European Space Probe Lands on a Comet

November 12, 2014

European Space Probe Lands on a Comet

7 hours after Europe’s Rosetta orbiter launched Philae, a washing-machine-sized robot probe, it landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a big ball of ice and rock 314 million miles away and traveling through space at 34,000 miles an hour. The ESA probe will remain there transmitting data until August 2015 as the comet slowly melts from the heat of the sun.

The international space mission has been a long time in the making. Comet-chasing Rosetta was launched ten years ago. The scientific importance of the Rosetta mission cannot be over-estimated. Comets are frozen repositories of early stages of the solar system.

More:

“European Probe Makes Historic Comet Landing,” VOA News

“Comet-Chasing Spacecraft Lands Probe After 10 Year Flight,” Alex Morales, Bloomberg News

“Mankind Has Landed on a Comet,” Sarah Zhang, Gizmodo

“Touchdown! Rosetta’s Philae Probe Lands on Comet.” (ESA press release)

“The Rosetta comet mission cost half as much as the US midterm elections,” Joseph Stromberg, Vox

“Bill Nye on the Rosetta Comet Landing: ‘We’ll make discoveries that nobody’s imagined yet,’” Big Think

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Image (“Comet, after Charles Martin”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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John Oliver Plays (With) the Lottery

November 12, 2014

John Oliver Plays (With) the Lottery

Americans spent $68 billion playing the lottery last year, more than they spent on movie tickets, music, professional sports, video games and porn combined.. You can think of state lotteries as a tax on the dreams of the poor, since the poor spend more on these state-sponsored gambling schemes than more well-off people. Lottery ads sell hope, but the odds of winning are hopeless (1 in 176 million).

States sold the lottery concept to voters by saying the money earned would go to good causes like education, but it doesn’t, it merely displaces existing funding instead of supplementing it, so school budgets are flat or reduced.

Lottery winners are notoriously bad with their money. Hey, if they were good with money, would they play the freakin’ lottery in the first place?

John Oliver recently analyzed the lottery on his television program:

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Armistice Day

November 11, 2014

Armistice Day
This is Veterans Day in the United States. It was originally named Armistice Day and commemorated the time the agreement to stop The Great War was signed, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. After World War I failed to be The War to End All Wars, the U.S. observance was officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954, probably because veterans vote and dead WWI soldiers don’t (except in Chicago), and we already have Memorial Day. Britain still commemorate the WWI Armistice and those who died to achieve it, and today is known as Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations.

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Net Neutrality: Obama Observes the Obvious

November 11, 2014

Net Neutrality: Obama Observes the Obvious

The USA, which invented the Internet, is 43rd in world Internet speed, behind Estonia. High-speed broadband access costs three times as much in the US as in the UK and France, more than five times as much as in South Korea. There are only a few broadband providers in the US, and 30% of Americans can only choose one due to monopoly local access rules. So naturally, instead of upgrading their networks to world standards, American Internet Service Providers plan to selectively slow down Web access unless customers cough up even more dough.

The FCC has been considering allowing the “Internet Fast Lanes” and opened proposed regs for public comment. 4 million outraged citizens told them to shove it.

President Obama has reasonably observed that Web access is a basic utility today and should be regulated like a utility. Naturally Comcast, VerizonTime Warner Cable, and AT&T are foaming at the mouth. They argue that regulation would stifle innovation, as if their strong-arm tactics haven’t clearly done that already (see “Estonia,” above). Republicans are raging against the Net Neutrality proposal, partly because big corporations fund campaigns but mostly because Obama is for it. But the FCC is an independent agency, theoretically insulated from presidential and congressional pressure, but a few protesters sat at the foot of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s driveway, blocking his car, so he’d have a better understanding of bandwidth throttling.

More:

“President Obama Urges FCC to Implement Stronger Net Neutrality Rules,” Ezra Mechaber, White House Blog

“Obama’s big net neutrality announcement, explained,” Timothy B. Lee, Vox

“Tim Wu says Obama’s net neutrality plan is ‘bold, courageous, and just obvious,’” Nilay Patel, The Verge

“Ted Cruz’s Net Neutrality Take Isn’t Just Dumb, It’s Dangerous,” Kate Knibbs, Gizmodo

“The legal arguments against a leading net neutrality proposal are weak,” Timothy B. Lee, Vox

Obama to the FCC: Adopt ‘the strongest possible rules’ on net neutrality, including Title II,” Brian Fung , Washington Post

“President Obama urges FCC to ban paid internet ‘fast lanes,’” Anne Flaherty, AP via PBS

“Obama calls for more regulation of Internet providers, industry fires back,” Fox News

“Obama’s Net Neutrality Push,” Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly

“Obama’s Plan to Save the Internet,” Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

“Barack Obama’s support for net neutrality sets precedent for the rest of the world,” Alex Hern, The Guardian

“The FCC Fires Back At the President’s Net Neutrality Plan,” Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch

“Obama’s Net Neutrality Statement Will Start a War on K Street,” John B. Judis, The New Republic

“Why the Public Utility Model Is the Wrong Approach for Internet Regulation,” Larry Downes, Harvard Business Review

“By Backing Net Neutrality, Obama Delivers Blow to Corporate Giveaways,” Rebecca Leber, The New Republic

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Jim Morrison, Fat

November 10, 2014

Jim Morrison, Fat
Jim Morrison, interviewed by Howard Smith in November 1968, animated by Patrick Smith of Blend Films for Blank on Blank (PBS Digital):

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Magna Carta In DC

November 9, 2014

Magna Carta In DC

This year Magna Carta turns 800 years old, and the birthday party has come to Washington DC. One of the four surviving copies of the original 1215 edition of the charter of liberties is visiting here in the Nation’s Capitol. Lincoln Cathedral has lent its copy to the Library of Congress. The “Mother of All Constitutions” will be exhibited through there through January 19th.

Of course, if old documents are not your thing, head to the National Archives. They have a copy of that newfangled Magna Carta, the one from 1297.

More: 

“Two Magna Cartas in DC,” Geoff Edgers, Washington Post

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Image (“King John Posts Magna Carta to His Facebook Wall”)  by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

October Employment Numbers

November 8, 2014

October Employment Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the jobless numbers for October 2014. There’s good news, not-so-good news, and bad news.

Good news: The official unemployment rate is:5.8%214,000 new jobs were added to the workforce last month, 2.3 million so far this year.

Not-So-Good News: The real unemployment rate is 11.1% (U6, includes people who no longer get unemployment benefits, need work but have stopped looking because it’s futile, or have only found part-time work). Learn more here.

Bad News: Wages for those new jobs are low. Very low, down where they were in 2009. And 2.9 million people have been out of work for half a year or more.

The economy may suck for working people, but Wall Street is doing just fine, thank you.

More:

“America’s dual economy,” Heather Long and Patrick Gillespie, CNN Money

“American workers are still waiting for their raise,” Matthew Yglesias, Vox

“Job Growth Is Picking Up. But What About All the Sidelined Workers?” Josh Bivens, Wall Street Journal blog

“Black Unemployment Falls to 10.9 Percent,” Joyce Jones, BET News

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Image (from a WPA photo) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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A Tea Party with Raised Pinkies

November 6, 2014

A Tea Party with Raised Pinkies
Conventional pundit wisdom has it that the Republican midterm election sweep means the GOP Civil War between Tea Party extremists and the moderate business-oriented faction is over, and the moderates won. Charles Pierce disagrees:

Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself ‘the tip of the spear’ — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. James Lankford in Oklahoma is not a moderate. He’s a red-haired fanatic who believes that welfare causes school shootings. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.”

– Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog [links added]

Related:

“The Reasonable Extremists Among Us,” Jamelle Bouie, Slate

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Image (“2014 Midterm Tea Party, after Sir John Tenniel”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Maya Angelou Tells Studs Terkel About Con Men

November 6, 2014

Maya Angelou Tells Studs Terkel About Con Men

Studs Terkel interviewed poet Maya Angelou for his Chicago radio show in March, 1970. A portion of the program was recently animated by Patrick Smith of Blend Films for Blank on Blank (PBS Digital):

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Zygote Liberation Front Loses in North Dakota

November 5, 2014

Zygote Liberation Front Loses in North Dakota

On Tuesday North Dakota voters did not approve Measure One, which would have amended the State Constitution by adding one sentence: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

The North Dakota pro-life group behind this fetal personhood proposal didn’t like it called a “personhood” proposal, but that’s what it was. It would have outlawed not only abortions, but also other procedures such as in vitro fertilization. As one medical group observed, Measure One would have granted constitutional legal rights to fertilized eggs.

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.


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