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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Daily Drift

Another fine mess you've gotten us into ... 

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Today in History

1570 Pope Pius V issues the bull Regnans in Excelsis which excommunicates Queen Elizabeth of England.
1601 Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex and former favorite of Elizabeth I, is beheaded in the Tower of London for high treason.
1642 Dutch settlers slaughter lower Hudson Valley Indians in New Netherland, North America, who sought refuge from Mohawk attackers.
1779 The British surrender the Illinois country to George Rogers Clark at Vincennes.
1781 American General Nathaniel Greene crosses the Dan River on his way to attack Cornwallis.
1791 President George Washington sign a bill creating the Bank of the United States.
1804 Thomas Jefferson is nominated for president at the Democratic-Republican caucus.
1815 Napoleon leaves his exile on the island of Elba, returning to France.
1831 The Polish army halts the Russian advance into their country at the Battle of Grochow.
1836 Samuel Colt patents the first revolving cylinder multi-shot firearm.
1862 Confederate troops abandon Nashville, Tennessee, in the face of Grant's advance. The ironclad Monitor is commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
1865 General Joseph E. Johnston replaces John Bell Hood as Commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
1904 J.M. Synge's play Riders to the Sea opens in Dublin.
1910 The Dalai Lama flees from the Chinese and takes refuge in India.
1919 Oregon introduces the first state tax on gasoline at one cent per gallon, to be used for road construction.
1913 The 16th Amendment to the constitution is adopted, setting the legal basis for the income tax.
1926 Poland demands a permanent seat on the League of Nations council.
1928 Bell Labs introduces a new device to end the fluttering of the television image.
1943 U.S. troops retake the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, where they had been defeated five days before.
1944 U.S. forces destroy 135 Japanese planes in Marianas and Guam.
1952 French colonial forces evacuate Hoa Binh in Indochina.
1956 Stalin is secretly disavowed by Khrushchev at a party congress for promoting the "cult of the individual."
1976 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states may ban the hiring of illegal aliens.

Non Sequitur


Jail, probation for 76-year-old mom in 1957 murder

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, Ruby Klokow arrives at court in Sheboygan, Wis. Klokow was charged with second-degree murder in the death of her infant daughter nearly 56 years ago after her son came forward in 2008 with stories of horrific childhood abuse. A judge accepted a plea agreement Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, that calls for 76-year-old Klokow to serve 45 days in jail, plus 10 years probation. (AP Photo/The Sheboygan Press, Eric Litke, File) 
A 76-year-old Wisconsin woman accused of killing her infant daughter more than a half-century ago will serve 45 days in jail and 10 years' probation, under a plea agreement approved Monday.
Ruby Klokow was charged with second-degree murder in the 1957 death of her 6-month-old daughter, Jeaneen, only after her son, James Klokow Jr., came forward in 2008 with horrific stories of childhood abuse.
District Attorney Joe De Cecco cited Klokow's advanced age and health as factors in the agreement approved by Sheboygan County District Judge Angela Sutkiewicz. De Cecco said if Klokow had been tried, she might have been acquitted altogether and walked free. A jury could no longer have convicted her of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter, because of the statute of limitations.
No charges were filed after Jeaneen's death in 1957. Ruby Klokow told the police that the baby had fallen off a sofa while she was tending to a crying James. An autopsy found that Jeaneen had suffered two brain hemorrhages, a partially collapsed lung and three scalp bruises.
At a preliminary hearing five decades later, a forensic pathologist who reviewed documents in the case testified that the severity of the injuries didn't match Klokow's explanation.
According to a criminal complaint, Klokow admitted causing her daughter's death.
Klokow had been free pending trial and will remain free until formal sentencing April 15. After the plea hearing, she told reporters, "It's not over until it's over."
Her attorney, Kirk Obear, said he thought the case against Klokow was unfair.
"There were witnesses that could have been interviewed that have long since died," he said.
Scott Klokow, another of Ruby Klokow's children, was found dead in his crib seven years after Jeaneen died. No charges have been filed in his death.
Obear noted that Jeaneen and Scott were exhumed but that nothing was discovered at odds with the initial accidental death rulings.
DeCecco's announcement last week of a plea agreement came as a relief to James Klokow, now 57. He said he had feared his mother "turning and questioning (him) on the stand." In an interview with The Associated Press, he said his mother had regularly beaten and choked him.
The case was delayed several times after Klokow was charged in 2011, including for mental tests to see if she was competent to stand trial.

America’s Capitalism Has Embraced White Slaves as Well as Black

JAMESTOWN: CONVICT WIVES.  A female convict, transported from an English prison to Jamestown, Virginia, as an indentured servant, sold for a wife to a male settler for 100 pounds of tobacco. Wood engraving, 19th century.
A female convict, transported from an English prison to Jamestown, Virginia, as an indentured servant, sold for a wife to a male settler for 100 pounds of tobacco. Wood engraving, 19th century.
Sarah Jones wrote yesterday about Victoria Secret model Cameron Russell and white privilege. This is a significant issue because the repugican cabal’s entire political orientation is as much about imposing heterodoxy in religion as it is in gender and, especially, ethnicity. White privilege is as old as the United States (and older) after all, and its impending loss has shattered the heart of conservative thinking.
All their thought is bent upon it, as Gandalf once said about the ring of the dark lord Sauron. And like Sauron, they will stop at nothing to get it back. Without white privilege, they cannot bind all the pluralistic threads of America into a nation ruled by white male Evangelicals – a reproduction of the nation they imagine once existed before that nasty revolution ruined everything for the rich white guys who owned other guys, gals, and kids.
And this white privilege goes beyond mere color to include socioeconomic status. A little known fact about Colonial America relates to how white privilege also created a class of white slaves: indentured servants as they were called. Indentured servitude was a cruel institution, one that originated on these shores in Virginia in 1620. It was not abolished until 1917 and “continued to exist in mainland North America at least until the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.”[1]
As one author put it, “For the first two centuries of the history of British North America, one word best characterizes the status of the vast majority of immigrants – servitude.” He goes on to say that “from the founding of Jamestown until the Revolution, nearly three-fourths of all immigrants to the thirteen colonies arrived in some condition of unfreedom.”[2] These days we tend to associate America with freedom, but that was far from the case. As Aaron S. Fogleman writes, “Before 1776, for most arrivals, coming to America meant a curtailment of freedom.”[3]
The Revolution meant freedom, first and foremost, to wealthy landowners, and also to merchants, craftsmen, and shopkeepers. Only grudgingly has it meant freedom for others.
And when we think about unfreedom, we generally think about black slavery, America’s “peculiar institution.” But in our history books as in our imaginations, indentured servitude gets short shrift, as do the economic underpinnings of both types of servitude. The economics still work against freedom, with some modern innovations. If the original tea party, cheered on by merchants, dumped British tea into Boston Harbor, the modern version, funded by rich corporations, throws American rights – your rights - under the bus. The result is that while corporations become people, people do not.
Everyone has heard about Australia and its convicts, but the same is true of America. Author Kevin Philips, in his book 1775 (2012) points out that Dr. Samuel Johnson, “a high Tory, famously called Americas ‘a race of convicts.’” According to Philips, some 50,000 British convicts were transported to America, but “during the first three quarters of the eighteenth century, roughly 307,400 white immigrants arrived in the thirteen colonies.” Just 49.3 percent of these were free. A staggering 33.7 percent were indentured servants.[4] George Washington owned twelve white people, along with his black slaves. He was worried about both running off to the British.[5] In Philadelphia, where Thomas Jefferson and others talked about the inalienable rights of man, an indentured servant market thrived.[6]
What was indentured servitude like? Bad. “Indentured servants were rarely well treated. They could go to court in most colonies, but sometimes their effort only wound up extending the term of their indenture.” Philips cites author Gordon S. Wood:”in the colonies, servitude was a much harsher, more brutal and more humiliating status than it was in England.” One British officer, Phillips relates, estimated that half of convict servants were dead within seven years.  In Virginia, there was no real distinction between how convicts and indentured servants were treated. “In practical terms,” we are told, “purchasers often treated white indentured servants and convicts more or less similarly.”[7] It was bad enough for adults, but children could be indentured for periods of 15 years and kidnapping children was not a felony in England until 1814.[8] Thus some of the early settlers of the New World were children stolen from their parents in the Old.[9]
As one scholar has observed, “the English Government allowed the crime of kidnapping to flourish without serious restraint”[10]
Indentured servants were essentially slaves for the duration of their terms of servitude and could be bought and sold at their “owner’s” whim.[11] Their sale has been compared to that of horses and cows at a market or fair.[12] One scholar notes “a newspaper advertisement for ‘an estate to be sold in the province of Maryland’ in 1660 which described it as ‘stocked with servants, cattle, horses, and mares, sheep and swine.”[13]
The legal status of indentured servants in the colonies was “chattel” – literally property. [14] “Servants could be bought and sold and this was not just the transfer of labour rights but of alienable property.”[15] As Phillips relates, “even their unexpired terms were property, willable to heirs” and “this definition persisted during the Revolution, because most courts tried to keep a ‘property’ label on enlisted servants, to uphold owners’ rights to reimbursement for loss of service.”[16]
Indentured servitude has been called “proto-slavery”[17] and a form of feudalism.[18] “Ironically,” says Phillips, “black slaves, selling for roughly three times as much, often got better treatment because they were a lifetime investment. With indentured servants, an employer’s optimal return lay in obtaining as much sweat and output as possible over four, five, or seven years.”[19]
None of this downplays the reality or cruelty of black slavery. It is, rather, another example of privileged attitudes that reduce classes of people, whether based on skin color, socioeconomic status, gender, or sexual preference, to second-class status. We can’t even add “citizen” since they lacked the right to own property or to vote.  Government run by the rich, who lack no concern for the welfare of those beneath them, is never to be desired.
Though today we focus mostly on slavery, it is forgotten that in the early days of colonial America, it was indentured servants who provided the needed agriculture labor, only to be replaced later by black slaves. “This transition from servants to slaves…occurred at different times in these regions [West Indies, the Chesapeake, South Carolina, and Georgia], and at different rates.”[20]
There is every reason to believe that modern conservatism is not greatly disturbed by the idea of returning to a master/servant paradigm, which, after all, has its English roots in economic disparity. The abolition rather than the broadening of rights is everywhere in evidence in right-wing rhetoric. Hand in hand with the shrinking Republican tent is a shrinking concept of equality and rights. These are accompanied by a corresponding shrinkage of white numbers as a percentage of the population.
In the end, we would see a return to debtor’s prisons and pre-Revolution social conditions with a broad underclass ruled by a predominantly white Christian upper-class. Women would lose the voting franchise (along with their reproductive rights) and would be beat on a whim by any male; children would be put back to work, and immigrants would be laborers, slaving nearly without rights for their white masters in a sort of American apartheid. The repugican dream would undo the very liberal American Revolution, which was never the dream of wingnuts in the first place. It is no wonder they hate the Constitution, the Revolution’s shining symbol, so very much.

[1] David W. Galenson, “The Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas: An Economic Analysis. The Journal of Economic History 44 (1984), 1-26.
[2] Aaron S. Fogleman, “From Slaves, Convicts, and Servants to Free Passengers: The Transformation of Immigration in the Era of the American Revolution.” The Journal of American History 85 (1998), 43-76.
[3] Fogleman (1998), 43.
[4] Kevin Phillips, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution. (New York, NY: 2012), 191.
[5] Phillips (2012), 364.
[6] Robert O. Heavner, “Indentured Servitude: The Philadelphia Market, 1771-1773. The Journal of Economic History 38 (1978), 701-713.
[7] Phillips (2012), 366.
[8] John Waering, “Preventative and Punitive Regulation in Seventeenth-Century Social Policy: Conflicts of Interests and the Failure to Make ‘Stealing and Transporting Children, and Other Persons’ a Felony, 1645-73. Social History 27 (2002), 288-308.
[9] Waering (2002), 291.
[10] Abbot Emerson Smith, “Indentured Servants: New Light on some of America’s “First” Families. The Journal of Economic History 2 (1942), 40-53.
[11] Phillips (2012), 192.
[12] Phillips (2012), 366.
[13] Waering (2002), 290.
[14] Phillips (2012), 365.
[15] Waering (2002), 290 n 15.
[16] Phillips (2012), 365.
[17] Hilary McD. Beckles. “Plantation Production and White ‘Proto-Slavery’: White Indentured Servants and the Colonisation of the English West Indies, 1624-1645. The Americas 41 (1985), 21-45.
[18] Rona S. Weiss, “Primitive Accumulation in the United States: the Interaction between Capitalist and Noncapitalist Class Relations in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts. The Journal of Economic History 42 (1982), 77-82. Weiss defines feudalism “as a particular class relation and form of surplus appropriation by way of rents,” and Kahana (2007) says that “the very words master and servant evoke images of a feudal system, where a fief (feodum) was literally a form of property recognized at law”: Jeffrey S. Kahana, Master and Servant in the Early Republic, 1780-1830. Journal of the Early Republic 20 (2000), 27-57.
[19] Phillips (2012), 366.
[20] Galenson (1984),  10.

Businesses dropping insurance for spouses, despite large profits

An increasing number of employers are cutting health insurance for spouses.  Thankfully, the numbers are still quite small, but the increasing numbers of spouses being dropped should be reason for concern.
Besides record corporate profits, the insurance companies have been doing quite well also — but this move suggests they want even higher profit margins, since spouses who are not working tend to use health insurance more.
Obamacare is a start, but health insurance in the US still needs to undergo a lot more reform to make it work for more Americans. Between the corporatist Democrats and the run of the mill repugicans, there’s little reason to expect additional reform, no matter how badly it’s needed.  The irony is that America’s health care system is already so much greedier, and less effective, than much of the developed world.  And businesses, and insurance companies, have the nerve to whine about Obamacare, which still leaves American workers far behind most of western Europe in terms of health coverage overall.
Of course, companies wouldn’t have to pay so much for health care had we only done real reform to our health care system.  But the repugicans, along with industry stooges like Lieberman and Baucus, said “no” – so America and Americans are destined to continue paying far more for less than what the rest of the developed world gets in terms of health care.
And the greedy companies doing this should be publicly excoriated.
doctor health care obamacare

Market Watch:
By denying coverage to spouses, employers not only save the annual premiums, but also the new fees that went into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. This year, companies have to pay $1 or $2 “per life” covered on their plans, a sum that jumps to $65 in 2014. And health law guidelines proposed recently mandate coverage of employees’ dependent children (up to age 26), but husbands and wives are optional. “The question about whether it’s obligatory to cover the family of the employee is being thought through more than ever before,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. See: When your boss doesn’t trust your doctor
While surcharges for spousal coverage are more common, last year, 6% of large employers excluded spouses, up from 5% in 2010, as did 4% of huge companies with at least 20,000 employees, twice as many as in 2010, according to human resources firm Mercer. These “spousal carve-outs,” or “working spouse provisions,” generally prohibit only people who could get coverage through their own job from enrolling in their spouse’s plan.
Such exclusions barely existed three years ago, but experts expect an increasing number of employers to adopt them: “That’s the next step,” Darling says. HMS, a company that audits plans for employers, estimates that nearly a third of companies might have such policies now. Holdouts say they feel under pressure to follow suit. “We’re the last domino,” says Duke Bennett, mayor of Terre Haute, Ind., which is instituting a spousal carve-out for the city’s health plan, effective July 2013, after nearly all major employers in the area dropped spouses.
While businesses and even government workers may be subjected to such cuts, something tells me that the political class will somehow be immune to such changes. Congress has done nothing to cut its own comfortable benefits during their push for austerity, it hardly sounds like a stretch to guess that this latest attempt at gutting the middle class will be avoided.

Did you know ...

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That 100% of electricity added in the U.S. last month was renewable

President Obama Has Had Enough of John Boehner’s Sequester Lies

While speaking to the nation’s governors today, President Obama took aim at John Boehner for his hypocrisy on his own tax plan, and the lie that Obama won’t work with him on spending cuts.
Here is the video:
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For over a week now, Speaker John Boehner and his office have been trying to sway public opinion on the sequester. The heart of Boehner’s argument is the idea that the sequester should be avoided just with spending cuts, and that President Obama has refused to work with him to make a deal on those cuts.
While speaking to the National Governors Association today, Obama took aim at the crux of Boehner’s argument. The president said, “These cuts do not have to happen. “Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise. To do so, Democrats like me, need to acknowledge that we’re going to have to make modest reforms to Medicare if we want the program to there for future generations…I’ve made that commitment. It’s reflected in proposals I made last year and the year before that, and will be reflected in my budget. And I stand by those commitments to make the reforms for smart spending cuts. But we also need repugicans to adopt the same approach to tax reform that Speaker Boehner championed just two months ago.”
Boehner is not going to win the battle in court of public opinion against Obama. For weeks the Speaker has been concocting various tall tales in an attempt to blame Obama for the sequester. Boehner wants to blame Obama for not acting, while he is trapped by a repugican caucus in the new congress that contains substantial support for the sequester.
John Boehner is a condemned man who is looking to lie his way off of political death row.
Since he doesn’t have the votes to stop the sequester, Boehner has adopted a public strategy of blaming Obama while behind closed doors, House repugican leadership is begging the president save them.
Polling reveals that the public is already blaming repugicans more than Obama for the sequester mess, and those numbers are likely to get worse for the repugican cabal as the president publicly makes his case for avoiding the sequester this week.
It seems like the president has finally grown tired of John Boehner’s endless sequester spin and lies. He is pushing back, and by Friday, it is likely that he and his bully pulpit will have buried John Boehner and the repugican cabal.

Sequester Squeals: repugicans Get Their First Taste of the Recession and They Don’t Like It

republican cry babyWho would have guessed it would come to this.

The repugicans are a mess right now; coming face to face with the cuts they’ve championed in rhetoric for years is causing an utter collapse. repugican staffers are complaining that repugican cabal leadership is giving them no clues about how they can prepare for the upcoming cuts, while leadership is complaining that without being able to pay their staff (public sector workers) a decent wage, including a raise, they can’t attract the best workers.
The Hill reported Monday:
One veteran chief of staff lamented that his office hasn’t given raises to its employees for several years — worrying that without a reward for their hard work, it will be difficult to attract bright individuals to Capitol Hill.
“What’s the incentive for smart talented people to come work for Congress?” the source said.
Head banging on desk. Yes, repugicans … Come to the water. Come slowly to the water. Now drink.
Guess what, repugicans? Most Americans aren’t getting raises right now, and it’s not because they suck at their jobs. Also, thanks for making the exact same argument that public sector unions have been making regarding cuts to teachers’ pay, etc.
A source told The Hill that no one is giving them any input about what they’re supposed to do. They have leases! They have people who were being paid x amount for years! You can’t cut their pay!
Good God, people, it’s almost like there’s a recession. A few concerned repugicans are consolidating two positions into one and offering to pay for their own postage when they write constituents. They love the idea of making due with a wee bit less. It’s like a dress up game. Look, I sacrificed something! SO CUTE!
Can you still eat? I’m not sure we’re on the same playing field yet. See, these cuts are going to take food from babies and seniors. Forgive me if I find that a little more troubling than repugican retention.
The White House has put together a list of how the sequester cuts will hit jobs and middle class families across the country. They kindly included the District of Columbia, so let’s see how this will break down for folks other than repugican staffers (I’m not against those staffers earning what they are worth; but it’s ironic that repugicans are making this argument given their attacks on public sector unions).
If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts in the District of Columbia this year alone are (I’ve edited the list for length; click here to find your state):
Teachers and Schools: The District of Columbia will lose approximately $533,000 in funding for primary and secondary education. In addition about 1,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 2 fewer schools would receive funding.
Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, the District of Columbia will lose approximately $925,000 in funds for teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 200 children in the District of Columbia, reducing access to critical early education.
Military Readiness: In the District of Columbia, approximately 13,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $111.3 million in total.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution: The District of Columbia will lose about $80,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
STOP Violence Against Women Program: The District of Columbia could lose up to $13,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.
Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: The District of Columbia would lose approximately $191,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
The White House notes, “Already, the President has worked with Congress to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, but there’s more to do. The President has put forward a balanced plan to not only avoid the harmful effects of the sequester but also to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in total.”
I know, it’s shocking- it includes both cuts and revenue, but somehow this is seen as not compromising because unless repugicans get everything they want, the media is very upset with the President. Squeaky wheel and all of that.
The White House countered that point, “Unfortunately, many repugicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe… The President is willing to compromise, but on behalf the middle class he cannot accept a deal that undercuts their economic security.”
BUT HOW ARE WE GOING TO SURVIVE IF OUR BUDGET IS CUT, ask the repugican staffers. We have leases! (Americans have these things called mortgages, FYI, that repugicans voted NO on helping them deal with in light of the recession.) HOW CAN WE LIVE LIKE WE ALWAYS HAVE IN THE MIDDLE OF A RECESSION IF THE SEQUESTER HITS?!? Cuts and deficits are for THEM. Not for us.
Meanwhile, lost repugican staffers wander aimlessly looking for a few pencils they can cross off the budget as panic sets in. This is but the beginning of the sequester squeals, and it’s coming from within the repugican cabal. Getting what they wanted isn’t working out quite as they imagined.

The Real Reason the Sequester Will Hit is that House repugicans Want It

I know it seems like repugicans think sequestration will be a bad thing, otherwise why are they blaming President Obama for it…
But in the lead up to its reality, there are way more repugicans than just Paul Ryan cheering it on. They can’t wait for sequester! They want it so badly they can taste it. They don’t care that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warn it could push our economy back into recession.
Here’s a round up of quotes from the DCCC, which will give you a good sense of the real reason Speaker John Boehner is not proposing a sequester replacement bill (hint: he doesn’t have the votes):
repugican Congressman Paul Broun (r-GA). “I want to see it go into place.” [Cherokee Tribune, 2/9]
repugican Congressman Mike Coffman (r-CO). “I don’t think going over the fiscal cliff would have been a huge deal” [kdvr.com, 1/02/13]
Former NRCC Chairman Tom Cole. “We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don’t see any way in the world the sequester won’t happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts.” [Talking Points Memo, 2/05/13]
repugican Congressman Scott DesJarlais (r-TN). “Sequestration needs to happen…Bottom line, it needs to happen and that’s the deal we struck to raise the debt limit.” [Cleveland Daily Banner, 2/1]
repugican Congressman John Fleming (r-LA). “The sequester is law. Those cuts happen no matter what. We’re willing to hang in there and insist that those cuts go into place…” [NHPR, 1/30/13]
repugican Congressman James Lankford (r-OK). “greater chance that they’ll be implemented than not at this point.” [Politico, 2/13/13]
repugican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (r-WY). “Sequestration will take place…I am excited. It will be the first time since I’ve been in Congress that we really have significant cuts.” [Billings Gazette, 2/11]
repugican Whip Kevin McCarthy (r-CA). “Some conservatives are starting to say despite the fact there are a lot of defense cuts in there, this may be the only way we get real spending cuts over the next year”. [Yahoo News, 2/13/13]
repugican Congressman Mick Mulvaney (r-SC). “We want to keep the sequester in place and take the cuts we can get.” [Dow Jones Business News, 2/8]
repugican Congressman Mike Pompeo (r-KS). “It’s going to be a homerun…I am very optimistic that on March 2nd, we’ll all wake up and America will have tremendous respect for what its House of Representatives led and what it’s federal government was able to accomplish.” [Politico, 2/13]
repugican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (r-WI). “the sequester is going to happen.” [The Hill, 1/27/13]
repugican Congressman Steve Scalise (r-LA). “The consensus is we want the sequester numbers to come in and to finally see spending reduced in Washington.” [Dow Jones Business News, 2/8]
repugican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (r-GA). “We’re willing to let it go through till they (Democrats) respond to us.” [McClatchy, 2/6]
POLITICO (2/13/13): “Top congressional Republicans predicted Wednesday that the sequester will hit at the end of the month – the latest chapter in the series of budget battles that have stymied Washington in the last few years.” [Politico, 2/13/13]
While some repugicans, including Paul Ryan, are now pretending that the sequester is Obama’s idea and it’s a horrible idea (redundant), sequestration is in principle a repugican idea. It’s been championed by repugicans like Paul Ryan and Jack Kingston, who have tried to get it into law year repeatedly to no avail.
All it took for repugicans to get their beloved sequester was holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling. You’d think they would be happy now that they’re finally going to get it. The tea caucus is high on it, because they can’t see what even Paul Ryan knows now. The sequester is sure doom for the repugican cabal.
The repugicans own it and it’s not going to be pretty. If the sequester hits, it will be because House repugicans wanted it. They think it’s going to be great. So while repugicans try to blame the Democrats, the real truth is certain House repugicans have been pushing for sequester. If it hits, it’s on them.

The repugicans Are Ready to Traumatize Poor Children

People in poverty always dangle from a financial cliff, but this March 1st, repugicans have maneuvered and manipulated the political landscape to set up sequestration, and the people who will be harmed most disastrously will be the poor. If the Democrats and repugicans had been able to reach a reasonable agreement to stave off automatic cuts, over a million jobs would not be predicted to be lost, and millions would not suffer. A snapshot of some of the effects includes:
  • Two million people will lose their SNAP (food stamp) benefits and another 44 million will see them cut
  • Two hundred thousand children will lose school lunches
  • $1.7 billion dollars per year will no longer go to child welfare services that address child abuse prevention
  • Over half a million women and children will no longer receive WIC benefits (Women, Infants, Children) which provide milk, eggs, cereal, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods to low-income families. About 1,600 will also be cut as a result
  • Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) is slated for dramatic cuts
  • Twenty-five thousand children will no longer receive child care services
  • Community health care centers serving the poor will lose $55 million in funding
  • Over 7,000 special education teachers will be laid off
  • Seventy thousand children will no longer be able to attend Head Start, and 10,000 Head Start teachers will be laid off
  • Title I education funds will be cut resulting in the loss of funding for almost 1.2 million disadvantaged students, including another 16,000 teachers and staff laid off
  • Rental assistance to 125,000 families in the very deepest poverty levels will be cut putting them at high risk for homelessness
  • More than 100,000 formerly homeless people will be basically put back on the streets as the programs that serve them are cut
  • People receiving unemployment benefits will see their benefits cut by 9.4% which translates into a loss of more than $400
  • Almost 375,000 adults and children with serious mental illnesses will see their services cut
  • The Indian Health Service will be able to provide 804,000 fewer outpatient visits and 3,000 fewer inpatient visits, and $130 million more will be cut from Tribal services ranging from social services to public education
  • 734,000 low-income families will no longer receive assistance with utilities
These are just numbers on a page to repglicans. They have proven time and again their heartlessness. To me, they are a wrenching punch to the gut and a flashback to a scarier time of vulnerability.
In the 1980s, I was abnormally politically aware for a teenager. I held my breath with each proposal Ronald Reagan made to cut welfare and programs to the poor, because my family relied on every single one of them.  For us, it started in 1980 when both my parents became unemployed in the recession that hit the Midwest particularly hard. It didn’t help that my mother and father both had serious mental illnesses, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, respectively. After losing custody of their children to foster care in 1981, because of living in an unheated farmhouse (it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit inside when the State took the temperature) and having very little food, my parents ending up divorcing. They had to. Reagan’s changes to welfare had resulted in the elimination of Aid to Dependent Children-Unemployed Parents (which allowed AFDC to go to two-parent families), so in order to receive government help, my mother needed to be single. At that point, child welfare workers were able to reunite my mother with her children setting her up in Section 8 housing, complete with AFDC, food stamps, and Medicaid.  Our family of six received $460 in cash and $242 in food stamps each month.
Unfortunately, my mother’s mental illness got the better of her, and soon she believed the management of the government housing project was out to get her, because she kept failing the monthly inspections. She was written up for storing pots and pans in the oven, for example. She moved us into a rental home that soon took more of our income than we could afford. We were homeless quite quickly. We utilized homeless services at that point, and we finally were  able to relocate into a rundown rental home in a dilapidated neighborhood. Rent took almost all of our monthly check because we received no rental assistance (only about 12.5% of poor families receive rental assistance). Food stamps usually lasted about two and half weeks. We had two children under five, so my mother was able to receive WIC, and those food items were coveted. After that, we relied on food banks, the Salvation Army and other churches for hot meals, free school lunches (free school breakfasts didn’t yet exist), and going hungry. One of the things that made food stamps dwindle faster was the practice of making change. Since we ran out of cash for things like shampoo, soap, or laundry detergent, our mother would send us kids one by one into the store to buy things that came as close to $1.01 as possible. This allowed us to receive 99 cents change. Afterwards, she would pool the change and go in and buy the cash-only items we needed. I can only guess how poor people today afford household goods with SNAP EBT cards that don’t allow them this kind of leeway.
Within a few years, because it takes that long, my mother applied for, and was accepted to, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for her mental illness. Nevertheless, her children continued to receive AFDC. My mother went on to receive extensive services through the state’s programs for people with serious mental illness. When we were sick, we went to the People’s Clinic; it was a community health center in our neighborhood. They took Medicaid. Unfortunately, I believe one doctor was just working there to get his student loans forgiven, because I clearly remember his snide remark to my mother about how poor people shouldn’t be getting health care on the taxpayer dime. Needless to say, his heart wasn’t in his work.
As it happens, I, my brothers, and my sister all went through Head Start. We also participated in the TRiO programs, specifically Upward Bound, which works to get low-income students through high school and geared toward college. We all eventually graduated high school, and three of us went to college. We were assisted with student loans and Pell Grants. One joined the military and served in Afghanistan.
We were children who didn’t ask to be born to disabled parents. We definitely didn’t ask to grow up in poverty. We are all grateful for the extensive services and help we received. As I look at the list of services that face dramatic cuts in just a matter of days, it takes my breath away. What would we have done? Where would we have gone? I know that, unfortunately, the State would have had to take us back into custody as we would have lost housing, sources of food,  and we would have ended up back in foster care. Devastated, my chronically suicidal mother, potentially cut off from mental health services as well, would have probably had her life in jeopardy. The educational programs that resulted in all of the children in my family becoming productive members of society, instead of criminal or poverty-stricken, would be inaccessible. To know that this is the fate of millions of other children and vulnerable adults at the hands of repugicans is infuriating. As usual it will be up to the Democrats and President Obama to somehow save the day.

The truth be told

Atheists face discrimination around globe

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (R) talks to Remigiusz Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council before the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse 
Atheists, humanists and freethinkers face widespread discrimination around the world with expression of their views criminalized and subject in some countries to capital punishment, the United Nations was told on Monday.
In a document for consideration by the world body's Human Rights Council, a global organization linking people who reject religion said atheism was banned by law in a number of states where people were forced to officially adopt a faith.
"Extensive discrimination by governments against atheists, humanists and the non-religious occurs worldwide," declared the grouping, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) which has some 120 member bodies in 45 countries.
In Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan "atheists can face the death penalty on the grounds of their belief" although this was in violation of U.N. human rights accords, the IHEU said.
Further, in several others legal measures "effectively criminalize atheism (and) the expression and manifestation of atheist beliefs" or lead to systematic discrimination against freethinkers, the document declared.
It was submitted to the rights council as it opened its annual Spring session against a background of new efforts in the U.N. by Muslim countries to obtain a world ban on denigration of religion, especially what they call "Islamophobia".
Three of the states with legislation providing for death for blasphemy against Islam, a charge which can be applied to atheists who publicly reveal their ideas, are on the council - Pakistan, Mauritania and Maldives.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the council on Monday there was a "rising trend" of Islamophobia, adding: "We condemn all sorts of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims and people of other faiths."
And earlier this month a top official of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the body would be focusing on getting agreement on criminalizing denigration of religion in coming talks with Western countries.
In November last year, the head of the 21-country Arab League told the U.N. Security Council in New York his organisation wanted a binding international framework to ensure "that religious faith and its symbols are respected".
The IHEU, and other non-governmental rights groupings, argue that many Muslim governments use this terminology and the concept of "religious blasphemy" within their own countries to cow both atheists and followers of other religions.
A number of these governments "prosecute people who express their religious doubt or dissent, regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist", the IHEU document submitted to the rights council said.
Islamic countries - including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey - had also stepped up prosecution of "blasphemous" expression of criticism of religion in social media like Facebook and Twitter.
OIC countries have 15 seats on the council, all from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and make up just less than one third of the rights body.

Pastafarian Denied Religious Headwear in New Jersey

A couple of years ago, we told you about a Pastafarian from Austria who convinced his government to let him wear a colander hat on religious grounds for his driver's license.
Well, no such luck with New Jersey:
Having never heard of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, workers at a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office refused to allow Aaron Williams’ to wear a pasta strainer on his head while having his drivers’ license photo taken on Feb. 2.
The colander, according to Williams, is a religious symbol for his satirical church.
South Brunswick police arrived at the MVC facility on Route 130 in Dayton and told Williams that the pasta strainer was not on a list of approved religious headwear.
“Had it been a turban or a headscarf, or something from a mainstream religion, then it would’ve been fine,” Williams, 24, told New Brunswick Patch. “I guess since they hadn’t heard of the religion, that’s why they opposed it. But that’s not really acceptable to me. They’re not in a position to discriminate against religions that are mainstream, or not mainstream, just because they may not have heard about it.”
David Knowles of the NY Daily News reports: Here.

Man faces jail for romantic releasing of heart-shaped helium-filled balloons

Love was in the air for Anthony Brasfield when he released a dozen heart-shaped balloons into the sky over Dania Beach, Florida, with his sweetheart.
Brasfield, 40, and his girlfriend, Shaquina Baxter, were in the parking lot of the Motel 6 on Dania Beach Boulevard when he released the shiny red and silver balloons and watched them float away on Sunday morning.

Also watching the romantic gesture was a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, who instead noted probable cause for an environmental crime. Endangered marine turtle species and birds, such as wood storks and brown pelicans, seek refuge in John U. Lloyd State Park, about 1.5 miles east of the motel.

Brasfield was charged with polluting to harm humans, animals, plants, etc. under the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Random Photo

Paris' Psychedelic Candy-Colored 'Skyscraper'

Walk around Paris' La Défense district and you can't miss it. Like a giant stick of candy, Cheminée Moretti dominates its surroundings deliciously. Designed by late French artist Raymond Moretti, it reaches towards the clouds like a rainbow-colored skyscraper - albeit with no doors or windows.

Also known simply as Le Moretti, the structure was completed in 1990 and inaugurated in 1995. The multi-hued tower is really a 105-foot (32-meter) high ventilation chimney that has been covered in 672 colored tubes made out of durable fiberglass.

Giant Trees At The Cambodian Temple Of Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Located east of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found.

Huge trees, reminiscent of ancient redwoods and oaks, are blended into the walls, and rocks hugging the giant roots gives the temple a surreal appearance. The photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors.

Here's a 360° panorama of Ta Prohm.

Parts of Continent Found

"Lost" continent found under Indian ocean 

Lemuria found, reports Sid Perkins: "The drowned remnants of an ancient microcontinent may lie scattered beneath the waters between Madagascar and India, a new study suggests."
The islands Reunion and Mauritius, both well-known tourist destinations, are hiding a micro-continent, which has now been discovered. The continent fragment known as Mauritia detached about 60 million years ago while Madagascar and India drifted [...]

Mercury's Ancient Magma Oceans

Data acquired from NASA's MESSENGER probe suggest that Mercury used to have an ocean of molten rock.

Upping the Cute Factor


Woman acts as surrogate mother for baby night monkey

Colombian mother-of-two, Martha Silva, has taken on the role surrogate mother to a baby night monkey in the neonatal unit of the Bogota Wildlife Reception Center. Night monkeys are so named because of their nocturnal lifestyles.

Like humans, the monkeys live in a family unit, with a mother, father and any siblings. At the beginning of their lives, they live for months hanging to the back of their parents while they fly through the trees. So, if a monkey is orphaned at the beginning of its life, it cannot be released into the wild. It also cannot form a new family or be adopted by another one.

That's where Ms. Silva comes in. Like a surrogate mother, she carries the babies around in a wool pouch. He is with her for 24 hours a day, nestled inside her coat or lying beside her while she sleeps. Every three hours, she feeds the monkey with a syringe, filled with milk and vitamins.

After the baby monkey grows, he will be placed in a cage with another night monkey. If they are all right staying in the same cage, the next step will be to introduce them in the wild with a monkey group. Silva says that, after she lets her monkeys go, she never hears from them again. She is okay with that though. She compares it to human children - when you release them, they are in their natural habitat.

James Cameron Deep-Sea Dive Reveals New Species

Preliminary findings reveal strange new deep sea life from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean captured on video by Director James Cameron and his team.

Official US Marine Corps Dog Begins Recruit Training

Since 1922, the official mascot of the US Marine Corps has been an English bulldog. Marion F. Sturkey writes:
At the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, the Marines obtained a registered English Bulldog, King Bulwark. In a formal ceremony on 14 October 1922, Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler signed documents enlisting the bulldog, renamed Jiggs, for the ‘term of life.’ Pvt. Jiggs then began his official duties in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In recent decades, the mascot has been named "Chesty" after the legendary Marine Corps General Chesty Puller. After the retirement of the most recent Chesty, a 9-week old old English bulldog puppy was invited to enlist. He did so and is currently in recruit training. Jennifer Harper of the Washington Times writes:
The handsome and distinguished young Chesty will enter obedience school and canine “recruit training,” earn the title of Marine and be named the next Marine Corps mascot on March 29. His official duties include marching in myriad events, including the Friday twilight parades at the facility, looking tough but buff in his own custom dress blues.

Seals Use Their Whiskers to Judge Size

How big is that thing? Seals let their whiskers do the calculatin'.
Robyn Grant of University of Rostock in Germany wanted to know how seals can judge the size of an object using their whiskers, but first she had to figure out how to put eyemasks and headphones on seals to restrict their other senses:
[Grant] explained that these whiskers acted as a "higher-resolution sampling space", meaning that the seals could gather lots of information from one spot without moving all of their whiskers.
"They can press [their muzzle] on [the object] and by the number of whiskers it contacts, they can work out whether it's a bigger or smaller thing."
This brushing technique allows the seals to gauge their prey in water where visibility is often poor.
Ella Davies of BBC Nature has the post: Here.

Dog Saved By Dolphins

On Marco Island, Florida a group of dolphins came to the aid of a lost Dog that had fallen into a canal and couldn't get out. The dolphins made so much noise, it attracted the attention of people living nearby, who then rescued the dog. The Dog was believed to have spent 15 hours in the canal water before he was pulled out by fire personnel and reunited with his owner.
One of the people whose attention was captured by the noisy, demonstrative dolphins said, "They were really putting up a ruckus, almost beaching themselves on the sandbar over there. If it wasn't for the dolphin, I would have never seen the dog.”  He said also if the dolphins hadn't persisted enough to get their attention, they dog would have died in the canal. The dog had fallen over the edge of a concrete wall down into the water far enough that it had no chance of getting back up by itself. The dog was exhausted from being in the cold water for hours, and most likely suffering from hypothermia.
Dolphins have been known to sometimes help stranded or injured people as well. In 2007, a pod of dolphins formed a ring around a surfer who was injured and bleeding after being bitten by a Great White shark. The surfer survived because they prevented further bites. No one knows exactly why dolphins have intervened in such emergency situations, and helped save the lives of other species. Suffice to say they are capable of empathy and heroic actions.

Most Poisonous Frogs On The Planet

Many frogs contain mild toxins that make them unpalatable to potential predators. Some of them, such as poison dart frogs, are especially toxic. The chemical makeup of toxins in frogs varies from irritants to hallucinogens, convulsants, nerve poisons, and vasoconstrictors. Many predators of frogs have adapted to tolerate high levels of these poisons. Others, including humans, may be severely affected.

The Amazing Hummingbird Hawk Moth

It hovers, it hums - but it is not a hummingbird. Closer inspection would reveal a surprising lack of avian characteristics and you would be forced to re-assess the situation. With no legs or claws - and certainly no beak what you have here is a moth. No ordinary moth either - just take a look at that tongue.

In truth, it isn't actually a tongue. But if it isn't, what on earth is it? Take a look at one of, if not the most amazing, certainly the coolest insects on the planet - The Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

Animal News

Bats in Peru that attack unsuspecting penguin chicks living in dark caves.
Using a single web of spider silk to halt an oncoming subway train? No problem, say physicists, assuming you've got the right spider.
Switzerland's only recorded wild bear has been culled after fears that it could pose a threat to humans.
Researchers found that light bones, air and the location of muscles, tendons and ligaments helped maximize length.

Animal Pictures