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Frackin’ Scrooge of the Year

MoveOn.org was too kind in its assessment of Gov. Tom Corbett, who is generous only to the rich and powerful. More here.

Virtually Speaking Science

Wednesday, Dec 21 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Science | Host Tom Levenson 
talks with science writer Tim Ferris about The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature. Best known for his work in cosmlogy, including The Red LimitComing of Age in the Milky Way, and The Whole Shebang, Tim is also a filmmaker with three feature documentaries on PBS including, most recently, Seeing in the DarkListen live and later on BTR.

A science documentary filmmaker and blogger – Balloon Juice and Inverse Square – Tom is Director of MIT’s Graduate program in writing and humanistic studies. He hosts VS Science on the third Wednesday of the month to discuss history of science, economics, and some climate science.

Government, Enron style

Taibbi has an excellent piece on how Obama is lying when he covers up for the banks. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:

But by taking a dive on fraud, and orchestrating mass cover-ups like the coming foreclosure settlement fiasco, what they’re doing instead is signaling to the world that not only are our financial markets corrupt, but our government is broken as well.

The problem with companies like Lehman and Enron is that their executives always think they can paper over illegalities by committing more crimes, when in fact all they’re usually doing is snowballing the problem so completely out of control that there’s no longer any chance of fixing things, thereby killing the only chance for survival they ever had.

This is exactly what Obama and Geithner are doing now. By continually lying about the extent of the country’s corruption problems, they’re adding fraud to fraud and raising such a great bonfire of lies that they probably won’t ever be able to fix the underlying mess.

If they looked at the world like public servants, and not like corporate executives, they’d understand that the only way out is to come clean. That they don’t look at things that way should tell people quite a lot.

Rich people less empathetic than the poor

Boy, that one’s a shocker, huh?

Accidents will happen

When a gun is involved, even minor accidents can kill people. And that’s the thing about guns, right? Someone else’s slip of the hand, carelessness or anger can result in the death of another human being. It doesn’t seem like it should be so controversial to have more common-sense rules in place. Unfortunately, the NRA believes that any rules are an affront to reason and they’ve bought enough politicians to block them.

I don’t know what it’s like in rural areas, but most cities have laws against firing guns in the air for this very reason. If you don’t understand that the bullet can still kill people, maybe you shouldn’t have a gun:

An Ohio sheriff says Rachel Yoder, 15, was shot in the head Thursday night while riding in her buggy after a Christmas party at a produce farm, the Associated Press reports.

She was heading to her home in Wayne County, between Columbus and Akron, when she was hit, according to Wayne County sheriff’s Capt. Douglas Hunter.

Hunter says his department had traced a trail of blood along the road for about three-eighths of a mile into Holmes County in an area of farms and rolling hills.

Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly says investigators figured out what happened after the gun-cleaner’s family came forward and after his neighbors reported hearing a shot at about the time the girl was wounded.

The man had fired the gun in the air about 1.5 miles from where Yoder was shot, Zimmerly says. State investigators are checking the rifle for a ballistics match, he says.

“In all probability, it looks like an accidental shooting,” Zimmerly says. No charges have been filed.

Zimmerly said he informed the Yoder family that the shooting appeared to be accidental, the AP reports.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

My favorite time of the year

Yes, it’s Global Orgasm for Peace Day! Make an “O” face for peace…

Grumble, grumble

Last night, I fried my ergo keyboard by spilling a glass of water on it. (Yes, I did take it apart and tried to dry it. No dice.)

So not only did I have to order a new ergonomic keyboard, I had to go pick up a $10 cheapie this morning so I can continue to work. And let me tell you: It’s hard to use a regular keyboard when you’re used to the ergonomic kind. I keep hitting the function keys and the caps lock by mistake, and I can’t touch-type on this thing at all. So I’m typing VERY S-L-O-W-L-Y while looking at the keys. What a pain.

The joys of swearing

I wish my mother could see this. She was always telling me my vulgar language was the mark of a poor vocabulary, and I’d respond, “Well, I guess I shoot that theory to shit!”

How companies stole worker pensions

Via Alternet, this excerpt from Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of Americans Workers, by Ellen E. Schultz:

In December 2010, General Electric held its Annual Outlook Investor Meeting at Rockefeller Center in New York City. At the meeting, chief executive Jeffrey Immelt stood on the Saturday Night Live stage and gave the gathered analysts and shareholders a rundown on the global conglomerate’s health. But in contrast to the iconic comedy show that is filmed at Rock Center each week, Immelt’s tone was solemn. Like many other CEOs at large companies, Immelt pointed out that his firm’s pension plan was an ongoing problem. The “pension has been a drag for a decade,” he said, and it would cause the company to lose 13 cents per share the next year. Regretfully, to rein in costs, GE was going to close the pension plan to new employees.

The audience had every reason to believe him. An escalating chorus of bloggers, pundits, talk show hosts, and media stories bemoan the burgeoning pension-and-retirement crisis in America, and GE was just the latest of hundreds of companies, from IBM to Verizon, that have slashed pensions and medical benefits for millions of American retirees. To justify these cuts, companies complain they’re victims of a “perfect storm” of uncontrollable economic forces—an aging workforce, entitled retirees, a stock market debacle, and an outmoded pension system that cripples their chances of competing against pensionless competitors and companies overseas.

What Immelt didn’t mention was that, far from being a burden, GE’s pension and retiree plans had contributed billions of dollars to the company’s bottom line over the past decade and a half, and were responsible for a chunk of the earnings that the executives had taken credit for. Nor were these retirement programs—even with GE’s 230,000 retirees—bleeding the company of cash. In fact, GE hadn’t contributed a cent to the workers’ pension plans since 1987 but still had enough money to cover all the current and future retirees.

And yet, despite all this, Immelt’s assessment wasn’t entirely inaccurate. The company did indeed have another pension plan that really was a burden: the one for GE executives. And unlike the pension plans for a quarter of a million workers and retirees, the executive pensions, with a $4.4 billion obligation, have always been a drag on earnings and have always drained cash from company coffers: more than $573 million over the past three years alone.

So a question remains: With its fully funded pension plan, why was GE closing its pensions?

How to make colleges free

By dismantling all the provate-sector supports for which we’re already paying. Via Rortybomb.

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