Saturday, February 28, 2009

Doesn't matter that they didn't have a trial

They should have been killed.
A former CIA officer has said it's ridiculous that the Bush administration didn't execute numerous prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, regardless of whether they have had a trial, when it had the chance.

"Many of those individuals that are there are enemy combatants and that's based on the Geneva Conventions and should be executed," said Gary Berntsen, who spent 20 years with the CIA, to Fox's Gretchen Carlson on the show, Fox & Friends. "It's ridiculous that the Bush administration, after seven years, didn't deal with many of those that we know are enemy combatants."
Um... sir? What the hell are you doing quoting the Geneva Conventions?:
A combatant who does not qualify for POW status can, under the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, expect to be treated humanely; and before he is punished, can expect to get a trial in "a regularly constituted court."
So... we should give them a trial, and then shoot them? I suppose you think you're spreading democracy and stuff?


They don't like to govern, don't want you to see a government that can actually work, and want Obama to fail.

Why on earth are they running for office? Why are they getting elected?

Don't mess with octopi

For one dexterous octopus, an attempt at a great escape turned into a great flood Thursday at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California. The female California two-spotted octopus swam to the top of her tank, disassembled a valve with her powerful arm, and released at least 200 gallons (757 liters) of seawater into nearby exhibits and offices.
Makes me think of this wonderful animated short, Oktapodi.


Makes me laugh every time.

More on the intelligence of octopi:

Karl Rove needs to be told he's mortal like the rest of us.

And that the American public wants to ask him a few questions.
Tell Attorney General Holder: Karl Rove must testify.

On February 23, Karl Rove was supposed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in accordance with a Congressional subpoena. But Rove didn't show up. Again.

Rove didn't show up last year when he was ordered to testify, because his old friend President Bush said that Rove's testimony was protected by executive privilege. Now that Bush is no longer in office, we may finally have an opportunity to learn the truth about his alleged misdeeds, from authorizing voter suppression tactics to orchestrating the arrest of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

But even though we have a new president, Karl Rove is still acting like he's entitled to all the privileges that came with his old job. So far, the Obama administration has let him get away with it.

The Obama administration has the power to clarify that Rove no longer has access to the "executive privilege" line of defense - since the executive in question is no longer in office. If that happened, a judge would have a lot more power to compel Rove to comply with the subpoena, and we might finally begin to learn the truth about his activities.

Sign this petition today to tell Attorney General Eric Holder take swift action to compel Karl Rove to comply with Congressional subpoenas. The American people deserve better than smoke and mirrors - we deserve the truth.

Sign the petition.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's them edjukated math geeks what done this!

A year ago, it was hardly unthinkable that a math wizard like David X. Li might someday earn a Nobel Prize. After all, financial economists—even Wall Street quants—have received the Nobel in economics before, and Li's work on measuring risk has had more impact, more quickly, than previous Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the field. Today, though, as dazed bankers, politicians, regulators, and investors survey the wreckage of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, Li is probably thankful he still has a job in finance at all. Not that his achievement should be dismissed. He took a notoriously tough nut—determining correlation, or how seemingly disparate events are related—and cracked it wide open with a simple and elegant mathematical formula, one that would become ubiquitous in finance worldwide.

For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels.

His method was adopted by everybody from bond investors and Wall Street banks to ratings agencies and regulators. And it became so deeply entrenched—and was making people so much money—that warnings about its limitations were largely ignored.

Then the model fell apart. Cracks started appearing early on, when financial markets began behaving in ways that users of Li's formula hadn't expected. The cracks became full-fledged canyons in 2008—when ruptures in the financial system's foundation swallowed up trillions of dollars and put the survival of the global banking system in serious peril.

The bankers wanted it to work and did not pay attention to the flaws. Greed is good but apparently cuts off the flow of blood to the brain. Not his fault, they took it and ran:

It was a brilliant simplification of an intractable problem. And Li didn't just radically dumb down the difficulty of working out correlations; he decided not to even bother trying to map and calculate all the nearly infinite relationships between the various loans that made up a pool. What happens when the number of pool members increases or when you mix negative correlations with positive ones? Never mind all that, he said. The only thing that matters is the final correlation number—one clean, simple, all-sufficient figure that sums up everything.

The effect on the securitization market was electric. Armed with Li's formula, Wall Street's quants saw a new world of possibilities. And the first thing they did was start creating a huge number of brand-new triple-A securities. Using Li's copula approach meant that ratings agencies like Moody's—or anybody wanting to model the risk of a tranche—no longer needed to puzzle over the underlying securities. All they needed was that correlation number, and out would come a rating telling them how safe or risky the tranche was.

As a result, just about anything could be bundled and turned into a triple-A bond—corporate bonds, bank loans, mortgage-backed securities, whatever you liked. The consequent pools were often known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. You could tranche that pool and create a triple-A security even if none of the components were themselves triple-A. You could even take lower-rated tranches of other CDOs, put them in a pool, and tranche them—an instrument known as a CDO-squared, which at that point was so far removed from any actual underlying bond or loan or mortgage that no one really had a clue what it included. But it didn't matter. All you needed was Li's copula function.

He's now in hiding in China somewhere....

It's the new math!


Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors does it again!

It's WTF Thursday!

As in this story:
DENVER – A good Samaritan who helped push three people out of the path of a pickup truck before being struck and injured has gotten a strange reward for his good deed: A jaywalking ticket.

Family members said 58-year-old bus driver Jim Moffett and another man were helping two elderly women cross a busy Denver street in a snowstorm when he was hit Friday night.

Moffett suffered bleeding in the brain, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder and a possible ruptured spleen. He was in serious but stable condition Wednesday.

The Colorado State Patrol issued the citation. Trooper Ryan Sullivan said that despite Moffett's intentions, jaywalking contributed to the accident.

Moffett had been driving his bus when the two women got off. In the interest of safety, he got out and, together with another passenger, helped the ladies cross.

Moffett's stepson, Ken McDonald, said the driver of the pickup plowed into his stepfather, but not before Moffett pushed the two women out of the way.
And this one:
FOX16 News obtained surveillance video of the attack at a McDonald’s on Rodney Parham that left an employee with multiple gunshot wounds. The August 2008 video shows a man wearing a white shirt hitting a woman. Seconds later, an employee runs in to break it up and the attacker is forced outside. Off camera, the employee was shot three times. He walks back inside and then collapses before medical attention arrives.

Six days after the attack, LRPD detectives arrested Perry Kennon, 27, charging him with shooting Nigel Haskett. After three surgeries, $300,000 in medical bills and six months recovery, Haskett filed a workers compensation claim for his injuries.

Claims specialist Misty Thompson with insurance broker Ramsey, Krug, Farrell and Lensing responded, denying Haskett's claim.

"We've denied this claim in its entirety, it's our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course of his employment," a portion of the statement reads.

Philip Wilson is Haskett's attorney. He says the defense from McDonald's insurer is baffling.

"Seems like any employer would want a disturbance stopped and that's what this young man was simply trying to do," Wilson says.
What the hell are these people thinking? They've immediately lost support of the public and look like assholes as well. Good luck trying to win over a jury.

If you didn't catch the speech

Here's the transcript.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Because liberals have cooties?

And we're not afraid of teh gaii? Nor the scary black islamofascist socialisticcommie president? What the hell is George Will worried about? The world is going up in flames and he's fascinated by a reach across the aisles?

Anyway, guys have been hugging each other for centuries...

A kiss is just a kiss

Unless it has the flavor of toxic lead...


Amy Goodman of Truthdig
: (my bold)
Is your lipstick laden with lead? Is your baby’s bottle toxic? The American Chemistry Council assures us that “we make the products that help keep you safe and healthy.” But U.S. consumers are actually exposed to a vast array of harmful chemicals and additives embedded in toys, cosmetics, plastic water bottles and countless other products. U.S. chemical and manufacturing industries have fought regulation, while Europe moves ahead with strict prohibitions against the most harmful toxins. The European Union says regulation is good for business, inspiring consumer confidence and saving money over the long term.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the cosmetics industry in the United States is largely unregulated. Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro is the author of “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power.” In the absence of oversight, researchers and journalists like Schapiro and grass-roots organizations have stepped into the breach.

Schapiro told me, “Whether it is your nail polish, eye shadow, shampoo, essentially personal-care products [are] not regulated by the [Food and Drug Administration]. ... Numerous times in the Senate, over the last 50 years, there have been efforts to expand the purview of the FDA, and it’s been repeatedly beaten back by the cosmetics industry.” Details on the toxins are hard to come by. Schapiro continued, “The reason I even know what kind of material is in cosmetics is not because the FDA has told us; it’s actually because the European Union has taken the action to remove that stuff, and they have a list.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists numerous toxins that appear regularly in cosmetics and personal-care products, among them lead and phthalates. Phthalates are linked to birth defects, including disruption of genital development in boys, decreased sperm counts and infertility. Lead appears in lipstick and hundreds of other products. The CSC reports that “lead ... is a proven neurotoxin—linked to learning, language and behavioral problems ... miscarriage, reduced fertility in both men and women, hormonal changes, menstrual irregularities and delays in puberty onset in girls.” This is the stuff women and girls are putting on their lips all day, licking it off and reapplying.

The European Union, with 27 member nations representing almost half a billion people, is asserting itself on issues of toxins, using serious economic muscle. Stavros Dimas, European Union commissioner for environment, explained the long-term benefits of regulation: “The medical expenses for chemical-related diseases will be less. Medicines will not be needed. We will not lose working hours, and productivity will be better. So the overall benefits will by far outweigh costs to the industry.”

Interestingly, because European countries pay a far larger share of their citizens’ health-care costs than does the U.S., they want to keep costs down and they expect to save upward of $50 billion in coming decades, says Schapiro, as a result of the improved health and environmental conditions brought about by stricter chemical regulations.

In the wake of the 2007 China toy recall in the U.S. (because of lead found in the toys), Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. A key provision, mandating a ban of phthalate- and lead-containing products intended for children 12 years of age and younger, went into effect Feb. 10. If you bought a plastic toy before that date, beware: After the law passed last summer, some stores stuffed their shelves with tainted toys and sold them at fire-sale prices to unload their inventory.

Safe alternatives for toys, cosmetics, shampoos and other products are becoming increasingly available as demand for organic products grows. The difference between market forces limiting toxins and a law doing it, Schapiro says, is “if you have a law, it makes it far more equitable, because everybody gets the same protections, whether you have the resources or the knowledge to pursue the alternatives.”

That is where the EU comes in, with its expansive and world-leading regulatory system in place (called “REACH,” for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemical substances). Schapiro notes, “The European-led revolution in chemical regulation requires that thousands of chemicals finally be assessed for their potentially toxic effects on human beings and signals the end of American industry’s ability to withhold critical data from the public.”

Tough regulations on toxins are not only essential to saving lives; they also make good business sense. The U.S. now has an opportunity to catch up to our European partners—and make changes that are more than just cosmetic.
Americans are fat and overindulged. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. We get (new and improved! more for less!) products thrown at us constantly. We are urged to impulse buy. Spend more, don't think, don't get up, just order online! Yet we've been fed utter crap. The food and toys we buy have toxic chemicals, our beef has mad cow disease, our spinach has e-coli, our rice arsenic. Yet we are told to ignore that, buy more buy more, our country and the world depends on us to buy more...

Do we really need cheap heaps of stuff? Do we really need the latest greatest thing?

Know something corporations do not want you to know. Every time an addict shakes his addiction, someone loses money. So let's start buying less and emphasize quality over quantity.

Once you involve money, then the corporations will listen.

*edited for clarity... and because my grammar is really atrocious...

Blub blub blub....


GENEVA – Antarctic glaciers are melting faster across a much wider area than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday — a development that could lead to an unprecedented rise in sea levels.

A report by thousands of scientists for the 2007-2008 International Polar Year concluded that the western part of the continent is warming up, not just the Antarctic Peninsula.

Previously most of the warming was thought to occur on the narrow stretch pointing toward South America, said Colin Summerhayes, executive director of the Britain-based Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and a member of International Polar Year's steering committee.

But satellite data and automated weather stations indicate otherwise.

"The warming we see in the peninsula also extends all the way down to what is called west Antarctica," Summerhayes told The Associated Press. "That's unusual and unexpected."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wait! There must be another page to the list!

Wil Robinson of International Political Will talks about the latest attempt to move Afghans from producing opium poppies ... by planting pomegranates:
Let’s review the many ways our government has told us we can fight terrorism:

Go shopping

Surrender privacy rights

Shred the U.S. Constitution

Throw out habeas corpus

Rewrite the Geneva Conventions


Promote democracy and then actively sabotage it when you don’t like the result (see: Hamas)

Fund military despots around the world (see: Egypt, Pakistan, et. al.)

Veto United Nations Security Council Resolutions calling for Israel to respect human rights and international law


Take off our shoes and go thirsty when traveling on a plane

Deploy a mercenary army with no accountability

Invade countries that didn’t attack us

Continue to placate the one that did (see: Saudi Arabia)

Lower the price of oil by “drilling now”

Refer to the enemy as “homicide bombers” but our own bombs as “smart”

Issue travel warnings to reduce cultural interaction

Color-code fear

Entrapment (see: Hamid Hayat, the Lodi “terrorist”)

Blame Al Jazeera and/or free speech for showing photos of people we killed

Build walls (in Israel or on the Mexican border)

Spend a trillion dollars on an unnecessary war instead of domestic development

Send more troops

Blame religion

Drop bombs on villages from remote-controlled airplanes

And now…Buy pomegranates

It seems we have tried just about everything – except the most obvious:

Stop killing non-white, impoverished Muslims.
Nonsense, I have loads more ideas like.... kites! Selling kites and... um... nuts! and ... Ignore those drones, eat more fruit!

Comrade, I have an lolcat for you....

Paned windows are prohibited in this sector, comrade Sergei.
Will you kindly report to the Lubyanka, or will you force me to violence?…

What deregulation brings

Is not freedom nor open healthy markets nor sensitive-to-the-consumer corporations, but this:

RALEIGH -- Federal authorities are hunting the mastermind behind a "horrific case" in which bacteria-laden syringes shipped from an Angier plant sickened at least a hundred people and killed five.

Two men pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh for their roles in ignoring sterility standards at the former AM2PAT Inc. plant. Conditions there appeared more consistent with a textile factory than a pharmaceutical facility.

The men -- plant manager Aniruddha Patel and quality control director Ravindra Kumar Sharma -- were each sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for fraud and allowing tainted drugs into the marketplace.

And this:
Washington — Even after Peanut Corp. of America learned its products were tainted with salmonella, it kept shipping them to unsuspecting customers, apparently putting profits ahead of public safety, according to documents and testimony presented at a congressional subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Company president Stewart Parnell and Sammy Lightsey, manger of the Blakely plant at the center of one of the biggest food poisoning cases in recent history, refused to answer questions from a House panel, invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to present self-incriminating evidence.


Even in the heat of the nationwide outbreak, Parnell seemed more worried about his company’s profits than with food safety, according to regulators and congressional investigators.

On Jan. 19, Parnell sent an e-mail to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pleading with the agency to let it continue its business. He wrote that company executives “desperately at least need to turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money.”

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, (R-Gainesville), said the company’s actions not only hurt consumers and revealed problems with food safety, but also decimated the peanut industry that is central to Georgia’s economy.
We will always need regulation because hardwired into the human DNA is short term greed and selfishness. How many times have we been persuaded by eager corporations that we should just let them do what they do best... and then we die from their products?

Incompetence? During the Bush administration?

Do tell:
Complaints are beginning to pile up against the U.S. Interior Department. And they're coming not just from outside critics but also from people in the agency. The problems surfacing are serious: managerial incompetence, bureaucratic snafus that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and a pervasive forgive-and-forget attitude toward senior department officials who cross ethical lines.

The Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog group, released a study this week charging that Interior's Minerals and Management Service (MMS) has become far more lax the past four years in collecting unpaid royalties from the land it leases to oil and natural gas companies. From 2002 to 2005, MMS's auditing and compliance division collected $48 million not paid on mineral leases, which is "less than half the average $115 million collected annually in the division's first 20 years," according to Beth Daley, the watchdog organization's director of investigations. The drop in collections, Daley says, came after the auditing and compliance division cut its staff by 26% and began relying more on a computerized checking system of the leases "based upon information provided from the industry."

But the watchdog group's beef with Interior is tepid compared with the blast delivered a day earlier by the department's own inspector general, Earl Devaney. In scorching testimony before a House Government Reform subcommittee the no-nonsense Devaney charged that during his seven years as Interior's IG his revelations of misdeeds and foul-ups have been routinely "disregarded by the department." Numerous IG reports on regulations circumvented, procurement irregularities, project failures and bureaucrats being awarded bonuses despite their failures have been met with "vehement challenges" by Interior officials "to the quality of our audits, evaluations and investigations," he told lawmakers.
Amazing what is coming out now about the Bush years... I guess someone unclicked the mute button.

Interview with Darrel Vandeveld, resigned prosecutor from Gitmo

As interviewed by The Talking Dog:
Darrel Vandeveld is an attorney and former military officer, who, in civilian life is a prosecuting attorney in Erie, PA. In the military, he attained the rank of Lt. Col. in the Army Reserve, serving, among other places, in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa, as well as serving as a senior prosecutor for the military commissions prosecuting Guantanamo detainees. Last year, he became the seventh attorney to resign as a prosecutor from the military commissions.

The interview is long but well worth it. Fascinating to see what pressures this moral man came under as he tried to make sense of an immoral situation. I've posted part of Vandeveld's conclusion:
So, my advice to President Obama reduces to this: if trials in Article III courts are determined to be imprudent, time-consuming, or to involve too many Constitutional uncertainties, then reform the Commissions by the following: supplement your initial Executive Order with a more specific, imperative directive that ALL evidence be assembled on each detainee immediately, no matter the resources required to do so. Countenance no claims that the task is unattainable. Replace the current Convening Authority, Chief and Deputy Chief Prosecutors, whose failures are undeniable and who, in any event, no longer posess a shred of credibility. Instruct the military services’ top lawyers or “TJAGs” to conscript the most qualified prosecutors available, from whatever source (most probably the reserves, many of whose members are highly-experienced civilian prosecutors). Order the service TJAGs to relocate the entire operation to GTMO (currently, the prosecution and defense have offices in Northern Virginia!). Further, mandate that the Military Judges assigned to the Commissions be relocated to GTMO for the duration as well, holding court proceedings as rapidly as equity allows (before the President’s EO, the Commissions would meet at GTMO perhaps once a month – an unacceptably glacial pace), and to endeavor, consistent with the modified Commissions law and regulations, to complete all trials no later than 21 January 2010. Refuse to release any military personnel from active duty until the mission is complete. Knowing the soldier’s life as I do, this last step will instill the requisite urgency and effort all but abandoned in the preceding seven years. Finally, I would advise the President that after the fair, equitable and just trials are completed, to order the prison camps at GTMO destroyed -- bulldozed to the ground, not in an attempt to erase the past, but as a means of recognizing the abandonment of our American values that took place there. Put a decisive end to GTMO.

In sum, if the detainees cannot be tried in US federal courts, replicate the intelligent, reasoned, and highly-regarded Nuremberg trials to the extent possible at GTMO. Restore America as a force for good in the world. Complete the mission at GTMO, with honor and expeditiousness – not dishonor and expediency.
(Link via Kevin Hayden of American Street)

Update: Center for Constitutional Rights reports:

Currently at Guantánamo, the majority of detainees are being held in conditions of solitary confinement in one of two super-maximum facilities – Camps 5 and 6 – or in Camp Echo. The conditions in these camps are harshly punitive and violate international and U.S. legal standards for the humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. Solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, environmental manipulation, and sleep deprivation are daily realities for these men and have led to the steady deterioration of their physical and psychological health. In addition, detainees are subjected to brutal physical assaults by the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF), a team of military guards comparable to a riot squad, who are trained to respond to alleged "disciplinary infractions" with overwhelming force. Detainees have also been deprived of virtually all meaningful contact with their families, and have suffered interference with and abuse related to their right to practice their religion.

Contrary to statements by the military, conditions at Guantánamo have not improved for the majority of detainees and are still in violation of the law. In this report, we describe the current conditions of confinement for the men at Guantánamo and make recommendations for bringing Camps 5, 6 and Echo into immediate compliance with "all applicable laws" governing the conditions of confinement of detainees, as required by President Obama's Executive Order.

The descriptions of ongoing, severe solitary confinement, other forms of psychological abuse, incidents of violence and the threat of violence from guards, religious abuse, and widespread forced tube-feeding of hunger strikers indicate that the inhumane practices of the Bush Administration persist today at Guantánamo, despite President Obama's Executive Order, and should be remedied immediately.

They have a pdf report and copies of letters from detainees.

Why did anyone in the Bush administration think this was a good idea? A torture camp? Did they not study history? Not watch any WWII movies? Or did they always cheer for the Nazis and imagine people cowering before their awesome superbly tailored uniform and shiny goose-stepping boots?

Well, now even the guards are coming forward and talking. Soon we'll hear exactly which one of the perverted group in the Bush cabal pushed this torture program into existence. Maybe we'll even get to hear their dank depraved polluted soup of excuses as to why.

Remember. Some in the Bush administration actively pushed for torture and went down and watched.

I'll quote myself from this post I did in 12/07:
It's torture, Georgie. Why did your administration decide to call the Geneva Conventions quaint? Why did you want torture 'on the table'? Why were you so adamant to have these torture techniques employed? Why was Abu Gonzales asked to find a legal way to activate torture? Why was Rumsfeld scrawling notes about how easy it was to stand for eight hours and that it wasn't enough? Why was there an overheard conversation (Richard Clarke?) between high-ranking White House staff in the days after 9/11 happily discussing torture techniques to use on al-Qaeda and Iraqis? And we're supposed to believe all those dog leashes and glow sticks used on prisoners at Abu Ghraib are part of the everyday equipment of soldiers?

And when Rumsfeld became incensed over the photos of Abu Ghraib, he wasn't upset by the torture. He was upset by the existence of the photos. The acts didn't disturb him, the fact that the world now knew disturbed him.

You opened this door and are now trying to pretend that what was done with your okay and in your name hasn't happened. The truth will out and we will get to hear all the horrible details, if not now, soon. This administration thought that torture would make people be in shock and awe of them. All this did was announce to the citizens of Iraq and the United States and to the world that this administration was cowardly, craven, inept and incompetent. Losers use torture. Wise men don't need to.

And don't drag out that stupid excuse that everything changed on 9/11. Nothing changed on 9/11 except we finally joined the rest of the world in dealing with terrorists. Not every country dealing with terrorism turns into a police state and tortures people. Not every government uses such a blow to undo everything that they can't stand in the Constitution and in our laws. But your administration did, Georgie.

I bet you and your pals have watched the CIA torture tapes. Or, as you demanded of Saddam Hussein to produce proof that he did not have WMDs, prove that you haven't.

Because, by the way you are denying things and shifting times to prove you didn't know anything about anything, we're assuming you have.

crossposted at American Street

Monday, February 23, 2009

Poorman's Meal

With 91 year old Clara sharing a Great Depression recipe:

These things are good to know...

When a lion attacks

Offer him a foot massage. Works every time....

Most people shy away from giving their partner a foot massage let alone dishing one out to a 40 stone killing machine.

But British park ranger Alex Larenty is made of sterner stuff and has no qualms about gently rubbing the paws of a lion under his care.

The 50-year-old regularly treats Jamu to a foot massage and these pictures make it clear the eight-year-old lion is appreciative.


The shots were taken at The Lion Park, near Johannesburg, South Africa, just weeks before a man who broke into the reserve was mauled and killed.

Mr Larenty, who is originally from Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, said the animal has complete trust in him.

He said: 'The photographs demonstrate how much at ease he is with me.

'Trust me, though, you need to know what you are doing and our relationship is one that has built up over the last six years. Jamu won't just let anyone touch him the way I do.

'We have 75 lions here at the park and I know everyone by name, Jamu is a star in his own right though.

'While these lions know me and they are tame in some way, they are still dangerous to people they don't know or in situations they are unsure about.'

So... you introduce yourself first apparently. Then offer the foot massage....

Yeah.... just why DO we have lawns in California?

Especially when front yards themselves are usually for show, rarely used, and high maintenance. OrangeClouds at Calitics, a really good site for California politics:
Over at Natasha Chart asks if a recovery is even possible on a planet headed for environmental collapse? That's an answer I wish I knew. Natasha's been covering the water story regularly with a post about Colorado's fights between Big Oil and Big Water, a post about agribusiness and water use, and a post I highly recommend reading (even though it scares the shit out of me) called "We don't have to choose a dustbowl"

My own environmentalist hippie foodie answers to the water problem begin as follows:

  1. Why is it still legal to have lawns in California? Seriously. Somebody should outlaw watering your lawn. If we weren't in such a budget crisis I'd add that the city should provide native drought resistant plants to residents who want to make their yard beautiful and able to survive without water.
  2. California growers need to go organic ASAP. It's not a fix that will help them this year, and it will reduce their productivity in the next few years but in the long run, it will make all of their crops more drought resistant because the soil will store more water.
  3. We've gotta do something about animal agriculture. It uses a TON of water. If factory farms are something we have to have, then they shouldn't be located in California. Period.
  4. We need to expand fruit, nut, and vegetable (so-called "specialty crop") production in the other 49 states to plan for decreased production in California and to reduce energy needs for shipping food across the country. Right now there are actually laws preventing farmers who grow commodities to switching over to grow specialty crops instead. You can't even buy land from a farmer who used to grow commodities there and grow specialty crops on that land! The USDA is dabbling in changing that policy but only in a very small pilot program.

These things are expensive - either for the farmers or for the state that mandates it and compensates the farmers (or offers financial incentives to make it happen without mandating it). But we bailed out the banks even after they screwed up and got us into this mess. Why can't we bail out our farmers? After all, we need to eat.

I've noticed several houseowners in our tract ripping out their grass and planting native groundcover through a heavy mulch. I've even noticed a few houses in town that have very realistic-looking fake grass. You need to get right up on top of it to see it's plastic. But as water becomes more important, and the wars between farmer and suburbia, state and state, nation and nation become more pronounced and anxious, could we please address the feckless and heedless building of the Southern California sprawl right up into the mountains?

Click to get a larger view.

Where the hell are we going to get the water for these new homes? The gasoline to run food to the stores and to support the lengthy commutes these bedroom communities assume? Where will the garbage go? We are literally running out of space in the 'valley' and are flowing up and over the mountains into the deserts where the need for air conditioning becomes a life or death issue and the commutes for everything and everyone is hours longer. Meanwhile the death rot of neglect in the inner cities leaves empty warehouses and hard used apartment buildings and no services. Why can't we rebuild in these areas?

And lastly, when, not if, gasoline goes to 5, 8, 10 dollars a gallon, Southern California sprawl is going to die unless we get the HSR (high speed rail) in place.

Robert in Monterey at Calitics:

One of my lingering concerns about the Obama Administration has been that they might be tempted to claim victory with the $8 billion in HSR funding added to the stimulus and not follow up on that money, which as we know merely pays for some initial costs. But Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made clear last week that in fact, the $8 billion in HSR stimulus really is intended as a signal to America that Obama is truly serious about building HSR:

LaHood said that for Obama building high-speed rail networks is, "if not his No. 1 priority, certainly at the top of his list. What the president is saying with the $8 billion is this is the start to help begin high-speed rail projects." He added that the administration "is committed to finding the dollars to not only get them started but to finishing them in at least five parts of the country," although he declined to elaborate on where these projects might ultimately be built.

And don't worry about the right-wing freakout over the Vegas HSR project - California is in better position than any other HSR project in America to use that stimulus funding. We can begin construction in late 2010 or early 2011; no other project is anywhere close to that point.

Plant those gardens and turn your fricking hose off!

Danger from the military

To our own president:

It’s no surprise that a person who allegedly hoped to kill President Barack Obama has white supremacist leanings. But the fact that the threat allegedly came from a U.S. Marine has again raised the issue of extremists in the military.

Marine Lance Cpl. Kody Brittingham, stationed at Camp Lejuene, N.C., was arrested in mid-December on an unrelated armed robbery charge and, as a result, separated from the service on Jan. 3. But a search of Brittingham’s barracks also turned up a journal containing white supremacist material and a plan to kill Obama, according to a newspaper account. That reportedly prompted a Secret Service investigation of his alleged threats against the president that is ongoing.

The incident is the latest disturbing account that suggests extremists are infiltrating the military — even as officials deny there’s a problem. Yesterday, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen wrote to the Pentagon expressing his disappointment that military officials have taken no action on evidence of white supremacist activity in the military provided as early as 2006 by the SPLC.

“To be frank, it appears that we’re not getting anywhere,” Cohen wrote to Under Secretary of Defense David Chu in his Feb. 11 letter. “We provide evidence from multiple sources about the problem of extremists in the military, and you continue to claim that the military already has a zero-tolerance policy. You tell us that we should bring any information we have about extremist activity by specific Service members to the attention of appropriate Service authorities. But, as we have explained in our reports and in previous letters to you and the Secretary, we have done so, and the authorities have not taken action.”

[snip] [my bold]

[...]military recruiters, under intense pressure to meet quotas for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, began to unofficially lower entrance standards. As a result, in 2006, the SPLC issued a major report, “A Few Bad Men,” that revealed that large numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacists were joining the armed forces to acquire combat training and access to weapons and explosives.

The SPLC report was sent to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld along with a letter from Cohen urging the military to adopt a zero tolerance policy with regard to extremists in the ranks. Forty members of Congress wrote a similar letter, as did Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). But in his letters of reply, Chu dismissed all their concerns as exaggerated. The military took no remedial action.

Two years later, in 2008, the SPLC reported on new evidence — including an unclassified FBI report — that supported its initial findings. After that report, Cohen wrote Chu, again asking that the military adopt a zero tolerance policy. Chu replied on Dec. 28, saying the military already had such a policy in place and needed nothing more. “We are committed to sustaining a culture in which all personnel from diverse backgrounds serve together in defense of our great nation,” Chu wrote.

But numerous cases suggest otherwise.
President Obama is a brave man, but please keep him safe from the armed nutjobs we have running about our country and the world.

We need him.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get used to more articles like this


Salmon fishing was banned along the West Coast for the first time in 160 years Thursday, a decision that is expected to have a devastating economic impact on fishermen, dozens of businesses, tourism and boating.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez immediately declared a commercial fishery disaster, opening the door for Congress to appropriate money for anyone who will be economically harmed.

The closure of commercial and recreational fishing for chinook salmon in the ocean off California and most of Oregon was announced by the National Marine Fishery Service.

It followed the recommendation last month of the Pacific Fishery Management Council after the catastrophic disappearance of California's fabled fall run of the pink fish popularly known as king salmon.

It is the first total closure since commercial fishing started in the Bay Area in 1848.

Truly, it can't have taken people by surprise, right? You know... People fish something completely to extinction in one area and then are astonished the the natural fisheries collapse? What? The concept that you must leave some fish to make other fish is unknown?

He kept us safe....

From the evils of small appliances and cleaning fluids on aisles 4 and 6?


Sorry about that



Friday, February 20, 2009



An alternate energy source!:
Hamsters in jackets harnessed for energy. Scientists have managed to harness the energy-producing power of hamsters by fitting them with tiny detector jackets.
Why aren't they just running off of the wheel? That thing makes a huge racket all night and could generate enough electricity for a small city.

Read Phila's two posts on hope



and Two.

There. Don't you feel better knowing that not all the world is going to hell in a hand basket?

Now come the denials

It wasn't me, I wasn't there, it must have been somebody else...

In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday's forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn't be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

The last eight years never happened....

Blog sprinkles


This is a delicious waste of time.

And this is crap:

A California dairy has converted a pair of 18-wheelers to run on biomethane produced from cow manure, creating what is believed to be the nation's first cow-pie–powered trucks.

Hilarides Dairy will use manure produced by 10,000 cows to generate 226,000 cubic feet of biomethane daily — enough to reduce the Central Valley farm's diesel fuel consumption by 650 gallons a day.

"For us it made sense to invest in this technology. Now we can utilize the dairy's potential to power our trucks in addition to generating electricity for our operations," Rob Hilarides (pictured above), owner of the dairy, said. "This will significantly reduce our energy costs and give us some protection from volatile energy prices."

Not to mention something to do with all that manure.

Here is the best hug of the day.

And the worst funny joke....

I want to try this bread.

How soon they forget they tried to jam 'Love Our Dear Leader Or Die' down our throats these last horrible eight years. They can't comprehend how happy we are that Obama is president. The joy we feel is authentic. They think if they can just somehow stick the term fascism onto Obama somewhere.....

No wonder the Republicans hate FDR. Because all they can offer are tax cuts.

Plants you should consider growing in your vegetable garden.

North Dakota retreats to the Dark Ages

You have got to be kidding me....
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.
So... If a woman doesn't know she's pregnant and goes .. say.. skiing or something, has a 'late' period, is she a murderer? Are they going to stop women traveling across state lines and demand a pregnancy test?

Remind me to boycott everything from North Dakota....

Update: Meanwhile we are restructuring our stem cell research guidelines for the better....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watch your mocking laughter

While you write your love letters....

Not a multiple choice question

Write your answer in full citing scientific research.

DB shows how one scientist responded to Creationists (via PZ Myers). Click to read the excellent response.

As for me, I grew up religious and throughout my schooling I came across concepts that were not acceptable to my religion. My church's and family's reaction was not to force the school district to implement my faith's tenets into the curriculum, but to take the classes needed without demur. My faith was not shaken by exposure to alternate theories, I was not contaminated by thinking scientifically. (Why I left my church later is easily explained. I grew up.)

This bizarre need of Creationists to sweep reality aside for their children so they won't hear anything but their own ideas echoed back is sad. Is their understanding of God so fragile that even the whisper about the theory of evolution makes them fall from grace? Are they that afraid of the scientific process, fact-finding and rigorous methods of proof that they must deny its worth?

If God is All, then asking questions and demanding answers shouldn't indicate weakness of spirit or lack of faith. It shows an eagerness to learn which is what humans are hardwired to do. How does creeping and peeking through life, recoiling at facts and saying no constantly honor His creation?

Religion belongs in church. It does not belong in school (unless it's a class about religion, the Bible, philosophy, etc). Trying to jam faith-based ideas into a science class weakens both and does neither any service.

*edited for clarity.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Barack and Spidey

And then Abe Lincoln! What more could you ask for?

Cork it.

TerraCycle is saving millions of corks from going into landfills. We are recruiting wine enthusiasts, restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and wineries to keep used corks out of the waste stream. As an eco-friendly innovator, TerraCycle upcycles used corks - both natural and synthetic - into cool products are available nationally at major retailers.

If you normally put corks in the trash, this program gives you a planet friendlier option! Click here for the Cork Brigade FAQ.

Participating in the Cork Brigade is easy! All you have to do is mail corks to TerraCycle! If you have lots of corks, we will pay shipping and provide downloadable shipping labels. Sign up, activate your account, follow the email instructions and voila! You can begin sending corks to TerraCycle and away from landfills.
Looks like they make stuff from the corks, too. Drink more and faster!

From the viewpoint of the chimpanzee

They should never be pets.

From the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest:
For those of us who care for chimpanzees, it is difficult not to be angry about this incident. We know that chimpanzees should not be kept as pets - we’ve seen tragedies like this before. We know that chimpanzees should only be kept in secure enclosures. We know that chimpanzees in entertainment are usually discarded after a few years because they become too difficult to “handle.” And we know that chimpanzees are intelligent, social, amazing, and, yes, sometimes violent beings.

There should be laws in place in every state banning the keeping of chimpanzees as pets. Hollywood by choice or by being forced through legislation should never use a chimpanzee in entertainment again. Our hope is that this tragedy will create action to make these things happen, and we will do our part to help.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The witness protection program?

Feb 12th, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider whether to protect a rabbit-like, alpine creature known as the American pika because of habitat loss.

The decision comes in an agreement announced Thursday with the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice. The groups sued in August to protect the so-called "boulder bunny" under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The government has until May to decide if protection is warranted.

Environmentalists say the pika is losing its cold, high-altitude habitat because of global warming. The American pika cannot survive in warm climate and has been moving to higher elevations as temperatures at lower elevations rise.

Yelling loudly in the echo chamber

Doesn't make what you say the truth. It just makes you deaf.

Frank Rich about the Republicans on Capitol Hill:
...Overdosing on this culture can be fatal. Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started. That obliviousness gives the president the opening to win more ambitious policy victories than last week’s. Having checked the box on attempted bipartisanship, Obama can now move in for the kill.

Dig that bunker deeper!

Paul Krugman:

Then reality struck, and it turned out that the worriers had been right all along. The surge in asset values had been an illusion — but the surge in debt had been all too real.

So now we’re in trouble — deeper trouble, I think, than most people realize even now. And I’m not just talking about the dwindling band of forecasters who still insist that the economy will snap back any day now.

For this is a broad-based mess. Everyone talks about the problems of the banks, which are indeed in even worse shape than the rest of the system. But the banks aren’t the only players with too much debt and too few assets; the same description applies to the private sector as a whole.

To reassure us he finishes:
Since nothing like that is on the table, or seems likely to get on the table any time soon, it will take years for families and firms to work off the debt they ran up so blithely. The odds are that the legacy of our time of illusion — our decade at Bernie’s — will be a long, painful slump.
I'm digging faster!

To start out the week

With more Republican idiocy.

One example:
For months now, dead-ender conservatives have been trying in vain to nullify the results of the presidential election by inisting that Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen. Never mind that he obviously is, and never mind that every attempt to challenge his citizenship so far has been shot down in flames. Still the wingnuts persist in their doomed quest to unseat the Prez. And last week they got some good news - according to The Tennessean:
Several Tennessee lawmakers have signed on to a legal action intended to force President Barack Obama to turn over his birth certificate and other documents to prove his citizenship, an effort rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in an earlier case.Tennessee Reps. Eric Swafford, Stacey Campfield, Glen Casada and Frank Niceley have all agreed to be plaintiffs in a planned legal action by a Russian immigrant in California who has challenged whether Obama meets constitutional criteria to be president.
Apparently the plan is to throw any kind of crap they can find onto the tracks to try and derail Obama.

Good to see they think of their party first and their country last. Because staying in power is so much more important than preventing another Great Depression.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Because Bush and Cheney liked it

That's why they did it:
....the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.
We want the names of these so-called health professionals. We want the names of these 'doctors' who helped with these horrors before they squirm back into the woodwork. We want them to explain to us why.

Because there won't be any reason. There can be no explanation. None.

And then we will hear them use Nuremberg Defense.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

FDR then

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.
Applies still to us now. We've come full circle.

What's in a name?

A defense contractor business by any other name would smell as bad...

I've never understood the worship of Reagan

But now it has all been made clear.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dangerous for exactly who?

Last night on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly showed a clip of a Fox News producer ambushing Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to accuse him of political hypocrisy for urging an investigation into Bush crimes after he had opposed the Clinton impeachment. “This Leahy thing — this is beyond the pale,” O’Reilly moaned.

Marc Thiessen, Bush’s former chief speechwriter, agreed. Not only would the investigations be hypocritcal, he said, but worse, they would be “terribly dangerous” because they would expose the “facts” of the U.S.’s interrogation techniques to Osama bin Laden
I don't think they're thinking at all about bin Laden, do you? I think they're afraid of all the shit they've done when they thought no one would ever know. The detainees would die in Gitmo and the lawyers and doctors and torturers would just melt back into society and no one would be the wiser.

But we've wised up and we want to know. Now.

Is this to keep them out or us in?


After a couple of false starts, Predator unmanned drone aircraft are scheduled to start roaming the Canadian border next week.

State and federal officials will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base Monday, where the first Predator arrived in early December.

That ceremonial milestone had to be delayed twice because of a maintenance problem and turbulent weather.

The Predators, unarmed versions of the aircraft being used in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, have been patrolling the Mexican border since 2005. The Grand Forks base is the fourth of five outposts along the northern border where the aircraft will be based.

Why does this not comfort me?

Hoping that Obama fails


WASHINGTON – Democrats pushed a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill through the House and toward final approval on Friday, launching a costly attack on the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and handing President Barack Obama a major victory early in his term. The House vote was 246-183, with Republicans unanimous in opposition to the bill, which includes tax cuts and an estimated $500 billion in federal spending.

Senate leaders set a confirming vote for several hours later, and in a show of urgency, the White House dispatched a government plane to Ohio to fly back a senator who was home for his mother's Saturday morning funeral.

Supporters said the bill would save or create 3.5 million jobs. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer conceded there was no guarantee, but he said that "millions and millions and millions of people will be helped, as they have lost their jobs and can't put food on the table of their families."

Vigorously disagreeing, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio dumped a copy of the 1,071-page bill to the floor in a gesture of contempt. "The bill that was about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that's about spending, spending, spending," he said.

Thanks, Boehner. We will remember that.


Paul Krugman:
The plan sketched out by Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wasn’t bad, exactly. What it was, instead, was vague. It left everyone trying to figure out where the administration was really going. Will those public-private partnerships end up being a covert way to bail out bankers at taxpayers’ expense? Or will the required “stress test” act as a back-door route to temporary bank nationalization (the solution favored by a growing number of economists, myself included)? Nobody knows.

Over all, the effect was to kick the can down the road. And that’s not good enough. So far the Obama administration’s response to the economic crisis is all too reminiscent of Japan in the 1990s: a fiscal expansion large enough to avert the worst, but not enough to kick-start recovery; support for the banking system, but a reluctance to force banks to face up to their losses. It’s early days yet, but we’re falling behind the curve.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach — a feeling that America just isn’t rising to the greatest economic challenge in 70 years. The best may not lack all conviction, but they seem alarmingly willing to settle for half-measures. And the worst are, as ever, full of passionate intensity, oblivious to the grotesque failure of their doctrine in practice.

There’s still time to turn this around. But Mr. Obama has to be stronger looking forward. Otherwise, the verdict on this crisis might be that no, we can’t.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And your point is?

Phila of Bouphonia:
And Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi on the deadly perils of investing in alternative energy:
While the push for alternatives is important, we must also be mindful that efforts to rapidly promote alternatives could have a chilling effect on investment in the oil sector.
Right. Exactly. Thanks for noticing.

I read the news today, oh boy....

Dubai circles the drain? Really? Dubai?:
With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town.

No one knows how bad things have become, though it is clear that tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled. But with the government unwilling to provide data, rumors are bound to flourish, damaging confidence and further undermining the economy.
We've killed people in our concentration camps:
The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These previously unreported pages detail repeated use of "abusive" behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths.

The documents, obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, who was tapped to conduct a comprehensive review of Defense Department interrogation operations. Church specifically calls out interrogations at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan as "clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance."

The two unredacted pages from the Church report may be found here.

The ACLU's release comes on the same day as a major FOIA document dump by three other leading human rights groups: Documents which reveal the Pentagon ran secret prisons in Bagram and Iraq, that it cooperated with the CIA's "ghost detention" program and that Defense personnel delayed a prisoner's release to avoid bad press.
And just what ELSE are the thieves walking out with?:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico is missing 67 computers, including 13 that were lost or stolen in the past year. Officials say no classified information has been lost.

The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight on Wednesday released a memo dated Feb. 3 from the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration outlining the loss of the computers.

Kevin Roark, a spokesman for Los Alamos, on Wednesday confirmed the computers were missing and said the lab was initiating a monthlong inventory to account for every computer. He said the computers were a cybersecurity issue because they may contain personal information like names and addresses, but they did not contain any classified information.
We're still unaware Tasers can kill?
A man in the northern California city of San Jose died after being jolted with a Taser, police said Thursday, apparently the sixth such death since the department began using the stun guns in 2004.

The man, who police said appeared to be in his 20s, got into a struggle with two officers when they tried to arrest him in the backyard of a home late Wednesday.
I think I'll go dig that bunker in my backyard....

Update: Canada is rewriting its rules about Tasers because the Canadians get it:
OTTAWA — Given the "high risk of death" in some cases, RCMP officers are now limited in their use of tasers to individuals who pose a clear threat to the public or police, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott„© said yesterday.

Mr. Elliott used two public appearances to provide new details on the RCMP's taser policy, which has come under fire after the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski„© at Vancouver's airport in 2007.

The new restrictions have been in place since last June, but were laid out in full only yesterday, two months after the announcement that four Mounties who used a taser to subdue Mr. Dziekanski would not face criminal charges.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Mr. Elliott said the weapons can no longer be used against people who are simply refusing to co-operate with Mounties.

If you want to know why education is important


Check out these percentages:
Charles Darwin, who invented the theory of evolution, was born on Feb. 12, 1809. Marking the 200th anniversary of his Darwin’s birth, Gallup has a new poll out showing that “only 39 percent of Americans say they ‘believe in the theory of evolution,’ while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36 percent don’t have an opinion either way”
And then watch NOVA: Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

And start to worry about returning to the Dark Ages....

We're just not that into you, George


In the heart of the lands of Big Oil

Electric cars?

The United Arab Emirates is planning a bunch of “personal rapid transit” devices: driverless taxis that run on electricity and could hit the streets of Masdar as early as this year.

Built by Systematica, the PRT system will help keep Masdar (a planned city in Abu Dhabi) completely car-free. The vehicles travel at speeds of roughly 7 meters per second, with the longest routes planned for about 2.5km, and will be located two stories beneath street level. Riders will pay about the same price they'd normally drop on an equivalent taxi ride.

Want an overview of the last two months?

EarlG's Top Ten is back! January 12th, January 19th, and February 2nd.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Support our troops

And stop this madness:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One week after the U.S. Army announced record suicide rates among its soldiers last year, the service is worried about a spike in possible suicides in the new year.

The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone -- six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday.

The Army said it already has confirmed seven suicides, with 17 additional cases pending that it believes investigators will confirm as suicides for January.

If those prove true, more soldiers will have killed themselves than died in combat last month. According to Pentagon statistics, there were 16 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in January.

"This is terrifying," an Army official said. "We do not know what is going on."

Col. Kathy Platoni, chief clinical psychologist for the Army Reserve and National Guard, said that the long, cold months of winter could be a major contributor to the January spike.

"There is more hopelessness and helplessness because everything is so dreary and cold," she said.

But Platoni said she sees the multiple deployments, stigma associated with seeking treatment and the excessive use of anti-depressants as ongoing concerns for mental-health professionals who work with soldiers.

Those who are seeking mental-health care often have their treatment disrupted by deployments. Deployed soldiers also have to deal with the stress of separations from families
(Via the Sailor of SteveAudio).

The trickle down theory

Leaves investors high and dry:

Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch gives a bubbly explanation of the intricacies of collateralized debt obligations those financial instruments that got us into this financial mess.

A zwischenzug classic maneuver

Bob Herbert:
The simple truth is that most Republican politicians would like Mr. Obama to fail because that is their ticket to a quick return to power. I think the president is a more formidable opponent than they realize.

Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike. He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle. While Lindsey Graham was behaving like a 6-year-old on the Senate floor and Pete Sessions was studying passages in his Taliban handbook, Mr. Obama and his aides were assessing what’s achievable in terms of stimulus legislation and how best to get there.

I’d personally like to see a more robust stimulus package, with increased infrastructure spending and fewer tax cuts. But the reality is that Mr. Obama needs at least a handful of Republican votes in the Senate to get anything at all done, and he can’t afford to lose this first crucial legislative fight of his presidency.

The Democrats may succeed in bolstering their package somewhat in conference, but I think Mr. Obama would have been satisfied all along to start his presidency off with an $800 billion-plus stimulus program.
Not that I know much about chess, I just think we're seeing a whole new type of game being played...

Just don't mention Blu-ray in my house

Or you'll get a ten minute rant:

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

Monday, February 09, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime?


More graphs from Brian DeLong:


Because monetary policy is already tapped out--Treasury interest rates are at zero--and employment losses are about to be bigger than in any previous recession since the Great Depression itself.

Whatever the future will be, we're not going back to the way we were.
And then there's this video:

in response to the usual CSPAN hysterical caller, Rep Kanjorski gives his perspective on the bailout, it is especially interesting to hear how the money market drawdown threatened to collapse the entire world economy in 24 hours back in the fall of 2008, which was the motivation for the first 350 billion.
Pointing fingers:
The revolution was started by Chicago's first convert -- Richard Nixon in 1971. It was carried forward by the Reagan and Clinton administrations. Soon it became more profitable to grow money from money than to grow maize, textiles or steel.

Building up debts and deficits became acceptable. During the Bush-Cheney years the national debt doubled from $5.7 trillion to $10.7 trillion. 'Reagan proved ...deficits don't matter' said Dick Cheney in 2001.

Making money from money became the aim of economic policy. Chicago economists argued that private bankers could be trusted to create and distribute credit. That the US economy could safely be held aloft by a credit-fueled shopping spree. Shopping became the major economic activity.

Today the finance sector grabs more than 30% of domestic corporate profits -- double its share 25 years ago. And fully 75% of US GDP is down to personal consumption expenditures -- up from around 60% in the 1960s.

Today millions are jobless, homeless and hungry.
Then there's Robert Reich at TPM:

Paul Krugman:
Now, House and Senate negotiators have to reconcile their versions of the stimulus, and it’s possible that the final bill will undo the centrists’ worst. And Mr. Obama may be able to come back for a second round. But this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short.

So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good.

For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.”

No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.
I think I'm going to go bury some gold in the backyard....

When Shock'n'Awe failed and diplomacy began

Via Steve Clemons of the Washington Note:
I agree with Ricks that Captain Samuel Cook and his Crazyhorse Troop showed remarkable sense in changing what were failing heavy-handed counterinsurgency methods into something far more effective. The opposite of this strategy can easily be seen in two award-winning films that benchmark what was going on before officers like Captain Cook and another favorite of mine, Captain Jon Powers (who recently ran and lost in a Democratic primary for a New York House seat), began changing the game on the front line of contact with Iraq's civilians. One of these was Michael Tucker's Gunner Palace and the other Alex Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side.

The Surge is still controversial, and I look forward to reading Tom Ricks' assessment of it -- and why the surge, per se, mattered so much. One of the questions I look forward to exploring is why a "change in tactics" (i.e., using any of the sensible tactics Captain Samuel Cook used in the video above) required a greater deployment of troops.