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Microsoft really IS evil.

(Thanks to Karin Porter.)


Time to turn the spies back into government employees.

Taking a stand!

Hey, pretend he’s a bank!

Barack Obama addressed what he described as the public “ruckus” over the leaked National Security Agency surveillance documents on Monday, indicating that the US authorities would pursue extradition from Hong Kong of the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In his first public comments in 10 days about the NSA disclosures, Obama also said he had set an oversight board made up of independent citizens and the ordered the declassification of documents relating to surveillance to allow the public to see the broader context.

The president, who is attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, was speaking on PBS’s Charlie Rose programme. Asked about Snowden, who remains free in Hong Kong and who took part in an online Guardian Q&A on Monday, the president said: “The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation … and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions.”

Thanks, Ed Tayter.

The ghost of Tom Joad

Mumford and Sons with Elvis Costello:


I spent more than an hour on hold with them today, waiting to find out why they’re telling me again they’re going to seize my property.

“You told me I was in non-collectible status,” I said.

“That was for 2011. This is for 2009,” the agent informed me.

“Why would you assume I could come up with $6000 when I couldn’t pay a thousand?” I said.

“You have to talk to someone in another department,” she said.

Still waiting.

Now, you know I’ve been saying this for a long time:

A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.

“Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”

Djikic and her colleagues describe an experiment featuring 100 University of Toronto students. After arriving at the lab and providing some personal information, the students read either one of eight short stories or one of eight essays. The fictional stories were by authors including Wallace Stegner, Jean Stafford, and Paul Bowles; the non-fiction essays were by equally illustrious writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Stephen Jay Gould.

Afterwards, each participant filled out a survey measuring their emotional need for certainty and stability. They expressed their agreement or disagreement with such statements as “I don’t like situations that are uncertain” and “I dislike questions that can be answered in many different ways.”

Those who read a short story had significantly lower scores on that test than those who read an essay. Specifically, they expressed less need for order and more comfort with ambiguity. This effect was particularly pronounced among those who reported being frequent readers of either fiction or non-fiction.
Continue Reading »

It’s always about the money

Charlie Pierce catches the main problem with education reform:

Rebecca Strauss checks in at The New York Times and immediately tries to make Michelle Rhee cry.

The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America’s average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country’s deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups. And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students.

I thought it was about teachers unions, and standardized testing, and Trigger Mechanisms, and not leaving any children behind in the race to the top, or some other gimmick thought up by a zillionnaire who’s no more ever set foot in a classroom than he has on the surface of Mars. You mean, it might be about...poverty? Do continue.

The problem is that the United States is not spending its education dollars effectively. At every point along the education track, from preschool to college, resources are skewed to wealthier students.

Orange County residents were poised to vote on legislation regarding mandatory paid leave time in a 2014 referendum. But, just in time, Rick Scott signed into law a bill that stops local governments from legislating paid sick leave.

The bill has made moot a 2014 referendum in Orange County that would have decided whether to require paid sick leave. More than 50,000 voters had tried to get the measure on the November 6 (2012) ballot but the County Commission voted it off. It made it on the ballot in 2014 thanks to a three-judge panel.

These bills are part of ALEC’s efforts to weaken wage and labor standards: Since 2011, 67 such ALEC-affiliated bills have been introduced in state legislatures, 11 of which had been signed into law before Scott signed this bill.

Governor Scott, taking the side of the business community, wasted no time in reviewing and signing the bill. He only used four days of a fifteen day legal review period before signing the legislation. The bill was supported by Disney, Darden Restaurant Group, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“Protecting small businesses and jobs from union mandates that drive up costs makes Florida more competitive,” Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber said in a statement.

“Florida businesses cannot survive with competing regulations on a county by county basis and this legislation now allows for a level playing field for job creation and expansion,” Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said.

Associated Industries of Florida CEO Tom Feeney:

“All Floridians need to be grateful to Gov. Scott for standing up to sweet-sounding promises of ‘free benefits’ and union demagoguery that would be the siren call for Florida’s economy, crashing us into another recession. On behalf of Florida’s business community, we thank the Governor for signing this job-saving legislation,” he said in a statement.

In other words, pretty much the same old cliché rationale for anti-worker laws such as this.

Opposition was very strong against this law and the consequences for the working poor. Scott’s office said four times as many emails arrived to him urging a veto the bill; 28 phone callers asked him to sign it, while more than 1,025 phoned in suggesting he reject it.

“By signing HB 655 Governor Scott shows once again he is beholden to Big Business (Disney, Darden) at any cost, even at the expense of women, children, workers, and those falling behind. The inequity of wealth in Florida just widened even more today and the real possibility of quality of life enhancements for the people of Florida vanished by a stroke of the pen by a heartless and uncaring man,” Fred Frost, Chairman, Miami Dade County Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, said in a release.

A recent poll revealed that 80 percent of Floridians support earned sick leave.

I really don’t see how Gov. Scott is going to get reelected… Oh, I forgot, it’s Florida.

Live chat with Edward Snowden

Right now:

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former National Security Agency contractor who leaked highly sensitive information about the super-secret agency, will answer questions online this morning through the website of The Guardian, which broke Snowden’s initial story.

Snowden, who fled the U.S. after revealing top-secret details on the government’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, has said he “does not expect to see home again.” He claims that he took refuge in Hong Kong.

The British newspaper asked readers to post their questions to Snowden and recommend their favorites. He planned to go through the thread and embed his replies as posts in a live blog beginning at 11 a.m. ET

SCOTUS rules against AZ voting law

But leaves the door open for a revision:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled handily Monday that Arizona cannot add to federal voter registration requirements by demanding proof of citizenship.

The ruling, which could impact other states as well, is at least a temporary victory for liberals who want to expand access to the polls and a defeat for conservatives concerned about potential election fraud.

In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement — passed by voters in 2004 — went too far beyond the 1993 federal “motor voter” law that was designed to simplify voter registration procedures.

The federal law requires registrants to claim U.S. citizenship on a mail-in post card, under penalty of perjury. The Arizona law requires separate physical proof of citizenship. The justices’ decision upholds congressional authority over federal elections and could make it harder for states to impose additional restrictions.

But Scalia said Arizona could try a different approach to challenge the federal law’s pre-emption, thereby holding out the possibility that the state could resurrect its proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Thanks to DUI Attorney Ed Tayter.

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