Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

"US Capitol, Washington, DC" by Jacqueline Poggi via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“US Capitol, Washington, DC” by Jacqueline Poggi via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

via The Boston Globe:

THE VOTERS WHO put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons.

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line.

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Students Cower When Faced With ‘Wheel of Misfortune’

This science class seems kind of fun, unless you lose in the Wheel of Misfortune game! Reuters reports on a Washington state high school teacher’s controversial disciplinary method:

A Washington state high school teacher has been warned not to have students spin a disciplinary “Wheel of Misfortune” to assign punishments for misbehavior that included being pelted with rubber balls by fellow students, school officials said.

The Stevenson High School science teacher used the wheel to punish “low-level misconduct” instead of sending the students to lunch-time detention, Superintendent Dan Read wrote in a letter to parents on Thursday.

Results from a third-party investigation on Wednesday showed the teacher’s spinning punishment prop to be “inappropriate, but well-intentioned” and that the teacher did not “desire to embarrass, intimidate or harm any student,” Read said.

“Poor judgment by any teacher is concerning and we plan to work with the teacher on more positive and productive classroom management skills going forward,” he added…

[continues at Reuters]

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How marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington is making the world a better place

"Marijuana Ambulance" by Hammerin Man via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

“Marijuana Ambulance” by Hammerin Man via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

via Washington Post:

No pressure, Colorado and Washington, but the world is scrutinizing your every move.

That was the take-home message of an event today at the Brookings Institution, discussing the international impact of the move toward marijuana legalization at the state-level in the U.S. Laws passed in Colorado and Washington, with other states presumably to come, create a tension with the U.S. obligations toward three major international treaties governing drug control. Historically the U.S. has been a strong advocate of all three conventions, which “commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to
recreational marijuana,” according to Brookings’ Wells Bennet.

The U.S. response to this tension has thusfar been to call for more “flexibility” in how countries interpret them. This policy was made explicit in recent remarks by Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, wholast week at the United Nations said that “we have to be tolerant of different countries, in response to their own national circumstances and conditions, exploring and using different national drug control policies.” He went on: “How could I, a representative of the Government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”

As far as policy stances go this is an aggressively pragmatic solution. The federal government lacks the resources and perhaps the political will to crack down on the legalization states, but it also likely doesn’t want to openly admit that it’s allowing regulation regimes that openly contradict the provisions of major treaties.

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Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

Photo: Brookie (CC)

Photo: Brookie (CC)

Following on the heels of its story that sex is only for rich people, the Washington Post now claims that rich kids can do everything wrong and still beat conscientious poor kids:

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.

That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.

But, of course, it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child’s formative early years.

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The US justice divide: why crime and punishment in Wall Street and Ferguson are so different

By Debra Sweet via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

By Debra Sweet via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

via The Guardian:

Like nearly all white, American journalists, I’ve spent most of my career a million miles from places like Ferguson, Missouri. The mainstream media in the US hates the urban racism story and always has: too depressing; no patriotic angle; too hard to sell to advertisers.

So, reporters like me often find themselves tugged in the direction of less commercially upsetting beats. It might be presidential politics, gay marriage, global warming. In my case, it was high finance. As a correspondent for Rolling Stone, I spent years covering Wall Street corruption, briefly earning disrepute in lower Manhattan for calling Goldman Sachs a “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”.

But about two years before an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown was shot and killed on the streets of Ferguson by a white police officer, my Wall Street beat started leading me inexorably in the direction of the US’s growing urban disaster.

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Sustainable Psychedelics: Cultivating a Viable Relationship with the Medicine

Moderator dreamer042 of the DMT-Nexus elaborates on more sustainable approaches to utilizing psychedelics:

As the global demand for entheogenic medicines 1grows, we are seeing a simultaneous rise in unsustainable harvesting, poaching, and related ecological damage. The question we, as responsible explorers of expanded consciousness, should be asking is, “What are the hidden costs associated with my personal path of healing through medicine work?” From the cultural and environmental impact of the ever-growing ayahuasca tourism industry in the Amazon, to the ripping up of mature mimosa trees for their root bark in Brazil, to the stripping of protected acacia trees in Australia, to the poaching of iboga to near extinction in Africa, to the destruction of what remains of the ever shrinking North American peyote habitat. It’s time for a radical shift in the way we relate to these sacred plant teachers.

You will often hear people endlessly expounding on the idea that you should never drink ayahuasca without a shaman or that the only way to have an authentic experience is to jet-set halfway around the world and attend a ceremony in Peru or Gabon.… Read the rest

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What do Occupy and the Tea Party have in Common? More than you Might Think.

In an article entitled “The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment’s Nightmare)” Robert Reich outlines six points of agreement between “Occupy” leftists and the “Tea Party” right:

[Editor's note: We only took the first few sentences of each point, follow the link to read the entire article.]

1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they’re no longer too big to fail. Left populists have been advocating this since the Street’s bailout now they’re being joined by populists on the right.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors’ money. Elizabeth Warren has introduced such legislation, and John McCain co-sponsored it. Tea Partiers are strongly supportive, and critical of establishment Republicans for not getting behind it.

3. End corporate welfare – including subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street, and the Ex-Im Bank.… Read the rest

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I Grew Up in a Family of Crack Addicts. So Why Did I Fear Being Taken Away?

Photo Credit: Psychonaught/Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Psychonaught/Creative Commons

via Alternet:

Growing up in a household with 15 people – four of whom were strung out on drugs and sobered up only by drinking 40-ounce King Cobras malt liquor and pints of E&J brandy (known around my home as “Erk & Jerk” or “Easy Jesus”) – meant that by the time I was five years old, I was accustomed to the acrid smell of burning  crack cocaine. I was used to the unending fear that my cousins and I would be accosted by “The People” and carted off to live separately in dilapidated homes, where we’d be forced to call a stranger “Ma Dear”.

As a child raised in California in the 90s – at the time,  one of three states with the largest average population of foster children – I was all too aware that I could become a statistic and join the then- 78% of children removed from homes where “at least one parent was a drug abuser”.

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Curious Signal Could Be Dark Matter Pouring From The Sun’s Core

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via io9:

This could be historic: Astronomers from Leicester University have detected a strange signal in the X-ray spectrum that appears to be a signature of ‘axions’ — a hypothetical dark matter particle. It could take years to confirm, but this may be the first direct detection and identification of dark matter.

The study has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of dark matter and the way our Universe works. Though it has never observed directly, astronomers are certain dark matter exists because, without it, galaxies would just unravel and fly apart. Moreover, even though it doesn’t emit or absorb light, it exerts gravitational pull on celestial objects we can observe. To put it bluntly, it’s dark matter that holds the Universe together — and it may comprise up to 85% of all the stuff within it.

The idea of axions has been around for a while. It was postulated by the Peccei-Quinn theory in 1977 to resolve a nasty problem in quantum physics.

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