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Spring Equinox – The Void Could Use Some Cleaning

March 21, 2010

The image above is a composite of microwave images taken by the Planck satellite and depicts the dust structures of the Milky Way within about 500 light years of our sun. The horizontal line near the bottom of the image is the plane of the galaxy containing its stars. The rest is dirt. More information from the European Space Agency website.

The image has been colour coded to discern different temperatures of dust. White-pink tones show dust of a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, whereas the deeper colours are dust at around –261°C, only about 12 degrees above absolute zero. The warmer dust is concentrated into the plane of the Galaxy whereas the dust suspended above and below is cooler.

And you thought your house was messy.

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. artemis54 permalink
    March 21, 2010 12:00 pm

    Dust and crap all over the place.

    Maybe god is a man after all.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 22, 2010 7:39 am

      Ha! And that’s just the dust. The description at the link notes that the image doesn’t even include all the gas…

  2. cometman permalink*
    March 22, 2010 7:45 am

    Other interesting physics news. Researchers using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Lab may have broken the laws of physics – but just for one millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second.

  3. cometman permalink*
    March 22, 2010 9:01 am

    Naked Capitalism has become my favorite source for financial news. Yves is very knowledgeable herself and the links and articles she posts from others run the gamut of simply spoken pieces designed to educate those with not much background to articles filled with financialese that you need a lot of background to understand.

    I think it’s abundantly clear that the financial problems are systemic and need a major overhaul to fix. This is NOT just a concern for those who take an interest in the byzantine workings of the economic system because the way it works affects every single person on the planet from the titans of industry to the fisherman on the Maldives hoping his home won’t be underwater. And the reason everyone should be interested is because of the interest – the fact that the economic system the world runs on is designed to feed on more and more debt causing economies to rise exponentially which is simply not possible in the long run in a finite world. Propping up this monster only speeds up the inevitable collapse not just of the financial system but of the ecological system it has taken nature millions of years to create, and yet that is exactly what has been going on for hundreds of years. The practice of making shady, unethical, and illegal financial practices legal after the fact is not a new phenomenon but has been going for quite some time.

    I finally got around to reading and watching most of the videos in this Washington’s Blog post that I first saw at Naked Capitalism. I highly recommend watching the 47 minute video about halfway down called “Money as Debt” which explains in simple terms how our current financial system came about. The first part may be a little too simplistic and the end gets a little weird but overall I think it does an excellent job of explaining the basics of where money comes from and how our current system works. The quote from John Kenneth Galbraith sums things up quite well:

    “The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.”
    – Economist John Kenneth Galbraith

    The way things are currently run there is no money without debt, debt is created out of thin air and the only thing keeping the whole system together is trust. That isn’t too hard to figure out just by thinking about things for a few minutes. The thing that really struck me from the video is that since there is no “real” money to start with debts will never be completely repaid and for the economy to function debt must get larger and larger all the time. This is because when banks create the money as debt they charge interest but they don’t create the money for the interest – the only way to pay back a loan is to take out another one. As long as the value of the economy goes up through increased goods and services in step with the amount of money being lent everything stays OK – for a while. But at some point either nobody needs as many goods and services as are required to keep the debt pyramid going and the whole financial system collapses, or there are no natural resources left to produce the goods and services and the whole financial system collapses along with the environment and probably a lot of governments too.

    Now if this system were well regulated to keep the vig being extracted down to a dull roar it wouldn’t be that bad. But it isn’t well regulated and is only getting worse. If we are going to keep using this system there need to be some serious controls put in in a big hurry.

    Rather than rambling on about this I’m going to dump a few more links which explain this better than I can, but first a caveat. One of the quotes from that long video which piqued my interest was this one:

    “We are completely dependent on the commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the Banks create ample synthetic money we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is. It is the most important subject intelligent persons can investigate and reflect upon.”

    Robert H. Hemphill, Credit Manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1934

    Never heard of this guy before so when I did a search I kept seeing the same quote on some dubious looking libertarian type websites but not much about Hemphill himself. I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t some urban legend like that quote attributed to Caesar that made the rounds a few years back. It does appear that Hemphill was a real person and the quote comes from the intro to an economics book by Irving Fisher called “100% Money”. If you follow too many links on the subject you do make your way to Austrian school economics and of course from there to nutty libertarians, but I do think the facts of how the banking system actually works I found are pretty sound and Yves Smith must too since she keeps posting articles about this at her website.

    Anyway here are a few more, and as always parts should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

    A discussion of Irving Fisher’s book “100% Money” which calls for a 100% reserve banking system.

    An article from Ellen Brown which among other things mentions that the government could simply create money directly rather than borrowing it from the Fed.

    And another from Washington’s Blog describing how we don’t even really have a fractional banking system anymore because the reserve standards have been loosened so much.

    When you hear these ideas put into simple terms and think about it for a while, it becomes even more clear how we got into this mess and why the system has gotten so complicated with derivatives and other exotic financial instruments – there is no “real” money, the ever increasing interest needed to keep the system afloat is not sustainable and the bankers know this, and so we wind up with all this convoluted nonsense in an attempt to create more debt to keep the whole thing going. But the general public can’t handle the debt so to create the illusion that everything is fine the big banks trade exotic debt instruments among themselves and hope they aren’t the ones holding the bag when the whole things collapses. So far Goldman and a few others have been very adept at passing the bag full of crap along to others.

    Apologies again for the ramble but there is a lot of food for thought in those articles.

  4. cometman permalink*
    March 22, 2010 9:34 am

    So the piece of crap health care “reform” passed the House and is likely to be signed into law. Whoop-de-doo. As long is this legislation does nothing to restrain costs, which it doesn’t, all it will do is force millions of people to have “insurance” that has enormous deductibles and doesn’t cover everything. Like I have already. But the politicians will be able to claim people are “insured” even if the insurance they have still keeps them away from the hospital because they’d still go bankrupt trying to pay what insurance doesn’t cover. After being charged almost $1000 out of pocket last year for a brief dizzy spell which sent me to the emergency room only to be given a glass of water and told to go home and rest, I won’t be returning to the hospital any time soon unless hit by some large object which manages not to kill me outright first.

    Chris Hedges has a good article on this travesty today – The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 22, 2010 1:09 pm

      Discussed this with my sister last night. We are inclined towards Miss Devore’s view: the sun still came up this morning, and it is kind of fun watching certain heads explode.

      • cometman permalink*
        March 22, 2010 1:37 pm

        Watching the heads explode is a benefit and as the sun came up today my situation and that of millions of others is not really worse than it already was. The part that chafes me the most is that now certain Dems will be prancing around like they just cured cancer when all they did was the whole deck chair/Titanic bit.

        Guess I just don’t like propaganda no matter what side it’s coming from. Not sure which I find more distasteful – the conservative leadership egging on the ignorant teabaggers or the Democratic leadership acting like they did everyone a favor when they are certainly not ignorant of the fact that they really didn’t. An honest assessment from the leadership on either side of the debate would have been nice, but that obviously asking far too much in this day and age.

        I can hardly wait for the next big issue “debate” to start.

  5. cometman permalink*
    March 22, 2010 10:23 am

    Some posts on the Empire’s ongoing illegal and unconscionable wars.

    Andy Worthington on Iraq- Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Bush and Cheney’s Torture, Lies.

    David Micheal Greene on Afghanistan – Stumbling About in the Graveyard of Empires.

    And Chris Floyd explains why the US will never “win” anything in Afghanistan because they can’t even stop murdering the innocent women, children and their husbands who are their fucking allies – Night Riders: Afghan Atrocity and American Values.

    Make sure to read that last one – in the middle of a celebration to name a newborn child the US blows away two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and two men who had assisted the US troops against the Taliban. And now the survivors want revenge and may start suicide attacks of their own. Unbelievable how fucked up the US has made the entire world.

  6. artemis54 permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:49 am

    Octopuses are excited by high definition television.

    It appears that standard definition moving images are not sufficiently “convincing” for the sophisticated cephalopods, say the scientists.

    No description of the controls here. It might just be that they’re happy to have Jay back on late night.

  7. cometman permalink*
    March 23, 2010 6:38 am

    Ok I promise I will shut up about the stupid stupid health care “debate” real soon. Just a couple more article I liked touching on the overall dumbness and the fact that this was essentially a bill the right should love even though none of them voted for it.

    From William Rivers Pitt

    The direct message intended by this passage [quoted at the link] is that Obama failed to follow through on a campaign and administration promise to end the madness of political partisanship and work together to get things done. Got that? It’s Obama’s fault that not one Republican voted in favor of this very Republican bill.

    That, right there, is some magical stupidity.

    And from Matt Taibbi

    The new Democratic Party is an excellent substitute for the old Nixon/Ford Republican Party. They even passed Nixon’s vision of a health care plan.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 23, 2010 9:47 am

      Ok just a little more. Listening to Michael Moore on Democracy Now! today and he is expressing his dismay with the health care bill. But like Kucinich, he claims that it needed to pass otherwise “<0" and the Democrats would have no chance of getting anything else passed for the next few years. Later in the interview he says he does not think "<0" and the Dems will do anything to stand up to the corporate interests.

      So I have to ask, if you don't like this bill and you think that "<0" will cave to the corporate interests on future legislation and you are diametrically opposed to those corporate interests, why in the hell would you be concerned that his future agenda won't pass? I'd think Moore et al would be happy if there are enough to thwart bad legislation that puts profits ahead of actual people.

      This line of argument makes absolutely no logical sense and I am very dismayed to hear it coming from so many liberal voices.

      All it will do is enable carbon credit legislation to pass and be used instead of real regulation limiting and stopping hazardous emissions, and any number of other measures loved by the corporate world that do no good for anybody.

      Why does there seem to be no one in the public eye who can be consistent?

    • triv33 permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:16 am

      Nay! Nay! Don’ t shut up. I’m real fucking tired of asking a question or giving an example of something that’s a problem in this bad boy and being spammed with the same shit list of talking points, having my bonafides as a Dem being questioned or having it implied that anyone who doesn’t see that this Bill is…justexactlywhatwewerewpromisedohmygodwhatareyousomekindofaracist? by the new religionists…well, just don’t shut up.

      • cometman permalink*
        March 24, 2010 9:23 am

        Ha! Thanks for the encouragement. Mostly I am just sick and tired of the whole stupid discussion. I tried to avoid discussing it for the most of the past year since there are so many other interesting things to talk about but I’m sure I’ll broach the subject again.

        And I know exactly what you mean about the Obamadidjustexactlywhatwewerewpromisedohmygodwhatareyousomekindofaracist? people though. I’d like to smack them silly. If these people really think what we’ve gotten is exactly what Obama promised (and it’s pretty hard to tell what he promised since he equivocated so much) then I have to wonder why those on the left voted for something they knew they wouldn’t really like. I think most people who voted for “<0" expected a whole hell of a lot better than what we've gotten. Hell, I didn’t vote for him and still I expected better than this. Instead we’ve got a Reagan republican claiming to be a Democrat and people keep cheerleading for more without seeming to notice what’s going on.

        • cometman permalink*
          March 24, 2010 9:58 am

          Here I go broaching it again already. Chris Floyd channeling “<0" sums things up pretty well – Closing Time: An Historic Confirmation of Corporate Power.

  8. cometman permalink*
    March 23, 2010 6:45 am

    So ACORN finally gets vindicated both by the courts and with a reluctant apology from the NY Times for their rotten coverage of the non-story. But the damage has been done, both by Congress who illegally as it turns out denied them funding and by the difficulty in raising private funds after the salacious stories came out. Now ACORN is shutting its offices permanently.

    Following months of relentless attacks by Republicans over a manufactured scandal alleging employees doled out illegal advice to a right-wing filmmaker and his conservative colleague, the poor people’s advocacy group ACORN announced Monday that it will permanently shut its doors.

    “It’s really declining revenue in the face of a series of attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activist that have taken away our ability to raise the resources we need,” said ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan.

    More on the story from Bradblog.

    After years of ACORN registering voters who primarily voted for Democrats, the Democratic party rushed to condemn ACORN and now can’t be bothered to lift a finger to help, or even notice.

  9. cometman permalink*
    March 23, 2010 7:49 am

    Ran across one of Gerald Casale’s (of DEVO fame) side projects – Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers!

    That video is a little grainy, you can watch a better quality version here.

    The Jihad Jerry mission –

    Greetings, Spuds! I am Jihad Jerry and declare that MINE IS NOT A HOLY WAR! Rather, it is a war on stupidity as thankless and futile as the war on drugs. What we “believe” matters not. Men believed the moon was made of green cheese. It wasn’t, so believe what you will, but do not make others eat from your plate. You look through your glasses, the rest of the world looks at them. Remember this and I tip my music-filled Turban to you as my Evildoers dance for your pleasure.

    And his rather odd website – Mineisnotaholywar.com.

  10. cometman permalink*
    March 23, 2010 8:44 am

    Good article mentioning the iron dumping that melvin had brought up earlier – We Cannot ‘Techno-Fix’ Our Way to a Sustainable Future.

    Once again it is the indigenous peoples who are the real leaders –

    The decision to resort to technofixes to geoengineer our only planet is not up to the handful of profit-seeking businessmen donning lab coats at Asilomar this week. The planet is our collective responsibility. The world views held by many earth inhabitants, including most if not all indigenous peoples, is that we are not Mother Earth’s “mechanics”, but rather integral parts of her. This view is part of the conciousness of “Pachamama” which will be visibly present at the “negotiating tables” in the upcoming World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, being held in Bolivia next month.

    I, for one, will feel far more hopeful about my children’s future if decisions about climate geoengineering come not from Asilomar and the “profitable technofix” mindset, but rather out of Bolivia, with the Rights of Mother Earth as their basis.

  11. artemis54 permalink
    March 23, 2010 11:34 am

    Bravo to some folks I know well: A Million Apples for Haiti

  12. cometman permalink*
    March 23, 2010 1:05 pm

    Ha! It isn’t just the US which is filled with religious nutjobs. Indian skeptic Sanal Edamaruku has been battling them for 25 years.

    The Indian Rationalist Association was founded officially in Madras in 1949 with the encouragement of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who sent a long letter of congratulations. For the next three decades it had no more than 300 members and focused on publishing pamphlets and debating within the country’s intellectual elite.

    But since Mr Edamaruku took over in 1985, it has grown into a grass-roots organisation of more than 100,000 members — mainly young professionals, teachers and students — covering most of India. Members now spend much of their time investigating and reverse-engineering “miracles” performed by self-styled holy men who often claim millions of followers and amass huge wealth from donations.

    A couple years ago one holy roller claimed he could kill a man using his magic powers alone and Edamaruku challenged the guy to kill him on live TV. Here’s a video of part of it:

    My Hindi is a little rusty, but the remarks made by Edamaruku in between guffaws translate loosely as “The price of meat has just gone up and your old lady has just gone down!”

    Take us on out Mr. Z!

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 24, 2010 12:57 am

      Reminds me of the time I made the terrible mistake of posting about fundamentalist creationist Islam on dk or one of the other fanatic sites, I don’t remember which. Big mistake as it didn’t fit it with the daily talking points.

  13. cometman permalink*
    March 24, 2010 10:08 am

    Great. The US is now hiring defense contractors to help those troublesome brown people train their own Justice departments. I assume they’ll be using the US as a model.

    Lockheed Martin Corp. became the nation’s No. 1 military contractor by selling cutting-edge weaponry like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    Its latest contribution to the U.S. arsenal: training prosecutors in Liberia’s Justice Ministry.

    The U.S. government has hired the defense contractor to test an emerging tenet of its security policy. Called “smart power,” it blends military might with nation-building activities, in hopes of boosting political stability and American influence in far-flung corners such as Liberia.

    ~snip~

    Defense firms are eager to oblige. “The definition of global security is changing,” says Lockheed’s Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Stevens. He wants the maker of the Air Force’s most advanced fighters to become a central player in the U.S. campaign to use economic and political means to align countries with American strategic interests.

    Last year, Lockheed had two of its highest profile programs, the F-22 Raptor fighter and a fleet of presidential helicopters, ended by the Obama administration. Now, Lockheed is one of several defense firms expected to bid for a State Department contract to support “criminal justice sector development programs world-wide,” that could be worth up to $30 billion over five years.

    What could possibly go wrong????

  14. cometman permalink*
    March 24, 2010 10:32 am

    A territory dispute between India and Bangladesh over who owns a small island in the Indian Ocean has ended.

    Because the island is now underwater.

  15. cometman permalink*
    March 24, 2010 12:04 pm

    Although he has a few blind spots IMO (like his seeming adoration for his former boss St. Ronnie), I’ve enjoyed reading Paul Craig Roberts ever since I first ran across him at Counterpunch and his reporting on economic issues has been particularly good. But I could never find his articles anywhere but Counterpunch and wondered why somebody with his credentials was only printed there. He answers that question in his column today.

    I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week’s first outside columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the American “mainstream media.”

    For the last six years I have been banned from the “mainstream media.” My last column in the New York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer representing New York. We addressed the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate was launched. No such thing could happen today.

    For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush’s wars of aggression, the order came down to Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.

    The American corporate does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government.

    Hard to tell, but from the end of the piece it looks like he may be one of a growing list of people who have given up trying and decided to just fuck it all.

    With over 21 per cent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs, GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington’s greatest commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the “war on terror,” the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of history.

    The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.

    If so, it’s hard to blame the guy.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 24, 2010 12:33 pm

      If Roberts is calling it a day, heading south of the border to smoke a little dope with Joe Bageant might be good for what ails him.

      Snap to, Bageant! Collect yourself. You’ve got stuff to do. Stuff to give a shit about. Like finding Maria.

      Oh yeah, Maria, the Indian curanda who sells eight-inch bud in a plastic bottle for three bucks. The bud is drowned in pure alcohol, the same stuff the charros drink up in the hills, and the solution is sold as an ointment to be rubbed on the joints for arthritis pain. Some gringos pour it in Sprite.

      Well then. To hell with this brooding over dark days. Let us find Maria. Larry the cop says, “Count me in. Let’s go.”

      So goodbye Kokopelli, I’m bound for el rio.

      And I won’t be back till these dark days are gone.

  16. artemis54 permalink
    March 24, 2010 2:42 pm

    In ase you are in short supply, here’s the biggest pile of horseshit I’ve seen today: Addressing the Ivory Surplus

    You might as well worry about the terrible economic dislocation caused by price fluctuations in the market in human slaves.

    Market this, market that, blah blah. The only answer is to destroy the market in ivory. It is an evil in itself. Burn it.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 25, 2010 7:21 am

      I’m so tired of hearing about everything in terms of some market or other too. And I just don’t get the whole ivory thing either. It isn’t as if ivory disintegrates as soon as an animal dies. If you really need some ivory trinkets, why is it so hard to just wait until nature takes its course and then go pick up the ivory lying on the ground? But I guess the big brave hunters need to show their manliness or something by blasting a magnificent animal from a safe distance away.

      BTW, I’m about halfway through that Monster of God book you mentioned. In the middle of the part about the frigging market in crocodile hides and whether it’s an overall benefit or not. Good book though. I can hardly wait to see who gets eaten next. ;)

  17. triv33 permalink
    March 25, 2010 5:48 am

    Talk about your messy houses! Oh, Pope Creepy is in trouble! Hee hee!

    • cometman permalink*
      March 25, 2010 7:25 am

      Ha! I hope he excommunicates himself. At the very least he should start to receive the Tim Tebow treatment. Tebow, who can’t seem to take a dump in the morning without praying about it first, asked everybody at training camp to bow in prayer with him and one of the other players told him to “Shut the FUCK up!” Right the hell on!

  18. cometman permalink*
    March 25, 2010 7:41 am

    Glenn Greenwald had a nice catch today displaying some “<0" hypocrisy – When presidential sermons collide.

    President Obama gave an interview earlier this week to an Indonesian television station in lieu of the scheduled trip to that country which was canceled due to the health care vote. In 2008, Indonesia empowered a national commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime “in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice,” and Obama was asked in this interview: “Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?” He replied:

    We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can’t go forward without looking backwards . . . .

    When asked last year about whether the United States should use similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well his view of other countries’ efforts (such as Spain) to investigate those abuses, Obama said:

    I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.

  19. artemis54 permalink
    March 25, 2010 10:37 am

    Alexandra Morton has a simple message for BC’s salmon farms: GET OUT

    After years of warnings from Morton and dozens of others, all ignored by the provincial and federal government, after hundreds of papers documenting that these corporate industries are destroying – have destroyed – BC’s wild salmon runs, after a stone wall of refusal to even discuss reasonable solutions like closed containment pens

    we are simply calling for the removal of salmon farms from BC waters

    Morton and a few hundred or maybe a few thousand supporters will migrate the length of Vancouver Island, hoping to spawn in Victoria a heightened interest in the destruction of BC salmon, maybe even a response from the government.

    Morton’s work has been well documented on video. Here is the latest horror: Alex Follows a Trail of Lice. As if the billions of sea lice incubated each year and turned loose on wild salmon fry weren’t enough the farms have now managed to produe drug resistant strains of lice. They are also busy spreading the ISA virus which has devastated Chile.

    Alexandra Morton’s blog

    There are a number of action links at the above sites. The most important thing you can do is refuse to buy or eat farmed salmon. If it says BC farmed on the label, don’t buy it. If there is any doubt about the provenance, don’t buy it.

    Facebook: The Get Out Migration

    • cometman permalink*
      March 26, 2010 8:24 am

      Thanks for posting all that. From that video it sure seems like Morton has done the government’s work for them and documented the problem quite well. Truly galling that they place foreign economic interests over the preservation of their own ecosystem. But from her blog it sounds like she’s getting some results through the courts which is encouraging.

      I really don’t know what it will take to convince these people of the problems. Maybe they should check out wild Atlantic salmon and once it’s brought to their attention that there aren’t any more, maybe they’ll think about trying to preserve what’s left of the Pacific population.

      This is like so many other industries which have developed. At one point salmon farms seemed like a good idea, just like at one point using fossil fuels as a new source of energy looked promising. It’s arguable that a lot more species of whales would be extinct it we hadn’t started using fossil fuels. But the industries become bigger and bigger and get so entrenched that when unforeseen problems begin to arise indicating a drastic change is needed, nobody can get them to stop because it might hurt the “economy”.

      I watched part of a program on Humboldt squid again last night and the researchers suggested that the reason for the dramatic increase in squid populations was because warming waters produced a more favorable environment for them, especially in the absence of other large predators like tuna and sharks which would normally compete with the squid for food or eat the squid themselves but have been depleted due to overfishing. So if nobody does anything to preserve the salmon and tuna and orcas, etc then people better learn to love eating cephalopods because that’s all that will be left.

  20. cometman permalink*
    March 25, 2010 1:29 pm

    So the next big issue the Democrats are going to tackle is financial “reform”. Rather than document every instance of back and forth that goes on in the ensuing weeks and months of what is sure to be a mind-numbingly vapid deabte, I’ll just make a pre-emptive declaration of what will come of it.

    Absolutely nothing of substance.

    What we’ll get is a few half measures designed to look good with so many loopholes attached that corporations will continue to be able to do whatever the hell they want with Congress’ blessing that it’s all legal.

    Here’s an article from the Hill mentioning that financial reform is next up for the Dems and dithering Dodd warns the repubs not to obstruct or they’ll have to “suffer the consequences”. If getting re-elected is suffering then maybe he’s right. Here’s Dodd:

    Republicans who voted unanimously against healthcare reform will suffer the political consequences using the same strategy on Wall Street reform, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Wednesday.

    “My hope is that they’ll want to talk about solutions,” Dodd said. “Or they can just sit there and explain to people why they want to side with the largest financial institutions … If they want to reject this bill for whatever false reasons they come up with, they’ll have to bear the responsibility of having it happen again when they were given a chance to correct it.

    But of course this is all theatre because it was the republicans who opposed the bank bailouts in the first place and it was the Dems who pushed it through with “<0" twisting arms of reluctant Dems to make it happen. The teabagger crowd is already all for sticking it to the banks. Dodd's rhetoric is nothing but posturing because later in the same goddamned article we find Dodd's erstwhile partner in financial reform as well as Judd Gregg saying they have no problem with passing this "reform".

    Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) was “100 percent” confident the Senate would pass financial legislation this year; Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) pronounced it “very difficult” to see how the bill would not be approved.

    “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult to get 41 members to hold, especially if many of the provisions in this bill address concerns that everyday people on Main Street have,” Corker said.

    Here’s Simon Johnson’s take on the issue – he’s already calling bullshit.

    The indications are that some version of the Dodd bill will be presented to Democrats and Republicans alike as a fait accompli – this is what we are going to do, so are you with us or against us in the final recorded vote? And, whatever you do – they say to the Democrats – don’t rock the boat with any strengthening amendments.

    Chris Dodd, master of the parliamentary maneuver, and the White House seem to have in mind curtailing debate and moving directly to decision. Republicans, such as Judd Gregg and Bob Corker, may be getting on board with exactly this.

    Prominent Democratic Senators have indicated they would like something different. But it’s not clear whether and how Senators Cantwell, Merkley, Levin, Brown, Feingold, Kaufman, and perhaps others will stop the Dodd juggernaut (or is it a handcart?)

    This matters, because there is more than a small problem with the Dodd-White House strategy: the bill makes no sense.

    Of course, officials are lining up to solemnly confirm that “too big to fail” will be history once the Dodd bill passes.

    But this is simply incorrect. Focus on this: How can any approach based on a US resolution authority end the issues around large complex cross-border financial institutions? It cannot.

    ~snip~

    Why exactly do you think big banks, such as JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, have been so outspoken in support of a “resolution authority”? They know it would allow them to continue not just at their current size – but actually to get bigger. Nothing could be better for them than this kind of regulatory smokescreen. This is exactly the kind of game that they have played well over the past 20 years – in fact, it’s from the same playbook that brought them great power and us great danger in the run-up to 2008.

    When a major bank fails, in the years after the Dodd bill passes, we will face the exact same potential chaos as after the collapse of Lehman. And we know what our policy elite will do in such a situation – because Messrs. Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke, and Summers swear up and down there was no alternative, and people like them will always be in power.

    Lobbyists have already been hammering Elizabeth Warren, the potential head of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, because she actually does want real reform and regulation and now the new department is unlikely to be included in any bill.

    So what we’ll wind up with is “reform” legislation that doesn’t do anything except the whole deckchair/Titanic thing and Democrats will crow about how they really stuck it to the Wall Street fatcats and helped the public just like, as Glenn Greenwald explains, they are already doing with the health care legislation by claiming to have neutralized the evil insurance companies they actually did a huge favor for. So while they’ll claim to have placed restrictions on big business, all they will have actually done is further entrenched corporate power.

    If anything other than that looks likely to happen I’ll be sure to let our vast readership know.

  21. cometman permalink*
    March 26, 2010 8:56 am

    Astronomers have reconfirmed Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and shown that the universe is expanding. They still can’t quite figure out the whole dark energy business though.

    A group of astronomers , led by Tim Schrabback of the Leiden Observatory, conducted an intensive study of over 446 000 galaxies within the COSMOS field, the result of the largest survey ever conducted with Hubble. In making the COSMOS survey, Hubble photographed 575 slightly overlapping views of the same part of the Universe using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) onboard Hubble. It took nearly 1000 hours of observations.

    In addition to the Hubble data, researchers used redshift data from ground-based telescopes to assign distances to 194 000 of the galaxies surveyed.

    ~snip~

    The meticulousness and scale of this study enables an independent confirmation that the expansion of the Universe is accelerated by an additional, mysterious component named dark energy. A handful of other such independent confirmations exist. Scientists need to know how the formation of clumps of matter evolved in the history of the Universe to determine how the gravitational force, which holds matter together, and dark energy, which pulls it apart by accelerating the expansion of the Universe, have affected them.

  22. cometman permalink*
    March 26, 2010 9:57 am

    We know that the Glass-Steagall Act was instituted to set up a firewall in the financial industry and separate insurance companies, investment banks, and commercial banks so that any crisis in one industry would not pose a systemic problem. But did you ever wonder what the actual text of the legislation says? As Pam Martens explains in this article which is well worth reading in its entirety, good luck trying to find out.

    Given its landmark status and current attention, one would expect it to be available in a flick of a keystroke on any search engine.

    The for-profit on-line law repositories offer only what’s left of the Act in the U.S. Code after its bones were picked clean by the Gramm- Leach- Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). Case law offers a few sentences dealing with the separation of securities firms and national banks. Wikipedia has no link to the text of the legislation, clearly because its editors couldn’t find one. The FDIC, created under the Act, says on its web site you can drop in to its Library in Washington, D.C. if you’d like to look at the legislation. Cornell Law’s massive on-line library has this to say when you click on the Law:

    Unfortunately, public sources of the Statutes at Large leave a lot out. The Library of Congress has mounted volumes 1-18 (to 1874) as part of its American Memory collection. The Government Printing Office took responsibility for the Statutes in 1875, but has only made electronic versions available from 1995 onward (volumes 109 and up).

    The National Archives offers a digital copy of the first and last page of the document. (I sensed a tad of condescension in the suggestion that Americans can be placated with a title page and a signature page while the guts of our legislation are reserved for the lobbyists.) I sent an email to the National Archives asking for the full legislation. The following response arrived a few days later from an archivist , Jane Fitzgerald:

    “We have just received your email inquiry regarding digital images of
    the rest of the Banking Act of 1933. Unfortunately, the Banking Act of 1933 (Public Law 73-66 of June 16, 1933) consists of a total of 45 pages in length and we currently only have existing images of the first and signature pages.

    “Black and white scans of the remaining pages may be ordered for $35.00 a page…”

    To get a copy of public legislation from a publicly funded institution would cost $35.00 x 43 pages or $1505.00. Welcome to the new reality of wealth, privilege and access in America.

    I looked around myself and couldn’t find it either. Martens did manage to find a copy eventually and will send it to anyone who emails her. She does post part of the original text –

    “After one year from the date of the enactment of this Act, no member bank shall be affiliated in any manner described in section 2(b) hereof with any corporation, association, business trust, or other similar organization engaged principally in the issue, flotation, underwriting, public sale, or distribution at wholesale or retail or through syndicate participation of stocks, bonds, debentures, notes, or other securities.”

    -and goes on to explain how that law was blatantly ignored for the Citigroup merger which was completed before the Act was actually repealed by Congress.

  23. cometman permalink*
    March 26, 2010 10:06 am

    Always wondered why UPS is unionized but FedEx, which operates the exact same type of business, is not. UPS workers are paid substantially higher for doing the same job as their FedEx counterparts. David Macaray explains why– basically Fred Smith lobbied (bribed) Congress to get himself an exemption.

    Another bogus exemption is one that’s being enjoyed by Federal Express. Founded in 1971 by wealthy Republican Fred Smith, the Memphis-based company was able (in 1996) to buy its way into another one of these bizarre anti-union classifications. CEO Smith showered so much money on key members of Congress that he was able to get them to place FedEx under the auspices of the Railway Labor Act rather than the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act].

    Under provisions of the Railway Labor Act (which applies to airlines as well as the railroad), FedEx workers—unlike those covered by the NLRA—can become unionized only on a national level. What this means is that employees of a neighborhood FedEx facility cannot, on their own, vote to join a union. Any move to become union members must be done at the national level, which makes it infinitely more difficult.

    For example, if FedEx workers in one state want to join the union, but workers in another state don’t want to, nobody gets to join.

  24. cometman permalink*
    March 26, 2010 12:14 pm

    Well looky here. The Germans have been getting pretty high and mighty of late with some of the poorer EU nations, chastising them for not having their houses in order and for not following the rules laid down by the EU. Now it appears that Germany has some ‘splaining to do for violating an EU arms embargo against Uzbekistan.

    In June 2006, the German government responded to a parliamentary inquiry “whether the government had, since December 14, 2005, provided technical or financial support for the military activities of Uzbekistan” with a very simple “no.” But a report in Germany’s Tageszeitung demonstrates that this answer was false:

    An investigation by Tageszeitung establishes that notwithstanding these claims the Bundeswehr continued to provide military training to Uzbek soldiers even after the European Union imposed an arms embargo. A spokesman of the Defense Department confirmed in response to our inquiry: “In the period in question, 35 members of the Uzbek armed forces received training in the military operational areas of the Bundeswehr.” The military training, which has been ongoing since 1994, apparently includes matters other than “the guidance of soldiers in a democratic society” in its lesson plan. Indeed, the soldiers from Uzbekistan were, notwithstanding the explicit EU embargo, given training in tank warfare. According to the Tageszeitung’s investigation, Uzbek officers were operationally acquainted with “Marder” (German for marten), a mechanized infantry combat vehicle.

  25. artemis54 permalink
    March 26, 2010 1:11 pm

    More from me: First Nations lead charge against tar sands pipeline

    (There is no limit to my whorishness.)

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