July 2012 Archives

This is the time to build build build and invest invest invest in the nation in many different ways. But of course the Republicans as chief naysayers will not allow it because of their insane obsession with ousting Obama. Complete dupes.

Money for Nothing

by Paul Krugman

For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits -- deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis. In May 2009, Niall Ferguson of Harvard declared that the "tidal wave of debt issuance" would cause U.S. interest rates to soar. In March 2011, Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama's ill-fated deficit commission, warned that unless action was taken on the deficit soon, "the markets will devastate us," probably within two years. And so on.

Well, I guess Mr. Bowles has a few months left. But a funny thing happened on the way to the predicted fiscal crisis: instead of soaring, U.S. borrowing costs have fallen to their lowest level in the nation's history. And it's not just America. At this point, every advanced country that borrows in its own currency is able to borrow very cheaply.

The failure of deficits to produce the predicted rise in interest rates is telling us something important about the nature of our economic troubles (and the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the self-appointed guardians of our fiscal virtue). Before I get there, however, let's talk about those low, low borrowing costs -- so low that, in some cases, investors are actually paying governments to hold their money.

For the most part, this is happening with "inflation-protected securities" -- bonds whose future repayments are linked to consumer prices so that investors need not fear that their investment will be eroded by inflation. Even with this protection, investors used to demand substantial additional payment. Before the crisis, U.S. 10-year inflation-protected bonds generally paid around 2 percent. Recently, however, the rate on those bonds has been minus-0.6 percent. Investors are willing to pay more to buy these bonds than the amount, adjusted for inflation, that the government will eventually pay in interest and principal.

So investors are, in a sense, offering governments free money for the next 10 years; in fact, they're willing to pay governments a modest fee for keeping their wealth safe.

Now, those with a vested interest in the fiscal crisis story have made various attempts to explain away the failure of that crisis to materialize. One favorite is the claim that the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates artificially low by buying government bonds. But that theory was put to the test last summer when the Fed temporarily suspended bond purchases. Many people -- including Bill Gross of the giant bond fund Pimco -- predicted a rate spike. Nothing happened.

Oh, and pay no attention to the warnings that any day now we'll turn into Greece, Greece I tell you. Countries like Greece, and for that matter Spain, are suffering from their ill-advised decision to give up their own currencies for the euro, which has left them vulnerable in a way that America just isn't.

So what is going on?

Financial Mismanagement on an Epic Scale


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The Moore You Know


An email from Michael:

It's the Guns - But We All Know, It's Not Really the Guns... a note from Michael Moore

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

ALERT: Michael Moore will appear this evening on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight to discuss the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting and where we go from here. Tune in at 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT (replay 12:00 Midnight ET/9:00 PM PT and 3:00 AM ET/12:00 Midnight PT).


Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence. There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children. Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.

In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are - the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany ... the list seems endless.

And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.

But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns - and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.

That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?

Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to "the why" of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they're both half right.

The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself - that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Of course, they know they're being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.

But they are half right when they say "Guns don't kill people." I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: "Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people."

Because we're the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you'll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don't have to deal with what's really behind all this murder and mayhem.

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours - and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns - and in 2006 the number was two!

Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here - and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.

People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years - and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.

So those countries (and many others) are just like us - except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.

My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad - calories, smoking, reality TV - will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.

But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) - and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada's culture is very similar to ours - the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don't grow up wanting to kill each other. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.

So - why us?

I posed this question a decade ago in my film 'Bowling for Columbine,' and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago - and it doesn't seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.

This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:

1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.

Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a "civil" war). It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we're afraid of. It's invasion as foreign policy. Sure there's Iraq and Afghanistan - but we've been invaders since we "conquered the wild west" and now we're hooked so bad we don't even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn't hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don't have a loved one over there don't spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage. And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.

2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here's a good example of what I mean).

Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you'd like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we're lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I'm in if you are.


Michael Moore

hat tip to Mr De Silveira

Blood Drenched Pockets


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What an Amazing Legacy


Filipino, Philippines "Dancing Inmates" from Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), a maximum security prison, were treated to a visit by Michael Jacksons long-time choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid to learn performances from THIS IS IT.

His music got cast away people to come together and bond into an event meant to reconnect everyone to their humanity. What a legacy.

Time to do away with the 2nd Amendment or else ban assault rifles altogether.

Suspect Bought Large Stockpile of Rounds Online


By Jack Healy

Unhindered by federal background checks or government oversight, the 24-year-old man accused of killing a dozen people inside a Colorado movie theater was able to build what the police called a 6,000-round arsenal legally and easily over the Internet, exploiting what critics call a virtual absence of any laws regulating ammunition sales.

With a few keystrokes, the suspect, James E. Holmes, ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun -- an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites -- in the four months before the shooting, according to the police. It was pretty much as easy as ordering a book from Amazon.

He also bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and a high-capacity "drum magazine" large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute -- a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.

Mr. Holmes, a graduate student in neuroscience with a clean criminal record, was able to buy the ammunition without arousing the slightest notice from law enforcement, because the sellers are not required in most cases to report sales to law enforcement officials, even unusually large purchases. And neither Colorado nor federal law required him to submit to a background check or register his growing purchases, gun policy experts said.

A few states like Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento, have passed restrictions on ammunition sales, requiring permits for buyers or licenses for sellers, or insisting that dealers track their ammunition sales for law enforcement.

But in Colorado, and across much of the United States, the markets for ammunition -- online and in storefronts -- are largely unregulated, gun-control advocates say.

Law-enforcement officials have refused to say whether Mr. Holmes bought the ammunition from multiple sources or spaced out the purchases over several weeks to avoid drawing attention.

But as investigators combed through the contents of his apartment on Sunday -- its explosive booby traps now defused -- new details began to emerge of his activities in the weeks leading up to the rampage. They sketch a picture of man once captivated by the science of the human mind growing increasingly interested in weapons and how to use them.

On June 25, Mr. Holmes e-mailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range, prompting the owner, Glenn Rotkovich, to call back, more than once, to invite him to a mandatory orientation meeting. Nobody ever answered, but Mr. Rotkovich described the voice message as nearly incomprehensible.

"It was this very guttural, very heavy bass, deep voice that was rambling incoherently," Mr. Rotkovich said. "It was bizarre on a good day, freakish on others."

Mr. Holmes never called back about joining.

In early July, Mr. Holmes ordered a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, a knife and two magazine holders from a Web site called Tactical Gear, according to an order slip provided by the company's chief executive, Chad Weinman. He chose expedited two-day delivery to his apartment in the eastern Denver suburb of Aurora, where the shootings took place early Friday, just a few miles from Mr. Holmes's apartment.

"I think it conveys a sense of urgency and shows premeditation," Mr. Weinman said in an interview, adding that the company was "deeply saddened" its gear had apparently been used in a mass killing.

Three weeks after that purchase, stunned and bleeding witnesses outside the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora would describe how a man dressed in a black commando-style outfit and a gas mask strode into the theater where they were watching a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," tossed some gas-spewing grenades into the packed auditorium and opened fire.

Loading the Climate Dice

By Paul Krugman

A couple of weeks ago the Northeast was in the grip of a severe heat wave. As I write this, however, it's a fairly cool day in New Jersey, considering that it's late July. Weather is like that; it fluctuates.

And this banal observation may be what dooms us to climate catastrophe, in two ways. On one side, the variability of temperatures from day to day and year to year makes it easy to miss, ignore or obscure the longer-term upward trend. On the other, even a fairly modest rise in average temperatures translates into a much higher frequency of extreme events -- like the devastating drought now gripping America's heartland -- that do vast damage.

On the first point: Even with the best will in the world, it would be hard for most people to stay focused on the big picture in the face of short-run fluctuations. When the mercury is high and the crops are withering, everyone talks about it, and some make the connection to global warming. But let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall, and inevitably people's attention turns to other matters.

Making things much worse, of course, is the role of players who don't have the best will in the world. Climate change denial is a major industry, lavishly financed by Exxon, the Koch brothers and others with a financial stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels. And exploiting variability is one of the key tricks of that industry's trade. Applications range from the Fox News perennial -- "It's cold outside! Al Gore was wrong!" -- to the constant claims that we're experiencing global cooling, not warming, because it's not as hot right now as it was a few years back.

How should we think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience? Almost a quarter of a century ago James Hansen, the NASA scientist who did more than anyone to put climate change on the agenda, suggested the analogy of loaded dice. Imagine, he and his associates suggested, representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards as a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then.

And so it has proved. As documented in a new paper by Dr. Hansen and others, cold summers by historical standards still happen, but rarely, while hot summers have in fact become roughly twice as prevalent. And 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.

But that's not all: really extreme high temperatures, the kind of thing that used to happen very rarely in the past, have now become fairly common. Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but more often when the dice are loaded. And this rising incidence of extreme events, reflecting the same variability of weather that can obscure the reality of climate change, means that the costs of climate change aren't a distant prospect, decades in the future. On the contrary, they're already here, even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms, a small fraction of their eventual rise if we don't act.

The great Midwestern drought is a case in point. This drought has already sent corn prices to their highest level ever. If it continues, it could cause a global food crisis, because the U.S. heartland is still the world's breadbasket. And yes, the drought is linked to climate change: such events have happened before, but they're much more likely now than they used to be.

Now, maybe this drought will break in time to avoid the worst. But there will be more events like this. Joseph Romm, the influential climate blogger, has coined the term "Dust-Bowlification" for the prospect of extended periods of extreme drought in formerly productive agricultural areas. He has been arguing for some time that this phenomenon, with its disastrous effects on food security, is likely to be the leading edge of damage from climate change, taking place over the next few decades; the drowning of Florida by rising sea levels and all that will come later.

And here it comes.

Will the current drought finally lead to serious climate action? History isn't encouraging. The deniers will surely keep on denying, especially because conceding at this point that the science they've trashed was right all along would be to admit their own culpability for the looming disaster. And the public is all too likely to lose interest again the next time the die comes up white or blue.

But let's hope that this time is different. For large-scale damage from climate change is no longer a disaster waiting to happen. It's happening now.

There's a very old joke about a man with a flat tire in front of a mental institution who loses his lug nuts. The patient on the other side of the fence suggests that he take one from each of the other wheels to get going.

Seeing how clever and rational this idea is, the drivers asks what he's doing in an asylum.

The man responds, I'm crazy, not stupid.

----------------- my commentary rewsponses from the Newsvine:

That widely reported detail about the shooter having 6,000 rounds of ammunition--I really don't see how that's relevant to the case. Surely he didn't bring 6,000 rounds with him to the theater; that would have weighed a ton.

Given the armor he was wearing, he didn't plan a "suicide by cops" but rather to survive this incident and possibly use his remaining ammo for other events.

The idea of having stricter gun regulations is not to eliminate the incidence of deaths by gunfire, the idea is to slow it down...make it less likely. Just as checking the competency of a car driver before we issue a license to drive lowers the probability that they will cause a potentially fatal accident.

As it is any inexperienced and incompetent kook can buy as many high powered guns and ammunition as they want no questions asked. Does that seem even remotely reasonable to you?

If I wanted to, I could make a chemical weapon, or create a chemical explosion in the next 5 min.

Aside from the fact that it would take you longer than that...you can't exactly carry a concealed bomb and expect any constitutional protections like you can with a gun.

Guns don't kill people... but they make it real convenient for people to kill people.

In fact some guns make it really convenient for one person to kill scores of people.

Guns are a potentially dangerous technology and as such they should be manged and licensed just like a car and the people whom, drive them. As it is people can buy guns and not have to demonstrate any knowledge or competency in their use. Would you hand the keys to your car to a teen who has never driven before? Why not?

As far as the arguments that people can killed just as easily with a hammer or a knife go, we have have to ask why you would prefer a gun then?

Also the idea that gun ownership is based on the idea that they provide a protection from the tyranny of government, the present state of weaponry the government has at its disposal kind of makes that point moot doesn't it? Got any rocket launchers or air to air missiles in your garage or bunker?

While the violent "media" is part of the feedback loop to be sure but it is not the root cause of the escalation in violence anymore than porn causes rape, study after study has shown there is no valid correlation.

I would assert that the propensity for human violence is the same as it always has been, but the reporting, and hence or awareness of it as it occurs, is much more widespread and immediate than it has ever been.

Our streets in reality are no more dangerous to walk than they were 20 years ago, but our perception of them has changed by way of the widespread reporting of disparate incidental violent acts that get rolled up into an overall sense that violence is everywhere all the time. It isn't, but it feels that way. In reality, the FBI reports that violence has been decreasing over the last 20 years.

Violence and danger generate fear and a rush of physical and emotional excitement that puts the brain into emergency mode and heightens the perception of being alive. Some people, like skydivers become addicted to that rush and some, like soldiers traumatized by combat, are victims to it.

Most of us enjoy that violence and danger rush at a distant safe in the comfort of our structured environment like a theatre or our couch at home. like any other titillation, constant exposure will cause us to become inured and we will then seek out an increase in the level of stimulation, we will demand ever bigger special effects and wider, more intense reporting.

So the fault lies lies not with the reporting per se or our misconceptions of how it might be causing an increase in actual violence, but rather in our own personal "addictions" to the reporting and our lack of ability to consciously unplug from the incessant stimulus.

If you or anyone else thinks those laws are unreasonable, then do your best to get the constitution amended; good luck to you. Until then, what you or I think is "reasonable" has no bearing on anything, as we live in a nation of laws, not a dictatorship.

That's a good idea...maybe it is time to change the constitutional right to bear arms to a more limited and reasonable condition. Maybe it's time to get rid of the 2nd amendment altogether since the idea that that the right to bear arms obviously has long past the possible reality of it being used to prevent a tyrannical government given the level of armament the government has at its disposal, unless of course you want the Supreme court to abandon all reasonableness and allow for the personal right to own nukes.

I find it interesting that you can look at the constitution and not consider reasonableness a necessary inherent quality. When you say "we live in a nation of laws", don't you think those laws ought to based on reason and not on some arbitrary and injudicious premise?


So, Dr, I would assume you are a left-wing freedom-of-speech extrapolator, right? But you would shut the right up because they don't agree with you. Sounds like "equal rights for all" isn't exactly what you believe, after all, huh?

The popular right wing (especially it's religious functionaries) will be listened to as soon as they stop pushing FOX type induced lies or Biblical authoritarianism and bother to educate themselves beyond such puerile propaganda.

You have every right to spew whatever nonsense you want, but that doesn't mean you have the right to be considered rational...that, like respect, has to be earned.


At the risk of being unoriginal: "If guns are illegal, only outlaws will have guns." And: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." How many convicted criminals who are out of jail and who are not allowed to have guns actually have guns? Well, guess. Making guns illegal would be about as effective as making murder illegal.

The idea is not to make guns illegal, it is to regulate them and the people who want to purchase and use them.

Right now anyone with the cash can walk in and buy whatever firearms and ammo they desire and never have to show competency or much of anything else in most places. That is plainly stupid and irresponsible and needs to stop.

Canada with strict gun laws has a rate of 4.78 per100,100 compared to the US rate of 10.7.

'Nuff said.

Maybe he just had bad parents.

Lunacy can emerge from an individual no matter how good the parenting or previous environmental situation was.

Constructive training and a healthy environment is no guard against chaos.

The power the religious devil and chaos alike have is that neither gives a damn about the rules.

Some Handy Aphorisms


I think Congressmen should wear uniforms, you know, like NASCAR drivers, so we could identify their corporate sponsors.

Xerox and Wurlitzer will merge to produce reproductive organs.

If at first you don't succeed, then no skydiving for you.

When blondes have more fun, do they know it?

Learn from your parents' mistakes use birth control.

hat tip to Yvonne P

While Men Kill One Another


We also do amazing and miraculous things.

Where will it go? Astonishing advancements.

Cells as the Enginneers Substrate

Scientists have made an artificial jellyfish out of rat heart muscles and rubbery silicon. When given an electric shock, it swims just like the real thing.

Future versions should be able to swim and feed by themselves.

"That then allows us to extend their lifetime," John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, told me.

The breakthrough is a big step toward the development of an artificial human heart with living cells. It also opens a window to a future where humans could loosen the constraints of evolution.

"The design of the heart that we have today is by no means the best physically possible design," Dabiri said. "It is the one that evolution stumbled onto over the course of millions of years of random searching."

It's possible, perhaps probable, that there's a better design out there for humans to discover. An artificial heart, for example, could be engineered to steer clear of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Building a better pump
To get there, though, scientists must first understand how biology assembles its building blocks into a pump, Dabiri noted.

"We know pretty well how to build engineered pumps, things that are built out of steel and aluminum and so on," he said. "We don't have as good a handle right now in biology on how nature builds things out of muscle tissues."

Slooh Space Camera


Want to see a blocked sized asteroid zip past the earth?
You can Sunday at http://events.slooh.com/


Guns & Cars


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Killing Norquist by Going Off the Cliff


Rush Channels Beck


As I said before, obese rich asshole, but let me add goofy to the mix.

And Rachel laughs appropriately

Limbaugh's Self-Hatred


Personally I think Limbaugh is just an obese rich asshole who loves notoriety, but hey...

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an excellent post from the Newsvine


Stop using the term "Racist", and " Racism". The large majority of European Americans are generational White Supremacist and the term Racism is a euphemism for
"White Supremacy".

European Americans have taken the word "White" out of racial
discussions, when actually every issue about race relations stems
from the White Supremacy Syndrome. Being beaten with clubs and bitten
by dogs, burned and hanged, castrated and raped, last hired and first
fired, State labor farms and Convict leasing, churches and
neighborhoods bombed and burned, substandard educational facilities,
urban reservations called housing projects, segregated neighborhoods
, unequal law enforcement and unequal job opportunities are the
direct result of White Supremacy in America.

Race is only an issue to White-skinned Americans. There are no
People of Color concerned about their children attending schools with
White children, there are no People of Color fearful of the nation
becoming more Brown than White. America is a White Supremacist nation
in denial and the term Racist is used to imply that Supremacist are
also People of Color, not true. These posters are not Racist, they
are "White Supremacist" that feel their melanin deficiency makes
them "Superior" to 92% of the Worlds population, that are People
of Color.

The Coming Future Crime


Wanna see something really scary?

The world is becoming increasingly open, and that has implications both bright and dangerous. Marc Goodman paints a portrait of a grave future, in which technology's rapid development could allow crime to take a turn for the worse.

What I Love About Humans #776


Pair lifts off in lawn chair balloon flight

They're headed from Oregon to Montana, partly to inspire Iraqis


An Oregon gas station owner and an Iraqi adventurer took flight Saturday aboard a pair of lawn chairs suspended from helium-filled party balloons in an attempt to fly across Oregon and Idaho and into Montana.

About 90 volunteers and several hundred onlookers counted down and then cheered as Kent Couch and Fareed Lafta lifted off from Couch's Shell gas station. The duo safely cleared a two-story motel, a coffee stand and a light post.

"The interesting thing is, anybody can do this," said Couch, the veteran of several lawn chair balloon flights. "They don't have to sit on the couch thinking, 'I should have done it.' They can do it."

Lafta, a mountain climber and sky diver, said he had shared Couch's childhood dream of floating like a cloud. He sent Couch an email two winters ago after reading accounts of Couch's earlier flights.

"I want to inspire Iraqis and say we need to defeat terrorists," Lafta said. "We don't need just an Army. We need ideology and to just have fun."

Volunteers filled 350 5-foot diameter red, white, blue and black balloons with helium and tied them to Couch's homemade tandem lawn chair rig. The balloons were arranged in bunches to represent the colors of the U.S. and Iraqi flags. An American flag flew from the bottom of the framework supporting the chairs.

Just before liftoff, they had to ask children in the crowd to return four balloons to provide extra lift.

The rig includes 800 pounds of ballast -- red Kool-Aid in 40-gallon barrels. Besides a GPS, navigation gear, satellite phone, oxygen, two-way radios, eight cameras, and parachutes, they were carrying two Red Ryder BB rifles and a pair of blowguns to shoot out enough balloons to come to earth when the time is right.

"The landings are very tough," Couch said. "I don't think about the landings until I have to land. That's how I do it."

Track the couch balloon flight here

Expecting to float at 15,000-18,000 feet, where temperatures drop to near zero, they packed sleeping bags to stay warm.

Electronic gear was powered by a solar panel. A flare gun was tied onto the framework for emergencies. They also carried the ashes of a family friend to spread over the high desert.

Lance Schliep, an appliance repairman, helped Couch with the latest design, made entirely from items bought at local hardware stores and junk from Couch's garage.

"It's about as redneck as you can get," Couch said.

Couch said their biggest challenge was finding enough helium to fill all the balloons. They sent as far as the Midwest for bottles. Each balloon that popped on inflation represented a $50 loss, but Couch would not divulge the total cost.

The two men hoped to fly through the night across the mountains of Idaho and touch down Sunday morning somewhere in southwestern Montana. They initially floated to the southeast after the 10:20 a.m. liftoff, but the flight website tracker showed them heading north-northeast, toward Spokane, Wash.

About five hours into the flight, the tracker showed they had gone about 30 miles before turning back to the south.

Romney Backers



The Kind of Men who support Flip Flop Romney

1) William Koch, Runs Oxbow Carbon, worth $4 Billion, Donation $2 Million to Romney's Super PAC,
What He Wants: To pollute for free, Koch's fortune is tied to some of the nation's dirtiest industries

2) Harold Simmons (a Swift Boater and corporate raider), Traffics in Toxic Chemicals, worth $9.8 Billion, Donation $800,000 to Romney total giving $16.7 Million, What He Wants: Plans to store radioactive waste in Texas

3) Bob Perry, Owner of Perry Homes, Worth $600 Million, Donation $4 Million to Romney's Super PAC ,
What He Wants: Tort reform to limit jury awards on homebuilders who do shoddy work

4) Jim Davis, Chairman New Balance Shoes, worth $1.8 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Romney's Super PAC
What He Wants: A lucrative Defense Contract

5) Richard & Bill Marriott, Heir to Marriott Hotel Fortune, Worth $3.3 Billion, Donation $2 Million
to Restore Our Future, What He Wants: A legal pool of foreign born workers to work in their hotels at slave labor rates Romney served twice on the Marriott Board

7) Edward Conard, Ex Managing Director of Bain Capital, Worth $250 Million, Donation $1 Million to
Restore Our Future, What He Wants: To screw taxpayers like Romney does with half the tax rates of others

8) Frank VanderSloot, CEO Melaeuca, Inc., Worth $1 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Romney's Super
PAC , What He Wants: Less consumer protections

9) Steven Lund, Vice Chairman Nu Skin Enterprises, worth $31.9 Million, Donation $2 Million to Restore
Our Future, What He Wants: A world safe for false advertising & marketing scams

10) Julian Robertson Jr., Hedge Fund Titan, worth $2.5 Billion, Donation $1.25 Million to Restore Our
Future What He Wants: lower taxes for the Rich

11) John Paulson, Hedge Fund Titan, worth $12.5 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Romney's Super PAC
What He Wants: No restrictions on Wall St. gambling

12) Paul Singer, Hedge Fund Titan, Worth $1 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Romney's Super PAC What He
Wants: He Needs Fed backing in his lawsuit to collect $2 Billion from Argentina

13) Robert Mercer, CEO Renaissance Technologies, made $125 Million in 2011 alone, Donation $ 1 Million to Romney's Super PAC ,What He Wants: To squelch a proposed tax on stock options

14) Kenneth Griffin, CEO Citadel LLC, worth $3 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Restore our Future What He
Wants: To end Volcker Rule on Dodd-Frank Wall St excesses

15) L. Francis Rooney III, CEO Rooney Holdings, worth $40 Million, Donation $1 Million to Restore our
Future What He Wants: More building contract patronage

16) Steven Webster, CEO Avista Capital, worth $4 Billion, Donation $1 Million to Romney's Super PAC
What He Wants: To Drill baby drill first owner of Deep Sea Horizon the worst environmental disaster in the Nation's history.

17) Donald Trump, Casino Operator who knows what he wants he is just a delusional birther nut

This is not a Democracy that's a hoax it's a Plutocracy

Having A Pitbull on Your Side


Watch how easily this guy slides from cajoling humor to seriously threatening. I like him being a Democrat.

A Jittle Yolk


A motor mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a BMW M3 when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in his shop.

The cardiologist was there waiting for the service manager to come and take a look at his car when the mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?" The cardiologist, a bit surprised walked over to where the mechanic was working on the BMW.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, "So Doc, look at this engine. I opened its heart, took the valves out, repaired or replaced anything damaged and then put everything back in, and when I finished, it worked just like new. So how is that I make $40,000 a year and you make $1.7M when you and I are doing basically the same work?"

The cardiologist paused, leaned over, and then whispered to the mechanic.....

"Try doing it with the engine running."

The greatest lie ever told, the ones Republicans most want you to believe, is that President Obama is a classic tax and spend liberal.

In truth, under Obama taxes have hit a 30-year low, in part because of tax cuts enacted by the president as part of the stimulus package.

Average federal tax rates are lower than they were under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

These are numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and it doesn't matter if you look at just income taxes or all federal taxes combined, under President Obama, taxes are at a 30 year low.

The CBO report only goes through 2009, but since then, President Obama has lowered taxes even more with the payroll tax cut.

Of course, these facts haven't stopped Republicans from complaining about taxes under the president's watch.

To be fair, some of this Republican whining is in response to President Obama's pledge to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent.

But the fact remains, under President Obama, taxes are at a 30 year low.

Yes, some of this republican whining was in response to president obama's pledge to let the bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent, but tax rates would still be at a record low.

President Obama has had to combat the lie with the facts.

Lest We Forget


How really really really bad the last Republican administration was...

Why no religion



5 Days of Health Care in Canada


compared to US costs

So the question arises again...why are Americans using for profit insurance companies for health care at all. What do the insurance companies provide that has anything to do with medical services. As far as I can tell they are nothing but an unneeded layer of bureaucracy just making the health system more expensive. Single payer universal healthcare is the world standard and yet Americans ignore it. Why?


By Kimberley (A Canadian)

I know that there is a delicate sense of American pride, and I have a real Canadian propensity to not want to brag or dictate, but I've watched so many of my friends suffer needlessly, physically and financially as a result of not having adequate health services.

I am not talking only of those with no health insurance, but also of those who pay hundreds of dollars a month for coverage.

People who have to sell cars and household items just to pay premiums.

People who consider high risk alternatives in order to treat themselves.

People who all too often have to choose between groceries or a visit to the doctor.

People who manage to get care, only to lose everything they've worked a lifetime to achieve.

People who have to just go home and wait for their life to end because they can't afford the treatment they need to sustain their life.

People who die too early.

People who live with pain.

From where I sit way up North, Americans have been conditioned to fear and hate the word socialism and all if its derivatives. I have come to the conclusion that inciting fear and distrust serves people of a certain economic stature well and provides a distinct disservice to the rest, while pitting human beings against other human beings for nothing more than varied ideological perspectives.

So, without further adieu, based solely on facts alone, let me share with you the real cost of the past five days of living in a country that has the all-too-often-feared reality of socialized medicine.

This covers the services my son, myself and my father and his wife have had over the past 5 days. I consider this pretty typical. My father has a chronic illness, my step mother accidentally fell from standing on a chair and broke her leg, my son is getting fitted for his first hearing aid and I've had routine care.

CAN: 3 Dialysis sessions $0
US: Physical Therapy @ 3 X wk $300.00
(dialysis costs in the US are estimated at $144 to 172 per session)

CAN: Dietitian services $0
US HealthCare Premiums per month for 2: $250.00 ($3000.00 annually)

CAN: Paramedic services $0
US: (Charged $350.00 in addition to Ambulance Services)

CAN: Emergency surgery $0
US: Shoulder Surgery $37,000.00 billed
Severe hand burns from firecrackers: $5000.00 (2003)

CAN: 5 day hospital stay $0
US: 2 day hospital stay Pediatric ICU $12,000.00 (2002)

CAN: Regular Dr's visit $0
US: Co-pay $35.00/Drs fee $250.00

CAN: Specialist Dr's visit $0
US: Co-pay $35.00/Specialist fee $350.00 plus

CAN: Extensive lab work $0
US: Lab tests/Blood tests for Diabetes (3) $150.00+

CAN: CT scan $0
US: $450 - $2000

CAN: X-rays $0
US: $200.00 minimum, MRI: $3000.00 to $5,000.00 per

CAN: Hearing aid fitting $0
US: Glasses Exam $150.00

CAN: Hearing aid (for child) $0
US: Glasses (adult) $450.00+

CAN: Blood transfusion $0
US: Orthopedic Boot/short $450.00 billed

CAN: 45 minute ambulance ride $50 (with 80% to be reimbursed)
US: Ambulance Service $350.00 (2003)

CAN: Prescription $20 (with 80% to be reimbursed)
US: Rx copay $10.00 to 25.00

CAN: Travel to dialysis $0
US: patient covers complete cost
CAN: Grand total (after reimbursement) $14 for 4 people
US: Approx. $71,000.00 for 2.

In addition my father, because he's blind receives an abundance of additional services, and technical supports to assist in maintaining his Independence.

Contrary to the fear-mongering ads appearing now on television, there were no waits, no one piled up in the hallway of hospitals awaiting substandard care.

I have family members in the health profession and they all have more than adequate salaries that support a high standard of living and neither I, nor anyone I am personally aware of has ever had to wait for emergency, life saving health care. The only waits that I have seen have been for elective procedures.

I can't and won't tell you what is best for you or your country, but I felt it was important to give you the correct information that seems to be elusive on the airwaves of American television.

In my humble opinion, you deserve so much better than what you are currently getting. Health care should not be an option, but a right -- available equitably to all, and wellness should never be attached to an economic scale.

Demand better, you are entitled.


Great Beatles Photo

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Come to China Donkey


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

Open Source Hardware


When TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada heard about the devastating effects of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, he quit his dream job and moved to New Orleans to develop a more efficient way to soak up the oil. He designed a highly maneuverable, flexible boat capable of cleaning large tracts quickly. But rather than turn a profit, he has opted to open-source the design.

Happy Fourth... Helping


Cern Finds Higgs Boson


It thinks...or says an accidentally leaked video:

If true, this is "pretty darn significant".

"Until the seminar tomorrow, don't take anything for granted," Gillies told me. You can watch CERN's webcast of the particle-physics fireworks beginning at 3 a.m. ET.

Completely Likeable People


Andy Griffith: 1926-2012


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