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    • Hope Is Bullshit
      I am unintersted in “hope.” Or as we called it in the Obama bullshit years, Hopium. Hope is not a plan. Hope is bullshit. Luck is real, but you don’t count on luck other than in the sense that the harder you work, and the more things you do, the more likely you are to […]
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Author of Uganda’s anti-gay bill to attend Washington prayer breakfast

I can’t believe this.

In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of Washington DC.

David Bahati

Mr. Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.

“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati – himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast.

The bill assigns a penalty of life imprisonment for a person convicted of homosexuality and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as homosexual sex with someone under 18 or a disabled person or if the “offender” is HIV positive. All activities that would promote homosexuality–even blogging–are banned, and the bill requires anyone who knows of anyone engaging homosexual activities to report them to authorities. The entire text of the bill is at the above link.

According to the Box Turtle Bulletin, Mr. Bahati is

a member of the secretive American evangelical group known as the Family, which founded and organizes the National Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in February, typically at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W. The Monitor reports that the Family has invited Bahati to the prayer breakfast.

This profile in The Independent UK provides some interesting background on Bahati and perhaps gives some clues to his motivations.

Left orphaned when he was three-years-old Bahati was sent to live with his grandmother. Later she also passed away and the boy had to work at the local market selling and carrying bananas to raise money for school fees. He was separated from his siblings and only reunited with them at 13 when his sister came to the market to buy fruit and recognised him….

The story of how Bahati came to be the face of the anti-gay campaign in Uganda goes back a couple of years. The MP, a father himself, first became interested in the issue of homosexuality after hearing testimony from sexually molested children. “I’m passionate about the issue of homosexuality because of both the danger for our children and our society,” he said.

Is President Obama really going to attend this prayer breakfast in February? If so, what is he planning to say to Mr. Bahati? Inquiring minds want to know.

Why is Health Care Reform Being Held Hostage by a Fundamentalist Cult?

300px-Bart_Stupak_official_109th_Congress_photo

Bart Stupak

No, I don’t mean the Catholic Church. I mean the super-secret, ultra-creepy fundamentalist sect that calls itself

“the Family,” or “the Fellowship,” and they consider themselves a “core” of men responsible for changing the world. “Hitler, Lenin, and many others understood the power of a small core of people,” instructs a document given to an inner circle, explaining the scope, if not the ideological particulars, of the ambition members of the avant-garde are to cultivate.

That’s a quote from the introduction to Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Early this morning I learned from Jeff Sharlet’s piece in Salon that the two men responsible for the Stupak amendendment–Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA)–are both members of the Family and both live in the group’s C-Street residence. These two nutty fetus fetishists are trying to end abortion in this country by making sure that insurance companies will stop covering this essential and perfectly legal medical procedure.

I’ve been obsessing on this news all day long while trying to concentrate on writing an exam. As hard as it is for me to accept, I now have to face the face that the forces of theocracy not only control of the Republican Party, but also they are well on the way to taking over the Democratic party.

Sharlet writes:

American women will pay the price for the Democratic dithering that allowed Saturday’s passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, a worm virus inserted into the House healthcare reform bill with surgical precision. But the Democratic Party will suffer collateral damage.

Stupak-Pitts isn’t just “the biggest restriction on women’s right to choose in our generation,” as Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado puts it; it’s also evidence that on abortion the Democratic Party is now captive, just like the GOP, to Christian conservatism. Of course, Republicans traded away their party’s moderate wing for real electoral gains, a base that propelled them to power for decades. The Democrats, already in power, sucker-punched themselves, and all they have to show for it is a big fat shiner in the shape of Bart Stupak’s knuckles.

Sharlet thinks it’s unlikely that Stupak and Pitts came up with their plan on their own. The Family supposedly doesn’t directly try to influence political policies–they just offer support, guidance and powerful connections to their followers.

Pitts

Joseph Pitts

Which raises the question: Who’s pulling whom? Did backbencher Bart Stupak really come up with the bluff that led pro-choice Democrats to abandon not one but two compromises, one of which Stupak himself seemed to be signing off on earlier this summer? Or was it Pitts, an abortion-wars warrior since the 1970s, and a longtime leader of the House Values Action Team — an off-the-record caucus of religious right organizations and members of Congress — who drew up the blueprint?

Neither Stupak nor Pitts is talking. Of course, if they just keep quiet, the press will pin it on the bishops — who, to be fair, are more than happy to take credit. That version of events neglects the role of relationships forged within the evangelical context of the Family — a group founded in the spirit of virulent anti-Catholicism, and which maintains to this day that being Catholic brings you no closer to Christ than being Jewish or a Muslim — and the growing evangelical movement within the Democratic Party. A source close to the Faith Table, a gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians helmed by evangelical leader Jim Wallis, notes that the group has been agitating for Stupak-Pitts for months, with Wallis declaring Stupak-Pitts the most important vote of the year.

May I remind you that Jim Wallis was a major supporter of President Obama and is one of his close “spiritual advisers?”

Terri Gross did an interview with Jeff Sharlet last summer. You can listen to it here and read an excerpt from Sharlet’s book if you’re interested. I heard that Rachel Maddow covered this story last night, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video.

What is happening to our country? Is there any way to turn it around?

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Convergence on Goldman-Sachs

Slide1While the rest of the country strips Sarah Palin of her humanity for no good reason except that mobbing is so much fun, something very weird is going on with Goldman-Sachs.  There are a number of credible sources reporting now on the arrest of Sergey Alenyikov on July 4, 2009 at Newark Airport.  Mr. Alenyikov is accused of stealing G-S source code and uploading it to a computer somewhere in Europe.  Goldman sent the Feds to round up the rogue programmer because, as the US Attorney on the case says, the source can be used to manipulate the market.  Daytraders who monitor the market very closely say that they noticed some non-linear activity in the several weeks leading up to the arrest and that afterwards, the markets seemed to have returned to normal, whatever that means since last year’s crash.

But it gets more interesting.  As Bloomberg notes, how do we know that Goldman-Sachs hasn’t been using this code all along to manipulate the markets?  The theory goes something like this: Goldman-Sachs gets to put a unix server with the code on a network cable somewhere and uses a packet sniffer to watch the transactions that come across from traders at other companies.  With that knowledge, G-S is able to anticipate trades and shave a bit off for itself for every transaction.  If this is true, it means that G-S has a massively unfair advangtage in trading compared to, well, just about everyone else. Here’s a post at the Big Orange Cheeto for those of you who eat netstats for breakfast and think Perl poetry is romantic.  It goes into quite a bit of technical detail.

Check out this video from Bloomberg that lays it all out:

What’s really disturbing about this case is that the government seems to be extraordinarily receptive to calls for help from G-S.  Either the Goldman crew close to the White House is concerned with losing their bonuses or the potential for market failure is huge. Either way, it lessens confidence in the system.  It looks like “all traders are equal except some traders are more equal than others”.  What happens to the system when the people who have no choice but to operate in it no longer have any trust?  This leads me to my podcast du jour recommendation.  This one is from Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippet.  Her topic this past week was The Science of Trust with guest Chris Farrell, a neuroeconomist.  The secret to keeping everyone honest is the neurotrsnsmitter hormone oxytocin.  Oxytocin promotes empathy.  Approxomately 2% of the population has insufficient levels of oxytocin to experience empathy with other human beings(and you’re probably thinking they all work at Goldman-Sachs, right?)

Farrell says that the lax regulatory system is partially responsible for the financial disaster, although he takes a pretty long time before he gets around to saying it.  Farrell thinks that for *most* people, *most* of the time, the feelings of empathy lead to a sense of reponsibility and honesty.  That’s why you might have felt you could trust your banker with your money.  But in recent years, there have been advances in technology that lead to a depersonalization of the banker-client relationship.  It’s hard to see the person behind an account number on a monitor.

The podcast is part of a series by Tippett on Repossessing Virtue, all highly recommended.  You don’t have to be religious to have an ethical model.  But ethics, virtue and trust are all severely lacking in this dog eat dog world where nothing much makes sense.  Societies start to unravel when the sense of morality and consideration for others is replaced by, well, nothing at all.

If Tippett is concerned with repossessing virtue, I guess you could say that the fundamentalist group, The Family, is concerned with redefining it.  A second podcast recommendation is one that Terry Gross did last week on The Family, a religious community in DC that has been the spiritual guiding force for many enemies of The New Deal over the decades.  John Ensign was a recent alumni as was Governor Sanford of South Carolina.  The Family believes the end justifies the means and that chosen Family members are possessed of the virtue that requires no further regulation by the government.  They will lead us because it is their destiny and if they cheat on their wives on Family property, it must mean that God works in mysterious ways.  Caveat: Terry Gross is the best interviewer in the world but she has kool-ade psychosis and it is unfortunately seeping into her interviews.  “The propaganda is strong in this one.”  Proceed with caution.  Her bias shows.  Even so, if this group is only 1/10th as bad as the interview suggests, it’s pretty bad.

Update: It looks like Citadel is getting in on the act now.  The former head quant at Citadel started a new company called Teza Technologies and hired Aleynikov. Mikail Malyshev signed a 9 month noncompete clause when he left Citadel back in February.  That means he wasn’t supposed to open his door until November.  Maybe it’s all a preparation phase thing.  Teza is cooperating with the FBI. This stuff is starting to sound familiar.  Several of my former colleagues (all Russians BTW, tho’ I’m sure it’s all a coincidence) have gone to work for quant firms, though I can’t imagine they’ll be writing code.  Who knows?


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