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Top 1% Taxes Exceeds That of Bottom 95% July 31, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Politics.
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IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.

blogTax20090729-chart1Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95 percent paid 39.4 percent of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58 percent of the total income tax burden they paid twenty years ago.

To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.

Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10 percent of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.

via The Tax Foundation – Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%.

Followed A Rainbow, Found A New Fruit July 29, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Food.
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Jack Toftness was working in the family’s Tip Top orchard one rainy June morning five years ago. As he worked, he wept and talked to his granddaughter, Skylar Rae Toftness, who died of congenital heart failure just three months earlier, after living only 49 days.

The rain stopped and a rainbow appeared over the orchard planted on the rugged hills of Halverson Canyon, between Wenatchee and Mission Ridge. Toftness said he followed the rainbow to where he knew it would end. It was near an unusual tree that he had thought about cutting down because it didn’t look the same as the hundreds of Sweetheart cherries planted in the block two years before.

via The Wenatchee World Online – Out of grief, a new cherry is discovered.

Why Would Educated Muslims Not Want A Secular State? July 29, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Religion.
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bikini_burkhaIn the pre-modern Middle East, there was a functional separation of church and state. The ulama were legal scholars and custodians of Shariah law while the sultans exercised political authority. The sultans conceded they were not the ultimate source of law but had to live within rules established by Muslim case law. There was no democracy, but there was something resembling a rule of law.

This traditional, religiously based rule of law was destroyed in the Middle East’s transition to modernity. Replacing it, particularly in the Arab world, was untrammeled executive authority: Presidents and other dictators accepted no constraints, either legislative or judicial, on their power.

The legal scholar Noah Feldman has argued that the widespread demand for a return to Shariah in many Muslim countries does not necessarily reflect a desire to impose harsh, Taliban-style punishments and oppress women. Rather, it reflects a nostalgia for a dimly remembered historical time when Muslim rulers were not all-powerful autocrats, but respected Islamic rules of justice—Islamic rule of law.

via Francis Fukuyama: Iranian constitution democratic at heart – WSJ.com.

U.S. citizens wrongly detained, deported by ICE July 29, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in In The News.
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The son of a decorated Vietnam veteran, Hector Veloz is a U.S. citizen, but in 2007 immigration officials mistook him for an illegal immigrant and locked him in an Arizona prison for 13 months.

Veloz had to prove his citizenship from behind bars. An aunt helped him track down his father’s birth certificate and his own, his parents’ marriage certificate, his father’s school, military and Social Security records.

After nine months, a judge determined that he was a citizen, but immigration authorities appealed the decision. He was detained for five more months before he found legal help and a judge ordered his case dropped. “It was a nightmare,” said Veloz, 37, a Los Angeles air conditioning installer.

via U.S. citizens wrongly detained, deported by ICE.

How Much Is A Trillion Dollars? July 29, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Politics, Video.
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YouTube – One Trillion Dollars Visualized from www.mint.com.

Sorry, Bud: Natty Light Isn’t Just for College Anymore July 28, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Food, Humor.
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beer-before-bedHeineken sales sank 18% from the previous year in grocery, convenience and drug stores during the two-week period ended July 5, followed by Budweiser at 14%. Corona Extra sales dropped 11%, while Miller Lite declined 9% and Bud Light fell 7%. Coors Light sales held up better, falling less than 1% from a year ago.

Meanwhile, sales of “subpremium” beers including Busch, Natural Light and Keystone posted “substantial gains”, according to Ad Age, which didn’t provide the specifics.

via Sorry, Bud: Natty Light Isn’t Just for College Anymore – Real Time Economics – WSJ.

See Vintage TV Ads July 28, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, Video.
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AdViews is a digital archive of thousands of vintage television commercials dating from the 1950s to the 1980s.

via AdViews.

The Fall of the Internet As We Know It…. July 26, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Technology.
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Reformed black-hat hacker Michael Calce, better known as the 15-year-old “mafiaboy” who, in 2000, took down Websites CNN, Yahoo, E*Trade, Dell, Amazon, and eBay, says widespread adoption of cloud computing is going to make the Internet only more of a hacker haven.

“It will be the fall of the Internet as we know it,” Calce said today during a Lumension Security-sponsored Webcast event. “You’re basically putting everything in one little sandbox…it’s going to be a lot more easy to access,” he added, noting that cloud computing will be “extremely dangerous.”

“This is not the last you’re going to hear of this,” he said.

via ‘Mafiaboy’: Cloud Computing Will Cause Internet Security Meltdown – DarkReading.

The Evolution of Heaven July 26, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Religion.
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AscensionThe idea of followers of Jesus getting to join him in heaven upon dying probably didn’t take shape until about a half-century after Jesus died. To be sure, Jesus’s followers believed from early on that the faithful would be admitted to the “Kingdom of Heaven,” as the New Testament calls it. But “Kingdom of Heaven” is just Matthew’s synonym for what an earlier Gospel, Mark, had called the “Kingdom of God.” And this kingdom was going to exist on Earth, when God righted history’s many wrongs by establishing an enduringly just rule.

Had Christian doctrine not evolved in response to this challenge, it would have lost credibility as the Kingdom of God failed to show up on Earth—as generations and generations of Christians were seen to have died without getting their reward. So the Kingdom of God had to be relocated from Earth to heaven, where generations of Christians had presumably gotten their reward—and you could, too, if you accepted Christ as your savior.

immediate reward in the afterlife—must have come from somewhere, and the likely source is one of the religions with which Christianity competed in the Roman Empire.

via The Evolution of God – by Robert Wright.

Dr. Doom Has Some Good News July 21, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business.
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Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who accurately forecast the bursting of the housing bubble and the resulting economic contraction, has become famous for his pessimism—he has been the gloomiest of the doomsayers. Which is what makes his current outlook surprising: Roubini believes that the Obama administration’s policy makers—and especially the much-maligned Tim Geithner—have gotten a lot right. Pitfalls may still abound, but he is now projecting an end to the recession, and he sees growth ahead.

via Dr. Doom Has Some Good News – The Atlantic (July/August 2009).

I married Iranian girls for their execution July 20, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Religion.
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In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a “wedding” ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard – essentially raped by her “husband.”

“I regret that, even though the marriages were legal,” he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were “legal?”

“Because,” he went on, “I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their ‘wedding’ night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

via I married Iranian girls before their execution | Iran news | Jerusalem Post.

Culinary Maximalism July 19, 2009

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le-pigeon-2This trend is obviously a backlash, a thumbing of collective noses against years of picky eaters, sauce-on-siders, vegans and other dietary malcontents so frequently bemoaned by fine-dining chefs, as well as a celebration of that delightful category of ingredients that will likely send you — both literally and figuratively — to heaven. Moderation and good common dietary sense have no place here. Foie gras jelly donuts, on the other hand…

via When The Chef Is Trying to Kill You | Meat.

Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder July 19, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Technology.
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John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and a specialist on the science of attention, explained that when people use digital devices, they get a quick burst of adrenaline, “a dopamine squirt.” Without it, people grow bored with simpler activities like driving. Mr. Ratey said the modern brain is being rewired to crave stimulation, a condition he calls acquired attention deficit disorder.

“We need that constant pizzazz, the reward, the intensity,” he said. He largely dismisses the argument that people need the time in the car to be productive. “The justification for doing work is just that — a justification to be engaged,” he said.

via Driven to Distraction – Dismissing the Risks of a Deadly Habit – Multitasking on the Road – Series – NYTimes.com.

Not So Inevitable: Asia’s Rise July 16, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.
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Don’t believe the hype about the decline of America and the dawn of a new Asian age. It will be many decades before China, India, and the rest of the region take over the world, if they ever do.

via Think Again: Asia’s Rise – By Minxin Pei | Foreign Policy.

Why Men Share Too Little—and Women Too Much July 15, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Life.
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There are deep-rooted reasons why we share the way we do. Men don’t want to appear vulnerable. (Why else won’t they ask for directions when they’re lost?) They are raised to be strong, after all, not to appear sad, scared or needy. Women, by contrast, are taught it’s OK to be emotional.

Biology plays a part, too. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown women respond to stress by releasing oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that produces a calming effect and helps them bond with children and others. Estrogen enhances its effects. (Men, too, release oxytocin in response to stress, but male hormones minimize its effects.)

via Why Men Share Too Little—and Women Too Much – WSJ.com.

The Politics of Lithium For Batteries July 12, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Geopolitics.
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At the moment, China provides a lot of the batteries that go into consumer electronics, and Tibet is known to have a large source of lithium. Additionally, estimates are that Bolivia has the largest reserves of lithium in the world with 36% of the global pie. Currently, the U.S. holds about 3% of world reserves.

Regardless of whether they believe lithium is running out sooner or later, most experts have come to agree that lithium’s greatest abundance is in Bolivia, Chile, and Tibet. Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, is already trying to avoid foreign investment, and talks consistently about the importance of Bolivia having state control over its natural resources. Automakers approaching Bolivia have not received a warm welcome either. The challenges China faces in Tibet (politically speaking) are already well publicized.

via The Politics of Lithium Reserves | Green Business | Reuters.

Pimps of false hope and salvation by materialism July 12, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Religion.
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lakewood_chProsperity’s slap-happy belief system evolved from a spiritual imperative to accumulate wealth found in the end-times view known as postmillennialism. It holds that God promises 1,000 years of Christian dominion will precede his return; thus, wealth accumulation is a tool of evangelism, and a materialism arms race is the harbinger of Armageddon (a good thing in the Christian view). Today’s Prosperity movement has shed postmillennialism’s eschatological literal-mindedness, recasting it at times in rosier phraseology, like optimillennialism, best said with Osteen’s aw-shucks smile, but not abandoning the groundwork it laid for the unencumbered pursuit of success of “Prosperity Theology

via How will Prosperity Gospel ride out the hard economic times? – By Clint Rainey – Slate Magazine.

The Power Of Negative Thinking July 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Life, Religion, Science & Technology.
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Wood, Lee and Perunovic conclude that unfavorable thoughts about ourselves intrude very easily, especially among those of us with low self-esteem — so easily and so persistently that even when a positive alternative is presented, it just underlines how awful we believe we are.

The paper provides support for newer forms of psychotherapy that urge people to accept their negative thoughts and feelings rather than try to reject and fight them. In the fighting, we not only often fail but can also make things worse. Mindfulness and meditation techniques, in contrast, can teach people to put their shortcomings into a larger, more realistic perspective. Call it the power of negative thinking.

via Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking – TIME.

The Real Quagmire in the Middle East July 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Religion.
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The reason American minds can’t really grasp the Middle East is because our minds are trained for concepts that are at variance with the mindset of Middle Eastern fundamentalists – and by that I mean both Muslims and Jews. The importance of today, the importance of pleasure, the importance of compromise, the importance of pragmatism, the relative unimportance of land. We have a house, we sell it, and then we move to another house. We don’t build our houses on top of our fathers’ houses.

Coexist stickerYeah. Solutionism is an American religion. That’s the most dangerous one. The other aspects of this are the misunderstandings. We can’t understand why a Palestinian would want his son to become a suicide bomber.

It’s because his son is not an individual in the same way Americans are. He’s a valuable instrument in the deliverance of salvation for his people. His desires, dreams, and goals are all selfishness. ? But our categories of success and failure are not their categories of success and failure.

It leads to the immorality of narcissism, that their collective need is so important that they can kill children with moral impunity. That’s one place it leads. The importance of remaining steadfast to the cause gives them license to do anything. Man, but when you’re licensed to do anything, it gives you power.

via Michael J. Totten: The Real Quagmire in the Middle East.

Iran’s Fascist Coup July 7, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, In The News, philosophy & politics, Religion.
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The economic role of the Revolutionary Guards has been much remarked on in recent years. The Guards themselves and companies run by the Guards have won major contracts in every corner of the economy, from airport construction to telecommunications to auto manufacturing. They have also allied themselves with some of the most conservative clerics, who view the revolutionary government not as an alliance of Islam and the people but as divinely ordained rule by a philosopher king who is to be regarded as absolute in his judgments—political as well as theological.

These elements combine to form an impenetrable core that arrogates to itself all authority in the Islamic republic. This is a formula for the kind of militarized and nationalist corporate state under a single controlling ideology that is not dissimilar to fascist rule in an earlier day. Like fascism, it defines itself not only in terms of its own objectives but even moreso by what it opposes: liberalism, individualism, unfettered capitalism, etc

via The Thugs Who Lead Iran’s Supreme Leader –  The Daily Beast.

Want a $$ Raise? July 5, 2009

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SnagFilms Offers Free Instant Streaming And Viral Sharing Of Hundreds Of Documentary Films July 5, 2009

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Viewers who go to the SnagFilms website can find, view, “snag”, share, and support one of the hundreds of films available for free, advertising-supported viewing.

via SnagFilms Offers Free Instant Streaming And Viral Sharing Of Hundreds Of Documentary Films – SnagFilms.

Stephen Hawking: “Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution” July 4, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Religion, Science & Technology.
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Steven HawkinsHawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. “At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information.”

But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.

“I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race,” Hawking said.

In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, “an external transmission phase,” where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. “But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage,” Hawking says, “has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.” (more…)

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