Thanksgiving Day 2015


Thanksgiving Prayer
(by Richard – Annualized since 11/27/2008)

Today is a special day, dedicated by our expressed appreciation for the bounty of the laboring earth, and all its inhabitants.

We thank those who gave us life, access to liberty, and by our labors – the chance to make the world a better place.

With reverence we embrace the beauty of our planet, the sole celestial traveler within our local spiral galaxy blessed with life.

We cherish the love of family, the strength of dedicated purpose to lofty goals, and to the intricacies of observation, thought, feeling, and performance we experience each day.

May the bounty we embrace strengthen us in health, wisdom, compassion, and courage.

We give thanks to those precious friends who have passed before us, and remember them anew.

We offer our prayers for all of good heart, and silently hope for God’s justice to any who abuse the innocent.

May you continue to walk in sunlight, and marvel in the blessings we are privileged to experience.

Foreign Policy Review: Nov. 2015: “All of us are in this because the threat is real, not only within the region but also…” everywhere.


By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Action everywhere. While NATO and Moscow scramble to untangle the events of Tuesday, other European countries are considering ramping up the war against the Islamic State in Syria. In an exclusive interview with FP’s John Hudson, Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that her country is considering sending more F-16 fighter planes to help in the bombardment of the Islamic State. “It must be clear to everybody that the fight against ISIL is a fight that cannot be done just by the United States or France,” she said. “All of us are in this because the threat is real, not only within the region but also elsewhere.”

Dutch warplanes have already been bombing targets in Iraq while training Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers, but the F-16 deployment aimed at Syria would be an expansion of their role. The country is far from alone in considering stepping up its role in the wake of the Paris attacks by ISIS operatives, however. On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would seek approval from parliament to conduct airstrikes in Syria for the first time, while offering up British tankers for air-to-air refueling missions for French jets over Syria. Cameron also is seeking permission for French jets to use British air bases in Cyprus to launch attacks against the Islamic State.

BREAKING: Turkey shot down a Russian jet it says violated Turkish airspace on Tuesday, after Turkish officials say they warned the jet to turn around “10 times within five minutes” when it strayed into Turkish airspace. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed  that one of its jets was shot down, but claims that “the aircraft was flying only within the borders of the Syrian territory.” Video footage shows the Russian Su-24 jet falling to the ground in flames, with two parachutes clearly visible. The condition of the pilots is unknown, though an early report from the AP says at least one of the pilots was found dead after an insurgent group in Syria claimed its fighters fired at the pilots as they descended.

The incident realizes one of the early fears about the close proximity of NATO and Russian warplanes operating in Syria since Russia deployed jets to the country in September, and stands as the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO nation in recent memory.

“We warned them to avoid entering Turkish airspace before they did, and we warned them many times. Our findings show clearly that Turkish airspace was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly,” a Turkish official told Reuters.

The incident comes at a moment of increasing tensions between Turkey and Russia, just days after Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador, Andrey G. Karlov, to complain over the bombing of Turkmen villages in northern Syria and Russian military action close to the Turkish border. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was already scheduled to travel to Turkey on Wednesday for talks.

The skies over Turkey have become an increasingly tense place, as Washington deployed six U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters with air-to-air combat capabilities to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey earlier this month to help patrol the skies. The U.S. European Command said the move came “in response to the government of Turkey’s request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace.” NATO has called an “extraordinary meeting” in Brussels after the shooting down of the Russian jet.

More bombs, fewer headlines. In another intensive coalition air war that has largely fallen from the headlines, the eight month-old Saudi Arabian-led effort to oust Houthi rebels from the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa continues apace. The campaign has come under intense pressure from human rights groups for the estimated 2,500 civilian casualties it has caused, which includes hundreds of women and children.

But that bombing campaign wouldn’t be possible without the American warplanes the Arab coalition is flying, the American bombs they’re dropping, and the thousands of flight hours that U.S. tanker aircraft are flying to refuel those jets, FP’s Paul McLeary writes. A look at the numbers the Pentagon supplied to FP shows just how intense U.S. participation is. Since April 5, when American planes took to the skies to help their Arab allies, U.S. tankers have flown 471 refueling sorties to top off the tanks of coalition warplanes 2,443 times. The American flights have totaled approximately 3,926 flying hours while delivering over 17 million lbs. of fuel.
Continue reading Foreign Policy Review: Nov. 2015: “All of us are in this because the threat is real, not only within the region but also…” everywhere.

Rugelach – Holiday Treat done right !


The Holidays are a perfect time to make these mouthwatering morsels, and it is within the skill range of the average person. Instead of going around in circles trying to buy half-way  decent versions, at prices from $10 – 40 per pound, you can do it yourself at a cost of about $2 per pound. Rugelach is also referred to as Rugullah – you will just call them yummies !


8 oz cream cheese, 8 oz unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons powered sugar, 8 oz all purpose flour


Leave butter out to come to room temperature, combine butter, cream cheese and powered sugar together, by hand/wooden spoon. Fold in the flour, hand mix to form a dough. Refrigerate till chilled. Roll out dough into a rectangle on a floured surface. Thickness should be about 10″ x 12″ or thinner. Brush dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with your choice of currants, raisins, nuts, chocolate drops. Then sprinkly lightly with mild cinnamon sugar. Fold top/bottom edges into the center. Cut into small morsels. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake in a 360 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Cool. Then serve when cool, or store in a double ziplock bag, and put in the freezer.


Voter fraud – by machine manipulations

A mathematician may have uncovered widespread election fraud, and Kansas is trying to silence her

8/5/15 2:21pm by 317 on American Blog

 Voting machine, via Wikimedia Commons

Kansas loves them some voter fraud hysteria. From going to the Supreme Court to try and make doubly-sure that non-citizens can’t vote in their elections to setting up a voter fraud website where citizens can report every kind of voter fraud except the kinds that have actually happened in the state, Kansas is on the forefront of voter fraud readiness and protection.

Except, perhaps, when it comes to the machines they use to record their votes.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Wichita State mathematician Beth Clarkson has found irregularities in election returns from Sedgwick County, along with other counties throughout the United States, but has faced stiff opposition from the state in trying to confirm whether the irregularities are fraud or other, less-nefarious anomalies.

Analyzing election returns at a precinct level, Clarkson found that candidate support was correlated, to a statistically significant degree, with the size of the precinct. In Republican primaries, the bias has been toward the establishment candidates over tea partiers. In general elections, it has favored Republican candidates over Democrats, even when the demographics of the precincts in question suggested that the opposite should have been true.

Clarkson’s interest in election returns was piqued by a 2012 paper released by analysts Francois Choquette and James Johnson showing the same pattern of election returns, which favor establishment Republican candidates in primaries and general elections. The irregularities are isolated to precincts that use “Central Tabulator” voting machines — machines that have previously been shown to be vulnerable to hacking. The effects are significant and widespread: According to their analysis, Mitt Romney could have received over a million extra votes in the 2012 Republican primary, mostly coming at the expense of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. President Obama also ceded significant votes to John McCain due to this irregularity, as well.

You can read the paper in full here.

Excerpt: “The probability of such a statistical event happening by chance is a veritable mathematical impossibility. No one has yet provided an acceptable non-fraud explanation to explain such campaign effectiveness as a function of precinct size. “

Continue reading Voter fraud – by machine manipulations

Sen. Sander’s address at Georgetown: Nov. 19, 2015

The full text of Sanders’ address, as prepared for delivery, is posted below.

* * * *

On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a long-planned speech on the topic of democratic socialism at Georgetown University. Here are his prepared remarks, courtesy of the Sanders campaign:


“In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.

He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.

He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.

He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.

He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

That was then. Now is now.

Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than we were in 1937.

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, in America, millions of our people are working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country. Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?,” they ask?

Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.

Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Today, in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later and what I believe today, is that true freedom does not occur without economic security.

People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further.

Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not like simply because their employers are offering them decent health insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago – and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.

Democratic socialism means that if someone works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty: that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States, today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is that?

Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.

Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic, civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by $170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

It is not acceptable that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on those transactions.

Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely. Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end of discussion.

Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

No one understood better than FDR the connection between American strength at home and our ability to defend America at home and across the world. That is why he proposed a second Bill of Rights in 1944, and said in that State of the Union:

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.

And when we discuss foreign policy, let me join the people of Paris in mourning their loss, and pray that those who have been wounded will enjoy a full recovery. Our hearts also go out to the families of the hundreds of Russians apparently killed by an ISIS bomb on their flight, and those who lost their lives to terrorist attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere.

To my mind, it is clear that the United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime, and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing. But we cannot – and should not – do it alone.

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies that do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

After World War II, in response to the fear of Soviet aggression, European nations and the United States established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an organization based on shared interests and goals and the notion of a collective defense against a common enemy. It is my belief that we must expand on these ideals and solidify our commitments to work together to combat the global threat of terror.

We must create an organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century – an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts. We must work with our NATO partners, and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab League.

But let’s be very clear. While the U.S. and other western nations have the strength of our militaries and political systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam, and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations – with the strong support of their global partners.

These same sentiments have been echoed by those in the region. Jordan’s King Abdallah II said in a speech on Sunday that terrorism is the “greatest threat to our region” and that Muslims must lead the fight against it. He noted that confronting extremism is both a regional and international responsibility, and that it is incumbent on Muslim nations and communities to confront those who seek to hijack their societies and generations with intolerance and violent ideology.

And let me congratulate King Abdallah not only for his wise remarks, but also for the role that his small country is playing in attempting to address the horrific refugee crisis in the region.

A new and strong coalition of Western powers, Muslim nations, and countries like Russia must come together in a strongly coordinated way to combat ISIS, to seal the borders that fighters are currently flowing across, to share counter-terrorism intelligence, to turn off the spigot of terrorist financing, and to end support for exporting radical ideologies.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that, in many cases, we must ask more from those in the region. While Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon have accepted their responsibilities for taking in Syrian refugees, other countries in the region have done nothing or very little.

Equally important, and this is a point that must be made – countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE – countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. King Abdallah is absolutely right when he says that that the Muslim nations must lead the fight against ISIS, and that includes some of the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region, who, up to this point have done far too little.

Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event – $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al Nusra and ISIS.

All of this has got to change. Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them. As we develop a strongly coordinated effort, we need a commitment from these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of cooperation that we desperately need.

Further, we all understand that Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator who has slaughtered many of his own people. I am pleased that we saw last weekend diplomats from all over world, known as the International Syria Support Group, set a timetable for a Syrian-led political transition with open and fair elections. These are the promising beginnings of a collective effort to end the bloodshed and to move to political transition.

The diplomatic plan for Assad’s transition from power is a good step in a united front. But our priority must be to defeat ISIS. Nations all over the world, who share a common interest in protecting themselves against international terrorist, must make the destruction of ISIS the highest priority. Nations in the region must commit – that instead of turning a blind eye — they will commit their resources to preventing the free flow of terrorist finances and fighters to Syria and Iraq. We need a commitment that they will counter the violent rhetoric that fuels terrorism – rhetoric that often occurs within their very borders.

This is the model in which we must pursue solutions to the sorts of global threats we face.

While individual nations indeed have historic disputes – the U.S. and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia – the time is now to put aside those differences to work towards a common purpose of destroying ISIS. Sadly, as we have seen recently, no country is immune from attacks by the violent organization or those whom they have radicalized.

Thus, we must work with our partners in Europe, the Gulf states, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all along the way asking the hard questions whether their actions are serving our unified purpose.

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need

Exploiting emotions about Paris

Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS

via The Intercept – by Glenn Greenwald  – Nov. 15 2015, 7:23 a.m.

Whistleblowers are always accused of helping America’s enemies (top Nixon aides accused Daniel Ellsberg of being a Soviet spy and causing the deaths of Americans with his leak); it’s just the tactical playbook that’s automatically used. So it’s of course unsurprising that ever since Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing enabled newspapers around the world to report on secretly implemented programs of mass surveillance, he has been accused by “officials” and their various media allies of Helping The Terrorists™.

Still, I was a bit surprised just by how quickly and blatantly — how shamelessly — some of them jumped to exploit the emotions prompted by the carnage in France to blame Snowden: doing so literally as the bodies still lay on the streets of Paris. At first, the tawdry exploiters were the likes of crazed ex-intelligence officials (former CIA chief James Woolsey, who once said Snowden “should be hanged by his neck until he is dead” and now has deep ties to private NSA contractors, along with Iranobsessed Robert Baer); former Bush/Cheney apparatchiks (ex-White House spokesperson and current Fox personality Dana Perino); right-wing polemicists fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarism; and obscure Fox News comedians (Perino’s co-host). So it was worth ignoring save for the occasional Twitter retort.

But now we’ve entered the inevitable “U.S. Officials Say” stage of the “reporting” on the Paris attack — i.e., journalists mindlessly and uncritically repeat whatever U.S. officials whisper in their ear about what happened. So now credible news sites are regurgitating the claim that the Paris Terrorists were enabled by Snowden leaks — based on no evidence or specific proof of any kind, needless to say, but just the unverified, obviously self-serving assertions of government officials. But much of the U.S. media loves to repeat rather than scrutinize what government officials tell them to say. So now this accusation has become widespread and is thus worth examining with just some of the actual evidence.

One key premise here seems to be that prior to the Snowden reporting, The Terrorists helpfully and stupidly used telephones and unencrypted emails to plot, so Western governments were able to track their plotting and disrupt at least large-scale attacks. That would come as a massive surprise to the victims of the attacks of 2002 in Bali, 2004 in Madrid, 2005 in London, 2008 in Mumbai, and April 2013 at the Boston Marathon. How did the multiple perpetrators of those well-coordinated attacks — all of which were carried out prior to Snowden’s June 2013 revelations — hide their communications from detection?

This is a glaring case where propagandists can’t keep their stories straight. The implicit premise of this accusation is that The Terrorists didn’t know to avoid telephones or how to use effective encryption until Snowden came along and told them. Yet we’ve been warned for years and years before Snowden that The Terrorists are so diabolical and sophisticated that they engage in all sorts of complex techniques to evade electronic surveillance. Continue reading Exploiting emotions about Paris

America is extraordinary, ordinary, and sub-standard

…it just depends on what one considers…

The Good Society – by Lane Kenworth – Jun. 2015

American exceptionalism is one of our country’s most cherished notions.1 There is considerable truth in it: we are different in a number of respects from the world’s other rich longstanding-democratic nations, a group that includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, (South) Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. At the same time, there are a host of ways in which we’re quite ordinary.2

To some, “exceptional” doesn’t just mean different; it means best. To others it means worst. As we’ll see, America is both.

Here is a brief and partial introduction to the United States in comparative perspective. Though it barely scratches the surface, it will give you a sense of some of the ways in which the US is both different and similar, both wonderful and woeful.
Continue reading America is extraordinary, ordinary, and sub-standard

A meeting of minds and hearts

Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: A Conversation Between John Cusack, Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, and Julian Assange

Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00 – by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy, Outlook | Op-Ed

As U.S. Marines search a bazaar in Garmser District for weapons, a sack of material ignites, injuring a marine and sending smoke into the sky on June 2, 2008. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

As US Marines search a bazaar in Garmser District for weapons, a sack of materiel ignites, injuring a Marine and sending smoke into the sky on June 2, 2008. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

“Every nation-state tends towards the imperial – that is the point. Through banks, armies, secret police, propaganda, courts and jails, treaties, taxes, laws and orders, myths of civil obedience, assumptions of civic virtue at the top. Still it should be said of the political left, we expect something better. And correctly. We put more trust in those who show a measure of compassion, who denounce the hideous social arrangements that make war inevitable and human desire omnipresent; which fosters corporate selfishness, panders to appetites and disorder, waste the earth.”—Daniel Berrigan, poet, Jesuit priest.


John Cusack: One morning as I scanned the news – horror in the Middle East, Russia and America facing off in the Ukraine, I thought of Edward Snowden and wondered how he was holding up in Moscow. I began to imagine a conversation between him and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war). And then, interestingly, in my imagination a third person made her way into the room – the writer Arundhati Roy. It occurred to me that trying to get the three of them together would be a fine thing to do.
Continue reading A meeting of minds and hearts

David Foster Wallace – on leaders

DFW considers the leader

via – Nov. 2015

* * * *

In his 2000 essay “Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate,” found in the altogether fantastic Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (public library), Wallace considers the leader.

It is just about impossible to talk about the really important stuff in politics without using terms that have become such awful clichés they make your eyes glaze over and are hard to even hear. One such term is “leader,” which all the big candidates use all the time — as in e.g. “providing leadership,” “a proven leader,” “a new leader for a new century,” etc. — and have reduced to such a platitude that it’s hard to try to think about what “leader” really means and whether indeed what today’s Young Voters want is a leader. The weird thing is that the word “leader” itself is cliché and boring, but when you come across somebody who actually is a real leader, that person isn’t cliché or boring at all; in fact he’s sort of the opposite of cliché and boring.

Obviously, a real leader isn’t just somebody who has ideas you agree with, nor is it just somebody you happen to believe is a good guy. Think about it. A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with “inspire” being used here in a serious and non-cliché way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own. It’s a mysterious quality, hard to define, but we always know it when we see it, even as kids. You can probably remember seeing it in certain really great coaches, or teachers, or some extremely cool older kid you “looked up to” (interesting phrase) and wanted to be just like.
Continue reading David Foster Wallace – on leaders

David Foster Wallace – on writing

David Foster Wallace on Why You Should Use a Dictionary, How to Write a Great Opener, and the Measure of Good Writing

“Readers who want to become writers should read with a dictionary at hand,”Harvard psycholinguist Steven Pinker asserted in his indispensable guide to the art-science of beautiful writing, adding that writers who are “too lazy to crack open a dictionary” are “incurious about the logic and history of the English language” and doom themselves to having “a tin ear for its nuances of meaning and emphasis.” But the most ardent case for using a dictionary came more than a decade earlier from none other than David Foster Wallace.

In late 1999, Wallace wrote a lengthy and laudatory profile of writer and dictionary-maker Bryan A. Garner. A correspondence ensued, which became a friendship, which sprouted a series of conversations about writing and language, eventually published as Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing(public library) – an unparalleled record of the beloved writer’s relationship with language and with himself, and the source of his ideas on writing, self-improvement, and how we become who we are.

At one point, the conversation turns to the underappreciated usefulness of usage dictionaries. Wallace tells Garner:

I urge my students to get a usage dictionary… To recognize that you need a usage dictionary, you have to be paying a level of attention to your own writing that very few people are doing… A usage dictionary is [like] a linguistic hard drive… For me the big trio is a big dictionary, a usage dictionary, a thesaurus – only because I cannot retain and move nimbly around in enough of the language not to need these extra sources.

As a teacher, about 90% of my job is getting the students to understand why they might need one.

Continue reading David Foster Wallace – on writing


…if America first and foremost – and including a bunch of others Nation States –  spent a major portion of the time, effort, talent, and money they waste in death and destruction on outliers to instead improve conditions for their own people, as well as all planetary life, there would not be as much mayhem in society. From the MSM, to the Xbox and Facebook, the specter of killing is all-pervasive: from the seemingly innocuous like killing plants you don’t like with RoundUp, to the daintiness of Drone strikes on a “leading member of XYZ Group”, and all the savagery in-between.

It appears our Government, and many citizens,  do not want to understand what is likely to happen when all this up-armoring, “stand your ground” legislation, police militarization, overseas occupations, foreign aid in the form of military equipment, concealed carry, ready access to handguns, security state intrusions, and drone attacks are all sanctioned, and considered essential to the well-being of society.

I’d like to point to another way: at the Dawn of the Space Age, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I.  Five years later, President Kennedy gave his “Moon Speech” at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962 saying that America had committed to putting a man on the moon, and bring him home safely before the decade was over…and we did that.

Humanity has, on the near horizon, phenomenal opportunities engendered by scientific explorations, including genome sequencing, robotics, and bioengineering which have the potential to do for all planetary life what the space age provided for cosmological, technical, mechanical, and spiritual knowledge and advancement. But as Kennedy pointed out in his speech, the path is not easy, not always evident, and requires skill, effort, sacrifice, and dedication – all of which seem in limited supply around much of the world.
nra The text of Pres. Kennedy’s address follows below:
Continue reading Maybe…

Re: Military Spending & Obfuscation Deluxe

Trying to obtain a realistic view of U.S. Military spending is akin to picking up soft jello. From social media recently came this pie chart:


Which shows current military spending taking up 57% of Federal spending. But this pie chart is only valid for “on budget” – ie: discretionary spending. It does not account for “mandatory” Federal spending which as stated accounts for 60% of all spending, whereas discretionary spending only accounts for 35%. It also does not include items on the “dark budget”, or OCO, (Overseas Occupation Costs), and since the DoD has never, ever provided a detailed accounting of their spending to Congress, which by law they are supposed to do annually, it is difficult to obtain a real picture of the true extent of U.S. Military spending.

Politifacts provided another chart which they claim is more accurate since it shows both discretionary and fixed spending:


However, this chart is fuzzy too for at least two reasons: lumping together Military with Homeland Security disguises actual expenses by each segment – DHS and DoD; and no consideration is given to which are transfers, like Social Security, Education, and Health. For example while the Federal Government pays out money to the Social Security program, the money actually comes from employees and employers, or Education where the bulk of expenses for that segment are paid by State and Local Government,  so are not an equivalent “expense” in the same way that DoD expenses are.

Comparing the various figures provided yields an astonishingly murky picture of spending. For example:

  • the 2015 Gross Domestic Product, GDP, is tagged at $17.9 trillion
  • Federal expenditures for 2015 are estimated at $4.7 trillion
  • Federal spending consists of 60% “Mandatory Spending” and “35% “Discretionary Spending”, with 5% assigned to other spending
  • DoD was granted a ‘DS’ budget of $495.6 billion
  • The DoD funding shown does not include the estimated $58.7 billion on the “dark budget”, nor the $79.2 billion on the OCO, Overseas Occupation-Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, nor the expenses for veterans, or linked accounts at DOE, State, or other agencies.
  • Other reporting shows Military actual spending on the DS budget of $615.5 billion basic, and $181.4 billion veterans
  • Combining all fuzzy numbers provided, the actual Net Military Spending is approximately $1 trillion annually, or 12.7% of GDP, or 27.1% of Federal spending.

Yet, when compared with another chart of Federal spending, provided by Forbes, the picture provided above regarding GDP percentages becomes absurd…12.7% vs 3.5%


While it is clear from all numbers provided, the social media pie chart at the top of the page, assigning U.S. military expenses as 57% of total Federal spending must be false as presented, as there is no claim anywhere that the U.S. Military accounts for $2.1 trillion in expenses per annum. By the same token, the Forbes percentage must also be false, since 3.5% of $3.7 trillion is only $129 billion, or about a quarter of the DoD ‘DS’ 2015 budget.

Thus we can safely return to the combination values obtained earlier: the actual U.S. Net Military Spending circa 2015 is approximately $1 trillion annually, or 12.7% of GDP, or 27.1% of Federal spending.

iPad Pro continues the tradition…

  • iPad Pro Repairability Score: 3 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)
  • The battery is not soldered to the logic board, and can be removed with adhesive tabs, greatly simplifying battery removal. However, the case seal must still be unglued to get to the battery.
  • The Smart Connector port is virtually impossible to replace—but incorporates no moving parts and is unlikely to fail.
  • The LCD and front panel glass are fused together. This slightly simplifies the opening procedure.
  • The fused front panel increases the cost of screen repair, and the risk of damaging the LCD when opening.
  • Gobs of adhesive hold everything in place making all repairs more difficult.


Step 23 – You are going to need these tools


Buy these tools


Note: What I meant about the tradition continuing: –  is these iX devices are all well engineered, and designed to be replaced rather than repaired or upgraded. Replacing the battery in this model is going to be moderately expensive, moderately difficult, and moderately hazardous – (to inflict unintended damage to complementary components). In other words, you are NOT going to go to the “Genius Bar” to have this done! 

iFixit’s Repairability index for both smartphones and tablets is available here.


Is the story of Jesus unique?

5 Near-Identical Jesus Christ Myths That Predate Jesus

I studied history in college, and spent a lot of my time researching ancient civilizations and comparative religions. As an agnostic, I am fascinated by religion and the idea of faith and belief, across all religions spanning the entirety of human existence. Some of the most fascinating projects that I did in college involved comparing ancient mythology to modern religious beliefs, finding similarities and multiple parallels. For example, anyone who has ever read The Epic of Gilgamesh will know that many biblical stories are plucked straight from the story, including the flood myth and the virgin birth myth.

Historians and religious scholars know that religious texts are made up of a series of myths (that’s not to say they are not true, but just that they are mythical stories). These myths appear across different religions and eras, and the same stories repeat themselves over and over again throughout history. Today, I will present to you five near-identical “Jesus” myths that predate Jesus Christ.

Please note that many of these stories have differing translations and interpretations, some of which tell different stories. The main idea of this list is to remind you that the story of Jesus Christ is rooted in ancient myth.
Continue reading Is the story of Jesus unique?

What it’s really like to be an American Soldier







This article (Heartbreaking: Here’s What A U.S Soldier Said When Asked To Justify The War On Terror) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author, Daniel Crimmins,  and
* * * *

‘Many of us are unable. Many of us watched 9/11, and accepted the government and media’s definition of the attack as a act of war rather than a criminal action. A smaller portion, drifting along passively thought a major war was coming, that people we knew were going to fight and die. Some of us maybe worried about our younger brother being drafted, despite being in college.

Now, it seems stupid, but in the 72 hours after 9/11, some Americans, maybe suffering from depression, certainly with a mind shaped by comic books and action movies, ate up the “us vs. them” good vs. evil rhetoric spouted by the cowboy in chief. After all, he was the president, and no matter how bright you might think yourself, you can still be swayed by passion and emotion, led to terrible decisions.

Some of us, therefore, left our dorm rooms, and walked down Main Street to the recruiter’s office. Some of us were genuinely surprised the office wasn’t full to bursting of young men eager to avenge their fallen countrymen. Some of us were genuinely surprised when we had to push the recruiter to stop trying to sell desk jobs and just let us join the damn Infantry.

Some of us got enlisted, then, and went down to Georgia, head high to mask the anxiety and fear they might have helped. Perhaps some number of Americans in this situation discovered that maybe it hadn’t been the best idea, but would be goddamned if they were going to admit it, and let everyone back home smugly remark on how right they were. So they persevere. They learn to work as a unit, to look past personality issues, to see each other as Soldiers rather than as a race, or economic status, or any of the other things people hate about each other. They learn to kill.

Then some of these people, perhaps while sitting hungover in the platoon area in the Republic of Korea hear that we have invaded Iraq. They have “Big Scary Bombs”, and Saddam Hussein, the secular Arab dictator had somehow colluded with the devoutly religious OBL to attack the US. They hated our freedom, you see.

Then some of these young American men might transfer back to Georgia and be assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, and end up in Iraq in January of 2005. And maybe these kids, still drunk on Fox News and fantasies of glory and renown being enough to win their ex-girlfriends back, are excited to go to Iraq. Sure, we hadn’t found any WMDs yet, and we had Hussein in custody, but they were still somehow a threat and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into Jeffersonian democracy. Inside every dirka is a good American, yearning to be free.

So you fight. You kill. Watch friends die. Its usually quick, almost never quiet, but for the rest of your life, when you remember sitting at the bar with them, they’re blown open. You picture the nights you spent downtown at Scruffy Murphy’s, but instead of the stupid hookah shell necklace, your boy’s jaw is blown off, and his left eye is ruined, and he’s screaming.

You fight, you kill, you watch friends die, and you notice a distinct lack of change. You kick in doors and tell terrified women to sit on the floor while you and your friends ransack their home, tearing the place apart, because they might be hiding weapons. There is no reason to believe this house in particular is enemy, same for the next one, and the one after that, or the seven before; they just happened to be there, and maybe they had weapons. Probably not, they almost never did. There were a few times when we had deliberate raids based on solid intel and we’d turn up some stuff, but generally we were just tossing houses because we could.

US Army, Flickr, CC. A soldier receives a medal of honor

US Army, Flickr, CC. A soldier receives a medal of honor

Then maybe your FISTer forgets to carry the remainder, and drops a mess of mortars on the village your supposed to protect. Maybe the big Iraqi running at you screaming was just mentally ill. Of course, you won’t know this until after you’ve but seven rounds through his ribcage, and his wailing, ancient mother is cradling his body, spitting at you.

Maybe when you get back to the FOB, the Platoon Sergeant tells you you did the right thing; next time, it might be a suicide bomber. They tell you it was an honest mistake, it wasn’t your fault. They tell you to go get some chow, take a shower if the water works, and sleep it off. You did good work that day, apparently. During chow, the TV is on AFN, and they are rebroadcasting some Fox News show, and you’re hearing about drone strikes, and all the great things we’re doing, and you can’t help but see that poor dumb assholes face, looking past his mother as he bleeds to death. He’s in pain, obviously, but he has the most perfectly confused look on his face. He doesn’t comprehend what’s happening. Little more hot sauce on your eggs doesn’t really help.

Then you realize you haven’t seen anything to support the idea that these poor fuckers are a threat to your home. You look around and you see all he contractors making six figure salaries to fix your shit, train Iraqis, maintain the ridiculous SUVs the KBR dicks ride around in. You consider the fact that every 25mm shell costs about forty bucks, and your company has been handing those fuckers out like shrapnel flavored parade candies. You think about all the fuel you’re going through, all the ammo and missiles and grenades. You think about every time you lose a vehicle, the Army buys a new one. Maybe you start to see a lot of people making a lot of money on huge amounts of human suffering.

Then you go on leave, and realize that Ayn Rand has no idea what the fuck she’s talking about. You realize that Fox News and Limbaugh and John McCain don’t respect you or your buddies. They don’t give a fuck if you get a parade or a box when you get home, you’re nothing to them but a prop. Then you get out, and you hate the news. You hate the apathy, and you hate the murder being carried out in your name. You grew up wanting so bad to be Luke Skywalker, but you realize that you were basically a Stormtrooper, a faceless, nameless rifleman, carrying a spear for empire, and you start to accept the startlingly obvious truth that these are people like you.

Maybe your heart breaks a little every time some asshole brags about a “successful” drone strike. Your statement is correct enough; if all of America was one dude, that dude would not give a shit about the little brown people we’re burning and crushing and choking to death. We aren’t all like that, but it makes me incredibly, profoundly sad to see what my country actually is. Some of us care, and I think there are more every day.

Crimmins’s reply was originally reported by AnonHQ and Upriser, based on a Reddit thread  posted last year. 
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Opinions, smigpinions, bah


Public/private – academic/corporate partnerships

Note: The following is from a conversation on Facebook


 Robert Coker – 20 hrs · Edited ·

Sharing from my friend Henning Langberg.. We must change the culture of scientific investigation and provide more value to the public.

The University of Virginia’s provost, Tom Katsouleas, once told me that less than one percent, by his estimates, of basic research is commercialized and that there may…

Continue reading Public/private – academic/corporate partnerships

Going to the source…

israel murders 73 year old palestinian

Yesterday, Israeli forces in Hebron assassinated a 73 year-old Palestinian woman who was driving to her sister’s home for lunch.  The Israeli occupation army claimed this was a terror attack and she drove at high-speed towards soldiers who opened fire and “neutralized” her.

The 11 second video above was ‘shot’ by an IDF soldier at the scene wearing a GoPro video camera.  I don’t know how Palestinians managed to get it and upload it to YouTube.  But I can tell you that the IDF is pissed–royally pissed.

Maariv writes:

…The security apparatus is extremely anxious because the video taken by a soldier somehow got to Palestinians.  An investigation will be opened into the matter.

Not an investigation into the murder.  But an investigation of the poor shlub who took the video and allowed it to get into the hands of the “enemy.”

tharwat sharawi

73 year-old Palestinian grandmother, Tharwat Sharawi, murdered by IDF.

The video shows that while the woman drove her car at a relatively high rate of speed she at no point intended to harm any soldier.  The soldiers were easily able to get out of her way as she drove toward them.  If she had wanted to hit them she easily could’ve swerved into them and done so.  She didn’t.

Given her advanced age, she likely didn’t even realize what the soldiers wanted her to do.  Or maybe she was talking on a cell phone or texting and not paying close attention to the road.  There were no signs or markers indicating a checkpoint or that soldiers had established a location for inspecting vehicles.

At any rate, the soldiers wanted her to stop her vehicle and she didn’t.  So they killed her.  It’s as simple as that.  Her family’s claims that she was on her way to lunch with her sister are correct.  And she died for it.

Haaretz now reports that the IDF also claimed that it found a “commando knife” in her vehicle.  If they found any such implement it was probably a paring knife she was going to use to peel fruit for lunch!  But Haaretz says that this report is now considered suspect, as is the claim that the woman’s husband was killed in the first Intifada.  Amos Harel, who is no Gideon Levy on Haaretz’s reporting staff, even says that the video shows the soldiers who killed her cannot legitimately claim they feared for their lives.
Continue reading Going to the source…

The exceptional Charles M. Schulz & Peanuts

“My husband and I keep pertinent Peanuts cartoons on desks and bulletin boards as guards against pomposity.”

For half a century, Charles M. Schulz (November 26, 1922–February 12, 2000) made an art of difficult emotions while delighting the world with his enormously influential Peanuts. The 17,897 comic strips he published between 1950 and 2000 are considered, in the words of cultural historian Robert Thompson, “the longest story ever told by one human being.”

In Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts (public library), beloved graphic designer Chip Kidd offers a guided behind-the-scenes tour of Schulz’s genius. With tremendous reverence and unprecedented access to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Kidd delves into the raw material of Schulz’s creative process — his sketches, his correspondence, rare early editions of his comics, a wealth of previously unpublished artwork, and various never-before-seen ephemera that emanate the singular spirit of this irreplaceable creative force.
Continue reading The exceptional Charles M. Schulz & Peanuts

One by one…

A sad day for public science advocacy

I’ve been at this blogging thing for more than a decade now. Looking back on those years, I find it incredible that I’ve lasted this long. For one thing, I still marvel that there are apparently thousands of people out there who still like to read my nearly daily musings (or, as George Carlin would call them, brain droppings) after all these years. More importantly, being a public advocate for science is a rough business, as I’ve documented over the years. Back when I first started out, I was completely pseudonymous and anonymous. I kept my real name relatively secret. It was less than five months after I started blogging that the doxxing began, starting with a man named William O’Neill of the quack group the Canadian Cancer Research Group, who sent e-mails threatening to sue to my department chair, division chief, cancer center director, and, of course, me. I admit that it freaked me out and almost ended my blogging career right then and there. Fortunately, my chair, the late great Steve Lowry (who is missed) thought nothing of it and supported me.

Since then, every so often someone, be it an antivaccine activist (most commonly) or a cancer quack (less commonly) or an HIV/AIDS denialist (only once) has tried to make trouble for me at work or elsewhere. I’ve gotten used to it. I’m relatively small potatoes, though, and, as I have a demanding day job and can’t go “all in” advocating science, I probably will remain so. When a science advocate’s prominence rises, the attacks from the antiscience side become more relentless and frightening. Paul Offit knows this, having endured death threats from antivaccine activists. Michael Mann knows this, having endured a concerted effort by anthropogenic climate change denialists to discredit him professionally and personally. Edzard Ernst knows this, having been targeted by the Quacktitioner Royal himself. Indeed, he was just awarded the Maddox Prize—and deservedly so!—because of what he’s endured standing up for science. Kevin Folta knows this, having been targeted by the “Food Babe Army,” followers of Vani Hari, who has become the queen of food pseudoscience and fear mongering, for his tireless refutation of her fear mongering about “teh ebil chemicalz” in food and, of course, genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Unfortunately, the pressure has been so great that Folta made this announcement on his Facebook page yesterday afternoon (click to enlarge if the type is too small):
Continue reading One by one…