“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Uncomfortable Truths - The Good Guys Lost

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
Thats how it goes

Obama’s colored glasses

Parents of murdered British students criticise Barack Obama 

The parents of two British students murdered in Florida have criticised President Barack Obama for his lack of compassion over their son's deaths.

Shawn Tyson
Image 1 of 2
Shawn Tyson 
His failure to respond to three letters sent to the White House was because there was no "political value" and not worthy of a few minutes of his time.
They spoke out as teenager Shawn Tyson began a life sentence after being found guilty of the murder of James Cooper and James Kouzaris last April.
The 17 year old, who shot the men as they begged for their lives, will die in prison.
His conviction of first degree murder carries an mandatory life sentence without the chance of parole.
The powerfully built teen even looked bored as emotional DVD presentations about the dead men prepared by their grieving parents were shown in court.
Tyson, who has the word 'Savage' tattooed across his chest didn't show a flicker of emotion, slumping in his seat as he was forced to watch a montage of photos showing the victims from early childhood to young men.
Two close friends of the dead men who had attended the eight day trial in Sarasota, Florida. had also delivered highly emotional impact statements to the court prior to the sentencing.
Paul Davies and Joe Hallett spoke of the "living hell" they and others who knew the men had suffered since the murders.
During the eight day trial they had been shown graphic crime scene and autopsy photos shown in court.
Later speaking after Tyson was jailed Davies and Hallett lashed out at Mr Obama saying the deaths of their friends was "not worthy of ten minutes of his time."
Davies said:"We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or indeed, President Obama himself.
"Mr Kouzaris has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply.
"It would perhaps appear that Mr Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worthy of ten minutes of his time."
The rebuke follows Mr Obama's personal intervention into the shooting in Florida of a young black teenager by a white-Hispanic neighbourhood watch captain.
The death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin has sparked nationwide protests with his supporters claiming he was victim of a racist attack.
Mr Obama entered the controversy last week by saying if he had a son he would have looked like Martin.
The alleged assailant in Martin's death has not been charged with any crime having claimed he was attacked first and used Florida's 'stand your ground' law to shoot in self defence.
The criticism of the US President was made on behalf of the Cooper's parents Stanley and Sandy, from Warwicks, and Peter and Hazel Kouzaris, from Northampton by Davies in a statement read outside the courtroom.
The parents of the two victims did not attend the trial but they had access to the proceedings from a live video feed.
The filmed interview of the Kouzaris's was played to the court while a message from Sandy Cooper was read out by the prosecutor.
The victims close friends delivered an emotional impact statement with Hallett telling Tyson he hoped he would be haunted by his actions.
He told him: "Imagine them being killed. Now try to imagine that they died because someone creept up on them and shot them numerous times for no good reason. Welcome to our world. Every night you go to sleep, every morning you wake up, I want you to think of my friends who you murdered. Their images will be imprinted on your conscience up until your very last breath in life.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Half a Loaf?

Earl Scruggs, an American Legend

Country legend Earl Scruggs died in a Nashville hospital on Wednesday. He was 88.

According to The Associated Press, his son Gary said the musician died of natural causes. The banjo player was a bluegrass icon who brought his distinct three-finger style from its ’50s and ’60s heyday to a new generation of folk musicians, performing with artists such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds as well as his sons in the Earl Scruggs Revue.

His performances with Joan Baez, Dylan and others were captured in the documentary “The Complete Earl Scruggs Story,” which showcased his efforts to establish the banjo as a vibrant piece of the Woodstock-era scene.

Born in Shelby, North Carolina, Scruggs got his start with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1945. Three years later, he partnered with guitarist Lester Flatt to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, a musical team that lasted until 1969.

Scruggs is perhaps best known for the instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” as well as “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song of ’60s television show “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

In 2008, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; he is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Feeling less special?

New 'life in space' hope after billions of 'habitable planets' found in Milky Way

Billions of potentially habitable planets may exist within our galaxy, the Milky Way, raising new prospects that life could exist near Earth, a study has found.

New 'life in space' hope after billions of 'habitable planets' found in Milky Way
Hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy Photo: NASA
Researchers discovered that at least 100 of the ''super-Earths'' may be on our galactic doorstep, at distances of less than 30 light years, or about 180 trillion miles, from the sun.
Astronomers say the findings were made after conducting a survey of red dwarf stars, which account for about four in five stars in the Milky Way.
They calculate that around 40 per cent of red dwarfs have a rocky planet not much bigger than Earth orbiting the ''habitable zone'', in which liquid surface water can exist.
Scientists say that where there is water, there also could be life although they add that being in the habitable zone is no guarantee that life has evolved on a planet.
Dr Xavier Bonfils, from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team, said: ''Because red dwarfs are so common - there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way - this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.''
In their study, the team of astronomers surveyed a carefully chosen sample of 102 red dwarfs using the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla, Chile.
A total of nine super-Earths - planets with masses between one and 10 times that of Earth - were found. Two were located within the habitable zones of the stars Gliese 581 and Gliese 667 C.
These data were combined with other observations, including those of stars which did not have planets.
The astronomers, whose research was reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, worked out that habitable zone super-Earths orbiting red dwarfs occurred with a frequency of around 41 per cent.
Meanwhile massive planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn were rare around red dwarfs. Less than 12 per cent of the stars were expected to have such ''gas giants''.
Because red dwarfs are common near the sun, many ''super-Earths'' may not be far away in astronomical terms. The scientists estimate there could be around 100 habitable zone planets within 30 light years.
Red dwarfs are cooler than the sun, which means planets must orbit close to their parent stars to be warm enough to be habitable. Scientists said this might not be good news for life.
Dr Stephane Udry, from Geneva Observatory, who is also a member of the international team, added: "The habitable zone around a red dwarf, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on the surface, is much closer to the star than the Earth is to the sun.
''But red dwarfs are known to be subject to stellar eruptions or flares, which may bathe the planet in X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, and which may make life there less likely.''
Nasa says that one light year is the equivilent of nearly six trillion miles.F

The Gael by Jenny O'Connor

Now for Dessert:

Ever wonder why the Scots make such good fighters?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obama demonstrates why he must be defeated.

What Vladi­mir Putin must think about President Obama’s missile defense open mike gaffe
By Stephen Stromberg Washington Post

An open mike on Monday caught President Obama asking Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for “space” on the U.S.-backed European missile defense system, a tense issue between the two countries.

“After my election,” Obama explained, “I have more flexibility.”

“I understand,” Medvedev said. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

My first reaction: Just imagine how Vladimir must see this.

Obama, of course, isn’t Putin — he’s not rigging elections or controlling state-run media, for example. And it’s hardly unprecedented for an American leader to feel constrained by politics in an election year, even on an issue as low on voters’ minds as missile defense.

But when the president of the world’s leading democracy asks the boss of the world’s leading managed “democracy” to time international diplomacy according to an election calendar, he encourages Putin to believe that the difference between Russian democracy and those in the West is only the degree to which political elites manipulate their people, and that when Americans object to Russia’s slouch toward authoritarianism, the criticism is more about tearing down Russia than promoting principle. Perhaps Putin is determined to believe all this, regardless. One would nevertheless hope that America’s leaders would give the opposite impression to their Russian counterparts, when the mics are on and when they’re off.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spectacular Venus-Jupiter and Cheshire Cat Moon show tonight.

The bright planets Venus and Jupiter will perform one last sky show with the crescent moon tonight (March 26) to wrap up a two-day celestial meet-up.

At sunset, Venus, Jupiter and the moon will appear together in the western sky in what astronomers call a conjunction. For observers with clear skies, the crescent moon will appear at the top of the trio like a giant smile in space, with Venus shining bright to the lower right and Jupiter perched below.

"This will be the best Venus-Jupiter conjunction for years to come," NASA officials wrote in a skywatching alert. "While bright to the unaided eye, they're even better when seen through a telescope – and you can share NASA's view.” SPACE.COM

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Just how much money did US taxpayers dump into GM to save US jobs?

GM plans to boost output in low-cost countries

By Frankfurt Bureau
FRANKFURT -(MarketWatch)- General Motors Co. GM +0.48% doesn't only plan to close the Opel plant in Germany's Bochum and the plant in U.K.'s Ellesmere Port but plans to simultaneously boost capacity in so-called low-cost countries such as Poland, Russia, China, India, Mexico and Brazil, according to a GM strategy paper that was presented at the GM Global Business Conference, weekly magazine Der Spiegel reports.
According to the strategy paper, named Global Assembly Footprint, GM plans to manufacture up to 80% of additional vehicles in these countries once unit sales rise, the magazine reports, saying currently about half its cars are manufactured in "high-cost countries" in Northern America and Europe.
For instance, in Poland's Gliwice plant, where Opel's Astra model is manufactured, production capacity will rise 25% while manufacturing of the Opel Zafira model in the Bochum plant shall be shut down by 2015 at the latest, the magazine reports.
GM plans to increasingly serve the European market by imports from its plants in low-cost countries, the magazine says, with 300,000 additional cars from plants in Mexico, South Korea and China being exported to Europe until 2016.
In addition, GM plans to lower the number of models worldwide by 2018, by reducing the number of car-manufacturing platforms to less than 15 from the current 30 and by barely developing models for a specific market such as Europe, the magazine reports.
Spokespeople for GM's Opel unit in Germany weren't immediately available on Sunday to comment on the Spiegel report when contacted by Dow Jones Newswires.
Magazine website: 

No big deal, Murdered Mississippi student was white and the three shooters were black

Student fatally shot on MSU campus

Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012 14:0
A first semester transfer student was fatally shot multiple times Saturday night in a first floor Evans Hall residence room on Mississippi State University's campus and died later.
John Sanderson, 21, of Madison was found outside the residence hall room and was transported to OCH Regional Medical Center where the doctors worked with him for around 40 minutes before he was pronounced dead at 11:03 p.m., Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs, said.
The investigation has gained two leads. A gun has been found on campus and a person of interest has been identified. Kibler said anyone with information that involves an African American male seeking a ride, particularly one to Jackson, should contact authorities.
“Our goal is obviously to identify the suspects and bring them into custody immediately so that we can put all of this together,” Kibler said.
Suspects have been identified as three black males who fled Evans Hall in a late model blue Crown Victoria. Maridith Geuder, university spokesperson, said at this time the suspects are not believed to be students.
Kibler said there were witnesses to the event that helped determine that the incident was isolated.
“The perpetrators fled not only the scene, but campus, and probably the city of Starkville immediately,” he said.
The MSU Police Department was notified of an incident at Evans Hall at 9:54 p.m. The police arrived within one minute of receiving the emergency call. Sanderson was found with serious injuries, which at the time could not be determined whether he had been stabbed or shot.
The investigation began immediately after the welfare of the victim was taken care of, Kibler said. Campus was placed on alert and patrols on campus — including stepping up foot patrols in residence halls — increased significantly.
The suspects are still at large, but the campus is not under an emergency alert at this time.
Kibler said officials chose to release the first Maroon Alert text message in order to alert the campus of a crime, despite not knowing if it was a shooting or a stabbing for safety reasons.
“We err on the side of safety always,” he said. “We knew those who had performed this act had not yet been identified, so we needed to send that information out to the campus.”
Twenty-four students in Evans Hall have been asked to be relocated to enhance and protect the integrity of the investigation.
The motivation, along with surveillance video tapes from Evans Hall, are part of the investigation and have not been released to the public at this time.
The investigation is ongoing, being led by the university police with assistance from the Starkville Police Department, the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
MSU President Mark Keenum said the campus is known as a safe place and said he wants to assure students, parents, faculty and staff it continues to be safe.
“This is the first time in our school's history that such a tragic incident has occurred involving a student being shot on our campus,” he said.
He said the campus goes to great lengths to promote safety.
“Our Bulldog family is saddened by this event and the loss of one of our students. Our hearts go out to John Sanderson's family and friends and they will continue to be in our prayers,” he said. “Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our campus and all who inhabit it.”
Kibler said residence halls have three levels of card-access security during the night — one needs a student ID card to access the building, wing, then room. Visitors can be escorted into residence halls by students who live there and surveillance video cameras are mounted at entrances. He said there is no reason to believe there was breech of security during the incident.
Kibler said there have been no reports that any of the Maroon Alerts failed.
“We monitor that system carefully. We have the exact times when the button was pushed to send those. We send out tens of thousands, so there may have been a several minute gap. There were not reports of a systematic failure,” he said.
The Reflector will continue to update more information as it becomes available.

I Wonder if Obama Will do some “Soul Searching” over this murdered student?

Student shot dead at Mississippi State University

STARKVILLE, Mississippi | Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:44am EDT

(Reuters) - A student was shot to death at a Mississippi State University residence hall late on Saturday night, authorities said, adding that three suspects remained at large.

The unidentified student was reported shot at Evans Hall shortly after 11 p.m. local time, university officials said.

Authorities described the suspects as three black males who fled the hall in a late model blue Crown Victoria car.

There were no immediate reports of further injuries and the university is operating on "emergency" status, officials said.

Obama is big on Americans "Soul Searching”:

Obama “Soul Searching” is everywhere:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obama the racial healer.

President Barack Obama weighed into the controversial killing of a black teenager in Florida in very personal terms on Friday, comparing the boy to a son he doesn't have and calling for American "soul searching" over how the incident occurred.
Alright, first off, why is it necessary for Americans to do “soul searching” because a white community volunteer killed a black teenager? Black teenagers kill each other all the time, are they less important or is it worse that the shooter was white? I won’t get into the lack of presidential racial  introspection about black on white crime, all too boring, a more natural state of affairs I suppose.

Has anyone asked the obvious question in why was a community watch necessary in that neighborhood?
Rather than soul searching let’s start with searching for the absent fathers in these black communities. Let’s search the  government programs that support and enable and normalize broken black families, the root cause of the disproportionate level of black crime. 

Israelis giving peace a chance.

Mar 23, 2012 2:41pm

Israel Loves Iran Gains Force 

As diplomats and journalists dissect every word spoken by top Israeli, Iranian and American officials for signs of a potential Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, an online campaign to prevent just that has gained steam in Israel.
 On a sunny Friday in Tel Aviv, a few dozen Israelis gathered on tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard to shoot a video to be posted on YouTube. It was the latest effort in the “Israel Loves Iran” campaign that Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamirm, launched last week 
“For there to be a war between us, we must first be afraid of one another, we must hate,” Edry says in a fundraising video already on the site.  “I’m not afraid of you. I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me … harm. I never even met an Iranian, just one in a museum in Paris – nice dude.”
Sitting one by one in front of the camera, the mostly young Israelis took turns holding “Iranians, We Love You” placards and saying a few  words to the camera in the same vein.

 ”The message of this campaign is people to people,” Moti Khemo, who manages the movement’s website, told ABC News.  “We believe that we’re not that different, and most people just want to live in peace.”
 The site and its accompanying Facebook page are filled with photos of Israelis from all walks of life and the “Iranians, We Love You” slogan, with the subheader: “We will never bomb you.” On Friday evening, the page had almost 28,000 “likes,” and the campaign has raised more than $16,000 to print  posters and “keep the movement grow[ing].”
 Organizers say responses from Iranians around the world have poured in.
 ”Unfortunately, the stupid politicians in both countries are trying to separate these two rich cultures!” wrote one responder.
 One of the more popular posts ricocheting around Faeebook is of a man and woman kissing, with him holding up his Israeli passport as she flaunts her Iranian passport.
 ”Persian girls are sexy and adorable,” the boyfriend wrote. “Our cultures and backgrounds have never got in the way. We actually share the same ideals, so everything works perfect.”
 According to a recent poll, 19 percent of Israelis support a unilateral strike on Iran.
 ”No one wants to live under any kind of nuclear threat,” said Shai, who was passing by the “Israel Loves Iran” shoot. “We don’t want war, we don’t want anybody to die. Not here, not there. But we are under a threat, what are we supposed to do?”
 The participants recognized that it’s a simple message for a very complicated issue, and of course, they can’t promise “we will never bomb you.”
 ”In today’s world, it’s really more about public awareness, public consciousness,” participant Talia Gorodess told ABC News. “The more people join this campaign, the more, I hope, my government will think twice before doing anything foolish.”