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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"I'm not talking about Medicare, I'm Talking about Socialized Medicine"

Obamacare - Socialized Medicine; for some "them is fighting words."  But why?

On her blog site, Maxine Udall highlights well a frustrating discussion many of us have had:
An elderly relative started complaining about "Obamacare" and how it would lead to "socialized medicine." Knowing the person had heart surgery courtesy of Medicare and was receiving ongoing monitoring and care, I said, "I didn't realize you were so unhappy with Medicare." To which I received the reply: "I'm not talking about Medicare, I'm talking about socialized medicine."
"How is Medicare different from socialized medicine?" I asked.
"Medicare isn't socialized," came the reply. "I pay for it. I pay every month and when I've had surgery, I've had to pay some of it. Medicare is like any other insurance."
"Well," I said, "I know you're paying a premium for Part B and I know there are copayments and deductibles, but Medicare is a government run health insurance program."
To which the reply was: "But I'm talking about socialized medicine. You know that whenever the government gets involved in anything, it never does a good job."
"I had no idea you were having problems with Medicare." said I. "I always had the impression you were pretty satisfied with it. And with the VA, too. I know you've used the VA for some care recently. What problems have you had with Medicare or the VA?"
"Well, none with Medicare or the VA, but I'm not talking about Medicare. I'm talking about socialized medicine."
"So you're happy with Medicare?"
"Would you mind if your [adult] children could buy into it? Your son is unemployed. Would it be OK if he could buy into Medicare?"
"Well, sure. As long as he has to pay like I do."
You were all wondering how someone could say, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare?" Well, there you have it. Now that I've told you, I'm still not sure I understand it. It was one of the most frustrating and at the same time enlightening conversations I have had in a long time. The person with whom I was conversing is intelligent, educated, and not senile.
So there you have it.  Like so many they are opposed to "socialized medicine" but "keep your hands off my Welfare."  It's really frustrating, but then when they also say - "wells sure my kids can have Medicare too if they pay for it" - it becomes discouraging.  Discouraging in that we are both talking about the same thing and the same result (affordable health-care for all) but we end up disagreeing over "characterization."

How is Medicare not "socialized medicine?"  Or better yet, if Medicare is ok, then why would a governmentt run plan for all not be okay and why would it be called "socialized medicine?"

The difficulty in dealing with those who oppose "Obamacare", climate deniers (and the birthers and so many others) is not that they don't understand the evidence – it's that evidence has nothing to do with their belief. The denial comes from deep-seated emotional commitments and fears, in unthinking adherence to some political ideology and, often, in a perceived financial interest in not knowing – and they simply cannot hear rational arguments.

"If they're for it," many Americans reason, "Then it's a bad idea whether or not I understand it. Therefore, I'm against it."

So from now on whenever I hear that some Republican is opposed to "Obamacare" I plan on telling those who listen, that yes the Republicans wish to repeal Obamacare and Medicare.  And when Republicans deny it, make them explain why Medicare isn't the same as Obamacare.  Hell, the Republicans are already moving to drastically reduce and change Social Security, so you know Medicare isn't far behind.

In a letter to The New York Times, Scott O. Lilienfield, a psychology professor at Emory, wrote that much of our political discourse is marked by "rampant confirmation bias," in which people "deny, dismiss, and distort evidence" that is not consistent with their beliefs. The fifth of Americans who hold that Obama is Muslim are unquestionably those for whom the president can do no right. Casting him as a Muslim is a convenient—and provocative—form of devaluation in a society which is fearful of Muslims in general. "Muslimers"—if I may put it that way—are of the same ilk as "birthers," those who maintain (again, without a shred of evidence) that Obama was not born in the United States, rendering him ineligible for the White House. (Obama's Muslimization is a way to render him ineligible, culturally, to be an American president.)

I have said it before and I will say it again.  I do not understand how you vote Republican if you are elderly and if you are not a multi-millionaire.  If it is because of "conservative social issues", wouldn't you be better off voting for more conservative democrats or trying to get your democratic representatives to adopt more conservative ideology?   When those Republicans finally succeed in taking away your Social Security and eliminating that socialized medicine program called Medicare, at least you will have solice sleeping on the steps of your boarded up Church (because like you, all of the other parishioners went broke - the rich will still have their "members-only" church in the Hamptons).

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'll Have A Burger And Fries With That Blow-Job Please

Time is reporting that Zurich, Switzerland officials have made proposals to add "sex boxes" to the city. The idea itself is adopted from German cities like Essen and Cologne, and will be a way for prostitution to continue on behind closed doors.

The boxes will serve as quickie drive-throughs, so-to-speak, and will free up city streets from unsightly acts that haunt Zurich residents whose homes overlook the city's red light district. "They get up to all sorts in broad daylight - and we're sick to death of looking at it," one resident told the U.K.'s Metro.

"We can't get rid of prostitution, so have to learn how to control it," Police spokesman Reto Casanova said.

If McDonald's would add gas pumps and the "sex-boxes" we could truly do one-stop shopping.  Think of all the gas we would save. 

Talk about adding a little special sauce to my meat ... paddies. 

Plus the kids would have a McDonald's play land and so would the dads.

I didn't know the Swiss were so creative.

Plus, no need to pump it yourself anymore.

The Anti-Beck Rally

Mulit-tasking Masturbation - When There Is Just Not Enough Time In The Day

Paris Hilton and her boyfriend Cy Waits are just so ... yesterday - being arrested for cocaine possession and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol (respectfully).

And we have all seen the tragic consequences of texting or tweeting while driving.

But you just can't slow down Colondra Hamilton.  Girl is busy.

The Cincinnati woman was pulled over during a traffic stop when cops noticed that she was driving a 2008 Pontiac with overly tinted windows.  When they looked inside, they noticed that her pants were unbuttoned and there was a vibrator on her lap.

After being questioned by the police, Colondra Hamilton admitted to engaging in "auto erotic manipulation," while watching a porno movie that was playing on a friend's laptop in the passenger seat! 

At least she wasn't watching some boring Disney movie with the kids.

She was arrested and booked on a misdemeanor for driving with "impaired alertness" and drug paraphernalia possession for a "broken piece of crack pipe" found in her purse.

Wow. Colondra was busy.

Watching a movie on her friend's lap top, a little "auto erotic manipulation" (I think she should get bonus points for coming up with such a masterful and enticing definition of "flicking the bean") and, perhaps, smoking a little crack.

That is multitasking madness.

Girls just want to have fun!

So what now?  Mother's Against Masturbation!

Party On Dudes - OUT OF CONTROL Bribes, Prostitutes, Warlords... U.S. Can't Keep Tabs On Foreign Subcontractors

Where are Bill and Ted when you need them?
Bill: It is indeed a pleasure to introduce to you a gentleman we picked up in medieval Mongolia in the year 1269.

Ted: Please welcome, the very excellent barbarian...
Ted, Bill: ...MR. GENGHIS KHAN!
[All the students applaud wildly for Khan]
Ted: This is a dude who, 700 years ago, totally ravaged China, and who, we were told, 2 hours ago, totally ravaged Oshman's Sporting Goods.
Huffington Post is reporting that as the U.S. military anticipates withdrawal from Iraq and transferring of vital functions to civilian businesses, foreign subcontractors are playing an enormous role in war zones. Often operating through larger big-name U.S. contractors, they ferry supplies such as ammo and weapons through dangerous terrain. They provide translators and food for troops, help build military outposts, and keep soldiers and civilians safe. Without such local and regional subcontractors, the modern military says it could not operate in two war zones halfway around the globe.

Sounds innocent enough?  Well ... customary contracting rules don't apply, and even big U.S. companies aren't always sure whom they are ultimately paying. That can lead to fraud and shoddy work. 

It is not just bad work.  The government suspects certain foreign subcontractors providing security in Afghanistan of bribing both sides in the conflict -- officials of the U.S.-supported Afghan government as well as leaders of the Taliban.

In Baghdad, a whistleblower is alleging that Middle Eastern subcontractors with special security access sneak prostitutes into the highly secure Green Zone, in an effort to persuade contractors and the U.S. military to hire the company.  Possession of a security access card allegedly allowed a contractor to escort up to five people into the Green Zone without having his automobile searched, the DCIS interview report said. One reconstruction contractor based in the Mideast "managed to routinely have prostitutes at their parties," the whistleblower alleged in the report. The FBI record of the interview indicates the whistleblower alleged to agents that the prostitutes were young Iraqi women, "generally dressed in what he described as 'belly-dancer' outfits."

And back at home we were worried about "gays" in the military.  Stupid us.

But it is not just prostitutes.  An investigation by the House oversight subcommittee on national security found that multiple private security subcontractors were warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders -- adversaries who are "in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government," according to a subcommittee report, "Warlord, Inc."

Warlord, Inc?  Sounds like a most excellent video game.

Raymond DiNunzio, head of investigations for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, reported that the U.S. may be helping its enemies. The government "does not have the ability to monitor Afghan security contractors or determine the nature of their affiliation or allegiance," he said.  In Iraq, meanwhile, U.S. money for trash collection, administered by a bevy of foreign subcontractors, has allegedly ended up in the pockets of insurgents, according to one investigation.

So we may be paying subcontractors who turn around and shot back at our soldiers.  How stupid are we?

Who are the biggest Warlords of all?  Probably all of the American defense contractors who make Billions off of our war funding.  If the Tea Party members want to cut wasteful spending, START CUTTING OUR DEFENSE SPENDING.

Prostitutes, parties, drugs ...  Cue Bill and Ted:
Abraham Lincoln: Fourscore and...

[looks at his pocket watch]
Abraham Lincoln: seven minutes ago... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pope Glenn Beck To Restore Christianity To The Huddled Masses

From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, broadcaster Glenn Beck has told a crowd of tens of thousands of people gathering on the National Mall that their country has "wandered in darkness" for too long. And he began his rally on a religious theme, saying that "America today begins to turn back to God."

Wow, so God has anointed his Holiness, Glennedicktus Becktus, as his messenger on Earth to restore God to America.

Where do you even start with that? I say let's look at the premises that America had lost or turned its back to "God."  So I guess first, he is calling most of us heathens. It is really good to know that Mr. Beck is in such a position of authority and is so omnipotent as to cast that judgement out upon we the ungodly mass.

Now I don't care if he calls me ungodly (I don't believe in God), but last I checked most Americans do. So I assume that they are not being "good enough" Christians for you Mr. Beck?

But are Americans really so anti-God? Of all of its Western neighbors, Americans are amongst the very highest in terms of attending church.

But you, Pope Glennedicktus, and your assorted Cardinals, Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmman, Jim Miller, would know better would you not? We need to be more "God-like" in your eyes. What exactly does the Church of Beck stand for?

Well, not providing medicine to the poor, because that is Socialism. We really need to get rid of the devil-drug "Obama-care" because the poor should just get jobs to pay for medical care.

And we need to end this over dependence on food stamps and social programs, because that is Nazism. Cardinal Angle often speaks of our over-coddling the hungry and not allowing them to starve for themselves. It is our fault that they don't get jobs to buy food. Shame on us.

And we need to stop providing McMansions to the homeless, least we become Communist. There are plenty of leftover card-board boxes around from which they can take shelter.

So now that Pope Glennedicktus is restoring Christianity to his humble people, he and his Cardinals also wish to "reclaim the civil rights movement". Yes, on the 47th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and at the same spot on the National Mall, on the steps of the memorial, these enlightened few ask that you don white and "reclaim" civil rights. Confused?

Al Sharpton said that "In '63, they went to Washington for a strong national government to protect civil rights." "He and Palin are going there for a weak national government and to advocate state rights."

It seems to me that "reclaim" is simply the same slogan as "take back", i.e. take back America from the blacks, Mexicans, homosexuals and Jews. It is the Crusades of the 21st century. Beck, Palin, Angle, Bachmann and Miller are leading "God's" army to reclaim America.

These self-anointed demagogues are frightening!

This delusional omnipotence - this grandiose view of ones own self-worth and importance - this psychopathological idea that only you have the answers - this megalomaniacal belief that anyone who disagrees with you is your enemy - IS DANGEROUS.

Idiot Of The Decade - Sharron Angle - Her Delusional, Grandiose, Psychopathological Meglomania

Sharron Angle.  It is shocking that one person can create such controversy.  Her latest?  Sharron Angle twice refuses to disavow her claim that there are "domestic enemies" in Congress.

During a 2009 interview, a right-wing talk show host told Angle that there are "domestic enemies" and "homegrown enemies" within the "walls of the Senate and the Congress." Angle replied: "Yes, I think you're right."

In an interview with a conservative talk show host yesterday, Sharron Angle was given two clear chances to disavow the claim that there are "domestic enemies" within Congress, an assertion she previously expressed unequivocal agreement with. Both times, Angle refused.
She is not alone though.  One person who commented about this story had this to say:
"Sharron Angle is absolutely correct about domestic enemies in congress. These are the very ones who took an oath to support and defend the US Constitution against foreign and "domestic" eneies [sic] when they took their seats in congress, yet, they consistantly vote to weaken the constitution; violate the provisions of the constitution and display antiamerican [sic] attitudes by rejecting the majority of American voters and taxpayers. They are domestic enemy [sic] when they continue to spend without any consideration of what the taxpayer is going through; they are domestic enemies when they show arrogant attitudes toward [sic] the American citizen when they seek to redress the government; they are domestic enemies when the [sic] refuse to hold Obama accountable for not enforcing the immigration laws of the land; they are domestic enemies when they support socialist programs at the expense of our free market system. Yes, Sharron Angle, there are domestic enemies in congress."
So as I read it, Sharron Angle and others (like the commentator above) believe that anyone who disagrees with them or has a policy with which they disagree is a "domestic enemy"!!!

Who appointed them GOD?  I don't even believe in God but they do and they believe that what they say should be the law of the land.

This delusional omnipotence - this grandiose view of ones own self-worth and importance - this psychopathological idea that only you have the answers - this megalomaniacal belief that anyone who disagrees with you is your enemy - IS DANGEROUS.

We the people are not enemies simply because we have different view-points.  Calling other Americans, members of Congress, "domestic enemies" degrades us all.

Sharron Angle - you are an embarrassment to all that is good with this Country.

Read more about the ever not so charming Ms. Angle:

Paris Hilton Arrested On Cocaine Charge

I don't like to comment on celebrities, there are more than enough sites for that.  I am sure Perez Hilton can fill you in on all the more lurid details, but it is being reported by the AP that:
Paris Hilton was arrested on the Las Vegas Strip late Friday after police saw a cloud of what they suspected was marijuana smoke wafting from the windows of a black Cadillac Escalade driven by her boyfriend, then found a small amount of cocaine in her possession.
I am not here to pass judgment on Paris or her boy-friend for doing drugs.  We are each responsible for our own behavior and I am not one to sit in judgment.  However, drinking or doing drugs and driving is just irresponsible. 

I, like most of us, have in my life made mistakes and used poor judgement and have driven after one too many drinks. I was lucky and never got a DUI or had an accident.  Regardless, it was stupid and very irresponsible. I have been at dinner parties and had way too much wine and have in that altered state thought I was fine to drive. Good friends will usually remind you (me) you are not.  It is something I take very seriously now and will never do.

Three easy concepts depending on your finances: Call a friend, Call a Cab, Use a Car Service or use the Personal Driver already on the pay role.

So her arrest is a reminder to us all, do not drink or do drugs and drive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heartbreaking - Gut Wrenching - You Have To Watch - Pass It On

If you never watch videos, if you never click online, if you just don't know - you really MUST watch this video.

Words cannot really express how heartbreaking this video is.  But it is so important to watch.

And pass it on.

We must all know!!!

Has The Tea Party Been Hijacked By Conservative Christians?

The Tea Party movement was initially identified by the core principles of anti-tax and anti-government.  It was a libertarian ideology of less government and more power to people and the States.

In a previous article I wrote about the three ideologies which were teh basis of the Tea Party and how the dispute over which one was it central theme was causing the Tea Party to lack a central identity - "What Flavor of Tea (Party) Do You Like?"  See HERE

Increasingly the focus of the Tea Party seems to be identifying around conservative political issues.  And with the success of Joe Miller in Alaska you have to wonder of the Tea Party is now dominated by Conservative Christians.  Are abortion politics behind Joe Miller’s surprising GOP Senate primary showing in Alaska? And has the Tea Party, which launched as a grassroots anti-tax movement, embraced a Christian conservative platform on divisive social issues?

In Alaska, the last few weeks of the election season were dominated by a contentious debate over Measure 2, a ballot initiative that requires doctors to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on an unmarried minor, or face felony charges and up to five years in prison.  Measure 2 passed decisively, 55 to 44 percent, drawing support from many of the same socially conservative voters who chose the pro-life Miller over Murkowski, one of only three pro-choice Republicans in the Senate.

The Huffington Post points out that:
The Alaska election results underscore the extent to which the Tea Party movement and its candidates—strongly anti-abortion rights politicians such as Miller, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Marco Rubio in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Ken Buck in Colorado—have come to be affiliated with Christian conservative ideals, even as Tea Party organizers say they have little interest in social issues.
For its part, Tea Party Express spokesman William Owens, a prominent Christian conservative with a history of pro-life activism, said Wednesday in an interview with The Daily Beast that the group steers clear of abortion because it wants to “focus on the most important things. The whole thrust of the Tea Party movement came out of fiscal irresponsibility and government overextending itself.”

But Miller, who received more than $550,000 in donations and on-the-ground support from the California-based Tea Party Express and frequently tweeted about his Tea Party affiliation, made his antiabortion stance a central part of the Alaska Senate primary. In June, he sent a fundraising letter to “pro-life supporters” criticizing Murkowski’s support for Roe v. Wade and stem-cell research, as well as her opposition to the “Mexico City Policy,” which under President George W. Bush prevented American foreign aid dollars from funding abortion services.

Another Tea Party Express favorite of whom I have written is Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle, who has come under fire for her views on abortion and homosexuality. In a June radio interview, Angle suggested rape victims should avoid abortion, turning “a lemon situation into lemonade.”  (See my story HERE.) She has also stated that God wants her to win.  (See HERE)

All of this begs the question - are these Tea Party candidates winning based on their fiscal issues (anti-tax, small government) or based on social issues (anti-abortion, anti-gay rights)?

It it very difficult to reconcile a libertarian ideology (power to the people as opposed to the government) with the Conservative christian ideology (governmental laws imposing Christian social "morals") and sooner or later one of the two must fail.  If the christian ideology wins, then the Tea Party becomes nothing more than (and is indistinguishable from ) an ultra-conservative branch of the Republican party.

If this change does come to pass, will it help or hurt Republicans?  Will it not just tear the republican party into two contentious groups?  Or will it fire up the Republican base?

When candidates like incumbent Lisa Murkowski loose, you have to wonder if it is hurting Republicans more than helping them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Is The Definition Of Megalomaniac? - Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck Compares His D.C. Rally To Moon Landing, Iwo Jima, Rise Of Lincoln (This is a Quote From Huffington Post)

Meglomania has been defined as:

1. a mental illness characterized by delusions of grandeur, power,wealth, etc.

2. A deep need or craving for power

3. an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things.

So let's look at Glenn Beck.  In a recent, melodramatic, video promotion of a rally Mr. Beck will have in Washington, he makes comparisons to Rosa Parks, the Wright Brothers, and the moon landing.
He claims he is going to reclaim the Civil Rights movement.  Does he even know what the civil rights movement was?

Glenn said: "we started the civil rights movement".  Not really sure what he means by "we"?   Wasn't he born in 1964?  The march on Washington was a year before he was born.

As one commentator said:
I've watched a few short clips of Glenn Beck today. Just to familiarize myself with the man. I confess I don't know half as much about him as you all seem to. But going just on what I saw today in these clips, he seems to be a hyper-emotional person who believes he is pivotal to the well-being of the entire country.
I'll agree, I do not know his work, but he does seem to think that he has some supreme importance to the world.  It seems to me that the charlatans like Beck and Limbaugh are nothing but salesman selling their favorite product--themselves. The more moronic they can be the better their moronic fans adore them. The more the moronic fans adore them the more money they make. People think that having the soapbox means they actually know something. The only thing Beck and Limbaugh know is how to line their own pockets.

I end with a quote from John Stuart Mill

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fu*k Fair And Impartial - Fox Rejects Ad About Its GOP Donation, Admits News Corp Opposes 'Democratic Candidates'

As you may have heard, progressive media watchdog group Media Matters proposed running an ad on Fox News about News Corp's $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association (RGA). 

The idea behind the Media Matters ad was to bring viewers' attention to the political activities of News Corp, which is the Rupert-Murdoch run parent company of Fox News. According to Media Matters, Fox News has devoted just 17 seconds of airtime to the organization's RGA donation, despite extensive coverage by other outlets.

Now Fox and Media Matters are in a war of words over why Fox refused to air the commercial.  However what is undisputed is that News Corp did give $1 Million to Republicans to oppose democratic candidates and Fox news had virtually zero coverage of the donation.

So how is it that Fox can claim any level of impartiality or even-handedness in reporting the news?  It seems they don't really care and are just going to present the news as they see fit.

William Randolph Hearst did that too and helped create "yellow journalism" — sensationalized stories of dubious veracity.  Now Fox creates stories of dubious veracity.

According to Wikpedia:
Hearst's use of yellow journalism techniques in his New York Journal to whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair's 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst's newspaper employees were "willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war." Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst's newspapers lied "remorselessly about radicals," excluded "the word Socialist from their columns" and obeyed "a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably." In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst's "Universal News Bureau" re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent "Hearst correspondents" in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.
I would swear it was Fox news of which they were speaking.  More hegemonic ideology by media giants.

Dan Quayle's Son Wins Congressional Primary

I don't know if this news says more about Arizona or more about just how crazy politics have become.

Ben Quayle, the son of former vice president Dan Quayle, unexpectedly won his Republican primary for a House seat in Arizona on Tuesday despite a slate of bad press. Controversy enveloped Quayle after he was accused of writing for the site under the pseudonym Brock Landers, which is the name of a porn star from Boogie Nights.

Campaigning as a family-values conservative, Quayle first denied then admitted that he wrote for the sex-steeped Arizona website.

Quayle allegedly compared his own physique to the Sistine Chapel and wrote things like “Long story short, on a scale of 1-to-10, I'm awesome” and "My moral compass is so broken I can barely find the parking lot." He also cut a campaign ad in which he called President Obama “the worst president in history.”

Quayle also sent out a campaign mailer promoting his family values that flopped when it was revealed two little girls in the ad weren't his children. He and his wife do not have kids.

Hitler Jewish? DNA Tests Show Dictator May Have 'Had Jewish And African Roots'

DNA tests apparently show that the Nazi dictator may have had Jewish and African ancestry.

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph says that saliva samples were collected from 39 Hitler relatives:

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews ...
Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.
Why is that relevant?  "Hitler would not have been happy," said Professor Ronny Decorte in a Google translation of the Knack's web-version of the story. Decorte, a genetics expert from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (a Flemish research university), says that Hitler apparently wasn't "Aryan" -- what the Nazi would have considered "pure."

But even more than that, it is relevant because it shows that we all have more in common than we have differences.  So next time one group spouts hate or fear towards another, ask yourself how you would feel if the targeted group was related to you.

It also highlights yet again, the dangers of fear and hate based politics.  While Hitler may be one of the most extreme examples, the politics of fear and hate have no winners.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Existing Home Sales Plunge 27.2%, Record Drop, Trounce Expectations Of 13.4%, Lowest Number Since May 1995

Last week I posted an article about how the home-sales number might be very bad.  Well the number is out and it isn't bad - its catestrophic. 

The NAR reports: July Existing-Home Sales Fall as Expected but Prices Rise:

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dropped 27.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million units in July from a downwardly revised 5.26 million in June, and are 25.5 percent below the 5.14 million-unit level in July 2009.
Sales are at the lowest level since the total existing-home sales series launched in 1999, and single family sales – accounting for the bulk of transactions – are at the lowest level since May of 1995.
Total housing inventory at the end of July increased 2.5 percent to 3.98 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 12.5-month supply at the current sales pace, up from an 8.9-month supply in June.
Months of supply increased to 12.5 months in July from 8.9 months in June. A normal market has under 6 months of supply, so this is extremely high and suggests prices, as measured by the repeat sales indexes like Case-Shiller and CoreLogic, will start declining.

And in the more bad news category (if you have dealings with the State of California) - California has just passed a measure which for the second time in as many years (going all the way back to the Great Depression), will allow it to use IOUs in lieu of payment on everything from supplies to contracted services and health-care costs, so it can actually preserve cash to make payments to its generous debtors.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck - Not Necessarily What You Might Think?

If you follow SusPack you know that I have been critical of Elisabeth Hasselbeck for many of her positions.  She often seems to take a staunchly conservative viewpoint without seeming to have a strong philosophical reason to support such a stance.  So an article today - Elisabeth Hasselbeck: 'I Actually Support Gay Marriage,' President Obama 'Incredibly Cool Guy' - really surprised me.

In a two-part interview with Fancast, the conservative co-host of "The View" came out in support of gay marriage and described President Obama as "an incredibly cool guy."

"I am not ultra-ultra-conservative on every issue. I actually support gay marriage," she told Fancast in part one. "I think the gay marriage thing would definitely surprise people. I mean, for some people, it will surprise them to the point that they won't want to hear it. 'No, that can't be, I really want to have this sort of idea of her in my head,' so I sort of rain on their parade there. I am a person that does believe that life begins at conception, but I also don't believe that the government should tell women what to do with their bodies. So I'm torn there in terms of supporting laws [for or against abortion]. I always say I would rather change a heart than a law. I think it has to start there. Always trying to mandate, mandate, mandate this or that is not the way that I believe this country should run."

Hasselbeck said it would be more appropriate to describe her as a "Federalist" than a "conservative."  Federalist are generally considered much like libertarian, they believe in greater State's rights.
So it makes me wonder - is the " right wing "View" chick" just a marketing ploy? Is being so far "to the right" just her brand so The View can have conflict and debate or is she really as conservative and contrary to liberal ideals as she often seems? Regardless, it is refreshing to hear someone have opinions that are separate from issue to issue and not just checking the boxes all the way down one column or the other.

I appreciate that she is at least thinking about all these issues. So many Americans just sit back and do and say nothing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is The Tea Party Movement A Fraud - A Front For Big Business - Pawns Of Rich Men

If you have watched any Tea party event, one theme that is common is that it is a grass-roots organization, formed of the people and by the people.  It is this populist appeal that draws many people to it and its message.  But what would these people think if their "message" was simply being controlled by rich and very powerful men - that they are simply pawns in a much larger game.

The New Yorker has a very interesting article about the Koch family and Koch Industries.  Haven't heard of them?  Maybe they don't want you to know all about them.  From the New Yorker:
The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.”
Still don't know who they are?
With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The richest men in the world.  Are their interests totally benign?

Five hundred people attended a Tea Party summit recently, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

So what is their message?
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
A former Koch adviser said, “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.” Rob Stein, a Democratic political strategist who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, said that the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.”

It seems that the "apple" doesn't fall far from the tree - all you have to do is look at their father - Fred Koch.
In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned. Welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot, Koch predicted that Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the President is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.”
He admired Benito Mussolini. 

And what of his sons?  Lee Fang, of the liberal blog ThinkProgress, has called the Kochs “the billionaires behind the hate.”  Gus diZerega, a former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”  A top Cato Institute official said that Charles “thinks he’s a genius. He’s the emperor, and he’s convinced he’s wearing clothes.”

And the emperor doesn't hesitate to use his wealth and power.  Charles Koch, in a newsletter sent to his seventy thousand employees, compared the Obama Administration to the regime of the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. The Kochs’ sense of imperilment is somewhat puzzling. Income inequality in America is greater than it has been since the nineteen-twenties, and since the seventies the tax rates of the wealthiest have fallen more than those of the middle class.

So who is really benefitting from the Tea Party?  You can bet that the Kochs will, but will you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Idiot Of The Day - Carl Paladino - Poor Should Be Placed In Prison Dorms And Take Hygiene Classes

Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in "personal hygiene."
Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer popular with many tea party activists, isn't saying the state should jail poor people: The program would be voluntary.

But the suggestion that poor families would be better off in remote institutions, rather than among friends and family in their own neighborhoods, struck some anti-poverty activists as insulting - as it should.

Carl, while you are at it, let them eat cake too!

Throughout his campaign, Paladino has criticized New York's rich menu of social service benefits, which he says encourages illegal immigrants and needy people to live in the state. He has promised a 20 percent reduction in the state budget and a 10 percent income tax cut if elected.

Carl is rich.  Of course he wants cuts in taxes.  And what does he care about social services?  He is just like Sharon Angle, the poor are poor because we coddle them too much.  Why work when you can barely get by and watch as your kids go hungry.  So much easier.

Ketny Jean-Francois, a former welfare recipient and a New York City advocate for low-income people, said Paladino's idea shocked her.

"Being poor is not a crime," she said. "People are on welfare for many reasons ... Is he saying people are poor because they don't have any hygiene or any skills?"

Is The Big One Near - Massive Quake Is Overdue for Southern California

If you live in California then one question we all have is "when is the Big One due"?

A new report shows that it might be sooner than expected.

New research shows that major earthquakes have struck southern California far more frequently than previously thought -- and the next one could be just around the corner.

The study from geologists at the University of California Irvine and Arizona State University showed that massive quakes -- of magnitude 6.5 or greater -- have hit the region's San Andreas fault line at intervals of between 45 and 144 years.

With the last major earthquake in 1857, that means Southern California is overdue a massive quake.

"The next earthquake could be sooner than later," Lisa Grant Ludwig, a UC Irvine earthquake expert and co-author of the study, told The Los Angeles Times. "It was thought that we weren't at risk of having another large one any time soon. Well, now, it might be ready to rupture."

Previously, experts that thought the quakes occurred once every 250 years to 450 years.

The team of scientists obtained their results by studying ancient charcoal samples in the Carrizo Plain portion of the San Andreas fault line.

The charcoal fragments during earthquakes, so dating the fragments can pinpoint the time of earthquakes. The results were published Friday in Geology, a journal.

A quake of just 7.8 magnitude -- less than the 1857 earthquake -- could spread chaos through some of California's biggest cities, including Los Angeles, according to a study by the state Emergency Management Agency.

"You would see buildings collapse, you'd see people trapped, you'd see roadways collapse. You'd see widespread destruction," Kelly Huston, assistant agency secretary for public and crisis communication, told Fox News.

The 1857 quake is known as the Fort Tejon quake, though it is believed to have originated in Parkfield, Calif. The earthquake tore south on the San Andreas fault for 200 miles, near the northern edge of what is now LA County, then headed east toward the Cajon Pass.

The shaking, which lasted between one minute and three minutes, was so powerful that the soil liquefied, causing trees to sink into the earth.

At the time, LA's population was a mere 4,000. Now it's 9.9 million.

The new information "puts the exclamation point" on the importance of residents and policymakers preparing for a major earthquake, Ludwig told Agence-France Presse.

Ludwig is in favor of policies mandating earthquake risk signs on unsafe buildings, and making inspectors in home-sale transactions reveal degrees of risk.

Still, not everyone is quite so alarmed by the study's findings. Morgan Page, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Society, told Fox News that more research needs to be done before the theories about the San Andreas quakes can be accepted as definitely true.

The study is ""rather controversial. Some people support the work, and some people think there may be problems with it," she told Fox News.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What The F*** Is Going On - NOAA Claims Scientists Reviewed Controversial Report; The Scientists Say Otherwise

Are we watching one of the biggest frauds perpetrated upon us is a long time?  Is this simply gross ineptitude?  I am talking about the federal report which was recently released about the fate of the oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.  You know the one.  The skimpy, four-page report dominated an entire news cycle earlier this month, with contented administration officials claiming it meant that three fourths of the oil released from BP's well was essentially gone -- evaporated, dispersed, burned, etc.  The one that said almost all of the oil had "disappeared" and that the Gulf was doing miraculously.  Did anyone really believe the report in the first place?

Well the Huffington Post has a report out today that suggest something very suspicious is at work - is the report just suspicious packaging?

In responding to the growing furor over the public release of a scientifically dubious and overly rosy federal report about the fate of the oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA director Jane Lubchenco has repeatedly fallen back on one particular line of defense -- that independent scientists had given it their stamp of approval.

Back at the report's unveiling on August 4, Lubchenco spoke of a "peer review of the calculations that went into this by both other federal and non-federal scientists." On Thursday afternoon, she told reporters on a conference call: "The report and the calculations that went into it were reviewed by independent scientists." The scientists, she said, were listed at the end of the report.

But all the scientists on that list contacted by the Huffington Post for comment this week said the exact same thing: That although they provided some input to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), they in no way reviewed the report, and could not vouch for it.

So is Lubchenco lying?  Intentionally distorting the truth?  Just a blathering idiot?  All of the above?  Well ...

In addition to disputing Lubchenco's characterization of their role, several of them actually took issue with the report itself.

In particular, they refuted the notion, as put forth by Lubchenco and other Obama administration officials, that the report was either scientifically precise or an authoritative account of where the oil went.

Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who was not one of the scientists on NOAA's list, sees this latest incident as part of an ongoing problem.  "The consistent theme," MacDonald said, "seems to be to minimize the impact of the oil -- and to act as a bottleneck for information."

There you have it.  Just SUSPICIOUS PACKAGING.

Image - Tom Siglich, Journal Resister Newspapers

Friday, August 20, 2010

Market Crash - Real Estate Sales - Market News

I periodically post articles about the stock market and home sales which I find interesting.  A number of you have commented that you like the articles because they present points of view that you do not often see in the main stream media.  These stories are not investment advice, but it is always nice to be informed.

The first story tonight is from Zero Hedge and is a follow on to a story I had earlier about the "Hindenburg Omen" -  Word(s) of the Day - Hindenburg Omen - Investment Advice?.  If you didn't read the article, the Hindenburg Omen is a technical analysis pattern that is said to portend a stock market crash. It is named after the Hindenburg disaster of May 6, 1937, during which the German zeppelin Hindenburg was destroyed.  Today Zero Hedge reports:
Longs may be forgiven if they are sweating their long positions over the weekend: not only did we just have a second, and far more solid Hindenburg Omen confirmation today, with 82 new highs, and 94 new lows, but the Saturday is the day when Iran launches its nuclear reactor, and everyone will be very jumpy regarding any piece of news out of the middle east. As for the H.O., the more validations we receive, the greater the confusion in the market, and the greater the possibility for a melt down (or up, as the case may be now that the market is unlike what it has ever been in the past). Furthermore, with implied correlation at record levels (JCJ at around 78), any potential crash will be like never before, as virtually all stocks now go up or down as one, more so than ever before. And should the HFT STOP command take place, the future should be very interesting indeed (at least for the primary dealers, and the Atari consoles which are unable to VWAP dump their holdings in the nano second before stuff goes bidless).

Many are saying the Hindenburg Omen doesn't prove anything.  Frankly I don't know, but in this market anything can happen.

More troublesome is an article from MISH'S about housing sales.
MarketWatch is reporting the consensus for July existing home sales is 4.85 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate).

And from Dow Jones: Week Ahead
"July existing-home sales ... likely declined 4.3% from June"
June sales were reported as 5.37 million, so a decline of 4.3% would be 5.14 million SAAR.
Note: July existing home sales will be reported next Tuesday.
Housing economist Tom Lawler's preliminary forecast was 3.95 million SAAR (based on a bottom up analysis).
Many of the regional reports showed sales declines of 20% or more from July 2009 when the NAR reported sales of 5.14 million SAAR. A 20% decline from July 2009 would be in the low 4 millions ...
Maybe the MarketWatch and Dow Jones consensus numbers are incorrect (other numbers will be released later today), or there is probably going to be a big miss next Tuesday. Take the WAY under! 
If what Mish reports holds true it should be very bad for the market and home prices.  Not only will the sales number be horrendous but it will be significantly off forecast.
Looks like next week may be a little dicey!

Iraq Posses A Clear And Present Danger To Us - The Deficit Poses A Clear And Present Danger To Us - You Need to Sacrifice

The same bunch of misfits politicians who brought you the Iraq Invasion (cough - cough - Republicans and certain Blue Dog Democrats) and drove the defense budget up to astronomical amounts (which at the time, these same politicians said was only 2% of GDP) now say that over the next twenty years the cost of a decent retirement for our aging population will cost an ungodly 2% more of GDP and we can't afford it.

So every time you hear about someone saying "we need to cut Social Security" you know what they are talking about.  They are talking about a "horrific" 2% (as compared to Gross Domestic Product) increase.  The same 2% that the warmongers couldn't wait to spend to invade another Country because the invaded liberated country posed such a threat to us.  Oh wait, turns out there was no real threat.  And there is no real threat now.  It is just the same politicians misfits attempting to subject us all to absolute poverty so that Big Business can turn us into serfs.

So what does the "average-Joe" think?

Voters want Congress to “do something” about the deficit, but 57% do not want national defense cut, over 65% do not want Medicare eligibility age raised, 64% do not want the retirement age raised, 74% want Medicare to provide more help to poor seniors.

They think (64%) capping Medicare/Medicaid payments to providers is okay and 58% think the rich should pay Social Security taxes on more of their income.

And while you're at it, do something about the deficit.

Unfortunately we are as confused as the politicians.  Only difference is that we are worried about our families and children and the future.   The politicians misfits are more worried about being re-elected and padding their pockets and those of their buddies, Big Business.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Religious Intolerance - The Intolerance of Those Claiming To Be Religious – Christian Theocracy

Throughout history, the one common denominator of most religions is the ideal of doing good and being a better person. Personal sacrifice, humility and integrity are also fundamental tenants.

So why is it that one religious group can hate and fear another group so badly? It isn't a new phenomenon. The Romans persecuted the Jews. Christians conducted the Crusades.

So the claim that Muslims are out to destroy Christians is just a continuation of a very old story.

It is said that the most horrific acts in history have been done in the name of "God".

I just don't get it. Well I do really; because none of this " God" fiction is real, so it makes humans that believe that God is real, crazy.

If you follow my blog you know that I don't believe in a "God" – at least the “god” that is talked about among most major organized religions. I just have too many questions for which there are no good answers. First and foremost, why would an all powerful being inflict so much pain and suffering on his people, especially the poor and downtrodden? Perhaps there is a larger force at work. I admit I do not have the answers but it seems to me that the stories of "Jesus" are really no different than those of Mercury, Venus or Zues.

I am in wonder of the majesty of nature and our universe. I also agree with the Dalai Lama:

"I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness...."
So I sit here perplexed about the ongoing fight over the Ground Zero Mosque, which is really more of a community center. To review: the Cordoba House will be two blocks away from the actual WTC site. It's being installed by American citizens, the chief of whom, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an American citizen who has worked with the Bush administration on Muslim outreach. These are peaceful Muslims who had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorist attacks nearby. The opponents have dubbed it the "Ground Zero Mosque" suggesting it is being built by terrorist and will be offensive to the memory of those who died.

While I have my own issues with organized religions, I believe strongly that everyone should be entitled to practice whatever religion they choose. Religion can be good. It provides comfort to millions. And the basic ideals of sacrifice and humility are valuable lessons for us all. So I just get so confused at the amount of time one religious group spends in seeking to defame and destroy another.

It seems straight forward to me - this country was founded on Freedom of Religion. The pilgrims fled Europe because they were being persecuted for the way they worship-- and now here we are doing the same to other Americans. Either we are a country that believes in Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech or we are not. If we live up to what we proclaim, then there are no grounds to deny the building of a Muslim Community Center anywhere in this country.

It must be an election year because Republicans are once again rolling out September 11 as a wedge issue. You know, because they care about honoring the fallen - when it helps them politically.

If we take Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich at their word, their objection to the proposed community center two blocks north of Ground Zero is that the entire area is hallowed ground, and a Muslim facility so close to the site is an insult to the victims and heroes of September 11.

Of course this is entirely about stirring up anti-Muslim fear and demagoguery to score political points. It is a cheap and obvious exploitation of the widespread American prejudice that anyone who happens to be a Muslim is equally as guilty and offensive as the terrorists who hijacked and crashed two airplanes into the World Trade Center towers. Timothy McVeigh was raised as a Christian ... why not ban all Churches in Oklahoma City then? Or should we outlaw Catholic churches in light of all the sex abuse cases of priests molesting choir boys?

This theocratic mindset is dangerous. What this theocratic mindset illustrates is how actions are perceived depending on who is doing them. When a Conservative has extra-marital sex, they are a good person doing a bad thing. When a liberal is faithful to their spouse, they are a bad person doing a good thing. The default is that Christians are fundamentally good, but they sometimes do bad things, like murder gay people. Non-Christians are fundamentally bad, but they sometimes do good things, like allow Christians to discriminate against Muslims. Theocrats always know who the evil doers are - the ones for whom laws are made for - everyone except themselves.

This all comes down to persecution. One religious group persecuting another and if you don't practice a religion, they all persecute you. Ultimately if you are in a religion it is as if you are in a gang and your allegiance is with that gang and its rules. You must join the “gang” or be persecuted. Once you are a member of a religion (the gang) your allegiance is with that gang and its rules. Worse still, when the rules of the gang contradict the rules of the government - like it does here- you are asked to choose the rules of the gang or else.

There should be no question what to do but laws are blatantly ignored. That has been the problem throughout history – it is what religion has always done – and is why religion has no place in our government.

What are others saying?

  • Ted Olson, former George W. Bush solicitor general, attorney behind the case against California's gay marriage ban, and husband of a woman who died aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, said Wednesday that President Obama was right about his analysis of the "Ground Zero Mosque" as a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment.
  • Peter Beinart writes: "Yesterday, I wrote about what the "Ground Zero" mosque disaster reveals about the Republican Party. In short, it reveals that the Bush administration was a false dawn. Bush, for all his flaws, believed that the GOP should be a universalistic party based on traditional values, a big tent for “faith-based" conservatives of all races and creeds: Muslims, Hispanics, Mormons, African-Americans, whatever. Now it is clear that the post-Bush GOP is a far nastier creature: A party seething with hatred towards vulnerable religious and ethnic groups."
  • Robert Creamer writes: "Every time a Republican 'leader' attacks the notion that a mosque be built two blocks from Ground Zero, they legitimate the claims of Bin Laden to young impressionable Muslims across the world.
  • Donna Marsh O'Connor writes:  "Why would we support a mosque at Ground Zero, particularly when there are many families who say it pains them? And, too, because we know it really does. We are all, 9/11 families in pain. We do it because it's American."
  • Carla Seaquist writes:  "Let's face the fact: What does it mean to assert that a mosque "desecrates" hallowed ground? It means that the desecrating being done is by people who are evil, unclean. And that is wrong, wrong, wrong."
  • A group of conservative GOP Muslim and Arab American officials:  In a letter to Republican leaders, the group of authors criticized members of the party for abandoning the principle of tolerance that has defined the GOP from Lincoln to Bush. In the process, the authors -- who include former Bush administration official Randa Fahmy Hudome and former Reagan administration official and prominent D.C.-based lawyer George Salem, as well as David Ramadan, who worked on both of George W. Bush's campaigns -- make similar philosophical and substantive arguments as other defenders of the proposed Cordoba House.
But then there are others who have a much more extreme viewpoint.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association Wants to Deport American Muslims.  Why, because he says that Islam is a religion of hate and Christianity is pure. That Jesus was the “Prince of Peace.” (I guess Fischer never heard about the Crusades. We know that Cheney did because he instituted means of “enhanced interrogation” which were used during the Crusades which were then referred to as torture.)
Next month, Fischer will be going big-time: He is listed as a "confirmed speaker" at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit (the AFA is an event sponsor), which is scheduled for September 17-19 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Other confirmed speakers include Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rep. Mike Pence, and Mike Huckabee. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets from the crowd if he goes full-bore Islamophobic. My guess is somewhere between shock and awe.

So let’s look into that idea that Christianity is a “better” religion.

We don't actually know what Jesus preached about anything (or even if there was an actual Jesus who bore any similarity to the legendary one). I'm not saying he didn't exist, but there certainly are no historical records proving his existence. And the words he supposedly said were not written down until 150 to 400 years after his supposed death, meaning multiple generations lived and died before Jesus' words transitioned from oral tradition to written gospels.

And, for what it's worth, the Koran is an often self-contradictory document, much like our Bible. You can find what you want in it. For every avocation of murder of the unbelievers (we have similar passages in the Bible) there are appeals for peace and tolerance. It's no more right to cherry pick the Koran that to cherry pick from Biblical passages.

So let's look at some "peaceful" Bible passages:
Leviticus 20:9

"'If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head."
Exodus 22:20
Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 14:6-10
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is of thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. Thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God.
Leviticus 24:16
"Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death."
Acts 3:23
"And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear the prophet, shall be destroyed."
Chronicles 15:13
All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.
I don't believe that most Christians are bad or evil.  Nor do I believe that these passages were meant to promote hate and fear.  But why are so many so quick to condemn Muslims?

Hate and fear are divisive. The politics of using divisive issues to whip up your base is like smoking around a powder keg. We are all at risk!

Robert Creamer sums it up nicely.
It is also obvious that this is yet one more in a string of attempts by mainstream Republican leaders to win elections by dividing Americans against each other. The attack on Democrats who support the right of Muslim Americans to build a place of worship two blocks from Ground Zero in New York lies squarely in the tradition of the Republican "southern strategy" that fanned the fires of racial resentment and scapegoated black "welfare queens." And of course it's hot on the heels of Republican attempts to whip up fear of gay Americans and their right to marry, or depicting Latino Americans as encouraging pregnant Hispanic mothers to sneak across the border in order to "drop anchor babies" to guarantee American citizenship.

One big difference: All Muslims did not attack the United States that September day. A small group of radical Muslim terrorists attacked the United States. And they attacked all Americans -- including Muslim Americans -- many of whom died at Ground Zero. Chicago's Irish-American Mayor Daley was infuriated when a bunch of young "patriots" marched on a Chicago-area mosque after 9/11. He put it clearly when he said, does it make everyone who is Irish a terrorists because of the IRA?
America was founded on the concept of Freedom of Religion.  If you are a Christian you should stand up for the rights of religious Muslims to build their own house of worship.  Freedom only works if we are all free.  Don't let hate and fear win out.

Greek Bonds Slump As Austerity Backfires, Country Enters "Death Spiral", And The Violent End Game Approaches

One of the stories I have been following is the economic crisis here in the US and throughout the world.  I have noted before that Greece was in serious trouble and now comes a new story from Zero Hedge.
Those patiently following the Greek Bond-Bund spread to its inevitable conclusion have been fully aware that the plan that Europe is betting its entire future on, is patently flawed: namely that austerity, by its definition does not, and will not work. In fact, instead of bringing stability, austerity will slowly but surely eat away at the economy of whatever country it is instituted in - in some cases slowly, in others, like Greece, very rapidly. Indeed, the Greek spread has now risen to levels last seen during the early May near-revolution in Athens, at well over 800 bps. And for the specific consequences of austerity, Germany's Spiegel has done a terrific summary of what it defines as a "death spiral" for the Mediterranean country: "Stores are closing, tax revenues are falling and unemployment has hit an unbelievable 70 percent in some places. Frustrated workers are threatening to strike back. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society." Spiegel quotes a a typical Greek: ""If you take away my family's bread, I'll take you down -- the government needs to know that. And don't call us anarchists if that happens! We're heads of our families and we're desperate." All those who think violent strikes in the PIIGS are a thing of the past, we have news for you. The (pseudo) vacation season is over, and millions of workers are coming back. They may not have money, but they have lots of free time, lots of unemployment, and even more pent up anger. Things are about to get very heated once again, first in Greece, and soon after, everywhere else.
Expect things to get much worse before they get better.  As I have said, Greece may be a harbinger of what happens to many States here (California - Illinois - etc.).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Former US Envoy To UN John Bolton Says "Israel Has 8 Days To Strike Iran"

In an interview with Fox Business News, former US envoy to the UN, John Bolton, told the channel that if Israel wants to prevent Iran from acquiring a working nuclear plant, then a military strike must be launched against the Bushehr nuclear power facility within the next eight days. Specifically, Bolton was envisioning the projected August 21 launch date of the nuclear power plant, which Zero Hedge noted previously. According to Bolton, once the Bushehr facility is operational it will be too late for a military air strike against Iran because such an attack would affect too many Iranian civilians due to the spread radiation.

But according to "Neo-Con think," it's a serious danger if it goes online and THEN we bomb it, releasing radiation. So to protect Iranians we need to bomb now!

Imagine a Government with Palin at the helm and Bolton by her side.  Republicans love war!! They have already bankrupted us with two wars they lost and now they want another war? Do you really think that Iran will blow somebody up with a nuke? What would the retaliation look like?


The latest development in the neverending saga of Iran, comes via the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) which states that according to the Gulf states, the military option may be the best option to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, as the contra-Iran axis is now complete. The article also reflected "the Gulf states' growing tension and concern regarding Iran's nuclear program, and mentioned their proximity to the Bushehr reactor." What is scary is that the straw man of military intervention is pretty much presented as a fait accompli, and alternatives to military intervention are not even considered as an option. The timing could not be worse: as we highlighted earlier, John Bolton believes that there is ticking clock (through the 21st) after which the option of "striking" Iran with manageable casualties becomes negligible. And lastly, and certainly not making matters any easier, was the earlier revaluation by AFP, that Iran is preparing to unveil an array of weapons next week. An impartial reader would be forgiven if left with the impression that at this point a military operation is all but granted. Yet, keeping an eye out on spot oil, indicates that the realistic chance of an incursion is still negligible, at least as judged by oil prices. We believe that is still one of the best advance warnings indicators of a geopolitical shift. Unfortunately, if the oil market is in any way comparable to stocks in its predictive ability, it just may be that oil is, for once, a reactionary indicator instead of forward looking, in which case it will be useless as a predictive force.

News Corp. Gives GOP $1M - So Much For Fairness In The Media

As if Fox News weren’t carrying enough water for the Republican Party already: News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, has donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which is run by Mississippi Governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Haley Barbour. Politico’s Ben Smith says “the huge contribution to a party committee is a new step toward an open identification between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the GOP.” In a statement, News Corp. said “News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." News Corp. also owns the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

How can Fox now say that they are an impartial news media source?

Even if you are Republican this should bother you, A LOT.  Would you feel comfortable with a news organization which was controlled by the KGB?  Or which was financed by Middle-Eastern oil interests?

A free and impartial media are the cornerstones for democracy in America.  If the source for your news is biased, then the decisions you make may not be based on what you need to know.

This is a perfect example of the hegemonic ideology of which I have written.  Rupert Murdoch' with his power and money is able to control a way for people to see reality in the way he wants them to by owning media outlets. It is bias because they are his views. Using his own money for a bias network as well as directly giving it to candidates. We see his ideologies imposed on the World through his slanted reporting of reality.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Facebook – Veni, Vidi, Vici!

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves.
Are you on Facebook? The question has become as ubiquitous as has Facebook.

I am not on Facebook and have never been drawn into the idea of sharing with friends and total strangers my daily habits (except to those cursed/blessed friends of mine who I bombard by emails – you know who you are...). Am I missing out or have I escaped from a duplicitous scam to control the internet (or even more sinister - to control our thoughts and actions)?

Facebook is an undeniable phenomenon.  In the past year alone the social-web site added One Hundred Fifty Million users. And the story of the founding of Facebook is the sort of made for America success story that reads more like fiction than real life, so much so that David Fincher has directed "The Social Network".  A movie about the phenomena of Facebook - is this a case of Truth Stranger Than Fiction?

In an adapted excerpt  for his new book The Facebook Effect: the Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, David Kirkpatrick discusses Mark Zuckerberg and his creation of Facebook:
Zuckerberg's financing needs were far from his mind when he launched the site on Feb. 4, 2004, from his dorm suite at Harvard. Zuckerberg, a code writer since middle school, had arrived at Harvard equipped with his own computer and a giant whiteboard, the geek's consummate brainstorming tool. He built the site using free, open-source software like the MySQL database and fueled his late-night coding sessions with plenty of Beck's and Red Bull. A month before the site launched, Zuckerberg paid $35 to register the web address (the name was later shortened) and started paying $85 a month to a web-hosting company. But the infectious appeal of the service went beyond what anyone expected. At the end of the semester, when the user base had reached 100,000 students at 30 schools, a well-connected classmate took Zuckerberg around Manhattan to meet with potential investors. At one of those meetings a financier offered Zuckerberg $10 million on the spot for the company. Mark had just turned 20. His company was four months old. He didn't for a minute think seriously about accepting.
Veni, Vidi, Vici!

Wow, pretty compelling.  But what is it about this company that has created such fervor?

Is it simply the natural evolution of social networking; i.e., Friendster, My Space, Facebook and will something soon out shadow facebook?  What will the next brand be?  Or is it as suggested by Zuckerberg the dawn of a new paradigm in social networking?  Or is it, as some suggest, something much more sinister? Have hundreds of millions of people been duped into the greatest con in history and given away their most personal information?

The answer lies, in part, in understanding why a 20 year old was offered $10,000,000 for a company that was a mere 4 months old.

What is it about Facebook that made the Titans of industry, the ruling Oligarchs of the World, to take note and to pay homage to a 20 year old - offering to pay any price and meet any demand for a piece of the "facebook" game? Do you think they really wanted to just be part of a social network for merely profit or do they see something much greater; something much more precious? Perhaps they see access to the very heart and soul of what you and I are thinking? Perhaps they seek control over what we will think and will do - something altogether deeper and much more ominous than a social network?

Suspicious (or is it the ultimate in suspicious packaging)?  If you are suspicious of any greater plot, then first look at the words and actions of Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Only a few months ago Mark was offered over $10,000,000,000.00 for Facebook.  Despite being offered over $10 Billion for Facebook, Zuckenberg doesn’t want to sell. "Unless I feel like I'm working on the most important problem I can help with, then I'm not going to feel good about how I'm spending my time," he says. "And that's what this company is."The ultimate payday is not a priority. Changing the world is.”   Is he beginning to feel god like?  Maybe we all would.
Changing the world!  But will that change be for the better?  And how much power and control over our daily lives are we willing to give up?  Have we witnessed the realization of Antonio Gramsci's fear, the creation of a bourgeois hegemony by the people who control Facebook. Is Facebook the means by which the (hegemon) leader-class exercises its domination and the maintenance of power over us all and thereby "persuades" the subordinated social classes to accept and adopt the ruling-class values of bourgeois hegemony?
In this article I am going to explore Facebook and try and discern the good, the bad and the ugly.  It is about the quest by Mark Zuckerberg and others like him to "change the world" - to seek out the illusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - but at what cost?  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

It seems that everyone is on Facebook these days. Social networking has exploded in the last several years.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this summer that the site hit a half-billion active users.  According to the International Telecommunication Union, there are about 1.7 billion people in the world with internet access, which means that Facebook can count about 40 percent of the digitally enabled population as its users.

That's nearly five times as many people as watched this year's Super Bowl -- the most popular television broadcast ever -- and about four times as many people as voted in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

People spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on the site and, according to Facebook, over 400 million of them have logged in during the past month. Keep in mind there are only 309 million people in the United States -- total.

According to Justin Smith, founder of Inside Facebook, which offers news and market research on the social networking giant, the brilliance of Facebook is that it is for people who do rely on technology, Facebook has just really become a common way to function and get a lot of normal things done."  "In certain countries, particularly the United States and Western Europe, Facebook has actually reached a point where it appears they've saturated the market," he said.
According to Wikipedia, since social web applications are built to encourage communication between people, they typically emphasize some combination of the following social attributes:

  • Identity: who are you?
  • Reputation: what do people think you stand for?
  • Presence: where are you?
  • Relationships: whom are you connected with? who do you trust?
  • Groups: how do you organize your connections?
  • Conversations: what do you discuss with others?
  • Sharing: what content do you make available for others to interact with?
Examples of social applications include Twitter, Facebook, and Jaiku, with Facebook now becoming the predominate social-web site in much of the world.

So, why join?  From Technology Gear comes the top ten reasons to join:
1. The lady next to your home is on facebook and is bitching about you with her friends on their walls. She might even have created a hate community using your name. Won’t you like to leave an answer for her?
2. If you start using facebook then you will be able to remain in touch with 16 year old niece and 58 year your uncle because literally everybody these days is using facebook. Even your maid and the cleaning guy who picks your garbage everyday might have checked facebook at least once. Facebook is an awesome way to remain in touch with almost everyone around you.
3. If you join facebook then you will be surprised to know that all your school friends whom you haven’t met since past 10 years are present in facebook. Even your favorite teacher is also present on facebook. Lastly, the guy on whom you had crush during your school days is there on facebook too and has been talking about you with his friends on their walls. Won’t that be an awesome surprise?
4. If you join facebook then you are aware about what is happening around you. You know what people think about Mr. Obama’s next move and how much they hate this current recession.
5. Your birthday becomes an international event if you are on facebook. Every friend in your list comes to know about your birthday and who knows if you end up grabbing some awesome present.
6. It is a lot cheaper when compared to most of the other counterparts.
7. If you hate the think tank behind the latest T.V. soap and you want to tell everyone about the same then you can join the hate community of that person and leave your comments. Similarly, facebook has communities about literally everything that is happening on this planet and we can assure you that you will end up finding something that will interest you.
8. Feeds have become the talk of town and almost everybody is reading various updates via feeds itself. Facebook helps you quickly check everything that is happening around without getting into the details.
9. You can expand your business. Connect with more facebook users and tell them about what you do. You might end up with an awesome deal after which you won’t have to work for the next 6 months. It is all about connecting with the best possible client.
10. Lastly, if you aren’t using facebook then you don’t exist on this planet!
Well it is good to know that I don't exist, at least on this planet.  And maybe I am alone.  There are Grandmas commenting on their teen grandkids' angst-ridden status updates. You have one of your grade-school teachers asking you to join their "mafia" (lol. I am not even sure what the heck that is).

Two of the fastest growing demographics are women over 50 and parents.  They're using the social networking site to communicate with colleagues, look up old friends and yes, stay in touch with their teens and college kids too. They can share photos, send instant messages and post status reports that announce where they are and what they're doing.

Is one billion users possible? With revenue approaching $1 billion and extensive efforts underway in mobile that can help Facebook extend its reach in the developing world, it certainly can't be ruled out," wrote Adam Ostrow, editor-in-chief of social media blog Mashable.

And, increasingly businesses are using Facebook as a business platform.  How any celebrities have Facebook pages, used only for advertisement and promotion?  Politicians have increasingly discovered its allure.  But in most of these cases they are not sharing any information other than what is carefully orchestrated to promote the business or person.  They are controlling their information, but even they run a risk of being linked to people or organizations to which they would otherwise object.  But this article is really more about the everyday user, who uses it as a social media outlet.

And last but not least, it is free.

So understanding the "Good" is pretty easy.  But ...


"The only free cheese is in the mouse trap."

Facebook's growth as an Internet social networking site has met criticism on a range of issues, especially the privacy of their users, child safety, the use of advertising scripts, data mining, and the inability to terminate accounts without first manually deleting all the content.

Many companies removed their adverts from the site in 2008 because they were being displayed on the pages of controversial individuals and groups. The actual content of user's pages, groups and forums has been criticised for promoting controversial topics such as pro-anorexia and holocaust denial.

How did things go so wrong?  According to an article in Wired:
Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you were a mafia don or a homesteader. It became a very useful way to connect with your friends, long-lost friends and family members. Even if you didn’t really want to keep up with them.
Soon everybody — including your uncle Louie and that guy you hated from your last job — had a profile.
And Facebook realized it owned the network.
The End of Secrets?

One of the first things you notice about Facebook is how much information people share online.  It is a little (actually, a lot) startling.  This trend had alarmed many people.

Dr. Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute writes:
No normal adult shares the same level of intimacy with their spouse, their friends, their colleagues, and strangers on the bus. It’s unhealthy – or just plain strange – to act otherwise, as anyone who’s ever uttered the words “too much information” can attest.
Meanwhile, the ability to keep secrets is a natural part of maturation. Children tell each other secrets to establish friendships. Adults keep secrets to gain advantage in business dealings. Journalists only gain the trust of sources by proving they can be trusted with secrets. Corporations often count secrets – intellectual property – as their most valuable asset.
And yet, the message implicit in avid use of Facebook is the credo of the 30 percent of adults who are privacy complacent by Ponemon’s scale – “I’ve got nothing to hide, so who cares?”
So are we guilty of all sharing "too much information" or have we been duped?  Dr. Ponemon believes that we are at least being naive:
Facebook has hypnotized even the most private people, an elite group he calls "privacy-centric." They make up only 8 percent of the population. These folks won't even sign up for supermarket loyalty cards, but they will post pictures and tell stories on Facebook. In fact, they are so mesmerized that, untrue to their nature, they don't even spend more time tweaking their Facebook privacy settings than regular users.
"People want to believe they are safe," Ponemon said. There’s really no way to participate in Facebook without self-revelation – it’s baked right into the product, he points out. Without stepping forward, posting pictures, making your identity searchable, and so on, there is no payoff on Facebook. Because of that, Facebook even trumps personal Web pages – people put pictures and stories on Facebook that they’d never post on their own blogs, he said. "(People) like the tool, so they convince themselves there really isn't much risk.”  
Facebook's Mark Zuckenberg dismisses this concern saying that there is a new social norm and that "people" dont worry about sharing information any more.

Privacy and behavioral economics expert Alessandro Acquisti, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, agrees that Facebook seems to be eroding even skeptics’ concerns about being overly exposed. But he disagrees with Zuckerberg. There's no new social norm, Acquisti said. There's just a grand illusion.

Facebook has managed to convince users of something economists call an "illusion of control," Acquisti claims. Consumers who think they have power over the outcome of a transaction will naturally be overly self-confident. The effect is most obvious in gambling, where a craps player might believe he or she can roll snake eyes just by tossing the dice a little softer, and thus bet a little more. Human beings are easy to sucker into an "illusion of control."

Here's how it works in the privacy realm: When consumers believe they can control what happens to their personal information, they don't fret about divulging it. Facebook and other so-called Web 2.0 sites, Acquisti says, has given people a false sense of security about the availability of their personal information to others. 

So exactly how does that work?  How have we been duped?  According to Acquisti:
By standing by while consumers confuse two different privacy issues – divulging information, and controlling the information after it’s divulged. Facebook users indeed have great control over what information they submit to the service - they have complete controls over what they post in their profile, for example (ignoring, for now, the imposter threat). But they have little control over how the data will be used after it's posted to the site. In a recent yet-to-be published paper on the subject, the distinction is described as control over publication vs. control over access.
"People seem to conflate he two issues, so on a psychological level they feel better because they feel they are in control," Acquisti said. "They underestimate the risks of how the data will actually be used." In an experiment, students who had few qualms offering up very personal information -- such as how many sexual partners they had -- for a Facebook-like service showed far more reticence when told random researchers would be creating a profile for them. While the end result would be the same, the idea of a human handling the information - gave the students pause.
Some argue that most everyone on Facebook overshares.  One test that a college technology professor uses it to ask students on the first day of class to stand in front and show their Facebook page on a large screen to the rest of the class. No one ever does. Students share things online they don’t want to share in person. Even sharing seemingly harmless details could have some future consequence.

The Grand Illuison - Oversharing & The Loss of Privacy

Facebook's mission is to get you to share as much information as it can so it can share it with advertisers. As it looks now, the more info you share the more they are going to with advertisers and make more money.  For instance, you may not realize that, when you are playing the popular games on Facebook, such as Farmville, or take those popular quizzes, every time you do that, you authorize an application to be downloaded to your profile that you may not realize gives information to third parties.

Acquisti argues that a fundamental usability problem skews the service – and all social networking tools - toward privacy-risky behavior. Two years ago, he did research which showed that only 1 percent of Facebook users had even touched their privacy settings. Facebook says that number has now grown to 20 percent, but stillility problem skews the service – and all social networking tools - toward privacy-risky behavior. Two years ago, he did research which showed that only 1 percent of Facebook users had even touched their privacy settings. Facebook says that number has now grown to 20 percent, but still, there is an obvious flaw. It’s far easier to share than conceal. It is an order of magnitude easier to upload photos, for example, than it is to hide them from sets of potential viewers using privacy settings. As a result, site users will always overshare.

Much has been made over Facebook and privacy over the years, but the social network's most recent privacy changes seem to be generating a particularly loud uproar. It's no surprise, really: Facebook's recent adjustments make it incredibly difficult to control your information in any reasonable way.  How are you at risk?  Joan Goodchild, senior editor of CSO (Chief Security Officer) Online recently spotlighted five dangers she says Facebook users expose themselves to, probably without aware of it:

  • Your information is being shared with third parties
  • Privacy settings revert to a less safe default mode after each redesign
  • Facebook ads may contain malware
  • Your real friends unknowingly make you vulnerable
  • Scammers are creating fake profiles
Want some examples:
  • A publication called "TechCrunch" discovered a security hole that made it possible for users to read their friends' private chats. Facebook has since patched it, but who knows how long that flaw existed? Some speculate it may have been that way for years.
  • Researchers at VeriSign's iDefense group discovered a hacker was selling Facebook user names and passwords in an underground hacker forum. It was estimated he had about 1.5 million accounts - and was selling them for between $25 and $45
  • The site is constantly under attack from hackers trying to spam these 500 million users, or harvest their data, or run other scams. Certainly, there is a lot of criticism in the security community of Facebook's handling of security.
So how do you maintain privacy on Facebook?  It is not as easy as you might think.

Achieving maximum privacy on Facebook now requires you to click through 50 settings and more than 170 options. And even that won't completely safeguard your info.  To fully understand Facebook's updated stance on privacy and your personal data, you'd have to wade through the company's 5,830-word privacy policy. That, as the astute crew from The New York Times noticed, is 1,287 words longer than the United States Constitution.

Those figures are attention-grabbing enough. But seeing what Facebook's privacy changes actually mean in practice is even more eye-opening.  You know people with a lot of friends, 500, 1000 friends on Facebook? What is the likelihood they are all real? There was study last year that concluded that 40 percent of all Facebook profiles are fake. They have been set up by bots or impostors. If you have 500 friends, it is likely there is a percentage of people you don't really know and you are sharing a lot of information with them, such as when you are on vacation, your children's pictures, their names. Is this information you really want to put out there to people you don't even know?

So what happens to all that information you knowingly (or unknowingly) share?

Tell Me Your Secrets And I'll Tell You My Lies

So what happens when we share so much of our personal information?   Dr. Ponemon suggests:
“The minute someone knows something about you, they gain a measure of control over you,” he says. This is obvious in the case of an affair: If someone learns about your secret lover, they can hold a wide measure of control over your future. In a less obvious way, a future employer who knows that embarrassing Facebook photos from the past are hurting your job prospects can easily gain an upper hand in salary negotiations.
Control.  Don't be fooled.  This is about control.
This privacy paradox, however, is best understood through the simplest explanation. Privacy transactions are notoriously difficult to judge. The payoff from sharing a little information today is obvious; the punishment that may happen in the future is not. Giving a supermarket your phone number today might net you a 50-cent coupon on a gallon of ice cream; that’s an obvious benefit. But what is the cost? Reams of junk mail in the future? A health insurance premium surcharge because your grocery store reveals your bad eating habits? It’s nearly impossible to say. And so it is with Facebook – a picture that looks like fun at 22 could be a career-killer at 32. But people rarely make good choices about vague possibilities 10 years away. If we did, there would be no French fry industry.
Telling the world that your favorite rock band is the Killers or Madonna might seem innocuous enough, but what happens when an employment background firm shows that Madonna fans who also like 60s music tend to come late to work? No law prevents that. 
Well guess what.  People are already using all of that information now. 
  1. The following language now appearing on federal agency job applications:
    "As part of the agency's review of your application, the agency may view and/or access publicly available information about you, including information publicly available on the internet, that is job-related and consistent with the merit system principles and prohibited personnel practices set forth in the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. 2301, 2302."
  2. Employers (such as Virgin Atlantic Airways) have also used Facebook as a means to keep tabs on their employees and have even been known to fire them over posts they have made.
  3. One of the first things attorneys do with a new case is search online for information about plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses alike. In one Rhode Island case, a 20-year-old’s drunk driving accident, which severely injured another youth, could have resulted in a relatively light stint at county jail or the considerably more severe state prison. But, as the prosecutor in the case quickly discovered, two weeks after the accident, while his victim was still in the hospital, the youth posted photos on Facebook of himself at a Halloween party, prancing around in a prisoner costume. He was sentenced to two years in state prison.
  4. In a 2008 survey of 320 admissions officers from top colleges, the education experts at Kaplan learned that roughly 10% visit social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to learn more about applicants. Be sure to check out the Kaplan press release. The bottom line: an applicant's web information made a positive impression about 25% of the time and a negative impression 38% of the time.
  5. Trackur  is a social media monitoring tool used by corporations to keep track of what people are saying about their products across the Web and to gain information about customers. Companies can use it to monitor their brand, their competitors and even their own employees.  Andy Beal, owner of the company based in Raleigh, N.C., said in the past six to 12 months there has been a proliferation of companies using the service to match online profiles with real world identities.  "Lenders are looking for information on potential borrowers. Collection agencies and lawyers are looking to track down the whereabouts of individuals," Mr. Beal said, adding that he also is seeing hiring managers use social networks to conduct reference checks.
Are the photos from your buddy's third bachelor party in Vegas really "job-related?" Am I a bad credit risk because I like "drinking at the Pub on Saturday night?"  It really all depends.  Today it's a good bet that someone in HR or at your bank is going to be Googling applicants and checking out their Internet presence. So if you're looking for a job, do a common-sense Internet sweep. And once you land that coveted position, remember that anything you post can still be seen by your employer, and get you canned.

So you have been really careful about what you post and you have checked all the privacy settings, so you are safe?  Not so fast.

My Friends Are My Enemies

Do you take applications for your friends?  Do you screen them based on their good qualities and how "productive a member of society" they may be?  Unfortunately, who and what your friends and family are on Facebook may impact you greatly.

Your security is only as good as your friend's security. If someone in your network of friends has a weak password and his or her profile is hacked, he or she can now send you malware, for example. There is a common scam called a 419 scam, in which someone hacks your profile and send messages to your friends asking for money - claiming to be you - saying, "Hey, I was in London, I was mugged, please wire me money." People fall for it. People think their good friend needs help - and end up wiring money to Nigeria.

But it is not just security, you are now being "profiled" based upon your friends and their preferences.  Remember how lenders are checking you out on Facebook?  Well they are also checking out your friends.   What (financial institutions) have found is if your friends tend to be good credit risks, such as pay their bills on time, you are likely to be also," said Lorrie Cranor, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in privacy.

So do your friends talk about sex, drugs and rock and roll?  That may be part of your profile.  Has a friend ever been arrested?  Fallen down drink?  Made some racist joke?  Spouted off about the government?  Threatened anyone?  Teased anyone?  It is all part of YOUR profile.

Want to find out more about you?  One person used as an example "Brandon" who posted that he lost his virginity and "Martin" who cheated on a test.  How did he track "Brandon" and "Martin"?
I clicked over to Brandon's Facebook profile after seeing his status update on Openbook. Because of Facebook's privacy setup -- which now forces you to have things like your interests and "likes" linked to publicly accessible groups or community pages -- it took only a few seconds for me to ascertain exactly where Brandon goes to high school and what year he'll graduate.
Martin, our test-cheating youngster from earlier, left some of those details out of his profile. But Facebook still lets anyone see his friends, his siblings, and all of the things he and his social circle "like" -- and it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to create a fairly detailed docket from those combined tidbits of info. It's enough to give anyone a mild shudder.
And what happens when strangers post?  The Los Angeles Times reports that hospital administrators in California, as well as other places, are having trouble controlling what employees post about their work on FacebookFacebook and by mounting their own social media campaigns.

Don't want people to know about that nose job?  The nurse may post it and your "friends" tag it.  Now you are a celebrity!!
Is it worth it?  One commentator has devoted a site to why he got rid of Facebook.  He found that:
Mostly, I was just going through a phase and had decided that Facebook, after the initial euphoria of connecting with a long lost friend, actually made me feel more lonely. The amazing lives of some friends (who made sure to document every portion of it on Facebook) didn’t do much to help me on those darker days. And of course, there was the never-ending snarky comments and witty repertoire that competed for “humor” – of which I was equally guilty.
You may say, "certainly reasons to be careful", but ...



Mikko Hyppönen, who regularly works with Scotland Yard, the FBI, the US National Security Agency and Interpol, said popular networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin were now prime targets for criminals.

"It's happening all over the world," said Hyppönen, who refuses to use Facebook. "These guys steal an individual's profile, then email everyone in their contacts with a link and a subject heading like 'check this out'. You trust the email because it's from your friend. So you click on the link and before you know it all your security information has been stolen. I don't use Facebook because I know who's watching and I don't want these guys looking at pictures of me and my family. People think no one phishing will be able to make money from Facebook, but cyber-criminals can. This is only the beginning. You will see this happening more and more."

"These guys steal personal financial data and sell it to the highest bidder. It's like robbing a bank, but why rob a bank now when you can steal huge amounts of money from the comfort of your own home in another continent?"
A report published in 2009 called "The Digital Criminal" revealed that 38% of social network users post status updates with details of their holiday plans, which can be an "open invitation to burglars" as many users also posted their home address on their profile.
Cyberbullying, Stalking and Murder 
There have been a number of cases where a person has been murdered by someone they have met on Facebook.
In November 2009, Facebook was accused of promoting Gingerism after a 'Kick a Ginger' group, which aimed to establish a "National Kick a Ginger Day" on November 20, received almost 5,000 members. A 14-year-old boy from Vancouver who ran the Facebook group was subjected to an investigation from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for possible hate crimes.
Many critics, including Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, have criticised Facebook as a possible tool for cyberbullying, with the possibilities of anonymous profiles and the creation of groups allowing bullies to target individuals online. In 2009, an Oceanside teenager sued Facebook, as well as four of her former classmates for $3 million after the individuals created a password-protected Facebook group that was allegedly "calculated to hold the plaintiff up to public hatred, ridicule and disgrace". A Facebook spokesperson stated "we see no merit to this suit and we will fight it vigorously". On 21 August 2009, Keeley Houghton, 18, of Malvern, Worcestershire, was sentenced to three months in a young offenders' institution after being found guilty of bullying one of her classmates on Facebook, making her the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site. It is also possible to falsely accuse someone of harassment and get their account swiftly terminated as a vengeance tactic.
Data Mining and The Creation of Profiles

Perhaps the biggest and least appreciated danger of Facebook, is the ability of Facebook or third parties to utilize the information on Facebook in order to create “Profiles” of everyone on Facebook and even their families and friends. The danger with profile creation is not limited solely to Facebook, but resides in a number of internet related activities. However, as I have outlined above, the unique aspect of Facebook’s users turning over very private information about themselves – who their friends are; who they have sex with; who and what they hate; who and what they like; if they drink or do drugs; where, when and how they work, live and play; pictures of themselves and their families and friends – makes Facebook (and other sites like Facebook) uniquely DANGEROUS.

Are you comfortable telling the world that you got drunk last night and did “some bad things.” If you (or anyone you know or who knows you) post that on Facebook, the “World” now knows. Post a picture (or anyone you know or who knows you) showing the same and even if don’t say you did something bad, the whole “World” can now see for themselves what you did or make inferences about the same.

According to an article in Wired:
Facebook decided to turn “your” profile page into your identity online — figuring, rightly, that there’s money and power in being the place where people define themselves. But to do that, the folks at Facebook had to make sure that the information you give it was public.
So in December, with the help of newly hired Beltway privacy experts, it reneged on its privacy promises and made much of your profile information public by default. That includes the city that you live in, your name, your photo, the names of your friends and the causes you’ve signed onto.
This spring Facebook took that even further. All the items you list as things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages. If you don’t want them linked and made public, then you don’t get them — though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in order to let advertisers target you.
This includes your music preferences, employment information, reading preferences, schools, etc. All the things that make up your profile. They all must be public — and linked to public pages for each of those bits of info — or you don’t get them at all. That’s hardly a choice, and the whole system is maddeningly complex.
Simultaneously, the company began shipping your profile information off pre-emptively to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft — so that if you show up there while already logged into Facebook, the sites can “personalize” your experience when you show up. You can try to opt out after the fact, but you’ll need a master’s in Facebook bureaucracy to stop it permanently.
So what is your "profile" based upon all of this data?  What does Yelp and Pandora and Microsoft know about you?

Until now, practicality has limited these kinds of scary possibilities, says Hugh Thompson, chief security strategist at People Security. Pulling together that much disparate information left all around the Web was a chore only government agencies would attempt. But that’s not true anymore. A host of new software programs aimed at small-time data mining are slowly becoming available. They scour the Web and create dossiers on target subjects in seconds. One, named Maltego, even provides visualizations of data points that connect people and things online.

“The critical barrier is it hasn’t been easy. It is now,” he said. “What was a ‘data wasteland’ is now the richest environment in human history for backgrounding people. “

I have done a number of reports about how your information is being used and profiled.
  1.  Sshhhhh - The Government is Watching A semi-secret government contractor that calls itself Project Vigilant surfaced at the Defcon security conference Sunday with a series of revelations: that it monitors the traffic of 12 regional Internet service providers, hands much of that information to federal agencies, and encouraged one of its "volunteers," researcher Adrian Lamo, to inform the federal government about the alleged source of a controversial video of civilian deaths in Iraq leaked to whistle-blower site Wikileaks in April.  Uber's Wikileaks revelation is one of the first public statements from the semi-secret Project Vigilant. He says the 600-person "volunteer" organization functions as a government contractor bridging public and private sector security efforts.  According to Uber, one of Project Vigilant's manifold methods for gathering intelligence includes collecting information from a dozen regional U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs). Uber declined to name those ISPs, but said that because the companies included a provision allowing them to share users' Internet activities with third parties in their end user license agreements (EULAs), Vigilant was able to legally gather data from those Internet carriers and use it to craft reports for federal agencies. A Vigilant press release says that the organization tracks more than 250 million IP addresses a day and can "develop portfolios on any name, screen name or IP address."
  2. Google is Watching You Too  Google knows what you watch, what you search, and even with whom you're friends. The availability of all this information raises an important question: Where does Google CEO Eric Schmidt stand on the issue of online privacy? Schmidt has previously said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
  3. Government Knows What Medicines You Take Now come reports that the Government keeps a file of every prescription drug we take. Such “files” are maintained through a 2005 law which, the Government claims, authorizes it to monitor and record all prescription drug use by all citizens via so-called “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.” And there is a slew of other under-discussed surveillance programs whereby the U.S. government stores vast data on our private activities: everything from every domestic telephone call we make to “risk assessment” records based on our travel activities.
Planning any trips lately?

It is all part of your profile.  And so are the activities of your friends.  But what about those things that Facebook has kindly decided to do for you?

There have been some concerns expressed regarding the use of Facebook as a means of surveillance and data mining. According to the Facebook policy, "We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile."

Read that again – “supplement your profile”.

Now, say you you write a public update, saying, “My boss had a crazy great idea for a new product!” Now, you might not know it, but there is a Facebook page for “My Crazy Boss” and because your post had all the right words, your post now shows up on that page. Include the words “FBI” or “CIA,” and you show up on the FBI or CIA page.

One women who decided to drop Facebook reports that:
I just discovered tonight that FB is sending ‘Friend Suggestions’ to people IN MY NAME that I did not send. I was on my daughter’s account and there were 3 of MY friends on her requests page that were “suggested by” ME.
Remember in In the "Terminator" series, Skynet is the main antagonist — an artificially intelligent system which became self-aware and revolted against its creators.  I am not suggesting that Facebook will become Skynet.  What I am suggesting is that "truth" is stranger than fiction.  By allowing so much of our personal information to be controlled by a few Oligarchs (or Governments), have we set the seed for a cultural hegemony controlled by a few?  From Wikipedia:
The use of language can serve as a means of creating and applying hegemony. Any source that disseminates information is, intentionally or not, part of hegemony in that the source can only contain a finite amount of information. Therefore, in the selection of the information it chooses to display, the source is limiting and framing the information that the recipient gets. In this way, the source is practicing its influence over the recipient. Examples of the societal aspect of hegemony are churches and media organizations that constantly distribute information to the public. These influential institutions can subtly use language and to frame their message and thereby valuate it, helping to further disseminate the adoption of their message. This phenomenon of language influencing thought within a society is an important tie to the idea of cultural hegemony.
"These influential institutions can subtly use language and to frame their message and thereby valuate it, helping to further disseminate the adoption of their message."  When someone knows everything about you, and then supplements your "profile" so as to gain an even greater "understanding" of you, aren't they then "controlling" the message.  Ever wonder why you get targeted for certain ads?  Why does Facebook say you should "friend" this person?  Do they suggest you "join this group?"

As more and more of our lives are incorporated on computers with information feed to us by the internet, controlling the internet and the information creates and informaiton bias.  If you don't have all of the information but only that presented to you, how do you even know that you are being controlled?

Why did so many corporations offer Mark Zuckerberg Billions of dollars?  For a web site that until recently hadn't even turned a profit?  Or for a commpany that has access to hundreds of millions of people who share, for free, the most personal information about themselves?  Information that they would never share in person with anyone else.  Details and pictures about themselves and their families and friends.

So What Can I Do?

If you can't live without Facebook, what can you do?

An article at College Apps has some suggestions which are universal.
• In short, delete these 12 photos now
• Remove or block any photos that show you drinking alcohol, even if you were in a situation where it was legal
• Remove or block any photos that show you with people who are obviously under the influence
• Remove or block photos with rude gestures (someone who doesn't know you won't find that middle finger shot funny)
• Remove or block photos that are sexually suggestive
• Remove or block any photos that portray illegal activity
• Remove or block any photos that would make an admissions officer question your character or judgment
• Unsubscribe from any groups that show bias or bigotry (those "I hate Jane Doe" and "Old People Shouldn't Drive" groups suggest you're NOT the type of person a college wants to admit)
• Unsubscribe from any groups that promote illegal activity (again, the "I Love Getting Stoned" and "Budweiser Rules" groups will give the admissions folks reservations about your application)
• Remove contact information such as your phone number and address--not only is this a safety issue, but inclusion of such information shows bad judgment on your part.
• Choose an attractive and professional-looking photo for your profile picture
• Visit your site frequently to untag any unflattering photos your friends may have posted
Remember though, that if your friends have any of those things included, YOUR profile will likely include them.

Also remember that once it was posted, "someone" knows about it and likely made a permanent record.  So even if you delete it, it is still out "there".

Even as to things that you feel comfortable with telling a large group of people, you still have to be cautious.  When you tell someone something on Facebook, you tell the entire World. 

Day in and day out we filter out information which we share with other people.  But with Facebook and its "profiles" you may not be able to filter anything at all.

Do you really want someone who is interviewing you for a job to know everything about you?  What if you are a "born again christian" and you are interviewing with a Muslim (or vice-versa)?  The interviewer cannot ask about religion.  But if they have researched you profile, then "they" know.  Or what if they know who you voted for and it so happens they are of a different party?

Or what about picture of you when you are changing your hair color because you just couldn't decide?  An interviewer may decide you are indecisive.  And what if it is just pictures of your friends acting silly.  What if someone decides that you must be immature because of it?

When you give all of your personal information over to someone else, you loose control over that information.  Every decision you have ever made in your life is then subject to review and criticism by others.  Your whole life is now open for review.  Mistakes last forever.

It is said  - Education is a progressive discovering of our own ignorance.  So too with Facebook.