Thursday ReadsPosted: May 2, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, corporate greed, hunger, income inequality, morning reads, net-neutrality, Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights, science, The Bonus Class, the internet, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, War on Women | Tags: archaeology, cannibalism, CEO pay, Commerce Department, DOJ, emergency contraception, FCC, fracking, Jamestown Colony, JC Penney Co., North Dakota, Obama bundlers, Penny Pritzker, Plan B, Ron Johnson, Tom Wheeler 45 Comments
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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: Fallen Idols, President Pushover, Worsening Weather, Rogue Federal Agency, and MorePosted: June 30, 2011 Filed under: Barack Obama, Democratic Politics, Economy, Federal Budget and Budget deficit, Foreign Affairs, Greece, morning reads | Tags: Bert Adams, Chris Hansen, Climate change, Commerce Department, Federal debt limit, Federal Deficit, feminism, fishing industry, Greek protests, Japan earthquake, Jimmy Carter, John Lennon, Michele Bachmann, National Enquirer, NOAA, Ronald Reagan, sandcastles, Twitter, weather 19 Comments
Good Morning!! I’ve got a variety of interesting reads for you today, so let’s get right to it. Imagine the guy who wrote these words:
“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”
Now imagine that he admired Ronald Reagan.
John Lennon, the long-haired British peacenik who was investigated by the FBI in 1972 after he allegedly contributed $75,000 to a group suspected of planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention later was a closet conservative….Fred Seaman, who was Lennon’s personal assistant from 1979 until the singer’s assassination in 1980, claims the former Beatle and anti-war activist favored Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter and would have voted for the Gipper if he could have.
“John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter,” Seaman told Seth Swirsky, who is making a film about the Fab Four.
Seaman said the guitarist “met Reagan back, I think, in the ’70s at some sporting event.”
“Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young [peace] demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that,” Seaman told Swirsky in excerpts published in the Toronto Sun. “He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.”
I don’t even know how to respond to this stunning news. Lennon was apparently a Reagan Democrat. If he’d lived he probably would have been an Obot too….
NYT: Violent Clashes in the Streets of Athens
Confrontations between the police and protesters reached a violent climax here on Wednesday as armored riot officers beat back demonstrators and fired volleys of tear gas into the crowds who had gathered outside Parliament. Inside, lawmakers approved a package of austerity measures aimed at helping Greece avoid a default.
On the second day of a two-day general strike called by unions, rogue protesters also attacked the Finance Ministry on Syntagma Square across from Parliament and set fire to a post office in the ground floor of the building. The King George Palace, a luxury hotel that faces the square, was evacuated in the afternoon.
A police spokeswoman said that 31 police officers were injured and that 30 people had been detained, leading to 11 arrests. Local news media reported that dozens of protesters were hospitalized, and video clips showed the police striking people with their batons.
Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday condemning the “repeated use of excessive force by police in recent demonstrations, including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters.”
Is this what’s coming for the U.S.? At a press conference today President Obama warned Republicans to wake up and smell the tax increases (aside: I’m not holding my breath for Obama to follow through).
President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.
Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.
In a 67-minute news conference, Mr. Obama cast the budget battle as a tug of war between the interests of the rich — like owners of corporate jets, who he said get generous tax breaks — and those of the middle class, the elderly and children.
But Obama himself offered at best very weak tea:
Mr. Obama, under assault from Republicans on the campaign trail for an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent, asked voters to understand that the economic recovery would take time but said that Washington, even in its current financial straits, could still do more to help. He expressed support for extending a reduction in payroll taxes for an extra year, providing loans for road and bridge-building and approving trade pacts that could help spur exports.
Big whoop. Why didn’t he fight to end the Bush tax cuts then?
Ezra Klein explains “How you know the negotiations have truly failed.”
The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.
“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.
The conventional wisdom is that now this fight moves to the people. I’d put it differently. Now this fight moves to the consequences. Neither side is going to give in the face of purely rhetorical salvos. The White House is expecting Republicans to accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. The Republicans are expecting the White House to accuse them of putting the interests of large corporations and wealthy donors in front of the needs of seniors, children and the poor. Both parties have seen the poll numbers behind their positions. If a few news conferences were going to be sufficient to end this, it would never have started.
Climate experts warn that “epic weather” will continue because of climate change
Epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and the deadliest tornado season in 60 years are ravaging the United States, with scientists warning that climate change will bring even more extreme weather.
The human and economic toll over just the past few months has been staggering: hundreds of people have died, and thousands of homes and millions of acres have been lost at a cost estimated at more than $20 billion.
And the United States has not even entered peak hurricane season.
“This spring was one of the most extreme springs that we’ve seen in the last century since we’ve had good records,” said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
While it’s not possible to tie a specific weather event or pattern to climate change, Arndt said this spring’s extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future.
The Boston Globe reveals that fishermen in Gloucester, MA and up and down the Atlantic coast were the victims of abuse of power by NOAA.
About a decade ago, the Commerce Department’s fish police started a fight with Larry Ciulla, who owns and operates the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction with three other family members. Claiming that the auction had exceeded the day’s catch limit by one 60-pound fish, the regulators levied a $120,000 fine and ordered a 90-day shutdown.
Outraged, Ciulla challenged the penalty. He turned to Gloucester lawyer Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who is now a state representative and whose grandfather, father, and uncle were fishermen. Together, they decided to take on the agency known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In need of political backup, they went to US Representative John Tierney, whose district covers Gloucester. Eventually, their grass-roots effort drew in the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, the Bay State congressional delegation, and a bipartisan string of lawmakers from Maine to the Carolinas.
This year, federal officials finally acknowledged their own regulators had gone rogue. They were guilty of overzealous, abusive, and targeted enforcement, a series of independent investigations revealed. Regulators were levying crippling fines for invented or inflated offenses, as they relentlessly bullied an entire industry. They were using the fishermen’s money to finance a fleet of cars, a luxury boat, and assorted foreign junkets.
Please read the whole sordid story.
Twitter has released fascinating data on the number of tweets and direct messages during and after the Japan earthquake.
“On Twitter, we saw a 500% increase in Tweets from Japan as people reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the March 2011 earthquake,” said the company on its blog.
Kirstin Powers interviewed Michele Bachmann, and learned that the Tea Party queen is no feminist.
Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an “emerging conservative feminist identity,” Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist—instead, she simply described herself as “pro-woman and pro-man.” When I pressed her on the matter, the Minnesota congresswoman said she sees herself as an “empowered American.”
Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling.
Said Bachmann: “I’m a woman comfortable in her own skin. I grew up with three brothers. My parents didn’t see us [as] limited [by gender]. I would mow the lawn and take out the trash; I was making my own fishing lures. I went along with everything the boys did.”
Bachmann is still doing everything the boys do, but as a female candidate she endures indignities that are foreign to your average male pol. Yet she takes it all in stride.
Don’t you just love it when smarmy, self-righteous people are brought low? I know I do. Despite the fact that I loathe pedophiles, I’ve always been turned off by Chris Hansen and his obnoxious TV show “To Catch a Predator.” Now Hansen himself has been caught on “candid camera.”
Chris Hansen has found himself on the receiving end of his own hidden camera tactics, after the married NBC anchor was secretly filmed on an illicit date with a blonde television reporter 20 years his junior.
Hansen, 51, has allegedly been having an affair with Kristyn Caddell, a 30-year-old Florida journalist, for the last four months.
Secret cameras filmed the couple as they arrived at the hotel for dinner and then drove back to her apartment – where the pair left, carrying luggage, at 8am the following day.
Hansen lives in Connecticut with his wife Mary, 53, but he has been spending more and more time in South Florida investigating the disappearance of James ‘Jimmy T’ Trindade – and allegedly sleeping with Miss Caddell.
The cameras belonged to The National Enquirer. Fortunately for Hansen, Miss Caddell is slightly beyond the age of consent.
Finally, here’s a nice summery story to get you ready for the upcoming long weekend: Work’s a Day at the Beach for Sand-Castle Consultants
CANNON BEACH, Ore.—On a recent weekend, sand creatures were sprawled across this Pacific Coast beach. There were sea horses by a giant squid, with an “Attackin’ Kraken” sea monster nearby, along with several pigs, some giant mice and an amputee octopus.
Many of the sand sculptures had the same point of origin: They had been built by people who at one time or another were advised by Bert Adams, one of the nation’s handful of professional sand-castle consultants.
“They did well,” said Mr. Adams, a 51-year-old former electrical engineer, as he surveyed the array of creations made by his onetime students at Cannon Beach’s 47th annual sand sculpting tournament.
“He’s a great mentor,” says Amos Callender, an Olympia, Wash., architect who took a course—Sand 101—that Mr. Adams taught two years ago. Mr. Callender and his team took first place at Cannon Beach last year, while this year they built a sand sculpture depicting “the good life”—a wine lover sporting a beret; a mouse tucking into a giant wheel of cheese—that finished second.
What a great idea. Now if only I could find a niche that would pay me big bucks for something I love doing!
So what are you reading and blogging about today? Hit me with it!