Tuesday Reads: Are Things Really As Bad As I Think?

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.

As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building  and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.

As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?

As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.

Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?

Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.

Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:

Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.

In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.

Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:

He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”

The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.

So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually  happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.

From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.

Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.

While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.

Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.

Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)

Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)

No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)

There are plenty more headlines where those came from.

And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.

What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?

From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.

Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.

Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign

President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.

Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.

The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.

In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.

It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.

Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.

Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.

Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.

On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.

For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.

I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:

You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up,  and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.

Please go read the rest.

Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.

Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [....]

I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.

More hilarity at the link.

And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.

A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.

According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”

She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”

Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”

When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.

This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Bacon on Wheels, Alpaca Buzz Cuts and Penguins on Parade

151-001Good Morning

Guess you can tell from the title of this post, animals will play a feature role in today’s reads.  Right now here in Banjoville the skies are opening up and raining down cats and dogs. Loud thunder is shaking the house, and that means lightning…real bad lightning…so I best make this post short and sweet. So here are your morning reads in link dump fashion.

Well, down in Miami the police roughed up a kid who was holding a puppy because he looked at them funny. I should say not funny as in funny amusing, but as they put it….”dehumanizing.”

Police Allegedly Assault Black Kid Carrying A Puppy For Looking At Them Wrong

Miami-Dade Police allegedly handcuffed and choked a 14 year old boy while he was carrying a newborn puppy for giving them a “dehumanizing” stare. A court case over the incident will begin on July 16th.

Tremaine McMillian was, by his account, playing on a beach with a friend and his puppy on the Miami boardwalk when police came over to tell them to stop “roughousing.” Though the police later admitted the boys’ activity was neither criminal nor violent, they asked the boys where their parents were. McMillian directed the officers to his nearby mother, and that’s where the family and the police’s story diverge.

McMillian and his mother, Maurissa Holmes, say the police chased down McMillian on ATVs and attacked him essentially without provocation. “The police officers were on their ATVs, and my son was walking,” Holmes said. “They jumped off their ATVs, grabbed him and slammed him to the ground.”

You can read the police’s version at the link, you can also see video of the arrest as well…there are some discrepancies however…pointed out by Tommy Christopher…check this out.

…there’s another painfully adorable detail that was left out of that report. Here’s what Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaletatold CBS 4:

Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told D’Oench it was just after 11:00 am on Memorial Day on Haulover Beach when officers saw McMillian slamming another teenager on to the sand.

“They told him that behavior was unacceptable,” said Zabaleta. “He walked away and officers followed him. They asked where his parents were. He said he was not going to take them to them. When he started to leave the beach area, officers had to get off their ATVs to detain him. He had closed arms, clenched fists and pulled his arm away.”

“Once he was approaching the road, the officers restrained him. Again his body language was that he was stiffening up and pulling away,” said Zabaleta. “Now you’re resisting officers at that point and when the hands are swinging and you are resisting officers, at that point you have to be taken into custody.”

“Of course we have to neutralize the threat,” said Zabaleta. “When you have somebody resistant to them and pulling away and somebody clenching their fists and flailing their arms, that’s a threat.”

He said the police report did not indicate that a puppy was involved.

“At that point we are not concerned with a puppy,” said Zabaleta. “We are concerned with the threat to the officer.”

So, the police don’t seem to be disputing that the puppy was there, just that he didn’t merit inclusion in the report. But if the puppy was there, then how do police explain this?

“How could I be clenching my fists when I was taking care of my puppy and giving him some milk with a bottle?” asked McMillian.

I mean the kid was giving the newborn puppy a bottle of milk…WTF?

Shit…with the way law enforcement authorities are reporting things lately, that bottle of milk could have been a rocket launcher and the puppy? Well that was no puppy, that was a dwarf Muslim terrorist, hey….don’t mistake that fur for the towel on his head. /snark

I want to bring this story to your attention, it is about pigs but not the real animals. U.S. Naval Academy football players investigated for sexual assault | Reuters

Three members of the U.S. Naval Academy football team are being investigated for the alleged sexual assault of a female student, the Pentagon said on Friday, the latest in a string of scandals that have thrown a spotlight on sex crimes in the military.

The alleged incident took place in April 2012, when the student attended a party at the off-campus “football house” in Annapolis, Maryland and became intoxicated, her attorney, Susan Burke, said in a statement.

“She woke up at the football house the next morning with little recall of what had occurred. She learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated,” Burke said, without identifying her client by name.

No charges have been brought forth yet, this is still being investigated.

Burke said that one of the football players pressured the woman not to cooperate with an initial investigation into the case. She initially followed that advice, but was still “ostracized and retaliated against by the football players and the Naval Academy community.” She was also disciplined for drinking, Burke said in a statement.

In early 2013, the female student decided to seek legal help and the Navy re-opened the investigation, Burke said.

“Over time, the midshipman began to recover from the trauma, and became angered at the lack of justice and retaliation in her case,” she said.

I am sure that this investigation will eventually end up like these cases usually do. But with the congressional hearings coming up…maybe there will be a fire under the ass of these military brass and justice will finally take a front seat and not get molested like so many of these women service members.

Here is yet another article about shitty pay and what it does to the economy. One Walmart’s Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year, House Dems Find

Then you have the other side of the coin, y’all heard that Tumblr was sold to Yahoo for 1.1 billion dollars…check this out: Tumblr’s Creative Director Quits

On to something more interesting, these next two links are about different things…but deal with the same subject.

First, this article from the New York Times: Justice Dept. Reports Rise in Prosecutions on Indian Lands

The Justice Department said this week that it had increased its rate of criminal prosecutions in Indian country by more than 50 percent in the past four years, a period in which violent crime on the nation’s Indian reservations has soared and tribes have complained of lawlessness.

The data, part of a Justice Department report released Thursday, found that United States attorneys had prosecuted about 69 percent of the 3,145 criminal cases referred to their offices from Indian country last year — an improvement over 2011, when the federal government tried 63 percent of 2,840 criminal cases in Indian country.

The report comes amid a wave of violent crime on Indian lands and criticism of the Justice Department by tribal officials who say United States attorneys pursue far too few violent criminal cases on reservations.

Prosecutors say they must decline many Indian country cases — about 60 percent of the total — because of a lack of evidence.

The feds usually prosecute murder, rape and white-collar crimes, but these numbers are a bit confusing because there is a new law that went into effect which includes various other violent crimes.

Previous government data have cited violent crimes, which presented a more pessimistic picture: that the Justice Department files charges in only about half of Indian country murder investigations and one-third of sexual assault cases. The data also showed the number of prosecutions by United States attorneys of violent crimes fell by 3 percent from 2000 to 2010, even as crime on some reservations increased by 50 percent or more.

But the report released this week does not separate the number of federal prosecutions for violent crimes. Instead, the report groups them with drug cases and white-collar crime.

On Friday, Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, said the analysis did not specify figures for violent crime because the department was not required to do so by the Tribal Law and Order Act, a 2010 law that mandates that the department release prosecution rates in Indian country. (This week’s report is the agency’s first since the law went into effect.)

I guess these reports are just like any other reports out there, what the hell do they really tell us? And do they exist so people can twist these department figures to their advantage, and by doing that manipulate the dialogue to justify their own agenda. (I know the answer to that…)

The other link is this: Do Mascots Need Modernizing? « The Dish

Earlier this week, ten members of Congress sent a letter to the front office of the Washington Redskins, pushing them to select a new mascot:

In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs.  The usage of the “R-word” is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem.  It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people. We look forward to working with you to find a solution to this important matter.

This is something that I am hesitant to get involved in. I am no fan of the Atlanta Braves, but they also have an Indian mascot. There is talk of getting the government involved, like previous strategy used by the JFK admin when the Redskins owners would not integrate the team.  See  the JFKs guys would not allow the Redskins on the stadium property because it was federal land…however,

Doug Mataconis disagrees with the liberal lawmakers’ strategy:

I have to wonder why this is something that Members of Congress need to be getting involved in, or why legislation is necessary to address something that is, in the end, a private business matter.

The people who don’t like the name are free to protest it. Dan Snyder and the rest of Redskins ownership are free to reject their pleas. If there ever comes a time when the public sympathizes with the protesters, then perhaps the team will feel the kind of economic pressure most likely to cause them to change positions, then we’ll likely see a name change of some kind.

Personally, I think the odds of that happening are pretty remote. The Redskins name has been in existence now since 1933 when the football version of the Boston Braves changed its name to Boston Redskins before moving to Washington, D.C. several years later. We’re not that far away from the 100th anniversary of that name. It’s going to be around for a long time to come, and I’m just fine with that.

Well, the Redskins play on the FedEx field in Maryland now…and it isn’t on Federal land. Like I said, I don’t know how I feel about this…guess we will talk about it in the comments below.

Ralph posted a link to an article about the DOJ Press Leaks by Walter Pincus last week in the comments and I thought everyone would appreciate this response from the ACLU. (I remembered the name Pincus because of Seinfeld…and Kramer, “Poor little Pincus.”) Anyway: Responding to The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws | American Civil Liberties Union

There is a rumor going round that Hillary Clinton is getting her own Twitter Hillary Clinton To Start Using Twitter: Report:This is supposed to be her handle…  https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton

For some far out images,  Global flight-path maps: Five interpretations  Large pictures here:  In pictures: Global flight paths

A bit of Manhattan History for those of you who are the nostalgic types: 1930s New York subway train makes rare trip from Queens to Manhattan

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May 30, 2013: In this photo provided by the New York Mass Transit Administration, an unidentified MTA employee checks the platform from between the cars of a 1930’s era subway train in the Queens borough of New York. (AP/Mass Transit Administration)

[...]

Lucky straphangers who happened to be in the right place at the right time on Thursday got to ride in eight subway cars purchased between 1930 and 1939.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority says some of the cars were taken out of the New York Transit Museum to commemorate the opening of a stretch of subway tracks badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

After the ceremony, the cars were put into regular passenger service for one quick trip from Queens to upper Manhattan.

Riders on board the train took pictures and gawked at its old-school style. Ads for Clark bars, fireworks shows on Coney Island and Levy’s Rye Bread adorned the walls.

More history for you, this is Breaking Bad meets Inglorious Basturds: Crystal Meth Origins Link Back to Nazi Germany and World War II – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Crystal meth is notorious for being highly addictive and ravaging countless communities. But few know that the drug can be traced back to Nazi Germany, where it first became popular as a way to keep pilots and soldiers alert in battle during World War II.

Photo Gallery: Crystal Meth's German Roots

“Alertness aid” read the packaging, to be taken “to maintain wakefulness.” But “only from time to time,” it warned, followed by a large exclamation point.

The young soldier, though, needed more of the drug, much more. He was exhausted by the war, becoming “cold and apathetic, completely without interests,” as he himself observed. In letters sent home by the army postal service, he asked his family to send more. On May 20, 1940, for example, he wrote: “Perhaps you could obtain some more Pervitin for my supplies?” He found just one pill was as effective for staying alert as liters of strong coffee. And — even better — when he took the drug, all his worries seemed to disappear. For a couple of hours, he felt happy.

This 22-year-old, who wrote numerous letters home begging for more Pervitin, was not just any soldier — he was Heinrich Böll, who would go on to become one of Germany’s leading postwar writers and win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. And the drug he asked for is now illegal, notoriously so. We now know it as crystal meth.

Man, that is some fucked up shit.

Alright, since we touched on chemistry…here is a link that ties in perfectly. Molecule Chemical Bond Images From UC Berkeley | Geekosystem

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Have you ever looked at a textbook diagram of the chemical bonds that make up molecules and thought to yourself, “This is just a dumb drawing — how do they know what it even looks like in real life?” Well stop it. Stop it right now. Felix Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is going to show you what it looks like with these gorgeous high-resolution images of individual carbon atoms linking together. And guess what? They look just like they do in the textbooks. Happy now?

I swear I had no idea these things really looked like this! Did you? Go to the link to read the rest. Amazing.

Back now to my own comfort zone: ‘Amazingly rare’ letter written by Robert the Bruce to Edward II found (But I gotta say, I hated the movie Braveheart!)

An unknown and “amazingly rare” letter written by Robert the Bruce at a pivotal point of the Wars of Scottish Independence has been uncovered by a Scottish academic.

In the letter, the fearsome Scottish warrior appeals to the English King Edward II for an end to “persecution and disturbance”. It was sent in 1310, less than four years before Bannockburn, the  victory that paved the way for Scottish independence.

Dauvit Broun, professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, found the letter in The British Library while studying a manuscript written by the monks of Kirkstall Abbey about 500 years ago. The correspondence  happened to be copied by the monks into their manuscript, the original has not survived.

Professor Broun said: “It’s  amazingly rare, a freak survival. There’s nothing like this that  survives from around that time.”

Listen to the tone of Robert the Bruce…

Bruce wrote to “beseech” the king that “you would take pains to cease from our persecution and the disturbance of the people of our kingdom in order that devastation and the spilling of a neighbour’s blood may henceforth stop.”

Take a look at the rest of the article at the link. I wish they had printed the full letter. I would have loved to read the whole thing myself.

Real quick archeology links:

Japan’s Oldest-Known Wooden Mask – Archaeology Magazine

San “Rain Control” in South Africa – Archaeology Magazine

Earlier this week I linked to the female mammoth with flowing blood that was found in Siberia…well, this was another cool “ice age” related article that I was planning on sharing with you:  Centuries-old frozen plants revived

Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions.

Researchers say this back-from-the-dead trick has implications for how ecosystems recover from the planet’s cyclic long periods of ice coverage. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The receding glaciers are exposing land that has not seen daylight since the mini ice age.

Bryophytes are different from the land plants that we know best, in that they do not have vascular tissue that helps pump fluids around different parts of the organism.

They can survive being completely desiccated in long Arctic winters, returning to growth in warmer times, but Dr La Farge was surprised by an emergence of bryophytes that had been buried under ice for so long.

“When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind,” she told BBC News.

“If you think of ice sheets covering the landscape, we’ve always thought that plants have to come in from refugia around the margins of an ice system, never considering land plants as coming out from underneath a glacier.”

But the retreating ice at Sverdrup Pass, where the Teardrop Glacier is located, is uncovering an array of life, including cyanobacteria and green terrestrial algae. Many of the species spotted there are entirely new to science.

And from that story of new life from ancient plants to a post in The Atlantic, I will just put it here because…well, you all will see why: Why the Boomers Are the Most Hated Generation – Edward Tenner – The Atlantic (Look at the comments, some of them are funny and vicious indeed.)

While you “feast” on that, take a look at this op/ed from the LA Times…Jefferson Davis’ ‘presidential’ library -  It offers a rallying point for the myth of a gentle and just South dragged into the War of Northern Aggression.

And then…think about that little island in the Mediterranean for all us Sky Dancers to escape to:  The island of long life – On the Greek island of Ikaria, life is sweet… and very, very long. So what is the locals’ secret?

The island of long life – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian

Ikaria - in pictures: Ikaria island - secrets of the blue zone

BTW, did you see my man Samuel L Jackson and his latest video? Samuel L. Jackson Quitting Acting To Pursue A ‘Life Of Vigilantism’? | Mediaite

Samuel L. Jacksonsubmitted a challenge to the Reddit community this week. “It’s simple,” he wrote, “write 300 words and the most upvoted post I’ll read out loud in monologue form.” Today, Jackson posted the winning monologue video and it was just as “bad-ass” as promised.

“Hi, I’m Samuel L. Jackson,” he began, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Reddit, but I’ve decided to break the rules of my own competition.” From there, the actor said he wanted to “speak to you all from my own heart, in my own words” before announcing that he was “quitting acting and pursuing a life of vigilantism.” Fortunately for fans of one of America’s most prolific actors, this was all part of the winning submission from Reddit user adiddy.

I love this mutha…

Jackson set up the unconventional contest to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, and revealed on Reddit that the campaign had raised over $130,000. Everyone who donated was entered to win lunch with Jackson and a trip to his UK celebrity golf tournament.

The whole thing almost got “derailed by the internet forum 4Chan”but here it is…

Whoa….ooooeeee, that dude is awesome.

Now for the animals.

Sheared Alpaca – Business Insider

Alpaca Getting Sheared

Farmers shear an alpaca at a zoo in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, May 30, 2013…

Scrawny under all that fleece aren’t they. I just got one thing to say, that alpaca is not getting sheared by someone looking to spin the fiber into yarn. What a waste! Butcher of a job…

See:

What a difference….those of you inclined to fiber fun, check out the video and watch these guys get sheared.

Shearing Movies | Cliff House Alpacas

And see how the fiber is prepared:

After we Shear we Skirt | Cliff House Alpacas

Alright then, moving on to the penguins.

So This Happened | TPM Editors Blog

To greet African leaders arriving for conference in Japan, event organizers force group of Penguins to dress up in ‘African’ costumes …

And finally, meet Chris P. Bacon: The wheelchair pig

Chris P. Bacon The wheelchair pig

A Florida veterinarian who fashioned a wheelchair for his pet pig has just signed a three-book publishing deal on the life and adventures of his little friend he named Chris P. Bacon.

That’ll do pig. Oh he is so damn cute.

Geez, 3360 words later, short and sweet my ass!

That should keep everyone busy, now some of you will have storms to look out for today, so stay alert:  Severe Weather Warnings Page

And if you are around, stop and leave a comment or two….have a wonderful day!