December 2016 Archives

How vs Why

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Why I seek science over faiths to provide me an explanation of HOW the world works. WHY is fun, but ultimately a useless question since we don't have the capacity to really grasp it.

"Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion, rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science."

SCIENCE: a way of finding things out and then making them work.
Science explains what is happening around us the whole time.
So does RELIGION, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it's wrong.

" Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes.

I personally resent it bitterly." -- Isaac Asimov

Trump: Beyond Dumbing Down

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How Republics End

trumpdeplaning.jpg

Paul Krugman

Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history -- specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

But the '30s isn't the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I've been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn't help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history -- specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here's what I learned: Republican institutions don't protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here's what Adrian Goldsworthy's "In the Name of Rome" says: "However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family's reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic ... no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power."

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop "partisan politics at the water's edge." But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though -- or, more likely, precisely because -- it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant "commander," on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route -- although are we even sure of that? -- but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Consider what just happened in North Carolina. The voters made a clear choice, electing a Democratic governor. The Republican legislature didn't openly overturn the result -- not this time, anyway -- but it effectively stripped the governor's office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn't actually matter.

Combine this sort of thing with continuing efforts to disenfranchise or at least discourage voting by minority groups, and you have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.

Why is this happening? I'm not asking why white working-class voters support politicians whose policies will hurt them -- I'll be coming back to that issue in future columns. My question, instead, is why one party's politicians and officials no longer seem to care about what we used to think were essential American values. And let's be clear: This is a Republican story, not a case of "both sides do it."

So what's driving this story? I don't think it's truly ideological. Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare -- redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I'd argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support.

For such people, toeing the party line and defending the party's rule are all that matters. And if they sometimes seem consumed with rage at anyone who challenges their actions, well, that's how hacks always respond when called on their hackery.

One thing all of this makes clear is that the sickness of American politics didn't begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there's no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.


Gully Queens

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Surviving the sickness of the phobes...

Jamaica's Gully Queens


24: min

In Jamaica, attacks, murder and rape are common occurrences against LGBT people, with little to no retribution or justice brought against those responsible. After being forced from shacks, derelict buildings, and their own families, many homeless LGBT Jamaicans have found refuge in the storm-drainage systems of Kingston--known locally as the "gully."

For trans girls and gay men unable or unwilling to hide their sexuality, the sense of community and relative safety the gully provides acts as a welcome sanctuary andm for many, a hope of change to come. VICE News traveled to the New Kingston area to see what LGBT life is like in Jamaica--where just being who you are can mean living a life underground.

The Poison of Orwellian Economic Rhetoric

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Michael Hudson Names the Pathogens in Our Economic Thinking

and

In his new book, "J is for Junk Economics," the renegade economist Michael Hudson parses the language that technocrats use to pass off our age's prevailing economic theory as something other than a blueprint for state-sanctioned pillage.

"The whole intent is to create what is called a methodology," Hudson tells The Real News Network's Sharmini Peries. "I know that's [a] technical word but to create a way of looking at the economy of making national income statistics that make it appear as if Goldman Sachs is productive. As if Donald Trump is productive. To make it appear that people who take money from the rest of the economy without working, without really providing any service [are] actually contributing to [Gross National Product] and to economic growth."

"So I'm trying to show that what people think is scientific economics, it makes it appear as if poverty is natural. It makes it appear that Goldman Sachs and Donald Trump are job creators instead of job destroyers."

Hudson continues:

So I talk about the vocabulary. It's an A to Z vocabulary that goes over all of the concepts you need to pierce through this Orwellian rhetoric that passes for mainstream economics today. Mainstream economics is pretty much turned into junk economics and its idea is that rent is perfectly natural to be paid. That a well-run economy should have no government at all but should shift all the economic planning to Wall Street to city of London or Paris or other financial centers. Let finance do the planning because they're the most productive people in the world that government is just a bureaucracy.

Now this is just the opposite of what was believed 100 years ago. I think I said before in this program that the first business school economics professor, the Horton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in the 19th century was Simon Patton and he defined public infrastructure, the public option roads as a 4th factor of production. The biggest capital investment in every country is what governments spend on roads, water and sewer, basic infrastructure, communications, telephone, natural resources, and of course land. All these things are being privatized now and the job under government ownership under a public option like public health in Europe, the whole idea is to lower the cost of living, lower the cost of doing business so you make the economy more competitive.

Well under Thatcherism or Clintonism or whatever you want to call it, the idea is to turn the sidewalks over to the monopolists financed by Wall Street, to all of a sudden begin charging and the result is to make America a high cost economy. So, that when people like Donald Trump come in and say we're going to make America great again, what he means is competitive again. But how can you make it competitive if you make Americans pay so much more in healthcare, as much in healthcare as an Asian would earn in an entire year. If you gave Americans all of their food and clothing and everything they buy and [sell] for nothing, they still couldn't compete because of all of the costs that other countries pay for through the government; government healthcare, government spending, government roads.

This was the dream of America in the 19th century. It's what made America the most competitive country in the world. Enabled it to undersell others. It's what made Germany competitive. It's what made Japan competitive and all of this is being undone now as if this whole world that existed before 1980, before Margaret Thatcher, before Ronald Reagan, even before Bill Clinton, didn't really exist. There's been an expurgation of all of the tools of thought, all of the vocabulary that you use to distinguish between profits that are actually earned on capital investment, hiring people and economic rent which is just a toll booth to extort money over and above the actual cost of production.

A rushed transcript of Hudson's remarks provided by The Real News Network follows.

--Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

Olbermann: The Resistance #13

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Fascism Then and Now

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Bon Mots du Jour #300

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Cathy Young-11498589 #2.15

In reply to: Mike in Delray #2.6

"According to true Pro-Abortionists"

There is no such thing as Pro abortion dumbsh!t. There are people who believe the woman has the right to CHOOSE for herself. No one loves abortion, but I think we can agree that we love to have a choice. Why don't you start holding other males responsible for the babies they abandon? Women do not get pregnant on their own, but are definitely left holding the bag. Males abandon pregnant women because they didn't want a kid but probably thought birth control belonged solely to women too. If a women has an abortion, she's a murderer, if she keeps the baby, she's a slut and deserves to be punished.

If a single mother is pushing a stroller, she's a harlot and her kids are moochers, if a single dad is pushing a stroller, he is treated like a gawd damn hero. We just had a guy quit his job where I work and leave the state because his child support payments are due. Where is your anger toward them? Where is your rage about men who can't keep it in their pants making babies that you and I pay for?

Why do people only blame women for babies being born? The only person you get to make a decision for is you, not millions of people you don't know and never will. Mind your own business, or go sticking your nose into the business of men who abandon their kids to poverty, homelessness and hunger.


Jutta

#2.28

In reply to: Cathy Young-11498589 #2.15

If a women has an abortion, she's a murderer, if she keeps the baby, she's a @!$%# and deserves to be punished.

This is exactly what many ardent pro-lifers want, regardless of how many arguments they make about how human a fetus is. Personally had to live through making that choice and had the child. I can say, YES, people do take pleasure in punishing a woman who has a child and keeps it unless she legally yokes herself into a bad marriage. (Pro-choice people can also be like this, have to admit.)

Doesn't matter if woman with child is not on food stamps or welfare, doesn't matter if the mother works full-time, has no criminal or drug record, or gets along with the child's father and has him involved in the child's life. Doesn't matter if father doesn't want a marriage, or promises one and then rescinds that promise.

If a woman gets child support, she's a horrible misandrist gold-digger-- but if the child lives with the father and she pays him child support, then she must be a cold-hearted she-satan incarnate.

Gave your kid away? What kind of monster are you? Hope your kid finds you and gives you a piece of his mind! We have reality TV that showcases distraught adoptee children awkwardly reuniting with their birth mothers, only to confront them with their pain of abandonment. Ugh.

I can also say with certainty that once the child is born, he/she becomes just as loathed as the mother over time, "He's just like his worthless mother!" If the child is well-behaved and has good grades, his every characteristic will be picked apart as proof of some kind of bad mothering, intellectual disability or mental illness. The child himself will be used as a convenient way to punish the mother twice over. People seem to just get a thrill off feeling morally superior to anyone over just about anything, especially when they themselves could never get pregnant.

People need to re-evaluate what life consists of, and what gives them the right to decide if life is worthy of living or not. Taken to it's ultimate logical conclusion, real pro-lifers wouldn't complain about poor urban women, women who are not Caucasian or women in non-Christian religions giving birth to multiple children. Real pro-lifers wouldn't flinch if drug-addicted women give birth to drug addicted babies. "Real" pro-lifers wouldn't whole-heartedly support wars, wouldn't support widespread recreational firearms, wouldn't support death sentences, wouldn't argue against food vouchers for poor children, wouldn't support abolishing life-sustaining medical care to adults, wouldn't support withholding life-affirming social security to seniors. Real pro-lifers wouldn't argue against (law-abiding) refugees fleeing into other countries to avoid genocide.

Death is death, right? Poverty = starvation/illness = death. War and genocide = death. Death sentence = death. Pro-life should be anti-death, right?

Is the value of life consistent over one's entire lifespan, or does life's value go down with each and every day?

Olberman Lives

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and an avenging angel is painted with sword lowered...

Terminally Ill 5-Year-Old Boy Dies in Santa's Arms

A terminally ill 5-year-old boy had his final wish fulfilled, dying in the arms of Santa Claus after he was afraid he would miss Christmas.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen, with a classic long white beard and curled mustache, plays Saint Nick in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Schmitt-Matze told NBC affiliate WBIR in an emotional interview Monday how he answered the call to grant one child's final wish to see Saint Nick before he died.

"When I got there, it was my job to make sure he got Christmas," Schmitt-Matzen told WBIR through tears.

Schmitt-Matzen said he had just gotten home from work about a month and a half ago a when a nurse at a local hospital called him and said she had a very sick child who wanted to see Santa.

"He was more concerned about missing Christmas, than dying," Schmitt-Matzen told WBIR.

When he arrived, Schmitt-Matzen said he asked unnamed boy's family to leave the hospital room if they thought they would get too emotional so that he wouldn't burst into tears himself.

Related: Mall of America Hires First Black Mall Santa for Holiday Season

The boy's mother gave him a gift to give the boy, "something he was always wanting," he said, toys from the children's animated series PAW Patrol.

"What's this I hear you're going to be missing Christmas this year?" Schmitt-Matzen said he asked the boy.

That's when the boy told him he heard he was going to die.

"Well, you're not going to miss Christmas, the elves already had your present, we knew you wanted this for a long time," he said he told the boy.

"Really?" the boy asked, according to Schmitt-Matzen.

He then gave the boy his gift "and that put a grin on his face," he said.

Schmitt-Matzen choked up as he told WBIR that he told the boy "When you get up those pearly gates, you just tell them you're Santa's number one elf."

"I am?" the boy asked, perking up, according to Schmitt-Matzen.

"You sure are, I'm sure they'll let you right in," he said.

The boy then gave him a big hug, he said, and "he just looked at me and said, Santa, can you help me?"

"And that's when he passed," Schmitt-Matzen said.

Schmitt-Matzen first told his story to Knoxville News Sentinel Columnist Sam Venable and it has since gained national attention.

He told the publication that after the boy died, his mother ran back into the room screaming, and he left as fast as he could.

"I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I've seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses' station bawling my head off," he told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schmitt-Matzen said he was ready to hang up his Santa suit for good in despair, but found the strength for one more children's show.

"When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play," he told the Sentinel. "For them and for me."

Instant Pudding Gelation

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Ever wonder why instant pudding stiffens or gelates as you mix it with milkk?

Basically it's like mixing cement.

Really, like that? Think what Portland cement contains.
It is largely a mixture of silicates.
Among these are dicalcium silicate (CaO₂)₂•(SiO₂) and tricalcium silicate (CaO₂)₃•(SiO₂).
Mixing the cement powder with water yields an inorganic polymer matrix.

Instant pudding mix has several ingredients.
Some are for food and flavor. Some are for anti-caking and other qualities.
One ingredient thickens the pudding.
It is tetrasodium pyrophosphate (TSPP).
TSPP is transparent and colorless.
Its chemical formula (Na₄P₂O₇) is simple. But consider its molecular structure ;

TSPP-Public-Domain.jpg

TSPP contains no silicate. It has no calcium.
How is instant pudding thickening similar to concrete thickening?
Well, one molecule of TSPP can absorb 10 molecules of water to form a hydrate.

The reaction is written,

Na₄P₂O₇ + 10 H₂O → Na₄P₂O₇•10(H₂O)

Since this hydrate is also a solid, much of the fluidity disappears.
As we stir, the pudding stiffens.

In addition, molecules of TSPP react with the calcium in milk. This aids gelation. The two actions form a matrix that holds the food and flavor in a texture we find desirable for pudding.

et voila... portland pudding

pudding.jpg

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Black Beauty Kevin Olusola

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Cello and Acapella Beatboxing


Also:

Renegade


w/

Pentatonix

and finally in honor of the Master Poet Mr Cohen

An Electoral College Rebel Speaks Out

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Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump

By CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN


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DALLAS -- I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think president-elects should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.

Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year's election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.

George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us.

Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of "Saturday Night Live" for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.

This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11.

The United States was set up as a republic. Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states' votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn't clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.


On the Trump Disease

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Trump's Agents of Idiocracy

Charles M. Blow

Last week when Donald Trump began his so-called Thank You Tour in Cincinnati, he had yet another opportunity to be magnanimous and conciliatory, to step beyond the division and acrimony of his campaign and into the unity and healing necessary to be president of a strained nation.

As is his wont, he declined, instead gloating and boasting, playing to the minority of American voters who chose him, relishing his own impenitence.

He is choosing to push America further apart rather than bring it closer together.

And be clear: It is not the job of the defiant to conform to a future president who makes them completely uncomfortable. The burden of unity lies with Trump, not his detractors.

"Just wait and see." "Give him a chance." But what if what you've already seen is so beyond the pale that it's irrevocable? What if Trump has already squandered more chances than most of us will ever have?

What if Trump has shown himself beyond doubt and with absolute certainty to be a demagogue and bigot and xenophobe and has given space and voice to concordant voices in the country and in his emerging Legion of Doom cabinet? In that reality, resistance isn't about mindless obstruction by people blinded by the pain of ideological defeat or people gorging on sour grapes. To the contrary, resistance then is an act of radical, even revolutionary, patriotism. Resistance isn't about damaging the country, but protecting it.\

There is no Electoral College clause that blunts ferocious opposition to the demeaning of women and racial, ethnic and religious minorities in this country; there is no Election Day reset on the coddling of white supremacy.

Furthermore, the emergence of Donald Trump as a political figure has threatened to kill many of the ideals that we hold dear: decency and decorum, inclusion and empathy, truth and facts themselves.

Trump and his agents of idiocracy are now engaged in an all-out crusade to exaggerate the scope of his victory, rewrite racial history, justify their vendettas and hostilities and erase the very distinction between true and false.

At a fiery exchange during a panel at Harvard, Hillary Clinton's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, rightly accused the Trump campaign of emboldening "white supremacists and white nationalists."

The Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, barked back: "Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? You're going to look me in the face and tell me that?"

"It did. Kellyanne, it did," said Palmieri. Yes Kellyanne, that is exactly what you did and no amount of personal outrage about being called out on it is going to rewrite that history.
Resistance is not about some sort of clairvoyant condemnation of acts yet uncommitted, but rather about the resilience of memory, the rigidity of morality and the depth of wounds.

How the news distorts our worldview

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Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International, talks about why -- though we want to know more about the world than ever -- the media is actually showing us less. Eye-opening stats and graphs.

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