SalJake sez, "Nifty infographic outlining the money path from the Koch brothers to Wisconsin's 'never negotiate, never surrender' governor and Tea Party darling Scott Walker. The blogger who successfully prank called to Da Gov was impersonating billionaire David Koch. Thanks to this prank, we have him recorded as asking Fake David Koch to finance advertisements in the home districts of GOP senators, because people there are PISSED OFF. And rightly so, I might add."
My friends in Madison say they've been told that the Capitol Building will be cleared of protesters today around 4:00 pm. Passive resistance—"Gandhi-style"—is planned. It's my hope that the protests will remain as peaceful and spirited as they've been so far, and that the people tasked with removing protesters will respond to that peacefulness. In the meantime, check out this Forbes article debunking one of the biggest myths to come out of this situation. The truth: Wisconsin public employees pay for their own retirement plans.
Inspired by the UK Uncut movement, Americans are taking to the street, asking why they're being asked to tighten their belts when the largest corporations in the country are paying no tax at all:
- BANK OF AMERICA: In 2009, Bank of America didn't pay a single penny in federal income taxes, exploiting the tax code so as to avoid paying its fair share. "Oh, yeah, this happens all the time," said Robert Willens, a tax accounting expert interviewed by McClatchy. "If you go out and try to make money and you don't do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?" asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. The same year, the mega-bank's top executives received pay "ranging from $6 million to nearly $30 million."
- BOEING: Despite receiving billions of dollars from the federal government every single year in taxpayer subsidies from the U.S. government, Boeing didn't "pay a dime of U.S. federal corporate income taxes" between 2008 and 2010.
- CITIGROUP: Citigroup's deferred income taxes for the third quarter of 2010 amounted to a grand total of $0.00. At the same time, Citigroup has continued to pay its staff lavishly. "John Havens, the head of Citigroup's investment bank, is expected to be the bank's highest paid executive for the second year in a row, with a compensation package worth $9.5 million."
Update:I was wrong. Writing on behalf of the Tolkien estate, Steven Maier, partner at the Oxford law firm of Manches LLP, says, "Zazzle has confirmed that it took down the link of its own accord, because its content management department came across the product and deemed it to be potentially infringing."
Zazzle user Harpocrates has a thoroughgoing response to the Tolkien estate's insistence that a badge reading "While You Were Reading Tolkien, I Was Watching Evangelion" infringes on its rights -- a series of tees and buttons.
Disappearing Spoons sells kits to make your own gallium prank-teaspoons. Gallium spoons weigh nearly as much as stainless steel ones, and have a similar finish, but they dissolve in hot liquids like tea. When the tea cools, the gallium forms a lump in the cup, ready to be molded into a new prank-spoon!
A new project uses the Microsoft Kinect as a crude 3D scanner. Joris from i.materialise sez, "Fabricate Yourself is a tool by Karl Willis of Interactive Fabrication. Released at the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction Conference, the tool lets people strike a pose in front of a Microsoft Kinect. If they like the pose they can 3D print the result. The tool is not yet finished and improvements in resolution have to be made."
"How We Know" is Freeman Dyson's essay on information theory in next month's New York Review of Books, inspired by James Gleick's The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. Dyson's thoughts on Claude Shannon, Wikipedia, and twenty-first century science are illuminating, and man, does it ever leave me wanting to read the book -- Gleick being one of the greatest science writers of all time, and information theory being one of the subjects that interests me the most.
Jimmy Wales hoped when he started Wikipedia that the combination of enthusiastic volunteer writers with open source information technology would cause a revolution in human access to knowledge. The rate of growth of Wikipedia exceeded his wildest dreams. Within ten years it has become the biggest storehouse of information on the planet and the noisiest battleground of conflicting opinions. It illustrates Shannon's law of reliable communication. Shannon's law says that accurate transmission of information is possible in a communication system with a high level of noise. Even in the noisiest system, errors can be reliably corrected and accurate information transmitted, provided that the transmission is sufficiently redundant. That is, in a nutshell, how Wikipedia works.
The information flood has also brought enormous benefits to science. The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.
I haven't played a stringed instrument since high school, but "Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing" sounds like damned good advice for whatever you're passionate about.
...2. Your guitar is not really a guitar
Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.
3. Practice in front of a bush
Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread...
7. Always carry a church key
That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty -- making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.
8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument
You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
Belarusian fraudster Dmitry M. Naskovets has been pled guilty to charges that he set up a boiler-room full of English- and German-speaking con-artists who worked with identity thieves to defraud banks and their depositors. I often think that broken English is actually a serious advantage in blog-spam; my personal sites get hammered by this stuff, but I also get a fair bit of non-native English speakers posting, and it's a lot harder to figure out whether the stilted post is someone's goofy SEO scheme or just a Bulgarian who's using Google Translate to help post something rather nice.
Identity Theft Support CenterIn June 2007, Naskovet, and coconspirator Sergey Semasko, also a Belarusian national, created CallService.biz to counteract security measures put in place by financial institutions to prevent fraud when account holders try to make transfers or withdrawals from their accounts. In exchange for a fee, the two men provided the services of English- and German-speaking individuals to persons who had stolen account and biographical information to defeat the security screening processes. Using information provided by the identity thieves over the site, the callers would confirm unauthorized withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts, unblock accounts, or change the address or phone number associated with an account, thereby giving the thieves access.
Charlie Brooker's commentary on Gadaffi's erratic atrocities -- and the western leaders who've kissed up to him over the years -- from last week's Ten O'Clock Live is some of the most nose-milk-spurting material ever aired. I wish that all of Ten O'Clock Live's clips were on YouTube, as it would be amazing blogfodder -- the show is better than The Daily Show most weeks, IMO (I've asked, C4 say their lawyers won't let them because there are clips of the BBC, Sky, etc, which is some pretty weird fair dealing analysis).
The people at Bits From Bytes, who sell 3D printer kits, fed some mashed potatoes to a RapMan printer and used it to print some quite credible prototype 3D food.
But it's not without some issues. In the video they indicate the syringe-like extruder is running at a slow 16mm/sec rate, perhaps the slowest typical setting for printing plastic. They are unsure whether this can be increased, meaning food prints (of at least potatoes) are destined for slow production.
This creepy 1969 Ivory Soap ad pits young mothers against their tiny daughters in a battle to see who has the most youthful complexion. Evidently this ad was part of the same campaign, at although it's no less creepy ("I'm so young-looking I could screw my teenaged daughter's boyfriend!") at least it's marginally more attainable than "My skin is younger-looking than a three-year-old's."
There are river otters, and clawless otters, and sea otters, and then there is the giant otter of South America. Six feet long and up to eighty pounds in weight, it is a denizen of the rainforest that is nobody's pool pet. I hold immense respect for any creature whose principal diet is piranha, and who munches solid bone with as much gusto as flesh. Once nearly hunted to extinction for their pelts, giant otters are making a limited but measureable comeback throughout their range, even returning to rivers from which they were originally exterminated.
Cross a seal with a river otter, brush on some canine features, and you have the giant otter. The result is every bit as cute and cuddly-looking as your average otter. It's just important to remember that this kind is the only one that is entirely capable of treating your forearm the way you would a fried chicken drumstick.
TVOntario, a public broadcaster in Ontario, Canada, has released an enormous archive of its programming online. There's even some very funny and awkward video of me with bad hair in the mid-1990s, before I cut processed carbs out of my diet and lost 80lbs (alas, the episodes of Bits and Bytes, a computer show that my dad appeared on in the early 1980s don't appear to have been archived). Best of all is the collection of Prisoners of Gravity clips -- this being just about the best TV show ever made about science fiction literature.
A young man attends a protest against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Libya's rebel-held city of Benghazi. The opposition-controlled city has filled a political void with a coalition which is cleaning up, providing food, building defences, reassuring foreign oil firms and telling Tripoli it believes in one nation. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
Below: A man plays with his son in front of a cartoon depicting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
China's state Internet censors have ratcheted up web filters, and security officers are harassing and detaining bloggers and activists as an online appeal for a "Jasmine Revolution" spreads in China.
The apparent crackdown came in advance of two top legislative meetings, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, scheduled for March.
Censors blocked the word "jasmine" after overseas dissident-run news website Boxun and Chinese Twitter users broadcast calls on February 19 to mobilize street protests modeled on recent unrest in the Middle East, according to international news reports. (Twitter is generally blocked in China but accessible to users of proxy networks based overseas.) Only a handful of protesters appeared, although calls continued for government protests characterized as "strolls" to continue every Sunday around China, according to The Associated Press.
"Flying from Orlando, FL I had the rare opportunity to be able to watch Discovery's final launch as it embarks on STS-133," explains software developer Neil Monday, who shot this incredible video. Also spotted on MSNBC's Cosmic Log blog, with links to other great alternative shots.
A secret fluid reported on in the pages of the June, 1931 ish of Modern Mechanix had the property of rendering your intestines "immune" to cuts from glass, allowing you to ingest any amount of broken crystalware with impunity.
EATING light bulbs, bottles and tumblers with relish is the amazing feat performed by "Professor" Paul Owen, of New York City. The secret of his performance lies in a fluid which he swallows to render his intestines immune to cuts by the glass.
Yesterday, I spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as part of a Physics Department speaker series. Dawn Erb, one of my hosts in the department, was kind enough to send me this awesome photo of Edwin Hubble's personal telescope, from before he finished his Ph.D. The photo came from, Todd Bensenhaver, a friend of a friend of Dawn's, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and owns the telescope today. How did he end up with it?
Edwin Hubble grew up in Louisville, and later worked there for a year as a high-school Spanish teacher and basketball coach. When he left for graduate school at the University of Chicago, he gave his telescope to a fellow teacher, and it has been passed down through his family.
Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of cops marched into the Wisconsin Capitol Building, where Wisconsinites have spent more than a week protesting their governor's plan to eliminate collective bargaining for most public employees. They were there to join the protest. Musician Ryan Harvey posted this report to Facebook:
"Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside."
"Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: 'We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what's right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!' Unreal."
My friend Chris Hayden, one of the people running the protest's volunteer first-aid station, also told me that, despite an order to remove the station, he was able to negotiate a compromise with on-site law enforcement (when I was there on Thursday, state troopers were standing guard at the capital, rather than police) that allowed the service to continue.
If I understand correctly, police are one of the groups that would be exempt from an elimination of collective bargaining rights. They don't personally stand to lose anything. But they came anyway, to support the people who do have something to lose. Protect and serve!
Opening tonight at Shepard Fairey's Subliminal Projects gallery in Echo Park, Los Angeles, "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die," a retrospective of punk/hardcore photography and related art, featuring Edward Colver, Shepard Fairey, Glen E. Friedman, Jenny Lens, Dave Markey, Raymond Pettibon, Jordan Schwartz, and Winston Smith.
[A] selection of photography, art and ephemera from the California Punk & Hardcore scene with an emphasis on the explosive period of the late 70's and early 80's. This exhibition features both photographers and artists who were present for the detonation of the Southern California scene and whose imagery helped capture and craft it's angles, attitudes, music, fashion and sub-culture. Reflections of other punk scenes throughout California are included as well as contemporary collaborations inspired by one of the most potent and important periods of free expression in the California story.
Friday, February 25th, 2011 7-11PM, with a musical performance by OFF! and The Nichemakers at 9PM.
The exhibition continues through March 26th, 2011, and is curated by Katherine B. Cone and Jon Cournoyer. Press release (PDF)