Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From The New York Times


Don’t Stop the Debates

Senator John McCain spoke for many nervous Republicans on Sunday when he said it’s time to “stop the debates.” They’ve turned into mud-wrestling contests, he said on “Meet the Press” on NBC, and are driving up negative impressions of the party’s presidential candidates.

Mr. McCain, who knows something about unfavorable ratings, is right that the 19 debates so far have left an increasingly sour taste in voters’ mouths. Since the debates began, the popularity gap has grown between the leading Republican candidates and President Obama. 

But that’s not simply because the candidates have increased the intensity of their attacks on each other, nor is it curable by cutting back the mud-fighting, as Mr. McCain suggests. It’s also because voters have been exposed to the broken windows of the Republican idea factory. The value of debates is to put the candidates on stage to air their ideas. If voters find them dishonest and divisive, the Republicans are getting the wrong message if they think all they have to do to fix that is to stop talking so much. 

Consider some of the “bold ideas” the country learned about in just the last two debates in Florida, leading up to Tuesday’s primary there. 

Newt Gingrich wants to build a lunar colony on the moon in just eight years, and he seems to believe that the private sector can be induced to pay for it. He wants to convene a “gold commission” to get the country back to hard money, which would shackle the economy to a single commodity. He wants to end multilingual ballots (disenfranchising millions), promote an uprising in Cuba and end the capital gains tax, which would allow millionaires to pay less of their income to the government than the minimum they pay now. 

Mitt Romney promised to get millions of illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” apparently by making their lives miserable. He would veto the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant college students and military service members. He would refuse to extend any government help to struggling homeowners, while repealing the Dodd-Frank law that finally regulated the banking practices that led to the housing crisis. 

The debates that Mr. McCain so deplores also gave voters a taste of the incompetent candidacies of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, helping to put an end to them. They have properly marginalized Ron Paul and his cranky libertarianism. 

And they have given Rick Santorum repeated opportunities to point out that Mr. Romney’s bellicose opposition to “Obamacare” is an almost comical contradiction to his support for the same idea in Massachusetts when he was governor there. (Mr. Santorum’s strong debate performances haven’t given him much recent traction in the primaries, though.) 

Most of all, the debates have shown the complete lack of interest by all the Republican candidates in the issues of economic fairness. While the candidates argue over their investments and their complex tax returns and who can cut taxes for the rich the most, the contrast to Mr. Obama’s newfound voice on shared responsibility could not be more clear. 

The long series of debates are an open window onto the failed policies and dubious values of the Republican Party. No wonder some people want to close it. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Alyssa talking backwards

If this does not blow your mind, I don't know what will.

From LiveScience

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Date: 26 January 2012 Time: 10:29 AM ET
There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy ahead
The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life's Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]
In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.
"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A study of averages

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.

Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.

"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple viewpoints

Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

From Rachel Maddow Show

Jimmie Rodgers

In December of 1967 Jimmie Rodgers was severely assaulted by an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer on the San Diego Freeway in Southern California, fracturing his skull. He later sued the LAPD and settled out of court for $200,000. The reason for the assault has never been established. Within a year or so it seemed that he had recovered from his injuries. However, years later he was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia

From the New York Times

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws. 

Color China Photo, via Associated Press
An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS After a rash of apparent suicide attempts, a dormitory for Foxconn workers in Shenzhen, China, had safety netting installed last May. Foxconn said it acted quickly and comprehensively to address employee suicides.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day. 

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose. 

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up. 

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history. 

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems. 

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors. 

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.” 

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others. 

Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded. 

And Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports, in many cases, are the first to report abuses. This month, for the first time, the company released a list identifying many of its suppliers.
But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist. 

“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred.
“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests,” he said. 

Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more. 

Executives at other corporations report similar internal pressures. This system may not be pretty, they argue, but a radical overhaul would slow innovation. Customers want amazing new electronics delivered every year. 

“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.” 

“If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?” the executive asked. 

To read the entire article click here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

From NPR (Etta James)

January 20, 2012
The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta's name and reversed it: Etta James.

Her talent was discovered when she was 14 — the same age her mother was when James was born. Within three years, the foster-home runaway had her first hit, with the girl group The Peaches. Back then, "Roll With Me Henry" was deemed too racy for radio, "roll" being a sexual euphemism.

Etta James was still a minor when she toured with Little Richard. Then, she signed with leading blues label Chess Records and bleached her hair platinum blond.

"What I was doing was trying to be a glamour girl," she told NPR's Fresh Air in 1994. "Because I'd been a tomboy, and I wanted to look grown and wanted to wear high-heeled shoes and fishtail gowns and big, long rhinestone earrings."

Darkness Beneath The Joy

James had grit in her voice that could melt like sugar or rub like salt in a wound. Between 1960 and 1963, she had 10 records on the R&B charts, including "Something's Got a Hold on Me."
Darkness runs beneath that joy — as does anger, says David Ritz, who wrote a biography of James.

"It isn't like she sings that song," Ritz says. "Sometimes, you feel she was going to war with the song."

By the mid-1960s, James was into hard drugs, and her career hit the skids. She bounced checks, forged prescriptions and stole from her friends. A judge finally gave her a choice: prison or rehabilitation. In 1974, she spent months in recovery at a psychiatric hospital.

"I was around nothing but a lot of white kids," James told Fresh Air. "They were all younger than I was. I remember on Saturdays, they would play rock 'n' roll records and I would say, 'That music is really happening.' My song, 'I'd Rather Go Blind' — they had a version by Rod Stewart, and they kept saying, 'This is the song you wrote!' And I'd say, 'All right!' "

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones sent James a letter while she was in rehab and invited her to tour with the band if she stayed clean. In 1978, she joined the Stones on tour. By the '90s, she'd reached a new generation of fans and won a Grammy. The next challenge was jazz.

"[Jazz] was too disciplined and too confining," James said on Fresh Air. "I thought you had to be bourgeois to do that. I was a sloppy kid, wanted to be just wild. I think it took me maturing."

James said making her tribute to Billie Holiday, 1994's Mystery Lady, also honored her mother, who loved both Holiday and jazz. She said it helped make peace with the woman she idolized, and who had abandoned her.

It's often said of Etta James that you could hear her whole life in her voice. James told NPR in 1989 that that made sense, though she mostly sang for herself.

"When I sing for myself, I probably sing for anyone who has any kind of hurt, any kind of bad feelings, good feelings, ups and downs, highs and lows, that kind of thing," she said.

Etta James went to extremes, and owned them in her life, and in her music.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Remembering Dr. King

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The image of him lying there mortally wounded on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel will forever be etched in my memory.

Dr. King’s March on Washington five years earlier was not merely for African-American’s civil rights. It was a campaign to confront the inequalities that existed then between the haves and the have-nots in jobs, wages and housing throughout our nation.

He had come to Memphis in support of a strike by eleven hundred African-American sanitation workers who had walked off their jobs after two of their co-workers had been crushed to death by a garbage truck's compactor. Their strike had been met with a great deal of opposition and violence.

Weeks earlier Dr. King had gone there for meetings and to lead a march through the streets of Memphis. The rally had ended in hostility. Upset by the violence, Dr. King returned to Memphis to try and bring a peaceful end to the enmity. The night before his death, he made his prophetic "Mountaintop" speech:
"Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!" 
The next day he was murdered. Eventually, the strike was settled. Begrudgingly, the garbage men's union was recognized by the city of Memphis. Their pay was increase by a mere 15 cents.

Though much has changed for the better, economically the disparities and injustices that exist today are perhaps even more profound. The recent economic meltdown and recession created by “trickled-down” economics left our nation teetering on the brink of another great depression.

While the top 1% enjoy inconceivable prosperity, the poor, as well as the middle-class, are struggling to survive.

The conservative free-market, greed-driven ideology of the ‘right’ has all but destroyed Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ and left our nation fractured and our economy 'fixed'.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From The Colbert Report (Bill Moyers)

Tuesday January 10, 2012 with Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers believes that capitalism is out of control and there can be no people's democracy as long as corporations are considered people.

Bill Moyers is Back

At age 77 Bill Moyers will premiere on public television stations across the country this weekend (check listings for time, day and channel) 'Moyers & Company'.

"We will not be doing the extensive field reporting; we will not be doing the high-production-value stories this time . . ."

"'Moyers & Company' will essentially be my probing other people's ideas, and intelligence, and experiences . . ."

From Jack


by Jack Reeves

A major fact, yea lesson, of history is that economic disparity is a dominant cause of revolution. Class warfare is the better designation.

Class, related to wealth and resulting power, creates disparities that cause revolutions. Examples: England, France, the 13 Colonies, Russia, Germany, Italy, India, China, Iraq, Argentina, etc.

Arguably, the United States could undergo a revolution. Our last attempt was the American Civil War.

"We are the 99%" is the slogan of "Occupy" protesters. It refers to the concentration of wealth since the 1970s among the top 1% of earners. The Congressional Budget Office says that between 1979 and 2007 incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275%. During the same time, the 60% of Americans in the middle of the income scale saw their income rise by 40%.
There are economic forces of the 1%, the upper class, determined to strengthen this status quo.

We are not there yet, but the writing is on the wall. Wall Street et al. are not immune to revolution caused by economic disparity.

"Mene mene tekel upharsin"--the 'writing on the wall' interpreted by Daniel: The king's deeds have been weighed and found deficient, and his kingdom will therefore be divided.

The Bible. History. We learn from history or we repeat it.

Let Calcutta Surprise You

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From Jack


by Jack reeves

Advocacy for government programs to broadly benefit Americans, e.g., universal health care, Pell Grants, unemployment insurance, are branded by some as "socialism"--akin to communism, even associated with godless.

Socialism so used is a scare word indifferent to definition and fact.

Socialism is governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

Through distorted denomination, Pell Grants and for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes are made emblematic of such a society. Certainly not ours, though. Why?

Arguably, the word cloaks an underlying belief that societies consist of the deserving and the undeserving.

Socialism so declared means 'spreading the wealth'. In other words, giving the deservings' dollars to the undeserving.

Would that the self-designated deserving could speak their truth undisguised in their -ism.

But then the veil would be lifted on their racial, ethnic and economic beliefs. It seems class warfare.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Thanks Bob . . .

Lawrence M. Krauss

Image of Lawrence M. Krauss
I was born in New York City and shortly afterward moved to Toronto, spending my childhood in Canada. I received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University, and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.

After a stint in the Harvard Society of Fellows, I became an assistant professor at Yale University in 1985 and Associate Professor in 1988. I moved in 1993 to become Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University In August 2008 I joined the faculty at Arizona State University as Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Director of the University's Origins Initiative. In 2009 we inaugurated this initiative with the Origins Symposium… Read more

Spherical Flying Machine Developed by Japan Ministry Of Defense

Friday, January 6, 2012

From Coal River Mountain Watch

Take Action: Demand an End to Mountaintop Removal

Coal companies are pushing for more than 100 new mountaintop removal permits. Tell the Obama Administration to stand up for the health and safety of mountain communities and end mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal mining continues to devastate the health of communities across Appalachia. No one can survive without clean water, and scientific research shows that people living near mountaintop removal mines face greater threats to their health and their lives.

Cancer rates are two times higher in areas of mountaintop removal mining; babies born near mountaintop removal mining are 26 percent more likely to be born with birth defects as well.

Our allies in communities across Appalachia are fighting back against some of these permits.

For example:

These are but three examples from the more than 100 proposed mountaintop removal sites in Appalachia. Take action! Tell the Obama Administration to stand up for the health and safety of mountain communities and end mountaintop removal.
  • Ison Rock Ridge, VA: Ison Rock Ridge Mountain shelters five mountain communities of approximately 2,300 people, and many more rely on the streams that flow from this mountain. Wise County is already heavily impacted by mountaintop removal. In fact, 30 percent of the county has been blasted and flattened by mountaintop removal mining. Mountaintop removal on Ison Rock Ridge threatens the towns, homes, and waters below, but citizens in this area are coming together to fight to save the mountain.
  • Stacy's Branch, KY: Leeco Coal has applied for a permit to blow up 849 acres of this mountain ridge and create six valley fills, burying or polluting more 4 miles of streams between two counties, Knott and Perry, and contaminating the nearby waters and air with harmful pollution. Many Stacy's Branch residents spoke with EPA officials last spring about the impacts of the proposed mining.
  • Buffalo Mountain, WV: Consol Energy has applied for a permit to remove a six-mile-long stretch of mountaintops in Mingo County and dump its mining waste in the Pigeon Creek and Buffalo Creek watersheds, downstream from other mountaintop removal operations. Communities nearby are already living with the impacts of this type of destruction—water contamination, air pollution, loud blasting, flying rocks, shaking homes—but the 177 families living within a half mile of this proposed mine will face the worst of it.