Friday, August 27, 2010

Justice Dept. OKs United-Continental airline merger

From staff and wire reports
August 27, 2010|

The Justice Department said Friday that it had approved the proposed union of United and Continental airlines, after an unexpectedly speedy four-month review that paves the way for the merger to close before Thanksgiving.

To win the blessing of federal antitrust regulators, United and Continental agreed to lease slots for 18 round-trip flights to Southwest Airlines at Newark Liberty International Airport, giving the low-cost carrier its second foothold at a major airport servicing New York City. Southwest began flights to LaGuardia International Airport last year.

Facebook Attempts to Trademark the Word 'Face'

All is not smooth sailing — Facebook is getting opposition to the attempt from a familiar face.
Ed Oswald, Technologizer
Aug 27, 2010 2:48 pm

Facebook appears to be getting much more aggressive in protecting its brand, even going as far as attempting to trademark the word “face,” documents indicate. The company took over another application for the common word from UK company CIS Internet Limited.

Their application was filed in 2005 by that company, and TechCrunch’s Erick Shonfeld suspects CIS transferred the application to FaceBook around November 2008. Around this time the social networking site’s lawyers began to deal with the US Patent and Trademark Office over the application.

All is not smooth sailing — Facebook is getting opposition to the attempt from a familiar face. Aaron Greenspan was a classmate of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and last year successfully settled with the social networking company over his claims to being part of Facebook’s initial development.

Greenspan is again disputing Facebook’s claim to the word “face,” and has successfully gotten the USPTO to give him an extension of time in order to fight the company’s claims to the mark. He will have until September 22 to argue his case, and he may have some solid ground to do so.

“Face” is such a common word that awarding a trademark claim to it could potentially put several brand names in use already in jeopardy of legal action by the social networking site. How about FaceTime, Apple’s name for its video calling feature, for example? Some trademark attorneys argue that the word is so common that it cannot be trademarked.

It also could set a bad precedent for other trademarks, and a mad rush to attempt to get the rights to all kinds of common words that are found in currently existing brand names. These rights could then be used in turn to essentially extort money out of those companies.

Facebook already has bullied around a few companies over its names. Take for example PlaceBook. The travel site was forced to change its name to TripTrace after a legal threat from Facebook. TeachBook is also under fire, but that company is vowing to fight Facebook’s legal challenge in court.

Patent reform? How about trademark reform too. Sheesh.

Government likely to confirm what many already know: the economy is on life support.

(Ladies & Gentlemen, the perfect metaphor for the US economy...--jef)

Snapshot of economy about to get a lot bleaker
By The Associated Press
Friday, August 27th, 2010

The government is about to confirm what many people have felt for some time: The economy barely has a pulse.

The Commerce Department on Friday will revise its estimate for economic growth in the April-to-June period and Wall Street economists forecast it will be cut almost in half, to a 1.4 percent annual rate from 2.4 percent.

That's a sharp slowdown from the first quarter, when the economy grew at a 3.7 percent annual rate, and economists say it's a taste of the weakness to come. The current quarter isn't expected to be much better, with many economists forecasting growth of only 1.7 percent.

Such slow growth won't feel much like an economic recovery and won't lead to much hiring. The unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, could even rise by the end of the year.

"The economy is going to limp along for the next few months," said Gus Faucher, an economist at Moody's Analytics. There's even a one in three chance it could slip back into recession, he said.

Many temporary factors that boosted the economy earlier this year are fading. Companies built up their inventories after cutting them sharply in the recession to match slower sales. The increase provided a boost to manufacturers, but now many companies' stockpiles are in line with sales and don't need to grow as much.

In addition, the impact of the government's $862 billion fiscal stimulus program is lessening.

That leaves the private sector to pick up the slack. But businesses are cutting back on their spending on machines, computers and software, according to a government report earlier this week. And the housing sector is slumping again after a popular home buyer's tax credit expired in April.

"What we're seeing is that the hand-off to the private sector is not looking as robust as we had previously hoped," said Ben Herzon, an economist at Macroeconomic Advisors.

Many analysts say the uncertainty surrounding the economy is holding back consumers from spending and companies from investing and hiring.

Consumers can't be sure their jobs are safe, with unemployment so high. Business executives don't know if sales and profits will grow enough to justify adding jobs. And potential changes to tax laws at the end of this year and other policy reforms also make it hard to plan ahead, economists say.

"People have been overwhelmed by uncertainty," said Ethan Harris, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

A big reason the government will mark down its estimate of last quarter's gross domestic product is that imports surged much more in June than expected. GDP is the broadest measure of the economy's output and covers everything from auto production to haircuts.

Imports rose by 3 percent to just over $200 billion in June, while exports fell to $150.5 billion, pushing the trade gap to almost $50 billion, the biggest in nearly two years. Friday's report may show that the higher imports knocked as much as 3 percentage points off second quarter growth, economists at Goldman Sachs estimate.

But trade isn't likely to be as big a drag in the current quarter. With businesses slowing their spending on inventories and capital equipment, imports are likely to slow.

Housing, which added to the economy's growth in the second quarter, is now likely dragging it down. The homebuyer's tax credit boosted home sales in the spring, raising real estate brokers' commissions.

But home sales fell sharply in July, and new home construction also declined. That will weigh on economic growth this quarter, but its impact won't be as bad as earlier in the recession. That's because housing has shrunk so sharply.

It made up more than 6 percent of the economy at the height of the boom in 2005, but now accounts for only 2.5 percent.

High unemployment is making it harder for people to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes.

About 9.9 percent of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment as of June 30, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. That number, adjusted for seasonal factors, was close to a record high of more than 10 percent at the end of April.

Friday's report is the second of three estimates the government issues for each quarter's GDP.

Two-Tier Internet?

By Michael Snyder - BLN Contributing Writer
Published on 08-27-2010

The Internet as you know it is in serious, serious danger. Some of the most powerful communications companies in the world have been involved in negotiations and have been making agreements that would throw net neutrality out the window and would move us toward a two-tier Internet. So exactly what would that mean? It would mean that the big corporate giants that have a virtual monopoly on other forms of media and entertainment would be able to buy access to the blazing fast "next generation" Internet that communications companies are developing and the rest of us (like this site for example) would be stuck on the decaying "gravel roads" of the old Internet. The threat that this poses to freedom, liberty, Internet commerce and the free flow of information should not be underestimated.

I want you to take a few moments and imagine with me what the future of the Internet could look like if something is not done. Imagine a world in which your Internet service provider gives you more "choices" regarding your level of Internet access. For a "budget" price, you can get email and access to several hundred of the hottest and most popular websites (controlled by the big media conglomerates of course) on the incredibly fast "next generation" Internet. For a bit more, you can get access to thousands of websites (once again, controlled by the big media conglomerates) on the new blazing fast version of the Internet that has been developed. Or lastly, you can get the "premium package" which will give you access to the entire Internet, including the millions of websites that are still chugging along on the "old Internet".

Wouldn't that be great?

Of course not.

Isn't it obvious what would happen?

The millions of websites that are unwilling or unable to pay the exorbitant "tolls" to get on the new blazing fast version of the Internet would rapidly start losing traffic and would eventually fizzle out almost altogether.

After all, in this day and age who is going to stick with technology that is slow and outdated?

For example, how many people still use "dial-up" anymore? There are a few, but it is just not that many.

For years, the big Internet companies have been dreaming of getting permission to sell access to an Internet "fast lane" to the highest bidder. The potential profits to be had are staggering.

But right now there is one thing that stands in the way of those profits and that must be eliminated according to them.

Net neutrality.

Up until now, any information sent over the Internet has been treated more or less equally. When a data packet enters the Internet, it is directed to its destination regardless of the identity of the customer or the importance of the information.

But now some very powerful interests want to change all that. The idea is to have the Internet much more closely resemble cable television.

In particular, a recent agreement regarding net neutrality between Google and Verizon is causing alarm among Internet users.

The following is how The Daily Mail described the recent agreement between Google and Verizon....

Technology giants Google and Verizon have today paved the way for a future 'two-tier' internet in which companies can pay extra to make sure their services get through.

Whenever anyone starts using phrases like "pay extra" when it comes to access to the Internet, alarm bells should start going off in your head.

Once we start going down that road, the big media companies with the deep pockets will do all they can to gain a "competitive" advantage.

The future of the Internet is at stake. Are we going to continue to have a free and open Internet with millions of choices, or are we going to have an Internet dominated by "toll roads" where there are only a few thousand choices which are all tightly controlled by the giant media conglomerates?

Already, there is a lot of talk about the new "high bandwidth" Internet that is coming.

According to The Daily Mail, even Verizon's CEO admits that the agreement between his firm and Google would create a "separate" high bandwidth Internet....

The new high bandwidth internet would remain separate from the normal public internet and would probably include services such as healthcare and 3D video and gaming, according to Verizon's chief executive, Ivan Seidenberg.

So what do you think is eventually going to happen if a new "high bandwith Internet" is set up?

Well, everyone will want to move over to it of course.

And that is exactly the idea.

Over the past several years, the big media conglomerates that dominate television, newspapers, radio, movies and even video games have come to realize that they have completely and totally lost control over the Internet.

The Internet has given the common man a voice in the world, and it is probably the greatest breakthrough for the free flow of information since the printing press was invented.

But to the big media conglomerates there is a big problem.

They have lost their monopoly.

People are not forced to come to them for their news and entertainment anymore.

The rise of the alternative media has been one of the most incredible stories of this past decade, and today information flows more freely around the globe than ever before.

But now there are some very powerful corporate interests that would like to force alternative websites, radio programs and television shows to shut down for good.

They realize that they need to make their move quickly, because we are rapidly approaching a critical turning point for the Internet.

You see, the truth is that virtually all communications will eventually go through the Internet. Phone service, television service and Internet access are rapidly merging into one.

The battle for control over this media pipeline we call the Internet is only going to heat up even more. Literally trillions of dollars will be made or lost depending on the direction that the Internet takes in the years ahead.

So will we allow the Internet to become a network of private toll roads where the big media conglomerates control what we see and hear and think?

Or will we stand up and demand that the Internet remain a free and neutral platform where information flows freely and where we can all have our say?

As for me, I choose to stand on the side of Internet freedom.

Is Fracking Even Worse Than Drilling?

by William Fisher | Friday, August 27, 2010 by Inter Press Service

NEW YORK - With cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico barely underway, energy companies are already assuming a crouching stance in anticipation of a no-holds-barred attack by environmentalists on what the industry says is the next major breakthrough in natural resource extraction.

The breakthrough is called fracking - short for hydraulic fracturing - the process of injecting water and chemicals into reservoirs to fracture rock and free up gas and oil.

Critics say fracking can poison water supplies. They also say it uses large amounts of fresh water and generates large amounts of wastewater with limited disposal options. Hydraulic fracturing injects high volumes of water, chemicals and particles underground to create fractures through which gas can flow for collection.

According to the industry, fracturing has been used in roughly 90 percent of wells in operation today and 60 to 80 percent of new wells will require fracturing to remain viable. The industry contends the process is safe.

But hydraulic fracturing operations have been linked to environmental risks that could have significant financial implications for the companies involved and are leading to increased regulatory scrutiny.

Congress has directed the EPA to study the potential impact of fracking on drinking water, human health and the environment after complaints by residents were seen on the television programme, "Sixty Minutes".

The publicity also captured the attention of shareholder groups, which filed proposals this year affecting a dozen companies involved in "fracking", in which they requested more disclosure on risks.

The fracturing operations involve the movement, storage, and disposal of millions of gallons of water and thousands to tens of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals.

But because of a lack of transparency, it can be very difficult to learn what chemicals are used by companies. Spills, regulatory penalties, and litigation linked to fracturing operations in been reported in several states where natural gas companies are active. Response votes were very favourable, the groups say.

Of 12 proposals filed, six went to a shareholder proxy vote and were supported by between 21 percent and 42 percent of shareholders.

"We are pleased with the kind of votes we received at the proxy season," says Larisa Ruoff of Green Century Capital Management, a Boston investment advisory firm focused on environmentally responsible investing. "With the resolution that went to a vote, we're pleased with the amount of shareholder support for a first-year environmental proposal. In general, most of the votes were incredibly strong."

Consumer and industry interest has been running so high that the EPA was forced forced to postpone its fourth and final hearing for security reasons.

The decision came less than 24 hours after the agency announced it was moving its hearing from Binghamton University 65 miles north to a Syracuse, New York, convention centre.

The EPA criticised Binghamton University, saying the university wanted to raise the amount it was charging from 6,000 to 40,000 dollars.

The university said it anticipated as many as 8,000 people and rallies by environmental groups and drilling supporters, which would have required a switch to a bigger campus venue and hiked insurance and security costs. A new date and location haven't been set.

The hearing is the fourth and last by the EPA around the country as it prepares to launch a study of hydraulic fracturing,

The hearings are intended to help shape the scope of the study. Previous hearings were held in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania hearing drew more than 1,200 participants.

The EPA is studying hydraulic fracturing as gas drillers swarm to the lucrative Marcellus Shale region primarily beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio and blast into other shale reserves around the country.

With public input submitted in writing or at the four public meetings, the EPA had planned to complete the study's design by September, initiate it in January and have initial study results available by late 2012.

Investors contend that recent events make company disclosures about the risks more important than ever. Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ordered EOG Resources to suspend drilling in the state after a blowout at a company well.

According to the DEP, "the incident presented a serious threat to life and property." At EOG's annual meeting in April, over 30 percent of the shares voted supported the proposal.

Media attention to fracturing and levels of public concern about potential environmental impacts have skyrocketed since 2007. In June, Sixty Minutes broadcast a story on fracking which left the viewer largely uninformed about what chemicals were being blasted into the ground.

Then a documentary filmmaker, John Fox, took up the issue. His film, "Gasland", is now available on HBO. It chronicles the recent catastrophic BP oil spill and the environmental effects of the energy industry's efforts to extract natural resources. Fox traveled the country exposing what he says are the unsafe drilling practices of the natural gas industry and its detrimental effects on the environment and communities.

In communities where fracking is a common occurrence, negative effects were common, he says - cancer rates were abnormally high, water could actually be lit on fire, not to mention generally unsafe drinking water, animals losing hair, and much more.

According to Fox, there are 450,000 of these gas wells across the country, with a proposal for 100,000 more in New York and 100,000 in Pennsylvania.

Not surprisingly, the natural gas industry sees things quite differently.

America's Natural Gas Alliance, an industry lobbying group, says the flammable water in Fox's film occurred because the home owner's water well was drilled into a "natural gas pocket".

They say another damning scene in the film, in which Fox blames natural gas drilling for a massive fish kill, was also misplaced. An EPA report, they claim, blames coal mine runoff, not natural gas drilling.

"I Have a Scheme!"

One-in-Five U.S. Prisoners Raped on First Day of Incarceration

One in five prisoners are raped on their first day in prison. Let me repeat that. One in five are raped on their very first day of incarceration. And that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of prison rape. For example, contrary to popular myth, more prisoners reported sexual assaults involving prison staff (2.8 percent) than other inmates (2.1 percent). And women are more likely to be victimized than men.

Theses are only some of the findings of a newly released study by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that 88,500 adults held in U.S. prisons and jails are sexually abused each year. Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder has already missed a deadline of June, 2010 to institute reforms mandated by a bipartisan commission created by the passage of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (signed by George W. Bush [Ed Note: with Jeff Sessions as co-sponsor in the Senate!]), reforms that could help prevent these nearly 88,500 individual tragediesfrom continuing unabated.

As Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International put it, “Every day that the Attorney General doesn’t finalize the national standards is another day of anguish among prisoner rape survivors, of preventable safety breaches in prisons and jails, and of significant spending of taxpayers’ money on medical treatment, investigations, and litigation that could have been avoided.”

And if that doesn’t do it for you, maybe this will:

A similar youth survey, released in January, found that the abuse in juvenile facilities is even worse, with 12 percent of detainees reporting sexual assaults

This is simply unacceptable in 21st Century America.

7 States Where the Levels of Corruption and Ideological Madness Have Gotten Beyond Embarrassing

Exposing the incompetence and corruption in Illinois, California, New York, Texas and more.
By Matt Palmquist,
Posted on August 27, 2010

Ideological hijinks, bipartisan incompetence and outright corruption have infected state capitals -- and mortified citizens -- across the U.S. Is there a cure? has supplyied a dose of satire.

State of Embarrassment — Virginia

How gun laws, Confederate History Month and a statue of Stalin contribute to the citizen embarrassment level in Virginia.

You Probably Heard About: The gun laws. This spring, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation allowing “concealed carry permit holders to bring loaded handguns” into bars — as long as the holders don’t drink. But the gun lobby wants the law to go further, so folks can carry and drink. Also, lawmakers proclaimed April Confederate History Month without mentioning, uh, slavery. McDonnell apologized for the “major omission” and cited the Assembly’s 2007 statement of “profound regret” for slavery. Which should fix everything.

But Did You Know: There’s now a Stalin bust at the National D-Day Memorial! That’s right, boys and girls, while most of Europe has been tearing down monuments to the genocidal dictator for decades, the tiny town of Bedford, Va., is just getting around to putting one up. And why not? Stalin signed a pact with Hitler before he joined the Allies; Russians didn’t participate in D-Day; and he killed an estimated 20 million people during his reign. Na Zdorov’ye!

They Said It: “Having Stalin in our backyard, people are really upset about that.” — Karl Altau, managing director at the Joint Baltic American National Committee, which has protested the Stalin bust.

The Silver Lining: During the 2008 presidential campaign, the brother of Republican nominee John McCain, Joe McCain, dismissed Northern Virginia as “Communist Country.” With the Stalin bust now up in Bedford, near the border with West Virginia, Communist Country just got a whole lot bigger …

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Red with shame. Just who the hell is this Stalin character, anyway? There are several Civil War generals who would have looked just fine up there.

State of Embarrassment — Illinois

How former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state corruption in general affect the citizen embarrassment level in Illinois.

You’ve Probably Heard About: Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Impeached and indicted for trying to sell President Obama’s vacated Senate seat, Blago is also accused of plenty else, like withholding government money from a children’s hospital until its leaders gave him $50,000 in donations. Alas, that didn’t stop the ex-governor from launching his own website and appearing on the reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice.

But Did You Know: The state’s previous governor was also a crook! When he was secretary of state, Republican George Ryan took bribes in exchange for licenses, contracts and leases. Ryan was eventually sentenced to more than six years in prison. As one Illinois journalist put it, “Instead of selling license plates, he gets to make them.”

They Said It: “There will be a Blagojevich odor in the air, and it will be with us day after day, like political Muzak.” — David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, raising the difficult question: What, exactly, does Muzak smell like?

The Silver Lining: Blagojevich’s successor as governor, Pat Quinn, touts his VIP membership card at Super 8 motels as a testament to his integrity and frugality. Alas, local reporters discovered that the incentive program ended five years ago. So there’s hope yet that Quinn turns into the deceitful cheat Illinois knows he can be.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Grimly resigned. Government graft and illegal quid pro quos are as ingrained in the state psyche as the Cubs losing. Some things don’t change.

State of Embarrassment — California

How a budget deficit, credit crisis and the Governator affect the citizen embarrassment level in California.

You’ve Probably Heard About: The budget crisis. The world’s eighth-largest economy has been battered by the recent recession and not helped by a gridlocked state Legislature that faces a $20 billion budget deficit and more than $80 billion in long-term debt. Already billions have been cut from schools, and years of restrictive ballot initiatives make life even more difficult for legislators. Also, Arnold is in charge.

But Did You Know: California’s debt is the lowest-rated among U.S. states, on par with Borat’s home nation of Kazakhstan; Standard & Poor’s rates the Golden State’s bonds only four notches above “junk” status. (Or roughly equivalent to most of what comes out of Hollywood these days.)

They Said It: “You see what is happening in Greece, you see what is happening in Ireland, you see what is happening in Spain now…. We are left with nothing but tough choices.” — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose approval rating reached an all-time low of 23 percent this spring (the same number former Gov. Gray Davis had before being “totally recalled”).

The Silver Lining: Greece, Ireland and Spain are all beautiful countries. Really. And any scenario that sees an old guy nicknamed “Moonbeam” swooping in to save the day is worthy of a blockbuster script.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Deeply chagrined; midlife crises were supposed to be fun. After all, in the movies, they never show someone actually paying for a Porsche.

State of Embarrassment — New York

How rampant corruption, a governor’s affair with a prostitute and the fall of “America’s Cop” affect the citizen embarrassment level in New York.

You’ve Probably Heard About: The rampant corruption. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer consorted with prostitutes; his replacement, David Paterson, dropped out of a troubled re-election race when a top aide was accused of a domestic violence cover-up involving the state police; state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was convicted of federal corruption charges; and state Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi resigned after admitting he hired a state worker to drive his wife around. (Note: The list goes on and on.)

But Did You Know: Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, hailed as “America’s Cop” after 9/11, went to prison earlier this year for getting a free renovation on his Bronx apartment from a New Jersey company with alleged ties to organized crime and lucrative city contracts up for review.

They Said It: “The [sentencing] guidelines don’t take fully into account the operatic proportions of this case.” — Judge Stephen Robinson, explaining why he sentenced Kerik to more than the recommended time because of the “immeasurable” harm caused by his decade-long pattern of corruption and obstruction of justice.

The Silver Lining: Hey, at least, Kerik had a nanny scandal before he could be appointed head of Homeland Security. And if Enron: The Play couldn’t make it, we’re pretty sure Bernard B. Kerik: The Opera is not coming to Broadway anytime soon.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: In the “getting sloshed enough at the office party to make an ill-advised pass at your boss” zone. Human Resources will be calling in the morning.

State of Embarrassment — Tennessee

How battling Obamacare and being highlighted for corruption affect the citizen embarrassment level in Tennessee.

You’ve Probably Heard About: The bungled fight against health care. State Sen. Mae Beavers and state Rep. Susan Lynn, Republicans vying for Beavers’ Senate seat in November, repeatedly sponsored competing bills that would have Tennessee opt out of Obamacare. The two women wrangled for months over their own versions, only to produce a bill riddled with typographical errors that went down, 44-43, in the House. Still, it might have reached the 50-vote threshold to pass — if nine House Republicans hadn’t missed the vote. Maybe they were sick.

But Did You Know: Tennessee is our most corrupt state, according to a study commissioned by the political website The Daily Beast, which combed a decade’s worth of federal data on racketeering, fraud, embezzlement and public corruption cases. Of particular note: Last year a retired police captain was indicted by the FBI on charges that he allegedly joined up with gang members to move stolen property and drugs across state lines. Never saw that in Walking Tall.

They Said It: “The Constitution is very clear about whether the federal or the state government can do these kinds of things. I have not met anyone who knows what they’re talking about who thinks we have the right to opt out [of the new federal health care program].” — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat who presumably has not met Beavers and Lynn.

The Silver Lining: A recent Pew Center on the States report gave Tennessee a B- on “government management,” so there’s reason for optimism. The state comptroller came in for particular praise, perhaps because so much corruption makes for a comptroller’s field day.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Blushing like a bruised orange. But that’s mostly because of the Al and Tipper split.

State of Embarrassment — Arizona

How immigration laws, a state boycott and a “worst sheriff” honor affect the citizen embarrassment level in Arizona.

You’ve Probably Heard About: The border controversy. Gov. Jan Brewer has championed a tough new immigration law that requires police to ask people they stop about their citizenship if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” they are in the U.S. illegally. Meanwhile, Arizona’s economic woes trail only California’s, with the state’s foreclosure rates almost five times the national average.

But Did You Know: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and has appeared on the FOX reality show Smile … You’re Under Arrest! The New York Times editorial board calls Arpaio “America’s Worst Sheriff,” saying he is “a genuine public menace with a long and well-documented trail of inmate abuses, unjustified arrests, racial profiling, brutal and inept policing and wasteful spending.” You make the call.

They Said It: “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents, have to wear full body armor, and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths.” — Arpaio, defending his “Tent City,” a compound of Korean War-era military tents erected and inhabited by jail inmates in brutal summer temperatures.

The Silver Lining: As part of the general boycott against the state’s immigration law, music semi-superstars Hall & Oates canceled a July appearance at an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. So Arizona will probably cave in any day now.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Slim to none. What’s there to be embarrassed about? Unless you’re one of them illegals …

State of Embarrassment — Texas

How textbook changes and talk of secession affect the citizen embarrassment level in Texas.

You’ve Probably Heard About: The textbook changes. The Republican-controlled Board of Education has altered curriculum so that the state’s 4.8 million students are taught to question the United Nations, Social Security and Medicare; closely study the “conservative resurgence” of the 1980s and ’90s; and learn the Judeo-Christian influences on the Founding Fathers. Removed: The suggestion that hip-hop is part of a social movement. Breathe easy, Texas.

But Did You Know: Gov. Rick Perry told tea-partiers last year that Texas could secede from the Union if Washington politicians “continue to thumb their noses at the American people.” That’s a unique reading on the 1845 treaty admitting Texas into the Union, which merely allows for the break-up of the state into five different pieces. (And yes, Austin, you can have your own piece. Good luck.)

They Said It: “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan — he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last 20 years because he lowered taxes.” — Education board Chairman Don McLeroy, explaining how humans and dinosaurs once roamed the Earth together in perfect harmony.

The Silver Lining: After Perry’s pro-secession rhetoric, a Dallas Morning News poll found that 31 percent of Texans believed (incorrectly) that the state could secede, and 18 percent would vote for it.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: None uh-tall. Come 2012, we’ll have five governors and a President Perry.

The country that started the corporate globalization experiment needs to end it.

America, Land of Paradox: The Country That Launched Corporate Globalization Should Be First to End It
By Joe Costello, Archein
Posted on August 26, 2010

To truly appreciate America, you have to understand its paradoxes. They are great. The first modern republic birthed in the original sin of slavery. A nation of immigrants that destroyed the native population, and time after time worries about the next wave of immigrants. The history of immigrant bashing is old as the republic, always coinciding with economic downturns. The Know-Nothings of the 1850s worried about the first great mass of German and Irish immigration, and of course the protestant nation worrying about papism. There were the Japanese interments of WWII. More recently, in order to get reelected governor of California in 1994, Pete Wilson embraced the anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican Prop 187. He won, but destroyed the Republican party in California. And of course we have the most recent idiocy in Arizona. A nation of immigrants, which every once in awhile tries to close the door, that's paradox.

If you understand this trait in the American psyche, while it doesn't make it anymore palatable to watch the latest manifestation, it does give you some helpful context. Especially if you keep in mind that over time, America has been as successful, more so than most, using the principles and practices of this republic's founding, to mix the nationalities of Europe and more fitfully other peoples from across the planet into a relatively healthy concoction. After two-hundred years, there is little discrimination based on European nationality. The great black underclass, many still struggling for economic and cultural equality, fifty years ago stood up and claimed their full rights as citizens, a revolution that shook the entire society atop it, even if they have a long way to go. Even Native Americans have finally gained a little retribution with the casino industry. So, today as we struggle to incorporate new immigrants, some from Mexico, an old and continuing struggle, many more recently from Southwest Asia and the Middle East, we can draw some understanding, though not acceptance, from America's great paradoxical history.

However, the recent anti-immigrant wave is developing in a new economic environment, one that is very different from much of the past. The United States from its beginning enjoyed a massive cornucopia of land and natural resources. It developed into the world's foremost industrial power, and after WWII was far and away the planet's strongest economy. But in the last several decades, there has been a great change. The financial system with the assistance of much of the American political class, began dismantling the American industrial sector and shipping it over seas. Now, the relationship of the financial sector to the rest of the America has always had some problems, but over the last three decades, their interests have diverged to the point of outright hostility. It was Wall Street after all who profited on both sides, financing the dismantling of American industry and rebuilding it across the planet. It was also Wall Street who profited most by the resulting stagnation in American wages, replacing good paying jobs with debt.

It's time to end much of the corporate globalization experiment. There's many reasons for this, and I'll throw out that energy and environmental reasons are among the largest. We need to reform our economy from the ground up, and that importantly means reincorporating into the economy the advantages of locality. We need to start raising tariffs. We should start with imported oil, that would be a good signal to rest of the world of the seriousness of our intentions for reforming the American economy. Of course, no attempt at reforming the American economy can be started without first reforming American politics. Finance owns our political class. They have aided and abetted the dismantling of the economy. Remember in 1992 when Ross Perot talked (I can't more highly recommend watching Ross here) about that giant sucking sound from south of the border, he was right in hearing, though wrong in direction. That sucking sound was coming out of DC. If you hear a DC elected official advocate "free trade", immediately vote them out.

Give us your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but keep your cheap goods. The country that started the corporate globalization experiment needs to end it -- another paradox.

The New American Corporate State

A troika of big government, big business and big labor is attempting to run the country to its own advantage.
Warren Meyer, 08.26.10

Opponents of President Barack Obama and the Nancy Pelosi Congress will often accuse them of being "socialist." I find that this term is unhelpful, as many folks use direct government takeover of industrial enterprises as the litmus test for socialism, and thus will reject this hypothesis about the president. It is more useful to think of this administration as pursuing a European-style corporate state, a form of political economy that allows the state to exert strong control in the economy while maintaining a nominal façade of private ownership.

While the intellectual origins of the corporate state go back much further, the first serious attempt to implement such a system was in 1920s Italy by Benito Mussolini. Under that system, state-sponsored industry cartels programmed every aspect of economic life, from wages and working conditions to prices, production levels and product specifications. Nearly every commercial action required a government license, which would be denied to those who showed insufficient loyalty to the state and its goals.

In the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was almost certainly an admirer of Mussolini's economic system, as he copied many of its salient features into the code authorities and commercial licensing requirements of the National Industrial Recovery Act (which eventually was struck down by the Supreme Court). Prices, wages, production quotas and, in effect, nearly every detail of business practices in an industry were to be set by small groups of government, labor and industry leaders. The president was given the power to unilaterally revoke the right to do business, without any further due process, of any enterprise in America if it refused to conform to this reincarnation of the Medieval guild system.

In their current form, European corporate states tend to be more informal than their predecessors, drawing on mutually supporting networks of labor, industry and government leaders without the explicit structure of Mussolini's cartels or Roosevelt's code authorities. These networks are driven by an implicit deal by each of the three groups to protect their mutual interests and to recognize specific obligations.

In this three-way arrangement, unionized workers in key industries get high wages, guaranteed employment, rich pension systems and government protection from competition from younger and foreign workers. In return, they promise labor peace (barring the occasional strike to demonstrate their power) and tremendous election-day muscle.

Favored businesses (and by these we are talking about the top 20 to 30 largest banks and corporations in a particular country) get protection from competition, both upstart domestic entrepreneurs as well as any foreign rivals. In return, they provide monetary and political support for politicians' pet projects--from recycling to windmills--with the understanding that politicians will give them legislative back doors to recover the costs of these programs from customers or taxpayers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Social Security Cuts Threaten to Hurt Low-Income Americans More

by Martha C. White | Thursday, August 26, 2010 by The Washington Independent

This summer, Social Security - the government program that provides a steady check for seniors - turned 75. In Washington, lawmakers celebrated its platinum anniversary not with champagne, but with a heated argument over whether to reform the costly entitlement program by slashing benefits or raising the retirement age. Indeed, with the national debt over $13 trillion and the government running at a $1 trillion a year loss, the Obama administration created a deficit commission - the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform - to find ways to return the country to the black. In anticipation of its report, and in anticipation of possible changes to the program, lawmakers have started discussing how to reform Social Security.

After running a surplus for years and building up a sizable trust fund, Social Security now runs in the red. Though the program is far from bankrupt, more money is pouring out than going in. Economists project that the trust fund will be emptied by 2037. From there, opinions diverge on how far into debt the program will fall if nothing is done.

"Social Security is not in immediate trouble. There's been a lot of exaggeration of that problem," says Alice Rivlin, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the deficit commission. "It is not on a solid basis for the long run, however. The sooner we act, the less we have to do."

The problem is, there's no consensus on what form that action should take. And many of the most commonly discussed tactics for stemming the flow of red ink would disproportionately impact lower-income Americans, the segment of the population that depends on Social Security the most.

One idea that comes up frequently is raising the retirement age. House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), for instance, proposes lifting it to 70; some economists have suggested lifting it to as high as 75.

The idea sounds good: People are living longer, so it makes sense they will be working longer as well, right? But raising the retirement age will not necessarily keep people in the workforce longer, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research. For lower-income Americans, it would often just consign them to a retirement of lower benefit checks.

Already, around two-thirds of non-disabled workers elect to begin receiving smaller checks at 62 rather than full payments at 65. The hardship of raising the retirement age falls disproportionately on low-income workers who work in physically demanding professions, jobs they may not be able to continue through their seventh decade. According to Baker, 45 percent of workers over the age of 58 hold physically demanding jobs. Among those who lack a high-school diploma, that percentage skyrockets to around 75 percent. "If the hope is that people will work longer, that's a very difficult thing for low and moderate income Americans to do," Baker says.

Moreover, though the average lifespan has increased since Social Security's creation, those extra years aren't enjoyed equally by all Americans. Overall, Americans are living about 7 years longer. But the poorest 20 percent of Americans are living just two years longer - coinciding with that increase in retirement age. Baker notes that minority Americans fare even worse. "Even at 65, there's a gap of about two years in lifespan. Also, on average, they have much lower wealth at retirement, so they're much more dependent on Social Security."

Center and right-leaning policy experts say another way to limit Social Security expenditures is to change the baseline for the benefits calculator from a wage index to a price index. Since the price of goods tends to grow more slowly than wages do, this shift would reduce the amount the program would have to pay out in the future. Supporters of this proposal say that because the benefits will still increase along with price inflation, seniors won't suffer a shortfall in real-dollar terms.

This logic works in theory. But in practice, it would seriously impact lower-income Americans. Why? Seniors spend differently than average-aged workers: They buy more healthcare goods and services. And healthcare costs are skyrocketing well above the average inflation rate, so lowering benefits would make it more difficult for retirees to cover their costs. The more economically strapped the American, the more it would hurt.

Other plans would have less impact on those least able to shoulder the burden. One idea would be to reduce benefits for wealthy retirees. The idea is that "Bill Gates doesn't need social security," says Brookings' Rivlin.

The problem is deciding where to set the bar: Too low, and you ensnare middle-class families, too high, and you only earn the ire of the superrich without contributing much to the bottom line. Some experts, including Rivlin, think the political cost probably wouldn't be worth the impact on the bottom line. Polls show that even wealthy Americans want their Social Security, and are willing to pay for it. The government might net a little more money, but it would lose the public support and buy-in of wealthy (and thereby influential) citizens.

"U.S. benefits relative to earnings are low by comparison with those in other wealthy nations," says Henry Aaron, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "I don't think there's a strong case for cutting benefits on the merits of the idea. In my view, the bulk of the fix should come from the revenue side."

Many economists on the left share that sentiment. "It makes sense to fix social security by increasing revenues and making sure a good chunk of those revenues come from the high end of the income distribution," says Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Raising the payroll cap is one popular idea. Currently, the first $106,800 an American makes is subject to the Social Security tax; above that, the earner pays nothing. "If you eliminate the cap, you're probably getting very close to eliminating the entire Social Security deficit for the next 75 years," says Christian Weller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "The more common proposal is to raise the cap so 90 percent of earnings are subject to the tax, which would eliminate about a third of the deficit."

Another idea under consideration is raising the payroll tax rate by a fraction of a percentage point. Although the flat rate of this tax is inherently regressive, some left-leaning experts say it's preferable to a cut in benefits, especially when the prospect is discussed in conjunction with other modifications like a minimum benefit, as described in a recent report by the Urban Institute.

Not everyone thinks adding to the payroll tax rate is the way to go, though. "It seems to me that raising the payroll tax is the least desirable way to try to move the program towards solvency," says Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. "It's a tax on work and makes it more expensive for employers."

Marshall supports ideas more commonly embraced by the right to make up the shortfall, including an increase in the retirement age and a downward adjustment on the formula used to calculate benefits.

Some Republican politicians are still pushing for privatization, pointing to the rise of the stock market over the long term. Mike Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, asserts that even if a retiree cashed out at the trough of the market in 2009, he or she would have still experienced a growth in wealth. Given the wariness with which many Americans bruised by a drop in their 401(k) and home values now view the stock market, though, privatization may be a tough sell at least until the current bear market fades from our collective memory. "A lot of Republicans seem to view private investment as some kind of panacea, which I don't think is correct," says PPI's Marshall. "That wouldn't solve the underlying structural problems."

Right-leaning experts tend to paint a bleaker view of the Social Security situation in general. Cato's Tanner explains that the difference is that they include in their calculation of upcoming obligations the cost to be borne by the Treasury when the program cashes in its trust fund bonds. Obviously, that money will have to come from somewhere, but progressive economists like CAP's Weller, counter that it's disingenuous for the right to say those bonds pose an economic risk when the Social Security surplus is one factor that was used to justify Bush-era tax cuts in the first place.

Experts of all stripes like to point out that Social Security reform should be a snap compared to changing more complex programs like Medicare. In a strictly economic sense, that's true. But the discussion around Social Security often threatens to collapse under the metaphorical weight lawmakers have conferred on the program. "It'll probably be more politically determined than substantively determined," PPI's Marshall concedes. "Right now neither side wants to come out of its assigned place."

Low doses of Atrazine in weed killer Threat to Male Sexual Development Revealed

Thursday, August 26, 2010 by Environment News Service (ENS)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina - Male rats exposed before birth to low doses of the weedkiller atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals, finds a new study conducted by federal government scientists.

One of the most common agricultural herbicides in the United States, some 80 million pounds of atrazine are applied across the country every year to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is the main ingredient in about 40 name-brand herbicides.

"Atrazine is a staple product for producers, who use it as a critical tool for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States.

Atrazine is sprayed on an Iowa cornfield. (Photo credit unknown)

Use of atrazine fights weed resistance, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yield," according to the Triazine Network, an association of growers and researchers.

But atrazine and its byproducts are known to be endocrine disrupters that are persistent in the environment, making their way into both surface water and groundwater supplies.

This study on how atrazine affects male rats was led by Suzanne Fenton, PhD, and Jason Stanko, PhD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. The scientists tested male rats using atrazine concentrations close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources.

The current maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in drinking water is three parts per billion.

"We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," Fenton said, releasing the findings Tuesday.

Dr. Fenton, a reproductive endocrinologist, will be presenting the research findings in September to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its ongoing reassessment of atrazine.

In 2009, the EPA began a comprehensive new evaluation of atrazine to determine its effects on humans. At the end of this process, in September 2010, the agency has said it will decide whether to revise its current risk assessment of atrazine and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect public health.

This is the third time since the early 1990s the EPA has evaluated atrazine. In each of the two previous reviews the EPA ruled in atrazine's favor, most recently in 2006 after considering 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments.

"We hope that this information will be useful to the EPA, as it completes its risk assessment of atrazine," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program.

Fenton began the work as a researcher at the EPA, but completed the research at NIEHS, working closely with NIEHS pathologists. Both agencies provided financial support for the study.

The researchers found that the incidence of prostate inflammation went from 48 percent in the control group of rats to 81 percent in the male offspring who were exposed to a mixture of atrazine and its breakdown products before birth. The severity of the inflammation increased with the strength of the doses.

"It was noteworthy that the prostate inflammation decreased over time, suggesting the effects may not be permanent," said David Malarkey, DVM, PhD, an NIEHS pathologist and co-author on the paper.

The scientists also found that puberty was delayed in the animals who exposed to atrazine.

This new study is Fenton's second paper showing low dose effects of atrazine metabolite mixtures.

Fenton was the senior author on a 2007 paper which demonstrated low doses of the atrazine mix delayed mammary development in female siblings from the same rat litters used in this current study.

Fenton points out that these findings may extend beyond atrazine alone, and may be relevant to other herbicides found in the same chlorotriazine family, including propazine and simazine. All three of the herbicides create the same set of breakdown products.

Fenton says more research is needed to understand the mechanism of action of the chlorotriazines and their metabolites on mammary and prostate tissue.

"These tissues seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of atrazine and its breakdown products," Fenton said. "The effects may be due to the stage of fetal development at the time the animals were exposed."

Another point of view on the safety of atrazine and the related chemicals comes from the Triazine Network. A five-person executive committee leads the network: Jere White, chairman, Kansas Corn Growers and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Associations; Dan Botts, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association; Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual, Stephanie Whalen, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, and Gary Marshall, Missouri Corn Growers Association.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Triazine Network argues that atrazine is safe and necessary to growers.

The growers say they are "increasingly concerned by the serious irregularities in the EPA's current re-review of the herbicide atrazine."

"No one cares more about the safety of the herbicide atrazine than those of us who use it in the fields where we raise our families," says the letter, signed by White. "We drink the local water. We swim and fish in local lakes, rivers, and ponds. We look forward to passing our way of life onto our children and grandchildren. Simply stated, we care about keeping our environment healthy and our foods safe and abundant."

"Atrazine and its companion triazine herbicides have a 50-year history as safe and effective weed-control products used on more than 30 commodities in over 40 states and 60 countries," the growers state in their letter.

"Five decades of continued and rigorous EPA testing has shown time and again that atrazine poses no danger to public health. Over the last half century, more than 6,000 atrazine studies have been submitted to EPA. These studies confirmed, and EPA agreed, that atrazine does not affect human health," the letter asserts.

"EPA's current 3 parts per billion limit for lifetime exposure or the 298 ppb limit for short-term exposure, are standards that are more than 1,000 times safer than a level shown to have no effect," maintains the Triazine Network.

But Professor Tyrone Hayes in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the study of atrazine, calls the chemical, "a potent endocrine disruptor with ill effects in wildlife, laboratory animals and humans."

"Atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes wildlife and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents," says Hayes, who has published research showing that exposure to atrazine caused male tadpoles to turn into hermaphrodites - frogs with both male and female sexual characteristics.

"Atrazine induces breast and prostate cancer, retards mammary development and induces abortion in laboratory rodents," Hayes warns. "Studies in human populations and cell and tissue studies suggest that atrazine poses similar threats to humans."

Other scientists support the use of atrazine when it is used correctly. Purdue University weed scientist Bill Johnson says, "Farmers need to understand both the rate restrictions of atrazine for different soil types and the setbacks from water sources. Like any chemical, they shouldn't apply atrazine right before a big rain in order to prevent runoff."

Other safe-handling techniques include establishing 66-foot grass buffer strips along bodies of water and ditches to help filter out atrazine from water flowing across fields and choosing crops that don't require the use of atrazine when planting near water sources.

"There are a lot of herbicides labeled for corn, but only a select few control as many weeds at as low a cost as atrazine," Johnson said. "Herbicides with more narrow spectrums drive up costs and eliminate the simplicity atrazine offers."

But in March, 16 communities in six Midwestern states filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force atrazine manufacturer, the Swiss company Syngenta, to pay for removal of the herbicide from their drinking water. The class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by 16 towns and villages in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa.

Atrazine has been banned in Europe, even in Switzerland, the home of manufacturer Syngenta.

Click here for more information about the EPA risk assessment.

Google Acquisition Graphic

Thanks to Rdn Tmsn & Alicia Asford for sharing this graphic.

Inequality and the High-End Bush Tax Cuts

Chuck Marr | August 25, 2010

As I’ve said before, from the standpoint of economic efficiency there’s a clear-cut case for letting the Bush tax cuts for people over $250,000 expire on schedule in December. Sunsetting the high-income tax cuts makes just as much sense from the standpoint of equity. Recent data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show a stunning shift in income away from the middle class and towards the highest-income people in the country over the last three decades:

  • In 1979, the middle fifth of Americans took home 16.5 percent of the nation’s total after-tax income. By 2007, after several decades of stagnant incomes in the middle and surging incomes at the top, the middle fifth’s share had dropped to 14.1 percent. Over the same period, the top 1 percent’s share more than doubled, from 7.5 percent of total after-tax income to 17.1 percent (see graph below). So by 2007, the top 1 percent had a bigger slice of the national income pie than the middle 20 percent.
  • If the distribution of after-tax incomes had remained unchanged between 1979 and 2007, the after-tax income of the average family in the middle would have been $9,000 (16 percent) higher in 2007 than it actually was. Instead of an income of $55,300, this typical family would have had $64,700 (see table below).
Here’s how that income shift looks in graph form:
Tax policy is one of the best tools we have to help offset the troubling trend of growing inequality. Unfortunately, the Bush tax cuts have had the opposite effect, providing much larger benefits — both in dollar terms and as a percentage of income — to people at the very top than to middle- and lower-income people. People making more than $1 million get an average of about $124,000 each year in tax cuts, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. The main reason, of course, is the large tax cuts targeted specifically at high-income households.
So this fall, when policymakers decide whether to extend the high-end tax cuts, they should keep in mind just how unequal incomes in the United States have become. As former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder wrote recently in the Washington Post,is the rationale for extending these tax cuts “that America needs more income inequality? Seems to me we have enough.” To me, too.

Mercenaries Hired By BP Applying more Toxic Dispersant at Night and Out of Control


Gulf Chemist: Mercenaries Hired By BP Are Now Applying Toxic Dispersant - at Night and In an Uncontrolled Manner - Which BP Says It No Longer Uses

Bob Naman is an analytical chemist with almost 30 years in the field, based in Mobile, Alabama. When WKRG News 5 gave Naman samples of water from the Gulf of Mexico, Naman found oil contamination, and one of his samples actually exploded during testing due - he believes - to the presence of methane gas or Corexit, the dispersant that BP has been using in the Gulf: News

But the story only starts there.

A few days ago, Naman was sent a sample of water from Cotton Bayou, Alabama.

Naman found 
13.3 parts per million of the dispersant Corexit in the sample:

That's a little perlexing, given that Admiral Thad Allen said on August 9th that dispersants have not been used in the Gulf since mid-July:
We have not used dispersant since the capping stack was put on. I believe that was the 15th of July.


But I would tell you, there are no dispersants being used at this time.

More imporantly, Naman told me that he found 2-butoxyethanol in the sample.

BP and Nalco - the manufacturer of Corexit - have said that dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol is no longer being sprayed in the Gulf. As the New York Times 
notedin June:
Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.

Corexit 9500, described by [Nalco's spokesman] as the "sole product" Nalco has manufactured for the Gulf since late April, contains propylene glycol and light petroleum distillates, a type of chemical refined from crude oil.
Moreover, Naman said that he searched for the main ingredient in the less toxic 9500 version - propylene glycol - but there was none present. In other words, Naman found the most toxic ingredient in 9527 and did not find the chemical marker for 9500.

Since BP and Nalco say that no dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol has been sprayed in the Gulf for many months, that either means:

(1) BP has been lying, and it is still using 2-butoxyethanol. In other words, BP is still Corexit 9527 in the Gulf
(2) The dispersant isn't breaking down nearly as quickly as hoped, and the more toxic form of Corexit used long ago is still present in the Gulf.
Naman told me he used EPA-approved methods for testing the sample, but that a toxicologist working for BP is questioning everything he is doing, and trying to intimidate Naman by saying that he's been asked to look into who Naman is working with.

I asked Naman if he could rule out the second possibility: that the 2-butoxyethanol he found was from a months-old applications of the more toxic version of Corexit. I assumed that he would say that, as a chemist, he could not rule out that possibility.

However, Naman told me that he went to Dauphin Island, Alabama, last night. He said that he personally saw huge 250-500 gallon barrels all over the place with labels which said:

Corexit 9527
Naman took the following picture of the label:

(The A version of the dispersant - 9527A - contains 2-butoxyethanol).

Naman further said he saw mercenaries dressed in all black fatigues, using gps coordinates, applying Corexit 9527 at Dauphin Island and at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The mercenaries were "Blackwater"-type mercenaries, and Naman assumed they must have been hired either by BP or the government.

Naman also told me that Corexit 9527 is being sprayed at night, and that it is being applied in such a haphazard manner that undiluted 9527 is running onto beach sand. For confirmation of many of Naman's claims, see 
thisthis and this.

Naman sent me the following additional pictures showing Corexit pollution, use and storage (none show the mercenaries dressed in fatigues; apparently, such photos would have been too risky):

A bird eating a fish right next to the area where Corexit is handled:

Ron Paul on MSNBC Critical of those who fight building the NYC Mosque

The Odious Alan Simpson

He's Not Only Offensive; He's Ignorant!
Co-Chair of Obama's 'Fiscal Commission' Calls Social Security: 'Milk Cow with 310 Million Tits'

Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, the co-chairman of President Obama's deficit commission, has sparked calls for his resignation after sending an offensive and sexist note to Ashley Carson, the executive director of the Older Women's League. While such calls are reasonable -- Simpson's comments were certainly more offensive than remarks that led to the resignation of other people from the Obama Administration -- the Senator's determined ignorance about the basic facts on Social Security is an even more important reason for him to leave his position.

I was also a recipient of one of Simpson's tirades. As was the case with the note he sent to Carson, Simpson attached a presentation prepared for the commission by Social Security's chief actuary. Simpson implied that this presentation had some especially eye-opening information that would lead Carson and me to give up our wrong-headed views on Social Security.

While I opened the presentation with great expectations, I quickly discovered there was nothing in the presentation that would not already be known to anyone familiar with the annual Social Security trustees' report. The presentation showed a program that is currently in solid financial shape, but somewhere in the next three decades will face a shortfall due to an upward redistribution of wage income, increasing life expectancy and slow growth in the size of the workforce. The projected shortfall is not larger than what the program has faced at prior points in its history, most notably in 1982 when the Greenspan Commission was established to restore the program's solvency.

It was disturbing to see that Simpson seemed surprised by what should have been old hat to anyone familiar with the policy debate on Social Security. After all, he had been a leading participant in these debates in his years in the Senate.

Simpson's public remarks also seem to show very little knowledge of the financial situation of the elderly or near elderly. He has repeatedly made references to retirees driving up to their gated communities in their Lexuses. While this description may apply to Simpson's friends, it applies to very few other retirees, the vast majority of whom rely on Social Security for the bulk of their income. Cutting the benefits of the small group of genuinely affluent elderly would make almost no difference in the finances of the program.

Furthermore, the baby-boom generation that is nearing retirement has seen most of its savings destroyed by the collapse of the housing bubble that both wiped out their housing equity and took a big chunk of the limited money they were able to put aside in their 401(k)s. Simpson shows no understanding of this fact as he prepares to cut benefits for near retirees.

He also doesn't seem to have a clue as to the type of work that most older people are doing. While it is possible for senators to continue in their jobs late in life, nearly half of older workers have jobs that are either physically demanding or require they work in difficult conditions. Simpson seems totally clueless on this point when he considers proposals to raise the retirement age.

The key facts on Social Security are not hard to understand. The shortfall is relatively minor and distant. Most retirees have little income other than their Social Security, and most workers would find it quite difficult to stay at their jobs in their late 60s or even 70. We might have hoped that Senator Simpson understood these facts at the time when he was appointed to the commission, but we should at least expect that he would learn them on the job.

His determined ignorance in the face of the facts is the most important reason why he is not qualified to serve on President Obama's commission. Someone who is co-chairman of such an important group should be able to critically evaluate information, not just insult and demean his critics.

Revenge of the Deficit-Haters

Death and Taxes

That cliché in modern America should get re-worded: “Taxes Equal Death.” In 2010, unique in the world, the US military budget absorbs the lion’s share of the federal budget, under the aegis of security but actually to wage seemingly permanent war. The amount spent on the military equals approximately what all other nations together allocate for “defense.”

Each year, led by deficit-haters, Congress hands the Pentagon its annual spending money (about $1 trillion counting intelligence and nuclear weapons). For the last nine years the mention of “9/11” provides the only phrase necessary to get this outrageous sum passed by both Houses.

But the destruction of the twin towers and the damage to the Pentagon came from 19 fiends with box cutters and a death wish. So why combat this “threat” by funding the army, navy and air force and their high tech battlefield equipment? Well, they are fighting “militants” and insurgents” in Afghanistan and Iraq -- places where the 9/11 sky-jackers were not.

Ironically, the loudest complainers about paying taxes become the most eloquent advocates of spending more on the military – the leading Republicans and their certifiably moronic Palinesque supporters.

One could argue that these deficit and war hawks belong to a secret society of ghouls who intimidate the rest of Congress and the public into funding devastation. After nine years in Afghanistan and 7 plus in Iraq the most obvious results of this trillion dollar plus effort are lots of dead and maimed people, many of them civilians; tens of thousands of houses turned into rubble and assorted damage to infrastructure and other public property. US tax-payers can rightfully claim a role in not only the killing, but for some of their burials (coffins and flags) as well.

Those dead people over there, of course, have relatives, some of whom will plot revenge on us -- in very low-tech ways. (Recall the jerks who were fortunately foiled on airplanes before detonating their shoes and underwear!). Military spending has arguably increased not only the number of US foes around the world, but the federal deficit as well. And for tens of millions – not the rich-- life has become worse. Remember Bin Laden the Evil swore he would bankrupt this country!

Well, we pay federal, state, local, sales, property, luxury, estate and you name it taxes. But we see less benefit from them. The country has dramatically declined in its levels of public education, health and transportation. Rights once won by unions like paid sick and parental leaves, decent vacations, and secure pensions have shriveled. Costs for old age and child-care have rocketed upwards. Government-backed affordable housing? Forget it! Some wusses still think of these services as fulfilling basic needs.

Most Europeans of course get these benefits by paying taxes. But European and most people in other developed countries have small (realistic) defense budgets – they must feel so insecure – which allows them to fund citizens’ basic needs.

The Glen Becks, Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins charge anyone backing such “European” models as traitorous -- abandoning the hallowed “free market” and selling precious “individual liberty” for a few comforts. (Anyone ever see photos of any of the above advocates in anything less than sartorial comfort?) Should Americans receive such services from their government? Why, we would lose our “special” qualities and becomes socialistically inclined!

The Republican congressional mountebanks and some rightist Democrats-- among the few who receive European class benefits thanks to their jobs --believe the rest of the country should pay through their noses for HMOs and high priced assisted living facilities. The rich have stock in both.

High mortgage payments and fears of foreclosures (300,000 in July), worries about getting sick, not having money for the kids’ tuitions? All those anxieties build character.

The almost 50 million Americans who still lack health coverage and those denied coverage by HMOs may die earlier than they should but they show their grit, like the millionaire John Wayne – in the movies.

Americans spend three times more per capita on old-age care than Europeans. Sixty million American workers don’t get sick leave, parental leave is minimal following a birth. Europeans receive these benefits – and more --by paying taxes. “Americans,” concludes Steven Hill in the Guardian, “pay out just as much as Europeans – but we receive a lot less for our money.” (“What do we get for our US tax dollars?” (April 15, 2010)

The rich don’t want to pay taxes. They don’t use public schools, health facilities or transportation – so why should they pay for them? Cops and fire departments of course keep thieves away and protect expensive things – worth paying for.

Democrats traditionally represented the poor and middle classes who didn’t complain about paying for good public education, basic heath services and smooth-flowing public transportation. The good old days -- before taxes translated primarily into death.