Jump, Sheldon, Mr. Yang is calling

From NYT:

When Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, needed something done in China, he often turned to his company’s “chief Beijing representative,” a mysterious businessman named Yang Saixin.

Mr. Yang arranged meetings for Mr. Adelson with senior Chinese officials; acted as a frontman on several ambitious projects for Mr. Adelson’s company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation; and intervened on the Sands’s behalf with Chinese regulators. Mr. Yang even had his daughter take Mr. Adelson’s wife, Miriam, shopping when she was in Beijing.

“Adelson and I had a good relationship,” Mr. Yang said in a recent interview in Hong Kong. “He should thank me.”

Mr. Yang joined the Sands in 2007 as the company worked to protect its interests in Macau, where its gambling revenues were mushrooming, and pressed ahead with plans for a resort in mainland China. Boasting of ties to the People’s Liberation Army and China’s security apparatus, Mr. Yang was hired for his guanxi, that mixture of relationships and favors that is critical to opening doors in China, according to former executives.

But today, Mr. Yang, along with tens of millions of dollars in payments the Sands made through him in China, is a focus of a wide-ranging federal investigation into potential bribery of foreign officials and other matters in China and Macau, according to people with direct knowledge of the inquiries.

The investigations are unfolding as Mr. Adelson has become an increasing presence in this year’s presidential election, contributing at least $35 million to Republican groups. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, is to appear at a fund-raiser at the Sands’s Venetian casino in Las Vegas; Mr. Adelson is likely to attend, a person close to him said…

Not a peep from our prez about jobs

Barack Obama is saying the right things regarding the vital role government can play in creating jobs but, as Bill Boyarsky noted, he is still offering next to nothing in the way of job creation plans:

…The rhetoric of the campaign and the coverage by political journalists don’t deal with the subject except in the context of the back-and-forth insults that have marked this contest. For example, last month Obama, talking about why the rich should pay their fair share of taxes, stated the obvious: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. … The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet … when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Any successful entrepreneur with a restaurant or retail operation on an interstate highway would probably agree. But Romney picked it up as more evidence of Obama’s rejection of the national entrepreneurial spirit. “It shows how out of touch he is with the character of America,” Romney said. Obama isn’t out of touch with the American character. But the negativity of his unrelenting attacks against Romney puts him out of touch with the main American need—specific ways of lowering the unemployment rate…

I have no problem with Obama’s attacks on Mittens — a job-destroying corporate raider when he wasn’t in politics — but I’m appalled that his campaign speeches thus far are just sound and fury, signifying total indifference to the long-term unemployed and underemployed.

Assange and Trapwire

In case you’re wondering why they’re going to such lengths to extradite Julian Assange:

So what are Uncle Sam and Her Majesty’s government protecting? Here’s one answer: Trapwire

Wikileaks has revealed a plan to use spy cameras in public places and facial recognition software to keep tabs on everyone everywhere, 24/7. As always, terrorism and pedophilia provide the big excuses for transforming our society into the proverbial Orwellian nightmare.

Some have expressed doubts that Trapwire could really forecast terrorist acts based on data from cameras, but Rik Ferguson, security consultant at Trend Micro, said the software for such systems had existed for some time.

“There’s a lot of crossover between CCTV and facial recognition,” he said. “It’s feasible to have a camera looking for suspicious behaviour – for example, in a computer server room it could recognise someone via facial recognition or your gait, then can identify them from the card they swipe to get in, and then know whether it’s suspicious if they’re meant to be a cleaner and they sit down at a computer terminal.

Let’s not be naive. Trapwire has nothing to do with “terrorism.” Trapwire is all about preventing a “1789” reaction when your new Libertarian overlords take away Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage.

‘I have decided to join the Green party’

From Left in Alabama, a lifelong Democrat decides to leave his party:

It isn’t the repeated offenses of the Democrats, or the examples proving it is just as much a corporate party as the other, because like you, I knew that. What got me was the history of progressive movements. Time after time, when progressives have allowed themselves to be folded in, they lost their battles. The only times they won any major ground—Civil Rights, for instance—were because of intense independent grassroots pressure. I didn’t want to believe that and tried to find an exception the author forgot. I couldn’t. Can you?

Being scientifically minded, I just can’t ignore empirical evidence. You should read the book—it is like watching Lucy pull the football away from Charlie Brown way too many times.

We can’t do the significant things we need to do by working within the two party system. If we want big deal changes like real healthcare reform, not just rolling off the cliff instead of being thrown off, we need to take this seriously. By staying under the big Democratic tent, we give those elected an easy out—they know we are terrified of the openly vicious alternative and will generally forgive them by blaming their failures on the other party, so our vote is in the bag. This means they only have to please their corporate masters.

I saw this in action just last week, when a Democrat friend of mine heard me say some true but unpleasant things about the ACA. She said she agreed, but that we should be careful NOT to report any of those things until after November 6, because it would give ammunition to the other side. Think hard. If you have to lie to others or yourself to support a party, there’s a problem.

One way a third party can influence policy is by threatening or throwing elections in swing states—that could get us some important things and possibly even a change as significant as single payer health insurance. But only if we don’t wuss out and throw darts at Ralph Nader for doing the right thing. Another way would be if folks stuck with it and didn’t go back to the Democrats every time a small point was won, allowing the US to gradually build a true third party free of corporate control. The time to start is now. If we wait until it looks like an independent party can do something substantial, we will never start. That’s an idealist point of view, I know, but it isn’t impossible. All other developed democratic countries have some form of Labor party except us.

To succeed, we have to focus on one central objective—attaining responsive representation in government, so big money can’t rule the day. Without that, it doesn’t really matter about the rest, because once we’ve fully lost the power of our votes, we will have only as much civil liberty as suits the most powerful big money interests. We have to keep our focus on representation, the same way meditators deal with distractions. If we get stronger, the efforts to distract us will intensify—be ready for it. They’ll wave gay marriage at us, reproductive rights, maybe even changes in drug policy—don’t bite unless it comes attached to democracy.

Some folks, like Morris Berman, believe it is already too late and no road forward is possible for the United States. If he is right, my Dem friends are probably doing the best thing. Either one should expatriate, as Berman did, or one should at least hang with the party who won’t rape us with ultrasound probes. It is not unreasonable, if one must go off the cliff, to choose being rolled over being thrown.

If it is NOT too late, there is only one real choice for progressives. We must refuse to serve as arm candy that makes the Democratic party look safe. We must stop letting Lucy hold the football. We must stay out, and we must do our best to gather a coalition of others who will challenge the powers that be.

Disco alarm clock

So for three nights in a row, the little digital alarm I bought in a Rite Aid maybe eight years ago stopped working. This is a problem, because I have to take my thyroid pills at the same time every day, preferably early in the morning because OTHERWISE THEY KEEP ME UP UNTIL 4 IN THE MORNING.

The first night, I figured I simply forgot to set the alarm. The second night, I was careful to set it and it still didn’t work. The third night, it finally sunk in that I had to get a new alarm clock.

So I went to the thrift store, where I found this little $2 number that you have to plug in. (The other is battery powered.) When I turned it on, I saw that it had a mixture of bright, BRIGHT primary colors (this picture doesn’t begin to show just how eye-searing these colors are). Strange.

I also took the old one apart, checked to see that the batteries were correctly inserted, and set that one, too. Just for the hell of it.

And of course, at 6:30 a.m., they both went off.

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