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It’s not much of a choice for Americans come November 4

Thalia Mendoza has h...

Shaun Carney: “Every political contest is a question of relativities — as in, which candidate do I dislike least? — and when John McCain and Barack Obama went mano a mano for the first time in the presidential debate on Saturday morning our time, it gradually became clear that American voters will face a genuine dilemma on November 4. Both candidates are a substantial risk and a further sign that the political system of the world’s most powerful nation is not functioning very well.” (age.com.au)
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MY HOLIDAY WITH JOHN McCAIN

This is being circulated by email:

U.S. Republican pre...

It was just before John McCain’s last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).
It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was “if he likes this so much, why hasn’t he memorized any of this yet?” I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his “readings” which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people’s buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn’t meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.
McCain’s appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: “Oh, that was Cindy’s idea – I didn’t have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can’t imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona . No, it wasn’t my idea at all.”

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, “If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson”. Given McCain’s personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII –- but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn’t seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, “Don’t you know who I am.” I looked him in the face and said, “Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met” and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.
Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can’t imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.


Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064
831-459-2381 (office); 831-429-8803 (home)
mkgamel@ucsc.edu

Important to circulate if true, but it sounded abit over-the-top and stereotyped (e.g. the comment about their adopted child) so I wrote to Dr. Gamel for verification. She denies writing the piece but knows who does and, curiously, doesn’t address directly why her name was attached to it:

Friends: Little did I think when I forwarded this story to four or five friends on 16 September that I would be identified as the author or receive so many questions. Some of you have clearly received the email without the preface attached. Most simply ask whether the story is true, some praise “my” courage, some angrily accuse me of distortion and lies.

I’m sorry that I did not check the story more carefully before forwarding it. I am paying for my mistake by sending this clarification to every person who contacts me. Here’s as much of the truth as I know:

First of all, I did not write this story. Here is the preface to the story as I received and forwarded it:

To: Mary-Kay Gamel
Subject: Fwd: MY HOLIDAY WITH JOHN McCAIN
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 11:13:22 -0400
—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Kate Marianchild <katem@mcn.org>
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008
Subject: My Holiday with John McCain: a first-hand account
(Note from Kate: This shocking account was written by Ana Dubey, a friend of my cousin and her husband, who have known Ana for many years. Ana has a PhD in psychology and has a private practice in San Francisco . My cousin’s husband went to business school with Ana’s husband, who has since started and sold a number of successful companies. Ana’s husband is currently a Managing Director of a private equity firm in the Bay Area. Ana and her husband are not political activists and don’t have any personal ax to grind. In fact, in writing this account of her experience with John McCain, Ana is acting outside of her own economic self-interest as she and her husband are among the top 3-5% of our population who would benefit from the McCain tax/economic policies. Please pass this on to anyone you know who might vote for John McCain. Also please post it on blogs and send it to newspapers and radio stations.)

I am not Ana Dubey (whose full name, I believe, is Anasuya Dubey, apparently the daughter of a former Indian Consul in San Francisco). I gather that Turtle Island costs $2000/day–I could never afford such a holiday. After the email was further forwarded and people wrote with questions, I wrote to Kate Marianchild. Here is our exchange:

Dear Ms. Marianchild: I got your email with the shocking story and forwarded it. Some recipients are questioning it. I googled Ana Dubey and got a husband/wife team who run a bakery in Honolulu. Can you assure me that Ana Dubey really is a psychologist in San Francisco?

thanks
MKG

Yes, I can assure you of that. She is a private person and psychologist. And perhaps you can send this on to your friends:

Dear Friends,

Everyone is asking to talk to Ana Dubey or receive a direct email from her validating the “Holiday with John McCain” story. I emailed Ana and asked her how to handle all the correspondence I was receiving. She didn’t reply to me, which is understandable as we have never met and I am sure she is totally besieged with emails right now. I don’t feel comfortable forwarding lots of emails to her or giving out her email address.

However, I did forward one email – one I received from Frances Moore Lappe (author of Diet for a Small Planet, Food First, Democracy’s Edge, Hope’s Edge, Getting a Grip, and etc, and founder of the Small Planet Institute – http://www.smallplanet.org). Frances (aka Frankie), said she would like to pursue the story by talking to Ana, and that she would distribute it if she were convinced it was authentic.

Here’s what I just received from Frankie (Frances) Lappe. If you still have doubts perhaps you can contact Frankie, as she is a more public person than I believe Ana to be.

Kate Marianchild

Kate,
I just spoke with Ana, who was wonderful.
Sounds like NBC is on it. Sure hope an interview gets aired.
Thank you so much for asking her to call me. I admire Ana very much.
Frankie

Frances Moore Lappé
Small Planet Institute
25 Mt Auburn St., Suite 203
Cambridge MA 02138
617.441.6300 x 115

I have not contacted Ms. Lappe, and the story is still quite uncertain. As a reader of texts I think it has the ring of truth (especially given McCain’s well-documented temper). Some have questioned the idea of McCain shopping and pushing his then no longer infant adopted daughter in a shopping cart, but those could have been references to earlier times. Presumably the holiday took place in December 1999, and some have pointed out that the US was not at war with Iraq then, but bombing raids based on the sanctions were being carried out. The NEW YORKER portrait of Cindy McCain attests that the adoption of Bridget was indeed her idea. And so forth.

There are various sites where the story is being discussed. There is a lot of corroborating information at http://thebruceblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/my-holiday-with-mccain-oh-lord-i-cant-wait-till-this-gets-verified/.

There is much discussion on the web about the veracity of this meme, e.g. here. And here is what a Google search on “Ana Dubey OR Anasuya Dubey” will reveal. In summary, it seems too farfetched to believe, but just barely. As my friend Julia, who originally forwarded the email to me, observed, we’ve all had conversations with idiots like the man McCain is made out to be here. I’m saddened by this; McCain will hoist himself by his own petard easily enough without such scurrilousness.

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Democracy on the Wane?

//...In country after country, democratic reforms are in retreat. The surprising culprit: the middle class. This Boston Globe article is quite shabbily argued. Beginning from the recent massive populist uprising against the government in Bangkok, the author opines:

“The events unfolding in Thailand are part of a gathering global revolt against democracy. In 2007, the number of countries with declining freedoms exceeded those with advancing freedoms by nearly four to one, according to a recent report by Freedom House, an organization that monitors global democracy trends.

And the villains, surprisingly enough, are the same people who supposedly make democracy possible: the middle class. Traditional theories of democratization, such as those of Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, predict a story of middle class heroics: As a country develops a true middle class, these urban, educated citizens insist on more rights in order to protect their economic and social interests. Eventually, as the size of the middle class grows, those demands become so overwhelming that democracy is inevitable. But now, it appears, the middle class in some nations has turned into an antidemocratic force. Young democracy, with weak institutions, often brings to power, at first, elected leaders who actually don’t care that much about upholding democracy. As these demagogues tear down the very reforms the middle classes built, those same middle classes turn against the leaders, and then against the system itself, bringing democracy to collapse.”

An alternate way to read these events is that the protests are not antidemocratic at all, but rather protests against the sort of pseudo-democracy that has been foisted off as an excuse for the real thing for a long time… at least since the West “won” the Cold War. These forces are antidemocratic in the same sense that Bush says the terrorists hate us because we are free. Our smugness about our “freedom” lulls us into a false complacency; Americans should be taking to the streets over the sham that passes for democracy here as well. It has long been evident that the US is at the pinnacle of perfection of authoritarian social control, so subtle that its victims do not even know they are being controlled. Maybe, in places like Thailand, it is just done more clumsily, so that the remaining capacity for outrage in the middle classes can be mobilized as it cannot here?

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Auto Anthropomorphism

//www.sciencedaily.com/images/2008/09/080922100156.jpg' cannot be displayed]

Human Or Animal Faces Associated With At Least 90 Percent Of Cars By One-third Of Population: “Do people attribute certain personality traits or emotions to car fronts? If so, could this have implications for driving and pedestrian behavior? Truls Thorstensen (EFS Consulting Vienna), Karl Grammer (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology) and other researchers at the University of Vienna joined economic interest with evolutionary psychology to answer these questions.

The research project investigates our perception of automotive designs, and whether and how these findings correspond to the perception of human faces.

Throughout evolution, humans have developed an ability to collect information on people’s sex, age, emotions, and intentions by looking at their faces. The authors suggest that this ability is probably widely used on other living beings and maybe even on inanimate objects, such as cars. Although this theory has been proposed by other authors, it has not yet been investigated systematically. The researchers therefore asked people to report the characteristics, emotions, personality traits, and attitudes that they ascribed to car fronts and then used geometric morphometrics to calculate the corresponding shape information.

One-third of the subjects associated a human or animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars. All subjects marked eyes (headlights), a mouth (air intake/grille), and a nose in more than 50 percent of the cars. Overall, people agreed which type of car possesses certain traits. The authors found that people liked cars most which had a wide stance, a narrow windshield, and/or widely spaced, narrow headlights. The better the subjects liked a car, the more it bore shape characteristics corresponding to high values of what the authors termed “power”, indicating that both men and women like mature, dominant, masculine, arrogant, angry-looking cars.” (Science Daily)

I’m glad that’s settled. I have always, since I was a child, seen facial expressions on the fronts of cars and ascribed an emotional valence to each one. I always wondered how common that was. Up to now, my only clue was that my daughter once commented that she saw cars that way as well. It makes evolutionary sense, given the importance of figuring out what stance to take vis a vis an approaching stranger. The machinery of facial recognition takes up a disproportionate volume of the cortex. In fact, I have previously written here about the accumulating evidence that those with autism process human faces with their object-recognition circuitry, not the facial-recognition areas. This anthropomorphism is in a way the flip side of the coin. (I wonder if people with autism see facial expressions in cars…)

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How to Land a 747

Kottke pointed me to this checklist, presumably if you are the civilian closest to the cockpit when the captain suddenly keels over. But also, probably, useful to the would-be hijackers among you. I’m going to store this with the other electronic memos I carry around with me for ready access at any time.

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Timothy Garton Ash:

The time has come for a final report on the 43rd president of the US: “The man who set out to reinforce unbridled American power has weakened it in all three essential dimensions…

As the two men who would succeed him train like Olympic athletes for tomorrow’s foreign policy debate, pause for a moment to complete your final report on the 43rd president of the United States. What would you say?

I would sum up his two terms in four words: hubris followed by nemesis.” (Guardian.UK)

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Timothy Garton Asch:

The time has come for a final report on the 43rd president of the US: “The man who set out to reinforce unbridled American power has weakened it in all three essential dimensions…

As the two men who would succeed him train like Olympic athletes for tomorrow’s foreign policy debate, pause for a moment to complete your final report on the 43rd president of the United States. What would you say?

I would sum up his two terms in four words: hubris followed by nemesis.” (Guardian.UK)

Related?

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Popularity of a Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses

“Until a decade ago, the use of salvia was largely limited to those seeking revelation under the tutelage of Mazatec shamans in its native Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, this mind-altering member of the mint family is broadly available for lawful sale online and in head shops across the United States.

Though older Americans typically have never heard of salvia, the psychoactive sage has become something of a phenomenon among this country’s thrill-seeking youth. More than 5,000 YouTube videos — equal parts “Jackass” and “Up in Smoke” — document their journeys into rubber-legged incoherence. Some of the videos have been viewed half a million times.

Yet these very images that have helped popularize salvia may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses.

Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, however, including here in Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. ” (New York Times)

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Vertical Bed

Many homeless keep all their possessions with ...

“Vertical Bed is a sort of static prostheses that allows a person to fall asleep in a standing position. By bolting into cracks between the sidewalks, subway grates, or other rigid contact points, the suit will support it’s wearer with a minimum of visible hardware or occupied space, holding the sleeper’s weight with concealed harnesses. One-sided privacy will be achieved through noise canceling headphones and double-mirrored sunglasses. Additionally, an umbrella will clip in the rigid infrastructure for shelter. The project is designed for the visual performance of an alternate way of occupying urban space, born partly out of fantasies of minimal need and elegant futurism, and partly out of fears of the dehumanization of space. Occupants will absorb the vertical structure of urban architecture into their bodies. The vertical sleeper is in a constant state of readiness, never succumbing to collapse. Homelessness is most often marked by the forbidden act of lying down on the sidewalk, an act that the vertical bed circumvents. The vertical bed will imply a streamlined, rather than failed, infrastructure.” (Conflux Festival)
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Economics Lesson

Not all villains are intentionally evil, but d...

“What was the greatest wealth-creating film of all time? Titanic might be a popular guess, but the answer, according to Columbia University’s Nobel laureate economist Robert Mundell, is Taxi Driver.

The 1976 classic, directed by Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro as the bitterly alienated protagonist, gave the world De Niro’s catchphrase “You talking to me?,” and also introduced a young Jodie Foster. But what does it have to do with the world economy?

John Hinckley, the deranged would-be assassin who attempted to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, claimed that he was inspired by it. He said that his action was an attempt to impress Foster. (The movie features a scene in which a mohawked De Niro attempts to assassinate a politician.)

According to Mundell, the wave of sympathy for President Reagan that was engendered by the assassination attempt deterred Democrats in Congress from voting against his proposed tax cuts. Due to this accident of history, the US administered a big fiscal stimulus at the same time that Paul Volcker at the Federal Reserve was administering tight money. This, for Professor Mundell, was vital in creating the era of prosperity that followed.

Taxi Driver is the most important movie ever made from the standpoint of creating GDP,” Mundell told delegates. “It’s the movie that made the Reagan revolution possible. That movie was indirectly responsible for adding between $5 trillion and $15 trillion of output to the US economy.”

So says a May 15, 2008 report in the Financial Times. (Improbable Research via julia)

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Cheney Unchained

All the best details from Barton Gellman's new book on Vice President Dick Cheney: “It’s often said on late-night TV that given Dick Cheney’s cardiovascular problems, George W. Bush is just a heartbeat away from the presidency. In his new book, Angler, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman suggests that this joke contains more than just a grain of truth. By immersing himself in details about national security and numerous other hot-button issues that the president was too lazy or too incurious to study, Cheney often managed to position himself as the real ‘decider.’

For those of you who are too lazy or too incurious to read Gellman’s lengthy exposé, Slate has put together a breezy executive summary.”

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If There Ever Was:

Nasal Ranger in use.

A Book of Extinct and Impossible Smells: “Robert Blackson is a trailblazer in the nascent field of conceptual scent art. He recently curated an exhibition at the Reg Vardy Gallery in Sunderland, England, that took viewers through fourteen significant points in time and space using only the olfactory sense.

…Blackson tasked perfumers, chemists, botanists and even a NASA scientist to engineer smells that most humans might never experience. Scents created include everything from long extinct plants to the fragrance immediately following an atomic bomb explosion. They even recreated the smell of the surface of the Sun, which scientists approximated by using the scents of seven earth metals heated to their melting point.

If There Ever Was is the companion book to the art exhibit. It features paper inserts that correspond to the exhibit smells, all manifested through scratch-and-sniff technology. That way, you can smell the putrid odor of Russian gym socks on the Mir space station without having to leave the comfort of your home (Cool Hunting)

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Eve Ensler on Sarah Palin

Crazy Sarah Palin

Drill, Drill, Drill: “I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story — connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God’s plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, “It was a task from God.”

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an e nvironment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, “Drill Drill Drill.” I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Eve Ensler
September 5, 2008 (HuffPo)

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Open Thread: Caveats

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Hubble Finds Unidentified Object in Space, Scientists Puzzled

#62 astrodeep200407 a g HUDF heic0611aa

“This is exactly why we send astronauts to risk their life to service Hubble: in a paper published last week in the Astrophysical Journal, scientists detail the discovery of a new unidentified object in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know about you, but when a research paper conclusion says ‘We suggest that the transient may be one of a new class’ I get a chill of oooh-aaahness down my spine. Especially when after a hundred days of observation, it disappeared from the sky with no explanation. Get your tinfoil hats out, because it gets even weirder.” (Gizmodo)
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The Ugly New McCain

Richard Cohen: “Following his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain did something extraordinary: He confessed to lying about how he felt about the Confederate battle flag, which he actually abhorred. ‘I broke my promise to always tell the truth,’ McCain said. Now he has broken that promise so completely that the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised.” (Washington Post op-ed)
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Amazon Does the Obvious, Finally:

Adds Video on IMDb: “Amazon has finally done what many have been asking it since the time the company bought IMDB: it has enabled video on the film and TV database/info site. The company says users can now watch 6,000 full-length feature films and TV episodes for free on IMDb.com’s video section.” (paidcontent.org)
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Dark matter ‘bridge to nowhere’ found in cosmic void

“More than a dozen galaxies seem to be lined up along a bridge of dark matter inside a region of nearly empty space. This ‘bridge to nowhere’ could shed light on how small galaxies formed in the early universe.

Galaxies in the universe are arranged in a lacy structure that contains many holes, or voids, that are largely bereft of galaxies. But the voids are not completely empty; astronomers expect they are criss-crossed by filaments of dark matter.

Now, astronomers have found a total of 14 galaxies that appear to be part of a dark matter bridge at least 1.5 million light years long.

The string of galaxies spans just 0.5% of a ‘mini-void’ – a region of space containing mostly dim, dwarf galaxies kept small by their relative isolation from other matter. But the underlying dark matter bridge may be far longer than that.” (New Scientist)

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On Stupidity

“The anti-intellectual legacy [Richard Hofstadter first] described has often been used by the political right — since at least the McCarthy era — to label any complication of the usual pieties of patriotism, religion, and capitalism as subversive, dangerous, and un-American. And, one might add, the left has its own mirror-image dogmas.

Now, in the post-9/11 era, American anti-intellectualism has grown more powerful, pervasive, and dangerous than at any time in our history, and we have a duty — particularly as educators — to foster intelligence as a moral obligation.

Or at least that is the urgent selling point of a cartload of books published in the past several months.” — William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

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What Makes People Vote Republican?

Book cover of

Jonathan Haidt: “What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”

[Jonathan Haidt is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.] (The Edge)

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Science as an Ethical Community

Cosmologist Lee Smolin: “…[S]cience works because scientists form communities defined by a set of ethical principles which, even if imperfectly applied, tend to lead to progress in our understanding of nature. While these communities have long been international, the combination of the internet with cheap airfare and easy migration of educated people makes scientists into ‘global souls’, in Pico Iyer‘s phrase. This opens up new opportunities and also new challenges for the thriving of scientific communities.”
(Perimeter Institute)

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John McCain’s health records must be released

Signed by 13,742 people, 473 doctors: “John McCain has not yet released his medical records to the public. McCain is 72 years old, and has been diagnosed with invasive melanoma. In May of this year, a small group of selected reporters were allowed to review 1,173 pages of McCain’s medical records that covered only the last eight years, and were allowed only three hours to do so. John McCain’s health is an issue of profound importance. We call on John McCain to issue a full, public disclosure of all of his medical records, available for the media and members of the general public to review.”
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To defeat Palin, ignore her

Errol Louis: “The Democrats’ Palin problem won’t be going away any time soon. And it could derail Barack Obama’s fight against Republican John McCain – unless Dems summon the discipline to ignore the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s celebrity and instead focus like a laser on campaign basics.” (NY Daily News op-ed)
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Making America stupid

(FILE PHOTO) Former New...

Thomas L. Friedman: “Imagine for a minute that attending the Republican convention in St. Paul, sitting in a skybox overlooking the convention floor, were observers from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And imagine what these observers would have been doing when Rudy Giuliani led the delegates in a chant of ‘drill, baby, drill!'” (International Herald Tribune)
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McCain-Palin Crowd-Size Estimates Not Backed by Officials

Republican U.S. P...

“Senator John McCain has drawn some of the biggest crowds of his presidential campaign since adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to his ticket on Aug. 29. Now officials say they can’t substantiate the figures McCain’s aides are claiming….

In recent days, journalists attending the rallies have been raising questions about the crowd estimates with the campaign. In a story on Sept. 11 about Palin’s attraction for some Virginia women voters, Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign.” (Bloomberg)

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The secret benefits of fandom

National Football League

“…[A] few scholars have started to suggest that there may …be another kind of benefit from big-time sports. There’s a catch, though: the team has to be good. In a forthcoming paper, economist Michael Davis and the psychologist Christian End say that having a winning NFL football team increases the incomes of the people who live and work in its hometown by as much as $120 a year. And while the study doesn’t identify exactly what causes the boost, the authors point to psychological literature suggesting that winning fans are at once harder workers and bigger spenders. In short, buoyed by the team’s success, we work longer hours, take bigger risks, and shop more avidly, all of which helps the local economy.” (Boston Globe)

In other words, just another way of making you a better cog in the machine. Didn’t Marx say that spectator sports is the opiate of the masses, or something like that?

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Tea ‘healthier’ drink than water

Mineral water (original German description ind...

“Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption.They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack.Some studies suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut.Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.Dr Ruxton said: ‘Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.'” (BBC)

Related?

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Tying Knots with Light

//www.sciencenews.org/view/download/id/36405/thumbnail/x_large/name/mtrek_fibration_web.jpg' cannot be displayed]

Researchers find a new theoretical way to tie light into complex knots and links. “Imagine twisting a beam of light into a knot, as if it were a piece of a string. Now grab another light beam and tie it around the first, forming its own loop. Tie on another and another, until all of space is filled up with loops of light.

Sounds preposterous, but a pair of physicists has shown that light can do just this — at least in theory. Visible light, along with all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, is governed by Maxwell’s equations, and the researchers have found a new solution to these equations in which light forms linked knots. The team is now working to create light in this form experimentally.” (Science News)

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To defeat Palin, ignore her

Errol Louis: “The Democrats’ Palin problem won’t be going away any time soon. And it could derail Barack Obama’s fight against Republican John McCain – unless Dems summon the discipline to ignore the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s celebrity and instead focus like a laser on campaign basics.” (NY Daily News op-ed)
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Harvard Law School Langdell Library in Cambrid...A friend wrote [thanks, Mags]:

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight….

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”

* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers,� a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.< Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.< If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor,� spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a� state of� 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl,� 4 years on the city council an d 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married heiress Cindy the next month, you’re a Christian.� * If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you’re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America’s. If your husband is nicknamed “First Dude”,� with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

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On Sarah Palin, from someone who knows

This is one of those messages that claimed to originate from a friend-of-a-friend; messages that are inherently suspect. But I have been told by reputable sources (thanks, Steve!) that the author has been vetted and is considered to be legitimate. At least she signed her name and gave an email address (although, as you can see, she does not want it posted on the web). — FmH

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in common: their gender and their good looks. :)

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .

Thanks, Anne

About Sarah Palin

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though; borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved. The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal–loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there are a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

Claim vs Fact

  • “Hockey mom”: true for a few years
  • “PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
  • “NRA supporter”: absolutely true
  • social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
  • pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
  • “Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
  • “Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
  • political maverick: not at all
  • gutsy: absolutely
  • open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
  • has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
  • “a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
  • fiscal conservative: not by my definition
  • pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
  • pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
  • pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
  • pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.

Why Am I Writing This?
First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

Caveats
I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall–they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000”, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

— Anne Kilkenny [email obscured at author’s request] August 31, 2008

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When Cute Animals Go Bad

SAN DIEGO -  In this undated handout photo sup...

Dolphin serial killers?: “Dead porpoises (and other cetaceans) turn up regularly on beaches around Britain. According to a Defra report last year, the cause of death of 15 out of 56 porpoise bodies found – the majority – was ‘physical trauma (bottlenose dolphin attack)’. [A photo accompanying the article] shows the rake marks on a harbour porpoise caused by a bottlenose dolphin.” (New Scientist Environment Blog)

The question is why…

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Deepak Chopra’s take on Palin


“Look at what she stands for:


–Small town values — a denial of America’s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.


–Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America’s image abroad.


–Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be heeded.


–Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.


–Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.


–“Reform” — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.


Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from “us” pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of “I’m all right, Jack,” and “Why change? Everything’s OK as it is.” The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.”

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Army suicide rate could top nation’s this year

Brig. Gen. Micha...

“The rate of suicides among-active duty soldiers is on pace to surpass both last year’s numbers and the rate of suicide in the general U.S. population for the first time since the Vietnam war, according to U.S. Army officials.

Officials attribute the rise in suicides to anxiety and stress from increased operations and more deployments.

Officials attribute the rise in suicides to anxiety and stress from increased operations and more deployments.

As of August, 62 Army soldiers have committed suicide, and 31 cases of possible suicide remain under investigation, according to Army statistics. Last year, the Army recorded 115 suicides among its ranks, which was also higher than the previous year.

Army officials said that if the trend continues this year, it will pass the nation’s suicide rate of 19.5 people per 100,000, a 2005 figure considered the most recent by the government.” (CNN)

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Enough!

Republican presidential nominee Senator John M...

Why Obama should release his righteous rage: “Obama has often said that he is running because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ He needs to show that fierceness and that urgency. When we think of King, we usually think of him as resolute and dignified. But King was also filled with a prophetic anger, especially in the later years of his life. As a leader fighting for fundamental change in this country, Obama has to be willing to show us that kind of righteous anger. I don’t know about you, but when I think about what George Bush has done to this country — and what John McCain wants to keep doing — I consider outrage the only rational and legitimate response. The last seven-plus years demand more than a beaming smile.” — Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post)

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The world’s verdict will be harsh…

…if the US rejects the man it yearns for: “An America that disdains Obama for his global support risks turning current anti-Bush feeling into something far worse…

Of course I know that even to mention Obama’s support around the world is to hurt him. Incredibly, that large Berlin crowd damaged Obama at home, branding him the “candidate of Europe” and making him seem less of a patriotic American. But what does that say about today’s America, that the world’s esteem is now unwanted? If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us – and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.” — Jonathan Freedland (Guardian.UK)

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Confessions of an RNC security guard

“‘There’s a lot of hot chicks here,’ he tells me in a failed attempt at a whisper. He reeks of chardonnay. ‘You cannot spring a woody here, dude. Your pants got no give, know what I mean? It’d be totally obvious. Gov. Palin is staying here — you gotta be careful. You get what I’m saying? You can’t get wood on the job.’

‘Thanks. I got it,’ I say.

One of his pals chimes in.

‘Gov. Palin is hot, dude,’ he says, collapsing onto a bench in front of the hotel entrance.

Even in their lusty, alcohol-fueled swoons, these young politicos still call Palin ‘governor.’ In a way, this reverential horniness is sort of endearing. But mostly it’s just creepy. Sitting on the bench, the young man leans his head back and squeezes his eyes shut, trying, and failing, to stave off vertigo. ‘Total MILF.’

‘All right, gentlemen,’ I say, wielding the word ‘gentlemen’ like a prison guard. ‘Get out of here. Time to go to sleep.’

The right-wing youth resurgence is taking shape here before my eyes and it has a strong erotic undercurrent. For the first time in American politics there is a strong alpha woman with whom mothers identify, and after whom sons lust. The GOP is playing the Oedipal card. And it could mean bloody war, fought house to house.

…I’m developing a purely anecdotal theory about Republican drunkenness: that it’s related to ideology. The less ideological arrive back at the headquarters earlier in the evening, between midnight and 1 a.m. These are, in chronological order, the Romney and the Giuliani supporters. Both are East Coast, urban college grad, corporate types. They like to drink and reminisce about the Harvard-Yale game, but they also like to wake up early, shave and not smell like booze at committee meetings. The Giuliani people are secular and more openly lecherous. So they tend to drink a bit harder and stay out closer to 1 a.m. The Ron Paul people party past 1 a.m., but not much. And they shave but they don’t showboat.

The ones who stay out the latest and come back the drunkest, I notice, are the Huckabee folks, the party’s rural conservatives. They believe in Jesus, in the hard-bitten way of the true alcoholic. If they ever sober up, it’ll be by the grace of the Lord; and if they intend to stay on the sauce and continue living, then they’ll really need His loving kindness. If you intend to be drinking heavily until closing time — 4 a.m. in the Twin Cities during the RNC — you had better walk home with Jesus.

I can’t place true McCainites on the alcohol-ideology matrix. I think they were all asleep by 9:30 p.m.” (Salon)

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For the Brain, Remembering Is Like Reliving

Experts say the study has all but closed the case: “Scientists have for the first time recorded individual brain cells in the act of summoning a spontaneous memory, revealing not only where a remembered experience is registered but also, in part, how the brain is able to recreate it.

The recordings, taken from the brains of epilepsy patients being prepared for surgery, demonstrate that these spontaneous memories reside in some of the same neurons that fired most furiously when the recalled event had been experienced. Researchers had long theorized as much but until now had only indirect evidence.” (New York Times)

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Confessions of an RNC security guard

“‘There’s a lot of hot chicks here,’ he tells me in a failed attempt at a whisper. He reeks of chardonnay. ‘You cannot spring a woody here, dude. Your pants got no give, know what I mean? It’d be totally obvious. Gov. Palin is staying here — you gotta be careful. You get what I’m saying? You can’t get wood on the job.’

‘Thanks. I got it,’ I say.

One of his pals chimes in.

‘Gov. Palin is hot, dude,’ he says, collapsing onto a bench in front of the hotel entrance.

Even in their lusty, alcohol-fueled swoons, these young politicos still call Palin ‘governor.’ In a way, this reverential horniness is sort of endearing. But mostly it’s just creepy. Sitting on the bench, the young man leans his head back and squeezes his eyes shut, trying, and failing, to stave off vertigo. ‘Total MILF.’

‘All right, gentlemen,’ I say, wielding the word ‘gentlemen’ like a prison guard. ‘Get out of here. Time to go to sleep.’

The right-wing youth resurgence is taking shape here before my eyes and it has a strong erotic undercurrent. For the first time in American politics there is a strong alpha woman with whom mothers identify, and after whom sons lust. The GOP is playing the Oedipal card. And it could mean bloody war, fought house to house.

…I’m developing a purely anecdotal theory about Republican drunkenness: that it’s related to ideology. The less ideological arrive back at the headquarters earlier in the evening, between midnight and 1 a.m. These are, in chronological order, the Romney and the Giuliani supporters. Both are East Coast, urban college grad, corporate types. They like to drink and reminisce about the Harvard-Yale game, but they also like to wake up early, shave and not smell like booze at committee meetings. The Giuliani people are secular and more openly lecherous. So they tend to drink a bit harder and stay out closer to 1 a.m. The Ron Paul people party past 1 a.m., but not much. And they shave but they don’t showboat.

The ones who stay out the latest and come back the drunkest, I notice, are the Huckabee folks, the party’s rural conservatives. They believe in Jesus, in the hard-bitten way of the true alcoholic. If they ever sober up, it’ll be by the grace of the Lord; and if they intend to stay on the sauce and continue living, then they’ll really need His loving kindness. If you intend to be drinking heavily until closing time — 4 a.m. in the Twin Cities during the RNC — you had better walk home with Jesus.

I can’t place true McCainites on the alcohol-ideology matrix. I think they were all asleep by 9:30 p.m.” (Salon)

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Is the Electoral Process About Reality?

Book cover of

George Lakoff Warns Democrats: “…[The] election campaign depends on the political mind-how people understand the candidates and the realities. Democrats have mostly criticized Sarah Palin as unqualified to deal with the realities we face as a nation. But the choice of Palin had to do with the way the political mind works in elections. In dealing with the McCain-Palin ticket, Democrats must take the way voters think into account, in addition to the external realities.” (Truthout)
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School of Everything

Cory Doctorow, a Canadian blogger/author, at a...

eBay for knowledge: “Last night, I attended the launch of School of Everything, a new web service that acts as a kind of eBay for people who have something to teach. Potential teachers list their areas of expertise (anything from knitting to programming to driving to yoga to TIG-welding to whatever) and potential students find teachers with a simple search that can be geography bounded (for in-person instruction) or not (for online instruction). It’s one of those great, simple, smart ideas that make you want to smack your head and say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'”

…The service is only available in the UK now, but the plan is to spread it around the world. Now I just need to find something I want to learn and give it a spin. School of Everything. — Cory Doctorow (boing boing)

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There He Goes Again

The Bell Curve

Charles “Bell Curve” Murray on Education: “Once again, Charles Murray is arguing that some people are not worth the time and trouble to educate because they are “just not smart enough,” in his words, to learn anything more than manual skills. And he can prove it! Scientifically!

Murray, for those of you who don’t follow this stuff, is the co-author of The Bell Curve, which famously argued, among other things, that poor people are poor primarily because of immutably low intelligence—an argument that has been refuted by some of the top scientists in the country (see, for example, Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man; see also The Bell Curve Wars). Murray is back…” — Karin Chenoweth (Britannica Blog)

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Terrainspotting

A fully textured and lit rendering of a 3d model.Photosynth, the tech demo that trawls image sharing websites for geographically tagged photos and then pieces them together to form pseudo 3D models of popular tourist destinations, is stitching an increasingly coherent spatial simulation.

However, the edges of the scenes in these demos have always made me curious about the unmapped portions of the 3D model. While there is an abundance of data for the frontal elevations of Notre Dame or Piazza San Marco, but what of the periphery of these buildings? The parts of the building less likely to attract the attention of hungry tourists? And then what about the laneway around the corner? Or the street two blocks to the south? There may be a handfull of photographs that describe parts of these areas, but likely not enough to piece together a rich 3D model.” (Super Colossal)

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Will He, Won’t He?

Mount Ararat (16,940 feet, 5165 m) is the larg...This review of Ararat by Frank Westerman: interested me, as someone who has been to Mt. Ararat, for the following rant:

“Who was Noah? The Bible tells us little. He was the flood hero of course, but what else? A drunken viniculturist who lived to the age of 950; who was 600 at the time of the flood and 500 when he fathered Shem, Ham and Japheth. His wrinkled bottom was ogled by his 100-year-old sons when he passed out from drunkeness in his tent one night. But was he not also an ‘upright man’ and a man who ‘walked with God’?

Each year hundreds of pilgrims, known as ‘Arkeologists’ make their way to Mount Ararat (where the Turkish, Armenian and Iranian borders meet) hoping to find clues and relics. Some return home with splints of wood, others only with soft memories of mystic vision. Arkeologists are simple folk, of whom the late Apollo astronaut, James Irwin, was one. They ignore the fact that in Genesis, Noah’s ship came to rest ‘in the mountains of Ararat’, which is not the same as ‘on Mount Ararat’. Never mind, they say, and never mind that the modern ‘Mount Ararat’ is situated outside the old Kingdom of Ararat and is not therefore among the ‘Mountains of Ararat’. Why should Arkeologists care if their mountain only got its name from Marco Polo in the 13th century? The Turks always called it Agri Dagi (Mountain of Pain), the Armenians, Masis (Mother Mountain), and the Kurds, Ciyaye Agiri (Fiery Mountain). If you start with an unbudgeable faith in Ararat you don’t give a fig that the Qu’ran claims that the Ark came to rest on al-Judi, a mountain miles to the south; that the 2nd-century BC Book of Jubilees says it was Mount Lubar, that Nicholas of Damascus says it was an Armenian peak called Baris.In the Babylonian account, the oldest extant Deluge story, from which the Genesis authors undoubtedly snitched their plot, the Ark lands on the top of Mount Nizir. ” (Spectator.UK)

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Anthropologists Find New Type of Urbanism in Amazon Jungles

Xingu river from space, downstream section.

“Recently-discovered Amazonian settlements could be a new type of metropolis, unseen elsewhere in the world and hidden until recently in the Kuikuro jungle, say anthropologists.

…The work suggests that the Amazon basin, particularly the Xingu region, may have been more populated than previously thought, but without the traditional city structures that mark other old urban civilizations in other parts of the world.” (Wired)

Related

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Is the common cold becoming a killer?

“Having a cold is a nuisance, but not dangerous. Right? Wrong. Sometimes it can turn deadly. Last year, 140 people in the US were killed by the kinds of virus that usually cause nothing more serious than sniffs and sneezes. In fact, we are surprisingly ignorant about the causes of the world’s most common disease. But new technologies are changing that – and turning up cold viruses that are completely new to science.” (New Scientist via WaccoBB)