Speaking out on Trump, populism, and complacency toward war crimes

❝ Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein…recently stepped down from four years as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights…A Jordanian prince whose father is Arab and mother European, a Muslim who has visited Auschwitz and bicycled around Israel, he is a fervent believer in “the human rights of each individual, everywhere.” A soft-spoken man who talks with hard-edged eloquence, he took on an impossible job, challenging violators on all sides, whether American, Russian, Chinese, African, Arab, Israeli, or other. And doing it publicly.

❝ He is reflecting on those difficult years as a Distinguished Global Leader-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, where he shared some of his thoughts.

We invite you to read his thoughts on the responsibilities of that post. On what has been accomplished…what still needs to be done.

Nike’s inspirational commercial – Williams, James, Kaepernik – debuts in NFL season opener

How to bring tears to these old eyes.

It’s been almost 60 years since I walked into a segregated restaurant with two Black friends of mine and a white UAW shop steward. We sat down and ordered lunch – and the owner served us – while a crowd watched our carload of Freedom Fighters challenge just one of the racist customs of the United States of America.

In truth, the crowd that hated our willingness to confront bigotry wasn’t any different from the herd of obedient trolls who jostle for a place in the Backwards Museum of the 21st Century. Slightly more honest than nowadays. They were open about their degenerate white supremacist beliefs.

USA is now ranked a ‘Second Tier’ country at well-being

❝ Some 17 others, including all of Scandinavia, outperform the U.S. by a wide margin when it comes to well-being.

❝ America leads the world when it comes to access to higher education. But when it comes to health, environmental protection, and fighting discrimination, it trails many other developed countries, according to the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

❝ The results of the group’s annual survey, which ranks nations based on 50 metrics, call to mind other reviews of national well-being, such as the World Happiness Report released in March, which was led by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, or September’s Lancet study on sustainable development. In that one, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.S. took spots 1, 2, 3, and 28 — respectively…

❝ Of course it’s easy enough to dismiss or belittle these occasional reports, each with their unique methodologies and almost identical conclusions. Another approach, however, would be to look at them all together and conclude that they represent “mounting evidence.” In that case, Houston (and Dallas, New Orleans, Tulsa, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York), we have a problem.

❝ SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policymakers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America “is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.”

How many politicians – either of the pallid flavors we’re allowed – offer you the opportunity to vote in support of a platform containing similar ideals?

Army has reached $1 billion in energy-saving projects


Click to enlargeUS Army Corps of Engineers

In less than five years, the Army has engaged in 127 energy-saving projects with the private sector that now exceed $1 billion in investments, announced Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning…

The president challenged all federal agencies in December 2011 to partner with companies to save energy. It was called the Energy Savings and Performance-Based Contracting Investments Initiative and the president wanted all of government to execute $4 billion in projects by the end of 2016.

The Army’s projects alone represent 33 percent of all the federal government’s current contributions to meeting the president’s goal…

On our installations, and wherever we maintain and train our force, the Army is focused on finding the sweet spot between energy efficiency and energy security,” he said. The 127 projects have been undertaken at 52 installations.

“This is a case where public policy has worked well,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

These contracts are important to the Army, she said. Federal agencies like the Army can leverage their utility budgets and take the steps essential to enhancing resiliency, achieving cost savings, and improving operations and maintenance, with no upfront costs to the government, she explained.

The costs of the projects are paid back over time as the Army realizes savings from the improvements…

RTFA for beaucoup details. Especially pleasant – and surprising – to see a chunk of the Pentagon come through with savings of any kind projected over time.

Astronomers discover largest known structure in the universe

Astronomers have discovered the largest known structure in the universe – a group of quasars so large it would take 4 billion years to cross it while traveling at speed of light.

The immense scale also challenges Albert Einstein’s Cosmological Principle, the assumption that the universe looks the same from every point of view…

The findings by academics from Britain’s University of Central Lancashire were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and reported on the society’s website on Friday.

Quasars are believed to be the brightest objects in the universe, with light emanating from the nuclei of galaxies from the early days of the universe and visible billions of light-years away.

“Since 1982 it has been known that quasars tend to group together in clumps or ‘structures’ of surprisingly large sizes, forming large quasar groups or LQGs,” the society said.

This newly discovered large quasar group has a dimension of 500 megaparsecs, each megaparsec measuring 3.3 million light-years.

Because the LQG is elongated, its longest dimension is 1,200 megaparsecs, or 4 billion light-years, the society said.

That size is 1,600 times larger than the distance from Earth’s Milky Way to the nearest galaxy, the Andromeda.

“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe,” Roger Clowes, leader of the research team, said in a statement. “This is hugely exciting – not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe.”

Wow. People who hate and fear science have no comprehensions of [1] the inherent conservatism of the craft – which requires an accumulation of validation to change a body of knowledge – and [2] the excitement engendered throughout whenever a quality is challenged by solid data.

Einstein’s Cosmological Principle may not be replaced in my lifetime – but, whatever replaces it will also face continued, disciplined poking and prodding based on a never-ending search for more understanding.

Grassroots grumbles about a primary challenge to Obama


Secretary Robert Gates heading home from Afghanistan, once again
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

President Obama’s compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for the wealthy, which his self-described progressive critics see as a profound betrayal, is bound to intensify a debate that has been bubbling up on liberal blogs and e-mail lists in recent weeks — whether or not the president who embodied “hope and change” in 2008 should face a primary challenge in 2012…

Just last weekend, three liberal writers made the case for taking on Mr. Obama in 2012. Michael Lerner, longtime editor of Tikkun magazine, argued in The Washington Post that a primary represented a “real way to save the Obama presidency,” by forcing Mr. Obama to move leftward. Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and one of the party’s most scathing populist voices, issued a similar call on The Huffington Post, suggesting Iowa as the ideal incubator.

On the same site, Clarence B. Jones, a one-time confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., suggested that liberals should break with Mr. Obama now, just as Dr. King and others did with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. “It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected president of the United States,” Mr. Jones wrote. “But, regrettably, I believe the time has come to do this.”

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a group known as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, originally founded to aid Democratic Congressional candidates in 2010, has started broadcasting an advertisement that shows Mr. Obama, in 2008, promising to reverse the tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The group isn’t advocating a primary challenge just yet — but then, the choice of Iowa as a market seems intended to send a pretty clear warning to the White House.

On issue after issue, when the public is on his side, this president just refuses to fight,” says Adam Green, the group’s co-founder. “At this point, the strategy is to shame him into fighting.”

All of this would have seemed unthinkable in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s red-white-and-blue visage seemed omnipresent on campuses and along city streets, a symbol to many of liberalism reborn. That, of course, was before the abandonment of “card-check” legislation for unions and of the so-called public option in health care, the escalation in Afghanistan and the formation of the deficit-reduction commission…

Draft Hillary!

And how did someone at the TIMES manage to write a piece like this without mentioning Hillary?

Year 2 of the EcoCar challenge

Automotive technology is evolving at a dizzying pace, and training the next generation of car engineers is no longer confined to traditional classrooms and textbooks. Real-world, hands-on experience is crucial and that’s why collegiate engineering competitions like the EcoCar Challenge are more important than ever before. The 2010 finals have just ended and [Motorweek] we were proud to take part in the judging, so let’s tally up the results.

EcoCar is a three-year competition in which 16 North American college teams were challenged to improve the emissions and fuel economy of a compact GM crossover vehicle while retaining all of its utility, safety and performance.

Teams were allowed to design their own drivetrain architectures, and chosen technologies included full-electrics, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells, and extended range electric vehicles…

After a year of modeling and simulation, teams were given their vehicles for year two, and have worked ever since on implementing their designs. But the students also had to think real-world in terms of packaging their components, fit and finish, drivability and consumer acceptance…

All these kids are top-notch engineers already, even before they’ve graduated. But what we’re doing is giving them experience with the latest tools and techniques, plus a very long-term disciplined process that we give to them and their schools so that they can have a three-year experience doing something really big…

After a grueling week of testing, Mississippi State University claimed top honors for 2010. Their Biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle achieved fuel economy equivalent to 118 miles per gallon while also achieving the fastest acceleration and autocross times and the cleanest tailpipe emissions. Congratulations also go to Virginia Tech for 2nd place, and Penn State in 3rd position.

But the EcoCar Challenge doesn’t end here. Year Three of the competition is when teams must show full component integration in a near-production-ready vehicle.

Bravo! To the students and sponsors together and separately. This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable. And, frankly, the competition seems to be turning out some interesting drive trains.

A Hopey-Changey tale Republicans/Blue Dog Democrats hate!

The U.S. Army has cleared Oshkosh Corp to resume work on a $3 billion medium truck contract, after a month-long reevaluation of all three bids originally submitted for the work.

In December, the congressional Government Accountability Office had upheld protests filed by losing bidders BAE Systems Plc and Navistar International Corp, telling the Army to go back and reevaluate the bids, as well as Navistar’s past performance.

In a statement issued late on Friday, the Army said it decided the Oshkosh bid was still the best one in late January, and a peer review conducted by top Pentagon officials subsequently affirmed the Army’s decision.

As a result, the Army said it was lifting a stop work order, which would allow Oshkosh to resume work on the trucks…

Defense consultant Jim McAleese said the decision was in line with expectations, and would result in savings for the Army of over $1 billion…

Oshkosh surprised analysts when it won the medium truck contract last August, beating out incumbent BAE Systems, which had been making the trucks for the Army for 17 years.

The “military industrial complex” – which generally means corporations in conservative Republican or Democrat districts who are stuck entirely up into the bowels of Pentagon flunkeys – usually can rely upon a year or two of wearing down bona fide contract awards through the sort of political ennui we’ve come to know and love in the current Congress.

That Obama has succeeded in planting an administrative boot right between the greedy hemispheres of entrenched corporate butts is one of the most significant examples of change since FDR was elected in the 1930’s. The sort of “Hopey-Changey” that never happened before.

BTW, last election cycle, BAE forked over more than $615,000 in campaign contributions to incumbents.