Welcome to ...

The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Daily Drift

Don't forget to dream. 

Some of our readers today have been in:
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Lviv, Ukraine
Bandar Labuan, Malaysia
Belgrade, Serbia
Kuantan, Malaysia
Khulna, Bangladesh
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Manila, Philippines
Klang, Malaysia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Santiago, Chilie
Muscat, Oman
Bangkok, Thailand
Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands
Salcedo, Philippines
Moscow, Russia
Cairo, Egypt
Dhaka, Bangladesh

And in the USA we are going for the "T" with readers in:
Tampa, Topeka, Tucson and Tuscaloosa

  Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1497 John Cabot returns to England after his first successful journey to the Labrador coast.
1863 The CSS Alabama captures the USS Sea Bride near the Cape of Good Hope.
1888 Martha Turner is murdered by an unknown assailant, believed to be Jack the Ripper, in London, England.
1890 William Kemmler becomes the first man to be executed by the electric chair.
1904 The Japanese army in Korea surrounds a Russian army retreating to Manchuria.
1914 Ellen Louise Wilson, the first wife of the twenty-eighth president, Woodrow Wilson, dies of Barite's disease.
1927 A Massachusetts high court hears the final plea from Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italians convicted of murder.
1942 The Soviet city of Voronezh falls to the German army.
1945 Paul Tibbets, the commander of Enola Gay, drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.It was the second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, that induced the Japanese to surrender.
1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, outlawing the literacy test for voting eligibility in the South

Domestic Terror

Sikh attack spreads fear among followers
The killing of six worshipers at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee brought fresh worries Sunday to the half million U.S. followers of a faith whose congregants have worried about their safety since the September, 11 attacks.

Temple shooting to be probed as 'domestic terror'
The FBI will investigate Sunday's rampage at a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb as a "domestic terrorist-type incident" that left at least six people and the gunman dead, the town's police chief said.

Obama 'deeply saddened' by shooting at Sikh temple
President Barack Obama said Sunday that he and first lady Michelle Obama are "deeply saddened" by the killing of at least six people Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and promised his administration will provide "whatever support is necessary" to those investigating the shooting.

USA Today: 7 dead, including gunman, in shooting at Wisconsin Sikh temple

I don't want to hear a word about how guns kill people.  The gunman was simply exercising his constitutional right to bear arms and mass murder innocent people, the way god, the repugican party, and the gun nuts who control the repugican party intended.
So let's have a few days of faux outrage and then get back to the business of ignoring the elephant with the gun in the room.

P.S.: I wonder how Mitt Romney's fundraiser with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, went the other day?

Remember when the shrub didn't want the Department Of Justice to check terrorists' gun purchases right after 9/11?

How do you say "fast and furious" in Arabic? (That's سريع وغاضب by the way.)
Forget about stopping crazy people from buying guns.

The gun nuts that control the Republican party, and the conservative wing of the Democratic party, didn't even want us restricting the gun rights of terrorists right after September 11.

From the NYT, December 6, 2001:
The Justice Department has refused to let the F.B.I. check its records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns, F.B.I. and Justice Department officials say.

The department made the decision in October after the F.B.I. asked to examine the records it maintains on background checks to see if any detainees had purchased guns in the United States.

Mindy Tucker, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the request was rejected after several senior officials decided that the law creating the background check system did not permit the use of the records to investigate individuals.

Ms. Tucker did not elaborate on the decision, but it is in keeping with Attorney General John Ashcroft's strong support of gun rights and his longstanding opposition to the government's use of background check records. In 1998, as a senator from Missouri, Mr. Ashcroft voted for an amendment to the Brady gun-control law to destroy such records immediately after checking the background of a prospective gun buyer. That amendment was defeated.
You think they're gonna care about crazy people if they're willing to defend Osama bin Laden's right to be arms right after he killed 3,000 people in NY and Pennsylvania?

Get a clue, America.

It's the environment stupid

Heatwave turns America's waterways into rivers of death.  - The cruel summer heat-wave that continues to scorch agricultural crops across much of the United States and which is prompting comparisons with the severe droughts of the 1930s and 1950s is also leading to record-breaking water temperatures in rivers and streams, including the Mississippi, as well as fast-falling navigation levels

High winds and drought fuel Oklahoma wildfires. - Fueled by searing temperatures and whipped by high winds, the fires forced hundreds of people to flee and had burned dozens of homes by late Friday. Oklahoma and other Midwestern states are suffering from one of the worst droughts in recent memory

'Extreme downpours' up 37 percent in Michigan, linked to climate change. - Climate change is real, and it's having a real impact on our weather, according to a report released Wednesday by the environment Michigan research & policy center

James hansen: Extreme heat events connected to climate change. - Dr. James Hansen of NASA, one of the world's most outspoken scientists on the topic of climate change says there is now enough evidence to connect global warming to some of the extreme weather events of the recent past.

Time's up for climate change deniers. - forget the Olympics. want to watch records being broken? Turn on the weather report

Listen to the lobsters, maple syrup and glaciers. - What do glaciers, maple syrup and lobsters have in common? They’re all symptoms of global warming - the worldwide process of climate change that has become our major environmental challenge.

Is it hot enough for ya? - Americans’ growing concerns about global warming will mean nothing if our national leaders are unwilling to seize the moment and do something about it.

Drought hits navajo nation ranchers hard. - Windmill blades spin rapidly in the stiff wind above Justin Yazzie’s ranch in Whitehorse lake, New Mexico, slicing through a clear blue sky smudged at the edges with darkening clouds. Those clouds, though often hovering on the horizon, will not bring necessary rain, said Yazzie, Navajo. "We don't get rain anymore," he said. "we just get wind and dust."

How the drought could cost you $7,000 or more. - Amid one of the driest and hottest years in decades, the ground surrounding Iowa homes has been contracting and pulling away from foundations

The truth hurts

Shrub-era holdover FHFA chief refuses to implement Obama homeowner mortgage forgiveness

This story comes to us via Paul Krugman.
Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA (Federal Housing and Finance Agency) and a Bush-era holdover, has refused a request from the Obama administration to implement a program of debt relief for underwater mortgages.

FHFA is the controlling agency for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, "the government-sponsored lenders that were effectively nationalized in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration."

In other words, a Bush-appointee (and "civil servant" or non-political jobholder) is refusing to implement administration economic policy that offers debt forgiveness (a form of bailout) to someone other than banks.

As Krugman says elsewhere, "Fire Ed DeMarco. Do it now."

There are many angles to this story. Let's unpackage them, starting with why debt matters in the current crisis.

Personal debt (economists call it "debt overhang") is one of the main reasons our economy is not recovering. 
[W]hen all the women who wanted jobs had gotten them ... our "prosperity" became debt-driven. That period lasted until, oh, yesterday (ok, 2008). By my count, that's 20-plus years of debt intake. Clearing that debt is a job that has to be done. Starting now is a very good thing.

How long will it take to clear 20 years of debt? If it "only" takes ten years, we'll have gotten off lightly — and it will feel like forever.
Also this, from the same piece:
We won't have a real recovery until that debt is either paid off or destroyed (via bankruptcy, forgiveness, or some other form of debt-clearing). ...

Think of household debt as a hole that has to be filled (with money) before big-screen spending can resume. The ratio of "debt relative to income" is a key metric in recovery of the consumer economy. The point at which debt-burdened people "feel" unburdened enough to start spending — that's when their personal economy recovers.
In other words, no recovery without debt reduction in some form. And the slow way — making every banker whole in a depressed jobless economy — can be slow the point of "never gonna happen." Personal debt must be cleared by some faster means.

The barriers to clearing personal debt are many. They include:
  1. Republican desire to kill the economy in order to recapture the White House.

  2. The desire of both Democratic and Republican elites (office holders and power brokers) to make sure their paymasters (sorry, our bankers) don't lose a dime.

  3. The desire of the rubes (sorry, media-led American voters) to make sure no "undeserving" person gets one federal cent that a rube might otherwise pocket for himself.
About the first, need any more be said?

About the second, Krugman notes this about the Obama administration's debt-relief policy:
Unfortunately, the administration’s initial debt relief efforts were ineffectual: Officials imposed so many restrictions to avoid giving relief to “undeserving” debtors that the program went nowhere.
About the third, as soon as Lyndon Johnson–created welfare programs benefited dark people, white America rebelled. From Nixon's "southern strategy" to Reagan's "welfare queens" to Clinton's "welfare reform" — the War on Poverty quickly became a war on the poor. To thunderous bipartisan applause.

The Obama administration has apparently seen the light, or at least some of it. Krugman again:
More recently ... the administration has gotten a lot more serious about the [personal debt] issue. And the obvious place to provide debt relief is on mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ...

The idea of using Fannie and Freddie has bipartisan support. Indeed, Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard, a top Romney adviser, has called on Fannie and Freddie to let homeowners with little or no equity refinance their mortgages, which could sharply cut their interest payments and provide a major boost to the economy.

The Obama administration supports this idea and has also proposed a special program of relief for deeply troubled borrowers.
The form of that administration support involves Tim Geithner and the Treasury Department. Krugman from a different source:
Treasury Department [has requested that FHFA] offer debt relief to troubled homeowners ... backed by an offer by Treasury to pay up to 63 cents to the FHFA for every dollar of debt forgiven.
But DeMarco, acting head of FHFA, has refused the offer. And that's where things stand. For Krugman, this is unacceptable.
[T]here is simply no way that it makes sense for an agency director to use his position to block implementation of the president’s economic policy, not because it would hurt his agency’s operations, but simply because he disagrees with that policy.
Who is Ed DeMarco and why is he acting this way?
He’s a civil servant who became acting director of the housing finance agency after the Bush-appointed director resigned in 2009. He is still there, in the fourth year of the Obama administration, because Senate Republicans have blocked attempts to install a permanent director. And he evidently just hates the idea of providing debt relief.
He's a Bush holdover (a kind of embed) who ended up acting director because of Mitch McConnell's obstructionism. If he can't be fired, he can certainly be replaced at the start of Obama's second term via a recess appointment, something Krugman strongly advocates.

As to why this refusal to act, Krugman and I differ. He puts all the blame on the aforementioned Senate Republicans, with some justification.

I put the blame on Obama, for not clearing out the embeds years ago — apparently not even wanting to.

And now that he has finally decided to offer a dollop of non-banker bailout (albeit timed for election season), his four-year indulgence of Ed DeMarco has bit him hard.

Will DeMarco get away with it? I'm going to guess Yes, though I could be wrong. Even though he's likely doing R-party bidding (Krugman is right about that), his defense will appeal to point three above — rube-hate of the "undeserving" — a position that Mr. Obama, I strongly suspect, fully shares.

How will we know if I'm right? See if DeMarco gets fired (that may or may not be possible). Then, after the election, see if he gets recess-appointed out. I think the odds may be in my favor.

And I Quote

Did you know ...

That science proves popular music is stupid

Let's hope this is a good omen, as the Lakota believe: rare white bison born on Connecticut farm

Ain't it the truth!

Oregon man's Facebook post sparks airline backlash

A longtime Oregon concert promoter sparked an online backlash against Alaska Airlines with a Facebook post describing what he called "the worst of humanity." Cameron Clark of Bend wrote to his Facebook friends Friday that he saw a disabled man miss a flight because numerous airline personnel refused to give him extra assistance, even ...

CIA “Manages” drug trade!

CIA “Manages” drug trade!! Surprised? I'm not!


Retro Photo

1903 - Oldsmobile PIRATE special 1 cylinder racer, holder of… by New York Public Library on Flickr.
1903 - Oldsmobile PIRATE special 1 cylinder racer

Sands, hotel of Romney top donor, under fed money-laundering investigation

Reuters, via Political Carnival:
Las Vegas Sands Corp, controlled by billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, is the target of a federal investigation into possible violations of U.S. money-laundering laws, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
The Los Angeles U.S. attorney’s office is looking into the casino company’s handling of the receipt of millions of dollars from a Mexican businessman, later indicted in the United States for drug trafficking, and a former California businessman, later convicted of taking illegal kickbacks, the Journal said, citing lawyers and others involved in the matter… The Journal said there are no indications that actions by Adelson, who is the company’s chief executive officer and largest shareholder, are being investigated.

How much harder will Romney work for a tax cut?

Mitt Romney paid 14% tax in 2010, the only year that he has released a (partial) tax return. And that was 14% of his taxable income after he had squirreled away millions in swiss bank accounts.
According to plutocrat economics, low taxes on the rich make them work harder. Mitt paid $6.2 million in taxes on a total of $42.5 million in taxable income leaving him with $36.3 million rather than the $29.8 million he would have left if he had paid tax at a 30% rate.

So how much harder did Romney work for that extra disposable income? Or put it another way, how much less would he have worked had the tax rate been higher?

The answer of course is that Romney was 'unemployed' (NYT). He didn't work at all in 2010. Romney had made enough money as a corporate raider that he didn't need to work at all.

Romney's returns also give the lie to the ludicrous notion that lower tax rates on the rich actually increase tax revenues. If Romney's tax rate was 30%, he would have to be so upset about paying the same as the rest of us that he decided to leave $21.9 million on the table.

The truth be told

Israel’s Fading Democracy

Samson Legend Gains Substance with New Find

A small stone seal found in Israel could be the first archaeological evidence of the story of Samson, Judea's most famous strongman.  
Read more
Samson Legend Gains Substance with New Find

Natural energy drinks that work

With $1.3 billion spent on energy shots in 2011, and more than $6 billion spent on energy drinks overall, there is no question that marketers and beverage companies now rely on these drinks for big business.

Random Photo

Dublin buskers must have repertoire of at least 20 songs

Anyone intent on busking in Dublin must now have a repertoire of at least 20 songs, according to a new street performers' code being piloted by Dublin City Council.
The city's famous buskers and street performers are no longer allowed to "hog or monopolize a performance site", or set up within 50 meters of each other. Amp free zones, limited times, and sale of merchandise are also included in the code of practice.

Dublin City Council Arts Officer Jim Doyle said the code, developed with local traders and Dublin's street performers, honors the unique contribution that buskers make to the city.

"The code as it stands is self-policing and most of the buskers are getting on board," he said.

Lollapalooza coming to Israel in 2013

The water had barely dried on the rain-soaked stages of Lollapalooza in Chicago Saturday night when festival founder Perry Farrell announced the franchise would be expanding to the Middle East next year.

Olympic Moon

Why Do Olympians Wear That Colorful Tape?

You may have first noticed the markings on the synchronized swimmers' backs. Or cascading down a beach volleyball player's chiseled abs. Birthmarks? Accessories? A bizarre form of intimidation? No, no, and no. The answer is Kinesio tape. And, yes, it's all the rage in the sports world. So, what is this tricked-out injury treatment?

Literally ...

Insurer agrees to pay medical bills after Twitter showdown

Guha, an Arizona State University student who is battling stage 4 colon cancer, used the social-media website Twitter to debate with the CEO of his insurance company and received an unexpected payoff: a guarantee that the insurer would pick up all of his outstanding medical bills.

Sleep deprivation may reduce risk of PTSD

Sleep deprivation in the first few hours after exposure to a significantly stressful threat actually reduces the risk of Post-Traumatic ...
Continue Reading

Hungary: 18th century mummies aid medical research

Another sticks out its tongue, hands resting over abdomen. A third clutches at its chest, mouth seemingly frozen in a scream.

Freaks and Geeks

Contrary to the stereotype isn't it?

Doctors amazed by two-year-old who can already read and list all the countries in the world

Sherwyn Sarabi's parents believe they may have a genius on their hands - aged just two. He can identify all the countries of the world, can read, use an iPad and has amazed doctors and child psychologists with his intelligence.

Sherwyn, of Royston, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, can count to 200, explain volcanoes and shooting stars, and describe all major body organs and their functions. The gifted toddler, who turns three in September, said his first words at ten months and could name all 2D and 3D shapes aged 18 months.

Sherwyn's mother, former schoolteacher Amanda Sarabi, 35, said: "At first we just thought it was normal behavior, then one day when we were in the doctor's office, he was looking at a map on the wall and started pointing out countries he recognised.

"The doctor was amazed and said he'd never seen anything like it. We've taken him to see a couple of psychologists who have both said he is gifted."

Circles Optical Illusion

It's nothing, just a picture of 2 perfectly round concentric circles that your brain will refuse to see.

Ten Of The Most Beautiful Hearts On Earth's Surface

Lakes, meadows, islands and other landscapes have a very irregular shape when viewed from above. However, some of them have interesting shapes and above these places are often organized airplane flights. Heart-shaped landscapes (natural and man-made) are quite rare and very popular among professional photographers and tourists.


Glorious Gruesome Grotesque
In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque, usually made of granite, with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

They're also strange, bizarre, unpleasant or just plain ugly. They have been hovering around our towns and cities for centuries, for so long that it can be forgotten that they have meaning and purpose. Take a tour of the weird world of the gargoyle.

Cheetah Breaks Speed Record - Beats Usain Bolt By Seconds

Sarah the cheetah has shattered the world record for the standing 100-meter dash, clocking a time of 5.95 seconds - making Olympian Usain Bolt's world record of 9.58 seconds look positively stodgy by comparison.

On a USA Track & Field-certified course established by the Cincinnati Zoo, the 11-year-old cheetah was radar-timed at up to 61 miles (98 kilometers) an hour. Sarah's sprint is the fastest timed 100 meters ever run by anything on the planet.

Bulldog has unfortunate encounter with porcupine

Three-year-old Bella Mae the bulldog came face-to-face, literally, with a porcupine at her home in Blanchard, Oklahoma. Bella's owners, Jerry and Allison Noles, say Bella and their other two dogs were at their backyard pond when all three dogs apparently got a bit too close to a porcupine, but Bella got the worst of it.

Doctors at the Animal Emergency Center had to perform surgery to remove some of the quills from her face. Quills were also found lodged in her feet and mouth. Doctors estimate Bella was stuck with 500 quills from the porcupine, and there's a possibility some are still embedded in her body; that's why she'll remain on medication and close supervision.

"It was devastating," said Allison Noles. "These animals are our kids and when you see them hurt you can't imagine the intense pain she had to be in. It affected our whole family." Dr. Leonardo Baez at the Animal Emergency Center in Oklahoma City said he's never seen a case this bad. "I've seen some greyhounds and bird dogs come in [contact] with them, but it's not very often it happens, especially here in the city."

The Noles say wildlife have been using the pond in their backyard as a new source of water because of the recent drought and heat. Dr. Baez says anyone with a pond, pool, river or creek near their property should keep an eye on pets and kids as wildlife look for new ways to keep cool in the heat. It's also an important reminder to keep all your pets vaccinated.

The mystery of live fish that fell from tree

Three women in North Vancouver are trying to reunite an exotic fish that fell out of a tree with its owner. Cindy Wilkinson got home on Monday to find a voice message from her friend Jan Bailey. "She said, 'The strangest thing just happened. A fish just fell out of our cedar tree on to the ground.'" Bailey had seen the fish dive into her backyard. Her husband went out to investigate, and found the piscine drop-in covered in cedar needles but still alive. It was an unusual looking fish, redish orange and about 25 centimeters long. Bailey hauled out an old aquarium, filled it with water and put the fish inside.
Then she called Wilkinson, who promptly called Lynda Taylor, another friend who knows her fish and has a big koi pond. "I said, 'There's a fish that just fell out of a tree,'" said Bailey. The friends decided some Internet sleuthing was in order. A quick check showed the mystery fish was probably a cichlid, an aquarium fish native to South and Central America and usually kept in indoor aquariums. Wilkinson and Taylor took it to a local pet store and had its identity as a Midas cichlid con-firmed; it's described online as a "rather robust fish." What's still a mystery is how the fish ended up in the tree.

"Maybe someone was cleaning out its tank and left it outside for a minute," said Wilkinson. Taylor said it's also possible the cichlid was put in an outdoor pond for the summer. Her best guess is an eagle or a heron, seeing a potential meal, snatched it from the water and dropped the fish from its perch. For now, Taylor has set up the cichlid, nicknamed Lucky, in a small 30-gallon tank with pH-balanced water, plants and a bubbler to aerate his environment. "He's swimming around and he's happy," said Wilkinson.

Because Midas cichlids can be aggressive towards other fish, Lucky has the tank to himself. Lucky has also turned from orange to a paler peach color. Taylor, who already has koi, shubunkins, goldfish and rosy reds, is keeping a close eye on the new arrival. "I've saved a lot of fishes. But not a cichlid. And not one that's fallen out of a tree," she said. What Taylor and Wilkinson hope to do is to reunite the fish with its owner. "Who is going to think their fish is alive?" asked Wilkinson. "It's an unusual fish. I'm sure not many people have lost one of these things."

Banana in bathroom turned out to be boa constrictor

A mother two young girls has told of her horror after mistaking a boa constrictor for a banana. Stacey Way, 28, from Parkstone, Dorset, said she first encountered the snake while cleaning the bathroom floor. “I was wiping the bathroom floor when I noticed what I thought was a moldy banana my toddler had shoved down the side of the water pipe”, Stacey said.
“I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought ‘I’ll get that in a minute with my gloves on’ and then just forget all about it. Three days later I was bathing my two little ones and wiped around the floor again when I saw that this thing was sticking out more than before, but as I got closer it went back in. I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it.

“I looked closer and realized that the banana – or now snake – had a mouth.” Stacey took her two daughters aged two and four out of the bath and rang her friend, who came round with a box. She added: “We went round to the reptile center near us – Safe Haven – but then had to call the RSPCA who told us we would have to get a builder to remove the floorboards to get it. It’s a rented property so we couldn’t do that.

“In the end the officer said to put a box with some water in it – as snakes like water for some reason – and leave it there. When I looked in the bathroom a few hours later he was sticking right out the hole so I called the shop and they came and got him. It was about three-to-four feet long – I couldn’t believe it. Now I think I’m seeing snakes everywhere even though we’ve filled up all the holes. I don’t mind snakes from a distance, but not in my bathroom.”

Animal News

New species swimming cricket Venezuela caveNew cave cricket species filmed

A swimming cricket is one of three "new species" discovered in South America, according to TV film crew. BBC Nature

Sir David Attenborough at spider naming acceptance ceremonySpider named after Attenborough

A tiny spider discovered recently in Australia is named after British television naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Animal Pictures


So beautiful!