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

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1516   The Hapsburg Charles I succeeds Ferdinand in Spain.  
1540   Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado begins his unsuccessful search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold in the American Southwest.  
1574   The 5th War of Religion breaks out in France.  
1615   The Estates-General in Paris is dissolved, having been in session since October 1614.  
1778   Baron von Steuben joins the Continental Army at Valley Forge.  
1821   Poet John Keats dies of tuberculosis at the age of 25.  
1836   The Alamo is besieged by Santa Anna.  
1846   The Liberty Bell tolls for the last time, to mark George Washington's birthday.  
1847   Forces led by Zachary Taylor defeat the Mexicans at the Battle of Buena Vista.  
1854   Great Britain officially recognizes the independence of the Orange Free State.  
1861   Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union.  
1885   John Lee survives three attempts to hang him in Exeter Prison, as the trap fails to open.  
1898   Writer Emile Zola is imprisoned in France for his letter J'accuse in which he accuses the French government of anti-semitism and the wrongful imprisonment of army captain Alfred Dreyfus.  
1901   Britain and Germany agree on a boundary between German East Africa and Nyasaland.  
1904   Japan guarantees Korean sovereignty in exchange for military assistance.  
1916   Secretary of State Lansing hints that the U.S. may have to abandon the policy of avoiding "entangling foreign alliances".  
1921   An airmail plane sets a record of 33 hours and 20 minutes from San Francisco to New York.  
1926   President Calvin Coolidge opposes a large air force, believing it would be a menace to world peace.  
1936   In Russia, an unmanned balloon rises to a record height of 25 miles.  
1938   Twelve Chinese fighter planes drop bombs on Japan.  
1942   A Japanese submarine shells an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, the first Axis bombs to hit American soil.  
1944   American bombers strike the Marianas Islands bases, only 1,300 miles from Tokyo.  
1945   Eisenhower opens a large offensive in the Rhineland.  
1945   U.S. Marines plant an American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.  
1946   Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita is hanged in Manila, the Philippines, for war crimes.
1947   Several hundred Nazi organizers are arrested in Frankfurt by U.S. and British forces.
1950   New York's Metropolitan Museum exhibits a collection of Hapsburg art. The first showing of this collection in the U.S.  
1954   Mass innoculation begins as Salk's polio vaccine is given to children for first time.  
1955   Eight nations meet in Bangkok for the first SEATO council.  
1960   Whites join Negro students in a sit-in at a Winston-Salem, N.C. Woolworth store.  
1964   The U.S. and Britain recognize the new Zanzibar government.  
1967   American troops begin the largest offensive of the war, near the Cambodian border.  
1972   Black activist Angela Davis is released from jail where she was held for kidnapping , conspiracy and murder.  
1991   French forces unofficially start the Persian Gulf ground war by crossing the Saudi-Iraqi border.

The Power of Perspective

The Arc de Triomphe, from close by (above) and afar (below)
Perspective. It can lend clarity to everything from emotional and life matters to visual and memory perception. In the case of this photo collection, landmarks and cityscapes are viewed from near and far, which can make a significant difference in how they are perceived. What seemed remotely located appears that way no longer when observed from a distance. A visual pattern that looks as if it repeats for miles abruptly stops as viewed from above. The concept is analogous to life, as what can seem like an insurmountable obstacle or devastating loss can be viewed as a minor bump in the road when considered in retrospect.
See more landmarks and landscapes in perspective in this article.
Sagrada Familia, Spain

Veterans Group Demands That Faux News Take Swill O’Really Off The Air

Bill Oreilly
A leading veterans group is calling on Faux News to take Swill O’Really off the air after it was uncovered that Faux News hack lied about his history as a war correspondent.
In a statement, Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org, said, “NBC acted completely appropriately in taking Brian Williams off the air and looking into claims he’s made over the years. Faux News has to do the same thing. The issue, for me, isn’t that Faux has been caught off guard and didn’t realize O’Really was telling patently false tales. That I can accept. It’s what do they do about it now? That will tell us a lot about how seriously they take their news organization.”
The mainstream media, except for Faux’s cable news competition, have largely treated the O’Really/Corn story as a case of he said/he said. The media is giving Swill O’Really an open platform that he is using to smear Mother Jones and David Corn. What O’Really is also doing is distracting from his own statements.
The 400,000 member organization VoteVets has it right. It is a matter of consistent treatment. The media is happily willing to overlook the fact that O’Really’s story makes no sense. O’Really’s has made up his own definition of a combat zone. Swiill-O’s claim that he saw combat is similar to a journalist claiming that they were at Ground Zero on 9/11 while they were in Atlanta.
The odds of Faux News taking O’Really off the air are zero. The reason for this confidence is that Faux News isn’t a real news organization. Faux doesn’t care about their credibility because they don’t have any.
What is most troubling is the media’s willingness to overlook O’Really’s lie. By standing with their ratings cash cow, Faux News has shown that it isn’t just O’Really who should be taken off the air. It’s also their whole sham “news” network.

The Mainstream Media Sides With Faux News By Refusing To Investigate Swill O’Really’s War Lies

What does it take to cause Swill O’Really to call you a “far-left assassin,” “disgusting piece of garbage,” and a “guttersnipe liar”?
bill-oreilly1_300x168Quoting his own words back to him and asking for clarification. Followed up with more colorful language like, “(V)erify what I’m saying, because it’s easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone.”
When asked why the Faux News hack did not respond to questions from Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief and slayer of liars David Corn, O’Really blasted:
“Because David Corn is a guttersnipe liar,” O’Reialy told the Erik Wemple Blog tonight. “Is that clear enough? For years he’s been trying to get Faux News. I would never speak to the man about anything at any time. He’s a disgusting piece of garbage.”
This doesn’t answer the question. This points fingers at Corn – with no facts, by the way – and dodges the questions. The questions Corn asked were not unfair. They were based on quotes by O’Really himself.
Instead of examining the quotes, the media is doing the he said/she said thing that’s ruining our political process. Here’s some of the research done by the team of David Corn and Daniel Schulman at Mother Jones (my bold and my comments in parentheses, in order to demonstrate that it’s not hard to determine if what O’Really has claimed is accurate or not):
• In his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, O’Reilly stated, “You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.” (This is not true, and “on the ground” disputes O’Really’s claims that he was referring to covering the Falklands War from 1,000 miles away.)
• Wingnut hack Tucker Carlson, in a 2003 book, described how O’Really answered a question during a Washington panel discussion about media coverage of the Afghanistan war: “Rather than simply answer the question, O’Really began by trying to establish his own bona fides as a war correspondent. ‘I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.'” (Nope. The Falklands are 1,000 miles away from where O’Really and the rest of the CBS crew were.)
• In a 2004 column about US soldiers fighting in Iraq, O’Reialy noted, “Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash.” (OK, this one is a stretch but could pass if by “combat situation” he means combat-like, but if Hillary Clinton said this, Faux News would hyperventilate in outrage.)
• In 2008, he took a shot at journalist Bill Moyers, saying, “I missed Moyers in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but I didn’t see him.” (That’s probably because you weren’t there, Bill O’Really. Just sayin’.)
And here is where O’Really gets detailed and claims to be in the actual Falklands according to a quote gathered by Mother Jones from April 2013, “I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.”
The Mother Jones article has many, many more quotes. Quotes that make Brian Williams’ memories look like a tape recorder. O’Reialy loves to present himself falsely as a war correspondent who’s been in the middle of combat. (This might explain the wingnuts' love of war.)
O’Really has repeatedly described a protest in Buenos Aires as “combat” and has used it as proof of his war correspondent bona fides. A protest scene, scary or not, is not the same thing as a war combat zone.
We are, as humans, prone to embellishment and story telling. But if you describe your job as being a “truth teller”, and as a journalist you understand the importance of accuracy (the more accurate we try to be about reality the cleaner our perceptions and conclusions tend to be), you don’t conflate being frightened by tear gas in a protest with being in an actual war combat zone. It’s even more bizarre to do this as someone claiming to respect our troops. (This does bring up an interesting point in that by O’Really’s own standards, Occupy protesters can claim to have been in “combat”.)
The media so far is not giving O’Really the Brian Williams treatment. The same people who fell repeatedly for James O’Keefe’s edited videos are not biting at a searing expose by the King of Actual Video (Corn is the person who published the Mitt Romney 47% tape).
It isn’t that once right always right, it’s that Corn has a history of being careful and accurate. O’Really does not. James O’Keefe did not. Discernment is worth something and should be employed. No wingnut 'journalists' are careful and accurate. But Corn is.
Faux News has long benefited from special treatment by the mainstream media due to its long arm of power. They’re in the club. The real club. The big, corporate, global club. This is why when the Obama White House scoffed that Faux News was not news, the media were outraged and circled the wagons around the cable network that had sued for the right to lie and call it news.
This might be why the media is trying hard to pretend they don’t see the increasingly heavy smoke billowing over Swill O’Really.

The repugicans Use Deficit Lie To Try To Cut Health Care While Increasing Military Spending

poor v military
It is unlikely there are many Americans who would disagree that repugicans love spending taxpayer dollars on the military; especially if they can cut domestic spending in the process. It is no secret that while repugicans claim the nation cannot afford to spend a penny on the people, infrastructure, healthcare, housing programs, or education, they always find billions upon billions to spend to enrich the defense industry. Even though America is not at war for the first time in over a decade, repugicans are looking for ways to increase the already bloated defense budget they claim is woefully underfunded. And, as is their wont, they are targeting domestic programs due to their regard for the “out-of-control” and “unsustainable deficit.”
The repugican cabal is using the alleged “existential threat” of islamic extremists in an around Iraq and Syria as a reason to call for more defense spending; particularly in light of the Pentagon cuts in their precious ‘sequester’ going back to 2012. There is still 8 years left of the sequestration cuts affecting the entire government. President Obama has proposed eliminating the sequester’s cuts across the board with a combination of eliminating the wealthy’s tax loopholes and careful spending cuts that amount to a fairly equal balance of an additional $38 billion for the Pentagon and $37 billion for domestic programs.
The increase in spending on both the Pentagon and domestic programs only relieves the drastic cuts from the sequester and is not any kind of drunken spending spree, but repugicans are having none of it. In their delusional minds, the only means of restoring defense spending is adding to the sequester’s domestic cuts to fund the defense industry. This is unacceptable. Particularly since the nation already spends an inordinate amount of the budget on the military during peacetime. However, in repugicans’ delusional minds, there is never enough money devoted to the Pentagon no matter how much of the country’s budget goes to the defense industry, or how much they have to cut domestic spending to profit the military industrial complex that is breaking the nation.
The repugicans claim that their precious sequester dealt a virtual death blow to the Pentagon because it “cuts core spending on the military’s ships, planes, and myriad other warfighting equipment.” Out of the $1 trillion budget deal negotiated last December, repugicans are complaining that instead of a (pre-sequester) core budget of $577 billion, defense spending is going to be limited to $523 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. A senior member of the House Armed Service Committee, Michael Conaway (r-TX), complained that “We really cannot put a 2016 spending plan together at the $523 billion level. That’s just unacceptable. We have to fix it somehow.” Conaway fails to mention that there are tens-of-billions allotted to the Pentagon that do not show up on any budget or “spending plan” that by far exceeds the $577 billion figure, but repugicans have to “fix it” by enacting more domestic spending cuts.
It is noteworthy that in this year’s budget, well over 55% of all government spending is for the military, and with service members only getting a 1% pay increase this year, the lion’s share of over half the budget is going to benefit the private defense industry during peacetime. Still, it is not nearly sufficient for repugicans who want more spending for the military without adding to the deficit. Therefore, to avoid adding to the deficit, they want the $38 billion extra in military spending covered by $38 billion in cuts to domestic programs; the $38 billion in cuts is on top of the already enacted $37 billion sequester cuts from domestic programs because as the nation’s “deficit hawks” are quick to counsel, the American people have to make sacrifices.
However, the deficit hawks had no deficit concerns just last week when they passed $100 billion worth of permanently unfunded tax cuts for the rich that will increase the deficit in perpetuity. They are also unconcerned that a giant share of the current deficit is due to the cost of the shrub-repugicans’ unfunded Iraq and Afghanistan wars that will end up costing $6 trillion over the next decade. That $6 trillion price tag does not include the interest that is accruing the entire time adding to the deficit.
Now, the deficit hawks insist that the much-needed spending increases for the military have to be financed by cutting domestic programs that some repugicans warn would drag out a budget battle for months. They are vaguely aware that it will not be a simple process to rob an additional $38 billion from domestic programs without controlling the White House. The President and some Democrats rightfully demand an equal amount of increases for domestic agencies that benefit all Americans and not just the military industrial complex that includes the two Koch brothers controlling their newly-purchased repugican congress. The Koch brothers have several substantial, multi-million dollar contracts with the Defense Department and will benefit greatly when repugicans rob domestic programs to increase defense spending.
The level of hypocrisy from repugicans’ phony deficit concerns is stunning; particularly hardliners who champion $100 billion in unfunded tax cuts but want to impose “tighter limits” when the military and domestic programs are involved.McConnell represents the deluded mindset of so-called deficit hawks who demand that “any increase in defense spending can only come from raiding non-defense programs that help all Americans.” McConnell said, “I want more money for defense, but I want the overall (sequestration) cap to stay in place and just restore the money for defense. But the Democrats want to restore money on the domestic side too.” It is safe to assume that the American people want domestic spending restored as well, but repugicans are opposed to anything the American people want, or need, regardless how basic.
No American denies that this country needs a robust, well-funded military. However, this country also needs sufficiently funded domestic programs, including a functioning infrastructure, that have taken the brunt of repugican austerity cuts borne of phony deficit concerns. In fact, there has been precious little, if any, increase in domestic program spending across the board over the past fifteen years and it is why the richest nation on Earth is falling behind every other industrialized nation in the world.
No-one seems to bemoan that over half the nation’s total spending goes to the military industrial complex that repugicans claim is insufficient. Their solution is adding $38 billion worth of domestic cuts to the sequester to prop up the defense budget and “rein in the deficit” in one easy step. The rapidly-falling deficit, by the way, that repugicans have no qualms increasing by $100 billion for permanently unfunded tax cuts for the rich, but are concerned will be unsustainable by additionally funding the already bloated military to the tune of $38 billion. Their twisted, dysfunctional logic is only matched by their dastardly plan to raid domestic programs to enrich their wealthy donors in the private defense industry.

Security Tosses Out Protesters As Marco Rubio Gets Loudly Heckled During Speech

In typical repugican fashion, Marco Rubio (r-FL) couldn’t handle the truth so he had security remove protesters during a speech in his hometown.
Here is a clip of immigration protesters heckling Rubio in Miami:
The Washington Post reported some details:
marco rubio heckled miamiAt least eight young people interrupted Rubio just as he began speaking about how the United States is a country of freedom and opportunity.
“What about my parents?” shouted one of the protesters, prompting others to join in.
As they began shouting, Rubio told the hometown crowd that he’s among a few national political figures to be regularly heckled “by both sides of the immigration debate.”
Rubio originally gambled that he would win the repugican nomination in 2016 by supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Support for the Florida Senator crashed in the early repugican polls, so he changed his position, “I continue to believe our system needs to be reformed and I’ve learned in the last year that because of such an incredible distrust of the federal government no matter who’s in charge, the only way you’re going to be able to deal with this issue is by first securing the border and ensuring that illegal immigration is under control.”
The repugicans better get used to this kind of treatment if they plan on continuing their opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Obama’s executive action showed immigration reform supporters who they need to be protesting. The mainstream media is trying to link the heckling to Rubio’s potential 2016 run for pretender, but the story is bigger than one man and his possible pretender campaign.
Immigration reform opponents in the repugican cabal are shooting themselves in the feet by catering to bigots who disguise their opposition to immigration reform as concerns about “border security.” Marco Rubio is going to have trouble holding on to his Senate seat next year, much less winning the repugican pretender nomination. The repugican opposition to immigration reform is wildly unpopular, and the spineless pandering Marco Rubio’s of the repugican cabal are going to have a lot more problems than a few hecklers if they continue to maintain such an empty headed and hard hearted position.

Red State Voters Are Stupid For Electing Insane repugicans

You can't fix stupid
Every society and culture throughout recorded history has had its share of extremist and fanatics in their midst, but few have suffered them as their leaders. Any people that have to live under extremists warrant sympathy because in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria the people had little choice in selecting who governed or brutalized them. America has more than its share of extremists and fanatics, and they are gaining positions of authority in government; particularly red state governments. However, one can hardly feel empathy for the people living under repugican extremists because unlike people suffering under fanatics in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and ISIL-controlled Iraq; red state extremists are chosen by incredibly stupid Americans to govern.
One really wants to believe that no sane person would leave the comfort of their home, drive to the local polling place, and cast a vote for a fanatical extremist, but that is not the case in red states across America. It is particularly bizarre that these repugican extremists never concealed their fanaticism and still garnered sufficient support from seriously stupid voters to win elections and impose absurd, and unconstitutional, measures on the residents of their state. After the 2010 midterm elections it seemed the nation would never again suffer a rash of seriously crazy politicians winning elections, but this is America and red state voters have outdone their own stupidity. There is a plethora of insane legislation being proposed and passed in red states, and coupled with some recent state judges’ decisions, it is apparent that no matter how insane repugicans are, they exist in government because red state voters are inherently stupid.
One South Dakota repugican extremist is so convinced that “Planned Parenthood is worse than ISIL and lying about it,” that he is pushing a bill to stop a procedure that Planned Parenthood does not perform with a view toward outlawing the family planning organization. The maniac voters chose as their legislative representative, Isaac Latterell, asserted that “Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls are beheading unborn children during abortions.” Latterell said “I am beyond angry at what Planned Parenthood is doing to us and our children. In the words of David Brooks, like ISIL, their actions show contempt for us and our morality, deny the slightest acknowledgment of our common humanity, and take the bully’s maximum relish in their power over the weak and innocent.”
The repugicans and many of their supporters want Planned Parenthood wiped off the face of the Earth in the same way decent humans want ISIL exterminated. But, comparing an organization providing cancer screening, family planning, and pre-natal care for women with ISIL to eliminate it from existence is beyond extreme; but because voters chose repugicans to mislead, eliminating an organization that helps women is apparently exactly what red state voters want.
It is bad enough that Oklahoma attempted to defund AP history courses, and although the extremists are “rethinking” the ban after a fair amount of public outrage, there was little reported about one aspect of the rule repugicans will not rethink; the inclusion of the ten commandments and ronny raygun tirades Oklahoma deems is the most integral part of “American history.” The initial reason for banning AP courses was that students were learning revisionist history in advanced course work; revisionist history in extremists’ parlance is anything not portraying America as an exceptional christian nation created by dog to rule the Earth according to the ten commandments. It is an extremists’ concept and one seriously stupid voters elected their evangelical legislators to enact into law.
Also in Oklahoma, the House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation  prohibiting judges and clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Like Alabama, this is in spite of a federal court decision striking down the state’s ban on gays marrying the person they love. According to the legislation, besides “prohibiting public funds for any activity licensing or supporting same-sex marriage; prohibiting public employees from recognizing same-sex marriage licenses, and prohibiting public funds to enforce federal court orders,” the bill severely punishes any public employee adhering to the Constitution regarding the authority of federal courts.  The legislation states that “no employee of this state or any local governmental shall violate or interfere with the implementation of this act and continue to receive a salary, pension or other employee benefit. If a judge violates this act, the judge shall be removed from the bench.”
In the continuing bible v. Constitution marriage equality drama in Alabama, a Supreme Court justice issued an ominous warning to residents that “If marriage equality remains the law in Alabama, Justice Glenn Murdock will vote to abolish marriage altogether. Supreme Court Justice Murdock’s opinion was attached to an order from the state supreme court refusing to offer guidance to judges on whether they are really required to obey federal court as mandated in the U.S. Constitution. In Murdock’s concurrence with Chief Justice Roy Moore’s order, he threatened that if the federal order stands, then his court will strike down all marriages in the state of Alabama. It is important to note that that the religious fanatics on Alabama’s highest court were elected by the people who were likely aware they would disregard the Constitution when it conflicts with the christian bible. They are likely too stupid to comprehend that today it is same-sex marriage and just a matter of time before religious judges enforce other biblical edicts voters will not appreciate.
Although there are extremist laws proposed or passed in red states, Montana is setting a precedent for legislative insanity. One bill (SB 130) is touted as a means for Montana citizens to protect themselves “from the grave danger posed by the federal government.” The legislation mandates creating state-sanctioned paramilitary groups in every city, large and small, to be known as “home guards.” The bill empowers the local sheriffs to mobilize these armed militias for any reason they deem necessary and they can activate their private little armies without the governor’s consent. Obviously SB 130 enjoys “enthusiastic and overwhelming support” from militia groups already stockpiling large caches of firearms in anticipation of the nearest opportunity to wage war against the federal government.
Another piece of Montana insanity that enjoys popularity among the bible thumpers is the “Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom” legislation.  HB 321’s title is misleading because the intent is giving preachers posing as public school teachers ‘legal immunity’ to teach biblical lies as science. The legislation’s preamble says that since “The scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe,” so responsible teachers can teach the bible as science under the guise they are encouraging critical thinking.
In keeping with typical gun-nut zealot’s extremist reading of the 2nd Amendment, Montana’s HB 203 declares that Montana citizens can legally ignore federal firearms laws such as the ban on machine guns, rockets and missiles, and cannons. The legislation also makes it a crime for any member of law enforcement, from local police to highway patrol officers to county sheriffs and deputies to enforce any federal gun law. Montana also is pushing a law to allow hunters to use silencers.  Coupled with the “mandatory armed militias” and elimination of gun possession laws, the legalization of silencers cannot possibly be anything but a gift to militant groups and criminals; not hunters.
The list of insane legislation being passed or proposed in red states is exhaustive, and it is tempting to feel empathy for residents of those states, but they have no one to blame but themselves. None of the gun fanatics, religious fanatics, or anti-government and anti-Constitution candidates attempted to conceal their intent when they campaigned for the right to put their fanaticism into the law.
The problem even for true believers who knew who they were voting for maniacs is that their chosen extremists know no bounds and it takes a particularly stupid voter to believe otherwise. Today it is just forming militias to wage war on the federal government, imposing strict religious instruction in public schools, and allowing bands of militias armed with silenced-handguns, machine guns and rocket launchers to roam the streets. Voters were too stupid to realize that if this is the fanatics starting point they promised during their campaigns, red state residents better be prepared for some serious ISIL and Taliban extremism in the near future. It is tragic, but they have no one to blame but their own stupidity for choosing fanatics to govern every aspect of their lives; and being extremists, they will ‘govern’ over every last aspect of their lives.

The large-scale attack on teachers unions is going according to plan

In 2014, about 49% of teachers, or about 2.5 million, were covered by unions, down from 50% in 2013 and 53% just a decade ago, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1984, teachers union coverage was 64%. A teacher in a unionized school district can get some benefits without joining the union. [...]The shift away from unions is happening as three trends collide: Baby Boomer teachers, who have higher union membership rates, are retiring. School districts, rising from the recession, are picking up the pace of hiring. And a greater percentage of students now attend independently run but publicly financed charter schools, which overwhelmingly hire non-unionized teachers.
In a few cities, such as Detroit and New Orleans, charter school enrollment accounts for the majority of public school students.
Considering that student performance is higher in states with unionized teachers and that teachers unions are one of the key forces pushing back against standardized testing's takeover of the school day, this is bad news. And it's no accident, as you clearly see when you look not just at Detroit and New Orleans, but at Chicago and Philadelphia, where politicians have pushed charter schools while closing down traditional public schools and laying off teachers en masse.
The end game is highly privatized education with teachers who do not have the due process protections they need to speak out against abuses without losing their jobs. The recession sped up this process by allowing the corporate education policy movement to apply the shock doctrine, taking advantage of economic crisis to accelerate the reshaping of American education.
But you know what they say: Don't mourn, organize.

Did you know ...

If You Are Reading This, You Might Already Be a Terrorist

ScaryTerroristDudeAre you a terrorist? If so check this box: 
That’s exactly what terrorists might have to do soon if one New York state legislator gets his way. Thomas Croci ( a repugican of course ) introduced a bill that would require terrorists to register with the state the way that sex offenders do.
Croci thinks his bill would discourage terrorists from coming to New York and “provide our law enforcement with an important new tool.”
Let’s be clear about two things:
  1. Law enforcement officials already have access to lists of people who have been convicted of terrorism.
  2. If a terrorist wants to go to New York, he or she isn’t going to be discouraged by the possibility of ending up on a list.
Croci’s bill isn’t likely to go anywhere. But it’s a shining example of the terrible ideas legislators can come up with when they have too much time on their hands.

Homeland Security Warns Wingnut Extremists Are An Equal Or Greater Threat Than ISIL

 The Department of Homeland Security is warning that wingnut extremists are an equal or in some cases greater threat to America than ISIL.
RightWingExtremistA new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIL, that garner more public attention.”

The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a report which found that 75% of domestic terror incidents were carried out by lone wolf extremists. Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and editor of the report said, “Our study clearly shows the urgent need for federal agencies to reinvigorate their work studying and analyzing the radical right. And it’s important to recognize the trend away from organized groups committing acts of domestic terror. As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the Oklahoma City bombing, lone wolves and small cells of domestic terrorists can create massive carnage.”
Potok added, “The lone wolf’s chief asset is that no one else knows of his violent plans, which makes them exceedingly difficult to disrupt. It is imperative that authorities, including those gathering at the White House next week, take this threat seriously. Anything less would be an invitation to disaster.”
The danger from jihadists abroad is real, but it is the homegrown wingnut radical who has taken anti-government rhetoric preached on Faux News and hate speech radio to heart. Those among the wingnuts who really believe that they are above the law pose a threat to everyone else.
An attack by wingnt radicals is either carried out or foiled every 34 days, but domestic terror doesn’t remind people of 9/11, so most Americans ignore the threat. ISIL gets all of the attention, but the lone wolf wingnut extremist is a threat that is already on the attack.

“Sovereign Citizen” Sentenced to 3 years In Jail For Tax Evasion and Filing False Liens

Donna Marie Kozak
The U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska sentenced a “Sovereign Citizen”  to 36 months in prison and 3 years supervised release for  for tax obstruction, filing a false claim and seven counts of filing false liens “against property of officers and employees of the United States.”
Donna Marie Kozak of La Vista, is a former college instructor who joined “Republic for the united States of America”  in 2009. According to a 2012 report by SPLC  , this cabal claims to have built “governments-in-waiting” in 38 states and has members in nearly every other. Kozak is the group’s designated “governor” of Nebraska.  It counts the Family Research Council, the Oathkeepers and Richard Mack (of Cliven Bundy fame) among it’s allies.  Oh, and Kozak is the cabal’s designated “governor” of Nebraska.
Kozak was convicted by a federal jury in August. Her conviction was based on evidence showing that Kozak stopped filing income taxes in 1997, she filed a false claim for a tax refund and sent harassing correspondence to IRS agents. Moreover, Kozak filed several false liens against 2 District Court judges and others.
Per the DOJ”s press release about this case, Kozak and Randall Due of Georgia conspired to file the false liens to retaliate against those responsible for the 2012 federal criminal tax prosecution and convictions of associates David and Bernita Kleensang  including a $19 million false lien on property owned by the U.S. District Court Judge who presided over the Kleensangs’ trial.
After a federal grand jury indicted Kozak on criminal tax charges and while she was on pre-trial release, Kozak filed five more false liens on properties owned by another U.S. District Court Judge, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska, two Assistant U.S. Attorneys and an IRS Criminal Investigation special agent.

Michigan pediatrician refuses to treat baby because of the child's lesbian parents

A Detroit-area pediatrician has refused to treat a baby girl because the child's parents are a same-sex couple.
Krista and Jami Contreras got a shock when they brought their newborn daughter Bay Windsor Contreras to Dr. Vesna Roi for her first medical visit.
In spite of the fact that they had set up an appointment with Dr. Roi well in advance, they were met by a different physician, who informed them, "I'll be your doctor, I'll be seeing you today because Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won't be able to care for Bay."
Krista and Jami were shocked.
"As far as we know Bay doesn't have a sexual orientation yet," said Jami, "so I'm not really sure what that matters."
The couple - who were married in Vermont in 2012 - had a home birth in October after meeting with Roi for a prenatal consultation. At the time, said Krista, everything seemed fine.
This so called 'doctor' should have her license to practice revoked and barred from ever practicing medicine again. 

Man jailed after trying to rob hotel while armed with a twig

A would-be robber brandishing a twig tried to hold up a hotel before being fought off and fleeing empty-handed on his bicycle. Paul Lawman vaulted the counter of the Premier Inn at Heald Green, Stockport, Greater Manchester, during the attempted heist. Brandishing a plastic bag with a twig inside which he had shaped to look like a gun, Lawman threw a bag at the 23-year-old receptionist and shouted ‘give me the money’.
The woman called for help from her manager, who grappled with Lawman even though he believed the thug was armed with a gun. During the struggle the bag containing the twig ripped and revealed Lawman’s ‘weapon’. He fled the scene on his bicycle, chased by the 25-year-old manager. The hapless crook, of Benchill, was caught after leaving behind the stick and the bag with his fingerprints on it.
He tested positive for the drug ecstasy, and was jailed for four years after admitting attempted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm. The court heard Lawman has convictions for 96 previous offences. Janet Ironfield, defending, said Lawman had not committed a robbery since 1994. “It appears he was feeling frustrated, he was out on the streets, and the idea appears to have occurred to him when he walked past the Premier Inn.
“This is not an offense for which there’s any evidence that the defendant planned in advance a means of attack on the Premier Inn, other than at the spur of the moment, when what he did was equip himself with useful items from the car park.” Recorder Tina Landale, sentencing, said it was ‘inconceivable’ that the ‘terrifying’ robbery bid was not planned.

Police Union Chief Smacks Down Racist, Anti-LGBT Cops: If You Don’t Like Blacks And Gays, Leave

by Elisabeth Parker 
“You applied here. And you have to treat people all the same.”
That’s Ron Smith’s message to Seattle cops who’ve still got issues with gays and people of color. And in case they still don’t get their police union president’s drift, Smith adds:
“You have to serve the community. If you don’t like the politics here, then leave and go to a place that serves your worldview.”
The Stranger‘s Ansel Herz reports Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Ron Smith has recently taken a harder line against Seattle’s finest in the wake of recent scandals involving inappropriate racist and anti-gay Facebook rants, including a particularly offensive defense of Michael Brown’s murderer Darren Wilson.
Shortly after the Seattle Times announced on Feb. 6 that SPD’s Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole had just put a second cop on leave for bigoted social media posts, Smith posted a warning on the Seattle Police Officers Guild’s Facebook page: If police want to avoid appearing on the front page of the Seattle Times, they’d better watch what they email, text, and post on social media. After all,
“Times have changed and we must also change to adapt to societal expectations. We are held to a higher standard by those who entrust us with their safety and who call us when they need help in their darkest hour.”
Ron Smith's Facebook post: Like we tell every new recruit class coming out of the academy at their union orientation, think before you hit send unless you want to read it on the front page of the Seattle Times and or any other media outlet. Times have changed and we must also change to adapt to societal expectations. We are held to a higher standard by those who entrust us with their safety and who call us when they need help in their darkest hour. The more apolitical we can be, the smoother the path forward shall be... Service Pride Dedication.
Ron Smith’s Facebook post. 
In an interview with Herz, Smith explained that since there are so many cities and police departments across the nation that still tolerate racism and anti-gay bigotry, he doesn’t understand why haters even bother applying for police jobs in progressive communities like Seattle.
“There are more than enough places across this country that are hiring law enforcement that have a different political landscape than here. And I don’t know why they don’t just go there.”
That’s the gist of what Smith has been telling his officers lately:
“They hired you because they thought you were going to be able to work in a diverse community. And if you can’t, well then, I guess there are still places across the country that aren’t diverse, so go work there. But those won’t last forever.”
Smith’s tough talk is welcome…and long overdue.
This tough talk is welcome, considering that the guild has made headlines in the recent for resisting reform and making provocative statements in their newsletter.
It was exciting language from the head of a union that in the past, in its monthly Guardian newsletter, has described efforts to combat racial profiling as “socialist policies” from “the enemy” and argued that officers should be able to call citizens “bitch” and “n***a.”
Smith took office as SPOG’s president in Feb. 2014. His reforms have included four hour anti-bias training sessions for police officers officers in Nov. and Dec. 2014. When Herz questioned whether training sessions can fully address the problem of bias within Seattle’s police force, Smith agreed that you can’t, but it’s a start.
“That’s an overt attitude. There’s no room for that. I don’t know how you check that at the door. That’s like playing dress up.”
But really, Smith wants police officers to either keep their bias under wraps or leave. If they can’t at least try to serve their community and treat everyone equally, then they should GTFO.
“We need to treat everyone the same. Regardless of race, gender identity, economic class—all the same. I’m going to try to do better on things. I stand firm on the fact that  if you don’t like… the political environment of the city, then go someplace else… You gotta change with the times. You gotta embrace what we have here.”
And what Seattle has is a liberal, tolerant, multicultural community that supports Smith’s long-awaited reforms.
Ron Smith Tweet: This is big: Seattle Police union president tells cops to get with the times or leave town. http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/02/18/21739167/seattle-police-union-president-to-cops-get-with-the-times-or-get-out-of-this-city 
The Stranger’s tweet for their Ron Smith article — This is big: Seattle Police union president tells cops to get with the times or leave town. http://www.thestranger.com/

Florida police officer: "Planting evidence and lying in your reports are just part of the game"

Speaking to the D.C. Post, a "confirmed" 15-year veteran of Florida's Palm Beach County Sheriff's department says that planting drugs on innocent people in predominantly black neighborhoods and "lying in your reports are just part of the game.
The deputy enjoys framing "mouthy drivers, street lawyers, assholes and just anyone else trying to make my job difficult."
Under my floor mat, I keep a small plastic dime baggie with Cocaine in residue. [...] The residue is the key because you can fully charge some asshole with possession of cocaine, heroin, or whatever just with the residue. How to get it done? “I asked Mr. DOE for his identification. And he pulled out his wallet, I observed a small plastic baggie fall out of his pocket…” You get the idea. easy, right?

Iconic Photos

... from a different perspective

The Fearless Black Cowboy of the Wild, Wild West

Nat Love was born a slave in Tennessee in 1854. When he was 15, he left for the adventure of the West. The untamed frontier offered more freedom for a black man than anywhere in the established states. Within a few years Love became a crack shot, won rodeo titles with his cowboy skills, and earned the name Deadwood Dick. Or did he? The account of his life comes from his autobiography.
Love’s shooting skills had been honed over the course of seven long years on the cattle trails. In his 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” which remains the main source of information on his life, Love writes, “In those days on the great cattle ranges there was no law but the law of might, and all disputes were settled with a forty-five Colt pistol. In such cases the man who was quickest on the draw and whose eye was the best, pretty generally got the decision.” He had become adept with firearms to defend himself and his trail mates against rustlers, Native American raiding parties, saloon brawlers and stampeding animals. The mighty buffalo were still abundant on the plains, and hunting them served as both sport and a source of food on the trail. Love relied on the mass-produced, repeating firearms that defined the era: the Winchester lever action rifle and the single-action, six-shot Colt revolver. ”It was of the greatest importance,” Love writes, “that the cow boy should understand his gun, its capabilities and its shooting qualities.”
Although there is no doubt that Love was a skilled cowboy, many of the published accounts of those days are filled with self-promotion and unlikely celebrity encounters. Ben Nadler picks apart Love’s book at Narratively against a backdrop of what we know is true about black cowboys in the American West. Even after you discount the most unlikely parts of the autobiography, what’s left of Nat Love’s life story is still utterly fascinating.

Indo-European languages first emerged circa 6500 years ago on the steppe

Scheme of Indo-European migrations from ca. 4000 to 1000 BC according to the Kurgan hypothesis. Image: Dbachmann/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Linguists have long agreed that languages from English to Greek to Hindi, known as ‘Indo-European languages’, are the modern descendants of a language family which first emerged from a common ancestor spoken thousands of years ago. Now, a new study gives us more information on when and where it was most likely used.
Using data from over 150 languages, linguists at the University of California, Berkeley provide evidence that this ancestor language originated 5,500 – 6,500 years ago, on the Pontic-Caspian steppe stretching from Moldova and Ukraine to Russia and western Kazakhstan.
Steppe/Kurgan hypothesis
Ancestry-constrained phylogenetic analysis supports the Indo-European steppe hypothesis“, by Will Chang, Chundra Cathcart, David Hall and Andrew Garrett, will appear in the March issue of the academic journal Language. A pre-print version of the article is freely available from the Linguistic Society of America, the publishers of Language: http://www.linguisticsociety.org/files/news/ChangEtAlPreprint.pdf
This article provides new support for the “steppe hypothesis” or “Kurgan hypothesis”, which proposes that Indo-European languages first spread with cultural developments in animal husbandry around 4500 – 3500 BCE. (An alternate theory proposes that they diffused much earlier, around 7500 – 6000 BCE, in Anatolia in modern-day Turkey.)
Divergence approximately 6,500 years ago
Chang et al. examined over 200 sets of words from living and dead Indo-European languages; after determining how quickly these words changed over time through statistical modelling, they concluded that the rate of change indicated that the languages which first used these words began to diverge approximately 6,500 years ago, in accordance with the steppe hypothesis.
This is one of the first quantitatively-based academic papers in support of the steppe hypothesis, and the first to use a model with “ancestry constraints” which more directly incorporate previously discovered relationships between languages. In future research, methods from this study could be used to study the origins of other language families, such as Afro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan.

Future Forecast

Three shrines, dating back about 3,300 years, have been discovered within a hilltop fortress at Gegharot, in Armenia.

Paleo Platter

Recent dietary fads, such as going paleo, suggest we should get back to eating the way we did before agriculture came along. But, as in much else in life, there are no easy or perfect answers when it comes to the foods we choose.

Exceptional Stone Age Norwegian excavated

An 8,000-year-old human skeleton is now undergoing meticulous analysis. It’s extremely rare for such old human remains to be found in the Nordic countries because much of the region was covered in a crushing sheet of ice until 9,000 - 10,000 years ago.
by Marianne Nordahl
Archaeologists have found large portions of a skeleton buried by a Stone Age settlement at Brunstad in Stokke, Vestfold County. It could be around 8,000 years old. They know it was an adult who had been ritually buried.
“The discovery is sensational in a Northern European context,” says Archaeologist Almut Schülke at the University of Oslo’s Natural History Museum. She is in charge of the excavation.
No other skeletal remains have been found so intact from this far back in time in Norway. At Stavanger Airport, archaeologists recently found human remains dating back to about 4,000 BC. The Brunstad skeleton is not the oldest find of human bones, however. Skulls have been found in Vest-Agder County which probably predate this Stone Age ‘Norwegian’ by 1,500 years.
  Fetal position
Archaeologists came across the Brunstad grave last summer when excavating a Stone Age settlement in Stokke on a plot where a new conference center is going to be constructed. As the land was lower then, the gravesite was probably close to the seashore when the person was buried. The soil around the skeleton is nearly rock-hard today. The team had to chisel into it and they were overjoyed when they came across human bones.
Their field work in 2014 was a hot and sweaty job because Norway was having a record-hot summer. Once Schülke and her colleagues realized that they had come across human bones they decided to cut out large blocks of the compact soil containing the precious remnants.  This enabled them to complete the finer extraction work under controlled laboratory conditions.
“The skeleton was in a pit which was built up around the edges with rocks. The pit was about a metre wide and one-and-a-half meters long,” says Schülke.
The person was buried sitting or perhaps lying on its back, with the head tilted forward and the arms embracing the legs in the fetal-like “hocker position”.
The scientists have been unable so far to verify whether the person was a man or a woman. The cranial remains and the traces of pelvis were too poorly preserved to provide an answer. Further analyses of the bones should at least reveal things about the person’s diet and give other indications of the environment he or she lived in.
Comparisons with other Stone Age grave sites
Skeletal remains from this period of the Stone Age have been found in Sweden but such discoveries are always extremely rare and significant.
“Finding skeletal remains in such old graves is highly unusual,” says Fredrik Molin. He is the project leader of a Stone Age excavation at Motala in South-eastern Sweden.
There too, archaeologists have found graves with human remains. The bones were rather poorly preserved and were perhaps a little younger than the skeleton in the Brunstad grave. In Motala the corpses had been placed both full-length on their backs and, like at Brunstad, in the hocker position.
This is seen in other graves from the same time.
“It seems as if this was a rather uniform practice in this period,” says Molin.
In Motala, as at the Brunstad site, the grave was located right near the settlement.
“This makes for a close relationship between the living society and the dead. This is interigung and it contrasts with how we currently do things. Now we keep the dead at a distance,” says Molin.
Bones from the entire body
Osteoarchaelogist Sara Gummesson worked on the excavation at Motala. Now she has contributed to the digging, conservation and analysis of the Brunstad skeleton.
“We found cranial fragments, thighbone and shin bone, ribs and an arm,” she says.
Gummesson shows us parts of the skull and then points to something that looks like a decayed tree root. We are actually looking at forearm bones.

This forearm bone is infiltrated by roots but it shows that the corpse’s palms were arranged to face upwards.
“We see from the position of these bones that the person was buried with their palms turned upwards,” she says.
The archaeologists found nothing to indicate that the Stone Age person was buried in a coffin or anything of the sort. Some archaeological discoveries from this period have indicated that the corpse was wrapped in textile prior to burial, but this is uncertain, according to Gummesson.
One of the problems the scientists have with dating these bones is that many of them are fully intertwined and infiltrated with tree roots. In some places the bone has more or less become a root. This has made it really hard to date.  So the C14 analyses at Brunstad have given diverse results about how old the bones are.
One trial put the age at 5,000-6,000 years old. Another dated the bones back to the same age as the settlement – which was populated as much as 8,000 years ago.
The researchers are inclined to place their bets on this older date.
They found no other objects in the grave but are working on an analysis of charcoal fragments and bits of flint.
The answers to additional tests should be available by summer. These will hopefully tell more about how the person in the grave lived and reveal new information concealed in the grave.

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