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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

Harold Godwineson is crowned King Harold II – King of England.
Henry VIII of England marries his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The marriage will last six months.
The Governor of Maryland, Thomas Hicks, announces his opposition to the states’s possible secession from the Union.
Japanese railway authorities in Korea refuse to transport Russian troops.
Union leaders ask President William H. Taft to investigate U.S. Steel’s practices.
New Mexico becomes the 47th U.S. state of the Union.
Germany acknowledges Finland’s independence.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at the age of 60 in his home at Sagamore Hill, New York.
The U.S. Navy orders the sale of 125 flying boats to encourage commercial aviation.
The United States bans the shipment of arms to war-torn Spain.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Congress to support the Lend-lease Bill to help supply the Allies.
Boeing B-29 bombers in the Pacific strike new blows on Tokyo and Nanking.
Ho Chi Minh wins in the Vietnamese elections.
Moscow announces a reduction in its armed forces by 300,000.
Over 16,000 U.S. and 14,000 Vietnamese troops start their biggest attack on the Iron Triangle, northwest of Saigon.
Astronomers report sighting a new galaxy 12 billion light years away.
In one of the closest Presidential elections in U.S. history, the shrub was finally declared the winner of the bitterly contested 2000 Presidential elections more then five weeks after the election due to the disputed Florida ballots.
Former Ku Klux Klan organizer Edgar Ray Killen arrested as a suspect in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.
US Senate confirms Janet Yellen as the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Bank in the central bank’s 100-year history.

As A New Year Begins, The World Is Safer Than Ever Before – Except For One Threat

Climate Change DroneAs 2015 becomes 2016, the world is safer now than it has ever been. Except for this one scary threat.
It’s been a year full of scary stuff: terrorism, mass shootings, Trump still leading the polls, the new season of American Horror Story. But despite the nightmares every time you turn on the news or read on your Facebook feed, the world is actually safer than it’s been for most of human history.
It’s hard to believe, but if you look at data you can see that death rates from both violence and disease are lower than they’ve ever been. At the same time, rates of literacy are higher, education is more accessible, and more people live in democratic societies than ever before. Yes, there have been 355 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone – and that’s abhorrent – but in general, “violence has been in decline over long stretches of time, and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence,” according to some historians.
Of course, you’d never know this from the news. When something terrible happens in San Bernardino or Beirut or Mali or Baghdad, we hear about it. The reality is, however, for the vast majority of us – especially of those of us living in the relatively peaceful western world – life is pretty damn safe compared to how it used to be.
Except, that is, for this one thing: climate change. If you’re in the U.S., that’s what should be keeping you up at night, should have you stockpiling goods and moving to high ground – or at least calling your state representatives. It’s not ISIL. It’s not fear of Syrian refugees. It’s not even Dumbass Trump’s lead in the polls. It’s our ecosystems dying, and taking us down too.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah agrees. On his show Trevor played a clip of Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera blathering about how even though we know climate change is happening and will eventually wash away many of our cities, what we really need to be worried about is ISIL – an organization that has yet to make landfall in the United States.
“We’re talking about the existential threat to mankind from global warming,” Rivera said in the exasperated tone you use with annoying children. “What about what’s happening right now? What about when you saw those Amazon drones, the prototypes, delivering goods to people’s homes? What happens when ISIL gets a drone and puts a bomb on it?”
It turns out ISIL drones should not be on your list of worries, at least not yet. While it is theoretically possible that eventually ISIL – or some other terror group, foreign or domestic – could drone us to death, there is literally no evidence that it’s happening.
The only scary thing about drones is the climate change they’re mapping.
And that’s scary enough. It’s not merely theoretical that climate change will destroy lives: It’s happening right now, from California to the Marshall Islands. Unless our leaders in Paris push for aggressive limits to carbon emissions, it’s only going to get worse. The World Health Organization projects that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year. Per year.
So as the new year begins, don’t dwell on the overstated threats from over-hyped foreign enemies. Instead, open your eyes, and worry about the real and present danger that’s coming for us all.
2015 may well go down in history as the year when the people of the world finally recognized the threat of global warming and climate change and began doing something about it. In Paris this year 195 nations agreed on a global response.
2016 is an election year. Elections matter. The clear and present danger that the United States faces in the new year is that of a new president and a new Senate and House. Republicans have already threatened to scuttle the Paris agreement if they are victorious in November. The U.S. president who follows Barack Obama may literally hold the fate of the Earth in his, or her, hands.
So as safe as we may be at this present moment, the threat of climate change and the conservative denial of it loom large. It turns out the one way any of us may be able to ease the threat is simply to vote wisely in November.

The Most Powerful Photographs Of 2015

2015 was a year full of turbulence, with emotionally stirring scenes captured perfectly in photos by the world's top photojournalists, thousands of which were reviewed by The Atlantic's Alan Taylor for his In Focus galleries.
Now that the year is coming to a close Alan has compiled his picks for Most Powerful Images of 2015 into a very visually arresting video montage that's sure to give you all the feels. (warning: graphic content)
You can also see Alan's In Focus 2015 galleries here- Jan-Apr    May-Aug    Sept-Dec (galleries contain graphic content)

Trickle-Down to Keep-the-Worker-Down: It’s Not the “Skills Gap” Driving Down Wages

Witness the reality of the Republican cabal's keep-the worker-down economics and its persistent drive to re-distribute wealth from the bottom to the top… Wisconsin Budget Arkansas
I have been writing quite a bit on income inequality lately with a particular focus on the narratives and values at work in our culture which justify inequality and shape the belief that economic inequality is consistent with a democratic and supposedly egalitarian society. As a society, Americans hold many beliefs that express, with varying degrees of consciousness, a deep commitment to inequality.
For example, I think it’s fair to say that many, if not most, Americans seem accepting of the fact that different kinds of work are remunerated differently. We don’t hear too many complaints about the doctor or lawyer receiving a higher salary than the custodian or postal worker.
In my own view, we should complain about this disparity. It’s not clear to me why people spending forty hours of their week performing socially necessary work deserve more or less than others. Of course, when I express this opinion, I receive lots of complaints.
One of the most frequent objections littering the comment sections at the end of my articles is that jobs being remunerated with a minimum wage are jobs that require minimum skills, making the situation just. Thus, if people want to improve their wages, they need to improve their skills or acquire new ones that merit higher pay. The idea, quite a prevalent one in our society–constituting an almost common sense—is premised on the assumption that wage levels somehow correlate with skill levels.
Yet this “skills myth,” as we might call it, is just that, a powerfully dangerous myth that is disarming in its power to cloud our perception of the real forces driving down wages in our economy. The term the “skills gap” has dominated the rhetoric accommodating the American psyche to gross economic inequality, promulgating the illusion that American workers’ economic woes are attributable to their own lack of appropriate skills for the jobs demanding the highest salaries rather than to concerted efforts on the part of capital to disempower workers, largely though not exclusively through assaults on labor unions over time, and erode wages.
While in fact many jobs have not changed, studies show that on the whole real wages have been declining in many occupations. Last September, in an economic environment characterized by substantial job creation, CNBC’s Jeff Cox reported, “For all the talk about the nearly 250,000 jobs a month the economy is creating, workers’ real wages, including the cost of living, are going backward. Average pay in real terms slumped 4 percent from 2009-2014, according to the National Employment Project.”
That wages are declining in jobs for which the skills required have not altered debunks the myth that wages are declining because the American worker lacks skills. Indeed, the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year presented an analysis suggesting the opposite, concluding, “Workers with a four-year college degree saw their hourly wages fall 1.3 percent from 2013 to 2014, while those with advanced degrees saw an hourly wage decline of 2.2 percent. If demand for high-skilled workers were driving wage inequality, we would expect to see these workers’ wages increasing, or at the very least, falling less than their low-skilled counterparts.”
Thus, it is not workers’ lack of skills driving down wages, but the all-out assault on workers and unions. Last July, janitors in the school system in Barrington, Illinois went on strike because their wages were being cut from $9.77 to $8.50 per hour. Did these workers’ skills change? Not at all.
In the arena of education, given technological developments, teachers actually need to possess more skills than in the past, and certainly not less. Yet the charter school movement has been responsible for driving down teachers’ salaries. Why? Because charter schools typically feature a non-unionized faculty, prompting many to understand the charter school movement as a movement largely intended to break powerful teachers’ union. Again, the skills required for the work have not changed; rather the assault on workers’ rights and on wages has intensified.
In an interview regarding the resurgence of manufacturing in South Carolina's Republican Moron Haley celebrated the absence of unions in her state, explaining to CNBC’s Phil LeBeau, “We don’t have unions in here for a reason. And that’s because of the complement between the companies and what they know they need to do is value their workforce and it’s the workforce who knows they’re part of a family and they don’t want a middleman getting in the middle of it.”
I guess being part of family means workers give their paternalistic bosses a discount to the tune of ten dollars per hour, which is how much less Boeing’s skilled machinists earn in Haley’s neck of the woods compared to their unionized counterparts in Washington state. I’m not sure what worker focus group Haley convened to discern workers’ perspectives, but her sense of what the workforce wants is noticeably out-of-sync with the recent Gallup poll indicating that Americans’ approval of unions has been rising, standing now at 58%, up 5% over the past year and 10% since 2009. The percentage of Americans wanting labor unions to have more influence has also increased 5% to 37%since 2009, while the percentage of Americans wanting unions to have less influence has decreased 7% to 35%.
While perhaps we can’t be sure about the exact cause of Americans’ growing support for unions, it would be beyond silly to think that the unrelenting assault on wages and workplace rights don’t have something to do with this changing perception of the role and need for unions. It seems that workers may increasingly be desiring “a middleman getting in the middle” of that otherwise happy family Haley references, a family riven by the Republican cabal’s intensifying agenda of class warfare.
Of late, the Dickensian rhetoric like Haley’s, typical of Republican rhetoric designed to assuage class tensions and deny the reality of the class warfare they wage, has all but disappeared thanks to Dumbass Trump’s involvement in the wingnut primary fray and what seems to be his case of political Turrets syndrome.
Indeed, the constant anto-worker statements from Trump, as cruel and outrageous as they might initially seem, actually provide an accurate description of the behavior of America’s economic elites in their partnership with Republicans who craft legislation to underwrite their interests. Republicans have reversed the course of Lyndon B. Johnson’s quest for the Great Society and the war on poverty, and instead have openly declared a war on the impoverished and those they intend to drive into poverty.
The rhetoric of shared prosperity that informed their celebrated trickle-down economics has disappeared, revealing the frightening reality of the Republican cabal’s unabashed keep-the worker-down economics and of its persistent drive to re-distribute wealth from the bottom to the top. Enough is never enough.
The class warfare agenda has been blatantly announced.
Trump, of course, notoriously revealed his ideas for driving down the wages of autoworkers, whom he deems overpaid, by closing and re-locating plants: “You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d full-circle—you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less. We can do rotation in the United States—it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.” The objective is to make Americans desperate and disempowered so they’ll work for even fewer crumbs from the proverbial cake corporate America eats but which the working classes bake.
And if you thought Trump was just putting his foot in his mouth, he doubled down on these comments in a subsequent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” declaring his antipathy to the minimum wage and arguing that the U.S. could attract more jobs if there were no minimum wage.
Of course my point is that Trump’s comments are not idiosyncratic in their content, even if his articulation of this content is unusual. Walker has proudly insisted that the minimum wage “serves no purpose” and stands by his roll-back of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Moreover, Trump’s strategy for reducing wages perfectly describes what is happening in Haley’s South Carolina: corporations are moving there to avoid unions and pay workers less. It’s no secret, despite the “happy family” rhetoric that seeks to mask this reality.
If we are going to have a serious discussion of income inequality in this country, we need to see through the damaging and specious rhetoric that justifies inequality in so many people’s minds. A common -sense look at what is—and who is—really driving down wages for middle and working class people will show us that the assault on wages is linked to a de-valuing of people and their skills simply in an effort to continue the socially destructive project of re-distributing wealth to the top, increasing profits at workers’ expense, and politically crippling the labor movement.

Planned Parenthood Can Not Be Cut

Victory for Planned Parenthood as court tells Utah governor he can't cut off funding

‘Family values’ Republican: Men should be allowed to grab breastfeeding women’s nipples in public

A self-described “pro-family” wingnut said on Facebook he should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if a law banning women exposing breasts in public didn’t pass.
This dud is seriously fucked up in the head

From the "Seriously Deluded and Entitled In Their Own Minds " Department

Kent Hovind (YouTube)
Creationism evangelist: dog put contradictions in the bible to ‘weed out’ the atheists
Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis (YouTube) Screenshots)
Preachers insist: dog wants us to have luxurious private jets to avoid dope-filled airline passenger ‘demons’

Quick Hits

Two sentenced to death in Bangladesh for murdering atheist blogger
New York City lets luxury building owners stiff workers and still get a tax break

US police killed 1,134 young black men in 2015

Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police.

Dad Arrested, His 2-Year-Old Daughter Taken, for Successfully Treating Her Cancer with Cannabis Oil

Will Going Outside with Wet Hair Really Give You a Cold?

Winter Myths
Will Going Outside with Wet Hair Really Give You a Cold?
We set the record straight on this question, and four other commonly-known winter health perils

One Month Sober

Did Ernest Hemingway Really Invent the Bloody Mary?

5 Healthy Food Trends That Will Rule 2016

chopping vegetables

This British Manor House Looks Like a Pineapple

Europeans first experienced pineapples on Columbus's first expedition to the Americas.
This uniquely delicious fruit became a prized import from the New World. Sailors would often leave them at the entrances to their homes in Europe as a way to announce their return. Thus the pineapple became a symbol of exotic luxury and worldly travel.
In the United States, the Dunmore family of Scotland is most widely known for the 4th Earl of Dunmore, John Murray, who was the last British governor of Virginia. He was a commited Loyalist who commanded troops in battles against the American rebels.
In 1761, his family built this home in Falkirk, Scotland. It was a gift to Lady Susan, the wife of the Earl of Dunmore. The garden home served as a rural retreat. Nestled between two greenhouses stands a rotunda that looks like an enormous pineapple.
The Dunmore Pineapple, as the home is now known, has been carefully preserved. You can even rent it as a vacation home.

Freak heatwave at North Pole

Freak heatwave pushes temperatures at North Pole above freezing

Raccoon Steals Doughnut

Watch out, Pizza Rat, there’s a raccoon ready to steal your thunder! A masked bandit entered a doughnut shop through the ceiling and brazenly lifted the goods right in front of customers -with cameras.
Peter Jenson caught video of the thievery at an unnamed doughnut shop in Toronto.

Mammals may be 30 million years older than previously thought

An illustration of Haramiyavia clemmenseni, and below with the reconstructed right mandible. The original fossil was scanned to produce detailed three-dimensional images, allowing Luo’s team to explore the anatomy.  (April Neander/UChicago/From Luo et al. 2015)
Paleontologists re-examine a 200-million-year-old fossil from Greenland, reigniting debate about the origins of mammals

Animal Pictures