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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Third Depression - Today's Must Read

In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman has an op-ed piece that really calls into question where our economy is and where we might be headed.  I for one have long said that things are not going well and that I expected them to get worse before getting better.  Read what Paul Krugman has to say.
Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.
But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.
In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.
Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.
It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.
And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.
Only time will confirm if Krugman is right, but, regardless, people are suffering now.  Let's hope he is wrong.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is F**king Scary - Another War?

Zero Hedge is reporting:
As we first reported last week, in an article that was met with much original skepticism, the Pentagon has now confirmed that a fleet of 12 warships has passed the Suez Canal, and is now likely awaiting orders to support the escalation in the Persian Gulf. The attached image from Stratfor shows the latest positioning of US aircraft carrier groups as of June 23: the USS Harry Truman (CVN-75) is now right next to USS Eisenhower (CVN 69), both of which are waiting patiently just off Iran.
As for the catalyst the two carriers may be anticipating, we ... read that Israel may be on the verge of an attack of Iran, with an incursion originating from military bases in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
We caution readers to take this news with a grain of salt as the Gulf Daily News' sister publication, Akhbar Al Khaleej, has a slightly less than stellar credibility rating. Then again, this is what some, Breaking News Online most notably, said about last week's carrier news, urging readers to ignore it.
There have been a number of predictions that Israel would attack Iran this summer.  Are we getting ready for war?

Did Jesus Die On A Cross?

One of the difficulties with religion is that it is based, in large part, on stories which are passed down over generations and not based upon concurrent written depictions of actual events.  And as with any story which is told and then retold time and time again, the stories often differ greatly from person to person.  And when stories have been told in one language (or several languages), translations are often imperfect.  So a new study which questions whether Jesus did in fact die by Crucifixion should not be all that surprising , should it?

However, the crucifix is the defining symbol of Christianity, a constant reminder to the faithful of the sacrifice and suffering endured by Jesus Christ for humanity. But an extensive study of ancient texts by a Swedish pastor and academic has revealed that Jesus may not have died on a cross, but instead been put to death on another gruesome execution device.

This iconic image of Christ dying on the cross may be misleading, according to theologian Gunnar Samuelsson, who says crucifixion was more rare than commonly thought.




Gunnar Samuelsson -- a theologian at the University of Gothenburg and author of a 400-page thesis on crucifixion in antiquity -- doesn't doubt that Jesus died on Calvary hill. But he argues that the New Testament is in fact far more ambiguous about the exact method of the Messiah's execution than many Christians are aware.

Before you simply dismiss him you should know that Samuelsson describes himself as "... a boring, conservative pastor and I start everyday reading the New Testament," and who believes that "the man who walked this earth was the Son of God, and that he will return to judge the living and the dead." 


"When the Gospels refer to the death of Jesus, they just say that he was forced to carry a "stauros" out to Calvary," he told AOL News. Many scholars have interpreted that ancient Greek noun as meaning "cross," and the verb derived from it, "anastauroun," as implying crucifixion. But during his three-and-a-half-year study of texts from around 800 BC to the end of the first century AD, Samuelsson realized the words had more than one defined meaning.

"'Stauros' is actually used to describe a lot of different poles and execution devices," he says. "So the device described in the Gospels could have been a cross, but it could also have been a spiked pole, or a tree trunk, or something entirely different." In turn, "anastauroun" was used to signify everything from the act of "raising hands to suspending a musical instrument."

The manner in which Jesus died is further thrown into question by Samuelsson's discovery that crucifixion may have been an unusual form of punishment in the Roman Empire. Descriptions of crucifixions contained in the thousands of Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek manuscripts he examined most commonly referred to dead prisoners being placed on some form of suspension device, or living captives skewered on stakes. The first century Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger, for example, wrote about seeing a great many prisoners of war on "crosses" after one campaign. But the scribe then describes how a large number of the dead had been impaled.
The Swedish scholar isn't sure exactly why the crucifix went on to become the dominant Christian motif. But this symbol only seems to have become fixed in followers' minds long after Jesus' death, as the first T and X shaped crucifixes appear in Christian manuscripts around the 2nd century AD.  Much like I said, when a story is told and retold, it changes over time.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Samuelsson's thesis has caused something of an unheavenly row. While fellow theologians have complimented his highly detailed research, many critics in the blogosphere have claimed that he wants to undermine Christianity. Samuelsson --  -- says this accusation is simply "stupid."  He belives that "... we should read the text as it is, not as we think it is."

Former Oil Worker Says Cleanup Just For Show

I know I write about BP and the gulf spill a lot.  But it is such a compelling story - the potential destruction of an entire eco-system; and, the arrogance and greed of big business, here big oil. 

The latest?  A former oil worker says cleanup just for show.  That is right.  During the day, hordes of BP temps wander up and down the beach, plucking tarballs from the pretty white sand. Once the tourists, cameras and temps quit for the day, Mother Nature keeps right on dumping oil on the beach and covering it up. BP has forbidden the crews to dig into the sand and pick up the oil there – only the cosmetics matter. At some point a real cleanup will have to be undertaken, just don’t think BP’s doing it now.

Check out the story from WKRG.
Former oil clean-up worker Candi Warren says she signed up to make a difference, but soon found out the work of cleaning the beaches was all cosmetic. That's what she was told, she says.
Warren says she knew that when crews worked during the day, the tide and surf buried oil overnight. But they were forbidden to dig it up. She quit in disgust three weeks ago despite the $18 per hour pay.
She said she was told to only clean the surface of the sand, that this is all cosmetic. She was on a crew at Gulf State Park where tourists go. She says it has priority so as to make it look like the beaches are clean.
She used a shovel and dug down six, eight, maybe twelve inches into the sand to show us the layers of oil close to the shoreline.
 
Death and destruction is just so ugly!  It is nice to know BP is putting lipstick on the pig so we don't have to see the ugly oil.  Makes me feel better, how about you?

Idiot of the Day - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

Comments by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that most illegal immigrants enter the United States to smuggle drugs rather than seek work have prompted a wave of criticism.  Speaking Friday, Brewer said that "the majority of illegal trespassers" entering Arizona "are bringing drugs in," Fox News reported.


Wow, that is a pretty harsh accusation.  And that is why the statement earns Ms. Brewer the title "idiot of the day."

T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, told CNN that Brewer's comments, don't "comport with reality -- that's the nicest way to put it."


Jaime Farrant of the Tucson-based Border Action Network told Fox News that he has "no evidence" that most people are entering to smuggle drugs, while Mexican Senator Jesus Ramon Valdes, who represents the Mexican border state of Coahuila, said the comments were racist and ignorant.


"Traditionally, migrants have always been needy, humble people who in good faith go looking for a way to better the lives of their families," Ramon Valdes told Fox News.

So what is her defense?  Late on Friday, Brewer issued a statement defending her comments. The statement cited a report by the Los Angeles Times that highlighted the increasing roles of Mexican drug cartels in the business of smuggling people into the United States. Brewer added that "many federal government reports have drawn the same conclusions."


Even her defense is weak.  It is one thing to say the people involved in smuggling may have links to crime, it is another to say "most" illegal immigrants enter the US to smuggle drugs.  Pure xenophobia.  It appears Ms. Brewer will say anything, truthful or not.

Oil Hits Mississippi Beaches

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour will not have to worry anymore that talk of oil was worse than the oil spill.
A morning flight over the Mississippi Sound showed long, wide ribbons of orange-colored oil for as far as the eye could see and acres of both heavy and light sheen moving into the Sound between the barrier islands. What was missing was any sign of skimming operations from Horn Island to Pass Christian.

A scientist onboard, Mike Carron with the Northern Gulf Institute, said with this scenario, there will be oil on the beaches of the mainland.


There were dozens of boats of all sizes running around, some leaving trails through the sheen. Two boats among a group near Ship Island were pulling boom in a line, but not using it to round up oil. That was at 10 a.m.

Taylor slipped a note to a fellow passenger.

It said: “I’m having a Katrina flashback. I haven’t seen this much stupidity, wasted effort, money and wasted resources, since then.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Evidence For the Religious Right and Conservative GOP That Children Can do Much Worse Than Gay Parents

Turns out the most depressing things sold at Walmart aren't found inside the store. A couple allegedly offered to sell their 6-month-old baby for $25 to two strangers in a Salinas, California Walmart parking lot.

This story, unfortunately, has a little bit of everything in it.  It clearly highlights the danger of "meth", a subject upon which I have touched and done a movie The Devil's Drug.

It also shows how ludicrous the argument is that children are always worse off if they have gay parents or adoptive gay parents.  Children need love and a safe environment - having the ability to birth children does not guarantee either of those things.  Just ask Samantha below.


According to the AP:

"Patrick Fousek, 38, and Samantha Tomasini, 20, were arrested early Wednesday, hours after Fousek allegedly approached two women outside Walmart and asked if they'd like to purchase his child.

The women initially thought Fousek was joking, but when he became persistent, they became suspicious and reported it to police

When police arrived at their house, they found Fousek and Tomasini high on—you guessed it!—meth. Child Protective Services took the baby, and Fousek and Tomasini have been charged with being under the influence of narcotics and child endangerment.

And that's your depressing Walmart story of the week.

Caribbean Storms Strengthen, May Head for Oil Spill

The first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season has a 70 percent chance of forming this weekend, with one computer model indicating it could head into the Gulf of Mexico where BP Plc has a flotilla of vessels trying to clean up an oil spill.


A collection of thunderstorms was intensifying in the Caribbean off Honduras and Nicaragua, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 8 a.m. Miami time today. The center said its forecast for the system turning into a tropical storm would evolve over the next 48 hours as it heads toward Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

“It’s favorable to become a tropical depression by tomorrow night, perhaps a tropical storm by the weekend and maybe even a hurricane by the end of the weekend or early next week,” said Jack Boston, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. “Right now the chances of it going over the oil or going to the west of it are about equal.”

Government forecasters say the hurricane season that started June 1 may be the worst since 2005, when storms including Katrina devastated New Orleans and damaged oil platforms and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oil spill: Aerial footage of Pensacola Beach

Link to Video

Aerial video footage taken by personnel aboard an Escambia County Sheriff's Office helicopter helps to illustrate the extent of the oil and tar that blanketed Pensacola Beach on Wednesday.

If you have ever been to the beaches in and around the panhandle of Florida (sugar white beaches), this will be hard to watch.

And this from a CNN ireporter:

Palin Guilty of Major Ethics Act Violation: Must Return $386,000 in Contributions.

Enough said.  Guilty!  Ethics Violations!

Earthquake Rocks Part of Canada and Northeast.

I live in earthquake country (California) so you get use to them.  But not so much in the Northeast.

The Globe and Mail is reporting on its mobile site that there are numerous reports of "unusual ground shaking in various parts of Ontario," as well as Buffalo, N.Y.   The Canada earthquake shook Toronto and Ottawa at approximately 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time today, June 23, 2010. The USGS reports the quake had a magnitude of 5.0.


The quake was also felt by some as far away as Boston, Cleveland and Chicago.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Health Risks from Oil Spill: "Some of the Most Toxic Chemicals that We Know" , "Every Place Can be Ground Zero", CDC Advises "Everyone" to Avoid Oil

Washington’s Blog


An "epidemiologist" is a scientist who studies diseases among groups of people.

So the following quote from Bloomberg caught my eye:

Shira Kramer, an epidemiologist who has conducted research for the petroleum industry on the health consequences of exposure to petroleum, said she is concerned that the risks are being downplayed.

“It’s completely scientifically dishonest to pooh-pooh the potential here when you are talking about some of the most toxic chemicals that we know,” said Kramer....
“When you talk about community exposure, you are talking about exposures in unpredictable ways and to subpopulations that may be more highly susceptible than others, such as those of reproductive age, people who are immuno-compromised, children or fetuses.
‘With the World Trade Center, there have been unpredictable adverse health effects to the populations that were exposed and not just the workers,” she said. “In this case, we have a soup of chemicals from the crude, chemicals from the dispersants and pollutants that were already in the water. Who can say how they will interact?”
Crude oil contains such powerful cancer-causing chemicals benzene, toluene, heavy metals and arsenic.

In addition, BP has poured millions of gallons of the highly-toxic dispersant Corexit into the Gulf.

Bloomberg also notes that the Centers for Disease Control has issued health warnings about the oil:

“Although the oil may contain some chemicals that could cause harm to an unborn baby under some conditions, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies,” the CDC said on its website.
While they suggest there is no threat, the CDC simultaneously advised “everyone, including pregnant women” to avoid spill-affected areas.
While we must keep the risk in perspective - and while this does not mean that Gulf coast residents will suffer mass illness due to the oil spill - we should not underestimate the risks either. As Bloomberg notes:

“Oil is a complex mixture containing substances like benzene, heavy metals, arsenic, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons -- all known to cause human health problems such as cancer, birth defects or miscarriages,” said Kenneth Olden, founding dean of New York’s CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, who is monitoring a panel on possible delayed effects. “The potential here is huge and we have to be diligent about protecting the public health and these workers.”
For the public at large, the threat is less clear because of the uncertainty about the degree of exposure, Lioy said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think the levels are high enough for concern,” he said. “But this is an ongoing event. Every day is Day One. Every place can be Ground Zero.”

Because hurricanes could spread the oil inland, it may indeed be true that almost every place on the Gulf Coast can be Ground Zero.

Liar and Hypocrite of the Day - Joe Barton.

Joe Barton Touts A Defense Of His BP Comments, Minutes After Apologizing To GOP For Them.

I think more than being a liar and Hypocrite, Joe Barton is an opportunist.  I doubt he has any strong moral or social principals except what is good for Joe Barton. 

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex) featured an article on his own website Wednesday morning, in which a conservative author defends the Texas Republican for apologizing to BP for the "shakedown" it received from the Obama White House.


Normally, lawmakers are all in the business of promoting their positions. So a flattering piece on the Barton site wouldn't be out of order -- except for the fact that Barton has since apologized for making the remarks. In fact, just minutes before the article was posted the Texas Republican was reportedly groveling in front of a House GOP gathering, acknowledging that his comment was dumb and asking to retain his position as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Shortly after the piece made the rounds and caused an uproar, Barton's staff took down the page featuring the link.  Considering that Barton's office not only linked the article but tweeted it, it stands to reason that they vouch for the premise.

Despite Having the Most Expensive Health Care System, the US Ranks Last Among Seven Countries on Health System Performance.



Throughout the whole healthcare debate, those opposed to health care reform often said "we have the best health care in the world."  Yet they offered nothing to back up those claims.

According to a new Commonwealth Fund report:

US ranks last among 7 countries on health system performance, EurekAlert: New York, NY, June 23, 2010—Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared to six other industrialized countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—on measures of health system performance in five areas: quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for not getting good value for its health care dollars, ranking last despite spending $7,290 per capita on health care in 2007 compared to the $3,837 spent per capita in the Netherlands, which ranked first overall.

On measures of quality the United States ranked 6th out of 7 countries. On two of four measures of quality—effective care and patient-centered care—the U.S. ranks in the middle (4th out of 7 countries). However, the U.S. ranks last when it comes to providing safe care, and next to last on coordinated care. U.S. patients with chronic conditions are the most likely to report being given the wrong medication or the wrong dose of their medication, and experiencing delays in being notified about an abnormal test result.


On measures of access to care, people in the U.S. have the hardest time affording the health care they need—with the U.S. ranking last on every measure of cost-related access problems. For example, 54 percent of adults with chronic conditions reported problems getting a recommended test, treatment or follow-up care because of cost. In the Netherlands, which ranked first on this measure, only 7 percent of adults with chronic conditions reported this problem.

Drilling Moratorium to Return.

It seems to me, that if the oil spill rescue plans for all of the deep-water offshore wells is the same - and we KNOW that the plans do not work - then there should be ample reason to delay such wells pending further review.  Yesterday, a federal judge disagreed, but it is not over yet. (By the way, the judge owns stock in Transocean, the drilling company at the BP rig.)

Well, if at first you don't succeed, try again: Hours after a New Orleans judge struck down the Obama administration's moratorium on off-shore drilling, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he will issue a new order reinstating the temporary ban. Salazar said in a statement that the new order will make clear why a six-month moratorium is essential and include additional evidence that safety conditions are inadequate in deepwater wells. "Based on this ever-growing evidence," he said, "I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities." Earlier Tuesday, federal judge Martin Feldman said the Interior Department failed to justify the moratorium and that the failure of one rig does not mean all rigs are dangerous. The White House plans to appeal the ruling.

BP's Ex-Convict Brigade

I believe that everyone should be given a second chance.  I also believe in programs to help ex-convicts get back into the working world.  It is fundamentally necessary to have such programs if we are ever to move criminals back into working society.

But it can also lead to serious concerns.

In tiny Grand Isle, where the BP workers now outnumber the full-time residents, Rebecca Dana talks to locals fuming that ex-cons are among the cleanup workers and hears about unwanted advances, rising crime, and shout-filled town halls.


Everyone used to leave their doors open in Grand Isle, an isolated beach community on the southwestern edge of Louisiana. But now neighbors are building fences, business owners are contemplating security systems, and even the teenage “Cajun Sno-Cone” vendor locks her pickup window at night.

People here are flat-out terrified of BP.

Some of these workers are ex-cons—a fact that leaves locals fuming and BP shrugging its shoulders helplessly; after all, someone needs to do the dirty work. Many are poor and black, some drink, some get into fights, all are desperate for these jobs. They have poured into a once sleepy, overwhelmingly white coastal town whose residents are already worn to the breaking point by the oil spill, dealing with lives lost, family businesses destroyed, and the daunting prospect of rebuilding.


BP acknowledges there have been incidents and that workers have been dismissed for bad behavior or past convictions. But, in the most diplomatic language possible, a company public-affairs officer suggests that perceptions of skyrocketing violence are more imagined than real—like the headaches everyone’s been complaining about lately, even though all the state and federal air tests keep coming out clean.

BP has tried a variety of strategies for making peace in the community. The company held town halls, which turned into shout-fests, so it switched to smaller crawfish boils at townspeople’s homes. This Thursday is movie night; the company is bringing in an old-fashioned popcorn machine and screening Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It is spending more than $10,000 to build a volleyball court. It has set up a program to pay young people to do community-service projects and already vowed that all 151 local children will go on all the rides for free at a three-day carnival coming to town in July.


“We’ve had a turning point, just in the last 24 hours,” French said, “when for the first time ever, the compliments have outweighed the complaints.”

Although, he allowed, that may have something to do with the second round of $5,000 checks that just landed in everyone’s mailboxes.

Housing In Trouble Again - Sales of U.S. New Homes Plunged to Record Low in May

As I have warned in the past, we are far from a recovery in housing.

Bloomberg is reporting:

Purchases of new homes in the U.S. fell in May to a record low as a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.


Sales collapsed a record 33 percent to an annual pace of 300,000 last month from April, less than the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and the fewest in data going back to 1963, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Demand in prior months was revised down.

 “May was a bad month for the economy,” J. Alfred Broaddus, former Richmond Fed president, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “In Business With Margaret Brennan.” When the Fed releases its policy statement today, its language on the economy will be “markedly more pessimistic,” he said.
 
The median sales price decreased 9.6 percent from the same month last year, to $200,900, today’s report showed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oil Spill: Turtles Rescued By Wildlife Agents, Only 1 in 5 Survive.

I saw this story and it really shows why the Gulf Oil Spill is a disaster like no other we have experienced.  It has cataclysmic potential for destruction.

CBS hops aboard a boat with a team of wildlife agents heading 35 miles off the Gulf coast to rescue every sea turtle they come across. Even though some of the turtles they find aren't visibly coated in oil, there is often unseen damage from inhalation and digestion of oil. Tragically, of the over 500 turtles they have found, only 1 in 5 survive.  Video 

Turtles fill a vital ecological function in keeping the ocean ecosystems in balance. Kill the turtles=kill the oceans. And since humanity will not survive if the oceans die, kill the oceans=kill humanity.


But Americans have no ecological education. Many understand this intellectually--sort of. But most people really cannot wrap their brains around the reality of our connection to the planet's ecosystems. They see dead turtles, they feel "bad" for the turtle. But they have absolutely no understanding of just how devastating and frightening the die-off is, in terms of not only the future of the ocean's ecosystem, but our future as well. The connection is just too difficult to make.

Which makes sense, of course, when people grow up in a culture than places humanity at the center of the universe, with the planet and all other living creatures as merely static "resources." Such a story in no way reflects reality, of course. It's entirely an illusion, perpetrated by capitalism and religion. But Nature doesn't care about our silly self-centered fantasy world. We can keep on keeping on, scoffing at the power of Nature and our connection to it, insisting on our superior importance, clinging to our stories of human centrality, but in the end we will die.

Texas GOP Platform Advocates Criminalizing Gay Marriage, Banning Strip Clubs, Pornography.

In a nod going back to the late 1800s, the Texas GOP Platform Advocates Criminalizing Gay Marriage, Banning Strip Clubs, Pornography.

Texas Republicans recently unveiled a policy platform that includes a statement of support for legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples as well as for an official to perform a marriage ceremony for gay partners wishing to wed.


The 25-page proposal debuted last week as a guiding light for the state GOP over the next two years defines its position by saying:

Marriage Licenses - We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.

The proposal from Republicans in the Lone Star state makes the following claims related to the party's view of homosexuality:

•"We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases."
•"Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans."
•"Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples."
The recently rolled-out platform from the Texas GOP has also come under scrutiny for advocating to outlaw all "sexually-oriented businesses" -- including strip clubs and "all pornography" -- while allowing virtually unrestricted access to oil and gas drilling.

What will all of the Texas oil men do if they outlaw strip clubs?  Where will they go to have drinks?  Maybe they will outlaw liquor too.

Where can I sign the petition that allows Texas to succeed from the Union?

What The F**k Is Up With Our Military???

Remember the President is the Commander In Chief.  He is the ultimate authority for our military.  All militaries need one supreme leader.  Someone has to make decisions.  It is the nature of a military, you have to answer to your commander.  So that brings us to today.

President Barack Obama is furious with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and is considering firing him for a magazine article in which the top military commander in Afghanistan criticizes senior White House aides and his assistants poke fun at administration officials overseeing the war.


In the Rolling Stone article, "The Runaway General," McChrystal comes across as frustrated with the White House and most top civilian leaders. The magazine hits newsstands Friday but was released to reporters in advance and excerpted by several news outlets.
 
One of McChrystal's aides calls White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones -- a retired four-star general -- a "clown" who's "stuck in 1985."


McChrystal says that he is contrite for his statements - but??  McChrystal issued a statement today saying he extends his "sincerest apology for this profile."


"It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened," his statement read, according to several news agencies. "Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."

He is certianly right, he fell far short of what he should have done.

For insubordination, for disrespecting the Office of the President of the United States and for allowing derision of the White House among his staff, General Stanley McChrystal must resign.

Monday, June 21, 2010

President Obama Speaks Out For All Fathers - Saying That Which Is Right!

In case you missed my Father's Day Post, I have reposted it here today.

In his annual Father's Day proclamation, President Barack Obama praised biological fathers and father-figures.


He also made it a point to give approval to families where two gay fathers are raising children.

"Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian," Obama said.

On Monday, the president will continue to focus on dads, speaking at a Washington, D.C. event about responsible fatherhood.

America has paid a hefty cost for absent fathers.

The National Fatherhood Initiative has estimated taxpayers foot a bill of $99.8 billion a year to support homes headed up by single moms.

The social damage is huge as well. The NFI study showed there was a strong link between homes with absentee fathers and teen suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, crime and homelessness.

President Obama's statements indicate his continued commitment to do what is right and to speak out for that which he believes, despite the potential political criticism he may receive.

With Such Cold Winters We Can't Have Global Warming - Right?

Have you heard people say that?  That if we have such cold winters we must not have global warming.  It does sound a little confusing.

But as Physorg reports:
While it may seem counter-intuitive, warmer Arctic climes caused by climate change influence air pressure at the North Pole, shifting wind patterns in such a way as to boost cooling over adjacent swathes of the planet.
As global climate change increases, cold and snowy winters will become the rule – just as will violent thunderstorms and massive downpours. The warming atmosphere sucks up more water – then puts it down in the form of more rain, more snow. "The changes are irreversible."

"Cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception," said James Overland of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Continued rapid loss of ice will be an important driver of major change in the world's climate system in the coming years, he said at an Olso meeting of scientists reviewing research from the two-year International Polar Year 2007-2008.

The exceptionally chilly winter of 2009-2010 in temperate zones of the northern hemisphere were connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic, he said.

But then again, what do scientist know?  I would much rather believe fortune-tellers, profits, soothsayers and other purveyors of mythology (Bachmann, Palin, Beck, the Pope, televangelist, "healers", and other charlatans, etc.).

Suspicious Packaging - BP At Its Best.

Have you seen the new ad by BP? The one where they have this soft-spoken man who says he is from Louisiana and has volunteered to help with the claims process for BP.  Television Ad


Very clever ad, right? It is the ultimate in Suspicious Packaging, where it is not what you say but how you say it.

I'd like to know which ad agency and global consulting firms have been hired to create this repackaging job to create a new veneer for BP of "caring" for the public. Here is a brilliantly crafted spot meant to appear heart felt and caring.

I'm sure they payed for best ad agency and consulting firms money can buy. Sure a new image can be crafted. But is it real? Nothing is ever as it appears. It is all a controlled creation of image.

They use a black representative clearly to help relate and manipulate a certain mind set. Darryl Willis the BP employee in the ad uses the words " he volunteers" for the claims department. Did you also know he is a Vice-President at BP????  They don't mention that fact do they?

I'm sure he is still being paid. It is manipulative because the spot says he is from Louisiana so he can relate. How much were the ad agency and consulting firms paid to pump out this ad? Image repair. It is a brilliantly crafted spot that appears down to earth and caring. Something the " small people" could relate to.

Idiot Of The Day - Mississippi Gov. Barbour

Mississippi Gov. Barbour has announced that the temporary drilling ban is worse than the oil spill.

Really???

While I understand and sympathise with all of the people who have been impacted by the Temporary ban, how can anyone possibly compare the potentially catastrophic damage which is being caused by the oil spill with loss of income? 

Entire marine and wild-life habitats may be destroyed for our lifetime or forever.

As the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen notes, "what Barbour neglected to mention is that Obama got BP to commit to a $100 million fund to compensate unemployed oil rig workers affected by the closure of other deepwater rigs."

This bloated gasbag Barbour and the rest of the Right wing jackals that are displaying their devoted rectal tongue bathing of BP by endlessly mitigating its wanton greed and utter disregard for safety, while simultaneously criticizing the administration and President Obama for doing what is necessary (halting additional drilling until the causes of this disaster are understood in order to prevent further catastrophes, and ensuring that Gulf residents will be financially compensated and not be subjected to 20 years of litigation which protected Exxon and shafted residents of Prince William Sound), is the worst sort of political theatre.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BP Oil Spill: Against Gov. Jindal's Wishes, Crude-Sucking Barges Stopped by Coast Guard

Whose side are they (Coast Guard) on??

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has spent the past week and half fighting to get working barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. By Thursday morning, against the governor's wishes, those barges still were sitting idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore.


Louisiana Governor Jindal frustrated over decision-making red tape. "It's the most frustrating thing," the Republican governor told ABC News while visiting Buras, La. "Literally, [Wednesday] morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges."

Sixteen barges sat stationary Thursday, although they had been sucking up thousands of gallons of BP's oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.

"These barges work. You've seen them work. You've seen them suck oil out of the water," said Jindal.


"The Coast Guard came and shut them down," Jindal said. "You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, 'Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil.'"

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.
 
THIS IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY!!  In a time of war, would we stop someone to make sure they have extra fire extinguishers??  Where is the common sense????
 
Yes there might be dangers if the barges are not "perfectly" equipped, but the bigger danger is not stopping the oil.

Arianna Huffington: Sunday Roundup

You have to hand it to Arianna Huffington at Huffington Post.  She knows how to say a lot without having to say much.  From her blog:

Tough to say who needs remedial PR training more, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, who this week referred to those affected by the Gulf catastrophe as "the small people" or Texas Rep. Joe Barton who used a high-profile hearing on the Hill to apologize to BP and accuse the White House of subjecting the company to "a shakedown." Svanberg quickly went into contrition mode, blaming his tone-deaf remark on a "slip in translation" (he's Swedish). Under pressure, Barton, who owns a natural gas well and has received nearly $1.5 million from oil and gas industry donors, apologized for his apology, saying: "If anything I've said this morning has been misconstrued... I want to apologize for that misconstruction." He should apologize for that sentence. Then, as penance, both men should translate their regret into reparations, contributing a big amount to "the small people" devastated by the disaster.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

In his annual Father's Day proclamation, President Barack Obama praised biological fathers and father-figures.


He also made it a point to give approval to families where two gay fathers are raising children.

"Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian," Obama said.

On Monday, the president will continue to focus on dads, speaking at a Washington, D.C. event about responsible fatherhood.

America has paid a hefty cost for absent fathers.

The National Fatherhood Initiative has estimated taxpayers foot a bill of $99.8 billion a year to support homes headed up by single moms.

The social damage is huge as well. The NFI study showed there was a strong link between homes with absentee fathers and teen suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, crime and homelessness.
 
President Obama's statements indicate his continued commitment to do what is right and to speak out for that which he believes, despite the potential political criticism he may receive.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

GONE YACHTING.

BP CEO Leaves Gulf To Attend Glitzy Yacht Race In England.

Spokesman Defends: 'One Of The Biggest Sailing Events In The World'
 
I am sure all of the fisherman would love to go sailing too!!  Perhaps Tony Hayward is inviting them to go with him.  Let me know if you got invited.

It is not that I object to Tony Hayward doing whatever he wants.  He got his wish, he got his life back.  It is more that it shows such poor judgment on his part.  That or just total disregard for those still effected by the spill and total arrogance.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fairness and Equality???

The heirs of the tens of thousands killed by Union Carbide in the Bhopal disaster accuse the US of “double standards” because Obama forced BP to put up $20 billion, while the US has resolutely ignored the debt US firms owed following the Bhopal poisoning.

According to Wikipedia:

The Bhopal disaster or Bhopal Gas Tragedy is the world's worst ever industrial catastrophe and occurred on the night of December 3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. At that time, UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of the U.S. company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company. Around midnight on the intervening night of horror December 2–3, 1984, there was a leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins from the plant, resulting in the exposure of over 500,000 people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.


Some 25 years after the gas leak, 390 tons of toxic chemicals abandoned at the UCIL plant continue to leak and pollute the groundwater in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents who depend on it, though there is some dispute as to whether the chemicals still stored at the site pose any continuing health hazard.

Over two decades since the tragedy, certain civil and criminal cases remain pending in the United States District Court, Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal, India, against Union Carbide, (now owned by Dow Chemical Company), with an Indian arrest warrant also pending against Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster.

So, for those criticizing President Obama for his actions in securing a $20 Billion fund to help victims I ask would you prefer the treatment suffered by those in Bhopal?  Perhaps if Obama had been President then, more could have been done to help these victims as well.

Evangelical Environmental Network: Gulf Oil Spill Raises Moral Issues.

I have been wondering what position evangelical Christians (Christians in general) would take on the gulf oil spill.  It seemed to me that their voice had been somewhat silent.  In light of the vast destruction of our coast line, the countless wildlife which has perished and the overall harm we have done to our environment one would expect a strong response that more need be done to protect what "god had given us."  While I might disagree with some of what organized religion has to say, I thought that on this point we could agree, that it is our moral responsibility to protect our environment.

Today, Huffington Post is reporting that:

Leaders of a group that encourages evangelical Christians to care for the environment say the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico raises moral challenges for the country.


The Revs. Jim Ball and Mitchell Hescox, leaders of the Evangelical Environmental Network, are visiting southern Louisiana to pray with people who have lost jobs because of the spill.

Joining them is the Rev. Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Ball says they took a boat ride off the coast Thursday and were saddened by sights of oil-spattered marshes where birds were nesting.

He says the oil spill is a stain on the nation's stewardship of God's creation, and should inspire people of faith to embrace cleaner energy sources. Ball says how the nation responds to the disaster is a matter of values.

Best places to shop for everything.

Consumer Reports says that consumers favorite place to shop is COSTCO.  Of all the big-box stores, it is my favorite as well.

Last year shoppers spent $405 billion at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. But according to a new study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, they might be better off if they switch stores.


For all the talk about Walmart’s low prices, 30,666 subscribers we surveyed said the prices at 10 other retailers, including JCPenney, Sears, Dillard’s, and Meijer, were at least as good. And bigger wasn’t necessarily better when it came to the overall shopping experience. Almost three-quarters of respondents who shopped at Walmart found at least one problem to complain about, and half had two or more complaints about the store or its staff.

Walmart and Kmart scored notably lower than the other chains, but Costco stood tall. In addition to citing the warehouse club’s rock-bottom prices, survey respondents praised its bang for the buck: It was the only store judged much better than average for value. In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests.

"Costco surprises consumers with great products and brands at exceptional prices," says Will Ander, senior partner in McMillanDoolittle, a retail-consulting firm in Chicago. "They don’t promise to have everything, but they do offer a true treasure hunt where everyone seems to find that exceptional item at an unbelievable price. Most customers will give you great satisfaction marks if you exceed their expectations, and Costco is light-years ahead of the other discount competitors in that respect."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Idiot of the Day - Rush Limbaugh - Limbaugh’s solution to childhood hunger: Kids should ‘dumpster dive’

It is hard to believe someone could say this.  Someone who just spent One MIllion Dollars for Sir Elton John to sing at his wedding (by the way Rus, Elton is a "fag" and we all know you hate fags) and he says "dumpster dive."  How about "let them eat cake"??????

From Raw Story:

Rush Limbaugh believes he knows why 16 million American schoolchildren will go hungry this summer, and it has nothing to do with soaring job losses or endemic poverty -- the problem is kids can't find their refrigerator or the local neighborhood McDonald's.


Responding to an article Wednesday at AOL.com that reports 16 million children will go hungry this summer once free or subsidized school lunches are no longer available, Limbaugh suggested he would run a daily feature on his radio show all summer entitled "Where to find food."

And, of course, the first will be: "Try your house." It's a thing called the refrigerator. You probably already know about it. Try looking there. There are also things in what's called the kitchen of your house called cupboards. And in those cupboards, most likely you're going to find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies, Lays ridgy potato chips, all kinds of dips and maybe a can of corn that you don't want, but it will be there. If that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's....
There's another place if none of these options work to find food; there's always the neighborhood dumpster. Now, you might find competition with homeless people there, but there are videos that have been produced to show you how to healthfully dine and how to dumpster dive and survive until school kicks back up in August.
Limbaugh suggested that the problem of childhood hunger is an artificial creation from people who believe that "rotten" parents "let their kids go hungry."

"God, this is just -- we can't escape these people," Limbaugh said, referring evidently to the author of the AOL article. "We just can't escape them. They live in the utter deniability of basic human nature. They actually have it in their heads somehow that parents are so rotten that they will let their kids go hungry and starve, unless the schools take care of it."
Compassionate conservatism strikes again!

Trickle-Down Theory

Is There Any Question At All What Is The Right Answer?

I have not closely followed the "Prop 8" trial in California, what arguments were made and how they were presented.  But it doesn't take a close following because, simply, there is little to no reason at all to prohibit marriage between two consenting adults.

If you don't believe me, just ask the ONE and only witness called by the attorney trying to defend Prop 8, which legislated hate and discrimination - witness David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, who testified for the defense as an expert on marriage.

Blankenhorn, during cross-examination, admitted that children of same-sex marriages may be better off than children of heterosexual marriage and that legalizing same-sex marriages would benefit them even more.

But perhaps Blankenhorn's most telling remark: "We would be more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage than we were on the day before."




The Proposition 8 trial began in January with 12 days of testimony, primarily from the four plaintiffs and their experts on such subjects as psychology and the history of marriage.  The plaintiffs were represented by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and lawyer David Boies, who came to prominence in 2000 when they represented presidential candidates George Bush and Al Gore in the Florida election recount case.

In his closing argument, Olson argued that the time was right to end discrimination against gays and lesbians who want to marry, comparing the case to the 1967 Supreme Court decision finding it unconstitutional for states to prohibit mixed-race marriages.


Fourteen Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1888 establish marriage as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, Olson said, and every American should have the right to marry the person of his or her choice.

As the one and only witness for Prop Hate, I mean 8, said - "We would be more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage than we were on the day before."

Oil Spill Forces Animals To Flee To Shallow Water Off Coast, Scientists Warn Of 'Mass Die-Off'

The headline alone is enough to make you cry.

Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.


Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange phenomena.

Fish and other wildlife seem to be fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast in a trend that some researchers see as a potentially troubling sign.

The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily be devoured by predators.

"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.

I Needed A Little More Room For My Wine Collection.

The recent purchase of a Bel-Air mansion has broken the record for most expensive real estate transaction in the United States so far in 2010. Developer Mohamed Hadid sold the property Le Belvedere to an unnamed LLC for a price between $50 million and $72 million (the asking price), exceeding the $46.5 million sale of a Colorado property earlier this year. The French chateau-inspired mansion features a Moroccan entertaining room, a Turkish steam bath room, an infinity pool, an industrial kitchen with pizza oven, and a 5,000-bottle wine cellar.

Scary Old Man of the Day

The headline said “Senator aims to force unemployed to take drug tests.” Without reading any further, why do you suspect it was a Republican? Usual prize if you can, without reading any further, name the Senator who hatched this scheme and feels that poverty is “a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society.”

From Raw Story


Though the Clinton Administration passed a law years ago allowing states to test welfare recipients for drug abuse, one Republican senator wants to go farther: require drug tests of anyone who applies for government assistance.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) offered an amendment Tuesday that would require drug tests for those who seek welfare and unemployment benefits. States have the authority to enact drug testing requirements for their welfare programs under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, but they are not mandated to conduct tests under current law.

"This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren't wasted," Hatch said of his proposal. "Too many Americans are locked into a life of a dangerous dependency not only on drugs, but the federal assistance that serves to enable their addiction."

An advocate for the poor lambasted the idea.

"If people who need all kinds of help can't get certain kinds of help, that is just not right," Linda Hilton of the Crossroads Urban Center in Salt Lake City told the Salt Lake Tribune. She added that she "couldn't fathom the idea of denying assistance to a person with an alcohol dependency, and she worries it could punish entire families for the addiction of a parent."

A press release from Hatch's office said that any "money saved as a result of this amendment would be used to reduce the deficit."

But Hilton countered that the amendment would actually cost the government money, because federal officials would have to free up more funding for alcohol and drug treatment programs.

The Hill noted that: "Hatch introduced an amendment to the tax extenders bill that would require those who are applying for some of the benefits in that bill, including unemployment and welfare benefits, to pass a drug test in exchange for the benefits.

"Under the Hatch amendment," the paper continued, "individuals who fail to qualify for benefits because they failed a drug test wouldn't necessarily be jailed, but would be enrolled in a state or federal drug treatment program."

Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly (???) Rose Last Week

I saw this headline from Bloomberg and I wanted to post it for two reasons. 

One, I have been saying for some time that it looks to me as things will only get worse before they get better.  Virtually every State in our Nation is running huge budget short-falls, which will be addressed by cuts, higher taxes and fees and layoffs.  Hardly a recipe for business growth.  Also, I see no empirical evidence that business in general is improving.  In driving around just yesterday I remarked how things look much worse than last year.  More closed restaurants, more businesses with going out of business banners reading "Everything must go." Endless, empty, commercial spaces everywhere. High-end retail areas with almost no pedestrians.

Two, for those fortunate enough not to be deeply effected by this horrible economic downtown, we need to remain focused on helping those whose lives have been so profoundly impacted.

From Bloomberg:

The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits last week unexpectedly rose to a one-month high, indicating firings are staying elevated even as the U.S. economy grows.


Initial jobless claims increased by 12,000 to 472,000 in the week ended June 12, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected 450,000 claims, according to the median forecast. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance rose, while those getting extended benefits dropped.

Some companies are trimming payrolls to boost or maintain profits at the same time overall employment has grown each month this year. The figures show that bigger job gains needed to spur consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, may be slow in developing, keeping the unemployment rate close to 10 percent.

“The labor market is not improving,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York. “If you really are going to have a sustainable recovery, you need the labor market to improve.”

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates. Today’s report coincides with the week the government surveys companies for its monthly employment report.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Matt Simmons Revises Leak Estimate To 120,000 Barrels Per Day, Believes Oil Covers 40% Of Gulf Beneath The Surface

Don't know whether this is good science or not, but it is f**king scary.

Matt Simmons was on Bloomberg earlier, adding some additional perspective to his original appearance on the station, in which he initially endorsed the nuclear option as the only viable way to resolve the oil spill. Simmons refutes even the latest oil spill estimate of 45,000-60,000 barrels per day, and in quoting research by the Thomas Jefferson research vessel which was compiled late on Sunday, quantifies the leak at 120,000 bpd. What is scarier is that according to the Jefferson the oil lake underneath the surface of the water could be covering up to 40% of the entire Gulf of Mexico. Simmons also says that as the leak has no casing, a relief well will not work, and the only possible resolution is, as he said previously, to use a small nuclear explosion to convert the rock to glass. Simmons concludes that as punishment for BP's arrogance and stupidity the government "will take all their cash." Now if only our own administration could tell us the truth about what is really happening in the gulf...

Today's Must Read - BP - Cutting Corners?

BP is the story that will not go away.  And with no end of the oil spill foreseeable, BP will be in the news for sometime. 

Today an article from Naked Capitalism caught my eye.  In the article, BP: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairmen Send Damning Letter to Hayward, they discuss short-cuts and other dangerous decisions by BP which likely contributed to this disaster.  From the article:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee chairmen, Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak published the text of a 14 page letter sent today to Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO. The House website not only contains the text of the letter, but also 23 additional documents from BP, Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Transocean.


The letter itself provides a damning bill of particulars on BP’s lapses in warning Hayward of the topics on which he will be grilled later this week. The overview:

On April 15, five days before the explosion, BP’s drilling engineer called Macondo a “nightmare well.” In spite of the well’s difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure. In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP’s own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk.
At the time of the blowout, the Macondo well was significantly behind schedule. This appears to have created pressure to take shortcuts to speed finishing the well. In particular, the Committee is focusing on five crucial decisions made by BP: (1) the decision to use a well design with few barriers to gas flow; (2) the failure to use a sufficient number of “centralizers” to prevent channeling during the cement process; (3) the failure to run a cement bond log to evaluate the effectiveness of the cement job; (4) the failure to circulate potentially gas-bearing drilling muds out of the well; and (5) the failure to secure the wellhead with a lockdown sleeve before allowing pressure on the seal from below.

Each of the five major cost cutting actions are documented in considerable detail. The letter has extensive footnotes which reference the other documents on the website, testimony from other hearings, and other online sources). Effectively, the letter follows the format of a prosecution: it demonstrates motive (that BP was behind on the well and was therefore incurring additional charges above its original budget for leasing the rig. It also gives a good recitation of the typical procedures in drilling a deepwater well.

The letter highlights various points at which BP documents indicate that BP understood the risks it was taking. For instance, on p. 4-5:

An undated “Forward Plan Review” that appears to be from mid-April recommended against the single string of casing because of the risks. According to this document, “Long string of casing … was the primary option” but a “Liner … is now the recommended option.”
The document gave four reasons against using a single string of casing. They were:
• “Cement simulations indicate it is unlikely to be a successful cement job due to formation breakdown.”
• “Unable to fulfill MMS regulations of 500’ of cement above top HC zone.”
• “Open annulus to the wellhead, with … seal assembly as only barrier.”
• “Potential need to verify with bond log, and perform remedial cement job(s).”
In contrast, according to the document, there were four advantages to the liner option:
• “Less issue with landing it shallow (we can also ream it down).”
• “Liner hanger acts as second barrier for HC in annulus.”
• “Primary cement job has slightly higher chance for successful cement lift.”
• “Remedial cement job, if required, easier to justify to be left for later.”
Communications between employees of BP confirm they were evaluating these approaches. On April 14, Brian Morel, a BP Drilling Engineer, e-mailed a colleague, Richard Miller, about the options. His e-mail notes: “this has been [a] nightmare well which has everyone all over the place.”10
Despite the risks, BP chose to install the single string of casing instead of a liner and tieback, applying for an amended permit on April 15.
Yves here. I hope readers will look again at this list. This is corporate decisionmaking at its worst. The document may well have been prepared under duress (as in the person writing it was opposed but had to dress up plausible reasons). If I read this correctly (and oil industry experts are encouraged to chime in) reasons 1 and 3 in the first set of dot points look particularly damning, but it looks as if by listing an equal number of items arguing for the liner (no matter what weighting they deserved) that this could be made to look like a coin toss, when a realistic assessment of the risks would argue otherwise (of course, given the success Exxon had in getting it payout for the Exxon Valdez disaster delayed and then punitive damages on its leak reduced from $5 billion to $500 million. I’m curious as to what an NPV analysis on possible liability, using the Exxon precedent, would have shown). This move saved BP at least three days of drilling at $500,000 a day for rig rental plus contractors’ fees.

The other decisions hew to the same pattern. Halliburton recommended 21 centralizers (proper centralization is key to displacing the mud from the narrow side of the annulus, which if not done properly, leads to “bypassed mud channels and inability to achieve zonal isolation.” Even as few as ten centralizers would result in a “moderate” gas flow problem, per Halliburton. BP instead deemed it “too late” to get more centralizers out (again, clearly a budget rather than a real world constraint) and rationalized it would do just fine with artful arrangement of the six it had on hand (in fact, someone located 15 additional centralizers and could have flown them out, but the offer was rejected, with some spurious-sounding objections, plus the likely key one, it would take ten additional hours to put them in place.

The rest of the letter proceeds along similar lines. Halliburton urges BP to run a cement bond log (an acoustical test), as also appeared to be required by MMS rules. A Schlumberger team was flown out to conduct the test, and was curiously sent home with no test conducted. (Note that there are some Internet reports on what happened that appear wrong in some particulars [they allege that Schlumberger called for its own helicopter to evacuate its crew out of safety concerns, when it appears instead that they returned on a BP helicopter] but may still not be off base as far as the real reason as to why the test was not completed). BP again failed to circulate the mud fully, against Halliburton’s advice. BP did not install a lockdown sleeve, a device that helps prevent gases from breaking the wellhead seal and entering the riser.

Reader bill pointed to the AP coverage of the letter, the most complete version of which he found at the San Francisco Chronicle. Its take:

BP took measures to cut costs in the weeks before the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico as it dealt with one problem after another, prompting a BP engineer to describe the doomed rig as a “nightmare well,” according to internal documents released Monday….
“Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense,” the lawmakers wrote in the 14-page letter to Hayward. “If this is what happened, BP’s carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants, and the workers on the rig.”
As reader Scott said, “This doesn’t look very good for BP.” Bloomberg is reporting that the oil company may lose its US oil leases and contracts, an outcome we had suggested was possible early on:

BP Plc may lose control of its U.S. oil and natural gas wells and be barred from doing business with the federal government as punishment for the worst oil spill in U.S. history, industry and regulatory analysts said. …
 The U.S. may revoke BP’s status as operator of producing wells in the Gulf of Mexico, such as Thunder Horse, or of leases at Prudhoe Bay, said David Pursell, a managing director at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. LLC, a Houston investment bank. Separately, Congress is considering measures to bar BP from contracts with the Department of Defense and Environmental Protection Agency….
The administration has the power to force BP out as operator of existing leases on federal lands and offshore tracts. The operator, typically the partner with a majority interest, is designated before drilling begins. The Interior Department tracks each operator’s performance and may “disapprove or revoke your designation as operator” based on accidents, pollution events or other cases of noncompliance, according to federal regulations.

Touchdown Jesus On Fire, Ohio Statue Destroyed By Lightning.

The "King of Kings" statue, one of southwest Ohio's most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.  The six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said.

The sculpture, 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signaling a touchdown. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, which is all that remained early Tuesday.

Maybe God considered it to be ostentatious and flirting toward idolotry and decided to zap that mother!  Idolotry is wrong, right????  Think of the all the food for the poor and the homeless they could have bought with the money that it cost to build this!

You Need to Know The Secret Knock.

When something smells fishy .....!

BP is hiring thousands of unemployed Gulf Coast fisherman, shrimpers, hotel maids and tour guides to clean up the oil spill. These folks have homes in the area – plus there are any number of empty motel rooms available. So why is BP building a temporary camp to house 1,500 clean-up workers? A camp with its own police and policies – like no alcohol, no reporters....

Yes, CNN is reporting BP is building a temporary city (near the Louisiana coast) to house 1,500 oil spill clean up workers. The location features army-style bunk housing, laundry and dining facilities, and even 24-hour police to enforce order, including the site's "no alcohol" rule. BP says the city could remain in operation anywhere from three to six months. We couldn't quite put our fingers on it, but there seems to be something a little creepy about this new BP city. Also, we couldn't help but wonder, how much oil and energy is it going to take to power this massive operation?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brother Can You Spare A Trillion?

Fannie-Freddie Fix at $160 Billion With $1 Trillion Worst Case!

One Trillion!  1,000,000,000,000.00

One Thousand Billion.

Fannie and Freddie, now 80 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, already have drawn $145 billion from an unlimited line of government credit granted to ensure that home buyers can get loans while the private housing-finance industry is moribund.  The cost of fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that last year bought or guaranteed three-quarters of all U.S. home loans, will be at least $160 billion and could grow to as much as $1 trillion after the biggest bailout in American history.

Fannie, based in Washington, and Freddie in McLean, Virginia, own or guarantee 53 percent of the nation’s $10.7 trillion in residential mortgages, according to a June 10 Federal Reserve report. Millions of bad loans issued during the housing bubble remain on their books, and delinquencies continue to rise. How deep in the hole Fannie and Freddie go depends on unemployment, interest rates and other drivers of home prices, according to the companies and economists who study them.

Barataria Bay Oil Spill: Historic Estuary Now An Environmental War Zone

The meandering sand dunes and bird islands of Barataria Bay have become the epicenter of the environmental disaster spewing from BP's offshore well. And fishermen are bitter.

Oil-caked birds, stranded sea turtles, globs of gooey brown crude on beaches, coated crabs and mats of tar have been found throughout the inlets and mangroves that dot the bay. The oil has smothered this watery otherworld with a rainbow sheen and is threatening the complex web of wetlands, marshes and bayous that make up this national treasure.

Everything from crabbing to bait fishing is shutting down, and the anger on the bayou is palpable.

"It's scary, you know, man," marine mechanic Jimmy Howard said from his ramshackle and hurricane-battered fishing shack, a cigar stub stuffed in his mouth. "I see them doing what they can, you know. All the boats going out, all the boom. I'm hoping they can contain it."

Barataria teems with wildlife, including alligators, bullfrogs, bald eagles and migratory birds from the Caribbean and South America. There are even Louisiana black bears in the upper basin's hardwood forests.


Before the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, oyster and shrimp boats plowed through these productive bays as fishermen snapped up speckled trout and redfish within minutes of casting their lines.

Now it resembles an environmental war zone. Many of the bay's nesting islands for birds are girded by oil containment boom, and crews in white disposable protective suits change out coils of absorbents to soak up the sticky mess.

Barataria has played a vital role in Louisiana history. It is where the pirate and Battle of New Orleans hero Jean Lafitte established his colony of Baratarians. The estuary was also the setting for "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. As other wealthy 19th-century New Orleanians, Chopin spent summers on Grand Isle, to the bay's south, and made the evocative island a focus of her work.

"I'm pissed - and you can print that," said Donna Hollis, 39, hanging out in a tank-top and with a cigarette at Jimmy Howard's camp in Wilkinson Canal.


She echoed Jefferson Parish council chairman John Young: "This is a battle. Oil's our enemy right now. This is going to destroy the livelihoods of these people in south Louisiana."

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

From the New York Times:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.


The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Caravaggio - A Career Spanning Merely 15 Years & Lasting For Eternity

I worry sometimes that my posts are too heavy with doom and gloom.  I write often of these subjects because I want to see a better world for us all.  But, I also enjoy life and art and an article today in The Daily Beast caught my eye.  From the article:

400 Years after Caravaggio’s death, an incredible exhibition of the Italian master’s works shines in Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale.


The most perfect knee in the history of art appears in a painting by Caravaggio of St. John the Baptist, now in Kansas City. The top of the saint’s left knee, spot-lit and flushed a tender pink, punctuates the lower right quadrant of the painting, catching the eye below a sweep of frayed red drapery. If you look close enough, you can just make out scars in the canvas surrounding the knee, where Caravaggio used his palette knife to scrape off a dissatisfactory first attempt. You’re unlikely to get that near the painting, though, at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale, where the Kansas City Baptist appears alongside almost 30 other works by the master in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his death. The galleries are thronged inside the former royal stables, and every 30 seconds or so an alarm goes off when a visitor gets too close to a painting. None of this matters. Seeing so many Caravaggios together is a revelation.

The exhibition, which closes Sunday, shows the painter reworking a key group of subjects, the evolution of his style echoing a brief and tumultuous life. Caravaggio began his Roman career in the service of the Cardinal del Monte, an aesthete with a taste for painting, music, and young men. An earlier John the Baptist, now at the Capitoline Museum, dates from this period. Twisting back from his embrace with a ram, the naked youth cheerfully greets the beholder. There’s no religious iconography here, just the sexy juxtaposition of skin, linen, and fur. The same ginger-haired model served Caravaggio for his Amor Vincit Omnia, where Cupid stands astride an unmade bed. Around him lie the trampled insignia of worldly accomplishment—armor and laurels, a quill and a lute. Cupid shows us the lives he’s overturned—our lives—and dares us not to smile back at him.

By the time Caravaggio painted his final John the Baptist, now in the Galleria Borghese, he’d murdered a man over a game of tennis, been sentenced to death, and led the peripatetic life of a refugee in Naples, Sicily, and Malta. This John is sickly and sallow, his body lacking plasticity. If his confrontational look is an invitation, it’s to a joyless encounter. Caravaggio died shortly after he painted this work, at the age of 38, having finally received permission to return to Rome. In a career spanning merely 15 years, he had changed the history of art—Rubens, Velázquez, and Rembrandt, to name just his immediate successors, are unthinkable without him.

Liberals and Libertarians Need Each Other

I read an interesting article today at Naked Capital - Liberals and Libertarians Need Each Other.  In it, the author Bob Goodwin raises a number of points which I have also addressed concerning ideological groupings (liberal/conservative, etc.).  He also raises the issue of the Corporatist elite - Big Oil, Too Big To Fail Finance, etc.  In the article he points out that:
Ideological groupings of the population are an interesting phenomenon. I believe they are caused by two human traits. People need a mental construct or shortcut to make sense of complex externalities, and likely overuse these constructs. More importantly people are social animals, and will use social settings (like NakedCapitalism) to refine and align their constructs.
It is part of our nature to define people within groups - she is a blond - he is tall - they are big.  It only become an issue when we loose our commonality because of perceived differences rather than finding the common ground.  As he points out in his article:
It can be very difficult to debate with someone of a different ideology, when your premise starts with a presumption not shared by your opponent. And due to human nature when the debate devolves into a disagreement on the fundamentals of an ideology it will quickly move to an accusation that there must be a flaw in the messenger. Every decent person I know agrees with my proof, so you must not be a decent person
So what can we do?  He has a few suggestions.
1. Agree on common ground. This common ground needs to be sufficient to justify collaboration.
2. Agree to disagree respectfully. For example, the border shooting is going to elicit different opinions. It is not a central fight. So disagree.
3. Try to use neutral language on collaborative topics.
4. Try to ignore opponent’s ideological language that is necessary to create cohesion within their ideology.
5. There must be demonstrable achievements to justify the discomfort.
It strikes me that in large part we have forgotten that it is okay to disagree with one another, without that meaning we are in some ways enemies.  When someone has a different viewpoint is doesn't make them (or you) wrong.  We have to forget our rigid concepts of right and wrong - things can be just different.  It is not all black and white, but lots of shades of grey.

In his discussion about why Liberals and Libertarians Need Each Other, Mr. Goodwin raises the issue of the Corporatist elite and says that is an issue which should bring Liberals and Libertarians together. From the article:
We now have a common enemy: the Corporatist elite, who have corrupted both the free market and captured the regulatory apparatus of our government. Corporatists have power in *both* political parties, and this is where our common interests lie. The Tea party is disrupting the Republican Party (with some success) and the progressive movement has been successful in elections but unsuccessful in policy at undermining the entrenched corporate influence on the democratic side. The Corporatists have an interest to see their enemies divided and marginalized. But the combined power of these two movements is close enough to 50% of the population to overpower the Corporatist movement which has power far beyond its numbers.
Every day there is another article which shows the government-capture by big business.  Our entire system seems overrun by big business and their lobbyist.  It is Robin Hood in reverse.  So I agree with Mr. Goodwin and say that we all need common ground in order to "take back our Country" from the Corporatist elite.