What was I saying? Was I talking ???

nq141123

Let’s see who they are…

Continuing the expose of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape:

  • Janice Dickinson:
  • Andrea Constand:
  • Barbara Bowman:
  • Tamara Green:
  • Joan Tarshis:
  • Beth Ferrier:
  • 13 un-named former co-plaintiffs

Thus…it was best expressed in a recent article by  in the Atlantic Magazine:

“The heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another. It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.”

Rape

Note: There has been an outpouring of articles on rape lately, fueled in part by the accusations against Bill Cosby – to which I felt it necessary to reply:

———————

“A review of the available research on the incidence of rape cases shows the evidence all over the field quantitatively, for example, with the incidence of unreported assaults, or false claims, which varied from 2% to 48%. What does not vary that greatly is that in about 50% of the cases the alleged attacker and victim were well known to each other, and in about 30% of the cases there was evidence of previous intimate relations. Also at about 30% was the prevalence of alcohol or drug use in the case.

And specifically, as in one case for example, a claim by a woman that she was raped in a car flies in the face of probability as any 50’s teenager with drive-in experience can attest. Rape is a horrific crime but so are a number of other crimes, including white collar crimes that damage millions of people – for years. Punish the guilty; but be careful, color and social position blind, and most of all be accurate in the verdict of culpability! Nor should one think that the victim is always female.

And for the victims: the FIRST stop in legitimate cases should be the trauma center at the hospital, not the police station. Every U.S. hospital has access to “rape kits” which can accumulate evidence in a much more objective manner which can later be used at trial. The trauma center will even contact the criminal justice personnel directly with their findings – upon request. This process only became readily available to Americans since 2009; but it is a significant advance in the fight against sex crimes and violence directed at women, and men. ”

As a person who has at least three extended family members who were victims of sexual assault I have only contempt and loathing for perps who prey on the innocent, sexually or otherwise. If Bill Cosby is guilty of these crimes he should definitely be called to account for them. Unfortunately the recent past, and distant history is full of unfounded charges of sexual assault by black men and boys, especially against white females. While the statute of limitations rules out criminal prosecution for these allegations, there certainly can be legal action brought against Mr. Cosby – which is where this process should go. It should not be carried out in the blogosphere, or MSM; nor be the basis for attempting to refute the contributions Cosby made in performance art in the field of comedy.

Several of our most famous and talented comedians of the past few decades such as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Robin Williams were all ‘wounded warriors’. Now we get to add Cosby’s name to that list.

Warning: Marie Callender’s “Chocolate Satin” pies are junk

When my neighborhood grocery store was out of my favorite fruit pie dessert I purchased a package containing two ‘Marie Callender’s Chocolate Satin’ pies. Big mistake!

The pie is a three layer concoction that seems interesting – until an unsuspecting person actually puts a piece in their mouth. The top layer is a manufactured proxy for whipped cream, the center is a chocolate colored melange, and on the bottom is the kicker: what I, (a professional chef for more than 20 years), can only describe as burnt crumbs combined with charcoal powder.

Even with my iron stomach this creation re-reminded me of the perils associated with consuming processed food. Let’s take a closer look at this adomination.

mc 001

Item: Marie Callender’s Chocolate Satin Pie
UPC: 02113150909
* * * *
ConAgra Foods
PO Box 3768
Dept MC
Omaha, NE, 68103-0768
* * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients in rank order:
———————————–
(more than 2%)
Sugar
Wheat Flour
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
Eggs
Milk
Butter
Soybean oil
High fructose corn syrup
Partially hydrogenated palm kernet oil

(less than 2%)

Cocoa
Palm oil
Cottonseed oil
Sodium caseinate
Salt
Soy lecitihin
Caramel color
Corn flour
Sodium bicarbonate
Whey
Cocoa butter
Beta carotene
Xanthan gum
Chocolate liquor
Mono-and diglycerides
Modified corn starch
Polysorbate 60
Sorbitan
Monostearate
Tetrasodoum phyrophosphate
Sodium alginate
Calcium sulfate
Nonfat drvy milk

Nutritional contents per serving: (% of daily value)
Calories: 380
Total fat: 37%
Saturated fat: 55%
Protein: 5g

mc 003

So even giving the best interpretation to the contents of the pie as stated, a diner would be better off putting a teaspoon of sugar, a tsp of flour, a tsp of corn syrup, a tsp of lard, a tsp of oil, and the scrapings from the spout of a milk jug in a blender and then sup on that! There is no portion of this creation that even qualifies as a viable food product. The fake whipped cream can display it’s perfidy by simply allowing a spoonful of it to air out overnight on the counter, and then be examined. As for the noxious “cake” at the bottom, it simply should not be called edible.
Continue reading Warning: Marie Callender’s “Chocolate Satin” pies are junk

Astrophysics 202: 28 Oct – 6 Nov. 2014

Note: These articles were written by Brian Koberlein who retains all rights to them.

* * * *

Holding It Together

Credit: ESO

Credit: ESO

Astrophysics 202: 15 Oct – 27 Oct. 2014

Note: These articles were written by Brian Koberlein who retains all rights to them.

* * * *

Raising a Glass

Credit: Michael Dunn

Credit: Michael Dunn

Astrophysics 202: 3 Oct – 14 Oct 2014

Note: These articles were written by Brian Koberlein who retains all rights to them.

* * * *

Purcell Rockets

Credit: Andersson, et al.

Credit: Andersson, et al.

Astrophysics 202 Lessons: 25 Sept – 3 Oct 2014

* * * *

Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons

John Oliver addresses “Lottery”

Note: We have written many times about the perfidy of State sponsored, approved, administered, and promoted gambling in the form of lotteries. John Oliver’s show ‘Last Week Tonight’ had a segment entitled:  “Lottery” which aired first on HBO, has been hosted on YouTube, and is available here as a MP4, (244mb),  download.  It covers many of the points we raised – but Oliver gives the topic some LWT force. Check it out…

WoW from Calvin

ch141112

For those who did…

BY ANITA CREAMER – ACREAMER@SACBEE.COM

 10/08/2014 11:57 AM

Jerry Alexander was a Sacramento teenager – the son, nephew and brother of military veterans – when he decided to enlist in the Army rather than wait to be drafted. It was the spring of 1967, a few months before his 18th birthday. He knew he was likely to be sent to fight in Vietnam. “But you’re young, and you want to look for adventure,” said Alexander, now 65 and an officer with Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 500 in the Sacramento Valley. “And I come from a patriotic family.” Almost half a century later, Alexander is disabled, partly as a result of the toxic mists of napalm that rained down on him so long ago in the jungles of Vietnam. Despite his maladies, despite the memories of mistreatment from an alienated American public when he returned home, he’s proud of serving his country. “I felt it was my obligation to serve,” he said. “It was my obligation for being raised here.”
Experts say that sense of responsibility toward the country has faded in the four decades since conscription ended and the all-volunteer military was instituted. On Memorial Day, as America pays tribute to the military members who gave their lives in wars both long ago and recent, the gap between those who serve and those who don’t seems wider than ever. Partly, it’s a generation gap: The younger you are, the less likely you are to have participated in military service, or even be closely related to someone who was called on to serve. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans have an immediate family member who was in the military – but only one-third of them are below age 30. Military service was for decades a common bond among American men, and military families were commonplace.
In 1970, U.S. Census figures show, roughly half of the Sacramento region’s civilian male adults had served in the military. That share had dropped to one in six by 2012. Today, only 4 percent of Sacramento men aged 18 to 40 are veterans, compared with 54 percent of men 65 and older. Serving wasn’t an option widely available to women until after the draft ended in 1973. Similarly, across the country, only 13 percent of adults – and almost one-quarter of men – are veterans. Among American men in their late 20s, who came of service age in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, only 12 percent have served.
“There seems to be a total lack of public awareness of the sacrifices that previous generations have made and those that have been made these past 12 years,” said Linda Smith, 66, of Woodland. She helps run Yolo Military Families, which provides support for service members’ parents and spouses. Her son, Jason Smith, now 34, served two tours in Iraq. “People aren’t connecting,” she said. “They’re detached.” Beyond the generational shifts, several decades’ worth of military base closures across the country, including all three of Sacramento’s installations, have reduced the public’s day-to-day acquaintance with service people and military retirees. And the raw number of service people is lower: Technology allows the United States to maintain the world’s most dominant and skilled military with far fewer people. About 16 million military personnel served in World War II; by comparison, there are 1.5 million Americans in uniform today.

Continue reading For those who did…

Life – as a clip from a movie

motivatorc9e4b66a11df66a47d6b93d99176b77d1f6aa32e

An eBay Seller’s lament

Suppose you were a human resource pro charged with hiring bright prospects for your team; but one stipulation demanded by your administrative staff was to accept everyone who applied, and if an applicant was not hired and subsequently complained about it to management, the HP person would be fired.

The feedback process on eBay is a lot like that, in that sellers cannot record anything neutral or negative about a buyer’s actions in a transaction; but buyers are allowed, in fact encouraged, to say something about the transaction, and since most feedback and comments on commercial networks are performed by people who were unhappy about something in the process, the likelihood of invalid negative responses by buyers is a real concern.

For the majority of the twenty year life-cycle of eBay both buyers and sellers were permitted, and encouraged, to leave positive, neutral, or negative feedback on each other; but in eBay’s attempt to escape liability on its services, it changed the process so sellers could only leave positive feedback on a buyer, regardless of how abusive, nasty, crude, or manipulative a buyer was in the auction.

Continuing the what I call “Seller abuse”, eBay has not made it possible for Sellers to control bidding access to their items in any meaningful manner. eBay will allow a Seller the option to prevent the most egregious buyers from bidding on a Seller’s item, but only if the potential buyer has a -1 bidding history, or other obvious performance failures.

But as any Seller with high demand/high value items knows well, there will be many times a Buyer with zero feedback will win the auction, but had no ability or intent to pay for the purchase, or they will waste the Seller’s time with meaningless messaging about the product, delivery, etc. I am a Seller with a 100% satisfaction rating on two eBay accounts, and have sold on eBay since 1996 with about 10k+ listings/sales; but still must permit a twit who just opened an account on eBay yesterday to “play big” and bid on one of my items. There also appears to be a direct connection between buyers who leave negative feedback and their use of eBay: ie, we have detected that in every case where a buyer left us negative feedback they were only buyers…they never sold anything on eBay! Thus I’d like to be able to limit buyers to those with at least twenty successful transactions, have not left negative feedback more than once per hundred transactions, and have sold at least one item. I can’t do that now on eBay.

That is a major flaw in the eBay system, at least as seen by Sellers. But since eBay gets to charge Sellers listing and closing fees when an auction closes they can hold onto several million dollars in fees that will ultimately be erased when the twit buyer does not pay for the item…but not after the Seller is forced to track this administratively.

Since Sellers pay all of eBay’s fees, one would think they would treat Sellers as a favored client – but no, that is not their orientation.

For me, the only balancing act eBay could perform to recreate the original Omidyar format would be to amend the feedback so buyers and sellers could leave accurate feedback on their experiences in the transactions; and to permit sellers the ability to regulate participation in their auctions.

A new addition to the Seller abuse is the notion that buyers can make a claim that an item “has a problem”, which as specified by eBay then requires the Seller to pay for return shipping on the claimed “problem” item. This is a new one on me – never seen it before – and am adamantly opposed to it. Again, remember, we have a 100% satisfaction record on two eBay accounts, so it’s not like we are crooks looking for an edge in transactions. The antiquated notion that “the buyer is always right” is bull shit, and the real bull shit experts know precisely how to game eBay and disadvantage Sellers in the process.

Wiley’s Non-Sequitur describes a political orientation

nq141022

Pay attention to the CDC information on ebola

Note: As typically happens when people are exposed to danger and uncertainty they readily become irrational, defensive, and resort to extreme behaviors and antisocial activities.  The ebola virus outbreak is a prime example, where charlatans, quacks, and those with a need to blame someone are engaging in inappropriate and frequently counter-productive thought and action. Some on the political fringes are taking the outbreak as a justification for dumping their fears onto the entire black population in West Africa; asserting without proof that ebola came into the human population via people who ate “bush meat”.

Ebola has been encountered in bats, primates, and humans; and the latest episode suggests the originator was a single infected individual in Guinea, or Sierra Leone, who most likely contracted the virus from a bat bite.

Regardless, everyone is encouraged to keep up with the developments of the outbreak by monitoring official information from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, in Atlanta. The ULR for this information is :

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/about.html

What it’s about now…

noj

The corporate university system

Author:Noam Chomsky, Noam Chomsky’s Official Site

Wednesday, October 08, 2014 3:30 PM

There’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students in the last 30-40 years.

The following is an edited transcript (prepared by Robin J. Sowards) of remarks given by Noam Chomsky last month to a gathering of members and allies of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, Penn.

On hiring faculty off the tenure track

That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Walmart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line.

The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities.

The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health.

At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more.

That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.

That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management — a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination.

And the same is true in universities. In the past thirty or forty years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up.

There’s a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration — and of course, very highly-paid administrators. This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now they’re mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.

But using cheap and vulnerable labor is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education.

The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But it’s a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying “We love you, here’s a menu.” Maybe the menu has what you’re looking for, maybe it doesn’t. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says “Please stand by, we really appreciate your business,” and so on.

Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That’s what economists call “efficiency.” By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course, it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormous — but that’s not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere.
Continue reading The corporate university system

Enter the non-disparaging clauses in product and service contracts

Author: Sage McHugh, AlterNet
Saturday, October 04, 2014 7:49 PM
‘Non-disparagement’ clauses are quietly being slipped into contracts to prevent negative reviews.

Customers may unknowingly sign away their right to free speech by accepting the terms of service without reading the fine print. To prevent consumers from posting negative reviews, some companies are slipping non-disparagement clauses into contracts. If users post bad reviews online, even accounts that are completely truthful, they could be sued for violating the terms of these so-called agreements.

Companies do have the right to sue people for disparaging reviews if they are false. The issue at hand is whether a company can sue a client for posting a negative review that is true. As of now, litigation is largely determined on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis.

Recent Cases in the News
Continue reading Enter the non-disparaging clauses in product and service contracts

Real and imaginary numbers

Author: Gary Reber
Thursday, October 09, 2014 1:22 AM

On September 12, 2014, Wolf Richter writes on Wolf Street:

It’s hard these days to worry about inflation amidst a maelstrom of voices claiming that there isn’t enough inflation to begin with, and that the world will end if prices stop rising even for a moment. Whatever inflation we may encounter in daily life, whether for healthcare, tuition, beef, gas, or cars, we’re told not to worry about it because the higher prices are either annulled by an elegant scheme called hedonic regression, or they’re only temporary, or the amounts are too small to impact the overall budget.

But when it comes to housing, which now accounts for 33.6% of what Americans spend [What’s Draining American Wallets? Interactive Chart], none of these excuses fly. Because inflation in housing has been red-hot.

Actually, it hasn’t been red-hot, the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures it. Its Consumer Price Index contains two housing components: “Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence” (OER) and “Rent of primary residence” (Rent). They purport to measure the cost of “shelter,” which is the “consumption item” that a home provides and is thus included in the CPI. The cost of the home itself and any improvements to the home are considered an “investment,” not consumption, and therefore not part of the CPI.

Owners’ equivalent rent accounts for 23.83% of the CPI and rent for 5.93%, for a combined weight in the CPI of about 30%. It is by far the largest and most important component.

Inflation in these two categories was contained, as they say at the Fed. In July, owners’ equivalent rent rose 2.7% and rent rose a minuscule 1.0%.

And in reality?

Home prices rose 8.2% over the 12 months through June 2014 and 12% for the prior 12-month period, according to the Case Shiller 20-City Index. A far cry from the government-sanctioned owners’ equivalent increase of 2.7%.

And rents? They rose on average 6.3% in August from a year earlier, according to Trulia, with double-digit gains in five of the 25 largest rental markets: in Sacramento, rents soared 14.9%. In San Francisco, where the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is now $3,500, they jumped 14.5%. That $3,000 apartment a year ago would now cost an additional $435 a month, or an additional $5,220 a year! No inflation, no problem. In Oakland, rents jumped 14.4%; in Denver, 13.1%; in Miami 11.3%. In the 25 largest rental markets, rents soared on average 10%.

How can our trusty government be so far off the mark?
Continue reading Real and imaginary numbers

More than just numbers

Author:Paul P. Mealing – Wednesday, October 08, 2014 6:15 AM

* * * *

I’ve just read John D. Barrow’s Pi in the Sky, published in 1992, and hard to get, as it turns out. I got a copy through Amazon UK, who had one in stock, and it’s old and battered but completely intact and legible, which is the main thing.

Those of you who regularly read my blog (not many of you, I suspect) will know that I’ve read lots of Barrow’s books, possibly The Book of Universes is the best, which I reviewed in May 2011.

Pi in the Sky is a very good title because it alludes to the Platonist philosophy of mathematics that seems to dominate both mathematics and physics as it’s practiced, in contrast to how many of its practitioners would present it. Barrow points out, both in his introduction and his concluding remarks (after 250+ pages), that Platonism has religious and mystical connotations that are completely at odds with both mathematics and science as disciplines.

He points out that there is a divide between mathematicians and physicists and economists and sociologists in the way they approach and view mathematics. For the economist and sociologist, mathematics is a tool that humans invented and developed, which can be applied to a range of practical applications like weather forecasting, economic modelling and analysis of human behaviours.

On the other hand, pure mathematicians and physicists see an ever-increasing complex landscape that has not only taken on an existence of its own but is becoming the only means available to understanding the most secret and fundamental features of the universe, especially at the extremities of its scale and birth.

This is an ambitious book, with barely an equation in sight, yet it covers the entire history of mathematics from how various cultures have represented counting (both in the present and the ancient past) to esoteric discussions on Godel’s theorem, Cantor’s transfinite sets and philosophical schools on ‘Formalism’, ‘Constructivism’, ‘Intuitionism’ and ‘Inventism’. Naturally, it covers the entire history of Platonism from Pythagoras to Roger Penrose. It’s impossible for me to go into any detail on any of these facets, but it needs to be pointed out that Barrow discusses all these issues in uncompromising detail and seems to pursue all philosophical rabbits down their various warrens until he’s exhausted them.

He makes a number of interesting points, but for the sake of brevity I will highlight only a couple of them that I found compelling:

‘Once an abstract notion of number is present in the mind, and the essence of mathematics is seen to be not the numbers themselves but the collection of relationships that exists between them, then one has entered a new world.’

This is a point I’ve made myself, though I have to say that Barrow has a grasp of this subject that leaves me well behind in his wake, so I’m not claiming any superior, or even comparable, knowledge to him. It’s the relationships between numbers that allows algebra to flourish and open up doors we would never have otherwise discovered. It is the interplay between ingenious human invention and the discovery of these relationships that creates the eternal philosophical debate (since Plato and Aristotle, according to Barrow): is mathematics invented or discovered?

One cannot discuss this aspect of mathematics without looking at the role it has played in our comprehension of the natural world: a subject we call physics. Nature’s laws seem to obey mathematical rules, and many would argue that this is simply because we need to quantify nature in order to study it, and once we quantify something mathematics is automatically applied. This quantification includes, not just matter, but less obvious quantifiable entities, like heat, gravity, electromagnetism and entropy. However, as Barrow points out, the deeper we look at nature the more dependent we become on mathematics to comprehend it, to the point that there is no other means at our disposal. Mathematics lies at the heart of our most important physical theories, especially the ones that defy our common sense view of the world, like quantum mechanics and relativity theory.
Continue reading More than just numbers

ISIS in Washington

America’s Soundtrack of Hysteria 

Astrophysics Lessons 202: 18-25 Sept. 2014

Note: All these articles were written by Brian Koberlein who retains all rights to them.

* * * *

Yes, Virginia, There Are Black Holes

Actual image of a black hole in NGC 4261. Credit:  NASA/H. Ford

Actual image of a black hole in NGC 4261. Credit: NASA/H. Ford

Oceans warming twice as fast as previously thought

Oceans Getting Hotter Than Anybody Realized

Published: October 5th, 2014

By John Upton

The RV Kaharoa motored out of Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, loaded with more than 100 scientific instruments, each eventually destined for a watery grave. Crewmembers will spend the next two months dropping the 50-pound devices, called Argo floats, into the seas between New Zealand and Mauritius, off the coast of Madagascar. There, the instruments will sink and drift, then measure temperature, salinity and pressure as they resurface to beam the data to a satellite. The battery-powered floats will repeat that process every 10 days — until they conk out, after four years or more, and become ocean junk.

Under an international program begun in 2000, and that started producing useful global data in 2005, the world’s warming and acidifying seas have been invisibly filled with thousands of these bobbing instruments. They are gathering and transmitting data that’s providing scientists with the clearest-ever pictures of the hitherto-unfathomed extent of ocean warming. About 90 percent of global warming is ending up not on land, but in the oceans.

An Argo float. Credit: Alicia Navidad/CSIRO.

Research published Sunday concluded that the upper 2,300 feet of the Southern Hemisphere’s oceans may have warmed twice as quickly after 1970 than had previously been thought. Gathering reliable ocean data in the Southern Hemisphere has historically been a challenge, given its remoteness and its relative paucity of commercial shipping, which helps gather ocean data. Argo floats and satellites are now helping to plug Austral ocean data gaps, and improving the accuracy of Northern Hemisphere measurements and estimates.

“The Argo data is really critical,” said Paul Durack, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher who led the new study, which was published in Climate Nature Change. “The estimates that we had up until now have been pretty systematically underestimating the likely changes.”

Durack and Lawrence Livermore colleagues worked with a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist to compare ocean observations with ocean models. They concluded that the upper levels of the planet’s oceans — those of the northern and southern hemispheres combined — had been warming during several decades prior to 2005 at rates that were 24 to 58 percent faster than had previously been realized.
Continue reading Oceans warming twice as fast as previously thought

IC: blow up, blow out, blow back

How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century

By Tom Engelhardt – Sep. 30th, 2014

* * * *

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 board hundreds 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 rubberstamp them — 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 undoubtedly spy 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 approximately 400,000 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.
Continue reading IC: blow up, blow out, blow back

Register to vote by not later than Oct. 6th…

We have until Monday to get you and your loved ones registered as a Georgia voter.

You can register online at MyGAVote.com.

 

This is a pivotal moment for our state. Don’t let others steal your right to vote.
 
If you are not registered as a Georgia voter – your deadline is Monday, October 6. You can register online at MyGAVote.com, register in person at your local county elections office, or download and mail in a registration form here. Again, you must register by this coming Monday.
If you are registered – Advance voting begins October 13. Find information on advance voting in your county by going here. Remember, there are a number of counties that are now offering Sunday voting. Find out if your county is participating in Sunday voting here.
Progressive candidates are counting on you. Don’t let them down.

Make sure you are registered, make sure your friends and family are registered, then get out there and vote!

We need to use another name for them

The group currently going by the title: ISIS or ISIL is functioning under a false name, as they are neither a State nor primarily adherents of the traditional 21st century Muslim faith. Rather they are a collection of radical fundamentalists who use violence over innocents to attain their objectives of redrawing national borders and subjugating those within its borders to adhere to a sixteenth century interpretation of Muslim orthodoxy.

The Washington Post and others have suggested other titles, but I’d like to offer my own: Radical Islamic Fundamentalists Employing War and Terror {to Create a Caliphate in the Middle East}. Or in short: RIFEWT’s, which rhymes with REFUTES:  transitive verb: an attempt to deny the truth or accuracy of an argument or evidence, frequently using proclaimed truths.6-28-14-ISIS-shoots-captured-soldiers_full_600

On being

beingMany of us suffer an inner anguish related to our moral uncertainty, as the anguish demonstrates a personal feeling of uneasy responsibility over the choices one makes throughout life. Without an emphasis on personal choice, one may make use of an external moral system as a tool, for example: to escape blame, or to moralize otherwise immoral acts, both or which lead to a negation of the self, and a reliance on the wisdom of others.

Accordingly, dedicated professionals of their respective moral codes – priests interpreting sacred scriptures, lawyers interpreting the Constitution, doctors interpreting the Hippocratic oath – should, instead of divesting the self of responsibility in the discharge of one’s duties, be aware of one’s own significance in the process.

This recognition involves the questioning of the morality of all choices, taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choice and therefore; a constant reappraisal of one’s own and others’ ever-changing humanity. One must not exercise bad faith by denying the self’s freedom of choice and accountability. Taking on the burden of personal accountability in all situations is an intimidating proposition – but a necessary prerequisite for an honorable existence as an individual.

(based on an entry in Wikipedia – 2014)

On being a woman…

“I am come, young ladies, in a very moralizing strain, to observe that our pleasures of this world are always to be for, and that we often purchase them at a great disadvantage, giving readi-monied actual happiness for a draft on the future, that may not be honoured.”

-- Jane Austen

Here’s why we’re hurting

The most important chart about the American economy you’ll see this year

Pavlina Tcherneva’s chart showing the distribution of income gains during periods of economic expansion is burning up the economics internet over the past 24 hours and for good reason. The trend it depicts is shocking:

(Pavlina Tcherneva)

For a long time, most of the gains from economic growth went to the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution. And, after all, the bottom 90 percent includes the vast majority of people. Since 1980, that hasn’t been the case. And for the first several years of the current expansion, the bottom 90 percent saw inflation-adjusted incomes continue to fall.

The data series ends in 2012 and we don’t know how long the expansion will last, so that negative income trend may evaporate before all is said and done. But unless there’s a massive break with the previous three expansions we will continue to have an economy where the typical family’s living standards grow much more slowly than GDP growth per se would allow.

Astrophysics Lessons 202: 11-17 Sept 2014

Note: These articles were written by Brian Koberlein who retains all rights to them.

* * * *

Island Universe

Credit: European Space Agency & NASA

Credit: European Space Agency & NASA