November 2010 Archives
And you were worried about the airport scanners. This privacy invasion crap is just so out of hand. The vehicles carrying this equipment should be impeded by the public when discovered. I do not want to the government at any level roaming the streets irradiating people with xrays anonymously and with no consent, that's insane.
As the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, it's worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints aren't the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.
American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E's machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.
"This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever," says Reiss.
The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.
It would also seem to make the vans mobile versions of the same scanning technique that's riled privacy advocates as it's been deployed in airports around the country. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is currently suing the DHS to stop airport deployments of the backscatter scanners, which can reveal detailed images of human bodies. (Just how much detail became clear last May, when TSA employee Rolando Negrin was charged with assaulting a coworker who made jokes about the size of Negrin's genitalia after Negrin received a full-body scan.)
"It's no surprise that governments and vendors are very enthusiastic about [the vans]," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC. "But from a privacy perspective, it's one of the most intrusive technologies conceivable."
Suicide by plutocrat?
Playing with their politicians and armed forces is one thing...threatening the money is another. After all, they kill presidents don't they? He'd better have some solar powered servers on a boat somewhere at sea too. Actually, he's going to be harbored in Iceland by IMMI.
Iceland certainly has the infrastructure for a lot of informational mischief. Half an hour outside Reykjavik, on a landscape that resembles Mars covered in snow, the Thor Data Center is preparing for an influx of bytes. By 2011 it hopes to have thousands of servers in its aluminum-plant-turned-server-farm, powered by ultracheap geothermal energy and cooled by free arctic air. Iceland's biggest Web host, ironically named 1984 Web Hosting, is excited about the boost Immi could give its business. "I created this company to prevent thought control," says Mordur Ingolfsson, its chief executive. "In my humble opinion, Immi is the most important thing to happen to this godforsaken island since the Sagas were written."
by Andy Greenberg
In a rare interview, Assange tells Forbes that the release of Pentagon and State Department documents are just the beginning. His next target: big business.
Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on Wikileaks.org with no polite requests for executives' response or other forewarnings. The data dump will lay bare the finance firm's secrets on the Web for every customer, every competitor, every regulator to examine and pass judgment on.
(For the full transcript of Forbes' interview with Assange click here.)
When? Which bank? What documents? Cagey as always, Assange won't say, so his claim is impossible to verify. But he has always followed through on his threats. Sitting for a rare interview in a London garden flat on a rainy November day, he compares what he is ready to unleash to the damning e-mails that poured out of the Enron trial: a comprehensive vivisection of corporate bad behavior. "You could call it the ecosystem of corruption," he says, refusing to characterize the coming release in more detail. "But it's also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that's not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they're fulfilling their own self-interest."
This is how the U.S. government and American media jointly disseminate propaganda: in the immediate wake of some newsworthy War on Terror event, U.S. Government officials (usually anonymous) make wild and reckless -- though unverifiable -- claims. The U.S. media mindlessly trumpets them around the world without question or challenge. Those claims become consecrated as widely accepted fact. And then weeks, months or years later, those claims get quietly exposed as being utter falsehoods, by which point it does not matter, because the goal is already well-achieved: the falsehoods are ingrained as accepted truth.
I've documented how this process works in the context of American air attacks (it's immediately celebrated that we Killed the Evil Targeted Terrorist Leader [who invariably turns out to be alive and then allegedly killed again in the next air strike], while the dead are always, by definition, "militants"); with covered-up American war crimes, with the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman frauds -- the same process was also evident with the Israeli attack on the flotilla -- and now we find a quite vivid illustration of this deceitful process in the context of WikiLeaks' release of Afghanistan war documents:CNN, July 29, 2010:
Top military official: WikiLeaks founder may have 'blood' on his hands
The top U.S. military officer said Thursday that Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was risking lives to make a political point by publishing thousands of military reports from Afghanistan.
"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference at the Pentagon. . . .
In equally stern comments and at the same session, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the massive leak will have significant impact on troops and allies, giving away techniques and procedures.
"The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world," Gates said. "Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures will become known to our adversaries."
The Guardian seems to have the most sensible take on the situation:
by Simon Jenkins
It is for governments - not journalists - to guard public secrets, and there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks' revelations
Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation's secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing's snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.
Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be "world policeman" - an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables - that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.
In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.
The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department's internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of "secrets" might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule.
The revelations do not have the startling, coldblooded immediacy of the WikiLeaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, with their astonishing insight into the minds of fighting men seemingly detached from the ethics of war. The's disclosures are largely of analysis and high-grade gossip. Insofar as they are sensational, it is in showing the corruption and mendacity of those in power, and the mismatch between what they claim and what they do.
Most people screaming that Wikileaks is somehow treasonous can't seem to even grasp that Wikileaks has nothing at all to do with Wikipedia let alone that since Wikileaks is not an American group, its releases of American information cannot possibly be considered treasonous. There has yet to be any proof that even a single individual has come to harm from any of the leaks. The claim that such harm is inevitable is the same old canard always used when embarrassing government info gets leaked. The same thing was said about the release of the so-called Pentagon papers released by in the 70's by Daniel Ellsberg.
From Frank Rich's NY Times article: "Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy":
45. Karen Garcia New Paltz, NY
Two days ago, there were images of anguished and angry people on the news. One segment was of the Irish people, carrying signs and protesting continuing austerity and tax breaks for corporations and bank bailouts. Another clip was of a crowd of Americans in a similar mass wave of emotion.
But the Americans weren't protesting their corrupt government. They were shoving and pushing each other in their quest to be one of the fortunate few to score a $200 flat screen TV from China.
It echoed the scene from Orwell's "1984" in which Smith hears a commotion on the street and momentarily rejoices in the false hope that a popular uprising against The Party has finally begun. But it turns out to be only group of shoppers fighting over a few cheap saucepans in a sidewalk market.
I have been encouraged that not only columnists like Frank Rich, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert have been writing about American social injustice and class disparity - but that a large number of commenters have voiced the need for a rebellion against our own Big Brother-like government. It may not happen next year, or even in ten or twenty years, but it's bound to happen. The current system cannot hold.
As Eric Blair, aka Orwell, wrote in his dystopian masterpiece:"Until they become conscious, they will never rebel. And until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious."
May the long national coma come to an end before it's too late.
Timothy Wise: Mexican agriculture was undermined by NAFTA and companies like Smithfield
Timothy A. Wise is Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, and leads its Globalization and Sustainable Development Program. With a background in international development, he specializes in agricultural policy and rural development. He is involved in ongoing research in the areas of: Sustainable Rural Development, Beyond Agricultural Subsidies, Mexico Under NAFTA, WTO and Global Trade. He is the co-author of the book (in English and Spanish), Confronting Globalization: Economic Integration and Popular Resistance in Mexico, and The Promise and the Perils of Agricultural Trade Liberalization: Lessons from Latin America. He is the former executive director of Grassroots International, a Boston-based international aid organization. He holds a Masters in Public Policy from Tufts' Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department.
After all its their economic system that generated it in the first place and destroyed the economic base in the process.
by Dave Johnson
Here is MY deficit-reduction plan. This plan does not reflect the views of anyone but myself -- and maybe half the population. Unlike deficit plans from the "serious people" in DC, this one doesn't annihilate the poor and gut Social Security and the middle class while passing even more of the benefits of our society up to a few at the top.
1) Restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. We didn't have massive deficits until we reduced the top tax rates.
2) Income is income. No more reduced capital gains tax rate. The incentive to invest should be to make a bunch of money from a good investment. The reason there is a low capital gains tax rate is that the wealthy get most of their income from capital gains. And the reason they get most of their income from capital gains is there is a low capital gains rate. The resulting income shifting schemes are a drag on the rest of us. (Also applies to dividends.)
3) Income is income. Inheritance income should be taxed as income, except there should be a "democracy cap" on how much someone can inherit. We decided not to have an aristocracy when we founded this country so we shouldn't have one.
4) Businesses should be taxed or not taxed, but not taxed AND not taxed. They shouldn't be able to use "double Irish" or "Dutch sandwich" or operate out of PO boxes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. (Bonus, this also helps reduce incentives to send our jobs and factories out of the country.)
5) If you don't pay your taxes We, the People won't pay to provide you with services. We can start by not allowing you to have a driveway that connects to public streets, or water/sewer hookups or mail. Also we won't enforce any contracts for you, including the one that says you "own" your house(s). And no government-developed Internet for you.
If companies like Google want to "double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" us or operate out of PO boxes in tax havens, we shouldn't let them use government services like courts, or the government-developed Internet. See how well they operate without access to roads (that includes for employees to get to go to work.) How about withdrawing the limited liability protection that investors in corporations receive? And of course no protection for "intellectual property" or trademarks. Oh, yeah, no access to anyone who went to a school that used tax dollars. And no government services means no sea-lane protection for your products shipping from Chinese factories, by the way.
6) Speaking of sea-lane protection, why do we have a military budget comparable to when we faced nuclear annihilation by the Soviet empire? Bases in Germany and Japan? And why can I go to this website, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and learn that "Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848." Seriously, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. I suspect there's some serious deficit reduction to be found in the military budget. A comprehensive and very public audit of where all that money has been going since, say, 1981 might take a chunk out of the debt problem all by itself
7) I could start listing all the corporate subsidies, tax breaks, monopoly grants, schemes, contracts, etc. that we pay for, but I think you get the idea. How about calling bribery by its name: bribery, and doing something about it?
8) To the extent that implementing this plan does not clear up the deficit and start paying off the debt, how about a yearly national property tax on all individual holdings above, say, $5 million, with the tax rate progressively increasing as total wealth increases, and keep doing this each year until the debt is paid off. Perhaps start at 1% on $5 million, 2.5% at $10 million, 5% at $50 million, etc. (Hedge fund managers and investment bankers start at 50% and go up, just for the heck of it. We can call this the "get the money from where the money went tax.")
So there is MY deficit-reduction plan. Or, instead, we could do what the "serious people" deficit-reduction plans do: cut services for We, the People, cut Social Security, cut health care, cut education, cut infrastructure, cut the things that make life better for people, and give all the money to a few at the top. Take your pick.
There is no predicting the paths that will eventually be taken.
On the left, K'naan, born in Somalia his childhood was spent in Mogadishu, living there during the extreme violence of the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia's most famous singers. K'naan's grandfather, Haji Mohammad, was a poet. He is Muslim and his name, Keinan, means "traveler" in the Somali language.
He spent the early years of his life listening to the hip-hop records sent to him from America by his father, who had left Somalia earlier. When he was 13, K'naan, his mother, and his three siblings, older brother, Liban, and younger sisters Naciimo, Sagal left their homeland and joined relatives in New York City, where they stayed briefly before moving to Canada, to the Toronto neighborhood of Rexdale, where there was a large Somali community and his family still resides.
K'naan began learning English, partly by listening to hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite the fact that he could not yet speak the language, the young K'naan taught himself hip-hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically. He then began rapping not about cars and women and bling, but about the state of the world and his roots in Somalia and the need for the end to violence. One of his latest songs, "Wavin' Flag". was chosen as Coca-Cola's anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup also in the commercials in the pre-game, held in South Africa. In December 2009, K'naan performed the song live during the sponsor's FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, which took him to 86 countries around the world. K'naan is all about world peace.
On the right we have the flip side of Mohamed Osman Mohamud:
The 19-year-old has been arrested in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on Friday evening, the Justice Department announced.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, and a student at Oregon State University, according to the FBI.
Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree-lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Justice Department said in a written statement, but the device was actually inert.
"The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale," said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. "At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack."
The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation during which Mohamud had been monitored closely as his alleged bomb plot developed, the Justice Department said. Officials said the public was never in danger from the device.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by an FBI special agent, Mohamud was in e-mail communication in August 2009 with a person believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December, that person was "located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan," the affidavit states.
The two communicated regularly, the affidavit states, and "using coded language, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad."
Mohamud attempted to contact another associate who he thought would help facilitate his travel overseas, the affidavit states, but "because Mohamud used the wrong e-mail address in his efforts to contact [the second associate], he never successfully contacted him to arrange travel."
An undercover FBI employee contacted Mohamud in June under the guise of being affiliated with the associate who was in Pakistan, according to the affidavit. Mohamud met with the undercover operative on July 30 in Portland.
Mohamud allegedly told the undercover operative that he had written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad.
"Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become 'operational,'" the Justice Department said. "Asked what he meant by 'operational,' Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an 'explosion' together, but needed help."
At a meeting in August, the Justice Department said, Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15. According to the affidavit, Mohamud then told undercover operatives that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Authorities said an FBI operative pointed out that lots of children would be at such an event, but Mohamud said he was looking for a "huge mass that will ... be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays." Officials said Mohamud also stated, "... it's in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it."
According to the affidavit, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote area in Lincoln County, Oregon, on November 4 and detonated a bomb hidden in a backpack as a test. During the drive back to Corvallis, the agents asked Mohamud about whether he could look at the bodies of those who would be killed in the upcoming attack in Portland, the Justice Department said.
Mohamud replied, "I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured," according to the affidavit.
On Friday, Mohamud met one of the FBI operatives at a predetermined location, the affidavit states. Mohamud dialed a number "in an unsuccessful attempt to detonate the device." Mohamud allegedly dialed the number again before he was taken custody.
"This defendant's chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people -- even here in Oregon -- who are determined to kill Americans," Dwight C. Holton, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said in a statement . "The good work of law enforcement protected Oregonians in this case -- and we have no reason to believe there is any continuing threat arising from this case."
Mohamud is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Portland on Monday, the Justice Department said. If convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, Mohamud faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Happy days! This cockroach of a human being deserves extermination.
Ex-House Leader DeLay Found Guilty in Texas Case
By James C. McKinley Jr.
Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful and divisive Republican lawmakers ever to come out of Texas, was convicted Wednesday of money-laundering charges in a state trial, five years after his indictment here forced him to resign as majority leader in the House of Representatives.
After 19 hours of deliberation, a jury of six men and six women decided that Mr. DeLay was guilty of conspiring with two associates in 2002 to circumvent a state law against corporate contributions to political campaigns. He was convicted of one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
As the verdict was read, Mr. DeLay, 63, sat stone-faced at the defense table. Then he rose, turned, smiled and hugged his wife and then his weeping daughter in the first row of spectators. He faces between 5 and 99 years in prison, though the judge may choose probation.
A few minutes later, Mr. DeLay said outside the courtroom that he would appeal the decision. He called the prosecution a political vendetta by Democrats in the local district attorney's office, and revenge for his role in orchestrating the 2003 redrawing of Congressional districts to elect more Republicans.
"This is an abuse of power," he said. "It's a miscarriage of justice. I still maintain my innocence. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system."
The verdict ends the latest chapter in a long legal battle that forced Mr. DeLay to step down. The trial also opened a window on the world of campaign financing, as jurors heard testimony about large contributions flowing to Mr. DeLay from corporations seeking to influence him, and about junkets to luxury resorts where the congressman would rub shoulders with lobbyists in return for donations.
Three teenagers have been rescued after 50 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean, according to reports.
The trio survived by drinking rainwater and sharing raw fish and a seagull which they'd managed to catch, rescuers said.
The boys' families had assumed Samuel Perez and Filo Filo, both aged 15, and Edward Nasau, 14, were dead and held memorial services for them.
The teens had been last seen in their small boat near the atoll of Atafu on October 5, the BBC reported. They had traveled about 800 miles when they were found north-east of Fiji on Wednesday.
"We got to them in a miracle," Tai Fredricsen, the first mate aboard the tuna boat which found them, told New Zealand's stuff.co.nz website. "Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat ... and we knew it was a little weird. We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there.
"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help ... They said 'very much so.' They were ecstatic to see us.
"They were very skinny, but physically in good health, compared to what they have been through. They are in incredibly good shape for the time they have been at sea."
Just when you thought it was safe to consider Obama and the Democrats a big fat failure...
10 Facts That Republicans Refuse to Believe
(Because they disprove everything they claim is true -- about themselves and about Obama, who, by the way, is actually more Republican than virtually all Republicans):
1. President Obama cut taxes for everyone that earns a paycheck.
The first piece of legislation ushered in by the Obama administration was a stimulus package that contained almost $300 billion in payroll tax cuts. As Nate Silver calculated, that means 98.6% of working households received a tax cut once Obama took office.
2. TARP Worked
TARP worked. And it was a Republican policy. But it actually turned out to be a hugely successful program. The most successful policy of George Bush's two terms to be exact. The program earned the American government at least $40 billion. By far the most revenue any program has ever earned the government. In all, if it were to never make another penny, the program would now only cost tax payers $30 billion. That's dramatically cheaper than the near $1 trillion it was expected to cost. Pumping tax dollars into the the private sector helped ward off a complete financial meltdown. It worked. Plain and simple.
3. The Stimulus Worked
It warded off complete collapse. Stopped the flood of job losses. And boosted GDP back to positive territory. Economists agree the stimulus "raised GDP by about 3.4 percent, holding the unemployment rate about one-and-a-half percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls."
4. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
This simple fact is regarded as pure fantasy by conservative and Republicans alike. But the truth is, if you turn down your Fox News teevee set that is, you'll learn that the national debt exploded under Saint Ronnie. Here's the scorecard:
After 8 years of Reagan the national debt went from roughly $900 billion to $2.6 trillion. That's a 186% increase, the most since WWII. That is an incredible amount of debt from the so-called small government, fiscally responsible party.
5. George W. Bush doubled It
Then without a second thought, or a single gripe from the fiscally conservative, deficit hawk crowd, George W. Bush and his GOP took a government that was running surpluses and created the largest deficits in human history. As a result, the national debt went from $5.7 trillion to more than $11 trillion when you add in all his bailouts including TARP.
6. Obama Inherited the Worst Scenario Any Elected President Ever Has
Simply and factually stated, no elected president in the history of America has ever inherited two ongoing endless wars with an economy on the verge of collapse. It's never happened before. But it did when President Obama inherited the country from Bush.
7. Obama Has Shrunk the Deficit
According to the U.S. Treasury, for the 2010 fiscal year that ended on September 30, the government had a budget shortfall of 1.294 trillion dollars, down 122 billion dollars from the previous year's record-setting high.
The 2010 fiscal year was President Obama's first federal operating budget. The previous year's budget was the final Bush budget which set a record for the largest deficit in American history. The budget deficit shrunk by $122 billion since Obama has taken office.
8. Obama Inherited a $1.4 trillion deficit, He Did Not Create It
It's amazing that some people believe American history began on Jan. 20th, 2009-- BUT IT DIDN'T. The day Obama took office the budget deficit was $1.416 trillion. He did not create it.
9. All the Bailouts Were Republican George Bush Policy
TARP was passed in October of 2008, over three months before Obama would become president. The original legislation was submitted to Congress by President George Bush and passed with both Republican and Democratic support of which Bush signed into law. Prior to TARP, the Bush administration had already committed $30 billion to Bear Stearns, $400 billion to Fannie and Freddie, $180 billion to AIG, $25 billion to the Auto industry, $85 billion to AIG, and billions more to the airline industry after 9/11.
Even the GM bailout in 2009 came from TARP funds and was structurally in place before Obama took office. It was the continuation of a Bush plan already moving forward, much like the surge in Iraq can't be credited to Obama either.
10. Republicans Have NEVER -- NOT ONCE IN MODERN HISTORY -- Shrunk Government, Cut Spending, or Reined in the Deficit
Is there anyone that still believes Republicans have ever governed with their so-called "principles" in mind? If so, consider this:
Since the ushering in of the modern Republican "Reagan Revolution," the GOP has never done any of the above. Frankly put, in the 20 years of modern Republican rule-- 8 years of Reagan, 4 years of Bush, and 8 years of Bush-- spending has never decreased, the deficit only grew by leaps and bounds (see #'s 4 & 5) and never did government shrink. There is no factual record they can point to that would in any way whatsoever suggest they are a fiscally conservative lot.
hit tip to the glorious F Baker:
By Sarah Muller
Congressman Alan Grayson took the House floor Wednesday night to gab about Hermés bags and the best Benz that tax cuts can buy. The Florida Democrats opposes an extension of Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. We're talking peeps who pull in at least $1.4 million a year. To prove his point, he made an extravagant shopping list for the "high and mighty," as he called them, complete with visual aids.
With their extra $83,347 a year, Grayson sarcastically suggested buying a $64,000 Hermés bag, a 1787 bottle of Chateau D'Yquem wine, 20,000 jars of Grey Poupon, and 800 luxury cigars or a $83,000 Mercedes Benz E-Class car.
We all know the mortgage securitization process is complicated.
But just how complicated? This chart from Zero Hedge shows the convoluted journey a mortgage takes as it morphs into a security. Dan Edstrom, of DTC Systems, who performs securitization audits, and who is giving a seminar in California next month, spent a year putting together a diagram that traces the path of his own house's mortgage. "Just When You Thought You Knew Something About Mortgage Securitizations," says Zero Hedge, you are presented with this almost hilariously complicated chart.
A controversy of allegedly shoddy paperwork has raised doubts about the legitimacy of foreclosures nationwide, eliciting complaints from homeowners and investors alike. The Congressional Oversight Panel, a bailout watchdog, released a statement Tuesday that says the scandal over alleged "robo-signers," foreclosure processors who approve documents without reading them, "may have concealed much deeper problems" in the mortgage industry, HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour reports.
Regulators will have their hands full.
"Decide how long you think it will take for Barney Frank and Eric Holder to sort everything out," Zero Hedge says.
click to enlarge
Did you know that border officials have no need for a warrant or even a need for probable cause to search or confiscate your laptop? Welcome to the American police state.
What needs to be revealed is exactly what dangerous information or threats to nations security if any have EVER been discovered by such confiscations and fishing expeditions. Given the highly personal and intimate information, not to mention business or other economic data that might be on a personal computer, its outrageous that border people are allowed latitude that would never be acceptable by normal law enforcement. Why should constitutionally protected individual rights be suspended simply because a citizen is entering or leaving their home country?
Searching Your Laptop
NY Times Editorial
Federal courts have long agreed that federal agents guarding the borders do not need a warrant or probable cause to search a traveler's belongings. That exception to the Fourth Amendment needs updating and tightening to reflect the realities of the digital age.
The government has a sovereign right and responsibility to secure the borders. The recent discovery of two powerful package bombs being shipped to the United States is a reminder of the many dangers out there.
There is also a big difference between government agents scanning items for explosives or looking through a suitcase full of clothing, and searching through the hard drive of a laptop computer containing work papers, financial records, e-mail messages and Web site visits.
Although the number of travelers whose devices are searched is small compared with the many millions who cross American borders each year, the problem is real. Between October 2008 and June 2010, more than 6,600 travelers -- nearly 3,000 of them American -- were subjected to such searches, according to government records released in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The George W. Bush administration first authorized border agents to seize and view the contents of laptops, smartphones, and other devices and copy and share data with other government agencies without need for any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.
The Obama administration has tweaked the policy, requiring approval from supervisors to hold a seized device for more than five days, for example. The fundamental flaw remains: it permits the government to engage in indiscriminate and invasive fishing expeditions.
The Supreme Court has yet to confront the issue. But in a disappointing ruling in 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said that agents at a border need not meet even the low threshold of reasonable suspicion to justify a warrantless laptop search. The ruling reversed a lower court's finding that laptops are "an extension of our own memory" and too personal to allow government searches without some reasonable and articulable suspicion.
from Krugman's NY Times article, The World as He Finds It comes this comment:
The World as He Finds It
By Paul Krugman
On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama's top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts -- to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. "We have to deal with the world as we find it," he declared.
The White House then tried to walk back what Mr. Axelrod had said. But it was a telling remark, in more ways than one.
The obvious point is the contrast between the administration's current whipped-dog demeanor and Mr. Obama's soaring rhetoric as a candidate. How did we get from "We are the ones we've been waiting for" to here?
But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn't.
In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America's problem as one of process, not substance -- we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.
This promise of transcendence may have been good general election politics, although even that is questionable: people forget how close the presidential race was at the beginning of September 2008, how worried Democrats were until Sarah Palin and Lehman Brothers pushed them over the hump. But the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift -- but could he fight?
So far the answer has been no.
The doctrine of caveat emptor or "let the buyer beware" supposes a world where market or individual transactions are inherently untrustworthy...that others are usually out to profit by cheating us through faulty merchandise or misrepresentations of values of product and/or services. This enshrined attitude is exactly why the concept of a level playing field free market is a lie. It also explains why we have the 1% of population controlling as much wealth as they do - they gained their position through misrepresentation and cheating. Like paying taxes, the virtues of integrity, honesty and concern for the greater good are solely for "the little people".
History tells us one clear and immutable fact about dealing with the wealthy; they will not cede their power without being killed. They are exactly as diseased in their pursuits and world views as the the criminally insane or religious zealous. They are not subject to rational discourse nor can they be persuaded that they are toxic to the rest of the population.
For those of us who would prefer a milder solution, we can perhaps momentarily entertain Frank Rich's question:
Those in the higher reaches aren't investing in creating new jobs even now, when the full Bush tax cuts remain in effect, so why would extending them change that equation?
by Frank Rich
In the aftermath of the Great Democratic Shellacking of 2010, one election night subplot quickly receded into the footnotes: the drubbing received by very wealthy Americans, most of them Republican, who tried to buy Senate seats and governor's mansions. Americans don't hate rich people. They admire and often idolize success. But Californians took a hearty dislike to Meg Whitman, who sacrificed $143 million of her eBay fortune -- not to mention her undocumented former housekeeper -- to a gubernatorial race she lost by double digits. Connecticut voters K.O.'d the World Wrestling groin-kicker, Linda McMahon, and West Virginians did likewise to the limestone-and-steel magnate John Raese, the senatorial hopeful who told an interviewer without apparent irony, "I made my money the old-fashioned way -- I inherited it."
To my mind, these losers deserve a salute nonetheless. They all had run businesses that actually created jobs (Raese included). They all wanted to enter public service to give back to the country that allowed them to prosper. And by losing so decisively, they gave us a ray of hope in dark times. Their defeats reminded us that despite much recent evidence to the contrary the inmates don't always end up running the asylum of American politics.
The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election -- those who take far more from America than they give back. They were not on the ballot, and most of them are not household names. Unlike Whitman and the other defeated self-financing candidates, they are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results. There's no one in Washington in either party with the fortitude to try to stop them from grabbing anything that's not nailed down.
The Americans I'm talking about are not just those shadowy anonymous corporate campaign contributors who flooded this campaign. No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid -- the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation's pretax income in 2007 -- up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent's pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.
It's the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there's an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.
Wow...now here's a disturbing Xmas gift idea!
another hat tip to (the possibly disturbed) Mr Baker
A good chuckle from Gail Collins of the NY Times.
What Everything Means
By Gail Collins
I can't stop thinking about the elections. Last weekend I saw "127 Hours," and all I could think about was that this was a metaphor for the lame-duck session of Congress.
"127 Hours" is the hot new movie about Aron Ralston, a real-life hiker who went for a jaunt through the Utah wilderness and fell into a hole, where his arm was pinned under an 800-pound boulder for, um, 127 hours. Then he sawed off his arm with a really, really dull knife, rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor and walked several miles in the midday desert sun before being found by a family of Dutch tourists, who gave him water and two Oreo cookies.
So I just sat there free-associating about politics. The boulder was the deficit, and the arm was the Bush tax cut for the wealthy. While he was trapped, Ralston was tortured by a lot of buzzing, stinging and biting insects, all of whom resembled Mitch McConnell.
If you get obsessive enough, everything you hear carries a postelection message. The Carnival Cruise ship is adrift! And isn't America exactly like a boat full of vacationers who thought they were on a luxury trip to the Mexican Riviera? Then, all of a sudden, they're standing in line for Spam and hoping somebody will tow them back to San Diego. No wonder Ohio turned red.
The moral of the George W. Bush TV interview this week with Matt Lauer involves the fact that it got terrible ratings. This could mean that the public wants to forget all about the first eight years of the 21st century and just blame Barack Obama for wrecking the economy. Or that while the country is divided in so many ways, we're still one big family when it comes to our national exhaustion with the previous president.
Although if people had known he was going to tell that story about how his mother put the miscarried fetus in a jar and made him look at it, perhaps more viewers would have tuned in.
Or maybe not.
The whole interview was confusing. When the first George Bush was president, the White House seemed to go out of its way to drop hints that Barbara Bush was pro-choice. Did they know about the fetus jar story?
Also, didn't it seem as if George W. was way more upset about Kanye West calling him a racist during Katrina than the fact that he invaded the wrong country?
And did you notice that Bush kept calling Kanye "Conway?"
But I digress. To be honest, the interview did not get bad ratings because of the national malaise. It got bad ratings because it was up against "Dancing With the Stars."
In which Bristol Palin has made it to the final four. Once again, traditional Republicans were run over by the grizzly contingent. Bristol is not very good as a performer, but, as her mother put it, "She's never danced before, and here she's learning the steps really quickly."
Bristol is up against Jennifer Grey of "Dirty Dancing" fame, who's been doing great even though she's 50 with a bad knee and a plate and four screws in her neck. If Bristol wins I think we can take the whole thing as a metaphor for Russ Feingold's Senate race in Wisconsin.
Finally, when popular culture can't explain what's befallen us, there's always historic reference.
What commercial plane has that sort climb angle and starts out almost vertically? To my knowledge 20 degrees climb is very steep and the video shot show almost 40 degrees or more. You could stand in the aisle of a commercial flight taking off, you would NOT be able to do that at 40-45 degrees. That's a steep climb even to a a high end jet.
Also, what plane shows exhaust flames at high altitude (check video from the 1:50 -1:57 mark)? Why are there no time-stamped air traffic control radar records to compare to? Its an obvious cover-up, probably for an accidental or secret military launch of some sort.
The former Ohio Edison Mad River Power Plant's 275-foot smoke stack in Springfield, Ohio falls toward spectators and surrounding buildings as it falls the wrong way during its demolition, Nov. 10, 2010. There were no injuries reported in the accident but power was knocked out for more than 8000 customers when the smoke stack crushed several pieces of power equipment.
Sometime the comment sections of articles are as astute as the article itself.
Here is one such comment:
and leaving the dispossessed high and dry while the elites keep bending them over:
We are ruled by huge corporate monopolies that replicate the political and economic power, on a vastly expanded scale, of the old trading companies of the 17th and 18th centuries. Wal-Mart's gross annual revenues of $250 billion are greater than those of most small nation-states. The political theater funded by the corporate state is composed of hypocritical and impotent liberals, the traditional moneyed elite, and a disenfranchised and angry underclass that is being encouraged to lash out at the bankrupt liberal institutions and the government that once protected them.
by Chris Hedges
American politics, as the midterm elections demonstrated, have descended into the irrational.
On one side stands a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the
collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of
our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem.
On the other side stands a mass of increasingly bitter people whose alienation, desperation and rage fuel emotionally driven and incoherent political agendas. It is a recipe for fascism.
More than half of those identified in a poll by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports as "mainstream Americans" now view the tea party favorably. The other half, still grounded in a reality-based world, is passive and apathetic. The liberal class wastes its energy imploring Barack Obama and the Democrats to promote sane measures including job creation programs, regulation as well as criminal proceedings against the financial industry, and an end to our permanent war economy. Those who view the tea party favorably want to tear the governmental edifice down, with the odd exception of the military and the security state, accelerating our plunge into a nation of masters and serfs. The corporate state, unchallenged, continues to turn everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse.
All sides of the political equation are lackeys for Wall Street. They sanction, through continued deregulation, massive corporate profits and the obscene compensation and bonuses for corporate managers. Most of that money--hundreds of billions of dollars--is funneled upward from the U.S. Treasury. The Sarah Palins and the Glenn Becks use hatred as a mobilizing passion to get the masses, fearful and angry, to call for their own enslavement as well as to deny uncomfortable truths, including global warming. Our dispossessed working class and beleaguered middle class are vulnerable to this manipulation because they can no longer bear the chaos and uncertainty that come with impoverishment, hopelessness and loss of control. They have retreated into a world of illusion, one peddled by right-wing demagogues, which offers a reassuring emotional consistency. This consistency appears to protect them from the turmoil in which they have been forced to live. The propaganda of a Palin or a Beck may insult common sense, but, for a growing number of Americans, common sense has lost its validity.
Commerce cannot be the sole guide of human behavior. This utopian fantasy, embraced by the tea party as well as the liberal elite, defies 3,000 years of economic history. It is a chimera. This ideology has been used to justify the dis-empowerment of the working class, destroy our manufacturing capacity, and ruthlessly gut social programs that once protected and educated the working and middle class. It has obliterated the traditional liberal notion that societies should be configured around the common good. All social and cultural values are now sacrificed before the altar of the marketplace.
hat tip to Mr Baker
Talk about 97% of Americans not knowing where their best interests lie. Republicans are just piggies. Pure. Simple. Bought and paid for. Piggies. And they can act. It takes talent to say with a straight face that you are sticking up for the right of all Americans to keep their "hard earned money" when, for 99% of Americans, the amount involved is essentially bottle deposit money by comparison to what the Rethuglicans have at stake.
Finally the X-tian jerk gets his comeuppance.
An assistant attorney general in Michigan is out of a job, fired after targeting an openly gay University of Michigan student leader online and in person -- then lying about his actions to investigators -- state Attorney General Mike Cox said Monday.
Andrew Shirvell "repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources," Cox said.
The lawyer for Chris Armstrong, the university's student body president, lauded the decision by Cox to axe Shirvell.
"It's inexplicable -- he knows nothing about Chris," attorney Deborah Gordon said on CNN's "AC 360" about Shirvell, who claimed that Armstrong was a "racist, elitist liar" and "privileged pervert."
"We're very gratified that justice was done ... and, for the time, Shirvell is going to be held responsible," Gordon said.
Assistant attorney general fired
Shirvell's lawyer, Philip J. Thomas, acknowledged his client's termination to CNN but did not comment further. He told the Detroit Free Press that his client was "devastated" by Cox's announcement, claiming that Shirvell's bosses gave him positive reviews and knew of his activities outside work.
"This smells political to me," Thomas told the newspaper. "There's been a tremendous piling-on against Andrew. The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot."
Gordon responded by telling CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday night that she felt it was "pathetic and lame for (Shirvell) to be whining about being bullied."
In late September, Cox defended Shirvell's authoring of a blog titled "Chris Armstrong Watch" that railed against the college senior and sociology major.
Oh, what an entangled web we weave.
by John Markoff
QUIBIT CHIP Four quibits are symmetrically coupled via a capacitive island, the cross in the center.
In 1981 the physicist Richard Feynman speculated about the possibility of "tiny computers obeying quantum mechanical laws." He suggested that such a quantum computer might be the best way to simulate real-world quantum systems, a challenge that today is largely beyond the calculating power of even the fastest supercomputers.
Since then there has been sporadic progress in building this kind of computer. The experiments to date, however, have largely yielded only systems that seek to demonstrate that the principle is sound. They offer a tantalizing peek at the possibility of future supercomputing power, but only the slimmest results.
Recent progress, however, has renewed enthusiasm for finding avenues to build significantly more powerful quantum computers. Laboratory efforts in the United States and in Europe are under way using a number of technologies.
Significantly, I.B.M. has reconstituted what had recently been a relatively low-level research effort in quantum computing. I.B.M. is responding to advances made in the past year at Yale University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, that suggest the possibility of quantum computing based on standard microelectronics manufacturing technologies. Both groups layer a superconducting material, either rhenium or niobium, on a semiconductor surface, which when cooled to near absolute zero exhibits quantum behavior.
You tell me:
Note the difference in income increase between the two sets of dates. Note also that the CEOs now makle 531 times the average wage.
MSNBC suspended anchor Keith Olbermann on Friday for making contributions to Democratic candidates without obtaining prior approval from his superiors.
Now, Politico's Mike Allen reports that the suspension came about, not because Olbermann violated network policy -- but because he wouldn't apologize on-air:
Network sources tell Playbook that Keith Olbermann was suspended because he refused to deliver an on-camera mea culpa, which would have allowed him to continue anchoring "Countdown." Olbermann told his bosses he didn't know he was barred from making campaign contributions, although he is resisting saying that publicly. Olbermann may not hold as many cards as he thinks. He makes $7 million a year and MSNBC's prime time is not as dependent on him as it was before the addition of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell, who make considerably less.
Olbermann's indefinite suspension without pay has sparked criticism from reporters and pundits, particularly in light News Corp's million-dollar donations to conservative groups.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow argued on her show Friday night that Olbermann's suspension proves the difference between MSNBC and Fox News.
So if the top 1% were eliminated we would have 20% of the national wealth ($2.8 trillion) freed up? Seems like a good solution to the budget problem to me.
How many people exactly is that anyway? Probably about 200,000? That's a fifth of the Iraqis decimated in one way or another by the our war on them...nobody seemed to take much notice of that.
Would the rich 1% be missed? Would the culture suffer from not having their particular
skills psychoses around? I mean, aside from their immediate family, would they be pined for at all? Likely not.
How about the top 5%? Now there's some serious savings.
We really should look at the feasibility of this sort of thing. It might be our only way out. Like the conservatives say, "Everything's on the table." I mean if they're willing to smash our social security and medicare, Maybe we should just smash them first. After all, it would mean fewer people hurt for the greater good, wouldn't it?
I'm just trying to be practical here.
Our Banana Republic
By Nicholas D. Kristof
In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie.
But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home -- and in the aftermath of Tuesday's election, it may get worse.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.'s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
That's the backdrop for one of the first big postelection fights in Washington -- how far to extend the Bush tax cuts to the most affluent 2 percent of Americans. Both parties agree on extending tax cuts on the first $250,000 of incomes, even for billionaires. Republicans would also cut taxes above that.
The richest 0.1 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut of $61,000 from President Obama. They would get $370,000 from Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And that provides only a modest economic stimulus, because the rich are less likely to spend their tax savings.
At a time of 9.6 percent unemployment, wouldn't it make more sense to finance a jobs program? For example, the money could be used to avoid laying off teachers and undermining American schools.
Likewise, an obvious priority in the worst economic downturn in 70 years should be to extend unemployment insurance benefits, some of which will be curtailed soon unless Congress renews them. Or there's the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps train and support workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade. It will no longer apply to service workers after Jan. 1, unless Congress intervenes.
So we face a choice. Is our economic priority the jobless, or is it zillionaires?
A passenger flying from Hong Kong to Canada made a transformation in flight that officials are describing as "unbelievable," morphing from what appeared to be an elderly, Caucasian man to a mid-twenties Asian youth, CNN is reporting.
The incredible deception began as the man, whose name is not being released, boarded an Air Canada flight disguised as an elderly white man in Hong Kong. According to the alert obtained by CNN:
The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young looking hands. During the flight the subject attended the washroom and emerged an Asian looking male that appeared to be in his early 20s.
It is believed that the suspect got on the plane using another person's boarding pass. Upon arriving in Canada, the man was detained and said he was seeking refugee status.
Rachel brings up the point that Keith's suspension for breaking the rules proves MSNBC is not Fox News.
The former transit police officer convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of an unarmed man in Oakland, California, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.
Johannes Mehserle will get credit for time he's already spent behind bars since he was charged in the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a train platform on January 1, 2009.
Mehserle could be released from custody in about seven months, according to sentencing guidelines provided by the prosecution.
Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, appeared stunned as she left the courtroom. Her family's lawyer said she was appalled. Johnson had asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum 14 years in prison. She and four other family members who spoke at the sentencing hearing called Mehserle "a murderer."
"This is a slap in the face, a punch in the stomach," said John Burris, the Grant family attorney.
Prosecutors had asked for prison time, while the defense had argued for probation.
After the July verdict, police in downtown Oakland arrested dozens of angry protesters on a variety of charges, including failure to disperse, resisting arrest, burglary, vandalism and assaulting a police officer. The city planned to have extra officers on hand Friday in case they were needed, said police spokeswoman Holly J. Joshi.
About 250 people unhappy with the sentence rallied peacefully Friday afternoon, said Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts.
Thank you for incredibly smart and compassionate mothers like this :
Or he's not. I don't care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don't want to know you.
I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something more in-depth about my sweet boy and his choice of Halloween costume. Or more specifically, the reactions to it. I figure if I'm still irked by it a few days later, I may as well go ahead and post my thoughts.
Here are the facts that lead up to my rant:
1. My son is 5 and goes to a church preschool.
2. He has loved Scooby Doo since developing the ability and attention span to sit still long enough to watch it.
3. Halloween is a holiday and its main focus is wearing a costume.
4. My son's school had the kids dress up, do a little parade, and then change out of costumes for the rest of the party.
5. Boo's best friend is a little girl
6. Boo has an older sister
7. Boo spends most of his time with me.
8. I am a woman.
9. I am Boo's mother, not you.
So a few weeks before Halloween, Boo decides he wants to be Daphne from Scooby Doo, along with his best friend E. He had dressed as Scooby a couple of years ago. I was hesitant to make the purchase, not because it was a cross gendered situation, but because 5 year olds have a tendency to change their minds. After requesting a couple of more times, I said sure and placed the order. He flipped out when it arrived. It was perfect.
Then as we got closer to the actual day, he stared to hem and haw about it. After some discussion it comes out that he is afraid people will laugh at him. I pointed out that some people will because it is a cute and clever costume. He insists their laughter would be of the 'making fun' kind. I blow it off. Seriously, who would make fun of a child in costume?
And then the big day arrives. We get dressed up. We drop Squirt at his preschool and head over to his. Boo doesn't want to get out of the car. He's afraid of what people will say and do to him. I convince him to go inside. He halts at the door. He's visibly nervous. I chalk it up to him being a bit of a worrier in general. Seriously, WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF A CHILD IN A COSTUME ON HALLOWEEN? So he walks in. And there were several friends of mine that knew what he was wearing that smiled and waved and gave him high-fives. We walk down the hall to where his classroom is.
And that's where things went wrong. Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp. And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, "Doesn't he look great?" And Mom A says in disgust, "Did he ask to be that?!" I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn't I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock and dismay.
And then Mom C approaches. She had been in the main room, saw us walk in, and followed us down the hall to let me know her thoughts. And they were that I should never have 'allowed' this and thank God it wasn't next year when he was in Kindergarten since I would have had to put my foot down and 'forbidden' it. To which I calmly replied that I would do no such thing and couldn't imagine what she was talking about. She continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.
My response to that: The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.
Excellent source of sparkles!
Unicorns, as we all know, frolic all over the world, pooping rainbows and marshmallows wherever they go. What you don't know is that when unicorns reach the end of their lifespan, they are drawn to County Meath, Ireland. The Sisters at Radiant Farms have dedicated their lives to nursing these elegant creatures through their final days. Taking a cue from the Kobe beef industry, they massage each unicorn's coat with Guinness daily and fatten them on a diet comprised entirely of candy corn.
As the unicorn ages, its meat becomes fatty and marbled and the living bone in the horn loses density in a process much like osteoporosis. The horn's outer layer of keratin begins to develop a flavor very similar to candied almonds. Blending the crushed unicorn horn into the meat adds delightful, crispy flavor notes in each bite. We are confident you will find a world of bewilderment in every mouthful of scrumptious unicorn meat.
From Crooks and Liars
There is a double standard at work with regard to Keith Olbermann's suspension, not only between other personalities appearing on MSNBC as commentators, but also at the very top level of the food chain.
now owns is about MSNBC after their acquisition was completed earlier this year is approved (and it will be, I'm sure), despite protestations from many of us. A look at campaign finance disclosures for several organizations shows that Phil Anschutz, chairman of Comcast major shareholder and content partner with Comcast, donated large sums of money to the First Amendment Alliance, one of the largest outside groups targeting Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.
The Anschutz Corporation, wholly owned by Phil Anschutz, gave $50,000 on 9/24/2010 to the First Amendment Alliance. The two candidates targeted by the First Amendment Alliance? Jack Conway and Michael Bennet.
Keith Olbermann gave to Jack Conway's campaign along with Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.
In addition, the Anschutz family donated $169,900 to Republican candidates and committees during the 2010 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.
Additionally, Comcast Corporation has contributed $125,000 to the Republican Governors' Association in the 2010 cycle (as of 9/30/2010).
There's been a lot of chatter about MSNBC policy, and whether Olbermann should have gotten advance approval for his donations to Jack Conway, Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords on October 28th. The policy I've seen reads like this:
NBC and MSNBC TV require permission of the president of NBC News. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)
"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."
That language clearly says "should" and not "must". Further, anyone who thinks Keith Olbermann is an impartial journalist should have their head examined. He's not, never has been, never will be, and is not presented as one.
But it leaves this question lingering for me: How is it that the parent corporation of NBC and chairman of that corporation, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are accorded First Amendment rights to political speech and Keith Olbermann is not?
GET THIS: From the NYTimes:
The News Corporation is one of the biggest suppliers of content to Comcast, with contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
UPDATE: PCCC has a petition you can sign to MSNBC: Tell MSNBC that if they want to keep their viewers, they must put Keith back on the air NOW!
And if you're on Twitter, progressives are tweeting MSNBC with their displeasure there too.
Gawker says NBC News denies their standards apply to MSNBC commentators.
For an understanding of the relationship between Anschutz and Comcast, see this Muckety map (Flash required). It's a combination of hockey teams, media, ticket sales and Qwest Communications. Some question the associations. They exist. I've linked to them. Here's another.
I'd like to know the party affiliation of the GE boss who suspended him.
MSNBC TV host gave cash to 3 Democratic candidates in apparent violation of NBC ethics policy
MSNBC TV host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely on Friday for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy.
The announcement came in a one-sentence statement from MSNBC TV President Phil Griffin: "I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."
The donations were first reported by the Politico website earlier in the day.
Olbermann acknowledged the donations in a statement to Politico, saying he gave the maximum legal donation of $2,400 to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who waged an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Tea Party standard-bearer Rand Paul.
Like most news organizations, NBC News, parent of msnbc TV, prohibits political contributions by its journalists without prior approval of the president. (Msnbc.com, a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft, also has a policy against its journalists contributing to political campaigns.)
"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," it reads. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the president of NBC News or his designee."
Politico noted that the donations to Grijalva and Giffords were made on Oct. 28, the same day that Grijalva appeared on Olbermann's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" show. Grijalva won re-election on Tuesday, while Giffords on Friday was clinging to a narrow lead over Republican Jesse Kelly in a race that the Associated Press has not yet called.
In his statement to Politico, Olbermann said he did not encourage his viewers or other staff members to donate to the candidates.
"I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level," he was quoted as saying.
Only in Canada you say, pity.
Michele Bachmann is a major putz.
Why is Europe always so far ahead of the US on sensibility?
EU to create 'right to be forgotten' online
by Bob Sullivan
Just days after U.S. voters threw overboard one of their top privacy advocates in Congress, the European Commission announced Thursday that it will push for creation of a Web users' "right to be forgotten."
The commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, plans to update 15-year-old laws governing collection and use of consumer information to reflect the age of Google and Facebook. Changes could come early next year.
"Strengthening individuals' rights so that the collection and use of personal data is limited to the minimum necessary," the commission said in a statement. "Individuals should also be clearly informed in a transparent way on how, why, by whom, and for how long their data is collected and used. People should be able to give their informed consent to the processing of their personal data, for example when surfing online, and should have the 'right to be forgotten' when their data is no longer needed or they want their data to be deleted."
Well That Worked Out Real Swell
Superpowered superconducting electromagnets power the Large Hadron Collider, 300 feet underground at the Swiss-French border outside Geneva.
Trillions of Reasons to Be Excited
By Dennis Overbye
It was late on an August evening when the proton wranglers at the Large Hadron Collider finally got five trillion high-energy particles under control, squeezed and tweaked them into tight bunches and started banging them together.
The control room of the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the four giant particle detectors buried around the collider.
"Seven minutes too late," grumbled Darin Acosta, a physicist from the University of Florida, whose shift running a control room here, among sunflower fields and strip malls, had just ended. On the walls around him, computer screens were suddenly blooming with multicolored streaks and curling tracks depicting the primordial subatomic chaos of protons colliding 300 feet under his feet, in the bowels of the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the four giant particle detectors buried around the collider ring.
A dozen or so physicists crowded around the screens, calling out the names of particles on the fly, trying to guess what others, as yet unknown to physics, were spraying from the mess in the middle, looking to see some sign from the universe. "This is way cool," one of them said.
"There's a muon," somebody else said as a spike darted out and into the void. "There's a jet."
"This is good," said Maria Spiropulu, a CERN and California Institute of Technology physicist. "This is very, very good."
It has been seven months and some six trillion collisions since physicists at CERN -- as the European Organization for Nuclear Research is known -- began running protons around their $10 billion, 18-mile electromagnetic racetrack underneath the Swiss-French border outside Geneva and smashing them together in search of new particles and forces of nature. No new particles or forces have yet emerged, at least to the statistical satisfaction of the thousands of men and women now sifting through the debris from those collisions.
Nor, of course, has the world disappeared into a black hole.
That will happen tomorrow if Republicans gain control of the house :)
Saturn's rings demonstrate harmonic resonances that literally could be translated into sounds if someone wanted to do it. Look at the picture of spikes below that could easily be taken as a frequency pattern. I find this extremely cool.
Spiky vertical structures rise as high as 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the plane of Saturn's rings, as seen in an image captured by the Cassini orbiter two weeks before the planet's equinox in August 2009. Scientists believe the spikes are the result of a "splash effect" created by moonlets on the outer edge of Saturn's B ring.
Alan Boyle writes:The scientists behind the Cassini mission to Saturn say they have figured out the reasons behind the irregularities in the behavior of the most dynamic regions in Saturn's rings. They're due to a combination of natural oscillations that are amplified by the motions of the ring particles themselves -- plus an extra disturbance created by the moon Mimas.
The scientists also have discovered two regions within the rings that are the likely homes of moonlets yet to be discovered.
The lessons gained by watching the rings can also be applied to understanding how planetary systems and galaxies work, said Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini's imaging team at the Colorado-based Space Science Institute.
"We have found what we hoped we'd find when we set out on this journey with Cassini nearly 13 years ago: visibility into the mechanisms that have sculpted not only Saturn's rings, but celestial disks of a far grander scale, from solar systems like our own all the way to the giant spiral galaxies," Porco said in a news release issued today.
Porco and Joseph Spitale, another member of the imaging team, are the authors of a report detailing the findings, published online today in The Astrophysical Journal. The report is based on more than four years' worth of observations from the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004.
What's causing the waves?
Those observations tracked the in-and-out oscillations of the planet's massive B ring, which you can see in this video on the imaging team's website, as well as this one. The shape of the B ring is controlled to some extent by Mimas -- but there are some extra wave patterns that weren't previously explained. Spitale and Porco say no fewer than three of the wave patterns spontaneously arose in part because the ring is dense enough, and the edge of the ring is sharp enough, for "free" waves to grow on their own and then reflect at the edge.
"These oscillations exist for the same reason that guitar strings have natural modes of oscillation, which can be excited when plucked or otherwise disturbed," Spitale said in the news release. "The ring, too, has its own natural oscillation frequencies, and that's what we're observing."
Such oscillations are thought to play a role in the motions of spiral galaxies as well as the dusty disks that give rise to planets, but because the oscillations can't be observed directly in those disks, they could only be inferred on the basis of computer simulations. Now astronomers have actually spotted large-scale wave patterns at work in the cosmos.
Peter Goldreich, a planetary ring theorist at Caltech, said the new findings show how the material in the densest parts of Saturn's rings can amplify oscillations and explain the "mysterious grooves first seen in images taken by the Voyager spacecraft" in the 1980s.
Google wardriving? Say it ain't so. The unanswered question of course being "Why was Google gathering wireless data in the first place?"
FTC ends Google 'Street View' investigation without fines
(CNN) -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has called off its investigation of Google's "Street View" mapping program without issusing fines to the company, according to a letter sent from the FTC to Google on Wednesday.
The federal agency had been investigating the fact that Google collected communications, including passwords and e-mails, from people who used open Wi-Fi networks in their homes.
The data collections, which Google says were inadvertent, happened while Google was driving around taking pictures for the Street View function on Google Maps, the Mountain View, California, company said.
The FTC said Google has sufficiently addressed the problem.
"Google has made assurances to the FTC that the company has not used and will not use any of the payload data collected in any Google product or service, now or in the future," David C. Vladeck, the FTC's director for consumer protection, says a letter to Google, which was posted on the FTC's website.
"This assurance is critical to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the collection of payload data. Because of these commitments, we are ending our inquiry into this matter at this time."
Google, which first mentioned the fact that it had "sniffed" this Wi-Fi data in May, said in a blog post last week that the data included more sensitive information than was previously thought.
"In some instances entire e-mails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords," Alan Eustace, Google's senior vice-president of engineering and research, wrote in a post on that company's blog.
Wednesday's FTC letter acknowledges Google has made changes since investigators uncovered the privacy breaches.
Those changes include "appointing a director of privacy for engineering and product management; adding core privacy training for key employees; and incorporating a formal privacy review process into the design phases of new initiatives."
"Substances were given a mark from zero to 100 based on certain criteria (100 being most destructive), with alcohol scoring 72 overall followed by 55 for heroin and 54 for crack."London, England (CNN) -- Alcohol ranks "most harmful" among a list of 20 drugs -- beating out crack and heroin -- according to study results released by a British medical journal.
A panel of experts weighed the physical, psychological and social problems caused by the drugs and determined that alcohol was the most harmful overall, according to an article on the study released by The Lancet Sunday.
Using a new scale to evaluate harms to individual users and others, alcohol received a score of 72 on a scale of 1 to 100, the study says.
That makes it almost three times as harmful as cocaine or tobacco, according to the article, which is slated to be published on The Lancet's website Monday and in an upcoming print edition of the journal.
Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals, the study says, while alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others.
In the article, the panelists said their findings show that Britain's three-tiered drug classification system, which places drugs into different categories that determine criminal penalties for possession and dealing, has "little relation to the evidence of harm."
Panelists also noted that the rankings confirm other studies that say that "aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."
The Lancet article was co-authored by David Nutt, a professor and Britain's former chief drug adviser, who caused controversy last year after he published an article saying ecstasy was not as dangerous as riding a horse.
"So why are harmful sporting activities allowed, whereas relatively less harmful drugs are not?" Nutt wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. "I believe this reflects a societal approach which does not adequately balance the relative risks of drugs against their harms."
Nutt later apologized to anyone offended by the article and to those who have lost loved ones to ecstasy. He said he had no intention of trivializing the dangers of the drug and that he only wanted to compare the risks.
In the article released by The Lancet Sunday, ecstasy's harmfulness ranking -- 9 -- indicates it is only one eighth as harmful as alcohol.
The study was funded by the London-based Centre for Crime and Justice studies.
Krugman takes note of the embedded Puritanical parsimony embedded in the psyche of many Americans which has them, contrary to their self-proclaimed Christian principles of compassion and charity, clamoring for retribution and punishment against debtors, even if those debtors happen to be themselves.
It's part and parcel of the larger "voting-against-their-own-best-interests" phenomenon that so perfectly describes the Tea Party adherents central kneejerk ignorance maintained by the incessant anti-socialist sloganeering from the haves.
Mugged by the Moralizers
By Paul Krugman
"How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" That's the question CNBC's Rick Santelli famously asked in 2009, in a rant widely credited with giving birth to the Tea Party movement.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
It's a sentiment that resonates not just in America but in much of the world. The tone differs from place to place -- listening to a German official denounce deficits, my wife whispered, "We'll all be handed whips as we leave, so we can flagellate ourselves." But the message is the same: debt is evil, debtors must pay for their sins, and from now on we all must live within our means.
And that kind of moralizing is the reason we're mired in a seemingly endless slump.
The years leading up to the 2008 crisis were indeed marked by unsustainable borrowing, going far beyond the subprime loans many people still believe, wrongly, were at the heart of the problem. Real estate speculation ran wild in Florida and Nevada, but also in Spain, Ireland and Latvia. And all of it was paid for with borrowed money.
This borrowing made the world as a whole neither richer nor poorer: one person's debt is another person's asset. But it made the world vulnerable. When lenders suddenly decided that they had lent too much, that debt levels were excessive, debtors were forced to slash spending. This pushed the world into the deepest recession since the 1930s. And recovery, such as it is, has been weak and uncertain -- which is exactly what we should have expected, given the overhang of debt.
The key thing to bear in mind is that for the world as a whole, spending equals income. If one group of people -- those with excessive debts -- is forced to cut spending to pay down its debts, one of two things must happen: either someone else must spend more, or world income will fall.
Yet those parts of the private sector not burdened by high levels of debt see little reason to increase spending. Corporations are flush with cash -- but why expand when so much of the capacity they already have is sitting idle? Consumers who didn't overborrow can get loans at low rates -- but that incentive to spend is more than outweighed by worries about a weak job market. Nobody in the private sector is willing to fill the hole created by the debt overhang.
So what should we be doing? First, governments should be spending while the private sector won't, so that debtors can pay down their debts without perpetuating a global slump. Second, governments should be promoting widespread debt relief: reducing obligations to levels the debtors can handle is the fastest way to eliminate that debt overhang.
But the moralizers will have none of it. They denounce deficit spending, declaring that you can't solve debt problems with more debt. They denounce debt relief, calling it a reward for the undeserving.
And if you point out that their arguments don't add up, they fly into a rage. Try to explain that when debtors spend less, the economy will be depressed unless somebody else spends more, and they call you a socialist. Try to explain why mortgage relief is better for America than foreclosing on homes that must be sold at a huge loss, and they start ranting like Mr. Santelli. No question about it: the moralizers are filled with a passionate intensity.
And those who should know better lack all conviction.
John Boehner, the House minority leader, was widely mocked last year when he declared that "It's time for government to tighten their belts" -- in the face of depressed private spending, the government should spend more, not less. But since then President Obama has repeatedly used the same metaphor, promising to match private belt-tightening with public belt-tightening. Does he lack the courage to challenge popular misconceptions, or is this just intellectual laziness? Either way, if the president won't defend the logic of his own policies, who will?
Meanwhile, the administration's mortgage modification program -- the program that inspired the Santelli rant -- has, in the end, accomplished almost nothing. At least part of the reason is that officials were so worried that they might be accused of helping the undeserving that they ended up helping almost nobody.
So the moralizers are winning. More and more voters, both here and in Europe, are convinced that what we need is not more stimulus but more punishment. Governments must tighten their belts; debtors must pay what they owe.
The irony is that in their determination to punish the undeserving, voters are punishing themselves: by rejecting fiscal stimulus and debt relief, they're perpetuating high unemployment. They are, in effect, cutting off their own jobs to spite their neighbors.
But they don't know that. And because they don't, the slump will go on.