Welcome to ...

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Daily Drift

Although we are of Scots decent here at Carolina Naturally with many a Bonnie Lass on the branches of the family tree there are a goodly number of Fair Colleens as well. So in keeping with the celebration of our heritage you will find a wee bit O'Erin popping up in today's edition ...
The Scots influence on the Irish in America shows in this the Irish/American Tartan

Carolina Naturally is read in 195 countries around the world daily.   

 Irish America ... !
Today is - Saint Patrick's Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

Some of our readers today have been in:
The Americas
Medellin, Bogota, Cali and Cartagena,Colombia
Thunder Bay, Montreal, Vancouver, Britannia, Calgary and Winnipeg, Canada
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Wallingford, Scandia, Killeen, West Hyannisport, Houma, Narrows, Harwinton, Groton, Poughkeepsie, Phoenix and Omaha, United States
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Santiago, Valdivia, Lo Prado and Concepcion, Chile
Lima, Peru
Mexico City, Mexico
Caracas, Venezuela
Tipitapa, Nicaragua
Veliko Turnovo and Ruse, Bulgaria
Bochum and Desden, Germany
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Belgrade, Serbia
Kazan, Ryazan, Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia
Kista, Sweden
Athens, Greece
Milan, Rome and Venice, Italy
Biel, Switzerland
Riga, Latvia
Ploiesti, Romania
Gijon and Madrid, Spain
Ostrava, Czech Republic
Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia
Palmela, Portugal
Ankara, Turkey
Warsaw, Lodz, Poznan, Krakow, Gdansk, Kedzierzyn-Kolze and Gdynia, Poland
Oslo, Norway
Bratislava and Presov, Slovakia
Zagreb, Croatia
London and Maidenhead, England
Laval, France
Budapest, Hungary
Vilnius, Lithuania
Nicosia, Cyprus
Chervonograd and Zhovti Vody, Ukraine
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Vantaa, Finland
Novi Sad, Serbia
Dublin, Ireland
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Sanaa, Yemen
Surabaya and Jakarta, Indonesia
Doha, Qatar
Patna, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi, Jodhpur, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Pitampura, Cuttack, New Delhi and Gwalior, India
Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka
Phatthaya, Bangkok and Samphanthawong, Thailand
Seoul, Korea
Sidon and Beirut, Lebanon
Riyadh and Al Qatif, Saudi Arabia
Tehran, Iran
Petah Tikva, Israel
Guangzhou, China
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Kuwait, Kuwait
Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Jeffery's Bay, South Africa
Ikeja and Akure, Nigeria
Cairo, Egypt
Manila, Makati and Sampaloc, Philippines

Today in History

1766 Britain repeals the Stamp Act.
1776 British forces evacuate from Boston to Nova Scotia.
1799 Napoleon Bonaparte and his army reach Mediterranean seaport of St. Jean d'Acra, only to find British warships ready to break his siege of the town.
1868 The first postage stamp canceling machine patent is issued.
1884 John Joseph Montgomery makes the first glider flight in Otay, Calif.
1886 Twenty African Americans are killed in the Carrollton Massacre in Mississippi.
1891 The British steamer Utopia sinks off the coast of Gibraltar.
1905 Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, marries Franklin D. Roosevelt in New York.
1910 The Camp Fire Girls are founded in Lake Sebago, Maine.
1914 Russia increases the number of active duty military from 460,000 to 1,700,000.
1924 Four Douglas army aircraft leave Los Angeles for an around the world flight.
1930 Mob boss Al Capone is released from jail.
1942 The Nazis begin deporting Jews to the Belsen camp.
1944 The U.S. Eighth Air Force bombs Vienna.
1959 The Dalai Lama flees Tibet and goes to India.
1961 The United States increases military aid and technicians to Laos.
1962 The Soviet Union asks the United States to pull out of South Vietnam.
1966 A U.S. submarine locates a missing H-bomb in the Mediterranean.
1970 The Army charges 14 officers with suppression of facts in the My Lai massacre case.
1972 Nixon asks Congress to halt busing in order to achieve desegregation.
1973 Twenty are killed in Cambodia when a bomb goes off that was meant for the Cambodian President Lon Nol.
1973 First POWs are released from the "Hanoi Hilton" in Hanoi, North Vietnam.
1985 President Ronald Reagan agrees to a joint study with Canada on acid rain.
1992 White South Africans approve constitutional reforms giving legal equality to blacks.

Non Sequitur


The Internet Is a Cesspool and You’re the Victim

The Internet a very special - and fragile - resource, and at some point humans will "consume" 100 percent of its capacity…
Internet connection 
Hardin (1968), in his article, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” examined the impact and morality of self interest acting upon shared resources. These shared resources (i.e. the commons), might be, as it was for Hardin, the Earth’s natural resources, but they could also be applied to the artificial collection of natural resources we think of as the Internet. Because its infrastructure is finite, the Internet, like the natural resources provided by the Earth, is a finite resource, and at some point humans will “consume” 100 percent of its capacity (Greenemeier, 2013). This makes the Internet a very special – and fragile – resource.
To paraphrase Hardin (1968), in a finite world, this means that the per capita share of the Internet’s resources must steadily decrease. The inference to be made is that each person who uses the commons affects not only herself, but everyone (i.e. society). In economics, this cause and effect principle is expressed in reference to “externalities,” that is, that parties not privy to the decisions or actions of others will be affected by those actions in terms of either benefit or cost, that is, in positive or negative externalities (Anderson & Moore, 2006).
It is the negative externalities that concern us here; that malicious Internet traffic is a danger is not debated, though the extent of that danger is (Anderson & Fuloria (2009). Likewise, though the growing cost of malicious activity on the Internet is not debated (Cashell, Jackson, Jickling, & Webel, 2004), an equally heated debate centers around the question of liability for that malicious traffic and its negative externalities.
The Internet is a complex organism that poses difficult questions, and it is no wonder that the search for answers has over time demanded a multidisciplinary approach. It has been argued that cybersecurity is not only an economic but a technical issue (Mead, 2004), and Anderson (2009) emphasized the origins of cybersecurity as purely technological and mathematic. Hardin (1968) maintained that to some problems there are no technical solutions. But if technology is not the answer to protecting the Internet and its users, then what is? Moore (2010), on the other hand, has argued that because economics are so central to cybersecurity, that policy and legislation are the means to incentivize a solution. Even so, Rubens & Morse (2013 p. 183) caution that legislation addressing liability “has not always been well-received or fully understood.”
Anderson & Fuloria (2009) also pointed to an emerging consensus that security economics rather than technology, better protects infrastructure, while Hardin (1968) argued instead to an extension of morality for the necessary solutions. To take the analogy further, it is immoral, given the declining resources of the Internet, to use it as a “cesspool” (Hardin, 1968, p. 1245). Morality, argues Hardin, is “system-sensitive,” and we have developed administrative law to deal with ambiguities and specifics, but administrative law is itself prone to corruption and produces a government not of laws but of men, and Hardin asks, “Who shall watch the watchers themselves?” (Hardin, 1968, p. 1245-46). The recent revelation of the lawlessness of the NSA seems to be a case in point (Witte, 2014).
Where Does Liability Lie?
We live in a world where Internet access is increasingly seen as a human right, and a 2011 United Nations report stated just that (LaRue, 2011), repeating on a global scale an assertion first made in tiny Estonia in 2000 (Woodard, 2003). It is easy to commit crimes on the Internet; most malware is undetected (Moore & Anderson, 2009) and most cyber-criminals also escape detection, let alone punishment (Brenner, 2010). Understandably, as Anderson & Fuloria (2009, p. 8) say, “security is hard.” Harder still is determining where responsibility for that security lay. Software developers knowingly make available to the public vulnerable software and worry about fixing these vulnerabilities post-release. Of course, vulnerabilities can also arise from insecure networks, lax security policies, back doors, and through other causes and the argument has been made that liability exists for insecure networks as well as for insecure software (Mead, 2004). Who is liable for malicious traffic on the World Wide Web, or, in Hardin’s terms, for turning the Internet into a cesspool?
A simple answer is that security depends on many and therefore many are liable for that security, which is, after all, only as strong as its weakest link. Whereas in an enterprise network the weakest link is liable to be an employee, in the overall scope of cybersecurity, that weak link might as easily be an entity composed of many people, a dearth of sound cybersecurity policies and procedures, or a absence of or struggle over regulatory standards and laws (Anderson & Moore, 2006).
Nobody in the private sector seems eager to take responsibility for the Internet they all profit from as each blames the other, and Anderson & Fuloria (2009) rightly stress the relative powerlessness of end users, especially in the mobile phone and PC markets (industries have somewhat more clout). This is hardly a productive course when it is considered that large-scale failings of cybersecurity can shake a nation’s – or the world’s – economy, and an argument can be made for government intervention (Anderson & Fuloria, 2009).
While in the private sector responsibility seems to roll down hill, all the way to the end user or consumer, President Obama’s May 2009 decision to make the United States’ digital infrastructure a strategic national asset heightens the federal role (and that of local and state governments) in cybersecurity (White House, 2009). While promising not to interfere in the private sector’s response to cybersecurity threats in terms of standards, the president stressed closer cooperation between public and private sector. This address was, in effect, an acceptance of responsibility by government for the security of America’s information and communication networks.
All society bears the cost of infrastructure attacks but only a few can impact the security of these systems, including the public and private sectors and the people who make the computers and the software that runs them, including the operating systems. A great deal of debate has centered around the assignment of blame, whether it be internet service providers (ISPs), software developers (the people who design, write, and test the software), operating system (OS) developers (the people who develop the software required for applications to run), or end users (the people who actually use the software or operating systems in question). All of these can affect cybersecurity, but not equally. Moore & Anderson (2009) have made the point that everyone who connects an infected computer to the internet creates a negative externality, but at the same time, an end user is generally only able to use operating systems or software programs others have designed. She thus lacks the expertise to make changes to it (for good or ill) and thus bears the external cost or benefit of decisions made by the industries that make her Internet activity possible.
The Lament of the End User
The end user, while complicit, is at the bottom of the externality food chain. Lichtman (2004) has pointed out that end users who inadvertently propagate malicious software are easy to track down and suggested that they could pay their fare share for the damage done, but these people are, more often than not, unwitting victims, not criminals, and as he himself admitted, they lack the requisite sophistication to be malicious users.
To better illustrate the lackadaisical approach of ISPs, consider at the 2010 move by the Australian Internet Industry Association (IIA) to come out with a voluntary code of conduct recognizing a shared responsibility for cybersecurity by ISPs and consumers (Industry code, n.d.). But such actions, being completely voluntary, push ISPs to punish the consumer without holding the ISP accountable or providing incentive for ISPs to clean up their networks. Should they be punished then for the malicious activities of others because they are easier to catch? That is what the Australian IIA’s solution seems to suggest.
Lichtman (2004) suggested that the only practical reason to not hold these end users accountable is the issue of cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, he argued, ISPs re well-placed to counter the quantity and effectiveness of attacks and that indirect liability would force them to act appropriately (Lichtman, 2004). The problem for the end user is proving that they are not to blame for their own problems – Lichtman’s lack of sophistication and Brenner’s “sloppy online behavior” (Lichtman, 2004; Brenner, 2010, p. 34). But how realistic is it to blame the end user, who is ultimately caught between sophisticated criminals and software developers, ISPs, and operating system developers who know better but who, for a variety of reasons, don’t care?
That there is injustice in the system cannot be denied, and we might ask if Hardin (1968, p. 1247) is right in his assertion that “Injustice is preferable to total ruin.” As long as the dangers continue to be debated, software developers, operating system developers, and ISPs will continue to shy away from talk of total ruin. They are making money, after all, and as has been shown here, they have no incentive to make wholesale changes to how they do business. As has been shown here, those responsible for defending the Internet disclaim any responsibility for the failure of those defenses and spread the cost to society instead (Moore, 2010). We cannot expect them to voluntarily bear that burden: self-regulation is an oxymoron.
There is plenty of blame to go around, and it is clear that the Internet security situation as it stands now cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. Passing the buck is not a substitute for actual solutions, as it does nothing to make the Internet safe. Disclaimers may (for now) protect corporations, but they do not protect the commons we all depend upon. Needless to say, as long as the Internet is unsafe, not only are individuals, end users and consumers, at risk, but so are corporations, vital infrastructure, and even national security. No matter how strident the protest, somebody must be held liable for the cesspool our information networks have become.
It is clear that the major players in this regard are the industries best placed to secure the Internet: the operating system developers, software developers, and ISPs, rather than the end user, who is least able to affect the safety of the products they use (Ryan, 2003). Security, like blame, rolls downhill. Security at the top will mean security at the bottom, at the level of the end user. This is not to excuse the end user, who also bears responsibility for connecting an infected computer to the Internet, but in aggregate, the weight of responsibility must lie with those with the resources to combat the problem, and that means the public and private sectors.
It has been argued that three factors drive change in the U.S.: liability, the demands of the market, and government regulation (Brenner, 2010). Mead (2004) stresses that a uniform approach to the problem of liability is itself problematic, and this, as Moore (2010) has argued, is a problem that can only be corrected through legislation. Ryan (2003) went further, pointing to the threat to the country itself, its infrastructure and economic well-being, as reason enough to legislate software liability. In speaking of liability, it is a simple fact that the government, or a single corporation, let alone an entire industry, can far more greatly affect externalities than a single end user, and here, the legal concept of downstream liability, where the source is upstream of the recipient, must not be ignored (Hallberg, Kabay, Robertson, & Hutt, 2009). The upstream waters are best patrolled by those with the resources to do so.
Based on the foregoing, it would argue be reasonable to argue for a mixed system of regulation and incentives. Regulation itself must encourage incentives while not discouraging innovation, requiring a careful balance of the two. The federal government has the most power to affect change, not based simply on the power to regulate, but on purchasing power. One might argue that banning USB devices from federal workplaces would hurt memory stick manufacturers financially, but such a move would also create an incentive for the industry to improve the security of such devices, thus driving change without the need for regulation.
The public, as has been argued, may lack sophistication but the federal government is another entity altogether. The public may buy what is there without a complete understanding of what they are getting in terms of positive and negative externalities (and indeed, they have little control over it), but the federal government, through its purchasing power, can mitigate against hardware and software that generate those negative externalities. Simply regulating itself would, by virtue of this buying power, serve to (at least in part) regulate the software industry. What incentive cannot be created through non-regulatory means must, of necessity, be created through regulation. There is no more reason to suppose these industries will voluntarily regulate themselves than is Wall Street.

FBI recommended felony counts against Joe Arpaio's cronies

The FBI has turned over a redacted set of documents from its investigative archives related to Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious strong-man whose antics have cost the taxpayers millions in civil suit settlements for actions ranging from racial profiling to stealing a defendant's paperwork in open court to arresting newspaper owners who refused to turn over readers' identities to torching a house and killing a puppy in the process of investigating traffic citations. The FBI archives, which go back to 2008, reveal that the Bureau recommended that some or all of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio and his officers be indicted for felony counts of "obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion." This recommendation was ignored by federal prosecutors, who concluded that there was not enough evidence to proceed.
County officials who tried to rein in Arpaio have had their offices swept for bugs, believing that Arpaio's regime engages in dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping against local politicians that are hostile to his tactics. Arpaio's office filed several charges against hostile local politicians, none of which led to convictions (by contrast, Arpaio's friendly county attorney Andrew Thomas was unable to get reelected and was eventually barred from practicing law altogether).
Arpaio's bid to quash the FBI investigation and his campaign against local politicians have cost Arizona taxpayers over $44M to date.
Due to redactions, it is impossible to ascertain from the FBI records how many county law-enforcement officials were referred for criminal charges, who they were, or what conduct was considered unlawful.
“They should’ve indicted them all,” said former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, who was among the public officials accused of illegal conduct by Arpaio and Thomas. “I had no way of knowing why they (federal officials) chose not to prosecute. But I think they ... didn’t want to expend the resources and they were afraid they’d lose it because of the popularity of the sheriff.”
The FBI’s abuse-of-power investigation was launched in 2008 at the outset of a vitriolic political war pitting Arpaio and Thomas against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the county judiciary.
County officials swept their offices, suspecting illegal wiretaps. Some said they were followed by sheriff’s deputies. Others refused to talk on their phones, fearing they were bugged. After county law enforcement’s first case against Stapley fell apart, he was arrested without a warrant based on allegations he committed mortgage and campaign fraud. The case eventually was tossed.

Man facing jail after stealing penny farthing to get home

A man is facing jail for stealing a penny-farthing so he could ride the 14 miles home after a drunken day out.
Robert Bastin, 20, took the bicycle from a garden in Honiton, Devon, from where he rode home to Exeter. He then tried to sell the penny-farthing for £350 on eBay, but it was bought by police who were looking out for it.
Bastin, an unemployed laborer, stole the bike after he had enjoyed Christmas Day drinks with his brother and realized he had no means of getting home, Exeter magistrates heard. He admitted stealing the bicycle. He will be sentenced next month.
Defense lawyer Peter Woodley told a court on Wednesday:"He was trying to get home. He had had a Christmas Day drink with his brother and it looked like a good idea."

Did you know ...

That NBC is considering dropping David Gregory from 'meet the press'

That a study shows sexually aggressive men don't misread signals, they ignore them

That the pope gets his own fan magazine

How about let's make gun owners responsible for their guns

About the doomsday cult of bitcoin

These 10 things they won't tell you about money in politics

That McDonalds admits strikes have hurt them, may have to raise wages

Joe Biden is No Dick Cheney, U.S. Stands with Sovereign Ukraine

In a strong departure from the shrub era, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged Ukraine's sovereignty and pledged the United States' support.…

Naming Legislative South Carolina Anti-First Amendment Names

There are times when I can be a be-laborer. This is one of those times. But it’s for a good cause. The cause is furthering your understanding of the insidious ways of red state legislatures. I’m going to take you deep inside the red state South Carolina House and examine what makes bible-thumping office- holding homophobes tick.
In late February, I wrote a piece about the symbolic book-burning taking place in the South Carolina legislature when it was suggested by that repugican-dominated body that two state institutions of higher learning, the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate be punished for daring to expose Freshman students to the highly negative societal effects of homophobia on gay men and lesbians. Incoming students were given reading assignments, followed by the opportunity to actually talk with gays about what it’s like to carry the stigma of being different. The book assigned to College of Charleston students, “Fun Home” was not even mandatory reading; options could be selected. The USC Upstate book was titled “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.” It was the intention of this university that students attend meetings and learn of the tribulations of being gay.
The costs of the assigned books were a little over $17,000 at USC Upstate and an even $52,000 at the College of Charleston. The repugican legislators demanded that those totals be stripped from the funding for the respective campuses. As a consequence, the few remaining non gay-bashing legislators in the state capital of Columbia (read Democrats), used the House Budget bill, HR 4701 as a platform to introduce 4 amendments to give the campuses a break and restore the cut. All amendments were tabled by similar votes. A ‘Yea’ vote favored the tabling.
I’m going to give you access to the names of those voting to trash one of the amendments, essentially, the same names that approved the tabling of all the amendments. Here’s the exact wording of the one we’ll be looking at, amendment 47 of H 4701 as it applied to the USC Upstate funding: “Rep. James E. Smith proposes the following Amendment No. 47 to H.4701 as introduced by Ways & Means
EXPLANATION: Adding back the $17,142 other fund adjustment for the other fund authorization
Amend the bill, as and if amended, Part IA, Section 20c, USC – UPSTATE, page 62, line 11, opposite /Other Operating Expenses/ by increasing the amount(s) in Column 3 by $17,142.”
Renumber sections to conform.
Amend totals and titles to conform.
That’s the legalese of amendment 47; Smith’s effort that didn’t have a “prayer.” The vote to table the Smith attempt to restore funding was an overwhelming 71 Yeas (to table) to 40 Nays. I went through each affirmative vote. There were 70 Republican approvals joined by one troubled Democrat, Ted Vick. Here’s a mid-May, 2013 HuffPost account of Vick’s drinking problems. The Nay side of the ledger included a single Republican, Doug Brannon, who switched parties to get elected from the blood-red Upstate.
My intention here is to give the active “Yea” homophobes full credit. Here’s where you can find their names. Here’s where you can learn all about them. Click on their name for details.
Here are some mini-profiles of key first amendment rejecters. Liston Barfield is huge in ALEC; a state chairman no less. Task force member, Garry Smith is another one. I’ve already written about him. Phillip “Phil” Owens is, sadly, the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee. Odd role for somebody that decides what books make the cut in higher education. Phil’s a big bank and chamber guy and I’m sure now feels more comfortable that his religion of choice, Methodist, gave that preacher dad of a gay young man the boot for officiating at the minister’s son’s wedding to his partner. We could have expected no less from Phil that he’s enthusiastically reject a forgiving amendment.
J. Derham Cole Jr. hates them thar’ gay books as well. He also sits by and twiddles his thumbs as the representative for district 32. His constituents, victims of the brutally toxic byproducts of numerous intrusive polymer plants, are picking up various cancers like summer mosquito bites. Keep twiddling Jr. My entreaties to some accomplished Democratic residents to run against you have fallen on deaf ears. So both parties twiddle while Cannon’s Campground in Spartanburg burns.
You can’t fault Wendy Nanney for voting to table a free-speech amendment. She learned from the best of ‘em at the Cray Bob Jones University, home of rampant racism, bans on interracial dating until 2000, teaching creationism to college students, hating catholics to the point of calling their cult a cult by many derogatory names and, as always happens with hypocrites, finding themselves in hot water over some sleazy sex scandal. So, yeah, her Alma Mater must be mighty proud of her bigoted vote.
BJU (odd initials, eh?) sexual allegations are extremely serious, going back to young children who might have attended one or more of the four Bob Jones schools besides the University located at the Wade Hampton address in Greenville. These would possibly include Bob Jones Elementary, Bob Jones Academy and another grade school. It’s a real maze figuring out what grades are located in what building as there is duplication.
Many alleged abuses were not reported until college. BJU counselors advised silence lest the victim “damage the cause of christ.” I have no response that could be reprinted here.
I don’t know the exact ALEC membership count of the aforementioned legislative gay-bashers, but here’s some wonderful intelligence that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter collected on ALEC. The documents come from the organization, itself. Click here and you’ll learn that despite a rash of national Democratic resignations from ALEC (Vick was one of them) that South Carolina still has some 65 ALEC legislative members skulking around the premises clutching the latest ALEC model-legislation. That’s 38% of the total members of the General Assembly. South Dakota boosts a 100% count, meaning that members of that body do nothing important, ever, for their constituents that isn’t ALEC-influenced. And this is democracy? An estimated quarter of all state legislators are connected to ALEC. That’s obscene! At the site scroll down to page 39 for state membership info.
I’m ashamed of our modern-day political climate and know exactly what Michelle Obama meant when she told a Milwaukee audience a half-dozen years ago, “For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” If I may paraphrase: “For the first time in my adult life I am disgusted at what this country has become because of a segment of pseudo-christians who spend their waking hours doing nothing but bowing to billionaire commands and hating blacks, Hispanics, Democrats, unions and, most especially, gays.”
There is no comeback, Madam First Lady and if Democrats choose to stay home for yet another election, there won’t be for a generation or so.

Hey, Wingnuts! Are You Winning or Losing?

Progressives have had a lot of sport recently contrasting wingnut attacks on Barack Obama as a vicious law-breaking tyrant in domestic affairs with their simultaneous attacks on him as a weak, trembling figure on the world scene. How could Vladimir Putin fail to notice that Obama has struck so much fear into the hearts of his enemies at home, who are cowering in their homes awaiting assaults from IRS agents and affianced gay people? Hard to say.
But wingnut self-contradiction about Obama's spine reflects a much broader and deeper ambivalence about whether they are winning or losing the great battle for America's culture and political system.
We have certainly come a long way from the '70s, when Nixon and Agnew boasted of support from a "Silent Majority," or the '80s, when a "Moral Majority" helped Ronald Reagan steal two consecutive terms and also "win" (with an assist from Pope John Paul II) the Cold War. You could argue that conservative self-confidence persisted into the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was accused of winning by "stealing our ideas," and the long economic boom was credited by the wingnuts to Reagan's policies. And the "our side's winning" claim definitely persisted through 2004, when the Iraq "victory" was often treated as a huge transition point in U.S. and world politics and Karl Rove dreamed of a permanent repugican cabal majority.
Since then, however, wingnut self-confidence has regularly alternated or even coincided with defeatism and paranoia. There's always been an undertone of cultural despair in the post-moral minority christian lunatics, where the legalized-abortion "regime" that has prevailed since Roe v. Wade occasionally tempts wingnuts to compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany or the antebellum South. And even in times of wingnut political ascendancy, claims that the Judiciary or academic elites were thwarting the achievement of wingnut policy goals have been very common.

Erratic House repugicans Have Officially Lost It On Obamacare

What do House repugicans want to do with Obamacare? Depends on the day..
Last week, they passed a repeal of the law's individual mandate, pure political showmanship that appealed to the right-wing base that hasn't given up the dream of fully repealing the law.
But Tuesday they're expected to pass three minor tweaks to the law, with Democratic support -- a rare bit of actual governing for the House when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.
Hold on, though. They're not done yet.
Later this week they'll hold payments to doctors under Medicare hostage unless Democrats agree to delay Obamacare's individual mandate to buy health insurance, a non-starter with the Democratic Senate and the White House.
If your head's spinning, that's life for House repugicans and the health care reform law. They're all over the place.

Huge Victory for Democrats as Senate repugicans Cave on Unemployment Benefits

Democrats scored a huge victory by getting Senate repugicans to cave on unemployment benefits that are paid for in part by effectively raising taxes on corporations.…
reid obama
Democrats scored a huge victory on President Obama’s agenda by getting Senate repugicans to cave on unemployment benefits that are paid for in part by effectively raising taxes on corporations. But heck, they’re paid for and that’s what repugicans said they wanted.
After the Senate reached a “bipartisan” deal to renew federal unemployment benefits to the more than two million Americans Thursday afternoon, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) urged House Republicans to follow the bipartisan path and do the right thing. The repugicans have already thrown 2 million off of unemployment benefits since December 28.
Levin focused on the responsibility to act, “The bipartisan Senate legislation on unemployment insurance is a major step forward for millions of job-seeking Americans. I urge repugicans in the House to follow this bipartisan path to assist the unemployed who have been without federal assistance since Dec. 28th. The need is urgent, as is our responsibility to act.”
The measure will extend benefits for five months and backdates the extension to December 28, 2013 when benefits expired, so that people who were kicked off of their benefits will be eligible for retroactive payments. While the push to reinstate long term emergency unemployment benefits came from Democrats, NBC News reported that repugican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters that the deal has enough repugican support, and she pointed out that the aid would be “paid for.”
This means that the measure has enough repugicans to overcome the 60 vote bar that wingnut repugicans were hoping would stop it. This is bad news for House Speaker John Boehner (r-OH), who probably doesn’t want to have to explain in an election year why his House is tossing 2 million to the curb. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the benefits for another year would save 200,000 jobs, so it’s not just the jobless who benefit. Unemployment benefits during a recession also help the economy.
It’s toss the people to the curb or Boehner goes rogue again and works with Democrats to do what his party must do in order to avoid being defined as the party that holds the people in contempt. The measure will probably not be voted on in the Senate until late March, giving Boehner some time.
Even though the benefits are paid for, House repugicans will probably try to claim it isn’t paid for, and that will be due to them having issue with how it’s paid for.
The extension is paid for in part via alteration to the way corporations deal with pensions, and as the AP put it, “in effect increasing their taxes.” As you all know, whenever corporations are involved, repugicans do the Koch Puppet dance. Translation, if it raises taxes on corporations, it ain’t happening in this House, where raising costs due to “austerity” is reserved for the people.
The AP also points out that the agreement ends jobless payments for those earning over $1 million. The repugicans would rather try to make a “moral” argument for denying food to starving children than take a penny away from a millionaire, so it looks like poor John Boehner will be stuck between the tea and an election.
Unless of course John Boehner goes rogue again. And then anything is possible. Either way, this is a huge victory for Democrats. Now we need that victory to translate into a victory for the people, but for that, we need John Boehner to go rogue.

With A Swoop of His Pen Obama Makes Millions Workers Eligible For Overtime Pay

President Obama stood up for 135 million American workers today by using his pen and power make sure that workers get paid for all of the hours that they put in.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: For more than 75 years, the 40-hour workweek and the overtime that comes with it have helped countless workers like Nancy get ahead. And it means that when she’s asked to makes significant sacrifices on behalf of her company — which she’s happy to do — they’re also looking out for her, recognizing that that puts a strain on her family and — having to get a babysitter and all kinds of things, adjustments that she has to make. It’s just fair. It’s just the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, today, millions of Americans aren’t getting the extra pay they deserve. That’s because an exception that was originally meant for high-paid, white-collar employees now covers workers earning as little as $23,660 a year. So if you’re making $23,000, typically, you’re not high in management. If your salary is even a dollar above the current threshold, you may not be guaranteed overtime. It doesn’t matter if what you do is mostly physical work like stocking shelves, it doesn’t matter if you’re working 50 or 60 or 70 hours a week — your employer doesn’t have to pay you a single extra dime.
And I think that’s wrong. It doesn’t make sense that in some cases this rule actually makes it possible for salaried workers to be paid less than the minimum wage. It’s not right when business owners who treat their employees fairly can be undercut by competitors who aren’t treating their employees right. If you’re working hard, you’re barely making ends meet, you should be paid overtime. Period. Because working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long.
Every day, I get letters from folks who just feel like they’re treading water. No matter how hard they’re working — they’re putting in long hours, they’re working harder and harder just to get by, but it’s always, at the end of the month, real tight. Workers like the ones with me here today, they want to work hard. They don’t expect a free lunch and they don’t expect to be fabulously wealthy, they just want a chance to get ahead.
So today, I’m taking action to help give more workers that chance. I’m directing Tom Perez, my Secretary of Labor, to restore the common-sense principle behind overtime: If you go above and beyond to help your employer and your economy succeed, then you should share a little bit in that success. And this is going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, from managers in fast food and retail to office workers, cargo inspectors.
And we’re going to do this the right way — we’re going to consult with both workers and businesses as we update our overtime rules. We’re going to work to simplify the system to it’s easier for employers and employees alike. With any kind of change like this, not everybody is going to be happy, but Americans have spent too long working more and getting less in return.
So wherever and whenever I can make sure that our economy rewards hard work and responsibility, that it makes sure that it’s treating fairly the workers who are out there building this economy every day, that’s what I’m going to do. What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, experience a little bit of economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. That’s what I’m going to be fighting for as long as I’m President of the United States.
The memo that President Obama signed  will offer overtime pay protections to 135 million workers. This change was long overdue, as corporate giants like Walmart have been abusing the system for years, and cost workers millions of dollars in lost overtime wages.
This is a common sense modernization of regulations that will help the people who need it most. Low wage workers who have found themselves classified as management and working for less than the minimum wage.
People who work hard every day deserve to be compensated for the hours that they work. It is a matter of economic fairness, and common sense.
The president is responsible for implementing regulations. The memo that he signed today was well within his power to update regulations.
The repugicans will consider this another dictatorial move by the president, but in reality Obama is making sure that millions of workers get the compensation that they are entitled to.

The repugicans Dream of a Nation of Wage Slaves After Obama Changes Overtime Pay Rules

The repugicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wingnut delusional belief tanks, and corporations railed at the President's action taken to make more workers eligible for overtime pay.… 
 Wage Slavery
The term wage slavery is often used to criticize economic exploitation defined as workers lacking bargaining power with employers that amounts to quasi-voluntary slavery where survival is totally and immediately dependent on poverty wages, such as in sweatshops. The repugicans completely support wage slavery and returning to pre-New Deal workers’ rights they have spent the past four years promoting by opposing every initiative aimed at relieving the suffering of low-wage Americans whether it is opposing unemployment benefits, workplace protections, blocking a minimum wage increase, destroying unions, or any one of the myriad other barbaric attacks on poverty-wage working families. However, they have advanced the interests of the rich whom have increased their wealth incredibly and it has come at the expense of low-wage employees and the middle class repugicans regard as chattel for their plutocratic paymasters.
President Obama’s executive memorandum to expand opportunities for overtime pay certainly seemed like a winning situation that few Americans would criticize. Currently, a “salaried” worker earning more than $23,000 annually cannot receive overtime pay regardless the number of hours they work. The President’s order simply raised the cap and made it more difficult for predatory employers to classify workers with no supervisory duties as “supervisors” and exempt from receiving overtime pay. Under the new proposal, workers currently being forced to work overtime without pay will now get higher wages, or if their employer opposes paying the traditional overtime rate would have to expand their workforce and create more jobs. repugicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wingnut delusional belief tanks, and corporations railed at the President’s action and, speaking for the slave wage cabal, John Boehner said, “The president’s policies are making it difficult for employers to expand employment. And until the president’s policies get out of the way, employers are going to continue to sit on their hands.”
The former chief economic adviser to Vice President Biden and the former executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, embraced the President’s move and said, “I think the intent of the rule change is to make sure that people working overtime are fairly treated. I think a potential side effect is that you may see more hiring in order to avoid overtime costs, which would be an awfully good thing right about now.” Another “awfully good thing right about now” is putting more money in the pockets of the working class that is the most effective method of stimulating the economy, and it will combat a major cause of rising income inequality; rising productivity and declining wages. For decades since labor reforms of the New Deal era, wages grew  with high productivity that began going in opposite directions during the Reagan era at the same time income inequality began rising. The repugicans want desperately to return to pre-labor reforms when businesses engaged in wage slavery.
The automatic outrage by repugicans in response to the President’s directive dismisses the benefits to the workforce and economic growth while fabricating problems that are without basis or facts. It is a typically repugican response that reveals their sole purpose for serving in Congress is advocating on behalf of the wealthy elite and their corporations who oppose any measures that benefit 98% of the population. A telling response to the President’s action was courtesy of Stuart Varney on Faux News where he asserted the President’s executive order will make workers greedy and is unfair to companies who cannot force their employees to work for free. He said, “In the earlier days of Google, they had all kinds of youngsters who would work day and night. Now if you bring this in, those workers will be on the clock,” and instead of working all night for free “they’ll be saying, Oh, I just exceeded my 40 hours, I’m due overtime.” The repugicans support employers forcing their employees to work for free and it is a policy they have yearned for over the past 70-plus years that destroying workers’ rights gains of the Progressive movement of the 30′s and New Deal era became their dream.
The repugicans deny that government-imposed worker rights created the greatest economic boom and the biggest middle class in history, and are determined to abolish the 40-hour work week, weekends, vacations, child labor laws, minimum wage, Social Security, as well as health and safety protections. All of those worker rights protected the labor force from wage slavery and predatory employers - repugicans are now fighting for to bring back wage-free ceaseless labor. The economic studies director at the Cato Institute, Jeffrey Miron, is an avid supporter of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and Chamber of Commerce business model that believeThe federal government, in particular, shouldn’t be involved in labor markets in any way, shape or form.”
Americans should be well aware that Cato’s once-radical point of view is now the mainstream repugican agenda that newly anointed “friend-of-the-poor” Paul Ryan represents by opposing any form of minimum wage increase as an affront to “job creators” that destroys the “dignity of working” for slave wages. In fact, there is a concerted effort by repugicans who contend the path to prosperity is dependent on abolishing the minimum wage whether it is Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander or Texas Governor Rick Perry and his Texas ally Representative Joe Barton. The repugican Senate candidates in North Carolina and Iowa have made abolishing the minimum wage a pillar of their campaigns and with Koch money buying their Senate seats, it is a just a matter of time before all Americans will be earning slave wages if they are paid at all.
Americans have witnessed blatant repugican hypocrisy over the past month they put on display again by making deceitful arguments against the President’s proposed changes even though they supported the shrub when he did the precisely the same thing. In 2004 the shrub updated overtime rules by raising the minimum threshold from $250.00 per week to $455.00, and the President’s actions were long overdue given the current economy, income inequality, inflation, and cost of living increases. However, what was beneficial for workers and economic growth ten years ago under a white guy in the White House with a repugican Congress is suddenly an attack on business and economic destruction by an overreaching Black man in the Oval Office. The repugicans portray President Obama’s executive order to help workers and the economy as destroying America, but when the white president unilaterally expanded rules for overtime pay it was beneficial and right. When the Black President does it he is a radical tyrant and unconstitutionally overreaching imperial President bordering on treason for protecting workers from predatory employers that have been forcing employees to work for free.
Under the current system, employers have enjoyed forcing salaried employees earning poverty wages to work for free which is the repugican idea of the perfect minimum wage. Slave owners in the Confederacy also believed working for free was an ideal minimum wage and they fought as hard as repugicans pushing wage slavery to perpetuate their workforce’s labor for sheer survival. Any American who thinks repugicans will never go so far as to abolish the minimum wage should remember it has only been a few months since House repugicans voted to abolish overtime pay, and if they think for one second the repugican cabal will stop there they have either not been paying attention or are part of the 1% fighting against labor. However, they will likely figure it out when they earn $1 an hour at an 80-hour work-week job with no lunch break, workplace safety protections, weekends, and a toilet facility comprising a bucket they will be forced to empty after their 18-hour shift ends and not be paid.

Fast-food workers sue McDonald's for wage theft

Fast-food workers from three states are suing McDonald's, claiming a variety of wage theft practices, including forcing workers to clock out but remain at work, docking pay to purchase company-required uniforms and stiffing employees on overtime.Two dozen McDonald's workers are named plaintiffs in the six lawsuits filed Wednesday and Thursday in Michigan, California and New York. But if the courts grant the suits class action status, tens of thousands more workers could join.
“Our clients are among the most economically vulnerable, and they work for a company that earned more than $5 billion in profits,” said Joe Sellers, an attorney who filed the suits in New York and California.
“We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits," said McDonald's spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem in a statement. "McDonald’s and our independent franchisees are committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations.”
The class action suits name both McDonald's the corporation and specific franchise owners. About 90 percent of U.S. McDonald's stores are franchise owned.
The suits follow a year of fast-food worker protests and strikes in New York City and several other cities, where workers demanded a $15 minimum wage. Fast-food and other low-wage jobs have been growing more rapidly than middle-wage jobs since 2008, adding fuel to a national debate about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the country. President Barack Obama has said he wants to raise the federal wage higher than its current $7.25, but for now has settled for raising the federal contractor minimum wage to $10.10, which does not require congressional action. The president is asking the Labor Department to crack down on overtime abuses.
Workers in Michigan’s McDonald's franchises said their paychecks were docked for mandatory uniforms, which lowered their pay below minimum wage. A similar suit filed in New York Thursday says workers’ uniform cleaning fees make their wages illegally low.
"With $28 billion in revenue in 2013 alone, McDonald’s can certainly afford to provide its minimum-wage workers with this money to clean their uniforms, as required by law, instead of making them pay for the privilege of wearing McDonald’s advertising," Jim Reif, the attorney who filed the New York suit, said in a statement.
Other Michigan workers said they were forced to wait for stores to get busy before they were allowed to clock in at the beginning of their shifts. Special McDonald's software monitors when labor costs are exceeding revenue in each store. Workers said when the software alerted owners that revenue was dipping, they were forced to wait for business to pick up before being allowed to clock in. Workers were not compensated for the wait time.
Three in four low-wage workers say they have been asked to work off the clock without pay and have not been paid overtime wages, according to a survey by the advocacy group the National Employment Law Project. The average low-wage worker loses $2,600 per year due to illegal wage theft, according to the survey.

Random Photos

The Majestic Beauty of Quebec City’s Ice Hotel

L’Hôtel de glace near Quebec City is made entirely of ice and snow! The Ice Hotel is only open three months out of the year, and must be rebuilt every winter. And it has been, since 2001. Yes, you can stay there, if you can get reservations and don’t chill easily. Even if you do, you can enjoy the beauty of this architectural wonder with an extensive gallery of photographs at Geeks Are Sexy.

Scientists Debunk the Myth that 10,000 Hours of Practice Makes You an Expert

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argued for what he calls the "10,000 Hour Rule." He said that one of the greatest contributors to success at a skill is 10,000 hours of practice. People develop great expertise in large part due to vast amounts of practice.
Gladwell may have been wrong or he may have overstated the importance of practice. According to an article written by 5 psychologists and published in the scholarly journal Intelligence, practice can only do so much to advance an individual's skill level. Douglas Main writes in Popular Science:
In the study, authors re-analyze scores of studies on elite chess players and musicians, but especially the former, since every player has an easily quantifiable numerical rating. They point out that there is enormous variation in how long it took for people to get to the level of a chess master. One player in a 2007 study, for example, "took 26 years of serious involvement in chess to reach a master level, while another player took less than 2 years to reach this level," they write. They conclude that practice can only explain one-third of the variation in sucess in chess and music, and probably other fields as well.
The evidence is "quite clear that some people do reach an elite level of performance without copious practice, while other people fail to do so despite copious practice," they write. They suggest that other factors together explain the lion's share of success (at least in these two most-studied areas), such as intelligence, starting age, personality, and other genetic factors.
This is especially true if you're playing a multi-class character.

Scientific Research Shows The Five Second Rule Is True

The five second rule is one of those schoolyard myths that seems to make no sense as you learn more about germs and bacteria, but as it turns out the playground talk was true- if you pick food up off the ground within five seconds it’s (relatively) safe to eat.
Students from Aston University in Birmingham, England, led by microbiology professor Anthony Hilton, conducted a study that focused on how E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus are transferred to many different foods from many different floor types.
They found that "time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food", meaning it often takes longer than five seconds for the bacteria to adhere to the food.
A note by Professor Hilton:
Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth.

Human Ancestor's Skeleton Dated to 3 Million Years

For more than a decade, anthropologists have debated the age of an Australopithecus fossil called 'Little Foot.'




A Tiny Island Claimed by Four Nations

Rockall is a tiny island—a rock, really—in the north Atlantic Ocean. Ireland, the UK, Denmark and Iceland all lay claim to it. For more than 60 years, those nations have been locked in a quiet struggle for possession of it. The island is a volcanic plug that is only 764 square meters in area. It would be almost impossible to settle. So you might think that this dispute would be a minor issue, but it’s not. That’s because international treaties give nations sovereign control over the use of waters and continental shelves off their coasts. What’s at stake in the Rockall dispute is not a bit of almost inaccessible land, but 422,000 square kilometers of water--and the apparently substantial natural gas resources beneath the ocean floor.
In 1810, Britain attempted to lay the first claim with a Royal Navy expedition to the island. A similar 1955 expedition placed a plaque and the Union flag on the island and claimed it in the name of Queen Elizabeth II. An act of Parliament in 1972 affirmed the island’s legal status as far as the United Kingdom was concerned.
Irish sentiment on the subject can be summarized by the popular song “Rock on Rockall” by the band The Wolfe Tones. It’s embedded above. Here’s a selection of the lyrics:
Oh rock on Rockall, you'll never fall to Britain's greedy hands
Or you'll meet the same resistance that you did in many lands
May the seagulls rise and pluck your eyes and the water crush your shell,
And the natural gas will burn your ass and blow you all to hell.

So some Irishmen feel rather strongly about the issue. What precisely is the Irish claim to Rockall? That is more difficult for me to determine, but it appears that Ireland, Denmark and Iceland dispute the limits of their relative continental shelves. Each nation's claim overlaps with the others.

Do Neutrinos Change Flavor at Night?

A fascinating observation has been tentatively announced by scientists using the Japanese SuperKamiokande neutrino detector.

Astronomical News

The Milky Way and Andromeda are galactic King and Queen of the galactic Local Group -- but what does the structure of surrounding galaxies in our intergalactic realm tell us about galaxy evolution?
A new study comparing the accuracy of crater counting from thousands of volunteers with that of experts shows that crowdsourcing science works.

Daily Comic Relief


20 Interesting Facts To Better Know Your Betta

Initially discovered in Southeast Asia and originally inhabiting flood plains, drainage ditches and rice paddies, the beautifully colored Betta fish is often kept as an aesthetic decoration in homes and offices. Also known as the Siamese fighting fish, they are quite popular as aquarium pets, and require rather low maintenance and care.

Most people know very little about the nature and characteristic of these multi-colored fish. Here are 20 interesting facts about Betta fish that will make you love and appreciate them, and perhaps even want to own some of your own.

Rare false killer whale showing off Southern California allows for amazing encounters

Last confirmed sighting of sleek mammals in region was in 2001

false killer whale
A false killer whale trio swims alongside the Dana Pride out of Dana Wharf Whalewatch
A large pod of false killer whales passed through Southern California coastal waters last Wednesday and Thursday, for the first time since 2001 and for one of only a few times in the past 30 years.
The first sighting, by Capt. Mike Bursk of the Sea Explorer out of the Ocean Institute, was at about 11 a.m. Wednesday off Dana Point. The scattered pod of between 50 and 70 mammals traveled slowly to the north, and remained off northern Orange County overnight before slowly traveling south, and ultimately picking up speed and disappearing Thursday. Many were able to capture up-close images and produce videos, but the most amazing footage to emerge so far was captured by David Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari (posted below).
Captain Dave used a GoPro camera and managed, from his skiff, to not only capture close-ups of the false killer whales, but also vocalizations from the curious mammals, including one that seemed to be speaking to the camera. It’s one-of-a-kind footage, to be sure.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Anderson said. “I was sitting there for about five minutes and the whales came over and surrounded me. Their whistles were so loud I could hear them above the surface. I grabbed my GoPro and wasn’t even sure it was on and stuck it in the water. I was tempted to touch them but I didn’t want to disturb them. It was one of the most amazing encounters I’ve ever had with wild cetaceans.”
False killer whale
False killer whale breaches off San Clemente, alongside the Dana Pride
False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) do resemble killer whales only slightly in body shape. They’re all black and lack the white eye patches and gray saddles of killer whales. They do, however, share some of the same feeding habits (both are known to prey on other marine mammals) and social behavior. They grow to about 16 feet, about half the size of the largest killer whales, and are somewhat mysterious.
It’s unclear where the large pod came from, but it’s possible that it traveled up the coast from Mexico or Central America, where false killer whale populations exist. The water off Southern California is unseasonably warm, and that could help explain the extremely rare visit.
Here’s another quality video, courtesy of  Dana Wharf Whale Watch:

Pests ...

Pests do have a purpose, and it's not just to bother humans.

Weird Frog Discoveries

From birthing offspring in their stomach to finding a frog smaller than a dime, join Trace as he discusses three recent weird frog discoveries!