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Wed 01 October, 2014

09:13 What would happen to the Earth if humans became extinct?» Salon.com
Humans have a huge -- not always good -- impact on this planet






09:13 California abolishes “gay panic” defense for LGBT hate crimes» Salon.com
The state is the first to outlaw a defense tactic contrived to reduce sentences for LGBT assaults






09:04 Tampa Bay Utility Is Installing Region’s Largest Solar Array At Tampa International Airport» ThinkProgress

Tampa's electric utility is installing the equivalent of more than five football fields of solar panels at the Tampa International Airport.

The post Tampa Bay Utility Is Installing Region’s Largest Solar Array At Tampa International Airport appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:00 We Just Can't Hurt Their Little Fee-Fees» Latest from Crooks and Liars
We Just Can't Hurt Their Little Fee-Fees

They not only want to rob us blind, they want us to think highly of them for doing it:

The nation's largest banks and debt collectors are worried that if you learn what people are saying about them, you might like them less. And that wouldn't be fair, they say.

The financial sector is fighting a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposal that would have the agency publish complaints submitted by people who feel they have been mistreated by a lender, debt collector or other financial institution. As it now stands, the agency publishes some small amount of information about the more than 290,000 complaints it has received from aggrieved consumers, but has refused to release the full narratives -- essentially, the details.

Under the new policy, consumer names would be redacted and banks and other financial institutions would have a chance to publicly respond to or refute any allegations. People who file a complaint would have to opt in to having their narrative published on the CFPB's website.

"This is what consumers want," said Susan Grant, the director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit. "It gives them better ability to make decisions about what financial institution to choose."

read more

09:00 GOP Cowards Refuse To Debate War On ISIS, While Fox Attacks Obama For Not Saying 'War'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
GOP Cowards Refuse To Debate War On ISIS, While Fox Attacks Obama For Not Saying 'War'

08:58 Boys Are Much More Likely To Take On Leadership Roles In Science And Math Class, Say Teachers» Politics - The Huffington Post
When it comes to middle school and high school math and science classes, boys continue to reign supreme.

A survey released Tuesday by the National Education Association, in conjunction with the American Association of University Women and Tufts University, describes the numerous gender gaps that teachers report seeing in schools, including a nationwide trend of boys disproportionately taking on leadership positions in science and math classes. The survey, which included 40,000 middle and high school educators, notes that these gender gaps extend to the professional world, with fewer women taking on leadership positions -- not only in STEM fields, but in most disciplines across the board.

Yet even as educators report seeing gender disparities throughout their schools, they may also be playing a role in perpetuating them. According to the survey report, titled "Closing The Leadership Gap: How Educators Can Help Girls Lead," many teachers display conscious or unconscious biases that likely influence how they perceive male and female student leaders.

Teachers have a gender-neutral view of leadership -- but only up to a point

When middle school and high school teachers were asked to describe the characteristics that make a good leader, they most often used terms not associated with any particular gender. For example, teachers were more likely to describe a good leader as "collaborative" or a "problem-solver," rather than "confident" or "compassionate." While terms like "problem-solver" and "collaborative" are considered gender-neutral, "confident" is a term typically associated with males, and "compassionate" is a term typically associated with females.

Overall, however, teachers were more likely to list male-typed attributes than female-typed attributes as important characteristics of a good leader. The graphic below shows how often teachers chose terms as a characteristic associated with good leadership. The bigger the typeface, the more popular the term. The words in red are more often associated with females, the words in blue are more often associated with males and the terms in green are considered gender-neutral.

words

Notably, teachers who had participated in diversity training or who had fewer years of experience were more likely to choose gender-neutral terms.

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, the largest teachers' union in the country, told The Huffington Post that she didn't know exactly why newer teachers may have fewer gender biases associated with leadership. However, she suggested that it might reflect a more modern style of teacher training.

"I'm not surprised at all that there might be a generational gap," said García. "I really believe our colleges of education are trying to be much more culturally competent [...] and really have teachers question their internal biases."

When placed in realistic classroom situations, it's clear that some teachers harbor gender biases

Even though many teachers used gender-neutral terms to describe important qualities in good leaders, the survey found that such neutrality only extended so far. In a subsequent part of the survey, participants were asked to read a passage describing a student leader. One group of participants was told that the student was named Jacob, while the other group was told that the student was named Emily.

When evaluating the students, educators were more likely to describe Jacob in stereotypically male terms, like "aggressive" and "assertive." Emily, on the other hand, was more likely to be described as "bubbly" and "hard-working." Notably, though, a sizable number of teachers used gender-neutral terms to describe the student leader, regardless of whether they were reading about Jacob or Emily.

Evidence suggests that this kind of bias in the classroom can lead to students being pigeonholed into specific roles and fields. Surveyed educators reported that they rarely saw female students taking on leadership roles in STEM classes and clubs. At the professional level, girls and women are significantly less likely to take up careers in the STEM fields.

Research conducted in a separate study by professors at Northern Illinois University previously found that science teachers tend to pay significantly less attention to their female students.

"[Teachers] live in our society, so they see who the scientists are. And by and large, they're men," NIU professor Jennifer A. Schmidt told The Huffington Post in April. "They went through education in the sciences and see those students in those classrooms. I imagine a lot of it is just living in a society with gender bias, and it's hard not to absorb some of that."

Educators' attitudes can make all the difference

Tuesday's report recommends diversity training and professional development classes, both for students studying to become teachers and for experienced educators. It also recommends that teachers do their best to emphasize the leadership ability of girls.

"There are lots of people that may have lessons [...] for kids [like], 'Girls are just as good as boys and can be anything they want,'" said García. "But it's a very different thing when you're talking about, 'And girls can be leaders, women can be leaders.'"

"It's essential in really any underrepresented class, whether ethnic or LGBT," she continued. "Students have to be able to say, 'Someone like me made it, someone like me did something impressive.' If you never see 'someone like me,' there's something that stops you from even thinking that someone like you can achieve."
08:57 The “pre-cation” is a trap!» Salon.com
A new hiring trend--two paid weeks off before you even start--shows how starved we are for time off






08:56 Federal Appeals Court To Mull Guns In Post Offices» Politics - The Huffington Post
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service and a rural Colorado man will argue in court Wednesday over where on postal property people can legally carry guns.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear the case involving Tab Bonidy, a licensed gun owner who, along with the National Association for Gun Rights, sued the Postal Service in 2010 over its ban on guns in post offices. Bonidy said the post office in Avon, a small town near Colorado's Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, violated his Second Amendment rights by refusing to let him carry his concealed handgun into the building when he picks up his mail. The post office also barred him from keeping the weapon in his vehicle in the parking lot.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled last year that the Postal Service's ban on firearms in its parking lots violated the Second Amendment. But he also said the agency could keep people such as Bonidy from carrying a gun in a post office lobby.

Both Bonidy and the Postal Service appealed. They disagree over what constitutes a "sensitive place," such as a government building or a school, where guns can be legally banned.

Bonidy lives outside town and doesn't get mail delivery. He travels regularly to the post office in Avon, where he doesn't want the hassle of having to disarm just to briefly pick up and drop off letters, said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing Bonidy.

A 10th Circuit ruling would impact other rural Westerners who carry concealed weapons or travel with their hunting rifles and find themselves in the same position, Pendley said.

Matsch wrote in his July 2013 order that because a postal building is sensitive, the sight of someone carrying a gun inside "may excite passions, or excited passions may lead to the use of the firearm. Someone could also attempt to take the firearm from its lawful carrier and use it for criminal purpose."

But keeping Bonidy from storing the gun in his vehicle outside "sweeps too far" because the public safety concerns that exist inside the building don't apply to the parking lot, the judge said.

Attorneys representing the Postal Service wrote in court filings that its responsibility for preserving public safety in both the lot and the lobby has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.

"And in neither case does the regulation present any obstacle to the possession of a firearm in the home for self-defense," postal attorneys wrote in the documents.

But Bonidy argues that, just like a parking lot, a lobby, unsecured and open all day to the public, is not a sensitive place.

He said the Postal Service's gun ban deserves proper scrutiny.

"Even bans on felons possessing firearms have been subject to more rigorous review than the USPS thinks is necessary for its ban on law-abiding individuals possessing firearms for self-defense," his attorneys wrote in their appeal.

Neither Bonidy nor his attorneys returned calls seeking comment Tuesday.
08:55 Boston Herald spices up White House intruder cartoon with racism» Daily Kos

The Boston Herald continues its tradition of being kinda very racist:

Screengrab of a cartoon depicting President Obama brushing his teeth while an intruder in the bathtub asks if he's tried watermelon toothpaste
There was never going to be a shred of plausibility that watermelon was a completely random choice of fruit with no racial overtones. But just in case anyone was going to try to claim that shred of plausibility:
... a similar cartoon posted to an archive of [cartoonist Jerry] Holbert’s work on GoComics.com doesn’t use the watermelon stereotype—in that version, the toothpaste is raspberry-flavored, even though the rest of the cartoon is drawn up exactly the same[.]

It’s unclear at what point the choice to use “watermelon” was made before the cartoon went to print and appeared in Wednesday’s newspaper. A call to the Herald’s editorial desk was not immediately returned Wednesday morning, and the paper has yet to comment on the strip, which continues to infuriate readers online.

So, was Holbert's original cartoon the racist one run by the Herald and changed for syndication, or did the Herald take an innocuous enough cartoon and say "you know what this needs? a little racism."

In 2012, of course, the Herald waged a series of racist attacks on Elizabeth Warren. And as the watermelon cartoon shows, their racism remains unsubtle and cliched, no trying to pretend it's anything but the ugliness it is.

Just please go give $3 to one of Daily Kos' endorsed Democrats, because, really, screw these racists.

08:48 Obama Administration Loosens Airstrike Policy In Syria And Iraq» Politics - The Huffington Post
The Obama administration has exempted its current military campaign in Syria and Iraq from strict standards imposed last year aimed at preventing civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, Yahoo News reported Tuesday.

The White House intended the standard of "near certainty" that civilians wouldn't be killed to apply "only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as we noted at the time," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told Yahoo. "That description -- outside areas of active hostilities -- simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."

The announcement came in response to questions regarding reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a U.S. missile struck a Syrian village on Sept. 23. The administration carried out a missile attack against an obscure al Qaeda cell called the Khorasan Group on that day due to what administration officials claimed to be an "imminent threat" posed to the United States. Hayden told Yahoo that while the U.S. disputes claims of civilian casualties, the administration is investigating the reports.

Yahoo reports: "While the White House has said little about the standards it is using for strikes in Syria and Iraq, one former official who has been briefed on the matter said the looser policy gives more discretion to theater commanders at the U.S. Central Command to select targets without the same level of White House oversight."
08:47 Ingraham Calls For Travel Ban In Response To Ebola, Claims Obama's "Core Ties To The African Continent" Undermine Public Safety» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
08:42 Nation Piece Spells It All Out: How To Destroy A Public School System» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Nation Piece Spells It All Out: How To Destroy A Public School System

Daniel Denvir is the best reporter I've seen at pointing out the long term strategies of schools privatization, and his piece in this week's The Nation might be his best yet. I strongly urge you to read it all, because the issue is too complex for bullet points:

In 2010, State Attorney General Tom Corbett was elected as governor, his political network heavily populated by advocates for private-sector education reform. Backed by a conservative state legislature, Corbett cut about $860 million from public education in his first budget rather than tax the state’s booming natural-gas industry. He also expanded Pennsylvania’s “voucher lite” programs, popular among conservatives, which provide corporations with major tax credits in exchange for donations for private-school tuition.

“This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves,” Corbett told the Legislature during his March 2011 budget address. “I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession.” Philadelphia was forced to eliminate more than 3,500 teacher and staff positions. The crisis also set off the most aggressive privatization campaign since the state takeover, embodied by the so-called “Blueprint for Transformation” plan.

read more

08:42 Oh, the irony! Starbucks’ fake pumpkin products may have created a real pumpkin boom» Salon.com
Demand is up for pumpkin spice-flavored beverages -- and for the real thing






08:40 Paul Ryan: Pope Francis Is For The Free Market, Against 'Crony Capitalism'» Politics - The Huffington Post
Paul Ryan's support of the free market system does not conflict with his Catholic faith, the congressman told HuffPost Live on Tuesday.

During a conversation about his book The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea, Ryan explained that "lay people in public life" such as himself must discern how to interpret Catholic principles in a practical way, which is how he's formed his economic platform.

"Some people say that, 'Gosh, you cut spending and you're cutting programs and you're balancing the budget -- that for some reason conflicts with your faith.' Far from it," Ryan said. "It is my exercise of my prudential judgement in fulfilling what I think is in the best interest of people."

Host Marc Lamont Hill asked Ryan about some of Pope Francis' comments on capitalism in The Joy Of The Gospel, which seems to question the effectiveness of the free market and includes passages like this:

[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.


Ryan said that the free market itself is not what the pope takes issue with.

"I think he's down with a free market that means more participation. I think what he's [against] is crony capitalism ... where the powerful pick the winners and losers [and] influencing government gets to decide who wins and who loses in the marketplace," Ryan said.

The congressman also had high praise for the pope's attempt to get Catholics thinking about political issues.

"I love this pope. I'm a big fan of this pope. What he's trying to do is he's trying to invite lay Catholics into public policy, into a debate," Ryan said. "He's not trying to settle the debate. He's trying to start the debate."

See Paul Ryan's comments on Pope Francis in the clip above, and click here for the full HuffPost Live conversation.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!
08:31 Startup Funding Is Given Almost Entirely To Men» ThinkProgress

97 percent of the companies that get venture capital funding are led by men.

The post Startup Funding Is Given Almost Entirely To Men appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:27 Why would a woman try to buy a used IUD on social media?» Salon.com
Because contraception is necessary, basic healthcare! A reminder why everyone needs -- and deserves -- access to it






08:27 Far-right birther’s secret funders: Look who’s backing Islamophobe Frank Gaffney» Salon.com
Exclusive: America's biggest defense and aerospace contractors are pouring thousands into Frank Gaffney's "work"






08:26 Congressman Calls For Secret Service Head To 'Step Down'» Politics - The Huffington Post
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said Wednesday that it would be best for Julia Pierson to step down from her position as director of the U.S. Secret Service after a man jumped a fence and entered the White House.

"I'm not sure her ability to lead this department is effective anymore," he said on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown."

Secret Service officials originally stated that fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez was unarmed and made it only to the main entrance of the White House in September. After subsequent reporting from The Washington Post, however, officials admitted that Gonzalez made it into the East Room of the White House armed with a knife.

During a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Pierson defended the Secret Service and said she approved the initial press release that was later found to have been untrue.

Collins said he "was appalled by her answer to that question. How could the head of the Secret Service approve a statement that was a lie?" The congressman added that the Secret Service officials "have failed miserably."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Wednesday on MSNBC that he does "not feel comfortable with [Pierson] in that position." He later said on "The Diane Rehm Show" that he has not determined whether he will push for her to step down.




The Secret Service faced further scrutiny on Tuesday after new reports that while on a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the president rode in an elevator with an armed security contractor who had three criminal convictions.

Watch Collins' full interview above.

This post has been updated with additional remarks by Cummings.
08:25 Keeping Your Eye on the Prize: Maryland Today Legally Embraces Its Transgender Residents» Politics - The Huffington Post
Today, October 1, the Maryland transgender anti-discrimination law goes into effect, making this state the 18th in the country, along with Puerto Rico and D.C., to offer similar protections. And in two weeks, I will be honored with induction in the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame, for my work on this law and the three county anti-discrimination laws. Therein lies a story on the joys and sorrows of civil rights advocacy.

This award is not just an appreciation of my efforts over the past decade, but a recognition that the trans community is worthy of full inclusion and equal opportunity. When I first began lobbying for the county and state anti-discrimination bills, in association with a number of gay and straight colleagues, we did so in a far different culture than exists today. My associates put their professional careers and reputations on the line, were attacked and targeted with hate mail and death threats, and in some cases paid a terrible political price. When I joined the staff of the Montgomery County Council in 2006, there were those in county government who wanted my job offer rescinded. After I got to work they and others tried to have me fired. And when that failed efforts were made to have me removed with trumped-up ethics charges, involving a nighttime third-rate burglary of my computer and other violations of my constitutional rights.

My most important contribution to the cause? My tenacity, and my unwillingness to be beaten down. I didn't take it personally, and my boss, Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, who vigorously sponsored the county bill, protected me from the some of the worst of the personal attacks. Suffice it to say that some people and organizations who proudly proclaim themselves as social progressives were anything but.

Nationally, the trans community had gone along with gay advocacy campaigns earlier in the decade when homophobia was still pretty intense. We were all just sexual minorities to the reactionaries, and most antidiscrimination bills included gender identity. But by the beginning of the second Bush administration those reactionaries were mobilizing in my county because of its proximity to D.C. The 2007 public debate over trans inclusion in the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), and the introduction of the county bill during my first year as a Council staffer, led to a situation where we could no longer fly under the radar.

The county bill was passed unanimously and quickly signed by our County Executive, Ike Leggett, but the backlash began almost immediately, with talk of predators stalking the county bathrooms and email assaults on the Councilmembers and staffers. My children were targeted, and we called in the FBI. The worse it got, the more often our elected officials spoke out. The LGBT community mounted a response, and the referendum was killed in the state's highest court by the skill of our ally, Jonathan Shurberg. At the end of the day, perseverance had paid off, politicians found their voice, and a willingness to stand on principle in spite of the perceived risk, and the county came around very quickly. Watching people evolve is, in some respects, even more satisfying than having them on your side from the start.

In spite of that big county win, the state bill stalled year after year, primarily because the gay community prioritized relationship recognition. I've said for years that was to be expected, and not a cause for anger or resentment, as we're all motivated by self-interest. People should just own up to it, and not claim credit for work they either didn't do, or did very casually and poorly. With the crisis inside Equality Maryland following the marriage equality failure of 2011, Gender Rights Maryland was created by Sharon Brackett to put the trans community in the driver's seat.

That year, we in Maryland were under attack by community outsiders because the bill did not include public accommodations. People with no skin in the game viciously harassed our legislative sponsors, causing us terrible difficulty in maintaining our coalition allies and legislative supporters.

While we were still playing second fiddle to marriage, but continuing to educate the senators and delegates about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, we turned our attention back to the counties, and building on the 2007 success in Montgomery County extended the protections to Howard and Baltimore counties. We stared down a referendum in Baltimore County, teaching us that we would be much better off not mounting a "Decline to Sign" campaign, which had backfired in Montgomery and then statewide with the Dream Act. And in Annapolis we pushed forward with the inside political work, having long passed the time when grassroots action was needed. At that point such action had already become counterproductive, but the state's reconstituted equality group decided it would pursue the same strategy anyway, in spite of the resistance of the party leadership and those whose votes we needed to finally get the bill out of committee.

We didn't give up. We continued to cultivate the relationships we needed to get our votes. We ran the operation like a military campaign, not a support group. One lesson to be learned for future civil rights campaigns -- the survival of any given organization, particularly when it has only one tool at its disposal, is not worth risking the prize. Advocates too often act in their own personal interest, and that of their associated organizations, rather than pursuing the mission demanded by the community.

Finally, when the gay agenda was completed in 2012, there was room for the trans community, and the result of years of relationship building occurred this year. Those relationships, developed by Darrell Carrington, Jon Shurberg, Marc McLaurin, Jamie Raskin and others, were built on shared life experiences, not just demands for equality. They were the result of dinners and deals and edification, sometimes from the least expected direction. One instance that stands out was a personal discussion I had with the mother of a trans boy in the presence of a delegate who had serious issues with the bill. Dozens of hours of philosophical debate with the delegate, though intellectually fascinating, had had little impact, but that one personal narrative made all the difference. Even the Senate President admitted to having been surprised by how much he learned watching Chaz Bono on The Letterman Show.

In spite of these accomplishments, there are those in the LGBT community who try to undermine us every opportunity they get. No matter -- I just remember what Bobby Kennedy, in one of the greatest civil rights speeches of all time, said, speaking of political timidity: "Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change."

No matter how marginalized you are, or how worthless people make you feel, keep showing up, and bring value to your community. Keep your eye on the prize, and wondrous things may result.
08:24 U.S. Ebola Patient In 'Serious Condition'» Politics - The Huffington Post
DALLAS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The Ebola patient being treated at a Dallas hospital is in serious condition, a spokeswoman for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said on Wednesday.

There was no other information available on the patient, who was admitted on Sunday. (Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
08:18 AmeriCorps Celebrates 20 Years of Service» Politics - The Huffington Post
Last month, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, which works to serve our most vulnerable communities by sponsoring volunteers committed to lending a helping hand. AmeriCorps members have completed over one billion hours of service since 1994, and have had an immense impact on mobilizing communities to work together for a more promising future. As a former VISTA volunteer, I know firsthand the tremendous impact volunteering can have for both the volunteer and the community.

2014-10-01-americorps_20years_700x650.jpg


In the 1970s, I saw my own community suffering from the effects of economic stagnation and limited access to financial resources. Following a recession, traditional financial institutions strayed from community lending and investing. This unfortunate trend made it harder for local business owners to meet their financial obligations, leading many to close their doors. As a board member of the Midtown Neighborhood Association of Milwaukee, I was inspired to help repair the damage caused by the recession. It was that very inspiration that encouraged me to become a VISTA volunteer.

VISTA's mission is to create pathways out of poverty. It was through this program that I was given a platform to develop a financial institution that our neighbors could depend on for honest advice and access to capital. The VISTA volunteers and I were tasked with establishing a community credit union from scratch that could offer basic banking and loans for projects that created jobs, fostered local economic growth, and contributed to Milwaukee's inner city. I worked tirelessly with my fellow volunteers and soon, the Cream City Community Development Credit Union was born.

With the help of AmeriCorps, the Cream City Community Development Credit Union served as a catalyst for economic redevelopment and investments in our community. I know first-hand what a significant impact AmeriCorps programs make in improving the lives of individuals all over our country. As I look back at this time in my life, I take great pride knowing I contributed to an initiative that provided opportunities to those who needed it the most.

My story is just one VISTA success. Every year, approximately 75,000 men and women dedicate themselves to community betterment through their involvement with AmeriCorps. Since 1994, nearly 500,000 AmeriCorps members have served with thousands of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and faith-based organizations nationwide to fight illiteracy, promote access to health services, and reduce crime and recidivism.

On this 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, I encourage all Americans to reflect on the ways they can strengthen their communities through volunteering. As AmeriCorps continues to serve, let us thank them for their commitment to our nation and support their mission by getting involved.
08:17 55 Colleges Sign Up For Campus Mental Health Review With Jed Foundation» Politics - The Huffington Post
Fifty-five colleges and universities have signed on to participate in a program run by two prominent nonprofits to examine how well the schools are handling student mental health on campus, the organizations plan to announce Wednesday.

The schools on the list are taking part in the The Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, a partnership of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes mental health at colleges and universities, and The Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, which is part of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The program is designed to help universities prevent students from dying by prescription drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, or by suicide.

As part of the program, each college will conduct a self-assessment survey of its programming around mental health promotion and substance abuse and suicide prevention. The program will provide assessment tools and reports to the schools over a four-year period.

John MacPhee, executive director and CEO of The Jed Foundation, explained to The Huffington Post that eventually the schools will work to implement policies and practices to address a checklist laid out by the Jed Foundation. The program's framework encompasses everything from medical leave policies and functional "at-risk" or "behavioral intervention" teams, to making sure that campus housing facilities include features to hamper suicide attempts.

The list of schools, which may grow, includes elite and Ivy League universities, state schools and lesser-known institutions.

"We are thrilled to announce the first group of schools in the nation to join The Campus Program, and to celebrate these institutions for their recognition of mental health as an essential element of student education, development and maturation," said Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, in a statement.

Participating schools may or may not have exceptional policies and procedures already in place to deal with student mental health, but the goal is ultimately that these schools will represent the gold standard for such policies in higher education.

"We're not saying these schools have the best programs in place today, but these are schools that are making the commitment to enter the process of continued improvement," said MacPhee.

The Jed Foundation also said it is working to identify those schools, on or off the list, that it believes can model the best mental health services.

"Our hope is most of the schools -- thousands of schools nationwide -- will join the program and participate in this systematic process of looking at the programming and sharing the learnings across the schools," MacPhee said. "If we see a great program at one of these universities, we'll be sharing it with all the schools. A big part of what we want to do is socialize that."

According to the National Survey of College Counseling Centers, sponsored by the American College Counseling Association, more than 9 in 10 administrative heads of college and university counseling centers have reported an increase in the number of students who have come to campus counseling centers for help with psychological problems, and nearly half have noticed an increase in student self-injury behaviors, like cutting. At the same time, administrators say they're under more stress themselves, because of the increased demand on staff time due to the "growing complexity of client problems."

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, told HuffPost that mental health on campus has become one of the top concerns nationwide for college officials, along with sexual assault.

A complete list of the initial 55 colleges and universities participating in the Campus Program:

Alfred University
Aurora University
Azusa Pacific University
Barnard College
Boston University
Butler University
California Institute of Technology
California State University - Chico
Cameron University
Columbia University
Connecticut College
Cornell University
Davidson College
Fordham University
Georgetown University
Indiana University
Marymount Manhattan College
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Monmouth University
Montana State University
New York University
Northwestern University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Pace University
Pennsylvania State University - Altoona
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
Pomona College
Princeton University
Saint Francis University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
St. Cloud State University
Stevens Institute of Technology
State University College at Geneseo, State University of New York
State University College at Oneonta, State University of New York
The Ohio State University
Three Rivers Community College
Tulane University
University at Albany, State University of New York
University of Arizona
University of California – Los Angeles
University of Central Oklahoma
University of Illinois - Champagne Urbana
University of Pennsylvania
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
University of South Carolina
University of West Georgia
Viterbo University
Wake Forest University
Washington University in St. Louis
Western Oklahoma State College
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Yeshiva University
08:11 Elisabeth Hasselbeck is very upset that doctors won’t spread irrational Ebola panic» Salon.com
Hasselbeck argued with infectious disease specialist Dr. Dalilah Restrepo on this morning's Fox & Friends






08:11 For Women, Gun Violence Often Linked to Domestic Violence» Politics - The Huffington Post
On the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, here is a disturbing statistic: Of women murdered by men, 93 percent are killed by someone they know -- and the majority are intimate partners of their killers.

We present these uncomfortable facts in an annual report from my organization, the Violence Policy Center: When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data. You can view the full report here.

We coincidentally released this year's report the same day the nation's attention was focused on domestic violence following the release of the Ray Rice video. While the Ray Rice incident thankfully was not fatal, we know that similar assaults of women far too often end in death.

Our report used data from 2012, the most recent year for which national data are available. In that year, 1,706 females were murdered by males in single-victim/single-offender incidents. That's 33 victims every week and more than four every day.

Just as in previous years, we found the most common weapon men use to murder women is a gun. For homicides in which the murder weapon could be identified, 52 percent of victims were shot and killed with a gun. The most common firearm was a handgun, used in 69 percent of the homicides committed with guns.

The report also ranks the states on the rate of women murdered by men. In 2012, Alaska had the highest rate, followed by South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. A list of the states with the highest 10 rates can be found below.

2014-09-30-wmmw2014topten.jpg

One finding that has been depressingly consistent, in the 17 years we have released this report, is that fatal violence against women is most often domestic violence. As noted above, 93 percent of the victims in 2012 were killed by someone they knew.

When circumstances could be identified, at least 62 percent of the victims known to their killers were intimate partners: wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends. (The actual figure for intimate partner killings is certainly higher, since ex-girlfriends are not included in the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Report.)

The overwhelming majority of the homicides in 2012 were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. When the circumstances could be identified, 85 percent of the homicides were not related to the commission of another felony. Most often, females were killed by males in the course of an argument between the victim and the offender.

The National Rifle Association and its financial backers in the gun industry often raise the specter of an unknown assailant in order to encourage women to buy guns. However, our report makes clear that the vast majority of female victims are not murdered by strangers in a dark alley. In reality, having a gun can actually increase a woman's chance of being killed. One study found that women living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than those with no gun in a home.

In short, the evidence shows that women murdered by men are nearly always killed by someone they know, most often by an intimate partner, and the most common weapon used is a gun. Reducing gun violence against women goes hand in hand with reducing domestic violence.

We released the study just before the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law on September 13, 1994. Since that time, our society has increasingly treated domestic violence as the serious problem that it is. Long-term trends show that fatal violence against women has declined in the past two decades, but we still have a very long way to go.

Based on our previous studies, we have found that the rate of females murdered by males in the United States declined 26 percent over 17 years: from 1.57 per 100,000 in 1996 to 1.16 per 100,000 in 2012 (see the chart below). However, this is unacceptably high compared to most other developed countries.

2014-09-30-wmmw2014graph.jpg

To prevent fatal violence against women, we need to ensure communities have the resources to help women who are the potential victims of domestic violence. Moreover, we should do everything we can at both the state and federal levels to ensure abusers do not have access to guns.

Fortunately, many state legislatures are already moving forward. In South Carolina, the legislature has begun holding hearings on how to improve the state's domestic violence laws. Several states, including Louisiana, have recently passed laws making it more difficult for domestic abusers to possess firearms.

These efforts are welcome, but not nearly sufficient when so many lives are at stake. Every state and community, as well as the federal government, should take a close look at what they can do to help stop fatal domestic violence.

For individual women, we hope our study is a reminder to think very carefully about the facts before considering purchasing a gun for the purpose of self-protection. The evidence shows that for women in America, just like men, guns are most often used not to save lives, but to take them.
08:08 America's Most Invisible Workforce Is The One We Need The Most» Politics - The Huffington Post
I started organizing domestic workers 16 years ago. I signed up nannies, housekeepers and home health aides at parks and train stations as they quietly took care of our children, our households and our elders. Many of them had no clue about labor laws or their rights as workers – they struggled to make ends meet with extremely low pay and no benefits – but they performed their jobs with dedication and took care of our loved ones with pride, dignity and grace.
08:03 Innovation Earth: Can the Massachusetts Food Waste Ban End Hunger?» Politics - The Huffington Post
When I first started writing this column, I envisioned covering breakthroughs that could enable us to live sustainably on a world inhabited by 7 billion people and rapidly counting. The population predictions then were pointing toward perhaps 10 billion people by century's end, and that seemed an unfathomable throng of humanity; but a recent study in the journal Science has throttled whatever sense we had of exponential expansion -- predicting with 80 percent likelihood that as many as 12.3 billion people will live on earth by the year 2100.

A deep breath, then the logical next question: How will we feed all those people? (And in a climate-altered, resource-depleted world, no less?)

Interestingly, the most talked-about solutions are technological ones. There are the highly controversial, à la genetically modified food. Other solutions sound snazzy, yet at present seem respectively outlandish or unappealing: 3D-printed hamburgers, for instance, or bug-based protein bars.

Either way, the message is this: We can engineer our way out of starvation. Yet, we are overlooking a more obvious truth: Every year in the U.S., we throw away 40 percent of the perfectly good food that already exists.

This waste not only costs us $165 billion a year and 25 percent of our freshwater supply (largely used to produce our food), but is a serious contributor to climate change (rotting food in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period).

So it is long overdue that Massachusetts' commercial food waste ban, the most aggressive program of its kind in the U.S., goes into effect today. It will require institutions that produce more than 1 ton of food waste a week -- typically, supermarkets, hospitals and universities, as well as sporting facilities and the like -- to stop sending that waste to landfills and instead divert it to more purposeful (and less greenhouse gas–producing) uses.

There are some 17,000 of these institutions in Massachusetts. Where will all the unwanted food go? Again, there are snazzy, high-tech options. Much of it will be sent to commercial-scale composting facilities to be turned into valuable nutrients for farming, or the burgeoning anaerobic digestion industry, which converts food waste into fuel for homes or even electricity.

But in a country where 49.1 million people live in households classified as "food insecure," it's crucial that we not overlook utilizing some of that food for what it was originally intended for: feeding hungry people.

To that end, I spoke via phone last week with Lauren Palumbo, chief operating officer for Boston-based food rescue Lovin' Spoonfuls, which already works with more than 50 businesses in the area to redistribute unwanted food to 40-plus nonprofits serving everything from homeless shelters to safe houses ("anyone who doesn't have access to fresh, healthy food," she says).

Palumbo and her organization have been working to ensure that food donation is prioritized in the rollout of the food waste ban. She describes the ideal approach to food waste as a reverse pyramid, with waste reduction efforts and donations for human consumption at the top, followed by donations for livestock consumption. Composting and anaerobic digestion, invaluable for dealing with whatever is left, are at the pyramid's bottom.

There's nothing in the legislation to mandate this kind of hierarchy -- the law only states that waste not be sent to the landfill -- but for supermarkets and even farmers markets that regularly toss perfectly edible produce, baked goods, and just expired (though perfectly safe to eat) perishable products like meat and cheese, donation seems a no-brainer: The stores set aside the goods and Lovin' Spoonful's drivers -- certified in food handling and trained to spot what's reusable -- pick up the food and drive it via refrigerated truck directly to the mouths that need it.

"We're hoping that businesses see the value in donating and don't just pull up a compost bin and then stick whole apples in it," Palumbo says. "If they can use some of that food first to benefit the community they're working in, that would be a much better option."

Karen Franczyk, green mission coordinator for Whole Foods' North Atlantic region, points out that businesses can save money too, since whatever is donated minimizes the cost of what needs to be hauled off to a composting facility, for instance.

"That's not why we do it, Franczyk says. The chain has long made food donation a priority. "But it is definitely a reason I would give to someone who was reluctant. And Good Samaritan laws protect businesses from liability concerns."

But it's Palumbo's parting words that proffer more power, especially when you consider how a simple shift could impact millions. "We produce enough food in this country to feed almost 400 million people, yet there are about 319 million people in the country and we have 49 million people who are classified as food insecure. The numbers just don't add up. The food is going to waste at one site, and you've got hundreds of thousands of people lining up for food at another. All we really do is ferry food from point A to point B. It's about connecting the dots."

Got a great idea for my next Innovation Earth column? Send tips, thoughts and suggestions to jennifer@jennifergrayson.com.
08:03 Bearded Lizard See, Bearded Lizard Do - Imitates Action | Video » LiveScience.com
After watching a demonstrator lizard open a wired door that led to a mealworm reward (not seen on the video), the lizard successfuly opened the door on its turn.
08:00 Krauthammer Tries To Derail Iran Nuclear Negotiations With More Lies» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Krauthammer Tries To Derail Iran Nuclear Negotiations With More Lies

Negotiations between the US and Iran have never been more robust in the last 30 years than they are right now. So that would be why Krauthammer declared that Obama has given up on them altogether. It's the right-wing meme of the week: Obama will cave to Iran on nuclear power.

Except it's a lie. As usual.

Some lies, I expect: Death panels, fear-mongering, even interviews with the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney claiming they would have done it oh, so much better. But I draw the line at any neocon commentator intentionally undermining negotiations that are on track to actually become agreements.

Of course, it's really all about Bibi and his reactionary view of the world. Israel is great, everyone else must be subordinate or wiped off the map. That's how Fox News sees the world we live in. So they lead off with Bibi's UN speech Monday, where he tells the General Assembly Iran will build nuclear weapons, and when they do, "all the charm and all the smiles will vanish."

"It is then," Bibi continued, "that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world."

Yes, and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, too. Remember that lie? As for aggressive fanaticism, my thinking is that the pot has met the kettle on that score.

Krauthammer and O'Reilly's angst stems from the belief they've invented in their own heads that Obama surrendered to Iran on the nuclear weapons front.

read more

07:57 Shelter director calls out Tom Cotton on Violence Against Women Act vote» Daily Kos

Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor has a powerful new ad highlighting his Republican opponent's vote against the Violence Against Women Act. The ad hits Rep. Tom Cotton hard—deservedly so—but the tone, coming from domestic violence shelter director Paulette Hill, is much more in sorrow than in anger:
I'm the director of a 24-hour emergency domestic violence shelter. We've got to do something to break this cycle of violence, and Tom Cotton is not doing anything to help.

Congressman Cotton voted against protecting women and children from domestic violence. He was the only Republican or Democrat from the state of Arkansas to vote this way. He voted to cut the funding to shelters.

There's a big difference between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton. One wants to protect women and children. The other doesn't.

Cotton has already been running ads lying about the farm bill to explain his unpopular vote against that. It will be interesting to see if he comes up with a new set of lies to explain his vote against the Violence Against Women Act.

Help fight back against the Republican war on women by supporting Daily Kos' list of strong Democratic women.

07:55 Women And Children Are Less Healthy In States With More Abortion Restrictions» ThinkProgress

A new report debunks the right wing claim that anti-abortion laws are intended to protect women's health.

The post Women And Children Are Less Healthy In States With More Abortion Restrictions appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:50 Scott Brown Attacks Opponent On Border Security But Missed Senate Border Security Hearings» Politics - The Huffington Post
Last week, New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown notably held his fire against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for her absenteeism at numerous Senate Foreign Relations committee hearings. Now we know why.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Brown, a Republican who previously represented Massachusetts in the Senate, missed six border security hearings while serving on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Few senators hold a spotless attendance record, as Brown himself explained on a Friday radio show.

"Senators have tremendous amount of responsibilities," he said. "I don't think there's ever an expectation to have 100 percent attendance."

Republicans derided Shaheen as a "no-show senator" after the conservative-leaning Boston Herald reported Thursday that the Democrat skipped nearly half of the public hearings held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the last two years, including an April hearing on the dangers of the Islamic State.

But Brown's response was more measured. He said he faulted Shaheen only for missing the hearing on the Islamic State, and conceded that his own attendance record was far from perfect.

"That wouldn't surprise me. We would have to pick and choose what are we listening to, what are we working on today," he said on the radio show. "I'm not criticizing [Shaheen] for her attendance at committee hearings. I am questioning where we are with ISIS."

Brown's absences on the subject of border security are even more politically awkward given the lengths he has gone to raise the issue during the campaign. Several of his ads have attacked Shaheen for voting "against border security."

The New Hampshire Senate race has tightened in recent days. Shaheen currently leads Brown 49.4 percent to 44.8 percent, according to HuffPost Pollster, an average of all publicly available polling data.

07:45 We're building a small-dollar people-powered party» Daily Kos
Mary Burke for Governor portrait
If you want Mary Burke to beat Scott Walker in Wisconsin, you've gotta help. Burke is just one of our many great endorsed candidates.
Goal ThermometerThis is a good thing:
Democratic candidates for Congress are crushing their Republican counterparts in small-dollar donations—outraising their GOP foes by an average of more than $100,000 per candidate in the nation's top races.

That's the finding of a new National Journal analysis of federal records in the most competitive House contests in the country. In those, the average Democrat has collected $179,300 in donations under $200; the average Republican has brought in only $78,535.

"That," said Vincent Harris, a Republican digital strategist, "is a big deal."

It has been widely reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has lapped the National Republican Congressional Committee when it comes to small donations. The DCCC has outraised the NRCC by more than $41 million in donations under $200 this cycle, much of it collected online.

I know many of you are frustrated at the amount of email fundraising pitches you're getting, but THAT'S the reason you are—they work, and they are helping power Democrats past their Republican opponents.

Republicans WISH they could get this kind of popular support, but they're left begging Sheldon Adelson for another $10 million check. Ours is a people-powered party, theirs is a billionaire-powered one.

And who owns a party? Those who fund it. The more dependent on small-dollar contributions the Democrats become, the more beholden they are to its grassroots. It's a win-win. We are the majority, and we know better how to win our hearts and minds than the Third Way jokers still holding too much sway.

That's why it's important that everyone who hasn't given this cycle check out this page and find at least one candidate to give $3. At least one.

07:41 Fox News' Ben Carson Thinks New AP U.S. History Course Will Make Students Join ISIS» Politics - The Huffington Post
A Fox News contributor thinks that a new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History courses will cause students "to go sign up for ISIS."

When speaking at the Center for Security Policy's National Security Action Summit this week, Ben Carson, an author and retired neurosurgeon who provides commentary on Fox News, implied that the College Board's new course framework has an anti-American bias. Over the past few months, conservatives have rallied against the course's new framework, saying it shines an overly harsh light on American history and leaves out information about important historical figures. In August, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution calling for a push against the course, claiming it "deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events."

Carson, who has said he will likely run for president in 2016, apparently agrees with the RNC resolution.

"There's only two paragraphs in there about George Washington ... little or nothing about Martin Luther King, a whole section on slavery and how evil we are, a whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs," Carson said at the event.

He continued, "I think most people when they finish that course, they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS ... We have got to stop this silliness crucifying ourselves."

In recent weeks, controversy surrounding the course has gained increased national attention, as hundreds of students from the Jefferson County School District in Colorado have staged ongoing protests after a conservative school board member proposed forming committees to review the course and make sure it properly promotes patriotism. Teachers in the district have also participated in numerous "sick-outs," where large groups called in sick to protest the proposal.

However, the College Board has repeatedly denied that the course belittles American history. Authors of the new framework -- a group of professors and teachers -- have said it is intentionally broad, so local districts have some freedom over instruction. They also said the new framework did not refer to specific historical leaders because "teachers have always understood the need to teach them."

"We had two key goals for the project. One was that the course meet the expectations of college and university history departments, so that the hard work of AP students on the AP Exam would continue to be rewarded with college credit and placement," says a recent open letter written by the framework's authors. "The other was that the course and exam allow teachers to go into depth about the most significant concepts of the course."

In another open letter, College Board President David Coleman said concerns about the framework "are based on a significant misunderstanding." After releasing a sample AP U.S. History exam, to complement the new course framework, he wrote, "People who are worried that AP U.S. History students will not need to study our nation's founders need only take one look at this exam to see that our founders are resonant throughout."

H/T Media Matters
07:40 “Morning Joe” wonders if the Secret Service hired a woman because it’s “good for the brand”» Salon.com
Members of the MSNBC panel suggested Julia Pierson was hired simply to meet a quota, not because of her résumé






07:40 Midterms Digest: Could America’s “most unpopular governor” survive?» Salon.com
How Illinois' governor could stage yet another comeback. Plus: the latest on the contest for the House and Senate






07:38 President Obama: It Is a Moral and Strategic Mistake to Exempt Syrian Airstrikes From Civilian Protections» Politics - The Huffington Post
The White House has acknowledged for the first time that the strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.

This is a tragic error. One of the worst mistakes the United States can make is to respond to the horrors of the conduct of ISIS, especially its wanton killing of civilians, by killing civilians in response. We are meeting horror with horror and it will come back to haunt us, both morally and strategically.

In the peace movement, we say 'When you mirror your enemy, you risk becoming your enemy.' The U.S. is now on that path and it is a profound moral mistake.

In addition, this new information from the White House undermines a substantial part of the argument for the morality of the drone program, since the drone program has been sold to the American people as a way for the U.S. to kill terrorists without substantially endangering local populations.

For the administration to claim it is "just" to use drones, it must abide by the rules for the conduct of war. These rules, called "Just War Theory," specifically call for the protection of civilians, i.e. non-combatants, from armed combat. In this theory on waging war it is considered unfair and unjust to attack indiscriminately since non-combatants or innocents are deemed to stand outside the field of war proper.

We are supposed to be operating under a new drone policy where protecting civilians is a priority. The President acknowledged civilian deaths in his major 2013 speech on drones at the National Defense University , calling them "a tragedy." In that speech, the President promised the drone program would operate within limits protecting civilians, and that in addition to control of the drone program being transferred from the CIA to the Pentagon, a new era of transparency on drones would begin.

This has now been shown to be more a rhetorical and less actual policy shift.

Given the secretive nature of the drone program, accurate information on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes has always been very difficult to obtain. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the United Kingdom has attempted to document the deaths of civilians credibly killed by drones strikes, including women and children, and their research has included the disturbing information of targeting of rescue personnel and funerals.

More recently, strikes on a Syrian village, a reported stronghold of an al-Qaida-linked front, resulted in images of bodies of women and children hauled from the rubble. Images of badly injured children also appeared on YouTube, helping to fuel anti-U.S. protests in a number of Syrian villages last week.

At a briefing for members and staffers of the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last week, a political member of one of the Free Syria Army factions described the aftermath of this attack. "They were carrying bodies out of the rubble. ... I saw seven or eight ambulances coming out of there."

He went on to say, "We believe this was a big mistake."

Yes, this was a big mistake. It was a moral mistake and a strategic mistake.

It is not acceptable for the President to claim a moral principle such as the Just War criterion on protecting civilians, and then bend or break that principle when it seems expediency demands it. The point of moral principles is to accept there are things that cannot be morally justified and then refrain from doing them.

But it is also a "big mistake" from a strategic standpoint to be killing civilians. ISIS is waging an image war and demonizing the U.S. is a cornerstone of their propaganda. Giving ISIS more fuel for their hype is strategically a huge error. That YouTube video serves to undermine whatever support the U.S. and others bombing ISIS targets may have.

No matter what the enemy does, and how immorally they may act, that does not provide a free pass for individuals or nations to just give up on their own principles and respond in kind.

In fact, it is precisely when your moral principles are tested that abiding by them is most crucial.

Otherwise, what is it we are really fighting for?
07:29 Politico Columnist: If Obama Gets Assassinated, It’s His Own Fault» ThinkProgress

Exploring the limits of Presidential leadership.

The post Politico Columnist: If Obama Gets Assassinated, It’s His Own Fault appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:25 Stephen Colbert mocks Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal in epic Values Voter Summit takedown» Salon.com
"The Values Voter Summit, a four-day orgy of people fundamentally opposed to orgies"






07:25 Issa’s dumb Secret Service farce: Oversight hearing devolves into typical circus» Salon.com
Rep. Issa convened a hearing on the Secret Service during recess. What political points were there to be scored?






07:25 Chaffetz’s “overwhelming” ignorance: The case against turning the White House lawn into a shooting gallery» Salon.com
Jason Chaffetz wants the Secret Service to use "overwhelming force" on White House intruders. It's an awful idea






07:20 Ex-Secret Service Agent: Obama Should Appoint Allen West To Head Secret Service» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Ex-Secret Service Agent: Obama Should Appoint Allen West To Head Secret Service

If there's anything I know from reading the many crazy tales that Clinton's Secret Service details tried to peddle, it's that many of them are far from non-partisan and professional. At least some of them have their own agendas, and I have to wonder how many wingnuts are among them. I especially wonder about the former agent who penned this suggestion:

Dan Emmett, who used to serve in the Secret Service Presidential Protective Division, wrote in the Washington Post's "PostEverything" section that the Secret Service's failure to keep a manfrom jumping over the White House fence and entering the building was particularly concerning "because the United States is at war."

"This message undoubtedly will embolden our enemies, and that’s a serious problem at a time when terrorist groups are planning major attacks on Western soil and coming alarmingly close to carrying them out," Emmett wrote.

He argued that the U.S. has brought in the military to protect the White House before — during World War II.

read more

07:14 Fox Host Brian Kilmeade "Would Love To See" Allen West "In A Leadership Role With The Secret Service"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
07:09 Stephen Colbert mocks the wrongful penalty against Muslim NFL player» Salon.com
The Kansas City Chiefs player was practicing his religious beliefs when he dropped to his knees






07:09 Jon Stewart dubs Indian PM the “next Ronald Reagan for the world”» Salon.com
"Must be nice to still have that new leader smell!"






07:07 Here’s Which TV Networks Are The Most LGBT-Inclusive» ThinkProgress

Hint: It's not TNT.

The post Here’s Which TV Networks Are The Most LGBT-Inclusive appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:04 Colorado’s GOP Candidate For Governor Goes All In On Climate Change Denial» ThinkProgress

Five years after he characterized as religious zealots those who are concerned about climate change, Bob Beauprez said “powers bigger than us” are in control of Earth’s fate.

The post Colorado’s GOP Candidate For Governor Goes All In On Climate Change Denial appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:03 Trapped Opossum Rescued, Rehabilitated and Released | Video » LiveScience.com
The Humane Wildlife Services were called in when a opossum found himself trapped in a store in Washington, DC. The found the opossum hiding in a bag and malnourished. They took him to an animal shelter for treatment and was released after 6 days.
07:01 Perdue proposes economic policy ripped straight from dictator's playbook» Daily Kos
Photo of David Perdue standing outside, alone
A few weeks ago, Georgia's Republican nominee for U.S. Senate David Perdue appeared before his state's Chamber of Commerce to tout what he described as his views on the fundamental "precepts of economic development." As Amanda Terkel writes, it was nearly identical to a message Perdue delivered in 2007 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—except in 2007 he credited Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, with the ideas.

Back then, Perdue sung Yew's praises but now he makes no mention of Singapore or Yew. Why the switch? Well, perhaps it's because back then, Perdue was doing businesses with Singapore ... and because now he'd have to defend Yew's authoritarian control over Singapore's economy and society. As Terkel says:

In 2000, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said "many in the West" found his "authoritarian policies ... harder to stomach." National Geographic has called Lee's model "a unique mix of economic empowerment and tightly controlled personal liberties."

Lee aggressively cracked down on Communist sympathizers, stifled dissent and became famous for harsh policies such as a "ban on chewing gum and the caning of people for spray-painting cars." In 1997, the late conservative columnist William Safire wrote in The New York Times that Lee had overseen an "ultra-orderly economy and anti-democratic politics."

So you can see why Perdue might not want to tout the fact that his Yew is the inspiration for his economic ideas. But based on the substance of his Chamber of Commerce speeches, that appears to be exactly what happened.

Help elect some senators who don't take their cues from overseas dictators. Give $3 to Gary Peters.

07:00 That Time Obama Got On An Elevator With An Armed Guy With A Criminal Past» Latest from Crooks and Liars
That Time Obama Got On An Elevator With An Armed Guy With A Criminal Past

This is the kind of thing that just gives me nightmares, especially with all the right wing eliminationist talk swirling around every day, everywhere, but most especially online. It's maddening, and it's scary.

Carol Leonig, who broke the news about the 2011 shooting incident at the White House and has also done great reporting on the most recent breach of security that allowed an armed man to not just jump the fence and cross the lawn but also get inside the door and two rooms, has this new story:

The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.

The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.

When the elevator opened, Obama left with most of his Secret Service detail. Some agents stayed behind to question the man and then used a national database check that turned up his criminal history.

Oh, awesome. But wait, there's more.

read more

07:00 Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Law That Allows Families To Petition Judge For Gun Removal» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Law That Allows Families To Petition Judge For Gun Removal

Look what you can get done when Democrats are in charge! This is a good move that will help stop at least some gun tragedies:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will become the first state that allows family members to ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat, under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he had signed.

The bill was proposed by several Democrats and responds to a deadly rampage in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Relatives of the victims and other supporters of the bill said the parents of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger were thwarted in their attempts to seek help for their troubled son before the rampage.

Supporters had said such a measure could have prevented the attacks, winning out over critics who said it would erode gun rights.

"If both of these laws had been in place on May 23, things could have been very different," Rodger's father, Peter Rodger, said in a statement Tuesday night. "California, today, is a safer state because of this legislation. Let's hope other states follow."

Law enforcement authorities in Connecticut, Indiana and Texas can seek a judge's order allowing them to seize guns from people they deem to be a danger.

The new California law gives law enforcement the same option and extends it to family members.

read more

06:54 Hollywood Makes Brave, Groundbreaking Decision To Produce A Tetris Movie» ThinkProgress

No director, no cast, no script, not yet. But that’s not what movies are about. Everyone knows that a movie is born when an ’80s game and a studio love each other very much.

The post Hollywood Makes Brave, Groundbreaking Decision To Produce A Tetris Movie appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:54 Methadone treatment is the gold standard for pregnant opiate users. So why are we punishing these women?» Salon.com
A mother in New Jersey underwent a doctor-prescribed drug treatment, then ended up on the child abuse registry






06:38 Must-see morning clip: Jon Stewart updates “Schoolhouse Rock” classic “I’m Just a Bill”» Salon.com
The real life cycle of a Congressional bill ends in death






06:35 NASA Drone Captures Amazing Footage of Hurricane's Eye (Video)» LiveScience.com
In September, when Hurricane Edouard was churning out over the Atlantic Ocean, NASA dispatched its Global Hawk drones to fly directly over the eye of the storm.
06:31 60 Members Of Congress Urge EPA To Protect Pollinators» ThinkProgress

"Protecting our pollinators is essential to the health and future of our environment and our species."

The post 60 Members Of Congress Urge EPA To Protect Pollinators appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:30 Someone Needs to Tell Maroon 5 There's Nothing Sexy About Sexual Harassment » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The new video featuring singer Adam Levine as a ‘crazy’ sexual predator isn't 'edgy.' This actually happens every damn day.

It seems Maroon 5 has been taking the “How to Terrify Women” class at the Robin Thicke School of Music. In the band’s latest song, Animals, lead singer and “sexiest” creepster alive Adam Levine sings about “preying” on women while promising to “hunt you down” and “eat you alive”. (I don’t think he means this in the good way.)

You might think, given all the international focus on violence against women and sexual assault of late, that one of the biggest musical acts in the world might not be that into writing, releasing and promoting a “hit” that tries to make terrorizing women seem “sexy”. But instead of considering the message they’re sending to the 3.4m people who report being stalked in the US alone, the band doubled down and made a video even more disturbing than the song.

In the new music video, Levine stars as a sociopathic stalker who works as a butcher. (At least he’s got a job, eh, ladies?!) The famously annoying singer – who we know is supposed to be crazy because he’s wearing standard-issue serial killer glasses – skulks in dark alleys to take pictures of an unsuspecting woman, going as far as breaking into the apartment of his “loved one” and laying next to her as she sleeps. This woman, by the way, is played by Levine’s new wife, the Victoria’s Secret supermodel Behati Prinsloo.

In between shots of Prinsloo seductively stripping, we’re treated to images of Levine, shirtless, in a meat truck, where he proceeds to play with, punch and hug said meat. (We get it, you like women/meat!) After Levine’s “character” is rejected by the woman in a nightclub, he fantasizes about having sex with her in a cascade of blood.

And who said romance is dead?

I’m sure Levine and his bandmates think they’ve done something edgy here – ooh, so dark! – but there is nothing “alternative” about showing women being stalked, hunted, raped or killed because it’s something that happens every damn day.

What’s particularly disturbing about Animals is that the song’s message – that men are “animals” with no self control – implies there is nothing we can do about issues of sexual violence. If sexual predators are “animals”, or “crazy”, than it absolves us of social responsibility ... because you can’t control an animal, amiright? It’s just in their nature. (A fairly insulting vision of male sexuality, I must say.)

Maroon 5’s Animals also comes on the heels of a Time article from professional provocateur Camille Paglia, who argued, apparently in all seriousness, that a culture that condones and glamorizes violence against women isn’t the problem - “evil” is. “Young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark,” she wrote.

But men aren’t animals, and neither are rapists or stalkers – they’re people. People we’ve raised, people who have grown up seeing “sexy” images of battered women, people who have been brought up to think that women’s sole purpose to be available to them. You can call that “evil”, I suppose, but it’s a man-made wrong no matter what you name it.

Levine sings that “you can run free ... but you can’t stay away from me.” But we can. And we probably should.

 

Related Stories

06:14 Fearing Same-Sex Marriage, Louisiana Church Kicks Out Alcoholics Anonymous Group» ThinkProgress

“As I am sure you are aware, God’s church, his written word, and its values and principles have come under a constant and aggressive attack from the homosexual and lesbian community,” the letter read.

The post Fearing Same-Sex Marriage, Louisiana Church Kicks Out Alcoholics Anonymous Group appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:13 Stephen Colbert skewers the GOP's 2016 roster» Daily Kos
Last night, Stephen reported on the Values Voter Summit and took a look at the great GOP candidates ready to run in 2016 ... and Sarah Palin. Full video after the jump.
06:10 35,000 Walrus Converge On Alaska Beach As Sea Ice Retreats» ThinkProgress

A shocking number of walrus have massed on a beach in northwest Alaska for lack of better ground.

The post 35,000 Walrus Converge On Alaska Beach As Sea Ice Retreats appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:05 Mother Faces Jail For Giving Her Son Marijuana That Stopped His Seizures» ThinkProgress

“The prosecutor’s version of this is that a good mom allows her child to be in pain, to self-harm, and attempt to take his life. I guess that’s a good mom in his eyes.”

The post Mother Faces Jail For Giving Her Son Marijuana That Stopped His Seizures appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:01 A Bunch Of Things Americans Believe About Ebola That Aren’t Actually True» ThinkProgress

We've diagnosed the first Ebola case on U.S. soil, but that doesn't mean we have a public health crisis within our borders.

The post A Bunch Of Things Americans Believe About Ebola That Aren’t Actually True appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:01 Google Backs Obama's 'Moonshot' BRAIN Initiative» LiveScience.com
The president's moonshot project to understand the human brain is getting a boost by partnering with companies like Google and foundations for neurological disorders, the White House announced today (Sept. 30).
06:00 These Workers Are Now Among The Lucky Few Who Can Take Paid Time Off When They Have A Baby» ThinkProgress

Unlike most American workers, either in the public or private workforce, DC city workers can now take paid time off for a new baby.

The post These Workers Are Now Among The Lucky Few Who Can Take Paid Time Off When They Have A Baby appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:00 Iraq Pilots Mistakenly Drop Supplies, Not Bombs, On Isis» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Iraq Pilots Mistakenly Drop Supplies, Not Bombs, On Isis

06:00 Howie Kurtz Cries Crocodile Tears For 'Liberal Media's' Breakup With Obama» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Howie Kurtz Cries Crocodile Tears For 'Liberal Media's' Breakup With Obama

Howie Kurtz definitely is at home at Fox News where he really doesn't have to pretend he's a media critic at all. He can just go with the stream of right-wing consciousness and in the process, spew a few more falsehoods into the already-toxic stream of rubbish flowing out of the place.

This segment of Howie and Billo is brought to you by the Conservative Opiners & Whiners Affiliates Really Destroying Our Politics (COWARDOP). We begin with a clip of Jonathan Karl, ABC White House Correspondent and Collegiate Network graduate, mustering all of the fauxtrage he can to challenge Josh Earnest over ISIS.

He might work for ABCNews, but his heart is over at Fox, so we like to think of Karl as ABC's right wing mole. That was followed up by Ed Henry concern trolling about whether Obama was 'detached' because of the critics coming after him. Oh, Ed. You just don't do trolling well when you pretend. We all know you're a troll. Come out and admit it.

Howie wants us to think there was a romance between Obama and the media. He further expects us to believe that the media is being 'very quick to push back on excuses."

Blah, blah blah. But what's remarkable is Kurtz' argument for the "bad marriage" of media and the President.

read more

05:51 In Africa, Anthrax Lures Animals to Their Death» LiveScience.com
Areas contaminated with anthrax lure grazing animals like zebras, which could lead to new rounds of infections. Anthrax-infected carcasses might release more nutrients into the soil than other carcasses, making the sites attractive to grazers.
05:41 In Photos: Namibia's Zebras Lured to their Deaths» LiveScience.com
New research reveals that zebras, wildebeest and other wildlife are lured to sites contaminated by anthrax bacterium, possibly aiding in the spread of the infectious disease.
05:36 Politico Magazine: Obama might need to be assassinated before we can get Secret Service reform» Salon.com
Sickening piece blames Obama for Secret Service failures -- and suggests change may require his assassination






05:36 Wall Street’s P.R. whopper: How its big new lie can trigger another crisis» Salon.com
Hoping to gut regulations in the housing market, big banks are pushing a new line. The problem is who's buying it






05:36 “You think we’re this dumb?”: Inside the sick, cynical mind of Mitch McConnell» Salon.com
The man who may be our next Senate majority leader is everything wrong with Washington, Alec MacGillis tells Salon






05:31 Giant Clams' Shiny Shells Could Inspire New Solar Power Tech» LiveScience.com
Brilliant shades of blue and aqua coat the iridescent lips of giant clams, but these shiny cells aren't just for show, new research finds. The iridescent sheen directs beams of sunlight into the interior of the clam, providing light for algae inside.
05:30 Bush-Appointed Republican Judge Rules Against Funding State Obamacare Exchanges» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Bush-Appointed Republican Judge Rules Against Funding State Obamacare Exchanges

05:30 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9am ET!» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Radio logo
I'm not telling you what we're doing on the show today. It's a surprise!

OK, one hint. It rhymes with "Known McCarter Day."

Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: The Daily Kos Radio Player

Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Can't see the live stream and/or podcast players in these posts? Do you use NoScript or something similar to control Javascript? Want to? Remember to enable Libsyn and Shoutcastplayer, and you'll see our players every morning!

(HOW YOU CAN GIVE ME) FREE MONEY!

Listen to Stitcher
Help support the show through Stitcher's revenue sharing program. Be one of 5,000 "active listeners" per month, and, well, they send us money. All you need to do, believe it or not, is listen to 30 seconds of a show, once in a month. Seriously! Choose any one of the shows at this link, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and you're on board!

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.

Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

05:21 Chris Christie tanks: Why new numbers could spell doom for his 2016 run» Salon.com
Amid Bridgegate and pension firestorms, the NJ Governor's approval reaches a near-record low






05:18 Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

President Jimmy carter's 2002 Nobel prize photo
Carter's 2002 Nobel
Peace Prize photo.
Happy #90 to #39!

If you don’t count George Washington's fake choppers, Jimmy Carter owns the most famous set of presidential teeth in history. That Jimmy grin was what the country wanted after the Watergate mess. And although his one term isn't considered a rousing success, he kept us out of war, focused our attention on energy policy, kept us out of war, was at the helm during the creation of eight million jobs, brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, and kept us out of war.

Oh, and for the record, let's repeat one more time: he never said "malaise."

Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, also called
Strange but true: the House of
Cultures in Berlin is nicknamed
"Jimmy Carter's Teeth."
Carter's post-presidency is where he really shines, and he warrants every accolade we can throw Daily Kos member 81380's way. It's astonishing what he's accomplished: from fighting diseases in Africa to building homes with Habitat for Humanity to shining a damning spotlight on the terrible way women are treated around the world. And kudos for throwing the occasional jab at the right-wing freak show, as he did in his anger-tinged speech during the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington last year:
President Jimmy carter speaking at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 2013
Keepin' it real in badass shades.
"I believe we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the new ID requirements to exclude certain voters, especially African-Americans. I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the Supreme Court striking down a crucial part of the Voters' Rights Act, just recently passed overwhelmingly by Congress. I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to unemployment among African-Americans being almost twice the rate of white people and for teenagers at 42 percent. I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to our country being awash in guns and for more and more states passing "stand your ground" laws. I think we know how Dr. King would have reacted to people of the District of Columbia still not having full citizenship rights.

And I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to having more than 835,000 African-American men in prison---five times as many as when I left office---and with one-third of all African-American males being destined to be in prison in their lifetimes."

His motto at the Carter Center (where you can leave a birthday message) says it all: "Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope. In the pantheon of Most Excellent American Role Models, he owns a prime piece of real estate.

Happy 90th birthday, Jimmy. I'm toasting you today with---what else?---an ice-cold Billy Beer.

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

05:14 Dog Bites, Workplace Accidents and 4 Other Things That Killed More Americans Than Terrorism Last Year» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Our country has blown the threat of violence from terrorists way out of proportion.

With the Middle East grabbing headlines, many Americans are concerned about terrorism. A CNN poll from earlier this month found that 53% of Americans are concerned that there will be terrorist attacks, up from 39% in 2011.

But while fear of terrorism has skyrocketed, the facts are that few Americans are ever injured or killed by an act of terror, and our country has blown the threat of violence from terrorists way out of proportion.

In fact, dog bites actually killed more Americans last year than terrorism—with 32 fatalities from dogs logged by non-profit DogBites.org and eight fatalities from domestic terror attacks (according to the University of Maryland Global Terrorism Database) and 16 from attacks overseas (according to the State Department). Here's four other things that proved more fatal to Americans than terrorism last year:

1. Child Flu Deaths: During the 2012-2013 flu season, the CDC logged 149 pediatric deaths from the ailment.

2. Deaths During Childbirth: Researchers writing in the medical journal The Lancet estimated that nearly 800 mothers died during childbirth last year, making our maternal mortality rate three times as high as the United Kingdom's.

3. Workplace Deaths: According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, “4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013...(3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers)—on average, 85 a week or more than 12 deaths every day.”

4. Ordinary Gun Violence: In 2013, more people died every day from ordinary gun violence than from terrorism—with about 30 people being shot dead a day, according to Slate. The majority of gun deaths are suicide.

5. Traffic Accidents: Although accident fatalities decreased in 2013, the National Safety Council estimated that 35,200 Americans perished in car accidents last year.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't address the threat of terrorism. But we should keep the scope and danger in perspective. Doing so would allow us to focus on the bigger threats to Americans' well-being, and implement policy—like an expansion of workers safety oversight, public transit, and public health initiatives—that will save lives.

 

Related Stories

05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Are Republicans really worried about Oklahoma? They may well be» Daily Kos
Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial nominee Joe Dorman
Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial nominee Joe Dorman
Leading Off:

OK-Gov: Polling out of Oklahoma this year has been spotty but nevertheless quite alluring. Over the summer, a trio of polls found GOP Gov. Mary Fallin under 50 percent—including one from a GOP pollster—despite the Sooner State's strong Republican bent. Was there a chance for an extraordinary Democratic upset?

A post-Labor Day survey from SoonerPoll.com seemed to put the kibosh on that notion, with Fallin leading Democrat Joe Dorman by a healthier 50-32 spread, her largest lead to date. But now a new internal poll from Dorman's campaign, conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs, presents a totally different picture, with Fallin ahead just 47-45. The governor has an underwater 42-46 job approval rating while Dorman remains in positive territory at 39-25.

And that's in spite of RGA attack ads predictably tying Dorman to Obama (and even accusing him of voting to give tuition breaks to "illegals"—seriously). But the very fact these ads exist is another data point suggesting this race is more interesting than you'd otherwise expect. In fact, it turns out the RGA has now shelled out more than $200,000 hammering Dorman, money they'd probably prefer not to be spending in dark red Oklahoma.

Dorman's poll may be on the optimistic side, but let's see if Fallin responses with any contradictory numbers of her own. Whether she does or doesn't, though, there's enough here to merit putting this race up on the big board, so we're moving the contest from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. It's been a strange cycle. It might just get stranger still.

04:20 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Ebola in the US» Daily Kos

Reuters:

A man who flew from Liberia to Texas has become the first patient infected with the deadly Ebola virus to be diagnosed in the United States, health officials said on Tuesday, a sign the outbreak ravaging West Africa may spread globally.

The patient sought treatment six days after arriving in Texas on Sept. 20, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters. He was admitted two days later to an isolation room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

U.S. health officials and lawmakers have been bracing for the eventuality that a patient would arrive on U.S. shores undetected, testing the preparedness of the nation's healthcare system. On Tuesday, Frieden and other health authorities said they were taking every step possible to ensure the virus did not spread widely.

"It is certainly possible someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks," Frieden told a news conference. "I have no doubt we will stop this in its tracks in the United States."

Feeling a lot of sympathy for ER docs in TX tomorrow, who will be seeing a LOT of people with sniffles.
@EdInTheICU
Dan Diamond:
The Daily Briefing regularly runs interviews with some of health care's most prominent CEOs, and we recently spoke with John Fox, CEO of Emory Healthcare, about his leadership lessons, his thoughts on the industry, and his big decisions—including the decision to accept several patients who had contracted Ebola in Africa.

That interview was scheduled to run later this week. But given the news that CDC on Tuesday confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States, we thought it made sense to bring this part of the interview forward. (The full interview with John Fox will still run later this week.)

I think it offers essential context on why and how Emory took on several patients with Ebola—and a reminder that the disease can be well-managed, in the right care setting.

Do North Americans need to flip about about the Dallas #Ebola case? No. Should they expect more imported cases? Yes. Containment is crucial.
@HelenBranswell
Hey, in more viral news, my interview with a White Plains, NY paper and a Danbury, CT paper on enterovirus D68.

More politics and policy below the fold.

04:04 Gun nuts’ tragic confusion: Why “open carry” groups don’t get police brutality» Salon.com
To their credit, some gun groups were upset when John Crawford was shot by cops. The problem is their odd reasoning






04:04 College is ripping you off: Students are cash cows, and schools the predators» Salon.com
Higher ed is sold as the key to an affluent life. It's really a big business designed to leave you buried in debt






04:04 From 9/11 to ISIS: The massive failure of U.S. intelligence» Salon.com
Taxpayers are pouring $68 billion annually into 17 intelligence outfits. Why do they seem to offer anything but?






04:04 The American family is a myth: Why our national moral panic must stop» Salon.com
As a kid, I thought I'd be married with three kids by now. But now I see "family" as something totally different






03:49 Wal-Mart’s new scheme to prey on America’s poor» Salon.com
The multinational retailer wants to offer affordable banking. Here's why that's a horrible idea






02:03 GOP sets sights on bigger House gains» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The goal: Achieve their biggest House majority since Harry Truman's presidency.
02:03 Now entering political arena: Women in tech» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Women are taking on high-profile roles in both the D.C. and California arenas.
02:02 D.C. mystery: Bezos' plan for the Washington Post» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Post is far from embarking on the radical reinvention that many thought he would bring.

Tue 30 September, 2014

22:08 New Mexico Police Officer Jokes About Shooting a Citizen in the Penis -- Kills Him Two Hours Later» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
A damning police car dashcam video surfaces.
On March 16, Albuquerque police opened fire on homeless camper James Boyd in the New Mexico foothills. The entire scene was caught on video and sparked instant public outrage.

The death of James Boyd was one of many fatal shootings in New Mexico, something the Department of Justice determined was a pattern of unjustified excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.

Now a dashcam video has surfaced, which recorded audio of Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy, one of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, saying he wouldshoot Boyd in the penis:

Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?

Ware: I don't know. The guy asked for state police.

Sandy: Who asked?

Ware: I don't know.

Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic?  I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.

Ware: You got uh less-lethal?

Sandy: I got…

Ware: The Taser shotgun?

Sandy: Yeah.

Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?

Sandy: ROP's got one...here's what we're thinking, because I don't know what's going on, nobody has briefed me...

A mere two hours later, Officer Sandy did fatally shoot James Boyd.

The Albuquerque police are denying he said it, but jump below the fold to hear the audio for yourself and read on about how the Albuquerque Police continue to stonewall the investigation.

The Albuquerque Police Department are sticking to their story:

The Albuquerque Police Department maintains that instead of saying "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second," Officer Keith Sandy said, "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him with a Taser shotgun in a second."

They've also refused to release the official report:

APD also released one single page from the ten-page New Mexico State Police report on the shooting, which details a follow-up interview with state police Sgt. Chris Ware, who said he "doesn't remember" what was said that day, but that he "believes" he said "Taser shotgun."

KOB says repeated requests for comments from Mayor Richard Berry have been ignored.

This isn't the first troubling incident for Officer Sandy. In 2007, he was fired by the New Mexico State Police:

Albuquerque Police Department brass took a chance in 2007, when they hired four ex-State Police officers who had freshly been relieved of duty from that agency because of a double-dipping scandal.

One officer had resigned from State Police. The other three had been fired. All four faced criminal charges at one point for receiving payments from a private security contractor while on the clock for State Police, although those never materialized.

And it gets worse:

“They do not carry guns, they are not going to be badged,” Castro said in July 2007 . “They’re civilian employees. They’ll be collecting evidence.”

In fact, they all got badges. And they all got guns. And some of them also got tremendous power and standing within the department.

 

 

Related Stories

21:50 Anti-Rape App Might Actually Backfire and Make It Easier to Rape» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Trying to get people to communicate better in bed isn't necessarily the problem.

ave such mixed feelings about the “teach people about consent” approach to rape prevention. On the whole, I think it’s a good idea. It can help potential victims spot when a sexual predator is testing their boundaries. It also, if done correctly, makes it a lot harder for rapists and rape apologists to bamboozle people with by claiming that assaults are more “ambiguous” or murky than they are. The more we talk about how important it is for everyone having sex to be happy with what’s going on,* the harder it will be for sexual predators to convince people that they meant well. No one means well while simultaneously sticking your dick in someone you know doesn’t want it there, regardless of how she communicated that lack of desire.

But I worry that the idea of “teach the consent” is leading some people to believe there’s a problem of people who are “accidentally” assaulting someone. So much of what I see is focused on trying to get people to communicate better in bed, but there’s no actual reason to think that’s the issue. Men who have sex with non-consenting women know full well that they are having sex with a woman who doesn’t want it. No one rapes by accident. They just pretend, after the fact, that they didn’t know she was non-consenting in order to confuse the issue. See this classic piece by Thomas MacAulay Millar at Yes Means Yes, regarding research that shows that men have zero problem understanding the difference between someone saying “hell yes” and someone saying “I’d rather not”, even if those ideas are conveyed through “soft” language or even body language. The man who sticks his dick in a woman who is asking if she can go home now or trying to put her clothes back on or pulling her body away knows full well that she is not consenting. He is not confused. He just doesn’t care.

I  mention this because Amanda Hess at Slate has a great post up about an app that supposedly “helps” people communicate in bed:

re’s how it works: After deciding that you would like to have sex with someone, launch the Good2Go app (free on iTunes and Google Play), hand the phone off to your potential partner, and allow him or her to navigate the process to determine if he or she is ready and willing. “Are We Good2Go?” the first screen asks, prompting the partner to answer “No, Thanks,” “Yes, but … we need to talk,” or “I’m Good2Go.” If the partner chooses door No. 1, a black screen pops up that reads “Remember! No means No! Only Yes means Yes, BUT can be changed to NO at anytime!” If he or she opts instead to have a conversation before deciding—imagine, verbally communicating with someone with whom you may imminently engage in sexual intercourse—the app pauses to allow both parties to discuss.

Hess bravely tried it with her own partner, and the problems were evident:

Easy, right? When I tried this process out with a partner, it took us four minutes to navigate through all the screens, mostly because he kept asking, “Why are we using an app for this?” and “Why do I have to give them my phone number?” (More on that later.) I was confused, too: As the instigator, I wasn’t asked to confirm that I wanted to have sex or to state my own intoxication level for my partner’s consideration. (A promotional video modeling the process begins by announcing how “simple” it is, then snaps out instructions for three minutes, but questions remain.) Perhaps the process is deliberately time-consuming: The app provides the “opportunity for two people to pause and reflect on what they really want to do, rather than entering an encounter that might lead to something one or both will later regret,” the app’s FAQ reads. Or maybe I’m just old: At 29, I find it much easier to just talk about sex than to use an app for that.

This app incorrectly assumes that the problem with sexual assault is “regret” or that people aren’t sure if their partner is into it or not. But that’s not actually the problem. The actual problem is men forcing themselves on women who are signaling displeasure, and then claiming afterwards that they were confused. The first rule of teaching consent should be ridding yourself of this idiotic belief that “regret” or confusion play a role in the choice to have sex with an unwilling person. It’s a conscious choice and no app is going to stop those who pretend not to hear “no” as cover for what they want to do, which is rape.

Worse, I feel this app could be seized upon by rapists as a way to rape women and get away with it.

In fact, Good2Go could contribute a dangerous new element to those he-said she-said rape cases. What Good2Go doesn’t tell users is that it keeps a private record of every “I’m Good2Go” agreement logged in its system, tied to both users’ personal phone numbers and Good2Go accounts. (Records of interactions where users say “No” or just want to talk are not logged in this way.) Allman says that regular users aren’t permitted access to those records, but a government official with a subpoena could. “It wouldn’t be released except under legal circumstances,” Allman told me. “But it does create a data point that there was an occasion where one party asked the other for affirmative consent, that could be useful in the future … there are cases, of course, as we know, where the accused is an innocent party, so in that case, it could be beneficial to him.”

So, in other words, if you’re a rapist, all you need to do is convince your victim that you’re having a legitimate hook-up. Get her to log in her “consent” on this app. Once the record of her saying she wants sex is created, you then rape her, by say, forcing her to do a bunch of stuff she didn’t want to do. If she says no, who cares? You created a record of her saying yes. It’s basically a way for rapists to give themselves blanket permission to rape someone by creating a point in time she said “yes”, and then saying everything that happened after that was covered by it. Sure, the app says that you can withdraw consent at any time, but if you’re going to court with this and she says, “Well, yes, I said yes to sex on the app, but I didn’t think he meant he would hold me down and anally rape me,” odds are that little disclaimer will not offer much protection to the victim. It’s already hard enough for victims of rape who were tricked into thinking they were on a real date only to have rape sprung on them to convince juries they weren’t consenting. This would make it a nightmare.

So yes, I’m for teaching consent, in terms of telling people what consent looks like and what it does not look like. But onlyif you go into the lesson with the full understanding that people who have sex with the non-c0nsenting know full well what they’re doing. The only people who are confused are people that a rapist might be making excuses to, and teaching consent helps put an end to that. But no one rapes by accident, and any discussion of teaching consent needs to start from that understanding.

*As an aside, one reason that I see a lot of people balk at the “enthusiastic consent” standard is they are worried about losing what I’d call transactional sex. The most obvious form is sex work, of course, but it’s also other things. Like having your wife give you a hand job when she’s not in the mood or if you accept a pity fuck from someone. There is no reason to think these kinds of things would be a problem, because the person still wants the sex and is affirmatively consenting. You can want sex for the pleasure of sex, but you can also want it for money or to make someone else happy. The only thing that is a problem is when you make someone who doesn’t want sex have sex anyway. The important thing is knowing what the other person wants out of this situation and being clear about it.

 

Related Stories

20:00 Open thread for night owls. Lehmann: 'Democrats can't win by cutting class'» Daily Kos
The above is the right-hand section of the 1934 mural "City Life" at Coit Tower in San Francisco. It was painted by Russian-American painter Victor Arnautoff as part of the Public Works of Art Project, the first such program of the New Deal, which ran from December 1933 to June 1934. In that short period, 3,749 artists were hired and 15,663 works were produced. The project was succeeded by the Federal Art Project and the Works Progress Administration. Arnautoff, who, like his mentor Diego Rivera, was a communist, sparked some objections at the mural's unveiling because, in the lower left corner of the North Beach neighborhood a newsstand is selling copies of the Masses and the Daily Worker. That's a self-portrait of the artist looking right at the viewer. You can see a larger image of the whole mural here, details here, and the left-hand section of the mural here.


Chris Lehmann writes at In These Times The Democrats can’t win by cutting class. Some excerpts:

[T]o put more House districts in play means the Democrats would have to successfully harness a populist economic message to reach constituencies that haven’t lately broken Democratic—lower-middle-class white families, rural voters and the like. “By definition, if you want to go from the minority to the majority, you want to win over a group of voters from the other side,” says Michael Lind, policy director of the New America Foundation, a D.C.-based think-tank. “You can win over the pro-New Deal creationists, or the socially liberal Christian conservatives. But by definition, those people are not going to agree with you on your own personal issues.”

That the Democrats should be this far away from homing in on any sort of majoritarian message is an unusual situation. Historically, midterm cycles have been crucial for shoring up power on the Democratic side of the aisle. In 1982, for example, a resurgent House Democratic majority fresh from major gains in the midterms passed the Boland amendment, forbidding American aid to the Nicaraguan Contras—and thereby laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal that hamstrung the Reagan administration and came close to endangering the presidency itself. Similarly, the 1974 “Watergate class” of reformist Democrats passed the first wave of campaign-finance legislation to curb the uglier abuses of the election system by moneyed interests.

Over and above such signature reform movements, Democratic Congresses were integral to the New Deal and Great Society eras of lawmaking, whose popular initiatives in turn solidified what became known as the Democratic majority—the coalition of union members, movement liberals, and urban white “ethnic,” black and brown voters that comprise the backbone of the Democratic Party. These voters sustained and nourished the later Democratic Congresses that extended the basic terms of New Deal governance via landmark legislation such as the GI Bill, Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the raft of workplace and environmental protections legislated into being from the 1970s onward. The voting majorities behind the postwar Democratic domination of Congress should have, on paper, continued to expand in tandem with the vital expansions of income supports and civil-rights protections that these Congresses managed, however narrowly, to enact. […]

Of course, Democrats face other obstacles in advancing a winning strategy to reclaim the House in November—the factors that election wonks call “structural,” such as the gerrymandering of safe Republican districts by Republican dominated state legislatures. But structural forces are, by definition, the very factors that effective majoritarian strategies are crafted to overcome. The GOP overcame much the same set of obstructions in its successful takeover of the House in 2010—the year that the Tea Party, and its corporate backers, stepped into the political limelight.

What’s more, gesturing at the implacable power of GOP-run state legislatures raises the question of just how the Democrats—the historic grassroots party of the people, operating with the enormous advantage of a crippling recession occurring on the Republicans’ executive watch—have been unable to summon their own majorities in so many state legislatures. (That answer—yet again—resides in a decided GOP tactical advantage rooted in long-term conservative organizing initiatives at the state and grassroots levels.)

Meanwhile, when it comes to the allocation of resources within the party, the top-heavy nature of Democratic campaign funding once more distorts the party’s priorities. [...]

If this complaint sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Before the 2006 Democratic wave, the head of the DCCC, Illinois House member Rahm Emanuel, was locked in battle with Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean over Dean’s ambitious “50-state strategy.” The Dean plan sought to put Democratic candidates into competitive play everywhere, as opposed to the traditional coastal, urban and upper-Midwestern strongholds of Democratic congressional power. Emanuel, a member of the investment-banking fraternity who had been charged with shepherding in bundled big-money donations, contended that such far-flung organizing efforts were unrealistic—and thus a strain on the party’s bulging campaign coffers. He got the better of the argument, and after the 2006 cycle, the 50-state strategy was shelved—and Dean was sent packing.

Eight years later, it’s hard not to conclude that the party would be far better off if it had followed Dean’s lead and pressed its already formidable advantages in 2006 into districts that now look like nearly permanent “red state” power bases. A 2013 study in Governing magazine found that even the partial implementation of the Dean plan yielded quite encouraging results for the Democrats. In the 20 red states covered in the survey, “Democratic candidates chalked up modest successes, despite the difficult political terrain,” the Governing team found. “Then, after the project stopped, Democratic success rates cratered.” In other words, in heeding Emanuel’s counsel to follow the big money, Democrats are getting exactly what they paid for.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012Welcome to the culture war against teachers, coming to a theater near you:

The campaign against teachers is special, and worth paying attention to. It's not like workers in general get much respect in our culture, at least not beyond vague lip service that only ever applies to the individual, powerless worker not asking for anything. And janitors, hotel housekeepers, cashiers, and a host of others could fill books with the daily substance of working in low-status professions, I'm sure. But right now, teachers are the subject of a campaign heavily funded and driven from the top down to take a profession that has long been respected by the public at large and make the people in the profession villains and pariahs, en route to undercutting the prestige, the decision-making ability, the working conditions, and, of course, the wages and benefits of the profession as a whole. What we're watching right now is a specific front in the war on workers, and one with immense reach through our culture—and coming soon to a movie theater near you if it's not already there, in the form of the poorly reviewed parent trigger drama Won't Back Down.

(That it's a war not just on teachers but on the workers of the future and on the government just sweetens the pot for many of the people waging the war.)


Tweet of the Day
The banks we bailed out are still evicting struggling families & the media tells me Miley just posted topless selfies.
@JohnFugelsang


On today's Kagro in the Morning show: WH intruder news. Greg Dworkin jumps the fence with Mike Pence hype, enterovirus-68 in CT and "linked to" paralysis in CO, polling on ISIS response & outlooks on military action. Conservatives are at it again with their voter suppression tricks. And a fake Occupy Central app installs spyware on Hong Kong protesters' phones. Senate Rs threaten to use nuclear option they don't believe in to undo change implemented via nuclear option. NFL's new prayer penalty. Cops apparently can't get rid of their military gear. Discounts for having a tool, nothing for knowing how to use it safely. Constantly rising ATM fees: a net neutrality analog?


High Impact Posts. Top Comments
18:44 The Democrats' last frontier?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Mark Begich is in the political fight of his life, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.
17:15 Ebola's here: Don't panic» POLITICO - TOP Stories
There's little chance a single infection could trigger an out-of-control chain of contagion.
17:11 Dems cry hypocrisy on GOP attack ads» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Ads from the NRCC and other Republican groups draw bipartisan scorn.
16:00 Listening to Latinas: Lucy Flores» Daily Kos
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores speaking at campaign rally, September 2012.
Lucy Flores is the two-term Democratic Assemblywoman from Las Vegas who is fighting for the Lt. Governorship of Nevada this November. Her opponent is a well-heeled Republican who was the chief counsel in Gov. Sandoval's attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act. During Monday's debate in Reno, Mark Hutchison said:
"And Obamacare, I just don't think is right for Nevada."

"The fact is we have affordable health care now for so many Nevadans," Flores said. "You cannot get kicked off your insurance. You can insure your children when they are in college.

"Quite frankly, my father was able to get expanded insurance and save hundreds and hundreds of dollars because he had an urgent medical need," said Flores, who like Hutchison is a lawyer. "I am very happy that my opponent failed in his attempt to take those benefits away from the people of Nevada (in the Obamacare lawsuit)."

Lucy Flores is a progressive fighter from the get-go, openly discussing her abortion during last year's committee hearing on Nevada Bill AB230 which sought to "establish a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate course of instruction in sex education." Her testimony and its cost were featured in this prescient post by Denise Oliver Velez, "Yes, she should ... run for lieutenant governor of Nevada."

Unafraid of her past, she is proudly running on it.

 

Why is this race so important?

It is not just that Lucy Flores is a Latina, and we need far more Latinas in public office. It is also not just that Lucy Flores is committed to fighting for marriage equality, health care, education and jobs for the people of Nevada, although those are all desperately needed in Nevada.

But this race is also important to Senator Harry Reid because popular Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is widely believed to be contemplating a run at Harry's seat in 2016. If Sandoval is faced with a Democrat like Lucy Flores stepping into his office, he may think twice about moving to the Senate.

Can you spare $3 to help her get to that office? Her opponent spent $864,000 in his primary battle. Lucy Flores has spent $9,400 on three television ads as of September 27.

15:00 Ebola Outbreak» LiveScience.com
The current Ebola outbreak is the largest in history. The three most affected countries are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and cases have also been reported in Nigeria and Senegal.
14:50 Cartoon: Football prayer» Daily Kos

Keith Knight is coming to San Francisco!  Thursday, Oct. 9th, 5pm-7pm @ the Cartoon Art Museum!

Support the artist at www.patreon.com/keefknight!

14:21 Ebola Update: 1st Case Diagnosed in the US» LiveScience.com
A man in Texas is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
14:03 Half of Earth's Wildlife Lost Since 1970, Report Finds» LiveScience.com
The number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish on Earth dropped by 52 percent from 1970 to 2010, according to the World Wildlife Fund's newly released Living Planet Report.
14:01 Congressman Defends Anti-LGBT Discrimination With Irrelevant Study» ThinkProgress

Rep. Robert Pittenger's claim that LGBT people don't need employment protections is based on a study that didn't even analyze discrimination.

The post Congressman Defends Anti-LGBT Discrimination With Irrelevant Study appeared first on ThinkProgress.

14:00 One year ago, Republicans shut down the government to stop Obamacare» Daily Kos

House Speaker John Boehner on Sep. 30, 2013, ruling out a clean bill to prevent a shutdown
Exactly one year ago, House Republicans did what should have been unthinkable: They shut down the federal government when John Boehner refused to hold a simple vote on keeping the government running at existing levels. Their goal: To force President Obama to defund and effectively repeal Obamacare.

A little more than two weeks later, they finally backed down and allowed House Democrats to end the shutdown. In the end, they got nothing but blame for their temper tantrum: Obamacare is still here today, and thanks to it millions of people around the country have health insurance that they otherwise would not have had.

Politically speaking, the only thing that allowed Republicans to escape a long fall and winter of stories about the shutdown was the fact that the initial Obamacare rollout was rocky. But that doesn't change the fact they failed to accomplish a single thing with their shutdown, and while it might make it harder to remind Americans that the GOP won't hesitate to do the same thing next year, there's no reason to believe they won't.

But even if the political impact of the shutdown has been overshadowed by other issues, the fact that President Obama and Democrats refused to be bullied by Ted Cruz tactics and that the GOP ultimately backed down is a lesson Washington Democrats should never forget. Even though they won that political battle, the biggest winners are the public they were elected to serve, because Obamacare is here to stay and millions of Americans are better off as a result. And when the November 15 open enrollment period begins, those numbers will grow even larger.

Help elect more and better Democrats this November! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.

13:36 Two Entirely Different School Shootings Happened Just Hours Apart Today» ThinkProgress

There have now been at least 76 school shootings since Sandy Hook.

The post Two Entirely Different School Shootings Happened Just Hours Apart Today appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:34 It's Crazy to Blame Fat People for Ruining Air Travel» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The experience of air travel has always been dismal -- yet there are entire blogs devoted to hating overweight people on planes.

I don’t want to intimidate anyone here, but I recently flew first class on an aeroplane. Yes, I know. You’re impressed. I know. No, I am neither a venture capitalist nor a sultan. Yes, I paid for the upgrade myself. No, I cannot invest in your start-up. (Yes, I know what a “start-up” is, kind of.) And no, flying first class is not a regular occurrence in my life. In fact, I can think of few things more glamorously, unattainably alien than sitting to the fore of that little curtain – that imperious cotton-poly shroud that separates the serfs from their betters. Yet there I was, up front, next to a businessman in a suit that cost more than my car, and behind a man who kept angrily attempting to sell a boat over the phone even after they told us to stop making phone calls.

The first rule of first class, apparently, is that there are no rules. (The second rule is “don’t let the poor people use the rich-people bathroom”.)

I wondered if my fellow first-classers – all virility and spreadsheets – could discern that I was a fraud, that I only paid $50 for my upgrade, that I could only afford that much because my job covered the rest of my ticket. I may have betrayed myself when the flight attendant asked if I’d like a “special drink” before take-off and I yelled, “A SPECIAL DRINK!?” and then ordered three. Why just have coffee like some row-26 peasant when you could have coffee, ginger ale and a mimosa!? This, as I’d been assured by the airline industry, was the life.

But as the flight progressed, its sheen dulled. At some point, once the initial thrill of being adjacent to a four-figure boat sale had worn off, I realised: these special drinks weren’t remotely special. This free french-dip sandwich was in no way luxurious (also, “sandwich” is a rather generous term for a microwaved wad of airborne grey beef). And my first-class seat wasn’t a plush throne stuffed with Richard Branson’s hair, as air travel’s mythology would have you believe – it was simply a regular-sized chair with a human amount of leg room. The highest praise I can give it is that it was adequate. It had succeeded at being a chair instead of a flying social experiment about the limits of human endurance.

My experience in first class wasn’t a taste of the high life so much as an infuriating illumination of how inhumanely dismal it is to fly any other way. Oh, I realised. This is the first time in accessible memory that I’ve felt like a human being on a plane. We put up with economy because most of us have no choice – we need to get from here to there and we want cheaper and cheaper tickets. I can’t blame airlines for trying to stay in business by compressing as many travellers as possible into economy class like a Pringles can full of meat glue.

But it’s confusing, as a fat person, to hear so much about how I, personally, have ruined air travel. There are entire blogs devoted to hating fat people on planes – describing their supposed transgressions and physical particulars in grotesque detail, posting clandestine photos, and crowing about the verbal abuse that posters claim to have heaped on their bigger neighbours. As though there were a time when 1) there were no fat people, and 2) everyone passionately loved flying.

As a counterpoint, I would like to lodge a gentle reminder that air travel has always been terrible, and it is terrible because of money. It’s terrible because a plane is just a flying bus, trapped in an eternal rush hour, with recycled farts instead of air, seats barely wider than the average human pelvis, and a bonus built-in class hierarchy. And the bus sucks.

Barring a brief period in the 50s and 60s, when aeroplanes were apparently flying, smoke-choked bacchanals staffed by Bond girls wearing baby onesies, air travel has been a study in discomfort giving way to ever more profitable methods of making people uncomfortable. The first aeroplane was literally just a guy holding on to a kite (note: I am not technically a historian). The second aeroplane was Orville Wright’s moustache. The third aeroplane was an oil drum tied to 400 birds. And they didn’t even have pretzels.

So while it might be temporarily cathartic, it is ludicrously ineffectual to blame individuals for, say, having a big butt, or needing to go to the bathroom, or being a baby who doesn’t understand how to cope with altitude changes due to having just been born – when the obvious problem with air travel is that airlines don’t care if you’re comfortable as long as you’re paying. It’s not as though the people supposedly “ruining” air travel are having a better time of it than you are, anyway. Yes, I’m sure that old lady can’t wait to climb over you so that she can go urinate in a lurching thimble. I’m sure that fat person is simply over-brimming with joy at being not only physically uncomfortable but also trapped in an enclosed space with the disdain of a few hundred angry tourists. Right. It’s a major win-win for that guy.

My point is, if you want to fix flying, try critiquing the system, not people who are equally (if not more) inconvenienced by the system. Because, no matter how magnificently you resent them, you cannot turn a fat person into a thin person in time for the final boarding call, nor a full bladder into an empty one, nor a crying baby into a baked potato.

Trust me. I know things. I’ve flown first class.

 

 

Related Stories

13:27 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: In Kansas, the GOP plays the strip club card against Paul Davis» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

KS-Gov: It was only a matter of time before Republicans hit Democrat Paul Davis over this embarrassing story from his past that recently came to light. About a week ago, the Coffeyville Journal reported that Davis was at a strip club in 1998 when police were raiding it. Davis was unmarried at the time and says his boss brought him there. With Republican Gov. Sam Brownback trailing in the polls, it's no surprise that the GOP would use this to try and disqualify Davis.

The RGA spot starts with a clip of Davis saying that "the best example of future behavior is past behavior," then cuts to clips of news reports about the strip club story. The narrator then accuses Davis of voting against a bill that would prevent sexually oriented businesses from opening near homes, churches, and day cares. This is a decent line of attack given how socially conservative Kansas is, though after watching this spot it doesn't feel like the GOP has enough material to really destroy Davis' chances.

The NRA also goes up for Brownback. For his part Davis himself has a new spot, blaming Brownback for the poor condition of Kansas' education system.

Head below the fold for more ads in contests from around the country.

13:27 Administration focusing on second round of Obamacare enrollments» Daily Kos
Wilbert Jones helps local residents sign up for the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as
Goal ThermometerThe second open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act plans starts on November 15, and runs through February 15, 2015. That's one of the first hurdles the administration has in making the second round of enrollments as successful as the first—it's three months shorter than the enrollment period for 2014. But there are more challenges this time around, including the fact that the people most in need of insurance flocked to the exchanges. In other words, the easiest group of people to get signed up, signed up. Getting the message out to the remaining eligible uninsured is going to be harder, and the administration is working on a response.
The administration is not yet revealing many details of its plan for this second enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is less than four months into her new job, and she’s brought in a slew of new people to work on management and communications around the Affordable Care Act.

Yet clear themes in their strategy are emerging. The administration and Burwell frequently repeat the point that the law is "working"— meaning that millions of people are getting affordable health coverage. Over the next several months, they'll surely talk more about actual individuals who got coverage in the first year and hammer home that the law offers tax subsidies to many.

Only Politico would put scare quotes around working, since all available evidence shows that yes, the law is working on a variety of levels. That includes providing affordable insurance to millions. Through focus groups conducted by the healthcare research firm PerryUndem, it's clear that many of the still-uninsured don't know that subsidies are available to make insurance more affordable. The focus groups also found that talking about the least popular part of the plan—the mandate to get coverage or face a tax penalty—is a good motivator to get signed up. So expect more emphasis this year on that tax penalty, coupled with the message that there's financial help.

Help elect more and better Democrats this November and put an end to repeal votes! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.

13:20 Watching Fox News Addicts Viewers And Misinforms Them On Climate Change» ThinkProgress

A new study on how Fox News addicts and misinforms concludes, “governmental inaction on climate change can partially be attributed to the echo chamber created by conservative media on the issue.” Much like crack, Fox News does damage to far more people than just its users.

The post Watching Fox News Addicts Viewers And Misinforms Them On Climate Change appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:17 America's 'Death Instinct' Spreads Misery Across the World» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state.

Those who use violence to shape the world, as we have done in the Middle East, unleash a whirlwind. Our initial alliances—achieved at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead, some $3 trillion in expenditures and the ravaging of infrastructure across the region—have been turned upside down by the cataclysm of violence. Thirteen years of war, and the rise of enemies we did not expect, have transformed Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, along with Iran, into our tacit allies. We are intervening in the Syrian civil war to assist a regime we sought to overthrow. We promised to save Iraq and now help to dismember it. We have delivered Afghanistan to drug cartels and warlords who preside over a ruin of a nation where 60 percent of the children are malnourished and the Taliban is poised to take power once NATO troops depart. The entire misguided enterprise has been a fiasco of gross mismanagement and wanton bloodletting. But that does not mean it will be stopped.

More violence is not going to rectify the damage. Indeed, it will make it worse. But violence is all we know. Violence is the habitual response by the state to every dilemma. War, like much of modern bureaucracy, has become an impersonal and unquestioned mechanism to perpetuate American power. It has its own internal momentum. There may be a few courageous souls who rise up within the apparatus to protest war’s ultimate absurdity, but they are rapidly discarded and replaced. The state rages like an insane King Lear, who in his madness and desire to revenge himself on his two daughters and their husbands decides that:

It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
A troop of horse with felt. I’ll put ’t in proof.
And when I have stol’n upon these sons-in-law,
Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

And kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill is the mantra chanted with every new setback in the Middle East. How many times have we rejoiced at the murder of those we demonized—Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and dozens of others. But as soon as one hunt for the fountainhead of evil ends, another begins. Those we kill are swiftly replaced. Fresh terrorist groups take the place of the old. TheKhorasan Group, the U.S. government assures us, is a more sinister and deadlier version of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which was once touted as a more sinister version of al-Qaida. We cannot extinguish our enemies. They spring out of the ground like the legion of hostile warriors that rose up when Cadmussowed his dragon’s teeth. Our violence spawns violence and never-ending configurations of enraged militants. We will keep spawning them until we stop occupying the Middle East. 

Endless war, which results in endless terror, leaves the arms manufacturers and generals giddy with joy. It is a boon to the state, which is possessed of an excuse to extinguish what few liberties we have left. It fuels the militancy and hatred that fanatics need to justify their slaughter and attract recruits. But it is a curse to humankind.

The barbarism of modern industrial warfare creates complex bureaucratic mechanisms that exist to perpetuate and manufacture death. We are hostages to those mechanisms. “The soul that is enslaved to war cries out for deliverance,” Simone Weil observed, “but deliverance itself appears to it an extreme and tragic aspect, the aspect of destruction.”

“Thus war effaces all conceptions of purpose or goal, including even its own ‘war aims,’ ” she wrote. “It effaces the very notion of war’s being brought to an end. Consequently, nobody does anything to bring this end about. In the presence of an armed enemy, what hand can relinquish its weapon? The mind ought to find a way out, but the mind has lost all capacity to so much as look outward. The mind is completely absorbed in doing itself violence. Always in human life, whether war or slavery is in question, intolerable sufferings continue, as it were, by the force of their own specific gravity, and so look to the outsider as though they deprived the sufferer of the resources which might serve to extricate him.”

Violence as a primary form of communication has become normalized. It is not politics by other means. It is politics. Democrats are as infected as Republicans. The war machine is impervious to election cycles. It bombs, kills, maims, tortures, terrorizes and destroys as if on autopilot. It dispenses with humans around the globe as if they were noisome insects. No one dares lift his or her voice to protest against a war policy that is visibly bankrupting the United States, has no hope of success and is going to end with new terrorist attacks on American soil. We have surrendered our political agency and our role as citizens to the masters of war.

“It seems to me that nearly the whole Anglo-Saxon race, especially of course in America, have lost the power to be individuals,” wrote the artist Roger Fry. “They have become social insects like bees or ants.”

Søren Kierkegaard in “The Present Age” warned that the modern state seeks to eradicate conscience and absorb individuals into a public that can be shaped and manipulated by those in power. This public is not real. It is, as Kierkegaard wrote, a “monstrous abstraction, an all-embracing something which is nothing, a mirage.” In short, we became part of a herd, “unreal individuals who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization—and yet are held together as a whole.” Those who question the public, those who denounce endless war, are dismissed as dreamers or freaks. But only they, according to the Greek definition of the polis, can be considered citizens.

In endless war it does not matter whom we fight. Endless war is not about winning battles or promoting a cause. It is an end in itself. In George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” Oceania is at war with Eurasia and allied with Eastasia. The alliance then suddenly is reversed. Eurasia becomes an ally of Oceania and Eastasia is the enemy. The point is not who is being fought. The point is maintaining a state of fear and the mass mobilization of the public. War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state. The point is war itself. And if the American state, once a sworn enemy of Hezbollah, gives air cover to Hezbollah fighters in Syria, the goals of endless war remain gloriously untouched.

But endless war is not sustainable. States that wage endless war inevitably collapse. They drain their treasuries, are hated by the wretched of the earth, and militarize and strangle their political, social and cultural life while impoverishing and repressing their populations. They are seduced by what Sigmund Freud called the “death instinct.” This is where we are headed. The only question is when it will unravel.

Edward Gibbon observed about the Roman Empire’s own lust for endless war: ” ... [T]he decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of the ruin is simple and obvious: and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted for so long.”

 

Related Stories

13:10 Popular Supplement Is Culprit in Itchy Rash» LiveScience.com
A man in California developed an itchy rash over his face, torso, abdomen and scalp that turned out to be a side effect of taking a popular supplement called kava kava, according to a new report of the case.
12:58 First East Coast Liquefied Natural Gas Export Terminal Approved On Chesapeake Bay» ThinkProgress

Federal regulators just approved a very controversial LNG export terminal. It would be the closest to the Appalachian-based Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas producing region in the United States.

The post First East Coast Liquefied Natural Gas Export Terminal Approved On Chesapeake Bay appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:43 Republican judge in Oklahoma rules against Obamacare tax subsidies» Daily Kos
Protesters outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act.
Judge Ronald A. White, an Oklahoma federal judge appointed to the bench by George W. Bush has just ruled that the subsidies cannot go to residents of states that are using the federal insurance exchanges. The case, Pruitt v. Burwell, mirrors Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell in that it says a sloppy bit of wording in the law—which is contradicted by the legislative history, as well as intent of the law—means that only people residing in states that set up their own exchanges can receive subsidies.

Ian Millhiser has read White's decision, and is not impressed.

One thing that immediately stands out in White’s opinion is just how thin his legal reasoning is. Despite the fact that this case concerns a matter of life and death for the millions of Americans he orders uninsured, his actual discussion of the merits of this case comprises less than 7 double-spaced pages of his opinion. In that brief analysis he quotes the two other Republican judges who ordered Obamacare defunded, claiming that "the government offers no textual basis" in the Affordable Care Act itself for treating federally-run exchanges the same as those run by states. In fact, the government has identified numerous provisions of the law which cut against the argument that only some exchanges should provide subsidies.

Even more significantly, White's opinion does not at any point acknowledge the legal standard that applies when a statute contains language that is at odds with other provisions of the law. As the Supreme Court explained in 2007, "a reviewing court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation" as the "meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context." White, by contrast, relies entirely a passage that supports the plaintiffs' arguments while ignoring the much more prevalent statutory language that supports the government’s argument. […]

So White’s opinion is poorly reasoned. It ignores binding Supreme Court precedent. And it engages in selective quotation to support his conclusion. If it is reviewed by a panel of judges interested in neutrally applying the law, White will be reversed.

The Tenth Circuit, which would hear an appeal, probably would reverse White. It has seven judges appointed by Democrats, including five Obama appointees, and five by Republicans. So far, the challenge has been considered by nine federal judges in three separate challenges. The only three to strike down the subsidies on the federal exchange are Republicans. There are a lot of moving parts with these challenges. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the law in King, and the D.C. Circuit recently set aside a Halbig ruling by a three-judge panel to consider the case with the full court. Plaintiffs in King have appealed to the Supreme Court, which appears to be waiting to see what the DC Circuit is going to do with Halbig. There's also a fourth case in Indiana. A federal judge will hear those arguments next month.

Where this ends isn't immediately clear. In a normal world, the Supreme Court would be waiting for the D.C. Circuit to throw out the case, and then would decide not to hear the King or Halbig appeals because the circuit courts would be in agreement. If that happened, the other two would end. But the Supreme Court isn't functioning particularly normally anymore. But the key thing that would be weighing in Chief Justice John Roberts' mind right now is the fact that hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people would lose their health insurance if the subsidies are struck down. Taking that away wouldn't be a much of a legacy.

12:40 Jim Mowrer within three points of toppling House anti-immigration leader Steve King» Daily Kos
Democratic candidate for IA-04, Jim Mowrer
Afghanistan and Iraq War vet Jim Mowrer
Could it be happening? Could Iowans be tiring of the antics of official House ranter-against-the-immigrants Steve King?
And if the election was held today for U.S. House, for whom would you vote, Jim Mowrer the Democrat or Steve King the Republican? (very likely/certain to vote; N=375, MoE +5.1%pts)

    Jim Mowrer ...................................................................................... 43%
    Steve King ........................................................................................ 46
    (VOL) Unsure ................................................................................... 11

Goal Thermometer

So Steve King has only a three point lead over Daily Kos endorsed Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer, within the margin of error—and this is a district Romney won by eight points in 2012. There's no way any non-crackpot Republican should be struggling this much.

[H]ere's something else to consider: Republican Joni Ernst is leading Democrat Bruce Braley 48-38 in the 4th. With statewide polls showing the Senate race a tossup, this result is pretty plausible, given Romney's performance. That in turn makes the House numbers more believable, too, particularly because the only other poll of the race, from Loras College, had King at a similar 47 percent. Mowrer was further back at 36, but the key point is that King is a few points under 50, despite holding down a district that should be a gimme for any normal Republican.
To add insult to that injury Mowrer, who has deep roots in the district himself, has even outraised King.

The catch is going to be getting those anti-King voters into the voting booths come election day, given the historically dismal performance of our voters compared to the sort of hard-righties that still think Steve King is doing a fine and upstanding job. But the poll above is of self-described "very likely" voters, so it's possible. It's especially possible if Steve King continues his pattern of being Steve King between now and November. (Mowrer has risen seven points from the previous district poll to this one, so it's clear his campaign is getting his own message out.)

Be still my heart, there is actually a chance that one of the meanest anti-immigrant, anti-everything-else voices in Congress could get shown the door. That would be worth, at minimum, a celebratory cake.

Click here to chip in $3 to help Jim Mowrer topple the anti-immigrant Steve King. Do it! Do it now!

12:38 NASA Drone Flies Over Hurricane | Video» LiveScience.com
NASA's Global Hawk drone soared above the eye of Hurricane Eduoard over the Atlantic Ocean in September 2014.
12:34 Antarctic Ice Loss Causes Dip In Earth's Gravity | Video » LiveScience.com
Fluctuations in gravity can be attributed to the loss of ice in West Antarctica according to data from ESA's GOCE satellite.
12:29 The Explosive Debate Over A New Natural Gas Pipeline Through The Northeast» ThinkProgress

The proposed pipeline could transport up to 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, prompting concern about explosions, environmental impacts and disruption of daily life.

The post The Explosive Debate Over A New Natural Gas Pipeline Through The Northeast appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:18 Drone Captures Incredible Footage of Massive Hong Kong Protests» LiveScience.com
A drone captured sweeping aerial shots of the protest happening in Hong Kong over China's refusal to allow democratic elections for Hong Kong's chief executive.
12:12 If you want to win in November, give today!» Daily Kos
Lucy Flores poses with children.
Nevada Lt. Governor candidate Lucy Flores, just one of our great endorsed candidates. Pick one, or two, or three, and donate!
Two key mantras for this November's elections:

1) There are more of us than there are of them. Objectively. If we turn out, we win.

2) It's an off-year election, so we don't turn out.

That's the reality we're operating under. All things being equal, with both parties' bases turning out, we'd come out in November with minimal damage. The Senate map and congressional gerrymandering make things tough on us at the federal level, but there'd be no worries about holding the Senate. And with full base turnout, we'd have no problem making major pickups at the governor and statewide level (like secretary of states).

But all things aren't equal. So we have to engage as hard as we can to get our people to vote. That requires either on the ground volunteering, or contributing money to those doing the hard work of winning elections.

I want you all to do me a big favor. Pick one of our ActBlue pages below and chip in $3. Seriously. You're probably thinking "$3 ain't shit," and it's true, on its own it isn't going to win much.

But this month we've had over seven million unique visitors to Daily Kos. Our email action list just crossed 1.7 million strong. We have another 600,000+ people following us on Facebook. Do some simple math, and you can suddenly see how $3 can have an impact. It's why we have so much power as a community, working together for an America we all believe in.

So $3. It really can make a difference. So now think about who could use those $3. Don't forget your local candidates. But if you're still looking for places to give, we've got plenty of options:

There's someone in all those candidate lists that will get you excited, I promise you!

Three dollars. It will make a difference, collectively, so we can help get some really great people elected.

12:08 How Americans’ Lives Have Turned Into All Work And No Play, In 3 Charts» ThinkProgress

Very few workers get paid leave benefits at work, and those who do are getting fewer days off.

The post How Americans’ Lives Have Turned Into All Work And No Play, In 3 Charts appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:00 Midday open thread: Secret Service fail, birth control for teens, and disappearing wildlife» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Jen Sorensen is March of Doom:
    Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - March of doom
  • The Secret Service's image is taking a serious hit, and rightly so:
    The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.

    An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Okay, the usher's office doesn't look great here, either.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending IUDs or progestin implants as birth control for teens, who currently tend to use condoms.
  • Depressing and frightening:
    About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups.

    The study Tuesday from the Swiss-based WWF largely blamed human threats to nature for a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010.

  • Game of Thrones goes western.
  • Epic meltdown, live-tweeted.
  • Jews are responsible for wall-to-wall carpeting? So says the most repulsive record ever made, apparently.
  • I guess you have to see it to fix it:
    According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of American who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by 9 percentage points in just one year.  In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.
  • Help elect more and better Democrats this November! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: WH intruder updates. Greg Dworkin brings Mike Pence hype, enterovirus news & ISIS polls. AFP back at their voter suppression tricks. Senate Rs threaten nuke option redux. Cops can't ditch military gear. Guns in restaurants. ATM neutrality!



11:58 Amazing drone footage of massive Hong Kong protests» Daily Kos
Drone capturing protests in Hong Kong
Residents of Hong Kong are coming out en masse, demanding democracy:
The mass sit-in — and for hardier participants, sleep-in — in several of Hong Kong’s key commercial districts has presented the Chinese leadership with one of its biggest and most unexpected challenges in years. The protesters are demanding the right to elect the city’s leader, or chief executive, without procedural hurdles that would ensure that only Beijing’s favored candidates get on the ballot.
Just how massive are protests in Hong Kong? Check out this amazing drone footage of the crowds:

11:55 Pediatricians’ Group Endorses The Birth Control That Hobby Lobby Won’t Cover» ThinkProgress

As companies move to restrict certain types of birth control, medical experts are trying to expand access to them.

The post Pediatricians’ Group Endorses The Birth Control That Hobby Lobby Won’t Cover appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:31 Higgs Music: What the World’s Largest Atom Smasher Sounds Like» LiveScience.com
The discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle thought to give all others their mass, was music to scientists' ears, but now the data has been turned into literal music.
11:30 Mitt 2016!» Daily Kos
Mitt Romney fuels up after his 2012 defeat
Can't get enough of Cruz 2016? Well how about Mitt 2016?
As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ ”

This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta — “I have nothing to add to the story” — but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

That's from a Mark Leibovich piece in the upcoming New York Times Magazine titled "Mitt Isn’t Ready to Call It Quits," which perhaps frames what Romney said about the possibility of a third campaign in 2016 a little too strongly. Still, what Romney said was much more than a non-denial denial or even cracking the door open to the possibility of reconsidering running in 2016. Instead, by leaving the question unsettled ("we'll see what happens") he effectively acknowledged that he's considering a bid and that he has not made his mind up.

This is a big shift from what he's been saying publicly since losing in 2012 and it comes as former aides and supporters are aggressively mounting a push for Romney 2016. His words will encourage the ones he hasn't been speaking to and will give the ones who are still in his orbit more credibility when they talk up the possibility for a third bid.

Given all that, it's crystal clear that Romney wants to run again. That doesn't guarantee that he will run again, especially because he probably doesn't want to jeopardize his non-pariah status within the GOP, but if he can launch a bid as the front-runner for the GOP nomination, he will.

But even though Romney is as popular within the GOP as he's ever been, he's still the same old candidate who ran in 2012. For example, check out his new explanation for his 47 percent remarks:

Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.

“My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,” Romney said. “If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.”

During the campaign, Romney initially defended his remarks and tried to support his statement. When that didn't work, he said that his remarks were "completely wrong." And now he says that he was lying about his beliefs in order to make a supporter feel good.

Moral of the story: Romney is still Romney. He's still the same guy who can't keep his story straight. He's still the same guy who awkwardly refers to purses with "bedazzle beads." And the best thing he's got going for him continues to be that the GOP is still the same old GOP: A party that might not have a better candidate to nominate in 2016 than the one who led them to defeat in 2012.

11:17 Brain Tech Projects Get $46 Million in Funding» LiveScience.com
Fifty-eight brain research projects receive federal funding in the first wave of grants awarded in the BRAIN Initiative.
11:16 Build-a-Bot Kit Makes Robots Open Source» LiveScience.com
A new toolkit could help veteran and beginner roboticists design, create and assemble a variety of soft-bodied bots.
11:14 Rare Evolutionary Twist Morphed Dino Arms into Bird Wings» LiveScience.com
When dinosaurs evolved into birds, they adapted their bones in order to take flight. Now, a new study explains how the nine bones of the dinosaur wrist turned into four bones in modern birds.
11:14 Images: A Dinosaur Wrist Transforms into a Bird Wing» LiveScience.com
New research reveals how dinosaur arms evolved into the wrists of modern birds. Dinosaurs had to alter their very bone structure as they evolved to become flying birds.
11:01 Ape See, Ape Do: Chimps Learn Skills from Each Other» LiveScience.com
Scientists may have recorded chimpanzees learning skills from each other in the wild for the first time, according to a new study.
10:31 Poll finds tight race for Iowa secretary of state» Daily Kos
Iowa secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson with children in front of a sign saying voting rights express.
Brad Anderson
The race for Iowa secretary of state remains wide open. According to a new Public Policy Polling poll, Republican Paul Pate has a narrow lead over Democrat Brad Anderson, 36 percent to 33 percent, with 25 percent of voters undecided. As a reminder of what's at stake:
Outgoing Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz is famous for trying to scare immigrants into not voting, though GOP candidate Paul Pate likes to praise Schultz's "good stewardship." So, of course, Pate's been endorsed by GOP neanderthal Rep. Steve King, who thinks Democrats are just going to start stealing elections if they win the SOS race this fall.
The 25 percent of voters who remain undecided highlight why it's important to be sure that Anderson has the money he needs to mount a serious campaign. Voters often don't have much information about down-ballot races like secretary of state, making direct voter contact and GOTV crucial. That means even relatively small contributions can have an outsize impact.

Please give $3 to help Brad Anderson win this tight race for Iowa secretary of state.

10:30 Either Cruz 2016 is for real or this is the most cruel tease in political history» Daily Kos
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) departs after remarks on the Senate floor as the body prepared to conduct a series of federal budget spending votes at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 27, 2013. The U.S. government braced on Friday for the possibility
They love him for his charisma
Even as Sen. Ted Cruz was denying a report that he had all but made up his mind to launch a 2016 presidential campaign, The Washington Post profiled his appearance at last weekend's so-called Values Voters Summit and found overwhelming support for the freshman senator.
While there is not yet a front-runner in the early race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is quickly becoming the favored contender of social conservatives, riding a recent wave of fiery speeches and standing ovations at right-wing conferences.
Until the campaign begins and votes are cast, sweeping statements like that aren't worth the pixels they're displayed on, but Cruz does appear to have some real support, winning his second consecutive presidential straw poll of conference attendees. According to The Post, Cruz's core supporters on the right think he could capture the nomination because the GOP establishment hasn't been able to settle on a favored candidate like they did in 2012 with Mitt Romney, leaving an opening for Cruz who they see as ...
... a charismatic, youthful and unrepentant champion who also holds traditional GOP views on foreign and economic policy.
Yeah, I can see your eyes rolling at the notion of Ted Cruz being charismatic, but the key thing is that Cruz's social conservative supporters see him as someone who shares their views on cultural and religious issues but is aligned with the GOP establishment on foreign policy and economic issues, which leads them to believe that Cruz could actually build a coalition between the establishment and social conservatives.

Crazy though a Cruz candidacy may sound, that actually seems like a plausible theory—assuming Cruz can convince the GOP's big money people that he wouldn't sound like a lunatic on the campaign trail. Hopefully he can, because by taking their most unpopular positions and packaging them into one convenient target for Democratic candidates from Hillary Clinton on down in 2016, a Ted Cruz presidential campaign would be a dream come true.

Help elect more and better Democrats this November! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.

10:29 Kochs sent hundreds of thousands of fake voter registration mailings in North Carolina» Daily Kos
Screenshot of local news footage showing Jennifer Odum holding fake voter registration from sent to her deceased toddler.
Jennifer Odum with the fake registration form AFP sent to her deceased toddler.
Goal Thermometer
When the North Carolina arm of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity group tried to register a cat to vote it was amusing. But with more of the story unfolding now, it's downright infuriating.
It didn't make any sense. Jennifer Odom's daughter shouldn't have gotten anything in the mail, let alone a voter registration form.

"It was disturbing for a couple of reasons," said Odom. "First, Samantha would only be four-and-a-half years old. So it's a far cry from the age of voting. Secondly, she passed away two years ago."

Odom says her daughter died on Sept. 11, 2012.

"That's right about the time we started getting these notices," said Odom.

It turns out that AFP has sent hundreds of thousands of these error-ridden, confusing voter registration forms in North Carolina, and both local elections offices and the state board of elections have been swamped with phone calls from confused voters. The forms had numerous bits of misinformation, from filing deadlines to where to send the completed forms to who to contact for more information. The scope of this misinformation is massive, considering it's gone to hundreds of thousands of voters, and has resulted in an investigation by the state, after the state Democratic Party filed an official complaint. Deliberately misinforming voters is a felony.

But here's an interesting part to the story. Remember all the pooh-poohing about the Democrats' strategy of hitting the Kochs? When Republicans and pundits alike were saying that the Koch brothers had no name recognition and it would all backfire? Look at how the local news framed this story: "The group behind the mailing is the sharply conservative, Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation." No, nobody ever heard of the Kochs and their anti-democratic activities.

So far, there's no word whether AFP is trying this in other states with tightly contested Senate races, but as David Ramsey points out in the Arkansas Blog, they've got affiliates in a lot of states, and they're on a mission to misinform "educate" voters and "keep get out the vote" this cycle. So this probably won't be the last we hear of their phony voter registration drives.

Help fight the Kochs. Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates for secretary of state and strike a blow against Republicans and their overlords.

09:56 Wash. Post Piece Calls For Allen West To Head Secret Service» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Washington Post published an opinion piece claiming that "retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect" to take over as head of the embattled Secret Service because of his "managerial and diplomatic skills." West, who was forced out of the military, that same day called President Obama a "charlatan" and urged the military to disobey his orders.

Former Secret Service agent and Marine Corps infantry officer Dan Emmett wrote a September 26 PostEverything piece surveying problems with the Secret Service and recommended that current director Julia Pierson be replaced with someone from the military, specifically "a true leader, not a bureaucrat." He then lobbied for West, writing:

In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.

Emmett does not appear to be very familiar with the former Florida congressman (the Post appended a correction to the piece noting that Emmett originally misspelled West's name). West is a partisan ideologue with a history of toxic rhetoric against President Obama. The same day the PostEverything piece was published, West implored the military to disobey "charlatan" President Obama because he purportedly "took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens ... This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military."

West's previous extremist comments include:

  • Calling President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder "the most vile and disgusting racists."
  • Claiming "Barack Hussein Obama has an Islamist sympathy ... I don't understand where this president's loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?"
  • Declining to dispute an audience member who falsely claimed that "Obama is a Muslim." Instead, West responded that he's "not going to get into that" but the president "has an Eastern orientation, I'll put it that way."
  • Arguing that the "Democrat Party is an anti-Semitic party."
  • Accusing Democrats of being Nazis, communists, and modern day slave holders.

West's military service ended in controversy after he was "stripped of his command after pleading guilty to assaulting an Iraqi detainee during interrogation."

PostEverything is an online Post property that relies on "a large network of outside contributors" and publishes "wide-ranging commentary on the big, in-the-moment debates facing Washington, the country and the world." The section was widely criticized after it posted a piece with the headline (later changed) "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married."

09:54 Weird 'Island' on Saturn Moon Titan Puzzles Scientists (Video, Photos)» LiveScience.com
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted an odd islandlike feature in Ligeia Mare, one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas. Scientists don't know what to make of the structure, which covers about 100 square miles.
09:35 Fox's MacCallum Falsely Suggests Obama Won't Acknowledge Khorasan Group's Connection To Al Qaeda» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News' Martha MacCallum falsely suggested the White House has failed to acknowledge the connection between the Khorasan group, the terrorist organization recently targeted along with the Islamic State (ISIS) by U.S. airstrikes, and Al Qaeda -- ignoring a statement from President Obama doing just that.

During the September 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and contributor Stephen Hayes discussed whether the White House had "misunderstood the evolution of Al Qaeda" with respect to ISIS and the Khorasan group. Speculating as to why many people had not previously heard of the Khorasan group, MacCallum asked why "the White House doesn't want to call" the Khorasan group Al Qaeda:

But in a September 23 statement on the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Obama specifically referenced the Khorasan group's affiliation with the terrorist organization, noting that it consisted of "seasoned al Qaeda operatives" (emphasis added): 

OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.

09:34 Why Are So Many Volcanoes Erupting?» LiveScience.com
While volcanoes may not have “seasons” as we know them, scientists have started to discern intriguing patterns in their activity.
09:32 Hidden Risk? Marijuana May Be Bad for Your Heart» LiveScience.com
The link between marijuana use and heart attacks is strengthening, researchers say. In a new report, researchers conclude that a healthy 21-year-old man had a heart attack that was at least in part due to his marijuana use.
09:23 PPP gives Republican Joni Ernst a two-point lead for U.S. Senate» Daily Kos
Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley with Sen. Tom Harkin
Democratic nominee Bruce Braley (right) with Sen. Tom Harkin
On Saturday night Democrats got some bad news when the respected Selzer poll gave Republican Joni Ernst a 44-38 lead over Democrat Bruce Braley. Democrats released a response poll showing a tie, all but confirming that what had once looked Braley's race to lose had turned into a tough fight. On Tuesday PPP released their own poll and while it was better for Democrats than Selzer, things still aren't looking good in the Hawkeye State. PPP gives Ernst a small 44-42 lead: The group's last independent poll from a month ago found Braley up by 1 point. A more recent late August PPP poll for Americans for Tax Fairness had Ernst up 45-43.

This is one race where third-party candidates aren't having much of an impact: When voters are asked to only choose between Ernst and Braley, the GOP keeps their 2-point lead. The undecideds report voting for Obama over Romney 10-6 and they could give Braley a small boost, but far from enough to let him break open a real lead. Neither candidate is popular at all. Ernst spots a 42-46 favorable rating, while Braley is at 37-44. However, while the favorability gap between the two isn't large, it's been moving in the wrong direction. Back in August PPP found Braley with a 37-41 rating while Ernst was at 36-46. If Ernst has been getting less unpopular while Braley has been absorbing more blows, that's bad news for Team Blue.

It's possible that the GOP's recent spending blitz has something to do with this and Democrats will be able to seize the imitative in the next few weeks: Democrats have more ads reserved for the final stretch of the race. The good news is that Ernst gives Democrats plenty of material to use against her, but Braley has his own flaws that the GOP is more than happy to keep exploiting. Either side can pull off a win here, but Braley and his allies can't afford to allow Ernst to keep recovering.

PPP also took a look at the gubernatorial contest and finds what basically everyone has found: Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is looking very good to win another term. A few months ago Branstad's numbers looked a bit weak, and Democrats had some hope that Jack Hatch could pull off a surprise. But PPP now finds Branstad up 50-36, and neither party has gotten involved here recently. Selzer recently found Branstad up by a similar 48-34. The governor has a strong 53-38 approval rating, while opinions of Hatch are very mixed. Branstad, who served from 1983 to 1999 before returning in 2011, is already the longest serving governor in American history, and it looks like Iowans are happy to keep him around for another four years.

Please chip in $3 to help great Iowa candidates win.

08:59 10 Best Movie Masturbation Scenes » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
From "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to "Wetlands," the most memorable autoerotic moments on the big screen.

“Wetlands,” which is currently in theaters, features two sure-to-be-notorious scenes of self-pleasuring. Early on, Helen (Carla Juri), the film’s 18-year-old heroine, selects vegetables from the family fridge to determine which is best for achieving orgasm. Later, she recounts a “special topping” on a pizza, and director David Wnendt not only dares to show the four erect men ejaculating, he captures the fantastic splatter of semen colliding in mid-air — in slo-mo no less.

Films depicting self-abuse have ranged from smart to sweet to silly. Here are a handful of popular American movies and a few foreign films that touch on the subject of touching one’s self.

“Don Jon”: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s feature directorial debut was a terrific film in which the title character (Gordon-Levitt) thinks porn is better than sex with a real person. Then he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a “perfect 10.” She is perfect — except that she gets upset that he continues to watch porn and pleasure himself. Gordon-Levitt’s film shrewdly shows how pornography is a blessing and a curse for Jon and how it colors his romantic behavior, not unlike the way Barbara allows Hollywood rom-coms to influence her relationships. The scenes of Jon routinely taking care of business with precision (and tissues) are especially amusing, but Don Jon has a savvy point to make about consuming porn.

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”: Arguably the most classic scene in the classic ’80s film involves Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) fantasizing about Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) while she’s in the pool, and he’s in the bathroom. As he imagines her not only undoing her bikini top, but also confessing her long-held secret attraction to him — before kissing him — Brad works himself toward climax. Until the spell is broken when he is rudely interrupted. Legions of teenage boys also fantasized about Phoebe Cates and likely rubbed VHS copies of the film raw playing that scene over repeatedly in their VCRs.

“There’s Something about Mary”: When Ted (Ben Stiller) takes the terrible advice he’s given to rub one out before his date with his dream girl Mary (Cameron Diaz), the hilarious hair gel scene follows. But what is notable about this classic masturbatory moment is not just the way Mary’s hair stands erect on her head, but Stiller’s eying it throughout his conversation with her, reminding viewers (while trying to forget what he’s done) about the sticky situation he is in, and the seminal fluid that caused it.

“American Pie”: This popular franchise opened with the awkward moment of Jim (Jason Biggs) getting caught by his parents as he prepares to masturbate into a sock while watching scrambled porn on cable. It’s humiliating, of course. But this one time, at band camp, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) did stick a flute up her you-know-where.

“But I’m a Cheerleader,“ directed by Jamie Babbit, has Megan (Natasha Lyonne), sent to True Directions, a “rehab” camp to be “straightened” out because she is thought to be a lesbian. Of course, the camp is as camp as Christmas, with stereotype sissy boys and butch girls endearingly trying to fight their same-sex desires. Megan’s developing crush on Graham (Clea DuVall) generates feelings that she expresses with her hand rubbing furiously over her panties. It was controversial enough for the MPAA, which initially spanked the film with an NC-17. Babbit fought the decision, and “But I’m a Cheerleader” was later released with a hard R.

“Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down”: Pedro Almodóvar’s crazy story of an escaped mental patient (Antonio Banderas) and a former porn actress he kidnaps (Victoria Abril) was one of those films just explicit enough to cause censors to panic. A particular scene that was objectionable involved Abril’s character pleasuring herself in the tub with a ticklish, probing bath toy. Considering the fact that this film — which Almodóvar treats as a dark romance — contains both bondage and abuse, it’s surprising that the sex scene is the one causing knickers to be twisted. The Spanish enfant terrible previously spilled seed in “Matador,” as Banderas played a character who plays with himself while watching torture on TV, and later in “Kika,” where a character ejaculated over a balcony.

In “Y Tu Mamá También,” Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) can’t seem to stop talking or thinking about sex. While the guys can’t seem to keep their pants on — and neither Luna nor Bernal is shy in that regard — one of the more interesting scenes has them fantasizing about teachers, their girlfriend’s moms and even Selma Hayek as they jerk off on the country club’s diving boards, and pollute the pool in the process.

“Glue” features Lucas (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), a bored and horny teenager in Argentina, wanking in bed whenever he can. And when he’s with his sexy best friend Nacho (Nahuel Viale), the boys sniff the title substance and have a mutual masturbation session. Their female friend Andrea (Inés Efron) also displays her randy thoughts in a steamy shower, kissing the glass while her hands are busy down below. When this threesome has a ménage a trois, things really get sticky.

“Cote d’Azur” is a French sex farce about a family spending the summer together — that is, when they are not off stroking off. A running gag involves the lack of hot water in the house because all the characters like to use the shower as a masturbatorium. The film gleefully emphasizes these comical moments, but they do serve the plot. Marc (Gilbert Melki), who is most frustrated by the water issue, calls the plumber, Didier (Jean-Marc Barr), a man he loved before he got married. “Cote d’Azur” proves that fingering the family jewels can indeed lead to finding true love.

“Klown”: The hilarious, underseen Danish film (which is reportedly getting an American remake) has Frank (Frank Hvam) being encouraged by some buddies to give his girlfriend a “pearl necklace.” They insist it is a grand gesture that shows his love for her. But this is not the expensive kind of pearl necklace one buys in a store; rather, it involves a vigorous bout of spanking the monkey, all over his girlfriend’s neck and breasts while she’s sleeping. Even if Frank’s girlfriend would enjoy that “present” — and that in itself is debatable — “Klown” shows how Frank mis-delivers the “gift” — right in the eye of his girlfriend’s sleeping mother.

 

08:55 Seven ways Obamacare is working» Daily Kos
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)..This official White House phot
That's President Obama applauding the Affordable Care Act's passage in March, 2010. He's got even more to applaud now.
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Jonathon Cohn at New Republic assesses Obamacare's first year, rounding up the various reports and surveys of the law to determine that, however unpopular it might still be, it's performing remarkably well. The bottom line for the law was whether it reduced the number of uninsured people in the country, and did it affordably. Those were the primary goals, along with "bending the cost curve"—cutting into the sharp growth in healthcare spending. Since the law was fully implemented, with enrollments starting last October and all the other provisions rolling out on January 1, there's been real progress in all of those goals.

First and foremost, it's indisputable now that more people have insurance.

Line chart showing the uninsured rate in the U.S. declining sharply since ACA went into effect.
The most complete data comes from a series of surveys from independent research organizations—the Commonwealth Fund, Gallup, the Rand Corporation, and the Urban Institute. Their numbers do not match up precisely, but all of them have found that, as a result of the law’s coverage expansion, the number of people without insurance fell by something like 10 to 12 million, once you add in the young adult who got coverage because of the law's under-26 provision. Meanwhile, hospitals are reporting that they are seeing fewer and fewer uninsured patients.
That, by the way, is good news for hospitals because they're saving money. But for the people who now have insurance, two studies suggest that their lives have improved. The Oregon Medicaid study and a Massachusetts study both show that the newly insured have greater economic security and report better mental health. In Massachusetts, they found that physical health improved, as well.

It is also turning out to be pretty darned affordable, as far as health insurance goes. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that among the people who switched into an Obamacare plan—about 40 percent of the new enrollees—46 percent said they were paying less for their new plan. Premiums for 2015 are shaping up to have very modest increases and even in some markets, decreases. That's in part because of increasing competition: more insurers are jumping into the Obamacare market. The existing, employer-based market is showing very reasonable premium hikes, as well.

That all contributes to what's most surprising: health spending in the country is rising, yes, but rising at historically slow rates. The cost curve is indeed bending, from a variety of factors. Part of it is the recession, but "most experts now think the 'new normal' is lower inflation, because the healthcare industry is becoming more efficient—at least partly in reaction to new incentives that the Affordable Care Act introduced." One of the key things that means, undercutting years of Republican talking points against the law—is that the net effect of the law on the budget is a reduced deficit.

Much of the very good news of Obamacare boils down to Medicaid expansion—even though it hasn't been expanded in two dozen states. That's true for the improved health of the recipients, but also the significant savings for hospitals, savings which ripple through the system. Imagine the impact national Medicaid expansion could have.

Please help expand Medicaid in the red states. Chip in $1 to our endorsed candidates for governor.

08:55 Laura Ingraham Blames Gender Equality And "Political Correctness" For White House Security Breach» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham responded to an intruder compromising security at the White House by suggesting "political correctness" played into the Obama administration's decision to hire a female Secret Service agent to guard the entrance, comparing the decision to the nomination of Julia Pierson as the first female director of the agency.

Reports surfaced on September 29 that a man who leapt over the fence of the White House made it all the way into the East Room before being apprehended. Some reports, based on comments from Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), suggested the intruder confronted and overpowered a female Secret Service agent inside the White House entrance.

Ingraham zeroed in on the reported presence of the female Secret Service agent on the September 30 edition of her radio show, comparing the selection of a female agent to that of Julia Pierson, the first female director of the Secret Service, saying, "You get the sense at some point that it's the 'first' that's more important than the common sense."

INGRAHAM: They brought in a woman, first female director -- remember the Obama administration loves firsts. You get the sense at some point that it's the first that's more important than the common sense.

What works -- let's do what works best, ok? Is it to have a woman there or is it just to have a really strong person there? A big, hulking person. Female, male, I don't care. But you get the sense that the first is what really drives their -- floats their boat. They want to be historic. They want it to be an historic appointment, instead of thinking, 'gee, maybe we just need the best people.'

Earlier that morning, on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Ingraham said "political correctness could have been a factor here."

INGRAHAM: The idea that this guy could get in, and then overpower an agent, who I guess was female -- and there are a lot of female agents that are really strong and large. I mean, you do get the sense at some point that political correctness could have been a factor here, right? Because the new female director, who's going to be questioned today, Julia Pierson, came in after that Colombia prostitute scandal with the Secret Service. She's gonna face tough questions. She was a proud career civil servant -- 30 years with the Secret Service. But you do get the sense that with this administration that all these decisions about who gets what position and where they're stationed -- political correctness comes into the decision-making, and this is no place for political correctness. The strongest, biggest, best people have to be at the front of the White House always.

Ingraham's comments about gender come on the heels of her show last week, in which the host suggested that teaching young girls to dress modestly is an important step toward avoiding objectification, misogyny, and date rape.

08:55 As colleagues run for cover, Lamborn claims he didn't say what he said» Daily Kos

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No surprise here: With the November elections just five weeks away, Congressman Doug Lamborn is trying to claim he didn't mean what he said when he claimed that he and his colleagues were urging generals to resign in a "blaze of glory" rather than follow orders from President Obama.

In Lamborn's original comments, he said that "a lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes" and urging them to "have a public resignation," but now Lamborn is trying to distance himself from his own words, claiming:

Lamborn clarified to The Gazette on Friday that he was talking about old policies from President Barack Obama. He offered resignation as an option when his office received complaints from generals and admirals who were riled up about sequestration in 2013 and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010.
Sure, except (a) Lamborn said he and his colleagues "are talking" to generals—very much in the present tense—and (b) he didn't say "I am talking," he said "a lot of us are talking"—which means he wasn't the only one. But that was when his remarks weren't causing him—or his buddies—political problems. Now that they are, he's changed his tune—and he's not alone:
On Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, tweeted a link to a story about Lamborn’s comments and said, “As a Marine and combat veteran, I know to keep my politics off the battlefield.”

And when asked about Lamborn’s statement, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said: “There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform.”

As Steve Benen notes, those statements are hardly harsh condemnations of Lamborn. In fact, rather than condemning Lamborn, they seem more like statements aimed at denying that they were the colleagues to which Lamborn was referring.

But whether they have or haven't urged generals to resign in order to protest President Obama, one thing is 100 percent clear: Lamborn's original statement wasn't a reference to the past, despite what he's saying now. He clearly and unambiguously said that he was urging generals to refuse orders from the commander-in-chief by resigning. The only question is whether or not that was the truth, and when your best defense is "I was lying" and your colleagues are tripping over each other to say you weren't talking about them, then you've dug yourself quite a deep hole.

Can you chip in $3—$1 each—to our Daily Kos-endorsed secretary of state candidates, including Colorado's Democratic nominee for secretary of state, Joe Neguse?

08:49 Fall Colors Spotted from Space (Photos)» LiveScience.com
Pictures from space show that fall is in full swing in parts of North America. Clusters of trees have shed their summer greens in favor of autumnal oranges and reds around the Great Lakes and New England.
08:39 Kansas still has the worst secretary of state in the nation and he just had another really bad day» Daily Kos
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach head shot
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Within minutes of the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to leave Democrat Chad Taylor off the Kansas ballot for U.S. Senate (dealing a blow to Kris Kobach–worst secretary of state in the nation) a Kansas City-area Democrat named David Orel filed a challenge trying to force Democrats to name a new candidate. David Orel also happens to be the father of a Alexander Orel, regional director for ultra-conservative Sam Brownback's re-election campaign.

Kris Kobach once again tried to intervene by joining the lawsuit, but the district court ruled against him and refused to let him join the suit.

Kris Kobach's week was about to get worse. Yesterday, David Orel was set to have his day in court, but his case took a serious hit after he failed to appear before the Shawnee County District Court:

“With all due respect to Mr. Orel, he filed a lawsuit against my clients, drug them into court in the middle of a heated campaign season, then thumbs his nose at this court and refuses to show up," said Randy Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney from Wichita who represented the party.
Judge Franklin Theis was not amused:
"Without him here, it kind of turns this into political theater," Theis said.
Presiding Judge Larry Hendricks also had some serious questions about the military ballots that have already been sent (per federal law):
Democrats also argued that the petition should be dismissed because the secretary of state's office has already mailed out ballots to overseas military personnel, and some of those ballots have already been returned. An order to name another Democratic candidate, Rathbun said, would require invalidating votes that have already been cast and requiring those voters to cast new ballots.

Hendricks, the presiding judge on the panel, also raised the question of how officials would handle such a case if a soldier deployed in a combat zone were to die in action before he or she was able to cast a second ballot.

The judges indicated they would issue a decision no later than 1 PM on Thursday so the ballot printing won't be delayed any further.

So, now we wait for yet another court to hand Kansas Republicans and the worst secretary of state in the nation another loss. In the meantime, can you contribute $5 to help elect Jean Schodorf and send Kris Kobach packing?

08:21 A Cop Killing And A Beheading: How Fox News Picks And Chooses Its "Terrorism" Targets» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News is increasingly fixating on the gruesome workplace beheading last week in Moore, Oklahoma by a recent Muslim convert, suspect Alton Nolen. Perhaps sensing a way to once again fan its patented flames of Islamophobia while simultaneously blaming President Obama for being indifferent to the threat of terrorism, Fox is treating the murder as a national story with sweeping political implications.

Sounding the jihadist alarms, Fox News and the right-wing media are eager to label the ghastly crime an act of Islamic terror. Law enforcement officials, however, aren't in the same rush, noting that the attack came immediately after Nolen was fired and stating that they've yet to find a link to terrorism. While that story continues to play out, it's worth noting that an actual act of political terror remains in the news. It's just not a priority for Fox.

On the night of September 16, 31-year-old marksman Eric Frein was allegedly laying in wait outside the Blooming Grove police barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania, preparing to assassinate state troopers. Shortly before 11 p.m., Bryon Dickson was shot and killed as he walked towards his patrol car. Moments later, as he approached the barracks to begin his overnight shift, trooper Alex Douglass was shot and seriously wounded by a bullet fired from a .308-caliber rifle.

Described as a  "survivalist," Frein disappeared into the Poconos Mountains woods where he's been hiding ever since, eluding law enforcement and its massive manhunt, which includes hundreds of law enforcement officers with assistance from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Considered "extremely dangerous" and possibly armed with an AK-47, officials were forced to close local schools in fear Frein might attack again. Lots of businesses in the area were ordered to stay dark, and some U.S. mail deliveries were suspended out of fear postmen might be exposed as possible targets for the shooter.

And what was the possible motivation for the killing spree?

"He made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and to commit mass acts of murder," state police commissioner Frank Noonan warned the public at the time. Another official noted the shooter has a "longstanding grudge against law enforcement and government in general" dating back to at least 2006.

A friend was even more explicit.  "He was obviously a big critic of the federal government," a friend name Jack told CNN. (The friend did not give his last name.) "No indications of really any malice towards law enforcement in particular. Most of his aggression was (toward) the federal government."

Sounds like homegrown, anti-government terrorism, right?

"We have a well-trained sniper who hates authority, hates society, hates government, and hates cops enough to plug them from ambush. He's so lethal, so locked and loaded, that communities in the Pocono Mountains feel terrorized," wrote Philadelphia columnist Dick Poleman. "He kept camouflage face paint in his bedroom. He toted the AK-47 on social media. He collected, according to the criminal complaint, "various information concerning foreign embassies.""

But turn on Fox News and you don't hear much about Eric Frein from the channel's high-profile hosts. You don't hear much about the anti-government zealot who murdered a cop, while trying to assassinate two. And you don't hear evening hosts diving into Frein's background trying to figure out what sparked his murderous streak.

There's simply no interest.

08:15 Climate Change Could Alter Human Male-Female Ratio» LiveScience.com
Climate change could affect the ratio of human males to human females that are born in some countries, a new study from Japan suggests.
08:13 Tiny Sea Monkeys Create Giant Ocean Currents» LiveScience.com
Every evening, sunset signals the start of dinner for billions of wiggling sea monkeys living in the ocean. As these sea monkeys swarm to the surface, they may contribute as much power to ocean currents as the wind and tides do, a new study reports.
08:10 Sea Monkeys Migrate Toward Laser Light | Video » LiveScience.com
In a study of how zooplankton migration affects ocean currents, sea monkeys were subjected to a bright laser light and they collectively followed the brightest spots.
08:08 PPP has the Louisiana Senate race close, but Republican Bill Cassidy has a small but steady lead» Daily Kos
Rep. Bill Cassidy speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference.
Republican Bill Cassidy
On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling released its poll of the Pelican State and they found what most pollsters have found: A small but stubborn lead for Republican Bill Cassidy in a one-on-one race with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

In Louisiana's November all-party primary, Landrieu leads with 42 percent, far from the 50 percent she'd need to win without a runoff. Cassidy leads fellow Republican and tea partier Rob Maness 34-12: All around, about the same numbers ORC recently found for CNN. Democrats would love to face Maness instead of Cassidy but he doesn't have many resources and no well-funded outside groups are coming to his aid right now. Unless there's a massive surprise, it looks inevitable that Landrieu and Cassidy will advance to a runoff in December.

In a hypothetical runoff, Landrieu trails 48-45. The 7 percent who are undecided identify as Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers, and voted for Mitt Romney 7-3. Most polling over the last few months has shown Cassidy with a small lead in one-on-one matches. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll conducted for the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC gave Landrieu a 2-point edge, but she's generally trailed by 1 to 3 points (with the exception of a Fox News poll that gave Cassidy an unrealistic double-digit lead).

While a 3-point deficit is far from insurmountable, PPP finds that Landrieu is quite unpopular: They peg her approval rating at 42-52. Cassidy's favorables aren't incredible at 37-41 but he has the advantage of running in a very conservative state. It's worth noting that PPP has generally found politicians from both parties with weaker ratings than most other pollsters, but it's still not a good sign for Landrieu if Cassidy has better personal numbers. If you're an unpopular incumbent running in an increasingly hostile state with a very disliked president representing your party (Obama sports a 39-56 approval rating here), your only real option is to make your opponent even more unpopular than you: So far, that doesn't seem to be happening.

PPP also answered the most important question in American politics: Is it a good idea for a politician in a tough race to help someone do a keg stand? It looks like the answer is no: Voters say they disapprove of Landrieu's "keg stand gambit" by a 21-36 margin. If you can't get away with assisting a constituent consume alcohol in Louisiana, you just can't get away with it anywhere.

Mary Landrieu is an incredibly tough campaigner. In 2002 she prevailed in a runoff that Republicans felt they were certain to win. It's also worth noting that while Democrats have usually had problems getting their voters to the polls in runoffs and special elections, Louisiana is one state that's very used to voting at irregular times. In 2002, turnout between November and December dropped by less than 1 percent, though there haven't been any Senate runoffs since then. Even so, for her to win she'll likely need PPP to severely be underestimating her popularity, or she'll take Cassidy's numbers even further below sea level than they are now. Democrats always knew this would be a difficult race, and this poll only confirms it.

Help elect more and better Democrats this November! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.

08:08 Iran and Israel Are in an Arm-Wrestling Match Over Kurdistan» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Israel may see advantages to aligning with Iran, if only loosely, against Saudi Arabia and its cohorts in the Sunni world.

The West and key Gulf states are trying to find a political arrangement to bring ground troops to bear on the Islamic State. Clearly, Kurdish troops are one of the most promising options. Though landlocked, Kurdistan's oil resources, militias, and increasing autonomy from Baghdad will make it an important actor in regional politics, especially to Iran and Israel. 

For many years, Iran and Israel were allies, each sharing concerns over hostile Sunni Arab states. That partnership gave way to bitter rivalry as Iran became influential in Lebanon and as Israel sought closer ties with Arab states. Israel is trying to halt Iran's nuclear program and encourage regional and ethnic unrest inside Iran. For its part, Iran is backing three foes of Israel - Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. 

Israel and Iran may have more in common regarding Kurdistan than their leaders realize. History shows common interests in the past; geopolitics show common interests today. The mullahs and the Likud may all be too guided by recent enmity and doctrinaire foreign policy to realize it, though.

Iran

Like Turkey, Iran accepts an independent or highly autonomous Kurdistan as a fait accompli and seeks to cooperate with it rather than see it align with enemies. In recent weeks, Tehran has sent a delegation to Kurdistan's capital Erbil to coordinate security efforts and is thought to have advisers with peshmerga units. Though generally considered adversaries, Iranians and Kurds have worked together in recent years. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the Kurds tied down several Iraqi divisions that might otherwise have been put into battle against Iran. And the Kurds paid for it by fearsome reprisals from Baghdad, including poison gas attacks. 

Tehran has three main concerns. First, the astonishing Islamic State campaign into northern Iraq has presented a sudden and unexpected problem. IS came close to breaking the largely Shia Iraqi army and sending the government fleeing from Baghdad to Basra in the south. IS may yet seize and desecrate Shia holy sites in Samarra, Karbala, and Najaf, which would force direct Iranian intervention and create a broader sectarian war with Sunni states. 

IS may also use positions in Iraq to strike into Iran itself, perhaps with a bombing campaign along the lines of the one conducted in Baghdad in recent years. Iran's western cities such as Kermanshah may be the main target, though Tehran itself is only 350 miles (560 kilometes) from IS positions near Tikrit. 

Second, Iran will wish to limit Kurdistan's cooperation with the US and Israel - each of whom has had intelligence and special forces officers in Kurdistan for decades. Israel, in conjunction with the Iranian exile group Mujahideen-e-Khalq, has been assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists for several years now and Israel may have plans of taking advantage of rising Kurdish nationalism across the region and inciting Iranian Kurds to break from Tehran.

Third, Iran will seek to prevent the rise of Saudi influence in Kurdistan. In recent years Riyadh has brought Yemen into its fold, replacing a Shia president with a Sunni one, though Iranian-backed Houthis are very much on the rise. Saudi Arabia helped oust the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt and bring an army-centered oligarchy to power, which ended burgeoning ties with Iran. Riyadh can offer financial support to Kurdistan and help find purchasers for the oil it is trying to export from the Turkish port of Ceyhan. 

Though short of cash owing to international sanctions, Iran will counter offers from its Sunni rival or risk Kurdistan's alignment with an enemy, instead of simply being an unwelcome neighbor. Iran could be helpful in getting Kurdish oil to markets. Baghdad, angered by Kurdistan's growing distance from it, is closing off southern export routes to Basra. 

Iran may be able to prevail upon its fellow Shia government to reverse this. Alternatively, Iran could allow Kurdish oil to flow into its pipeline running from the country's northwest to export terminals on the Gulf. Better that, Iran may reason, than run the risk of Kurdish oil running south to Saudi terminals through a Sunni-Iraqi state backed by the Gulf monarchies.

Israel

Kurdistan has been an important part of Israeli strategy for decades. Israel has supported Kurdish guerrillas in their fight with Iraq, thereby preventing forces from coming to the aid of Syria and Egypt. Israelis and the Kurds have the common experience of long periods as beleaguered, stateless peoples. Israel wants a strong partner opposed to both Saudi Arabia and Iran - a rarity in a region so polarized along sectarian lines. A strong Kurdistan, perhaps soon aligned with Syrian Kurdistan, would serve as a thorn in Iran's side and a base for covert operations. 

Israel has hopes that the fragmentation process taking place in many Middle Eastern countries - Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen - will continue and spread to Iran, where Kurds, Azeris, Balochs, Bachtiari, and other peoples live with varying degrees of discomfort under Persian rule. Israel has the strategic vision and intelligence assets to see that the fragmentation process is not decided wholly by forces inside Iran, and a base of operations in Kurdistan would allow Israel to push historical forces along. 

Parallel histories of statelessness go only so far in world affairs and Israel brings only a modest amount to the Kurdistan table. It has purchased a consignment of Kurdish oil but it is not a major importer and its own hydrocarbon assets in the Mediterranean are thought to be sufficiently bountiful to make it an exporter in coming years. 

Israel provides arms and training, though neither is extensive or irreplaceable. Israel's financial support is limited and while its influence in Washington is considerable, the US is presently opposed to an independent Kurdistan. Israel will likely press Washington on the matter, probably in conjunction with US oil companies operating in Kurdistan. 

Iran at present has more to offer than Israel. It has export routes and more money. Israel, then, may be relegated to secondary or tertiary status in Kurdistan's foreign policy. This may be especially so as Washington is reluctant to support another remote, landlocked country so soon after its Afghan venture has led to years of disappointment. Washington, however, may one day feel compelled to further support Kurdistan in order to prevent the rise of Iranian influence there - a point that Israel and Exxon will make clear. 

Israel would do well to rethink the prospect of Iran's fragmentation. The scenario depends on worsening fiscal problems for Tehran as sanctions continue and on resultant unrest among non-Persian peoples receiving less money from the capital. Sanctions may ease soon and a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran may be in the offing. 

Israel may see advantages to easing enmity with Iran and aligning with Iran, if only loosely, against Saudi Arabia and its cohorts in the Sunni world. That of course would bring the region full circle to the period of Israeli-Iranian cooperation against the Sunni states.

 

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08:05 Economics Daily Digest: Mass incarceration, European austerity, and the Lehman bailout that wasn't» Daily Kos

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Score: Why Prisons Thrive Even When Budgets Shrink (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert look at the growth of incarceration even in times when presidents preach against "big government," which the prison system certainly is. They caution against trying to make the system more "fair":

Many of the initial sentencing acts were meant to provide fair, predictable guidelines, but prosecutors took advantage of them instead to rapidly escalate incarcerations. Money that President Clinton earmarked for “community policing” ended up being used by police for zero-tolerance programs like “stop-and-frisk.” As a result, we incarcerate too many people, for too long, and for the wrong reasons. The necessary agenda—from stopping the “war on drugs” to rejecting carceral force as our first response to social problems—requires not investing more in the existing criminal-justice system, but simply doing less.

Follow below the fold for more.

07:58 Silicon Valley Is Great if You’re a Dude, Not So Much If You’re a Woman» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
New research reveals that the Silicon Valley money machine only works for men.

Silicon Valley. How many times have we heard of its wondrous innovation and the glories of its bold venture capitalism that joins brilliant entrepreneurs with eager financial backing?

Except there’s just one thing: it only works for dudes. Women have a slightly different experience.

According to a new study from Babson College, less than 3 percent of the 6,793 companies that received venture capital from 2011-2013 were headed by a woman.

Let’s think about that for a moment. In the tsunami of money that washed over Silicon Valley during those years — a whopping $51 billion — only a measley trickle of $1.5 billion ended up with women starting businesses.

As for that talk about “leaning in” and how women should project confidence and wear red suits and stand in “power poses” if they want to succeed, blah blah blah, researchers aren’t buying it. As the Babson College study co-author Patricia Greene put it, "The findings of this study demonstrate it is not the women who need fixing; the model for venture capital that has been in place since the 1980s simply does not work for women entrepreneurs.”

When women can’t get access to venture capital, they don’t make it in Silicon Valley. Period. The stakes could not be higher.

In a recent account published anonymously in Forbes because the author, the female head of a tech startup, feared retribution, we get a harrowing picture of what it’s like to be a woman trying to raise money in the Valley. The photo accompanying the piece speaks volumes: it is a man’s hand placed oh-so-nonchalantly over a woman’s bare knee.

In what she described as the “wild west of fundraising,” the author attempted to navigate the “alpha male-dominated VC community" as a businesswoman. She leaned in as hard as she could, setting up meetings, following up with emails, scheduling calls. One potential investor insisted on meeting at his home, citing evening childcare responsibilities. But it wasn’t childcare, or business, for that matter, that was on his mind as he made unwanted sexual advances on the sofa. In trying to figure out how to deal with the situation, she struggled through this sad-but-familiar train of thought:

“If I chose to complain—or make a scene and wake up his children who slept nearby—it would be another case of he said/she said, like the countless harassment cases that have made headlines in the tech community but have not done much to change status quo. Given his standing in the community and his personal wealth, who would believe my claims as anything more than those of a spurned little girl upset that a VC had chosen not to invest in her company?”

Women are forced to perform these mental gymnastics every day while trying to deal with the sexist atmosphere of Silicon Valley, and woe be to them if they do not perform them flawlessly. Their reputations, livelihoods, dreams, and talents can all get derailed in a minute.  In this case, the woman decided to wear a gold band on her finger when meeting with male venture capitalists in the future, a dishonest maneuver but one she hoped would protect her from future harassment. That became part of the business plan.

Welcome to Silicon Valley, land of opportunity.

 

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07:47 Democrats focus efforts on talking to voters while GOP spends on TV and mail» Daily Kos
Young women help an elderly man register to vote.
Could a superior ground game help tip November's elections toward Democrats? Once again, Democrats are investing more heavily in voter registration and turnout efforts, while Republicans spend a much greater share of their money on television advertising and direct mail. The Upshot has gone through Federal Election Commission filings to add up both parties' expenditures on things like field staff, mileage, and voter contact materials, and the upshot is:
Bar graph showing spending on staff and voter contact by campaigns, parties, and outside groups in five key Senate races. Democrats have big edge in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina; Michigan is closer to parity.
One caveat is that this doesn't include the expenditures of groups like the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity—they don't have to report field expenses. (Dark money indeed.) But within what FEC filings show, the story told by the graph plays out like this:
[The Democratic] edge extends to Alaska, where the Democratic incumbent Mark Begich faces Dan Sullivan. Combined, Democratic independent groups, party committees and Mr. Begich’s campaign have already spent nearly 10 times more than Republicans on wages and expenses for local staffers; get-out-the-vote efforts; and other field operations.

The state Democratic Party alone has spent at least $763,687 on voter turnout and staffing this year, which amounts to $1.45 for every citizen over 18 in the state.

Per-voter expenditures are obviously lower in states where there are roads everywhere and you don't need to fly to get to smaller towns.

The 2014 map and traditional lower turnout among Democratic voters in midterm elections are aligned against Democrats this November, but ground organizing is the way to fight low turnout—and build toward 2016. It's good to see that kind of investment.

Please chip in to help Daily Kos-endorsed Democrats win key races in a dozen states, from Senate to secretary of state to state Senate.

07:30 Scott Walker won't commit to serving his full term if re-elected» Daily Kos
Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012 REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
"Yeah, about that serving my whole term thing...ya see it is like this..."
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was recently campaigning in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at a national trucking firm and was asked by a reporter if he would serve his full term if re-elected. Walker responded:

"I've never made a time commitment anywhere I've been in office," he said. "I've always made promises about what I would do and how I would do it. I'm not going to change now."
How's that for a non-answer answer? If Walker is re-elected he is likely to chase national ambitions in 2016, and unlikely to serve out his full term as governor. Wisconsin needs a governor who cares for the people of Wisconsin over national ambitions. This state has been through enough in the last four years. Let's show Walker the door in November and put Wisconsin back on the right track. Mary Burke can stop the Walker agenda and prevent Walker from selling his snake oil to the rest of the nation.

As a Wisconsinite I implore you to please chip in $3 to Mary Burke's campaign, not just for Wisconsin, but for the United States of America—trust me, you really don't want Scott Walker running for president in 2016.

07:08 Nevada Republican wants to bring voter suppression home» Daily Kos
Kate Marshall
Kate Marshall
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What Republicans need to succeed statewide in Nevada, apparently, is a way to have a lot fewer voters. So that's what the Republican running for secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, wants to do: suppress the vote.
State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who is running for secretary of state, says she supports a voter ID law for Nevada. […]

She also says she opposes same-day voter registration and same-day voting, however, because such last-minute activity could put too much pressure on election workers and make it tough to prevent fraud.

“I do not want to burden the counties with something that’s not attainable or secure,” Cegavske said Wednesday in an interview with the Review-Journal editorial board.

There's not a lot of cases of voter fraud in Nevada, just like everywhere else. There is one notable, and pretty funny exception, the Republican who said she tried to vote twice in the 2012 general election on purpose, to prove just how easy it is to commit voter fraud. Which she didn't, because she was caught in the second attempt, at a second site by poll workers who determined she had already voted at a different precinct.

This is just one reason Daily Kos is endorsing Kate Marshall for secretary of state in Nevada. Currently the state's treasurer, Marshall is opposed to voter IDs because it's money the state doesn't have to solve a problem the state doesn't have. She should know about the state's coffers, since she's in charge of them.

Please contribute to help keep Nevada a safe place to vote. Give $3 to Kate Marshall.

06:51 The Massive Failure of American Intelligence» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
It has a terrible record of getting anything right in a timely way.

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

 

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for... well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of "spycraft" gains its own name: LOVEINT.

You listen in on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet.  You bring on boardhundreds of thousands of crony corporate employees, creating the sinews of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order.  You break into the “backdoors” of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts.  You create new outfits within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew embedded inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies).  Your leaders lie to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt.  Your acts are subject to secret courts, which only hear your versions of events and regularly rubberstampthem -- and whose judgments and substantial body of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.

You have put extraordinary effort into ensuring that information about your world and the millions of documents you produce doesn’t make it into our world.  You even have the legal ability to gag American organizations and citizens who might speak out on subjects that would displease you (and they can’t say that their mouths have been shut).  You undoubtedlyspy on Congress.  You hack into congressional computer systems.  And if whistleblowers inside your world try to tell the American public anything unauthorized about what you’re doing, you prosecute them under the Espionage Act, as if they were spies for a foreign power (which, in a sense, they are, since you treat the American people as if they were a foreign population).  You do everything to wreck their lives and -- should one escape your grasp -- you hunt him implacably to the ends of the Earth.

As for your top officials, when their moment is past, the revolving door is theirs to spin through into a lucrative mirror life in the intelligence-corporate complex.

What They Didn’t Know

Think of the world of the “U.S. Intelligence Community,” or IC, as a near-perfect closed system and rare success story in twenty-first-century Washington.  In a capital riven by fierce political disagreements, just about everyone agrees on the absolute, total, and ultimate importance of that "community" and whatever its top officials might decide in order to keep this country safe and secure.

Yes, everything you’ve done has been in the name of national security and the safety of Americans.  And as we’ve discovered, there is never enough security, not at least when it comes to one thing: the fiendish ability of “terrorists” to threaten this country.  Admittedly, terrorist attacks would rank above shark attacks, but not much else on a list of post-9/11 American dangers.  And for this, you take profuse credit -- for, that is, the fact that there has never been a “second 9/11.”  In addition, you take credit for breaking up all sorts of terror plans and plots aimed at this country, including an amazing 54 of them reportedly foiled using the phone and email “metadata” of Americans gathered by the NSA.  As it happens, a distinguished panel appointed by President Obama, with security clearances that allowed them to examine these spectacular claims in detail, found that not a single one had merit.

Whatever the case, while taxpayer dollars flowed into your coffers, no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11.  (An American, it has been calculated, is 1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)  Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots -- some spurred on by FBI plants -- that have occurred on American soil in that period.  On the conviction that Americans must be shielded from them above all else and on the fear that 9/11 bred in this country, you’ve built an intelligence structure unlike any other on the planet when it comes to size, reach, and labyrinthine complexity.

It’s quite an achievement, especially when you consider its one downside: it has a terrible record of getting anything right in a timely way.  Never have so many had access to so much information about our world and yet been so unprepared for whatever happens in it.

When it comes to getting ahead of the latest developments on the planet, the ones that might really mean something to the government it theoretically serves, the IC is -- as best we can tell from the record it largely prefers to hide -- almost always behind the 8-ball.  It seems to have been caught off guard regularly enough to defy any imaginable odds. 

Think about it, and think hard.  Since 9/11 (which might be considered the intelligence equivalent of original sin when it comes to missing the mark), what exactly are the triumphs of a system the likes of which the world has never seen before?  One and only one event is sure to come immediately to mind: the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden. (Hey, Hollywood promptly made a movie out of it!)  Though he was by then essentially a toothless figurehead, an icon of jihadism and little else, the raid that killed him is the single obvious triumph of these years.

Otherwise, globally from the Egyptian spring and the Syrian disaster to the crisis in Ukraine, American intelligence has, as far as we can tell, regularly been one step late and one assessment short, when not simply blindsided by events.  As a result, the Obama administration often seems in a state of eternal surprise at developments across the globe.  Leaving aside the issue of intelligence failures in the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi, for instance, is there any indication that the IC offered President Obama a warning on Libya before he decided to intervene and topple that country’s autocrat, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011?  What we know is that he was told, incorrectly it seems, that there would be a “bloodbath,” possibly amounting to a genocidal act, if Gaddafi's troops reached the city of Benghazi.

Might an agency briefer have suggested what any reading of the results of America's twenty-first century military actions across the Greater Middle East would have taught an observant analyst with no access to inside information: that the fragmentation of Libyan society, the growth of Islamic militancy (as elsewhere in the region), and chaos would likely follow?  We have to assume not, though today the catastrophe of Libya and the destabilization of a far wider region of Africa isobvious.

Let’s focus for a moment, however, on a case where more is known.  I’m thinking of the development that only recently riveted the Obama administration and sent it tumbling into America’s third Iraq war, causing literal hysteria in Washington.  Since June, the most successful terror group in history has emerged full blown in Syria and Iraq, amid a surge in jihadi recruitment across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  The Islamic State (IS), an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which sprang to life during the U.S. occupation of that country, has set up a mini-state, a “caliphate,” in the heart of the Middle East.  Part of the territory it captured was, of course, in the very country the U.S. garrisoned and occupied for eight years, in which it had assumedly developed countless sources of information and recruited agents of all sorts.  And yet, by all accounts, when IS’s militants suddenly swept across northern Iraq, the CIA in particular found itself high and dry.

The IC seems not to have predicted the group’s rapid growth or spread; nor, though there was at least some prior knowledge of the decline of the Iraqi army, did anyone imagine that such an American created, trained, and armed force would so summarily collapse.  Unforeseenwas the way its officers would desert their troops who would, in turn, shed their uniforms and flee Iraq’s major northern cities, abandoning all their American equipment to Islamic State militants.

Nor could the intelligence community even settle on a basic figure for how many of those militants there were.  In fact, in part because IS assiduously uses couriers for its messaging instead of cell phones and emails, until a chance arrest of a key militant in June, the CIA and the rest of the IC evidently knew next to nothing about the group or its leadership, had no serious assessment of its strength and goals, nor any expectation that it would sweep through and take most of Sunni Iraq.  And that should be passing strange.  After all, it now turns out that much of the future leadership of IS had spent time together in the U.S. military’s Camp Bucca prison just years earlier.

All you have to do is follow the surprised comments of various top administration officials, including the president, as ISIS made its mark and declared its caliphate, to grasp just how ill-prepared 17 agencies and $68 billion can leave you when your world turns upside down. 

Producing Subprime Intelligence as a Way of Life

In some way, the remarkable NSA revelations of Edward Snowden may have skewed our view of American intelligence.  The question, after all, isn’t simply: Who did they listen in on or surveil or gather communications from?  It’s also: What did they find out?  What did they draw from the mountains of information, the billions of bits of intelligence data that they were collecting from individual countries monthly (Iran, 14 billion; Pakistan, 13.5 billion; Jordan, 12.7 billion, etc.)?  What was their “intelligence”?  And the answer seems to be that, thanks to the mind-boggling number of outfits doing America’s intelligence work and theyottabytes of data they sweep up, the IC is a morass of information overload, data flooding, and collective blindness as to how our world works.

You might say that the American intelligence services encourage the idea that the world is only knowable in an atmosphere of big data and a penumbra of secrecy.  As it happens, an open and open-minded assessment of the planet and its dangers would undoubtedly tell any government so much more.  In that sense, the system bolstered and elaborated since 9/11 seems as close to worthless in terms of bang for the buck as any you could imagine.  Which means, in turn, that we outsiders should view with a jaundiced eye the latest fear-filled estimates and overblown "predictions" from the IC that, as now with the tiny (possibly fictionalterror group Khorasan, regularly fill our media with nightmarish images of American destruction.

If the IC’s post-9/11 effectiveness were being assessed on a corporate model, it’s hard not to believe that at least 15 of the agencies and outfits in its “community” would simply be axed and the other two downsized.  (If the Republicans in Congress came across this kind of institutional tangle and record of failure in domestic civilian agencies, they would go after it with a meat cleaver.)  I suspect that the government could learn far more about this planet by anteing up some modest sum to hire a group of savvy observers using only open-source information.  For an absolute pittance, they would undoubtedly get a distinctly more actionable vision of how our world functions and its possible dangers to Americans.  But of course we’ll never know.  Instead, whatever clever analysts, spooks, and operatives exist in the maze of America’s spy and surveillance networks will surely remain buried there, while the overall system produces vast reams of subprime intelligence.

Clearly, having a labyrinth of 17 overlapping, paramilitarized, deeply secretive agencies doing versions of the same thing is the definition of counterproductive madness.  Not surprisingly, the one thing the U.S. intelligence community has resembled in these years is the U.S. military, which since 9/11 has failed to win a war or accomplish more or less anything it set out to do.

On the other hand, all of the above assumes that the purpose of the IC is primarily to produce successful “intelligence” that leaves the White House a step ahead of the rest of the world.  What if, however, it's actually a system organized on the basis of failure?  What if any work-product disaster is for the IC another kind of win.

Perhaps it's worth thinking of those overlapping agencies as a fiendishly clever Rube Goldberg-style machine organized around the principle that failure is the greatest success of all.  After all, in the system as it presently exists, every failure of intelligence is just another indication that more security, more secrecy, more surveillance, more spies, more drones are needed; only when you fail, that is, do you get more money for further expansion. 

Keep in mind that the twenty-first-century version of intelligence began amid a catastrophic failure: much crucial information about the 9/11 hijackers and hijackings was ignored or simply lost in the labyrinth.  That failure, of course, led to one of the great intelligence expansions, or even explosions, in history.  (And mind you, no figure in authority in the national security world was axed, demoted, or penalized in any way for 9/11 and a number of them were later given awards and promoted.)  However they may fail, when it comes to their budgets, their power, their reach, their secrecy, their careers, and their staying power, they have succeeded impressively.

You could, of course, say that the world is simply a hard place to know and the future, with its eternal surprises, is one territory that no country, no military, no set of intelligence agencies can occupy, no matter how much they invest in doing so.  An inability to predict the lay of tomorrow's land may, in a way, be par for the course.  If so, however, remind me: Why exactly are we supporting 17 versions of intelligence gathering to the tune of at least $68 billion a year?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World(Haymarket Books), has just been published.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

06:50 Cartoon: March of doom» Daily Kos

(Click to enlarge)

Seeing the People's Climate March reminded me of the global protests against the Iraq War in 2003. People protested on every continent, including Antarctica, in an effort to stop the invasion. It was a rare feat of organization and international unity -- and it was largely ignored. I drew a cartoon at the time pointing out that heavy snowstorms received more prominent coverage on the front page of the Washington Post than the protests.

When I see ISIS rampaging through Iraq and Syria, butchering people and displacing families, I think about how intelligent people around the world did everything they could to prevent the colossal humanitarian disaster of the past eleven years that is still unfolding. I think protesting is our ethical obligation, but the sense of coming up against an immutable force is familiar.

Alternate strip titles included: "History Re-heats Itself"; "Between Iraq and a Hot Place"; and "Worst Learning Curve Ever."

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

06:41 10 Products That Have Absolutely No Business Being Pumpkin-Flavored » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Pumpkin spice condoms and Four Loko turned out to be a hoax. These other things are all too real.

As you’ve probably already noticed, America has officially entered “pumpkin spice” season. And we’ve reached a point, culturally, where to mock the endless profusion of autumnally themed products is as much of an annual tradition as Thanksgiving football or pumpkin pie itself.

The backlash against such products can be harsh, and in some cases, one could argue, inappropriately placed. Pumpkin spice Chobani, for example: Sure, they’re cashing in on a gimmick, but at least it has actual pumpkin in it. And Oreos, M&Ms, Hershey’s kisses, Pop-Tarts are at least intended to be desserts.

However, even discounting the products with some legitimate claim to gourd-based bragging rights — and the many absurdities that turned out to have been hoaxes — there are still plenty of terrible pumpkin-themed products that are all too real. A subjective look at 10 of the worst offenders, below:

(Amazon)

1. Pumpkin pie spice Pringles

I also strongly disagree with cappuccino-flavored Lays.

(Walmart)

2. Pumpkin spice almonds

Almonds are already America's most popular, unsustainable nut. They don't need this.

(Cedar's)

3. Pumpkin spice hummus

To be fair, pumpkin is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. Regardless, the Internet is not reacting well to Cedar's seasonal creation.

Photo Credit: 
Vapage

(Vapage)

4. Pumpkin spice e-cigarettes

18 mg nicotine, 400 puffs of pure autumn.

Photo Credit: 
4 Kings

(4 Kings)

5. Pumpkin spice cigarillo

Why yes, there is something worse than a pumpkin spice e-cigarette.

(Burnett's)

6. Pumpkin spice vodka

Burnett's biggest crime is not in producing this seasonal vodka, but in its misuse, on its website, of the word "literally." No, doing shots of pumpkin spice-flavored alcohol is not "literally like drinking a pumpkin pie."

(Polar)

7. Pumpkin spice seltzer

Pumpkin spice coconut milk and coffee creamer? Okay. Pumpkin spice seltzer? Are you kidding?

(Wrigley)

8. Pumpkin spice gum

Pumpkin spice gum? Questionable...

(Twistex, via Amazon)

9. Pumpkin spice pet dental chews

...Pumpkin spice gum for dogs? Unacceptable.

(Rossi Pasta)

10. Pumpkin spice fettucini

You know what? I'm willing to be convinced on this one.

 

 

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Oh, we could fill a grab bag today. Gun stories. Senate procedure stories. ISIS stories. Corrupt banker stories. Fluffy kitties that nevertheless did something bad stories.

Whatever it is, we've got it! Except for that last one. Though I would be willing to make one up if it would make you listen.

Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.

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Help support the show through Stitcher's revenue sharing program. Be one of 5,000 "active listeners" per month, and, well, they send us money. All you need to do, believe it or not, is listen to 30 seconds of a show, once in a month. Seriously! Choose any one of the shows at this link, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and you're on board!

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: How 'real' is all the Republican wave talk?» Daily Kos
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.
A new poll, by a GOP-leaning pollster, has Gov. Scott Walker (WI) trailing in his re-election bid.

It is not hard, for followers of electoral politics, to find some talking head, or some online article, forecasting a forthcoming Republican "wave." Indeed, if you were running a tally of days since the last time a major media political observer used that phrasing (in spirit, if not in letter), you're going to need to restart your clock.

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05:18 Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

The Kossack Brain is a Fearsome Throbbing Beast

The third quarter of 2014 has officially been vanquished by the evil time troopers and their leader, Sir Ticksalot. That means it's C&J number-crunching time. Every few months we post the results of some recent C&J polls (no relation to actual pollster polls, which means we pass the savings on to you) to give you a snapshot of our collective neural activity which, if we could bottle it, would probably violate several federal, state and local bottling laws. These are results from July through September, and the total number of votes each poll received is in parentheses:

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• 49% prefer an open primary system (can vote for either party's candidates), while 43% prefer one that's closed (must declare a party preference). (3,636)

Pie
True Fact: in every C&J poll
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• 89% of you thought the way the Ferguson, Missouri police handled the aftermath of Michael Brown's murder by officer Darren Wilson was "the worst example of how law enforcement should conduct itself," versus 1% (Hello, trolls!) who called it a good example.  (4,015)

• 59% won’t miss David Gregory as host of Meet the Press. 29% of you clicked the poll choice marked "Who?" (4,194)

• 93% believe Congress should be required to take a vote authorizing President Obama's plan to cripple the ISIS/ISIL terrorist network. (3,270)

• 57% believe it's a smart decision for President Obama to delay his executive actions on immigration until after the midterm elections. 40% disagree. (3,437)

• 37% thought Scotland would vote yes to become an independent country, 26% thought they wouldn't, while the rest of you stayed neutral. (3,177).

As always, thanks for participating in our C&J polls. Every time you push that little "Vote" button, a gnat flies up Louie Gohmert's nose.

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

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Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post writes about the fight against the Islamic State:

President Obama should call Congress back to Washington for a special session to vote on authorizing war against the Islamic State. If he does not, Congress should return on its own to conduct this vital debate.

Do your jobs, everybody.

As legal justification for the war, Obama relies on two measures, passed more than a decade ago, that authorized U.S. military action against al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. To state the blindingly obvious, things have changed.

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03:08 On CNN, Mark Kelly Pushes Back Against Politico Labeling Wife Gabby Giffords "Mean"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the September 30 edition of CNN's The Lead:

Previously
 

Gabby Giffords And How The D.C. Press Portrays "Mean" Women

02:31 Fox's Renewed Attack On Obama's Economic Record Is Badly Misleading» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy. 

During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world."

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In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:

02:16 STUDY: CNN Skimps On Coverage During Climate Week» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

CNN aired only a third as much coverage as MSNBC on the United Nations' Climate Summit and related events including the historic People's Climate March. Even Fox News aired over twice as much on the subject compared to CNN -- though much of its coverage mocked or dismissed the events.

NYC's Climate Week Brings World Leaders, Businesses Together To Pledge Global Action

New York City Hosts Climate Week, Including United Nations Summit. Ambassadors and top officials from countries around the world, along with business and industry leaders, met at the United Nations' Climate Summit in New York City during the week of September 22. From the Climate Summit's website:

As part of a global effort to mobilize action and ambition on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is inviting Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to a Climate Summit in September 2014, New York.

This Summit will be a different kind of Climate Summit. It is aimed at catalyzing action by governments, business, finance, industry, and civil society in areas for new commitments and substantial, scalable and replicable contributions to the Summit that will help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.

The Summit will come one year before countries aim to conclude a global climate agreement in 2015 through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although the 2014 Climate Summit is not part of the negotiating process, countries have recognized the value of the Summit, including by welcoming the Secretary-General's efforts in a Decision of the Doha climate conference in 2012. [ClimateWeekNYC, 9/23/14]

People's Climate March, Largest Action Of Its Kind, Called For Strong Action On Climate Change. On September 21, two days before the U.N. summit, hundreds of thousands of activists march the streets of Manhattan to send a message to the world leaders to act on climate change. According to Politico, it was "by far the largest climate-related protest in history," with an estimated 400,000 attendees. [Politico, 9/21/14]

Several Important Pledges Resulted From The Summit:

  • ThinkProgress reported that over 30 countries pledged to "at least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and... end natural forest loss by 2030." Several companies also endorsed the deal. [ThinkProgress, 9/23/14]
  • Six top energy companies agreed to cut their methane emissions through the United Nations' framework, according to the Wall Street Journal. [Wall Street Journal, 9/22/14]
  • Chinese officials reiterated their plans for a nationwide carbon market. Reuters recently reported that carbon emissions in Beijing have dropped since the city implemented a pilot carbon market one year ago. [Reuters, 9/26/14; Reuters, 9/29/14]

On Climate Week, CNN Aired Less Coverage Than Other Top Cable Networks 

CNN Offered Half As Much Coverage As Fox News. Of the three top cable networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- MSNBC offered by far the greatest amount of coverage of the U.N. climate summit, with a total of approximately one hour and 55 minutes of airtime devoted to the summit and related events. Fox News aired one hour and 20 minutes, and CNN aired approximately 37 minutes.

Chart

CNN Previously Ignored U.N.'s Groundwork Report On Climate Change. CNN's relative lack of coverage during climate week mirrors the network's treatment of a top consensus report on the impacts of climate change, released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on March 31. CNN devoted only one minute and 37 seconds of coverage to the report, far less than MSNBC's 27 minutes and Al Jazeera's 35 minutes of coverage. The report was the second of three installments from the IPCC that form the groundwork of the U.N.'s discussion at this week's summit and in the conferences ahead. [Media Matters, 4/1/14]

But CNN Offered No False Balance On Climate Change -- An Improvement From Recent Coverage. CNN aired no false balance on the scientific basis of climate change while reporting on last week's events, hosting only guests who accept that climate change is real and manmade. Previously, an analysis from Union of Concerned Scientists found that throughout 2013, CNN hosted eight segments featuring debates on whether or not climate change is happening. And in May 2014, a Media Matters analysis found that 19 percent of their coverage of a landmark federal report on climate change cast doubt on the science. [Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2014; Media Matters, 5/9/14]

Much Of Fox News' Coverage Attacked The Summit And Related Events. A majority* of Fox News' coverage reported on climate week negatively, by attacking Leonardo DiCaprio as being a "hypocrite" for speaking out on climate change at the summit, attacking protesters for littering at the march, casting doubt on the summit's effectiveness, or criticizing potential climate policies as expensive or harmful to the poor.

  • On September 22, Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto featured a panel debate during which Cavuto and two panel members cast doubt on the fact that global warming is real. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/22/14]
  • During the September 23 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld inaccurately warned that the climate policies discussed at the summit are a way for "rich people" to deny resources to the poor. [Fox News, The Five, 9/24/14 via Media Matters]
  • The September 24 edition of Outnumbered also pushed the false meme that climate change policies will disproportionately harm the poor. During the segment, co-host Sandra Smith derided Leonardo DiCaprio as an "extremely rich man basically trying to impose policies and change policies that are mostly going to affect people that are worth much less than him. And that have a hard time making ends meet, that are going to affect them way more than anybody else." Co-host Harris Faulkner agreed, calling it "a real moral issue." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 9/24/14]
  • Sean Hannity hosted a "climate change hysteria" panel on the September 24 edition of his show, leading in with video of DiCaprio's U.N. speech, suggesting that he "stick to the day job." During the panel, guest Bernard McGuirk stated: "Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio, these two bloated, gas-guzzling gavones lecturing us on our carbon footprint is like Ray Rice lecturing us on how to treat women. It's obscene":

00:12 Conservative Media Blames Rise of Islamic State On Long Debunked Claim That Obama "Missed" Intelligence Briefings» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

FNF

Conservative media is dubiously claiming that the rise of the Islamic State is due in part to President Obama skipping scheduled daily intelligence briefings. The basis of this claim is a misleading interpretation of how intelligence briefings are received by the White House that was debunked two years ago.

Mon 29 September, 2014

22:59 Fox Uses Oklahoma Beheading To Tout Fake Obama "War On The Second Amendment"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."

On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.

A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"

In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."

(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)

22:46 Fighting Hockey Concussions with Safer Helmets (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
New helmet ratings, based on laboratory testing, will let consumers know which hockey protection is best at preventing concussions.
22:04 Ingraham Defends Mockery Of Jose Diaz-Balart's Bilingual Interview, Says She Was "Just Teasing"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
20:26 I Played Japan’s Best-Selling Dating Simulator -- and Loved It» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
These anime novels are being customized for American women, and could give "Fifty Shades" a run for its money

Don’t ask how I ended up an accidental stowaway on a pirate ship — long story. What’s important was that I had been threatened with being blindfolded and forced to walk the plank. But after rescue by the dark-haired captain, I was allowed to stay on the ship — so long as I chose to room with one of the men  – all strapping, young and decidedly metrosexual, especially for pirates. Would it be Christopher, the kindhearted doctor with a buzz cut? Eduardo, the one with the eyepatch and slicked-back hair? Morgan, the captain with the alluring bed-head and cleave rivaling most women’s?

Just as I made my decision — the captain, obviously — the game came to a screeching halt. Did I want to buy an expansion for $3.99 so that I might see what happened next? Why yes, yes I did. I clicked “purchase” before I could even register what I was doing.

How, you might ask, did I end up not only playing but paying for extras on the iPhone app “Pirates in Love”? Great question. You see, last week when I read a report on Wired.com about the Japanese explosion of romance video games for women, I knew I had to try some out — for my job. Strictly professional. Lucky for me, and my sorry handful of Japanese phrases, countless games have been translated into English — and these companies are even creating games to be marketed specifically to American women. They were a mega-hit in Japan, so why not try to broaden their reach, right? They’re known as “otome” games, or “girl” games; sometimes they’re called dating simulators, which pretty accurately communicates what these games are all about: flirting, courtship and lots of blushing.

That is how I’ve found myself in a situation in which I never quite imagined. If my husband read my inbox right now, he might think I was having an affair with some creepy narcissist with a yacht. That’s because currently I have open an email with the subject line, “Don’t fall for me; you might burn yourself.” The body of the email reads: “You sneak onto my ship, and then you sleep sprawled out on my bed. Geez, what a woman! … Your name is … Tracy, right? I like it. Since you picked my room, I’m sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. I’ll take good care of you, baby.” He’s bossy, patronizing and dark — basically Christian Grey in anime form. Similarly, the sexual tension escalates ever so slowly through insinuations and very little action — at one point the Pirate King says, “Go ahead and sit anywhere, including the bed.” Good one, bro! (But seriously, good one.)

I tried out nearly a dozen of these games, just, you know, to be thorough. I found that they are only “games” in a very loose sense of the word: They’re more like visual erotic novels that you click through with the occasional choose-your-own-adventure element (à la deciding which pirate to bunk with). Another favorite game of mine: “Roommates,” which I played on my Mac. I decided to play as Anne, a college coed busting out of a completely voluntary schoolgirl uniform. She moves in with a handful of fellow students and high jinks follow. Notably, there is Max, the spikey-haired guitar-playing bad boy, and Isabella, the busty flirt. It’s a pansexual world where everyone flirts with everyone and anyone is a romantic target. Basically, it’s the drunkest season of “The Real World” in video game form.

It’s also highly attuned to female fantasy, drawing on the tradition of yaoi, or “boy’s love,” a homoerotic Japanese genre directed at women. At one point, two of Anne’s male roommates are forced to kiss as punishment during a drunken card game and she admits, with an exaggerated blush, “I may have thought about boy stuff occasionally.” Female players can also go through the game as Max and seduce any of his buff male roommates, who, it should be noted, make a hobby out of slowly walking from the shower to their rooms with a towel cavalierly draped around their waists.

That isn’t to say that the genre is enlightened or progressive — and that’s putting it very lightly. I played one game called “My Forged Wedding,” in which the female protagonist is bribed by her uncle into marrying a man she doesn’t know — but, naturally, she ends up falling for him. There are also plenty of pretty-princess games involving balls at the royal castle, mysterious princes and overprotective parents. The romantic leads are often patronizing, and in at least one game I played the female protagonist was referred to as a “child” — which, creepy. But for every retro scenario, there is a more modern one, like “Metro PD,” in which a woman joins a team of ace male detectives and both romance and crime-fighting ensue. All of which is to say that the otome genre is a lot like the romance genre at large — some of it is smart, a lot of it is super-troubling, but many women love it.

Eventually, I told my husband all about the Pirate King, even showing him screen captures of the shirtless, and weirdly nipple-less, outlaw. He exclaimed, “You love it!” “No, no. It’s just that it’s so ridiculous that it’s awesome,” I said, like a hipster defending his ironic mustache. He saw right through me. “I guess it makes me feel like a preteen again, in a good way,” I admitted.

Later, I realized that there was a bit more to it. I felt like a preteen because that was the last time — with the possible exception of, say, “Magic Mike” — that I’d felt like a mainstream product had truly relished in the lustful, delirious objectification of men. I haven’t encountered that since I was a teenybopper reading Tiger Beat with all of its glossy Leonardo DiCaprio pinups or watching one of the Backstreet Boys hump the stage in concert. It’s no accident that it is once again with a product that is decidedly juvenile, because that, my friends, is how we view female sexuality.

 

Related Stories

20:00 Open thread for night owls. Robert Reich: Why the economy is still failing most Americans» Daily Kos
Breaker boys in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, coal mine, 1911.
A 1911 photo of "breaker boys." Starting around 1866 in the United States, impurities
were removed from coal by breakers, most of them between the ages of 8 and 12.
They worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, perched on wooden seats above
 conveyor belts or wooden chutes, picking slate and other unwanted items from the coal.
Robert Reich writes Why the Economy is Still Failing Most Americans:

The Commerce Department reported last Friday that the economy grew at a 4.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year.
So what? The median household’s income continues to drop.

Median household income is now 8 percent below what it was in 2007, adjusted for inflation. It’s 11 percent below its level in 2000.

It used to be that economic expansions improved the incomes of the bottom 90 percent more than the top 10 percent.

But starting with the “Reagan” recovery of 1982 to 1990, the benefits of economic growth during expansions have gone mostly to the  top 10 percent.

Since the current recovery began in 2009, all economic gains have gone to the top 10 percent. The bottom 90 percent has lost ground.

We’re in the first economic upturn on record in which 90 percent of Americans have become worse off.

Why did the playing field start to tilt against the middle class in the Reagan recovery, and why has it tilted further ever since?

Don’t blame globalization. Other advanced nations facing the same global competition have managed to preserve middle class wages. Germany’s median wage is now higher than America’s.

One factor here has been a sharp decline in union membership. In the mid 1970s, 25 percent of the private-sector workforce was unionized.

Then came the Reagan revolution. By the end of the 1980s, only 17 percent of the private workforce was unionized. Today, fewer than  7 percent of the nation’s private-sector workers belong to a union.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013The Counteroffensive on the War on Poverty:

On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his state of the union address, declared a “War on Poverty.” At the time the poverty rate in the United States was 19 percent. Today that number is 15 percent; however, those two numbers do not tell the complete story.
If you were to listen to the right-wing noise machine you would think the War on Poverty was an abject failure. April 11, 2012, and I am sure many times before and after that date, the CATO institute published an article that concluded with, "[O]ur current $1 trillion War on Poverty is a failure."

The only reason that the CATO institute is able to say those words is because of self-fulfilling prophecy. Prior to Ronald Reagan coming to office the poverty rate in the United States was 11.4 percent. Under his guidance the poverty rate climbed to 15 percent after a State of the Union address in which he said:

In the welfare culture, the breakdown of the family, the most basic support system, has reached crisis proportions — in female and child poverty, child abandonment, horrible crimes and deteriorating schools. After hundreds of billions of dollars in poverty programs, the plight of the poor grows more painful. But the waste in dollars and cents pales before the most tragic loss — the sinful waste of human spirit and potential.
With his Welfare Cadillac meme and his absolute lies about poverty in America Ronald Reagan began dismantling the safety net – a safety net that saves children from starvation, a safety net that gives hope of a better tomorrow.

Tweet of the Day
Fox contributor complains that in AP history curriculum, there's "a whole section on slavery and how evil we are" http://t.co/...
@mmfa


On today's Kagro in the Morning show: We've reached that point at which corporations can have a religion and are entitled to unlimited political speech, but employees can be fired for running for public office. Greg Dworkin handled the domestic news part of our show today. In Digital America, newspaper reads you! The latest Senate polling and predicting. The government's back in the game, ponying up for grants to fund studies of violent deaths. Catching up on Hong Kong. Then it's back to Saud-ish Arabia once again, this time to get a better handle on the apparent paradox of the Saudis & ISIS. Plus this side note: our ISIS costs are mounting.


High Impact Posts. Top Comments
19:09 8 Shocking Things the Kochs Have Done to Amass Their Fortune» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
If you think oligarchs only exist in developing nations, you don't know America.

According to a recent Rolling Stone report, the Koch brothers control one of the world's largest fortunes. Unsurprisingly, they are not eager to share how they acquired their billions of dollars. The report outlines not only the brothers' business trajectory over the years, it also delves into their family lineage, revealing how their father was something of a pioneer in shady business practices. It's a comprehensive outline of their most vile business and political doings. Here are eight details. 

1. Stealing oil from Native Americans. In 1989, investigators told a congressional panel that Koch Industries regularly ended its year with far more barrels of oil than it had paid for. The oil was stolen from Indian lands. All in all, the Kochs made out with a total of $31 million worth of oil that wasn't paid for over three years, according to the Associated Press. The Kochs would eventually pay the U.S. government $25 million to settle the case in 2001. 

2. Covering up faulty pipelines. In 1994, a pipeline in South Texas built in the 1940s exploded, spewing more than 90,000 gallons of crude oil into Gum Hollow Creek. Employees had warned Koch Industries that the pipeline had serious issues but to no avail. The spill would eventually reach six states. Koch Industries was sued for violating the Clean Water Act and forced to pay a $30 million civil penalty, at the time the biggest in the history of U.S. environmental law. Carol Browner, the former EPA administrator, said of Koch Industries, "They simply did not believe the law applied to them."

3. Treating the Mississippi River like a toilet. Koch's Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota spilled some 600,000 gallons of jet fuel into wetlands near the Mississippi River through much of the 1990s. It even increased its discharges over the weekends, as it knew it wasn't being monitored. Koch Petroleum Group pleaded guilty to "negligent discharge of a harmful quantity of oil." It also admitted to violating the Clean Water Act and was ordered to pay a $6 million fine and $2 million in remediation costs.

4. Treating the air we breath like an ashtray. Koch was accused of violating the Clean Air Act in 2000, when the feds hit the company with a 97-count indictment for "venting massive quantities of benzene at a refinery in Corpus Christi" and then attempting to cover it up. At first, Koch claimed it released 0.61 metric tons of benzene for 1995, just one 10th of what was allowed under the law. But the feds argued that Koch was told of its true emissions that year: 91 metric tons, or 15 times the legal limit. The Koch brothers worked their magic, pleaded guilty to a single felony count and avoided criminal prosecution. Koch also paid $20 million in fines and reparations.

5.  Profits over public safety. On Aug. 24, 1996, near Lively, Texas, Danielle Smalley and her friend Jason Stone were burned to death after a decrepit Koch pipeline exploded after the teens started the ignition of their truck. The feds documented "severe corrosion" and "mechanical damage" in the pipeline. Koch Pipeline Company LP failed to "adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion," a National Transportation Safety Board report would state. After a lengthy trial, Koch Industries was ordered to pay the Smalley family $296 million, then the largest wrongful-death judgment in American legal history. The family would later settle with Koch for an undisclosed sum.

6. Pulling strings in the White House. George W. Bush's campaign benefitted handsomely from Koch money and he repaid the brothers by appointing Susan Dudley, an anti-regulatory academic who hailed from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, as its head regulatory official. Of course, Koch became the second coming of Sierra Club--according to them. Koch points to awards it has received for "safety and environmental excellence." "Koch companies have a strong record of compliance," Koch's top lawyer told Rolling Stone. "In the distant past, when we failed to meet these standards, we took steps to ensure that we were building a culture of 10,000 percent compliance, with 100 percent of our employees complying 100 percent." 

7. Doing business with Iran when U.S. companies weren't supposed to. American companies aren't supposed to do business with the Ayatollahs, but Koch Industries took advantage of a loophole in the 1996 sanctions. Basically, the loophole made it possible for foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do a certain amount of business with Iran.

And the rest is history:

In the ensuing years, according to Bloomberg Markets, the German and Italian arms of Koch-Glitsch, a Koch subsidiary that makes equipment for oil fields and refineries, won lucrative contracts to supply Iran's Zagros plant, the largest methanol plant in the world. And thanks in part to Koch, methanol is now one of Iran's leading non-oil exports. "Every single chance they had to do business with Iran, or anyone else, they did," said Koch whistle-blower George Bentu. Having signed on to work for a company that lists "integrity" as its top value, Bentu added, "You feel totally betrayed. Everything Koch stood for was a lie."

Koch reportedly kept trading with Tehran until 2007 – after the regime was exposed for supplying IEDs to Iraqi insurgents killing U.S. troops. According to lawyer Holden, Koch has since "decided that none of its subsidiaries would engage in trade involving Iran, even where such trade is permissible under U.S. law."

8. Their father did business with Stalin. Fred Koch, father of David and Charles, partnered with engineer Lewis Winkler to form Winkler-Koch Engineering Co. One of its major contracts was with the USSR, where Joseph Stalin was starving a large portion of his population. Their competitors were reluctant to do business with the tyrant, but Winkler-Koch Engineering Co. lacked any such qualms. 

Between 1929 and 1931, Winkler-Koch built 15 cracking units for the Soviets. Although Stalin's evil was no secret, it wasn't until Fred visited the Soviet Union, that these dealings seemed to affect his conscience. "I went to the USSR in 1930 and found it a land of hunger, misery and terror," he would later write. Even so, he agreed to give the Soviets the engineering know-how they would need to keep building more.

There is more to the Koch brothers' shady, destructive business practices. Check out the Rolling Stone feature.
18:30 Authors who hated adaptions of their works» Daily Kos
Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick adaption of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange
The poet John Godfrey Saxe is attributed with first saying Otto von Bismarck’s famous maxim: laws are like sausages, it's better not to see how they're made. In politics and government, sometimes ideas become much different after moving through the process. With laws, everything starts as a bill, "just a bill." But by the time it gets through committee, is amended, maybe has riders and earmarks attached and moves to final passage, it can end up as something the original author may not even approve of or recognize.

The same is true about entertainment, especially when it's an adaption of an author's work for film or television. Most movies have multiple screenwriters, some credited and some not, and the resulting screenplay is usually a hodgepodge of different ideas and threads from multiple sources. If the material is based on someone else's work, the author may be involved and give input (e.g., George R.R. Martin with HBO's Game of Thrones), or they may be shut out of the process and have absolutely no say in the adaption, even though their name will be on the film and may be part of the marketing.

So, in this week's post, I thought I would look at the things not intended where the creator of a work hated the adaption. Follow beneath the fold for more ....

16:07 Lots o' Water! 117 Million Lakes Dot Earth, Most Accurate Survey Finds» LiveScience.com
With high-resolution satellite data and supercomputers to check every cloudless pixel, researchers now have the best count yet of lakes on Earth.
16:06 5 Surprising Facts About Lakes» LiveScience.com
New and surprising facts from a recent count of Earth's lakes.
15:41 How Often Does Enterovirus D68 Cause Paralysis?» LiveScience.com
Several children in Denver have developed limb weakness or paralysis after having respiratory illness, and four of the children have been found positive for enterovirus D68.
15:32 Climate Change Influenced Extreme Heat in 2013, Report Finds» LiveScience.com
Man-made climate change stoked some of 2013's most extreme heat on the planet, a new report shows.
15:10 Visitor Finds That Cuba and U.S. Act in the Same Revolting Manner Where Race Is Concerned» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
An American student in Cuba discovers that institutionalized racism is a major feature of Cuba’s internal migration policy.

Just before I left to study in Havana, Cuba for three months, a Cuban friend of mine pulled me aside and whispered in my ear: “Any ideas you had about race are going to be totally blown out of the water.” I had no idea what she meant, and was skeptical considering Cuba’s high praise from the progressive left, but my friend turned out to be right.

From the first day at the airport in Miami and throughout the three months I lived there, it seemed race was all around me. In Miami almost every person boarding the Havana-bound plane (each with luggage packed with TV sets, electrical appliances, clothing and other commercial goods meant for their families) was white. As we drove from the José Martí Havana airport to the neighborhood where I would be living, we meandered through one predominately Afro-Cuban and mulatto neighborhood to the next until we reached Vedado, a historically white and upper-middle-class neighborhood.

As I explored outside of Vedado, I noticed that Afro-Cuban families occupied most of the inner-city apartments in Old and Central Havana, which were cramped, dirty and literally crumbling to the ground (often times onto people walking on the streets). I realized that professors at University of Havana and other educational institutions on the island were predominately white (during my time there I met only two Afro-Cuban professors). I watched as Afro-Cubans were ushered outside of hotel lobby rooms, denied entrance at certain clubs and bars, refused service at Internet cafes, and harassed on the street by local police.

When I visited upscale hotels for Internet use I didn’t see a single Afro-Cuban working in the public sectors of hotels and tourist hotspots. I had to explain myself to Cuban women when I told them that I (a light-skinned Latina) was attracted to black men. Later I struggled for words when a white Cuban mentor scolded me for socializing with an Afro-Cuban and recommended I stay clear of “those kinds of men”—only to later sarcastically comment that at least I knew where to find the source of “large penises” (which, she said, was the “only thing they’re good for”).

I had come to expect some highly visible racial disparities. I had done some extensive reading on Cuban history on the social, political and economic disparities on the island that included discussions on the white tourism industry and early immigration waves. But despite that, I did not expect to find that institutionalized racism was a major feature of Cuba’s internal migration policy — a policy I quickly learned had created an overwhelmingly black population of undocumented Cuban citizens in their own country.

Living scattered about Havana and along the city’s fringe, in makeshift houses made from reclaimed wood and metal is a population of Cuban migrants called palestinos – a term coined in the 1990s to capture the phenomenon of the thousands of Cubans leaving Oriente, the eastern side of the island, and arriving in Havana, completely unwelcome. These migrants continue to come to Havana looking for work and a better life.

The term palestino is rather telling, as it refers to those who are fleeing the persistent poverty of Cuba’s heavily black eastern provinces, areas that have historically been plagued by higher poverty, unemployment, deficiencies in water access and an overall lower standard of living compared to the urban areas of Havana and other western parts of the island. The term is also a reference to the war-torn conditions of Palestine, where people living in their homeland are squeezed into controlled territories by the Israeli government. Living among open sewers, hand-rigged pipes that deliver water and electricity pilfered from power lines, the term also alludes to their shantytown, nomadic way of life — poor Cubans without a fixed home.

The issue of race (and thus racism) is clearly associated with Cuba’s palestinos, who are predominately darker skinned compared to their Habanero(Cubans from Havana) counterparts. Hailing from Oriente, in particular Santiago de Cuba, “the capital of Cuba’s black belt,” many (though certainly not all) of those from Oriente, including palestinos, are of African descent. Over the years the word palestino has become almost synonymous with black.

What’s become particularly racial about this westward migration to Havana is the extreme hostility toward these migrants, as well as official policy that tries to prevent them from moving into Havana and makes an effort to force them out. This racially charged immigration policy began to emerge in the 1990s during the severe economic depression that swept the island. According to one estimate, some 50,000 people migrated to Havana in 1996. In the spring of 1997, 92,000 people attempted to legalize their residency in the city.

“Palestinos were coming to Havana during a time when black Cubans already living in Havana were having a really rough time plugging themselves into the economy,” Alejandro de la Fuente, a professor of Latin American and Caribbean studies at Harvard University, told me. “So their migration added a layer to an already racially tense situation, and it was in that context that traditional inequalities became immediately racialized.”

But it wasn’t until 1997, when Fidel Castro announced that a growing “social indiscipline” attributed to the unchecked migration of Orientales to the capital, that years of racial tensions (not solely attributed to palestinos) finally crystallized into official policy. The presence of internal migrants, Castro argued, had resulted in an increase in violence, prostitution, crime, unemployment and indecent living standards. Something had to be done, he said.

In came Decreto Ley 217, a set of strict regulations that allowed local authorities to evict, fine, deport and demolish the homes of any person not formally registered to live in Havana. Fidel Castro, in other words, had created an undocumented status, in which thousands of mostly Afro-Cuban migrants had no legal right to live in Havana despite their Cuban citizenship. While palestinos have access to healthcare and education, they are legally denied access to other governmental safety provisions like shelter and “la libreta” — the food-rationing book that for many Cubans is their main source of meals. Young palestino children are malnourished and babies don’t get the milk the Cuban government would otherwise provide for them if they were in Oriente.

Like so many of the undocumented migrants living in the U.S., palestinos no longer have a home to return to. Regardless of their undocumented status, Havana is their home, and for many newer migrants and their children, Havana is all they know. As a result, Cuba has found itself with a broken immigration system that—like the U.S.—deports thousands of migrants back to a place that is no longer home only to see them return to Havana soon after. Just like the U.S., Cuba fails to address the root causes of this “illegal” migration.

As I learned about these hostile policies directed at palestinos, it seemed obvious to me that the almost entirely white Cuban government had created a racialized scapegoat for unfavorable conditions on the island. In reaction they had created what de la Fuente called “official policy that comes dangerously close to being an explicitly racial, if not racist, policy.” Granted, it’s important to remember that there were extreme housing and food shortages in Havana during the 1990s (which are both still true). Additionally, as de la Fuente pointed out, white or mestizo palestinosare also deported (though he did say that these Cubans tend to be less visible than Afro-Cuban palestinos, and are targeted less frequently). 

Regardless, I couldn’t help but feel that the government’s claim that “palestinos are a threat to Havana’s social order and well-being” was indirectly ascribed to these migrants’ blackness, and therefore a strategic attempt to control the racial makeup of the capital. This racial profiling can perhaps be seen most clearly in the capital’s ID policy, which requires all Cubans to carry ID cards that display (among other things) nationality, registered city of origin and their home address at all times. Police officers on the island have full authority to ask anyone, regardless of whether or not they have committed a crime or been involved in questionable activity, to show their ID card. It goes without saying that Afro-Cubans are asked to show their IDs much more frequently than lighter-skinned Cubans; a reality that further facilitates the deportations of palestinos. When I witnessed this exchange take place, it reminded me of Arizona’s 2012 “show me your papers” law.

The most ironic (and disheartening) aspect of this situation is that Fidel Castro, a native of Oriente himself, and his swarms of revolutionaries who rose up in the Oriente mountains in 1959, declared that the revolution would forever end racism (and subsequently the concept of race) on the island.

When I returned to the States, I couldn’t help but see painfully similar reflections of Cuba around me. Twelve-thousand Latin American children arrived at our borders this summer looking to escape poverty and extreme violence only to be told they would be deported back to their home countries. There have already been estimates that these children will most likely try entering the States again, and that in the very near future there will be even more of them. Those who do make it past our highly policed and lethal borders will join the 11 million mostly Latino undocumented migrants already living in this country who—like the palestinos—are denied official access to food stamps, healthcare, jobs and shelter

In a short Cuban film titled Buscandote Habana ("Looking for Havana"), an Afro-Cuban palestino pulls at the heartstrings of Cuba’s broken internal migration system. “They say [Havana] is the capital of all Cubans,” he says as he sits inside his home made of metal, cardboard and wood. “They say, welcome to the capital of all Cubans. But I know now that this is not the capital of all Cubans. Because what they are telling us is that we are not Cubans. So I want to know, what are we?”

 

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14:45 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: A strange spot from Republican Bill Cassidy in Louisiana» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

LA-Sen: Republican Bill Cassidy's new spot is backed up by a $400,000 buy. The ad starts out fine, with three women saying they voted for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in the past but are pissed at her over Obamacare.

The ad gets a little tone deaf when one of the women, identified as "Ginger," declares that Landrieu is "just trying to scare us with nonsense about Social Security, Medicare, and veterans." I know she's calling Landrieu's attacks nonsense, not the issues themselves, but this still feels weird, especially since there's no attempt to defend Cassidy here. And for some reason Cassidy comes off as more than a little creepy at the end of this ad. It's hard to say what's up: He doesn't usually seem as unnerving in his ads as he does this time. The whole ad just has a strange vibe to it.

For her part, Landrieu goes positive on military issues, featuring a veteran praising her work saving local bases and working hard for soldiers.

Jump below the fold for more.

14:34 Is Bill O'Reilly okay, or should we be calling someone?» Daily Kos
Screenshot of CBS News, with BIll O'Reilly outlining his plan to defeat ISIS
Curiously, Bill O'Reilly's bold new idea on how to win wars came out
at the exact moment he had a new book to sell.
Bill O'Reilly remains an odd fellow.
On Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, O’Reilly not only continued to push for the privatization of the U.S. armed forces by replacing the troops with an outsourced 25,000-man mercenary army, but he also stated point-blank that there aren’t any active-duty military commanders who are capable of defeating ISIS.
We don’t have any Pattons today. But I was with Henry Kissinger today and he told me that my idea of a worldwide anti-terror force paid for by coalition nations under [crosstalk] so let’s win the war, and that’s what George Patton would say.
This notion of O'Reilly's that America ought to outsource our wars to massive mercenary armies is very strange, although it does take the Rumsfeldian notion of military privatization to its logical extreme. There's the question of whether we really want a group of 25,000 heavily armed profiteers wandering around the Middle East under no particular rule of law—I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest no—and the further question as to whether aforementioned rampaging army would stop shooting things when we told them to—again, our experience with arming even small foreign forces might give pause there. The role of American mercenary forces in undermining the proper U.S. military's stabilization efforts in Iraq is well-documented, as it turns out that having bands of trigger-happy,† for-profit buccaneers zooming through towns shooting whatever they want to shoot is not an effective path to winning hearts and minds, but never mind all that because I'm sure if Bill O'Reilly were in charge he'd patch all those problems right up.

Somehow, though, all that has now morphed into a plug for his latest book. This one somewhat inexplicably claims that Gen. George Patton did not die from injuries sustained in a car crash as the rest of the planet has long been led to believe, but from a secret plot because let's face it, secret plots are so much more interesting.

Patton was being tracked by Soviet intelligence. He had around the clock guards who were worried about the press, they weren’t worried about anybody else. His wife was in the hospital room with him. And he’s having cognac, and he’s laughing with the nurses, and he goes to sleep, and he wakes up dead. Why? [...]

Stalin had a factory that produced traceless poisons back then, but now with our advanced technology, we could see if there was something in Patton’s remains.”

And that's why we should dig the well-moldered corpse of Gen. George S. Patton out of the ground and test it with some advanced technology to figure out the mystery of why this cognac-drinking car crash victim somehow "woke up dead."

This seems to be a new (?) and very commonplace method of conservative history-telling. Come up with some historical event, claim that the truth is completely different because you are a history-minded genius uncovering truths that all the real historians have never been able to suss out, sell a book saying so, repeat. The Founding Fathers were all Roman Catholic priests, why not; the Civil War was not about slavery, but about northern attempts to stifle southern business entrepreneurship; the Nazis were far-left communists because c'mon, fellow conservatives, doesn't it feel so good to say so? And look how hard we looked at the cover art!

With his claims of unrecognized foreign policy genius and his suspiciously premised, dubiously sourced history premises, Bill here's been increasingly sliding into Glenn Beck territory. He's either just doing it for the money or is having a slow, Beckian break with reality, but which?

13:59 Latest Scientific Evidence Should Be Death Blow to Artificial Sweeteners» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Messing with the microbes in your digestive process is not the way to go.

Evidence continues to accumulate that sugar is a sweet road to obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other maladies. As the dangers of sugar have unfolded there has been an increase in the production and consumption of sugar substitutes, five of which are currently FDA-approved. A recent study published in Nature adds to a growing set of concerns about these artificial sweeteners by presenting evidence that they, like sugar, can cause diabetes as well. The Israel-based research team presented evidence that artificial sweeteners cause this outcome by disrupting the balance of microbes that live in the body’s gut.

This isn’t the first study implicating sugar substitutes with metabolic issues. Research at Purdue University found that saccharin consumption can lead to weight gain in mice by interfering with their ability to control their appetites. Multiple studies have shown that some artificial sweeteners can mess with the body’s endocrine system, and lead to insulin resistance. Many links between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and type 2 diabetes have been uncovered as well, and studies have also shown that consumption of artificial sweeteners can change the way the body deals with food that contains actual calories.

The link between artificial sweeteners, gut bacteria and obesity has been charted as well, in a Duke University study that found that Splenda (sucralose) reduces the amount of ”good bacteria” in the intestines, increases the intestinal pH level, and leads to increased body weight.

The new Nature study moves this ball of research forward by demonstrating that several artificial sweeteners, not just sucralose, can mess with our gut bacteria, and that this disruption is directly responsible for glucose intolerance—at least in mice. The researchers added three different artificial sweeteners (AS)—saccharin, sucralose and aspartame—to the drinking water of mice. After 10 weeks, all three groups of artificial sweetener-consuming mice showed glucose intolerance. Saccharin showed the most pronounced effect.

As the Duke study had shown that sucralose causes changes in the gut microbiota in mice, the Israeli researchers used antibiotics to wipe out the microbes in the mice that had been made glucose intolerant from consuming artificial sweeteners. Eliminating the microbial community in the mice with antibiotics eliminated their glucose intolerance as well.

The researchers then preformed fecal transplants to make doubly sure that the changing character of the mice gut microbes was behind their changing tolerance of glucose. Poop from mice with AS-caused glucose intolerance was inserted into the colons of mice whose AS-induced glucose intolerance had been removed by treatment with antibiotics. After receiving fecal transplants, the mice’s glucose intolerance returned.

The team then turned its attention to humans, examining dietary data and health metrics from non-diabetic people that had been gathered in in an unrelated, ongoing nutritional study. They found correlations between AS consumption and increased ratio of waist to hip, higher blood glucose, and other metabolic markers associated with pre-diabetics.

What’s tricky about looking at this kind of human data in these cases is that those who are drinking diet sodas might very well be doing so because they are already at risk for obesity or diabetes. In other words, instead of demonstrating that artificial sweeteners make you fat, you might instead be observing that fat people are more likely to use sugar substitutes. So while interesting, this correlation in and of itself could be misleading.

To address this issue the researchers assembled a group of seven healthy volunteers who don’t normally consume artificial sweeteners. For one week, the subjects consumed the maximum FDA allotment of Saccharin. After only one week, four out of the seven volunteers began showing glucose intolerance. Those that did also showed a marked shift in their gut microbial profiles, while the microbial profiles of the subjects that did not show glucose intolerance did not show this change.

The fact that only seven subjects were studied, and for only one week, won’t impress many statisticians. And the authors of the study are quick to point out that their results should not be taken as a call for anyone to change their diet, but rather as a signal that more studies along these lines are warranted. To this end, the National Institute of Health is conducting a large, long-term study on what happens when healthy, non-AS using subjects begin consuming sucralose. 

The emerging understanding of the connection between diseases like diabetes and the gut’s microbiota opens up the intriguing possibility of treating disease by manipulating gut microbes. Using antibiotics to wipe out the microbial ecosystem in glucose-intolerant mice is one example of how this might work, but there are other ways as well—and don’t worry, fecal transplants aren’t the only other means.  Taking probiotic supplements is another way, but the most important avenue, and easiest, might simply be dietary changes.

Altering one’s diet can be difficult, in part it turns out, because the bacteria in your gut are controlling what you want to eat, according to an article published by the University of California. The paper reviews some recent studies that suggest gut bacteria influence the brain and endocrine system via the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and gut.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” explained Athena Aktipis, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF, as quoted in the article.

One example of how gut microbe populations tailor themselves to a particular diet, a bacterium that’s particularly proficient at digesting seaweed is common in the bellies of Japanese people. This begs the question, do Japanese people eat so much seaweed because their microbiome is telling them to, or are seaweed-friendly Japanese microbiomes the result of so much seaweed eating? Probably a bit of both. We can exert control over our microbiomes, but they can control us as well.

As Carlo Maley, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer, explained, “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

In the coming years, the relationship between diet, gut microbes and health will be further teased apart by scientists, and the role that artificial sweeteners play in this dynamic will surely be more clear. But science moves at a slow, cautious pace. Even if we don’t know exactly how artificial sweeteners can cause us harm, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they do. Consume accordingly.

 

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NASA's Earth Observatory released an image of an 'O'-shaped open-cell cloud that formed over the Pacific Ocean in early September.
13:00 Election Diary Rescue: Week 38» Daily Kos
DKos Miner 14
The following diaries are examples of this week's Election Diary Rescue. This post features a collection of 68 diaries.

(MI-Sen) Michigan's GOP Candidate for U.S. Senate Missteps Again by grape crush - In the "I know you are but what am I Dept.," Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land has sold her shares in a mutual fund that invests in an oil company she has lambasted Democratic opponent Gary Peters for owning direct stock in.

(ND-AL) Could Republicans lose North Dakota's only House seat? A new Democratic poll says they can by Jeff Singer - A new poll shows freshman Republican Representative Kevin Cramer losing North Dakota's only U.S. House seat to Democratic state senator George Sinner 40-38.

(FL-Gov) Attending Crist Event? Expect Your License Plate Will Be Recorded by SemDem - Incumbent governor Rick Scott and the Florida Republican Party are not answering questions about why they sent staffers to videotape and photograph the license plate numbers of those attenting a fundraiser for challenger Charlie Crist (D) at a private home. These aren't overzealous supporters, they were paid state GOP employees sent by the current governor's campaign.

Doctor Who: "Scotland really showed us the way ... 85% of the people voted." by akadjian - Diarist got the chance to talk with Paul McGann, Doctor Who #8, about the Scottish independence vote. 85% turnout? If only the US could make such a boast!


This is the 38th weekly edition of Election Diary Rescue. It covers rescued down-ticket election diaries published from Sunday, September 21 through Saturday, September 27. We hope you enjoy the following gems dug up by our dedicated team of miners.

VOLUNTEER ALERT! As the election approaches we may be switching back to our traditional daily schedule for producing this blog. We will need a few good Kossacks to join the team.

Please e-mail us if you would like the opportunity to contribute to this legacy project. DKosEDR at gmail.com.

Diaries: (68)
Senate: (11) posts, (8) states
House: (16) posts, (10) states, (13) districts
State and more: (27)
General: (14)

12:47 Chomsky: Corporations and the Richest Americans Viscerally Oppose the Common Good» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The Masters of Mankind want us to become the "stupid nation" in the interests of their short-term gain.

The following is Part I of the transcript of a speech delivered by Noam Chomsky in February 2013. Read Part II.

Whether public education contributes to the Common Good depends, of course, on what kind of education it is, to whom it is available, and what we take to be the Common Good. There’s no need to tarry on the fact that these are highly contested matters, have been throughout history, and continue to be so today.

One of the great achievements of American democracy has been the introduction of mass public education, from children to advanced research universities. And in some respects that leadership position has been maintained. Unfortunately, not all. Public education is under serious attack, one component of the attack on any rational and humane concept of the Common Good, sometimes in ways that are not only shocking, but also spell disaster for the species.
 
All of this falls within the general assault on the population in the past generation, the so-called “neoliberal era.” I’ll return to these matters, of great significance and import.
 
Sometimes the attacks on education and on the Common Good are very closely linked. One current illustration is the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” that is being proposed to legislatures by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded lobby that designs legislation to serve the needs of the corporate sector and extreme wealth. This act mandates "balanced teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms.”
 
“Balanced teaching” is a code phrase that refers to teaching climate change denial, to “balance” authentic climate science – what you read in science journals. It is analogous to the “balanced teaching” advocated by creationists to enable the teaching of “creation science” in public schools. Legislation based on ALEC models has already been introduced in several states.
 
The ALEC legislation is based on a project of the Heartland Institute, a corporate-funded Institute dedicated to rejection of the scientific consensus on the climate. The Institute project calls for a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms,” which aims to teach that there is “a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather.” Of course, all of this is dressed up in rhetoric about teaching critical thinking, and so on. It is much like the current assault on teaching children about evolution and science quite generally.
 
There is indeed a controversy: on one side, the overwhelming majority of scientists, all of the world’s major National Academies of Science, the professional science journals, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): all agree that global warming is taking place, that there is a substantial human component, and that the situation is serious and perhaps dire, and that very soon, maybe within decades, the world might reach a tipping point where the process will escalate sharply and will be irreversible, with very severe effects on the  possibility of decent human survival.
 
It is rare to find such consensus on complex scientific issues.
 
True, it is not unanimous. Media reports commonly present a controversy between the overwhelming scientific consensus on one side, and skeptics on the other, including some quite respected scientists who caution that much is unknown – which means that things might not be as bad as thought or they might be worse: only the first alternative is brought up. Omitted from the contrived debate is a much larger group of skeptics: highly regarded climate scientists who regard the regular reports of the IPCC as much too conservative: the Climate Change group at my own university, MIT, for example. And they have repeatedly been proven correct, unfortunately. But they are scarcely part of the public debate, though very prominent in the scientific literature.
 
The Heartland Institute and ALEC are part of a huge campaign by corporate lobbies to try to sow doubt about the near-unanimous consensus of scientists that human activities are having a major impact on global warming with truly ominous implications. The campaign was openly announced, including the lobbying organizations of the fossil fuel industry, the American Chamber of Commerce (the main business lobby) and others. It has had an effect on public opinion, though careful studies show that public opinion remains much closer to the scientific consensus than policy is. That is undoubtedly why major sectors of the corporate world are launching their attack on the educational system, to try to counter the dangerous tendency of the public to pay attention to the conclusions of scientific research.
 
You probably heard that at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting recently, Gov. Bobby Jindal warned the leadership that “We must stop being the stupid party…We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters.” ALEC and its corporate backers, in contrast, want the country to be "the stupid nation” – which may encourage them to join the stupid party that Jindal warned about.
 
The major science journals give a sense of how surreal all of this is. Take Science, the major US scientific weekly. A few weeks ago it had three news items side by side. One reported that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the US, continuing a long trend. The second reported a new study by the US Global Climate Change Research Program providing additional evidence for rapid climate change as the result of human activities, and discussing likely severe impacts. The third reported the new appointments to chair the committees on science policy chosen by the House of Representatives, where a minority of voters elected a large majority of Republicans thanks to the shredding of the political system.
 
In Pennsylvania, for example, a considerably majority voted for Democrats but they won just over one-third of House seats. All three of the new chairs deny that humans contribute to climate change, two deny that it is even taken place, one is a longtime advocate for the fossil fuel industry. The same issue of the journal has a technical article with new evidence that the irreversible tipping point may be ominously close.
 
For those whom Adam Smith called the "Masters of Mankind,” it is important that we must become the stupid nation in the interests of their short-term gain, damn the consequences. These are essential properties of contemporary market fundamentalist doctrines. ALEC and its corporate sponsors understand the importance of ensuring that public education train children to belong to the stupid nation, and not be misled by science and rationality.
 
This is far from the only case of sharp divergence between public opinion and public policy. That tells us a lot about the current state of American democracy, and what that means for us and the world. The corporate assault on education and independent thought, of which this is only one striking illustration, tells us a good deal more.
 
In climate policy, the US lags behind other countries. Quotes a current scientific review: “109 countries have enacted some form of policy regarding renewable power, and 118 countries have set targets for renewable energy. In contrast, the United States has no adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy” or adopted other means that are being pursued by countries that do have national policies. Some things are being done in the US, but sporadically, and with no organized national commitment. That’s no slight problem for us, and for the world, in the light of the great predominance of American power – declining to be sure as power is diversified internationally, but still unchallenged.
 
There are other respects in which the concept of Common Good that has come to dominate policy – but not opinion -- in the US is diverging from the affluent developed societies of the OECD, and many others. A recent OECD study shows that the US ranks 27th out of 31 countries in measures of social justice, barely above Mexico. It ranks 21st in inequality, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, maternity leave, environmental performance, 18th in mental health and 19th in welfare of children. Also ranks toward the bottom in high-school dropout rates and poor student performance in math.
 
Figures like these are signs of very severe systemic disorders; particularly striking because the US is the richest country in the world, with incomparable advantages.
 
Another crucial case is healthcare. US costs are about twice the per capita costs of comparable countries, and outcomes are relatively poor. Studied by economist Dean Baker reveal that the deficit that obsesses the financial sector and Washington, but not the more realistic public, would be eliminated if we had healthcare systems similar to other developed societies, hardly a utopian idea. The US healthcare system deviates from others in that it is largely privatized and lightly regulated, and – not surprisingly – is highly inefficient and costly. There is an exception in the US healthcare system: the Veterans Administration, a government system, much less costly.
 
Another partial exception is Medicare, a government-run system, hence with far lower administrative costs and other waste, but still more costly than it should be because it has to work through the privatized system and is trapped by the extraordinary political power of the pharmaceutical industry, which prevents the government from negotiating drug prices so that they are far higher than in other countries. 
 
Current policy ideas include proposals to increase age eligibility to cut costs: actually it increases costs (along with penalizing mostly working people) by shifting from a relatively efficient system to a highly inefficient privatized one. But the costs are transferred to individuals and away from collective action through taxes. And the concept of the Common Good that is being relentlessly driven into our heads demands that we focus on our own private gain, and suppress normal human emotions of solidarity, mutual support and concern for others. That I think is also an important part of what lies behind the assault on public education and on Social Security that has been waged by sectors of corporate wealth for years, on pretexts of cost that cannot be sustained, and against strong public opposition. 
 
What lies behind these campaigns, I suspect, is that public education and Social Security, like national healthcare, are based on the conception that we care for other people: we care that the disabled widow across town has food to eat, or that the kids down the street have schooling ("why should I pay taxes for schools? I don’t have kids there"). And beyond that, that we care about the tens of millions are dying every year because they cannot obtain medical care, or about dying infants, and others who are vulnerable.
 
These conflicts go far back in American history. It’s particularly useful to look back to the origins of the industrial revolution, in the mid-19th century, when the country was undergoing enormous social changes as the population was being driven into the industrial system, which working people bitterly condemned, because it deprived them of their basic rights as free men and women – not the least women, the so-called factory girls, who were leaving the farms to the mills.
 
It is worth reading the contributions in the press of the time by factory girls, artisans from Boston, and others. It's also important to note that working-class culture of the time was alive and flourishing. There’s a great book about the topic by Jonathan Rose, called The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class. It’s a monumental study of the reading habits of the working class of the day. He contrasts “the passionate pursuit of knowledge by proletarian autodidacts” with the “pervasive philistinism of the British aristocracy.”
 
Pretty much the same was true in the new working-class towns here, like eastern Massachusetts, where an Irish blacksmith might hire a young boy to read the classics to him while he was working. On the farms, the factory girls were reading the best contemporary literature of the day, what we study as classics. They condemned the industrial system for depriving them of their freedom and culture.
 
This went on for a long time. I am old enough to remember the atmosphere of the 1930s. A large part of my family came from the unemployed working-class. Many had barely gone to school. But they participated in the high culture of the day. They would discuss the latest Shakespeare plays, concerts of the Budapest String Quartet, different varieties of psychoanalysis and every conceivable political movement. There was also a very lively workers' education system with which leading scientists and mathematicians were directly involved. A lot of this has been lost under the relentless assault of the Masters, but it can be recovered and it is not lost forever.
 
The labor press of the early industrial revolution took strong positions on many issues that should have a resonance today. They took for granted that, as they put it, those who work in the mills should own them. They condemned wage labor, which to them was akin to slavery, the only difference being that it was supposedly temporary.
 
This was such a popular view that it was even part of the program of the Republican Party. It was also a main theme of the huge organized labor movement that was taking shape, the Knights of Labor, which began to establish links with the most important popular democratic party in the country’s history, the Farmers Alliance, later called the Populist movement, which originated with radical farmers in Texas and then spread through much of the country, forming collective enterprises, banks and marketing cooperatives and much more, movements that could have driven the country toward more authentic democracy if they had not been destroyed, largely by violence – though, interestingly, similar developments are underway today in the old Rust Belt and elsewhere, very important for the future, I think.
 
The prime target of condemnation in the labor press was what they called “The New Spirit of the Age: Gain Wealth, Forgetting All But Self.” No efforts have been spared since then to drive this spirit into people's heads. People must come to believe that suffering and deprivation result from the failure of individuals, not the reigning socioeconomic system. There are huge industries devoted to this task. About one-sixth of the entire US economy is devoted to what's called "marketing," which is mostly propaganda. Advertising is described by analysts and the business literature as a process of fabricating wants – a campaign to drive people to the superficial things in life, like fashionable consumption, so that they will remain passive and obedient.
 
The schools are also a target. As I mentioned, public mass education was a major achievement, in which the US was a pioneer. But it had complex characteristics, rooted in the sharp class conflicts of the day. One goal was to induce farmers to give up their independence and submit themselves to industrial discipline and accept what they regarded as wage slavery. That did not pass without notice. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that political leaders of his day were calling for popular education. He concluded that their motivation was fear. The country was filling up with millions of voters and the Masters realized that one had to therefore “educate them, to keep them from (our) throats.”
 
In other words: educate them the “right way” -- to be obediently passive and accept their fate as right and just, conforming to the New Spirit of the Age. Keep their perspectives narrow, their understanding limited, discourage free and independent thought, instill docility and obedience to keep them from the Masters' throats.
 
This common theme from 150 years ago is inhuman and savage. It also meets with resistance. And there have been victories. There were many in the struggles of the 1930s, carried further in the 1960s. But systems of power never walk away politely. They prepare a new assault. This has in fact been happening since the early 1970s, based on major changes in the design of the economic system. 
 
Two crucial changes were financialization, with a huge explosion of speculative financial flows, and deindustrialization. Production didn't cease. It just began to be offshored anywhere where you could get terrible working conditions and no environmental constraints, with huge profits for the Masters. Within the US, that set off a vicious cycle, leading to sharp concentration of wealth, which translates at once to concentration of political power, increasingly in the financial sector. That in turn leads to legislation that carries the vicious cycle forward, including sharp tax reduction for the rich and deregulation, with repeated financial crises from the ‘80s, each worse than the last. The current one is so far the worst of all. And others are likely in what a director of the Bank of England calls a “doom loop.” 
 
There are solutions, but they do not fit the needs of the Masters, for whom the crises are no problem. They are bailed out by the Nanny State. Today corporate profits are breaking new records and the financial managers who created the current crisis are enjoying huge bonuses. Meanwhile, for the large majority, wages and income have practically stagnated in the last 30-odd years. By today, it has reached the point that 400 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 180 million Americans.
 
In parallel, the cost of elections has skyrocketed, driving both parties even deeper into the pockets of those with the money, corporations and the super-rich. Political representatives become even more beholden to those who paid for their victories. One consequence is that by now, the poorest 70% have literally no influence over policy. As you move up the income/wealth ladder influence increases, and at the very top, a tiny percent, the Masters get what they want.
 
Read Part II of Chomsky's speech, The Corporate Assault on Public Education, here.
 
Copyright Noam Chomsky, 2013. All rights reserved. Permission to republish this text must be granted by the author.
 

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11:07 The Ten Commandments of Ebola - Where the Choices Can Be Life or Death » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
An alarming new protocol in Liberian slums speak volumes about the evolving epidemic.

In the slums of Monrovia, where the Ebola virus has spun out of control, health authorities have now provided citizens with a new version of the 10 commandments.

The alarming protocol speaks volumes about the deadly pace of an evolving epidemic that has unsettled West Africa, and will have global implications if the virus reaches the urban slums of India or China.

Given that barely 18 per cent of infected patients ever make it to a hospital, most Liberians now struggle or die with the disease at home. The sick die in pools of shit, vomit and blood.

The commandments reflect the elemental nature of transmission: the deadly virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids, everything from blood to semen. The hemorrhagic virus kills more than half of its victims.

To date, the epidemic and fear has changed all patterns of living. Schools and businesses are closed, and people stay at home. Citizens don’t shake hands, ride buses or join crowds. Armed robberies have increased and hunger has become another epidemic stalking the region.

Each morning the Red Cross Dead Body Management Team, looking like men from Mars, prays "for guidance, protection, and for God to make Ebola go away."

U.S. researchers now estimate that the virus could infect more than a million people by January, 2015 if there are no effective ways to contain it.

To date, health authorities conservatively estimate more than 6,000 have been infected and more than 3,000 have died. But the epidemic is now growing exponentially.

The 10 Commandments of Ebola can be found on signs posted in poor communities such as West Point in Monrovia. The commandments have a medieval tone:

1. Thou shalt not HIDE ANY SICK person even family member or friend;

2. Thou shalt not SHAKE HAND or TOUCH someone with high fever who is very sick;

3. Thou shalt not TOUCH DEAD BODY even if it is your family member or friend who has died;

4. Thou shalt not PUT MAT DOWN for dead people not even your family member;

5. Thou shalt not EAT or DRINK from the same pan, place or cup with family member, friend or anybody.

6. Thou shalt not allow anybody even family friend to spend time (with the infected).

7. Thou shalt not HAVE SEX with strangers; be very careful of the person you have sex with, they could have the EBOLA virus -- no sleeping around. Stick with the person you know very well.

8. Thou shalt not PEE PEE OUTSIDE, use a plastic bottle and wash your hands;

9. Thou shalt not TOILET OUTSIDE; use a plastic bag and wash your hands.

10. Thou shalt call this Telephone Number 4455 for Response Centre #1 right away when you have a sick person or a dead body in your house.

 

Related Stories

11:04 Well-Armed Design: 8 Octopus-Inspired Technologies» LiveScience.com
Octopuses, with their underwater dexterity and camouflage abilities, have inspired much technological innovation. Here are some novel technologies that have been created based on the sea creature.
10:48 Photos: Amazing Tech Inspired by the Octopus» LiveScience.com
The octopus is inspiring all kinds of technologies, from grasping tentacles and camouflage material to robotic arms and suction cups. Here’s a look at the sophisticated tech that this sea creature has helped unleash in recent years.
10:07 HBO's John Oliver: How is Ayn Rand still a thing?» Daily Kos
Ayn Rand
John Oliver's Last Week Tonight wants to know–how is Ayn Rand still a thing?
"She's something you're supposed to grow out of, like ska music, or handjobs."
Head below the fold to watch the hilarious segment.
10:06 Maria Fernandes died napping in her car between part-time jobs, but let's focus on how she lived» Daily Kos
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH....Friends and family pay respects to Maria Fernandes, 32, of Newark, New Jersey, at the Evans-Gordon Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey September 5, 2014. Fernandes, a woman with three part-time jobs who died while sleeping in her car between shifts, was remembered on Friday as much for her generosity as for becoming the face of millions of struggling U.S. low-wage workers. A day after hundreds of U.S. fast-food workers staged protests in some 150 cities in a fight for higher pay, Fernandes was eulogized by family and friends who said their grief was eased by knowing that her death was contributing to a national conversation about raising the minimum wage.  REUTERS/Barbara Goldberg   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY OBITUARY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR4552V
Maria Fernandes, the woman who died while napping in her car between shifts at the three different Dunkin' Donuts stores she worked at, is a powerful symbol of the horrors of America's low-wage economy. Rachel Swarns, writing in the New York Times, profiles Fernandes, seeking to make her "more than an emblem of our nation’s rising economic inequality." She was a Michael Jackson fan, an animal lover, and more. But you can't get around that her life—not just her death—was defined by her work, and by the low wages and impossible schedule it left her with:
She dreamed of the bustling streets of Los Angeles and the leafy towns of Pennsylvania. She dreamed of working two jobs, not three. She dreamed of sleeping, really sleeping, for six or seven hours at a stretch.

But dreams rarely pay the rent. So Ms. Fernandes worked three jobs, at three Dunkin’ Donuts stores in northern New Jersey, shuttling from Newark to Linden to Harrison and back. She often slept in her car — two hours here, three hours there — and usually kept the engine running, ready in an instant to start all over again.

She had an apartment, but was falling behind on the $550 rent despite those three jobs. Dunkin' Donuts said she was a "model" employee, but wouldn't say how much she was paid or how many hours she worked. Which makes sense—it probably is in Dunkin' Donuts' best interest for us not to know how they treat their model employees.

Fernandes was certainly an individual who deserves to be remembered for who she was. But in a way her death is a reminder of how many people are one accident away from becoming emblems of rising inequality. And it shouldn't take a death to make us see the rank injustice of Maria Fernandes' life. The minimum wage should be higher than New Jersey's $8.25 an hour. Fast food chains like Dunkin' Donuts should offer workers regular schedules with enough hours, so they aren't forced to spend their days going from job to job, grabbing naps in between. Someone like Fernandes should not only be able to pay $550 a month for a basement apartment, she should also be able to afford her dream of going to cosmetology school. Maria Fernandes may have died in a way that focused attention on her life, but some of the attention should go to how sadly common the details of that life are. It should not be so ferociously difficult to get by, let alone get ahead, in this country.

09:56 Two more polls confirm it: We have a real gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts» Daily Kos
Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker
Republican Charlie Baker
There's been a lot of uncertainty about the state of play in Massachusetts. In the last week a MassInc poll showed Democrat Martha Coakley leading Republican Charlie Baker by 10 points, while surveys from SocialSphere and Rasmussen showed a very tight contest; a different MassInc poll of the 6th Congressional district also indicated that Baker could win statewide. On Monday two more polls were released, and both point to a tight race in November.

On behalf of the Boston Herald, Suffolk released their first general election poll and found Coakley leading Baker 44-43. They give Democrats realistic leads in other races, so it's unlikely they oversampled Republican voters. They give Coakley a 46-42 favorable rating, compared to Baker's 45-27 rating. What could end up helping Coakley is outgoing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's popularity: He's sitting on a solid 55-39 favorable rating.

Western New England University also surveys this contest, and they find Baker leading 44-43. They find similar numbers as Suffolk all around: Coakley posts a 46-38 favorable rating compared to Baker's 47-24. As we'd expect they found Democratic Sen. Ed Markey with a 20-point lead over his no-named Republican challenger so again, it doesn't look like this poll is unreasonably Republican-leaning.

Massachusetts is a very blue state, albeit one that isn't afraid to elect Republican governors, and we still expect Coakley to pull off a win here. Coakley appears to have improved as a candidate since her disastrous 2010 Senate race, and it's Baker who's been the one to put his foot in his mouth this time around. Still, right now it looks like Baker is making this a real race and can pull off a win. As a result, Daily Kos Elections is changing our race rating here from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic.

Want to help elect Dem governors nationwide? If so, click here and donate a few dollars.

2:49 PM PT: A third new poll also shows a tight race. This one is from YouGov on behalf of UMass Amherst: They give Baker a 46-45 lead among likely voters, but have Coakley up 42-37 among registered voters.

09:45 11 Things to Know Before Walking Into a Fertility Center» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Distinguishing fact from positive rhetoric can be confusing.

If you've been trying to have a baby without success, you aren't alone.

Approximately one in eight couples has difficulty conceiving. And contrary to popular belief, it isn't always because of the woman. In fact, men and women are both equally diagnosed with infertility.

Infertility is definedas being unable to achieve a pregnancy after one year if a woman is under 35 years of age, or for six months if a woman is over 35 years of age.

So if you think you might have a problem with infertility, where do you start? It can all be very overwhelming. There is a wealth of information available, but distinguishing fact from positive rhetoric can be confusing.

If you're thinking about making an appointment with a fertility doctor, here is some information that can give you a leg up before you walk in the door.

These 11 items can help you understand the "big picture" of infertility and make navigating the process easier.

1. Find a doctor with whom you connect.

As you consider getting started, remember that you need a good partner in crime and someone that gets you. This is an important chapter in your life that connects you to your dream of a family. This doctor and health care team will lead you to achieving that goal, so it is critical that you have a bond of trust and caring.

2. Success rates are confusing.

Success rates are measured by your friends who sing the praises of their own success. They are also measured by your OB doctor's recommendations; the U.S. government, which reports fertility clinics success in IVF; and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, which provides detailed information on each center. Some centers have high success rates, which may reflect that they only take easier cases. Other centers may have lower success rates but deal with harder diagnoses. Every patient and medical problem is unique, so ask questions that pertain to you. Inquire about your doctor's experience with your particular problem, as well as their success rates with women of your age. This is a big project and may require that you invest considerable finances, so don't be afraid to ask hard questions.

3. We can work with your biology, but we cannot change it.

We can change many things, but we cannot change how old we are. We doctors have years of training and experience which allows us to be professional problem solvers and troubleshooters for complex medical issues, but we can't change basic biology. Biology dictates that ovarian reserve declines with age, as does fertility potential in both men and women. Conditions like endometriosis and PCOS can be tempered, but not eliminated. While these biological facts of life cannot be changed, with a great team behind you there is a better chance of success.

4. Ouch! That is more than I expected.

The average cost of an IVF cycle is $12,000 plus $3,000-5,000 for medication. Across the country, that number will vary. The good news is that there are several avenues to curb the cost of treatment. Centers typically have multiple financial plans to consider. Some options provide a full refund if you do not deliver a baby, while others allow you to finance your treatment. Some centers offer a self-pay discount. Participating in studies may offer free or discounted treatment, while non-profits like the CADE Foundation and BabyQuest Foundation offer grants to those with infertility. Some couples are even crowdfunding their treatment on sites such as GoFundMe.com.

5. There's no place like home.

Depending on where you live, state law, insurance mandates and even treatment availability can help or hinder your efforts. States with insurance mandates are by law required to provide coverage for fertility treatments. If you're not sure where your state stands, take a look at the Fertility Scorecard by RESOLVE, The National Infertility Organization. State law concerning third party reproduction such as surrogacy or donor egg can vary greatly -- in Illinois surrogacy is legal, while in New York it is illegal to compensate a woman for being a gestational carrier. It is critical to do your legal research prior to treatment to avoid legal battles now or after the baby is born. Lastly, fertility centers are not equally distributed in location. In California there are 142 fertility specialists, while in Wyoming there are zero.

6. "Twins would be awesome!"

Yes, twins would be wonderful, but one baby at a time is safest. How many embryos are transferred during IVF is determined by the doctor and the patient. As doctors we share our recommendations, but the final decision is usually decided by both the patient and the doctor. Our goal as physicians is to deliver one healthy baby. For some patients, transferring more than one embryo may be optimal when taking into account age, diagnosis and finances, but for others, a single embryo may be best. Single embryos can also split and become identical twins. If you are averse to the possibility of twins or triplets, opt for a single embryo transfer.

7. Stop trying to be Superwoman and get support.

Ask anyone who has been through it -- infertility treatment is no cake walk. Yet many women and couples avoid talking to a counselor, don't join a support group and keep their journey private. There are no awards given for suffering alone. Being strong is knowing when you need to take care of yourself. Talk to a fertility counselor who specializes in helping couples and individuals thrive through the unique challenge of infertility. Or find someone to confide in to share some of the emotional parts of this process, which can be priceless. Many fertility centers have their own programs to support patients in treatment.

8. Are you crazy?! I would never use an egg donor!

You may need to consider other options to have a family. After three unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations, the odds of a pregnancy via IUI go down. If you have had several pregnancy losses and/or multiple failed IVF cycles, it may be time to look at other options. For some, third party reproduction options such as surrogacy, donor egg or donor sperm can allow couples and individuals to overcome their infertility struggles. Undergoing genetic testing or screening embryos through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) prior to embryo transfer may reveal new information. Adoption is also an option to consider. The question is not IF you will have a family, but how you will have a family.

9. Give me a break! Actually, taking a break from treatment can be a good thing.

Feeling exhausted and at the end of your rope? Yes, fertility treatment can do that. Taking a break to re-energize can really help. Stress does not cause infertility, but it does affect your fertility potential. A scientific study found that women whose enzyme alpha-amylase levels, a stress-related substance, were in the highest third had more than double the risk of infertility. If you need a break -- even if it is only for a month or two -- take it.

10. That is why they call it the "the practice" of medicine. It is ever-evolving.

In the world, there are always advancements and changes presenting new medical options. The practice of medicine could not have advanced to what we have today without trials, studies, and research. Around the globe, there are people hard at work trying to uncover data that can make pregnancy and parenthood a reality, no matter what the infertility issue. As a physician, it is critical to stay up-to-date on new medication and techniques to help patients conceive. When you are talking to a fertility doctor, ask them about the new techniques that the practice has adopted recently.

11. Fertility centers are not all alike, so look around.

Each fertility center is different, and it is important to consider those differences during your research. Practices may have multiple physicians, each with their own specialties and interests. Facilities will also vary greatly. Does the center have an IVF lab in their office or is this outsourced? Do they offer genetic testing/PGD? Do they have a research department? Take into account history, experience, services and staff when selecting a fertility center. It shows breadth and depth of an organization.

Don't forget to be your own advocate. Ask yourself. Ask Dr. Google. Ask your physician.

You will find your way. Just don't give up.

 

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09:42 John Cleese on (Fox News) stupidity» Daily Kos
John Cleese
You see, if you're very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you're very, very stupid? You'd have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.
Head below the fold to watch one minute of brilliance.
09:09 The Anatomical Part Mysteriously Missing from 'Masters of Sex'» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
There is a big double-standard between the display of men and women's bodies.

Showtime's Masters of Sex (2013) wrapped up its sophomore season not with a cliffhanger but the theme of change: characters embarked on new romantic and parental relationships, scientific studies shifted almost exclusively from sex to sexual dysfunction, and a new president took office as JFK's inauguration filled everyone's black-and-white 1960s TV screens.

One thing about Masters of Sex's second season did not change: the double standard with which it portrays male and female bodies.

After 23 episodes, Masters of Sex finally showed viewers a penis. Well, sort of. In "One for the Money, Two for the Show" (2.11), gynecologist/sexologist Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) awakens with an erection. Masters throws back the covers to reveal a bulge in his blue boxers. The camera lingers on it for a few seconds before panning upward to the doctor's exasperated face.

For a show that centers so heavily on human sexuality and sex acts, it's odd that this is the first time we see a penis—or the guise of a penis, as Vulture relentlessly suspects in its review: "Who on the set of the show was responsible for the construction and rigging of Bill Masters' fake morning erection? Is it a costume piece, or is it something the props department puts together? And what's it made of, anyway?"

But perhaps stranger than our first semi penis-spotting is that a (heterosexual) woman creates and runs Masters of Sex. With that in mind, shouldn't we see a more balanced playing field here in terms of naked bodies? After all, Showtime has gone (flaccid) full-frontal before in Queer As Folk(2000-'05), Weeds(2005-'12), Shameless(2011-), and Gigolos(2011-).

Masters of Sex Has An Anatomy Problem, and Viewers Notice

Fans of Masters of Sex have noticed the lack of penises and the persistent double-standard that comes with showing men's and women's naked bodies onscreen, even on an almost-anything-goes cable network like Showtime.

Editor Meredith Frasier labels this Hollywood's anatomy problem, arguing that it's "woefully misogynistic" and at this rate, there will never be enough naked male actors to fill a Seth MacFarlane “We Saw Your Dick” number at the Oscars.

More specifically, fans question the constant display of Lizzy Caplan's naked body and wonder when her male counterparts will be shot similarly (Caplan plays Virginia Johnson, Masters' assistant and sexual partner). Writing in the comments section of a review of the show, one viewer remarks candidly, "If you're not going to go full-frontal with Sheen, then knock it off." Another writes that although the narrative displays a clear power-struggle between Masters and Johnson, with her often "revealing" herself to him, the double standard "is cringe-worthy and lopsided."

Some audience members seem hopeful that Masters of Sex will "eventually get around to full-frontal male nudity." After all, some say, "it seems like the kind of show that would do it." Even Lizzy Caplan comments optimistically about the issue: "Well, the men don't show their penises, but I'm hoping that we get to it."

Showrunner Michelle Ashford doesn't seem as confident. When asked about Masters of Sex's double standard, Ashford says she's mostly backed away from frontal male nudity "because it’s shown so rarely that to include it feels like it’s making a statement" and that would presumably "take viewers out of the drama."

While I call bullshit on that response, Ashford eventually gets to the meat of the issue: "Maybe I’m just a victim of the same kind of conditioning of Why do we never really see male nudity in movies or television?

Now, we're getting to the real reasons American popular culture fears the display of the penis.

No Penises in American Media, Please: Some Reasons

By the 1950s (incidentally when Masters of Sex takes place), America had adopted many of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories. Basics about human development and interaction were so commonplace during this time that even people who'd never visited analysts were aware of them. Since then, many of Freud's ideas have become passé. But those of us who study the media for a living still draw on a handful of them.

Scholar Peter Lehman identifies three reasons our culture finds it difficult to show the penis. First, representations of the penis, or phalluses, are so prevalent in our society that the real things, if revealed, will theoretically pale in comparison. Think about it: all the penis-shaped things man has created to signify awe, power and dominance—guns, bullets, skyscrapers, rockets, cannons, the Washington Monument (America's phallus!)—render an actual penis insignificant, even ludicrous. For this reason, in order to maintain its power and mystique, the penis ought to remain hidden.

A second reason American media shies away from showing full-frontal male nudity is that (white) heterosexual men, for whom most media content is created, do not want to give their female counterparts a basis by which to compare and/or judge them. Although some men have been evaluating women and their bodies for years (ahem, beauty pageants), "the thought of the tables being turned on the men is close to unbearable," Lehman explains. To this end, the penis mostly remains covered on film and television.

A third reason showrunners and filmmakers normally do not show the penis is that (white) heterosexual males, again the target audience of most cinema and television, unconsciously or consciously fear they may become fascinated by or derive pleasure from the penis before them onscreen. One way to curb this potential (and silly) homophobia is, once more, to keep the penis under wraps.

Hollywood also refuses to show penises, especially erect ones, to ensure it's not dabbling in pornography. Hardcore porn, after all, is where the large and supposedly impressive penis is always on display, asserting visually what women allegedly need and want. In our culture, for filmmakers and showrunners to include that in their work would imply they are creating pornography. So again, the penis generally remains hidden.

Isn't it time that cultural phallocentrism, man's fear of judgment, and one's presumed homophobia take a backseat to a truer representation of reality—or at least a reality based on two people like Masters and Johnson who dealt openly with sex and sexuality their entire adult lives?

 

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08:19 Higgs Boson to the World Wide Web: 7 Big Discoveries Made at CERN» LiveScience.com
The world's biggest atom smasher, which made possible a host of monumental discoveries, is celebrating its 60th anniversary today (Sept. 29).
07:50 Walmart Wants to Offer Banking For America’s Poor, Which Is a Really Crappy Idea» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The company has yet another scheme to make the country a little bit worse.

The FDIC estimates there are 10 million people living in the U.S. who do not have a bank account — that’s one out of every 13 households. Nearly 33 percent of people living in Starr County, TX can’t write a check. In one census district in Savannah, GA, over 42 percent of residents are unbanked. The unbanked are usually poor, often minorities, and find themselves shunned by banks that can’t make money off them. Typically, they end up turning to predatory check cashers and payday lenders. Many also feel a great sense of social division between themselves and those who have bank accounts.

The crash of 2008 exacerbated America’s growing problem of the unbanked, as many people faced financial ruin and the U.S. saw an increase in distrust of the banking industry. Some people have turned to credit unions, but these institutions generally do not actively recruit lower-income clients, many of whom may be unfamiliar with their services.

There is a quite reasonable way to address the issue of the unbanked, namely, public banking. As Elizabeth Warren has noted, bringing back public post office banks is a particularly good strategy, since the physical and operational structure already exists, and low-income people are comfortable with post offices, which they can usually access easily.

But of course, that idea does not fill the coffers of a giant corporation. Enter Walmart.

For years, big retailers smelling opportunity have been trying to figure out ways to offer banking services to low-income people as a way of boosting in-store sales. Walmart has been pushing hard to get into the banking business, but the retail goliath has been held back from obtaining a U.S. bank charter by a combination of banking industry players, union leaders, activists, political opponents, and experts who have warned that allowing Walmart to bank is a dangerous abandonment of the separation of banking from other forms of commerce, and that it opens the door to too-big-to-fail issues and potential taxpayer bailouts.

Walmart has been denied a charter, which would give it protection from the FDIC, but executives have found the chance to make money by providing financial services to a captive market of struggling, relatively unsophisticated shoppers just too tantalizing to abandon. Gradually, Walmart expanded services to customers that did not require a charter. For example, it created “money centers” where people could do things like cash checks or purchase prepaid debit cards (see complaints about these cards on Ripoff Report).

Last week, Walmart won a major victory in its quest to become a bank by partnering with Green Dot to roll out starter checking accounts. Proclaiming its desire to assist low-income America, Walmart announced that the accounts will have no overdraft fees or minimum account balances. Any adult customer who passes an identity-verification screening can get an account, without a credit check or any other form of screening.

Of course, when you read the fine print, all of this is not exactly free: to open an account, you have to buy a $2.95 “starter kit” from Walmart. There's also a minimum deposit of $20 required. A visit to an out-of-network ATM will get you a $2.50 charge, and customers who do not keep a balance of $500 a month will get hit with a fee of $8.95. This last bit is especially worrying: if you suddenly lose your job, you can quickly rack up burdensome fees.  

Is it better than what the big banks offer? Yes, but let’s not think for a moment that Walmart has interest in anything but the bottom line. Walmart is the company that famously mooches off the U.S. taxpayer by dumping upon us the costs of healthcare and other social services its poorly paid employees can’t afford. It's the company that regularly violates the rights of its workers by locking them in stores overnight, stealing their wages, engaging in sex discrimination, and denying meal breaks. It's the company that took corruption to spectacular heights when it decided to bribe its way into Mexican markets

As Demos senior fellow Wallace Turbeville has observed, there’s a big difference between Walmart and the U.S. post office: Walmart has incentives to squeeze disadvantaged customers who have little bargaining power. The post office has a huge geographical advantage over Walmart: there are 31,000 USPS locations and offices compared to Walmart’s 4,807 in the U.S., and for people living in rural areas, the post office is particularly convenient. Many other countries have post office banking, including Japan, Switzerland and the UK, and in fact, the USPS offered savings accounts until 1967 (deposits peaked at nearly $3.4 billion in 1947).

Plus, people actually want to bank at the post office: Senator Warren’s endorsement of the idea was followed by a poll showing broad public support, with 74 percent of 1,000 adults surveyed reporting that they had at least a “somewhat favorable” opinion of the notion. To offer bank-like services, including check cashing, bill payment and loans, the post office would not need a banking charter.  

What’s standing in the way of post office banking products is mostly political. Unfortunately, congressional approval would be required in order for the idea to move forward. Republicans bent on strangling the public sector stand in violent opposition, along with members of both parties who receive money from the banking industry, and naturally, Walmart.

 

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07:39 Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It: Why Is This Widely Denied?» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
There are many paths to recovery—and if we want to help people get there, we need to explore all of them.

When I stopped shooting coke and heroin, I was 23. I had no life outside of my addiction. I was facing serious drug charges and I weighed 85 pounds, after months of injecting, often dozens of times a day.

But although I got treatment, I quit at around the age when, according to large epidemiological studies, most people who have diagnosable addiction problems do so—without treatment. The early to mid-20s is also the period when the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for good judgment and self-restraint—finally reaches maturity.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” However, that’s not what the epidemiology of the disorder suggests. By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do, according to a study of over 42,000 Americans in a sample designed to represent the adult population.

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

While some addictions clearly do take a chronic course, these data, which replicates earlier research, suggests that many do not. And this remains true even for people like me, who have used drugs in such high, frequent doses and in such a compulsive fashion that it is hard to argue that we “weren’t really addicted.” I don’t know many non-addicts who shoot up 40 times a day, get suspended from college for dealing and spend several months in a methadone program.

Moreover, if addiction were truly a progressive disease, the data should show that the odds of quitting get worse over time. In fact, they remain the same on an annual basis, which means that as people get older, a higher and higher percentage wind up in recovery. If your addiction really is “doing push-ups” while you sit in AA meetings, it should get harder, not easier, to quit over time. (This is not an argument in favor of relapsing; it simply means that your odds of recovery actually get better with age!)

So why do so many people still see addiction as hopeless? One reason is a phenomenon known as “the clinician’s error,” which could also be known as the “journalist’s error” because it is so frequently replicated in reporting on drugs. That is, journalists and rehabs tend to see the extremes: Given the expensive and often harsh nature of treatment, if you can quit on your own you probably will. And it will be hard for journalists or treatment providers to find you.

Similarly, if your only knowledge of alcohol came from working in an ER on Saturday nights, you might start thinking that prohibition is a good idea. All you would see are overdoses, DTs, or car crash, rape or assault victims. You wouldn’t be aware of the patients whose alcohol use wasn’t causing problems. And so, although the overwhelming majority of alcohol users drink responsibly, your “clinical” picture of what the drug does would be distorted by the source of your sample of drinkers.

Treatment providers get a similarly skewed view of addicts: The people who keep coming back aren’t typical—they’re simply the ones who need the most help. Basing your concept of addiction only on people who chronically relapse creates an overly pessimistic picture.

This is one of many reasons why I prefer to see addiction as a learning or developmental disorder, rather than taking the classical disease view. If addiction really were a primary, chronic, progressive disease, natural recovery rates would not be so high and addiction wouldn’t have such a pronounced peak prevalence in young people.

But if addiction is seen as a disorder of development, its association with age makes a great deal more sense. The most common years for full onset of addiction are 19 and 20, which coincides with late adolescence, before cortical development is complete. In early adolescence, when the drug taking that leads to addiction by the 20s typically begins, the emotional systems involved in love and sex are coming online, before the cognitive systems that rein in risk-taking are fully active.

Taking drugs excessively at this time probably interferes with both biological and psychological development. The biological part is due to the impact of the drugs on the developing circuitry itself—but the psychological part is probably at least as important. If as a teen you don’t learn non-drug ways of soothing yourself through the inevitable ups and downs of relationships, you miss out on a critical period for doing so. Alternatively, if you do hone these skills in adolescence, even heavy use later may not be as hard to kick because you already know how to use other options for coping.

The data supports this idea: If you start drinking or taking drugs with peers before age 18, you have a 25% chance of becoming addicted, but if your use starts later, the odds drop to 4%. Very few people without a prior history of addiction get hooked later in life, even if they are exposed to drugs like opioid painkillers.

If we see addiction as a developmental disorder, all of this makes much more sense. Many kids “age out” of classical developmental disorders like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as their brains catch up to those of their peers or they develop workarounds for coping with their different wiring. One study, for example, which followed 367 children with ADHD into adulthood found that 70% no longer had significant symptoms.

That didn’t mean, however, that a significant minority didn’t still need help, of course, or that ADHD isn’t “real.” Like addiction (and actually strongly linked with risk for it), ADHD is a wiring difference and a key period for brain-circuit-building is adolescence. In both cases, maturity can help correct the problem, but doesn’t always do so automatically.

To better understand recovery and how to teach it, then, we need to look to the strengths and tactics of people who quit without treatment—and not merely focus on clinical samples. Common threads in stories of recovery without treatment include finding a new passion (whether in work, hobbies, religion or a person), moving from a less structured environment like college into a more constraining one like 9 to 5 employment, and realizing that heavy use stands in the way of achieving important life goals. People who recover without treatment also tend not to see themselves as addicts, according to the research in this area.

While treatment can often support the principles of natural recovery, too often it does the opposite. For example, many programs interfere with healthy family and romantic relationships by isolating patients. Some threaten employment and education, suggesting or even requiring that people quit jobs or school to “focus on recovery,” when doing so might do more harm than good. Others pay too much attention to getting people to take on an addict identity—rather than on harm related to drug use—when, in fact, looking at other facets of the self may be more helpful.

There are many paths to recovery—and if we want to help people get there, we need to explore all of them. That means recognizing that natural recovery exists—and not dismissing data we don’t like.

 

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07:09 Bodies Recovered From Japan Volcano Eruption | Video» LiveScience.com
Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history.
06:59 5 Habits of Highly Compassionate Men» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Having compassion leads to increased happiness, freedom from gender stereotypes and better relationships with others.

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.

I remember being a very compassionate child. While watching "The Little House on the Prairie," I cried my eyes out when Laura couldn’t give Pa a Christmas gift. But 12 years of physical abuse and being forced to the confines of the “act-like-a-man box” wrung most of that compassion out of me by the time I reached adulthood.

Although I was what therapists call “high functioning,” my lack of compassion was like a cancer that poisoned my friendships, relationships, business affairs, and life. At the age of 46, I hit rock bottom. Unemployed and on the verge of divorce, I found myself slapping my four-year-old son’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me. As the survivor of abuse, I had promised myself that I would never lay a hand on my children, but here I was abusing my beloved son.

I knew I had to change. I started with empathy, which led me to compassion. I committed to a daily meditation practice, took the CCARE Cultivating Compassion class at Stanford University, and completed a ten-day silent meditation retreat. I read and researched everything I could find on compassion. I found that the more compassion I felt, the happier I became.

Convinced that I had found an essential ingredient to a happy and peaceful life, I started to interview scientific and spiritual experts on compassion, trying to find out what made a compassionate man. Interviewees included Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University; Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness; Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist Monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

From these interviews and research, I compiled a list of what makes a compassionate man.

1. A fundamental understanding of compassion Most events I attend that discuss compassion are predominantly attended by women. When I asked Thich Nhat Hanh how we could make compassion more attractive to men, he answered, “There must be a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of compassion because compassion is very powerful ... Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.” Although many men in society see compassion and sympathy as feminine — which translates to a weakness in our patriarchal society — all of the compassionate men I interviewed view compassion as a strength.

Dr. Hanson noted how compassion makes one more courageous since compassion strengthens the heart — courage comes from the French word “Coeur,” which means heart. Dacher Keltner argues that Darwin believed in “survival of the kindest,” not the fittest. Dr. Ted Zeff, author of Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy, believes that only compassionate men can save the planet. Zeff argues that “the time has come to break the outdated, rigid male code that insists that all men should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and unemotional” — an excellent description of the act-like-a-man box that I tried to live in.

The compassionate men I interviewed agree with the Dalai Lama when he said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

2. Compassionate role models All of the compassionate men seemed to have role models that supported their compassion instinct. Marc Brackett gives credit to his uncle, Marvin Maurer, who was a social studies teacher trying to instill emotional intelligence in his student before the term emotional intelligence was coined. Over 30 years after teaching in middle school, Maurer’s “Feeling Words Curriculum” acts as a key component of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence RULER program. Similarly, Marshall Rosenberg, author of "Nonviolent Communication," constantly mentions his compassionate uncle who cared for his dying grandmother.

A role model doesn’t necessarily have to be living, or even real. Chade-Meng Tan, author of "Search Inside Yourself," cites Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi as a role model for compassion. Dr. Rick Hanson posits Ender from the science-fiction novel "Ender’s Game" as a compassionate role model. Certainly, Jesus and Buddha are obvious role models of compassion. The key is to treat them like role models.

Role models are not meant to be worshiped, deified, or prayed to. They are meant to be emulated. They pave the way for us to walk a similar path. Can we turn the other cheek and love our enemies like Jesus asked us? Can we transcend our ego and see all things as one, like the Buddha did?

In contrast are individuals who were not guided by positive role models. In his book "From Wild Man to Wise Man," Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes what he calls “father hunger”: “Thousands and thousands of men, young and old ... grew up without a good man’s love, without a father’s understanding and affirmation.” Rohr, who was a jail chaplain for 14 years, claims that “the only universal pattern I found with men and women in jail was that they did not have a good father.”

Scott Kriens, former CEO of Juniper Networks and founder/director of the 1440 Foundation, concurs: “The most powerful thing we can do for our children is be the example we can hope for.”

3. Transcendence of gender stereotypes All of the compassionate men interviewed broke out of the act-like-a-man box. At a certain point in his life, Dr. Rick Hanson realized that he was too left brained, so he made a conscious effort to re-connect with his intuitive, emotional side. When Elad Levinson, program director for Spirit Rock Meditation Center, first encountered loving-kindness and compassion practices, his first reaction was what he claims to be fairly typical for men: “Come on! You are being a wuss, Levinson. No way are you going to sit here and wish yourself well.” So the actual practice of compassion instigated his breaking free from gender stereotypes.

Dr. Ted Zeff cites a study that found infant boys are more emotionally reactive than infant girls, but by the time a boy reaches five or six years old “he’s learned to repress every emotion except anger, because anger is the only emotion society tells a boy he is allowed to have.” If society restricts men’s emotional spectrum to anger, then it is obvious men need to transcend this conditioning to become compassionate.

Dr. Doty points to artificially defined roles as a major problem in our society because they prevent men from showing their vulnerability. “If you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t love,” says Doty. Vulnerability is a key to freedom from the act-like-a-man box, for it allows men to remove the armor of masculinity and authentically connect with others. 

Both Dr. Doty and Scott Kriens emphasize authenticity as a necessary pathway to compassion. Kriens defines authenticity as “when someone is sharing what they believe as opposed to what they want you to believe.” This opens the door to compassion and true connection with others.

4. Emotional intelligence In "Raising Cain," Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson argue that most boys are raised to be emotionally ignorant: “Lacking an emotional education, a boy meets the pressure of adolescence and that singularly cruel peer culture with the only responses he has learned and practiced — and that he know are socially acceptable — the typical ‘manly’ responses of anger, aggression, and emotional withdrawal.”

In contrast, most of the men I interviewed were “emotionally literate.” They seemed to see and feel things with the sensitivity of a Geiger counter. Tears welled up in Dr. Doty’s eyes a number of times when he talked about compassion. Dr. Hanson explained how he landed in adulthood “from the neck up” then spent a large part of his 20s becoming whole again. Much of Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself training that he developed for the employees of Google is based on emotional intelligence developed through attention training, self-knowledge, and self-mastery.

Similarly, Father Richard Rohr leads initiation groups for young men that force initiates to face pain, loneliness, boredom, and suffering to expand their emotional and spiritual capacity. It is no coincidence that these initiations are held in nature. Nature seems to be an important liminal space that allows boys and men to reconnect with their inner world. Dr. Hanson is an avid mountain climber. Dr. Ted Zeff advocates spending time in nature with boys to allow their sensitivity to develop.

5. Silence Almost all of the men I interviewed regularly spend some time in silence. They’d hit “pause” so that they can see themselves and others more clearly. When our interview approached two hours, Dr. Rick Hanson asked to wrap it up so he would have time for his morning meditation. Meng Tan had just returned from a week-long silent meditation retreat a few days before our interview. Scott Kriens started a daily sitting and journaling practice almost ten years ago that he rigorously practices to this day.

Father Richard Rohr practices Christian contemplative prayer, which he says leads to a state of “undefended knowing” that transcends dualistic, us/them thinking. Rohr argues that true compassion can’t happen without transcending dualistic thinking. “Silence teaches us not to rush to judgment,” says Rohr.

Self-awareness through mindfulness practices like meditation, silent prayer, or being in nature allow compassionate men to embrace suffering without reacting, resisting, or repressing. Thich Nhat Hanh says that mindfulness holds suffering tenderly “like a mother holding a baby.” That poetic image is backed up by more and more research, which is finding that mindfulness can help foster compassion for others.

So the path to making more compassionate men is clear: understand compassion as a strength, get to know yourself, transcend gender roles, look for positive role models — and become one yourself. If that sounds too complicated, 84-year-old Marvin Maurer sums up being a compassionate man in five easy words, “Be in love with love.”

 

Related Stories

06:41 Fox News' Senior Judicial Analyst Falsely Claims Compost Ordinance "Unconstitutional"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

napolitano

Fox News' senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano incorrectly called a Seattle ordinance fining residents for throwing away compostable trash "unconstitutional" -- the United States Supreme Court found in 1988 that garbage placed on the curbside was not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

In September, Seattle's City Council passed an ordinance that would fine residents one dollar if trash collectors observe that more than 10 percent of trash is made up of compostable items:

Under the new rules, collectors can take a cursory look each time they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see compostable items make up 10 percent or more of the trash, they'll enter the violation into a computer system their trucks already carry, and will leave a ticket on the garbage bin that says to expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.

Apartment buildings and businesses will be subject to the same 10 percent threshold but will get two warnings before they are fined. A third violation will result in a $50 fine. Dumpsters there will be checked by inspectors on a random basis.

Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins and Dumpsters with educational tickets starting Jan. 1 when they find violations. But fines won't start until July 1.

On the September 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto,  Andrew Napolitano called Seattle's new ordinance fining residents "unconstitutional," asserting that the searching of garbage is "absolutely prohibited by the Fourth Amendment":

05:09 Economics Daily Digest: Community development banks, the midterm agenda, and NY Federal Reserve» Daily Kos

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

GWU Students Tackling Income Inequality in Their Own Backyard (USA Today)

Campus Network Northeast Regional Coordinator Areeba Kamal profiles the George Washington University chapter's Bank on DC initiative, which asks the university to invest at least $250,000 in a community development bank. It wouldn't cost the university anything, because CDBs have comparable returns to traditional big banks, but could have a big impact on low-income neighborhoods in DC.

Research shows that an investment of $250,000 in a local CDB can create jobs and channel capital to low-income communities at no cost to GWU, simply because CDBs provide more opportunities to low-income families and small business owners than other banks.

Community Development Banks (CDBs) are safe and secure financial institutions, required by the government to invest at least 60% of their funds into low-income communities. They offer comparable, and in several cases, higher rates of return than traditional banks to institutions such as GWU looking to earn interest on cash held. CDBs lend predominantly to low-income homebuyers, small entrepreneur and organizations.

Follow below the fold for more.


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

14:00 Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change and What to Do About It» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Protest helps, but we need to reconstruct the narrative.

As world leaders meet today at the United Nations in New York, they will face intense pressure to act. The discovery that North Korea has been secretly pumping climate-altering chemicals into the atmosphere in an attempt to destroy agricultural production across the US has sparked an international crisis.

That’s not true, of course. There is indeed a summit today, called by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, to discuss dangerous climatic disruption. It’s a disruption that may in fact lead to the collapse of many of the world’s main agricultural regions. But since it’s only dull old global warming, a subject swaths of the public seem to find less interesting than watching paint dry, the politicians don’t have to worry too much about being held to account.

So why can we be confident that the North Korean scenario would lead to rapid political mobilisation while the huge threat we really do face will generate mere empty promises? Why does the former quicken the pulse, and the latter induce widespread indifference? This raises a larger question about our own psychology: why do most people understand that climate change is a major threat yet, when asked to name the greatest dangers to civilisation, still seem unable to bring it to mind?

The primary reason is that our innate sense of social competition has made us acutely alert to any threat posed by external enemies. In experiments, children as young as three can tell the difference between an accident and a deliberate attack. Climate change confounds this core moral formula: it is a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive.

There is no outsider to blame. We are just living our lives: driving the kids to school, heating our homes, putting food on the table. Only once we accept the threat of climate change do these neutral acts become poisoned with intention – so we readily reject that knowledge, or react to it with anger and resentment.

Even worse, climate change appears to contain a royal flush of other qualities that are notoriously hard for our brains to engage with: it requires immediate personal sacrifices now to avoid uncertain collective losses far in the future. The cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel prize for his studies of how irrationally we respond to such issues, sighed deeply when I asked him to assess our chances: “Sorry,” he said, I am deeply pessimistic. I see no path to success.”

I would agree with him if indeed climate change really were uncertain, impossibly costly and located in the far future. It can easily seem so, if that’s how you are determined to frame it. However, many economists, such as Nicholas Stern and Hank Paulson, George W Bush’s former treasury secretary, see it differently. So do the 310,000 protestors who jammed 30 blocks of Manhattan, and the tens of thousands more in London on Sunday shouting with heartfelt conviction that climate change is real, happening now and entirely actionable. For them the real obstacle – memorably represented on one float in New York as a 15 metre-long octopus – is the oil and gas industry and its tentacles of political influence.

And herein lies the real challenge. Climate change can be anything you want it to be. It can be here or there, in the present or the future, certain and uncertain. It seems that we see climate change as a threat – and are therefore able to harness that innate reaction to an external enemy – only once it is poured it into the mould of our familiar stories, with their heroes and villains.

So my fellow advocates for action create this enemy narrative with dramatis personae from our past struggles – corrupt politicians, malignant corporate executives, fat bankers, lazy journalists, slippery lawyers and an apathetic public. All the while, however, our opponents are mirroring these actions. During a raucous evening with members of the Texan Tea Party I was told in predictably blunt language that liberal environmentalists are the real enemy, and that we have invented this scam to extend government control. Like most conservatives, they failed to see that it is climate change itself that poses a threat to their values, freedoms and property.

This tendency to confuse the facts of climate change with the narratives constructed from them is just as common among politicians. I can safely predict that the leaders gathering in New York will stress the urgent need to control greenhouse gases but remain mute about the $1tn a year spent bringing yet more fossil fuel reserves into production. In 25 years of negotiations, no measure to control fossil fuel production has ever been discussed. It does not exist anywhere in the official narrative.

For the general public, too, there are gaps and blind spots. Most people have never discussed climate change with anyone outside their immediate family. A third cannot recall having talked about it with anyone at all. And, counter-intuitively, climate-related trauma seems to make people even more reticent. Speaking to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the 2011 Texan drought and wildfires, I could not find anyone who could recall a recent conversation with their neighbours about climate change. Battered communities, it seems, find strength in the hope of recovery, and actively suppress any disheartening discussion of underlying causes or future threat.

So if we are to really mobilise action on climate change it is vital that we recognise that it exists in two forms: the scientific facts and the far more potent social facts of constructed narratives or deliberate silence. It is the latter that provide the basis on which we accept, deny or ignore the issue, reinforced by our innate need to conform to the norm within our social group.

However, seen in this light, the situation is far from hopeless. Like the cycles that govern global energy and carbon systems, public attitudes are subject to positive feedback effects that can amplify small changes and result in rapid shifts. Strong visible protest and increased media coverage can break the climate silence and create wider engagement. Above all, though, we need to recognise that the narrative we choose will shape what happens from now on. We may continue to fall back on our need for an enemy. But the very best story would be a one of common purpose, based around our shared humanity.

 

 

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methane_pie

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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 […]
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Wed 27 August, 2014

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Wed 02 July, 2014

06:55 Unforced variations: July 2014» RealClimate
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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:

http://peak-oil.org/2013/09/arithmetic-population-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


Source:carboncounter

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

14:56 Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Oral Surgery and Extraction» LiveScience.com
Pulling wisdom teeth easier before 30

Tue 26 February, 2013

14:58 Meerkat Facts» LiveScience.com
They may be tiny, but they can take down a venomous scorpion!
14:32 Gorilla Facts» LiveScience.com
This endangered animal is the largest of the great apes.

Wed 27 January, 2010

12:21 Image of the Day» LiveScience.com
Amazing images every day!
Sources