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Susan Collins: More Donors from Beverly Hills than from Blue Hill

Susan Collins For Sale Signs along Route 1 in Maine, Fall 2014Last month, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted on behalf of large out-of-state donors who want to keep donating huge amounts of unregulated money. It turns out that Senator Collins is herself receiving huge amounts of money from those same large out-of-state donors. Senator Collins is taking significantly more money from outside the state of Maine than she has attracted from within Maine. It is fair to ask who Susan Collins is really representing.

What does this look like in practice? A review of data from the Federal Elections Commission shows that:

  • Susan Collins has more donors from Beverly Hills, California than from Blue Hill, Maine.
  • Susan Collins has more donors from Boston, MA than from Bar Harbor, ME.
  • Susan Collins has more donors from Bryn Mawr, PA than from Belfast, ME.
  • Susan Collins has taken more cash from Chevy Chase, MD than from Castine, ME.
  • Susan Collins has received far more in campaign contributions from Greenwich and Groton, CT than from Gardiner, ME.
  • Susan Collins has more donors from Malibu, CA than from Machias, ME.
  • Susan Collins has more donors from Princeton, NJ than from Port Clyde, ME.
  • Susan Collins gathered more campaign cash from Vero Beach, FL than from Veazie, ME.

Meanwhile:

  • Shenna Bellows has received the majority of her campaign contributions from inside the state of Maine.
  • Shenna Bellows has more donors from Blue Hill, Maine than from Beverly Hills, California.
  • Shenna Bellows has more donors from Bar Harbor than from Boston, MA.
  • Shenna Bellows has more donors from Belfast than from Bryn Mawr, PA.
  • Shenna Bellows has received more donations from Castine than from Chevy Chase, MD.
  • Shenna Bellows has received more campaign funding from Gardiner than from Greenwich or Groton, CT.
  • Shenna Bellows has more donors from Machias than from Malibu, CA.
  • Shenna Bellows has more donors from Port Clyde than from Princeton, NJ.
  • Shenna Bellows gathere more campaign cash from Veazie than from Vero Beach, FL.

Senate challenger Shenna Bellows has a very different pattern of campaign contributions from Susan Collins. Given these patterns, it’s fair to ask: who does Susan Collins really represent? Who would Shenna Bellows represent?

Ram Bomjon The Bloody Buddha Returns

ram bamjoan bloody buddhaFor years, we have been following stories of Ram Bomjon, the teenage boy who, it was claimed, was able to sit and meditate for months straight, without taking any food or water, or even moving. Access to Ram Bahadur Bomjon was tightly controlled by his group of teenage followers, and no one was allowed to see the so-called Buddha Boy at night, fueling suspicion that the supposedly miraculous meditation was a hoax.

With the police closing in to conduct an fraud investigation, Ram Bomjon disappeared into the forest. Since that time, he and his followers have popped up over and over again, getting into violent fights with non-believers, even kidnapping people who get in his way.

One of our readers, going under the name Zsuzsi Takacs, has referred us to two news articles from Nepal, indicating that Ram Bomjon and his crew are still stirring up trouble. According to the Kathmandu Post and Online Nepal, Ram Bomjon’s gang had a violent confrontation with a group of local inhabitants of Halkhoriya. The locals came, they said, to rescue two people who had been taken prisoner by Ram Bomjon, and then brutally beaten.

Followers of Ram Bomjon say that their “guruji” carries a message of peace and enlightenment. Can peace and enlightenment come in the form of a savage beating? Can there be such thing as a bloody Buddha?

Dedicated Denial Of Service At Ello

Social networking web sites are no fun any more, says Paul Budnitz, founder of Ello. Ello is a relatively new social networking site that promises not to engage in electronic surveillance of its users, as Facebook, Twitter, and the other big social media sites do.

The Ello manifesto reads: “Your social network is owned by advertisers.

ello smileEvery post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”

This morning, Tech Times warned that Ello might be technologically-vulnerable to hackers, and cited a 45-minute dedicated denial of service attack. Tech Times didn’t bother to mention that giants like Twitter and Facebook have suffered much worse.

Besides, the greatest denial of service is Ello’s refusal to serve the ever-increasing corporate hunger for Big Data about every single aspect of people’s lives, all the better to target us with advertisements. I’ve submitted my request to join Ello. Will you?

Frustration and Fruition

Frustration is a foxglove planted too late, its blossoms struggling to set seed before the frost.

foxgloves in September

Fruition is the spiky pod of the loco weed split open in a snarl to reveal the germs of the next year’s dreams.

loco weed spiky fruit

While Corporate Wealth Soars, Food Insecurity for the American Poor Gets No Better

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a measure of the value of U.S. corporate wealth, has been hitting record highs lately:

Dow Jones Industrial Average Reaches Record Highs in 2014

But in a news release this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the percentage of households with food insecurity remains historically high:

USDA Index of Food Insecurity, 2000-2013

That food insecurity index is made up of a series of questions asked of American households. One question asks American households to agree or disagree with the statement, “The food that we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.” The share of households agreeing with that statement — 15.6% — has remained the steady over the past four years. While corporations trading on the New York Stock Exchange are awash in ever more cash, 1 in 6 households in America report running out of food.

Who Is Protesting Against Obama’s New War In The Middle East

In the United Kingdom, the Stop The War Coalition is holding a demonstration in London to protest the British government’s plans to get involved in the civil wars in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition does not support the Islamic State, but rather questions whether bombings by the UK military will be capable of defeating the Islamic State. “Isis is backed by various middle east powers and a new aerial bombardment will not defeat it. It will however, kill innocents, further fragment the country and inflame violence. The record of the west’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya show that as well as creating misery and mayhem, western military interventions make the world a more volatile, dangerous place,” the coalition writes.

The establishment Democratic organization MoveOn has only managed to summon enough political will to release a semi-anti-war petition. The petition doesn’t really oppose Obama’s new war in the Middle East. It only requests that Obama get the explicit permission of Congress to go to war, saying, “Members of Congress must insist that an explicit Congressional authorization of force precede any direct U.S. military action in Iraq, including airstrikes.”

antiwar protest chicagoMoveOn’s membership seems to have a stronger anti-war opinion. Saima Ellis, in her signature to the petition, argues that, “Invading Afghanistan and Iraq in the past was not successful. Thousands and thousands of innocent Afghani’s and Iraqi’s lost their lives, homes and belongings. I suspect you already know another war will only bring with it more deaths and that the majority of the public is against it and that it will only benefit the companies who make profit from it.” Katherine Thomason writes, “No more war! Not in Iraq or Syria or anywhere!”

At AntiWar.com, Jason Ditz observes that an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll recently found that 72% of American respondents believe that the current bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria will eventually expand to include American soldiers on the ground.

That’s an interesting fact to consider, but AntiWar.com doesn’t post any news of actual on-the-street protests against Obama’s new war. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has posted articles opposing the war, but has no news of demonstrations either. World Can’t Wait has urged its members to post news of their protests against the new war, but so far, the only protests posted there are for anti-drone demonstrations this coming weekend.

There have been a few small, isolated anti-war protests in the USA. Will a national movement against war form in the months to come, or do the politics of congressional campaigns overlap with this issue to make protests against war too awkward for the moment?

Shouting Soccer

Some people are celebrating the increasing popularity of soccer in the United States. My experience with soccer this weekend, however, has caused me to question this trend.

shouting soccer coachMy daughter asked to join a soccer league this year, because she wanted to be with her friends. There are plenty of other ways for her to be with friends, but this is what she wanted, so I said okay. Yesterday, I had a chance to see her playing a game, and came to wish that I had found a way to redirect her into another social activity.

From the minute the playing started until the second it ended, multiple coaches from both teams were walking up and down the sidelines, shouting instructions at the people on the field. There weren’t any compliments from the coaches, just directions.

The soccer players didn’t seem to be following the directions coming from the coaches. They were struggling just to work with the ball on their own.

But then, most of the shouting wasn’t really very helpful. Defending players were yelled at to “Take the ball away from them!” Did they really not know that they were supposed to do that?

As I sat on the grass watching, I wondered how the school play would go, if the director stood in the pit during performances, shouting at the actors, telling them what to do. I don’t think it would improve the quality of the acting.

Here and there, leagues are trying Silent Soccer rules. Some people seem to think this approach is excessive. Bob Cook at Forbes, says that Silent Soccer is “stupid”, and that, “if a parent doesn’t like a particular league or school, it’s easy enough to just up and move the kid elsewhere.”

Moving to another school district just so that my daughter can have a soccer coach who doesn’t scream at her isn’t in the cards for me. Moving my daughter out of the youth soccer league so that she can take part in physical and social activities with a more psychologically-healthy perspective is.

We Are Stopping The Islamic State. Now, Who Will Stop Us?

The Islamic State is a nasty group of people who do nasty things that certainly should come to a stop. The Islamic State forces conversion to Islam, wages civil war, and cuts people’s heads off. The Islamic State’s behavior is inexcusable.

The Obama Administration wants to put a stop to the Islamic State, and has launched a new war in order to do it. The new war is just weeks old, but has already included bombings by the United States in both Iraq and Syria. In those American bombings, children and other innocent civilians are being killed.

These killings are clearly bad things, and they’re just the latest addition to a long record of American atrocities in Iraq, including the Abu Ghraib torture prison, shootings of civilians by American mercenaries, and the mutilation of corpses by American soldiers.

If the USA is establishing, with this new war, the moral standard that atrocities are an acceptable justification for bombings, then how can we object to bombings in the United States by angry Syrians and Iraqis?

Barack Obama has embraced the crude moral vision of George W. Bush, arguing that
“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.” In doing so, Obama has demonstrated that he shares the mentality of the Islamic State, in that he is unwilling to comprehend the validity of any language other than force himself.

We’ve been through this before. In he first decade of this century, American fighters battled against Islamic fighters int the streets of Iraq. We claimed victory over them, but in beating them back, we only inspired a new generation to violence.

Can we not break the cycle, acknowledging that deadly violence is wrong, regardless of who does it? Can we not, at long last, learn to speak another language besides the language of force?

“The Less I Understand Something, The More I Like It.”

Deep:

Well, DjaPW82ns asdj29jx dfj w2jfo28f slwxhfw, fhruehs.

How do you like that?

Half of all gay and bisexual men in the USA HIV-positive by age 50? Really?

Will half of all gay and bisexual men in the USA really be HIV-positive by age 50?

This is what I was told today in a message from Christian evangelist Peter LaBarbera, who was passing on another message from another Christian Evangelist Stephen Black, who was in turn referring to a wages-of-sin-is-death WorldNetDaily article by Matt Barber, who was in turn linking to a Wall Street Journal article by Drew Altman, who was in turn linking to a five year-old article in the journal AIDS and Behavior.

That may seem like a lot of degrees of separation from the original source of information to the person who rattled off this “fact” to me, but wait, we’re not done:

  • It turns out that the journal article in AIDS and Behavior is not, as Matt Barber describes it, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest assessment.” None of the eight co-authors of the article work for the CDC; most are members of a graduate department of public health in Pittsburgh. Nowhere in the published article is there any indication of an endorsement of the work by the CDC. AIDS and Behavior is not published by the CDC.
  • Furthermore, the article isn’t original research; it is a review article that cites other research, making the information travel through six degrees of separation to get to me, and through seven degrees of separation to get to you.
  • The article is an openly admitted “extrapolation” that doesn’t directly measure the portion of gay and bisexual men who are infected with the AIDS virus at all. It doesn’t even rely on other research that directly measures the portion of gay and bisexual men who are infected with the AIDS virus. Instead, the article takes indications of the yearly infection rate among young urban men drawn from a variety of studies, averages them together (even though the individual studies show drastically different estimates of infection), further hypothetically assumes that this rate is a sound basis for predicting the yearly infection rate, and projects what the overall total infection numbers might be if all these assumptions were true. In short, the article is a tentative thought experiment carried out by the authors, not firm knowledge.
  • The extrapolated guess the authors arrive at does not derive from a representative sample of gay and bisexual men in the United States, but rather of young urban men, an unrepresentative group.
  • Finally, the extrapolated guess regarding the volume of the infected includes people who are no longer alive.

What the authors of that article are trying to do may be important, but they theymselves write that “these findings should not be
generalized” out to the population of the United States as a whole. The assertions Christian evangelists are trying to make are not firmly tethered to empirical reality.

Coalition Of Republicans Runs For Congress On Platform Of Return To Slavery

“Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values.” – Martha Zoller, Republican candidate for Congress

“This Constitution is our National Foundation – and is a product of our Founders’ Judeo-Christian values and faith.” – Marty McClendon, Republican candidate for Congress

“We must begin again to teach the history of our country and of the founding principles rooted in our Judeo/Christian values.” Ilario Pentano, Republican candidate for Congress

“Stand for the moral, Judeo-Christian values the country was founded upon.” – Lynn Torgerson, Republican candidate for Congress

“Adhering to Judeo-Christian values has made the United States into the greatest nation the world has ever known.” – Wells Griffith, Republican candidate for Congress

“Uphold the Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded.” – Darrel Robertson, Republican candidate for Congress

“The Judeo – Christian teachings of the bible are the basis for our society’s laws and respect for the rights of individuals. – Tom Horne, Republican candidate for Congress

“One reason the United States is a great country is our Judeo-Christian heritage.” – Peter Konetchy, Republican candidate for Congress

“Reinforcement of the Founders’ intent and process of being directed by Judeo-Christian principles…” – Stew Bolno, Republican candidate for Congress

You get the picture. Republican candidates for Congress in this year’s elections are falling all over themselves to declare themselves in support of a return to the Judeo-Christian values that they say were a profound influence in the founding of the United States of America.

But what Judeo-Christian values were influential in the founding of the USA? Not the right to vote. That’s nowhere in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Neither is protection from unreasonable search and seizure, or the right to fair trial, or freedom of speech. Certainly, the protection from government establishment of religion is not a legacy from Judeo-Christian traditions, which favored authoritarian theocracies.

I can only conclude that these Republican politicians must be talking about the Judeo-Christian tradition of slavery, which is strongly endorsed by the Bible, which even gives specific rights to slave owners, such as the right to force female slaves into marriage, and to ram sharp awls through slaves’ ears. No one can deny that slavery was a big part of the founding of the United States of America, enshrined in our Constitution, which recognized slaves as only having a fraction of the human worth of a free person.

So, vote Republican in 2014, for a return to the Judeo-Christian tradition of cruel slavery… if you’re really into that kind of thing.

judeo-christian slavery for congress