Call to Action

My darlings, please take one minute and go sign Bernie Sanders’s letter to President Obama:

So, today, I am asking the American people that, if you believe deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice; if you believe the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations should be asked to pay their fair share as part of deficit reduction; if you believe that, at a time when military spending has almost tripled since 1997, that we begin to take a hard look at our defense budget; and if you believe the middle-class and working families have already sacrificed enough, I urge you to make sure that the President hears your voice–and he needs to hear it now.

I would urge the American people to go to my Web site, sanders.senate.gov, and sign a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough…

It’s important.

Here’s the full text:

Dear Mr. President,

This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today – which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.  In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.

Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit – a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.  

Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share.  At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions.  A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.

Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.  Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.    

Respectfully,

Sen. Bernie Sanders;
and Co-signers

Let’s ensure his co-signers number in the millions.  Be heard.

(via Pharyngula)

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England’s Libel Law is Liable to Bite Yer Arse

So do what Simon Singh says and sign the petition to reform it:

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.
The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Please sign and pass it along.

Things That Caught My Attention

I actually had time to catch up on a little reading today.  Even updated me blogroll to include some of the geology blogs I’ve gotten addicted to recently.  I’m a little distracted just now with terminal PMS and Rocko’s Modern Life, so now’s a good time to share some finds.

Brian Romans at Clastic Detritus made me drool with this Friday Field Foto.

More drooling: Dan McShane shares Notes from the Metaline Formation.  Old, pretty rocks; lovely water. Mmm!

And Callan Bentley’s guest blogger Filip Goc is responsible for some severe water damage to mah domicile – drooling turned to a gusher when I saw this post on the rocks of Glacier National Park.  Bonus drool: tension gash (which is a lot prettier than it looks). 

Lockwood found a box of crayons I dearly wish I’d had as a kid – oh, hell, I’d like them now.

I know most of you have seen this by now, but for those who haven’t: Chris Rowan’s excellent exploration of what lies beneath Yellowstone.

Courtesy of Ron’s Geology Picks, a fascinating new look at plate tectonics.

In non-geo news, Orac explains what happens to herd immunity when the herd refuses vaccination, and lays the smackdown on bogus vaccine ingredient calculators.

For the one of you who doesn’t read Pharyngula, PZ explains the importance of being a dick.

And Cujo’s right when he says it’s time for our better selves to show up – which has nothing to do with DBAD and everything to do with the horrific suffering in Pakistan.

We like to end with sunsets whenever possible, and thanks to Suzanne, we’ve got a beaut.  Go feast your eyes.

I know I’m missing some stuff.  However, my brain has been fried by hot flashes, and it’s time to crawl into bed with me oceanography textbook (yes, I read textbooks for pleasure).  Let me know what I’ve missed!

"Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning"

Everyone – whether you have a kid or not – needs to read this:

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. 

I come from Phoenix, where the news keeps a daily count of the children who’ve drowned, and I still didn’t know this stuff.  Read this article.  It will save lives.

There’s some literature after the jump for ye, if you want to learn more about drowning behavior and the Instinctive Drowning Response.

The following is from Pia Enterprises, and can be found in their document Reflections on Lifeguard Surveillance Programs:

Drowning Behavior

As mentioned earlier an active drowning person struggles on the surface of the water in a highly predictable, patterned, and to the trained eye, recognizable way. The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person’s attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The key concept in understanding a drowning person’s behavior is to keep in mind that suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements.

Research has shown that this response is present wherever active drownings occur ( pools, lakes, beaches, rivers, and waterparks). The reader must keep in mind that the drowning process starts at the point when person are no longer able to keep their mouths above the surface of the water. The aspiration of water which leads to a wet or dry drowning occurs at a later point in the drowning process. It is therefore misleading to tell lifeguards that distress covers all behavior up to the aspiration of water and drowning includes all subsequent behavior.

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response (IDR)

The following information describes the movements of the Instinctive Drowning Response, explains why certain behaviors are or are not occurring, and offers insights into what physiological processes are prompting drowning persons’ movements. The IDR is a group of signs and symptoms which collectively indicate an active drowning is occurring and differentiate it from the characteristics of distress.

The first characteristic of Instinctive Drowning Response is that persons, except in very rare circumstances, are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing; speech is the secondary or overlaid function. This means the primary function breathing must be satisfied first, before the secondary function speech can occur. The second reason drowning persons cannot call out for help is their mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning persons are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.

When the drowning persons’ mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water. While their mouths are below the surface of the water drowning persons keeps them tightly closed to avoid swallowing water. The second characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons cannot wave for help. Immediately after drowning persons begins gasping for air, they are instinctively forced to extend their arms laterally and begin to press down on the surface of the water with their arms and hands.

This response, over which drowning persons have no voluntary control, renders them unable to wave for help. The arm movements of drowning person’s are intended to keep their heads above water so they can continue to breathe. By pressing down on the surface of the water, they lift their mouths out of the water to breathe. The third characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning persons who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and performvoluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

These actions require a swimming or floating skill, which by using the definition of the term drowning, drowning persons do not have. When a drowning person grabs a rescuer, it is because the rescuer did not give the drowning person enough support to stop the Instinctive Drowning Response. Rather, the rescuer only provided enough support to use either the rescuer or the rescue device as a base of support to grab the lifeguard. In such cases, lifeguards did not give drowning persons enough support to convince them they were no longer suffocating.

The fourth characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons’ bodies are perpendicular in the water, and they are not able to move in a horizontal or diagonal direction. Also, there is no evidence of a supporting kick. The fifth characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds. This data was obtained and validated over a 21 year period at Orchard Beach, Bronx , New York where approximately 40,000 rescues, an average of 2,000 per summer occurred.

Observations at Orchard Beach also revealed that drowning persons were often surrounded by patrons who did not realize that a drowning was occurring next to them. It is therefore imperative that new lifeguards be trained to rely on the signs of drowning to begin their rescue procedure and not wait for patrons or more experienced to tell them that a person is drowning. Because manipulation of variables in my observational drowning studies at Orchard Beach were neither ethically nor morally possible, the only way to obtain this data was direct observation of drowning persons during rescues.

This methodology conformed to the qualitative research methods noted by Patton and others. This behavior of drowning persons, originally studied at Orchard Beach in the 1950’s and l960’s, and then written about in the 1970’s has been shown to exist in other areas. The confirmation for this conclusion consists of letters and telephone calls from lifeguards, parents, camp counselors, and park employees who noted that drowning person recognition concepts contained in On Drowning, Drowning: Facts & Myths, and The Reasons People Drown enabled them to identify a drowning person that was surrounded by bathers who did not recognize the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Tip o’ the shot glass to Highly Allochthonous.

The Legal Jackboot

Via our own John Pieret, who knows legal fuckery when he sees it, Orac points up the travails of Dr. Steve Bennett of Quackwatch, who is currently being sued for $10 million by a bunch of money-grubbing quacks otherwise known as Doctor’s Data.  This is a tactic used by those who can’t defend themselves with science.  And considering truth is a defense in American libel cases, Dr. Bennett has nothing to worry about – except the ridiculous legal bills that will be racked up defending himself against this fuckery.

Publicize his case if you have a blog, and if you can spare a few dimes, send some cash his way.  Quackwatch is a resource that cannot be allowed to be buggered and beggared by the kind of people who enjoy administering industrial chelators to helpless autistic kids.  Do help them continue roasting the quacks.  The champions of science-based medicine must not be silenced by jackbooted legal thugs.

Let’s Not Repeat the Con Years

I should be drinking myself into oblivion just now.  Unless Massachusetts voters smarten up overnight, it looks like they’re poised to elect a certified Con to the Senate.  Just to give you an idea of this man’s priorities, he decided golf courses were more deserving of state funds than Red Cross workers, right after 9/11 – and he stands by that belief today.  He’s a noxious little jackass who’ll return us right to the bad old days of Con rule, because the Senate no longer functions on majority votes.  Apparently, Mass voters believe the state of affairs that gave us 9/11, two useless wars, torture, warrantless wiretapping, stagnant wages and nearly no job growth, deficits that soared to the stratosphere, and an economic crisis the likes of which we’ve not seen for nearly a hundred years is so desirable they want to return to those inglorious days ASAP.

And if that’s what they believe is best for the country, I have just two words for them: FUCK YOU.

I know the Dem base is disappointed with the pace of progress so far.  I know they’re disillusioned.  But returning us to Con rule is a dumbshit thing to do.  It’s not the way to register your displeasure, people.  You want Dems to wake up and listen to progressives?  Primary the fuckers:

So, how do liberals exert what power they have and have the results be interpreted the way we want it to be? The first would be through protest votes for a third party that resulted in Republican victory. (There is virtually no chance that any third party will ever gain real power short of a fundamental change in the way we elect our representatives, so protest is all it will be.) It’s been done before. And if you can live with the idea of voting in a Republican party in the thrall of extremists that make Bush and Cheney look like Rockefeller Republicans, I suppose that might be the way to go. I won’t judge you, but I am personally unwilling to put the world through any more of this failed right wing experiment at the moment.

There is a fairly compelling theory in political science that says that after political parties come into power, fulfill some pieces of their agenda, get fat and bloated and are finally removed from office, they then tend to deny the reality of their loss and blame it on everything but themselves until they lose enough elections that they finally realize that their ideology has failed. The current GOP is not there yet by a long shot. They are still in the process of doubling down on their radical agenda at a time when the economy is still in ruins, the effects of globalization are being fully felt, the planet is in peril and about to reach a tipping point, and a radical fundamentalist movement is trying to blow people up. I don’t think the world can take any more of the right’s prescriptions for these problems right now: Lindsay Graham is considered too liberal and neo-Hooverism is their economic program. Yes, the Democrats are corrupt and inept. But the other side is batshit insane.

However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do but wring our hands about how the system is broken and fret ourselves into intertia. The other way to send messages to the Democratic party is through the unsatisfying and often thankless process of primary challenges. Nobody can have any problem understanding that message, not even Adam Nagourney.

It’s hard to find challengers and it’s no wonder. It’s expensive, time consuming and after all your hard work you will probably lose. It takes real commitment and a desire to not only win a seat in congress but do it by way of unseating an incumbent of your own party with whom you disagree, an act which is guaranted to make you an odd man out among the party hierarchy. But if you win, it can send shockwaves through the system.

And guess what? We are in the most favorable year for primary challenges in recent memory. The insane teabaggers aren’t going to allow any rational Republicans to run and the anti-uncumbent fever is going to be as high as it’s been since 1994. The Democratic base has an energetic activist faction, the netroots can raise money and there is a burning desire to show the party establishment that they cannot take liberals for granted. It’s a perfect environment for successful primary challenges.

And lucky for us, there are some brave progressives already out there taking on incumbents and there very well may be more. This time a few of them may win, and believe me if that happens, the Democratic party will not be able to spin those victories as being a sign that the party needs to move to the right.

Blue America has helpfully set up an Act Blue page with all the progressive challengers who have announced and we’ll add to it as more come forward. We’re calling it “Send The Democrats A Message They Can Understand.”

If you want a Democratic scalp, these candidates are out there offering to do the work to get it done. And you won’t be giving Adam Nagourney or Cokie Roberts or Glenn Beck what they want in the process. It’s a win that even the villagers and the party establishment can’t spin as good news for Republicans.

See?  No need to elect batshit fucking insane shitheels who will return to looting the country and shredding the last remaining bits of our Constitution and our dignity as soon as they’re back in power.  You can send the Dems a clear message without doing anything so stupid as electing the arsonists fire chief.

I’m going to conclude this screed with John Amato’s wise words:

There’s an impulse to say screw it all and not show up anymore because “they’re all the same,” but I can’t do that. For the most part, politicians will let us down because they are…well, politicians, but they aren’t all the same. There have been plenty of books written about Florida in 2000. If ballots had been properly labeled so that voters who wanted Gore instead of Pat Buchanan could have done so, we might have had a more fair election. And then the Supreme Court would have been left to watch election night like the rest of us and Bush wouldn’t have entered the White House in 2000.
Think of what that would have meant for the country:
  • The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would never have been a reality.
  • I doubt we would have had the attacks of 9/11 because President Clinton warned that the greatest threat America would face was terrorism and Gore would have not ignored him like Bush did. But if we did get attacked, then you can bet that Gore would have handled it as an adult. He wouldn’t sought “revenge” against Saddam Hussein and prioritized control of all that oil. Gore wouldn’t have let Osama Bin Laden get away and the world would still be sympathetic to us.
  • Our efforts to put Afghanistan back together would be finished by now, assuming we even would have tried nation-building there.
  • More troops and people would be alive and we would have exited the Middle East with our heads held high.
  • America would never have invaded and occupied Iraq and over 4,000 troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians (if not millions) would be alive today.
  • Abu Ghraib would never have happened.
  • Terrorist recruitment would have stalled.
  • Torture would not be part of the American lexicon and the likes of Dick Cheney and John Yoo would never have descended upon the offices of the VP and OLC.
  • John Roberts and Sam Alito would not be on the Supreme Court and the makeup would probably be 6-3 against the radical Scalia-conservative agenda. A ruling on Citizens United is coming soon. Would the court ever have accepted that case? Not a chance and soon corporations will have a stranglehold on our election system much more than they have now.
  • George Bush would have been back home in Texas leading the state into secession along with his pal Alberto Gonzalez.
  • Nobody would have ever heard of Terry Schiavo.
  • A much swifter and more effective response to Hurricane Katrina would have been implemented.
You get my point. These are but a few things that would have been different if conservatives didn’t get their hands on the White House. Many of us are fighting for liberal and progressive values everyday and will continue to do so. But when our party fails us, I need to work harder to make sure the party stays on a liberal course, not throw up my hands and dismiss them as all the same.

More and better Dems, people.  Not Cons.

Let’s make it so.

Humanists Helping Haiti

I’m sure most of you have seen this on Pharyngula, but for the one or two folks who don’t hang on PZ’s every word, here’s the link for godless giving.  Your donation goes to Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross.  And now we have a nice central gathering spot for all those godless donations.

Meanwhile, the horror in Haiti keeps bringing out the burning stupid in people:

I heard a nice chat on the BBC World Service the other evening. Roger Heering was naturally very worried that the people of Haiti might have lost their ‘religious faith’ due to the recent unpleasantness, and he and a woman from a faithy charity group talked about it. ‘You might think this would undermine it,’ he said to her anxiously, but she was quick to reassure him. ‘It actually seems to have strengthened it,’ she said in a pleased tone. They hugged themselves in glee, and then Roger Heering turned to the sports.
But that’s interesting, isn’t it – having all the buildings fall down and tens of thousands of people die and tens of thousands more lying around screaming in agony is another point for God. Well if that’s the case, what would be a point against God then? What would God have to do to make everyone decide God was a shit? Not just letting children lie under a slab of concrete for hours and hours crying in pain and fear and misery and then die. So, what then? It’s frankly quite hard to think of anything. If that kind of thing goes in the credit column, it’s hard to think of anything that would be considered a demerit.

I guess we’re going to have to come up with a corollary to the IOKIYAR rule: IOKIYAG.  It’s okay if you’re a god.  Put it like this: if someone came to me with proof that god (any god) exists, and further proved that he’s omniscient and omnipotent as advertised, I’d no longer be an atheist – but I’d surely be telling them to shove the worship where the sun don’t shine.  Sadists and murderers aren’t worshiped round here, thankyewverymuch.

Meanwhile, back in reality, rescue crews are still finding the occasional survivor in the rubble – and not getting to other survivors in time.  Food is getting to survivors – but sometimes not.  Order and chaos still coexist amidst the stench of rotting flesh.  But help is flooding in.  Things may get much worse before they get better, but at least the world is reaching Haiti, and more help is on the way.

And President Obama did the right thing.  Undocumented Haitians in the United States now have Temporary Protected Status.  That’s on top of all the other right things he’s done, mind.  I am so very, very happy we have an adult in charge again.