June 2011 Archives

Colbert and the FEC

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Talk about putting other people's money where your mouth is.

FEC approves Colbert's bid to create super PAC

Advertisements can not be run outside of his Comedy Central show

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The Federal Election Commission has approved an advisory opinion that will allow comedian Stephen Colbert to use funds from a media conglomerate to create advertisements for his independent expenditure-only political action committee.

But the commission voted, by a five to one margin, that those advertisements could not be run outside of Colbert's show, opting for the most narrow interpretation of the media exemption out of three drafts presented to commission members.

The decision is the closest campaign finance reform advocates could have come to a win. Reform advocates had worried that Colbert's request, apparently made in an effort to spotlight unregulated money flowing to so-called Super PACs, could have instead widened loopholes those PACs were already exploiting.
Video: Colbert files his super PAC with FEC (on this page)

Colbert himself appeared at the hearing to answer commission questions, creating a buzz around an otherwise sleepy government agency that regulates campaign law in virtual obscurity.

In filing his initial request for an advisory opinion, Colbert sought to take advantage of an exemption traditionally used to allow media outlets to report and comment on campaigns and endorse candidates without having their work considered "in-kind" political contributions, triggering filing and disclosure requirements with the Federal Election Commission.

The request came down to one essential issue: whether Viacom can legally donate production costs, airtime and use of Colbert's staff to create ads for the so-called super PAC, to be played both on "The Colbert Report " and as paid advertisements other networks and shows.

The commission said no, ruling that once ads created using Viacom resources were broadcast on other networks, Viacom would have to report them as political contributions.

Tarmac Terrapins

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Poor Little Corporate Jet Owners

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Maybe I'm Wrong

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Even the Hair Can Make Sense Sometimes

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Nobody thinks Trump is bigger jerk than me, but I was surprised by his insights in this conversation with Dylan Ratigan.

Obama Should Make Trump Ambassador to China

...seriously.

See what you think.

Not the Fault of the Greek People

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Watch the video in the last post to see what is really going on.


Fierce battles break out amid mass Greece protest

Youths hurled rocks and fire bombs at riot police in central Athens on Tuesday as a general strike against new austerity measures brought the country to a standstill.

Lawmakers are embarking on their second day of debate on austerity measures that must be passed in votes on Wednesday and Thursday if Greece is to receive another batch of bailout funds to see it beyond the middle of next month.

If the votes don't pass, Greece could become the first eurozone nation to default on its debts, and that could send out huge shock waves through the global economy.

The new austerity drive is proving hugely unpopular in Greece and a demonstration in central Athens soon descended into violence.

For several hours, police fired volleys of tear gas and stun grenades at masked and hooded youths just before the second day of debating was to resume.

Two groups of protesters appeared to clash with each other at one point. One side took refuge near a coffee shop, and police fired tear gas in an attempt to clear the crowds and get them out.

The situation quickly degenerated, with masked and hooded youths pelting police with chunks of marble ripped off building facades and steps.

They set fire to giant parasols at an outdoor cafe, using some to form barricades, and smashed windows of a McDonald's outlet and other snack shops.

Staff at upscale hotels handed out surgical masks to tourists and helped them with rolling luggage past the rioting, over ground strewn with smashed-up marble and cement paving stones.

Youths torched a satellite truck parked near parliament. The fire caused a freezer at a neighboring kiosk to explode, and hooded youths ducked behind the burning truck to help themselves to ice-cream cones.

"The troublemakers are attacking the police fiercely and trying to disrupt a peaceful protest," police spokesman Athanasios Kokalakis said.

Officials said four police officers were injured by flying stones and one person was stabbed during fights between rival groups of young demonstrators and three others were injured while a number of people were treated with breathing troubles.

Eighteen people were detained and three formal arrest charges were laid, police said.

Violence continued throughout the afternoon and protesters set fire to two communications trucks with mobile telecoms transmitters which they had apparently mistaken for TV trucks and sprayed with slogans attacking the media and banks.

Riot police charge
As a crowd initially estimated at more than 20,000 thinned out, clouds of white smoke swirled above the square and police with shields and riot helmets stood by, occasionally launching charges to disperse a harder core of mainly young demonstrators.

The clashes came at the start of a two-day strike called by unions furious that the new euro28 billion ($40 billion) austerity program will slap taxes on minimum wage earners and other struggling Greeks.

The measures come on top of other spending cuts and tax hikes that have sent Greek unemployment soaring to over 16 percent.

"The situation that the workers are going through is tragic and we are near poverty levels," said Spyros Linardopoulos, a protester with the PAME union blockading the port of Piraeus. "The government has declared war and to this war we will answer back with war."


DEBTOCRACY

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Causes of Greece's debt crisis and solutions, hidden by the government and the dominant media. This is a full length documentary which reveals the real roots of Greek debt and the toxic players of the Neo-Liberal financial model which has been creating massive illegitimate debt and sucking dry national economies for decades. You know the players, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Goldman Sachs, et al. Particularly interesting is the concept of "odious debt" and how it can invoked after an audit of how debts were incurred and whether or not they are legitimate. There are some excellent ideas presented in this film that should be applied to the US economy.

Fast Acting To Avoid Death

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Ending Civilian Rule

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The Phony Tough-on-Terror Crowd

NYTimes Op-Ed

Republicans and Democrats are championing bills to further militarize the prosecution of terrorists, beyond anything even President George W. Bush proposed.

They want Americans to believe the legislation will keep the country safer. In fact, these bills could end up tying the hands of F.B.I. agents and other law enforcement officials trying to disrupt terrorist plots. They are likely to deprive prosecutors of their most powerful weapons in bringing terrorists to justice. And they come perilously close to upending the prohibition, which dates back to Reconstruction, against the military's operating as a police force within the United States.

There is no sign that the White House tried to stop the House from passing a particularly awful version of these bills, which would move most, if not all, terrorism cases from civilian courts to military tribunals. And there is no sign the White House tried to stop the Senate Armed Services Committee from approving only a slightly better one.

Democrats on that committee insist they defeated far worse proposals. There are, however, some issues that require an unwavering stand. Preserving the role of law enforcement agencies in stopping and punishing terrorists is one of them. This country is not and should never be a place where the military dispenses justice, other than to its own.

President Obama must push the Democratic leadership to amend the Senate bill -- and make it clear that he will veto any bill that turns over proper law enforcement functions to the military.

For decades, terrorism has been prosecuted -- with great success -- in civilian courts. The Bush team insisted, falsely, that these courts were not tough enough for the war on terrorism and pushed the use of military courts for some "unlawful combatants."

Both the Senate and the House versions of the bills now remove the possibility of civilian trial and mandate military detention and military trial for anyone deemed to be a member of Al Qaeda "or an affiliated entity." Under current political thinking, that means pretty much anyone arrested for carrying out or plotting a terrorist act anywhere. The bills exclude American citizens, and the Senate bill appears to exclude lawful residents of this country, but government lawyers fear that is not clear enough.

The Senate bill allows the secretary of defense to transfer a prisoner to law enforcement custody in consultation with the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence. The likelihood of that happening given current politics is infinitesimal, but more important, it is the statutory job of the attorney general to decide when and how to prosecute federal prisoners. Cutting him out of the process is an effort to turn all terrorism cases into matters of war, not law.


Ill Will Hunting

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Imperial Polk County Florida. Now there's a name that says everything.

There were public KKK meetings and parades here up to the 1980's. There's a Baptist church every 200 feet and the good ol boy reality still functions here. The local sheriff, Grady Judd, is a grand standing publicity hound who models himself on the "I am the Law" antics of Arizona's infamous Joe Arpaio slathered with a heaping of Evangelical Christian family values, likely with an eye on state politics. He's been harassing a local atheist activist for a while now and she has finally set up a lawsuit against the sheriff and others for his obvious pro-xtian witch hunting.


Activist Atheist to Sheriff: Leave Me Alone

By Matthew Pleasant

LAKELAND | The Atheists of Florida's legal coordinator filed a federal lawsuit Friday against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd that alleges her recent arrests are retaliation against her secular views.

ellebneth.jpgEllenBeth Wachs, jailed twice this year, is seeking an injunction to stop Judd from arresting her or launching new investigations about her. She claims the charges she currently faces are a result of her "assertion of a non-religious, atheist viewpoint in the predominantly Christian-oriented Polk County," the lawsuit says.

Some of her allegations go beyond Judd. Wachs claims he hatched a scheme with other unnamed residents and officials in the county -- referred to only as "doe defendants" in the suit -- to silence Wachs, who protested last year when Judd donated jailhouse basketball hoops to churches.

Her lawsuit claims Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields and Stacy Butterfield, the county comptroller's financial director, conspired with Judd "to ensure the establishment of an atheist-free Polk County, beginning with the persecution of" Wachs. It cites a connection between Judd, Fields and Butterfield as fellow board of director members of Polk Vision, a planning group.

Fields and Butterfield are also linked to Wachs' March arrest on a charge of illegally posing as a licensed Florida attorney. Court papers say both told investigators they thought Wachs was holding herself out as an attorney. Wachs, a Lakeland resident, is a retired attorney from Pennsylvania.

Butterfield declined to comment Friday, and Fields declined through Kevin Cook, the Lakeland city spokesman. The same went for Polk County Sheriff's Office.

A Landmark Day for Gay Marriage

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One more step toward the inevitable.


NY Senate Passes Same Sex Marriage Bill

Paves way for state to become 6th, and largest, to legalize same-sex unions

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New York state senators Friday night voted 33-29 to legalize gay marriage, a breakthrough victory for the gay-rights movement in the state where it got its start.

A veteran Republican senator earlier told The Associated Press he will vote yes, apparently giving the measure the support it needs to become law.

Sen. Stephen Saland said he has long been undecided. He voted against a similar bill in 2009, helping kill the measure and dealing a blow to the national gay rights movement.

Before he announced his intention, 31 senators were in favor, one short of a majority. If they all still vote that way, New York would become the sixth state, and by far the largest, where gay marriage is legal.

Gay weddings could begin 30 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs it into law, which he has said he would do.

Senators earlier on Friday night approved an amendment relating to religious exemptions to gay marriage, the last obstacle before a vote on whether to legalize same-sex unions.







What Really Went Down

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A new economic paradigm for the 21st century.


The theory: What's Mine is Yours

The Practice: Sharing Stuff and the Currency of Trust



The Links:


www.friendswiththings.com.au

http://shareable.net/blog/gen-y-guide-to-collaborative-consumption


Reveling in the Pain of Others

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Moral Degeneracy and Violence in the "Kill Team" Photos

The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people.... The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others.... Regressive tendencies, that is, people with repressed sadistic traits, are produced everywhere today by the global evolution of society.... Everywhere where it is mutilated, consciousness is reflected back upon the body and the sphere of the corporeal in an unfree form that tends toward violence. -Theodor Adorno

War, violence and death have become the organizing principle of governance and culture in the United States as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. Lacking a language for the social good, the very concept of the social as a space in which justice, equality, social protections and a responsibility to the other mediate everyday life is being refigured through a spectacle of violence and cruelty. Under such circumstances, ethical considerations and social costs are removed from market-driven policies and values just as images of human suffering are increasingly abstracted from not only their social and political contexts, but also the conditions that make such suffering possible. Moreover, as public issues collapse into privatized considerations, matters of agency, responsibility and ethics are now framed within the discourse of extreme individualism. Unexpected violence, aggression and the "'masculine' virtues of toughness, strength, decisiveness and determination ... are accentuated," along with the claims of vengeance, militarization and violence.(1) The collapse of the social and the formative culture that make human bonds possible is now outmatched by the rise of a Darwinian ethic of greed and self-interest in which violence, aggressiveness and sadism have become the primary metric for living and dying. As the social contract is replaced by social collapse, a culture of depravity has emerged in American society. The spectacle of violence permeates every aspect of the machinery of cultural production and screen culture - extending from television news and reality TV to the latest Hollywood fare. Of course, this is not new. What is new is that more and more people desire spectacles of high-intensity violence and images of death, mutilation and suffering and their desires should no longer be attributed to an individual aberration, but instead suggest an increasingly widespread social pathology.

amer-a-hole.jpgDeath and violence have become the mediating link between US domestic policy - the state's treatment of its own citizens - and foreign policy, between the tedium of ever expanding workdays and the thrill of sadistic release. Disposable bodies now waste away in American prisons, schools and shelters just as they litter the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. America has become a permanent warfare state, with a deep investment in a cultural politics and the corollary cultural apparatuses that legitimate and sanctify its machinery of death. The American public's fascination with violence and death is evident in the recent popular obsession with high-octane action films, along with the ever-expanding volume of vampire and zombie films, TV shows and books. We also see death-dealing and violent acts accrue popularity with Hollywood films such as the 2010 academy-award winning "The Hurt Locker," in which the American bomb disposal expert, William James (Jeremy Renner), repeatedly puts himself at risk in the face of defusing various bomb threats - thus to highlight the filmmaker's concern with a growing "addiction" to war. As Mark Featherstone points out, there is more represented here than the reckless behavior of immature and hyper-masculine soldiers. He writes, "James takes unnecessary risks and lives for the limit experience.... [H]e feels most alive when he is closest to death ... When James ... throws the bomb suit away and stands before the bomb with no protection, he puts himself at the mercy of the bomb, the embodiment of the death drive."



Return of the King

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Deep Patriots Call Out

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Straight Talk

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Get Radical: Raise Social Security

By Thomas Geoghegan

As a labor lawyer I cringe when Democrats talk of "saving" Social Security. We should not "save" it but raise it. Right now Social Security pays out 39 percent of the average worker's preretirement earnings. While jaws may drop inside the Beltway, we could raise that to 50 percent. We'd still be near the bottom of the league of the world's richest countries -- but at least it would be a basement with some food and air. We have elderly people living on less than $10,000 a year. Is that what Democrats want to "save"?

old_woman.jpg"But we can't afford it!" Oh, come on: We have a federal tax rate equal to nearly 15 percent of our G.D.P. -- far below the take in most wealthy countries. Let's wake up: the biggest crisis we face is that most of us have nothing meaningful saved for retirement. I know. I started my career wanting to be a pension lawyer. In the 1970s, lawyers like me expected there to be big pots of private pensions for hourly workers. By the 1980s, as factories closed, I was filing hopeless lawsuits to claw back bits and pieces of benefits. Now there are even fewer bits and pieces to get.

A recent Harris poll found that 34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement -- not even a hundred bucks. In this lost decade, that percentage is sure to go up. At retirement the lucky few with a 401(k) typically have $98,000. As an annuity that's about $600 a month -- not exactly an upper-middle-class lifestyle. It's too late for Congress to come up with some new savings plan -- a new I.R.A. that grows hair, or something. There's no time. We have to improve the one public pension program in place. Should we means-test it? No. I don't care if they go out and buy bottles of Jim Beam: let our elderly have an occasional night out at a restaurant.

The most paralyzing half-truth in this country is that people hate taxes. People are willing to pay taxes that they spend on themselves. Two-thirds of those surveyed in a CBS/New York Times poll in January were willing to pay more taxes to save Social Security at its modest level. To "save" it, most of us don't need to pay. We could lift the cap on high earners, the 6 percent of workers who make over $106,800 a year. If earnings above the cap were subject to the payroll tax with no increase in benefits to high earners, there would be no deficit in the Social Security trust fund in 2037, as projected.

If people are willing to pay more just to "save" Social Security, they should be glad to pay more to raise it.

What does it take to get Social Security up to half the average worker's earnings?

Waste not; want not

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It's all about the yuk factor. Americans don't want to eat bugs either. Or they'll spend tens of thousands of dollars draining an open air, million gallon water supply because somebody urinated in it, (never mind the constant exposure to bat and bird shit or general air pollutants of infinite variety). Astronauts recycle their urine and sweat as drinking water.

This is basically the same thing. Would I eat it? If I was hungry for meat and it cost the same, sure. Better than feeding a cow and killing it.

Japan scientist makes meat out of human excrement

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Somehow this feels like a Vonnegut plotline: population boom equals food shortage. Solution? Synthesize food from human waste matter. Absurd yes, but Japanese scientists have actually discovered a way to create edible steaks from human feces.

Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory, has developed steaks based on proteins from human excrement. Tokyo Sewage approached the scientist because of an overabundance of sewage mud. They asked him to explore the possible uses of the sewage and Ikeda found that the mud contained a great deal of protein because of all the bacteria.

The researchers then extracted those proteins, combined them with a reaction enhancer and put it in an exploder which created the artificial steak. The "meat" is 63% proteins, 25% carbohydrates, 3% lipids and 9% minerals. The researchers color the poop meat red with food coloring and enhance the flavor with soy protein. Initial tests have people saying it even tastes like beef.

Inhabitat notes that "the meatpacking industry causes 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to the release of methane from animals." Livestock also consume huge amounts of resources and space in efforts to feed ourselves as well as the controversy over cruelty to animals. Ikeda's recycled poop burger would reduce waste and emissions, not to mention obliterating Dante's circle for gluttons.

The scientists hope to price it the same as actual meat, but at the moment the excrement steaks are ten to twenty times the price they should be thanks to the cost of research. Professor Ikeda understands the psychological barriers that need to be surmounted knowing that your food is made from human feces. They hope that once the research is complete, people will be able to overlook that ugly detail in favor of perks like environmental responsibility, cost and the fact that the meat will have fewer calories.

Have a nice day

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How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?


Wherever I turn,

wherever I happen to look,

I see the black ruins of my life, here,

where I've spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.

I'll go to another country, go to another shore,

find another city better than this one...


You won't find a new country, won't find another shore."

This city will always pursue you. You will walk

the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,

will turn gray in these same houses.

You will always end up in this city.

Don't hope for things elsewhere:

there is no ship for you, there is no road.

As you've wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you've destroyed it everywhere else in the world.


The doom is everywhere, the hope has been choked out.

Have a nice day.

or, for that matter, any other gay issue.

They told us the Earth was the center of the universe, the Earth was flat, there was no Antarctica, there was no gravity. They imprisoned Galileo, charged Da Vinci with sodomy and committed unspeakable atrocities during the Inquisition and the witch hunts. We are just the latest in a long line of people who have suffered under their holier-than-thou connection to "God." - Tony of California


The Archbishop vs. the Governor: Gay Sera, Sera

Worn out by the rampant sexting of Anthony Weiner and the relentless blogging of Archbishop Dolan, I'm wondering if our institutions need to rejigger: Maybe pols should be celibate and priests should be married.

by Maureen Dowd

With his cigars, blogs, Jameson's and Irish affability, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan prides himself on his gumption.

Certainly his effort to kill the gay marriage bill, just one vote away from passing in Albany, shows a lot of gall.

priesttest.gifThe archbishop has been ferocious in fighting against marriage between same-sex couples, painting it as a perversity against nature.

If only his church had been as ferocious in fighting against the true perversity against nature: the unending horror of pedophile priests and the children who trusted them.

In the second-generation round of the Church vs. Cuomo, Archbishop Dolan is pitted against Andrew Cuomo , the Catholic governor who is fiercely pushing for New York to become the sixth and most populous state to approve gay marriage.

Governor Cuomo was already on the wrong side of the church for his support of abortion rights, his divorce and his living in "sin" with the Food Network star Sandra Lee. He was accused by the Vatican adviser Edward Peters of "public concubinage," as it's known in canon law, and Peters recommended that Cuomo be denied communion until he resolved "the scandal" by ceasing this "cohabiting."

And therein lies the casuistry. On one hand, as Peters told The Times about Cuomo and Lee, "men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony." But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together.

Dolan insists that marriage between a man and a woman is "hard-wired" by God and nature. But the church refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality may be hard-wired by God and nature as well, and is not a lifestyle choice.

Dolan and other church leaders are worried about the exodus of young Catholics who no longer relate to the intolerances of church teaching. He dryly told The Times last year that when he sees long lines of young people on Fifth Avenue waiting to get into a house of worship, it's at Abercrombie & Fitch, not St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The church refuses to acknowledge the hypocrisy at its heart: that it became a haven for gay priests even though it declares homosexual sex a sin, and even though it lobbies to stop gays from marrying.

In yet another attempt at rationalization, the nation's Catholic bishops -- a group Dolan is now in charge of -- put out a ridiculous five-year-study last month going with the "blame Woodstock" explanation for the sex-abuse scandal. The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes.

In another resistance to reform, the bishops voted on Thursday to keep their policies on sexual abuse by the clergy largely the same, with only small revisions, ignoring victims' advocates who were hoping for meaningful changes.

The Real Cost of Clouds

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How much electrical energy does the internet use and how does that cost in terms of both money and ecological pollution? Ever think about that?

From a NYTimes article about the cloud, broadband caps and net neutrality comes this comment:

150. Tony Marshallsay
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Forget all the worrying about bandwidth, download caps and costs which get hiked once you've been well and truly hooked on the "advantages" of "the cloud". Before you gripe about how you are being affected, just think what the cloud is doing to this Earth of ours.

It is more than a year since some researchers showed that running the Internet burns more fossil fuel than all the airline flights in the world. Now, just think how much traffic over the Internet has boomed in just that short year, due to the increases in broadband download speed which have made downloading of movies, Netflix, video streaming and lots of other high capacity services feasible.

If I were to download a movie from a site in USA, the process would be burning fuel across half the world to power all the intermediate relay/switch points.

One of the first things to move to the cloud was Microsoft's Help for its Office suite "so that the information you get will always be up to the minute" (other major software providers have followed suit). Before, finding what you wanted to know within its arcane indexing system took forever - but it only burned fuel for the power to run your PC - power you were already using anyway. Now, it takes longer than ever to find anything, because basing queries on search throws up a load of possible results for you to laboriously trawl through, rather than clicking through hierarchical menus and following links. How much more fuel does that burn... worldwide?

Would you like to reduce your contribution to the Internet's anthropogenic global warming by 80% instantly? Sure, you would - but you wouldn't like it when you find out how it could be done: banning CSS. It's CSS that gives you "pretty" web pages, rather than those created with plain old HTML; but the formatting code of CSS increases the size of the web page code by the leaps and bounds of a kangaroo, and all that extra code has to be carried, burning fuel worldwide, and processed at your PC, burning more locally! Java and Javascript have a lot to answer for, too, because all those dinky animated banners, "mouse over" adverts and the like are also burning fuel the same way.

So, next time you complain about caps and charges on the cloud affecting your on-line life, or your ability to watch YouTube video clips without fits and starts, perhaps you might think how that life today could be affecting life for all the inhabitants of this planet tomorrow. The cloud is very convenient - but that convenience comes with a price which doesn't show up in your monthly bill, and which the service providers would prefer you didn't think about, because then you might not buy so much from them.

George Carlin's Clarity Moments

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It goes like this:

Nobody cares about you


When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder,
How can that be? How can you not have all day?
George Carlin

Who is George Carlin, you ask?

Let him explain:

Life is Worth Losing

Pushing the Edges

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I like his mother. I'd like to know what exactly he was suspended for.


Boy wears dress and heels to school, gets suspended

inheels.jpgA 15-year-old boy has been suspended from school after wearing high heels and a dress to school as a part of a challenge laid down by his mother.

Sam Saurs, a ninth grader at Sedgwick Junior High School in Port Orchard, said he told his mother that wearing high heels wouldn't be that hard. Saurs' mother challenged him to try it and he accepted. To take it even further, he decided to wear a dress, too.

After Saurs showed up at school Wednesday in the dress and heels, the school suspended him for the remainder of the year. That suspension was later reduced to three days. But Saurs won't be allowed to go to the ninth grade dance or the class party at Wild Waves.

The South Kitsap School District said the issue has been resolved and would not make any further comment about the incident.

Good Stuff & Kudos

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Look out NASCAR!

But seriously, all great journeys begin with a single step.

Step 1:

Saudi women get behind the wheel to protest driving ban

One drives for 45 minutes through capital to protest male-only driving policy

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A Saudi woman defiantly drove through the nation's capital Friday while others brazenly cruised by police patrols in the first forays of a campaign that hopes to ignite a road rebellion against the male-only driving rules in the ultraconservative kingdom.

saudi-woman-driver.jpgIt was a rare grass-roots challenge to the Western-backed Saudi monarchy as it tries to ride out the Arab world's wave of change, and a lesson in how the uprisings are taking root in different ways. In this case, the driver's seat was turned into a powerful platform for women's rights in a country where wives and daughters have almost no political voice.

"We've seen that change is possible," said Maha al-Qahtani, a computer specialist at Saudi's Ministry of Education. She said she drove for 45 minutes around the capital, Riyadh with her husband in the passenger seat. "This is Saudi women saying, 'This is our time to make a change.'"

The number of Saudi women who drove apparently was small and there were no mass convoys of women at the wheel. No arrests or violence were immediately reported.

But the show of defiance could bring difficult choices for the Saudi regime, which has so far has escaped major unrest. Officials could either order a crackdown on the women or give way to the demands at the risk of angering traditional-minded clerics and other conservative groups.

It also could encourage wider reform bids by Saudi women, who are not allowed to vote and must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel or take a job.

Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans women from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

A Blow to the Bigots Worldwide

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Does this mean that any new Startrek movies or series will have gay characters and/or relationships??

U.N. council passes gay rights resolution

By Jill Dougherty,

In what the U.S. State Department is calling a "historic step," the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution Friday supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

The resolution, introduced by South Africa, is the first-ever U.N. resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons.

It passed with 23 votes in favor, 19 opposed and three abstentions amid strong criticism of South Africa by some African nations.

Suzanne Nossel, deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations, told CNN, "It really is a key part in setting a new norm that gay rights are human rights and that that has to be accepted globally."

"It talks about the violence and discrimination that people of LGBT persuasion experience around the world," she said, "and that those issues ... need to be taken seriously. It calls for reporting on what's going on, where people are being discriminated against, the violence that is taking place, and it really puts the issue squarely on the U.N.'s agenda going forward."

Divided opinion continues among some countries about whether the time has come to take up gay rights in the U.N. forum, Nossel said, "so this resolution is really significant as far as gaining widespread support for doing just that."

The State Department lobbied intensively for the resolution, and Nossel said the United States was pleased to see African leadership, from South Africa in particular, as well as strong support from South America, Colombia and Brazil.

The resolution also will commission the first-ever U.N. report on the challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people face around the globe. Nossel said the Obama administration hopes it will "open a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons."

The Arrogance of Authority

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hat tip to callmeishmael


A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas , and talked with an old rancher.
He told the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."
The rancher said, "Okay , but don't go in that field over there.....", as he pointed out the location.

The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, "Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!"
Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.
"See this badge?! This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish.... On anyland!!
No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear...do you understand?!!"

The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.


A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull......

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he'd sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified.
The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs.....


"Your badge, show him your BADGE........!!"

A Giant Leap in Understanding Memory

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Memory Implant Gives Rats Sharper Recollection

By Benedict Carey

Scientists have designed a brain implant that restored lost memory function and strengthened recall of new information in laboratory rats -- a crucial first step in the development of so-called neuroprosthetic devices to repair deficits from dementia, stroke and other brain injuries in humans.

Though still a long way from being tested in humans, the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons. In recent years neuroscientists have developed implants that allow paralyzed people to move prosthetic limbs or a computer cursor, using their thoughts to activate the machines. In the new work, being published Friday, researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California used some of the same techniques to read neural activity. But they translated those signals internally, to improve brain function rather than to activate outside appendages.

"It's technically very impressive to pull something like this off, given our current level of technology," said Daryl Kipke, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the experiment. "We are just scratching the surface when it comes to interacting with the brain, but this experiment shows what's possible and the great potential of interacting with the brain in this way."

In a series of experiments, scientists at Wake Forest led by Sam A. Deadwyler trained rats to remember which of two identical levers to press to receive water; the animals first saw one of the two levers appear and then (after being distracted) had to remember to press the other lever to be rewarded. Repeated training on this task teaches rats the general rule, but in each trial the animal has to remember which lever appeared first, to inform the later choice.

It All Comes Down to US

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Struggling to find that Dad's Day Gift?

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Now THIS is a Conversation

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Selling Off Public Assets

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America for Sale: Is Goldman Sachs Buying Your City?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In Chicago, it's the sale of parking meters to the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi. In Indiana, it's the sale of the northern toll road to a Spanish and Australian joint venture. In Wisconsin it's public health and food programs, in California it's libraries. It's water treatment plants, schools, toll roads, airports, and power plants. It's Amtrak. There are revolving doors of corrupt politicians, big banks, and rating agencies. There are conflicts of interest. It's bipartisan.

And it's coming to a city near you -- it may already be there. We're talking about the sale of public assets to private investors. You may have heard of one-off deals, but what we'll be exploring with the Huffington Post is the scale and scope of what is a national and organized campaign to shift the way we govern ourselves. In an era of increasingly stretched local and state budgets, privatization of public assets may be so tempting to local politicians that the trend seems unstoppable. Yet, public outrage has stopped and slowed a number of initiatives.

While there are no televised debates around this issue, there is no polling, and there are no elections, who wins it will determine the literal shape of modern America. The Dylan Ratigan show is teaming up with the Huffington Post to do a three part series called "America for Sale", showing the pros and cons, and the politics and economics, of a new and far more privatized government.

On Wall Street, setting up and running "Infrastructure Funds" is big business, with over $140 billion run by such banks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Australian infrastructure specialist Macquarie. Goldman's 2010 SEC filing should give you some sense of the scope of the campaign. Goldman says it will be involved with "ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States." While the bank sees increased opportunity in "distressed assets" (ie. Cities and states gone broke because of the financial crisis), the bank also recognizes "reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held."

Fred Who?

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Upsetting the Banks Apple Cart

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I doubt this will get much traction others than some penalty deal being made between the federal government and the financial markets for fear the other consequence would be trillion dollar loses.

Bank Of America Faces New Probe

New York Attorney General Launches Investigation Into Mortgage Securitization

banksbreaking.jpgNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has targeted Bank of America , the biggest U.S. bank by assets, in a new probe that questions the validity of potentially thousands of mortgage securities and their associated foreclosures, two people familiar with the matter said.

The investigation, which began quietly in recent weeks, is part of a larger inquiry that is scrutinizing whether mortgage companies and Wall Street firms took the necessary steps under New York state law when creating mortgage-backed securities, these people said, who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the probe.

Court testimony and independent studies have raised questions over whether banks and other financial firms passed along the required documents to trusts, the independent entities that oversee securities for investors. In some cases where trusts moved to seize borrowers' homes, judges have determined the trusts lacked legal standing due to faulty documentation.

The inquiry could prove explosive: Wall Street's great mortgage securitization machine took millions of home loans and bundled them into securities for sale to investors. If the legal steps that guide securitization -- like taking mortgage documents from one party to another, a critical step under New York law -- were not undertaken, then the investors who bought the bundled loans could force the companies to buy them back, compelling them to eat enormous losses.

New York state investigators could also find that those securities aren't valid financial instruments at all and take action under state law.

The probe is part of a comprehensive investigation into Wall Street's activities before and after the credit crisis undertaken by New York's top cop. Schneiderman, a Democrat who rode to office by pointing out Wall Street's misdeeds, requested documents earlier this year from Bank of America, the largest lender and mortgage servicer, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley regarding their mortgage operations.

But an investigation into whether the securities these companies created are even valid represents a new front in his ongoing probe and raises fresh questions into the potential liability sellers of these mortgage instruments face.

Last November, the Congressional Oversight Panel, a federal watchdog created to keep tabs on the bailout, said widespread paperwork problems involving mortgage securities could cause the largest U.S. banks to swallow unknown billions in losses, threatening the stability of the financial system.

"If mortgages were not properly transferred in the securitization process, then mortgage-backed securities would in fact not be backed by any mortgages whatsoever," Adam J. Levitin, a bankruptcy expert and professor at Georgetown University Law Center , said at a House panel last November. Levitin said the problem could "cloud title to nearly every property in the United States" and could lead to trillions of dollars in losses.

Break It, Own It

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You know what drives me nuts? The absolute out of touch stupidity constantly puked up by the right in this country. It's like they have an unlimited warehouse of packaged dumb they from which order their latest nit-witted talking points. It's almost awe-inspiring how they can keep up with increasing levels of stupid.

Beyond the duplicity is the sheer arrogance and beyond that is the massive ignorance of the right. But beyond all of that is need for some cosmic justice to be brought down on the heads of the American people who let these war crimes be perpetrated in our name. We abetted Bushco and Blackwater et al in both Iraq and in this country by our acquiescence to the fear mongering. And worst of all it continues...to wit:



from the Turley Law Blog and Politico

Iraqi Leaders Denounce Congressional Delegation After One Member Suggests Iraq Should Help Pay War Expenses

Many of us have been objecting for years that we are closing down essential programs and selling off public lands on the state and federal level while we gush billions to fund wars like the one in Iraq -- an oil rich country. The Iraqis, however, have called for billing the United States for damage to their country from the war. When Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, went to Iraq with a delegation he caused a diplomatic incident when he politely suggested that Iraq might want to pay some of the costs back now that it is again selling oil at record high prices. The response was a statement from the government that the entire delegation was not welcomed in the country after making such a "stupid" proposal.

Of course, it was not stupid to spend hundreds of billions and sacrifice so many young Americans. Instead, officials again demanded that the United States pay damages to Iraq and emphasized that they did not want the war and did not approve of the way the United States has acted in their country. Of course, the Obama Administration is now indicating that Iraq needs us to remain and that we would seriously consider keeping troops after the proposed date of withdrawal set by Bush. Obama previously renamed combat troops to suggest a withdrawal from the war.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh responded angrily to the suggestion that we were there to help them and should be compensated: "We as a government reject such statements, and we have informed the American embassy that these congressmen are not welcome in Iraq,"

The head of the Iraqi parliament's foreign affairs committee, Humam Hmoudi, said suggestions that Iraq should bear such costs are "stupid" and "provokes us and the Iraqi people." Legislator Etab al-Douri was equally incensed and said "we are the ones who should ask for compensation and not them, and we demand the occupiers to withdraw now." Of course, the Obama Administration is insisting that we remain and continue to bear the entire bill for our defense of the Iraqi people.

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey reacted to the scandal by distancing the Administration from such comments and reminding the Iraqi people that these congressmen do not speak for the country.

Another Reason To Hate Mondays

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The fascism is just boiling over.

Famous last words: If I am not doing anything illegal, I have nothing to fear.

F.B.I. agents get leeway to push privacy bounds

New powers raise 'potential for abuse,' says former agent who is now ACLU lawyer

By Charlie Savage

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German , a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents' power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

"Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse," Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau's surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general's findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused "national security letters," which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

'Fine-tuning'
Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

"Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls," she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as "more like fine-tuning than major changes."

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an "assessment." The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations "proactively" and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Who's America is this?

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It's certainly not the one I grew up believing in. The America I knew was based on principles above all, especially the principles of fair play and justice and the constitutional rights we had were sacrosanct. Political expedience and propagandized fear have destroyed all that. So who's America is this? Maybe it's bin Laden's.

Here's a thought regarding how far we have come down the rabbit hole of fascism:

Everything Nixon did that got him booted out of the presidency is now legal and business as usual.


No Justice in Kafka's America

By Chris Hedges

In Franz Kafka's short story "Before the Law" a tireless supplicant spends his life praying for admittance into the courts of justice. He sits outside the law court for days, months and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted. He sacrifices everything he owns to sway or bribe the stern doorkeeper. He ages, grows feeble and finally childish. He is told as he nears death that the entrance was constructed solely for him and it will now be closed.

nojustice.jpgJustice has become as unattainable for Muslim activists in the United States as it was for Kafka's frustrated petitioner. The draconian legal mechanisms that condemn Muslim Americans who speak out publicly about the outrages we commit in the Middle East have left many, including Syed Fahad Hashmi , wasting away in supermax prisons. These citizens posed no security threat. But they dared to speak a truth about the sordid conduct of our nation that the state found unpalatable. And in the bipartisan war on terror, waged by Republicans and Democrats, this ugly truth in America is branded seditious.

The best the U.S. government could offer as evidence of Fahad's crimes was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment and that the acquaintance eventually delivered these to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government is overly concerned with a suitcase full of waterproof socks taken to Pakistan. The reason Fahad Hasmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College . Fahad was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were to me unpalatable, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, he accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism.

It has been a year since his 15-year sentence was pronounced in a New York courtroom. He is now held in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colo. He is isolated in a small cell for 22 to 23 hours a day. He has only extremely limited contact with his mother, father and brother, often going weeks without any communication. Between his transfer to Florence last August and this March he was permitted only one phone call. The rule of law in America, especially if you are Muslim, fits Kafka's grim parody. The tyranny we impose on those held in Guantanamo, Bagram and the secret CIA "black sites" we impose on ourselves. This is and always has been the disease of empire. Empire imports the crude and brutal tools of control and violence back to the homeland. It creates internal as well as external colonies.

We no longer have freedom; there is only the appearance of freedom. We are consumed by an endless and vague war on terror in which the perfidiousness of our enemy, whose number, location and nature are never clearly defined, justifies the shredding of constitutional rights, torture, kidnapping, detentions without charges or trials and an occult-like battle against an absolute evil. And if you think the state intends to limit itself to the persecution of Muslims, especially once there is an increase in domestic unrest and instability, you know little about human history.

Imagination

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Sermonette #342

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from the Turley Law Blog :

Vouchercare - When Truth is Demagoguery

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The Republican spin machine is in overdrive working on their plan to replace a government-run program (Medicare) that directly pays health care providers with a program that would funnel taxpayer funds to private insurance companies (Vouchercare). They are trying to convince the media that their plan to end Medicare is actually a plan that creates a "new, sustainable version of Medicare."

As Atrios puts it, "when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we'll call the pizza the Marines."

Part of the Republican's effort to frame the issue has to do with the portrayal of the Canadian system, that is also called Medicare. One often repeated claim is that "so many" Canadians coming to America for their health care. Pay-for-play think tanks are ever-willing to write a "study" supporting that claim.

However, a comprehensive study in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs, entitled "Phantoms In The Snow," provides evidence of a different answer. The report surveyed United States border facilities in Michigan, New York, and Washington, those closest to all those Canadians clamoring to get into the U.S.

canada1.png

As can be seen from the table above, almost 40 percent of the facilities reported treating no Canadians, while an additional 40 percent had seen fewer than ten patients. In addition, conditions categorized as emergency/urgent and pregnancy and birth, constituted about 80 percent of the stateside admissions. It's unlikely that a Canadian would waste the transportation time to come to the U.S. in an emergency. The pregnancy/birth cases are obviously Canadians looking to create "anchor babies."

As soon as the "hoards of Canadians" story gets shot down, we get the story that Canadian doctors are leaving for the U.S. The actual evidence is that, in each of the years 2005 and 2006, 122 Canadian doctors, out of over 60,000 active physicians in Canada, came to the U.S. I have no data on how many returned.

While wealthy Canadians can afford to seek out the very best health care anywhere in the world, the meme, that Canadian patients and doctors are so dissatisfied with Canadian Medicare that they come the U.S. in droves, is not supported by the evidence. A realistic view of the Canadian system with its shortcomings and strengths is not part of the Republican agenda.

Larry Flint: Whadda guy!

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small people

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World's shortest man

smallest.man.jpgSINDANGAN, Philippines -- A Guinness World Records representative has declared the son of a poor Filipino locksmith who measured 23.5 inches tall as the world'sshortest man.

Guinness official Craig Glenday says Junrey Balawing, who turned 18 on Sunday, broke the record of Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal, who is 26.4 inches tall.

The announcement drew a loud applause from Balawing's parents and townmates in Zamboanga del Norte's remote Sindangan township in the southern Philippines, who showered the new celebrity with a feast, a cake, balloons and cash gifts.

Balawing thanked the crowd and posed for pictures.

Lolit Homay, municipal health officer in Zamboanga del Norte province's Sindangan township, said Balawing was measured on Saturday at about 24 inches from head to foot lying down and slightly above 23 inches standing up.

I haven't really joined in on the Weiner debacle because I just consider it so petty and diversionary. What the guy does legally and not harnful to other people in his private life is simply of no concern to me. But Olbermann makes a good point below.

Advice To Anthony Weiner: Resign, Then Run Again

by Keith Olbermann

There is no rush to judgment like a political rush to judgment.

The airwaves, the talk shows, all of the homes of political puffery have been filled to the brim, for more than a week, with absolute certainty about what Anthony Weiner should do - no, must do.

Republicans like Eric Cantor, whose response to previous such scandals on his side of the aisle has been to say he was praying for the malefactor's family and hoped we would let "the people decide," isn't praying, and isn't letting anybody decide - he's saying Weiner should quit.

Some Democrats have insisted that there wasn't a reason in the world for Weiner to quit, that the saga was pathetic and distressing but was of little actual consequence relative to Weiner's honesty and character - even though what he presented in his first several explanations, was not honesty - and what he showed in the photos was not character,

Several supposed Liberals have demanded that Weiner resign immediately because of the difficult position in which he has placed the minority leader, as if Weiner's contributions to Progressive causes in this country were insignificant and irrelevant.

Even public opinion polls have, well - what else? - an opinion. Only 30% of New Yorkers in a Marist Poll said he should resign, while nearly two thirds of them said he apologized only because he got caught.

And, of course, odious blackmailers like Andrew Breitbart have said Weiner and other liberals are hypocrites. He in particular added he was holding back additional photographs out of decency. And then he showed those photographs the next day. But Weiner is the hypocrite. This is to be remembered when Breitbart's fall finally comes - prediction: it will involve handcuffs, and not in the way he might enjoy them.

Now, Minority Leader Pelosi and other leading House Democrats have done what their Republican colleagues would never do: they too have urged Weiner to resign, for what appears to be about the 45th worst sex scandal among politicians in the last five or six years. Senators Jon Ensign and David Vitter make Weiner look like a celibate, and we have yet to hear a Republican demand either of them go.

The rush to issue an opinion about Anthony Weiner is so strong - so indicative of the unnecessary urgency of most aspects of our political theater - that a couple of times on Twitter I was harangued by followers, because I hadn't come out and demanded Weiner quit. Or stay.

My silence owed to one important fact: I wasn't sure.

Hell, to be honest, ....

And that's the fact Jack.

A perfect description of the insane nationalism that makes modern Israel such a fascist state.



hat tip to Diana


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.
- Albert Einstein

brainondrugs.gif


No social experiment policy has ever caused as much human and economic damage as Richard Nixon's declaration and inception in 1971 of the so-called War on Drugs.
It has criminalized a huge percentage of the American public, ruining the lives of individuals and families while creating a massive, completely out-of-control bureaucracy and fostering the largest and most most lucrative worldwide criminal enterprise that has ever existed. And yet, after 100's of billions of dollars poured down its gluttonous maw over several decades it has zero to report about any success it has caused in reducing either drug flow or consumption.

It is akin to nuking a city to get rid of the cockroaches and ending up having the only things crawling out of the rubble being the cockroaches themselves. Or like the famous quote from the Vietnam era that summed up for many the arrogance and pointlessness of American aggression in Asia two generations ago, "we had to burn the village to save it".

Drug Bust

By Charles M. Blow

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs.

On the morning of June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon , speaking from the Briefing Room of the White House, declared: "America's public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world."

So began a war that has waxed and waned, sputtered and sprinted, until it became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities.

(Since 1971, more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses.)

And no group has been more targeted and suffered more damage than the black community. As the A.C.L.U. pointed out last week, "The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites."

An effort meant to save us from a form of moral decay became its own insidious brand of moral perversion -- turning people who should have been patients into prisoners, criminalizing victimless behavior, targeting those whose first offense was entering the world wrapped in the wrong skin. It feeds our achingly contradictory tendency toward prudery and our overwhelming thirst for punishment.

Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member commission that included Kofi Annan , a former U.N. secretary general; George Shultz , President Ronald Reagan 's secretary of state; and Paul Volcker , a former chairman of the Federal Reserve , declared that: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."

The White House immediately shot back: no dice. The Obama administration presented a collection of statistics that compared current drug use and demand with the peak of the late 1970s, although a direct correlation between those declines and the drug war are highly debatable. In doing so, it completely sidestepped the human, economic and societal toll of the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, many for simple possession.

No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics.

What Misogyny?

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dept of Education Has Swat Team

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This is insane.

What 2012 Prediction?

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What Climate Change?

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Hotter summers in a few decades, study warns

Review of climate models concludes new extremes if CO2 keeps rising

heat.jpgExpect extra-toasty summers to be a mainstay if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, according to a new report suggesting the tropics and the Northern Hemisphere may see an irreversible bump in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years.

In the study to be published later this month in the journal Climate Change, Stanford University researchers conclude that many tropical regions in Africa, Asia and South America could see "the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat " in the next two decades.

The middle latitudes of Europe, China and North America, including the United States, are likely to undergo extreme summer temperature shifts within 60 years, the researchers found.

"According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years," said lead study researcher Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science and fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

Though no single extreme weather event can be linked to global warming, scientists say that as the planet warms, we should expect more extremes, such as heat waves. Diffenbaugh and Stanford research assistant Martin Scherer wondered whether one extreme pattern -- heat waves -- would become more normal. "At what point can we expect the coolest seasonal temperatures to always be hotter than the historically highest temperatures for that season?" Diffenbaugh said in a statement.

The researchers analyzed more than 50 climate model experiments, which included computer simulations of the 21st century (when greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase) and those of the 20th century that have accurately predicted climate over the last 50 years. They also looked at historical data from weather stations around the world.

Results showed the tropics are heating up the fastest. "We find that the most immediate increase in extreme seasonal heat occurs in the tropics, with up to 70 percent of seasons in the early 21st century (2010 to 2039) exceeding the late-20th century maximum," the authors wrote.

Even so, wide swaths of North America, China and Mediterranean Europe are also likely to enter into a new heat regime by 2070, they found.

Diffenbaugh was surprised at how quickly the new, potentially destructive heat regimes are likely to emerge, given that the study was based on a relatively moderate forecast of greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century.

"The fact that we're already seeing these changes in historical weather observations, and that they match climate model simulations so closely, increases our confidence that our projections of permanent escalations in seasonal temperatures within the next few decades are well-founded," Diffenbaugh said.

This dramatic shift in seasonal temperatures could have severe consequences for human health and agricultural production, Diffenbaugh said, citing as an example the 2003 heat waves in Europe that killed 40,000 people. Studies have also shown that projected increases in summer temperatures in the Midwestern United States could reduce the harvest of corn and soybeans by more than 30 percent, he added.

It Doesn't Get Any Prettier Than This

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I love that the couple actually showed up with a moving van and the sheriff.

Fla. couple threatens bank with foreclosure

Bank of America wrongly foreclosed on a house that the Nyerges' had paid for in 2009

By Tamara Lush

Months after Bank of America wrongly foreclosed on a house Warren and Maureen Nyerges had already paid for, they were still fighting to get reimbursed for the court battle.

So on Friday, their attorney showed up at a branch office in Naples with a moving truck and sheriff's deputies who had a judge's permission to seize the furniture if necessary. An hour later, the bank had written a check for $5,772.88.

"The branch manager was visibly shaken," attorney Todd Allen said Monday, recalling the visit to the bank last week. "At that point I was willing to take the desk and the chair he was sitting in."

After the moving company and sheriff's deputies get their share, the Nyerges should receive the rest of the money this week, ending a bizarre saga that started when they paid Bank of America $165,000 cash for a 2,700-square-foot (250 meter) foreclosed home in Naples in 2009.

About four months later, a process server knocked on their door and handed Warren Nyerges a notice of foreclosure.

"This is a big mistake," he recalled saying. "You must have the wrong house. We bought a foreclosure and don't have a mortgage."

That started 18 months of frustrating phone calls, paperwork and court hearings. Whenever Nyerges called the bank, representatives told him to "come up to date" with his payments. When he called 25 different law firms, no attorney would take the case. When he went to court, the lawyers for the bank filed incorrect motions and were woefully unprepared for the hearings.

"It was mind boggling," said Nyerges, a 46-year-old retired police officer. "To try to unscrew the screw up, it's not as easy as it sounds."

Eventually the Nyerges found Allen. They fought the foreclosure and won, proving that they owned the home outright.

Jim Crowing Early Voting

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Everyday here in Florida I am reminded of how far yet we have to go until the old racisms have been permanently erased from the culture. Bigotry is definitely a tough nut.

They Want to Make Voting Harder?

NY Times Op-Ed

jimcrows.jpgOne of the most promising recent trends in expanding political participation has been allowing people to vote in the weeks before Election Day, either in person or by mail. Early voting, which enables people to skip long lines and vote at more convenient times, has been increasingly popular over the last 15 years. It skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, rising particularly in the South and among black voters supporting Barack Obama .

And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the South are trying desperately to cut it back. Two states in the region have already reduced early-voting periods, and lawmakers in others are considering doing so. It is the latest element of a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators across the country to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people.

The biggest part of that effort, imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID, has been painted as a response to voter fraud, an essentially nonexistent problem. But Republican lawmakers also have taken a good look at voting patterns, realized that early voting might have played a role in Mr. Obama's 2008 victory, and now want to reduce that possibility in 2012.

Mr. Obama won North Carolina, for example, by less than 15,000 votes. That state has had early voting since 2000, and in 2008, more ballots were cast before Election Day than on it. Mr. Obama won those early votes by a comfortable margin. So it is no coincidence that the North Carolina House passed a measure -- along party lines -- that would cut the early voting period by a week, reducing it to a week and a half before the election. The Senate is preparing a similar bill, which we hope Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, will veto if it reaches her.

Republicans said the measure would save money, a claim as phony as saying widespread fraud necessitates ID cards. The North Carolina elections board, and many county boards, said it would actually cost more money, because they would have to open more voting sites and have less flexibility allocating staff members. Black lawmakers called it what it is: a modern whiff of Jim Crow.

Maybe there's hope afterall

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Jon Stewart's Ratings Are Now Higher Than All Of Fox News

According to the May Nielson ratings, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart beat the entire Fox News network in terms of total viewers. Stewart averaged 2.3 million viewers, while the Fox News prime time and day time line up averaged 1.85 million viewers.

According to Comedy Central, The Daily Show is dominant in its time slot,

"The Daily Show's" 1.344 million P18-49 viewers led all late night talk shows in the demo for the month and, with a 2011 YTD average of 1.25 million P18-49 viewers, "The Daily Show" trails only "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (1.27 million P18-49 viewers) in the benchmark demographic for the calendar year crown.

While Stewart is on the rise, Fox News had a really, really bad May. Total viewership was down 10%, and Fox News lost viewers in the 25-54 demo in every prime time show. Bill O'Reilly was down 9%, Sean Hannity was down 6%, and Greta Van Susteren dropped 12%.

Just how big is the disparity between Jon Stewart and Fox News?

Only The O'Reilly Factor (2.8 million) drew more total viewers than The Daily Show (2.3 million). Jon Stewart beat everything else on Fox News. Stewart beat Sean Hannity by 246,000 viewers. He topped Bret Baier by 399,000 viewers. Jon Stewart beat Glenn Beck by almost 500,000 viewers, 1.812 million to 2.3 million. He beat Shep Smith (1.712 million) and Greta Van Susteren (1.702 million) by almost 600,000 viewers each. When Stewart and O'Reilly go head to head at 11 PM, Jon Stewart tops Bill O'Reilly's replay by almost a million viewers (2.3 million to 1.321 million).

This is why Fox News both hates and fears Jon Stewart. Not only is he more popular than they are, but he devotes much of his program to exposing the biased reporting of FNC. Even worse, Stewart is teaching his younger audience what Fox News is all about. Stewart doesn't exclusively take on Fox News. His problem is with television news in general, but since Fox is the biggest offender, they get most of his attention.

Jon Stewart is the biggest threat to Fox News' future out there. He is literally teaching his audience, which is bigger than FNC's, how to see through the partisan propaganda that Rupert Murdoch has based his network on. Stewart is educating an entire generation of viewers on how to watch cable news, or more specifically how not to watch Fox News.

Unless Fox News can figure out a way to attract younger viewers, they are facing a future where their audience will eventually, literally die off. A 2010 survey found that the average age of the Fox News viewer is 65 years old. Fox has the oldest audience on all of cable. (FNC's audience is older than The History Channel, The Hallmark Channel, and The Golf Channel).

Jon Stewart is on the non-prime time hour of 11 PM, yet he outdraws 2/3 of the Fox News prime time line up, and he has more viewers the entire FNC prime time and daytime lineups combined. Only Bill O'Reilly is preventing Stewart from being more popular than every single program on Fox News.

The proof is in the numbers, and the numbers don't lie. Jon Stewart is more popular than Fox News.

Bible Ignorance

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Something that has always driven me nuts is the things that Christians attribute to the Bible that aren't even part of it - or are misquotes of verses used to support some bias or another on the part of the speaker, rather than reflecting what the Bible actually said. A good example is the placement of Satan in the Garden of Eden as the serpent, when the Satan concept didn't even exist at the time of Genesis. But wait, there's more...lots more :

eden.jpg

Actually, that's not in the Bible

By John Blake

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

"Scripture tells you that all things shall pass," a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. "This, too, shall pass."

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase "This, too, shall pass" doesn't appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it's not there.

Ditka's biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it's also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.

These phantom passages include:

"God helps those who help themselves."

"Spare the rod, spoil the child."

And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.

None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.

But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

"In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 ('There are no internal combustion engines in heaven')," Bouma-Prediger says. "I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.

"Only a few catch on."

Few catch on because they don't want to - people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.

"Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book," says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying "this dog won't hunt" doesn't appear in the Book of Proverbs.

The Greatest Debate of All

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You know the one...it's caused divorces and empires to fall.

Now the indisputable science on the topic sets the record straight. From the Turley law Blog comes a submission from Guest Blogger David Drumm (Nal):

tp.jpgIn the effort to keep our readers fully informed of the most controversial issues of our day, we at the Turley blog turn over every leaf. While other cultural wars rage on, it is time to turn our attention to this pressing issue. The correct way to hang toilet paper, over or under?

The miracle that is modern physics has solved this contentious debate.

As shown in the following scientific diagram the visibility of the leading sheet of paper is greatly enhanced when the roll is unwound from the top. Reaching for the unwinding point when the first sheet is out-of-sight leads to frustrating moments of blind grouping. Over a lifetime, these frustrating moments add up.

The Sun, The Moon and the ISS

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Of a truly incredible picture, Alan Boyle writes:

The space shuttle Endeavour's last spaceflight is finished, but the memories -- and the images -- keep rolling in. Spanish photographer Dani Caxete captured this amazing picture of Endeavour hooked up to the International Space Station as the linked spaceships sped across the sun's disk, as seen from a spot in Spain's Madrid-Guadalajara corridor. (click to enlarge)

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The Future of Education

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This is it! Finally a new humanizing paradigm that is going to rock the world of learning for every culture and economic group, every age group, every intelligence level and every subject. This is the most comprehensive and revolutionary approach to education since the publishing of books. The best part of all is that it is free and non-profit. Watch the TED video below and then click the logo to visit the site and become part of the solution.

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Kevorkian: A Hero Passes

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"Who's life is it anyway?" was placed front and center at great personal expense by this brave and caring physician who brought solace and peace to so many suffering people.
RIP, Doc, I can't hand you enough kudos.

Jack Kevorkian dies at 83

Doctor put controversy of euthanasia on the world stage

Richard Sheinwald

kevorkian.jpgDr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist convicted and jailed for participating in assisted suicides of terminally ill people, died early Friday, his lawyer told local media.

Kevorkian, 83, died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., where he had been hospitalized for about two weeks with kidney and heart problems.

The lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, said it appears Kevorkian suffered a pulmonary thrombosis when a blood clot from his leg broke free and lodged in his heart, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"It was peaceful. He didn't feel a thing," Morganroth told the newspaper.

Morganroth told the Free Press that the hospital staff, doctors and nurses said Kevorkian's passing was "a tremendous loss and I agree with them. He did so much."

Morganroth told the paper that he doubts anyone will assume Kevorkian's role in assisted suicide: "Who else would take those kind of risks?"

Morganroth said there are no plans for any memorial.

Kevorkian, believed to have assisted in 130 suicides, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison but was released in 2007. Last year, he was the subject of "You Don't Know Jack," an HBO movie starring Al Pacino.

Windows 8 Coming at cha

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Weiner's Weiner Pic Brouhaha Solved

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I admire how calm and forthright he is being during this whole ridiculous situation.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There's also this article explanation of the technique used to scam Weiner's account:

How Weiner's Weiner Wagged into Twitter World

Hurricane Season Begins Today

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This Summer's Hurricane Season Is Looking Nasty. Buckle Up

Posted by Bryan Walsh

hurricane.jpg

Perhaps the biggest wild card in the response to last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the threat of a major hurricane. The Gulf is a locus for major tropical storms (remember a little downpour called Katrina?), and any time a large storm even threatened the area of water near the spill--where complex operations to shut the blown well were being carried out--the entire project had to be halted for days. Even more threatening was the possibility of a hurricane making landfall in southern Louisiana, where the oil was washing up in thick layers. Beyond wrecking any attempt at clean up, a storm could have picked up oily water and deposited it inland, making a muck of New Orleans and bringing a new meaning to the Crescent City's favorite drink.

Thankfully, that didn't happen--but not because the 2010 hurricane season was a quiet one. The season was extremely active, with tied for the third-highest number of names storms, with 1887 and 1995, of which 12 became hurricanes, the most since 1969. Yet, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put it, the 2010 season was a "gentle giant." Yet relatively few of those storms reached land--at least in the U.S.--with many of them forming in the Atlantic before turning out to sea. The damage in lives and property was relatively limited, serving as a reminder that a natural disaster requires the collision of nature and human capital.

We might not be that lucky with this summer's Atlantic hurricane season, which begins today. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is predicting a busier than normal season, with as many as 18 named tropical storms--three to six of which could be major hurricanes. (In a normal year--although, in the Anthropocene, normal is up for grabs--there are 10 tropical storms and two major hurricanes, with winds exceeding 110 mph.) And we're not like to get off as easy as we did last summer. Said AccuWeather.com hurricane forecaster Paul Pastelok:

It looks like we're going to have more impact on the mainland of the U.S. coming up this year compared to last year. We had a lot of storms last year, but not a lot of impact [on the U.S.].

No Greater BS Ever Seen

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The Coast Guard was called to the scene, but the water was too shallow for a boat, Alameda police Lt. Sean Lynch said. Police officers didn't have the gear for the cold water and couldn't risk being pulled under.

Excuse me?!! I don't know about you, but that's just the biggest load of crap I think I've ever heard. The man was neck deep in water and that's too damn shallow for a boat?
No gear for the cold water?!

This whole scene is both insane and pathetic.

'Handcuffed by policy': Fire crews watch man die

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fire crews and police could only watch after a man waded into San Francisco Bay, stood up to his neck and waited. They wanted to do something, but a policy strictly forbade them from trying to save the 50-year-old, officials said.

A witness finally pulled the apparently suicidal man's lifeless body from the 54-degree water.

(Not even the frigging rescue people...a witness!)

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the man spent nearly an hour in the water before he drowned. The newspaper identified the man as Raymond Zack.

According to reports, first responders and about 75 people watched the incident from the shore.

Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D'Orazi said Monday's incident is troubling. He has directed staff to write a new policy that would allow water rescues in the city of about 75,000 people across the bay from San Francisco.

'Deeply regrettable'

The previous policy was implemented after budget cuts forced the department to discontinue water rescue training and stop maintaining wetsuits and other rescue gear, D'Orazi said Tuesday.

"The incident yesterday was deeply regrettable," he said. "But I can also see it from our firefighters' perspective. They're standing there wanting to do something, but they are handcuffed by policy at that point."

A witness, Perry Smith, told a television station the man was visible from the shore of Crown Memorial State Beach and was looking at people.

"We expected to see at some point that there would be a concern for him," another witness, Gary Barlow, told KGO-TV.

Witness Sharon Brunetti told the Mercury News that Zack's stepmother stopped her on the beach and asked her to call 911, saying he was threatening to take his own life.

Zack "gradually inched out farther and farther" from the shore but occasionally glanced back over his shoulder at the beach, Brunetti said.

"The next thing he was floating face down," the Mercury News quoted her as saying.

Too shallow for a boat

"Certainly this was tragic, but police officers are tasked with ensuring public safety, including the safety of personnel who are sent to try to resolve these kinds of situations," Lynch said.

"He was engaged in a deliberate act of taking his own life," Lynch told the Mercury News. "We did not know whether he was violent, whether drugs were involved. It's not a situation of a typical rescue."

D'Orazi said crews may have decided it was too risky to attempt the rescue, even if they had not been shackled by the restrictions on water rescues.

In addition to the new policy, Alameda fire personnel will receive training in water rescues, and rescue equipment will be inspected to make sure it is not damaged, D'Orazi said.

There are no lifeguards at the beach, said Isa Polt-Jones, a spokeswoman with the East Bay Regional Park District. Signs at the park advise swimmers to enter the water at their own risk.

"This just strikes me as not just a problem with funding, but a problem with the culture of what's going on in our city, that no one would take the time and help this drowning man," Alameda resident Adam Gillitt told KGO.
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We are so screwed as a culture.


Seriously, what can be done?

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Everybody knows by now that Goldman Sachs is a den of thieves and that people like Geithner, Summers and Paulson are enablers of that ongoing thievery. But really, what can be done about any of it? We're not about to jail or kill them outright to save the country. No one seriously believes that any sort of change to the financial system is going to come from the congressional sell outs...so how do we begin to extricate ourselves from the debacle that is the capitalist financial rigging that has so fucked up the sails of the ship of state? Will it require an out and out mutiny ande scuttling of the entire machinery? Who's got the balls for that?

Geithner and Goldman, Thick as Thieves

Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner listens as then-President-elect Barack Obama speaks at a Chicago news conference in November 2008.

By Robert Scheer

Timothy_Geithner_Guilty.jpgWhat was Timothy Geithner thinking back in 2008 when, as president of the New York Fed, he decided to give Goldman Sachs a $30 billion interest-free loan as part of an $80 billion secret float to favored banks? The sordid details of that program were finally made public this week in response to a court order for a Freedom of Information Act release, thanks to a Bloomberg News lawsuit. Sorry, my bad: It wasn't an interest-free loan; make that .01 percent that Goldman paid to borrow taxpayer money when ordinary folks who missed a few credit card payments in order to finance their mortgages were being slapped with interest rates of more than 25 percent.

One wonders if Barack Obama was fully aware of Geithner's deceitful performance at the New York Fed when he appointed him treasury secretary in the incoming administration. The president was probably ignorant of this particular giveaway, as were key members of Congress. "I wasn't aware of this program until now," Barney Frank, D-Mass., who at the time chaired the House Financial Services Committee, admitted in referring to Geithner's "single-tranche open-market operations" program. And there was no language in the Dodd-Frank law supposedly reining in the banks that compelled the Fed to reveal the existence of this program.

It was merely one small part of that reckless policy of throwing mad money at the banks while ignoring the plight of homeowners whom the banks had swindled, a plan pursued by both the Bush and the Obama administrations that set the stage for the current slide into a double-dip recession. On Tuesday it was reported that home values have continued an eight-month decline back to their lowest point since the recession began. With housing in deep trouble there can be no rebound of consumer confidence or job creation, and the first-quarter growth rate was an anemic 1.8 percent even as Wall Street profits and bonuses flourished. Wages are stagnant, unemployment claims have recently risen and, as The Wall Street Journal headlined on Tuesday, "Economists Downgrade Prospects for Growth." That same edition of the Journal reported that 44.6 million Americans now survive on food stamps, an 11 percent increase in that misery index over the past year, while Geithner's friends at Goldman are doing quite well.

Actually, Goldman wasn't even a bank and was therefore ineligible for those massive government handouts until Geithner helped gain approval for the instant conversion of Goldman from an investment house to a commercial bank. Goldman was granted that status, and with it access to the Fed's lending, soon after the privilege had been denied to the fellow investment bank Lehman Brothers (the $30 billion mentioned above was in addition to the $43.5 billion Goldman borrowed from other Fed programs). Although Lehman was allowed to go belly up, Geithner engineered the massive bailout of AIG, a move that turned out to be a cover for passing money to AIG's clients, including the aforementioned Goldman Sachs. The man's intentions were clear, even if all the secret details were not, when Obama picked him to be his point man in salvaging an economy that Geithner had done much to wreck.

Geithner's priorities were all too obvious from his days in the Clinton administration's Treasury Department when he worked first under former Goldman honcho Robert Rubin and then Lawrence Summers, who took six-figure speaking fees from Goldman and other banks while he was an adviser to candidate Obama. It was the recommendation of Rubin and Summers that landed Geithner the job as president of the New York Fed, where he faithfully followed the policy lead of Goldman-CEO-turned-Treasury-Secretary Henry Paulson.


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