May 2012 Archives

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional



Appeals court: Denying federal benefits to same-sex couples is unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denies a host of federal benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the act known as DoMA, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.

The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington's laws are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.

The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.

The 1st Circuit said its ruling wouldn't be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, meaning that same-sex married couples will not be eligible to receive the economic benefits denied by DOMA until the high court rules.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Boston-based legal group that brought one of the lawsuits on behalf of gay married couples, said the court agreed with the couples that it is unconstitutional because it takes one group of legally married people and treats them as "a different class" by making them ineligible for benefits given to other married couples.

"We've been working on this issue for so many years, and for the court to acknowledge that yes, same-sex couples are legally married, just as any other couple, is fantastic and extraordinary," said Lee Swislow, GLAD's executive director.

"We are thrilled that another court -- this time, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals -- has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny respect to the marriages of lesbian and gay couples," said Camilla Taylor, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. "We congratulate our colleagues at GLAD for achieving this wonderful victory."

Time to Don Your Schrödinger Hat


...and wave bye bye.

Scientists show how to create 'invisibility cloak' for waves

Device could be used as quantum microscope; prototype yet to be built


Mathematicians have determined how to create an invisibility cloak that works for anything that acts like a wave, such as light, sound and particles. The cloak makes the waves inside it impossible to detect from the outside.

Inside the cloak, the waves can either be amplified or shrunk so they're hidden. "You can isolate and magnify what you want to see and make the rest invisible," said Gunther Uhlmann, a mathematician from the University of Washington who led the study.

Uhlmann and his colleagues call this unusual state a Schrödinger hat, partly to commemorate the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, which applies the uncertainty in quantum physics rules to a cat to show how strange quantum physics rules sound when they're applied to a bigger, more everyday example.

The name also refers to how magical the cloak's effects appear to be. "It looks like a particle is being created. It's like pulling something out of your hat," Uhlmann said. In addition, the hat state is expected to work for any waves described by one of two equations, named after Schrödinger and Hermann von Helmholtz, a 19th-century physicist.

A Schrödinger hat could be used to make a microscope that detects the quantum waves of matter, the researchers wrote in their paper, which was published in Monday's early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Such a device would help engineers monitor electronic processes on computer chips.

Though the mathematicians haven't built a Schrödinger hat device yet, it should be easy to do for sound waves, which are long in comparison to light waves and electromagnetic waves, Uhlmann said. The team is looking for collaborators to help them build a prototype device.

"We hope that it's feasible, but in science, you don't know until you do it," he said.

Ah, Christian Love


More over North Carolina pastors. The blogosphere is abuzz over a disturbing new YouTube video of a little boy in Indiana, who seriously can't be over the age of five, singing an anti-gay song to roars of applause by his congregation.

A sampling of the hate-filled lyrics: "The Bible is right, somebody's wrong. Romans 1 and 27, ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven."

The congregation jumped to their feet for a standing ovation and you can hear a proud man shout in the background, "That's my boy!" It's upsetting on many levels.

The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, where this incident reportedly took place, today issued a statement on their website.

"5/30/12 -- The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives. We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture."

As usual, what these people are finding in scripture is divinely inspired bigotry. Kids aren't born hating anything, they have to be taught it.

First Horrors of Citizens United


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Corn Bread Mafia


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What the...


Miami police shoot naked man chewing on victim's face

A Miami police officer fatally shot a naked man chewing the face of another man Saturday afternoon on a downtown causeway off-ramp, officials said.

The Miami Herald reported that the naked man chewed off half the face of his victim, who is struggling for his life.

The violence started at 2 p.m. on the MacArthur Causeway off-ramp, just south of the Herald's offices, the newspaper said.

Witnesses said that a woman saw two men fighting and flagged down a police officer, who came upon the naked man mauling the other man, the Herald reported.

The officer, who was not identified, ordered the naked man to back away, but when the man continued the assault, the officer shot him, the Herald said. Witnesses told the Herald the wounded attacker continued to eat his victim, so the officer continued firing.

Witnesses said they heard at least a half-dozen shots, the Herald said.

The naked man was later seen lying face down on the pedestrian walkway just below the newspaper's two-story parking garage, the Herald said.

The naked man's victim was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center and had critical injuries, police told the Herald.

Neither man was identified.

"Based on the information provided, our Miami police officer is a hero and saved a life,'' Javier Ortiz, spokesman for Miami police's Fraternal Order of Police, told the Herald.

A police department news release about the shooting did not include many details provided by witnesses to the newspaper.

Police requested the newspaper's video surveillance video, the Herald reported.

The shooting and investigation tied up causeway traffic as crowds were arriving at South Beach for an annual Urban Beach Week hip-hop festival.

Bugs that need crushing


NC pastor calls for concentration camps for gays

Pastor Charles Worley, head of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina, has a plan to "get rid of all the lesbians and queers."

"Build a great big large fence... put all the lesbians in there... Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out..."

"...And you know what, in a few years, they'll die out... Do you know why? They can't reproduce."

Crush the bug

Volkswagen Levitating Car


The Volkswagen Hover Concept Car is a pod-like zero-emissions vehicle that uses electromagnetic road networks to float above the road.

Nice vision.

a hat tip to peter rogers

Solar Powered Flight


Just too damned cool.


click either pic to enlarge


An experimental solar-powered airplane took off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight Thursday, aiming to reach North Africa next week.

Pilot Andre Borschberg planned to take the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane on its first leg to Madrid, Spain, by Friday. His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the aircraft for the second stretch of its 1,554-mile journey to the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Fog on the runaway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather.

"We can't fly into clouds because it was not designed for that," Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 207-foot wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 43.5 miles an hour.

Before landing in Madrid in the early hours of Friday, Borschberg will face other challenges, including having to overfly the Pyrenees mountains that separate France and Spain.

Just in case things go disastrously wrong, Borschberg has a parachute inside his tiny cabin that he hopes never to use. "When you take an umbrella it never rains," he joked in a satellite call with The Associated Press.

Religion and Birth Rates


Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others -- and how does this affect global population growth?

Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions. With his trademark humor and sharp insight, Hans reaches a surprising and brilliant conclusion on world fertility rates and how we can deal with run-away population growth.

J Street


Making sense of the two state solution. I love it.

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God Loves Fish


As do I.


Idiocracy_movie_poster2.jpgI see Idiocracy as a portent and Mike Judge as its prophet.

Analysis: Congress Talks Like a Bunch of Teens

The ongoing bickering between congressional Democrats and Republicans can be described as sophomoric, no surprise perhaps given a recent analysis that found the average elected representative in Washington, D.C., speaks at a 10th-grade level, almost a full grade lower than seven years ago. To get to that conclusion, the Sunlight Foundation dissected floor speeches. --TEB

Sunlight Foundation:

Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications. And lawmakers of both parties still speak above the heads of the average American, who reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level.

Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level.

speech.overtime.pngclick chart to enlarge

Annular Eclipse


A multiple-exposure photo captures the moon's movement across the disk of the sun on Aug. 11, 1999, as seen from the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. This was the last total solar eclipse of the 20th century.


This event held special significance for American skywatchers: It marked the first time in 18 years that an annular solar eclipse could be seen from the United States. Such eclipses occur when the moon is too far away in its elliptical orbit to cover the sun's disk completely, as seen from Earth. As a result, a little ring of the sun remains visible around the moon's dark disk, even at the height of the eclipse. (The term "annular" comes from "annulus," a Latin word meaning "little ring.")

A More Social Market?


A Choice of Capitalisms


By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

In this election, we're not having an argument that pits capitalism against socialism. We are trying to decide what kind of capitalism we want. It is a debate as American as Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay--which is to say that we have always done this. In light of the rise of inequality and the financial mess we just went through, it's a discussion we very much need to have now.

The back-and-forth about Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's old company, is part of something larger. So is the inquest into the implications of multibillion-dollar trading losses at JPMorgan Chase. Capitalism can produce wonders. It is also capable of self-destruction, and it can leave a lot of wounded people behind. The trick is to get the most out of what capitalism does well, while containing or preventing the problems it can cause.

To describe this grand debate is not to deny that President Obama's campaign has some, shall we say, narrower motives in going after Bain. Obama's lieutenants need to undermine Romney's claim that his experience in the private equity business makes him just the guy to get our economy back on track.

The Bain conversation has already been instructive. Romney's friends no less than his foes have had to face the fact that Bain's purpose was never about job creation. Its goal was to generate large returns to Bain's partners and investors. It did that, which is why Romney is rich.

Romney wants to focus on the positive side of his business dealings that did create jobs. He wants to brag about the companies Bain helped bring to life, among them Staples, Sports Authority and Domino's.

That's fair enough. But having made an issue of Bain on the plus side, he also has to answer for the pain and suffering--or, as defenders of capitalism like to call it, the "creative destruction"--that some of Bain's deals left in their wake.

This leads naturally to the question of how creative the destruction wrought by our current brand of capitalism actually is. Since the dawn of the leveraged buyout era three decades ago, many friends of capitalism have questioned whether loading companies with debt as part of these deals is good for companies and for the economy as a whole.

Does this approach cause unnecessary suffering among the employees of the companies in question and the communities that often lose plants and jobs as a result? Sucking pension and health funds dry to aggrandize investors seems less like a creative act than a betrayal of workers who made bargains with their employers in good faith.

More generally, while some of the innovations in the financial sphere have been beneficial to growth, it's far from clear that this is true of all or even most of them. Some of them helped cause the downturn we are still trying to escape and created incentives for the dangerous risk-taking that led to JPMorgan's troubles. And there's little doubt that our new financial system has transferred wealth from other sectors of the economy to the people at the top of the financial business.

Vice President Joe Biden's speech last week in Youngstown, Ohio, drew wide attention for its criticism of Romney as someone who just doesn't "get it." But when Biden moved beyond Romney, he offered an energetic broadside against the new world of finance, and he picked the right venue to make his case: a noble blue-collar town that has been battered by the winds of globalization and economic change.

"You know the difference between having an economy that makes things that the rest of the world wants, and having an economy that is based on financialization of every product," Biden told his listeners. "You know the difference between an economy ... that's built on making things rather than on collateralized debt, creative credit-default swaps, financial instruments like subprime mortgages. That's not how you build an economy."

Romney, by contrast, is wary of dismantling any of these nifty new Wall Street inventions, one reason why he wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.

We need to have this great national argument. To borrow a term pioneered by Germany's Christian Democrats, we can try to build a social market. Or we can have an anti-social market. An election is the right venue for deciding which it will be

Apocalypse Fairly Soon

By Paul Krugman

Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro -- that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union without political union -- could come apart at the seams. We're not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs -- both economic and, arguably even more important, political -- could be huge.

This doesn't have to happen; the euro (or at least most of it) could still be saved. But this will require that European leaders, especially in Germany and at the European Central Bank, start acting very differently from the way they've acted these past few years. They need to stop moralizing and deal with reality; they need to stop temporizing and, for once, get ahead of the curve.

I wish I could say that I was optimistic.

The story so far: When the euro came into existence, there was a great wave of optimism in Europe -- and that, it turned out, was the worst thing that could have happened. Money poured into Spain and other nations, which were now seen as safe investments; this flood of capital fueled huge housing bubbles and huge trade deficits. Then, with the financial crisis of 2008, the flood dried up, causing severe slumps in the very nations that had boomed before.

At that point, Europe's lack of political union became a severe liability. Florida and Spain both had housing bubbles, but when Florida's bubble burst, retirees could still count on getting their Social Security and Medicare checks from Washington. Spain receives no comparable support. So the burst bubble turned into a fiscal crisis, too.

Europe's answer has been austerity: savage spending cuts in an attempt to reassure bond markets. Yet as any sensible economist could have told you (and we did, we did), these cuts deepened the depression in Europe's troubled economies, which both further undermined investor confidence and led to growing political instability.

And now comes the moment of truth.

Greece is, for the moment, the focal point. Voters who are understandably angry at policies that have produced 22 percent unemployment -- more than 50 percent among the young -- turned on the parties enforcing those policies. And because the entire Greek political establishment was, in effect, bullied into endorsing a doomed economic orthodoxy, the result of voter revulsion has been rising power for extremists. Even if the polls are wrong and the governing coalition somehow ekes out a majority in the next round of voting, this game is basically up: Greece won't, can't pursue the policies that Germany and the European Central Bank are demanding.

So now what? Right now, Greece is experiencing what's being called a "bank jog" -- a somewhat slow-motion bank run, as more and more depositors pull out their cash in anticipation of a possible Greek exit from the euro. Europe's central bank is, in effect, financing this bank run by lending Greece the necessary euros; if and (probably) when the central bank decides it can lend no more, Greece will be forced to abandon the euro and issue its own currency again.

This demonstration that the euro is, in fact, reversible would lead, in turn, to runs on Spanish and Italian banks. Once again the European Central Bank would have to choose whether to provide open-ended financing; if it were to say no, the euro as a whole would blow up.

Yet financing isn't enough. Italy and, in particular, Spain must be offered hope -- an economic environment in which they have some reasonable prospect of emerging from austerity and depression. Realistically, the only way to provide such an environment would be for the central bank to drop its obsession with price stability, to accept and indeed encourage several years of 3 percent or 4 percent inflation in Europe (and more than that in Germany).

Both the central bankers and the Germans hate this idea, but it's the only plausible way the euro might be saved. For the past two-and-a-half years, European leaders have responded to crisis with half-measures that buy time, yet they have made no use of that time. Now time has run out.

So will Europe finally rise to the occasion? Let's hope so -- and not just because a euro breakup would have negative ripple effects throughout the world. For the biggest costs of European policy failure would probably be political.

Think of it this way: Failure of the euro would amount to a huge defeat for the broader European project, the attempt to bring peace, prosperity and democracy to a continent with a terrible history. It would also have much the same effect that the failure of austerity is having in Greece, discrediting the political mainstream and empowering extremists.

All of us, then, have a big stake in European success -- yet it's up to the Europeans themselves to deliver that success. The whole world is waiting to see whether they're up to the task.

Ideas Worth Suppressing?


from Lawrence O'Donnell:

"Mitt Romney is running on his record as a really rich guy who created lots and lots and lots of jobs. How many? That depends on when you ask, but for the sake of sanity let's just say he claims lots.

But back in March at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference in Long Beach, California attendees heard something wonktastically different. Nick Hanauer, one of the founding investors of Amazon gave an eyebrow-raising talk that casts quite a bit of doubt on Mitt Romney's biggest campaign asset -- that the rich are super-awesome at creating jobs.

TED, the sleek pioneering giant of the online video salon, boasts the tagline: "Ideas worth spreading." But the group declined to post the talk because they felt it was too political, favoring one political party."

My comment on an article at Truthdig about this was:

That's a weak excuse being given for not presenting the speech. That's like saying that talks on climate change should not be given because one party agrees with the scientific research while the other does not.

If TED wants to take a non-political stance that's fine, but let's not pretend that political stances that happen to conform to reality are non-existent.

All TED has to do is preface the talk with a disclaimer that the views being expressed are not necessarily those of the organization.

Why does TED think it makes sense to limit ideas worth spreading to categories that are apolitical? Politics is very much a major component of human societal ideation and deserves expression as much as any other, in my opinion.

TED finally relented about releasing the video. Here it is:

Birth of a Wigger



I Want Government in My Vagina


Sic 'em, Rachel!


re: More proof of the insane conservative War on Women.
What the hell is wrong with these men?

No matter the context, what do you think of this situation?


See Romney Pander


What a Freaking Joke


Part 1

Part 2

Colonized by Corporations

By Chris Hedges

leaderoftherevolution.jpgIn Robert E. Gamer's book "The Developing Nations" is a chapter called "Why Men Do Not Revolt." In it Gamer notes that although the oppressed often do revolt, the object of their hostility is misplaced. They vent their fury on a political puppet, someone who masks colonial power, a despised racial or ethnic group or an apostate within their own political class. The useless battles serve as an effective mask for what Gamer calls the "patron-client" networks that are responsible for the continuity of colonial oppression. The squabbles among the oppressed, the political campaigns between candidates who each are servants of colonial power, Gamer writes, absolve the actual centers of power from addressing the conditions that cause the frustrations of the people. Inequities, political disenfranchisement and injustices are never seriously addressed. "The government merely does the minimum necessary to prevent those few who are prone toward political action from organizing into politically effective groups," he writes.

Gamer and many others who study the nature of colonial rule offer the best insights into the functioning of our corporate state. We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called "the wretched of the earth," including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability--keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits--ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.

A change of power does not require the election of a Mitt Romney or a Barack Obama or a Democratic majority in Congress, or an attempt to reform the system or electing progressive candidates, but rather a destruction of corporate domination of the political process--Gamer's "patron-client" networks. It requires the establishment of new mechanisms of governance to distribute wealth and protect resources, to curtail corporate power, to cope with the destruction of the ecosystem and to foster the common good. But we must first recognize ourselves as colonial subjects. We must accept that we have no effective voice in the way we are governed. We must accept the hollowness of electoral politics, the futility of our political theater, and we must destroy the corporate structure itself.

The danger the corporate state faces does not come from the poor. The poor, those Karl Marx dismissed as the Lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and often become cannon fodder. The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.

This is why the Occupy movement frightens the corporate elite. What fosters revolution is not misery, but the gap between what people expect from their lives and what is offered. This is especially acute among the educated and the talented. They feel, with much justification, that they have been denied what they deserve. They set out to rectify this injustice. And the longer the injustice festers, the more radical they become.

Cheese, dogs, and pills to end malaria


This is incredibly brilliant.

We can use a mosquito's own instincts against her. At TEDxMaastricht speaker Bart Knols demos the imaginative solutions his team is developing to fight malaria -- including limburger cheese and a deadly pill.

Bart Knowles is a doctor committed to killing mosquitoes and ending malaria.

We Are the Sum of Our Memories


Feats of memory anyone can do

There are people who can quickly memorize lists of thousands of numbers, the order of all the cards in a deck (or ten!), and much more. Science writer Joshua Foer describes the technique -- called the memory palace -- and shows off its most remarkable feature: anyone can learn how to use it, including him.

Sign of the Fish



The Alpha Gene Run Amuck


In animals that rely on social groupings for survival an essential role is played by the gene that produces the top dog alpha males and females and serves to manage the behavior of the group by way of hierarchical aggression and a decided lack of empathy for the non-alphas. However, when this gene gets expressed in too many members of the community, social order breaks down; the violence becomes constant and counter productive. In human societies the alpha effect often is characterized as psychopathic.


By William Deresiewicz

There is an ongoing debate in this country about the rich: who they are, what their social role may be, whether they are good or bad. Well, consider the following. A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are "clinical psychopaths," exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an "unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation." (The proportion at large is 1 percent.) Another study concluded that the rich are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law.

The only thing that puzzles me about these claims is that anyone would find them surprising. Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news. The English writer Bernard Mandeville asserted nearly as much three centuries ago in a satirical-poem-cum-philosophical-treatise called "The Fable of the Bees."

"Private Vices, Publick Benefits" read the book's subtitle. A Machiavelli of the economic realm -- a man who showed us as we are, not as we like to think we are -- Mandeville argued that commercial society creates prosperity by harnessing our natural impulses: fraud, luxury and pride. By "pride" Mandeville meant vanity; by "luxury" he meant the desire for sensuous indulgence. These create demand, as every ad man knows. On the supply side, as we'd say, was fraud: "All Trades and Places knew some Cheat, / No Calling was without Deceit."

In other words, Enron, BP, Goldman, Philip Morris, G.E., Merck, etc., etc. Accounting fraud, tax evasion, toxic dumping, product safety violations, bid rigging, overbilling, perjury. The Walmart bribery scandal, the News Corp. hacking scandal -- just open up the business section on an average day. Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren't anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught.

I always found the notion of a business school amusing. What kinds of courses do they offer? Robbing Widows and Orphans? Grinding the Faces of the Poor? Having It Both Ways? Feeding at the Public Trough? There was a documentary several years ago called "The Corporation" that accepted the premise that corporations are persons and then asked what kind of people they are. The answer was, precisely, psychopaths: indifferent to others, incapable of guilt, exclusively devoted to their own interests.

There are ethical corporations, yes, and ethical businesspeople, but ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic. To expect morality in the market is to commit a category error. Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it's every man for himself.

There's been a lot of talk lately about "job creators," a phrase begotten by Frank Luntz, the right-wing propaganda guru, on the ghost of Ayn Rand. The rich deserve our gratitude as well as everything they have, in other words, and all the rest is envy.

First of all, if entrepreneurs are job creators, workers are wealth creators. Entrepreneurs use wealth to create jobs for workers. Workers use labor to create wealth for entrepreneurs -- the excess productivity, over and above wages and other compensation, that goes to corporate profits. It's neither party's goal to benefit the other, but that's what happens nonetheless.

Also, entrepreneurs and the rich are different and only partly overlapping categories. Most of the rich are not entrepreneurs; they are executives of established corporations, institutional managers of other kinds, the wealthiest doctors and lawyers, the most successful entertainers and athletes, people who simply inherited their money or, yes, people who work on Wall Street.

MOST important, neither entrepreneurs nor the rich have a monopoly on brains, sweat or risk. There are scientists -- and artists and scholars -- who are just as smart as any entrepreneur, only they are interested in different rewards. A single mother holding down a job and putting herself through community college works just as hard as any hedge fund manager. A person who takes out a mortgage -- or a student loan, or who conceives a child -- on the strength of a job she knows she could lose at any moment (thanks, perhaps, to one of those job creators) assumes as much risk as someone who starts a business.

Enormous matters of policy depend on these perceptions: what we're going to tax, and how much; what we're going to spend, and on whom. But while "job creators" may be a new term, the adulation it expresses -- and the contempt that it so clearly signals -- are not. "Poor Americans are urged to hate themselves," Kurt Vonnegut wrote in "Slaughterhouse-Five." And so, "they mock themselves and glorify their betters." Our most destructive lie, he added, "is that it is very easy for any American to make money." The lie goes on. The poor are lazy, stupid and evil. The rich are brilliant, courageous and good. They shower their beneficence upon the rest of us.

Mandeville believed the individual pursuit of self-interest could redound to public benefit, but unlike Adam Smith, he didn't think it did so on its own. Smith's "hand" was "invisible" -- the automatic operation of the market. Mandeville's involved "the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician" -- in modern terms, legislation, regulation and taxation. Or as he versified it, "Vice is beneficial found, / When it's by Justice lopt, and bound."

Prom Night Dumpster Baby


Possibly one of the finest works of art ever.

Telling the Truth


The first half of the video is what's really important.

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Selling Michigan to the Lowest Bidder


Time for civil disobedience to reclaim democratic control of Michigan. It's incredible how Republican fascists are privatizing the entire state to their own private benefit.

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Re:The Latest JP Morgan Bust


A lot of info here:

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FBI Takes and Returns Group's Server


The smart move was not to put the server back in service after the FBI returned it.

The FBI took -- and mysteriously replaced -- their server.

Here's their story:


By Bob Sullivan

Ever wonder what it's like to have FBI agents knock on your door? Or to have them walk into your business unannounced and walk away with your computer? Jamie McClelland and Alfredo Lopez can tell you.

Their recent run-in with the men in black - the result of a spate of email bomb threats to the University of Pittsburgh -- offers a rare glimpse into the collision between free speech rights and the benefits of anonymity on one side with the needs of law enforcement to act quickly in the face of real threats on the other.

Their tale ends with an odd twist: FBI agents, caught on video, returning the server only four days after it was seized from a co-location facility in New York City. At the moment, no one knows why the FBI would take that unusual step. FBI Special Agent Bill Crowley said the agency wouldn't comment on either the seizure or the return of the server.

Federal investigators and local officials in Pittsburgh were scrambling last month as bomb threats targeting the University of Pittsburgh piled up. Within days, 46 such threats were logged, causing massive disruption as students and teachers were continually evacuated from building after building. Parents and school officials pressured law enforcement to solve the case. For some reason, the FBI thought a server in a small facility in New York City might contain a crucial clue.
McClelland and Lopez run a progressive Internet organization called MayFirst/PeopleLink, which helps democracy-seeking groups around the world use the Web to organize. Together with sister organization RiseUp, MayFirst/PeopleLink offers email services, mailing list support and other Web tools. But their services make a promise that's critical to people fighting oppressive regimes: All data is encrypted, guaranteeing total anonymity to those who need it.

McClelland was on a conference call in MayFirst/PeopleLink's Brooklyn office -- which is in the same building where Lopez and his wife live -- on April 11 when he saw two men in suits standing at the door.

"I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses, but I joked with people on the call that it was the FBI," he said. Moments later, it was no joke.

The agents flashed their badges and asked if they could come in; McClelland refused. They asked if they could step into the vestibule. He refused again.

"I had had some rudimentary training," he said. "It certainly had occurred to us that we might some day get a visit from the FBI given the nature of what we do. But this wasn't what I expected. I was surprised at how easy it was to say 'no' to them...There was no intimidation, none of that. The agent appeared more nervous than me, and I was pretty nervous."

Standing outside, the agents then showed printouts of a few emails with full headers to him, saying they were related to the Pittsburgh bomb threats. At that point, McClelland hadn't heard about the threats, so he said he didn't know anything about them. They asked if he knew anything about, a server which appeared in the e-mail headers. Again, he said "no," truthfully.

"I asked if I could have copies of the emails. The agents said "no." But I then asked if I could get pen and paper and write down details of what we were looking at. They let me do that," McClelland said. "I then asked them if they thought our server was compromised. But they couldn't tell me anything. So I asked for their business card and told them we would research it."

The agents left, but McClelland's day had only just begun. What was Why did the agents show up unannounced? And most important, what would happen next? He was sure that wasn't the end of it.

"When you are visited by the FBI, even when it goes relatively easy like it did, your entire life gets put on hold as you deal with all the implications," he said. McClelland called Lopez and other leadership team members, and then called the Electronic Frontier Foundation for legal help.

"There were three hours of calls to run through things and make sure we had everything covered," he said.

Initially, Lopez and McClelland assumed that one of their members had been hacked, and the account used for illegal purposes. Simply patching whatever security hole existed could end the problem. But a visit to indicated there was a much more complex issue.

ECN stands for the European Counter Network, an independent Internet service provider in Europe. It shares much the same mission as MayFirst/PeopleLink. On, the provider offers anonymous email services through a service called "Mixmaster." Using Mixmaster, email users can achieve nearly undefeatable anonymity -- multiple servers pass messages from one to the other, each time stripping out header information and replacing it with false data, making it nearly impossible for investigators to "trace" the message to the original sender.

ECN had subcontracted space on RiseUp's New York City server; RiseUp had in turn subcontracted that space from MayFirst/PeopleLink. It now appeared that the FBI believed someone connected to the Pittsburgh bomb threats had used ECN's anonymous email capabilities, which led to FBI agents knocking on the door at Alfredo Lopez's home office.

"If you had asked me before this happened if one of our members ran an anonymous remailer, I would have said, 'probably,' " said McClelland. "That's exactly the kind of thing we want to support and we want to protect."

When correctly configured, anonymous remailers leave no trace at all. There are no log files to check, no other server "fingerprints." After making sure the server was running properly, McClelland called the FBI agent on the business card and told him all he knew about ECN, which essentially was nothing.

"We told him we suspected there was an anonymous remailer, there's nothing else we can tell you," he said. "We decided that was our best strategy ... to minimize disruption to our members. We didn't want to risk going to the next level of escalation."

The strategy failed.

Once a Bully


Another reason to dislike Romney's character.

Maddow: Watching the Watchers


Decoupling Breasts from Sex

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Americans just can't handle blurred lines.
Many will see the photo below as perverse.

I do not.


HIV Vaccine?


FDA review favors first drug for HIV prevention

By Matthew Perrone

truvada.jpgA pill that has long been used to treat HIV has moved one step closer to becoming the first drug approved to prevent healthy people from becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that Gilead Sciences' Truvada appears to be safe and effective for HIV prevention. It concluded that taking the pill daily could spare patients "infection with a serious and life-threatening illness that requires lifelong treatment."

On Thursday a panel of FDA advisers will consider the review when it votes on whether Truvada should be approved as a preventative treatment for people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse. The FDA is not required to follow the advice of its panels, but it usually does.

An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which attacks the immune system and, unless treated with antiviral drugs, develops into AIDS, a fatal condition in which the body cannot fight off infections. If Truvada is approved, it would be a major breakthrough in the 30-year campaign against the AIDS epidemic. There have been no other drugs proven to prevent HIV and a vaccine is believed to be decades away.

Gilead Sciences Inc., based in Foster City, Calif., has marketed Truvada since 2004 as a treatment for people who are infected with the virus. The medication is a combination of two older HIV drugs, Emtriva and Viread. Doctors usually prescribe the medications as part of a drug cocktail that makes it harder for the virus to reproduce. Patients with low viral levels have reduced symptoms and are far less likely to develop AIDS.

The Real Story on Taxes


Ask the Right Questions


North Carolina is about to vote on an amendment to the state consitution permanently and forever barring same sex marriage.

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Proof that Austerity Sucks


There's just not enough pain ever for the likes of Paul Ryan.

Ever notice how the people who clamor for austerity are the wealthy who never have to suffer it themselves?

Francois Hollande, the newly minted French President wants to challenge the austerity movement and could bring changes to the European economic climate,

Those Revolting Europeans

By Paul Krugman

The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it's about time.

Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. It's far from clear how soon the votes will lead to changes in actual policy, but time is clearly running out for the strategy of recovery through austerity -- and that's a good thing.

Needless to say, that's not what you heard from the usual suspects in the run-up to the elections. It was actually kind of funny to see the apostles of orthodoxy trying to portray the cautious, mild-mannered François Hollande as a figure of menace. He is "rather dangerous," declared The Economist, which observed that he "genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society." Quelle horreur!

What is true is that Mr. Hollande's victory means the end of "Merkozy," the Franco-German axis that has enforced the austerity regime of the past two years. This would be a "dangerous" development if that strategy were working, or even had a reasonable chance of working. But it isn't and doesn't; it's time to move on. Europe's voters, it turns out, are wiser than the Continent's best and brightest.

What's wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe's ills? One answer is that the confidence fairy doesn't exist -- that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper.

Moreover, there seems to be little if any gain in return for the pain. Consider the case of Ireland, which has been a good soldier in this crisis, imposing ever-harsher austerity in an attempt to win back the favor of the bond markets. According to the prevailing orthodoxy, this should work. In fact, the will to believe is so strong that members of Europe's policy elite keep proclaiming that Irish austerity has indeed worked, that the Irish economy has begun to recover.

But it hasn't. And although you'd never know it from much of the press coverage, Irish borrowing costs remain much higher than those of Spain or Italy, let alone Germany. So what are the alternatives?

One answer -- an answer that makes more sense than almost anyone in Europe is willing to admit -- would be to break up the euro, Europe's common currency. Europe wouldn't be in this fix if Greece still had its drachma, Spain its peseta, Ireland its punt, and so on, because Greece and Spain would have what they now lack: a quick way to restore cost-competitiveness and boost exports, namely devaluation.

As a counterpoint to Ireland's sad story, consider the case of Iceland, which was ground zero for the financial crisis but was able to respond by devaluing its currency, the krona (and also had the courage to let its banks fail and default on their debts). Sure enough, Iceland is experiencing the recovery Ireland was supposed to have, but hasn't.

Yet breaking up the euro would be highly disruptive, and would also represent a huge defeat for the "European project," the long-run effort to promote peace and democracy through closer integration. Is there another way? Yes, there is -- and the Germans have shown how that way can work. Unfortunately, they don't understand the lessons of their own experience.

Talk to German opinion leaders about the euro crisis, and they like to point out that their own economy was in the doldrums in the early years of the last decade but managed to recover. What they don't like to acknowledge is that this recovery was driven by the emergence of a huge German trade surplus vis-à-vis other European countries -- in particular, vis-à-vis the nations now in crisis -- which were booming, and experiencing above-normal inflation, thanks to low interest rates. Europe's crisis countries might be able to emulate Germany's success if they faced a comparably favorable environment -- that is, if this time it was the rest of Europe, especially Germany, that was experiencing a bit of an inflationary boom.

So Germany's experience isn't, as the Germans imagine, an argument for unilateral austerity in Southern Europe; it's an argument for much more expansionary policies elsewhere, and in particular for the European Central Bank to drop its obsession with inflation and focus on growth.

The Germans, needless to say, don't like this conclusion, nor does the leadership of the central bank. They will cling to their fantasies of prosperity through pain, and will insist that continuing with their failed strategy is the only responsible thing to do. But it seems that they will no longer have unquestioning support from the Élysée Palace. And that, believe it or not, means that both the euro and the European project now have a better chance of surviving than they did a few days ago.

"...nearly branded communist
'cos I'm left handed,
but that's the hand to use
well, never mind..."

- paul simon

A great conversation from the Chris Hayes "Up" show on the science of ideology.

Relevant essay from GREANVILLE

This essay is adapted from Chris Mooney's forthcoming book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality, due out in April from Wiley.

I can still remember when I first realized how naïve I was in thinking--hoping--that laying out the "facts" would suffice to change politicized minds, and especially Republican ones. It was a typically wonkish, liberal revelation: One based on statistics and data. Only this time, the data were showing, rather awkwardly, that people ignore data and evidence--and often, knowledge and education only make the problem worse.

Someone had sent me a 2008 Pew report documenting the intense partisan divide in the U.S. over the reality of global warming.. It's a divide that, maddeningly for scientists, has shown a paradoxical tendency to widen even as the basic facts about global warming have become more firmly established.

Those facts are these: Humans, since the industrial revolution, have been burning more and more fossil fuels to power their societies, and this has led to a steady accumulation of greenhouse gases, and especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. At this point, very simple physics takes over, and you are pretty much doomed, by what scientists refer to as the "radiative" properties of carbon dioxide molecules (which trap infrared heat radiation that would otherwise escape to space), to have a warming planet. Since about 1995, scientists have not only confirmed that this warming is taking place, but have also grown confident that it has, like the gun in a murder mystery, our fingerprint on it. Natural fluctuations, although they exist, can't explain what we're seeing. The only reasonable verdict is that humans did it, in the atmosphere, with their cars and their smokestacks.

Such is what is known to science-what is true (no matter what Rick Santorum might say). But the Pew data showed that humans aren't as predictable as carbon dioxide molecules. Despite a growing scientific consensus about global warming, as of 2008 Democrats and Republicans had cleaved over the facts stated above, like a divorcing couple. One side bought into them, one side didn't--and if anything, knowledge and intelligence seemed to be worsening matters.

Buried in the Pew report was a little chart showing the relationship between one's political party affiliation, one's acceptance that humans are causing global warming, and one's level of education. And here's the mind-blowing surprise: For Republicans, having a college degree didn't appear to make one any more open to what scientists have to say. On the contrary, better-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated brethren. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans.

For Democrats and Independents, the opposite was the case. More education correlated with being more accepting of climate science--among Democrats, dramatically so. The difference in acceptance between more and less educated Democrats was 23 percentage points.

This was my first encounter with what I now like to call the "smart idiots" effect: The fact that politically sophisticated or knowledgeable people are often more biased, and less persuadable, than the ignorant. It's a reality that generates endless frustration for many scientists--and indeed, for many well-educated, reasonable people.
And most of all, for many liberals.

By Chiderah Monde

As a player in the powerful and completely transparent world of Super PACs, "The Colbert Report's" host Steven Colbert prides himself on having the greatest possible influence in the 2012 presidential election -- though he's not going to share any details, so stop asking, world. But now Colbert's prominent lead in the PAC race is being challenged by a mysterious, elusive Florida figure.

Who is Mr. Josue Larose? A pretender, said Colbert.

For "years," as he put it, Colbert sat atop the throne of PAC democracy, but now he can't really compete with the elusive Mr. Larose's hold over the playing field. Larose simply has more money, and is apparently responsible for one of every four Super PACs out there -- 400! He's also run for public office multiple times, on multiple tickets simultaneously, including for the U.S. presidency.

Colbert would not be outshone or avoided, though, and Thursday night he went in search of the man he said was riding his Super PAC coattails. Hopping aboard the "Colbert Report" Sea Plane, Colbert flew to Duval County, Fla., where Larose once ran for office. But the trail went cold: neither the head of the elections commission, two investigative reporters nor a tenant in Larose's building had ever actually seen the man.

In the end, desperate, Colbert turned to a search team trained in hunting down mystical figures -- the folks from Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot." Operation Giant Larose Flush was a total success, unless you define "success" as "finding the quarry." They did not, and Colbert went home empty-handed.

Back on his show, Colbert admits having total respect for he-who-could-not-be-found, and extended an invitation for Larose to come on the show and receive the Colbert fist bump.

Cartoons visualize the Higgs boson


A 50-year plan for energy


Battle of the Fungii


Zombie ants fight fungus with fungus


By Devin Coldewey

The Cordyceps fungus has become a staple of "stranger than fiction" nature stories: Its complex and lethal parasitism of ants, causing the insects to climb as high as they can before the fungus bursts like a horn from their heads, is both bizarre and captivating. Now scientists report that the parasite is getting a dose of its own medicine, as it finds itself under attack from yet another parasitic fungus -- one that targets Cordyceps. It's nature's way to pile weirdness upon weirdness.

Researchers led by David Hughes at Penn State University were looking into how some groups of ants were able to survive a Cordyceps attack. The fungus is extremely virulent and can often wipe out an entire colony. Ants groom each other to remove potentially troublesome fungus and microbes, but that couldn't account for the survival rates they were occasionally seeing.

What they found (and reported in PLoS ONE) was another fungus growing in and around the ant colonies -- just as much a specialist as the first fungus. This newly discovered fungus attacked the "zombie-ant" fungi and effectively neutered them, sabotaging their spore-producing organs and preventing them from fruiting. Some ants would still be infected (the researchers described a "high density of zombie-ant cadavers in the graveyard"), but the spread of zombie-ism was largely stopped.

Each species of Cordyceps fungus targets only one species; the ant-zombifying variety is just the best-known type. That there could be a fungus that was parasitic in such a fascinating way on a single species is amazing enough, but that a second fungus would specialize in attacking the first is almost beyond belief. It's an example of the density and biodiversity that one finds in, as Hughes puts it, "the exciting theater played out on the rainforest floor."

I'm a Pole and So Can You


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Half of the time we're gone but we don't know where,
And we don't know where...

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Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity

By Paul Krugman

Before the Great Recession, I would sometimes give public lectures in which I would talk about rising inequality, making the point that the concentration of income at the top had reached levels not seen since 1929. Often, someone in the audience would ask whether this meant that another depression was imminent.

Well, whaddya know?

Did the rise of the 1 percent (or, better yet, the 0.01 percent) cause the Lesser Depression we're now living through? It probably contributed. But the more important point is that inequality is a major reason the economy is still so depressed and unemployment so high. For we have responded to crisis with a mix of paralysis and confusion -- both of which have a lot to do with the distorting effects of great wealth on our society.

Put it this way: If something like the financial crisis of 2008 had occurred in, say, 1971 -- the year Richard Nixon declared that "I am now a Keynesian in economic policy" -- Washington would probably have responded fairly effectively. There would have been a broad bipartisan consensus in favor of strong action, and there would also have been wide agreement about what kind of action was needed.

But that was then. Today, Washington is marked by a combination of bitter partisanship and intellectual confusion -- and both are, I would argue, largely the result of extreme income inequality.

On partisanship: The Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been making waves with a new book acknowledging a truth that, until now, was unmentionable in polite circles. They say our political dysfunction is largely because of the transformation of the Republican Party into an extremist force that is "dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." You can't get cooperation to serve the national interest when one side of the divide sees no distinction between the national interest and its own partisan triumph.

So how did that happen? For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there's every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.

And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I'd argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.

Disputes in economics used to be bounded by a shared understanding of the evidence, creating a broad range of agreement about economic policy. To take the most prominent example, Milton Friedman may have opposed fiscal activism, but he very much supported monetary activism to fight deep economic slumps, to an extent that would have put him well to the left of center in many current debates.

Now, however, the Republican Party is dominated by doctrines formerly on the political fringe. Friedman called for monetary flexibility; today, much of the G.O.P. is fanatically devoted to the gold standard. N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University, a Romney economic adviser, once dismissed those claiming that tax cuts pay for themselves as "charlatans and cranks"; today, that notion is very close to being official Republican doctrine.

As it happens, these doctrines have overwhelmingly failed in practice. For example, conservative goldbugs have been predicting vast inflation and soaring interest rates for three years, and have been wrong every step of the way. But this failure has done nothing to dent their influence on a party that, as Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein note, is "unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science."

And why is the G.O.P. so devoted to these doctrines regardless of facts and evidence? It surely has a lot to do with the fact that billionaires have always loved the doctrines in question, which offer a rationale for policies that serve their interests. Indeed, support from billionaires has always been the main thing keeping those charlatans and cranks in business. And now the same people effectively own a whole political party.

Which brings us to the question of what it will take to end this depression we're in.

Many pundits assert that the U.S. economy has big structural problems that will prevent any quick recovery. All the evidence, however, points to a simple lack of demand, which could and should be cured very quickly through a combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus.

No, the real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority's malign influence.

Paul Ryan's Worship of the Self


O'Donnel rips Ryan a very large one.

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