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Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday August 26, 2014 8:09 pm

 

Tonight’s video is “What can Schrödinger’s Cat teach us about quantum mechanics?”

The classical physics that we encounter in our everyday, macroscopic world is very different from the quantum physics that governs systems on a much smaller scale (like atoms). One great example of quantum physics’ weirdness can be shown in the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment. Josh Samani walks us through this experiment in quantum entanglement.

Lesson by Josh Samani, animation by Dan Pinto.

Hitchbot, a simple, friendly robot, just completed a journey across Canada with the help of strangers. From the Toronto Star:

HitchBOT’s 6,000-kilometre journey began in Halifax on July 27 and ended in Victoria on Saturday, and while the robot is pretty exhausted from the expedition, it made a ton of new friends along the way. The talking, GPS-tracking machine relied solely on the generosity of strangers to get where it was going, and co-creator David Smith was delighted to report that the robot’s journey went off without a hitch.

‘We’re elated,’ said Smith, a university professor at McMaster University. ‘It’s been really great fun and to me it seems like it [has] brought people together in a really interesting way.’

HitchBOT was initially left on the side of the road near the Halifax airport and was offered a ride minutes later.

‘It was literally less than two minutes from the time we set the ’bot on the road and the first vehicle pulled over,’ said Smith. The first people to give a ride to the robot were a couple on their way to camp in New Brunswick, he said.

HitchBOT’s done a lot since then. It’s crashed a wedding in British Columbia, made a guest appearance at a powwow in Northern Ontario, and even showed off its dance moves when it did the Harlem Shake in Saskatchewan.

The collaborative research project, which was designed to explore topics in human-robot interaction and test technologies in artificial intelligence, also demonstrated to [project member Professor Frauke] Zeller that ‘robots can trust human beings.’

Check out some more great photos of Hitchbot’s adventures on its Twitter account.

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Losing Losers and the Pentagon That Hires Them

By: David Swanson Sunday June 19, 2011 4:53 pm

 

At the 200th anniversary of the jackasses of 1812 getting the U.S. capital burned by the British in 1814, I found myself watching a new film by Rory Kennedy called Last Days in Vietnam. This film covers the moment of loss, of defeat, of the U.S. military at long last receiving its final ass kicking by the Vietnamese, for whom these were not the last days of Vietnam but the last days of the American War and of Western military occupation.

As in the Middle East these days, where the United States has been busy losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wrecking Libya and Pakistan and Yemen and Palestine on the side, Vietnam was a disaster by the time the movie begins. As the U.S. news media blames ISIS for the state of Iraq, Last Days in Vietnam blames the North Vietnamese. This is the story of the loss in Vietnam, but it is told primarily by the losers.

A Pentagon-funded online celebration of the U.S. war on Vietnam describes the incidents shown in this film thus:

The American evacuation ends. Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese troops, and organized South Vietnamese resistance to the communist forces ends. President Duong Van Minh announces the unconditional surrender of the Republic of Vietnam.

I recommend Veterans For Peace for a counter to the Pentagon’s current $65 million campaign to glorify the U.S. war on Vietnam. And I recommend watching Last Days in Vietnam for an understanding of how wars end. In particular, this film should be watched by anyone who has managed to continue after all these decades to falsely associate war with victory or winning or success or accomplishment.

The final months of U.S. presence in Vietnam were a time of denial, by the U.S. ambassador and others, that the North Vietnamese were coming to kick them out. Every American and every one of their Vietnamese allies and collaborators, and all of the family members of both groups, could have been safely evacuated. Instead, there was a last-minute mad rush with helicopters dumped into the ocean after they unloaded passengers onto ships, and many left behind to be killed.

The film blames Congress for rejecting President Ford’s request to fund an evacuation. But the Pentagon could quite easily have simply done it, and President Ford apparently never instructed the ambassador to do so. So, the spooky music plays, and the color of blood flows down the map from North to South as the barbaric communist aggressors who go so far as to use violence, something Americans would never do, approach Saigon. And they only come because President Nixon was driven out by the peaceniks. Never mind that that was several months earlier, they never would have come had Nixon been in the White House.

Of course, the views of the losers tend to obscure as much as to reveal. The war had to end. The people fighting for their homes had to prevail, sooner or later, over the people fighting for the fact that they’d already been fighting and couldn’t face the shame of stopping. But Last Days in Vietnam shows the Americans watching the rushed evacuation from home, the Americans who had earlier “served” in Vietnam. And they believed all their efforts had “come to nothing.”

Nothing? Nothing? Four million men, women, and children slaughtered. The U.S. society calls that nothing. The Germans are expected to know how many millions their government killed. The Japanese are required to study the past sins of Japan. But the United States is supposed to gaze at its navel, glorify its sinners, and pretend that its defeats are neutral, indifferent, nothingness. Try telling that story about Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza, I dare you.

When We Look Into Their Eyes . . .

By: Isaiah 88 Tuesday August 26, 2014 1:17 pm

Charles Pierce, “The Body In the Street” . . .

I keep coming back to what seems to me to be the most inhumane thing of all, the inhumane thing that happened before the rage began to rise, and before the backlash began to build, and before the cameras and television lights, and before the tear gas and the stun grenades and the chants and the prayers. I keep coming back to one simple moment, one ghastly fact. One image, from which all the other images have flowed.

They left the body in the street.

Dictators leave bodies in the street.

Petty local satraps leave bodies in the street.

Warlords leave bodies in the street.

A police officer shot Michael Brown to death. And they left his body in the street.

It’s a brutal message, it’s always been a brutal message—your life has no value, it means nothing. Obey. Submit. Don’t even think about challenging the power authority has over you.

G8 / G20 Toronto 2010 Riot Police on Yonge St.

What happens after the eulogies have been said and the latest victim of police violence has been buried? What happens after the cameras and television lights have been turned off and another grieving community has been left behind to pick up the pieces? What happens after the witnesses have all been slandered? After the protesters have all been demonized as a rioting mob? After the conservative backlash has been sanctified by the corporate media as a righteous response to “lawlessness” and “outside agitators”?

What happens next?

The killer cop is not held accountable, and this death march of young Blacks through “post-racial” America goes on.

That’s what always happens next.

Then the police talk to us, the pundits talk to us, the politicians talk to us, we’re told we should trust them, they always tell us that. But when we look into their eyes . . . there’s just devils and dust.

I don’t know whose young life will be taken next, I don’t know how much money the killer will be sent by other racists, I don’t know how many militarized police will invade that community to “restore law and order,” I don’t know which is worse–this police state, this war machine economy, this travesty of a two-party system, or the suicidal inaction of our “leaders” on the global warming crisis. But I know this much — protest is the only effective option left to us, nothing else will have any effect at all.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a political issue, an economic issue, a foreign policy issue or a law enforcement issue, it doesn’t matter if it’s inequality or racism or gun control, you can expect the same response . . .

The truth will be smashed to pieces with a corporate media hammer.

So don’t talk to me about elections, don’t talk to me about working within the political system, don’t talk to me about Obama or Congress or the courts. Talk to me about PROTEST. Talk to me about the only way out of this godawful mess. Protest is power incarnate. Protest is the storm, protest is the rolling thunder, protest is the lightning illuminating entrenched systems of oppression, with all of their corruption and all of their lethal secrets and all of their relentless, systemic deceit.

The amber waves of grain are gone. Our freedom, our civil liberties, our human rights have been buried in a field of blood and stone. There’s no accountability in the corridors of power, no justice at all, there’s just devils and dust.

We’re a long, long way from home . . . home’s a long, long way from us. We have to find our way back. Through the tear gas if we have to, through the ranks of riot police if we have to, through the bigots and the bullets and the backlash. We will bleed if we must, we will show the police, we will show the politicians, we will show the whole world that scars speak louder than the weapons that inflict them.

Judge Nixes Cove Point LNG Zoning Permit as Dominion Says Will Soon Receive Federal Permit

By: Steve Horn Tuesday August 26, 2014 10:50 am

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Co-Written with Caroline Selle

Environmental groups fighting against the Cove Point LNG export terminal hailed Salmon’s judgment as a major grassroots victory.

An August 6 court decision handed down by Calvert County Circuit Court Judge James Salmon could put Dominion Resources’ timeline for its proposed Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in jeopardy.

Salmon ruled that an ordinance exempting the Lusby, Md.-based LNGproject from local zoning laws — Ordinance 46-13 — violated both a section of a state Land Use law, as well as Maryland’s constitution. The facility will be fueled by gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

In the ruling, Judge Salmon described the zoning exemption as “a very unusual situation.” In 2013, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners and the Calvert County Planning Commission carved out both LNG export and import facilities from zoning laws.

“To my knowledge no other municipality or county in Maryland has attempted to do what the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners has attempted to do, i.e. completely exempt two uses from being covered by zoning regulations while requiring everyone else in the County to abide by those regulations,” wrote Salmon.

Environmental groups fighting against the Cove Point LNG export terminal hailed Salmon’s judgment as a major grassroots victory.

“At a minimum, this ruling will likely cause real delay in the ability of Dominion to begin major construction of this controversial $3.8 billion fossil fuel project,” Mike Tidwell, executive director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), said in a press release. “The ruling should certainly give pause to the Wall Street investors that Dominion is seeking to recruit to finance this expensive, risky project.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, AMP Creeks Council (shorthand for Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Creeks Council), came to a similar conclusion.

“This is a remarkable victory for the people of Lusby, Maryland, and folks fighting fracking and LNG exports throughout the Mid-Atlantic region,” Kelly Canavan, President of AMP Creeks Council, said in a press release.

Yet, Salmon concluded the ruling out by stating his decision “has no direct bearing on whether the facility will be built or not.” And even AMP Creeks acknowledged in its press release that its legal team “is still sorting out the implications of this ruling.”

Further, Canavan told DeSmogBlog in an interview that she agrees with Salmon, at least in terms of the legal argument he put forward about his role in the final destiny of the Cove Point LNG export facility.

“Even if he wanted to, he does not have the power to determine whether or not the facility will be built,” she said. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be a ripple effect.”

So, what gives? Is the decision a game-changer or something less? Dominion certainly thinks the latter, based on a review of its quarter two earnings call transcript.

Dominion Expects Federal Permit in “next few weeks”

During his company’s quarter two earnings call held prior to Salmon handing down the Calvert County ruling, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell II told those listening that he expects to receive a final LNG export license from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the “next few weeks.”

“We expect to receive FERC order approving the project in the next few weeks and begin construction shortly thereafter,” Farrell said on the call. “The Cove Point Liquefaction is expected to begin operations during the fourth quarter of 2017.”

Canavan believes Farrell’s rosy prospectus appears unlikely, however.

“We obviously disagree with that, partly because if it wouldn’t delay the project to have to go through these processes, there wouldn’t have been any need to pass the ordinance in the first place,” she said.

Calvert County Board, Dominion React

In the aftermath of the ruling, Dominion made a statement, appearing to stand by its quarter two investor call. “We are reviewing the decision in detail and do not see any schedule impact,” said the company in a press release.

Meanwhile, the County Board stood by its original decision to offer Dominion a zoning exemption, saying Salmon’s ruling would be discussed at its then-upcoming August 19 meeting.

“[T]he premise behind the zoning exemption remains legitimate,” said the Board in a collective statement offered to the press. “It recognizes that review and inspection of these types of highly technical, stringently regulated projects should be conducted by experienced federal and state regulators due to the rigorous standards they must meet.”

A DeSmogBlog review of meeting minutes for that date and for the upcoming August 26 meeting shows the topic was never put on the agenda, though.

Which leaves us where we started: what’s the future of the prospective Cove Point LNG terminal? Your guess is as good as ours.

Culture of Resentment, Culture of Apartheid

By: cmaukonen Sunday August 24, 2014 2:32 pm

We Want White Tennants

Up through the mid 1960s segregation was the norm. Especially in  the southern states. Separate schools for black and white, separate housing for black and white, separate hospitals for black and white, separate restrooms for black and white, separate drinking fountains for black and white…separate everything for black and white. Nearly all of it of inferior quality.

Buy things were not much different across the Mason Dixon line where blacks and other minorities were kept out of decent jobs, hotels, health care and housing. Even parks and the downtown areas and public transportation.

This was a White Christian country and if you were not of that persuasion, you need not apply. Up here in Cleveland you rarely saw any minorities downtown unless the worked there. You never saw them in the big stores shopping or even at the drugstore soda fountain. You rarely saw them on the buses or the rapid transit.

After the passage of the civil rights acts and fair housing acts minorities could not legally be kept out of traditionally white areas. You began to see them downtown and in white neighborhood schools. White America responded by moving more and more to the suburbs. They could not legal have the restrictive covenants any more but kept housing prices hight and began real estate steering. Making sure minorities could not buy housing in their little all white enclaves. Banks would only lend for particular neighborhoods. Housing was still segregated.

As minorities began to move into these suburbs the whites moved further out. Into areas where the zoning laws were such that the property was much more expensive and multi family housing was limited or even forbidden altogether.

With the cities being abandoned by the white middle class and businesses, the Federal Government tried to revitalize them with what was called Urban Renewal. It had some successes but mostly failures. The whites would not bite and the minorities could not afford the new properties and banks had strict rules.  Even the FHA would not lend in most cases. All keeping the minorities in minority housing. Usually government projects of badly kept highrises and the tradition poor neighborhoods.

Now there is rumoured that the Obama administration will force integration of these white enclaves. By over riding local zoning laws. With the desegregation of local schools and health care and even parks, there is now heave resentment. And it’s exactly what these white enclaves feared would happen with the election of a black man. And of course they fear that this will add to the deflation of the housing value.

What is more they are losing the Federal Monies they got for their schools and hospitals and libraries and parks. And they are furious. The election of Obama was the last straw as far as they are concerned.

The ones who can, have been moving put of state to Florida or Arizona or Colorado or Minnesota in hopes of creating a mostly white “christian straight” state that the Federal Government cannot touch. Electing Senators and Representatives to say no to anything that might prevent this.

A lot of what people don’t get is that these whites don’t Hate blacks, they just don’t want them around. In their schools or parks or hospitals or neighborhoods or anywhere. It’s not only racism, but classism as well. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and I’ll bet even still Jews in some cases. And they surely do not want their taxes helping them.

And they are making sure to get the message out that minorities are not welcome.

Coroner Contradicts Police, Says Handcuffed Man Shot in Front, Not Back

By: OldFatGuy
Close up of a set of handcuffs

How did a left-handed man shoot himself in the right front of his chest while handcuffed behind his back?

Yet still rules it a suicide.

On March 3, 2014, Victor White was arrested by Louisiana Iberia Parish police and patted down, TWICE, and handcuffed behind his back and placed in a police cruiser for transport. On arrival at the station, after police vacated the cruiser, they reported hearing a gunshot inside the vehicle. And then they reportedly found White slumped over, with a handgun laying in the cruiser. At the time they said that he had shot himself in the back.

Today’s coroner’s report, obtained by NBC News, contradicts the claim he shot himself in the back, saying the entry wound was in the front, in the right side of his chest.

But according to the full final report of the Iberia Parish coroner, which was released nearly six months later and obtained exclusively by NBC News, White was shot in the front, not the back. The bullet entered his right chest and exited under his left armpit. White was left-handed, according to family members. According to the report, the forensic pathologist found gunshot residue in the wound, but not the sort of stippling that a close-range shot can sometimes produce. He also found abrasions on White’s face.

At the time of his arrest, he was accompanied by a friend, Isaiah Lewis, who has said that when he last saw White being placed into the cruiser, he had no marks on his face. Yet the autopsy shows wounds in the face.

Also, the police found cigars and a “small amount of cocaine” on the second patdown/search. A “small amount of cocaine” is a pretty small thing to find, yet presumably they could not find a gun.

So we are to believe that a man, searched twice by professional police officers, and handcuffed behind his back, sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser, shot himself in the chest with a gun, and on the right side of his chest, despite being left handed. I mean, imagine standing up with your hands cuffed behind you, and how hard impossible it would be to shoot yourself in the chest. Now imagine sitting in a confined space like the backseat of a police cruiser. (For those who have never had the pleasure, I can attest first hand that any movement at all is difficult in such a situation.)

To recap, a left handed man, patted down twice, handcuffed behind the back, inside the back seat of a police cruiser, who according to all friends and family was very happy, shot himself in the right side of his chest and injured his face.

I don’t believe it for a second. And yet, I’d bet dollars to donuts after posting this someone will comment how I’m being a paranoid conspiracy theorist for even thinking it didn’t happen that way. Presumably because the evidence is so overwhelming that it happened exactly as the police said, and the police never lie.

Just another day in a fascist police state.

Bryson Andres, Secrets

By: Elliott Friday June 22, 2012 12:11 pm

A one man band for the 2010s


 

Street Musician Bryson Andres on the streets of Spokane

The song is Secrets by OneRepublic.

You can tell the self-taught Bryson Andres loves what he’s doing:

In these tough times (well some people are super fortunate) would you have the courage to hit the road and follow your dream? A lot of people prefer the steady job that pays the bills but Bryson Andres has taken his violin and is travelling, doing what he loves. Growing up with his grandparents who were not fond of his practicing, he has learned to not dwell on the negative and strive to please people who love to hear him play.

Andres is from Anchorage, Alaska, but came to acclaim when this video of him busking the streets of Seattle went viral:

The performance was highlighted in a story published last week by The Spokesman-Review as they previewed the possible changes in the city’s noise ordinance. Andres performed frequently in front of Riverfront Park gaining audience, busking for cash and selling cds of his recordings.

‘When I came to Spokane, there were hardly any performers on the streets,’ Andres shared over the phone.

He traveled to Spokane after playing everywhere he could in Alaska. He wanted to broaden his horizons, but playing in Spokane almost made him stop. He found the support for his art lacking. And then a video of him performing One Republic was touched by internet magic, the unexplainable force behind viral videos.

‘Before that video was taken, I was thinking about not playing out of state anymore. I was at a loss,’ Andres said.

The video rallied unexpected attention from fans and supporters.

‘As a street performer, I learned I’m not wasting my time. I’m inspiring others,’ Andres said. ‘Having a viral video and more supporters and fans helped me see why I’m doing what I’m doing.’

 

Bryson’s website and Facebook page

via Cognitive Dissonance

Aviva Chomsky: What’s at Stake in the Border Debate

By: Tom Engelhardt Sunday July 24, 2011 6:53 am
Two children on a pier with water & mountains in the distance

Why are thousands of children from Guatemala and other Central American countries arriving on our borders?

The militarization of the police has been underway since 9/11, but only in the aftermath of the six-shot killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, with photos of streets in a St. Louis suburb that looked like occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, has the fact of it, the shock of it, seemed to hit home widely.  Congressional representatives are now proposing bills to stop the Pentagon from giving the latest in war equipment to local police forces.  The president even interrupted his golfing vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to returnto Washington, in part for “briefings” on the ongoing crisis in Ferguson.  So militarization is finally a major story.

And that’s no small thing.  On the other hand, the news from Ferguson can’t begin to catch the full process of militarization this society has been undergoing or the way America’s distant wars are coming home. We have, at least, a fine book by Radley Balko on how the police have been militarized.  Unfortunately, on the subject of the militarization of the country, there is none.  And yet from armed soldiers in railway stations to the mass surveillance of Americans, from the endless celebration of our “warriors” to the domestic use of drones, this country has been undergoing a significant process of militarization (and, if there were such a word, national securitization).

Perhaps nowhere has this been truer than on America’s borders and on the subject of immigration.  It’s no longer “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  The U.S. is in the process of becoming a citadel nation with up-armored, locked-down borders and a Border Patrol operating in a “Constitution-free zone” deep into the country.  The news is regularly filled with discussions of the need to “bolster border security” in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations.  In the meantime, the Border Patrol is producing its own set of Ferguson-style killings as, like SWAT teams around the U.S., it adopts an ever more militarized mindset and the weaponry to go with it.  As James Tomsheck, the former head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, put it recently, “It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community.  The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”

It’s in this context that the emotional flare-up over undocumented Central American children crossing the southern border by the thousands took place.  In fact, without the process of militarization, that “debate” — with its discussion of “invasions,” “surges,” “terrorists,” and “tip of the spear” solutions — makes no sense.  Its language was far more appropriate to the invasion and occupation of Iraq than the arrival in this country of desperate kids, fleeing hellish conditions, and often looking for their parents.

Aviva Chomsky is the author of a new history of just how the words “immigration” and “illegal” became wedded — it wasn’t talked about that way not so many decades ago — and how immigrants became demonized in ways that are familiar in American history.  The Los Angeles Times has hailed Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal for adding “smart, new, and provocative scholarship to the immigration debate.” As in her book, so today at TomDispatch, Chomsky puts the most recent version of the immigration “debate” into a larger context, revealing just what we prefer not to see in our increasingly up-armored nation. Tom

America’s Continuing Border Crisis
The Real Story Behind the “Invasion” of the Children
By Aviva Chomsky

Call it irony or call it a nightmare, but the “crisis” of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, which lasted for months amid fervent and angry debate, is now fading from the news.  The media stories have been legion, the words expended many.  And yet, as the “crisis” leaves town, as the sound and fury die down and attention shifts elsewhere (even though the children continue to arrive), the real factors that would have made sense of what’s been happening remain essentially untouched and largely unmentioned.  It couldn’t be stranger — or sadder.

Since late June 2014, the “surge” of those thousands of desperate children entering this country has been in the news.  Sensational stories were followed by fervent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations with emotions running high.  And it’s not a debate that stayed near the southern border either.  In my home state, Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick tearfully offered to detain some of the children — and that was somehow turned into a humanitarian gesture that liberals applauded and anti-immigrant activists decried.  Meanwhile the mayor of Lynn, a city north of Boston, echoed nativists on the border, announcing that her town didn’t want any more immigrants.  The months of this sort of emotion, partisanship, and one-upmanship have, however, diverted attention from the real issues.  As so often is the case, there is so much more to the story than what we’ve been hearing in the news.

As labor journalist David Bacon has shown, the children-at-the-border story was first brought to the attention of the media by anti-immigrant organizations, beginning with the radical right-wing Breitbart News Network in Texas.  Their narrative focused on President Obama’s supposed failure to control the border, his timid gestures aimed at granting temporary legal status to some undocumented youth through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the attempts of Congressional liberals to promote what they called “comprehensive immigration reform,” and of course those children “invading” the U.S.

In fact, there was nothing new about the so-called surge.  Rather, the Breitbart Network turned a long-term issue into a “crisis” for political reasons, and the media, politicians, and organizations on both sides of the political spectrum took the bait.