Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Fight To Save The U.S. Postal Service : NPR

The Fight To Save The U.S. Postal Service : NPR: "More than half a million people work for the U.S. Postal Service making it the seventh largest employer in the world. But like a lot of other businesses, this one is being hit hard by the tough economy and transformed by the Internet.

Just in the last four years, mail volume is down 20 percent, so the agency is struggling to reinvent itself. But change isn't easy. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe went to Congress to ask for help. His plan, which has been endorsed by President Obama, could mean layoffs, post office closings and the end of Saturday delivery."

'via Blog this'

Afghans rock at first music festival in three decades - Yahoo! News

Afghans rock at first music festival in three decades - Yahoo! News: "Live rock returned to Afghanistan after three long decades on Saturday as young men and women cheered and leapt into the air to the sound of heavy bass beats and punk rock.

Bands from Australia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan served up a six-hour musical feast of blues, indie, electronica and death metal to hundreds of fans, many of whom had never seen live music before.

Sound Central was something new in a deeply conservative Muslim country where music was banned under the austere Taliban regime. Even now music shops are attacked in some cities and musicians taunted for their clothes or hair."

'via Blog this'

Friday, September 30, 2011

Armstrong to NASA: You're Embarrassing : Discovery News

Armstrong to NASA: You're Embarrassing : Discovery News: "Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, told lawmakers Thursday that the end of the space shuttle era has left the American human spaceflight program in an "embarrassing" state.

"We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," Armstrong told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

"For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable.""

'via Blog this'

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Putting things in perspective... The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan and Cosmos. Beautiful and wonderful... PBS Nova posted this on Facebook and I wanted to share it here.


What do Republicans have against science anyway?

Okay.  I got sucked in by another headline.  Still transferring files, though, so nothing better to do EXCEPT for getting out and enjoying the gorgeous weather!  Probably the last warm day of the fall, so I am keeping this short.  We've got nothing but drizzle and gloom on the horizon for the next ten days.

Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine"I write quite a bit about how rabidly antiscience the political right in the US has become. From the attacks on science by the Bush Administration (and Newt Gingrich before that) to the political litmus test of needing to denounce evolution and global warming if you’re a candidate, the Republican party has planted its flag firmly in the ground of nonsense. At the bottom of this article is a section called Related Posts that has links to just a handful of the copious examples of this outrageous behavior.

They have also become masters at spinning this, going on the attack against science they don’t like and using the media to sow doubt. One of the most aggravating of these tactics is the one of false equivalency. For example, in a post I might lambaste yet another Republican candidate saying creationism should be taught in schools, and someone in the comments will say, "Well, people on the left are antiscience as well!"

And that’s why you need to read an article by my friend Chris Mooney, "Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left". He lays out just how big this problem is, why the right has gone this way, and why they have solidarity among their candidates.
Chris Mooney | Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today's Left"Last week, I took to task a really poor USA Today op-ed making the following claim:
"In short, for every anti-science Republican that exists, there is at least one anti-science Democrat. Neither party has a monopoly on scientific illiteracy. Indeed, ignorance has reached epidemic proportions inside the Beltway."

I accused the author, Alex Berezow, of constructing a false equivalence between right and left wing science abuse. The latter does occur sometimes, and I’ve given many examples (ionizing radiation risks, vaccines, GMOs, etc). But it has relatively little mainstream influence today—and can hardly compare with the sweeping denial of huge bodies of knowledge (e.g., all climate science, all evolutionary science) that we see on the right."

'via Blog this'

Here is the quote Plait pulled from Mooney's article:  "The chief reason the political right is anti-science is because it contains the Christian Right (and Tea Party, which is kind of the same thing). There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one. It is not just evolution, or the age of the Earth… When it comes to science, it is also anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality. Moreover, we are talking here about the willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods, and the clinging to them in the face of all evidence and refutation—because this is about unwavering certainty, and ultimately, about faith."

Full disclosure: I have yet to read the Mooney article.  See note above about the weather.  But I will.

Story Musgrave kicks ass: Thoughts on NASA's lack of vision

10 Questions with Story Musgrave - TIME:

The best of...

"Obama has no plans. Neither has NASA Washington. They don't have the courage. NASA should create a great vision, communicate it artistically and then ask Congress to execute that."

When asked what NASA's goals should be: "To explore farther out. You need to combine your robotics program with the human programs. You go out there with robots. They mine materials, they manufacture, and they assemble a habitat for humans. That's the most reliable and lowest-cost way to get humans out there. Voyager has now been to four planets. For what the space station costs, we could have had 400 Voyagers. If we'd gone that way, today we would have had 100 satellites sending data back to Earth. That's what we gave up by not having the courage to leap off and go further."

One small step for China, one impossible step for America: Falling behind in space

I told myself I wouldn't get distracted with these little posts today, but this story gets to me. Hooray for China! Now, why the hell can't the U. S. figure it out.

This nails it, for me... "It's not driven so much by science, but by the desire to develop new technologies."  And what can we do with new technologies?  Sell them.  And what does product development and the manufacturing and marketing of new technologies do for a struggling economy?  These things create jobs!

Oh yeah, and there is that whole optimism and hope thing too.

Sure, it could be said that right now they are only repeating steps that NASA took 30 years ago.  But we've, pretty much been sitting on our asses for 20 years, so they are not that far behind overall and right now, bottom line, they can put people in space and we cannot.  They are ahead and they win, for now, at least.

In a related post to follow, I think Story Musgrave does a great job putting words to many of my own concerns about the current state of the U. S. space program.

BBC News - Rocket launches Chinese space lab
"China is investing billions of dollars in its space programme. It has a strong space science effort under way, with two orbiting satellites having already been launched to the Moon. A third mission is expected to put a rover on the lunar surface. The Asian country is also deploying its own satellite-navigation system known as BeiDou, or Compass.

Bigger rockets are coming, too. The Long March 5 will be capable of putting more than 20 tonnes in a low-Earth orbit. This lifting muscle, again, will be necessary for the construction of a space station.

"There are loads of ideas floating around, and they're serious about implementing them," said UK space scientist John Zarnecki, who is a visiting professor at Beihang University, the new name for the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

"There's a sense of great optimism. It's not driven so much by science, but by the desire to develop new technologies. The money is there, although it's not limitless. And they're taking it step by step," he told BBC News."

'via Blog this'

BBC News - China launches space lab into orbit"The 10.5m-long, cylindrical module will be unmanned for the time being, but the country's astronauts, or yuhangyuans, are expected to visit it next year.

Tiangong-1 will demonstrate the critical technologies needed by China to build a fully fledged space station - something it has promised to do at the end of the decade."

'via Blog this'

Time to retire the old header...

This one hasn't been up that long, but it is time for it to go...

Democracy In Distress dates back to George W. Bush's re-election in 2004 and is the home for my political writing and discussions of current, topical issues.

Anyway, been working on some changes to all four of the blogs.  The two old ones and the two "new" ones.  Well, one is just moving over to Blogger from Live Journal, but the other is a brand new one centered around music and my once and future band/whatever project.  So, for now, it is pretty much just a dumping ground for music clips and related minutiae.

So,  a lot of work tonight for some minor cosmetic changes...  However, everything is a little bigger, so there is room for bigger pictures, bigger videos, etc...   And that meant going through some dusty corners of my hard drive looking for the original image files for the headers for both this blog and Rubble.  So it took a minute.  And now I am done.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GOP: The true tax and spend party?

Posted by Anne on Facebook, thanks!

Republicans too liberal for today's GOP: Dwight Eisenhower

This is not our grandparents' Republican Party...

Suburbanites Graduate from Oxy to Smack | The Fix

Availability of drugs, the economy... Many factors contribute to the rising statistics of addiction. This is a disturbing trend. People get comfortable with the prescriptions because they are just pills, and not street drugs. But then, once addicted, they realize the street drugs are cheaper and easier to get, and since they are opiates, just like they are already taking, the once frightening stigma of heroin is removed.

Chicago's Suburbanites Graduate from Oxy to Smack | The Fix: "growing numbers of white suburbanites now graduate from pain pills, such as oxycodone, to heroin—often in reaction to their supplies of prescription drugs drying up. As prescription drug abuse increases in Chicago, so the use of traditional street drugs like heroin continues to spread from the city to the surrounding counties. Heroin deaths in Lake County rose 130% between 2000 and 2009, for example. And although Chicago's number of heroin-related deaths during the decade up to 2008 fell overall, the figure increased 40% among white women. Epperly believes that prescription drug and heroin abuse are “intertwined [and] similar enough that addicts who run out of one may take the other as a substitute.” Users who start on prescription meds, which many consider to be “safe,” find it a simple matter to move on to heroin, which is “now easier to try because it’s pure enough to snort or smoke rather than inject,” explains Epperly."

'via Blog this'

Can this government be fixed? Three steps that might help –

Can this government be fixed? Three steps that might help – "three "wave" elections in a row shifted political power but failed to fundamentally change the way Washington works, or doesn't work. They have some ideas for steps that could help.

Perhaps the most significant would change the way congressional lines are drawn, making more districts competitive and increasing the odds that centrist candidates could prevail. Revising the rules for Senate filibusters could prevent a few senators from routinely blocking action supported by a majority. And changing the congressional calendar could encourage legislators to build personal relationships with colleagues from the other party."

'via Blog this'

NC governor struck serious tone on suspending congressional elections

Yes, there are crazy, incompetent people on both sides...  Cleaning out some old drafts and found this one.  It's old.

New audio: NC governor struck serious tone on suspending congressional elections - Yahoo! News: "Perdue faced almost instant national criticism on Tuesday after she recommended suspending elections until the economy recovers.
“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue said at a rotary club event in Cary, N.C., according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”"

Something to remember...

Economists Like the Jobs Act a Lot More Than Congress - Yahoo! News

Economists Like the Jobs Act a Lot More Than Congress - Yahoo! News: "The news service surveyed economists and found them to be overwhelmingly positive on the jobs act, predicting anywhere from a 1.3 percent to a 2 percent boost to the nation's economy if it passes, preventing a recession in 2012. As the Washington Times' Steve Benen points out, "support for the American Jobs Act continues to be much stronger among economists than members of Congress." It gets even better for the White House: The economists Bloomberg surveyed said Republican plans would actually push the economy back toward recession. "

'via Blog this'

Man Charged With Possessing 4,000 Pounds Of Explosives, Saying 'We Will Be Mercenaries' | TPMMuckraker

In the worse case scenarios, this is where the far right and the tea party's rhetoric leads... That is why, while I respect their freedom of speech, I feel that the level and tone of their vitriol is irresponsible and dangerous. There are people out there who take the venomous words of politics way too seriously and become a danger to all Americans.

As the threat of foreign terrorists wanes, at least in the minds of most Americans, the threat of domestic terrorism will increase. And one thing for all of those on the far right who whine about the far left's rhetoric, I will say this. OKC came from the right side, not the left.

Man Charged With Possessing 4,000 Pounds Of Explosives, Saying 'We Will Be Mercenaries' | TPMMuckraker: "A Michigan man was charged with possessing over 4,000 pounds of explosives and allegedly told an informant that "when the government takes over, we will be mercenaries.""

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Axelrod: Obama faces 'titanic struggle' - Yahoo! News

Axelrod: Obama faces 'titanic struggle' - Yahoo! News: "President Barack Obama's chief political adviser on Tuesday conceded that a dark cloud looms over the American economy and Obama's political future, describing the president's road to a second term in the White House as "a titanic struggle."

"We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces," David Axelrod told an audience of New Hampshire politicians and business leaders. "So this is going to be a titanic struggle. But I firmly believe we're on the right side of the struggle."

But even as he acknowledged the stark political reality, Axelrod said the president would ultimately win re-election, in part because of the flawed field of Republican candidates. He characterized their plans to repair the nation's ailing economy as the same kind of deregulation and tax cuts that caused the downturn in the first place."

'via Blog this'

Stupid voters enable broken government -

Stupid voters enable broken government - " This is one of a series of CNN Opinion articles on the question, "Why is our government so broken?" LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET."

"...Newt Gingrich, who cheated on two wives and is the only speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations. And yet somehow he is running for president of the United States as a religious conservative and managed to get 8% of the votes during last week's straw poll in Florida.
Are you freaking kidding me?"

"Each time Rep. Michele Bachmann insinuates falsehoods into her arguments, as she did earlier this month on the "Today Show" by suggesting HPV vaccinations cause mental retardation, I think: A group of people on auto-pilot in Minnesota did this to us."

Life Inc. - Can you live on $9 an hour? Play the game

Life Inc. - Can you live on $9 an hour? Play the game: "Would you like to be a server, a warehouse worker or a temp?

From there, the choices get more difficult.
Should you pay to get your pet medical care, or let the animal suffer?
Should you go to the dentist or suffer yourself and save some bucks?
Should you let your child and a friend get ice cream, or do you need that $5 for bills?
The game is interspersed with facts about the choices people with very little money are making every day, and the consequences of those choices."

'via Blog this'

The Game: