May 2015 Archives

Chimpanzees are people too, you know. Ok, not exactly. But lawyer Steven Wise has spent the last 30 years working to change these animals' status from "things" to "persons." It's not a matter of legal semantics; as he describes in this fascinating talk, recognizing that animals like chimps have extraordinary cognitive capabilities and rethinking the way we treat them -- legally -- is no less than a moral duty.



My cell cannot call Canada.


at 14 she's ready
to knock on some doors
to get out in traffic and play
a fool for nobody,
somebody to love,
she's just tryin' to make her own way...

elvis on her jacket
a night ride on her mind
gettin' carried to somewhere down the line
all those bright lights
shinin' in her eyes
carrying her out from a whole old world of lies...

and she sez:

"Chances...ya' gotta take chances...
ain't takin' chances what we're livin' for?

Chances... ain't that what romance is?
Do the dances or get off the floor!"

momma's lips kept movin'
without any sound
like afternoon tv with the volume down...
and pappa was out there somewhere
trying to keep score
they won't hear a thing as she slips out the backdoor...


Live Off the Grid

| This Solar-Powered 'Ecocapsule' Pod

Ever feel like just leaving it all behind and moving into a tiny pod in the country? You might after seeing the Ecocapsule, a tiny dwelling that packs all the necessaries -- and little else -- into its egg-like chassis. It's got a bed, kitchen, bathroom and work area, and a couple windows to let in the breeze. No need to plug into the grid -- there's a wind turbine and bank of solar cells built in to charge a battery for light and heat, and rainwater is filtered and collected into a tank under the floor.

ecocap1.jpgThe interior is futuristic but warm: bright white with blond wood and lots of natural light. Probably not a prime spot to host a party, but it's nicer looking than a lot of trailers and RVs. Want to buy one? You might want to wait until they show off the prototype next week in Vienna to see if the design group, Slovakia-based Nice Architects, has managed to pull off actually making the thing. Pricing won't be announced until late in 2015, but you can bet it won't be cheap (plus you'll have to pay a few thousand to ship it). But it's probably cheaper than a log cabin.


Why I Hate the American Way


When I saw the impact of the first plane on the Twin Towers during my multi-decade sojourn in Canada, my first reaction was astonishment. But when the 2nd plane hit the first words out my mouth were "oh oh"...meaning I understood this was intentional and that the US would soon be going to war...with whoever was responsible. It was clear over the next couple of days how the media drum beat graphics and banners from CNN were sending the US careening toward a vicious payback. Little did I know that the US fury would be aimed at a country and people who had zero to do with the attack and begin what would become the worse foreign policy decisions ever undertaken in the history of the country.

I blame the media as much as I blame Cheney and the neocons for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents. And I blame the American people themselves for being so willing to fall victim to the nationalistic fervor which allows such crap to happen over and over. Fear and nationalism. Americans are poisoned by it repeatedly and innocent people lose their lives for it every time we indulge in the combination.

This is the sort of thing that prompts people like Rev Wright to declare 'God damn America!"

TV Thin as a Stamp


OK. This majorly cool as hell.

LG Shows Off 'Wallpaper' TV No Thicker Than a Sticker

If you thought TVs couldn't get any thinner, think again. LG Display's "wallpaper" panel is 55 inches wide, but less than a millimeter (four-hundredths of an inch) thick. It's so thin and light (just over 4 pounds) that it can be attached to the wall with a simple magnetic backing and then peeled off like a sticker.

This level of thickness is only attainable with OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes. While LCD TVs require a stack of backlights, filters and tiny shutters to create their pixels, OLED TVs put all those into one layer.

OLED display has enabled thin phones and other devices, but OLED TVs have been few and far between, partly because it is difficult to manufacture large numbers of them -- making them astronomically expensive.

But LG Display, which showed off the super-thin TV at an event in Seoul, South Korea, claims to be fixing that problem, Yonhap News reported. Yeo Sang-deog, head of the company's OLED division, said in a press release that the company had reached a level of manufacturing efficiency in a year and a half that took a decade to achieve for traditional LCD TVs. That doesn't mean millimeter-thin TVs will be selling for peanuts any time soon (this one is just a proof of concept), but it's a step in that direction.

There was 1971

In 1971, long before Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA surveillance, a group of citizens broke into a small FBI office in Pennsylvania, took every file, and shared them with the public. Their actions exposed the FBI's illegal surveillance program of law-abiding Americans. Now for the first time, these anonymous Americans who risked everything share their story publicly.

The Wolf at the Door


The Jeb Bush Adviser Who Should Scare You


Last week, Jeb Bush, the all-but-announced GOP presidential candidate, stirred up a fuss when he privately told a group of Manhattan financiers that his top adviser on US-Israeli policy is George W. Bush. Given that Jeb has tried mightily to distance himself from his brother, whose administration used false assertions to launch the still highly unpopular Iraq War, this touting of W. -- even at a behind-closed-doors session of Republican donors -- seemed odd. But perhaps more noteworthy is that Jeb Bush has embraced much of his brother's White House foreign policy team. In February, the Jeb Bush campaign released a list of 21 foreign policy advisers; 17 of them served in the George W. Bush administration. And one name stood out: Paul Wolfowitz, a top policy architect of the Iraq war -- for the prospect of Wolfowitz whispering into Jeb's ear ought to scare the bejeezus out of anyone who yearns for a rational national security policy.

Wolfowitz, who was deputy defense secretary under George W. Bush, was a prominent neocon cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. He was also the top conspiracy theorist in the Bush-Cheney crowd. As Michael Isikoff and I reported in our our 2006 book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Wolfowitz, prior to the Iraq War, was a champion of a bizarre theory promoted by an eccentric academic named Laurie Mylroie: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, not Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda, was responsible for most of the world's anti-United States terrorism.

For years, Mylroie, who had been an assistant professor of political science at Harvard University, had promoted the notion that Saddam was the real terrorist threat to the United States, and law enforcement and intelligence officials had dismissed her thesis, which was based on assorted elaborate conspiracies that apparently only she could divine. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she developed a complicated hypothesis that the mastermind of that attack, an Islamic radical who went by the name of Ramzi Yousef and who had spent time in Afghan training camps affiliated with Al Qaeda, was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent who had somehow stolen Yousef's identity. Actually, according to Mylroie, the Iraqi agent had stolen the identity of a deceased Pakistani and then taken on the name Ramzi Yousef. In any event, this would mean that Saddam, not Islamic extremists, was behind this act of war.

Kill the Apologists


Krugman Drops Epic Truth Bomb on Latest Round of Lies About Iraq War

The war was no mere mistake: The Bush administration wanted a war and concocted the intelligence.

Janet Allon

"Mistakes were made" just doesn't get at the truth about how America was coerced into the disastrous war in Iraq,and the horrific consequences that are still unfolding. Paul Krugman sets the record straight in Monday's column, beginning with the ironic statement, that "there's something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House."

Yep, Jeb Bush has unwittingly ushered in the chance to have an honest discussion about the invasion of Iraq. About time.

Of course, Bush and a whole lot of other people would prefer not to have that honest discussion, or if they do, to make excuses for themselves (Judith Miller.) ,

The Iraq War was no innocent mistake based on faulty intelligence, Krugman argues compellingly. "America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war," he writes. "The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war."

And we knew it--or certainly should have. Krugman:

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games -- the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war's opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself -- literally before the dust had settled -- Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. "Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] ...sweep it all up things related and not"; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld's aide.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, "were made" by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That's because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That's because the war party didn't want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army's chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.

The harder question is why? Here, Krugman can only speculate. Enhancing American power? Building the Republican brand? It is impossible not to ascribe cynical motives.

So politicians and many in the media don't want to talk about it. But Krugman argues we should hold their feet to the fire. Some may have been duped. Others bullied. Many were downright complicit. "The bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud," Krugman writes. "And it doesn't get much bigger -- indeed, more or less criminal -- than lying America into war."

The media, Krugman concludes, has an obligation to get the story right. Right now.

The Opah


The First Warm-Blooded Fish Ever Discovered

Move over, mammals and birds, and make room for a fish called the opah in the warm-blooded club. Researchers said in the journal Science on Thursday that this deepwater denizen is the first fish known to be fully warm-blooded, circulating heated blood throughout its body, enabling it to be a vigorous predator in frigid ocean depths. Tuna and certain sharks can warm specific regions of their body such as swimming muscles, brain and eyes in order to forage in chilly depths but must return to the surface to protect vital organs such as the heart from the effects of the cold. The opah, also called the moonfish, internally generates heat through constant flapping of wing-like pectoral fins, with an average muscle temperature about 7 degrees to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (4-5 degrees Celsius) above the surrounding water temperature at the time.

The opah boasts a unique structure that prevents this heat from being lost to the environment. Warm-blooded animals, such as birds and mammals, and known as endotherms, generate their own heat and maintain a body temperature independent of the environment. Cold-blooded animals, known as ectotherms, include amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and most fish. "With a more whole-body form of endothermy, opah don't need to return to surface waters to warm and can thus stay deep near their food source continually," said fisheries biologist Nicholas Wegner of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.


The opah is a rusty reddish color, has white spots and bright red fins. It weighs up to 200 pounds (90 kg) and is about the size of a car tire, with an oval body shape. Found in oceans worldwide, it spends most of its time at depths of 165-1,300 feet (50-400 meters), hunting fish and squid. A unique structure within its gills lets warm blood that leaves the body core help heat up cold blood returning from the gills' respiratory surface, said fisheries biologist Owyn Snodgrass of NOAA and Ocean Associates Inc.

Being warm-blooded gives it distinct advantages over its cold-bodied prey and competitors including faster swimming speeds and reaction times, better eye and brain function and the ability to withstand the effects of cold on vital organs. Fish dwelling at such depths typically are slow and sluggish, ambushing rather than pursuing prey. The researchers documented that opah are warm-blooded by tagging and tracking them off California's coast, measuring their body temperature, water temperature and the depths at which they swam.

Who To Have For Dinner


For the Highest-Paid C.E.O.s, the Party Goes On

By David Gelles

For the Highest-Paid C.E.O.s, the Party Goes On

It pays to work for John C. Malone.

The billionaire who built a cable and communications empire is 74, and no longer a chief executive himself. But Mr. Malone still exerts sway from various boardrooms, and the C.E.O.s at the companies he oversees are routinely among the best compensated managers on the planet. Last year, the largess was particularly notable.

Take Discovery Communications, the cable group behind Shark Week and shows like "Cake Boss." Mr. Malone spun Discovery out of his media group and still sits on the board. His choice for chief executive, David M. Zaslav, received total compensation worth $156 million last year, making him the highest-paid chief of an American public company, according to the Equilar 200 Highest-Paid CEO Rankings, conducted for The New York Times.

Just behind Mr. Zaslav on the list of the highest-paid chief executives is Michael T. Fries of Liberty Global, an international cable and wireless group that Mr. Malone presides over as chairman. And while Mr. Fries made considerably less than Mr. Zaslav -- $44 million less -- he still got a package worth $112 million.

Gregory B. Maffei, one of Mr. Malone's closest lieutenants, was paid twice in 2014. As chief of Liberty Media, which owns the Atlanta Braves baseball team and a big stake in the satellite radio provider SiriusXM, Mr. Maffei received compensation of $41.3 million. As chief of Liberty Interactive, a related company that owns stakes in home shopping networks, he received $32.4 million. Mr. Malone, the chairman of both companies, awarded his friend a total of $74 million last year, placing him sixth on the list.

Thomas M. Rutledge, another Malone confidant who oversees the regional cable operator Charter Communications, where Mr. Malone and Mr. Maffei are board members, was given a $16 million package last year, an increase of 259 percent over 2013. Though Mr. Malone is not on the compensation committee that sets executive pay, Mr. Maffei is.

Taken together, the four C.E.O.s were awarded more than $350 million last year, occupying three of the top six spots of the study conducted by Equilar, an executive compensation data firm.

"At John Malone's companies, there's still a great deal of inside baseball in setting executive pay," said Robert Jackson Jr., a professor of corporate governance at Columbia Law School. "When you think about $350 million among four men, it's hard to see how that's what they need to be paid competitively."

BB King: The Thrill Is Gone


Riley B. King 1925 - 2015


ATTN: Thieves


Cute but impractical as a mobile tool...gimme those old time bolt cutters!

Homemade Gadget Cracks Any Master Lock Combination in Seconds

There's a device out there that can take any Master combination lock and open it in a few seconds -- so if your life savings are secured by one of these venerable padlocks, you might want to grab something more secure. The handmade device comes from Samy Kamkar, a hacker and engineer who in April revealed a method of cracking Master locks by feeling carefully for hitches in the dial's spin, which hint at the actual combination and limit it to eight options. Of course, what your hands can do, a machine can often do faster, so Kamkar built a lock-cracking machine from off-the-shelf parts that automates the whole process.


One part grips the dial and spins to the numbers as it goes through the process of checking for the resistance that indicates the combo. Meanwhile, a little lever tugs on the shackle at the right moments -- and to see if the lock opens after each attempt. You can see an in-depth explanation of the device in Kamkar's video below, but if you don't know the difference between DC and AC, or what a stepper motor is, it might be a bit too technical to enjoy.

So is your Master lock in danger? It's possible a thief would put one of these things together, but just as likely they'd carry around a pair of heavy-duty shears, which are a more universal lock-opening device. Your gym clothes or school locker probably aren't in any more danger than they were yesterday.

Bamboo 4 U


You've never seen buildings like this. The stunning bamboo homes built by Elora Hardy and her team in Bali twist, curve and surprise at every turn. They defy convention because the bamboo itself is so enigmatic. No two poles of bamboo are alike, so every home, bridge and bathroom is exquisitely unique. In this beautiful, immersive talk, she shares the potential of bamboo, as both a sustainable resource and a spark for the imagination. "We have had to invent our own rules," she says.

Is Racism Just a Form of Stupidity?

Wray Herbert

racism.gifI think that a lot of us are shying away from an obvious truth, that the kind of blatant racial prejudice we are witnessing in Ferguson, Missouri, has everything to do with stupidity.

I'm talking about low intelligence, lack of mental ability, cognitive rigidity. The Ferguson racists may be a lot of other things--hateful, insecure--but let's not sugar-coat what most fair-minded thinkers believe in their hearts:
A person of intelligence cannot embrace such authoritarian and racist views.

Intelligence is a scientific concept, something scientists can measure, and have for a long time. And interestingly, this connection between stupidity and prejudice once seemed obvious to social scientists as well. Early theorists suggested a link between low mental ability and prejudicial thinking, and gathered some strongly suggestive evidence to support that view. But there were some knotty methodological and statistical problems that hampered this early line of study, not to mention a huge wave of political correctness, and it was largely abandoned.

But not entirely. A small cadre of psychological scientists have continued over the years to explore the controversial connection between low intelligence and prejudice, and at this point they have overcome most of the methodological barricades, allowing them to rigorously analyze and answer this important societal question. Two of these researchers--Kristof Dhont of Ghent University, Belgium, and Gordon Hodson of Brock University, in Canada--have been studying the idea and synthesizing the work of others, and they summarize the fruits of this ongoing project in a forthcoming issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. The short answer is yes--there is a clear, predictable and causal link between low intelligence and prejudice, including racism.

Let's not stop there, however. It's important, when dealing with such a controversial topic, to get down into the evidentiary weeds a bit. One of the problems plaguing the early research was that the results were confounded by other possible causes, like financial status and class and education. That is, it could have been these things, and not intelligence per se, that led to prejudice. Scientists had trouble sorting all this out. Scientists also didn't have longitudinal data--data gathered on the same subjects over time--so they could not address the important issue of cause and effect. Plus their study samples were not representative of the population. But scientists have over time solved these problems, and the key finding has held up: Empirical evidence has consistently linked low intelligence with prejudice.

Importantly, scientists have measured intelligence in a variety of ways, and the main conclusion always holds up. In one study of white children, for example, some were less able to see that a short wide glass holds the same amount of water as a taller skinnier glass. This ability is known as "conservation" in the jargon of the field, and it's widely considered an important mental ability. In this study, the kids who lacked this ability also held more negative views of black children. Other researchers conducted an ambitious meta-analysis--a statistical aggregation of findings from many studies--and this also documented a link between cognitive style and ability, on the one hand, and authoritarian attitudes on the other.

A Remarkable Woman

Prince's Baltimore


I love Prince... always ahead of the curve artisticly and still, creating an arrangement skill all his own. His group are all fabulous players. Add to that poetry about the struggle and where we are compared to the social structure and how we've got to grow up and you have a great cut in Baltimore.

The Reality of US Incarceration


There is a single graphic in this TED talk and it looks like this.

incarceration rate.jpg

How Fast is the Change?


Gay Kiss Cam Moment Has Dodger Stadium Crowd Cheering

Some of the biggest cheers at Dodger Stadium on Saturday

During the traditional "kiss cam" at a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, the camera settled on two men who happily did the honors as the fans erupted in applause and cheers.

Check it out in the clip above. The couple appears on camera at the 27-second mark.

YouTuber Joven Calloway, who filmed the action at Chavez Ravine, said it's the first gay kiss on the Dodger Stadium kiss cam.

Reaction to the kiss is worlds away from an ugly incident in the summer of 2000, when two women were tossed out of the ballpark for kissing during a game. It's also a far cry from the tired schtick in which two straight men are put on the kiss cam in an attempt to make them uncomfortable while the fans laugh, something that even an MLB player has condemned.

"They put two guys on the 'Kiss Cam' tonight. What hilarity!! (by hilarity I mean offensive homophobia)," Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was then with the Oakland A's, wrote on Twitter according Towleroad. "Enough with this stupid trend...the implication is that two guys kissing is funny. That's offensive to gay males...Plus, it's cheap shitty comedy so it sucks on that level as well."

While this weekend's gay kiss cam moment may have been a first for Dodger Stadium, it's not a first for baseball. In 2011, the San Francisco Giants featured two men kissing on the AT&T Park kiss cam. That kiss took place during LGBT Night -- and as some fans have pointed out on reddit, the Giants haven't featured a same-sex couple kissing on camera at LGBT Night since then.

Wow! Pigs DO Fly


NDP wave sweeps across Alberta in historic majority win of 53 seats

Conservatives have run the province, sometmes called the Texas North for it's similarities of oil industry politics, for 43 straight years , the longest period for any other party in Canadian history.

The shift represents such a huge shift in policy that conservatives are threatening to uproot and move east to Saskatchewan.

These two graphics show the damage done to the conservatives.



Poverty is a Policy Choice


'Inequality Is a Choice'


Nicholas Kristof

The eruptions in Baltimore have been tied, in complex ways, to frustrations at American inequality, and a new measure of the economic gaps arrived earlier this year:

It turns out that the Wall Street bonus pool in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.

You read that right: Just the annual bonuses for just the sliver of Americans who work just in finance just in New York City dwarfed the combined year-round earnings of all Americans earning the federal minimum wage.

We've been walloped with staggering statistics like this long enough that although this used to be a Democratic issue, Republicans are now speaking up. "The United States is beset by a crisis in inequality," warned Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican with Tea Party support (although he added that his concern is gaps in opportunity, not wealth).

Likewise, Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, declared recently that "we have to do a better job" of curbing inequality.

Yet while we broadly lament inequality, we treat it as some natural disaster imposed upon us. That's absurd. The roots of inequality are complex and, to some extent, reflect global forces, but they also reflect our policy choices.

In his new book, "The Great Divide," Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, includes two chapters whose titles sum it up: "Inequality Is Not Inevitable" and "Inequality Is a Choice."

"I overheard one billionaire -- who had gotten his start in life by inheriting a fortune -- discuss with another the problem of lazy Americans who were trying to free ride on the rest," Stiglitz writes. "Soon thereafter, they seamlessly transitioned into a discussion of tax shelters."

Say what?



Powered by Movable Type 4.12

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2015 is the previous archive.

June 2015 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.