Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

This is going to be a busy week or so for me.  If you don’t see me around, just know I’m off doing things to put me on a new and hopefully higher path.  I’m defending my dissertation on the 13th, doing paper presentation on the 21st, and sending out CV packets all over the globe.  I love New Orleans but I’m headed to hopefully greener pastures.  I can’t take the war on Higher Education here any more.  Youngest daughter graduates from LSU in the spring and we’re both headed to places that aren’t dedicated to reinstating Plantation economies.  I’m cutting my losses before it gets any worse.

So, I had to bring this to the top of the links this morning.  Minx posted it down thread last night as I was actually reading it.  We have to find a way of cutting the Koch Brothers off the federal teat.  They pay small sums to loot our national resources and then they defy our national security priorities on the side.  They’ve been found getting rich off of secret sales to Iran and also bribing folks for contracts.  Thank goodness for whistle blowers!  It’s time to close them down.  This is from Bloomberg.

In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”

She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.

Every time I read about one of these things I think about the vast number of times I could’ve whistle blown on almost all the private sector companies I’ve ever worked for at one time or another.  It just makes me wonder what else is out there going unreported. The Federal government should make sure that they get severely fined, taken to court, and banned from accessing federal resources. But, given the lessons of GE, I doubt that will happen.   However, please boycott these brands owned by the Koch brothers: Stainmaster, Brawny, Dixie Cups, and Quilted Northern.

The Hill reports that Republicans are getting restless and eating their young  yet again.  It’s the blame game and the election season rolled into one!  I will pass out some popcorn if you need it!

GOP lawmakers told The Hill that redistricting pitting incumbents versus incumbents, coupled with the threat of Tea Party primary opponents, has sparked a lot of anxiety among House Republicans.

At separate closed-door conference meetings held last month as GOP leaders scrambled for votes on the appropriations bill that would ultimately fail, the topic of primaries and uncertain political futures ranked high among members’ complaints.

A freshman GOP member attributed the initial failure of the bill to assumptions on the part of the leadership. There were expectations, the member said, that enough Democrats would vote yes and that Republicans who backed the debt-reduction deal this summer would also approve of the stopgap appropriations bill. Yet, only 6 Democrats voted yes and 15 Republicans who embraced the debt deal — that set the baseline funding level — rejected the spending bill that fell 195-230.

“It was assumptions being made, not understanding the political landscape, Republicans running against Republicans in primaries and it not being a conservative position that we believe in. Continuing resolutions are not the way to run a government,” the lawmaker explained.

Other GOP lawmakers told The Hill, on the condition of anonymity, that redistricting and the threat of tough primary battles will cause problems for GOP leaders as they seek to round up votes on politically difficult budget bills.

One senior GOP lawmaker said, “[Speaker John] Boehner’s (R-Ohio) starting to have a problem internally because redistricting is pitting Republican versus Republican.”

Just wanted to let you know that it is likely that the Maconda Well is likely leaking again and you’re probably not hearing about it unless you read and watch AJ or live around here. A sheen has been reported since August and throughout September.  Some folks say the oil sheen has been around since March.

Fresh oil has been washing ashore in many areas which took a direct hit from last year’s disaster, including the Chandeleur Islands, Ship Island, Breton Island and the north part of Barataria Bay, Louisiana. AJE reports BP has reactivated clean-up operations with its Vessels of Opportunity program. Some suggest the oil is coming from natural seeps, which always occur in the Gulf. Others note oil could be leaking from the broken riser pipe, still on the ocean floor, which connected the Deepwater Horizon rig to the well. Another possibility, the most serious, is oil could be leaking at the seafloor beneath the capped wellhead, making it impossible to control.

On  September 27th, the Coast Guard said the oil sheen in Gulf could be sign of release from riser pipe and not the Macondo well not itself.  I guess that beats the natural leakage from shale formations we keeping hearing from BP.   Meanwhile, I still have serious questions about Gulf Seafood which is a horrible thing to have to say.  Here’s some information on research on Marsh Fish that are still showing signs of oil effects written up in the Miami Herald.  I’ve personally had some friends in the shrimping business tell me they’ve been hauling up shrimp with no eyes.  Meanwhile, there’s more drilling afoot and I bet you’re not hearing any of this where you live.

“The message that seafood is safe to eat doesn’t necessarily mean that the animals are out of the woods,” said Andrew Whitehead, an assistant professor of biology at Louisiana State University and a lead researcher in the study, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers measured cellular responses in the liver tissue that showed which genes were being turned on and off. Those patterns allowed researchers to predict problems of health and reproduction.

The responses were detected even though the water was clean and only very low or non-detectable concentrations of oil components showed up in fish tissues.

“Where’s the oil? It’s in the sediments,” Whitehead said. Scientists assume that fish can be exposed when waves and storms stir sediments..

The study found the same kind of cellular responses in killifish as were observed in herring, salmon and other animals that later had large population losses as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill, Whitehead said.

It will take several years before it will be known whether the population of Louisiana killifish, an important food for other fish, declines, Whitehead said.

“Ultimately, that’s what we’re interested in – the population consequences over the long term,” he said.

The researchers found that when they exposed developing fish embryos to the same water and sediment in the lab, they showed the same cellular responses.

They also found that the gill tissues weren’t healthy. The gills are important for helping the fish compensate for changes in its environment such as shifts in temperature and levels of salt and oxygen in the water, Whitehead said.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, said the killifish, also known as the bull minnow or cacahoe, was an important part of the food chain.

“This study is alarming because similar health effects seen in fish, sea otters and harlequin ducks following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska were predictive of population impacts, from decline to outright collapse,” he said in a written statement.

So, we’ll leave those living with dispersant and oil toxins alone awhile and move to Georgia where there’s a radioactive leak of “unknown size”.  Minxy, you might want to get a Geiger counter and buy bottled water.  Tritium is said to be 200x over the EPA limit right now.

Radioactive water found beneath Georgia nuclear Plant Hatch, Associated Press, September 30, 2011:

[Emphasis added]

Radioactive water has been found underneath [Hatch nuclear power plant]  in southeast Georgia [...]

[The operator] identified radioactive tritium in two test wells about 25 feet below the ground, said Dennis Madison, a utility vice president who oversees the plant. [...]

How much is leaking?

  • While the size of the leak was unknown, it was enough to raise the water table in the wells about five feet.
  • “We really don’t know what the rate is,” Madison said. “We know it’s more than a drip.”

How concentrated is the leakage?

The maximum concentrations of tritium reported inside the wells was more than 200 times the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water [...]

So, here’s some quotes about the health of the economy from people you should know (i.e. Wall Street insiders) that was sent to me by one of our readers.

#1George Soros: “Financial markets are driving the world towards another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences. The authorities, particularly in Europe, have lost control of the situation.”

#2 PIMCO CEO Mohammed El-Erian: “These are all signs of an institutional run on French banks. If it persists, the banks would have no choice but to delever their balance sheets in a very drastic and disorderly fashion. Retail depositors would get edgy and be tempted to follow trading and institutional clients through the exit doors. Europe would thus be thrown into a full-blown banking crisis that aggravates the sovereign debt trap, renders certain another economic recession, and significantly worsens the outlook for the global economy.”

#3Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, global head of securities services at UniCredit SpA (Italy’s largest bank): “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”

#4Stefan Homburg, the head of Germany’s Institute for Public Finance: “The euro is nearing its ugly end. A collapse of monetary union now appears unavoidable.”

#5 EU Parliament Member Nigel Farage: “I think the worst in the financial system is yet to come, a possible cataclysm and if that happens the gold price could go (higher) to a number that we simply cannot, at this moment, even imagine.”

As I’m writing this, the Hong Kong exchange is down to its May lows.  The global markets and finance gods are not happy.  Frankly, I’m still thinking a coffee can buried in your back yard may be your best investment for awhile. I have no idea how President Obama is going to get reelected if this keeps up.  His message and policies just don’t stand up to current events.  But, hey, look over there.  Another Islamic Terrorist is toast, feel safer? Frankly, I’m not too worried that Al Qaeda will be after me and my bags and my grocery cart with my fat cat Miles in the kiddie sit.

Oh, here’s my personal favorite.  Try not to panic.

Ann Barnhardt, head of Barnhardt Capital Management, Inc.: “It’s over. There is no coming back from this. The only thing that can happen is a total and complete collapse of EVERYTHING we now know, and humanity starts from scratch. And if you think that this collapse is going to play out without one hell of a big hot war, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

If you’re curious about what the difference is between Operation Twist and QE2--no, they are not recreational activities–from the FED here’s a post that might interest you. Doubt it will make much difference because treasuries are still the place to be and we’re still at the zero bound, but at least some one’s doing something.  Basically, the FED’s trying to twist the yield curve and if you’ve had macroeconomics 101, here’s the exact moves.

Is this different from quantitative easing? QE2 was equivalent to the combination of two open market operations:

  • (1) Buying short-term Treasuries with newly created money.
  • (2) Swapping short-term Treasuries for longer-maturity ones.

The Fed’s new policy is just operation (2), disconnected from (1). Operation Twist is less effective than a potential QE3, therefore, to precisely the extent that operation (1) makes a difference.

Does it? First, let’s be even more precise, breaking down (1) into two smaller components:

  • (1A) Buying T-bills (extremely short term Treasuries with duration less than a year) with newly created money.
  • (1B) Swapping T-bills for a broader mix of short-term Treasuries (e.g. those with remaining maturity “3 years or less”).
  • (2) Swapping short-term Treasuries for longer-maturity ones.

You should be able to see that it’s just basically rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.  It’s an asset swap. But, there’s all this wishful thinking that it will send a message to the markets that the FED is serious and tame the deficit hawks a little. Remember that herd I wrote about last weekend?  That’s kind of what the Fed is betting on. Plus, they’re hoping that the twist will stop Perry from threatening their Chairman with bodily harm.

Nice to know that our health and national security is of no concern to our corporate overlords, isn’t it? So, there’s what’s on my mind today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


It’s still not Gone, It’s still harming Sea Life

So, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Gulf of Mexico–because all those tourist ads paid for by BP told you so–you can clearly see that the nasty oil that spewed from the BP oil gusher still isn’t gone.  Not only is it still not gone, it’s still harming the ecosystem and the sea life in the area. I know, they keep telling you the seafood is safe too, right?  Well, think twice before you eat that blackened red snapper.  We’re suffering a sick fish epidemic down here.

The fear is palpable on the docks from Galveston to Panama City. Commercial fishermen working the waters hardest hit by the BP oil spill are worried sick about their future. It keeps them up at night. Many are convinced the 200 million gallons of crude that spewed into the Gulf last year have done irreparable damage to the fragile fisheries that provide their livelihood. According to a new CBS News segment, Gulf fishermen “have started catching fish with sores, fin rot, and infections at a greater frequency than ever before.”

It would seem BP’s oil is coming home to roost in an epidemic of sick fish and devastated lives. An Aug. 15 CBS News video – that’s going viral as we speak – captures the uncertainty of tens of thousands of commercial Gulf fishermen: “I don’t think we’ll be fishing in five years,” says Lucky Russell. “My opinion. …Everybody is worried.”

Everybody includes LSU oceanography Professor Jim Cowan, who has been studying the Gulf ecosystem for years:

“When one of these things comes on deck, it’s sort of horrifying,” Cowan said. “I mean, there these large dark lesions and eroded fins and areas on the body where scales have been removed. I’d imagine I’ve seen 30 or 40,000 red snapper in my career, and I’ve never seen anything like this. At all. Ever.”

You can watch a news report and interviews on the nasty looking fish at CBS News.  There’s more coverage at the St Petersburg Times too.

“The fish have a bacterial infection and a parasite infection that’s consistent with a compromised immune system,” said Jim Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, who has been examining them. “There’s no doubt it’s associated with a chronic exposure to a toxin.”

He believes the toxin in question is oil, given where and when the fish were caught, their symptoms, and the similarity to other incidents involving oil spills. But he is awaiting toxicology tests to be certain.

Cowan said he hasn’t seen anything like these fish in 25 years of studying the gulf, which persuades him that “it would be a pretty big coincidence if it wasn’t associated with the oil spill.”

If he were a detective, he’d be ready to make an arrest.

“It’s a circumstantial case,” he said, “but at the same time I think we can get a conviction.”

Red snapper are reef fish that feed on mantis shrimp, swimming crabs and other small creatures found in the sediment on the gulf floor. Anglers catch them at anywhere from 60 to 200 feet deep. In addition to the snapper, some sheepshead have turned up with similar symptoms, Cowan said.

The fish with lesions and other woes have been caught anywhere from 10 to 80 miles offshore between Pensacola and the mouth of the Mississippi River, an area hit hard by last year’s oil spill, Cowan said.

“They’re finding them out near the shelf edge, near the spill site,” said Will Patterson, a marine biology professor at the University of West Florida.

Patterson, who has been studying reef fish in the gulf for past two years, has sent some of the strange catches to a laboratory for toxicology tests. He suspects Cowan is correct about the oil being the culprit but is withholding judgment.

Red snapper are a popular seafood, with a delicate sweet flavor whether served broiled, baked, steamed, poached, fried or grilled. Asked whether the sick fish might pose a hazard to humans who ate them, Cowan said nobody would want to touch these, much less cook them.

“It’s pretty nasty,” Cowan said. “If you saw this, you wouldn’t eat it.”

It’s not just the fish.

One of the most worrisome accounts I’ve heard to date is from a veteran local crabber (and client of mine), who was kind enough to send me photos of what he’s been seeing just off the coast of Pensacola.

I should note that this is a followup to my June 24 post, Gulf “Seafood Safety” Update: Fisherman Pulls Up Sick, Visibly Oiled Crabs and “Black Goo” Off Florida Panhandle that went viral all the way up to a handful of reporters and producers at some of the most well-respected media outlets in the country (see link below). I can only hope those national outlets step up and shed some light on the grave state of our fisheries.

Here is the crabber’s report from off Pensacola in early July:

Our observation from the last two weeks is the number of these sick crabs has increased while the overall catch is down more than 70 percent since mid-April. As we have reported to the national marine fishery on our daily trip tickets, every crab we have sampled this year has come from a batch that, unfortunately, went to market. The copper-colored “stains” and holes and burns in the shell have just shown up in the last week. The stains are in the shell, so you can’t scrub them off.

BP and cronies refuse refuse to take full responsibility for the terrible accident on the rig that exploded over a year ago.  They continually blame  contractors and operators on the rig itself.  This includes the dead crew that can’t defend themselves. BP has essentially rolled up and left the area.  Problems with spills claims abound.  There’s evidence that BP’s claim process has been fraught with political decisions that may have even disenfranchised blacks impacted by the gusher.  Many locals have been asking an US Federal Judge to oversee the claims process.  The biggest complaint is that quick payment of a claim comes with signing away your future right to sue BP.  Obama appointee Kenneth Feinberg believes the process is fair.

Feinberg’s “near-complete failure to pay interim claims” is signaling victims that “the only way to ever get any more compensation is to take the quick payment amount and sign a release” agreeing not to sue for more, the lawyers said.

Feinberg’s lawyers counter in their filing that the fund has paid almost $2.6 billion in emergency payments to Gulf Coast residents damaged by the spill and another $250 million in interim payments.

“It’s hard to grasp how plaintiffs can assert as fact that GCCF has failed to provide interim relief,” Pitofsky said in the filing.

On the question of whether the fund is strong-arming Gulf Coast residents into signing away their rights to sue in exchange for inadequate compensation, Feinberg’s lawyer noted some claimants are drawn by the prospect of immediate cash for their claims.

Ongoing evidence that the impact of the spill continues shows that signing away future right to sue is not a prudent decision for Gulf Coast residents whose livelihood has been decimated.  However, they are left between having no money to live on now versus continuing problems stemming from the spill that are being well-documented by local scientists and regional universities.

This is worse than the continuing impact we’ve seen down here from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  My local police district is still operating out of a temporary facility, just to give you an idea of what it’s still like.  Damage from the Gulf Spill is likely to accrue for some time if experience from the EXXON Valdez spill is any indicator.  Still, the pressure to to start up and expand drilling continues simply because of its short term profitability.  Here’s an article that contends there’s an “overreaction to the spill” that’s costing jobs.  There seems to be no indication that these business interests are aware of the number of small family businesses whose health, lifestyle, and economics have been forever impacted.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

I had a productive day yesterday for a change and I hope you did too!  Dare I go shop for plumbing stuff today?  I was bemoaning a shortage of headlines on Sunday.   I should be a bit  more careful about wishing for things because today’s list of reads will be long.

The other good news for me is that we’re going from hard freeze warnings to weather in the 70s this weekend.  It sounds like it’s going to be a fun New Year’s Eve here in New Orleans!  That should explain the picture!  I also wanted to give you a bit of  New Orleans News before I moved on to other things.

First, if you haven’t had a chance to read Sandy Rosenthal’s piece at HuffPo on the failure of the Levees during Hurricane Katrina, please do so.  There are still folks out there that think our devastation was from Hurricane Katrina and that just isn’t so.  I was on the edge of the bowl.  I know.  My house experienced very little actual damage because my house was on high ground and above the waters.  A failure of engineering devastated my city. It was not an act of nature.  I signed the petition.  Will you?

Last week, I wrote to the New York Times asking them to please resist using fast and easy “Katrina shorthand.” Forty-eight hours passed and we heard no response, so we decided to let our supporters step in. We urged our followers to sign our petition to the NY Times urging the paper to be more specific when referencing the flood disaster.

Over 1,000 people all across the nation signed our petition in under 48 hours. This immediate huge response – during the holiday no less – will hopefully show the New York Times that informed citizens understand that “Katrina” did not flood New Orleans. Civil engineering mistakes did.

Saying Katrina flooded the city protects the human beings responsible for the levee/floodwall failures. It is also dangerous since 55% of the American people lives in counties protected by levees.

If you haven’t yet, please sign our petition. We will keep it live until Jan 4, 2011.

In a similar vein, I would like to shout out HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!!! to fellow New Orleans Blogger, neighbor, actor, musician, and polymath Harry Shearer (12/23/49) who made his film debut in the great epic  ‘Abbott and Costello Go To Mars’ in 1953.   There’s another New Orleans connection in that movie.  The Abbot and Costello characters–Lester and Orville–accidentally launch a rocket that should’ve been Mars bound.  They land in New Orleans for Mardi Gras instead.   Harry plays an uncredited “Boy”.

I also want to offer up a plug for Shearer’s wonderful documentary on the Levee Failure called The Big Uneasy’ that was released last August on our 5th Katrina Anniversary.  It’s going to be re-released in 2011.    I’m including an interview with him by local radio show host Kat (not me).  You’ll learn that the Golden Globes are a simple piece of business and that Harry’s songstress wife is spoonable.   Who knew?  Also there seems that there’s a chance his documentary will be shown on PBS so you may get to see it there. I wonder if we can help encourage that situation.

I’d like to take another chance to remind you that we’re still living with the results of the BP Oil Gusher here on the Gulf Coast. There also appears to be covered-up as well as forgotten stories down here.  You may want to take a look at this from Open Channel on MSNBC.com: ‘ Is dispersant still being used in the Gulf?” This story reports on pictures and samples take in early August that are being investigated now. I’d written about some of these reports earlier.

Kaltofen is among the scientists retained by New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith to conduct independent environmental testing data from the Gulf on behalf of clients who are seeking damages from BP. (Click here to read about their effort.)

An independent marine chemist who reviewed the data said that their conclusion stands up.

“The analytical techniques are correct and well accepted,” said Ted Van Vleet, a professor at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. “Based on their data, it does appear that dispersant is present.”

Why responders would continue to use chemical dispersants after the government announced a halt is a mystery. If the oil was gone or already dispersed, as the federal government and BP have said, what would be the point? And, because dispersants don’t work very well on oil that has been “weathered” by the elements over long periods of times, there would be little point in spraying it that situation.

I wanted to share a New Orleans and indeed a Southern New Year’s eve tradition. We serve a concoction of black eyed peas, cabbage and sausage/ham called ‘Hoppin’ John’ to bring us luck and wealth in the New Year.  I evidently didn’t make enough of it last year, so I’m planning to cook more this year.  The pea’s black eyes represent coins, the cabbage represents cash, and the sausage or ham is meat that always symbolizes luxury to hungry, poor people.

Here’s  Emeril’s ‘Hoppin’ John’ recipe provided courtesy the Food Network:

Hoppin’ John

Prep Time: 15 min    Cook Time:50 min     Serves: 10

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.

Okay, so enough about my home town.

The AFL-CIO wants to talk unions this holiday season because there is so much misinformation about these days. It’s a nice list of myths and facts that you may want to arm yourself with when talking to those right wing nattering nabobs of negativism.

MYTH: Unions only care about their members.

FACT: Unions are fighting to improve the lives of all workers.

  • It’s easy to forget that we have unions to thank for a lot of things we take for granted today in today’s workplaces: the minimum wage, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, health and safety standards, and even the weekend.
  • Today, unions across the country are on the frontlines advocating for basic workplace reforms like increases in the minimum wage, and pushing lawmakers to require paid sick leave.
  • Studies show that a large union presence in an industry or region can raise wages even for non-union workers. That means more consumer spending, and a stronger economy for us all.
  • So it’s no wonder that most Americans (61 percent) believe that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” according to Pew’s most recent values survey.

Here’s a gift that keeps on giving er… taking from FT: “AIG secures $4.3bn in credit lines“.

AIG, took a step closer to independence from government as it said it had secured $4.3bn in credit facilities.
The US insurer bailed out by Washington during the financial crisis is is in the process of repaying the $95bn the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York lent following its disastrous decision to insure billions of dollars worth of securities backed by mortgages.

Under the facilities arranged by 36 banks and administered by JPMorgan Chase, AIG can borrow $1.5bn over three years and an additional $1.5bn over 364 days, according to a regulatory filing. Separately, Chartis, an AIG division, obtained a $1.3bn credit line.

Let’s just hope they clean up their act this time.  I’m not holding my breath or any stock offers that may come up. Notice one of the usual suspects is ‘facilitating’ the arrangements. Cue ‘The Godfather’ music, please.

There’s an item from Slate that you may want to check out.  It’s “A selection of gaffes from the 2010 campaign we should forgive”.  Here’s one from Pelosi that gave me a chuckle.

Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

On March 9, the Speaker of the House spoke to the National Association of Counties about the health care bill that was days away from final passage. This was the phrase that launched a thousand campaign ads. Nine months later, this is remembered as Pelosi admitting what Tea Partiers had feared: that Democrats were ramming through bad bills without reading them.

BostonBoomer sent me to Glenn Greenwald’s latest which really is a must read: ‘ The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired’.  Greenwald’s work on behalf of massacre leaker Bradley Manning is Nobel Peace Prize worthy. I don’t mean aspirational prizes either.

For more than six months, Wired‘s Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed — but refuses to publish — the key evidence in one of the year’s most significant political stories:  the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks’ source. In late May, Adrian Lamo — at the same time he was working with the FBI as a government informant against Manning — gave Poulsen what he purported to be the full chat logs between Manning and Lamo in which the Army Private allegedly confessed to having been the source for the various cables, documents and video that WikiLeaks released throughout this year. In interviews with me in June, both Poulsen and Lamo confirmed that Lamo placed no substantive restrictions on Poulsen with regard to the chat logs:  Wired was and remains free to publish the logs in their entirety.

We’re waiting for a response from Wired since vacation seem to preempt media responsibility these days. Will we find out that there’s been some active media suppression of the truth regard Manning’s accusations today?   This morning, Greenwald continued his admonition to fellow journalists in the excellent article “The merger of journalists and government officials”.

From the start of the WikiLeaks controversy, the most striking aspect for me has been that the ones who are leading the crusade against the transparency brought about by WikiLeaks — the ones most enraged about the leaks and the subversion of government secrecy — have been . . . America’s intrepid Watchdog journalists.  What illustrates how warped our political and media culture is as potently as that?  It just never seems to dawn on them — even when you explain it — that the transparency and undermining of the secrecy regime against which they are angrily railing is supposed to be . . . what they do.

There’s another economics story covered on The New Yorker‘s The Financial Page headlined:  ‘The Jobs Crisis’ by James Surowiecki.  It’s a good explanation of a debate between economists and politicians right now.  Guess which one knows best on this?

Why have new jobs been so hard to come by? One view blames cyclical economic factors: at times when everyone is cautious about spending, companies are slow to expand capacity and take on more workers. But another, more skeptical account has emerged, which argues that a big part of the problem is a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the skills that people have. According to this view, many of the jobs that existed before the recession (in home building, for example) are gone for good, and the people who held those jobs don’t have the skills needed to work in other fields. A big chunk of current unemployment, the argument goes, is therefore structural, not cyclical: resurgent demand won’t make it go away.

Though this may sound like an academic argument, its consequences are all too real. If the problem is a lack of demand, policies that boost demand—fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary policy—will help. But if unemployment is mainly structural there’s little we can do about it: we just need to wait for the market to sort things out, which is going to take a while.

The structural argument sounds plausible: it fits our sense that there’s a price to be paid for the excesses of the past decade; that the U.S. economy was profoundly out of whack before the recession hit; and that we need major changes in the kind of work people do. But there’s surprisingly little evidence for it. If the problems with the job market really were structural, you’d expect job losses to be heavily concentrated in a few industries, the ones that are disappearing as a result of the bursting of the bubble. And if there were industries that were having trouble finding enough qualified workers, you’d expect them to have lots of job vacancies, and to be paying their existing workers more and working them longer hours.

Here’s a fun read at New York Magazine about living large in a libertarian world.

No one exemplifies that streak more than Ron Paul—unless you count his son Rand. When Rand Paul strolled onstage in May 2010, the newly declared Republican nominee for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat, he entered to the strains of Rush, the boomer rock band famous for its allegiance to libertarianism and Ayn Rand. It was a dog whistle—a wink to free-marketers and classic-rock fans savvy enough to get the reference, but likely to sail over the heads of most Republicans. Paul’s campaign was full of such goodies. He name-dropped Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek’s seminal The Road to Serfdom. He cut a YouTube video denying that he was named after Ayn Rand but professing to have read all of her novels. He spoke in the stark black-and-white terms of libertarian purism. “Do we believe in the individual, or do we believe in the state?” he asked the crowd in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Election Night.

It’s clear why he played coy. For all the talk about casting off government shackles, libertarianism is still considered the crazy uncle of American politics: loud and cocky and occasionally profound but always a bit unhinged. And Rand Paul’s dad is the craziest uncle of all. Ron Paul wants to “end the Fed,” as the title of his book proclaims, and return the country to the gold standard—stances that have made him a tea-party icon. Now, as incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Fed, he’ll have an even bigger platform. Paul Sr. says there’s not much daylight between him and his son. “I can’t think of anything we grossly disagree on,” he says.

Well, they must have both been impacted by the same disease or environmental catastrophe to share so many views so out of the mainstream and be so far removed from experience, data, and science.  I can’t help but believe the more the media shines a bright light on them, the more the warts and the brain damage will become noticeable.

So, one more suggested read comes via Lambert and CorrenteIt’s really interesting piece from The Atlantic on ‘The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks’. It talks about Hackers, Assange, and the Hacker code of conduct. Any one who as read Assange’s manifest can see the connect and disconnect that simultaneously occur in the ideas.  BB and had discussed that Assange might have a form of Aspergers disease about a month ago and I was also interested to see that Lambert, Valhalla, and some others had similar thoughts. It frequently runs in brilliant people who can decode a lot of things with the exception of other people. Anyway, here’s a taste of Jaron Lanier.

The strategy of Wikileaks, as explained in an essay by Julian Assange, is to make the world transparent, so that closed organizations are disabled, and open ones aren’t hurt. But he’s wrong. Actually, a free flow of digital information enables two diametrically opposed patterns:  low-commitment anarchy on the one hand and absolute secrecy married to total ambition on the other.

While many individuals in Wikileaks would probably protest that they don’t personally advocate radical ideas about transparency for everybody but hackers, architecture can force all our hands. This is exactly what happens in current online culture. Either everything is utterly out in the open, like a music file copied a thousand times or a light weight hagiography on Facebook, or it is perfectly protected, like the commercially valuable dossiers on each of us held by Facebook or the files saved for blackmail by Wikileaks.

The Wikileaks method punishes a nation — or any human undertaking — that falls short of absolute, total transparency, which is all human undertakings, but perversely rewards an absolute lack of transparency. Thus an iron-shut government doesn’t have leaks to the site, but a mostly-open government does.

I’m still fascinated by the sideshow that is driving ad hominem attacks on Assange and the women involved with the charges.  Still, that does not cloud my appreciation of what’s being released by Wikileaks.  We’ll definitely have more coming.  I’m personally waiting for the BOA stuff as that’s the stuff that I can personally decode.  I’m glad we’re extending the Front Page Team to include more and more people that can tackle some of the other technical stuff from their vantage points.  Stay tuned for more on all of this.

Just ONE MORE NAWLINS THANG: New Orleans Saints 17 – Atlanta Falcons 14.  My home town continues to be the Great American Comeback Story.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?