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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 :

What it’s about now…


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

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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.

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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

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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


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, 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.

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Island Universe

Credit: European Space Agency & NASA

Credit: European Space Agency & NASA

Colleges are full of it

Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media

Tuition is up 1,200 percent in 30 years. Here’s why you’re unemployed, crushed by debt — and no one is helping

Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media

Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School”

* * * *

The price of a year at college has increased by more than 1,200 percent over the last 30 years, far outpacing any other price the government tracks: food, housing, cars, gasoline, TVs, you name it. Tuition has increased at a rate double that of medical care, usually considered the most expensive of human necessities. It has outstripped any reasonable expectation people might have had for investments over the period. And, as we all know, it has crushed a generation of college grads with debt. Today, thanks to those enormous tuition prices, young Americans routinely start adult life with a burden unknown to any previous cohort and whose ruinous effects we can only guess at.

On the assumption that anyone in that generation still has a taste for irony, I offer the following quotation on the subject, drawn from one of the earliest news stories about the problem of soaring tuition. The newspaper was the Washington Post; the speaker was an assistant dean at a college that had just announced a tuition hike of 19 percent; and the question before him was how much farther tuition increases could go. “Maybe all of a sudden this bubble is going to burst,” he was quoted as saying. “How much will the public take?”

Oh, we would take quite a lot, as it happened. It was 1981 when the assistant dean worried in that manner—the very first year of what was once called the “tuition spiral,” when higher ed prices got the attention of the media by outpacing inflation by a factor of two or three. There was something shocking about this development; tuition hadn’t gone up like that during the 1970s, even though that was the heyday of ascending consumer prices.

Yet at that point, the tuition spiral had more than three decades to go—indeed, it is still twisting upward today. But the way we talk about this slow-motion disaster has changed little over the years. Ever since the spiral began, commentators have been marveling at how far it’s gone and wondering how much farther it has yet to run—“the trend can’t continue,” they say every few years. They ask when the families and politicians of America are finally going to get off their knees and do something about it.

But somehow nothing ever gets done. The trend does continue. And for 30 years the journalists who cover the subject have followed the same pointless script. They have hunted fruitlessly for the legitimate expense that they knew must be driving up the prices. They have chased repeatedly after the wrong answers, blaming everybody and everything except for the obvious culprits. They have related to us the politicians’ plans for bringing the spiral to a stop—plans that everyone can see have virtually no chance of succeeding.

And all along, the larger meaning of the spiral is almost never discussed, as though it were contrary to some unwritten rule of journalistic cognition.
Continue reading Colleges are full of it

Drought conditions in California 2014

Ongoing drought-induced uplift in the western United States

  1. Adrian Antal Borsa1,*,
  2. Duncan Carr Agnew1,
  3. Daniel R. Cayan1,2

+Author Affiliations

  1. 1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

  2. 2United States Geological Survey, Water Resources Division, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.
  1. ?*Corresponding author. E-mail:

The western United States has been experiencing severe drought since 2013. The solid earth response to the accompanying loss of surface and near-surface water mass should be a broad region of uplift. We use seasonally-adjusted time series from continuously operating GPS stations to measure this uplift, which we invert to estimate mass loss. The median uplift is 4 mm, with values up to 15 mm in California’s mountains. The associated pattern of mass loss, which ranges up to 50 cm of water equivalent, is consistent with observed decreases in precipitation and streamflow. We estimate the total deficit to be about 240 Gt, or 63 trillion gallons, or equivalent to a 10 cm layer of water over the entire region, or the annual mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet.

  • Received for publication 20 June 2014.
  • Accepted for publication 8 August 2014.

Looking at a monopoly up close…

This is what a monopoly looks like

Customers wait in line at the Comcast Customer Service Center in Washington DC.Timothy B. Lee / Vox

On Saturday, I walked into a Comcast customer service center in order to return a Comcast-owned cable modem. As the picture above shows, the scene was reminiscent of a post office — long lines of disgruntled customers waiting to speak to representatives through bulletproof glass. I wound up spending more than 30 minutes waiting in line — and customers who were doing more than returning equipment had to wait for even longer.

This kind of scene is rare for companies that operate in competitive markets. If customers have to wait in a long line to get service, they’ll switch to another store. But many of us don’t have much choice. Comcast is the only company that offers high-speed internet access at my current address. So I’m stuck dealing with it despite its poor customer service.

The problem goes beyond long wait times at the customer service center. Back in June, I purchased a cable modem to save the cost of Comcast’s rental fee. A Comcast rep promised to send me a box to ship the old one back to the company, but two months later, the box hadn’t arrived. So I figured I’d just drop it off in person.

Unfortunately, Comcast has only a handful of locations to serve the entire Washington DC metropolitan area, and there appears to only be one in the District of Columbia. It’s on Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC. And when I got there around 2 p.m., it was packed with frustrated customers.

check of Yelp shows that I’m far from the only one frustrated by Comcast’s poor service. Out of 236 reviews on the page for Comcast’s Michigan Ave. location, 206 gave Comcast 1 star. While most of the reviews were complaining about installation woes or billing mistakes, a number also complained about the long lines at the center. “Just tell yourself you’re going to the DMV, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” wrote one Yelp user last month.
Continue reading Looking at a monopoly up close…

The most recycled devices in ecoATM’s history are the Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S

ecoATM Collects 3 Millionth Device

Published: 09/13/2014 by BMW

ecoATM (, the nationwide network of automated electronics recycling kiosks, today announced that it has collected more than three million phones, tablets and MP3 players since the company’s founding in 2008. At a time when many consumers are anticipating a possible upgrade to new phones, including the iPhone 6, ensuring the unwanted devices are properly disposed of is just as important as evaluating the cost of getting a new phone.

Since January of this year, ecoATM has processed more than one million devices reaching this latest milestone just eight months after recycling its two millionth device.


New Zealand and snooping

Author: Glenn Greenwald
Monday, September 15, 2014 12:33 AM
Like many nations around the world, New Zealand over the last year has engaged in a serious and intense debate about government surveillance. The nation’s prime minister, John Key of the National Party, has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. This week, as a national election approaches, Key repeated those denials in anticipation of a report in The Intercept today exposing the Key government’s actions in implementing a system to record citizens’ metadata.

Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance.

The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.

If you have doubts, which would be quite reasonable, given what the last year showed us about the dangers of taking government officials at their word, I invite you to confirm this for yourself. Actual pictures and classified documentation of XKEYSCORE are available online now, and their authenticity is not contested by any government. Within them you’ll find that the XKEYSCORE system offers, but does not require for use, something called a “Five Eyes Defeat,” the Five Eyes being the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and yes, New Zealand.

This might seem like a small detail, but it’s very important. The Five Eyes Defeat is an optional filter, a single checkbox. It allows me, the analyst, to prevent search results from being returned on those countries from a particular search. Ask yourself: why do analysts have a checkbox on a top secret system that hides the results of mass surveillance in New Zealand if there is no mass surveillance in New Zealand?

The answer, one that the government of New Zealand has not been honest about, is that despite claims to the contrary, mass surveillance is real and happening as we speak. The GCSB provides mass surveillance data into XKEYSCORE. They also provide access to the communications of millions of New Zealanders to the NSA at facilities such as the GCSB station at Waihopai, and the Prime Minister is personally aware of this fact. Importantly, they do not merely use XKEYSCORE, but also actively and directly develop mass surveillance algorithms for it. GCSB’s involvement with XKEYSCORE is not a theory, and it is not a future plan. The claim that it never went ahead, and that New Zealand merely “looked at” but never participated in the Five Eyes’ system of mass surveillance is false, and the GCSB’s past and continuing involvement with XKEYSCORE is irrefutable.

But what does it mean?

It means they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From “I’m headed to church” to “I hate my boss” to “She’s in the hospital,” the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before they’re ever read by your intended recipient.

Faced with reasonable doubts, ask yourself just what it is that stands between these most deeply personal communications and the governments of not just in New Zealand, but also the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia?
Continue reading New Zealand and snooping

Robert Reich Calls Out Harvard Business School for Its Role in Widening Inequality

The top educator of American CEOs needs to rethink what it is teaching.

by Robert Reich, Sep. 15th, 2014

No institution is more responsible for educating the CEOs of American corporations than Harvard Business School – inculcating in them a set of ideas and principles that have resulted in a pay gap between CEOs and ordinary workers that’s gone from 20-to-1 fifty years ago to almost 300-to-1 today.

A survey, released on September 6, of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni showed them far more hopeful about the future competitiveness of American firms than about the future of American workers.

As the authors of the survey conclude, such a divergence is unsustainable. Without a large and growing middle class, Americans won’t have the purchasing power to keep U.S. corporations profitable, and global demand won’t fill the gap. Moreover, the widening gap eventually will lead to political and social instability. As the authors put it, “any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American.”

Unfortunately, the authors neglected to include a discussion about how Harvard Business School should change what it teaches future CEOs with regard to this “profound stake.” HBS has made some changes over the years in response to earlier crises, but has not gone nearly far enough with courses that critically examine the goals of the modern corporation and the role that top executives play in achieving them.

A half-century ago, CEOs typically managed companies for the benefit of all their stakeholders – not just shareholders, but also their employees, communities, and the nation as a whole.

“The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in a 1951 address, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interest groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large. Business managers are gaining professional status partly because they see in their work the basic responsibilities [to the public] that other professional men have long recognized as theirs.”

This view was a common view among chief executives of the time. Fortune magazine urged CEOs to become “industrial statesmen.” And to a large extent, that’s what they became.

For thirty years after World War II, as American corporations prospered, so did the American middle class. Wages rose and benefits increased. American companies and American citizens achieved a virtuous cycle of higher profits accompanied by more and better jobs.

But starting in the late 1970s, a new vision of the corporation and the role of CEOs emerged – prodded by corporate “raiders,” hostile takeovers, junk bonds, and leveraged buyouts. Shareholders began to predominate over other stakeholders. And CEOs began to view their primary role as driving up share prices. To do this, they had to cut costs – especially payrolls, which constituted their largest expense.

Corporate statesmen were replaced by something more like corporate butchers, with their nearly exclusive focus being to “cut out the fat” and “cut to the bone.”

In consequence, the compensation packages of CEOs and other top executives soared, as did share prices. But ordinary workers lost jobs and wages, and many communities were abandoned. Almost all the gains from growth went to the top. The results were touted as being “efficient,” because resources were theoretically shifted to “higher and better uses,” to use the dry language of economics.

But the human costs of this transformation have been substantial, and the efficiency benefits have not been widely shared. Most workers today are no better off than they were thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. Most are less economically secure.

So it would seem worthwhile for the faculty and students of Harvard Business School, as well as those at every other major business school in America, to assess this transformation, and ask whether maximizing shareholder value – a convenient goal now that so many CEOs are paid with stock options – continues to be the proper goal for the modern corporation.
Continue reading Robert Reich Calls Out Harvard Business School for Its Role in Widening Inequality

Comcast v Tor

(Note: The following was a reply from Comcast related to a blog post stating that Comcast considered any use of Tor to be a violation of their EULA.)

* * * *

Comcast: Report Claiming We Punish Tor Users ‘Wildly Inaccurate’
by Karl Bode 10:30AM Monday Sep 15 2014

A report over at DeepDotWeb claims that Comcast has contacted some users telling them that they risk disconnection if they continue using the privacy-minded Tor browser. Tor (as our recent report explores) is an entirely legal browser used by 1.2 million people, only some of whom use the browser to buy narcotics and other black market goods.

According to the report, Comcast support employees informed a number of unidentified users that Tor “wasn’t legal,” and even demanded to know what sites users were accessing with the browser. The report fails to prove that this is a widespread Comcast behavior as opposed to a few, marginally incompetent first-level support reps. The site goes on to quote a Comcast support representative named “Kelly” who allegedly called a user and stated:


“Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day.”

As the report goes on to note it’s likely not Tor specifically Comcast is targeting, but the fact that users were running relay or exit nodes, therefore technically violating Comcast’s no server restriction in their residential acceptable use policies (something most ISPs have, including the well-loved Google Fiber). Not that this is all that much better, but it is an important distinction from believing Comcast is threatening users simply based on their software preferences.

I reached out to Comcast and was told by spokesman Charlie Douglas that the report is “wildly inaccurate.”

“The anecdotal chat room evidence provided is not consistent with our agents’ messages and is not accurate,” said Douglas. “Per our own internal review, we have found no evidence that these conversations took place, nor do we employ a Security Assurance team member named Kelly.” Douglas proceeded to state that “Comcast doesn’t monitor users’ browser software or web surfing, and has no program addressing the Tor browser. Customers are free to use their Xfinity Internet service to visit any website or use it however they wish.”

Update: Comcast engineering VP (and regular) Jason Livingood also penned this blog post that’s worth a read. The short version:


Our customers can use Tor at any time, as I have myself. I’m sure many of them are using it right now.

* * * *and then came the comments* * * *

(please don your tin foil hat before reading further)

Continue reading Comcast v Tor

Hypothetically speaking…


Oligarchs are not the friend of social democracies

Democracy for sale is no democracy at all.

Author: Steve Fraser, Tom Dispatch
Thursday, September 11, 2014 10:20 AM

* * * *

George Baer was a railroad and coal mining magnate at the turn of the twentieth century. Amid a violent and protracted strike that shut down much of the country’s anthracite coal industry, Baer defied President Teddy Roosevelt’s appeal to arbitrate the issues at stake, saying, “The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for… not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men of property to whom God has given control of the property rights of the country.” To the Anthracite Coal Commission investigating the uproar, Baer insisted, “These men don’t suffer. Why hell, half of them don’t even speak English.”

We might call that adopting the imperial position. Titans of industry and finance back then often assumed that they had the right to supersede the law and tutor the rest of America on how best to order its affairs. They liked to play God. It’s a habit that’s returned with a vengeance in our own time.

The Koch brothers are only the most conspicuous among a whole tribe of “self-made” billionaires who imagine themselves architects or master builders of a revamped, rehabilitated America. The resurgence of what might be called dynastic or family capitalism, as opposed to the more impersonal managerial capitalism many of us grew up with, is changing the nation’s political chemistry.

Our own masters of the universe, like the “robber barons” of old, are inordinately impressed with their ascendancy to the summit of economic power. Add their personal triumphs to American culture’s perennial love affair with business — President Calvin Coolidge, for instance, is remembered today only for proclaiming that “the business of America is business” — and you have a formula for megalomania.

Take Jeff Greene, otherwise known as the “Meltdown Mogul.” Back in 2010, he had the chutzpah to campaign in the Democratic primary for a Florida senate seat in a Miami neighborhood ravaged by the subprime mortgage debacle — precisely the arena in which he had grown fabulously rich. In the process, he rallied locals against Washington insiders and regaled them with stories of his life as a busboy at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. Protected from the Florida sun by his Prada shades, he alluded to his wealth as evidence that, as a maestro of collateralized debt obligations, no one knew better than he how to run the economy he had helped to pulverize. He put an exclamation point on his campaign by flying off in his private jet only after securely strapping himself in with his gold-plated seat buckles.

Olympian entrepreneurs like Greene regularly end up seeing themselves as tycoons-cum-savants. When they run for office, they do so as if they were trying to get elected to the board of directors of America, Inc. Some will brook no interference with their will. Property, lots of it, in a society given over to its worship, becomes a blank check: everything is permitted to those who have it.
Continue reading Oligarchs are not the friend of social democracies

And now for something you will NOT read in the MSM

Why American policy abroad strengthens groups like ISIS.

Editor’s note: On Wednesday night President Barack Obama gave a nationally televised address in which he vowed that the United States would “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

Thirteen years ago, a draft dodger from Texas stood on a pile of rubble in New York City and promised, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Of course, the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center could not hear anybody, as their remains were buried in the rubble beneath Bush’s feet. And our government’s extraordinary relationship with one of the world’s last and most brutal absolute monarchies ensured that any accomplices still in the U.S. were quickly flown home to Saudi Arabia before the crime could be investigated. In 2003, Bush meekly complied with Al-Qaeda’s most concrete demand, that he withdraw U.S. forces from military bases in Saudi Arabia.

A month after September 11, Donald Rumsfeld stood at a podium in front of a $2 billion B-2 bomber at Whiteman AFB in Missouri and addressed the aircrews of the 509th Bomber Wing, before they took off across the world to wreak misdirected vengeance on the people of Afghanistan. Rumsfeld told them, “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.”

Since then, the United States has launched more than 94,000 air strikes, mostly on Afghanistan and Iraq, but also on Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Rumsfeld’s plan has undoubtedly achieved his goal of changing the way people live in those countries, killing a million of them and reducing tens of millions more to lives of disability, disfigurement, dislocation, grief and poverty.

A sophisticated propaganda campaign has politically justified 13 years of systematic U.S. war crimes, exploiting the only too human failing that George Orwell examined in his 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism.” As Orwell wrote, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” Orwell listed “torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians.” The U.S. has committed all these atrocities in the past 13 years, and Americans have responded exactly as the “nationalists” Orwell described.

But some of the horrors of the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan found their way into the conscience of millions of newly war-wise Americans, and President Obama was elected on a “peace” platform and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. To the deep disappointment of his former supporters, Obama has overseen the largest military budget since WWII; an eight-fold increase in drone strikes; special forces operations in at least 134 countries, twice as many as under Bush; and a massive increase in the special forces night raids or “manhunts” originally launched by Rumsfeld in Iraq in 2003, which increased from 20 in Afghanistan in May 2009 to 1,000 per month by April 2011, killing the wrong people most of the time according to senior officers.

Like Eisenhower after Korea and other Presidents after Vietnam, Obama turned to methods of regime change and power projection that would avoid the political liabilities of sending young Americans to invade other countries. But the innovations of Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war have only spread America’s post-9/11 empire of chaos farther and wider, from Ukraine to Libya to the seas around China. Covert wars are no secret to their victims, and the consequences can be just as dire. The U.S. dropped more tonnage of bombs in its secret war on Cambodia than it dropped on Japan in WWII. As Cambodia imploded in an orgy of genocide, the CIA’s director of operations explained that Khmer Rouge recruiting “has been most effective among refugees subjected to B-52 strikes.”

As Western politicians and media breathlessly follow the escalation of U.S. bombing in Iraq, they neglect to mention, or maybe haven’t even heard as Orwell suggested, that Obama has already launched more than 24,000 air strikes, mostly in Afghanistan, with the same results as in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iraq, killing thousands of people and making implacable enemies of millions more. These air strikes are an integral component of Obama’s covert war doctrine, but they are only covert in the sense that they are unreported.

In Libya, the U.S. and its NATO allies launched 7,700 air strikes in a war that killed at least 25,000 people and plunged the country into endless chaos. NATO’s illusory and short-lived success in Libya led to airlifts of weapons and fighters to Turkey, where British special forces provided training and the CIA infiltrated fighters into Syria to try and duplicate the overthrow and butchering of Gaddafi.

The sobering experience of watching a CIA operation in Afghanistan in the 1980s lead to the crime of the new century in New York on September 11 should have led U.S. officials to reject new alliances with Islamist jihadis. But the Obama doctrine embraced the use of Islamist militias to destabilize Libya, providing them with weapons, equipment, training and air support. Leadership on the ground came from Qatar’s mercenary “special forces,” many of whom are veterans of the Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence agency, which works with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These Qatari special forces are part of the Libyan template that was transposed onto Syria, where they embedded with the al-Nusra Front. They and/or their Turkish allies probably trained al-Nusra in the use of chemical weapons for the “false flag” attack that almost triggered another U.S. bombing campaign in 2013.

With U.S. support, Qatar spent $3 billion and flew 70 planeloads of weapons to Turkey to support its proxies in Syria, while its regional rival Saudi Arabia sent volunteers and convicts, and paid for weapons shipments from Croatia to Jordan. Wealthy Gulf Arabs paid up to $2,000 per day to hardened mercenaries from the Balkans and elsewhere. As first al-Nusra and then ISIS established themselves as the dominant rebel group, they absorbed the bulk of the fighters and weapons that the U.S. and its allies poured into the country.

The chaos that Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war has wreaked in Libya, Syria and Iraq should be a reminder of one of the obvious but unlearned lessons of September 11, that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics as proxies to fight secular enemies has huge potential for blowback and unintended consequences as they gain power and escape external control. Once these forces were unleashed in Syria, where they had limited local support but powerful external backers, the stage was set for a long and bloody conflict. But the U.S. and its allies, the U.K., France, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were so committed that they schemed to undermine Kofi Annan’s 2012 peace plan and pledged ever more support, funding and weapons to the rebels as the conflict escalated into a full-blown civil war.
Continue reading And now for something you will NOT read in the MSM

News organizations finally realize Obama’s War Plan is a hot mess

(via The Intercept by Dan Froomkin, Sep. 11th, 2014)

* * * *
President Obama’s plan to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State counts on pretty much everything going right in a region of the world where pretty much anything the U.S. does always goes wrong.

Our newspapers of record today finally remembered it’s their job to point stuff like that out.

The New York Times, in particular, calls bullshit this morning — albeit without breaking from the classic detached Timesian tonelessness.

Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt and Mark Landler (with contributions from Matt Apuzzo and James Risen) start by pointing out the essential but often overlooked fact that “American intelligence agencies have concluded that [the Islamic State] poses no immediate threat to the United States.”
Continue reading News organizations finally realize Obama’s War Plan is a hot mess

Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds

When it comes to controversies about curriculum, textbook content and academic standards, Texas is the state that keeps on giving.


 (via Washington Post by Valerie Strauss – Sept. 10th, 2014)

Back in 2010, we had an uproar over proposed changes to social studies standards by religious conservatives on the State Board of Education, which included a bid to calling the United States’ hideous slave trade history as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” There were other doozies, too, such as one proposal to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin. Some were changed but the board’s approved standards were roundly criticized as distorted history.

There’s a new fuss about proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools that are based on what are called the Texas Essential  Knowledge  and  Skills.  Scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks for Grades 6-12 — undertaken by the Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog and activist group that monitors far-right issues and organizations — found extensive problems in American Government textbooksU.S. and World History textbooks,Religion in World History textbooks, and Religion in World Geography textbooks.  The state board will vote on which books to approve in November.

Ideas promoted in various proposed textbooks include the notion that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality” and that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.

Here are the broad findings of 10 scholars, who wrote four separate reports, taken from an executive summary, followed by the names of the scholars and a list of publishers who submitted textbooks.

The findings:

  • A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.
  • Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.
  • Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.
  • All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.
  • Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.
  • Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with Christian events and doctrine.
  • A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems that exist in capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in the U.S. economic system.
  • One government textbook flirts with contemporary Tea Party ideology, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation arguments.
  • One world history textbook includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.
  • A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.
  • One government textbook … includes a biased – verging on offensive – treatment of affirmative action.
  • Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.
  • Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.


In July, the Texas Freedom Network released a review of the various panels of people who had been selected by the Texas Board of Education to review the proposed textbooks. It said in part:

Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics — including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin — who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.

But the TFN analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels. One reviewer, Mark Keough, a Republican nominee for the Texas House District 15 seat, got an appointment to a U.S. History panel after being nominated by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill. Keough, a pastor with degrees in theology, has no teaching experience listed on his application form. Keough recently retired from a career in car sales to run a ministry in Cargill’s hometown of The Woodlands and to run for office.

In an interview conducted prior to this year’s primary elections, Keough told the Montgomery County Tea Party that he does not “believe that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

Continue reading Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds

We’re not all numb and dumb; but clearly quite a few are

Polls indicate a plurality of American voters don’t understand the issues at all

via Rasmussen Reports Polls

  • A June 2014 Poll of likely voters finds that 56% think thougthful spending cuts should be considered in every Federal program, while 31% disagree, and 13% are not sure.
  • A March 2014 Poll of likely voters finds that just 26% think the U.S. spends too much on the military and national security, while 34% think the U.S. doesn’t spend enough, and 32% think current spending is about right.
  • A March 2014 Poll of likely voters finds that 47% think “tax cuts” help the economy
  • A February 2014 Poll of likely voters finds 61% favor smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.
  • An August 2014 Poll of likely voters shows 52% recognize that the U.S. spends more on defense than any other nation, while 31% believe it does not spend enough.
  • A Sept. 2014 Poll found that 37% of likely voters did not know which political party controls the House and Senate.
  • A June 2014 finds that only 8% of likely voters believe Congress is doing a good job, while 64% rate its performance as poor. Furthermore, only 20% think their own representative in Congress is the best person for the job.
  • From the same June 2014 Poll, only 25% think their Representative deserves re-election, and only 14% think most members of Congress care what their constituents think, with 69% believing most members of Congress don’t care what their constituents think.

via Pew Research Center

  • A September 2014 report shows that 56% believe their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living. Families with incomes over $100k say their income is five times more likely to be rising in the future than those earning less.
  • In a March 2014 Poll, 69% of the public, including majorities of both whites (75%) and blacks (64%), say blacks and whites in this country get along “very well” or “pretty well.” Since 2009, the share of blacks with a positive view of relations between the races has fallen 12 points (from 76% to 64%) while remaining largely unchanged among whites (80% in 2009).
  • The two leading concerns of registered voters is sharply different between the Partys, with Republicans most concerned with “Federal Buget Deficit” (81%), and “Foreign Policy”, (77%); while Democrats are most concerned with “The Environment” (69%), and “Economic Inequaltiy”, 70%.
  • Regarding social hostility involving religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – the study finds that restrictions on religion are high or very high in 43% of Countries, also a six-year high. Because some of these countries (like China) are very populous, more than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.
  • Global levels of social hostility involving religion has increased from 20% in 2007, to 74% in 2012
  • In a March 2014 Poll the overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10% to 21%. And ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

Republicans say no – again

“On Thursday afternoon, Sep. 11th, 2014, a proposal to amend the US Constitution to allow tougher campaign finance and election spending restrictions was blocked in the Senate, in a party-line vote. 54 Democrats voted to advance the measure — another, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would have done so but wasn’t present. However, every single Republican voted against it, and it fell to a filibuster.”

Note: Which follows the voting on the ACA, where not a single Republican in either the House or Senate voted for the ACA. Which follows the House Republicans who voted to shut down the Government in 2013…and threatened to put the U.S. in default – an action which caused at least $3 billion in direct damage, and up to $14 billion in collateral damage.

And yet, Republicans believe they will be re-elected and take over control of both the House and Senate in the mid-term.

Something is terribly wrong with this picture!

* * * * Addendum****

I noted in comments that this record stands in sharp contrast to the Congressional voting record on authorization for the use of Military Force

Richard Pressl Sure, you remember: The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. 107-40, codified at 115 Stat. 224 and passed as S.J.Res. 23 by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. The authorization granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF was signed by President George W. Bush on September 18, 2001. On September 14, 2001 the House passed House Joint Resolution 64. The totals in the House of Representatives were: 420 Ayes, 1 Nay and 10 Not Voting. On September 14, 2001 Senate Joint Resolution 23 passed in the Senate by roll call vote. The totals in the Senate were: 98 Ayes, 0 Nays, 2 Present/Not Voting (Senators Larry Craig – R and Jesse Helms – R).  Source: – 

Are we really still stupid enough to allow any President to have such powers to use at will – especially anywhere in the Middle East – that has not even directly attacked America at home?