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Exposing Breitbart’s Lies at ALEC 41

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday August 12, 2014 11:16 am
Banner: ALEC Parasitic Corporate Mafia

CODEPINK Dallas confronted ALEC at their dinner party — and lied about what happened.

DALLAS — In his recent article “Code Pink Stages Mini Protest at ALEC National Conference,”’s California correspondent Jon Fleischman fabricates an encounter with an activist, erases a full day of anti-corporate protest, and makes a major source of corporate corruption in American state politics seem like a benign force for social good — all in just 250 words.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped corporations and rich private investors pass conservative legislation for over 40 years. The legislation is written by the corporations, then passed by conservative state legislators selected and groomed by the group. The group has faced increasing criticism and protest in recent years, especially since the 2011 publication of the Center for Media and Democracy’s, a site with hundreds of these model bills and a partial membership list of the organization. Several corporate members have dropped out of the group under this pressure.

Among other policies, ALEC lobbies for the privatization of education and police and undermines laws that encourage the use of renewable energy. It also crafted the Stand Your Ground legislation that may have contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Fleischman describes seeing a small group of protesters led by CODEPINK Dallas outside the cowboy-themed restaurant Eddie Deen’s Ranch, where ALEC held a kick-off dinner on the first night of its 41st national conference. Since the article features a photo of the group from inside the restaurant’s property, it’s clear that Fleischman was present on the night of July 30, 2014. But the rest departs significantly from reality.

“Big surprise!”

“This article is full of errors. Big surprise!” CODEPINK Dallas’ Danna Miller Pyke said when MintPress News first brought the article to her attention — a sentiment shared by many news consumers in reference to the accuracy of Breitbart’s many published works. Many people first became aware of the site’s late founder, Andrew Breitbart, from his distribution of the dishonestly edited undercover videos that destroyed the community advocacy network ACORN in 2009. Others may remember Breitbart’s infamous rape-themed Occupy rants from the days before his death in 2012. His site’s reputation for honesty hasn’t improved since then.

But digging deeper into how and why the site carries these lies can instruct us how the right-wing spin machine works to minimize those who oppose it. Though Fleischman once told the Los Angeles Times that reporting on his homepage, Flash Report, was “fair and biased,” his handling of the CODEPINK protesters has been both biased and unfair.

In his article on the ALEC protest at Eddie Deen’s Ranch, Fleischman recounts an encounter he allegedly had with an anonymous protester:

While elected officials dined on tri-tip and chicken, some taking photos on a cow brought in for the occasion, the protesters were screaming “corporate whores” and holding up signs that said, ‘Democracy not Corporatocracy’ and ‘Round Up Alec and Run ‘Em Out Of Town.’

When I approached one of the Code Pink members to see if they had a comment for Breitbart News Network, the response was screamed at me, ‘Breitbart is part of the corporate machine! You suck!’ She then went back to screaming at the top of her lungs towards the steady stream of conference attendees headed into the BBQ joint.

This encounter never happened. A MintPress reporter was present for the entire protest at Eddie Deen’s Ranch. Organized by CODEPINK Dallas, they called it “The Showdown at the Ranch.” Dressed in pink Western wear and carrying banners and toy handcuffs, the idea was to show ALEC members that they were a criminal influence corrupting American politics — and to show the people of Dallas, too. An airplane circled downtown that evening, trailing a banner warning residents against the presence of ALEC in their midst.

While MintPress remembers a man matching Fleischman’s description taking photographs of the group on a smartphone, at no point did he or any other individual approach the group and identify themselves as a representative of or any other conservative news outlet. To verify our recollections, MintPress spoke with two additional members of CODEPINK Dallas — Kit Jones and Leslie Harris — as well as Roy “Train Wreck” Sudduth, an independent videographer who recorded the entire protest.

After checking his footage, Sudduth confirmed, “My review didn’t show a conversation. I remember the photos being taken.”

Pyke added, “I don’t believe that happened, either. We would have noticed.”

Pyke reinforced the notion that while Fleischman spoke only with an ALEC member and not a member of CODEPINK Dallas, “He purports to know our complaints without talking with us about them.”

Further, the group was approachable — CODEPINK Dallas members held conversations of varying lengths with members of the ALEC delegation. Fleischman’s own photo shows a man in a dark suit conversing with the group — a man who identified himself as a Republican state lawmaker. He had a conversation lasting about 15 minutes with a member of CODEPINK before exchanging contact information with her.

Fleischman also erases a busy day of active free speech when he describes the Showdown group as “thus far … the only protester presence.” Protests had actually kicked off earlier that day when hundreds of activists, including many union members, rallied at the Hilton Anatole (ALEC’s home for the week) in an event called “Don’t Mess With Texas, ALEC.” After the rally, a similar sized group listened to the “Stand Up to ALEC” panel discussion at the nearby Community Brewery, featuring guests such as Jim Hightower, Connor Gibson of Greenpeace and Shahid Buttar from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Even though he’d missed these events, a social media search or some old-fashioned journalistic fact-checking would have set him straight.

More spinning than grousing

At Deen's Ranch, men in suits grin as they photograph CODEPINK with their smartphones.

Many ALEC members stopped to photograph the group, but few tried to communicate.

Worse than lying about his attempt to speak with activists is how Fleischman turns ALEC into a benign, even beneficial influence on American politics. The spin begins from the very first sentence:

This week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national organization made up of conservative state legislators from around the country, is holding its annual convention in Dallas, Texas.

To hear Fleischman describe it, ALEC is the same as any other political caucus where legislators meet to discuss the future of public policy. But a key difference is that ALEC’s legislators are picked by the organization’s other members — corporations and private investors — for their willingness to introduce ALEC’s selected legislation.

Some of these conferences have drawn massive protest crowds from the ideological left, grousing about ALEC’s pro-market bent, and objecting to active participation in the group by large corporate sponsors.

Now Fleischman tries to mention corporate involvement in passing, as if it were only peripheral. In fact, late last year the Guardian revealed that these legislators are expected to swear a loyalty oath to the organization, which includes the Koch brothers among its sponsors. ALEC’s lack of transparency has also been criticized; reporters like Truthout’s Candice Bernd are routinely refused access to the conferences despite meeting the group’s stated media guidelines. And far from “grousing” about a “pro-market bent,” diverse groups from constitutional rights pundits to the Alliance for Retired Americans have made specific and clear objections to the way its policy of profits-over-people is written into law nationwide.

State Senator Joel Anderson, who is Chairman for ALEC in California, reacted to the protesters by saying, ‘Hey, this is a free country. We’re here to discuss policies to foster economic prosperity for everyone in America, even those folks yelling at us.’

Kit Jones from CODEPINK Dallas calls Anderson’s statement “total bullshit.”

“They’re not working for us, they’re not working for economic prosperity for everyone. They’re working for economic prosperity for themselves: the corporations and their lackeys, their hired guns, which would be the legislators,” Jones explained.

As an example, Jones highlighted Missouri’s ALEC-inspired “Right to Farm” amendment that pits large-scale corporate agriculture against small farmers and the environment. As of this writing, the hotly contested bill passed by less than half a percent of voters and may be subject to recount.

A nonpartisan movement

Fleischman’s article attempts to place ALEC and the protests against it within the traditional partisan political narrative. He depicts sensible, logical conservatives enjoying a bit of R&R while a pocket of the activist left loudly and senselessly rails against them.

MintPress asked Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, about whether fighting ALEC’s influence was about the right versus the left or a larger issue of democracy. Buttar stressed the threat to democracy was larger than that posed by ALEC alone, but went on to say, “My real interest is in building a voice for ‘We The People’ to force the institutions to respect our rights. And you’re absolutely right, anyone should care about these issues.”

On some issues, like surveillance, he said the Libertarian and Tea Party Republicans are “more activated.”

“The anti-ALEC crowd was all Democrats,” he said, “but quite frankly, that crowd can’t get anything done. It never has. The best they can do is get into office elected officials that then betray them at every opportunity.”

“Without a movement to ensure the accountability of the electoral gains, without a movement to force the conversation about the needs of ‘We The People’ beyond what the policy sphere is currently addressing, without the movement to force change, there won’t be any,” Buttar concluded.

Originally posted on MintPress News


Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday August 11, 2014 7:52 pm


Close up of bubble wrap

Stress reliever AND boon to science. What else can bubble wrap do?

Tonight, the Watercooler is in solidarity with Colorado Plateau Resistance, which shut down construction at a Utah tar sands mine.

People of the Colorado Plateau shut down construction of a tar sands mine in Utah Aug. 6.

A small band calling themselves Colorado Plateau Resistance swarmed machinery and put their bodies in the way of their path, completely stopping construction of the mine for part of the day.

This direct action is one in a long string of actions organized by people opposed to the mining destruction.

‘The Colorado Plateau and its inhabitants are are under invasion on multiple fronts of the energy industry,’ the group said. ‘This tar sands mine is a bloody blip in a bigger scheme threatening this land, including the reopening of uranium mines that have poisoned indigenous communities for generations; the planned construction of a nuclear generator in Green River, Utah; violent and vast scraping of the land and squandering of sacred water in pursuit of lowest-grade fuel sources like tar sands and oil shale; a new ‘oil’ refinery in Green River perhaps to centralize production and distribution of those super-toxic tar sands and oil shale fuels; and all of this paid for and made possible by the dangerous fracking boom, which is poisoning our air and water and killing the most vulnerable members of our communities, our babies and old people.’

Bubble wrap, a wasteful product (or stress reliever), has found a new use in science labs. From NPR:

Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.

‘Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,’ says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. ‘But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.’ One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500 bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6 cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursday in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

‘You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes,’ he says. ‘This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away.’

Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed a glucose detector from paper and tape.

[...] Whitesides and his team tried injecting blood and chemicals into the clear blisters with a needle and syringe. They then sealed the holes with nail polish. The bubbles held the liquid with no problem. And since the plastic is clear, the team could use the mini-test tubes for tests that involve color changes. For instance, to test for anemia, the scientists added a chemical that changes colors when it reacts with iron in blood. They also successfully grew bacteria and worms inside the bubbles. But to make a good test tube or petri dish, the bubble wrap also needed to be sterile.

So Whitesides’ students filled the plastic bubbles with a solution of food for microorganisms and looked to see if bacteria grew inside. After four days, no microbes appeared. To their surprise, the air and plastic inside the bubbles were completely sterile.

That finding also surprised Michele Barry, a tropical disease doctor at Stanford University, who wasn’t involved in the study. ‘I had no idea that the bubbles themselves were sterile, which is fabulous,” she tells Goats and Soda.

[…[ Labs in poor countries have a great need to store samples, Barry points out. The bubble wrap could also be used to test water for toxic metals, such as mercury, arsenic and lead, she says. But the plastic packaging comes with many limitations. The mini-test tubes must be handled carefully or they’ll pop — literally. And bubble wrap is sensitive to light. It degrades over time.

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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Æon Flux

By: Kit OConnell Friday August 8, 2014 7:39 pm


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

A close up of a woman's eye

Flies beware.

Tonight’s selection is the original installment of Æon Flux, sometimes also referred to as the Pilot or the first “season.” It originally aired chopped into short segments in the first season of MTV’s experimental animation show Liquid Television. This show was fertile ground for innovative and even just strange animation. We previously discussed on Liquid Television on Cartoon Friday, but I also selected a cartoon that aired on the show once before: Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s The Running Man.

This video includes the entire opening episode, uninterrupted. The story unfolds without words, and in its original form a viewer might easily miss a segment or end up seeing them out of order. The story deliberately engages with the tropes of action movies and anime in unexpected and disturbing ways. The iconic opening, in which Flux captures a fly in her eyelashes reminds me of the deliberately disorienting opening to Un Chien Andalou. The ending … well, I still don’t know what to make of all that. Some kind of fetish heaven?

After this first episode, Flux’s creator followed up with a series of shorts as a second season, also airing as part of the Liquid anthology show. Each short was self-contained, and included the death of the protagonist (or perhaps her clone?). For its third season, the show  spun-off into a series of 10 half hour episodes. In these, the characters began to talk, with Flux paired up in a series of conflicts with Trevor Goodchild, Flux’s nameless adversary in the original, but now sometimes ally or even lover. The series developed its own mythology, and with the addition of words sometimes traveled to strange philosophical territory.

Here’s how Geoffrey Miller, writing for DVD Verdict, describes this first episode — but keep in mind some of this context only exists due to three seasons of hindsight:

The pilot, stitched into a cohesive 12-minute whole from its original segments, follows Æon on an assignment to assassinate a Breen higher-up. At the same time, a deadly virus has infected the complex she’s infiltrated. Even though she doesn’t speak a word, her personality comes across loud and clear: She’s clever, dangerous, and sexy—a dominatrix clad in leather. She mows down hundreds of Breen guards in seconds, until they pile up in a foot-deep pool of blood. She’s also accident-prone, carelessly stepping on a nail that ultimately does her in.

Miller praises the show’s unique animation:

The animation and art direction is an utterly original mix of the darker side of anime with American underground comics. Every frame, drawn by hand, is filled to the brim with attention to detail and cinematic panache. The characters are tall, almost impossibly lanky, with hyper-realistic facial features. Although the world is a bleak one, there’s plenty of color. The architecture of Bregna, where most of the series takes place, is bathed in bright hues of orange and yellow, mixing classic European and Asian styles with a sleek modern sheen. When it was first aired, nothing like the show had ever seen before (and nothing similar has been seen since, besides Chung’s other work), yet it’s immediately cohesive and fully formed.

The AV Club interviewed Peter Chung to coincide with the 2003 release of Reign: The Conquerer, an anime he helped design. But interviewer Tasha Robinson asked him about Flux, his best known work:

Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday August 7, 2014 8:26 pm


The colorful waters of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring: Now a drone dump?

Tonight the Watercooler is in solidarity with the 9 activists from London Palestine Action who were arrested after 2 days occupying the roof of Elbit Systems drone factory in protest of its production of weapons and parts used in the Israeli war machine.

The occupation of an Elbit Systems owned factory in Staffordshire ended Wednesday as police arrested the activists, who had managed to shut down production and maintain their occupation for over 24 hours. The protesters from London Palestine Action launched their action in the early hours of Tuesday morning, calling for the UK government to ‘stop arming Israel.’ Their actions are part of a wider campaign under the banner of BDS, which encourages states and individuals to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its occupation of Palestinian land.

The factory built parts for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Parts developed in the factory are used in both Israeli military technology as well as the UK’s Watchkeeper drone programme.

Since 2010, the UK government have licensed the export of £42m (€53m/$70) worth of arms to Israel, £10 million within the last 12 months.

Speaking of drones, Ars Technica reports that a civilian drone may have crashed into Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Hot Spring:

Officials at Yellowstone National Park told reporters on Wednesday that a tourist had crashed a small drone into the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring last Saturday. The incident marks the latest in a string of drone-related episodes in this region of Wyoming. A drone went down into Yellowstone Lake near the Grant Village Marina. Officials in nearby Grand Teton National Park have already issued one citation to a visitor for flying a drone within the park—it later got trapped in a tree and was then stolen, according to the Associated Press.

[...] Ars was able to finally reach park spokesman Al Nash, who said that the park received “eyewitness reports” of the drone crash on Saturday. ‘We have some information regarding the operator but this incident remains under investigation. We haven’t been able to locate the unit in the spring. Grand Prismatic Spring is big, deep and hot. We are considering a manned helicopter flight to see if we can spot it from the air.’

He also noted that the drone pilot could be issued ‘one or more citations.’ ‘Operation of unmanned aircraft is prohibited, and it’s also against the rules to put foreign objects in thermal features—those are two right off the bat,’ he added.

‘We have had ongoing issues for decades in Yellowstone with people treating our hot springs as if they were wishing wells,’ Nash continued. ‘The most common problem is people tossing coins. We have found a way to remove them. It depends on the given feature, typically we would use a tool from the boardwalk and one time we even had a boat that we put into these larger features. But foreign objects in our thermal features are not new, but this is certainly a very different wrinkle, and it presents a different challenge. I don’t know any of the details of this device. Ultimately if we can find this device it begs the question: does it do more harm leaving it there or would our efforts to remove it do more harm? Until we can locate it we can’t really answer that question, but we know it’s there.’

Thanks to Kade for this link.

Bonus: “Meet the CNN Anchor Who Called Fox News ‘Ignorant Fucksticks’ Over Climate Change” from Mother Jones.

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5,000 Texans March for Gaza

By: Kit OConnell Thursday August 7, 2014 9:39 am


Originally published at MintPress News

But we do not have much time. The revolutionary spirit is already worldwide. If the anger of the peoples of the world at the injustice of things is to be channeled into a revolution of love and creativity, we must begin now to work, urgently, with all people, to shape a new world.

On Aug. 2, Sheikh Islam Mossaad ended his speech at the Texas Stands With Gaza rally by quoting these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. The quotation was preceded by a passionate speech invoking the spirit of dead Palestinian children and calling on the living youth of the world to take up their struggle.

It set the tone for a historic moment — the largest rally for Gaza in the Lone Star State since the beginning of Israel’s military offensive dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and likely the largest pro-Palestine rally ever in the state. A crowd of thousands grew through the speeches and swelled further as it turned from a rally on the state capitol grounds to a march down Congress, the central artery running through downtown Austin, to City Hall. People came off the sidewalks to stand against Israel’s war crimes, to stand with an oppressed people, until the peaceful march stretched to five blocks long and included at least 5,000 Gaza supporters.

After smaller rallies in their respective cities, Texas Stands With Gaza brought together activists and organizations from Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, under a diverse umbrella ranging from interfaith groups to Iraq Veterans Against the War. Chartered buses brought hundreds from around the state. Unseasonably mild weather kept temperatures only in the 80s, a boon since the many pallets of water provided by organizers ran out under the thirst of unexpected throngs.

A woman in a hijab, carrying a Palestinian flag, approaches the Texas Capitol on a partly cloudy day.

Unseasonably mild weather greeted throngs of Gaza supporters on August 2.

A revolutionary spirit was apparent in almost every moment of the event that followed Mossaad’s opening speech. This crowd stood not just against the human rights’ violations of the current Israeli offensive, which has left about 2,000 civilians dead, destroyed over 10,000 civilian homes, and injured over 6,000, but for the rights of Palestinians to live peacefully and not under terror or siege. Before he spoke, Dr. Snehal Shingavi, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a perennial activist for social justice, led the crowd of thousands in a chant of “Resistance is justified when Gaza is occupied!

“‘Never again’ means never again for anyone”

In her speech, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb related the plight of Gaza to other social justice struggles:

I grew up in the civil rights movement and my rabbis, the rabbis of my youth, they were getting arrested, they were going to jail because they could not stand segregation in the United States. An evil institution which is still so much the reason we cannot see what is happening in Gaza, because we are still such a racist society [...] so how can we see what is happening in Gaza without struggling for justice here at home?

Gottlieb told the crowd that the first word she learned in Arabic as a young woman in Israel was “nakba.” “Nakba,” which means disaster, is not limited to a single day, she explained, it is an ongoing destruction of Palestinian life and Palestinian culture through ethnic cleansing since Israel colonized historic Palestine in 1948.

According to Gottlieb, the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin told their members not to counter-protest for fear of drawing too much attention to the rally. But like Gottlieb, other Jews had followed their sense of outrage to Israel’s brutal assault and injustice throughout the march.

A revolutionary spirit had led Naomi (she asked that MintPress News use only her first name) to push her own boundaries by attending her first rally for Palestine. When we found her, she wore a look of deep and almost overwhelming emotion. Naomi, who describes herself as openly queer, laughed as she told MintPress she’d been out of the closet to her Jewish friends about everything except her support for Gaza.

She’d been inspired to come by the example of Ernest Rosenthal, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who demonstrated for Gaza in Los Angeles.

“I felt ashamed that he’s 95 and being active and all I was doing was sitting around, talking about it on Facebook,” Naomi said.

Anonymous masked actvists, a man with a Palestinian flag, and others stand for Gaza.

A crowd of thousands grew as religious leaders spoke out against human rights violations in Gaza.

After deciding to attend the rally, “I made the sign ‘I am Jewish and I stand with Gaza’ because I think it’s important to say that publicly — to show that it’s not about Jews versus Palestinians. It’s not a tribal conflict, it’s a political one.”

What she hadn’t expected was how much attention her simple poster board sign would draw:

Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday August 6, 2014 8:20 pm


A large model rocket lauches from the desert in a burst of smoke and dust

Sorry: We still need propellant.

In tonight’s video, Glove & Boots share 10 facts about US presidents, then imagine how the Internet might have reacted.

You may have seen some buzz on the Internet or even in the mainstream media about a seemingly impossible microwave-powered space drive that had been “proven” by a team at NASA. A typical article came from, “NASA validates ‘impossible’ space drive:”

British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR Ltd. Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work. [...] As reported, this happened last year when a Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.

The Nasa team based at the Johnson Space Centre [...] spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a ‘null drive’ similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.

But writing for Discover’s Out There, Corey S. Powell spoke with scientists who think the new engine is dubious at best.

Everything in science is open to questioning, of course, but nobody is going to throw out all the textbooks on the say-so of a single inventor trying to raise money for his company, SPR Ltd. [...] Then Guido Fetta (a self-described “sales and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food ingredient industries”) built a third version of the EmDrive, renamed the Cannae Drive. [...] A number of publications that should have known better threw caution to the wind.

Perhaps we should take a long cool drink at this point. Let’s start with the “NASA validates” part. NASA is a huge agency, with more than 18,000 employees. The testing was done by five NASA employees in a lab devoted to exploring unorthodox propulsion ideas. [...] Still, science is science: What matters are data, not motivations or semantics. Did White et al actually validate Fetta’s version of the EmDrive? [...] The methodology description makes it unclear how much of the testing took place in a vacuum—essential for measuring a subtle thrust effect. The total amount of energy consumed seems to have been far more than the amount of measured thrust, meaning there was plenty of extra energy bouncing around that could have been a source of error.

Worst of all is this statement from the paper: ‘Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was de>signed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust.’ In other words, the Cannae Drive worked when it was set up correctly—but it worked just as well when it was intentionally disabled set up incorrectly. Somehow the NASA researchers report this as a validation, rather than invalidation, of the device.

It looks like popular science journalism fell down on the job … again.

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Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday August 5, 2014 7:51 pm


Woman holds sign: Genocide? Not Your Problem? Millions in Tax Money Fuels Israel's War Crimes Daily

August 2: Thousands marched and rallied for Gaza in Austin, Texas.

Tonight the Firedoglake Watercooler is in solidarity with Texans For Gaza, who held a 5,000 person rally and march in Austin, Texas last Saturday. In one of several powerful speeches from the event, Rania Masri asks “Mr. Obama, What Is Barbaric?”

It seems President Obama and his administration consider the abduction of an invading soldier from an occupying army to be ‘barbaric’ but the massacre of more than 1600 Palestinians in their neighborhoods, in their homes, in their schools, in their hospitals, in their playgrounds, on their beaches is not barbaric.

We need to tell Mr. Obama what barbaric is.

Barbaric is the Israeli killing of more than 70 families in Gaza. More than 70 Palestinian families have been lost. Barbaric is that 300,000 children in Gaza have lost either their home or a loved one. Barbaric is that hospitals are targeted. Six out of nine hospitals in Gaza are closed and Israel is threatening to attack the rest. Barbaric is that entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, labeled what one journalist called ‘apocalyptic.’ Barbaric is that we have 500,000 missiles dropped on an area smaller than 260 km2 (100 square miles).

The full text is available online.


And the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, an Alaskan indigenous community, decided to invest some of its surplus funds in creating a video game — the first major video game made by native Alaskans and based on their culture. From Kotaku:

[Never Alone, t]he upcoming video game will also hold their culture, artwork and folktales in a vessel designed to carry a sense of the Inuit spirit far away from their southcentral Alaskan homeland. But, yes, the game’s origins initially came from a more pragmatic concern. ‘We wanted to find a way to chart our own destiny financially,’ tribal council CEO Gloria O’Neill told me recently. O’Neill, who came to New York City recently with E-Line Media development partner Alan Gershenfeld to show Never Alone to press, explained that the Cook Inlet community remains reliant on government funding to help maintain services.

So, why a video game? ‘I just had a sense that we as a people have so much to offer the world,’ O’Neill told me. ‘We want to take back our culture out of the museum. I wanted to make an investment where we could share who we are with the world, we could have a part in creating it and it wasn’t somebody creating it for us.’ Gershenfeld said Artists, tribal elders and storytellers from southcentral Alaska are lending their talents to the game.

The game’s main character is a young Iñupiaq girl named Nuna who’s trying to rescue her homeland from an endless blizzard. She meets a mystical arctic fox that help her and their bond isn’t just cute. It also reflects the importance of interdependency, one of the core Alaskan Native values that O’Neill says the community wants to transmit through Never Alone. ‘We have stories that have kept us alive [as a community] for 10,000 years,’ O’Neill said. One such story casts the Northern Lights as the glowing spirits of children who died in the cold. In the folktale, those lost spirits want to snatch up the heads of still-living kids and use them to play with, like soccer balls.

Thanks to Twistedcat for the tip.

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Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday August 4, 2014 8:28 pm


Tonight’s video is “How To Find an Exoplanet” from Minute Physics.

Closeup of a colorful peacock's head with its plumage arrayed beyond it on display

The only peacocking that works in Denmark.

Pick Up Artists, or PUA’s, are rather unfortunate men who are convinced — against all reason — that there’s a magic script to getting women to have sex with you, and charge still-more desperate men high sums of money to teach them their creepy, hopeless magic. But Dissent magazine reveals that one PUA named Roosh found Denmark’s social services and egalitarian culture were an impenetrable wall against his “charms:”

‘A Danish person has no idea what it feels like to not have medical care or free access to university education,’ an awed Roosh reports. ‘They have no fear of becoming homeless or permanently jobless. The government’s soothing hand will catch everyone as they fall. To an American like myself, brainwashed to believe that you need to earn things like basic health care or education by working your ass off, it was quite a shock.’ [...] He concludes that the typical fetching Nordic lady doesn’t need a man ‘because the government will take care of her and her cats, whether she is successful at dating or not.’

He’s not wrong. Several of Denmark’s social services are intended to reduce gender inequality by supporting women, a sort of state feminism that he can’t accept. Denmark provides eighteen weeks of maternity pay (usually at about two-thirds pay) as well as separate parental leave options that couples may provide to the mother if they wish. The country has also offered incentives to fathers since the 1990s to encourage them to take up paternity benefits. In Denmark, shareable family leaves are two weeks longer if the father pitches in; if he doesn’t, the family loses out on the additional time. This small ‘daddy quota’ may not sound like much, but it indicates a state interest in rectifying unequal historical norms of caretaking.

Denmark also offers one of the best universal child care systems in the world; as a result, the maternal employment rate in Denmark exceeds 80 percent. The country’s mothers accrue 34 to 38 percent of the earnings taken home by couples with children; compare that to American mothers, who only take home 28 percent of parental earnings.

[...] PUAs’ Darwinian assumptions about women’s desires run up against Roosh’s Nordic bête noire: Jante Law. The term is derived from Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose’s 1933 novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, in which a small, fictitious working-class town champions solidarity over personal achievement. It describes a set of social norms such as self-deprecation that discourage individual preening. Jante Law is technically fictional, but like many stereotypes, it contains a degree of truth … Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to [his] narcissistic salesmanship.

And we’re supposed to be afraid of more socialist societies because … why again?

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