Sunday, October 31, 2010

Study: Alcohol More Lethal Than Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana

Every year, 33 million adults binge drink -- defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men over a short period of time -- and the numbers are not decreasing according to CDC officials.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

Teen Drivers Have Fewer Deadly AccidentsBinge Drinking Common in Teens, Young AdultsDrunk Driving Rising Among Young WomenThe study was paid for by Britain's Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.

Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

"Just think about what happens (with alcohol) at every football game," said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.

"We cannot return to the days of prohibition," said Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study's authors. "Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won't go away."
King said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn't as widely available.

A Drink or Two During Pregnancy? Not So FastA Drink (or Nine) May Help Your Heart, GuysDrunk Driving? Try Drunk WalkingExperts said the study should prompt countries to reconsider how they classify drugs. For example, last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana. One of its senior advisers, David Nutt - the lead author on the Lancet study - was fired after he criticized the British decision.

"What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science," said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.

"Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit," he said.


Why do the bastards in the media give this bimbo all the free pub?! I know! DOWN DEEP the media is SHALLOW!

Palin blasts 'corrupt bastards' in Alaska media
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) said that she expects Tuesday’s election to be a “political earthquake” and that the message voters will deliver is that the left and President Obama “blew it.” Asked whether Republicans should compromise on principle after they get elected, Palin responded, “absolutely not,” adding that “that’s been part of the problem.” Palin also defended her endorsements of marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell (R) in the Delaware Senate race and attorney Joe Miller (R) in the Alaska Senate race. She called Rep. Mike Castle (R) a “RINO” who is “pro-cap-and-tax” and “wishy-washy on Obamacare,” and accused some in the Alaska media of being “corrupt bastards” who conspired against Miller. Palin also reiterated that she will decide on a potential 2012 presidential run “after discussing it with my family and just checking out the lay of the land.”

Give Obama a Break NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF NYTimes

In politics as in finance, markets overshoot. Traders and voters swoon over stocks or politicians one week, and then rage at them the next.

That’s why I’m feeling a bit sorry for President Obama as we approach a midterm election in which he is poised to be cast off like an old sock. The infatuation with Mr. Obama was overdone in 2008, and so is the rejection of him today.

So here’s my message: Give him a chance.

The sourness toward Mr. Obama reminds me of the crankiness toward Al Gore in 2000. We in the news media were tough on Mr. Gore, magnifying his weaknesses, and that fed into a general disdain. So some liberals voted for Ralph Nader, and George W. Bush moved into the White House.

Like others, I have my disappointments with Mr. Obama, including his tripling of forces in Afghanistan. Yet the central problem isn’t that Mr. Obama has been a weak communicator as president or squandered his political capital — although both are true — but that we’re mired in the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s.

After all, Gallup polls still show Mr. Obama with public approval a hair ahead of Ronald Reagan’s at a similar point in his presidency (when America was also in recession). And maybe the best comparison is with President George H. W. Bush, a solid president and admirable man who had stratospheric approval ratings in 1991 at the end of the Persian Gulf war and then was fired by the public a year later when he sought re-election — because of a much milder recession than today’s.

Bill Clinton, who was as good a president as we’ve had in modern times, captured Mr. Obama’s challenge: “I’d like to see any of you get behind a locomotive going straight downhill at 200 miles an hour and stop it in 10 seconds,” Mr. Clinton told a crowd in Washington State, according to a Washington Post account.

Mr. Clinton also noted that the midterm elections are not a referendum. “Let’s make this a referendum on everything that’s bothering you about life right now,” he paraphrased the Republicans as saying, before adding: “It is not a referendum. It. Is. A. Choice. A choice between two different sets of ideas.”

The criticisms of Mr. Obama from the left often ring true to me, but I also think we elide the political difficulties of getting better legislation past obstructionists in Congress. A “public option” would have improved the health care package in my judgment, but it might also have killed it.

The economic crisis has also distracted from authentic accomplishments. Presidents since Harry Truman have been pushing for health care reform, and it was Mr. Obama who finally achieved it. The economy seemed at risk of another Great Depression when he took office, and that was downgraded to a recession from which we have officially emerged — even though the pain is still biting.

Mr. Obama has also helped engineer a successful auto bailout, a big push for clean energy, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to reduce sex discrimination, tighter tobacco regulations aimed at the 1,000 Americans under age 18 who become smokers each day, and tighter financial regulation including reform of credit card rules.

Above all, Mr. Obama has been stellar in one area crucial to our country’s future: education. Democrats historically have been AWOL on school reform because they are beholden to teacher unions, but Mr. Obama has reframed the debate and made it safe to talk about teaching standards and “bad teachers.” Until Mr. Obama, Democrats barely acknowledged that it was possible for a teacher to be bad.

Mr. Obama used stimulus money to keep teachers from being laid off and to nudge states to reform education so as to benefit children for years to come. His “Race to the Top” focused states on education reform as never before.

He has also revamped and expanded student loans and bolstered support for community colleges, opening a new path to higher education for working-class Americans. Millions more Americans may end up in college.

Presidents in both parties have talked for years about the importance of education, but until now it has been lip service. Improving America’s inner-city schools will be a long slog, but Mr. Obama has done far more than any other president in this area — arguably our single greatest national challenge. In my view, it’s his greatest achievement, and it has been largely ignored.

So, sure, go ahead and hold Mr. Obama’s feet to the fire. He deserves to be held accountable. But let’s not allow economic malaise to cloud our judgment and magnify America’s problems in ways that become self-fulfilling.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart Rallies for Sanity

Jon Stewart Rallies for Sanity -- and Against Cable News

The enemy, Jon Stewart told the masses gathered on the Mall in Washington Saturday for his "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," is not people of faith, or activists, or those who want to have passionate argument, or those on the right, or those on the left.

The enemy, he argued, is not Americans at all. It is instead the false image of Americans being pushed by the cable news-driven media - what he called "the country's 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator - that he said is broken and making the country's problems worse.

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing," Stewart said, accusing media outlets of fearmongering and spotlighting extremists instead of reasonable Americans. He later added that the press is America's immune system - and "if it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker."

Stewart's comments came toward the end of the three-hour rally that attracted about 215,000 to the Mall, with a message of standing up for reasonable dialogue.

Signs hoisted in the crowd ranged from serious ("I support reasonable conclusions based on supported facts," "Restore Sanity. Fight Fox," "I fought Nazis and they don't look like Obama") to the silly (a picture of the Republican and Democratic mascots and the words "Everyone Poops").

That mix was not unlike the rally itself, a sometimes-uneasy mix of comedy and a call to (metaphorical) arms. Stewart handed out "medals of reasonableness" to pitcher Armando Galarraga, who was kind to an umpire who robbed him of a perfect game; professional wrestler Mick Foley for his work outside the ring, including defending a child mocked for being seen as gay; Velma Hart, who offered polite but critical questions to President Obama at a town hall; and Jacob Isom, the "dude you have no Koran" guy who decided to defuse a Koran burning by taking away the Koran.

His co-host Stephen Colbert, who portrays a fearmongering conservative talk show host seemingly modeled on Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, countered with "Medals for Fear," including one for the media outlets who banned their employees from attending the event unless they were covering it. (CBS News was among those criticized for doing so, though the network did not take that step.)

The event also featured mea culpas from two Americans - former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater and "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice - offering apologies for their displays of unreasonableness.

People in the crowd hold up homemade signs at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
(Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) "I could have found a more productive way of expressing my time, I'll try to work things through before losing my cool," said Slater.

John and Rita Maffei, a couple in their 50s who had come to the rally from Fairfield, Connecticut, said they were there simply for the opportunity to laugh at a media and political world that turns them off.

"I'm not a fan of politics," said John Maffei. "I think there's a lot of pettiness out there right now. It's ugly all around. I think it's really good to start laughing again. Stop taking ourselves so seriously."

The Maffeis were part of a small but visible contingent of older Americans who joined younger people like 19-year-old Anthony DiSilva of Syosset, New York at the event.

Comedians Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart perform on the National Mall, October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C.
(Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images) "I mean, I'm not watching CNN or FOX or whatever else," DiSilva said. "I'd like to vote, but I feel like I don't know what's going on. I mean, it's confusing. Trust this guy, hate this other guy. I don't know if I'm going to vote, but today helps a lot. At least I'm not the only one who's confused."

Though the rally was ostensibly non-political, groups like the Democratic National Committee, hoping to capitalize on the gathering ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections, organized events in conjunction with it. Democrats greeted people attending the rally with requests that they get involved with canvassing efforts nationwide.

The event opened with a musical performance by The Roots and John Legend, and musicians performed throughout, among them Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, and Jeff Tweedy. Among the celebrity guests were the hosts of "Mythbusters," actor Sam Waterston - who read a poem ostensibly penned by Colbert about all of the bad things that might happen to you - and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who came onstage to assure Colbert that not all Muslims are terrorists.

At one point, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, who know goes by Yusuf, came on to perform "Peace Train" before Colbert interrupted him to bring out Ozzy Osbourne, who performed "Crazy Train." Eventually they both cleared the stage for the O'Jays, who sang "Love Train," a train both Colbert and Stewart agreed they would get on. (Colbert only did so because love could mean sexually transmitted diseases.)

Early in the rally, Stewart joked that there were ten million people there, adding sarcastically that attendance reflected a "perfect demographic sampling of the American people." (It was, in fact, largely white.) He mocked the media for the way they've covered rallies in the past.

"If you have too many white people at a rally, then your cause is racist," he said. "But if you have too many people of color at a rally, then you just must be asking for something."

People attend the Comedy Central "Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear" on the National Mall on October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C.
(Credit: Jeff Snyder/PictureGroup via AP Images) The rally included references to Glenn Beck, the Fox News host who held his own rally this summer, a rally that some have suggested Stewart's event was an answer to. (Beck also gave out four medals at his rally.) But they were not direct: Instead, Beck was lumped in with both conservative and liberal commentators as part of the reason, in Stewart's eyes, the media is failing America.

Beck, Keith Olbermann and others appeared in montages offering incendiary rhetoric that Stewart deemed dispiriting. (Olbermann did not take kindly to this: "It wasn't a big shark but Jon Stewart jumped one just now with the 'everybody on [24 hour] cable is the same' naivete," he wrote on Twitter.)

Colbert, who was ostensibly there to rally on behalf of fear, celebrated such rhetoric while Stewart condemned it. At one point Stewart quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt's comment that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Colbert countered that twelve years later, Roosevelt was dead.

Stewart clearly came with a serious message, and toward the end of the rally he nearly dropped his comedic persona altogether. He uttered phrases like "individuals can be scary but you can't generalize about all people," a reference to those who consider all Muslims to be terrorists.

He said it was a mistake to lump in those who aren't bigots -- he mentioned Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez specifically -- with those who are, calling that an insult not only to them "but to racists who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate."

Stewart also said most of the scary stories on cable news are overblown and argued that Americans can overcome the ones that aren't.

"The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror," he said. He added that it's no surprise that people don't want to reach across the aisle when they are told the other side is made up of Marxists on the left and racists on the right.

"We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done," he said. "But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here [in Washington] or on cable TV. But Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done."

Stewart said most Americans don't live as liberals or conservatives or Republicans or Democrats but as "people who are just a little bit late for something they have to do." He used the fact that Americans are willing to merge together into a tunnel, one by one, to illustrate the fact that people can and do work together despite their differences.

"You go, then I'll go, you go, then I'll go," he said. "'Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car, is that an Obama sticker on your car? Ah -that's OK. You go, they I'll go.'"

"And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare, and he is scorned - and not hired as an analyst," Stewart continued.

Shortly after he turned the stage over to Bennett, who closed the event with a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that prompted a "USA" chant from the crowd.

"Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder, and to see you hear to day, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine," Stewart said.

The rally aired on Comedy Central, where Stewart and Colbert host their late night shows, as well as C-Span. Comedy Central told the New York Times there were four million views of their live rally web stream.

Stewart said after the event that he "stayed up late last night and just wrote until I was done. I wanted to speak a little bit from the heart."

Asked how he expected the event to be covered, Stewart said, "I couldn't care, I just don't care. We're proud of ourselves and proud of the show we did."

"Our currency is not this town's currency," he said. "We're not running for anything. We have TV shows and we just hope people continue to like them."

Added Colbert: "What surprised me most was the joy of seeing the audience out there."

How the battle over credit card swipe fees hits consumers

NEW YORK — The customer isn't always king. Sometimes he's just a pawn.
The feud over the so-called swipe fees merchants pay banks when customers use plastic is reaching a crescendo and will likely hit registers in coming months.

Both sides — merchants and card issuers — insist they're fighting for the best interests of the consumer. At stake are billions of dollars in swipe fees, otherwise known as interchange fees.

Visa and MasterCard agreed earlier this month to let merchants offer customers incentives for paying with cards that have lower swipe fees. Separately, new regulations this year will cap the debit card swipe fees merchants have to pay.

Banks and credit unions warn that they'll need to make up the lost revenue elsewhere.

BEWARE OF FEES: Penalty rates, fees on credit cards not always clear
HOW TO AVOID FEES: Steer clear of checking account fees on the horizon

Where the changes leave consumers isn't yet clear. Here's what you should know:

Q: First off, what are interchange fees and why is there so much talk about them?

A: Let's start by clarifying a common misconception.

Contrary to popular belief, Visa and MasterCard don't issue credit cards; they run the networks that process transactions made using those cards. If it was the cellphone universe, think of the companies as operators of the phone lines and networks over which calls are made.

The use of their networks comes with costs, which are paid for in a complex way.

Every time a customer pays with plastic, the merchant pays a fee to the bank or credit union that issued the card. The fee typically ranges between 1% and 2% of the purchase amount.

Visa and MasterCard don't get a direct cut of this fee. But they make money through separate deals with the 16,000 or so banks and credit unions that issue cards.

So on one side of the battle line, you have card issuers and payment processors such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express arguing that plastic is convenient for businesses and helps drive up sales — a perk they should pay for. On the other side are merchants who say they're paying too much and should be allowed to steer customers toward payment options that cost them less.

Q: So what's different at the register right now?

A: Under regulations that went into effect in July, merchants can legally set a $10 minimum for credit card purchases. This could be inconvenient for anyone who relies on plastic and doesn't carry around cash.

It's not clear how many merchants will take advantage of the option. You're more likely to run into new minimums at the corner deli or other small stores.

Some stores had already required a minimums for credit card purchases, but that was in violation of policies set by Visa and MasterCard.

If you're paying with a debit card, there still shouldn't be any minimum purchase requirement. Of course, merchants can refuse to accept plastic of any type.

Q: What does the Justice Department's settlement with Visa and MasterCard mean for consumers?

A: Earlier this month, Visa and MasterCard agreed to let merchants offer incentives for customers to use a card from a particular network. So, for example, a retailer might offer a discount to anyone who pays with a Discover card, which tends to have lower interchange fees.

Merchants can also state preferences for specific cards within a brand, such as basic Visa cards versus rewards Visa cards, which tend to have higher interchange rates.

The changes are part of a settlement Visa and MasterCard made with the Department of Justice over allegations the companies were trying to insulate themselves from competition with their policies. American Express plans to fight the federal suit.

Note that retailers can already state a preference for debit card purchases, which come with lower interchange fees of about 1%, versus an average of 1.6% for credit cards.

So on a $10 purchase, 10 cents would go to the card issuer with a debit card payment. With a credit card payment, 16 cents would go to the card issuer.

This is why merchants prefer debit cards over credit cards.

Q: Are there any other changes in store that could affect me?

A: The Federal Reserve is expected to propose a new cap on debit card interchange fees in coming months.

Banks and credit unions are already warning that they'll need to make up the lost revenue in other places, perhaps by tacking on new fees or eliminating rewards programs for checking accounts.

On the other side, merchant groups counter that those are empty threats and that banks can't afford to alienate customers in this competitive climate.

Additionally, merchants say all the changes mean consumers will likely start seeing discounts or other perks depending on how they choose to pay. For example, a purchase might cost $5 if you pay with a credit card or $4.75 if you pay with a debit card. Or a grocery store might offer free delivery if you pay with a debit card.

It's still too early to say how it will play out, since many merchants are waiting for the Fed's proposed cap on debit card swipe fees before they strategize.

Q: Does this mean merchants will stop accepting credit cards, or maybe rewards cards, because they have higher interchange fees?

A: No. Visa and MasterCard can still require merchants that use their networks to accept all their branded card. It's just that retailers can now offer incentives for lower-cost cards.

Merchants already have the right to refuse acceptance of cards from an entire payment network, of course. American Express and Discover for example, aren't as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard. But Visa and MasterCard are so universal that merchants generally agree to the companies' terms.

2010 The Associated Press.

Things Super-Happy Couples Do Every Day to stay together and happy.

Lord knows this is not the sort of thing guys brag about. But my wife and I have a ridiculously happy marriage. Really, it's almost disgusting.

We paw each other in public. We goof around like a pair of simpletons. We basically act like giddy newlyweds in the middle of happy hour. Sometimes we'll do something so revolting, like sitting on the couch and drawing smiley faces on the bottoms of each other's feet, that we're forced to make hacking, gagging noises to maintain our dignity. Actually, this happened just last week.

See, I told you it was disgusting.

It hasn't always been this way. In fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that our current marital bliss is the result of almost a year of counseling, a desperate effort undertaken several years ago, when we appeared destined for doom. What we learned then is something all happy couples eventually discover: A good marriage is a bit like a pet boa constrictor: either you feed it every day or bad things happen. Daily habits are extremely helpful in forging solid marriages, says couples therapist Tina Tessina, author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. "If you're really interested in making your relationship work, little rituals are a great way to do it."

Want examples? Look no further than Tessina and her husband, Richard, who have developed an array of daily relationship builders during their 19 years of marriage: Every morning, they repeat their wedding vows to each other; they hold regular state-of-the-union meetings; and (my personal favorite) Tina routinely leaves Post-it Notes for Richard ("Hi, honey! Have a great day!") stuck to the underside of the toilet seat (think about it).

"Every marriage has what I call a relationship reservoir, or the stored-up emotional energy of the relationship," says Tessina. And although these daily habits are all very simple things, they help fill that reservoir. When there's a lot of positive energy there, you give each other a little pat on the butt or say, "I'm so glad I'm sharing my life with you," and you're storing it up. Then when the relationship is under stress, you'll have the energy you need to get through.

We asked happy couples across the United States to tell us about marriage-strengthening solutions they've developed. Try your hand at incorporating a few into your daily life and maybe you can be as ridiculously, embarrassingly, revoltingly happily married as I am.

Want to know the one thing that's most important to a successful marriage? That's easy. Walk up to your husband and surprise him with this one-question relationship quiz:

You: "Honey, what do you think is the one thing most important to a successful marriage?"

Him: "Umm, uh did you say something?"

And, well, there you have it.

Happily married couples typically say their relationships work better when they can sit down and gab one-on-one, like thinking, feeling adults. But who's got time for that? Actually, anybody who sleeps at night, if you follow the lead of Julie and Thom and their nightly visits to their "igloo."

"It all started one winter night years ago, when Julie had had a really bad day," says Thom, 33, a marketing director in Columbus, Ohio. "We were huddled under the covers of our bed, and Julie was describing how all the people who made her day miserable were 'bad polar bears' and how she didn't want any of the bad polar bears coming into the bedroom and how the bed was our refuge from them. You realize how embarrassing it is to admit this, right? Anyway, that's when we started calling the bed the igloo."

"The igloo is a place to retreat to," says Julie, 31. "It's our little sanctuary; only nice things happen in the igloo."

Eventually Julie and Thom began holding a powwow in the igloo at the end of every day, making a nightly excursion that Julie says has become a vital part of their five-year marriage.

"It's funny, because I always thought that when you lived with somebody, you'd automatically know everything that was going on," she says. "But we find that if we don't take that time to connect with each other, it's really easy for life to get in the way. The igloo offers one of the few times in the day where there's not a whole heck of a lot else going on, so you're able to focus on each other in a deeper way."

Of course, you don't need to christen major pieces of furniture with cute nicknames to improve the communication in your marriage. You simply have to set aside a few minutes every day to remind each other of why you got married in the first place. And there are as many ways to do that as there are marriages in America.

Lori and Joe, who are happily married in Philadelphia, have a nightly ritual they call crook time. That's when Lori cuddles up in the "crook" of Joe's shoulder and they talk. "The name's a little sappy," Lori admits, "but it's always a nice way for us to catch up."

Every night, Angie and Bob walk their pet Chihuahua, Chachi, through the streets of Brookline, Massachusetts. In addition to keeping Chachi from picking dogfights he could never win ("He has a bit of a Napoleon complex," Bob says), they use the time to strengthen their 11-year marriage.

It may be going a bit far to emulate Tim and Jill, a Connecticut couple who somewhat sheepishly admit that they check in with each other from work "six, maybe seven times a day," Tim says, "sometimes a dozen times when we're really being crazy." (Jill says, slightly more defiantly, "He's just my best friend, and our marriage is a great partnership, and there's no one I'd rather talk to.")

Then again, if you've been married 10 years and still want to talk to each other 10 times a day, you must be doing something right.

Back when you were 14 years old, you probably figured that once you got married, you'd have sex just about every day. (Well, maybe teenage girls don't think that way. But let me tell you, 14-year-old boys sure do.) And why not? Sex is free. It's fun. And it doesn't require the purchase of any equipment, besides the occasional bottle of vegetable oil and about 20 feet of nylon rope.

But as they get older, most couples realize that having sex every night isn't possible, let alone a worthy goal. Indeed, a 1994 University of Chicago survey of Americans' sexual habits found that only about a third of adults have sex more than once a week. Granted, that number might have been higher if all the couples having sex more frequently had stopped to take the surveyor's phone call, but clearly, sex for most married couples is far from a daily reality.

That doesn't mean, though, that you can't at least talk sexy every day, and that's the approach that Ed and Stephanie have taken in the more than six years they've been together.

"It's funny," says Ed, a 33-year-old San Francisco cab driver, "because we know plenty of married couples who fight, a lot, about how often they have sex. The wife's upset because all he ever wants to do is have sex; the husband's upset because he doesn't think they have sex enough. But this has never really been a problem with us, and I think it has a lot do with the fact that we're always talking sexy to each other."

"Absolutely," says Stephanie, a 32-year-old massage therapist. "We're always complimenting each other, tossing out fantasies, telling each other we're hot. He gets to feel like he can have sexual feelings, and I feel like I don't have to have sex all the time to appear attractive.

"Let's put it this way: The way I see it, sex is like chocolate cake. After five days of eating chocolate cake, even chocolate cake doesn't taste that great."

"Right," Ed says, "but after five days of talking about chocolate cake?"

"That cake tastes damn good."

Eavesdrop on a conversation between Bob and Angie concerning their favorite shared pastime.

"We are so disgusting. This is so pathetic. It's like a sickness."

"But it makes us happy!"

"It's so stupid it makes us laugh."

"We're yelling at people. High-fiving each other."

"Look, we get a kick out of it because it's so ridiculous. It's our guilty pleasure."

Forgive them if they seem somewhat shy, but they're merely ashamed to admit that the daily ritual that brings such joy to their 12-year marriage is none other than reality TV. That's right. They lived and died with Survivor. They've adopted Big Brother. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They do. Not to mention TemptationIsland, The Weakest Link, The Real World, Chains of Love, Fear Factor, The Mole (yes, really, The Mole).

"Honestly, I think we just need to be dumb for a while," says Bob, 37, a shoe designer for Reebok in Boston. "We're both very into our careers. And when you're at work, with any job there's going to be a certain amount of professional stress. You like to come home sometimes and, for that lousy hour or whatever, kick back and relax."

Or as Angie, 36, a marketing executive, says, "Life is serious enough, isn't it? Sometimes you need to do something stupid. And if you can't be stupid with your husband, who can you be stupid with?

So hold on, then: Is domestic joy found in partners smothering each other in obsessive daily rituals ("Honey, don't forget, at 7:15 we have our nightly cuddle, followed by the affirmation of our vows, our 7:35 spontaneous flirtation, and then, of course, a new episode of Moesha at eight")?

Hardly. In fact, Tessina says that sleepwalking through a series of hollow routines (although probably an apt description of your day job) is worse for your marriage than having no routines at all. The solution, she says, is to also make a daily habit of getting away from each other.

"You know that old saying, 'How can I miss you if you don't go away?'" Tessina asks. "Doing things separately gives you a chance to fill in the blanks that your partner can't fill in for you, for example, one of you likes classical music, the other one likes sports. Plus, taking a break from each other gives you more things to talk about, because when you're joined at the hip, what's to talk about? You've already seen it all."

The point, naturally, is not to make space for each other in that I-can't-wait-to-get-away-from-you sort of way but to pursue your own hobbies and interests. It's a distinction that Joe tried hard to make to Lori during their delicate pre-engagement negotiations four years ago.

"As a woman, you get this message that when you get married, you spend every single waking second with your husband and you're so unbelievably happy," says Lori, 34. "And my parents actually do spend every single waking second together, and oddly enough, they are happy. So that's how I grew up thinking you were supposed to be. But when I told him this, Joe was like, 'I-don't-think-so.'"

"Because I watched my parents," says Joe, 29, whose parents divorced when he was 22, "and yeah, they spent every moment together, but they spent every moment together at each other's throats."

"So Joe had to convince me that having our own lives was a good idea," Lori explains. "I'm thankful he did."

These days Lori and Joe are practically poster children for the power of independence. Joe, who works for a nonprofit agency, spends his nights taking painting classes, building youth centers, and recording his guitar sessions. Lori, a college professor, spends hers directing community-theater musicals and indulging in trashy movies on cable television, a passion that Joe (go figure) doesn't seem to share.

"It all brings a freshness to our marriage because we both continue to grow as people," Joe says.

"Plus," says Lori, "getting out of the house and out of each other's hair keeps us from going crazy."

And — we asked the experts, so we know — going crazy is definitely not one of the secrets of a happy marriage.

In another University of Chicago survey, this one of married couples, 75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are "very happy" (compared to 57 percent of those who don't). Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other, discuss their marriage together, and — stop the presses — rate their spouses as skilled lovers.

Not to say that prayer is a cure for all that ails you (were that the case, my beloved Oakland Raiders would have won the Super Bowl years ago). But whether they're talking about a simple grace at dinnertime or some soul-searching meditation, couples routinely say that a shared spiritual life helps keep them close. And as Doug and Beth say, even couples who are on different sides of the theological fence can benefit from praying together daily.

"We have been married for seven years, but praying together is something we didn't start doing until about a year ago," says Doug, a 32-year-old Salt Lake City biochemist. "In the past, whenever we faced big decisions, we'd have discussion after discussion about them, but we'd never really come to a resolution."

After two 1,000-mile moves, the birth of three children, and two job changes, all in the past four years, those difficult decisions had begun to take a toll. So when Beth asked Doug, a nonreligious and self-proclaimed man of science, to try praying with her, he figured they had nothing to lose.

"I soon found that praying together brings out a real sense of selflessness and humility," Doug says. "When you're praying for each other, not yourself, you're focused together and speaking from the heart on a whole different level. I would never have predicted this for us, but it really works."

"As bad as any problem may seem at that moment," agrees Beth, "prayer always helps us see beyond it. It doesn't have to be a long-drawn-out scripture reading, just a few minutes a day. When we pray, it brings another level of honesty to our conversations. I think it's the most intimate thing you can do with another person."

Now they pray together every night, once the "urchins" are in bed, which puts them in the company of the 32 percent of American married couples who say they pray together regularly. It also puts them in the company of Julie and Thom, when the other couple isn't holed up in their igloo, of course.

"It's pretty short and not at all scripted," says Julie about their giving thanks before each meal. "We just join hands and let it rip. Whether we're asking for forgiveness or giving thanks, saying it out loud holds a lot of power.

"Besides, regardless of religion or spiritual preference, I think that most marriages require a ton of faith," Julie sums up. "You've got to believe that somehow the two of you are going to make it through things. You've got to believe that you're being blessed with this person. And even if the power we feel just comes from the strength of our love, even if we don't believe that it's God who is helping us, I still think that it's good to acknowledge that there's a force between the two of us that's helping us out."



U.N. Tries to Curb Extinctions

Species haven’t died off this fast since the dinosaurs were wiped off the face earth. With species of fauna and flora currently disappearing at a rate 100 to 1,000 greater than the historical averages, environment ministers from 190 countries met in Japan to set out new measures to preserve biodiversity.

The objective of the Nagoya Protocol, as it is known, is to reduce the extinction rate by half between now and 2020. Over that period, the amount of protected land will grow to 17 percent from about 12.5 percent, while 10 percent of oceans will be protected, growing from less than one percent.

“We would have liked to see more ambitious targets in protected area goals and the financing,” said a representative from The Nature Conservancy. “But the fact that they were able to reach an agreement is a big deal.” The delegates also set up a profit-sharing scheme for rich and poor nations to benefit from new pharmaceutical products derived from genetic material.

Read it at The New York Times

F A C T S from various scoures I've collected for whatever reason(s)?

** 98,000 patients are killed annually by medical errors. Tort law changes won't fix health care. Tell Congress to put patients first.**

Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House.

A simple pucker involves two muscles, and a real hot sweaty smooch involves all 34 facial muscles. Each burns 26 calories a minute.

Democrats have won back-to-back victories, picking up at least 12 Senate seats and more than 50 House seats. They now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.

The accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

all those terrified Jews who reportedly abandoned their progressive heritage to buy into the smears libeling Obama as an Israel-hating terrorist? Obama drew a larger percentage of Jews nationally (78) than Kerry had (74)

United States is the only country in the industrialized world where children are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the Education Trust

Britain had 27 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 between 2000 and 2005, according to a report published by Population Action International. Comparable figures are 10 per 1,000 for Spain , 8 in 1,000 for France , and 5 in 1,000 for The Netherlands.

Britain's teen pregnancy rate, however, is still far below that of the United States, which registers 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 and are more line with English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which respectively have 17 and 27 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19, according to the report.

there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.

The money that foreign workers send home will shrink by $15 billion this year, as the global economy limps along, the World Bank projects.

Such remittances, or money transfers, will fall from last year's high of $305 billion to $290 billion in 2009, the World Bank said in a report released this week.

Money transfers are among the largest sources of external financing in developing countries, often used to buy basic necessities in areas with rampant poverty.

"Because they flow directly from people to people, remittances become especially important for poor people," said Dilip Ratha, an economist at the World Bank and lead author of the report. "Many people use remittances as their only lifeline."

The main reason for the drop is the weakening of economies in "destination" countries where migrant and immigrant workers live, the report found.

"This time, the crisis did not start in the developing countries," Ratha said. "It started in the rich countries like the U.S. and in Europe."

There are an estimated 150 million migrants worldwide, many of who send part of their paychecks home each month, according to a 2006 U.N. report.

some defenses of the President. At Swampland, Michael Scherer wrote after the press conference:

I don’t really get all this gabbing about Obama and his teleprompter. Does anyone really doubt Obama’s ability to speak cogently and in detail without notes, after winning three presidential debates and slaying just about every press availability he gets? So he likes reading from a screen and not a piece of paper.

Yesterday in the Atlantic , James Fallows wrote :
The whole ‘Obama can’t talk on his own’ concept is bizarre, given his performance through two years of stump speeches and debates during the campaign. But it seems to have gotten so much credence in the right-wing world that it is worth addressing head on.”

More support for the president’s ability to extemporize also came to light on Tuesday, the day of the press conference. Following up on the St. Patrick’s Day incident, Telegraph reporter Toby Harnden tracked down a reporter who was there, listened to his audio tape of the event and concluded, as per the reporter he talked to, that when Obama was thanking Obama, he was making a joke at the Irish Prime Minister’s expense.

Or, as Harnden put it, “Ironically, therefore, Obama was ad-libbing rather than mindlessly reading the wrong speech from a teleprompter.”

According to the KlaasKids Foundation run by Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped and killed in 1993, 96 percent of those who abduct and kill children are male. Seventy-six percent of the victims in such cases are dead within three hours of being kidnapped, and the majority of those who kill children are acquaintances of the child.

9-17/09The United States lost 216,000 jobs in August, the department said earlier this month, down from 276,000 in July. Employers have eliminated 6.9 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.

All truth goes through three phases.
1. First, it is ridiculed.
2. Second, it is violently opposed.
3. Third, it is accepted as being self evident.

Just some of the things I dislike people do.

People eating fruit while shopping in a supermarket –stealing & unhealthy

People yawing in public without covering their mouth and worst is letting a noisy scream with their mouth open like the Grand Canyon

Young people just yelling out just to be loud and draw attention they have nothing to say

People using cliché and catch phrases from TV & movies and think they are original, like ‘winner winner chicken dinner’?

Public bathroom attendants stuffing towel dispensers too full you can’t pull a towel out

You either get none, bits & pieces or a wasteful mass clump

Hate that most all TV channels have synchronized their commercial breaks so you can no longer click and catch bits & pieces of other program which may catch your interest

People have no clue on how to walk in public areas!

Walking rules should be similar to driving basics - How about keeping oncoming walkers to your left?! No left turns in front of straight ahead walkers?


Cooking with Tropical Oils – Your Healthiest Alternative
I have, for many years now, recommended coconut oil on the basis and the supposition that it doesn't contain much unsaturated fat. As a result, it's not going to be damaged by heat and create trans fats like some other oils. (Another tropical oil that is very similar is palm oil.)

Dr. Moerck agrees, saying:

"I would say that coconut oil is okay to cook with. It's a saturated fat. Your body will burn it as fuel or it will get rid of it some other way. It won't store it in your body.. So from that point of view, if you're going to use oil then that's a good one to use."

Interestingly, unlike carbohydrates, which can also deliver quick energy to your body, coconut oil does this without producing an insulin spike. Yes, it acts like a carbohydrate, but without any of the debilitating insulin-related effects associated with long-term high carbohydrate consumption.

But that's merely the beginning.

Earlier this week I published an entire special report on the health benefits of coconut oil, which include:

•Promoting heart health
•Promoting weight loss, when needed
•Supporting your immune system health
•Supporting a healthy metabolism
•Providing you with an immediate energy source
•Keeping your skin healthy and youthful looking
•Supporting the proper functioning of your thyroid gland
Part of what makes coconut oil such a healthful oil for cooking is that 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. This is also one of the features that distinguishes coconut oil from other saturated fats.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.

In addition, coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids also produce a host of health benefits.

Best of all, coconut oil is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage, which you cannot say for other oils. In fact, it's so stable you can even use if for frying (although I don't recommend frying your food for a number of health reasons).

I recommend using coconut oil in lieu of every other oil, whether your recipe calls for butter, olive oil, vegetable oil or margarine.

Important, New Information about Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a good monounsaturated fat that is also well-known for its health benefits. It's a staple in healthful diets such as Mediterranean-style diets.

However, it's important to realize it is NOT good for cooking. It should really only be used cold, typically drizzled on salads and other food.

Due to its chemical structure and a large amount of unsaturated fats, cooking makes extra-virgin olive oil very susceptible to oxidative damage. However, during this interview I learned that extra-virgin olive oil has a significant draw-back even when used cold – it's still extremely perishable!

As it turns out, extra-virgin olive oil contains chlorophyll that accelerates decomposition and makes the oil go rancid rather quickly.

In fact, Dr. Moerck actually prefers using almost tasteless, semi-refined olive oil rather than extra-virgin olive oil for this reason.

If you're like most people, you're probably leaving your bottle of olive oil right on the counter, opening and closing it multiple times a week. Remember, any time the oil is exposed to air and/or light, it oxidizes, and as it turns out, the chlorophyll in extra virgin olive oil accelerates the oxidation of the unsaturated fats.

Clearly, consuming spoiled oil (of any kind) will likely do more harm than good.

To protect the oil, Dr. Moerck recommends treating it with the same care as you would other sensitive omega-3 oils:

•Keep in a cool, dark place
•Purchase smaller bottles rather than larger to ensure freshness
•Immediately replace the cap after each pour
To help protect extra virgin olive oil from oxidation, Dr. Moerck suggests putting one drop of astaxanthin into the bottle. You can purchase astaxanthin, which is an extremely potent antioxidant, in soft gel capsules. Just prick it with a pin and squeeze the capsule into the oil.

The beautiful thing about using astaxanthin instead of another antioxidant such as vitamin E, is that it is naturally red, whereas vitamin E is colorless, so you can tell the oil still has astaxanthin in it by its color.

As the olive oil starts to pale in color, you know it's time to throw it away.

You can also use one drop of lutein in your olive oil. Lutein imparts an orange color and will also protect against oxidation. Again, once the orange color fades, your oil is no longer protected against rancidity and should be tossed.

This method is yet another reason for buying SMALL bottles. If you have a large bottle, you may be tempted to keep it even though it has begun to oxidize.

The Worst Cooking Oils of All
Polyunsaturated fats are the absolute WORST oils to use when cooking because these omega-6-rich oils are highly susceptible to heat damage.

This category includes common vegetable oils such as:

Damaged omega-6 fats are disastrous to your health, and are responsible for far more health problems than saturated fats ever were.

Trans fat is the artery-clogging, highly damaged omega-6 polyunsaturated fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine or shortening.

I strongly recommend never using margarine or shortening when cooking. I guarantee you you're already getting far too much of this damaging fat if you consume any kind of processed foods, whether it be potato chips, pre-made cookies, or microwave dinners...

Trans fat is the most consumed type of fat in the US, despite the fact that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.

Trans fat raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while lowering your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, which of course is the complete opposite of what you want. In fact, trans fats -- as opposed to saturated fats -- have been repeatedly linked to heart disease. They can also cause major clogging of your arteries, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

So, cleaning these oils out of your kitchen cupboard is definitely recommended if you value your health.

ON THIS DAY 'Rumble in the Jungle' MAKES ME FEEL OLDER and BETTER!

On Oct. 30, 1974,
Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round of a 15-round bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, to regain his world heavyweight title.
My favorite fighter of all time.
STILL. Everytime I think of Ali I smile!

'The Exorcist' 20 things you may not have known about the 'The Exorcist'

A few weeks ago saw the Blu-ray release of the Extended Director's Cut of 1973's infamous 'The Exorcist.'
The film, directed by William Friedkin, tells the story of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a seemingly-innocent young girl who begins to experience strange and increasingly violent and disturbing behavior.
After her mother (Ellen Burstyn) tries every medical intervention to save her, she realizes that Regan may be controlled by an other-worldly and evil power.

Desperate for help, she calls on Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to perform an exorcism on her daughter. As Regan displays more and more frightening abilities, the priests realize they may in fact be dealing with the Devil himself.

'The Exorcist' became an immediate -- and controversial -- sensation and, over the years, a variety of modern myths have developed around the film. To celebrate the arrival of the Blu-Ray version of the film -- featuring restored footage not seen on its first release -- here are 20 things you may not have known about the 'The Exorcist' -- and its legend.

1. A True Story?
The novel that the film is based on supposedly comes from true events. The author, William Peter Blatty, a 1950 graduate of Georgetown University, based it on a rumored 1949 exorcism that occurred on school grounds. Legend persists that a 14-year-old boy, given the pseudonym "Robbie Manheim," was possessed after attempting to contact his deceased aunt via a Ouija Board.

2. Terrifying From the First Moment
The original teaser trailer, featuring a series of flashing black and white images, was banned from many theaters for being "too frightening."

3. The Power of Faith
Father Karras' friend in the film, Joseph Dyer, is played by Father William O'Malley, an actual priest and teacher at Fordham University, where part of the film was shot. He still teaches at the school and screens the film to his students, referring to it as a "pornographic horror film." However, he also admits that it is approximately "80 percent true" in regards to the real events it was inspired by.

4. Disgusting Dedication
Mercedes McCambridge provided the demonic voice of Regan. She achieved the gravelly tone by chain-smoking and forcing herself to vomit up a mixture of raw eggs and mushed apples.

5. Shocking Language
On the first day of shooting the exorcism sequence, von Sydow was so disturbed by the profanities coming from Blair's character that he forgot his lines.

6. A Cursed Set?
The set for the McNeil home burned down during a studio fire. The only room that remained untouched was Regan's bedroom.

7. Shocked Audiences
Theaters screening the movie came equipped with "Exorcist barf bags."

8. Literal Suffering
During a 1974 screening, an audience member fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He claimed the movie's subliminal imagery caused him to lose consciousness, and subsequently sued Warner Bros. They settled out of court, for an undisclosed sum.

9. Acting Controversy
McCambridge was never given a screen credit for providing the voice of the demon. She had to sue Warner Bros. to get her credit. The lawsuit broke out during the Oscar season -- when Blair received a nomination for her performance. Critics speculate that that controversy is what ruined Blair's chances for success.

10. The Evil Inside the Film Itself
The evangelist Billy Graham claimed that an actual demon lived inside the celluloid reels of the film.

11. Out-of-Control Viewers
Blair received death threats following the release of the film because people believed she was "glorifying Satan." As a result, Warner Bros. had to hire bodyguards to accompany her for sixth months.

12. An International Scandal
Town councils throughout the UK banned screenings of the film, prompting travel companies to create "Exorcist Bus Trips" for citizens hoping to find a theater that actually played the movie. It was never officially released on video in the UK until 1999.

13. Believing in the Curse
Father Karras' room was filmed at the residence of Friar Thomas King. After a series of mysterious events troubled the New York shoot of the film, Blatty asked King to bless the Washington, D.C., set.

14. Intense Direction
In order to get specific reactions out of his actors, Friedkin went to extreme lengths: He slapped O'Malley in the face right before shooting an emotional scene, he fired a gun without warning behind Miller in order to get a shocked response from the actor and he had Regan's bedroom put inside a freezer to make it appear appropriately cold. The temperature was so low that snow actually started to form around Blair, who was only allowed to wear her nightgown.

15. Physically Demanding Performances
Blair and Burstyn both suffered back injuries from stunts where their characters are thrown around the room. Burstyn received permanent spinal damage and her character's scream in the film is her actual painful shriek.

16. An Eerie Coincidence
Post-production for the film was done at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

17. Gruesome Sound Effects
The sounds that are made when the demon leaves Regan's body come from an audio clip of pigs being herded to slaughter.

18. The Macabre Epilogue
Urban legend maintains that anyone involved in the production will be cursed for life. Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros, who play Burke the director and Karras' mother respectively, both died before the film's release. They are also the two characters who die during the course of the film.

19. Controversy Creates Cash
Until 'Jaws' came along, this was the highest-grossing movie of all time. If you adjust for inflation, it still remains the highest-grossing R-rated film ever.

20. Critical Acclaim
'The Exorcist' received 10 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The McRIB IS BACK! Just after the pumpkin milk shake!!

McDonald's almost got one by us.

Earlier this month, we announced that the McRib would be returning to menus for a short time only, starting November 2nd.
But we kept spotting massive McRib ads posted in the windows of various McDonald's locations, and our curiosity spiked.
So we hit the McRib locator, made a couple of phone calls, and it was confirmed: McDonald's has sent the McRib into the world (at some locations) a week early.

For those of you who have been hiding under a rock, the McRib is a pork sandwich (not actually boneless ribs, so don't get your hopes up) slathered in BBQ sauce and topped with onions and pickles.
After it made its last and brief appearance back in 2006, the McRib has gathered a cult following.

We admit that many of us at Slashfood were McRib virgins until today. And while we all agreed that the pork-patty sandwich was slathered with way too much BBQ sauce (so much so that the bun was soggy), it was actually a pretty pleasant nosh.
To take it one step further, check out the McRib deconstructed.

McDonald's McRib Sandwich
Grade: B
Nutritional Information: 500 calories, 26 grams fat, 980 mg sodium
Our testers said:
"Ok, while it wasn't a true BBQ sandwich, it was tasty and I found myself wanting more."
"If I closed my eyes and you didn't tell me what it was, I could have mistaken this for a BBQ burger."
"The onions and pickles get lost, but that could be because of the BBQ sauce."
"The pork itself was moist, I would eat this again."

Friday, October 29, 2010

ANOTHER GOPer with heart? What a total jerkess! DO & SAY ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED.

Meg Whitman: My ex-maid should be deported

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman of California says that, though it breaks her heart, her former housekeeper should be deported.

The former eBay chief executive has called for tougher sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, but she's been accused of knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant for nine years.

"Well, the answer is it breaks my heart, but she should be deported because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status," Whitman said in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. "And it breaks my heart ... On Nov. 3, no one's going to care about Nicky Diaz. But the law is the law and we live in the rule of law. It's important."

In September, Nicky Diaz Santillan said she had worked for Whitman illegally for nine years, and that her employer knew her immigration status. Whitman countered that Santillan had misled her with false documents, and that she fired the maid when she found out the truth.

"As soon as we found that she was an illegal immigrant, we did what we had to do as an employer, which was to let her go," Whitman said. "But all of the documentation that we had said that she was legal."

Whitman said at the time that she kept the story to herself to protect Santillan: "Because Nicky had worked for us for 10 years, I was very fond of Nicky and I didn't want to make an example of her. It's not an obligation of the employer to turn in illegal employees."

Like we need more worries in this world! Anyone know how to solve this hate fest? Seems just like another USA congress election.

Al Qaeda Behind Terror Scare

U.S. officials have zeroed-in on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as the culprit in the purported terror plot disrupted Thursday.
Two suspicious packages sent from Yemen, both aboard cargo planes bound for the U.S., were intercepted by authorities, one in Britain and one in Dubai.
UPS flights that landed in Newark and Philadelphia were also searched out of security concerns.
"The president was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:30," the White House said in a statement.
The items were addressed to a synagogue and a Jewish center in Chicago, according to NBC News. Yemen, a known haven for terrorist groups, was also linked to the attempted bombing of a U.S. jetliner last Christmas. President Obama has ordered U.S. agencies to investigate whether the packages are part of a larger terrorist plot, according to CNN.

Read it at MSNBC


Texas Frees Innocent Man After 18 Years

On Wednesday of this week, charges were dropped against Anthony Graves
a man who was wrongly convicted of murdering six people in 1992 and imprisoned for 18 years.

Graves spent 12 of those years on death row but was released after a Texas judge signed a motion stating, “We have found no credible evidence which inculpates this defendant.”

The district attorney of the county prosecuting Graves said, “There’s not a single thing that says Anthony Graves was involved in this case. There is nothing.”

Last month, Texas Monthly examined the abortion of justice in Graves’ case. Describing his first day out of prison, Graves said, “For the first moments, for the few hours, I thought I would wake up and be right back in the cell.”

Read it at Texas Monthly

MEDIA MATTER weekly updater....

Media Matters: The real story of the 2010 election

By most accounts, the Democrats stand to lose seats in both the House and Senate this coming Tuesday. There are, of course, a wide range of explanations for why this is the case.

However, in endeavoring to explain how the GOP has seemingly managed to reverse its political fortunes in such a short amount of time, media outlets would be remiss not to mention one of the most important factors. In fact, we don't need to wait for Tuesday's results to pinpoint perhaps the most significant development in the country's political landscape over the past two years.

One of the two major political parties in the country is run by a "news" network.

Since President Obama's inauguration, Fox News has transformed from simply the mouthpiece and oppo research shop of the Republican Party into its headquarters. For the GOP, Fox fundraises, campaigns, gives strategic advice, picks candidates (and then provides them a comfortable platform to reach millions of voters, free of charge), throws and promotes rallies, gets out the vote, and, perhaps most importantly, sets the narrative.

They do all of this while continuing their time-honored tradition of tearing down liberal initiatives and politicians with shameless smears, lies, misrepresentations, and fabricated stories. But before we get to Fox's massive influence over the coming elections, some back-story is necessary.

Less than two months after Obama's inauguration, Fox News senior vice president Bill Shine gave an interview with NPR about how the network's ratings were soaring at the time. During the interview, Shine noted that some people were "rooting for [Fox] to go away" after the election, but "[w]ith this particular group of people in power right now and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?"

Fox's programming has effectively answered Shine's rhetorical question with a forceful "yes."

Right out of the gate, Fox led the charge against the stimulus, eschewing the views of economists to attack deficit spending and rewriting history to attack FDR and the New Deal.

The network was certainly "the voice of the opposition" on health care reform, spewing countless falsehoods about both our broken health care system and the proposals to fix it while promoting disruptions of health care town halls and GOP initiatives to kill reform.

And of course, Fox operates as a perpetual dishonesty machine, trotting out a steady stream of overhyped scandals and faux-outrages to dent the administration and Democrats (mustard on Obama's "fancy" hamburger, anyone?)

The network was integral to fostering discontent with Democrats and the administration through their relentless promotion of the Tea Party movement. Fox gave the Tea Party a huge assist last year in the run-up to the original protests, which Fox took ownership of by sending several of their top hosts to throw "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties."

Since then, Fox has shown that there is no Tea Party gathering too small to treat as a news event, and their personalities continue to regularly appear at Tea Party events around the country.

But Fox has done far more this cycle than foster an environment conducive to a GOP electoral victory, having assumed a more hands-on role in Republican electioneering. In addition to Fox's parent company donating $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and another million to the GOP-aligned Chamber of Commerce, more than thirty Fox Newsers have supported GOP candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances in at least 47 states, as we detailed in a report this week.

While it would be nearly impossible to run through Fox's influence in all of the individual races this year, their "coverage" of a select few races is indicative of the network's complete transformation into GOP headquarters.

The network tipped its hand for how it would handle covering elections in the "voice of the opposition" era during the run-up to January's senate election in Massachusetts. Not only did Fox portray Scott Brown as a heroic Founding Father-like figure while smearing his opponent, it also actively aided Brown's campaign by hosting him repeatedly in the days leading up the election and allowing him to direct viewers to his website so they could find out how to "help with donating and volunteering." After Brown's victory, the network was jubilant.

With the successful trial run out of the way, Fox copied the Brown blueprint in several other races around the country.

In the Nevada Senate race, Fox has spent months promoting Sharron Angle and attacking Harry Reid. While Angle has mostly refused to grant interviews to news outlets, she has made an exception for Fox. In fact, their welcoming atmosphere led Angle to brag about how "friendly" outlets like Fox help her with fundraising.

Fox personalities have also worked overtime to aid her race. Fox contributor Sarah Palin endorsed Angle and her PAC gave $2,500 to the campaign. Fox contributor Karl Rove's GOP slush fund (aka American Crossroads) has indicated it will invest in GOTV efforts to aid Angle. It is also aired an ad targeting Reid. Fox's Dennis Miller appeared at an October fundraiser for Angle.

And then there's Dick Morris. Fox's human ethics scandal has repeatedly fundraised on Angle's behalf while also touting on-air the anti-Harry Reid group that he's advising.

And as Election Day rapidly approaches, Fox kicked off this week by launching an evidence-free smear of Reid. After Reid's office responded to Fox's desperate attempts to create a new "political scandal," Fox's flagship news program, Special Report, deceptively quoted a statement from Reid's office in order to continue to push the story.

And, just in case their blatant efforts to get Angle elected fail, Fox already has their backup plan in place. This week, Fox News has been hyping comically flimsy allegations of "voter fraud" in Nevada. As top Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston explained to a confused Bill Hemmer, the fraud allegations are merely a "preemptive" strike so the GOP can "cry fraud" in the event Angle loses.

But a candidate doesn't even need to be in a close race in order to receive the benefits of FoxPAC support. In Delaware, Fox News has thrown their full weight behind Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, Karl Rove's short-lived detour questioning O'Donnell's qualifications for office notwithstanding.

Rove quickly got with the program and endorsed O'Donnell. He was joined by fellow Fox personalities Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin. The network's hosts have heaped praise on O'Donnell while playing dumb in order to claim her opponent has admitted to being a "bearded Marxist." While it would be difficult to list all of the effusive O'Donnell praise, one characteristic outpouring of affection came from Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who labeled her precisely the kind of "new face, new blood that we need to get in there."

Following in Angle's footsteps by bragging about the love she gets from Fox, Christine O'Donnell told GOP insiders at a strategy meeting that she has "got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys." A host who was concerned about maintaining any credibility may have bristled at being portrayed this way, but Sean Hannity has long-since demonstrated his lack of concern for ethics. Far from being upset, Hannity is still welcoming O'Donnell on his show.

The Ohio gubernatorial race features Republican candidate John Kasich, who just so happens to be a former Fox News host. Kasich repeatedly used his platform as a Fox host to position himself for a run, and continued to appear regularly as a Fox contributor and host from the time he announced that he was paving the way for a gubernatorial run in March 2008 until he officially declared his candidacy on June 1, 2009. Since declaring his candidacy, Kasich has continued to reap benefits from his cozy relationship with the network. Several Fox News personalities campaigned for him and openly root for him.

Two Fox hosts - Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee -- have told Kasich that they "love" him. Hannity has appeared at a fundraiser for Kasich, invited Kasich onto his show to plug his website, and reportedly "pledged to give $10,000 to Kasich's campaign should he run, as well as have his wife give another $10,000."

Rupert Murdoch and his wife also donated $10,000 each to Kasich, and Murdoch initially explained News Corp.'s donation to the RGA as resulting from his "friendship" with Kasich. After Kasich's opponent (accurately) criticized Fox as a "propaganda network" that is "committed to getting Republicans elected," Bill O'Reilly responded by attacking him for "whining."

Those are just three races. I haven't even detailed Fox's love for "rock star" Marco Rubio, or the fact that Glenn Beck (along with the rest of the network) has transformed his show into a GOTV operation for the GOP.

So when reporters sit down to explain the results of next Tuesday's election, it's important that they include the role of Fox News in shaping the outcome.

And if you think the last few months were bad, just wait until Tuesday's election wraps up and attention shifts to 2012 and the GOP's presidential primary. Fox currently employs no fewer than five potential contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and things could get awkward as they try to figure out which of their friends they want to help elect.

It looks like FoxPAC is just getting started.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Ben Dimiero, a research fellow at Media Matters for America.

Taxpayer Dollars on Deceased! Maybe the living could get same deal?

Grateful Dead: Washington Spends Taxpayer Dollars on Deceased
Government Audit Reveals $1 billion Sent to Dead Workers

With the midterm elections looming on Tuesday and the federal deficit soaring to record highs, politicians across the country have been emphasizing the need to cut wasteful government spending in Washington. They might consider putting a stop to sending money to dead people.

In the last decade the government has sent over $1 billion to approximately 250,000 dead people, according to a new report from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Coburn's office said it came up with the eye-opening statistic after reviewing government audits and reports by Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and various inspectors general at federal agencies.

"Nothing represents the stupidity of wasteful Washington spending more than directing a billion taxpayer dollars to the deceased. This practice is disgraceful and, in many cases, robs the living of promised benefits," Coburn said in a statement.

The problem can be found all over the federal government, according to the numbers cited in the report. The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in stimulus money to 71,000 dead people and $40 million in benefit payments to 1,760 dead people.

Double-Dip Recession Unlikely as GDP RisesPolitical Tsunami: Will Republican Wave Wash Democrats Out of Control?America's 20 Richest WomenThe Department of Agriculture sent $1 billion in farming subsidies to dead farmers.

The Department of Health & Human Services sent $4 million for heating and cooling costs to 11,000 dead people.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development sent $15 million in housing aid to 4,000 households with at least one dead person.

Medicare paid $92 million in claims for medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors, plus another $8 million in supplies prescribed for dead patients.

Medicaid, meanwhile, paid $700,000 in claims for prescriptions for controlled substances written for 1,800 dead patients.

Where does all the money actually go? In some cases to dormant bank accounts, but in most cases, to relatives of the deceased, the report found.

The blame, Coburn said, lies with Congress. "Congress itself created this mess by allowing poorly designed programs to continue unchecked," Coburn stated. "If Congress is ready to get serious about spending restraint, ending subsidies for deceased people is a sensible place to start."

It's hard to argue with that.


On Wall Street: All Reward, No Risk

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Wall Street bankers, traders and executives get paid so much money year after year for doing jobs that rarely require them to innovate, enlighten or put their own capital at risk, and have the nasty habit of periodically sinking our economy.

After a two-year stint as a reporter on a daily paper in the early 1980s, I worked on Wall Street for nearly two decades, and quickly discovered that I could make more money in one year as a banker than I could in a lifetime as a journalist. And that was when I was a relatively junior banker. By the time I was a managing director, the pay — and the pay spread — was astronomical.

Hedge fund and private equity managers, like professional athletes, put it all on the line every day. But the big banks pay their employees millions to gamble with other people’s money.
Curiously, though, the amount of time and energy I devoted to the two professions on a daily basis wasn’t all that different; both were totally demanding. While it was true that as a banker I generated revenue, or helped to generate revenue, and as a journalist, the publisher likely figured I was part of a cost problem, the discrepancy in pay never made much sense to me since I always had trouble imagining a newspaper without writers.

Now, after six years of writing about Wall Street — including two lengthy books — I remain at a total loss to explain the pay phenomenon. What’s worse, even the most modest sleights when it comes to pay on Wall Street — “The guy next to me got a $2 million bonus, why did I only get $1.9 million?!” — is enough to reduce someone to tears. Indeed, I have yet to encounter a person on Wall Street who can, with a straight face, justify his compensation on other than the most painfully tone-deaf grounds, usually along the lines of how they “add value” for their clients.

The Wall Street Journal recently estimated that Wall Street bonuses in 2010 will total $144 billion, in a year that has been less than stellar for most banks. Goldman Sachs has set aside $13.1 billion in bonuses for its approximately 35,000 employees, an average of $370,000 per person, which completely ignores the fact that people at the top of Goldman’s golden pyramid get paid millions of dollars annually while those at the bottom do not.
(In 2007, the three top executives at Goldman split around $200 million.) Goldman’s accrued bonuses for the first nine months of the year equaled 43 percent of its revenue and were down from the $16.7 billion that the firm accrued in 2009, or 47 percent of its revenue. (In a nod to the political gales blowing in its direction, Goldman accrued nothing for bonuses in the final quarter of 2009.)

At Morgan Stanley, half of the $24 billion in revenue the firm has generated in the first nine months of the year has been earmarked for compensation. At Lazard — a somewhat different Wall Street animal, in that it largely limits its actions to asset trading and advising on mergers, as opposed to trading on its own account — 61 percent of the revenue generated so far this year has been set aside for bonuses. And, incredibly, according to the Financial Times, UBS, the giant Swiss bank, has asked Swiss authorities to waive a $1 million bonus cap for its bankers “amid complaints” the cap “has strained some executives’ personal finances.”

Do Wall Street firms exist for the benefit of their shareholders, like other public companies, or do they exist primarily for the benefit of the people who happen to work there? The answer to this rhetorical question is painfully, and sadly, obvious. No other large public companies pay out anywhere near as high a percentage of revenue to their employees. But where is it written that this madness has to continue? Why does a financial engineer have to get paid exponentially more than a real engineer?

With his usual narrative flair, the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell recently tried to figure out, why Americans pay their “stars” so much money. “There was a time, not so long ago, when people at the very top of their profession — the talent — did not make a lot of money,” he wrote. That’s true of Wall Street as well: in 1949, when Felix Rohatyn started at Lazard Freres & Co., in New York, he was paid $37.50 a week. This was a 15 percent better weekly salary than Ace Greenberg received that year when he started at Bear Stearns, where he would eventually rise to chief executive and chairman.

As Gladwell explains — thanks to such visionaries as Marvin Miller, the former head of the Major Baseball Players Association, and Mort Janklow, the literary agent — the talent began taking a larger percentage of the pie. The logic evolved, soundly, that those who took the greatest risks or had achieved greatness on a daily basis deserved the bulk of the financial reward, as opposed to those who happened to own the team or the printing press. We may not always like Alex Rodriguez, but most Americans can understand why he got a $275 million, 10-year contract to play baseball; he’s one of the great players of all time, and his talents bring in the crowds (and TV money) to the Yankees.

In finance, the rough equivalent of A-Rod are top private-equity titans, like Steve Schwarzman and Henry Kravis, or hedge-fund managers, like John Paulson and James Simons. These men risk large chunks of their own money (as well as their investors’) and make calculated gambles they hope will pay off. If they bet right, they get fabulously wealthy; if they don’t, they disappear into oblivion. Teddy Forstmann, a onetime star of the private-equity firmament, explained to Gladwell why he chose that business: “I wanted to be a principal and not an agent.” He wanted to be the talent and to be paid like the talent, assuming he performed.

But unlike hedge-fund guys, investment bankers are not principals. They are agents. And they are at their best when they provide important services to their clients — such as advice on mergers and acquisitions or the capital their clients need to grow — and at their worst when they pretend to be principals, using other people’s money to make bets for their firms that they hope will be eventually reflected in their bonuses.

And yet, somewhere along the line, bankers decided that they deserved to get paid like those quantifiable talents who put themselves or their capital at risk day after day. This is what mystifies me, since, as a group, investment bankers are the most personally and professionally risk-averse people I’ve ever met. After all, in what other business could they make so much money without putting any of their own money on the line? Outsized financial rewards should be reserved for those who take outsized financial risks with their own money or have outsized, demonstrable talent. Investment bankers, by and large, just do not make that cut.

At the end of his essay, Gladwell tells the story of how the baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial, after turning in a batting performance that was 76 points below his career average in 1959, asked the St. Louis Cardinals for a 20 percent pay cut off his $100,000 annual salary. This was a decade before Marvin Miller came and changed the calculus for players. Gladwell concedes that Miller would have been appalled by Musial’s decision. “There wasn’t anything noble about it,” Musial said in explaining why he did it. “I had a lousy year. I didn’t deserve the money.”

Which brings to mind what happened to Felix Rohatyn, at Lazard, when he took the advice of Samuel Bronfman, the Seagram’s magnate, and switched from foreign-exchange trading to Lazard’s mergers-and-acquisition group, where he would go on to become a legend. The moment he made the switch, however, Andre Meyer, Lazard’s senior partner, cut Rohatyn’s annual pay to $10,000, from $15,000. And Rohatyn had not even had a bad year.

William D. Cohan on Wall Street and Main Street.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

JPMorgan And HSBC Used "Secret Signals" To Manipulate The Silver Market

Angry Trader:
JPMorgan And HSBC Used "Secret Signals" To Manipulate The Silver Market, And They Bragged About It
Trader Peter Laskaris alleges that HSBC and JPmorgan manipulated the price of silver, causing him to lose money.

In his lawsuit against the two banks, Laskaris describes an elaborate plot with "diverse means" involving both lawful and unlawful acts committed by both JPMorgan and HSBC.

One sign this lawsuit is weird is that it doesn't separate what JPMorgan did from what HSBC did. Laskaris says they did almost exactly the same things, including:

Holding large positions in silver futures and silver options
Making large trades at key times
Making large "spoof" orders that are placed and then canceled after the order has influenced the price
Colluding, or communicating or signaling their trades to each other (JPM to HSBC and vice versa)
So according to the lawsuit, they were in it together.

A few interesting points:

The lawsuit says JPMorgan traders "bragged about their large trades which successfully moved silver prices."
It says that both banks cleaned up their behavior after conspiracy theories became public and the CFTC started investigating the claims, around March 2010. Soon after this time, he says, the price of silver futures rose.

It says JPMorgan and HSBC "calculated to conceal" their fraudulent activity through "secret signals, meetings and/or conversations."
Laskaris says he lost money because of the activity.

Firms Knew of Cement Flaws Before Spill (STILL NO JAIL TIME?)

WASHINGTON — Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.

Although Mr. Bartlit does not specifically identify the cement failure as the sole or even primary cause of the blowout, he makes clear in his letter that if the cement had done its job and kept the highly pressured oil and gas out of the well bore, there would not have been an accident.

“We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner,” he said in his letter to the seven members of the presidential commission. “The cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well.”

The failure of the cement set off a complex and ultimately deadly cascade of events as oil and gas exploded upward from the 18,000-foot-deep well. The blowout preventer, which sits on the ocean floor atop the well and is supposed to contain a well bore blowout, also failed.

In an internal investigation, BP identified the faulty cement job as one of the main factors contributing to the accident and blamed Halliburton, the cementing contractor on the Macondo well, as the responsible party. Halliburton has said in public testimony that it tested and used a proper cement formula on the well and said BP’s flawed well design and poor operations caused the disaster.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was operated by a third company, Transocean.

Cathy Mann, a Halliburton spokesperson, said the company was reviewing the panel’s findings and would provide comment later Thursday.

Halliburton, a major oil field services company and one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, was once led by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Bartlit’s law firm, Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, has done legal work for Halliburton in the past but has not represented the company since 2005, the firm said.

After the commission report was released at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, Halliburton’s stock price began dropping sharply, and was down more than 10 percent in mid-afternoon trading. BP shares rose slightly.

The commission obtained from Halliburton samples of the same cement recipe used on the failed well, including the same proportion of nitrogen used as a leavening agent and a number of chemicals used to stabilize the mixture. The cement slurry was sent to a laboratory owned by Chevron for independent testing.

The mixture failed nine separate stability tests designed to reproduce conditions at the BP well and did not pass any, according to Chevron’s test results, which were returned to the commission this week.

“Although laboratory foam stability tests cannot replicate field conditions perfectly,” Mr. Bartlit’s letter said, “these data strongly suggest that the foam cement used at Macondo was unstable. This may have contributed to the blowout.”

One and a half gallons of the actual mixture used on the doomed BP well survived the accident and are being held as evidence in ongoing criminal and civil investigations.

On April 19, just before technicians began pumping cement slurry down the well, Halliburton conducted one last test of the cement slurry. The company changed some of the conditions of the test, and appeared satisfied with the result, although those findings were not communicated to BP until after the well explosion, the commission found.

The commission concluded: “Halliburton may not have had — and BP did not have — the results of that test before the evening of April 19, meaning that the cement job may have been pumped without any lab results indicating that the foam cement slurry would be stable.”

Further, the panel found, “Halliburton and BP both had results in March showing that a very similar foam slurry design to the one actually pumped at the Macondo well would be unstable, but neither acted upon that data.” Mr. Bartlit, who conducted a much-praised investigation of the 1988 Piper Alpha blowout in Britain’s North Sea, which killed 167 workers, said that even if the cement failed on the BP well, it was not the whole story of the accident. Many human and mechanical failures combined to create the disaster, he said, and backup systems were skipped or ignored.

“Because it may be anticipated that a particular cement job may be faulty, the oil industry has developed tests, such as the negative pressure test and cement evaluation logs, to identify cementing failures,” he wrote. “It has also developed methods to remedy deficient cement jobs. BP and/or Transocean personnel misinterpreted or chose not to conduct such tests at the Macondo well.”


QUOTATION OF THE DAY - "I will be working for the bank for the rest of my life. I will never own anything - not even a car."

Would someone please tell me why nobody is in jail for this world wide financial crime?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If the Tea Party wins, America loses with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann

Now a Special Comment on the madness of the Tea Party and the elections of next Tuesday.

It is as if a group of moderately talented performers has walked on stage at a comedy club on Improv night. Each hears a shout from the audience, consisting of a bizarre but just barely plausible fear or hatred or neurosis or prejudice.

And the entertainment of the evening is for each to take their thin, absurd premise, and build upon it a campaign for governor or congressman or senator. The problem is, of course, when it turns out that there is no audience shouting out gags, just a cabal of corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and political insider bloodsuckers like Karl Rove and Dick Armey and the Chicken Little Chorus of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

And the instructions are not to improvise a comedy sketch, but to elect a group of unqualified, unstable individuals who will do what they are told, in exchange for money and power, and march this nation as far backward as they can get, backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the ‘30s, or backward to hanging union organizers, or backward to the trusts and the Robber Barons.

Result: the Tea Party. Vote backward, vote Tea Party. And if you are somehow indifferent to what is planned for next Tuesday, it is nothing short of an attempt to use Democracy to end this Democracy, to buy America wholesale and pave over the freedoms and the care we take of one another, which have combined to keep us the envy of the world.

You do not think your freedom is at stake next Tuesday?

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, Sharron Angle just divorce and Social Security as some of this nation‘s quote, “wicked ways.” Ms. Angle also compared rape to, quoting, “a lemon situation in a lemon situation in lemonade.” She would deny an abortion even to a teenaged girl who had been raped by her own father.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate to be the only Congressman in Delaware, Glen Urquhart, said “there is no problem that abortion can‘t make worse. I know good friends who are the product of rape.”

Mr. Urquhart also says he does not believe the phrase “separation of church and state” was said by Thomas Jefferson. He thinks it was Hitler:

“The next time your liberal friends ask you about the separation of church and state, ask them why they are Nazis.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Ohio 9th, Rich Iott, not only ran around in a Nazi uniform celebrating their military tactics, but implies he is a veteran and as late as this March listed his occupation as “soldier,” even though the volunteer militia to which he belongs has never been called, will never be called, to any active service, in the 29 years in which he has belonged to it. Mr. Iott now claims Mr. Boehner is campaigning with him over the final days.

It‘s more than just dress-up. They mean business, literally. The Tea Party and-Republican-candidate for New Jersey‘s 3rd House seat, Jon Runyan, defended corporate tax loopholes: “Loopholes are there for a reason. They are to avoid people from really having to pay too many taxes.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for the Senate in West Virginia, John Raese, explained, quote, “I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it. I think that‘s a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country.”

The inheritance tax applies only to estates larger than 3.5 million dollars. For the 99.8 percent of Americans not affected by the estate tax, there is the minimum wage, which Mr. Raese also wants abolished. Or there is Social Security.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Indiana 9th, Todd Young, says “Social Security, as so many of you know is a Ponzi scheme.”

The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Wisconsin 8th, Reid Ribble, disagrees. Social Security “is, in fact, a Ponzi scheme.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Arizona 8th, Jesse Kelly, wants to resurrect President Bush‘s scam to transform Social Security into private investment accounts so the government can force you to spend part of your paycheck on Wall Street commissions, and so that market manipulators can wipe out your retirement money.

The Republican candidate in the Wisconsin 1st, Congressman Paul Ryan, has a more sophisticated plan: Personal investment Social Security, guaranteed dollar for dollar by the government. A fiscal fountain of youth, until you find out its cost: Ryan would pay for it by taxing the health insurance you get from your employer.

If you are not employed, Mrs. Angle of Nevada says unemployment benefits can neither be increased nor extended because that “has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job. There are jobs that do exist. That‘s what we‘re saying, is that there are jobs.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for Senator in Alaska, Joe Miller, says this is academic, because unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. His own wife received unemployment insurance after losing a temp job he got for her. Mr. Miller also called Medicaid unconstitutional. It proved his entire family had received Medicaid funds.

Mr. Miller also claims Social Security is unconstitutional, yet hypocritically he says it should still be paid out, and then the entire issue dumped into the laps of the states.

The Republican and Tea Party candidate for Senator in Colorado, Ken Buck, would not stop at butchering just Social Security. “Would a Veterans Administration hospital that is run by the private sector be better run then by the public sector? In my view, yes.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Pennsylvania 4th, Keith Rothfus, has promised to overturn anything the Supreme Court decides, with which he disagrees: “Congress‘s ultimate weapon is funding. If the Supreme Court rules you have to do something, we‘ll just take away funding for it.”

Back in Nevada, Mrs. Angle decries health care reform, and also health
care itself. “Everything that they want to throw at us,” she says, “is now covered under ‘autism‘,”

As to educating those children Mrs. Angle will not pay for, Mr. Buck of Colorado waxes nostalgic: “In the 1950‘s, we had the best schools in the world, and the United States government decided to get more involved in federal education. Well, since, we‘ve made education worse. We‘re gonna even get more involved.”

In Ken Buck‘s America of 1957, fewer than one in five Black children graduated high school. Fewer than half of white children did.

To the Tea Party and Republican candidate in the California 11th, David Harmer, Mr. Buck is a wild-eyed liberal. Mr. Harmer once advocated eliminating public schools altogether, and returning education in this country to where it was before 1876: “People acting in a free market found a variety of ways to pay for a variety of schools serving a variety of students, all without central command or control.” And without girls, blacks, or even the slightest chance you could go to college.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Virginia 11th, Keith Fimian, is “not so sure we need a federal bureaucracy for education.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Florida 2nd, Steve Southerland, wants to “de-fund” the Department of Education because “we can‘t afford it.”

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Texas 17th, Bill Flores, offers a tri-fecta plus a delusion. Get rid of “the pornographic endowment of the arts, Department of Energy, Department of Education” and with them, he says, ACORN. ACORN, which went out of business last April 1st.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Arizona 5th, David Schweikert, is “passionately,” he says, trying to eliminate the Department of Education because it‘s, quote, “unconstitutional.”

And while one of the few threads uniting the ragamuffins who constitute the slate of Tea Party candidates is so-called ‘strict interpretation‘ of that Constitution, Mr. Miller of Alaska wants, in fact, to change the Constitution. He wants to repeal the 17th amendment.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for Senate from Utah, Mike Lee, called that 17th amendment “a mistake.”

Last year, Mr. Buck of Colorado said the 17th amendment “took us down the wrong path.”

The 17th amendment, of course, permits the direct election by the voters of U.S. Senators. Buck and Lee and Miller not only demand you elect them to the Senate; they hope to then deny you the right to elect somebody else, next time.

The ubiquitous Mrs. Angle, meanwhile, wants to repeal the 16th amendment. It provided for a federal income tax. Mrs. Angle does not explain how, without that tax, the federal government would pay for keeping out the Mexicans she specifically attacks in her newest commercial.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for senator from Kentucky Rand Paul wishes to repeal the 14th amendment because it interferes with a private business‘s right to ban black people from its premises, and also because it allows anyone born here in America to be American. He is worried about anchor babies.

The Republican candidate for the 1st District of Texas, Louie Gohmert, fears not anchor babies but terror babies, unborn infants brought to this country in the womb, ready for American citizenship and pre-programmed to blow things up fifteen or twenty years from now. Curiously, Mr. Gohmert has not been asked if he is in favor of aborting them.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, sees not terror fetuses but headless bodies in endless deserts murdered by immigrants who are nearly all drug mules.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, Dan Maes, believes a bike-sharing program is part of a plot to turn Denver into a metropolis run by the United Nations.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for Senate from Delaware, Christine O‘Donnell, believes she was cleared to read secret classified documents about China because she‘s been working for nonprofit organizations for the past fifteen years. She also believes China is plotting to take over the United States. And the first evidence of this is that, quote, “China is drilling for oil off the coast of Florida.”

This fear of the Chinese clearly does not extend to the Tea Party and Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois, Mark Kirk. One day he held a fundraiser with American businessmen in China. The next day, he voted against closing tax incentives for outsourcing American jobs to places like China.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for Senate from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, is also in favor of relocating employees. He testified against toughening laws on pedophiles and employers who shield them. He argued this could damage a business. A business like the Catholic Church.

In Utah, the anti-bailout Senate candidate Mr. Lee insists on not raising the liability limits for the next BP from 75 million dollars to 10 billion dollars: “You have a set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment in this. Our country benefits from this type of activity.”

Asked by the Salt Lake City Tribune if that‘s a kind of bailout, if it leaves taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage, Lee admitted, “Well, yea, probably does.”

Mr. Paul of Kentucky called the nationwide pressure on BP to increase its damage payments “un-American.” He is also opposed to federal mine safety regulations: “The bottom line is: I‘m not an expert, so don‘t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You are here, and you have to work in the mines. You‘d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don‘t, I‘m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”

Mr. Paul‘s admission that “I‘m not an expert” does provide one of the few dovetails of this campaign. It matches nicely with Mr. Johnson of Wisconsin, who refuses to offer any specifics about his plan to deal with homeless veterans. He says, quote, “this election is not about details.”

Details have proved devilish for the Tea Party and Republican candidate for the second district of Virginia, Scott Ridgell He campaigned against the stimulus bill, including the Cash-for-Clunkers program. Mr. Ridgell is an automobile dealer, and made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Cash-for-Clunkers program.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate in the Missouri 4th, Vicky Hartzler, says she and her husband are just small business owners. “We just want the government to leave us alone,” she said. Hartzler and her husband have a farm. In the last fourteen years, that government they want to leave them alone has given them subsidies totaling 774,000 dollars.

Mr. Raese of West Virginia told the Associated Press that “America is in an industrial coma.” He blamed the “restrictor plate” that is “a bloated federal government.” “I can‘t think,” he added, “of very many times when a government agency has helped me.”

The companies Mr. Raese owns have received 2.4 million dollars in contracts from the federal government since 2000, and 32 million dollars in contracts from the state government since 2000.

Back in Colorado, Mr. Buck apparently thought he was just speaking to a campaign worker when he self-exposed his hypocrisy. In fact, he was talking to a Democratic operative with a recorder in his pocket. Out of the blue, Tea Party nominee Buck blurted, quote, “Will you tell those dumb asses at the Tea Party to stop asking me about birth certificates while I‘m on the camera? God, what am I supposed to do?”

The contempt of Mr. Buck towards his own Tea Party extends in many cases to reporters, and thus by proxy, to actual citizens. For instance, the Tea Party and Republican candidate for governor of Maine, Paul LePage, threatened to punch a radio reporter.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for governor of New York, Carl Paladino, threatened to “take out” a reporter from the most conservative newspaper in any major American city.

A spokesman told the reporter that he was now off the Paladino mailing list, which has, in the past, consisted of e-mails featuring racism, pornography, and bestiality.

Mr. Miller‘s private security guards in Alaska detained and handcuffed a reporter, and threatened to handcuff two more, without any legal right to do so, at an event at a public school. The security company was operating with an expired license. Its chief, has links to extremist organizations. And the defense was that the guards didn‘t know the individual was a reporter, which implies it would be just dandy to handcuff an ordinary citizen.

Ms. O‘Donnell threatened to sue a Delaware radio station if it did not destroy the videotape of her interview there. When she did not like a question, she snapped her fingers at her own press aide, then shoved him. The campaign manager threatened to “crush” the station if it did not comply with them.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for the Senate from Florida, Marco Rubio, dreams more of deportation than of crushing. He said in March, quote, “there are millions of people in America that hate our country, so why can‘t we just do a trade? We‘ll send you Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo, and Keith Olbermann, and you can send us people that actually love this country.”

This, incidentally, carries with it a tinge of irony. I don‘t know that any of his opponents has ever accused Mr. Rubio of not loving this country. He just doesn‘t love a lot of its people.

The person they all love the least is of course the President.

The Tea Party and Republican candidate for Congress from the Florida 22nd, Allen West, had to leave our military after threatening to kill an Iraqi he was interrogating in Iraq. Now he claims to have a higher security clearance than does the president. Mr. West also told his supporters that they could defeat his Democratic opponent by making the man afraid to leave his own home.

And Tea Party and Republican candidate for the House from the Michigan 7th, the ex-Congressman Tim Walberg, wants to blackmail the President into showing his birth certificate to Rush Limbaugh. He figures he can extort this from President Obama by threatening to impeach him.

You are willing to let these people run this country? This is the America you want? This is the America you are willing to permit? These are the kinds of cranks, menaces, mercenaries and authoritarians you will turn this country over to?

If you sit there next Tuesday and let this happen, whose fault will that be? Not really theirs. They are taught that freedom is to be seized and rationed. They can sleep at night having advanced themselves and their puppeteers and to hell with everybody else.

They see the greatness of America not in its people but in its corporations. They see the success of America not in hard work but in business swindles. They see the worthiness of America not in its quality of life, but in its quality of investing.

They see the future of America not in progress, but in revolution to establish a kind of theocracy for white males, with dissent caged and individuality suppressed.

They see America not for what is, nor what it can be. They see delusions, specters, fantasies. They see communists under every bed and a gun in every hand. They see tax breaks for the rich and delayed retirement for everyone else. They fight the redistribution of wealth not because they oppose redistribution, but because their sole purpose is to protect wealth and keep it where they think it belongs, in the bank accounts of the wealthy.

They want to make the world safe for Bernie Madoff.

But you know better. If you sit there next Tuesday—if you sit there tomorrow, and the rest of this week, and you let this cataclysm unfold, you have enabled this.

It is one thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from without. It is a worse thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from within.

But it is the worst thing to sit back and let it happen, to not find the time and the means to convince just one other sane voter to put aside the disappointment of the last two years and look to the future and vote. Because the disappointment of the last two years, those will be the “good old days” in a Tea Party America.

This is the week in which the Three Card Monte dealers hope to take over the government, the candidates who want their own way, who will say anything to make palatable their real identities as agents of regression, repression, and corporate sovereignty. They are here. They have energized the self-serving and the greedy and the proudly ill-informed.

And if no other fact convinces you of your obligation to vote and canvass and phone and even drag to the polls the most disheartened moderate or Democrat or Liberal or abandoned Republican or political neutral, to vote for the most tepid of the non-insane candidates—if no other detail hands you that spark of argument with which to invigorate the apathetic, you need only commit to memory the words of Steffan Broden and Sharron Angle.

She can run from reporters but she cannot run from this quote from January, and all the horror and insurrection it implies: “Thomas Jefferson said it‘s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that‘s not where we‘re going. But, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”

Sharron Angle too subtle for you? “Second Amendment” remedies? Guns instead of elections too implicit? Fortunately, to our rescue, to the speeding of the falling of the scales from our eyes, comes the Tea Party and Republican nominee for the 30th Congressional District of Texas, “Pastor” Steffan Broden. “Our nation was founded on violence,” he said, on tape.

Was armed insurrection, revolution, an option in 2010? “The option is on the table. I don‘t think that we should ever remove anything from the table. However, it is not the first option.”

Thank you! The attempt to overthrow the government of the United States by violence is not the Tea Party‘s first option. Next Tuesday is the first option!

The words are those of Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith from the screenplay for the movie “Inherit The Wind.” As the attorney for the man on trial for teaching evolution, Spencer Tracy, cuts to the gist:

“Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your honor, with banners flying and with drums beating, we‘ll be marching backward. Backward through the glorious ages of that 16th century when bigots burned the man who dared bring them enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”

The angered judge replies, “I hope counsel does not mean to imply that this court is bigoted.” The attorney mutters, “well, your honor has the right to hope.” The Judge warns, “I have the right to do more than that.” The attorney explodes: “You have the power to do more than that.”

And you have the power to do more than that.