6.05.2009

Always the questions


Speaking of sleep, here's a sleep aid product called "Calms." The package for these sleepy-time caplets features an illustration of the man-in-the-moon wearing a nightcap and snoozing contentedly. But, in a strange promotional twist, the package brags that this product is made with a "Non-Drowsy Formula." Excellent, sleeping pills that won't make you drowsy! I'll take two.



Who comes up with this stuff – and, do they get paid?

[From Jim Hightower | PRODUCT ADS THAT DISCOMBOBULATE CONSUMERS]


6.04.2009

Meat raffle

Check out "Improv Everywhere"...

...a web site sporting the motto "We Cause Scenes" newly appearing on our sorta-world-famous Work Avoidance List at the recommendation of the Seattle bureau.



Another one

Funny how that worked out


The Capital Purchase Program was originally intended in part to spur lending, but Treasury’s latest monthly report shows that banks in the program actually reduced both consumer and commercial lending between February and March.

[From Eight Banks Join Bailout Ranks - ProPublica]


This you gotta love


The coal option


Folks in West Virginia's Coal River Valley are no longer falling for the long litany of lies they've gotten from coal company executives and bought-off politicians. The corporate elites of the state have literally been destroying mountains, forests, streams, wildlife, livelihoods, human health, and whole communities in Appalachia by using a brutal and contemptible form of coal mining called "mountaintop removal."

[From Jim Hightower | THE BATTLE OF COAL RIVER VALLEY]


6.03.2009

When the headline says it all


Cast of Morning Joe Can't Name Successful Unionized Company Even Though They Work for One

[From Cast of Morning Joe Can't Name Successful Unionized Company Even Though They Work for One | Video Cafe]


"A little embarrassing," says Energy guy


WASHINGTON – The government's inadvertent and red-faced Internet posting of a 266-page list of U.S. nuclear sites provided a one-step guide for anyone wanting details about such sensitive information. Obama administration officials said Wednesday the document contained no classified material about nuclear weapons. They contended the locations and other details already were available from public sources....



The document, stamped "highly confidential safeguards sensitive," made it onto the Government Printing Office's Web site — and why that happened was not immediately clear.

[From 'Embarrassing' mistake puts US nuke list online - Yahoo! News]


Yeah that spoiled my appetite right there


CHICAGO – Doctors are testing a new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts through the abdomen, snaking a tube as thick as a garden hose down the throat...

[From No scars: New obesity surgery goes through mouth - Yahoo! News]


The heart of Saturday night

Simply wonderful writing



The heart of Saturday night



A young girl borrows Chopin's passion and transforms an evening. Life is good, no matter the disappointments.



By Garrison Keillor

[From The heart of Saturday night | Salon ]

–Paul Knue



Change I can believe in not so much


Obama wants Congress to change FOIA by retroactively narrowing its disclosure requirements, prevent a legal ruling by the courts, and vest himself with brand new secrecy powers under the law which, just as a factual matter, not even George Bush sought for himself.

[From Obama's support for the new Graham-Lieberman secrecy law - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com]


Congress Aids Banks After Big Contribs - ProPublica


Recipients Programs Timeline How to Use

Congress Aids Banks After Big Contribs

by Paul Kiel, ProPublica - June 3, 2009 8:30 am EDT




The massive bailout of the financial system hasn’t stopped financiers from airing their views on Capitol Hill—and it certainly hasn’t stopped them from opening their wallets. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at one lobbying crush in particular—the push to relax accounting rules that forced banks to use market prices to set prices on some securities they held.



The basic outlines: “Thirty-one financial firms and trade groups formed a coalition and spent $27.6 million in the first quarter lobbying Washington about the rule and other issues ... They also directed campaign contributions totaling $286,000 to legislators on a key committee, many of whom pushed for the rule change, the filings indicate.” Members of that key House panel exerted pressure on the board that sets the rule, and the change was hastened. It gave a boost to first quarter earnings for some banks and seems likely to have an even wider effect when the banks report second quarter earnings this summer, the Journal reports. The lawmakers, of course, deny that the contributions had any effect on their positions.

[From Congress Aids Banks After Big Contribs - ProPublica]

(c) Copyright 2009 Pro Publica Inc. Licensed these Creative Commons terms.



Now lard


Wait long enough and everything bad for you is good again. Sugar? Naturally better than high-fructose corn syrup. Chocolate? A bar a day keeps the doctor away. Caffeine? Bring it on.

[From Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here. - By Regina Schrambling - Slate Magazine ]


Horse, Hand Hewn

Photo: Phil Compton

6.02.2009

Perfect!


DETROIT – General Motors Corp. took a key step toward its downsizing on Tuesday, striking a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese manufacturer....

[From AP source: GM to sell Hummer to Chinese company - Yahoo! News]

Now we can bitch even more about the Chinese running up the price of oil.



Is that what that is?


While GM workers are losing their retirement health benefits, their jobs, their life savings; while shareholders are getting zilch and many creditors getting hosed, a few privileged GM lenders – led by Morgan and Citibank – expect to get back 100% of their loans to GM, a stunning $6 billion.



The way these banks are getting their $6 billion bonanza is stone cold illegal.



I smell a rat.

[From Greg Palast » Grand Theft Auto: How Stevie the Rat bankrupted GM ]


Let's retire that word


As the financial crisis entered one of its darkest phases in October, a handful of the nation’s largest banks began holding daily telephone sessions. Murmurs were already emanating from Washington about the need for a wide-ranging regulatory overhaul, and Wall Street executives girded for a fight.

[From Back to Business - Banks Dig In to Resist New Limits on Derivatives - Series - NYTimes.com]

Gird. There's been way too much girding going on in the last few years.


And let's retire some of those Wall Street executives while we're at it. In fact, why not retire them all?



Justices gone wild!

If you think Nazi zombies (see below) are bad, this new guy, Ross Doughhat, at the NYTimes has something even scarier for you - a biased Supreme Court, OMG hide under the bed quick!



Prior to 1954, the Court had struck down just 77 federal statutes in a century-and-a-half of jurisprudence; in the 50-odd years since, it’s overturned more than 80.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Justices Gone Wild - NYTimes.com]

...something something etc. The Supremes are activists!


Doughhat fails to consider that maybe, just maybe, over the years in question legislators have simply become progressively more boneheaded (yeah, hard to believe, I know, but still) or just more productive ("This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer" –Will Rogers), not that it matters much what Doughhat things anyway. And to be charitable to Mr. Doughhat, replacing Bill Kristol, the Times' previous rightwing know-nothing, must be no easy job.



Can't wait, dude


Nazi zombies terrorize a group of college students...

[From Hulu - Movie Trailers: Dead Snow]


Towed

Photo: Phil Compton

But...but...but...

...just think how awful it would be to have public health care. Eeeeek!



"Two million cancer survivors today are forgoing care they need simply because that care is unavailable because they cannot afford it," [John Seffrin, the national chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society] said, adding that lack of access to quality care is now a major case of cancer death in the United States.

[From Cancer Care Costs Squeeze Millions of Americans - ABC News]

(Emphasis my own.)



Albom on GM bankruptcy: "We are not dead yet"


There is nothing fun here, nothing good about bankruptcy. But nothing shocking, either. History is full of this lesson. All fall down. What defines you is not how you fall, but how you get up.

[From Sad day knocks us down -- but we're not out | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press]


6.01.2009

Darth Vader admits the obvious

Dick(head) Cheney finally fesses up...Saddam Hussein was in no way involved with 9/11. One of these days he'll admit that he knew there were no WMDs. Maybe, someday, he'll tell us why he was so hell-bent on invading Iraq.



"I do not believe and have never seen any evidence to confirm that [Hussein] was involved in 9/11. We had that reporting for a while, [but] eventually it turned out not to be true," Cheney conceded.

[From Cheney: No link between Saddam Hussein, 9/11 - CNN.com]

–Paul Knue



It's a numbers thing


With billions of stimulus dollars flowing into the economy, some via historically unprecedented avenues, accounting mistakes were inevitable. And, given the magnitude of the stimulus plan, some of the typos and slip-ups were bound to involve astronomical sums of money. Last month, there was the whole $250-checks-being-sent-to-thousands-of-dead-people thing. Then, last week, we noted that the Labor Department had slipped a footnote onto Recovery.gov that corrected by $10 billion the amount of stimulus money that the department had put in the unemployment trust fund. This week, ProPublica received a copy of a section of California’s corrected application for State Fiscal Stabilization money that fixes an accounting error worth $2.3 billion....

[From Another Tiny ($2.3 Billion) Accounting Mistake - ProPublica]


Terrorist Lockup


See: Mark Fiore's Animated Cartoon Site


While we're talking about trimming budgets...


Results from the largest public opinion poll in the Arab world indicate that Alhurra, the U.S.-funded Arab satellite station that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, is the least-watched station in the region and is losing viewers....



Shibley Telhami, a leading Middle East expert at the University of Maryland and The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said Alhurra's rating was so low that for the first time, it fell below the poll's margin of error.

[From Alhurra Bleeding Viewers, Poll Finds, But Spending is Up - ProPublica]


"Fallen icon of American industrial might"


GM's bankruptcy filing is the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the largest for an industrial company. The company said it has $172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets.

[From General Motors files for bankruptcy protection - Yahoo! News]


A potato chip by any other name would be a savory snack

Or, apparently, not.



In Britain, most foods are exempt from the value-added tax, but potato chips — known as crisps — and “similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour,” are taxable. Procter & Gamble, in what could be considered a plea for strict construction, argued that Pringles — which are about 40 percent potato flour, but also contain corn, rice and wheat — should not be considered potato chips or “similar products.” Rather, they are “savory snacks.”



The VAT and Duties Tribunal disagreed, ruling that Pringles — which have been marketed in the United States as “potato chips” — are taxable. “There are other ingredients,” the tribunal said, but a Pringle is “made from potato flour in the sense that one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour, and the proportion of potato flour is significant being over 40 percent.”

[From Editorial Observer - The Lord Justice Hath Ruled - Pringles Are Potato Chips - NYTimes.com]


"And the nasty little secret is..."


Of the 15,000 students who will graduate from medical school this year -- and the roughly 8,000 physicians and surgeons who will finish their specialty training -- more than 93 percent will become employees of large clinics, managed-care companies or hospital systems.

[From Ronald J. Glasser -- Doctors Don't Work For You Anymore - washingtonpost.com]


Readers’ Photos: Polaroid


In all, Josh Haner, a Times photographer and picture editor, found that he could not winnow the selection to any fewer than 406 exceptional Polaroids, all of which are presented here. The gallery itself makes the case. This much creative energy ought to be given the film it needs to thrive.

[From Readers’ Photos: Polaroid Gallery - Lens Blog - NYTimes.com]

"Must see," notes our intrepid Midwest Bureau.



Do yourself a favor

See Up .



"Up" is a wonderful film, with characters who are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela.

[From Up :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]


5.31.2009

Thrown

Photo: Phil Compton

Republicans manage to shoot themselves again


Bateman: Tom Tancredo vs. Sonia Sotomayor

[From Bateman: Tom Tancredo vs. Sonia Sotomayor - Video Dog - Salon.com]

When truth is more amusing than fiction, cartoonists don't have to be very creative.


–Paul Knue



Cyberwar


The US military is moving ahead with plans to create its first “cyber command” designed to bolster America’s potential to wage digital warfare as well as defend against mounting cyber threats, officials said on Friday.

[From Raw Story » Obama’s new war doctrine: ‘Cyber dominance’]

Ooops...



The US National Archives offered a cash reward of up to 50,000 dollars Friday for the recovery of a missing computer hard drive containing sensitive personnel data from the Clinton administration.

[From The Raw Story | Archives offers reward for missing Clinton hard drive]


"Government doesn't provide services to rich people"


The cuts [to state programs] Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the [budget] difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed.



Nearly all of the billions of dollars in cuts the administration has proposed would affect programs for poor Californians, although prisons and schools would take hits, as well.



“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”

[From Political Memo - Deep Cuts Threaten to Reshape California - NYTimes.com]

Roads, waterways, bridges, airports, police, motor vehicle registration, drivers licensing, professional licensing, universities, vital records, drinking water programs, forestry services and - oh yeah, how could I forget? - forest fire protection. Among other things.



Cookie crumbles, "savvy" stewards stumped


As accounting scandals go, Archway is no Enron. Not in the size of the possible accounting fraud itself — sales were probably overstated by a few million dollars — or in its sophistication or ingenuity. Yet what court documents filed in Delaware describe as a fairly simplistic fraud went on for months, seemingly missed by the company’s lenders as well as its savvy, private-equity stewards.

[From What Happened to Archway? - NYTimes.com]


Drivel shrivels Dems


The Republicans...are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club by revoking Colin Powell’s membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a “reverse racist.” Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.



Yet even before Cheney spoke, Congressional Democrats were quaking in fear, purporting with straight faces that the transfer of detainees to “supermax” American prisons constituted a serious security threat.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Who Is to Blame for the Next Attack? - NYTimes.com]