Good Morning and Happy Easter
(Cute illustration eh? Little fucking rabbits…or should I say little rabbits fucking? Well, about to at least.) Oh my, that is a bit too sordid for an Easter Morn, is it not? I don’t know, everything is still a bit hazy since Bebe got back from Chicago. I have a couple of extra teenage “other people munchkins.” Friends of my son spending the entire long weekend with us…lets just say the big ham is already gone, and it is now 2 am Saturday night.
Quick links to headlines:
While CNN has the figure up two : Death toll from South Korean ferry sinking rises to 52
This next article from the Irish Times is big news: Third mate was steering ferry for first time ever before capsize
In the grocers corner, NY Times: General Mills Reverses Itself on Consumers’ Right to Sue
Enjoy your bacon and OJ now, because that stuff is going to get even more expensive: The 10 Fastest Rising Food Prices – 24/7 Wall St.
But that is okay, because you probably will not be able to afford the bacon anyway…since you have to deal with this shit: After foreclosure crisis, renters suffer under Wall Street landlords | Al Jazeera America
The poster child for the foreclosure crisis has been a middle-income suburban family. But low-income urban renters also saw their buildings over-mortgaged at the height of the crisis, and now faceless hedge funds and nameless investors are replacing their desperate landlords — sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Six years after the foreclosure crisis helped tank the world’s economy, investors are snatching up “distressed” properties — those that are in foreclosure or facing foreclosure — and seeking to turn a profit on them. Advocates for affordable housing worry that this profit comes at the expense of tenants.
Joanna Paulino knows this all too well. She lives in a lower-income neighborhood in the Bronx borough of New York City. Her home is a prewar building, a once attractive structure like many others in the city’s outer boroughs. But after years of neglect, it is crumbling; there are more than 140 violations registered against the premises.
Pathetic and disturbing.
Over the last several months, Wall Street firms have snapped up an estimated 200,000 single-family homes with the intention of renting them out. The New York–based hedge fund Blackstone Group is now America’s largest landlord of rental homes after purchasing over 40,000 foreclosed single-family homes in 14 metro areas around the country, from Atlanta to Phoenix, to convert into rental properties. But certain investors are also snatching up “distressed” urban rental buildings like the one where Paulino lives in the South Bronx. Unbeknownst to many low-income renters, their buildings were over-mortgaged during the bubble. In New York, many of those buildings are due for refinancing now — making them vulnerable to acquisition by hedge funds.
“Since these buildings are so over-mortgaged,” said Harold Shultz, an affordable-housing expert who works with the Citizens Housing Planning Council of New York, “the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to be refinanced.”
Desperate landlords and banks are looking for new owners and investors. And Wall Street is ready to step in and help out.
These groups often purchase buildings sight unseen, with little knowledge of the conditions a foreclosed building might be in. Sometimes, especially in the case of apartments, foreclosures can take years to resolve.
So while old owners, banks and new owners or investors sort out the debt, buildings languish in disrepair. And when an agreement is eventually reached, there is no guarantee for tenants that conditions will improve.
I will use those last few stories to tie into the post that Boston Boomer wrote Friday: Friday Reads: American Oligarchy, South Korean Tragedy, and Hillary Under the Microscope | Sky Dancing
Where she focused her post primarily on the study results of Martin Gilins and Benjamin I. Page of Princeton and Northwestern Universities, and a recent article by Larry Bartels, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.
The word Oligarchy and its various forms were used heavily throughout. (I always have to sound out the word oligarchy in my head when I am reading that word to myself. Even then I am not confident my mind’s voice is pronouncing it correctly.) ;)
On Friday I found this op/ed while looking for cartoons and it struck a chord, but it did not give an answer: How Not to Talk About Wealth Inequality by Tina Dupuy
Have you heard we live in an oligarchy? Perhaps you’ve been told America is a plutocracy? Is that because of widespread demagogy?
Circumlocution: a big word meaning using unnecessarily lofty words to express an idea.
Welcome to the baffling world of liberal-speak.
Oligarchy, plutocracy and demagogy: The holy trinity of sesquipedalian polysyllable liberal loquaciousness.
This language liberals, in particular, have chosen to talk about elitism is, well, really snooty. When we talk about a tiny fraction of people having undue influence on our politics—we use words barely anyone understands.
Marinade in that irony. It’s like if we were broadcasting NASCAR only in Latin. Oligarchy? That sounds like a German cabbage dish. Demagoguery sounds like a flourish in square dancing. Plutocracy sounds like we should just be friends.
I write for a living and these words make my eyes glaze over. And they’re used all time, often by well-meaning liberal-types attempting to advocate for the have-less in this nation. Case in point: Paul Krugman. His columns “Oligarchs and Money,” “Oligarchy, American Style” and “Graduates Versus the Oligarchs”—do cover how economic policies favor a fraction of 1 percent of Americans but his go-to word is comprehended by even fewer.
Go see what else Tina has to say. One thing she does not mention is some examples of substitutes for Oligarchs, Oligarchy etc.
More on this after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »
My daughter is still sick with the flu, but she is getting better…unfortunately I think she has passed it on to me. I am just hoping that my flu shot kicks in and the symptoms don’t get any worse.
Here’s the latest news out of Newtown. (And there is really nothing “new” in the way of information…and Philo Vance, I mean Paul Vance has been conspicuously absent, is his microphone packed away for good?)
From the Hartford Courant, we have our only bit of new information on the investigation. Sandy Hook Shooter’s Pause May Have Aided Students’ Escape
As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza‘s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.
A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.
The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.
On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.
Finally, some sort of words about Lanza and medical records. Damn, it has been like Adam Lanza just dropped out of nowhere, no records or “social networking” footprints have been found. (I still think it is all too strange, the silence…and the attitude of the various “authorities.” Something still feels fishy to me!)
Anyway, you can watch the Newtown police chief interview here, it is a quick few minutes at the start of the CBS Evening News: 12/22: Newtown police chief shares his story- CBS News Video
The chief also shares his opinion on armed patrol officers guarding schools. That should be enough of a tease for you to watch it.
Another thing to give a few minutes to is this report from All Things Considered: Near-Replica Of Sandy Hook Made Nearby For Students : NPR
I’d love to hear from Dr. Boomer about the new school being made into a “near-replica” of a place so many of these children survivors associate with unbelievable violence and horrible death.
On the subject of this carnage in the classroom, Roland Martin has this op/ed on CNN America should see the Newtown carnage
“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”
That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.
When taping this week’s edition of my show, “Washington Watch,” Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.
Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman’s husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.
I think Martin may have a point. Look at the images from the Civil War, and how they shaped the mindset of the population. It brought the bloody war home to the people in a way that stories in the newspapers could not.
When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.
“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box,” Mamie said. “No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it’s in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.
Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?
Please go read the rest, and let me know what you think about viewing the crime scene photos, and if that can make the horror more real to those people who seem bent on keeping gun control/legislation as is…and actually put more guns and assault weapons in the hands of the regular public, who don’t need these kind of semi-automatic military rifles to shoot a deer.
Speaking of those pro-gun lobbyist, take a look at this: Newtown’s firearms tradition clashes with gun control push
When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.
“It’s a huge tradition here,” said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.’s gun ordinances in September. “I’d rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone’s doing it safely.”
Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren’t the problem.
The article interviews folks who feel that there should be armed people at these schools. “Somebody…” to take out the shooter. But all I can say is go back and watch that interview with the Newtown Police Chief, who does not think that armed patrol is the answer.
I’ve got one story here about Walmart, funny in a way: Walmart Sells Assault Weapons But Bans Music With Swear Words
Yup, no sale of music that contains the words, “fuck you” but they will gladly sell assault weapons that are only good for “fucking someone up…” killing them and making the surviving family’s life a living hell.
The rest of the links are slightly connected…I mentioned photographs of the disfigured and bloated dead Civil War soldiers above, well this past week was the anniversary of one of the most deadliest series of battles fought. From the New York Times: ‘The Day the Stars Wept’
The majority of fighting at Fredericksburg had ground to a halt as the sun slipped below the horizon on Dec. 13, 1862. Ghastly piles of dead men and horses were scattered in the fields, and the woods were littered with abandoned equipment and debris. Sporadic gunfire continued as exhausted survivors on both sides ventured out into the war-blasted landscape to rescue wounded comrades.
In one sector of the battlefield, the men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry had endured a day of intense enemy artillery and infantry fire. The regiment suffered more than 50 casualties, including 18 killed and wounded when a spray of lead balls from single Confederate canister shot tore into one company.
Whether it is images of this American Civil War or photos of the other civil war, the war for civil rights, fought one hundred years later…or the war in Europe…being able to look at images of the dead, or smell the shoes of thousands of holocaust victims, can we learn from the violence. It is the only way to stay connected with the past, and make sure we do not forget it.
Library of Congress
The Vermonters occupied a skirmish line in the twilight. George Washington Quimby, the 27-year-old acting major of the regiment, stood conspicuously among the men. A peacetime high school principal, he cautioned his boys to “keep low to avoid danger” while random shots whizzed through the air. They obeyed the command and sat or lay down.
On the Confederate side, a soldier leveled his musket and squeezed the trigger. Hammer struck percussion cap and caused a spark that ignited gunpowder and propelled a conical shaped Minié bullet down the muzzle.
Quimby never saw it coming.
Read the rest of that NYT story at the link up top, and you can see images of the dead and read more about the battle here:
Photo via the Library of congress.
In other news, the White House has changed its “opinion” of those frankenfish… I mean, genetically engineered fish. White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GM Salmon
The Food and Drug Administration today released an electronic version of its Environmental Assessment for a genetically modified (GM) salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts—effectively giving its preliminary seal of approval on the first transgenic animal to be considered for federal approval.
According to sources within FDA, the EA had been approved by the all the relevant agencies on April 19, 2012, but had been blocked for release on orders from inside the executive branch—which has raised both legal and ethical issues of political interference with science and the independent work of federal agencies.
The decision by the White House to rescind its order to block the FDA from releasing the EA came Wednesday within hours after the publication of an investigative report by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) last Wednesday documenting that the executive branch had been hold the EA for political reasons.
Well fuuuuuuuck…..that! And of course, this change of heart comes during a media filled frenzy of Fiscal Cliffs, dead children, Santa and Gun Control. Humph!
I’ve got another fish story for you, Megapiranha put T. rex’s bite to shame, says study
You ready for this?
Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodon, a gigantic shark that preceded the great white, have nothing on the black piranha and the extinct megapiranha when it comes to chomping power. Researchers at George Washington University report that, relative to its size, the megapiranha bite was more powerful than T. Rex and history’s largest shark. According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the black piranha was determined to have a biting force behind its powerful teeth of up to 320 Newtons.
“Comparisons of body size-scaled bite forces to other apex predators reveal S. rhombeus and M. paranensis have among the most powerful bites estimated in carnivorous vertebrates. Our results functionally demonstrate the extraordinary bite of serrasalmid piranhas and provide a mechanistic rationale for their predatory dominance among past and present Amazonian ichthyofaunas,” the authors write in their study.
Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…
…the piranhas’ aggressive nature, small body size and easy-to-access populations make them a great group of predatory vertebrates in which to examine the evolution of powerful chomping capabilities. Researchers believe that piranhas will attack and rip chunks of fins and flesh from prey regardless of size. Prior to this study, however, no data on the piranhas biting powers was available for researchers to use.
Researchers gathered the first bite-force measurements from wild specimens of the black piranha. Using these measurements, they were able to better understand the fundamental functional morphology of the jaws that gives the black piranha the ability to chomp down on its prey with a force that is more than 30 times greater than its weight. Researchers contend that this powerful biting force comes from the large muscle mass of the black piranha’s jaw and the deft transmission of its big contractile force through a modified jaw-closing lever.
Researchers believe that the ancient megapiranha shared a common trait with black piranhas: An extremely powerful bite. They reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha and found that, despite its small body size, the chomping power of this extinct piranha was more powerful than that of megalodon.
Lots more at the link.
And finally, let’s end this post with a pretty picture, cold…sharp and clean: Frost Flowers…Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With ‘Flowers’ Everywhere
…little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?
“Frost flowers,” he was told. “I’d never heard of them,” Jeff says, “but they were everywhere.”
Stay warm and enjoy the last Sunday before Christmas…see you later in the comment section!
Tonight is the last presidential debate. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t understand what’s happening with the polls, and I don’t get why so many people are ready to vote for a lying flim-flam man like Mitt Romney. All I can do is take this one day at a time until we get the results on November 7th or 8th.
Here’s today’s outrage from the Romney campaign: Staying Classy
Ronna Romney is the ex-sister-in-law of Mitt Romney. She’s apparently remained close to the Romney family. She has a minor role in the Romney campaign in Florida and has recently appeared at campaign events in Michigan with her daughter.
Earlier this afternoon she posted these grotesque images of the mangled body of the late Ambassador Chris Stevens with the words “Obama killed him” surrounded by dripping blood.
You can see the screengrab at the TPM link.
And here’s a little comic relief: Mitt Romney blimp crash lands in Florida
A blimp displaying a Mitt Romney campaign ad crash landed in Davie, Fla. Sunday evening.
Davie police said that wind forced the the aircraft to land in a field around 7:10 p.m., and two people got out safely….
The Sun Sentinel reports that the airship was headed from Boca Raton, the site of Monday night’s debate, to North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines. It featured a picture of the Republican candidate with the slogan “America Needs Romney.”
“We saw the blimp hovering over the house, and it was floating backwards; it looked like it was actually coming down,” local Teri Balter told NBC News. “I thought boy, Mitt Romney really wants us to vote for him.”
How will the media report the third debate? Probably the same way they reported the second debate.
Which Mitt Romney will show up tonight?
It’s all coming down to stupid undecided voters.
I plan to watch the debate on-line and listen to MSNBC coverage on satellite radio. What are your plans? What do you expect to happen tonight?
We’ll use this post as a live blog until the comment thread gets too long, at which point I’ll post fresh thread and let you know to move up.
Let’s have fun watching–what do we have to lose at this point? And don’t forget to vote!!
Here’s some music to get us started: A Message to Republicans from Lesley Gore:
Tonight, for your viewing pleasure, I have videos and images full of destruction…disgust…terror…dated perceptions and bad romance. Those being a collection of tornado damage, pink slime, wolf spiders, early 70’s Dolly Parton and a song about Women’s Suffrage.
First, we have the debris and destruction part of this evening’s post. I went to Murphy, North Carolina today and shot some video of the damage the town received after being hit by a F2 tornado on March 3, 2012. This town is just a spit from my old house near the border of Georgia and North Carolina. The town may sound familiar to you because it was made famous by Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolf...who hid out in the mountains around the town for six years, before being discovered rummaging through a trash dumpster.
My video is short so take a look:
Earlier today, a local Atlanta station had a crew shoot a story about the tornado that hit last week, a lot of the same things I video taped are in their report…which does explain what you are looking at and interviews some residents and owners of the damaged buildings.
Transcript of the news video here:
– Residents in Murphy, N.C. are still picking up the pieces after a tornado touched down last Friday.
The twister destroyed homes and businesses throughout the town.
Wayne’s Feed Store, a somewhat local institution in the mountain town since 1951, was blown away.
Reggie Cox lost his house, but said he was grateful that his family — including his three children– are safe.
“It was scary, you know winds, debris,” said Cox.
The EF-2 tornado tore through town with winds of up to 125 miles an hour — fast enough to drive a four by four post through the side of a station wagon.
“We had over 100 homes that suffered some type of damage. We had eight that were destroyed,’ said Cherokee County, N.C. spokesman Doug Clement.
Cox’s uncle’s house was one of the those totaled, where a week later a smoke detector was still sounding the alarm.
“They just left about five to seven minutes before it hit,” said Cox. “I don’t think anybody could have survived it.”
Rebuilding has begun, bringing with it a sense of recovery.
“We feel like we are on the road to recovery. Mountain people are survivors. Well indeed make it, I indeed assure you of that,” said Mayor Bill Hughes.
While the storm caused millions of dollars in damage, there were no reports of injuries.
The same storm system did damage in Haralson and Paulding Counties
Now… I bring you the disgusting portion of the evening. I have another video for you to watch, it is from a segment of ABC News last night, and it is revolting!
As seen in the movie Food Inc., the low-grade trimmings come from the most contaminated parts of the cow and were once only used in dog food and cooking oil. But because of BPI’s treatment of the trimmings — simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs — the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.
The company calls the final product “Finely Textured Lean Beef.” It is flash frozen and boxed. Foshee says it is more like gelatin and not nutritious as ground beef because the protein comes mostly from connective tissue, not muscle meat.
“[It will] fill you up, but won’t do any good,” Foshee said.
ABC News was flooded with questions from concerned viewers following last night’s report on pink slime.
Many, like Dale Rittenhouse, wanted to know where beef with pink slime was sold.
“What stores use pink slime?” Rittenhouse wrote.
So ABC News producers traveled across the country to the meat section to see if its in the ground beef they sell. Most couldn’t tell us for sure.
“There is no way to even know from labels or even from the butchers here whether it contains pink slime,” said ABC News producer Candace Smith in New York.
“The guy at the meat counter said that he had been getting the same question all day,” said Janice McDonald in Atlanta.
ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America. Only Publix, Costco, HEB and Whole Foods responded, saying they don’t use pink slime. No word yet from the rest.
Geez, we don’t have any of those pink slime free grocery stores in Banjoville…ABC has an update on Where You Can Get ‘Pink-Slime’-Free Beef
At most stores it was impossible to tell for sure whether the beef contained pink slime. At one store there was no way to know from the labels and the butchers did not know the answer.
ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America and seven responded:
“We rely on the federal government to help guide us on food safety issues. USDA has been clear in its judgment that Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef is a safe source of nutrition. However, we are reviewing the matter at this time.”
2. Ahold (Stop & Shop/Giant)
“Stores operated by the divisions of Ahold USA do carry ground beef made with Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), also called Finely Textured Beef (FTB). Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) is beef and is absolutely safe for consumption. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, which are the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA-inspected, wholesome cuts of beef. This process has been an industry standard for almost 20 years. Alternatives to the conventional ground beef supply, in the form of Certified Angus Beef and Nature’s Promise ground beef products, are available to customers in stores across all of the divisions of Ahold USA. These products do not include the use of BLBT. Customers are being encouraged to ask any meat associate should they have any questions or would like to be directed to meat that does not include Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. Our labeling is in compliance with USDA regulations. BLBT is USDA tested and approved ground beef and therefore does not require labeling.”
Does not use pink slime.
“Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”
“We have never allowed the use of LFTB (pink slime) in our meat. It’s 100 percent ground beef with no LFTB.”
“All our ground beef sold at H-E-B is 100% pure with no additives.”
6. Whole Foods
Does not use pink slime.
“We do not use finely textured beef in our fresh ground beef. … We are routinely presented the finely textured beef as an option, but have always refused.”
A viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, “Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slim?”
It turns out there isn’t. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.
There is a petition at Change.org Health Petition: Tell USDA to STOP Using Pink Slime in School Food! …according to an article in the LA Times, Pink slime: In the supermarket and school lunches
Texas mom Bettina Siegel has a petition going at Change.org to get the additive out of school lunches.
Meanwhile, over at the Cattle Network, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle defended the process as well as the product in an article Thursday, saying the “lean beef trimmings” were “absolutely edible” and that using them ensured that “lean, nutritious, safe beef” did not go to waste.
Boyle goes on to say that media reports create an inaccurate picture. An opinion piece on the site refers to “pink slime” as a “headline writer’s dream.”
It would indeed seem great fodder for a snarky British tabloid headline, considering that in the United Kingdom lean beef trimmings are banned for human consumption.
Damn, so the UK has banned this “stuff” for human consumption…funny, they banned the TSA’s nude screening cancer x-rays as well…I guess their government officials do not have “connections” to lobbyist that promote the TSA scanners, or get paid over a million dollars by the company that makes that pink slime, like the under-secretary who approved of this ghastly crap. Yeah, check out what she actually said in regards to what makes this “filler” meat:
“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.
ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.
When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.
Smith did not return ABC News’ calls for comment and BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment. The USDA said while her appointment was legal at the time, under current ethics rules Smith could not have immediately joined the board.
Alrighty then, I got some terror for you this evening as well. Do you all remember those floods in Australia last year? Thousands of spiders blanket Australian farm after escaping flood Take a look at some creepy photographs of the wolf spider.
What appears to be snow is actually spider webs blanketing an Australian farm. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)
Thousands of normally solitary wolf spiders have blanketed an Australian farm after fleeing a rising flood.
Reuters reports that the flooding has forced more than 8,000 Australian (human) residents from their homes in the city of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. But for every temporarily displaced person, it appears several spiders have moved in to fill the void.
“What we’ve seen here is a type of wolf spider,” Owen Seeman, an arachnid expert at Queensland Museum, told Reuters. “They are trying to hide away (from the waters).”
The Australian Museum’s entomology collections manager Graham Milledge told Reuters that there’s even a term for the phenomenon, “ballooning,” and that it is typical behavior for spiders forced to escape rising waters.
The zombies seem to be winning the war against the living. We have zombie banks, zombie politicians [think Rick Perry], zombie policy—free market fundamentalism preached as an untried economic theory.
And now zombie pipelines.
Just when you thought the Keystone XL controversy had been put to rest [at least temporarily], its zombie presence lunges forward, reanimated for all to see. Although I suspect supporters of this very bad idea are hoping the American public is not watching or if they are watching they will buy the swill on the non-existent benefits of a 1700-mile tar sands pipeline.
What am I talking about?
I found a disturbing inquiry [hattip to OEN] by Representative Henry Waxman to a Deborah Hohlt, who received $50,500 from the Great State of Indiana [that would be paid in state taxpayer monies] to lobby in DC on behalf of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels provided the rebuttal to the President’s SOTU address, in which he referred to the Administration’s decision to ‘postpone’ the pipeline’s construction as an ‘extremist’ policy.
As you might remember the Republican chorus on this subject has been jobs, jobs, jobs. House Speaker Boehner has quoted 100,000 jobs at stake. TransCanada has been all over the map with job estimates, the last, most creative quote coming in at 250,000 jobs. Unfortunately, the numbers are at odds with the single independent analysis from Cornell Global Labor Institute, estimating the number at between 4000-6000 temporary jobs. The steel for the pipeline? Would be coming from India. The cry that the pipeline would reduce our reliance on foreign oil? The refined tar sands oil is contracted for export [80%] to South America and Europe.
The upsides are slim to none, considering the toxic, corrosive nature of tar sand oil, the sludge-like quality that requires pressure and heat to make a pipeline flow possible. That also increases the risk of a leak and an environmental disaster. Anyone who may question the heightened risk should check out the total mess in Michigan when over 800,000 gallons of tar sand oil spilled and contaminated 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and surrounding properties.
But here’s the really curious thing. The pipeline won’t be running through Indiana. The pipeline will not be running close to Indiana’s borders. No Indiana facilitities will have access to the pipeline. In fact, it appears that Indiana does not stand to be impacted in anyway by the Keystone pipeline and yet Governor Daniels felt compelled to call President Obama an extremist for postponing the pipeline’s construction. He was also willing to pay a $50,000+ [in state taxpayer money] to lobby for the Great State of Indiana in defense of the pipeline.
More curious still? TransCanada has stated that the pipeline will ‘increase’ oil prices for Indiana and other Midwestern residents because the area is ‘oversupplied.’ Keystone’s successful construction [this is stated in TransCanada’s application] will ensure higher prices for Canadian crude. By independent analysis costs will increase $6.55 per barrel in the Midwest and $3 per barrel everywhere else. The Indiana Petroleum Council thinks this is a swell idea.
So, it should not be any great surprise that a Senate group–laughably-called bi-partisan because it includes 1 Democrat, Joe Manchin from W. Va.–is reintroducing the Keystone proposal, pushing for immediate construction with or without the Administration’s approval. The Senate committee is invoking the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which says Congress should have the power:
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.
I love it when the Republicans start waving the Constitution. It’s a clear signal they’re up to no good. Did I mention that Koch Industries stands to make a killing on this project?
While reading Representative Waxman’s letter, I recalled something I’d read in Greg Palast’s book Vultures’ Picnic and found an accompanying and equally disturbing text online here and here. To quote Palast:
Reserves are the measure of oil recoverable at a certain price. Raise the price, raise the reserve. Cut the price and the amount of oil in the ground drops. In other words, it’s a fool’s errand to measure the “amount of oil we have left.” It depends on the price.
Specifically, oil companies and oil-related financiers are not interested in expanding oil supplies to the world, particularly cheap oil supplies [because the days of cheap oil are over]. They’re interested in feeding the hunger for oil and controlling the price around the world with an iron fist. The higher, the better. The environment—air, water, soil–is not the concern. Our health or that of our children is not the concern. The bottom line—profit and power—is all that matters. If nations collapse? The Vultures are waiting to feast on the bones.
Sound harsh? It shouldn’t. Zombies and vultures are kissing cousins. They’re coming ‘round for a friendly visit. Again.
But after nonstop blathering served up by the GOP, only to be followed by President Obama’s Teddy Roosevelt impersonation [although I have to admit—the State of the Union was a surprisingly good speech], I thought a moment of palate cleansing might be in order. In this case Dylan Ratigan offers up the sorbet.
Ratigan is someone willing to call out the shysters, the casino players and shakedown artists, including their political handmaidens for what they truly are, and ‘Greedy Bastards’ is the title of his newly released book. The author’s name may ring a bell because Dylan Ratigan has a public platform on MSNBC, an hour-long show Monday through Friday. The program airs at 4:00 pm, EST, in my neck of the woods.
Ratigan’s slant focuses on the collision of worlds, that of finance and politics, how the incestuous relationship is literally squeezing the life out of the United States. His take is not an indictment of capitalism. Rather it is an indictment of what is posing as capitalism, a system he refers to as ‘extractionism.’
Ratigan is not a newcomer or a pundit simply reading a script. He worked the financial beat with Bloomberg News, serving as Global Managing Editor to Corporate Finance until 2003. He’s also the former anchor and co-creator of CNBC’s Fast Money. He has launched and anchored a number of financially-related broadcasts over the years but decided to leave Fast Money after the 2008 financial meltdown. Ratigan has publicly stated that he was personally disgusted by the Wall Street banking sector’s shakedown of the American public. The Dylan Ratigan Show was launched to provide discussion and analysis of the financial/government intersection, a system that has acquiesced to the wanton theft of the Nation’s wealth and resources by . . . Greedy Bastards, of course.
Though the show has been on air for three years, Ratigan has admitted that his voice was finally heard after an infamous meltdown last August. It was an on-air rant that would have made Patty Chayefesky proud, a Howard Beale moment.
That woke people up! It also led to Ratigan’s Get the Money Out [of politics] Movement, working towards a Constitutional Amendment to remove the corrosive element of money in the political sphere. And then, there’s the book.
One thing I liked about Ratigan’s approach is that instead of pointing out one segment of the population for public pillorying, his title basically refers to a state of mind and the all too frequent way of doing business and politics in the 21st century.
For instance, in the case of capitalism, Ratigan uses the example of venture capital, a subject that has come up in reference to Romney’s connection to Bain & Company, specifically Bain Capital. From Chapter 1:
If I start a venture capital firm that lends out money to drug researchers trying to find new cures for disease, and I get rich doing it, then I made my money by investing in the productive future of the country. I used my money in a way that facilitated scientific innovation and a cure. I’m what the director of the Havas Media Lab Umair Haque a ‘capitalist who makes.’ But instead, if I take the same money and use it to lobby for changes in government regulation—changes that help me trick a union into investing its retirement savings in flawed investments so that I can collect the commissions—then I may move as many dollars into my bank account as someone who funded cures for diseases, but I haven’t made anything. I’m a ‘capitalist who takes,’ exploiting my power to influence the government for my own private gain, no matter the harm to anyone else. I’m a greedy bastard.
The latter example, taking money from others without providing anything of value is, according to Ratigan, the opposite of capitalism. An extractionist system loses increasing value over time until there’s nothing left. Call it the vampire or vulture model. A system based on the extractionist principle, provides no incentive for people to make good deals, where both sides benefit. Instead, it rewards those who take and give nothing in return.
Ratigan covers the areas that have pushed the extractionist model to the max: banking, education, healthcare, energy, trade negotiations and the unholy alliance of government and big money fueling the feeding frenzy of the Nation’s resources and our future. But unlike many gloom and doom tomes, Ratigan offers solutions and brings an optimism to the subject, namely that we have the ideas, the people and yes, even the money to solve what at times seems insolvable. He concludes in a rather convincing way that what is needed is a realignment between investment and the needs of capable, innovative people. If loans and investments offered the highest returns when they provided the highest value as opposed to simply taking the highest risk, then prevailing attitudes and business practices would shift and win/win deals would be created.
Sound like pie in the sky? I don’t think so. Yes, it’s a matter of will, public pressure to exact the necessary changes but this realignment idea is possible by citing the goals first, and then targeting the resources to get there. Ratigan refers to this as hotspotting—zeroing in on the problem, determining what methodology provides the best results, and then aiming resources to match those needs.
Though some critics have dismissed this idea, it is very attuned to what Bill Clinton recently suggested in his Esquire interview about highlighting the successes and needs across the country, and then linking them, matching them up. Just another turn on the realignment idea:
. . . the two best things you could do are the infrastructure bank and a simple SBA-like loan guarantee for all building retrofits, where the contractor or the energy-service company guarantees the savings. So that allows the bank to loan money to let a school or a college or a hospital or a museum or a commercial building unencumbered by debt to loan it on terms that are longer, so you can pay it back only from your utility savings. You could create a million jobs doing that because of the home models that are out there now.
There are these two guys on Long Island who started a little home-repair deal. They got thirty-five employees now, and they’re — they can go in, tell you how much they’ll save you. There’s an operation in Nebraska that’s in and out in a day, and they’re averaging more than 20 percent savings, and conservative Republican Nebraska is the only state in the country that has 100 percent publicly owned power.
You’ve got Orlando with those one hundred computer-simulation companies. They got into computer simulation because you have the Disney and Universal theme parks, and Electronic Arts’ video-games division. And the Pentagon and NASA desperately need simulation, for different reasons. So there you’ve got the University of Central Florida, the biggest unknown university in America, fifty-six thousand students, changing curriculum, at least once a year, if not more often, to make sure they’re meeting whatever their needs are, and they’re recruiting more and more professors to do this kind of research that will lead to technology transfers to the companies. You’ve got Pittsburgh actually becoming a real hotbed of nanotechnology research. You’ve got San Diego, where there are more Nobel-prize-winning scientists living than any other city in America. You’ve got the University of California San Diego and other schools there training people to do genomic work. Qualcomm is headquartered there, and there are now seven hundred other telecom companies there, and you’ve got a big private foundation investing in this as well as the government, and nobody knows who’s a Republican or who’s a Democrat, they’re just building this networking.
We have fabulously innovative, creative people working on all kinds of things. Our true wealth is in our people; our true value is . . . us.
Ratigan is now on a 30-million jobs tour showcasing business enterprises that are, in fact, answering a need, offering value to their communities, providing jobs and in the best capitalist tradition—making a profit.
The endnote is that the country hasn’t lost its edge. We’ve lost the path that works, the one that values quality and integrity. Greedy Bastards will always exist, those hoping to make a quick buck [or trillions of bucks] off the backs of others. They have no shame. The goal is to make them and their thievery the exception, not the rule.
Btw, Ratigan’s book is highly readable, written for the layperson. No economic degrees required. If you’ve been following the financial blowout and/or Ratigan’s show, this will be a fast review. If you’re just starting to pay attention, consider the book a primer—what the country underwent and where we need to go. The sooner, the better. Ratigan encourages us to reclaim our voice, demanding that our people and country come first.
It’s a worthy message. Read the book. Get the word out.