Do we all live in a giant hologram?

Exp3-1
The large scale universe projected onto a two-dimensional boundary
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There is an active field of research in cosmology and physics seeking to explain the cosmos in terms of a radical idea: we live in a universe with some of the properties of a hologram:
At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of theoretical physics in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The "holographic principle" asserts that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems. What we perceive as three dimensional may just be the image of two dimensional processes on a huge cosmic horizon.
That's a mind-being principle and the math behind it is a fearsome thing, pulling together rigorous work on everything from event horizons to string theory to the quantum information paradox. It's not easy to describe some of the ramifications that emerge in general terms.

But if you drift below the fold, thanks to no small amount of help from Jennifer Ouellette, one of the best hard-science writers in the world today, we'll at least try. And we'll do that without bringing up hyper-advanced mathematics!

Happy Birthday, Customer

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Happy Birthday [Insert Name] from your corporate overlords
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My birthday was last Sunday and I received hundreds of birthday greetings from friends, family, and corporate America. The screen capture above is the corporate greeting that stood out. Not for its warmth, not for its offer of $20 off of fees. No, this one stood out for one reason. It told the truth—I am not a person, I am not even a number to this company. I am simply a customer. That is my only value to them. I am sure that all of the personalized emails I received from other corporations were really just a farce. My name and birthday came up in their massive databases and they sent an email to a potential customer offering some token discount to get this customer to come in. They do not care if Mark E. Andersen, Emperor Lrrr from Omicron Persei 8, or even Glen the Plumber uses the 5-percent-off-a-dessert coupon included in the email. They just want to separate someone, anyone, from the money in his or her wallet.

Over the course of the last decade or so, more and more Americans are feeling as if they hold no value in the corporate world. We hold onto jobs we hate because we have nowhere else to go. Employers cut our wages, lengthen our hours, and we just take it—a job is too valuable to lose in this economy.

Robert Reich echoed those same comments in his April 26 column when he said:

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.  

Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.

There was a time in this country when one could graduate from high school, find a good blue collar union job, and make enough money to raise a family, buy a house, and even save enough money to send the kids to college.

Jump below the fold for more.

The most racist areas in the United States

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Proportion of Google queries containing the “N-word” by designated market area, 2004–2007.

Colors changed so the map can be seen by all. Original is below the fold.
Click to enlarge

There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city. Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea.

North Korea.

And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.

The study, Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality, has just been published in PLOS ONE and has mapped out the most racist areas in the United States. As illustrated above, they are mostly located in the rural Northeast and down along the Appalachian Mountains into the South. How they did it and what it may mean are below the fold.

A constitutional amendment is the only solution to our fraudulent politics

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Does ‘we the people’ matter anymore? Will it always be pay to play for the foreseeable future? Will we ever get our country back? Not the tea party type ‘get our country back’ but actually have a democracy?

To be clear, America was never a democracy. One man one vote (one person one vote) was never an implicit reality. Any reading of Federalist 10 makes that patently clear. Why? Ultimately the powers then and today’s plutocracy realized that it would change the social and economic order based on a real meritocracy, compromises, and the hard work of selling many ideas. You see an idea that benefits a few would never fly from an enlightened populace.

As Americans were becoming more liberal and enlightened they demanded democracy, social democracy and economic democracy. The plutocracy would have none of that. We are living through an implemented Powell Manifesto that has in effect dumbed down the population by infiltrating news media and schools as it decimates unions and liberal values.

Many organizations believe that this problem will be solved simply by effecting some sort of electoral reform that gets money out of politics. They believe that reversing the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions would somehow set things right. One must remember that pre-Citizens United and pre-McCutcheon, our politics was not much better.

The Move to Amend coalition was formed outside of the Beltway in Marin, California, in 2009 in preparation for the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The coalition, which now boasts nearly 380,000 people and thousands of organizations, has helped to pass over 600 resolutions in municipalities and local governments across the country, calling on the state and federal governments to adopt the amendment below. Interestingly these resolutions passed irrespective of the demographics, ideologies, or party affiliations of the voters.

Head below the fold for more.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner: America's political saturnalia

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President Obama and his "anger translator" Keegan-Michael Key, disrupting the social order.
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Ancient Roman society had a special holiday each December called Saturnalia. Part Halloween, part Mardi Gras, and part April Fools, this holiday was a weeklong extravaganza of drunkenness, costumes, and revelry—but perhaps the most important aspect was the upheaval of traditional social order. Gambling, which was traditionally either outlawed or highly discouraged, was permitted. Slaves were allowed to wear the garments of the freeborn, and sat at the same table to eat and drink with their masters. They could even backtalk and lecture their owners, as long as they did so in the form of a good joke.

In short, it was an annual, highly anticipated party where for one day, the people who had to keep themselves in check the most got to say whatever they actually wanted to say, all in the guise of humor and a good time. And when the festival was over, all of society would wake up the next morning, revert back to traditional structure and decorum, and pretend the previous evening's events simply never took place.

American political society has an annual spring festival very similar to this: It's called the White House Correspondents' Dinner. More below the fold.

'Sir, are you injured anywhere?' vs. 'F*ck your breath.' Only one kind of approach provokes riots

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No snarky comment here. Not for this image.
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'Why?' It's the most useful one word sentence in the English language. It's how we begin the search for causes, for understanding, for truth. We have to figure out why something happened before we can figure out how to make change going forward. There are people who want to understand why the events that unfolded this week in Baltimore did so, and there are people who most assuredly do not. Let's start with the latter, or least with the most egregious of them, since we don't have all day to go through the full litany.

Republican Maryland state legislator and radio talk show host Patrick McDonough, in discussing the events that took place in Baltimore, emphasized "a lack of parenting." He also praised a proposal to take food stamps away from families whose children participated in the protests. I'll let those statements speak for themselves. Among national figures, one of the more popular themes was—try not to be shocked—to blame President Obama. Donald Trump (I know, I know) offered this gem:

Our great African American president hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are happily and openly destroying Baltimore.
Then there's Ben Shapiro, columnist, editor-at-large for Breitbart News, and author of The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration (Count 1 in Shapiro's list of charges is—wait for it—"Espionage"). Shapiro opined that Baltimore demonstrates the President's "legacy of racial polarization." Fox News' Lou Dobbs attributed this week's events in Baltimore to the Obama administration's having "corroborated if not condoned ... a war on law enforcement."

These guys too fringy for you? How about Ted Cruz, a United States senator elected from one of the most populous states in our union and a serious, if not likely to be victorious, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In his musings on Baltimore, Cruz accused the president of having "made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions—that have divided us rather than bring us together." When probed by Dana Bash of CNN, and asked for examples, Cruz repeated the charge, but offered no specifics other than mentioning "the beer summit," and complaining that Obama "vilif[ied] and caricature[d]" those who opposed him politically on matters such as health care and the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

I'm sorry, Mr. Cruz. You aren't Donald Trump, or at least you'd like to think you aren't. But you need to be more prepared than that if you want to level such a serious charge at the president of the United States. As I've written elsewhere, the idea that Obama is a divider is ridiculous. Ask yourself whether a divider would say something like this:

Whether your ancestors came here on the Mayflower or a slave ship; whether they signed in at Ellis Island or they crossed the Rio Grande — we are one people. We need one another. Our patriotism is not rooted in ethnicity, but in a shared belief of the enduring and permanent promise of this country.
Please follow me beyond the fold for a discussion of what and whom is really to blame for what happened in Baltimore.

Reclaiming secularism is the key to protecting religious liberty

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Over the past few years, two topics have come to dominate the discourse about religion in America. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act and especially the rapid acceptance of marriage equality have prompted social conservatives to decry the supposed threat to "religious liberty." At the same time, the rise of "the Nones"—the growing numbers of Americans unaffiliated with any formal religion—has produced triumphalism among some atheists and despair on the part of some of the faithful.

Unfortunately, these twin debates have produced heat, but not light, and for much the same reason. Simply put, in the United States the terms "religious liberty" and "secularism" don't mean what their appropriators think they mean. Our First Amendment protections provide a shield from government interference with the practice of our own faiths, not a sword to prevent others from the exercise of speech and religion we might find offensive. And in the uniquely American context, "secularism" is not a spiritual philosophy embracing atheism or godlessness, but a political creed which recognizes that the separation of church and state is the surest protector of true religious liberty for all. As our religious diversity increases in the years to come, reclaiming these finest of American traditions will become even more important.

Continue reading below to see why.

On 'riots' and roots

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Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem" has been floating around in my head, as I watch footage from Baltimore.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

We are watching one of those periodic explosions, which will continue until America gives itself a root canal, lances the boil or abscess, and addresses the cause of our national dis-ease of racism and xenophobia, while trying to put a compress on the symptoms.

Let us not forget that segregated housing was one of the main issues addressed in Lorraine Hansberry's  "A Raisin in the Sun," title taken from the Hughes poem, which I discussed in "The Hansberrys, and Housing Dreams Deferred."

For almost every "riot" sparked by either white vigilante destruction of stable black and brown towns and communities, or by police murder of civilians or leaders, there is the story of economic frustration, racism, and planned racial segregation.  

Follow me below the fold into "The Ghetto."

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Fall into the Income Gap Edition

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Nicholas Kristof reminds us that the structure of our economy is not an inevitable outcome. It's a choice.
The eruptions in Baltimore have been tied, in complex ways, to frustrations at American inequality, and a new measure of the economic gaps arrived earlier this year:

It turns out that the Wall Street bonus pool in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.

I'm going to pause here to let that sink in. The bonus pool, not the salaries of everyone on Wall Street, but just the bonus pool of a few people in a single city, working at tasks most of us could not name and few of us would miss, exceeded the total income of everyone across the nation who waited on you at a restaurant, who picked up your trash and recycling, who stocked the shelves in your grocery, and a hundred other daily things that you would most certainly notice if they were to vanish.
We've been walloped with staggering statistics like this long enough that although this used to be a Democratic issue, Republicans are now speaking up. “The United States is beset by a crisis in inequality,” warned Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican with Tea Party support (although he added that his concern is gaps in opportunity, not wealth).
Yet another ridiculous Republican rephrasing (RRR) of income inequality. This RRR is almost as good as the old saw that the real problem is that the rich are paying too much in tax, while lazy poor people pay too little. Which causes income inequality...to...not be as big as it should be?
We as a nation have chosen to prioritize tax shelters over minimum wages, subsidies for private jets over robust services for children to break the cycle of poverty. And the political conversation is often not about free rides by corporations, but about free rides by the impoverished.

Kansas’ Legislature is so concerned with this that it recently banned those receiving government assistance from, among other things, spending welfare funds on cruise ships (there is, of course, no indication that this was a problem). Will Kansas next address the risk that food stamps are spent on caviar and truffles? We all know that public money is better used to subsidize tax-deductible business meals by executives at fancy restaurants.

Well, Missouri already took care of that caviar business. In fact, the Missouri bill would keep people from using food stamps on any fancy sea food, like say Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks.

But the point here is this is all political. A yawning income chasm is not a given. It's something we've created through a thousand paper cuts.

Come on in. Let's see what other punditry is afoot.

Sunday Talk: Scorching #HotTakes

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Given that the Apocalypse is coming, we'll probably never really know whether Freddie Gray got away with murdering himself and framing six of Baltimore's finest in the process, as is suggested by a recent Washington Post article.

For, to paraphrase Iraq War mastermind Donald Rumsfeld, "There are known knowns, and known unknowns; and there are also unknown unknowns."

Now, all that being said, after staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I know that I know this:

If it weren't for gay marriage; minority voting; Planned Parenthood; anchor babies; food stamps; the international so-called "global warming" conspiracy; unrighteous judges; Democrat [sic] witch hunts; the genetic inferiority of blacks; daddy issues; and our modern society's lack of morals, we wouldn't even be having this discussion right now.

#ThanksObama

Open thread: Riots, roots and racists

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What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • 'Sir, are you injured anywhere?' vs. 'f*ck your breath'. Only one kind of approach provokes riots, by Ian Reifowitz
  • Reclaiming secularism is the key to protecting religious liberty, by Jon Perr
  • On "riots" and roots, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • The White House Correspondents' Dinner: America's political saturnalia, by Dante Atkins
  • The most racist areas in the United States, by Susan Grigsby
  • Happy Birthday, Customer, by Mark E Andersen
  • Do we all live in a giant hologram, by DarkSyde
  • Hillary Clinton on Foreign Policy : Critical Perspectives from the Left, by koNko
  • A constitutional amendment is the only solution to our fraudulent politics, by Egberto Willies

Is it a UK parliamentary constituency or a Game of Thrones location?

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Messrs. Sturgeon, Miliband, Cameron, Clegg, Lannister, and Lannister
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Two important things are currently going on, for fans of complex, impenetrable stories about people with impressively highbrow-sounding accents forming ever-shifting coalitions in order to try to gain control of an isolated island with bad weather. One is season 5 of Game of Thrones on HBO. The other is the United Kingdom parliamentary election, the first since 2010, to be held on May 7.

While there are plenty of wikis and fan sites devoted to Game of Thrones, I haven't seen anyone trying to apply FiveThirtyEight-style quantitative analysis to the question of who holds the Iron Throne. On the other hand, there are numerous sites devoted to predicting who holds No. 10 Downing Street. Polls currently show the Conservatives nearly neck-and-neck with Labour, who are poised for a comeback after the UK's economic recovery lagged the US's, thanks in part to the Conservatives' austerity agenda.

It's not a simple case of which party gets the most votes nationwide, though; there are 650 different constituencies in the House of Commons, and a first-past-the-post election in each one. Complicating matters greatly is that third (and fourth and fifth) parties play a much larger role in the UK. This means that not only are individual seats much more difficult to predict than in American congressional elections (because, in a left-leaning constituency, multiple left-of-center parties might split the vote in a way that lets the Conservatives win), but also that no party is likely to control a true majority of seats and that power must be held through a coalition.

For instance, the Conservatives (who, confusingly, you'll often see referred to as the Tories) won only 306 seats in the last election, and hold power today only because of a coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats. However, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are expected to lose seats next week. Good news for Labour, right? Not quite: Labour is likely to pick up a number of seats from the Conservatives, but also lose a number of seats in their previous stronghold of Scotland to the Scottish National Party. While the SNP is perhaps even further to the left than Labour, they're focused on Scottish autonomy and not necessarily disposed to form a full coalition with Labour. One of the likeliest outcomes might be no coalition at all, but a Labour/SNP informal relationship that limps along until another election will be held.

The element of chaos that third parties bring to the mix (even greater this year, with the rising impact of the Greens on the left and the UK Independence Party on the right), is an enjoyable part of following UK politics. But another enjoyable aspect is simply the constituencies themselves: there are no boring, American-style numeric designations like CO-06 or FL-18 here. Instead, they have pleasing, evocative names, many of which sound like they're straight out of the mists of medieval times ... or from fantasy literature, like Game of Thrones itself. With that in mind, we thought a fun quiz mixing the two would be a good way to delve deeper into both. So, for each location below, which is it? A UK parliament constituency, or a location from Game of Thrones?


1. Amber Valley
2. Barrowlands
3. Beaconsfield
4. Casterly Rock
5. Castle Point
6. Eddisbury
7. Great Grimsby
8. Hazel Grove
9. Highgarden
10. King's Landing
11. Maidstone and the Weald
12. Mole Valley
13. Pyke
14. Riverrun
15. The Eyrie
16. The Wrekin
17. Vale of Glamorgan
18. White Harbor
19. Wolfswood
20. Wyre Forest
Head over the fold for the answers!

Cartoon: Animal Nuz #249 - Bending Towards Justice Edition

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strip 249 panel 1

This week at progressive state blogs: Lynch and the power of black women, SD polygamists seek water

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This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Montana Cowgirl, Cowgirl writes—In Montana, No One is Minding the Store for Legislative Ethics:

Cowgirl of Montana logo
Unlike many states, Montana lacks an  independent commission that regulates conduct of state legislators – such as conflicts of interest, abuse of power, abuse of office, post-term employment restrictions, and financial disclosure.

The only oversight of ethics in the Montana legislature is an “ethics committee” made up of legislators themselves. But in our state, the fox isn’t even bothering to guard the henhouse.  As far as I can tell, the ethics committee never meets.

There is no one watching out for whether they pass legislation or budget appropriations which would benefit their employers, their families, or themselves.

Montana legislative candidates are required to disclose their business interests, but such disclosures are not audited.  No one knows whether they have really disclosed their investments nor not.  Many lawmakers simply put a profession, such as “real estate”  and don’t list who their employer is.

State legislators in Montana are not required to disclose the junkets they attend on lobbyists’ dime.  For example, it has been an open secret in the 2015 session that Fred Thomas, Art Wittich, Cary Smith and others were treated to a trip to Florida by the Florida “Foundation for Government Accountability” the ALEC-affiliated right-wing think tank that works with AFP to oppose Medicaid expansions.  Nor must they disclose how many steak dinners or gifts they accept on behalf of lobbying organizations. [...]

Please continue below the orange gerrymander for more excerpts from progressive state blogs.

This week in the war on workers: Death on the job

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This week, in honor of Workers Memorial Day, the AFL-CIO released its Death on the Job report. Some facts:
In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries
are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.

Over the past four years, the job fatality rate has declined slightly each year, with a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2013 compared with a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 workers in 2010. [...]

Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of job fatalities. The fatality rate among Latino workers increased in 2013 to 3.9 per 100,000 workers, up from a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 in 2012. At the same time, the number and rate of fatalities for all other races declined or stayed the same. There were 817 Latino workers killed on the job in 2013, up from 748 deaths in 2012. Sixty-six percent of the fatalities (542 deaths) in 2013 were among workers born outside the United States. There was a sharp increase in Latino deaths among grounds maintenance workers. Specifically, deaths related to tree trimming and pruning doubled among Latino workers since 2012, and 87% of the landscaping deaths among Latino workers were immigrants. [...]

Workplace violence continues to be the second leading cause of job fatalities in the United States (after transportation incidents), responsible for 773 worker deaths and 26,520 lost-time injuries in 2013. Women workers suffered 70% of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.

The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360
billion a year.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's education and labor news.

House seeking to slash spending on Earth science

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Hard to believe there were times when either political party regularly distinguished itself and alternately embarrassed the entire nation when it came to science. Or that for a few brief shining years in the early days of the Cold War, the US actually stressed science and technology.

But it would be short-lived. America won the space race, Nixon swept into power, and conservatives turned to exploiting the cold civil war that had been simmering for a century on the heels of Reconstruction. With that came a fierce brand of willful ignorance worn proudly like a badge of honor by bigots and idiots alike. And not just way down south, in Dixie.

This week those forces of ignorance struck again, savagely slashing funding from NASA earmarked for Earth Science on behalf of their billionaire paymasters:

As I wrote this morning, Republicans on the House Committee for Science, Space, and Technology passed a nakedly partisan budget authorization bill for NASA that drastically and brutally slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from NASA's Earth Science Division, which studies how climate change is affecting our planet.
Don't let anyone waste your time trying to convince you both sides are "the same" when it comes to science, that it's only the issues that change. Poll after poll shows progressives and independents are better informed and more in tune with the consensus of science on virtually every major issue than conservatives. And by and large, the more conservative the person is, the more Fox News and right-wing talk radio he or she consumes, the worse the person compares, on everything.

That's not a coincidence. Conservatives have invested heavily in misinformation infrastructure for decades and science was one of their primary targets from the beginning. Since the cold war began to wind down more than 20 years ago, a handful of mostly former DoD scientists put themselves on the market, willing and eager to stamp their degrees on any zany nonsense that would pay. Over the years they've been joined by many more, and that nonsense is channeled through an impressive network of churches, radio, TV, and print media straight into the ears and eyes of conservatives who want to believe it.

We simply have nothing that compares to the carefully managed feedback loop of willful ignorance that has developed, we couldn't match it if we wanted to, and we don't want to. Knock pseudo-science when you see it, on the left or on the right, but there's no need to help out the usual suspects by exaggerating the influence of a few misinformed, stubborn people on our side of the aisle. Traditional media, wary of some vague idea of balance, already does that anyway.

Baltimore Orioles team executive explained the Freddie Gray protests as few have

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The Baltimore Orioles baseball team has been inadvertently caught in the middle of the public uprising over the brutal death in police custody of Freddie Gray. First, its fans were temporarily locked inside the team's Camden Yards baseball stadium, as the chaos roiled around it, then a home game was played to empty stands, out of fear for fan safety. Local sports broadcaster Brett Hollander decried the inconvenience to fans, and criticized the protests. Orioles Chief Operating Officer John Angelos, whose father Peter is the team's owner, responded:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

That a baseball executive is able to contextualize what so many politicians and media mouthpieces can only stereotype and vilify contextualizes the depth of dysfunction in our politics and media.

Spotlight on green news & views: Super El Niño forms, oil & gas drilling damage, wind power soars

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Three tropical cyclones churned the waters around Australia on March 11, 2015,
including Pam, one of the strongest storms ever in the region. See FishOutofWater's post here
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Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 22,400 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing—by FishOutofWater: "In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific from Indonesian waters bringing an outbreak of 3 tropical cyclones, including deadly category 5 Pam which ravaged the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu. This extreme outburst of tropical storms and organized thunderstorms pulled strong westerly winds across the equator, unleashing a huge surge of warm water below the ocean surface. Normally, trade winds blow warm water across the Pacific from the Americas to Australia and Indonesia, pushing up sea level in the west Pacific. When the trade winds suddenly reversed to strong westerlies, it was as if a dam burst, but on the scale of the earth's largest ocean, the Pacific. The front edge of that massive equatorial wave, called a Kelvin wave, is now coming ashore on the Americas. [...] The forecast of a strong El Nino brings good news to California. NOAA's CFSv2 model is forecasting above well above normal precipitation for October through December, 2015. Because models are forecasting El Nino conditions to continue through January 2016 there is a good chance that heavy winter rains will break the California drought. The downside will be massive landslides and flooding in areas that have been affected by recent wild fires."
New Oil Drilling in West Scarred Land, Harmed Ecosystems, Used Water = 3 Lake Superiors—by Steven D: "A recent study published in the prestigious journal Science shows that the fragile ecosystems of the West have suffered extensive damage as a result of increased drilling for oil and gas. This damage resulted from the complete removal of all native trees, shrubs and grasses on land used used for new (not existing) drilling operations conducted during the years of 2000-2012. How large is the affected area? It's huge. From Scientific American: New research shows that an area larger than the land area of Maryland—more than 11,500 square miles—was completely stripped of trees, grasses and shrubs to make way for more than 50,000 new oil and gas wells that were developed each year between 2000 and 2012. Such broad industrialization may harm the ability of some regions to recover from drought and damage the ability of the land to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As this graphic from the research paper, 'Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America,' published on April 24, 2015, shows, most of this new drilling occurred in the Rocky Mountain and Northern Plains region of the US and Canada."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the orange garden layout.

View from the left—the scourge of inequality persists

Rtx19qdo
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While I scrambled to assemble posts this week about the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on same-sex marriage, I simultaneously watched pain flood the streets of Baltimore on my TV screen.

The oral arguments for same-sex marriage were in large part a celebration for the LGBT equality movement. It was just a decade ago that antigay marriage amendments swept the country over a couple election cycles. Yet now, the movement seemed miraculously poised to score a big win that would bring both legal marriage rights and a powerful affirmation of our humanity to every corner of this country. Whether that outcome proves true, still remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the equality movement is expectant—hopeful that the dawn of a new day is upon us.

By contrast, the scene in Baltimore was a poignant moment of pure anguish—a festering wound that deepened by the day. Far from getting a momentous forward push, the headwind seemed to stiffen for a movement that LGBT Americans have drawn so much inspiration and so many lessons from. As I watched the two dramas unfold, I was immediately taken back two years to the week in June in which the Supreme Court issued back-to-back rulings: one pushed equality forward for gays by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act while the other set equality back for black Americans by gutting the Voting Rights Act.

The movements, which have not always sat comfortably together, now seem disconcertingly out of step with one another, which is not to suggest that they are at odds. And yet the commonality between the two movements is that, to their core, they are a yearning for respect—respect for our community, for our families and for ourselves. While the LGBT lawyers at the Supreme Court sought for our love to be recognized equally in the eyes of the law, the kids on the streets of Baltimore made an urgent plea to be seen by a country that seems to have either willfully or willingly forgotten about them.

As a gay American who has both covered the LGBT movement and fought for it over the last decade, it felt almost unsettling to be seeking currency from a system that has systematically devalued so many others. Even as our lawyers argued away in the court room, elected officialsincluding President Obama—referred to the kids who had taken to the streets on Monday night as "thugs."

Please head below the fold for more on the tale of two dramas.

How Apple single-handedly lays waste to conservative ideology

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Tuesday morning, riding high after yet another gangbusters quarter, Apple reached a new high, worth more than $760 BILLION. This makes it worth more than, well, a ton of things, including all but 18 COUNTRIES in the world.

Think about that ... Apple is worth more than the GDP of Saudi Arabia, or Switzerland, or Sweden. And despite being this financial juggernaut, the company is still experiencing double-digit growth. In just the past three months, Apple booked profits of $13.6 billion on $58 billion in revenue. Four years ago, the last of Steve Jobs' reign, he bragged about hitting $50 billion in revenue ... for the YEAR.

Not only are those numbers eye-watering, but that profit margin is the envy of the entire business world. The company has just shy of $200 billion in its cash horde, even as it has stepped up efforts to return cash to its shareholders. A $1 trillion valuation isn't far away.

So by all objective measures, Apple is the most successful company in the modern era. (The Dutch East India Company wins overall top honors, with an inflation-adjusted valuation of $7.3 trillion.) Yet, keep in mind the following:

* Apple is based on California, and continues to expand its operations in the state. Conservatives bray incessantly about the Golden State's "high taxes and burdensome regulations," yet the world's most high-value and innovative companies continue to be based here. You don't see Apple or its peers fleeing to tax havens like Alabama. Why? Because those taxes and regulations actually create a favorable business climate for Apple, delivering it the talent it desperately needs.

More below the fold.

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