For valuable prizes (just kidding), find the party

I walked downtown a little while ago (hey, it's 43º on the widget and I felt obligated) and there on the main corner, the one with the stoplight, there were some folks waving Brown signs. Not the color, the guy.

As you may know by now, there's a special election being held in Massachusetts next Tuesday to pick a successor for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. The Democratic candidate is Martha Coakley, currently the state's attorney general. The Republican candidate is Scott Brown, currently serving as a state legislator.

See if you can find the word Democrat on Coakley's web site, or Republican on Brown's.

When we talk about political hacks, this is not the kind of hack we mean

The electronic voting systems used in Massachusetts are notoriously plagued with problems and vulnerabilities, and are in violation of federal voting system standards. Moreover, they are sold, programmed, and maintained by a company with a disturbing criminal background....

The Diebold electronic voting machines to be used in more than 90% of the state's districts are the same demonstrably unreliable ballot scanning systems that were seen being hacked in the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary Hacking Democracy. The rest of the machines used in the Bay State are made by Sequoia Voting System, Inc., the same manufacturer whose machines were "misconfigured," to switch votes in Erie County, NY's Nov. 3, 2009 election and which have failed, and even been hacked, in a number of cases around the country.

Making matters worse, the company who sells, services and programs the Diebold optical-scan paper ballot systems to be used next week, LHS Associates, has a disturbing criminal background, and has admitted to tampering illegally with voting systems during past elections.

link: Easily Hacked Voting Systems to be Used in MA Special Election for the U.S. Senate


Paul Knue writes...

In our great country, freedom of speech is one of our most cherished -- and most taken-for-granted -- rights. A corollary should be that you are required to actually know what you are talking about before you exercise that right. Unfortunately, there is no such requirement.

The unimaginable tragedy that has befallen Haiti -- one of the poorest and most desperate nations in the world -- is an unexpected opportunity for the right-wing crazies who delight in spewing their venom on a daily basis. So, of course, Pat Robertson, who portrays himself as a man of Christ, and Rush Limbaugh, mouthpiece of Republican nutcases everywhere, were first out of the block, spreading their hatred at every opportunity. Fortunately, there are still those in the media (think Edward R. Murrow) who are willing to take on bullies and political opportunists. Keith Olbermann had the courage to call out Robertson and Limbaugh in this broadcast.

If you really want to understand the horror of Haiti, read this (see below), the first (and only) news I have had from my wife, who has worked for years to help the Haitian people and who was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. She is a gracious and kind woman who has devoted her life to others -- she is also the anchor of our family and is responsible for every success I have ever achieved. We miss her terribly and hope she can get home soon.

And we hope there is a special place in hell for those who spew such hatred.

Lissa's letter...

This is unbelievable. i was in the library (a concrete building) when the quake hit practicing for a skit. We were all thrown about 3 feet and luckily no one was hurt. We all rushed out into the yard and sat down. It was terrifying. Soon the villagers started streaming in screaming and as frightened as we were. One of our ladies was hit by a stone wall and was seriously hurt. She is better, but we're trying to get her airlifted out. The aftershocks are awful. Last night we all slept outside because one of the aftershocks was so severe it ruptured the water line in our house. We spent the night on the ground. Everytime I started to sleep, another aftershock hit. today I worked 7 hours in the clinic. it's a little tough to treat fractures with tylenol and aspirin. Some people were not dug out until this morning. Several thousand Haitians are living on our grounds. They have moved what belongings they have left with them. We have a field of tents and mattresses in our front yard. Right now an evangelistic rock band is playing in the front yard. Last night a little boy was born and we used dental floss to clamp the cord. Tonight a little girl was born. Last night an 18 month old died after I held him for 4 hours. He bled out after a wall fell on his leg.

We are back in the house and I plan to sleep in my own bed. We have electricity and water and even had cheery cobbler for dinner. The aftershocks are lessening and we have stopped running for the door everytime one hits. We have heard that the runway at Port Au Prince is undamaged and that the road to there is passable we are about 40 miles from the epicenter so I can only imagine what the city looks like....

Pray for us.

ADD: Here's a list from HuffPo of ways you can donate financially to help people in Haiti.


Shrinks' breakthrough discovery: Weekends are fun

"Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend," says author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

link: Read more at Science Blog

Imagine my surprise

Since 1990 Big Insurance has given 62% of $325,222,386 in bribes to Republicans and 37% to Democrats. Last year it was 55% for the Republicans and 45% for the Democrats. But in the current cycle-- lo! and behold!-- Big Insurance is suddenly supporting more Democrats than Republicans! So far this cycle has seen 53% go into Democratic coffers and 47% accrue to Republicans. What a coincidence!

link: DownWithTyranny!: You Know Why Americans Are Unhappy About The Healthcare Bill, Right?

Gimme a break

President Barack Obama will write the cover story for next week's Newsweek magazine.

link: Barack Obama To Write Newsweek Cover Story On Haiti

Doesn't this guy already have a job? He gets paid so little he has to moonlight? WTF?

Luckily, Wall is a very short street

The 38 largest financial institutions on Wall Street will pay out a total of $145.85 billion in compensation for 2009, an 18 percent increase over 2008 and "slightly more than in the record year of 2007," the Wall Street Journal reports.

(By "slightly," the Journal means a 6 percent increase over 2007, amounting to some $8 billion.)

Contrast this with the state of affairs on Main Street, where average earnings increased 2.2 percent in 2009 -- and that number excludes the 7 million jobs lost since the recession began.

link: Wall Street’s payout for 2009: $145 billion | Raw Story

It's the talking house again

President Obama, who has repeatedly warned of the country’s vulnerability to devastating cyberattacks, has said nothing in public about one of the biggest examples since he took office. And the White House, while repeating Mr. Obama’s calls for Internet freedom, has not publicly demanded a Chinese government investigation.

link: NYTimes.com

Who is that white house?

With banks like this, who needs jobs?

NEW YORK – JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Friday it earned $3.28 billion in the last three months of 2009, extending a winning streak for big U.S. banks.

link: JPMorgan Chase profit soars on market rally - Yahoo! News


And no more exploding underwear

I had an idea about doctors and the TSA. You have to get undressed for both, so why not combine them? Think about it! Get a bathrobe, a colonoscopy and a boarding pass.

link: back(b)log: *This Gives Me An Idea


The land of the free but not dangerously free, and the home of the terminally terrified

WASHINGTON — After a recent attempted terrorist attack set off a debate about full-body X-rays at airports, a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll finds that Americans lean more toward giving up some of their liberty in exchange for more safety.

link: Poll: Most Americans would trim liberties to be safer | McClatchy


KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA (January 7, 2010) - Full body scanning machines proposed in major airports may involve an image received by screeners of travelers in their “altogether,” but all together, scanning makes sense. So endorses the American Association for Nude Recreation (www.AANR.com), the oldest and largest group representing nudists in the US and Canada....

Adds Schuttauf [the organization's executive director], “...And as an added bonus, you can add the experience to your ‘bucket list’ as a virtual dipping of one’s toe into taking a Nakation - that’s a nudist vacation!”

link: Nudists Agree: Airport Scanning that ‘Takes It Off’ is Good for America | American Association for Nude Recreation - The Alltogether

[The referenced web page is also cited for spelling "all together" three ways - extra points if you spot all three. -CiC]

Meanwhile, the Empire's own R&D department is hard at work on amping up one of those full-body scanners to not only detect weapons and contraband but also give each victim subject happy traveler an all-over, everywhere tan. Dude, we'll all be rich, rich, rich.


Smoke, mirrors, and little cries of joy oooo oooo

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is trumpeting a new White House estimate that his top economist calls "stunning": His stimulus plan has already created or saved up to 2 million jobs....

However, the administration's method of counting jobs has been controversial, and starting with fourth-quarter figures, it's adopting a new one — giving up trying to determine if a job has been created or saved, and reporting only that it's funded by the stimulus. The change was ordered quietly last month in a memo to federal agencies.

link: White House credits stimulus with up to 2M jobs - Yahoo! News

Changed the way they count.


"Be a good citizen - drop your pants."

Story at Threat Level.

Pharma's role in swine flu scare?

"We have had a mild flu - and a false pandemic," says Wolfgang Wodarg, the chair of the Health Committee in The European Council. The German parliamentarian is also an epidemiologist and former health director in Flensburg. For that reason he has followed the H1N1-pandemic closely since June 11 and up to the present. He calls the pandemic "one of the greatest medical scandals of the century"...

"The governments have sealed contracts with vaccine producers where they secure orders in advance and take upon themselves almost all the responsibility. In this way the producers of vaccines are sure of enormous gains without having any financial risks. So they just wait, until WHO says "pandemic" and activate the contracts."


Tina Fey's gonna love this

''I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News,'' [Sarah] Palin said in a statement posted on the network's Web site. ''It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.''

link: Sarah Palin Takes Fox News Commentator Job - NYTimes.com

Palin has "captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum," says FOX News Executive VP Bill Shine, presumably with a straight face.

How about a little global warming?

So here's today's news: Mark McGwire finally admits what we all knew -- he took steroids in order to hit more home runs than Babe Ruth, who did it on hot dogs and beer. Also this: Sarah Palin will be a commentator for -- who could have ever guessed? -- Fox News! Not that Fox has a political agenda or anything.

OK, guys, I'm a wrinkled, grumpy newspaper guy -- a dinosaur really -- and here's the real news: A record cold snap has frozen sunny Florida, where snowbirds from Ohio return each year like buzzards return to historic Hinckley. (Every little town is historic. Never mind that the history is mostly boring and inconsequential.) But it will warm up again, and there we'll be, driving slowly in the high-speed lanes, squinting through our cataract sunglasses, and clogging up golf courses. The right-wing crazies will eat their young, as they always do, and eventually self-destruct.

-Paul Knue

[The weather in Florida of late has been just about the same as we have here at our global headquarters in Massachusetts, except we seem to have tougher inguanas. We can spare one pair of snowshoes, if anybody down there needs them. -CiC]



400 pennies exactly, right on the nose. Plus two dimes.

So four free bucks, minus shoe leather.

"Seattle finally gets light rail...

...and the first thing we do is take off our pants," notes Seattle Bureau Chief Lynn C.

County fair

This is the time of year I get all color starved (look around - there's nothing but snow and bare trees) so I went looking through the files for a few colorful desktop pictures. Here's one (you can download a full-size copy here if you want it) and I'll be putting up a few more this week.

We have met the enemy and they are us

HAMPTON, Va. — As the military rushes to place more spy drones over Afghanistan, the remote-controlled planes are producing so much video intelligence that analysts are finding it more and more difficult to keep up.

link: Military Deluged in Drone Intelligence - NYTimes.com


The long, long road

On Friday, in the December unemployment report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of people out of work for 27 weeks or more hit 6.1 million Americans, or 40 percent of all 15.3 million jobless. This is the most since 1948, when the data was first recorded, according to the Department of Labor. On average, it now takes 20.5 weeks to find a new job – double the amount of time in the 1982-83 recession.

Many of the long-term unemployed are older workers, but some are the very young who were the first fired. A significant percentage of them don’t have a college degree, but some do. And many of them are now so discouraged they have lost their belief that a job exists for them.

link: Number of long-term unemployed hits highest rate since 1948 / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com