June 2012 Archives

By women on the "having it all" premise.
It's quite enlightening and impressive.

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A Solid Winner's Portrait

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Obama reacting to Health Care Constitutionality

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The Circumcision Argument

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My response to it on the boards:

The whole question is predicated on the idea that parents "own" their children as objects which they can mold any which they desire into copies of themselves. The same logic that makes it socially acceptable for a parent to indoctrinate their child with religious ideas before the child can consciously form an opinion, is at play regarding forced circumcision.

I have no problem with a person old enough to make an informed conscious decision doing it to themselves or having it done for them for whatever reason. But, because it is a non-reversible mutilation of the body without informed consent, I personally equate it with assault on a child.

The real argument we should be having is not whether there are valid medical or even aesthetic reasons for circumcision, but rather whether or not parents "owning" their children in order to indoctrinate or physically mold them is a valid social construct.

Help Wales Save the Net

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jimmy.wales.jpgRichard O'Dwyer is a 24 year old British student at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. He is facing extradition to the USA and up to ten years in prison, for creating a website - TVShack.net - which linked (similar to a search-engine) to places to watch TV and movies online.

O'Dwyer is not a US citizen, he's lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US. America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.

The internet as a whole must not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement. As citizens we must stand up for our rights online.

When operating his site, Richard O'Dwyer always did his best to play by the rules: on the few occasions he received requests to remove content from copyright holders, he complied. His site hosted links, not copyrighted content, and these were submitted by users.

Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.

Richard O'Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. Earlier this year, in the fight against the anti-copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, the public won its first big victory. This could be our second.

This is why I am petitioning the UK's Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer. I hope you will join me.

- Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder


--------------------------


Read more:


Jimmy Wales: Richard O'Dwyer and the new internet war: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/richard-o-dwyer-my-petition


Richard O'Dwyer: living with the threat of extradition: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/24/richard-odwyer-extradition-threat-tvshack-net


Video interview with Richard O'Dwyer: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/video/2012/jun/25/richard-o-dwyer-extradition-copyright-infringement-video

The Real Fast & Furious Story

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5 Tax Questions for Mitt Romney

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Sermonette #1006

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A short guide to comparative religions


Taoism
Shit happens.

Confucianism
Confucius says: "Shit happens".

Calvinism
Shit happens because you don't work hard enough.

Buddhism
If shit happens, it really isn't shit.

Seventh Day Adventism
Õz¤  trayãßñÞ  Smith  Ÿkhul  ƒ¥šoñcøß (transl.: No shit on Saturdays).

Sen
What is the sound of silent shit happening quietly?

Hedonism
There's nothing like a good shit happening.

Hinduism
This shit happened before, it is the same and different and absolutely perfect.

Mormon
This shit, son of shit and shit, will give birth to shit, shit and shit.

Islam
If shit happens, it is the holy will of Allah the Unique, the Almighty, the Merciful - al Abdullillah !

Moonies
Only happy shit really happens.

Stoicism
This shit is not bad for me.

Protestantism
Let the shit happen to someone else.

Catholicism
Shit happens because you are SINNERS.

Hare Krishna
Shit happens rama rama. Shit happens rama rama. Shit happens rama rama.

Judaism
Why does this shit always happen to US and ONLY to US?

Zoroastrianism
Shit happens half the time.

Christian Science
My shit is in your mind and your money is in my bank account.

Atheism
No shit, no trouble.

Existentialism
What is shit anyway? And who am I to ask?

Rastafarianism
Let's smoke this shit.




NASA Engineers Are Nuts

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Watch this short and tell me I'm wrong.

Manufacturing Resentment

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Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. is a first class prick and like most conservatives, a congenital liar and hypocrite.

Fast and Furious--the Witch Hunt

By Eugene Robinson

bushblame.jpgIn 2006, when George W. Bush was president, federal law enforcement officials came up with a spectacularly dumb idea: Allow powerful firearms purchased in the United States to "walk" across the Mexico border, where authorities would trace the weapons and eventually nab the big-time criminals who supply guns to the ultra-violent Mexican drug cartels.

It is no surprise that most of the weapons promptly disappeared.

But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, undeterred by failure, went back to the "gun-walking" technique again the following year--and used it once more in 2009, after President Obama had taken office, in the tragic fiasco known as Operation Fast and Furious.

These are the facts, and they don't cover any Justice Department officials with glory. But neither do they remotely justify the partisan witch hunt by House Republicans who threaten, without legitimate cause, to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Obama has responded by asserting executive privilege--effectively shutting down the inquisition.

The House wants to go fishing in a vast sea of documents, some of which relate to ongoing investigations. As a believer in sunshine and disclosure, I don't much care for questionable claims of executive privilege. But I like the politically motivated sideshow the GOP is staging even less.

Holder called the contempt threat "an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action ... an election-year tactic intended to distract attention."

His frustration--especially with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee--is understandable. Holder has acknowledged that Fast and Furious was a mistake. He has turned over more than 7,600 documents relating to the botched operation. He has personally testified on Capitol Hill about the matter on nine occasions.

Indeed, Fast and Furious was a grievous error. All told, suspects were allowed to purchase more than 2,000 firearms--including AK-47s, .50-caliber sniper rifles, powerful handguns--and fewer than 700 were ever seen again. Of the weapons that were recovered, many were found at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States. But even as it became clear that Fast and Furious guns were being used as instruments of mayhem, the operation continued.

Then in December 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a shootout with suspected illegal immigrants in Arizona. Two assault rifles found at the scene were identified as Fast and Furious weapons; it could not be determined whether one of them fired the bullet that killed Terry.

In testimony before Issa's committee, ATF agent John Dodson, a critic of the operation, stated the obvious: "I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest."

Congress has not just the right but the duty to investigate how such a bad idea as gun-walking was conceived and executed over five years--and to make sure nothing of the sort happens again. The problem is that Issa isn't interested in the truth. He just wants to score political points.

Issa's focus isn't on the operation itself. It's on what Holder and Justice Department officials did or did not say last year when questions were first raised.

What Issa wants to do is manufacture something that can be portrayed as a high-level Obama administration cover-up. The problem is: A cover-up of what? Holder has acknowledged that the operation, of which he says he was unaware, was wrong. He has provided documents showing how wrong the operation was, and why. He has taken responsibility for the whole thing, because he is the boss. As cover-ups go, this is pretty lame.

What should Congress be investigating? The obvious first step is learning how officials in two administrations convinced themselves it was sensible to stand back and watch as powerful weapons passed into the hands of Mexican drug smugglers.

Then Congress should look into the overall flow of firearms from the United States into Mexico. The Fast and Furious weapons were just a small part of a much larger problem. Mexican officials have complained for years that lax U.S. gun laws have the effect of worsening drug-related violence along the border. The damage done by cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine smuggled north across the border is mirrored by the damage done by guns smuggled south.

If Issa really wants to save U.S. and Mexican lives, he should convene hearings on banning the sale of high-powered weapons. I think Holder would be happy to testify.

Mitchell's Prognosis

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Happy 100th Dr Turing

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a.turing.slate.jpg
A sculpture that shows computer pioneer Alan Turing looking down at the Enigma Machine was created from stacked slate by British artist Stephen Kettle.

By Alan Boyle

The June 23 centennial of Alan Turing's birth is providing an opportunity to look back at the brilliant life and tragic end of a pioneer in computer science -- a Briton who was instrumental in cracking Germany's Enigma code and turning the tide of World War II, but who killed himself after his humiliation by a society that saw homosexuality as a crime.

Turing came up with the concept of a "universal machine" back in 1936, setting the stage for the quest to create artificial intelligence. It's a quest that's as old as Ovid's Metamorphoses and as new as IBM's Watson. His vision of a computer so knowledgeable and adept in the ways of society that humans would think it was human, too, led to the establishment of the "Turing Test" as a classic gauge of machine intelligence. (Some argue that a program called Cleverbot passed the Turing Test last year.)

His greatest contribution came during the war, when he designed an electromechanical device known as the "bombe." With additional refinements, the cabinet-sized machine at Britain's Bletchley Park could decode thousands of intercepted German messages, tipping off the allies about the Nazis' next moves.

The intelligence gleaned by the Bletchley Park team, code-named Ultra, was crucial to the Allied war effort. "It was thanks to Ultra that we won the war," British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told King George VI.

Gay hero? Or just plain hero?

The postwar era, however, was a disaster for Turing, who was gay. He got into a messy relationship with a man who helped an accomplice break into Turing's house -- and after Turing reported the burglary, the investigation of the break-in eventually turned into an investigation of the researcher's sexual behavior.

At that time, in 1952, homosexual behavior fell under a criminal category known as gross indecency, and Turing's conviction could have put him in prison. As an alternative, Turing chose chemical castration through hormone injections. His security clearance was revoked, and he was barred from working for the British government. Turing pressed for a change in Britain's laws, but homosexuality remained a criminal offense in Britain until 1967.

That was way too late for Turing. Two years after his conviction, he died in his laboratory after eating a poisoned apple.

In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a posthumous apology to Turing, saying that the computer pioneer "truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war."

"The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely," Brown said. "We're sorry. You deserved so much better."

A Skater's Contribution

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Pop an ollie and innovate!

The Real Trayvon Martin

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Not exactly the muscular street thug Zimmerman supporters are trying to paint. His nick name was "Slim".



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Nuke 'Em, Sez Frank Rich

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What happens before a murder? In looking for ways to reduce death penalty cases, David R. Dow, who has defended over 100 death row inmates in 20 years, realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies. In this talk he proposes a bold plan, one that prevents murders in the first place.




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Athene's TOE

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A remarkable condensation of everything we know scientifically about our brain, perception, consciousness, the self and the universe as a whole and laid out in very succinct and easy to absorb terms.





Facts Of Evolution

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Courtesy of the Cassiopeia Project ...with a hat tip to bdwilson1000 for the upload to youtube and to Newsviner Gumps for making me aware of it

If you want to know what the scientists know about evolution, then here it is. An enormous breadth of information, assimilated, compressed, and congealed into an easily understood, visually irresistible presentation. "Facts Of Evolution" has layer upon layer of evidence that makes common descent and macroevolution inescapable.

Part 2 - Mechanisms of Evolution: http://youtu.be/ALXqMcqH5uE

Hominid transitional skulls: http://i.imgur.com/JJas6.jpg
Frequently asked questions about evolution: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/index.html
Evolution: Fact and Theory: http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/lenski.html
Evolution is a scientific fact: http://www.nationalacademies.org/evolution/TheoryOrFact.html
Evidence of Common Descent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
Human Evolution: http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence
Evolution 101: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_01
Evolution Primers: http://ncse.com/evolution/science/evolution-primers
More lines of evidence: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/lines_01
15 evolutionary gems: http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/evolutiongems.pdf
8 examples of evolution in action: http://listverse.com/2011/11/19/8-examples-of-evolution-in-action/
Top 10 Myths About Evolution: http://atheismresource.com/wp-content/uploads/top-10-evolution-myths.pdf
Evolution teaching resources: http://www.evoled.org/Lessons/evidence.htm
Timeline of evolutionary history of life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_evolution_of_life
Partial list of transitional forms: http://www.transitionalfossils.com/

Many amazing documentaries: http://www.youtube.com/user/EvolutionDocumentary

See http://www.Cassiopeiaproject.com/ for more great educational videos.

Zachary August Jacoby

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Probably the weirdest and most delicious artist I've encountered in many moons,
Check it out and see if you can handle Morphine Carnival




Under Andy's Chrome Statue

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Come searing reports from the front...

Soup Having Sex With Soup

By Mr. Fish

"I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning."

-Andy Warhol

soup.sex.soup.jpgBill Hicks, arguably the most existentially articulate comic id of the late 20th century, had a bit in his act where he talked about the bias that the news media had against illegal drugs; illegal drugs, of course, being a metaphor for anything that existed outside the miasma of mainstream influence and wasn't directly controlled by elite institutions of corporate and state power. Pretending to be a television news anchor reporting on hallucinogens without prevarication, Hicks said, "Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration--that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather."

What I appreciate about that quote is how it forces a person to consider the context wherein a concept of truth is typically placed for public consumption. Like all good satire, it illustrates just how insular and self-serving every hard-boiled notion of reality can become once it's dropped into the confused bowl of electrified noodles that is the human brain, an organ famous the world over for its uncanny ability to acquiesce to whatever real or imagined authority it perceives to be blowing through the room at any given moment. How many of us, for example, have walked through the reptile house at the zoo and stopped to press our face against the glass of a terrarium and looked at the lizard lying as still as a root cresting the ground in the corner and thought that the cheesy landscape painted on the rear wall of the tank, along with the Sherwin-Williams sky and the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact Fluorescent Desert Lamp pretending to be the sun, was enough to convince the captive animal that it was at home in the vast grasslands of Southern Australia? All of us have, of course, and not because we are too stupid to see through bullshit but rather because we like to think that the world is being managed by other people who know more than we do about all the complicated and boring crap that we don't want to waste our time thinking about. When we imagine that there are other people in the world burdened with the responsibility of not letting bullshit run amok, we succumb to the illusion that we are being protected and shepherded along by a wisdom that isn't really there.

I found myself thinking about all this in New York City last month during the Occupy May Day protests, which had started early in the day at Bryant Park before moving south, like a transient Renaissance fair that had been purged of its whimsy, its Elizabethan English and its haggis and transmogrified into a pagan celebration of workers' rights, mass dignity and First Amendment Tourette's, toward Wall Street. I had just stepped away from the likeminded riffraff in Union Square Park, having grown a bit woozy from breathing in the intoxicating fumes of the movement's jubilant upset for the better part of the afternoon, when I found myself standing at the concrete base of the chrome statue of Andy Warhol, aptly named The Andy Monument, that faces the park at 17th Street. Looking up at this Gandhi of Self-Commodification, this Horace Pippin of Madison Avenue, his trademark Polaroid camera hanging from around his neck like a mystic's third eye, his Bloomingdale's shopping bag, according to the sculptor, Rob Pruitt, weighed down with copies of Interview magazine, I noticed that he was gazing at the protesters in the park, no doubt considering their collective aesthetic and not giving a tinker's damn about the content of their cause.

To him, I imagined, the congregation of complainers, myself included, was little more than a nomadic audience that had arrived in Union Square to enjoy the only entertainment available to it, which was theater of the mind, the star billing going to the holy ghost of communal optimism with doomsday as its understudy. Or maybe it was more personal than that. Maybe he was watching carefully to see who might emerge from the crowd as a beautiful misfit among misfits; a waifish boy in neon lipstick, perhaps, his upper arms as skinny as bruised bananas, or a girl of 16, a runaway for sure, her hair teased into brittle pink Easter grass and mascara smeared hard across the back of her hand, a perfectly chic junkie to brand back at the Factory for resale--fuck the agony of the 99 percent!


Out of Touch

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outoftouch.jpg

Ezra Klein lays out the fact that when Republicans are in power their cure for recessions is massive government hiring, but when out power they claim government bloat is the problem.

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Sado-Monetarism

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The belief that economic pain for the masses is somehow redeeming even if it doesn't actually solve any problems. Probably better that European central bankers and those of the Fed just be killed outright so the rest of us can just get on with our lives without the need for sacrifices in service to their deification. Not only does the emperor have no clothes, his gods are false.

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Another Bank Bailout

By Paul Krugman

Oh, wow -- another bank bailout, this time in Spain. Who could have predicted that?
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The answer, of course, is everybody. In fact, the whole story is starting to feel like a comedy routine: yet again the economy slides, unemployment soars, banks get into trouble, governments rush to the rescue -- but somehow it's only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed.

Just to be clear, Spanish banks did indeed need a bailout. Spain was clearly on the edge of a "doom loop" -- a well-understood process in which concern about banks' solvency forces the banks to sell assets, which drives down the prices of those assets, which makes people even more worried about solvency. Governments can stop such doom loops with an infusion of cash; in this case, however, the Spanish government's own solvency is in question, so the cash had to come from a broader European fund.

So there's nothing necessarily wrong with this latest bailout (although a lot depends on the details). What's striking, however, is that even as European leaders were putting together this rescue, they were signaling strongly that they have no intention of changing the policies that have left almost a quarter of Spain's workers -- and more than half its young people -- jobless.

Most notably, last week the European Central Bank declined to cut interest rates. This decision was widely expected, but that shouldn't blind us to the fact that it was deeply bizarre. Unemployment in the euro area has soared, and all indications are that the Continent is entering a new recession. Meanwhile, inflation is slowing, and market expectations of future inflation have plunged. By any of the usual rules of monetary policy, the situation calls for aggressive rate cuts. But the central bank won't move.

And that doesn't even take into account the growing risk of a euro crackup. For years Spain and other troubled European nations have been told that they can only recover through a combination of fiscal austerity and "internal devaluation," which basically means cutting wages. It's now completely clear that this strategy can't work unless there is strong growth and, yes, a moderate amount of inflation in the European "core," mainly Germany -- which supplies an extra reason to keep interest rates low and print lots of money. But the central bank won't move.

Meanwhile, senior officials are asserting that austerity and internal devaluation really would work if only people truly believed in their necessity.

Consider, for example, what Jörg Asmussen, the German representative on the European Central Bank's executive board, just said in Latvia, which has become the poster child for supposedly successful austerity. (It used to be Ireland, but the Irish economy keeps refusing to recover). "The key difference between, say, Latvia and Greece," Mr. Asmussen said, "lies in the degree of national ownership of the adjustment program -- not only by national policy-makers but also by the population itself."

Call it the Darth Vader approach to economic policy; Mr. Asmussen is in effect telling the Greeks, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

Oh, and that Latvian success consists of one year of pretty good growth following a Depression-level economic decline over the previous three years. True, 5.5 percent growth is a lot better than nothing. But it's worth noting that America's economy grew almost twice that fast -- 10.9 percent! -- in 1934, as it rebounded from the worst of the Great Depression. Yet the Depression was far from over.

Put all of this together and you get a picture of a European policy elite always ready to spring into action to defend the banks, but otherwise completely unwilling to admit that its policies are failing the people the economy is supposed to serve.

Still, are we much better? America's near-term outlook isn't quite as dire as Europe's, but the Federal Reserve's own forecasts predict low inflation and very high unemployment for years to come -- precisely the conditions under which the Fed should be leaping into action to boost the economy. But the Fed won't move.

What explains this trans-Atlantic paralysis in the face of an ongoing human and economic disaster? Politics is surely part of it -- whatever they may say, Fed officials are clearly intimidated by warnings that any expansionary policy will be seen as coming to the rescue of President Obama. So, too, is a mentality that sees economic pain as somehow redeeming, a mentality that a British journalist once dubbed "sado-monetarism."

Whatever the deep roots of this paralysis, it's becoming increasingly clear that it will take utter catastrophe to get any real policy action that goes beyond bank bailouts. But don't despair: at the rate things are going, especially in Europe, utter catastrophe may be just around the corner.


Hubble and Venus cross sun

By Alan Boyle


hubble.venus.transit.jpgclick pic to enlarge

Over the past few days, we've seen lots of amazing photos showing Venus' last-in-a-lifetime crossing of the sun, but this shot of the Hubble Space Telescope zooming past Venus may be the only picture of its kind.

It's actually a combination of photographs, snapped every tenth of a second by master astrophotographer Thierry Legault. Nine speck-sized images of Hubble are highlighted with circles in the image. Legault, who is famed for his pictures of spacecraft transits across the sun, traveled from his home base in France to northern Australia for the shot.

After conducting the calculations with CalSky software, Legault made sure he was in Queensland at 01:42:25 UTC June 6, pointing his Takahashi FSQ-106ED telescope at the sun with the proper filters attached. "Thanks to the continuous shooting mode of the Nikon D4 DSLR running at 10 fps [frames per second], nine images of the HST were recorded during its 0.9s transit (1/8000s, 100 iso, raw mode). Turbulence was moderate to high," Legault reported on his website.

You read that right: While it took Venus more than six hours to inch its way in front of the solar disk, the Hubble Space Telescope zipped across in just nine-tenths of a second. Imagine how disappointing it would have been to have a cloud in the way at that moment!

Autism Creates Itself

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Which is to say that autism is a brain mechanism which creates social isolation and feeds on itself, growing more severe over time. Hence, early diagnosis of autism is critical and historically behavior symptoms appear around ages 2-5, but using eye tracking technologies the diagnosis now can be observed in the first 6 months of life, allowing interventions and practical remedies to be much more effective.

Vesta Visit

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A new video from a NASA spacecraft shows the huge asteroid Vesta's complex surface in dazzling and colorful detail.

The video drapes high-resolution false color images snapped by NASA's Dawn probe over a 3-D model of Vesta constructed from the spacecraft's observations. Dawn has been orbiting Vesta -- at 330 miles wide the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter -- since last July.

During its time at Vesta, Dawn has confirmed that the enormous space rock is actually an ancient protoplanet -- a planetary building block left over from the solar system's earliest days. If Vesta had formed nearer to the sun instead of out in the asteroid belt near Jupiter, it may have been incorporated into a rocky planet like Earth or Venus.

But Jupiter's gravity made it tough for Vesta to hook up with others of its kind, so the space rock's development along a planet-forming path was stunted, scientists say.

The colors in the new video of asteroid Vesta were chosen to highlight differences in the protoplanet's surface composition that are too subtle for the human eye to pick up, NASA officials said.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how to interpret some of these colors, but the meaning of other hues is more clear.

Green shows the relative abundance of iron, for example, and the smatterings of orange reveal that debris thrown out from some of Vesta's impact craters is different from the surrounding surface material.

Dawn imaged the majority of Vesta's surface with its framing camera in September and October 2011 to provide this 3-D map, officials said.

Some areas in the asteroid's north were in shadow at the time, but the Dawn team hopes to fill in those gaps with additional observations as sunlight creeps toward the asteroid's north pole.

Dawn is scheduled to leave Vesta around Aug. 26. At that time, it will embark on the long journey to the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Dawn is expected to arrive at Ceres in February 2015.

A great documentary on one of the most seminal and controversial recordings and tours of the 20th century. A must see in my opinion.

Romney Impersonates Police

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This is indeed creepy.

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The Story of X in Math

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Why is 'x' the symbol for an unknown?





Venus Transits

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Not again for 105 years.

Not exactly how I picture the Goddess of Love

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For years I've been harping on the idea that we are at a threshold evolutionarily which will rapidly alter the entire nature of what we are as a species. Our ability to mutate ourselves and other living organisms in the environment via genetic manipulation has reached a stage of technologically enhanced acceleration that we are about to witness changes that we can barely foresee from our present position in only a generation or two.

Here's a great TED talk to explain what I mean.




This Republican Economy

By Paul Krugman

What should be done about the economy? Republicans claim to have the answer: slash spending and cut taxes. What they hope voters won't notice is that that's precisely the policy we've been following the past couple of years. Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.

So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasn't followed (in large part because the G.O.P. wouldn't let him), and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed.

For some reason, however, neither the press nor Mr. Obama's political team has done a very good job of exposing the con.

What do I mean by saying that this is already a Republican economy? Look first at total government spending -- federal, state and local. Adjusted for population growth and inflation, such spending has recently been falling at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.

How is that possible? Isn't Mr. Obama a big spender? Actually, no; there was a brief burst of spending in late 2009 and early 2010 as the stimulus kicked in, but that boost is long behind us. Since then it has been all downhill. Cash-strapped state and local governments have laid off teachers, firefighters and police officers; meanwhile, unemployment benefits have been trailing off even though unemployment remains extremely high.

Over all, the picture for America in 2012 bears a stunning resemblance to the great mistake of 1937, when F.D.R. prematurely slashed spending, sending the U.S. economy -- which had actually been recovering fairly fast until that point -- into the second leg of the Great Depression. In F.D.R.'s case, however, this was an unforced error, since he had a solidly Democratic Congress. In President Obama's case, much though not all of the responsibility for the policy wrong turn lies with a completely obstructionist Republican majority in the House.

That same obstructionist House majority effectively blackmailed the president into continuing all the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, so that federal taxes as a share of G.D.P. are near historic lows -- much lower, in particular, than at any point during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

As I said, for all practical purposes this is already a Republican economy.

As an aside, I think it's worth pointing out that although the economy's performance has been disappointing, to say the least, none of the disasters Republicans predicted have come to pass. Remember all those assertions that budget deficits would lead to soaring interest rates? Well, U.S. borrowing costs have just hit a record low. And remember those dire warnings about inflation and the "debasement" of the dollar? Well, inflation remains low, and the dollar has been stronger than it was in the Bush years.

Put it this way: Republicans have been warning that we were about to turn into Greece because President Obama was doing too much to boost the economy; Keynesian economists like myself warned that we were, on the contrary, at risk of turning into Japan because he was doing too little. And Japanification it is, except with a level of misery the Japanese never had to endure.

So why don't voters know any of this?

What don't you know?

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Tons and tons.


Media Michael

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This is a insightful and instructive way of looking at Michael Jackson's life and death and the media frenzy that surrounded both by Jay Smooth.

I love this guy. You check out more of him at illdoctrine.com

Here's one of his newest vlogs:

Mitt Romney Scares the Crap Out of Me

Gaydar is real?

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Of course it is...any gay person will tell you that...but now so does science.

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The Science of 'Gaydar'

By Joshua A. Taak and Vivian Zayas

"GAYDAR" colloquially refers to the ability to accurately glean others' sexual orientation from mere observation. But does gaydar really exist? If so, how does it work?

Our research, published recently in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, shows that gaydar is indeed real and that its accuracy is driven by sensitivity to individual facial features as well as the spatial relationships among facial features.

We conducted experiments in which participants viewed facial photographs of men and women and then categorized each face as gay or straight. The photographs were seen very briefly, for 50 milliseconds, which was long enough for participants to know they'd seen a face, but probably not long enough to feel they knew much more. In addition, the photos were mostly devoid of cultural cues: hairstyles were digitally removed, and no faces had makeup, piercings, eyeglasses or tattoos.

Even when viewing such bare faces so briefly, participants demonstrated an ability to identify sexual orientation: overall, gaydar judgments were about 60 percent accurate.

Since chance guessing would yield 50 percent accuracy, 60 percent might not seem impressive. But the effect is statistically significant -- several times above the margin of error. Furthermore, the effect has been highly replicable: we ourselves have consistently discovered such effects in more than a dozen experiments, and our gaydar research was inspired by the work of the social psychologist Nicholas Rule, who has published on the gaydar phenomenon numerous times in the past few years.

We reported two such experiments in PLoS ONE, both of which yielded novel findings. In one experiment, we found above-chance gaydar accuracy even when the faces were presented upside down. Accuracy increased, however, when the faces were presented right side up.

What can we make of this peculiar discovery?

Aphorism Gone Awry

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If socialism is the equal distribution of wealth,

is then capitalism the equal distribution of poverty?




Montana the Electoral Savior?

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It's a stupid metaphor used to defend national austerity reasoning that deserves to be strangled in the cradle.

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The Austerity Agenda

By Paul Krugman

"The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity." So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem -- and who doesn't? -- slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.

So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn't? Unlike the governments of, say, Spain or California, the British government can borrow freely, at historically low interest rates. So why is that government sharply reducing investment and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger?

Over the past few days, I've posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.

The bad metaphor -- which you've surely heard many times -- equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt. So if Britain, as a whole, has run up too much debt -- which it has, although it's mostly private rather than public debt -- shouldn't it do the same? What's wrong with this comparison?

The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.

So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone's income falls -- my income falls because you're spending less, and your income falls because I'm spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better.

This isn't a new insight. The great American economist Irving Fisher explained it all the way back in 1933, summarizing what he called "debt deflation" with the pithy slogan "the more the debtors pay, the more they owe." Recent events, above all the austerity death spiral in Europe, have dramatically illustrated the truth of Fisher's insight.

And there's a clear moral to this story: When the private sector is frantically trying to pay down debt, the public sector should do the opposite, spending when the private sector can't or won't. By all means, let's balance our budget once the economy has recovered -- but not now. The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.

As I said, this isn't a new insight. So why have so many politicians insisted on pursuing austerity in slump? And why won't they change course even as experience confirms the lessons of theory and history?

Well, that's where it gets interesting. For when you push "austerians" on the badness of their metaphor, they almost always retreat to assertions along the lines of: "But it's essential that we shrink the size of the state."

Now, these assertions often go along with claims that the economic crisis itself demonstrates the need to shrink government. But that's manifestly not true. Look at the countries in Europe that have weathered the storm best, and near the top of the list you'll find big-government nations like Sweden and Austria.

And if you look, on the other hand, at the nations conservatives admired before the crisis, you'll find George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the Exchequer and the architect of the country's current economic policy, describing Ireland as "a shining example of the art of the possible." Meanwhile, the Cato Institute was praising Iceland's low taxes and hoping that other industrial nations "will learn from Iceland's success."

So the austerity drive in Britain isn't really about debt and deficits at all; it's about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America.

In fairness to Britain's conservatives, they aren't quite as crude as their American counterparts. They don't rail against the evils of deficits in one breath, then demand huge tax cuts for the wealthy in the next (although the Cameron government has, in fact, significantly cut the top tax rate). And, in general, they seem less determined than America's right to aid the rich and punish the poor. Still, the direction of policy is the same -- and so is the fundamental insincerity of the calls for austerity.

The big question here is whether the evident failure of austerity to produce an economic recovery will lead to a "Plan B." Maybe. But my guess is that even if such a plan is announced, it won't amount to much. For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. And it still is.

How do you spell whack?

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Go Buddy Roemer

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I don't always agree with him but if more politicians were like him we wouldn't be in such a mess politically.

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It always amazes me how blatant Republicans are about their cheating and underhandedness when it comes to elections.

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