Thre's an article out right now on The Huffington Post about Senator Arlen Specter telling Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan that her testimony was a bit of a waste of time and that it--the testimony--and Ms. Kagan hadn't been "substantive".
Well, I've got news for you, Senator Specter--and the rest of the United States, for that matter--Supreme Court testimony for nominations will, from now on and for perpetuity, be exactly like this. Nothing will really be said and no commitments will be made, no matter the nominee, no matter the nominator.
Sure, partly it's due to reaction of the whole Robert Bork debacle, years ago, but, at the same time, it's also due to the nature of courts and being a Supreme Court judge.
All the nominee can do is say that they--whoever they are and whatever their politics or beliefs--won't bring their beliefs and prejudices into the court and then say it again and again. They will also have to repeat, ad infinitum, that they will weigh each case on its merits.
Get used to it, folks. This is the shape of things to come, for ever and ever, amen.
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"Their prescription for every challenge is pretty much the same — and I don't think I'm exaggerating here: basically cut taxes for the wealthy, cut rules for corporations and cut working folks loose to fend for themselves." --President Obama today in Racine, WI.
And who can deny it?
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According to a KMBC News article on their site right now:
Missouri has made a list of 10 states most likely to ticket drivers.
The National Motorists Association said it came up with the rankings based on searches using Google's Search Insights, which shows state-by-state search trends across the country.
The state most likely to hand drivers traffic tickets is Florida, followed by Georgia and Nevada. Missouri ranked No. 6 on the list.
Top 10 States Most Likely To Ticket Drivers:
2. Georgia (tie)
3. Nevada (tie)
7. New York
8. North Carolina
9. District of Columbia
10. New Jersey
The NMA found drivers are least likely to get a traffic ticket in Montana.
So my question is, are we supposed to care? Is this bad? Good? Are we supposed to be angry or what? It seems like you're only angry if you have a high likelihood of breaking the law.
The rest of us are good with this.
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"Citigroup...repeatedly rescued by the government since the Great Depression...shouldn't continue in its current unmanageable form...Any bank that needs that much help doesn't deserve to exist."
--Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Milm, from their new book "Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance", quoted from The New York Times Book Review this past Sunday
Two new surveys are out today--one on cities to visit in the Summer and one on obesity in the US.
Good news, too, on both (mostly).
Kansas City ranks 17th for cities to visit in the Summer Hey, it could be worse, right? Besides, rather ignorantly, they don't even mention our art galleries, theater or restaurants, as attractions.
And Missouri isn't in the top 10 for most obese states in the US. (Unfortunately, we are number 12. Oops. Kansas is only marginally better at 16. Come on, people.)
Yeehaw! Both are good news, as I said, I think.
Unfortunately for America, however, the obesity rankings show that it--obesity--has jumped up in 28 states, including Missouri, Kansas and too many surrounding states:
"More than two-thirds of states now have adult obesity rates above 25 percent," Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, said during a Tuesday news conference. "Back in 1991, not that long ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. There's been a dramatic change in a relatively short period."
"Obesity is one of the biggest public health crises in the country," Levi added. "Rising rates of obesity over past decades is one of the major factors behind skyrocketing health care costs in the U.S., one-quarter of which are related to obesity."
Mississippi weighed in for the sixth year in a row as the fattest state, with 33.8 percent of its adults obese, while Alabama and Tennessee tied for second (31.6 percent). The other top 10, also concentrated in the south, were West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina and Michigan tying with North Carolina for 10th place (29.4 percent).The healthiest states in terms of weight were congregated in the Northeast and West. In addition to geographic and economic differences, this year's report also focused on racial and ethnic disparities, finding that blacks and Latinos bear the brunt of the obesity problem. Blacks and Latinos outweighed whites in at least 40 states plus D.C.
Important stuff to know. Now, for solutions.
Link to the original report on obesity here:
Major General Bill Mayville, Chief of Operations in the Afghan War right now:
"It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument."
What a quote that is.
You know what that means, right? It means, one day, the United States and its government and military and citizens, collectively, are going to decide we've had enough with this war there. We'll have had enough soldier casualties. We'll have had enough pouring money and materiel into the country. We'll decide we're done and that they don't want us there.
What are we waiting for?
Today is a much better day for this than tomorrow.
And now, again from Sen. Robert Byrd, rest his soul, from September 13, 2006, long after George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney and their administration arbitrarily took us into the long, wrong and humanly and materially costly war we now know:
September 11 has come and gone, and as we remember those lost on that fateful day, and contemplate events since the horrific attack, one truth stands out.
The war in Iraq has backfired, producing more recruits for terrorism, and deep divisions within our own country. It is a war we should never have begun. The detour from our attack on Bin Laden and his minions, hiding in the cracks and crevices of the rough terrain of Afghanistan, to the unwise and unprovoked attack on Iraq has been a disastrous one. … Where is the America of restraint, of peace and of inspiration to millions? Where is the America respected not only for her military might, but also for her powerful ideas and her reasonable diplomacy?
Our country may have deviated occasionally from its positive global image in the past, but Abu Ghraib, the body snatching for torture, euphemistically called rendition, Presidential directives which unilaterally alter conditions of the Geneva Convention -- these are not the stuff of mere slight deviations from the America of peacefulness, fairness, and goodwill.… I cannot remember a time in our history when our elected leaders have failed the people so completely, and yet, so far, are not held accountable for costly misjudgments and outright deceptions.
…Secretary Rumsfeld… President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. These men continue to try to make the American public swallow whole the line that the war in Iraq is the front line of a global war on terror, which must be continued at all costs. Stay the course, they say, despite three years of discouragingly little progress in Iraq.…
Some of our citizens have apparently been convinced that it is unpatriotic to criticize one’s country when that country is engaged in an armed conflict. In fact, in our land today, there is a troubling tolerance for government overreaching on fronts at home as well as abroad. This Administration has repeatedly used fear and flag-waving to blunt the traditional American insistence on the Bill of Rights, personal freedom of thought and action, privacy, and one’s right to speak and write as one pleases. Such a cynical exercise on the part of high officials of our government is unconscionable. It is shameful behavior for which there is no excuse.
The Congress, under the control of the President’s party has been submissive, a lap dog wagging its tail in appreciation of White House secrecy and deception. Even the vast majority of the opposition party has been too quiet for too long -- unable to find its voice, stunted by the demand to “support the troops.”…
President Bush insists that his war must go on. He defends warrantless wiretapping of our own citizens as essential to his cause, despite a court decision that the President has no such authority under our Constitution. He defends torture and rendition, and says that they have produced valuable evidence which has subverted several terror attacks on our country. But, his credibility is so damaged that it is difficult to believe him. He demands the authority to hold terror suspects indefinitely, and then to try them using military tribunals which deny basic rights, also in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. He seems convinced that he can “win” a global war on terror despite the demonstrated failure of his policies of unilateralism, militarism, overheated rhetoric, and a pathological dislike of diplomacy. It is up to the Congress to change course and to stop the heinous raiding of constitutionally protected liberties by a White House which does not fully appreciate the true meaning of the word freedom.
I hope that we may find the courage.
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Arrogance of Power
Today, I Weep for my Country...
by US Senator Robert Byrd
Speech delivered on the floor of the US Senate
March 19, 2003 3:45pm
I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.
But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.
Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.
We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.
After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.
The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.
There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.
The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.
But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.
The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?
A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.
What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?
Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?
War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.
Thank you, Senator. You will be sorely missed.
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There's a story out this evening on President Obama welcoming the idea of nations cutting deficits.
Naturally, this will have to include us, the US, cutting ours.
The American people are for it. Republicans take this position, as do Libertarians, of course and even most Democrats, publicly and, for some of them, privately, too.
But here's the thing--We, the Democrats, did this once, during President Clinton's 2 terms. We cut the deficit and deficits, thank you very much. We had pay/go provisions, everything. The Republicans did away with them during dumb-dumb W's 2 presidential terms.
So you know what? Here we go again. For once, the Republicans will have to be FOR something--this cutting of spending and deficits--and not just the "party of no" as they have been for the last 2 years, since this President attained the White House.
Won't and wouldn't that be refreshing?
Link to story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100627/ap_on_bi_ge/obama_8
President Obama is wisely and quietly both warning the country and trying to protect us, much as any government can, from any cyber warfare that would shut down the internet in this country.
It's a huge threat to virtually all business in this country and so, our way of life.
Truly, we can't even imagine the devastation that kind of an act--a collapsed internet--would have on this country.
Sure, nothing would be blown up and no one would be killed but the financial devastation would be virtually complete, if "successful".
Think World War III, without the bombs.
--We've had a huge Gulf oil spill thanks to British Petroleum now for 2 months;
--19 American soldiers were killed this week, according to the Kansas City Star, in our two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq;
--America has been sending soldiers to Afghanistan to fight and die for them and our country, if that's your point of view, for a ten years now--a decade;
--George Will thinks President Obama did something very right, it seems, by dismissing General McChrystal this week and replacing him with General David Petraeus. Will wonders never cease?;
--Same for uber-conservative Monica Crowley--she had nothing but good things to say about the President's handling of the leadership situation and his decisions. Surely hell is freezing over, right?;
--Ditto for, again, ultra-conservative, 81 year old John McGlaughlin--he said the President did something--this exchange of generals--right. Will wonders not cease?;
--So much meaty stuff happened this week, politically, that ABC's "This Week"'s round table discussion group had too many topics and so, couldn't get to the very important, significant and rather ground-breaking financial reform work put through Congress this week. That's a big news week, for sure;
--ABC's "This Week" had at least some minority representation today, which was a nice change of pace, what with George Will, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, David Sanger and Robin Wright on the "Round Table" discussion. "The McLaughlin Group", meanwhile, whas lily-white but somewhat "saved" itself by having two women on, at least. It still stuns me how bleached white and unrepresentative our national media is. They don't even try to really represent the huge, "minority" viewpoints and solutions in this country.
--George Will has come to the conclusion that the Iraq war is unwinnable. That's a stunner, folks. Take note. It's a snowball that's going to become an avalanche;
--Same for John McLaughlin from his long-running PBS' news show. With this and the high cost of the Afghan war, both in terms of soldiers and money and materiel, it's only a matter of time before the American public insist we get out of Afghanistan. And thank goodness.
Enjoy your Sunday, y'all.
The Star today, this morning, continues to impress. Just seeing the front page of the paper today cofnirms this. If you only saw the 3 front page articles today, you'd know it was good writing, research and reporting, with great local color.
One was about on the new minority look and shape of Garden City, Kansas and what it means for the people there and that town and so, of course, for America at large. Terrific. The second good and important one was on the Kansas City University of Biosciences and Medicine and their problems with former University President Karen Pletz. Finally, even the weakest article, the one on DNA testing of track dogs and associated, illegal dogfights, was still good reading and writing.
You can see that this continual empasis on local stories, area residents and towns and cities makes for a great paper and is, as I've said before, the thing that will save local newspapers (for as long as they will exist in the transition to the internet and wireless news).
So good on you, Kansas City Star and thanks very much for revitalizing the paper.
Creating a consumer agency: Establishes an independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau housed inside the Federal Reserve. Fees paid by banks fund the agency, which would set rules to curb unfair practices in consumer loans and credit cards. It would not have power over auto dealers.
Credit scores: All consumers have been able to get one free credit report a year from the credit rating agencies. But the bill would also allow a consumer to get an actual credit score along with a report.
Interchange fees: Lawmakers want the Fed to crack down on debit card swipe fees, which retailers pay to banks to cover the operational cost of transferring money. The Fed could cap the fees and make them more reasonable and proportional.
Banning 'liar loans': Lenders would have to document a borrower's income before originating a mortgage and verify a borrower's ability to repay the loan.
Mortgage help for unemployed: Unemployed homeowners with good credit would be eligible for low-interest loans to help them avoid foreclosures. The bill would spend $1 billion on such relief, using funds that had been directed for Troubled Asset Relief Fund bailing out the financial system.
Fixed-equity annuities: Prohibits tougher federal rules on life insurance products, in which customers pay a lump sum upfront in exchange for monthly income over time, pegged to an index. The Securities and Exchange Commission had been gearing up to step in and start requiring more disclosure for these products, often sold to seniors, that are currently regulated by state insurance commissioners. Lawmakers decided to stop the SEC from tougher federal regulation.
Too big to fail
New oversight power: Creates a new 10-member oversight council consisting of financial regulators to look out for major problems at financial firms and throughout the financial system. The Treasury Secretary gains a key role in enforcing tougher regulations on larger firms and watching for systemic risk. The council also has veto power over new rules proposed by new consumer regulator.
Unwinding powers: Gives the FDIC new powers to take down giant financial firms in the same way it takes down banks. Banks would be taxed to reimburse the federal government for the cost of resolving these firms after a failure occurs.
Breaking up banks: Gives regulators strengthened powers to break up financial companies that have grown too big, but only if the firms threaten to destabilize the financial system.
Checking on the Fed: Allows Congress to order the Government Accountability Office to review Fed activities, excluding monetary policy. Audits would be allowed two years after the Fed makes emergency loans and gives financial help to ailing financial firms.
Forcing 'skin in the game': Firms that sell mortgage-backed securities must keep at least 5% of the credit risk, unless the underlying loans meet new standards that reduce risk.
Financial system fee: Banks and financial firms would be taxed to pay for the $19 billion cost of implementing the Wall Street reform bill.
Risky betsRegulating derivatives: Attempts to shine a light on complex financial products called derivatives that many blame for bringing down American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500) and Lehman Brothers. Would force most derivatives to be bought and sold on clearinghouses and exchanges. Some derivatives, including those traded by agriculture companies and airlines to mitigate risk, would still be unregulated.
Spinning off swaps desks: Big banks that want to engage in nontraditional bets, such as on mortgage products or certain commodities, would have to spin off their swaps divisions.
Reining in risky bets: Limits giant Wall Street banks from making trades on their own accounts, although with a long lead time and opportunities for delays up to seven years. While the original proposal would have banned banks from owning hedge funds, the bill would allow banks to sink up to 3% of capital into hedge funds or private equity funds.
Improving credit ratings: Agencies that rate securities must disclose their methodologies. The Securities and Exchange Commission would have to study a way to find an independent way to match credit rating agencies with financial firms seeking ratings. After two years, they'd have to implement such a process, or appoint a panel to independently match ratings agencies with firms that need securities rated.
Curbing executive pay: The bill would also impose new rules for how all publicly-traded companies, not just banks and other financial firms, pay top executives. Shareholders will be given a nonbinding advisory vote on how top executives are paid while in office. Shareholders also get a nonbinding advisory vote on executives' outsized severance payments, or so-called "golden parachutes."
The new rules would also beef up oversight of pay practices within the financial industry, which some critics have suggested helped fuel the crisis by encouraging workers to place risky bets. The bill, for example, would require industry regulators to draft their own set of rules aimed at eliminating risky pay practice among banks and other financial firms.
Link to original post: http://www.cnnmoney.com/2010/06/25/news/economy/whats_in_the_reform_bill/index.htm
U.S. Spends The Most On Health Care, Yet Gets Least
June 23, 2010
by JULIE ROVNER
Pretty much no matter how you measure it, our health care system stinks.
Big money gets puny health care results in U.S.
Once again that's the sobering conclusion of the 2010 version of the annual Commonwealth Fund comparison of the U.S. health system with those in other industrialized nations.
This year the competitors were Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. finished last.
To come up with the rankings, researchers surveyed both doctors and patients. The criteria comprised quality, access, efficiency, equity, whether people in each country lived long and productive lives, and how much each country spent per person on care. The researchers produced a spiffy interactive graphic to display the results.
But the findings were strikingly similar to those from surveys done in the previous four years. The U.S. spends more — much more — on health care and gets much less value for those dollars.
Overall, the winner in this year's contest was the Netherlands. Interestingly, perhaps, it's a nation that doesn't have a government-run system, but instead achieves universal coverage with an individual insurance mandate, much like the one recently passed by the U.S. Congress. The Dutch were first in access, first in equity, and second in quality of care.
The U.S., by contrast, was last in every category except quality, where it was second to last, squeaking in ahead of Canada. At $7,290 in annual spending per person in 2007, the U.S. also dwarfed second-place Canada at $3,895 and third-place Netherlands at $3,837.
About the only good news for America, said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, who was also the study's lead author, is that the new health law could put the U.S. on a path towards improvement.
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Russia, a major poultry importer, banned all chlorine-treated poultry imports starting Jan. 1, outlawing the 600,000 tons of poultry allowed from the U.S. under revised quotas.
So we--the US--are upset because Russians don't want our "chlorine-treated poultry"?
Like I said, it sounds like they're the smart ones.
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There is a woman somewhere in town who writes a blog "Uncommon Courage" I occasionally look in on.
First, let me say I think it takes guts to label it so, if you're talking about yourself, don't you think? Like, "Here I am, folks, and I am uncommonly courageous!". That's the way it comes across to me but hey, if she's happy, let her have at it. (Side note: under the title, she writes: "My Courageous Clients" but I think it still comes off badly, but that's me).
Second, I hate pink and the blog's all pink. Ugh. Call me sexist, whatever, it's just repellent.
Third, she's no doubt bright (she quotes Ghandi, for pity's sake--how can you go wrong with Ghandi?) but she's an attorney. Sure, we need people in law to keep things going right but really, an attorney. I won't even start with the attorney jokes. (I love the one about even rats not doing some things attorneys will. It's my favorite but I digress).
Anyway, she wrote an entry on The Real Reason Some People Are Upset And We Have The Tea Party and I have to say two things about it.
To begin with, she's wrong. She didn't write the real reason people are upset and we have the Tea Party. She got off-topic.
Finally, then, all the comments on her viewpoint then got racist.
It happens every time with this subject--either the Tea Party people get racist or the people writing about them say they're racist, and then the Tea Party people try to explain themselves and it just devolves further into real ugliness.
We should be better than this.
Consequently, I have written my take on this subject--the real reason some people are upset and we have the Tea Party.
1) We pay taxes
2) We have high debt
3) The gov't doesn't work (thank you, Republicans in general and Geo. W. Bush & Co., in particular)
In short, folks, people are upset because the system isn't working and doesn't work, period, but we're still expected to do our fiscal duty, even with horrible results.
Unfortunately, at the same time, white people really are losing some power while women, Hispanics and African-Americans, at minimum, are gaining so some of them get further insecure and, truth be told, racist. And this has nothing to do with the 3 reasons people are upset but it gets mixed in anyway.
We need to keep it simple, folks. We need to not be hating on each other. Let's, instead, resolve that we're all Americans, define our problems and then define solutions we can all work with. If we stick with this, all other labels and ugliness would be unnecessary and we can maybe get good things done.
First thing we do, kill all the lawyers. No, no, I'm kidding with that one (though I love the joke). The first thing we should actually do is get all the big, ugly, distorting corporate money out of our government but that's another entry.
From Plog just now:
A man driving a red SUV was shot and killed while driving along East 40th Street and Vineyard Road at around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The homicide is Kansas City, Missouri's fiftieth of 2010. The victim is described as a black male in his early twenties.
KCMO-TV5 News, KMBC News and The Kansas City Star all reported that Mayor Mark Funkhouser still could not possibly care less.
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There was a terrific article in The New York Times by columnist David Brooks this week, with a fictional account of how the Democrats seemed to make a "deal with the devil" to get the banks to collapse and a big oil company to have an environmental disaster, etc., all so it could prove to the American people we need government. And regulation.
As it turned out, it all happened but the American people still didn't end up believing in government for solutions. Not big government, anyway. It turns out polls of late are telling of Americans turning away from Democrats.
Now, news out today tells of a new, additonal twist in this ongoing story:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a speech Tuesday that Democrats would have to consider passing only a short-term extension of the middle-class tax breaks, which expire at the end of this year. In the longer term, taxes likely will be going up, at least for some people, he suggested.
Okay, so if Democrats are seen as not having solutions AND spending like crazy (like Geo. W. Bush on steroids) AND they want or need to up a middle-class tax hike, well, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you, it may be the responsible thing to do, what with our big Federal Deficit, but it won't win the Democrats any friends. Far from it. People will jump their ship even more than they already are, I'll wager.
People are "mad as hell" and "not going to take it anymore."
However they themselves mean it and whatever that means.
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Why do we have to recruit and train our allies, the Afghan Army, to fight? That is like someone coming to you with a plan to recruit and train Brazilian boys to play soccer.
If there is one thing Afghan males should not need to be trained to do, it’s to engage in warfare. That may be the only thing they all know how to do after 30 years of civil war and centuries of resisting foreign powers. After all, who is training the Taliban? They’ve been fighting the U.S. Army to a draw — and many of their commanders can’t even read. --Thomas L. Friedman, columnist, The New York Times
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As a nation, we are becoming more and more accustomed to a sense of helplessness. We no longer rise to the great challenges before us. It’s not just that we can’t plug the oil leak, which is the perfect metaphor for what we’ve become. We can’t seem to do much of anything. --Bob Herbert, columnist, The New York Times
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Do the guys over at Rolling Stone offer booze and/or pot or drugs to the people they interview for their stories or what?
How is it that someone like General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, would shoot his mouth off to a Rolling Stone interviewer about the Obama Administration staff and get himself "sideways" and in trouble?
They're either brilliant or he isn't that bright.
And I am absolutely not proposing the latter. I can't believe that.
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U.S. indirectly paying Afghan warlords as part of security contract
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.
The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.
The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have "virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided" for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military "with indifference and inaction," the report said.
"The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking," Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan."
Yeah, no kidding. I couldn't agree more.
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After BP oil spill, 'peak' oil seems nearer than ever
By David R. Francis David R. Francis
Mon Jun 21, 12:23 pm ET
.The oil that's flooded into the Gulf of Mexico has created big concerns about the environmental and economic damage. Another serious outcome has gotten far less attention: peak oil.
By prompting President Obama to suspend deep-water drilling in US offshore waters, the Gulf oil spill is pushing up the date at which the world's conventional oil production peaks.
By itself, the United States suspension would bring forward that date only a little. But if other nations with offshore oil output or potential also stop risky offshore exploration and drilling, it could speed the arrival of peak oil at a more alarming rate.
Without alternative supplies of energy to offset it, a decline in oil production would send shock waves through the world, rattling economies and politics alike. Competition for resources could be fierce.
In a geological sense, the world is still awash in oil. The US Geological Survey estimates 3,000 billion barrels of conventional crude are buried in the world, about a 46-year supply if no more oil is found, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, a public-policy research firm in Dallas.
The problem is getting oil out of the ground. Much oil is inaccessible – or so expensive to drill that it's not feasible even if oil prices surged. Sometimes the environmental risks (think BP's Deepwater Horizon fiasco) may be too high.
Estimates vary on when oil production will climax. Take your pick. Peak oil:
•Happened five years ago, holds Matthew Simmons, chairman emeritus of Simmons & Co. International, a Houston investment-banking firm for the energy industry.
•Will be reached within five years – or "we may have already reached it," says Richard Miller, a London consulting geologist who up until 2008 worked for BP preparing private reports on prospects for peak oil.
•Will happen around 2025, according to Leo Drollas, chief economist of the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London. He figures the world has 6 million barrels per day (b.p.d.) of unused conventional oil output capacity, about 4 million of that in Saudi Arabia. In addition, Canada has about 170 billion barrels in its oil sands, and Venezuela has some 400 billion barrels of heavy oils, more than Saudi Arabia's conventional oil reserves.
A lot more oil could be discovered on land if, say, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and Venezuela offered reasonable financial terms for international oil companies to come in, Dr. Drollas maintains.
Considering the nationalism prevalent in such countries, an open-door policy for foreign oil companies "isn't going to happen," says Dr. Miller.
Furthermore, he notes that output from existing oil fields is declining at a rate of 2 million to 3 million b.p.d. a year. Usually production starts to fall after about a third of the oil has been extracted.
In the Gulf of Mexico, the decline can be fast. Another major BP platform, Thunder Horse, was brought into production 18 months ago at 250,000 b.p.d. It was already down to 80,000 b.p.d. before being recently shut down for maintenance, says Mr. Simmons. More than 700 other platforms in the Gulf produce an average of only 40 b.p.d. (The costs of disposing of a platform are large.)
Typically, production losses are offset by new finds. The International Energy Agency has calculated that it would take the discovery of six new fields the size of those in Saudi Arabia to maintain current world oil output through 2030, Miller says.
"I don't know where they [the fields] are hiding," he adds.
•David R. Francis writes a weekly column.
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With the advent of the new iPad and the 4th generation iPhone and now new texting technology that's being distributed, with the eventual and unavoidable voice recognition software that's bound to take over our computers one day, it occured to me where we're headed.
Yes, it will require us first to not kill each other and then, probably the bigger problem of finally, one day, God willing, figuring out how to share the Earth's resources equitably so some of us don't starve or otherwise die while others are so either fat or rich or both, that they live until they're 150 but (breath), this is where we're going:
Remember when Captain Kirk on Star Trek (bear with me) would walk around the Enterprise "star ship" talking to the ship's computer for information or instructions to the ship, to tell it what to do and/or where to go?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is where we truly are headed.
We went from no computers to rooms full of slow, methodical computers to desktop computers and PC's to laptops and now we're jumping again to "pads" and computer phones that do what computers used to do for us.
Right now, on The New York Times, there is an article about what used to be texting prediction software and what is going, as I said above, inexorably, to voice-recognition software.
In not that many years, unless we kill each other or further wreck our economies or let too many of us die off, due to climate distortions, we will keep a very powerful "pad" of a computer with us as we go through our day and that will be our main technological tool, for work and play, everything. We'll keep it with us and then, when we go home--if we even have to leave at all--we'll connect that into our home--invisibly, I will add. And with this, we control lighting, temperature, the "television"--or view screen or whatever we'll call it then--everything in our surroundings and it will control our telephone, everything.
We will have finally learned, too, that we can't keep continually be replacing these things so it will be a bit of a shell that accepts whatever new technology that comes along, instead of repeatedly throwing away technologies and phones and computers as we're doing now and wasting all those resources and materials.
Sure, this fits into old descriptions of the "future"--much older than "Star Trek", Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk but it brings all those old ideas into line with more recent technologies of the last few decades.
Keep in mind, too, this is all provided we don't simply kill each other first.
And that's a really old idea.
--Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the spill, which is ravaging beaches and wildlife, will not be contained until the leak is fully plugged and that even afterward "there will be oil out there for months to come."
The disaster, which began with an oil rig explosion in mid-April, will persist "well into the fall," Allen said.
A containment cap placed on the gusher near the sea floor trapped about 441,000 gallons of oil Saturday, BP spokesman Mark Proegler said, up from around 250,000 gallons of oil Friday. It's not clear how much is still escaping; an estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.
--BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward: "We're going to clean up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was in prior to this event," he told the BBC.
CG Adm Allen on "Fox News Sunday" that he doesn't "want to create any undue encouragement" and that "we need to underpromise and overdeliver."
The oil is coating and miring waterfowl in the sticky mess, and dead birds and dolphins are washing ashore. Scientists say the wildlife death toll remains relatively modest, though, because the Deepwater Horizon rig was 50 miles off the coast and most of the oil has stayed in the open sea.
The oil has steadily spread east, washing up in greater quantities in recent days. Small tar balls have washed up as far east as Fort Walton Beach, about a third of the way across the Florida Panhandle.
Government officials estimate that roughly 23 million to 49 million gallons have leaked into the Gulf and say they are using a variety of strategies to curb its spread.
"What we're doing right now is bringing all the skimming equipment in the United States that's not being used for anything else and bringing it to bear down there," Allen said on ABC's "This Week."
At Pensacola Beach, Buck Langston and his family took to collecting globs of tar instead of sea shells on Sunday morning. They used improvised chopsticks to pick up the balls and drop them into plastic containers. Ultimately, the hoped to help clean it all up, Langston said.
"Yesterday it wasn't like this, this heavy," Langston said. "I don't know why cleanup crews aren't out here."
With no oil response workers on Louisiana's Queen Bess Island, Plaquemines Parish coastal zone management director P.J. Hahn decided he could wait no longer, pulling an exhausted brown pelican from the oil, slime dripping from its wings.
"We're in the sixth week, you'd think there would be a flotilla of people out here," Hahn said. "As you can see, we're so far behind the curve in this thing."
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For photos of the after effects of the spill:
Okay, so in the last few months, I've put up different evaluations of nations about "best places to live", as determined by Forbes Magazine and others and now here's one from Business Week. It tells of what nations have the most millionaires.
And this, of course, is what the US is really good at.
Yes, we're at the top for creating millionaires.
Sure, there should be good ways for smart, hard-working people to achieve, excel and get ahead in the commerical world and lots of millionaires could be just fine, sure.
What's bad and unfair and wrong and inappropriate is when the wealthy class gets big and then bigger and bigger, while the middle class is shrinking and the lowest classes are rising.
That's a recipe for disaster and defeat for a country.
And it's, statistically, where we've been headed.
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I got a request on Facebook (yes, I'm on Facebook--whatever) to "like" the Libertarian Party and I read and learned some things.
They say they are the "Third Largest Political Party". (Yeah, well, yeehaw, right?, since there have only been, really, two political parties for almost ever?) and they are for the following:
--bringing home American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and
--stopping the rewarding of failed companies with bailouts.
All good, right? Of course.
Then, there was this, last zinger--they want to "Cut taxes and spending and let the free market work."
This, of course, is where they lose me.
Don't get me wrong--even as a staunch, Liberal and Democrat (and I mean staunch), I'm all for shrinking the size of the Federal government. I've written that before. We should never have added the Homeland Security Department. I mean, what are the CIA and FBI for, anwyay?
But I digress.
It's this whole "cutting taxes" now, when we have HUGE deficits that is disturbing. I mean, no, none of us want to pay more or higher taxes, for sure but we do have our obligations, you know?
And as for letting "the free market work"--if I hear this one more time, I'm going to scream. (not literally, so don't start).
Does the Gulf oil spill mean nothing to anyone?
Does the banking industry collapse mean nothing to these people?
Do they not want clean water, air and soil?
How, exactly, for a specific instance, do you get and keep clean air, water and Earth, if corporations are not forced into it with laws, regulations and government oversight?
News flash: The answer is, you don't. You don't get and keep a clean environment, to choose one important issue, if you don't have a Congress pass laws and then a government department who makes sure the corporations do what they are legally supposed to do. It just doesn't happen.
So smaller government? Sure. Heck yeah. Bring it on.
But very little government and "free market" instead?
You'd have to be out of your selfish, pea-picking mind.
From Yahoo News just now:
Canada thinks it can teach the world a thing or two about dodging financial meltdowns.
The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at a 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. The housing market is hot and three-quarters of the 400,000 jobs lost during the recession have been recovered.
World leaders have noticed: President Barack Obama says the U.S. should take note of Canada's banking system, and Britain's Treasury chief is looking to emulate the Ottawa way on cutting deficits.
The land of a thousand stereotypes -- from Mounties and ice hockey to language wars and lousy weather -- is feeling entitled to do a bit of crowing as it hosts the G-20 summit of wealthy and developing nations.
"We should be proud of the performance of our financial system during the crisis," said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in an interview with The Associated Press.
He recalled visiting China in 2007 and hearing suggestions "that the Canadian banks were perhaps boring and too risk-adverse. And when I was there two weeks ago some of my same counterparts were saying to me, 'You have a very solid, stable banking system in Canada,' and emphasizing that. There wasn't anything about being sufficiently risk-oriented."
The banks are stable because, in part, they're more regulated.
As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so. The banks also aren't as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.
There was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don't package mortgages and sell them to the private market, so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.
To repeat the song again:
"When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?"
Have a great week, y'all.
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“We are staring into our future and it does not work. The gush of filth” (BP’s Gulf Oil spill) “is a reminder that we have surrendered our independence to a technology we cannot master. Our energies are misdirected to expensive foreign wars whose purposes grow ever more obscure. We rail at one another in “cultural’ clashes irrelevant to our real problems.”
“Meanwhile, the clockwork precision of our classical constitution has ground to a halt—depending as it does on consensus that no longer exists. Taking the long view, this is how republics die. ‘Someone’ clearly has to do ‘something.’ What do you propose?”
--“Tony” from an article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Generations in the Balance”
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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) railed against the Supreme Court in a speech to progressive legal scholars Thursday night, declaring that "the Roberts Court has systematically dismantled the legal protections that help ordinary people find justice when wronged by the economically powerful."
Franken in particular decried the way conservative legal scholars have changed the popular perception of what Supreme Court justices do -- and what justice is.
Thank you, Judy, for that introduction, and for your work on behalf of working Americans.
Thank you to Caroline Fredrickson for your leadership and for inviting me to speak here tonight.
Thank you all for being here tonight, and for the good work you do to defend the Constitution and the American values it represents.
It is an honor to address this convention.
Speakers at past ACS gatherings have included Supreme Court Justices, Attorneys General, other cabinet secretaries, federal judges, and distinguished legal scholars.
So tonight I guess we'll finally get an answer to the question: "What do Stephen Breyer, Laurence Tribe, and Al Franken have in common?"
Other than: "They were all in the front row when the Dead played the Garden back in '71."
Tonight, we celebrate the rise of a new generation of progressive legal scholars and jurists.
Look to your left. Look to your right.
Odds are, at least one of the three of you will someday be filibustered by Senate Republicans.
Speaking of which, I'd like to give a special shout-out to all the filibustered nominees we have here with us tonight.
The Republican obstruction that is standing between you and the work you've agreed to do for your country is unacceptable. And we will continue to fight it.
In particular, I want to recognize Dawn Johnsen, who should be the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. What Republicans have done to keep you from doing that important job is flat out wrong.
And I want to recognize Goodwin Liu, who should be sitting on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals right now, and who deserves an up-or-down vote.
When I joined the Senate, I was thrown right into the fire as a member of the Judiciary Committee, where, by the way, I enthusiastically voted for Goodwin.
On my fifth day in office, I found myself taking part in the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Just like I am tonight, I was one of the few non-lawyers in the room, but I didn't mind.
You see, I did some research, and it turns out that most Minnesotans aren't lawyers, either.
But that doesn't mean they aren't directly affected every day by what happens on the Supreme Court, and in our legal system.
I don't think you need to be a lawyer to recognize that the Roberts Court has, consistently and intentionally, protected and promoted the interests of the powerful over those of individual Americans.
And you certainly don't need to be a lawyer to understand what that means for the working people who are losing their rights, one 5-4 decision at a time.
Tonight, I'd like to talk about how we got to this sad moment in American legal history - because it didn't happen by accident.
Conservative activists - led by the Federalist Society - have waged a remarkably successful battle to re-shape our legal discourse, and thus our legal system.
And they're not done yet.
I should acknowledge up front that this story is kind of a downer.
But there's good news: the ending has not yet been written. And I really believe that, if we pay attention to how things got so bad, we'll learn how to make them better.
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There is a rumor out in town about the West Edge Project, just off the Plaza, that it will soon go up for sale in a bidding situation and that there will be no "bottom" price unconsidered.
As if that isn't enough, from this same source, it is considered "85% sure" that it will be demolished.
That's fairly incredible.
These are strange economic times we're living in, folks.
This ain't your daddy's recession.
Have a great weekend, y'all.
Our own Senator Claire McCaskill is apparently going to get the "secret holds" of Presidential appointments finally done away with in the Senate, thank goodness.
According to the newspaper this morning, Sen. McCaskill has rounded up at least 67 votes--Democrats and Republicans alike--to do away with these holds that Senators could put on presidential nominations, without having their name on them. They could individually hold up an important process without any identification of who was doing it and so, of why, either.
It made no sense and it's a great thing it's going to go away.
It's just one more thing that Claire has done for us since she's run for elected offices.
It was assinine that a senator could somewhat cowardly get a nomination for a government seat be put on hold but then not have their name associated with it so the person was held more responsible for just why it was on hold.
Lots of judicial nominations for the courts have been on holds for years, with no way of telling who put the person on that hold.
That was no way to run a governement, that's for sure.
This is a big improvement and we have Senator Claire McCaskill to thank for it, if and when it gets passed.
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First there was RU486, the "day after" contraceptive pill and now there is a new one that is reputedly effective up to 120 hours after conception.
So, the fact is, we have two different ways to make sure that a true abortion procedure never has to happen again.
That's a fact.
But the other fact is, the anti-abortion side, the anti-abortion people don't want this issue to go away. They want to keep their "good fight".
And it's stupid.
Young men and women, ladies and gentlemen--even not so young, for that matter--are going to have sex. They are going to "mess around." They are going to procreate, whether they want a child or not.
And after that experience, some of those young women are going to conceive--an egg will be fertilized in some of those cases, like it or not, wanted or not.
And if these young women could take a simple, effective pill to avoid going further to term with that conception, then so much the better, clearly. An unwanted child wouldn't have to be brought into the world. An abortion would be avoided. Clearly, that's a good thing.
But the anti-abortion people have fought RU486 and they will, no doubt, fight this new, even more effective pill with all their might, all so they won't lose their one objection--so they won't lose their goal and job and that is, fighting abortions.
It's stupid. It's senseless and if these people really had the interests of the possible infant and the young woman in mind, they would absolutely allow these new contraceptive pills in as soon as possible, so abortions would be decreased, if not even eliminated.
But it won't happen because they want their fight. They know millions of dollars can be raised in the name of fighting abortions and they don't want to lose that power and energy.
So abortions will go on, and all because of them, instead.
Stupid. Really stupid.
I personally don't follow "Pac 10" or "Big 12" or "Little Bighorn" or whatever those football and basketball groups are that much. I mean, come on, life is too short.
But listening to the news the last few days, I was bound to hear and learn some things about all these groups and that there were possibly going to be some dissolution of some and creation of new ones.
Then, yesterday, the big news.
Texas and Texas Tech (I think, right?) thought about it and decided they'd stay right where they are.
And that's great for Kansas City, because we get to keep some tournaments and their requisite dollars right here, thank you all very much.
But the "frosting on the cake" for me was hearing, today, that our own Governor Nixon had to blast Colorado and Nebraska and their teams by saying "the remaining Big 12 schools are in better position to make the NCAA tournament because the conference lost its 'the two weakest basketball programs' when Colorado and Nebraska left."
If I were the Governor's best friend, I'd be telling him, "Dude, SHUT UP. LET IT GO. The right thing happened for the state of Missouri--can you not just let well enough be?"
But then, we wouldn't have as entertaining a moment out of all this trivial, inconsequential nonsense right now, would we?
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You may have noticed that the secret files the FBI had on the Kennedy family were just released.
Yes, they were.
And since there's no great hue and cry coming out due to this, you know it must be pretty dull stuff.
But after reading The Daily Beast yesterday, I came across this little tidbit:
Were There Kennedy Sex Parties?The Smoking Gun turned up one scintillating memo describing the report of sex parties involving the Kennedy brothers, in-laws, three members of the Rat Pack, and one Hollywood bombshell. The source of the report is unclear. The memo reads, “It was reported that Mrs. Jacqueline Hammond”—the ex-wife of the former ambassador to Spain—“…has considerable information concerning sex parties which took place at the Hotel Carlyle in NYC, and in which a number of persons participated at different times. Among those mentioned were the following individuals: “Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe.”
I'm sorry but I remember Peter Lawford (not naked, mind you) and Sammy Davis, Jr., and all I can say is, ICK.
And believe me, I'm trying to be mature, adult and sophisticated in my response.
Now go turn on the TV and get this image out of your head.
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There is a terrific article on Tom Watson today--this morning--in The New York Times on him, his turning 60 and preparing for Pebble Beach and it's from right here, out of Kansas City, Missouri.
As our computer repair person just said in our office, "cool beans".
You can read the full article here:
Have a great day, y'all.
Recently the south seems to have lost it’s collective mind. Apparently to live in the south means that you have to become a hyper religious, intolerant, badly educated, George Bush loving ass. Missouri is only marginally better. Marginally.
Utah – The south only with more white people.
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She may have been born into a Republican family, but Barbara Bush, the 28-year-old daughter of former President George W. Bush, sounded more like a Democrat this weekend during an interview with Fox News. When "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked her whether she supports President Obama's health care reform plan, she responded: "I guess I'm glad the bill was passed."
"Why do, basically, people with money have good health care and why do people who live on lower salaries not have good health care?" she said. "Health should be a right for everyone." She is president of the Global Health Corps, an organization that champions global health equity.
There is, apparently, a heart beating in a Bush family chest somewhere after all.
Just not a Cheney.
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"Boehner the Bonehead" first says BP and the government are both responsible for the oil spill and clean up, then he says only BP is, then he goes back to saying both of them. It becomes clear he isn't sure what he himself means. Crazy.
Next, from Texas Governor Rick "Don't Make Me Think" Perry:
After Balancing His Budget With The Stimulus, Perry Again Says He’ll Reject Federal Funding
With the beginning of hurricane season and because a)there has been a prediction of an active season and b) we're concerned about the oil in the Gulf of Mexico right now and through the end of the year (by Sarah Nelson):
1. Hurricane season takes up nearly half the year. Typically it last from June 1 through the end of November. Approximately 97 percent of all hurricanes occur during the official hurricane season.
2. Across the country, 12 percent of Americans live in hurricane-prone regions.
3. Hurricanes are categorized by their wind force and storm surge (the height of water pushed ashore). The weakest hurricane has winds ranging anywhere from 74 to 95 miles an hour. A category five hurricane has winds of more than 155 miles per hour. Major hurricanes are ranked as either category three, four or five storms.
4. Experts anticipate an active 2010 hurricane season. Current estimates predict 14 to 23 named storms, and three to seven major hurricanes. The annual average is 11 named stormed with six hurricanes – two of which are major.
5. The year 2005 was the most active hurricane season in recorded history with 28 named storms. Including Katrina, 2005 had 15 hurricanes, seven of which were major. Prior to that year, the most active season on record was 1933 which had a total of 21 storms.
6. The longest category five hurricane was Hurricane Allen in 1980. The storm lasted 12 days and moved from the coast of Africa all the way to Northern Mexico before dissipating into a tropical depression.
7. Hurricane evacuation orders are serious business. If local authorities evacuate a region, following instructions can be a matter of life and death. Ninety percent of hurricane-related deaths are caused by storm surge, not winds.
8. When a hurricane causes severe damage to region, a request is often made to retire that hurricane’s name. Retirement means the name cannot be used for at least ten years after the storm. In 2005, five hurricane names were retired – the most names ever retired in a single year.
9. Most hurricanes occur in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and less frequently in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Major storms that cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are renamed. Only nine storms have ever crossed oceans. The most recent major hurricane to cross oceans was Atlantic Hurricane Cesar, which became Northeast Pacific Hurricane Douglas, in 1996.
10. The frequency of tropical cyclones (a term that includes hurricanes and typhoons) over the last 35 years. Whether or not global climate change is driving the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other stories remains a topic under debate – much like the ongoing and highly politicized struggle over climate change science itself.
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The Most Ridiculous and Delusional Statements About BP's Oil Spill Disaster
By Daniel Kurtzman, About.com Guide
1. "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back." —BP chief executive Tony Hayward, on the oil spill disaster that claimed 11 lives and has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, May 31, 2010
2. "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest." —Tony Hayward, interview with Sky News television, May 18, 2010
3. "What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing, here." —Rush Limbaugh, suggesting that "environmentalist whackos" deliberately blew up the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in order to stop offshore drilling, April 29, 2010
4. "Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country's energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It's catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it." —Sarah Palin, blaming the Gulf oil spill disaster on "extreme environmentalists," Facebook message, June 2, 2010
5. "The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is." —Rush Limbaugh, May 3, 2010
6. "There's a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf, and that is: Where is the oil?" —FOX News anchor Brit Hume, scoffing at the BP oil spill disaster, May 16, 2010
7. "What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP. I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen." —Rand Paul, the conservative Tea Party candidate who won the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, May 21, 2010
8. "From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented." —Texas Gov. Rick Perry, May 3, 2010
9. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." —Tony Hayward, May 14, 2010
10. Yeah, of course I am." —Tony Hayward, when asked if he sleeps at night, Forbes, May 18, 2010
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From The New York Times (I actually saw a small blurb on this in last Sunday's Kansas City Star newspaper but upon doing a search just now for it, as usual, it didn't work--way to go, Star):
Rise in Suicides of Middle-Aged Is Continuing
By Patricia Cohen
Published: June 4, 2010
For the second year in a row, middle-aged adults have registered the highest suicide rate in the country, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Historically, the eldest segment of the population, those 80 and older, have had the highest rates of suicide in the United States. Starting in 2006, however, the suicide rate among men and women between the ages of 45 and 54 was the highest of any age group.
The most recent figures released, from 2007, reveal that the 45-to-54 age group had a suicide rate of 17.6 per every 100,000 people. The second highest was the 75-to-84 age range, with a rate of 16.4, followed by those between 35 and 44, with a 16.3.
The rate for 45- to 54-year-olds in 2006 was 17.2 per 100,000 people, and in 2005 it was 16.3.
1) While the economy is certainly, I think it can be shown, better this year than last, I believe, too, that it's going to stay "not good" and get a bit worse. Frankly, I hope I'm wrong, of course, but I think that's where we're headed and that it has an impact on these numbers;
2) These rates, above, will increase still more and dramatically, I'm afraid. (literally);
Again, naturally, I hope I'm wrong.
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"I knew I should have gone to work today There is no God there was no Moses your are no longer 5 There was no jesus mohammed was an opportunistic soldier that used peoples gullibility and fear of the people to do his bidding there is no satan there is no hell there is only this natural world that is explainable through a fundamental understanding of the laws which govern its behavior if it is so easy for you to accept supernatural reasons for everything then perhaps you can accept that this sentence is punctuated perfectly...why...because the pink invisible unicorn seated to your right says so"
They've come out on top of a list of "best"--this time, the "Best City to Raise a Family." It comes from Forbes Magazine.
I have to say, as an aside, this is fairly clever on Forbes' part as the magazine repeatedly gets quoted for these rather arbitrary rankings, first, and second, Americans love rankings and competitions, if even phony ones. Also, they only rank the "top ten", it seems, so we have no way of knowing where Kansas City ranks.
So hats off to you, Des Moines--great job.
The cities were ranked on cost of living, crime rate, commuting, household income, home ownership, homeowner costs and education.
There are some notable points of this list:
First, New York State was the one state that had more ranked cities in it than any other: Buffalo-Niagara Falls (10), Albany/Schenectady/Troy (9), Syracuse (4) and Rochester (3). For one state, that's fairly outstanding. New York State gets kudos, too.
Second, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh-7 and Harrisburg-2) and Utah (Ogden-6 and Provo/Orem-5) each had 2 top ten rankings. Not shabby.
Third, I'm thinking our local political and city leaders shouldn't maybe mosey up to Des Moines in the near future, to see what they're doing right that we could emulate.
Fourth, I think we should try, if anything, shrinking our city limits so the core of the city is valued more and we don't keep sprawling. It hurts us maintaining all of it (sewers, streets, schools, etc.) and makes commuting that much worse, too.
Finally, I know our local crime rate hurts us, of course, in this ranking but I'm wondering if those same local political and city leaders (hear that, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, etc?) might look at these and, after addressing our most pressing problems (especially the shootings, murders, murder rate, drive-by killings, etc.), they might not try to get us higher on these categories, for our own benefit.
That would make this list a valuable assist to us, at least here in town, so we could make this a better place to live yet.
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"I have personally found the transition from an attitude of 'mostly working' to 'never failing' to be very intellectually challenging. Too often the critical importance of a 'never failing' attitude only becomes obvious to corporate boards and senior executives after a critical failure has occurred and earnings and stock prices have taken a hit. Not only is the corporate heart attack victim already at risk for not surviving, the corporate checkbook is wide open to attempt recovery while also doing what should have been done in the first place. Just as important, senior executive and board time will be diverted for months or even years dealing with governmental investigation and rebuilding public trust for their brand."
"On the day of the BP explosion plaques were being distributed to employees for seven years of uninterrupted safety."
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(With apologies to Monty Python's creators for appropriating their line).
Now, the latest energy news:
HOUSTON (Reuters) – A natural gas pipeline exploded in north Texas on Monday afternoon, CNN reported.
The blast was originally thought to be an oil well explosion.
An electrical crew was digging a hole when it struck the gas pipeline, an emergency services spokesman in Hood County, Texas, said.
WFAA-TV, the Dallas/Fort Worth station, reported three people were dead and 10 were unaccounted for after the blast.
People dying in large numbers in China, in coal mine explosions and collapses.
People dying in record numbers here, in the US, in the same.
An oil well explosion and leak in the Gulf of Mexico, creating the biggest natural disaster ever.
And now this.
Mind you, this last one is small (unless you're one of the 3 dead or one of their family or friends) but what is it going to take to point us all, as a nation--if not as a world--that we need to invest heavily in the far safer, cleaner and so, smarter solar power, particularly with photovoltaic cells?
If we all have these on our businesses and homes, along with new and better battery technology which, from what I understand is coming along pretty well, all things considered, we would need far less energy companies since we could create a lot of our own power through a calendar year.
Our air would be far cleaner. We would pollute far less, having gotten rid of coal, the transportation of coal and the burning of fossil fuels.
We could also, then, switch the jobs from out of coal mines with their requisite coal dust and health problems for the miners, to much better, cleaner jobs, perhaps installing the solar cells or some other, better, cleaner work.
Is it easy?
Can we do it overnight?
Again, no way.
But do we need to do it?
I think we all know the answer to that is a resounding "yes".
And it would be "something completely different..."
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Word out today says the national debt rose this month, for the first time ever, to over $13 trillion dollars.
Say it again: thirteen trillion dollars.
That's a lotta salami.
One analyst describes us as likely going into a "super debt cycle", where we continually owe more and more, due to interest rates and compounding debt.
Dan Fuss, who manages the Loomis Sayles Bond Fund, which beat 94 percent of competitors the past year, said last week that he sold all of his Treasury bonds because of prospects interest rates will rise as the U.S. borrows unprecedented amounts. Obama is borrowing record amounts to fund spending programs to help the economy recover from its longest recession since the 1930s.
“The incremental borrower of funds in the U.S. capital markets is rapidly becoming the U.S. Treasury,” Boston-based Fuss said. “Do you really want to buy the debt of the biggest issuer?”
Most of us have heard this before and it's surely getting a lot of coverage.
And we can agree that one day we have to take care of this, sure, absolutely. Further, we can agree that now would be a particularly bad time to attack the problem, what with the Great Recession we're plodding though.
But it seems there are at least three good--and easy and smart--things we could do about this, if only we get smart.
First, would it be so tough to, right now, do away with "earmarks" Congress creates? I wouldn't think so.
These are rather arbitrary costs we give ourselves, through these legislators.
Let's get rid of these things and the sooner the better.
And it could happen, we could get rid of them, if we make enough noise.
The second easy and intelligent thing I would think we could and should do would be to take away any and all tax breaks--whatever exists--for firms to take manufacturing offshore.
If that ever made sense, it surely doesn't now.
This would have two positive effects, too: First, it would raise income for the country, possibly. Sure, people and corporations would scream that it's a tax increase but so what? Why should we reward firms for producing elsewhere?
The other good effect is that it could, possibly, bring some manufacturing back home, here to the States, of course.
And what would be bad about that? More jobs, back here in our country. Who could be against that?
Finally, the third thing we could and should do for our country is put in place, as I've written before, a minimum 10% (or some figure) tax for any and all companies and corporations to pay, regardless of deductions.
This way, no matter what a corporation deducts, they would pay at least a small amount for access to this country's markets, infrastructure and all that entails.
No person or company should be able to operate in this country as a business and not pay any taxes. That makes no sense at all.
These 3 options seem simple, intelligent and beneficial for the country.
So my question is, do we not have the will, as a people and a country, to do even the most simple, obvious and, again, helpful things in order to start down a better and more intelligent path to fiscal responsibility?
I hope we do. I hope the answer is, yes, we do have that will.
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At this point, I'm sure the other big oil companies realize this isn't just British Petroleum's problem, too. Far from it. This is going to create problems for "Big Oil" in many parts of the world, not just the "slow to get it" United States.
Note: In all fairness and accuracy, this shows that a "dye" travels this path. Question: Is the dye as thick and heavy as this oil? Doubtful. Would that effect the results? I would surely think so, if in nothing else but time it takes to travel this path, at minimum.
In sharp contrast to my entry earlier, here are all the things I like/love. (Because my friend wanted me to be positive, admittedly):
Friends (this one should be far higher up, forgive me)
Rock and Roll
Dining in (with friends)
Clean (as in being)
The friend's additions:
Laughing with friends
Laughing at friends
T-shirts (with really good cotton--my addition. lol)
Sarcasm (just not when I do it. kidding. mostly)
Wine (good point. Sorry I missed this one)
Yesterday, I was listening to KCPT and NPR as usual and, as usual--at least of late--they were speaking of the oil mess in the Gulf and I got to thinking, "Man, I'm tired of this."
And that got me thinking.
It got me thinking of all the things I'm tired of and tired of hearing about.
In spite of what anyone might think or say--you know who you are--this is not a negative entry/post. It's not. This is just a list of things that, yes, I'm tired of but that, if they weren't in the world, it would be a better place.
Gulf Oil Spill
The Middle East
The Middle East War
Poverty (we should have solutions for this, that's why I'm tired of it)
Facebook (actually, a friend thought of and added this but I have to agree)
Mind you, I think it's important we hear about these, in some ways, so we can create solutions but, really, they can get so tiresome.
Later today---the positive and good things in life.
Estimates of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq alone range from a conservative 105,000 (Iraq Body Count project) to over 1.2 million (UK pollster Opinion Research Business), with estimates by Johns Hopkins at 655,000. More than 125,000 civilians have been injured in Iraq and 4 million displaced, with civilian death and injury in 2010 rising each month. By most estimates, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since the 2001 invasion, over 200,00 have been internally displaced, and over 2 million have become refugees, with civilian deaths and injuries rising dramatically in 2010.
The war in Iraq is in its seventh year. The war in Afghanistan, in its ninth year, is the longest war in our history.
That and the fact there were no WMD's.
But let's not nitpick, huh?
Thanks, George. Thanks, Dick.
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In 2009, there were 3,230 reports of sexual assault including rape, according to the DoD, with many more that number thought to be unreported. In a 2003 survey of female veterans 30 percent reported being raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans with PTSD reported that 71 percent of women seeking treatment said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving in the military.
Yeah, terrific idea.
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