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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, this means you ...!
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Some of our readers today have been in:
The Americas
Quebec, Longueuil, Toronto, Beauharnois, Vancouver and Regina, Canada
Rio De Janeiro, Guarabira, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Sao Joao Do Paraiso, Brasilia and Londrina, Brazil
Luquillo and San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cuenca, Ecuador
The Bottom, Sint Eustatius-Saba
Soquel, Oshkosh, Tanque Verde and Stayton, United States
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad-Tobago
Tijuana and Mexico City, Mexico
Boaco, Nicaragua
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Reykjavik, Iceland
Skopje, Macedonia
Prgue, Czech Republic
Stockholm and Kista, Sweden
Le Petit-Quevilly, Villeurbanne, Velizy-Villacoublay and Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Naples, Treviso, Catanzaro, Pordenone and Rome, Italy
Belgrade, Serbia
Madrid and Magala, Spain
Covilha and Lisbon, Portugal
Saratov and Novosibirsk, Russia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Rijeka, Croatia
London, England
Karlsruhe, Germany
Ivano-Frankisv'k, Ukraine
Kolkata, Nasik, Patna, New Delhi, Biaora, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Mumbai, India
Mulyorejo and Jakarta, Indonesia
Nong Khaem, Thailand
Kuwait, Kuwait
Amol and Tehran, Iran
Osaka and Tokyo, Japan
Gujranwala, Pakistan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ciaro, Egypt
El Eulma, Algeria
Lusaka, Zambia
The Pacific
Homebush and Heidelberg, Australia
Makati, Philippines

Today in History

1035 King Canute of Norway dies.
1276 Suspicious of the intentions of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Wales, English King Edward I resolves to invade Wales.
1859 The first flying-trapeze circus act is performed by Jules Leotard at the Circus Napoleon.
1863 Confederate General James Longstreet arrives at Loudon, Tennessee, to assist the attack on Union General Ambrose Burnside's troops at Knoxville.
1867 Mount Vesuvius erupts.
1903 The Lebaudy brothers of France set an air-travel distance record of 34 miles in a dirigible.
1923 Adolf Hitler is arrested for his attempted German coup.
1927 Canada is admitted to the League of Nations.
1928 The ocean liner Vestris sinks off the Virginia cape with 328 aboard, killing 111.
1938 Mexico agrees to compensate the United States for land seizures.
1941 Madame Lillian Evanti and Mary Cardwell Dawson establish the National Negro Opera Company.
1944 U.S. fighters wipe out a Japanese convoy near Leyte, consisting of six destroyers, four transports and 8,000 troops.
1944 The German battleship Tirpitz is sunk in a Norwegian fjord.
1948 Hikedi Tojo, Japanese prime minister, and seven others are sentenced to hang by an international tribunal.
1951 The U.S. Eighth Army in Korea is ordered to cease offensive operations and begin an active defense.
1960 The satellite Discoverer XVII is launched into orbit from California's Vandenberg AFB.
1968 The U.S. Supreme Court voids an Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools.
1971 President Richard Nixon announces the withdrawal of about 45,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam by February.
1987 Boris Yeltsin is fired as head of Moscow's Communist Party for criticizing the slow pace of reform.
1990 Crown Prince Akihito is formally installed as Emperor Akihito of Japan.
1990 Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, publishes a formal proposal for the creation of the World Wide Web.
1996 A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 collides with a Kazakh Illyushin II-76 cargo plane near New Delhi, killing 349. It is the deadliest mid-air collision to date (2013) and third-deadliest aircraft accident.
1997 Ramzi Yousef convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
2003 The first Italians to die in the Iraq War are among 23 fatalities from a suicide bomb attack on an Italian police base in Nasiriya, iraq.
2003 Shanghai Transrapid sets a new world speed record (311 mph or 501 kph) for commercial railway systems.

The Ku Klux Klan is trying to re-brand - by inviting black people to join ...

by Sophie Gadd
The white supremacist organization is 'rebranding' by opening its doors to a more diverse membership
A hooded Klansman raises his left arm while another looks into the crowd during a Ku Klux Klan rally in Skokie, IL
That's correct. America's most well known white supremacist organization is for the first time opening its doors to Jewish, black and Hispanic people.
John Abarr, a KKK leader from Montana, is founding a new branch of the KKK called the Rocky Mountain Knights which would encourage more diversity.
The requirements for prospective members of the new Klan are that you are 18, and live in the Pacific Northwest. Oh, and they will still have to wear the white hoods...
"The KKK is for a strong America," Abarr told The Great Falls Tribune. "White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan."
John Abarr
John Abarr from Montana
Last year Abarr met with members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and is planning a summit of the groups next year.Whilst Abarr might claim to be a reformed man, starting a group for all races associated with an extremist white supremacist sect responsible for lynchings doesn't seem to make sense.
Hooded members of the Klu Klux Klan conduct a cross buring ceremony at night in a deserted field outside of Austin
Hooded members of the Klu Klux Klan conduct a cross burning ceremony at night near Austin, Texas
People are obviously skeptical. A quick look at the original Klan manifesto and creed shows their ideas are pretty set in stone:"We avow the distinction between the races of mankind decreed by the Creator, and we shall ever true to the maintenance of White Supremacy and strenuously oppose any compromise thereof."
We await the KKK NAACP conference with baited breath.

Obama's "Plan for a Free and Open Internet"

obama-supports-net-neutrality.si“'Net neutrality'” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."

Obama tells the FCC to class the Internet (including mobile!) as a "utility"

It's a surprise move in the net neutrality debate, coming on the heels of a sellout proposal from cable-lobbyist-turned-cable-regulator Chairman Tom Wheeler that would have let the carriers continue to screw Americans out of access to the services they want to use if those services hadn't paid large-enough bribes for "premium carriage."
It's great to see Obama coming out on the right side of this debate. Would have been nice if he'd had this change of heart before he hired a dingo to babysit the nation's defenseless networks.
* No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player—not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP—gets a fair shot at your business.
* No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
* Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
* No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.

Ted Cruz’s “Net Neutrality Is Obamacare For The Internet” Tweet Shows He Understands Neither

ted-cruzOn Monday morning, President Obama made a public statement urging the FCC to take strong measures to protect net neutrality. Obama does not want internet service providers to have the ability to block content or require additional payment for faster service for certain content providers. The feeling is that if net neutrality is not protected, large ISPs (internet service providers) like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T can decide who will be affected by slower speeds, based on the content they provide or the ability of larger companies to pay more for faster service.We explained how the abandonment of net neutrality would impact sites like this one.
To nobody’s surprise, Ted Cruz (r-TX) had an opinion on net neutrality once the President made his statement. And, predictably, Cruz tried to bash the President’s stance by making a hackneyed analogy to Obamacare.
Of course, Cruz has no earthly idea what he is talking about. It almost seems like he had never bothered to really look at net neutrality before Monday and just thought it would sound good if he could make a comparison to Obamacare and say government is bad. Immediately, Cruz was ridiculed all across the ideological spectrum. Fortune’s Dan Primack, claiming Cruz is confused about net neutrality, wrote the following about Cruz’s statement.
Is Cruz arguing that Obama’s proposal, if adopted by the FCC, would slow down the entire Internet? If so, then it seems he is totally missing the point (i.e., speed for all, rather than speed for some).
Does he believe that ISPs will simply throw up their hands at the extra regulation, and stop maintaining the current broadband infrastructure? Or is it that ISPs will stop improving their delivery services, meaning that today’s speeds are tomorrow’s speeds ad infinitum? If so, it seems that Cruz has very little faith in America’s capitalist spirit, in which established companies improve for the sake of taking market-share from one another, and in which entrepreneurs try to create something that completely disrupts the status quo. Remember, it’s not as if ISPs are operating on the brink of unprofitability — Comcast and Verizon, for example, are projected to generate combined annual profits in excess of $25 billion.
Moreover, regulated utilities do sometimes receive approval to raise rates (just take a look at what’s happening to Massachusetts electricity prices this winter).
Again, there is a real debate to be had over net neutrality. But no matter where it winds up, Cruz should rest assured that the Internet won’t be slowed down.
Salon’s Luke Brinker pointed out how Cruz has called a lot of other policy decisions that he doesn’t like ‘Obamacare.’ Therefore, it was just par for the course for him to do the same with net neutrality.
Of course, net neutrality isn’t about slowing down the Internet — it would ban evil cable companies from slowing down content just because content providers hadn’t paid exorbitant sums of money to the cable company to speed up service. But lest we get bogged down with the reality-based community’s facts, let’s focus on the bottom line: Ted Cruz hates net neutrality, and he really hates Obamacare, so net neutrality is basically Obamacare of the Internet. Kind of how a pathway to citizenship reform is the Obamacare of immigration policy, Common Core is the Obamacare of education, and same-sex nuptials are the Obamacare of marriage.
On Twitter, Cruz got pounded over his idiotic, yet completely predictable, tweet.
Sigh. The following two-year period is going to be one long clown show, headed by one Ted Cruz.

Random Photos

The wingnuts Hatch An Illegal Scheme To Repeal The Affordable Care Act

The wingnuts want to use the budgetary process to repeal the ACA. Repealing the ACA would increase the budget deficit, which means that it’s illegal to use the budgetary process to repeal Obamacare.
According to The Hill,
The wingnuts in Washington are adamant that Senate repugicans should pass a full repeal of the healthcare law next year, even if it means a certain veto from President Obama.
With Senate Democrats likely to filibuster any stand-alone repeal bill, wingnuts say Mitch McConnell (r-Ky.) should use a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation to muscle through a bill with 51 votes.
There are two problems with this strategy. First, President Obama would veto any budget resolution that cut funding or repealed the ACA. Secondly, the Byrd Rule prevents lawmakers from adding anything to the budget that increases the deficit. Since the CBO has already concluded that repealing the ACA would increase the budget deficit by $109 billion, Senate repugicans can’t legally use the budgetary process to repeal Obamacare.
In order words, repugicans are trying to pressure Mitch McConnell into illegally repealing the ACA.
The wingnuts who are pressuring McConnell don’t care about facts, reality, or legality. They want Obamacare repealed. If Senate repugicans pursue this strategy, they will be setting the country up for another government shutdown over Obamacare. The president would veto the budget; repugicans wouldn’t have enough votes to override the vote, so they will either have to back down and give up their ACA repeal or shut the government down.
No matter how one slices it, the repugican hatred of Obamacare is going put McConnell and company in a very sticky situation. The Senate majority will already be in jeopardy in 2016. Another government shutdown over the ACA could big a step towards returning control of the Senate back to the Democrats.

Obama Has Best Job Creation Streak Since 1939 So repugicans Vow To Return To the shrub

In repugican vernacular, returning to the "old ways" is "taking our country back;" but back to what? If the subject is the economy, it is back to the shrub-era…
take our country backAny American with an higher-than-snail intellect understands that the defining characteristic of being a wingnut is seeking to preserve things just the way they think they are, and above all else, emphasize the safety and stability of maintaining the status quo to establish a sense of continuity. Some American conservatives certainly fit into that category, but there is another kind of conservative, call them extremists and reactionaries, that not only oppose change and maintaining the status quo, they demand to return to “the way things were.” In repugican and teabagger vernacular, returning to the “old ways” is “taking our country back;” but back to what? If the subject is the economy, it is back to the shrub-era economic policies that are wildly popular with wingnut mainstream media, but still not austere and severe enough for the Koch brothers.
Getting back to corporatists’ vision of America was the so-called message repugicans pounded into epically stupid voters’ heads throughout the midterm election; return to the old ways and put us back in charge of the economy. It really must be a confusing time to be a wingnut voter, because if they truly wanted to maintain the status quo as the cabal that hates change, they would not have turned out at the polls and voted for repugicans. In fact, only a fool would want to abandon the current economic progress and return to the old ways after shrub-repugicans tanked the economy, because yet another economic report revealed that under President Obama’s Administration, America has experienced the longest stretch of consistent job creation since World War II.
In the uber-wingnut Wall Street Journal, a report boasted, yes boasted, that since non-farm payrolls grew to a seasonally adjusted 214,000 last month according to the Labor Department, it marked the “best such job creation streak since 1995, and marked the 49th straight month of positive job growth; the best stretch on record back to 1939.” The Rupert Murdoch newspaper noted that the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% last month and was the lowest level since 2008.
One might be inclined to believe that if “traditional wingnuts” seriously wanted to maintain the status quo, for continuity of results and stability, they would have voted en masse to preserve the streak of positive economic growth and private sector hiring  and rejected repugicans with extreme prejudice because they promised to “return to the old ways” if they control Congress. However, no-one with even minimal cognitive abilities would expect a repugican voter to support the current positive economic growth because it is happening as a result of an African American man sitting in the Oval Office; that and bible, guns, and something about maintaining Ayran purity.
According to the WSJ unemployment report, all economists, and businesses large and small, the one and only missing ingredient needed for truly robust economic gains is wage growth. Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers barely kept up with the mild pace of inflation. Consumer prices rose 1.7% in September from a year earlier, but that is going to change for the worse when the effects of the climate change-driven drought on food costs are realized and they skyrocket out of reach for many Americans.
There is more good news that is driving wingnuts to eschew their typical “maintain the status quo” philosophy and return to the old ways. Most economists acknowledge that a continued decline in the short-term unemployment rate, those Americans who have been out of work six months or less, will finally prompt meaningful growth in wages. That’s because demand for people recently out of work better represents the labor market facing employers. The short-term jobless rate held steady in October at 4% according to the report, and it is a percentage point below its average since 1948. The long-term rate held steady as well at 1.9%, and it has many employers in the living-wage fields, including manufacturing and engineering, bemoaning that they are facing a shortage of workers. As a result of the worker shortage, wages in those fields are set to rise. While foreign manufacturers are experiencing dwindling demand due to harsh austerity repugicans want to impose, American manufacturing is experiencing robust growth. While European factories are cutting production and laying off workers, American “factories  are revving up production” and increasing hiring according to a private organization that monitors the American manufacturing sector; something repugicans want to change instead of maintaining the status quo.
According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), its main gauge of the factory sector climbed to 59.0 in October from 56.6 in September. That economic growth is based on American manufacturers continued reporting an impressive accelerated rate of new orders that drove production to its highest level since 2004 revealing the economy is growing at an impressive rate; under President Obama. According to man overseeing ISM’s manufacturing gauge, Bradley Holcombe, “American manufacturing is firing on all cylinders;” something repugicans do not want to maintain because as extremist wingnuts, they want to take our country back and the inherently stupid voting public agrees that it is a good idea to “return to the old ways.”
It is getting difficult to understand what drives wingnuts, and repugican voters, to want to abandon their typical adherence to maintaining the status quo when there has been nothing but good economic reports over the past two years. What is truly confusing, is why repugican voters in four red states, on the one hand, voted to raise the minimum wage and then elected repugicans who openly refuse to even consider a wage hike. The repugicans in Congress certainly understand the President’s economic policies not only lifted the nation out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, he has kept the economy growing at a respectable clip and produced the longest job creation streak since 1939.
It is true the voting public will never hear about the President’s economic successes, and although it is down to corporate main-stream media, it is also the President’s failure to address the nation. Yes, he doles out good news regularly during his Weekly Presidential address, but he may as well be talking to the pigeon-brigade roosting on the White House roof. However, it is likely that even if he did issue regularly televised speeches touting the nation’s economic progress, record job creation, and calling for Congress to raise wages, the bible, gun, and white pride crowd, or extremist wingnuts, would still reject the status quo; regardless how much they benefit.

The turnout statistic repugicans hate most

by Steve Benen
In his post-election press conference, President Obama mentioned in his opening remarks, “[T]o everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”
The repugicans were furious. By noting that two-thirds of the public didn’t bother to show up for the midterm elections, the president was subtly suggesting the repugicans’ thefts were less impressive.
The trouble is, Obama was correct. Jose DelReal reported this morning:
General election voter turnout for the 2014 midterms was the lowest it’s been in any election cycle since World War II, according to early projections by the United States Election Project.
Just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots as of last Tuesday, continuing a steady decline in midterm voter participation that has spanned several decades. The results are dismal, but not surprising – participation has been dropping since the 1964 election, when voter turnout was at nearly 49 percent.
The last time voter turnout was so low during a midterm cycle was in 1942, when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
In 1942, the nation had just entered World War II.
To be sure, voter turnout in midterm elections is always lower than in presidential elections, so no one was expecting impressive vote totals last week.
But 36.4% is practically the punch line to a bad joke. There were broad assumptions in recent months that Americans simply didn’t much care about these elections, and it now appears those assumptions were correct. Indeed, even pessimists didn’t expect turnout to drop to a 72-year low.
That’s not, however, what repugicans want to hear.
As a simple matter of arithmetic, it’s awfully difficult for a party to claim a broad national mandate for an unpopular policy agenda when just over half of just over a third of the country shows up to vote in the party’s favor.
But that’s what happened.
The more salient point, however, is that voter turnout at these rates isn’t good for either party – or for the country overall. Increasingly, voters have decided to simply tune out and give up when it comes to Washington dysfunction. The apathy is tragically counter-productive – what Americans don’t like about politics invariably gets worse when voters withdraw – but the fact remains that the electorate is disengaging at striking levels.
Maybe a few dozen more “repeal Obamacare” votes will reinvigorate our democracy?
Keep these turnout statistics in mind the next time repugican cabal leaders hold a press conference to announce “the American people” sent repugicans to pursue a lunatic fringe wingnut agenda.

Baffled Canadian Writes To U.S. Voters After Midterm: ‘You Don’t Know How Good You Have It With Obama’

by Jameson Parker 
As an American, I’ve found myself dizzied by the hypocrisy of the midterm election: a majority of people reported that the economy was their number one concern, and yet they overwhelmingly voted against the president who has been bringing the economy back on track and instead gave the reins back to a political party which was almost entirely responsible for derailing it in the first place. So if I was confused, imagine how it must look to the outside observer. Americans must look nuts.
To get a sense of just how baffled the rest of the world is at how Americans voted this year, we find a Letter to the Editor of a Detroit newspaper, written by a Canadian who just doesn’t get it. First noticed by Rick Strandlof who tweeted a picture of it, the piece, published by the Detroit Free Press, is devastating. Titled “You Americans have no idea just how good you have it with Obama,” the author, Victoria, British Columbia resident Richard Brunt, goes on to list an impressive array of accomplishments under Obama – none of which the American voter seemed the least bit interested in.
Image via Rick Strandlof/Twitter
The letter reads:
Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections. Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country’s adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6%, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money.
America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the shrub years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.
So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.
When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?
The letter is on point in a number of ways, but for my money the most salient point is when it mentions the repaired image Obama has given to the United States after the shrub killed the country’s credibility over the last decade. It may not be expressed often from within the lunatic fringe wingnut echo chamber that dominates the American news media, but Obama is viewed very favorably on the international stage and his presidency has been a soothing touch to a very bad reputation. In one of Dick Cheney’s monthly “criticize the president” national tours, he remarked that he thought America’s image around the world was “increasingly negative.” The Atlantic decided to fact check that idea and found… well… you’ll see:
For more than a decade, the Pew Research Center has been asking people around the world about their opinion of the United States. The upshot: In every region of the globe except the Middle East (where the United States was wildly unpopular under the shrub and remains so), America’s favorability is way up since Obama took office. In Spain, approval of the United States is 29 percentage points higher than when the shrub left office. In Italy, it’s up 23 points. In Germany and France, it’s 22. With the exception of China, where the numbers have remained flat, the trend is the same in Asia. The U.S. is 19 points more popular in Japan, 24 points more popular in Indonesia, and 28 points more popular in Malaysia.
So given that popularity (especially compared to repugicans, which the world still equates with the shrub), it’s easy to see why other countries scratch their heads when America makes bashing Obama the major platform of the repugican cabal and Democrats are seen actively trying to avoid him so as to not taint their campaigns. Richard Brunt clearly thinks that we are nuts. And, frankly, it’s hard to disagree with him.

I Was Arrested for Voting

by Kelli Jo Griffin
On Election Day in 2013, I took my four children with me to watch me register to vote and cast my ballot in a city election in my small town in Iowa. Earlier that day, my daughter's class learned about the meaning of democracy and the importance of elections.
Two months after I cast my ballot as a civics lesson for my daughter, the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation agents parked across the street from my house, questioned me, and eventually arrested me and charged me with voter fraud.
Let me explain: When I was convicted on a nonviolent drug charge in 2008, my defense attorney told me that once I served my probation, I would regain my right to vote automatically – correct information at the time. But Gov. Terry Branstad suddenly changed the rules in 2011, and now all citizens with a felony conviction lose their voting rights for life. Our Secretary of State Matt Schultz, in fact, has made this subversion of democracy a point of pride. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hunting down and prosecuting people with past convictions who unknowingly registered or cast a vote.
Including me.
I explained that I did not know about the rule change, but the local county attorney insisted on prosecuting me, spending thousands of taxpayers' money to try to send me to jail – away from my husband and young children for up to 15 years. Knowing that I had not committed a crime, I withstood the crippling expense and emotional roller coaster of a trial instead of accepting a plea deal for a crime I knew I did not commit. Finally, three months later, I was acquitted by a jury of my peers. It only took them 40 minutes to come to that decision. I cried with relief as I heard the verdict.
I'm the mom of four wonderful children. I volunteer at my children's schools and a women's crisis center. I speak to domestic violence survivors to support and encourage them. I have overcome a lot in my life, including a destructive prior marriage and a dependency that led to the nonviolent felony drug conviction in 2008. I'm not proud of some parts of my history, but I am proud that I managed to turn my life around and find happiness in my family, my accomplishments, and what I can now offer my community.
Now I filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU, not for any money or reward, but just so that I – and others in my situation – are simply allowed to vote.

AOL Joins Microsoft, Google, and Facebook in Becoming The Latest Company To Dump ALEC

AOL has become the latest corporate giant to dump the Koch brothers by cutting ties with ALEC.
According to a statement by Common Cause,
ALEC-biggerOnline giant AOL Inc, has decided to end its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Common Cause has learned; a company official confirmed the move today and said the decision was made “a number of weeks ago.”
AOL becomes the latest in a series of major tech companies to cut ties with the secretive corporate lobbying group. Microsoft announced its departure in August. A month later, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt declared on a nationally-broadcast radio program that ALEC was “literally lying” about climate change and that Google’s funding for the organization was a “mistake.” Following Google’s lead, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, News Corp, Overstock.com, and SAP have all confirmed that they have left or are planning to leave ALEC.
More than 21,000 Common Cause activists have signed a petition asking AOL to leave ALEC. AOL previously was a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force and Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. While AOL has been a corporate leader in fighting for Open Internet protections, ALEC has lobbied against those policies.
ALEC, founded in the 1970s, connects corporate lobbyists and executives with hundreds of state legislators across the country. The group entertains the lawmakers at annual seminars where it and its corporate members pick up the tab for travel and hotel expenses and vote as equals with the elected officials on “model” bills often drafted by lobbyists. Legislators typically introduce that legislation without acknowledging its origins in ALEC.
Common Cause is pursuing a tax “whistleblower” complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, accusing the organization of masquerading as a charity while functioning as a corporate lobby. ALEC’s non-profit tax status allows its corporate supporters to deduct their contributions to the organization on their corporate tax returns, in effect providing a tax subsidy for ALEC’s lobbying.
Tech companies especially are waking up and realizing that it is bad news to be found in the ALEC bed with the Koch brothers. Google started the domino effect among tech companies. Once Google bailed on ALEC, there has been a full blown exodus away from the Koch backed organization.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of literally lying about climate change. Google’s departure was followed by Yelp, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Facebook said that it was unlikely that it will renew its ALEC membership. International Paper and Occidental Petroleum have also cut ties with ALEC. In a statement, Occidental said that they were leaving ALEC because they didn’t want to be associated with the organization’s positions on climate change and EPA regulation.
Unless a business solely courts conservatives, the denial of the science supporting climate change is an increasing bad public position to be in. Corporate giants are leaving ALEC because the Koch backed group is becoming toxic. Any association with ALEC is a risk to the bottom line.
The Koch brothers may have bought themselves a Senate majority, but their agenda remains so unpopular that major corporations are running away from them. The Kochs may have won a midterm battle, but they are still losing the overall war.

Luxembourg tax shelters exposed

From The Guardian:
A cache of almost 28,000 pages of leaked tax agreements, returns and other sensitive papers relating to over 1,000 businesses paints a damning picture of an EU state which is quietly rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale.
The documents show that major companies — including drugs group Shire, City trading firm Icap and vacuum cleaner firm Dyson, who are headquartered in the UK or Ireland — have used complex webs of internal loans and interest payments which have slashed the companies’ tax bills. These arrangements, signed off by the Grand Duchy, are perfectly legal.
The documents also show how some 340 companies from around the world arranged specially-designed corporate structures with the Luxembourg authorities. The businesses include corporations such as Pepsi, Ikea, Accenture, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, Heinz, JP Morgan and FedEx. Leaked papers relating to the Coach handbag firm, drugs group Abbott Laboratories, Amazon, Deutsche Bank and Australian financial group Macquarie are also included.

The American Plutocracy

A new paper by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics suggests that, in America at least, inequality in wealth is approaching record levels...
The top 0.1% (consisting of 160,000 families worth $73m on average) hold 22% of America’s wealth, just shy of the 1929 peak—and almost the same share as the bottom 90% of the population.
From The Economist, where the chart is interactive.  The phenomenon is discussed in greater detail in another article there:
Because the bottom half of all families almost always has no net wealth, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% is an effective measure of “middle class” wealth, or that held by those from the 50th to the 90th percentile...
The 16,000 families making up the richest 0.01%, with an average net worth of $371m, now control 11.2% of total wealth—back to the 1916 share, which is the highest on record...

The Hidden History of Prosperity

In the crisis of World War II, the nation made the political choices that created the robust egalitarian economy of the next 30 years. Can we respond to the climate crisis with similar policies to rebuild the middle class?
by Robert Kuttner
For most Americans, the central economic fact of the past four decades is the stagnation and decline of earnings. Yet this shift is not the central political fact. Why hasn’t the system’s brutal turn against the working and middle class risen to a first-tier public issue?
The raw material is surely there. Americans are far from satisfied with the deal they are getting. Polls show that large majorities believe that the top 1 percent takes too much, that the income distribution is too unequal, that their children are likely to be worse off than they are, that job security is precarious, and that the middle class is at risk.
Two big factors prevent these issues from assuming center stage. First, the public is increasingly skeptical that government can do much to change things for the better. The sense of resignation and cynicism plays to the ideology of repugicans—the claim that government doesn’t have a big part to play in the economy and that we’re all on our own. Conversely, resignation harms Democrats, whose core ideology is that government exists to help ordinary people. The repugicans have done their best to prevent Democrats from delivering on the vision of activist government.
Second, persistent divisions of race as well as a nativist backlash against immigrants undermine a common politics of uplift for working Americans generally. The New Deal/Great Society formula of tax, spend, benefit, and elect has been sundered by stagnation of working-class earnings and fears that government aid would only go to “them”—the undeserving poor. That fear explains much of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act. It sheds light on why victims of the subprime bust were not the objects of broad public sympathy. Racial division has been the standard repugican playbook since Nixon’s Southern Strategy, intensified by Ronald Reagan and redoubled by the teabaggers. The more that working families are economically stressed, the less help that government delivers, and the more the tax burden tilts away from the top, the more 'credibility' the lunatic fringe wingnuts have.
In recent years, with repugicans intensifying their strategy of total blockade, the Obama administration’s economic policies have been reduced mostly to a politics of gesture. Increases in the minimum wage, modest educational reforms, orders for the Labor Department to crack down on overtime abuses, tweaks to the tax structure—such policies will help around the edges but not transform the structure of an economy that delivers increasing inequality and insecurity. The Affordable Care Act, a legislative success that was more than a gesture, was so bungled in its execution that, on balance, it raised more doubts about the place of affirmative government and its steward, the Democrats. The 2009 stimulus was a limited success, but it was too small to alter the deeper dynamics of the economy.
The obstacles to reclaiming a fairer society have little to do with immutable characteristics of the new, global, digital economy. They are mainly political.
How to break out of this vicious circle? How to make the economic plight of working families the core concern that it ought to be? How to restore constructive government to a leading role in that project? The obstacles to reclaiming a fairer society have little to do with immutable characteristics of the new, global, digital economy. They are mainly political.

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Lana Turner.
Lana Turner

Pre-symptomatic markers for hemorrhagic viruses

EBolaStudy identifies pre-symptomatic markers for hemorrhagic viruses like Ebola

A new study has found it is possible to distinguish […]

Ten Unbelievable Things Kids Were Allowed to Do

Dutch teenager Laura Dekker unbelievably had the blessing of her parents to sail around the world alone at age 14, in an attempt to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person to do so. Her first attempt was thwarted by the Dutch government, which raised doubts about Dekker's mental state and the poor judgment of her parents. Eventually Dekker did sail her boat, called the Guppy, for 17 months, traveling 27,000 nautical miles in total.
Dekker wasn't the first teen to attempt the trip; others who did so encountered such obstacles as four-story waves, food poisoning, mechanical failures and extreme loneliness. In an effort to prevent other, younger teens from competing for the record, the Guinness Book and the World Sailing Speed Record Council have ceased to recognize the Youngest Solo Circumnavigator record.

Read more bizarre things kids were allowed to do here.

Ancient Basket Found on Scottish Island

Recent storms have exposed a woven reed basket containing worked quartz and animal bones on an island in the Outer Hebrides. “It’s rare to find well-preserved organic material. It indicates that this basket must have been kept under water from the day that it was placed, or lost, there. Perhaps it was in a freshwater loch until it was covered over by encroaching beach sediment,” Kate MacDonald of Uist Archaeology told the Island News and Advertiser. Specialists will remove the basket, which might date to the Bronze Age and was discovered by a member of a local archaeology group, in a block of sediment so that it can be excavated under laboratory conditions. The quartz and bones will also be examined. To read about another recent discovery in Scotland, see "Viking Hoard Unearthed."

Mycenaean artifacts found in Bodrum

AA Photo New artifacts have been found during excavations in Bodrum’s Ortakent and Gümüşlük neighborhoods. The artifacts will shed light on the history of Bodrum Peninsula, according to officials.
The Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum Director Emel Özkan said that they had discovered 49 artifacts from the Mycenean era.
“The number of Mycenean artifacts increased to 248 with these ones. This made our museum the richest one in terms of Mycenean artifacts among the Turkish museums,” she said.
Özkan said that the artifacts, which date back to 3,500 years ago, were very important for Anatolian history, adding, “The amphora and gifts found in this excavation show us that the necropolis area dates back to early bronze age. It was one the early era settlements in the western Anatolian.”
Özkan said skeletons found in the excavations were being examined by anthropologists and the artifacts would be displayed.

‘Twin’ Ice Age Infants Discovered in 11,500-Year-Old Alaska Grave

by Blake de Pastino
A tenderly decorated grave discovered in Alaska holds the remains of two infants dating back 11,500 years, the youngest Ice Age humans yet found in the Western Hemisphere, archaeologists say.Interred together inside an ancient residence, one child was about 12 weeks old at the time of death, the other, a late-term fetus — the first known instance of a prenatal burial in the Americas.
Researchers say that the babies were memorialized with an array of goods that was, by Paleoindian standards, rather lavish.
The grave was ornamented with a coating of red ochre and a complement of hunting tools, including two large stone points and four long foreshafts fashioned out of carved elk antler.
The hunting tools, known as hafted bifaces, are the earliest examples of their kind found in North America.
Alaska-infant-burialTogether, the remains and artifacts, all found within an Ice Age residence, provide unprecedented insights into the nature of life and the rituals of death among some of the continent’s earliest inhabitants, researchers say.
“This mortuary treatment is the first of its kind in the New World — no other Paleoindian burials share this feature,” said Dr. Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, referring to the burials being found inside a residence.
Potter and his team found the grave last year at a site known as Upward Sun River in central Alaska, while investigating a structure that appears to have been a seasonal fishing, hunting and foraging camp.And they discovered the grave directly beneath a similarly grim feature that the team found in 2010: the cremated remains of a 3-year-old boy.
[Find out what we learned from an even older child burial in Montana: "Genome of America’s Only Clovis Skeleton Reveals Origins of Native Americans"] Why one body was cremated while the other two were not is one of the many mysteries posed by the find, Potter said.
The discrepancy could relate to the ages of the dead, or to their sex, as the two infants appear to have been female, and possibly twins.
“This is the first evidence of multiple individuals [buried] within a single feature with fundamentally different treatments, which may reflect situational factors, [such as] who was present or absent at each event, or the expectedness or unexpectedness of the deaths, or age-grade differences,” he said.
However, the burials did not occur very far apart in time.
“It is most likely that all three children are part of a single community that used this exact feature,” Potter said of the structure.
“Since this appears to be a summer residential base camp, it is plausible that both burial events occurred during the same summer or during subsequent summers,” he said.
The stratigraphy, or layering of soils, around the remains is the clearest indicator of this, suggesting a rather rapid series of somber events, Potter explained.
The infants were buried first, their grave having been dug under the camp’s main cooking hearth. They were then covered with  the hearth’s original contents — soil, charcoal, and animal bones, mostly fragments from salmon and ground squirrels.
But with the subsequent death of the toddler, anywhere from a few weeks to a full year later, the boy’s remains were cremated in the hearth itself, and the site was abandoned.
Though bleak, these events produced an array of artifacts and other clues that offer tantalizing glimpses into the lifeways of ancient Alaskans, beginning with the hunting tools that were buried with the infants.
“The grave goods give us a rare window into ideology or belief systems of these ancient peoples,” Potter said.
“There is a clear importance ascribed to hunting implements, and they may reflect the importance of terrestrial hunting within the culture.”
The four antler shafts are “significantly longer” than others known from this era in North America, averaging about a half-meter in length, and Potter noted that they are similar in size to shafts found in eastern Siberia.
Three of the foreshafts were also carved with multiple X patterns, a design that’s “unprecedented” in North American hunting tools, he and his team say.
Four spear shafts, fashioned out of elk antler, and the two-side stone points that were attached to them together comprise the oldest examples of these hunting tools found in the Americas, experts say. 
But the most significant aspect of the tools may simply be that all of their components were found together, in a setting dated farther back than any others yet found.“The stone points and antler foreshafts were clearly hafted, giving us the oldest glimpse into functions of this compound technology,” he said.
“Most points or rods are found in isolation, and many hypothetical functions have been ascribed to the organic components.”
[Read about a related find: "13,500-Year-Old Tool-Making Site Uncovered in Idaho Forest"] Even the contents of the hearth, which separated the burials, retain clues to Paleoindian life, Potter said.
“The presence of salmon before the earlier burial and before the later burial indicate multiple episodes of salmon fishing, providing evidence for broader diets than just big-game for this early period,” he noted.
And indeed, simple survival in ancient Alaska — even during the relative time of plenty in the summer months — may have been far harder than experts have thought, as the children’s graves attest.
“While we caution that the sample size is small, the evidence of deaths of three very young individuals at a time of year when we expect the least amount of resource stress — that is, the highest abundance of resources — may indicate that nutritional stress was higher than our models indicate,” Potter said.
“The significance of the site is multifaceted,” he added.
Future research may provide more details about the very short life-stories of those buried at Upward Sun River.
But the site also holds a potential trove of information about the children’s community, its history, and its genetic and cultural influences on the people of Ice Age North America.
[Who were the first Americans? "Ancient Feces From Oregon Cave Aren’t Human, Study Says, Adding to Debate on First Americans"] “The potential for ongoing and future studies on ancient DNA and stable isotopes will provide a wealth of direct data on genetic affiliation with modern populations and ancient samples, [as well as on the] paleodiet of the [children's] mother(s) and mobility,” Potter said.
He and his colleagues report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Historical Photos

Autumn's Science

The best bet may be a mulch mower or compost: leaf collection a big waste.

Interstellar Dimensions

Dimensions are complicated. Wrapping your head around how many there are can give you a headache. Trace explains everything you should know about them.

U.N. Protection

Six days of 'intense negotiations' led to new protection for scores of bird, fish and mammal migratory species.

Thirty Rare and Exotic Dog Breeds

The dog breeds seen here are not frequently seen and are fairly difficult to locate as available puppies from reputable breeders. Like all dog breeds, each was initially bred for specific purposes and they generally have characteristics unique to them.
The Slovensky Cuvac, shown right, was bred to guard livestock; at first, specifically sheep in mountainous regions of central Europe. Their thick, beautiful coats kept them warm in their working environment. The Cuvac skill in guarding and protection was recognized early on, thus they were eventually tasked with watching cattle, poultry and even people.

The Karelian Bear Dog is an aggressive hunter able to match wits with prey like bears, moose and wild boars, as well as to protect their owners during the hunt. The breed is native to Finland. Karelian Bear Dogs have been utilized for bear control at Yosemite and Glacier National Parks.

The Çatalburun is one of three breeds that have the amazing split nose seen in the photo above. The breed is native to Turkey and is rarely seen outside of that country. The distinctive nose of the Çatalburun is incredibly sensitive, enabling the breed to have a sense of smell superior to most others.

The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed originating with the nomadic peoples of Tibet, China and Nepal. Tibetan Mastiffs were used as guards of everything from herds of animals to palaces. This is a muscular and hearty dog — required characteristics in order to thrive in the high altitude of the Himalayas.
The photos shown here are of these dog breeds as puppies. See adult pictures, along with twenty-seven more featured breeds, here.

Paleontology News

The fossilized remains of the mare and her tiny, unborn foal are revealing new insights into reproduction in ancient horses.
The mammoth found in the Siberian permafrost contains the only mostly intact mammoth brain known to science and has been described in a new study.

"Tree of Life"

Global ‘tree of life’ study shows insects ruled Earth 400M years ago

A new study involving more than 100 researchers from 10 […]

Animal Pictures