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Jesus Wept

October 6, 2010

Brain Hale is a conservative minister running for the Maine state legislature and he is currently making the rounds on the local media claiming he is definitely NOT associated with anti-gay fliers supporting his candidacy sent out by the National Organization for Marriage, a group of nutjobs funded primarily by the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

Brian Hale, pastor of the Skowhegan Church of the Nazarene, said the campaign literature, which first began appearing in mailboxes last week, is being sent by a national organization and not by his campaign. Hale is challenging incumbent Rep. Jeffrey McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan, for a two-year term in the Maine House of Representatives.

The two-sided flier features a smiling family of four with a “Welcome to Maine, the way life should be” placard and a single photograph of Hale. Hale said the family in the picture is not even his family.

On the flip side of the flier is a photograph of McCabe, with his e-mail address and two men in bow ties, arm-in-arm, appearing atop a wedding cake.

“Now it’s time to let Jeff McCabe know we don’t agree with his decision to back same-sex marriage,” the flier reads.

McCabe voted for the 2009 law legalizing same-sex marriage. The legislation, which was signed by Gov. John Baldacci, was reversed by referendum last November.

On top of that Hale claims –

“I never heard of the National Organization for Marriage until I pulled it out the mail box,” Hale said.

More here, including a picture of the fliers.

Now I am personally familiar with despicable individuals in Maine involved in arranging a similar anti-gay smear campaign a few years back without the knowledge of the candidate they were ostensibly “helping” – see here – so this kind of thing does happen and Hale’s comments that he had no prior knowledge of these fliers may be true. But when he says he never heard of NOM before, after this same group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a very high profile campaign involving conservative churches all over the state just last year, well methinks perhaps the lady doth protest too much.

One of the gentlemen at Towleroad agrees

It’s difficult to fathom that someone running for office in a state where the marriage debate has raged full force would have never encountered an activist from NOM, by far the nation’s most vocal, wealthiest anti-gay groups.

Heard a little Q&A between Hale and a Maine Public Radio reporter last night as well where he tried to distance himself further from NOM. Paraphrasing a bit – he said he didn’t think Maine people would respond well to out of state funders trying to influence local elections. Well maybe Hale is actually as ignorant as he claims to be because the voters obviously did respond last year. The repeal initiative never would have even made the ballot were it not for NOM.

Regardless of whether Hale is being completely candid or not, there is one glaring aspect of the story I haven’t seen discussed yet, namely whatever happened to the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution!?!?!?!?! Why the fuck are these religious assholes still allowed to influence elections by pouring millions of dollars into campaigns all over the country and yet they still get to keep their tax exempt status? Say what you want from the pulpit, but as soon as you spend one red cent outside the walls of the church trying to influence what happens with the state, the state should tax the Bejeesus out of these freakshows. Tax their investments, tax their property, tax the body and blood handed out to the flock as gift income. If that puts them out of business, because a business is what many of these larger churches essentially are, then fuck ’em. They shouldn’t have opened their wafer holes to begin with.

Looking around the interwebs, I did find one guy who gets it and is running for office – atheist Dusty Smith. Take it away Dusty –

You’ve just secured my vote for 2012 sir!

And if Smith’s campaign somehow doesn’t catch fire, well if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Rather than continuing to pay a few thousand dollars a year in property taxes on my place of residence, I’ll pay the $18.95 to become an ordained minister online and set up my house as Cometman’s Flaming Church of Jesus H Chapwearing Xrist, where the H in this case stands for Homosexual.

Because anybody who can walk on water has to be a little light in their loafers, don’t you think?

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2010 10:26 am

    Our vast UK and Australian readership will likely get the reference, but for those unfamiliar with non-US slang, the title of this post is meant in the expletive sense of the phrase.

    Goddamn I am so sick of these people.

  2. artemis54 permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:09 am

    You are not the only one who is sick of them.

    As also noted recently at towleroad, John Mellencamp has objected to NOM playing his music at its events. This following a rather more threatening letter to NOM from Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey:

    We respect your right to hold and advocate for any position you wish, but the philosophy of the “National Organization for Marriage” is directly contrary to the advocacy position Peter, Paul & Mary have held for decades, and so we do not want our recording of this song played at your rallies.

    We strongly support the rights of all gays and lesbians to enjoy the rights and rituals of marriage that are enjoyed by their straight counterparts, and consider the abridgement of this right contrary to the sense of equal protection and fairness inherent in, and implied by, the law of the Constitution of the United States.

    Please honor our request by confirming that you will cease to play our recording. . . . .
    . . . . Further, we will see if there is any legal action that we might be able to take to restrain you from playing it.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 6, 2010 12:01 pm

      That’s an even better idea -sue the bastards! Sounds like Peter and Paul might have grounds to do so since they’ve continued to use the song after being asked to cease and desist. Stookey lives in Maine right now too – seen him sing and speak a few times in recent years at various events and he definitely has his heart in the right place.

      Not surprising that the message of Guthrie’s song is completely lost on these NOM idiots. Same type of people who think Springsteen’s Born in the USA is paean to the nation’s greatness.

  3. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2010 12:07 pm

    Few good article related to dissent from via Common Dreams today –

    While the tea bag whackjobs continue to get round the clock coverage, FAIR notes the almost total lack of media coverage for rallies held by those who do know their asses from a hole in the ground.

    Instead, those groups are spied upon and treated as criminals or terrorists.

  4. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2010 12:23 pm

    Some unrelated links –

    Tom Daschle commits a “gaffe”.

    Hackers invited to test a new online voting system scheduled to be used in the upcoming elections in DC make the browser play the Michigan fight song, putting an end for now to this ridiculous plan.

    Researchers find new ecosystems near underwater geothermal vents, this time in Yellowstone Lake.

    More disaster waiting to happen – a FOIA request reveals that natural gas pipeline operators aren’t required to file emergency response plans with the government. The government doesn’t keep the plans in its offices, so the plans can’t be made available to the public through FOIA requests. Paging Joseph Heller….

    And the Cape Wind Project has been awarded a federal lease.

    The 28-year lease for 25 square miles in federal waters will cost Cape Wind an annual fee of $88,278 and a 2 to 7 percent operating fee during production based on revenue from selling the energy.

    ~snip~

    The state Department of Public Utilities is currently reviewing a deeply controversial contract between the utility and the developer to sell 50 percent of it energy at more than double the rate of fossil fuels. They are expected to make a decision, widely expected to be an approval, by Nov. 15.

    It was not immediately clear how the lease payment was arrived at – or how it compares to offshore oil and gas leases.

    I would like to know how this lease compares to those for offshore drilling. If the price of electricity is really that high and the Federal government is actually serious about reducing fossil fuel dependence (I know, I know hahaha), then why the hell don’t they just lease the land for $1 and refrain from extracting fees? It’s wind ferchrissakes, anybody can use it, and nobody has to pay a fee for flying a kite off their boat when they take it out for a spin.

  5. artemis54 permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:30 pm

    “Fool’s Gold”

    James Hansen testifies against tar sands expansion

    • cometman permalink*
      October 6, 2010 12:54 pm

      Oh for fuck’s sake. How can people even say shit like this with a straight face –

      Total vice-president Gary Houston said the company takes the issue of climate change seriously.

      Energy-efficiency measures to reduce carbon emissions mean this project will have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the Fort McMurray area.

      However, the company will not install carbon capture and storage because the technology is too costly, he said.

  6. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2010 12:50 pm

    Yves Smith with more on the ongoing mortgage fraud – Rule of Law Versus Bank Profits: Mortgage Fraud Edition. The key bit in this article is that Congress is now considering helping out the banks again by making their fraudulent practices retroactively legal –

    Now that judges in some states are starting to take these dubious, potentially fraudulent measures seriously, the next line of attack is to get the more bought and paid for Federal government to intercede on behalf of the banks. As the e-mail by the Ohio Secretary shows, this is a state versus Federal rights issue. And the problem is that these solutions will be depicted as “efficient,” just as securitizations and other “innovations” were.

    And while efficiency in theory is a good thing, it must always be kept secondary to the overall integrity of the system, otherwise, you run the risk of breakdown. Using dubious arguments to overturn well settled law to get the banking industry out of a monster mess it created is a Faustian bargain. It makes it abundantly clear what is really at stake here, which is the rule of law. Banks that were quick to defend unjustifiable pay deals by invoking “sanctity of contract” have no inhibition about ignoring their own contracts to pad their bottom line, and ultimately, the wallets of top executives.

    Rather than deal with the considerable consequences of these abuses, the banks are prepared to bulldoze well settled state laws to give them an easy way out. And I’m not basing my view on this story alone; I had a conversation yesterday with a Congressional staffer who matter-of-factly said (but with little understanding of the underlying issues) that Congress would intervene on behalf of the industry, via its authority over national banks.

    The result is that we institutionalize kleptocracy while keeping largely gutted forms of due process as theater. The powers that be hope that the broad public will remain unaware of what is really at work.

    She suggests that Elizabeth Warren may be able to intercede. I find it highly doubtful that she will prevail against the wishes of the financial industry and the Congress they’ve bought and paid for.

  7. cometman permalink*
    October 7, 2010 1:01 pm

    Some financial news –

    Excellent post from Washington’s Blog regarding the next round of bank bailouts coming down the pipe – IMF Calls for Huge New Round of Bank Bailouts. Not too technical and well worth reading in full.

    The IMF thinks a few trillion more will be needed in the next couple years, but that may be just the tip of the iceberg.

    $2.2 trillion? In reality, Tyler Durden, Mike Shedlock, Edward Harrison, Reggie Middleton, Max Keiser and many other savvy financial commentators would put the number closer to $20-40 trillion in bad debts. And they say that one of the main problems with the world economy is that the banks are hiding the real amounts of their debts (and the fact that they are totally insolvent), so that they can have the taxpayers bail give them a number of bailouts.

    In other words, the big banks are saying, “The economy is unexpectedly not doing well, so we need another bailout.”
    And the banks and their water-carriers in the central banks, IMF and other agencies will repeatedly say the same thing over a number of years to slowly get the banks’ $20-40 trillion dollars worth of debt mopped up by the taxpayer.

    See how that works? If people knew that the giant banks have created a black hole of debt large enough to suck most of the world economy into it, and that the debt was created through fraud and wild gambling and speculation, demands to break up the giant banks and imprison their management would be overwhelming.

    So they hide it.

    Instead, they leak out a little information about their debt in dribs and drabs over the course of many months and years, acting surprised that there’s still debt on their books due to “unexpected” conditions in the economy. The party line is and will continue to be that these conditions aren’t their fault, but are due to the bad housing market, or unemployment, or other conditions “out there in the economy” and not of their making. And, of course, bailouts are needed to deal with these “unforeseen” events.

    Meanwhile many companies are sitting on huge amounts of cash and are using it to buy back their own shares.

    For months, companies have been sitting on the sidelines with record piles of cash, too nervous to spend. Now they’re starting to deploy some of that money – not to hire workers or build factories, but to prop up their share prices.

    Sitting on these unprecedented levels of cash, U.S. companies are buying back their own stock in droves. So far this year, firms have announced they will purchase $273 billion of their own shares, more than five times as much compared with this time last year, according to Birinyi Associates, a stock market research firm. But the rise in buybacks signals that many companies are still hesitant to spend their cash on the job-generating activities that could produce economic growth.

    Some companies are buying back shares partly because they don’t want to invest in developing new products or services while consumer demand remains weak, analysts said.

    “They don’t know what they want to do with all the cash they’re sitting on,” said Zachary Karabell, president of RiverTwice Research.

    Historically low interest rates are also prompting some companies to borrow to repurchase shares.

    Nothing inherently wrong with this – it happens all the time – but the volume of the buybacks is pretty striking. Probably depends on the company whether this is a good or a bad thing, but I suspect that at least some of these companies wouldn’t be sitting on all this cash were it not for all the bailouts. And god forbid that they use any of this cash to give employees a raise. Somehow putting money into the hands of people who work for a living is never an option these days.

    I’ve mentioned a few times recently the absolute stupidity of using up real estate to build more strip malls so chains selling the same crap can compete with each other, drive competitors out of business, and leave paved over useless buildings behind. This is something most people can see with their own two eyes but it’s always nice to have backup – Jim Quinn: Consumer Deleveraging = Commercial Real Estate Collapse.

    The impending collapse of the CRE market is one thing that will likely trigger more bailouts and yet many companies haven’t used any caution whatsoever and continue to expand despite the fact that consumer spending is way down –

    Despite the ongoing recession and the fact that consumers must reduce their spending over the next decade, irrationally exuberant retail CEOs continue their death march of store openings. Below are announced expansion plans for some major retailers:

    * GameStop – 400 new stores
    * Walgreens – 350 new stores
    * Dollar General – 315 new stores
    * Ashley Furniture – 300 new stores
    * Target – 128 new stores
    * Starbucks – 100 new stores
    * Best Buy – 55 new stores
    * Kohl’s – 50 new stores
    * Lowes – 45 new stores

    Retailers expanding into an oversaturated retail market in the midst of a Depression, when anyone without rose colored glasses can see that Americans must dramatically cut back, are committing a fatal mistake. The hubris of these CEOs will lead to the destruction of their companies and the loss of millions of jobs. They will receive their fat bonuses and stock options right up until the day they are shown the door.

    Next, the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” was pretty weak tea to begin with, but that may not stop Timmeh from doing an end-around and watering it down even further – Is Geithner Planning a Stealth Attack on the Wall Street Reform Bill?

    Rumors are rampant in Washington D.C. that Tim Geithner’s first act as the new head of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the high-level body created to bring stability to the financial system, will be to blow a hole in the Dodd-Frank law. Evidently, Geithner is interested in exempting the $24 trillion – that is trillion with a “t” – foreign exchange (or forex) market from the clearing and transparency requirements of the act.

    And lastly, the comment above from yesterday mentioned the rumor that Congress would intervene on behalf of banks having problems from filing fraudulent foreclosure documents. If I’m reading this one right, it isn’t just a rumor anymore – Bank foreclosure cover seen in bill at Obama’s desk.

    A bill that homeowners advocates warn will make it more difficult to challenge improper foreclosure attempts by big mortgage processors is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature after it quietly zoomed through the Senate last week.

    The bill, passed without public debate in a way that even surprised its main sponsor, Republican Representative Robert Aderholt, requires courts to accept as valid document notarizations made out of state, making it harder to challenge the authenticity of foreclosure and other legal documents.

    The timing raised eyebrows, coming during a rising furor over improper affidavits and other filings in foreclosure actions by large mortgage processors such as GMAC, JPMorgan and Bank of America.

    Questions about improper notarizations have figured prominently in challenges to the validity of these court documents, and led to widespread halts of foreclosure proceedings.

    The legislation could protect bank and mortgage processors from liability for false or improperly prepared documents.

    The White House said it is reviewing the legislation.

    “It is troubling to me and curious that it passed so quietly,” Thomas Cox, a Maine lawyer representing homeowners contesting foreclosures, told Reuters in an interview.

    Snuck it right through without a peep right before going on vacation to suck up more corporate donations. With the republicans currently taking in way more corporate campaign donations than the Dems, whose election prospects are looking grim, I seriously doubt Barry is going to pick up the veto pen for this one.

    Ratfuckers all of them.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 7, 2010 1:16 pm

      This just in! Looks like I was mistaken about that last judgment above – Obama Will Not Sign Bill on Affidavits; Had Raised Worries as Free Pass to Banks on Foreclosures.

      MIrabile dictu, for once Obama isn’t taking every order coming from the banking industry. There is no story up yet, merely a “Breaking News” headline “White House: President Obama will not sign foreclosure bill” and an e-mail alert from the Washington Post:

      Amid growing furor over the legitimacy of foreclosure proceedings, a White House official said President Obama will not sign a two-page bill passed by lawmakers without public debate after details emerged that the legislation could loosen standards for foreclosure documents.

      Maybe the dearth of campaign cash for the Dems has suddenly made them realize they need to pay attention to those pesky voters instead of the banks.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 8, 2010 8:38 am

        More on the “pocket veto” from Ellen Brown – Foreclosuregate and Obama’s “Pocket Veto”.

        The bill isn’t vetoed outright, Barry is just refusing to sign it and sending it back to the House. Not sure what this means in terms of Congressional procedures – is the bill now dead or will Congress just rework it and debate it publicly when they come back?

        There does seem to be a disconnect between Barry’s brief statement and what’s actually happening with these mortgages, namely FRAUD. From the White House statement –

        The authors of this bill no doubt had the best intentions in mind when trying to remove impediments to interstate commerce. We will work with them and other leaders in Congress to explore the best ways to achieve this goal going forward.

        Perhaps Obama is just being diplomatic with that bit, but I’m sure that many legislators who rubber stamped this on through did NOT have good intentions at all towards anyone other than the banks that paid for them. As Brown notes –

        By most reports, it would appear that the voluntary suspension of foreclosures is underway to review simple, careless, procedural errors – errors which the conscientious banks are hastening to correct. Even Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times characterizes the problem as “flawed paperwork.”

        However, those errors go far deeper than mere sloppiness; they are concealing a massive fraud. They cannot be corrected with legitimate paperwork, and that was the reason the servicers had to hire “foreclosure mills” to fabricate the documents. These errors involve perjury and forgery – fabricating documents that never existed and swearing to the accuracy of facts not known.

        Guess we’ll just have to wait to see how this plays out.

  8. cometman permalink*
    October 7, 2010 1:19 pm

    So if Barry’s health care “reform” was really the landmark piece of legislation that he and the Dems claim it is, then why are they already granting waivers to said legislation?

  9. artemis54 permalink
    October 7, 2010 6:34 pm

    There are only so many heads of state who are cool at all. And then there’s Mohamed Nasheed:

  10. artemis54 permalink
    October 8, 2010 11:16 am

    A Rocha and Conservation International document 224 new species in Papua New Guinea.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 8, 2010 12:10 pm

      Very nice. I particularly enjoyed the photo of the tube nosed fruit bat.

  11. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2010 12:16 pm

    Couple of things to note –

    I’d previously mentioned that Bushwa Barry’s warning about terrorists threats in Europe might be economic in nature rather than stemming from any genuine concern. Looks like Pakistan and the Europeans think he was exaggerating the threats to pump up his and the Dems’ tough guy stance prior to the upcoming election. Very likely as well. Maybe it was a little of both.

    Some encouraging news. Wyoming(!) becomes the first state in the nation to impose at least some regualtion on “fracking”.

  12. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2010 12:44 pm

    More on the mortgage/foreclosure fraud debacle. Who knows how it will play out but it sure looks like a clusterfuck of epic proportions with not much good coming from it no matter how it gets resolved.

    Once again Yves Smith has excellent coverage – DC Waking Up to Escalating Foreclosure Train Wreck: Grayson Calls for FSOC to Examine Foreclosure Fraud as Systemic Risk.

    Grayson letter trying to get someone to pay attention to the fraud is included in its entirety. Can’t be much clearer than this –

    So far, banks are claiming that the many forged documents uncovered by courts and attorneys represent a simple ‘technical problem’ with foreclosure processes. This is not true. What is happening is fraud to cover up fraud.

    Smith lays out four possible scenarios of how things may play out –

    1. Congress intervenes to try to wave a magic statutory wand to make many of these problems go away, invoking its authority over national/interstate banks. To the extent industry incumbents admit there is a problem (Tom Adams reports there was amazing denial at an American Securitization Forum conference earlier this week), they immediately say, “Congress will pass a law.” But any Federal statutory remedy will run roughshod over well settled state real estate law and New York trust law. This is big state/Federal rights matter, potentially one of those rare Constitutional battles that the average citizen will care about.

    2. The Federal government comes up with a mass refi program of sorts. Even though in theory that might also run afoul of various state law issues, the reason the states are fighting is they see the devastation foreclosures are creating in their cities and towns. It would probably take some to-ing and fro-ing, but state legislatures would be far more inclined to play ball with this solution than the one outlined in point 1. But this is so contrary to how Team Obama operates that I see no will to go down that path, and the odds that the incoming Congress will be even more anti-spending is another not-trivial impediment.

    3. Mass deep principal mods. As we indicated, there are programs which are ready to go and only need some tweaking to help servicers make deep mods. With mortgage loss severities at 70% or worse, a 40% principal mod for borrowers, say, is a win for everyone but the servicer. And before readers howl that this is unfair, life isn’t fair. Moreover, lenders restructure loans all the time; it’s normal creditor behavior to rework a loan if the outcome looks to be more profitable than liquidating.

    The critical bit is assessing borrower viability. There is no point trying to save borrowers who are so broke they can’t afford payments even with a reduction in principal to, say, the current market value of the house. The and the NACA program provides a platform for handling what has been the sticking point, collecting evidence of borrower income and preparing a budget so a bank can see how much discretionary cash flow he has.

    While the banking industry will insist this would be a simply horrid outcome, what would turn the tide is private or attorney general suits in a particular state leading to a mass resolution. That would turn the tide regarding perceived viability.

    But mass mods would also leave the servicers with big losses on all the advances of principal and interest they have made to investors, and will force banks to end their phony accounting on second mortgages. It’s entirely plausible this puts some banks back in the TARP, which from my perspective is a good outcome. It would be hard after all the banks’ false claims that all was well and outrageous 2009 bonuses not to seem some pain imposed, at a minimum, the firing of top management for cause (meaning no severance) and the replacement of boards.

    4. Continued gridlock. I expect this to be what we see until the pressure hits the breaking point.

    If #2 or #3 had been utilized to begin with along with allowing the banks which committed fraud and/or were insolvent to fail, we wouldn’t still be in this mess. #1 just got postponed at best. I suspect the oligarchs will go with #4 – wait and hope it all goes away until they can’t pretend anymore. Then we’ll probably get #1 along with more bailouts.

    Interesting read showing how some of the fraud was perpetrated in this deposition from a Florida court case.

    The problem is all those mortgage backed securities are still out there. And the recent moratorium on foreclosures isn’t just halting new ones, it’s causing sales of property already foreclosed upon to be halted, which means banks can’t recover anything from the bad loans which means those mortgage securities are in deep trouble, not that they ever really stopped being “toxic”.

    Helping homeowners by adjusting their mortgages downward will only make things worse for the banks. But the other option is allowing fraudulent foreclosures to proceed and kicking millions more out of their homes, something that won’t exactly be a boon to the overall economy. A massive structural overhaul could eventually right the ship but there doesn’t seem to be any political will whatsoever to do that, not here or anywhere else.

    The only silver lining I’ve noticed so far is that halting foreclosures might fuck John Paulson over really really hard. Paulson made billions shorting mortgage securities, but after the bailouts came along he turned around and took a big long position, betting values would go up again thanks to all the free money handed to the banks. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.

  13. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 6:48 am

    So after Barry put out the memo posted above saying he won’t sign the legislation to make foreclosures easier, he sent out another memo (which I can’t put my finger on right now) clarifying the first one saying he was really really vetoing this bill. But it appears those may have just been the same weasel words we’ve come to expect – just because Barry is vetoing this legislation doesn’t mean he’s going to stop helping the banks. See Yves smith again – Bank Disinformation III: Obama Throws Weight Behind Banks, Housing “Market” Over Borrowers.

    The other disturbing but revealing report of the morning is the new Obama administration straw man: that it’s not backing a national foreclosure freeze. First, as bank expert Chris Whalen points out, this is eventually going to happen, but on a state-by-state basis. not nationally. But second, look at the deplorable logic. Per the Washington Post, boldface ours:

    The Obama administration does not support a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures at this time, Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David Stevens said Sunday in an e-mail response to questions.

    “We believe freezing foreclosures for all banks in all states, whether we have reason to believe them to be in error or not, is simply not the prudent step to take in this fragile housing market,” he said.

    The statement couldn’t be more clear. “Markets” as in bank/corporate interests uber alles, no concern with the rule of law.

  14. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 8:53 am

    New species documented in Madagascar! – Durrell’s vontsira – named after Gerald Durrell. Very nice homage to the author of “My Family and other Animals”.

    Durrell’s vontsira is the first new carnivorous mammal discovered in Madagascar in 24 years. Little is known about the species, which is roughly the size of a cat and is described in the latest issue of the taxonomic journal Systematics and Biodiversity.

    • artemis54 permalink
      October 11, 2010 9:59 am

      Even the names of Madagascar’s mammals are a trip: vontsira, antsangy, falanouc

  15. artemis54 permalink
    October 11, 2010 9:44 am

    More like it:

    The director of MAL ZRT, owner of the sludge reservoir that flooded in Hungary last week – and very likely will again – has been arrested on a charge of criminal negligence and could face ten years behind bars. Under an emergency order the state is also taking over the company.

    If this were the US, we would have congressman apologizing to the director for bothering him.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 11, 2010 10:05 am

      Yes please more.

      Updating Parliament on the government’s response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said a new emergency law would be enacted in order to bring MAL Zrt under state control. He said a state commissioner would be appointed to manage the company and its assets.

      ~snip~

      The government held a special meeting on Sunday to analyze the consequences of the disaster. Analysts said Mr. Orban’s center-right government, elected in a landslide earlier this year, was gaining a populist boon because the devastating rupture had inspired national unity and served to distract the country from its economic woes. They said Mr. Orban had moved quickly to take control of the situation and was fashioning himself as a Hungarian protector.

      Doing the right thing actually makes you popular. Who woulda thunk it?

  16. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 10:16 am

    Some beautiful/gut wrenching photos of the BP disaster from Edward Burtynsky here.

    Burtynsky seems to specialize in photos of industrial wastelands – he was the same photographer who took the picture of the Chittagong ship breaking yards I used in this post a few months back.

  17. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 11:07 am

    Another thing I’d like to see more of – better aim from presidential projectile tossers.

    While the book chucking is admittedly hilarious, the important bit from the article was this which I hadn’t seen before –

    In another complication for Democrats, the government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without a cost-of-living increase in their monthly benefits.

    It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.

    Last year it was because housing values had gone down so somehow the cost of living hadn’t actually increased. Now they’re doing it again!

    Of course anybody who works for a living could tell you that lower housing values don’t mean that suddenly everyone has more disposable income. That’s clearly NOT been the case with declining retail sales, etc. And of course declining home values do NOT lead to lower property taxes, as I can personally attest too. In my town, rather than be flooded by tons of tax abatement requests due to falling values, the town revalued everyone’s property downward and then raised the tax rate, making it essentially a wash. Probably saved the town some money in the long run not having to go through so many abatement hearings, but it definitely had no effect on the overall cost of living. Grandma is still going to have to pay the same property taxes even though her house is worth less and still come up with the $$$ to pay for ever more expensive food and other essentials.

    It’s shit like this that makes me think that people like this guy are probably not too far off in their assessments- A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years . But at least there’s a ray of “hope” in the first item on his list –

    1) It’s going to get worse

    No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.

  18. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 11:55 am

    It’s been quite apparent that the US, rather than actually trying to fix the underlying economic problems, has been content to merely reshuffle the deck in an attempt to prop up the house of cards. Lately the US has been rattling pens more so than sabers at China, accusing it of manipulating its currency (ha! pot/kettle, etc.) and demanding that it raise the value of the renmibi, which of course would make China’s exports more expensive. The US would really like to get a game of WAR going, but as Michael Hudson explains, the rest of the world is content for now to tell the US to “go fish” – Why the U.S. has Launched a New Financial World War — And How the the Rest of the World Will Fight Back .

    Other nations have been increasingly cooperating with each other and it certainly appears that other countries are willing to listen to the US only to the extent that it allows them to get their own houses in order.

    The great question in global finance today is thus how long other nations will continue to succumb as the cumulative costs rise into the financial stratosphere? The world is being forced to choose between financial anarchy and subordination to a new U.S. economic nationalism. This is what is prompting nations to create an alternative financial system altogether.

    But we’ll always have Israel…

    • cometman permalink*
      October 12, 2010 6:38 am

      Marshall Auerback has an excellent article related to the Hudson piece above – You Can Thank Ben Bernanke for Higher Food Prices.

      He notes Hudson’s comment that quantitative easing (i.e. printing gazillions of dollars) does produce lots of money for speculators to manipulate all kinds of financial markets and points out that is exactly what’s going on with commodities right now.

      Previous to 2000, pensions could not buy commodities because these are purely speculative bets. There is no return to holding commodities unless their prices rise—indeed, holding them is costly. However, Goldman Sachs promoted investment in commodities as a hedge, on the basis that commodities prices are uncorrelated with equities. This is understandable, given the historic lack of involvement of Wall Street in the commodities complex. Hedging activity was generally restricted to end-users like farmers.

      That all began to change in the aftermath of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, another legacy of the Clinton/Rubin/Summers regime. Of course, the whole basis of the arguments for commodities as a “defensive hedge” non-correlated to financial asset went out the window the minute this legislation was passed. By definition, when managed money flows into an asset class that had previously been uncorrelated with other assets, that asset will naturally become correlated. Hence, by opening up the commodity complex to Wall Street via this legislation, Congress found another potential bubble for Wall Street. Naturally, this garnered huge profits for the investment banks, but ultimately collapsed along with everything else (leaving your average American poorer in the process as usual).

      More on how these markets are manipulated from this recent Harper’s article – The food bubble: How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it.

      Auerback notes other strange things afoot – assets of all kinds are rising in price when historically they don’t all rise at the same time – all because of the expectation of more money flooding into markets.

      There is growing evidence that the global economy is now slowing, yet commodity prices are rising in tandem with equity prices. Bond prices are rising as well. In the third quarter of 2010, the prices of equities, government bonds and gold all went up – by 11%, 4% and 5% respectively. Such a conjunction of asset returns is a rare event in the financial markets. In the 123 calendar quarters since 1980, there have been just 4 other quarters, each in the 1980s, when all three asset classes have gone up by 4% or more. The rarity of this event is because there are virtually no economic or financial scenarios that favor equities, government bonds and gold at the same time – at least under normal circumstances.
      This is all being driven by the expectation of “QE2”. From the Fed’s perspective: mission accomplished. Animal spirits have been re-ignited in the financial markets (would that the Fed could do the same for the real economy, but unfortunately, that’s in the hands of governments which are totally ignorant of the true uses of fiscal policy).

      In effect, we are re-establishing another bubble, seeking to restore the status quo ante that prevailed in 2006 when the creation of bubbles was the main driver of economic activity. Typically, these bubbles prevail because our governments repeatedly succumb to political pressure from the conservatives and either don’t expand fiscal policy enough or prematurely abort fiscal expansion. These episodes have repeatedly occurred in history.

      Bubbles are all we have left.

  19. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2010 12:07 pm

    Good article calling into question the findings of a recent NYT article about massive bee die-offs being attributed to a fungus/virus combo – What a scientist didn’t tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths .

    A pesticide manufactured by Bayer has been posited as a potential culprit for years. This was not mentioned in the NYT article and apparently the scientist behind the new report has received funding from Bayer in the past, although he claims not for the most recent study which just so happens to come to a conclusion highly favorable to Bayer –

    What the Times article did not explore — nor did the study disclose — was the relationship between the study’s lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant.

    Bromenshenk’s company, Bee Alert Technology, which is developing hand-held acoustic scanners that use sound to detect various bee ailments, will profit more from a finding that disease, and not pesticides, is harming bees. Two years ago Bromenshenk acknowledged as much to me when I was reporting on the possible neonicotinoid/CCD connection for Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, which folded before I completed my reporting.

    Bromenshenk defends the study and emphasized that it did not examine the impact of pesticides. “It wasn’t on the table because others are funded to do that,” he says, noting that no Bayer funds were used on the new study. Bromenshenk vociferously denies that receiving funding from Bayer (to study bee pollination of onions) had anything to do with his decision to withdraw from the plaintiff’s side in the litigation against Bayer. “We got no money from Bayer,” he says. “We did no work for Bayer; Bayer was sending us warning letters by lawyers.”

    Somewhat interesting that this rebuttal came from CNN/Forbes.

    And another article interesting not so much for its content (which the non-credulous have been aware of for quite some time) but for the source. This USA Today Op-ed on the science/religion debate which is for some reason still necessary comes out strongly against religion –

    In the end, science is no more compatible with religion than with other superstitions, such as leprechauns. Yet we don’t talk about reconciling science with leprechauns. We worry about religion simply because it’s the most venerable superstition — and the most politically and financially powerful.

    Why does this matter? Because pretending that faith and science are equally valid ways of finding truth not only weakens our concept of truth, it also gives religion an undeserved authority that does the world no good. For it is faith’s certainty that it has a grasp on truth, combined with its inability to actually find it, that produces things such as the oppression of women and gays, opposition to stem cell research and euthanasia, attacks on science, denial of contraception for birth control and AIDS prevention, sexual repression, and of course all those wars, suicide bombings and religious persecutions.

    And any progress — not just scientific progress — is easier when we’re not yoked to religious dogma. Of course, using reason and evidence won’t magically make us all agree, but how much clearer our spectacles would be without the fog of superstition!

    I expect O’Reilly to declare war on the USA today any time now…

    • cometman permalink*
      October 11, 2010 12:35 pm

      In a similar vein to that USA today op-ed, here’s Chris Hedges – How Democracy Dies: Lessons From a Master.

      There is a yearning by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They seek out of ignorance and desperation to create a utopian society based on “biblical law.” They want to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy. These radicals, rather than the terrorists who oppose us, are the gravest threat to our open society. They have, with the backing of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate money, gained tremendous power. They peddle pseudoscience such as “Intelligent Design” in our schools. They keep us locked into endless and futile wars of imperialism. They mount bigoted crusades against gays, immigrants, liberals and Muslims. They turn our judiciary, in the name of conservative values, over to corporations. They have transformed our liberal class into hand puppets for corporate power. And we remain meek and supine.

      Wonder if USA Today or any other corporate publication will be signing him up for a column soon…

    • cometman permalink*
      October 11, 2010 1:47 pm

      One more science related post which shows that ABC could use a new science editor – New Kind of Uranium Could Power Your Car.

      The post is about a new uranium compound which could be used for fuel someday. But check this part out –

      “Actinide nitrides are candidate nuclear fuels of the future,” said Jaqueline Kiplinger, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the team of researchers on the recent Nature Chemistry paper. “But they can also break carbon-hydrogen bonds, which are very strong.”

      Uranium nitride rips the hydrogen atoms off a carbon atom — no easy task.

      ~snip~

      Unfortunately the new molecule is destroyed when it rips hydrogen atoms off a carbon atom.

      Perhaps I’m being pedantic, but carbon atoms by definition don’t have hydrogen atoms attached to rip off, otherwise they wouldn’t be carbon atoms, they’d be some type of hydrocarbon molecule. Pretty funny that the writer gets it wrong (or at least muddles the concept) right after they quote by the scientist accurately explaining what happens – the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the hyrdrocarbon molecule are broken.

      • artemis54 permalink
        October 11, 2010 10:16 pm

        Well, it’s a close call.

        Say you ripped the shoes off my feet. But it is different, esp in a climate of complete ignorance one should be a little more careful. Most can’t “read through.”

        It is also just very weird how the bodice ripping violence gets in there. Like one of those Mandingo romance novels.

        • cometman permalink*
          October 12, 2010 5:14 am

          That’s what I couldn’t quite put my finger on – the phrasing sounds like it comes from a romance novel! Not flat out wrong so much as a very poor choice of words.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    October 11, 2010 10:31 pm

    There is one good thing about having Grandpa Munster running for governor of NY, witches in Delaware, and whatever the hell that is in Nevada: it keeps the public eye off Logo TV, which is attempting to set gay liberation back by fifty years. I know, these people exist blah blah, but you get the chance to have a gay cable network and this is what you come up with? It’s like BET blasting out the latest hip stylings of Step n Fetchit.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 12, 2010 5:11 am

      Yikes. That is quite the schlockfest. Looks like the same old “reality” TV crap with a forced gay theme. Gentleman’s Tips?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

      I’ll say one thing for Project Runway. It may be staged crap like most of the rest of them, but they don’t go out of their way to make a huge deal out of the fact that most of the male contestants are gay. Everyone is just treated as a human being. Human beings that are put into staged situations to set up some contrived “real” drama, but still…

      Of course I never watch the show. Anyone else happy that Ivy is gone…? :)

      • artemis54 permalink
        October 12, 2010 7:55 am

        I was happy to see that even Heidi is sick of that Gretchen a-hole. That’s going to be an auf wiedersehen con mucho gusto.

        • cometman permalink*
          October 12, 2010 9:07 am

          Yes, she needs to go! Mrs. Cometman despises her. I enjoyed seeing Tim Gunn cut her down a few pegs too.

          Normally I don’t like the “fierce” elfin guys who dress themselves funny, but I find myself rooting for Mondo this season.

          • artemis54 permalink
            October 12, 2010 9:53 am

            For one thing, he provides some color. Xrist, it’s a tv show. No matter how much NYers love their black on black on black relieved by a little splash of black and some black piping, it doesn’t exactly pop on tv.

            I have always loved PR because it’s about what they manage to get done in 24 hours under crazy imposed constraints, not about their opinions or how they pose for the camera. In that sense it actually is real, unlike 99% of tv including Chuck Todd, etc.

  21. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 9:14 am

    More on China getting its house in order through non- belligerent means in this well researched article via Tom Dispatch – China’s Pipelineistan “War” – Anteing Up, Betting, and Bluffing in the New Great Game .

    The bottom line is that, by 2013, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong will be cruising to ever more dizzying economic heights courtesy of natural gas supplied by the 1,833-kilometer-long Central Asia Pipeline, then projected to be operating at full capacity. And to think that, in a few more years, China’s big cities will undoubtedly also be getting a taste of Iraq’s fabulous, barely tapped oil reserves, conservatively estimated at 115 billion barrels, but possibly closer to 143 billion barrels, which would put it ahead of Iran. When the Bush administration’s armchair generals launched their Global War on Terror, this was not exactly what they had in mind.

    China’s economy is thirsty, and so it’s drinking deeper and planning deeper yet. It craves Iraq’s oil and Turkmenistan’s natural gas, as well as oil from Kazakhstan. Yet instead of spending more than a trillion dollars on an illegal war in Iraq or setting up military bases all over the Greater Middle East and Central Asia, China used its state oil companies to get some of the energy it needed simply by bidding for it in a perfectly legal Iraqi oil auction.

    China is looking for new energy sources that can’t be easily blocked by the US throwing some aircraft carriers into various narrow Middle Eastern shipping straits.

    Also, while the US continues to rattle sabers at Hugo Chavez, his government has just cut a new oil deal with China.

  22. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 9:17 am

    Google does something not evil – investing a couple billion in offshore wind projects.

    They’re going to need the energy to cool all those servers as they continue to gobble up every piece of data imaginable.

    Google is using its vast database of web shopping data to construct the ‘Google Price Index’ – a daily measure of inflation that could one day provide an alternative to official statistics.

    That may be a welcome change to the completely manipulated Consumer Price Index.

  23. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 9:31 am

    Some links –

    Wall Street is set to dole out a record $144 billion in bonuses this year.

    Meanwhile, governments all over the country are broke. When Horace Greeley encouraged young men to go west, I doubt it was so they could use shoplifting to support their drug habits but one Oregon county is making it legal to do so because they don’t have the money to prosecute the crimes.

    As American citizens continue to sit with their thumbs up their asses in response to austerity measures such as this, Europeans continue to hit the streets by the hundreds of thousands.

    Perhaps there’s some platinum in the water which has caused US citizens to internalize their protective shells. How else to account for this kind of sluggish behavior?

  24. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 10:36 am

    Regarding your last comment about PR, some of the drama is contrived, but the rest is very good as you said. What those people can come up with in a day is pretty amazing.

    Caught a bit of that new Top Chef dessert show recently. Had a hard time believing that the one guy who melted down because he missed his mommy was really genuine. But who knows, maybe the show’s screeners feel volatility among the contestants is a plus that gets better ratings. Same thing for that one though – you have to have a lot of talent to cook some of the amazing stuff they come up with under the gun like that.

  25. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 10:42 am

    Some nice eye candy at this website I just ran across – Urban Titan.

    Drawn there by this link about the 10 Coolest Future City Projects. Neat-o.

    Found all kinds of interesting stuff to look at there, including a rundown of particularly nasty Popes and Old Master artworks recreated with vegetables.

  26. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2010 12:46 pm

    Never read Atlas Shrugged and there are so many good books written by non-insane people I need to get to that it’s doubtful I ever will. Get plenty of libertarian nonsense filtering down through the general public consciousness just by having the misfortune of living in the same country that keeps broadcasting Glenn Beck and various other retards, thank you very much.

    But I sure do enjoy a good review of the old battleaxe’s book and scifi writer John Scalzi does not disappoint! Well worth reading for all the yuks, but this bit sums it up nicely –

    Objectivism: the spongy white bread at the Great Buffet of Human Ideas

    • cometman permalink*
      October 12, 2010 12:59 pm

      More.

      How to Succeed as an Ayn Rand Character

      Ha!

    • artemis54 permalink
      October 12, 2010 3:20 pm

      Save your eyesight. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I tried several times and find it utterly unreadable prose, whatever ideas may lurk in that tangled mess somewhere.

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