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Hubble Hubble Toil and Trouble

May 12, 2009

Hubble Telescope Image of The Siamese Squid or Twin Jet Nebula

Yesterday space shuttle Atlantis lifted off for what will be the fifth and final repair mission to the Hubble telescope. There hasn’t been a trip to Hubble since before the space shuttle disaster in 2003 and entropy has left the telescope a bit bruised and battered. The repair crew will replace Hubble’s gyroscopes and batteries and also add some new tools.

A new instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3 or WFC3, will capture the portraits of stars and galaxies at wavelengths ranging from infrared to ultraviolet and examine the evolution of galaxies over 13 billion years of cosmic history. Because it can capture such a range of colors, the camera will be able to record, for example, the entire population of stars in a nearby galaxy—both elderly, reddish stars and newborn, bluish stars.

“The Wide Field Camera is going to blow people’s socks off,” says astronaut and Atlantis crew member John Grunsfeld. About 20 times more sensitive than Hubble’s current wide-field camera, WFC3 can record across many wavelengths, simultaneously. With it, astronomers can take a multiwavelength portrait of a celestial object in a single snapshot. “This is the first hyperspectral camera to go up on Hubble,” Grunsfeld says.

WFC3, in tandem with a revived Advanced Camera for Surveys, or ACS, “is just a gangbusters combination for imagery,” says senior Hubble scientist David Leckrone of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The mission’s success would also give Hubble a full toolbox of instruments for the first time since 1993, when the observatory’s photometer was removed to make room for COSTAR, the corrective optics that compensated for Hubble’s flawed primary mirror.

And the upgrade, expected to last five years, could make Hubble a leading observatory for studying the atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system. With a repaired and refurbished Hubble, “this could be the decade when we find an Earthlike planet” beyond the solar system, Grunsfeld says.

Hubble has been in orbit since 1990 and it got off to a rocky start. The mirror was flawed and the telescope wasn’t able to send back very good images. But the first repair mission in 1993 was able to fix the problems and Hubble has been sending back astounding pictures of our universe ever since which have forever changed the fields of astronomy and cosmology. Just a few short decades ago we relied on grainy photographs and artist renditions to get an idea of what the universe around us looked like but now we are able to see the very Pillars of Creation and the latest upgrade promises to unlock even further wonders.

There are no more repairs planned for Hubble and no replacement parts are being made so this is its last hurrah. Scientists hope that the latest repairs will keep Hubble operational for at least 5 more years, before it gives way to the Webb Space Telescope and the next generation of observational instruments. The Webb is designed to look deep into the infrared spectrum and will be situated much farther out in space, well past the moon at the L2 Lagrange point. Here it will be in a stable orbit shielded from the sun’s radiation which will allow it to make more accurate observations.

Hubble has already shown the world amazing phenomena and a universe bigger and more complex than ever imagined. New planets orbiting other stars have been discovered which were once merely conjecture and recently the Hubble constant which measures the expansion of our universe was further refined which may shed light on our ultimate fate trillions of years hence. Here’s hoping the last few years of the Hubble mission will be as fruitful as the first 20. All the time, money, and effort spent to bring our universe to light has been well worth it.

For more photos from Hubble’s last couple decades check out the photo gallery at Hubblesite.

And for more info and videos about the current repair mission check out the SM4 page at NASA.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    May 12, 2009 2:04 pm

    Here’s an update on the shuttle’s progress from earlier today:

    The Atlantis astronauts uncovered a 21-inch stretch of nicks on their space shuttle Tuesday, but NASA said the damage did not appear to be serious.

    The damage was likely the result of debris that came off the fuel tank shortly after liftoff Monday. The astronauts were inspecting their ship while racing to the Hubble Space Telescope when they came across the nicks spread over four to five thermal tiles, on the bottom of the shuttle where the right wing joins the fuselage.

    “It doesn’t look very serious,” Mission Control said. “Those tiles are pretty thick. The nicks look to be pretty small.”

    This repair mission is especially risky — a rescue shuttle is on standby for the first time ever — because of the debris-littered orbit of Hubble. Unlike other space flights, the astronauts can’t reach the international space station because it is in a different orbit than the telescope.

    NASA has taken greater safety precautions since the 2003 accident and they have a second shuttle on standby to perform a rescue mission if the need arises. The shuttle will meet Hubble on Wednesday and space walks to make the repairs are scheduled to start on Thursday. At the links in the main post you can watch the space walks live.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    May 12, 2009 5:38 pm

    Squids in space! Cool!

    Hope those nicks in the shuttle are as minor as they think they are.
    One Astronaut, Astro-Mike, is twittering or tweeting from space here

    Here’s his last post: From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!

    I wish them all luck.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 13, 2009 8:07 am

      Not of huge fan of twitter, but in this case it’s pretty cool to get updates from space. He just put in another one an hour ago. I’ll have to check it again later to see what he has to say about the rendezvous with the telescope. Somehow I doubt he’ll be twittering when they do the actual spacewalk though ;)

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 13, 2009 8:33 am

        Agree about twitter in general, it only encourages more shallow brevity, blather and not necessarily wit, but I do find it really great for coverage of live events and emergencies, such as the early days of the flu, the big fires out in CA and yes, people floating around in space.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    May 12, 2009 6:42 pm

    This is just fucked up, in a creepy fascinating kind of way: One way to kill fire ants: Turn them into headless zombies

    I’m shaking my head thinking of cane frogs, mongooses and other faulty acts of man trying to control nature, but this is just sick and creepy … and Texan

    Some researchers in Texas are trying an unusual approach to combat fire ants — parasitic flies that turn the pesky insects into zombies whose heads fall off.

    “It’s a tool. They’re not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it’s a way to control their population,” said Scott Ludwig, an integrated pest management specialist with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service in Overton, in East Texas.


    The flies “dive-bomb” the fire ants and lay eggs, and then the maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain. Later, the ant gets up and starts wandering for about two weeks, said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.

    Although the ant exhibits zombie-like behavior, Plowes said he “wouldn’t use the word ‘control’ to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly.”

    About a month after the egg is laid, the ant’s head falls off and it dies — and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.

    Plowes said fire ants are “very aware” of these tiny flies, and it only takes a few to cause the ants to modify their behavior.

    “It’s kind of like a medieval activity where you’re putting a castle under siege,” Plowes told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a story in Tuesday editions.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 13, 2009 8:10 am

      Ha! What could possibly go wrong by introducing a whole bunch of parasitic flies that like to burrow into flesh and lay eggs?!?!? What was that old movie where bugs burrowed out of people’s faces and almost made me barf? The Believers or something I think it was…

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 13, 2009 8:38 am

        This one? Wow, I’ve missed that one. Voodoos cults, Martin Sheen and flesh eating flies! haha Gotta rent that one. :)

        Could also be a script describing the remnants at klub kumquat. mmmm, remnants.

        • cometman permalink*
          May 13, 2009 9:27 am

          Yeah that’s the one. IIRC it was actually spiders and not bugs that crawled out of somebody’s face, but I may not be recalling correctly since I was in college when I watched it and I was loaded at the time. The only thing I remember about the movie was the bugs in the face. I think we watched Repo Man right before it, which I also don’t remember anything about ;) That may have been the weekend we went to see the Dead and Little Feat. Good times.

          • Stemella permalink*
            May 13, 2009 10:40 am

            I think I went to one of those Dead/Little Feat concerts too. I don’t remember much of anything surrounding that either. ;)

  4. Stemella permalink*
    May 13, 2009 7:19 am

    I’m watching the Senate Hearing on Torture this morning, available on C-Span III

    Lindsey Graham and I suspect all the Repubs are apologists, 9-11 yadda yadda, pro torture shits. I have watched enough hearings now to know they usually lead nowhere, but I’m always willing to be surprised.

  5. cometman permalink*
    May 13, 2009 9:01 am

    While you’re watching, keep an ear open to see if anything is mentioned about Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. He was one of the guys we tortured to get them to make a false connection between the Trade center bombings and Iraq. He was recently found dead in his jail cell – IN LIBYA – and it’s being called a suicide. I guess this is how Libya was cooperating in Bush’s war on terra, by accepting prisoners we had rendered to them. From what i can gather, nobody knew exactly where al-Libi was until he turned up dead. The timing of his death, right when memos are coming to light and those who have been rendered/tortured may finally get a day in court, is awfully suspicious and convenient for those in the US who ordered the treatment he received.

    More details at Bradblog and at Empire Burlesque where you can follow the links back to Andy Worthington who broke the story here a few days ago.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 13, 2009 9:45 am

      From a link at the Empire Burlesque story I found this post by Arthur Silber regarding the junk politics that creates our national mythologies. The point he makes that what Bush did was not exceptional cannot be stressed enough.

      And then consider this paragraph, which comes from a fifth-grade civics lesson about the glories of America offered to not very bright young children — and straight from the diseased heart of the torture obsessives:

      America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

      Thus speaks the liberal-progressive God, Paul Krugman. “[N]ever before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.”

      The lie is breathtaking in its scope and comprehensiveness. The Native Americans, the millions of slaves and their millions of descendants, including all those Black Americans imprisoned in the disgusting “War on Drugs” yesterday, today and tomorrow, the slaughtered Iraqis, the tortured and murdered Filipinos, the murdered Vietnamese and other grievously unfortunate inhabitants of Southeast Asia, and all the many millions around the world who have suffered from America’s unending drive to worldwide domination might be heard to protest that America has “betrayed everything [it] stands for” long before this latest descent into hell. But such objections, fully grounded in fact and supported by reams of evidence and mountains of broken, maimed bodies as they are, will never be heard or acknowledged by those who subscribe to the American myth.

      I’ve argued for a long time that the main difference between Bush and those who came before him was that he tried to make the atrocities the US commits national policy rather than just looking the other way with a wink and a nod and pretending like they never happened. Now we’re back to doing things the old way again, claiming we’re going to restore the US as a beacon on a hill even as the School of the Americas continues to train torturers and our illegal imperial wars rage on slaughtering thousands. It’s as if everything Howard Zinn wrote about in his “People’s History” never happened.

      Silber also discusses what must happen for anyone to get at the truth and that is to educate yourself and learn to ask the right questions. This is why I think blogging, or at least the cumulative effect of it, is very important – it allows people to communicate and get at the truth which is not broadcast on the corporate media ever.

      When we attempt to gauge whether an individual is genuine and honest about his proclaimed goals and intentions, we can look to various indicators in our search for evidence. We will note conflicts and contradictions between a person’s statements and his actions, always remembering that, especially in the realm of politics, a person’s statements will convey what he wants you to believe, while his actions will reveal what he himself is in fact concerned about. (Keep that point in mind; we will return to it later in this series when we consider the realities of Obama’s foreign policy.)

      We might also examine another issue: if and to what extent a person ignores, denies or seeks to minimize obviously relevant evidence which would tend to cast doubt on his stated goals. This can be tremendously useful and revealing, yet this method of analysis is rarely used by most people. There are a number of reasons for this failure; here I will mention just two. First, it requires that the person engaging in this kind of analysis has exerted the effort to educate himself about the subject in question. To confine oneself to the argument offered by others requires a minimal amount of work: you simply listen, and then apply what reasoning skills you may have acquired (which are also tragically minimal most of the time for most people, and not infrequently nonexistent).

      Second, and this is the more general methodological point, to educate oneself in this way requires a process of self-generated question-asking. If you hear an argument about the necessity of the State, or about the supposedly crucial issue of “getting the intelligence right,” or about the allegedly unique evils of “the Bush torture regime,” it will not always be immediately apparent exactly what questions we ought to ask. The education and the question-asking usually proceed together: as we learn more about a particular issue (the U.S.’s history on torture) or a very complex general subject (development of the U.S.’s foreign policy of worldwide hegemony), more questions will occur to us. Those questions will lead to further reading and investigation, which will lead to still more questions, and so on. But none of this will occur automatically and without effort, especially given the trivial superficiality and criminally constricted nature of public debate today. If you want to educate yourself in this manner, you will have to make a sustained effort on your own. That effort will take years and even decades. And it never ends: that is the challenge, and the joy.

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 13, 2009 11:12 am

        Learning to ask the right questions. I had a great history professor who said that is what makes a great historian, the ability to ask the right questions. You can have all the skill in the world as a researcher, writer, journalist, politician, but if you can’t think critically enough to ask the questions that need to be asked (as opposed to the bullshit most so called journalists today ask) then you are wasting your and everyone else’s time.

        I agree that this is what the blogosphere can be useful for as a tool, as a sort of think tank and question generator. That is what klub k used to be like early on with regard to the early phases of the Iraq war. Now, critical and out of the box thought gets shouted down or marginalized in some other way almost immediately, especially when questions are raised to pointedly about the Democrats.

        I also agree with your assessment that Bushco was seeking to validate or legitimize the open practices of tyranny, but that now those practices will be hush hush, black ops for outsourced torturers, as the School of Americas has always been. As Silber notes, the goal of USA Inc. has always been hegemony. I don’t see that changing under Status Quo O either.

        • cometman permalink*
          May 13, 2009 11:53 am

          I never took any history courses in college – everything I learned was from taking classics and art history classes where the professors put the literature and art we were studying into context which definitely helps critical thinking. In high school the US history course I took wasn’t the greatest as far as learning actual history went – we basically got the standard boilerplate exceptionalist myth and like most classes we didn’t make it through WWII before the year was out. My teacher often got side tracked and we’d spend time talking about the cliques that formed in high school and things like that. But he took the time to try and ingrain into us that we shouldn’t judge people because they were from some “other” group. And in retrospect that lesson was probably as important as the actual history we missed and is something that has stuck with me ever since.

          Everything else I learned on my own. There are far too many people for whom education ends when they graduate from high school or college. And without being able to put facts into proper context, it’s as if every new event occurs in a vacuum which is why it is so easy for politicians to manipulate so many people. The next time I see some bloated gasbag get on the air and say “They hate us for our freedoms”, I want to see the bloviator asked why the US overthrew Mossadegh in Iran over 50 years ago. We seem to have forgotten about that here but the Iranians sure as hell haven’t. I don’t know how many cab rides I’ve been on with foreign drivers who know all about the history of their former countries and ours who I’ve had lengthy discussions with about politics. And yet when you try to discuss these things with supposedly educated Americans, their eyes glaze over because they know nothing about any of it.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 13, 2009 10:47 am

      I don’t think there was any mention of al-Libi. Mostly it was a panel of law professors and State people explaining to the Committee why what Bushco did was wrong/illegal followed by Lindsay Graham insisting Bushco shouldn’t be judged in hindsight. And he calls himself a prosecutor? Gag.

      For a really thorough summary and excellent analysis check out emptywheel’s posts today here. She is giving the torture story the same kind of detailed attention she did the Plame outing story and is great at finding important detail amidst all the noise and reams of documents.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 14, 2009 12:37 pm

      Here’s more from Andy Worthington, this time discussing the flimsiness of the government’s cases against many of the “terrorists” we have detained. Much of the supposed evidence was based on second and third hand hearsay by other detainees who were themselves tortured and often not exactly mentally fit because of it. He discusses at length District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s decision that Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed should be released because there was no evidence to continue holding him.

      Judge Kessler ruled last Monday that the government had failed to establish, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” that Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed was “part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaeda forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” and stated that the government “should take all necessary diplomatic steps to facilitate“ his release.

      He concludes:

      As a result, the administration might want to reflect on its reasons for claiming, as defense secretary Robert Gates stated two weeks ago, that there are 50 to 100 of the remaining 241 prisoners “who we cannot release and cannot try,” and who, it was suggested, might be held under some new kind of legislation authorizing preventive detention. If many of these cases are looked at closely enough, I suspect that it will be become apparent that the reasons that the government does not want to put them forward for trial is because the evidence against them is unreliable (in other words, that it was obtained through the use of torture, coercion or bribery), and that, moreover, much of it is composed of exactly the sort of “mosaic” of intelligence that, under close scrutiny, is revealed to be full of holes.

      In addition, Attorney General Eric Holder would do well to focus significant attention on the pending habeas cases, and, preferably, to drop those which are infected by the testimony of liars (whether coerced or bribed) and are composed of broken “mosaics” of intelligence that will not convince judges seeking “findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

      No one in the Obama administration should be surprised that so many of the Guantánamo cases will not stand up in a court of law, but I find myself surprised that senior officials seem to have been content to let a Bush-era approach to prosecution survive unchanged in the offices of the Justice Department and the Pentagon. Perhaps they haven’t been informed that the reason that there is no case against most of these men is because torture, coercion and bribery were used to fill in the blanks when the majority of these men were sold to the U.S. military by their Afghan and Pakistani allies, who handed them over with a smile, and a simple phrase, “This man is an al-Qaeda/Taliban fighter. You owe me $5,000.”

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 14, 2009 1:37 pm

        It seems like a lot of the evidence regarding the wars and torture is starting to look flimsy (not just to us hardcores, but also to the mainstream). It looks like Pelosi’s calling out the CIA today as misrepresenting the truth to Congress regarding waterboarding could blow this whole thing up Iran-Contra style. If so, I hope the prosecution phase is more meaningful, thorough and lasting that what RonnyCo’s North and Poindexter got for Iran-Contra. So far I’m not getting the impression that Holder will give that focus and significant attention to these issues as the article suggests he do. I’m not getting the impression he’s a transparency and open government kind of guy, like O promised we’d get in the DOJ.

  6. Stemella permalink*
    May 13, 2009 4:27 pm

    Bernie Sanders’ effort to cap credit card interest rates was defeated 60-33 today.

    Despite complaints that banks and credit card companies are gouging customers by charging outrageous interest rates, the Senate on Wednesday easily turned back an effort to cap interest rates at 15 percent.

    The effort by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, drew only 33 votes and needed 60, with a bipartisan group of 60 senators opposing it as the Senate pushed its credit card overhaul toward the finish line. Some Democrats and consumer groups have said that an interest cap is needed to put real teeth into an otherwise solid bill.

    Other backers of the measure calculated that an interest rate ceiling would doom the popular legislation. The banking industry, which had some heavy-weight representatives monitoring the vote off of the Senate floor, warned that an interest rate limit could cause a sour reaction in the financial markets.

    But Mr. Sanders said the card companies and banks were engaged in conduct that could get others hauled into court. He said one-third of all credit card holders are paying interest above 20 percent and as high as 41 percent.

    “When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making credit available,” said Mr. Sanders, who noted credit unions are limited to 15 percent. “They are engaged in loan-sharking.”

    Thanks for trying Bernie. Too many of his colleagues are owned by banks.
    It looks like the larger bill will pass and Dems will toot their horns while regular people continue to get trampled by their credit card bills. Usery and loan sharking. Mobsters all.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 14, 2009 8:29 am

      I take it this was an amendment to the larger bill. Good for Bernie for trying at least and good for him for calling it what it is – loan-sharking.

      I’m so sick of these thieves claiming that anything done to limit their “business” practices could hurt the markets. Of course limiting usury would hurt the markets – that’s the whole point of it. If you can’t gouge people, your profits go down, your stock price goes down. It’s like Armageddon would be brought on the way the banksters jump up and down. Of course Congress just doesn’t seem to care that while the credit card companies’ bottom lines would take a hit by limiting what has been essentially a criminal practice throughout a large part of the world’s history, they would be adding to the bottom line for millions and millions of people who own credit cards and who wouldn’t have to pay exorbitant interest anymore. But somehow what would help the rest of us just isn’t that important.

  7. Stemella permalink*
    May 14, 2009 8:53 am

    I’ve been reading different opinions about Obama’s decision to now not release the new set of torture photos. I believe he should uphold the law, the decision of the court that says that under FOIA the photos should be released. Abiding by law, such a quaint idea in the halls of American power these days.

    Glen Greenwald has a piece on the topic here: We wouldn’t want to inflame anti-American sentiment

    Indeed, it’s pretty hard to believe that the people who are arguing that “no good will come” from release of these photos either (a) lived through the impact of the Abu Ghraib photos and/or (b) are living through the “torture debate” we are now having.

    Photographs convey the reality of things in a way that mere words cannot. They prevent people who want to deny what was done the ability to do so. They force citizens to face what their country did and what they are now justifying and advocating. They impede the ability of political leaders to use euphemisms to obscure the truth. They show in graphic detail what the effects are of sanctioning torture policies. They prove that this was about more than “dunking three terrorists into water.” They highlight the fact that no decent person believes that this should all just be forgotten and its victims told that they have no right to have accountability. That’s precisely why the photographs are being suppressed: because of how much good they would do.

    It’s McClatchy’s top story today: Why doesn’t Obama want us to see what’s in the photos?

    The issue comes at a crucial juncture for U.S. policy toward the Muslim world, with the Obama administration pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in order to boost U.S. forces who are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, confronting the growing al Qaida-backed Islamic insurgency in nuclear-armed Pakistan, struggling to revive moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and working to forge an international front against Iran’s nuclear program.

    The request for what’s effectively a legal do-over is an unlikely step for a president who is trained as a constitutional lawyer, advocated greater government transparency and ran for election as a critic of his predecessor’s secretive approach toward the handling of terrorism detainees.

    Eric Glitzenstein, a lawyer with expertise in Freedom of Information Act requests, said he thought that Obama faced an uphill legal battle. “They should not be able to go back time and again and concoct new rationales” for withholding what have been deemed public records, he said.

    The timing of the president’s decision suggests that a key factor behind his switch of position could have been a desire to prevent the release of the photos before a speech that he’s to give June 4 in Egypt aimed at convincing the world’s Muslims that the United States isn’t at war with them. The pictures’ release shortly before the speech could have negated its goal and proved highly embarrassing. Even if courts ultimately reject Obama’s new position, the time needed for their consideration could delay the photos’ release until long after the speech.

    and from emptywheel here: About the Foto Flip-Flop

    It’s inexcusable, Obama’s flip-flop on the DOD abuse photos.

    Not (just) because I think he’s wrong on the law and he’ll probably not get Cert with SCOTUS, making this a big pose.

    Rather, it’s inexcusable because Obama issued new guidelines on FOIA that he now abandons:

    The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

    All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

    Granted, a bunch of Generals and Colonels would undoubtedly be embarrassed by the disclosure of abuse that happened on their watch (above all–as Nell suggests–Stanley McChrystal, newly tapped to take over in Afghanistan). Granted, some of those Generals and Colonels (the aforementioned McChrystal) would probably lose their next promotion if these pictures became public. Granted, pundits speculate, abstractly, that the release of another round of torture pictures will inflame the already volatile Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But those are all invald excuses, according to President Obama’s own FOIA guidelines. If you’re going to set a rule, follow it yourself.

    There is also extensive discussion at klub kumquat, many critical of O and many, as to be expected, blind with their cult worship. Obama is making a big mistake here, and it seems he’s buying time as suggested by the McClatchy article, forcing the decision to be made by the SCOTUS.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 14, 2009 9:21 am

      I read all Greenwald’s posts from the last few days last night and he is right on the money. This part from from his post yesterday was good too:

      (5) For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders who are about to descend into my comment section and other online venues to explain how Obama did the right thing because of National Security, I have this question: if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than: “I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.” So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do: were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?

      Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment. Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument. How can anyone cheer on Obama’s decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos? Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both. Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them. Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.

      So was his post a couple days ago where he talks about Jesse Ventura, probably not the sharpest tool in the box, and yet who can see quite clearly that torture is illegal and those who engage in it should face consequences. From the Ventura post, quoting from ventura’s interview with Larry King:

      VENTURA: I don’t watch much TV. This year’s reading, I covered Bush’s life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects.

      And I’m very disturbed about it.

      I’m bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we’ve created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem.

      I will criticize President Obama on this level; it’s a good thing I’m not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.

      The fact that there are so many willing to give Obama on pass on this stuff is mind boggling to me. Wish I could put my finger on that article I read a few months ago before the election asking the question “What if George Bush did It?”. It was meant to remind people on the left that when Obama and the Democrats continue the policies of Bush then the left should be just as vocal in their oppostion as when the Bushies were doing the same thing.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    May 14, 2009 8:58 am

    This story makes me sick, so symptomatic of what is wrong with this country. You may have heard of the health food fad of acai berries. Well, Oprah is adverstising it and it is depleting a major food source for the poor in Brazil. Typical…

    ‘Superfood’ Promoted on Oprah’s Site Robs Amazon Poor of Staple

    Rising U.S. sales of acai, a purple Amazon berry promoted as a “superfood” on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site, are depriving Brazilian jungle dwellers of a protein-rich nutrient they’ve relied on for generations.

    U.S. consumers are turning a “a typical poor people’s food into something like a delicacy,” said Oscar Nogueira, who specializes in the fruit at Embrapa, Brazil’s agricultural research company.

    Spending on acai-based products by Americans seeking to lose weight, gain energy or slow aging doubled to $104 million last year, according to SPINS, a Schaumburg, Illinois-based market research firm. Since U.S. demand took off early this decade, the fruit’s wholesale price in Brazil has jumped about 60-fold, Embrapa data show.

    In 2008, exports from Para, the South American country’s main producing state, climbed 53 percent to account for about a quarter of output, according to the local government. Production, though, has increased little in the past five years.

    Winfrey, 55, discussed the berry with Mehmet Oz on her TV talk show in February 2008, when the New York cardiologist presented his “anti-aging checklist.” It includes acai, blueberries and tomatoes.

    “It has twice the antioxidant content of a blueberry,” said Oz, 48.

    Winfrey’s site publishes dermatologist Nicholas Perricone’s “10 Superfoods List,” which includes the Brazilian fruit. Meriden, Connecticut-based Perricone, 60, sells skin-care items and food supplements, including a powder that contains the berry, according to his Web page.

    Winfrey Disclaimer

    Oz declined to be interviewed for this article. Perricone didn’t reply to e-mail and telephone requests for comment.

    Perricone’s list on Winfrey’s site includes a link to a statement saying she isn’t associated with any acai product.

    “We are pursuing unauthorized uses of Ms. Winfrey’s name associated to acai-based products, none of which she has endorsed,” said Don Halcombe, a spokesman for Harpo Inc., Winfrey’s production company. Chicago-based Harpo is turning over complaints about such items to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, Halcombe said in a telephone interview.

    Halcombe declined to comment on the effect increased U.S. demand is having on traditional consumers in Brazil.


    • cometman permalink*
      May 14, 2009 9:32 am

      Oprah for better or worse has a tremendous amount of clout. I’ve seen first hand how a little mention of a product on her show or in her magazine can send all kinds of people clamoring to buy whatever she’s given the endorsement to.

      Is Oprah also too big to fail?

      It’s amazing how many people will buy into just about any weight loss fad though and how few will heed the method that they must know deep down is the only one that will work which is to stop cramming so much goddamn food down your pie hole every day and take a walk once in a while. Simple tip – check the ingredients of the food you buy and if one of the top 3 or 4 is high fructose corn syrup, put the shit down and buy something else. Eat an apple or some grapes. Sure there are some people who have medical conditions that need some serious help to keep their weight down, but the vast majority simply eat too much.

      • cometman permalink*
        May 14, 2009 10:18 am

        While I was looking for something else, I came across this article from Harpers from 2000 arguing that obesity was above all else a class issue where it is largely the poor who eat so much food that isn’t good for them. The author blames the corporations and other powers that be who prey upon these people rather than regulating the industry and educating people. Makes a pretty good argument. The main reason that high fructose corn syrup is in so many foods is that it is so cheap because of how we subsidize the corn industry and big agribusiness to produce way more than we actually need. I do have some sympathy for the fact that food that isn’t total crap is more expensive and beyond the means of some. I was in the grocery store yesterday and put back some brand name jam that was all corn syrup and bought a smaller more expensive kind without the crap instead. If you had to make that choice with everything then things could get prohibitively expensive. Of course there’s nothing that says people have to buy so many prepackaged foods rather than cooking for themselves, which is another way to keep obesity down and make sure we don’t destroy cultures half way around the world to get the latest weight loss gimmick.

        • Stemella permalink*
          May 14, 2009 10:41 am

          Food politics is another major problem in this country. Of course the potential health complications from all that corn syrup with diseases like diabetes tie in nicely with big pharma and the insurance scams in this country. It gets to be too much sometimes, all the pressures and worries conspiring against all of us all the time. Even growing your own organically these days is complicated by whatever the fuck is in commercially sold manures. Oh to live on a farm again where I know the shit is literally pure shit!!

  9. Stemella permalink*
    May 14, 2009 10:50 am

    Here’s a list of all the Dem Senators who voted against Sander’s credit card cap amendment. Note who also voted FOR the bank bailouts and how much money they’ve received from FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate industries)

    Democrats for Loan sharking

    Akaka (D-HI) No Yes Yes $551,095
    Baucus (D-MT) No Yes Yes $4,633,243
    Bayh (D-IN) No Yes No $3,988,480
    Bingaman (D-NM) No Yes Yes $492,042
    Byrd (D-WV) No Yes Yes $421,000
    Cantwell (D-WA) No No No $1,828,540
    Carper (D-DE) No Yes Yes $2,160,628
    Hagan (D-NC) No N/A Yes $545,000
    Johnson (D-SD) No No Yes $3,025,166
    Kaufman (D-DE) No Yes Yes $0*
    Landrieu (D-LA) No No Yes $2,388,634
    Lieberman (ID-CT) No Yes Yes $9,981,924
    Lincoln (D-AR) No Yes No $1,672,292
    Murray (D-WA) No Yes Yes $1,394,807
    Nelson (D-FL) No No Yes $2,667,406
    Nelson (D-NE) No Yes No $3,058,968
    Pryor (D-AR) No Yes Yes $1,322,948
    Shaheen (D-NH) No Yes No $659,000
    Specter (D-PA) No Yes Yes $5,757,910
    Stabenow (D-MI) No No Yes $1,736,406
    Tester (D-MT) No No “Present” (Yes) $473,226
    Warner (D-VA) No Yes Yes $1,950,479

    • cometman permalink*
      May 14, 2009 11:55 am

      Capping the rate is about the only thing that would have placed real restrictions on these parasites. What’s left of the bill sounds like mostly useless suggestions with no real teeth. From an AP release:

      With Obama demanding a bill on his desk by Memorial Day, the House has approved legislation containing some of the protections Obama seeks. A slightly different version is pending in the Senate, where a vote could come as early as this week.

      Both measures would ban interest rate increases on previous balances in most cases, and require that customers be given 45 days notice before their rates are hiked. The bills also would deter companies from giving a credit card to minors.

      So the credit card companies can still increase rates up into the 30% + range and basically continue business as usual as long as they let you know how bad they’re going to screw you a little bit sooner. All this amounts to is making the credit companies increase the size on the fine print that nobody actually reads anyway.

      And Obama chastised people for borrowing more than they could pay back. That’s fine to an extent. But how about rather than deterring companies giving cards to minors, they ban companies from doing so. How about the credit card companies being forced into having a little accountability themselves and when somebody is in over their heads, you cut off their credit rather than sending out 25 more credit card offers in the mail. These companies knew damn well they were giving out cards with more credit than the people they were giving them to could pay back. And when the whole scam goes south they go running for a goldmine bailout while the consumer gets the shaft from Congress again.

  10. cometman permalink*
    May 14, 2009 11:02 am

    What to make of this article documenting how Paulson told the banks to take the government bailout money or else.

    Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, describing nine U.S. banks as “central to any solution” of the credit crisis, told their leaders to take government aid or be forced to by regulators, according to a memo his staff prepared for a private meeting in October.

    “If a capital infusion is not appealing, you should be aware that your regulator will require it in any circumstance,” Paulson’s one-page list of talking points for the session with the banks’ chief executive officers said.

    “We don’t believe it is tenable to opt out because doing so would leave you vulnerable and exposed,” the memo said.

    This is something that has been talked about before but now we have actual proof it looks like. The only rationale I can see behind basically forcing banks that aren’t in that much trouble to take money they don’t need would be to make it look like all the banks are screwed so that people wouldn’t take their money out of the really bad ones. Basically Paulson the freemarketeer put up a smokescreen so the market wouldn’t work freely. If people really knew which banks were in trouble and how bad it was, they would have moved their money into other institutions that weren’t at risk and the bad ones would have failed. But the whole system wouldn’t have failed – just a lot of Paulson’s cronies I suspect. It’s interesting to note that when paulson got all these CEOs together, the only one he didn’t make a personal call to was Blankfein from Goldman Sux.

    The CEOs who attended were Kenneth Lewis of Bank of America Corp., Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc., Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co., John Thain of Merrill Lynch & Co., now part of Bank of America;Robert Kelly of Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Ronald Logue of State Street Corp., John Mack of Morgan Stanley and Richard Kovacevich of Wells Fargo & Co.

    Accompanying Paulson were Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair and New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner, who succeeded Paulson as Treasury secretary.

    The Monday meeting came after Paulson had huddled with Geithner, Bair and Treasury aides Sunday afternoon and then placed calls that evening to each CEO except Blankfein, according to the secretary’s daily log.

    But we’ve already heard how Blankfein was present when the decisions were made on which banks should fail (his competitors) and which shouldn’t (his own and the ones that owed Goldmna lots of money). Sounds like the Goldman CEO has been calling a lot of the shots that the government is supposed to be calling.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 14, 2009 11:44 am

      I think you’ve nailed their rationale. Before TARP there was the sinking of Wachovia and behind the scenes there was a major electronic run out of that bank by regular customers. I believe that was the fear, that customers of Shitty and BofA would high tail it. That would have sunk the titanic blatantly and quickly rather than quietly and in slowmo as has happened with Paulson’s and Geithner’s and Bernanke’s orchestration. They had to get those life rafts to the elites before it went under doncha know. That would not have been possible if the rabble and riffraff jumped ship en masse from the get go.

      That was the deal with the stress tests too, a way to spread the appearances of how far the damage extended to cover up that it was mostly those giant zombies that were too big to fail they failed anyway.

      The revelation of the memo is who exactly was there, that BushCo. was essentially nationalizing the banks from the start with GoldmanSuxCo calling the shots and that there is clear continuity between Paulson and Geithner.

  11. Stemella permalink*
    May 14, 2009 6:35 pm

    What the fucking fuck fuck???

    Prudential, Allstate Said to Be Among Insurers Cleared for TARP

    Life insurers applied for government bailouts last year as the recession pushed down the value of corporate debt and mortgage investments held to back policies. Ratings downgrades and stock declines across the industry made it harder for insurers to raise money from private investors.

    The Treasury funds “would further fortify our capital resources and provide us with additional financial flexibility during one of the most volatile market climates in our nation’s history,” Ramani Ayer, Hartford’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

    more pirates feeding at the trough. leeches and vampires all. grrrrrrrrrr

    • cometman permalink*
      May 15, 2009 8:14 am

      That’s what bugs me most about insurance companies, especially life insurance – they don’t make their money from selling insurance, they make it from investing the premiums in other things.

      At least with homeowner and auto insurance, odds are that not everybody who purchases it will use it so companies can theoretically turn a profit just from the core business. But with life insurance, everybody dies eventually so every policy will be paid out (except in some criminal cases). And if you have a million dollar policy, you won’t pay a million in premiums before collecting so there is no way for the company to make money from simply selling life insurance. They have to hope that they sign up more new customers every year than current customers who die and that is pretty much the definition of a Ponzi scheme. Either that or they have to invest the premiums in securities markets, which themselves are running quite the Ponzi scheme these days, and then hope that their investments rise faster than the number of people who croak every year.

      If we had a decent social safety net in this country, nobody would need life insurance in the first place. If you knew your kids could afford an education, or have their healthcare paid for, etc you would need insurance in case of your untimely demise.

      Life insurance is one of the biggest scams going and it is maddening that they are now lining up for their handouts too.

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