August 14, 2014

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Michael Brown was pictured several times flashing gang signs.
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One hand gesture means “What’s up blood?”
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The two pictures on the left appear to depict two different hand signs that show allegiance to a “Bloods” street gang.

Who's 'Not Doing Anything'?

GOP House Has Passed Five Times As Many Bills as Dem Senate.

9:14 AM, JUL 3, 2014 • BY JERYL BIER
Twice in the past week, President Obama has needled Republicans in the House of Representatives by saying that while he's doing his job, the GOP House is "not doing anything." The first time was when he was in Minneapolis to spend a "day in the life" of Rebekah, a mother concerned about making ends meet:
And, now, some of you may have read -- so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something. 
The second time the president used the phrase was Monday in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. in a speech on a familiar topic for the president, upgrading roads and bridges:
It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency -- no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted -- it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?
Truman famously did so in the 1950s), the president has directed his ire at the House rather than the Congress as a whole, leaving the Senate unscathed. But an analysis of the numbers shows that his shots may be misdirected.
According to, a privately run website that tracks congressional activity, so far in the 113th Congress the House has passed 297 bills (280) or resolutions (17) that originated in the House. By contrast, the Senate during the same time has passed only 59. In spite of his words that the House has "done nothing," the president has put his signature on 90 House bills and resolutions and 35 Senate bills and resolutions for a total of 125.
Even compared to prior Congresses, this House does not appear to be as idle as the president suggests. Bills spiked during the 110th and 111th Congresses, but otherwise the 297 passed by the House in the 113th Congress is not far from the historical norm for the past several decades, particularly given that the 113th Congress is still in session (again, from
Again in contrast, bills passed by Senate have been down sharply since Harry Reid took over as majority leader, with the Senate in the 113th Congress on track to pass the fewest number of bills of any Senate as far back as 1973 (as far as the records at go):
While the significance of the bills passed by the House and Senate may be debated, and while the president's frustrations with the House center around legislation (such as comprehensive immigration reform) where wide differences separate the parties, the numbers indicate that it's not so much that the GOP House isn't "doing anything"; the GOP is just not doing what the president wants

August 5, 2014

1980s Dire Warnings Of Acid Rain / Forest Die-Off Prove To Be Pure Fallacy From Hysterical Scientists 

I spent a few days with my wife in Amsterdam, and so blogging was a bit on the light side. Today’s story is a short one about acid rain and forest die-off. Most people over 40 will certainly recall that one.
Whenever scientists are completely wrong, they hope no one will notice years later and that all will be forgotten.
Such is the case of the 1970s forest die-off scare (acid rain). Back then a “consensus” of scientists warned that the Earth’s forests were being wasted away because of acidic rain produced by man’s emissions from the burning fossil fuels. Lots of background info on this here,
The first warnings of an acid rain induced forest die-off in Germany were sounded by scientist Bernhard Ulrich, who warned that polluted rain was causing the soil to become too acidic for trees, which in turn would soon get very ill and die. Moreover by 1983 there was a claimed consensus. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) recently wrote on the forest die-off scare:
In the year 1983, an extremely informative study that recently appeared and maintained that during the course of this alarm debate, that there was not a single forest scientist in Germany who did not agree with this diagnosis.”
The leading German daily then summarizes that the acid rain, forest die scare turned up in the end being just a wave of hysteria that had gripped the scientific community. Today nobody hears about the acid rain; the problem has literally just vanished from existence. FAZ writer J├╝rgen Kaube even asks in his piece: “What ever happened to forest die-off?”
We suspect the same will be true of global warming in about 20 years time. Maybe sooner – especially when we look at the recent record high sea ice levels, recent cooling weather sweeping across the USA and the dozens of predictions of a coming climate cool-down coming from experts.

- See more at:

July 28, 2014

One Direction’s Zayn Malik tweets #FreePalestine hashtag

Last night, heartthrob Zayn Malik of the popular U.K. boy band One Direction waded into Middle East affairs with this succinct “#FreePalestine” tweet.

Malik’s tweet, posted from his verified account, has more than 134,000 retweets so far (and the count is rising rapidly).

Whereas singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard deleted their pro-Palestine tweets, Malik has left his up.

July 27, 2014

The Conversation

'The Walking Dead' is loved for both its strengths and its flaws

In response to Phenomenal 'Walking Dead: Season 5' Trailer:

That is a pretty sensational trailer - more alluring than half the big-budget movie trailers I've seen this year.  It always seemed odd that the Biggest Show On Television would suffer from such obvious budget restraints, keeping the action stuck in certain locations much longer than it should have been, but judging from these clips, that's no longer an issue.
It looks as though a certain terrible event from much further along in the comics will be flash-forwarded and carried out at the Terminus compound.  If that's the case, part of this season is going to be very hard to watch.
"The Walking Dead" is a bona fide phenomenon, the next step after "TV show with great ratings."  It's been a while since anything on TV got its hooks so firmly into the broad pop-culture audience, and it's all the more amazing because it's such a grisly program.  The Zombie Moment was surfed with a remarkable combination of lucky timing and skill by the cast and crew.
I think the weaknesses and cliches of a phenomenon contribute to its popularity, in addition to its strengths.  Not only do you pick up the "hate-watchers" who seem to watch the show entirely so they can go into online forums and rant about how much it stinks - their eyeballs count for ratings too! - but the imperfections of a flawed gem make it endearing and approachable to its genuine fans.  All these decades later, jokes about "red shirts" and other tropes from "Star Trek" are part of the pop-culture language.  It's comparably easy to wail "WHERE'S CARL?!?" and watch everyone in earshot grin.  I wonder if part of what makes people love a show like "Walking Dead" is because its flaws inspire their imaginations and make them think about how they'd tell the story differently... an impulse that has kept classic stories alive across history.
And really, nothing silly about this show - primarily the outbreaks of lunkheaded behavior among the survivors, and the rather low-grade menace the slow-moving and easily killed zombies seem to pose - dilutes what it does well.  The survival-horror setting is haunting, the drama caused by people forced to make impossible decisions is intense, and the characters are generally well-drawn and well-acted enough to make you genuinely care about what happens to them.  If one of those scenes glimpsed briefly in the trailer means what I think it means, that sense of audience connection to the characters is going to get a hell of a workout this fall.