America's immigration "problem" is "solved" (a story with heavy implications)

You may have noticed this story in the Wall St. Journal several days ago:

Tide Turns on Border Crossing
– Number of Immigrants Arriving From Mexico Now Equaled by Those Going Home

Net migration from Mexico has plummeted to zero thanks to changing demographic and economic conditions on both sides of the border, a new study says, even as political battles over illegal immigration heat up and the issue heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading

The Walking Dead, part three: The Rise of the Governor

How does a bad guy become a bad guy? And how does an author make him a good guy while it’s happening?

That’s the task Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga set for themselves in The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor. The two men take one of the most notorious villains from Kirkman’s graphic novel series and cast him as the protagonist of their prose novel. Rise shows the governor’s descent into villainy and plants the seeds for his rise to power.

Yeah, there are zombies all over the place, but this is a novel about people—good people gone bad.

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Imaging the past

Several years ago we made a trip to Shetland and some of the Orkney Islands, and it was a trip well worth making. One of the things we got to do was poke around a number of Neolithic sites, many of which were underground homes, if not outright collections of houses. One of the remarkable things about these houses, because that’s what they were, was the fact that many were erected before the first pyramids were put up—on some very lonely islands in the North Atlantic. Pretty neat stuff. The same is true for what are called passage graves—burial chambers with long passages from the entrance into the central chamber. The engineering on some of these is impressive indeed.
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Kansas's war on workers, coming soon to a state near you (and by the way, how can the Secretary of Labor do her job when she doesn't even know what the AFL-CIO is?)

by Colin Curtis

In recent history Kansas has become the breeding ground for extremist right wing agendas, legislation and beliefs. The Kansas Republican Party has abandoned the moderate beliefs of former heroes like President Dwight Eisenhower and turned into the main water carriers for the Kochs, ALEC and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Since the Republican “clean sweep” of 2010, when the conservative arms of the Kansas GOP led by Gov. Sam Brownback took every statewide office, every Congressional seat and an overwhelming majority in the House, it has been an all-out war on the middle and working classes.

Kansas is becoming the proving ground for extremist legislation. Last year the legislature attempted to pass a string of anti-worker bills like HB 2130, Continue reading

The Walking Dead, part two: Comics, Creators, and Compelling Storytelling

It’s a common theme I’ve noticed running through a lot of zombie apoca-lit: Other people, not zombies, represent the real danger. That’s certainly true in The Walking Dead—in the comics and in real life.

Partway through the first hardcover volume of The Walking Dead, I notice that principle art duties shift from Tony Moore to Charlie Adlard. Writer Robert Kirman remains at the helm.

Turns out, in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, Moore and Kirkman—who had been friends since childhood before collaborating to co-create The Walking Deadturned on each otherContinue reading

Will Suu Kyi's assimilation into electoral process leave Burma's ethnic minorities behind?

The jury is out on the election of Burma’s long-time leading dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) to Burma’s parliament. Roland Watson, who runs Dictator Watch, is one of the most trenchant Burma analysts and activists. In his most recent report, Burma’s Semi-Freedom Scorecard, he writes: “There are clearly winners, but also losers, from the new status quo,” by which he means victims of the organs of the “dictatorship’s oppression apparatus.” In other words, all those “who have been raped, assaulted, murdered, robbed, extorted, forced to labor, imprisoned, and tortured.” Continue reading

What is missing?

Maya Lin, best known for the stunning Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, has throughout her career done a number of other remarkable works, both as an artist and as an architect (not that these are mutually exclusive categories). A recent project of hers is called “What is missing?” It’s very much worth a look. The internet, which I normally just think of as the world’s biggest library, is sometimes much more.

Serious errors and shortcomings void climate letter by 49 former NASA employees

On March 28, 2012, 49 former NASA astronauts, scientists, engineers, and administrators sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr. The letter requested that NASA in general and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in particular stop publishing the scientific conclusions about the human-driven causes of global climate disruption. The letter was filled with no less than six serious errors regarding the science, data, and facts of climate science. The errors, in turn, exposed that the signers had confused their fame and/or their expertise in unrelated fields with expertise in climate science. And in response, NASA’s chief scientist politely suggested that the letter’s authors and signers should publish any contrary hypotheses and data in peer-reviewed scientific journals instead of trying to censor the publication of scientific conclusions from NASA climate scientists. Continue reading

Trickle-down Gulf wreck-onomics

oil skin findings/James KirbyBy Robert Becker

Here’s showered leg skin examined by geologist Rip Kirby. Under regular light, the skin seems clean, but ultraviolet light reveals orange blotches — dispersant-mixed oil muck. /Tampa Bay Times/James Kirby photo 

If you care about salt water only when gargling, or annual beach parties, might as well skip this piece. Finicky readers will depart anyway, not drawn to environmental catastrophes, here the potential collapse of the Gulf ecosystem. Right off, two years of research proves the causal catch-all phrase, “BP oil spill,” drastically underplays the enormity of effects: the damage from double pollutants (oil + dispersant) carried by waves, deposited on seascapes, then absorbed by an incredible variety of living masses. Continue reading

The Walking Dead, part one: Season One

Spring break, 2011. I’m in Ashtabula, Ohio, visiting my mother, and The Walking Dead are everywhere.

Or so it seems. American Movie Classics, AMC, is about to release season one of The Walking Dead on DVD, so the cable channel is promoting it heavily. I watch virtually no TV, but it plays almost constantly at my mother’s, and she’s an especially big fan of old movies. It makes the Walking Dead commercials seem all the more ubiquitous.

I’ve heard about the cult-fave show. Entertainment Weekly, in particular, has had the magazine equivalent of a man-crush on the series. Since I watch no TV, and since zombie movies gross me out, the show has had no allure.

But the commercials…. Oh, those commercials…. They do something to me…. Continue reading

Chelsea 2, Barcelona 2: one of the greatest games ever played in any sport?

Today is one of those days when I feel sorry for those who aren’t soccer fans. Seriously. Because what happened earlier this afternoon in the Champion’s League semifinal at Camp Nou in Barcelona was one of the most exciting things I have ever witnessed in any sport. And I don’t do hyperbole. I mean this literally. It was Miracle on Ice huge. If I called it David vs. Goliath, I’d be giving David way the hell too much credit. (Okay, maybe that was hyperbole. A little.)

Final score: Chelsea 2, Barca 2, with Chelsea advancing to the finals in Munich on a 3-2 aggregate score (the Blues beat Barcelona 1-0 in London last week). Continue reading

Donald Trump threatens Scotland; Scotland yawns

You know The Donald™. He likes to be, well, public. So when he wanted to build a fancy new golf course and super-duper resort in Scotland a couple of years ago, he went public. And after his proposal was turned down by the local planning authorities, he went nuclear and got his good buddy Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, to override the local council’s objections, which Salmond, or more specifically his Finance Secretary, duly did. So it looked as if The Donald™ would bring to Scotland something it sorely needed—another golf course.

But then Salmond decided that in order to bolster the case for further Scottish separation from Great Britain, if not outright independence, it needed to become a trailblazer in renewable energy, particularly wind farms, where Scotland claims to have one quarter of Europe’s wind resource capacity. Salmond’s ambitions are high, indeed—the government is currently targeting 100% of Scotland’s energy need be filled by renewable sources by 2020, and there are a number of programs in place to move this along. Continue reading

Meet "The Voices": four instantly recognizable audio talents

by Sarah Stockton

You’ve heard them. Maybe while you’re driving down the road, listening to your favorite station, the music is suddenly interrupted by a block of radio commercials. They can be frustrating when all you want is to listen to some good music that gets you through rush hour or a long-distance drive. But even if you’re not really interested in what the commercials are selling, many of them hold your attention for one reason—the voice narrating the ad is instantly recognizable. Continue reading

If I wanted America to fail…

On Earth Day (which was Sunday – keep up) the inchoately titled Free Market America … er, foundation, released a video entitled, “If I wanted America to fail” in which they tackle the knotty subject of climate change and carbon pricing through the medium of a patronising preppie grossly oversimplifying a complex problem.

No, please, go ahead and watch:

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Romero's Dawn novelization: A fanboy's masterclass in low-brow writing

As the godfather of the modern zombie, it’s hard to understate the impact George Romero has had on the genre. He’s been cranking out zombie movies since 1968’s Night of the Living Dead—six in all, including his most recent outing, Survival of the Dead in 2010. As World War Z author Max Brooks has said, “It’s Romero’s world, and we’re all just living in it.”

However, the genre might trace one of its more problematic legacies back to Romero, too. Zombie lit is typically schlocky and shocky, with little of the artistic literary value that, say, the vampire genre has sometimes achieved. Romero set a low bar for low-brow writing with his 1978 novel Dawn of the Dead, an adaptation (with writer Susanna Sparrow) of his second zombie film.

However, his novel lumbers like one of the walking dead. Continue reading

New electoral tie-breaker: the National Stupidity Gauge

By Robert Becker

“Circus” is too orderly a metaphor for today’s unhinged politics. “Entertainment” overstates, considering so many labor to hear Obama finish a speech or Romney a sentence – before gagging. “Mayhem” underplays the massive right-serving payola that informs both party’s texts and sub-texts. Deluged by witless untruths that affront even centrist Republicans, let’s pose this thought experiment: “When do we get ‘stand our intellectual ground’ shield laws against mental mugging?”

Is there no safety net from bubbling, partisan concoctions but termination by vote or retirement? Continue reading