October 2015 Archives

Wally World Wants to Whack Solar


Walmart heirs working to kill affordable rooftop solar power


Walmart is an environmental disaster, despite its claim to be moving toward renewable energy. But Walmart's majority stockholders, the Walton family, are going above and beyond, actively working against rooftop solar power, according to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The Waltons' anti-solar efforts fall into two categories. Since 2010, they've given at least $4.5 million in donations to organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity that are trying to weaken clean energy policies at the state level. These donations are part of a widespread corporate attack on policies that allow homeowners to use rooftop solar panels not just to power their own houses, but to sell excess solar power to utility companies. These utility companies might not be against solar power, but they're definitely against losing business to household-level solar. The logic is a familiar one:

... beneath the [Walton] family's public embrace of environmentalism lies a deeper agenda: furthering the highly concentrated corporate economic model that has generated so much wealth for so few, often at extraordinary cost to both the environment and working people. The Waltons' environmentalism is best understood not as a curious counterpoint to this imperative, but rather as a tool in service to it.

They put that into very direct action with a solar company, First Solar. Yes, the Walmart Waltons own a solar company. But! First Solar doesn't build solar for households. It builds utility-scale solar arrays, which means its interests are fully aligned with utility companies. Really aligned:

In June 2013, Walton-owned First Solar sent shockwaves through the solar
industry when its CEO, James Hughes, published an op-ed in the Arizona Republic endorsing a proposal by the state's biggest utility to impose a new fee on households with rooftop solar. Averaging about $50 to $100 a month, the proposed fee would be large enough to completely destroy the economics of household energy production, halting the spread of residential rooftop solar in Arizona. As the rest of the solar industry closed ranks and joined with environmental and consumer groups in opposing the plan, First Solar backed the utility, insisting that it was right to maximize its financial position. Bryan Miller, a vice president at Sunrun and president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, put First Solar's actions in perspective: "No solar company has publicly advocated against solar until First Solar."

The fee eventually imposed was much smaller than the proposed $50 to $100 a month, but nonetheless, it had its intended effect:

Residential installations have since declined by 40 percent, protecting APS, which produces most of its electricity from coal, nuclear, and gas, from competition. Arizona, once a leader in solar job creation, is now one of only five states in the country
where the number of solar jobs is actually declining.

The organizations the Waltons contributed that $4.5 million to are working to push similar policies in states across the country.

Editing Evolution


Geneticist Jennifer Doudna co-invented a groundbreaking new technology for editing genes, called CRISPR-Cas9. The tool allows scientists to make precise edits to DNA strands, which could lead to treatments for genetic diseases ... but could also be used to create so-called "designer babies." Doudna reviews how CRISPR-Cas9 works -- and asks the scientific community to pause and discuss the ethics of this new tool.

Putin and Obama




Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Testimony


Astonishing 11 hour performance and endurance.

The only thing missing from the hearing was waterboarding.


CBC projects a Liberal government


Hurray!.. Finally the god-awful Harper led Conservative government's ten year reign will be ended. Like conservatives parties everywhere on the planet,

Here is the standing as of 10:00pm EST


Now the best part is that the eldest son of former Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau, will be Prime Minister. Too cool.



Justin Trudeau Ousts Stephen Harper as Liberals Win Canada Election

Canada's Liberal leader Justin Trudeau rode a late campaign surge to a stunning election victory on Monday, toppling Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives with a promise of change and returning a touch of glamor, youth and charisma to Ottawa.

The Liberals' win marks a swing toward a more multilateral approach in global politics by the Canadian government, which has distanced itself from the United Nations in recent years.

The former teacher took charge of the party just two years ago and guided it out of the political wilderness with a pledge of economic stimulus and stirring appeals for a return to social liberalism.

CMUs: Hidden US Prisons


Investigative journalist Will Potter is the only reporter who has been inside a Communications Management Unit, or CMU, within a US prison. These units were opened secretly, and radically alter how prisoners are treated -- even preventing them from hugging their children. Potter, a TED Fellow, shows us who is imprisoned here, and how the government is trying to keep them hidden. "The message was clear," he says. "Don't talk about this place." Find sources for this talk at willpotter.com/cmu

Denmark: Getting A Lot of Things Right


Except for that austerity thingy...

Something Not Rotten in Denmark

Paul Krugman

No doubt surprising many of the people watching the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders cited Denmark as a role model for how to help working people. Hillary Clinton demurred slightly, declaring that "we are not Denmark," but agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example.

Such an exchange would have been inconceivable among Republicans, who don't seem able to talk about European welfare states without adding the word "collapsing." Basically, on Planet G.O.P. all of Europe is just a bigger version of Greece. But how great are the Danes, really?

The answer is that the Danes get a lot of things right, and in so doing refute just about everything U.S. conservatives say about economics. And we can also learn a lot from the things Denmark has gotten wrong.

Denmark maintains a welfare state -- a set of government programs designed to provide economic security -- that is beyond the wildest dreams of American liberals. Denmark provides universal health care; college education is free, and students receive a stipend; day care is heavily subsidized. Overall, working-age families receive more than three times as much aid, as a share of G.D.P., as their U.S. counterparts.

To pay for these programs, Denmark collects a lot of taxes. The top income tax rate is 60.3 percent; there's also a 25 percent national sales tax. Overall, Denmark's tax take is almost half of national income, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

Describe these policies to any American conservative, and he would predict ruin. Surely those generous benefits must destroy the incentive to work, while those high taxes drive job creators into hiding or exile.

Strange to say, however, Denmark doesn't look like a set from "Mad Max." On the contrary, it's a prosperous nation that does quite well on job creation. In fact, adults in their prime working years are substantially more likely to be employed in Denmark than they are in America. Labor productivity in Denmark is roughly the same as it is here, although G.D.P. per capita is lower, mainly because the Danes take a lot more vacation.

Nor are the Danes melancholy: Denmark ranks at or near the top on international comparisons of "life satisfaction."

It's hard to imagine a better refutation of anti-tax, anti-government economic doctrine, which insists that a system like Denmark's would be completely unworkable.

But would Denmark's model be impossible to reproduce in other countries? Consider France, another country that is much bigger and more diverse than Denmark, but also maintains a highly generous welfare state paid for with high taxes. You might not know this from the extremely bad press France gets, but the French, too, roughly match U.S. productivity, and are more likely than Americans to be employed during their prime working years. Taxes and benefits just aren't the job killers right-wing legend asserts.

Going back to Denmark, is everything copacetic in Copenhagen? Actually, no. Denmark is very rich, but its economy has taken a hit in recent years, because its recovery from the global financial crisis has been slow and incomplete. In fact, Denmark's 5.5 percent decline in real G.D.P. per capita since 2007 is comparable to the declines in debt-crisis countries like Portugal or Spain, even though Denmark has never lost the confidence of investors.

What explains this poor recent performance? The answer, mainly, is bad monetary and fiscal policy. Denmark hasn't adopted the euro, but it manages its currency as if it had, which means that it has shared the consequences of monetary mistakes like the European Central Bank's 2011 interest rate hike. And while the country has faced no market pressure to slash spending -- Denmark can borrow long-term at an interest rate of only 0.84 percent -- it has adopted fiscal austerity anyway.

The result is a sharp contrast with neighboring Sweden, which doesn't shadow the euro (although it has made some mistakes on its own), hasn't done much austerity, and has seen real G.D.P. per capita rise while Denmark's falls.

But Denmark's monetary and fiscal errors don't say anything about the sustainability of a strong welfare state. In fact, people who denounce things like universal health coverage and subsidized child care tend also to be people who demand higher interest rates and spending cuts in a depressed economy. (Remember all the talk about "debasing" the dollar?) That is, U.S. conservatives actually approve of some Danish policies -- but only the ones that have proved to be badly misguided.

So yes, we can learn a lot from Denmark, both its successes and its failures. And let me say that it was both a pleasure and a relief to hear people who might become president talk seriously about how we can learn from the experience of other countries, as opposed to just chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Austerity 101


The Three Reasons Republican Deficit Hawks Are Wrong
Posted on Oct 16, 2015

By Robert Reich

This post originally appeared on Robert Reich's website.

Congress is heading into another big brawl over the federal budget deficit, the national debt, and the debt ceiling.

Republicans are already talking about holding Social Security and Medicare "hostage" during negotiations--hell-bent on getting cuts in exchange for a debt limit hike.

Days ago, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew asked whether our nation would "muster the political will to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that come from a political stalemate."

It's a fair question. And there's only one economically sound answer: Congress must raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, put more people to work, and increase our investment in education and infrastructure.

Here are the three reasons why Republican deficit hawks are wrong. (Please watch and share our attached video.)

FIRST: Deficit and debt numbers are meaningless on their own. They have to be viewed as a percent of the national economy.

That ratio is critical. As long as the yearly deficit continues to drop as a percent of the national economy, as it's been doing for several years now, we can more easily pay what we owe.

SECOND: America needs to run larger deficits when lots of people are unemployed or underemployed - as they still are today, when millions remain too discouraged to look for jobs and millions more are in part-time jobs and need full-time work.

As we've known for years - in every economic downturn and in every struggling recovery - more government spending helps create jobs - teachers, fire fighters, police officers, social workers, people to rebuild roads and bridges and parks. And the people in these jobs create far more jobs when they spend their paychecks.

This kind of spending thereby grows the economy - thereby increasing tax revenues and allowing the deficit to shrink in proportion.

Doing the opposite - cutting back spending when a lot of people are still out of work - as Congress has done with the sequester, as much of Europe has done - causes economies to slow or even shrink, which makes the deficit larger in proportion.

This is why austerity economics is a recipe for disaster, as it's been in Greece. Creditors and institutions worried about Greece's debt forced it to cut spending, the spending cuts led to a huge economic recession, which reduced tax revenues, and made the debt crisis there worse.

THIRD AND FINALLY: Deficit spending on investments like education and infrastructure is different than other forms of spending, because this spending builds productivity and future economic growth.

It's like a family borrowing money to send a kid to college or start a business. If the likely return on the investment exceeds the borrowing costs, it should be done.

Keep these three principles in mind and you won't be fooled by scare tactics of the deficit hawks.

And you'll understand why we have to raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, put more people to work, and increase rather than decrease spending on vital public investments like education and infrastructure.

In the Company of Socialists


Guess Who Else Is a Socialist?

Timothy Egan

One of the side benefits of a well-watched national political debate is the exposure it brings to something obscure and forgotten -- like Denmark. Who doesn't love a country that gave us a dish of frikadeller and rugbrod to go with paid parental leave and universal health care?

"I love Denmark," said Hillary Clinton during Tuesday's debate, by way of dismissing a quasi-socialist nation of 5.7 million mostly white people as not the best place to look for solving the problems of a multiethnic democracy of 322 million.

But in fact, the United States may be closer to Denmark than many think. In the reddest of red states -- say, Idaho -- you can find the kind of socialism, through publicly owned utilities or the federal dam that farmers rely on for their water, that would be right at home among aquavit-sipping Danes.
Timothy Egan

Once you label something socialist, it brings to mind dour Soviet types trotting out dreary worker clothing for the spring fashion line. Or, here at home, those insufferable parlor room Marxists who think it would be utopia if only we nationalized every Starbucks. In that sense, the worst thing about socialism is the socialists.

Free of the label, a hybrid economy where health care, education and pensions for the elderly are provided, side-by-side-by-side with creative capitalism, works pretty well in the Nordic countries, Britain and Canada. And most of the tenets of what is considered democratic socialism have majority support in the United States.

But "socialism" as a word is poison in this country, except among the young, in large part because it's associated with failed authoritarian Marxist states. A recent Gallup poll found that half of Americans would not vote for a socialist. More people said they could accept an atheist as president than someone with the scarlet S.

So we don't like "them." But we do like many of their ideas. We can thank Senator Bernie Sanders, self-proclaimed democratic socialist, for this healthy debate. This week, Donald Trump called him a "communist." If so, you can find broad public support for most of the things advocated by the commie from Brooklyn.

A majority of Americans feel "money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed," according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. Sanders wants to raise the minimum wage; so do 71 percent of Americans. Sanders believes corporations have too much influence on politics, as do 74 percent of Americans. And one of the biggest socialist programs -- the single payer Medicare system that is a lifeline to more than 50 million people -- is also one of the most popular.

Nearly one in four people in this country gets electricity from a consumer-owned or co-op utility -- socialism throughout the heartland. And when President Obama considered privatizing a big government utility and dam operator, the Tennessee Valley Authority, he was met with squawks of protest from some of the most conservative precincts in America.

Obama is no socialist. A socialist would have nationalized General Motors, instead of returning it to capitalistic solvency. A socialist would not have presided over a doubling of the stock market, without adding significant new taxes to Wall Street's biggest beneficiaries.

For true socialism in action, look to the billionaire Trump. As a developer, he's tried to use eminent domain -- "state-sanctioned thievery," in the words of National Review Online -- to get other people's property. There's your communist. He has no problem taking from others to serve the public "good."

Capitalism at its best gives us iPhones and 400 kinds of ice cream and rewards enterprise and innovation. The free market has no small amount of magic. At its worst, capitalism produces pharmaceutical companies that gouge for lifesaving drugs, insurance companies that drop people once they get sick, and a system where secretaries pay a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than billionaires who do nothing.

Socialism at its best can run an army, a health care system and provide quality education for those who otherwise couldn't afford one. Libraries and fire departments are socialist institutions. So is the Interstate System of highways created under President Eisenhower. Ditto the nation's most popular cultural enterprise, the National Football League, which shares its television billions with losers among the teams. At its worst, socialism is grim and stifling, a dead-end for creativity.

The key is to find a balance, as Hillary Clinton said in Tuesday's debate. "Our job is to rein in the excesses of capitalism so it doesn't run amok," she said. In that sentiment, you could hear the historical echo of two great progressive presidents, Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin, both of whom sought to save capitalism from itself.

She also said, "We are not Denmark." Nope. Not by any stretch. Denmark has a slightly higher tax load on its citizens than the United States. But it also has budget surpluses, universal health care, shorter working hours, and was recently rated by Forbes magazine as the best country in the world for business.

The Solution is Wealth Caps


99% taxation after $100 million

Half of World's Wealth Now Owned by 1 Percent of Population


The top 1 percent of households "account for half of all assets in the world," according to a new report from Credit Suisse, a leading multinational bank.

The bank's "Global Wealth Report 2015" reveals worldwide wealth inequality to have soared to a level "possibly not seen for almost a century." As the number of "ultra-wealthy" people continues to climb, the research informs us that the poorest half of the world's population owns just 1 percent of its assets.

As Mark Goldring, Oxfam Great Britain's chief executive, told The Guardian, "This is the latest evidence that extreme inequality is out of control. Are we really happy to live in a world where the top 1 percent own half the wealth and the poorest half own just 1 percent?"

From The Guardian:

The middle classes have been squeezed at the expense of the very rich, according to research by Credit Suisse, which also finds that for the first time, there are more individuals in the middle classes in China - 109m - than the 92m in the US.

Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, said: "Middle class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time."

The report shows that a person needs only $3,210 (£2,100) to be in the wealthiest 50% of world citizens. About $68,800 secures a place in the top 10%, while the top 1% have more than $759,900. The report defines wealth as the value of assets including property and stock market investments, but excludes debt.

About 3.4 bn people - just over 70% of the global adult population - have wealth of less than $10,000. A further 1bn - a fifth of the world's population - are in the $10,000-$100,000 range.

Each of the remaining 383m adults - 8% of the population - has wealth of more than $100,000. This number includes about 34m US dollar millionaires. About 123,800 individuals of these have more than $50m, and nearly 45,000 have more than $100m. The UK has the third-highest number of these "ultra-high net worth" individuals.

This year's report focuses on the middle classes, as defined by personal wealth rather than profession. It says 14% of adults worldwide are middle class, with $50,000-$500,000 of assets.

But Markus Stierli, of the Credit Suisse Research Institute, said: "From 2008 onwards, wealth growth has not allowed middle-class numbers to keep pace with population growth in the developing world. Furthermore, the distribution of wealth gains has shifted in favour of those at higher wealth levels. These two factors have combined to produce a decline in the share of middle-class wealth."

Click here to read more.

The Ultimate Capitalist Class Division


Right Wing Toxicity


How Pro-Israel Fanatics Have Teamed up with Right-Wing Operatives to Crush Free Speech on Campus

A McCarthyite 'underground operation' to silence speech critical of Israel has a wider anti-progressive agenda.

By Max Blumenthal, Julia Carmel

This is part four of a four-part investigation.

At a Texas Retreat convened last June by long-time neoconservative agitator David Horowitz, a baby-faced operative named Charlie Kirk outlined an "undercover, underground plan" to "control student funding," "censor professors" and "get rid of free speech zones." His plan focused on channeling right-wing money into a full-bore attack on the grassroots movement to boycott, sanction, and divest from Israel as a means to pressure the country into respecting Palestinian human rights, known as BDS. The BDS movement has spread across US campuses and European capitals since it was devised by Palestinian civil society groups in 2005.

censoring.pngDescribed by the National Journal as "the future of the conservative movement," the 21-year-old Kirk is rapidly emerging as one the most influential right-wing campus organizers. Speaking before an audience of hundreds of conservative activists in a hotel ballroom in Dallas, Kirk laid out a strikingly authoritarian vision to systematically eradicate progressive political culture from American universities.

"What we're doing in states like California, Massachusetts and New York, is we're starting...a rather undercover, underground operation that is designed for one purpose only," Kirk explained. "And that is to run -- and win -- Student Government Association races the same way we look at Congressional campaigns. If we can successfully retake the student governments...on these really, really far left campuses such as UC-Irvine, UCLA, and we run the student government association races with the same money, time, energy and resources [as] we do a Congressional campaign, then we can start to see...an effective, neutralizing factor on these campuses. You can control student funding, you can censor professors, you can get rid of free speech zones, you can then balance the curriculum, you then can use your student government post as a bully pulpit."

Kirk pointed to BDS as a key target of his surreptitious takeover plan. "Who here has heard of BDS?" Kirk asked his audience, prompting a chorus of groans. "Every BDS resolution is passed because of student governments...They use student government associations to push this radical agenda on to these campuses...The only vulnerability there is, the only opening, is student government associations races and elections, and we're investing a lot of time and energy and money in it. And you'd be amazed. If you spend $5,000 on a [student government] race, you can win. You could retake a whole college or university -- we did it at Arizona State University."

(Video of Kirk's appearance was mysteriously removed from David Horowitz Freedom Center's Vimeo account. The authors of this article had previously downloaded the video, which has been re-uploaded above or here.)

Talk about transitions




Will You Ever Be Able to Upload Your Brain?

Brandon Blommaert

Kenneth D Miller

SOME hominid along the evolutionary path to humans was probably the first animal with the cognitive ability to understand that it would someday die. To be human is to cope with this knowledge. Many have been consoled by the religious promise of life beyond this world, but some have been seduced by the hope that they can escape death in this world. Such hopes, from Ponce de León's quest to find a fountain of youth to the present vogue for cryogenic preservation, inevitably prove false.

In recent times it has become appealing to believe that your dead brain might be preserved sufficiently by freezing so that some future civilization could bring your mind back to life. Assuming that no future scientists will reverse death, the hope is that they could analyze your brain's structure and use this to recreate a functioning mind, whether in engineered living tissue or in a computer with a robotic body. By functioning, I mean thinking, feeling, talking, seeing, hearing, learning, remembering, acting. Your mind would wake up, much as it wakes up after a night's sleep, with your own memories, feelings and patterns of thought, and continue on into the world.

I am a theoretical neuroscientist. I study models of brain circuits, precisely the sort of models that would be needed to try to reconstruct or emulate a functioning brain from a detailed knowledge of its structure. I don't in principle see any reason that what I've described could not someday, in the very far future, be achieved (though it's an active field of philosophical debate). But to accomplish this, these future scientists would need to know details of staggering complexity about the brain's structure, details quite likely far beyond what any method today could preserve in a dead brain.

How much would we need to know to reconstruct a functioning brain? Let's begin by defining some terms. Neurons are the cells in the brain that electrically carry information: Their electrical activity somehow amounts to your seeing, hearing, thinking, acting and all the rest. Each neuron sends a highly branched wire, or axon, out to connect or electrically "talk" to other neurons. The specialized connecting points between neurons are called synapses. Memories are commonly thought to be largely stored in the patterns of synaptic connections between neurons, which in turn shape the electrical activities of the neurons.

Much of the current hope of reconstructing a functioning brain rests on connectomics: the ambition to construct a complete wiring diagram, or "connectome," of all the synaptic connections between neurons in the mammalian brain. Unfortunately connectomics, while an important part of basic research, falls far short of the goal of reconstructing a mind, in two ways. First, we are far from constructing a connectome. The current best achievement was determining the connections in a tiny piece of brain tissue containing 1,700 synapses; the human brain has more than a hundred billion times that number of synapses. While progress is swift, no one has any realistic estimate of how long it will take to arrive at brain-size connectomes. (My wild guess: centuries.)

Second, even if this goal were achieved, it would be only a first step toward the goal of describing the brain sufficiently to capture a mind, which would mean understanding the brain's detailed electrical activity. If neuron A makes a synaptic connection onto neuron B, we would need to know the strength of the electrical signal in neuron B that would be caused by each electrical event from neuron A. The connectome might give an average strength for each connection, but the actual strength varies over time. Over short times (thousandths of a second to tens of seconds), the strength is changed, often sharply, by each signal that A sends. Over longer times (minutes to years), both the overall strength and the patterns of short-term changes can alter more permanently as part of learning. The details of these variations differ from synapse to synapse. To describe this complex transmission of information by a single fixed strength would be like describing air traffic using only the average number of flights between each pair of airports.

Underlying this complex behavior is a complex structure: Each synapse is an enormously complicated molecular machine, one of the most complicated known in biology, made up of over 1,000 different proteins with multiple copies of each. Why does a synapse need to be so complex? We don't know all of the things that synapses do, but beyond dynamically changing their signal strengths, synapses may also need to control how changeable they are: Our best current theories of how we store new memories without overwriting old ones suggest that each synapse needs to continually reintegrate its past experience (the patterns of activity in neuron A and neuron B) to determine how fixed or changeable it will be in response to the next new experience. Take away this synapse-by-synapse malleability, current theory suggests, and either our memories would quickly disappear or we would have great difficulty forming new ones. Without being able to characterize how each synapse would respond in real time to new inputs and modify itself in response to them, we cannot reconstruct the dynamic, learning, changing entity that is the mind.

But that's not all. Neurons themselves are complex and variable. Axons vary in their speed and reliability of transmission. Each neuron makes a treelike branching structure that reaches out to receive synaptic input from other neurons, as a tree's branches reach out to sunlight. The branches, called dendrites, differ in their sensitivity to synaptic input, with the molecular composition as well as shape of a dendrite determining how it would respond to the electrical input it receives from synapses.

Nor are any of these parts of a living brain fixed entities. The brain's components, including the neurons, axons, dendrites and synapses (and more), are constantly adapting to their electrical and chemical "experience," as part of learning, to maintain the ability to give appropriately different responses to different inputs, and to keep the brain stable and prevent seizures. These adaptations depend on the dynamic molecular machinery in each neural structure. The states of all of these components are constantly being modulated by a wash of chemicals from brainstem neurons that determine such things as when we are awake or attentive and when we are asleep, and by hormones from the body that help drive our motivations. Each element differs in its susceptibility to these influences.

To reconstruct a mind, perhaps one would not need to replicate every molecular detail; given enough structure, the rest might be self-correcting. But an extraordinarily deep level of detail would be required, not only to characterize the connectome but also to understand how the neurons, dendrites, axons and synapses would dynamically operate, change and adapt themselves.

I don't wish to suggest that only hopelessly complicated models of the brain are useful. Quite the contrary. Our most powerful theoretical research tools for understanding brain function are often enormously simplified models of small pieces of the brain -- for example, characterizing synapses by a single overall strength and ignoring dendritic structure. I make my living studying such models. These simple models, developed in close interaction with experimental findings, can reveal basic mechanisms operating in brain circuits. Adding complexity to our models does not necessarily give us a more realistic picture of brain circuits because we do not know enough about the details of this complexity to model it accurately, and the complexity can obscure the relationships we are trying to grasp. But far more information would be needed before we could characterize the dynamic operation of even a generic whole brain. Capturing all of the structure that makes it one person's individual mind would be fantastically more complicated still.

Neuroscience is progressing rapidly, but the distance to go in understanding brain function is enormous. It will almost certainly be a very long time before we can hope to preserve a brain in sufficient detail and for sufficient time that some civilization much farther in the future, perhaps thousands or even millions of years from now, might have the technological capacity to "upload" and recreate that individual's mind.

I certainly have my own fears of annihilation. But I also know that I had no existence for the 13.8 billion years that the universe existed before my birth, and I expect the same will be true after my death. The universe is not about me or any other individual; we come and we go as part of a much larger process. More and more I am content with this awareness. We all find our own solutions to the problem death poses. For the foreseeable future, bringing your mind back to life will not be one of them.

To Do Right


All good except the religious ravings of Brother Louis Farrakhan.

Black Men Gathering for Million Man March 20th Anniversary in D.C.

blm.jpgNeal Blair, of Augusta, Ga., stands on the lawn of the Capitol building during a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, on Capitol Hill, on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON -- Black men and women from around the nation are gathering on the National Mall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and call for policing reforms and changes in black communities.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spearheaded the original march, will lead an anniversary gathering Saturday at the Capitol called the "Justice or Else" march.

"I plan to deliver an uncompromising message and call for the government of the United States to respond to our legitimate grievances," Farrakhan said in a statement.

Attention has been focused on the deaths of unarmed black men since the shootings of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida and 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the "Black Lives Matter" moniker around the country.

The original march on Oct. 16, 1995, brought hundreds of thousands to Washington to pledge to improve their lives, their families and their communities. Women, whites and other minorities were not invited to the original march, but organizers say all are welcome Saturday and that they expect to get hundreds of thousands of participants.

The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, but subsequent counts by private organizations put the number at 800,000 or higher. The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since.

President Barack Obama, who attended the first Million Man March, will be in California on Saturday.

Life has improved in some way for African-American men since the original march, but not in others. For example:

--The unemployment rate for African-American men in October 1995 was 8.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September it was 8.9 percent.

--In 1995, 73.4 percent of African-American men had high school degrees. In 2004, 84.3 percent did, according to the Census Bureau.

--Law enforcement agencies made 3.5 million arrests of blacks in 1994, which was 30.9 percent of all arrests, the FBI said. (By comparison, they made 7.6 million arrests of whites that year, which was 66 percent of all arrests.) By 2013, the latest available data, African-American arrests had decreased to 2.5 million, 28 percent of all arrests.

Anti-Muslim protesters plan to demonstrate at mosques around the nation on the same day.

You can grow new brain cells. Here's how...


Can we, as adults, grow new neurons? Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, and she offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis--improving mood, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging along the way.

Guilty as Hell


"He was throwing stones" is no defense for cross border murder.

Tucson Border Agent Pleads Not Guilty in Fatal Shooting of a Mexican Boy

mexicankidkilled.jpgHumanitarian activists remembered José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was shot in 2012 by Lonnie Swartz, a Border Patrol agent, during a protest in front of the federal courthouse in Tucson on Friday. Credit Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star

TUCSON -- Araceli Rodriguez crossed the border for the first time on Friday, traveling from her home in Nogales, Mexico, to the Federal District Court here to face the Border Patrol agent accused of firing multiple shots into Mexico and killing her younger son.

The agent, Lonnie Swartz, looking squarely at the judge in his first court appearance here, and not at Ms. Rodriguez, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

His trial has been scheduled for Nov. 17.

"He may be tried and convicted, but none of it will bring my son back," Ms. Rodriguez said.

The case against Mr. Swartz is being closely watched on both sides of the border because he is the first border agent to face federal murder charges for a cross-border shooting, despite 33 deaths in encounters with border and customs agents since Jan. 1, 2010. The crowd in the courtroom here included officials from the Mexican consulate, along with American lawyers and civil rights advocates -- all of them eager to see if the trial sets a precedent for cross-border relations.

Ms. Rodriguez and her family have waited three years for their day in an American court. On Oct. 10, 2012, Mr. Swartz opened fire into Mexico, emptying his .40-caliber pistol, reloading, then pulling the trigger again, court documents say. The bullets struck 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez 10 times. He collapsed on a cracked sidewalk, across from the border fence and Mr. Swartz, under a sign that read "emergencias médicas" -- medical emergencies.

Border Patrol officials said that José Antonio was throwing rocks at its agents, and that Mr. Swartz fired in self-defense. Witnesses said he was peacefully walking down the street.

"We'll see what the courts decide, what the jury decides," Art Del Cueto, president of Local 2544 of the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union that represents agents in the Tucson Sector, the agency's largest regional division. "We want justice, like everyone else. We don't want a witch hunt."

José Antonio lived in Nogales, Mexico, four blocks from one of the ports of entry that leads into Nogales, Ariz., where his grandparents live. They are United States citizens. His grandmother, Taide Elena, often spent the day at his home while his mother worked.

"He was a citizen of Mexico with a foot in the United States," Ms. Elena said.

Cross-border connections are ubiquitous in the neighboring cities named Nogales. Mexican children commute across the border daily from their homes to school. Workers spend their paychecks in supermarkets, restaurants and discount stores that sell clothes and medication on both sides. Families live split lives; relatives who are not legally permitted to visit one another talk and touch through the fence.

Until Mr. Swartz's indictment last month, the Justice Department had never filed criminal charges against border agents implicated in cross-border killings. In other cases, federal prosecutors found justification for the agents' actions or lacked the evidence required to secure an indictment and sustain a criminal charge in court. In civil lawsuits, the courts have been more divided on how to apply American law to the borderlands.

In June 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court's ruling saying that a Mexican teenager shot dead by a Border Patrol agent was not entitled to Fourth Amendment protections because he was a foreign national standing on foreign soil when he died. The teenager, Sergio Hernandez Guereca, 15, was in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, under the pillars of a cross-border bridge. The agent, Jesus Mesa Jr., on the other side of a barbed-wire fence, in El Paso.

The family of José Antonio invoked the Fourth Amendment in its own lawsuit, using the same rationale articulated by Sergio's parents in their claim: A cocked gun and a pull on the trigger are enough to constitute assault, regardless of where the victim is.

And in their case, Judge Raner C. Collins of Federal District Court endorsed their argument, allowing the lawsuit to go forward several months ago alongside the separate criminal proceeding. Peter J. Spiro, a constitutional law professor at Temple University, described the ruling as "very elegant" because it took into consideration the blurred divisions that the area holds.

"He acknowledged that there's something particular about this area -- family connections, a Border Patrol that exercises a certain degree of control on territory that projects into Mexico -- and those factors point to the application of the Fourth Amendment in a way that even 50 miles into Mexico wouldn't work the same way," Mr. Spiro said. "It says that this border area is distinctive and is not as clear a line as the fence makes it seem."

If Mr. Swartz is convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

The Greedy Liars Should Be Jailed


Exxon's Climate Concealment

by Naomi Oreskesnyt


Millions of Americans once wanted to smoke. Then they came to understand how deadly tobacco products were. Tragically, that understanding was long delayed because the tobacco industry worked for decades to hide the truth, promoting a message of scientific uncertainty instead.

The same thing has happened with climate change, as Inside Climate News, a nonprofit news organization, has been reporting in a series of articles based on internal documents from Exxon Mobil dating from the 1970s and interviews with former company scientists and employees.

Had Exxon been upfront at the time about the dangers of the greenhouse gases we were spewing into the atmosphere, we might have begun decades ago to develop a less carbon-intensive energy path to avert the worst impacts of a changing climate. Amazingly, politicians are still debating the reality of this threat, thanks in no small part to industry disinformation.

Government and academic scientists alerted policy makers to the potential threat of human-driven climate change in the 1960s and '70s, but at that time climate change was still a prediction. By the late 1980s it had become an observed fact.

But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it.

Exxon (which became Exxon Mobil in 1999) was a leader in these campaigns of confusion. In 1989, the company helped to create the Global Climate Coalition to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change and prevent the United States from signing on to the international Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition disbanded in 2002, but the disinformation continued. Journalists and scientists have identified more than 30 different organizations funded by the company that have worked to undermine the scientific message and prevent policy action to control greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts turned the problem from a matter of fact into a matter of opinion. When the Exxon chief executive, Lee Raymond, insisted in the late 1990s that the science was still uncertain, the media covered it, business leaders accepted it and the American people were confused.

For people close to the issue, it was never credible that Exxon -- a company that employs thousands of scientists and engineers and whose core business depends on their expertise -- could be that confused about the science. We now know that they not only understood the science, but contributed to it.

As early as 1977, one of Exxon's senior scientists warned a gathering of oilmen of a "general scientific agreement" that the burning of fossil fuels was influencing the climate. A year later, he had updated his assessment, warning that "present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical."

In the 1980s, Exxon scientists collaborated with academic and government researchers to build climate models and understand their implications. When one researcher expressed the opinion that the impacts would be "well short of catastrophic," the director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research responded in a memo, "I think that this statement may be too reassuring." He said it was "distinctly possible" that the projected warming trend after 2030 "will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth's population)," a conclusion that most climate scientists now hold, assuming we continue business as usual.

What did Exxon executives do with this information? Until 1989, they circulated reports summarizing it inside the company. They allowed their scientists to attend academic meetings, to participate in panels, and to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals -- in short, to behave as scientists. And they did acknowledge the "potentially catastrophic events that must be considered."

Then corporate executives turned about face. As the scientific community began to speak out more strongly, first about the risks of unmitigated climate change and then about the fact that it was underway, Exxon executives and organizations funded by them embarked on a campaign designed to prevent governments from taking meaningful action. These activities continue today.

Exxon (whose spokesman has disputed the Inside Climate News reporting) had a choice. As one of the most profitable companies in the world, Exxon could have acted as a corporate leader, helping to explain to political leaders, to shareholders and institutional investors, and to the public what it knew about climate change. It could have begun to shift its business model, investing in renewables and biofuels or introducing a major research and development initiative in carbon capture. It could have endorsed sensible policies to foster a profitable transition to a 21st-century energy economy.

Instead -- like the tobacco industry -- Exxon chose the path of disinformation, denial and delay. More damagingly, the company set a model for the rest of the industry. More than 30 years ago, Exxon scientists acknowledged in internal company memos that climate change could be catastrophic. Today, scientists who say the exact same thing are ridiculed in the business community and on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

We have lost precious time as a result: decades during which we could have built a smart electricity grid, fostered efficiency and renewables and generated thousands of jobs in a cleaner, greener economy. There is still time to prevent the worst disruptions of human-driven climate change, but the challenge is now much greater than it needed to be, in no small part because of the choices that Exxon Mobil made.

Ben Carson Is a Bonafide Moron


It's obvious that being soft spoken doesn't NOT imply intelligence. The GOP's Ben Carson so far has proved to be one of the most out touch and embarrassingly vapid candidates the GOP has ever offered. He's not only abjectly off base about so many topics, but he apparently gets his information from right wing email chain letters. Hey Ben, name one freaking country that ever ever ever disarmed it's popu;ace before a dictator took over?
Please someone, silence this turd.

Ben Carson's Holocaust theory prompts outcry from Jewish groups

By Benjy Sarlin

Jewish groups and Holocaust scholars say Ben Carson's claims that Nazi gun control laws contributed to the Holocaust are offensive and inaccurate, but Carson is not backing down.

Speaking to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Friday, Carson asserted that "not only the Jews, but the entire populace" in Germany could have prevented or lessened the extermination of the Jews if Adolf Hitler hadn't blocked their access to guns.

"There are many countries where that has occurred where they disarm the populace before they impose their tyrannical rule," Carson said.

RELATED: Ben Carson media blitz surges interest (and controversy)

At a luncheon with the National Press Club later that day, Carson blamed the ongoing story on "the left wing press again trying to stir up a controversy," before elaborating on his theory that gun control contributed to the Holocaust.

"In the mid-to-late '30s they started a program of disarming the people and by the mid-'40s, look at what happened," Carson said, saying the history showed the importance of America's constitutional right to bear arms.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was founded to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, derided Carson's theory - which he first raised in his new book "A Perfect Union" - as "historically inaccurate."

"[T]he small number of personal firearms available to Germany's Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state," ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

Carson shot back on ABC's "Good Morning America" calling the ADL's statement "total foolishness."

But the ADL wasn't the only major organization to weigh in: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also took issue with Carson's decision to inject his claims into America's gun debate.

"Nazism represented a singular evil that resulted in the murder of six million Jews and the persecution and deaths of millions of others for racial and political reasons," The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement on Friday. "Comparing contemporary situations to Nazism is not only offensive to its victims, but it is also inaccurate and misrepresents both Holocaust history and the present. The Holocaust should be remembered, studied, and understood so that we can learn its lessons; it should not be exploited for opportunistic purposes."

Carson's ideas about Nazi gun control laws have been a popular meme in right-wing chain e-mails and pro-gun circles for years, usually citing a 1938 law restricting Jewish firearm ownership. By that point, however, Hitler was well entrenched in power and enjoyed popular German support. This raises one of several glaring questions about Carson's theory: Who exactly was going to mount this sweeping anti-Nazi insurgency?

I Tell Amelia, It Was a False Alarm


It's All Benghazi

Paul Krugman

So Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House, won't be pursuing the job after all. He would have faced a rough ride both winning the post and handling it under the best of circumstances, thanks to the doomsday caucus -- the fairly large bloc of Republicans demanding that the party cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, or kill Obamacare, or anyway damage something liberals like, by shutting down the government and forcing it into default.

Still, he finished off his chances by admitting -- boasting, actually -- that the endless House hearings on Benghazi had nothing to do with national security, that they were all about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton.

But we all knew that, didn't we?

I often wonder about commentators who write about things like those hearings as if there were some real issue involved, who keep going on about the Clinton email controversy as if all these months of scrutiny had produced any evidence of wrongdoing, as opposed to sloppiness.

Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations -- remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations -- should serve as a cautionary tale.

Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it's not just a Clinton story.

Consider the example of an issue that might seem completely different, one that dominated much of our political discourse just a few years ago: federal debt.

Many prominent politicians made warnings about the dangers posed by U.S. debt, especially debt owned by China, a central part of their political image. Paul Ryan, when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee, portrayed himself as a heroic crusader against deficits. Mitt Romney made denunciations of borrowing from China a centerpiece of his campaign for president. And by and large, commentators treated this posturing as if it were serious. But it wasn't.

I don't mean that it was bad economics, although it was. Remember all the dire warnings about what would happen if China stopped buying our debt, or worse yet, started selling it? Remember how interest rates would soar and America would find itself in crisis?

Well, don't tell anyone, but the much feared event has happened: China is no longer buying our debt, and is in fact selling tens of billions of dollars in U.S. debt every month as it tries to support its troubled currency. And what has happened is what serious economic analysis always told us would happen: nothing. It was always a false alarm.

Beyond that, however, it was a fake alarm.

If you looked at all closely at the plans and proposals released by politicians who claimed to be deeply worried about deficits, it soon became obvious that they were just pretending to care about fiscal responsibility. People who really worry about government debt don't propose huge tax cuts for the rich, only partly offset by savage cuts in aid to the poor and middle class, and base all claims of debt reduction on unspecified savings to be announced on some future occasion.

And once fiscal scare tactics started to lose political traction, even the pretense went away. Just look at the people seeking the Republican presidential nomination. One after another, they have been proposing giant tax cuts that would add trillions to the deficit.

Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations -- remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations -- should serve as a cautionary tale.

Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it's not just a Clinton story.

Consider the example of an issue that might seem completely different, one that dominated much of our political discourse just a few years ago: federal debt.

Many prominent politicians made warnings about the dangers posed by U.S. debt, especially debt owned by China, a central part of their political image. Paul Ryan, when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee, portrayed himself as a heroic crusader against deficits. Mitt Romney made denunciations of borrowing from China a centerpiece of his campaign for president. And by and large, commentators treated this posturing as if it were serious. But it wasn't.

I don't mean that it was bad economics, although it was. Remember all the dire warnings about what would happen if China stopped buying our debt, or worse yet, started selling it? Remember how interest rates would soar and America would find itself in crisis?

Well, don't tell anyone, but the much feared event has happened: China is no longer buying our debt, and is in fact selling tens of billions of dollars in U.S. debt every month as it tries to support its troubled currency. And what has happened is what serious economic analysis always told us would happen: nothing. It was always a false alarm.

Beyond that, however, it was a fake alarm.

If you looked at all closely at the plans and proposals released by politicians who claimed to be deeply worried about deficits, it soon became obvious that they were just pretending to care about fiscal responsibility. People who really worry about government debt don't propose huge tax cuts for the rich, only partly offset by savage cuts in aid to the poor and middle class, and base all claims of debt reduction on unspecified savings to be announced on some future occasion.

And once fiscal scare tactics started to lose political traction, even the pretense went away. Just look at the people seeking the Republican presidential nomination. One after another, they have been proposing giant tax cuts that would add trillions to the deficit.

Debt, it seems, only matters when there's a Democrat in the White House. Or more accurately, all the talk about debt wasn't about fiscal prudence; it was about trying to inflict political damage on President Obama, and it stopped when the tactic lost effectiveness.

Again, none of this should come as news to anyone who follows politics and policy even moderately closely. But I'm not sure that normal people, who have jobs to do and families to raise, are getting the message. After all, who will tell them?

Sometimes I have the impression that many people in the media consider it uncouth to acknowledge, even to themselves, the fraudulence of much political posturing. The done thing, it seems, is to pretend that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place.

But turning our eyes away from political fakery, pretending that we're having a serious discussion when we aren't, is itself a kind of fraudulence. Mr. McCarthy inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty, but telling the public what's really going on shouldn't depend on politicians with loose lips.

Sometimes -- all too often -- there's no substance under the shouting. And then we need to tell the truth, and say that it's all Benghazi.

Damn It, Janet !


Back in 1978 or thereabouts in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I was almost fired as a group home counselor for taking the teen house residents (level 3 juvenile delinquents aged 13 to 19) to a impromptu midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show for them to witness the new audience participation the film engendered. I looked at it s great art and figured the kids would enjoy the the zany topic and art form. My boss was a relatively conservative religious guy and found it tasteless and a bad move to take the kids out at midnight. He thought I was polluting them rather than liberating them.
The kids loved it ...

So it goes.

'Rocky Horror' Is Doing the Time Warp, Forever

04ROCKYHORROR.jpgTim Curry, between Patricia Quinn and Richard O'Brien, in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

By Marc Spitzoct

Tim Curry remembers the moment he realized that his performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in "The Rocky Horror Show," the London stage precursor to the 1975 cult film, was no longer his alone.

David Bowie and his wife at the time, Angela, were in the audience that night in 1973. Onstage, Frank, the hypersexual alien mad scientist, was being held at ray-gunpoint by his former servants, Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn). They were about to shoot when Ms. Bowie shouted, ''No, don't do it." As Mr. Curry recalled by phone from Los Angeles, "That was the first time."

First a British phenomenon, the sci-fi musical mash-up grew into a trans-Atlantic hit, and later the much better-known feature film with the slightly updated title, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The lines written by Mr. O'Brien, a New Zealand transplant, and those made up on the spot by fans -- in some cases, repeated until they became classics -- would become inseparable. This symbiosis ensured that "Rocky Horror" has remained perpetually on screens (including a special Halloween outdoor screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles) since it was first released to a nearly empty theater 40 years ago: It is self-updating, never the same sum of dialogue twice, and never, ever dated.

"People still come up with audience participation lines week by week," said Larry Viezel, a fan who helped produce "Rocky Horror Saved My Life," a new documentary. "There are lines that are going to be about Donald Trump and the other day there was a line about Cecil the Lion. Whatever is in the news can become an audience participation line."

Ostensibly the tale of Brad and his fiancée, Janet, a wholesome but stranded couple in Denton, Ohio, who stumble onto the Annual Transylvanian Convention presided over by the "sweet transvestite" Frank, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was so much more: a small-scale take on America's struggle with its conservatism and desires amid the sexual revolution and the glitter-rock era. As Mr. Curry put it, Mr. O'Brien "reached up into the zeitgeist and brought down the most salient ingredients."

That this strange mix would resonate with moviegoers was never a given. In 1974, the record producer Lou Adler moved the show from London to Hollywood (adding Meat Loaf to the cast). There was also a brief Broadway bid. The show finally returned to a Gothic castle in Britain to become a movie (directed by Jim Sharman, who also directed the stage version) once Mr. Adler cut a deal with 20th Century Fox.

The cast included Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon after the studio demanded that Americans play Brad and Janet. But Mr. Curry was allowed to reprise his stage role, complete with leather jacket, fishnets and heels. "He's the ultimate seducer," Mr. Curry said of Frank. "Everyone is a potential target."

Mr. Adler recalled believing in the movie when few else did. Early on, Fox's European marketing executives were invited to watch the filming of the climactic swimming pool scene. "There was dead silence," he said. "They didn't stay for lunch."

Ms. Sarandon confirmed: "My representatives were so horrified. Nobody else thought it was a good idea."

After opening in Santa Barbara, Calif., to almost no business on Sept. 26, 1975, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was scheduled to play Columbus, Ohio, which would have probably guaranteed an early death.

"It was doomed from the start," said Tim Deegan, who worked with Mr. Adler and Fox in what seemed a vain effort to find an audience. John Waters's lurid, hilarious "Pink Flamingos" was enjoying a successful late-night run at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles; Mr. Deegan saw a model.

"I was totally convinced there was a midnight audience," he said.

Fox wanted no part of it, especially when executives saw the promotional poster, which showed a giant pair of lips and the tagline, "A different set of jaws."

Only the threat of a lawsuit and the support of the studio chief, Alan Ladd Jr., enabled Mr. Deegan to eventually book the film into the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village in New York during the spring of 1976 -- not before Mr. Deegan was fired twice by Fox. Still, the lines grew until fans, in costume and carrying props, had to arrive hours before the midnight screenings.

Send In the Guillotines


It's like these greedy creeps are begging to be taken out...I mean, could you ask for a better example of why capitalism needs to be regulated,or better yet, eliminated from the human experience?

Drug Price Strategy Enriches It, but Infuriates Patients and Lawmakers

Andrew Pollack and Sabrina Avernise

J. Michael Pearson has become a billionaire from his tough tactics as the head of the fast-growing Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

And consumers like Bruce Mannes, a 68-year-old retired carpenter from Grandville, Mich., are facing the consequences.


Mr. Mannes has been taking the same drug, Cuprimine, for 55 years to treat Wilson disease, an inherited disorder that can cause severe liver and nerve damage. This summer, Valeant more than quadrupled its price overnight.

Medicare will now have to cover about $35,000 for the 120 capsules he takes each month, and Mr. Mannes will have to pay about $1,800 a month out of pocket, compared with about $366 he paid in May.

"My husband will die without the medicine," said his wife, Susan, who is now working a second part-time job to help pay for health care. "We just can't manage another two, three thousand dollars a month for pills."

Cuprimine is just one of many Valeant drugs whose prices have spiked as part of the company's concerted strategy, which has richly rewarded its investors and made it one of Wall Street's most popular health stocks.

But Valeant's habit of buying up existing drugs and raising prices aggressively, rather than trying to develop new drugs, has also drawn the ire of lawmakers and helped stoke public outrage against the growing trend of higher and higher drug prices imposed by big drug companies. This year alone, Valeant raised prices on its brand-name drugs an average of 66 percent, according to a Deutsche Bank analysis, about five times as much as its closest industry peers.

Some presidential candidates have also seized on the issue. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, called for efforts to control "price gouging" after a public outcry over the actions of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which abruptly increased the price on a drug to $750 a tablet from $13.50.

And last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanded that Valeant be subpoenaed for information about big price increases on two old heart drugs that the company acquired in February.

For Prescription Drugs, Some Astronomical Price Increases

Valeant Pharmaceuticals has made a business of buying prescription drugs and raising their prices when possible. Now some members of Congress are demanding information from the company about price increases on two heart drugs, one of which is Isuprel. Some examples of price increases in Valeant's drugs over the last several years:


No...seriously. Their tribal affectations have been ruining the country since Obama became president.

Political scholars Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann argue that congressional dysfunction is mostly the fault of right-wing radicals within the Republican Party who engage in "policy hostage-taking."

Too Bad Sander's Chances Are So Fat


Amid the Crowing of the GOP and Clinton, Sanders Is on the Rise

By Robert Scheer

sanders02.jpgHow easy it is to mock the Republican candidates. They're the gang in the clown car climbing all over each other to offer a reactionary message of disarray that has all but destroyed the chances of the Bush family dynasty continuing. But isn't that a grand achievement for the democratic process?

Why continue a political legacy that has failed in so many dramatic ways to serve the needs of the American public, instead giving us irrational but high-tech wars dealing death from the skies, heartless banking deregulation boosting the fortunes of the rich at the expense of the vast majority, and a vast state apparatus of surveillance enforced by the imprisonment of any whistleblowers who dare reveal its existence?

Good riddance to bad rubbish, except that the alternatives of Trump, Fiorina or Carson only make Jeb Bush look stunningly reasonable in comparison. The other problem is that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, is not fundamentally different from the scion of the Bush dynasty. She is instead a perfect stand-in for Jeb Bush if, as appears likely, the Republican Party should reject him for the sin, as with House Speaker John Boehner, of appearing too moderate. For Democrats, appearing moderate is quite easy, as Clinton proved as a senator and secretary of state: Just carry water for the military-industrial complex and Wall Street while pretending to be concerned about the ordinary folks who suffer from those costly policies.

Clinton, in rhetoric and action, will never allow a Republican opponent to appear more hawkish than herself. In the general election, she will burnish her record of support for every bit of military folly from George W.'s invasion of Iraq to her own engineering of the campaign to overthrow all secular dictators in the Middle East who have proved to be an inconvenience to the Saudi theocracy.

During her tenure in the Obama administration, Clinton, by her own frequent boastful admission, was the hawk in the Cabinet pressuring the president to be even more aggressive in his drone assassinations and murderous air wars, which have destabilized the region and created what the pope recently termed the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

But it is the still troubled economy that will dominate the election, and it is the failure of the Democratic Party establishment--now represented singularly by Clinton--to deal with the lingering recession that explains the startling rise of Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate.

The Vermont senator's success is not a result of charisma or image manipulation, both of which he quite properly treats as dangerous distractions from what ails us, but rather his deeply informed critique of the bipartisan policies of Presidents Clinton and Bush that have brought so much misery in their wakes.

What makes Sanders appear less formidable to the party bosses is that although he is now matching Hillary Clinton in the all-important fundraising category, he has received mainly small contributions. That and the fact that his positions on health care and banking regulation take on entrenched moneyed interests rather than cravenly cater to them.

Whereas Sanders supports the efforts by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. John McCain to restore the Glass-Steagall barrier against merging commercial and investment banking, Clinton still insists her husband did the right thing in signing off on the reversal of the sensible banking practice initiated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to prevent another Great Depression.

A year after he approved the destruction of the Glass-Steagall Act, Bill Clinton signed off on an even more egregious enabler of banking greed called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that certainly enhanced Hillary's future Senate fundraising prospects. Even then-Rep. Bernie Sanders fell for that one. Only four members of the House, Ron Paul among them, had the courage and wisdom to vote against legislation that banned any regulation of the newfangled default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that came close to wrecking the world's economy.

Hopefully Sanders has learned from that moment not to trust the Clintons to guard against the chicanery of bankers. He should challenge Hillary's claimed concern for the well-being of black and brown people, who right now are her advantage in polling. As the St. Louis Federal Reserve recently reported, even college-educated minorities were particularly devastated by the mortgage scams made legal through Bill Clinton's banking "modernization."

What voters of every racial or ethnic group should understand is that the Clinton gift--worth billions to the banking industry--robbed all working Americans of the opportunity to improve their lot, as shown by the astounding growth in wealth inequality since the Clinton presidency.

Are we really ready for another Clinton?


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