Southern Poverty Law Center reports number of hate groups in America at all-time high.

SPLC LogoThis shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone given our country’s past, but it is disappointing:

New Report: ‘Higher Hate Group Count Than Ever’ : NPR

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the law center, has been studying hate groups for a long time. But Potok says even he was surprised when he started counting extremists for his annual report.

“We have absolutely explosive growth of these groups in 2009,” Potok says. “And what we have now found is that that growth continued through 2010. We have a higher hate group count than we’ve ever had.”

[…] Experts say the most negative energy seems to be coming from people who think the federal government is conspiring to take away their freedom.

“It is not … harmless in the sense that the patriot movement has produced a great deal of criminal violence,” Potok says. “There were an enormous number of plots that came out of the patriot movement, particularly in the late 1990s, and we’re beginning to see that again.”

Right here in Michigan there was a recent case of some douchebag who was planning to blow up a mosque in Dearborn using consumer grade fireworks:

Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Vietnam War veteran with a history of mental illness, was arrested Jan. 24 after police received a call of a man making threats to set off explosives in one of the biggest mosques in the nation.

[…] Officers say they found Stockham wearing a ski mask in his car parked outside the Islamic Center of America on Ford Road. The car’s trunk was loaded with about two dozen powerful fireworks, police said.

And that’s just one of a number of such incidents since 2009. You can bet things are only going to get worse before they get better.
The really frustrating part is that you can’t talk sense to these people. They are so full of conspiracy theories and misinformation (thanks FOX News and Glenn Beck) that any attempt to confront them with facts and reality is ignored outright. They have become the proverbial useful idiots, but only useful to people who really don’t have their best interests in mind despite what they claim.

To the rest of us, they’re an annoyance at best and a potential danger at worst.

New study determines that abortions don’t cause mental health issues.

One of the arguments put forth by anti-abortion advocates is that it causes major mental health problems for the woman who has one, but a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says that’s not the case at all:

“This is an extremely, extremely well done study,” he said. “There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems.”

[…] Blum, a former president of the Guttmacher Institute, would like to say goodbye to the political buzz words.

“There is no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome, or anything of the like,” he said.

Danish researchers looked at the health records of 85,000 women who had had first-trimester abortions. Those women were more likely to seek mental health treatment while they were pregnant, but didn’t need more help after having the abortion. That’s not surprising, says Nada Stotland, a professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She says that women considering abortion are often struggling with problems with a partner or family members.

“People have abortions often under troubled circumstances,” she said. “You have an abortion because there is a problem.”

What makes this study unique is that it looked at women who chose abortions and also looked at women who chose to have the baby. Stotland says this gives us a much better picture of the stresses of abortion and childbirth.

“Above all it really fairly contrasts the outcomes of abortion with the outcomes of pregnancy,” she said.

via Study: Abortions Don’t Cause Mental Health Issues : NPR.

As it turns out giving birth is actually more likely to cause mental health problems with postpartum depression being one of the major ones. It would help quite a bit if more resources were devoted to post-birth mental health care for new mothers.

While this study most likely won’t end the debate anytime soon, it does debunk one of the common arguments against abortion.

From now on NPR will be known as NPR.

I’m a huge fan of National Public Radio. It being what I listen to most these days as I can’t stand most of the music stations in our area and I’m not ready to pay for satellite radio. I’ve called it by its initials for years now and, come to think of it, so have they so it’s a little amusing to see they’re finally making it official:

So the Washington-based organization has quietly changed its name to its familiar initials. Much like the corporate names KFC or AT&T, the initials now stand for the initials.

NPR says it’s abbreviating the name it has used since its debut in 1971 because it’s more than radio these days. Its news, music and informational programming is heard over a variety of digital devices that aren’t radios; it also operates news and music Web sites.

Hence: “NPR is more modern, streamlined,” says Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive. She points to other “re-brandings” by media organizations, such as Cable News Network, which has been plain old CNN for years.

via National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR.

Honestly I’ve never understood this trend. I can only assume it’s based on a cynical assumption about the ever-lowering IQ of the average American. Who the hell can remember Kentucky Fried Chicken these days? Better shorten it to KFC so it’ll be much easier to store in the handful of brain cells most people still have working after eating all that fried chicken!

The one thing I can see that has come out of this trend is an opportunity for the conspiracy theorists to start up some ridiculous myth about the company. The one for KFC being that they were forced by the government to change their name because they grow all their chickens in vats and they can’t legally be called chicken anymore!

I wonder what myth they’ll come up with for NPR? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Apparently we wash our hair entirely too much.

Or so says this interesting NPR news item that covered some folks who are cutting way back on shampooing their hair.

Americans love to shampoo. We lather up an average of 4.59 times a week, twice as much as Italians and Spaniards, according to shampoo-maker Procter & Gamble.

But that’s way too often, say hair stylists and dermatologists. Daily washing, they say, strips the hair of beneficial oil (called sebum) and can damage our locks.

I don’t shampoo anywhere near as much as I used to because I shave my head, but back when I had a full head of hair I shampooed daily. If I didn’t my hair definitely got greasy because I’m cursed with very fine hair that was easily weighed down by the oil and almost impossible to style. In fact I started showering in the morning because if I washed my hair prior to bed it’d be back to greasy-sticky-outy-all-over-the-damn-place by the time morning rolled around. According to the article I should have just lived with the greasy hair:

“If you wash your hair every day, you’re removing the sebum,” explains Michelle Hanjani, a dermatologist at Columbia University. “Then the oil glands compensate by producing more oil,” she says.

She recommends that patients wash their hair no more than two or three times a week.

As I said before these days I tend to shave my head, but I only do that once every couple of weeks or so which allows my hair to grow out an inch or two between shavings. For the week or so I don’t bother using shampoo at all, but once it gets to an inch I start using small amounts every other day. Eventually it gets long enough that I have to go back to daily shampoos unless I shave it off again. All of which I suppose is a good argument to shave my head more often.

NPR’s music segments make me feel stupid.

I listen to NPR almost daily on the drive to and from work and it makes me feel like I’m more intelligent and sophisticated than I really am… until they get around to covering music. The music profiles they do occasionally more often leave me feeling like a clueless moron. Granted I freely admit I’m still largely stuck in the vapid wasteland of 80’s pop and new wave music, but I’m not so out of touch with present day musical groups that I can’t recognize at least some of the songs I hear on those rare occasions that I turn on an actual music station, usually whenever Courtney’s in the car and the wife is sick of listening to NPR. Some of the stuff they come up with, however, is so freakin’ obscure that I have I never heard of it and, more often than not, I’m amazed anyone would actually listen to it. Sometimes I get lucky and can at least recognize the style of music as being opera (which I’ve never liked) or jazz or folk or what have you, but it’s rare that I’ve liked whatever it is their covering that day and I wonder if there’s something wrong with me that my musical tastes seem so limited. The one kind of obscure group they covered on their show once that I not only recognized and enjoyed was They Might Be Giants, which is to be expected as I’m a big fan of the group, but I’ve always thought those guys were kind of obscure and some of the stuff that shows up on NPR practically makes TMBG seem mainstream in comparison.

Am I the only person who has a habit of turning off NPR whenever they get around to doing a music profile because it’s going to be 8 to 10 minutes of my life listening to something that’ll just leave me irritated by the time it’s done? Surely I’m not the only person befuddled by the choices of CDs they pick to review? Not that I’m suggesting that NPR change or eliminate those segments as there must be someone out there who finds them worthwhile, but it would make me feel better to know that I’m not the only person who feels stupid whenever one of those bits comes on the air.

Taking a peek behind the NPR curtain.

I listen to National Public Radio a lot and I often marvel at how articulate everyone seems to be — not just the news reporters and interviewers, but the guests as well — and I’ve long suspected that there was some form of editing taking place to pull this feat off. As it turns out that’s exactly the case, but I didn’t realize just how much editing is done until I heard this segment from On The Media which describes how the editing is done and what some of the pitfalls of it could be. You can listen to the segment using the audio player below:

I think it’s pretty cool that NPR took the time to reveal that there’s some back room magic taking place to make such compelling radio as well as providing a means to embed the segment into your blog. It’s fascinating to get a look behind the scenes and reassuring to note that they are not trying to hide anything in how they do things.

Weekend America on the 400th anniversary of Jamestown.

I caught a very interesting segment yesterday during Weekend America on NPR yesterday in which they discussed the true history of Jamestown — the first permanent settlement in America — which is quite a bit different from what a lot of us were taught in school.

This weekend, there are celebrations in Virginia commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English Settlement in the United States: Jamestown. But what exactly happened in Jamestown may not be some of the things being celebrated. Independent Producer Nate DiMeo tells the story of this Anti-Thanksgiving.

The good news is that you can listen to this fascinating story by Real Alternative Codec here.

The story itself is surprisingly horrifying with people being duped into coming to the “New World” thinking it would be a great adventure only to be faced with starvation, cannibalism, and slaughter at the hands of the native population and all for that great American tradition known as corporate greed. Worth a listen.

Four months later, Bush’s promise to Katrina victim not acted on.

Remember when Bush went to New Orleans back in April and posed for a photo op with 74-year old Ethel Williams in her ruined home and made a big speech about how rebuilding the city and her home? I remember it. He made a lot of promises.

It’s a shame he’s not really keeping them.

She’s a resident of the Upper Ninth Ward whose home had to be totally gutted after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina receded. President Bush stood with Williams that day and said she’d get help rebuilding her life.

“We’ve got a strategy to help the good folks down here rebuild,” the president said that day. “Part of it has to do with funding; part of it has to do with housing; and a lot of it has to do with encouraging volunteers from around the United States to come down and help people like Mrs. Williams. So we’re proud to be here with you, Mrs. Williams, and God bless you.”

That was a big day for Williams. Volunteers from Catholic Charities showed up in the morning and cleared out her house. Everything was taken, even the walls and the flooring. Then, with just a half-hour of warning, the president of the United States arrived.

But since that day, not much has happened. Williams’ house has stood gutted, just as it was when the president left.

Big surprise. It made for a great photo op, though, so Bush got what he wanted out of it.

Air America now in Detroit

Just wanted to let everyone know that the alternative to right-wing wackos: Air America, is now broadcasting in the Detroit area.

They can be found on the AM dial at 1310.

Do you smell that?… I think it’s a breath of fresh air…

I want my Neo-Radio!

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t watch much TV because the majority of it is crap. The same is true for radio except I don’t listen to anything on the radio these days outside of NPR. I don’t think I’ve intentionally had a commercial station on my dial in the last half-decade. This is largely due to one of the bits of legislation signed by President Clinton that I disagreed with at the time because I thought it would ruin radio and, as it turns out, I was right. In 1996 Congress passed and Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which lifted the 40-station ownership cap allowing for the massive consolidation that has taken place in the industry. These days most stations nation-wide are owned and operated by a handful of big companies like Clear Channel. As of 2002 Clear Channel owned 1,200 radio stations in all 50 states according to their website. Here in the Detroit area they own 11 of the 21 or so commercial stations and there isn’t a single one of them I can stand to listen to anymore. If it’s not the limited selection of constantly repeated “hits” then it’s the annoying as hell DJs who can make five year olds seem like mental giants in comparison. Morning shows are the worst. Shut the fuck up and play some music for crying out loud! I don’t care what you thought of last night’s episode of Survivor. You can turn on just about any Clear Channel rock station in just about any major city and, outside of the call letters, it’ll sound pretty much like the one in your home town.

Anyway, it appears I’m not alone in this regard and it turns out that there may be a bit of a backlash against the current corporate model of running a radio station starting to take root. Listening to All Things Considered on NPR on the way home yesterday I heard a news item titled Neo-Radio Succeeds by Cutting the Noise that offers some hope to those of us who can’t stand commercial radio these days. Wade Goodwyn tells us about a new trend in radio where the play lists are huge, they don’t talk over the start and end of a song, the DJs talk about *GASP!* the music instead of Survivor, the amount of commercials aired is less than half of what the big commercial stations air, and the audiences are growing like wildfire. Some stations have seen a 65% increase in audience since they started up, something Clear Channel dreams about seeing, and they appear to share part of their audience with (surprise!) NPR.

I want one of these stations to show up in Detroit. Soon. It would actually get me to listen to commercial radio again. I’d still tune into NPR from time to time, but these days when I want to listen to music I have to pull out my stash of CDs. It’d be nice to actually use the radio in my car for listening to music once again and I’m just not willing to shell out the bucks for XM Radio at this point. Not as long as my CD player is still working at least.

In the meantime, you can check out the two stations NPR profiles in the report at their websites. There’s KQMT 99.5 FM ‘The Mountain’ out of Denver and KBZT 94.9 FM out of San Diego which also streams its programming over the Net. The coolest part about FM949’s audio streaming is that they remove the commercials from their streaming feed:

Music & DJs, YES. Commercials, NO.

When you listen to our stream, you’ll hear our music and you’ll hear our DJs identify the songs you hear – but when we go to our commercials, you’ll hear “replacement” audio. You may hear some of our promotional announcements, other music, wacky foreign language lessons, Halloran’s heavy breathing, or reminders that regular programming will return. Rest assured that when our commercial break is done, you’ll be right back to the next track we play on the air.

How friggin’ cool is that??