Wednesday Reads: Overpriced GOP-Head Pumps and When No Means Yes

052c36fbc9a1863be6e9eb834c46544eGood Morning

What a crappy few days it has been… such terrible stories in the news lately. Yeah…text messages, popcorn, penis pumps, poor dead children, (that should be dead poor children), rich GOP dead-beat dads, murdering cops, and judge’s decisions. Oh boy, and let me tell you, things are Fukushima’d up!

Let’s start with Fukushima:  The Nuclear Disaster That Won’t Go Away

On New Year’s Day (nearly three years after the initial incident) operators of the Fukushima plant reported that “plumes of most probably radioactive steam” had been seen rising from the reactor 3 building. According to RT.com, “the Reactor 3 fuel storage pond still houses an estimated 89 tons of the plutonium-based MOX nuclear fuel composed of 514 fuel rods.” Unfortunately, high levels of radiation inside the building make it nearly impossible to determine the source of the mystery steam. Although TEPCO, the plant’s operator, claims there’s no increased danger (small comfort from the people who admitted to the world that they have no control over the situation), most agree that the plant is just seconds away from another disaster.

4d45ce57c4dea24d3eef37127cf2d5e3Meanwhile, here in the US, another meltdown has been brewing. A fire arm meltdown.

The latest on the Shooting down in Tampa: Profiles Of Man Allegedly Shot For Texting And His Suspected Killer

They say the gun jammed when the killer tried to shoot a second time. Who the fuck was he going to shoot the wife of the man he just killed?

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that’s when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he “was in fear of being attacked.”

The sheriff said at a news conference that Reeves’ son — who was off duty from his job as a Tampa officer — was walking into the theater when the shooting happened. Nocco said Reeves briefly struggled with an off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun was jammed and unable to fire again.

I want to know where Reeves went and who he talked to and what was said…what was the son doing there just as the shooting occurred? The management probably to Reeves to move to another seat, I mean how ridiculous was his complaint. It was the damn previews.

Devon Detrapani and her husband Joseph were friends with the Oulsons and that the men worked together at Sky Powersports, a motorcycle and off road vehicle dealer.

Chad Oulson was the company’s finance manager and a hard worker, Detrapani said. He rode dirt bikes on the weekend and “liked” several motocross stars on Facebook, but his true love was his baby daughter, Lexi.

“They are awesome parents,” said Devon Detrapani. “They love that little girl so much.”

Detrapani said that Oulson was texting with his daughter’s daycare on the afternoon he was shot. She said that Oulson was a kind man with no anger issues.

“He is a very nice guy,” she said. “He would give the shirt off his back to help someone.”

Oulson had Monday off and his wife, Nicole, worked at USAA Insurance and took the day off so they could go to the movies together.

Detrapani said she and her husband, who attended kids’ birthday parties with the Oulsons, are in shock.

“This does not make sense. I don’t understand,” she said. “It should have never happened. Now poor Lexi has to grow up without a daddy and Nicole doesn’t have a husband.”

And…on that shooting in New Mexico:

Officials: Boy opens fire in New Mexico middle school gym, wounding 2 – CNN.com

A 12-year-old boy entered his middle school gym, pulled a shotgun out of a bag and opened fire on students waiting for school to start Tuesday, wounding two, authorities in Roswell, New Mexico, said.

A girl, 13, was in stable condition Tuesday night following surgery, authorities said. A boy, 11, was in critical condition after surgery.

The bloodshed rattled students and other citizens of Roswell, a city of just under 50,000 people 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Monique Salcido, a Berrendo Middle School student who saw two of her friends get shot, admitted she is “in shock.”

“I don’t want to go to Berrendo again because of what happened,” she told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “Because I’m afraid it’s going to happen again.”

The horror might have been much worse if not for one staff member. “(He) walked right up to him and asked him to put down the firearm,” said New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

For some thoughts on this, Charlie Pierce: Gun Shootings January 14, 2014 – Two Days In Gun America

As it happens, I’m sitting in a hotel room a few exits east up I84 from the town of Newtown in Connecticut, where a crazy man named Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 26 people including 21 children. In the immediate aftermath, it was decided by elite opinion leaders that the country had reached a Teachable Moment in its insane attachment to its firearms. And this is what we’ve learned — people are coming to get our guns and we must buy more and better and bigger guns and carry them everywhere so that we can fight off the gun-grabbers and the insane people who we still must allow to have guns because the Second Amendment has no exception for insane people and therefore freedom.

That’s what we’ve learned.

And, in the past couple of days, we’ve had a school shooting in New Mexico, the killing of a man in a movie theater for the crime of texting his daughter, and a Republican group in Oregon which thought the best way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln was to raffle off a rifle. I mean, why not? Only one of those two guys was murdered with one.

It doesn’t end there. News of the acquittal of cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death is another nugget of shit from the past two days that has pissed me off and Digby has some good coverage of the story here: Hullabaloo

So they found the police not guilty of a crime in the torture and beating death of Kelly Thomas. I haven’t heard what the jury thought they were doing but the defense was based upon the idea that the officers were fighting for their lives.

Take a look at the victim after the beating he endured…

Go…go and look at it and read the rest. I could not bear to put the picture up on the post it is that graphic and disturbing.

204957f815870cda4a0013d51e8d4051I’ve got a few more stories on court rulings for you:

Federal court throws out net neutrality rules | Al Jazeera America

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out rules from the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally, a principle known as “net neutrality.”

The decision in the case, which pitted telecommunications giant Verizon against the FCC’s Open Internet rules, might open the door for ISPs to charge major companies like Google or Facebook for speedier access to content, edging out smaller content providers.

This next one really takes the fucking cake: Judge Rules That ‘No’ Means ‘Yes’

57ca7c68eb6ae6e0777e9a5aa906aabeLast week, a Swedish judge ruled that a man who proceeded to have sexual intercourse with a woman who was screaming “NO” so loudly that she went hoarse was not guilty of rape. People were understandably upset. And so, today, the judge wrote an op-ed clarifying that what he MEANT was that rape really depends on whether or not the rapist feels like they’re raping someone. Much better!

The case that’s causing forehead slaps across Sweden involves a 27-year-old woman who met a man at a restaurant and invited him back to her home accompanied him back to his home. After some consensual kissing, the man attempted to push for other sex acts, which the woman declined. The man proceeded to have sex with her, anyway, as she screamed “NO” loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. Which, you know, is rape. Pretty obviously rape.

Hmmm…..of course, you know…no means not no.

Lund district court judge Ralf G. Larsson, who listened sympathetically to the rapist’s claim that he didn’t think the woman actually meant that “NO” (which she was yelling); rather, she meant YES, which is a common synonym for NO. The woman countered that she most certainly did not mean YES, as she was screaming NO, but the judge ruled that because the rapist doesn’t know what NO means and thought that his victim was kind of into it, that thing he was doing to her as she was yelling NO, no rape was committed.

Today, he explained his big strong man judge logic with an op ed column that was both condescending and idiotic. Larsson wrote,

If the thought had not occurred to him, that she did not want to have sex with him, then he didn’t have any intention to do what he did.

He should have been acquitted. That’s how the rule of law works and that’s how the rule of law should work if I’m going to be a part of the justice system. […]

The woman had made very clear to the man at least six times that she did not want to do what he wanted to do. For example, oral and anal sex came up, and at each such incident the man did not proceed with what he wanted to do.

In other words, because he didn’t every kind of rape, he therefore could not have committed one form of rape. Rock solid logic.

939b54b3428aa558e12c4e80730acbfeYeah, he didn’t fuck her up the ass so he could not have “raped” her. Then this dickhead of a judge goes on to say:

If what is happening right now in mass and social media has the potential to scare less experienced judges, we’re on a dangerous path.

Raise your hand if you think Rolf Larsson has NO business being a judge. And by NO, I mean NO.

I will second that and add a NO and I mean FUCK NO!

In other ridiculous rape news: Anonymous Hacker Who Exposed the Steubenville Rapists May Get More Prison Time Than Rapists : Political Blind Spot

Deric Lostutter, the 26-year-old “hacktivist” who leaked the evidence that led to the conviction of two of the Steubenville, Ohio rapists is now facing more time behind bars than the rapists he exposed. The Steubenville Rape Case made national headlines when a video made by the rapists themselves, and their friends, proved that their victim was unconscious and unable to consent.

Instead of giving Lostutter thanks for exposing these criminals, however, the FBI raided his house last April. At first, Lostutter had denied that he was the man in the video, but he decided to come forward after the appalling reaction of the rapists after they were exposed.

Lostutter is now facing ten years behind bars if indicted for obtaining tweets and social media posts which revealed the details of the rape as well as for threatening action against the Steubenville rapists and school officials who helped to cover up the crime. Lostutter posted the video to the Steubenville High School football team website, bringing national attention to the case and the cover-up.

Word of Lostutter’s 10-years comes just as one of the rapists themselves, Ma’Lik Richomond, 16, was just released from prison for “good behavior.”

8ebc91cb27492af220d6e075ce8c4ed9More at the link…outrageous. The rapist gets less time than the dude who got the news of the rape and cover-up out to the public.

I think we need a new Superhero…make it a SuperShero. She is defender of rape victims everywhere, and she pulls a Bruce Wayne ala Peter Parker con Clark Kent on your ass if you rape or attempt to rape a person. Fuck yeah…this is gonna be good. Someone has to help me come up with a good name for her. And a good cover story and job and superpower.

She could be the Sky Dancer mascot…no that won’t do, it doesn’t go with the Buddhism thing.  The idea of kicking someone’s ass to a pulp is not very peaceful is it. (I guess that is why the 5th season of Dexter resonated so much for me…not to mention the film Thelma and Louise.)

And while we are on the topic of Women’s Issues and how bad the situation is in the United States: America Gets An Embarrassing C- In Women’s Reproductive Health

The Population Institute has released its annual State of Reproductive Health And Rights report card, and it seems that in the opinion of the massive educational nonprofit, America isn’t doing so hot. If America were a high schooler, America would be grounded until America gets its grades up, otherwise America won’t be getting into any colleges.

The report consolidates information most people who have been paying attention to the news probably suspected: as the federal government attempts to expand access to reproductive health care, right wing ideologues at the state level are working busily to ensure that women can’t physically access the care the federal government is trying to expand. It’s like the federal government built a dream house halfway up a mountain and handed women the keys, but states were like, let’s make it illegal to build a driveway and then put a fence around the house and remove all the doors. And the women of states run by conservatives are like, hey, why can’t I get into my house? And the state legislators are like, use your bootstraps to get in. Monday morning analogy!

Because of this, the United States still lags embarrassingly behind other developed countries in women’s reproductive health (half of pregnancies in the US are “unintended,” which is absurdly high) and, if social conservatives at the state level get their way, could slip even further.

055bd132a3f262985577fda60aa6a09aWell, nothing else would be more depressing then the attitude of those right-wing assholes once those pregnancies come to fruition. They just don’t give a damn. Like this next story out of Indiana, which is so upsetting, I can’t even tell you how it disturbed me to read about it. Three Children Died During The Polar Vortex After Their Heat Was Cut Off | ThinkProgress

Like the rest of the mid-west, the town of Hammond, Indiana, spent the first part of last week plunged below zero degrees. But while some families tried to shut out the cold by turning up their heat and staying under blankets, the bitter temperatures turned deadly for the family of a man named Andre Young.

The house that Young was renting for himself, his wife, and five children had its electricity cut off since March, gas since April, and water since October, according to records obtained by the Chicago Tribune. On that fateful night last week, the family was getting by on propane space heaters. Authorities suspect that’s what sparked a flame that engulfed the house around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8th.

According to witness accounts, Young ran in to the house to try to rescue his five children inside. He successfully saved two — a two-year-old and a six-year-old — before the flames caused serious injury and he collapsed into the snow. Another man tried to kick in the door and save the three children who remained inside, ages four, three, and seven months. But the attempts were unsuccessful; when first responders arrived, they found the three and the four-year-old holding on to one another, just feet from the door. The seven-month-old was nearby. All three children died.

Young, who remains hospitalized in critical condition, works in lawn care, according to the Tribune. His wife worked at Walmart, but most recently was a stay-at-home mom. As is the case with so many low-income families across the U.S., neighbors say the money was not enough to make the utility payments. 1f7bdb424636fcc5aaa8c0abda64a005On two occasions, he had tried to take electricity from meters hooked up to other houses.

Turns out the house had not been inspected and the landlord was ignoring officials and refusing to pay fines, in fact the landlord was supposed to be in court this past Thursday, but did not show. The mother worked at Walmart, the father was in lawn care.

“We inspect every rental property and this one was not inspected,” City Attorney Kristina Kantar told ThinkProgress. “No water, no power, no electricity, that’s bad. But we can’t tell that from the outside of the property.”

Kantar said that she sees cases like this “every day.” Sometimes people are squatters, or sometimes, like Young, they’re just behind on utilities, and no city officials realize there is a family inside. “It’s only because there’s a fire that you even know about this,” Kantar said.

There are some programs meant to assist families like Young’s. In Hammond, Indiana, the North Township Trustee administers the federal money provided by the federal low-income energy assistance program (LIHEAP). The office can give amounts between $100 and $500 starting in October to individuals and families within 125 percent of the poverty line. Indiana’s utility, NIPSCO, also offers a hardship program and a discount program. NIPSCO spokesperson Kathleen Szot confirmed to ThinkProgress that Young was on some form of assistance, though she did not specify which kind.

Read the rest of this story. It is heartbreaking. These fucking Republicans have so much blood on their hands. Real human being blood, and not a zygote clump of cells. PLUB assholes.

73fd00d5b52a80c0759d6b04b83efa83 Robert SchulzCheck this out, Rich GOP Donor Gets Lawmaker to Draft a Bill to Lower His Child Support Payments | Mother Jones

After Michael Eisenga, a wealthy GOP donor and Wisconsin business owner, failed to convince several courts to lower his child support payments, he came up with an inventive plan B—he recruited a Republican state legislator to rewrite Wisconsin law in his favor.

A set of documents unearthed Saturday by the Wisconsin State Journal shows Eisenga and his lawyer, William Smiley, supplying detailed instructions to Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch on how to word legislation capping child support payments from the wealthy. Kleefisch began work on the legislation last fall, weeks after an appeals court rejected Eisenga’s attempts to lower his child support payments.

For example, in a September 13 letter, a drafting lawyer with Wisconsin’s legislative services bureau complained to a Kleefisch aide, “It’s hard to fashion a general principle that will apply to only one situation.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eisenga’s current child support payments for the three children he has with his ex-wife are set at $216,000 a year. (Per the couple’s prenuptial agreement, the divorce settlement left his $30 million in assets untouched.)

The balls on these guys!

In 2010, Eisenga donated $10,000 to Kleefisch and his wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, according to the Journal Sentinel. Eisenga also donated $15,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The drafting documents, available on the Wisconsin legislature’s website, leave little not doubt that the bill was written to Eisenga’s specifications. According to the documents, on September 5, Eisenga’s lawyer briefed him on changes he was suggesting to a draft of Kleefisch’s bill. “We focused only on the portion that would require the court to modify your child support order based solely on the passage of the bill,” Smiley wrote. Eisenga then forwarded that letter to Kleefisch and one of his aides, saying, “Please have the drafter make these SPECIFIC changes to the bill.” The next day, Kleefisch’s aide forwarded the letter to the legislative lawyer drafting the bill.

A hearing for the bill is scheduled Wednesday before the Assembly Family Law Committee.

Eisenga and Smiley declined to speak to local news outlets about their emails with Kleefisch. On Saturday, Kleefisch told the Journal, “I do a gamut of legislation with the help and assistance of many, many constituents, and whether they gave a contribution or not has not made a difference.”

Oh…I think Kleefisch is full of Bullshit!

1340a3e360de713968f28bbd404135aeWhile on the subject of inflated dickheads: Medicare Is Grievously Overpaying for Penis Pumps – Jordan Weissmann – The Atlantic

Perhaps you had assumed that penis pumps were merely novelty items, sold mostly by email spammers and in a few musty sex shops. If so, you might be interested to learn that they’re actually considered a medical fallbackoption for men whose erectile dysfunction cannot be cured by drugs like Viagra—and that Medicare has been vastly overpaying for them for years.

So says a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, descriptively titled: “Medicare Payments for Vacuum Erection Systems Are More Than Twice As Much As the Amounts Paid For the Same or Similar Devices By Non-Medicare Payers.”

A “vacuum erection system,” in case anybody’s unclear, is just a penis pump. Between 2006 and 2011, Medicare spent a total of $172 million to purchase 473,620 such devices, at an average cost to the government of $360 each. The Veterans Administration, by comparison, pays just $185 per pump. With a little Google searching, the OIG found options available for an average of $164.

Had Medicare paid those sorts of prices, it could have saved $14 million during each of the five years the report examined.

Ugh…go and read the rest of that shit too.

This next link is full of information, and it is just neat. 40 more maps that explain the world

Maps seemed to be everywhere in 2013, a trend I like to think we encouraged along with August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. You might consider this, then, a collection of maps meant to inspire your inner map nerd. I’ve searched far and wide for maps that can reveal and surprise and inform in ways that the daily headlines might not, with a careful eye for sourcing and detail. I’ve included a link for more information on just about every one. Enjoy.

And I will end with this wonderful tweet from NYC:

Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander Seen Outside Tom’s Restaurant In NYC (PHOTO) (UPDATE)

Innit it great to see the two of them outside that familiar diner once again?

Have a great day and stop by for a comment or two.


Thursday Reads

tea on books

Good Morning!!

President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:

The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.

The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.

“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.

I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.

First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.

Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.

In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”

Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.

Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”

“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”

They look happy, don't they?

They look happy, don’t they?

But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:

Uh-oh: AT&T and Comcast are ecstatic about the FCC’s new chairman: AT&T calls new chairman an “inspired pick,” seeks end to “outdated” regulations.

President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.

But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.

Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.

Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.

Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker

Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.

Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.

Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.

With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.

The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.

If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.

Sigh . . .

This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:

It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.

So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:

Ron Johnson

CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law

Former fashion jewelry saleswoman Rebecca Gonzales and former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson have one thing in common: J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) no longer employs either.

The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.

Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.

Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.

“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.

Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.

My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.

The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.

There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.

That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.

The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.

And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:

“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.

The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:

The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”

Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”

There’s much more at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Thursday Reads: Defense Authorization Bill, Ron Wyden, the Filthy Rich, and Bird Crashes

Good Morning!!

So far I haven’t been locked up in Guantanamo or debtors’ prison. I hope the rest of you Sky Dancers still have your freedom too, such as it is.

Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Defense Authorization bill, which includes language permitting indefinite detention by the military of “al Qaeda members” without specific charges or trials. You can read the bill here.

Our craven and cowardly President had promised to veto this bill, but today the White House reneged on that promise, and Obama is set to sign it once it passes the Senate tomorrow or Friday.

The White House backed down from its veto threat of the defense authorization bill Wednesday, saying that the bill’s updated language would not constrain the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts.

While the White House acknowledged it still has some concerns, press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama’s advisers wouldn’t recommend a veto, a threat that had been hanging over the Pentagon policy bill for the past month.

Obama and his crew don’t care about the fifth amendment, habeas corpus and all that jazz–just that the president is the one who decides who is an “al Qaeda member” and therefore will be whisked away to indefinite detention. Wanna bet there are suddenly going to be a lot of “al Qaeda members” in the Occupy movement? From Anti-War.com:

As revealed in the Senate deliberations last week, the Obama administration itself requested the principal authors of the provision – John McCain and Carl Levin – to include language authorizing due-process-free military custody for American citizens. The initial threat of veto was apparently nothing more than political theater on the part of the White House.

According to The Hill, the following changes satisfied the White House concerns:

The bill deleted the word “requirement” from the section on the military detention of terror suspects, which was among the most contentious parts of the bill.

The national security waiver allowing the executive branch to move terror suspects from military to civilian courts was placed in the president’s hands rather than the Defense secretary’s, a change Levin said Obama had asked for.

The conference bill was based on the Senate language, which was not as harsh as the House bill when it came to trying terror suspects in civilian courts.

The administration called the provision in the bill that establishes the authority for military detentions unnecessary because the executive branch already was given this authority following Sept. 11.

Carney’s statement said if the administration finds parts of the law “negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law,” it expects the bill’s authors will correct those problems.

Oh well, then no worries… Except that lots of people who care about the Constitution aren’t so happy about it. Here’s a statement from Laura Murphy of the ACLU:

“The president should more carefully consider the consequences of allowing this bill to become law,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “If President Obama signs this bill, it will damage both his legacy and American’s reputation for upholding the rule of law. The last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was during the McCarthy era and President Truman had the courage to veto that bill. We hope that the president will consider the long view of history before codifying indefinite detention without charge or trial.”

Unfortunately, Barack Obama is no Harry Truman.

Here’s a statement from Human Rights Watch:

“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”

The far-reaching detainee provisions would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first time since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then-President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act. The bill would also bar the transfer of detainees currently held at Guantanamo into the US for any reason, including for trial. In addition, it would extend restrictions, imposed last year, on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to home or third countries – even those cleared for release by the administration.

There are currently 171 detainees at Guantanamo, many of whom have been imprisoned for nearly 10 years. As one of his first acts in office, Obama signed an executive order for the closure of Guantanamo within one year. Instead of moving quickly to close the prison and end the use of the discredited military commissions, he supported modifications to the Military Commissions Act.

“It is a sad moment when a president who has prided himself on his knowledge of and belief in constitutional principles succumbs to the politics of the moment to sign a bill that poses so great a threat to basic constitutional rights,” Roth said.

The bill also requires the US military take custody of certain terrorism suspects even inside the United States, cases that previously have been handled by federal, state and local law enforcement authorities. During debate over the bill, several senior administration officials, including the secretary of defense, attorney general, director of national intelligence, director of the FBI, and director of the CIA, all raised objections that this provision interfered with the administration’s ability to effectively fight terrorism. In the last 10 years over 400 people have been prosecuted in US federal courts for terrorism related offenses. Meanwhile during that same period, only six cases have been prosecuted in the military commissions.

“President Obama cannot even justify this serious threat to basic rights on the basis of security,” Roth said. “The law replaces an effective system of civilian-court prosecutions with a system that has generated the kind of global outrage that would delight recruiters of terrorists.”

The bill also reauthorizes the AUMF that Bush used to get us into Iraq. Emptywheel has a lengthy post in which she wonders: Feinstein’s “Fix” on AUMF Language Actually Authorize Killing American Citizens? You probably should read the whole thing, but here’s the summation:

…by affirming all purportedly existing statutory authority, DiFi’s “fix” not only reaffirmed the AUMF covering a war Obama ended today, but also affirmed the Executive Branch’s authority to use deadly force when ostensibly trying to detain people it claimed present a “significant threat of death or serious physical injury.” It affirms language that allows “deadly force” in the name of attempted detention.

In any case, it’s one or the other (or both). Either the AUMF language became acceptable to Obama because it included American citizens in the Afghan AUMF and/or it became acceptable because it affirmed the Executive Branch’s authority to use deadly force in the guise of apprehending someone whom the Executive Branch says represents a “significant threat.”

My guess is the correct answer to this “either/or” question is “both.”

So DiFi’s fix, which had the support of many Senators trying to protect civil liberties, probably made the matter worse.

In its more general capitulation on the veto, the Administration stated that the existing bill protects the Administration’s authority to “incapacitate dangerous terrorists.” “Incapacitate dangerous terrorists,” “use of deadly force” with those who present a “significant threat of death or serious physical injury.” No matter how you describe Presidential authority to kill Americans with no due process, the status quo appears undiminished.

Finally Al Jazeera asks: Is the principle of indefinite detention without trial now an accepted and permanent part of American life? I wonder if Michelle Obama is still proud to be an American today?

There is some other news, of course. For one thing, it seems as if Rep. Ron Wyden of Oregon must have more energy I can imagine having. As of today he managed to get the decisions on rural post office closings postponed until next May; he joined with Rep. Paul Ryan (!) to propose a medicare overhaul; and he and Darrel Isa (!) have proposed an alternative to the entertainment industry bill that would effectively shut down social networking on the internet. Check out those links if you’re interested.

One of my favorite economists, Robert Reich, has an analysis of Newt’s Tax Plan, and Why His Polls Rise the More Outrageous He Becomes.

Newt’s plan increases the federal budget deficit by about $850 billion – in a single year!

….

Most of this explosion of debt in Newt’s plan occurs because he slashes taxes. But not just anyone’s taxes. The lion’s share of Newt’s tax cuts benefit the very, very rich.

That’s because he lowers their marginal income tax rate to 15 percent – down from the current 35 percent, which was Bush’s temporary tax cut; down from 39 percent under Bill Clinton; down from at least 70 percent in the first three decades after World War II. Newt also gets rid of taxes on unearned income – the kind of income that the super-rich thrive on – capital-gains, dividends, and interest.

Under Newt’s plan, each of the roughly 130,000 taxpayers in the top .1 percent – the richest one-tenth of one percent – reaps an average tax cut of $1.9 million per year. Add what they’d otherwise have to pay if the Bush tax cut expired on schedule, and each of them saves $2.3 million a year.

To put it another way, under Newt’s plan, the total tax bill of the top one-tenth of one percent drops from around 38 percent of their income to around 10 percent.

What about low-income households? They get an average tax cut of $63 per year.

Oh, I almost forgot: Newt also slashes corporate taxes.

Wow!

Dakinikat clued me in to this post at Naked Capitalism: “Let Them Eat Pink Slips” CEO Pay Shot Up in 2010, which links to this article in the Guardian.

Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.

America’s highest paid executive took home more than $145.2m, and as stock prices recovered across the board, the median value of bosses’ profits on stock options rose 70% in 2010, from $950,400 to $1.3m. The news comes against the backdrop of an Occupy Wall Street movement that has focused Washington’s attention on the pay packages of America’s highest paid.

The Guardian’s exclusive first look at the CEO pay survey from corporate governance group GMI Ratings will further fuel debate about America’s widening income gap. The survey, the most extensive in the US, covered 2,647 companies, and offers a comprehensive assessment of all the data now available relating to 2010 pay.

And these oligarchs couldn’t care less if we like it or not. They own the White House and the Congress and we don’t.

I’ll end with a bizarre and very sad story out of Utah:

Thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot, football fields and other snow-covered areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one state wildlife expert called the worst mass bird crash she’d ever seen.

Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the injured survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night.

By midday Wednesday, volunteers had helped rescue more than 3,000 birds, releasing them into a nearby pond. There’s no count on how many died, although officials estimate it’s upwards of 1,500.

“They’re just everywhere,” said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource’s southern region. “It’s been nonstop. All our employees are driving around picking them up, and we’ve got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off.”

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


The Marvel of Coincidence, Part Deux

My, oh my!  There is a deluge of coincidence, enough to turn tinfoil hats into swanky silk toppers. 

First we had the mind-boggling convergence of right-thinking PD departments from cities across the country, all deciding within the last 4 days to crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street protests.  At least that was the ‘official’ story until Oakland’s Mayor, the rather infamous Jean Quan blurted out during a BBC interview that she had been on a conference call with 18 American city mayors, discussing the ongoing Occupy Movement.

Not to be outdone by Mayor Quan, a Homeland Security official had his own ‘blurt/burp’ moment, disclosing that the FBI and the Homeland Security Department had been discussing how to ‘handle’ OWS.

And just so US citizens can truly marvel at the strange alignment of the stars, we have this extraordinary comment made by Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group.

“It was completely spontaneous.”

The ‘it’ in that statement would be riot police sweeping the encampments in Portland, Denver, Oakland and NYC, etc. for health and security reasons.  I suppose we can assume that the ‘middle of the night/early morning’ phalanx strategy of surround and secure was also a spontaneous, creative leap by law enforcement or perhaps a coast-to-coast mind-reading experiment.

However, Mayor Bloomberg in NYC must be credited with additional points for creativity.  After all his passionate I-Love-the–First-Amendment declarations and as a media mogul himself [12th richest person in the country], he coincidentally declared a media blackout.  Meaning? There would no [or very few] unattractive images of protestors being rousted, cell phones confiscated and/or reports of a CBS helicopter prevented from taking aerial  film footage.   According the Washington Post Partisan blog:

Most disturbingly, the NYPD sought to block any and all press from covering this eviction. On the ground, reporters were stopped at the barricades and refused entrance. Numerous journalists reported that cops refused to let then in, even pushing reporters away; reporters even Tweeted about getting arrested. In the air, NYPD helicopters refused to allow CBS News helicopters to film the eviction from above. As for the camera already in the park–OWS’s livestream–the police simply blocked it with a pile of torn-up tents.

But Keith Olbermann in his inimitable fashion had a few choice words for Mayor Bloomberg. If you haven’t seen this, sit back and enjoy. It’s entertaining.

But there’s more!  Even with the blackout, even with reporters rounded and roughed up, the New York Times managed to describe the events in startling detail and had photos of the NYPD grouping at the South Street Seaport.  Which has led some to ask:  What’s the deal between the Mayor, the NYPD and the Gray Lady?  Another coincidence?  May the stars fall from the sky.

Finally, not to be repetitious but . . . the Internet Protection Bill and the evolving, expanding piece of legislation [HR 3261] Stop Online Piracy [SOPA] is chugging along brilliantly.  Think of the ramifications.  A copyright bill that would place wide, blunt controls on the Internet, our remaining set of eyes on the world, quietly wends its way through Congress at the precise moment that media blackouts are sanctioned for reasons of security.  Turns out I’m not the only one who finds this legislative creation and its Senate counterpart [S.968] more than a little suspicious.

Trojan Horse, anyone?  Or Coincidence Heaven?

Barnum was born way before his time.


The Marvel Of Coincidence

Days after the shocking crackdown of Occupy Oakland members, a police action that resulted in serious head trauma to Marine Vet Scott Olsen, Google revealed US law enforcement requests, January through June 2011, to ban videos showing police brutality and/or allegedly defaming law enforcement officials.  These requests were subsequently rejected by Google.  From the Google’s released Transparency Report:

Observations on Content Removal Requests

  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.

Had we not had access to the recent You Tube videos from Oakland, we would have been left in a ‘he said/she said’ predicament with no way of knowing how extreme the Oakland police were on the night of October 25 [unless, of course, you were an eye witness] or left to the mercy of the sadly slanted reports in the mainstream media. Traditional press outlets first ignored, and then quickly wrote off the OWS protests as lame complaints, coming from of a bunch of spoiled brats.  There is little acknowledgement of the Movement’s growing support or the very real anger and disgust of the American public. The discontent is not difficult to categorize–corruption, malfeasance, and collusion of Government and Wall St. at the expense of ordinary people.

Add another ‘strange’ coincidence, this one noted at Cannonfire, header reading: “Ain’t That A Coinky-Dink.”

Joe Cannon tapped a brief blog piece indicating the weird, spectacular confluence of events: that ABC and CBS, both stations providing live feed to the October 25th night’s proceedings, just happened to require helicopter refueling at the precise moment the police prepared their attack on the protesters. And so, the major stations had no film footage of the actual melee.

Astounding, yes?  Btw, this story was picked up and circulated around the Web, but I fail to recall the astonishing coincidence being reported by the MSM. I mean we get stories about the face of Jesus revealed on tacos, pistachios and ancient shrouds.  But this?  Nada.  Inquiring minds might ask—Why?

Fortunately, we did have those videos taken by on-the-ground witnesses.  We even have first hand accounts, the vast majority of which are like this one. Unflattering, to say the least.

But the magic of coincidence seems to come in bundles and bunches. In this case it’s the magic number 3 [although there certainly may be more lurking out there].

On Wednesday, October 26th the Protect IP [intellectual property] Bill S. 968 was released from the House without any appreciable changes that had been noted in the initial Senate version—vague language, broad application, all in the name of protecting copyright infringement.  In addition, a companion piece of legislation Stop On-Line Privacy Act [SOPA] also coming out of the House would require internet providers to ‘disappear’ certain websites, effectively blacklisting domains, all under the aegis of IP protection.  Even better, service providers would be required to ‘monitor’ and police their users’ activity.

From Open Congress the following Summary appears:

Open Congress Summary

“This bill would establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be “dedicated to infringing activities.” The DOJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have “only limited purpose or use other than infringement,” and the DOJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site. It would also make unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty up to five years in prison. This bill combines two separate Senate bills – S. 958 and S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act — into one big House bill.”

What could go wrong?

And what an amazing coincidence that Congress, a body that has been paralyzed, unable to pass any legislation for the benefit of the American public, has suddenly, so expeditiously gotten its act together to push through Blacklisting legislation that curtails and restricts Internet use.  Not only that, but this legislation coincides with the precise moment that Americans around the country have gathered in our streets, courtyards, and before a variety of City Halls to give voice to public grievances, and ‘coincidentally’ effects the source from which we [the general public] primarily learn about these protests and view subsequent video.

Coincidence upon tumbling coincidence.  I am gobsmacked, I tell you. Color me worried. And just a tad suspicious, too.  What about you?


Thursday Reads: Obama and CBC, Judging Protesters, Net Neutrality, SCOTUS, and Sly Stone

Good Morning!! Let’s start out with a little fire and brimstone. Glen Ford had a rousing rant at the Black Agenda Report about Obama’s disgusting treatment of the CBC last weekend. Here’s just a sample:

…in the same week that he bowed down to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the assembled nations of the world, in New York City, Obama took his church voice to the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner to very pointedly demand that Blacks stop bugging their president about the economic catastrophe that has befallen them, and his own role in it. “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” Obama hectored. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver had earlier told reporters, “If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this [Black unemployment] problem, we probably would be marching on the White House.” But Obama came to lay down the law: any marching that you might do will be for my re-election.

The well-oiled crowd cheered….

The Black Caucus, as a body, meekly murmured and mumbled as the administration transferred the equivalent of the U.S. gross domestic product to the banks while Black America disintegrated. Now, with Obama’s numbers falling, he has very publicly commanded them to shut up and perform what he believes is their only legitimate function: to get him re-elected. In the looming contest, he will again resort to Black-baiting whenever it is useful to shore up white support. In that – as with his foreign and domestic policies – Obama is no different than white corporate politicians. His one great distinction, is to have a core constituency that cares more for his security and dignity, than their own.

Sad but true.

In yesterday’s morning post, Minx highlighted the way so many “progressives” are criticizing Occupy Wall Street for all kinds of irrelevant reasons. Glenn Greenwald wrote a very good piece about it: What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests? But I especially liked Kevin Gosztola’s piece at FDL.

Traditional media have characterized the plurality of voices and the number of issues the occupation is seeking to challenge as a weakness. Establishment media has been openly condescending. Ginia Bellafante’s report in the New York Times has generated significant attention for her focus on the fact that some “half-naked woman” who looks like Joni Mitchell to her is the leader of this movement of “rightly frustrated young people.” Bellafante accuses the protesters of lacking “cohesion” and “pantomiming progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably.” NPR reiterated NYT’s focus on the “scattered nature of the movement” in its coverage of the occupation (and tellingly used a photo of a man holding a sign that reads “Satan Controls Wall St”). Local press have treated the occupiers as if they are a tribe or a group of nomads focusing on occupiers’ behavior instead of trying to understand the real reason why people are in the park.

Liberals have shown scorn, too, suggesting the occupation is not a “Main Street production” or that the protesters aren’t dressed properly and should wear suits cause the civil rights movement would not have won if they hadn’t worn decent clothing.

The latest show of contempt from a liberal comes from Mother Jones magazine. Lauren Ellis claims that the action, which “says it stands for the 99 percent of us,” lacks traction. She outlines why she thinks Zuccotti Park isn’t America’s Tahrir Square. She chastises them for failing to have one demand. She claims without a unified message police brutality has stolen the spotlight. She suggests the presence of members of Anonymous is holding the organizers back writing, “It’s hard to be taken seriously as accountability-seeking populists when you’re donning Guy Fawkes masks.” And, she concludes as a result of failing to get a cross-section of America to come out in the streets, this movement has been for “dreamers,” not “middle class American trying to make ends meet.”

First off, nobody in the last week can claim to be reporting on Occupy Wall Street and genuinely claim it isn’t gaining traction. Ellis conveniently leaves out the fact that Occupy Wall Street is inspiring other cities to get organized and hold similar assemblies/occupations. Second, if the protesters did have one demand, does Ellis really think that would improve media coverage? Wouldn’t pundits then be casting doubt on whether the one demand was the appropriate singular demand to be making? Third, so-called members of Anonymous are citizens like Ellis and have a right to participate in the protest. It is elitist for Ellis to suggest Occupy Wall Street should not be all-inclusive. And, finally, there is no evidence that just “dreamers” are getting involved. A union at the City University of New York, the Industrial Workers of the World, construction workers, 9/11 responders and now a postal workers and teachers union have shown interest in the occupation.

Gosztola is a young guy who replaced Emptywheel after she left FDL. He focuses on human rights issues, and he does a nice job.

It’s interesting that the progs keep comparing the Occupy Wall Street protesters to those in Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s, claiming that protesters should wear suits! Obviously these “very serious” yuppie bloggers don’t recall the ’60s anti-war movement. I can just imagine their shock at some of the outfits we wore in those days.

The New York Times published an odd interpretation of the world-wide protest phenomenon that minimized demonstrations: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe, by Nicholas Kulish. Kulish explains the protests as disillusionment with voting. And why shouldn’t we all be turned off by voting when it gets us nothing but a bunch of corrupt, greedy a$$holes who stab taxpayers in the back repeatedly and suck up to the top 1%?

Not surprisingly, there is only one reference to the anti-Wall Street protests, and the organizers, Occupy Wall Street aren’t mentioned at all. Also not mentioned are the supportive protests beginning in other U.S. cities. And Kulish never mentioned Wisconsin at all!

Last week the FCC announced new net neutrality rules, and now lawsuits from both sides of the issue are starting.

Verizon and Metro PCS, both wireless carriers, had already made clear their intention to sue and were widely expected to be the first to do so. Instead, they were beaten to court by the activist group Free Press—one of the strongest supporters of network neutrality.

Free Press has asked a federal appeals court to review the FCC’s rules—not because it finds them too strong, but because it finds them too weak. The group particularly objects to the way in which wireless companies are exempted from most of the meaningful anti-discrimination policies in the rules. While wireless operators can’t block Internet sites outright, and can’t simply ban apps that compete with their own services, they can do just about anything else; wired operators can’t.

Free Press complains about the “decision to adopt one set of rules for broadband access via mobile platforms and a different set of rules for broadband access via fixed platforms.” The distinction, it says, is “arbitrary and capricious” and it violates the law.

In a statement, Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said, “Our challenge will show that there is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access. The disparity that the FCC’s rules create is unjust and unjustified. And it’s especially problematic because of the increasing popularity of wireless, along with its increasing importance for younger demographics and diverse populations who rely on mobile devices as their primary means for getting online.

Here is a summary of the final FCC rules, from Connected Planet:

The FCC highlighted a total of four rules, which specify that:

— A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choice regarding use of such services and for content, application, service and device providers to develop, market and maintain Internet offerings

— A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service . . . shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

— A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service . . . shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service.

— A person engaged in the provision of mobile broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management; nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network management.

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I’m sure you’ve heard that the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to rule on the health care law ASAP. Dalia Lithwick at Slate had an interesting article on the case: The Supreme Court is less interested in ruling on Obama’s health care law than you think.

Apparently the Obama administration believes that 2012 will not be crazy enough already. That would explain why it has decided not to appeal a ruling from a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the individual mandate at the heart of its health reform law. Instead of asking the full, 11-member court to hear the case, the administration has voluntarily cleared the path toward the Supreme Court as early as this spring. That means there could be a ruling by the end of June, just a few months before the election.

Right now the individual mandate has been upheld, by a 2-1 margin by the Sixth Circuit and struck down 2-1 at the 11th Circuit, while the Virginia lawsuit challenging the act was dismissed on procedural grounds at the Fourth Circuit. This split between the federal appeals courts almost demands that the high court agree to hear the case, as does the fact that it’s the Justice Department filing the appeal.

Lithwick discusses the opinions of other writers on why the administration is doing this now. Then she offers her own assessment:

I remain unsure that there just are five justices at the high court eager to have the court itself become an election-year issue. I don’t think Chief Justice John Roberts wants to borrow that kind of partisan trouble again so soon after Citizens United, the campaign-finance case that turned into an Obama talking point. And I am not certain that the short-term gain of striking down some or part of the ACA (embarrassing President Obama even to the point of affecting the election) is the kind of judicial end-game this court really cares about. Certainly there are one or two justices who might see striking down the ACA as a historic blow for freedom. But the long game at the court is measured in decades of slow doctrinal progress—as witnessed in the fight over handguns and the Second Amendment—and not in reviving the stalled federalism revolution just to score a point.

That’s why I suspect that even if there are five justices who believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional, there probably aren’t five votes to decide that question in this instant. Lyle Denniston over at Scotusblog reminds us that the court has a lot of options to forestall a showdown with the president. If the justices opt to consider the technical question raised at the Fourth Circuit—about who has legal standing to challenge the mandate in the first place—the court could dodge the constitutional question altogether until 2015, when the first penalties will be paid. It’s not so much a matter of the court having to decide whether to bring a gavel to a knife fight. It’s just that this isn’t really this court’s knife fight in the first place.

Roman Polanski is back in the news, because he supposedly “apologized” to the woman he raped when she was only 13.

In a documentary about his life, the Oscar-winning director, 78, admitted Samantha Geimer had been left scarred by his exploitation three decades ago. The Polish-French film maker publicly apologised for the first time for his “mistakes” that included the sexual attack on Mrs Geimer, now 47.

The director of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown admitted she was a “double victim” after being caught up in the subsequent media storm, forcing her to move to Hawaii for privacy.

The married mother-of-three successfully sued him and accepted a private apology in 2009, saying she had been left more traumatised by ensuing legal battles to bring him to justice than the assault itself.

Finally, here’s another celebrity story: According to the New York Post, 1960s rock star Sly Stone is homeless, living in a van in L.A.

Today, Sly Stone — one of the greatest figures in soul-music history — is homeless, his fortune stolen by a lethal combination of excess, substance abuse and financial mismanagement. He lays his head inside a white camper van ironically stamped with the words “Pleasure Way” on the side. The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where “Boyz n the Hood” was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house. The couple’s son serves as his assistant and driver.

Inside the van, the former mastermind of Sly & the Family Stone, now 68, continues to record music with the help of a laptop computer.

“I like my small camper,” he says, his voice raspy with age and years of hard living. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”

It’s a pretty nice van, BTW. But the LA Times says if Stone is homeless, it’s his own choice.

If Sly Stone is homeless, it’s by choice and not necessity, according to sources close to the funk legend.

Stone’s attorney Robert Alan has supposedly rented a four-bedroom home in Woodland Hills for his client, one unnamed source told Showbiz411 exclusively. “He’s too paranoid to come inside,” another source told writer Roger Friedman. That person was described as a friend of the singer.

Though Alan wouldn’t comment on the rental house, Friedman said, the lawyer confirmed that Sly Stone documentarian Willem Alkema had paid the singer $5,000 upfront for a recent interview. (An additional $2,000, source unknown, was reportedly paid when the story was picked up.) Alkema, whom Friedman says is trying relaunch his documentary and could benefit from the publicity, co-wrote Sunday’s “Sly Stone Is Homeless and Living in a Van” article for the New York Post.

That’s not to say Stone hadn’t admitted struggling with drugs, nor that he isn’t in financial trouble of the maybe-a-$50-million-lawsuit-will-fix-it variety — he sued former manager Jerry Goldstein in early 2010, alleging fraud and the diversion of $20 million to $30 million in royalties.

I’m just glad to know that Sly is still with us. What a great band he had. I remember seeing Sly and the Family Stone at an outdoor concert at Harvard Stadium–I think it was in 1969. It was fabulous! So in honor of Sly and nostalgia…

So…. what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: Crazy Republicans, Nuclear Meltdowns, MLB Follies, and More

Good Morning!!

According to Politico, Republicans are escalating their game of chicken with demands they want met before they agree to raise the debt limit.

One day after being named to a presidential task force to negotiate deficit reduction, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fired off a stark warning to Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.

The Virginia Republican’s missive is a clear escalation in the long-running Washington spending war, with no less than the full faith and credit of the United States hanging in the balance.

Wait a minute…Obama put ERIC CANTOR on a deficit task force??!! Okay, the joke’s over. This guy cannot legitimately run on a Democratic ticket in 2012.

Cantor says he’s ready to plunge the nation into default if the GOP’s demands are not met. People close to Cantor say that he hopes to make clear that small concessions from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, will not be enough to deliver the GOP on a debt increase….

Republicans are floating a wide range of major structural reforms that could be attached to the debt limit vote, including statutory spending caps, a balanced budget amendment and a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and debt limit increases.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has finally admitted that nuclear fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 has melted. From reading the article, it isn’t exactly clear what has happened, but I still detect efforts to minimize the damage. There’s a little more detail in an article from the Irish Times:

The head of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, Takashi Sawada, said yesterday that fuel rods in reactors 1 and 3 have melted and settled at the bottom of their containment vessels, confirming fears that the plant suffered a partial meltdown after last month’s huge earthquake and tsunami.

Engineers have been struggling since to bring four reactors under control by pouring water onto overheating nuclear fuel, and that water is highly contaminated as a result. Mr Sawada warned the condition of the plant could worsen if another strong quake knocks out power to its cooling systems.

“That would destabilise pressure and temperatures inside the reactors and the situation would become extremely unpredictable again,” he said.

The story also says that there was an aftershock yesterday centered around 25 miles from the plant.

All the news outlets are covering the BP oil gusher and the damage it has done to the Gulf, because yesterday was the anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 oil rig workers. Don’t worry, they’ll drop the subject like a hot potato in a couple of days. Here’s an article from the NYT.

Even in the worst days of the BP spill, coastal advocates were looking past the immediate emergency to what the president’s oil spill commission called “the central question from the recovery of the spill — can or should such a major pollution event steer political energy, human resources and funding into solutions for a continuing systemic tragedy?”

That tragedy is the ill and declining health of the Gulf of Mexico, including the enormous dead zone off the mouth of the Mississippi and the alarmingly rapid disappearance of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, roughly 2,000 square miles smaller than they were 80 years ago. Few here would take issue with the commission’s question, but the answer to it is far from resolved.

Eclipsed by the spill’s uncertain environmental impact is the other fallout: the vast sums in penalties and fines BP will have to pay to the federal government. In addition to criminal fines and restitution, BP is facing civil liabilities that fall roughly into two categories: Clean Water Act penalties and claims from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, whereby state and federal agencies tally the damage caused by the spill and put a price tag on it. This could add up to billions, perhaps tens of billions, of dollars.

Awwww, gee. Poor BP. It sounds like the writer feels sorry for them.

In Wisconsin, JoAnne Kloppenburg has asked for a recount in the race for the state supreme court.

JoAnne Kloppenburg arrived at the state Government Accountability Board’s office in Madison barely an hour before the 5 p.m. local time deadline by which she had to ask for a recount or concede defeat. According to the vote count finalized by the state last week, she trails Justice David Prosser by 7,316 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast in the April 5 election.

“Today, my campaign is asking the Government Accountability Board to conduct a statewide recount,” Kloppenburg said at a news conference. The announcement was met with applause and cheers of “thank you.” She’s requesting the recount “in part to determine what the proper outcome of the election will be and to ensure that elections form this point forward will be fair.

“I do not make this decision lightly … I have weighed the options and I have considered the facts,” Kloppenburg, currently an assistant state attorney general, said. The tight margin — small enough to trigger a provision allowing the state to pay for the recount process — means that “the importance of every vote is magnified and doubts about every vote are magnified as well,” she said.

And in silly Republican news, eight Wisconsin doctorswho wrote excuses for protesting teachers are being investigated.

The state Department of Regulation and Licensing and the Medical Examining Board said Wednesday that they had opened investigations into eight individuals who allegedly wrote doctor excuse notes for protesters at the state Capitol during rallies in February.

Last month, the Department of Regulation and Licensing said it had identified 11 people who may have provided the medical excuses, and it asked them to submit information about their activities at the Capitol.

Three members of the Medical Examining Board reviewed the information and decided to open investigations on eight of the 11, according to a department news release.

The eight being investigated are all licensed physicians, department spokesman David Carlson said.

Are Wisconsin taxpayers going to have to pay for this silliness? How ridiculous.

As a Kindle owner, I’m excited about this news. Amazon’s Kindle Will Offer E-Books From Libraries

Bookworms who own Amazon.com Inc.’s popular Kindle electronic reader will finally be able to borrow digital books from public libraries….

The move is likely to have major repercussions for public libraries and the digital-reading market generally, since Amazon currently dominates the e-book industry and its actions in the space are closely watched. There are an estimated 7.5 million Kindles in the U.S., which gives Amazon a two-thirds share of the $1 billion digital-book market, said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.

Many major public libraries, including those in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, offer free digital-book lending. A physical trip to the library isn’t required. Instead, library-card holders can download books from library websites. Each library sets its own digital-book lending policy, but typical lending periods are 14 or 21 days.

Major League Baseball has seized the LA Dodgers and will now control day-to-day operations for the team. Owner Frank McCourt is having financial problems.

The move was prompted by a number of issues surrounding the Dodgers, including owner Frank McCourt’s recent receipt of $30-million personal loan to meet payroll and the parking-lot attack at Dodger Stadium on March 31 that left a San Francisco Giants fan in a coma, according to a league source.

“This has been like watching a soap opera unfold,” said Gary Toebben, the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want a financially solvent Dodgers. We want a winning team.”

The league will now have approval rights over every significant expenditure by the team, including a trade or contract extension. This will likely put the franchise on the path to being sold.

The commissioner’s move adds to the turmoil surrounding a team already embroiled in divorce proceedings between McCourt and his wife, Jamie, who is seeking joint ownership.

McCourt tried to buy the Red Sox back when the the former owner died. Thank goodness he didn’t succeed in buying the team–they probably never would have beat the curse and won the World Series twice.

Some nutty right wing talk show host says the Bible forbids net neutrality.

The idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally is against the teachings of the Bible and America’s Founding Fathers, according to evangelical Christian minister and political activist David Barton.

During his radio show on Tuesday, he said that net neutrality violated the Biblical principle of free markets, a principle upheld by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

“That is part of the reason we have prosperity,” Barton said. “This is what the Pilgrims brought in, the Puritans brought in, this is free market mentality. Net neutrality sounds really good, but it is socialism on the Internet.”

“This is really, I’m going to use the word wicked stuff, and I don’t use that word very often, but this is wicked stuff,” he added.

Well that settles it then!

Monday was the 40th anniversary of Charles Manson’s conviction, so some media types decided to give him an opportunity to spout a bunch on nonsense. Manson’s new lawyer has asked the president to let the maniac out of prison, but Manson ruined his chances by giving his honest opinion of Obama.

Manson, 76, called Obama foolish in reference to Wall Street, saying he considered the president “a slave of Wall Street.”

“He doesn’t realize what they are doing. They are playing with him,” he said, according to the magazine.

Bla, bla, bla … so what else is new?


That’s about it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?