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Our New Overlords Make Their Move, Show They Hate America

[ 69 ] March 25, 2014 |

The jellyfish are on the march:

But CSIRO Wealth from Oceans research scientist Lisa-Ann Gershwin says more research needs

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to be done around potentially deadly jellyfish becoming even more toxic.

She says this is more of an immediate problem than jellyfish migrating south from tropical waters.

“For a population to migrate, its whole habitat has to migrate with it, so we’re talking some time.

“We do know that warmer water does trigger some species of Irukandji to be more active and more toxic.

“It’s highly likely that smaller increase in temperature will trigger resident jellyfish to become more pesky, than to trigger far away jellyfish to migrate down.”

Great, climate change will not only make jellyfish the dominant animal in the oceans, but it will make them even more deadly, no doubt just part of a process of preparing for land-based invasions where they will unite with the robots to enslave all humans. Or maybe they will just turn their powers against America:

In 2006 jellyfish were sucked into the intakes of the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan in Brisbane during its maiden voyage.

Whoa, they attacked Reagan? I knew jellyfish were Democrats! You’d think this alone would get McConnell and Boehner on board for some climate change legislation. Oh well, let’s just all have some nightmares tonight:

One bloom of sea tomato jellyfish travelled from Broome in August 2012 to Exmouth in May 2013 in Western Australia.

“They were so huge you could see them from space,” Dr Gershwin says.

Some jellyfish have hundreds of mouths.

Curling up in corner, weeping.

Soylent Green is Industrialists!

[ 142 ] March 25, 2014 |

Hi. Do you feel like something is missing from your life? Of course you do, and it’s this: A mashup of “Soylent Green” and characters that were rejected by the show “Portlandia” for being “a little too over-the-top.”

Well, don’t look into it or anything, but Liberty Island is pretty much the best thing on the internet, perhaps surpassing in awesomeness even this little boy arguing about cupcakes with his mother. Why is it so awesome? Because it’s like Conservapedia except with art. Or “art.” Your mileage may vary.

If you’re too chicken to click, here’s are a couple of paragraphs from the Soylent Green-Portlandia mashup:

To the general amusement of the old gang, Allison over the years had introduced a series of increasingly eccentric boyfriends as her enthusiasms meandered from eastern medicine to preserving the Amazon to vegan cooking. The last had coincided with the introduction of a painfully thin, bearded fellow the group quickly dubbed Ashram Anton, as much for his fiercely-spiced vegetarian curries as his appetite for recreational drugs.

Anton ran a vegetarian restaurant on Hawthorne Boulevard. The Sacred Cow was a narrow cavern of a joint wedged between a non-profit women’s interest bookstore and a used-CD shop. A cramped cluster of tables overlooked by hemp wall hangings and yellowed Robert Crumb posters fronted a lengthy kitchen, hidden behind a beaded curtain, where Anton concocted his leafy delights.

I know I’m always saying this to you, but this time I really mean it: YOU’RE WELCOME.

Dan Snyder’s Trolling

[ 58 ] March 25, 2014 |

Dan Snyder may be America’s biggest troll:

The owner of the Washington Redskins, who adamantly refuses to change the team’s controversial name that many believe to be a racial slur, announced Monday he was starting a new foundation to aid Native Americans called the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.”

“The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities,” Dan Snyder said in a statement. “With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most.”

Snyder said he reached the decision to create the foundation after visiting 26 reservations where he learned “first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes.” The initiative has already begun providing coats and shoes to poverty stricken communities.

“The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will serve as a living, breathing legacy – and an ongoing reminder – of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins,” he added.

This is precisely what Native Americans need–a rich white guy donating a few coats to charity. This totally makes up for centuries of racism against Native Americans that said rich white guy openly continues.

Also, “Original Americans?” He couldn’t just say Native Americans? Borrowing First Peoples from Canada would have been fine too. Or “indigenous.”

…..Yesterday was also the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the last group of Cherokees to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Makes Snyder’s announcement extra special.

Restricting the NSA

[ 11 ] March 25, 2014 |

It’s a start:

The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

The fact that the House Intelligence Committee is proposing a weaker bill doesn’t make me confident, but we’ll see.

BREAKING: Laettner Endorses Mitch!

[ 13 ] March 25, 2014 |

Well, this is just embarrassing:

A new ad for Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign hit YouTube today, and it features one of the most egregious errors that a politician can make in the state of Kentucky: glorifying Duke basketball.

For about a second, the new ad shows Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas embracing after winning the 2010 National Championship. If you remember, that’s when Duke knocked off the number 8-seeded Butler.

As you might imagine, Kentucky takes its basketball seriously.  But on the upside, at least Mitch took this misstep at a time when no one in the Commonwealth is really paying any attention…

Méliès Monday: The Doctor and the Monkey

[ 23 ] March 24, 2014 |

Georges Méliès, The Doctor and the Monkey, 1900

Bobby Jindal: Obama would strip Americans of the right to incur massive debts acquiring a useless degree…

[ 199 ] March 24, 2014 |

…from an unaccredited for-profit college.


Texas’ Pathetic War Record

[ 146 ] March 24, 2014 |

The Texas Republic was really terrible at war.

But the idea of Texas being born from military achievement is variously true and also blown out of all proportion to reality. With the exception of the coup at San Jacinto, Texas’s early military history was a series of overlooked disasters, led by men who blundered their way into defeats. It’s also a fascinating overview of how warfare—especially when canonized—is almost invariably a series of tragedies and screw-ups.

Texas has plenty of both.

This isn’t even controversial. More than a decade ago, Texas Monthly declared the suicidal decision to defend the Alamo against vastly superior Mexican forces “a military mistake of mythic proportions” and that its “contribution to the strategy of the Texas Revolution was nil or negative.”

In its brief, 10-year existence as an independent state, Texas would launch two failed invasions—one in southern Texas and another in New Mexico. It also failed to stop two more Mexican invasions. And then the Lone Star state would fight several minor wars with itself and almost come to blows with the United States.

Of course, the ability of Texans to lead the U.S. in war since it joined the nation has never been questioned.

More on the Contraception Non-Mandate

[ 259 ] March 24, 2014 |

Before tomorrow’s oral arguments,let me note again that people interested in the latest ad hoc legal challenge to the ACA should definitely look at Marty Lederman’s series of posts, helpfully collected here. We’ve already discussed one of his crucial points, namely that there is no contraception “mandate.” Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se. What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards. As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees. And if the corporation wanted to argue they have no practical choice but to offer coverage, then according to the logic of their own arguments, the religion of the managers is not being burdened; they’re not paying for the contraception or making the decision to include it in insurance plans.

From his contribution to the SCOTUSblog forum, the lack of precedent on behalf of the challenge is also worth noting:

The plaintiffs in these cases are seeking a type of religious exemption that has virtually no precedent in the history of free exercise and RFRA adjudication.

In their scores of briefs, the plaintiffs and their many amici fail to cite a single case, apart from the current contraception coverage litigation, in which a court has held that either the Free Exercise Clause or RFRA entitled a for-profit commercial enterprise to an exemption from a generally applicable law by virtue of a burden on the religious exercise of the employer or its owners, managers, or directors.  And whenever such a case has reached the Supreme Court – including Braunfeld v. Brown (1961), Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc. (1968), and United States v. Lee (1982) – the Court has overwhelmingly or unanimously rejected it. (Moreover, even apart from RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause, Congress has rarely, if ever, extended specifically religious exemptions to for-profit enterprises.)

This unbroken history is hardly surprising, given that in virtually every such case – and even in cases where nonprofit commercial enterprises seek religious exemptions, such as Tony & Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor (1985), another unanimous decision – a religious exemption would require customers, employees, or competitors to bear a heavy cost in the service of another’s religion, something the Court has understandably been loath to sanction.

Picking up on this last point, Walter Dellinger notes that while the burden “imposed” by the non-mandate on employers is trivial-to-non-existent, the burden accepting this unprecedented legal argument would have on employees is not:

The Supreme Court has held that any accommodation of religion “must be measured so that it does not override other significant interests,” especially those of third parties. The exemption being sought in these cases would do just that. Giving legal force to corporations’ objections to covering the use of contraceptives by their employees would deny to thousands of women affordable access to the most effective methods of birth control — a benefit that those women, or the female dependents of employees, earn as part of their employment compensation package.

In these cases, the shifting of a burden to third parties is not merely a matter of economics. More than half of all American women experience an unintended pregnancy, according to a 2008 study, and 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. Improved access to the most reliable methods of contraception would significantly reduce both unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. For all women, denying practical access to the method of contraception that is right for their health and life circumstances, as well as the well-being of their families, can represent a serious incursion into their individual moral autonomy.

Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful effectively makes the employer a party to a woman’s medical consultations. An understanding of the importance of access to the full range of contraception options should lead the court to reject claims of religious entitlement that so greatly burden the interests of others.

As we’re also seeing with gay and lesbian rights, accepting the argument would wreak havoc with civil rights law. Of course, to many proponents of the litigation, this is a feature, not a bug.

Out of respect for the good pastor, no lady-folk are allowed to comment on this post

[ 84 ] March 24, 2014 |

The Arizona pastor who infamously told his parishioners to pray for Obama’s death doesn’t want to hear a damn thing out of you ladies, so just you shut up already.

The End of the Asian Forests

[ 23 ] March 24, 2014 |

The burning of Asian forests, particularly but not exclusively in Indonesia, continues unabated. This is usually reported on for the public health aspects of it since the smoke from Sumatra wafts over the rest of southeast Asia. That’s a huge problem, but of course there is also the destruction of the ecosystem. When I traveled in Sumatra in 1997, I saw some of this and it was mostly poor people engaging in slash and burn farming. That’s not the case anymore. Today, it’s big landowners burning land for palm oil and paper plantations. The method of clearing land is horrible because of the environmental cost to people’s lungs, but that’s not what I want to focus on here.

In the 1980s, as environmentalists rallied to save the last ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, workers, who considered themselves environmentally responsible stewards of the land, were angry because of their lost livelihood. Of course, the companies were lying to the workers as they were already moving operations to other forests, but leave that aside for now. One point the two timber workers unions made repeatedly was that the United States was now exporting its forestry to countries with far fewer environmental restrictions on forestry than the U.S. By moving timber production to Brazil or Indonesia, we were dooming other forests while doing nothing about consumption in the United States. And that’s basically a correct analysis of the situation. That doesn’t mean that we should have cut down the last old-growth forests, in fact environmentalists were completely correct on this. But the saving of American forests in no way reduced consumption of forest products. The transformation of tropical forests into plantations for the export market is one result of this.

Exxon Valdez

[ 42 ] March 24, 2014 |

Happy 25th Anniversary to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Those were some good times. What did biologists discover from it? That the oil industry is horrible for wildlife:

Scientists had traditionally believed that oil basically had to cover an animal or embryo to hurt it. But the evidence they saw in Alaska suggested it didn’t take much oil to do a lot of damage. And that damage could manifest in different ways.

For example, oil under rocks and in sediments contaminated clams that sea otters ate. It didn’t kill the otters outright: Wildlife biologist Dan Esler of the U.S. Geological Survey says it shortened otters’ lives and suppressed the population for 20 years.

“The understanding that lingering oil could have chronic effects on wildlife populations was a new and important finding, and one that we did not anticipate at the time that we started the research,” Esler says.

Through years of research, scientists discovered another unexpected effect, this time related to fish eggs. The clue came from pink salmon, which weren’t doing well even years after the spill. To figure out why, Rice’s team exposed pink salmon embryos to tiny amounts of oil.

“We were dosing them with oil that you couldn’t see [and] you couldn’t smell. But we were doing it for a really long time,” Rice says. “And six months later, they had abnormalities.”

Rice says it was one of the many “wows” that came from his years heading up a NOAA team researching the spill’s effects.

But hey, I’m sure everything is back to normal in the Gulf after the BP spill and that we should continue right on drilling like nothing ever happened.

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