Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Just sayin'

But..........it WOULD help correct the wealth and income gap.


The giant Rainbow Penny Award for 2013 goes to........ Minnesota!


This year marked a tipping point for same sex marriage and marriage equality.

Marriage equality and anti-gay discrimination are both important areas of civil rights. Even before the repeal of DOMA, with the rejection of the state Constitutional Amendment that would have prevented gay marriage, followed by legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, our state became the tipping point for change that has been growing for a long, long time,the tipping point where polling well was finally reflected in actual VOTING for change and for hope and for equality.

Nationally, we see many other states either legalizing same sex marriage, or where courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, are recognizing the logic of same sex marriage as a civil right, that there are social and individual benefits, with no valid justification for denying those rights to same sex-oriented citizens.

Internationally, a number of other countries managed as whole nations, not so piecemeal, to recognize same sex marriages - notably our close allies, Britain and France.

This year, the number of states where same sex marriage is recognized DOUBLED. With the recent court decision in Ohio that asserted every state must recognize, reciprocally, the marriages of other states, it is inevitable that in the foreseeable future, same sex marriage will be legal in ALL states, as it should be, ignorant red-neck beliefs not withstanding.

We are, quite properly, a democracy, not a theocracy, not for much longer a nation of ignorant bigots.


Conservatives.....against Intrusive and Overreaching government.....create the most intrusive and overreaching government

Failed GOP Economics

GOP = Inequality and Ignorance about Economics

Sunday, December 29, 2013

GOP = Misogyny

Still sayin'

(M) A great question.

Thanks to Americans Against The Republican Party for sharing this.

The Bad Penny Award for 2013 goes to (drum roll)......the Radical Right, for shutting down Congress!


Like these two pennies, the radical right has badly damaged our nation, our government, our society and our economy.

This particular award is for the failure of the radical right to make any improvements towards solutions for our national problems , but instead have created new ones, and made the existing ones worse.

A perfect example is the effort to shut down the government for no good purpose.  The intended purpose, of ending Obamacare, was a bad reason to do what they did, and it is a good thing that it failed.


That failure cost billions in losses -- for nothing, absolutely NOTHING.

Does the right CARE about the pain, suffering, sacrifice and disruption they caused?
HELL NO.

They care about no one, except their special interest donors.  They believe in nothing real, but blindly follow their ideological illusions and delusions.

SHAME! Shame! Shame! on the radical right, who has learned NOTHING from this, and is threatening to do it all over again in 2014.

Are THEY kidding US?  They must go; every one, Congress, state legislatures, Governors chairs, A.G.s.........ALL of them.




Conservative = Hypocrite

The wonderful preceding week in science

Failed Conservative Values

Shame shame shame on the special interests and the climate change deniers.

The latest right wing myth about climate change.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Louis...a day late


We all know one....

Time for the 2013 Penny Awards!



At Penigma, we have an awards tradition of adding our two cents worth to the end of the year best and worst and most and least awards for the year - the Pennies!

To begin the year end tradition in 2013, we single out one of the best, most savvy, most humane, and most truly and uniquely American acts of generosity.  The award goes to the Annenberg Foundation, who truly live up to their motto: "Advancing a Better Tomorrow Through Visionary Leadership Today". (Another Annenberg entity that we regularly praise here is the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.)

 This story, in the crush of other competing news, received too little attention, so we want to give it pride of place here.  It is remarkable; please read - and enjoy.

From the New York Times:


the auction
Secret Bids Guide Hopi Indians’ Spirits Home

The auction in Paris was set to move briskly, at about two items a minute; the room was hot and crowded, buzzing with reporters.
More than 100 American Indian artifacts were about to go on sale at the Drouot auction house, including 24 pieces, resembling masks, that are held sacred by the Hopi of Arizona. The tribe, United States officials and others had tried unsuccessfully to block the sale in a French court, arguing that the items were religious objects that had been stolen many years ago.

Now the Annenberg Foundation decided to get involved from its offices in Los Angeles. It hoped to buy all of the Hopi artifacts, plus three more sought by the San Carlos Apaches, at the Dec. 9 sale and return them to the tribes. To prevent prices from rising, the foundation kept its plan a secret, even from the Hopis, in part to protect the tribe from potential disappointment. Given the nine-hour time difference, the foundation put together a team that could work well into the night, bidding by phone in the auction in France.
The foundation had never done something like this before — a repatriation effort — and the logistics were tricky, to say the least.

Two staff members in Los Angeles, one a French speaker, were assigned to the job. The foundation also quietly arranged for a Paris lawyer, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, who had represented the Hopi pro bono in the court proceeding, to serve as lookout in the auction room.

He stood in the back, on the phone to the foundation. Whispering updates to him was Philip J. Breeden, a cultural attaché from the United States Embassy.
“It was intense, like a movie,” Mr. Servan-Schreiber said.But camouflaging the role of the foundation was crucial.
I knew nothing good would come out of it if the house knew there were people out to get the whole thing,” he said. “I was sure that would jack up the prices.”The sale had been assembled by the auction house EVE with pieces from a variety of American tribes that were held by a number of French collectors, all of whom said they had owned the items for many years and had good title to them. Several collectors said they had been impressed by prices realized at an April auction of 70 Hopi artifacts.
The tribe had been angered by the earlier sale as well, which like this auction featured vibrantly decorated Hopi headdresses, known as Katsinam. The tribe, which had gone to court to block both sales, believes the items are not simply religious, but living entities with divine spirits.
Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the foundation who lives in Paris, had followed the legal battle in the French news media. After the Hopi lost in court on Dec. 6, he went to the auction house to preview the artifacts, all of which are more than a century old.
“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” Mr. Weingarten would say later. “They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”
Mr. Weingarten had his California staff tally the presale estimates from the auction catalog and confirm that the objects were authentic. The staff members also became familiar with the Hopi belief system and built a database that would allow them to follow online the bidding on the objects they wanted. Mr. Weingarten approved a budget of $500,000 to $1 million to buy all 27 disputed Native American lots — the 24 masklike Hopi artifacts and three items of divine significance to the San Carlos Apache, also in Arizona. To do so he tapped into a discretionary fund set aside for individual projects.
“It was a leap-of-faith kind of moment for us,” said Leonard J. Aube, executive director of the foundation, which was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, the publisher, philanthropist and diplomat. “Not a lot of foundations are geared up for this kind of clandestine, late-night activity.”
At one point, the owner of the EVE auction house, Alain Leroy, said he had noticed that one phone bidder was grabbing up the disputed Hopi objects and told an employee to check into it. Reassured that the buyer had wired money ahead of time and was legitimate, he says he nonetheless grew frustrated and even muttered aloud that he hoped the secret bidder would “leave some for the others.”
Members of the Hopi tribe were also watching the sale online from Arizona. Unaware of the forces at work on their behalf, they said they became dispirited as item after item sold. Sam Tenakhongva, a cultural director for the Hopi, said when he turned off his lights at 2 a.m., he felt he was saying goodbye to the spirits embodied in the headdresses.
The foundation, however, had enjoyed marked success in the bidding. By the end of the auction, it had spent $530,695 and bought all but three of the 24 Hopi objects and the three other Apache artifacts that the foundation had sought.
And one of the three, a Hopi headdress featuring antelope antlers, had been bought by Mr. Servan-Schreiber on behalf of a couple, Marshall W. Parke, of the private equity firm Lexington Partners, and his wife, Véronique, who had instructed him to obtain what he could as a gift to the Hopis.
Mr. Servan-Schreiber said when it was his turn to bid, he took care to inform the foundation people, “so we wouldn’t start bidding against each other.”
The foundation lost out on only two items, both times, participants said, because of miscommunication. But they secured the auction’s priciest lot, a Hopi Crow Mother headdress that sold for $130,000. The event, which was over in a quick hour, generated $1.6 million in sales.
“It’s a good outcome for the Hopi but not the collectors, I suppose,” Mr. Leroy, the auction house owner, said of the foundation’s tally. The Hopi did not learn of their tribe’s good fortune until several hours later when the foundation sent an email alerting them to its clandestine purchases. Mr. Aube said the Annenberg Foundation, which focuses on civic and community projects, is consulting with the Hopi on how best to return the Katsinam.
The objects, surreal faces made from wood, leather, horsehair and feathers and painted in vivid reds, blues, yellows and oranges, cannot be encased in Bubble Wrap, for example, because it would be seen as suffocating the divine spirits. The Hopi have not identified their plans for these artifacts on their return, but they are not viewed as art objects or housed in museums. Typically, Katsinam are still used in spiritual ceremonies or are retired and left to disintegrate naturally.
For Mr. Tenakhongva, the fact that the Katsinam had to be bought and paid for, even by benefactors, was a bittersweet nod to the reality that some American Indian artifacts have become highly sought, expensive commodities.
“No one should have to buy back their sacred property,” he said. “But now at least they will be at home with us and they will go to rest.”


Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Funday - Friday Fiore Animations











Libertarianism = Selfish Quasi-Anarchy

We're in the positive top 10!

we have a sense of humor
Better than we did under that brief period of a Republican lege....  these rankings should bode well for the 2014 election cycle.

In three different listings of best and worst states, Minnesota came in as number 5 in states with the fastest growing economies.
5. Minnesota
> GDP growth: 3.5% (tied for 5th highest)
> Real 2012 GDP: $253.0 billion (17th largest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.60% (25th lowest)
> 1-yr. employment growth: 0.88% (23rd lowest)

With a little mixed review of how we ranked 5th
Minnesota had one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates in 2012, at just 5.6%, and one of its highest GDP growth rates, at 3.5%. Finance and insurance contributed 0.63 percentage points to the state’s growth — more than all but four other states and roughly twice the industry’s contribution nationwide. Currently, the finance and insurance sector accounts for almost 10% of the state’s GDP, among the higher percentages of all states. However, this relatively robust GDP growth did not translate into an equally robust jobs growth; more than half of all states grew jobs at a faster pace than Minnesota.

And we were also in the top 10 for best run states, in best-and-worst run state rankings , where we came in 7th, just behind Vermont:
7. Minnesota
> Debt per capita: $2,421 (14th lowest)
> Budget deficit: 22.4% (6th largest)
> Unemployment: 5.6% (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,906 (9th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.4% (7th lowest)

Minnesota received top marks in a number of areas. More than 92% of Minnesota adults 25 and older were high school graduates as of 2012, the second-highest percentage in the nation. Additionally, just 8% of residents lacked health care coverage, trailing only three other states. The state’s poverty and violent crime rates were also among the nation’s lowest. The state’s economy was strong, as well, with a GDP growth rate of 3.5% in 2012, an unemployment rate of just 5.6%, and a median income of nearly $59,000, all of which were among the best in the nation. However, Minnesota receives low marks for its burdensome business tax climate, due in part to the state’s retroactive income tax hike on top earners. It also had one of the nation’s largest budget shortfalls for the 2012 fiscal year.

Where the fastest growing economy rating notes lower job growth, it is worth noting that we have among the lowest levels of unemployment in our state, compared to other states, which seems a little bit of a contradiction...  I think some of the criticism leveled here is perhaps either not quite current and also not entirely on target.

Two lists Minnesota did NOT make were the 10 most Dangerous States, and the 10 States with the Most Gun Violence.  Those rankings have a lot to do with social and economic issues, like poverty and poor educational outcomes.  But it also has a lot to do with lax gun laws, something we should be considering when the GOP in our lege try to push through more lenient gun laws:
The states on this list with higher gun violence tend to have much less stringent gun laws than other states with less violence like New Jersey, Connecticut and Hawaii. For instance, none of the states on with the highest gun violence require permits for handgun purchases. In the 10 states with the lowest gun violence, seven have this requirement, including all six states with the lowest levels of gun violence. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave seven of the 10 states an F for their gun control policies, with the remaining three receiving a D or D–.

If we don't correct the problem of wealth and income equality, this is what we will be left with:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

As we all count our blessings, abundant or not so much so, let us be grateful, but also let us be aware that we need to mae changes to the growing gap.

Gotta love this.......

Oh, Lookie -- the Duck Dynasty fraud is also a pedophile

From all of us at Penigma -- a Merry, Happy, Brassy Tuba Christmas, and a Joyous New Year!

Honoring both Christmas and a very special Minnesota tradition:



In case you are wondering what the heck a Tuba Christmas is, the history of this concert was covered back in 2009 by MPR (so ignore any reference to dates of other concerts please):

As holiday music goes, it doesn't get much lower than this. 120 musicians playing the lowest of the brass instruments--the euphonium, the baritone, the sousaphone and the tuba--gathered Sunday for an annual Christmas concert.

'Tuba Christmas', held yearly in the sanctuary of Central Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Paul, stakes a bass clef musical claim to the holidays.

Susan Schevenius brought a baritone, two students and their horns to the concert last night.

"Well, in our band, the tubas and the baritones and the euphoniums don't get the melody a lot. They're in the backgound. And this is an event for them to shine, because they get the main part," she said.

And that's the Tuba Christmas story, in a nutshell.

The horn's presence is better known in music like sea chanties and polkas. Usually, composers and arrangers keep their tuba requirements to one or two. At most.

But the horn also had sort of a patron saint in America -- a tubist named William Bell. Bell played for the likes of John Phillips Sousa and the New York Philharmonic. He was the second University tuba professor in America. Ever.

Harvey Phillips was a student of Bell's at Julliard and now is a retired music professor. He succeeded Bell at Indiana University and felt his mentor hadn't got the recognition he deserved.
Christmas tubas MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

"He was considered by Arturo Toscanini as the greatest tubist in the world," Phillips said.

But when Bell died in the summer of 1971, Phillips noted that Bell's life had an unusual aspect -- besides playing tuba. He'd been born on Christmas Day, 1902.

To Phillips, it seemed like a legitimate claim for the tuba to some of the best known music ever, some of it dating back to before the tuba was even invented.

So in 1974, Phillips organized the first tuba holiday concert on the skating rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Three hundred of Bell's students showed up to pay tribute, and Tuba Christmas played its first bars.

It's since spread to 250 American cities, to Canada and Switzerland, and even Iraq.

The holiday started in the Twin Cities decades ago, at the Rosedale Mall in Roseville. It's been at Central Presbyterian in St. Paul for the last four years. Kathy Handford is the music director there and invited the group to play.

It's a once-a-year event, and players meet and rehearse for just an hour before the show. But Handford said a kindred tuba spirit adds to the harmony.

"Brass players are always one big happy family, and here the sousaphones from the University of Minnesota, and usually the come over on the city bus," she said. "They twirl their tubas down the street and it's a good time. And when people come in the door, they're not quite sure what to expect, but after they step inside the sanctuary, everyone is smiling."

And singing. The tradition at Central Presbyterian includes a second verse of every song, so the audience can sing along.

The St. Paul concert is actually the fourth Minnesota Tuba Christmas show this year, following concerts in Morris, Mankato, and Northfield. You can still hear tubists tooting their horns Friday night at Tuba Christmas in the Pioneer Place Theater in St. Cloud.

Most Under-covered story of 2013

Remember this AFTER Christmas

Fair is fair

Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekly Science Update.....

Bigotry is clear, Bigotry is bad, Bigotry must be opposed -- and Bigotry is bad for business

Some seem to be ambivalent about what hate is and is not; they flip flop rather than having actual core values.  The twist and blow with the wind.

Some seem to be ambivalent about what offensive is, which includes conservatives like Jindal, Palin, and of course the heartless and mindless right wing bubble.  They pander to the haters.

A lot of conservatives seem badly confused and misinformed about what the first amendment is and is not.

There seems to be no doubt that when a PR exec makes a racist statement, on her own time on her own twitter account, that it reflects badly on the brand that she represents, and that it could carry over to adversely affect the company's clients. 

That is pure capitalism.  Conservatives apparently approve of employees getting treated harshly when it is pure capitalism, when money is involved.  No screams of protest there about the 1st Amendment, hell no.

ABC's coverage of the exec firing, below, is significant, as ABC is one of the owners of A&E, the cable network that is making a lot of money from the Quack Dynasty programming.

While the offending tweet referenced AIDS and race, it could just as easily have referenced AIDS and homosexuality, as has happened so often in the past in hateful conservative comments - like this one:
AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.   - Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell's ignorance in relating AIDS to homosexuality is on a par with correlating the Black Plague where Christians blamed the epidemic on Jews, Gypsies, and 'foreigners'.  There was of course, no such actual correlation, much less a causational one.

Bigotry is not just hateful, it is consistently factually inaccurately wrong.

From ABC news:

Woman Fired After Tweet on AIDS in Africa Sparks Internet Outrage


The communications director for the Internet giant that owns popular websites like Match.com, Dictionary.com, and Vimeo has been fired over "hateful statements" in a tweet that came from her account.
The tweet Friday from the account of Justine Sacco read:
"Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"
InterActive Corp, Sacco's employer, issued a statement to ABC News this afternoon distancing itself from the tweet and saying the employee was fired.
"There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," the InterActive Corp statement said. "We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core."
The controversy erupted while Sacco was reportedly mid-flight with no Internet access.
The star of Duck Dynasty, in contrast, has not only claimed that black people were happier and 'more godly' in the days of Jim Crow, where they couldn't vote, and were frequently beaten or lynched, a common right wing racist revisionist history that goes hand in hand with claiming that slavery wasn't bad; he has made gender insulting comments, like men shouldn't cook because that is 'women's work', and that men who do cook are 'girly men'.  He has compared homosexuality to terrorism, drug addiction, and bestiality.

And he refuses to apologize for his racist, sexist, and homophobic intolerant views.

At least the woman who made the offensive tweet has, in contrast apologized for what SHE did wrong.


Employers not only HAVE A RIGHT to fire employees who do things that reflect badly on their brand, other than those actions which are protected - like those which relate to fair labor conditions and compensation, they have an obligation to do so when the actions and words are damaging and harmful to a large spectrum of people.

That there is also a large body of people, on the right, who are ALSO hateful, doesn't change that.  A&E should require an apology before it airs another episode of Duck Dynasty.  And if no such apology and change in future behavior is promised, it should dump the show.

Otherwise, like Chick-fil-A, Paula Dean, and the other businesses which have demonstrated homophobia, and institutionalized it, A&E will find themselves on the wrong side of not only history, but their only real god on the right, capitalism.  Flip-flopping will only make that opposition to them worse.

No one is being forced at gun point, or under threat of imprisonment to recant their racist views, or their sexist views, or their homophobic views.  It is not hatred to dissent and oppose hatred and bigotry; it is a virtue to call it out for what it is, and to resist it.  Only conservatives have to try to confuse resisting bigotry with hatred, because they lack the integrity and value system to recognize their own failing and fault.  Instead they try to dress it up and give it legitimacy with religion.

But religion also repudiates their views.  We ALL should do so, and repudiate as well those who merchandize it.


Hooray! Now THIS IS AMERICAN!

Thank you, George Takei

Oh, sweet white Jesus and white Santy Claus

Loud, Conservative, and Consistently WRONG -- and rude, and frequently hateful

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Here comes the sun, Here comes the son......



In modern Iran, today or rather tonight, is celebrated as a major holiday, an ancient tradition that significantly predates Islam by many centuries. It is the celebration of the birth of Mithras, the central figure of the ancient religion of Mithraism. As the neocons both in and outside Congress agitate for saber rattling rather than an emphasis on diplomacy, it is worth examining our common holiday tradition roots that we share with Iranians, recognizing that we share traditional and religious celebratory origins.

Some forms of Mithraism, which originated in India as part of Hinduism, and which may have roots as well in Zoroastrianism, date to 1400 B.C. None of our religions are quite as original as we like to suppose them to be.

It is the celebration of the longest nights of the year, and the beginning of the celebration of the birth of Mithras on December 25th, the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.  The Biblical and other historical details (like the taxation part of the Christmas story), including the astronomy that coincides with the documentation of the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem, puts the more likely date for the birth of Christ in the spring, somewhere between March and April.  The shift to mid-winter appears to have been a few hundred years later. While links to Saturnalia have been postulated, those appear to have provided traditions that were incorporated into the celebration of Christmas, once celebration changed to the winter solstice, but it appears more that the change in date was driven by competition with the popularity of the Mithraic religion among Romans.
The date of the birth of Christ was fixed in the 4th century. Before that, various dates were assigned to Christmas, including the 6th of January, the 25th of March and the 25th of December. The earliest reference to the date of December 25 comes from Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 171-183). Hippolytus (c. 202) comments that Jesus was born in Bethlehem on that December date, a Wednesday, in the 42d year of the reign of Augustus. In 245 Origen objected to having a birthday celebration for Jesus. The first certain mention of Dec. 25 is in a Latin chronographer of A.D. 354, first published entire by Mommsen.' It runs thus in English: "Year 1 after Christ, in the consulate of Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon." Here again no festal celebration of the day is attested.
The Catholic Encyclopedia actually puts the formalization of the celebration in the 6th century, under the Codex Justinian.
As noted by about.ancient/classicalhistory.com:
Mithraism, like Christianity, offers salvation to its adherents. Mithras was born into the world to save humanity from evil. Both figures ascended in human form, Mithras to wield the sun chariot, Christ to Heaven. The following summarizes the aspects of Mithraism that are also found in Christianity.

"Mithras, the sun-god, was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, and worshipped on Sunday, the day of the conquering sun. He was a savior-god who rivaled Jesus in popularity. He died and was resurrected in order to become a messenger god, an intermediary between man and the good god of light, and the leader of the forces of righteousness against the dark forces of the god evil."

In that context, both of the following videos seem remarkably apt, as much as any Christmas Carol.


Dannnnnnncin' Yeahhhhhh

Don't LABOR under misapprehensions - the message on this shirt is true!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The How Why When and Where

The historic birth of Jesus as recorded takes place in spring, not the winter solstice! One of the theories for the change in time of celebration is the usurpation of the birth date of Mithras on December 25th.

Happy Winter Solstice - the darkest day of the year, a celebration of the return of the light!

Stonehenge Solstice Sun
This is the point in the north where we have the least amount of daylight; starting tomorrow we begin to gain more minutes of sunlight in our day, the opposite of the summer solstice, our longest day of sunlight of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Newgrange
At Stonehenge, the famous megalith, today the sun set aligns with the central altar stone and the 'slaughter stone'. 


Maeshowe
Similarly the sun floods the chambers of Newgrange and Maeshowe, both incredibly ancient sites in Ireland and Scotland, respectively. 

Goseck

Two gates align with sunrise and suneset at the  Goseck Germany site, below and above.

Tulum Mexico

Closer to the equator, where there is a less pronounced difference in the daylight, both Peru and Mexico have ancient sites where the sun is significant, one a convergence of stone lines pointing towards an adobe pyramid in Peru, the other a hole in a stone wall in Tulum.

In Iran, they have a celebration, Yalda, dating back to the early religion of Mithras dating back centuries.  People gather together, eat fruit, especially pomegranates, and ask questions, randomly opening books of the poetry of a 14th century poet, Hafez.  Supposedly the answer to the question can be found on the pages to which the book opens.  People stay up all night, and celebrate sunrise as the triumph of good over evil, specifically as represented by the sun god Mithras, a first century B.C. deity.

Or, there's the boomer version of celebrating the return of the sun, LOL.