Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

So, we’re getting close to yet another election year.  Our challenges are fairly clear but our choices are limited.  I only wish the opposite were true.

This Bronx factory turned school has evidently been in the news for a few months.  It’s just one horrifying story after another.  What would possess a school district to use a factory to house kids without testing it for toxic chemicals? A teacher is now suing the district after she had to terminate a pregnancy due to a horrible brain defect.

A TEACHER WHO worked at a toxic Bronx school lost her baby to birth defects linked to the contamination, she charged Wednesday in legal papers.

In October, five months into her pregnancy, Nancy Tomassi, a fifthgrade teacher at the shuttered Public School 51, learned her baby had a malformed brain, a condition called anencephaly, and would not survive.

The tests done in January showed that the sick school was laden with the carcinogen trichloroethylene, a toxin linked to defects, but failed to warn students or teachers until July.

“The whole tragic nature of the situation was made worse by the fact it could have been avoided if the Department of Education had acted properly,” said Tomassi’s lawyer Jeff Schietzelt, with the firm Silverson, Pareres & Lombardi. He notified the city of her intent to sue on Wednesday.

“How could they have known since January and not have told us?” said Mike Tomassi, Nancy’s husband. “You’re heartbroken and at some point you’re angry.”

For Tomassi, the diagnosis meant she had to end the pregnancy.

When researching possible causes, she found information to suggest the toxic chemical found at the sick school was responsible for her tragedy.

“If wed known about this, things could have been different,” said Tomassi, who worked at the school for five years.

A diligent nurse has evidently been documenting and reporting student illnesses since 2005.  She even took the steps to write a superior about possible immune deficiencies in students which she thought might be due to a faulty heating/ac system.  The reports of sick children number in the hundreds.

Students at a Bronx elementary school that relocated in September due to toxic contamination had for years complained of headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.

Records obtained by the Daily News under the Freedom of Information Law show that since 2005 nurses at the Bronx New School logged cases of kids suffering headaches, vomiting, abnormal gaits or even seizures nearly every month.

In May 2007, 16 students vomited at the Jerome Ave. school, records show. During one spell in November 2010, nurses listed five cases of students with heart “palpitations.” And in the late 1990s, one student suddenly died of kidney failure.

Toxic levels of TCE–in industrial degreaser–were found in the building. The school was closed in the fall but the report came in around January.  This is just one of those stories you think would’ve gone away after all of the work done in the 1970s to make buildings and the environment safer.  What do you want to bet that the PLUBS are more upset about the abortion of a nonviable fetus than the rest of the living sick children?

I’ve been calling Ron Paul a neoconfederate for years now.  It looks like White supremicist group Stormfront–with whom Paul has taken pictures with the leaders–thought  he was one of them too.  Paul’s been distancing himself from the newsletters since he developed presidential aspirations.

Ron Paul was a hot topic this week on the talk radio show hosted by prominent white supremacist Don Black and his son Derek. Mr. Black said he received Mr. Paul’s controversial newsletters when they were first published about two decades ago and described how the publications were perceived by members of the white supremacist movement. Former KKK Grand Wizard and Louisiana Congressman David Duke also phoned in to explain why he’s voting for Mr. Paul.

“Everybody, all of us back in the 80′s and 90′s, felt Ron Paul was, you know, unusual in that he had actually been a Congressman, that he was one of us and now, of course, that he has this broad demographic–broad base of support,” Mr. Black said on his broadcast yesterday.

Mr. Black is a former Klansman and member of the American Nazi Party who founded the “white nationalist” website Stormfront in 1995. He donated to Mr. Paul in 2007 and has been photographed with the candidate. Mr. Paul has vocal supporters in Stormfront’s online forum. Mr. Black has repeatedly said he doesn’t currently think Mr. Paul is a “white nationalist.

Mr. Paul’s newsletters contained threats of a “coming race war,” worries about America’s “disappearing white majority and warning against “the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS.” He has since denied writing the newsletters, which appeared under his own name.

“I didn’t write them, I disavow them, that’s it,” Mr. Paul said in a tense CNN interview.

On Monday, Mr. Black said he originally believed the newsletters were written by Mr. Paul.

“They went out under his name in the first person and most people receiving these newsletters, including me, thought he really did write them,” Mr. Black said.

Paul continues to play down the newsletters and asserts his version of state’s rights isn’t that of the old confederacy.

Ron Paul on Thursday downplayed the fringe aspects of his old newsletters, saying on an Iowa radio program that the most offensive passages were probably only a small portion of the overall content.

“There were many times I did not edit the entire letter and other things were put in,” he told a caller on the Jan Mickelson radio show. “I was not aware of the details until many years later. These were sentences that were put in, eight or 10 sentences. It wasn’t a reflection of my views at all. It got in the letter and I thought it was terrible.”

He added that the newsletter content in question was “probably ten sentences out of 10,000 pages,” and that he only focused on producing the “economics” part of the publication.

But the promotional materials advertising the newsletter from the time indicate that the most out-there racist and homophobic lines were far from a rare sideshow.

One 1993 direct mail piece aimed at attracting potential subscribers name-checked “the coming race war,” “the federal-homosexual cover up on AIDS,” “the Israeli lobby that plays Congress like a cheap harmonica,” and described an elaborate conspiracy theory in which US officials would use newly introduced currency to impose martial law. All in just eight pages specifically devoted to summarizing the newsletter’s broader themes for new readers. That’s a pretty high density of fringe.

Jamie Kirchick, who compiled the newsletters four years ago, told TPM that the most incendiary parts were hardly stray cases.

“Ron Paul’s characterization of the newsletters as only containing ‘eight to ten sentences’ that can be characterized as ‘offending’ is preposterous,” he said in an e-mail. “As anyone can see from the scans of the newsletters available on the TNR website or posted elsewhere, the documents contain pages upon pages of bigoted statements and outright paranoia.”

Maybe we should send him some white sheets and see if he wants to make a fashion statement out of them.

Redistricing in Ohio will pit Democratic representatives Marcy Kaptur against Dennis Kucinich. Both are 65 years old and have served for some time.

U.S. Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur, both Democrats, will run against each other for their party’s nomination next year to represent a reconfigured Ohio congressional district.

Kaptur’s current district includes Toledo and extends east toward Cleveland. Kucinich represents parts of Cleveland and its suburbs. Both filed papers today with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland to run in the March 6 primary to be the Democratic nominee in the redrawn district, the election board said.

Ohio’s number of House seats was reduced to 16 from 18 following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Kucinich, 65, said he would try to avoid attacks on his fellow Democrat.

Economist Jared Bernstein has a great set of wonky graphs up that he’s called “Guideposts on the Road back to Factville”. He has a large number of them that demonstrate that the US is a low tax country, has extremely high income inequality, and that Dubya’s policies caused the huge federal deficit. Included is this advice as well as some interesting links. My favorite one is this one that shows how good the one percent have it here compared to the other developed nations.  Too bad our middle and working class Americans don’t have similar blessings.

Arm yourselves with the knowledge herein, and you’ll be immune to the fact-free hand-waving that too often passes for debate these daze.  Think of them not as wonky graphs, but as guideposts on the road back to the land where facts matter.


So, that’s my contributions this morning to get the conversations started off right.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


SDB Evening News Reads for 122911: Woman of the Year

Good Evening…

Pardon the lameness of this post, I was hit with a migraine and it is a bad one…so I will make it a short evening reads.

On Jezebel a big vote is going on!

h/t Wonk sent me this: Vote For Jezebel’s Woman of the Year

Vote For Jezebel's Woman Of The Year

Hillary Clinton
Mona Eltahawy
Leymah Gbowee
Gabrielle Giffords
Melissa McCarthy
Iman al-Obeidi
Elizabeth Warren
Dr. X

The nominations for Jezebel’s Woman of the Year are in, and while it was a tough decision, we’ve managed to narrow the field down to eight frontrunners. Read more about them below, then cast your vote!

Polls close at midnight on Thursday, Dec. 29, so make sure to cast your vote for Woman of the Year before then!

In Tennessee, another voter is being disenfranchised, this time it is a 93 year old woman who cleaned the Capitol for 30 years…

A 93-year-old Tennessee woman who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office, says she won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades after being told this week that herold state ID failed to meet new voter ID regulations.

Thelma Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate:

Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.

Thelma Mitchell told WSMV-TV that she went to a state drivers’ license center last week after being told that her old state ID from her cleaning job would not meet new regulations for voter identification.

A spokesman for the House Republican Caucus insisted that Mitchell was given bad information and should’ve been allowed to vote, even with an expired state ID. But even if that’s the case, her ordeal illustrates the inevitable disenfranchisements that result when confusing voting laws enable state officials to apply the law inconsistently.

This is bullshit!

As ThinkProgress reported, one 96-year-old Tennessee woman was denied a voter ID because she didn’t have her marriage license. Another senior citizen in Tennessee, 91-year-old Virginia Lasater, couldn’t get the ID she needed to vote because she wasn’t able to stand in a long line at the DMV. A Tennessee agency even told a 86-year-old World War II veteran that he had to pay an unconstitutional poll tax if he wanted to obtain an ID.

What a great way to pick and choose who gets to vote!

In other GOP news, Perry is just applying the PLUB mantra…he is pledging to ignore any decision from SCOTUS that will strike down “Personhood” amendments and laws.

At a radio forum sponsored by the anti-abortion and anti-birth control group Personhood PersonhoodGov. Rick Perry said that he would refuse to obey a Supreme Court decision striking down the group’s signature anti-choice proposal:

QUESTION: You have agreed to “endorse legislation making clear that Fourteenth Amendment protections apply to unborn children” . . . . What happens if the U.S. Supreme Court attempts to strike down this legislation, and replace it with one of its own edict denying the inalienable right to life for all persons born or unborn? Would you enforce the inalienable right to life or the Court’s opinion as the law?

PERRY: Well, obviously you enforce the right to life opinion.

Perry’s promise to openly defy the Supreme Court is disturbing, but it is also far from original. Fellow candidates Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have also pledged to treat binding Supreme Court opinions as if they were merely optional, and Gingrich even supports legitimizing his radical view of the Constitution through a campaign of intimidation against judges who disagree with him.

These candidates for the GOP are ridiculous, how the hell are they getting away with this kind of crap?

Last link for you tonight, and I am off to hide under my covers…Mystery behind Hitchcock’s Birds is solved at last!

It has taken 50 years, rather than the shorter running time of one of his famous horror films, but Alfred Hitchcock’s most enduring whodunit appears to have finally been solved.

Scientists at Louisiana State University claim to have discovered why thousands of seagulls began killing themselves along the coast of northern California in the summer of 1961.

The mysterious avian deaths, in which many of the birds flew, Kamikaze-style, into houses along the Monterey Bay shore, south of San Francisco, were cited as one of the major inspirations for Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds.

Now a team of marine biologists, who have been conducting post-mortems of seabirds killed during the 1961 incident, have reached a credible conclusion about their deaths: the creatures were poisoned.

I did not know there was an actual event where seabirds went berserk.

Writing in the latest edition of the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers say that they examined the stomach contents of seagulls and turtles collected during the period, and discovered unusual quantities of a nerve-damaging toxin called domoic acid. The acid, which most likely came from anchovies and squid which formed part of the birds’ natural diet, can sometimes cause brain damage. In severe cases, it leads to them becoming confused, suffering seizures, and dying.

Sibel Bargu, leading the research, said domoic acid was found in 79 per cent of the plankton ingested by anchovies and squid. Over a short period, that would become sufficiently concentrated to cause fatal injuries to predators who ingested the creatures.

Although this theory has previously been cited as a potential explanation for the 1961 event, Ms Bargu writes, no direct evidence has been obtained by scientists to support it. Until now. “Here we show that plankton samples from the 1961 poisoning contained toxin-producing Pseudo-nitzschia, supporting the contention that these toxic diatoms were responsible for the bird frenzy that motivated Hitchcock’s thriller,” she writes.

The toxic domoic acid is connected with runoff of pesticides. The report notes that there was a large housing boom in the area at the time, and that leaking domestic septic tanks could be the reason behind the large amounts of acid that were found in the birds food sources.

Have a good evening, and go vote for Jezebel’s Woman of the Year!


Our Future is Calling

The massive loss of economic value that has occurred so far this century should give us pause when we hear about both austerity agendas and slightly improved conditions. Economist Dean Baker reminds us that we’re not looking at clear steering ahead even if we slowly mend.  Here are some things to consider. The incredible loss of wealth on the kinds of investments made by  average Americans and from the collapse of the housing market has severely weakened millions of Americans and decreased their net worth. Statistics like these are likely to keep older workers on the jobs far past their prime.  Baker responds to Daily Beast writer Zachary Karabell.

The unemployment rate for the year is likely to average above 9.0 percent. The number of people who are involuntarily underemployed has generally been 8.5 and 9.0 million, close to double the pre-recession level. Millions more have given up looking for work altogether. Real wages have been stagnant or falling for the last 4 years, with little prospect of turning around any time soon as the high rate of unemployment continues to depress wages.

In addition, tens of millions of baby boomers are approaching retirement with almost nothing to support themselves other than their Social Security. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the median older baby boomer (ages 55-64) had just $162,000 in wealth. This is roughly enough to buy the median home. This means that if this household took all of their wealth, they can pay off their mortgage. They would then be completely dependent on their Social Security to support them in retirement. And, half of older baby boomers have less wealth than this.

In short, most of the country is looking at a situation where they are desperate for work or fearful about losing their job. Older workers are looking at a retirement where they are not far above the poverty level, even after spending a life working in middle class jobs. The bad attitudes toward this situation are not the result of “groupthink” as the column asserts, they are the conclusion of people better able to understand the economy than Karabell.

For extra credit in the acting up department Karabell throws in a few broad assertions that are simply wrong. For example he tells us that:

“Overall growth for the next year is shaping up to be 2 percent, give or take. That is pretty lame compared to the heady days of the 1990s or even the mid-2000s. But those seemingly halcyon periods benefited from bubbles, whether the stock market and telecom spending in the 1990s or the housing and debt-inflated growth of the mid-2000s. So while activity now doesn’t look so good by those comparisons, it is actual economic activity undistorted by bubbles. It’s as if the economy of the past 20 years was wearing platform shoes (“Wow, she’s like 6 feet tall”); it looked a lot bigger than it was.”

Actually 2.0 percent annual growth would look bad compared to the 80s, the 70s, the 60s, and the 50s. It is simply a very bad growth rate. Trend productivity growth in the U.S. is between 2.0 and 2.5 percent. Labor force growth is averaging around 0.7 percent. This means that we need growth of around 2.5 -3.0 percent just to keep even with the growth of the labor force. At a 2.0 percent growth rate unemployment will be rising, not falling. This has nothing to with platform shoes, it’s arithmetic.

Furthermore, given the severity of the downturn we should be seeing growth in a 5-8 percent range to get the economy back to its potential level of output. People should be outraged at the thought that the economy might only grow at a 2.0 percent rate.

Lengthened work lives and growth too small to replace jobs lost over the last five years is likely to keep pressure on younger workers.  Even younger workers that are well educated and should have decent job skills are not able to find decent, well-paying jobs in this economy. They also have made huge investments in their educations and are carrying high levels of student loan debt.   The Atlantic Wire says that we may have a ‘lost generation’ in the making.

During the last decade, the unemployment rate for young people spiked to the highest levels since World War II–only 55 percent of Americans aged 16 to 29 have jobs, a 12 percent drop from the employment rate in 2000. Faced with a grim outlook, many young people aren’t leaving home until their 30s–the number of Americans aged 25 to 34 living with their parents jumped 25 percent during the recession. Last month, The New York Timescalled the collective youth “Generation Limbo,” but after seeing the new census data, Harvard economist Richard Freeman takes it a stage further. “These people will be scarred, and they will be called the ‘lost generation’–in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster,” Freeman told The Associated Press. The world has seen a number of lost generations in the past century. Gertrude Stein first coined the term in 1920s in reference to the Europeans who grew up during World War I, but it’s most recently referred to Japanese youth who grew up during that country’s recession in the 1990s. In Japan, the lost youth are referred to as the hikikomori, and the decade of widespread unemployment meant that many of them never had the chance to start careers. In the 10 years of recession in Japan the number of young people working temporary or contract jobs doubled, and the collective hopelessness lead to a sky-rocketing suicide rate.

A country with an economy that relies heavily on household spending cannot thrive and grow under these scenarios.  It is well known in macroeconomic research that high, sustained levels of unemployment have a multiplying impact on the rate of economic growth.  An economic forecast prepared by Goldman Sachs considers government policy an “impediment to growth”.  Fiscal tightening on both the state and national level will make things much worse.

Given the fiscal outlook remains difficult, we believe we’re unlikely to get further stimulus, and that government will continue to be a modest drag on growth. We believe we will see an increase in the rate of fiscal tightening at the federal level over the next couple of years. Fiscal policy was a boost in 2009, roughly neutral in 2010, and in 2011, roughly a 1 percentage point drag. In 2012, the impact depends on upcoming policy decisions. At best from a short-term perspective, if the Obama administration’s package passed, which seems quite unlikely, fiscal drag would be neutralized; at worst, if all temporary stimulus expires, we’d expect a fiscal drag of more than 1 1/2 percentage points of growth in early 2012. The more likely, middle ground outcome: the administration and Congress agree on tax-related proposals and probably extend the one-year payroll tax cut for one more year. There will be a bigger problem in 2013 with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, as well as any fiscal stimulus measures.

I think it’s rather telling to characterize our government as a drag on economic growth.  It’s clear that partisan politics have put elections and ideology ahead of any concern for the future of our country.  Nothing we’re talking about here is something that shouldn’t be known by folks who had an introductory university economics courses.  We’re unfortunately captured by a group of people in power that have no concern for the good of the country as a whole.

Paul Krugman put up this graph showing the level of Gross Investment by State and Local Governments.  This would be the kinds of infrastructure that support modern life as we know it and include things like roads, bridges, new school buildings, sewers, airports, and other things that also drive local business growth.  As you can see, there is a serious lack of infrastructure investments by state and local governments this century. Since interest rates are cheap, now is a good time to do these kinds of long term projects that would provide jobs and incentives for local businesses to expand.  The majority of our states have balanced budget amendments which disallow deficit spending and in some cases, borrowing.  Long term investment is nearly impossible in many states.  Krugman argues that the timing is right to invest in roads, bridges, airports, and other important public projects. It’s a perfect time to look at an Infrastructure Bank which had broad bipartisan support during the Bush/Cheney years. President Obama has proposed such an institution.

The proposal, modeled after a bipartisan bill in the Senate, would take $10 billion in start-up money and identify transportation, water or energy projects that lack funding. Eligible projects would need to be worth at least $100 million and provide “a clear public benefit.” The bank would then work with private investors to finance the project through cheap long-term loans or loan guarantees, with the government picking up no more than half the tab — ideally, much less — for any given project.

There is still this insane argument out there that the US is going broke and can’t afford to spend any money.  This confuses the institution of government with households and businesses.  A government has the ability tax and the national government has the ability to print money and borrow in perpetuity.  This country spent far more of its future output during the Great Depression and World War 2 and the results speak for themselves.  We’ve had most of this decade’s fiscal policy using taxes to encourage gambling for paper profits, not actual production of goods and services.  Europe’s policy makers are stuck in the same mindset.  You would think that the experiences between the two world wars would’ve made an impression on them.  We’ve spent trillions of dollars propping up the world’s gambling houses without telling them they must lend for productive purposes as a condition of those bailouts.  I have no idea how many more years that economists will have to scream that it’s the aggregate demand stupid at policy makers, but I have a feeling we won’t be stopping any time soon.


Thursday Reads: Primary Season is Upon Us

Good Morning!!

It’s hard to believe, but the Iowa Caucuses are just a few days away, next Tuesday, January 3. The New Hampshire primary will be held on January 10. The South Carolina and Florida primaries will be on January 21 and 31 respectively.

I’ll be focusing on the Republican primary campaign this morning, but please do post links to other stories that interest you in the comments.

Unfortunately, there’s no primary contest on the Democratic side, so we’re reduced to watching the Republicans. The good news is that the Republican candidates are entertaining to watch–that is, if your taste in entertainment runs toward the bizarre, the ironic, and the surreal and if you enjoy black humor.

Yesterday morning’s PPP poll showed Ron Paul still leading in Iowa.

The last week and a half has brought little change in the standings for the Iowa Republican caucus: Ron Paul continues to lead Mitt Romney by a modest margin, 24-20. Newt Gingrich is in 3rd at 13% followed by Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum at 10%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.

Paul’s strength in Iowa continues to depend on a coalition of voters that’s pretty unusual for a Republican in the state. Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. GOP caucus voters tend to skew old, and Romney has a 34-12 advantage with seniors. But Paul’s candidacy looks like it’s going to attract an unusual number of younger voters to the caucus this year, and with those under 45 he has a 35-11 advantage on Romney. The independent/young voter combo worked for Barack Obama in securing an unexpectedly large victory on the Democratic side in 2008 and it may be Paul’s winning equation in 2012.

The poll showed that Paul’s supporters are much more “passionate” than Romney’s, and Romney’s approval rating with Iowa voters had dropped from 49 to 44 percent. Interestingly, Romney is doing well with Fox News watchers, while Paul does much better with voters who don’t watch Fox.

Later in the day yesterday, the CNN/Time/ORC poll showed Romney ahead of Paul with likely Caucus-goers 25 to 22 percent, with Gingrich continuing to lose support rapidly and Rick Santorum surging, as Gingrich supporters move to him.

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they’d most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they’d support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney’s three point margin is within the poll’s sampling error….

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich’s rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he’s come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.

Santorum’s increasing support is coming mostly from the right wing Christians.

“Most of Santorum’s gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

It certainly looks like Iowa tea party voters are still seeking an anti-Romney candidate to get behind. The CNN/Time/ORC poll also sampled New Hampshire voters and found Romney still leading there.

Establishment Republicans are rooting hard for Mitt Romney. Everyone on Morning Joe yesterday was confident that he would eventually take the nomination. At Politico, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Alexander Burns report that Romney is “within striking distance” of winning Iowa.

Even as he tried to keep talk about his prospects in check Tuesday, a slew of public and private polling and anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that Romney is within striking distance of a first-place finish in Iowa — especially as Ron Paul’s momentum spurt appears to have run into the reality of front-runners’ scrutiny.

Romney’s team is moving to make the most of it. The candidate launched a bus tour Tuesday and suggested on a conference call with Iowans this week that he’ll be in the state for New Year’s Eve. After a solid ad buy in Iowa for a month totaling more than $1.1 million, Romney’s camp has upped its spending in the Quad Cities market, sources familiar with the purchase told POLITICO. His team has dropped a collection of mail pieces, both positive about Romney and negative about the perceived closest alternative — Newt Gingrich.

In another clear sign he’s playing to win, he has quietly moved a handful of staffers from his headquarters in Boston and in other states earlier this month to give his skeleton Iowa staff a needed boost. And he’s cycling in a platoon of high-profile surrogates to rally around him in the state at stump stops and on talk radio, including Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Aaron Schock and former Sens. Norm Coleman and Jim Talent.

At Philly.com, blogger Erik Uliasz argues that Ron Paul will win in Iowa, because he has the best organization in the state.

The caucuses are not won by opinion polls alone. They’re won by the politician who can pack Iowa’s churches, libraries and community centers at 7 p.m. exactly on a frigid January Tuesday, and whose supporters won’t suddenly decide to back a different candidate during an hour’s worth of jawing, dealing and very public voting.

Unlike other “flavors of the week” of the GOP contest, Paul hasn’t surged into the lead all of a sudden — he’s grown his support gradually, earning supporters the hard way.

And that’s why Paul’s surge to first place has to be taken seriously. Alone among the candidates, he has built an organizational machine to recruit and identify caucus-goers and turn them out on Jan. 3. Paul’s rise in Iowa isn’t a bubble. It’s a mound, and it is rock solid….

Paul’s campaign has built a sophisticated voter turnout machine. With its intensely dedicated core of youthful followers recruiting non-party regulars to the caucus electorate, it is reminiscent of nothing so much as Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa campaign, which was his springboard to the Democratic nomination.

In addition, the fact that there are no candidates competing with Obama in the Democratic caucuses will help Paul. Much of his support comes from Democrats and Independents (see PPP poll results above), and they can attend the Republican caucuses.

At CNN though, Micah Sifry writes that “Paulbots,” who sound remarkably like the Obots of 2008, might “torpedo” his campaign by being too obnoxious and too up front about Paul’s real beliefs, as reflected in the recently released old newsletters. Sifry writes that

there’s a paradox buried inside Paul’s rise in the Republican field, a time bomb ticking away. Call it the curse of the “Paulbots.”

The more Paul rises, the more he needs to temper his rhetoric and fine-tune his message (especially given the kind of baggage he carries). And the more he needs a fine-tuned message, the more he has to control his fractious fans. But people who organize themselves online today are notoriously hard to control.

They sure do sound like Obots:

Recall how in 2007, the “Paulbots” were everywhere: running up the numbers on every online poll they could find, generating one-day fundraising records in a desperate bid for national attention (they coined the word “money-bomb”), and creating massive amounts of voter-generated media on his behalf. They made everything from viral videos to a Ron Paul blimp….

This year the Paulbots have been a bit calmer and more under the radar says Sifry.

But things are about to get a bit crazy. Paul’s late surge and possible win next week in Iowa are going to generate a huge burst of national media attention and plenty of hard-edged questions about his past and views. And the Paulbot base doesn’t handle criticism very well.

The other day, for example, my techPresident colleague Sarah Lai Stirland reported on a growing battle breaking out on the massive social news filtering site Reddit between Paul supporters and critics tired of their efforts to “spam” Redditors with slanted news favoring Paul. Vocal Paul supporters outnumber their critics on the site, but their language and tactics are often arrogant and ugly. Passion can power a campaign, but self-righteousness can also cripple it.

Here’s a little sample of the kinds of information the Paul people might not want spread far and wide in the national media. From Talking Points Memo:

Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising “the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.” But Kayser’s views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.

“Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just,” he argued. “But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before.”

Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals — including the death penalty — even if he didn’t see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul’s federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser’s own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.

And this is interesting: Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager has switched horses and joined the Ron Paul campaign.

In a surprise move, and a blunt reflection of the shifting fortunes of Republican presidential candidates ahead of the opening vote in the 2012 nominating contest, Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman defected Wednesday night to Ron Paul’s campaign.

State Sen. Kent Sorenson, a tea party favorite, was hired as a Bachmann staffer in Iowa even before she announced her candidacy. He helped lead her campaign to victory in the Ames straw poll in August. Ever since, however, Bachmann’s popularity has been in decline….

“It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do,” Sorenson said, announcing his decision before a crowd of several hundred at a Veterans for Ron Paul rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Sorenson predicted that Paul would be the object of attacks by the Republican establishment in the days ahead, and said he wanted to help defend him.

The Texas congressman welcomed his newest staffer in understated fashion, thanking Sorenson for “stopping by. That was very nice.”

So, there’s lots of intrigue in Iowa, and next week the focus will move to New Hampshire. If Ron Paul really does pull off a win or even a close second in Iowa, I would not be at all surprised to see him do very well or even win in New Hampshire. At least it might be fun to watch the Republican insiders squirm if that happens.

What do you think? And what are you reading and blogging about today?


SDB Evening News Reads for 122811: Obama/Clinton and Miss Taylor’s M00ses

Good Evening!

Let’s start this post off with a link I found on Drudge…that should give you a heads up:

ROBERT REICH: Get Ready For A Obama-Clinton Presidential Ticket

My political prediction for 2012 (based on absolutely no inside information): Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden swap places. Biden becomes Secretary of State — a position he’s apparently coveted for years. And Hillary Clinton, Vice President.

So the Democratic ticket for 2012 is Obama-Clinton.

Why do I say this? Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

The orgasm continues…

The deal would also make Clinton the obvious Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 — offering the Democrats a shot at twelve (or more) years in the White House, something the Republicans had with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush but which the Democrats haven’t had since FDR. Twelve years gives the party in power a chance to reshape the Supreme Court as well as put an indelible stamp on America.

Reich ends it with a slogan of epic proportions, like something on a Ritz Cracker box:

Obama-Clinton in 2012. It’s a natural.

In Russia, the man who has designed Putin’s rise to power, and his constricting grip on control…has been reassigned. Surkov, Architect of Putin’s Political System, Is Reassigned

The Kremlin on Tuesday announced the reassignment of Vladislav Y. Surkov, the architect of the highly centralized political system that has come under waves of protest from middle-class Muscovites over the last month.

Mr. Surkov, a former advertising prodigy, coined the term “sovereign democracy” to describe his system, which preserved the electoral process but hollowed out institutions capable of challenging the Kremlin’s power. He created an array of political tools — the youth movement Nashi, the United Russia party and the overwhelming force of fully controlled television — that helped Vladimir V. Putin consolidate his authority during his first two presidential terms.

The last several months have exposed many of those tools as outdated, and Mr. Surkov had become a lightning rod for a rising generation of Russians raised on the Internet, who are calling for an end to the manipulations.

Surkov will now oversee modernization and innovation as Deputy Prime Minister…and have no role in domestic politics. The man taking his place as,

…deputy head of the presidential administration, will be filled by his rival Vyacheslav Volodin, a top United Russia official and longtime Putin loyalist who is vacating a spot as deputy prime minister.

Here is what Surkov had to say about the reassignment:

Asked by a journalist from Interfax on Tuesday why he was leaving, Mr. Surkov first answered, “Stabilization devours its own children.”

A report on the numbers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty for 2011 have been released. Of course, there is a few days left in the year so the total number may rise.  Report: 173 law enforcement officers killed on duty in 2011

In-the-line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers jumped 13% in 2011 compared to last year, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

A total of 173 federal, state and local officers have been killed in the United States, and the year is not quite over yet.

Gunfire accounted for the largest number of deaths, claiming 68 officers. That represents a 15% increase from 2010.

“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement.

“Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day — and the fact that too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them.”

I won’t make a comment about that statement from Holder, with all the Fast and Furious stuff still going on…

The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund notes that for the first time in 14 years, more police and other law enforcement agents died in shootings than in traffic accidents. This year, 64 officers were killed either in car or motorcycle crashes, or by being struck by vehicles while on the job.

“Drastic budget cuts affecting law enforcement agencies across the country have put our officers at grave risk,” said Craig Floyd, the chairman of the memorial fund. Floyd and others have expressed concerns that in these tight economic times, there have been reductions in training and equipment for police.

[…]

Florida has had the largest number of officer deaths this year — a total of 14. That was followed by Texas with 13, New York with 11, and 10 fatalities in both California and Georgia.

It gives me chills to think that my friend is one of those 10 fatalities in Georgia. Firearm deaths have increased 70% since 2004…Where is that picture of Santorum with the bright orange NRA hunting cap?

santorum_hunting_122611.jpg

The New York Times has been having one of those weeks…you may remember the foreign correspondent pensions being frozen, the sale of 16 regional papers and the article about staffers “profound dismay” with management, well today 8 Million New York Times Subscribers Got Cancelled By Mistake. The NYT sent out email to subscribers of home delivery stating that they had to resubscribe to the paper. New York Times says mea culpa after oops email to 8 million people

More than 8 million people received an erroneous email from the New York Times Co. telling them that they would no longer be receiving home delivery of the newspaper.

The email, sent Wednesday, was a mistake, the company said.

“A Times employee inadvertently sent an email that was intended for a short list of people to a long list of people,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times Co. spokeswoman.

Why does this make me think of the subtitles in the opening credits of Monty Python’s Holy Grail?

Particularly this part:

We apologise for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible have
been sacked.

[…]

We apologise again for the fault in the subtitles. Those
responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked
have been sacked.

[…]

The directors of the firm hired to continue the credits after the other
people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been
sacked.
The credits have been completed in an entirely different style at
great expense and at the last minute.

Of course, you must remember that a bunch of moose tales, Liz Taylor moose costumes and llamas were the reasons behind the “sacking.”

Mind you, moose bites can be pretty nasty…

So I am off to attend to my moose bite and feed my:

40 SPECIALLY TRAINED
ECUADORIAN MOUNTAIN LLAMAS
6 VENEZUELAN RED LLAMAS
142 MEXICAN WHOOPING LLAMAS
14 NORTH CHILEAN GUANACOS
(CLOSELY RELATED TO THE LLAMA)
REG LLAMA OF BRIXTON
76000 BATTERY LLAMAS
FROM “LLAMA-FRESH” FARMS LTD. NEAR PARAGUAY

…have a lovely evening.


The New Reality vs. an American Calvinist Meme

Lost between the “blessed be” in the Beatitudes and the “damned is” in modern American fundamentalist group think is economic reality. The outcast rabble that used to listen to a radical rabbi from the iron ages were taught that its harder for a rich man to get to heaven than a camel to fit into an eye of a need (Mathew 19:24) and  “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God”  (Luke 6:20) The downtrodden up there on the mount would probably not recognize today’s pious pharisees as the legacy of their community.  It’s probably still a way of justifying Armani suits and Mercedes for the leaders of the flock and their beneficiaries, but it’s impacting our policy in a detrimental way.

Many of these folks preach the perversion hat there is something inherently wrong with poor and jobless people.  They really believe that the poor and jobless just haven’t deserved god’s blessings like the uber rich.  It really shouldn’t take a little ol’ atheist like me to point out that it’s a stellar example of hypocrisy.  I should mention that I am a member of Buddhist clergy.  We’re really not supposed to point out the short comings of others’ spiritual paths but contemplate the notion that its just not their kalpa for enlightenment and apply bodhicitta.  However, this meme flies not only in the face of teachings out there in their own Gospels, it flies in the face of today’s reality. Again, it’s shaping our policy.  We’re in this mess because of that type of thinking.

We already talked some about an Esquire article called  ‘We Are Not All Created Equal; The truth about the American class system. It’s got a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.  Herman Cain is not only a right wing pundit among all the other things, he is an associate minister of a Baptist Church.

Herman Cain’s [fig. 6] comment in a recent interview on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is by no means an uncommon opinion, was this: “If you’re not rich, blame yourself.” The old Calvinist strain that connects prosperity to divine election runs deep. Work hard and stay late and you get to be a banker or doctor; drop out of high school or start using drugs and you’ll end up at McDonald’s. Even among liberals, the new trend toward behavioral economics demonstrates how poor people fare worse on tests requiring self-control, how their personal weaknesses create cycles of poverty. You don’t have to be on talk radio to believe that the poor must be doing something wrong.

The Great Outcry that has filled the country with inchoate rage is the bloody mess of this fundamental belief in the justice of American outcomes crashing headfirst into the new reality. The majority of new college grads in the United States today are either unemployed or working jobs that don’t require a degree. Roughly 85 percent of them moved back home in 2011, where they sit on an average debt of $27,200. The youth unemployment rate in general is 18.1 percent. Are these all bad people? None of us — not Generation Y, not Generation X, and certainly not the Boomers — have ever faced anything like it. The Tea Partiers blame the government. The Occupiers blame the financial industry. Both are really mourning the arrival of a new social order, one not defined by opportunity but by preexisting structures of wealth. At least the ranters are mourning. Those who are not screaming or in drum circles mostly pretend that the change isn’t happening.

Reconcile Cain’s repeat of the meme with this reality.

For years, the food pantry in Crystal Lake, Ill., a bedroom community 50 miles west of Chicago, has catered to the suburban area’s poor, homeless and unemployed.

But Cate Williams, the head of the pantry, has noticed a striking change in the makeup of the needy in the past year or two.

Some families that once pulled down six-figure incomes and drove flashy cars are now turning to the pantry for help.

A few of them donated food and money to the pantry before their luck soured, according to Williams.

“People will shyly say to me, ‘You know, I used to give money and food to you guys.  Now I need your help,’” Williams told The Fiscal Times last week.  “Most of the folks we see now are people who never took a handout before.  They were comfortable, able to feed themselves, to keep gas in the car, and keep a nice roof over their head.”

Suburbia always had its share of low-income families and the poor, but the sharp surge in suburban poverty is beginning to grab the attention of demographers, government officials and social service advocates.

The past decade has marked the most significant rise in poverty in modern times.  One in six people in the U.S. are poor, according to the latest census data, compared to one-in-ten Americans in 2004. This surge in the percentage of the poor is fueling concerns about a growing disparity between the rich and poor — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent in the parlance of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But contrary to stereotypes that the worst of poverty is centered in urban areas or isolated rural areas and Appalachia, the suburbs have been hit hardest in recent years, an analysis of census data reveals.  “If you take a drive through the suburbs and look at the strip mall vacancies, the ‘For Sale’ signs, and the growing lines at unemployment offices and social services providers, you’d have to be blind not to see the economic crisis is hitting home in a way these areas have never experienced,” said Donna Cooper, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

The economic data show some distinct changes that have occurred some where between the end of the 20th century and the onset of the 21st.  Income inequality has worsened.  Upward mobility has reversed.  Unemployment has become pervasive and long term.  This isn’t just the reality for a sliver of the population.  The downward spiral is pulling more and more Americans from all walks of life.  It’s not a lack of skill, work ethic, or education.  It’s a lack of opportunity and economic policy that is hell bent on destroying the US middle class.

I have to say that much of this has to do with the herd of Republicans and some DINOS that have bought into the ‘prosperity’ theology.  It is part and parcel of the “dominion” movement which is characterized  by the creepy C Street cult and wealthy religious preachers like C Wagner, Rick Joyner, and  John Eckhard.   Bostonboomer has written extensively about these guys based on the research of Jeff Sharlet.  She also wrote in the Tuesday morning post about some of the even creepier conspiracy theories these folks harbor surrounding any action to promote women’s self autonomy or environmental protection. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to this cult.  They are major Republican political figures and have input to all kinds of US policy.

If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.

Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. Most writers, myself included, who explore it have been called paranoid. In a contemptuous 2006 First Things review of several books, including Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, and my own Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “the fear of theocracy has become a defining panic of the Bush era.”

Now, however, we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences. Writing about Bachmann in The New Yorker this month, Ryan Lizza spent several paragraphs explaining how the premise fit into the Minnesota congresswoman’s intellectual and theological development. And a recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”

In many ways, Dominionism is more a political phenomenon than a theological one. It cuts across Christian denominations, from stern, austere sects to the signs-and-wonders culture of modern megachurches. Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.

Dominionism derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s. Christian Reconstructionism openly advocates replacing American law with the strictures of the Old Testament, replete with the death penalty for homosexuality, abortion, and even apostasy.

While these two presidential wannabes are dragging their knuckles along the bottom of the polls right now, their messages are still being repeated seriously by main stream media.  Actual economists and scientist can’t get on TV these days but these perverted messages brought by idiots are all over the place.  We need to realize that these people have brought on policy that has created a fundamental, underlying change in our country.  There are 13.3 million unemployed people in the United States. Who can seriously argue that these folks are on some kind of long vacation?

Many pundits and some GOP lawmakers excoriate all unemployed for being lazy and enjoying life on the dole. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)recently said, “People are gaming the system and refusing to take jobs because they get unemployment benefits and food stamps.”

Paul Krugman repeated today the very simple reason why the economy is going nowhere.  There is a lack of aggregate demand.  This is because wages are stagnant, wealth is down, and job security is nonexistent for nearly all Americans. There is also a large amount of household debt.  This problem has an easy solution.  The government can boost aggregate demand by spending money and creating jobs. This won’t happen, however, until we make a concerted effort to get rid of the people and the meme that considers problems associated with a financial crisis and recession to be based on personal shortcomings of unemployed people instead of problems associated with wealthy gamblers and the pols that protect them.

Most people understand that worshiping wealth and doing anything to attain it is not moral behavior.  Well, that doesn’t count the folks at Fox News who have just started a war on the Muppets for indoctrinating children in “class war” and ecology. Again, I may be a Buddhist and atheist, but those quotes up there in the first paragraph seem to make Jesus to be one of the first warriors in the class war.  It certainly wasn’t Kermit the Frog.

Bolling’s guest, Dan Gainor of Media Research Center, added: “It’s amazing how far the left will go, manipulating your kids to give the anti-corporate message.”

Bolling followed with: “Is liberal Hollywood using class warfare to brainwash our kids?”

“Absolutely, they’ve been doing it for decades,” said Gainor.

Gainor said Hollywood hates the oil industry and corporate America. In addition to “The Muppets,” he cited “Cars 2″ and “There Will be Blood” as examples of anti-oil movies.

He complained that Hollywood does not tell the positive stories about oil, such as its role in fueling ambulances.

He also linked the Occupy Wall Street movement to “indoctrinating” shows like “Captain Planet.”

Andrea Tantaros, a commentator Fox Business, added that liberal media wants to target children at the “youngest age” possible.

She also complained about the Muppet Lily, a “hungry” Muppet, and linked her to entitlement programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

At the heart of Bolling and his guests’ complaint is that liberal Hollywood allegedly paints material success as “evil” and indoctrinates children with the ideology of class warfare.

Spot the Dominist memes in that long list. Then, try to read the Beatitudes.  Then, just for kicks, read the first amendment about the wall between state and religion.  How on earth could anything have gotten so turned upside down?


Wednesday Reads: 2011-2012 Sandwich

Good Morning!

There are just a few days left in 2011, and for all we know 2012 is going to be the last year we gotta deal with. Right?

I never knew what the source was for the traditional New Year’s Eve Kiss, but,

According to English and German folklore, the first person you encounter in a new year — and the nature of this encounter — sets the tone for the rest of the year. A kiss is about strengthening ties you wish to maintain in the future. If a couple celebrating together doesn’t take the time to lock lips, it doesn’t bode well for the relationship.

Hmmmm…My grandmother also used to throw a pot of water out the back door, something about washing away the bad luck from the previous year. It never worked for her, Granny had to have the worst luck of anyone I know. The idea that a New Year’s kiss strengthens ties is a positive way to begin 2012…perhaps some of the GOP Clowns will start puckering up?

Oh wait, they’ve been kissing the base’s ass all along. Perry switched his stance on abortion yesterday, and since I’ve brought this up…let’s stick with the right’s war on women for one more link.

The GOP’s 10 Most Extreme Attacks On A Woman’s Right To Choose An Abortion

2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are ThinkProgress’s nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose.

From redefining rape to defunding Planned Parenthood, see what 10 bills made the list…

In other Women’s Issues news, Egypt has banned the military’s forced practice of “virginity test.”

An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the country’s military rulers to stop the use of “virginity tests” on female detainees, a practice that has caused an uproar among activists and rights groups.

The virginity test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters, and the army cleared the square by force. The rights group Human Rights Watch said seven women were subjected to the tests.

The ban came a week after public outrage over scenes of soldiers dragging women protesters by the hair, stomping on them and stripping one half-naked in the street during a fierce crackdown on activists.

The people of Haiti lost an important human rights advocate this past week, Death of Dominican activist leaves void in movement for rights of people of Haitian descent

Sonia Perez was the undisputed champion of people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic, fighting deep discrimination and helping them get birth certificates, housing and education.

Her passing earlier this month of a heart attack at age 48 has left many activists wondering who will carry on her work at a crucial time.

“I don’t see who can replace her,” said Edwin Paraison, who worked with Pierre and was Haiti’s former minister of Haitians living abroad. “Sonia is the kind of woman who is born once a century.”

People of Haitian descent, or even just darker skin, have long been condemned to menial jobs, subject to deportation and denied access to school and jobs in the Dominican Republic.

In 30 years of activism, Pierre helped countless people obtain birth certificates over the resistance of government officials. She led marches and organized rallies, fighting for better conditions for people in the sugar cane camps, or bateys, where she grew up.

You may remember Sonia Perez standing next to Michele Obama and Hillary Clinton when she received the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2010. The passing of Perez at such a young age is so sad…she has left many wondering who will step up to take on the battle she can no longer wage.

Yesterday, NorthWestRain posted a link to an article in Esquire…I just wanted to bring it up to the front page because it really is a powerful read: American Class System – We Are Not All Created Equal, by Stephen Marche – Esquire

There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.

Go read it…America is the land of the haves and have nots…I wonder if these two Fed governors Obama has nominated will help matters or just make them worse: Obama taps economist, banker as Fed governors

President Barack Obama will nominate Harvard economist Jeremy Stein and Jerome Powell, an investment banker and former Treasury official, to the two empty seats on the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting board of governors.

The White House’s pick of candidates, who have Democratic and Republican credentials respectively, may help speed their nomination through Congress amid a sluggish economic recovery that has failed to put a major dent in the unemployment rate, now at 8.6 percent.

While neither has laid out detailed views on monetary policy, Stein wrote a paper earlier this year suggesting he would back the Fed’s unconventional efforts to keep down long-term borrowing costs, which have been controversial in Washington. The Fed for over three years has adopted an array of radical measures to keep interest rates low and spur recovery.

Stein, who previously worked for the Obama administration as an adviser to the Treasury secretary and a National Economic Council staff member, specializes in stock price behavior, corporate investment and financing decisions, risk management and capital allocation inside firms. He declined to comment on his nomination.

The choice of Powell, who served at the Treasury during President George H. W. Bush’s term in the late 1980s and early 1990s, could be aimed at mollifying Senate Republicans. They blocked Peter Diamond, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, saying the Nobel prize winner was not qualified for the job and was too sympathetic to government intervention in the economy.

Powell is a lawyer by training and worked at Dillon, Read and Bankers Trust Co. after leaving the senior Bush administration and before joining Carlyle Group. His knowledge of financial markets could help him fill the gap left by Kevin Warsh, a former Morgan Stanley executive who acted as Chairman Ben Bernanke’s point-man for crisis negotiations.

I am sure Dakinikat will have something to say about these nominations…right Dak…hint…hint. ;)

In the hacking world, an Anonymous group is planing to publish emails stolen from Stratfor, aka Strategic Forecasting Inc.

Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group said they are getting ready to publish emails stolen from private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting Inc, whose clients include the U.S. military, Wall Street banks and other corporations.

[…]

Antisec has already published what it claims are the names of thousands of corporate and government customers, as well as email addresses, passwords and credit card numbers of individual subscribers to its services. Customers on the list published by Antisec include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil Corp, Goldman Sachs & Co, Interpol, Thomson Reuters, the U.S. military and the United Nations.

[…]

“Stratfor is not the ‘harmless company’ it tries to paint itself as. You’ll see in those emails,” Anonymous said via Twitter.

The group said it would release those emails once it had finished formatting them for distribution and prepared more than 9,000 “mirrored” copies. Creating that many copies of the file would allow the hackers to distribute it more quickly and also make it more difficult for authorities to shut down servers holding the data.

I guess time will tell. I doubt Wikileaks will be involved in the distribution, but this hack makes me think of Biden’s remark about terrorist acts. Especially with the Manning Hearing going on, it will be interesting to see what happens.

This Christmas, my husband got a Kindle Fire…it replaces his 1st Generation Kindle that we got back when Amazon first released the Kindle in 2007. He has always been happy with his Kindle, in fact it was his satisfaction that prompted me to get a Kindle of my own. I thought at 79 bucks…yes, it will pay for itself.  I had not paid any attention to the prices of the Kindle books, I thought they were still at the reasonable price of $9.99. What a shock it was to find out that many Kindle ebooks are more expensive than a paperback. So this next link actually addresses this change.  The great ebook price swindle

Publishers have two major distribution methods. One is traditional wholesaling: sell the book to a middleman, who typically adds a mark-up to customers, but sometimes discounts a book below cost as a “loss leader” to attract more business for items that aren’t discounted in this way.

The other model is called the “agency” system. In this case, publishers set the price and the bookstore merely handles the sale to the ultimate customer, for a set fee or percentage of the transaction.

The “big six” US publishers all sell their physical books via the wholesale model. After years of wholesaling digital editions as well, they moved to the agency model for ebooks, with Random House becoming the final publisher to switch early last year. The publishers had been increasingly angry about Amazon’s selling of new bestsellers at the loss-leading price of $10 (actually, $9.99), worrying that the giant online company was setting customer expectations at a too-low price point and undermining the sales of physical books.

Apple played a role in this switch, by essentially telling the publishers it wanted the agency model for its own online bookstore, which services the iPad and iPhone. And Apple co-operated in what was the inevitable result for e-books everywhere: higher prices to consumers.

Not just higher prices, but vastly higher; many ebook bestsellers on Amazon (and in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store) jumped 30% to 50%, from about $10 to $13 or $15 or even higher, as publishers imposed higher list prices for the digital versions. And in case after case, the ebook price for a new book was close to, and sometimes even higher than, the Amazon price for a hardcover. Remember, Amazon still has the right to discount from list price for physical books, as it has always done. Meanwhile, publishers have dictated that ebook prices will be the same as they charge for paperbacks (around $10 these days).

The article points out that these new e-book prices are a rotten deal for consumers…no kidding. And to think that Apple played a roll in this price increase really pisses me off. So greed is ruining the one luxuries I had in life, reading books with the ease of accessibility on a Kindle…sounds like an Occupy Random House is needed…what do you all think.

Now, I’ve got two creature feature articles for your enjoyment…

Invasive black tiger shrimp prove a genuine threat to Gulf shrimp populations.  I’ve seen these things being sold at the grocery store or our local Banjoville Walmart…I had no idea they were so invasive and such a threat to native shrimp.

Fisheries managers say there’s an invasive species lurking in the Gulf of Mexico that could have a negative impact in the Coastal Bend.

The black tiger shrimp, marketed by seafood markets as tiger prawns, eats other shrimp and recently reappeared as a concern among state biologists and seafood industry officials.

The highly aggressive giant shrimp, which can be a foot long and weigh nearly a pound, can carry diseases that native brown, white and pink shrimp may not have the immune system to fight, said Art Morris, a fisheries biologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife.

The numbers of Tiger Shrimp caught in the Gulf has increased since Katrina, the theory being that a Tiger Shrimp farm was affected in the storm causing a large population to be released into the Gulf. Tiger shrimp are the most common shrimp raised in farms worldwide.

Here is another creature story that I had not heard of before:  The hunt for Mokele-mbembe: Congo’s Loch Ness Monster

The search for Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster is world famous. Far less well-known is the hunt for a similar creature, Mokele-mbembe, which is reputed to live in the remote north of Congo-Brazzaville. But how strong is the evidence?

“I checked maps, and the data on the maps was white. It said, ‘insufficient data to delineate terrain’. Well that got me!” says Dr Roy Mackal, a retired biologist from the University of Chicago.

“It’s the end of the world. It gives you a feeling of a surviving prehistoric time.”

Sort of makes me think of the Lost World…

The Mokele-mbembe is reputed to be a large reptile-like creature, with a long neck, and long tail.

Map showing Likouala in Congo

Despite being a herbivore, it is said to roar aggressively if approached by humans. Some say it has a single horn, which it uses to kill elephants.

Many a Western explorer over the years has been gripped by the tantalising possibility that they could discover a creature – a formidable one at that – that has remained, as yet, unknown to science.

To date, there have been more than 50 expeditions to the region, but no scientific evidence, unless you include the large claw-shaped footprint recorded by a French missionary in 1776.

The only photographic images have been so fuzzy, they prove nothing.

But there is no shortage of eyewitness reports.

[…]

“Certainly mythology surrounds it,” says Adam Davies, a British man who spends his spare time and money travelling the world in search of undocumented species, and has twice gone to Africa on the trail of the Mokele-mbembe.

“But when you put it to people, ‘Is this a real creature?’ they become quite affronted… and they consistently came out with physical descriptions.”

There have been other instances where creatures that seemed to be more fantasy than reality have turned out to exist.

The most often cited example is the okapi – a cloven-hoofed mammal with zebra-like stripes on its legs, which lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just to the east of Congo-Brazzaville.

In the 19th Century, there was talk among Westerners in Africa of the existence of an “African unicorn” and the explorer Henry Morton Stanley – who had earlier tracked down the missing missionary, Dr David Livingstone – reported seeing a mysterious donkey-like animal on a journey through the Congo in the late 1880s.

It was only in 1901 that the okapi was properly documented and identified as a relative of the giraffe.

“I’d put Mokele-mbembe in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster,” says Bill Laurance, professor at James Cook University in Australia, a conservation biologist and an expert in tropical rainforests.

“My gut sense is that the likelihood of the creature actually existing today is small.

“However, one thing you learn early on in science is never say never. We are still discovering new species all the time.”

Well, these biologist only have one more year to break the mystery of the Mokele-mbembe. Yup, that brings us are back to the year 2012…

So I will end with this Mike Luckovich cartoon that gives us a peek at what the end of the world may bring…

 mike122811

A Gingrich election would definitely bring about the end of the world. Forget the brooms kid…and start stocking up on supplies.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…it’s the end of the world as we know it…it’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine!