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The Big Jobs Fuck

When language speaks louder than words.

As the economy shudders to a full stop again, world markets freak out again, and we wait expectantly for the President of the United States to politely invite the ambassadors from Jesusland to join hands with him in the spirit of comity and civic obligation to save the nation...

...politely receive their counteroffer to instead, say, cut his nads off with a band-saw...

...politely counter-counteroffer to instead let Eric Cantor throw seven million poor or sick Americans into the active volcano of his choice...

...politely watch as the GOP storms off in a brand new 2011 GM Huff, swearing to "terminate this democracy with extreme prejudice" to the cheers of their Teabagger Base...

...and then politely withdraw to a safe distance with his advisors to ponder the question "Why is "The Professional Left" (We're famous!) such shrill assholes?"...

...I shall relax and enjoy my memories of another (fictional) Presidential Address on the subject of another, all-out effort to save the day initiative, as it was penned by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 1972.

Here is a snip:

The Big Space Fuck.

In 1989, America staged the Big Space Fuck, which was a serious effort to make sure that human life would continue to exist somewhere in the Universe, since it certainly couldn’t continue much longer on Earth. Everything had turned to shit and beer cans and old automobiles and Clorox bottles. An interesting thing happened in the Hawaiian Islands, where they had been throwing trash down extinct volcanoes for years: a couple of the volcanoes all of a sudden spit it all back up. And so on.

This was a period of great permissiveness in matters of language, so even the President was saying shit and fuck and so on, without anybody’s feeling threatened or taking offense. It was perfectly OK. He called the Space Fuck a Space Fuck and so did everybody else. It was a rocket ship with eight-hundred pounds of freeze dried jizzum in its nose. It was going to fired at the Andromeda Galazy, two-million light years away. The ship was named the Arthur C. Clarke, in honor of a famous space pioneer.

It was to be fired at midnight on the Fourth of July. At ten o’clock that night, Dwayne Hooblere and his wife Grace were watching the countdown on television in the living room of their modest home in Elk Harbor, Ohio, on the shore of what used to be Lake Erie. Lake Erie was almost solid sewage now. there were man-eating lampreys in there thirty-eight feet long. Dwayne was a guard in the Ohio Adult Correctional Institution, which was two miles away. His hobby was making birdhouses out of Clorox bottles. He went on making them and hanging them around his yard, even though there weren’t any birds any more.

Dwayne and Grace marveled at a film demonstration of how jizzum had been freeze-dried for the trip. A small beaker of the stuff, which had been contributed by the head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Chicago, was flash-frozen. Then it was placed under a bell jar and the air was exhausted from the jar. The air evanesced, leaving a fine white powder. The powder certainly didn’t look like much, and Dwayne Hoobler said so– but there were several hundred million sperm cells in there, in suspended animation. The original contribution, an average contribution, had been two cubic centimeters. There was enough powder, Dwayne estimated out loud, to clog the eye of a needle. And eight hundred pounds of the stuff would soon be on its way to Andromeda.

“Fuck you, Andromeda,” said Dwayne, and he wasn’t being coarse. He was echoing billboards and stickers all over town. Other signs said, “Andromeda, We Love You,” and “Earth has the Hots for Andromeda,” and so on.

There was a knock on the door, and an old friend of the family, the County Sheriff, simultaneously let himself in. “How are you, you old motherfucker?” said Dwayne.

“Can’t complain, shitface,” said the Sheriff, and they joshed back and forth like that for a while. Grace chuckled, enjoying their wit. She wouldn’t have chuckled so richly, however, if she had been a little more observant. She might have noticed that the sheriff’s jocularity was very much on the surface. Underneath, he had something troubling on his mind. She might have noticed, too, that he had legal papers in his hand.

“Sit down, you silly old fart,” said Dwayne, ” and watch Andromeda get the surprise of her life.”

“The way I understand it,” the sheriff replied, “I’d have to sit there for more than two-million years. My old lady might wonder what’s become of me.” He was a lot smarter than Dwayne. He had jizzum on the Arthur C. Clarke, and Dwayne didn’t. You had to have an I.Q. of over 115 to have your jizzum accepted. there were certain exceptions to this: if you were a good athlete or could play a musical instrument or paint pictures, but Dwayne didn’t qualify in any of those ways, either. He had hoped that birdhouse-makers might be entitled to special consideration, but this turned out not to be the case. The Director of the New York Philharmonic, on the other hand, was entitled to contribute a whole quart, if he wanted to. he was sixty-eight years old. Dwayne was forty-two.

There was an old astronaut on the television now. He was saying that he sure wished he could go where his jizzum was going. But he would sit at home instead, with his memories and a glass of Tang. Tang used to be the official drink of the astronauts. It was a freeze-dried orangeade.

“Maybe you haven’t got two million years,” said Dwayne, ” but you’ve got at least five minutes. Sit thee doon.”

... And he couldn’t look his wretched old friends in the eye, so he looked at the television instead. A scientist there was explaining why Andromeda had been selected as a target. There were at least eighty-seven chrono-synclastic infundibulae, time warps, between Earth and the Andromeda Galaxy. If the Arthur C. Clarke passed through any one of them, the ship and its load would be multiplied a trillion times, and would appear everywhere throughout space and time.

“If there’s any fecundity anywhere in the Universe, ” the scientist promised, “our seed will find it and bloom.” One of the most depressing things about the space program so far, of course, was that it had demonstrated that fecundity was one hell of a long way off, if anywhere.

Dumb people like Dwayne and Grace, and even fairly smart people like the sheriff, had been encouraged to believe that there was hospitality out there, and that Earth was just a piece of shit to use as a launching platform.

Now Earth really was a piece of shit, and it was beginning to dawn on even dumb people that it might be the only inhabitable planet human beings would ever find.

Meanwhile, Senator Flem Snopes of Mississippi, Chair-man of the Senate Space Committee, had appeared on the television screen. He was very happy about the Big Space Fuck, and he said it had been what the American space program had been aiming toward all along. He was proud, he said, that the United States had seen fit to locate the biggest jizzum-freezing plant in his “l’il ol’ home town,” which was Mayhew.

The word “jizzum” had an interesting history, by the way. It was as old as “fuck” and “shit” and so on, but it continued to be excluded from dictionaries, long after the others were let in. This was because so many people wanted it to remain a truly magic word—the only one left.

And when the United States announced that it was going to do a truly magical thing, was going to fire sperm at the Andromeda Galaxy, the populace corrected its government. Their collective unconscious announced that it was time for the last magic word to come into the open. They insisted that sperm was nothing to fire at another galaxy. Only jizzum would do. So the Government began using that word, and it did something that had never been done before, either: it standardized the way the word was spelled.

The man who was interviewing Senator Snopes asked him to stand up so everybody could get a good look at his cod-piece, which the Senator did. Codpieces were very much in fashion, and many men were wearing codpieces in the shape of rocket ships, in honor of the Big Space Fuck. These cus-tomarily had the letters “ U.S.A.” embroidered on the shaft. Senator Snopes’ shaft, however, bore the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy.

This led the conversation into the area of heraldry in general, and the interviewer reminded the Senator of his campaign to eliminate the bald eagle as the national bird. The Senator explained that he didn’t like to have his country represented by a creature that obviously hadn’t been able to cut the mustard in modern times.

Asked to name a creature that had been able to cut the mustard, the Senator did better than that: he named two—the lamprey and the bloodworm. And, unbeknownst to him or to anybody, lampreys were finding the Great Lakes too vile and noxious even for them. While all the human beings were in their houses, watching the Big Space Fuck, lam-preys were squirming out of the ooze and onto land. Some of them were nearly as long and thick as the Arthur C. Clarke.

I would, of course, very much like it if the President of the United States would break into the Strategic Motherfucking Pejorative Reserve to call these motherfucking jackals on the Right out.

Why do I think that is unlikely?

Because of "some in Washington" ...

We pause now for a brief history lesson from the Year of Our Lord 2004, which we shrill assholes of "The Professional Left" had spent screaming for candidate John Kerry to stand up and for fuck's sake fight the Hell back.

He didn't and he lost, and we thought just maybe, in the rubble of his failed Presidential bid, the Democratic Party leadership might have finally learned down to its bones the following Very Valuable Political: unless you are a saint or a famous non-violent civil rights leader, you absolutely cannot afford to stand there with a grin on your face and talk about bipartisanship and brotherhood while your enemies empty entire outhouses full of lies and slander on your head.

From Al Franken's "The Truth with Jokes" (excerpted here with eye-catching emphasis added by me):

The point is, every good candidate should have a positive agenda. But you also have to fight back.... And that's where Kerry came up short. In politics, you can never turn the other cheek. Especially when you're fighting the Christian right.

Nothing demonstrates the "viciousness gap" between the Bush and the Kerry campaigns better than their respective national conventions.

In Boston, the Democrats made the horrible mistake of responding to a very ironic attack from the Bush team, the claim that Democrats had nothing to offer but "partisan anger." Instead of hitting back with the obvious countercharge that, no, it's Republicans who were the party of partisan anger, the Democrats decided to internalize the message of their abuser and try to be nicer.

The Republicans, on the other hand, ran a convention so partisan and angry that its fundamental dishonesty passed nearly unremarked.

Even though Democrats almost to a man believed that President Bush was an unrivaled horror show who was driving the nation off a cliff, it was easy to watch the Democratic Convention and conclude that the Democrats thought everything was hunky-dory in America, and that their only motivation was the sunny belief that their nominee could do an even better job than the incumbent.

This was no accident. In fact, it was the result of uncharacteristic message discipline on the part of the Democrats. Below the stage at Boston's Fleet Center, an elite team of wordsmiths had the thankless job of "cleansing" the speeches before they reached the teleprompter. Here's how someone who worked in the speechwriting office described it to me, on the condition that I not reveal his or her name:

One of our primary responsibilities was to take out negative comments. We were very concerned about casting the party in a positive light. If there was a line like "Bush has overseen a cataclysmic downturn in the economy and is running the country into the ground," we would have to change it to something like "Kerry will strengthen our economy and put the country on the right track." We'd flip all of the attacks into positive messages. Specifically, we didn't mention George Bush by name. I'd be surprised if there were a single speech that went into the teleprompter that had the President's name in it. Some speakers said it, but they were going off-message. We weren't even allowed to say "White House." I remember somebody asking about that, and being told to write "some in Washington."
I asked him or her (okay, it's a "him") how he felt when he saw the unflaggingly venomous Republican Convention.
Boy, I hope we didn't fuck up. That was my reaction.
But fuck up they had. After the Democratic Convention, Kerry's standing in the polls went up by 4 percent, the smallest post-convention bounce in the history of the Newsweek poll. Compare that to Bush's bounce of 13 percent.
Over in the Better Universe, that would be filed under "Got it. Lesson learned".

But seven years later, over in this Universe...

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Washington, DC

Now, I know that in this tough fiscal environment, it’s tempting for some in Washington to want to cut our investments in clean energy.

And again...

August 11, 2011

The White House Blog

President Obama: There’s Something Wrong with our Politics that We Need to Fix

"There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win — and that has to stop.”

And again...

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Putting the American People First
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Washington, DC

That’s what’s holding us back – the fact that some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.

No, Mr. President. not "some in Washington" or "Some in Congress". The words you are looking for are "those fucking Republicans who are trying to fuck me by fucking you the fuck up".

Or, what Markos said:

Bottom line, if Obama's approach to governing was proving popular, then there'd be little fault. If triangulating against liberals bolstered his numbers with independents, then that'd be cool! Heck, if slapping my first-born in the face bumped his numbers up with independents, I'd tolerate it. But it's not. His current approach isn't working. Capitulating to the GOP on matters big (and small) only reinforce the notion that he's weak. No one cares that he's the "grownup" in the room. No one cares that he's "reasonable" or "compromising" or "serious."

Because of the gutless unwillingness of anyone but shrill assholes of "The Professional Left" to name the true name of the monsters who are killing this country, we see once again how very much language speaks louder than words.

And so it goes.


Republican Protocol Droid

Discovers the Republican Party.

The further adventure of C3-BOBO, Human-Suburb relations…

In this Year of Our Lord 2011, Our Mr. Brooks has noticed that the Party of God seems to be doing some stuff that appears to be, um, harmful and consults his OEM Technical Manual --

The Republicans, and Rick Perry in particular, have a reasonably strong story to tell about decline. America became great, they explain, because its citizens possessed certain vigorous virtues: self-reliance, personal responsibility, industriousness and a passion for freedom.

But, over the years, government has grown and undermined these virtues. Wall Street financiers no longer have to behave prudently because they know government will bail them out. Middle-class families no longer have to practice thrift because they know they can use government to force future generations to pay for their retirements. Dads no longer have to marry the women they impregnate because government will step in and provide support.

Moreover, a growing government sucked resources away from the most productive parts of the economy — innovators, entrepreneurs and workers ...

There’s much truth to this narrative.

-- to figure out how this can possibly be so.

Yet as great as the need is to streamline, reform and prune the state, that will not be enough to restore America’s vigorous virtues. This is where current Republican orthodoxy is necessary but insufficient.

The United States became the wealthiest nation on earth primarily because Americans were the best educated. ...That advantage has entirely eroded over the past 30 years.

Job creation was dismal even in the seven years before the recession, when taxes were low and Republicans ran the regulatory agencies. As economist Michael Spence has argued, nearly all of the job growth over the past 20 years has been in sectors where American workers don’t have to compete with workers overseas.

Inequality is rising, and society is stratifying. Americans are less likely to move in search of opportunity. Social mobility has been flat for decades...

Republicans have done almost nothing to grapple with and address these deeper structural problems.

All of the failures Our Mr. Books articulates are, of course, not some weird anomalies of our political system, but actually the fundamental components of the Basic Operating System of Mr. Brooks' Conservatism, manifesting themselves more and more aggressively as it single-mindedly pursues its Prime Directive: Rolling back the 20th Century by any means necessary.

These are not glitches in your Republican Party, Mr. Brooks: these are its proudest features.

All of which Mr. Brooks knows this perfectly well but can never, ever say out loud. Because the day does is the day he will no longer have a job writing piffle like this for the New York Times.

What are they complaining about? by David Atkins

What are they complaining about?
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Matt Yglesias has the most profound insight into today's jobless numbers:

Looks like we had 17,000 thousand new private sector jobs in August, which were 100 percent offset by 17,000 lost jobs in the public sector.

The striking zero result should galvanize minds, but it’s worth noting that this has been the trend all year. The public sector has been steadily shrinking. According to the conservative theory of the economy, when the public sector shrinks that should super-charge the private sector. What’s happened in the real world has been that public sector shrinkage has simply been paired with anemic private sector growth. This is what I’ve called “The Conservative Recovery.” Conservatives complain about the results because the President is a Democrat named Barack Obama. But the policy result is what conservatives say they want.

Public sector job losses, private sector job gains, in a neat 1-to-1 correspondence. Isn't that exactly what the tea party crowd wanted?

The Very Serious Journalists should certainly be asking Republicans those questions.

Also, they might want to ask just how many more government jobs must be cut before private sector job gains outpace those cuts by the sorts of 10-to-1 margins that it would take to bring the country back to full employment. Probing on the exact mechanism by which firing school teachers will push big corporations to create jobs would be nice, too.

Not holding my breath, though.


A grisly sight indeed

A grisly sight indeed

by digby

This is beginning to feel like a waking nightmare where everything is familiar, but completely different. Here's Roy Edroso on the latest wingnut tsuris over Martin Luther King:

A longer-lived staple of conservative anti-racist cred has been their effusions over Martin Luther King, Jr. Yes, back in the old days they hated King ("For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country" -- National Review. More here!). But when things got a little hot for them, bigotry-wise, they shifted to declaring King a good conservative; on every MLK Day, in and among their many confused tributes, you'll see many that insist King's vision of a color-blind society is exactly what conservatives have been trying to do all along. Then they grab parasols and handkerchiefs, burst into "When The Saints Go Marchin' In," and dance around. It's a grisly sight.

But that may be changing. Get a load of this editorial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner in the Washington Times, the Moonie wingnut paper:
Undoubtedly, King deserves much praise...

Yet, there was a dark side to King and it should not be ignored. Its effects continue to plague our society. Contrary to popular myth, the Baptist minister was a hypocrite who consistently failed to uphold his professed Christian standards. His rampant adultery...
Boy, nobody tell Kuhner about Jack Kennedy, that doorty Irishman! These ancient accusations are the sort of thing white supremacists like to play with, but which leave most of us who are under 80 cold, so Kuhner moves on to the sort of thing everyone in 2011 is worried about:
Moreover, King was a radical leftist. He promoted socialism, pacifism and the appeasement of totalitarian communism. He opposed the Vietnam War...

At home, he called for heavy public spending, urban renewal and a cradle-to-grave nanny state... racial quotas... affirmative action and billions in welfare assistance... identity politics...
This is the point in the peroration where a less self-possessed demagogue might start yelling about welfare queens and Cadillacs. But we're not there yet, brothers and sisters (and Jeffrey T. Kuhner may not get there with you, though not for lack of trying); instead he goes here:
King’s leftism ultimately betrayed his original civil rights creed.
Because affirmative action, set-asides, etc. Also, "King’s socialism also convinced many blacks to adopt welfare liberalism."

Roy observes, as only he can:
Gotta give Kuhner credit: This bit about civil rights hurting black people is wingnut SOP of long standing, but it takes some stones to suggest that Martin Luther King is the real racist.

Yes, but reverse racism is the new black. This fine fellow is being wingnut fashion forward. I'm sure within a year half the country will believe that Bull Connor was America's true civil rights hero, unfairly maligned by the socialist welfare queens and gay terrorist liberals.

Dish reportedly launching Blockbuster movie streaming service next month

Dish Network already has its DishOnline streaming service for its own paying customers, but it looks like it's now set to take direct aim at Netflix with a standalone subscription service that will be open to everyone. According to Bloomberg, that will operate under the company's recently acquired Blockbuster brand and, in what's surely a bitter pill for Netflix to swallow, it's said to include titles from Starz (which also handles movies from Disney and Sony). As you'll recall from yesterday, it announced that it will be pulling all of its titles from Netflix in February of next year after it failed to reach an agreement with the company. Details on the service otherwise remain a bit light -- including any word of a possible subscription price -- although Bloomberg says it "may" also include on-demand Blockbuster movies that Dish customers will be able to watch on their TVs.

Dish reportedly launching Blockbuster movie streaming service next month originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 02 Sep 2011 16:11:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Polluted politics

Polluted politics

by digby

If you are wondering why the climate hawks are so up in arms over this ozone ruling today, the context will clear it up for you. Brad Plumer spells it out:

The last time new ozone standards were set was back in 1997 — at 84 parts per billion. In 2006, the EPA reviewed the science on ozone and health, which had advanced considerably over the years: It wasn’t until the 2000s, for instance, that researchers realized ground-level ozone might actually be killing people, not just causing respiratory problems. And so, that year, EPA scientists recommended a new level of 60 to 70 parts per billion. The Bush administration, however, went with a level of 75 parts per billion in its final rules, issued in 2008.

Groups such as the American Lung Association quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the Bush rules, which they claimed were too weak and would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and cases of respiratory disease. However, when Obama came into office, the new EPA said it basically agreed with the critics and would issue revised rules by August 2010. At that point, the ALA agreed to hold off on its lawsuit. “We said, that sounds reasonable to us,” says Paul Billings, the ALA’s vice-president for policy and advocacy. “We basically trusted that they had good intentions.”

But August 2010 rolled around. Still no rules. The EPA asked for a further extension. Then October. Then December. Still nothing. Then the EPA said it wanted to go back and look at the science again, just to double-check. Sure enough, EPA’s scientific review board said that 60 to 70 parts per billion was the way to go. And EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the final rules would be more or less in line with the science.

Industry groups, obviously, weren’t pleased with this. They noted that complying with a stricter standard could cost them anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion per year by 2020. (The EPA did, however, note that a tougher standard would yield benefits of $13 billion to $100 billion.) Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called it “possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama administration regulations.”

So now, today, the White House announced that it’s not going to have any new rules...

So what happens now? That’s unclear. Right now, most states are still operating under the old 1997 standards. The EPA had earlier directed states not to follow the (somewhat stricter) 2008 Bush standards because it was working on even tighter standards. But now those regulations aren’t happening. As Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Ar Agencies told me, the EPA could now direct states to follow the 2008 rules, but that seems unlikely given the White House’s preference to wait until the 2013 review. So that means states probably will keep operating under the old 1997 standards, which are weaker than even what the Bush administration had come up with. “We would have had tighter standards if we had just followed the Bush-era rules back in 2008,” notes Becker.

Once again you find yourself wondering what they are thinking and it would seem to boil down to a choice between a bizarre and useless political move or a sop to campaign donors. Maybe it's both. But if by announcing it today they thought this was a way to balance out the bad unemployment news, somebody needs to call the DEA and have them confiscate whatever it is they're smoking over there. This just adds to the sense of chaos and confusion.

On the other hand, they love to do the old "one from column A and one from column B" bipartisan menu planning, so maybe this means he won't approve the Alberta tar sands pipeline. We'll be coughing either way.

Oh and BTW:

Paper Disputing Basic Science of Climate Change is "Fundamentally Flawed," Editor Resigns, Apologizes

One month ago, a paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell was published in the journal Remote Sensing arguing that far less future global warming will occur than the scientific community currently anticipates. This highly controversial finding – controversial since it is at odds with observations, basic understanding of atmospheric physics, models, and with what most scientists think we know about climate science — was seized upon by climate change deniers and skeptics and broadcast loud and far.

While other climate experts quickly pointed to fatal flaws in the paper, it received a great deal of attention from certain media. In something of a media frenzy, Fox News, the authors themselves in press releases and web comments, Forbes, in a column by a lawyer at the Heartland Institute, Drudge, and others loudly pointed to this as evidence that the vast array of science on climate change was wrong.

The staggering news today is that the editor of the journal that published the paper has just resigned, with a blistering editorial calling the Spencer and Braswell paper “fundamentally flawed,” with both “fundamental methodological errors” and “false claims.” That editor, Professor Wolfgang Wagner of the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, is a leading international expert in the field of remote sensing. In announcing his resignation, Professor Wagner says “With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements.”

Just saying. Enabling polluters isn't going to solve anything. It will only make things worse.

The consensus of wrong

The consensus of wrong

by digby


Zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year US bonds is down to 2.04%, and it’s negative on inflation-protected securities.

Aren’t you glad we pivoted from jobs to deficits a year and a half ago?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Is austerity killing Europe’s recovery?

After more than a year of aggressive budget cutting by European governments, an economic slowdown on the continent is confronting policymakers from Madrid to Frankfurt with an uncomfortable question: Have they been addressing the wrong problem?

Yah think?

Too bad there weren’t any prominent economists warning that the obsession with short-term deficits was a terrible mistake, that austerity would undermine hopes of recovery. Oh, wait.

He says that he's still gathering his thoughts about why this happened and I'll be interested to read what he has to say.

Back in the day I used to pose a question every once in while just to get a read on whether any consensus was emerging: Why did we go into Iraq? Inevitably, there would be at least a dozen different answers, all plausible, all probably held by some Very Serious Person or war hawk somewhere. I suspect we're going to see the inexplicable move to austerity the same way. There were different reasons, but all of them were wrong.


Incredible Animal Adaptations [Page 3.14]

Greg Laden reports that scientists have sequenced the genome of the Tammar Wallaby, which boasts "the longest period of embryonic diapause of any known mammal, highly synchronized seasonal breeding and an unusual system of lactation." The new research "provides a hitherto lacking understanding of marsupial gene evolution and hopes to have identified marsupial-specific genetic elements." Dr. Dolittle shares more amazing research on Life Lines, telling us seals can cool off their brains while diving to conserve oxygen. They do this by shunting blood "to large superficial veins allowing heat to escape to the environment" instead of "routing the blood through arterio-venous heat exchangers." And on The Weizmann Wave, researchers conclude fruit bats use more than echolocation to navigate after gluing tiny GPS transmitters to their backs. Bats released 84 kilometers from home made straight for their old haunts—as soon as they had a line of sight. This suggests bats "watch for prominent visual landmarks" to "judge their distance and mentally triangulate their positions," and could even "sense directional sea breezes or magnetic fields."

Read the comments on this post...

Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


This Labor Day, Let’s Unite to Fight for the Middle Class

 by California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski

There’s a threat to America’s economic future that’s so overlooked it’s gone almost unnoticed amid the endless debate over the debt ceiling and federal spending: massive income inequality.

This Labor Day, the gap that separates the very wealthy from the rest of us is as wide as it was in the Great Depression. Since the economic collapse of 2008, workers have suffered through joblessness, home foreclosures, reduced wages and benefits and a sustained assault on our right to collectively bargain. Did you notice that corporate profits are soaring and Wall Street bankers are receiving fatter bonuses than ever? And we wonder why our middle class is disappearing before our eyes.

When FDR gave workers the right to bargain collectively amidst the Great Depression, he did so because he believed strong unions would create a strong middle class. History proved him right. It’s a fact that when union membership increases, so do wages and benefits for ALL workers, not just union members. Unions raise the bar for everyone – which means even non-union employers offer better wages and benefits in order to stay competitive.

But the opposite is also true. Weakened unions lead to a weak middle class. As union membership has declined over the past 40 years, so have workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions. According to a new study published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review, the decline of union membership since the 1970s explains about a fifth of the increase in wage inequality among women and about a third among men.

In other words, the corporate assault on unions is dragging down the entire economy.

For more than 100 years, unions have been the primary counter-force to corporate greed and excess, pushing for common-sense labor standards like the minimum wage, weekends, health care and retirement security. But without strong unions, corporations have no counterbalance. It’s not a surprise that as union membership has declined, corporations have grown more and more powerful, and workers’ share of the pie has been reduced to crumbs.

The corporate CEO crowd still isn’t satisfied. Anti-union forces – both across the country and in California – are hell-bent on crushing workers’ rights, unions and the middle class. It’s not just in Wisconsin.

From San Jose to Costa Mesa, attacks on unions and workers’ rights are happening right here, in towns and cities across California. And now, right-wing extremists have launched an all-out assault on all of us by once again pushing for a “paycheck deception” ballot measure to silence our voice in political campaigns. If they succeed, Big Business execs will have cleared the field of any opposition, and income inequality will grow, wiping out any hope of the American Dream for most families.

Every generation has its fight for justice. The fight to rebuild the middle class and create a fair economy is ours. If ever there was a time to unite around our shared ideals, the time is now.

That’s why, this Labor Day, we all must come together-- union members and non-union members, public sector and private sector – to beat back these attacks. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Join together with your co-workers. Volunteer with your union. Corporations may have the money, but that can never match our grassroots power.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that “the arc of history bends toward justice.” But sometimes, even history needs some help. It’s up to us to give it that boost so that we can create a brighter future for our families, children and grandchildren.


The “Only Grown-up” strategy

The "Only Grown-up" Strategy

by digby

The NY Times this morning:

Anticipation of President Obama’s plan for creating jobs while cutting deficits, now heightened by the scheduling controversy over his prime time address to Congress next Thursday, has turned on a question: Will he go big and highlight his sharp differences with Republicans, or will he be pragmatic and downsize his ideas to get Republican votes?

The challenge for Mr. Obama is that he must do both.

Despite Republican opposition to spending measures or tax cuts to spur job creation and economic growth, the president is under pressure to fight for a significant stimulus program. The demands come not only from Democrats, but also from many economists, financial analysts and executives who fear a relapse into recession.

But as administration officials are well aware, another display of partisan gridlock this fall could again provoke a downgrade of the United States’ credit and market upheavals that would further batter consumer confidence.

Note the passive voice there. This "display of partisan gridlock" in the face of what Democrats, economists, financial analysts and executives agree needs to be done is the fault of only only one party --- the Republicans. They behave like thugs, despite the horrible consequences, and the press acts as though it's a "both sides do it" phenomenon --- which it's President Obama's obligation to avoid.

I hold no brief for the president's strategy or policy of the past couple of years and I believe he made a bad judgment of the highest magnitude by pushing his Grand Bargain and fetishing deficits.(And it's true that his promise to "change Washington" has contributed to this as well.) Many of our problems stem from the absurd consensus that we needed to cut spending in a weak economy and his rather bizarre insistence on pretending that Republicans were partners rather than saboteurs long after their intentions were crystal clear made it worse. However, if he wishes to change course now and embrace policies designed to actually fix our current problems rather than "instill confidence" by fixing problems that won't manifest themselves for another couple of decades (if at all), it will not be the Democrats' fault if the Republicans in congress refuse to do what's necessary to put people back to work.

It's very late in the game to change perceptions about the economy, particularly since it is actually deteriorating, so the election will be held against a background of recessionary angst regardless of what he proposes. But according to this report, they've at least finally accepted that the Grand Bargain isn't the big vote getter they assumed it would be and that attacks on the safety net might just be counterproductive:

People familiar with the White House’s planning say Mr. Obama will focus in his speech on the specifics of his immediate job-creation plans, but leave the details of his longer-term deficit reduction program for later. They say he does not want to dilute the political impact of his jobs message with controversies, especially with his Democratic base, over deficit-reduction ideas like raising the eligibility age for future Medicare recipients.

If that's true, chalk up a tiny little victory for the professional left, whose annoying caterwauling may have saved them from themselves --- temporarily, at least.

But according to this, they won't be going big on jobs:

The signals from the White House suggest that Mr. Obama’s agenda will not be so bold as to satisfy many liberals clamoring for New Deal-style programs. On Tuesday, 68 progressive groups wrote to Mr. Obama urging him “to move beyond these half-measures designed to appeal to a narrow ideological minority who have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to negotiate.”

Still, they say Mr. Obama’s plan will be far more ambitious than would have been expected just months ago, given the weakened economy. He has concluded, Democrats say, that Republicans will oppose anything he proposes, and with an election looming, Mr. Obama must make clear what he stands for.

Expected among those stimulus proposals is an extension for another year of the payroll tax cut for workers that Mr. Obama and Republicans agreed to last December, which has meant $1,000 more this year for the average family. Mr. Obama has been considering whether to seek an expansion of the payroll tax cut for employers. And he is expected to propose a separate tax credit for employers who increase their payrolls.

The total cost could reach several hundred billion dollars. But the White House figures that tax cuts have the best chance of Republican support.

Actually, it's not likely they will even go along with that. They are so emboldened at this point that they are one step away from mooning the President during his speech.

But according to this report they know that and are going with the "only grown-up" strategy:

That sets up an opportunity, as Democrats see it, to saddle Republicans with the blame for a weak economy.

“The president wants to work with Republicans and Democrats to create jobs and grow the economy,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “If nothing happens, it will be because Republicans in Congress made a conscious decision to do nothing. And that is a choice that will have tremendous consequences for the country.”

I guess they haven't got much choice, but the danger of his being seen as Boehner's catspaw is becoming acute now and this strategy plays right into it. Doing it a year ago before the GOP had racked up so many victories, it might have been possible to put them on the defensive, but at this point the people seem to be attributing the problem to presidential weakness as much as GOP obstructionism and that's a real problem. By refusing to pick fights back when he had the juice, he's now firmly entrenched in people's minds as a pushover. I'm not sure that complaining about the other side refusing to do the right thing at this point is helpful. But again, there isn't a whole lot to work with, is there?

There is some good news in this piece. Having accepted that the GOP is probably not going to sign on to anything, they are seeking ways to use the executive branch for job creation. It's unknown whether any of these ideas will be useful or whether the administration will have the courage to follow through despite what is sure to be a full blown Republican shitstorm, but at least they have recognized that there may be more to governing than playing chicken with GOP lunatics. Despite the current consensus that the presidency of the US is not much more than a ceremonial job, the fact is that he does have power and he needs to use it. Even if it makes Eric Cantor wail.

Update: Looks like polluting freely the environment is going to be the big sweetener for business. Too bad for the humans and animals who have to breathe.

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