Love dominionist style

A generic blastocyst, several dozen cells, roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Most people would consider a Blastocyst an early stage in mammalian development, a rich field of study, perhaps a source of research material to drive potential miracles of regenerative medicine. But in the great liberal state of California a few nutburgers have another idea, and they’ve cooked some nifty framing for it:

“Human personhood is the final chapter of the Civil Rights movement,” said CCRF founder and President Walter B. Hoye II in a statement. ”It proposes commonsense values for otherwise convoluted jurisprudence. From the pre-born child, to the senior citizen facing end of life decisions, to the disabled veteran, we believe all human beings should be protected by love and by law.”

Because nothing says civil rights and small government like using the power of the State to force a rape victim to bear the rapist’s child. This ugly idea didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s a legislative template developed by a dozen extremist organizations now being introduced by purportedly small-government Teaparty Republicans in states all over the nation. The supposed motive? Why it’s all about love, dominionist style:

The Primary Mission of Personhood USA is to serve Jesus by being an Advocate for those who can not speak for themselves, the pre-born child. We serve by starting / coordinating efforts to establish legal “personhood” for pre-born children through peaceful activism, legislative efforts and ballot-access petition initiatives.

It’s the largest tax increase in history!

Every time a new wingnut smear or a beloved zombie lie rears its ugly head I hear it from someone. ‘Well,’ they ask me as the unofficial progressive blogger dude, ‘why don’t Democrats just say The Truth?’ Say for example the GOP’s smear du jure that Obama’s Buffett rule, where billionaires would finally pay the same or higher tax rates as teachers and secretaries, is the largest tax increase in US history. As TPM notes:

Using historical data from the Treasury Department on the impact of past tax laws, and from the Office of Management and Budget’s analysis of Obama’s current proposals, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ran the numbers for TPM and found the claim to be false by just about any measure. Assessing new revenue as percentage of GDP, it turns out Obama’s tax proposals would rank below a law signed by President Ronald Reagan on the list of significant tax increases of the last five decades.

Of course progressives do state the truth, TPM did it above. But we lack the same kind of media-political infrastructure conservatives have. To understand what that really means, forget politics, forget conspiracies; think baseball. [Read more...]

Anatomy of a conservative media scam

Steve Benen writing at Washington Monthly yesterday brings up a sorely needed point in an article titledBeing conservative means never having to say you’re wrong”:

We talked earlier about the Daily Caller’s massive screw-up yesterday, on an important story about the Environmental Protection Agency. I figured the conservative outlet would grudgingly bury some awkwardly-worded correction and move on. I assumed wrong. To briefly recap, the Daily Caller reported that the EPA is eyeing new greenhouse gas measures, which would in turn ask American taxpayers “to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.” The piece was quickly embraced by the conservative message machine, with Fox News, National Review, and others trumpeting the story.

The editor of the Daily Caller has still not come clean. The story can still be found on Google News from various news sources. In fact the Daily Caller has issued this “clarification,” which is, yet again, simply and completely wrong:

Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It’s true that the agency’s court filing outlined a “tailoring rule” as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that “the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold” — meaning it’s not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.

The same scam is played out all the time in conservative circles. If and when enough pressure mounts the publishers may finally cop to the error, even then they’ll do so quietly and well after the damage is done. Media venues like Fox News and right-wing politicians who ran with the story will never be held to account.

Pale purple pixel

The large scale structure of the universe

If you like Sagan’s concept of earth as a pale blue dot in a vast black cavern of space, you’ll love Dr. Stefan Keller’s take on our local group of galaxies. The Milky Way would be one tiny purplish pixel in the image above. Each lit speck represents a major galaxy, the larger dots are super clusters, thousands to millions of galaxies. The cosmos is revealed as sheets and filaments of starry matter separated by oceans of space-time hundreds of millions of light-years across filled with a thin haze of poorly understood ghostly particles.

We’re kind of sandwiched between two enormous voids which pin us into a filament linked at one end to the big Virgo galaxy cluster and to the Fornax galaxy cluster off to the other side,” Dr Keller said. The structure of the filaments were most probably shaped by interactions between dark and ordinary matter. “A consequence of the Big Bang and the dominance of dark matter is that ordinary matter is driven, like foam on the crest of a wave, into vast interconnected sheets and filaments stretched over the enormous cosmic voids,” he said.

It’s hard to drink that in and then try and imagine, if some sort of super being made it all, it made it for us exclusively. The idea that said super being is keeping a list and checking it twice, to find out who is naughty or nice, or that its terribly concerned with how long our beards are, what we eat on Friday, or who sleeps with who is beyond laughable.

In space, size does matter!

The rare yellow hypergiant star IRAS 17163-3907 as seen by the ESO. The star and its gaseous shells resemble an egg white around a yellow center leading astronomers to dub it the Fried Egg Nebula

Astronomers at Chile’s European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile have spotted a monstrous star, and in cosmic terms its not even that far away:

The new image, which ESO scientists dubbed the “Fried Egg Nebula” shows the central hypergiant star, officially known as IRAS 17163-3907, surrounded by a huge dusty double shell, making up the egg yolk and white. The massive star is so large it has a width that is about 1,000 times larger than our sun. In fact, if the Fried Egg nebula were placed at the center of our solar system, the Earth would be positioned deep within the star itself. The orbit of the planet Jupiter would be just above the star’s surface.

How does that compare with the largest stars in the universe? The video below will embiggen you!

The Morning Joe clown show

Morning Joe is MSNBC’s morning cable news program hosted by and named for former congressman Joe Scarborough, (FL 1 – R). It’s a conservative based program forced on us purportedly progressive viewers by MSNBC executive asshat Phil Griffin. Griffin’s other management epiphanies include driving off the network’s highest rated host Keith Olbermann and banning Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas from the network.

I can’t watch it for more than a few minutes without either turning it off or turning to Twitter to ridicule the program. It’s usually a bunch of concern trolling by Scarborough and Buchanan and the rest of the conservative gang, with occasional flashes of decency by progressive guests. Just one example, yesterday or the day before I “learned” via Morning Joe that Warren Buffett is actually a fiend, which usually means some kind of despicable manic driven madman. In the same segment Scarborough and crew couldn’t praise their arch rival Roger Ailes from Fox News enough. Yeah, according to Scar, his network’s greatest threat is a stellar fella, but a self-made billionaire investor is a deranged mental case.

And we know why, it’s because Roger Ailes’ promotes conservative ideology on his right-wing cable news network and Warren Buffett had the nerve to actually point out that GOP economic tax policy not only wasn’t working, but taxes him less on his billions than his secretary pays on her thousands. Buffett is advising politicians to raise his taxes and those in his billionaire class so that they pay the same rate as secretaries making orders of magnitude less, and what a surprise, it turns out according to the Daily Kos & SEIU Public Policy Poll that advice is a full blown, genuine, bipartisan popular idea:

Q: Do you support or oppose ensuring that people who make over a million dollars a year pay the same percentage of taxes or more on their total income as those who make less than a million dollars a year?
Support: 73
Oppose: 16
Not sure: 11

Clearly this fiendish madman must be stopped!

China to put up first spacelab on Thursday

Shenzhou-8 undergoes testing in preparation for carrying out an unpiloted rendezvous and docking mission to the Tiangong-1platform. Image courtesy China Manned Space Engineering Office

Every day that the Republican controlled House bickers over nickels, while lavishing trillions on the rich and useless wars, we are ceding the high ground to a former enemy. I guess we can just hope that former enemy stays a friendly banker and business partner:

China’s Tiangong 1 space lab is slated to launch aboard a Chinese Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China. The prototype, which will test docking technology with the country’s Shenzhou spacecraft, is an important step toward China’s goal of constructing a crewed space station in orbit.

The Chinese program is ambitious, it combines the Gemini phase of the US program where crews learned to rendezvous and dock two or more spacecraft with the Skylab portion. If all goes well, Chinese engineers plan to use that knowledge and the same module design to create a scalable space station, illustrated below, similar to the early stages of the ISS.

Click image to learn how Take a look at how China's first space station, called Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace") will be assembled in orbit at Space.com

Does Jon Huntsman belong in the GOP?

Jon Huntsman may be in the wrong party. At the GOP CPAC panel convened in Florida this month he said in part:

I believe in science – including as it relates to evolution and climate change. I believe in civil unions, though I also support traditional marriage. I believe immigration is a human as well as an economic issue, and that children of illegal immigrants shouldn’t be punished for the sins of their parents. …

This is consistent with other remarks Huntsman has made. And what has he gotten for this refreshing embrace of reality? In a recent CNN poll of likely Republican Primary voters (.pdf), Huntsman came in at 1%, dead last, and was beaten by three to one or more by Someone Else and No One.

Mr. Huntsman’s head is in the right place, but where does he go from there? We can assume being a Mormon he’s not onboad with turning America into a Dominionist theocracy. If we take away the hatred of science, gay rights, and immigration, if he so much as hints at the facts of recent history unambigeously demonstrating that tax cuts for the rich and deregulation have failed to improve the budget deficit and the economy, and if we even remove needless show wars, what exactly is left that falls under the conservative umbrella these days? Outside of Obama bashing and a few related splinter conspiracy claims pitched by grifters and lunatics, that’s pretty much it. Which is why it’s so hard to see how Huntsman — and by proxy science and general sanity — wins, places, or shows in any race or primary among Republican voters.

We’re number one … in preventable deaths!

Once again the good old USA leads the developed world … in preventable deaths. Those would be deaths where existing drugs and other widely available treatments would have saved lives. The new study by the Common Wealth Fund confirms what other, similar studies have found, the US ranks dead last or near dead last in the developed world in healthcare:

“This study points to substantial opportunity to prevent premature death in the United States. We spend far more than any of the comparison countries—up to twice as much—yet are improving less rapidly,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen. “The good news is we know lower death rates are achievable if we enhance access and ensure high-quality care regardless of where you live. Looking forward, reforms under the Affordable Care Act have the potential to reduce the number of preventable deaths in the U.S. We have the potential to join the leaders among high-income countries.”

Combine this data with our income distribution and the idea of the US as a third-world country isn’t some scary insult, it’s becoming a reality as we watch. I’d insert some snarky observation here, but I’m tired and pressed for time. Between a recent broken back and complications from a collapsed lung, and corporate attendance policies and various ways our jobs in America are explicitly and implicitly threatened on a regular basis, I’m up at 5 AM to get to my office two hours early and work, unpaid, to stay caught up and thus reduce the risk of losing my job and with it my life saving health insurance right in the middle of recovering from a major injury.