Star-shaped waves

Click on the photo and get the video [and maybe a commercial first]

Physicist Jean Rajchenbach and colleagues at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis in France created star-shaped sizes by shaking a dish of silicone oil.

These unusual patterns are thought to spring out of non-linear interactions between three separate waves, but the mathematics behind the shapes is poorly understood. Weirdly, the star-shaped waves emerge in containers of different shapes and sizes, suggesting they are not affected by a container’s edge – which usually explains a wave’s shape. “It is extremely amazing,” says Rajchenbach.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

New genetic disease infects Republicans

There’s a lot of chatter about the new word debuted by Obama today — “Romnesia” — which is meant to describe Mitt’s tendency to forget about, contradict or evade his own positions on a host of issues. Here’s the “Romnesia” riff Obama delivered in Virginia today:

Obama runs through Mitt’s “Romnesia” on a range of issues — equal pay, contraception, abortion, tax cuts for the rich, etc. — and then ends on a joke. He says the good news is that Mitt’s “Romnesia” can be cured — thanks to Obamacare, which guarantees coverage to people with preexisting conditions…

Romney held extreme positions to get through the primary, then flip flopped away from them to get through the general election, but can be expected as president to honor the extreme positions he originally took, since his base won’t let him do otherwise. There’s nothing contradictory in pointing all that out. However, painting Romney as a flip flopper does risk driving home the idea that Romney never really believed in the exreme positions he adopted and is a moderate at heart.

The new “Romnesia” riff can be seen as an answer to this. There’s no need to choose between “extremist” and “flip flopper.” Romney is simply a weasel.

I’ll take weasels – or the ferrets who live in tunnels under my front yard – over politicians like Romney, any day. They may be aggressive carnivores, scary to prey appropriate to their size and nature; but, Romney takes Brylcreem image onto the battlefield of ideas like a phony ambulance with a big Red Cross on the side and white phosphorus flame throwers mounted behind a sliding panel.

We’re supposed to believe that in his heart he’s just a traditional American conservative who really cares about us ordinary folk. When the reality is that he’s greedy money-sucker whose only allegiance is to dollars and gold. He doesn’t care who gets screwed for him to profit. He doesn’t even care which country’s banks get to hide his money.

Yet another defeat for the Defense of Marriage Act

A small reminder of political opportunism selling out civil rights

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday became the second federal appellate court in the nation to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection by barring same-sex couples legally married under state law from receiving the federal benefits available to heterosexual couples.

Any sensible reading of the Constitution and basic fairness demand a repudiation of this discriminatory law. So far, seven federal courts, including district courts, have reached the same conclusion about this improper denial of benefits. The next stop should be the Supreme Court.

The 2-to-1 ruling on Thursday came in the case of Edith Windsor, who married her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. Their marriage was recognized by New York State. Yet, when Mrs. Spyer died in 2009, Mrs. Windsor, now 83, was prevented by the act from claiming an exemption from the federal estate tax available for surviving spouses, and was required to pay $363,053 in estate taxes.

Judge Dennis Jacobs, a George H.W. Bush appointee who wrote the majority opinion, said the law’s defenders — namely Republicans in Congress who took up the cause after the Obama administration decided in 2011 not to defend the law — did not offer any good reason for treating married same-sex couples differently from their heterosexual counterparts…

The new ruling also marked a legal breakthrough, one sought by the Justice Department. It is the first federal appeals court ruling to recognize that discrimination against gay men and lesbians — like discrimination based on gender or directed against children born out of wedlock — must be subject to “heightened scrutiny.” This standard requires government to have an “exceptionally good” reason to justify the different treatment. (Racial discrimination is subject to an even more skeptical review.)…

The Supreme Court should dismiss this law out of hand. If the self-titled strict constructionists have any loyalty to principles enshrined in the US Constitution this will not be a problem. Unfortunately, like most ideologues, they cannot be trusted to rule on behalf of reason and trust in democratic law.

Sound reasoning, a defense of open democracy means nothing, of course, to bigots. Opportunism is as consistent with American legal proceedings as it is within the chambers of Congress.

Governor benefited from untraceable $1.5 million donation

At a campaign stop near Philadelphia early in his 2010 bid for governor, Republican Tom Corbett announced “we’ve got to raise money,” that it was the “number-one” priority. In an answer to his prayers, that same July day, a $1.5 million contribution arrived from — Wisconsin?

Officially, the donation was from the Wisconsin affiliate of a D.C.-based political organization called the Republican Governors Association.

The $1.5 million could not travel directly from the RGA to Corbett. Pennsylvania law bans candidates from accepting corporate money and the RGA accepts millions of dollars from some of the nation’s largest businesses.

Also, state law requires all non-individuals to establish PACs in Pennsylvania.

In a single day, the $1.5 million gift traveled from the D.C.-based parent organization to the RGA Wisconsin PAC, to the RGA Pennsylvania PAC and finally to Corbett’s campaign account.

By the time the donation reached Corbett, it was impossible to identify the original source of the cash or whether the donation was permissible under state law…

The RGA’s funding played a central role in Corbett’s victory. By Election Day he had received a total of $6 million from the RGA — 21 percent of his total fundraising, easily the top donor to the campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics…

The RGA spending spree did not stop in Pennsylvania.

Our Supreme Court – and especially money-pimps like Scalia – think this is a perfectly legitimate exercise of free speech. I think they would have had a tough time convincing most folks interested in a constitutional democracy – even in the 18th Century.

Not that it matters to them or the people who supply money by the pallet-load.

RTFA for details on case after case of the scum managing the framework of our elections.