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

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, yeah, we're talking about you ...!
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Today in History

41   Shortly after declaring himself a god, Caligula is assassinated by two Praetorian tribunes.  
1458   Matthias Corvinus, the son of John Hunyadi, is elected king of Hungary.  
1639   Representatives from three Connecticut towns band together to write the Fundamental Orders, the first constitution in the New World.  
1722   Czar Peter the Great caps his reforms in Russia with the "Table of Rank" which decrees a commoner can climb on merit to the highest positions.  
1848   Gold is discovered by James Wilson Marshall at his partner Johann August Sutter's sawmill on the South Fork of the American River, near Coloma, California.
1903   U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and British Ambassador Herbert create a joint commission to establish the Alaskan border.  
1911   U.S. Cavalry is sent to preserve the neutrality of the Rio Grande during the Mexican Civil War.  
1915   The German cruiser Bl├╝cher is sunk by a British squadron in the Battle of Dogger Bank.  
1927   British expeditionary force of 12,000 is sent to China to protect concessions at Shanghai.  
1931   The League of Nations rebukes Poland for the mistreatment of a German minority in Upper Silesia.  
1945   A German attempt to relieve the besieged city of Budapest is finally halted by the Soviets.  
1946   The UN establishes the International Atomic Energy Commission.  
1951   Indian leader Nehru demands that the UN name Peking as an aggressor in Korea.  
1965   Winston Churchill dies from a cerebral thrombosis at the age of 90.  
1980   In a rebuff to the Soviets, the U.S. announces intentions to sell arms to China.  
1982   A draft of Air Force history reports that the U.S. secretly sprayed herbicides on Laos during the Vietnam War.

Bernie Sanders Goes On MSNBC and Shreds Morning Joe’s repugican Shrieking Points

bernie sanders on morning joe
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and shredded one of the show’s favorite repugican shrieking points. Sanders pushed back against the idea that President Obama has to agree with repugicans in order for things to get done.
Mika Brzezinski asked Senator Sanders a question that was loaded with pro-repugican Beltway conventional wisdom, “Has the proposed anything that will address those two issues that will actually get through Congress, that will pass, that he can agree with repugicans on?
Sanders answered, “Well, the question is whether the repugicans will agree with the American people. The American people are very clear that we need to rebuilt our crumbling infrastructure, and if we do that we can create millions of decent paying jobs. The American people are pretty clear that college today is unaffordable, and that we need bold action to make it more affordable. So the issue is, can we rally the American people to stand up for the middle class rather than continue to give tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations?”
Senator Sanders took issue with the premise it will be President Obama’s fault if nothing gets done. It is not Obama’s job to roll over and play dead because repugicans stole a midterm election. Whether she realized it or not, Brzezinski asked Sanders a completely loaded question. The question was also based on the popular in the media repugican assumption that the 2014 election represented the will of the people, but President Obama’s rising popularity has already debunked this false assumption. The Vermont Independent wasn’t about to buy into the idea that the president will be to blame. He shifted the responsibility to where it belongs.
Now that repugicans control Congress, they are responsible for getting legislation passed. Boehner and McConnell have to shepherd legislation through Congress that the president will sign. The president’s responsibility is to do the right thing for the country, not rubber stamp the repugican agenda.
MSNBC is supposed to be the network that leans left, but they can’t be taken seriously by viewers when even the liberal member of their wingnut morning show asks guests pro-repugican leaning questions. Morning Joe has seen its ratings plunge and has been losing ground to CNN for months. The fact is that MSNBC viewers don’t want to eat breakfast with repugican shrieking points. Even the questions on Morning Joe contain a built in repugican cabal bias.
Bernie Sanders wasn’t playing along. He saw through the premise of the question and turned the tables. If the mainstream press doesn’t hold repugicans accountable, it is up to Democrats and congressional allies like Senator Sanders to do their jobs for them.

Bernie Sanders Files A New Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is renewing his efforts to rid the country of Citizens United by introducing a new constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.
SECTION 1. Whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as citizens of the United States, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcome of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article.
SECTION 2. Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power of Congress and the States to protect the integrity and fairness of the electoral process, limit the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections, and guarantee the dependence of elected officials on the people alone by taking actions which may include the establishment of systems of public financing for elections, the imposition of requirements to ensure the disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of a public election by candidates, individuals, and associations of individuals, and the imposition of content neutra limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.
SECTION 3. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to alter the freedom of the press.
Senator Sanders had to propose a new amendment because legislation that isn’t acted on by the previous Congress expires at the end of the session. Since Congress didn’t act on the amendment the last time Sanders filed it, he is bringing it back in the new Congress.
The key section of the amendment is Section 2. The second section would halt the Supreme Court’s money is free speech interpretation of the Constitution. The first section of the amendment deals directly with the idea that corporations are people, but the second section overturns the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision that money is speech. The second section of the amendment would throw out the entire basis for the Supreme Court’s rulings in campaign finance cases.
When Senator Sanders introduced this amendment in 2013, he said, “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, ‘You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.’ That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed.”
President Obama endorsed the Sanders constitutional amendment in 2012, and explained the rationale behind it, “Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
The point of the constitutional amendment isn’t passage. The point is to bring attention to the issue of what Citizens United continues to do to our electoral process. The most likely path to overturning Citizens United remains a Democratic presidential victory in the 2016 election. Two of the wingnut Justices who made up the majority in the Citizens United decision are 78 years old. The odds of one or both justices serving the last two years of President Obama’s term and another eight years under another potential Democratic president are slim. (It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the 81 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire before President Obama leaves office.) The Supreme Court is due for a generational change, and if Democrats control the White House, that change could result in a 5-4 liberal leaning court.
In the meantime, Senator Sanders is leading the fight to inform the American people about the toxic nature of unlimited money in their electoral process. The movement to overturn Citizens United needs and educated population, because outside of the Supreme Court, public pressure is the best way to get the billionaire dollars out of our elections is to have tens of millions of voices demand it.

Democrats Propose Constitutional Amendment to Recognize Voting As A Fundamental Right

pocan_ellison300px It’s remarkable that our right to vote is vulnerable to the whims of lawmakers looking for new ways to rig elections in their favor. There is nothing in our constitution that specifically guarantees our right to vote.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said this about voting rights.
 We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American,
On Thursday, U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) hope to change all that with their proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee every American’s right to vote. This isn’t the first time Representatives Pocan and Ellison have tried to make the vote a constitutionally protected right. They proposed a similar constitutional amendment in 2013.
Rep. Pocan notes on his website:
 I believe a country built on the foundation of civic participation should never tolerate any politically-motivated threats to our ability to express our views at the polls. That is why I introduced legislation, the Pocan Ellison Right to Vote Amendment, which would explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution, provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote, and empower Congress to protect this right.  A voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates.
This follows years of vote suppression in repugican controlled states and the 2013 the Supreme Court ruling that put the Voting Rights Act on life support. In that ruling, the Supreme Court called on Congress to update the preclearance formula in the VRA.  Congressional repugicans resisted efforts to update the preclearance based on the illusion that the VRA has out lived its usefulness.  Thirty-one states introduced or passed over 190 vote suppression laws some of which have been upheld by the Roberts Supreme Court based on a ruling by a Federal Court Judge who has since admitted, he got it wrong in that ruling.
The proposal that recognizes the vote of all Americans who are of legal voting age as a “fundamental right” presents a challenge to repugicans who have resisted efforts to revive the voting rights act and other efforts to making voting easier and more accessible to American citizens. If history is an indicator, repugicans will say one thing than do the polar opposite.  It’s their M.O. be it on voting rights, opportunities for working Americans or anything else they’ve approached.
Instead of working with Democrats on actual job creation, repugicans are trying to sell the Keystone Pipeline as a jobs bill or an infrastructure bill or whatever magical phrase will garner support for the ultimate wet kiss to big oil. While the latest version of the real Mitt Romney talks about his new found concern about income inequality and Jonie Ernst gives bread bag speeches, repugicans continue to push tax cuts for the rich and increase taxes on middle and lower income Americans, a policy certain to further increase the income inequality they say they’re concerned about.
Don’t be surprised if repugicans talk about their commitment to protecting your voting rights while simultaneously voting against the Pocan-Ellison proposal and any measure that would revive the Voting Rights Act. It’s the scorpion/frog story all over again.

Senate repugicans Unanimously Block Amendment To Keep Keystone Oil In The United States

The repugican senators killed amendments requiring Keystone oil be kept in the U.S., and mandating that the pipeline be built with U.S. steel.…
The repugicans have been trying to convince the American people that the Keystone XL pipeline will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and that it will create American jobs. Yet on Tuesday they voted to table an amendment introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) that would have required keeping the pipeline oil in the United States for domestic use. The repugicans unanimously rejected bringing up the amendment to a floor vote. So much for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. As critics have repeatedly pointed out, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will not reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil because the oil will be exported, after it passes through America’s midsection. The repugicans proved that point by explicitly voting down any efforts to keep the pipeline oil here.
The repugicans also rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to require that if the pipeline is approved, it must be built with American iron and steel. Every repugican, except North Carolina repugican Richard Burr, voted to table that amendment as well. So much for caring about American jobs. Every Democratic Senator approved of the Franken amendment, including pipeline supporters like Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Mark Warner (VA), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Jon Tester (MT). Every Democratic Senator except Heitkamp, Warner, and Manchin also supported the Markey-Baldwin amendment.
Whatever else can be said about the few Democrats who support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, at least all of them want to guarantee that it is built with American materials. Most of them also want to ensure that the oil stays here. The repugicans, by contrast, don’t care where the material for the pipeline comes from, or where the oil goes. They only say they care about creating American jobs, and they care about reducing our dependence on foreign oil because they believe those talking points will help sell the idea to the American people.
Right now the public isn’t buying. Only 41 percent of Americans currently favor construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. That support may drop even further in the wake of a significant pipeline leak in Eastern Montana that has created a state of emergency and left local residents without drinking water. The 50,000 gallon oil spill in Montana came from a 12-inch pipeline. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is 30 to 36-inch pipeline. For that reason, any rupture on a section of the Keystone XL pipeline, if it is built, would likely be much larger than the Montana pipeline breach.
Democratic Senators put forth amendments to test the repugican cabal’s commitment to creating American jobs and their dedication to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The test results came in loud and clear. The repugican cabal failed both tests. The repugican cabal doesn’t care about American jobs or keeping the pipeline oil in our nation for domestic consumption. They only care about further lining the pockets of the Koch Brothers and the big multinational oil companies that hold leases on the tar sands in Alberta.

Link Dump

Sleeping Healthy

Sleep probably gets less credit than it should for battling illness since much of its work is under cover.

Seeing Ghosts

Sleep paralysis might be an evolutionary adaptation that keeps people from acting out their dreams.

Finally an Answer ...

Airlines have heard your mockery and are starting to apply scientific research to how they cook and serve their in-flight meals. If you've ever wondered, NOT in jest, why airplane food leaves something to be desired, here's why.

Coffee and Skin Cancer

People who drink coffee regularly may be protected against malignant melanoma, the leading cause of skin-cancer death in the U.S.

It May Be Child Abuse

The parents of a boy claimed to be a victim of spontaneous human combustion in 2013 now have a second child with the same 'problem' and police are skeptical.

The Insane Beehive Firework Festival In Taiwan

The Beehive Fireworks are essentially multiple launchers of bottle rockets. These rocket forts are actually thousands of bottle rockets arranged row atop row in an iron-and-wooden framework.
When the contraption is ignited, rockets shoot out rapidly in all directions. Dazzling explosives whiz and whirl across the sky and often into the crowd itself, both thrilling and intimidating the spectators. To protect against injury, heavy clothing, a helmet with a full visor, and protective gloves are recommended for all spectators.

More about the Beehive Fireworks at Random Good Stuff.

He Invented Instant Replay, The TV Trick We Now Take For Granted

Decades before the DVR and years before the first Super Bowl, a young television director decided to try something that would either amaze or confuse TV watchers: the instant replay. With that, Tony Verna revolutionized the way we watch televised sports. He died Sunday at 81.
Verna's most important achievement lasted just a few seconds. During the 1963 Army vs. Navy football game in Philadelphia, Verna, then 29, tried something that had never been done before in a live TV broadcast.

The Organum Mathematicum

A 17th Century Computer
Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was a Jesuit scholar and polymath who was celebrated in his lifetime as one of the greatest geniuses of his age. He published on optics, magnetism, linguistics, hydraulics, and Egyptology, among many other subjects.
Here are photos of the organum mathematicum, one of his inventions. This one is owned by the Galileo Museum in Florence. It’s a combination of an encyclopedia and a calculator. The museum describes how it works:
The inside of the chest is divided into nine compartments, one for each of the following subjects: Arithmetic, Geometry, Art of fortifications, Chronology, Horography, Astronomy, Astrology, Steganography, and Music. Each compartment contains twenty-four small rods ending in a colored triangular tip. On each of the nine series of twenty-four small rods are inscribed definitions and information on the corresponding subject. At least one rod in each of the nine compartments has a black tip and constitutes the application table, which gives the rule for proper use. To multiply 74 x 8, for example, one removes the black-tipped rod from the Arithmetic compartment and places it next to the rods carrying the numbers 7 and 4 at the top. The eighth line on the black-tipped rod gives the desired product.

Plants Can Eat Animals

Meat-eating plants are either fascinating or a weird perversion of nature that just should not be. How does a plant even move fast enough to eat animals? Julia and Julian look at 5 ways some plucky plants get their carnivore on.

Oil Spills Into Yellowstone River

More than 50,000 gallons of oil spilled into Montana's Yellowstone River after a pipeline burst.

Blythe Intaglios

The Nazca Lines Of America
About 15 miles north of Blythe, just west of U.S. Highway 95 near the Colorado River, are a group of gigantic geoglyphs. There are a total of six distinct figures in three locations, including a human figure at each location and animal figures depicting serpents and quadrupeds at the other two sites.
From the ground level, the figures are indiscernible, nor they are visible from any nearby hill from any distance or angle. Just like Peru's famous Nazca Lines, they can only be seen from the air. And that is precisely how Blythe Intaglios were discovered.

How We See the World

An 1815 geological map of the British Isles changed the way we look at the ground beneath us.

Sinking and Rising with Climate Change

A resort town in Argentina was engulfed by nearby lake, only to reemerge.


Nitrogen may have arrived on Earth in ancient meteorites after the planet had already formed.

Gigapixels Of Andromeda

On January 5th, 2015 the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope released the biggest image ever taken of the Andromeda Galaxy. The resulting image is 69,536 x 22,230 pixels... a total of 1.5 billion pixels, requiring 4.3GB of disk space. It provides a startling glimpse at the sheer scale of our nearest neighbor.

Chimps 'Talk' Alot

Chimpanzee calls are much more sophisticated than previously thought -- they describe preferred food and the trees they grow on.

Mysterious Goo ...

About 100 birds in the San Francisco Bay area have died from hypothermia after being covered in a mysterious goo.

Tiger Population Jumps 30%

A census found 2,226 tigers in India last year compared with 1,706 in 2010, officials in New Delhi announced.

Self Domestication

Some wolves are born with a capacity to bond with people, new research finds.

Orca Pod Visits Paddle Boarder

A paddle boarder went out in search of an encounter with orcas and got his wish when a peaceful pod interacted with him.

Mother Caring for Babies

The reptile is an extinct species called the philydrosaurus, and likely lived during the Early Cretaceous, about 145 to about 100 million years ago.

'Living Fossil' Caught

The shark has 300 needle-shaped teeth in 25 rows and is a species that dates back 80 million years.

Animal Pictures