• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    bellecat on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    lililam on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    William on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    William on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    riverdaughter on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Trump Makes Political Rally Sp…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Marco…?
    William on Marco…?
    bellecat on Have Courage, Be Kind
    Sweet Sue on Have Courage, Be Kind
    riverdaughter on He’s not demented. He’s just n…
    Jim on He’s not demented. He’s just n…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Only 4 months.
    riverdaughter on Only 4 months.
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    March 2010
    S M T W T F S
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Feeling and Acting Powerful in Catastrophic Times
      The United States is moving into a time of catastrophe. Thirty-two percent of people were unable to make either their rent or mortgage payments in July. Twenty-two percent of small businesses seem likely to go bankrupt. One-third of small independent farms are on the verge of bankruptcy. When these people lose their homes and wind […]
  • Top Posts

What about “access bloggers?”


Glenzilla writes in White House access is a jackpot for reporters:

The conflicts in having “journalists” report on the administration while simultaneously begging top White House officials for highly lucrative book-access are as self-evident as they are corrupting.

[…]

Is it even remotely conceivable that this stable of access-desperate reporters would write negatively about the White House or the President, or conversely, refuse to do their bidding?

[…]

How can one possibly purport to be a “watchdog” over the very political officials on whom one’s livelihood and hope for riches depend?

I’m in agreement with Glenn about the affect of “access” on objective reporting. But the same principle applies to blogging.

The Chicago Cubs will win a dozen World Series before I ever get invited to a White House briefing. Outside of the other frontpagers at The Confluence my email contacts include exactly three bloggers, and one of those has a blog that is now defunct. I also get no income from blogging.

But if I depended on blogging for my livelihood, whether by salary, advertising or from subscriptions/donations, having insider access at the White House would be like money in the bank. Would it corrupt me?

Oh, you betcha! It would corrupt anyone. To paraphrase Lord Acton, “Access corrupts, and complete access corrupts completely.” Which makes me wonder: How it would affect someone who is already swilling Kool-aid?

Someone like John Aravosis, Duncan Black, Matt Yglesias, Chris Hayes, Thom Hartmann, Oliver Willis, or any or the others that have been invited to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Access Bloggers at the White House


UPDATE:

Chris Bowers brings the stoopid, and Boo-Hoo-man takes it to illogical extremes:

For me, ‘progressive’ means ‘committed to progress’ which may be incremental or sweeping, but which doesn’t get bogged down in ideological roadblocks. There is no such thing as ‘noble failure’ when failure means that the current incarnation of Republicans is restored to power. A wise president works with what he’s got and doesn’t add more burden than the beast can bear. That’s different from triangulation. Triangulation is passing your opponent’s agenda on your terms and then taking credit for it. Obama is passing his agenda on the terms the system will bear. And that is progressive enough for me.



Wednesday Morning News

It’s hump day already. Let’s have a look at a bit of the news.

Though it’s hump day, you may not necessarily want to take that literally. Apparently Gonorrhea may become a superbug:

Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhea from Britain’s Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bug repeatedly adapting to and overcoming drugs.

“This is a very clever bacteria. If this problem isn’t addressed, there is a real possibility that gonorrhea will become a very difficult infection to treat,” she said in a telephone interview.

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial sexually-transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

Globally, the WHO estimates that there are at least 340 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections — including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis — every year among people aged 15 to 49.

Ison said the highest incidences of gonorrhea were in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, but as yet the WHO has no breakdown by individual infection type.

Yikes. But let’s continue to have abstinence only sex ed in some quarters because, you know, what could possibly go wrong.

The guy that came up with the Gaia Hypothesis, James Lovelock, says we should dump democracy in order to save ourselves from a climate change catastrophe:

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists’ emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change,” said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. “The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.”

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is “modern democracy”, he added. “Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

Lovelock, 90, believes the world’s best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

Um, what democracy? If there is a place where they actually count your votes for these election thingys, I’d like to know. He’s got a point about people not making changes very easily. But then I’d say having leaders, and by that of course I mean corporations, who’s own self interest precludes such things, whether you have a pretend democracy or a dictatorship, the results will be the same since the very same oligarchy would be in charge either way. A large disaster like he says is the only thing that will do it. I personally think it’s too late, so who cares. Go out and party like it’s 2012!

USDOT is bringing in NASA scientists to help with the Toyota acceleration investigation:

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today said it was doing just by bringing in NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas.  The NHTSA review of the electronic throttle control systems in Toyotas is to be completed by late summer.

The DOT said engineers from the National Academy of Sciences – an independent body of scientific experts – will also look into the overarching subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry.

For NASA, the space agency’s engineers will focus on technology such as electromagnetic compatibility as part of a shorter-term review of the systems used in Toyota vehicles to determine whether they contain any possible flaws that would warrant a defect investigation, the DOT stated.

NASA’s expertise in electronics, hardware, software, hazard analysis and complex problem solving ensures this review will be comprehensive.  Currently there are nine experts from NASA assisting NHTSA, and additional personnel will join the team if needed, the DOT stated.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement.  “For the safety of the American driving public, we must do everything possible to understand what is happening. And that is why we are tapping the best minds around.”

It’s not unusual for NASA to get involved in such investigations.  Previous technology examinations involved electronic stability control and airbags.

And here we have it, it’s all the fault of magnets. I knew it wasn’t me. Apparently magnets can mess with your sense of morality according to a recent study:

Magnets can alter a person’s sense of morality, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries.

“It’s one thing to ‘know’ that we’ll find morality in the brain,” said Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. “It’s another to ‘knock out’ that brain area and change people’s moral judgments.”

Of course that can only mean one thing. Soon in court cases around the country, we’ll be seeing… the “magnet defense.”

While we’re looking at Discovery, here’s a nice find. A written language has been discovered of ancient Scotland:

The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

“We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English,” lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.

Although Lee and his team have not yet deciphered the Pictish language, some of the symbols provide intriguing clues. One symbol looks like a dog’s head, for example, while others look like horses, trumpets, mirrors, combs, stags, weapons and crosses.

The later Pictish Stones also contain images, like Celtic knots, similar to those found in the Book of Kells and other early works from nearby regions. These more decorative looking images frame what Lee and his team believe is the written Pictish language.

“It is unclear at the moment whether the imagery, such as the knots, form any part of the communication,” Lee said. He believes the stones also contain semasiographic symbols, such as a picture of riders and horn blowers next to hunting dogs on what is called the Hilton of Cadboll stone. Yet another stone shows what appears to be a battle scene.

Drill baby drill!! Obama’s going to push for more drilling for oil in Alaska among other places:

President Barack Obama today will announce a compromise to broadly open new areas off the U.S. coast to oil and natural gas drilling while protecting specific swaths, including Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The plan, to be announced at a late morning energy security event at Andrews Air Force Base may help Obama court bipartisan support for contentious climate change legislation but also could chafe environmental activists in states affected by expanded drilling.

A White House aide describing the details ahead of the announcement said that an upcoming Interior Department lease sale 50 miles off the Virginia coast would mark the first new offshore oil and gas sale in the Atlantic in more than two decades.

Drilling off the coast from the mid-Atlantic to the Southeast could be broadly expanded, pending further study. Drilling off the Florida coast would be subject to a minimum 125 mile distance. A previously scheduled lease sale in Alaska‚s Cook Inlet could go ahead, but Bristol Bay and pending lease sales in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, in North Alaska, will be canceled. No West Coast exploration is being announced.

“To set America on a path to energy independence, the President believes we must leverage our diverse domestic resources by pursuing a comprehensive energy strategy,” said the aide who was not authorized to speak on the record ahead of the president’s announcement.

Bill Clinton to co-chair committee overseeing funds to Haiti:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will co-chair a committee overseeing at least $3.8 billion in post-quake aid to Haiti, the ravaged country’s prime minister said.

The announcement was made ahead of a critical donors conference Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Haitian officials will ask representatives from more than 130 countries for reconstruction help at the meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration would pledge $1.15 billion over the next two years to rebuilding Haiti. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hillary Clinton would announce the pledge at the conference later Wednesday.

Some serious rumbling is happening in the gene business world after a ruling throwing out a gene patent:

Many biotechnology stocks fell on Tuesday as investors struggled to understand the impact of a ruling that threw out parts of two gene patents and called into question thousands more.

Stock market losses were muted, with two major indexes that track the shares of the industry falling by less than 1 percent each. In part, that was because biotechnology executives hastened to reassure their investors that the ruling would not necessarily undermine their businesses, at least in the short run.

But the executives themselves were struggling on Tuesday to figure out what the long-term impact would be. Biotech companies spend billions every year trying to develop new tests and treatments based partly on genes they have isolated and patented.

Those are a few things rattling around in the news today. Chime in with anything you’re finding to day. Or just whatever is on your mind.

Fools and Tools


Howie Fineman at Newsweak:

A Democratic senator I can’t name, who reluctantly voted for the health-care bill out of loyalty to his party and his admiration for Barack Obama, privately complained to me that the measure was political folly, in part because of the way it goes into effect: some taxes first, most benefits later, and rate hikes by insurance companies in between.

Notice that he didn’t vote for it because it was the right thing for the country. He didn’t do it because it was good for his constituents. He voted for it “out of loyalty to his party and his admiration for Barack Obama.”

But wait, there’s more!

Besides that, this Democrat said, people who already have coverage will feel threatened and resentful about helping to cover the uninsured—an emotion they will sanitize for the polltakers into a concern about federal spending and debt.

That’s code for R-A-C-I-S-T. Isn’t it nice to know our elected representatives think so highly of us?

Here’s the good part:

If the numbers stay where they are—and it’s not clear why they will change much between now and November—then the Democrats really are in danger of colossal losses at the polls.

Hey, payback is a you-know-what.

Tuesday Afternoon/Evening Open Thread


We need something more cheerful to finish the day. I’m looking forward to the season premiere of Law & Order Criminal Intent. I’ve got cold beer in the fridge and a pizza waiting to go in the oven (it’s only 3:30 here in Big Smoggy)

What are you doing this evening?

Via Historiann:

Bullied to Death


The Boston Herald:

Nine teens, three of them juveniles, have been charged in connection with the Jan. 14 suicide death of bullying victim Phoebe Prince, with counts ranging from harassment to statutory rape.

Today’s announcement from Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel was the culmination of a two-and-a-half month criminal probe.

Prince, 15, a recent immigrant from Ireland, was reportedly found hanged in her home after enduring weeks of torment from bullies on Facebook and in the halls of South Hadley High School.

“It appears that Phoebe’s death on Jan. 14 followed a torturous day for her, in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse,” said Scheibel.

The DA added South Hadley High School officials knew of the bullying of Prince. “It was common knowledge,” said Scheibel, adding the girl’s mother spoke to at least two school staff members.

Egalia at TGW adds:

The young girl’s tormentors called her an “Irish slut” and “a whore.”

Seven of the nine alleged bullies are female.

These kind of stories are always disturbing. Most bullying doesn’t result in death but it can leave permanent psychological scars.

The dumbest thing Chris Bowers ever said


Forget Chris Bowers’ discussions of the creative class, bubbas and squishy goo-goos. His most recent post “The progressive Internet space changed because Obama convinced it to change” takes the cake:

I spent much of 2008 exasperated by a progressive Internet space that had seemingly reversed itself overnight on things like the value of triangulation, bipartisanship, appearing Fox News, allowing Joe Lieberman to keep his seniority, sending more troops to Afghanistan, retroactive immunity for telecom companies, replacing local state party organizers with ones who answer directly to the DNC, and much more. It seemed as though numerous policies and strategies that had held near-consensus stature within the progressive online ecosystem had been either scrapped or reversed simply because Barack Obama said it was a good idea to scrap or reverse them.

Back then, the urge to call people who reversed their positions lobotomized “sheeple” was almost impossible to resist–and I frequently did not resist it.

However, that is not an impulse I feel anymore. This is because I realized Barack Obama persuaded progressive activists to change their minds not because those activists are sheeple or because activist organization leaders operate in “veal pens,” but rather because Obama developed new messaging that was more convincing than the likes used by myself, or BTD, or anyone else on the left who was making contrary arguments. He just beat those old arguments, plain and simple, and the progressive Internet space changed.

In the comments Chris gives us the Cliff Notes version of his thesis:

Winning the argument and winning the election are the same thing.

There is so much fail here, where should I start?

First of all, Obama lost the primary election. Yes, it’s true, he lost. Hillary got more votes despite spending less money and without the support of the media or the Democratic leadership.

Secondly, Obama hasn’t exactly won any arguments. He consistently says one thing and then does another. Where I come from that’s called “lying.”

But if “winning the argument and winning the election are the same thing” then does that mean Reagan and Bush were right? They won their elections (well, Reagan did anyway) so they must have won the arguments. So why did the progressives oppose them?

Oh, wait, what’s that you say? We’re only talking about Democrats? Well, didn’t Bill Clinton win (not one but) two elections? Why then did the proggers blame Hillary for his administration?

Did 20/20 hindsight prove the Big Dawg was wrong? If so, about what, the peace or the prosperity?

Assuming that the “judgment of history” is that WJC lost the argument, doesn’t that mean that Obama’s victory can be retroactively turned into a loss as well? Could Clinton’s “loss” then be turned back into a victory later on? I’m so confused!

But wait, there’s more!

Chris added this gem:

Yeah (4.00 / 5)
And Obama was always the President, always had millions of donors, and always had the whole party behind him.

In reality, he started 2007 with virtually no organization, at least compared to the one he has now. He built it up by convincing his supporters to supply the resources necessary.

He wasn’t always this powerful. He built it. And if anyone is going to supplant them, they have to do the same.
by: Chris Bowers @ Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 21:08

Uh, Chris? Where did Obama get the $99 million he raised in 2007? Who were his donors? They were Wall Street bankers, health insurance company executives, and other big money special interests. If you have been paying attention you would know that the Democratic leadership backed Obama early on, even though much of that support was clandestine.

How did he become the media favorite? Suddenly the corporate-owned media decided that a rookie senator with a tissue-thin resume was a contender. How did that happen?

Come on Chris, put down the Kool-aid and step away from the punchbowl.


Oopsie!


We’ve been hearing for a couple weeks that the right wingers are violent and crazy extremists who have been threatening congressional supporters of ObamaCare. Sarah Palin has been accused (again) of ginning up the hate.

Well, the FBI arrested the nutball in the above video for threatening to kill Rep. Eric Cantor and his family. One problem – the Congressman is a GOPer and Senor Nutball is an Obama supporter.

Strangely enough, if you read the report by Toilet Paper Memes you won’t find any mention of Rep. Cantor’s party affiliation or Herr Nutball’s support for Obama.

It’s probably just a coinky-dink.

Monday Midday: Sacrilege in the Church of Baseball,* Midwest Christian Militias, Fundamentalist Manifestos, and Pedophile Priests

Fenway Park, Boston

* Annie Savoy in Bull Durham:

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring…

Why is ESPN allowed to ruin an age-old Boston sports tradition?

The home opener in Boston has always meant a day game during the week, with kids skipping school, adults skipping work, and local pols skipping graft and corruption to watch the game. But thanks to ESPN and baseball, we now have a Sunday night game instead. That’s just pathetic! No sunshine, no opportunity to skip out of school or work. Baseball was meant to be played with the sun shining. Now there are so few day games and the powers that be have taken away the most sacred day game of all.

Do those ESPN morons even know what Boston weather is like in April? On April 4 (opening day) the high will be in the 70s in the daytime, which would be nice, but at night it will be in the 40s–ugly, horrible weather for a baseball game.

And why do the Red Sox have to play the Yankees on opening day? That has never been a baseball tradition. The Red Sox-Yankee rivalry isn’t even fun anymore, after all the exploitation of it by Major League Baseball and TV. it used to be we wouldn’t see the Yankees until Patriot’s day (Boston Marathon Day) after both teams had had a some chance to get up to speed.

Okay, rant over.

The rest of this morning’s post will be about religion and politics. I was a little bit intimidated by the reaction to my Friday post, but I got over it. Rude and offensive comments will be removed and posters of those comments will be put in moderation for the duration of this thread. I hope that is perfectly clear. Feel free to post and discuss news links on any topic at all.

Midwest Christian Militia Members Busted by Feds

Members of Hutaree and another Michigan militia group

Here’s some interesting religion/politics news. According to the Detroit News, seven members of a Christian militia group called “Hutaree” have been arrested in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana in “massive” raids involving the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The raids took place on Saturday and Sunday.

Sources have said the FBI was in the second day of raids around the southeastern Michigan city of Adrian that are connected to a militia group, known as the Hutaree, an Adrian-based group whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.

WXYZ-TV reports that helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of Saturday night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area. Witnesses told the station that it was like a small army had descended on the area. The Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are also involved in the raids.

According to several reports, the town of Adrian, Michigan looked like it was being invaded.

Helicopters, foot patrols, Michigan State Police, FBI, and a tank were seen in Lenawee County since Saturday evening.

Resident Christina Lamb says folks said the group was “KKK. That they’re making bombs. That they have a whole bunch of drugs and guns.”

The focus of the raid was a large rural property in Adrian where a militia member lived in a house and his two sons lived in nearby trailers. From Huffpo:

Law enforcement swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening near Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit, neighbors said. Two ramshackle trailers sat side-by-side on the property, the door to one slightly ajar late Sunday as if it had been forced open.

Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said some people who lived there were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, according to Brugger and her daughter, Heidi Wood.

Similar operations took place in Sandusky, Ohio and Hammond, Indiana.

In Hammond, Indiana, several young men standing outside a pizza place where they worked saw “a swarm of law enforcement” swoop in. According to George Ponce, 18,

“I heard a yell, ‘Get back inside!’ and saw a squad member pointing a rifle at us,” Ponce said. “They told us the bomb squad was going in, sweeping the house looking for bombs.”

He said another agent was in the bushes near the house, and law enforcement vehicles were “all over.” He estimated that agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.

Two more arrests were made in Sandusky and Huron, Ohio. From Huffpo article linked above:

A young man who answered the door at the trailer Sunday said no one from the family wanted to talk. A neighbor said he saw authorities with rifles run past his window and toward the trailer Saturday night.

“They took over the block like it was the Army. I thought we were being invaded,” said Michael Morin, who lives two lots away.

Park manager Terry Mills said authorities blocked off the street for about an hour Saturday night.

“Needless to say, this has everyone talking,” said Mills, 62. “We have a lot of retirees here who don’t want all this commotion.”

Some militia members are reportedly on the run, and perhaps more will be arrested. It also isn’t clear what the charges were in these arrests. Two possibilities I’ve seen are that the group may have made threats against Islamic groups and that they may have been selling pipe bombs. That was a lot of firepower for some pipe bombs and threats.

So what is this group all about anyway? Hutaree supposedly means “Christian Warrier.” The group’s web page says they are “preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” According to news stories, this means they are preparing to fight the Anti-Christ. The Doctrine of the Hutaree is also posted on the site. It’s here if you’re interested in reading it.

According to Ann Arbor.com, members of Michigan militias, including Hutaree have recently helped local law enforcement to find missing persons:

…several Hutaree members were recently involved in searches in Bridgewater Township after two residents went missing in separate incidents. Schiel [seen in photo above, second from left] worked closely with Hutaree members during those searches.

Both missing people were found–unfortunately dead. One, a woman, died from hypothermia (friends said she may have taken too much anti-anxiety medication) and the other, a man, was found in his car dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. The large women on the left side of the above photo is a Hutaree member who helped in the searches, Wendy Lineweaver.

She joined the tightly-knit unit after meeting several members at a Ron Paul rally several years ago in Ann Arbor. Lineweaver opposes surveillance cameras on streets, the use of body scanners at airports and fears the government may microchip people.

“If you really want to try and install a police state in this society, you’re going to hit a brick wall, meaning us,” she said. “That’s what we’re preparing for.”

The group also has a MySpace page and a YouTube channel with lots of videos of people running around in camoflage and shooting off guns.
Continue reading

Book Review: The Big Short

In the last couple of months, I have started to receive mail from “Wealth Management” financial advisors like Merrill-Lynch.  This is funny for two reasons: 1. I have no wealth to manage and 2. after reading the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis, the last people in the world I would give my money to is Merrill-Lynch.  They were one of the last companies to figure out how to make money during the subprime housing bubble.

The Big Short is about those esoteric “instruments” that Wall Street developed to suck money out of America, the rampant fraud that signified a bubble and some ragtag outsiders who accurately predicted the bursting of that bubble and made a lot of money in the process.  Our cast of characters, the good guys, if this tale has any heros at all, includes Michael Burry, a one-eyed neurologist with Aspberger’s syndrome who liked to read prospectuses for fun, Steve Eisman, an iconclastic hedge fund manager at Frontpoint, and a “garage band” hedge fund called Cornwall Capital consisting of Charlie Ledley, Jaimie May and Ben Hockett.  With the exception of Eisman and Hockett, the rest were amateurs, just dabbling in money markets and placing bets on unlikely events.

For each of these three groups of people, there was something unique about their approach to the financial market.  Michael Burry was discovered by investors who read some of his blog posts about where to put their money in the stock market.  He was persuaded to manage other people’s money and started Scion Capital.  But unlike other financial managers, Burry told his investors that they had to be in it for the long haul.  The Cornwall Capital guys started with $100,000 and the crazy idea that if you want to make money in the financial world, you have to bet against conventional wisdom.  Steve Eisman was raised on Wall Street.  He came from a family of analysts that seemed to think the Wall Street investment companies had a fiduciary responsibility towards their investors.

The Big Short follows our outliers throughout the last decade as they discover the subprime housing market and start to wrap their heads around the concept of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.  As they wander their way through the complexity and deliberate opacity of the bond market, they start to realize that it is fueling a bubble.  Eisman quickly sees that the subrpime mortgage business is encouraging fraud when his Jamaican baby nurse tells him she is over her head in debt from the 5 townhouses she’s bought in Brooklyn.  Wall Street firms were writing teaser rate loans for people who didn’t have the income to pay when the balloon rate would kick in.  Then they bundled the loans, sliced them up and sold them to unwitting investors who didn’t read the prospectuses.  Michael Burry was one of the few who did read them.  With his sharp analytical mind, he calculated when the bubble would burst and was one of the first people to place a bet on the losses when he asked for custom credit default swaps from Morgan-Stanley and Goldman-Sachs.  Charlie Ledley and Jamie May thought the subprime market was too good to be true so they bet against it too.

The book takes us through the complicated maze of the financial world from Wall Street to Las Vegas and Berkeley and introduces us to a bunch of colorful characters.  There’s the almost allegorical investment fund manager who just passes his investors money through the CDO market, the salesman from Deutsche Bank who lays out how the whole Ponzi scheme works and the Morgan Stanley guy who loses more money for his accounts in the meltdown than anyone  in history.

Our good guys start to get more alarmed as the enormity of the coming armageddon starts to take shape.  Well before the crash, they challenge the ratings firms and bankers in public, write letters to their investors describing what’s happening and even have a social conscience when they make a trip to the SEC and try to explain it to a clueless government official.  When the proverbial $hit starts hitting the fan, they’re as anxious and distressed as everyone else even though they each made a ton of money.  In Burry’s and Cornwall’s case, the events were so unsettling that they gave up managing money.

There were a couple of take home messages for me.  For one thing, I absolutely do not trust Wall Street after reading this book.  There may be some honest brokers out there but not nearly enough to handle the trillions of retirement dollars that pass through their Bloomberg terminals every day.  Another disturbing thing is how disconnected Wall Street bankers and brokers seem to be with the lives of average Americans.  They don’t take care of the money they’ve been entrusted with.  It’s almost like it’s not real to them.  They might as well be manipulating poker chips or Monopoly scrip.  And it didn’t seem to occur to them that the vast number of Americans who got trapped into teaser rate loans were not going to be able to pay their mortgages when the loan readjusted.  Just where did these geniuses think the money was going to come from in a decade when wages were essentially flat and made more difficult to come by due the short term thinking of the institutional investors?  One curious thing is the timing of the bubble burst.  It started in March of 2007, well before the primaries of 2008.  The guys at Cornwall Capital started to get concerned that they were going to be exposed financially when the government came to the rescue of strapped mortgage holders.  But that never happened.  As we all know, Hillary was the one in favor of a homeowners bailout; Obama was not.  It makes Obama’s “win” even more suspect.

As you guys might know, I listen to books on my iPhone and rate my them by sponge count.  That is, the book has to be engrossing enough that I won’t even notice that I’m cleaning the kitchen.  I give this one 4.5 sponges.  It was easy to get engrossed in the book, so much so that I was laughing out loud while I was walking around Ikea.  But I was about 2/3’s of the way through the book before sentences like “And so it was that Ben Hockett found himself sitting in a pub called the Powder Monkey in the city of Exmouth in the county of Devon England, seeking a buyer of $205 million dollars of credit default swaps on the AA tranches of mezzanine sub-prime CDO’s” didn’t make me stop the audio and rewind.  So, if you’re new to mezzanine subprime tranches, expect some confusion at first.  Lewis does an excellent job of parsing it for the uninitiated but it’s still dense material.

I recommend the audible version in particular because it includes a 10 minute interview with the author at the end.  Lewis is pretty tough on the Obama administration.  He says it has made financial reform harder by hiring the guys who were most responsible for letting it the subprime bubble happen in the first place.  He has no respect for Geithner.  Lewis also thinks that Obama blew it when he took office.  He could have used the momentum and mandate he had in early 2009 to clean up the mess.  He’s now wasted his political capital on a lousy health care reform bill and has let the financial mess simmer, ready to boil over in another meltdown.  From what I can tell, it ain’t over yet, folks.

Highly recommended.

Note: I bought this book on my own and wasn’t asked to review it.

Women’s History Month: Are the sex trade and feminism compatible? Iceland says “No.”

With March being Women’s History Month I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate than to recognize women who are making history as we speak.  Women in Iceland are doing just that.

Iceland is being hailed as the world’s most feminist country.  There are several factors that seem to support this designation.  Many of us cheered the election of Johanna Sigurdardottir as Prime Minister of Iceland. Not just because she is a woman, but also because she is a gay woman.  Johanna erodes the patriarchal norm like no other.  So, not only does she break leadership barriers, but she is a symbol of sexual freedom; a reminder that women do not exist solely for the sexual pleasure of males and the creation of progeny.

In addition to PM Sigurdardottir’s political achievements, women are also represented in their government in significant numbers.

Iceland, and these other Scandinavian countries, are establishing strong precedents about how women should be treated throughout the world.  Strong and abundant representation by and for women is resulting in groundbreaking paths for legislation addressing the treatment of women in society.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent efforts to shut down the sex industry.

Imagine a world without a sex trade.  It appears that Scandinavian women are more acutely aware of the driving forces behind sex workers who find themselves trapped in such jobs.  The patriarchy benefits when women acquiesce to being entertainment for male sexual gratification.  The greater damage comes when women buy into the myth that female sex workers willingly participate.  It is this fundamental acknowledgment that underlies the efforts of Iceland’s political leadership to erode the cultural view of women and their sexual role.

What do you think?