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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Daily Drift

Gun nuts amok ...!
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Today in History

1098 christian Crusaders of the First Crusade seize Antioch, Turkey.
1539 Hernando De Soto claims Florida for Spain.
1861 Union troops defeat Confederate forces at Philippi, in western Virginia
1864 Some 7,000 Union troops are killed within 30 minutes during the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia.
1888 The classic baseball poem "Casey at the Bat," written by Ernest L. Thayer, is published in the San Francisco Examiner.
1918 The Finnish Parliament ratifies a treaty with Germany.
1923 In Italy, dictator Benito Mussolini grants women the right to vote.
1928 Manchurian warlord Chian Tso-Lin dies as a result of a bomb blast set off by the Japanese.
1938 The German Third Reich votes to confiscate so-called "degenerate art."
1940 The German Luftwaffe hits Paris with 1,100 bombs.
1942 Japanese carrier-based planes strafe Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands as a diversion of the attack on Midway Island.
1952 A rebellion by North Korean prisoners in the Koje prison camp in South Korea is put down by American troops.
1965 Astronaut Edward White becomes the first American to walk in space when he exits the Gemini 4 space capsule.
1969 74 American sailors died when the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans was cut in two by an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
1974 Charles Colson, an aide to President Richard Nixon, pleads guilty to obstruction of justice.
1989 The Chinese government begins its crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Hundreds are killed and thousands are arrested.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

That Comcast plans data caps for all customers in five years
About how gun nut extremists target women
That Germany generates a record-setting 74% in renewable energy
That the repugican cabal has lowest approval rating ever going into the next election
That here's what Colorado looks like after marijuana legalization
About how wage theft goes unchecked
Is prison industry: big business or slavery?
And behold, Pinocchio rex!
Will American pot farmers put the cartels out of business?
About how the purity myth perpetuates rape culture
About the 9 most influential works of scientific racism, ranked
About why essentials have gotten more expensive while toys have gotten cheaper
That the nutritionists' annual conference catered by McDonalds
That homeschooling is just plain creepy
Just why is the NRA afraid of studies on gun violence?
Just what language does your state speak?

The Quartet That’s Most Responsible for America’s Decline

koch rove

The four most despicable and repugnant Americans are Charles and David Koch, Karl Rove and the occupying army of corporate tarts constituting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This unholy quartet will be responsible for the deaths of probably hundreds of thousands (millions?) of more people than even the most pitiless of mass murderers. In a political sense, all are child abusers. Ever been around a dying child with deep respiratory distress brought on by pollution? These four share the blame.
Progressives who tune out the million-dollar mumblings of propaganda radio, TV, Websites and newspapers get it. Just enough of the citizenry doesn’t, and in the primary and general elections, tap the screen by names that will ruin their lives. The voter then goes home and wonders why he/she, with a PhD earns $23,000 a year as an adjunct professor or why Junior spends most of the day coughing up phlegm or why little Missy’s public school has a dozen less teachers this year.
On one level this quartet is to be acknowledged for recognizing early-on that roughly 30% (my guesstimate) of the U.S. population is vulnerable to strategies that tap into the refusal of this 30% to read anything that requires thought. It was Rove who initially advised the shrub to phony up a “born again” proclamation to further his chances for higher elective office. And, boy, tragically, did it ever work. Here’s that “born-again” christian who was the driving force (puppet would be more accurate) in taking Trillions out of the economy through absurd tax breaks for hugely wealthy millionaires and billionaires. It was the shrub who lied us into a war that claimed at least 4,500 American lives and you know those numbers are pure under-counted rubbish. Iraqi civilian casualties numbered anywhere from 100,000 to upwards of one million residents. The number of casualties grows to this day.
Ralph Nader recently scolded Mr. “born again” for apparently expressing no regret or remorse over the deaths of innocent Iraqis and the displacement of over 2 million men, women and children from their homes.
In addition to the blood lust of the shrub-type of christian, there’s the matter of man-made climate change and global warming. The world’s climate scientists agree, well into the 90 percentile, that man is at the core of a hotter planet, the implications being that within a relatively short period of time, earth may become essentially uninhabitable. The Progressive Magazine’s Nick Surgey has already written that if the current fossil fuel reserves are tapped by Koch-type corporations, our temperatures will relatively soon increase by 11 degrees, leaving earth, as described by Surgey, as being “a planet straight out of science fiction.
Let’s start our background with the Koch brothers. Charles, 78, is Chairman and CEO or Koch Industries, the parent company of a diverse family of mostly polluters. David is Executive Vice President at 74. Both hold master’s degrees from MIT. They’re not dumb, just sleazy. They’re one of the Teflon crowd with the money to get away with any corporate malfeasance you want to name. They will not pull even an overnight stint in jail for deeds that would get you put away for decades. Space does not allow for all of their immoral, unethical and illegal (for anybody else) misconduct. Website, ‘Oil Watchdog’, does a good job in listing just how dishonorable this duo has managed to be over the corporate life of Koch Industries up to 2010. It tells you all you need to know about the tea party as they enthusiastically slobber all over the Koch’s. Wonder how much money that took? One thing you must know is that money changes hands between the billionaire mentors and the so-called leaders of these “true believer” movements. Much of that money remains in the pockets of the leadership.
Here’s a wonderful piece from a site called “Damned Liberal.” Its operator is not a fan of either party, but is an even lesser fan of the Koch Brothers. The site features 55 minutes of a Koch expose’ from documentary master, Robert Greenwald. “Koch Brothers Exposed” is a journey from daddy’s exploitation of soviet oil to the inherited money allowing the Koch’s to do more harm to this country than the communists ever could.
Karl Rove is the perfect complement to the greed breed being featured here. He couldn’t be more politically unethical and immoral. How does a kid turn out to be a Karl Rove? As for money, Rove is a piker compared to the Koch brothers. His estimated worth is in the 6-7 million dollar range. Your local auto dealer might be able to match that. How is it possible to be worth, relatively speaking, so little, while traversing the very peaks of power? Well, it’s not. If Rove is worth a cent less than $50 million, I’ll be stunned. Use your common sense. He puts people in power and positions to profit by millions upon millions. Likely, multiple billions when added all up. Rove net worth, 6 million?
He’s 63 now and still at it. It’s been about 35 years since he first released his unique form of squalid tactics on a trusting constituency. For all his religious advice to the shrub, Rove himself is on spouse number three. Velarie packed her bags in 1980.
He peeled off another wife, Darby, in 2009 after a union of nearly a quarter-century. While he worked for assorted shrubs in DC, Karl and Darby lived in a $1.1 million dollar home, owned another one in Florida in addition to a bed and breakfast in Texas. Can you pass me those net worth figures again? As for the divorce, here’s a revealing quote from the former Mrs., “Even in croquet he’d be hitting my ball so far I was crying on vacation.” A quarter of a century of THAT? Karl is currently keeping house with Karen Johnson. He married her in July of 2012. He did what most 60 plus power boys do, he married somebody about 15 years or so his junior. And guess what? She’s a lobbyist. Go figure. The Washington Post reported that Vegas casino billionaire Steve Wynn, flew the couple to Naples for their honeymoon. H’mmm; what do you do for a Steve Wynn to get that kind of “gift?”
So raise you glasses high to the dirtiest of dirty tricksters, Karl Rove, who is currently immersed in several Super PACs, including one with tea party ties. Rove also co-founded Crossroads GPS, laughingly billed as a 501 (c)(4) Organization that spends all its waking hours (and money) buying commercial airtime for repugicans during election season. The Federal Election Commission is suspicious that Crossroads GPS may not be offering as much time to its ‘social welfare’ requirements as spelled out in the law. You think?
As for ALEC, enter the name in our ‘Search in site’ window and you’ll find dozens of articles chronicling their wildly skewed corporate definition of America’s manifest destiny.
I know you’d like to see Dimbulb, O’Really, Cruz, Ryan, Malkin and company included here, but if I listed all repugican political miscreants, there would be no room for other stories.

The repugicans bravely consider addressing poverty by cutting aid programs

"repugican public relations consultant" Joe Brettell takes to the op-ed pages of ABC News to investigate "The repugican cabal's soul-searching on poverty," and if you're thinking "hmm, a repugican public relations consultant talking about a repugican public relations efforts ... sounds suspicious," you're not being unduly cynical.
    Equally worth noting is the political cost of taking on such a delicate issue. House repugicans faced the full wrath of both interest groups and the media when trying to make even modest reforms to the food stamp program earlier this year, despite overwhelming evidence that it was fundamentally broken.
Ah, yes, "modest reforms" like slashing the program by $40 billion over 10 years and kicking millions of people out of the program. Despite overwhelming evidence that in crappy economies, more people need food stamps, and incredibly low fraud rates.
    Regardless of the difficulty, it's becoming increasingly clear that helping the less fortunate may provide repugicans with an issue they can use to talk with voters traditionally outside their comfort zone. For a cabal facing increasing demographic challenges, a concerted effort to take on poverty seems like a natural fit for reaching out to a new audience.
Hmm ... "helping the less fortunate may provide repugicans with an issue they can use to talk with voters traditionally outside their comfort zone." Can we count that as an admission that repugicans are the cabal of the wealthy? Or does the subsequent reference to "increasing demographic challenges" put it into dog whistle territory? Either way, Brettell thinks it sure would be both brave and effective if repugicans like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio focused their attention on fighting poverty by reforming cutting food stamps and otherwise increasing the miseries of poverty.

The republican Outrage Over The Bergdahl Release is More Proof wingnuts Hate The Troops

Republican hypocrisyAmerica, like most nations, asks its soldiers to sacrifice everything in service to their country, and in return this particular country sacrifices next to nothing for the fighting men and women in the military. The repugicans are the worst offenders whether it is sending men and women in uniform to fight and die in wars for profit and indefensible ideology, or blatantly refusing to care for them when they return from war. It is nothing short of criminal to abandon Veterans once their service to their country is finished, but that outrage pales in comparison to abandoning a soldier taken prisoner while serving his country. If the American people have learned only one thing over the past couple of weeks regarding repugicans’ and their horrendous disregard for America’s service members, it is that they consider them dispensable.
The current repugican outrage over the President negotiating the release of an American soldier held as a prisoner of war by the Taliban is both rank hypocrisy and further proof wingnuts hate the men and women serving in the military.
The repugicans complaining bitterly that President Obama should have left Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to the mercy of his captors are hypocrites because their man-god Ronald Reagan gave the Islamic Republic of Iran 1,500 missiles in exchange for American hostages held in Lebanon by Iranian terrorists, and one can only conclude that Reagan gets a pass because he was white. The repugican racism notwithstanding, it is their disregard for an American soldier they were content leaving behind that should outrage the American people and members of the military; particularly because they claim the President overstepped his authority by adhering to an unspoken rule that America “leaves no soldier behind.”
In 1985 while Iran and Iraq were at war, there was an American embargo against selling arms to Iran, but repugicans’ demigod Reagan disregarded the “law” because he was driven by his heartfelt “duty to bring those Americans home.” Doubtless, President Obama was driven by the same duty to bring Sergeant Bergdahl home after being held captive for five-and-a-half years, but because he is not a white repugican, wingnuts are apoplectic because instead of 1,500 missiles, he released 5 Guantanamo prisoners being detained indefinitely for who knows what reason.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended the decision to go forward with the release of hostages held at Guantanamo indefinitely and without charge because after consulting with both the Department of Justice and Department of Defense, they determined “that it was both appropriate and necessary for us to proceed in an expedited fashion.” Rice also said that in the past, the Administration “had extensive consultations with Congress about Sergeant Bergdahl’s situation” and that legislators “were well aware that this idea and prospect was on that the administration was seriously considering.” So, the repugican outrage is not only blatant hypocrisy, if they already knew the Administration was “seriously considering” the negotiation and exchange then their outrage is well-rehearsed and fabricated. Obviously, if the idea was being seriously considered then it was because, as Rice said “We had reason to be concerned that this was an urgent and an acute situation, that his (Bergdahl’s) life could have been at risk. We did not have 30 days to wait. And had we waited and lost him, I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States.”
There is also the prospect that with this Congress repugicans would have opposed the idea of bringing an American soldier being held as a prisoner of war home for no other reason than to oppose the President. The repugicans cannot even be bothered to adequately fund the Veterans’ Administration to take care of the soldiers they sent to war so there is every indication they would not be bothered to bring a soldier home under any circumstances; particularly if it involved the release of hostages this country has held indefinitely without charges of wrongdoing except they were muslims defending their homeland from invading Americans forces. According to the outrage and comments by repugicans and their neo-con mouthpieces railing on the President for bring an American prisoner of war home, they would have abandoned Sergeant Bergdahl purely over ideology their hero Reagan did not embrace.
There is a major difference between Reagan giving Iran missiles to bring Americans held captive by terrorists home, and Obama releasing hostages held by the American military according to Rice. She said “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our Republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who were taken in battle. And we did that in this instance.” As Ms. Rice noted, failing to negotiate the release of a prisoner of war “would break faith with the American people and with the men and women who serve in uniform.” Regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back.” The repugicans vehemently disagree.
No American should be surprised at the repugican response to the President’s success at bringing home an American soldier being held captive as a prisoner of war, or the accompanying hypocrisy that is one of the defining traits of the wingnut movement in general, and repugicans in particular. It is not that they conveniently forgot their man-god Reagan traded missiles to Iran in exchange for American hostages, they just hold the African American President to a completely different set of standards than their great white hero, and hold American service members in open contempt whether they are prisoners of war, active duty, or Veterans. As Susan Rice said, “we have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our Republic to our utmost to bring back our en and women who were taken in battle,” but according to repugicans, that sacred obligation is null and void because Americans elected an African American man as President that according to them means abandoning the men and women who put their lives on the line in combat and when they seek medical care from the despicably underfunded Veterans Administration hospitals.

The repugican cabal's soultion to Veterans' health care?

Turn it into a profit maker for their friends because THAT always works out well
The glee repugicans are experiencing these days over the scandal in the Veterans Administration medical system is palpable, not just because it gives them another excuse to criticize President Obama, but because it's a big opportunity for their favorite project: Privatization. Sen. John McCain writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Continuing to require that [veterans] rely on a system riddled with dysfunction, while waiting for broader reform, is patently unacceptable."
So here's their chance, they think. They can call for veterans to receive care in private facilities, which the government would pay for. Eventually, as more and more patients go elsewhere, the existing hospitals and clinics could get less and less funding and eventually go away. And just like seniors hate the idea of privatizing Social Security and Medicare, veterans  don't want it.
    Veterans advocates worry any form of privatization would hurt the VA system. If veterans opted to use private facilities instead of those the VA operates, federal officials could decide that the public system isn't covering as many patients and therefore doesn't need as much money. [...]
    Another concern: hospitals that see the general public won't have the expertise to treat the specific issues plaguing veterans.
    A typical VA patient "might have a spinal cord injury, plus an orthopedic issue, plus a mental health issue. They're a multifaceted patient," Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America explains. "The VA is a system constructed to provide holistic care for the life of that patient. The private system is not constructed with those ideas in mind."
That's particularly the case with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have come home with injuries that few civilians experience and which the VA has learned to treat out of necessity. Veterans organizations say they're fine with the idea of some private care referrals for specialized care that might not be available in the local VA facility, but not as an excuse to undermine the VA system.
Clearly, the actual care of veterans isn't the primary concern of repugicans. If it was, they wouldn't have filibustered a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education for veterans. If repugicans cared about veterans, they wouldn't refuse to expand Medicaid, keeping more than 250,000 veterans from getting health care at all. It's not the veterans they care about, it's all that money being spent on a government program.

Gun Nut Agitators Are Suing A Texas City For The Right to Terrify Motorists

A Texas city is being sued in federal court for violating the heavily-armed men's 1st Amendment rights to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights to terrify motorists stuck in traffic… gun fanatics
There are certain times and situations when one expects to see adults openly carrying firearms, such as soldiers in combat zones, law enforcement officers patrolling their beats, or on the streets of Somalia, Yemen, or Afghanistan. In a developed and civilized society, though, one hardly expects to witness adults walking the streets, visiting eating establishments, or approaching vehicles at traffic stops with assault-styled firearms strapped across their backs as if they were in a combat zone in Afghanistan, or more recently in Texas. For residents of civilized society, armed men roaming the streets is disconcerting to say the least, but when they started approaching vehicles stopped for traffic in Arlington Texas, the residents complained to city leaders for redress. Subsequently, the city is being sued in federal court for violating the heavily-armed men’s 1st Amendment rights to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights to terrify motorists stuck in traffic.
After open carry agitators in Tarrant County Texas terrorized motorists in busy intersections handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution and pro-gun literature, the Arlington City Council passed an ordinance, like most cities, prohibiting pedestrians from approaching and blocking traffic. It was too much for the gun fanatics and they fulfilled their promise to sue in federal court claiming the ordinance violated their 1st Amendment right to defend their 2nd Amendment right to inform motorists in traffic of their imaginary struggle against an imaginary federal government gun seizure crusade. It is not completely clear why Texas gun nut fanatics think portraying soldiers in a combat zone is going sway public opinion to support their imaginary war against imaginary gun restrictions, but attempting to make sense, or understand, the psychosis of gun nut fanatics is futile indeed.
Since no-one has suggested, or attempted, to seize anyone’s firearms, perhaps open carry agitators could explain how and why taking weapons into family restaurants, approaching vehicles at traffic stops, or joining roaming bands of heavily-armed and obviously paranoid men is preventing imaginary gun seizures. It is true the pretend combat soldiers claim that terrorizing motorists, shoppers, and hungry families teaches Texans the phony soldiers’ 2nd Amendment rights are being violated, but the assault-style weapons slung across their backs are not valid props to make their point. So the real question open carry agitators need to answer is; if they can legally carry guns in public, are they now demanding to use those firearms for the purpose they were intended? Is their goal gaining the legal right shoot other people without going through the inconvenience of claiming their “stand your ground” rights? Do they want to amend their cherished Second Amendment to include the right to open fire at their discretion or to declare the entire country an open combat zone?
Open carry agitators claim carrying guns in public and passing out pocket-sized Constitutions is about their 2nd Amendment rights, but Americans know about the 2nd Amendment. Americans certainly do not require heavily-armed men terrorizing citizens to remind them the Founding Fathers were suspicious of standing armies and favored “a well-regulated militia, for the security of a free state” instead. Many open carry agitators claim the only way they feel safe in public places is with an assault-style weapon strapped across their backs, but that notion informs they are extremely paranoid and need psychiatric intervention and treatment for their disorder. A disorder, by the way, that forced family-oriented restaurants to “politely” ask the open-carry agitators to keep their firearms out of their businesses and incited claims that business owners were “spineless panderers to liberal leftists.”
When Mexican food chain Chipotle asked customers to leave their guns home or in their cars when visiting its restaurants, gun nut agitators called it a “gun ban” and said, “as we all know, law abiding gun owners are clearly the problem when it comes to gun violence in America.” At least they understand the the increasing rash of mass shootings and gun violence in America are always at the hands of “law abiding gun owners” with “legally procured firearms.” One gun nut fanatic was livid private businesses were instituting a “ban that isn’t really an outright ban” but a “political pandering to the anti-gunners” with a “please don’t bring your guns here” request. The gun nut zealot complained about Starbucks instituting a no-gun policy in Newtown Connecticut after the massacre of 20 children and six adults by a “law abiding citizen with legally-procured firearms,” and said he was not deterred and still carries his gun because the 2nd Amendment; company policy and terrified customers be damned.
These gun nut fanatics are obsessed with transforming America into a war zone and if they are not satisfied being able to openly carry their guns, one can only assume their next logical demand is to be able to legally use those firearms in public because although that was not the Founders’ intent of the 2nd Amendment, it is the only “right” gun nut fanatics do not have. They claim, loudly, that their Constitutional rights are being infringed upon because carrying weapons in public is not satisfying enough. What about the rights of private businesses and sane citizens to go about their lives without being terrified by heavily-armed men approaching their vehicles at traffic stops or barging into restaurants with assault weapons in tow? Apparently that question will be answered by a federal court tasked with deciding if a city council has the right to enact traffic ordinances restricting pedestrians from accosting drivers at busy intersections in Texas.
Wingnuts have clamored to take the country back to an imaginary time in America’s history, and gun fanatics wrongly assume that time included heavily-armed men wandering the streets looking for someone to shoot. The images of men carrying assault-style weapons in public and approaching vehicles stopped for traffic are reminiscent of Iraq and Afghanistan and not a civilized society. The Texas open-carry agitators claim it is about the 2nd Amendment and feeling safe in public places, but it is curious that millions of American mothers feel safe taking their children shopping or to restaurants without the need to carry assault weapons.
Gun nut fanatics, 2nd Amendment agitators, and open-carry zealots need to come clean with the public and explain exactly what it is they demand and why having the legal right to keep and bear arms is not enough to satisfy their gun lust. There has not been any gun safety legislation enacted in twenty years, and there are no attempts to confiscate their precious guns open-carry advocates claim drives their campaign to terrorize the public, at least in Texas. Maybe their goal is transforming the entire nation to resemble a combat zone like Afghanistan, or Texas. It is more likely that open-carry advocates are frightened, insecure little men who only feel safe, and masculine, when they are given free rein to assert their phony manhood because if they really wanted to be in a combat zone or a region fraught with peril they would be on the next flight to Somalia, Yemen, or Afghanistan where everyone has guns and are not afraid to use them.

Omaha gun nut agitators lash out at 'anti-gunners' after Texas Roadhouse bans open-carry 'circus'

A group of gun nut agitators in Nebraska expressed outrage at "anti-gunners" after a steakhouse said it could not accommodate a large group of people openly carrying firearms.According to the Omaha World Herald, members of Nebraska Open Carry had planned to eat at Texas Roadhouse at Shadow Lake Towne Center on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Steve Jackson, who is the restaurant's managing partner, accused the group of not being clear about its intentions to openly carry firearms, and said that members would not be welcome if they did.
"I want to feed people - not have a circus in here," Jackson explained.
Nebraska Open Carry organizer Nick Crawford lashed out at Texas Roadhouse for infringing on freedoms guaranteed in the Second Amendment.
"We live in America, and obviously people are free to feel however they want to. I love that. It's wonderful," Crawford opined. "But if it comes to another right, carrying guns, then they can shut us down because people call and complain."
"It always seems like the anti-gunners always get their way instead of the pro-Second Amendment people," he added. "That, to me, it's getting old."
Travis Doster, a national spokesperson for Texas Roadhouse said that the company's policy had nothing to do with gun rights, and everything to do with being a successful business.
"This particular group wanted to bring a dozen or so people and, I'm not sure how the word got out, but suddenly different people were calling and different businesses and media and it became a much bigger issue," he pointed out. "The intent was to try to serve steaks to somebody, and it got beyond its original intent."
But after getting calls from the Papillion Police Department, Shadow Lake's property management and Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, the company concluded that having a group of people toting firearms in its restaurant was "not good for business."
"I know they have their agenda. I really like to stay neutral. This thing is not a neutral issue. It's not good for business," managing partner Steve Jackson noted.

Creationist Tall Tales on Human Tails

by Karl W. Giberson
Creationist Tall Tales on Human Tails
On rare occasions, humans are born with tails—real functioning tails that can even be “wagged” via voluntary muscles contractions in response to emotional stimuli. Although the birth of a baby with a tail is frightening for parents and typically requires surgery, the remarkable human tail is an important part of the even more remarkable tale of our origins—namely evolution.
Human tails are part of the evolutionary baggage that we carry in our bodies, leftover from our ancestors. As we evolved through time, responding to different environmental pressures, natural selection pruned and edited, making our ancestors better at some things—like talking—while ignoring skills and characteristics that became less relevant in new contexts—like smelling. Unfortunately, natural selection has no mechanism to eliminate useless features, but traits that become irrelevant can atrophy or get co-opted for some other task since there is no longer a disadvantage when those features show up in a weakened form.
We carry the evidence of this long history in our bodies—features useful to our ancestors but, for various reasons, not to us. We have goose bumps, for example, that our hairy ancestors used to make their fur stand up straighter when they needed extra warmth or wanted to look menacing. We have muscles that some of us, including me, can use to wiggle our ears, which would be useful for locating sounds if our hearing was more acute. We have a bunched-up third eyelid in the corner of our eye that provided a transparent eye covering for our ancestors, allowing them to “blink” without have to fully shut down their vision.
We call this useless anatomical baggage “vestigial.” Every species has some of it. Flightless birds have non-functional wings. Blind fish living in dark caves have eyes that can’t see. Most pythons have atrophied useless pelvises floating inside their abdomens, not connected to anything.
Other historical markers can be found in our genes. We have a gene to make Vitamin C but, unfortunately for those sailors who died from scurvy, it is broken, so we have to get Vitamin C from our food. Chimpanzees and orangutans have the same broken gene, which can only have been inherited from our common ancestor for whom it was functional, as it still is for many animals.
Every human being embodies the history of our species in the form of stuff inherited from the past. We are walking museums of natural history but some of the exhibits are rather dreadful. And every other species—and there are millions of them—also carry vestiges of its life history.
These dreadful exhibits are the undeniable proof of evolution, linking present species with their ancestors in the clearest of ways. From Darwin to the present, the existence of bad, sinister, unintelligent design has provided powerful evidence that species were not created in their present forms but must have evolved over time—and evolved in such a way that the designs we encounter in ourselves and other species today are often the opposite of intelligent.
The presence of so much “unintelligent” design across so many species should demolish the central claims of the Intelligent Design movement. For every “irreducibly complex” thing with more design than can be accounted for by present science, there are a thousand things in nature with inferior levels of design. For every arrow pointing toward a “designer,” there are a thousand arrows pointing the other way.
How then, does the Intelligent Design movement (ID) persist, in the face of so much damning contrary evidence?
To understand this strange phenomenon, we have to appreciate that ID handles scientific evidence the way lawyers handle evidence in legal cases, namely paid to come to a foregone conclusion, no matter how poorly supported. If 1,000 people saw you commit the crime and Joe saw someone else do it, Joe’s testimony is the only one that matters to your defense lawyer. When someone from the 1,000 witnesses appears on the stand, your lawyer tries to make their integrity appear suspect, and to call their competence into question.
The weakness of any case becomes clear when the logic used to make the arguments is strained, selective and irrelevant. I have watched such tortured reasoning—much of it by a lawyer—in the aftermath of my debate with ID theorist Stephen Meyer a few weeks ago.
In the debate, I emphasized the problem of bad design that I outlined above, mentioning that bad design is common in nature and poses serious problems for ID.  I gave some examples of bad design and showed a picture of an infant with a well-formed tail to illustrate one example.
The response was exactly what one would expect from lawyers. Rather than noting that apparent bad design was common and needed to be addressed by ID—a point I have made in several debates with creationists and ID theorists and has always been met with silence—the response focused exclusively on the particular example of the human tail, as if that is all that needs to be explained. One ID spokesperson, David Klinghoffer, claimed—falsely and absurdly—that I presented it a “proof of Darwinian evolution,” on which I was “very stuck.” (It is a piece of evidence, which is quite different than a proof.) Klinghoffer then attempted to undermine the argument from bad design by undermining the image I had used to illustrate my point. The image came from an article on Cracked.com which Klinghoffer described as the “vestigial online presence of an old satirical magazine, now defunct, a knockoff of Mad.” But where the image came from is of zero import; Klinghoffer’s point does absolutely nothing to undermine the universally accepted and fully documented reality that human babies are occasionally born with tails. Google has more than a million hits—and countless images—for the term “babies born with tails.”
Casey Luskin, also of the Discovery Institute, published several pieces on humans with tails that at least engaged the phenomena of tails, instead of the pedigree of the image I used. But rather than address the actual question on the table—how can ID account for bad design?—he focused exclusively on creating a tenuous speculation that there might be no such thing as genuine human tails.
Note the reasoning process here, keeping in mind that 1) there is a consensus in the scientific community that humans are sometimes born with real tails that are evolutionary throwbacks; 2) the gene for tails has been located in the human genome is the same one that mice use to produce their tails; and 3) the issue is not the human tail, but the problem of bad design in nature.
Luskin—a lawyer—starts by noting that there is “still much debate over why tails arise during development,” but fails to mention that this debate is not about whether the tail sometimes represents the reappearance of an ancestral feature. He notes that “at least one paper” recognizes that the cause of the tail is “poorly understood.” But his next logical leap is breathtaking.
The unwanted appendages attached to babies are classified as either “true tails,” which I have been discussing, or “pseudotails,” which are birth defects that only resemble tails, like a blob of flesh hanging from the lower back. The distinction between the two is common knowledge, and nobody is arguing that pseudotails provide evidence that we evolved from a tailed ancestor.
Luskin then quotes medical journals that, although certainly reputable, are not the typical sources for discussions of evolution. The articles are appropriately tentative—“we raise the suspicion”—in suggesting that pseudotails and “true tails” might actually be the same thing. If true, this would imply that the accepted evolutionary explanation for true tails should be abandoned, which would be significant, of course. Luskin, however, makes no reference to the vast literature arguing with considerable evidence for an evolutionary explanation for true tails.
Luskin makes the best argument he can, of course, but it is piecemeal and speculative. In the face of an overwhelming scientific consensus, he finds a few lone critics with a few tentative comments and amazingly ends up with “ample evidence,” to reject the received wisdom based on a much more substantial body of evidence. “Another evolutionary icon has fallen,” he concludes.
Klinghoffer and Luskin—and most everyone in the ID movement—employ the standard strategies of knowledge denial. Cigarette companies used identical tactics for decades to deny that smoking causes cancer. Today we see these tactics used to deny the scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, the safety of vaccinating children, or the age of the earth.
The strategy is always the same: toss irrelevant mud on the offending argument—“he got his picture from Cracked.com.” Find a lonely voice and enlarge its significance—“one expert thinks there are no true human tails.” Draw certain conclusions from uncertain evidence. Pluck a pebble from a mountain and pretend the mountain is gone. And never, ever, engage the actual argument on its own terms: why is there bad design in nature?
I am not trying to keep my debate with the ID “theorists” alive, for there is no debate about evolution. The generally accepted scientific ideas I presented remain alive and well and continue to guide thinking about evolution.  What I do want to do, however, is shine a spotlight on the dangerous and slippery tools used by those who deny scientific knowledge.

The Devil in Nigeria

Boko Haram's Reign of Terror 
by Bartholomäus Grill and Toby Selander
The Devil in Nigeria: Boko Haram's Reign of Terror  
A former Boko Haram kidnapping victim helping Nigerian officials recently found two of the schoolgirls kidnapped in the country. The search for the others remains a desperate one and has also cast light on a destitution rampant in the country's northern states.  More



The Gerber Baby at Age 87

In 1927, Dorothy Gerber was straining vegetables through a seive to make them edible for her baby daughter Sally. Her husband, Daniel Gerber, owned a canning factory. He said that machines in the factory could carry out that process a lot faster. Dorothy proposed that he do precisely that.
Thus was born the Gerber baby products commercial empire.
To market his products better, Gerber held a contest to compose an image of a baby that could serve as a logo. Dorothy Hope Smith, an artist, made a charcoal sketch of a baby who lived nearby. This baby was Anne Turner Cook. Smith won the contest and Cook went down in advertising history at the Gerber Baby.
Cook is now 87 years old and every bit as lovely as she was eight decades ago. CBS News interviewed her about her life as the Gerber Baby. You can watch the video here.

Steaks 101

There are no recipes in this video. Instead, Pat LaFrieda explains the differences between the different steak names you’ve heard. Frankly, I knew the difference between these as a matter of price, not what part of the cow they come from or what characteristics they have.
At a restaurant, I often order a steak by how many ounces the portion comes in, because as much as this is costing someone, I would feel awful leaving half of it on the plate. As far as steak at home goes, my husband does a good job grilling, and my contribution is to NOT ask how much he spent on the meat. Better to just eat up and enjoy it!

Good to know ...

Yummm, Bacon!

Police called to remove comedy club heckler

A heckler at The Grand Theater in Swansea, Wales, was removed by police after he refused to stop cat-calling at Australian comedian Celia Pacquola during the monthly comedy club.
Manager Paul Hopkins said staff had to call police when the man and his friend would not leave. Mr Hopkins said the men believed they were doing nothing wrong but they had upset the audience. Mr Hopkins said he could not recall having to call the police to deal with a disruptive audience member in the last 20 years.
He said: "We don't have a heckler policy per se, but the idea is that you are coming to a professional venue and occasionally - and I do stress very occasionally - some people seem to have never fully grown up and just want to be the center of attention. They were at the front and they had been asked by the comedian in a comedic way to keep quiet.
"But they wouldn't and other members of the audience were chanting "out, out, out" at them. We felt it was necessary to take action to allow the event to continue." South Wales Police were called to the theatre. A police spokesman said: "A couple of chaps got a bit rowdy and police officers were asked to help them to leave the premises."

Indian robot can save children trapped in bore-wells

A former plumber in Madurai, southern India, has developed a robot that can save little children trapped in bore-wells. Last month the innovation by the plumber turned instructor, Mr M. Manikandan at the TVS Community College in the temple town rescued a three-year-old boy who had fallen into a tube well in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu. (Video).

How Far Are You Flung When an Amusement Park Ride Goes Terribly Wrong?

The carnival ride shown here is the Booster Maxx, which flings two gondolas of riders around in a circle at the end of its two arms. Alejandro Tauber in Amsterdam enjoys the terror of such a ride, and also wondered what could go wrong. He knew the maximum speed (90 mph) and the height of the ride (180 feet), so he calculated the maximum distance you could be flung if the restraints were to fail.
And the rest is a piece of cake. When you leave the Booster Maxx, you are traveling at a speed of 40.3 meters per second at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground. We don’t have to take weight into account because the thing is already at full speed. Let’s leave air friction out of the equation too, but throw in some gravity for good measure.

Now we’ve got a quadratic equation and after some simple calculations, we end up with 168 meters. BUT! We haven’t accounted for the fact that you start at a height of 35.4 meters yet, which you have to add to the total distance. With that extra factor, the grand total is around 204 meters before you die a bloody and painful death.
The post at Motherboard is dressed up with diagrams and even a Google Map showing to where you would be flung if the maximum disaster were to occur (not quite all the way to the hospital). Of course, the fear of such an accident is part of the allure of carnival rides, therefore he also included a first-person description of the ride experience.

Random Photos


The Lärchwandschrägaufzug is an inclined lift, also known as funiculars, located at Kaprun in Austria inside the Hohe Tauern National Park. Stretching 810 meters over a vertical distance of 431 meters on 8,200 millimeter gauge, it is the largest funicular system in Europe.
The funicular entered operation in 1952 to transport heavy loads up the steep slopes to the power plants on the high-altitude dam reservoirs above Kaprun. Over the years the funicular was increasingly used to transport tourists. What makes Lärchwandschrägaufzug such an attraction among tourist and locals is the open roofed carriage.

'The Scream' appears in tree stump

"I felt as though a vast, endless scream passed through nature,” the painter Edvard Munch famously wrote. But he probably didn't mean it quite as literally as this.
"I was just having a walk along the river (Mesna) and I just happened to stumble over this stump," Kjell Marius Mathisen, who works with cultural heritage for Oppland county council in Lillehammer, Norway, said.

Despite Munch's poem, Mathisen said he believed the appearance of a near perfect replica of the famous painting 'The Scream' in nature was "just a coincidence".
"This is the most famous and recognizable piece of art probably in the world, so there's a lot of people who recognize the motif," Mathisen added.

Ancient standing stone daubed with paint

The Lia Fail stone on the Hill of Tara, located near the River Boyne, in County Meath, Ireland, has been desecrated in an overnight paint attack.
The paint-damaged Lia Fail stone
Gardai have been called to the historic site to examine the damage to the ancient stone, reputed to be an ancient coronation stone of the High Kings of Ireland.
This is the second time in recent years that the ancient stone has been vandalized, following an attack on it with a sharp implement in June 2012.

The Amazing Longsheng Rice Terraces

Two hours ride from the city of Guilin in Guanxi province the problem of growing rice on steep hills was long ago solved. From the Yuan Dynasty at the end of the thirteenth century the colossal task of terracing the Longsheng hills to provide a rice harvest began.
It took four hundred years for the terraces, also known as Longjii, to be built. During that time countless generations toiled on the terraces to ensure the annual rice harvest which did little more than feed their families. Yet in their efforts to provide for their families they produced a scene of tremendous beauty. It is little wonder that the Chinese call it the 'amazing terrace.'

Daily Comic Relief


Bear spotted lounging in backyard hammock

After knocking over bins and scaring the residents of a Daytona Beach, Florida, neighborhood on Thursday, this black bear needed a rest. Rafael Torres said he followed the bear as it climbed into a hammock and got comfortable.
Torres said he was about 60 feet away when he took the photos, and the bear didn't seem bothered by his presence. It stayed in the hammock for 20 minutes before heading back into the woods at around 8:15pm.
"He got in the hammock like he was a tourist or something," said Vincent James, who owns the home and the hammock. "Then something spooked him and he ran right back there. Then half an hour later I come back and I saw there he is in the hammock again."

The bear has been spotted multiple times in the Pebble Creek neighborhood in Daytona Beach since Wednesday. Residents say he was looking for food, tearing through a bird feeder and then trash cans. Torres said he has seen a lot of wildlife near that hammock, but this is the first black bear visit.

The Art of Water Buffalo Bodypainting

China hosted an international water buffalo bodypainting competition on May 18 in Pu'er, Yunnan Province. 48 water buffaloes participated. The winning team was a group of local schoolchildren who walked away with the 100,000 yuan ($16,005 USD) prize.
That’s not surprising because painting on water buffalos is a well-established local custom. It's a traditional means of protecting them from predators:
According to legend, a villager once saw his water buffalo getting attacked by a tiger. As the creatures rolled around on the field, mud and blood covered the buffalo's body.
The bull looked so terrifying that the tiger got scared and ran away. After that locals started painting on their cattle to keep the predators away.
The tradition developed into a popular festival held each year to celebrate harvest and honor the cattle.
You can see more photos of these colorful beasts at Amusing Planet.

Could a Mars Volcano be an Oasis for Life?

In our continuing fascination for Mars and its past habitable potential, scientists are now focusing on a possible red planet oasis where liquid water may have been stored underground and heated by a volcano.

Photographer Captures Vaporizing Camelopardalid Meteor

While camping out under some of the darkest skies in the U.S., photographer Gavin Heffernan captured the beautiful ionization trail of a Camelopardalid meteor.

Animal Pitcures