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Monday, October 6, 2014

The Daily Drift

Alice Liddel - said to be the reason Lewis Carrol wrote Through The Looking Glass otherwise known as Alice in Wonderland ...!
 
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Today in History

1014 The Byzantine Emperor Basil earns the title "Slayer of Bulgers" after he orders the blinding of 15,000 Bulgerian troops.
1536 William Tyndale, the English translator of the New Testament, is strangled and burned at the stake for heresy at Vilvorde, France.
1696 Savoy Germany withdraws from the Grand Alliance.
1788 The Polish Diet decides to hold a four year session.
1801 Napoleon Bonaparte imposes a new constitution on Holland.
1847 Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre is published in London.
1866 The Reno brothers–Frank, John, Simeon and William–commit the country's first train robbery near Seymore, Indiana netting $10,000.
1927 The first "talkie," The Jazz Singer, opens with popular entertainer Al Jolson singing and dancing in black-face. By 1930, silent movies were a thing of the past.
1941 German troops renew their offensive against Moscow.
1965 Patricia Harris takes post as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, becoming the first African American U.S. ambassador.
1966 Hanoi insists the United States must end its bombings before peace talks can begin.
1969 Special Forces Captain John McCarthy is released from Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary, pending consideration of his appeal to murder charges.
1973 Israel is taken by surprise when Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan attack on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
1981 Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat is assassinated in Cairo by Islamic fundamentalists. He is succeeded by Vice President Hosni Mubarak.
1987 Fiji becomes a republic independent of the British Commonwealth.
1995 Astronomers discover 51 Pegasi is the second star known to have a planet orbiting it.
2000 Yugoslavia's president Slobodan Milosevic and Argentina's vice-president Carlos Alvarez both resign from their respective offices.
2007 Explorer and author Jason Lewis becomes the first person to complete a human-powered circumnavigation of the globe.

Ferguson Police Stomp All Over First Amendment By Arresting Protesters For Bad Language

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What began as a day filled with severe rain storms and an opportunity for a number of Ferguson protesters to take a break from demonstrating ended with the Ferguson police department once again abusing the 1st Amendment in an effort to intimidate activists and protesters. We have seen law enforcement in the area try to enforce a ‘five second rule,’ where they tell protesters they can demonstrate as long as they remain moving. The ACLU is challenging this arbitrary rule, claiming it violates the rights of demonstrators. On Thursday night, police decided to arrest 10 protesters, including a freelance journalist reporting for CNN, for standing on the sidewalk and cursing. Yes, you heard that right; they were arrested for foul language.
Due to heavy rain storms throughout the day and continuing into the evening, only a handful of protesters actually showed up outside of the Ferguson police department Thursday night. Typically, there is a robust group of at least 50 protesters gathered every evening making their voices heard. The numbers tend to fluctuate throughout any given evening, with the die-hards finally calling it a night around 3 or 4 AM. Thursday night, about 25 to 30 protesters were gathered after 11 PM local time. From what I was told by those on the scene at the time, about half of the protesters were on the sidewalk next to the police station while the other half were across the street.
At some point, the police that were gathered outside to confront the small but passionate group of people decided to use a new tactic to intimidate protesters. The police announced that anyone using abusive language that incites violence will be arrested. Patricia Bynes, a Democratic delegate from the area, tweeted that this was definitely a new one that they hadn’t heard in the 50+ days since Michael Brown’s death, when the protests began.
Shortly after that announcement, the police rounded up 10 protesters. They stated it was because the demonstrators on the sidewalk by the police station used abusive language. One of those arrested was Mary Moore, a freelance reporter who is working with CNN to provide on the ground reports from Ferguson. She was taking video of the arrests as they were happening, so the police decided to snatch her up, too. Ms. Moore showed the police her press credentials, but that did not matter. The police processed her along with other protesters.
The Washington Post obtained a cell phone video from the scene shortly after the arrests were made:
After hearing the news via Twitter, I made my way over to the police station. By that point, they had already taken the arrested demonstrators and reporter to different jurisdictions to be processed and jailed for the night. When I arrived, there were still about 20 people on the scene, mostly activists from different local organizations who have been active in the area since Brown’s death. Bynes was also still there. Per the protesters on the scene, the Ferguson police arrested people merely for using dirty language. (Unconfirmed reports have it that some said ‘f*ck the police.’) It was the simple case of the police, noticing that there was only a small group of protesters active Thursday night, decided to take advantage of the numbers and bully and intimidate those who were there, 1st Amendment be damned.
By Friday afternoon, Moore had been released from jail without needing to post bail, apparently due to a technicality. However, a number of protesters were still locked up as of mid-afternoon Friday after being arrested for throwing F-bombs at police officers. The thing is, even if all of them had been released 20 minutes after being arrested, an awful precedent has been set. Free speech will not be tolerated. Of course, awful precedents have been the norm lately in Ferguson.

Koch brothers freak out in response to Rolling Stone expose

David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, attends an Economic Club of New York event in New York, December 10, 2012.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) - RTR3BFKF
David Koch, not holding up well under scrutiny.
Tim Dickinson's fantastic expose of the Koch brothers in the latest issue of Rolling Stone has gotten plenty of attention. For very good reason: it's a well-sourced, deep dive into the very toxic—literally toxic—business that earned the Kochs enough money to buy up an entire political cabal. That and the wrongful death judgement, six felony and numerous misdemeanor convictions, the tens of millions of dollars in fines, and the trading with Iran are all included in the story, well worth your time. No one has given it more attention, it seems, than the notoriously thin-skinned Kochs. In typical Koch fashion, they don't argue the facts of Dickinson's story. They attack Dickinson, who responds here. Here's the nut of his detailed response.
Koch, in particular, takes umbrage with my reporting practices. For the record: In the weeks prior to publication, beginning September 4th, Rolling Stone attempted to engage Koch Industries in a robust discussion of the issues raised in our reporting. Rolling Stone requested to interview CEO Charles Koch about his company's philosophy of Market Based Management; Ilia Bouchouev, who heads Koch's derivatives trading operations, about the company's trading practices; and top Koch lawyer Mark Holden about the company's significant legal and regulatory history.
The requests to speak to Charles Koch and Bouchouev were simply ignored. Ultimately, only Holden responded on the record, only via e-mail and only after Holden baselessly insinuated that I had been given an "opposition research" document dump from the liberal activist David Brock. (This is false.) From my perspective as a reporter, Koch Industries is the most hostile and paranoid organization I've ever engaged with—and I've reported on Fox News. In a breach of ethics, Koch has also chosen to publish email correspondence characterizing the content of a telephone conversation that was, by Koch's own insistence, strictly off the record. […]
[I]n the main, the Koch responses attempt to re-litigate closed cases — incidents where judges, juries, and, in one case, a Senate Select Committee, have already had a final say. They only muddy waters that have been clarified by a considered legal process.
Dickinson then provides an exhaustive, 14-point taken down of each of the Kochs' complaints about his story, including every instance in which the Kochs do not actually dispute the facts that he has reported, but attempt to obfuscate them and whine about that fact that he reported them. They also don't acknowledge that Dickinson attempted to give them the opportunity to talk to him about his story while reporting, but they refused. The Kochs clearly do not stand up well to close scrutiny, and clearly are not prepared for it. For some reason, probably because they're richer than god, they seem to assume that they should be able to swoop into our political system and attempt to buy it without being subject to close examination. That attitude, along with their long history of abusing people, the environment, and the political system, is doing them no favors. They've made themselves the subject of this election, and if Democrats hold the Senate, it will largely be because the Kochs have made themselves such good enemies.

Natural Born Job Killers

Why repugicans Are Afraid to Reveal Their Job Creation Ideas
Republican plan
It is difficult to believe that any American might think, even for a nano-second, that repugicans serve anyone other than the rich and corporations, and it is why they are hesitant to lay out their true agenda heading into the midterm elections. President Obama touted the economic growth the nation has witnessed during his tenure in office, and assailed repugicans for not having “the courage to lay out theirs.” Although the President has a point, repugicans have laid out their “ideas to create more jobs and grow more wages,” but because they know their ideas will not, have not, and cannot do either, they only reveal their true ideas to their corporate and wealthy supporters. Americans are not the smartest people on the planet, but they are aware that repugicans’ failed economic policies do not create jobs and increase wages because they just experienced a Great Recession founded on repugican failed policies.
The President duly noted that after laying out his ideas for more jobs and better wages, repugicans took a stand for the rich and blocked policies that would help the middle class and lift the poor out of poverty such as “raising the minimum wage, enacting fair pay, refinancing student loans, or extending unemployment insurance for the unemployed.” He also explained repugicans have sort-of backed off the fear mongering about the out-of-control deficits they created during the shrub years, and relaxed the fright-fest related to the Affordable Care Act. The point of the President’s speech was that the midterm elections should be “a referendum on two starkly different visions” for the economy, and he could have pointed out that there has been some very good economic reports in spite of repugican obstruction.
First, economic growth in the second quarter of 2014 was at its highest level since 2006; two full years before repugicans created the Great Recession.  The promising report was in spite of repugican claims that the only way to grow the economy is more tax cuts for the rich and eliminate banking, workplace, and environmental regulations. It is precisely the same thing they claim will create more jobs, so it was curious the President was silent that for the first time in 14 years, economists reported that “initial jobless claims can’t go much lower,” and that “job creation is occurring at the strongest pace since the recession ended.” All this in spite of a tax increase on the richest Americans and regulations holding firmly in place.
The president said repugicans should “have the courage to lay out” their ideas for creating job growth, and assailed their ridiculous trickle-down economics platform. He said, “If there were any credibility to the argument that says when those at the top do well, eventually everyone else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now.” The President is absolutely correct about tax cuts for the rich and corporations never producing prosperity for anyone other than corporations and the wealthy, but he is wrong that Republicans have not laid out their “ideas for creating job growth.” In fact, just last week John Boehner presented repugicans’ five-point plan to create jobs and grow wages during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute that, although a plan, is precisely what the President criticized and not one Boehner is willing to present to the voters.
Boehner 5-point repugican cabal “plan to create jobs, boost wages, and bring good-paying jobs home” includes in part eliminating corporate taxes to stop inversions, and then “get workers off the sidelines by building a culture of hard work and responsibility around them.” First on Boehner’s list is drastically slashing taxes for corporations and the rich (trickle-down economics) he said will create a job bonanza and increase wages. Boehner said the repugican cabal plan was crucial to “resetting the foundation of our economy for the next two or three generations, provide a stream of good-paying jobs, and provide more security straight through retirement.” When Boehner said “resetting the foundation of our economy,” he meant revisiting the shrub-era tax cuts and deregulation that were partly responsible for increasing the deficit, the Great Recession, and more profits for the rich.
His second point was “to rein in the regulatory system.” He particularly noted the Dodd-Frank banking reform and said that if America stopped regulating banks and Wall Street, there would be a jobs boom and Americans’ wages would increase. It is more of the shrub-era deregulatory frenzy that created the Great Recession President Obama warned was not sustainable. The President said “to have an economy where growth was based on inflated prices and bubbles that burst, and the casino mentality on Wall Street where the recklessness of a few” would threaten us all is not defensible. “That was not a formula for sustained growth.” Except that it was a brilliant formula for Wall Street that has grown by leaps and bounds as well as taken the lion’s share of the recovery which is why repugicans are anxious to “rein in banking regulations.”
Boehner’s third point was “reforming our legal system” and cutting awards for corporate malfeasance. According to repugican ideology, it is unfair for corporations, large and small, to pay damages to victims that Boehner claimed just drives up prices to the consumer and kills potential and existing jobs. He said he is all for “taking care of people who have been injured,” but within “reasonable limits on damages and compensation” because the current system is too costly for big business and their bottom line.
The fourth point of the repugican plan was once and for all solving “our spending problem” on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid entitlements. Of course, Social Security is self-funded and does not, and cannot, take any money from the government, but repugicans want to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, and hand the Trust over to Wall Street for administration and disbursements. Boehner failed to reveal how making drastic cuts to, or privatizing, Social Security would create a job explosion or increase working Americans’ wages, but he did note that since Americans are living till they are 80, the retirement age must be increased and benefits must be cut. It makes no sense as part of a job creation and wage increase economic plan, but no more than the fifth point in a plan meant to increase the wealth of corporations.
It is unbelievable really, but Boehner said enacting a comprehensive privatized school initiative across the whole of America was an integral aspect of the plan to create new jobs, boost wages, bring jobs home, stop inversions, and build a culture of hard work into Americans “standing on the sidelines.” Apparently, Boehner thinks that giving parents an opportunity to find “the better (read more costly and underperforming) schools they need and deserve” is part of helping them get ahead and “not just get by.” Interestingly, repugican national cock-head Reince Priebus reiterated Boehner’s “privatize America’s schools” plan and said it was economically prudent and a civil rights issue parents are desperate to see implemented.
Maybe President Obama saying repugicans should “have the courage to lay out their ideas for creating jobs and growing wages” was to bait them into telling the people their intent is returning to shrub-era economics and more recessions. It is worth noting that Republicans have laid out their economic agenda, but they have been very careful to reveal their plans primarily to their wealthy donors and corporate think tanks, but not the public. Remember, Mitch McConnell told the Koch brothers’ billionaire cabal that if repugicans gain control of the Senate they will “go after all of the federal government,” including Social Security. Paul Ryan admitted repugicans can hardly stop Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps without a repugican Senate, but they are not campaigning on those issues for obvious reasons; they would never get elected.
It appears it is up to President Obama to expose the repugican job creation and wage growth agenda and show the stark contrast between his successful policies that lifted America out of the repugican recession the repugican cabal will return to with a vengeance if they control Congress. The President was right to imply repugicans are cowards for concealing their plans that will not create jobs or grow wages, and now he has to take the next step and reveal why their cowardice prevents them from telling the people their only plan is creating more wealth for the rich and corporations at the expense of the poor and middle class.

Nearly Four Times More People Signed Up For Obamacare Than Watch Faux News

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Faux News and their viewers like to pound their chests and tout their success, but Faux can’t hold a candle to Obamacare. Nearly four times as many people have signed up for Obamacare than watch Faux News.
Faux News had a record setting third quarter in 2014. The wingnut 'news' network was the most watched channel on all of cable. 1.77 million people watched Faux News’ primetime lineup. 1.045 million people watched Faux News during the day. Faux News grew 10% in total viewers over the same period in 2013. Cable news viewership overall continued to plunge as Faux News, CNN, and MSNBC combined attracted under 3 million primetime viewers.
Wingnuts love to tout the success of Faux News as proof that America is a wingnut nation, but Faux can’t hold a candle to the success of the Affordable Care Act. 7.3 million people have enrolled in the ACA. All total the law is estimated to be providing 26 million Americans with access to affordable healthcare.
The vaunted number one lineup in primetime cable news is roughly four times smaller than the amount of people who have gotten private health insurance policies from Obamacare. About 26 times more people overall have access to healthcare than watch Faux News’ primetime lineup.
Faux News is tiny compared to Obamacare. Faux is loud. It influences the repugican cabal and the mainstream media, but the top cable news network is a small fish compared to the Affordable Care Act. This simple comparison puts into context how successful the ACA has been. It also makes it easy to understand that Faux News’ cable 'dominance' is small potatoes when compared to what’s happening in the real world.
The wingnut fantasy that Faux News pumps into a few million television screens is nothing compared to what Democrats have accomplished for tens of millions of people. The Faux News campaign to demonize the ACA has marched on for years, but exponentially more Americans have embraced the ACA than Faux News has viewers.
The math is on the side of the Democrats. Faux News is a puny fish in an ever shrinking pond. The hot air on Faux News is no match for the real world results of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Irony Alert: Faux News Tells Obama To Stop Picking On Them So Much

Without a hint of self-awareness, Faux News hack Greta Van Susteren was very offended that President Obama made a joke at her network’s expense on Thursday, saying that the president was obsessed with “picking a fight with Faux News” while there were serious issues going on in the world. Meanwhile, as she wrote that, her network continued its non-stop trivial criticisms of Obama unimpeded.
President Obama was at Northwestern University to talk to students and faculty about the economy. During the speech he stressed how important it was that any political debate should be centered around “facts,” not opinion or conjecture.
“I’ve laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster,” Obama told the crowd. “A true opposition party, should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.”
Obama meant it seriously, but the crowd laughs anyway, because — let’s face it — the idea that the repugican cabal would be open to an honest and forthright debate of facts rather than fear-mongering and feigned outrage is, at this point, a punchline.
Obama pointed out that there seems to be a lot less repugicans screaming about the deficit or the terrors of Obamacare because in both cases, the reality was undeniably less gloomy than conservatives had predicted. And he couldn’t help taking a dig at Faux News — the network most committed to terrifying its audience with outlandish nightmare scenarios about the Obama administration’s policies.
While good affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Faux News, it turns out it’s working pretty well in the real world.
Even that modest joke at Faux News’ expense was offensive to Van Susteren. On her personal blog, she penned an article titled, “This is embarrassing for President Obama – juvenile and so un-Presidential.”
He should be setting a good example to college students – he should be Presidential, not petty.
And he is looking petty – picking a fight with Faux News with his cracks. That is so childish.
Has she looked in the mirror lately? Or bothered to watch anything on the network that she, herself, works for?
This is not fake. This really happened.
This is not fake. This really happened.
In the most recent example in a six year long chain of examples to choose from, the network spent a week of airtime criticizing Obama for holding a coffee cup in his hand when he saluted a marine. The “latte salute,” as it was dubbed, was scrutinized and mocked by the network endlessly.
The “fair and balanced” network called up Karl “No Shame” Rove to get his take on this, clearly extremely important, story and he was ready:
After all, we’ve got a chai-swillin’, golf-playin’, basketball trash-talkin’, leadin’-from-behind, I-got-no-strategy, Osama-bin-Laden-is-dead, GM-is-alive, community-organizin’ commander-in-chief.
This, it should be noted, all during the day in which President Obama was at the United Nations laying out his plans to stop the expanding power of ISIL in the Middle East and to further America’s commitment to fighting climate change. Both very serious issues with profound consequences for our lives and our nation. Given the choice between substance and trivial potshots, Fox chose the latter.
The fact of the matter is that Faux News has become so unhinged from reality in the six years since Obama took office, that they can now serve as an easy stand-in for all irrational rhetoric that gets in the way of facts and solutions. When Obama jokes that Faux News is fear-mongering and delusional, the crowd laughs because at this point it’s undeniably true. Van Susteren should address her blog post first to her fellow hacks not the White House. If she wants people to stop picking on her network, she needs to start by helping to make it not the laughing stock of 'news' organizations.

The wingnut Supreme Court Will Decide If Some Votes Are More Equal Than Others

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The Supreme Court decided on Thursday that it will hear two election law related cases this term, the potential of redefining the meaning of free and fair elections. North Carolina also asked the Supreme Court to Stay an injunction issued by the Fourth Circuit to reinstate same day registration and count votes that were cast out of district.
The first case is Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission:
:In 2000, 56% of voters in Arizona supported a citizens’ initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission.  The commission considers input from both political parties.  The legislature may approve or disapprove the maps resulting from the commission’s work.
The commission’s composition is complex.  First the commission on appointments, proposes candidates.  The legislature chooses two repugicans and two Democrats.  They choose an independent to chair the commission.  Political control is limited to the governor who can remove a member for neglect or misconduct.
Despite the best efforts to keep the partisanship out of redistricting, repugican Governor Jan Brewer fired the chair person because she often sided with the two Democrats.  Eventually, the state Supreme Court reinstated the chair, noting that agreeing with Democrats is neither neglect or abuse of office.
The repugicans controlled the state’s Senate by 17-3 and the House by 36-24.  However, because voters denied repugicans a supermajority in the statehouse, repugicans protested the Commission’s maps for 2012.
Arizona’s repugicans want the Supreme Court to decide that redistricting must be decided by the legislature under the elections clause of the U.S. constitution.
Now the Supreme Court will consider if the legislature has standing in this case, and if the as Arizona repugican claim, if commission’s existence violates the U.S. Constitution’s elections clause.
America prides itself on a voting process in which every vote is equal, regardless of the voters’ race, gender, class or any other factor. The reality is redistricting makes it possible for repugicans to win even when they lose the popular vote.
In 2012, Democratic House candidates received nearly 1.4 million more votes than repugicans, yet repugicans maintained control of the House as a direct result of gerrymandered redistricting. If the Supreme Court sides with repugicans in this case, the inequality of votes will get much worse.
As noted by Think Progress notes, while this case runs in the face of several Supreme Court precedents, the Court’s ruling in the shrub v. Gore could be used by wingnuts on the court to make gerrymandering even worse than it is now.
Nevertheless, there are some warning signs that the Supreme Court’s wingnut flank wants to upset this balance. In the shrub v. Gore — yes, THAT shrub v. Gore — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined an opinion arguing that the Constitution prohibited Florida’s state courts from reaching certain interpretations of the state’s election law. This opinion relied on a constitutional provision providing that presidential electors must be selected “as the Legislature” of a state directs. Thus, it argued, the judicial branch of a state could not act in a way that these conservative justices viewed as counter to the legislature’s intent.
The Court is busy with vote suppression cases.
North Carolina requested a stay of the 4th Circuit’s injunction to reinstate same day voter registration and out of precinct voting.
North Carolina makes two arguments which will probably appeal to the wingnuts of the Supreme Court.
First, North Carolina wants the Supreme Court to interpret Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act under the narrow parameters set out by Judge Thomas Schroeder.  While the Fourth Circuit looked at the cumulative effect of all restrictions (i.e. early voting, same day registration etc.) Judge Schroeder preferred a piecemeal approach. For example, if you look at reduced early voting in isolation, it really doesn’t look that bad.  If you look at it with a ban on same day registration, discounting out of precinct votes and all the other restrictions in North Carolina’s law you can recognize the systematic effort to suppress votes by minorities through a variety of mechanisms. It’s likely the Supreme Court will prefer to avoid looking at the big picture.
Second, North Carolina is arguing that changing the law this late in the game is likely to create chaos.  This argument is based on precedent and is therefore likely to succeed.
The Court also decided to hear Wisconsin’s Voter ID case. Some estimates say 300,000 Wisconsin voters could be disenfranchised if this law is upheld.  After the court decided to hear this challenge, Justice Elena Kagen asked the Wisconsin to respond. The outcome of this case will effect voters in Wisconsin, but will also tell us about the future of voting rights in other states.
The totality of these cases means the Supreme Court will decide the new meaning of free and fair elections and if, indeed, some votes are more equal than others.

Wingnut SCOTUS Could Gut Fair Housing Protections

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a case brought by Texas that seeks to limit the use of statistics in housing fairness cases.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. is ultimately about limiting the ways by which people can challenge racist policies, be it in housing, voting rights or any other policy area. Statistics that show discriminatory results of a policy are a way of proving that regardless of intent, the policy is racist. If Texas persuades the Supreme Court to reject disparate impact in this case, it actually achieves two objectives. Most directly, it guts Federal protections against discriminatory housing policy. However, it also achieves the objective of limiting the ways to prove of racist policies, to showing there was an racist intent behind the policy.
This provides comfort to people who want to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore because most racists have found more subtle ways to express it. It amounts to saying that a racist result in a policy doesn’t really mean the policy is racist. A policy is only racist, if racism was the intent behind the policy. Since racism has become more subtle, the odds of a tacit admission of racist intent is virtually non-exist.
The issue is the “correct legal standard to be applied in disparate impact claims under the FHA. In plain English, Texas wants the Supreme Court to decide if and how plaintiffs can use statistics to prove that policies have a racist result.
This case concerns subsidized low-income housing in Dallas. The Inclusive Communities Project,. connects people with this housing. They claimed the state government approved developer tax credits for this housing only in low-income and minority heavy neighborhoods while denying them in majority white and majority-Hispanic neighborhoods.  This has perpetuated, and exacerbated the city’s racial segregation.  A federal appeals court described it as a “sordid tale of overt and covert racial discrimination and segregation.”
Texas claims disparate impact shouldn’t be used because it would prove the state’s policies are in this case and that would open the state up to a slew of other lawsuits. In fact, we shouldn’t use statistics to prove that a policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on African-Americans until Texas “achieves racial symmetry in all aspects of government decision making” otherwise “operating any one of those programs exposes the state to a potential disparate impact lawsuit”
In a way, one could look at this argument as an admission that disparate impact would show that the racism extends beyond the project at issue in this claim.
This is sort of like an attempt to throw out use of video as evidence to prove police brutality because use of that evidence will prove that police brutality is pervasive.
If we consider this case within the context of the Court’s previous rulings, it’s likely that conservatives on the Supreme Court will accept this argument, given their rejection of disparate impact on other issues pertaining to racial discrimination.  It’s this wholesale rejection of statistics over beliefs and ideology that made it possible for the conservative court to put the Voting Rights Act on life support and conclude that affirmative action is no longer necessary.
Instead of looking at statistics, the wingnut Supreme Court prefers to look at shadow puppets during breaks from reading the bible simply because statistics burst ideological bubbles.

Rick Santorum Proposes Idea That Could Lead to Science Being Banned in Public Schools

by Allen Cifton 
santorum-idiot In a statement that should shock absolutely no one, former repugican presidential candidate Rick Santorum believes that secularism should be considered a religion so that it can be banned in schools.
While speaking with un-American anti-Family Asshat’s Bryan Fischer, Santorum said, “I think we should start calling secularism a religion. Because if we did, then we could ban that, too, because that’s what they’ve done: they’ve hidden behind the fact that the absence of religion is not a religion of itself.”
“The freedom of religion is not the freedom from religion,” he continued.(Actually it does, but that doesn't stop his delusions)
He also went on to claim that the absence of religion is a form of religion.
Most secularists I know are people who believe in science over religion. Though it’s entirely possible to be both a christian and a secularist. I should know, because that’s what I am. I’m a christian, but I don’t believe religion has any place in school or our government. If you want more religion, go to cult more often.
But if we started viewing secularism as a religion (which is a ridiculous notion), then wouldn’t that open the door for science to be banned from schools? After all, secularists tend to put “faith” in science, not religion. So, in turn, scientific facts could then be deemed “religious delusions” – therefore prohibiting them to be taught in our schools.
Though there’s really no point to even think ahead that far, because for someone to consider secularism a religion is absurd. By that notion, everything is some form of religion. If someone said they believe in absolutely nothing – literally nothing at all – that would be deemed a religion according to Santorum’s “logic.”
And let’s not ignore that Santorum also essentially said that Americans have no right to be free from religion. Something fellow repugican Rick Perry has also echoed in the past.
It never ceases to amaze me how these people champion our “freedom,” while arguing that we should all be forced to adhere to some form of religious rule. That’s a complete contradiction as religion is anything but the pinnacle of freedom. In fact, religion is very restrictive and controlling. If you doubt me, I’d invite you to visit a few of the nations ruled by islamic theocracies such as Saudi Arabia. A nation where other religions are banned and women can’t even drive, just to give you only a couple of the highly restrictive laws that are put in place thanks to religious rule of the people of Saudi Arabia.
Let’s just imagine public school curriculum based on religion, shall we?
Millions of christians believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old and the story of Noah’s ark is factual. These people believe that a man lived for about 900 years (or almost 1/6 of the supposed existence of the planet), yet there’s not a single shred of evidence that he ever existed. You would think if someone had lived for 1/6 of the history of the entire planet that there might be some concrete evidence of them actually being a real person.
But there’s not.
And that’s the type of information people like Santorum want taught in our schools as fact.
Santorum, like many others who share his beliefs, just simply doesn’t get it. Religion is religion. It’s a system of beliefs based on faith, not fact. Secularism is the belief that religion needs to be kept out of our schools and government. That religion should be practiced privately. That’s it. It’s not a religious belief. It’s not any system of beliefs at all. It’s just common sense. But even more than just being common sense, secularism is exactly what our Constitution supports.
Because the absence of any mention of religion (outside of the First Amendment which gives Americans the freedom of religion) in our Constitution isn’t by accident, but by design.

Ancient Tomb Helps Push Turkey to Authorize Force Against Islamic State

Threat to Suleyman Shah's tomb helps trigger Turkey's response to the jihadist group.
A photo of Turkish soldiers standing guard at the site of Suleyman Shah tomb in Syria.
Turkish soldiers stand guard at the revered tomb of Suleyman Shah, northeast of Aleppo, Syria.
Had it not been for Syria's brutal civil war, the tomb of Suleyman Shah would have likely remained a geographical footnote. But this week the 700-year-old tomb became a flashpoint that helped prod Turkey into entering the battle against the Islamic State (IS; also called ISIS or ISIL).
For centuries the tomb has stood beside the banks of the Euphrates, the river where Suleyman is presumed to have drowned in 1236 while on campaign in what is now Syria.
As the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, his tomb and its accompanying shrine are revered historical sites for the Turks.
One of the clauses in the 1921 Treaty of Ankara, which shaped the boundaries of modern Syria, stipulated that the former Ottoman tomb would remain a Turkish exclave within the new Syria, flying the Turkish flag and protected by an honor guard of Turkish soldiers.
And so it has remained. Even when the tomb itself was physically shifted 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) upstream in 1973 to accommodate flooding from the Assad Dam, its essential Turkishness was never in doubt. Legally, spiritually, emotionally, it remained as Turkish in Turkish eyes as the Golden Horn—even though it lay 20 miles (32 kilometers) inside Syria.
Map showing the location of the tomb
In recent days bitter fighting between extremists from the Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish militias in the area has sent thousands of refugees streaming across the Turkish border. As IS fighters advanced on the town of Ayn al Arab (Kobane), near the tomb, Turkish leaders faced the question of what to do if Suleyman Shah's tomb is captured, let alone destroyed, as IS fighters have been known to destroy tombs and mosques elsewhere in Syria.
On Thursday Turkey's parliament voted 298 to 98 to authorize military action against Islamic State forces. It's unclear to what degree the tomb factored into the decision, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said that his country would defend the tomb, which it regards as sovereign territory.
Earlier this year the 30 or so young conscripts who usually guard the sleepy outpost were replaced by 60 Special Forces troops. And this week the nation's senior ranking general, Necdet Özel, issued a statement saying that the Turkish army was prepared to come to the aid of the soldiers guarding the tomb.

Defense contractors already are reaping the bounty of the all new unwinnable war

It's just business
The new U.S. war in the Middle East has only begun and already there are clear winners:
Support for Islamic State increased after U.S. airstrikes began in Iraq and the militant group may take more hostages to try to force concessions from Washington, the FBI director told Congress on Wednesday.
Islamic State is "committed to instilling fear and attracting recruits" and to drawing public attention, as shown through its use of social media and in videos it released of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, said FBI Director James Comey.
"ISIL's widespread use of social media and growing online support intensified following the commencement of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq," Comey, using an acronym for the group, said in prepared testimony for a congressional hearing on threats to the U.S. homeland.
Because the U.S. is doing exactly what the terrorists want:
There are many reasons the U.S. shouldn't go to war with the Islamic State - and the best one may be because that is exactly what they want us to do.
A growing number of people I consider experts in the field believe that the recent beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker were deliberate acts of provocation, and that ISIS is not just hoping for an American overreaction, but depending on it - perhaps even for its own survival.
Of course humane people are horrified and outraged by the viciousness of the terrorists. That's the point of terrorism: to terrorize, to shock people out of rationality and into self-destructive irrational reaction. Even the CIA doubts the U.S. strategy:

Daily Comic Relief

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Everybody's scare?!

FCC fines Marriott $600,000 for jamming hotel Wi-Fi

A Nashville convention center figured out how to boost its revenue from selling Internet service: it illegally jammed guests' and exhibitors' Wi-Fi networks. Glenn Fleishman explains the technical scam and why it earned a six-figure smackdown. per exhibitor, and all they get is a couple of megabits per second at their booth. Google for the price sheets: you'll need an emesis bag handy.
The Marriott-run Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville was faced with a dilemma. Like all hotels and exhibition centers, it charges exhibitors and conference organizers exorbitant amounts for Internet access on trade-show floors, as well as nightly fees for guests. Nearly all conference centers charge thousands of dollars for a few days of access,
Thanks to fast cellular networks and portable WiFi hotspots, though, these halls are losing their extortionate edge. A carryover from the days of a captive audience who had no other choice, the wheeze was always factored in as a cost of participating in trade shows and other events. Now, however, the 4G LTE standard--whose frequency range penetrates buildings far better than most older cellular technologies--offers data rates in the tens of Mbps.
The Gaylord Opryland came up with a clever plan. Some level of hotel management understood that its Wi-Fi intrusion-mitigation system came with a feature that could kick people off networks — and not just their own. So, as the FCC explains in a press release and consent order [PDF] released today, Marriott staff at the facility made it impossible for people in the vicinity to use personal hotspots, portable routers, and the like. This is a big no-no: a violation of Section 333 of the Communications Act. A clever visitor to the convention center — likely someone irritated at being knocked off his portable router over and over again — discovered the deauth behavior and reported it in March 2013 to the FCC.
The technique employed, according to the FCC release, is deauthentication. It's a common attack vector used by malicious parties to push clients off legitimate access points and get them to connect to "evil twins," look-alike Wi-Fi networks that are hives of villainy, or to cause denial of service. The aircrack-ng software, for instance, lets you type in a very simple sequence that shoots the correct sequence of packets at a client and a router, and forces the two to stop talking, at least for a moment.
There is no authentication of deauth, ironically enough, although the kind of intrusion-detection and -mitigation hardware and software used by companies like Marriott can detect these attacks. (More irony in using a mitigation system to attack others.) Vendors of such products boast about the use of deauth — in regards only to booting unwanted people from their clients' own Wi-Fi networks.
The FCC found this not clever at all, and Marriott (which acquired the property in 2012) is paying a $600,000 fine, and under the terms of the consent decree, must halt its Wi-Fi blocking and implement and report on a compliance plan at all its properties in America. The FCC report doesn't say whether Marriott was engaged in similar activities elsewhere, but I suspect geeks will now be on high alert to check for it whenever they can't maintain a Wi-Fi connection to their own gear at or near a hotel or convention center.
This is a wonderful and strong affirmative approach by the FCC asserting consumer rights. The head of the FCC's enforcement bureau said bluntly in the news release: "Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center." Convention centers will have to adapt and figure out new ways to ream exhbitors — the FCC doesn't regulate breathing, does it?

Fed whistleblower secretly recorded 46 hours of regulatory capture inside Goldman Sachs

Carmen Segarra is a former FTC regulator who joined the fed after the financial crisis to help rescue the banking system -- but she was so shocked by the naked regulatory capture on display that she ended up buying a covert recorder from a "spy shop" and used it to secretly record her colleagues letting Goldman Sachs get away with pretty much anything it wanted to do.Segarra has an impressive bio -- speaks four language, degrees from Cornell, Harvard and Columbia, worked as a compliance officer at some of the world's biggest banks. She joined the Fed in the wake of the 2009 Report on Systemic Risk and Bank Supervision, a shocking and frank assessment by the Fed itself, documenting its deference to and regulatory capture by the banks it was supposed to be regulating, a deference and capture that allowed the subprime crisis to unfold under its own nose.
The Fed had vowed to reform this culture, and Segarra was supposed to be part of that mission. But once she reported for work at the Fed department at Goldman Sachs (Fed regulators actually work at desks inside the banks they're regulating), she discovered a culture rotten with cowardice and capture, where her boss's idea of a really stern rebuke for lying in official filings was to mildly mention that there appeared to be some irregularities in the compliance regime, then trailing off ineffectually.
We know this because of the recordings, which were edited into a documentary by This American Life that aired yesterday. It's an absolutely riveting and essential hour of audio (MP3), and the accompanying package by Pro Publica is likewise essential reading.

Man appearing in court for possessing marijuana arrested in court for possessing marijuana

Police in Port Authority, New Jersey, on Thursday arrested a man who took marijuana to the borough court where he was scheduled to appear on charges including marijuana possession. Richard Thompson, 32, of Stamford, Connecticut, arrived at court at around 10:20am with a backpack, according to police spokesman Joe Pentangelo.
As part of standard security screenings, officials opened the bag and discovered less than 50 grams of marijuana inside.
They also found two packets of rolling papers and an unrolled cigar wrapper often re-used to smoke marijuana, Pentangelo said. Thompson was arrested on charges of having marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Man pulling lawn mower behind bicycle at 12:40am aroused police officer's suspicions

A 42-year-old Florida man is accused of theft after a police officer noticed him pulling a lawn mower while riding a bicycle. Steven Bernard Guidry of Fort Walton Beach was stopped three times in total on Monday night into Tuesday morning, according to the arrest report. The first time was at around 10 pm, when officers were called about Guidry knocking on residents’ doors.
Callers reported that Guidry was claiming to be “their neighbor” and asking for money. When officers spoke with him, Guidry had a bicycle. He was told to stop disturbing residents and leave. He told officers he was going to go home. At 12:40 on Tuesday morning, the same officer noticed Guidry riding the bicycle, pulling a red and black Toro lawn mower.
He was in a dark business district where all the businesses were closed. The officer feared the lawn mower could be stolen. Guidry told the officer he had picked up the mower from a friend and was on his way to his friend’s house. He said he was going to cut his friend’s grass in the morning. The officer released Guidry, but then realized that the path he was taking was unusual and stopped him a third time.
The officer asked if he could verify Guidry’s story with his friend. Guidry replied that he didn’t want to wake his friend. He was unable to give the officer his friend’s address or even a street name. The officer arrested Guidry and, after running the serial number of the bicycle, found that it had been reported stolen. Guidry is charged with theft by a person convicted of two prior petit thefts and loitering or prowling.

Did you know ...

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How The Shinkansen Bullet Train Made Tokyo Into The Monster It Is Today

Fifty years two Shinkansen bullet trains completed their first journeys, kickstarting a high-speed rail network that would transform Japan. The world's first high-speed commercial train line was built along the Tokaido, one of the five routes that connected the Japanese hinterland to Edo, the city that in the mid-1800s became Tokyo.
The term 'shinkansen' literally means 'new trunk line': symbolically, it lay at the very centre of the huge reconstruction effort. All previous railways were designed to serve regions. The purpose of the Tokaido Shinkansen, true to its name, was to bring people to the capital.

Can You Sneeze With Your Eyes Open?

So can you sneeze without closing your eyes? We are not asking in general, but rather, specifically asking you. Can YOU sneeze without closing your eyes? Some people are aware and some are blissfully unaware until the sneeze comes and the force of said sneeze causes you to shut your eyes. This has also started the rumor that we close our eyes when we sneeze as a reflex because the pressure can cause our eyes to shoot out of our skulls. I know, I know, it is silly, but a great many people think it. So can you sneeze with your eyes open?
Luckily, you wont have to sit around waiting for pollen to blow in your open window so you can find out. D News put together this video explaining why you can, indeed, sneeze without blowing our your eyeballs. I know most of us knew this anyway, but it is nice to know the science behind things sometimes.
Keep in mind, if you would rather not watch it and go on believing we can shoot our eyeballs out of our skulls with a strong enough sneeze, that's fine. No respect lost here. Some just dare to dream bigger than others. We cannot fault you for that.

Hiker Discovers an Abandoned Town Inside Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 4.52.19 PMSometimes it's easy to take for granted how much land there is in America. Sure, it's harder and harder to find places that haven't been explored, but it's also become easier to forget places that we've already been. Kind of like the entire friggin' town in the middle of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
That's exactly what Jordan Liles discovered when he explored the park last year, and lucky for us, he brought along his camera to document the entire adventure. It makes for a great watch.
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From his website:
About a mile up an unnamed gravel road inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the back way into an abandoned neighborhood and hotel, some of which was originally constructed more than 100 years ago. In the fully edited film below, Tennessee Wonderland, I explore the houses and the remains of what was once referred to as the Wonderland Club. I've applied color correction, balanced audio levels, cut everything down to the essentials without sacrificing interesting moments and most importantly, I made sure to place importance on including a proper ending.
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Check out his video below and start planning your own trip to the abandoned town of Elkmont. It might just inspire you to go exploring and see what might have been forgotten in your own neck of the woods, like the incredible Cisco, Utah Ghost Town, the abandoned town of Chloride in Arizona, or California's long-dead Bodie.
Interestingly enough, earlier this year on 2014 America Adventure Rally, the Roadtrippers team stumbled onto a whole other set of abandoned buildings just a few miles from Tennessee Wonderland. What we'd actually discovered was the Elkmont Historic District, an abandoned town that's just outside of the still-active Elkmont Campground. It's the perfect place to pitch a tent and go for a midnight flashlight adventure. Click the image below for the full story.
In case checking out the remains of an abandoned town wasn't cool enough, get this - just last year, a guy with a personal drone went out and documented his own bizarre find: an abandoned renaissance fair deep in the Virginia forest. Click on the image below to jump over and check out his own video adventure to another of America's coolest forgotten places.

Mummies and Ancient Surgery

Procedure was apparently done when a mother's life was in danger or the fetus had already died.

Ancient Oregon caves may upend understanding of humans in the Americas

A network of caves in rural Oregon may be the oldest site of human habitation in the Americas, suggesting an ancient human population reached what is now the United States at the end of the last Ice Age, Oregon officials said on Friday.
That realization prompted the U.S. National Park service to add the Paisley Five Mile Point Caves to its list of nationally important archaeological and historical sites, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said in a statement.
Only recently have researchers become convinced that humans lived at the Paisley caves a thousand years before the human settlement documented in the so-called "Clovis" sites in New Mexico, Dennis Jenkins, director of the University of Oregon Archaeology Field School, said in the statement.
The "Clovis First" hypothesis holds that distinctive projectile-point artifacts found at multiple sites across the United States are signs of the first human settlements in North America, the statement said.
But Jenkins' team used radiocarbon dating to determine that more than 200 samples of human feces collected from the Paisley caves were deposited in the area 14,300 years ago, nearly 1,000 years before the human settlement evidenced in the Clovis era.
Jenkins said the test findings provide "significant new information regarding the timing and spread of the first settlers in the Americas," suggesting an ancient human population reached what is now the United States at the end of the last Ice Age.
In addition to biological samples, Jenkins' team also found stones used to grind plant materials, woven plant fibers, modified animal bones and stemmed projectile points.
"The people living there 14,300 years ago were gathering and consuming aromatic roots, for which they would have needed special knowledge that would have developed over time," according to the press release announcing the site's placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the Paisley caves are surrounded by sagebrush in a sparsely populated area of south-central Oregon. But researchers believe the site was once a grassy plain containing a lake and populated by camel, bison and waterfowl.
Archaeologists first excavated the Paisley caves in 1938. The University of Oregon's current research effort at the site began in 2002.

Random Photos

Seamounts

A new gravity map of Earth's seafloor fills in blanks and reveals its geologic history in greater detail.

Flowers That Look Like Something Else

There are plenty examples of plants that look like something else and undoubtedly orchids are the masters of plants pareidolia.

Geographically challenged homing pigeon ended up at police station eating popcorn

A New Hampshire police station sheltered, then released a confused homing pigeon that got lost during a race. The bird was kept in the captain’s office at Epping Police Department overnight after he was found lurking in the parking lot on Monday. But after learning some valuable information and getting advice on how to handle him, police let him spread his wings and go. No charges were filed.
That’s because it turned out to just be a case of a missing pigeon. “It’s a little bit crazy. I don’t know what to think. I guess we are rescuing pigeons at the Epping Police Department,” Officer Stephen Soares said. The chief and captain rolled up to the bird in their back parking lot at around noon Monday. The pigeon’s actions were suspicious, but he clearly was not a flight risk. “(They) got out to check on it, and it still didn’t go anywhere,” Soares said.
“They ended up picking the bird up and bringing it to the station.” The pigeon is a registered racing pigeon and the police were able to track him to a man in Massachusetts who had released 30 birds in Charlestown, N.Y., on Saturday. This one, who is only 4 months old, got lost during his 130-mile journey. “Usually that’s all they are is tired and stressed, so usually if someone feeds and waters them, and releases them, they usually come home the next day,” said Jerry Gaumond, the bird’s owner.

“So the chief and the captain put together a box, punched holes in it, fed it popcorn and water, and then let it go,” Soares said. The pigeon left with a message attached to its leg saying, “I left the Epping Police Department at 8:40am on 9/30/14.” The owner said it was a story he and his friends won’t soon forget. “They were like, of all places to show up – a police station. He must be pretty smart,” Gaumond said.

The helpful cow

Driving along a country back road, a man’s engine died. He pulled the auto off the road, stopping by a field of grazing cattle. He got out, lifted the hood, and peered helplessly at all the wires and hoses.

“I suspect your problem,” came a voice from the field, “is with the carburetor.”

The man looked toward the field, but all he saw was a big cow leaning its head over the barbed wire and into the engine compartment.

The man ran down the road as fast as he could. At the nearest farmhouse, he told the farmer the whole story.

“Was it a big tan cow," asked the farmer, “with a white spot over the left eye?”

‘Yes,” shrugged the man, “yes, it was!”

“Oh, I wouldn't pay any attention to Bessie," said the farmer. “She doesn't know the first thing about cars.”

Animal News

The rusty-patch species, long unseen in the area, has been found by a bee survey team.
A new paper takes a hard look at why cheetah populations are declining rapidly, despite their being the fleetest creatures around. Trace has the details.

Animal Pictures