March 2012 Archives
George Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon Martin broke his nose and was bashing his head against the pavement/sidewalk before Zimmerman shot him in the chest is put to the lie by the video below. There is zero blood on his shirt, very little sign if any damage to the back of his head and his face is not swollen or bruised. Also he is not the pudgy looking 28 yr old previously shown on the media.
By Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC)
A police surveillance video taken the night that Trayvon Martin was shot dead shows no blood or bruises on George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground.
The surveillance video, which was obtained exclusively by ABC News, shows Zimmerman arriving in a police cruiser. As he exits the car, his hands are cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led down a series of hallways, still cuffed.
Zimmerman, 28, is wearing a red and black fleece and his face and head are cleanly shaven. He appears well built, hardly the portly young man depicted in a 2005 mug shot that until a two days ago was the single image the media had of Zimmerman.
Police Video Surveillance of George Zimmerman
The initial police report noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of the head and nose, and after medical attention it was decided that he was in good enough condition to travel in a police cruiser to the Sanford, Fla., police station for questioning.
His lawyer later insisted that Zimmerman's nose had been broken in his scuffle with 17-year-old Martin.
In the video an officer is seen pausing to look at the back of Zimmerman's head, but no abrasions or blood can be seen in the video and he did not check into the emergency room following the police questioning.
On Monday's show, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell slammed Craig Sonner, the "cowardly" lawyer representing George Zimmerman, for canceling the interview at the last minute. Moments before the show, the guest walked off the set and into his car, literally running away from Lawrence's tough questions on the investigation.
Proving the show must go on, Lawrence furiously ran through his line of questioning to the empty chair that was supposed to be occupied by Sonner. His client is the man who shot and killed Florida teen, Trayvon Martin.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow also weighed in on the investigation. He also took partial credit for scaring away George Zimmerman's lawyer.
What's the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Storage -- so we can have power on tap even when the sun's not out and the wind's not blowing. In this accessible, inspiring talk, Donald Sadoway takes to the blackboard to show us the future of large-scale batteries that store renewable energy. As he says: "We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap."
Donald Sadoway is working on a battery miracle -- an inexpensive, incredibly efficient, three-layered battery using "liquid metal."
"If we're going to get this country out of its current energy situation, we can't just conserve our way out. We can't just drill our way out. We can't bomb our way out. We're going to do it the old-fashioned, American way. We're going to invent our way out, working together."
by Paul Krugman
Florida's now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy -- and it is. And it's tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.
Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida's law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC's activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin's killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society -- and our democracy.
What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.
Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization -- that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.
What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC's claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn't so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.
And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn't in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we're getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.
But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it's the same old story -- the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It's neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.
And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren't just about generating immediate benefits to the organization's corporate sponsors; they're about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.
Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?
Yet that's not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex -- prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its "life preserver.") This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it's exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona's draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.
Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn't just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.
Now, ALEC isn't single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters -- a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda -- is one good way to highlight what's going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.
A brilliant conversation with a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran-turned-scholar who's become one of the most perceptive observers of America's changing role in the world, Andrew Bacevich - hosted by Bill Moyers
Changing Our Military Mindset
by Bill Berkowitz
There is little doubt that it was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old self-appointed "neighborhood watch vigilante," who shot and killed the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month as he "returned from a trip to 7-11 with an iced tea and a pack of Skittles."
Less known is the relationship between the Florida "stand your ground" law, which may allow the killer of Trayvon Martin to walk free, and a powerful but private, behind-the-scenes organization that has channeled such bills into the legislatures of Florida and other states.
The Florida law that is drawing such sudden attention due to the death of a teenager in Sanford "is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 'model bill' that has been pushed in other states," PR Watch's Brendan Fischer recently reported.
Fischer says that "Evidence suggests a major reason Zimmerman thought he needed to use deadly force against the unarmed Martin is because the teen was black... Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime."
According to Fischer, "The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and fits into a pattern of ALEC bills that disproportionately impact communities of color."
It is no surprise that ALEC is hardly a household name. The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) prefers to do its business in secret. And since ALEC's founding in 1973 by Paul Weyrich (who co-founded the Heritage Foundation and is widely considered to be one of the Godfathers of the New Right); former Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde; and conservative activist Lou Barnett, the organization has successfully stayed out of the spotlight.
If it weren't for the resolute reporting of a handful of investigative journalists and the extraordinary work of the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed Web site, not much would be known about ALEC.
Source Watch, a project of the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, described ALEC as a "semi-secretive" organization that "has been highly influential, has operated quietly in the United States for decades, and received remarkably little scrutiny from journalists, media or members of the public during that time." A report by the American Association for Justice, titled "ALEC: Ghostwriting the Law for Corporate America" described the organization as "the ultimate smoke filled back room."
As John Nichols recently pointed out in The Nation, "the shadowy Koch brothers-funded network ... brings together right-wing legislators with corporate interests and pressure groups to craft so-called 'model legislation.'" And while ALEC is predominantly concerned with cutting tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals, privatization, de-regulation, and weakening, if not eliminating unions, it "also dabbles in electoral and public safety issues. And 'Stand Your Ground' proposals have for seven years been on its agenda."
Last year, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unleashed an unprecedented attack on public workers in that state, and Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country began its assault on voting rights, ALEC's fingerprints were all over those initiatives.
By Paul Krugman
Stop, hey, what's that sound? Actually, it's the noise a great political party makes when it loses what's left of its mind. And it happened -- where else? -- on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.
This claim isn't just nuts; it's a sort of craziness triple play -- a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It's the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let's get the facts on gas prices straight.
First, the lie: No, President Obama did not say, as many Republicans now claim, that he wanted higher gasoline prices. He did once say that a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to "skyrocket" -- an unfortunate word choice. But saying that such a system would raise energy prices was just a factual statement, not a declaration of intent to punish American consumers. The claim that Mr. Obama wanted higher prices is a lie, pure and simple.
And it's a lie wrapped in an absurdity, because the president of the United States doesn't control gasoline prices, or even have much influence over those prices. Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can't move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports.
Finally, there's the paranoia, the belief that liberals in general, and Obama administration officials in particular, are trying to make driving unaffordable as part of a nefarious plot against the American way of life. And, no, I'm not exaggerating. This is what you hear even from thoroughly mainstream conservatives.
For example, last year George Will declared that the Obama administration's support for train travel had nothing to do with relieving congestion and reducing environmental impacts. No, he insisted, "the real reason for progressives' passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism." Who knew that Dagny Taggart, the railroad executive heroine of "Atlas Shrugged," was a Commie?
O.K., this is all kind of funny. But it's also deeply scary....
A comment from the Newsvine on the topic based on a Pew Poll which asked "Do Americans think politicians are talking too much about religion?", struck me as particularly notable:
from Michael L. Marowitz
I think your pseudonym tells the whole story. You noted that 30% of the American People want more religious discourse in the public domain. I've noted that 25-30% of the American people believed that, when he left office, George W. Bush had done a good job as president. 25-30% of the American public believes global warming is a hoax. 25-30% of the American People were persuaded that the Affordable Health Care Act has provisions for "death panels." and 25-30% of the American people came to believe that Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya/Indonesia.A psychologist from Brock University in Canada posted the results of a psychological study on what factors predispose someone to being a conservatives:
"[S]everal psychological variables predicted political conservatism. 'Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem.'
The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that 'the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.'"
Those 25-30% constitute a new class of fearful idiots and morons who are persuaded to believe one fiction after another because they are predisposed to believe such statements as true. Let's take the birthers, for example. After insisting for more than a year that Obama was not an American citizen by birth, even after Obama posted what Hawaiians are given as "birth certificates" and even later, after the publication of his actual birth certificates, many of the New Yahoos (see Gulliver's Travels) continue to believe what they were first told by right wing media--Obama wasn't a citizen born in Honolulu.
This permanent class of imbeciles is the modern-day equivalent of the religious nut cases who refused to believe in Copernicus' and Galileo Galilei's astronomical observations challenging the assumption that the earth is the center of the universe. Republicans have been playing to this crowd since Reagan charmed blue collar Democrats into joining the Republican Party, and cultivated Southern Crackers who abandoned the Democratic Party in the South following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, much as the South had written off the Republican Party for a 100 years after Lincoln freed the slaves.
These authoritarians are the same folks who deplored interracial marriage as an abomination of God's will, who fought against racial integration was an invasion of the freedom of Southerners to decide their own fate, and who continue to believe that the proper place for women is in the kitchen. Reagan introduced these sheeple to the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman, whose formulae of deregulation of business and privatization of governmental institutions and activities, coupled with "trickle down/lower taxes for investors/romancing our "job creators" is why the middle class has been fleeced and what accounts for why the upper 20% nearly tripled their annual incomes between 1979 and 2007. This large mass of voters is largely what accounts for the fact that there have only been 3 Democratic Presidents since Reagan.
The only way America can escape becoming a Third World country is not to attempt to convert conservatives, who will never be converted but will always be manipulated by their fears and prejudices, but rather to educate and cultivate young people to see what heartless, niggardly bastards Republicans are.
#10.11 - Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:09 PM ED
My comment was a shorter and more abstract assertion:
The spiritual person seeks knowledge while the religious person seeks reward.
Spiritual people do not seek control or dominion over others, but religious people tend to be consumed by the need to proclaim and spread their faith.
Spiritual people recognize there is truth in everything, religious people deny any truth but their own.
Spirituality does not produce zealots, religiosity frequently does.
I would prefer my politician be a compassionate, rational, knowledge and compromise seeking, privately spiritual person rather than a close minded, proselytizing, reward seeker on a mission from his or her God.
Pilot: "We did it! This weekend I flew a 100 meters with my selfbuilt wings. I used a GoPro-camera on my helmet to film the flight. "
By Natalie Wolchover
A Dutch man named Jarno Smeets became an Internet sensation this week after posting a video on YouTube in which he appears to fly like a bird. In the video, he straps on a contraption that supposedly syncs the motion of his flapping arms to that of a huge pair of wings made of kite fabric, allowing him to flap the wings and take off into the air.
As reported yesterday by Life's Little Mysteries, CGI experts quickly found flaws in the footage of Smeets taking flight that revealed the video clip had been tampered with. Internet marketing experts suggested the video may have been a viral ad campaign -- for Nintendo Wii, perhaps, as Smeets claimed to have used Wii controllers to operate his wings.
By the end of the day, doubt surrounding the video had soundly overtaken belief in the amazing new invention it seemed to show in action.
And now, the jig is up. Smeets, whose real name is Floris Kaayk, has come clean on Dutch television, admitting that his videos and accompanying blog were nothing more than what he calls "online storytelling." His flying video attracted more than 3 million views on YouTube.
"I'm actually a filmmaker and animator. I am now eight months working on an experiment about online media," Kaayk told the press, referring to the fact that he began documenting the fake flying machine project on his blog last summer.
Kaayk also said the hoax was not, in fact, commercially sponsored.
By Jeffrey Toobin
Trayvon Martin went out to buy some Skittles -- and was shot dead before he made it home. The case is horrifying, maddening, grotesque. And -- perhaps worst of all -- there may be nothing Florida law enforcement can do about it.
As the world now knows, the 17-year-old Martin walked to a store in Orlando to buy some snacks on the night of February 26. George Zimmerman, a volunteer Neighborhood Watch captain, thought the boy looked suspicious and called 911. The 911 operator told Zimmerman to keep his distance -- police would be sent -- but there was a confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Martin was killed with a single shot to the chest. Florida authorities have not arrested Zimmerman, and federal authorities recently joined the investigation.
The legal question at the heart of the case involves Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law, which the legislature passed, at the behest of the National Rifle Association, in 2005. Before that time, Florida law resembled that of most other states; during confrontations, individuals had a duty to retreat rather than to respond to provocations. Under the new law, a person is allowed to use deadly force if he is in a place he has a right to be and feels reasonably threatened with serious harm.
In this case, then, the question is whether Zimmerman was in such a place and felt reasonably threatened. The 911 operator told Zimmerman to keep his distance from Martin, but Zimmerman had a right to be on the street. That's where neighborhood watch volunteers work.
Clearly, the question at the heart of the case is whether Zimmerman reasonably felt threatened. On this issue, the evidence currently seems murky. There appears to have been some sort of confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Police found Zimmerman with an injury to his head. Most important -- and most tragic -- the police will hear only one side of the story about this confrontation. Trayvon is not around to tell his story. The continuing investigation will surely focus on finding other witnesses.
The facts of this case show why the "stand your ground" law is so important. The law focuses on the subjective understanding of the shooter. Was his understanding of the situation "reasonable"? Ultimately, that would be a question for the jury to decide, but it still gives a lot of deference to the perpetrator of a violent act. The new law even allows a disproportionate response; if someone comes at you with a fist, you can reply with a gun.
In light of the shift in the law, it's not surprising that since the law went into effect, reports of justifiable homicides have tripled, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Another case under litigation in Florida highlights the effect of the law. In September 2010, David James was playing basketball with his 8-year-old daughter on an outdoor court in Valrico. A boy was skateboarding on the court at the same time, and Trevor Dooley, a man who lived in the area, told the boy he shouldn't be skateboarding there. James stood up for the boy, and he and Dooley had a confrontation.
Dooley was carrying a gun and wound up shooting James dead. Dooley asserted that he felt threatened by James, and has asked that the case be dismissed before trial under the "stand your ground" law. (The judge will soon make a ruling.)
In both of these cases -- in the deaths of both James and Martin -- the legal defense for the shooters appears to rely almost completely on the "stand your ground" law. In the death of David James, prosecutors are doing their best against tough odds. In the death of Trayvon Martin, it's prosecutors who are taking the heat for failing, thus far, to bring any charges against George Zimmerman.
But this outrage, understandable though it is, might be directed somewhere else as well. The Florida legislators who voted for the "stand your ground" law -- and Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed it -- have something to answer for as well.
Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm's United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
by Greg Smith
Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm -- first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London -- I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world's largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs's success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients' trust for 143 years. It wasn't just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm's culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm's moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career....
More proof that the Republican primaries are in disarray. How can you expect to run a country if you can't even run a caucus?
By Steven Yaccino
ST. PETERS, Mo. - Voters here in St. Charles County did not get a say on Saturday in who will be the next Republican presidential nominee after a disorderly caucus on Saturday caused organizers to adjourn before delegates were selected.
The unrest began as the caucus at Francis Howell North High School was called to order more than a hour late, then delayed again when a member of the crowd refused to put away a video camera, as required by the rules outlined by the local Republican Party.
"People attended the meeting with an agenda," said Eugene Dokes, chairman of the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee. "When that happens, it's really hard to accept the authority of the room."
Members of crowd began shouting, "We make the rules!" among other chants as organizers tried to regain control, which they did briefly. But the shouting quickly escalated when it came time to appoint a chair of the caucus.
The police were called in, and two people were arrested on trespassing charges after being asked to leave when the meeting was then called to an early close.
"The police officers were worried about people's safety and asked us to shut it down," the event coordinator for the caucus, Bryan Spencer, said.
But some supporters of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, who said they previously worked out a deal to nominate someone to chair the caucus, claimed that organizers broke procedural rules and that Mr. Dokes was "railroading the caucus" by closing nominations for the chair too quickly.
St. Charles was supposed to select the most delegates of any single caucus in the state, and turnout was much higher than expected.
Turnout was low when Rick Santorum took this county (and the state) in a traditional primary election on Feb. 7. It was one of three states he won that day, giving his campaign a significant lift. But because of the unusual party and state circumstances, the vote awarded no delegates, many of whom would be chosen at caucuses on Saturday.
Strong support and organization for Ron Paul could have been seen as early as 6 a.m. in St. Charles, when supporters first started lining up outside the school. At one point, the line of people waiting to get in ran past the rows of trophy cases and out into the parking lot. It got so long that caucus officials had to corral voters into a small wrestling room while they waited to be checked in.
More than 900 people finally filtered into the gymnasium bleachers before the meeting finally began. Every seat was taken.
Volunteers for Mr. Paul's campaign were passing out fliers as people entered, instructing them to follow the lead of two "Ron Paul Floor Captains," who sat near the podium and planned to raise a bright yellow folder with hot pink stripes every time they wanted people to vote in a block.
"This has always been the meat and potatoes," said Mike Carter, 40, a supporter of Mr. Paul, about the campaign's focus on electing their delegates at the caucus.
Their general plan: "Go in and run the meeting," Jesse Calison, 30, a Ron Paul supporter, said before the caucus began. "Beat them with the rules."
After the caucus was dismissed early, a number of voters backing other candidates expressed their frustration about being forced to leave before voting. "We came here to do business," said Margy Harris, 68, a supporter of Mr. Santorum, "not this foolishness."
Mr. Dokes, insisting he followed state party procedures, said the county was going to talk with the Missouri Republican Party about a way forward. "It's my highest priority that we get delegates and that the voice of St. Charles County is heard," he said.
A statement released by the Missouri Republican Party said that it plans to reach out to all parties involved in the dispute and "will come to an agreement to ensure that St. Charles County is fully represented throughout the nominating process."
The rules about how exactly those delegates would be selected is still in the process of being written.
The longer I live here in Central Florida, the more astonished I get.
By Cheryl Glassford
Atheists in Polk County symbolically scrubbed away at a major highway leading into the county Saturday.
The were removing a blessing placed there a year ago by a group of religious leaders.
Brooms, mops and water hoses in hand, the atheists gathered at the roadside.
"We come in peace .. now that's normally what aliens say when they visit a new planet, but we're not aliens, we're atheists!" Humanists of Florida director Mark Palmer shouted to the group along Highway 98.
Representatives from various atheist groups in the area scrubbed the road at the Pasco-Polk county line. They were figuratively removing holy oil that had been put on the road last year by a group of area religious leaders. That group was Polk Under Prayer, or PUP.
PUP director Richard Geringswald said his group had been blessing the county line.
"And praying for that entryway in to the city, that God would protect us from evildoers, mainly the drug crowd, that they would be dissuaded to come in to the county," Geringswald said.
But Humanists of Florida members don't see it that way. They say it makes them feel unwelcome.
"It sends a very bad signal to everyone in Polk County, and (anyone) who travels through Polk county who doesn't happen to be Christian," Palmer said, "This event is not about atheist rights; this is about welcoming everybody into Polk county."
So they took their "unholy water" and washed the road.
It's been an ongoing feud between the groups in the county: the atheists are also unhappy with prayer bricks PUP members buried along I-4 and various other roadway leading in to the county, engraved with Psalm 37.
"For the wicked shall be destroyed, but those who trust the Lord shall be given every blessing," Geringswald said, reading the psalm from his Bible.
Geringswald said PUP is trying to do something positive - to keep crime out and encourage faith. He says they also plan to run TV ads later this year that will say they are trying to send a positive message about criminals turning their lives around.
The humanists say they don't plan on stopping their protests any time soon.
I swear there's a rip in time and all these bigots from the past are spilling through to mount some retribution for the civil war, what with the backward legislative attempts of Republican against women health care rights and stupidly bigoted events that keep cropping up. Check this bit of insanity out :
by Madeleine Morgenstern
School officials in Virginia are investigating after a ninth-grader said his English teacher singled him out in class and told him to read a poem "blacker."
Jordan Shumate, who is black, told the Washington Post he was reading aloud the poem "Ballad of the Landlord" by Langston Hughes when his teacher directed him to give a "blacker" delivery.
"She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan -- c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" said Shumate, a student at George C. Marhsall High School in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Va.
Shumate is the only black student in class, D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA-TV reported, and said the fact that he was singled out shows racial insensitivity from the teacher, whom he identified as Marilyn Bart.
He told the Post that when he refused to continue reading the poem, Bart read it aloud herself to demonstrate what she meant. The poem begins: "Landlord, landlord/My roof has sprung a leak./Don't you 'member I told you about it/Way last week?"
"She sounded like a maid in the 1960s," Shumate said. "She read the poem like a slave, basically."
He complained to his mother, he said, after his teacher used him again in a lesson about stereotypes to explain why black people like grape soda and rap music.
"We're in 2012 with the first African American president," Shumate's mother, Nicole Cober Page, told WJLA. "In this era how could such a statement be made, particularly by an English teacher?"
This insensitivity and downright stupidity can lead to lethal consequences as is exampled in the post below. The teacher should be fired and made to make a public apology.
Fat white white guy with a gun who is a self-deputized armed block watcher and follows an unarmed 17 year old black kid who was walking home from the store after purchasing a bag of skittles and winds up shooting the kid in the chest, killing him.
Here's the sad story:
Maddow's interview with Sen Inhofe in two parts reveals how desperate is the need to remove this man and his ill-formed thinking from the lead position he holds as Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
I cannot express how much I admire this talent. It's been a long while since something musical touched me so intimately. I mean there's some incredible stuff out there, but this hits me big time. From Shades of Scarlet to shades of Metropolis. Welcome to the 21st Century.
Monae and Leftfoot
I take your pain away
Some people talk about ya
Like they know all about ya
When you get down they doubt ya
And when you tippin on the scene
Yeah they talkin' bout it
Cause they can't tip all on the scene with ya
Talk about it
T-t-t-talk bout it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
While they jumpin' round ya
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can't allow it
Cause baby whether you're high or low
Whether you're high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope
T-t-t-tip on the tightrope
Whether you're high or low
Baby whether you're high or low
You got to tip on the tightrope
Now let me see you do the tightrope
And I'm still tippin' on it
See I'm not walkin' on it
Or tryin to run around it
This ain't no acrobatics
You either follow or you lead, yeah
I'm talkin' bout you,
I'll keep on blaming the machine, yeah
I'm talkin' bout it,
T-t-t-talkin' bout it
I can't complain about it
I gotta keep my balance
And just keep dancin on it
We gettin funky on the scene
Yeah you know about it
Like a star on the screen
Watch me tip all on it
Then baby whether I'm high or low
Baby whether you're high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope
Yeah, tip on the tightrope
Baby, baby, baby
Whether you're high or low
Baby whether you're high or low
Tip on the tightrope
Baby let me see you tight rope
And I'm still tippin' on it
You gotta keep your balance or you fall into the gap
It's a challenge but I manage cause I'm cautious with the strap
Do damage to your cabbage that a doctor cannot patch
See boy you don't want no friction like the back of a matchbook
Daddy Fat Stacks will fold you and your MacBook
Close shows, shut you down before we gon' go backwards
Act up, and whether we high or low we gonna get back-up
Like the Dow Jones and Nasdaq
Sorta like a thong in an ass crack
I tip on alligators and little rattle snakers
But I'm another flavor
Something like a terminator
Ain't no equivocating
I fight for what I believe
Why you talkin' bout it
S-s-she's talkin' bout it
Some callin me a sinner
Some callin me a winner
I'm callin you to dinner
And you know exactly what I mean
Yeah I'm talkin bout you
You can rock or you can leave
Watch me tip without you
N-N-Now whether I'm high or low
Whether I'm high or low
I'm gonna tip on the tightrope
Baby, baby, baby
Whether I'm high or low
High or low
I got to tip on the tightrope
Now baby tip on the tightrope
You can't get too high
I said you can't get too low
Cause you get too high
No you'll surely be low
1, 2, 3, Ho!
Now shut up, yeah
Yeah, now put some voodoo on it
Ladies and gentlemen the funkiest horn section in Metropolis
Yeah, yeah, yeah, OH!
We call that classy brass
(Do you mind?
If I play the ukulele
Just like a little lady
Do you mind?
If I play the ukulele
Just like a little lady
As I play the ukulele
If I play my ukulele
Just like a little lady)
A big hug to Shawn C for introducing me to the Janelle Monáe/Cindi Mayweather world
By Kari Huus
It may come as no surprise that members of Westboro Baptist Church, an extreme Calvinist sect notorious for its fire-and-brimstone picketing, are planning to protest at the upcoming Reason Rally -- a national gathering of atheists. But at this event, they will also be picketing one of their own, rally organizers said.
In the speaking lineup at the March 24 rally in Washington is Nate Phelps, one of 13 children of Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps. The younger Phelps, who split from the family when he was 18, is a self-described atheist who advocates for gay rights and on behalf of abused children. He charges that his father abused his children in the name of God and uses his church as a vehicle for his rage.
Nate Phelps, 54, lives in Calgary, Canada where he works for the Center for Inquiry, and only in 2010 began to speak out about his family and his beliefs, according to a biography on his web site. He is writing a book on his upbringing and is a board member for the nonprofit organization "Recovering from Religion," which supports people who leave religion despite the pressures of family and culture.
At the rally, Phelps will join a lineup of celebrities in the secular orbit -- author Richard Dawkins, Discovery Channel "Mythbusters" host Adam Savage, comedian Eddie Izzard, the band Bad Religion and others.
"Nate Phelps brings a powerful voice and story to the rally," said Reason Rally organizer David Silverman, who is also president of American Atheists. "He shows us all that if you can come out as an atheist in that family, it's possible anywhere."
One of the sponsors of the Reason Rally, the National Atheist Party, sent a letter inviting Pastor Phelps to the rally, according to organizers.
KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.
As of this post 46,415,176 have watched this video.
Cruel and unusual punishment is what Polk County sheriff's detectives say a boy endured at a home in rural Lakeland.
At the hands of his own grandfather, no less.
The boy was forced to kneel on a hard bathroom floor until his knees were blistered and bleeding.
Albert Cusson, 57 and his, wife, Nancy Cusson, 47, were arrested Thursday on aggravated child abuse charges and taken to the Polk County jail.
Deputies say the couple forced the 13-year-old boy to kneel with his hands behind his back from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. for 10 days straight. He was not allowed to stretch, eat or even use the bathroom.
If he moved. the boy was beaten over the back with a stick. After kneeling all day long he was forced to sleep in the bathtub, detectives said.
Detectives also said Nancy Cusson fed the boy a "protein shake" consisting of vegetables and meat each day - the only food he would get on the days he was punished.
The boy's grandmother, Sandra Cusson, lives next door on Old Dade City Road. She said and has been trying to get authorities to do something about the alleged abuse for a long time. And she wasn't surprised by the arrest.
"All there was was trouble, and he ran away, ran away," she said. "Another time he was disciplined, they put a diaper on him at 13 and made him wear it all day."
The alleged abuse came to light when the boy was told he was going to get the kneeling punishment for 20 days for not doing his home-school work. He endured that punishment for two more days and then ran away to a neighbor's house. That neighbor called police.
Detectives say the boy had injuries consistent with that type of abuse and that a 9-year-old girl who also lived in the home backed up his story. The girl said she, too, had been subjected to the kneeling punishment for days on end.
More proof that there ARE solutions.
Solar power has become the clean energy source du jour for the developing world, and for good reason -- it's relatively inexpensive and many solar panels are robust. But solar panels are often shipped internationally (or at least from distant locations), which makes them less than ideal, especially if a part needs to be fixed or replaced. Better to teach Kenyans to make their own turbines out of scrap metal and car parts.
More than 80 percent of Kenya's population (about 30 million people) lacks access to electricity. The easiest way to get that power to residents is to teach them to make it. So Access:energy -- a division of the Access:collective, which invests in appropriate technologies for East Africa -- is teaching local Kenyan technicians to build the Night Heron wind turbine -- a product that the organization calls the first "commercially viable, zero-import wind turbine."
The turbine generates power at two to three times lower cost than equivalent solar PV panels, can generate enough power for 50 rural homes (about 2.5 kWh per day) and, most importantly, can be built using locally sourced materials. The Night Heron turbines can also be laid out in modular arrays to accommodate growing need.
The uses are virtually endless: allowing people to charge mobile phones from home, giving clinics enough power to keep vaccines cool, providing non-polluting (read: non-kerosene) light for kids who want to study, and providing refrigeration for fishermen.
By teaching locals to build the turbines, Access:energy creates skilled jobs and breeds energy independence at the same time. It's a big mission, but the organization is making progress. Access:energy recently announced that its first customer had put down money for a wind-powered "energy hub" for his house. Another energy hub is being built for a community radio station. And Access:energy has raised more than $15,000 on an IndieGoGo campaign (one perk: a hunky Kenyan mechanic calendar). Check out the campaign here.
Or how you are being turned into a gadget.
How the current economic inequality crisis was engineered.
These women's "health experts" prove their expertise, simply because "they're late middle-aged men who know the most about everything."
Today, the Senate blocked a Republican effort, known as the Blunt amendment, that would have let employers and health insurance providers deny coverage for contraceptives and other services to which they have religious or moral objections. It was defeated in a 51-48 vote.
So for all you women who have been fussing over this debate, quit your worrying, they've got this. Or as an alternative, you can just place aspirin between your legs, whatever that means.
Do you share our outrage at the Virginia General Assembly's legislative assault on women? Join our efforts to recruit and support candidates opposing any elected official who supported the "personhood" or mandatory ultrasound legislation in the 2012 Virginia General Assembly. Your donation will help defeat the members of the Virginia legislature who supported these dreadful bills.
We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents joining together to fight for women.
Our bi-partisan group will work to support and elect candidates who will bring respect for women back to an arena of civil discourse and put a stop to the legislative attacks on women.
Privilege Against Self-Incrimination Applies to Act of Decrypting Data
A federal appeals court has found a Florida man's constitutional rights were violated when he was imprisoned for refusing to decrypt data on several devices. This is the first time an appellate court has ruled the 5th Amendment protects against forced decryption - a major victory for constitutional rights in the digital age.
In this case, titled United States v. Doe, FBI agents seized two laptops and five external hard drives from a man they were investigating but were unable to access encrypted data they believed was stored on the devices via an encryption program called TrueCrypt. When a grand jury ordered the man to produce the unencrypted contents of the drives, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to do so. The court held him in contempt and sent him to jail.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief under seal, arguing that the man had a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and that the government's attempt to force him to decrypt the data was unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the act of decrypting data is testimonial and therefore protected by the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, the government's limited offer of immunity in this case was insufficient to protect his constitutional right, because it did not extend to the government's use of the decrypted data as evidence against him in a prosecution.
"The government's attempt to force this man to decrypt his data put him in the Catch-22 the 5th Amendment was designed to prevent - having to choose between self-incrimination or risking contempt of court," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "We're pleased the appeals court recognized the important constitutional issues at stake here, and we hope this ruling will discourage the government from using abusive grand jury subpoenas to try to expose data people choose to protect with encryption. "
A similar court battle is ongoing in Colorado, where a woman named Ramona Fricosu has been ordered by the court to decrypt the contents of a laptop seized in an investigation into fraudulent real estate transactions. EFF also filed a friend of the court brief in that case, arguing that Fricosu was being forced to become a witness against herself. An appeals court recently rejected her appeal, and she has been ordered to decrypt the information this month.
"As we move into an increasingly digital world, we're seeing more and more questions about how our constitutional rights play out with regards to the technology we use every day," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "This is a case where the appeals court got it right - protecting the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination."
John Doe was represented by Chet Kaufman of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Tallahassee.
For the full court ruling:
A clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder is a powerful symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism. In this enthralling talk Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, traces 2600 years of Middle Eastern history through this single object.