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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Daily Drift

You got that right ...

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The Americas
Charlotte, Spotswood, Miami, Waldorf, Webster Groves, Red Wing, Safety Harbor, Sterling Heights, Cerritos, Moss Point, Omaha, Venetia, Hackett, Trumbull, Smyrna and Honea Path, United States
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Today in History

537 The Goths lay siege to Rome.
1649 The peace of Rueil is signed between the Frondeurs (rebels) and the French government.
1665 A new legal code is approved for the Dutch and English towns, guaranteeing religious observances unhindered.
1702 The Daily Courant, the first regular English newspaper is published.
1810 The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is married by proxy to Archduchess Marie Louise.
1811 Ned Ludd leads a group of workers in a wild protest against mechanization.
1824 The U.S. War Department creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seneca Indian Ely Parker becomes the first Indian to lead the Bureau.
1845 Seven hundred Maoris led by their chief, Hone-Heke, burn the small town of Kororareka in protest at the settlement of Maoriland by Europeans, in breach with the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
1861 A Confederate Convention is held in Montgomery, Ala., where the new constitution is adopted.
1863 Union troops under General Ulysess S. Grant give up their preparations to take Vicksburg after failing to pass Fort Pemberton, north of Vicksburg.
1865 Union General William Sherman and his forces occupy Fayetteville, N.C.
1888 A disastrous blizzard hits the northeastern United States. Some 400 people die, mainly from exposure.
1900 British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury rejects the peace overtures offered from Boer leader Paul Kruger.
1905 The Parisian subway is officially inaugurated.
1907 President Teddy Roosevelt induces California to revoke its anti-Japanese legislation.
1930 President Howard Taft becomes the first U.S. president to be buried in the National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
1935 The German Air Force becomes an official organ of the Reich.
1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes the Lend-Lease Act which authorizes the act of giving war supplies to the Allies.
1942 General Douglas MacArthur leaves Bataan for Australia.
1965 The American navy begins inspecting Vietnamese junks in hopes of ending arms smuggling to the South.
1966 Three men are convicted of the murder of Malcolm X.
1969 Levi-Strauss starts to sell bell-bottomed jeans.
1973 An FBI agent is shot at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.
1985 Mikhail Gorbachev is named the new Soviet leader.
1990 Lithuania declares its independence from the Soviet Union.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

That the Democrats need a theme for 2014

That a Florida gun show may be canceled because George Zimmerman has been invited

Hey, take the quiz: Walker or Christie

And over at lawyers, guns & money, we are enjoying the Eric Loomis series dead horses in American history

Democratic Millennials

American University student Chris Ayers (C) partakes in a large snowball fight on The Mall in Washington March 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Gary Cameron) 
American University student Chris Ayers (C) partakes in a large snowball fight on The Mall in Washington March 3, 2014.
Young adults like to think of themselves as independent, but when it comes to politics, they're more likely than not to lean to the left.
Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.
In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors' proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don't classify themselves as "a religious person." And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.
The new survey shows how the millennial adults are "forging a distinctive path into adulthood," said Paul Taylor, Pew's executive vice president and co-author of the report.
This can especially be seen when it comes to politics. Fifty percent of the millennials identify themselves as political independents, while only 27 percent said Democrat and 17 percent said repugican. The independent identification for millenials is an increase from 38 percent back in 2004.
"It's not that they don't have strong political opinions, they do," Taylor said. "It's simply that they choose not to identify themselves with either political party."
The number of self-described independents is lower among their predecessors. Only 39 percent of those in Generation X said they were independents, along with 37 percent of the boomers and 32 percent of the Silent Generation.
Pew describes Gen Xers as those from age 34-49, boomers as 50-68 and the Silent Generation as those 69-86.
When the self-identified Democratic millennials combined with the self-described independents who lean Democratic, half — 50 percent — of the millennials are Democrats or Democratic-leaning while 34 percent are repugicans or repugican-leaning.
"They don't choose to identify, but they have strong views and their views are views that most people conventionally associate with the Democratic Party," Taylor said. "They believe in a big activist government on some of the social issues of the day — gay marriage, marijuana legalization, immigration. Their views are much more aligned with the Democratic Party."
Taylor said they don't know whether millennial voting trends will stay the same as they get older.
"People can change over the course of their lifetimes," Taylor said. "At the same time, the behaviors, attitudes, the voting patterns and experiences that generations sort of encounter as they come of age in their late teens and early 20s are important and this generation as political actors has come in three or four national elections in a row now as distinctively Democratic and liberal despite the fact they don't want to identify that way."
Millennials also haven't bought into the idea that they should go to church or get married early.
Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase "a religious person" described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they're significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.
The 64 percent of the millennials who say that they are not religious "is the highest for any age group we've ever measured," Taylor said.
The millenials were far less inclined toward marriage than the groups that preceded them. Only 26 percent of the millennial adults are married. When they were the same age, 36 percent of the Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of the Silent Generation were married.
The Pew study was based on interviews with 1,821 adults by cellphone or landline from Feb. 14-23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

President Obama Tells High School Students The Truth About Their Do Nothing Congress

President Obama delivered some straight talk to high school students today(Friday 3-7) about the do nothing Congress that is letting them down. …
PRESIDENT OBAMA: So a few days ago, I sent my budget to Congress. And budgets are pretty boring — but the stuff inside the budgets are pretty important. And my budget focuses on things like preschool for all; like redesigning high schools so students like you can learn real-world skills that businesses want — (applause) — like preparing more young people for careers in some of the fields of the future — in science and technology and engineering and math to discover new planets and invent robots and cure diseases — all the cool stuff that we adults haven’t figured out yet. (Laughter.)
These are not just the right investments for our schools; they’re the right priorities for our country. You are our priority. We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. (Applause.)
We’ve got to make sure all of you are prepared for the new century, and we’ve got to keep growing our economy in other ways: attracting new high-tech jobs, reforming our immigration system — something Congressman Garcia is fighting for. (Applause.) And the rest of Congress needs to stop doing nothing, do right by America’s students, America’s teachers, America’s workers. Let’s get to work. Let’s get busy. (Applause.) We’ve got work to do. All of us have work to do — teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents, parents, grandparents.
We all have work to do, because we want to see you succeed, because we’re counting on you, Barracudas. (Applause.) And if you keep reaching for success — and I know you will, just based on the small sampling we saw of students here — if you keep working as hard as you can and learning as much as you can, and if you’ve got big ambitions and big dreams, if you don’t let anybody tell you something is out of your reach, if you are convinced that you can do something and apply effort and energy and determination and persistence to that vision, then not only will you be great but this country will be great. (Applause.) Our schools will be great. (Applause.)
President Obama was correct. Students should be a priority. Today’s students are going to be the workforce of tomorrow. Today’s high school juniors and seniors will be able to vote in their first presidential election in 2016. Some of these young people will be entering workforce that has been shaped by years of Republican attempts to undo economic opportunity.
One would think that repugicans could agree with Democrats to work together to help build a better future for our students, but these are the same repugicans who won’t work with Democrats on helping veterans, so there isn’t much hope that they give a damn about the economic challenges that come with getting a higher education or a job.
The president thrives on the energy of the room that he is addressing, and he passionately delivered an uplifting talk to these students.
Obama was right delivering the truth to these students about their do nothing Congress. All of America’s students deserve better than an education system that has been cut to the bone by repugican governors while repugicans at the federal level are expressing zero concern for the future that they are shaping.

Life in the Bubble

How CPAC Showcases Modern Wingnuttery as a Fringe Movement

Wingnuts feel most comfortable around those with similar views. However, the ideas embodied at CPAC ostracize the repugican cabal from mainstream America.…
lapierre cpac 2014
Anybody who thinks Democrats and repugicans are exactly the same has never been exposed to the joyful madness that is the Conservative (Wingnut) Political Action Conference, or CPAC for short.
This year’s conference, held just outside of Washington, DC is now two days old and we have already seen some bold statements from marquee wingnut speakers on issues that face the repugican cabal today.  In addition to addressing conservative voters, the CPAC is also seen as a valid litmus test for any high-ranking repugican government officials who aspire to one day hold the nation’s highest office.
In short, it’s an opportunity to see who can out-crazy the crazy.
Each speaker knows that he (I’d say she but let’s be honest we’re talking about wingnuts here) has a captive audience hanging on his every word.  This is not a national audience, but rather an audience that shares the exact same values and core beliefs of today’s modern repugican cabal:  Only the christian god is important, poor people are moochers, our guns are under attack, ObamaCare will lead to the apocalypse, the liberal media is out to get us, our military should assert its might internationally, and Barack Obama is a dictator/Kenyan/Muslim/socialist/Hitler incarnate that should be stopped at all costs.  Already through two days, we’ve seen a speech from Rand Paul claiming all Democrats are sexual predators and a speech by Paul Ryan taking credit for a child poverty story that wasn’t his.
It is this CPAC world that shows just how out of touch today’s repugican cabal is with the rest of the nation, especially when it comes to social issues.
To see this discrepancy, you need only to look at the people who have already spoken at this year’s event.  For example, everyone’s favorite gun manufacturing shill Wayne LaPierre took the stage on Thursday and offered up his typical, incendiary rhetoric.  LaPierre mocked the “liberal media” for distorting the truth and then claimed that politicians were in league with the media to pass legislation that they didn’t even read.  He asked the audience if they believed that the government could properly protect them and then he willingly repeated his infamous quote that “The surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  LaPierre  concluded his speech by saying, “The NRA will not go quietly into the night.  We will fight.  I promise you that.”  Strong words for a man whose own organization overwhelmingly supports background checks in addition to the 90% of Americans who support expanded background checks.
In addition to their undying admiration for the NRA, wingnut members in attendance also got to take in some smaller, but important, panel discussions.  The first of which had to deal with the reconciliation of the beliefs of libertarians and social wingnuts.  It was during this panel discussion that radio host Michael Medved addressed the issue of state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBT community by saying, “There has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage. That is a liberal lie.”  Apparently, the liberals are lying when they say that 30 states have gay-marriage bans in their state constitutions and only 17 states recognize gay marriage.  Liberals are also apparently lying when the state of Arizona tries to pass its ‘Turn Away the Gay’ bill allowing for state-sponsored discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
As informative as that panel discussion was, it was another panel that made news on Thursday, not for what was said, but rather the size of the audience.  The panel was titled “Reaching Out:  The Rest of the Story” and featured former rnc chairman Ed Gillespie and three repugican strategists discussing ways to bring minorities into the rnc camp.  The panel was held in the main conference room with the expectation that it would be well-attended, seeing as how minority outreach has been a priority for the repugican cabal since 2012.  However, as pictures have shown, the event was poorly attended, helping to reaffirm the notion that the repugican cabal has lost the minority vote and doesn’t seem to want to make any effort whatsoever to get it back.  It’s almost as if they refuse to acknowledge the changing demographics of this country.
That, in short, is exactly the problem with everything CPAC represents.  It’s a bunch of White, wealthy American men who have no idea how the majority of Americans live their daily lives.  People like Paul Ryan can mock the poor because him and his friends were never on free and reduced school lunch programs growing up.  People like Wayne LaPierre can advocate for more guns because he’s never seen how a lack of background checks has led to dangerous neighborhoods.  People like Michael Medved can pretend that LGBT discrimination is a liberal lie because he’s never had gay friends who have been told that their love for each other legally makes them second class citizens in this country.  And people like the CPAC attendees can ignore a panel discussion on the minority vote because they don’t realize that outside their homogeneous suburban neighborhoods there exists a country that will be majority minority by the year 2043.
The CPAC may feel good for like-mined repugicans now.  They’ll pat each other on the back and laugh when a speaker makes a joke about Obama or the big bad federal government.  However, year in and year out as the country becomes more liberal, especially on social issues, the CPAC continues to showcase itself to be more and more out of touch with everyday Americans.  If wingnuts really wanted to have a valuable CPAC panel discussion, they should discuss how and why the cabal continues to ostracize itself from the majority of Americans on social issues.
Of course knowing the audience in attendance, nobody would should up.

The Think Tank That Controls America

The Rand Corporation

If you think the Internet came out of Silicon Valley, that NASA planned the first satellite to orbit Earth, or that IBM created the modern computer—think again. Each one of these breakthroughs was conceived at RAND, a shadowy think tank in Santa Monica, California.

The Intimidation Factor

Rand rose out of the ashes of World War II. After witnessing the success of the Manhattan Project—the $2 billion initiative that created the first atomic bomb—a five-star Air Force general named Henry “Hap” Arnold (pictured) concluded that America needed a team of great minds to keep the country’s technology ahead of the rest of the world. In 1946, he gathered together a small group of scientists and $10 million in funding and started RAND (which stands for Research and Development). He even convinced a family friend, aircraft magnate Donald Douglas, to house the project at his factory in Santa Monica.

After a few short months, RAND got the attention of academics, politicians, and military strategists alike by issuing a prophetic study called “Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship.” At the time, rocket science was still in its infancy, so RAND’s call for an orbiting space station was revolutionary. Not only did the think tank specify the kind of fuel the spaceship would need and how quickly it could be built, but it also outlined how the station could predict the weather, transform long-distance communication, and, most importantly, intimidate our rivals abroad. If America could put a satellite into space, what else was she capable of?

Although President Truman passed on the space station, the military fell in love with RAND. Through Hap’s connections, the Air Force quickly became the think tank’s main contractor, and RAND began consulting on everything from propeller turbines to missile defense. Before long, the organization was so flush with contracts that it had to hire hundreds of additional researchers to keep up. In recruitment ads, RAND bragged about its intellectual genealogy, tracing a direct line from its president, Frank Collbohm, to Isaac Newton. Whether or not that claim was true, the institute secured a reputation as the place to dream up new ways to wage wars and keep enemies at bay.

By the 1960s, America’s rivals were paying attention. The Soviet newspaper Pravda nicknamed RAND “the academy of science and death and destruction.” American outfits preferred to call them the “wizards of Armageddon.”

War Games
The Soviets had good reason to worry about RAND. In 1957, the Air Force hired the think tank to create spy satellites. Within two years, it developed CORONA—a covert system that aimed to send camera-carrying satellites into orbit on the backs of missiles. While the idea was genius, the design was flawed. It took 13 failed attempts before the system finally got off the ground in 1959. Once it did, however, the results were spectacular. The CORONA satellite returned with 161 lbs. of film about the Soviet Union, more footage than spy planes had recovered in the previous four years combined. For the following decade, CORONA became the backbone of American intelligence on the Soviet Union. Researchers watched troops march along the Russian border with China and spied on cities they’d never seen before. They could even count the fruit in Soviet orchards and analyze their crops.

By the early 1960s, RAND had established itself as a fixture of U.S. policy. Branching out from straight rocket science, the think tank had become the center of the nation’s nuclear strategy. One high-profile RAND genius, John Williams, developed game theory to predict how the cagey Soviet Union might act during conflict. The theory was a perfect fit for RAND, an organization that continually sought to impose objective reality on an irrational world.

Another genius, mathematician Albert Wohlstetter, came up with the fail-safe concept, which saved the world from nuclear conflagration several times. The idea called for a series of checkpoints for bombers armed with nuclear weapons. If a bomber pilot failed to receive confirmation at any checkpoint, he would abandon the mission and turn the plane around. Once, in 1979, a mistake by a telephone operator led to a transmission that the United States was under nuclear attack from Moscow. Ten fighters from three separate bases took to the air armed with nuclear missiles. But in the end, because of Wohlstetter’s fail-safe system, none of them deployed their weapons.

Through the years, RAND’s sphere of influence became more visible. In the 1960s, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara hired scores of its young researchers—dubbed the “Whiz Kids”—to reorganize the Pentagon. But perhaps the thing that most solidified RAND’s reputation in the public’s imagination was the release of the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964. The movie’s title character, a deranged Nazi scientist, was modeled after RAND’s eccentric Herman Kahn. A military strategist, Kahn famously argued that America could easily survive an all-out conflict with the Soviet Union if people took refuge in shelters and rationed food. Although the radiation would cause hundreds of thousands of genetic defects, Kahn insisted the American people would endure. Kahn’s apocalyptic scenarios didn’t end there. He also dreamed up the Doomsday Machine, a device that could destroy all life on Earth, which Kubrick used in Dr. Strangelove. In fact, Kubrick borrowed so many of Kahn’s sayings and ideas that the scientist began demanding royalties. Kahn was so persistent that Kubrick finally had to tell him, “That’s not how things are done, Herman.”

Spinning a World Wide Web

While RAND has played a major role in keeping America safe from military attacks and nuclear catastrophes, the think tank has also left its mark on the communications industry. RAND is directly responsible for packet switching, the technology that made the Internet possible. It all started in the 1960s, when the military asked RAND researchers to solve a hypothetical question: If the Soviet Union destroyed all of our communication systems with a nuclear bomb, how could we fight back?
A young engineer named Paul Baran provided an elegant solution by likening the nation’s telephone wires to the brain’s central nervous system. Baran proposed sending messages via phone lines and changing words into numbers to avoid noise and distortion. Baran also decided that any content relayed should be divided into “packets,” or discrete bundles of data. As a result, messages were separated during transmission, and would then automatically reconfigure themselves once they reached their destination. More importantly, if direct communications were destroyed, the packets could reroute themselves through phone lines anywhere in the world.

Baran tried to convince AT&T to install the system, but the phone giant refused to create something that could become its worst competitor. Instead, the creation of a worldwide packet-switching system was left to the Pentagon, which devised ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet.

Healthy Choices

During the 1960s, RAND also expanded its lines of investigation into education, welfare reform, and criminal justice. By the time Richard Nixon took office in 1969, the think tank was an established, independent source for social policy research. So, when the issue of medical insurance sparked a great national debate, Nixon tapped RAND for ideas. At the time, there was little data on the effectiveness of free health care versus coverage plans with co-pays and deductibles. In particular, Nixon wanted to know if free health care made people healthier. To find the answer, RAND’s Health Division spent 10 years acting as the insurance company for more than 5,000 people around the country.

In the end, RAND’s research found that people who paid for health care were just as healthy as people who got it for free. With free health care, people went in for more regular medical screenings, but their other habits—exercise, diet, smoking—were worse. The message was not lost on the insurance industry, nor on the federal government. In 1982, when the study was released, only 30 percent of medical plans had deductibles. Five years later, more than 90 percent did.

Thinking Ahead
Health care was just the beginning of RAND’s expansion into the social sciences. Although 50 percent of RAND’s current $223 million budget still comes from federal funding, much of that goes toward non-defense work. The think tank currently employs close to 1,000 researchers, who spend their time analyzing everything from renewable energy and obesity to hurricanes and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Globalization has also opened up the organization’s opportunities. In addition to its five centers that handle social and economic policy issues, as well as the five centers that focus on international affairs, RAND has an affiliate organization in Europe, and a prominent voice in Middle Eastern policy. Most notably, the RAND Qatar Policy Institute is working on reconfiguring the emirate’s entire educational system.

Of course, RAND hasn’t exactly abandoned its bread-and-butter services. The organization touts three federally funded research and development centers that concentrate on national security. After all, RAND did establish the discipline of studying terrorism in the 1970s, long before the United Nations even had a working definition for the word. Today, the RAND Terrorism Chronology Database, which has catalogued all acts of terrorism from 1968 to the present, has become an invaluable tool for the military and the government. It makes sense that in these times, our new president will pay attention to the think tank, too. Barack Obama has taken a keen interest in its study on post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers returning from Iraq. In other words, RAND already has his ear.

The Who’s Who of Rand

John Nash – RAND was the motherland of game theory during the 1950s and 1960s, and among its most prominent players was John Nash—the soulful subject of the book and movie A Beautiful Mind. Nash came up with what is now called the Nash equilibrium, which is used to determine the stability of competition.

Thomas Schelling – Schelling was an economist who came to RAND shortly after Nash’s frenzied departure. His game theory concocted a worldview of aggression and counter-aggression that was heavily influential during the Vietnam War.

Kenneth Arrow – One of the most influential RAND employees, Arrow posited that greed is good, and that what he termed “consumer sovereignty” should rule society. Some critics have blamed Arrow’s Theorem for providing the theoretical foundation for the free market frenzy of the past 30 years, including the current housing market meltdown.

Albert Wohlstetter – The most prominent member of RAND’s so-called Nuclear Boys Club. A brilliant theoretical mathematician and an unparalleled nuclear strategist, he worked at RAND on and off from 1951 to his death 46 years later. He originated the Second Strike nuclear doctrine (make sure you have enough backup nukes to wipe out any attackers) and the Fail Safe principle (drop the big one on your target only after confirmation in flight from headquarters).

Daniel Ellsberg – An endlessly loquacious mathematical genius, strategic thinker, and unlikely peacenik. Disgusted with official lies about America’s involvement in Southeast Asia, he leaked the Pentagon Papers, which set in motion the end of the Vietnam War.

What Type of Companies Own Your State's Politicians?

What kind of companies top the list of political campaign contributions in your state's last election cycle? Mother Jones took the data from Follow The Money, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that compiles a database of verifiable campaign finance contributions across the 50 states for the 2012 election, and came up with the map above.
The data is admittedly incomplete: Mother Jones limited their search to the top business in each state and excluded contributions from unions, law firms, nonprofits, and PACs.
It's not surprising that gambling dominated the political contributions in Nevada, but I was surprised to find that it also dominated in Rhode Island. I'm also surprised to find that finance companies dominated the political contributions in only 4 states - why did I think it would've been in more places?
Real Estate companies pay the highest corporate campaign contributions in 14 states, health-related companies in 13, and energy companies in 12. Tech and telecom dominated in 3 whereas manufacturing in only two.
See which type of company dominated your state's politics over at Mother Jones.

McCrony says he can put distance between himself and former employer Duke Energy

And that is just his latest lie ... 
Thom Tillis, Pat McCrory, Dan FOrest
From left, Thom Tillis, Pat McCrony, and Dan Forest

Pat McCrony worked at Duke Energy for 29 years.
That’s what his resume says.
Other than a few short sentences about his areas of work, his biography says nothing else about his career.
Duke Energy officials aren’t talking.
Well-connected state and local leaders aren’t saying.
Charlotte City Council members aren’t sure.
And McCrony hasn’t said.
Until now.
Few have delved into McCrony’s history at the utility. And until recently, it didn’t matter.
But a month ago, a Duke Energy coal ash pond dumped tens of thousands of tons of toxic gray sludge into the Dan River.
Now, critics are saying that McCrony will go soft on Duke Energy because of his years there. That his career was a mystery for a reason. That he is more loyal to the company than to the people of North Carolina, even six years after resigning.
McCrory said he couldn’t be easy on Duke Energy because he knows too much about how management works there — and how it has failed to prevent one of the state’s worst environmental disasters.
“My expertise is not in coal. I never worked in that area,” McCrony said. “But I know infrastructure and I know management and I know engineering. Somewhere along the way there has been a breakdown in ensuring that site was properly maintained.”
On Friday, McCrony gave the News & Record his first in-depth interview about his career — and how it shaped his philosophy — since the spill.
McCrony had another reason for breaking his silence: He wanted to put an end to his image as a corporate fat cat with nothing but cushy jobs during his years at Duke Energy.
Without any details of what McCrony did for 29 years, critics are finding all kinds of ways to fill in the blanks.
“I’m sure a lot of people would like to know what Pat did when he was at Duke,” Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Michael D. Barnes said.
McCrony’s official biography reads like the classic American success story.
McCrony graduates from Catawba College.
He is hired into a “rigorous management training program” at then-Duke Power.
“Through that opportunity, he learned the energy business from the ground up, digging trenches, climbing electric utility poles and more,” according to the bio.
As McCrony fills in the blanks, he portrays his time there as years of rich experiences, relationships and education.
When he graduated in 1978, the economy was in shambles. He interviewed for a couple of management-training jobs and chose Duke Power. The company assigned him to Charlotte where, he said, he hit the streets with linemen his first week on the job.
“I was riding in a construction truck — two guys on both sides of me, chewing tobacco,” he said. “The guys riding with me taught the college boy some things he didn’t know. Putting on rubber gloves and actually putting your hands on hot wires was a good learning experience.”
After that work, the company offered McCrony a management position in South Carolina. He didn’t want to move because he desired a different career path. He wanted to use his teaching degree to train workers and executives.
He moved into the utility’s design engineering department because the group needed a corporate trainer.
But his stint as a trainer was short.
“I learned so much about engineering,” he said, “they transferred me to the engineering office where I became the engineer recruiter for the entire company, where I hired nuclear and electrical and mechanical engineers.”
McCrony said that, as a young man in his 20s, he became a specialist at interviewing.
He traveled to every top engineering school in the country.
“I was interviewing 15 people a day, so I learned a lot about interviewing skills, and I wrote a training manual about it. I’ve used those skills today on my Cabinet. I’m a very tough interview,” McCrony said.
McCrony became the manager of the company’s recruiting program for engineers during the “boom years” of the 1980s, as he called it.
He was responsible for recruiting hundreds of engineers a year to work across the Duke Power system in several states.
“That’s the good news,” McCrony said. “The bad news is in 1988 they eliminated my job and had layoffs.”
He said he was planning to get married in a few months, “and I found out that my job had been eliminated, which was a turning point in my life. It still sticks with me today — never to take a job for granted.”
But three weeks later, the company hired him back, offering him a promotion as training director for the entire company.
“I had a pretty large staff. It was almost like being principal of a high school. I had training facilities across the state that I was responsible for.”
Throughout the 1980s McCrony’s jobs had taught him to be a salesman.
Soon, he would begin to sell his merits as a candidate.
McCrony sought — and won — a seat on the Charlotte City Council in 1989 at 32 years old.
Working on the council and as a training manager at Duke Power didn’t faze McCrony, he said, because he has always worked two jobs.
“I’ve always had jobs where I would typically go 12 or 14 hours a day,” he said.
After several promotions at Duke Power — and moving up to mayor pro tem on the council — McCrony decided to make a run for mayor and was elected in 1995.
McCrony had to cut back his work at Duke Power.
Critics felt that the company, the city’s largest taxpayer, kept him on board so it could influence government.
McCrony and his supporters admit that it’s impossible to put in the time for a corporate career and a major political office.
John Lassiter, McCrony’s 2012 campaign manager and a confidante as interim chairman of the state Economic Development Partnership, said of McCrony: “When he first went into public life, he was working a traditional schedule, which means he was balancing his 40-hour week. When he became mayor, Duke realized he would have to give more time, and they allowed for that.”
McCrony said he had to get permission from the company before he ran for political office.
But as mayor, he said, he couldn’t make the schedule work.
“I had to step back and put a hold on my career,” McCrony said.
As he came to know Charlotte and its business community, Duke Energy enlisted McCrony as a consultant on economic development.
John Autry, who is serving his first term on the Charlotte City Council, said he and others never believed that McCrony had much to do at Duke when he was mayor.
“As a citizen, we always considered the Duke employment as a ‘sugar daddy job,’ ”Autry said.
But McCrony bristles at the thought that he didn’t put in his time at the utility.
“I started with Duke. I didn’t get the job when I became mayor,” he said. “I wasn’t placed in that job. I worked hard. Duke had a motto of citizenship and service.”
At least once, however, McCrony was accused of putting the company over duty when, in 1994, the then-mayor pro tem voted to condemn two pieces of land for a new Charlotte water line.
What he did not disclose, an N.C. Supreme Court justice said in a written opinion, was that McCrony knew the land abutted Duke Energy property.
And the city would be free to buy power from Duke Energy if it could gain control of the land.
The properties’ owners sued the city, and the Supreme Court eventually found in favor of the city.
But Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. wrote a dissenting opinion that took aim at McCrony.
In the opinion, Lake said McCrony exchanged emails with Duke Energy officials and discussed condemning the land for the project.
McCrony then voted in favor of the condemnation at a meeting he chaired, Lake wrote.
McCrony has repeatedly said that if he had known at the time that Duke Energy was involved, he would not have voted on the issue.
As mayor, McCrony defends his record as mayor and his career at Duke Energy.
“It was very transparent. I never hid from it,” he said. “With Duke I was working with industrial customers mostly outside the Charlotte area rather than industrial customers inside the city.”
Barnes, the Charlotte mayor pro tem, wonders if McCrony’s role at Duke made him reluctant to promote green energy.
“As I recall, when Pat was here, when the council tried to work on green energy and green issues. I sense sometimes he had concerns about the council’s efforts and I wasn’t sure whether that was related to Duke or other issues," Barnes said.
But there’s evidence that McCrony promoted environmental efforts.
In 2001, he helped create a program with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to draw regions together to promote clean air and water.
The group published a complex report in 2006 outlining its goals for a region of cities surrounding Charlotte in North Carolina and South Carolina.
But it’s hard to find any reports that show the effort was a success.
By 2008, McCrony resigned from Duke Energy to run for governor, which he said was one of the hardest decisions of his life.
After he lost that election, he went to work for his brother at McCrony & Co., a sales training company.
He also worked as a consultant for lawyers at the Moore & Van Allen firm in Charlotte until his election in 2012.
“A lot of the lawyers were good at legal work, but they weren’t real good at strategy,” he said.
At the end of the interview, McCrony took stock of his past relationship with Duke Energy and the coal ash crisis.
He said Duke taught him what to do — and that’ll be the right thing.
“The one thing regarding the spill which is disappointing is that there was a lack of oversight of understanding what was beneath the coal ash, what was beneath the pond and the lack of a plan,” he said.
According to public records, engineering inspectors have had concerns over the drainage pipes under the company’s Dan River ash basin as far back as 1996. Their warnings went unheeded, leading to the Feb. 2 coal ash spill, the third worst in U.S. history.
“That’s a serious, serious breakdown within that company that must be addressed. And I’ve demanded an answer in a short period of time,” McCrony said.
He is emphatic that he can put distance between himself and his former employer.
“I can separate. I can clearly separate. I’m the first governor to support a lawsuit against Duke Energy.
“I make the assumption my past friends respect that responsibility.”

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul

You may have heard the news that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is getting an overhaul. The essay portion that was added in 2005 will be made optional, and the rest of the test is going back to the old 1600-point scale. Questions will be replaced to bring them more in line with what students are being taught in the classroom, to try to level the playing field that has been upset in recent years by students who can afford test tutoring. Why? Because students, parents, teachers, and even colleges don’t like it. It’s stressful, interferes with regular classwork, and doesn’t even predict college success.
A growing number of colleges and universities, frustrated by the minimal change to the SAT when it was revised in 2005 and motivated by a report issued in 2008 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (Nacac), began to eliminate the SAT and its competitor, the A.C.T., as admission requirements, following the lead of several small, liberal-arts colleges that did so years before. The authors of the Nacac report cited a University of California study, which characterized the SAT as a “relatively poor predictor of student performance” and questioned the tendency of colleges to rely on the SAT as “one of the most important admission tools.” (Many of the schools that dropped test requirements saw spikes in their applications, at least in the first year.)

Around the time the report came out — and following the publication of “The Power of Privilege,” by the Wake Forest University sociology professor Joseph A. Soares, an account of the way standardized tests contributed to discriminatory admissions policies at Yale — Wake Forest became the first highly rated institution (it regularly appears as a Top 30 university on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings) to announce a test-optional admissions policy. Follow-up studies at Wake Forest showed that the average high-school G.P.A. of incoming freshmen increased after the school stopped using standardized-test scores as a factor. Seventy-nine percent of its 2012 incoming class was in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes. Before going test-optional, that figure was in the low 60s. In addition, the school became less homogeneous. “The test highly correlates with family income,” says Soares, who also edited a book that, in part, examines the effects of making the SAT optional at the University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins University and Wake Forest. “High-school grades do not.” He continued, “We have a lot more social, racial and lifestyle diversity. You see it on campus. Wake Forest was a little too much like a J. Crew catalog before we went test-optional.”
The new test will not be introduced until the spring of 2016 -too late for all my children. Only time will tell if the changes are an improvement. The New York Times has the story of how the SAT became something other than what it was intended to be, and how the changes for 2016 came about.

Questions From the National Science Quiz

The National Science Foundation recently released results of their science test that showed Americans sadly lacking in basic science knowledge. We cringed at the fact that one in four Americans did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun. So how hard is the test? When I saw the opportunity to sample it, I thought, “How fun!” But there are only ten questions, and to our readers they would be so extremely simple you would all get ten out of ten right.
However, under each answer, we find out how the average Americans polled scored on each, which is sobering. More than half the respondents did not know what lasers are made of. The answers also have some neat explanations in the form of videos. And the comments are what you’d expect -half argue about two questions on religious grounds, and the other half are pedantic science nerds who argue about the exact wording of a question. See those questions at PolicyMic.

What happens when you opt your kids out of standardized tests?

Lisa T. McElroy is a law professor who's spending a year at the University of Denver with her two kids, one in high school and one in middle school. She learned that she could opt her kids out of the standardized tests the school administered. So she did. What followed was a total educational freakout, as the principal, vice-principal and administration alternately cajoled and guilted her over her kids' non-participation in pedagogically suspect, meaningless, destructive high-stakes testing.
McElroy's story is a snapshot of an educational system in the process of implosion, driven by the ridiculous idea that schools are factories whose product is educated kids, and whose employees must be made "accountable" by measuring anything we can put a number on -- attendance and test-scores -- at the expense of actual educational outcomes.
Despite the fact that the best-performing educational systems in the world don't treat teachers as assembly line workers and kids as standardized injection molds to be squirted full of learning, the west continues to pursue this approach, scapegoating teachers' unions and pitting parents against them when the real enemy is the doomed idea that schools are a specialized kind of industrial plant -- and the project of selling off public schools to privatized educational corporations that collect public funds to educate kids, but only to the extent that this can be done without undermining their shareholders' interests.
When I answered that I very much appreciated her call but was going to stick by my decision, she offered several reasons why my daughter should take the test. First, taking TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, the relatively new set of state standardized tests) would help my daughter on the ACT. Huh. Given that she’s only in seventh grade, I wasn’t buying that one. The principal then said that the test would show us how our daughter was doing academically. But we get a report card every six weeks, and we can follow her progress in real time through an online school portal that lists her grade on every assignment, so we’re all set in that regard. One more try. The test results, she said, reward teachers by showing them that they are doing a good job. My reaction: And seeing their students’ progress doesn’t?
But when the lawyer in me started pushing back, pointing out to the principal that none of her arguments was especially convincing, I got nowhere. Including off the phone. The principal kept going on. And on. And on. My daughter really should take it. She was the only child in the entire school who was opting out. She might feel weird, being different from all the other kids.

Survivor of Mengele's twin studies recounts her experiences on Reddit

We missed this Ask Me Anything when it was live back in February, but it's definitely worth going back and reading. It features Eva Mozes Kor, who was chosen at age 10, along with her twin sister, for experiments performed by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Really an amazing AMA.

First clinical LSD trial in 40 years shows positive results in easing anxiety of dying patients

In Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases, a new paper published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, a Swiss psychiatrist named Peter Gasser and his colleagues report on the first controlled trial of LSD in forty years. Gasser used LSD therapeutically to treat 12 people nearing the end of their lives, and concluded that their anxiety "went down and stayed down."
Many psychopharmacologists believe that psychedelics such as LSD have therapeutic benefits that could be realized if the strictures on them were loosened. David Nutt, the former UK government drugs czar, called the ban on psychedelics in therapeutic settings "the worst case of scientific censorship since the catholic cult banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo". He devotes a whole chapter to psychedelics in his brilliant book on drug policy, Drugs Without the Hot Air. If you only read one book about drug policy, read that one.
Gasser's trial is positioned as a major move in the struggle to end the damage the War on Some Drugs has wrought on legitimate medicine. It used a randomized double-blind protocol to dose some dying patients (most with terminal cancer) with LSD as part of an anxiety-reduction strategy. The results were dramatic and positive. In a NYT story, some Gasser's patients relate their experiences with the therapy.

A doctor who treats sick scientists ...

Wherever they may be — If a paleontologist breaks her leg three days' travel from the nearest hospital, what happens? One thing she might do is call Matt Lewin — a doctor who specializes in treating scientists who get sick or injured in the field. He's the subject of a profile in the latest issue of Discover magazine. Sadly, the full story is only available in print, but it's a fascinating topic and a job we'd never really given much thought to before, so we wanted to share it.

For Your Health

Patients are more likely to raise a health problem with […]

University of Florida scientists believe they have pinpointed the exact compounds […]

Medical Journal Article on Sword Swallowing

The researchers were precise in their methodology:
We excluded cases in which injury was related to swallowing items other than swords, such as . . . jack hammers.
As well they should!
Brian Witcombe, a physician, and Dan Meyer, an executive in a professional organization for sword swallowers, published an article in a 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal. It evaluated the health risks of sheathing a sword inside the human esophagus. They surveyed 46 sword swallowers and determined that performers increase the likelihood of injury by “adding embellishments to their performance.”
Who engages in this performing art? Amy Kraft of The Week attended a meeting of sword swallowers. It was one of many held simultaneously at Ripley’s Believe It or Not locations around the United States. She writes that sword swallowing originated in India about 4,000 years ago. It requires careful and rigorous training:
To get there, you must first learn to suppress the gag reflex in the back of your throat, which sword swallowers work on for years. Then you have to flip back your epiglottis and relax several other involuntary muscles in the esophagus, which winds past major organs, including the heart. Finally, to get the sword into the stomach you have to relax the lower sphincter muscle and repress the stomach's retch reflex.

Peeing In The Pool Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

We’ve all heard of people doing it, we’ve all done it on the sly once or twice in our life, and we’ve all heard the urban legends about the colorful chemical that identifies the culprit.
I’m talking, of course, about peeing in the pool, and up until now it has been seen as a harmless, albeit gross, thing to do when you’re swimming those summer days away and don’t want to get out just to empty your bladder.
But scientists have discovered something that will ruin your summer- peeing in the pool can be hazardous to your health. According to scientist from China Agricultural University and Purdue University “compounds in urine mix with chlorine to form chemicals that have been linked to respiratory effects in swimmers”, so the next time you take a dip try to hold it until you get out- for your health.



San Marino

Tiny State, Big Baggage

by Walter Mayr
San Marino: Tiny State, Big Baggage
The trial of a former head of state has brought unwanted media attention on the often overlooked San Marino, the world's oldest Republic. The nation, which is already reeling from the financial crisis, is not amused. More

IKEA is Learning About Americans

IKEA conducted a survey of Americans to find out about their homes and lifestyles. Fast Company looked through it and found some interesting results, which they expanded on. Here's a sample.
1. Only 1% [of those surveyed] want their home to reflect how successful they have been.
Analysis: This may seem surprising, but in fact Americans often choose to lie to surveys to make themselves appear more humble.

2. 62% of respondents say they control the remote over their significant other, children, friends, or others. However, 74% of men are more likely to say they control the remote than women at 52%.
Analysis: Americans are warlike creatures who must wrest control of an item called a control.
Number one is kind of believable. I understand the theory of conspicuous consumption as well as the next person, but where I live, if your house looks nicer than your cousin’s house, that cousin will be over all the time asking to borrow money. Number two adds up to way over 100%, but that can be explained by the American habit of having a TV for every person in the house. You don’t have to argue over the channel if you’re in separate rooms.

If you want to see the entire IKEA report, you’ll find that here. I noticed that 27% percent of Americans use technology in their kitchens. The other 73% either don’t realize what technology means, or else they never go into the kitchen.

Man kidnapped his mother because she didn't want to move with him to Miami

A man from Richmond, Virginia arrested in South Carolina says he kidnapped his mother because she didn't want to move with him to Miami.
Regelio Lopez, 20, is accused of kidnapping his mother and stuffing her in the trunk of his Cadillac. A dashboard camera video released on Wednesday shows South Carolina troopers pulling over the Cadillac on February 25.

The troopers order Lopez to get on the ground, then open the trunk where a woman is found inside. Troopers had been looking for the Cadillac in connection with the Richmond kidnapping.

In the video, Lopez tells officers he was heading to live in Miami and says he put her in the trunk because she didn't want to go with him. "What made you do that?" a trooper is heard asking. "I was alone," Lopez responds. Lopez is now back in Richmond where he faces a kidnapping charge.

Man with meth arrested three times in three days

A man who police say drove his pickup into a building in Roseburg, Oregon early on Sunday morning has been arrested again. And again.

Roseburg police arrested Michael John Querubin, 48, of Roseburg, after police said he was driving under the influence of a controlled substance when he drove his pickup into the building. Police charged Querubin with driving under the influence of a controlled substance, reckless driving and unlawful possession of meth. Querubin was cited and released from the Douglas County Jail.
At about 1:40am on Tuesday, Sheriff's deputies arrested Querubin in the 4800 block of NE Stephens, charging him with unlawful possession of meth. He was again cited and released from the Douglas County Jail. According to the Sheriff's office, Querubin was arrested for the second time on Tuesday shortly before 10:30pm in the 3400 block of Cleveland Hill Road.

Deputies charged Querubin with driving under the influence of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of meth. Querubin was lodged in the Douglas County Jail. Sheriff's deputy Dwes Hutson says the arresting officer in each case has discretion on whether to cite and release a suspect to appear in court, or to lodge them in the jail.

Reluctant whistle-blower finally breathes sigh of relief

A Chinese man who swallowed a plastic whistle when he was 9-years-old and made shrill whistle sounds after falling asleep at night for 15 years has finally been able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Liu Yougang, 23, successfully had an operation to take the whistle out at West China Hospital, Chengdu, Sichuan Province on Monday. Liu swallowed the whistle in 1999 but the doctor did not find it in his body.
Liu said that he always found it difficult to breathe in the past 15 years. He also coughed continuously all year round. Zhu Hui, a doctor from the bronchoscope room at West China Hospital examined Liu on February 21 and discovered a foreign object wrapped in granulation tissue in his right lower lobe bronchus.

After half an hour of surgery, the whistle was successfully removed. Zhu said, "The whistle had been embedded in my body for many years and had been broken down gradually." Liu can now speak and eat normally and was recently discharged from hospital.

Man who chased $20 bill down storm drain became stuck underground for two days

A twenty-dollar bill dropped into a storm drain led to a Lawton, Oklahoma man being stuck in the city's underground water drainage system for two days. The man told police that he dropped the money into a storm water drain. He said that he had no choice but to go in after the lost money. But once underground, he lost his way, leaving him with little to do but hope someone would hear his calls for help.

Daily Comic Relief


Luxury Ice Fishing Shacks

The sturdier fishermen of the Upper Midwest of the United States are fond of venturing out to iced-over lakes. Fishing requires time and patience. Ice fishing requires both while enduring cold temperatures. That’s why many drag shacks onto the ice, where they can enjoy essential amenities, such as beer and heaters.
But now these ice fishermen can enjoy shacks far superior to crude wooden structures. Ice Castle Fish Houses, a company in Montevideo, Minnesota, builds veritable ice fishing mansions.
They come with full kitchens, showers, satellite television and beds. There are even air conditioners, which could really come in handy down here in Texas.
When it’s time to actually fish, just pull up a comfortable chair, open a plug in the floor and drop down a line.


A teenager who got trapped behind a wardrobe, before being confronted with a spider, called 999 and had to be freed by three firefighters. Reece Thomas, an A-level pupil at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, decided to rearrange his bedroom on Tuesday afternoon.
He has told how his wardrobe got stuck as he moved it and he became firmly wedged. Then the teenager, who is petrified of spiders, spotted an arachnid and, seeing no other option, called Sussex Police on 999. They alerted firefighters to Reece's plight and a crew went to the home he shares with his parents, Paul and Sarah Goodwin, in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, and freed him.
The 17-year-old, who is studying for qualifications in sports, maths, leadership and IT, said he was physically uninjured but was panicking. He said: “I felt quite claustrophobic and did not like it. I am very embarrassed.” He added: “I was just moving my furniture when I got stuck. I moved it one inch and it must have slipped and got stuck by the bed because next thing I knew I could not move.

“My parents said I should have called them first.” He added: “I want to say thank-you to the firefighters, who did not look very impressed when they came to help me. But there was a spider and I really don't like spiders.” His mother added: “I couldn't believe it when he told me. He is getting stick from people saying he is looking for Narnia.” Sussex Police and East Sussex Fire and Rescue both confirmed they were aware of the incident. A police spokesman said they received the call but the job was more suitable for the fire service.

Poisoned dog saved by bottle of vodka

When Charlie the Maltese terrier was just hours away from death last weekend, vets saved his life with a bottle of vodka.
The curious canine was rushed to the Animal Accident & Emergency hospital, having licked some coolant in his owner Jacinta Rosewarne’s garage at Melton, west of Melbourne, Australia.
Vets realised Charlie had ethylene glycol poisoning, which can cause kidney failure within hours and, left untreated, leads to death. So they grabbed a bottle of vodka and started feeding it to Charlie through a tube down his nose and then intravenously.

“He was definitely drunk,” Ms Rosewarne said. “He was stumbling around, I’d go to pat him and he’d push me away like a normal drunk person, he was vomiting a little, whining like a drunk. I thought it was hilarious ... It was distressing but funny at the same time.” Charlie had 700ml of vodka in two days, a miracle treatment which saved his life but left him with an almighty hangover.

Animal Pictures