October 2012 Archives

Sandy's Subway

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Water filling the Bowling Green subway station in Battery Park in New York on October 30 as New Yorkers cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

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Republican Motto: Truth Be Damned

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Start with a lie and end with a lie...bookends for a campaign based on nothing but lies for FOX bigots who desire their news swaddled in lies, the bigger the better.

Sandy

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Looks like a painting only it's not. And I've got to wonder...why Sandy and not Sandra?

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Finally a Late October Surprise

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Romney (Rob Me) the hypocritical thief:

NYTimes Endorses Obama

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Smart move and well stated.

Barack Obama for Re-Election

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women's access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans' rights are cheapened by the right wing's determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney's true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney's choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the "fiscal cliff" battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama's many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Health Care

Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.

It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans' propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.

That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents' policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.


HOW THE SKEPTICS CHANGED THE GAME ON CLIMATE CHANGE:

INSIDE THE REMARKABLE TURNAROUND THAT CHANGED PUBLIC OPINION AND THE U.S. POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

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FRONTLINE presents
Climate of Doubt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 10 P.M. ET on PBS
http://www.pbs.org/frontline/climate-of-doubt
www.facebook.com/frontline
Twitter: @frontlinepbs #frontline

Four years ago, the presidential candidates agreed that climate change was a critical issue demanding urgent attention. But that national call to action has disappeared and in the past four years public opinion on the climate issue has cooled. This election cycle, the presidential candidates barely discuss climate change. And new studies find that only about half of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity. What's behind this dramatic reversal? In Climate of Doubt, FRONTLINE correspondent John Hockenberry of PRI's The Takeaway explores the inner workings of the movement that changed the debate on climate change.

In numerous interviews that took him across the country, Hockenberry discovers how climate skeptics mobilized, built their argument, and undermined public acceptance of a global scientific consensus. Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, explains how the movement was able to find a voice and gain momentum as the economy failed, "We got up a hot-air balloon, put a banner on the side of it that said, cap-and-trade means higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom. And we went all over the country doing events and stirring up grassroots anger and frustration, concern."

Climate of Doubt describes the individuals and groups behind an organized effort to attack science by undermining scientists, and to unseat politicians who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity. Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M, says, "I fully expect that after this program airs I'll get another FOIA request for all of my emails with you. And you know, I'll just deal with that. As a climate scientist, I think a lot about the future. It goes with the job. And I want to make sure that in 50 years or 100 years or 200 years, nobody could ever say we didn't warn them."

FRONTLINE also investigates the funding that powers the skeptic movement in the name of free market, anti-regulation, small government causes. Hockenberry finds that funding has shifted away from fossil fuel companies to more ideological, and less public, sources. According to Robert Brulle, a sociologist studying the funding patterns of these groups, "The major funders of the climate counter-movement are ideologically driven foundations that are very much concerned about conservative values and world views."

A Beautiful Photograph

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Baby Spiders

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click pic to enlarge

You probably have to live here in Florida to realize this humorist is speaking the truth.


An Old Saw Laid to Rest

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Nothing is more of a canard than the old saw that government does not create jobs. It's especially ridiculous when mouthed by government workers like politicians and yet they seem oblivious to the irony. Can they really be that stupid or think we are?

The Myth of Job Creation (NY Times Editorial)


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The headlines from the last presidential debate focused on President Obama challenging Mitt Romney on issue after issue. There was a less noticed, but no less remarkable, moment when Mr. Obama agreed with Mr. Romney on something -- and both were entirely wrong.

The exchange began with a question about the offshoring of American jobs. Part of Mr. Obama's answer was that federal investments in education, science and research would help to ensure that companies invest and hire in the United States. Mr. Romney interrupted. "Government does not create jobs," he said. "Government does not create jobs."

It was a decidedly crabbed response to a seemingly uncontroversial observation, and yet Mr. Obama took the bait. He said his political opponents had long harped on "this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe." He went on to praise free enterprise and to say that government's role is to create the conditions for everyone to have a fair shot at success.

So, they agree. Government does not create jobs.

Except that it does, millions of them -- including teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, astronauts, epidemiologists, antiterrorism agents, park rangers, diplomats, governors (Mr. Romney's old job) and congressmen (like Paul Ryan).

First, the basics. At last count, government at all levels -- federal, state and local -- employed 22 million Americans, with the largest segment working in public education. Is that too many? No. Since the late 1980s, the number of public-sector workers has averaged about 7.3 for every 100 people. With the loss of 569,000 government jobs since June 2009, that ratio now stands at about 7 per 100.

Public-sector job loss means trouble for everyone. Government jobs are crucial to education, public health and safety, environmental protection, defense, homeland security and myriad other functions that the private sector cannot fulfill. They are also critical for private-sector job growth in two fundamental ways. First, the government gets its supplies from private-sector companies, which is why Republican senators like John McCain have been frantically warning about the dire effects on job creation if Congress moves ahead with planned military spending cuts. (Republicans insisted upon the cuts as part of their ill-advised showdown over the debt ceiling.) Second, government spending on supplies and salaries reverberates strongly through the economy, increasing demand and with it, employment.

That means the economy suffers when government cuts back. A report by the Economic Policy Institute examined the effect of recent cutbacks at the state and local level -- including direct loss of government jobs and indirect loss of suppliers' jobs; the jobs that should have been added to keep up with population growth; and the reduction in purchasing power from other cutbacks. If not for state and local budget austerity, the report found, the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs today, half of which would be in the private sector.

The government does not create jobs? It most certainly does. And at this time of state budgetary hardship, a dose of federal fiscal aid to states and localities could create more jobs, in both the public and private sectors.


A great essay on this topic: The Ideological Attack on Job Creation


The Last Shuttle

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Another Form of Sermonette

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God, I love this program...

Sermonette # 1001

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Twist Ending Of Minister's Anti-Gay Speech


Name That Species

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Before breeding, they may court for several days. Scientists believe the courtship behavior synchronizes the animals' movements as well as reproductive state so that the male can receive the eggs when the female is ready to deposit them. During this time they may change color, swim side by side holding tails or grip the same strand of sea grass with their tails and wheel around in unison in what is known as a "pre-dawn dance".

They eventually engage in a "true courtship dance" lasting about 8 hours, during which the male pumps water through the egg pouch on his trunk which expands and opens to display its emptiness. When the female's eggs reach maturity, she and her mate let go of any anchors and snout-to-snout, drift upward out of the seagrass, often spiraling as they rise. The female inserts her ovipositor into the male's brood pouch and deposits dozens to thousands of eggs. As the female releases her eggs, her body slims while his swells. Both animals then sink back into the seagrass and she swims away.

The male releases his sperm directly into seawater where it fertilizes the eggs, which are then embedded in the pouch wall and become surrounded by a spongy tissue. The male supplies the eggs with prolactin, the same hormone responsible for milk production in pregnant mammals. The pouch provides oxygen as well as a controlled environment incubator. The eggs then hatch in the pouch where the salinity of the water is regulated; this prepares the newborns for life in the sea

Throughout gestation, which in most species requires two to four weeks, his mate visits him daily for "morning greetings". They interact for about 6 minutes, reminiscent of courtship. The female then swims away until the next morning, and the male returns to vacuuming up food through his snout.

Paint On a Rock

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Nice summation, Jon.

FACT:
Democrats are the party that cuts deficits while Republicans are the party that generates them.

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Not a Pretty Picture

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Death By Ideology

By Paul Krugman

romneyrepealobamacare.jpgMitt Romney doesn't see dead people. But that's only because he doesn't want to see them; if he did, he'd have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.

Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance." This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney -- echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush -- in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.

These are remarkable statements. They clearly demonstrate that Mr. Romney has no idea what life (and death) are like for those less fortunate than himself.

Even the idea that everyone gets urgent care when needed from emergency rooms is false. Yes, hospitals are required by law to treat people in dire need, whether or not they can pay. But that care isn't free -- on the contrary, if you go to an emergency room you will be billed, and the size of that bill can be shockingly high. Some people can't or won't pay, but fear of huge bills can deter the uninsured from visiting the emergency room even when they should. And sometimes they die as a result.

More important, going to the emergency room when you're very sick is no substitute for regular care, especially if you have chronic health problems. When such problems are left untreated -- as they often are among uninsured Americans -- a trip to the emergency room can all too easily come too late to save a life.

So the reality, to which Mr. Romney is somehow blind, is that many people in America really do die every year because they don't have health insurance.

How many deaths are we talking about?

A 23 Mile High Skydive at 833 mph

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Completely insane...but beautiful

Skydiver breaks record for manned balloon flight at 23 miles high
Dare devil's body pierced atmosphere at speeds topping 800 miles per hour

ROSWELL, N.M. -- An Austrian daredevil leapt into the stratosphere from a balloon hovering near the edge of space 24 miles (38 km) above Earth on Sunday, breaking as many as three world records including the highest skydive ever, project sponsors said.

Cheers broke out as Felix Baumgartner, 43, jumped from a skateboard sized shelf outside the 11-by-8-foot (3.3-by-2.4 metre) fiberglass and acrylic capsule that was carried as high as 128,000 feet by an enormous balloon.

"We love you Felix!" screamed the crowd as he plunged through the stratosphere.

His body pierced the atmosphere at speeds topping 800 miles per hour, appearing to achieve another of his goals: to become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound, according to the project website. He sped toward Earth on the 65th anniversary of legendary American pilot Chuck Yeager's flight shattering the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947.

"Looks like he probably broke Mach," project commentator Bob Hager said, referring to Mach 1, more than 690 miles per hour, used to measure the speed of sound.

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Cutting, But Good Humor, Man

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"Kick 'em in the balls, John!" - RFK to JFK just before Nixon debate

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Condition: Critical

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Bad Lip Reading

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Religious Fruitcakes in Government

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Religions Losing Punch

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A good thing to my mind.

In so far as religion can offer historical continuity through tradition and act as a repository for cultural knowledge, act to succor and relieve those in distress who have no other outlet, it has a useful purpose.

The problem arises when adherents mistake religious dogma for literal reality. Social "truths" like the Golden Rule are not equivalent to scientific fact like the law of gravity. People who take their religious truths literally are not only missing the entire point of the spiritual dimension, but are also dangerously deluded and most dangerous when they see their religious truth as exclusively THE TRUTH.

I find it heartening that organized religion is losing it's sway over the populace. I find it disheartening that the loss is seemingly not being replaced by a more enlightened world view.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick

1 in 5 Americans are religiously unaffiliated, survey shows

By Becky Bratu

One in five Americans -- and one in three of adults under 30 -- are religiously unaffiliated, the highest percentage ever, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

Over the past five years, the study found, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased from slightly over 15 percent to just under 20 percent, a figure that includes more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics, as well as almost 33 million adults who do not identify themselves with a particular religion.

Survey takers were able to choose from a list that included more than a dozen possible affiliations, including "Catholic," "Protestant," "Orthodox," "don't know" and "nothing in particular."

But, according to the nationwide survey, many of the 46 million unaffiliated adults or so-called "nones" are spiritual or religious in some way:

  • 68 percent say they believe in God.
  • 58 percent say they feel a connection with nature and the Earth.
  • 37 percent say they think of themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious."
  • 21 percent say they pray daily.

Most "nones" said religious institutions can benefit communities through their social outreach, but an overwhelming majority thinks religious organizations are too focused on rules, money and power and too involved in politics.

Pew says the rise of the religiously unaffiliated is mainly due to a generational shift, with 32 percent of adults under 30 saying they're religiously unaffiliated, compared with only 9 percent of those aged 65 and older.


The Political Pitchman's Tool

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Human Nuclear Stupidity

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A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945

by Isao Hashimoto

The Why You Do the Things You Do

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Who's in Charge Inside Your Head?

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By David P. Barash

ZOMBIE bees?

That's right: zombie bees. First reported in California in 2008, these stranger-than-fiction creatures have spread to North Dakota and, just recently, to my home in Washington State.

Of course, they're not really zombies, although they act disquietingly like them, showing abnormal behavior like flying at night (almost unheard-of in healthy bees), moving erratically and then dying. These "zombees" are victims of a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis. The fly lays eggs within honeybees, inducing their hosts to make a nocturnal "flight of the living dead," after which the larval flies emerge, having consumed the bee from the inside out.

These events, although bizarre, aren't all that unusual in the animal world. Many fly and wasp species lay their eggs inside hosts. What is especially interesting, and a bit more unusual, is the way an internal parasite not only feeds on its host, but also frequently alters its behavior, in a way that favors the continued survival and reproduction of the parasite.

Not all internal parasites kill their hosts, of course: pretty much every multicellular animal is home to numerous fellow travelers, each of which has its own agenda, which in some cases involves influencing, or taking control of, part or all of the body in which they temporarily reside.

And this, in turn, leads to the question: who's in charge of your own mind? Think of the morgue scene in the movie "Men in Black," when a human corpse is revealed to be a robot, its skull inhabited by a little green man from outer space. Science fiction, but less bizarre than you might expect, or want to believe.

Providing room and board to other life-forms doesn't only compromise one's nutritional status (not to mention peace of mind), it often reduces freedom of action, too. The technical phrase is "host manipulation."

Take the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, which causes its mouse host to become obese and sluggish, making it easy pickings for predators, notably foxes, which -- not coincidentally -- provide an optimal environment for the tapeworm to move into the next phase in its life cycle.

Sometimes the process is truly strange. For example, a kind of fluke known as Dicrocoelium dentriticum does time inside a snail, then an ant, followed by a sheep. Ensconced within an ant, some of the resourceful worms migrate to their host's brain, where they manage to rewire its neurons, essentially hijacking its body.

The manipulated ant, in response to Dicrocoelium's demands, then climbs to the top of a blade of grass and waits patiently and conspicuously until it is consumed by a grazing sheep. Once in its desired happy breeding ground, the worm releases its eggs, which depart with a healthy helping of sheep poop, only to be consumed once more by snails, which eventually excrete the immature worms for another generation of unlucky ants to consume.

It may be distressing to those committed to "autonomy," but such manipulators have inherited the earth. Including us.

Take coughing, or sneezing.

Why the internet is worth it

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Billionaire Koch brothers try to buy state's court

By Carl Hiaasen
chiaasen@MiamiHerald.com

The new stealth campaign against three Florida Supreme Court justices is being backed by those meddling right-wing billionaires from Wichita, Charles and David Koch.

They couldn't care less about Florida, but they love to throw their money around.

Last week they uncorked the first of a series of commercials from their political action committee, Americans for Prosperity. The targets are Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

They were three of the five-vote majority that in 2010 knocked down a half-baked amendment slapped together by state lawmakers seeking to nullify the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions in finding that the proposed amendment contained "misleading and ambiguous language," the hallmark of practically everything produced by this Legislature. Stoned chimpanzees have a keener grasp of constitutional law.

Conservative groups have gone after local justices before. In Iowa, a place which has nothing but vowels in common with Florida, three state justices were fired by voters after being vilified for ruling against a ban on gay marriage.

On the November ballot, Lewis, Pariente and Quince are up for merit retention, meaning voters can choose to retain them or not. This simple system was put in place to keep the state's high court above the sleaze of political races.

The mission of the Kochs, hiding as always behind their super PAC, is to get the three justices dumped at the polls so that Gov. Rick Scott can appoint replacements.

This is worth repeating: If the Kochs have their way, Rick Scott -- yes, that Rick Scott -- gets to pack the Supreme Court with his own hand-picked crew.

Yikes is right.

The head of the Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity is a person called Slade O' Brien, whose job is to keep a straight face while saying things like: "We're not advocating for the election or defeat of any of the justices. What we're attempting to do is call more attention to them advocating from the bench."

Meanwhile the state GOP's executive board is less coy. It voted to oppose the retention of Quince, Lewis and Pariente, branding them "too extreme."

Well, let's have a peek at these dangerous radicals.

Justice Pariente, 63, has been on the court for 15 years. She was graduated from George Washington University Law School and clerked in Fort Lauderdale under U.S. District Judge Norm Roettger, who was no softie.

Justice Lewis, 64, who was graduated cum laude from the University of Miami Law School, has been on the court almost 14 years. Both he and Pariente were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, not exactly a wild-eyed liberal.

Justice Quince, also 64, is the first African-American woman on the Supreme Court. A graduate of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, she worked for years prosecuting death-penalty cases in the state Attorney General's office.

In 1999, she was jointly selected for the high court by Chiles and that wacky left-winger, Jeb Bush.

Twice before Floridians have voted to keep these justices, but now the Kochs from Wichita say they know better. You won't see David or Charlie in any of the campaign commercials because they don't like people to know they're prying.

Their multinational fortune comes from oil refineries, fertilizers, cattle, commodities, chemicals and paper mills. Next time you reach for Angel Soft toilet paper, think of the Koch brothers.

Both are MIT grads, philanthropists, unabashedly ultraconservative and anti-Obama. They're spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to defeat the President and lesser officeholders all over the country who won't bend to their will. Some Florida Republicans -- respected judges and lawyers -- are disturbed by the sneak attack on the Supreme Court, which they view as a bald attempt to politicize the judiciary.

The two other justices who voted against the inept Obamacare amendment were similarly singled out two years ago, when they were up for merit retention. Tea Party groups bought TV time blasting justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry, and urging voters to remove them from the court. It didn't work.

Labarga was retained with about 59 percent of the vote, Perry with 61 percent. Those aren't bad margins, considering that the justices can't campaign in their own defense.

This time is different because Americans for Prosperity has a bottomless war chest to use against Lewis, Pariente and Quince. Be assured that Gov. Scott is rooting for the Kochs. He'd love to have three openings to fill on the Supreme Court.

The last thing these guys want is fair judges who know the law; they want partisan judges who'll obediently support their political agenda

It's worse than just trying to buy an election. It's trying to hijack Florida's justice system at the highest levels.

And all the Angel Soft in the world won't wipe away the stink.

Meh.

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An animated tour of the invisible

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This is brilliant...and funny.

Terrorism is a failed brand

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Jason McCue urges for a new way to attack terrorism, to weaken its credibility with those who are buying the product -- the recruits. He shares stories of real cases where he and other activists used this approach to engage and create change.


When a new drug gets tested, the results of the trials should be published for the rest of the medical world -- except much of the time, negative or inconclusive findings go unreported, leaving doctors and researchers in the dark. In this impassioned talk, Ben Goldacre explains why these unreported instances of negative data are especially misleading and dangerous.

Are droids taking our jobs?

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So what have I been proclaiming loudly for the last decade regarding the internet and high tech in general?

We ain't seen nothing yet.

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