Texas judge switches parties for principle, for progress

Judge Key made his points pretty clearly. Any commentary I can make would echo what he’s said.

Regular readers know I hold no brief for the 2-party system we’re saddled with or the history of both parties doing everything they can to inhibit truly independent political action. Still, when someone stands up against bigotry, sophistry and hypocrisy while running for office in the United States – and, notably, in Texas – he deserves the applause of all progressive Americans. And votes from Texans.

Supermassive black holes emit gravity waves across galaxies

Australian astronomers say gravity waves — predicted by Albert Einstein and since confirmed by scientists — are revealing secrets of black holes. Every large galaxy is thought to have a supermassive black hole at its center but the phenomena have proved difficult to study by direct observation, they said.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to use information about gravitational waves to study another aspect of the universe — the growth of massive black holes,” study co-author Ramesh Bhat of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research reported.

Einstein had predicted gravitational waves, ripples in space-time generated by massive bodies changing speed or direction, like pairs of black holes orbiting each other.

Such events occur when galaxies merge and their central black holes are attracted to each other, astronomers said.

“When the black holes get close to meeting they emit gravitational waves at just the frequency that we should be able to detect,” Bhat said.

Astronomers have been searching for gravitational waves with a giant radio telescope in Australia, learning more about the behavior of supermassive black holes.

“The strength of the gravitational wave background depends on how often supermassive black holes spiral together and merge, how massive they are, and how far away they are,” Bhat said.

“Black holes are almost impossible to observe directly but armed with this powerful new tool we’re in for some exciting times in astronomy,” he said.

Exciting times guaranteed. Dark matter, black holes, gravity waves present enormous energy sources when we haven’t yet succeeded in harnessing anything more than the tiniest portion of the energy flowing this direction from our rather ordinary sun.

Reflect upon the fact that one hour of sunlight could be sufficient to power every electric device on Earth for a year. And why ain’t we working harder to get even partway there?

France, Mexico, latest allies of the USA who learn the NSA is spying on everything in their lives


Felipe – I read your email about switching to Viagra

The US ambassador was scheduled to attend an emergency meeting over spying on Monday morning at France’s foreign ministry in Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The meeting was prompted by an article published by the French daily Le Monde alleging that the US National Security Agency had listened in on millions of French phone calls…

There was no immediate response from Washington regarding the article or the French government’s outrage over the claims.

According to Le Monde’s online article published today, the NSA gathered 70.3 million French phone records between December 10, 2012 and January 8 of this year. The article cited documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and was co-written by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who originally broke the NSA story…

The Mexican Foreign Ministry also demanded answers from Washington after the publication of a separate article alleging NSA-snooping on Mexico on Sunday. The latest revelations stemmed from an article published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel which said the US surveillance program had been spying on Mexico for years…

The Spiegel article said the NSA had hacked into the email of President Felipe Calderon in 2010, citing documents obtained from Edward Snowden.

The revelations of US espionage have angered allied countries. Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington in protest of alleged surveillance on Brazilian citizens and companies.

Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced a plan to shield domestic Internet traffic from foreign spying. The telecommunications giant aims to strengthen data privacy in Germany by preventing it from leaving its borders and opting instead to channel it through domestic servers only.

Typically, the excuse used by conservative apologists or just plain lazy-ass sophists about the NSA/United States wholesale gobbling up of everything digital about your life is “everyone has always done this, nothing new, move along”. Which is hogwash. Quantitative levels of snooping change qualitatively when you go from slipping a spy into a foreign embassy to photograph the new submarine plans – versus vacuuming up every iota of metadata for every citizen of your nation, 24/7.

You might feel more secure deluding yourself with political ennui. That just makes you part of the problem. Individuals of conscience react to the crimes of their own nation as thoroughly as those of “nasty furriners”. The questions come down to principle – and responsibility.