Thursday, September 30, 2010
President Obama: "I was amused -- Jon Stewart, you know, the host of The Daily Show, apparently he's going to host a rally called something like Americans in favor of a return to sanity, or something like that," Obama said. And his point was 70 percent of the people -- it doesn't matter what political affiliation -- 70 percent of folks are just like you. They go about their business. They work hard every day. They're looking after their families. They don't go around calling people names. They don't make stuff up." I ask yet again: can't we all just get along? Can't we all just be Americans, first and last, discuss and identify our problems, stop demonizing each other and start addressing and solving our problems? Is that too much to ask? Link to original post: http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0910/plea_for_sanity_4def9ab8-7a8d-4d90-aaf3-2d55ac9d743a.html
From The Huffinton Post today: Linda McMahon: 'We Ought To Review' The Minimum Wage Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, suggested Thursday that the U.S. ought to take a second look at the federal minimum wage. "The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that, so there are a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage," McMahon said at a press conference. After the event, "McMahon admitted she didn't know what the current minimum wage is or if any of her employees at World Wrestling Entertainment are paid it," CTNewsJunkie.com reported. McMahon was CEO of the WWE before launching her Senate campaign. What chutzpah. $46 million per year Republican Senate candidate a) wants to "review" the minimum wage, b) didn't even know if any of her employees were on minimum wage and c) didn't know what current minimum wage is. Could this very rich and very selfish woman be any more out of touch? And folks, she did say it in public. She said it in public at her own press conference. This one could make me very angry. News flash, Ms. McMahon: The minimum wage right now, as of 2009, is $7.25 per hour. YOU try living on it. Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/30/linda-mcmahon-we-ought-to_n_745639.html?view=print
In case you see this movie being shown locally, you might want to go see it. Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416825/
"Let us rid ourselves of the superpower fallacy before the superpower fallacy rids us of more American lives, American influence and American credibility." --Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in a June 17, 1987 op/ed piece in The New York Times Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/09/25/opinion/opedat40-wars.html#Our-Central-American-Misadventure
This is what I've said all along to friends or anyone who thinks we--the US--can really send 11 or 12 million "illegal aliens" back to Mexico, check out Rupert Murdoch's quote to Congress yesterday: Billionaire Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire includes the conservative cable channel Fox News, made the case to Congress Thursday that a broad immigration overhaul – with a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants – is critical to “strengthening America’s economy.” His testimony before a House Judiciary Committee immigration panel came as Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to legalization, a temporary worker program, workplace and border enforcement measures and the DREAM Act, which failed in the Senate last week. Murdoch, who immigrated to the United States from Australia, told the committee that he supports sealing the U.S. borders to future illegal immigrants but creating a path to citizenship for responsible, law-abiding immigrants already living in the United States. Here's the quote: “It is nonsense to talk of expelling 12 million people,” Murdoch said. “Not only is it impractical, it is cost prohibitive.” Think about it. Logistically, realistically, it's virtually impossible to even locate and round up, let alone send back this many people, even if it is to next door neighbor Mexico. It not only isn't going to happen, it just can't happen. So let's get over it and get on with immigration reform, figure out some way to naturalize these people and then make a system of some kind for any others in Mexico who want to come to the States. If that is to be a tough system then, going into the future, fine, I guess, but that's the only way this is going to happen. Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42944.html#ixzz1121CqjxZ
I wrote of this some weeks ago, that there has developed, in Brush Creek, just East of the Plaza, a rather large and impromptu "island"--seriously, an island--in the middle of the creek and that it seems that the city will have to come up with a solution for this one of these days. I think they're going to have to eventually somehow scoop or dredge it out. It's growing rather healthily and quickly, it seems. In addition--and why I write today--is to say there are also, now, little and not-so-little peninsulas also extending out from the creek banks on both the North and South sides of the same creek. Finally, also, and additionally more surprising, is the fact that this last week, I noticed yet another "island" forming, and, again, rather surprisingly quickly, further East of the original island, just short of the large waterfall or drop-off in the creek. It seems Brush Creek is becoming very stagnant East of the Plaza, for whatever reason. I wonder if the city is paying any attention to this. I wonder if the Water Department has noticed. And if they've noticed, do they care? Does it matter? It seems it will, if even just eventually.
Here's one more example, in too long a line of examples, of an out of control Tea Party candidate, this time threatening a reporter in public. Seriously, how is this guy supposed to be taken seriously? He isn't even in office yet and he's threatening people. Sharon Angle, in Nevada, denies things she's already said not knowing the original is on video, Christine O'Donnell lies about her past and education AND says she dabbled in witchcraft, literally. I repeat--how are we supposed to take these people seriously? Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20100930/el_yblog_upshot/ny-gov-candidate-threatens-to-take-out-reporter
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Americans account for 80 percent of all firearm deaths among high-income populous countries. Every day in the United States, around 300 people, including 65 children and teens, are injured or killed with guns in murders, assaults, suicides, and accidents. A police chief recently testified before Congress and stunned them with the fact that “America has lost more people to gun violence than during all the wars in the 20th century combined.” --Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Link to original post: http://blog.bradycampaign.org/?p=2753
There was a terrific story on NPR today about the Maglite flashlight company and it's founder and President--a 79-year-old man named Anthony "Tony" Maglica. It told how--surprise!--maglite flashlights are STILL MADE HERE IN THE US: Lynn Perry, head of customer service for Mag Instrument, says a lot of people are surprised the flashlights are domestically produced. "They're amazed that we're right here," Perry says. "People think that this product is coming from China. And you tell them, 'No, this is it, we're made in the U.S.A. We're still here.' " In this day of "send it over to China to be made because labor costs are so much lower", it's refreshing to hear about a company still making things here, isn't it? And the reason they are still made here is only because of one man--that same founder, Mr. Maglica. Quoting Tony and the story: "I will not go out of the country if my life depends on it," Maglica says. "There's no reason for it really." He doesn't have a corporate board to answer to. It's not "more profit for profit's sake, come hell or high water" for Tony since he owns the whole kitten-kaboodle. And good for him. Good for us, good for California and the United States. "Tony will be the first one to tell you that had this been a publicly owned company, they would have fired him," Hawthorn says. "They would have thought he was nuts. Maybe he is for continuing to do it in this country when it's so difficult. But there's a lot of us in this company that are very thankful that he did." Maglica says people tell him all the time he could make more money if he stopped insisting on making Maglites in the U.S. And he knows they're right. He just doesn't care. Not only will Tony not move the production overseas, just so he could make more money, but check this out: Mag has never raised the wholesale price on the Maglite. Three decades later they cost exactly what they did in 1979. And here's the core of what companies used to do, that corporations don't and won't do, anymore, in too many cases: What Maglica cares about are his employees, whom he describes as family. Last year, as a result of the tough economy, Mag Instrument lost nearly $11 million. The company had to lay off 200 people. Maglica says it was the saddest thing he ever had to do. "Where are those people going to go?" he says. "There's no jobs. You know I tell you the truth, if everybody will come and tell me 'Tony, you know what, we all quit because we got a wonderful job,' it would be a hell of a relief on me because I won't feel responsible." Maglica feels responsible for every one of his employees — how they're going to pay their mortgages and how they're going to pay for their kids to go to college. And it seems that's what drives him. Humans caring about humans. THAT'S what corporations don't--or won't--do anymore. Link to original story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130197557
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
It was 113 degrees yesterday in Los Angeles, as you may have heard, and that it was the hottest day on record for them in all the years records have been kept--and that goes back to 1877. I won't even mention global warming or climate change. What I will say is that this, on top of the fact that the Southwest is in their 11th year of drought. From The New York Times today: For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet. If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced. This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in those states... More from Terry Fulp, the Bureau of Reclamation's Deputy Regional Director for the Lower Colorado Region: “We have the lowest 11-year average in the 100-year-plus recorded history of flows on the basin.” So what, you say? Well, so this: ...scientists predict that prolonged droughts will be more frequent in decades to come as the Southwest’s climate warms. As Lake Mead’s level drops, Hoover Dam’s capacity to generate electricity, which, like the Colorado River water, is sent around the Southwest, diminishes with it. If Lake Mead levels fall to 1,050 feet, it may be impossible to use the dam’s turbines, and the flow of electricity could cease. And if Hoover Dam can't be used, guess what big gambling city in the Southern corner of Nevada is in big trouble? (Hint: sounds like "lost wages"). And mind you, they are already "...tunneling under the bottom of Lake Mead to install a third intake valve that could continue operating until lake levels dropped below 1,000 feet." But this is at least troubling for the Southwest region, for sure. I would think they'd rethink golf courses out there but I'm sure that, as a business, that's one of the last things they'll want to do is shut down a business. And grass lawns--you'd think they'd get rid of those since they're transplants for, from and by Midwesterners and Easterners, mostly (and in fact, they are doing that, some, anyway). What this all boils down to (no pun intended), is that, whether people in Southwest US are believers in climate change or not, they have to know that the way they live has got to change and that they have to use less water and possibly--maybe even likely--get used to warmer weather. Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/us/28mead.html?_r=1&th&emc=th; http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/09/at-113-degrees-downtown-la-hits-all-time-record-high-temperature.html
The Republicans right now, as we know, want to fight President Obama's--and most of the Democrat's--attempt at having the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans rescinded so they're increased, yes, but by a maximum of only approximately 4%. And they're complaining and griping and moaning about this possible increase--as though the wealthy are really going to suffer, oh, please--but some interesting statistics have just come out about income distribution here in the US and the increasing "wealth gap" between the wealthy here in the States and all the rest of us. To wit: ...the top 10 per cent of income earners in the US took home an ever more outsized share of the total national income starting at the end of the 1970s. The top 10 percent took 30-35 per cent of total national income from the early 1940s to the earl 1980s. Then their share rose to its current 45-50 per cent level. By (Emmanuel) Saez’s measurements, income inequality in the US is now greater than it has ever been over the last century. It is much, much greater than it was in the thirty years after World War 2 ended. From 1980 to 2007, the US became a far more unequal society. But wait, there's more: Our nation has now created a larger gap in the distribution of wealth than the massive chasm that helped fuel the Great Depression. In 1928, one year before the global economic collapse, the wealthiest .001% of the U.S. population owned 892 times more than 90% of the nation’s citizens. Today, the top .001% of the U.S. population owns 976 times more than the entire bottom 90%. And then there's this, comparing us, the US, to the rest of the world, in income inequality: The size of America’s income disparity is nearly twice that of the average of other nations. But to hear the Republicans tell it, the "poor wealthy people" need their tax cuts from George W. Bush extended and raising them is so tragically unfair to these poor, misunderstood, over-taxed (yeah, right) folks. The fact is, corporations and the wealthy are paying proportionately less and less, over the last few decades at least, while the middle- and lower-classes are paying proportionately more AND being paid less, at the same time, creating a desperate and dangerous situation for those two groups. It's tragic. It's pathetic. It's wrong and it shouldn't continue. It shouldn't continue like this if we're a decent, intelligent and fair people and country. It's blatantly wrong and imbalanced. It's also not sustainable, as a nation. You would think and hope the Republicans and wealthy would understand that. Links: http://www.rdwolff.com/content/rising-income-inequality-us-divisive-depressing-and-dangerous; http://ecolocalizer.com/2010/04/12/plutocracy-reborn-wealth-inequality-gap-largest-since-1928/; http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/; http://www.thenation.com/image/extreme-inequality-chart
This from Reuters news this morning: U.S. mounting first test of cyber-blitz response plan The United States is launching its first test of a new plan for responding to an enemy cyber-blitz, including any attack aimed at vital services such as power, water and banks. Thousands of cyber-security personnel from across the government and industry are to take part in the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Storm III, a three- to four-day drill starting Tuesday. It's as I've said this last week, I have to think our own government--and governments around the world--are reacting to this Stuxnet malware issue in big ways, at least behind the scenes, at minimum. Link to original post: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68R0J620100928
Court ruling may stall California execution (CNN) -- A federal appeals court has ordered a judge to rethink a ruling that would have led to the execution of a California inmate. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, released late Monday night, says a U.S. District Court must now set a hearing to determine the fate of death row inmate Albert Greenwood Brown. Back to me: Silence, still, from Catholics in the area and the Catholic Church, more generally. Link to original post: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/28/california.execution/index.html?hpt=Sbin
Did you see where Russian President Dmitri Medvedev FIRED the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov? Can you even imagine that here in the US? It's as though President Obama fired Mayor Bloomberg in New York. Bizarre. Not only that but Moscow's Mayor's wife is a well-known billionaire due to her construction company and all the business she gets. Check this out: Under Luzhkov's long tenure, Moscow underwent an astonishing makeover from a shabby and demoralized city into a swaggering and stylish metropolis. As the prices for Russia's oil and gas soared and foreign investment poured into the vastly underdeveloped country, Russia's capital sprouted gigantic construction projects — malls, offices and soaring apartment towers. Much of that work was done by the construction company headed by Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina, who is believed to be Russia's only female dollar billionaire. Suspicions swirled consistently that corruption by Luzhkov fed his wife's wealth. Sure, we have problems, heaven knows, of all different kinds of corruption here in the States but, here again, can you imagine the size of the scandal--or scandals--if the mayor of a major American city had a wife who owned a construction company who then got all the plum, highly profitable construction jobs for that same city? All hell would break loose. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're better than them--again, we have our problems with corruption and graft. I'm just saying we are two radically different cultures, by a long shot, no question. Link to original story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130180253
From The New York Times this morning: Governor Postpones Execution in California SAN FRANCISCO — With the clock ticking and uncertainties — both legal and pharmaceutical — hovering, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a temporary last-minute reprieve on Monday in what would be California’s first execution in more than four years. Still no word, either, that I can see or hear, out of anyone in the Catholic Church on the inhumanity of capital punishment. Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/us/28execute.html?ref=us&pagewanted=print
Monday, September 27, 2010
"The staggering myopia of our corrupt political and economic elite, which plunder the nation’s wealth for financial speculation and endless war, the mass retreat of citizens into virtual hallucinations, the collapsing edifices around us, which include the ecosystem that sustains life, are ignored for a giddy self-worship. We stare into electronic screens just as Narcissus, besotted with his own reflection, stared into a pool of water until he wasted away and died." --Chris Hedges, " Link to original post: http://www.truth-out.org/chris-hedges-retribution-a-world-lost-screens63624?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
It's always the question: "Where are we going next?" in this economy? Where will it take us. Today, there are two stories out and one gives hope, the other, a bit of caution. First, the hope: Buffett, Ballmer predict bright economic future; Buffett says no double-dip, Microsoft's Ballmer enthusiastic about future at Montana summit BUTTE, Mont. (AP) -- Some of the biggest names in business said Monday that they see a bright future for the economy, with famed investor Warren Buffett declaring the country and world will not fall back into the grips of the recession. "I am a huge bull on this country. We are not going to have a double-dip recession at all," said Buffett, chairman of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. "I see our businesses coming back across the board." "This country works," Buffett said during a question-and-answer session via video at the Montana Economic Development Summit. "The best is yet to come." So that's all good and great to hear. Let's hope he's right. Now for the caution: Oil creeps higher to near $77 as equities rise; Oil creeps up to near $77 a barrel in Europe as global stock markets bolster optimism It's the very thought or feeling that things may, indeed, be improving, economically, that pushes the energy futures stocks higher, pushing the price per barrel of oil higher. And that higher price per barrel for oil could defuse any economic improvement made. Here's hoping for the best. Links to original stories: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Buffett-Ballmer-predict-apf-1647385255.html?x=0; http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Oil-creeps-higher-to-near-77-apf-2783288406.html?x=0
As a teenager, a favorite button a friend of mine mentioned, for a laugh, read "Eat the rich". Too frequently, in humankind's history and experience, it becomes a good idea, it seems. Have a great week, y'all.
I'll only say two things about this minister and the accusations of sexual abuse against him: 1) He said he'd fight these accusations against him yesterday in and at his church but he didn't give a full-on, absolute repudiation or denial of the accusations and 2) He compared his situation to that of David and Goliath from the Bible, with himself, of course, cast as the smaller David. This is the only real reason I wanted to write about this man and his situation and that is, to say that he is, if anything, the exact opposite of little David in all this. He's the man with the power and money and status while the 4 men who've accused him are holding no such power, no such status and, I'll wager, little or no money in all this. They've accused him with nothing to gain from this. Check this out, from a story online today: Long addressed the media briefly during a news conference between services, but media access to the services themselves was tightly controlled. Reporters were required to check in with church officials and were led to a separate part of the church to view the service. The media was also told not to interview church members inside the sanctuary or on church property. Bishop Eddie Long is certainly innocent until proven guilty but this doesn't sound like the reaction of someone who is innocent. If he is innocent, I can't imagine what would possess these four men to come forward with these accusations and lawsuits unless either it's true or they just want to "cash in". Unless they're only accusing him to make money on the deal--a distinct, if ugly possibility, to be sure--they're nearly powerless in this tug of war and they're making these accusations of a very popular and successful minister. The odds are long and against the accusers. If it isn't true at all, there's no way they could make this pay, I don't think. Here's hoping Bishop Long is innocent. Side note: In the meantime, what with all this brouhaha about Bishop Long, the following website was brought to my attention: http://stopbaptistpredators.org/index.htm Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_pastor_abuse_allegations;_ylt=AoyC2yQvTjY_N.uQpJcAVUEUewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTM5NW5zczE4BGFzc2V0Ay9zL2FwL3VzX3Bhc3Rvcl9hYnVzZV9hbGxlZ2F0aW9ucwRjY29kZQNtcF9lY184XzEwBGNwb3MDNwRwb3MDNwRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3JpZXMEc2xrA2dhbWVnYWNodXJjaA--
Last week, as I wrote earlier, a 41 year old woman with a tested IQ of 72--one Teresa Lewis--was executed by capital punishment and it seems the Catholic Church was nearly completely silent on her case. This week, another inmate is set to be executed in California--he "gets" to choose his method of death, too, bizarrely enough--and again, it seems the Catholic Church is utterly quiet, in spite of their "Respect Life" campaign. I don't get it. Apparently they only "Respect Some Life" and not all? Is that it? Can someone explain this to me because I don't get it. I assume, maybe, they don't want to upset their followers on this subject because they want to be all "right wing" and punishment or something but it surely seems like a big, gaping hypocrisy to a lot of us out here. I should think there would be a huge contingency of people fighting for now this man to not be put to death but no such brouhaha from the Catholics, to date, it seems. Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/us/24execute.html?ref=capital_punishment; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/25/us/25execute.html?_r=1&ref=capital_punishment; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27execute.html?_r=1&ref=capital_punishment
--“I think Stuxnet the prime example of the modern, targeted cybermunition,” says (Rodney) Joffe. “It’s capable of being unleashed anonymously somewhere in the world, finding its way to a highly specific set of targets and then destroying them without risk to the attacker. In this case, if generating systems were to explode, people could easily be hurt in the process. It's a very short step for there to be loss of life in the future.” --Rodney Joffe, computer security specialist --“There's a blurring of the lines between criminals and nation states. It’s no longer easy or even important to differentiate between a criminal attack and a politically motivated attack, because more and more they're going to blur. The political attacks will employ criminals to develop and generate them.” --Rodney Joffe; --Last week, the cascade of cyberthreats led Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the military’s new commander of cyberwarfare operations, to call for a secure computer network to protect critical civilian and government infrastructure from attack. Back to me: Notice how this has gone over from private, commercial security issues, problems and people to a military general? Also, I should think this may well mean the end of Microsoft's ubiquity. --“I don't consider myself to be an evil person at all—but I will tell you that if it was me and I was evil, I absolutely know how I could kill hundreds of thousands of people, and cause damage to millions; and if I could do that, why would I possibly think that a world that could give us Hitler couldn’t give us someone else who would make that same decision?” --Rodney Joffe. Herein lies your Sci-fi movie---if we last that long as functioning nation-states. The entire article is here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09-27/stuxnet-and-the-year-of-geek-terror/
Manhattan, Kansas made a major national rating this week, coming up as it did on a list by "MainStreet ("powered by The Street", is says) showing as one of "15 Up-and-Coming Cities". Herewith: 3rd Largest increase in income: Manhattan, Kan. Change in personal income, 2006-2007: 13.7% Looking at change in personal income for the most recent years available, we find Manhattan, Kan., at number three for its 13% increase in that measure. Home to Kansas State University and not much else, Manhattan has won accolades for its desirability as one of the best places to retire young. An abundance of golf courses and cultural activities related to Kansas State have made it a popular choice for those looking for a taste of the good life in rural Kansas. It may only be the eighth largest city in Kansas, but the city’s positive numbers for income are sure to attract even more within its borders. So good on ya', Manhattan. Keep up the good work. Link to original post: http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/money/investing/15-and-coming-cities
As I said, the latest, best "educated guess" is out this morning on the Stuxnet malware program that seems to have been created to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure: Computer attacks linked to wealthy group or nation WASHINGTON – A powerful computer code attacking industrial facilities around the world, but mainly in Iran, probably was created by experts working for a country or a well-funded private group, according to an analysis by a leading computer security company. The malicious code, called Stuxnet, was designed to go after several "high-value targets," said Liam O Murchu, manager of security response operations at Symantec Corp. But both O Murchu and U.S. government experts say there's no proof it was developed to target nuclear plants in Iran, despite recent speculation from some researchers. Creating the malicious code required a team of as many as five to 10 highly educated and well-funded hackers. Government experts and outside analysts say they haven't been able to determine who developed it or why. More: U.S. officials said last month that the Stuxnet was the first malicious computer code specifically created to take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants. The Energy Department has warned that a successful attack against critical control systems "may result in catastrophic physical or property damage and loss." Symantec's analysis of the code, O Murchu said, shows that nearly 60 percent of the computers infected with Stuxnet are in Iran. An additional 18 percent are in Indonesia. Less than 2 percent are in the U.S. "This would not be easy for a normal group to put together," said O Murchu. He said "it was either a well-funded private entity" or it "was a government agency or state sponsored project" created by people familiar with industrial control systems. A number of governments with sophisticated computer skills would have the ability to create such a code. They include China, Russia, Israel, Britain, Germany and the United States. But O Murchu said no clues have been found within the code to point to a country of origin. What would be fascinating to know throughout all this is what's going on behind the scenes, in the intelligence agencies of countries around the world--here in the US, in Europe, in Russia, China, everywhere. Additionally, it would be fascinating to know if all the "Western" or "free" countries are cooperating on this or if each is attacking the situation for knowledge about Stuxnet purely individually and secretly, away from the other countries. Naturally, they would, possibly, be able to learn more, quicker if cooperating but since this has so much to do with both internal national security for each country and because this Stuxnet problem has been described as a "missile" fired into the networks of computers worldwide, as it turns out. Finally, it will also be fascinating to find out, one day soon, hopefully, just what this malware has done, if anything, to computers and programs in Iran, specifically as it relates to their new nuclear reactor and/or other infrastructure. It would be great to know if it's done it's job already or not and, if it has, how effective and maybe devastating the program has been on the reactor. And for the Siemens company, it raises the question of if you get off Microsoft's software, I should think, if it's an option, since that lead to the weakness that could be exploited. I guarantee you, a whole lot of people worldwide have been spending a great deal of hours, around the clock, working on this and paying attention to what happened or what possibly happened. It will be a great story to keep an eye out for more details--real international computer espionage. Maybe the next movie out of Hollywood, if they can keep up with the story. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100927/ap_on_hi_te/us_computer_attacks;_ylt=AoEm_H4JUDDdS24Iv5GEm58k5I94;_ylu=X3oDMTNvaGMwbnA2BGFzc2V0Ay9zL2FwLzIwMTAwOTI3L2FwX29uX2hpX3RlL3VzX2NvbXB1dGVyX2F0dGFja3MEY2NvZGUDbXBfZWNfOF8xMARjcG9zAzEwBHBvcwMxMARzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3JpZXMEc2xrA2NvbXB1dGVyYXR0YQ--
Sunday, September 26, 2010
China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars. Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan. --Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/opinion/26sun1.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
--Steve Kraske makes a terrific point about media outlets in town making boodles of money--hundreds of thousands of dollars per ad run--but those same media outlets not doing any real, serious analysis of the ads, to the detriment of their viewers specifically and our society, more generally; --Thomas E. McClanahan complains in his big, bold headline today that (Robin) CARNAHAN IS RUNNING AN OUTDATED CAMPAIGN. Hmmmm. I'm thinking it's also effective, Mr. C., since she's closing in on her Republican opponent for the Senate, Roy "Put the Money in Here" Blunt. Is that why you're having such a hissy-fit, Mr. C?; --There is a terrific and informative, if depressing and frustrating, article today in the NY Times about computers bought by you and me--the US taxpayer--to the tune of $1,800,000 (8080 in all) that were stolen by someone in Iraq before they got to the students they were intended for. I see it as just that much more proof of why W's reasons to attack Iraq and for our reasons to stay now are at least mistaken, if not downright stupid; --20 more US military service members died , we are told, this week in Afghanistan. More proof, to a lot of us, of why we need to get out of Afghanistan, of course, not meaning to be repetitive; --There is a brief story in the Star today about the coral reefs around the world possibly bleaching out, due to the record-setting heat set this year and what it might possibly mean for the ocean--and us humans. It was far too short and needed more information, I thought, but it was an important and helpful start on the topic; --Not in the Star but our annual "block party" that is the Annual Plaza Art Fair is about over now. It was great fun. Now, y'all get out of my front yard, will you? Links: www.kansascity.com http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/world/middleeast/26iraq.html?th&emc=th;
From The New York Times, today: The best way to understand the pledge is as a bid to co-opt the Tea Party by a Republican leadership that wants to sound insurrectionist but is the same old Washington elite. These are the folks who slashed taxes on the rich, turned a surplus into a crushing deficit, and helped unleash the financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes. Not only are the players the same, the policies are the same. Just more tax cuts for the rich and more deficit spending. We find it hard to believe that even the most disaffected voters will be taken in. But again, these are strange and worrying times. Let's face it, there are two--and only two--things the Republicans can or should promise to the country that they would do, if returned to office in Washington. Those are cut spending---and truly, honestly and seriously do so--and shrink government. (Some of the cutting and shrinking for whoever is in power, too, will have to be at the Pentagon and across the entire military, something they are highly unlikely to do). Nothing else matters and nothing else means anything. If they only keep doing what they have been, that is, cutting taxes for the wealthy and reducing regulation on businesses, they are possibly likely to be overrun by the Tea Party. I don't think they're capable of either of these jobs, to date, but who knows? Maybe those old dogs could learn some new tricks. And keep their promises. Link to original story: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/opinion/26sun1.html?th&emc=th
Saturday, September 25, 2010
From Yahoo! News and the Associated Press this morning: Regulators shut banks in Florida, Washington state WASHINGTON – Regulators on Friday shut down small banks in Florida and Washington state, bringing to 127 the number of U.S. bank failures this year on a wave of loan defaults and economic distress. But here's the clincher for me: With 127 closures nationwide so far this year, the pace of bank failures exceeds that of 2009, which was already a brisk year for shutdowns. By this time last year, regulators had closed 95 banks. And whereas last year most of the bank failures were due to home mortgage loans that went sour, this year it's gone commercial and so, likely, possibly much more expensive and damaging: The pace has accelerated as banks' losses mount on loans made for commercial property and development. Many companies have shut down in the recession, vacating shopping malls and office buildings financed by the loans. That has brought delinquent loan payments and defaults by commercial developers. I took this last note to be somewhat positive--the proverbial "silver lining to the cloud": The number of bank failures is expected to peak this year and be slightly higher than the 140 that fell in 2009. Anyway, for now, we're not "out of the woods" by a long shot, yet. Here's hoping things get better. And the sooner the better, too, of course. Try to have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100925/ap_on_bi_ge/us_bank_closures/print
From The New York Times today: The malware, known as Stuxnet, was discovered in mid July, at least several months after its creation, by VirusBlokAda, a Belarussian computer security company that was alerted by a customer. I thought that interesting--that a Belarussion computer security company was first alerted to it. Then there's a little more educated guess than what I wrote earlier, of just what Stuxnet is designed to do: Exactly what Stuxnet might command industrial equipment to do still isn’t known. But malware experts say it could have been designed to trigger such Hollywood-style bedlam as overloaded turbines, exploding pipelines and nuclear centrifuges spinning so fast that they break. Stuxnet’s remarkable sophistication has surprised many security professionals. Its authors had detailed knowledge of Siemens’ software and where its security weaknesses are. They discovered and used four unknown security flaws in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. And they masked their attack with the aid of sensitive intellectual property stolen from two hardware companies, Realtek and JMicron, which are located in the same office park in Taiwan. “It’s impossible this was created by some teenager in his basement,” Mr. Chien said. “The amount of resources and man hours to put this together,” he said, show “it has to be something that was state originated.” Once again, the ubiquity of Microsoft proves itself a great disadvantage and makes it far more likely one's computer would be attacked. It seems clear more computers will have to get off Microsoft, I should think, with this kind of ultra-sophisticated attack developing. Also, that this malware seems likely to have been created by a government is a fascinating, complicated and rather diabolical detail, too. It will be more fascinating to see how this develops. Link to original post: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/malware-hits-computerized-industrial-equipment/?th&emc=th
Friday, September 24, 2010
First this story, today on Yahoo! News: Ahmadinejad says Iran may end enrichment Iran would consider ending uranium enrichment, the most crucial part of its controversial nuclear activities, if world powers send Tehran nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters Friday. So that's good news. It's not a total answer and we're not there yet but it's a reaching out, so to speak, from them to the rest of the world. That and the Israelis and Palestinians are said to be close to working out a deal for peace, according to sources close the negotiations. At least that was what was said a few days ago. Right this minute the Israelis have to extend the halt to more settlements on the West Bank and that seems up in the air but we can hope. I'll say again, too, that if there is a true peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians, look for President O to be up for another Nobel Peace Prize AND Man's "Person of the Year". Links: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100924/ap_on_re_us/un_un_ahmadinejad; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/m/middle_east_peace_process/index.html?scp=6&sq=israel%20palestinian%20agreement&st=cse
It's truly a sad, sad day for Virginians, whether they agree or not. But it's also the same type day for Americans. Really. Executing a woman--Teresa Lewis--with an IQ of 72 for a murder she didn't do but was accused of "masterminding". The Governor of Virginia should be ashamed of himself in my eyes. And the Supreme Court, for that matter. Go to The New York Times link below and see the woman's picture and read the story if you haven't already. Ask yourself, what did Virginia have to gain by putting this woman to death? Would not have life in prison served as a much more appropriate punishment? The men who actually pulled the trigger on her husband and step-son are serving life in prison and again, one of these men actually shot the victim. And then, where was the Catholic outrage on this execution? I would have hoped every Priest, Bishop and Cardinal, worldwide, and the Pope himself raised their voices in dissent on this. I don't think they did. And if they didn't up to now, I hope they speak up after the fact. What happened to their "life is sacred" mantra they're always spouting? My point is that we should all cry out on this one. As it happens, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who couldn't find it in his heart, mind or soul to stay this woman's sentence is, apparently, hypocritically, Catholic. Shouldn't Gov. McDonnell be refused "the sacrament", the way they refuse it for divorcee's? I looked today on "The Catholic Key", too, and there is no mention of this story. This is truly pitiful. Really shameful. Pathetic. We all need to be far better than this. Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/us/24execute.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_McDonnell
Did you see where Republican Roy Blunt--candidate for Missouri Senator running against Robin Carnahan--will only debate her twice and even that won't be televised? As I said above, he's one smart, cunning, calculating coward. Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Roy Blunt has backed off an earlier pledge to participate in a series of debates with Democrat Robin Carnahan, agreeing to just two face-offs — neither of which will appear on network television. Check it out: Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Roy Blunt has backed off an earlier pledge to participate in a series of debates with Democrat Robin Carnahan, agreeing to just two face-offs — neither of which will appear on network television. And this makes sense because, in the polls, Blunt is ahead but also, if you're Roy Blunt, you had a lot of baggage to run from, for sure. But earlier in the campaign season, ol' Roy shot off his mouth and said he'd give Missourians all the debates they wanted or needed so they could see he was better than Ms. Carnahan (see 2nd link, below). It's an interesting race. Right now, Ms. Carnahan has narrowed the lead Roy had in the polls. Here's hoping it goes well and we get to throw what he hope is this one last member of the Blunt family out of office one last time. Have a terrific weekend, y'all. Link to original post: http://www.robincarnahan.com/blog/post/new_article_from_politico_blunt_backs_off_debates_with_carnahan/; http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42619.html
I heard a story this morning on the National Football League that I think too many people will have overlooked or disregarded. Normally I don't spend too much time on or thinking about sports in America--either your team is winning or it's not, that's the long and short of it, to me. But when it comes to major league teams and how they get and spend tax money, then I'm paying attention. The issue is this: you know how the Major League Baseball and National Football League team owners "shake down" each city they're in by going to each city and saying "Gosh, folks, if you don't give us the (tax) money to build a bigger and/or better stadium, we may have to move our team to city that will"? You remember that ploy? Sure you do. They all do it. Our two teams shook down our city for $675 million recently so they could have bigger, better, prettier venues to play their little games. And they got it, suckers that we are. Well, the reason I bring this up is because the NFL team owners have now found another, new organization to go to and do the same darn thing. It's nearly unbelievable. What a beauty. The rich, fatcat, uber-wealthy, likely multi-billionaire owners are now, well, read for yourself: What the owners want to do is they basically want a $1 billion credit from the players, to say that in essence we have invested all of this money in these stadiums and you need to help us. You know, we need to take some of the money that we put and we divide between players and owners and give it all to the owners, just because you're benefiting from all these new stadiums, too. Stunning, isn't it? Stunning in its simplicity. Stunning in its chutzpah, nerve and guts. This is, as I suggested in the title above, more blackmail from these bizarrely-wealthy owners, just as they've blackmailed all these cities in the country. They saw one last rich group--the players--and now they're going after their money, too. And you know what? I bet it works. Try to have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130080798
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Postcards From the Pledge|
Thursday, September 23, 2010
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Are We Run by A**holes?|
"Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares." --Paul Krugman, economist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, op-ed columnist for The New York Times,Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics. Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30krugman.html
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
"I enjoy nature and animals a great deal and I understand why there is a reason for hunting," Mara-Christian told the Boston Herald. "I hunt because I want these creatures to be here forever." Right. You keep telling yourself that, honey. Link to original story: http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/20668/petite+woman+who+bagged+monster+alligator+defends+trophy+hunt/
From the internets yesterday: Generation Y Giving Cars a Pass; The generation gap is a growing, long-term headache for automakers. Selling cars to young adults under 30 is proving to be a real challenge for automakers. Unlike their elders, Generation Yers own fewer cars and don’t drive much. They’re likely to see autos as a source of pollution, not as a sex or status symbol. They’re more apt to ride mass transit to work and use car sharing services... There's more: “This generation focuses its buying on computers, BlackBerrys, music and software and views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train,” says Draves. Moreover, in survey after survey, Gen Yers say that they believe cars are damaging to the environment. Even hybrid electric vehicles don’t seem to be changing young consumers’ attitudes much. So good for "Generation Y", or whatever they're called. Buying into that whole "You are what you drive" thing or "Owning such-and-such a car means you're sexy" is such nonsense. If they should take any advice, it's this--don't buy off on that Madison Avenue, advertising crap. Be your own people. Don't believe cars are status symbols. Be better than we were. Link to original story: http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/autos_content_landing_pages/1523/generation-y-giving-cars-a-pass/
From The Huffington Post last week: GOP Leadership To Make Historic Appearance Before Gay Rights Group Breaking new ground in the Republican Party's relationship with the gay community, the leaders of the GOP's two congressional campaign committees will be honored at a fundraising reception hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans on Wednesday evening. Next up: pigs take flight. Story at 11. Link to original story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/22/detente-cornyn-sessions-m_n_734687.html
It's a good question. The next phase of international war may have just become a little bit more clear and possible, what with a new "Stuxnet malware" that recently became known internationally. Well, sort of known, anyway. There is a fascinating story out today on this new Stuxnet malware and what it may portend for the future of international warfare--wars that are done on countries by, at and on computers and not with bombs, planes and guns: Stuxnet malware is 'weapon' out to destroy ... Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant? Cyber security experts say they have identified the world's first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target – a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant. The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security experts now say Stuxnet's arrival heralds something blindingly new: a cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical world – to destroy something. The ways in which this is fascinating are numerous. First, it's likely not known the source--who, exactly created and released it. It used to be, in humankind's wars to date, you knew who was attacking you, where they were coming from, what they were doing and you could, hopefully, react. Not so with this new, still-debilitating type weapon. We won't know who's attacking us, where they're attacking us--at least not for a while--the extent of the damage they will do to us, etc., for some time, at least. The appearance of Stuxnet created a ripple of amazement among computer security experts. Too large, too encrypted, too complex to be immediately understood, it employed amazing new tricks, like taking control of a computer system without the user taking any action or clicking any button other than inserting an infected memory stick. Experts say it took a massive expenditure of time, money, and software engineering talent to identify and exploit such vulnerabilities in industrial control software systems. Unlike most malware, Stuxnet is not intended to help someone make money or steal proprietary data. Industrial control systems experts now have concluded, after nearly four months spent reverse engineering Stuxnet, that the world faces a new breed of malware that could become a template for attackers wishing to launch digital strikes at physical targets worldwide. And here's an additional rather big "kicker" to the whole thing: Internet link not required. "Until a few days ago, people did not believe a directed attack like this was possible," Ralph Langner, a German cyber-security researcher, told the Monitor in an interview. He was slated to present his findings at a conference of industrial control system security experts Tuesday in Rockville, Md. "What Stuxnet represents is a future in which people with the funds will be able to buy an attack like this on the black market. This is now a valid concern." By August, researchers had found something more disturbing: Stuxnet appeared to be able to take control of the automated factory control systems it had infected – and do whatever it was programmed to do with them. That was mischievous and dangerous. But it gets worse. Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet's massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance – a target still unknown. "Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world," says Langner, who last week became the first to publicly detail Stuxnet's destructive purpose and its authors' malicious intent. "This is not about espionage, as some have said. This is a 100 percent sabotage attack." For those worried about a future cyber attack that takes control of critical computerized infrastructure – in a nuclear power plant, for instance – Stuxnet is a big, loud warning shot across the bow, especially for the utility industry and government overseers of the US power grid. "The implications of Stuxnet are very large, a lot larger than some thought at first," says Mr. Assante, who until recently was security chief for the North American Electric Reliability Corp. "Stuxnet is a directed attack. It's the type of threat we've been worried about for a long time. It means we have to move more quickly with our defenses – much more quickly." There are so many things to be said--and asked about this, it's nearly overwhelming. First, who made it? Second, why? Third, was it created--as looks entirely possible--by a country, in order to shut down Iran's nuclear facility? Fourth, could it have been done by formal agreement between two or more nations? Third, was it China? That would have huge implications for what, exactly, they're capable of, regarding computers and cyber warfare and we believe they've been busy with their computer homework, so to speak. Fourth, was it the US and we're acting dumb and innocent? Fifth, what's next in cyber warfare, since this is only, clearly the "next phase" of international war, cyber warfare and sabotage. Sixth, how does the world address this/these issue(s)? What do you do about this kind of attack? As pointed out on NPR, purely coincidentally, this morning, there is no international law regarding cyber warfare. That means there are no rules. What's lawful? What's unlawful? What shouldn't be accepted? For instance, shouldn't attacking another country's water infrastructure be unlawful and unacceptable? I could go on and on but won't. The last question I'll ask is, will mankind end in a bang or, like this, in a nearly silent, possibly starving and/or freezing whimper? Better start planting a garden and canning, folks, along with making your own clothes, etc. Links: http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/327178; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet
Remember that? The 18-1/2 minutes of tape that was somehow magically erased by his secretary in some cockamamey contortion she showed us, later, in a picture for the magazines and newspapers at the time? Remember? Well, good news history buffs. It seems we may find out what was in those missing minutes after all. According to Tricky Dick's now-famous former White House Counsel, John Dean yesterday: "A key piece of Watergate history that remains shrouded in secrecy -- former President Richard Nixon's grand jury testimony of 1975 -- should be made public, historical experts have told a court," the press release from Public Citizen stated earlier this week. Public Citizen's Litigation Group, representing a number of prominent American historians and archivists, is seeking this information under a developing body of law that has led to the release of historically-important information, freeing the material from the bonds of traditional grand-jury secrecy when its significance outweighs the reasons for secrecy. And here's the juicy part: While the content of the testimony is not known precisely, news reports from that time suggested the general areas explored: what was said during the infamous 18.5 minute gap in the first recorded conversation Nixon had with his chief of staff following the arrests at the Watergate and whether Nixon was involved in erasing the material; Nixon's role, if any, in the alterations of the White House transcripts of the recorded conversations that were submitted to the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry; the extent to which Nixon used the IRS to harass his political enemies; and the $100,000 campaign contribution from Howard Hughes to Nixon's friend Bebe Rebozo, which was never received by the campaign, but purportedly instead went to Nixon's brothers and his secretary Rose Mary Woods. This could be very enlightening, even if it is about 40 years late. Link to original post: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20100917.html
"The corruption is so complete, the logic so absent, and the accountabiility so devalued that there is something beautiful about it all." --From a blog yesterday--a "Guest" wrote this as a reply to a story about the hypocritical Republicans and I just had to re-post it. I'd give him/her credit if I could.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It's absolutely no consolation at all, being able to say "We told you so", to be clear.
Just off the internets: Italian police seize $30 mln from Vatican in probe By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer VATICAN CITY – Italian authorities seized euro23 million ($30 million) from a Vatican bank account Tuesday and said they have begun investigating top officials of the Vatican bank in connection with a money-laundering probe. Money laundering?? At the Vatican?? But wait! There's more! For real rich hypocrisy, get a load of the name of the bank: The Institute for Works of Religion! Isn't that a howl? Lastly, today anyway, check this out: In the 1980s, it was involved in a major scandal that resulted in a banker, dubbed "God's Banker" because of his close ties to the Vatican, being found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London. It sounds like a ready-made movie for Tom Hanks and/or Leonardo DiCaprio. Not to be left out, there seems to be a US connection, too: In Tuesday's case, police seized the money from a Vatican bank account at the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano Spa, according to news agencies ANSA and Apcom. The bulk of the money, euro20 million ($26 million), was destined for JP Morgan in Frankfurt, with the remainder going to Banca del Fucino. Check out the details of the 1980's scandal, too: The Vatican bank was famously implicated in a scandal over the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s in one of Italy's largest fraud cases. Roberto Calvi, the head of Banco Ambrosiano, was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 in circumstances that still remain mysterious. London investigators first ruled that Calvi committed suicide, but his family pressed for further investigation. Eventually murder charges were filed against five defendants, including a major Mafia figure, and they were tried in Rome and acquitted in 2007. Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans the bank had made to several dummy companies in Latin America. The Vatican had provided letters of credit for the loans. While denying any wrongdoing, the Vatican bank agreed to pay $250 million to Ambrosiano's creditors. The late Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, an American prelate who headed the Vatican bank at the time, was charged as an accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy in the scandal. Let's see, the Vatican wasn't guilty but did pay a quarter of a billion dollars at the end of this scandal. Sounds pretty guilty to me--how about you? Then there's this sticky little problem for the Vatican: Last year, a U.S. appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against the Vatican bank filed by Holocaust survivors from Croatia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia who alleged it had accepted millions of dollars of their valuables stolen by Nazi sympathizers. My first thought was, the Vatican would say they were totally clean and no way guilty of this, right? Oh, no. Instead, they took this path, to "clear" themselves: The court said the bank was immune from such a lawsuit under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign countries from being sued in U.S. courts. How pathetic is that? They did not--apparently could not--undeniably say they did such a disgusting thing as take Jewish valuables during the Holocaust so they just said they had diplomatic immunity, instead. So much for doing right by one another, eh, Pope? Finally, there's this: News of the investigation came just after Benedict wrapped up a difficult trip to Britain and as the Vatican still reels from the fallout of the clergy sex abuse scandal. Ain't dat a dang shame? Pass the popcorn! This just gets better and better. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100921/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_vatican_bank
So far this year, 526 U.S. and NATO forces have been killed in Afghanistan, surpassing the 504 killed last year. This year has been the deadliest for international forces since the war began in 2001. President Obama---can we leave now? Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100921/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan
If anyone knows me, they know I'm not big on Christmas. If anyone thinks it's overblown and outrageously commercialized, it's yours truly. But besides the few, rare, wonderful "Christmas moments" or holiday moments, if you will, that can and still do occur, the one thing I'm always for is holiday lights. Okay, sure, call them Christmas lights if you want but that's one thing I think is terrific and fun and enjoyable. Coal-powered electric plants aside, I'm all for 'em. So along comes news of a bunch of spoil-sports out in Prairie Village that want to rain on a holiday lights parade, so to speak. This from KMBC 9 News today: Christmas Display Heats Up PV Neighborhood; Neighbors Meeting With Police To Discuss Traffic Congestion It seems the neighbors are complaining about one Mike Babick's Christmas lights display out at 7600 Falmouth (I always love saying Falmouth. Just because). Anyway, we've all been there, right? It's great. And sure, you have to wait through some traffic and go slow and it takes a while to get in and then get out. But what a gift it is. It's a rare, once a year gift. Mike's been doing this for MORE THAN FOUR DECADES. Get a clue, folks. It's not like the guy just moved to town and started making an unexpected nuisance of himself. Besides, he turns them off at about 10 pm each weekday evening. That's in the neighbor's favor. And on weekends he turns them off around midnight so that's accomodating, I think. I will say this, however--according to the article, Mike's a bit of a pickle in this way--Babick recently told the Johnson County Sun that he has even more animated figures for this year's display. "Once I get more complaints, it inspires me to do more for next year. It's a personal challenge, and I like a challenge," Babick told the newspaper. He's a little bit of a stinker in that respect. But hey--it's Christmas you old Scrooges. Lighten up. Link to original post: http://www.kmbc.com/news/25101612/detail.html
Have you been to a Berbiglia's Wine and Spirits store lately? At least, have you been to the ones near the Plaza and in Westport? I mean really, the founder, Mike Berbiglia, must be spinning in his grave. If there are any Berbiglia's still in town, I would think the entire clan would be embarrassed down to their socks. I stopped in last evening to the one just off the Plaza (4500 Belleview) and the place is just a pit. The carpet has been there for what appears to be decades and is, additionally, filthy. You can't tell if people spilled wine or other alcohol on the carpet in various places or if they got sick. Fortunately, it doesn't smell of either but that's the best thing I can say about it. Secondly, the entire store was so grossly understocked it was embarrassing, too, if not frustrating, as a customer. Third, the music the one clerk was playing--both songs I heard--were so loud and grating as to give you yet one more reason to regret you had come in and want to run out as fast as possible. (Note to owners: maybe it's not such a great idea to have only one clerk manning a liquor store just before 10 pm. Ever heard of armed robberies?). Mind you, I believe the store at 75th and State Line is a nicer looking store but this one, on Main, and the one in Westport (1215 Westport Road) and the one at 43rd and Main--again, just off the Plaza--all 3 are just embarrassing, ugly dumps. It's surprising that a store that pretends to be upscale and that doesn't have any real bargains on wine and that got "BEST LIQUOR STORE" Gold Award by Ingram's Magazine for 2006 would have stores in as bad a condition anywhere, let alone this close to the all important and image-conscious Country Club Plaza. To go in to these Berbiglia stores, if you've ever worked retail, is to assume the owners think you are nothing and have utterly no respect for you at all. I avoid Berbiglia stores for this very reason and won't go back again until they're cleaned up--no matter how desperate I become. Will one person make a difference? Probably not. Not unless he or she blogs. And the word gets around.
Yes, you read it right--Manhattan, Kansas makes it--at number 3, no less, out of 10--on Forbes Magazine's "best small American cities for business and careers". Good on ya', "Little Apple": ...Manhattan, Kansas, Bismarck, N.D., and Logan, Utah round out the top five cities on our list.." while "Iowa was the clear standout in the ranking with five metros in the top 20 including Iowa City, which ranked No. 2 (Des Moines nabbed the top spot on out the list of bigger metros). Other leading Iowa metros include No. 13 Waterloo, No. 14 Sioux City, No. 15 Dubuque and No. 17 Ames. They share some similar characteristics like business costs at least 16% below the national average and crime rates that fare at least 16% lower. These metros are all home to top-ranked colleges that churn out a steady crop of highly educated labor Not to be outdone, our own Columbia, Missouri makes it at a very strong and respectable no. 8 so good for you, Mizzou. A final note, you might look at that entire list- and see that most all of that list--6 out of 10--come from right here in the heartland, too, folks--Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and North and South Dakota. There's something to be said for living right, don't you think? Link to original post: http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/americas-best-small-cities-for-business-and-careers
It's nice to hear an eloquent former soldier from our own military tell it like it really is.
It seems some clown dressed up like this--in a tight, red suit--and went on the field last night at the Phillies game at "Citizens Bank Ballpark" (wasn't it great when ballparks weren't named after companies?) so Matt Diaz stopped the knucklehead. He also probably saved him from getting tased, for that matter. He owes Mr. Diaz a big "thank you", I should think.
Monday, September 20, 2010
True, according to this latest article at Truthdig just now: JUSTICE DEPT. HAND-SLAPS FBI FOR SPYING ON GREENPEACE AND FRIENDS Then guess under what Presidential administration this took place. Like me, you likely got it: A report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine absolved the FBI of the most serious allegation against it: that agents targeted domestic groups based on their exercise of First Amendment rights. Civil liberties groups and congressional Democrats had suggested that the FBI employed such tactics during the George W. Bush administration, which triggered Fine’s review. I mean, come on--hasn't the FBI got any real work it needs to do? Not only is this stupid at virtually any time in our country's activities, look WHEN it happened: in the years between the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 2006. You gotta' be kidding me. The Bush administration was supposedly keeping us safe from terrorists during this time but they had the FBI chasing Greenpeace? Check this out, too: the report said, the FBI extended probes “without adequate basis” and improperly kept information about activist groups in its files. Among the groups monitored were the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh peace group; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; and Greenpeace USA. Activists affiliated with Greenpeace were improperly put on a terrorist watch list, the report said. A Pittsburgh peace group? PETA? And look at this description of the Thomas Merton Center from their website: Organizes, educates, and takes action around issues of peace and social justice. And you're spying on them? Let me ask you this--when do you suppose the really stupid, stupid things will stop coming out about Former President George W. Bush, his Vice President Dick Cheney and their administration? 20 years from now? 50? It can't be soon enough but we surely need to learn everything--and I mean everything--these chuckleheads did while they were in power, no matter how long it takes. And no matter how mad or angry it makes us. Links: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/justice_department_hand-slaps_fbi_for_spying_on_greenpeace_and_friends_2010/; http://www.thomasmertoncenter.org/
There are articles all over the internet today (NPR, Alternet, etc.) about "genetically altered" salmon that may be okayed by the FDA and about to be released into nature. And why would anyone genetically alter salmon, you ask? Why, so they grow faster and companies can make more money, of course? Isn't that why we do everything? Naturally, the company responsible for these salmon insist they're a-okay. Scientists, however, aren't totally sure yet: Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist with Consumers Union, disagrees. "They need more data. They need more data on the allergy question, and I think most any allergy scientist would say the same thing,” he says. And then there's this: Another contentious issue being debated Monday is what will happen if these salmon escape from fish farms into the wild. People are concerned about whether they would mate with wild fish, out-compete them for food or irreversibly change their habitats. The fact is, this same Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen calls the FDA's work on this salmon "'sloppy,' 'misleading,' and 'woefully inadequate.'" From NPR's article "Weird Facts About Genetically Engineered Salmon: The engineered fish are sterile, have three sets of chromosomes and are exclusively female. I am personally of a couple different thoughts here. First, screwing with nature doesn't seem like a great idea but, second, we certainly screwed--big time--with chickens and we seem to be okay there. Third, growing salmon faster might be a good way to feed more people---provided, of course, it's safe. This seems to be one of those situations where, once again, we need to be calm and rational and patient and let the true science work this one out. Link to original stories: http://www.alternet.org/food/148156/the_creepy_science_behind_genetically_engineered_%22frankenfish%22_about_to_enter_our_food_supply_unlabeled/; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129939819; http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/09/20/129993900/weird-facts-about-genetically-engineered-salmon; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100920/ap_on_bi_ge/us_modified_salmon
There's an article out right now on Alternet.org that I'm sure is very true and funny and smart and the headline is: Why Jon Stewart Is a Huge Long Term Threat to Fox News. I'm sure it's not a terribly long article but, whatever its length, I feel sure I can sum this up in just two brief points. That is, Jon Stewart is a "huge, long-term threat to Fox 'News'" because a) he's terribly funny and insightful and b) he's right. Link to original post: http://www.alternet.org/media/148165/why_jon_stewart_is_a_huge_long_term_threat_to_fox_news/
From Alternet and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, just now: Roy Blunt -- Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri Roy Blunt is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Missouri. For the last 14 years, Rep. Blunt has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s 7th congressional district. As a member of Congress, Rep. Blunt came under fire for a variety of issues including employing the same corrupt tactics that forced his mentor, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, to resign. Rep. Blunt’s ethical issues were documented in CREW’s 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress. In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Notably, Philip Morris/Altria and its subsidiaries contributed at least $217,000 to campaign committees connected to Rep. Blunt from 1996 to 2006. Also in 2003, Rep. Blunt helped his son, Andrew Blunt, by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt lobbied on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt from 2001 to 2006. Family connections have also helped another of Rep. Blunt’s sons, former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. Gov. Blunt received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father. Earlier in 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme, along with Rep. DeLay, to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt’s campaign committee. Rep. Blunt and his staff had close connections to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded then-Majority Leader DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, then-Whip Blunt, and then-Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, which endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff’s client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe. Mr. Abramoff had donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs. Holy cow, people, let's not vote him back into office---let's throw this bum out! Link to original post: http://www.alternet.org/news/148196/12_of_america's_most_crooked_candidates_on_the_ballot_in_the_2010_election/?page=entire
Sunday, September 19, 2010
The health care insurance companies are even worse than we thought. After stealing from Americans for decades and being so very much instrumental in making US health care the most expensive, literally, in the world, they went into negotiations with the Obama Administration earlier this year to, hopefully for them, put the brakes on the toughest parts of the reform. It worked and it worked exceedingly well. According to Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone Magazine, the insurance companies were able to do away with the "public option" for getting more competitive insurance rates and situations for Americans, at the beginning of these negotiations. All the while, during the negotiations, these same companies were painting themselves as the "protectors" of American's health care and our lives and as "victims" of the system and, finally as "good guys". So now what's happening, after all this "health care reform" that was passed, however weak? Yesterday, the Aetna Insurance Company announced that they were raising their premiums--the costs, the prices we pay--as much as 19% in California. As though that's not horrific enough, they're also BLAMING THE HEALTH CARE REFORM FOR THE PRICE INCREASE. Man, isn't that beautiful? could they be more cynical and manipulating? This is perfect for them, too, in so many ways. First and most importantly for them, they get more and more money. That's paramount for any corporation, of course. Second, with blaming it on the health care reform, they reap many benefits. If the American public is dumb enough to swallow that--and we are, sadly, we are, I'm afraid--we'll become the best, first critics of the reform and call for it's repeal. This will have the fact of taking the fuzzy, soft handcuffs and shackles this reform provided so they can go back to business as usual---and bill us ever more and higher. Finally--though the list of benefits they gain with this is really quite long--the Republicans, Conservatives, Tea Party, Libertarians, Fox "News" and everyone else in their corner will take up this mantle and cry and call for health care reform's repeal. Face it, folks, the deck is stacked against us heavily and badly here. It looks like the health care companies are going to win--again and some more. Insane. Sad. Pitiful. Pathetic. All. And we're bringing it on ourselves.
Let's face facts, kids--BP won. While watching the news this morning, I saw one of their ads, showing a Black woman--from Louisiana herself, she said--doing her best job to make sure the oil slick mess would be cleaned up and all done right and well. Right then, I knew BP had won. Though they had soiled and spoiled hundreds of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf coast beaches and killed untold amounts of sea life, they are successfully painting the picture on TV and in the media that they are the "good guys" in all this and that they've "done right" and good by everyone in the Gulf and America. Forget their short-sighted money saving and carelessness that caused all this pollution and killing of wildlife, they tell that they're cleaning up the Gulf and treating everyone down there "A-okay" so, gosh, what's your problem, America? So they'll get away with this debacle. Indeed, they apparently already have. And it will happen again. Maybe by BP and maybe not but it will happen again. Americans just don't learn from history. Or facts.
--Christine O'Donnell, the Republican primary winner (though she's a Tea Party member) in Delaware looks and even sounds like Sarah Palin; --Mahmound Amahdinajad is a nearly unbelievable denier. As Christiane Amanpour was interviewing the Iranian leader this morning on ABC's "This Week", she asked him about the Iranian woman who was given the sentence of stoning for her alleged adultery and he completely denied this was the case. He denied she was given such a sentence. And because of the language/translation barrier, his denials and a natural, obvious and ever-present time limitation, Ms. Amanpour had to let the questions die, time and again. It was frustrating, as a viewer, seeing him evade--in fact, deny--the supposition of the questions and get away with it. --Know this--if the Republicans are successful in getting the George W. Bush tax cuts for the rich extended another two years--and I fear and half expect it's possible--it will fall totally in the same Republicans favor and the issue will be able to die, giving them--and the rich--a big win, with a tax loss for the rest of the country. Enjoy your Sunday, y'all.
I saw a huge, full-page ad in The New York Times today on why we should be against a "gainful employment" proposal in the Department of Education so I knew something was up and I had to do some homework. This is what I found out: The "gainful employment" proposal would have cut federal aid to schools whose graduates spend more than 8 percent of their starting salaries to repay student loans, based on a 10-year repayment plan. You see, businesses have been fleecing students and schools on student loans--charging too much in interest rates--and President Obama's adminstration, through the Department of Education, was going to try to put an end to it but, as you can see, corporate America doesn't want to end this cash cow so here comes the PR to fight it. If they're successful, folks, and if we don't pay attention, they'll win this fight, too, and we'll be further screwed.
Last evening's performance on Brush Creek should be renamed. It was to be "Waterfire", of course, and it's always terrific but last night's should just be called "Water", what with the rain before it, which delayed the beginning, and then at the end, hastening it's close. I will say this, though, too--the blocking of the sidewalks along the creed stifled the flow and fun of the event. In the past, we could all, as a crowd, go up and down, back and forth at the creek so it made the whole experience very flowing and open and "alive". This time, because we weren't to be on the sidewalks--they were concerned the creek would rise and there we'd all be in water up to our ankles--it killed some of the energy of the event. Still, though, it was fun and a great street party. And Kansas City doesn't have enough street parties.
Just out from The Christian Science Monitor: Ballot-stuffing witnessed amid troubled Afghanistan vote "As Afghans voted Saturday, a reporter in Wardak Province spoke to an election worker about how his team had set out to stuff ballot boxes. The widescale fraud in Wardak may speak to troubles in the broader Afghanistan vote." Years from now, folks, sadly, years from now, there will be reports citing how many millions of dollars, at least, Hamid Karzai took from the US and his people--his own country. But he'll be gone by then, living very peacefully and very nicely, immune from it all. Mark my word. It won't come out for years. Enjoy your Sunday. Links to original post: http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/print/content/view/print/326696; http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7131270.ece
Saturday, September 18, 2010
From Andrew Ross Sorkin today, this morning, on NPR's Weekend Edition: "I think about this all the time and I dont want to ever have to write a sequel to this book. But what I worry about, actually, is not Wall Street but what worries me now is that too big to fail is now being applied to countries and states like California and Greece and Italy and Portugal. And the same problem that Lehman Brothers had, this idea that other banks weren't going to trade with them because all of a sudden they weren't confident enough that they were going to be able to pay back the money, that that's what's going to happen to a state like California and that's what's going to happen to this country, that in the future countries are going to have this problem, that people are just going to decide, you know what, we dont trust these guys, we're not confident that they're ever going to be able to pay us back. And that's what worries me the most." Me? Personally? I KNOW we need government. We need government to create schools and pave the streets and build and maintain our infrastructure. And we need it to police the corporations. We need them to protect us. Too many Americans haven't come to this realization, in spite of the last decade and our near-collapse. Link to original post: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129953853
Finally, finally--though it's far too little and far too late--this pope has come around to doing what he, his predecessors and the Catholic Church have told their followers to do for centuries. That is, he and they have finally a) humbled themselves and b) asked for forgiveness for all their child molestation scandals. Wow. Let's see, it's only centuries and thousands of cases, at least, overdue. From NPR today: Pope Benedict XVI met Saturday with five people who were molested by priests as children and apologized to them, even as abuse survivors and thousands of people opposed to his visit marched in central London in the biggest protest of his five-year papacy. Benedict met for about 30-40 minutes with the victims at the Vatican's apostolic nunciature in Wimbledon, according to the Vatican and Bill Kilgallon, chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission — a church group that organized the encounter. Benedict "expressed his deep sorrow and shame over what victims and their families had suffered," according to a Vatican statement. Well, to this pope and his Catholic Church I'd have to say thanks. But I also have to add, again, that it is far too little. And it is far too late. Sinead O'Connor, I'll also repeat, has been vindicated, sadly, many, many times over. Link to original story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129953080
Just now, from Yahoo! News: Montana GOP policy: Make homosexuality illegal Yes sir, ladies and gentlemen, the political party that keeps saying it wants smaller and less-intrusive government, comes this little gem. First, they've made it clear for years they want to reach government into the private lives--and wombs--of women and men across the country, telling them they can't have very legal abortions and now this--they want to make it that two consenting adults of the same sex could be arrested for having conjugal sex in the privacy of their own homes. Great idea, that, eh? A little of the article: HELENA, Mont. – At a time when gays have been gaining victories across the country, the Republican Party in Montana still wants to make homosexuality illegal. The party adopted an official platform in June that keeps a long-held position in support of making homosexual acts illegal, a policy adopted after the Montana Supreme Court struck down such laws in 1997. The fact that it's still the official party policy more than 12 years later, despite a tidal shift in public attitudes since then and the party's own pledge of support for individual freedoms, has exasperated some GOP members. "I looked at that and said, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" state Sen. John Brueggeman, R-Polson, said last week. "Should it get taken out? Absolutely. Does anybody think we should be arresting homosexual people? If you take that stand, you really probably shouldn't be in the Republican Party." At least when the Libertarians say they want smaller and less-intrusive government, they (seem to) mean it. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_gays_in_montana
Okay, so former Alaska Governor and permanent quitter Sarah Palin goes a speakin' up in Iowa--precursor to Presidential run?--and, as I suggested above, wants it both ways. On the one hand, she says "we"--I assume she means Republicans or maybe she just means the "Right Wing" and/or "Conservatives"--need to unite. From NPR this morning: "Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was coy about her future political plans, but she did have a message for fellow Republicans at Friday's annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in Iowa: It's time to unite." And that's all well and good and to be expected since, divided, they'll go nowhere. That and the fact that she's taking heat lately for doing the opposite--for dividing the party. And check this out, this where it gets good. After she says they need to unite, she says the following: "Maybe we need instant replay for political speeches. That might make it easier to see, in Sarah Palin's much anticipated Iowa speech Friday evening, the former Republican vice presidential nominee playfully telling Karl Rove where to go, if you catch my drift, without actually saying it. The moment in question came during the part of the speech where Palin was saying how she would dole out assignments if she were the running the Republican Party, like a football coach runs a team, in the weeks leading up to the November election. She would tell Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a major player in Tea Party movement as she is, "You're awesome. We need you down south." She'd tell Mitt Romney to go campaigning in the West, George W. Bush to raise money and Rush Limbaugh to 'go deep, go anywhere, everywhere, people are listening.' When she got to Rove, at about the 27:54 point in the C-Span recording she said: And Karl, Karl, go to (she pauses ever so slightly and her demeanor stiffens subtly) here. You can come to Iowa. And Karl Rove and the other leaders who will see the light and realize that these are just the normal hard-working patriotic Americans who are saying no, enough is enough. We want to turn this around and we want to get back to those time-tested truths that are right for America." So on the one hand, she says get together. Then she turns 'round and tells at least one guy--and likely his followers--they can either go away or do it her way. I can just imagine how Karl Rove will take to that, can't you? Man, I love these Right Wing, Conservative, Tea Party and Libertarian tear-downs. Links to original posts: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129953821 http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2010/09/18/129953754/sarah-palin-tells-karl-rove-where-to-go