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

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, yeah, we're talking to you ...!
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Some of our readers today have been in:
The Americas
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, Brazil
City Place and Quebec, Canada
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quito, Ecuador 
Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras
Kingston, Jamaica
Mexico City, Mexico
Boaco and Managua, Nicaragua
Luquillo, Puerto Rico
Sangre Grande, Trinidad-Tobago
Albuquerque, Kaumakani, Minnetonka and Poquoson, United States
Tirana, Albania
Brussels and Mechelen, Belgium
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina 
Zagreb, Croatia
Prague and Stare Mesto, Czech Republic
Copenhagen, Denmark
London and Peterborough, England
Laval, Rouen and Velizy-Villacoublay, France
Berlin, Eschborn and Leipzig, Germany
Athens and Marousi, Greece
Debrecen, Hungary
Waterford, Ireland
Genoa, Giavera del Montello, Milan, Pisa, Ravenna, Rome and Terlizzi, Italy
Vilnius, Lithuania
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Arendal, Norway
Sicienko, Poland
Covilha and Porto, Portugal 
Botosani, Braila and Bucharest, Romania
Moscow, Russia
Nis, Serbia
Bratislava, Slovakia
don Benito, Madrid, Torrent and Villaviciosa, Spain
Eskilstuna and Kista, Sweden
Baar, Switzerland
Bangalore, Bikaner, Cochin, Kolkata, Madurai, New Delhi and Shillong, India
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Mashhad, Nazarabad and Tehran, Iran
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Tokyo, Japan
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Karachi, Pakistan
Najran and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Rabat, Morocco
Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa
The Pacific
Cue, Prestons and Sydney, Australia
Mandaluyong City and Manila, Philippines

Today in History

1513   Pope Julius II dies. He will lay in rest in a huge tomb sculptured by Michelangelo.
1725   New Hampshire militiamen partake in the first recorded scalping of Indians by whites in North America.  
1792   The U.S. Postal Service is created.
1809   The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the power of the federal government is greater than any individual state in the Union.  
1831   Polish revolutionaries defeat the Russians in the Battle of Growchow.
1864   Confederate troops defeat a Union army sent to bring Florida into the union at the Battle of Olustee, Fla.  
1900   J.F. Pickering patents his airship.  
1906   Russian troops seize large portions of Mongolia.  
1915   President Woodrow Wilson opens the Panama-Pacific Expo in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal.  
1918   The Soviet Red Army seizes Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.
1938   Hitler demands self-determination for Germans in Austria and Czechoslovakia.  
1941   The United States sends war planes to the Pacific.  
1942   Lt. Edward O'Hare downs five out of nine Japanese bombers that are attacking the carrier Lexington.  
1943   German troops of the Afrika Korps break through the Kasserine Pass, defeating U.S. forces.  
1954   The Ford Foundation gives a $25 million grant to the Fund for Advancement of Education.  
1959   The FCC applies the equal time rule to TV newscasts of political candidates.  
1962   Mercury astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth.  
1963   Moscow offers to allow on-site inspection of nuclear testing.  
1965   Ranger 8 hits the moon and sends back 7,000 photos to the United States.  
1968   North Vietnamese army chief in Hue orders all looters to be shot on sight.  
1971   Young people protest having to cut their long hair in Athens, Greece.  
1982   Carnegie Hall in New York begins $20 million in renovations.

9 American habits I lost when I moved to Germany

1. Idle chit chat
During my first days of work in Germany, I made sure to be super friendly to all of my coworkers. Whenever anyone passed me in the hallway, I would grin maniacally, wave, and yelp, “Hi! How’s your day going?” The responses ranged from bemused looks to a total lack of reply. Confused but not discouraged, I continued trying to work my charms on my new friends.
One morning, I passed Roger, the department’s statistician. I laser-beamed him with my eyes and yelled out my usual “How are you?!” He paused for a moment, staring at me bewilderedly and scratching his fluffy, mad-professor hairdo.
“Do you really want to know?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Uh, yes,” I stammered, unsure of what to make of this.
Twenty minutes later, he was still going strong on a breathless diatribe about how the students’ inferior grasp of basic stats and unbearably messy datasets were contributing to his ever-increasing workload.
Eventually sensing my discomfort, Roger paused and gave me a blank look. “Well you asked,” he muttered, rolling his eyes before continuing down the hall to his office.
2. Thin skin
Germans don’t like small talk, and they don’t like bullshit. Idle comments and feel-good messages have no place here. German flirting is particularly brutal; “Your big nose looks good on your face” is about the best compliment you can expect to get in Germany.
3. Fear of nudity
Especially in the former East, Freikörperkultur, or free body culture, is an important part of German identity. Decades of oppression led to a particular appreciation for the experience of freedom and nudity without a direct relationship to sexuality.
This can sometimes be difficult for Americans to buy, particularly when your coworkers casually invite you to the office’s nude sauna or suggest a naked swim in a nearby lake. Adjusting to this culture without getting weird took some grit, finesse, and more than a few awkward encounters.
4. Expectation of safety above all
The pervasive fear of litigation that infuses most public activities in the United States is virtually nonexistent in Germany. Germans take a much more casual, reasonable approach to public safety. On a hike in Sächsische Schweiz, a beautiful, mountainous region of Saxony, I once commented on the lack of guardrails and warning signs surrounding the steepest cliffs. “Only an idiot would fail to realize that a steep cliff is dangerous,” my German co-worker stated matter-of-factly.
A few months later, after a particularly brutal snowstorm, I remember seeing an older gentleman faceplant on the ice while waiting for the tram. He stood up, casually wiped the trickle of blood from his forehead, and resumed his position on the platform without so much as grimacing.
I love this attitude.
Every year, a local artist would put on a crazy party called “Bimbotown” in one of the warehouses in the Spinnereistrasse neighborhood of Leipzig. The party was crawling with machines that this artist made — giant metallic worms slithering across the ceiling, bar stools that would eject their occupants at the push of a button from across the warehouse, couches that caved in and dumped you into a secret room, beds that could be driven around the party and through the walls. It was an incredible event that would have never been allowed to happen in the US because of all the safety violations — someone could hit their head, fall off a bed, get whacked in the eye. And it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.
5. Assumption of others’ guilt
Unlike Americans, Germans are often more concerned with protecting others than they are with shielding themselves from the mistakes of other people.
When I was filling out rental paperwork for my first apartment in Germany, one of the secretaries in at my office asked me if I’d purchased insurance yet.
“Oh no,” I said, “I don’t really own anything worth insuring, to be honest.”
“It’s not for you,” she replied, puzzled. “It’s to protect other people, in case you damage their property in some way.”
6. Frenetic pace / work above all
Moving to Germany meant an inexorable slowing of the pace of my life. Particularly in Saxony, there are strict rules about when stores can remain open. Most businesses are closed in the evenings and all day on Sunday. Additionally, Germans benefit from frequent holidays and typically at least a month of paid vacation.
This gave me some anxiety at first, particularly when I forgot to leave work early enough to get groceries or didn’t have time to go to the bank. Over time, however, I learned to both plan my days and to enjoy the break from chores rather than obsessing over lost time. After a few months, I was occasionally leaving work at 3pm to go watch the football game with friends instead of trying to cram in a few more hours of work. I still got as much done as usual, but I felt much happier and less burned out.
7. Rule breaking
In Boston, jaywalking is a way of life. The streets are so crazy and the lights so uncoordinated that you’ll die of old age waiting for the crosswalk. When I moved to Germany, I took this attitude with me but quickly found that it was not a universally acceptable behavior. Even if it’s late in the evening and no cars are in sight, crossing the street without the right of way will get you some heat from native Germans, with “Think of the children!” being the top rebuke hurled your way.
Same deal with “forgetting” to pay your tram fare — if you get caught, the icy stares heaped upon you by an entire car full of people will be enough to freeze your blood. The German system relies on people contributing to the common good even when no one is watching, and so freeloaders and rule-breakers are heavily sanctioned in German culture.
8. Buying on credit
Credit cards are also virtually nonexistent in Germany. This presented a problem for me when my American bank account decided to shut down after my first “suspicious” attempt to withdraw money in Leipzig, but once I got that squared away, being required to plan my expenditures and live on a cash-only system helped me keep my finances under control.
9. Assumptions about Germans
A few months into my time in Leipzig, I started really feeling like I had the hang of things. I knew my way around, I was pretty well set-up at work and home, and most importantly, I felt like I had the German attitude figured out.
One morning, I was biking to a conference and felt like it was unusually difficult to keep the bike moving. “Jesus, I’m out of shape,” I thought, heaving my shaking legs around the wheels as I tottered slowly down the street.
While I was waiting at a red light, a man on the sidewalk flagged me down. “Ich spreche kein Deutsch,” I hissed, tired and irritated.
“Your tire is flat,” he said in perfect, clipped English, gesturing at my pitiful heap of a bike.
“I know that,” I lied, aggravated by this typical German statement-of-the-obvious. I tensed my foot on the pedal, ready to hurl myself forward as soon as the light turned.
The man paused and looked at me for a moment, unsure of whether to continue. “It’s just that, I have a pump,” he finally stammered, waving his hand almost apologetically at his backpack. “I could pump your tire for you.”

The USDA just saved you from eating 'cancer eye' beef - and nearly $400 million in fraud as a bonus

U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) investigations contributed to the recovery of $700 million, more than half of which came from a variety of scammers, Grist reported on Tuesday.The department's Inspector General, Phyllis Fong, detailed several of USDA investigations late last week while testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
In one investigation, Fong's office ordered the shuttering of a California-based meat processing plant, the Rancho Feeding Corp, after discovering that a foreman, 55-year-old Felix Cabrera had employees remove stamps marking some dead cattle as "USDA Condemned." Cabrera was reportedly acting on the orders of one of the plant's owners, 76-year-old Jesse Amaral, Jr.
"[Amaral] further instructed [Cabrera] to circumvent inspection procedures for certain cows with 'cancer eye,' an illness that results in unsightly tumors on cows' eyes and eyelids," Fong testified. "[Cabrera], or another employee at his instruction, placed the heads from apparently healthy cows next to the bodies of cows with cancer eye. This switch and slaughter of uninspected cows with cancer eye occurred during the FSIS inspector's lunch breaks, a time during which plant operations were supposed to cease."
As the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported last August, Amaral and his co-owner, 77-year-old Robert Singleton, were indicted in connection with the deception. Fong testified that Amaral, Cabrera and another employee pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and of distributing "adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat."
She also testified that her investigators recovered $77 million in cases involving false benefits claims for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as "food stamps." One case led to the disbanding of a group of 54 people in Georgia who opened several stores in order to falsely pocket more than $18 million in vouchers for the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food assistance program.
"This case was especially noteworthy because, unlike most food assistance cases, which tend to involve white-collar criminals, this Georgia criminal ring was operated by drug dealers who had turned to WIC fraud as a safer and more profitable activity," Fong said, noting that 14 of the people involved have pled guilty in connection with the scam.
Members of the group "canvassed" neighborhoods and bought benefits from actual program participants for "pennies on the dollar," she testified.
In total, Fong said her office's investigations recovered $374.6 million for the department, while a department audit helped recover another $325.4 million last year..

Carnegie Mellon erroneously sends computer science admission letters to 800, because computers

More than 800 computer science applicants to Carnegie Mellon were told on Monday they'd been selected for admission--and later, those same applicants received a second email explaining the acceptances had been sent in error, and that they had in fact been rejected.
“You are one of the select few, less than 9 percent of the more than 1,200 applicants, that we are inviting," read the first email. “Welcome to Carnegie Mellon!” Oops.
University spokesman Kenneth Walters tells the Associated Press that the "Welcome to Carnegie Mellon!" emails were the result of "serious mistakes" in the university's process for generating acceptance letters, and that the prestigious university would conduct a review to prevent further errors.
cmu-student-pride"We understand the disappointment created by this mistake, and deeply apologize to the applicants for this miscommunication," Walters said.
The university sent a follow-up email to the rejected students today explaining its system had "incorrectly flagged" applicants as having been admitted.
Gawker was first with the news, and has the full text of the email.

ACA enrollment numbers soar

by Steve Benen
Barack Obama, Edna PembertonThe Affordable Care Act kicked off its first month of open enrollment in October 2013, and by any fair measure, it was a bit of a disaster. The website didn’t work, and by the month’s end, only 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange.
The repugicans not only celebrated, they also openly mocked the system, highlighting a variety of sports venues with more than 106,185 seats. This was all the proof the right needed – American consumers had no interest in “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act itself was “hurtling toward failure.”
All of a sudden, the wingnuts aren’t laughing anymore.
More than 11 million people signed up or renewed for health insurance on the state and federal exchanges this year, the White House announced Tuesday. More than a million people signed up in the last nine days of open enrollment, which ended Sunday, the White House said.
“It’s working a little better than we anticipated,” President Barack Obama said in video posted on Facebook.
A total of 11.4 million Americans enrolled for coverage through an ACA marketplace, well ahead of the 10.3 million enrollees the Obama administration projected before this year’s open-enrollment process began. This total, though impressive, does not include the millions of additional Americans who are now covered through Medicaid expansion or young adults who have insurance through their family’s plan thanks to the law’s consumer protections.
Of the 11.4 million, 8.6 million received coverage through healthcare.gov – the consumers whose coverage is jeopardized by the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court.
Also note, this number is likely to change a bit, though we’re not sure in which direction. Some of the 11.4 million will fail to pay their premiums and will end up losing this coverage. This happened last year, when enrollment totals dipped from about 8 million to a little over 7 million.
On the other hand, the total may increase in April if, as suspected, the administration re-opens a special enrollment period in April, helping uninsured consumers avoid a tax penalty.
But while that plays out, let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. The Affordable Care Act is working beautifully. By most metrics, it’s exceeding expectations and making a world of difference for families, communities, businesses, and budgets.
The list of successes is so long, it’s hard not to laugh at repugicans who stick their heads in the sand and pretend the system is failing. The law has quickly improved the uninsured rate while producing impressive results on premiums, customer satisfaction rates, the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years, the growing number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces, the reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion, the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio, the reduced medical errors system-wide, and as of last night, the soaring enrollment totals.
For the most part, the repugican response to these developments is to play make believe and pretend the successes don’t exist.
And in an unfortunate twist for many, the successes may no longer exist if repugicans on the Supreme Court gut the law later this year.

Faux News Lies More Than Any Other News Network

From the "Tell us something we don't know" Department:
According to Politifact, Faux ‘News’ lies.
Okay, so that’s not news. That’s like reporting on the sun rising in the East. But a recent Politifact study shows that of the TV news outlets, Faux promotes the most false information on the air, and the problem is only getting worse — and it’s pretty bad already.
Let’s start with Politifact’s analysis of the “liberal” (read: they disagree with Faux) networks first, since it’s almost certainly that the trolls are going to bring it up, and I’m pretty sure that they at least read to the third paragraph. According to the Politifact scorecard, 44% of the claims made on MSNBC and NBC were false or worse, which is actually an improvement by 1% from the previous score.
CNN somehow remains the most accurate news network, with 80% of the claims rated as half true or better.
Now, what about Faux?
Faux, it turns out, scores marginally higher than MSNBC and NBC news networks. While those two were at 44% of their claims at mostly false or worse, Faux is only at 58%. See, both politically-oriented networks do it. Faux just does it more, since that’s their business model.
Politifact found that 39% of the claims made on the network had some basis in fact, but only 10% could be proven as true, 11% rated as ‘mostly true’ and 18% as half true. So Faux does know some truth. Just not a lot.
An almost equal amount, though — 39% — were demonstrably false. These aren’t just opinions fudging the lines. These are a Faux hack claiming the sky is purple because Obama said he likes blue skies on Sunday. A full 26% were mostly false, and 11% were tagged with the “pants on fire” moniker, which is anything that comes out of Sean Hannity’s face and resembles words.
Politifact didn’t include all of the statements made, just some, and didn’t include statements made by candidates, government officials, or their representatives, thus explaining how the statistics were skewed to make Faux look more honest.

Swill O’Really’s Comments on Jon Stewart’s Departure Reek of Petty Jealousy

by Allen Clifton
I’ll be honest, Swill O’Really is one of the few people on Faux News who I can actually stomach watching. That doesn’t mean that I like his show, but at least I’ve seen him call out repugicans every once in a while – even if those occasions are few and far between.
But for the most part he’s just another arrogant wingnut blowhard.
Take for instance his asinine comments he made concerning Jon Stewart’s announcement that he was leaving The Daily Show. While speaking with fellow Faux News hack Juan Williams, O’Really claimed that the media’s reaction to his departure “proves” that most of the media is liberally biased.
“The point of the matter, Juan, is that this, beyond a reasonable doubt, proves that the national press and the commentators in television and print, they’re overwhelmingly liberal,” O’Really said. “That’s what it proves, Juan.”
O’Really then stated that he and Stewart both were known for criticizing the media, a point with which Williams agreed and then stated, “The difference here is that you impact a larger audience.”
“The difference is, I’m a 'traditional' American, and Mr. Stewart is a liberal American,” O’Really replied.
He forgot arrogant and pompous along with “traditional.”
It’s amazing how Stewart gets slammed by the wingnuts for being liberally biased when I’ve seen him tear apart President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, MSNBC and absolutely crush CNN. And while I’ve seen O’Really call out repugicans now and again, he’s much more biased toward “the right” than Stewart is toward “the left.”
Oh, and his “traditional American” comment is pure bullcrap. That’s just a pathetic cheap shot from a petty man. What the hell does “traditional” even mean? Once upon a time slavery and segregation were “traditional American values.” In my opinion, it seems that when people say they’re “traditional” that usually means they’re closed minded and resistant to change.
The real reason why Stewart’s departure is such a big deal is because he’s a pioneer in the news. He changed the landscape of how an entire generation of Americans gets the news and put a small Comedy Central show on par with some of the most well-known news and opinion programs on cable television.
His show is a rare breed of news, comedy and “Tonight Show” style interviews. Stewart has interviewed presidents, authors, movie stars, directors and countless other people from numerous aspects of our society. He’s built relationships with people from all facets of media, so it’s not surprising that the reaction to his exit has been more wide ranging and emotional.
Stewart appeals to non-political people. While individuals like myself enjoy his monologues and sketches, especially those related to politics, others enjoy his interactions with guests or the non-political issues he covers. His show always has been first and foremost a comedy show, it just happens to dabble in the news quite often.
My theory is that O’Really is jealous. Stewart is loved and respect in a way he will never be – and that tears at his ego. While he might be on a bigger network and have more viewers, he’s not even on the same level as Stewart. And when all is said and done, Jon Stewart will go down as an icon and “game changer” in the media, while Bill O’Really will just be another political blowhard on a cable “news” channel who changed nothing.

Random Celebrity Photos


Lana Turner, Judy Garland, & Hedy Lamarr on the set of Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr on the set of Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

Sorry, Climate Change Deniers: Warming Not “Paused” and Modeling Not Flawed

by Lisa Winter

Though 97% of climate scientists agree that human-driven climate change exists, there are still a number of people who deny that claim. The reasons for their dissent are varied, but many claim that the warming of the Earth has actually paused, and apparent increases in global temperature are caused by flawed climate models that overestimate facts. While previous studies have already refuted the idea of “paused” global warming, a new paper in Nature by Jochem Marotzke and Piers Forster of the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology in Hamburg has concluded that most climate models are not flawed, and global temperatures are still very much on the rise.
Since 2000, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 0.06° C; a fraction of what was predicted by the IPCC during the 1990s. This apparent plateau has been used as ammunition by climate deniers who accuse scientists of over-inflating results from climate models. Marotzke and Forster’s new paper analyzes the methodologies of climate models, revealing no inherent flaws in the models, even when they don’t match observations. They also conclude that this century’s slight increase in surface temperature, which deniers are labeling as a “pause,” is actually due to natural climate fluctuations. Many other metrics, including ocean temperature, show that the climate is indeed changing.
“The claim that climate models systematically overestimate global warming caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations is wrong,” Marotzke said in a press release.
Marotzke and Forster analyzed 114 models by comparing their predictions of annual global surface temperatures in 15 year periods from 1900-2012 against the actual temperature recorded for that year. When these predicted numbers were compared to the actual temperature, they found that the models did a pretty good job. For the most part, the predictions were +/- 0.3° C of the observed temperature. This effectively absolved the models of having fundamental flaws that overestimate the climate's response to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“On the whole, the simulated trends agree with the observations,” Marotzke continued. “In particular, the observed trends are not skewed in any discernible way compared to the simulations.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean every model is perfect; otherwise they would all match one another as well as observed data. The researchers then compared the models by examining the factors and values that the models considered or assumed, in search of an explanation of why the numbers weren’t aligning. They found that differing models used different degrees of sensitivity to solar radiation and had different assumptions about the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans, which would alter surface temperature predictions. However, even the models that were the most sensitive to carbon dioxide didn’t lead to a prediction that was drastically overestimated, as climate deniers have claimed.
“If excessive sensitivity of the models caused the models to calculate too great a temperature trend over the past 15 years, the models that assume a high sensitivity would calculate a greater temperature trend than the others,” Forster noted.
The researchers concluded that random variations, which cannot be accurately accounted for within computer simulations, are responsible for models and observation not matching up. It is also clear that the climate is definitely warming, with 2014 dubbed as the warmest year on record, and that nine out of the ten hottest years ever have occurred since 2000

Paul Krugman: Europe Is About To Plunge Back Into Wingnut Fascism

Paul Krugman has a warning for Europe: Continuing to wage economic war on yourself in the form of austerity will have ugly and violent consequences. Not that they’re listening — austerity is far too popular with the Very Serious People for them to abandon it. But Krugman has this incredibly annoying (if you’re a conservative) habit of pointing out how the Very Serious People that love the idea of austerity keep cherry picking history:
Try to talk about the policies we need in a depressed world economy, and someone is sure to counter with the specter of Weimar, Germany, supposedly an object lesson in the dangers of budget deficits and monetary expansion. But the history of Germany after World War I is almost always cited in a curiously selective way. We hear endlessly about the hyperinflation of 1923, when people carted around wheelbarrows full of cash, but we never hear about the much more relevant deflation of the early 1930s, as the government of Chancellor Brüning — having learned the wrong lessons — tried to defend Germany’s peg to gold with tight money and harsh austerity.
And what about what happened before the hyperinflation, when the victorious Allies tried to force Germany to pay huge reparations? That’s also a tale with a lot of modern relevance, because it has a direct bearing on the crisis now brewing over Greece.
After World War I, Germany was economically crushed by the British and the French. They wanted Germany to pay them back for the cost of the war and Germany was powerless to resist. The burden of all that debt forced Germany to enact brutal austerity measures and that, predictably, resulted in a massive and prolonged depression. The resentment and desperation this caused led directly to the rise of the Nazi Party and we all know what came next.
And yet, here we are, a little less than a century later and the European Union is imposing crushing austerity on Greece and several other countries (but Greece got it the worst). This, again predictably, has led to massive recession and/or depressions. But the European Union refuses to let up:
Despite this catastrophe, Greece is making payments to its creditors, running a primary surplus — an excess of revenue over spending other than interest — of around 1.5 percent of G.D.P. And the new Greek government is willing to keep running that surplus. What it is not willing to do is meet creditor demands that it triple the surplus, and keep running huge surpluses for many years to come.
What would happen if Greece were to try to generate those huge surpluses? It would have to further slash government spending — but that wouldn’t be the end of the story. Spending cuts have already driven Greece into a deep depression, and further cuts would make that depression deeper. Falling incomes would, however, mean falling tax receipts, so that the deficit would decline by much less than the initial reduction in spending — probably less than half as much. To meet its target, then, Greece would have to do another round of cuts, and then another.
So, despite austerity’s dismal track record, we’re left with Greece and several other countries suffering through depressions and recessions and crippled economies. And what do we see happening? Right wing extremism is on the rise again because when people are angry, they turn to the person that tells them who to blame — usually immigrants, homosexuals and Jews. For a current example, see Russia.
In the case of Greece, we dodged a bullet as they just elected a left wing government to end austerity instead of a right wing one interested in promoting racism, hatred and violence. But Krugman warns that the EU needs to change its approach or they’ll be courting disaster:
In any case, European creditors should realize that flexibility — giving Greece a chance to recover — is in their own interests. They may not like the new leftist government, but it’s a duly elected government whose leaders are, from everything I’ve heard, sincerely committed to democratic ideals. Europe could do a lot worse — and if the creditors are vengeful, it will.
Will the Nazi Party rise again and start a another World War? Not bloody likely. But that doesn’t mean right wing extremists won’t take control and cause untold misery if the European Union blindly demands more austerity. In other words: Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Here’s That Time George Carlin Told a repugican cabal agitator to His Face Who the Real ‘Fascists’ Are

We really miss George Carlin.
Along with his brilliant comedic career, the man was famous for saying things that other people simply weren’t willing to say. As he proved in his later years, he was just as good on a discussion panel as he was on stage with a microphone.
About three years before he died, Carlin appeared in this 2005 segment from Real Time with Bill Maher, where the discussion eventually led to Hurricane Katrina and the shrub’s abysmal response to the disaster – which mostly affected poor people of color.
As wingnut hack James K. Glassman defended the then-current junta ’s response, Carlin dropped a truth bomb on who the real “fascists” are.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that rich white men don’t care about poor black people, period,” Carlin started out, directly addressing Glassman. “They’re not high on your list.”
“Just listen for minute – learn a little something,” Carlin continued. “Elections are in place in order to give Americans the illusion that they have freedom of choice.”
“The real looting in this country takes place in the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich,” Carlin concluded.
“The poor have been systematically looted in this country, and the rich have been made richer, under this criminal, fascist Pretender and his government.”
Watch the entire segment in the video below:

The wingnuts find new ways to fuck up the WMD story

by Steve Benen
File Photo: U.S. Marines from the Marine 1st Division take down a Saddam Hussein statue April 9, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, File)Last fall, the New York Times ran an impressive investigatory piece on Iraqi chemical weapons from the Saddam Hussein era, documenting previously undisclosed discoveries made by U.S. soldiers.
A wide variety of repugicans, regrettably, misunderstood the piece. The wingnuts celebrated the news as proof that the shrub/Cheney junta was right all along about Saddam’s WMD stockpiles. Wingnuts far and wide proudly proclaimed, “We knew it! Take that, liberals!”
The wingnuts were confused. The NYT piece, though important, referenced pre-1991 weapons. Everything repugicans said in the lead up to the 2003 invasion was still completely wrong.
With this in mind, over the weekend, the New York Times had another fascinating, well-researched piece on Iraq’s abandoned chemical weapons, and repugicans, apparently having learned literally nothing in October, are once again very excited by the prospect that the shrub was “right all along.”
[N]ote that the Times story says that these weapons were manufactured before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. Indeed, from 1991 to 1998, U.N. weapons inspectors uncovered Iraq’s secret biological weapons program and a project to enrich uranium – and then eliminated vast stockpiles of chemical and biological agents.
Such pre-1991 chemical-weapons shells (often empty) were found by U.N. weapons inspectors just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States. The shrub junta, by contrast, staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict.
The fact that the wingnuts haven’t given up isn’t admirable; it’s sad. Pouncing on details repugicans don’t understand actually has the opposite of the intended effect – these bizarre, misguided celebrations serve as a reminder of just how spectacularly wrong they were, are, and will continue to be.
To reiterate some of the points from our discussion in October, I can appreciate why the wingnuts are still a little sensitive on this. A repugican pretender lied the nation into a disastrous war, the consequences of which we’re still struggling to address, based in large part on weapons stockpiles that didn’t exist. That wingnuts are still searching for some kind of evidence to justify the catastrophic shrub/Cheney failure isn’t too surprising.
But it’s still wrong. Saddam had a chemical-weapons program, but it was inactive and several years old by the time the shrub/Cheney junta began. When the repugican junta insisted that Saddam had an active WMD program that Iraq might use to attack the West and/or share with al Qaeda, all of those arguments were brazenly untrue.
For the lunatic fringe that keeps misreading New York Times articles, a little common sense is in order – if U.S. troops had found WMD stockpiles, the shrub/Cheney junta would have said so. Indeed, they were desperate to do exactly that.
But the WMD were never found because they didn’t exist. This is no longer open to debate. Strange figures on the fringes of American politics – cough,  Joni Ernst (r-Iowa), cough – occasionally suggest the non-existent weapons were secretly there, but these claims were discredited many years ago. Even Bush administration officials itself long ago abandoned this nonsense.
Maybe their supporters should do the same.
Postscript: Just to be clear, none of this is to suggest the New York Times’ reporting is unimportant. On the contrary, these recent articles are fascinating. They just don’t say what repugicans want them to say.

Saudi cleric: Earth does not revolve around Sun, moon landing was faked

This video of some very unscientific remarks recently made by Sheik Bandar al-Khaibari, a muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia, has gone viral. In it, the sheik rejects the relatively well-established scientific fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun. He believes the opposite is true. The internet disagrees.
The earth is "stationary and does not move," he tells a student in the clip, and cites the words of various clerics and religious statements. The best part of his argument is where he debunks centuries of science with a "logical" deduction illustrated with a visual aid.
“First of all, where are we now? we go to Sharjah airport to travel to China by plane, clear?! focus with me, this is Earth,” he says, holding a sealed water cup.
If a plane stops midair, he continues, “China would be coming towards it” if the Earth rotated in one direction.
If the Earth rotated in the opposite direction, the plane would never reach China, because “China is also rotating.”
I hope you're paying attention, and so does he.
Separately, Sheik al-Khaibari has said that human beings have never made it to the moon, rejecting NASA footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface as Hollywood fabrication. It was ’shopped, he can tell by the pixels.
The video of his remarks has been making the rounds in Arab media, with many other observant muslims calling this dude out on his epic bullshit. Here's the hashtag.
God, Jesus, and Allah were unavailable for comment.
Häyät Al-Ma'arri⚛ @TheBoominati 
#داعية_ينفي_دوران_الأرض What a coincidence that this would occur on Galileo's birthday!

The Lunatic Fringe 'skeptica'l of Obama’s offensive against ISIL

by Steve Benen
President Obama Delivers Statement On Legislation Authorizing Military Force Against ISIS (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)At a wingnut coven last week, Scott Perry (r-Pa.) said he feels “duty bound” to authorize the use of force against Islamic State targets, but he’s conflicted. The lunatic fringe moron argued, out loud, that he fears President Obama may be “working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.”
It sounded an awful lot like the repugican was accusing the war-time Commander in Chief of being some kind of traitor.
The Pennsylvania repugican added that he wasn’t sure how he could vote to give the president the “power to take action” when he knows in his heart “he won’t.” On the contrary, Perry said. Obama might use his power “to further their cause.”
A day later, Matt Salmon (r-Ariz.) argued, “I don’t believe that the president really wants to prosecute a war that would truly destroy ISIL, I don’t think he has any intention of doing that it.”
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lent credence to these bonkers perspectives.
Bob Corker (r-Tenn.) said on Sunday that he doubted the administration’s “commitment to dealing” with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). […]
Corker said, “I think there is a lot of skepticism about the administration’s commitment to dealing with ISIS or Daesh or ISIL or whatever you want to call them.”
It’s become increasingly difficult to understand which reality congressional repugicans have been living in the last several months.
There is, of course, ample room for debate about the merits of the White House’s national security strategy, but it seems repugicans have lost sight of the broader dynamic here. On one side we see President Obama, who launched a military offensive against ISIS targets last August and who took the lead in assembling an international coalition to go after the terrorist group.
And on the other side we see the repugican-misled congress, which has done … nothing. The rpugicans seem eager to cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but when it comes to policy efforts on national security, Capitol Hill has been awfully quiet.
Who’s demonstrated an actual “commitment to dealing with ISIL” and who’s done a lot of talking without doing any actual work?
To be sure, it’s entirely possible Obama’s actions won’t have the desired effect. It’s the sort of thing a functioning Congress might want to, I don’t know, debate or something.
But that’s not what’s happening. Scott Perry (r-Pa.) seems to think Obama “won’t” act, even though he already has. Matt Salmon (r-Ariz.) believes Obama doesn’t have “any intention” of prosecuting a war against ISIS, even though the military offensive has been underway for six months. Bob Corker (r-Tenn.) is skeptical of Obama’s “commitment to dealing with ISIL,” even though it’s only the White House, not Congress, that’s making any effort to deal with ISIL.
This keeps happening. The repugican rhetorical strategy seems predicated on the assumption that thousands of airstrikes haven’t actually happened.
Even by 2015 standards, this is a bit bizarre. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, I’m all for repugicans – and Democrats, and journalists, and the public, and our allies – asking questions about the U.S. mission. Is it working? What’s the endgame? Is it realistic? Should the mission receive congressional authorization? What will it cost? Who’s likely to benefit?
But the prerequisite to having a credible debate about U.S. military intervention abroad is acknowledging that U.S. military intervention abroad exists. It’s on this point that repugicans seem lost.

Idiot repugican Says We Don’t Need Education Funding Because ‘Socrates Trained Plato On A Rock’

by Will Ragland 
Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)
During a House Education and Workforce Committee proceeding on Wednesday to reauthorize the nation’s elementary and secondary education law, Dave Brat (r-VA) said, “Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history.”
He began his remarks by saying, “The greatest thinkers in Western civilization were not products of education policy,” before mentioning Socrates and Plato. He later went on to say that he thinks the answer to improving education in this country “would be to get private sector folks into every one of our schools, get the CEOs in the schools and move beyond this just narrow policy debate and really have a revolution.”
The committee is considering a repugican version of re-authorization that could change the way federal funding is distributed to low-income students living in communities with high concentrations of poverty, or what is known as “portability.” To mitigate the challenges students face who are living in places with a high density of poverty, current law targets $14 billion to schools and school districts based on the number of students living in these communities. The repugican legislation would give states the option to allocate the same amount of federal dollars per poor student whether they live in a high poverty community or not. Under this provision, for example, Los Angeles Unified School District would lose out on more than $75 million while the Beverly Hills Unified School District would gain $140,000.
The bill was passed out of committee on Thursday on a party line vote after it refused to hold a congressional hearing on the legislation. The Senate, however, recently agreed to start over on a bipartisan approach to writing the bill.
Brat’s comments came the day before the U.S. Department of Education announced the national high school graduation rate had reached a record high, crediting significant federal investments in education.
Brat may not think formal education is important, but he himself was previously an economics professor at Randolph Macon College and holds both a Masters and a PhD.

5 Terrible Things ronny raygun Did As Pretender

Wingnuts like to pretend that Presidents Day is a holiday for the exclusive celebration of ronny raygun, their favorite pretender and a man they lionize as an earthbound saint crossed with the world’s manliest cowboy. So it’s a good idea to remember raygun’s real legacy: a bad pretender surrounded by bad people who did bad things. Here are five of the worst things raygun did as pretender to remind you exactly the kind of leader he was.
5. Reagan Stole Money from the Social Security Trust Fund
Remember those Saturday Night Live sketches in 2000 where Al Gore promised to put Social Security in a lockbox? (If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, Al Gore is the man who invented the Internet and came up with the global warming hoax.)
The reason Gore was so committed to protecting Social Security is that Ronald Reagan used the funds as his personal piggy bank. After his tax cuts devastated the federal treasury, ushering in the era of giant deficits we’re still mired in today, Reagan raised Social Security taxes, ostensibly to protect Social Security for future generations. Instead, he dumped that money into the general treasury fund to reduce the deficits he had created. Speaking of corruption…
4. raygun Filled His Junta With Corrupt People
No junta was as corrupt as ronny raygun’s, not even tricky dick’s. His attorney general resigned after he was involved with a company that received illegal no-bid contracts. His secretary of the interior, who thought his job was to sell off federal lands to defense contractors, was indicted on multiple counts of perjury.
raygun’s vice pretender and successor, the shrub; daddy, pardoned six separate people for their roles in the Iran-Contra affair, including raygun’s National Security adviser and his secretary of defense. Speaking of Iran-Contra…
3. Reagan Presided Over the Iran-Contra Affair
In 1985 and 1986, ronny raygun sold arms to Iran, locked in a horrific war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for cash and the release of U.S. hostages. The sales to Iran violated sanctions against Iran.
But much of the money that came from the sales was diverted to fund the Contras, wingnut rebels fighting the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua. That was in violation of laws against helping the Contras.
As noted above, the shrub's had to pardon several raygun aides in the wake of the scandal. Speaking of aides…
2. raygun Refused to Mention AIDS, Then Cut Funding for Research
In the early 80s, a horrific new epidemic ravaged America’s gay population. Because so many of the victims of AIDS were gay, the right-wing viewed the disease as a kind of divine retribution for their sins.
raygun didn’t mention AIDS in public until September 1985, after more than 10,000 people had died from the disease. In 1986, raygun called for a report on AIDS but also proposed cutting federal funds for research and patient care as treatments were just starting to make it to market. Speaking of inhumanity towards his fellow man…
1. raygun Opposed Sanctions on Apartheid Era-South Africa
When Congress looked likely to pass sanctions on South Africa to battle apartheid in 1985, raygun vigorously opposed any action. In order to stop moderate Republicans from defecting, he issued a half-assed executive order imposing some sanctions.
The next year, when Congress realized raygun’s sanctions didn’t have teeth, it overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing real sanctions on the racist regime. raygun vetoed the bill. Happily there were enough votes to override his veto, and the sanctions became a key part of the eventual end of apartheid.

5 More Terrible Things ronny raygun Did as Pretender

Here are five more terrible things ronny raygun did as pretender.
5. Reagan Consulted an Astrologer on Major Decisions
Look, it’s not like anything a pretender does is particularly important, right? So who cares who he asks for advice and consultation?
Because if it turned out a president did, in fact, make decisions that affected the entire population of the United States, if not the entire world, it would be a terrifying disaster to think he was basing those decisions on the advice of Joanne Quigley, a San Francisco astrologer, as raygun regularly did.
Good thing he wasn’t responsible for anything critical.
4. raygun Fired the Air Traffic Controllers
Did you know that before playing the pretender, raygun was president of a union — serving six terms as the head of the Screen Actors Guild? He also once called belonging to a union a “basic right.”
But that didn’t stop raygun from firing thousands of striking air traffic controllers, even though their union endorsed him in his run for president the previous year. raygun’s action put thousands of highly trained, critically needed workers out of work, and it was nearly a decade before the number of controllers returned to its previous level.
3. raygun Put Mentally Ill Out Into the Streets
Deinstitutionalization of mentally ill patients began before raygun was pretender, and in fact it was already recognized as a policy failure by 1981. But that didn’t stop the president from cutting funds for treating and preventing mental illnesses.
The result was a big jump in the homeless population, a large percentage of whom suffered from serious mental illness. It’s a legacy that remains to this day.
2. raygun Stigmatized Welfare Recipients
It’s a myth that ronny raygun invented the phrase “welfare queen”; it was actually the creation of the Chicago Tribune, which was reporting on the singular case of a scam artist who was perverting the welfare system for her own profit.
But during his first campaign for president in 1976, raygun referred to the article and did everything he could to paint that extraordinary example of fraud as typical. The effects of raygun’s rhetoric lives on to this day, as wingnuts continue to paint people who need help from government as lazy moochers who are “victims” and “entitled,” according to one recent politician.
1. raygun Ushers in the Savings and Loan Scandal
By urging Congress to pass legislation that deregulated savings and loan banks and cutting the budgets of regulators charged with overseeing the industry, raygun let SndLs loose to make bad loans and bad investments.
The result was a lot of closed Savings and Loans, and an entire federal agency, the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, left bankrupt.
The good news is that the disaster taught repugicans the dangers of deregulation, and never again did they allow banks to run rampant and ruin the economy. (Just kiddin’.)



Man sent home after clinging to hospital bed for three years

A patient has been ordered to return home by police after tying himself to a hospital bed for three years in Beijing, China. The 55-year-old Beijing resident surnamed Chen was injured in a car accident and sent to the Beijing Jingmei Group General Hospital in 2011. Yet after recovering from the injuries, the man refused to leave the hospital.
Chen claimed that he'd been suffering thrombosis on his leg after surgery and that the hospital should be responsible for his leg problems. So he refused to leave there even though the hospital issued 20 discharge notices. Chen had also tied himself to the hospital bed for three years when the police found him in the hospital room. Doctors said Chen's blood clots came from long bed hours and a lack of exercise.
"If the patient believes the hospital should take any responsibility for their problems, they can talk with us or seek to forensic examinations. The hospital will take the responsibility if it's finally proved to be a medical accident. But Chen has been refusing to go through legal procedures." said Zhang Jinying, director of the outpatient department of the hospital.
Zhang added:" He's been occupying the bed for three years and owed the hospital at least 20,000 yuan. We didn't claim any money from him. We want nothing but him to leave. We won't claim our loss from him." The hospital finally filed a lawsuit against Chen and the court decided that he should leave the hospital immediately. The executive judge declared the court's decision at his bedside before the police took him away.

They don't call it Dope for nothing you know

A lack of snow atop just one house in a neighborhood tipped off police to a big drug bust. http://abc7.la/1yplPH0
Investigators found a large marijuana growing operation, which was the source of heat that kept the snow off the roof.

Woman killed her son to save him from embarrassment because his ears were too big

A mother who throttled her 10-year-old son to death because she thought his big ears were ruining his life is facing a murder charge in Turkey. Nuray Sacan, 37, had paid for the boy to have cosmetic surgery in Gazi Hospital in the capital Ankara, but when she turned up to see the results she told surgeons she was unhappy with the way it turned out.
So she took the youngster to the women’s toilet in the early hours of the morning and choked him to death with her own scarf. She was caught when she fled the hospital in her car but hit another vehicle and confessed to the killing while she was being taken back to hospital in an ambulance. “Both his ears had become even bigger after the surgery.
“He became very ugly. He would have felt even more ashamed in front of his friends. I did it to save him such embarrassment,” Sacan said. She claimed she had paid for the surgery because her son had suffered years of bullying and teasing because of his sticking out ears. “I was trying to protect him from a lifetime of pain.” But surgeon Dr Metin Yilmaz, who carried out the operation said: “I am astonished she would think that.
“The operation was a simple one and it was a complete success. There were no post-operative issues and he was due to go home.” Gazi Hospital chief surgeon Dr Kadri Altok added: “We can’t understand it. The boy’s mother did not seem to have any psychological problems and the operation went perfectly.” Police spokesman Alper Tore confirmed: “A 37-year-old woman is in custody over the death of her son.”

Arrested man had marijuana in his backside and crack in his mouth

Police in Florida arrested a man early on Thursday after they found a bag of marijuana in his backside and a bag of crack in his mouth. At about 12:30am, officers stopped Winfred Alphonso McAllister Jr., 23, in Gainesville after police saw his red Mitsubishi Galant swerve into the left turn-only lane and back into his original lane twice, according to a police report.
Officers smelled marijuana around the car, but McAllister told police the scent was left over from when he smoked earlier. He said he did not have any with him. When McAllister stepped out of the car, an officer could still smell something. He searched McAllister and found a bag of marijuana inside his backside, according to the report.
McAllister reportedly asked the officer, “Man, can you just give me a court date for it?” before the officer removed the bag from his pants. The officer then noticed McAllister was hiding something in his mouth and asked him to take it out. McAllister then began to chew and tried to swallow the object, but spat it out after the officer forced it out, according to the report.
Police identified it as a plastic bag with crack inside. Police arrested McAllister on charges of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana possession, drug equipment possession and tampering with evidence. Officers took him to the Alachua County Jail. He was later released after meeting his $40,000 bond.

Police say landlord shot tenant in buttocks for failing to roll him a cigarette

In what was first thought to be a fight over rent, police in Scranton, Pennsylvania, now say was a dispute over rolling a cigarette that led to a man being shot in the buttocks.



Why Do Mirrors Flip Horizontally But Not Vertically?

Physics Girl Meg Chetwood explains why mirrors appear to flip images horizontally but not vertically.

Ocean plastic is likely disappearing into the food chain

A landmark study out today finds huge quantities of plastic are entering the ocean. Since much of it isn’t accounted for, says Andreas Merkl, we should be concerned about where it’s ending up Filipino volunteers pick rubbish during the 29th International Coastal Cleanup at the shore of the 'Long island' in Paranaque city, south of Manila. A new study indicates that the plastic problem might be bigger than we ever thought.

When I tell people that we have a problem with too much plastic in our oceans, many invariably say how shocked they were when they heard about vast swirling islands of trash that accumulate in the oceans’ gyres.
I wish this was the full extent of the problem. It is not.

10 Mysterious Lost Lands

Has the geography of the world changed enough that entire lands and continents have disappeared? Throughout history, a lot of people have thought so. The drowned continent of Atlantis is the most famous of these mysterious lands, but there are dozens of others.
Some of these lands may have disappeared due to erosion, ice melt and tectonic plate shifts. Others could simply be the result of poor navigation by sailors. But the stories of lost lands linger on, appearing and reappearing at the edges of history and science.

Dragonfly Delight

A Life Cycle In Superb Macrophotography
The sight of a dragonfly on the wing is one of the more remarkable that nature has to offer. With the help of some astounding macrophotography, we take a look at the life cycle of the dragonfly as well as its remarkable and unusual physiology.

Animal Pictures