston and Chicago, and across the country. Yet these programs and programs like them with proven success in reducing crime are the first to go on the chopping block, because they don't provide the budgetary incentive that forfeiture laws do.

Today, the march for civil rights isn't about convincing Americans that racism is wrong. It is about getting money out of politics, so that the profit from institutional racism is eliminated. The Supreme Court's decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson saying "separate but equal" has been trumped by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, eliminating all restrictions on corporate cash in politics. If we are to honor Dr. King, let us make this our generation's cause. It won't be an easy fight, but as he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."



Romney, The Liar

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Untruths, Wholly Untrue, And Nothing But Untruths

by Paul Krugman

I was deeply radicalized by the 2000 election. At first I couldn't believe that then-candidate George W. Bush was saying so many clearly, provably false things; then I couldn't believe that nobody in the news media was willing to point out the lies. (At the time, the Times actually told me that I couldn't use the l-word either). That was when I formulated my "views differ on shape of planet" motto.

Now, however, Mitt Romney​ seems determined to rehabilitate Bush's reputation, by running a campaign so dishonest that it makes Bush look like a model of truth-telling.

I mean, is there anything at all in Romney's stump speech that's true? It's all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn't, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn't, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn't. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama's record and about his own. I can't find a single true assertion anywhere.

And he keeps finding new frontiers of falsehood. The good people at CBPP find him asserting, with regard to programs aiding low-income Americans, that

What unfortunately happens is with all the multiplicity of federal programs, you have massive overhead, with government bureaucrats in Washington administering all these programs, very little of the money that's actually needed by those that really need help, those that can't care for themselves, actually reaches them.

which is utterly, totally untrue. Administrative costs are actually quite small, and between 91 and 99 percent of spending, depending on the program, does in fact go to beneficiaries.

At this rate, Romney will soon start lying about his own name. Oh, wait.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Republican

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OF COURSE: Republican Sponsor of Bill Requiring Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients Arrested for DUI

from the Daily KOS

kip.jpgFile this story in the overstuffed folder labeled Republican Hypocrisy That Borders on Satire. Georgia state Rep. Kip Smith [left], who is co-sponsor of a bill requiring that public assistance recipients be tested for drug abuse, has been arrested and charged with DUI.

Smith, who has been pushing for mandatory drug testing of Georgia's poorest citizens, was pulled over and arrested while driving his - wait for it - gold four-door Jaguar XJ8.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, not only was he well over the legal limit, he was also not particularly forthcoming or cooperative:

"I observed the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Mr. Smith's breath," [Officer] Kramer said in his report. "He advised me he was a state representative and gave the name 'Kip Smith.'"

Smith, whose given name is John Andrew Smith, first told the officer he had not consumed any alcoholic beverages.

"I asked him again, and he stated he had consumed a single beer at Hal's. I noticed also that Mr. Smith's eyes were watery, and I asked him to exit the vehicle, which he did," Kramer said in the report.

Smith told the officer he'd had the beer 45 minutes earlier, and the officer asked him to blow into a hand-held "intoximeter". The officer said the lawmaker refused, stating he would prefer to go to a clinic or the hospital to get tested.

The officer told Smith that was done only after an arrest, and that Smith had not been placed under arrest, but Smith "seemed to be having a difficult time understanding what I was trying to explain to him," the officer said in the report.

The officer said Smith finally agreed to blow into the device. The report stated that Smith blew a .091, which is above the legal limit of .08. [He blew a .100 once at city jail.]

The officer said Smith then told him he'd had a beer 15 minutes earlier, instead of the 45 minutes he had said previously. Smith then allegedly failed a "walk-and-turn" test and a "one-leg-stand" test.

This story is another anecdotal example of the hypocrisy rampant among those in the GOP who attempt to codify their prejudices (masked as ethics or proper conservatism).

However, it's more than that. It's another example of the fact that those who we may need to test for drug abuse are not those struggling to survive, but those responsible for creating economic policies that make such struggles persistent.

Those with the power to mold our social and economic policies, those who sit in our country's most-elevated seats of power, those who do well to protect their own interests while abusing or ignoring the interests of 99 percent of us - those are the ones we should test.

On so many levels.

Thought of the Day

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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut




MLK: A Life That Inspires Millions

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As a white man I am much freer today because of Dr King and I cannot but thank and laud him for his work and courage. To me, his personal frailties only serve to remind us even more deeply how much he was able to overcome in order to bear witness to a better world for all of us.

All men and woman have flaws, but few manage to transcend them for the greater good.

To have lived your life as an inspiration to millions of others...what more can be asked?

The Dream That Came True

By Eugene Robinson

mlk.bluesky.jpg

He would be an elder statesman now, a lion in winter, an American hero perhaps impatient with the fuss being made over his birthday. At 83, he'd likely still have his wits and his voice. Surely, if he were able, he would continue to preach, and to pray--and to dream.

For the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreaming was not optional. It was a requirement of citizenship to envision a fairer, more prosperous nation no longer shackled by racism and poverty. It was a duty to imagine a world no longer ravaged by senseless wars. His most famous speech was less an invitation to share his epic dream than a commandment.

In these sour, pessimistic times, it is important to remember the great lesson of King's remarkable life: Impossible dreams can come true.

This is not a partisan message; King was every bit as tough on Democrats as Republicans. His activism even transcended ideology. His call for social justice and his opposition to the Vietnam War were rightly seen as liberal, but his insistence on the primacy of faith and family was deeply conservative. His birthday is a national holiday because his words and deeds ennoble us all.

Thinking about King's legacy reminds me that this is hardly the first time our society has been bitterly divided and fearful of an uncertain future. When he led the 1963 March on Washington and gave his indelible "I Have a Dream" speech, many Southern whites, including officials, were still determined to resist racial integration by any means necessary. Many black Americans were fed up, no longer willing to wait patiently for the rights promised them under the Constitution.

We were inured to television images that today would be shocking. Police dogs turned loose on peaceful protesters. Columns of smoke rising from cities across the land following King's assassination.

As he predicted, King did not live to reach the mountaintop. But his leadership--and that of so many others in the civil rights movement--set us on a path that changed the nation in ways that once seemed unimaginable. Racism, sexism and all the other poisonous -isms have not been eradicated, but they have been dramatically reduced and marginalized. It is difficult for young people to believe that overt discrimination--"You can't have that job because you're black" or "I'm going to pay you less because you're a woman"--used to be seen as normal.

Today, the nation is suffering what I see as a crisis of confidence. Economic globalization and advances in productivity have hollowed out the U.S. manufacturing sector, eliminating millions of blue-collar jobs. For the first time, parents have to worry whether their children's standard of living will decline rather than improve. Demographic change is about to make this a nation without a white majority; by the middle of the century, we'll be an increasingly diverse collection of racial and ethnic minorities--held together, even more than in the past, by the ideals of the nation's founding documents.

We're struggling to climb out of the worst recession in decades. We're deeply in debt. Most of us agree on the need for a social safety net but not on how to structure it or how to pay for it. Our political system is sclerotic if not dysfunctional. The last few elections have not produced a consensus on the way forward. The next won't, either.

I consider myself fortunate that when I'm feeling pessimistic about all of this, I'm able to visit the new King Memorial that was dedicated in October. The towering statue of King looks out toward the Jefferson Memorial, honoring the man whose stirring words now apply to all Americans, not just a few. Behind King is the Lincoln Memorial, a tribute to a leader who shepherded the nation through days much darker than these.

The plaza surrounding King's statue opens up to the Tidal Basin as if to demonstrate how our nation, at its best, embraces possibility.

The first time I visited the memorial, I ran into former Sen. George Allen from Virginia. He and I disagree on almost everything--and since he's running for office again, I'm sure we'll be on opposite sides of many issues. But on a crystalline morning, we were able to stand together, awed by King's moral vision and humbled by his challenge: We can be better. We must. We will.

Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

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Kirk Sorensen shows us the liquid fuel thorium reactor -- a way to produce energy that is safer, cleaner and more efficient than current nuclear power.

Why are we not doing this?

Who you gonna get to do the dirty work
When all the slaves are free?
- j mitchell

Race relations and MLK's dream:
Welcome to the generation gap

By James Eng

You know that adage about how the young and old can never seem to see eye-to-eye?

That could well apply to the state of race relations in America, says a report released Friday by a national advocacy group working to rein in economic inequality.

In its ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day report, titled "State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority," the Boston-based group United for a Fair Economy says that racial disparities are increasingly becoming influenced by age.

"Increasingly, elderly Americans do not identify with young Americans who are far more racially and ethnically diverse, leading to reductions in future-oriented public investments," the report says.

According to the report, almost half of today's U.S. residents under 18 are members of minority groups, while 80 percent of retirees are white. By 2030, the majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. And by 2042, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and other non-whites will collectively compose the majority of the U.S. population.

"If current trends continue, the racial wealth gap will continue to be massive, as it is now, and as the non-white share of the population grows it will become unbearable for the economy as a whole," Tim Sullivan, one of the authors of the report, told msnbc.com.

The report says:

"It is alarming that in states where the racial generation gap is widest, such as California where public investments in education, social programs, and transportation made in the 1950s helped to catapult the state into one of the richest in the country, public investments have dwindled, as the elderly do not see themselves reflected in youth of color."

The report examines the racial economic divide in America since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and uses the trends of the last 30 years to project 30 years forward to 2042. The conclusion: The past 30 years of public policy has done little to address racial economic disparities.

"The racial economic divide is a national embarrassment. Eliminating it should be a moral imperative, and as the non-white share of the population grows, it will become an increasingly urgent economic necessity," United for a Fair Economy said.

Read the full report here

The President is not a CEO

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The thing is -- and this is kind of important -- governments are not corporations. I cannot stress this enough. There's the obvious point that in democracies, legislatures tend to impose a more powerful constraint than shareholders, making it that much harder for leaders to execute the policies they think will be the most efficient. - Daniel W. Drezner

America Isn't a Corporation

by Paul Krugman

"And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A."

That's how the fictional Gordon Gekko finished his famous "Greed is good" speech in the 1987 film "Wall Street." In the movie, Gekko got his comeuppance. But in real life, Gekkoism triumphed, and policy based on the notion that greed is good is a major reason why income has grown so much more rapidly for the richest 1 percent than for the middle class.

Today, however, let's focus on the rest of that sentence, which compares America to a corporation. This, too, is an idea that has been widely accepted. And it's the main plank of Mitt Romney's case that he should be president: In effect, he is asserting that what we need to fix our ailing economy is someone who has been successful in business.

In so doing, he has, of course, invited close scrutiny of his business career. And it turns out that there is at least a whiff of Gordon Gekko in his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm; he was a buyer and seller of businesses, often to the detriment of their employees, rather than someone who ran companies for the long haul. (Also, when will he release his tax returns?) Nor has he helped his credibility by making untenable claims about his role as a "job creator."

But there's a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn't at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen -- even great businessmen -- do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.

Why isn't a national economy like a corporation?

Norton: The Product I Love to Hate

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Back in the day (1980's) Peter Norton was a computer programing guru and was held in high esteem industry wide. He published articles and books that were seminal for many up and coming computer geeks and hackers and created a line of software utilities for computers that made them run better and eventually helped people fight the ever growing problem of viruses and other malware.

He made millions and then sold his company in the early 90's to a company called Semantec. At first Semantec continued Peter Norton's excellence and produced some great software, like many companies over the last 20 years the software products became less and less effective (even destructive) while the company became more and more concerned with profit alone. You know the story...death by bean counters.

As a pro computer repair person I have spent hundreds of hours cleaning people's computers of one of the most cumbersome and pernicious pieces of expensive software ever invented: Semantec's Norton's Security Suite.

It's invasive to the point of ridiculousness in how it "hooks" into Windows system files and even after uninstalling leaves all sorts of traces of itself in systems folders and the system registry. It also can cause all sorts of havoc on systems should anything go even slighly wrong with the program itself or when subscriptions run out and need to be renewed.

The worse part is the amount of money people pay to the company to get a service many anti-virus and other security software products make available for free.

Now a lawsuit has been filed against the company for using extortion software that causes customers to think they have an infected system when they do not. This puts them in the same category as the European mob groups that make millions off the same scare techniques.

I have long suspected that anti-malware companies could easily be responsible for producing the very same viruses and trojans that their products were aimed at controlling and fixing. Think about it.

Now something of that order is being raised by a lawsuit against Semantec.
Score one for the little guy.


Lawsuit: Symantec bullies users into buying anti-virus software

The anti-virus vendor Symantec has been formally accused of employing devious scareware tactics to trick customers into paying for software they don't need.

norton.jpgOn Tuesday (Jan. 10), James Gross filed a class action lawsuit in a California Federal court claiming that Symantec defrauds its customers by running fake anti-virus scans on their machines, Courthouse News reported. The results, Gross alleges, are rigged to convince users their computers are in danger and need to be protected with the paid version of Symantec's products.

In a statement, Symantec said the lawsuit lacks merit.

In the suit, Gross singled out three Symantec products: PC Tools Registry Mechanic, PC Tools Performance Toolkit and Norton Utilities, and said each comes with a free diagnostic scan that warns consumers, "in alarmist fashion," that harmful threats exist on their computers.

"Once the Scareware's scan is complete," Gross claims, "the user is presented with its results in an extremely menacing fashion. For example, the displayed lettering is red and bolded, the screen contains warnings that errors need immediate repair, or that they are slowing down the computer, or exposing the user's privacy."

"Next the Scareware offers to 'fix' some of the detected errors, but requires the user to purchase the full, registered version of the software to fully 'fix' the identified computer problems," Gross said.

This is where Symantec's actions become illegal, Gross contends. He claims the three offensive Symantec's products always report that the computer's "system's health is low," and that "high priority errors exist on the system." In effect, the free diagnostic scan is Symantec's way of scaring consumers into buying a product to fix a problem that, according to Gross, doesn't exist.

"The Scareware does not actually perform any meaningful evaluation of the user's computer system, or of the supposed 'errors' detected by the software," he said. "Moreover, the Scareware does not, and cannot, actually perform the valuable tasks represented by Symantec through its websites, advertising, and in-software display screens."

Symantec countered Gross' claims, and said, "Several independent third parties have tested and reviewed these products very favorably, verifying the effectiveness of their functionality," according to a statement obtained by Computerworld.

Gross, a Washington State resident, seeks punitive damages for unfair competition, breach of warranty, fraud and unjust enrichment.

Bringing Governance to the Global Space

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Paddy Ashdown claims that we are living in a moment in history where power is changing in ways it never has before. At TEDxBrussels he outlines the three major global shifts that he sees coming and the importance of recognizing that our survival depends on the emerging new order of interdependence and interconnectedness which will downplay the historical concept of individual nation states.



The On-Going Density of the Robert's Court

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A Michigan schoolteacher who said Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2005 when it fired her after she tried to return to work after being diagnosed with narcolepsy was told by the Supreme Court that her claim was overruled by the 1st Amendment rights of her employer.

This is another example of the twisted stupidity of the Robert's court. Her claim has zero to do with her religious qualifications, which is the basis for the court's decision, and everything to do with her employer (her church) being able to fire her for a physical disability. This decision like the Citizen's United case, makes no sense whatsoever.


Supreme Court OKs job bias in church worker's case

Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court ruled for the first time Wednesday that federal discrimination laws do not protect employees of religious organizations who perform "ministerial" duties.

The court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion dictates the organizations "be free to choose those who will guide it on its way."

The case involved a Michigan schoolteacher who said Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2005 when it fired her after she tried to return to work after being diagnosed with narcolepsy.

The church said that Cheryl Perich was not fit for ecclesiastical office and that her threat to sue violated Lutheran teachings that disputes be handled within the church rather than in civil courts.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that such decisions are reserved to religious organizations.

"The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important," Roberts wrote. "But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.

"When a minister who has been fired sues her church alleging that her termination was discriminatory, the First Amendment has struck the balance for us."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Obama administration had backed Perich's suit against the Redford, Mich., religious school.

Wednesday's ruling marked the first time the Supreme Court had acknowledged such an exception.

Beyond Mere Chemistry

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Can scientists define 'life' ... using just three words?

Does 'self-reproduction with variations' cover it? Not-so-little words spark a big debate

By Carl Zimmer - Txchnologist

artificialcell.jpgIn November 2011, NASA launched its biggest, most ambitious mission to Mars. The $2.5 billion Mars Science Lab spacecraft will arrive in orbit around the Red Planet this August, releasing a lander that will use rockets to control a slow descent into the atmosphere. Equipped with a "sky crane," the lander will gently lower the one-ton Curosity rover on the surface of Mars. Curiosity, which weighs five times more than any previous Martian rover, will perform an unprecedented battery of tests for three months as it scoops up soil from the floor of the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. Its mission, NASA says, will be to "assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life."

For all the spectacular engineering that's gone into Curiosity, however, its goal is actually quite modest. When NASA says it wants to find out if Mars was ever suitable for life, they use a very circumscribed version of the word. They are looking for signs of liquid water, which all living things on Earth need. They are looking for organic carbon, which life on Earth produces and, in some cases, can feed on to survive. In other words, they're looking on Mars for the sorts of conditions that support life on Earth.

But there's no good reason to assume that all life has to be like the life we're familiar with. In 2007, a board of scientists appointed by the National Academies of Science​ decided they couldn't rule out the possibility that life might be able to exist without water or carbon. If such weird life on Mars exists, Curiosity will probably miss it.

When Republicans Work For the Democrats

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Wow...a 27 minute film aimed at exposing Romney's pedatory capitalism called

when.mitt.jpg

Watch it and tell me this guy is not a major effing a-hole who should be jail rather than running for president.

Greedy Bastards

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Do Something.



Something From Nothing?

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You betcha!

Here's the short form, but I highly doubt people of faith will accept it.

How to get a cosmos from nothing

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss has taken on plenty of edgy topics, ranging from evolution to the state of science policy, to quantum quackery, to the science of "Star Trek." But in his latest book, he takes on what might be the edgiest topic of all: how all the somethingness of our universe could have arisen from nothingness without divine intervention.

Ratigan and Rachel

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How fast can a couple of people delineate what is wrong and where to go?

Born on 3rd Base

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America's Unlevel Field

By Paul Krugman

Last month President Obama gave a speech invoking the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt​ on behalf of progressive ideals -- and Republicans were not happy. Mitt Romney​, in particular, insisted that where Roosevelt believed that "government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities," Mr. Obama believes that "government should create equal outcomes," that we should have a society where "everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk."

As many people were quick to point out, this portrait of the president as radical redistributionist was pure fiction. What hasn't been as widely noted, however, is that Mr. Romney's picture of himself as a believer in a level playing field is just as fictional. Where is the evidence that he or his party cares at all about equality of opportunity?

Let's talk for a minute about the actual state of the playing field.

Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society's lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.

And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.

The failure starts early:

Videri quam esse

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"To seem to be, rather than to be"

A great, must read NY Times piece on the lunatic we love:

How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?

By CHARLES McGRATH

colbert.fat.jpg

There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on "The Colbert Report" (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t's silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is "extremely normal." One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of "The Colbert Report" is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero.

Suburban Colbert comes out dressed in the other Colbert's guise -- dark two-button suit, tasteful Brooks Brothersy tie, rimless Rumsfeldian glasses -- and answers questions from the audience for a few minutes. (The questions are usually about things like Colbert's favorite sport or favorite character from "The Lord of the Rings​," but on one memorable occasion a young black boy asked him, "Are you my father?" Colbert hesitated a moment and then said, "Kareem?") Then he steps onstage, gets a last dab of makeup while someone sprays his hair into an unmussable Romney-like helmet, and turns himself into his alter ego. His body straightens, as if jolted by a shock. A self-satisfied smile creeps across his mouth, and a manically fatuous gleam steals into his eyes.

Lately, though, there has emerged a third Colbert. This one is a version of the TV-show Colbert, except he doesn't exist just on screen anymore. He exists in the real world and has begun to meddle in it. In 2008, the old Colbert briefly ran for president, entering the Democratic primary in his native state of South Carolina. (He hadn't really switched parties, but the filing fee for the Republican primary was too expensive.) In 2010, invited by Representative Zoe Lofgren, he testified before Congress about the problem of illegal-immigrant farmworkers and remarked that "the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables."

But those forays into public life were spoofs, more or less. The new Colbert has crossed the line that separates a TV stunt from reality and a parody from what is being parodied. In June, after petitioning the Federal Election Commission, he started his own super PAC -- a real one, with real money. He has run TV ads, endorsed (sort of) the presidential candidacy of Buddy Roemer​, the former governor of Louisiana, and almost succeeded in hijacking and renaming the Republican primary in South Carolina. "Basically, the F.E.C. gave me the license to create a killer robot," Colbert said to me in October, and there are times now when the robot seems to be running the television show instead of the other way around.

"It's bizarre," remarked an admiring Jon Stewart​, whose own program, "The Daily Show​," immediately precedes "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central and is where the Colbert character got his start. "Here is this fictional character who is now suddenly interacting in the real world. It's so far up its own rear end," he said, or words to that effect, "that you don't know what to do except get high and sit in a room with a black light and a poster."

In August, during the run-up to the Ames straw poll, some Iowans were baffled to turn on their TVs and see a commercial that featured shots of ruddy-cheeked farm families, an astronaut on the moon and an ear of hot buttered corn. It urged viewers to cast write-in votes for Rick Perry​ by spelling his name with an "a" -- "for America." A voice-over at the end announced that the commercial had been paid for by an organization called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, which is the name of Colbert's super PAC, an entity that, like any other super PAC, is entitled to raise and spend unlimited amounts of soft money in support of candidates as long as it doesn't "coordinate" with them, whatever that means. Of such super-PAC efforts, Colbert said, "This is 100 percent legal and at least 10 percent ethical."

Just as baffling as the Iowa corn ads -- at least to the uninitiated -- were some commercials Colbert produced taking the side of the owners during the recent N.B.A. lockout. These were also sponsored by Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, but they were "made possible," according to the voice-over, by Colbert Super PAC SHH Institute. Super PAC SHH (as in "hush") is Colbert's 501(c)(4). He has one of those too -- an organization that can accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations without disclosing their names and can then give that money to a regular PAC, which would otherwise be required to report corporate donations. "What's the difference between that and money laundering?" Colbert said to me delightedly.

Rest of article


No Idea Is An Island

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"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.... Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." ---- John Donne

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
- François Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Those two quotes pretty much sum up why this raging liberal makes a habit of actively seeking the writings and opinions of raging conservatives. Stressing the latter quote also explains why I bother to read a blog I discovered called "girl on the right". It is an act of respect for the clarity and drive with which she demonstrates her dedicated convictions. I disagree with nearly every opinion evidenced on her page and yet I loved reading it for the simple reason that it provoked thought.

I remember the more radical liberal friends of my salad days being aghast that I would deliberately struggle forth early on a Sunday morning through the fog of a hangover and wake all the living room campers by tuning-in to the local PBS station to watch arch-conservative William F. Buckley's snake-like darting tongue punctuate his elegantly fascist rhetoric.

Most of my groggy and rumpled friends would lumber forth from the place they fell the night before and stand glaring at the screen with puffy eyes for a few seconds and then stumble away toward the coffee smell, usually with a parting complaint such as, "Why do you watch that fascist pig?" or something equally astute and considered. I would respond with something facile such as, "Because he's a great speaker"...which of course he was.

I was (and am) that rara avis of mankind...someone capable of admiring the beauty of ideas completely at odds with my own. This ability I think stems from not being threatened by those ideas because I have an internal confidence in my own. Put simply, I am not an "ideo-phobe".

I do not believe in absolutes nor objective realities per se. All realities are subjective because they are perceived, and consensual because the human mind is an artifact of a collective animal we call humanity, not that of independent human individuals.

Truth and bullshit are always co-extant in every reality; bullshit being that aspect of reality which we can not find a positive utility for at the moment. For example, as one matures one discovers that what was complete bullshit in youth somehow has become self-evident truth in middle age.

Nothing is quite so scary or fascist as the harshly clean black and white opinions of the 18 year old proselyte of whatever stripe. Everyone hates being stopped by a rookie cop for good reason; namely, robotic inflexibility. Though I am ardently what I call a "pragmatic socialist", nothing turns me off more than listening to some enthused young communist party worker at my door sophomorically spouting 1930's party rhetoric on behalf of the world's workers. Slam.

On the other hand, I am more than willing to entertain propositions from folk
who are capable of delivering their convictions from a reasoned platform based on "faith". I am not using the term faith here to necessarily indicate religiosity, but rather in the sense an "allegiance" to a principle or idea. The most important ingredient that will make someone else's faith palatable (and for which I have the highest respect) is integrity.

Finally, the title of this post is meant to assert that conservatives and liberals need one another to produce "living truths"; truths which transcend mere static axioms. Nothing produces new ideas so readily as argument.

Liberals and conservatives balance one another and serve to keep the extremes of each in check. The greater the potential of difference between the poles of a battery, the more energetic the battery can be said to be. The trick is to recognize that our polar opposites are a necessary part of the same battery.

"No man is an island...he's a peninsula." - Jefferson Airplane

SpyEye Trojan Threat

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"Everybody thinks all they have to do is check their transactions and their balances. That's not true anymore."

New virus raids your bank account - but you won't notice

Bob Sullivan

The best way to protect yourself from an online financial scam is to diligently check your bank accounts. At least, until now.

Israeli-based Security firm Trusteer has found an elaborate new computer virus that not only helps fraudsters steal money from bank accounts -- it also covers its tracks.

Think of a crime plot involving a spy who plans to break into a high-security building and begins by swapping out security camera video so guards don't notice anything is amiss. Known as a surveillance camera hack, the technique has been used in dozens of movies.

A new version of the widely prevalent SpyEye Trojan horse works much the same way, only it swaps out banking Web pages rather than video, preventing account holders from noticing that their money is gone.

The Trojan horse employs a powerful two-step process to commit the electronic crime. First, the virus lies in wait until a customer with an infected computer visits an online banking site, steals their login credentials and tricks the victim into divulging additional personal information such as debit card information. Then, after the stolen card number is used for a fraudulent purchase, the virus intercepts any further visits to the victim's banking site and scrubs transaction records clean of any fraud. That prevents -- or at least delays -- consumers from discovering fraud and reporting it to the bank, buying the fraudster critical extra time to complete the crime.

Amazing Chris Hedges Interview

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On Book TV's In Depth, author and journalist, Chris Hedges. The Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent spends three hours taking viewers' calls, emails and tweets on topics such as terrorism, religion and politics.

The National Book Critics Circle Award nominee has a Masters degree in Divinity and is the author of nine books. His works include, "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," "Empire of Illusion," and his latest release "The World As It Is."

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Harriet Washington Knows What Going On

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She has made a study of profits vs public health and has written a book on the subject called "Deadly Monopolies".

Here she is interviewed by Dylan Ratigan:

Obama Finds His Cojones

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Given how badly the system is broken, Obama's end run around the gimmicky Senate rules that have used to perpetually block any progress during Obama's tenure makes perfect political sense.

Bucking Senate, Obama Appoints Consumer Chief

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By Helene Cooper and Jennifer Steinhauer

President Obama touched off a fierce election-year confrontation with Congressional Republicans on Wednesday, defying their deep opposition to appoint Richard Cordray as director of a new consumer protection agency and fill three labor board vacancies.

The decision to install the four nominees without Senate approval under the constitutional provision for making appointments when lawmakers are in recess was a provocative opening salvo in Mr. Obama's re-election strategy of demonizing Congress. It threatened to ignite a legal challenge and left Republicans fuming that the president was abusing the recess privilege.

Mr. Obama, announcing his decision before a political rally-like crowd of 1,300 at a high school here in a suburb Mr. Cordray's hometown of Cleveland, seemed to welcome a contentious second session of the 112th Congress, in which any attempts at bipartisan compromise appear in danger of being lost in all-out election-year war.

"I refuse to take 'no' for an answer," Mr. Obama said, adding, "I am not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people we were elected to serve."

Building on efforts to cast himself as a protector of the middle class, the president portrayed Mr. Cordray as his hand-picked protector of consumers in his role as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He wasted no time in painting Republican opposition to Mr. Cordray as another sign of the party putting the interests of Wall Street above the concerns of ordinary Americans.

Putting Mr. Cordray in place grants the agency the standing to move ahead with new regulation of varied financial entities, authority it has lacked in the absence of a director since its creation in July 2010.

With the three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, Mr. Obama moved to ensure that the board, which has five seats, would not become paralyzed. The board shrank to two members when the term of a previous Democratic recess appointee expired on Tuesday, and under a Supreme Court ruling, it is not allowed to make decisions with fewer than three members.

As if making appointments while members were out of town was not enough to enrage Republicans, the fact that Mr. Obama made them to two entities that have been top targets of the party amplified the angry response.

The Thing About Santorum

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Who would've thought that someone as weird and personally screwed up as Santorum would be even remotely considered a viable republican candidate? This is a guy who took his still born baby home to meet the family and then sleep in bed with it with overnight, all without consulting his wife. Tell me that isn't just a shard strange.

And there's other stuff:


Cult? What Cult?

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Romney followers await arrival of promised spaceship

Nor in the national debt...but in ourselves...

Nobody Understands Debt

By Paul Krugman

In 2011, as in 2010, America was in a technical recovery but continued to suffer from disastrously high unemployment. And through most of 2011, as in 2010, almost all the conversation in Washington was about something else: the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit.

This misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected Congress is from the suffering of ordinary Americans. But it also revealed something else: when people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they're talking about -- and the people who talk the most understand the least.

Perhaps most obviously, the economic "experts" on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they've been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts -- that is, you might think that if you didn't know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.

But Washington isn't just confused about the short run; it's also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem's size.

Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we're impoverished by the need to pay back money we've been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.

This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.

Let's Start Here

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