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R.I.P.

Alex Karras, 77:

Karras played for the Lions from 1958 to 1970 and was suffering from several illnesses, including dementia, over the last two years. He is one of 3,500 NFL players suing the league over its treatment of head injuries.


Following his NFL career, Karras went Hollywood, starring in Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic Blazing Saddles. In addition to other appearances on TV and in film, Karras starred in the ‘80s series Webster.

Here’s the latest of JC and the gang at Church and State

With all the hoo-ha over Obama the Black Radical Christian Muslim, it’s important to remember that Mitt Romney belongs to a religion a lot of people would call a cult. But we should also remember that there should be no religious litmus test as a qualification for the presidency.

The tweaker

Dean Baker:

When President Obama links arms with Romney on Social Security, it is not good news for supporters of the program. Nor was the situation made better by the desire to “tweak” the system.


In Washington, tweak is a code word used by people who want to cut Social Security but lack the courage to say it explicitly. For example, their favorite “tweak” is changing the cost of living adjustment formula in a way that reduces retirees’ benefits by 0.3 percentage points annually. This would add up to a 3 percent cut in benefits after 10 years, a 6 percent cut after 20 years and a 9 percent cut after 30 years.


In other words, this tweak is real money, especially for the oldest beneficiaries who also tend to be the poorest. In fact, this tweak of Social Security is likely to have more impact on the income of most retirees than taking back President Bush’s tax cut on the wealthy would have on their income. The other items that are usually part of the tweak package are phasing in a further increase in the age for getting full benefits (beyond the increase to age 67 which is already in current law) and a reduced benefit formula for workers who earned more than $40,000 a year in their working lifetime.


The public has every reason to be furious at President Obama for suggesting that he would cut Social Security. We know that the retirees and near-retirees are not wealthy as a group. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the typical elderly household had net wealth of just over $170,000. This is slightly less than the median house price of $180,000.


That means that if the typical household headed by someone over age 65 took all of their money, they would have almost enough to pay off the mortgage on their house. They would then be entirely dependent on their Social Security check, which averages $1,200 a month, for their income. And President Obama wants to cut these people’s Social Security.


The situation is especially infuriating because the poor state of the finances of retirees and near retirees is largely the fault of the people in both the Obama and Romney camps who steered the economy into a huge ditch. In the 90s, they thought the stock bubble was cool and in the last decade they thought the housing bubble was the way to boost growth.


As a result, many middle class retirees and near-retirees saw much of their savings disappear when the stock bubble burst in 2000-2002. They took another hit when the markets crashed again at the start of the last recession. And many saw the equity in their home vanish when the housing bubble burst. In addition, recent spells of unemployment has forced many older workers to dip into their retirement savings. In other words, people who took the advice of the experts and tried to do the right thing got nailed.


The government has also badly failed workers in pushing them to rely on 401(k)s for retirement instead of traditional pensions. These tax subsidized accounts can easily siphon off more than one third of annual returns as administrative expenses. While this allows the financial industry to pocket tens of millions annually from these accounts, few workers are able accumulate substantial savings by the time they reach retirement.


Given all the harm that economic policy has done to the current generation of retirees and near-retirees, it is incredible that President Obama would tell us that we have no choice; we have to vote for someone wants to kick them in the face yet again.

Babies laughing at dogs

Trojan attack warning

Update your browsers!

An international gang of cyber crooks is plotting a major campaign to steal money from the online accounts of thousands of consumers at 30 or more major US banks, security firm RSA warned.


In an advisory Thursday, RSA said it has information suggesting the gang plans to unleash a little-known Trojan program to infiltrate computers belonging to US banking customers and to use the hijacked machines to initiate fraudulent wire transfers from their accounts.


If successful, the effort could turn out to be one of the largest organized banking-Trojan operations to date, Mor Ahuvia, cybercrime communications specialist with RSA’s FraudAction team, said today. The gang is now recruiting about 100 botmasters, each of whom would be responsible for carrying out Trojan attacks against US banking customers in return for a share of the loot, she said.


[...] The latest discussion suggests that they now have individual consumer accounts in their crosshairs, Ahuvia said, warning that the gang plans to attempt to infiltrate computers in the US with a little known Trojan malware program called Gozi Prinimalka.


The malware is an updated version of a much older banking Trojan, Gozi, which was used by cyber criminals to steal millions of dollars from US banks. The group’s plan apparently is to plant the Trojan program on numerous websites and to infect computers when users visit those sites.


The Trojan is triggered when the user of an infected computer types out certain words — such as the name of a specific bank — into a URL string.


Unlike the original Gozi, the new version is capable not only of communicating with a central command-and-control server but also of duplicating the victim’s PC settings. The Trojan essentially supports a virtual machine cloning feature that can duplicate the infected PC’s screen resolutions, cookies, time zone, browser type and version and other settings. That allow the attacker to access a victim’s bank website using a computer that appears to have the infected PC’s real IP address and other settings, Ahuvia said.

Uh oh

Better stuck up on the disposable diapers!

Family values, pro life

This happens so consistently that it hardly falls under the category of news, but if you enjoy this sort of thing, here it is.

Smackdown

This is great:

Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard is one badass motherfucker. In an impassioned 15-minute smackdown in front of the house of Representatives, the country’s first female leader gave a scathing speech calling out opposition leader Tony Abbott’s extremely misogynistic comments, actions, views on abortion and single women, all while pointing in his face. She basically ripped him a new asshole.


Here’s some history: Abbott demanded that Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House, step down for allegedly sexually harassing an openly gay male staff member in a series of text messages, one of which apparently compared female genitalia to mussels. I know. Juicy already. Abbott then implied that if Gillard defended Slipper, she would be just as sexist as a gay man who talks shit on vaginas. Abbott said, “And every day the prime minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament, another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame.”


(Inside baseball: The line about “dying of shame” was a dig at Gillard’s recently deceased father, whom a shock jock said “died of shame” over his daughter’s policies.)


So Gillard let him have it. Here are some choice quotes:

I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. Not now, not ever. What i won’t stand for, what I will never stand for is the leader of the opposition peddling a double standard, a standard he has not set for members of his own front bench.


If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the house of Representatives, he needs a mirror.


I was very offended personally the Leader of the Opposition said abortion is the easy way out.


I was offended by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition cat calling across this table at me as I sit here as prime minister , ‘If the prime minister wants to make an honest woman of herself…’ something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.


I was offended when he stood next to a sign that described me as a ‘man’s bitch.’

So what else is new with our neocon president?

Liberals often tend to overstate conservative electoral achievements. Of the five most recent presidential elections, Republicans have won the popular vote in one, and their congressional majorities have never been large enough to pass legislation without Democratic cooperation.


But if there’s one place where conservatives have had great success, it’s the federal judiciary. Beginning with Ronald Reagan and continuing to George W. Bush, there’s been a concerted effort to bring reliable conservatives to the federal bench. The hope is that they will stand as a bulwark against activist government, and for the most part, that’s been the case: The individual mandate, for example, would have never become a constitutional issue if it weren’t for the influence of conservative judges. The last three GOP presidents appointed more than 150 judges to federal appellate courts.


After Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, there was hope that he would reverse this trend. Instead — to the potential detriment of his policies and priorities — he’s done little to make a mark on the federal judiciary. When staffing the nation’s most powerful courts, Reuters reports, Obama leans towards established moderates — not the younger liberals who would have a lasting influence on the direction of American law: “Obama’s 30 appointees have generally been moderates who mainly served on lower courts and were often selected in consultation with Republican senators.”


Some of this is a product of unprecedented obstruction by those same Republican senators. But a large portion of the blame falls on Obama’s shoulders. Reuters notes the three-person vacancy on the 11-member D.C. Court of Appeals, which — in terms of power — is second only to the Supreme Court. If this were a priority for Obama, it would almost certainly be the subject of complaint from the White House. As it stands, the administration is silent.

[...] It’s not an overstatement to say that by neglecting the judiciary, Obama has placed the future of liberalism in doubt. His loss wouldn’t just lead to the repeal of Obamacare or Dodd-Frank — the promises of a President Romney. It would jeopardize the constitutional status quo that made those laws possible.

Big shocker there, huh? [Via Whowhatwhy.com]

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