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Sun May 24, 2015 at 04:00 PM PDT

The promise of NewSpace

by DarkSyde

Ceres as revealed by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 4, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers). The bright spots may be water ice.
We throw a lot of terms around here on Daily Kos, mostly in politics, sometimes in science. One of the latter is NewSpace, which can mean different things to different people:
NewSpace—formerly alt.space; also "new space", and entrepreneurial space—are umbrella terms for a movement and philosophy often affiliated with, but not synonymous with, an emergent private spaceflight industry. Specifically, the terms are used to refer to a community of relatively new aerospace companies working to develop low-cost access to space or spaceflight technologies and advocates of low-cost spaceflight technology and policy.
But NewSapce means more than just space exploration, it also means using resources in space back here on Earth, where we are likely to run low on key elements and other substances in the forseeable future.

It's interesting that one of the people who first glimpsed that looming shortfall half a century ago had nothing to do with space exploration or aerospace technology in general. His bailiwick was the oil business. Follow us below and we'll briefly review the frightening immediate future.

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Flags and roses decorate graves in Section 60, where many members of the military killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, during Memorial Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
I often struggle to write about Memorial Day. It is about more than barbecues, picnics, and the kick-off to summer. It is not a time to debate whether our country was right or wrong to send our children to war. No, it is a solemn day to reflect upon those who have died in service to our country, for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice four our nation.

I am reminded of my dad and uncles who served in World War II. None of them talked about their war experiences—I am sure that those experiences were horrifying for them as young men. When I knew them they all seemed older than the uncles who had not served. There was something about their eyes that was not present in my other uncles' eyes—that they had seen humanity at its worst, and survived. It was an emptiness, an emptiness that has been called the thousand yard stare. No matter their age, it was still there, maybe not as hard edged as it was when they first came home, but it was with them, in some small way, until the day they died.

My great-grandfather was a soldier during the Civil War, and passed away when my mom was just six years old in 1932, some 35 years before I came into this world. His obituary reads like a history book of Civil War battles:

Mr. [William] Posten an honest upright, conscientious man, a kind and affectionate husband, a kind and loving father, a good neighbor, a true and loyal American citizen. He was a perfect type of American manhood. He leaves to mourn his loss a sorrowing wife, seven living children and a number of grandchildren, also a sister, Mrs. Sarah Jacoby of Millville (Wisconsin) He was member of Co. D., 51st Penn. V.I. He took part in many of the most famous engagements in which the army of the Potomac participated. He enlisted Oct. 13, 1861 and was mustered out July 27, 1865. His services included the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg and the operations of the 9th corps under Brownside in the Shenandoah Valley. He fought with his regiment in the Wilderness at Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor and during the siege of the Petersburg his command formed a part of the troops who charged the Confederate works following the famous mine explosions. Mr. Posten took part in the charge on the Confederates in front of Petersburg on April 2, 1865, which resultd in the capture of the outer works and the rapid flight of Lee's army and Jefferson Davis from Petersburg and Richmond and with his regiment followed Lee to the end at Appomattox.
The horrors he must have seen—just 17 years old at the battle of Fredericksburg, and all of 21 during the final battles of the war. Memorial Day, at that time Decoration Day, grew out of the carnage we know as the Civil War, a war that was anything but civil. New weapons and old tactics made the Civil War a hellish nightmare for the soldiers who fought in it. While the practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is an ancient custom ...
... and soldiers' graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier's grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there.Though not for Union soldiers, there is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate soldiers' graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers' graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Decoration Day was not observed as a national holiday until after World War I, when the South began to celebrate on the same day as the North as the day no longer was just to memorialize Civil War dead. As time went on the name Decoration Day began to fall out of fashion, being replaced by Memorial Day entirely shortly after WWII ended. It did not become an official federal Holiday until 1968 and the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Today, much of the meaning of Memorial Day is lost, as I'll discuss below. Far too many view it as just the official kick-off to summer.

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Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, California May 15, 2014. The march was held as part of an international protest by fast-food workers who planned to go on strikes in 150 c
If national Democrats had done their job, she'd have had a living wage years ago.
Before she was the tart-tongued grande dame on Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith was the tartan-clad elder stateswoman of Hogwarts. In the sixth Potter film, after Harry saved his friend Ron Weasley from poisoning, Smith's Professor McGonagall quipped: "I think we all agree that Mr. Potter’s actions were heroic. The question is: Why were they necessary."

As great a triumph as was the passage of a minimum wage hike in Los Angeles—one that will raise the floor to $15 an hour by 2020 and index it to inflation going forward—reading about it brought to mind the aforementioned quotation. The city-by-city, state-by-state struggle to raise the minimum wage has undoubtedly been heroic. Los Angeles—because of the sheer size of its population—is its most impressive and important achievement to date, although certainly not its only one. But why, indeed, has that struggle been necessary?

It has been necessary, first and foremost, because national Democrats failed low-wage workers on the issue in 2009 and 2010. Yes, this country increased the federal minimum wage in 2007, when a Congress with Democratic majorities passed the first such increase in 10 years. And the raise was—from a percentage standpoint—impressive, going up 40 percent, from $5.15 to $7.25, over 26 months. With a Republican president, that may have been as much as was possible at that time. Maybe.

But then Barack Obama became president of the United States, and Democrats increased their majorities in the House and Senate to the point that, once Al Franken's recount finally came to an end and he took his seat, the Senate Democratic caucus counted 60 members—enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. Franken took his seat, in fact, less than a month before the third and final wage increase mandated in 2007 took effect. Why, we can ask, did the Democratic Party—the party of working people—fail to take further action?

Please follow me beyond the fold for more on this question.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Elections by Steve Singiser
Democratic Kansas gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis
If the majority of polls in 2014 were accurate, this guy would be Governor of Kansas.

Next week, you can expect to see a piece offering a review of the performances of the polling community from the 2014 cycle. It is the third time I have taken on this particular task—you can see the efforts from 2012 and 2010 by clicking on the appropriate links.

You might note that I changed the formula for the rankings between 2010 and 2012. That's because in 2010, the focus of the study was a bit more specific (the notion of whether there was a left-leaning or right-leaning "bias" among the more prolific pollsters). In 2012, we went for a little more comprehensive rating.

The plan, for 2014, was to try to generate some continuity by employing the same formula.

That is still the plan. But ... whoo boy. Not to give away the ending, but the formula employed in 2012 gave us some folks at the front of the pack who were not only generally acknowledged to be cruddy, but it was nearly a reversal of the 2012 ratings. What's more: a quick look at the criteria from 2012 points to a problem—there is something in each of those parameters that can be critiqued.

When all is said and done, the more I dive into the matter, the quicker I come to a single conclusion: there is no "one best way" to measure accuracy in polling. Follow me across the fold as I explain why.

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An African American woman working at her desk
Years ago, when my career depended on my being so much better at what I did than were the men I worked with, and my willingness to work twice as hard for 60.2 percent of their salary, I was forced to walk a very fine line between my feminist principles and my need for that truncated paycheck.

I loved the work though; I was thrilled to be paid to analyze the physical and financial aspects of a business and to make a decision. Someone was actually willing to pay me to think. And to deal with abstract concepts, like finance and contracts and tort law. Heady stuff for one who was raised in an era when few women worked outside the home.

Even in my early twenties, I knew that the words we used shaped the way we think. Back before it was called politically correct, when it was merely seen as respect, we stopped referring to adult African American males as boys. But even the most liberal men of that era still referred to women as girls.

One day, up on that tenuous tightrope upon which the first woman in a man's job had to balance, I had a discussion with my boss, a Berkeley graduate working in San Francisco, about the word girl. Politely, with humor and a winning smile, I suggested that referring to an adult in the terms of childhood diminished her standing in his eyes. That it was not possible to see the professional woman when he was thinking of her as a child, as "less than" an adult member of his team. I remember saying that of course, it was his right to use whatever language he felt was appropriate, but that I did wish he would at least think about the word and what it implied, when he was using it.

Today, I am no longer in need of a paycheck issued by a man, so I can say it flat out, "Do not call me 'girl.' " I am not a child, and it doesn't matter how many women use the term to describe each other or themselves. It is inappropriate to label an adult as a child in any professional setting. Or in any discussion of adults in a professional setting.

The reason this needs to be said now, is that we are likely to nominate the first woman as president of the United States within the next year. We have to be prepared for the backlash that is sure to come, just as our black sisters and brothers have had to deal with the backlash created by the election of the first black president of the United States.

There is more below the fold.

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Overpass Light Brigade with lights that read
Overpass Light Brigade, "Unlearn Racism"
When the Overpass Light Brigade brought the message of "Unlearn Racism" to Milwaukee, they held up lights on a subject that we are confronted with daily, but are not always sure how to address as individuals. We know that anthropologists and other scientists have made it clear for years that biological "race" exists as only a social construct, but that "racism" is alive and well and none of us are unaffected by the miasma from the racial swamp we breathe in daily.

So many of our efforts are focusing on protesting the more obvious deleterious effects of systemic racism—via protests and legislation—that we don't always have time to have a conversation about what to do about it, person by person. This is what Ricky Sherover-Marcuse called "attitudinal racism."

Because racism is both institutional and attitudinal, effective strategies against it must recognize this dual character. The undoing of institutionalized racism must be accompanied by the unlearning of racists attitudes and beliefs. The unlearning of racists patterns of thought and action must guide the practice of political and social change.

As a black person, I'm always interested in trying to figure out in conversations with my close friends who are not black—what makes them tick? How did they shake off the shackles of ostensible racial superiority and change? What was it in their upbringing, surrounds, faith, ethical teachings, incidents that took place along the road of life that allowed them to scour out racism or at least start the cleansing? Perhaps if more people would talk about how they unlearned racism, it would help direct others onto that path.

Follow me below the fold to begin that conversation.

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Sat May 23, 2015 at 09:00 PM PDT

Sunday Talk: Not enough circuses

by Silly Rabbit

Faced with the prospect of a GOP presidential field that rivals the Duggar family in size (as well as religiosity and sexual perversity/
depravity), the TV networks hosting the primary debates are being forced to make a "Sophie's choice" (#ThanksObama) about who gets to participate.

Mathematically speaking, fitting everyone in one clown car would be a logistical nightmare.

And so, this week, the Fox News Channel—which will be hosting the first debateannounced that they are limiting participation to the top ten (official) candidates.

Full Disclosure: News Corp., Fox News' parent company, has made some (allegedly) "charitable" donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Meanwhile, CNN—which will be hosting the second debate—announced that they, too, will be limiting participation to the top ten; but, unlike Fox News, they will also provide a kiddie car for the rest of the clowns.

At this point, it's unclear who will appear in the big tent, and who will be in the sideshow.

Stay tuned to find out.

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What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • Do not call me girl: Women in the workforce, by Susan Grigsby
  • Memorial Day and Flanders Fields, by Mark E Andersen
  • How did you begin to unlearn racism, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • The promise of NewSpace, by DarkSyde
  • The perils of trying to define 'an accurate pollster,' by Steve Singiser
  • $15 minimum wage in L.A. is great. But it was only necessary because a Democratic Congress blew it, by Ian Reifowitz
  • American reality distorted by media coverage and police response, by Egberto Willies

Discuss
A wild boar and domestic pigs from Charles Darwin's
A wild boar and domestic pigs from Darwin's The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication
In 2001, Michael Pollan authored a fine popular science book called The Botany of Desire. The work provides an interesting and insightful short history into four of the most common plants in our world: the tulip, marijuana, the apple and the potato. For each of these plants, we learn something of their origin, how they are grown today, and the path they've taken to become so utterly ubiquitous.

There are fascinating tales hidden under each leaf. Apples, as it turns out, do not "come true" from seed, and must be reproduced from grafted cuttings. As a result, every Red Delicious apple you've ever crunched into is a clone from a tree that popped up in Madison County, Iowa, some time in the middle of the 19th century. And if you were to plant the seeds from that apple, exactly none of them would look or taste like a Red Delicious. Instead you'd get apples of different colors and sizes, almost all of them just short of inedible.

The story behind each plant is so interesting that it's easy to miss Pollan's primary point. The subtitle of the book is A Plant's-Eye View of the World and that's just what he intended to do in the work: flip the way in which we usually understand the selective pressures behind domesticated plants on its human-centric head. Rather than looking at how we make plants into what we want, Pollan projects things in starkly different terms. How have some plants, by offering something that we desire (beauty, intoxication, sweetness, and sustenance in the canonical four), persuaded humans to remove them from their original, limited niches and turn them into worldwide champions? We usually look on it as people adapting plants to their needs. Pollan looks at it as plants enlisting humans to play the role of rather large bees.

It's similar to the argument that many authors have made about dogs versus wolves. Wolves, the ancestor of all domesticated dogs, are beautifully adapted predators—in a world open to creatures which need to roam long distances without being shot, blocked by fences, or flattened by automobiles. A few tens of thousands of years ago, a small group of wolves became uniquely fixated on the behavior of human beings. Currently, there are something on the order of 550 million dogs on planet Earth. There are perhaps a quarter of a million wolves. We may think that we've manipulated characteristics of a predator that was a threat (to our livestock if not ourselves) and turned them into helpmates and companions. You can look at it that way, or you can say that a few minor modifications were required to turn humans into a vector for spreading wolves around the planet.

But if it's valid to look at the relationship between people and plants, or people and animals, as being driven from either end ... how about the relationship between people and technology?

Head below the fold to find out.

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Reposted from Comics by ericlewis0

strip 252 panel 1

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Progressive State Blog Banner #1
This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At The Left Hook of California, Sarah McDermott writes—Hyatt Workers March for Justice:

Silicon Valley is booming, and it is service workers like those at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara that are making this boom possible. While the region’s top tech firms made a record $103 billion in profits in 2013, one in three Silicon Valley households does not make enough money to meet their most basic needs. It is literally a “Tale of Two Cities.”

But workers at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara are not just sitting idly by and letting this happen. They are standing up and demanding justice and respect on the job! These workers are asking all people to honor the boycott of their own workplace and pledge NOT to EAT, SLEEP, MEET, or SPEND ANY MONEY at their hotel until they achieve a fair election process to organize without intimidation from management, a process that Hyatt has agreed to at other properties all over the country!

Hotel jobs like housekeeper, cook, bellman, dishwasher, and others often pay at the poverty level, while hotels like the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara rake in millions from tech related conferences and conventions. But where workers are organized, they have won fair wages, benefits, and job security. Their continued organizing ensures that hotel workers and all service workers share in the growing prosperity of Silicon Valley.

At 11 o’clock this morning, guests and clients of the Hyatt Santa Clara will be greeted by more than the registration desk today.  A demonstration out front will demand justice for Hyatt workers, and show Hyatt that the working people of Silicon Valley will not back down!

Check out more progressive state blog excerpts below the orange gerrymander.
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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
Labor organizations oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade deal in a rally outside of the Capitol in May 2014.
The Senate advanced fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday. It's still most definitely worth turning a critical eye to the deal, as the Economic Policy Institute's Josh Bivens does in a takedown of a recent New York Times article by Binyamin Appelbaum:
First, on the gains from trade policy (i.e., how much we should expect national income to rise if we sign trade agreements), Appelbaum refers to a piece from the Peterson Institute of International Economics claiming that trade liberalization added 7.3 percent of GDP to American incomes by 2005—about $9000-10,000 per American household. This is just not true. It’s a wildly inflated number that should not be in the policy debate (and if you need much smarter and better-credentialed people making the some point—here’s Dani Rodrik). This number is an effort to bully people into going along with today’s trade agreements by making them think the stakes are utterly enormous. In fact, even if it was correct (again, it’s not) this study would be irrelevant to today’s trade policy debates because the sum total of economic gains from all post-1982 trade agreements (this includes NAFTA, the completion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the formation of the WTO, and the permanent normal trading relations with China) is estimated to be just $9 per household, meaning that  99.9 percent of the gains from trade estimated in the study happened before 1982. So even if trade liberalization really did spur mammoth gains at some point in the (distant) past, the effects were over by the early 1980s.

Second, on the distribution of gains and losses from trade, it is striking to me that so many economists who favor signing every trade agreement that comes down the pike can still feign surprise that expanded trade seems to be bad for most workers’ wages. Put simply, it is completely predicted in textbook trade economics that wages for most workers will fall and inequality will rise when the United States trades more with poorer trading partners. Yes, expanded trade is predicted to lead to higher overall national income, but it is also predicted to redistribute enough income within the United States that it can (and is likely to) make most workers worse-off. This should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the topic.

Of course, there are things that shouldn't be a surprise and things that are actively covered up.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

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