When the gods dance...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Which Website Is Right For Me?

Lovotics, the new science of human-robot love

Lovotics: human-robot love

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By harnessing a new sphere of science called “lovotics”, Hooman Samani, an artificial intelligence researcher at the Social Robotics Lab at the National University of Singapore, believes it is possible to engineer love between humans and robots.

Across 11 research papers, Samani has outlined — and begun to develop — an extremely complex artificial intelligence that simulates psychological and biological systems behind human love. To do this, Samani’s robots are equipped with artificial versions of the human “love” hormones — Oxytocin, Dopamine, Seratonin, and Endorphin — that can increase or decrease, depending on their state of love. On a psychological level, by using MRI scans of human brains to mirror the psychology of love, the robots are also equipped with an artificial intelligence that tracks their “affective state”; their level of affection for their human lover.

artificial endocrine system in lovotics

These two systems combine to create “human” psychological and hormonal states that allow them to exhibit happiness, contentedness, jealousy, disgust, and more. These states are communicated with R2D2-like bleeps and bloops, movements, vibrations, and the color of a ring of LEDs under the robot. Bright yellow lights and fast, whizzy movements show happiness, while pink lights (obviously?) show love and dark yellow with quaking movements show disgust.

Judging by the videos that Samani has uploaded (embedded below), it seems like the only way to increase a robot’s love is by petting it — but honestly, that’s not too far removed from the reality of human-human interactions. Presumably if you refuse to cuddle the robot, it grows testy, and if it sees you interacting with another human — or fiddling with a USB socket on your PC — it becomes jealous.

The ultimate goal, according to the lovotics research team, is to usher in an era of human-robot relationships — and if we can have a meaningful relationship with an online friend or our pet dog, why not a robot? The adoption of robots in the household has been incredibly slow, and as long as my Roomba doesn’t try to hump my leg, lovotics could be exactly what the industry needs.

Read more at Technology Review

At last, undying love!!!

Is Facebook really 'hated' more than Bank of America? | ITworld

June 29, 2011, 12:39 PM

Human nature
Never underestimate the ability of people to hate something that didn't exist a few years ago and they get for free.

Business Insider has posted a list of the "19 Most Hated Companies in America" that has an interesting surprise on it.

First, I don't much care for the headline because it assumes a low customer satisfaction rating equals flat-out hatred of a company. That's a leap.

(Also see: Myspace as cautionary tale)

But what's interesting is that several tech companies, at least according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, are ranked below Bank of America, which is actually listed last among the 19 companies with a satisfaction rating of 68 out of 100. In other words, 18 other companies have even lower customer satisfaction scores than BofA.

Maybe that just means fewer people whose houses have been foreclosed on have time to fill out little consumer surveys. Who knows?

Anyway, here are the noxious 19. I've bolded one of particular interest:

19. BofA (68)
18. Dish Network (67)
17. Cox Communications (67)
16. Pacific Gas and Electric (67)
15. JPMorgan Chase (67)
14. AT&T Mobility (66)
13. L.A. Dept. of Water & Power (66)
12. Long Island Power Authority (65)
11. UnitedHealth (65)
10. Facebook (64)
9. Myspace (63)
8. American Airlines (63)
7. United Airlines (61)
6. US Airways (61)
5. Charter Communications (59)
4. Comcast (59)
3. Time Warner (59)
2. Delta (56)
1. Pepco (54)

Right there at No. 10, among immensely unpopular utility companies, airlines and cable providers, is social networking giant Facebook.

Is is possible that users are less satisfied with Facebook than are subscribers to AT&T Mobility, which is legendarily and routinely rated as the worst wireless provider by Consumer Reports?

Does it mean anything? You can argue that it doesn't -- so far. After all, Myspace is rated only slightly lower than Facebook, yet their respective fates couldn't be more different -- so far.

However, investors should keep this in mind: Many of the other companies on this list have monopolies or near-monopolies in certain regions. As ACSI's David VanAmburg tells Business Insider, "These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high."

But what's the barrier preventing dissatisfied (or bored) Facebook users from walking away? What happens when another competitor starts gaining traction, buzz and mindshare? Myspace could tell investors a few stories about how that works out.

ACSI didn't start tracking customer satisfaction regarding Internet social media companies until last year. In July its scheduled to release the 2011 ratings for Internet news & information sites, portals and search engines, and social media. If Facebook's customer satisfaction rating drops, it could be an indication that Facebook may be peaking.

Don't worry, though: Even if that happens, Facebook's IPO still will be awesome, at least according to "people familiar with the matter."

The 1939 Pontiac Ghost Car, the World’s First Transparent Car

1939 Pontiac Ghost Car

1939 Pontiac Ghost Car

1939 Pontiac Ghost Car

The 1939 Pontiac Plexiglass Deluxe “Ghost Car” is a one-off show car with custom plexiglass body panels. It was built for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair as part of the Futurama exhibit, and at its debut was the world’s first transparent car. The car was recently sold by RM Auctions for an undisclosed sum (the pre-sale estimated value was $475,000).

via RM Auctions

photos by Aaron Summerfield/RM Auctions

Dear Psy-Trance, You Are Not Safe

Dear Psy-Trance, You Are Not Safe

01 - Phaging The Infected -
02 - Jacqueline The Ripoff - Boys Are The Ones That Love Girls That Love Dj's
03 - Testicle Crisis - 178 Bees Per Minute
04 - Spiritual Van Halen - Fund Business
05 - Jesus Christ - Turning Water Into Pepsi (And Pepsi Into Money)
06 - Shpungl - Shpungl Shpungl Shpungl

It is time to slay some sacred cows with Dear Psy-Trance, You Are Not Safe, a mysterious release by an artist who wishes to remain anonymous. Taking aim at several “heroes” of the psytrance world (including Infected Mushroom, Michele Adamson, Simon Posford, and Skazi), this provocative and experimental album sizzles and crackles with madcap beats, twisted sound design, and satirical sample manipulations, all delivered at a frantic pace that may leave some listeners confused and bewildered. Unsurprisingly, this is not an album that takes itself seriously; it is clearly designed to get a rise out of some people and bemuse others. A word or two from the liner notes: “A very special thanks to the infiltration of capitalism into the world of psychedelic trance. Money is the first thing you find useless when you are in a true psychedelic state, then ego… then pants.”

MP3 Download | FLAC Download | WAV Download · Download count: 907.

Released under a Creative Commons licence for noncommercial usage?

More Than Just a Pretty Face


After digging a little deeper, it was discovered there was more to those monolithic Easter Island heads than met the eye.

Not Guilty - Wrongful Convictions and the DNA Evidence that Overturns Them

Awesome! Activision blows a kiss to fans with Call of Duty XP event

Awesome! Activision blows a kiss to fans with Call of Duty XP event

Just as Blizzard Entertainment has Blizzcon for its game fans, Activision Blizzard is now creating Call of Duty XP 2011, a two-day convention for fans of the Call of Duty games.

The event is a stroke of marketing brilliance for Activision Blizzard, which wants to stoke the video game fans into a frenzy of excitement around upcoming titles such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which debuts Nov. 8. If it works, then fans will be more loyal and won’t have time for rival games such as Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3. This live event is a way for Activision Blizzard to preserve its leadership in the multibillion-dollar first-person shooter combat game market. It is consistent with the game’s focus on immersing fans deep into the culture of the game, similar to the way Activision’s sister company, Blizzard, does for its fans at the annual Blizzcon event.

The event will take place on a still-secret 12-acre venue in Los Angeles on Sept. 2-3. More than 6,000 fans will be able to attend the event, which will include news revelations about Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer game. Attendees will be the first to get hands-on time with the multiplayer game and the title’s new Spec Ops survival co-op mode. (I played this mode with VentureBeat’s Matthew Lynley at E3 and it’s a lot of fun).

Eric Hirshberg, chief executive of Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard, said in an interview that the event will fuse real-world Call of Duty action experiences — like a paintball battle in a scene that replicates the “Scrapyard” multiplayer map in the Call of Duty Black Ops game from last year. Activision will also have a $1 million Call of Duty tournament sponsored by Activision and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console business.

“We’re pulling out all of the stops,” Hirshberg said. “You could say it is like Blizzcon, but this is going to be an event like no other.”

Players will have a chance to “speed-run” through the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map, “The Pit,” in real life. Developers will be on hand for question-and-answer sessions. There will be an on-site Call of Duty armory and museum, and live entertainment.

Attendees will also be the first to see the full functionality of Call of Duty Elite, the new online social network for Call of Duty fans. Players can qualify for the tournament by playing Call of Duty Black Ops multiplayer in regional promotions. The players will then get a chance to compete to be the best Call of Duty player in the world. Fans can also watch the experience through TV and the web.

Tickets will cost $150 and all proceeds of the event will go toward benefiting war veterans through the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit that helps veterans transition to civilian life. Tickets go on sale July 19. Call of Duty Black Ops, which debuted last November, still draws about 30 million fans a month and is the best-selling video game of all time.

Here’s an interview Rob Smith, editor in chief of Machinima.com, did with Hirshberg.

The National Debt — Where Did it Come From?

The National Debt — Where Did it Come From?

In 1981, the country had just elected Reagan to cure the "all-time-high, Trillion-Dollar debt." But compared with the size of the American economy, the debt was at its lowest point in fifty years (see graph just below). Reagan was duped by the "supply siders" and his greatest "disappointment" was adding $1.6 trillion to the $1T debt he said was catastrophic.
     Now, here's the new slide show that explains what happened step by step. In case you have questions, it's documented here.  And if you agree that this story really needs telling, we hope you'll tell your friends.

The full slide show is right below. In a hurry? Check out the short version: The Supply-Sider's Debt on Google, or e-Mail it to a friend.

The slide show contains more information than the video.


The green line shows what would have happened if Reagan and the Bushes had just kept the debt growing at the same rate as the economy. That would make their parts flat. Many conservatives claim Congress increased Reagan's budgets, but this is not the case as you can see documented here.
WWII caused the debt to shoot up, starting in 1942, and reach 30% higher relative to the country's wealth than it is today. The economic stimulus of that government spending pulled us out of the great depression and into high gear to win the war. (When to save / when to borrow.)

... The green line in the graph shows what would have happened if Reagan had proposed budgets that let the debt increase in step with inflation and the economy—if he had kept it at a constant fraction of GDP. That's not much to ask of a president who said he'd do far better than those before him, since every previous post-war president had actually reduced the debt as a fraction of GDP.

By the end of the Reagan-Bush 12-year "revolution," the extra debt they had piled on the country was costing the country an extra 2.6% of GDP in interest—$300 million a day. Without that interest working against him, Clinton would have paid down the debt a bit faster. That helps the green-line goes down in the Clinton years. That's what would have happened without the Reagan-Bush interest burden.

Now if W. Bush had held the line as all non-supply side presidents had done, the national debt would have been only 21% of GDP, and the country would have been ready to pull itself out of the Great Recession with ease. In fact when W. Bush's last budget year ended we would have had $9 Trillion less in debt.

So how did Reagan, the great debt-slasher, go so far wrong? Partly it was his belief in supply-side "economics." This "theory" claims that when the government cuts taxes, especially taxes on corporations and the rich, it makes them so happy to keep more of their money that they work much harder, get richer, and pay even more taxes than before the tax cut. So the lower the tax rate, the more money the government collects to pay down the debt! Believe that happy talk, and you can run up quite debt.

Of course the rich loved this "theory" and fed the press many stories about the wonders of the new supply-side "economics" (cooked up by Laffer, as a graduate student). Money talks, and a lot of people listened. It's time to rethink what radical conservatives have done and are doing to our country. The Reagan-Bushes National Debt now totals $9.2 trillion. That's the lions share of our present debt.

US National Debt FAQs
September 9, 2010.
Q: But, isn't the debt a huge problem?
zFact: We paid down a bigger one before without much of a problem, but it's not good. The question is when to pay it down, the answer is ...
via zfacts.com

COMMENT:  The national debt:  shiver, shiver.  If Congress does nothing (they are good at that) the Bush-era tax cuts will expire.  That will mean 3.8 trillion dollars of revenue over the next ten years.  Then there's the military...

Worse comes to worse, we should kill everyone over 55 except, of course, those making over $200K a year.  Perhaps a virus with a secret antidote?   

LulzSec's Enemies List Might Be Its Members' Undoing - Technology - The Atlantic Wire


After FBI agents raided a home in Hamilton, Ohio on Monday, it came out that they were searching for a hacker associated with Lulz Security, the hactivist collective that disbanded last weekend after a 50-day campaign of mischief. The raid comes as flickers of tension and infighting among the group's former members have surfaced publicly online. It also follows the arrest and subsequent release on bail of a teenager said to be a key member of LulzSec, but whom the group says was "at best, a mild associate." Meanwhile, LulzSec itself has tried to out some of its former members who it says wronged it, while others online try to identify the group's key players. In other words: LulzSec's enemies are becoming a problem. The story lines of the group's many detractors are a bit tricky to unravel, but here's a partial list of outside enemies trying to expose LulzSec members as well as insiders who have turned on them:

The Jester: Known on Twitter as @th3J35t3r, he is a former military hacker who has been feuding with LulzSec on Twitter since the group first became active. Last week, the Jester claimed on Twitter to have outed the group in a pastebin posting. He also has a Wordpress blog where he details evidence of the identities of its members. He works alone and LulzSec hates his guts. The group posted a screed against him on Pastebin before it ceased operation. The Jester usually targets higher-profile terrorists, and is suspected in yesterday's takedown of al Qaeda's Web site.

The A-Team: This group of hackers made its debut this week when it published a large Pastebin post on Sunday, claiming to name members of LulzSec. So far, only one of those supposed LulzSec members has been raided, that we know of, and that raid happened before the A-Team's post. Laurelai Bailey, a 29-year-old from Davenport, Iowa, told Gawker's Adrian Chen this week that FBI members had raided her home last Thursday in a bid to get more information on LulzSec's members. 

"They wanted to know if I could get close to them," Bailey says. "I told them these people hate me... it wouldn't do any good." Bailey says Lulz Security hackers hold a grudge against her for leaking logs from the secret chat room in which they planned the HBGary hack—which she says she did in retaliation for them harassing some of her friends.

Web Ninjas:  This group doesn't want you to call them hackers. Per their blog, LulzSec Exposed, they're "cyber vigilantes." They've mostly focused on trying to make the case that Laurelai (who says on her own Twitter feed that she's transgendered), is a man named Steven Lacey, who lives in Ireland.

M_nerva and hann: Former LulzSec associates, these two raised the group's ire early on by leaking chat logs that eventually found their way to the pages of The Guardian. In response, LulzSec itself leaked their identities in a Pastebin post. M_nerva's address is listed in Hamilton, Ohio, so it seems like a good bet that that's where the FBI got the tip that led to this week's raid.

4Chan: The anarchic /b/ message board (NSFW) on 4Chan got really steamed at LulzSec for shutting down a few gaming sites earlier this month. Its members vowed to find the culprits and track them down, but the only person they "exposed," William Davis, turned out to be a Web editor for the Bangor Daily News. We talked to him and he was a very nice guy who said he had nothing to do with LulzSec or Anonymous.

Want to add to this story? Comment below or send the author of this post, Adam Martin, an email. Have a hot tip or story idea? Let us know on the Open Wire.

toyhaven: This is a Job for Steve!

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is a Job for Steve!

Preview pictures of 1/6 scale Steve Jobs Limited Edition 12-inch Collectible Figurine which will include a 1/6 scale Steve Jobs head sculpt and 12-inch figure body plus 1/6 Scale items such as the iMac, Magic Mouse, keyboard, iPhone 4, iPad 2, Desk, Chair, Steve's outfit (New balance 992 sneakers, black T-shirt and jeans). Price? US$160 not including shipping. Guess they price it the way APPLE products are priced: HIGH!



Dailymotion - Konee7 feat Nestor Kéa - ma chatte (ghetto version) - une vidéo Music

ESO - eso0338b - The Starburst Spiral Galaxy NGC 1792


Yes to Violence, No to Sex

Yes to Violence, No to Sex

Posted on Jun 28, 2011

AP / Paul Sakuma

Jack Schooner, 16, looks at a copy of the “Grand Theft Auto” video game at GameStop in Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday.

By Robert Scheer

This American life of ours has long been pro-violence and anti-sex, unless the two can be merged so that violence is the dominant theme. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that historical record on Monday in declaring California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors unconstitutional while continuing to deny constitutional protection to purely prurient sexual material for either minors or adults.

The California law that the court struck down prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to minors “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,” unless the work, taken as a whole, possessed redeeming literary, artistic or social value—qualities that limit censorship of sexually “obscene” material.

The Supreme Court, in essence, said no—“sexually assaulting an image of a human being” is protected speech, but depicting graphic sexual activity that is nonviolent and consensual is not. 

“California has tried to make violent-speech regulation look like obscenity regulation by appending a saving clause required for the latter,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “That does not suffice. Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ‘sexual conduct.’ ” 

As Scalia put the prevailing argument that says yes to violence and no to sex, it is only violence that possesses deep cultural roots going back to our favorite fairy tales. Arguing that “violence is not part of the obscenity that the Constitution permits to be regulated,” Scalia made clear that the problem is with the sex and not the violent or misogynist behavior that some critics argue will result from material the court defines as obscene: “Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York. That case approved a prohibition on the sale to minors of sexual material that would be obscene from the perspective of a child.”

Scalia’s opinion is actually quite thrilling in enunciating an extremely broad definition of the free speech rights of minors. But it is simply bizarre in dismissing the claimed harmful effects of violent depictions while still insisting on the strictest puritanical view of the dangers of sexual imagery. “No doubt a State possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm, but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” he said. Unless sex is involved, in which case, as Scalia quotes an earlier court decision: “Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them.”

In that regard, Scalia’s view is a vast improvement over that of Clarence Thomas, who held in his dissent that minors have no First Amendment rights at all. But Scalia is unnerving in his dismissal of the concurring opinion of Justice Samuel Alito Jr., in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined. Alito argued that the California statute addressed “a potentially serious social problem” but that “its terms are not framed with the precision that the Constitution demands. …”

Scalia’s withering dismissal of Alito’s concerns is revealing of his tolerance for violent imagery as opposed to that which is merely sexual: “Justice Alito has done considerable independent research to identify video games in which ‘the violence is astounding. … Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. … Blood gushes, splatters, and pools.’ Justice Alito recounts all these disgusting video games in order to disgust us—but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression. … Thus, ironically, Justice Alito’s argument highlights the precise danger posed by the California Act: that the ideas expressed by speech—whether it be violence, or gore, or racism—and not its objective effects, may be the real reason for governmental proscription.”

Hear, hear to such a bold defense of the right of minors to consider a full range of controversial thought, but if the claimed harmful effects of minors’ exposure to violence, gore and racism do not warrant a governmental limitation on free speech, why isn’t sexually prurient material—for adults if not minors—deserving of equal First Amendment protection? The unspoken answer that runs through Scalia’s opinion, and that of the court down though the ages, is that violence is normal while sex is obscene.

COMMENT:  Yes, violence is an American virtue; sex is not. We like our kids comfortable with killing and maiming, it seems, and parents pay for it and, thus, endorse violent video games. Most, however, wouldn't buy their kids a sex CD. Say...a legal clarification: is pissing on your victim violence or sexual fetish? Mom? Dad?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

‪Call of Duty: Black Ops - Annihilation Behind the Scenes Preview‬‏

Annihilation should keep players busy as they await the next major game installment in the combat game series. On Nov. 8, Activision Blizzard will release Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. That release will include the launch of Call of Duty Elite, a social network for the game series with options for premium subscriptions.

The map pack includes:

– “Hangar 18,” located in the highly classified military base of Area 51, where gamers will fight through experimental weapons labs, the SR-71 test hangar and a mysterious autopsy room.
– “Drive-In,” where players experience close-quarters combat through a 1960′s American drive-in theater, complete with a snack shack and a classic arcade.
– “Silo,” where gamers can infiltrate a massive secret Soviet nuclear missile site under construction within a multi-level battleground.
– “Hazard,” located on the cliff sides of Cuba, where gamers can explore a coastal golf course fit for a Dictator, and where stocked clubhouses and
manicured fairways meet snipers hidden in sand traps.
– “Shangri-La,” the all-new Zombies experience, transports players into a mythical paradise overrun with the undead. Players will come face-to-face with new species of zombies and navigate through a labyrinth of underground caverns, all set within a legendary shrine lost in an exotic jungle.

Judges pick BioShock Infinite as the best game of E3

Judges pick BioShock Infinite as the best game of E3

 28 Jun 2011 09:03 AM PDT

Take-Two Interactive’s BioShock Infinite has been selected as the best game of the E3 video game trade show by the Game Critics Awards.

Dozens of game critics, including me from VentureBeat, voted on the top games of E3. Since BioShock Infinite won four major awards, that’s a pretty good indicator that Take-Two has a major hit on its hands for 2012, when BioShock Infinite is expected to launch.

The game is an original title developed by Ken Levine
 (pictured) and Irrational Games, a division of Take-Two’s 2K Games label. The game uses some of the same fighting style introduced in the action adventure game BioShock of 2007, but the tale takes place in a far different setting — the floating city of Columbia — and is set in an alternate American history around the turn of the century. It’s an imaginative title that captured a lot of attention from E3 attendees and game critics. It was also my vote for the best of show.

I’ve included the full list of winners below. Bethesda Softworks won two awards for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; Electronic Arts won two awards for Battlefield 3, and Sony won two awards for Sound Shapes for the upcoming PS Vita handheld. This year’s group of critics included both mainstream press and game-specific publications, from USA Today to Kotaku.

Best of Show
BioShock Infinite
(Irrational Games/2K Games for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Original Game
BioShock Infinite
(Irrational Games/2K Games for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Console Game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda for PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Handheld Game
Sound Shapes
(Queasy Games/SCEA for PSVita)

Best PC Game
BioShock Infinite
(Irrational Games/2K Games for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Hardware
PlayStation Vita
(Sony Computer Entertainment)

Best Action Game
Battlefield 3
(DICE/EA Games for PC)

Best Action/Adventure Game
BioShock Infinite
(Irrational Games/2K Games for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Role Playing Game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda for PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Fighting Game
Street Fighter X Tekken
(Capcom/Capcom for PS3, Xbox 360, PSVita)

Best Racing Game
Forza 4
(Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Studios for Xbox 360)

Best Sports Game
FIFA Soccer 12
(EA Canada/EA Sports for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Strategy Game
From Dust
(Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Social/Casual Game
Sound Shapes
(Queasy Games/SCEA for PSVita)

Best Motion Simulation Game
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(Nintendo EAD/Nintendo for Wii)

Best Online Multiplayer
Battlefield 3
(DICE/EA Games for PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Downloadable Game
(Supergiant Games/WB Games for PC, Xbox 360)

Koki "House Dance Without House"

backpacking with dancing

Defeated Videogame-Violence Experts: Science Was on Our Side | Wired Science

An analysis of competing videogame violence reports submitted to the Supreme Court found that researchers warning of links to real-world aggression had far stronger academic credentials than their opponents.

Two groups of researchers submitted briefs to court, which on June 27 ruled unconstitutional a California law banning the sale and rental of violent videogames to minors. One brief, named after attorney Steven Gruel, said that violent videogame play leads to aggression and is cognitively different than watching TV or reading.  It was signed by 102 researchers who cited 130 studies specifically related to violent videogames. They supported the law.

The other brief, named after counsel Patricia A. Millett, was signed by 82 researchers who opposed the law and called the game-violence link nonexistent. Their position appeared to influence the court, which in its 7-2 majority decision wrote that claims of videogames’ cognitive uniqueness were “unpersuasive.” According to the majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, videogame studies “do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”

But according to social psychologist Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, an author of the Gruel brief, the competing claims were supported by very unequal levels of scientific firepower. In a May 27 Northwestern University Law Review study, Bushman and two other authors compiled the publication record of each brief’s signatory, then categorized the experts according to how often they published in top-tier journals and how often they were cited.

Comparison of publications by authors and signatories of the Gruel brief to those of signatories backing the Millett brief. (/Brad Bushman/Northwestern University Law Review)

On average, Gruel brief signatories published about 7 original, peer-reviewed studies on aggression or violence. Each Millett brief signatory had published 0.48 such studies.

Bushman also found that each Gruel signatory had published an average of 1.45 studies on media violence, compared to 0.28 stuch studies among Millett signatories.

Both the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics say that videogame violence is linked to aggression.

“More than anything, this whole case highlights the complexity of this issue,” said former Harvard University publich health researcher Cheryl Olson, who lauded the court’s decision in a New York Times op-ed. “It shows how little we’re certain about and how much work remains.”

Image: n.W.s./Flickr

See Also:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


EYE OF THE STORM | Lovett on Vimeo



Directed by Christopher Alender
Produced by Kris Eber for Soapbox Films
Cinematography by Craig Kief
Visual Effects by Wes Ball
From the album HIGHWAY COLLECTION by Lovett

Generative Online Sound Sequencer - Otomata

Play with it at: http://batu.in/otomata

Otomata is a musical sequencer that you can play with online. Click the above URL and have fun.

News Corp. finalizing $30M sale of Myspace

News Corp. finalizing $30M sale of Myspace

 28 Jun 2011 09:21 AM PDT

Myspace’s parent company News Corp. is in the final stages of selling the under-performing social network for $20 – $30 million, reports All Things Digital.

News Corp. is apparently in a rush to complete an acquisition deal by Thursday — its fiscal year-end. The media giant probably doesn’t want MySpace to blemish its 2012 financial records, especially given the lackluster revenue predictions.

Backing up earlier information, the report indicates that significant cuts in staff and operating costs will be made to Myspace depending on who the buyer is. News Corp. might also retain a small minority stake in the company, according to the report.

Specific Media and Golden Gate Capital are at the top of the list of companies that could acquire Myspace. Both companies would focus Myspace on music, sources told All Things Digital. However, it’s unclear if prior music licenses will transfer with the sale.

An investment group that includes Myspace co-founder Tom Anderson, another separate investment group that includes Myspace co-founder Chris DeWolfe andCriterion Capital Partners have also been rumored as showing interest in purchasing the company, according to the report.

Reactions to the Supreme Court decision on video game violence

Reactions to the Supreme Court decision on video game violence

 27 Jun 2011 10:10 AM PDT

The video game industry is breathing a sigh of relief today with the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down California’s law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

Here are some reactions to the decision so far.

Mike Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, the game industry’s trade group, said in a conference call that it is a “very very historic day for the video game industry.” He said the decision benefits parents, who retain the right to decide what their children can play in the home, and for consumers, who can “enjoy the full range of content that our industry can provide.”

He noted that there were 180 signatories to 27 amicus (friend of the court) briefs on the video game industry’s side. That included the support of 82 social scientists and medical professionals and 10 attorneys general for different states. Gallagher said this was the 13th favorable decision — and most important — in legal proceedings related to violent video games.

“This decision affirms the rights that we believe we have always had,” Gallagher said. Gallagher said the industry will continue to improve its parental controls systems for consoles and the ratings that it applies to games.

The principal author of the California law, state senator Leland Yee, noted that as many as four justices (two dissenters and two with a separate concurring opinion) thought that a law could be narrowly tailored and still be constitutional.

“Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children,” said Yee (D-San Francisco). “As a result of their decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community. It is simply wrong that the video game industry can be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”

Yee also praised Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the more liberal justices on the Court and a San Francisco resident, who wrote the dissenting opinion.

“Justice Breyer, in his dissenting opinion, clearly understood the need to protect our children from the harmful effects of excessively violent video games and to give parents a tool in raising healthy kids,” said Yee.

“We are thrilled by today’s news,” said Jennifer Mercurio, vice president and general counsel of the Entertainment Consumers Association, a game industry consumer group. “We had hoped that we would see this decision, and it’s been a long time coming. That being said, there will probably be one or two legislators who attempt to test these new parameters, and the ECA will continue to fight for the rights of entertainment consumers.”

Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), heads the industry group, which rates video games. She said in a statement,  “ESRB welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in this case, especially given its validation of the ESRB rating system as an effective and reliable tool that parents use to decide which video games are appropriate for their children and family. Today’s decision acknowledges the value and effectiveness of the ESRB rating system, the Federal Trade Commission’s positive assessment of our self-regulatory regime, and the latest research showing that game retailers overwhelmingly enforce their voluntary store policies regarding the sale of Mature-rated games. In striking this law the Court has made clear that the video game industry effectively empowers parents to be the ones to decide which games are right for their children.”

Vance added, “The most constructive means of ensuring that children play age-appropriate video games is to educate parents about the tools at their disposal, including ESRB’s two-part rating system (age categories and content descriptors) and rating summaries available at ESRB.org and via a free mobile app. We remain eager to work with government officials, legislators, parents groups and any others who wish to participate in or otherwise support these constructive efforts, which achieve the intended goal without infringing Constitutional rights.”

The Center for Democracy and Technology, a tech lobbying group that supported the video game industry, applauded the decision and what it means for online content as well.

“We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has embraced the idea that voluntary ratings systems are one of the best ways to assist parents in determining what kinds of content their children can view,” said John Morris, CDT General Counsel.  “The video game industry continues to develop user empowerment tools that will help parents achieve this goal in a much more effective — and constitutional — way than the California law.”

Common Sense Media’s chief executive James Steyer, said in a statement, “Today’s decision is a disappointing one for parents, educators, and all who care about kids. But the fight is far from over. Advocates for kids and families can work within the scope of this ruling to protect the best interests of kids. An overwhelmingly high percentage of parents would support a bill that would prevent their kids from walking into a store and buying the most ultra-violent and sexually violent of video games. That decision should be in the hands of parents, not kids or video game vendors, and certainly not the video game ratings board, which recently approved the Dead Space 2 ad campaign that clearly markets a Mature-rated game to kids. We respectfully disagree with the Court when it comes to their analysis of the First Amendment rights of children and families — this is a sanity issue, not a censorship issue. If parents decide a violent game is okay for their kid, that’s one thing, but millions of kids are not able to judge the impact of ultra-violence on their own. Today, the multi-billion dollar video game industry is celebrating the fact that their profits have been protected, but we will continue to fight for the best interests of kids and families. Moreover, we look forward to working with national and state policy makers on another common sense solution in the very near future.”

Ahsan Shaikh,  a video game patent attorney at McDermott Will & Emery, said, “With more spotlight on video game violence, the time is ripe for developers in the industry, both hardware and software, to respond to the increasing attention on video game violence.  Whether it’s an innovation in content restriction or an alternative to displays of violence, the developer that addresses these concerns and patents their innovation will gain a controlling position in the industry now that parents are more acutely aware of the violence prevalent in video games their children have access to.”     

The video game violence arguments that mattered to the Supreme Court

 27 Jun 2011 09:49 AM PDT

Here’s a breakdown of the arguments that mattered to the Supreme Court in its decision today to strike down California’s law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. The court voted 7-2 in favor of holding the law as unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. It’s interesting to see how the court considered the evidence and decided.

The divided vote shows that this wasn’t an overwhelming victory for the video game industry and free speech advocates. In the 92-page decision, here are the arguments that stand out on both sides.

– Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that previous cases have held that “the basic principles of freedom of speech do not vary with a new and different communication medium.”

– Opponents of violent video games foundered in their attempts to define violence. Scalia noted that Dante’s Inferno and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales depict violent scenes but have never been restricted. “Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones. Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy.””

– Scalia said the court found unpersuasive the state’s claim that video games are special because players participate in the interactive act of violence. The state failed to justify singling out video games in arguing for a “compelling government interest” in the restrictions. Scalia said that psychological studies purporting to show a connection between “exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively,” as the effects are small and indistinguishable from the effects produced by other media.

– Justice Scalia stated with regard to the validity of the scientific evidence put forth, “The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games causeminors to actaggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, ‘[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.’”

– Scalia said the game industry’s existing voluntary rating system accomplishes the goal of giving parents a choice about whether to restrict their children’s access to violent games

Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts concurred with the majority, but issued their own opinion.

– Justice Alito’s opinion opened with a comment on how the effects of new technology are unpredictable. He noted that spending hours controlling the actions of a character who guns down innocent victims might actually be different in kind from reading a description of violence in a work of literature. He found the increasing realism of violent games to be disturbing. Motion-sensing systems (such as Microsoft’s Kinect) can now enable players to mimic violent actions to produce a violent effect on the screen, like swinging a baseball bat to “smash a skull.”

– “These present-day and emerging characteristics of video games must be considered together with characteristics of the violent video games that have already been marketed,” Alito said. “In some of these games, the violence is astounding.”

Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas dissented. They used the following arguments.

– Breyer said that it is possible to define violent games that are the most realistic and potentially damaging. He found California’s description of violence with words such as “kill,” “maim” or “dismember” to be precise enough to be enforced, much like the term “nudity” in anti-obscenity laws. Breyer said that evidence submitted by California about the effects of violent video games on children was more extensive than that submitted for obscenity laws.

– “The statute prevents no one from playing a video game, it prevents no adult from buying a video game, and it prevents no child or adolescent from obtaining a game provided a parent is willing to help,” Breyer wrote. “All it prevents is a child from buying, without a parent’s assistance, a gruesomely violent video game of a kind that the industry itself tells us it wants to keep out of the hands of those under the age of 17.”

– Breyer wrote, “What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her? What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman — bound, gagged, tortured and killed — is also topless?”

– Breyer also argued, “Sometimes, children need to learn by making choices for themselves. Other times, choices are made for children — by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments.”

– Thomas argued that parents have authority over children and can thus control what speech their children hear or see. He says there is a long tradition behind that belief and that video game publishers do not have the unfettered right to speak to children without restraints. He noted that the law does not ban the sale of violent games to minors; rather, the law does allow parents to buy violent games for minors if they so choose.

Hulu’s owners are gutting the service

Hulu’s owners are gutting the service: More commercials and longer delays ahead

Posted: 27 Jun 2011 08:34 PM PDT

New details have emerged concerning the future of video streaming service Hulu. The company recently finalized deals to continue streaming content from its media partners/owners, reports All Things Digital.

The good news is that Hulu’s owners — which include Disney, News Corp. and Comcast — don’t want to take their exclusive television content with them if the video streaming service is acquired. The bad news is that the new content agreements for ABC, Fox and NBC programming will be much different for Hulu users.

Hulu users can expect more commercials during episodes and longer program delays. Users may have to wait up to eight days after a program airs on a broadcast station before finding it on Hulu, according to the report.

And while the revised content agreements make watching the broadcast stations a more attractive option, they don’t change prior stipulations allowing media partners to stream programming through websites they operate.

Last week, Hulu took steps to put itself up for sale. But since Hulu’s value is largely tied to its content partnerships, its current owners had no choice but to forge a new agreement, which is why the new content agreement benefits individual media companies. The media companies are hoping the new “exclusive deals” are good enough to keep potential buyers interested in acquiring the streaming service.

I can’t imagine purchasing Hulu under the current stipulations would be a particularly good investment. Yet, the company (and its owners) could be using these new stipulations as bargaining chips during acquisition negotiations.

Arizona Police Told To Search Arrestee iPhones For Anti-Police Apps

Arizona Police Told To Search Arrestee iPhones For Anti-Police Apps

from the unreasonable-search-and... dept

Last week's big LulzSec (pre-disbandment) dump of Arizona police info apparently included some documents telling police to search the iPhones of arrestees for specific apps, including OpenWatch, a simple app for recording people (targeted at authorities) without it displaying on the phone that they're being recorded. The police were also told to look for speed trap identifying apps and an app that lets people spoof caller ID numbers. As we've discussed a few times, there are some legal questions about whether or not cops can just search your iPhone during, say, a routine traffic stop, but tragically a few courts have said it's fine. That seems rather troubling, as the cops can search your phone after just a routine traffic stop... and then potentially get you in more trouble just because they don't like the types of apps you have?

Separately, the article notes that the Justice Department has been sending around notices to local law enforcement, telling them to be aware that iPhone users have a feature that lets them remotely wipe their phones. This is part of the mobile me service, and the wiping has a perfectly legitimate purpose: to let someone who has lost their phone or had it stolen, to wipe the data from the phone. It's pretty useful, really. But, to police who are seizing phones and want to search them later, they're scared that evidence can be destroyed this way, so the Justice Department is telling them to store the phone in Faraday bags to keep them disconnected from any network, so they can't receive the "wipe" signal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Class Warfare As The Rich Gets Richer

It's Class Warfare As The Rich Gets Richer


"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A." - Gordon Gekko

"There's class war alright. But it's my class that's making the war. And we're winning it." - Warren Buffet

I believe America is at war. But this time, the villains aren't named Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden, or Muammar Gaddafi. 

This war doesn't involve the use of military action. It doesn't involve Congress making a formal declaration of war. This war is covert. Instead of guns fired by soldiers, it's bills passed by elected officials. Instead of bombs dropped from planes, it's bombs dropped from Corporate America. Instead of the invasion of another country, this war involves the invasion of people's paychecks and pensions.

To understand this war, to truly grasp the scale of it, we need to look at the people who have declared war on the poor and middle class of this country.

Ronald Reagan   

You don't have to be alive to make this list. The good times for the wealthy began under President Reagan. First, he fired the air traffic controllers and crushed their union. Second, he introduced America to "Reaganomics," his economic poo-poo platter of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to government programs, and a sharp reduction in government regulations.

Reagan charmed millions of Americans into believing an incredible fairy tale:

If we cut taxes for the rich, if we gave all the cake to the wealthy, crumbs from the cake will trickle down to everybody else, and VOILA! PROSPERITY!

This of course was a lie.

In the last 30 years, the top 1% has seen their wages explode into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, the paychecks of everybody else has stayed stuck in neutral.

In the last 30 years, the crumbs from the economic cake has not trickled down. Instead, the rich got their cake. And they ate it too (including the crumbs)!

Little known fact about Ronald Reagan. He started his career as a Democrat. Then he went Republican. Then he went senile.

Probably not a coincidence . . .

Senator Phil Gramm, Representative Jim Leach, and Representative Thomas Bliley

In 1999, Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act). It repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prevented any institution from becoming a commercial bank, investment bank, and insurance company all in one. Phil Gramm is the father of our great financial crisis. Because of his bill, Citigroup, ahem, pardon me, I mean "Shittygroup", which is part commercial bank, part investment bank, part insurance company, and part Death Star, is considered "too big to fail." 

We are told that Shittygroup, Skank of America, and Goldman Sucks are so crucial to our economy that these monstrosities must never go bankrupt, even as they take our taxpayer money and pay themselves an ungodly amount in bonuses, even as they take our taxpayer money and jack up the interest rates on our credit cards.

And we have Phil Gramm to thank for all of this. If he ever crosses the street in front of me, I will personally thank Phil Gramm by running him over with my car.

Speaking of Wall Street . . .

The Financial Sociopaths Who Brought Us The Subprime Mortgage Crisis

For those who don't know, let me break down how the assholes on Wall Street nearly destroyed our economy and ruined the lives of millions of people.

1. Lenders sold mortgages to investment banks, who then combined these mortgages with car loans, student loans, and credit card debt into complex (and unregulated) derivatives known as collaterized debt obligations (CDOs).

2. Investment bankers sold these CDOs to investors. Now, when people go to pay their mortgage, that money goes to investors.

3. The investment banks then paid investment agencies (i.e. Moody's) to evaluate the CDOs. Most were given Triple-A rating. This made CDOs popular with retirement funds.

4. In this new system, lenders no longer cared if a borrower couldn't pay because the lender got paid when they sold the mortgage. So naturally, they started making riskier loans. The investment banks didn't care either. The more CDOs they made, the more they got paid.

5. In the early 2000s, we saw a rise in subprime loans which were made to America's riskiest borrowers. The investment banks preferred subprime loans because they carried higher interest rates. This led to a massive amount of predatory lending. Borrowers were needlessly placed in expensive subprime loans, loans most of them could not pay. 

It got so crazy that people who worked at McDonald's were moving into $100,000 homes. And even worse were the so-called NINJA loans. NINJA stood for "no income, no job". The only requirement for NINJA loans was that the borrower needed to have a social security number!

That's it!

As long as you weren't a corpse, you could sign up for this loan!

6. AIG sold derivatives known as credit default swaps, a form of insurance for investors who owned CDOs. If the CDO turned to junk, AIG promised to pay the investor back. Also, speculators could buy credit default swaps and bet against CDOs they didn't own. For example, Goldman Sucks and Merrill Lynch were just some of the banks who bought CDOs, just so they could bet against them.

However, AIG didn't have the money, nor the collateral to pay anybody back. When the economy crashed, AIG owed billions. Our government decided that "The Notorious AIG" was indeed "too big to fail", handing the company the largest government bailout in American history (85 billion of our tax dollars in order to save them).

When Wall Street's ponzi scheme collapsed, it doubled America's debt. States across the country saw their deficits explode because they invested, among other things, the retirement funds of their own state workers. Iceland went broke. Greece went broke. Hell, America went broke. And the crash left 30 million people unemployed worldwide.

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan knew Wall Street was shady. He did nothing. Ben Bernanke, current Fed chief, did nothing. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to keep a watchful eye on Wall Street, did nothing.

Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide (one of the biggest predatory lenders out there) walked away with 470 million. 140 million came from dumping his company stock in the months leading up to the housing collapse. He dumped his company stock because he knew a Category 5 hurricane was about to hit. When the company collapsed, he got to keep all of the money. 

After driving Merrill Lynch off a cliff, former CEO Stan O'Neal was allowed to walk away with 161 million in cash and stock options.

After nearly destroying AIG (and ruining the lives of an unfathomable amount of people) with his credit default swaps, executive Joseph Cassano resigned, only to be paid a million dollars a month (in taxpayer money) by AIG as a "consultant."

After crashing Lehman Brothers into the side of a mountain, CEO Richard "Dick" Fuld testified before Congress. He destroyed millions of people's lives and caused his company (at the time the 4th largest investment bank in the country) to file for the largest bankruptcy in American history. He didn't go to jail of course. And he got to keep all of the half-a- billion he earned from 1993 to 2007.

In April of last year, Goldman Sachs, sorry, I meant Goldman Sucks, was sued by the federal government for selling highly fraudulent CDOs. But don't get too excited. CEO Lloyd Blankfein (who made nearly 100 million in the 2 years before the crash) is real cozy with President Obama. Goldman was the President's biggest donor in 2008. So don't expect any justice to be served.

                Lloyd Blankfein is, in the words of Charles Barkley, "turrible. Just turrible."

And it was Blankfein who had the nerve to say that "Wall Street is doing God's work."

Yeah right. And I'm sure that every Sunday Blankfein learns all about "God's work" while he sits in a pew at The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Thieves!

When George W. Bush bailed out Wall Street with his 700 billion dollar TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief and Protection Act), we were told it would not only save the reckless bankers, and it would not only save our economy, but that it would also help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. But the Treasury Department gave that money away with no strings attached. And the Home Affordable Modification Program (which was part of TARP) has been an epic fail. Mortgage services are foreclosing homes in record numbers.

Nobody has been investigated. Nobody has gone to jail. This is because the financial sector employs over 5000 lobbyists. Between 1998 and 2008, Wall Street spent over 5 billion on campaign contributions and bribery.

WHOOPS! Did I say bribery? I meant lobbying.

And the same people who played a part in the great crash of 2008, are some of the same people in the Obama Administration (helloooo Tim Geithner). 

What I hate the most about Wall Street is that they don't actually make anything. They create nothing of value. All they do is move debt around. And I'm supposed to be impressed? I'm supposed to believe these charlatans are "Masters of the Universe"?


Republican Dictators, er, I mean Governors

These state deficits have really exposed the darkness in the hearts of elected Republican officials. Take for instance these headline-making governors. They are using these deficits as an excuse to attack everything they hate: unions, teachers, abortion, regulations.

I talked about this in detail with a blog post I wrote last month called Who Is America's Worst Governor? I listed the 8 worst offenders. They are:

Scott Walker, John Kasich, Paul LePage, Jan Brewer, Tom Corbett, and the 3 dicks, I mean the 3 Ricks: Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and Rick Perry (Sorry! That R key is too close to that D key).

What these governors have in common is a distaste for working people. They have all passed legislation that cuts social programs for the poor, while cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Walker, in his zeal to snatch collective bargaining rights from state workers, likely violated Wisconsin's open-meeting laws. And the sneaky way he passed his bill just proves what a weasel he is. 

Ohio governor (and former Lehman Brothers executive) Kasich signed into law the truly atrocious SB 5 bill, which is even worse than Walker's union-busting bill (at least Walker exempted police officers and firefighters). 

The decline of the unions (along with our change in tax policy) is why America has the greatest economic disparity in the history of the world.

While I would love to revisit these terrible governors (in all of their glory), I recommend those who haven't read my post to check it out.

Let's move on . . .

The Republicans In Congress

Americans have been falling out of the middle class in record fashion. A lot of people are homeless and hungry for the first time in their lives.

The poverty rate is now at 14.3 percent, the highest since 1994. And the Department of Agriculture has reported that "the prevalence of food insecurity" is at an all-time high.

One of the consequences of the Great Recession is the record number of children falling into poverty. It is estimated that the number of children living in poverty will soon hit 25%, the highest percentage we've seen since The Great Depression.

And yet, the debate is not about how can we help these children. The debate is centered around "what are we going to cut?" And, "how many programs that benefit the poor are we going to destroy?"

In order to pay for these Republican tax cuts for millionaires and businesses, programs that benefit the poor must be cut. 

According to the Majority Report, these social programs were sliced and diced in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy:

1. Early Childhood - cut by 11.2 billion

11.5 billion = the per year cost of recent tax cuts for millionaire's estates.

2. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Republicans proposed a cut of over 5 billion to this program which offers a variety of services for low income Americans.

8.9 billion = cost of allowing mortgage interest deduction for vacation homes for millionaires. 

3. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) the program that offers supplemental nutrition to poor families - cut by 504 million

6.7 billion = cost of estate planning techniques used by the wealthy to avoid paying taxes.

4. Teacher training and afterschool programs - cut by 4.6 billion

5.2 billion = cost of removing limit on itemized deductions for high income tax payers.

5. Job training for new and unemployed workers - cut by 4.1 billion

4.1 billion = cost of tax breaks for offshore operations for US financial companies.

6. Low Income Energy Assistance (grants to poor families) - cut by 2.5 billion

2.5 billion = tax cuts for oil companies.

7. Community Health Centers - cut by 2.5 billion.

4.9 billion = cost of extending alcohol and fuel tax breaks.

8. Homeless Assistance Grants - cut by 2.0 billion

 2.3 billion = tax loopholes for hedge fund managers and private equity managers.

9. Legal Services For The Poor - cut by 420 million

312 million = cost of allowing companies to write off punitive damages.

10. Title X Family Planning - cut by 317 million.

303 million = cost of tax breaks for timber industry.

This is class warfare! Our Republican elected officials (and quite a few Democrats) are the anti-Robin Hoods. They're stealing from the poor, to give to the rich. They're robbing poor Peter to pay for wealthy Paul.

Hey, speaking of douchebags named Paul . . .

Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, put out a budget that will leave the vast majority of future retirees without decent health care by ending Medicare as we know it.

According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, most middle-income retirees would have to pay almost half of their income to purchase a Medicare equivalent insurance package by 2030. And they would be paying even more of their income in later years. And of course, Ryan's budget includes more tax cuts for the rich (reducing their tax rate from 35% to 25%).

                            Paul Ryan hates old people!

And what did our "liberal media" have to say?

They credited Ryan for his "serious" proposal. But they said nothing about how Ryan's budget fails to address our out-of-control health care costs. 

They talked about how Ryan is "a nice guy, who works out a lot." Number one, who gives a shit about Paul Ryan's pecs? And number two, how about addressing how if every senior got a Medicare voucher under Ryan's plan (which most won't be able to afford), the added cost will be 20 trillion over the next 75 years. This comes to $60,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country.

And here's two other terrible ideas from Republicans in Washington.

1. They wanna raise the retirement age from 65 to 70.

They keep saying "we should raise the retirement age because people are living longer!" Yes, let's raise the retirement age because manual labor in your 70s is FUCKING AWESOME!!!

In the dream world of Republicans, everybody will be forced to work until they're 100. Or until they drop dead! Whichever comes first.

2. They wanna "reform" social security.

Kentucky Senator (and Tea Party favorite) Rand Paul said, "Social Security is going to incur a 5.4 trillion dollar debt over the next 75 years."

Hey Rand, I got a great idea! Let's make 100 percent of Americans pay FICA taxes on 100 percent of their income, just as 96 percent of Americans already do! Why should someone making $100,000 pay social security on 100 percent of their salary, while someone making $1,000,000 pays social security on just 13 percent?

And to every politician in America, STOP CALLING SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, AND MEDICAID "ENTITLEMENTS"! If you have to pay for something in order to receive it, then it's not really an entitlement. 

I prefer we call it "social insurance." Because really, that's what it is.

And since slicing away at America's "social insurance" seems to make Rand Paul so randy, how about this: Let's slice away at the ridiculous Congressional retirement plan (with its pensions and cozy perks).

If we can't have it, you can't either!

Corporate America


America's wages rose 2 percent from last year. And when you adjust that for inflation, Americans are now making a whopping 52 cents more a week!

Try not to spend it all at one place!

Meanwhile, top executives made 27 percent more in the last year. The average pay for top executives is now 9 million dollars a year.

Profits are up at most of America's top corporations. In the last 3 months of 2010, Big Business saw their stock perform so well, that if you wanted to find a period of time that was comparable, you'd have to go all the way back to 1950.

Last year, General Electric made 14 billion in profits. Goldman Sucks made 8 billion. General Motors made 4.7 billion. Google made 18.9 billion. And Exxon Mobil made an astonishing 39.5 billion dollars in 2010.

But profits derived from sales only increased a measly 7 percent. Profits are up because American companies shed a whole lot of jobs last year. And they cut the pay and the hours of their employees.

And they've turned tax-dodging into an artform. The top 3 corporate tax dodgers are Exxon, Skank of America, and GE. Last year these three companies paid a combined $0 in taxes.

That is unbelievable.

Michael Moore was right when he said that "America is not broke." No, we aren't. Not by a long shot. Corporations are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars.

Are these corporations hiring people?


Last month our economy added 230,000 jobs. That sounds great until you remember that we lost 8 million jobs as a result of Wall Street shenanigans. According to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, "In order to get back to the 5% unemployment rate we had before the Great Recession, we will have to wait until 2018."

Most Americans can't afford to wait that long.

Rich People

I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't hate rich people because they're rich. I hate that they don't contribute their fair share.

I hate that they've co-opted the White House, Congress, and the Governor's office in so many states. In order to be a successful politician in this country, you pretty much have to be the rich person's bitch.

And hey rich people, when is enough enough? You already have more money than anybody else. Why do you need more? 

Barack Obama

You don't have to be a Republican to make this list. Obama's extension of the George Bush tax cuts was unforgivable. His deficit commission (also known as the Catfood Commission), which wants to "reform" social security, is a joke. And the 38.5 billion in cuts he and the Republicans agreed to that prevented a government shutdown was atrocious. He talked about how this was "the biggest annual spending cut in history."

Good grief! That's a Republican talking point!

Mr. President, you are a Democrat (allegedly). Why do you so often sound like a Republican?

He also talked about how "we need to live within our means."

And by "we", he means "you." Not the wealthy folks, but "you."

Republicans originally asked for 32 billion in cuts. But Obama and the Democrats bumped it up to 38.5 billion, because really, poor people in this country just haven't suffered enough. So goodbye pell grants because you're about to be as extinct as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Goodbye after-school programs. We didn't need you anyway. And so long heating assistance to the elderly. Just buy grandma a Snuggie and a box of matches and wish her the best of luck!

At the end of the day, Barack Obama is just like every other politician. He doesn't work for us. He works for the rich folks and the corporations.

How does it feel America to know that you are under attack by your own government? How does it feel to know that the wealthy and the corporations are using your tax money as their own personal ATM machines? How does it feel to know that the politicians are obsessed with the deficit, while completely ignoring the fact that we desperately need to create more jobs?

And how does it feel to know that raising taxes on the rich (which would bring in so much revenue) is something that is never considered, even though 64 percent of Americans are in favor of it?

(And if you really wanna be depressed, check out these amazing charts from Mother Jones which show just how great the rich are doing, and how not-so-great everybody else is doing.)

It's D-Day, and it's class warfare. And the only way we can fight back is to storm the streets of Washington the way Tom Hanks stormed the beaches of Normandy. Instead of Saving Private Ryan, let's protest Congressman Ryan! It's time to continue what was started on the steps of Madison, and what has spread to the steps of Indianapolis, and Columbus, and Lansing.

And it's time we join US Uncut and protest against these tax-dodging corporations.

In the words of Public Enemy, we need to Fight The Power. We need to tell these people "NO MORE!"

When is enough enough?