Tag Archives: follow-up

Love Is Our Resistance

Boston.com’s The Big Picture delivers yet again with one of their photo postings, this one being about the recent strikes in France over austerity measures that I mentioned here. One picture above all jumped out at me, and there’s a slight chance my being a Muse fan had something to do with it… but still. I think it’s powerful.

Love is our resistance.  (Paris, 2010 Oct. 21)

Love is our resistance. (Paris, 2010 Oct. 21)

Check out the rest of the set here.  The song in my head?  Lyrics, and actual tune.

The terrible economy, still in progress

In 1964, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty. 46 years later, the poverty rate looks to return to levels not seen since his administration.

In 1964, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty. 46 years later, the poverty rate looks to return to levels not seen since his administration.

Statistics can tell the story of a boom and bust much better than more worthless day-to-day metrics like the individual movements in the stock market, especially when the companies represented in the stock market see their boom times return on the backs of not investing any profit or hiring anyone. Your books can look stellar if you don’t invest for two years down the line, much less the actual future.

Statistics can also paint an accurate picture of life in the real world – a world that is separated from the machinations of tycoons and the narratives that television pundits try to write for the rest of us.  Only in the raw data can the actual situation on the economic ground be put together, and that situation has been, is, and looks to continue to be dire.  This week’s example – the poverty rate:

The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.Census figures for 2009 – the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat’s presidency – are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings.

The anticipated poverty rate increase – from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent – would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.

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Disasters & The Moans to Not Help People Anymore

UN forces patrolling Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the January 12 quake

UN forces patrolling Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the January 12 quake

On January 12th of this year, a 7.0 earthquake all but destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing an estimated 230,000 people and left an additional million homeless.  Aid from around the world was announced and has since begun to pour into the devastated island nation.  Amongst all the aid pledged was a promise of some $379 million from the United States.  As has occurred in response to countless disasters in the past, the United States has offered to put its immense resources and wealth to work for those who are less fortunate because in the end (in addition to any medium or long term political goals it may also accomplish) it is the right thing to do.

A little more than six weeks later, an 8.8 earthquake struck the Pacific Rim nation of Chile.  Being centered further under ground, much further away from a multi-million-populated urban center, and occurring in a country that actually had building codes, the death toll was much lower – perhaps under 500 people.  As the first images from the quake region were being broadcast internationally, President Obama was once again front and center at the cameras, pledging that America would respond in whatever way it could, depending on the need.  With the absence of a devastating death toll or a flattened capital city, as of the current writing the largest American commitment to the area has been the setting up of a field hospital in Angol, Chile.

Somewhere between the initial impact of the Haitian earthquake and the Chilean quake (as whatever ‘it’ is, ‘it’ was in full swing by then) a curious attitude toward aid to disaster-effected regions began to rise, almost a Oh no, we have to spend more money now to help out poor people? from certain segments of American society.  Ironically enough, the segments that it arose from were that of the conservative wings of America, and they had once again formulated and came up with arguments that would defy logic and boggle the mind because, in the event anyone had yet to figure this out by now, everything – every last little thing in the world – is a fair-game political football.  Even helping out your fellow human.

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Nothing wrong with too much of a good thing, right? (QH: 30 July 2009)

In today’s edition: people actually bought cars, we just paid for a lot of bonuses, and the Iranian fight goes on.

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The U.S. government’s initiative to get people back into buying cars and getting gas guzzlers off the road, the “Cash for Clunkers” plan, has been a tremendous success.  It’s been so much of a success, it looks like the program might already be over:

The White House said Thursday it was reviewing the government’s popular “cash for clunkers” program amid concerns the $1 billion budget for rebates for new auto purchases may have been exhausted in only a week.Transportation Department officials called lawmakers’ offices earlier Thursday to alert them of plans to suspend the program as early as Friday. But a White House official said later the program had not been suspended and officials there were assessing their options.

The White House said auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that transactions under the program that already have taken place would be honored.

Offering up to $4,500 per gas guzzling clunker turned in, that means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 cars may have been sold from this program alone – all of which coming in the past week.  While that alone might not be enough to unclog the auto inventory glut that has exasperated the tremendous economic problems facing the industry, it will at least go a long way in helping to unclog the system, and perhaps even get auto companies into strategies that involve making and selling cars – not figuring out how to get rid of so much inventory (since production has already been greatly scaled back).  Just another small success that will likely go under reported and be overshadowed by forced race debates.

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The next time you take a look at your pay stub (if you are fortunate enough to be employed), check how much in taxes you’ve paid, and then settle into your chair as you realize that at least a portion of that amount has gone toward this:

Citigroup Inc., one of the biggest recipients of government bailout money, gave employees $5.33 billion in bonuses for 2008, New York’s attorney general said Thursday in a report detailing the payouts by nine big banks.The report from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office focused on 2008 bonuses paid to the initial nine banks that received loans under the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program last fall. Cuomo has joined other government officials in criticizing the banks for paying out big bonuses while accepting taxpayer money.

That’s $5.33 billion of reward for a year that Citigroup that lost $18.7 billion in the same time period.  You’d think logic would be nice enough here to tell those running Citigroup that they could have trimmed their annual losses to $13.37 billion just by not paying the bonuses.  No, however, because in the end the people who failed so badly… they need their rewards, too.

$5.33 billion, by the way, would pay the average yearly earnings of 186,579 Americans ($28,567, 2006 data).  According to Citigroup, at least 738 employees were given a bonus of $1 million or more.

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The band is playing on in Iran, still, with a defiant and emboldened opposition, still rallying around their martyr of the rebellion, Neda Agh-Soltan:

Security forces in Iran on Thursday confronted thousands of protesting Iranians across the city, first at a cemetery and later at a prayer venue and near a government building, witnesses and news reports said.

Clashes erupted at the cemetery as two of Iran’s main opposition leaders tried to join the several thousand people at a memorial for the slain woman who became the symbol of Iran’s post-election violence, witnesses said.

The gathering was banned, but participants ignored the government strictures.

Iran has, and probably will for the near future, remain in a state of political flux – with the outside world not really knowing how to take or trust the current government of the nation at any given time.  What is the real Iran?  Is it the relics of the Revolution still trying to hold on to power?  Is it Ahmadinejad and his near dictatorial behavior?  Is it the Revolutionary Guard itself playing everyone else as puppets?  Is it the street force that has united behind Moussavi?  Will this truly go somewhere or will it just fade quietly, over time?

Alexander the Great can still cause wars? (QH: 28 July 2009)

In today’s edition: Alexander the Great, the UK continuing to go off the privacy deep end, albinos being hunted for magic, and a birther followup…

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Starting off with a non-Iran international story today, the Washington Post is reporting on an apparent rift that is opening up between the countries Greece and Macedonia over, of all things, Alexander the Great.  The landlocked country of Macedonia is technically known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM.  This was done at the demand of it’s southern neighbour, Greece, which claimed that the country’s official name according to its constitution, Republic of Macedonia, is actually a tacit attempt of annexing the Grecian province of Greek Macedonia and presents a threat to the country.  To combat this, Greece has in the past blocked the country from joining the United Nations, imposed a crippling economic blockade, vetoed its attempt to join NATO and is preventing the country from joining the European Union until it changes its name.  Really.

Then there’s Alexander The Great…

Alexander the Great died more than 2,300 years ago. But his cult of personality is just starting to grip this tiny Balkan country.To the annoyance of next-door Greece, which has long claimed the conqueror as its own, Macedonia has anointed Alexander its national hero. The government has renamed the international airport here in his honor, as well as the main highway to Greece. Soon to come: a 72-foot-tall marble colossus of Alexander astride his favorite warhorse, Bucephalus, which will dominate the skyline of the capital, Skopje.

Perhaps if Macedonia was a strong regional power looking to turn into an empire there might be something here, but according to Macedoian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, the army consists of “8,000 troops and a fleet of eight helicopters”.

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For all of the worries in America (mainly among liberals) that our country was encroaching on rights of freedom or rights to privacy, one must remind theirself over and over that we are nowhere near the crazy rendition of rights that some other supposedly free Western countries are inflicting on theirselves, most notably amongst those being the backdrop of the book 1984 itself, Airstrip One/United Kingdom.

If sifting through a couple dozen pages of the UK’s Home Office report doesn’t suit you this evening, this summary is also nice:

We’d all like to help the police to do their job well. They, in turn, would like to have a massive database with DNA profiles from everyone who has been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

Gold star to the first country that implements precogs

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Down go the birthers.  By a 378 – 0 margin.  Better luck on the next conspiracy, right wing.

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The Boston Globe has an excellent and absolutely heartbreaking photo essay up tonight (among two others) dealing with the plights of Albino people in non-western nations.  The captions for these photos speak better than anything I could say…

While albinos in sub-Saharan Africa have faced discrimination for many years, their situation has become far more dangerous in recent years in Tanzania. Albinos in Tanzania are increasingly targeted by those who would kill them for their body organs, limbs and even hair to be used in luck potions by others seeking wealth and good fortune in business and professional circles. According to local residents, witch doctors use the organs and bones in concoctions to divine for diamonds in the soil, while fishermen have been known to weave albino hair into their nets hoping for a big catch on Lake Victoria. More than 50 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and neighboring Burundi in the past year – prompting a network of protective services and a few arrests and murder trials which have been fast-tracked by the Tanzanian government.

Killed for magic

Killed for magic

Mabula, 76, crouches beside his bed January 25, 2009 in his mud-thatched bedroom in a village near Mwanza near the grave of his granddaughter, five-year-old Mariam Emmanuel, an Albino who was murdered and mutilated in an adjacent room in February of 2008 and who was buried inside the mud hut to discourage grave robbers who commonly dig up albino bones. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Beautiful beachfront property in Barrow! (QH: 26 July 2009)

During the second term of the Bush Administration, American spy satellites with a resolution of 1 meter took pictures of the Arctic region (among other places) that went on to show the dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice in a multi-year period.  Because of their spy satellite origins, the Bush Administration deemed these pictures to be sensitive and classified to the general public.  A request by scientists to release the photographs because of their potential scientific value in studying the effects of global warming was granted on July 16th.  Those released pictures, available here, show the continued dramatic decline in the Arctic ice cap.  One of the most striking images was from the village of Barrow, Alaska, seen here:

2006 vs. 2007 sea ice near Barrow, AK

2006 vs. 2007 sea ice near Barrow, AK

What was once a vast sheet of ice only miles off of the Barrow coastline in 2006 entirely disappeared in 2007, with a presumably wide open view of the Arctic Ocean opening up to the Barrow coastline.  This just confirms other research that shows while the average extent of sea ice in the summers of 1979 – 2000 was mere dozens of miles from the Alaskan coast, but since the year 2000 have retreated away from the coast by hundreds of miles.  The cool summer being expierenced here in the Great Lakes aside, Global Warming remains alive and well.  On the bright side at least we now have an administration in power in America that doesn’t deny its existence.

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House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) believes that the rumors of Democrat infighting over health care reform are actually overblown and that Obama’s plan will be passed:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will pass legislation to overhaul the U.S. health-care system through her chamber even as members of her own Democratic Party expressed skepticism after days of discord and delays.

“When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,” Pelosi said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that aired today. “This will happen.”

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Score another one for religion creating nuts:

SAN ANTONIO — Police say they found a 3 1/2-week-old infant stabbed and decapitated in a Texas home, and his mother screaming that she killed her son after the devil told her to do it.

San Antonio police said 33-year-old Otty Sanchez was taken to a local hospital with self-inflicted stab wounds to her chest and stomach. Police spokesman Joe Rios said Otty will be charged with capital murder.

Not too many people earn the death penalty.  This one does.

Call a spade a spade, and don’t step back from it (QH 24 July 2009)

Our latest distraction from wars and the economy comes in the form of a tidbit that came from President Obama’s most recent news conference.  President Obama called “stupid” the case of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor who was arrested in his own home in a very white area because, forgetting his keys, he broke into his own house.  Mr. Gates Jr. presented his own ID to the police officer sent to his home, and wound up being arrested anyways.

To review… a man was arrested in his own home, after proving it was his own home, because the police officer did not think he belonged in that home.  I believe this meets the general definition of “stupid”.  The President saw it as such as well, and spoke his mind at a news conference.  Conservatives were waiting to pounce and did.  The President, for some reason, finds himself on the defense now:

Knocked off stride by a racial uproar he helped stoke, President Barack Obama hastened Friday to tamp down the controversy. Obama, who had said Cambridge, Mass., police “acted stupidly” in arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., declared the white arresting officer was a good man and invited him and the professor to the White House for a beer.Obama conceded his words had been ill-chosen, but he stopped short of a public apology. He personally telephoned both Gates and Sgt. James Crowley, hoping to end the rancorous back-and-forth over what had transpired and what Obama had said about it. Trying to lighten the situation, he even commiserated with Crowley about reporters on his lawn.

Hours earlier, a multiracial group of police officers had stood with Crowley in Massachusetts and said the president should apologize.

Thankfully it’s not an election season.

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In Iran, instability in the ruling regime continues in the wake of the people daring to vote for someone than the chosen leader.  The leadership remains restless and annoyed:

In the latest sign of dissension within Iran’s conservative ranks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial new deputy withdrew on Friday in response to a letter demanding his removal written by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, state television and news agencies reported.

The resignation resolved a week of acrimony over the deputy, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who had drawn fierce criticism from hard-liners over comments he made last year that were friendly to Israel. It also underscored the authority within Iran’s Islamic political system of Ayatollah Khamenei, whose hand-written letter — made public by state television on Friday — appears to have overridden Mr. Ahmadinejad’s persistent refusal to dismiss his trusted deputy.

The dispute may also be a sign that Mr. Ahmadinejad is more vulnerable to conservative rivals in the wake of last month’s disputed presidential election, analysts said.

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, let the American people be damned, because politicos can’t quite figure out if taking care of your fellow man is a good idea or not:

Dissension among Democrats over health-care policy flared anew on Friday, as a top House Democrat threatened to bypass his own committee to speed passage of a bill to subsidize health insurance for tens of millions of Americans.

The threat by the Democrat, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, came on a day of fast-paced developments that laid bare growing tensions between liberal House Democratic leaders and fiscally conservative Democrats in the House Blue Dog Coalition.

The Blue Dogs’ point man on health care, Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas, said that after weeks of negotiating with Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, discussions “pretty much fell apart this afternoon.”

How many more thousands of American citizens will get to go bankrupt for the crime of living?  Someone ask Mr. Waxman, when they get a chance.

Video: Tea Baggers get… insert your own creative phrase here.

Short followup to my most recent posting follows.

A progressive blogger (wish I had a link to his actual blog) decided to attend one of the awesomely-named Tea Bag parties where a small segment of middle and lower income workers protested the burden of tax being shifted off of them and onto the rich.

Entertainingly enough they didn’t see it that way, but this guy sure did.  Enter the video:

Nothing quite works like a little bit of honesty.