Articles by ralph

The following is an excerpt of “Columbus and Western Civilization” written by Howard Zinn that appears in the Disinformation anthology You Are Still Being Lied To edited by Russ Kick.

Author’s Note: In the year 1992, the celebration of Columbus Day was different from previous ones in two ways. First, this was the quincentennial, 500 years after Columbus’ landing in this hemisphere. Second, it was a celebration challenged all over the country by people—many of them native Americans but also others—who had “discovered” a Columbus not worth celebrating, and who were rethinking the traditional glorification of “Western civilization.” I gave this talk at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in October 1991. It was published the following year by the Open Magazine Pamphlet Series with the title “Christopher Columbus & the Myth of Human Progress.”

George Orwell, who was a very wise man, wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future. And who controls the present controls the past.” In other words, those who dominate our society are in a position to write our histories. And if they can do that, they can decide our futures. That is why the telling of the Columbus story is important.

Let me make a confession. I knew very little about Columbus until about twelve years ago, when I began writing my book A People’s History of the United States. I had a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University—that is, I had the proper training of a historian, and what I knew about Columbus was pretty much what I had learned in elementary school.

Considering student loan debt is now a trillion-dollar industry, maybe this PayPal co-founder is on to something. Via 60 Minutes:

One of the wealthiest, best-educated American entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel, isn’t convinced college is worth the cost. With only half of recent U.S. college graduates in full-time jobs, and student loans now at $1 trillion, Thiel has come up with his own small-scale solution: pay a couple dozen of the nation’s most promising students $100,000 to walk away from college and pursue their passions. Morley Safer takes a look at Thiel’s critique of college.


Well after reading this story, enthusiasts will probably want to ignore the Monlith creators’ advice. As Robert T. Gonzalez writes on

Remember that image from a few weeks back that showed Earth with all its water gathered up in a sphere beside it? Well here’s that image again, only this time, it also features Jupiter’s moon Europa, along with all of its water. Notice anything interesting?

Based on data acquired by NASA’s Galileo satellite, astronomers think the global oceans sloshing around beneath Europa’s icy exterior are likely 2 to 3 times more voluminous than the oceans here on Earth. Not 2 to 3 times more proportionally, 2 to 3 times more in total volume.

Yeah. That “little” moon is packing quite the supply of H2O—and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life…

Penn's Sunday SchoolVia Penn’s Sunday School:

On a recent episode of his podcast, Penn Jillette unleashed his thoughts on the Obama administration’s handling of the War on Drugs, calling President Obama’s actions “beyond hypocrisy” regarding his own admitted drug use.

Penn said: “He would have done hard fucking time! And if he had done hard fucking time, he would NOT be President of the United States of America, and he would NOT have gone to his fancy ass college, and he would NOT have sold books that sold millions and millions of copies and made millions and millions of fucking dollars, he would NOT have a beautiful, smart wife, he would NOT have a great job. He would have been in fucking prison, and it’s not a goddamn joke!”

No WBCThis kid is a genius. Mark Memmott reports on NPR:

Patty Akrouche says she’s “never been prouder” of her 9-year-old son, Josef Miles, than she was this past weekend.

As Akrouche wrote on her Facebook page, she and Josef were on the campus of Washburn University in Topeka when they encountered some of the protesters from the tiny Westboro Baptist Church, which has gained notice in recent years for protesting against homosexuality, abortion and other issues outside the funerals of military veterans and celebrities.

Westboro’s followers are infamous for their signs that — using an F-word we won’t repeat — say ‘God Hates [Homosexuals].’

“Josef was determined to make his own statement so we went to the car and with pencil and his sketch pad, he made up his own little sign that reads ‘GOD HATES NO ONE,’ ” his mom wrote…

TEDYou can read all the hubbub about this from Noah Kristula-Green on Daily Beast. And here a small bit of TED curator Chris Anderson’s reason (see full explanation here) on why the video was not initially posted:

At TED this year, an attendee pitched a 3-minute audience talk on inequality. The talk tapped into a really important and timely issue. But it framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan. And it included a number of arguments that were unconvincing, even to those of us who supported his overall stance. The audience at TED who heard it live (and who are often accused of being overly enthusiastic about left-leaning ideas) gave it, on average, mediocre ratings … Our policy is to post only talks that are truly special. And we try to steer clear of talks that are bound to descend into the same dismal partisan head-butting people can find every day elsewhere in the media.

Judge for yourself here:

The right-wing blogospere is having a field day with Chomsky saying, “I don’t usually admire Sarah Palin, but when she was making fun of this ‘hopey-changey’ stuff, she was—she was right. There was nothing there.” However, he follows that statement with, “And it was understood by the people who run the political system. So it’s no great secret that the U.S. electoral system is mainly public relations extravaganzas….” which, one assumes, would apply to Sarah Palin as well.

Watch the entire interview at Democracy Now! and full transcript here.

070213-F-7234P-002There is no shortage of people looking to adopt these dogs. Reports Scott MacFarlane on WSB-TV:

They survived running toward death and danger, but some locally trained military dogs of war are not making it home.

Instead, they’re being euthanized.

Channel 2’s Scott MacFarlane learned of an obscure U.S. law that is making it tough for military dogs to be adopted after their service is over.

Army Sgt. David Varkett survived his tour of duty in Afghanistan, because his unit included Nooshka, a 5- year-old dog that sniffed out an improvised bomb before it exploded. “This dog has saved my life and many others,” Varkett said. “She became a little local hero, finding those IEDs.”

FSMThanks for the find from Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing:

Justin Griffith, an atheist in the US military, tells the story of how he ended up with ATHEIST/FSM on his dogtags. It all started when he enlisted as an atheist, only to have his recruiter record his religion as “Baptist.” Even switching recruiters didn’t end up with the error corrected. At boot camp, recruits were only allowed one “holy book” from their stated religion, so he brought The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which became the most-loved book in camp, much-borrowed and re-read by the other recruits. Even his drill sergeant liked it. Kinda.

F-22 RaptorDraw your own conclusions, but where active members of the military speak out, we all should be listening.

As reported by 60 Minutes:

Military officers rarely speak out against their services, but in our lead story you’ll hear from two elite pilots who question the safety of Air Force’s most sophisticated, stealthy, and expensive fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor. Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Joshua Wilson have chosen to stop flying the F-22 because they say during some flights they and other pilots have experienced oxygen deprivation, disorientation, and worse. They are concerned about their safety in the air, as well as the long-term health consequences. The Air Force says it is doing all it can to investigate and solve the problem, and are keeping the jets in the air with careful supervision of the pilots.

Site note: Problem with site, cached version here: Letter Of Note This is beautiful. Via Letters of Note: In May of 1993, deeply offended by its “blasphemous” content, a priest wrote to…

Mitt Romney’s parents were two moderate politicians who bucked the Republican establishment of the time, an idea that has been unthinkable to Mitt in his two presidential campaigns. Maybe it’s time to have a talk with your younger self, Mitt. Great find from Andrew Kaczynski on Buzzfeed:

Mitt Romney’s roots in politics run in his family. His father George served as the Governor of Michigan from 1963–1969 and later as HUD Secretary in the Nixon Administration. George Romney was a natural and charismatic politician, but the younger Romney perhaps better takes after his mother Lenore, who lacked her husband’s natural political gifts. Lenore Romney ran for Senate in 1970, and 23-year-old Mitt Romney campaigned during his summer vacation for his mom. Romney appeared in a video made for her campaign.

Pink Slime“Pink slime” is is a food additive consisting of animal by-products treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria.

The treatment makes the by-products legally fit for human consumption.

The material is not approved for sale by itself (WHAT?!?), but is used to add to ground beef and other products.

Via the Daily Show: