Tue 21 October, 2014

18:03 New York Subway Performers Stand Up To Police With Big Subway Jam Session» Politics - The Huffington Post
If New York City in the post-Bloomberg era can still be called gritty, chaotic, artistic, and weird, the political demonstration in the Metropolitan Avenue subway station on Tuesday afternoon was a quintessential New York gathering. Kid Lucky, the “human beatbox,” was there. So was Matthew Silver, better known as the guy who dances on Astor Place in his underwear, swinging hula hoops and giant stuffed bananas while shouting slogans like “Put down your phones” and “Love is forever.”

Other protesters included a rapper, a harmonica player in a bowler hat, an assortment of guitar-strumming singer-songwriter types, a mime, and Robert Cornegy, the seven-foot city council member from Bedford-Stuyvesant and an alumnus of the legendary 1984-85 St. John’s University basketball team, who said of his days as an itinerant ballplayer in Europe that he learned about each new city by eating the street food and watching its buskers.

It was an unusual gathering sparked by an unusual incident. On Friday, police officers stopped a busker at the same subway station and told him to stop singing and playing guitar. It wasn’t this demand that was unusual -- street performers say police harassment is a frequent experience. What made it stand out was was happened next -- all captured on video by a bystander. At the busker’s urging, the officer read out loud a section of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rulebook that explicitly notes that “artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations,” are permitted. Then, inexplicably, the cop arrested the performer anyway, banging his guitar into the wall.

The bystander's video has since been viewed more than a half-million times on YouTube. In the clip, the performer, Andrew Kalleen, sings Neil Young’s protest hymn “Ohio” as the officer and several backups handcuff him and drag him away. The crowd on the platform can be heard angrily asking the officers why they aren’t busy arresting real criminals.

One possible answer was frequently alluded to at the rally on Tuesday, where activists, performers, and a few politicians spoke out against the “broken windows” theory of policing, which holds that targeting minor offenses like panhandling and littering can deter more serious crimes. The police commissioner, Bill Bratton, famously championed the strategy during his first run as head of the NYPD in the 1990s. Since returning to office in January, Bratton has cracked down hard on people who dance and play music on the subway.

But critics point out that no one has ever proved the broken windows theory's validity, and argue that it can compromise public safety by distracting officers from serious investigations and leading to violent encounters between police and they people they target. In July, the strategy came under heightened scrutiny after Eric Garner, a Staten Island grandfather, died at the hands of police. An officer had grabbed him in a banned chokehold while attempting to arrest him for the sale of loose cigarettes.

Unlike Garner, Kalleen didn't appear to be breaking any law when the police stopped him. At the protest, Matthew Christian, a violinist and leader of BUSK-NY, a group that advocates for street performers, said many police officers may be unaware of this rule. “The NYPD does not do training on the rules of conduct,” he said.

Kalleen said police have stopped him at least five times for performing in the subway station. On Tuesday evening, he filed his second complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of police abuse. He said he also plans to sue the department.

At the rally, Kalleen led the crowd of perhaps 100 protesters in a spirited rendition of “Ohio.” The human beatbox stood on one side, accompanying him on mouth and microphone. The mime stood on the other, a small ball balanced on his head.

Someone handed out lyric sheets. “This is part of the integrity of New York City,” said Cornegy, taking it all in. “People come here from all over with the expectation that they are going to get an authentic New York experience, and this is part of its authenticity.”
18:03 Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor, dead at 93» Salon.com
The editor oversaw the Pulitzer Prize-winning Watergate investigation

17:45 Ebola, Politicians and Our Rudderless Ship?» Politics - The Huffington Post
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are similar in that most of the victims are people of color.

Where Katrina immediately captured our nation's attention, killing over 1,800 people, Ebola's effects are less understood than those of a weather disaster, but these two issues are identical in another way: They both expose a weakness in what the rest of the world thinks is an otherwise impenetrable suit worn by the U.S. government.

With the many slip-ups by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical staff at hospitals that have already occurred, I wonder what would happen if an epidemic of greater, more contagious proportions landed on U.S. soil. It would be Katrina all over again, except it would be an international disaster where folks lose their lives while some of the greatest medical minds in the world fumble the proverbial football before getting things right. In this case, instead of having a universal protocol and a central figure within our own government to take charge, we heard crickets chirping. Now, instead of a centralized conductor of information and policy who is familiar with the practice of medicine, we get an Ebola czar, Ron Klain, a lawyer whose experience is in managing the affairs of the vice president.

Of course U.S. politicians reacted to this crisis as ignorantly, with as much gunning for restrictions as we could have expected: Deny Africans from affected nations access to the United States! Most Americans think the threat of disease is contained to what many see as primitive Sierra Leone and Liberia.

News stations did what I figured they would, abandoning all common sense and not getting an educated point of view on the virus. It is their fear mongering that has largely gone against the information provided by doctors who are trained to deal with infectious diseases and public health.

In all of these special reports, as sensational as they are, almost no one is asking why a vital position within our government has remained vacant. Where is our surgeon general?

According to the surgeon general's website:

As the Nation's Doctor, the Surgeon General provides Americans with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act designated the Surgeon General as the Chair of the newly formed National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership among 20 executive departments with respect to prevention, wellness, and health promotion activities.

The Surgeon General oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS), an elite group of more than 6,800 uniformed officer public health professionals working throughout the Federal government whose mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health of our Nation. ...

The Surgeon General is nominated by the President of the United States with advice and consent of the United States Senate for a four-year term of office. The Office of the Surgeon General is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Even if the average American couldn't care less about the politics of their personal doctor, the fine folks we have representing us in Washington, D.C., do care about the politics of the nation's doctor.

On Oct. 10, 2014, The Daily Beast's Roland S. Martin penned a piece asking the same question I just asked: "Where the Hell Is the Surgeon General?" Martin's piece highlighted the crux of why the position is not filled:

November 14 will mark the one-year anniversary of President Obama appointing Murthy as surgeon general, replacing Dr. Regina Benjamin. Murthy had his Senate confirmation hearings in February, but since then? Nothing. All we've seen is the kind of bullshit political games that come to define this cesspool known as Washington, D.C., which does more to drive good people away from public service.

What are the crimes Murthy has committed? He hasn't kissed the ass of the National Rifle Association, and has called for gun restrictions in order to keep more Americans healthy.

Our nation deserves to have a captain at the helm of our medical ship. We need a person who is not a politician but a health provider who can take very complex and confusing health speak and turn it into something the public can understand.

For the sake of our next disaster, the kind that apparently does not matter when it is happening to folks without white, fair skin but comes to matter when it later does happen to them, one that spreads like wildfire and is more easily contracted, we need someone with proven medical experience and aptitude in control.

So I again ask the question, but this time to our nation's leaders: Where is our surgeon general, and why allow selfish politics to endanger our country's health?
17:09 Ferguson and Gaza: Let's Tell the Truth» Politics - The Huffington Post
Recently, Rabbi Menachem Creditor published an article entitled, "Ferguson Is Not Gaza."

It's easy to agree with that statement. While politically expedient and a good rallying call for action of various sorts, to declare a clean equivalence between the two is in many ways misleading. On the other hand, dismissing any possibility that the two historical events do not share certain elements requires more of an intellectual effort that Creditor exerts.

Creditor's assertion is vouchsafed by one argument and one argument alone, embedded in this key passage:

One dare not compare the suffering of Gazans with African Americans, lest we forget that, through self-determination, the Palestinian residents of Gaza elected Hamas, a murderous group bent on Israel's destruction, as their leaders ...

To compare the plight of the Palestinians, whose leaders in Gaza have robbed them of dignity, with African Americans, whose leaders are channeling deep and righteous historic indignation into constructive demands for dignity and liberation is worse than wrong -- it is an insult. Furthermore, it ignores the moral responsibility of Hamas for subjugating 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza to their murderous mission.

Three things come to mind as one reads this. First, the simple declaration that one should not "dare" compare anything is disingenuous. One can and should "dare" to compare anything one wishes. This is called free speech. Of course, that does not mean one is right. It means one has issued an opinion. A moral and ethical responsibility then follows to enter into a rational conversation about that assertion. Creditor does not. This brings me to point 2.

On the one hand he says that "through self-determination, the Palestinian residents of Gaza elected Hamas... as their leaders." But then he calls forth "the moral responsibility of Hamas for subjugating 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza to their murderous mission." So which is it -- did Palestinians freely elect Hamas or were they "subjugated" to do so?

To get out of this contradiction, one could perhaps say what is intended is the argument that the Palestinians did not know what they were voting for when they voted for Hamas, a group who, once elected, embarked upon an unforeseeable rampage. This leads to my third point.

What is conspicuously missing in Creditor's piece is any report on Israel's responsibility for the massive, morally reprehensible and blatantly illegal disproportionate death count in Gaza -- over two thousand Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them civilians and of those more than 500 innocent children. It is precisely this fact that Creditor seems to have "forgotten."

Hamas did not simply decide to start launching rockets, most of which were barely serviceable and had nothing vaguely resembling the effect of the Israeli armed force's attacks on schools, hospitals, private residences and even UN shelters. After the start of the Israeli assault, predicated by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths, Hamas held back its fire until the scale and nature of the Israeli offensive was made manifest, and some self-defensive action was more than warranted. We should recall that the Israeli attack was ramped up by public outcry over the killings, and that the Israeli government chose to keep the deaths secret even though that fact was known almost immediately, thereby increasing public support for a vastly disproportionate attack on Gaza. Only by omitting these facts can Creditor make his case. I am not in any way neglecting the fact that Hamas's attack was violent and aimed to destroy, but without a full account of the actual context of these horrific events, it is all too easy to paint the picture Creditor does. Easy, but dishonest.

Let me end by getting back to the Ferguson-Gaza analogy. Here too Creditor omits critical facts. His praise for black civil rights is couched in terms of them "channeling deep and righteous historic indignation into constructive demands for dignity and liberation." That is the vision available to Creditor in hindsight. It completely ignores the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr., was branded a terrorist, was thoroughly harassed and investigated by the FBI, and that, far from being seen as "constructive," black civil rights leaders were targeted for assassination because they were seen to be violently disrupting the virulently racist status quo. Their demands far exceeded "dignity" and "liberation." They included actual changes to the political and legal systems, and to a still-existing system of de facto segregation and oppression. In this way, and others, the cases of Ferguson and Gaza are not so far apart.

In an article in Salon, "Ferguson and Gaza: How they are and are not similar," I spend some time unpacking, with documentation from several sources, how the two share certain similarities, while remaining distinct in other ways. I would suggest to anyone interested in this subject that they refer to that piece, along with several by other authors, as they form their judgments.
17:09 Misconduct In Jailhouse Snitch Program Letting Murder Suspects Walk Free» Politics - The Huffington Post
LOS ANGELES -- Orange County prosecutors have dropped murder charges against two men after defense lawyers claimed the district attorney's office withheld evidence about a controversial jailhouse informant program.

One accused killer has been set free on parole and a convicted murderer who had been serving life for a gang-related murder awaits a retrial. A man who had been accused of attempted murder awaits trial on reduced charges. More than a dozen other defendants may win new trials, defense lawyers said.

Cases built by Orange County’s District Attorney Tony Rackaukas’ office began unravelling this year when deputy public defender Scott Sanders uncovered prosecutor misconduct in the use of jailhouse informants while defending convicted mass murderer Scott Dekraai. Dekraai has pleaded guilty to shooting eight people to death, including his ex-wife, in a Seal Beach salon in 2011 -- the biggest mass murder in county history.

Sanders, in a scathing 506-page motion in the Dekraai case, said county prosecutors enaged in “outrageous government conduct” by failing to tell defense lawyers details of the jailhouse informant program. Informants collected incriminating statements made by the defendants and shared them with prosecutors in exchange for reduced charges or other favors, Sanders said.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals ruled in August that prosecutors engaged in "misconduct" by withholding evidence, and some law enforcement personnel who appeared as courtroom witnesses were “credibly challenged.” He said jailhouse snitches against Dekraai and other murder defendants “sought and expected consideration” for their testimony and were “each directly or impliedly promised by law enforcement that such consideration would be forthcoming." The judge ruled snitches couldn't be used for Dekraai's sentencing, when he will face either the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The law and the district attorney's policy requires prosecutors to turn over such details to defense lawyers prior to trial, whether it's requested or not. But that didn't happen in the Orange County cases, Goethals said in his ruling.

Goethals didn't say whether he thought the misconduct was intentional. DA Rackaukas has maintained that no one in his office intentionally behaved inappropriately.

Calls to the District Attorney’s Office for comment were not returned.

According to Sanders, a jailhouse branch of the Orange County Sheriff's Department called Special Handling placed jailhouse snitches in cells with inmates awaiting trial, hoping to collect incriminating evidence. Authorities often deploy informants to help bolster a case -- a tactic that's perfectly legal, even when the snitch receives something in exchange.

However, in some Orange County cases, the sheriff’s jailhouse informants allegedly recorded conversations with inmates who were already represented by lawyers, a violation of an inmate’s right to counsel. Then, prosecutors presented damning evidence gathered from informants in court, while withholding evidence that could have been beneficial to the defense -- violating the defendant's right to due process.

Sanders told The Huffington Post the collapsed murder cases are just the beginning of the scandal's fallout.

“Law enforcement has cheated here and it looks like they have cheated for some time -- how many other cases have they done this in?" Sanders asked. “It's possible that there are hundreds."

Sanders said the remedy is for law enforcement and the DA to play by the rules. “There’s nothing wrong with using informants,” Sanders said. “Just don’t violate the Constitution. And disclose everything you’re supposed to disclose.”

The sheriff’s department has acknowledged “deficiencies” in policies and protocols involving jailhouse informants. “As a result, we have already begun to implement some changes in our policy that create more robust mechanisms to document inmate handling,” Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock told HuffPost.

Fallout quickly followed Sanders' motion in the Dekraai case. In June, Leonel Vega's life sentence was vacated and he was granted a new trial in a 2010 gang-related murder. Vega's murder conviction hinged on the testimony of three jailhouse snitches, including a gang member named Oscar Moriel -- who also testified against Dekraai.

Moriel has said he killed as many as six people and hoped his informant work could set him free. He claimed he never intentionally tried to get inmates to talk about their crimes while in jail, yet he has collected evidence that has been used against multiple defendants, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In Vega’s case, the Sheriff’s Department was accused of improperly using the jailhouse informant network to obtain damning evidence. The DA’s office was accused of failing to turn over key information about the informant to the defense, Voice of OC first reported.

Last month, prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge against Isaac Palacios, who had been awaiting trial for two gang-related killings. Palacios walked out of court free after he accepted a prosecution deal to to plead guilty to second-degree murder and be on parole.

Soon after that, prosecutors dropped charges of attempted murder and solicitation of murder against Joseph Govey.

The defendants in these cases -- and the informants who collected evidence against them -- are no angels, Sanders explained. Indeed, that's why he believes the temptation is so great for law enforcement to think it’s acceptable to cross ethical lines.

“Obviously, it’s critical that you do not violate the rights of any defendants, including those charged with serious crimes,” Sanders said. “If you say it’s okay to do this kind of thing to these guys, who won’t it be okay on? Where do you draw the line?”

Sanders added: “The winning of a case has overtaken justice here. It has become more important than due process and other fundamental concerns in the criminal justice system and I think the DA's office has fostered that kind of attitude."
17:07 Joni Ernst, Iowa GOP Senate Candidate, Failed To Disclose Rental Property» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, failed to disclose her ownership of an income-generating rental property on financial disclosure reports filed with the Senate.

Ernst campaign spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel told The Huffington Post Tuesday that the campaign would "immediately" amend the disclosure reports.

The reports fail to list Ernst's industrial property in Red Oak, Iowa, which had an assessed value last year of $54,830. The property generated at least $1,200 in income for Ernst in 2013, according to Ernst's campaign.

Ernst is locked in a tight Senate race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). The outcome may determine which party controls the Senate.

"The campaign inadvertently left off $100 of monthly rental income from a property used for storage and parking," Hamel said in a statement to HuffPost. "She reported this income and paid taxes on it. We are filing an amended report to correct it immediately."

U.S. Senate ethics rules require candidates, and senators, to disclose assets that generate income. Since announcing her candidacy for the Senate in July 2013, Ernst has filed two formal disclosure reports, neither mentioning the property or the income from it.

Located at 111 West Grimes St., in Ernst's hometown, the two-parcel corner lot contains an industrial-sized garage and a second, smaller garage. According to Montgomery County real estate deeds, Ernst and her husband, Gail Ernst, purchased the property one parcel at a time, the first in 2008 and the second in 2009, from Creston, Iowa, resident Eloise Larson. County records show that Ernst paid property taxes on the property on Sept. 2.

joni ernst

As a candidate, Ernst has trumpeted her role in helping to cut property taxes for Iowa landowners during her two terms in the state Senate.

17:06 Ben Bradlee Dead: Legendary Washington Post Editor Led Watergate Coverage» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a charmed life of newspapering, Ben Bradlee seemed always to be in just the right place.

The raspy-voiced, hard-charging editor who invigorated The Washington Post got an early break as a journalist thanks to his friendship with one president, John F. Kennedy, and became famous for his role in toppling another, Richard Nixon, in the Watergate scandal.

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Bradlee in the composing room looking at A1 of the first edition, headlined 'Nixon Resigns.' (Photo by David R. Legge/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Bradlee died at home Tuesday of natural causes, the Post reported. He was 93.

Ever the newsman and ever one to challenge conventional wisdom, Bradlee imagined his own obituary years earlier and found something within it to quibble over.

"Bet me that when I die," he wrote in his 1995 memoir, "there will be something in my obit about how The Washington Post 'won' 18 Pulitzer prizes while Bradlee was editor." That, he said, would be bunk. The prizes are overrated and suspect, he wrote, and it's largely reporters, not newspapers or their editors, who deserve the credit.

Yet the Post's Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Watergate scandal is an inextricable part of Bradlee's legacy, and one measure of his success in transforming the Post from a sleepy hometown paper into a great national one.

As managing editor first and later as executive editor, Bradlee engineered the Post's reinvention, bringing in a cast of talented journalists and setting editorial standards that brought the paper new respect.

ben bradlee
Bradlee and Meg Greenfield, deputy editorial page editor of TWP. (File Photo/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

When Bradlee retired from the Post newsroom in 1991, then-publisher Donald Graham said: "Thank God the person making decisions in the last 26 years showed us how to do it with verve and with guts and with zest for the big story and for the little story."

With Watergate, Bradlee himself became a big part of a story that epitomized the glory days of newspapers — back before web sites, cable chatter and bloggers drove the talk of the day.

Actor Jason Robards turned Bradlee into a box-office hit with his Oscar-winning portrayal of the editor in the 1976 movie "All the President's Men," which recounted the unraveling of Watergate under the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Bradlee's marriage in 1978 to Post star reporter Sally Quinn (his third) added more glamour to his image.

He was one of the few to know the identity early on of the celebrated Watergate source dubbed Deep Throat, revealed publicly in 2005 to be FBI official W. Mark Felt.

"I think he did a great service to society," Bradlee said after Felt's role finally came out.

ben bradlee

In enduring partnership with publisher Katharine Graham, Bradlee took a stand for press freedom in 1971 by going forward with publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secret study of the Vietnam War broken by The New York Times, against the advice of lawyers and the entreaties of top government officials. The ensuing legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the right of newspapers to publish the leaked papers.

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Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee leave U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 1971. (AP Photo)

The Post's decision to publish helped pave the way for all of the smaller, difficult ones that collectively produced the newspaper's groundbreaking coverage of Watergate.

Bradlee "set the ground rules — pushing, pushing, pushing, not so subtly asking everyone to take one more step, relentlessly pursuing the story in the face of persistent accusations against us and a concerted campaign of intimidation," Katharine Graham recalled in her memoir.

In November 2013, at age 92, Bradlee stood in the White House East Room and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, who saluted Bradlee for bringing an intensity and dedication to journalism that served as a reminder that "our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press."

ben bradlee

Quinn disclosed in September 2014 that her husband had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years. She described him as happy to be fussed over and content even in decline. "Ben has never been depressed a day in his life," Quinn said in a C-SPAN interview.

Impatient, gruff, profane, Bradlee was all that. But also exuberant, innovative, charismatic.

"Ideas flew out of Ben," wrote Katharine Graham, who died in 2001. "He was always asking important 'why' questions. ... Ben was tough enough and good enough so that for the most part I not only let him do what he thought was right, I largely agreed with him."

The low point in Bradlee's career involved a 1981 Pulitzer for the Post that was rescinded after the Post itself revealed that reporter Janet Cooke had invented her story of an 8-year-old heroin user. Bradlee, whose offer to resign over the debacle was rejected, said it was a cross he would bear forever. Critics faulted editors for failing to ask enough questions about the story and said the incident was in part a reflection of the competition and tension within Bradlee's newsroom.

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born Aug. 26, 1921, a Boston Brahmin reared in comfort but for family financial setbacks in the Depression and a six-month bout with polio at age 14.

He hurried through Harvard in three years to take his place on a Pacific destroyer during World War II. On his return in 1945, he helped start a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, but it folded 2½ years later for lack of advertising.

From there, Bradlee experienced a series of lucky breaks.

He landed his first job at the Post in 1948 when a rainstorm in Baltimore prompted him to skip a job interview there and stay on the train to Washington.

He happened to be riding a trolley car past Blair House in 1950 when Puerto Rican extremists opened fire on the presidential guest house while President Truman was staying there. Bradlee turned it into a page-one eyewitness story.

Restless at the Post, he left the paper in 1951 to become press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Two years later, he joined Newsweek's Paris bureau and spent four years as a European correspondent before returning to Washington to write politics.

He happened to buy a home in Georgetown in 1957, a few months before Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife moved in across the street, the beginning of an intimate friendship and a proximity to power that burnished his credentials as a journalist and brought him rare insights into government.

"I was on a roll being in the right place at the right time, a luck that has stayed with me," Bradlee wrote in his best-selling memoir, "A Good Life: Newspapers and Other Adventures."

Long after his newspapering days were finished, even in his declining years, Bradlee would head over to the Post once a week to have lunch with "the guys" and "talk about the good old days in journalism," Quinn recounted.

Bradlee's access to Kennedy continued through JFK's presidency, bringing Bradlee scoops for Newsweek, and experiences that he ultimately turned into the 1975 book, "Conversations with JFK." The release brought Bradlee much attention and cost him a valued friend, Jacqueline Kennedy, who thought the book a violation of privacy and stopped speaking to Bradlee.

Bradlee had been in Newsweek's Washington bureau four years when he found the nerve in 1961 to telephone Post publisher Philip Graham to propose that The Washington Post Co. buy Newsweek.

"It was the best telephone call I ever made — the luckiest, most productive, most exciting, most rewarding," Bradlee wrote. The deal came together and Bradlee ended up with a cache of Post stock and the title of Washington bureau chief for Newsweek.

Four years later, it was a conversation with Philip Graham's widow that proved pivotal for Bradlee. Katharine Graham had taken over the Post after her husband's suicide and was looking to inject new life into the paper. In a quotation that has become Post lore, Bradlee told her over lunch that if the managing editor's job ever opened up, "I'd give my left one for it."

Bradlee soon had the title of deputy managing editor and an understanding he would move up quickly. As recounted in Howard Bray's book, "The Pillars of the Post," managing editor Al Friendly cautioned Bradlee, "Look, buster, don't be in a hurry." Bradlee smiled and replied: "Sorry, but that's my metabolism." He succeeded Friendly three months later.

Bradlee had four children from three marriages: Benjamin C. Jr., Dino, Marina and Quinn. His first two marriages, to Jean Saltonstall and Antoinette Pinchot, ended in divorce. Quinn Bradlee, his son with Sally Quinn, has battled a variety of ailments, including a hole in the heart and epilepsy, and was eventually diagnosed with a genetic syndrome called VCFS.
16:31 Capitalism: Republicans and Regulations» Politics - The Huffington Post
Republicans insist that they stand against big government and regulations and protect free markets, capitalism, and the American way. They demonize Democrats for advocating for restrictions and regulations, but their actions speak louder than their words when it comes to the realities of Republican politics. Take a look at the money trail; it's easy to see that regulations are a cornerstone of the Republican way, just as long as they're the ones reaping the benefits.

Republicans use the terms "capitalism" and "free-market economics" interchangeably in a deceptive attempt to confuse the American public into thinking that we're all on the same side. But capitalism and free-market systems represent different economic structures. Republicans use terms like these to spread the idea that anyone can make it in America if they simply work hard to make it big. The reality is that many Republicans at the top built up monopolies and worked to control markets while subtly instituting regulations that ensure that no one else will be so lucky. While the courts, prisons, and schools fail the majority of the American people, Republicans at the top enjoy the best of everything; it's easy to see if you just follow the money.

Commerce: Republicans have no desire to create jobs if new jobs will create competition for the big businesses that line their pockets. Take Tesla, for example. The car company has been trying to sell vehicles in multiple states but cannot because they refuse to sell through dealerships. Many Republican-controlled states will not allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers, as this would conflict with the interests of dealerships.

Clean energy: As the cost of solar and alternative energies has become more competitive, sales have increased significantly. Instead of embracing the cheaper, carbon-reducing energy solutions, fossil-fuel and electric companies have mounted an all-out war on solar and renewables to preserve their profits. Republicans and lobbyists are creating new obstacles for solar power -- some states are adding solar taxes and fees for net-metering, while other states eliminate incentives.

Environment: There were more oil-by-rail accidents in 2013 than in the previous 40 years. North Dakota and Alabama have experienced railcar accidents that killed people, destroyed property, and created toxic messes in their communities because Congress won't require the use of safer transport cars for the oil-and-gas industry. Congress allows the transport of heavy, thick, flammable tar-sands and crude oil by outdated and unsafe means in order to save big business a few dollars at the expense of civilian lives and the environment.

Women's health care: The GOP seems determined to regulate every decision a woman makes about her body. If Republicans claim to be so against regulations and restrictions, then why do they feel the need to advocate for the regulation and restriction of the bodily autonomy of all American women?

Crime: How is it that a member of an ethnic minority caught with drugs spends more time in jail than a white person arrested on the same offense, while no one has been held accountable for the white-collar crimes leading to the biggest financial meltdown in recent history? Privatizing prisons is about nothing more than increasing profits at the expense of the rights of everyday citizens.

Farm subsidies: Massive farming and agriculture businesses have been the recipients of some of the biggest subsidies regulated and bestowed by the GOP. However, while supporting these huge institutions, Republicans have also dedicated themselves to increasing regulations and eliminating forms of food-related aid to America's poor. This may be the saddest path the Republican Party has taken, denying basic human rights to children.

Voting: Republicans are completely overhauling the voting system in order to regulate who of the American public should be allowed to cast their vote. In order to secure their power, Republicans are taking away the constitutional right through suppression and poll taxes.

International policy: Wartime economies have proved to be far more profitable for the Republican Party, and there is little profit to be made from peace. Why use diplomacy when bombs can offer profit, control, and power? Republicans seek to keep their weapons companies happy, their public scared, and their discourse strong in order to stay in power and continue amassing wealth.

Republicans are cherry-picking the best of America for themselves while regulating industries to strengthen their monopolies and interests. They are leaving a mess behind by taking from and destroying what is left of the public-school system, the environment, and more.

Despite their claims to the contrary, regulations and restrictions are a staple of the Republican agenda, and they always will be as long as the Republicans and their friends are the ones who benefit in the end. Just follow the very clear money trail.
16:30 Chris Kluwe: “I hope you all, every #Gamergater, picks up a debilitating case of genital warts”» Salon.com
#Gamergaters get the takedown they deserve

16:30 Dana Loesch Calls Gun Control The Real 'War On Women'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Dana Loesch Calls Gun Control The Real 'War On Women'

That silly DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, still insists that Democrats are going to maintain control of the Senate when the Washington Post Election Lab gives the GOP a 93% chance of taking the Senate.

"God bless her," Dana Loesch, author of the new book "Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America," said on "Fox and Friends" this morning.

She's just so pathetic to this condescending gun oil salesman and 2nd Amendment grifter, how could Schultz be so naive to think the DNC can defeat Koch money? Perhaps Loesch is right, but she wasn't on the curvy couch to forecast the midterms. She was still peddling her latest book, and like any good Republican, trying to fleece the public of every penny to promote the agenda of the NRA.

read more

16:21 Alleged Head Of Mexico's Gulf Cartel Arrested» Politics - The Huffington Post
HOUSTON (AP) — U.S. authorities announced Tuesday they have arrested the head of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico's most violent drug trafficking rings.

Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez made his initial court appearance in Beaumont on Tuesday, said U.S. Attorney John M. Bales. A federal grand jury indicted Saenz-Tamez in September 2013 on three drug and money laundering counts. Saenz-Tamez, 23, from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, was arrested by federal agents on Oct. 9 while shopping in the South Texas city of Edinburg.

If convicted, Saenz-Tamez faces up to life in prison.

Roberto Yzaguirre, Saenz-Tamez's attorney, did not immediately return a phone call or email seeking comment.

Michele M. Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Saenz-Tamez was the newest leader of the Gulf Cartel following the 2013 arrest of former leader Mario Ramirez-Trevino.

"He moved steadily up the cartel ranks, working as a lookout, record keeper, plaza boss, and finally its leader. Thanks to the quick actions of DEA and our local partners, we were able to identify and safely arrest Saenz-Tamez while he was in the United States," Leonhart said in a news release.

Saenz-Tamez does not appear on the U.S. State Department's list of Mexican narcotics fugitives or the Treasury Department's list of significant foreign narcotics traffickers. However, the DEA said its investigation revealed Saenz-Tamez's leadership role.

Wendell Campbell, a spokesman for the DEA's office in Houston, said the cartel's leadership has seen various changes since Ramirez-Trevino's arrest.

His arrest "started a fragmentation where there has been no sense of strong stability, no consolidation of power. They have been fragmented. Basically the cartel is looking for strong leadership," Campbell said.

The cartel's fragmentation, Campbell said, has been due to several reasons, including internal and external fighting and arrests by Mexican authorities.

"We have been watching his progression ... and when an opportunity came up with him being on this side of the border, we took the opportunity and grabbed him," he said.

Saenz-Tamez has not been a targeted cartel leader in Mexico. According to a Mexican federal official, Saenz-Tamez did not have a known criminal record in Mexico. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject. Asked who the Mexican government considered to be the Gulf cartel's current leader, the official said the government avoided getting into those discussions.

Despite its leadership problems, the Gulf Cartel continues to control an important swath of cocaine and marijuana trafficking along the Texas-Mexico border.


Sherman reported from Mexico City.


Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70
16:14 From gang bangs to glam: How Kink.com is remaking itself as a lifestyle brand» Salon.com
The BDSM site halts its most extreme offshoots in hopes of pushing into the mainstream

16:14 Battle of the trolls: Kathleen Hale reveals the war raging between authors and readers» Salon.com
A novelist who stalked an online critic shows us how twisted the dynamic between writers and commenters has gotten

16:11 Bill Clinton Returns To Kentucky To Stump For Alison Lundergan Grimes» Politics - The Huffington Post

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Bill Clinton said he knows many Kentucky voters are angry at President Barack Obama, but he urged them Tuesday not to take it out on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in her bid to unseat a 30-year Senate incumbent.

The former president campaigned for Grimes for the third time this year in Kentucky, addressing a rally in Owensboro that drew more than 3,000 people as she campaigns against Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Clinton is a top Democratic surrogate this year as the party seeks to retain control of the Senate with Kentucky's one of the nation's most closely watched races.

McConnell and his allies have run millions of dollars' worth of TV ads depicting Grimes — Kentucky's Secretary of State — as an Obama supporter. The ads have included highlighting her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama in 2012 despite being a delegate for him at the Democratic National Convention.

"Only in politics will people tell you you ought to run this country by listening to me make you just as mad as you can because you cannot think to save your life. That is a bad way to make decisions, and that's what (McConnell) wants you to do," Clinton said. "When somebody tries to sell me something, and their strategy is to stop me from thinking, normally they don't' have my best interests at heart."

Clinton then launched into the reasons he said voters should choose Grimes, including her support for raising the minimum wage and easing the country's student loan debt.

"Make sure nobody casts a protest vote," Clinton said in an allusion to Obama during his appearance in western Kentucky. "Whoever heard of somebody giving a six-year job for a two-year protest?"

The latest visit by Bill Clinton came just a week after Hillary Clinton spoke at a Grimes event in Louisville. Grimes has tried to use her association with the Clintons to distance herself from Obama.

Obama remains unpopular in Kentucky largely for his energy policies, which state officials say will make it impossible to replace their aging fleet of coal-fired power plants responsible for generating much of their electricity. But Clinton, who won Kentucky twice as a presidential candidate, remains popular in the state.

Shaun Owens, a 51-year-old nurse from Owensboro, wore two buttons to Tuesday's rally: the first referring to Hillary Clinton as "Madam President" and the second depicting Bill Clinton playing the saxophone in sunglasses beneath the phrase "Bill Still Rocks."

But Owens said she came to see Grimes, not Clinton, adding she would have shown up regardless of the former president attending or not.

"Kentucky needs to send a woman to the Senate," she said. "I like her. She's strong, and she's for Democratic principles."

McConnell has focused his campaign on connecting Grimes to Democratic principles, mostly by saying Grimes would support Obama's agenda. But with most public polls showing a close race, McConnell's campaign launched a new TV ad Tuesday courting Democratic voters. The 30-second spot features several people who identify themselves as lifelong Democrats but who say they support McConnell for re-election.

"When I look at Senator McConnell, I see he shares my values," Chris Sexton, a former coal miner in Blackey, says in the ad.

McConnell campaigned in eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day bus tour. Grimes is planning to launch a "Kentucky vs. Washington" three-day bus tour on Wednesday.

15:49 The U.S. Senate: A Body in Denial» Politics - The Huffington Post
Approval numbers near the single digits -- check. Widely panned as paralyzed and dysfunctional -- check. Low expectations for meaningful action regardless of which party is in control -- check.

Remedial action is necessary if the U.S. Senate has any interest in becoming relevant again to our nation's political discourse. While certainly no cure for what ails the body, a first step toward building back the institution's credibility is to strengthen the Senate's ethics process.

It is currently a "black hole."

As the National Journal recently reported, the Senate Ethics Committee has not acted publicly on any violation since May 2012. It has dismissed every one of the more than 50 complaints that have been filed since 2012. (The number of complaints filed in 2014 won't be known until the committee files its annual report in January.) According to the National Journal, one of the cases the Committee dismissed in 2013 involved Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) who got involved in a tit-for-tat with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Ethics Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) over his hold on an energy bill and his threat to repeal federal contributions to Senator's health care plans. Sen. Vitter filed a complaint accusing the Democrats of bribery after he heard that

Democrats were considering a counter-plan to prevent any Senator who had solicited prostitutes -- a direct shot at Vitter -- or who voted for Vitter's amendment, from receiving the federal contributions. The Committee dismissed the case for lack of evidence, but voted against making that decision public.

The only way this sordid little affair became public is that someone outside the Committee leaked to the media the letters sent to the Senators, the National Journal reported.

Because there is no meaningful transparency in the Senate ethics process, there is no way for the public to assess whether or not the process is working. Instead, the public is simply supposed to take the Senate Committee's word for it that all is well and to accept the apparent delusion in the Senate that ethics are only a problem in the House of Representatives.

That is just not good enough. A vibrant democracy depends on public confidence in the integrity of the institution and the "black hole" that is the Senate ethics process is damaging that confidence.

Here is what the process should look like instead.

Modeled on the successful Office of Congressional Ethics in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate should create its own independent Ethics Office. That Office would accept allegations of ethics violations, and with subpoena power, investigate those allegations. In turn, the Senate Ethics Committee would adjudicate the cases forwarded to them by this Office.

The Office would also be the place to go for approval of privately financed travel. In this new "dark money" era, more and more groups with amorphous-sounding names are seeking to curry favor by underwriting trips for Senators and Senate staff. These newcomers often have no track record and raise the concern that they are acting as pass-throughs for sources of funds that would otherwise not be permitted to finance congressional travel.

Of course, the best policy result to deal with this possible money-laundering scheme would be to end privately financed travel for Senators. Just as Apple isn't allowed to provide free computers to Senate offices nor is Staples permitted to give Senators free office supplies, Senators shouldn't have their travel -- personal or official -- paid for by private sources. Just imagine the difference in what a Senator would see between a trip to the proposed Alaskan national Wildlife Reserve paid for and organized by an oil company (with interest in exploiting the natural resources) versus a trip organized and paid for by an environmental organization (with an interest in protecting wildlife). Instead, such a trip should be arranged by the Senate staff and paid for by official funds.

But don't hold your breath expecting an Ethics Office to be created any time soon or for privately financed travel to disappear. After all, this is the same body that, in full Luddite mode, still refuses to file its campaign finance reports electronically, preferring the slow, tedious and expensive paper model even though every other candidate for federal office files electronically. And despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, this is also a body that believes it is above ethical reproach.

These important ethics changes will take time, but they are just one juicy public scandal away.

In the meantime, the Senate should open up its current process, improve transparency for its ethics advisories provided to Senate office, and revise its rules to protect against inappropriate pass-through funding of privately financed travel. Groups seeking to pay for Senate travel should be required to reveal to the Committee the information needed to accurately assess whether the source of funds meets the Senate's rules for privately financed travel.

Senators like to think that, as the so-called "upper body," they are held in higher public esteem than other elected officials throughout the country. The polling numbers show in no uncertain terms that is not the case. Until the ethics process is reformed, there's little hope the Senate will see its reputation redeemed in the public's eyes.

The current Senate ethics process is broken, and no amount of darkness can hide that ugly truth. Opening the process to the light of day might also have the added benefit of inspiring better behavior from the members of 'the world's most exclusive club.'
15:48 ISIS Still Threatens Yazidis On Mount Sinjar (VIDEO)» Politics - The Huffington Post
It was the imminent threat of a massacre on Iraq's Sinjar mountain that first drew U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in August. That threat never went away.

On Monday, Islamic State militants returned to attack Sinjar, prompting members of the Yazidi minority living in the area to find refuge up the mountain yet again.

Many had never left their mountain homes, even though extremist fighters continued to surround the mountain after the coalition strikes. Swedish journalist Khazar Fatemi headed to Sinjar in late September to interview some of the Yazidis who had stayed behind. Fatemi, who is Kurdish and was born in Iran, reported from the mountain for Swedish TV network SVT.

Amid the rubble of abandoned villages, evacuated after the extremists' assault, Fatemi met a Yazidi man who stayed to defend the mountain, fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish militants. "We will never surrender Sinjar. This is our honor, we won't leave our home, never!" he told the reporter.

A Yazidi women who refused to uproot her family from their home on the mountain explained to Fatemi: "We grew up in Sinjar. We are Sinjar's children."

U.S. airstrikes helped ease the first siege earlier this summer, enabling Kurdish fighters to open a passage for tens of thousands Yazidis to escape. On Monday, the Yazidis who remained appealed again for American protection. From the mountaintop, Yazidi parliamentarian Mahama Khalil said he could see coalition planes in the sky, and urged them to strike advancing Islamic State tanks.

The extremist group brands the minority group as devil-worshippers, has massacred Yazidi communities and forced Yazidi women into sex slavery.
15:41 Jimmy John's Noncompete Agreement Comes Under Congressional Scrutiny» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats plan to send a letter to the Labor Department and the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday asking the federal agencies to look into the use of noncompete agreements by the Jimmy John's sandwich chain.

As The Huffington Post first reported last week, many workers at Jimmy John's stores have been required to sign noncompete clauses in which they agree not to work at a competing sandwich shop for a period of two years following their employment at Jimmy John's. A competitor is defined as any business that earns 10 percent or more of its revenue from sandwich sales and sits within three miles of a Jimmy John's location.

The use of the noncompete is apparently at the discretion of individual franchisees, and HuffPost knows of no instances in which the noncompete has been enforced upon a worker. Nonetheless, several rank-and-file employees, including low-wage delivery drivers, have said they were required to sign the agreement upon accepting the job.

The letter to the FTC and the Labor Department was spearheaded by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). In it, the lawmakers tell FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Labor Secretary Tom Perez that such a noncompete agreement could be "anti-competitive and intimidating to workers."

"There is no justifiable business interest in imposing such a restriction on restaurant employees that are not privy to any of the company’s proprietary information," reads the letter, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost by Crowley's office. "Furthermore, we believe this practice can intimidate working individuals, many of whom are struggling to support themselves and their families while earning barely above the minimum wage."

The lawmakers ask that the agencies "investigate this practice, determine the impact these agreements have on both workers’ rights and free competition, and take any necessary action to deter or prevent such agreements from impacting employees."

According to Crowley's office, more than 20 House Democrats had signed the letter as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jimmy John's had declined to comment on the letter as of Tuesday evening.

Noncompete agreements were once reserved for certain types of workers: engineers with access to trade secrets, for instance, or salespeople who could decamp to other companies with large pools of clients. But the agreements have become increasingly common, even in lower-wage fields, as businesses take whatever precautions they can against competitors.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on a camp counselor who had a noncompete agreement enforced upon her, preventing her from working at another day camp.

The enforceability of noncompetes varies from state to state. California, for instance, forbids the use of such clauses with only a few exceptions, and many other states decree that noncompetes have to be reasonable in scope.
15:41 Ferguson Protesters Anticipate Bad News In Michael Brown Case» Politics - The Huffington Post
FERGUSON, Mo. -- Demonstrators calling for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, are anticipating that the officer will not be charged. Many of them are predicting widespread protests if the grand jury reviewing the case decides to acquit Wilson.

A crowd of around 100 gathered Monday along South Florissant Road, with many calling for the arrest of Wilson, who killed Brown in this St. Louis suburb on Aug. 9. Two demonstrators, one of whom was a state senator, were taken into custody outside the Ferguson Police Department after they blocked the street and refused to move.

Wilson's case is under review by a St. Louis County grand jury, which has until January 2015 to decide whether or not to indict Wilson. The jury is receiving evidence about the case on the same schedule as the police, who are investigating separately.

As the protests, which began shortly after Brown's death, stretch into the fall, the crowds have thinned, the national media presence has faded, and hot cocoa and tea have replaced the bottles of ice-cold water that were seen during the early days of the demonstrations. Gone, too, are the military-style police vehicles that were widely seen as an over-the-top reaction to many of the protests; the vehicles have been replaced by police officers wearing normal uniforms.

On Monday, however, in the parking lot across from the police station, protesters recited chants such as “Mike Brown means … We got to fight back!” Many of the demonstrators, as well as officials in Ferguson, are preparing for news about Wilson's fate that could reignite massive demonstrations in the town. The protesters widely believe that Wilson will not be indicted. That belief has been strengthened by an account in The New York Times that indicated some forensic evidence backed up Wilson's account of his initial struggle with Brown.

“It’s going to be a war because they’re not going to indict him,” said one protester, who declined to provide her name.

Early in the evening, Missouri state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and a young man named Jefonte Nelson were arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department. Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, said in a statement that both Nasheed and Nelson were told they were in violation of a Ferguson ordinance and were asked "numerous times" to move out of the street.

"After both subjects remained in the street, failing to comply, officers took both subjects into custody without incident," Schellman said.

Nasheed and Nelson were charged with walking in a roadway where sidewalks are accessible. Video captured by protesters on the scene showed them being taken into custody. They were later taken to jail in the nearby town of St. Ann's and released late Tuesday morning.

Many of the protesters told The Huffington Post they were not impressed with Nasheed’s arrest, which some described as a publicity stunt. "We may have to do civil disobedience within the next two to three weeks. We may have to do that," Nasheed said upon her release from jail. She claimed that she wanted to send a message that people should not engage in violent protest. Yet Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Nasheed had a 9 mm handgun on her when she was taken into custody.

When one minister with a megaphone tried to update the crowd about Nasheed’s arrest, he was interrupted by other protesters on the scene.

“We don’t care about Senator Nasheed. We care about the people that get arrested that have been out here every day,” a protester yelled.

Several members of the media were caught in the crossfire of the demonstrations: One local cameraman was confronted about what protesters said was inaccurate coverage of a prior protest outside the St. Louis Rams game on Sunday, and a CNN reporter was shouted down by protesters during a live shot.

On Tuesday evening, Ferguson residents will gather behind closed doors for the latest in a series of meetings hosted by a division of the Justice Department that helps soothe tensions in divided communities. The subject of the meeting? "A Roadmap for Growth: Where do we go from here?"

The answer for now, it seems, depends on what the grand jury decides to do in Wilson's case.
15:30 In the new Senate, will independents rule?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Third parties and independents are a colorful part of the upper chamber's past.
15:13 Hillary Clinton makes big statement on NSA spying» Salon.com
The former secretary of state makes some surprising comments in a campaign stop with NSA critic Mark Udall

15:08 In the Age of Ebola, Is America Really Going to Elect the 'Government Shutdown Party'?» Politics - The Huffington Post
Oh, sure, it is great to vent one's spleen by casting a "no" ballot. After all, who does not enjoy a good rant?

But, we are, for now, in the age of Ebola.

There is no cause to panic (except if you want to scare people to win elections).

Why? Because it is being contained... thanks to the help and expertise of the government (yikes!) of the United States. Not perfect (see below), but contained.

But, shutdown the government in the age of Ebola, and then, yes, panic would not have been an irrational response.

Yet, it appears as if the American people are willing to entrust their health and safety to the only party in history that has shutdown the U.S. government, and seems not to be able to kick the habit.

The Republicans are hostile to the very existence of government. They never read the sentence in the Declaration of Independence that follows, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that begins "to secure these rights governments are instituted among men..."

Cliven Bundy, who owes the American people over $1 million because he grazed his cattle on our lands, is their hero. Why? Because he refuses to recognize the existence of the federal government.

Republicans shut down the government under President Clinton, and they have shut down the government twice under President Obama.

Now, they are promising to do it again... and again... and again.

So, now, my fellow Americans, are you in the age of ebola, seriously going to vote for a party whose brand, by their own choosing, is hostility to the government of the United States?

Ebola is symptomatic of the problem with shrinking government by ignoring our common needs. Even "make-the-federal-government-irrelevant-in-your-lives" Rick Perry (R/TP-TX) reached out to the federal government for help with Ebola.

Education, roads, bridges, electric grid? Do we really want to shrink government so it cannot address our common needs?

Republicans are now demanding more government regulation. Hmmm... I thought they believed government regulations made everything worse.

Ebola? Just "shift funds" to address it, and in a few years a different crisis emerges that "you should have known about before."

For the record, I do not applaud the government's initial effort in combating the Ebola crisis, nor, for that matter, the private enterprise hospital in Dallas.

When I was a medical resident, we had a case of a different but equally lethal, hemorrhagic virus. No one panicked. No one was exposed. I was alerted to the case because he was being admitted to my team, the chief of infectious disease told me what to do and phoned the CDC who came within a day with appropriate gowns and gloves and waste disposal materials, and took the patient, properly protected, to a more suitable facility.

How it is that the Dallas Hospital did not know this is baffling. How it is that the CDC was not on top of it with a team of experts is equally baffling. In an "accountable" world, both the Dallas Hospital and the CDC would fire responsible parties.

But, that is for future discussions.

The CDC now seems to have it right.

Any potential epidemic requires expert, coordinated responses. Even if those responses are inadequate at the outset, as they seem to have been in this case, and even if the private hospital had handled it properly, as it did not in this case, the only means of preventing an epidemic is effective government.

Shutdown government will not work. Creating artificial crises so that we are discussing how to avoid shutting down government is not the way to contain an epidemic, nor to prepare for the next one.

Yet, in Congressional race after Congressional race, and in many Senate races, the American people appear to be on the brink of electing the very people who shut down government time and time again, and bring the country to edge of default.

Moreover, astonishingly, they promise to do it again. They will do it once after the mid-terms. Again whenever the continuing resolution they eventually pass in the lame-duck expires. And, they will bring us to the edge of default, if not default itself, in March.

Take the Colorado Senate race. From what is reported, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) is neck-and-neck with Tea Party favorite Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO).

Are you Coloradans serious? You are going to trust your health and the health of your family and children to the Tea Party?

Cory Gardner voted to shut down the government twice. He voted to bring the United States to the very brink of default, causing the first downgrade of our debt in our entire history. To escape the default, we were visited with the lethal "sequester virus" that chopped money from biological preparedness programs.

And, in an early Republican budget, Gardner cut funds from tornado, earthquake, tsunami, and other natural disaster warning programs.

Coloradans, really. You are going to elect this nonsense to the United States Senate? You really want the Senate discussing whether, how, if, what part, of the government to shut down when we are facing Ebola? Or the next crisis?


Or, Iowans? Bruce Braley (D-IA) may not be the world's most dynamic personality, but he did not vote to shut down the government, and he did not vote to bring the United States to the edge of default. His opponent, Joni Ernst (TP/R-IA) comes right out of tea party central, a movement dedicated to preventing the United States government from acting effectively on anything, but who was taught to seem "nice" to win the election.

Are you seriously considering sending this woman to the United States Senate for the sole purpose of castrating our own government, rather than trying to bolster it, at a time of Ebola?

Or, Kentuckians? You have a choice between Alison Lundergran Grimes (D-KY), a fresh face and a fresh beginning in Washington DC, or the smirking, manipulative Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has, among other things, just told his billionaire owners that he will shut down the government so that Wall Street does not have to pay consumers for fraud.

In the age of Ebola, he will compromise not only your pocketbook but your life just to serve his Wall Street masters.

Can you trust him to provide an effective government to keep you as safe as humanly possible from epidemics and other natural disasters?

The CDC now seems to have it right. There will be no widespread breakout of Ebola in the United States.

But only because, for now, we have an effective, functioning federal government. If the American people elect the party of habitual government shut-downs, and debt default brinkmanship, all bets are off.
15:03 Some People Think CrossFit Is Nutty and That Makes CrossFit Really Angry» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Critics question its safety and its culture, but CrossFit’s aggressive response is a tad more worrisome.

You’d be hard pressed to find an article — outside one written by a CrossFit enthusiast — that reviews this exercise phenomenon without asking some real tough questions about its safety, effectiveness, cost, and even the philosophy behind it. Shouldn't all products, whether good or bad, be held up to such scrutiny? Maybe General Motors, Comcast and Apple grudgingly accept this, but CrossFit — both the corporation and its acolytes — can't seem to take criticism in stride. And there’s been a lot of it going around lately.

The New York Times magazine was the latest publication to take issue with CrossFit and other extreme fitness programs, likening them to nothing more than labor camps you pay a king’s ransom to join. “Why not join a roofing crew for a few hours instead? Surely there’s a tunnel somewhere that needs digging,” sniffs Times columnist Heather Havrilesky.

In response, commenters, many of them CrossFitters, swarmed the online version of the article, posting more than 800 messages. Many were sharply critical of Havrilesky’s assessment of the workout routines.

The Times magazine article is only one in a recent wave of brickbats hurled at the sports-fitness brand, which now boasts an estimated 10,000 franchises. Its critics are as diverse as medical researchers, fitness organizations, sportswriters, and social commentators. They’ve all found a bone to pick with CrossFit, and no, they’re not joining them for a Paleo diet dinner.

Critics and online commenters have likened CrossFit to a cult, insinuating that it’s not much more than a paramilitary, post-apocalyptic wet dream. They’re fitness preppers ready to take on whatever catastrophe awaits mankind. CrossFit’s own website hints at this on its "What is CrossFit?" page: “We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.”

CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman takes the rhetoric a step further in his CrossFit newsletter, stating “nature, combat and emergency can demand high volumes of work performed quickly for success or for survival.”

The Gospel of CrossFit

In her Times magazine article, Havrilesky describes the austere and formidable environment of the typical CrossFit gym:

"Those stunned by CrossFit’s growing popularity are often surprised, given its high price, to discover its spartan ethos: Each 'box' (its lingo for gym) is often just a big empty room with medicine balls, barbells and wooden boxes stacked along the walls. Workouts rotate daily but tend to involve free weights, sprints and enough squats to cripple Charles Atlas. In keeping with its apocalyptic mission statement, the program encourages camaraderie under duress (CrossFitters coach each other through the pain) and competition (names and scores are scrawled on a wipe board and sometimes posted online)."

A former certified fitness instructor and CrossFit participant, who wished not to be identified for this article, told AlterNet much of the atmosphere she witnessed seem contrived, right down to the grungy workout gear worn by instructors and long-time CrossFitters.

The CrossFit workout is like Navy SEAL training taken to an extreme. It’s group exercise, done in classes where the workout itself is a competition. There are typically time trials where participants strive to perform the exercises faster than their workout companions.

“The warmup is usually inadequate. It could be jogging around a little bit in the parking lot followed by a little dynamic stretching, which can cause injury by itself,” says the former fitness instructor, describing a CrossFit gym she attended.

“Good CrossFit instructors,” she said, “will assist in picking appropriate weights for members, but the competitive nature can result in amateurs pushing themselves too far.”

However, the fitness instructor said the CrossFit regimen does have some redeeming qualities. “It’s a good workout,” she says. “The competitive atmosphere makes it fun and motivating. It encourages people to push themselves, but for some it can be too much.”

Aggressive Defense

CrossFit does not take kindly to criticisms about its workout regimen. Recently, it sued the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for publishing a study by Ohio State University researchers, led by Steven Devor, an exercise physiology professor.

In the journal Strength and Conditioning Research, the OSU researchers said that while there were some notably positive results obtained from CrossFit exercises, it hinted that injuries could possibly be an issue.

"Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program [out of 54], two cited time concerns with the remaining nine subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow up testing."

While the study was vey complimentary overall (some even likened it to pure advertising), it touched a raw nerve with CrossFit, which complained that the research was “at best the result of sloppy and scientifically unreliable work, and at worst a complete fabrication.”

In response to the study, CrossFit says it sought out the research participants who said they didn’t complete it because of injury and overuse. CrossFit claims that when they contacted the participants, they denied failing to finish due to injuries. CrossFitfit claimed the researchers were guilty of dropping the ball in following up with them.

In its lawsuit against NSCA and the research team, CrossFit further maintains that the fitness organization, which is one of several groups that certify fitness professionals, was going after the company because it certifies its own instructors. The NSCA, it claimed in the lawsuit, had a vested interest in discrediting CrossFit.

This is a brand that seems highly motivated in protecting its reputation. Media opinion that is deemed hostile to CrossFit is often met head on, and aggressively.

As one commentator on a Gawker forum put it:

"Beware, once you write about Crossfit, the [expletive deleted] PR person will contact you, to let you know it's spelled incorrectly, hence the capital 'f'...also...they'll barrage you w/ testimonials...via Twitter...& every other social media account you own...in 5, 4, 3, 2...."

In December 2013, Outside magazine published an article called “Is CrossFit Killing Us?” It cited the findings of the Ohio State University study and maintained that the competitive nature of the workouts could result in a slew of injuries, from slipped disks to torn rotator cuffs and even more serious conditions such as rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and is released into the bloodstream.

CrossFit's acolytes attacked the credibility of the writer, Outside and Steven Devor. Writer Warren Cornwall responded to the jousts in a followup article, “Crossing Swords with CrossFit,” in which he wrote about his experience as a target of the wrath of the workout’s legions.

"The CrossFit community went berserk. While many commenters chimed in about their own injuries from workouts, many more criticized both the statistic and the study itself. Lengthy rebuttals appeared in CrossFit Journal—the organization’s newsletter. One of CrossFit’s chief PR people, Russell Berger, rang up the study director, Professor Steven Devor, and grilled him until the scientist refused to talk to him any more. The upshot was a collective pile-on attempting to discredit the study, its directors—and Outside—while spinning public opinion away from the idea that the insanely popular workout program was any more hazardous than jogging in your neighborhood.

"And yet, no one was making up the stories about people getting hurt. So, what was the deal? Was CrossFit inherently dangerous? And if so, were the hordes of newbies with beach-body dreams flocking to CrossFit 'boxes' aware of the risks?"

Devor told Outside that the 16% figure in the Ohio State study is a soft number and never intended to represent global injury rates, and he says CrossFit’s ambush on the study is misguided. “It’s a fricking paragraph in the paper,” said Devor. “There’s no way I will ever do research with that workout again. It’s just not worth it.”

Cornwall continued to fire back in his followup article, stating that it’s understood there is no conclusive data to define injury rates from CrossFit, yet. However, he went on to cite several surveys and other notable sources to help readers make their own judgments about CrossFit’s safety.

CrossFit’s reputation took another unfortunate — and perhaps undeserved — hit when one of its top competitors, Kevin Ogar, severely injured himself during a major CrossFit competition in California earlier this year. Ogar was paralyzed from the waist down after he could no longer hold a bar carrying weights over his head during a "snatch" lift and let them plummet to the ground. The barbell then hit Ogar in the back, severing his spine.

While Ogar’s injury is arguably a freak accident that could happen to anybody performing the lift, CrossFitter or not, the tragic event did not help CrossFit’s dubious reputation with the media, as websites such as Deadspin, Buzzfeed and Gawker jumped on the story, prompting CrossFit critics to take to their message boards to question whether the fitness craze was to blame for the accident.

The judgment of whether CrossFit is a beneficial and viable workout is not for this writer to make. Former and current CrossFitters who spoke to us and even the Ohio State study indicate that this high-intensity training has many benefits. Clearly, the rigorous debate over its merits and demerits is being held in the public forum and kinesiologists will likely weigh in on it someday soon. 

The bigger problem is CrossFit's reputation, a creation of its innate aggressiveness and hive survival instinct. It has spilled over as combative rhetoric directed toward the world outside its “boxes." This is a movement that’s past due for an image makeover and perhaps some contemplative meditation.


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Goal ThermometerHere are the latest updates from the get-out-the-vote South Dakota Rez Tour so many of you have contributed to. I do believe we need to PAY THAT PARKING TICKET! Our intrepid War Pony minibus is going everywhere on and off the Indian reservations in the state to take advantage of early voting, which ends soon.

The GOTV leaders in South Dakota are working their butts off to take advantage of the funding you all have provided. We blew past Markos's initial goal of $50,000, then $75,000, then $100,000 for the South Dakota NDN Election Efforts PAC. Now we're on our way to the group's dream budget of $200,000. I think we can do it. We are currently at $131,000, and with your sharing and tweeting this campaign we can get more donors. The total has been built with small donations. So ask your networks to chip in.

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Contribute so American Indian voices can be heard in South Dakota!

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Read below the orange fluffy frybread for more updates from our team about this crucial project..

2:21 PM PT: wow.... Look what I found at Wiyaka Eagleman's facebook timeline:

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The guy who walked 38 miles plus to turn in completed voter registration forms.

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13:29 Bobby Jindal on top of Ebola thing, signs executive order that will do precisely nothing» Daily Kos
Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference.
Way to lead, Bobby.
Goal Thermometer

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) wins the award for dumbest Ebola response of the week, with most of the week still ahead of us.

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He should be making sure officials are monitoring the border with Texas.
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Jindal calls this a "precautionary, common-sense measure." Except the part where the Obama administration has restricted all travelers coming from the affected West African countries to be funneled through five airports in the U.S. where they can be screened for the disease. None of those airports is in Louisiana.

Congratulations, Bobby, for being both the most panicked and most redundant governor in the land.

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13:11 Racist Rep. Steve King: Obama treating 'people in Africa as if they were American citizens'» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerIf Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King had not planned a press conference together, we probably would have had to launch a Kickstarter campaign supporting the idea. As it is we might have to have another one because it sounds like Steve King has got more bugs crawling under his skin than he could ever give voice to during just one.
[I]t was King who really took the opportunity to shine. In video captured by the Iowa Republican, King went on a long tirade claiming that America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS, a childhood respiratory illness that has spread in recent weeks, and the Ebola virus.
Damn, he's breaking out the whole Greatest Hits album. Still, there was time for some new soon-to-be-classic racist tirades.
“What is his vision for this country?” he asked. “He must think now that he’s president of the world, that he’s going to treat people in Africa as if they were American citizens and somehow we can’t define this American sovereignty or American citizenship.”
There ya go. From Dr. Keith Ablow to Steve King, we've got the "Obama loves Africa more than America because he is blaaaaaaack" theory being spouted from all the most swollen Republican orifices. It's been six years, and I think they're more upset about Obama being black now than they were when he first showed up. And no, I don't think anyone knows what King is specifically going on about here. He probably is stoned out of his gourd from whatever fumes are wafting off of Donald Trump's head.
“I want to pull us all together under those principles to build America. That’s freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to keep and bear arms — whether that’s to pick up a shotgun and shoot a pheasant or pick up a seven iron and discipline your husband.”
Jesus Christ, where did that come from? We go from suspicions of Obama treating people in Africa with too much respect to Steve King suggesting you beat your husband with a golf club.
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I don't want to know what Steve King's Iowa supporters see in him. Really, I don't. But I would love to go door to door asking them what they suppose Steve King meant by Barack Obama treating Africans "as if they were American citizens," just because the responses would probably top anything you or I could come up with.
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13:00 NRA: Guns Aren't Scary Because They Are Just Like Vacuum Cleaners» Latest from Crooks and Liars
NRA: Guns Aren't Scary Because They Are Just Like Vacuum Cleaners

The NRA is hoping they can "Demystify Guns" in their new video from Bill Johnson because of the many "dust ups" as he calls them, over the new open carry laws that wingnut states have been passing recently. The problem isn't the guns that people use to kill thousands of people a year, but the idea that we're blaming the guns for the violence around them when they are nothing more than a few bits of plastic and metal, no scarier than your vacuum cleaner or lawnmower.

In an October 20 video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson took on open carry critics, stating, "Somehow we have completely dehumanized gun violence, and have instead humanized guns. Guns kill. Guns strike fear. Guns intimidate. Seriously? They're just bits of plastic and metal." Johnson also apparently defended the controversial practice of open carrying firearms in Michigan public schools.

Johnson concluded with his hope that the next time public debate occurs over open carry firearms "we can have a civic debate over something other than those intimidating, scary, pesky things we call guns."

read more

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The natural sounds in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park largely disappeared over the course of a decade

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Spiders — whether you abhor them or adore them, you certainly can't ignore them. We asked our readers to send us their coolest arachnid photos, and they happily obliged.
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A tragic August death at an Arizona gun range made national headlines due to its horrific circumstance: a nine-year-old girl shooting and killing her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun.

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12:45 Texas’ Top Toxicologist: EPA’s New Smog Regulations Unnecessary, Just Stay Indoors» ThinkProgress

Texas' chief toxicologist is arguing that we don't need tougher ground-level ozone restrictions because we spend so much time indoors.

The post Texas’ Top Toxicologist: EPA’s New Smog Regulations Unnecessary, Just Stay Indoors appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:41 In Photos: Engraving Honoring Emperor Hadrian Found In Jerusalem» LiveScience.com
A piece of limestone commemorating the Roman emperor Hadrian has been discovered in Jerusalem. It's possible that the engraving will offer clues about life in Jerusalem at the time of its carving in 129-130.
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For the U.S. military, laser guns aren't sci-fi tech; they're a reality.
12:38 Confessions of an obsessive fan: Billy Joel and the “horror” of modern celebrity» Salon.com
Joel tells the New Yorker that he doesn't want to write more music because his fans won't stop analyzing everything

12:30 Chris Christie Is So Tired Of Hearing About The Minimum Wage» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Chris Christie Is So Tired Of Hearing About The Minimum Wage

Aww! Isn't that sweet? Chris Christie wants parents to have higher aspirations for their kids than just minimum wage, mostly because he's so eager to do the bidding of the Kochs:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday that he's "tired" of hearing discussion on the minimum wage and seemed to suggest that a higher minimum wage isn't something to "aspire to."

"I gotta tell you the truth, I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am," Christie said during an event at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, according to a recording of his remarks by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge.

"I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, 'You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized," he added. "Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"

The governor went on to say that parents aspire to an America where their children can make more money and achieve greater success, according to The Hill. He said those aspirations weren't about a "higher minimum wage."

read more

12:23 GOP’s minimum wage disaster: How Chris Christie and Scott Walker are stepping in it» Salon.com
Their cruel, clueless minimum wage stance is bad politics and worse policy -- but they won't hear of it!

12:20 Former Wingnut Shock Jock Is About To Become The Texas Lt. Governor» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Former Wingnut Shock Jock Is About To Become The Texas Lt. Governor

Oh boy. Look what we have to look forward to! Via Mother Jones:

As a Texas state senator, Dan Patrick has conducted himself in a manner consistent with the shock jock he once was. Patrick—who is now the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor—has railed against everything from separation of church and state to Mexican coyotes who supposedly speak Urdu. He's even advised his followers that God is speaking to them through Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

A former sportscaster who once defended a football player who'd thrown a reporter through a door (Patrick believed it wasn't the journalist's job to do "negative reporting"), Patrick became a conservative talk radio host in the early 1990s—Houston's answer to Rush Limbaugh. In 2006, he parlayed his radio fame into a state Senate seat—and kept the talk show going. In office, he proposed paying women $500 to turn over newborn babies to the state (to reduce abortions), led the charge against creeping liberalism in state textbooks, and pushed wave after wave of new abortion restrictions. For his efforts, Texas Monthly named Patrick one of the worst legislators of 2013.

read more

12:02 ‘It Will Never Be The Same’: North Dakota’s 840,000-Gallon Oil Spill One Year Later» ThinkProgress

One year later, environmentalists say North Dakota's oil spill reporting process has improved, but more needs to be done to prevent spills from happening in the first place.

The post ‘It Will Never Be The Same’: North Dakota’s 840,000-Gallon Oil Spill One Year Later appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:02 Since the minute the Civil War ended, Texas has been suppressing the vote of African Americans» Daily Kos
Confederates from Texas
In the view of certain Texans today, these guys (from Company C of the Eighth Texas Cavalry),
had the right idea about voting by African Americans.
Goal Thermometer

Despite the scathing 143-page evisceration of Texas' strict new voter ID law by District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead Saturday for that law to be implemented for this election cycle. That's a hint that when the law's constitutionality is ultimately ruled on, the Court will probably give that the okay, too. Estimates are that as many as 600,000 eligible Texans don't have one of the four IDs accepted as a requirement for casting a ballot: a driver's license, a military identity card, a passport or a gun license.

This isn't the first voter-suppression rodeo in Texas.

Keeping African Americans away from the polls began as soon as Emancipation was announced on Juneteenth (June 19), 1865. The state refused to grant blacks political rights. And a year later, the all-white constitutional convention voted against giving suffrage to blacks, even those who were literate or who had never been slaves. That was followed by the all-white legislature refusing to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and passage of the first Black Codes that constrained African Americans from certain economic pursuits, racial intermarriage, officeholding, jury service and, of course, voting.

But, the Republican convention of 1867 included black delegates, and, even though the Ku Klux Klan and other purveyors of anti-black violence were viciously active, blacks participated in their first statewide vote in 1868, voting in a referendum to hold another constitutional convention. With their white allies, they won that referendum. The convention affirmed some basic rights for African Americans, although not all that they had fought for, and made readmission of Texas to the Union possible in 1870. From then it was downhill.

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Read below the fold as Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones tallies some historical Texas voter suppression efforts.
12:00 Midday open thread: UK intel chief's BS on mass surveillance, Warren to campaign against Brown» Daily Kos
12:00 Sneaky James O'Keefe Wears Pornstache, Tries To Bait Democrats Into Voter Fraud» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Sneaky James O'Keefe Wears Pornstache, Tries To Bait Democrats Into Voter Fraud

12:00 Michael Savage Is Sick And Tired Of Veterans With PTSD Crying Like Babies» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Michael Savage Is Sick And Tired Of Veterans With PTSD Crying Like Babies

You can always count on a conservative chickenhawk to promote war, torture and then attack our troops. Enter Michael Weiner Savage, who got upset with a caller who wanted to rename a San Francisco tunnel in honor of comedian Robin Williams. After the caller said he was a veteran, suffering from PTSD, Savage really let him have it.

After a lengthy argument, Savage hung up on the caller and proceeded to attack him. “I am so sick and tired with everyone with their complaints about PTSD, depression. Everyone wants their hand held and a check, a government check. What, are you the only generation that had PTSD? The only generation that’s depressed?”

He then blamed America’s problems on those who “cry like a little baby” over depression: “If the whole nation is told, ‘boo-hoo-hoo, come and get a medication, come and get treatment, talk about mental illness,’ you know what you wind up with? You wind up with Obama in the White House and lawyers in every phase of the government, that’s what you wind up with. It’s a weak, sick nation. A weak, sick, broken nation.”

Savage continued that veterans with PTSD are a “bunch of losers” and recommended that they be more like Michael Savage.

read more

11:58 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: With his career on the line, Lee Terry doubles down in Omaha» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

NE-02: Republican Rep. Lee Terry and the NRSC recently made news for portraying Democrat Brad Ashford as weak on crime, airing a pair of controversial spots. Terry is doubling down in his newest ad.

Terry features Sgt. John Wells, president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, hitting Ashford for supporting the Good Time Law. Wells argues that Ashford's policies can get people killed by releasing violent criminals out onto the streets. Terry's poll numbers are reportedly shaky, and his party is worried about him, which helps explain why he's running these types of ads. Also for the GOP, Fuels America praises Terry for his support for alternative fuels.

On the other side, Ashford hits Terry's negative ads. Ashford features a quote from the Omaha World Herald vouching for Ashford on public safety.

Head below the fold for a roundup of campaign ads from races around the country.

11:56 Meet The Woman Who Could Unseat Scott Walker» ThinkProgress

Mary Burke could become the first woman governor of Wisconsin.

The post Meet The Woman Who Could Unseat Scott Walker appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:56 The Surprising Way Political Ads Are Impacting Judge’s Decisions On Alleged Criminals» ThinkProgress

A new study found that rampant election spending is linked to more prosecution-friendly votes.

The post The Surprising Way Political Ads Are Impacting Judge’s Decisions On Alleged Criminals appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:53 Chris Christie: 'I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage'» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer

Gov. Chris Christie, who is paid $175,000 a year by New Jersey taxpayers, making him the fourth-highest paid governor in the nation, took his tough guy act to the minimum wage Tuesday:

"I've got to tell you the truth, I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying 'you know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.' Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"
What a plainspoken truth-teller, is the reaction Christie was clearly going for with this. What a load of unbelievable crap, is the truth.

Forget the parent sitting around the kitchen table thinking about their son or daughter's wages. Many minimum wage workers—27 percent of them—are parents themselves. If these workers made a higher minimum wage, 19 percent of children in the United States would have a parent who got a raise. That means those children would benefit. Maybe they'd eat better. Maybe they'd be able to do school sports. Maybe they'd avoid the disruptions of having to move because their family fell behind on the rent.

With the average age of minimum wage workers being 35 years old, their parents sitting around the kitchen table thinking about their wages are not the middle-class parents of teens or recent college graduates that Christie is trying to invoke in our minds. If your child is 35 and making the minimum wage, sure, you'd like to see them make more than the minimum wage. But a raise from $8.25 an hour—which New Jersey voters voted in after Christie vetoed a minimum wage increase—to $10.10 an hour would make a big difference in the life of said hypothetical adult child of worried parents. Shoot, you don't have to be making minimum wage to think an annual raise of more than $3,000 is worth getting. I don't know, maybe at Christie's $175,000 a year you stop caring about a piddling $3,000.

Christie is taking the Scott Walker line here: Why are we even bothering with the minimum wage, they want to know, when I want people to make more than the minimum wage. They want us to forget about the people they'd leave behind, the people they aren't trying to get higher wages for. They want us not to think "wait, if you want people to make more than the minimum wage, then why are you against the minimum wage being more than the minimum wage is right now?"

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The reality is that the minimum wage is a poverty wage, and poll after poll—in addition to that ballot vote in New Jersey—shows that voters support increasing it. Chris Christie, like Scott Walker, is out of step with his state and with America.
11:52 Ted Cruz’s surgeon general lunacy: How he’s resorted to embarrassing lies» Salon.com
The excuses are rolling in for why Dr. Vivek Murthy hasn't been confirmed as surgeon general. Ted Cruz's is amazing

11:52 Arctic town cancels Halloween on account of polar bears» Salon.com
Ice melt is rerouting the animals straight through town

11:52 The irony of Scott Brown: How his campaign proves GOP is no national party» Salon.com
By using xenophobia to motivate supporters before November, GOP is acting like a faction -- not a national party
11:52 Renee Zellweger’s face is the elephant in the room» Salon.com
How do we talk about it when a celebrity changes so dramatically?
11:52 Pickup artists are stuffing rubber vaginas with cash and hiding them around L.A.» Salon.com
Simply Pickup has teamed up with Fleshlight to give out $10,000 in a sex toy scavenger hunt
11:50 Fed Official To Big Banks: Change Company Culture Or Risk Being Broken Up» ThinkProgress

Unless bankers change the internal culture that rewards executives and employees for financial misdeeds, a top banking regulator said Monday, they will end up forcing the government to break their companies up into smaller firms.

The post Fed Official To Big Banks: Change Company Culture Or Risk Being Broken Up appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:30 Tom Cotton ships $292,000 to mystery group with K Street address» Daily Kos
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
GOP Rep. Tom Cotton is staying mum on the group
Goal Thermometer

Jonathan Martin of The New York Times notes an oddity about Right Solutions Partners LLC, a mystery group that has been paid $292,000 by GOP Rep. Tom Cotton's campaign for U.S. Senate for "fundraising consulting":

But here’s the catch: It’s not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year
Martin tracked the group's address—1717 K Street—to the firm Arent Fox and found that a lawyer at the firm had signed the Right Solutions Partners organizing documents. Martin called the lawyer, Craig Engle, to find out what the group does. After initially disclaiming involvement, Engle said he had merely forgotten about setting it up.
But he said he forgot who asked him to set up the entity and quickly moved into lawyer-political speak, saying he could not get into for whom he was and was not working. He said he would try to get more information, but, alas, little was proffered.
Neither Engle—who was general counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 1995-2000—nor the Cotton campaign would elaborate to Martin on whether the group actually exists or what work it did on the campaign's behalf, so, as Martin says, "the mystery continues": Why did Tom Cotton pay this mysterious legal entity nearly $300,000, what services were rendered, and what individuals benefited from it?
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12:56 PM PT: Update: Turns out the total funds were actually $322,963 thanks to a third disbursement found by Martin.

11:23 James O'Keefe is back, and still isn't finding voter fraud» Daily Kos
James O'Keefe tweet showing a picture of him disguised with a thin mustache. Tweet text: 'Only time for 2-3 more election investigations. I went in Disguised as 45 yo, this time people may lose their jobs.
Yes, the dumbass tweeted a picture of himself 'in Disguise'
Goal ThermometerConservative videotape-editor James O'Keefe is still around, apparently, and is still hard at work trying to get people to commit crimes so he can film them. But it's still not working, because there's just not many people in the world as crooked as he is.
Last Tuesday, a man who appeared to be in his 20s showed up at a Democratic field office in Boulder wanting to volunteer to help elect Udall and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), according to a Democratic staffer who met with him and asked not to be identified. [The man] mentioned polls showing the race between Udall and Gardner was tight, and he asked the staffer if he should fill out and mail in ballots for other college students who had moved away but still received mail on campus. The Democratic staffer says he told Davis that doing this would be voter fraud and that he should not do it.
Thus foiled, the man returned with a "disguised" James O'Keefe (the "I am a professor now" disguise appears to be a costume shop mustache—nobody ever accused O'Keefe of putting much work into these things) presumably to get more footage of the office refusing to commit crimes. Then they moved on to a Colorado nonprofit.
Fenberg says, O'Keefe and his friends contacted New Era's Fort Collins office to set up an in-person meeting and identified themselves as activists affiliated with Rocky Mountain Vote Pride. The three men arrived carrying Udall campaign literature, Fenberg notes, but a New Era organizer met them outside the office's front door and refused to let them enter with the Udall materials. Outside groups such as New Era cannot coordinate with political campaigns, and Fenberg says he believes O'Keefe and his collaborators "were trying to establish evidence we were working together."

When New Era's staffers began taking pictures of O'Keefe (including the photo embedded at left), Fenberg says, O'Keefe and a colleague went to their car and returned with a large video camera and a microphone. "If you want to take photos of us, we'll take photos of you," O'Keefe said, according to Fenberg, and the New Era staffers closed the door while O'Keefe and his friend tried to push it open and stick their microphone inside. Fenberg says New Era filed a police report about the incident.

I see O'Keefe still makes no pretensions at actual journalism, having found a lovely niche as yet another dedicated crafter of fakery and propaganda. I see also that O'Keefe seems to consider voter outreach groups to be the bane of all conservative America. Here's a fellow who could infiltrate a Columbian drug cartel with his top-notch mustache disguises, and let us earnestly hope he gives it a go, but instead he has spent years of his life trying to find voter fraud, and failing, and concluding from this not that voter fraud is indeed vanishingly rare but that what's needed here is to edit footage together to pretend the fraud exists anyway. Here is a lad for whom the modern conservative movement was invented. He watched Fox News, he read Drudge, he saw Andrew Breitbart bullshitting his way to low-tier hero status, and he took from all of that the obvious lesson that the News is whatever you say it is, and the Facts are whatever the people paying you want them to be.
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Really, you can't ask for a better poster child for the movement. A self-satisfied fraud who rails against imaginary conspiracies that he cannot find, but always suspects. A "journalism" outfit that unapologetically fakes its stories outright. A child Rovian whose central political motivations revolve not around specific policy, but around the uncomfortable thought that poor people or minorities might in the future find it easier to vote than it was in the much preferred past, who makes it his personal mission to torch the offices of any enablers of such things. He is the love child of Fox News "journalism" and bitter white resentment at Those People, and he has got the conservative id pegged.
11:20 World’s researchers to Canada: Stop censoring science!» Salon.com
The scientific community is rising up against the Canadian government's outrageous suppression

11:13 Rare Inscription Hailing Emperor Hadrian Unearthed in Jerusalem» LiveScience.com
A newly uncovered large slab of limestone with an official commemoration to the Roman Emperor Hadrian may help researchers understand the events that led to the Bar Kokhba revolt in the early second century, experts said.
11:12 Republicans concede Ebola travel ban talk is just politics» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Republican leaders, the New York Times reports, are actually astute enough to realize that a travel ban on Ebola-affected countries really isn't something that can actually happen, since there aren't any direct flights from West Africa to the United States and for a variety of other reasons. So they're "refining" their position, to now call for just a temporary suspension of visas out of those countries. But in the meantime, they're still out on the stump screaming Ebola.

Days of news media fixation, mounting public concern and political pot-stirring have created an odd dichotomy in which leadership aides on Capitol Hill are urging caution while candidates on the campaign trail are pressing hot buttons. House Republican leadership aides have repeatedly said lawmakers are not calling for an actual ban of airline flights, even as the likes of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, have done just that. […]

Mr. McConnell, said a spokesman, Don Stewart, was "using shorthand" last week when he said, "It would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world." He, too, supports a temporary suspension of visas, a position put into legislative language on Monday by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who vowed to press visa-suspension legislation when Congress returned in November.

Yes, they're calling for a travel ban because that sounds like the toughest thing that they can use to keep Ebola fear whipped up, and then concede that they're smart enough to know it won't work, so here's this other thing that maybe they could support while they're still yelling for a travel ban. Meanwhile,
In reality, Republicans are not planning a legislative response, at least for now, Republican leadership aides said Monday. They merely want their voices heard.
Oh, of course. Sure that's all they want, just to be "heard."
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It should be shocking to absolutely no one that they aren't really planning a legislative response, because Republicans just don't do that. Not when there's political points to be scored.
11:10 Adults Often Make Mistakes When Medicating Children | Video » LiveScience.com
A study conducted by the Nationwide Children's Hospital found that between 2002-2012 700,000 children under the age of 6 were given wrong doses of medication. The hospital offers tips on how to administer medicine to kids.
11:00 Bill O'Reilly: Al Sharpton Is The Real Problem In Ferguson. Uh Huh!» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Bill O'Reilly: Al Sharpton Is The Real Problem In Ferguson. Uh Huh!

On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly references the latest New York Times' article revealing "new" forensic evidence from federal sources. The report shows that there was blood found on the gun, the police car door panel and Officer Darren Wilson's uniform. Civil rights charges are not likely, that's how we know it was from a federal source. There was no mention of the other five (or six) shots fired after the initial skirmish. Even with limited evidence, it's clear O'Reilly is convinced Wilson's actions were justified and the Ferguson prosecutor is handling things masterfully.

The case is looking less propitious for the Brown family that justice will be done.

That government officials familiar with the civil rights investigation into the shooting are leaking information to the media on Wilson’s side of the story, however, suggests the Justice Department will not be pressing civil rights charges against the police officer. It also calls into question whether the St. Louis County grand jury, tasked with determining whether Wilson committed a crime, will indict him.

read more

10:51 Ingrown Toenail? How to Snip It the Right Way» LiveScience.com
Nobody likes ingrown toenails, but clipping off the offending bit might only make it worse. Now, a look at the physics of nail growth reveals the best way to cut an ingrown nail.
10:39 Video: Killer Whales Caught in Stunning Drone Footage» LiveScience.com
A population of killer whales has been captured playing, chasing prey and socializing in gorgeous video taken by a tiny unmanned drone.
10:34 Skip Bayless: Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charges helped him “sizzle,” sell sneakers» Salon.com
The ESPN commentator offered some tone deaf thoughts on how violence against women helps athletes' personal brands

10:30 Politico says Thom Tillis finally has it figured out, citing his campaign talking points as evidence» Daily Kos
North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis
Politico says NC GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis finally has "it figured out" in his campaign against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan
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Breaking news from Politico: Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis is finally starting to fire on all cylinders in his race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina because of a laundry list of Tillis campaign talking points, including none other than Ebola and ISIS.

After weeks of lagging behind North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis finally seems to have it figured out.

A combination of factors has helped Tillis pick up momentum heading into the homestretch, Republicans say: Hagan’s admission that she missed an Armed Services Committee meeting dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for a fundraiser earlier this year, dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s handling of domestic Ebola cases and several news stories about Hagan’s husband benefiting from the stimulus law Hagan supported in her first months in the Senate.

And what does has this alleged "momentum" finally done for Tillis after "weeks of lagging behind" Hagan?
Our new North Carolina poll- Kay Hagan 46, Thom Tillis 43, Sean Haugh 5: http://t.co/...
We have now had Hagan up 6 months in a row going back to May, lead consistently 3-4 pts since August: http://t.co/...
Of course, PPP isn't the only pollster conducting surveys North Carolina. But if you want to find a poll showing Tillis in the lead, you need to either go back to September 2 or include surveys that don't include the Libertarian candidate. (Check out our polling database if you're curious.)
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There's no question North Carolina is still a close race. Hagan still has a battle on her hands and Tillis could still win. But for Politico to recite a bunch of Tillis campaign spin as evidence that he has turned the corner is the definition of stenography.
10:19 Ad shows Wisconsin voters the real Glenn Grothman in all his nutso glory» Daily Kos
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A new ad from Wisconsin Democrat Mark Harris calls voters' attention to a few of the crazy-extreme highlights of Republican Glenn Grothman's political career:

Even Republicans say Glenn Grothman is too bizarre to be our congressman. Grothman claims that preschool causes psychological damage on children. Grothman said single parents are committing child abuse, and Grothman opposed laws requiring women get equal pay for equal work, saying that "money is more important for men."

"I'm Mark Harris. I've cut government spending and cut debt. I approve this message, because that's what I'll do in Washington."

And as astounding as those Grothman statements are, they're just scratching the surface. This is a man who has said "Quite frankly, it's scandalous that lawyers are leading people to believe that the lead paint in these houses is responsible for the increases in the (lead) levels in their blood." Scandalous!
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If elected, Grothman really could be a contender for title of America's Dumbest Congressman.
10:15 Photos: Drone Reveals Killer Whales» LiveScience.com
A tiny drone has captured stunning images of a killer whale pod, revealing which whales are pregnant and malnourished.
10:05 How A Notorious Conservative Group Tricked A Scholar Into Joining Their Attack On Latino Voters» ThinkProgress

Citizens United is back, and they are spreading conspiracy theories about Latinos.

The post How A Notorious Conservative Group Tricked A Scholar Into Joining Their Attack On Latino Voters appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:03 Jill Abramson confronts David Carr for dismissing NYT sexism: “That’s ridiculous!”» Salon.com
Watch Abramson speak to former colleague David Carr as part of a WBUR event

10:00 Senior Regulator Says Bank CEOs Meant Well. Documents Say Otherwise» Latest from Crooks and Liars

The head of one of Wall Street’s most important regulatory agencies argued recently that big-bank CEOs never intended to break the law or engage in foreclosure fraud. Instead, Thomas Curry of the Office of Comptroller of the Currency tells us they weren’t cautious enough.Internal documents obtained from a bank-backed venture several years ago seem to directly contradict this claim. These documents, which include training materials, PowerPoint presentations and videos, suggest that the industry made a conscious attempt to bypass local jurisdictions and automate processes – in what can best be described as a fraud-friendly way.

As Comptroller of the Currency, Curry runs one of the agencies charged with keeping our banking system safe, ethical and crime-free. It’s not an enviable task, but it’s critical to the safety of our economy. So it should have received more attention when Curry wrote in an industry publication that Wall Street suffered, not from a shortage of ethics, but from an inadequate “risk culture.”

Curry’s perspective differs markedly from those of leading figures like William Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who said last year that ”there is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions.”

Wrote Curry:

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09:57 It's not just jobs ... David Perdue also outsourced a million bucks to a Swiss bank» Daily Kos
David Perdue, Mitt Romney,
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Add another notch to David Perdue's plutocrat belt. The Georgia Republican Senate candidate who spent most of his career outsourcing jobs to Asia is also keeping some of his tens of millions of dollars in an interesting place. Perdue has between $500,000 and $1 million in a rich-people-only fund run by a subsidiary of a Swiss bank:

The fund, Vontobel Non-U.S. Equity LLC, is managed by a subsidiary of the Zurich-based private bank Vontobel to invest in companies that operate primarily outside the United States. Registered as a Delaware corporation, the fund includes shares of mortgage companies in India, global tobacco corporations, and European consumer goods manufacturers. [...]

By limiting the investor pool to high-net worth individuals and well-funded organizations, the Vontobel fund is exempt from the typical requirement that, as a Delaware corporation, it register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Perdue has earned at least $100,001 and as much as $1 million through his investment in Vontobel, which is the kind of return on investment that already being rich gives you access to.

This news is not exactly what the Perdue campaign needed right now. After all, Perdue is still on the defensive about his outsourcing career—and managing to insult Georgia voters who aren't happy to learn how he made his millions—and we've also recently learned about work Perdue did for an Indian company from 2007 to 2009 that he seems to want to hide from voters. What comes through loud and clear in all these stories is that Perdue puts his own wealth first.

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What's next for Perdue, going the full Romney with massive investments in the Cayman Islands? The R next to Perdue's name certainly helps him in Georgia, but it's hard to see how voters who have to work for a living can believe Perdue will fight for them.
09:35 With Obamacare open enrollment three weeks away, most of uninsured still uninformed» Daily Kos
President Barack Obama smiling and holding
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Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act opens on November 15, and the Obama administration has been field-testing Healthcare.gov to avoid the kind of problems they had last year. What the administration is not doing, however, is predicting how many new enrollments they're expecting this year.

That's largely because most of the easy-to-get people were signed up last year—those who were already looped into the debate and who were most in need of coverage. The next group of enrollees will be harder to reach, which is confirmed by the latest health tracking poll from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bar chart showing lack of awareness of Obamacare open enrollment.
The survey finds nine in ten (89 percent) of the uninsured are unaware that open enrollment begins in November—including, 76 percent who say they do not know when open enrollment begins and another 13 percent who name a start date other than November 2014.

In addition, two-thirds of the uninsured say they know “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the marketplaces where people who don’t get coverage through their employers can shop for insurance and just over half (53 percent) of the uninsured are unaware of the financial assistance available to help low- and moderate-income individuals purchase insurance.

That's an awful lot of people completely out of the loop. At the same time, though, 59 percent of the uninsured say they intend to get coverage in the next few months, either through an employer (15 percent) or on their own (another 15 percent). More than a fifth don't know where they'll be getting it. Additionally, most of those who say they will remain uninsured because they won't be able to afford to buy insurance. So the biggest nut for the administration to crack here is reaching these people with the message that most of them can get subsidies to purchase insurance if they use an exchange.
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As always, most of what the public has heard about Obamacare has been the political fight and the bad stuff, not the success stories. And any of the good news now is likely to be drowned out by campaign ads. But open enrollment lasts until February 15, so there's time for the administration and the states that are actually proactively working to cut the uninsured rate to get the word out.
09:32 Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett: Face it, Obama is a conservative» Salon.com
Just look at the president's record, Bartlett says. This is no progressive

09:23 Libya After Qaddafi: The Unstable Terrorist Haven That America Has Mostly Forgotten» ThinkProgress

Libya's two largest cities are under the control of Islamist militias. With its parliament taking refuge elsewhere, the country seems to have outsourced the fightto a septuagenarian general a track-record of turning-coat.

The post Libya After Qaddafi: The Unstable Terrorist Haven That America Has Mostly Forgotten appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:06 Marriage Equality Arrives In Wyoming» ThinkProgress

Here's what the map looks like with 32 marriage equality states.

The post Marriage Equality Arrives In Wyoming appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:01 Texas scientist: We don’t need to reduce smog because we spend 90 percent of our time indoors» Salon.com
Dr. Michael Honeycutt needs to review his logic

09:01 15 Questions for Darren Wilson» Daily Kos
That is Darren Wilson standing on the right. While much emphasis is put on the size of Mike Brown, please notice that Darren Wilson is similar in height and weight.
While leaks from the federal investigation of police officer Darren Wilson's shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, August 9 are starting to appear, concerned citizens in Ferguson and beyond have a plethora of unanswered questions they'd love ask to Wilson—not only about his mindset, but his actions the day Brown was killed. To begin, here are 15 questions:

1. When your SUV pulled up alongside Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson as they were walking along Canfield Drive, did you tell them to "get the fuck on the sidewalk?"

2. When you pulled away from Brown and Johnson on Canfield Drive, why exactly did you decide to put your SUV in reverse to confront them again? Your chief says you did not know about the earlier convenience store incident where it is alleged Mike Brown stole some cigars. Was it to express your anger that they didn't obey your earlier command to "get the fuck on the sidewalk?"

3. Four eyewitnesses report seeing and hearing your tires screech as you violently put your SUV in reverse on Canfield Drive, nearly hitting Brown and Johnson. Why did you reverse in such a reckless and provocative manner?

4. When you arrived back at where Brown and Johnson stood, if you did not know about the store incident, why exactly did you open your door to confront them? Did you intend to arrest them for jaywalking?

5. Precisely how far away was your door from Brown and Johnson when you flung it open?

6. Did you believe Brown or Johnson were armed at any point during your confrontation?

7. Reports have surfaced that you told federal investigators that you were repeatedly punched and scratched by Brown through your SUV window. Why did you not see the medic who arrived on the crime scene? Why do no photos or videos or eyewitness reports from the scene have evidence of even a shadow of an injury, or you touching or favoring any injury?

8. It's been reported that you claim that Brown "went for, or lunged for," your gun. Was this when the gun was within inches of his face before you fired two shots at him through your window and hit him with one?

9. After you shot Brown through your window, he fled over 100 feet away from your SUV. Did you still feel threatened while you chased him down Canfield Drive with your gun drawn and firing, according to witnesses, at least six shots?

10. Six eyewitnesses saw you fire multiple shots at the back of Brown while he fled down Canfield Drive. Was it your intention to arrest or kill him with those shots?

11. When you fired your eighth shot of the day, four eyewitnesses said they saw Brown's body jerk before he turned around to surrender to you. Did you believe you hit him again, for the second time, with your eighth shot?

12. Six eyewitnesses say that they saw Brown turn around and physically and verbally surrender to you. How did you interpret those actions?

13. Before you fired the two fatal shots into Brown's eye and the crown of his head, as he was falling down, you had shot him a total of four times already. Did you still believe him to be a threat to you at that point?

14. No record exists of you ever radioing in for backup or support at any time. Did you use your cell phone to call for backup? Who else did you call and why?

15. Who first told you not to create a report after you shot and killed Brown, and what reason did they give you for such a request?

09:00 Sarah Palin's SuperPAC Reportedly Donates Only 3% To GOP Candidates She Endorses» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Sarah Palin's SuperPAC Reportedly Donates Only 3% To GOP Candidates She Endorses

09:00 Polls Show 'Dead Heat.' We're Oh, So Close To Getting Rid Of Mitch McConnell» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Polls Show 'Dead Heat.' We're Oh, So Close To Getting Rid Of Mitch McConnell

First of all, I don't give a flying fuck about Allison Grimes refusing to say who she voted for, or for running that awful ad saying she'd never vote to fund immigration. Yes, it was stupid, and it was pandering. Oh well! Candidates do a lot of stupid shit when they see victory within reach -- and don't forget, this IS Kentucky, not Massachussetts. Yes, she's probably a blue dog. I don't care. Because we are so, so close to kicking the ass of the architect of the Grand Obstruction Plan, and it would be a very good message to send.

Imagine how good it will feel to wake up the day after the election to find we've kicked Yertle the Turtle to the curb.

And we don't want to lose control of the Senate. None of that crap about how "we need to teach the Dems a lesson" -- you're talking about actual policies that affect your friends and family. We need that backstop against the excesses of the right wing, and we need every damn vote we can get.

Via Campaign for America's Future, here's what we have to look forward to if the Republicans take the Senate:

Republicans have made big promises to their ultra-wealthy financial backers. If they retake the Senate, they will cut ‘entitlements’ and pass the savings on to the 1%.

read more

08:46 Ancient Human Skulls Reveal When Europeans Could Drink Milk» LiveScience.com
The DNA from 13 ancient humans reveals the evolution of lighter skin and lactose tolerance. The skeletons were found in archaeological burial sites unearthed during highway construction in the Great Hungarian Plain in Central Europe.
08:44 The Forgotten Victims Of A Capitol Hill Budget Fight» ThinkProgress

Sequestration may have faded from the headlines, but it's still very real for a variety of vital programs.

The post The Forgotten Victims Of A Capitol Hill Budget Fight appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:39 Fox News Admits GOP Is Trying To Increase Obamacare Premiums, Then Tries To Cover It Up» ThinkProgress

About what you'd expect from the network.

The post Fox News Admits GOP Is Trying To Increase Obamacare Premiums, Then Tries To Cover It Up appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:35 The Nativist Roots Of Ebola Hysteria» ThinkProgress

"Let me emphasize something... Immigration is a part of Ebola," Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) told a local CBS affiliate last week.

The post The Nativist Roots Of Ebola Hysteria appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:24 Everyone In America Would Be Better Off If We Soaked The Rich» ThinkProgress

A 90 percent tax rate on the richest Americans would reduce inequality, raise revenues, and improve everyone's welfare.

The post Everyone In America Would Be Better Off If We Soaked The Rich appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:09 Weiner: Done with politics, not life» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Weiner has nothing good to say about D.C., the city he now dismisses as "a little hokey town."
08:07 Mitch McConnell knows enthusiasm isn't free!» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 24, 2013. Washington faces two looming deadlines, with the Democrats and Republicans far apart on a solution. The U.S. government runs out o
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It was one of the great unanswered questions of the 2014 campaign: How in the world would the uninspiring Mitch McConnell build "enthusiastic" crowds to bring his campaign across the finish line?

Now we know the answer—with a checkbook.

McConnell will pay expenses in return for 'enthusiasm' at events

The Kentucky Republican Party is offering volunteers all-expenses-paid trips to join Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign bus tour and "contribute to an enthusiastic atmosphere" at his events.

In exchange for transportation, meals, and lodging, the state GOP expects the lucky few chosen for the ride to "join local supporters in contributing to an enthusiastic atmosphere at each of his events."
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I can't say that I'm surprised that McConnell has to resort to such tactics to get people to show up at his campaign events—after all, other than Barack Obama, McConnell is the most unpopular politician in Kentucky. Still, it's pretty embarrassing, so much so that The Hill couldn't get anyone from Team McConnell to talk with them about the story:
Neither the Kentucky GOP nor McConnell's campaign responded to request for comment.
Can't blame them for not wanting to talk about this. Plus, they were probably busy trying to figure out how much cash to set aside for Election Day "enthusiasm." 12:45 PM PT:
Grimes camp on McConnell's paid volunteers: "On the plus side, these might be the only jobs he’s actually helped create in 30 years.” #kysen
08:05 VoteVets steps up for Bruce Braley in Iowa» Daily Kos
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Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley is getting some support from VoteVets in his Senate race against Joni Ernst. It's a strong ad, and an important topic in the race, as Ernst and Republican groups have attacked Braley repeatedly over veterans' issues. The positive ad is backed by a one week, $550,000 buy. In it, two veterans trade lines:
Clair Harper: "I flew a B-17 in World War II."

Ione Shadduck: "I also served, during Korea. MacArthur called us his best soldiers."

Harper: "A lot has changed, especially in politics."

Shadduck: "When New York billionaires attack a good man like Bruce Braley."
Harper: "That's wrong."

Shadduck: "As the son of a Marine, Bruce always fights for vets."

Harper: "He helped hundreds of troops get overdue combat pay. Trust us."

Shadduck: "Bruce is on our side."

In addition to the television buy, VoteVets has reserved $100,000 in radio time.
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Braley has been trailing slightly in recent polls, but that doesn't mean it's time to give up. Iowa voters need to get beyond the attacks on Braley—and learn about Joni Ernst's real, extreme positions on the issues.
08:00 As Planet Warms, Scientists Predict Changes For Autumn Leaf Season» ThinkProgress

"The fall foliage displays that our grandchildren will see at the end of this century will not be the ones we see today."

The post As Planet Warms, Scientists Predict Changes For Autumn Leaf Season appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:00 IPCC Official Says Europe’s Planned 2030 Emission Cuts Would Be ‘Too Little Too Late’» ThinkProgress

Professor Jim Skea recently told the BBC that cutting the E.U.'s carbon emissions only 40 percent by 2030 would leave its member countries poorly positioned to reach 80 or 95 percent by 2050.

The post IPCC Official Says Europe’s Planned 2030 Emission Cuts Would Be ‘Too Little Too Late’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:59 ESPN Commentator: Rape Allegation Gave Kobe Bryant ‘Sizzle’» ThinkProgress

Rape charges filed in 2003 against Kobe Bryant gave the Lakers star "edge" and "sizzle," says ESPN's Skip Bayless.

The post ESPN Commentator: Rape Allegation Gave Kobe Bryant ‘Sizzle’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:50 4 Terrible Mistakes We Can't Afford to Make With Ebola» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Our response is starting to echo the war on terror. We can't let that happen.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com   here.

These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe.  Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirredinto the political stew of an American election year. 

The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-likeattacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease.  Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror.

The differences between the two “wars” may seem too obvious to belabor, since Ebola is a disease with a medical etiology and scientific remedies, while ISIS is a sentient enemy.  Nevertheless, Ebola does seem to mimic some of the characteristics experts long ago assigned to al-Qaeda and its various wannabe and successor outfits. It lurks in the shadows until it strikes. It threatens the safety of civilians across the United States.  Its root causes lie in the poverty and squalor of distant countries.  Its spread must be stopped at its region of origin -- in this case, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa -- just as both the Bush and Obama administrations were convinced that the fight against al-Qaeda had to be taken militarily to the backlands of the planet from Pakistan’s tribal borderlands to Yemen’s rural areas. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then that, while President Obama was sending at least 1,600 military personnel (and the drones and bombers) to fight ISIS, his first response to the Ebola crisis was also to send 3,000 troops into Liberia in what the media has been calling an “Ebola surge” (a reflexive nod to the American troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007). The Obama administration’s second act: to beef up border protections for the screening of people entering the United States (a move whose efficacy has beenquestioned by some medical experts), just as the authorities moved swiftly in the wake of 9/11 to turn airports and borders into massive security zones. The third act was to begin to trace points of contact for those with Ebola, which, while logical and necessary, eerily mimics the way the national security state began to build a picture of terror networks, establish watch lists, and the like.

The next step under consideration for those who might have been exposed to Ebola, quarantine (that is, detention), is controversial among medical experts, but should similarly remind us of where the war on terror went after 9/11: to Guantanamo.  As if the playbook for the post-9/11 response to terrorism were indeed the playbook for Ebola, Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, questioning Dr. Frieden, noted that, without putting policies of surveillance, containment, and quarantine in place, “we still have a risk.”

While any of these steps individually may prove sensible, the ease with which non-medical authorities seem to be falling into a familiar war on terror-style response to the disease should be examined -- and quickly. If it becomes the default template for Ebola and the country ends up marching down the road to “war” against a disease, matters could be made so much worse.

So perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about that war on terror template and offer four cautionary lessons about a road that should never be taken again, not in developing a policy against the latest non-state actors, nor in pursuit of the containment of a disease.

Lesson One: Don’t turn the “war” on Ebola into another set of programs that reflect the national security establishment’s well-developed reliance on intelligence, surveillance, and the military.  Looking, for instance, for people complaining about Ebola-like symptoms in private or searching the metadata of citizens for calls to doctors would be a fool’s errand, the equivalent of finding needles in a field full of haystacks.  

And keep in mind that, as far as we can tell, from 9/11 on, despite theoverblown claims of its adherents, the surveillance system they constructed has regularly failed to work as promised. It did not, for instance, stop the Shoe Bomber, the Times Square bomber, or the Boston Marathon bombers. Nor did the intelligence authorities, despite all the money invested since 9/11, prevent the Benghazi attack or the killing of seven CIA agents by a suicide bomber believed to be an American double agent in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009, or predict the rise of ISIS for that matter. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how the usual military might, from drones and special ops teams to those much-discussed boots on the ground, will help solve the problem of Ebola.  

In the post-9/11 era, military solutions have often prevailed, no matter the problem at hand.  Yet, at the end of the day, from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to the air operation in Libya to the CIA’s drone campaigns across tribal backlands, just about no militarized solution has led to anything approximating victory -- and the new war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is already following the same dismal pattern.  Against a virus, the U.S. military is likely to be even less successful at anything more than aiding health workers and officials in disease-ridden areas.

The tools that the national security state has relied on in its war on terror not only didn’t work then (and are highly unlikely to work when it comes to the present Middle Eastern conflict either), but applied to Ebola would undoubtedly prove catastrophic. And yet -- count on it -- they will also prove irresistible in the face of fear of that disease.  They are what the government knows how to do even if, in the war on terror itself, they created a vulnerability so much greater than the sum of its parts, helped foster the growth of jihadist movements globally, and eroded the sense of trust that existed between the government and the American people. 

Lesson Two: Keep public health professionals in charge of what needs to be done. All too often in the war on terror, professionals with areas of expertise were cast aside by the security establishment.  The judicial system, for instance, was left in the lurch when it came to dealing with accused al-Qaeda operatives, while the expertise of those who found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003 was ignored.

Only by trusting our medical professionals will we avoid turning the campaign against Ebola over to the influence of the security state. And only by refusing to militarize the potential crisis, as so many others were in the post-9/11 era, will we avoid the usual set of ensuing disasters.  The key thing here is to keep the Ebola struggle a primarily civilian one.  The more it is left in the hands of doctors and public health experts who know the disease and understand what it means practically to commit the government to keeping people as safe as possible from the spread of the virus, the better.

Lesson Three: Don’t cloak the response to Ebola in secrecy.  The architects of the war on terror invoked secrecy as one of the prime pillars of their new state of being.  From the beginning, the Bush administration cavalierly hid its policies under a shroud of secrecy, claiming that national security demanded that information about what the government was doing should be kept from the American people for their own “safety.”  Although Barack Obama entered the Oval Office proclaiming a “sunshine” presidency, his administration has acted ever more fiercely to keep the actions of both the White House and the national security state under wraps, including, to mention just two examples, its justifications for policies surrounding its drone assassination campaignsand the extent of its warrantless surveillance programs.

As it happened, that wall of secrecy proved endlessly breachable, as leakscame flooding out of that world.  Nonetheless, the urge to recreate such a state of secrecy elsewhere may be all too tempting.  Don’t be surprised if the war on Ebola heads into the shadows, too -- and that’s the last thing the country needs or deserves when it comes to a public health crisis. To date, with medical professionals still at the forefront of those dealing publicly with Ebola, this impulse has yet to truly rise to the surface.  Under their aegis, information about the first Ebola cases to reach this country and the problems involved hasn’t disappeared behind a cloak of secrecy, but don’t count on transparency lasting if things get worse.  Yet keeping important facts about a potential pandemic under wraps is guaranteed to lead to panic and a rapid deterioration of trust between Americans and their government, a relationship already sorely tested in the war on terror years.

Realistically, secrecy and allied tools of the trade would represent a particularly inauspicious starting point for launching a counter-Ebola strategy at a time when it would be crucial for Americans to know about failures as well as successes.  Outbreaks of panic enveloped in hysteria wrapped in ignorance are no way to stop a disease from spreading.

Lesson Four: Don’t apply the “black site” approach to Ebola.  The war on terror was marked by the creation of special prisons or “black sites” beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system for the detention (in the case of Ebola think: isolation and quarantine) of terrorist suspects, places where anything went.  There can, of course, be no question that Ebola patients, once diagnosed with the disease, need to be isolated. Protective gear and isolation units are already being used in treating cases here.

The larger issue of quarantine, however, looms as potentially the first major public policy debate of the Ebola era. Keep an eye on this.  After all, quarantine-style thinking is already imprinted in the government’s way of life, thanks to the war on terror, so moving toward quarantines will seem natural to its officials. 

Quarantine is a phenomenon feared by civil libertarians and others as an overreaction that will prove ineffective when it comes to the spread of the disease.  It stands to punish individuals for their associations, however inadvertent, rather than dealing with them when they actually display signs of the disease. To many, though, it will seem like a quick-fix solution, the Ebola counterpart to Guantanamo, a facility for those who were deemed potential carriers of the disease of terrorism.

The fears a threat of massive quarantines can raise will only make things harder for health officials. So, too, will increasing calls for travel bans for those coming from West African countries, a suggestion reminiscent of sweeping police profiling policies that target groups rather than individuals. Avoiding such bans is not just a matter of preserving civil liberties, but a safety issue as well. Fears of broad quarantines and blanket travel bans could potentially lead affected individuals to become far more secretive about sharing information on the disease and far more deceptive in their travel planning.  It could, that is, spread, not halt the dissemination of Ebola. As Thomas Frieden of the CDC argues, “Right now we know who’s coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places, and we don’t know that they’re coming in will mean that we won’t be able to do multiple things. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won’t be able, as we do currently, to take a detailed history to see if they were exposed when they arrive.”  In other words, an overly aggressive reaction could actually make medical deterrence exponentially more difficult.

The United States is about to be tested by a disease in ways that could dovetail remarkably well with the war on terror.  In this context, think of Ebola as the universe’s unfair challenge to everything that war bred in our governmental system. As it happens, those things that the U.S. did, often ineffectively and counterproductively, to thwart its enemies, potential enemies, and even its own citizenry will not be an antidote to this “enemy” either. It, too, may be transnational, originate in fragile states, and affect those who come in contact with it, but it cannot be stopped by the methods of the national security state.

Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years. It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years. To once again invoke the powers of the state to address fantasies and fears rather than the realities of a spreading disease would be to recklessly taunt the fates.

Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, a TomDispatch regular, and the editor-in-chief of theMorning Brief, a daily round-up of national security news. CNS Legal Fellow Kevin Garnett helped research this article.

Copyright 2014 Karen J. Greenberg

07:38 5 Most Extremist GOPers Who Might Be Headed to Congress» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Congressional hopeful Glenn Grothman worries that “gals” are running — and ruining — America by leading a “war on men.”

The conventional wisdom is that so-called establishment Republican candidates by and large triumphed over Tea Party radicals this election cycle. But the truth is that those victories were the result of a party establishment that itself has moved far to the right. Even where Tea Party candidates have failed, the Tea Party movement has increasingly remade the “establishment” GOP in its own image.

It is now core doctrine in the GOP to deny the science behind climate change, endorse sweeping abortion bans and engage in anti-government rhetoric reminiscent of the John Birch Society.

As Tea Party icon Michele Bachmann put it last week, while she may be retiring from Congress, she leaves with the knowledge that “even the establishment moved toward embracing the Tea Party’s messaging.”

Here, we look at five Republican congressional candidates who could be heading to the Capitol next year. Some have been labeled “establishment,” some “Tea Party,” but all are emblematic of the party’s strong turn to the right.

1. Joni Ernst

One Iowa conservative pundit has described state Sen. Joni Ernst, now the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, as “the choice of the Republican establishment” who has “been backed by national Republican establishment figures like Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Marco Rubio.”

But in today’s Republican Party, even an “establishment” candidate like Ernst can be just as extreme as a Tea Party insurgent.

Ernst subscribes to the radical, neo-Confederate idea that states can “nullify” federal laws that they deem to be unconstitutional — and even went so far as to suggest that local law enforcement officers can arrest government officials for simply administering federal laws.

In response to a 2012 candidate survey for a group affiliated with former congressman Ron Paul, Ernst pledged to “support legislation to nullify ObamaCare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare.” In a speech to a Religious Right group the next year, she criticized Congress for passing “laws that the states are considering nullifying.”

As a state senator, Ernst backed resolutions calling on Iowa to defy federal environmental regulations and gun laws. Ernst’s campaign denies that she has ever supported nullification, despite her own statements and positions in favor of the radical ideology.

Not only does Ernst think states should simply be able to void laws they don’t like, but she also wants to abolish the federal minimum wage and eliminate federal agencies such as the Department of Education, the EPA and the IRS. She also came out in favor of a plan, known as the “Fair Tax,” that would scrap the income tax and replace it with a federal sales tax of 23 percent on nearly all goods.

Ernst has also repeatedly floated the idea of impeaching President Obama for becoming a “dictator.”

Her anti-government paranoia even extends to taking on a non-binding United Nations sustainable development agreement, Agenda 21, which she warned will pave the way for the UN to remove Americans from rural lands and force them into cities. She has even disagreedwith the official investigations finding that Iraq did not have WMDs at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion.

But Ernst does support government intervention when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, sponsoring the Iowa personhood amendment, which would ban abortion in all cases along with common forms of birth control. “I think the provider should be punished, if there were a personhood amendment,” Ernst said, but has since insisted that she thinks the amendment would be purely symbolic.

Ernst has repeatedly denied the science of climate change, arguing that she has “not seen proven proof” of human influence on the climate and dismissed the role of “man-made activities.”

As Ernst’s candidacy shows, the line dividing “establishment Republicans” from fringe right-wing zealots has become so blurred that it has effectively vanished.

2. Thom Tillis

Like Ernst, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is widely considered the choice of the “establishment” and “mainstream” wing of the GOP, while his extremist record shows just how far to the right even the party’s “mainstream” has moved.

In 2007, Tillis blasted government policies that “have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth,” calling them “reparations” for slavery. The same year, he opposed a resolution apologizing for an 1898 massacre of African Americans in a North Carolina city, explaining that the amendment didn’t sufficiently honor white Republicans.

Tillis supported the repeal of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act — which allowed death-row inmates to appeal their sentences based on evidence of racial bias — and backed heavily restrictive voting laws designed to weaken the black vote. In a 2012 interview, he lamented that Democrats were gaining ground in North Carolina thanks to growing Latino and African American populations while the “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable.”

Tillis has said he would support a Personhood Amendment banning abortion in all cases and prohibiting common forms of birth control, and believesthat states have the right to ban contraceptives. In his role as state House speaker, Tillis led attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and to add abortion rights restrictions to a motorcycle safety bill. A Tillis-backed “targeted regulations of abortion providers” (TRAP) bill last year threatened to close all but one of the state’s 16 abortion clinics.

Following a federal court ruling striking down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, Tillis attempted to preserve the ban by teaming up with the founder of one of the country’s leading anti-gay groups. At a 2011 town hall meeting, he suggested that marriage equalitywould lead to “Big Government.” Tillis is also a climate change denialist and suggested that liberals plotted to use climate science “as a Trojan horse for their energy policy.”

Tillis wants to abolish the federal minimum wage, supported the GOP-led federal government shutdown (before reversing himself) and cut jobless benefits so severely that it made North Carolina ineligible to receive federal compensation.

While cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from education spending and blocking the expansion of Medicaid under the guise of fiscal stewardship, Tillis shepherded through a massive tax break to benefit top earners and corporations while effectively raising taxes on the lower 80 percent of taxpayers.

At an event in 2011, he suggested that the government cut public spending by finding “a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance” — specifically by setting disabled people against “these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government.”

He has now pivoted his campaign to focus on addressing the menacing specter of people infected with Ebola coming to Mexico to illegally cross the southern border into the U.S.

3. Jody Hice

Jody Hice entered politics as a Religious Right activist and a conservative talk radio show host, making him part of two worlds that are at the core of the conservative movement. Now, as the frontrunner in an open Georgia House seat, currently held by outgoing far-right Rep. Paul Broun, Hice is set to bring his right-wing agenda to Congress.

Hice made his first foray into politics by trying to convince local governments to erect monuments of the Ten Commandments in public places, which were deemed unconstitutional by, in Hice’s words, “judicial terrorists .” A Christian Nationalist, Hice thinks the founding fathers would support his congressional campaign and has posted on his Facebook page numerous fake quotes from our nation’s founders about the dangers of “Big Government” and the need to mix religion and government.

Hice outlines his political beliefs and fears in his book, “It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America,” in which he claims that abortion rights make the U.S. worse than Nazi Germany; endorses the fringe “nullification” theory; argues that Islam “does not deserve First Amendment protection”; and spells out his worries about gay people trying to “sodomize” children and persecute Christians, fearing that children will be “preyed upon” by gay “recruitment” efforts until they embrace “destructive,” “militant homosexuality.”

In one episode of his radio program, Hice suggested that gay people seek therapy, lamenting that “we are enslaving and entrapping potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals in a lifestyle that frankly they are not.” During another radio commentary, Hice denied that legal discrimination towards gays and lesbains exists, before comparing homosexuality to incest. If anything, according to Hice, it is the Christian community that faces government discrimination as a result of a Satanic plot to “chip away” at “our Christian rights.”

When armed militia groups gathered at the Bundy ranch in Nevada to back a rancher and race-theorist who refused to pay grazing fees for using federal property, Hice praised the groups that were threatening violence against law enforcement officers. He has argued that individuals have the right to have “any, any, any, any weapon that our government and law enforcement possesses,” including “bazookas and missiles,” in order to give citizens a fighting chance in a potential war against the government.

This summer, as thousands of Central American children fleeing violence in their home countries reached the U.S., causing a humanitarian crisis, Hice suggested armed militia groups organize at the southern border.

The GOP nominee blamed mass shootings such as those that occurred at Virginia Tech and in Aurora, Colorado, on abortion rights, the separation of church and state, and the teaching of evolution, and said that the Sandy Hook school shooting was the result of “kicking God out of the public square” with the end of school-organized prayer.

Hice also believes that we are now living in the End Times, worrying that “we have little time” left on earth and citing the appearance of blood moons as proof of imminent cataclysmic, “world-changing events.”

While Hice is worried about the destructive consequences of blood moons, he dismissed climate changeas a “propaganda” tool of the “Radical Environmental Movement” to make people of believe in an “impending environmental disaster due to ‘Global Warming.’”

His theological views also make him skeptical of women running for public office, saying a woman should only do so if she remains “within the authority of her husband.”

4. Glenn Grothman

Wisconsin state senator and anti-Kwanzaa crusader Glenn Grothman is running for an open House seat, from which he hopes to legislate in the same manner as his “soul mate” Rick Santorum.

Not one to hold back, Grothman has lambasted union activists protesting a law targeting labor rights as “slobs” and proposed doing away with the weekend and paid sick leave. So fearful of “Big Government” is Grothman that he also tried to put an end to municipal water disinfection programs.

Grothman opposes abortion rights without exceptions in cases of rape, incest and a woman’s health, even working to make it a felony offense for a doctor to perform an abortion that could save a woman’s life. Grothman successfully passed laws requiring doctors to read scripts meant to discourage women from terminating their pregnancies, which he said was necessary because oftentimes “women are looking for someone to talk them out of it.” He also sponsored a 24-hour waiting period for abortions that only exempts survivors of “forcible rape” who file a police report.

The Republican lawmaker worries that “gals” are running — and ruining — America by leading a “war on men.” He has said the U.S. “is in the process of committing suicide today” as a result of single mothers collecting public benefits and pushed a bill to declare single parenthood “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect,” calling single parenthood a “choice” and the result of a culture that “encourages a single motherhood lifestyle.”

“I think a lot of women are adopting the single motherhood lifestyle because the government creates a situation in which it is almost preferred,” he said in a 2012 interview with Alan Colmes, adding that he believes women aren’t telling the truth about having unintended pregnancies: “I think people are trained to say that ‘this is a surprise to me,’ because there’s still enough of a stigma that they’re supposed to say this.”

In a similar vein, he defended Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to rescind a pay equity law because, according to Grothman, pay disparities are due to the fact that “money is more important for men.”

Grothman is a sponsor of the Wisconsin Personhood resolution [PDF], which would ban abortion in all cases and many forms of birth control, and his campaign has touted the support of personhood activists.

He once described Planned Parenthood as “probably the most racist organization” in the country, adding that he believes the group targets Asian Americans for abortion. In 2007, he voted against a bill that made sure hospitals provide information about emergency contraception to sexual assault survivors.

He opposes laws protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and once tried to strip a sex education bill of a nondiscrimination provision that he suspected was part of a plot to make kids gay. Grothman also demanded that his state refuse to follow a court order to recognize same-sex marriages, which he feared would “legitimiz[e] illegal and immoral marriages.”

Not content with just opposing gay rights in the U.S., Grothman also defended a Ugandan law that makes homosexuality a crime punishable by sentences including life in prison. He even suggested that “unbelievable” American criticism of Uganda’s law would prompt God to punish the United States.

Although Grothman fears that America might incur God’s wrath for standing up to state-sanctioned violence against gays and lesbians, he is less concerned about climate change, which he says “doesn’t exist.” Grothman told one interviewer: “This environmental stuff, this is the idea that is driven by this global warming thing. Global warming is not man-made and there is barely any global warming at all, there’s been no global warming for the last twelve or thirteen years. I see a shortage of Republicans stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘look, this global warming stuff is not going on.”

5. Zach Dasher

Taking advantage of his family’s new-found reality TV fame, “Duck Dynasty” cousin Zach Dasher is running for U.S. Congress in Louisiana in an election where the top two candidates advance to a runoff vote if no candidate takes over 50 percent of the vote.

Dasher cited the success of “Duck Dynasty” as one of the reasons he entered the race: “Five years ago, I didn’t see an opportunity or window of opportunity to get into this type of venture. But here recently, obviously with the family name and being able to get my message out there, I saw an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Of his uncle Phil Robertson, who came under fire for making statements in a magazine interview defending Jim Crow and demonizing gays and lesbians, Dasher gushed: “The support of the family means a lot to me. We share a very similar background and philosophy, and our spiritual beliefs are the same as well. They’re going to be a big part of the campaign. I’m going to have Phil as my PR director, since he’s so good with the media.”

Robertson also appears in commercials promoting Dasher’s candidacy, and Dasher has said he agreed with Robertson’s remarks about the gay community. Dasher’s wife wrote in a blog post that just as people should break out of addictions to alcohol and heroin, gay people can “overcome” and “come out of” homosexuality and find “healing.”

One of Dasher’s opponents, Rep. Vince McAllister, is a freshman Republican congressman who said he would retire after he was caught on video kissing a staffer who was not his wife, then changed his mind. Dasher says he is running as an even more conservative candidate than the GOP incumbent, and has received backing from Tea Party and pro-corporate groups such as the Club for Growth and Citizens United.

“My platform begins with God. That’s really what this whole thing is about. In Washington, when we look at what’s going on, we see an erosion away from that platform,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We see the ruling classes kick God out and in His place they place themselves. That scares me because we didn't send these folks to Washington, D.C. to determine our rights, we sent them there to defend our rights.”

Dasher fears that the federal government “believes that they’re God” and is intent on “gain[ing] control over every aspect of our lives” as part of a plan to create a “culture of dependency.” In a personal podcast, Dasher said the “swift drift away from God will usher in tyranny and death,” warning: “Tyranny will get its foothold — if it already doesn't have it — and in the end, there will be mass carnage and mass death. It's inevitable.”

Dasher blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on atheists, whom he also accused of “brainwashing a generation ” through rap music and ushering in “moral decay” and the erosion of liberty. He said that schools should “arm the teachers,” arguing that laws targeting gun violence actually leave people as “unarmed sitting ducks, waiting for someone to come in and shoot their schools up.” Dasher recently claimed that the Second Amendment was established to allow people to defend themselves against “a tyrannical government,” warning that government officials intend to repeal the amendment in order to eliminate all other freedoms.



Related Stories

07:34 LePage defends tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent. Dishonestly, of course.» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer
In a debate Monday night, Maine Gov. Paul LePage took a moment to weep for the poor Mainers making a mere $100,000 a year. Rep. Mike Michaud, LePage's Democratic opponent, had pointed out that "budgets are about priorities. The governor made a priority to do huge tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of Mainers." LePage capped his response with this:
$100,000 or greater. Those are the richest people in Maine, folks, and I don't know how many of you are making $100,000, but it's not that rich.
Two points need to be made. First of all, it's blazingly dishonest to suggest that $100,000 puts you in the top one percent of Maine's income distribution. In fact, in 2012 it took a household income of more than $250,000 to put you in the top five percent in Maine. So LePage's sleight-of-hand shifting from Michaud's point about tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent—who got an average $2,770 tax cut in 2011 thanks to LePage—to "$100,000 or greater. Those are the richest people in Maine, folks" is ... can I just say blazingly dishonest again?

Second, while $100,000 is not actually in Maine's top one percent, the state's median household income is below $47,000. So I'm guessing that most of Maine would not hear that $100,000 is not that rich and be like "oh, poor babies, they're hardly making more than double the median income, let's give them a giant tax cut right this minute."

This is classic Paul LePage: He's simultaneously being dishonest about exactly who is in the top one percent and being tone deaf to how much his average constituent earns. But of course, $100,000 probably isn't so much to the average Paul LePage voter, and those are the people he needs to please.

This race is close! Your $3 contribution can help Rep. Mike Michaud defeat LePage.

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LePage squeaked through a three-way race in 2010, and it's once again a tight three-way race. A guy with the support of such a small proportion of voters should not be able to do this much damage. But if Democrats don't turn out to vote on November 4, he may get that chance.
07:09 RNC says Wisconsin voters are stupid ... then asks them to vote for Scott Walker » Daily Kos
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.
We agree. This wasn't a smart choice.
Goal Thermometer
Early voting has begun in Wisconsin, and Mary Burke, Democratic challenger for the governor's seat, was at UW-Madison, rallying voters. She told supporters that she was starting her days at 4:30 in the morning and asked them for the same kind of enthusiasm, urging them to "be part of something incredible."

At the same time, the Republican National Committee sent in what must pass for the big guns for them in support of Gov. Scott Walker, and, well, she was maybe less than motivating.

Speaking at a Republican Party field office in Waukesha, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee talked up the closeness of the governor's race and the need to get Walker supporters to the polls.

Sharon Day, the co-chair, told the audience, "It's not going to be an easy election, it's a close election. Like I said, much closer than I can even understand why.

"I don't want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them might not be as sharp as a knife."

Just a hint for the RNC, you might not want to let your contempt for the average voter show like that. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that Republicans in Wisconsin are masochists given who they've elected. So maybe that's the kind of motivation that works for them.
Help Wisconsin Democrats show their smarts. Please donate $3 to Mary Burke.

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There is one thing we can agree on with the RNC: If you vote for Scott Walker, you are stupid.
07:08 The Internet 'Sleeps’ As Homeland Security Watches | Video » LiveScience.com
University of Souther California researchers pinged 3.7 billion IP addresses over a 2 month period to create an animation of internet usage. The study was funded in part by the US Dept. Homeland Security and the USAF.
06:53 A New York Times Columnist Spoke At A Fundraiser For A Group Working To Criminalize Gay Sex» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat spoke at a fundraising event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group that works to defend anti-LGBT discrimination and supported the criminalization of homosexuality.

On October 16, ADF held an event titled "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America" in Denton, Texas. The event, which focused primarily on highlighting the alleged tension between LGBT equality and religious liberty, featured a conversation between radio show host Hugh Hewitt and Douthat.

The event also featured an appearance from the Benham brothers, the right-wing activists who lost their HGTV reality show because of their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric:

The event touched on a number of popular right-wing horror stories about LGBT equality, from the plight of anti-gay bakers and florists, to the outrage over the recent subpoenaing of several Houston pastors. David Benham, who has previously warned that the gay "agenda" is "attacking the nation," urged the audience to take "dominion" of the media and legal system back from the "sexual anarchy agenda":

DAVID BENHAM: Unfortunately, the church, now that we have the keys to authority that Christ gives the Christian church, we give that dominion back through our silence. And so what we see now is the struggle for dominion. And one of the ways that we've lost dominion is because Christians, unfortunately, don't believe in the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign over all things. The Bible says in Psalm 24 "the Earth is the Lord's and everything in it," including government, entertainment, media, education, the legal system, everything. My finances, my sexuality, everything is under God. ... Does this agenda, this sexual anarchy agenda, does it want dominion? Take a look. Has it got dominion in government? Has it got dominion in entertainment? Has it got dominion, I mean, you name it, in the marketplace? Yes. Absolutely it does. How does God get dominion back? ... The government exists for the punishment of evildoers and for the reward of those who do good. The problem is, is when we switch good and evil and evil and good. There's only one institution that can fight that dominion battle, and that's the church. [emphasis added]

06:50 Cartoon: The Globola crisis» Daily Kos

(Click to enlarge)

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

06:43 Chuck Todd Dishes On How Media Cover Scandals And Crises» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Like most journalists, Chuck Todd hates becoming part of the story. So when his recent criticism of Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was used as the basis of a Mitch McConnell campaign ad, the new Meet the Press host felt "physically ill."

Todd spoke at length with Media Matters last week about life in the hot seat of NBC's top Sunday morning news program to which he ascended after two decades of political reporting at the network, MSNBC, and National Journal. Since he was handed the Meet the Press reins last month, Todd has to his credit granted extensive interviews to several longtime critics of the program, of which Media Matters is one.

In the first part of a three-part series, Todd shares his thoughts on how the media covers political crises, scandals, and gaffes in the modern era, including how the press has handled Ebola, the 2012 Benghazi attacks, and the alleged IRS political targeting.

Earlier this month, Todd argued that Grimes had "disqualified herself" as a candidate when she refused to answer whether she had voted for President Obama. His comments were quickly turned into a statewide television ad by Senator McConnell's reelection team.

Asked about having his comments turned into a political ad, Todd stood by his critique of Grimes and her alleged obfuscation, though admitted his wording was "sloppy" because he had been trying to suggest that it was Kentucky voters who would decide that Grimes had disqualified herself.

Pressed on what types of things should disqualify a political candidate - like, for example, McConnell's dismissal of climate science - Todd was elusive, saying that candidates being "caught lying" is a red flag, but that it should be up to voters to make those calculations, not reporters. 

Todd also discussed the tradeoffs that are necessary when covering Ebola, which has dominated the news in recent weeks.

According to Todd, outlets need to make "smart decisions" and balance the need to provide the public with information about the disease and the government's handling of it without simply stoking hysteria about a domestic outbreak. Todd noted that the nonstop collective coverage from the media has led to a situation where it feels like "one case is going to turn into a hundred," which makes it important for outlets to "explain how hard that is."   

Then there are two so-called "scandals" that Republicans have endlessly tried to hammer away at and use to criticize both the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton: Benghazi and the IRS.

Discussing Benghazi, Todd said there is a "constant campaign" from both the left and the right to "work the refs" on the story, with conservatives engaged in a "search for conspiracies" and the promotion of supposedly scandalous stories that are "not news."

As for the IRS story, in which the agency has repeatedly been accused of targeting conservative political groups, Todd suggested it is symptomatic of how, with the proliferation of opposition research, news outlets need to be active debunkers instead of just reporters, something they cannot always do.

06:25 This Family Doesn't Sweat: Here's Why» LiveScience.com
A rare disorder in which people can't produce sweat may be caused by a mutation in a single gene, according to a new study.
06:18 Right-Wing Media Discourage Young Women From Voting» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative media personalities have discouraged young women from voting as the midterm elections near, claiming that they are "too dumb to vote."

Conservative Media Argue Young Women Shouldn't Vote

Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle: Young Women Shouldn't Exercise Civic Duties Because "They Don't Get It." During the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Five, the co-hosts discussed the impact of women voters in the upcoming midterm elections. After co-host Greg Gutfeld suggested that young women lack the wisdom to vote as conservatives, Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that they should be excused  from jury duty, because they lack life experience and just "don't get it." Instead, she said, they should "go back on Tinder or Match.com." [Fox News, The Five10/21/14]

Fox's Tucker Carlson: "Do You Want Your Government Run By People Whose Favorite Show Is Say Yes [To The Dress]?" During the October 2 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, network host Tucker Carlson criticized a Republican campaign to encourage young women to vote Republican by asking whether or not the young women targeted by the ad should vote at all:

CARLSON: I don't think as a general matter you should be encouraging people who don't know anything about what they're voting for to vote. That's what the Democrats do, giving Newports to the homeless to get them to the polls. That's literally true. Republicans shouldn't follow suit on that. You shouldn't pander to people. Tell us what the candidates are for, what they're against. Attack the other guy, that's fair too. I'm all for attack ads, but you're targeting people -- you're targeting people who are watching Say Yes To The Dress? You want your government run by people ... who's favorite show is Say Yes To The Dress. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 10/2/14]

National Review Online: Five Reasons Young Women "Are Too Dumb To Vote." In a September 28 post challenging Lena Dunham for encouraging young women to vote in an article for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NRO's Kevin D. Williamson provided his "Five Reasons Why You're Too Dumb To Vote." Calling voting a "shallow gesture of citizenship" which women use to say "I want," Williamson urged those who do not agree with his political values to not vote at all:

I would like to suggest, as gently as I can, that if you are voting as an act of self-gratification, if you do not understand the role that voting in fact plays in a constitutional republic, and if you need Lena Dunham to tell you why and how you should be voting -- you should not vote. If you get your politics from actors and your news from television comedians -- you should not vote. There's no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business. [National Review Online, 9/29/14, via Media Matters]

Fox's Harris Faulkner: Do We Want Young People To Vote "If They Don't Know The Issues?" On the October 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner responded to Rock The Vote's "#TurnOutForWhat" campaign by questioning whether or not young people should vote "if they don't know the issues."  [Fox News, Outnumbered10/8/14]

05:30 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Radio logo
James O'Keeffe is on the loose,  again.

"Do something illegal!"



We've still got a potent mix of stories to go through, and who knows what the morning will bring? There's more (read: meta) on that crazy Whisper story. And that'll lead to more consideration of just how perilous our privacy situation really is. And from there, maybe on to why some "Zombie Ideas" never die.

And someone will probably think someone else has Ebola, or something.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

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How are we doing on that? Well, it's been a little underwhelming, to be honest. Hundreds of thousands of you come through here every day, but I only tricked succeeded in convincing 762 of you to do this last month. So if you're seeing this and you didn't participate last month because you figured there were thousands upon thousands of your fellow Kossacks filling the quota, we could use your help on that.

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05:30 Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap: Pollster forgets lessons of 2012, elects to go the full Paleologos» Daily Kos
Marilinda Garcia
Marilinda Garcia (R-NH) has led in two of 13 polls. Which makes her the favorite, according to one pollster.

On Friday evening, I was in line at Costco purchasing a pizza for a little family dinner (because, when you're married with two kids, that qualifies as a wild Friday night). I was scanning my phone for new polling after a fairly soft day of volume (which, regrettably, continued into the weekend) when I saw a series of tweets from northeastern-based folks live-tweeting an event sponsored by the New England chapter of the AAPOR (American Association of Public Opinion Research). One caught my attention and slightly amused me:

Democratic Party not a great brand name right now, per Andy Smith, which colors the entire race. #neaapor
Of course, this statement had the unspoken implication that the Republican Party brand name was somehow better than the Democratic one, which has been disproven by virtually every poll taken in this cycle to date (including the most recent national poll: one released Monday morning by Politico.) However, perhaps what Smith (who runs the polling shop for the University of New Hampshire) meant was that the gap between the favorabilities of the two parties has narrowed since 2012 (which it has), or perhaps he was referring specifically to New Hampshire.

This statement, on the other hand, seems tougher to defend, and shows that Smith has learned very little from his colleagues:

Both NH CDs likely GOP pickups, says Andy Smith #neaapor
Why that statement is particularly outrageous, and why Smith should have known better, awaits you past the jump, along with the surprisingly sparse 46 polls conducted since last Friday (Oct 17-20).
05:18 Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner


"Guess what? Not one of those things I said in the last two years. It was always said in the first two years. So even a Frenchman can be taught to cool down."
---Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Oct. 9 candidates debate
Perhaps more than any sitting governor of the teabag persuasion, the one sitting in office 55 miles north of me is the foot-in-mouthiest. Now that it's reelection time, Paul LePage (aka Paul LePlague, a greater menace to Maine than anything ebola will ever throw at us) wants us to believe he started out clumsily, but he's been clean as a whistle for the last two years. So I went through the C&J archives for the past 24 months to see just how he "cooled down." Here's a sample of what I found:
December 2012 While swearing in our newly-elected state senators and representatives, LePage went off-script and called out a "tracker" taping his public events and said, "I think it's vulgar, I think it's vicious and I think it's vile to me and my family." Then he said he'd never speak to Democratic leaders again until the tracker was let go.

June 2013 Performing a twofer by using an anal sex reference and then insulting Maine's timber workers as brainless:

"[Democratic State Senator Troy Jackson] claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline. … People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back into the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work."
Sign welcoming people to Maine
August 2013 While trying out a fighter-jet simulator at a Pratt & Whitney office, LePage said, "I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up."

Also in August President Obama "hates white people."

October 2013 "About 47% of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work. About 47%. It’s really bad.”

March 2014 Calls Medicaid expansion, which would cover 70,000 Mainers, "Sinful.”

May 2014 “This is the commander in chief of the Maine National Guard!!!”
---LePage's first angry words to a Portland Press Herald reporter on a phone call after the governor got caught not knowing about plans to transfer one of Maine's most valuable National Guard units to Pennsylvania.

June 2014 Angrily refers to Social Security and Medicare as "welfare, pure and simple."

July Even Stephen Colbert noticed this one:

"Out of the 52,000 [refugee] children in federal custody, Uncle Sam is unfairly saddling Maine with a whopping eight of them. Eight! … Thankfully, Maine Governor Paul LePage caught wind of this plan and declared, 'We cannot become a state that encourages illegal immigration. We simply cannot afford it.'  Folks, I never realized Maine was in such dire financial straits. They’re just one octomom away from bankruptcy."
October 2014 When a patient is tested (and comes back negative) for ebola at Maine Medical Center, LePage plays the scary immigrant card, saying, "We’re on top of this. The bigger issue right now is whether or not this individual had the proper papers.”
And this from August, 2013:
"I can’t keep my mouth shut. I promised my staff: Now till Election Day, when I want to say something that is off-color, I’m going to tape my mouth shut.”

Want another four years of this clueless meathead? Me neither. Let's help elect Democrat Mike Michaud---a cool-headed Frenchman who knows how to engage brain before opening mouth.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

05:09 King Tut's Health: New Mummy Scans Refute Old Diagnosis of Pharaohs» LiveScience.com
Several ancient Egyptian pharaohs, such as Ramesses the Great and King Tut, didn't have a painful inflammatory disorder called ankylosing spondylitis as scientists had thought. But they did have mild back disorder linked to old age.
05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: A rare bright spot emerges for Democrats in Arkansas» Daily Kos
Patrick Henry Hays with Bill Clinton
Democrat Pat Hays (right)

Leading Off:

AR-02: Arkansas has been a painful place for Democrats of late, but Team Blue got some genuinely good polling news out of the Razorback State on Monday from Talk Business and Hendrix College. In the open 2nd District, Democrat Pat Hays leads Republican French Hill 46-42, a reversal from July, when Hill held a narrow 44-43 edge. The numbers are also similar to a Hays internal from last month that hid him on top 44-41; Hill recently put out a press release claiming to have a 5-point lead in some invisible poll but provided no further details.

Hill, a wealthy banker, has suffered from some of the same image problems that have plagued other rich Republican vulture capitalists like Bruce Rauner, David Perdue, and Mitt Romney, and Democrats haven't hesitated to leverage his background in attack ads. Hays, by contrast, has run some great ads making the most of his personable, folks style. (The GOP playbook on Hays is utterly predictable: Obama Obama Obama.)

Both sides are spending heavily here, shelling out about $1 million apiece to date. This district is the bluest an Arkansas and like much of the state, it's ancestrally Democratic, so Democrats always believed they'd have a shot here. But given the party's woes at the top of the ticket and the president's deep unpopularity, it wouldn't have been surprising had the DCCC written the seat off. However, that's very much not the case, and Republicans are in serious danger of losing here, so Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.

04:47 Abbreviated pundit roundup: How the GOP is winning the war on voting» Daily Kos
We begin today's roundup with Ari Berman at The Nation, whose latest piece chronicles the distributing progress Republicans have made in curtailing the right to vote:
Since the 2010 election, the Republican Party has waged a long and aggressive war on voting. In 2011 and 2012, at least 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states, with twenty-seven election changes passing in nineteen states. [...] Voters in fifteen states will face new restrictions for the first time in a major election when they go to the polls in November, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Many are in states with highly contested Senate and gubernatorial races, like Kansas and Wisconsin.

The biggest impact could be felt in North Carolina, where there’s a razor-thin Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican speaker of the state house Thom Tillis, who spearheaded the new voting restrictions. Hundreds of voters, including an Afghan War vet, were disenfranchised in the primary after North Carolina Republicans eliminated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, which tens of thousands of voters used last midterm. Turnout will be much higher come November, with a corresponding increase in problems at the polls.

To help voters, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is leading an “election protection” coalition of 150 organizations, recruiting up to 4,000 volunteers to staff the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and putting legal observers in nineteen states.

USA Today's editors:
You'd think the world's oldest democracy would be constantly working to make sure that as many people as possible vote in elections such as the one two weeks from today, which will decide who runs everything from city governments to Congress.

Instead, what's clear in the countdown to Nov. 4 are the ways a nation built on the proposition that the vote is the great equalizer limits the number of people who actually go to the polls.

Rebecca Leber at The New Republic:
Texans casting a ballot on Monday, when early voting begins, will need to show one of seven forms of photo ID. A concealed handgun license is okay, but a student ID isn't. The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Texas to go forward with this controversial voter ID law. A federal judge had previously struck down the law, arguing that it could disenfranchise 600,000 voters or a full 4.5 percent of registered voters, many of them black and Latino.

Critics say voter ID laws, especially the one in Texas, amount to voter suppression, because it can be both difficult and costly to get the required identification. In a powerfully worded dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen, wrote, “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
04:42 Thousands of Historic Archives from British Asylums to Go Online» LiveScience.com
The Wellcome Library will digitize records from British asylums from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including not only case reports but also the paintings and poetry of psychiatric patients.
04:40 500-Year-Old Traces of Monster Hawaii Tsunami Discovered» LiveScience.com
A powerful earthquake in Alaska sent towering waves up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall crashing down on Hawaii about 500 years ago, leaving behind fragments of coral, shells and coarse beach sand in a sinkhole located on the island of Kauai, research shows.
03:32 Fox Host: "Young Women On Juries Are Not A Good Idea" Because "They Don't Get It"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
03:30 WSJ Wants To Kill A Key Piece Of Post-Watergate Campaign Finance Reform» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Wall Street Journal is advocating for the elimination of decades-old law crafted in the wake of the Watergate scandals that prevents coordination between independent groups and political candidates -- a radical position the Journal pretends is a rejection of a "liberal campaign" but actually is a rejection of the conservative majority opinion in Citizens United.

In an October 20 editorial, the Journal praised a highly controversial federal district court judge's newest attempt to legalize prohibited coordination between Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside right-wing groups. Under investigation for suspected violation of campaign finance laws, these organizations are suing in an attempt to have rules against this type of coordination declared unconstitutional. Although the Citizens United decision allowed corporations to make previously disallowed expenditures in support of political candidates, the opinion from the conservative justices still recognized that a crucial guard against corruption was the federal prohibition on coordination between unlimited "independent" money and the politicians' actual campaigns. Yet the campaign finance nihilists on the Journal editorial board object to this long-established principle as well, misleadingly referring to coordination as a "new liberal target":

That came into stark view last week with a new and welcome judicial ruling in Wisconsin, only days after the Brennan Center issued a trumpet call for government to find more ways to criminalize campaign spending. The new liberal target is "coordination" between politicians and independent groups. This is dangerous stuff.


[The plaintiff in the Wisconsin campaign finance case] is Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates, an advocacy group that wants to collaborate with politicians on a project called "Take Charge Wisconsin" to educate the public about fiscal responsibility and property rights. But the group was unsure it could proceed under Wisconsin law as interpreted by prosecutors, so it sought relief in federal court.

The problem is that Wisconsin and other states have set up elaborate bureaucracies like the Government Accountability Board (GAB) to police free speech and harass individuals and groups that want to run political advertising. Wisconsin's GAB and Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm "have taken the position that coordinated issue advocacy is illegal under Wisconsin's campaign finance law," wrote Judge [Rudolph] Randa.

That legal interpretation has already been rejected by state judge Gregory Peterson, but the state and Mr. Chisholm are appealing. Thanks to Judge Randa's ruling, at least the conservatives will be able to engage in issue advocacy without fear of prosecution in the few remaining days before the election.


It's important to understand that this political attack on "coordination" is part of a larger liberal campaign. The Brennan Center -- the George Soros-funded brains of the movement to restrict political speech -- issued a report this month that urges regulators to police coordination between individuals and candidates as if it were a crime.

The report raises alarms that independent expenditures have exploded since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, as if trying to influence elections isn't normal in a democracy.

Although the Journal insists that attempts to eliminate coordination between independent groups and candidates are a liberal plot, it is actually a bipartisan goal that has been repeatedly endorsed by the Supreme Court, including its conservatives. In the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo, the Court found that "[u]nlike contributions, such independent expenditures may well provide little assistance to the candidate's campaign, and indeed may prove counterproductive. The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an expenditure with the candidate or his agent not only undermines the value of the expenditure to the candidate, but also alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the candidate." In other words, the Court determined that a lack of coordination between candidates and outside groups is necessary to reduce the potential for or the appearance of corruption in the political process, the core reason campaign finance is regulated.

02:08 Super PAC fundraising soars for conservatives» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Top GOP-allied groups are in a strong position to continue matching their rivals.
00:52 The Midterm Election Spending Fox Actually Wants To Talk About» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

With two weeks to go before midterm elections, the North Carolina Senate race is on track to be the most expensive Senate race ever. But on Fox News, the focus is on spending by teachers unions, not the conservative-backed groups pouring money three times that amount into the state.

Fox News' America's Newsroom highlighted on October 21 how two prominent teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA), are "on track to spend a record amount this [campaign] cycle." Focusing specifically on the North Carolina Senate race, host Martha MacCallum asked, "What are the teachers unions doing there?" Correspondent Mike Emanuel noted that Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan is polling narrowly ahead of her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, as "the National Education Association super PAC has spent about $3 million on ads blaming Republican Tillis for making class sizes bigger and for reduced art and sports programs. Expect more of this down the final stretch," because Tillis is "a target."

With its focus on teachers unions, Fox conveniently left out the spending from outside groups that totals nearly three times more. For example, the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity,  a conservative group backed by the Koch brothers has poured in at least $8.3 million in ad money. At least $6 million has come from groups linked to conservative Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor. 

Such selective reporting on election spending is becoming standard for the network, which has worked to minimize the influx of money supporting Republican candidates into states with hotly-contested congressional races this election cycle.

00:47 NRO Minimizes Harmful Effects Of Extremist Personhood Laws» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

National Review Online's Ian Tuttle disregarded history when dismissing fears that "personhood amendments" and fetal-homicide laws could open the door to criminal prosecutions for women who have miscarriages or abortions. Women have already been prosecuted for miscarriages in several states, and personhood advocates are explicitly pushing to end legal abortion.

In an October 21 article, Tuttle wrote that "liberals are lying about personhood amendments" like Colorado's proposed Amendment 67, which would define "'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings." Tuttle asserted that opponents are mischaracterizing personhood amendments to claim they would make abortion illegal and allow the prosecution of women who have had miscarriages:

That is the talking point of opponents such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Vote No 67, the main opposition campaign, which says that "any woman who suffers a miscarriage would be open to investigation for murder."

This feverish scenario runs contrary to both experience and law.

Since 2006, Alabama has defined "person" in its homicide statute to include "an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability." No women have been investigated for miscarriages in Alabama. Or in Alaska, where a similar law also took effect in 2006. Or in Kentucky (2004). Or in North Dakota (1987). Or others.

But Tuttle ignored the fact that similar state laws have already been used to prosecute women -- in Indiana, a woman who attempted to commit suicide while eight months pregnant was charged with murder. In fact, in Alabama, cited by Tuttle as an innocent actor, the judiciary is no stranger to interpreting the law in a way that pushes a personhood agenda. In that state, two women were prosecuted for endangering their unborn children by ingesting illicit drugs during their pregnancies, even though their "behavior ... was not intended to be criminalized when the Legislature enacted the chemical-endangerment statute." According to RH Reality Check, these laws are increasingly "misused by overzealous prosecutors and judges to trample women's rights in favor of the nebulous personhood rights of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses." 

Tuttle also waved off concerns that Colorado's personhood amendment would effectively prohibit abortion, despite the fact that the Colorado amendment was proposed by Personhood USA's state chapter Personhood Colorado, a group explicitly pushing to end legal abortion:

And as in the Alabama Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Hamilton v. Scott in 2012, reaffirming Alabama's inclusion of unborn persons in its homicide statutes, the constitutional protections to abortion afforded by Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be read into Colorado's law. A "woman's right to terminate her pregnancy" (Roe's language) is not explicitly exempted from criminal prosecutions, but this is likely, as a practical matter, unnecessary.

The very case Tuttle cites has been described as an explicit roadmap for overturning Roe v. Wade. As ProPublica explained, the judge who authored the opinion in Hamilton is "a pivotal figure in the so-called personhood movement" who wrote that "a centerpiece of Roe -- that states cannot ban abortion before the point of viability -- was 'arbitrary,' 'incoherent,' and 'mostly unsupported by legal precedent.'" 

00:29 George Will Suggests Cory Gardner's Extreme Record On Personhood Is Immaterial» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

George Will

George Will dismissed Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner's support for federal fetal personhood legislation that would outlaw abortions and some birth control measures nationwide, suggesting that Gardner's position is irrelevant because the legislation has "zero chance of passing."

In his October 17 syndicated column, Will sought to neutralize some of the most controversial parts of Gardner's record: his past support for a statewide personhood bill in Colorado and current co-sponsorship of the Life At Conception Act in Congress: 

Gardner favors over-the-counter sales of oral contraceptives. In addition to being common sense, Gardner's proposal is his way of making amends for formerly advocating a state constitutional "personhood" amendment (it is again on the ballot this year and will be decisively rejected for a third time) and for endorsing similar federal legislation that has zero chance of passage. By defining personhood as beginning at conception, these measures might preclude birth control technologies that prevent implantation in the uterus of a fertilized egg.

While Gardner has denied that the federal bill is personhood legislation that would broadly roll back women's reproductive rights, independent fact-checkers and leading health organizations say he is wrong. The language of the Life At Conception Act would give rights to a "preborn human person," which is defined as "each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being." 

Will's defense of Gardner's record on personhood is in line with The Denver Post editorial board's October 10 endorsement Gardner, which pardoned his history of opposing marriage equality and abortion rights. National women's group NARAL: Pro-Choice America blasted the Post for endorsing a candidate with positions "that deeply conflict with the paper's previous editorial stances."

Mon 20 October, 2014

23:43 Michael Savage's Disgusting Rant: PTSD And Depression Sufferers Are "Weak," "Narcissistic," "Losers"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative radio host Michael Savage accused those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, including military veterans, of being "weak," "narcissistic," "losers." Savage added that "we're being laughed at around the world. No wonder ISIS can defeat our military."

As Right Wing Watch's Brian Tashman documented, Savage began an October 14 segment by complaining about a plan to rename a San Francisco tunnel after the late comedian Robin Williams. Savage called Williams "a depressed clown who was so selfish he choked himself to death with a belt." He added: "What is this sick, backwards area I live in?" 

After getting into a heated argument with a caller who said he suffered from PTSD while in the military, Savage went on an unhinged rant in which he explained why he is "so sick and tired of everyone with their complaints about PTSD, depression":

23:24 Four Extreme Weather Changes and Why They're Happening Now » LiveScience.com
Weather extremes, from intense rains in the western United States to flooding in the northeast, are directly tied to a warming climate.
20:00 Open thread for night owls: Harper's Index excerpts for November» Daily Kos
Strike march in Hancock, Michigan, Sept. 13, 1913
Strikers march in Hancock, Michigan, during the nine-month 1913-1914 strike in Copper Country.
The Western Federation of Miners began organizing in Michigan's "Copper Country" in 1912. In the summer of 1913, 9,000 workers went on strike to reduce the 10- to 12-hour workday, get rid of child labor and raise wages. The governor called out the National Guard, which was supposed to be neutral, but sided with the companies, including Calumet and Hecla, with whose owners the Guard's top officers frequently talked "business" over dinner and drinks. The strike soon emptied the union's coffers and thousands of workers left the copper mines. Others returned to work and 900 "scabs" were hired to break the strike. By the time it was called off in April 1914, only 2,500 miners were left in the union. Although the WFM was defeated in the short term, much of what it had sought soon came to pass anyway. The mines also instituted an eight-hour day, a practice that had been spreading in various trades since the 1890s, the hiring of children under 14 in the mines was ended, and wages were set by the day rather than by the plethora of family contracts that had been the rule in the past.

Here are a few excerpts from the Harper's Index, November edition:

Number of states that have enacted new restrictions on abortion since the last midterm elections: 31

Percentage of white Americans who say police do a poor job protecting people from crime: 10

Of black Americans who say so: 33

Estimated number of times SWAT teams were deployed in the United States in 1980: 3,000

In 2013: 60,000

Average number of SWAT raids carried out per day in Maryland since 2009: 4.5

Average percentage change in the rate of painkiller-overdose deaths two years after a state legalizes medical marijuana: –25

Number of arrests made by New York City police officers since 2004 in which the top charge was resisting arrest: 57,644

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011What do you call a jobs plan that wouldn't create jobs? The Republican plan!

Ouch. This is just the headline for The Washington Post's fact check on the Republican jobs bill: "The GOP’s ludicrous claim about their jobs bill." Ludicrous seems generous.

The crux of the problem is the claim that the plan, "mostly a mish-mash of previous offered bills, such as that hardy perennial—a balanced budget amendment to the constitution," would create five million jobs. So the fact checker, aka Glenn Kessler, digs down into the methodology used by Republican Sens. Rand Paul, John McCain and Rob Portman to claim that five million figure.

Moira Bagley, a spokesman for Paul, said the figure was derived from three proposals: individual and corporate tax cuts that reduced the top tax rate of 25 percent, which the Heritage Foundation said would boost employment by 1.6 million jobs over the next decade; a tax holiday allowing U.S. companies to return cash held overseas, which a Chamber of Commerce study said would create 2.9 million jobs in two years; and a study by energy consultant Wood MacKenzie, which said allowing access to domestic energy resources and imports of Canadian oil would generate more than 1 million jobs by 2018.
There are several problems with these figures.

Tweet of the Day
So what a woman who was born during Jim Crow can't vote? It's not tragic like someone being paid to bake a gay wedding cake.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: No news is good news, unless Ebola. Greg Dworkin, however, keeps his head (as always) with his Ebola news round-up, including a bit of Ultra Derp from George Will. Also, word from Turkey (and aid from the US) in the fight against ISIS among the region's Kurds. Coverage of Keene, NH's Pumpkinfest riot provides interesting contrasts with Ferguson. GunFAIL can strike anyone. Another facet of inequality: the bottom 90% are stuck in 1986. Missouri's rush into gun-nuttery may let a confessed murderer go free. Is anonymous texting app Whisper actually tracking users? And offering their data up to media "partners" as juicy tips?

High Impact Posts. Top Comments
18:30 Somewhere, an epidemiologist is crying» Daily Kos
A mostly deserted San Francisco in Steven Soderberg's Contagion
About five years ago, during the H1N1 influenza outbreak (a.k.a. swine flu), the Egyptian government slaughtered every pig within the country's borders. None of the 300,000 pigs killed was actually a vector for the disease, but that made no difference. Even while being told by every scientific and medical professional in the world that it would be a waste of time and resources, Egypt did it anyway. And 344 years earlier, during the Great Plague of London, the Yersinia pestis bacteria killed 15 percent of the city's population, or around 100,000 people. One of the public health measures ordered by London officials was the killing of thousands of dogs and cats. However, since in reality it was the fleas on the backs of rats that were actually spreading the plague, the culling did nothing and removed predators that would have fed on the disease-causing vector. People in the 17th century hadn't worked out the finer points of germ theory. Those of us in the here and now don't have that excuse.

Unfortunately, even with all of the advancements and knowledge gained from previous experiences, there is still no vaccine against stupidity.

Over the past month, as the Ebola situation within the United States has taken shape, we've witnessed suggested travel bans that won't do anything to stop the virus, a "czar" appointed to coordinate a response to a disease that has infected a grand total of four people who were at some point symptomatic and within the country, willful ignorance about how Ebola is transmitted and crackpot conspiracy theories that say this whole situation is motivated by liberal guilt about slavery, big pharma profits or population control, and widespread fear and panic that's closed schools and been used for political opportunism. Every case of a person infected with Ebola, whether here or anywhere else in the world, is a horrible tragedy. However, let's get real about this. Around 30,000 Americans will die from the flu this year. There will be no appointment of a flu czar or shut down of air travel, and some of the same people freaking out about Ebola won't vaccinate either themselves or their children against influenza because of cockamamie beliefs about vaccines.

Since the news media has covered this story like a medical thriller, I thought it might be interesting to see how pop culture perceptions of an epidemic intersect (or don't) with the reality of what's happening. Most movies and TV shows featuring outbreaks have more in common with horror films than actual medical fact, but what do they get right and where do they go oh so wrong? Follow beneath the fold for more ....

16:50 CDC Updates Its Ebola Guidelines for Health Care Workers» LiveScience.com
To better protect health care workers from Ebola, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines about wearing personal protective equipment.
16:15 6 of America's Most Panicky, Misinformed Overreactions to the Ebola Virus» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Imagine what would happen if Ebola was a widespread threat?

In the U.S., there’s growing evidence that Ebola can be quarantined. But the same cannot be said about wild overreactions marked by panic, ignorance and intolerance as parents, school boards and others have responded to their fears, rather than to real outbreaks.

"Better safe than sorry” is the commonly heard refrain. But that is a poor excuse for a litany of misinformed overreactions, including some bad behavior that is bound to leave hurtful lasting impacts on the victims of these panic attacks.

Here are a half-dozen of the worst examples, starting with educators who should know better.

1. Geography Taught Here?

Howard Yocum Elementary School, in Maple Shade, New Jersey, is across the river from Philadelphia. It’s 146 miles away from a hospital in Maryland, 782 miles from a hospital in Georgia, and 1,475 miles from a hospital in Texas, where Ebola patients are located. However, when parents and school officials heard that two students from the East African country of Rwanda were enrolled, they lost it—even though Rwanda, which has no Ebola cases, is 2,846 miles from the virus’ epicenter, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa.

The school’s staff told teachers (but not parents) that Rwandan students were coming and not to worry. That lit up the rumor mill, and here’s what parents told Fox News:

  • “I don’t feel comfortable sending my daughter to school with people who could be infected with Ebola.”
  • “Really concerns me. I don’t want to keep my boy out of school.”
  • “Don’t smile in my face and have a secret like that.”
  • “Stay there until all this stuff is resolved. There’s nobody affected here—let’s just keep it that way.”

As a result, the Rwandan children have been “voluntarily” quarantined by their parents for 21 days, which is the Ebola incubation period. “I don’t think it would hurt,” one parent told Fox News. “You have a lot of children that are involved, so I don’t think it would hurt.”

Really? Do they think those two Rwandan kids will return to class free of stigma?

2. Not An Isolated Incident

In Strong Elementary School in Maine, a different unfounded fear unfolded. One teacher was put on a mandatory 21-day leave after attending a conference in Dallas and staying at a hotel 9.5 miles from Texas Health Presbyterian, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was treated before he died. Never mind that millions of people live and commute in the city. Ignorant parents and a compliant school board were quick to overreact, bending to the argument that they had not been told a teacher would be in Dallas.

“The decision to place the teacher on leave was made by the MSAD 58 school board Thursday evening, after parents and community members expressed frustration that they were not notified that the teacher would be traveling to Dallas,” Portland’s Press Herald said. “After several discussions with the staff member, out of an abundance of caution, this staff member has been placed on a paid leave of absence for up to 21 days,” the school board’s statement said.

For the record, to date, there have been no Ebola cases in Maine.

3. What’s Missing in Mississippi

More public school paranoia occurred in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, after a rumor surfaced that its middle-school principal, Lee Wannik, was in Nigeria (which, incidentally, has been declared virus-free by international health officials). The rumor, which was wrong, nonetheless prompted dozens of parents to remove their children from school. Wannik was at his brother’s funeral in Zambia, an East-Central African country which is even further from Liberia than Rwanda is.

Again, parents told school officials that they would “rather be safe than sorry,” the local news reported, adding their paranoia grew when Wannik opted to take a voluntary leave and seek medical attention—so as not to be a “distraction.” 

These incidents show there is very little thinking going on when people feel that their lives are endangered, despite all evidence to the contrary. But there have been even more paranoid reactions near areas where Ebola patients have been hospitalized.

4. No Getting Sick In Public

Panic broke out and HazMat teams were dispatched to a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station on Saturday after a woman got off a train and vomited at the platform, leading police to close the station and summon emergency crews. Initially, the media incorrectly reported that she had been on an Ebola watch list, which was later retracted.

A similar reaction occurred at the Pentagon a few days before, when a woman who had been to West Africa became sick and threw up in a parking lot. That led officials there to quarantine a bus on which the woman had been traveling.   

Meanwhile, in New York City, where international airports are screening travelers from West Africa by taking their temperature upon arrival—which doctors say will do little to detect the virus—the New York Post has reported a “hesitancy by health-care providers to examine patients or by laboratory workers to handle [blood] specimens.”

That kind of personal reaction seems to be irrepressible the closer one gets to a perceived threat or possibility of an infected person.

5. Carnival Cruise Nightmare

Now that a Carnival Cruise Line ship has returned to port—with passengers cheering as they disembarked in Galveston, Texas—there have been a string of news reports saying not everybody aboard the ship was panicking when they learned that one passenger was a laboratory supervisor who had handled an Ebola patient’s blood work. That person voluntarily quarantined herself, showed no signs of infection, and subsequently had her blood tested (and taken away by a Coast Guard helicopter). Consistent with what ship's officers said all along, she was found to be clear of Ebola.

However, the British Telegraph quoted many passengers who described an “utter panic,” saying some passengers were crying and feared they might be trapped on a death ship, where infections would spread, or would have to wait for weeks until being cleared to leave. “As word of an Ebola scare spread, so many passengers tried to call home that their mobile signals failed, and the Internet crashed,” the Telegraph said.

The panic deepened when Mexican officials refused to let the ship dock in Cozumel, citing the age-old maritime practice of keeping ships offshore if there is a threat of disease. “I noticed that we were pulling away,” one passenger said. “The captain finally came on and said we couldn’t get permission to port. That’s when everything hit the fan here and we realized we were quarantined.”    

6. Real Ebola Victims, Not Imagined Fears

There are real Ebola victims in the U.S. They include the fiancé and children of Thomas Eric Duncan, who have been quarantined and heavily monitored for weeks after losing Duncan to the virus. As Cliff Weathers reported, those survivors have lost most of their possessions, been forced from their homes and have been treated as pariahs by many neighbors. Duncan's fiancé is very worried about how the children—who have been cleared of any infection—will be treated when they return to school this week.

TheNew York Times also had a striking report on Monday by Helene Cooper, a Pentagon correspondent and native Liberian who described how people in her country are reacting with great inner strength and dignity in the face of a crisis that’s leaving few families untouched. The difference between dealing with a real epidemic and an imagined one is night and day.   


Related Stories

15:33 Ebola Airport Screening Prevents 3 Cases Per Month from Traveling» LiveScience.com
If the Ebola screening currently taking place at airports in West Africa were to stop, about three people with the disease would travel by plane to a new country each month.
15:20 Hot News: 2014 On Track to Become Warmest Year» LiveScience.com
The "odds are good" that 2014 will be the warmest year in the books, fueled by record ocean warmth.
15:05 Vaccines Do Not Increase Risk of Multiple Sclerosis» LiveScience.com
Getting a vaccination does not increase people's risk of developing multiple sclerosis, as some anti-vaccination groups have suggested, a new study finds.
13:52 Oklahoma Man Opens Fire on Ex-Girlfriend for Not Leaving ‘Fast Enough’: Police» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
As the woman collected her belongings and prepared to walk out the front door, the man allegedly fired a “long gun” inside of the residence.

 Oklahoma man was taken into custody late last week after police said that he shot at his ex-girlfriend because she was not getting out of their home “fast enough.”

Tulsa police told KOKI that a woman reported that her ex-boyfriend fired the shot at her after she decided to leave the failed relationship.

“She decided that she was going to leave the residence today, and she was gathering up her things to do that. Apparently she just wasn’t moving fast enough to him,” Tulsa Police Department Corporal Demario Gay explained.

“There is evidence in the house that what was described to us, which is that he shot at her, did take place,” Gay noted.As the woman collected her belongings and prepared to walk out the front door, the man allegedly fired a “long gun” inside of the residence. Officers only found evidence of one shot being fired in the home.

According to police, the bullet narrowly missed the woman.

It was not immediately clear if the man was trying to kill his ex-girlfriend, but Gay pointed out that no one with good intentions would shoot at another person.

“He definitely fired a shot at her, and anyone who is firing a shot at someone isn’t trying to do something well [intentioned],” he said.


Related Stories

13:32 Parkinson's Drugs Linked to Sex and Gambling Addictions» LiveScience.com
Scientists have new clues to what causes behaviors like pathological gambling, hypersexuality and compulsive shopping after a new study shows these behaviors may occur as the side effects of taking certain drugs, that affect dopamine in the brain.
13:30 'I am not a scientist', say Republicans, so let's just ignore the people who are» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes a point about his meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the country's debt ceiling, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2011.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STA
'It also may be time to sacrifice a goat to the volcano gods.'
Goal ThermometerThe Rude Pundit notes that the Republican "I am not a scientist, so let's do nothing" talking point that gets used for climate change does not similarly extend to the panic of the moment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on why we shouldn't do anything about climate change: "I'm not a scientist. I'm interested in protecting Kentucky's economy."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on why we should take strict measures to prevent the spread of Ebola: ""I'm not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world."

I am not an expert, so we should probably just do whatever I say is a good conservative talking point that doesn't get used often enough.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on why he doesn't want to say how much human activity contributes to climate change: "I’d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are...Let the scientists debate and figure that out."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on why we should act preemptively to stop Ebola's spread: "It's pretty clear they refused to take common sense steps and call for the ban of these flights...That's been something I've been calling on for quite some time now. This is just common sense. Why in the world wouldn't we do this?"

You told us common sense dictated that we shouldn't be monitoring the nation's volcanoes, presumably because monitoring them ruined the element of surprise when one blew. Your common sense, to use the scientific term for it, sucks.

So the climate experts are telling us that climate change is real, and the medical experts are telling us that any safety we feel from banning direct flights to West Africa won't be real, and in both cases the answer is to ignore the experts and just do the thing that ideology demands because it feels good. Well, at least it's consistent. You can base a whole movement around it.

Help elect more Democrats. When Democrats win, science wins.

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13:22 The Tech Behind Apple Pay: Is Your Money Secure?» LiveScience.com
Go ahead and forget your wallet. Apple's new mobile payment app, Apple Pay, launched today (Oct. 20), and security experts say this high-tech way to pay seems like a safe alternative to swiping your credit or debit card.
13:00 Election Diary Rescue: Week 41» Daily Kos
DKos Miner 14
The following diaries are examples of this week's Election Diary Rescue. This post features a collection of 105 diaries.

(SD-Sen) A prairie populist: Climate Hawks Vote endorses Rick Weiland by RLMiller - In the increasingly interesting race for the Senate in South Dakota, Climate Hawks Vote gives a ringing endorsement to the Democratic candidate Rick Weiland, a strong opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. His opponents are Incumbent Governor Mike Rounds (R) and former Republican and now Independent candidate Larry Pressler.

(NC-06) The Devil made him do it: pastor Mark Walker (R; NC-06) forswears PAC money, taps 25 PACs for $100K by DocDawg - Diarist has info on North Carolina's US House district 06 with candidates Laura Fjeld (D) and Mark Walker (R).

(FL-Gov) Crist had a fan at his feet and Rick Scott threw a temper tantrum by Vetwife - I have never heard so much BS wrapped in an opening statement since my son tried to explain to me that his homework was not due for 5 weeks in the 6th grade.

They will steal your democracy unless you show up at the polls by Burt Hall - The most dangerous problem in America is an attack on democracy that's been going on for 20 years. The great Republican moderates have all but disappeared since the right wing took the party, and they mean to take democracy itself. Voting is the only way to defeat them.

This is the 41st weekly edition of Election Diary Rescue. It covers rescued down-ticket election diaries published from Sunday, October 12 through Saturday, October 18. We hope you enjoy the following gems dug up by our dedicated team of miners.

Diaries: (105)
Senate: (25) posts, (10 states
House: (16) posts, (11) states, (12) districts
State and more: (45)
General: (19)

12:30 Idaho wedding chapel files lawsuit demanding right to discriminate against same-sex couples» Daily Kos
Rainbow flag
Marriage equality continues to hurt businesschurch fee-fees.
Goal ThermometerFreedom and liberty have a new defender. It's the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which insists that having to accommodate same-sex couples will make a mockery of their deeply religious beliefs as to who should or should not be very religiously hitched and to which post. So with the help of the usual freedom-lovers, they're making a preemptive stand.
The complaint suggests that because the city will only prosecute businesses who oppose same-sex marriages, it constitutes “rank viewpoint discrimination.” They seek to have the law declared unconstitutional, at least as applied to them, for violating their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under the law, and due process of law. As ordained ministers with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, they worry that they risk discipline from the Church if they perform a wedding not sanctioned by their beliefs.
Ah, the perils of running a public business that has to serve all comers, even gay people and ethnic people and women who wear pants instead of dresses. How will the righteous survive?
Indeed, the Hitching Post is a for-profit business, but with help from [Alliance Defending Freedom], the Knapps have been gearing up for this challenge for some time by redefining their business in more religious terms. [...]

Jeremy Hooper notes that back in May when it was first in the news, the Hitching Post Chapel’s website said that the Knapps offered a “traditional or civil ceremony” for weddings and that they also would “perform wedding ceremonies of other faiths.” Though the website still said as much as recently as October 9, 2014, the old language has been scrubbed and the Hitching Post now only offers “a traditional Christian wedding ceremony.”

This is the new battle line. We used to have a fairly clear grasp of what was a church and what was not a church; the new trend is to assert that your business is both a for-profit company and a religious institution, depending on who's asking. It's not just wedding venues and flower shops, now you have deeply religious hobby supply stores and God-seeking furniture factories and presumably even things like Fracking For Jesus, why not, which will be regular fracking but with the insistence that the chemicals injected into the ground are God's Love so everyone else has to shut up.
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I honestly don't know how this one will turn out. The theory that craft supply stores ought to be able to restrict the medical rights of their female employees if their owners have the Deep Spiritual Belief that those women might be sluts has opened up the door to, seemingly, any company being able to veto the legal rights of any employee or customer or truck driver if they can claim their religion says that person shouldn't have that established public right. If the place that sells Chinese-made pipe cleaners is now considered a corporate church, isn't a Hitching Post at least twice as sacred?
12:24 How a SWAT Team Killed an Innocent Man Outside His Childhood Home » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
A SWAT team mistook Sam Mullane for two suspects and shot him in the driveway.

In the middle of the night of May 31, 2012, a SWAT team arrived at a house deep in Oregon’s coastal forest, searching for two men suspected of a brutal beating in nearby Yachats. They were confronted by a man holding a rifle, and shot him dead.

The man they killed that night was Sam Mullane. He was not one of the two wanted men. Those men, Matthew Hubeny, 27, and Justin B. Wood, 25, had gone to Sam’s house to hide. They continued to hide in the house while Sam stepped outside, was confronted by the police and was killed. Sam died in the driveway of the house where he was raised, the house he had just 10 months earlier, on his 18th birthday, inherited from his father.

The Mullane house is located seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, in a place known as Tenmile Creek, Oregon. Tenmile is a narrow valley bordered by two national wilderness areas: Cummins Creek and Rock Creek Wilderness. Together they form the largest intact coastal temperate rain forest in the continental United States. The valley is mostly native forest: spruce, hemlock and Douglas fir trees with an understory of ferns, berries and wildflowers. It is a reminder of a former world, a lush world of beauty and biodiversity. Throughout the late 1980s and ’90s, its residents had engaged in a protracted struggle with the Forest Service, which had slated much of the Tenmile forest to be clear cut. By 2012 most of the valley had, as a result of their work and against all odds, been protected from logging.

Years ago, when someone asked Sam Mullane’s mother why she had come to this remote place, she said she came because nobody was watching you here. A few years later her son was killed by four men wearing night vision goggles. Most of us didn’t move to Tenmile to avoid police, although our reasons turned out to be as ironic as hers. We had moved to that remote, hidden place to garden, raise our kids, build a house and create a community. We moved there for a simple life and found ourselves in the middle of the war over the Northwest Forest. The last house on the road, the Mullane house, wasn’t part of our community, although in the early days we were friends with its caretaker and in later years the boy, Sam, played with some of our kids.

The road up Tenmile is narrow and winding, and it climbs, so that often you look down over steep cliffs and, if you aren’t careful, if you are drunk or reaching to find a station on the radio, you might, like Sam’s father, run off the road and be killed. There are huge trees on either side of the road. The police called Tenmile “no man’s land,” but mostly Tenmile was made up of families with young children. One of the pioneer women planted daffodils in various places and every spring they bloom. In May, there are wild irises and orange columbine. There are seven kinds of ferns. The Mullane house is the last one on the road.

The men hiding in the house that night had used the leg of a table to assault another man. They were in Sam’s house when a SWAT team arrived to conduct their mission. Presumably, Sam heard something and went outside to see what it was. He had a gun in his hand, a deer rifle. According to the police, he didn’t drop it when they told him who they were, and he didn’t drop it when they said to. They shot him as he walked away.

It’s hard to figure out exactly what happened the night of the shooting. The cops, the SWAT team, were supposed to determine who was in the Mullane house, in anticipation of serving a warrant. It was about midnight. They were creeping up on the house, out in the open, when Sam came outside with a flashlight and a gun. He was not pointing the gun. They were afraid his flashlight would interfere with their night vision goggles, the district attorney explained, which implies that the actions of the police were determined by the features of their technology. According to the police, our only remaining witnesses, they stood up, identified themselves and demanded that Sam drop his gun.

This wasn’t the first time the use of discarded military tools found its way to the forests of Oregon’s coast. In 1970 the defoliant commonly known as Agent Orange — that terrifying weapon brought to us by Dow Chemical and Monsanto — was withdrawn from military use in Vietnam. In order to recoup their losses, Agent Orange (2,4, D and 2,4,5,T) was then simply given a new name and marketed here as an aid to reforestation. It was used extensively throughout the Coast Range forest.  Birds and fish died. Orchards withered. Women miscarried. A doctor in nearby Waldport said that, in all his years of practice, he had never seen so many and such horrendous birth defects. In the early 1980s, a trapper named Vernon Hays commented that since the Forest Service spraying of the upper Tenmile Valley, there were “no critters left.”

“[W]e were essentially a human epidemiology study,” said local activist Carol Van Strum, in a newspaper interview in 1987. The Van Strums collected reams of documentation about the chemicals and the miscarriages and startling deformities found in the animals and babies in their community. Eventually Carol’s house burned down and her four young children died. The fact that many suspect the fire was not an accident at the very least illustrates the community’s deep suspicion and distrust of both government and corporations.

Wars don’t end. We bring them home. We bring traumatized men and women. We bring violence and horror. We bring weapons. War is a choice. Weapons are a choice, and what we do with those weapons is a choice. The military-style training of our police force is also a choice.

Once, almost 20 years ago, before Sam was born, a fugitive, a murderer, was arrested at the Mullane house. Back then, the police simply walked up to the door and knocked. They found the fugitive, still in possession of the murder weapon, handcuffed him, put him in their police car and took him away. But now things are different.

Now our police are often armed and outfitted as if they are military combatants. As if their job is not to protect, but to annihilate. Local police all over the country use weapons acquired from the Pentagon, and even small police forces often have paramilitary units — SWAT teams. Once used almost exclusively in cases of immediate threats to public safety, now high-tech, armored SWAT teams are deployed for common crimes.

When I asked why a SWAT team was sent that night, the district attorney told me that overwhelming force is believed to result in submission, but I think he’s wrong. We were at a World Trade Organization demonstration in Seattle when the police showed up in full body armor, with armored vehicles. Like something out of “Star Wars.” Suddenly it didn’t feel like a demonstration anymore but like a military operation. I think that often “overwhelming force” simply infuriates. Gaza is one example. Ferguson, another. Likewise for Sam. Instead of acquiescence, for Sam overwhelming force resulted in disorientation or anger. According to the police, when they confronted Sam that night, he did not obey their command to drop his gun, but told them “fuck you.”

Sam died because of the militarization of our police force, because of fear, because he wouldn’t drop his gun. The police said he appeared to be heading toward an outbuilding. He might have hidden behind there and shot at them. They shot because they were afraid. They shot because it was a botched raid. They shot because of their night vision goggles. They shot, they said, because they had no choice. They had no choice, they said.  But that isn’t true. They were there because of a series of choices.


12:20 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: The Florida GOP tries to embrace Fangate, and it does not go well» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

FL-Gov: The Republican Party of Florida has three spots (here, here, and here). The first is a pretty generic ad tying Democrat Charlie Crist to Obama, but the second ad is a lot more interesting.

It features debate clips of Republican Gov. Rick Scott going after Crist. When the moderators ask Crist for a rebuttal, it shows the Democrat with a fan for a face ... really. Clearly the GOP is trying to do some jujitsu over Scott's now legendary Fangate incident at Wednesday's debate, but this just feels weird rather than clever.

The party's third ad is in Spanish and features former Democratic Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, who lost re-election back in 2001, and Puerto Rico's former Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño, who was tossed in 2012. The GOP is clearly hoping that Ferré can appeal to some Democratic voters but it doesn't look like he has much pull anymore: He was last seen running for U.S. Senate in 2010, when he won only 5 percent in the Democratic primary.

Also on the GOP side, the Florida Chamber of Commerce contrasts Scott with Democrat Crist on jobs, while throwing in some jabs at Crist's career as a lawyer.

On the Democratic side, NextGen Climate goes after Scott for not believing in climate change.

Head below the fold for a roundup of campaign ads from races around the country.

12:15 Nigeria: How Ebola Was Contained in Africa's Largest City» LiveScience.com
Now that 42 days have passed without any new cases of Ebola in Nigeria, the country is officially Ebola-free, the World Health Organization declared today.
12:09 Hearing on Ebola response funding scheduled in Democratic Senate» Daily Kos
Senator Barbara Mikulski addresses the Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) Luncheon at Martins Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland on Monday, April 11, 2011...The MSBR is an organization that encourages the growth and development of aerospace-related business in Maryland...Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Hrybyk.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Goal Thermometer
Budget cuts in the past decade to the National Institutes of Health have hampered the U.S. response to the disease in Africa, according to the NIH director, who said "if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready." The Centers for Disease Control has had its emergency preparedness budget cut nearly in half since 2006. A Health and Human Services program to help hospitals prepare for "bio-disasters" has also been slashed. With that as a backdrop, House Democrats have been pushing for funding hearings, to little avail.

It's a different story in the Senate, though, where Sen. Barbara Milkulski has scheduled a hearing for November 6, two days after the election.

It would mark the first appropriations hearing on Ebola since Congress recessed in September. A number of other congressional panels have also held hearings examining the administration’s response to the deadly disease in recent weeks.

On Friday, Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Emily Cain told The Hill, “OMB is working with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other agencies to determine whether additional resources will be needed to address the epidemic beyond those provided in the Continuing Resolution.”

This hearing could be the first opportunity to try to determine whether our public health system is adequately prepared to deal with a potential infectious disease outbreak like Ebola, but it's also a great opportunity to talk about the diseases we are already dealing with—the flu, the enterovirus that's infecting children, paralyzing some—and whether the funding is in place to support healthcare providers across the country to respond.
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It could also be the administration's opportunity to begin making a case for more funding, if necessary. But don't expect that to be a simple request. There's already talk from the Republican House of forcing counter-productive travel bans to be included in the continuing resolution that has to pass before the end of the year to keep the government functioning.
12:02 Wyoming attorney general won't appeal marriage equality ruling» Daily Kos
Marriage equality demonstration
They just keep falling. Marriage bans, that is.
Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael says the state will notify a federal court at 10 a.m. Tuesday that it won't appeal last Friday's ruling that struck down the state's ban on gay marriage.
Since the notification will come Tuesday morning, Tuesday morning is when couples will be able to get their marriage licenses.
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As always, congratulations to the happy couples.
12:00 Midday open thread: Ebola panic, sex tech, Cronkite and the home office» Daily Kos
11:51 South Dakota ground game fleshes out as GOP rushes in reinforcements» Daily Kos
South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland campaigning at American Indian reservation. 2014
Rick Weiland, with the people he's fighting for.
Goal ThermometerJust a few moments ago, supporter #10,000 gave to the NDN Election Efforts PAC, the GOTV operation focused on American Indian reservations in the now-pivotal state of South Dakota. The $124,691 raised is slightly above my initial goal of $50,000 (which I considered overly optimistic at the time), and puts us well within reach of the PAC's entire 2014 GOTV budget of $200,000.

South Dakota Rep. Kevin Killer, head of the PAC, sends me an update on what the fresh funds are allowing them to do.

I hope this email finds you well and I do apologize for the delay in updates. I’ve been on the ground setting up and we are ready to go for these last 2 weeks. Before I begin the updates I just can’t say thank you enough for believing in all of us and our communities are forever grateful!

This past week in Pine Ridge, which is the largest of all the reservations, people are upbeat about voting. All of the tribes have been working against the Keystone XL pipeline since 2010 and its coming to a head this election because Rounds is running ads constantly in favor of it. Pressler, to my knowledge, isn’t in favor of it either but supports building more pipeline to transfer Balkan crude from ND. Most of the people we talked to so far know Weiland is against it and mention this when voting.

We’ve had close to 400 people vote early so far in Pine Ridge since the fundraising campaign started. Close to 100 are first time voters or purged off the list after having not voted in 4 consecutive elections. We registered over 100 people today and will be on it tomorrow and Monday 10/20, the last day to register for South Dakota.

With resources we have been able to recruit experienced organizers in Cheyenne River (NW South Dakota), Rapid City (Urban Natives are 13 percent of the total population), Pine Ridge, Rosebud (South Central SD), Crow Creek (Central SD), Sisseton (Dustina’s homelands/Eastern South Dakota) and Sioux Falls (Eastern SD) all working on getting Native populations out to vote. All of the organizers on the ground managing these places have worked previous elections with the average experience being 3 cycles.

We will have early voting sites set up on all reservations except for Crow Creek and will be pushing hard to find first time voters on Monday. After the deadline, we will hire people to go door to door to set up rides to the polls for early voting, election day, and providing voters with sample ballots/lit. We have great down ballot Native candidates running in Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Crow Creek and Rapid City. Most of the Tribes own their own radio stations so they can run GOTV ads up until Election Day.

Let me know if you have any ideas or questions and thank you again for your wonderful support.

Pretty amazing stuff—both the organizers on the ground making this happen, and the Daily Kos community for helping fund it. You are all incredible! What's more, in the combined fundraising page for both Democrat Rick Weiland and the NDN PAC, you guys (and me too!) have now broken $300,000. And that's in what, ten days?

Republicans are certainly noticing.

National money now is pouring into the state for team Rounds to counter the millions that Democrats and Democratic-leaning PACs are spending for Weiland. The big infusion of money is most obvious for both candidates in advertising. An observant person might notice that KELO’s newscasts seem a bit shorter as the station tries to cram in more political ads [...]

The National Rifle Association, the American Hospital Association and others also are trying to match the Democratic PACs supporting Weiland. They have put in money for print and radio ads.

Behind the scenes, national money is assembling a get-out-the-vote operation. Previously, the Rounds campaign had been relying largely on volunteers and parade appearances to build its GOTV operation. Now, with national money behind the effort, the campaign can hire professionals. Last week, Republican loyalists were getting phone calls offering them up to $15 an hour to knock on doors and make phone calls to help build a GOTV network for Election Day.

It's all-hands-on-deck time. Conservatives have decided that they won't sit on the sidelines and lose this race. About 10,000 of us have decided the same thing on our side. But there are more of us who have yet to engage.

Now's about as good a time as any. It's either that, or you cede the floor to the NRA.

11:50 Guess Who Gives More of Their Money to Charity: People Who Make More or Less Than $200k a Year?» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Philanthropy and income have an inverse relationship.

Billionaire CEO Nicholas Woodman, news reports trumpeted earlier this month, has set aside $450 million worth of his GoPro software stock to set up a brand-new charitable foundation.

“We wake up every morning grateful for the opportunities life has given us,” Woodman and his wife Jill noted in a joint statement. “We hope to return the favor as best we can.”

Stories about charitable billionaires have long been a media staple. The defenders of our economic order love them — and regularly trot them out to justify America’s ever more top-heavy concentration of income and wealth.

Our charities depend, the argument goes, on the generosity of the rich. The richer the rich, the better off our charitable enterprises will be.

But this defense of inequality, analysts have understood for quite some time, holds precious little water. Low- and middle-income people, the research shows, give a greater share of their incomes to charity than people of decidedly more ample means.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the nation’s top monitor of everything charitable, last week dramatically added to this research.

Between 2006 and 2012, a new Chronicle analysis of IRS tax return data reveals, Americans who make over $200,000 a year decreased the share of their income they devote to charity by 4.6 percent.

Over those same years, a time of recession and limited recovery, these same affluent Americans saw their own incomes increase. For the nation’s top 5 percent of income earners, that increase averaged 9.9 percent.

By contrast, those Americans making less than $100,000 actually increased their giving between 2006 and 2012. The most generous Americans of all? Those making less than $25,000. Amid the hard times of recent years, low-income Americans devoted 16.6 percent more of their meager incomes to charity.

Overall, those making under $100,000 increased their giving by 4.5 percent.

In the half-dozen years this new study covers, the Chronicle of Philanthropy concludes, “poor and middle class Americans dug deeper into their wallets to give to charity, even though they were earning less.”

America’s affluent do still remain, in absolute terms, the nation’s largest givers to charity. In 2012, the Chronicle analysis shows, those earning under $100,000 handed charities $57.3 billion. Americans making over $200,000 gave away $77.5 billion.

But that $77.5 billion pales against at how much more the rich could — rather painlessly — be giving. Between 2006 and 2012, the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 alone increased by $1.04 trillion.

What the rich do give to charity often does people truly in need no good at all. Wealthy people do the bulk of their giving to colleges and cultural institutions, notes Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer. Food banks and other social service charities “depend more on lower income Americans.”

Low- and middle-income people, adds Palmer, “know people who lost their jobs or are homeless.” They’ve been sacrificing “to help their neighbors.”

America’s increasing economic segregation, meanwhile, has left America’s rich less and less exposed to “neighbors” struggling to get by. That’s opening up, says Vox policy analyst Danielle Kurtzleben, an “empathy gap.”

“After all,” she explains, “if I can’t see you, I’m less likely to help you.”

The more wealth concentrates, the more nonprofits chase after these less-than-empathetic rich for donations. The priorities of these rich, notes Kurtzleben, become the priorities for more and more nonprofits.

The end result? Elite universities get mega-million-dollar donations to build mahogany-appointed students dorms. Art museums get new wings. Hospitals get windfalls to tackle the diseases that spook the high-end set.

Some in that set do seem to sense the growing disconnect between real need and real resources. Last week billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn announced a $50 million gift to help Cornell University set students up in “real-world experiences” that address the challenges hard-pressed communities face.

“When you go out beyond the classroom and into the community and find problems and have to deal with people in the real world,” says Einhorn, “you develop skills for empathy.”

True enough — but in a society growing ever more unequal and separate, not enough. In that society — our society — the privileged will continue to go “blind to how people outside their own class are living,” as Danielle Kurtzleben puts it.

We need, in short, much more than Empathy 101. We need more equality.


Related Stories

11:39 Virtual Reality Could Let Astronauts 'Go to the Beach'» LiveScience.com
Spending long periods of time in space can be a psychologically demanding experience, but a new virtual reality system could give NASA astronauts a welcome escape.
11:36 Just how nuts is Republican Sen. Rand Paul?» Daily Kos
Rand Paul speaking at LPAC 2011 in Reno, Nevada.
Pretty nuts.
I had forgotten that Sen. Rand Paul was an Alex Jones acolyte.
In 2010, before winning his Senate seat, Paul sat for an interview with Luke Rudkowski, a libertarian YouTube personality who specializes in quizzing political leaders about the plot to establish a "one-world socialist government." Rudkowski asked what Paul knew of the Bilderberg Group, a collection of government and business leaders whose annual conference is a favorite target of conspiracy-mongers. Paul replied, "Only what I've learned from Alex Jones." [...]

Paul described the group to Rudkowski in unequivocally Jonesian terms, as "very wealthy people, who I think manipulate and use government to their own personal advantage. They want to make it out like world government will be good for humanity. But guess what? World government is good for their pocketbook."

Goal ThermometerSo apparently the Rand Paul apple doesn't far fall from the Ron Paul tree—oh, and Rand is also a fan of the theory that our government is conspiring to combine the North American nations into one nation and currency, of course.

That pretty much sums up the problem with the modern Republican Party. Their most influential voices are nearly all conspiracy theorists who demand policies that will subvert imaginary threats. You've got the people convinced Muslims have infiltrated the government, you've got the people certain that the government is hoarding everything from ammunition to "disposable coffins" in preparation for something, and you've got the huge arc of people certain that the United Nations is this close to overthrowing America, which is akin to saying your local Walmart is this close to being overthrown by a plastic fern in the manager's office.

There's also the question of how we've come to be so well-stocked with former medical doctors who believe thoroughly crazy things. Where do they come up with these people? As it turns out, via a fringe group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a veritable John Birch Society of the medical profession. They're some of the people behind the current Ebola-will-kill-us-all theories.

[I]t turns out the AAPS is a conspiracy theory group founded in 1943 "to fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine."

They've been around ever since opposing Social Security, Medicare and various other government programs. And they cropped up again as a player in the Tea Party-infused opposition to Obamacare in 2009-10. But they were on to Obama much earlier. Like in 2008 when they suggested that President Obama was not simply a gifted orator but actually "deliberately using the techniques of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), a covert form of hypnosis developed by Milton Erickson, M.D.?"

The group's journal has also claimed that humans have not contributed to climate change, that HIV does not cause AIDS, that abortion causes breast cancer, that undocumented immigrants are flooding the US with leprosy and various other claims that are either discredited within the actual medical community, based on conspiracy theories or simply insane.

So who would be a member of a group like that? Rand Paul, of course.
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There's talk of him running for president, you know. That would be pretty damn funny, except for the part where a sizable chunk of the entire Republican base, fed chunks of these various conspiracy theories on a daily basis by Fox News, is perfectly willing to believe all of this stuff. The line between fringe groups and Reince Priebus Republicanism has been blurred to the point of near-invisibility as the party (did I mention Fox News?) seeks to embrace any scrap of hokum that could usefully inflame their base. Whether it be Rand Paul, or Ben Carson, or (sigh) apparently every last Texas Republican, it's the Alex Jones Republicans who are in charge. If all of that has resulted in a national leadership that has proven itself something between incompetent and incoherent, that's hardly a surprise.
11:33 Drones Capture Stunning Killer Whale Footage | Video» LiveScience.com
Tiny flying drones have captured unprecedented footage of killer whales off the coast of Canada.
11:27 Pregnant woman's choice: Work overtime or lose your job. Thanks, GOP.» Daily Kos
U.S.Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks out after President Barack Obama announced the first five
You think the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate? Very funny.
Goal Thermometer

New York City passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in 2013, giving pregnant workers the right to reasonable accommodations like water breaks and light duty as long as it's possible without undue hardship to their employers. Some companies are not following the law, though. Like Fierman Produce:

... when Ms. Valencia told her supervisors in July that she had a high-risk pregnancy, they told her she could work only without restrictions, she said. After taking time off to try to negotiate an accommodation with the company, she returned when her co-workers volunteered to handle the heavy machinery and lifting.

In August, she said, her supervisors insisted that she work overtime. Ms. Valencia felt so ill after two lengthy shifts that she went to the hospital and then to her doctor, who gave her the letter [saying she could not work overtime] that she handed to her boss.

They fired her rather than let her work eight-hour days, a reasonable accommodation if ever there was one. Because New York City has the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, Angelica Valencia has a chance at something like justice—or at least a chance at getting back pay. As the city spreads the word about the law to employers and workers, and perhaps after a few well-publicized cases of employers getting in trouble for breaking the law, there should be fewer cases of women treated as Angelica Valencia was treated.

New York City isn't alone, but unfortunately it isn't the standard, either. Several states and cities have passed versions of the law, but like so many other basic workplace protections, Republicans in Congress have blocked the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act at the federal level.

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As Republicans try to win by whipping up fear of Ebola and terrorism, voters need to know that what the GOP wants to distract them from is bills like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
11:20 Politico in disarray» Daily Kos
A worker in a hazardous material suit removes the contents of the apartment unit where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas, Texas, October 6, 2014. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to develop Ebola in the United States, was stru
Goal Thermometer

Scary news, breaking from Politico:

POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Uh-oh. I guess this means the GOP has scored another big political win by blaming Obama for Ebola, right? Well, sure, except the poll—which was conducted from October 3-11 in House districts and states with "competitive" races (pdf)—only had one question about Ebola, and that question found that most voters actually had some or a lot of confidence in the government response to Ebola:
How much confidence do you have that the U.S. government is doing everything possible to contain the spread of Ebola?

A lot/some confidence: 61%
Not much/no confidence: 33%

Given those numbers, how on Earth did Politico reach the conclusion that Ebola represents a grave threat to Democratic political fortunes? Because, they say:
Voters who intend to support Republicans in the most consequential Senate and House elections this November had significantly less confidence in the federal government’s response to the occurrence of Ebola, according to a new POLITICO poll.
Specifically, Republicans had 43 percent confidence while Democrats had 81 percent confidence. But that doesn't tell us that Ebola imperils Democrats ... it tells us that people have partisan views of whether government is working. Duh.
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Oh, and one other thing. The poll did ask a generic ballot horse race question, and you know what they found? Democrats leading:
If the election for the [U.S. House of Representatives/U.S. Senate] were held today, would you vote for the [Democratic candidate] or the [Republican candidate] in [your district/your state]?

Democratic candidate (incudes KS-I): 41% (44% w/leaners)
Republican candidate: 36% (41% w/leaners)
Don't know: 23% (14% w/leaners)

To summarize: Politico poll found roughly 2:1 confidence to no confidence ratio on the government's Ebola response, with Republicans more critical than Democrats, and found that Democrats led Republicans in the horserace ... yet somehow they decided that what their poll really showed was that Ebola is a problem Democrats.
11:00 Daily Kos Elections Early Voting Report: Democrats showing some red state strength» Daily Kos
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) needs strong Democratic turnout to win, and she may be getting it
Goal Thermometer

Leading Off:

Georgia and North Carolina:

For weeks all eyes were on Iowa, but attention is finally shifting to other states where the early voting stakes are high. In-person early voting began last week in Georgia and continued over the weekend—the first time ever that Georgians were able to vote on a Sunday. In Colorado, which is implementing a new all-mail voting system, ballots finally went out and some have already started trickling back in. In Florida, we have reached the mark of 900,000 ballots cast, and the numbers should quickly increase as in-person voting is starting Monday.

Let's start by taking a look at a potentially bright spot for Democrats, Georgia and North Carolina. These two Southern states are the only ones that release statistics about whether voters also cast a ballot in 2010, which can provide some rare hint as to whether these early voters represent a change in the electorate or just a shift in how voters prefer to vote.

In Georgia, 20 percent of early voters had not cast a ballot in 2010—and they're slightly less likely to be white than those who had. In North Carolina, an impressive 43 percent of absentee ballot requests have come from voters who didn't vote in 2010, and registered Republicans lead by just 4.6 percentage points among them compared to their much larger lead of 13 percentage points among repeat voters. These may be signs that an effective Democratic turnout operation is succeeding at turning out new voters.

North Carolina Democrats started unexpectedly strong in mail voting statistics last week, an anomaly given the GOP's traditional strength. For example, in 2010, Republicans cast 44 percent of mail ballots versus just 35 percent for Democrats. The numbers regressed toward the usual dynamic over the past week, with the GOP grabbing a 10-percent lead among absentee ballot requests.

But in-person early voting has not started yet—it will not until the last week before the election since state Republicans cut the early voting period—and when it does expect Democrats to close that gap.

Georgia is a perfect example of how the start of in-person voting transforms the early voting outlook: Nearly as many Georgians voted in the first day of in-person early voting alone21,135 last Monday, October 13—than there are who have sent their ballots in by mail. As of Friday night, more than 90,000 Georgians had voted in-person, and as is usually the case, black voters are casting ballots at a greater share among in-person voters than among mail voters, so the latest numbers are more in-line with what Democrats want to see than they were a week ago, before in-person voting started.

Plenty of races are going to come down to the wire. Please chip in $3 so we can finish strong on Election Day.

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Head below the fold for a look at more early vote tea leaves from across the country.
10:55 An Open Letter to the U.S. and Israel: You Can Rescue the Rule of Law From Laughter» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
A member of the jury at the Russell Tribunal in Brussels recalls witnesses' accounts on the dire situation in Gaza.

(Paul Laverty was a member of the Jury at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which heard expert testimony on the situation in Gaza following the 51 day onslaught during July and August of 2014.  The emergency session of the Tribunal took place on the 24th of September 2014 in Brussels.) 

c/o Sixteen Films, London.

7th of October 2014

Dear President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and President of the European Commission Mr Jose Manuel Barroso.

By some quirk of fate, because I write scripts, I found myself listening to eye witnesses.  I feel duty bound to write to you to let you know what these eye witnesses reported to us, the jury, at the emergency session of the Russell Tribunal on Gaza in Brussels on the 24th of September 2014. 

There is a long tradition of eyewitnesses reporting to the powerful. Bartolome De Las Casas and Padre Antonio Montesinos (the latter murdered) two radical priests from the 16th century reported to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain about what they had seen with their own eyes; massacres and abuses of the Indians in what is now Latin America.  They were the first voices of conscience raised against that Empire and Bartolome’s account is still in print 500 years later.  Did they feel in their hearts it was a naive gesture? 

I listened to these eyewitnesses alongside fellow jurors  Mr Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Vandana Shiva, the world renowned environmental thinker, Mr Ronald Kasrils, a former South African freedom fighter (President Obama, you would enjoy his stories of dodging assassins in London) who later became Minister for Intelligence Services in his country.  Just shows you how political power can flip.  I also had the good fortune to meet some of the world's most eminent lawyers including Michael Mansfield QC presently representing the wonderful Liverpool families at the Hilsborough enquiry, Mr John Dugard a widely respected jurist who was once on the UN commission of Human Rights, and former UN Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Territories Mr Richard Falk, more of whom later. I am sure you will know of the other jury members, the award winning novelist from Cairo Ahdaf Soueif, whose riveting accounts of revolution and counter revolution in Egypt gripped many of us, my own colleague and fellow film maker Ken Loach, Miguel Angel Estrella (imprisoned and tortured by the military dictatorship in Uruguay in 1977 and finally freed in 1980) classical pianist and UNESCO goodwill Ambassador,  and the human rights activist, (now suffering death threats) who opposed torture in her country, Tunisia, Radhia Nasraoui.

But a few preliminary matters first.  Why I am writing to you?

It is very simple.  You three have the power and responsibility in your hands to change the lives of 1.8 million people in Gaza tomorrow.  You can begin the long process of rescuing the rule of law from laughter.

Concerning the Russell Tribunal, a few basic points.  As you know from the first rule of politics, follow the money, and you will always discover the essential character of any institution. 

This emergency session of the Tribunal was all cobbled together by a combination of NGOs, grass-root organisations, trade unions, trusts and church groups who are all short of money.  The reason this civic initiative came to fruition was due to in large part to dozens of volunteers making it possible. 

Secondly it does not pretend to be a court of law.  As Professor Richard Falksaid it is a "venue for truth telling."  A place not to discover and test the truth as in a criminal court of law, but to document existing eye witness accounts, much of it already accepted in the public domain, and to place that testimony, with the aid of expert legal advice, in context, with present International law and draw conclusions.  I can imagine that it is possible some inaccuracy seeps through, but the grand thrust of the presentations as we listened had the ring of witnesses sharing their lived experiences. 

Yes, the Israeli Government was invited but declined to make any presentations.

The over-arching essential fact in international law as pertaining to Gaza, as Mr Michael Mansfield QC pointed out, is the reality that Gaza is an illegally "occupied territory" and as a consequence the people in Gaza have a right to resist the Israeli occupation in exactly the same way, and with as much legal legitimacy as the French Resistance had the right to oppose Nazi occupation during the second world war.Isn't that a stunning fact, which seems to have escaped nearly every news presenter and interviewer who framed stories on Gaza during the conflict? How effective this combination of news spinners, tugging the forelock to the powerful, and mediocre journalism (with many brave exceptions) has been to set the agenda, and set the parameters of a skewed “common sense”. As Mr Tim Llewellyn, a one time veteran BBC Middle East reporter, who knows the Corporation inside out said recently in a meeting in London, anyone who challenges the dominant narrative is soon put on the "naughty step".

And yes, the Tribunal would accept that indiscriminate rocket attack by resistance fighters against Israeli civilians, 7 of whom died, is a crime against international law.    

So why have the Tribunal at all? 

As I listened to some of the best legal minds of our day cite the law, interpret the statutes, explain the context and give legal opinions I could not but help imagine science fiction stories of alternative parallel realities.  Yes, international law and legal obligations exist, but they are as solid to the people of Gaza as the morning mist.  Either your country, President Obama, vetoes investigations and prosecutions via the Security Council, or your country Mr Netanyahu, if a decision or resolution is made by UN bodies, as for instance the infamous decision by the International Court of Justice (by a majority 14-1) condemning the wall running through “occupied Palestinian Territory”, just ignores them, swatted away like harmless flies  or you, President Baroso, seem determined to acquiesce alongside powerful friends.  In particular President Obama, and President Barroso, isn't a disgrace you put such pressure on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to sign up to the International Criminal Court which would open up further legal possibilities, but that you have threatened to cut off aid if he does? 

The simple fact is this. International law exists on paper, but it is only ever implemented when it suits the powerful. Mind the gap; the Grand Canyon of Hypocrisy, obvious to the poor, the angry and marginalised, and it is left to this makeshift civic response, this underfunded ad hoc Peoples' Tribunal, to try and cast a little spider web of hope from one side of the canyon to the other, from the rule of law on one side to its far distant implementation for all, on the other.

So that is why we had the Tribunal, the only public forum where we can draw attention to this festering sore, just as Bertrand Russell did all these years ago with the first Tribunal on Vietnam and from whom this initiative draws inspiration. Bertrand Russell wrote on the 13th of November 1966 “May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence”.

As we entered the Albert Hall in the centre of Brussels there was a quiet dignified crowd of some 500 who waited patiently for the witnesses to give their testimony.  For the record Mr Netanyahu, there were no wide eyed racist anti-Semites in evidence.  There was a broad selection of the local population stretching from students to many elderly retired men and women who were appalled by what they had witnessed on TV during this summer.  It struck me as the type of audience with which I am now very familiar, who in years gone by would have been stunned and moved by the most frightening footage I have ever seen, Alan Resnais's documentary, scripted by concentration camp survivor Jean Cayrol, called Night and Fog shot in 1955 in Auschwitz.  I would recommend it to everyone.

In those first tense moments of the morning as we nervously took our seats, and I for one felt like an impostor in a situation well beyond my competence, (do you powerful men ever feel like that?) I found my mind drifting off to a character I recently had the good fortune to stumble across and I want to introduce you to him.  His name was Adomnán.  He was once the 9th Abbot of Iona, the famous holy island just off the West Coast of Scotland, where Saint Columbus built his first monastery.  As I looked out to the crowd of 500 in the hall I imagined 500 Adomnáns.  Adomnán was a man moved by a deep compassion for the innocent in time of warfare.  He was appalled by the suffering of women and children in particular.  So, along with the best legal minds of the day, he summoned a Synod in the year 697.  Yes, one thousand three hundred and seventeen years ago, long before the notion of a nation state even existed. He got together a gathering of the most powerful men, 91 Kings, Bishops, Chiefs and Abbots - a Whos´s Who of the most influential of the day, and by some miracle he goaded them to travel to a place called Birr in what would now be County Offaly in Ireland.  And in 697, yes, 1,317 years ago, they not only formulated the "Lex Innocentium" that is, they articulated and wrote down laws to protect women, children, and the clergy who were unarmed during war, but he somehow got these 91 men to guarantee the law, and set out fines and penalties to those who broke the law. These leaders agreed that the "Lex Innocentium" would be binding in their territories. In other words, they formulated binding international law which they guaranteed to enforce which would protect the innocent.  A magnificent example of decency and organisation that seems hidden from history.

As we shuffled to our seats on the 24th of September 2014, at the heart of civilised Europe, a mere stones throw from the European Commission HQ, I wondered if Adomnán had as much difficulty implementing the Lex Innocentium 1,317 ago, as we do today with the Geneva Conventions?     

But before I mention the witnesses we did hear, can I make a special mention of some we did not.  Two of the three witnesses who live and work in Gaza permanently were not allowed to leave and travel to Brussels to give their evidence.  Was that the doing of Israel or Egypt, or collaboration between both?  The first is Raji Sourani the highly esteemed human rights activist, (who received the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Award for Human Rights, a former Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience, and much more besides) who co-founded the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza.  And the second was Ashraf Mashharawi, a prize winning Palestinian film maker, who lives and works in Gaza.  In fact, the only witness who actually made it, only got out because he had dual nationality and another passport. 

I did manage to speak directly to Raji Sourani several years ago, and what he told me is ingrained in my mind.  He told me that those who control the checkpoints into Gaza were purposefully not allowing enough chemicals into Gaza to purify the water to an acceptable and safe level.  "They are poisoning us slowly" he said.   I wonder what Raji might have said this time.  Eye witnesses can be upsetting.

In the year 697 there were no ambulance drivers.  I wish you could have heard the evidence of Doctor Mohammed Abou Arab, a Palestinian surgeon based in Norway who went to volunteer in Gaza during the crisis.  He told us of his colleague Mohammad, an ambulance worker, dressed in his medical uniform, driving in a marked ambulance, and how he was shot dead on the 25th of July.  By coincidence I met Doctor Mohammed at the airport.  This quiet modest man told me of their gruelling 18 hour shifts and desperate attempts to save the continuous line of savagely injured patients.  He told me of the heroic work of Palestinian health workers risking their lives, who despite the shortages of medicines, improvised in the most imaginative fashion to bring as much relief as they could to the agonised.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian surgeon, also gave evidence in the most stunning fashion.  This man had an electric presence, and along with his expertly prepared statistics, he spoke and showed photographs of his patients. I wondered how a man can keep calm in the midst of so many ripped bodies, life hanging by the thread of his instantaneous judgements.  No video link will do justice to the testimony of a man who has picked out shrapnel from a child’s neck. In addition, 83 health personnel were injured and 21 health workers died.  17 out of the 32 hospitals were damaged and 6 were closed down.  45 primary health centres were damaged and 17 had to be closed.  On top of all this Gaza had to deal with over 10,000 war casualties.  Statistics never do justice to the particular.  He showed us a photograph a young boy buried to the neck in debris, squeezed between smashed concrete pillars, who by some miracle was dug out alive.  The photograph of a double amputee or burned children with raw flesh instead of skin, was almost too much to stomach.  I saw one of my fellow jurors cry as Mads explained his work.  Roger Waters commented after it felt like a descent into hell.  Ken Loach asked Mads if there was any evidence he saw or heard concerning resistance fighters using medical facilities to fight and he said there was none that he knew of.  And if there had been, he and his fellow medics would have demanded they leave.  Could the strikes against the medics, marked ambulances, hospitals or medical centres be accidents in the midst of chaos?  He did not believe this and was of the opinion, because of the scale and intensity, they were deliberate and systematic, and in any event, he asked, how could it be accidental if the Israeli army itself boasted their targeting was 90 % accurate. Prime Minister Netanyahu, can you clarify? 

Mads Gilbert showed us a letter he and his fellow surgeons addressed to Ban Ki Moon General Secretary of the  United Nations at the height of the bombing begging for a safe corridor to be created between the hospitals and the border to ferry out the thousands of injured they could not treat properly.  It was never answered.  Shame on you Mr Ban Ki Moon.   

The only Palestinian living in Gaza who managed to come to Brussels (because he has two passports, including a Dutch one) was award winning (Martha Gellhorn Prize 2009) journalist Mohammed Omer who told us of summary executions by the Israelis of civilians including a 64 year old man.  We heard more testimony of Palestinian civilians who spoke Hebrew being picked out specifically for summary execution. 

But I want to draw special attention to the testimony of one man in particular -Eran  Efrati.  Eran is a former sergeant in the Israeli army.  He was one of the first to expose the use of white phosphorous in operation Cast Lead from 2008.  In this present operation he gathered more testimonies from soldiers of summary execution by snipers.  I bumped into Eran during a tea break and asked him how difficult it was to give evidence.  He comes from a military family in Israel who have now cut him off totally and his only family connection is with a brother who lives outside the country.  I found myself wondering about his personal safety in Israel and what might happen to him in the future. A brave man. President Obama, President Barroso, at least the wrath you would face from sticking to principle would only be political.

The evidence was almost overwhelming, from the figures given by one time Irish Col Desmond Travers, a military expert who told us that over 700 tons of ordinance, 14 times the amount dropped during the previous attack in Cast Lead, from carpet bombs to god knows what, much of it full of depleted uranium, and how it had a devastating effect on built up areas.  Toxicity now too will be a deadly legacy for years to come.  Desmond reminded us of the tragedy in Faluja, Iraq, where babies born to this day, ten years after the conflict,  are born with horrendous birth defects.  From Col Desmond Traver's 700 tons, Paul Mason the well respected journalist from C 4 news whose marvellous reports from Gaza made such an impression (giving evidence in a personal capacity) produced a little plastic bag full of shrapnel he had picked up from tank shells for us to examine.  He was of the opinion that it was the massive use of tank shells in heavily built up areas which caused much of the horrific damage to the civilian population.  These chunky fragments of jagged metal, heavy to the touch, were just like those extracted from a child shown to us in a photo by surgeon Mads Gilbert.  In Paul´s written evidence too he wrote about the use of drones from the sky.  "Many drone strikes are a form of extrajudicial killing of non combatants."

The footage presented by Martin Lejeune a young German journalist who lived in one house along with another 72 homeless civilians demonstrated the massive devastation to the Gaza infrastructure.  He estimated that perhaps up to 70% of Gaza industrial capacity was destroyed including the only power station, the largest mosques and the most popular tv station.  Agricultural areas too were decimated, as well as many of the cows, whose owner insisted did not have an opinion one way or another on Hamas.  The numbers of those who have lost their homes is in the hundreds of thousands and his video footage of mass devastation left the hall hushed.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, let me ask you a direct question.  As one of the most sophisticated armies in the world, with drone cameras recording every meter of Gaza (all triangulated and filmed as Paul Mason pointed out) can you tell me if you really meant to bomb the one sweet factory in Gaza?  Or was this the ultimate cruelty to the children of this open prison?

Which brings me to the evidence of Ivan Karakashian, co-ordinator of Defense for Children International-Palestine.  The number of children killed was at least 490, and I missed the number of injured. But it was a shock to learn how young teenagers were used as human shields by the army.  One youngster (we saw his recorded interview) was forced to strip off, interrogated, whipped with barbed wire, and made to stay with soldiers for five days and used as a human shield.  He was of course traumatized.  But what struck deepest as I listened to the evidence was that an 8 year old child today in Gaza has now lived through 4 wars.  I have a seven year old son, but the leap of imagination to even guess how a child might be after those traumas is beyond me.  I have forgotten the number orphaned.  Ivan estimated that around 370,000 children now require psychological assistance.  How many delicate little connections in tiny minds will be destroyed forever? How many nightmares will not end as light comes?  How many sobs can one chest contain?  And what has that sewn down through future generations? If just one in a hundred grows with so much hate in his heart, and so much hopelessness in his soul, what will that person be capable off in the future?

I am wilting here as I remember the evidence of independent Canadian journalist David Sheen now living in Israel.  Perhaps this was the most terrifying of all. David presented example after example of the call to murder of Palestinians on Israeli social media.  We can cringe at the anonymous morons who inhabit the internet and spew hatred, but what is going on in your country Prime Minister Netanyahu when senior politicians and leading religious figures call for mass murder.  We heard outrageous quotes from the now deceased rabbi Ovadia Yosef who can hardly be a marginal figure if 800,000 turned up for his funeral. I quote Israeli legislator Ayelet Shaked´s widely reported article, July 2014, posting with approval an article by one time advisor to you Mr Netanyahu, Mr Uri Elitzur, who wrote “What is so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and arguing for the destruction of "its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure" and stating that the "mothers of terrorists" should be destroyed, "as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes."  This young legislator is a senior figure in the Jewish Home party which is part of the Government coalition.

But what is even more chilling is the open letter addressed to you Prime Minister Netanyahu on the 1st of August 2014 from your own Deputy Speaker, from your own Parliament, from your own Likud party, Mr Moshe Feiglin.

He states “What is required now is that we internalize the fact that Oslo is finished, that this is our country, our country exclusively, including Gaza. There are no two states, and there are no two peoples. There is only one state for one people.” 

In a section called “defining the tasks” he calls for the “conquest of the entire Gaza strip, and the annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.”  Given that the fighters have wide public support, and that Hamas won the election, this would mean death on a massive scale. 

Another of his calls was to “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.”

And there were many more examples, all easily found on the net.

 Expert witnesses explained to us that the above amounts to the crime of incitement to genocide in terms of international law.

This is not mere posturing.  Many of the witnesses have a genuine fear of genocide "next time round."  Paul Mason too picked up on a chilling "genocide narrative" in both communities, but it is clear which side has the potential and the military might to carry it out.

Genocide is a possibility on the horizon, please take notice, President, Prime Minister and President. Genocide.  I am reminded of the evidence of Doctor Paul Behrens, an expert on genocide who teaches at the University of Edinburgh.  He made an important point.  Genocide is often confused in the public mind with massacres on a grand scale like the Holocaust or the Armenian tragedies.  But according to the Genocide Convention of 1948 genocide has no minimum threshold.  In one of its terms genocide is committed when "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part".  Michael Mansfield QC was of the opinion that the "mens rea" or intention to destroy could be inferred from the intensity and pattern of the attacks, and at least there was the necessity of an investigation into this possible crime but this was not included in the final decision of the Tribunal.  But the Tribunal did issue a serious warning, “It is recognised that in a situation where patterns of crimes against humanity are perpetrated with such impunity, and where direct and public incitement to genocide is manifest throughout society, it is conceivable that individuals or the state may choose to exploit conditions in order to perpetrate the crime of genocide”.    

Prime Minister Netanyahu, we have seen clear incitement to genocide, but can you tell us if some of your colleagues are now planning genocide? If your Deputy Speaker can propose the above in public, what are your colleagues planning in private? Why will you not respect the Genocide Convention and prosecute the Deputy Leader to the Knesset, Mr Moshe Feiglin? Now, to Mr Richard Falk.  The devil is in the detail. Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International law at Princeton University and much more besides.  He was on the jury of the Tribunal and did not give evidence.  I sat beside him for a quick lunch break.  Between 2008 and 2014 Mr Falk was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights to Occupied Palestine.  In other words, he was appointed with the authority of the international community through its preeminent institution the United Nations to one of the world´s most important long running disputes.  When Mr Falk arrived in Israel to carry out his important mission in May 2008 he obviously did not expect the red carpet treatment.  But even the biggest cynic in the world could not have guessed what would happen next.  On touch down Mr Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights was arrested, thrown in prison, spent the night with other prisoners in a cell, and was deported the following morning.  He told me that this order came directly from the Foreign Minister of the Israeli Government because they did not agree with his appointment.  Such confidence in the puppet master who pays the bills, and guards their backs. 

When the West preaches about barbarism in this chaotic world, and respect for rule of law, let us remember Mr Richard Falk and this poison example of grand impunity. 

President Obama, Mr John Dugard, another renowned law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur told the Tribunal that the United States “supplies the most up to date tanks, fighter jets, helicopters and missile systems in addition to funding the Israel’s Iron Dome defence system. From 2008 to 2018 the United States is set to provide 30 billion dollars to Israel in military resistance” which he estimates works out at around 8.5 million dollars every day.  In these circumstances, after a detailed examination of the law he questions US complicity in war crimes.  He concludes “Undoubtedly the United States has a case to meet”.

President Obama, you must be aware that the public are not fools, and that your unconditional support for Israel undercuts every public announcement you make.  

President Barroso, how can you defend sanctions against Russia, but give full cooperation on trade matters to the State of Israel?  And your aid to burying the Goldstone report on previous abuses is not forgotten. 

Let me end with my old friend Adomnán, the 9th Abbot of Iona.  Here is my favourite section of the Lex Innocentium from 1,317 years ago.  "It is the same payment (fine for the crime) for someone who does the injury, and for the one who looks on and does not protect the victim with all his might".

The 9th Abbot of Iona did not have much sympathy for the idle bystander, and I suspect he did not recognise the distinction between violator and collaborator.   

Paul Laverty



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10:38 Terri Lynn Land the latest Republican to oppose a federal minimum wage» Daily Kos
Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land
Terri Lynn Land
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Add Michigan's Terri Lynn Land to the list of Republican candidates who don't have the nerve to argue for a lower minimum wage in their own states, but also don't think there should be any federal minimum wage at all. Responding to a questionnaire asking if she supported raising the minimum wage, Land began with some blah blah blah about how she supported the Republican move to raise Michigan's minimum wage a tiny amount, a move that only happened to keep a much larger increase from getting a ballot vote in November. So that was a bold stand, supporting the current law, and the fact that it kept her from facing voters who'd turned out to vote for a higher wage. Land concluded with this:

As a general rule, I believe this issue should be handled by the states, not the federal government.
So Terri Lynn Land believes there should be no federal floor on wages. However low politicians in any given state think they can get away with pushing down wages, that should be fine and dandy. Bear in mind that Land is seeking election to the United States Senate, a part of the federal government that she doesn't think should be involved in the issue of the minimum wage. In translation, if elected to the Senate, Land will not be voting to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Michigan should have a senator who supports a higher minimum wage. Please give $3 to elect Gary Peters.

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Land is just the latest Republican to oppose the federal minimum wage. Iowa's Joni Ernst also thinks states should be allowed to go as low as they want, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker thinks the minimum wage doesn't "serve a purpose."
10:32 With voter ID on hold in Wisconsin, Republicans call for vigilantes » Daily Kos
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.
Wisconsin Republicans getting desperate to keep Scott Walker's job.
Goal ThermometerTen days ago, the Supreme Court delayed implementation of Wisconsin's voter ID law until after this year's election. Since the Republicans there cannot count on the law to keep voters from the polls, they're calling for vigilantes to take the law into their own hands.
Milwaukee County’s Republican Elections Commissioner Rick Baas warned a crowd of volunteers and supporters Friday night to be "concerned about voter fraud," and urged the hundreds of attendees to take an "extra step of vigilance. […] You as a Wisconsin resident can challenge people who are not supposed to be voting," he said at the Milwaukee County Republicans event. "You’ve got to do that." […]

"There's a fine line by legitimate questions and harassment and intimidation," said Darryl Morin, the Midwest vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Morin told ThinkProgress that as a Republican it is "disappointing" to see such rhetoric coming from "a party that claims to be reaching out to minorities."

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) signed a law earlier this year allowing poll observers to be as close as three feet to a voter. Democratic lawmakers and progressive organizers have expressed concern that the measure could lead to greater harassment and intimidation and Morin said that some of LULAC’s Wisconsin members have already experienced such treatment when going to cast a ballot.

It is true that under state law, anyone can challenge a voter. But they can't do it just because, oh, let's say just because that person happens to be brown. Or young. Any person challenging a voter has to swear an oath that they have personal knowledge that the person trying to vote is not qualified. So what are Republican officials really calling for here? After all, it's not too likely that every Republican going to the polls is going to have direct knowledge about the people voting with them and whether they should be there. What they're calling for is intimidation of would-be voters based on profiling.
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Wisconsin voters need to be aware of their rights, and they need to be prepared to confront any of these potential vigilantes with the facts. But to make life easier, and to thwart these voter intimidation plans, they can also vote early, starting today.
10:10 Oops: Pro-McConnell lobbying group sends out endorsement mailer saying Mitch is 'For Sale'» Daily Kos

An instant classic campaign fail from the National Association of Realtors in their endorsement mailer backing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

National Association of Realtors mailer endorses Mitch McConnell with a
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Although surely not the message they intended to send, the mailer might have accidentally been one of the most honest mailers of the entire campaign given stories like this one:

One morning last month, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the minority leader, was dining with Richard H. Anderson, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines.
The breakfast was a rewarding one for McConnell, because:
Only one week after Sen. Mitch McConnell took the CEO of Delta Air Lines to breakfast in the exclusive Senate Dining Room last month, the airline executive and his wife wrote $10,000 worth of checks to help fund McConnell's political operation.
So yes, Mitch McConnell is indeed for sale. But in his defense, he's not cheap—he only sells out to the highest bidder.
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09:43 Echoes of COINTELPRO in Ferguson» Daily Kos

Letter from J. Edgar Hoover.
The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize. The pernicious background of such groups, their duplicity, and devious maneuvers must be exposed to public scrutiny where such publicity will have a neutralizing effect.

—J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, 1967 (in the letter above)

When Mike Brown was killed by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson on Saturday, August 9, in Ferguson, Missouri, the outrage from the community was palpable and started within seconds of the shooting. Not only did dozens of people see or hear the shooting, which took place at the peak of a hot, sunny day, but hundreds of gathering people witnessed Brown's lifeless body laying in the middle of the street for four more hours.

Protests of raw grief and despair didn't come a few days later, but started that very day on Canfield Drive—very much fueled by the horrific wails from Brown's parents, friends, and relatives. As soon as the protests began, something else happened and it has devolved into a much uglier narrative than one could have imagined over two months ago when Brown was killed. It's as if we've gone back in time.

Police and government tactics to intimidate, criminalize, humiliate, and undermine activists started on Day 1 in Ferguson and have only gotten worse, and the tactics used echo those of an earlier era.

Officially started in 1956 by the FBI, COINTELPRO (short for counterintelligence program) subversively investigated and undermined virtually every prominent African-American leader in the country for 15 years. A veritable Who's Who of leaders, ranging from Malcolm X to Fannie Lou Hamer to Jackie Robinson to Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King were investigated and interfered with on the deepest levels. Undercover agents spied on leaders, federal informants were planted inside of their organizations, disinformation was often deliberately spread with the intention of sowing discord and strife between leaders and organizations. To this day, huge volumes of the COINTELPRO documents are redacted, fueling speculation on just what they may be hiding 40 years later.

While the program was officially ended in 1971, echoes of COINTELPRO are reverberating in Ferguson, Missouri, today and leaders on the ground and supporters around the world report feeling the attempts to discredit them are constant. Read on for more ....

09:15 Republican releases absolutely gonzo internal poll to try to prove that his race isn't tied» Daily Kos
Iowa secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson
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Iowa's secretary of state race features a Republican candidate, Paul Pate, who wants to make it harder to vote, and a Democratic candidate, Brad Anderson, who wants to make Iowa number one in voter turnout. A pretty typical contrast between a Democratic and a Republican secretary of state candidate, in other words. The race is tight, too, according to a recent poll from USA Today/Suffolk University, which showed Pate with just a one-point lead, while nearly a third of voters are undecided. But now Pate's campaign is pushing back in truly hilarious fashion.

According to an internal poll, Pate is leading not by one point but by 10. But the devil is in the details:

Additionally, the respondents to the new VE poll said that they prefer “former Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate who supports a new voter identification law to former Obama campaign director Brad Anderson who opposes a new voter identification law 45.17 percent – 34.8 percent with still 20.04 percent undecided.
It's hard to believe any pollster would bother asking that question, or that any campaign would bother releasing it, but the quotation marks suggest that Pate's campaign really did have its pollster ask about "former Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate who supports a new voter identification law to former Obama campaign director Brad Anderson who opposes a new voter identification law." As opposed to, you know, the information voters will actually see on the ballot.
Brad Anderson wants more Iowans to vote. Isn't that worth $3 to help him win this close race for secretary of state?

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I'd look forward to the Anderson campaign answering by releasing a poll asking about "Paul Pate, who was fined in 1998 for using the office of secretary of state for partisan purposes, and Brad Anderson, who will offer all voters a free kitten," except I'm sure Anderson has better things to spend money on, like GOTV efforts.
09:01 Republicans who blocked surgeon general nominee blame Obama for surgeon general vacancy» Daily Kos
Doctor Vivek Murthy stands among other bystanders during the first day of legal arguments over the Affordable Care Act outside the Supreme Court in Washington March 26, 2012. U.S. President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare overhaul on Monday went before
Dr. Vivek Murthy, wearing a doctor's coat because he's a doctor.
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Almost one year ago, President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general, and the NRA went insane because Dr. Murthy, being a reality-based person, had once talked about the reality of gun violence being a public health issue. Which, of course, resulted in a flurry of vows from Republicans to block his nomination. Now that a particularly scary virus has come the U.S. (and affected approximately one-gazillionith of the population compared to gunshot wounds), people are noticing that it would be really nice to have the position filled. And, of course, Republicans are all saying it's President Obama's fault that we don't have one.
On "Meet the Press" yesterday, for example, Chuck Todd asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about the vacancy in the Surgeon General’s office. "This seems to be politics," the host noted. "The NRA said they were going to score the vote, and suddenly everybody’s frozen. That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?"

Blunt replied, "Well, you know, if the president really ought to nominate people that can be confirmed to these jobs, and frankly, then we should confirm them."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went even further during an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: Do you think it would have helped … had there been a surgeon general in place to kind of calm what has become the fear of Ebola?

CRUZ: Look – look, of course we should have a surgeon general in place. And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist.

To hear the Texas Republican tell it, Dr. Vivek Murthy isn’t even a "health professional," which is the exact opposite of reality.
That's news to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where Murthy is an attending physician and Harvard Medical School, where he teaches. What's more, any healthcare professional who doesn't have an opinion on the public health problem of what's truly an epidemic in the country—gun violence and accidental shootings—is either an ideologue or a not very well-qualified healthcare provider. Additionally, the surgeon general has no ability to make policy about guns, and Murthy himself testified that he would not use the position to advocate for gun restrictions.

And here are Republicans arguing that Murthy isn't a qualified health professional because the NRA—so well known as a public health advocacy group—told them so. But, it's all Obama's fault that we have Ebola in the U.S. and that we don't have a surgeon general to help deal with it.

Help elect more Democrats. When Democrats win, science wins.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. is on track to meet its annual average of 30,000 gun deaths and 100,000 victims of gun violence this year.
08:47 How Overblown Ebola Panic Could End Up Costing Billions» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Fear is even more expensive than medical costs.

According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly a quarter of Americans are worried about catching Ebola, despite the fact that their chances of actually getting it are vanishingly small at this point. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that two-thirds of Americans were worried about an Ebola epidemic in the US.

When people start freaking out about something like Ebola, predictable things happen. They start doing what social researchers call “cocooning.” They don’t travel or go on vacation. They don’t go out to restaurants as much. They may disrupt their work routine or insist that schools be closed.

The fear may be wildly out of proportion to the actual threat of the disease, certainly here in the U.S., but fear comes with its own threat, and Ebola panic is worse than that of past pandemic concerns. So far, it looks like American consumer sentiment has not been affected, and October reports show that excitement over cheap gasoline is trumping Ebola panic. But that could change. If you look at what happened in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in 2003, you find that retail sales plunged 10 percent. All told, SARS cost Hong Kong an estimated 2.6 percentage points in terms of GDP. In places like Lagos, Nigeria, shopping centers have already seen a drop of up to 40 percent in sales, even though Ebola has been contained so far in that country.

If you own any stocks, Ebola has likely already hit you in the wallet. Shares of airline stocks like United and American have dropped as investors get nervous about the possibility of travel bans for airlines from West Africa to Europe and the U.S.

The World Bank estimates that the global economic impact could reach more than $30 billion by the end of next year unless the virus keeps going. Over the weekend, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, issued warnings about the spread of panic and the importance of not isolating countries. Fear can be even more expensive than medical costs.

Marcelo Giugale, one of the authors of the World Bank report on Ebola, made this point very clearly: “What makes all this very interesting is that the final economic toll of Ebola will not be driven by the direct costs of the disease itself — expensive drugs, sick employees and busy caregivers. It will be driven by how much those who are not infected trust their governments.”

Irresponsible media outlets are ratcheting up anxiety with headlines like “Does Your Travel Seatmate Have Ebola?” Meanwhile, Internet survivalist groups are issuing warnings to people to avoid public spaces and public transportation.

All of which will only make the economy sick.  


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08:20 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Scathing Dissent Offers 12 Reasons Why Texas' New Voter ID Law Is Racist» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Ginsburg dissent calls out thinly veiled GOP voter suppression.

This weekend, U.S. Supreme Court reporters pulled an all-nighter waiting for the ruling on whether Texas’ new voter photo ID law, which may prevent up to 600,000 otherwise eligible voters from casting ballots this fall, would be allowed go into effect today.

The reporters were up until 5am on Saturday because Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the Court’s other women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were writing a dissent after the rightwing majority, voted—without writing a single word of comment—to let it take effect on Monday, when early voting in Texas begins.

It is not the only voting rights litigation that will affect who can vote in the midterm elections this fall. There is Georgia’s refusal to process more than 50,000 voter registrations from a minority voter drive. But as Ginsburg’s blistering 7-page dissent made clear, the fight over Texas’s voter ID law is in a class by itself. That’s because a lower federal court held a trial and found that the law’s intent was to discriminate and disenfranchise, calling it a “poll tax,” and then that record was ignored by higher federal appeals courts—including the Supreme Court.

“Texas did not begin to demonstrate that the Bill’s discriminatory features were necessary to prevent fraud or to increase public confidence in the electoral process,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent. What follows are the 12 major points she wrote:

1. This was a dispute about facts not fears. Unlike many other voting rights lawsuits, civil rights attorneys in this case did not sue without showing that there were real victims and harm. Ginsburg noted that important distinction writing that there had been a “full trial and resting on an extensive record from which the District Court found ballot-access discrimination by the State.”

2. But the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court ignored that. That’s right, judges in the first tier in the federal appeals court process decided to ignore the factual record. “The Fifth Circuit’s refusal to home in on the facts found by the district court is precisely why this Could should vacate the stay.” (This case came to the Supeme Court because the Fifth Circuit ignored the district court and ruled that the voter ID law could take effect.)

3. Texas’ previous voter ID requirements are ample. Ginsburg noted that the state would not be left without any legal means to ensure eligible voters were getting ballots at polling places. “Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for 10 years (from 2003 to 2013) and in five federal elections.”

4. Texas officials have not informed the public about the new law. There has been a lack of public education about the new law, which will lead to confusion at the polls as it is implemented, Ginsburg noted. “The District Court found “woefully lacking” and “grossly” underfunded the State’s efforts to familiarize the public and poll workers regarding the new identification requirements.”

5. The state is to blame for confusion at the polls. Ginsburg said the state, which claims it needs the stricter photo ID laws to protect the process’ integrity, will instead be to blame for creating chaos and confusion. “In short, any voter confusion or lack of public confidence in Texas’ electoral process is in this case largely attributable to the State itself.”

6. The law concerns only polling place voting. This is an easily overlooked point, because the stricter voter ID laws do not effect people who vote by mail—which often is the way the Republican Party tries to turn out its base—but only people who show up at polling places. “The bill requires in-person voting to present one of a limited number of government-issued photo identification documents,” she wrote, noting that this list is narrower than what is accepted in other states, citing Wisconsin.

7. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will have a hard time getting the ID. The ID law says that Texans can get a state-issued photo ID from police, but only in certain locations. “Those who lack the approved forms of identification may obtain an “election identification certificate” from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), but more than 400,000 eligible voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more.”

8. The trial court found that impact racist and discriminatory. “On an extensive factual record developed in the course of a nine-day trial, the District Court found Senate Bill 14 [the voter ID law] irreconcilable with Section 2 of the [federal] Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited discriminatory result.”       

9. Texas Republicans have a reason to stop minority voting. Ginsburg noted the motive behind the tougher ID law, which is that the state’s ruling class of mostly white Republicans is less and less representative of the state’s population as a whole.“In light of the “seismic demographic shift” in Texas between 2000 and 2010, making Texas a “majority-minority state,” the District Court observed that the Texas Legislature and Governor had an evident incentive to “gain partisan advantage by suppressing” the “votes of African-Americans and Latinos.”

10. Voter in-person fraud—the law’s rationale—is almost non-existent. The Republicans have been able to pass tougher voter ID laws because they cite a fear that people are showing up and the polls and voting more than once. Ginsburg noted that very claim was utterly exaggerated, saying, “Between 2002 and 2011, there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas.”

11. There is no reasonable basis for a tougher voter ID law. Ginsburg noted that the law is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, saying, “Texas did not begin to demonstrate that the Bill’s discriminatory features were necessary to prevent fraud or to increase public confidence in the electoral process.”

12. The law is correctly called a poll tax. That term is from the Jim Crow era, where white southerners imposed unreasonable hurdles and costs on minorities to prevent them from voting. “Under Senate Bill 14, a cost attends every form of qualified indentification available to the general public,” Ginsburg wrote. “Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”


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07:37 Where's the screaming Ebola headlines about the 43 healthy people in Dallas?» Daily Kos
U.S. Representative Billy Long (R-MO) holds up a copy of a magazine with an Ebola headline as public health officials testify before a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, in
Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), not helping.
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A typical election season in America:

In the month since a Liberian man infected with Ebola traveled to Dallas, where he later died, the nation has marinated in a murky soup of understandable concern, wild misinformation, political opportunism and garden-variety panic.
Lots and lots of panic, as it turns out.
A crowd of parents last week pulled their children out of a Mississippi middle school after learning that its principal had traveled to Zambia, an African nation untouched by the disease. […]

Carolyn Smith of Louisville, Ky., last week took a rare break from sequestering herself at home to take her fiancé to a doctor’s appointment. She said she was reluctant to leave her house after hearing that a nurse from the Dallas hospital had flown to Cleveland, over 300 miles from her home. "We're not really going anywhere if we can help it," Ms. Smith, 50, said. […]

Also last week, a teacher at an elementary school in Strong, Me., was placed on a 21-day paid leave when parents told the school board that they were worried he had been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

What's not found in this article from the New York Times is any mention of why someone who lives over 300 miles away from a city where Ebola might have been is self-quarantining. Loving the convergence of a potential epidemic and a national election, the traditional media has gone nuts with huge images of the Ebola virus and hazmat suits, with headlines screaming terror. Having a Republican party intent on maximizing the terror to mobilize their base has just fed that flame, giving the media the opportunity to keep the story front and center day-after-day. Like NBC on its website:
Screenshot from NBCNews.com showing Ebola stories.
The kicker? That's at the top of the page for this story: "Texas Ebola Watch Ends for Dozens of Contacts of Thomas Eric Duncan." That's right. All 43 people who were in contact with Mr. Duncan—the only person to die of Ebola in the U.S.—have passed the 21-day incubation period for the disease without getting ill. Even Louise Troh, Duncan’s fiancée, and the couple's son are healthy. But do we have the screaming headlines telling us about how not sick any of these people are? Of course not.
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Andrew Seaman, a medical journalist with Reuters and the ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, says: "Journalists shouldn’t pander to that fear or anxiety by including the most shocking or ominous images they find. The SPJ Code of Ethics applies to photography as it would to any other form of journalism. The images should reflect the truth—as should the other pieces of journalism it accompanies." Yes, they should.
06:53 Paul Krugman Divulges Exactly Why Amazon Is So Evil and Dangerous» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Case in point: Delivery times for Paul Ryan's book and book criticizing Koch brothers.

Sometimes Paul Krugman eases into his column by writing metaphorically, or giving some valuable background. In Monday's column, he just up and blurts out his point: "Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America."

He spends most of the rest of the column explaining why this is so, and why, while the online retailer is not quite "a monster" intent on eating the whole economy, as some critics portray it to be, it is nonetheless a too-powerful company that is playing a deeply troubling role

It is in some way comparable to Standard Oil, which in its day had "too much power," Krugman writes, "and public action to curb that power was essential."

By way of illustration, Krugman recounts the dispute between Amazon and Hachette, a major publishing house, back in May.

Amazon had been demanding a larger cut of the price of Hachette books it sells; when Hachette balked, Amazon began disrupting the publisher’s sales. Hachette books weren’t banned outright from Amazon’s site, but Amazon began delaying their delivery, raising their prices, and/or steering customers to other publishers.

You might be tempted to say that this is just business — no different from Standard Oil, back in the days before it was broken up, refusing to ship oil via railroads that refused to grant it special discounts. But that is, of course, the point: The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Does Amazon really have robber-baron-type market power? When it comes to books, definitely. Amazon overwhelmingly dominates online book sales, with a market share comparable to Standard Oil’s share of the refined oil market when it was broken up in 1911. Even if you look at total book sales, Amazon is by far the largest player.

How Amazon differs from Standard Oil? Instead of being a monopolist, which Krugman defines as "a dominant seller with the power to raise prices," Amazon is being a monopsonist, "a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down." This is why consumers tend to love Amazon, especially when it comes to buying books, but it is very dangerous indeed. Because, Amazon uses its outsize power in some measure to control the conversation. Publishing, like other entertainment businesses, relies in great measure on buzz. "And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz," Krugman writes.  "It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place."

And the Hachette dispute shows unequivocably that Amazon abuses this power. 

It's also telling, Krugman points out, how Amazon is using its power to select what Americans read, which may have everything to do with owner Jeff Bezos' politics.

Last month the Times’s Bits blog documented the case of two Hachette books receiving very different treatment. One is Daniel Schulman’s “Sons of Wichita,” a profile of the Koch brothers; the other is “The Way Forward,” by Paul Ryan, who was Mitt Romney’s running mate and is chairman of the House Budget Committee. Both are listed as eligible for Amazon Prime, and for Mr. Ryan’s book Amazon offers the usual free two-day delivery. What about “Sons of Wichita”? As of Sunday, it “usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.” Uh-huh.

Ugghh. Fight the power.


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A pair of recent studies debunk some of right-wing media's favorite rationales for legal "reforms" that make it more difficult for consumers to sue corporate wrongdoers.

Right-wing media have consistently railed against class action lawsuits, despite the fact that such suits make it easier for consumers to group low-value claims together that attorneys might otherwise not take. The Wall Street Journal in particular has been critical of class actions, calling them "frivolous," too expensive, and only beneficial to the plaintiffs' lawyers. In one editorial after the Supreme Court upheld the decades-long use of class actions for investors in securities, the Journal attacked the decision as "a champagne day for trial lawyers ... as the Justices voted to maintain the status quo." In another, the editorial board claimed that class action lawsuits that were filed to help workers recover back wages for the time they spent waiting in security check lines "would benefit lawyers far more than workers," ignoring the potential wage theft at issue.

But two new studies undercut some of the main premises behind the Journal's anti-lawsuit crusade. According to a recent report from the Center for Justice & Democracy, "class actions have not only helped victims of corporate law-breaking, but have also resulted in injunctive relief that protects us all from a wide array of corporate wrongdoing, from employment and civil rights violations to price-fixing and consumer fraud to automotive defects to health care abuses." From servicemember financial abuse to systematic sex discrimination at the country's largest employers, the report analyzed hundreds of class action lawsuits and settlements and found that nearly all of them provided meaningful relief to the plaintiffs who had been injured or defrauded. CJ&D note that "without the class action tool, corporations and businesses can ignore the law far more easily and operate with impunity."

Moreover, the conservative idea that class action lawsuits result in higher costs in the industry with the challenged practices is also suspect -- at least in the context of healthcare. A new study from the Rand Corporation suggests that even though "many believe that fear of malpractice lawsuits drives physicians to order otherwise unnecessary care and that legal reforms could reduce such wasteful spending," states that have enacted such reforms have not seen a corresponding reduction in healthcare costs.

For example, as The American Prospect's Paul Waldman explained, healthcare costs have actually gone up in Texas since the state passed a constitutional amendment that severely limited money damages that could be recovered in medical malpractice suits:

[I]n Texas, they passed a constitutional amendment in 2003 that made it almost impossible to recover meaningful damages from medical malpractice. That was good for doctors -- the number of malpractice claims plummeted, and malpractice premiums went down -- but instead of falling, health care costs in the state actually rose faster than in the rest of the country.


When you ask Republicans what they'd like to do to reform American health care, the first thing out of their mouths is usually "tort reform." But the fact that all the evidence suggests it would do nothing to cut costs is probably not going to dent their commitment to laws limiting people's ability to sue for malpractice. That's because the truth is that conservatives see this as a moral question as much as a fiscal one. "Frivolous lawsuits" make them livid, and as far as they're concerned a frivolous lawsuit getting filed (even if it never goes anywhere) is a greater outrage than someone who was victimized not being able to get compensation.

Class action lawsuits provide a valuable legal remedy for consumers who have been defrauded or injured by large corporations, but right-wing media have often discounted their value and hyped their supposed societal costs. Yet as these recent studies once again demonstrate, conservative justifications behind tort "reform" seem to be based less on sound policy and more on antipathy to a court system that encourages corporate accountability.

Photo via Flickr/Douglas Palmer under a Creative Commons License. 
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In an October 20 column about the relationship between gun laws and law enforcement officers, Miniter added, "Full disclosure: The often politically incorrect truth about guns led me to write the recently published book The Future of the Gun. I'm also a former executive editor of the NRA's magazine American Hunter. I still write for the NRA and for many other publications and am a 'field editor' (an honorary title) for American Hunter."

Media Matters previously criticized Miniter and Forbes for not disclosing his NRA ties in a September 25 column that claimed the gun safety initiatives undertaken by Everytown for Gun Safety and the group's founder Michael Bloomberg were "backfiring."

That column followed other instances where Miniter advanced the viewpoints of the NRA without disclosing his ties to the organization.

Miniter's latest column proves the need for the disclosure. In the piece, he cites a discredited survey previously hyped by the NRA in order to create the impression members of law enforcement typically oppose gun safety laws.

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Sun 19 October, 2014

18:16 It's time for the President's Emergency Program for Ebola Relief» Daily Kos

Goal Thermometer

The President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was arguably President George W. Bush's single greatest achievement. Thanks to American leadership and over $50 billion in U.S. funding committed since President Bush launched the initiative in 2003, millions of lives have been saved and millions more HIV/AIDS cases prevented in 15 African countries targeted for international action. During his July 2013 trip to Africa, President Obama rightly called PEPFAR one Bush's "crowning achievements" and used their joint 2013 visit to Tanzania to "thank him on behalf of the American people for showing how American generosity and foresight could end up making a real difference in people's lives." As Bill Clinton put it in 2012:

"I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries."
That's why it's once again time for the United States to step up with a new multi-year, multi-billion dollar commitment, this time against Ebola. With over 4,500 already dead and tens of thousands more at risk in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it's not simply (as Bill Clinton is so fond of saying) "the right thing to do. In this case, charity does not begin at home: Americans' health and safety requires America to go all in—in Africa.

While the U.S. media fuel panic over the one fatality and handful of Ebola cases here, the need for urgent, global mobilization to save West Africa cannot be overstated. As CNN reported on Friday:

Liberia, meanwhile, which is hardest hit by the virus, says it requires 2.4 million boxes of protective gloves -- and 85,000 body bags, to be able to fight the virus in the next six months. Currently, it only has 18,000 boxes of gloves and less than 5,000 body bags.

Let that second number sink in.

Eight-five thousand body bags needed.[Emphasis original.]

As Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson put it bluntly in her plea for international action, the Ebola virus "respects no borders."
"We all have a stake in the battle against Ebola. It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves."
And the United States has only begun to fight.
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Please read below the fold for more on this story.
16:15 How the World Series could decide the 2014 elections—seriously» Daily Kos
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On Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants will face the Kansas City Royals in the first game of the 2014 World Series. A lot is at stake, and not just on the diamond. Baseball's playoffs could affect at least one U.S. House race, a key gubernatorial battle, and perhaps even control of the U.S. Senate.

No, I'm not arguing that a Giants victory means the Democrats will keep the Senate, or that if the American League dominates, so will Republicans—nothing superstitious or silly like that. Rather, the World Series provides campaigns the opportunity to advertise to a much larger—and more in-tune—audience than usual. Viewers are much more likely to watch major sporting events live, which means they're less apt to record them and fast-forward through the ads.

Back in September, in an article exploring this topic, Roll Call's Abby Livingston explained that baseball viewers tend to be disproportionally white and male. Republicans will be looking to get as many votes out of this generally conservative demographic as possible, while Democrats will be trying to make some inroads with them before Election Day.

Of course, anyone looking to run spots in Northern California or the Kansas City area will need to pay a premium if they want to advertise during a World Series game. Airing a 30-second spot nationally costs a cool $470,000. Locally targeted ads cost a lot less but are still far from cheap, so many campaigns and outside groups will decide that they can't afford the price tag. However, others will spend what it takes to get their message out.

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11:14 Three minutes on Ebola worth watching on 'Meet the Press.' Really!» Daily Kos

Meet The Press finally put on a substantive program that showed a few rays of what good journalism could look like. The discussion on Ebola was mostly substantive. There were a few instances where political reporters showed their lack of objectivity and journalistic decency however. The experts effectively squashed their flawed reasoning.

Chuck Todd had two unbiased experts on the show. Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist/writer and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Gabe Kelen is professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins, director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR), and director of the Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response (PACER).

Early on Chuck Todd showed an important table that put Ebola into context. Ebola as an actual killer in America is rare compared to many other diseases, activities, and natural events that should give Americans much more concern.

Chuck Todd allowed his panel to ask the professionals questions. Manu Raju started off with a leading question. "We were talking about budget cuts and the ability to find a vaccine," Manu Raju said. "The bottom line is that still the NIH has billions of dollars a year that it spends on finding vaccines. I am wondering, to what extent do you think the government is to blame for not prioritizing efforts to find a vaccine for Ebola?"

Laurie Garrett pushed back at Raju calling his statement grossly unfair. Her answer revealed the reasons why strong government involvement in health care is a must unlike what many who oppose healthcare reform believe. "No one could convince industry that it was in their interest to build up a huge stockpile of something that might never get used, might never get purchased," Laurie Garret said. "So in fact there was a vaccine center at NIH. They did develop a possible prototype  Ebola vaccine. ... There was no incentive to take it through the pipeline for commercialization." In effect private industry cannot be counted on nor should they be counted on for these types of vaccines are other health issues because their motive is profit (justifiably) and not the well-being of a citizenry. That is the government's job.

Stephanie Cutter went on to make the point about the effects of budget cuts on the response to healthcare events like Ebola. Dr. Gabe Kelen had likely the most prescient statement on the real problem with funding and political realities.

"Here is how it works," Dr. Gabe Kelen said. "You have a fixed budget. A crisis comes. You move all your resources into that. And now the real question is not this, we are concentrating on this. We got a wake up call on it. What is it that the resources have been moved away from that two years from now that someone is going to criticize, 'Why didn't you look at this? God you are not prepared.'"


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Making sense of all the hype.

The following first appeared on The Fix. Also on TheFix.com: Atheist Inmate Receives $2 Million Settlement Over Forced 12-Step Drug Rehab; Habit or Addiction—Who Decides?; Women Are Not Powerless

My first real boyfriend, C, traded me in for a tea. Not just any tea—a psychoactive, psychedelic, hallucinogenic, magical mystery tea he called “daime,” which most of us now know as ayahuasca. (It bears other names as well, like yagé, kabi, natema, nepe, and hoasca.)

It was my last summer-before-college. C was a couple years older, but college wasn’t in the cards for him, at least not then. We were young and depressed, both of us chronically prone to dark moods and melancholy and chain smoking and nihilistic philosophizing—all that rote, humiliating jazz—but I may have done a better job at hiding it. I was wrapped up in the buzz of preparing for my freshman year in Massachusetts, where we nobly planned (er, hoped?) to keep our relationship alive via long-distance calls, instant messaging, and fumbly attempts at cybersex.

C was suicidally despondent when he left for the Amazon. I believe he went for that reason—as a last-ditch effort to help treat his depression, using an herb that was, at the time, even less commonly known for being what some experts now consider it: a potential healing tool for a range of spiritual and mental-health ills like addiction and depression. Then C went to Brazil, to some “community in the rainforest,” as I believe he put it, to drink hallucinogenic tea. It sounded, to me, like a cult—like a bunch of lost hippie souls looking for an excuse to trip out and “see the other side” or something. But he tried to explain that it was deeper than that, that daime brought on spiritual experiences, not just psychedelic ones, that he’d be guided by real-life shamans who knew the workings of the mysterious drug, as well as the sometimes frightening visions it could trigger.

Dr. Charles Grob, a researcher at L.A.’s BioMed whose extensive Brazilian studies have shown profound positive changes among some alcoholics and addicts following long-term ayahuasca use, says, “When we did our initial study in the early ‘90s, when I told people l was studying ayahuasca, they were like, ‘aya-whatska’? Now it’s becoming better known, but still, the vast majority [of people] aren't aware of [its potential for success as a mental health treatment].”

Though ayahuasca (loose translation: “vine of the soul”) may have been something of a longtime rite of passage for spiritual seeker types, in recent years it’s grown more popular among mainstream Westerners who’ve read about the drug or seen it mentioned in the media. An astonishingly wide range of celebrities have heralded the brew for helping them expand their minds and overcome demons, including Sting, Oliver Stone, Tori Amos, Devendra Banhart, and Penn Badgley; Lindsay Lohan even mentioned it in the finale of her trainwreck masterpiece “Lindsay,” claiming that it helped her get a grip on the "wreckage of her past life.”

Because of the escalating level of public interest in the mysterious blend, every year, scores of curious tourists shell out anywhere from a few hundred bucks to multiple thousands of them to fly to countries like Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador for ayahuasca retreats. There they get the full guided-tour ayahuasca experience, often with professional healers and shamans to hold their hands. 

First, though, the basics: Ayahuasca is a muddy, reportedly foul-tasting South American brew or tea comprised of a mix of two plants: the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and a shrub dubbed chacruna (Psychotria viridis). Chacruna contains a fairly high amount of the psychedelic chemical dimethyltryptamine (DMT, which in America is considered a Schedule I controlled substance).

The brew is usually consumed as part of a spiritual shamanistic ritual, and is often affiliated with the religion of Santo Daime in Brazil, where it’s legal (it’s also legal in Peru). Ayahuasca isn’t a casual thing like smoking weed among friends every once in a while; nobody's doing it to chill out or feel mellow. “This is not a recreational drug; it should not be trifled with,” Dr. Grob warns. 

Ayahuasca is part of a sacred South American ritual that’s been passed down through the centuries—one that’s intended to guide its participants through the darkest recesses of their souls (one participant reportedly dubbed it like “psychotherapy on steroids”). The goal? To help its devotees beat back whatever painful internal enemy may be holding them down. For one person that may ultimately look like achieving “enlightenment;” for someone else, it may be experiencing visions of God. It’s a deeply personal and subjective experience; no two ayahuasca “trips” are alike.

Of course, no one ever said the path to enlightenment was pretty, or easy, and neither is a typical ayahuasca experience. Intense vomiting is the norm; puke buckets are often provided by ritual leaders, who believe that the physical purging of the body is a sign of the necessary cleansing occurring in the mind and soul. Allen Ginsberg once colorfully wrote about his ayahuasca experience, “Stomach vomiting out the soul-vine, cadaver on the floor of a bamboo hut, body-meat crawling toward its fate.” 

And then there are the hallucinations, which can last for hours and are frequently described as being both utterly terrifying and realistic. Many people have claimed they felt forced to face down physical images of their darkest fears or most painful memories. After consuming the tea with a shaman when she was living in Ecuador years ago, Anna Bent* of San Francisco recalls seeing, well, lots of interesting things during her ayahuasca journey, from a “demonic representation of my own...hang-ups and failings,” to “a girl of about seven [years old] who was [made of plant], and kind of green, who talked.” 

Bent continues, “I had a whole conversation with her in a language that I don’t know. Behind her were dozens of plant-people watching and participating.”

Despite the freaky visions, though, Bent considers her ayahuasca journey worthwhile. At the time, her mother was very sick with Hepatitis C, and Bent was hoping to do a sort of remote cleanse to help speed her mother's healing. In other words, she wanted to heal her mom, not herself. “I tried to reach out to her in a psychic way as I was sitting under the stars, but I couldn't do it,” she remembers. “I went into it seeking something specific, and the answer I got was not what I wanted. I ended up realizing that I couldn't take my mom’s illness because it wasn't mine to take,” she says. But, “As uncomfortable as it was, it was a powerful step.”

In “Peru: Hell and Back,” her exhaustive National Geographic article about using ayahuasca to address her longtime chronic depression, writer Kira Salak writes about her repeated trips to Peru for shamanistic healing. Those experiences were anything but painless—she encountered malevolent forces, shadowy figures; she even remembers seeing (and speaking) with a manifestation of the devil himself. But, she writes, those horrifying visions were ultimately worth it when, “The next morning, I discovered the impossible: The severe depression that had ruled my life since childhood had miraculously vanished.”

So how, exactly, does ayahuasca promote healing? Depends on who you ask. Dr. Grob says ayahuasca’s purported benefits have been examined from various angles. “If you're a biological scientist, you'll look at its effects on serotonin receptors, or you'll look at the mono inhibiting effect. If you ask [some of the Brazilians] we studied, they'll say it’s the spirits of the vine that are able to cause a healing response.” Under optimal conditions, though, “it facilitates developing insight into oneself.” 

Of course, not every expert subscribes to the belief that ayahuasca is much use as a treatment for addiction or anything else. Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage and addiction therapist in Manhattan, is one of those doctors. He says, “Ayahuasca is a fashion trend. It is not a valid treatment for addiction or mental health issues. It's a mind-altering drug that is not medically prescribed, and holds the potential for abuse.”

And there are risks involved in taking ayahuasca—even when it’s consumed under the guise of something noble and recovery-oriented. As the herb has increased in popularity, so have the number of charlatan shamans who don’t know what they’re doing; also, having certain medical conditions or taking some prescription medications (for instance, it should never be mixed with antidepressants) can be super-dangerous when dealing with ayahuasca. 

The brew also made news in 2012 when 18-year-old Kyle Nolan of Northern California was found dead in Peru. A shaman at the Shimbre Shamanic Center, where the boy’s buried body was uncovered, was arrested, and told authorities “that the teen died as a result of exceeding the dosage of the hallucinogenic brew.” 

And as for my long-ago first boyfriend, C—we spoke a few times while he was on his self-help mission in Brazil. He told me of crazy visions and mind-numbing hallucinations and lots and lots of astral projection. He told me he had hung out with the (long-deceased) Kurt Cobain and come to watch me while I was sleeping. I thought he’d gone a little nuts, but I knew it was just the tea, and I was glad that he seemed to have found something that helped him cope with the cruelties inside his head. 

I was depressed, too, so I understood why he’d had to run away to “find himself.” We broke up a few months into my freshman year and he never came back from Brazil—at least not as far as I heard—so I’ll never know exactly what his daime helped him find, and whether it was ever enough. 


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09:21 How Some Millennial Jews Are Taking a Different Approach to Eating Kosher» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
They're thinking more about what they consume for ethical and sustainable reasons.

Bacon may be a popular cultural meme among millennials, but a certain subset are forgoing the pork and focusing on ancient dietary laws: Kashrut, a set of Jewish dietary restrictions originating in the Old Testament. Kashrut, or keeping kosher, means that one cannot mix “a calf in its mother’s milk” or eat milk and dairy together (no cheeseburgers or chicken parm), fish must have gills and fins (no shrimp, lobster or oysters on the half shell), livestock must chew their cud and have split hooves (no pigs) and must be slaughtered according to ritual. Pre-packaged kosher foods must also be supervised by a masgiach, who adds a seal of approval (like the popular OU found on everything from Oreos to Tom’s of Maine toothpast) to confirm the kosherness of any edible product. Sound like a lot of rules? There are so many more. So why is this notoriously rule-breaking generation headed back to thousand year old laws?

According to an October 2013 study from the Pew Jewish Center, 27% of American Millennial Jews (those born after 1980) are keeping kosher, which is almost twice the rate as that of their Baby Boomer parents. If it’s not parents pressuring their offspring to stay away from coconut shrimp at young professional networking events, what’s leading all these progressive young people to keeping ancient traditions?

While 27% of Jews between 18-29 years old reported not believing in God, only 20% of 50-64 year old reported having the same belief. Animal rights, and perhaps a greater connection to socially conscious eating practices may be related to the new resurgence of Kashrut.  Further in the survey, 55% of Millennial Jews reported “working for justice” as an essential quality of Jewish identity and 65% reported that “leading an ethical life” was also essential. 

A September 2014 article from The Atlanticentitled “Kosher Meets Hipster” proposed that perhaps “ancient laws fit well with contemporary concerns about sustainability.” As a generation of Jewish people who did not grow up Kosher learns more about the world outside their home kitchens, their eating decisions may morph to represent prior generations, who, like food writer Michael Pollan suggests, had healthier and more sustainable eating habits  -- “Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food,” Pollan argues in his book Food Rules.

Michelle Bentsman, a 24-year-old artist who lives in New York began keeping kosher as a freshman at University of Chicago, after becoming interested in Judaic practice and studying with a rabbi. “He described a mystical idea of why milk and meat must necessarily be separated: milk has life-giving attributes while meat is a remnant of a dead thing; the generative and destructive qusalities should be regarded separately,” Bentsman recalls. “At the time it struck me as very lovely. I found that living out this separation made me a lot more conscious about where my food was coming from, especially in regard to animal products. I felt that I was eating deliberately, and that the composition of my diet had a resonance beyond satiating hunger.”

As part for her new kosher lifestyle, Benstman met a shochet (a kosher animal slaughterer) and started only eating kosher meat. “The way he described the process was really inspiring, from the requisite sharpness of the blade -–it cuts through flesh like butter-- to the clarity of intention required to kill each creature.” Bentsman, who admittedly does not each much meat, prefers this process to other slaughter methods, because it feels more intimate with the animal. 

I grew up in a kosher home—we had separate dishes for meat and dairy and as much as my younger brother and I begged for shrimp with cashew nuts from our local Chinese takeout place, we were very much forbidden from enjoying traif (unkosher food). As I became a bat mitzvah and an adult, attending Jewish camps and Hebrew school, keeping kosher was an essential part of my life. It was only after ending a six-year streak of vegetarianism that I started indulging in novel dishes like lobster rolls and pork buns. I earned a Bachelor’s in Jewish Studies and don’t consider myself any less Jewish than I was growing up, but my values have changed and my diet and lifestyle have changed to reflect that.

And while animals play the most central role in kosher practices, vegetarians and vegans have their own set of restrictions. My friend Anna Pestine, whose family also kept kosher growing up, became a vegetarian at age six and full vegan in the past few years, but even though she is not eating anything unkosher, she does not identify as kosher any longer. “If someone asked me if I kept kosher I would tell them that I don’t.  [Kashrut] is outdated and I’d rather set my own criteria for how I eat. If I did eat meat animal products, it would be more important to me that the food was produced ethically from my own moral perspective rather than a Jewish one.”

While kashrut is one method of making informed eating choices, it seems that Millennials are thinking more about what they consume, for ethical and sustainable reasons, and perhaps ancient tradition is just one way to help progressively-minded eaters moderate the endless food options in today’s edible world.


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Thu 16 October, 2014

13:21 How the Quest for Happiness Can Have a Big Downside» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Trying desperately to seek the positive and avoid the negative can lead you to fail at what you desire most.

As psychologists who frequently travel for work, how we describe our careers to strangers in the airline seats next to us can determine the tone of the subsequent conversation for hours to come. For instance, the mere mention that we’re psychologists prompts some people to open a book, don headphones, or pretend to fall asleep. In other cases, our expertise in mental matters seems to encourage our seatmates to unburden themselves. We can spend hours listening to the details of a failing marriage or a pet theory of motivation. Even pretending to be asleep doesn’t seem to dissuade our seatmates from asking us to interpret their dreams. On the few occasions we actually risk the truth and own up to the fact that we’re not just general psychologists but that we actually study happiness for a living, we can be guaranteed a near-desperate response: “What can I do to be happier?” There’s a clear and nearly universal assumption that happiness is desirable and, being so metaphorically shiny, we should all be trying to stockpile it. As experts in the field, we know the surprising truth.

Let’s pause for a second and explain what we mean by this thing called happiness. When lay people are asked to define happiness, they often conflate potential causes of happiness with happiness itself. They say things like “happiness is family” or “happiness is being grateful.” Although family and gratitude are undoubtedly important, they’re fairly poor descriptions of what happiness itself actually is, what it feels like, and how we know we’re experiencing it. When pushed for a more exact definition of the psychological experience, scholars, water-cooler philosophers, and book-group members agree on some broad commonalities. To begin with, happiness—at some level—has to be a feeling. Whether you call it joy, enthusiasm, or contentment, the basic truth remains: happiness is, at least in part, emotional, and is therefore experienced subjectively by the individual. When we talk about a happy person, we’re describing someone who lives through frequent positive emotions and infrequent negative emotions.

Happiness also reflects a personal judgment about life. In 1965, Hadley Cantril, a pioneer in happiness studies, asked people to imagine being on a ladder with rungs numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom represents the worst. On which rung of the ladder would you say you’re standing at this time? On which rung do you think you’ll be standing five years from now? The answer to the first question requires a mental calculation of positive thoughts in the present, and the answer to the second is a gauge of optimism about the future. Both contribute to your sense of happiness.

Happiness is a state of mind and, as such, can be measured, studied, and enhanced. You do this informally every day when you notice something about your spouse and ask, “What’s wrong?” or when you ask your best friend, “How was your trip to Italy?” Scientists take this a step further by having people answer these same kinds of questions using a numbered scale. The astute reader might wonder whether such scales can truly be trusted. Researchers are trained not to rely on these self-reports alone, but also to ask friends and family members to rate target individuals. Occasionally, we also use memory measures, reaction-time computer tests, daily diaries, and even biological measures such as brain scans and saliva cortisol samples. Taken together, these methods—even just a few of them—paint a reasonable portrait of a person’s happiness.

The current fever for happiness is spurred on, in part, by a growing body of research suggesting that happiness doesn’t just feel good but actually does good things for you. In a review of 225 academic papers on happiness, for instance, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that feeling upbeat is linked to all sorts of real-life benefits. People who feel frequent positivity:

  • engage in healthier behaviors such as wearing seat belts,
  • make more money,
  • have happier marriages,
  • receive better customer and supervisor evaluations at work,
  • are more generous, and
  • end up being promoted more often by bosses.

Then there’s the most compelling data of all: happiness is causally related to health, meaning that being happy actually makes you healthier. In one dramatic demonstration of this point, Sheldon Cohen and his colleagues infected willing participants with the rhinovirus (the common cold) after first giving them a cheerfulness questionnaire. Over subsequent days, the research team quarantined the participants in a hotel in order to control their diet and the people with whom they came in contact. During this period, participants had their temperature taken, their blood pressure measured, and were even asked to supply samples of their mucus. In addition, they filled out surveys regarding various symptoms such as headache, stiffness, and aching. What researchers found was that whether you observed the mucus consistency and immunoglobulin levels via biological samples (objective data) or asked participants how they felt (subjective data), happier people were 50 percent less likely to develop a cold than their unhappy counterparts.

Thus, while happiness might not cure cancer, it does seem to promote better immune system function.

The research on the overall benefits of happiness is growing steadily. One common theory holds that happiness is humanity’s natural resting state. Happy people are more likely to be social, exploratory, inventive, and healthy. It’s a short logical jump from there to the idea that happiness provides an evolutionary advantage. It’s no wonder that happiness is often touted as a panacea. In fact, happiness seems so valuable that it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that it has any downsides.

One interesting red flag with regard to happiness comes from a recent study of the different ways in which Japanese people and Americans think about happiness. Yukiko Uchida, a researcher at Kyoto University, asked a question that would likely get her kicked out of an American happiness club (yes, there are happiness clubs you can join). She asked people native to both countries to rate happiness on how positive it is and how negative it is, respectively. The Americans awarded happiness a very rosy 5.4 of 7 total possible points. The Japanese participants, on the other hand, gave it a respectable—but significantly lower—score of 5.1. More interesting is that the Japanese people rated happiness a 4.7 of 7 for being negative. The Americans, by contrast, gave it a 4.25 of 7, which, in statistical terms, was significantly lower. You might be scratching your head and wondering how happiness could be negative. Isn’t it a good feeling? The two key negative aspects of happiness that Japanese people are sensitive to, and which Americans have a tendency to overlook, are social disruption (one person’s happiness can interfere with that of another) and avoiding reality (can’t happiness be a bit naive?).

Perhaps this is merely a cultural quirk, a prejudice of Japanese people, so let’s check their views against empirical research on happiness. We already know that happiness is widely beneficial. But are there downsides as well? One of the earliest published studies to identify a cost of positive emotion was published in 1991 by Ed Diener and his colleagues at the University of Illinois. They were interested in the uniquely American understanding of happiness: that intense jolt of enthusiasm you experience at a sporting event, the powerful rush of pride you feel when watching your child perform onstage, or the euphoria that comes with landing a new job. They wondered if all that cowboyish yee-haw might also make people just a bit saddle sore.

These researchers found several ways in which intense positive experiences can be costly. First is a contrast effect in which the experience of emotional highs makes other good events seem to shine less brightly. Winning a million dollars in the lottery, for instance, might make a subsequent win of one hundred dollars on an instant scratch ticket seem pretty ho-hum. Second is a carryover effect, in which people who mentally amplify their positive experiences also unwittingly amplify their negative experiences. For example, people who whoop it up in a big way after a win are also vulnerable to a crashing feeling of utter defeat after a loss. This study was an early and important cautionary note regarding happiness.

Has Happiness Been Taken Too Far?

The tendency is to overlook the fact that happiness itself is sometimes harmful. When most of us hear the phrase positive emotions, we think of mental states that feel pleasurable and attract other people. When we hear negative emotions, we think of unpleasant, unproductive states that repel other people. After all, who wants to eat lunch with a curmudgeon? But positive emotions and thoughts aren’t always useful. Here are several often overlooked research results about a happy mindset that sound a warning.

Your Happiness Can Interfere with Your Success. Psychologist Shigehiro Oishi and his international collaborators collected current dictionary definitions of happiness in 30 countries. They found that in 24 of those countries, happiness was deemed to be strongly related to fate, fortune, or luck. Notably, the United States ended up being part of the minority, a quirky country where happiness is viewed as a controllable, attainable state of mind. In fact, American collective views on happiness mirror our general attitudes about life: if only we plan well and work hard, we can achieve the health, body, spouse, work, money, and recreation we desire. These views on happiness mirror our general take on life so closely that we often conflate happiness with success. This makes the notion that happiness can interfere with success particularly jarring for Americans, and yet a growing body of research suggests that happiness has some quantifiable drawbacks.

Happy people are less persuasive. Interestingly, attention to detail is the type of thinking that characterizes unhappy moods. Happy people, by contrast, are more likely to overlook details in favor of the big picture—what we refer to as a superficial processing style. Extrapolating from this principle, unhappy people—with their tendency to pay more attention to and process concrete situational details—should generate more persuasive messages compared to the superficial, abstract approach of happy folks. Research shows this is exactly the case. When asked to construct persuasive arguments about issues that are germane to everyday life (using tax money to fund parks and playgrounds) and that are of the more philosophical variety (do soul mates exist?), unhappy people created stronger arguments than happy people. In three studies, judges rated the quality of unhappy people’s arguments as approximately 25 percent more impressive and 20 percent more concrete than those made by happy folks. These remarkable numbers were based on participant conversations with a friend whom they were trying to persuade. When participants produced arguments to persuade a stranger to change views on a public policy issue, unhappy people were twice as effective.

Happy people can be too trusting.Trust is difficult to establish with new people, given that there is no X-ray or CAT scan to gauge a person’s underlying motivations, or to accurately predict how someone will treat you in the future. We must rely instead on our hunches regarding the character and honesty of the people with whom we come in contact. Joseph Forgas and his fellow Australian researchers wanted to determine how accurate happy people—with their more superficial processing style—are at detecting deceit, which requires paying close attention to facial expressions, eye movements, and the specific language people use. Researchers asked study participants to enter a room one at a time. Inside they found a movie ticket in an envelope. Once they were alone in a dark room with the envelope, they were given the option to take the movie ticket for themselves or leave the envelope alone: the experimenter emphasized that they—the researchers—would never know the truth. The participants were then instructed to deny taking the ticket if they did in fact take it. What’s more, the participants were informed that there would be a reward later if they could convince everyone else in the research group that they hadn’t taken the ticket for themselves.

After this brief opportunity to grab the loot, the participants were interrogated: did you take the movie ticket? Videos captured people denying the act. Unbeknownst to the observers, half of these denials were deceitful and half were honest. Forgas and his colleagues found that when people are happy, they’re able to detect whether someone is lying only 49 percent of the time, slightly worse than chance. When people were experimentally put into an unhappy, sad mood before watching the videotapes, they ended up being much more successful, accurately detecting liars 62 percent of the time.

Think about this in the real world. Imagine being able to boost your ability to judge the honesty of job applicants by 13 percent. Imagine being able to help resolve conflicts between adversaries, with their competing versions of the truth, by 13 percent. This is what happens when we stop holding rigidly to the idea that positivity must prevail as often as possible. You might be asking, how does this work? Should I be trying to make myself sad before work? We’re not suggesting that you meditate on the suffering of victims of natural disasters to make yourself sad. We’re suggesting, instead, that you honor the emotions that arise in you naturally at key decision points. When people are unsure whether someone is telling the truth, concerned about somebody’s trustworthiness, or in the midst of evaluating someone, they’re rarely in a flat-out happy mood. During these decision points, people often feel somber, even emotionally conflicted until the decision-making is over. Just know that this state of mind is perfect for the task. Don’t focus on the short game by trying to boost your mood. Instead, focus on the long game and pay attention to making good decisions instead of just feeling good.

Happy people are lazy thinkers.If happy people rely on cursory, superficial strategies to collect information from the outside world, then they’re going to be more prone to using stereotypes and remembering fewer details than their unhappy peers. Researchers found support for both of these assumptions. After being given a list of 15 words on a similar theme, such as bed, rest, andtired, and asked to remember whether the word sleep had been on the list (it hadn’t), happy people were much more likely to take the bait and incorporate this misleading information into their memory. To get an idea of the extent of these false memories, happy people were 50 percent more likely to recall words they hadn’t seen.

Studies like these provide us with a new perspective on happiness. Although happiness can be beneficial, researchers have started to discover previously ignored drawbacks. When a task requires attention to detail, happy people are at a disadvantage compared with unhappy peers. When you’re happy, the “keep the good times rolling” attitude compromises your ability to detect deception, and you become highly susceptible to judgment errors. By contrast, a slight tilt toward negativity enhances performance in several contexts, such as discerning someone’s trustworthiness or when there’s a pressing need to pay attention to details in a crisis. Thanks to scientists challenging the status quo, we’ve discovered that there are precise situations when deviating from positivity to feel and think negatively unleashes our potential to perform at our best.

The Pursuit of Happiness Often Backfires, Ending in Unhappiness. For months, you’ve been awaiting the release of what promises to be a blockbuster cinema event, the latest film in the epic retelling of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Hobbit. You read the book when you were a teenager, and even now you delight in mentions of elves and dwarves. In anticipation of the big event, you’ve kept yourself in a media blackout so that you can experience every delight and surprise the film has to offer. You just know that the movie will be an awesome experience. What’s more, you have an equally geeky friend who’s promised to see the film with you on opening night. She’s been following the production of the movie closely and knows that the director, Peter Jackson, split The Hobbit into three parts, each debuting at the theater one year apart. She also knows that Jackson will be drawing liberally from the book’s arcane appendices to fill out the subplots. Who do you think is going to enjoy the movie more? You or your friend? Do you think your desire to be pleased will lead to more enjoyment, or will her detailed understanding of the many aspects of the film trump that? According to the latest scientific research, your friend is probably going to derive more happiness from the experience, in part because unlike you, she’s not trying to use the film to produce happiness.

Researchers have found that when you enter into a situation with the goal of becoming happier, you actually make that less likely to occur. To test this, Jonathan Schooler, Dan Ariely, and George Loewenstein randomly gave participants one of four sets of instructions before listening to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring:

1. Try to make yourself as happy as possible when listening.

2. Listen as you normally do.

3. As you listen, move a dial to indicate how happy you feel and how your mood changes.

4. Try to make yourself as happy as possible and keep tabs on how your happiness ebbs and flows while listening (a combination of instructions 1 and 3).

Compared with adults using music as a tactic to become happier (instruction 1), adults instructed to just listen (instruction 2) ended up 4.5 times happier with Stravinsky’s pleasant violins, a 450 percent better return on their investment. Clearly, the strategy of trying to use music as a means to an end backfired. Even more dramatic, people who tried to use music to become happier while also tracking how well they met their happiness goal felt 7.5 times worse than people just listening to the music. This finding is important because conventional wisdom regarding the pursuit of happiness tells us that people should understand what brings them happiness, create goals that will help with this overarching aim to be happy, and then work toward these goals, tracking the effort put in and progress made. We now have scientific evidence suggesting that this single-minded pursuit of happiness is akin to trying to grab a bar of soap in the bathtub. The more you reach through the water, the more the soap slips away, and the more difficult it is to lay a hand on.

In another study, these same researchers gave adults a questionnaire asking how much importance they place on attaining happiness and about the amount of stress in their lives. The same paradox emerged. Each day over a two-week period, adults with the greatest desire to be happy felt lonelier, more depressed, and less purposeful, and had fewer positive emotions, lower progesterone levels, and reduced emotional intelligence. This makes sense because that single-minded aim to be happy above all else is a selfish pursuit. It’s about feeling good and having positive thoughts. The notion that other people matter is a secondary concern, which can interfere with the quality of one’s relationships. Think about love in romance, family, and friendships. If only one of you gets an upgrade to that buttery leather seat in first class with treats from the ice-cream sundae cart, you give it up; love is about being willing to sacrifice your happiness to ensure theirs gets a boost. When someone shares a funny story, you often relish the experience because you know that your partner or friend will crack up during the retelling. Love is about adopting another person’s perspective of the world, and when overvaluing your happiness gets in the way, it leads to unfortunate by-products such as loneliness.

Sometimes People Want to Feel Bad.Have you ever watched a person at the customer-service desk report a missing piece of luggage? Lost luggage, like broken merchandise and ill-fitting clothing, requires us to expend effort—often frustrating effort—and to advocate for ourselves. Despite the nearly universal feeling of hassle that comes with being separated from your suitcase, many people take the nice-guy approach: they offer the service representative a conspiratorial smile and a wink and say, “Hey, I know you didn’t lose my luggage. You just work here.” We are, after all, civilized. We can keep our cool and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. Yet the people who “own” their feelings of frustration and can effectively communicate their anger about matters like lost luggage are often highly effective advocates. They persevere longer and are more likely to get customer service agents to use their position to override protocols and step up extra efforts to find the missing bags.

This isn’t hypothetical. One study shows that a little anger is a superior strategy when it comes to effectively returning a purchased item. The reasons for this probably change depending on who’s having the conversation and the amount of money and time involved. But you can bet that anger works because the other person feels your discomfort. Your anger gets them to focus in the here and now on what you have to say, and they recognize that a problem will be highly likely and costly (to their job standing and mental health) if they don’t act reason- ably with you. By contrast, others who express disappointment but not anger are easier to brush off as insignificant. When emotions can lead to a better outcome, it’s helpful to focus on what you want to accomplish rather than what you feel.

It turns out that people have an intuitive grasp of the function of negative emotions, and sometimes choose these psychological downstates over happiness to achieve a goal. Certain situations call for feelings and behaviors that deviate from the happiness repertoire. Happiness motivates people to be friendly, to be helpful, and to try to connect with other people. Sounds good, except that other people aren’t always on our side. When somebody tries to sabotage you at work, you might want to seek help, creating alliances at meetings to ensure that your ideas aren’t prematurely and unfairly shot down. This means convincing other people and figuring out strategies to neutralize adversaries. Expressions of sadness communicate to others that you’re in trouble and need help; expressions of happiness signal to others that everything is fine. Thus, if your goal is to gain assistance, this is the wrong time to feel happy, express happiness, and minimize the unpleasantness of sadness.

Someone Else’s Happiness Can Impair Your Performance.Psychologist Seth Kaplan asked a group of people to complete what can only be described as an incredibly boring simulation of what air-traffic controllers do every day. Research subjects were asked to sit in a chair and watch a radar screen carefully, and if they saw two planes en route to a collision they were to set off an alarm. What made this job so tiring were the high stakes involved and the tedium: 93 percent of the time the planes never came anywhere near each another. For 15 minutes, subjects watched circles representing airplanes creep ever so slowly around a screen. While they were doing so, Seth Kaplan had one person serve as leader of the group, staying in the room with the air-traffic controllers and adopting one of two management styles. In one group, the leader was a cheerleader, emphasizing how well each person was performing with a litany of appreciative statements (“You got this!”). In the other group, the leader commiserated, acknowledging how boring the task was but also emphasizing that together they would get through this painful ordeal.

In the research setting, staff with commiserating leaders not only performed better, but also rated the task as more enjoyable. The take-home lesson is simple: don’t create a culture based on the assumption that positivity must reign supreme. Instead, create a culture where everyone knows that it’s safe to be real, and that depending on the situation, it’s sometimes better to feel something other than happiness.

If Happiness Is So Great, Why Aren’t We Better at It?

If happiness is so beneficial, and if people frequently experience it (they report they do between 60 and 80 percent of the time), then why aren’t we all better at being happy? Why do we move to a bigger house with the huge lawn to play soccer with the kids and end up feeling less happy because it now requires an extra 20 minutes to visit our closest friends? Why do parents schedule their kids for afterschool theater practice and math tutoring, knowing that everyone will feel rushed, bicker, and argue more often? It turns out that we succumb to a variety of common biases that interfere with our ability to effectively choose what will make us happy. Even worse, these biases are often invisible to us.

Virtually all of our poor happiness choices hinge on a single psychological fact: we’re typically in a different state when making choices than we are when we experience the result of that choice. Imagine, for instance, that you show up to a fancy restaurant famished. When your server takes your order she informs you that if you want to order the chocolate soufflé for dessert, the order must be put in immediately because of the long baking time required. Your stomach casts its vote and you go ahead with the soufflé. At the end of dinner, however, when it arrives at your table, you’re full and you end up enjoying the rich dessert much less than you anticipated. The reason, of course, is that you did a poor job of predicting your future state, falling prey to what psychologists call projection bias.

A number of other biases lead us to make poor predictions of what will make us happy in the future, and the consequences can be much more dire than a half-eaten soufflé. But the single most toxic decision-making bias, where happiness is concerned, is the wanting/liking bias. When most people hear about this, they’re shocked that they have gone their entire lives without having clearly understood it. This bias is based on the distinction between wanting something and liking something. You might want a pet dog, for instance, far more than you’d actually like having a pet dog. Neuroscience research supports the idea that these are two separate psychological processes: wanting, which is an appetite, is associated with one region of the brain, whereas enjoying, or liking, is associated with another.

Craving something, whether it’s a new job, a new toy, or a jelly donut, is often psychologically, and sometimes physically, arousing. We tend to want things really badly. Once we get them, however, we stop revving so high, emotionally speaking. We like whatever it is well enough, but not nearly as much as we once wanted it. In fact, the long meetings, tough commute, and nasty office politics at the new job may not be likable at all, despite the intensity of the craving to be offered the job in the first place. In this way, we often function a little bit like drug addicts, making purchases and other life choices based on a strong desire, without the ability or motive to really see the long-term effects.

Where happiness is concerned, the distinction between wanting and liking is of utmost importance because we often assume that these two are the same. If I want something, the intuitive logic goes, then I will like it if I get it. Not true. Trips to Aruba, extramarital affairs, the regional manager position at work, a Rolex watch: we tend to want these things in the short term far more than we’ll actually like them in the long term. Everyone is prone to conflating these two experiences, and, as a result, we can make some really terrible decisions where happiness is concerned.

Taken together in the real world, these biases lead to billions of dollars annually in misspent money and impulsive decisions, none of which yield the happiness we expect. In psychology, we sometimes talk about an Icarus complex. According to Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were imprisoned on the island of Crete. Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings from wax and warned his son that as they flew away, he should be cautious not to venture too near to the sun. But, once aloft, Icarus was so delighted by the experience of flight that he flew higher and higher until his wings melted, and he plummeted to his death. Not everyone suffers from an Icarus complex, but we are all prone to seeing happiness as unqualifiedly good, and this is an example of its backfiring in a big way.

A Playbook for Mild Unhappiness

Don’t be mistaken, we are fully aware of the robust and widely confirmed findings on the benefits of positive emotions, positive thoughts, and happiness. In fact, we’ve contributed to the literature. But what’s largely untapped is the potential we can draw from the fact that under certain predictable circumstances, being mildly unhappy seems to be better than being happy. This includes tasks that require detail-oriented, systematic, or analytical thinking, which counts for much of what we do at home (think of budgeting and designing weekend plans) and work (think of completing administrative paperwork and trying to determine trends and patterns from mounds of information). The key word is mildly, for serious unhappiness, in the form of chronic loneliness and emotional disorders, impairs our ability to function, and in the worst-case scenario leads to thoughts of death and suicidal acts. Here, we’re not talking about emotional problems and disorders as hidden gifts.

The information-processing styles linked to mild unhappiness and happiness are not in competition: one is neither better nor worse than the other; each has its advantages in the right context. We all fall into the trap of using the terms positive emotions and negative emotions. This language, this labeling, keeps us from being whole and able to function optimally, and fully.

The Takeaways

First, when we’re happy, our comfort with the status quo interferes with our ability to carefully attend to detail, and as a result we end up a bit more gullible, a bit less persuasive, and a little further from success.

Second, although happiness is widely beneficial, organizing one’s life around it can lead to a great deal of effort and time being spent unwisely. Trying too hard to be happy interferes with the pleasure, engagement, and meaning we could otherwise find in the world.

Third, happiness agendas backfire. Short-term and long-term goals are connected to each other, and we often need to sacrifice short-term happiness to accomplish meaningful long-term outcomes. People want to feel bad from time to time, especially when these “negative” psychological states are seen as instrumental to achieving a particular goal, such as preparing for a confrontation or persuading other people to alter their opinions.

Fourth, when a task is boring or requires detail-oriented or analytical skills, happy leaders can inadvertently squelch motivation and impair performance. The best leaders tailor their expression of emotions to what their followers are going through and what will inspire the best outcome.

Last, if you want to be surrounded by productive, creative, satisfied people, create an environment where diverse feelings and behaviors are honored.

Peter Drucker once quipped, “Never mind your happiness; do your duty.” Based on the latest science, we offer a similar recommendation: that happy thoughts and feelings be viewed as a thermostat, a metric that offers insight into how things are going. When moving the thermostat becomes the objective of life, activities lose their intrinsic appeal and performance is compromised. If you want to be happy, get out of your head and into your life. Trying desperately to seek the positive and avoid the negative is not only a wasteful errand, it will also lead you to fail at what you desire most. The situationally aware person is ready to take advantage of fortuitous opportunities when they arise and prepared to tilt the expression of their thoughts and feelings toward happiness or unhappiness as appropriate. To claim the benefits of unhappy states described here, you must find, tolerate, and appreciate them.

From The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © Todd Kashdan, PhD, and Robert Biswas-Diener, Dr. Philos., 2014.

To buy this book, please go to: http://www.penguin.com/book/the-upside-of-your-dark-side-by-todd-kashdan/9781594631733



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09:36 Why We Don't Want Bill and Melinda Gates Controlling the WHO Response to Ebola» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.

Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.

TheWorld Health Organization is “the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” Its very name implies that it takes direction from and serves the needs of people all over the world but the truth is quite different. The largest contributor to the WHO budget is not a government. It is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which provides more funding than either the United States or the United Kingdom. WHO actions and priorities are no longer the result of the consensus of the world’s people but top down decision making from wealthy philanthropists.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to be a savior when it provides $300 million to the WHO budget, but those dollars come with strings attached. WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan admitted as much when she said, “My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests.” Instead of being on the front line when a communicable disease crisis appears, it spends its time administering what Gates and his team have determined is best.

The Ebola horror continues as it has for the last ten months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cruelty of the world’s lack of concern for Africa and all Africans in the diaspora was evident by the inaction of nations and organizations that are supposed to respond in times of emergencies. While African governments and aid organizations sounded the alarm the WHO did little because its donor driven process militates against it. The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.

Critics of the Gates Foundation appeared long before this current Ebola outbreak. In 2008 the WHO’s malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained about the conflicts of interest created by the foundation. In an internal memo leaked to the New York Times he complained that the world’s top malaria researchers were “locked up in a 'cartel' with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group.” In other words, the standards of independent peer reviewed research were cast aside in order to please the funder.

Private philanthropy is inherently undemocratic. It is a top down driven process in which the wealthy individual tells the recipient what they will and will not do. This is a problematic system for charities of all kinds and is disastrous where the health of world’s people is concerned. Health care should be a human right, not a charity, and the world’s governments should determine how funds to protect that right are spent. One critic put it very pointedly. “…the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates, do not believe in the public sector, they do not believe in a democratic, publically owned, publically accountable system.”

There is little wonder why the Ebola outbreak caught the WHO so flat footed as they spent months making mealy mouthed statements but never coordinating an effective response. The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments, and if they weren’t demanding action, then the desperate people affected by Ebola weren’t going to get any.

Privatization of public resources is a worldwide scourge. Education, pensions, water, and transportation are being taken out of the hands of the public and given to rich people and corporations. The Ebola crisis is symptomatic of so many others which go unaddressed or improperly addressed because no one wants to bite the hands that do the feeding.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million to fight the current Ebola epidemic but that too is problematic, as Director General Chan describes. “When there’s an event, we have money. Then after that, the money stops coming in, then all the staff you recruited to do the response, you have to terminate their contracts.” The WHO should not be lurching from crisis to crisis, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 influenza based on the whims of philanthropy. The principles of public health should be carried out by knowledgeable medical professionals who are not dependent upon rich people for their jobs.

The Gates are not alone in using their deep pockets to confound what should be publicly held responsibilities. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was contributing $25 million to fight Ebola. His donation will go to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. Most Americans are probably unaware that such a foundation even exists. Yet there it is, run by a mostly corporate board which will inevitably interfere with the public good. The WHO and its inability to coordinate the fight against Ebola tells us that public health is just that, public. If the CDC response to Ebola in the United States fails it may be because it falls prey to the false siren song of giving private interests control of the people’s resources and responsibilities.


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09:26 A Red State Privatization Horror Story» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
How GOP governors used the cover of privatization to enrich campaign donors and political cronies.

Conservatives and libertarians have been saying for a long time that if we just get rid of government and replace it with the private sector, everything will run a whole lot better.

The idea is that since the main goal of all private corporations is to make money, they’ll be much more willing than the government is to cut costs and eliminate waste.

The result, conservatives and libertarians say, will be more efficient, responsible and responsive services.

That’s the theory, at least.

In reality, privatization of public services has been a total disaster wherever it’s been tried. And, as a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy shows, it’s also created huge opportunities for fraud and corruption.

The report, which was released today and is titled “Pay to Prey,” focuses on how Republican governors in states all across the country used the cover of privatization to enrich campaign donors and political cronies.

The worst culprits include some the biggest names in Republican politics.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has made growing for-profit education one of his top priorities. And, in doing so, he helped out his political buddies and donors while screwing over Florida’s students. One of the biggest winners in Scott’s privatization push, for example, was an ALEC-linked company called K12, Inc. that actually got an “F” from Florida’s education department.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett has given huge legal contracts for defending his state’s voter ID suppression law to some of his top donors. Corbett is also trying to privatize Pennsylvania’s state liquor stores, a move that would mean big bucks for corporate allies like Walmart and Sheetz, a local gas station chain.

And in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder has handed prison food services over to corporate giant Aramark. While the move has meant big bucks for Aramark, the report suggests it’s been an absolute disaster in every other possible way. Meals are infested with maggots, employees have been caught having sex with inmates, and now there are reports that one Aramark employee actually tried to hire a prisoner to kill someone for him. All in all, not a pretty picture.

These horror stories are a perfect example of why privatization is such a bad idea.

Ultimately, private corporations are only interested in making money and are only really accountable to their shareholders, not “We the People.” The way they see it, it doesn’t matter if prisoners have to eat rotten meat, if students get a crappy education, or if for-profit hospitals like the ones in Texas don't have proper staffing. All that matters is making a quick buck, and if that means screwing over the public, then so be it.

The disaster of privatization in places like Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania clearly shows us how public issues - things having to do with the commons - like education, health care and criminal justice are just too important to outsource to corporations.

And Republicans will never change their mind about selling the commons off to the highest bidder, because from the Republican point of view, these aren’t scandals or horror stories, they’re success stories.

All their talk about how privatization will make government more efficient is just cover for what they really want to do: enrich their corporate cronies and replace "We the People" with "our friends the billionaires."

It really is that simple. For Republicans, privatization is just a business opportunity.

And they don’t care about the damage privatization does to our society because privatization destroys the one thing standing between them and the total corporate takeover of our democracy: our government.

When you think of it that way, everything makes a lot more sense.

Our second president, John Adams, once said that “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.”

Adams was right, of course, but today’s Republicans see it the exact opposite way. For them, government is there to be looted.

Every time some Republican governor proposes letting private corporations run our schools or our prisons, it's really only because, as Harry Truman said, "The Republicans believe in taking care of big business first and letting the little fellow take care of himself." With a few exceptions like Teddy Roosevelt, it's been that way since the 1880s, and probably always will be.

Mon 13 October, 2014

11:35 New developments: Climate services for health» RealClimate
I recently received a joint email from the World Meteorological and Health organisations (WMO & WHO) which I like to bring to the attention of our readers. Both because it shows the direction of some new developments, but also because the WMO and WHO are inviting people to share their experience with health and climate. […]

Fri 10 October, 2014

06:56 We Spend $9 Billion a Year to Lock Up People With Mental Illnesses: Here's What We Should Do Instead» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
San Antonio, TX has found a better approach to mental illness than handcuffs and jail cells.

Michelle Mata wants to be treated the way you would want your mom to be treated. She’s an aunt, and a neighbor. She likes line dancing. And she suffers from major depressive disorder with psychotic features.

When Mata has had episodes in the past, people have called the cops. The situations were scary and frustrating for everyone involved. The police didn’t know how to interact with her and she was terrified the police would use excessive force.

But things are getting better.

The state of mental health services in this country is unacceptable. Instead of social workers, we have armed law enforcement officers. Instead of treatment facilities, we have prisons and jails. More than half of the people behind bars have shown recent symptoms of mental health problems. The Cook County jail in Chicago is now the biggest single-facility provider of mental health services in the country. Nearly $9 billion per year is spent locking up people struggling with mental illness; 356,368 severely mentally ill people were imprisoned in 2012 alone.

But correctional control isn’t helping. Many people leave the system worse off, having gone without treatment and services that could have changed the course of their lives. Too often, this means they keep coming back instead of getting better. 

It’s time to cut out the middleman. People shouldn’t have to be arrested and thrown in a cell to get treatment. That only adds cost and wastes time. People should get the help they need, as quickly as possible.

San Antonio, Texas is trying. Ninety-five percent of police officers in San Antonio have gone through Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a program that teaches them how to spot the symptoms of mental illness and how to safely and effectively interact with someone struggling with a mental health crisis. People with mental illnesses, including Michelle Mata, work with the police officers to teach them how they should be treated. Instead of putting people in handcuffs and taking them to jail, officers in San Antonio now take them to a center staffed with mental health professionals.

In the new short film series, OverCriminalized, we interviewed several members of the San Antonio police force. They report that they are much more confident and comfortable dealing with mental health crises after going through the training. Most importantly, since the implementation, none of the CIT teams have used extreme force. No one has been shot or Tased; simply talking to people in crisis has proven to be effective policing.

But it’s not just about how to police, it’s about the entire goal of these interactions. People struggling with mental illness are no longer taken to a jail cell, by way of lengthy and expensive stops in the ER. This program has saved the city about $50 million.

It’s good to celebrate what’s happening in San Antonio. But we need to step back and ask how the city got into this problem in the first place. The answer is that for decades, this county has been shoving social problems like mental illness and drug addiction into a criminal justice system ill-equipped to solve them. This mass criminalization has led to way too many people behind bars, often for too long and for reasons that have no business being crimes in the first place. Communities of color have been hardest hit.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. America can safely reduce our reliance on incarceration; several states have reduced their prison populations while crime rates have dropped. San Antonio is leading the way on finding better approaches to mental illness than handcuffs and jail cells, and other cities should follow suit.

OverCriminalized, a new series produced in partnership with Brave New Films and the Nation, profiles three promising and less expensive interventions that may actually change the course of people’s lives. Sign the petition to urge Congress to provide treatment for those who suffer from mental illness. 


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Mon 06 October, 2014

03:51 Climate response estimates from Lewis & Curry» RealClimate
Guest commentary from Richard Millar (U. Oxford) The recent study of climate sensitivity estimated from the transient surface temperature record is being lauded as something of a game-changer – but how much of a game-changer is it really? The method at the heart of the new study is essentially identical to that used in the […]

Sat 04 October, 2014

10:06 Unforced variations: Oct 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread.

Wed 01 October, 2014

10:27 Limiting global warming to 2 °C – why Victor and Kennel are wrong + update» RealClimate
In a comment in Nature titled Ditch the 2 °C warming goal, political scientist David Victor and retired astrophysicist Charles Kennel advocate just that. But their arguments don’t hold water. It is clear that the opinion article by Victor & Kennel is meant to be provocative. But even when making allowances for that, the arguments […]

Fri 26 September, 2014

13:10 Free climate science / modeling class beginning Sept. 29» RealClimate
Global Warming: The Science and Modeling of Climate Change is a free online adaptation of a college-level class for non-science majors at the University of Chicago (textbook, video lectures). The class includes 33 short exercises for playing with on-line models, 5 “number-cruncher” problems where you create simple models from scratch in a spreadsheet or programming […]

Tue 23 September, 2014

06:54 The story of methane in our climate, in five pie charts» RealClimate

Tue 02 September, 2014

05:08 On arguing by analogy» RealClimate
Climate blogs and comment threads are full of ‘arguments by analogy’. Depending on what ‘side’ one is on, climate science is either like evolution/heliocentrism/quantum physics/relativity or eugenics/phrenology/Ptolemaic cosmology/phlogiston. Climate contrarians are either like flat-earthers/birthers/moon-landing hoaxers/vaccine-autism linkers or Galileo/stomach ulcer-Helicobacter proponents/Wegener/Copernicus. Episodes of clear misconduct or dysfunction in other spheres of life are closely parsed only […]
04:58 Unforced variations: September 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. People could waste time rebunking predictable cherry-picked claims about the upcoming Arctic sea ice minimum, or perhaps discuss a selection of 10 climate change controversies from ICSU… Anything! (except mitigation).

Wed 27 August, 2014

06:45 IPCC attribution statements redux: A response to Judith Curry» RealClimate
I have written a number of times about the procedure used to attribute recent climate change (here in 2010, in 2012 (about the AR4 statement), and again in 2013 after AR5 was released). For people who want a summary of what the attribution problem is, how we think about the human contributions and why the […]

Thu 01 May, 2014

19:42 Asparagus: Health Benefits, Risks (Stinky Pee) & Nutrition Facts» LiveScience.com
Asparagus contains a stimulating blend of nutrients, making this member of the lily family a fantastic food for your health.

Wed 22 January, 2014

19:26 Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment » LiveScience.com
A kidney stone is a hard mass that forms in the kidneys from minerals in the urine, and if large enough, can cause serve pain.

Tue 15 October, 2013

Sun 22 September, 2013

06:34 The Last Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The Oil Drum (TOD) was an internet energy phenomenon that ran for over eight years from April 2005 to September 2013. The site was founded by Prof. Goose (also known as Professor Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University) and Heading Out (also known as Professor Dave Summers formerly of the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

The site took off with the advent of Hurricane Rita in September 2005 and resulted in the first 200+ comment event, indicating that there was demand for a site where concerned citizens could gather round a camp fire to discuss events impacting their energy supplies and ultimately, their well being. In eight years, >960,000 comments have been posted. Two other energy linked disasters, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the Fukushima Daiichi reactor melt downs would see readership soar to >75,000 unique visits per day.

These pages have hosted over 7,500 articles covering every aspect of the global energy system. It was not unusual for a post to attract over 600 comments, many of which were well informed and contained charts and links to other internet sources. The site would become known for a uniquely high level of discourse where armchair analysts of all stripes added their knowledge to threads in a courteous, and ultimately pro-social way that energy experts at hedge funds, corporations or universities might not have the freedom to do. It is this emergent property of smart people sharing knowledge on a critical topic to humanity's future that will be missed.

The site was built on twin backbones that would often pull the readership in opposite directions. Drumbeats, edited by Leanan (who remains anonymous to this day) provided daily energy news digest and a forum for debate. And articles, written by a legion of volunteer writers, that strove to provide a more quantitative analysis of global energy supplies and the political, social and economic events that lay behind them. All the content would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Super G, our site engineer, who maintained and updated software and hardware as the site grew and evolved for over eight years on a voluntary basis.

In the course of 2013, a decision was made to archive The Oil Drum and the main purpose of this Last Post is to provide some direction to new and future readers of the vast content it contains. The main contributors are listed below along with links to where their writings can be now be found. If you are looking for content there are two main options. The first is to look for author specific content where clicking on the live hyper linked name of the contributor will take you to a page giving access to all the content produced by that author. The second option is to use the Advanced Search facility at the top left of this page. Simply enter a few key words and this will return a page of the most relevant articles.

Editorial board

Arthur Berman (aeberman) Arthur E. Berman is a petroleum geologist with 35 years of oil and gas industry experience. He worked 20 years for Amoco (now BP) and 15 years as consulting geologist. He gives keynote addresses for energy conferences, boards of directors and professional societies. He has been interviewed about oil and gas topics on CBS, CNBC, CNN, Platt’s Energy Week, BNN, Bloomberg, Platt’s, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

He was a managing editor and frequent contributor of theoildrum.com, and an associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin. He is a Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and has served on the boards of directors of The Houston Geological Society and The Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. He has published more than 100 articles on petroleum geology. He has done expert witness and research work on several oil and gas trial and utility commission hearings.

He has an M.S. (Geology) from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.A. (History) from Amherst College.

Nate Hagens is a well-known speaker on the big picture related to the global macroeconomy. Nate's presentations address opportunities and constraints we face in the transition away from growth based economies as fossil fuels become more costly. On the supply side, Nate focuses on biophysical economics (net energy) and the interrelationship between money and natural resources. On the demand side, Nate addresses the behavioral underpinnings to conspicuous consumption and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the end of growth. He will be writing at themonkeytrap.us.

Nate has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC, NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Nate is the former President of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future (non-profit publisher of The Oil Drum), is current US Director of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research, and serves on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute. Nate also served as the lead editor of the Oil Drum for several years.

Rembrandt Koppelaar has since 2010 been a Research Associate at the Swiss Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on modelling of costs of resource and energy flows. Since June 2012 he combines this with a PhD research position at Imperial College London, to contribute to a spatial simulation of the resource flows of an economy at a micro-level using agent-based approaches. He joined the Oil Drum in 2006 first as a contributor and later as an editor, triggering by his concern in oil depletion. An interest that also led him to establish and become President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas Netherlands from 2006 to 2010. He is author of the book “De Permanente Oliecrisis” discussing the end of cheap oil and its consequences (Dutch language, Nieuw Amsterdam publishers, 2008). Rembrandt holds a BSc and MSc in economics from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Brian Maschhoff (JoulesBurn) earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico and a Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Arizona. He has worked at several academic institutions and government laboratories, and currently engages in a wide variety of scientific and technical pursuits including web-based education, data visualization, and research on salmon recovery. His research on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia is also posted at Satellite o'er the Desert. He also blogs at Picojoule, and he might eventually be found @joulesburn on Twitter.

Euan Mearns has B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from The University of Aberdeen. Following an academic career in Norway and a business career in Scotland I took time off work in 2005 to help care for two sons and two dogs and to allow my wife's career to blossom. In 2006, wondering why the oil price and the value of my oil stocks kept going up I stumbled upon the The Oil Drum that provided unique insight, at that time, into The Earth energy system. Feeling the need to put something back I submitted a couple of articles and have since written roughly 100 posts and hosted many guest posts from worthy authors.

In 2009 I was appointed as Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Aberdeen and teach occasional courses there. For the last 7 years, writing and editing articles for The Oil Drum has consumed a fair portion of my time, but I have in return learned a huge amount. I also continue to work as a consultant for the oil industry. The focus of my interest is the importance of energy to society, society's response to the infrastructure and secondary impacts of energy provision and the political response. I plan to continue writing about Energy, Environment and Policy at Energy Matters.

New post, 8th October: UK North Sea Oil Production Decline
New post 18th November: Marcellus shale gas Bradford Co Pennsylvania: production history and declines
New post, 28th November: What is the real cost of shale gas?
New post, 9th December: OPEC oil production update July 2013
New post, 18th December: OECD oil production update July 2013
New post, 3rd January: Global Oil Supply Update July 2013
New post, 6th January: The Primary Energy Tale of Two Continents

Paul Sears was born in the UK, and did a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cambridge. Since first coming to Canada on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in 1973, he has worked at the University of Toronto and in the Canadian Federal Government in Ottawa. Most of his work since the mid 1970s has been on the supply and use of energy in one form or another. His interest in the limitations to oil supply dates back to about 1962, when he was at school watching a promotional film from an oil company. The subject of the film was oil exploration, and this caused him to wonder about the dependence of our society on oil and the limits to supply. Other interests are canoeing, kayaking, skiing, hiking, camping, keeping planted aquaria and learning Mandarin Chinese. Sadly, Paul Sears passed away on September 13, 2012. You can read an obituary here.

Dave Summers who writes under the pen name, "Heading Out", comes from a family that for at least nine generations has been coal miners, and he started his working life, as an Indentured Apprentice, in 1961 shoveling coal on one of the last hand-won coal faces in the UK at Seghill, after a few weeks supplying that face with the help of a pit pony. With bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Leeds University in the UK he moved to Rolla, Missouri and Missouri University of Science and Technology (then UMR) in 1968. He was named Curators’ Professor of Mining Engineering in 1980 and for many years directed the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at MS&T. His main work has been in the developing use of high-pressure water for cutting, cleaning and demilitarization. As one of the quiet revolutions that has crept into industry during his career, his research group worked in nuclear cleanup, rocket motors, and surgical applications as well as developing tools to cut, drill and mine more mundane rock, coal and metals. The team carved the half-scale Stonehenge out of Georgia granite, using only water, and later cut Edwina Sandy’s Millennium Arch from Missouri granite, both of which are on the MS&T campus. They also used the technique in a demonstration excavation that resulted in creating the OmniMax theater under the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

He retired from the University, and was named Emeritus in 2010, and lives quietly with his wife Barbara, with occasional commutes to visit their children, located on the two coasts very far from rural America.

In 2004 he began to write a blog, and in 2005 teamed with Kyle Saunders to jointly found The Oil Drum, a site for “discussions on energy and our future.” He now writes on energy, the applications of waterjets, a little on the use of the 3D modeling program Poser, and occasionally on climate matters. His blog, where the Tech Talks continue, can be found at Bit Tooth Energy. He again thanks all those who have contributed to The Oil Drum over the years and wishes them joy and prosperity in their futures!

Dr. David Archibold Summers has written numerous articles, a textbook, Waterjetting Technology, and jointly holds several patents, the last two of which have been licensed and deal a) with the use of waterjets to remove skin cancer and b) for high speed drilling of small holes through the earth.

Gail Tverberg (Gail the Actuary) became interested in resource limits and how these affect insurance companies and the economy more generally in 2005. She began writing about this issue while working as a property-casualty actuarial consultant at Towers Watson. In 2007, she took early retirement to work specifically on the issue of oil limits.

Between 2007 and its suspension in 2013, Gail worked as a contributor and editor at TheOilDrum.com. She also started her own blog, OurFiniteWorld.com, where she continues to write on a regular basis. Her writings include Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy in January 2012. She has spoken at at many conferences on subjects related to oil limits, including both academic and actuarial conferences. She now plans to write a book, tentatively called "Discontinuity Ahead: How Oil Limits Affect the Economy."

Gail worked for CNA Insurance prior to joining Tillinghast (which eventually became part of Towers Watson) in 1981. She has a BA in Mathematics from St. Olaf College and an MS in Mathematics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

Her Twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

Chris Vernon originally graduated with a masters degree in computational physics before working for ten years in the field of mobile telecoms specialising in radio network architecture and off-grid power systems in emerging markets. He subsequently returned to university to take an MSc in Earth system science and a PhD in glaciology focusing on the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. Chris is a trustee at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, works for the UK Met Office and maintains a personal web page.

Selected contributors

Big Gav studied Engineering at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since then he has travelled widely and worked in the oil and gas, power generation, defence, technology and banking industries. He has been blogging about peak oil for almost 3 years at Peak Energy (Australia) and is probably the most prolific example of a techno-optimist in the peak oil world. He may be alone in thinking that peak oil represents a great opportunity to switch to a clean energy based world economy, rather than the trigger for the end of industrial civilisation.

Jason Bradford is currently a Farm Manager in Corvallis, OR and a Managing Partner for a sustainable farmland fund, Farmland LP. Most of his writing for The Oil Drum occurred while he lived in Willits, CA, where he was instrumental in the founding of Willits Economic Localization, hosted a radio program called "The Reality Report," and was a board member of the local Renewable Energy Development Institute. He also founded and ran a small farm at a local elementary school with a lot of community support and the backing of The Post Carbon Institute, where he is currently a board member. His brief but enjoyable academic career began at Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), where he taught courses in Ecology and from which he received a doctorate in Evolution and Population Biology in 2000. After graduation he was hired by the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at MBG, and between 2001 and 2004 secured grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society for multi-disciplinary research on issues related to species extinction and ecosystem function. His "aha moment" came during this research period where the connections between environmental decline, resource consumption, economic growth, belief systems and institutional inertia led to a dramatic change in the course of his life's work.

He continues to blog at Farmland LP.

David Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department and an Associate of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, both at Northern Illinois University. He serves also as an Environmental Policy Analyst for the Environmental Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Murphy’s research focuses on the intersection of energy, economics, and the environment. Recently, his work has focused on estimating how the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has impacted the provision of ecosystem services from the local environment. In addition, he researches how the energy return on investment from oil is related to oil price and economic growth. Dr. Murphy's work for Argonne National Laboratory addresses the environmental impacts associated with energy development.

He tweets: @djmurphy04

Robert Rapier works in the energy industry and writes and speaks about issues involving energy and the environment. He is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at Merica International, a forestry and renewable energy company involved in a variety of projects around the world. Robert has 20 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries, and holds several patents related to his work. He has worked in the areas of oil refining, natural gas production, synthetic fuels, ethanol production, butanol production, and various biomass to energy projects. Robert is the author of Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. He is also the author of the R-Squared Energy Column at Energy Trends Insider. His articles on energy and sustainability have appeared in numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and Forbes.

Jeff Vail (jeffvail) is an energy intelligence analyst and former US Air Force intelligence officer. He has a B.S. in engineering and history from the US Air Force Academy and a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His interests are in global energy geopolitics and the the "rhizome" theory of social and economic organization. He is the author of the political anthropology book A Theory of Power and maintains a blog at http://www.jeffvail.net.

Jérôme à Paris is an investment banker in Paris, specialised in structured finance for energy projects, in particular in the wind power sector. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, he wrote his Ph.D. in economics in 1995 on the independence of Ukraine, with a strong focus on the gas relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and he worked on financings for the Russian oil & gas industry for several years after that. He is the editor of the European Tribune, a community website on European politics and energy issues. He has written extensively about energy issues, usually from an economic or geopolitical angle for the European Tribune and for DailyKos where he led a collective effort to draft an energy policy for the USA, Energize America.

Rune Likvern After Rune's first time seeing The Oil Drum (TOD and Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future; ISEOF), in 2005 he created an account as nrgyman2000 and later got an invitation to become part of the staff of volunteer writers at what was then TOD Europe. In 2008 he started to post under his real name.

He is a Norwegian presently living in Norway and holding a masters degree from what is now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. For more than two decades he was employed in various positions by major international oil companies, primarily Statoil, working with operations, field/area developments (in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea) and implementation (primarily logistics) of Troll Gas Sales Agreement (TGSA) which is about natural gas deliveries to European customers. This was followed by a period as an independent energy (oil/gas fields assessments, cash flow analysis, portfolio analysis etc.) consultant and as VP for an energy hedge fund in New York. In recent years he had a sabbatical to do more in depth research, reading and participating in discussions about energy, biology (what makes human {brains} what they are and why), and not least financial and economic subjects in several global forums as well as some advisory work.

Presently he is looking for gainful employment/engagements.

He also posts on his blog Fractional Flow
(primarily in Norwegian, but some future posts are planned for in English).

Phil Hart studied Materials Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne before spending five years with Shell UK Exploration and Production, based in Aberdeen, Scotland. He worked on two new North Sea oil and gas field development projects followed by a stint with the Brent field maintenance team as a corrosion engineer. In late 2006, Phil returned to Melbourne and was for a while an active member of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He provided many briefings to government, business and community audiences and is still available for presentations around Melbourne and Victoria. Phil now works primarily in the water industry but consults as required for The Institute for Sensible Transport as well. He is also a keen astronomer and night sky photographer: www.philhart.com.

Luís Alexandre Duque Moreira de Sousa (Luís de Sousa) is a researcher at the Public Research Institute Henri Tudor in Luxembourg and a Ph.D. student in Informatics Engineering at the Technical University of Lisbon. Luís created the first Portuguese language website dedicated to Peak Oil in 2005 (PicoDoPetroleo.net); in 2006 he would be one of the founders of ASPO-Portugal and later that year integrated the team that started the European branch of The Oil Drum. Since then he has continuously written about Energy and its interplay with Politics and Economics, both in English and Portuguese. Luís is a regular presence at the collective blog European Tribune and writes on the broader issues of life on his personal blog AtTheEdgeOfTime.

Sat 21 September, 2013

14:34 The House That Randy Built» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

One of the nice aspects of the 7+ years I have been involved with The Oil Drum has been attending conferences and meeting with some of my cyber friends, who by and large figure among the nicest bunch of folks I ever met. In 2007 I attended the ASPO meeting in Houston and it was then that I met Randy Udall for the first time. Well you know what some Americans are like - you meet, you chat a while, discover you get along, down a couple of beers and before you know it you are invited to go visit. And so it was with Randy Udall....

The house that Randy built, sunk low in the Colorado terrain, provides shelter from winter storms and from exposure to summer sun. Photovoltaics, solar hot water (on the roof) and a single wood burner (chimney) provides all the energy needs.

Three years later, my wife and I had a trip planned to the States to go visit Dave Rutledge (another cyber mate) at his mountain lodge in New Mexico and I thought it would be cool to visit Randy en route. We exchanged a couple of emails, he warned that his wife Leslie was cautious about some of his friends coming to stay and that his son once claimed that the family lived in a "mud hut" and by now I was wondering if this was such a good idea. But plans were made and we went to stay with Randy in Colorado for a couple of days in August 2011; on arrival, any trepidation melted away.

A "mud hut", not quite. The stucco exterior finish covers thick foam insulation that in turn covers compressed earth (adobe) blocks. This provides protection from winter cold and summer heat, and thermal inertia from the large temperature swings prevalent in this part of the world.

At first sight Randy's house did indeed have the feel of a "mud hut" but upon entering the reality of a beautifully and lovingly crafted passive house unfolded. I was astonished to learn that Randy had designed and built every inch of this house himself, including the manufacture of every compressed earth brick and the hammering in of every nail - in neat serried ranks.

I wish I had recorded the vital statistics but the mass of bricks was carefully calculated to provide thermal inertia, keeping the house warm in winter but cool in summer. I was also very surprised to learn that all of the insulation was on the outside of the masonry structure which is the opposite of the way we build our houses in the UK. South-facing windows collect wintertime solar energy and the adobe block walls and brick floors soak up much of that heat energy, keeping the home warm through cold nights. During the summer, just opening the windows at night cools off the massive floors and walls, helping the house stay cool during hot days. Putting the insulation on the outside of the exterior walls is the only way to make this adobe wall strategy work effectively.

The house was set low in the terrain, providing protection from winter storms and from the worst excesses of summer heat. Outside you find a large solar PV array, providing a surplus of electricity and solar hot water arrays on the south facing roofs providing all the hot water required and, if my memory serves correctly, some interior heating during winter time.

The rather plain exterior gave way, inside, to simple, beautifully crafted, elegance.

Every timber cut and every nail hammered by one man. This is a masterpiece that will hopefully endure.

Inside, beautiful craftsmanship provides simple but elegant living space to match the view of Mount Sopris that dominated the surrounding landscape. Not many of us leave a lasting legacy. Randy has left memories of a wonderful and thoughtful teacher and a house that will hopefully stand as a testimony to his passion for sustainable living for centuries to come.

The view out of the front window wasn't that bad either. Mount Sopris (3,952 m /12,965 ft) offered Randy and his family fantastic walking, climbing and ski mountaineering opportunities.

Renewable energy and renewable transport. I am seldom pleased with the pictures I take, but there is something about this one I really like.

On the second evening of our visit, we dined with the local mayor and downed a few glasses of red. Randy may look pensive but he is actually looking at his lap top, has my credit card and is planning a road trip for us through Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon en route to New Mexico, one of the best trips my wife and I have ever made. He knew this area like the back of his hand.

To some, this house and lifestyle may seem fabulously exuberant. But the house, in fact, was built for a relatively tiny amount of money with most of the cost coming by way of blood, sweat, tears, knowledge and love of a vision for the future. These Udalls lived a simple life with a very strong sense of community involvement.

Most folks who read these pages will already know that in June of this year Randy died aged 61 of natural causes while hiking alone in the Wind River range of Wyoming, hunting for wild trout. The tragedy here is that he was snatched from his family and the sustainable living community he championed 10 to 20 years prematurely.

Thank you to Leslie Udall for consent to publish this article and to Steve Andrews for some useful editorial comments.

Thu 19 September, 2013

21:27 Twenty (Important) Concepts I Wasn't Taught in Business School - Part I» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Twenty-one years ago I received an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago. The world became my oyster. Or so it seemed. For many years I achieved status in the metrics popular in our day ~ large paychecks, nice cars, travel to exotic places, girlfriend(s), novelty, and perhaps most importantly, respect for being a 'successful' member of society. But it turns out my financial career, shortlived as it was, occurred at the tail end of an era ~ where financial markers would increasingly decouple from the reality they were created to represent. My skill of being able to create more digits out of some digits, (or at least being able to sell that likelihood), allowed me to succeed in a "turbo" financial system that would moonshot over the next 20 years. For a short time I was in the 1% (and still am relative to 'all humans who have ever lived'). Being in the 1% afforded me an opportunity to dig a little deeper in what was really going on (because I quit, and had time to read and think about things for 10 years). It turns out the logic underpinning the financial system, and therefore my career, was based on some core flawed assumptions that had 'worked' in the short run but have since become outdated, putting societies at significant risks.

Around 30% of matriculating undergraduate college students today choose a business major, yet 'doing business' without knowledge of biology, ecology, and physics entirely circumvents first principles of how our world really works ~ my too long but also too short summary of the important things I wasn't taught in business school is below.

The Blind men and the Elephant, by Rudyard Kipling

Business as usual as we know it, with economics as its guide and financial metrics as its scorecard, is in its death throes. The below essay is going to appear critical of finance and the nations (world's) business schools. But it is too, critical, of our entire educational system. However, physicists, plumbers and plowmen do not have the same pull with respect to our cultural goals and narrative that financial folk do - as such an examination of the central assumptions driving society is long overdue. But before I point out what I didn't learn in MBA school, I want to be fair - I did learn things of ‘value’ for the waters I would swim in the future: statistics, regression, how to professionally present and to facilitate meetings, and some useful marketing concepts. Of course, like any 20 something student, 1/2 of the value of graduate school is learning to interact with the group of people that will be your peers, and the relationships and contacts that develop. Plus the placement office was very helpful in getting us jobs as well.

The culture at Salomon Brothers impressed me the most and I landed in their Private Investment Department, where we were basically stockbrokers for the uber-rich - as a trainee I wasn't allowed to call on anyone worth less than $50 million (in 1993). After Salomon shut our department down I went to a similar job at Lehman Brothers. At Lehman I increasingly felt like a high paid car salesmen and after 2 years quit to go work for a client, develop trading algorithms on commodities and eventually started my own small fund. But increasingly, instead of trading or trying to grow my business I found myself reading about oil, history, evolution and ecological issues. It really bothered me that 'externalities' were not priced into our goods or profits. One day, on a hike, it struck me that what I was doing felt spiritually hollow and despite it ‘paying the bills’ I began to realize I was more interested in learning about how the world worked and maybe doing something about improving it. In 2002 I gave my clients their money back, embarked on basically a 2 year hiking trip with my dog, and a car full of books. Eventually I would obtain a PhD in Natural Resources, but like many of you my real degree was obtained on this site, interacting with the many and varied people I met and continue to call friends and mentors. I am continuing to work on, or at least think about, making the near and long term future better, despite the tall odds, while living on a small farm in Wisconsin. More on this below.

In the years that have passed, modern society has become a crazy mélange of angst, uncertainty and worry. Many of us intuitively recognize that we’ve constructed a ginormous Rube Goldberg machine which for a number of reasons may not continue to crank out goods and services for the next 30-40 years. We blame this and that demographic for our declining prospects – the Republicans, the environmentalists, the greedy rich, the lazy poor, the immigrants, the liberals, etc. We blame this and that country or political system – evil socialists, heartless capitalists, Chinese, Syrians, Europeans, etc. We watch TV and internet about the latest ‘news’ influencing our world yet are not entirely confident of the connections. But underlying all this back and forth are some first principles, which are only taught piecemeal in our schools, if at all. Below is a short list of 20 principles underpinning today’s global ‘commerce’. I should note, if I was a 25 year old starting business school, eager to get a high paying job in two short years, I wouldn’t believe what follows below, even if I had time or interest to read it, which I probably wouldn't.

20. Economic 'laws' were created during and based on a non-repeatable period of human history

"I found a flaw. I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." Alan Greenspan testimony to Congress, Oct 2011

Click image to enlarge.

The above graphic shows a three-tiered time history of our planet, starting with the top black line being geologic time. The tiny black sliver on the far right, is enlarged in the second line, and the sliver on its far right is again enlarged on the bottom line, where the last 12,000 years are shown. We, both our environment, and ourselves, are products of this evolutionary history. Our true wealth originates from energy, natural resources and ecosystem services, developed over geologic time. Our true behavioral drivers are a product of our brains being sculpted and honed by 'what worked' in all 3 eras of this graph (but mostly the top 2). The dark line on the bottom is human population, but just as well could be economic output or fossil fuel use, as they have been highly correlated over this period.

The economic ‘theories’ underpinning our current society developed exclusively during the short period labeled 'A' on the graph, on a planet still ecologically empty of human systems and when increasing amounts of extraordinarily powerful fossil energy was applied to an expanding global economic system. For decades our human economies seemed to follow a pattern of growth interrupted by brief recession and resumption to growth. This has made it seem, for all intents and purposes, that growth of both the economy and aggregate individual wealth was something akin to a natural law –it is certainly taught that way in business schools. The reality is that our human trajectory –both past and future - is not a straight line but more like a polynomial - long straight stretches, up and down, with some wavy periods in the middle, and ultimately capped. Our present culture, our institutions, and all of our assumptions about the future were developed during a long 'upward sloping' stretch. Since this straight line period has gone on longer than the average human lifetime, our biological focus on the present over the future and past makes it difficult to imagine that the underlying truth is something else.

Evidence based science in fields like biology and physics has been marginalized during this long period of 'correlation=causation'. This oversight is not only ubiquitous in finance and economics but present in much of the social sciences, which over the past 2 generations have largely conflated proximate and ultimate explanations for individuals and societies. In nature geese fly south for the winter and north in the spring. They do this based on neurotransmitter signals honed over evolutionary time that contributed to their survival, both as individuals and as a species. "Flying north in spring" is a proximate explanation. "Neuro-chemical cues to maximize food/energy intake per effort contributing to survival" is an 'ultimate' explanation. In business school I was taught, 'markets go north' because of invention, technology and profits, an explanation which seemed incomplete to me even though it has appeared to be valid for most of my life. Social sciences have made great explanations of WHAT our behavior is, but the descriptions of WHY we are what we are and HOW we have accomplished a vast and impressive industrial civilization are still on the far fringes of mainstream science. Economics (and its subset of finance) is currently the social science leading our culture and institutions forward, even if now only by inertia.

19. The economy is a subset of the environment, not vice versa

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.
Joseph Wood Krutch

When you have to classify the very capacity of the Earth to support life as an "externality", then it is time to rethink your theory. --Herman Daly--

Click image to enlarge.

Standard economic and financial texts explain that our natural environment is only a subset of a larger human economy. A less anthropocentric (and more accurate) description however, is that human economies are only a subset of our natural environment. Though this may seem obvious, currently anything not influencing market prices remains outside of our economic system, and thus only actively 'valued' by government mandates or by some individuals, not by the cultural system as a whole. A landmark study in NATURE showed that the total value of 'ecosystem services' -those essential processes provided to humans by our environment like: clean air, hydrologic cycles, biodiversity, etc. if translated to dollar terms, were valued between 100-300% of Global GNP. Yet the market takes them for granted and does not ascribe value to them at all!!! Part of reason is that the negative impacts from market externalities aren't immediate, and with our steep discount rates (see below), the near term 'benefits' of GDP outweigh 'abstract' costs at some unknown future date.

Mankind's social conquest of earth has brought with it some uncomfortable 'externalities'. We are undergoing a 6th great extinction, which is no wonder given that humans and our livestock now outweigh wild animals by almost 50:1. Our one species is appropriating over 30% of the Net Primary Productivity of the planet. (One can ask, how can we use 30% of sunlight yet have 50x the weight of the other vertebrates and the answer, as we will see below, is our consumption of fossil carbon). A short list of deleterious impacts not incorporated into prices/costs includes: air pollution, water pollution, industrial animal production, overfishing (90% of pellagic fishes (tuna) in ocean are gone), nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, and antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the most ominous is the threat of climate change and ocean acidification, where humans, via burning large amounts of fossil carbon, are impacting global biogeochemical systems in profound and long-lasting ways.

Since GDP, profits and 'stuff' are how we currently measure success, these 'externalities' only measurement is the sense of loss, foreboding and angst by people paying attention. Such loss is currently not quantified by decision makers. In the past, only when there was a ‘smoking gun’ e.g. in the case of chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, unleaded gasoline, did society organize and require rules and regulations for the externalities, but these examples, as serious as they were, were not anathema to the entire human economy.

18. Energy is almost everything

Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.
— Gifford Pinchot Breaking New Ground (1998), 505.

In nature, everything runs on energy. The suns rays combine with soil and water and CO2 to grow plants (primary productivity). Animals eat the plants. Other animals eat the animals. At each stage of this process there is an energy input, an energy output and waste heat (2nd law of thermodynamics). But at the bottom is always an energy input. Nothing can live without it. Similarly, man and his systems are part of nature. Our trajectory from using sources like biomass and draft animals, to wind and water power, to fossil fuels and electricity has enabled large increases in per capita output because of increases in the quantity of fuel available to produce non-energy goods. This transition to higher energy gain fuels also enabled social and economic diversification as less of our available energy was needed for the energy securing process, thereby diverting more energy towards non-extractive activities. The bottom of the human trophic pyramid is energy, about 90% of which is currently in the form of fossil carbon. Every single good, service or transaction that contributes to our GDP requires some energy input as a prerequisite. There are no exceptions. No matter how we choose to make a cup, whether from wood, or coconut, or glass or steel or plastic, energy is required in the process. Without primary energy, there would be no technology, or food, or medicine, or microwaves, or air conditioners, or cars, or internet, or anything.

A long term graph of human output (GDP) is one highly correlated with primary energy use. For a while (1950s to 1990s) improvements in efficiency, especially in natural gas plants, complemented energy use as a driver of GDP, but most of these have declined to now have only minor contributions. Since 2000, 96% of our GDP can be explained by 'more energy' being used. (For more data and explanation on this, please see "Green Growth - An Oxymoron"). Some resource economists have claimed that the relationship between energy and the economy decoupled starting in the 1970s, but what happened was just an outsourcing of the 'heavy lifting' of industrial processes to cheaper locations. If one includes energy transfers embedded in finished goods and imports there isn’t a single country in the world that shows a disconnect between energy use and GDP. Energy it turns out, not dollars, is what we have to budget and spend. Quite simply, energy is the ability to do work. How much work, we'll see below.

17. Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity

Click image to enlarge.

The chemical potential energy available from the burning of things (e.g. wood) is rather astounding when compared with the energy which we supply our bodies in the form of food, and the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas burn even hotter while also being much easier to store and transport. We quickly learned that using some of this heat to perform work would transform what we could accomplish in massive ways. One barrel of oil, priced at just over $100 boasts 5,700,000 BTUs or work potential of 1700kWhs. At an average of .60 kWh per work day, to generate this amount of 'labor', an average human would have to work 2833 days, or 11 working years. At the average hourly US wage rate, this is almost $500,000 of labor can be substituted by the latent energy in one barrel of oil that costs us $100. Unbeknownst to most stock and bond researchers on Wall Street, this is the real ‘Trade’.

The vast majority of our industrial processes and activities are the result of this ‘Trade’. We applied large amounts of extremely cheap fossil carbon to tasks humans used to do manually. And we invented many many more. Each time it was an extremely inefficient trade from the perspective of energy (much more energy used) but even more extremely profitable from the perspective of human society. For instance, depending on the boundaries, driving a car on a paved road uses 50-100 times the energy of a human walking, but gets us to where we are going 10 times faster. The ‘Trade’ is largely responsible for some combination of: higher wages, higher profits, lower priced goods and more people. The average american today consumes ~60 barrel of oil equivalents of fossil carbon annually, a 'subsidy' from ancient plants and geologic processes amounting to ~600 years of their own human labor, before conversion. Even with 7 billion people, each human kWh is supported by over 90kWh of fossil labor, and in OECD nations about 4-5 times this much.

Technology acts as an enabler, both by inventing new and creative ways to convert primary energy into (useful?) activities and goods for human consumption and, occasionally, by making us use or extract primary energy in more efficient ways. Even such services that appear independent of energy, are not so- for example, using computers, iPhones, etc in aggregate comprise about 10% of our energy use, when the servers etc are included. Technology can create GDP without adding to energy use by using energy more efficiently but:

a) much of the large theoretical movements towards energy efficiency have already occurred and

b) energy saved is often used elsewhere in the system to build consumption demand, requiring more and more primary energy (Jevons paradox, rebound effect). Technological improvement thus does increase efficiency, but higher levels of resource consumption and a larger scale of resource extraction offset this advantage.

Despite the power in the Trade, its benefits can be readily reversed. Firstly, if we add very large amounts of primary energy, even if it is inexpensive, the wage increases/benefits start to decline. But more importantly, and has been happening in the past decade or so, as energy prices increase, so too do the benefits of the “Trade” start to wane. The graph to the right (source, page 18) shows that as the price of energy doubles or triples the benefits of this 'Trade' quickly recede. This is especially true for energy intensive transportation, like air travel, and for highly energy intensive processes, like aluminum smelting, cement manufacture- fully 30% of US industry falls into this category. The ensuing reduction in 'salary' from large energy price increases can only partially be offset by efficiency measures or lean manufacturing moves, because the whole 'Trade' was predicated on large amounts of very cheap energy. This is why the mainstream media touting increased oil production or the growth rate in solar/wind is missing the larger point - what matters are the benefits derived at the various cost points of energy extraction/harnessing. Even with large amounts of gross energy, if it is too costly, it is much less helpful or worse, the infrastructure, trade arrangements and expectations built upon continued $40 oil and $0.05kWh electricity will have to be changed. Basically, the benefits to human societies from the mammoth bank account we found underground are almost indistinguishable from magic. Yet we have managed, over time, to conflate the Magic with the Wizard.

16. Energy is special, is non-substitutable in the production function, and has an upward sloping long term cost curve

"Oil is a renewable resource, with no intrinsic value over and above its marginal cost... There is no original stock or store of wealth to be doled out on any special criterion... Capital markets are equipped to handle oil depletion...It is all a matter of money", M.A. Adelman, Professor of Economics, MIT Source

Physics informs us that energy is necessary for economic production and, therefore growth. However, economic texts do not even mention energy as a factor that either constrains or enables economic growth. Standard financial theory (Solows exogenous growth model, Cobb Douglas function) posits that capital and labor combine to create economic products, and that energy is just one generic commodity input into the production function - fully substitutable the way that designer jeans, or earrings or sushi are. The truth is that every single transaction that creates something of value in our global economy requires an energy input first. Capital, labor and conversions are ALL dependent on energy. For instance, the intro text by Frank and Bernanke (2d ed., 2004, p. 48) offers explanations for increased productivity: …increased quantity of capital per worker, increased # of workers, and, "perhaps the most important,...improvements in knowledge and technology." Nowhere in standard economic literature is there even a hint that the "improvement" in technology they refer to has, historically, been directly linked to the progression of displacing solar-powered human and animal muscle with larger and larger quantities of energy from oil, coal, and gas. Though energy is central (in that even more difficult ore grades require more overburden to extract, requiring more diesel fuel, etc), energy is not the only key limiter – other minerals and metals are finite and deteriorating in quality and cannot be (easily) replaced.

Since energy seemed the same as any other commodity economic models assumed that energy and resources would follow the same decreasing cost curve we have come to expect from gadgets like toasters and coffee cups, where the technology, outsourcing of parts to their lowest cost countries, and efficiencies of scale have generally formed a declining cost over time. For a while, energy too followed this curve, but given that high quality resources are finite, and require high quality processed resources themselves to extract and refine, eventually the cost curve of energy and other key minerals and ores, begins to rise again. This 'dual view' of energy vs regular everyday products is a key failing in economic texts. But for most of the past 60-70 years however this omission was perhaps understandable, as there WAS a continuing supply of cheap energy so its worth seemed to be just the dollar price of it. For most, this is still the dominant worldview – dollars are more important than energy.

Historical cost curves for oil, coal and natural gas for Europe - Graph source: Rune Likvern Click to enlarge

15. Energy has costs in energy terms, which can differ significantly than dollar signals

“It is appropriate to conclude that, as long as the sun shines brightly on our fair planet, the appropriate estimate for the drag on the economy from increasing entropy is zero. William Nordhaus

“ The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. There's only one set of laws and they work everywhere. One of the things I've learned in my time at the World Bank is that whenever anybody says "But economics works differently here", they're about to say something dumb. Lawrence H. Summers

“ ... the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources ... at some finite cost, production can be freed of dependence on exhaustible resources altogether.... Nobel Laureate Robert Solow

In nature, animals expend energy (muscle calories) in order to access energy (prey). The return on this ‘investment’ is a central evolutionary process bearing on metabolism, mating, strength and survival. Those organisms that have high energy returns in turn have surplus to withstand the various hurdles found in nature. So it is in the human system where the amount of energy that society has ‘to spend’ is that left over after the energy and resources needed to harvest and distribute that energy are accounted for. Finite resources typically follow a 'best first' concept of resource extraction. As we moved from surface exploration based on seeps to seismic surveys showing buried anticlines, to deep-water and subsalt reservoir exploration, and finally to hydro-fracturing of tight oil formations , the return per unit of energy input declined from over 100:1 to something under 10:1. To economists and decision makers only the dollar cost and gross production mattered during this period, as after all, more dollars would ‘create’ more energy flowing through our economies. Net energy can peak and decline while gross energy continues to rise, and indeed can go to zero when there is still plenty of gross resource remaining. Everything we do will become more expensive if we cannot reduce the energy consumption of specific processes faster than prices grow. Yet, financial texts continue to view economic activity as a function of infinite money creation rather than a function of capped energy stocks and finite energy flows.

Left chart - western Majors price needed for cash flow break even in yellow, overlayed on OPEC vs non-OPEC crude oil production. Source IEA, Goldman Sach 4/13 report 'Higher long term prices required for troubled industry'. Right curve total oil production from Western Majors - source

Irrespective of the dollar price tag, it requires about 245 kilojoules to lift 5kg of oil 5 km out of the ground. Similar biophysical costs apply to every energy extraction/harnessing technology we have - but they are all parsed into financial terms for convenience. After all, isn't it dollars (euros, yen, renminbi) that our system is trying to optimize? But these physical input requirements will not vary whether the number of digits in the worlds banking system increases or shrinks or goes away. Though fossil fuels are our primary source of wealth, they were created a long time ago, and in drawing down their bounty we have not needed to pay the price of their generation, only their extraction. And, despite enormous amounts of sunlight hitting the earth everyday, real (and significant) resources need to be expended in order to harness and convert the sunlight into forms and at places where it can be used.

There is an enormous difference between ‘gross’ and ‘net’ which manifests in financial sphere via costs. Irrespective of our choice of nominal statistic measuring GDP (wampum or dollars or digits or gold), an increasing % of them will be allocated to the energy sector. If our objective is just to increase GDP, we can just keep growing gross energy by locating and exploiting deeper and deeper pockets of fossil hydrocarbons, but eventually our entire food, healthcare, entertainment infrastructure will be to provide for a giant mining operation. Few media outlets (none actually) handicap the new surge in gross USA oil production by a)capex requirements going up faster than oil prices, b) the enormous increase in diesel use in the shale plays and c) the higher API gravity oil (42 for Bakken, 55 for Eagleford) which exaggerate energy content per barrel between 3.5% and 10.7%. Under current trends, the implications of energy depletion is we will move from energy costing less than 5% of our economy to 10-15% or more. In addition to the obvious problems this will create, we will be using lower quality energy as well. As oil has become more expensive, we are increasingly going towards coal and wood to replace it. Already, in countries with a large drop in ability to afford (e.g. Greece) are cutting down forests to heat their homes in winter.
Net energy is what societies should be focused on, and most don’t even know what it is.

14. Money/financial instruments are just markers for real capital

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. Warren Buffet - The Giving Pledge

Some of my 'real capital': Natural capital - my backyard with trees, sun, water, Social capital Here 2 of my dogs, but equally my friends, contacts and family relationships, Built capital Our house, with solar hot water, chain saws, an aloe vera plant, and a deck, and Human Capital My health and skills (identifying edible mushrooms), my fathers health and skills (he's a doctor, and can grow vegetables, etc)

Growing a big bank account is like fat storage for animals – but it’s not, because it’s only a marker for fat – its caloric benefit stored for the future is intertwined with a sociocultural system linked to monetary and credit marker. In business school, (and on Wall St.) we were taught that stocks going up ~10% a year over the long run was something akin to a natural law. The truth turns out to be something quite different. Stocks and bonds are themselves ‘derivatives’ of primary capital - energy and natural resources – which combine with technology to produce secondary capital - tractors, houses, tools, etc. Money and financial instruments are thus tertiary capital, with no intrinsic value – it’s the social system and what if confers that has value and this system is based on natural, built, social and human capital. And, our current system of ‘claims’ (what people think they own) has largely decoupled from underlying ‘real capital’.

13. Our money is created by commercial banks out of thin air (deposits and loans are created at same time)

Though societies require ‘energy’, individuals require money in order to transact in the things energy provides. What is money anyways? I certainly didn't learn in business school (or any school for that matter). Quite simply, money is a claim on a certain amount of energy. When our economic engine kicked into gear in the early 1900s, money (not energy or resources) was the limiting factor. We had so much wealth in our natural resource bank account that we needed ways of turbocharging the broader economy so productive ventures could be undertaken by anyone with skill, products or ambition. It was around this time that banks came into existence - to increase the flow of money to match the productive output of our economies only made sense - too little money and we couldn't produce the 'power' needed by a hungry world. Creditworthy individuals/businesses could now obtain loans from commercial banks who were required to keep a small portion of their assets on reserve with a central bank. And it worked fabulously well. Correlation=causation and all that.

We were taught to view credit creation as a series of consecutive bank "intermediations", where some initial deposit rippled through the banking system and via a multiplier, created additional money. E.g. banks are unable to create credit themselves, but are just passing on some wealth already created. This is true for about 5% of money coming into existence. The reality for 95%+ of money creation is profoundly different. The standard concept of lending describes a transfer of an existing commodity to its exclusive use somewhere else. However, this new credit extended by banks does not remove purchasing power or claims on resources from anywhere else in the economy. Since banks are capital constrained, not reserve constrained they lend when (ostensibly) creditworthy customers have demand for loans, not when they have excess reserves. As such the ‘fractional reserve banking’ system taught in textbooks and demonized on the blogosphere is not the proper description. I didn't learn this until 2007 or so. Banks do not lend money, they create it. And this is why the focus on government debt is a red herring. All of our financial claims are debt relative to natural resources.

**(Edit - This new paper by Bank of England states precisely what I did just above -banks are not just intermediaries as taught in textbooks)

12. Debt is a non-neutral intertemporal transfer

The left graph, shows the disconnect between GDP and aggregate, non-financial debt. In every single year since 1965 we have grown our debt more than we have grown our GDP. The right graph shows the inverse - how much GDP we receive for each new dollar of debt - declining debt productivity. Source: FED Z.1 2013, NBER

(Note: I use the terms credit and debt interchangeably, though creditor and debtor are opposites)

Of the broad aggregate money in existence in the US of around $60 trillion, only about $1 trillion is physical currency. The rest can be considered, ‘debt’, a claim of some sort (corporate, household, municipal, government, etc.) If cash is a claim on energy and resources, adding debt (from a position of no debt) becomes a claim on future energy and resources. In financial textbooks, debt is an economically neutral concept, neither bad nor good, but just an exchange of time preference between two parties on when they choose to consume. (* we were taught in corporate finance, because of the deductibility of interest, choosing debt over equity is preferred in situations with taxes – but in the real world, when capital markets are open and credit is flowing, if a CEO has choice between financing a project with equity or debt, he/she will almost always prefer debt. And so they do.) However, there are several things that happen when we issue debt/credit that cause the impact of the convention to be much different than in the textbooks:

1) While we are issuing debt (especially on a full planet) the best and easiest to find energy and resources deplete making energy (and therefore other things) generally more expensive for the creditor than the debtor. People that choose to save are ‘outcompeted’ by people who choose to consume by taking on debt. At SOME point in the future SOME creditors will get less, or nothing. (the question now is ‘when’ and ‘who’)

2) We increasingly have to issue more debt to keep up with the declining benefit of the “Trade”, lest aggregate demand plunge.

3) Over time we consume more rather than adding productive investment capacity. This lowers debt productivity over time (debt productivity is how much GDP we get for an additional $ of debt, or the ratio of GDP growth relative to debt growth). If an additional dollar of debt created a dollar of GDP, or anything close, it would be more or less like the textbooks claim – a tradeoff in the temporal preferences of the creditor and debtor. And, when debt productivity is high, we are transforming and extending wealth into different forms of future wealth (energy into productive factories etc). But when debt productivity is low (or approaching zero as is the case now), new debt is really just an exchange of wealth for income. This is happening now in all nations of the world to varying degrees. E.g. since 2008, G7 nations have added 1 trillion in nominal GDP, but at a cost of increasing debt by $18 trillion – and this doesn’t include off balance sheet guarantees.

Debt can thus be viewed two ways – 1) from a wealth inequality perspective, for every debtor there is a creditor – a zero sum game, 2) all claims (debts) are relative to the energy and natural resources required to a) service them and b) pay off the principle. (So, think 2 Italians: Gini and Ponzi.)

11. Energy measured in energy terms is the cost of capital

The cost of finite natural resources measured in energy terms is our real cost of capital. In the short and intermediate run, dollars function as energy, as we can use them to contract and pay for anything we want, including energy and energy production. They SEEM like the limiters. But in the long run, accelerating credit creation obscures the engine of the whole enterprise - the ‘burning of the energy’. Credit cannot create energy, but it does allow continued energy extraction and much (needed) higher prices than were credit unavailable. At some point in the past 40 years we crossed a threshold of 'not enough money' in the system to 'not enough cheap energy' in the system, which in turn necessitated even more money. After this point, new credit increasingly added gross energy masking declines in our true cost of capital (net energy/EROI). Though its hard to imagine, if society had disallowed debt circa 1975 (e.g. required banks to have 100% Tier 2 capital and reserves) OR if we had some natural resource tether – like gold – to our money supply since then, global oil production and GDP would likely have peaked 20-30 years ago (and we’d have a lot more of the sub 50$ tranche left). As such, focus on oil and gas production numbers isn't too helpful without incorporating credit forecasts and integrating affordability for societies at different price tranches.

An example might make this clearer: imagine 3,000 helicopters each dropped a billion dollars of cash in different communities across the country (that’s $3 Trillion ). Citizens that get there first would stuff their backpacks and become millionaires overnight, lots of others would have significant spending money, a larger number would get a few random hundreds stuck in fences, or cracks, and a large % of the population, not near the dropzone, would get nothing. The net effect of this would be to drive up energy use as the new rich would buy cars and take trips and generally consume more. EROI of the nations oil fields wouldn’t change, but oil companies would get a higher price for the now harder to find oil because the economy would be stronger, despite the fact that those $3 trillion came from thin air (or next to it). So, debt went up, GDP went up, oil prices went up, EROI stayed the same, a few people got richer, and a large % of people got little to nothing. This is pretty much what is happening today in the developed world.

Natural systems can perhaps grow 2-3% per year (standing forests in USA increase their volume by 2.6% per year). This can be increased via technology, extraction of principle (fossil carbon), debt, or some combination. If via technology, we are accessing energy we might not have been able to access in the future. If we use debt, we are diverting energy that would have been accessible in the future to today by increasing its affordability via handouts/guarantees and increasing the price that energy producers receive for it. In this fashion debt functions similarly to technology in oil extraction. Neither one is 'bad', but both favor immediate consumption on an assumption they will be repeated in continued iterations in the future.

Debt temporarily makes gross energy feel like net energy as a larger amount of energy is burned despite higher prices, lower wages and profits. Gross energy also adds to GDP, as the $80+ per barrel oil extraction costs in e.g. Bakken Shale ends up being spent in Williston and surrounding areas (this would be a different case if the oil were produced in Canada, or Saudi Arabia). But over time, as debt increases gross energy and net energy stays constant or declines, a larger % of our economy becomes involved in the energy sector. Already we have college graduates trained in biology, or accounting, or hotel management, working on oil rigs. In the future, important processes and parts of non-energy infrastructure will become too expensive to continue. Even more concerning is that, faced with higher costs, energy companies increasingly follow the societal trend towards using debt to pull production forward in time (e.g. Chesapeake, Statoil). In this environment, we can expect total capital expenditure to keep pace with total revenue every year, and net cash flow become negative as debt rises.

In the last 10 years the global credit market has grown at 12% per year allowing GDP growth of only 3.5% and increasing global crude oil production less than 1% annually. We're so used to running on various treadmills that the landscape doesn't look all too scary. But since 2008, despite energies fundamental role in economic growth, it is access to credit that is supporting our economies, in a surreal, permanent, Faustian bargain sort of way. As long as interest rates (govt borrowing costs) are low and market participants accept it, this can go on for quite a long time, all the while burning through the next tranche of extractable carbon and getting reduced benefits from the "Trade" creating other societal pressures. I don't expect the government takeover of the credit mechanism to stop, but if it does, both oil production and oil prices will be quite a bit lower. In the long run it's all about the energy. For the foreseeable future, it's mostly about the credit

But why do we want energy and money anyways?

Continued in Part II

Wed 18 September, 2013

21:17 So, What Are You Doing?» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

It's September and we still have 7 more 'final' posts in the queue (myself, Joules, Jerome, Jason, Art, Dave Murphy, and Euan...) and will run them every 2 days until finished. Leanan will post a final Drumbeat later this week where people can leave website links contact details, etc.

For 8 years we read about what people think about energy related themes. I thought it would be a good idea to use this thread to highlight what people are actually doing in their lives given the knowledge they've gleaned from studying this topic, which really is more of a study of the future of society.

What do TOD members plan to do in the future? Herding goats, fixing potholes, creating web sites, switching careers, etc? I'll go first. Feel free to use my template or just inform others what you're doing. This might be interesting thread to check back on in a few/many years.....(Please no posting of energy charts etc. and let's not respond to others in this thread, just a long list of what people are doing w/ their time).

Ere we scatter to the ether, please share, anonymously or otherwise : what are people doing?

Thu 12 September, 2013

11:32 The Exponential Legacy of Al Bartlett» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado, died September 7, 2013 at the age of 90. It is coincidental that, in the year that he "officially" retired from teaching (1988), I first heard his famous lecture Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (although I don't recall if that was the title at the time). I was in my last year in graduate school, and his talk was one of the keynote presentations (or perhaps during dinner) for a scientific conference. It was seemingly out of place given that the subject of the meeting was surface chemistry and physics, but it most certainly became stuck somewhere in my mind for reasons other than its novelty.

Most scientists are transfixed on interesting scientific details, some with relevance to technological problems, and perhaps buzz-worthy enough to attract funding. There has never been much money in solving problems with no real technological solution. I became reacquainted with this talk in 2006, probably via a link on The Oil Drum. TOD was by its nature dealing with limits to growth (of oil, if nothing else), and over the last few years, we have discussed the various ways in which we could perhaps keep the oil flowing or replace it with something else. Perhaps the implications of exponential growth was kept in the back room somewhere, like an embarrassing relative, while the latest "game changing" solution was bandied about. But we need to continually remind ourselves that, while important, finding the next energy source or improving efficiencies the keep the economy growing are not long-term solutions for a finite planet.

Below are some more reflections on Prof. Bartlett's legacy, from ASPO-USA (where he had long been on the advisory board) and from the University of Colorado.

Albert A. Bartlett: Ode to a Gentle Giant

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett enjoyed 90 years of rich life on this earth; moreover, thousands of people have enjoyed and been touched by Al's life.

He is of course most widely known as a tireless, eloquent, and supremely caring voice for charting a sustainable path for humanity. With seemingly endless determination, he applied his training in math and physics and skills as a master teacher to focus attention on a simple but paramount idea--on a finite planet, "growth" is unsustainable. "Sustainable growth is an oxymoron", is how Al is sometimes quoted.

His most reknowned quote, however, is "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"--referring to the accelerating rate exhibited by anything growing as a constant percentage increase.

Al developed a now-famous lecture that illustrated the power and importance of this mathematical phenonomenon, and reportedly delivered that lecture more than 1700 times over the following decades. That one man would be compelled to devote much of his career to the understanding of a basic, unassailable fact of life speaks volumes about the world we live in, as well as Al's great character.

ASPO-USA is proud to have had Al as a longstanding member of our advisory board, and I was exceptionally fortunate to be acquainted with him in his latter years. While the nature of our relationship was professional, what I will always remember is the warmth, humility, and quiet joy that he brought to his work and his relationships with his colleagues and students.

For those that dare to concern themselves with the monumental issues that concerned Al, there is a risk of gloominess creeping into our outlook on life and humanity. Al is a beautiful reminder that need not be the case.

The note that Al wrote to us after he visited his doctor was filled with the peace and happiness of a man who had understood long ago what was important in life and had lived his own life accordingly. We should all be so blessed, and some of us were also blessed to know Al.

In honor to Al, inspired and informed by his life and his friendship, we re-commit ourselves to continuing and building on his legacy.

Click below to view Al's famous lecture - Arithmetic, Population, and Energy:


Jan Mueller Executive Director, ASPO-USA


CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated physics professor Al Bartlett

excerpted from here

“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim. And we can all be thankful for his vision and foresight in making the Boulder community what it is today.”

Bartlett was born on March 21, 1923, in Shanghai, China. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Colgate University and spent two years as an experimental physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project before earning his graduate degrees in physics at Harvard. He then started his teaching career at CU-Boulder.

When Bartlett first delivered his internationally celebrated lecture on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of CU students on Sept. 19, 1969, the world population was about 3.7 billion. He proceeded to give it another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students from junior high school through college.

His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Understanding the mathematical consequences of population growth and energy consumption can help clarify the best course for humanity to follow, he said.

The talk contained his most celebrated statement: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” A video of his lecture posted on YouTube has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

This year, the world population is about 7.1 billion and the CU Environmental Center announced a program this summer in which 50 student and community volunteers received training in exchange for a commitment to give Bartlett’s talk at least three times in 2013-14.

Before his death, Bartlett requested that any memorial gifts be made to the University of Colorado Foundation Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship Fund, in care of the Department of Physics, 390 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309.

Tue 10 September, 2013

06:59 Of Milk Cows and Saudi Arabia» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Under the desert in eastern Saudi Arabia lies Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. It has been famously productive, with a per-well flow rate of thousands of barrels per day, owing to a combination of efficient water injection, good rock permeability, and other factors. At its best, it set the standard for easy oil. The first wells were drilled with rather rudimentary equipment hauled across the desert sands, and the oil would flow out at ten thousand barrels per day. It was, in a sense, a giant udder. And the world milked it hard for awhile.

However, this article isn't just about a metaphor; it is also about cows, the Holsteins of Haradh. But in the end, I will circle back to the present and future of Saudi oil production.

I registered on The Oil Drum over seven years ago, and one of the subjects that fascinated me was the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. There was much discussion about the largest of these, Ghawar, and whether it might soon go into steep decline - taking the world with it. About that time, an application called Google Earth added some features which enabled users to mark up the globe with their own placemarks and such, and I set out to find Ghawar (or at least its footprints) in the vast sandscape that is the Eastern Province. Starting with published maps which could be overlaid atop the satellite imagery in Google Earth, I found some initial wells...and then a lot more...and kept going. An article authored by Saudi Aramco engineers showed well locations in northern Ghawar, and I noticed that many wells which I found yet were not on the map. I deduced that these were wells drilled after the map was drawn, and their locations seems to indicate intensive drilling in the center of the field, which was previously bereft of wells. I began publishing some of these findings on the blog Satellite o'er the Desert and was invited to contribute to The Oil Drum.

In my Google Earth-enabled virtual travels around Saudi Arabia looking for oil wells and such, I have come upon many strange sights. Some of these are of natural origin yet can only be appreciated from a satellite's perspective, as is the case for this tidal pool located near a gas oil separation plant for the Safaniya oil field:

Figure 1. My favorite Google Earth view, near Safaniyah oil field, Saudi Arabia

There are many crop circles scattered about eastern Saudi Arabia -- by which I mean circles of crops watered by central pivot irrigation (as opposed to circles of crops flattened by aliens). A line of such circles cuts across the southern tip of the Ghawar field, seemingly following the course of a dry river bed.

Figure 2. Irrigation along the southern fringe of the Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia. Arrows indicate location of features of interest.

Located on this line, just to the west of the field periphery, are three rather symmetrical structures:

Figure 3. Symmetrical objects of interest near Ghawar oil field.

Each of these is about 250 meters in radius. It took me awhile to discover what these were, as at the time, crowdsourced mapping was just getting started. It so happens that they are part of a huge integrated dairy operation, one of the largest in the world. Fodder crops are grown in nearby circles, cows are milked with state of the art equipment, and the milk is packaged and/or processed into cheese and other products before being shipped. All of this happens in the northernmost fringe of the Rub' al Khali desert, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Start here to browse around Saudi Arabia's Dairyland on your own using Google Maps.

Turning Black Gold Into White Milk

Here is a glossy PR video describing the operations:

Although the original intent was to locally breed cows more suited to the Saudi climate, it seems they had to import them. Here is another video describing the transport of cows from Australia. A bit different than a Texas cattle drive.

They Built It, But They Didn't Come

Answering why and how these dairy farms came to be located here reveals some interesting history of Saudi Arabia. Although great wealth of the country results from its abundant store of fossil fuels, the necessity of diversifying the economy has long been recognized. The lack of food security was always a big concern. In addition, there remained the nagging problem of what to do with the Bedouins, nomadic peoples who resisted efforts to be integrated into the broader Saudi society. And since they now had it in abundance, they decided to throw money at the problems. What could go wrong?

As related in the book "Inside the Mirage" by Thomas Lippman, a problem with Saudi agriculture is that most of the private land was owned by just a few people, and they were wealthy aristocrats, not farmers, and there wasn't much local knowledge of modern large-scale agriculture in any case. One of the proposed solutions was to create huge demonstration projects by which modern techniques of farming could be learned and applied. As for labor, the goal was to provide individual farms, housing, and modern conveniences to the Bedouin, who would settle down for a life on the farm. The largest such project was the al-Faysal Settlement Project at Haradh, designed for 1000 families. It didn't work out as planned, though, because the Bedouins never came:

You know of the Haradh project, where $20 million was spent irrigating a spot in the desert where an aquifer was found not too far from the surface. This project took six years to complete and was done for the purpose of settling Bedouin tribes. At the end of six years, no Bedouin turned up and the government had to consider how to use the most modern desert irrigation facility in the world.

(From a 1974 Ford Foundation memo)

Eventually, the Saudi government partnered with Masstock, a Dublin-based industrialized endeavor run by two brothers. The Haradh project became the largest of their operations in Saudi Arabia at the time. Eventually, a new company called Almarai (Arabic for "pasture") was created which involved Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer. In 1981, a royal decree created the National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) for the purpose of furthering agricultural independence, and (for reasons I haven't discerned), NADEC gained control of the Haradh project. Almarai went on the become the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world, and Al Kabeer is a hidden billionaire.

As a side note, NADEC sued Saudi Aramco a few years ago as a result of the latter using some NADEC property for Haradh oil operations, and a lower court ordered Saudi Aramco to vacate. The web links to those reports have disappeared, and one wonders how the appeal went. Separately, NADEC has reportedly obtained farmland in Sudan. Food security.

Speaking of Cash Cows

A half decade ago, much of The Oil Drum's focus was on possible problems with Saudi Arabian oil production. Was the flow from Ghawar tanking? Were all of their older fields well past their prime, and were their future options as limited as Matt Simmons suggested in Twilight in the Desert? My analyses and those of others here seem to suggest a rather aggressive effort to stem decline. With further hindsight, it is clear that Saudi Aramco was caught a bit off guard by decline in existing production. But over time, they were able to complete several decline mitigation projects as well as many so-called mega-projects with many million barrels per day of new production. With each project, the technological sophistication has grown - along with the expense. The Khurais redevelopment, which is reportedly producing as expected, features centralized facilities for oil, gas, and injection water processing. Water goes out, and oil comes back.

Figure 4. Left: map showing Saudi oil fields, Right: Khurais Project pipeline network (source: Snowden's laptop)

The most recent project, the Manifa field redevelopment is a logistical marvel. These have so far proven to be very successful projects (even though Manifa is not fully completed). But if one looks for the impact of the projects on their total output, one comes back somewhat underwhelmed. In the following graphic I show Saudi Arabian production with the theoretical (zero depletion) and official (as reported directly by Saudi Aramco) production capacities.

Figure 5. Saudi Arabian crude oil production increases from megaprojects since 1996, compared with actual crude production (source: Stuart Staniford). Cumulative increases are superimposed on the Saudi Aramco reported baseline value of 10.5 mbpd capacity in 1995. Blue dots denote values obtained from references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Here are some conclusions one might draw from the above (including the references):

  • Saudi Aramco has generally been self-consistent when reporting spare capacity and total capacity in light of actual production
  • Production capacity increased subsequent to startup of megaprojects. However, the net production capacity increases were uniformly and substantially less than the planned increments. In total, 5 million barrels per day of production was added, but capacity increased by only 2 mbpd.
  • It is most unlikely that reported production capacities accurately reflected what was producible at any point in time, given the reported values as correlated with the timing of the increases from the megaprojects.
  • However, actual production did not generally increase immediately after projects were completed, indicating that production capacity was not completely exhausted beforehand. But there was certainly an impetus to add a lot of production quickly.

The gap between what might have been (red staircase) and what is reported as production capacity (blue dots) is explained by considering the net of two competing developments: 1) depletion of legacy fields (Ghawar etc.) as they are produced, and b) mitigation of this depletion by drilling new wells in these fields. Since Saudi Aramco does not release data for individual fields or new vs. old wells, we are left to speculate on the relative magnitudes of these. On the plus side, the 5 mbpd from the new projects will (hopefully) deplete less rapidly than older fields. On the minus side, only 2 mbpd capacity was added - and they have exhausted all of the major fields in the pipeline. On the double minus side (for the world, anyway), only 1 - 1.5 mbpd of actual production was added since 1995, and (according to BP) all of that increase went into internal consumption. So after nearly 20 years, though total world crude production (and population) has increased, Saudi Arabia exports the same amount of oil as before. And yet, there is still a lot of hydrocarbons under Saudi Arabia. And it seems they already realize the need for more, as there are reports of planned increases from Khurais and Shaybah totaling 550 kbpd by 2017 to "take the strain off Ghawar". I feel its pain.

Addendum: According to this news report, oil has not actually flowed yet from Manifa. The new Jubail refinery has reportedly no received any Manifa oil as of yet:

The refinery is configured to run on heavy crude oil. But two industry sources said the refinery had not received any of the heavy crude expected from Aramco's new Manifa field and that it was running instead on light crude. Aramco said in April that it had started production at Manifa.-Reuters

Still the One?

Despite all of the negativity emitted above, it is also evident that Saudi Arabia has had and will continue to have a role as the primary provider of spare capacity which can be deployed to buffer variability in world demand. It can do this because Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, can effect oil prices by virtue of what it can put on or take off the world market. Contrast the Saudi production profile with that of the United States, shown below.

Figure 6. United States monthly crude oil production (source: EIA)

Aside from some minor month-to-month fluctuations and some notable downward spikes caused by Gulf of Mexico hurricanes in 2002 (Isadore), 2004 (Ivan), 2005 (Katrina and Rita), and 2008 (Gustav), production follows a smooth trend. Especially noteworthy is the contrast between Saudi and US production subsequent to the economic downturn in 2008, when oil prices collapsed: Saudi Arabia throttled back while the US kept pumping. Any individual producer in the US had little incentive to hold back oil. However, with the increased importance of Shale plays (Bakken and Eagle Ford) to US production, this might change the dynamics going forward. Since these wells deplete rapidly, any decrease in drilling caused by low prices will also throttle demand (although with a time lag).

The Hungry Cow

The other new "above ground factor" is the problem of growing internal consumption in Saudi Arabia, of just about everyting including oil. To air condition all of those cows, it takes a lot of electricity (and currently oil). And all of that milk feeds a growing, young population. But that milk is bound to get more expensive, since the aquifers from which those massive dairy operations get their water are being rapidly depleted.

Milk consumption in Saudi Arabia reached 729.4 million litres in 2012
The Kingdom has already depleted 70% of these sources of water and must now turn increasingly to desalinisation which when factored into the cost of producing fresh milk is very expensive. Experts have estimated that it takes between 500- 1000 litres of fresh water to produce 1 litre of fresh milk if one takes into around the irrigation required to grow the Rhodes grass or Alfalfa required to feed the cows.

It seems Saudi Arabia has cash flow problems, although it is hard to imagine why, given that they are currently producing as much oil as ever at $100/barrel. For one thing, their population keeps growing:

Figure 7. Saudi Arabia population growth (source: Thanks, Jonathan!)

and they need to spread around some money to maintain political stability. Their energy use is out of control, as is their water consumption. And for those segments of Saudi society into which much of the oil revenue flows, consumption is a happening thing. And nobody really knows where the all money goes.

Saudi Aramco is overseen by the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry and, to a lesser extent, the Supreme Petroleum Council, an executive body. The company pays royalties and dividends to the state and supplies domestic refineries. Revenues go to the Finance Ministry, but the amounts are not published. There is no transparency in the national budgeting process, and it is unclear how oil revenues are used. Environmental impact assessments are required, but the results are not made public. Laws and decrees concerning the extractive industries are published and include guidelines for the licensing process in sectors other than upstream oil, but do not contain details on fiscal arrangements. Saudi Arabia has no freedom of information law.

Some ends up in London, where some Saudi tourists spend the entire summer. Of course, this was true in 2002 (and oil was $26/barrel then).

But they do seem to have money to throw around to garner political influence (note that the US does the same with money that it doesn't have). And they have grand plans for looking beyond their petro-heritage:

Best hopes for wise spending.

Au revoir. Au lait.

Sat 07 September, 2013

20:05 IEA Sankey Diagrams» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The International Energy Agency has taken its share of abuse from The Oil Drum over the years for its rather optimistic forecasts. But it deserves a hearty shout-out for an invaluable resource it has on its web site: Interactive Sankey Diagrams for the World.

Sankey Diagram showing world energy flows (Click for larger view)

As long as you understand what a Sankey Diagram is, not much more introduction is needed here. You can look at individual countries, consumption patterns as well as production, and more. Click on individual flows and graph over time.

World energy use for steel production (Click for larger view)

One curiosity, though:

The world oil imports (2295) and oil exports (2218) don't match in the top graphic. "Statistical difference"?

As with data from the BP Statistical Review series, there might be occasional quibbles with the numbers. Also, I've seen prettier Sankeys. But if you've been wondering what to do with all of your time after The Oil Drum goes on hiatus, there you go.

Fri 06 September, 2013

21:13 My Last Campfire Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I checked my user profile for this site and discovered that as of today I have been a member for 7 years and 37 weeks. Wow! So much has happened to me and my family over those years and a lot of it was shared on The Oil Drum. For reasons I’ll explain, I haven’t been around much lately. My most recent article was over three years ago.

My first writings for The Oil Drum were over six years ago as guest posts through Nate Hagens, and then as a staff contributor for the “Campfire” section of the site. I am not an energy expert so my role wasn’t about modeling depletion or providing context to the energy news of the week. What I did was consider the broader relationships between energy, resources and society, and explore the implications of more expensive and less energy to our consumer-oriented economy and culture. The most complete and succinct example of this role is probably my “Beware the Hungry Ghosts” piece, which includes this passage:

Several religious traditions describe what are termed “hungry ghosts.” These sad beings have insatiable appetites, with tiny mouths and huge stomachs. Modern society creates hungry ghosts among the living. We “have” more than ever, but are constantly bombarded with messages that it is never enough. The poor go to dollar stores, the middle class spend hours at Bed Bath and Beyond, the rich buy ever larger yachts, and city planners are always looking for more land and water in which to expand their urban sphere. Wants have become indistinguishable from needs. I anxiously walk among our nation of hungry ghosts, asking myself what these addicts will do when they can't get their fix?

What many of us found at The Oil Drum was a place to share our anxieties with those who share our anxieties. I am not being dismissive of this at all! Many here have points of view that place us outside of conventional wisdom, and this can be socially difficult. Where else can we go to have conversations that may be impolite, misunderstood and dismissed by the hungry ghosts we live among?

A fine example of thinking profoundly differently is in Kurt Cobb’s essay “Upside Down Economics” in which he gives a visual representation of U.S. GDP from the perspective of an Ecological Economist:

Figure 1

Many of my articles framed topics from an Ecological Economics perspective, where the economy is a subsidiary of the planet and functions by extracting resources and depositing wastes. Essential resources like energy, mineral ores, food and fiber can only be easily ignored when they are inexpensive to buy and reliably available. Many of us are alarmed because we see existential threats to the bottom of a top heavy pyramid and would like those situated higher up to pay attention and look below.

At the bottom of Cobb’s chart you see the economic sector “Agriculture & Forestry.” That is where I currently work, and where much of my writing here was about. I didn’t just explore the food growing sector, but also the so-called Food System, that includes transportation, processing and warehousing, retailing and end-use. Classic statistics discussed, and that devoted readers of The Oil Drum can probably rattle off at any cocktail party, include:

The U.S. Food System consumes several fossil fuel calories for each food calorie eaten.

The typical grocery store has about three days supply of goods on its shelves.

Each U.S. farmer (plus machines with fuel) feeds 100 people.

Figure 2. Graphic used in the post “Ecological Economics and the Food System

Two additional posts, “Save it for the Combine” and “Energy Descent and Agricultural Population” perhaps best capture the sense of the transformative change fossil fuels made in agricultural production and labor inputs, and offer some perspectives on adaptation to lower fossil fuel availability.

Figure 3. The percent agriculture population is plotted in relation to per capita energy use.  Nations with abundant use of exosomatic energy tend to have less of their population involved in agricultural production, presumably either because they can afford to import much of their food or employ labor saving devices in food production.  For example, only about 1% of the US labor force is involved in farming.  Data comes from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Original article containing figure is here.

The Campfire series was not only about exploring heterodox ideas, it was also meant to be a place where practical advice was shared. Many of us wanted to go beyond the talking stage and “do something” about the information and analyses presented on the site. This brings me to why I haven’t been writing here lately.

I went to the 2008 ASPO meetings in Sacramento not only to learn, but to network and hopefully meet someone who could help me with something. I wanted to farm at a significant scale to practice and demonstrate a form of agriculture that needs much fewer external inputs and is thus adaptive to our times. I met my eventual business partner (and TOD member) Craig Wichner in Sacramento. We were able to introduce our company, Farmland LP, at ASPO 2009 in Denver, where I gave two talks that eventually became posts (here and here). Over the past four years Craig and I have taken a heterodox idea and turned it into something substantial: Farmland LP currently owns and manages 6300 acres of cropland in California and Oregon.

So, I’ve been pretty busy. I am still writing on my company website but most of my posts are news related to the business. On occasion I do develop articles that look at the big picture and do in-depth analyses, such as “ The Many Benefits of Multi-Year Crop Rotations” and “Google Earth, Rotational Grazing and Mineralization, Part 1 and Part 2” but I won’t have time for more of that sort of writing until we are done with planting this fall.

This brings me to the end of my last Campfire post. In customary fashion I will pose some questions and ask readers to share their experience, wisdom, frustrations, and final thoughts for The Oil Drum.

Did any of you follow similar paths to mine, whereby the information and critical thinking shared on this site led to significant changes in your life path? (I never thought I’d be a farmer when I grew up.)

What barriers to making the changes you wanted did you encounter? Did they stop you from going on or did you overcome them somehow? (My wife gave me the foundation I needed to do this work. She had the income-earning job and the patience to allow me time to explore. Thank you Kristin!)

Thu 05 September, 2013

06:22 The Economic and Political Consequences of the Last 10 Years of Renewable Energy Development» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I've been privileged to be an editor of TOD over the past several years, and am glad to have been invited to do a final post as the site moves to an archive status.

When I started writing about energy on the blogs in 2003/2004, I was writing mostly about Russia, gas pipelines and gas geopolitics. There were so many conspiracy theories abounding on topics like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline or (a bit later) Russia vs Ukraine pipeline conflicts that I felt the need to put out a different version, given that I knew the inside story on many of these issues - and that got me invited to contribute these to TOD as well. In the meantime, my job (which was, and - full disclosure - remains, to finance energy projects) slowed moved from oil&gas work to power sector transactions and, increasingly, to renewable sector deals, and I started writing about the wind business, in my mind from the perspective of a banker wanting to make sure that these projects could be paid back over periods of 15 or 20 years.

While my work is now almost exclusively focused on offshore wind in Northern Europe, I still do not consider myself a 'wind shill'... but it does give me a different perspective on the debates currently going on about energy policy in various places, and on the changes to the power sector caused (among others, by renewables) that are underpinning such debates, and I thought it would be a useful complement, together with Big Gav's overview of the clean energy sector, to the other articles more traditionally focused on the oil&gas side of things.

I'll focus on Germany, where the transformation has been most advanced (and even has brought a new word to us: the Energiewende), and where the consequences of high renewable penetration are most visible.

A lot of rather unusual things have been happening in the Germany power sector lately, from negative prices, to utilities closing down brand new power plants and, naturally, a ferocious debate as to whether to cut support for renewable energy (as has already been done in Spain).

I've long described renewable energy producers as a price takers (i.e., they don't influence market prices in the short term and have to "take" market prices as set by other factors, unless shielded by specific regulatory regimes), but we are getting to the point, in a number of places, and in Germany in particular, where the penetration of renewable energy is such that it has a real macroeconomic impact on the prices of electricity, both at the wholesale and the retail levels, and thus on the way power markets run, and on the politics surrounding them. There's the additional factor that apparent spending on renewables is targeted by governments at a time of austerity in Europe, egged on by hardly disinterested utilities.

It is worth going through what's been happening in some detail.

:: ::

In the good old days, wholesale prices of power followed the price of natural gas, as gas-fired plants are the producer of the marginal kWh most of the time. This is still the case in the USA, and it looks like this:

Source: neutroneconomy

Retail prices tend to follow the average wholesale cost, plus a slice for distribution costs and taxes which can vary quite wildly from country to country:

Source: eurostat

But we've seen prices diverging across markets over the past two years, as shown in the following graphs:

  • gas prices diverging sharply across continents (notably as a result of the gas shale developments in the US and increased demand for gas in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, while European prices remain largely indexed to oil):

  • Source: Fidelity

  • wholesale power prices diverging from gas prices:

  • Source: Die Welt, via gwpf

    Note: the lines above represent long term break-even prices for, from the bottom, nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants and gas-fired plants

  • retail prices moving in the opposite direction to wholesale prices, and increasing:

Source: wikipedia (DE)

German wholesale prices have been trending down over the past several years, despite the closure of close to half of the nuclear plants of the country, and despite the persistently high natural gas prices on the continent, while retail prices have been going up, including due to contributions to pay for guaranteed fixed prices to renewable energy producers (the "EEG" component in yellow in the last graph).

The fall in wholesale prices means that most traditional power plants are not economical at current levels, as the second graph above shows.

There are some temporary factors to the current situation. One is the general economic woes of the eurozone, which are pushing demand downwards and thus prices as well. The other is the temporary higher use of coal-fired power plants, which itself comes from a combination of short term factors:

  • cheap imports from the USA (where coal use has been displaced for a while by cheap gas in power generation) made coal more profitable than gas, and
  • regulatory incentives mean coal plants have (under the (the Large Combustion Plants EU directive) a limited number of hours to run and operators have every reason to use these up quickly, and especially if the plants are profitable, or less unprofitable than gas ones (UK coal plants have the additional incentive that a carbon tax will be imposed on them from April 2013).

These factors have made it possible to claim that Germany was increasing pollution and carbon emissions because of wrongheaded policies (depending on your stance: closing nuclear plants or pushing renewables), but this looks like a temporary arbitrage between coal and gas.

:: ::

The real long term story is that the power spot markets are being completely upended by the increasing penetration of renewable energy. In Germany, new renewables represent around 50% of the overall installed capacity, and already provide close to 20% of all power generation (split in 2012 in 3 almost equal parts between wind (7%), biomass (6%) and solar (5%)), up from almost nothing 15 years ago, and on many days now they provide 50% or more of total output:

Source: Paul Gipe

This reduces demand for mid-load producers and peakers over more and more periods throughout the year. As the graphs below shows, on good days in the warm season the PV capacity almost eliminates altogether the need for intermediate load; in winter, wind takes over (in aggregate, although not with as regular a daily profile):

Source: DoDo on European Tribune


This was the slice of demand served by coal-fired and gas-fired plants and they are simply not being used as much as they used to, and certainly not as much as their owners expected.

And prices are being squeezed down not just for these producers, but for everybody else as well, in particular during the peak day time hours which used to be the most profitable for all power plants (because baseload plants also receive the more expensive peak hour prices even if they did not bid at such prices). This means that existing capacity is less and less profitable - not just the peakers or intermediate plants, but also the nuclear and other baseload workhorses of the system. Thus the few highly publicized plant closures, and the ongoing utility complaints about lost revenues. Moreover there currently is no business case to invest in any kind of power plant (other than renewables under specific revenue regimes), which utilities use to argue against renewable support.

But here's the thing: preventing new renewables will not eliminate the current existing capacity, which means that the economics of the sector will not recover even if no new renewables were built... The wholesale market as it was designed 20 years ago (de facto based on gas-fired plants of various efficiency targeted at different points of the merit order curve setting up the marginal price) is irreversibly broken. The system is now dominated by plants with very low marginal cost of production (but high upfront investment), which means that spot prices are systematically too low for everybody - you can't invest in plants with high upfront investments (like nukes), and you can't invest in plants with high marginal running costs (gas-fired plants) unless you are betting on persistently low gas prices into the future. That may explain the push for shale gas in Europe, but who believes that shale gas will bring low prices? Even in the US prices are trending up again (and forward prices even more so).

:: ::

In the meantime, retail prices have kept on increasing, and the fact that the contribution of the support regime (in Germany, the "EEG-Umlage") to retail prices has become visible has made it a target of lobbyists and thus a political topic, despite the fact that retail prices increases have been caused, to a large extent (and in particular until 2009) by increases in gas prices.

This leads us to an hidden truth: a large fraction of the massive increase in renewable energy production is not paid for by consumers, but by incumbent producers who see their revenues decline as the price they earn per MWh goes down. Utilities, which see their margins on the retail side increase, but have very little renewable energy production capacity of their own are caught between two conflicting trends, with their upstream business losing profitability, but their downstream business earning more. IPPS are suffering, but have less voice. Unsurprisingly, utilities are focusing public attention only on the first part, and are naturally blaming renewables - not hesitating to point fingers at their support regimes as the cause of rising power prices, in the hope that these regimes will be weakened. They claim they are victims of unfair competition from "heavily subsidized" sources which have priority over them and can dump power with no worry for consequences into the network. They use a mix of real arguments and weaker ones to push against renewables:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

  • one of the true arguments is that the cost of supporting solar PV has become larger than expected and faster than expected. Just 5 years ago, a number of countries had tariffs in the 500-600 EUR/MWh range, and regulators were surprised by the volumes that managed to be installed - and capture the advantageous prices levels. when they dropped the price support for new projects, they were again surprised by how fast the industry was able to match the lower prices through new technology (and a brutal price war). The result has been an amazing drop in the price of solar panels (-80% in just a few years, as shown above), bringing them close to grid parity, and a rather large (multiple GWs in Germany, Italy, Spain) stock of solar PV capacity which is entitled to very high tariffs for many years, at a visible cost to consumers;
  • in some places, the regulatory regime allowed producers to capture the best of both worlds - the higher of the fixed tariff or the market price (whether wholesale or retail), thus preventing the network, and the public, from benefitting from the "cap" that a real fixed tariff would have provided;
  • in Spain, retail power prices were kept artificially low for political reasons), and the the gross cost of the fixed tariffs was not absorbed into the general cost base of the network and instead explicitly imposed on utilities, which used that as an obvious argument against renewables (even though a good part of the price increases were linked to increased gas prices before the merit order effect acted on wholesale prices); the government's U-turn on tariffs, which imposed negative tariff changes on already operational projects, alienated the utilities further (as they had, contrary to what happened in Germany, become significant operators of renewable capacity and lost money in the process) and created a precedent that also scared off lenders and investors and put the sector in disrepute;
  • in Germany, the renewable energy surcharge applies only to retail consumers, and large sections of industrial users (but not all) are exempted. That means that the gross costs is borne by a smaller fraction of the overall consumers, and that some industries are complaining that they are being treated unfairly. Meanwhile, those benefitting from the situation (the bug consumers who benefit from lower wholesale prices and do not pay the surcharge) are staying silent so as to avoid attracting attention (they failed - this quirk is likely to be corrected soon);

But what is not true is that wind has contributed in any meaningful way to retail price increases (most of Germany's wind capacity was installed before 2008 and the EEG component is all but invisible at that date), and not has offshore wind (which is indeed more expensive, but very little of which has been built to date). When you look at average costs, one sees that onshore wind is largely competitive on wholesale markets (and yes, that does take into account grid access and balancing costs - there is enough experience with large wind penetration in various networks to know that it can be done and that it has no meaningful impact on costs), that solar is already competitive against retail prices in many markets (the famous "grid parity"), and that other technologies are somewhere in-between. Offshore wind is still more expensive, but is expected to come down in price by the time it will reach significant capacity:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

Note that these average costs of production, always include very political assumptions about the cost of money, and the future price of gas, to apply to such projects. The discount rate (at the time of investment) is the main driver of the cost of wind or nuclear whereas the cost of gas-fired power is only an estimate, based an assumptions about the cost of gas in the next 20 years. And that also means that the price of power from a wind farm or a nuclear plant is largely fixed and known once the plant is built, while the cost of power from a gas-fired plant in the future is essentially unknown. The cost of money is a fundamentally political decision (derived from investors' estimates of macro risks like inflation, of regulatory risks applying to the sector, and technology risk); the consensus on future gas price estimates is also influenced by many factors, including long term projections by public bodies like the IEA, the US EIA or private firms with their various agendas.

As an aside, the more renewables you have in the system, the less it is possible to take out the regulatory support regime, because spot prices tend to go towards zero - which makes investment in renewables (or in any other kind of power generation assets, for that matter) impossible. So "grid parity" is an illusory target, in a sense, because it is a moving target. Technologies with high variable costs (all fossil-fuel plants) cannot compete at any price when there is enough zero-marginal cost capacity in the system, and technologies with high upfront investment costs need comfort about price levels over a long period as they need such prices on a constant basis to amortize the initial investment. This is why the UK government is working on a "contract for differences" (essentially the same thing as a fixed tariff) for new nuclear plants.

:: ::

Altogether, the reality is that the consumers and the utilities is paying for a few expensive years of early solar PV technology (to the tune of a few cents per kWh, ie a few hundred euros per year and per household), and now the utilities are bearing almost in full the further impact on the system: they are no longer making (much) money on their current fleet - not on gas-fired plants, barely on their coal-fired plants, and they don't have much renewable energy capacity. They are stuck with a capital stock (including recent plants), which is increasingly uneconomic in today's markets, caught between high fuel prices and lower power prices. And that is the result of strategies over the past 10-15 years that willfully ignored policies to promote renewables pursued pretty consistently across Europe, and the likely impact they would have on power prices (the infamous "merit order effect" - which I discussed in detail at least 5 years ago, and which was already the topic of academic papers before that).

So it's not like they had no warning and no notice... In a sense, utilities have been consistent: one of their past arguments was that renewables would never reach critical mass and thus were not a serious solution to reduce carbon emissions. And they surely did not take recent investment decisions (mainly to build base-load or mid-load gas-fired plants) with the scenario of heavy renewable penetration in mind, otherwise they would not have been so surprised by the current situation...

:: ::

Utilities do make a legitimate point when they underline that the system still needs their capacity (because renewables are not available on demand, and do not provide the flexibility required in the very short term), and that this needs to be paid for (and, at some point in the future, existing capacity will need to be replaced, and they need to be able to make a business case for that, which is not possible today).

In the previous regime, where power prices were determined by gas prices, it was possible to pay for the flexibility in the form of price spikes that gave the right signal for mid-load and peaker gas-fired (or oil-fired, or hydro) plants to be used, and their frequency of use was relatively predictable over a year, allowing for a sound business model to be implemented. Now, with plenty of renewables, the price signal is completely different. There are many more periods of very low prices when renewables flood the system (and this is particularly the case in places with lots of solar, as it is available during the day, ie when demand is stronger and thus prices used to be higher). This has two consequences: gas-fired plants get much less use than in the past (and less than their business plans expected), and baseload plants like nukes or big coal-fired plants get lower prices during periods when they were cashing in more money. The latter earn less money (but still run); the former now run a lot less than expected , which has income implications but also consequences for gas consumption and storage - patterns of use become very different, moving from the usual "once a day" pattern (a few hour at peak demand times), to short bursts several times a day (as renewables drop out), or very long periods of use over multiple days when renewables are not available at all.

Given that the penetration of renewables will continue to change every year, it has become really hard to identify the business model to use for flexible plants - and even harder to know what it will be in 1, 5 or 10 years from now. These flexible plants will be needed, at least to some extent, and they need to be paid for, and that cannot really happen with today's regulatory regime (and as noted above, stopping support regimes for renewables won't change that now: the existing stock of wind and solar is already big enough in several countries to keep the current market arrangements broken). One solution, thankfully being considered in several markets, and which already exists in places like California, is to put in place a capacity market, where plants make themselves available for rapid changes in output, without actually producing anything most of the time, and get paid for that availability: ie a market for MW in addition to the market for MWh.

:: ::

The politics of this transition are messy. You can have articles saying (without any real argument) that "Too much green energy is bad for Britain at the very same time that you have record cold weather, with critical weakness in the gas supply infrastructure and wind actually coming to the rescue... (in the UK last March).

People are presenting capacity markets as another subsidy to renewables, whereas system security has always required a significant margin of unused capacity for safety: power demand varies from 1 to 2 or one to 3 every day, peaks can be more or less intense depending on weather, and even large plants can go offline on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. That safety margin was simply paid for in a different way, either by imposing capacity buffers on utilities, or through spot price peaks that were high enough to pay in a few hours for the peaker plants which are otherwise idle most of the time. There's naturally a lot of talk that policies to develop renewable have failed, being costly (only partly true, as shown above, and increasingly less so as time goes by), ineffective at reducing carbon emissions (not true, each MWh of renewable energy has, by and large, replaced a MWh generated previously by fossil fuel plants) and damaging to the system (obviously not the case). But the cat is out of the bag: once renewable energy reaches a critical mass, its impact on power systems is pretty much irreversible and no amount of lobbying by utilities is going to get them their previous business model back: wind turbines and solar panels are there and they will keep on cranking out zero-marginal-cost MWh for a very, very long time...

So utilities would be well advised to focus their lobbying on fixes to the system that actually solve problems (like capacity markets, or maybe new rules on grid access for "must-run plants), and to not cut the tree on which they are sitting (killing the support regime for offshore wind, the only sector in renewables which is "utility-scale" and where they have been able to take a leading share, and the only sector of the power sector where they can actually make money these days...)(I note here again, for full disclosure, that I work in the offshore wind sector and appreciate that this may sound rather self-interested).

The politics of power prices are rather volatile, and people have little sympathy for the big utilities, which are typically seen as profiteers anyway, so the focus on the high retail prices could end up damaging them more than it impacts renewable energy producers. Energy is a rather complex topic, not really suited for soundbites, and it is easy to confuse people or say outright lies without getting caught right away. But, by and large, Germans still support the Energiewende - both the move away from nuclear and the support for renewable energy - and are willing to pay for it. And for areas like Bremerhaven, all the manufacturing activity linked to wind and offshore wind is rather welcome.

:: ::

In summary:

  • Renewable energy is reaching the scale where it has an impact on the overall system; the effects are irreversible, and highly damaging to incumbents;
  • The net cost to get there has been relatively low, and largely paid for by utilities, which have constantly underestimated the ongoing changes, even as they were both (wrongly) dismissing them and (relatively ineffectively) fighting them;
  • there are legitimate worries about the way to maintain the fleet of flexible plants that was required in the past and will continue to be needed in the new paradigm, but can no longer pay its way under current market arrangements; the solution is not to fight renewables (it won't make the existing fleet go away) but to ensure that the right services (MW on demand) are properly remunerated;
  • the shale gas revolution will have a limited impact in this context (it had almost none in Europe, other than via some cheap coal exports from the US for a short period), and does not change the economics of gas-fired plants to the point that they can be competitive in a system dominated by renewable energy production capacity;
  • more generally, the future for gas suppliers is bleaker than for gas turbine manufacturers - there will be a need for a lot of gas-fired plants but they won't be burning a lot of gas (they will be selling MW rather than MWh);
  • overall, a future with high renewable penetration is not only possible but increasingly likely, and it's a good thing.

Part of the wind power series.

Wed 29 May, 2013

15:02 Skin Cancer: Prevention, Treatment and Signs of Melanoma» LiveScience.com
One in five Americans develops skin cancer over their lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer. Fortunately it is also one of the most preventable, because sun exposure is a major factor in its growth.

Wed 17 April, 2013

15:46 Facts About Neon» LiveScience.com
Properties, sources and uses of the element neon.

Tue 26 February, 2013

14:38 Komodo Dragon Facts» LiveScience.com
They have a nasty bite!