04/09/2015 archive

What’s the big deal?

(note- Original, unedited video.  You may not want to watch it, but you probably should.)

Civil Rights Attorney Says Cops Have Been Shooting Unarmed People in the Back for Years

The War on Black America

by GLEN FORD, Counter Punch

April 09, 2015

The United States produced a bumper crop of what Billie Holiday would call “Strange Fruit,” in March: at least 111 bodies, the majority of them unarmed men of color, shot down by police in the blood-fertilized streets of American cities. If one just counts the unarmed victims, that’s a rate of about two extrajudicial executions per day, roughly twice the “one every 28 hours” cited by the Malcolm X Grassroots Network’s 2012 report, Operation Ghetto Storm.

Yet, in the same month, President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States, based largely on the death of 14 “dissidents” during a period of anti-government disturbances back in 2014. Many of the dead were pro-government activists killed by “dissidents.” By contrast, Philadelphia police have been shooting an average of one person a week for the last eight years, the overwhelming majority of them Black and brown, according to a new U.S. Justice Department report. As Frederick Douglass said, “for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

All across the country, the granting of impunity for the perpetrators of summary execution of Black men, women and children is “everyday practice” – now certified as “best practice” by Attorney General Eric Holder, who claims court precedents preclude prosecution of killer cops except under the most extreme conditions.

Chill dudes.  Obama got this.

The End of Section 215?

Congress must end mass NSA surveillance with next Patriot Act vote

by Trevor Timm, The Guardian

Wednesday 8 April 2015 12.01 EDT

Despite doing almost everything in their power to avoid voting for substantive NSA reform, Congress now has no choice: On 1 June, one of the most controversial parts of the Patriot Act – known as Section 215 – will expire unless both houses of Congress affirmatively vote for it to be reauthorized.

While the government claims that its other uses of Section 215 are “critical” to national security, it’s extremely hard to take their word for it. After all, the government lied about collecting information on millions of Americans under Section 215 to begin with. Then they claimed the phone surveillance program was “critical” to national security after it was exposed. That wasn’t true either: they later had to admit it has never stopped a single terrorist attack.

We also just learned two weeks ago that the NSA knew the program was largely pointless before the Snowden leaks and debated shutting it down altogether. Suddenly, after the Snowden documents became public, NSA officials defended it as “critical” again when they had to go before an increasingly skeptical Congress.

Whatever else they’re doing with Section 215 behind closed doors, the phone surveillance program is illegal. As the author of the Patriot Act, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has said: “I can say that without qualification that Congress never did intend to allow bulk collection when it passed Section 215, and no fair reading of the text would allow for this [mass phone surveillance] program”.

It’s also likely unconstitutional, as the first federal judge to look at the program ruled almost a year ago. Judge Richard Leon wrote at the time in his landmark opinion: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval”.

These days, Congress can barely get post office names passed, let alone comprehensive reform on any subject affecting the American people. So the fact that they haven’t passed NSA reform yet says more about their near-total dysfunction than the American public’s views about privacy.

But now they have no choice. A year and a half ago, the House came within a few votes of cutting off funding for Section 215 in an unorthodox appropriations vote and, since then, opposition to the NSA’s massive spying operation on Americans has remained strong.

Only time will tell if Congress will actually receive this message. But if citizens call their representatives, they might just get it. Then, come June, the NSA will have a lot less of our private data at their fingertips.

The Breakfast Club (Rebellion)

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be his world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWelcome back to Science Thursday.  This particular film was shot by CERN interns during some downtime, of which they have quite a lot actually since it’s broken more often than it’s working.


What a lot of people don’t know about the Large Hadron Collider is that it’s basically been operating at half capacity since an accident during the test phase blew out a large section.  Now, after two years of re-building, it is poised again to create that Black Hole Apocalypse that swallows the Earth into it’s singularity (not to worry, as it turns out micro Black Holes are unstable and loose mass (energy) through Hawking Radiation at a rate too great to sustain themselves indefinitely, so you can rest assured that we’re far more likely to die of Global Climate Change).

Anyway it’s been down for two years (much like Shell’s Arctic drilling scheme) and started it’s run up to full capacity next week.  Beyond nailing down the Higgs Boson, a lot of what they expect to find is nothing.


Scientific method.  A Theory is not a Theory unless it makes predictions that are experimentally disprovable-

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?

To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

The dog did nothing in the night-time.

That was the curious incident.

A lot of the work for CERN from here on out is testing some of the predictions of various Theories and seeing if the experimental results match.  The fuzzyness of the Higgs Boson for instance could indicate Supersymmetry which predicts up to 5 types of Higgs Bosons.

If the Standard Model is in fact correct, it covers only 4% of the observed Universe.  27% is “Dark Matter” that is currently undetectable but exerts a huge Gravitational influence (umm… Black Holes are detectable so it ain’t that).  “Dark Energy” even less so, but this is the force that observationally inflates the Universe beyond a size where Gravity can ever collapse it.

The Large Hadron Collider might, might produce energy levels sufficient to detect Dark Matter.  Nobody is talking about Dark Energy yet.

Oh, and ‘Dark’ in this context means undetectable by current means, might as well call it Rebellion.

So how to do you detect the undetectable?  Why, by it’s absence.  The hope for Dark Matter is that certain types of collisions will, instead of producing results that conform with the Standard Model, lose detectable energy (mass) in a replicatible way that advances the math describing it’s nature.

Or not.

Cern restarts Large Hadron Collider with mission to make scientific history

by Ian Sample, The Guardian

Sunday 5 April 2015 15.48 EDT

The pat on the back and call to arms marked the restart on Sunday morning of the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. More than two years after it handed researchers the Higgs boson, and was closed down for crucial upgrade work, the machine is ready to make scientific history for a second time.

How that history will be written is unknown. High on the wishlist for discoveries are dark matter, the invisible material that appears to hang around galaxies and makes up more than 25% of the universe; hidden extra dimensions that would explain why gravity is so puny compared to other forces of nature; and an explanation for why the world around us is not made from antimatter.

But there is another history that keeps scientists awake at night: the possibility that the LHC’s discoveries begin and end with the Higgs boson, that it finds nothing else over the next 20 years it is due to run. As Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate and professor at the University of Texas in Austin, told the Guardian: “My thoughts on the possibility of the LHC telling us nothing new don’t go beyond hopeless fear.”

Until now, the Large Hadron Collider has run at only half its design energy. The machine was restricted to 7TeV collisions after a weak connection led to a short circuit that caused an explosion less than two weeks after it was first switched on in September 2008. The blast covered half a kilometre of the machine with a thin layer of soot and closed the collider for more than a year. The repairs cost the lab £24m.

The machine was switched back on in 2009, but Cern took the precaution of running at half energy to slash the risk of another accident. The gamble paid off. On 4 July 2012, the lab’s Atlas and CMS detector teams declared they had discovered the Higgs boson months before the machine was shut down. A year later, Peter Higgs, the Edinburgh-based physicist, and François Englert from Brussels, won the Nobel prize for their work on the particle, which is thought to give mass to others.

The Higgs boson was the last piece of what physicists call the Standard Model, a series of equations that describe how all the known particles interact with one another. Though successful, the model is woefully incomplete, accounting for only 4% of the known universe. With the LHC, scientists hope to find physics beyond the Standard Model, a first step to explaining the majority of the cosmos that lies beyond our comprehension.

“The LHC will be running day and night. When we will get results we don’t know. What is important is that we will have collisions at energies we’ve never had before,” said Arnaud Marsollier, a Cern spokesman.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Trevor Timm: Congress must end mass NSA surveillance with next Patriot Act vote

In less than 60 days, Congress – whether they like it or not – will be forced to decide if the NSA’s most notorious mass surveillance program lives or dies. And today, over 30 civil liberties organizations launched a nationwide call-in campaign urging them to kill it.

Despite doing almost everything in their power to avoi voting for substantive NSA reform, Congress now has no choice: On 1 June, one of the most controversial parts of the Patriot Act – known as Section 215 – will expire unless both houses of Congress affirmatively vote for it to be reauthorized.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act was the subject of the very first Snowden story, when the Guardian reported that the US government had reinterpreted the law in complete secrecy, allowing the NSA to vacuum up every single American’s telephone records – who they called, who called them, when, and for how long – regardless of whether they had been accused of a crime or not.

Dean Baker: The Terrible Twos: Central Bank Inflation Targets

The March job numbers came in somewhat worse than most analysts had expected. The slower job growth was largely attributable to unusually bad weather in late February and early March, but most of the commentators seem to be missing this fact. Many are warning that the economy might be weaker than they thought.

These warnings from commentators are in fact good news. They are good news first because it is almost certainly true that the economy is weaker than these analysts thought. Many had been making silly pronouncements about a new American boom that was not based in any real understanding of the economy. It’s always best when the people who are determining economic policy have some idea of the actual state of the economy.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: In Rahm Emanuel’s ‘Embarrassing’ Victory, A Warning for Democrats

Despite the power of incumbency, the backing of the President, and an array of wealthy and powerful backers, Rahm Emanuel nevertheless became the first mayor in Chicago history to be forced into a runoff. Sure, Chuy Garcia’s defeat was a setback for the left, but Emanuel’s struggle to retain his office is a warning for politicians everywhere: Corporate Democrats are likely to find themselves on the defensive in 2016 and beyond.

As the Chicago Sun-Times concluded, being forced into a runoff was a “huge national embarrassment” for Emanuel — one that could have ended his mayoralty. The nickname Emanuel earned during this race was “Mayor 1 Percent,” and it’s a name which is likely to stick. That reflects a new reality for “centrists” in the Emanuel/Third Way mold: corporate-friendly policies bring serious political risk.

David Cay Johnston: Top-earning Americans had shockingly good 2012

Americans at the top of the income ladder enjoyed an astonishing year in 2012, new data show. Compared with 2011, their incomes increased by half – their second highest ever – while their tax burdens fell to almost the lowest ever.

The tax returns of the top 400 earners reported average income of $335.7 million, a real increase of more than $111 million over 2011, a new IRS report reveals.

Even better for the top 400, their taxes came to just 16.7 percent of their adjusted gross income. [..]

Although the top 400 earners is a statistical group that can change year to year, 343 taxpayers have turned up on the list five or more times since 1990. Anyone who makes the list even once would remain for life among the top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans, those making $2 million or more, even if they achieve only average returns on their investments.

There’s a word for a government whose policies pump up the incomes of top earners and cut their tax rates while suppressing what the vast majority earn. That term is “oligarchy.”

Daphne Eviater: Guantanamo Military Commissions Stall Again: Time to Move On

How long will it take for the government to admit that the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay just aren’t working?

While closing arguments began Monday in the Boston Marathon bombing trial, moving toward some resolution for victims and their families, the trial of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks slated to eventually take place at Guantanamo is nowhere near even beginning. [..]

It’s time for the U.S. government to put an end to this fiasco. The legitimacy of such important terrorism cases as the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil is not something to be disregarded, nor is the impact on the victims’ families, who have yet to see justice done. These cases shouldn’t be maintained where they’re not working. All the military commission cases could be reliably tried in the seasoned and successful U.S. federal court system. It’s time to accept that this venture isn’t working, pack up the military commissions, transfer the cases to the United States, try the alleged perpetrators, and move on.

Robert Reich: The Big Chill: How Big Money Is Buying Off Criticism of Big Money

Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of the congregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.

He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthy congregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.

I had a similar exchange last year with the president of a small college who had invited me to give a lecture that his board of trustees would be attending. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t criticize Wall Street,” he said, explaining that several of the trustees were investment bankers.

It seems to be happening all over. [..]

Philanthropy is noble. But when it’s mostly in the hands of a few super-rich and giant corporations, and is the only game available, it can easily be abused.

Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians.

But no less dangerous is the quieter and more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose, and mobilize action against what is occurring.

On This Day In History April 9

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 9 is the 99th day of the year (100th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 266 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller.

At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end

The Daily/Nightly Show (Trevor Noah)

There is of course only one topic tonight as our attention turns from College Basketball (told you the Lady Huskies would win) to other subjects and that is Trevor Noah.

I’ll spare you the tribalism of his ancestry except to note that as a South African with mixed parentage of a type forbidden under apartheid he certainly brings a different global perspective to The Daily Show

Feeling the exceptionalism?  I’m sure that’s one of the things that attracted Jon to the idea of Trevor Noah as a host.

Initial reaction was generally positive-

To over the top ecstatic-

There were some quibbles, one of which was his general lack of experience as a Daily Show correspondent (he only has 3 appearances).  Another reservation was under representation of females as Late Night TV hosts-

And whether he had the background knowledge to handle the 2016 election (frankly I’m surprised Jon didn’t wait until after, but maybe he was tired of interviewing empty chairs)-

But we were also warned that a more serious backlash might be coming-

And sure enough, there were the tweets- all 8 out of 8000 or so for a percentage of 0.01 (for the record I’ve tweeted exactly once and while I thought it was screamingly funny at the time I can’t remember what I said).

(To be continued…)