05 12 / 2012

National Geographic:

Just when you thought dinosaurs couldn’t get any older, the oldest dinosaur has been found in Africa, a new study says.

The fossils push back the dawn of the dinosaurs to around 240 million years ago—about 10 to 15 million years earlier than previously thought, scientists say.

Dubbed Nyasasaurus parringtoni, the animal is only known from an upper arm and some back bones discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s but only recently studied in detail.

Prior to the new analysis, the oldest known dinosaur fossils belonged to small, lightly built, meat-eating creatures found in South America that dated to around 230 million years ago.

04 11 / 2012

My prediction for Tuesday.
Electoral vote:
Obama (D): 303
Romney (R): 235
The toughest picks were - by far - Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.
Colorado: I know Romney has some good polls here in the closing weeks, but I think polls may be undercounting Latino voters. It happened in Nevada and Colorado in the 2010 elections, which is why we still have Senators Reid and Bennet instead of Angle and Buck (thank god). I think the Latino vote and the Obama ground game decide this state in the Democrats’ favor.
Virginia: I am convinced this state will be ridiculously close. Polls show the race within a point, and we may well not know who won this state within the first 24 hours. This happened in the 2006 Webb/Allen Senate race, and it’s easy to imagine a close call happening again. Again, I have Obama winning by the narrowest of margins because of their turnout operation (and a late rally with Bill Clinton that seems to have fired up a lot of people).
Florida: Hate to say it but this one is mostly a gut call. After NC, most people expected this to be the easiest swing state for Romney to pick off. Though polling the last week has been mixed - some even showing Obama leads - I just have a hard time seeing Florida going Democratic this year.
You can see my map - and make your own - here: http://goo.gl/u73ee

My prediction for Tuesday.

Electoral vote:

Obama (D): 303

Romney (R): 235

The toughest picks were - by far - Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.

Colorado: I know Romney has some good polls here in the closing weeks, but I think polls may be undercounting Latino voters. It happened in Nevada and Colorado in the 2010 elections, which is why we still have Senators Reid and Bennet instead of Angle and Buck (thank god). I think the Latino vote and the Obama ground game decide this state in the Democrats’ favor.

Virginia: I am convinced this state will be ridiculously close. Polls show the race within a point, and we may well not know who won this state within the first 24 hours. This happened in the 2006 Webb/Allen Senate race, and it’s easy to imagine a close call happening again. Again, I have Obama winning by the narrowest of margins because of their turnout operation (and a late rally with Bill Clinton that seems to have fired up a lot of people).

Florida: Hate to say it but this one is mostly a gut call. After NC, most people expected this to be the easiest swing state for Romney to pick off. Though polling the last week has been mixed - some even showing Obama leads - I just have a hard time seeing Florida going Democratic this year.

You can see my map - and make your own - here: http://goo.gl/u73ee

31 10 / 2012

As I write this, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a reasonable chance at winning the presidency. He is not favored - models and markets from Vegas to FiveThirtyEight all have him as the underdog - but there remains a not-insignificant chance that he will be the next President.

This is a failure of our political media.

To be sure, there are others at fault: President Obama himself gave Gov. Romney a huge boost when he failed to show up for the first debate. An uninspiring economic status quo is always a drag on the incumbent’s chances. And voters - notoriously unsophisticated in their consumption of politics - certainly share the blame for the campaign we’ve endured.

But the notion that a campaign so cynical in its strategy and so shameless in its tactics is within reach of the presidency is, chiefly, a product of a political media too timid and too easily distracted.

Early on, the Romney campaign embraced the idea that the media will eventually get bored with a story and move on:

  • It’s worked on tax returns: Though Romney shrouding himself and his finances more than any recent presidential candidate, even directly contradicting a tradition his father started, the media gave up and moved on. There remains, now, no “controversy” over his tax returns. The political pundits and media outlets who cared so intensely about these documents for a month or so have given up and accepted a new, secretive normal. We’re only now getting a possible glimpse at the loopholes he’s been exploiting.

  • It’s worked on welfare: Despite repeated debunkings, the Romney campaign is still using the lie that President Obama “gutted welfare reform.” After being labeled as false back in August, the campaign simply waited before quietly reviving it the final week.

  • It’s worked on the auto bailout: Romney has desperately tried to get away from his opposition to the auto bailout, and he’s done it in various ways (including, oddly, taking credit for it). But most recently, he has embraced a lie that Jeep is moving American jobs to China. The claim, though false and debunked, has been expanded into radio and TV ads in Ohio. 

  • It’s worked on his tax plan: Romney’s campaign has offered almost no policy specifics. The closest the former governor has come to laying out a vision is his tax plan. But the numbers simply don’t add up. Romney has not addressed this: when confronted, as at the first debate, he simply denies the truth. And yet the media has moved on again.

The campaign - as reported - has done almost nothing to tell us what type of president he would be. What is more distressing, though, is that an element of the media that is now saying something even stranger: ignore his campaign statements entirely.

Let me elaborate on that point.

The best case for a Romney presidency requires us to believe that he has been lying for the past five years. And yet, as Dave Weigel has noted, many newspaper editorial boards have gladly embraced this idea and "stop the clock on Romney’s ‘real’ beliefs in 2006, and they restart it on Oct. 3." In this telling, Romney’s absurd, severely-conservative positions are just useful lies that he needed to win the nomination. They are not anything to worry about, they are simply the price he had to pay to be the Republican nominee.

Ignore everything he has said since he started running for president, they tell us, if you want to know what type of president he will be. 

This is a disturbing assertion. We must elevate a serial liar to the highest office before we know how he will govern?

But our media isn’t worried about any of this: they focus, as always, on the horse race coverage - while ignoring the fact that Mitt Romney has not crossed the previously-used standard of acceptability. They analyze Romney’s flip-flops as an electoral strategy, but never stop to consider the most basic idea:

If a party requires its nominees to deviate so far from acceptable policy prescriptions, basic math, and reality itself, shouldn’t we question the wisdom of putting that party in power?

28 5 / 2012

nycsouthpaw posts this Frederick Douglass speech:



The Unknown Loyal Dead

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable. 

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice. 

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict. 

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.


A key takeaway, he notes, is how our concept of Memorial Day has changed from what Douglass envisioned when he said “But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause.”

11 4 / 2012

American money, as much as we all love it, can be pretty dull. Other currencies are so much more colorful - this is why we spend it like Monopoly money when we travel to a new country.

Anyway, the point is…this is probably the best headline ever.

New quarter features glow-in-the-dark Alberta dinosaur

Somebody get me one of these. I’ll pay you a dollar for it!*

You can read more here.

*They are retailing for $29.95

29 2 / 2012

A giant insect thought to be extinct is rediscovered on an isolated, swear-to-God-this-isn’t-photoshop mountain island.

The insect, nicknamed a “tree lobster,” is from another island about 13 miles away, and was wiped out there by rats. Somehow, a small population has quietly endured at the top of this mountain.

They’re pretty freaky looking, but this article is definitely worth a read.