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Sunshine and Blue Skies

January 6, 2010

Been thinking of my friend Don Wilsun lately. He’s dead now but he used to be larger than life. “Sunshine and blue skies” was what he used to say in his big, booming voice when friends would greet him at the bar as he put away a pitcher or two of Labbat’s after work which was kind of a funny thing to say since there was rarely sunshine or blue skies in Seattle where he lived. Maybe he was thinking of New Orleans where he grew up or maybe it was a wish more than a statement of fact but it always made us smile. During the day he was a demolition man and used brawn and sinew to rip apart buildings. He didn’t talk about himself much so it wasn’t until I’d known him a few years that I realized he also wrote poetry about the poor and downtrodden and forgotten among us and had had a few small books published. I will never forget the Tuesday night in September over 8 years ago now after a day of death and destruction and fear. Don took me aside that night and the two of us stepped outside the bar and I knew he had something important to say.

He said, “We had it coming”.

Things haven’t gotten much better since Don passed in 2003. But I’m sure he’s basking in the sunshine and blue skies somewhere now and wishing the same for the rest of us.

Jock-o-mo fee na nay Big Don, my wise friend.

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56 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 9:56 am

    Absurdity abounds. A California airport was shut down because of a suspicious substance brought on to a plane. The substance was honey but somehow that didn’t stop the TSA workers who smelled it from getting sick and being rushed to the hospital.

    Two Transportation Security Administration employees reported feeling ill after smelling fumes from the honey, which was discovered in five Gatoraid bottles. Both TSA screeners were rushed to Meadows Field Hospital.

    ~snip~

    “After the all clear was given, officials said they were trying to determine why the honey tested positive for explosives and made the screeners so ill that they would need medical attention,” Reuters noted.

    Are we now such a nation of sheep that fear of teh terra is creating psychosomatic illnesses?

  2. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 10:26 am

    We’ve posted a few links here about Niall Ferguson including one to his program “The Ascent of Money” which aired on PBS and documented very well the history of the financial system over the last few hundred years. There was one part in the documentary where he alluded to the money lent to the poor as being a prime cause of the mortgage meltdown which I find to be untrue. But since the rest of the show was very factual I didn’t think much of it. But after reading this article – Empire and Entitlements – I have a better idea of why he made that statement. It appears that Ferguson doesn’t think much of the social structure at all and believes Social Security and Medicare need reform (ie cuts) before they bring the Empire to its knees.

    In Colossus, Niall Ferguson, perhaps the most prolific apologist for the global military adventures of the U.S. government, worries that the United States may not be able to continue to play its role of maintaining order in the world. “Order,” he maintains, “is the necessary precondition for liberty.” (One wonders about the liberty of those peoples whose societies are rent asunder by U.S. occupying forces, to say nothing of those who have died in the process. But leave that aside.)

    Ferguson’s argument is a variation of the idea of “imperial overreach,” by which imperial nations have tried to extend their power too far, placed too great a burden on their ability to finance the operations, thus weakened the economic basis of their power, and gone into decline. But for Ferguson, it is not the cost of foreign operations that “threatens the American with overreach. It is expenditure that is much closer to home.” Here he turns to the Gokhale-Smetters report, “Fiscal and Generational Imbalances” (2003), which, he tells us, shows that it is Social Security and Medicare expenditures that threaten the foundation of U.S. global operations.

    Always good to know who you’re dealing with.

  3. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 11:01 am

    Cephalopodicide! Dead octopi have been washing up on a Portuguese beach and nobody knows why.

    What is killing the octopus of Vila Nova de Gaia? That question has obsessed the Portuguese city — located just across the Douro River from Porto — since Jan. 2, when 1,100 lb. (500 kg) of dead octopus were found on a 1.8-mile (3 km) stretch of local beach. The following day, another 110 lb. (50 kg) appeared; later there was just one expired creature. “It’s very strange that so many should be killed, and in such a confined area,” says Nuno Oliveira, director of the Gaia Biological Park, a nature refuge on the outskirts of Vila Nova de Gaia. “There’s nothing in the scientific literature for this kind of mass mortality among octopus.”

    My first thought was that maybe they were like some types of squid which die in large numbers after mating, but I’d think researchers would now if this were the case. The article suggests that it was some disease which hit the local population but it also lists other possible alternatives for the cause of the beaching:

    In December 2007, Portuguese police confiscated 9.4 tons of cocaine in a shipment of frozen octopus from Venezuela. “I suppose it’s possible that someone defrosted the animals, took out the cocaine, then threw their bodies overboard,” says Weber. Still, like Oliveira, Weber is betting on a biological cause. “We’ve had swine flu, bird flu,” he says, not completely in jest. “Why not octopus flu?”

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 6, 2010 2:21 pm

      That is beyond fucked up, using animals to transport drugs. Even if the octopi were intended for the food market, the waste of their lives is disgusting. Poor cephalos. :(

      Speaking of seafood, naked capitalism had a piece up today about the Lobstah industry in case you missed it Let them eat lobster

      • cometman permalink*
        January 7, 2010 8:49 am

        I had missed that one. Those lobster fishermen definitely have been taking a hit lately. Last year around the holidays there were all kinds of ads encouraging people to serve lobster for their holiday meals because it was so cheap. It isn’t one of those species which is drastically overfished so there is still a very good supply but a lot of restaurants advertise lobster at “Market price” on the menu so people probably assume it’s still very expensive.

        It was long considered a garbage fish and was used to feed prisoners at one time in Maine. Then decades ago it was overfished but the fishermen have instituted pretty sustainable practices on their own since then. So now there are plenty of lobsters and also even more people fishing for them. Obviously going back to overfishing isn’t the best way to raise prices so the only way I can see to get prices high enough for existing fishermen to make a decent living is to have less fishermen and decrease the supply.

        In the meantime, I’ve cooked up a few cheap lobster dinners over the last couple years. It’s really cheap when you can get them straight from the boats.

  4. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 11:56 am

    Is there anything that can’t be commodified and sold? This one is kind of funny – now you can pretend to be the Fed chowing down cash in a new app for the iphone called iBailout.

    Link to the trailer for the game.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 6, 2010 2:15 pm

      Pet rocks. Need we say more? :^P

  5. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 12:05 pm

    Couple of stories about people who are at least trying to make the world a little better.

    Hotel workers picket and use other tactics against the Hilton in San Francisco – The San Francisco Hotel Dispute .

    Another case of making everything too big if you ask me. These giant hotels only operate at peak capacity for fairly brief periods of the year. Most of the time rooms just sit empty until some big event is staged or some convention comes to town. Management then claims they aren’t able to pay higher wages and still operate at a profit. So why are so many chains building so many big hotels when there is no glaring need for them? Just to get bigger and bigger because that’s the way it has to be in this broken capitalist system of ours.

    And whaling protesters take their fight directly to the Japanese whaling fleet and one of their boats is destroyed.

    PROTESTERS say they will step up their ”war” on Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean despite the loss of a front-line protest vessel yesterday in a dramatic collision with one of the whaling fleet.

    The Sea Shepherd group said it had no intention of pulling out of the conflict after the $2 million protest trimaran Ady Gil had its bow sheared off in the collision with the whaling ship Shonan Maru No. 2.

    Got a kick out of the fact that the protester’s new boat is called the “Bob Barker”.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 7, 2010 1:34 pm

      I don’t know if you saw Maddow’s interview with Bob Barker (!). It is named after him because he handed Watson a $5 million check to buy it.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 7, 2010 3:53 pm

        Hadn’t heard that. I suppose now they’ll have to put Barker on The List since he’s been giving material aid to “terrorists”.

  6. artemis54 permalink
    January 6, 2010 12:06 pm

    From Antiquity:

    Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purus: a complex society in western Amazonia

    Nice intro:

    It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The combination of land cleared of its rainforest for grazing and satellite survey have revealed a sophisticated pre-Columbian monument-building society in the upper Amazon Basin on the east side of the Andes. This hitherto unknown people constructed earthworks of precise geometric plan connected by straight orthogonal roads. Introducing us to this new civilisation, the authors show that the ‘geoglyph culture’ stretches over a region more than 250km across, and exploits both the floodplains and the uplands. They also suggest that we have so far seen no more than a tenth of it.

    From the journal of a nineteenth century European explorer:

    . . . the Indians later told us that was no more than an arrangement for parties.

    That’s the kind of thing people tell you when they figure it’s none of your business.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 7, 2010 9:12 am

      Really interesting article. I’m always amazed that ancient civilizations turn out to be a lot more advanced than anybody had given them credit for once the research is done. I think that speaks to just how much is forgotten and needs to be relearned once a society collapses – a lesson our leaders ought to be heeding right now but instead they seem intent on hastening the demise of this society as long as they can loot what they can before it goes down.

      But it was also encouraging to see how quickly the rainforest came back after that Amazon society collapsed. It was interesting to see that what was once considered pristine forest had actually been clear only a few hundred years before. The earth will survive somehow even if we fuck up civilization completely.

  7. cometman permalink*
    January 6, 2010 12:13 pm

    Good riddance to a spineless legislator – Wall Street water carrier Chris Dodd won’t run again. Evidently he was scared of getting the sleeper hold from Vince McMahon’s wife or daughter or WTF.

    Dodd had two potentially tough challengers, Republicans Rob Simmons, a former congressman from eastern Connecticut, and Linda McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment executive.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 6, 2010 2:11 pm

      Good news that Dodd is leaving, but the Senator likely to take his place on the Banking Committee in the midst of cough financial reform cough cough, is Senator Tim Johnson. Senator Johnson is the one that had a stroke a while back but returned in spite of some disability. He is also BFF of the Credit Card Companies so it is unlikely policy will improve under his guidance.

      Senator Tim Johnson, a champion of community banks and credit card companies, is expected to take over the chairmanship of the influential U.S. Senate Banking Committee in 2011.

      “Johnson is widely viewed as a friend of the credit card sector and his elevation to chairman should put to rest worries over interchange (the fee that stores pay banks for credit card purchases) and interest rate caps,” said policy analyst Jaret Seiberg at investment firm Concept Capital.

      Johnson was the only Democratic senator to vote last year against a credit card reform bill to curb sudden interest rate increases and hidden fees. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama in his first financial reform victory.

      Johnson’s succession assumes that Democrats can retain control of the Senate — a question made more pointed by Dodd’s news and Tuesday’s announcement by Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan that he, too, will not run for reelection in November.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 7, 2010 9:16 am

        Aaaaaaaah! I’d forgotten about that guy. Since he’s from South Dakota which along with Delaware is where all the credit companies set up shop tells you how seriously he’ll probably take financial “reform”.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    January 6, 2010 2:05 pm

    I’m sorry to know you lost your good wise friend. I used to know a guy we all called “crazy Dave” who had a similar sounding job. He’d work way up in the rafters of giant warehouses and factories, disassembling them, being exposed to asbestos and god knows what else. This was in the 80’s when manufacturing started to be outsourced under Reagan. Incredibly dangerous work. He also drove lawnmowers in the sky, ultralight planes, for kicks. I haven’t seen him in years, but I remember that he was also a salt of the earth great guy in spite of his love for danger.

    For your friend Don and my friend Dave

    • cometman permalink*
      January 7, 2010 9:22 am

      Very nice. Thanks.

  9. artemis54 permalink
    January 6, 2010 2:38 pm

    Are Bratislava and Newark airports under the same management?

    Just hearing the latest on the Newark security breach. Turns out there was a security camera trained on the area, but it was out of order. No one knew that because no one had looked at the video in several days.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 7, 2010 9:24 am

      Hard to tell just how scared we’re supposed to be about all this. The talking heads get on the TV demanding crackdowns and curtailment of civil liberties and yet the people who are supposed to be in charge of stopping the terra can’t even be bothered to cut short their ski junkets when informed of security lapses.

  10. sisdevore permalink
    January 6, 2010 6:54 pm

    horrible news about the Portuguese squids!

    oh, and the rest of the world, too.

    I wish our politicians–either party–were washing up on shores.

    uh-oh. will that comment put me on the no-fly list?

    I swear to goddess that nude models I hire for life drawing classes get more screening than the infamous Nigerian did.

    When I read about the Newark incident, it occurred to me that a suicide bomber could do much more damage at an airport that was filled with passengers for delayed flights due to a security shut-down than they could on a plane.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 6, 2010 7:12 pm

      Happy new years, Miss D. Agreed about the airport madness. Our country isn’t functioning very well these days.

  11. Stemella permalink*
    January 6, 2010 7:09 pm

    Four legs old

    Footprints show tetrapods walked on land 18m years earlier than thought

    They write that the prints “force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record”.

    The prints will further “shake up” scientific thinking over human origins, said Janvier, because they show tetrapods thrived in the sea, which is at odds with the long-held view that river deltas and lakes were the necessary environment for the transition from water to land during vertebrate evolution.

    “The closest elpistostegids were probably contemporaneous with these tracks,” he said. “We now have to invent a common ancestor to the tetrapods and elpistostegids.”

    Jenny Clark, a palaeontologist at Cambridge University, echoed Janvier’s belief that the findings would force scientists to re-examine their beliefs about the timing of the transition to land. “It blows the whole story out of the water, so to speak,” she said.

    I love it when that happens, that whole blowing stories out of the water kind of thing. Keeps us on our biped appendages. :)

    • cometman permalink*
      January 7, 2010 9:34 am

      Wow, that’s even older than our friend Tiktaalik which was dated to about 375 million years ago and had been the oldest tetrapod found.

      Here’s the Tiktaalik theme song again just because I haven’t had an earworm for a while ;)

      • Stemella permalink*
        January 7, 2010 1:12 pm

        Cute song! I think that the Rattus must be a nearly direct descendant of that Tiktaalik. There is a most definite rattusness about the beady eyes and pointy nose in spite of the finnish feetsies. ;)

  12. cometman permalink*
    January 7, 2010 9:47 am

    Here’s something to keep an eye on. Zerohedge has a post up claiming that new legislation would make short selling nearly impossible.

    Now it isn’t short selling that’s the problem, it’s the naked short selling otherwise known as counterfeiting and fraud that’s the problem. It’s unclear to me based on the post which type this amendment is supposed to address. Here’s some of the wording from the legislation:

    ‘‘(d) TRANSACTIONS RELATING TO SHORT SALES OF SECURITIES.—It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by the use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of any facility of any national securities exchange, or for any member of a national securities exchange to effect, alone or with one or more other persons, a manipulative short sale of any security. The Commission shall issue such other rules as are necessary or appropriate to ensure that the appropriate enforcement options and remedies are available for violations of this subsection in the public interest or for the protection of investors.’’.

    Now I’d think naked short selling would fall under the “manipulative” category but based on that wording other types of sales could as well. Seems to me it would be better to specifically define naked short selling and then qualify it as illegal. I haven’t read the entire amendment so maybe there is some language to that effect in there somewhere which Durden doesn’t highlight, but from the way he described it it certainly seems that normal short selling which causes a company’s stock price to tank, especially one considered “too big to fail”, could be construed as manipulative as well when it shouldn’t be. If investors see that a company’s fundamentals are not sound enough to justify the price of the stock, they should have every right to short it. Stay tuned to see how this pans out.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 7, 2010 1:21 pm

      Thanks for the heads up. I watched the testimony of an SEC related panel a while back and they all clearly argued that it was the naked shorts that were problematic, not short selling. The bankster reps were of course arguing to protect naked shorts as well as regular shorts. Interesting development. I’ll read up on it too.

  13. cometman permalink*
    January 7, 2010 9:55 am

    Will this be enough to keep Timmeh the Elf from being reappointed? Seems he sent some emails to AIG instructing them to deliberately keep the details of the bailout from the public.

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

    AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 7, 2010 1:24 pm

      It certainly should, but it won’t. The Goldie Sux are too firmly entrenched to let their man go.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 7, 2010 2:48 pm

        Oh yeah, here’s the link to the Timmeh story I forgot to put in above.

  14. cometman permalink*
    January 7, 2010 10:06 am

    Scientists are starting to analyze the first real data from the LHC. Woo hoo! Will the God particle show up soon?

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 7, 2010 1:31 pm

      Nice video. His voice reminds me of the guy who narrated the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

      Pretty amazing stuff about all those little particles.

  15. cometman permalink*
    January 7, 2010 12:50 pm

    Chris Floyd today on how far the Rule of Law has fallen in this nation. He speaks of the rule of law and how it was applied in WWII Germany and adds:

    Of course, as the Nazi regime plowed forward with its racist, militarist, imperialist agenda, this “rule of law” became increasingly elastic, countenancing a range of actions and policies that would have been considered heinous atrocities only a few years before. This trend was greatly accelerated after the Regime — claiming “self-defense” following an alleged “invasion” by a small band of raiders — launched a war which soon engulfed the world.

    Naturally, in such unusual and perilous circumstances, jurists were inclined to give the widest possible lee-way to the war powers of the state. After all, as one prominent judge declared, the war had pushed the nation “past the leading edge of a new and frightening paradigm, one that demands new rules be written. War is a challenge to law, and the law must adjust.”

    — No, wait. I must apologize for my mistake. That last quote was not, in fact, from a German jurist during the Nazi regime, but from a ruling issued this week by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — one of the highest courts in the land. The quoted opinion — written by the legally appointed Judge Janice Rogers Brown — was part of a sweeping ruling that greatly magnified the powers of the government to seize foreigners and hold them indefinitely without charges or legal appeal.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 7, 2010 1:01 pm

      And speaking of the rule of law ot the lack thereof, here’s one I missed when they snuck the court decision in on New Year’s Eve. A judge has dismissed all charges against the Blackwater employees who slaughtered Iraqi civilians in 2007. According the the transcript from Democracy Now it appears that the judge may have had pretty legitimate reasons for dismissing the case as the prosecution engaged in some unethical behavior that may have been done intentionally to sabotage the case and make sure the Blackwater employees wouldn’t see justice.

      AMY GOODMAN: Last Thursday, Judge Urbina dismissed the charges against the five Blackwater guards, saying US Justice Department prosecutors had built their case on sworn statements that the guards had given under a promise of immunity. He said the government’s explanations were, quote, “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility.”

      ~snip~

      SCOTT HORTON: And specifically what they did is they took statements that were taken by the Department of State against a grant of immunity; that is, the government investigators told the guards, “Give us your statement, be candid, be complete, and we promise you we won’t use your statement for any criminal charges against you.” But the Justice Department prosecutors took those statements and in fact used them. They used them before the grand jury. They used them to build their entire case. And they did this notwithstanding warnings from senior lawyers in the Justice Department that this was improper and could lead to dismissal of the case. It almost looks like the Justice Department prosecutors here wanted to sabotage their own case. It was so outrageous.

      AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that’s possible?

      SCOTT HORTON: I think it is possible. Specifically in this case, there were briefings that occurred on Capitol Hill early on in which senior officials of the Justice Department told congressional investigators, staffers and congressmen that essentially they didn’t want to bring the case. In fact, one of the congressmen who was present at these briefings told me they were behaving like defense lawyers putting together a case to defend the Blackwater employees, not to prosecute them. And I think we see the evidence of that copiously in Judge Urbina’s opinion.

      There is no Justice anymore.

      • Stemella permalink*
        January 7, 2010 1:36 pm

        Justice is for the rich and well connected. And that really isn’t justice either. Hard to argue your final point. We are not a nation of law. We are instead a rather large subsidiary of a vast corporation with an extremely active advertising department known as the Media and a barely functional office management team known as the US government.

  16. cometman permalink*
    January 7, 2010 4:25 pm

    Here’s a little bit of justice. Just caught the local news which said that Amber Cummings og Belfast Maine was given a suspended sentence by the judge for the murder of her abusive husband a while ago. The judge said that she had suffered enough already at her husband’s hands and it wouldn’t be appropriate to make her life even worse by sending her to prison. So far so good.

    But that isn’t the whole story because the TV report made no mention of who exactly James Cummings was or what he’d been up to before his wife put a cap in his ass. This hastily put together blurb fleshes things out a little bit but somehow manages to get the date of the murder wrong. Because if you check this older account from the Bangor Daily News you’ll find that the white supremacist Hitler fancying James Cummings who had a stash of radioactive materials and bomb making equipment in his basement was actually shot in 2008, not 2007.

    And of course even the Bangor Daily News story came out only after a couple months had passed since the murder. And although this guy wasn’t coerced or entrapped like so many of the brown skinned people with funny sounding names who wind up being detained but had decided to make bombs of his own volition, there hasn’t been much of a peep about this story since.

    How many of our civil liberties have been taken away because George Bush suspected Jose Padilla of plotting a “dirty bomb” attack even though no material evidence seems to have been found in Padilla’s case and he was never actually charged with this crime. But for good measure US authorities did manage to drive him insane after a few years of torture.

    But here we have a guy who was caught with a whole basement full of this stuff, albeit after he had shuffled off his mortal coil, and we hear barely a peep about it in the media. I guess if your a white bubba good ol’ boy with a shit ton of illegal weaponry, that’s just a fraternity prank or something.

  17. Stemella permalink*
    January 8, 2010 7:10 am

    So much for No Drama Team Obama

    Peter Orszag, head of the OMB, was brought up here regarding his potential destructive tendencies towards Social Security. It turns out he has some Tabloid issues.

    President Obama’s budget guru has a secret love child — with the woman he jilted before hooking up with his hot new fiance, The Post has learned.

    White House budget director Peter Orszag’s ex, shipping heiress Claire Milonas, gave birth to little Tatiana Zoe in New York Nov. 17. That was just six weeks before Orzsag and ABC news babe Bianna Golodryga gleefully announced their engagement on national TV and in the press.

    Orszag and Milonas, the daughter of New York-based Greek shipping magnate Spiros Milonas, were a serious item when he met the stunning Golodgryga at the White House correspondence dinner. link

    Also, here’s another story on the Elvin AIG transactions with emails included

    N.Y. Fed Told A.I.G. Not to Disclose Swap Details

    • cometman permalink*
      January 8, 2010 9:52 am

      More heat on Geithner – Eliot Spitzer and William Black call for the release of more AIG emails and they want them made public for a real open-source investigation.

  18. Stemella permalink*
    January 8, 2010 7:34 am

    New BLS unemployment numbers are out, with overall U3 remaining at 10% with 85K additional jobs lost. Of course the numbers from October and November have been readjusted.

    From Calculated Risk

    Employment fell in construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, while temporary help services and health care added jobs.

    Nonfarm payrolls decreased by 85,000 in December. The economy has lost almost 4.2 million jobs over the last year, and 7.24 million jobs1 since the beginning of the current employment recession.

    Speaking of employment and layoffs, I saw the movie “Up in the Air” yesterday about a guy who fires people for a living, a corporate cannibal, and it is a very good film. It is an indictment of the modern American sick and corporate soul.

    I also saw this morning that a movie about Jack Abramoff will be coming out soon with Kevin Spacey in the lead role. It is supposed to be a crime comedy. It’s called Casino Jack.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 8, 2010 9:38 am

      Seems like the oligarchs are still touting “less bad” as the “new good” from the articles I’ve seen recently on some of these types of figures. Meanwhile people keep picking up guns and shooting up government buildings or their former workplaces. How many have we seen in just the last week and yet who will ever make the connection that just maybe some of this violence might be connected to the way people have seen their livelihoods taken away by the ruinous policies of the oligarchs who call the shots in this country?

      That “Up in the Air” movie sounds really good. If you haven’t seen it yet Clooney’s movie “Micheal Clayton” from a couple years ago also was a good indictment of our sick system. I like Kevin Spacey quite a bit too. It’ll be interesting to see how all the bad actors on that character list like Rove, Ralph Reed, etc are portrayed.

  19. Stemella permalink*
    January 8, 2010 7:52 am

    Some Sci-Fi authors believe “Google Books” to be a Dystopian Nightmare

    That thought has been niggling at me for weeks, ever since Ursula K. Le Guin quit the Authors Guild in protest over the proposed deal. “There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle,” she wrote in a fiery letter of resignation. Noting opposition to the settlement by the National Writers Union and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, she told the guild she would remain a member of those less influential organizations.

    Yesterday both of those groups, along with the American Society of Journalists and Authors, sent Congress a letter (text below) decrying the proposed settlement as unfair. “There are millions of book authors in this country who could be locked into an agreement they don’t understand and didn’t ask for,” they wrote. Arguing that genuine “orphan works belong to We, The People,” not to Google, they added: “The Constitution says copyright is essential and gives Congress responsibility for it, not Google and a gaggle of lawyers.”

    Sci-fi authors have an uncanny ability to imagine the dangerous directions in which the world could — and sometimes does — go when technology and corporations are unreined. But they don’t get a lot of respect, at least not until someone notices that their predictions have come true.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 8, 2010 9:24 am

      Those sci fi authors are right. I simply don’t understand how all this material can be taken out of the public domain and just handed to Google. On what authority do you take an orphaned book that belongs to nobody and say that Google has all rights to it in the future? What next? Are all hubcaps that fall off a car now going to become the property of ALCOA? Is all the fuel from lost lighters now the property of Exxon/Mobil? I don’t think either of those scenarios is any more ridiculous than the deal Google is getting.

      I just checked the Project Gutenberg website to see if they discussed this at all but i didn’t see anything. I really need to sign up there and start helping them out. Check out their list of top downloads. They are making a lot of very good literature available to people for free through the efforts of volunteers. Imagine that – people doing something good without the expectation of financial gain.

      • Stemella permalink*
        January 8, 2010 11:44 am

        Shocking that that Kama Sutra is in the top five! ;) You are right, so many great books available there. I downloaded a couple while I was visiting.

        I have a feeling that we will someday rue the day that we once liked teh google. Even more than Bill Gates’ products, google will probably come to monopolize most aspects of our daily lives and we will regret it. People, especially the youngins’ are marching up the steps into Moloch’s gaping maw as they lay bare every aspect of their lives, thoughts and inquiries into the big machine that is social networking software and texting.

        The sci fi writers have already seen it and we have been warned.

  20. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 8:51 am

    Simon Johnson attempts to explain why financial markets based on nothing more than cheerleading aren’t going to go up forever. Pinheads at CNBC still can’t grasp the concept.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 8, 2010 11:50 am

      I loved how he laughed at their gasping at his perspective. I think he nailed it by calling the economy a bunch of frothiness. Like truthiness, the financial picture is all froth. Mythical monopolies thriving off bilious balloons of baloney based on the blood and sweat of neo-feudal slavery.

  21. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 8:55 am

    This made me smile this morning and probably Siegfried and Roy too- Five White Tigers Born in the Santiago Zoo in Chile.

  22. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 9:42 am

    Maybe I shouldn’t laugh at this but I can’t help it – Man arrested after attacking wife with meatloaf. Hahahahahhaha!!!

    When Lance David Ziegler was told Wednesday by his wife that she was leaving him, he picked up a meatloaf that was on the couple’s kitchen table and smeared it into her face, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report.

    She called authorities and when deputies arrived, they found his wife’s face slightly red with a small amount of sauce on it.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 8, 2010 11:56 am

      Funny that this all took place in Manatee. haha That is so wrong. At the very least he could have used a pie. ;P

      • cometman permalink*
        January 8, 2010 12:11 pm

        I can’t believe I missed such an easy punchline. Oh the hu-maNaTee! :P

  23. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 9:48 am

    Blackwater isn’t quite out of the woods yet, although they’ll likely get the whitewash they are looking for eventually if past actions are any guide. But just after charges were thrown out against five Blackwater employees for the murders of innocent Iraqis in 2007, new murder charges have been filed against two more employees.

    Two former guards with the security company Blackwater have been charged in the US with the murder of Afghan civilians in a case likely to reinforce accusations that the firm ran a rogue militia that showed a reckless disregard for human life.

    ~snip~

    …the company’s actions are likely to come under legal examination after all following the indictment of Justin Cannon, 27, and Chris Drotleff, 29, for murder and other offences after they opened fire on a car following a traffic accident in Kabul. Two people were killed and one wounded.

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 8, 2010 12:02 pm

      Jeremy Scahill was on the Rachel Maddow show last night and they discussed how two of the men killed along with the CIA agents in Afghanistan were Blackwater employees. He also said a third man who was wounded and still alive was also Blackwater. Apparently one of the congress members of the intelligence committee, I believe it was Jan Schakowsky, has started an investigation.

      The pertinent question is, why are these guys still at the epicenter of sensitive American operations overseas after all that is now known about their tendency towards murder and mayhem? Why is that Obama? I’m sure we’ll never know, though Scahill will do his best to inform us.

      • Stemella permalink*
        January 8, 2010 12:04 pm

        Here is Scahill’s coverage of this aspect of Blackwater in the Nation

        Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

        • cometman permalink*
          January 8, 2010 1:34 pm

          It appears that the CIA base that was bombed was part of the drone assassination program.

          The CIA base attacked by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week was at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by the agency’s remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, officials familiar with the installation said yesterday.

          There have been reports recently that Blackwater was involved with the drone program in the past. If Scahill’s report is correct that would be a further indication that this base was part of the drone program and that Panetta has been lying through his teeth when he says Blackwater isn’t involved.

          This WSJ article mentions that the base was part of an informant network but doesn’t specifically mention the drone program.

          Its primary role has been to run informant networks in Afghanistan and over the border, said one former agency official. “That was one of the bases where they were paying people and running people and sending them into Pakistan,” he said.

          I read another article that I can’t put my finger on which said that informants were allowed into the base with few to no security checks because the agents needed the info fast in order to launch quick drones strikes based on what they were being told.

          From the WSJ piece again:

          CIA spokesman George Little said that the attack serves as a reminder of the dangerous nature of the CIA’s work. “There’s still a lot to be learned about what happened,” he said.

          And then this:

          The CIA’s activities on the base were an open secret locally, he [a former agency official] added, “al Qaeda knows it and the townspeople know it and the Taliban know it.”

          There is only so much that can be known for sure about what really happened when we’re depending on info from a bunch of anonymous spooks. But they’re running a CIA base that all the locals know about to bomb the living shit out of those said locals and they can’t quite put your finger on what happened and why?

          Have to say it’s impossible to muster any sympathy for those who were sowing their seeds to the wind…

  24. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 10:03 am

    Whaddya know? The unions win one once in a while – How the Teamsters Beat Goldman Sachs .

  25. cometman permalink*
    January 8, 2010 10:13 am

    Fascinating discovery from the particle world for fractal fans. The Golden Ratio which has been used in many works of art and has been found in nature in nautilus shells among other things has now been observed on the nanoscale.

    On the atomic scale particles do not behave as we know it in the macro-atomic world. New properties emerge which are the result of an effect known as the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. In order to study these nanoscale quantum effects the researchers have focused on the magnetic material cobalt niobate. It consists of linked magnetic atoms, which form chains just like a very thin bar magnet, but only one atom wide and are a useful model for describing ferromagnetism on the nanoscale in solid state matter.

    When applying a magnetic field at right angles to an aligned spin the magnetic chain will transform into a new state called quantum critical, which can be thought of as a quantum version of a fractal pattern. Prof. Alan Tennant, the leader of the Berlin group, explains “The system reaches a quantum uncertain — or a Schrödinger cat state. This is what we did in our experiments with cobalt niobate. We have tuned the system exactly in order to turn it quantum critical.”

    By tuning the system and artificially introducing more quantum uncertainty the researchers observed that the chain of atoms acts like a nanoscale guitar string. Dr. Radu Coldea from Oxford University, who is the principal author of the paper and drove the international project from its inception a decade ago until the present, explains: “Here the tension comes from the interaction between spins causing them to magnetically resonate. For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture.” Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. “It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system — a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material,” he explains.

  26. artemis54 permalink
    January 8, 2010 12:16 pm

    The White Nose mystery deepens:

    Europe’s Bats Resist Fungal Scourge of North America

    The same fungus that has devastated bat colonies in the northeastern United States has been identified for the first time in Europe—in a healthy bat. “The astonishing thing is that [the fungus] affects North American bats so devastatingly, but that European bats can get along with it,” says Christian Voigt, a bat physiologist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin.

    . . . . .

    On 12 March, Sébastien Puechmaille of University College Dublin (UCD) spotted a mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) covered with fungus in a cave 130 kilometers northeast of Bordeaux, France. Microscopic examination of the spores and two molecular markers showed that it was G. destructans, the team reported online 29 December in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Another group, led by Gudrun Wibbelt of IZW, has also identified the fungus in bats from three other European countries, none reporting bat deaths.

    . . . . .

    One scenario is that G. destructans has been present in Europe for a long time, and European bat species have evolved immunity, says Emma Teeling of UCD, the senior author of the December paper. Or perhaps the fungus evolved greater virulence after arriving in North America, a possibility that could be investigated with further sequencing.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 8, 2010 12:25 pm

      Even systematics freaks are human. Geomyces destructans joins the elite group of organisms whose very name denotes it as an object of hatred even from its discoverers. Along with the Russian wheat aphid – Diuraphis noxia – and Hessian fly – Mayetiola destructor. It would be interesting to compile a complete list.

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