March 2014 Archives

Most Corrupt Speed Trap in FL

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Good lord, this state is a riot

Bid to wipe out the most corrupt town in Florida

- where there is one heavily-armed cop for every 25 residents

  • The tiny landlocked town is an infamous speed trap with one police officer for every 25 residents
  • State officials fear at least $1 million in city revenue has gone to line the pockets of city workers
  • The town's elected mayor is in jail awaiting trial for allegedly selling an oxycodone to a cop for $20
  • An audit showed 31 potential city misdeeds including a $132,000 bill at a convenience store next to city hall
  • Auditors were even told that some missing public records were 'lost in the swamp'

By Joshua Gardner

hampton04.jpgA Florida town has been deemed so completely corrupt by state lawmakers that they want it completely wiped off the map.

Just under 500 people live in the few blocks of metal-roofed homes that make up Hampton, Florida, but city revenue from speeding tickets manages to keep a police officer for every 25 people in town on the payroll.

Even the mayor calls the town's officials a bunch of crooks, though he's currently in jail awaiting trial for allegedly selling an oxycodone pill to an undercover police officer.

Sunshine State lawmakers are pushing for the nuclear option after an audit released February 10 revealed a history of shockingly misused funds in the tiny town. That is, when any records were taken at all.

CNN reports that the city--which has existed for 89 years for the purposes of pumping water to its residents and for maintaining a police force--told auditors they'd simply lost records of water meter readings 'in the swamp.'

The audit found that Hampton officials were guilty of 31 misdeeds and mishandling of funds that were as egregious as $132,000 in charges at the BP convenience store next door to City Hall.

'What's wrong with that picture?' Jim Mitzel, mayor from 2000 to 2008, asked CNN. 'That's a lot of cigarettes and beer and what-have-you. That's corrupt as heck.'

They also found that city employees had racked up $27,000 in charges on the city's credit card for 'no public purpose' and that the city police cars weren't even insured.

Though, there were plenty of them.

The city keeps a bloated police force in order to continue pursuing what many say is its sole purpose: ticketing drivers as they drive through town.

The town has even extended its city limits 1,260 feet down the width of a busy highway in order to lay claim to any and all traffic violations--end their accompanying ticket fines--that occur there.

hampton03.jpgThe sight of Hampton Police sitting alongside U.S. 301 on lawn chairs and pointing their radar gun at passersby bas become the norm on the outskirts of town.

They became infamous for ticketing anyone and everyone they possibly could for even the tiniest of infractions and between 2010 and 2012 raked in an unbelievable $616,960 in fines.

The money allowed them to upgrade their police cars to SUVs and check drivers' speed while wearing pricey riot gear.

One such police officer became known by the nickname Rambo because of his swagger and the AR-15 rifle he wore while greeting vacationing speeders during traffic stops.

'It became "serve and collect" instead of "serve and protect." Cash register justice,' local Sheriff Gordon Smith told CNN. 'Do y'all remember the old Dukes of Hazzard? Boss Hogg? They make Boss Hogg look like a Sunday school teacher.'

hampton02.jpgEven more glaring evidence that something is very wrong in Hampton is its last mayor, Barry Layne Moore.

Just a few weeks after he took office, he made headlines when he was arrested for allegedly selling pain pills to a police officers.

'I ride a bicycle around town. I had my lights cut off twice last year. If I am a dope dealer, why are my lights getting cut off,' Moore asked CNN in an interview from jail.

'I'm a good guy that got caught up in a bunch of nonsense that was bigger than me.'

Moore has been in jail since around Thanksgiving because he can't afford the $4,500 bond.

To save themselves further headache, state officials--including State Senator Rob Bradley, whose district includes Hampton--say they just want the town erased from the map.

'It's like something out of a Southern Gothic novel,' Bradley told Time.

Bradley said the support to wipe away the mistakes of Hampton's past is strong with area Floridians as well as in the legislature.

'This town exists apparently just to write speeding tickets,' Bradley said. 'Most people don't understand why it exists in the first place.'

When Bran Ferren was just 9, his parents took him to see the Pantheon in Rome -- and it changed everything. In that moment, he began to understand how the tools of science and engineering become more powerful when combined with art, with design and beauty. Ever since, he's been searching for a convincing modern-day equivalent to Rome's masterpiece. Stay tuned to the end of the talk for his unexpected suggestion.


Hysterical Humor Site

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Go Igor, Revel !

Pointless Planet

Sample:

xtianmingle.png
















Abortion clinic protest? Koran burning? Kirk Cameron movie?

Fighting Creeping Creationism

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Nothing is scarier than the stupidity a person has to be willing to entertain in themselves than that represented by anti-evolution creationism. The fact that hundredss of American private schools are receiving public tax finding via vouchers is appalling.

Religious fundamentalists backed by the right wing are finding increasingly stealthy ways to challenge evolution with the dogma of creationism. Their strategy includes passing education laws that encourage teaching creationism alongside evolution, and supporting school vouchers to transfer taxpayer money from public to private schools, where they can push a creationist agenda. But they didn't count on 19-year-old anti-creationism activist Zack Kopplin.

From the time he was a high school senior in his home state of Louisiana, Kopplin has been speaking, debating, cornering politicians and winning the active support of 78 Nobel Laureates, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the New Orleans City Council, and tens of thousands of students, teachers and others around the country. The Rice University history major joins Bill to talk about fighting the creep of creationist curricula into public school science classes and publicly funded vouchers that end up supporting creationist instruction.


Also on the program, journalist and historian Susan Jacoby talks with Bill about the role secularism and intellectual curiosity have played throughout America's history, a topic explored in her new book, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

Chris Matthews responds to Donald Rumsfeld's and Mitt Romney's recent remarks criticizing the president on his foreign policy, and compares them to high school drop-outs who are only trying to disrupt others who are trying to learn

Thrilling Work

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Workers from a Phoenix-based company had an awe-inspiring view as they dangled from ropes to clean the glass at the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

The more than 40 panes of glass underneath the horseshoe-shaped bridge aren't easily accessible. Technicians from Abseilon USA had to hook up a series of ropes before polishing the underside Tuesday.

Click pic to enlarge

grandcanyonworkers.jpg

The structure juts out 70 feet from the edge of the Grand Canyon, offering visitors a view of the Colorado River 4,000 feet below.

Abseilon USA Vice President Kenneth Piposar says the company's work also has included rappelling down into the Grand Canyon to retrieve water bottles, hats and other trash.

The Skywalk is at the west end of the Grand Canyon, outside the national park's boundaries.

By Ronnie Polidoro and Alexa Keyes

Women's History Month is coming to a close, a time to reflect on how far women have come in the United States, to appreciate the progress women have made, and to understand the ways in which women continue to lag behind men, even in 2014. Women make up a majority of the U.S. population and represent 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce, yet they earn lower pay and fill fewer top jobs than men, according to the Center for American Progress.

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How does the United States measure up to other countries? Although the U.S. has reversed the gender gap when it comes to higher education, the country ranks 67th in the world when it comes to wage equality and 60th for women's political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forums' 2013 Gender Gap Index of 136 countries.

Comment du Jour

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re: MSNBC article:


Protesters Rally as Supreme Court Hears Case on Obamacare and Religion

Bart Conner

#15

Hobby Lobby's main supplier are factories in China, a country with one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

Even Hobby Lobby's religious feelings have limits.

Exactly.

Google Enhances Encryption Technology for Email

Google has enhanced the encryption technology for its flagship email service in ways that will make it harder for the National Security Agency to intercept messages moving among the company's worldwide data centers.

Among the most extraordinary disclosures in documents leaked by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden were reports that the NSA had secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.

Google, whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said in November that he was outraged over the practice, didn't mention the NSA in Thursday's announcement, except in a veiled reference to "last summer's revelations." The change affects more than 425 million users of Google's Gmail service.

Yahoo has promised similar steps for its email service by this spring.

Google and other technology companies have been outspoken about the U.S. government's spy programs. The companies are worried more people will reduce their online activities if they believe almost everything they do is being monitored by the government. A decline in Internet use could hurt the companies financially by giving them fewer opportunities to show online ads and sell other services.

"Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us," Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail's security engineering lead, wrote in a blog post.

Lidzborski said that all Gmail messages a consumer sends or receives are now encrypted.

A secret Jan. 9, 2013, accounting indicated that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the NSA's Fort Meade, Md., headquarters, according to documents released by Snowden last year.

Google and other technology companies provide information to the NSA and other government agencies when required by a court order.

"Google is making it tougher for the government to spy on its customers without going through Google," said Chris Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

"There are still ways for NSA to spy on the bad guys," Soghoian said. "But this will prevent them from spying on 500 million people at once."

Ed Snowden and the NSA at TED

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Snowdon talks about the issues surrounding his releasing of secret documents.

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives -- and the laws that protect it. "Your rights matter," he says, "because you never know when you're going to need them." Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.



After the surprise appearance by Edward Snowden at TED2014, Chris Anderson said: "If the NSA wants to respond, please do." And yes, they did. Appearing by video, NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett answers Anderson's questions about the balance between security and protecting privacy.

Earth: The Operator's Manual is the best presentation of rational perspectives on climate change I have seen yet.

The host, Richard Alley a registered Republican and an American geologist and Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who through a completely non-partisan lens congenially yet succinctly presents the nature of earth's environment historically and likely arcs into the future.


You can view it aove or on youtube at this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY8GNSi4MsU

or watch the

Hulu version

Cosmic Inflation Theory

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Why get bigger at all?

'Smoking Gun' Reveals How the Inflationary Big Bang Happened

By Alan Boyle

New findings show that the universe underwent a burst of inflation that was seemingly faster than the speed of light in the first instant of its existence, throwing off a storm of exotic gravitational waves in the process.

The evidence comes from the BICEP2 experiment at the South Pole, which captures and analyzes the faint glow left over from the Big Bang. BICEP2's researchers found a subtle twisty pattern in the polarization of that light, which would be characteristic of primordial gravitational waves.

The results support a concept known as inflationary Big Bang theory, and they can be further analyzed to reconstruct how the Big Bang blew up 13.8 billion years ago. Even in advance of Monday's public reveal, physicists were gushing over the implications.

"Other than finding life on other planets or directly detecting dark matter, I can't think of any other plausible near-term astrophysical discovery more important than this one for improving our understanding of the universe," Caltech theoretical physicist Sean Carroll said in a pre-announcement blog posting.

MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark wrote that "before long, it will lead to at least one Nobel Prize."

'Smoking gun' for inflation

Stanford physicist Andrei Linde, one of the pioneers of inflationary Big Bang theory, said Monday's revelation was "something I have been hoping to see for 30 years.""These results are a smoking gun for inflation, because alternative theories do not predict such a signal," Linde said in a news release.

MIT physicist Alan Guth, who is credited with articulating the inflation concept in 1980, told The New York Times that he was "bowled over" by the results.

Flash interactive: Beyond the Big Bang

The Rich get Richer...

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on the backs of the poorer.

Fortune 100 Companies Have Received $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare

By Aaron Cantu

Military contractors, oil companies and banks are the biggest 'welfare queens' around.

Crpwlfr.jpgMilitary contractors, oil companies and banks are the biggest 'welfare queens' around.

Most of us are aware that the government gives mountains of cash to powerful corporations in the form of tax breaks, grants, loans and subsidies--what some have called "corporate welfare." However, little has been revealed about exactly how much money Washington is forking over to mega businesses.

Until now.

A new venture called Open the Books, based in Illinois, was founded with a mission to bring transparency to how the federal budget is spent. And what they found is shocking: between 2000 and 2012, the top Fortune 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the government. That doesn't include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for wind turbine makers.

What Open the Book's forthcoming report does reveal is that the most valuable contracts between the government and private firms were for military procrument deals, including Lockheed Martin ($392 billion), General Dynamics ($170 billion), and United Technologies ($73 billion).

After military contractors, $21.8 billion was granted out to corporate recipients in the form of direct subsidies; literally transfers of cash from the pockets of Americans to major corporations. The biggest winners were General Electric (GE) ($380 million), followed by General Motors (GM) ($370 million), Boeing (BA) ($264 million), ADM ($174 million) and United Technologies ($160 million).
$8.5 billion in federally subsidized loans were also doled out to giant oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobile, and $1 billion went directly to massive agri-business Archer Daniels Midland.

Of course, the banks also got their piece of the pie: $10 billion in federal insurance went to Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, not including any of the 2008 bailout money. Walmart enjoyed its share of federal insurance backing as well.

Thanks to Open the Books, the curtain has been lifted and the whole country can now witness the great suckling of corporate America. As Open the Books founder Adam Andrzejewski put it: "Mitt Romney had it wrong: When it comes to the Fortune 100, it's 99%, not 47%, on some form of the government's gravy train."

Deep Green Power Alternatives

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Ever heard of CCAs? Me neither.

The Breaking of a Power Monopoly: Community Choice?

Pacific Gas & Electric has had a monopoly on the energy needs of the northern two-thirds of California since 1905. But a new state government entity called Community Choice Aggregation promises to turn over most conventional wisdom of who has the power.

by Dina Rasor

PGandEpower.jpgPacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), as an energy utility, has had a monopoly on the energy needs of the northern two-thirds of California since 1905. As an investor-owned power company, it has amassed great wealth, assets and political power over the years. However, there is a new state government entity, called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), that promises to turn over most conventional political wisdom of who has the power.

The first attempt to break PG&E's monopoly came in 1996, when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson pushed through a bill that loosened up the lucrative California energy market to the "Wild West" of a free market with few price regulations in the price of electricity sold to the state's utilities. But it did not remove the restriction and cap on prices of what PG&E could charge to their retail customers for electricity. In 2000, drought and other problems put a strain on the California energy market. The notorious Enron Corporation artificially made the shortage worse by illegally shutting down their energy pipelines from Texas to California and manipulated markets to create an artificial power shortage in California. Enron began selling energy to a strapped PG&E at inflated prices but PG&E, by regulation, still had a regulatory cap restricting it from passing most of these energy costs to its customers. From April to December, energy rates increased an astounding 800 percent. Because PG&E was not able to require its customers to pay for most of this outrageous increase, its cash flow was drained quickly. PG&E was headed toward bankruptcy. The next year saw a series of infamous rolling blackouts, and the state had to step in and buy expensive power on the spot market because PG&E did not have the cash. The public did get stuck with paying for the state's losses through taxes and the cost of PG&E's bankruptcy that increased PG&E's overhead and cost of doing business through higher electric bills. Billions of dollars were lost, with some estimates being as high as $45 billion.

After this ongoing trauma was inflicted on the state, PG&E emerged from bankruptcy with its monopoly intact. Many California communities were growing interested in renewable energy, but PG&E had gotten its rate of renewable energy only to less than 20 percent. In 2002, still smarting from the damage of the artificial market crisis, environmental and consumer groups looked for another way to try to infiltrate part of the PG&E's power empire. This time, California legislators tried another route. They passed a law creating CCA. Communities now have the right to pool the citizens' and businesses' energy use in their cities or counties to purchase power for their aggregate unit. Communities such as cities and counties can also group together to form a larger CCA. CCAs are governmental agencies that generate income, similar to water districts.

How could these communities have their own power agencies compete with a powerful PG&E? To understand it, you need to think about PG&E having two monopolies. One is the ability to buy or make and sell electricity - that is, to sell electrons. The other is the infrastructure needed to deliver those electrons, through power towers and power lines, to your door. It would be ludicrous to think that a CCA could duplicate the infrastructure to deliver the electricity to your house or business. CCAs are just buying and/or generating the electrons. So PG&E still has a monopoly in delivering the electricity but the CCAs now have the ability to use PG&E's power lines to compete and deliver electricity that has a higher percentage of renewable energy and perhaps even at a cheaper rate.

Many cities and counties, such as San Francisco, Marin County, Sonoma County and Berkeley, began to look and see if they could form their own CCAs, generate and buy the power and have a much higher percentage come from renewable sources. Marin County's CCA, called Marin Clean Energy (MCE), ended up being the first one out the door. It was formed in 2008 and it started service in May 2010.

The Empire Strikes Back

My first reaction to the prospect of breaking up the energy monopoly of PG&E was that this investor-owned power giant born in 1905 would not passively sit back and allow these tree-hugging municipalities and counties to pick off some of its lucrative territory. My instincts were right.

On the June 2010 state ballot, a month after MCE had launched its service, PG&E financed the placement and support of California's Proposition 16. California has an extensive system of allowing the public, by turning in petitions, or the Legislature to put propositions on the ballot each time there is a statewide election. The public and special-interest groups are allowed to donate money for or against these propositions, and there has been enormous money in this propositions election process. This proposition would require any state municipality or county to get a supermajority of two-thirds vote from the citizens, rather than a majority from a town council or county supervisors before they could spend funds or efforts to form a CCA. As anyone knows, demanding a supermajority usually kills any initiative in our closely divided country.

The supporters of Prop 16 couched their argument as a taxpayers' rights issue, but it was abundantly clear that PG&E wanted to drown the CCA babies in the bathtub before they had a chance to walk. PG&E spent an astonishing $46 million on the proposition against the less than $100,000 raised by the opponents. The CCAs, by law, were not allowed to get involved in the election because they are government entities, so it was just up to environmental groups to mount a web campaign to defeat this proposition to save any chance of trying the CCA concept.

PG&E ended up with mud on its face when Prop 16 was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent, especially when electric rate payers realized that it had used $46 million of its assets to try to defeat the CCA little guys. It was an amazing win for the CCAs.

With the specter of the supermajority vote banished, MCE launched its service. According to the law, every power customer is automatically enrolled in MCE, but customers have the right to opt out and continue to buy electricity from PG&E and its 20 percent renewable energy. But MCE went one step farther: Fifty percent of MCE's basic service, called Light Green, comes from renewable sources. Customers also can "opt up" for an MCE program called Deep Green, where 100 percent of the energy is renewable.

and giving it to Those People.

That Old-Time Whistle

Paul Krugman

There are many negative things you can say about Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.'s de facto intellectual leader. But you have to admit that he's a very articulate guy, an expert at sounding as if he knows what he's talking about.

So it's comical, in a way, to see Mr. Ryan trying to explain away some recent remarks in which he attributed persistent poverty to a "culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working." He was, he says, simply being "inarticulate." How could anyone suggest that it was a racial dog-whistle? Why, he even cited the work of serious scholars -- people like Charles Murray, most famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Oh, wait.

Just to be clear, there's no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist, and his dog-whistle may not even have been deliberate. But it doesn't matter. He said what he said because that's the kind of thing conservatives say to each other all the time. And why do they say such things? Because American conservatism is still, after all these years, largely driven by claims that liberals are taking away your hard-earned money and giving it to Those People.

Indeed, race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.

We are told, for example, that conservatives are against big government and high spending. Yet even as Republican governors and state legislatures block the expansion of Medicaid, the G.O.P. angrily denounces modest cost-saving measures for Medicare. How can this contradiction be explained? Well, what do many Medicaid recipients look like -- and I'm talking about the color of their skin, not the content of their character -- and how does that compare with the typical Medicare beneficiary? Mystery solved.

Or we're told that conservatives, the Tea Party in particular, oppose handouts because they believe in personal responsibility, in a society in which people must bear the consequences of their actions. Yet it's hard to find angry Tea Party denunciations of huge Wall Street bailouts, of huge bonuses paid to executives who were saved from disaster by government backing and guarantees. Instead, all the movement's passion, starting with Rick Santelli's famous rant on CNBC, has been directed against any hint of financial relief for low-income borrowers. And what is it about these borrowers that makes them such targets of ire? You know the answer.

Poor Fred...who did that to you anyway?

If ya can't say anything good about the dead...let Jesus do it for ya.

christ_middle_finger.jpeg

In the end Phelps probably did more to accelerate the advancement of gay rights than pretty much anybody else...leading us to assume his God is an ironic God.

1/4 Century of Internet

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A poem in found art from a search of the internet:

b4web3.jpg

roz-chast.jpg

dos.jpg

http.jpg

Internet2.jpg

future-internet.jpg

monk.network.jpg

EndOfInternet.jpg

iwithoutinternetbday1.jpg

friendly-anonymous.jpg



hat tip to the image makers

I found something beautiful today

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. Story

written by Karrie's mom

model-teenager-down-syndrome.jpg

Henry Giroux Sermonette

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In a special interview, Truthout contributor Henry Giroux takes us back to the basics of what can be seen as an ongoing and accelerating war between the rich and everyone else, an event that has resulted in a mass inability "to translate private troubles into larger structural public considerations."

"We have no way of understanding that link anymore," Giroux says, "because what we've done is we've defined freedom in a way that suggests it's the freedom to do anything you want and screw everybody else."

Celebrating Holi

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The Legend of Holika and Prahlad

pc-holi-festival.jpg

There was once a demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father.

Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.

Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.

Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.
Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika. And, is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil.

Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the legend depicts that anybody, howsoever strong, cannot harm a true devotee. And, those who dare torture a true devotee of god shall be reduced to ashes.

Even today, people enact the scene of 'Holika's burning to ashes' every year to mark the victory of good over evil.

In several states of India, specially in the north, effigies of Holika are burnt in the huge bonfires that are lit. There is even a practice of hurling cow dungs into the fire and shouting obscenities at it as if at Holika. Then everywhere one hears shouts of 'Holi-hai! Holi-hai!'.

The tradition of burning 'Holika' is religiously followed in Gujarat and Orissa also. Here, people render their gratitude to Agni, the god of fire by offering gram and stalks from the harvest with all humility.

Further, on the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes. It is believed that by following this custom their homes will be rendered pure and their bodies will be free from disease.

At several places there is also a tradition of cleaning homes, removing all dirty articles from around the house and burning them. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed and the sanitary condition of the locality is improved.

Canadian Doc Owns Repub Senator

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It was perfect...

The Only Good Libertarian Is...

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Libertarians are self-centered sociopaths who lack the proper number of mirror brain neurons and cloak themselves in market religion to mask the affliction.


3 Things That Make Libertarian Heads Explode

Libertarians tend to ride on theoretical unicorns that don't take them too far in the real world.

Lynn Stuart Parramore

headexploding.jpgLibertarians are proponents of a philosophy that embraces free-market ideology, limited government, and a certain form of individual liberty. They would like to take the government and drown it in the proverbial bathtub. Unfortunately, libertarians tend to ride on theoretical unicorns that don't take them too far in the real world.

Next time you find yourself in the company of one of these quizzical beings, try bringing up one of the following topics and watch them start galloping off in 10 directions at once.

1. The inequality problem:
Why do some people end up with most of the toys? The fact that in a capitalist system, money seems to flow into the hands of the few is a source of big headaches for many libertarians, though not all--some seem to regard any market outcome as the hand of God herself.

Irrefutably, America's income distribution has become ridiculous, ranked #4 in the world out of 141 countries for inequality, behind Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon, and this rattles many libertarians.

Libertarians usually start by insisting that how much money you have boils down to the choices you make as an individual. Bad, stupid choices = poverty. Good, smart choices = wealth (those clever Russian oligarchs!). Often the libertarian will rush to the defense of the rich. For example, we have W. Michael Cox, director of Southern Methodist University's Center for Global Markets and Freedom, offering this tidbit of wisdom recently on the Glenn Beck show:

"The truth is: If you look at almost all successful people in this country, from the time they were young they played with the right kids, studied in school, make good grades, get a job, get a lot of education, be productive at work everyday, save their money, start a business, hire people, invest--they made good choices."

The truth is actually this: Many a rich person gets wealthy just by being born to wealthy parents. Others get rich by ripping off other people. Bankers committed massive fraud on mortgage loans leading up to the financial crisis, and continue a crime spree which includes laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels, rate-rigging, manipulating the prices of commodities, taking bribes, engaging in insider trading, participating in ponzi schemes, cooking the books, and so on. Fraud has grown so pervasive in corporate America that legendary short seller Jim Chanos describes a culture in which executives think they have a fiduciary duty to cheat. The idea is that since everybody else is cheating, they owe it to shareholders to cheat in order to stay competitive!

Beyond the blatant crimes, bankers are engaging far more in reckless speculation that destabilizes the economy than doing useful things like lending money to people who need it. Put simply, they make a great deal of money looting the economy through cheating taxpayers and screwing customers with fees and tricks. Result: Bankers get very rich, while the rest of us get poorer.

{Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!}

When forced to deal with inequality, libertarians often talk about cronyism, something they insist would not happen in their free-market utopia. Cronyism, they insist, is all about government favors, forgetting that cronyism is rampant between various market players. What do you call it when corporate CEOs collude with their boards to award themselves outrageous salaries? If you are an English speaker, you call it "cronyism." When the owner of a bank colludes with other bank owners to do things like interfere with prices or squash competition, that's also a form of cronyism. For some strange reason, libertarians seem to think cronyism is just something businesses do with governments.

Photo which says everything...

...about the backwardness of the US transportation system and outdated infrastructure versus a growing number of countries. And the stupidity of course of conservatives falsely obsessed with deficits and libertarian selfishness.

Chinese bullet trains in yard:

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Nuff said.

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What a great art form.

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From radiolaria to each unique snowflake, pattern is the language of nature. Human-made artifacts expressing these natural occurrences can be riveting, like this collection of embroidered spheres made by an 88-year-old Japanese grandmother, who started crafting these in her sixties.


NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Flickr user NanaAkua took a visual record of almost 500 of these balls made by her granny, and posted them up for all to see.


NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The technique originated from China before being exported to Japan in the seventh century, and temari is the Japanese term for this fascinating form of folk art. Says This Is Colossal:

The carefully hand-embroidered balls often made from the thread of old kimonos were created by parents or grandparents and given to children on New Year's day as special gift. According to Wikipedia the balls would sometimes contain secret handwritten wish for the child, or else contained some kind of noise-making object like a bell.


NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NanaAkua/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These skillfully constructed temari give a colorful glimpse of the role that geometry plays in creating an infinite number of forms and surfaces -- real eye candy that has roots in nature's creativity. To see more check out NanaAkua's Flickr page.

Edward Snowden Says He Would 'Absolutely' Do It Again

The NSA whistle-blower told an audience at the SXSW festival/conference via video chat, "Would I do it again? Absolutely yes." He added: "I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I felt the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale."

Snowden lobbied his tech industry audience to embrace strong encryption, with the metaphor that the government has set fire to the Internet and technologists are the firefighters.

The video below is not that easy to watch, in part because Snowden passed his conversation through a claimed seven proxies between Russia and the United States.

--Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

Consider how difficult it will be to achieve any level of privacy once the subcutaneous wireless chips become common place.

Will wonders never cease?

Sermonette #604

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Watched Cosmos tonight as presented by Neil Degrasse Tyson and found him a good Sagan fellow. Following the program I decided to find some more of his lecturing on youtube and voila:

Neil Tyson presentation about intelligent design


On Corporate Personhood

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from a Truthdig comment section on:

Do Companies Have a First Amendment Right to Track You?

by David Sirhota


cul heath • a day ago

I will grant corporations personhood the day I see one go to jail. Corporations are a legal abstraction and have no more first amendment rights than a stop sign.


Marian Griffth @ cul heath • a day ago

Understand that, now, the corporations are seen as the (economic) 'actors' of our society and humans are merely 'assets' (the way a desk, a typewriter or a stockpile of raw materials is).
It is no mystery why corporations are steadily being enfranchised and people are equally steadily being disenfranchised in what is left our democacy.
It is not that corporations do not value the people working for them, any less than they value their typewriters or their computer programs (and sadly, not any more either). It is simply that you do not ask your typewriter for advice on how to run the company, or the country.
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My pop-psychological guess is that humans are at heart tribal creatures. We have evolved, and can only function, in relatively small communities. A country of 350 million is too big, so we keep cutting it down to something we can instinctively grasp. A few hundred corporations is another way to create a small village worth of 'entities' that we can wrap our monkey brains around, same as 50 states (which too have grown too nebulous and too 'other' for us to identify with much anymore. Especially in the increased mobility that severes the ties between people and states. My equally personal guess is that this is why Europeans are holding on so strongly to their independent countries instead of allowing them to be subsumed in a greater European Federation, and why regions are separating rather than merging into a greater whole).
And the small silver lining to this would be that it makes the supreme court more human in its decisions instead of a being a nefarious evil. They would be subject to the same instinctive human need for a smaller scale and not being bought by corporate interests.

cul heath @ Marian Griffth • 4 minutes ago

"A few hundred corporations is another way to create a small village worth of 'entities' that we can wrap our monkey brains around...."

Interesting -- yet I disagree.The fact that a corporation is a "legal entity" does not put it on par with "self-aware/conscious/sentient entity". The constitution was not written to protect the rights of abstract, legal constructs. The original construction of "personhood" status of corporations was never meant to define corporations as "people":

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http://theusconstitution.org/text-history/1794/corporate-executive-who-snuck-corporate-personhood-supreme-court-history

For most of our nation's history, Supreme Court doctrine comported with the Constitution's text and history. In the words of Chief Justice Marshall in the famous Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward case,corporations were "artificial being[s], invisible, intangible, and existing only in the contemplation of the law." A corporation was a "creature of the law" that did not possess inalienable human rights, but rather "only those properties which the charter of creation confer on it...This was the settled understanding both before the Civil War, and after, when the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, requiring states to respect the fundamental rights of all Americans.

This settled understanding was thrown into question in 1886 when the Court's decision in Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. appeared to announce that corporations were "persons" within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court's actual opinion never reached the constitutional question in the case, but the court reporter - himself a former railroad man - took it upon himself to insert into his published notes Chief Justice Waite's oral argument statement that the Fourteenth Amendment protects corporations. Through this highly irregular move, bereft of any reasoning or explanation, the idea that corporations were "persons" and had the same rights as individuals - for some purposes at least - was introduced into constitutional law.
---------------------------------------------

In other words, an unchallenged 19th century legal nicety was eventually mutated into a misconstrued legal precedent which allowed the modern Citizens United decision.

I do not agree with your premise that defining corporations as entities acts to make scale manageable. All it does is allow individuals owning or controlling those entities an extra proxy vote with increased leverage.

Best Health Care in the World

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Lyin' Ryan

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If there's one thing that conservatives are highly capable of it's proving over and over and over again that they do not understand even the basics of economic thought.

The Hammock Fallacy

Paul Krugman

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. So when you see something like the current scramble by Republicans to declare their deep concern for America's poor, it's a good sign, indicating a positive change in social norms. Goodbye, sneering at the 47 percent; hello, fake compassion.

And the big new poverty report from the House Budget Committee, led by Representative Paul Ryan, offers additional reasons for optimism. Mr. Ryan used to rely on "scholarship" from places like the Heritage Foundation. Remember when Heritage declared that the Ryan budget would reduce unemployment to a ludicrous 2.8 percent, then tried to cover its tracks? This time, however, Mr. Ryan is citing a lot of actual social science research.

Unfortunately, the research he cites doesn't actually support his assertions. Even more important, his whole premise about why poverty persists is demonstrably wrong.

hammock.jpgTo understand where the new report is coming from, it helps to recall something Mr. Ryan said two years ago: "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives." There are actually two assertions here.
First, antipoverty programs breed complacency; that is, they discourage work. Second, complacency -- the failure of the poor to work as much as they should -- is what perpetuates poverty.

The budget committee report is almost entirely concerned with the first assertion. It notes that there has been a large decline in labor force participation, and it claims that antipoverty programs, which reduce the incentive to work, are a major reason for this decline. Then come 200 pages of text and 683 footnotes, designed to create the impression that the scholarly research literature supports the report's claims.

But it doesn't. In some cases, Mr. Ryan and colleagues outright misstate what the research says, drawing outraged protests from a number of prominent scholars about the misrepresentation of their work. More often, however, the report engages in argument by innuendo. It makes an assertion about the bad effects of a program, then mentions a number of studies of that program, and thereby leaves the impression that those studies support its assertion, even though they don't.

What does scholarly research on antipoverty programs actually say? We have quite good evidence on the effects of food stamps and Medicaid, which draw most of Mr. Ryan's ire -- and which his budgets propose slashing drastically. Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.

Over all, here's the verdict of one comprehensive survey: "While there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small." In short, Mr. Ryan's poverty report, like his famous budget plan, is a con job.

Now, you can still argue that making antipoverty programs much more generous would indeed reduce the incentive to work. If you look at cross-county comparisons, you find that low-income households in the United States, which does less to help the poor than any other major advanced nation, work much more than their counterparts abroad. So, yes, incentives do have some effect on work effort.

But why, exactly, should that be such a concern? Mr. Ryan would have us believe that the "hammock" created by the social safety net is the reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty. But the evidence says nothing of the kind.

After all, if generous aid to the poor perpetuates poverty, the United States -- which treats its poor far more harshly than other rich countries, and induces them to work much longer hours -- should lead the West in social mobility, in the fraction of those born poor who work their way up the scale. In fact, it's just the opposite: America has less social mobility than most other advanced countries.

And there's no puzzle why: it's hard for young people to get ahead when they suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate medical care, and lack of access to good education. The antipoverty programs that we have actually do a lot to help people rise. For example, Americans who received early access to food stamps were healthier and more productive in later life than those who didn't. But we don't do enough along these lines.

The reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty isn't that the government helps them too much; it's that it helps them too little.

Which brings us back to the hypocrisy issue. It is, in a way, nice to see the likes of Mr. Ryan at least talking about the need to help the poor. But somehow their notion of aiding the poor involves slashing benefits while cutting taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.

Florida's Criminal Governor

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Seriously, Florida. WTF?

Joan Mccarter

Rick_Scott1.jpgThe fact that Florida's Republican governor and legislature refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare was bad enough. Florida has the second highest number of uninsured people among all the states. About one quarter of Florida's population was uninsured before the health exchange opened in January. That's 3.8 million people. If the state were to expand Medicaid, one million of them would get Medicaid coverage. But it gets worse. Florida isn't just turning away Medicaid expansion money, they've jeopardized existing funding by refusing to comply with federal Medicaid law. The state has decided to impose a limit of six emergency room visits per year to Medicaid patients. The feds say Florida can't do that, Florida says, sure we can. And now they're losing funding.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is in the midst of an appeal of the federal government's rejection of the six-visit limit. A September hearing is scheduled.
But while the fight has been pending, the state agency went ahead with its plan. [...]

It's unclear yet how much the state could be penalized. CMS says it will initially withhold 10 percent of whatever the state claims for certain administrative costs. That amount will go up 5 percent each quarter while the state remains out of compliance.

The state knew it was out of compliance imposing these limits because when they asked the feds for a waiver to do it, they were turned down. They knew that they could lose funding, and did it anyway. But that, as well as expansion refusal, are just part of the major Medicaid fiasco for Florida. The state has also passed a law back in 2011 that will be implemented in July, and could cost some hospitals in the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The law set up a new distribution system for funding, redistributing federal Medicaid dollars around the state.

Jackson Memorial Hospital is bracing again for big cuts--this time, the result of a new law that will send millions of federal dollars that used to go to Miami-Dade hospitals elsewhere in the state.

When the provision takes effect in July, healthcare systems across Miami-Dade County stand to lose $218 million in Medicaid matching funds, also known as Low Income Pool funds.

Jackson alone will shoulder a $140 million hit.

"That would be fairly catastrophic," Chief Executive Officer Carlos Migoya said. "We're at a point right now where we are fairly efficient. It's not like we have a whole lot of extra fat to cut." [...]

Taken as a group, the state's safety-net hospitals would be the biggest losers, enduring a total $300 million hit.

Of course. Because it's Florida, and the powers that be there just really don't care.

Bill Maher delivered an excellent final New Rule on how some of the 1% are whining about feeling persecuted.

Did you know that during World War II, FDR actually proposed a cap on income that in today's dollars would mean that no person could ever take home more than about $300,000? OK, that is a little low. (audience laughter) But wouldn't it be great if there were Democrats out there like that now, who would say to billionaires, "Oh, you're crying? We'll give you something to cry about. You don't want a minimum wage? How about we not only have a minimum wage, we have a maximum wage?"

That is not a new idea. James Madison, who wrote our Constitution, said, "Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches." Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, they all agreed that too much money in the hands of too few would destroy democracy.



And what is the reality of wealth distribution in the US?

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