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      Saying that humanity is currently the best off it has ever been (a dubious proposition in any case) is like saying “I’ve never been warmer” as you burn down your house. People like Pinker have been trotting out stats to claim that we’ve never been better off. Those stats are questionable, based on a definition […]
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Friday Morning at The Confluence

bd_morning_paper

Thank goodness it’s Friday! I’m through teaching for a few weeks, and I hope to spend at least a few days lying around reading detective novels. I have to appear at a university function this morning, but then I’m free, free, free as a bird! Well sort of….anyway I’ll be able to hang around TC more often when I’m not reading trashy crime lit. But enough about me. What’s happening in the news?

This will be a brief and somewhat eclectic collection of news that I found interesting over the past few days. Feel free to add your own favorite stories of the week (or brand new breaking stories) in the comments.

Hiroshima

First, yesterday was the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Daniel Ellsberg has a piece about it in The Nation.

It was a hot August day in Detroit. I was standing on a street corner downtown, looking at the front page of The Detroit News in a news rack. I remember a streetcar rattling by on the tracks as I read the headline: A single American bomb had destroyed a Japanese city. My first thought was that I knew exactly what that bomb was. It was the U-235 bomb we had discussed in school and written papers about, the previous fall.

I thought: “We got it first. And we used it. On a city.”

I had a sense of dread, a feeling that something very ominous for humanity had just happened. A feeling, new to me as an American, at 14, that my country might have made a terrible mistake. I was glad when the war ended nine days later, but it didn’t make me think that my first reaction on Aug. 6 was wrong.

The Nation also reports that:

After Labor Day, Daniel Ellsberg’s web site, http://www.ellsberg.net, and some other sites including Truthdig, will start regular installments of his insider’s memoir of the nuclear era–The American Doomsday Machine–an Internet book reflecting his earlier classified work and forty years of research.

Erik Prince

To me the most interesting story of the past few days is the one by Jeremy Scahill on accusations in court papers that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater (now renamed Xe) was involved in murders.

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

The London Times has a related story about Iraqis describing “random killings committed by private Blackwater guards.”

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Joseph Cannon, has a great post about the Erik Prince story, with added speculations. Go read it–it’s great. And while you’re visiting Cannonfire, did you know that Facebook is a CIA op? I did not know that. That’s why I visit Cannon’s blog every day.

Twitter Addicts Go Cold Turkey–for Hours!

Speaking of social media, someone hacked Twitter and other sites yesterday. We twitter addicts were cut off for hours!

Hacker attack takes down Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal

Social networks Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal on Thursday morning were overwhelmed by denial-of-service attacks disrupting access to more than 300 million users. Botnets — thousands of infected home and workplace PCs —flooded the websites with nuisance requests, thus cutting off access to anyone else.

[….]

Security experts can’t say if the attacks were related. Twitter users around the globe could not Tweet for at least three hours. Access was restored in much of the U.S. by 1 p.m. Eastern, but Twitter could not be reached via iPhone or in Eastern Europe through much of the day, says Stephan Tanase, a senior analyst at Kaspersky Lab. “This was definitely a pretty heavy attack,” says Tanase.

Is a Psychopath Attacking Twitter, Facebook?

Thursday’s denial of service attacks on Twitter and Facebook, and the ones that flooded non-critical U.S. government sites several weeks ago share a very interesting common denominator, according to a senior security researcher at Cisco.

They don’t make any sense. And that means trouble, according to Cisco’s Patrick Peterson.

“I’m afraid two outliers make a line and there is something going on,” Peterson said. “We have entered the third generation of denial of service attacks, and anyone that plans on rationality of criminals is at risk.”

What does that mean? It means that assuming that the bad guys online are just a new breed of bank robbers can get you into trouble if there’s a few psychopaths mixed in.

Iran

Iran is holding show trials of people who were arrested for protesting the recent election. In Kenya today, Hillary Clinton had a few choice words about the “trials.”

Iran’s trial of more than 100 people who it has linked to post-election unrest is a “sign of weakness” and shows that the Islamic republic “is afraid of its own people,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN Thursday.

“It is a show trial, there’s no doubt about it,” Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in a wide-ranging interview to be broadcast on his “GPS” program Sunday.

“It demonstrates I think better than any of us could ever say that this Iranian leadership is afraid of their own people, and afraid of the truth and the facts coming out.”

Newest Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Marcia Alesan Dawkins at Truthdig has a very interesting article about Sotomayor and the culture wars.

…Sotomayor’s critics appear unwilling to acknowledge that members of certain groups may have special insights into particular lives and issues. More to the point, critics are unwilling to acknowledge that Sotomayor’s membership in these groups comes with privileges that can be considered a form of expertise, especially in a context in which the nation’s racial majority is changing. At the same time, critics use the expression of her standpoint to discount her ability to appeal to the law as the ultimate authority when exercising her profession. This works to pit her supposed ethnic or “folk” knowledge against official judiciary objectivity. It also implies that since she would express her standpoint, she would use it unfairly. These critiques have led Sotomayor to publicly qualify her own words, explaining that she did not intend to argue that life experiences could or should overrule the law.

There’s a lot more, and it’s good.

Senator Franken, at Center Stage, Presides Over Sotomayor Vote

Cash for Clunkers

Did you know that the “Cash for Clunkers” program forces auto dealers to destroy the engines of the cars turned in to them? That means they can’t be used for parts. What a terrible waste of perfectly good engines. NPR reports that some people in the car business are very upset about it.

Clunker Cash is Anything but Smart Money

“Under the guise of fuel economy, we taxpayers are ponying up funds to have cars that are currently registered, insured and still running …destroyed … as long as the replacement truck gets two miles per gallon more than the trade-in and in the case of cars, four miles more,” writes Joan McCullough of East Shore Partners, whose missives help the scales fall from her faithful readers’ eyes on a daily basis.

“I’m sure you know families who would give their right arm for one of these ‘clunkers’, who can’t even get up a grand or so to buy an old egg-beater to get them around locally, eh? Perhaps what’s making me so uncomfortable about this deal is the notion that we are destroying goods/value with a view towards clearing out inventory to make way for new production which will have a positive impact to a battery of economic statistics.

“Key word here is statistics. And nothing beyond that. What’s next? Torpedo the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels so that we can rebuild them and add even more oomph to GDP? We could dynamite the libraries across the country, too. Just think how many carpenters, plumbers and electricians would have work!

That is just plain ridiculous. Why not re-sell the cars or the parts and get some money back for the taxpayers?

John Hughes

Hughes died of a heart attack yesterday while walking in Manhattan. Kurt Loder writes about Hughes:

John Hughes did one thing extraordinarily well that most critics thought wasn’t worth doing at all. He made teen comedies — funny, distinctively humane pictures that resonated with young people in the 1980s in ways that we, now living in a much raunchier age, may not see again.

I wasn’t crazy about a lot of Hughes’ movies, but I have to admit I do have a soft spot for “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink.” It’s too bad Molly Ringwald didn’t make it as an adult actress. I always liked her.

And Speaking of Molly,

Molly Ringwald Pays Tribute to John Hughes

Odds and Ends

California city shuts down girl’s lemonade stand

Edwards’ ex-girlfriend testifies in federal ‘hush money’ probe

Ronnie Biggs: loveable rogue or unrepentant robber?

How Is America Going To End?

NASA says Kepler spacecraft proves it can find Earth-like planets

This is just sad: Birthers bamboozled by Obama supporter

I hope everyone has a terrific Friday. I love you guys!

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38 Responses

  1. Not to take away from your news (or your pending vacation) but that’s a great picture!

    🙂

  2. Nice compendium.

  3. BB:

    This one is straight out of your portfolio.

    Olbermann, O’Reilly Are Still Fighting

    Keith Olbermann refused to play along this week, Bill O’Reilly returned fire, and the New York Times got wounded in the crossfire.

    I think Keith The Plumber restarted the hostilities to prove that he wasn’t silenced and Falafel Bill decided to return the fire. As always he goes straight after GE and mentions NBC but never directly after KO.

    • Good. Because GE is the real story here. Keith Olbermann has absolutely no credibility, and anyone who takes anything he says seriously is a fool.

      • Stockholders already organizing a written letter campaign to push Immelt out, for the $50 million accounting fraud fine. Hide and watch.

  4. I love detective stories! 😳

    • Which authors do you like to read? I just started Echo Park, by Michael Connelly. I tend to go for the hard boiled detectives or police procedurals. But I like all kinds really.

      • Always enjoy Michael Connelly detective novels. Great summer reads! I’ve recently discovered P.D. James who has been around for a long time, her first detective novel was written in 1962, but I had not read her books until a few months ago. Now I’m in the process of plowing through every one of them. Her writing is just wonderful.

        • She’s good. I used to read all of her books, but haven’t had time to read the most recent ones.

          • In her most recent novel, The Private Patient, she perfectly describes the middle class, “…that amorphous, unregarded group who fought the country’s wars, paid their taxes, clung to what remained of their traditions. They had lived to see their simple patriotism derided, their morality despised, their savings devalued. They caused no trouble. Millions of pounds of public money wasn’t regularly siphoned into their neighbourhoods in the hope of bribing, cajoling or coercing them into civic virtue. If they protested crowded schools where 90 per cent of the children spoke no English, the were lectured about the cardinal sin of r@cism by those more expensively and comfortably circumstanced….”

      • I’m reading Connelly now too. For once, I’m going to read them in order.

        I love Thomas Perry & Peter Robinson.

  5. I just read this story about Hillary. It makes me really glad that she is our SOS. Wish she was POTUS, but at least she is out there getting it done!

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-08-07/hillarys-bold-agenda/

  6. The world’s no. 1 economist speaks and we should listen:

    Keep shovelling that stimulus

    The Obama administration erred in asking for too small a stimulus, especially after making political compromises that caused the stimulus to be less effective than it could have been. It made another mistake in designing a bank bailout that gave too much money, with too few restrictions, on too favourable terms to those who caused the economic mess in the first place – a policy that has dampened taxpayers’ appetite for more spending.

    But that is politics. The economics is clear: The world needs all the advanced industrial countries to commit to another big round of real stimulus spending. This should be one of the central themes of the next G20 meeting in Pittsburgh next month.

  7. I agree on the clunker criticism. I’ve ssen some late model, nice looking cars emblazoned “CLUNKER” in orange spray paint/

    • I just sent one of my cars off to the salvage auction. It was victim to an inexperienced young driver confused about the construction barricades on my commute to work route.
      The adjuster that looked it over was of the opinion that destroying the motors in these otherwise usable cars was causing more than a little pollution. The dealer must drain the motor oil, fill the engine up with a sodium silicate solution then run the vehicle until it locks up.
      Apparently they can sell body parts off these clunkers so all is not lost.
      He said that normally dealers or salvage yards would store the trucks until a team came up from South America and drive them back. One man’s trash in another’s treasure.
      We had a similar scam back in the 1980’s, manufacturing industries and power plants could buy up and destroy old cars and receive a pollution waiver equivalent to the amount that old car would supposedly contribute. They could sell those waivers to other companies.

  8. Nice compendium!
    Adding the 2 free NYC tabloids which today deliver the news (Obama sweating the numbers, et al):
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/tabloids-deliver-the-news/

    • Even the CNN viewers’ “Report Card” gave Obama and the Democratic Congress mostly D’s and F’s . The only category that helped him was that Hillary Clinton as SOS was graded highly in the survey.

      Musta given Donna Brazille heartburn.

      And these “grades” are the CNN crowd, not even Fox or rightwingers.

      Obama sweating the numbers, big time.

      • Donna richly deserves a major case of heartburn.

        • I think Donna has a great capacity for denial – karma does take its time. Like all of news articles I read about Obama – all of his positives (two, I think) are positive, and all of his negatives are positive – Donna lives in an “Obama world” of her making.

        • But don’t forget – it’s all due to racism.

  9. I understand they want those vehicles off of the street but it appears to me that instead of disabling them the government could donate them. There are people who are struggling and unable to afford a new vehicle even with Uncle Sam paying the down payment. Why not offer these vehicles to the Salvation Army or to TAP to help out those that are struggling?

    • A news report stated the parts ARE being taken off the cars – but perhaps that was inaccurate.
      Charities that auction old donated cars are really hurting.
      How does the government really know the cars were crushed – rather than sold to “dealers” in other countries?

      • That doesn’t sound surprising. A dealer could probably make a pretty penny selling parts to junkyards(which by the way they shouldn’t be allowed to do since they are already profiting from the government “incentive”) That being said the government would gain so much more if they donated these vehicles to organizations like TAP who have the ability to screen people in need. Even shaky transportation is better than no transportation whatsoever. In my area buses don’t run until noon and end running at 6 pm. Private vehicles are pretty much a necessity.

        • I guess the main goal was to get those old engines off the road. Environmentalists may be happy – but doesn’t seem practical in this economy.

          • People can and do remove parts from the “clunkers.” which is legal as far as I know. But the original point was to take polluting, gas-guzzling heaps off the road, so destroying the engine block does make sense. In a just world, honest dealers would only resell the cars they could retrofit properly. In this world, you can bet your socks dealers would be reselling the clunkers, and pocketing the taxpayers’ money that was spent supposedly to help clean up the planet.

            Congress never managed to pass the bill for the good of the planet or for oil independence. Now its economic value finally got them to pass it. (The same kind of economic multiplier effect operates in many energy efficiency and small-scale renewables programs. Instead, they lose it on Wall St.)

            The program is supposed to have an environmental as well as economic effect. That’s not a bad thing.

  10. The jobs report appears to be decent news. Who ever thought we’d see the day that we’d be cheering that “only” roughly a quarter of a million jobs have been lost? It does appear though that business has shed as many jobs as they can afford to while still being able to function for the most part.

    That being said, Fannie Mae seems to still be neck deep in doo doo.

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/government/fannie-mae-draws-support-b-loss/

    Why Washington fails to understand that asking business nicely to forgo potential profit isn’t going to work I will never understand. They should have voted for the cramdown where each of these mortgages could have been reviewed and judged circumstance by circumstance. People who lost jobs should have had their loans modified and had what they owed put on the back end. People who bought too much should have been eased into accepting they bought too much. Nooooooo though, that was too darn hard and might make the greedy bastards who already collected billions off the backs of taxpayers upset to not exact their pound of flesh off the back end too.

    • The problem with the jobs report, which will most likely NOT be covered by the MSM, is that the total workforce shrunk… meaning… people are giving up on looking for a job.

      Denninger’s take:

      http://market-ticker.org/archives/1307-Employment-Situation-Report-July.html

      • Well the numbers who were already unemployed are problematic but I do think it is somewhat good news that we appear to have hit bottom. Employers appear to be unable to cut more without impacting or impeding their ability to create profit.

        Obama needs to figure out how to extend unemployment again(while not placing the burden already cash strapped states). This, in my opinion, would have been the better time to send everyone $600 checks. He needs to drive demand for consumables so that businesses add jobs to the job roll.

        • Maybe Harry Reid will volunteer to give up his $8 billion super-train from DisneyWorld to Las Vegas, in favor of that money going to states to help shore up an extension of unemployment$$.

          But don’t hold your breath.

  11. Enjoy your vacation, BB.

    Re Facebook. I am a reluctant member. Don’t want to share information widely. Enjoyed the Cannon links to You Tubes about it.

    “How Is America Going To End?”
    Not sure I agree with any of the scenarios. I think it will morph rather than end. We are what we value most. We could become a giant credit card or gold ingot.

  12. Do people get it that when NPR is spewing nonsense about fewer initial unemployment claims being filed that it means there are fewer employed to lay off?

    Jeez Louise.

    They were all sunshine and rainbows yesterday.
    Crisis over-pony on the way!

    • I think the report is a mixed bag. The fact that fewer people are filing means we may be hitting a bottom. That being said, that doesn’t mean the government is managing to put people back to work. It just means businesses can no longer lay people off without impeding their ability to generate a profit. I’d welcome us seeing a floor. Hopefully then they can figure out the other half of the equation now that we aren’t hemmorhaging. Alot will depend on how long this admin drags its feet on stimulating the economy to drive demand and put folks back to work.

  13. In an earlier thread I posted several articles by folks deeply skeptical of the Cash for Guzzlers program.

    Just goes to show me, any time I think I can cut Obama a break, or think he’s doing the right thing…OOPS, wrong again!

  14. And economically, I don’t think we’ve hit bottom. Not by a long shot. We still haven’t felt the effects of the coming Alt-A meltdown, the looming and possibly humongous commercial real estate meltdown, and a whole crapload of other stuff that lurks around the horizon. Unemployment is getting worse, and those figures don’t even include people who have run through their benefits, have stopped looking for work, or the underground economy of people who are paid under the table and don’t file for unemployment.

    Mary wrote:

    “Even the CNN viewers’ “Report Card” gave Obama and the Democratic Congress mostly D’s and F’s . The only category that helped him was that Hillary Clinton as SOS was graded highly in the survey.

    “Musta given Donna Brazille heartburn. ”

    HAHAHAHA…Thanks so much for posting this LOL!!! Wish I could be there to see Donna’s head explode. I love it that Hillary is the only one saving this administration–as we all knew she would. (I 100% disagree with all aspects of our foreign policy but I still love Hill and this tickles me.)

    • Yes, Obama needed a postive story about his administration and the Clintons provided it!
      LOL

  15. Who said this?:

    “We’re losing jobs at half the rate we were at the beginning of this year.”

    Must of been some joker.

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