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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
Number of posts: 8,636

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Jim Hightower explains the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- in plain language

Radio commentator, author and progressive activist Jim Hightower has an excellent discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his Hightower Lowdown page: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It's a corporate coup d'etat--against us!.

This time we really must pay attention, because TPP is not just another trade deal. First, it is massive and open-ended. It would hitch us immediately to 11 Pacific Rim nations (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam), and its door would remain wide open to lure China, Indonesia, Russia, and other nations to come in. Second, note that many of those countries already have trade agreements with the US. Hence, THIS AMAZING FACT: TPP is a "trade deal" that mostly does not deal with trade. In fact, of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters!

Jim discusses all the negative ways that TPP will affect us:
  • Food Safety,
  • Fracking,
  • Jobs,
  • Drug Prices,
  • Banksters,
  • Internet Freedom,
  • Public Services

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's superb research and activist group, Global Trade Watch, correctly calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership "a corporate coup d'etat." Indeed, nations that join must conform their laws and rules to TPP's strictures, effectively supplanting US sovereignty and cancelling our people's right to be self-governing. Worse, it creates virtually permanent corporate rule over us--there's no expiration date on the agreement, and no provision in it can be altered unless all countries agree. Thus, even if Americans voted in an election to make changes, any other TPP country could overrule us by not agreeing.

Awful as the TPP is, Jim Hightower doesn't think its passage is inevitable; he lists a number of fights against unjust "free trade" agreements in the past, and concludes:

My message: We can do this. We The People can protect our democratic rights from this latest threat of corporate usurpation. The only way the Powers That Be can win is to keep the public in the dark about what TPP is. So now is the time for Lowdowners to sound the alarm, spread the news about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (start by sharing this article with your social networks!), and shine the light of day on their power play before it gets to Congress.

China's Jade Rabbit Moon rover sends back first photos

Source: BBC News

The first robot to land on the Moon in nearly 40 years, China's Jade Rabbit rover, has begun sending back photos, with shots of its lunar lander.

Jade Rabbit rolled down a ramp lowered by the lander and on to the volcanic plain known as Sinus Iridum at 04:35 Beijing time on Saturday (20:35 GMT).

It moved to a spot a few metres away, its historic short journey recorded by the lander.

On Sunday evening the two machines began photographing each other.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25393826

50 Years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning!

Ike's grandaughter, Susan Eisenhower, paid tribute to the legacy of his Cross of Iron speech with a 2011 article:

I've always found it rather haunting to watch old footage of my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, giving his televised farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961. The 50-year-old film all but crackles with age as the president makes his earnest, uncoached speech. I was 9 years old at the time, and it wasn't until years later that I understood the importance of his words or the lasting impact of his message.

Of course, the speech will forever be remembered for Eisenhower's concerns about a rising "military-industrial complex," which he described as "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions" with the potential to acquire - whether sought or unsought - "unwarranted influence" in the halls of government.

The notion captured the imagination of scholars, politicians and veterans; the military-industrial complex has been studied, investigated and revisited countless times, including now, at its 50th anniversary. Looking back, it is easy to see the parallels to our era, especially how the complex has expanded since Sept. 11, 2001. In less than 10 years, our military and security expenditures have increased by 119 percent. Even after subtracting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget has grown by 68 percent since 2001. In 2010, the United States is projected to spend at least $700 billion on its defense and security, the most, in real terms, that we've spent in any year since World War II.

McCutcheon (and McConnel) vs FEC and what little remains of American Democracy

While most of us are focused on the shutdown, a landmark case that may destroy what's left of the fragile American Democracy is being decided by the Supreme Court.

From Huffington Post: McCutcheon vs FEC: Supreme Court Skeptical of Campaign Contribution Limits:

WASHINGTON -- A slim majority of Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Tuesday that the federal government may cap the total amount of money that individual donors can give to political candidates running for federal office, in a case that could have a massive impact on the campaign finance system.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the high court is set to decide whether the limits on aggregate federal campaign contributions -- the overall cap currently stands at $123,200 per donor for the 2014 election cycle -- are unconstitutional because they place a burden on the free speech rights of donors.

Shaun McCutcheon, the man bringing the case, only seeks to give the maximum individual donation to more candidates. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to use the case as a vehicle to persuade the Supreme Court to dismantle contribution limits altogether.

Court observers were keeping a close eye on Chief Justice John Roberts, who most campaign finance reform advocates see as the only hope of upholding the aggregate contribution limits. Roberts joined the majority in a 2006 decision holding that contribution limits were constitutional.

Omigawd!!! Our hopes for saving what's left of a democracy are actually dependent on the most corrupt Chief Justice in modern US history?

From the Washington Post: Everything you need to know about McCutcheon vs. FEC provides a 'Cliff's Notes' guide to McCutcheon.

Playboy in orbit: A step toward the world of Elysium?

The movie Elysium (2013) provides a dystopian vision of the world of 2154; where the ultra-rich live in a luxurious space station / habitat and everyone else inherits a polluted ruin of a planet.

It's impossible to look at the private space station designs from Playboy Enterprises and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson without thinking of Elysium.

There's a meme going around to the effect that: "The NASA program is winding down, so it's up to the private sector to take over." I've even seen that here, including some posts favorable to Virgin Galactic and the other space tourism companies.

Now I've been a supporter of some private efforts, like Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), largely because Elon Musk is challenging the aerospace giants who've run the space program as their fiefdom. SpaceX is successful because it has NASA, DOD and now the Canadian Space Agency as customers.

I've also got a long history of supporting space, going back to the old L-5 Society; I even organized a chapter in Tulsa back in the 70s. I hoped to see us making major steps toward building Gerard K. O'Neill's space settlements by now.

I'm sounding warnings because, like everyone here, I've observed:
  • The growing inequality in American culture, and
  • The evolution of our economy into a plutonomy, an economy run only for the benefit of the rich, and
  • The growing political power of the mega-rich and the big corporations, and
  • The diminishing ability of the mega-rich to empathize with ordinary people.

Let me repeat: I'm a supporter of space and a role for the private sector in space; but, I'm fearful that private space, without government participation, and without checks on the power of big corporations will lead to the world of Elysium: Luxurious playgrounds in orbit while science is forgotten and exploration is only to provide thrills for billionaire boys club members, and life on Earth becomes more squalid for the great majority.

A speaker at a recent conference: The Starship Congress for the Icarus Interstellar foundation talked about two possible negative outcomes for future history that would block our progress to the stars:
  • Permanent stagnation vs.
  • "Flawed Realization.

Permanent stagnation is obvious; that means we stop progressing. Flawed realization means that we continue to 'progress,' but in negative ways.

Elysium was used as an example of both: Permanent stagnation on an overpopulated, polluted, impoverished Earth and flawed realization on the Elysium space station.

NASA Remembers Cmdr. Neil Armstrong - One Year After His Death

Navy Commander Neil Armstrong deserves to be remembered for his service as a combat, then test pilot, then astronaut, then professor.

Armstrong flew:
  • The X-15 (1960),
  • Gemini 8 (1965),
  • Apollo 11 (1969)

About that 'no warp drives' thing..........

There are some quite serious people willing to debate that with you. Last week's Starship Congress for the Icarus Interstellar Project included talks by Dr. Harold 'Sonny' White, who's working on a laboratory demonstration of warp bubbles and Marc Millis, head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project in the '90s / early '00s.

There were also some interesting talks on SETI. Just as with warp drives, not everyone is willing to be pessimistic about the possibility of contact. One really interesting talk had the long-winded title: Dr. Thomas Hair: Provocative radio transients and base rate bias: A Bayesian argument for conservatism. The abstract for the talk:

Most searches for alien radio transmissions have focused on finding omni-directional or purposefully earth-directed beams of enduring duration. However, most of the interesting signals so far detected have been transient and non-repeatable in nature. These signals could very well be the first data points in an ever-growing data base of such signals used to construct a probabilistic argument for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. This paper looks at the effect base rate bias could have on deciding which signals to include in such an archive based upon the likely assumption that our ability to discern natural from artificial signals will be less than perfect.

One of the most interesting transient signals was the Wow! signal detected by SETI researchers using Ohio State University's 'Big Ear' radio telescope. That signal was so intense and bore so many of the characteristics SETI researchers were looking for, that radio astronomer Jerry Ehrman was moved to write 'Wow!' in the margins of the graph paper:

The Wow! signal lasted 72 seconds while the radio telescope scanned across the area of the sky it was coming from.

Problem! It never repeated; despite other searches on the same coordinates. There have been other "transient, non-repeatable" signals detected at radio observatories worldwide. Dr. Hair speculates that the Wow! signal and others may be communications between home systems and colonies, or between home systems and starships.

Icarus Interstellar has Starship Congress coverage as day-long sessions on their YouTube channel. Here is the Day 3 session, with the talks on warp drives and Dr. Hair's SETI talk:

They've promised to break out individual sessions later. I'll post some of those as they become available.

Neil deGrasse Tyson -- The Most Astounding Fact

Rachel Maddow: Sequestration devastates US science, as well as education

Here's a recent post from the Maddowblog: The slow-motion disaster on auto-pilot just keeps getting worse. Here's what she says about sequestration's impact on US science:

Conditions are arguably worse for scientific and medical researchers dependent on grants, and Sam Stein explained in great detail last week how the sequester has become "a cancerous tumor inside the world of science." Stein talked to one scientist at the University of Virginia who said, simply, "We are in deep s**t."

The New York Times reports today that five months into sequestration, "much of the United States government is grounded." At this year's National Space Symposium in Colorado, for example, representatives from France, Germany, and China made the trip -- but no one from NASA could be there because the agency couldn't afford to send anyone.

The Sam Stein article at Huffington Post that Rachel refers to is grim: Sequestration Ushers in a Dark Age for science in America. Stein's article mostly covers impacts to medical research; vital research on treatments for HIV, diabetes, and flu (Which still kills thousands every year) is threatened.

The worst impact is on young people considering a career in science:

The problem, Antonsen said, was not just how the lack of funding would impact graybeards like himself, but also the newcomers to the field. Young scientists who had spent 12 years studying for their PhDs would find the climate inhospitable, and future generations would look elsewhere.

"We used to be able to tell people that there was some kind of job security," he said. "That would be a compensation for not being paid as much. Now, if you are taking a big risk in investing 12 years of your life to learn how to do the science, people will think twice."

Mention 'Obama' and the internet trolls will be on you like a cheap suit. Here's why....

The paid trolls aren't just people sitting in their parents' basements typing on cheap laptops; many of them work in offices with million-dollar computer systems and expensive software 'bots.'

From The Knowledge Movement's Facebook page:

So I posted a thread last night musing why our Rightwing trolls completely ignore the threads we post about their ignorance and crackpottery but swarm any thread remotely praising Obama. Well, below is the answer Jenell Yarbrough-Brinson gave. Something I was totally unaware of but makes a whole lot of sense.

"Because they are using computer bots their Tea party-Pac paid employers provide that scan for 'key' words, terms, and names, like Obama, Obamacare, and hot button issues.

I'm not joking. I worked for a telemarketing outsource company, and while I did not work in the department of that company that provided their clients internet 'trolling' services, they had them. Most commonly are groups of products, companies, the bots would search the internet, consumer websites, and yes, social networks, for key words and terms relating to their clients' (and their competitions') products or services, where ever "comments" features are available, and pop them up on the troll's screen, so they could post some comment, like a positive review for their clients' product, bad one for the competitors, etc. I last worked for that company in 2009, and they had just started really getting into handling politically related clients in quite a few departments. In the department I worked, phones, we were commonly offered the chance to work campaigns, not trolling stuff, but making those annoying phone calls to people to tell them the good stuff about 'our' candidate. I see the mindlessness and repetitiveness of these conservative, Tea-Party right-winger anti Obama anti Democrat trolls, and I've not doubt many if not most are actually paid trolls. That is why you can't get them to engage in actual conversation, they are paid by the posting, and new spots on the web for them to post comments to are constantly popping up on their screens.

Also, one person working that will be sitting there will many different 'identities' up at once, so it can seem a dozen different trolls with different names have hit, when it may be only one, using multiple FB profile accounts."

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