April 15th, 2010

The Digital Economy Bill has betrayed the young

Positive engagement with the digital generation interests the political classes only when they want something from us.

On the night before the dissolution of parliament, young people across Great Britain were glued to their laptops, smartphones and television screens in their tens of thousands -- not downloading music videos, but following the passage of the Digital Economy Bill through the Commons wash-up.

After weeks of demonstration, letter-writing and vocal public opposition, young campaigners sat down to watch the results of their determined national effort to halt the passage of the bill, which threatens to summarily disconnect any internet users suspected of sharing copyrighted music and video files.

Most were under no illusion that Peter Mandelson's proposals were targeted at young people, who represent the bulk of file-sharers, and when the handful of MPs present at the debate voted to pass the bill, the response on Twitter was immediate and anguished.

"All three parties screwed us by not thinking properly about the issue. This is the opening salvo in a generational war," said one young activist.

The people behind this storm of political activity are the same young voters whom the press and political classes routinely condemn as apathetic. The prevailing public narrative about Generation Y has us involved in a species of listless social torpor, but it is anger, not apathy, that best describes young people's assessment of politics.

"I'm incensed about the lack of debate on the Digital Economy Bill," said Katie Sutton, a grass-roots campaigner for the Open Rights Group."Twenty thousand letters were sent to MPs expressing concern over the way it was rammed through wash-up with no consideration for the democratic process, and yet 410 MPs just didn't care enough to show up and vote. It's appalling."
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Source: Laurie Penny @ New Statesman

Tea Baggers Continue Their War Against Socialist Redistribution of Wealth

New Tea Party Victory: 52% of Real Americans Happy With Tax Rates Dont Pay Taxes! 47% of Americans Support Patriotic Duty of Paying No Taxes!

Majority Of Tea Party Members Say Their Taxes Are Fair (POLL)

Thursday may be the equivalent of the Super Bowl for Tea Party groups who have made taxes the centerpiece of their movement. But on the eve of Tax Day, a new poll found that a majority of Americans -- and a majority of Tea Party members -- say they think their tax rate is fair.

According to a new New York Times/CBS News poll 52 percent of self-identified tea party members reported that the amount of taxes they would pay is "fair." Sixty-two percent of all those who were polled said their taxes were fair.

Fifty-five percent of Tea Partiers who described themselves as "active members," however, called their taxes unfair.

The poll of 1,500 adults was conducted from April 5-12 and has a 3 percentage point margin of error.

Half of U.S. pays no federal income tax
Credits for low- and middle-income families exempt many

Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem.

About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.

Most people still are required to file returns by the April 15 deadline. The penalty for skipping it is limited to the amount of taxes owed, but it's still almost always better to file: That's the only way to get a refund of all the income taxes withheld by employers.

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been generous to wealthy taxpayers,
too, making them a target for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. Less noticed were tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year.
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Space - lol models

(no subject)

Apollo astronauts decry Obama space plans

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 14, 2010 7:57 p.m. EDT

The U.S. shuttle program is ending this year. The U.S. will have to catch a ride with Russia's Soyuz after that.

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration's vision for the future of manned space flight will bump the United States to "second or even third-rate" status as a space-faring nation, the commanders of three U.S. moon missions warned Wednesday.

The letter was signed by the first and last men to walk on the moon -- Neil Armstrong from Apollo 11 and Eugene Cernan from Apollo 17 -- and James Lovell, who commanded the heroic Apollo 13 flight.

"Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity," the letter said. "America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal."

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sufjan: mosaic

Teabaggers put pressure on Crist to veto FL Senate Bill 6 (for all the wrong reasons of course...)

Vetoing teacher bill might aid Charlie Crist's Senate bid

Tea Party opposition to a Republican-backed teacher-pay bill is registering with Gov. Charlie Crist

TALLAHASSEE -- As leader of a Tea Party group deep in the Florida Panhandle, Henry Kelley would appear to have nothing in common with a teachers union known as a loyal ally of the Democratic Party.

But Kelley and the Florida Education Association agree on one thing: The teacher-pay bill known as Senate Bill 6 is a bad idea.

Kelley, who has a master's degree in finance and lives in Fort Walton Beach, said he opposes the bill because of its top-down nature: It would empower the education bureaucracy in Tallahassee, instead of elected local school boards, to write rules for a teacher-pay program.

"Everybody's trying to consolidate and create larger government," said Kelley, vice chairman of the Tea Party group in Fort Walton Beach. "Why aren't Republicans acting like Republicans? How can you say you're for limited government if you support this bill?"

Kelley's senator, Republican Don Gaetz of Niceville, voted for SB 6.

"There's an honest difference of opinion among conservatives and limited-government advocates about this bill," Gaetz said. "Henry represents a strain of opinion that is suspicious of the Department of Education and anything about a state policy that doesn't involve enough local flexibility."

Tea Party opposition to a Republican-sponsored teacher-pay bill has caught the attention of Gov. Charlie Crist and his advisors in his race for the U.S. Senate.

Organizations and individuals that support the bill have begun bracing for a Crist veto. They include former Gov. Jeb Bush, the state Department of Education, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Associated Industries of Florida.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor, supports the bill. His primary rival, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, does not. Crist's opponent for the Republican nomination for Senate, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, also is a supporter.

In a highly unusual occurrence for a major piece of legislation, the voices of major business and lobbying forces are being drowned out -- at least in Crist's view -- by massive opposition from teachers and parents, who have blitzed the governor's office with thousands of e-mails and phone calls. The governor's office said that 30,000 e-mails on SB 6 have not yet been read.

"If the governor vetoes this bill, he's listening to the wrong people,'' said Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida. Bishop said the Florida Education Association stymies reform by defending incompetent and ineffective teachers. But he acknowledged the union has done an effective job at mobilizing opposition by urging people to call and write the governor and legislators.

"They've done a good job of rustling up folks," Bishop said, "but it's not the majority. It's a very vocal minority."

Miami Herald

Considering the fact that he supported the bill up until a few weeks ago when all the backlash began, I'll be sitting here with my fingers crossed until he actually calls for a veto. This bill is quite the clusterfuck.
garf tired

More Chomsky for that azz

Globalization Marches On: Growing popular outrage has not challenged corporate power

Noam Chomsky

In These Times, March 26, 2010

Shifts in global power, ongoing or potential, are a lively topic among policy makers and observers. One question is whether (or when) China will displace the United States as the dominant global player, perhaps along with India.

Such a shift would return the global system to something like it was before the European conquests. Economic growth in China and India has been rapid, and because they rejected the West's policies of financial deregulation, they survived the recession better than most. Nonetheless, questions arise.
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Were 3rd-grade boys asked to dress as girls?

WHEN JANINE Giandomenico's son explained his school project to her, she dismissed his worries and figured she'd have to fork out a few bucks for poster board, magazines and a glue stick or two.

Then she read the letter that accompanied the project, over and over again, and believes that her son's third-grade teacher at the Maude Wilkins Elementary School in Maple Shade, Burlington County, was asking the class, including the boys, to dress as women during a fashion show for a Women's History Month project.

"I don't see how a women's fashion show, and asking my son, whether it's dressing up in jeans and trousers or a dress, teaches anything about women's history," the 41-year-old township resident said yesterday morning. "Teach them about real people and about real things. Don't turn into the Paris Hilton and the Kardashian channel."

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Ani: Amazon Warrior

US eyes deeper security co-operation in Latin America

The US is seeking deeper security co-operation with its Latin American allies, US defence secretary Robert Gates has said.

Mr Gates was speaking as he began a visit to Colombia, where he was due to hold talks on a defence co-operation deal the two nations signed last year.

The accord provoked regional criticism, in particular from Venezuela.

Mr Gates's visit to the region comes two weeks after Russia concluded a major arms deal with Venezuela.

Mr Gates arrived in Bogota from Lima where he held talks on deepening an existing military partnership and working regionally to combat drug-trafficking.


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source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8621588.stm

Colombia: Big Flag

Victims of paramilitaries sue Chiquita for $1bn

Nearly 250 Colombians who say they and relatives were victims of violence by Colombian right-wing paramilitaries filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the Chiquita banana company, which has admitted making payments to paramilitaries.

The lawsuit against the U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc, was filed on behalf of 242 plaintiffs in a U.S. District Court in Florida. The plaintiffs were also seeking unspecified punitive damages from the court.

In their complaint, some allege that family members were killed by the right-wing paramilitary group AUC, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, "as a result of Chiquita's support for the AUC and its operations."


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brb - switching banana brands!

Two Charged Over Great Barrier Reef Spill

Two senior crew members of a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef are due to appear in court today.

The Australian Federal Police said the ship's master, a 47-year-old man, has been charged with liability for a vessel which caused damage, and the chief officer-on-watch, a 44-year-old man, will face an offence of being the person in charge of a vessel that caused damage to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Both Chinese men were arrested on board the Shen Neng 1 yesterday afternoon and spent the night in custody.

They are due to appear in the Gladstone Magistrates Court today.

Maritime Safety Queensland said the Shen Neng 1 leaked up to four tonnes of fuel oil onto the reef when it ran aground on Douglas Shoal, off Rockhampton, on April 3.

Oil has washed up on two islands, including an important turtle and seabird rookery.

Marine scientists say the ship has gouged a channel, about three kilometres long and 250 metres wide, in the marine park.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will release its preliminary report into the grounding today in Canberra.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority was due to hand the federal government its report, also today.

It is expected to recommend extending a Vessel Tracking System, similar to air traffic control, for the entire length of the reef.

The tracking system currently runs from the Torres Strait to just south of Mackay.



Great Australian Dream Time... A Home to Call Their Own

ABORIGINAL families who have been denied home ownership have begun buying homes on Aboriginal land in a remote Northern Territory community.

Standing outside his modest house in Nguiu, a community on the Tiwi islands north of Darwin, Luke Tipuamantumirri says he is the proud owner of his first mortgage.

''Owning your own place makes you responsible - I set the rules here and Florine enforces them,'' he says, referring to his wife.

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franklin sherman

FDA Says Walnuts Are Drugs and Doritos Are Heart Healthy

In its latest salvo against our health and freedom, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to Diamond Foods stating that their claims for the health promoting qualities of walnuts have moved them from a food to a drug. At the same time, it allows Frito-Lay to advertise its health-destroying chips (crisps in the UK) as "heart healthy".

This is an attack on both your health and your right to free speech. The FDA is not interested in the science. It's not interested in your health. It's not interested in the truth. It's interested only in supporting its corporate masters. To this end, it uses its massive power to shut down the truth and ignore blatant lies when it's beneficial to big corporate players.

Diamond Foods' Walnut Claims

Here's an excerpt from the FDA's letter to Diamond Foods:

Based on claims made on your firm's website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. The following are examples of the claims made on your firm's website under the heading of a web page stating "OMEGA-3s ... Every time you munch a few walnuts, you're doing your body a big favor.":

• "Studies indicate that the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts may help lower cholesterol; protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers; ease arthritis and other inflammatory diseases; and even fight depression and other mental illnesses."

• "[O]mega-3 fatty acids inhibit the tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats ... "

• "[I]n treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons." • "The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States."

Because of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs

Presto ChangeOh! The FDA has magically transformed walnuts into a drug. Neat trick if you can pull it off—and at this point, they can. The FDA has sent out hundreds of these extortionate letters to food producers big and small.

Every claim that Diamond Foods made about walnuts is backed by scientific research. No exceptions. But the FDA isn't interested in the science. It's interested in its corporate masters' will.

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(no subject)

Nicki Minaj and the rise of the titillating female rapper
The rise of Nicki Minaj has given rap a new leading lady – but why are female artists still under pressure to be 'sexy'?

The mainstream debut of Lil Wayne's protegee Nicki Minaj brings the perennial question to the forefront of hip-hop consciousness once again: what is the role of women in the rap game? While Minaj is tearing up the airwaves, appearing on everything from Mariah Carey's Up Out My Face to Ludacris's My Chick Bad, the self-described "Harajuku Barbie" has captured the imagination of a generation that hasn't seen a dominant, prolific female rapper since the heyday of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown.

Minaj may be hyped as the latest leading lady of rap but, as hip hop has become more mainstream, the shift in expectations of women has led to a new reality: a successful female artist must not only be talented, but also able to titillate the gaze of an assumed male viewer. Earlier MCs such as MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Queen Pen, Da Brat, and Roxane Shante had far more options for onscreen representation, often appearing in the types of clothes their male contemporaries were wearing.

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What do you guys think about this?  I'm not terribly familiar with Nicki's music or videos, but I do like what little I have seen of her for the simple fact that she seems like a ham.  I find her entertaining because she's goofy and silly which makes her stand out to me compared to some of the other female rappers who use their sex appeal to sell their music.  That said, this writer has a great point about how female rappers have to be sexy to be successful these days.  Seems like the male hip-hop artists have dictated women's place in hip-hop and the female artists kind of have to operate within that frame.  I miss the creative g0rls like Missy and Queen.

RIAA and MPAA requesting spyware be installed on personal computers.

The Entertainment Industry's Dystopia of the Future - April 14th, 2010
Commentary by Richard Esguerra

We're not easily shocked by entertainment industry overreaching; unfortunately, it's par for the course. But we were taken aback by the wish list the industry submitted in response to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator's request for comments on the forthcoming "Joint Strategic Plan" for intellectual property enforcement. The comments submitted by various organizations provide a kind of window into how these organizations view both intellectual property and the public interest. For example, EFF and other public interest groups have asked the IPEC to take a balanced approach to intellectual property enforcement, paying close attention to the actual harm caused, the potential unexpected consequences of government intervention, and compelling countervailing priorities.

The joint comment filed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and others stands as a sharp contrast, mapping out a vision of the future where Big Media priorities are woven deep into the Internet, law enforcement, and educational institutions.

Consider the following, all taken from the entertainment industry's submission to the IPEC.

"Anti-infringement" software for home computers
There are several technologies and methods that can be used by network administrators and providers...these include [consumer] tools for managing copyright infringement from the home (based on tools used to protect consumers from viruses and malware).

In other words, the entertainment industry thinks consumers should voluntarily install software that constantly scans our computers and identifies (and perhaps deletes) files found to be "infringing." It's hard to believe the industry thinks savvy, security-conscious consumers would voluntarily do so. But those who remember the Sony BMG rootkit debacle know that the entertainment industry is all too willing to sacrifice consumers at the altar of copyright enforcement.

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This would be laughable if they didn't have so much clout. As it stands, it's a rather terrifying proposition with respect to our privacy rights.

Savior of The Free Market Demands The End of New Slavery and Its Socialist Programs

Government to Shatter Its Safety Net Shackles and Replace Them With Golden Free Market Handcuffs.

Former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts: ‘Social programs’ are the ‘new slavery.’

Over the weekend, former Republican congressman J.C. Watts gave a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and later sat down for interviews. Speaking to KARN News Radio’s Dave Elswick, Watts explained that he believes “social programs” are equivalent to a “new slavery.” Watts — who left Congress to become a lobbyist, businessman, and board member to several corporations — said that government programs that “aren’t improving people’s lives or getting them into a life of productivity” are akin to the type of chattel slavery forced upon African Americans in the United States:

ELSWICK: We were talking about social programs, and J.C., she calls them the new slavery.

WATTS: Dave I think that’s a legitimate claim if the programs aren’t improving people’s lives or getting them into a life of productivity. It’s just like, we could say I think it’s slavery to give your kid an allowance unless you say you gotta take the trash out, you gotta keep your room clean. Parents usually don’t give their kids an allowance without saying you have to do something.
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reznor lick

Gov. Crist vetoes Florida teacher pay-tenure bill

Gov. Charlie Crist Thursday vetoed a controversial, first-in-the-nation proposal to base teacher pay on student test scores, in a dramatic conclusion to an issue that drew howls of protest from educators and parents across the state.

"I veto SB6 because this bill is contrary to my firmly held principle to act in the best interests in the people of Florida," said the governor, speaking to a packed room of reporters. The bill, Crist said, would "placed teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs and their teaching certifications" for student learning gains that aren't clearly defined and are often beyond their control.

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Sun-Sentinel Sauce

All my FL teacher friends & family are cheering this, LOL... figured it was relevant because a lot of you, in and out of FL, had expressed concern about this.

First post ever, be gentle...

Can a Town Survive With Nearly No Government?

Small government conservatives in the city of Colorado Springs began slashing government services and taxes earlier this year and show no sign of slowing down. Everything from trash collection to streetlights to police coverage have been phased out in the quest to get closer to the free market model espoused by libertarians such as novelist Ayn Rand. The changes have turned Colorado Springs into something like a city-sized experiment in just how small government can get. So when pundits debate the Colorado Springs experiment, they're also debating the hard-line libertarian philosophy behind that experiment. Does drastically cutting services and taxes really work?

The Case For Colorado Springs
  • Minneapolis Columnist: We Should Try That The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Lori Sturdevant suggests, "Colorado Springs' actions could turn out to be a template for cities here and elsewhere trying to balance their recession-depleted budgets with spending cuts alone."
  • Just Like a Permanent 'Earth Hour' The Colorado Springs Gazette defends, "the media celebrate an annual event called Earth Hour as a nod to global warming. Americans are asked to turn out lights for one hour on a specified evening in order to help save Mother Earth from the ravages of wanton energy consumption." This is just like that, except permanent and more sweeping.
  • Everyone Should Do This Conservative blogger and Colorado Springs resident Michelle Malkin praises the move. "Self-reliance. Privatization. Thrift. Fiscal accountability. The liberals in Denver and Washington could learn something from our Mountain West spirit if they could just get over their Colorado Springs Derangement Syndrome."
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How Labour legitimises the BNP

BNP talk sh*t

Image by Phoenix Dark-Knight via Flickr

People don't vote for the BNP, they vote against New Labour and the rest.

The BNP gets a staggering amount of press coverage: columnists queue up to prove their liberal credentials by pasting them, while Nick Griffin is rarely off our screens. Yet he's the leader of a small, poorly financed, internally divided party that is never going to be a major force in a first past the post political system. So what's going on?

What is going on is the betrayal of the British working class and a political symbiosis disguised as opposition. The Labour Party no longer pretends to represent working class people: it's far too busy fluffing our spectacularly incompetent city elite. And into their old role are stepping the BNP, promising not only local jobs, services and communities but that they have changed their old racist ways.

The liberal reaction to this is disastrous. I've written a play about the rise of the BNP, called A Day at the Racists, during which I debated Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking (where of course Griffin is challenging her). I was shocked at her argument -- basically that the BNP are simple racists and therefore any decent person should vote Labour. That kind of patronising disrespect for the legitimate frustrations of her constituents also gives the BNP legitimacy -- it makes them seem like they have something important or original to say, something that mainstream society doesn't want you to hear.

Everybody wins -- except the disenfranchised working class, whose real needs remain conspicuously unmet by any political party.

The thing liberals fail to see about the BNP is that they are a repository for ordinary working people's desire to get their dignity back. (In that sense, they have a lot in common with Islamists. Both see liberal mainstream society as misrepresenting and exploiting them, and so they hit back in a way calculated to cause maximum offence to liberal sensibilities. Maybe they should get together).

People don't vote for the BNP, they vote against New Labour and the rest. And those people feel treated unfairly by the unequal free market society that not only Westminster politicians and corporate flacks but also liberal media types benefit from. They are angry at you.

What makes the BNP important is not that they are going to win seats, but that they show the limitations of liberal capitalist democracy. In that sense, they are an outrider for the hypothesis of my play--a post-racial, 'tolerant' nationalism, a neo-fascism that anyone can join, embodied by a mixed-race Asian character who becomes a BNP candidate.

In real life, the BNP themselves are so besmirched with racism, not least in the public eye, that they will never be the party that makes that argument credibly. But somebody will, and liberal capitalist democracy right now doesn't have an answer.

A Day at the Racists has a one-off showing at the Broadway Barking Theatre on 16 April.

Source: Anders Lustgarten @ New Statesman

TV debate: no basis to pick a government

Five o’clock shadow cost Richard Nixon the 1960 presidential election, or so political folklore has it. Never mind the substantive differences with Kennedy over the missile gap or supply-side economics; the GOP blew it because their man performed badly in a televised debate. It is on the back of such mythology that tonight’s general election hustings on ITV 1 is being hyped as a make or break event for Brown, Cameron and Clegg. According to a ComRes survey, almost two-thirds of adults in this country will tune in, and 33% say it could make a difference to the way they vote.

Most political activists accept that the vast majority of the population does not share their obsession, and will welcome anything that generates interest and debate in political ideas.

I couldn’t help noticing, for instance, that the two young women whose flats are on the same landing as mine got together to watch the edition of Question Time that featured Nick Griffin. Sue and Paula are perfectly agreeable neighbours, but neither had exhibited any previous signs of politicisation.

The trouble is, the three-way debate format is not one that lends itself to the explanation of underlying political principle. This is all the more true in circumstances which reduce socialism, conservatism and liberalism from distinct ideologies to formulations of nuance, advanced by politicians whose claim to these philosophies is largely nominal.

All of the party leaders will be concerned primarily not to slip up, and secondly to land a couple of smartass one-liners on their opponents. Anything else will be a bonus.

Arguably, it is the left that loses most from a culture in which big ideas are devalued to the point where they have to be delivered as television soundbites, if they are not to be forgotten about completely. It is striking that Labour has often done best in climates in which people have read books.

Unless one of the men on whom the spotlights will be trained tonight makes an unutterable hash of the proceedings, few of the unconverted will be able to spot differences of anything other than emphasis.

The result will be a focus on performance that could make the difference between success and failure. The worry has to be that slick performance in a TV debate is entirely the wrong basis on which to pick a government.

Source: Liberal Conspiracy

I agree that it's an idiotic way to go about things, but I'll still be watching (if only to take part in the live post here ^^; )
I feel like I know her
  • maclyn

Volcanic ash from Iceland closes all Scottish airports and grounds all UK flights. COOL!

Dust from volcano closes airports

All flights to and from Scotland's airports have been grounded as a plume of volcanic ash drifts across much of northern Europe.

Dust from the eruption in Iceland presents a serious risk to aircraft.

All Scottish airports have been closed although search and rescue helicopters are still able to fly.

Passengers are advised not to travel to airports. All flights in UK airspace have been suspended and disruption is expected to continue into Friday.

A BAA spokeswoman said: "Following advice from the Met Office, the National Air Traffic Service (Nats) has introduced restrictions to UK airspace this morning as a result of volcanic ash drifting across the United Kingdom from Iceland.

Collapse ) This is, from my geeky perspective, awesome. The cloud is at a high altitude so it's not really bothering us, but I've heard people in Aberdeen and Shetland saying they've had a really strong smell of sulphur hanging around all day. We're expecting some gorgeous, strange sunsets tonight. I'm travelling back to Glasgow from Fife today, and reckon I'll have a hard time getting a bus or train seat booked. It might go on through the weekend; at least the combo of an ash cloud and no planes is good for the environment, eh?

People looking for flight details have managed to crash the NATS website, and Alex Salmond and other Scottish Government ministers are having an emergency meeting.
ETA: We have a beautiful, weirdly blood red sunset up here now. It's fantastic.
[Gator] Gators Gonna Gait



ITV hosts the first of three 90 minute debates, from 8.30pm to 10pm, with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The theme will be domestic affairs, although as with the other two debates it will broaden out into a general discussion with questions from viewers. Alistair Stewart is in the chair and the venue will be in the North West of England.

Live Feeds:

C-SPAN (check back at 3:30)

If you have more feeds please link them in the comments and I will add them. The debate should be starting in 30 minutes if my timing is correct.
atheism: levitcus quote fun

Federal Court strikes down law creating National Day of Prayer.

The law creating the National Day of Prayer has been struck down on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state.

The defendants? Obama and Gibbs. Also Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.

--- quoted text ---

As this case shows, “it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of
separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority.” Letter from James
Madison to R. Adams (1832), quoted in McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 876. The duty of
this court is to review the relevant case law and determine how it applies in a particular case.
Although the law does not always point in the same direction on matters related to the
establishment clause, my review of that law requires a conclusion that 36 U.S.C. § 119 is

I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view
it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate. A determination that the
government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message
itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination. Rather, it is part of the effort
to “carry out the Founders' plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible
in a pluralistic society.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 882 (O'Connor, J., concurring). The
same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also
prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.

--- end quoted text ---

Source the first-66 pages. I watch FFRF on Twitter, which is how I initially got the news.

Source the second-there is too much, let me sum up.

On the one hand, I'm going to enjoy watching all my conservative Christian relatives heads spin as a result of this. On the other hand, it's going to be appealed, and we all know it. In the grand scheme of things...I don't think this news really affects anyone's day to day life as it is. Do I agree with the decision? Yes. Still...I'm going to go grab some popcorn and see how my relatives react. I've already got one friend on Facebook royally offended as a Christian and blaming Obama for this blatant discrimination against Christians. *facepalm*
mus | like a bird in a cage

All The Love In The World (Unless You're An Immigrant)

CNN anchor rips ‘bigot’ Ohio Tea Party leader

CNN host Rick Sanchez described the leader of an Ohio Tea Party group as "a bigot and a liar" on Tuesday, after he had first referred to Hispanic immigrants as "spicks" and then attempted to defend himself by claiming he had merely been quoting a 1960's Bee Gee's song.

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Source. Additional (somewhat biased) sources here and here

Obama and Rudd: BFFs?

US President Barack Obama has described Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as his closest political match on the world stage.

Mr Obama, who postponed his March visit to Canberra until June, says he expects to spend at least a couple of days in Australia.

In a White House interview, to be broadcast tonight, Mr Obama said Mr Rudd was a leader with political views similar to his.

"Kevin is somebody [with whom] I probably share as much of a world view as any world leader out there. I find him smart, but humble," he told ABC Television's 7.30 Report.

"He works wonderfully well in multi-lateral settings.

"He's always constructive, incisive. And you know, I think he is, like me, a pragmatic person."

Mr Obama said his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, could visit Sydney and Canberra during their stay.

He recalled visiting Australia during his childhood in Indonesia.

"I used to travel through Australia when my mother was living in Indonesia and my grandparents were living in Hawaii," he said.

"We'd usually go through Sydney and memories I have, not only of it being a beautiful country but of people being just wonderfully hospitable and kind to me, are ones that I carry with me."

Mr Obama said he was in regular contact with Mr Rudd about Australia's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

But he rejected assertions the war situation was not improving ahead of a US troop reduction beginning in mid-2011.

"We can't be in there in perpetuity," he said.

"Neither the American people nor the Australian people should be asked to carry that burden any longer than it needs to be carried."

Since 2002, 11 Australian troops have been killed in Afghanistan.


The full transcript of the interview is available here.
america loves obama [gottatestify]

Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights

President Obama on Thursday signed a memorandum requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney.

The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision.

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It's not DADT or DOMA repeal (just to get that out of the way) but this is still really important. Thanks, Mr. President.
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Forget special ops missions, and defeat terrorism by making it boring.

Terrorists 'like football thugs', Demos report suggests

Groups like al-Qaeda must be "de-glamorised" and shown as "incompetent, narcissistic and irreligious", a report by a UK think tank suggests.

The two-year international study of Islamic radicals said terrorism could be defeated by making it boring.

Demos interviewed 200 people - experts, young Muslims and 58 violent radicals.

It found violent radicals had a poor understanding of Islam, compared with non-violent radical followers, and had more in common with football hooligans.

The study found the "cool factor" was the biggest draw to al-Qaeda and that terrorism could be defeated by demystifying and deglamourising jihad.
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