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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Daily Drift

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

1160   Emperor Frederick Barbarossa hurtles prisoners, including children, at the Italian city of Crema, forcing its surrender.  
1238   The Mongols take over Vladimir, Russia.
1690   The first paper money in America is issued in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  
1783   Spain recognizes United States' independence.  
1904   Colombian troops clash with U.S. Marines in Panama.  
1908   The U.S. Supreme Court rules that union-sponsored boycotts are illegal, and applies the Sherman Antitrust Act to labor as well as capital.  
1912   New U.S. football rules are set: field shortened to 100 yds.; touchdown counts six points instead of five; four downs are allowed instead of three; and the kickoff is moved from midfield to the 40 yd. line.  
1917   A German submarine sinks the U.S. liner Housatonic off coast of Sicily. The United States severs diplomatic relations with Germany.  
1920   The Allies demand that 890 German military leaders stand trial for war crimes.  
1927   President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill creating the Federal Radio Commission to regulate the airwaves.
1943   Finland begins talks with the Soviet Union.  
1944   The United States shells the Japanese homeland for the first time at Kurile Islands.  
1945   The Allies drop 3,000 tons of bombs on Berlin.  
1945   The month-long Battle of Manila begins.  
1954   Millions greet Queen Elizabeth in Sydney on her first royal trip to Australia.  
1962   President John F. Kennedy bans all trade with Cuba.
1966   Soviet Luna 9 achieves soft landing on the moon.  
1971   OPEC decides to set oil prices without consulting buyers.  
1984   The Environmental Protection Agency orders a ban on the pesticide EDB for grain products.

The Enemies of Democracy Are Not Threats from Without But from Within

the-inner-enemies-of-democracyTzvetan Todorov. The Inner Enemies of Democracy. Polity: 2014. Todorov, Honorary Director of Research at Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique, The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, examines here the history of the twentieth century in search of democracy’s enemies, and finds, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and world communism, that democracy’s enemies lie not without, but within.
He includes here not just a rise in populism but of mass media and sound bite-driven demagoguery, which he defines as “identifying the concerns of the majority and proposing to relieve them by resorting to solutions that are easy to understand but impossible to apply.” This will sound instantly familiar to those who have listened to teabagger “solutions” since 2008.
While he is not the first to make this observation that the enemies of democracy lie within, it is nevertheless important to note his dismissal of the oft-cited threat of terrorism, noting that “islamic terrorism (or jihadism) is not a credible candidate for the role of enemy that was formerly held by Moscow.”
Todorov instead argues that “a certain use of freedom can be a danger to democracy”:
Democracy secretes within itself the very forces that threaten it, and the novelty of our time is that these forces are superior to those attacking it from outside.
Worse, he says,
Combating and neutralizing them is all the more difficult because they claim to be imbued with the democratic spirit, and thus have every appearance of legitimacy.
He is not, as you might think, talking about the religio-wingnuts or the Koch brothers, about either theocracy or corporatocracy, though he admits the threats he is discussing “are not the only internal threats to democracy.” Readers looking for elucidation of those threats will have to look elsewhere.
Here, Todorov is not interested in a comprehensive list of threats, but only, he says, those threats with which he has familiarity. Despite having spent the first third of his life in a totalitarian state, he is focused on the threat posed by an overabundance of liberty:
The people, freedom and progress are constituent elements of democracy, but if one of them breaks free from its relationship with others, thus escaping any attempt to limit it and erecting itself into a single principle, they become distinct dangers: populism, ultraliberalism, and messianism. Those inner enemies of democracy.
Todorov warns of political messianism, “messianism without a messiah” – a secular form of the end justifies the means thinking – which has not heaven in mind, but “establishing the equivalent of heaven on earth,” or “temporal salvation.”
Todorov’s point is clear: ideological crusaders are as dangerous as religious crusaders, and he offers us three examples of political messianism:
  1. The French Revolution;
  2. Marxism/Communism;
  3. Imposing Democracy by bombs.
Among the latter attempts to “bring the good” he includes Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and most recently, our intervention in Libya (2011), where, he notes, the security of the United States was not at stake, and which, uniquely of the three, had UN authorization. This sort of “justice,” as he points out (in company with many others), is highly selective.
Even Obama’s foreign policy, he says, depends ultimately on an expression of American responsibility born of America’s unparalleled strength, neither “divine” nor “by consensus” but our status as “the world’s most powerful nation.” This, he says, “is how might is enabled to pass itself off as right!”
Todorov cites French philosopher and political scientist Nicolas de Condorcet, who put is thusly:
“The moment has come for a new crusade, and it has a far nobler, and holier object. It is a crusade for universal liberty.”
If that sounds familiar, it should. This is a refrain repeated by our own neo-wingnuts.
Todorov points out that, “None of these supporters of freedom for all wondered whether deciding the future for other peoples in this way might not violate the principle of universal equality which they defended elsewhere.”
Leading revolutionary activist Condorcet may have found more holiness than he hoped for, as he died from an excess of universal freedom after being arrested by revolutionary authorities in 1794.
In all three cases we see what Todorov calls “spirited activism,” the idea expressed, to paraphrase revolutionary leader Saint-Just during the French Revolution, that “Once the good has been attained, it will of course need to be ‘perpetuated.'”
The good in a democratic society? Why, equality and freedom in the name of democracy of course. Unfortunately for Saint-Just, too much of this “good” perpetuated him right to the guillotine.
There is some satisfying irony in Condorcet and Saint-Just being victims of what they said needed to be perpetuated, but the irony is less amusing if we see that our democracy can – and has – become a victim of our own zeal for democracy.
Communism was the next phase of political messianism, relates Todorov, and communism fully embraced the ideal of might is right, which was unfortunate for those who stood against it because, as Lenin put it, “Marxism is all-powerful because it is true.”
This capital-T-type truth – and anything that stands in its way must be swept aside – was no more open to debate in communist circles than it is among our own Religious Right, and it is unfortunate that Todorov does not follow this very inviting avenue of thought.
Todorov turns instead to neoliberalism, which he refers to as “a new phase in the evolution of liberalism” in opposition to totalitarianism. Ayn Rand (who, like Todorov, grew up in a communist country) he labels a “neoliberal propagandist.”
He argues that neoliberals “distance themselves from the laissez-faire of classical liberalism and advocate a form of state intervention that can speed up history, namely the systematic elimination of any barrier to competition.” Ultraliberalism is, he argues, yet another phase in this progression. Ultraliberal ideology opposes any intervention or controls by the state.
This sounds like Ayn Rand. It does not sound like liberalism, which, after all, came up with the United States Constitution, establishing an entirely unique system of government on the earth, full of controls via an intricate system of checks and balances.
As we can readily see, and know from experience, ultraliberalism is not liberalism at all. In fact, as Todorov points out, ultraliberalism in its devotion to unbridled economic forces, “violates the basic principle of liberal thought, which is the limitation of one power by another.”
Nor, he warns, are ultraliberalism and totalitarianism “as radically opposed” as their adherents claim. Ultraliberalism, says Todorov pointedly, is not only totalitarianism’s enemy, but its brother.
A rather chilling thought, but one we are seeing proved before our very eyes in the early years of the twenty-first century.
The Inner Enemies of Democracy is a very readable book, and a very important one.

Obama Spikes repugican cabal During Super Bowl Interview By Vowing Not To Concede Anything To repugicans

obama super bowl interview
President Obama delivered a message to Congressional repugicans during an interview before the Super Bowl. He is not going to concede anything to them because they stole a midterm election
The interview took place in the White House kitchen with the president in shirt sleeves. This was a much different setting from previous Super Bowl interviews, and it was impossible not to notice that the president was much more relaxed. With the economy growing and his approval ratings surging, Obama looked like a president who is finally out from under the weight of the economic collapse that he inherited.
Obama refused to pick a winner of the game but said that the game will be close.
The president used the big pre-Super Bowl audience to remind people of the progress that has been made while he is in office, “Well actually, nobody was doing an end zone dance. What we were talking about was the success that America’s had digging itself out of a really tough recession, and that’s a celebration of the American people. That’s not about politics. I was speaking about the fact that we have seen a faster drop in unemployment in the past year than we’ve seen in the past thirty years. We’ve seen that wages are starting to tick up again. We’ve seen housing recover, auto industry recover, energy production up, gas prices down. All of those things are good for the American people and that is worth us celebrating and now we’ve got to build on it by making sure that middle-class economics, one where it works for everybody that ends up being something that both parties can embrace.”
Savannah Guthrie trotted out the mainstream media’s favorite talking point that Obama should be more conciliatory because repugicans are in charge of Congress. The president responded by saying, “My job is to present the right ideas, and if repugicans think they’ve got better ideas, they should present them, but my job is not to trim my sails, and not tell the American people what we should be doing, pretending somehow that we don’t need better roads, or we don’t need more affordable college. One of the things I’ve learned over the last six years is that when I tell the American people very clearly what direction I think the country should go in sometimes people change their minds and even repugicans occasionally start agreeing with me. Although sometimes a little later than I would like.”
In other words, this president isn’t going to concede anything to repugicans because they stole a midterm election. In fact, the president was suggesting that he is going to use his bully pulpit and executive powers to fight for what he thinks is right for the country.
The president still maintained his easy going manner, but it is clear that he is going to spend the last two years fighting for what he believes in. Boehner and McConnell better strap in because it looks they are in for a bumpy ride.

John Boehner Admits congressional repugicans Have Been Totally Inept At Getting Anything Done

by Allen Clifton
One of the biggest problems I run across when dealing with politics is that the vast majority of Americans have no clue how our government works. Sure, most people can name who’s president, but far fewer know anything at all about Congress. The typical American has no idea what the House or Senate really does or what power the president actually has. So it should come as no surprise that our government is often dysfunctional because, unfortunately, the average American doesn’t know much about how it works.
In all honesty, the only way we would ever see a truly streamlined government is if one party controlled the majority in the House, 60 seats in the Senate, and the White House; or if one party controlled at least two-thirds of both the House and Senate to have the power to override any presidential veto as long as everyone voted along party lines.
And if one party makes it their lone mission in government to block and obstruct anything that the other party supports, then it’s almost impossible to get anything accomplished. That’s exactly what has happened since the election of President Obama.
So even after the big repugican thefts in last November’s elections, I wasn’t really too concerned because they lacked the votes in Congress to override the president’s veto – unless Democrats vote with repugicans. In fact, I was actually a bit excited because now repugican cabal idiocy would be on full display. And as I’ve seen time and time again, the best way to make repugicans look like idiots is to simply let them be themselves.
Since stealing control of Congress earlier this month, repugicans have tried to get an anti-abortion bill passed (and failed to do so after female repugicans rebelled against them due to the extreme nature of the bill) and couldn’t even get a border security bill passed through the House because the more extreme lunatic fringe wingnut members of the repugican cabal were upset that it wasn’t anti-immigrant enough.
Heck, they don’t even have enough votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster to get the Keystone XL pipeline passed and sent to President Obama’s desk, where it will be swiftly vetoed.
In other words, after all of this hype and big talk from the repugican cabal – they’ve accomplished absolutely nothing so far. They’ve been completely inept, and John Boehner agrees. After a meeting with a number of rank-and-file party leaders, Boehner told reporters “there have been a couple of stumbles” since repugicans stole Congress a few weeks ago.
I wouldn’t call a slight insurrection against House leadership from female repugicans over an abortion bill, and a mild revolt from the House’s lunatic fringe members over an immigration bill, “slight stumbles.” That’s flat-out incompetence.
And I must remind everyone that they’re doing all of this bickering and posturing in the House over bills that will never be signed by the president. So it’s not as if they’re working with President Obama on legislation that will ever matter. In other words, this is all a complete waste of time. It’s like watching two small children bicker over who’s going to get the last piece of candy when the parents have already said neither of them are going to get it.
So we’re a month into our repugican-misled Congress and what have they accomplished? Practically nothing. Because while President Obama will almost undoubtedly veto nearly all of this right-wing pushed nonsense, repugicans in the House have been too incompetent to even get a piece of legislation that far.
And they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Scott Walker Falls Flat On His Face When Asked About Foreign Policy On ABC

Scott Walker ABC This Week
It only took one foreign policy question on ABC’s This Week for Scott Walker’s potential 2016 presidential campaign to fall completely apart.
RADDATZ: Let’s talk about some specific, and you talk about leadership and you talk about big, bold, fresh ideas. What is your big, bold, fresh idea in Syria?

WALKER: Well, I think – I go back to the red line.

RADDATZ: Let’s not go back. Let’s go forward. What is your big, bold idea in Syria?

WALKER: I think aggressively, we need to take the fight to ISIS and any other radical Islamic terrorist in and around the world, because it’s not a matter of when they attempt an attack on American soil, or not if I should say, it’s when, and we need leadership that says clearly, not only amongst the United States but amongst our allies, that we’re willing to take appropriate action. I think it should be surgical.

RADDATZ: You don’t think 2,000 air strikes is taking it to ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
WALKER: I think we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world. I think it’s a mistake to –
RADDATZ: But what does that mean? I don’t know what aggressive strategy means. If we’re bombing and we’ve done 2,000 air strikes, what does an aggressive strategy mean in foreign policy?
WALKER: I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be – go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes, because I think, you know–
RADDATZ: Boots on the ground in Syria? U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?
WALKER: I don’t think that is an immediate plan, but I think anywhere in the world–
RADDATZ: But you would not rule that out.

WALKER: I wouldn’t rule anything out. I think when you have the lives of Americans at stake and our freedom loving allies anywhere in the world, we have to be prepared to do things that don’t allow those measures, those attacks, those abuses to come to our shores.
Martha Raddatz pushed Scott Walker on foreign policy, and he completely fell apart. Walker went from being a what he called a leader with big, bold, fresh ideas to being another repugican with the shrub’s foreign policy. Someone also might want to tell Walker that meeting with Henry Kissinger and George Schultz is not the same as serving as Secretary of State.
Scott Walker can definitely rile up a crowd of repugicans in Iowa, but in terms of policies and ideas, the Wisconsin governor has got nothing new to offer. Walker’s implosion illustrates the problem that the repugicans are going to have in 2016. The repugicans want to make 2016 a foreign policy election. They want to attack Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State. Their problem is that they don’t have a single candidate on their roster who has foreign policy experience.
Walker’s American boots on the ground anywhere in the world answer would lose him a presidential election. With this one answer, Scott Walker sabotaged his chances of being elected president in 2016. Walker was the first in what will be a long line of repugican pretender candidate flavors of the week. It only took eight days for Walker to deliver an answer during an interview that would make him unelectable in the fall of 2016.

The Truth Be Told


The repugican Obamacare Replacement Plan Calls for Higher Costs and More Poor People Dying

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Along with Senators Richard Burr and Tom Coburn, Hatch unveiled a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act as part of the latest GOP attempt to repeal the act.
The House of Representatives are planning to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This will be the first time the new Congress has taken up the measure, and the 60th time the repugican-misled House has attempted to do so over the last four years. Even if it gets to a vote in the repugican majority Senate, it will inevitably be vetoed.
The same day it was announced that the House planned another repeal vote, Richard Burr (r-N.C.), Tom Coburn, M.D. (r-Okla.), and Orrin Hatch (r-Utah) unveiled the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (CARE) Act. The press release from the Senate Committee on Finance, of which Hatch is the chairman, describes the CARE Act as “a legislative plan that repeals Obamacare and then replaces it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that reduce health care costs and increases access to affordable, high-quality care.”
If that sounds a lot like the Affordable Care Act, well, you’re paying attention.
As with all things, it’s the details that matter – and the details are scarce. The two page proposal is filled with talking points. First step, of course, is to repeal the ACA. Yet, they include a lot of the popular aspects of the ACA, such as not being denied coverage for preexisting conditions, continuing health coverage for dependents up to age 26, and prohibiting lifetime limits on coverage. However, if you read further you will see that the plan is nothing more than a return to the days before the ACA.
The proposal allows states to opt out of the continuous coverage for dependents, as well as other provisions that limit how much more insurance companies can charge older individuals. It has replaced the tax subsidy currently available with a refundable tax credit, meaning that people would have to pay full price for their premium and get a refund on their tax return. They are increasing the income level to qualify for this tax credit, which means that fewer people would qualify for Medicaid coverage. As for the Medicaid coverage, they would lower the income rate of eligibility and have a capped amount as to how much each state could spend on the program.
The CARE Act will not allow people to be denied coverage for preexisting conditions but it does not say these individuals cannot be charged more. In fact, the act would reestablish high risk pools for “catastrophic coverage” and health savings accounts. Under the ACA, both of these no longer exist because all plans must have basic coverage and no one can be denied or charged more for a preexisting condition.
Most importantly, under the CARE Act, no employer or individual will be required to purchase insurance if they don’t want to.
In short, the CARE Act is a return to the days of higher insurance premiums and less coverage. Without the employer and individual mandates, people who cannot afford insurance will once again be without options. They admit that their plan has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but a think tank called the Center for Health Economy has issued a report that says it will make health insurance more affordable. The Center for Health Economy is a think tank that was started last year and is headed by repugican policy asswipe Douglas Holtz-Eakin. It is funded by the American Action Network. The AAN is a political action committee that agitates for “center-right politics”. It has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on “anti-Obamacare” political messages during campaigns.
These factors should be considered when hearing any “analyses” done about the repugican proposal.
The repugicans have already begun their PR campaign for the plan. Last week, an op-ed was published in the Washington Post by a “resident scholar” at another wingnut non-think tank. He set the stage by arguing that less money should be spent by government on health care and that the market should provide options for those who could afford it. He admits that by repealing the ACA, more people would go without coverage and many, very likely, will die. However, as Michael Strain argues, this is an acceptable risk because, quite frankly, we are all going to die anyway and when there are limited resources, tough choices have to be made.
“As with speed limits, gun laws, agency regulations and many other policies, including Obamacare, the shape of future health-care policy will require trade-offs. There are only so many resources, so choices between directing them to health care and allowing them to flow to other uses are inevitable,” Strain glibly points out.
In other words, when repugicans vote for the 60th time to repeal the ACA, they will be saying to America that the poor and the very sick will die and that is perfectly okay because that’s how the free market works.

What Happened When An American Used Britain’s ‘Socialized’ National Health Service?

by Kerry-Anne
American Jim Edwards has spent half his life living in the US and half living in the UK.  As a dual citizen, he has experienced both health care systems first hand and has some startling news for Americans – socialized medicine works, and it works better than privatized medicine in almost every conceivable way.
In a piece for Business Insider, Edwards compares the healthcare systems across several areas:
  • Accident and Emergency waiting times
  • Making non-emergency appointments
  • On-the-day Care
  • Quality of GP care
  • Paperwork
  • Overall quality of care
Accident and Emergency
Image source: DMG MediaEdwards finds that the standards of care in UK A&E would have most Americans green-eyed with envy. In fact, the waiting times that Brits complain about, would seem like a miracle in most US hospitals.
“The headline number is that 84% of patients are seen within four hours. In the UK, this is regarded as a huge failure — the standard the NHS is supposed to meet is 95% of patients in four hours.
In the US, having sat in many an ER waiting room for hours at a stretch, the idea of a hospital seeing nearly 9 out of 10 patients in four hours would be regarded as a miracle.” writes Edwards.
As NHS doctors triage patients in the A&E, you would be seen immediately if you were hit by a bus, but if you had a superficial wound or break then you would be placed at the back of the queue.  No one bleeds out on a gurney in an NHS Accident and Emergency unit.
Making Non-Emergency Appointments
Image via Shutterstock
Edwards was surprised to find that whereas in the US, the appointment was on his terms, things are quite different in the UK.  In the NHS you are also triaged, and your appointment scheduled accordingly, and not on your terms.  He describes his reaction to this:
“At first I found this jarring. In America, I get to choose when I see the doctor! In Britain, I better show up when I’m told. But the appointment came quickly, as the local health authority in London has targets it needs to meet. Ultimately, I saw the logic of it: This is a public health system. It needs to manage its costs and services. If you’re really sick, you’ll show up. If you only want to show up when it’s convenient for your schedule, then how sick are you, really?”
On-The-Day Care
Image via The PulseEdwards was stunned by the fact that in the UK’s NHS, you can walk into a primary care clinic at 9am without an appointment and see a doctor almost immediately.
“In America, I’ve always had a long wait to see my doctor. I have read many a back issue of Newsweek in my primary care / general practitioner (GP) doctor’s office. I’ve sat there for an hour playing with my phone while the doc sees patients in the order they were booked.
In the UK, I showed up at 9am and was seen instantly.
This was one reason I became convinced that the NHS way of scheduling is superior: You might not get the time or date that you want, but once you’re in, you get seen super-quick.”
He states unequivocally that in his experience “America is worse at on-the-day care.”
All Americans know the horrors of the US healthcare system’s nightmare bureaucracy.  As Edwards writes:
Image via Business Week
“There is a load of paperwork for patients in the US. This is easily the worst aspect of US healthcare — the billing paperwork. If you’ve ever had any health issue that required more than a simple doctor visit, you will know that it precipitates a seemingly never-ending series of forms, bills, and letters.”
In 2012, Mitt Romney argued that “‘Obamacare’ puts the federal government between you and your doctor.”  A look at the NHS proves that nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, a public healthcare system takes insurance companies out of the way of you and your doctor.  There is zero paperwork to complete for patients in the UK healthcare system. None. At All.  You make an appointment, you arrive, you are seen and treated, and you leave.  No charge, no paperwork.
Quality of Care
Study those last two columns on the right closely.  There is not a single category in which the US system outperforms the UK.  Not one.  Despite annual spending per head of less than HALF that spent in the US, the public healthcare system of Britain delivers results the likes of which the patchwork private system of the US can only dream.  This is hard proof that the profit motive is detrimental to public health.
The figures also accord with the personal experience of Edwards, who writes:
The bottom line: I prefer the NHS to the American private system. It’s a little more inconvenient in terms of appointment times, but due to the fact that it is free, has no paperwork, and the treatment on the day is super-fast, the NHS wins.
Americans think they have the best healthcare in the world. Take it from me, a fellow American: They don’t.
The next time a wingnut starts ranting about ‘socialized’ medicine, show them this.

Mother seeks answers after son injured when tongue got stuck to frozen window on school bus

A mother from Petawawa in Ontario, Canada, is seeking answers after her son was dropped off at school following his usual morning bus ride with injuries he received when he got his tongue stuck on the window and his cries for help went unheeded. Four-year-old Lucas McDonald has a red welt on his right cheek and marks on his lips after he got his tongue and mouth stuck to the frozen window on the bus.
It’s unclear for how much of the half-hour bus ride Lucas was stuck. However, his mother says he sits directly behind the driver and was crying and pleading for help. “He was crying and said he was asking for help and nobody would help him,” Alisha McDonald said. “I’m like, ‘How could you not have heard him crying and asking for help? How can you not see him?’” Lucas eventually managed to free himself from the window.
“There was blood on the window on the bus,” Lucas said. Staff at Valour Elementary School in Petawawa called McDonald when Lucas arrived at school. She took her son to hospital to find out whether he suffered frostbite and if his skin will be permanently damaged. Meanwhile, McDonald says that her son’s ordeal has her wondering how children are being treated on those long bus rides to school.
The Renfrew County District School Board issued a brief statement, noting that staff acted appropriately when Lucas arrived at school. “The RCDSB is deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of its students,” the statement read. That’s not good enough for Lucas’s parents, but they will still pursue an answer to the question of how he could get frostbite inside a warm, working bus on the way to school.

Trucker pulling his own tooth caused accident that led to large traffic jam

Distracted driving was responsible for a miles-long traffic jam on I-20/59 East near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Sunday night and Monday morning. The driver was trying to pull his own tooth, according to an ALEA State Trooper report.
The accident, which happened just before 10:30pm, was caused when a self-employed tractor trailer driver took his hands off the wheel to pull a loose tooth from his mouth. "The driver stated he lost control when he was pulling a tooth with his hands," the report reads.
"He had the tooth in his shirt pocket as proof." The truck left the roadway, traveled down the slope leading into a ditch then jack-knifed into nearby trees, according to the report.
No one was seriously hurt, but the effort to recover the truck caused road crews to set up a detour and completely divert eastbound traffic off the interstate for several hours. The 57-year-old driver's name was redacted from the State Trooper's report.

Florida Woman Who Destroyed Satanic Display Claims Charges Against Her are an ‘Attack on christians’

Wingnuts really don’t understand our First Amendment. While they see “freedom of religion” as a right for christians to force their religious delusions on other people, it actually means the exact opposite. But this fact never seems to deter wingnuts all over this country from continually trying to force their delusion in places it doesn’t belong.
A perfect example of this is in Florida where a ruling last year allowed religious displays to be placed at the state capitol. Clearly the wingnuts who were pushing for this only meant for 'christian' displays, such as nativity scenes, to be displayed at the capitol. But there was just one slight catch to that: Being that our First Amendment grants religious freedom, by allowing christians to place holiday displays at the state capitol, that meant that all religions were allowed to place “holiday displays” on capitol grounds.
Even satanists.
As the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. When these wingnuts forced religion into a place that it didn’t belong (a government building) it was then required that all religions be granted the same exact access.
Though that’s clearly not how Florida resident Susan Hemeryck sees it. On December 23 she went into Florida’s State Capitol building wearing a shirt that said “catholic warrior” on it and proceeded to destroy the satanic display that had been legally placed there by the Satanic Temple.
At the time of the incident she said“It’s just wrong, when you remove baby jesus two days before Xmas and put Satan in his place? I was there at the right time and the right moment and I needed to take a stand against Satan.”
“I just yanked that little devil off the fishing line,” she continued. “I should have just done a better job and finished it off for good.”
She was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief for destroying the display. Well, she has now pled “not guilty,” claiming that the state’s charges against her are an “attack on christians.”
These people just don’t get it. These charges have nothing to do with her religion. She broke a law and now she’s going to have to face the consequences for her actions. Just because she acted out on behalf of her religious beliefs doesn’t suddenly mean she should be immune from having to abide by laws.
This is why religion has no place in government. The reason why the Satanic Temple (an organization that doesn’t really worship Satan by the way) placed the display at the capitol in the first place was to prove the point that religion and government shouldn’t be mixed, but if the state is going to allow for one religion then it must allow for all of them.
We’ve seen satanic groups stage similar types of “protests” in Oklahoma where a statue was erected at the Oklahoma Statehouse and when one group tried to use the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling to shield women from anti-choice laws.
But this is just another example of some religious whacko who doesn’t understand that our First Amendment grants every American the freedom of religion. What it doesn’t do is give these religious fanatics the right to force their views on other people.
Watch the woman destroy the display below:

No, Black Cops Acting Like White Cops Doesn’t Debunk Police Racism

On Monday, New York Times columnist Charles Blow reminded the nation, that being black in America has consequences when African-Americans interact with the police. He relayed the story of how his son, Tahj, a Yale University student, was confronted at gunpoint by a campus police officer. The young man was unarmed and had committed no crime. He had just left the campus library. However, because Blow’s son resembled the description of a burglary suspect, an officer accosted the student, and forced him to the ground.
In his opinion column, Charles Blow expressed anger and concern over the way his son was treated. He proclaimed:
I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.
While expressing outrage at how the police treated his son, Blow did not mention the race of the officer who confronted Tahj. That officer was, like the suspect, African-American. When wingnut bloggers discovered that the detaining officer was also black, it set off a frenzy of writers upbraiding Blow for being a race-baiter. Breitbart.com proudly declared, “Race-Hoax Debunked: Cop Who Detained Charles Blow’s Son is Black”. Other wingnut-leaning publications offered up similar rebukes. The New York Post, The American Thinker, and NewsBusters, all weighed in. Each wingnut site basically argued that the incident could not have been racial, because the officer involved was black.
In a follow up interview on CNN, Blow argued that the race of the officer was not as important as the fact that police culture encourages officers to profile black men. Academic studies support Blow’s argument. Sure if Blow knew the race of the officer when he first wrote his column, he probably should have mentioned it. Divulging the officer’s race would not have undermined his narrative, but it could have insulated him from later criticism alleging that he was hiding important details. However, nothing Blow said, or did not say, changes the reality that African-American men are viewed suspiciously by police officers, black and white alike.
Black males between the ages of 15 and 19, are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers, than their white male counterparts of the same age. White police officers account for the vast majority of deadly force incidents. However, when black officers do shoot and kill, the person they are shooting is usually African-American.
Wingnuts seem incapable of comprehending the complex dynamics of modern American racism. In their simplistic understanding, all that is required to remove race from the equation is a minority police officer. If a black person is victimized by a black cop, wingnuts reason that race must not have been a factor. To suggest racial assumptions could still be relevant is to “play the race card”. Yet, this shallow point of view fundamentally misinterprets how racism in police policy works. Police culture reflects some of the underlying biases held by the larger society. Racial profiling and police brutality are not typically the individual excesses of openly racist officers, hell bent on ethnic cleansing. Rather they are symptomatic of a covertly racist society that has yet to acknowledge the persistence of its own latent, but enduring prejudices.
The idea that a black police officer is automatically insulated from charges of anti-black racism because of his skin color is a misunderstanding of the complex nuances of racism. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is no less a racist than Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Clarke’s contempt for the African-American community he is supposed to serve, is a glaring example that a black cop can be every bit as much a bigot towards African-American men as a white cop. American police culture, reflecting the society that created it, has a race problem. That problem is manifested in the behavior of police departments, and individual officers, both white and black.

Gentleman from Aryan Brotherhood who pocketed $6 of Hot Pockets at Walmart gets felony theft

andrew-stephen-martin The swift hand of justice has swooped down upon Andrew Stephen Martin, 28, who is charged with felony theft for stealing 6 bucks worth of Hot Pockets at an Austin, TX WalMart.
Police say they had to wait to file charges against Martin because he was intoxicated to the point that he could not be released from the hospital.
Martin is accused of stealing the box of Hot Pockets from the Walmart at 2525 West Anderson Lane — the same store where authorities arrested him a day before for stealing and issued him a criminal trespass warning. A loss prevention worker detained Martin when he saw him grab the Hot Pockets and walk out of the store without paying for them. The investigator told police that no one gave Martin permission to take them without paying. The loss prevention employee adding that Martin was, however, cooperative with him and returned to the loss prevention office to wait for police to show up.

Texas School Suspends 9-Year-Old For Terrorism Because He Brought Imaginary Hobbit Ring To Class

by Stephen D Foster Jr 
A nine-year-old boy has been suspended by officials at a Texas school because they believe bringing an imaginary Hobbit ring to class is an act of terrorism.
When Aiden Steward watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” earlier this week with his family, he naturally wanted to pretend to be a character from the film. Specifically, he pretended to be Bilbo Baggins, the hesitantly brave hero who acquires a magic ring from the creature Gollum in the first movie in the trilogy, which is based on a book written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Forged at the fictional location of Mount Doom, it is “the one ring to rule them all,” giving the wearer the power of invisibility. The power of the ring aided Bilbo during his journey. So, Aiden brought a ring of his own to Kermit Elementary School and told his friends that they, too, could become invisible by using his ring. Again, the ring had no powers whatsoever, because this is reality.
This being Texas, of course, school officials for some reason believed Aiden was making threats of terrorism against his friends with a magical object and suspended him, much to the disbelief of his parents.
John Steward, Aiden’s father, told the New York Daily News, “It sounded unbelievable.”
“Kids act out movies that they see. When I watched Superman as a kid, I went outside and tried to fly. I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence. If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”
Principal Roxanne Greer has cowardly declined to comment on the matter, citing student privacy, but it’s most likely that she is just too embarrassed about the situation to make a statement.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Kermit Elementary has punished Aiden for things that seem to only bother Texas.
Aiden once brought his favorite book to school to impress his teacher, but school officials freaked out because “The Big Book of Knowledge” had a section about pregnancy and included an illustration of a pregnant woman. In another innocuous incident, Aiden referred to a black student as black, which drew yet another suspension from the school.
To recap, school officials at Kermit Elementary School in Texas have suspended a boy three times for three ridiculous reasons. They couldn’t handle an imaginary magical ring from a beloved work of fantasy fiction which is carried by many school libraries. They couldn’t handle a children’s book full of facts that help kids learn. And they couldn’t handle a nine-year-old boy knowing what color a classmate’s skin is.
Once again, Texas proves that it is an embarrassment to the nation.

New spy case shows Russia up to old tricks

New spy case shows Russia up to old tricks but targeting US economy this time
Three men accused in the latest Russian spy case didn't hide behind fake identities and weren't stealing military secrets. The evidence even suggests they were annoyed that their assignment wasn't more like a James Bond film.
Their alleged plot to dig up "economic intelligence" on possible banking penalties and alternative energy sources may not be the stuff of Hollywood movies, but U.S. authorities insist the case is proof that Russian spying is thriving in America more than two decades after the end of the Cold War.
It also shows the time and resources the U.S. still throws at those suspected of being Putin-era spies, using methods developed before many of them were born: listening bugs, hidden cameras and intercepted phone calls.
"Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara warned after the arrests last week. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich countered by accusing U.S. authorities of manufacturing a spy scandal as part of its "anti-Russian campaign."
Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham Law professor and former federal prosecutor, said the latest case shouldn't be taken lightly.
"We have to be concerned about the economic warfare end of this. That's what worries me," she said, noting the recent crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures involving the movie "The Interview."
She said the arrests might demonstrate that the spy game has changed as countries seek information to poise themselves to attack businesses and the economy. "It's not looking for military secrets. That's almost passe now," McAvoy said.
The case against Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy comes less than five years after the arrest of 10 covert agents — a sleeper cell referred to as "The Illegals" by the SVR, the foreign intelligence agency headquartered in Moscow — who led ordinary lives for several years in the United States using aliases. All 10 pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy charges and were ordered out of the country as part of a spy swap for four people convicted of betraying Moscow to the West.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn brought another spy case in 2013, accusing Alexander Fishenko, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kazakhstan who made millions off his Texas export firm, of being a secret agent for the Russian military. Fishenko, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
Not everyone views the latest case as a scary new wrinkle in spy tactics.
"What is interesting about this case, just like the 2010 sleeper spy case, is how little these accused Russian spies are accomplishing. Either the FBI is just getting the low-hanging fruit, or the Russian foreign intelligence agency isn't doing its job very well," said Kimberly Marten, a political scientist at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Prosecutors say the latest investigation exposed espionage by Sporyshev and Podobnyy, who held low-level diplomatic positions, and Buryakov, a Bronx resident with a valid visa, a position in the Manhattan branch of a Russian bank and a LinkedIn profile.
U.S. prosecutors say that under orders from Moscow, Sporyshev's main duty was to give Buryakov assignments to gather intelligence on potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and efforts here to develop alternative energy resources. They say Sporyshev and Podobnyy would analyze the information and report back to the SVR behind the walls of a Russian Federation office in New York they thought was secure but apparently was bugged.
In a secretly recorded conversation, Podobnyy let down his guard and complained to Sporyshev that their work was nothing like "movies about James Bond," according to the papers.
"Of course, I wouldn't fly helicopters, but pretend to be someone else at a minimum," he said.
Sporyshev griped that he too thought he "at least would go abroad with a different passport."
The court papers also detail demands on Buryakov from SVR to come up with questions for a Russian "news organization" — believed to be Tass — to ask about the inner workings of the U.S. stock market.
The conversation was an exception to how the pair normally did business, prosecutors said. Typically, they would speak on the phone in code to set up meetings in outdoor settings, with "Buryakov passing a bag, magazine or slip of paper to Sporyshev," court papers said.
Some of the meetings took place near Buryakov's red-brick home on a quiet block in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, not far from a monolithic high-rise used to house Russian diplomats.
Neighbors said 39-year-old Buryakov, his wife and two children largely kept to themselves. They recalled a man sitting in a car on the block for hours at a time — in hindsight, they say, probably surveillance — but were surprised when the FBI raided the home last Monday.
"I got home from work and saw all these cars, about 10 of them, blocking the street. One blocked my driveway," said Damian McShane, who lives across the street. "We didn't know what was happening."
A judge ordered Buryakov held without bail. Podobnyy and Sporyshev, whose diplomatic status gave them immunity, have returned to Russia.
Tass reported that Russian diplomats had visited Buryakov in a federal lockup in lower Manhattan and found conditions of his confinement "satisfactory." A Russian spokesman told the news agency that Buryakov "vehemently denies the alleged offenses."

Link Dump

5 Simple Games That Make Kids Smarter

by Sasha Brown-Worsham
5 Simple Games That Make Kids SmarterPuzzles, blocks, board games, and pick-up sticks might seem to have gone the way of penny candy and being allowed to walk home from school alone at 8 years old when it comes to today’s kids. But these “old-fashioned” games do something for children that Minecraft,iPads, and the Wii never will. They offer children “spatial orientation” — a better sense of how to manipulate and exist in the world around them.
"Spatial orientation" has grown-up application in everything from engineering to whether or not a person can read a map. Or whether they can put together furniture from Ikea. Or drive in heavy traffic. In other words, it’s vital and eventually develops into STEM (Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology) skills.
 “Spatial orientation is all about how people think about space,” says psychological scientist and researcher Jamie Jirout of Rhodes College whose study on children at play was recently published in Psychological Science. “It’s about how different objects fit in space and imagining how objects look from different angles.”
Jirout’s study found that children who play with blocks, puzzles, and board games — “simple” toys by any definition — are far more likely to build these spatial reasoning skills than children who play with other toys. “Providing children with access to spatial play experiences is a good way to boost spatial development,” she says.
So what are the top five simple games that help build this sense of space?
Battleship: In Battleship, “you are thinking about space,” Jirout says. “You need to figure out which direction their ship is in and how you can use effective questioning to get there.” It’s not a game one might immediately jump to when you think of STEM skills, but those are precisely the skills it builds.
Hopscotch: Although, not in the category of blocks, board games, and puzzles, this very physical game also involves numbers and spatial orientation, says Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Director of Defending the Early Years, an organization dedicated to helping educators fight testing and all the things that take away from the way children truly learn. “Children practice large and small motor skills and spatial relationships as they draw the game with chalk, McLaughlin says. “And then toss their pebbles and jump along the numbered spaces. There is so much to figure out and do.”
Chutes and Ladders: Many parents probably have fond memories of this game and of rolling the dice and climbing to the top only to shoot back down the slide. But this game is more than just luck and chance and fun. “The board itself is made up of a grid,” Jirout says. There is a counting, math component to it all, but also a strong sense of spatial orientation. Where is my opponent compared to me? How can I catch him? What number do I need to get to get there?
Jenga: There was no game more exciting — or more simple — than Jenga. Simply pull a block from the tower and hope and pray it doesn’t fall. But there is so much more to it, says McLaughlin. “Children develop eye-hand coordination and experiment with gravity as well as cause and effect,” she says. “They will learn that the blocks are more stable on some surfaces than others. The sounds that travel from the falling blocks will very depending on how high the tower gets, and the surface they are playing on.”
Blocks: Give a child an old-fashioned stack of blocks and let them go to town. There are so many varieties — cardboard, wooden, Legos, Bristle, and more — but they all have one thing in common: Children are manipulating in three dimensions. They are feeling the weight of the blocks in their hands. They are imagining something in their head and making it real. Blocks help children learn how to manipulate and change the world around them.
Games like Minecraft and other electronic building games can also help with spatial orientation, but they don’t have the same heft and weight (literally) as old-fashioned blocks. “When a child is figuring out and acting on the actual blocks, her curiosity and exploration will lead her to understanding the real world,” McLaughlin says. “A digital game can not be taken apart, changed, and acted-upon the way actual blocks can.”
It’s official: You have to go back to move forward. I know what my kid’s next birthday list is going to include.

A million rare documents damaged in Moscow library blaze

Flames roar at Moscow library
A fire that ripped through one of Russia's largest university libraries is believed to have damaged over one million historic documents, with some describing the fire as a cultural "Chernobyl."
The blaze, which started Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10 million documents with some dating back to the 16th century.
"It's a major loss for science. This is the largest collection of its kind in the world, probably equivalent to the (United States) Library of Congress," Vladimir Fortov, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences was quoted as saying by Russia press agencies.
"One can find documents there that are impossible to find elsewhere, all the social sciences use this library. What has happened here is reminiscent of Chernobyl," he said referring to the 1986 nuclear catastrophe.
Fortov said about 15 percent of the collection had been damaged at the library, which includes one of the world's richest collections of Slavic language works, but also documents from Britain, Italy and the US.
Fortov told Kommersant FM radio that much of the damage was caused by water from the firefighting operations.
No one was injured in the inferno.
The fire broke out on Friday evening on the library's second floor and continued burning all day Saturday despite 200 firefighters' efforts to douse the blaze.
Library authorities initially said the documents were not in danger, but once the fire caused 1,000 square meters of the roof to collapse they were less certain about the risk to the collection.
A rescue service source told state-run RIA Novosti news agency it was impossible to remove the books because of the intense heat in the building.
According to Russian media, investigators looking into the cause of the blaze suspect an electrical short-circuit was to blame.

The surprising history of hippie crack

People have been having fun with nitrous oxide – even in the name of science – virtually since its discovery more than 240 years ago. 

These Beautiful Antique Photos Were Made With Potato Starch

'A Look at History in Color'
1 of 11    Two small boys gaze at a circus billboard.    Spi ID: 236209  CC: 04In 1907, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, introduced the first viable method of color photography. Although color photographs had existed, the process was clumsy and complicated. The key ingredient, the Lumières discovered, was potato starch.
The process, called autochrome, involved covering a glass plate with a thin wash of tiny potato starch grains dyed red, green, and blue, thus creating a filter. A thin layer of emulsion was added over that. When the plate was flipped and exposed to light, the resulting image could be developed into a transparency.
Autochrome was immediately popular in Paris, where it was introduced, and soon spread to the United States. The first natural color photograph to appear in National Geographic magazine was an autochrome depicting a flower garden in Belgium, published in 1914. The archives of National Geographic have almost 15,000 glass autochrome plates, one of the largest collections in the world.
Like early black and white photography, autochrome was a slow process. Because exposures were long, subjects had to stay still—sometimes unsuccessfully—to avoid a blurred image. But with autochrome, the blur had an unusual aesthetic effect: Paired with the soft, dyed colors, it made the photo look like a painting.
"That's one thing that's unique about the autochromes that you don't see with modern photos-that beautiful painterly look," said Bill Bonner, image collection archivist at National Geographic.
"We continued to use them into the early 1930s, and then other newer processes replaced the autochrome," said Bonner. "By 1938, we shifted to Kodachrome."
Most publishers adopted Kodachrome in the 1930s because it was easier to use. Autochrome required photographers to carry around heavy wooden suitcases filled with fragile glass plates; Kodachrome film, twinned with a 35mm camera, was light and easy to travel with.
Today, autochrome is rarely used, and films like Kodachrome have been supplanted by digital.
The autochrome plates in our archives provide a unique look into the past, to a time before digital precision replaced a softer, painterly look and palette.
"We're all familiar with old black and white images, so much so that we often think of images from the early 1900s as being exclusively in black and white," said Adrian Coakley, photographic research editor at National Geographic. "With autochrome, you're seeing those images in a way you wouldn't imagine them. It's like a look at history in color."