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Billions of aliens out there?

by Odd Man Out

Take it from Ziggy Stardust, 'You're not alone'

Another blow to believers in Earthling exceptionalism:

A study published this week suggests that there may be “tens of billions” of planets in the Milky Way galaxy that fall within what scientists call “the Goldilocks zone,” where the conditions for spawning life are thought to exist.

Working with a relatively new technology called the HARPS spectrograph, located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, scientists said that a survey of red dwarf stars in the Milky Way found that approximately 40 percent had planets orbiting within the Goldilocks zone. They also estimate there are about 160 billion red dwarf stars in our galaxy…

The housing recovery pipe dream

by Odd Man Out
From Firedoglake:

…Home prices have fallen a whopping 34.4% from the peak set in July 2006…. The reaction from those with that deep investment is to say that prices aren’t coming back to the bubble years, nor should they. And that’s true. But the notable part of all this is the trend. You have new and existing home sales falling month-over-month, and now prices falling as well. And what we know is that the coming months will probably lead to a spike in foreclosures and a new set of inventory dumped onto the market. In fact, we’re already seeing this. It’s a result of the foreclosure fraud settlement, and the very reasonable belief from the banks that they will never face sanction for their misdeeds…

Foreclosure sales start to make up a larger portion of the market, and sellers must set their price accordingly. This lowers prices overall, and the negative equity increases. Eventually people either cash out or they succumb to being underwater, leading to more foreclosures. Leading to lower prices. Leading to more negative equity.

Maybe it’s better to be on the pipe. The reality of the government allowing the mortgage giants to get away with fraud on the grandest scale possible, and the inevitable effect this has on the housing market, is too painful to think about.

‘Small business,’ my ass

You know, I was just thinking that millionaires needed another tax cut!

Earlier today ThinkProgress reported that the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to approve a proposal by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that is misleadingly entitled the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

People who have read the bill and not just its title, however, have noted that it is extremely poorly targeted at small businesses. It is, in fact, just another tax cut for rich people. Among the biggest beneficiaries would be the owners of extremely profitable businesses like Oprah Winfrey’s production company and professional sports teams like theSuper Bowl champion New York Giants, as well as highly paid professionals like lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, and consultants.

The Tax Policy Center has now estimated who benefits from Cantor’s bill. Among TPC’sfindings:

– The top 1 percent would receive an average tax cut that is 1000 times bigger than the average tax cut for people in the middle quintile ($23 vs. $23,000). The top 0.1 percent would receive an average tax cut of more than $130,000.

– Half of the tax benefits would go to millionaires, who comprise less than one-half of one percent of all taxpayers and only 4 percent of actual small business owners according to a recent Treasury study. Millionaires, on average, would get a tax cut of $45,000 — almost as much as median household income in 2010.

– Business owners with annual income of $200,000 or less — who comprise more than 75 percent of small business owners — would receive only 16 percent of the benefit from Cantor’s bill.

Across 110th Street

by Odd Man Out
Bobby Womack’s song from the Jackie Brown soundtrack. And that’s Pam Grier, of course, not little surfer girl Bridget Fonda.

You gotta be strong if you wanna survive…

I’d better start eating my spinach, this has been a rough year.

And a choir of angels sing

At the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference last week, Sen. Pat Toomey defended capitalism because of its inherent goodness (no, really):

“Think about what being middle class in a free enterprise society means,” he continued. “It’s not just phones but smart phones. Not just a computer, but high speed internet access and often an iPad. It’s not just a car but its two cars, and they’re safer and more fuel efficient and more durable than anything you could buy just 10 years ago. Thanks to a free market competition, everything we need constantly gets better and becomes more affordable.”

Except housing, food and fuel. But whatever.

He went on to use the case of David Fosbury to describe perfect capitalism, since Fosbury revolutionized high-jumping using the rules already in place, and therefore was able to reinvent the wheel, if you will.

Bill Gates, too. The senator described Gates as “one of the most successful capitalists of all time.” He then noted that while he respects Bill Gates’ decision to give his wealth to charity after he’s dead, that money likely won’t do as much for humanity as he did while he was alive.

“I’ll go out on a limb and say Bill Gates did more for anybody in a capitalist venture than he ever will in giving away all the profits he reaped,” Toomey said.

Capitalism, he continued, isn’t just the best form of economics there is—it’s basically all there can ever be, the world’s best hope, because it is the best, no matter what. Capitalism relies on everyone to have a strong initiative and lift themselves up, all the time, and it rewards those who invest in themselves, he said.

Especially if you somehow manage to “lift yourself up” with a corporate boot on your neck. Just sayin’! Plus, the massive student loans you took out in an effort to lift yourself up, yet you went sadly unrewarded. Hmm.

“It is an empirical fact that capitalism helps the poor and reduces poverty so much better than a hand out,” he said. “It’s no accident that as capitalist nations enrich themselves, life improves, the life expectancies rise and the infant mortality rate falls.”

Of course, the infant mortality rate here in the USA, that mothership of capitalism? Not so hot. Our rate is almost double that of socialized countries like Norway.

Which is why, when a friend who’s married to a Norwegian called me the other night, and told me she was thinking of moving to Norway for the year after her baby’s born because of the paid parental leave, I urged her not to wait. After all, her insurance won’t kick in until Nov. 1. “What happens if you have a premature baby?” I said. “Here in the U.S., most policies won’t cover anything but routine medical care for the first 30 days after birth. You could be talking a quarter of a million dollars, enough to bankrupt you.” (She’s pregnant by IVF and she’s older, which puts her into a high-risk category.)

“Why wait? Go soon.”

She told me she was worried because Norwegian hospitals aren’t all modern and shiny like the U.S. “That’s marketing,” I said. “Remember, medicine here is for profit. In other countries, they put that money into the care. If anything, your baby will be safer there.”

Of course, now that I’ve read this speech by Pat, I’m obviously going to have to call her back and tell her to stay here, because I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

Would a white, pointed hoodie be OK?

by Odd Man Out
From Truthdig:

Members of the New York City Council have worn them. Players on the Miami Heat were photographed wearing them. Numerous celebrities have donned them. And on Wednesday, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., was escorted from the House floor for wearing one while addressing members of Congress over the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was gunned down last month…

Who’d pay for sick and uninsured?

by Odd Man Out
Justice Scalia’s clownish show of contempt and Justice Alito’s skeptical questions during oral arguments regarding “Obamacare” don’t necessarily mean the reactionary contingent of SCOTUS is ready to overturn the law. As TPM noted yesterday:

A similar scene took place last fall, when the D.C. Court of Appeals took up the case. As news outlets reported at the time, Judge Laurence Silberman — a Reagan appointee who was elevated by President George W. Bush — was among those hammering the administration’s lawyer with questions about the individual mandate and the limits of power.

Forbes declared, “D.C. Appeals Court Points the Way to the Defeat of Obamacare’s Individual Mandate.” Conservatives then sounded triumphant too…

Less than two months later, Silberman cast the deciding vote to uphold “Obamacare.”

In his majority opinion, Silberman located the “limiting principle” he was looking for on his own, and knocked down the heart of the conservative argument. The judge declared that not buying health insurance was hardly an economic “inactivity” because the uninsured directly impact the system regardless.

Meaning that somebody ultimately must pay for the medical care of the uninsured. There’s no way around that fact. This week Chief Justice Roberts actually conceded, “Everybody is in this market. So that makes it very different than the market for cars or the other hypotheticals that you came up with, and all [the Obama administration] is regulating is how you pay for it.”

Can the SCOTUS right-wingers kill the mandate without creating chaos? Roberts will have to answer that question soon.

You are everything

Hall & Oates:

Earl Scruggs died today……

by Boohunney

http://youtu.be/icMTVV5Lwa

Great video with some of the BEST pickers around…

Dreaming

Mayer Hawthorne:

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