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Beatles or Stones?

What a stupid question. And yet, people still ask. The local Top 40 stations used to run contests where you’d call in to vote: American bands or the British invasion? Beatles, or Stones? Beach Boys, or Herman’s Hermits?

Hopefully we’ve grown up a bit since then.

The year Kenny Loggins ruined Christmas

By request, a lovely seasonal tale! (Don’t read it while you’re drinking anything, you’ll ruin your keyboard.)

Gee I wonder

Why do you suppose that weasel Andrew Breitbart is so very, very opposed to outing?

Comcast Christmas show

For those of you who live close enough, I do highly recommend checking out the free Christmas show in the Comcast lobby every hour. (And thanks again to Iz who dragged me there the first time, much against my will.) It’s visually stunning, and this video is just a small taste:

Depression

Krugman calls it what it is:

It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression. True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.

On that last point, I am not being alarmist. On the political as on the economic front it’s important not to fall into the “not as bad as” trap. High unemployment isn’t O.K. just because it hasn’t hit 1933 levels; ominous political trends shouldn’t be dismissed just because there’s no Hitler in sight.

He details the alarming rise of right-wing fringe groups throughout Europe, and concludes:

Taken together, all this amounts to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule, under a paper-thin veneer of democracy, in the heart of Europe. And it’s a sample of what may happen much more widely if this depression continues.

It’s not clear what can be done about Hungary’s authoritarian slide. The U.S. State Department, to its credit, has been very much on the case, but this is essentially a European matter. The European Union missed the chance to head off the power grab at the start — in part because the new Constitution was rammed through while Hungary held the Union’s rotating presidency. It will be much harder to reverse the slide now. Yet Europe’s leaders had better try, or risk losing everything they stand for.

And they also need to rethink their failing economic policies. If they don’t, there will be more backsliding on democracy — and the breakup of the euro may be the least of their worries.

Austerity

Thank God they won’t allow cuts to the Pentagon budget!

Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government.

“They’re playing Russian roulette with people’s lives,” said John Drew, who heads Action for Boston Community Development, Inc., which provides aid to low-income residents in Massachusetts.

The issue could flare just as New Hampshire votes in the Republican presidential primary.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she hopes the candidates will take up the region’s heating aid crunch because it underscores how badly the country needs a comprehensive energy policy.

Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits to families as Congress considers cutting more than $1 billion from last year’s $4.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that served nearly 9 million households.

The real Barack Obama

A lot of us knew not to believe him. I always said the biggest tipoff to his ultimate agenda was that he was getting so much early money from Wall Street. Yes, Hillary Clinton did, too — but she was the presumptive nominee. The fact that Wall Street was so eager to back this unknown long-shot candidate – and that this candidate was so willing to embrace the Hamilton Project – tells you everything you need to know.

As David Sirota pointed out back in 2006

Here’s a big shocker – the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party today announced it would be beginning its new war in earnest on the grassroots elements of the party that are demanding serious public policy changes. As the Financial Times reports, Citigroup Chairman Bob Rubin held a press conference at the Brookings Institution to announce the formation of the so-called “Hamilton Project.” After paying lip service to various economic problems afflicting the country, Rubin and his former Treasury colleague Roger Altman quickly let it be known exactly what they are up to.

Here’s the key excerpt:

“At a time when Democrats have become more aggressive in voicing concerns about the foreign ownership of US assets, Roger Altman, former deputy Treasury secretary under Mr Clinton, added that more inclusive economic growth could also ‘blunt the political demands for protectionism’…[The group] said it was willing to take on entrenched Democratic interests, such as teaching unions. Policy papers unveiled on Wednesday proposed vouchers for summer schools…”

There it all is. First there’s the dishonest name-calling aimed at those courageous Democrats who are challenging the free trade orthodoxy that is destroying the lives of millions of American and foreign workers. Then there is the promise of an ensuing attack on the labor movement – a reflexive move, of course, for a bunch of corporate executives. And finally, the nod to efforts to defund public education through “vouchers.”

None of this is surprising, of course. As head of Citigroup, Rubin has a financial interest in the agenda he’s pushing. And he’s made no apologies for the brazenness with which he pushes his corporatism. Remember, it was Rubin during the debate over the Central American Free Trade Agreement who demanded that congressional Democrats back off their efforts to include labor, human rights and environmental protections in the pact. He and his pals are the same people who rammed trade deals like NAFTA, WTO and China PNTR down the throats of Americans, and then left government service for the high life of the corporate boardroom. There, they reaped the rich financial rewards of the very sell-out policies they used public office to push, while millions of Americans saw their jobs outsourced, their wages frozen and their benefits slashed.

Oh sure, the group claims it is going to look at critical issues like income inequality – but you can be sure they will look at that issue without looking at issues like “free” trade that are fueling that inequality. Because make no mistake about it – this move today is nothing more than the beginning of a frontal attack by Corporate America on the progressive movement, using the Democratic Party as an all-too-transparent cloak of legitimacy.

Avian flu mutation even stronger

I thought this was interesting. First of all, that the mutated virus still has the capacity to be deadly, and that it would be so difficult to share the information because of security concerns:

Epidemiologists have long debated the pandemic potential of H5N1, a.k.a. avian bird flu. On one hand, the virus spreads too inefficiently between humans to seem like much of a threat: it has caused less than 600 known cases of human flu since first emerging in 1997. On the other hand, when it does spread, it can be pretty deadly: nearly 60 percent of infected humans died from the virus. For years now, the research has suggested that any mutations that enhanced the virus’s ability to spread among humans, would simultaneously make it less deadly. But in a recent batch of as-yet-unpublished studies, two scientists – Yoshihiro Kawaoka from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center, in the Netherlands – have shown otherwise.

Working separately, they each hit on a combination of mutations (five, in Dr. Fouchier’s case) that makes H5N1 airborne (enabling it to spread readily between humans), without making it less deadly. In laboratory experiments, ferrets infected with this mutant strain passed it to other ferrets in nearby cages (ferrets are a common subject of flu studies because they react to flu viruses in a similar way to humans). A significant proportion of infected subjects died.
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Oops

You see, this is why we shouldn’t be regulating job creators. Because otherwise, they’d have to spend every cent they have dealing with problems like this:

(Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is considering dumping water it treated for radiation contamination into the ocean as early as March, the firm said on Thursday, prompting protests from fishing groups.

Tokyo Electric Power, (Tepco) the utility operating Fukushima’s Daiichi plant, hit by a powerful tsunami in March that caused the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, said it was running out of space to store some of the water it treated at the plant, due to an inflow of groundwater.

“We would like to increase the number of tanks to accommodate the water but it will be difficult to do so indefinitely,” Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters.

He said the plant was likely to reach its storage capacity of about 155,000 tons around March.

Tepco plans to come up with possible ways to handle radioactive waste and present its proposals to the government’s nuclear regulatory body for approval.

“The government should not, and must not, approve a plan allowing Tepco to dispose treated water in the ocean,” said Kenji Sumita, an emeritus professor at Osaka University who specializes in nuclear engineering.

“The reality is that semipermanent storage is the only solution available under current technological constraints. Tepco may have to find the storage space and look for a technological breakthrough in the coming years that allows it to condense and greatly reduce the volume of tainted water.”

Mystery

Bruce Cockburn:

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