October 31, 2014

Hard days at First Look

Djelloul Marbrook -  Mainstream journalism is now in the hands of five corporatoe dictators, five Citizens Kane. In committing $250 million to finance First Look and Intercept, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar promised to break this mold, this corporate manhandling of the news. American journalists took notice. Many applied for work at this new project, which has now, by its own admission, faltered. Faltered but not failed. It’s not clear whether Omidyar will mess with news content the way Jeff Bezos, Amazon monopolist, has clearly messed with The Washington Post and accelerated its hard-right turn. What is different here is that the medium itself is talking about its own internal struggles, something that has always been taboo in the news business:
The Inside Story Of Matt Taibbi’s Departure From First Look Media 

This is a remarkable article. We've never run across one so critical of the business that published it. - Undernews

What's happening

What it's like trying to get a voter ID

Sweden become third EU state to recognize Palestine

 A Georgia appellate court recently reached a decision that holds parents liable for their kids’ online activity—an unprecedented legal ruling, lawyers said. The parents of a 7th grader were deemed “negligent” after failing to get their son to delete a defamatory Facebook profile of a female classmate in 2011.

Halloween outfit of the year

Ruth Baby GinsbergSource unknown

The real Clinton story: 1983

Stories the media doesn't tell you about the Clintons and the state that made them
Mochtar Riady forms Lippo Finance & Investment in Little Rock. A non-citizen, Riady hires Carter's former SBA director, Vernon Weaver, to chair the firm. The launch is accomplished with the aid of a $2 million loan guaranteed by the SBA. Weaver uses Governor Clinton as a character reference to help get the loan guarantee. First loan goes to Little Rock Chinese restaurant owner Charlie Trie. In 1999, reported the Washington Post, Trie, who had become a controversial fund-raiser for President Clinton, "entered into a plea agreement with the Justice Department yesterday, winning leniency in exchange for telling all in an investigation of improper campaign contributions originating in China."

State regulators warn Jim McDougal's Madison Guarantee S&L to stop making imprudent loans. Gov. Clinton is also warned of the problem but takes no action.

According to a later account in the Tampa Tribune, planes flying drugs into Mena in coolers marked "medical supplies." are met by several people close to then-Governor Bill Clinton.

Although he is under investigation for drug activities, Dan Lasater's firm is given a piece of 14 state bond issues.

Judge David Hale's Capital Management Services
starts making loans to state figures. Wikipedia will later report: "David Hale is a former Arkansas municipal judge and former Arkansas banker. He worked with Jim McDougal on $3 million in loans from a lending company he ran. He pled guilty and went to jail for conspiring to defraud the Small Business Administration in looting the funds from a dummy business he established. As part of his guilty plea in looting money from an insurance company, he provided the allegations for the Whitewater scandal, and testimony for its investigators. ... Hale testified in U.S. District Court that Gov. Bill Clinton pressured him to make a fraudulent $300,000 loan and that he not be named in the loan."

Real economics: Wealth

Al Jazeera - More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

Washington Post - The median net worth of American households declined between 2000 and 2011, the Census Bureau said in a report that showed the steepest drops experienced by minorities and people under age 55.  The wealth drop in the bottom 60 percent was so great that it more than offset healthy increases in the net worth of the top 40 percent. As a result, median household net worth for the nation as a whole fell by more than $5,000 over a little more than a decade, a decline of almost 7 percent.

Center for Economic & Policy Research -
A NYT article reported on a study from Russell Sage reporting that median household wealth 36 percent lower in 2013 than 2003. While this is disturbing, an even more striking finding from the study is that median wealth is down by around 20 percent from 1984.

The top 5% of Americans averaged 24 times as much wealth as the wealth of the median American family in 2013; in 2007 they averaged 17 times as much.

NY Times - The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets.

How we get rid of geniuses these days

 A question we have raised from time to time: Where is today's Albert Einstein? Our answer: Probably on Prozac somewhere. . More on this topic:

Washington's Blog -  Scott Barry Kaufman (PhD in cognitive psychology from Yale)  writes in Scientific American:
Research … has supported the notion that under certain conditions, people with ADHD characteristics are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement than people without ADHD (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Recent research by Darya Zabelina and colleagues have found that real-life creative achievement is associated with the ability to broaden attention and have a “leaky” mental filter — something in which people with ADHD often excel.

Recent work in cognitive neuroscience also suggests a connection between ADHD and creativity (see here and here). Both creative thinkers and people with ADHD show difficulty suppressing brain activity coming from the “Imagination Network.”

... Consider the case of John, who in 1949 attended Eton College and dreamed of becoming a scientist. However, last in his class, he received the following comment on his report card:
His work has been far from satisfactory … he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way … I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can’t learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time on his part, and of those who have to teach him.
This was Sir John B. Gurdon, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his revolutionary research on stem cells. Like so many other highly creative, competent individuals, he might have been referred for testing and given the label “attention deficit hyperactive disorder.”

Pocket paradigms

You meet alot of process people in Washington. They're like vehicles without a drive belt. They make a lot of noise; they just can't go anywhere. Getting things done is now a radical act.

Then there are the virtual people. They only exist as images of themselves. Talking to one of them is like watching a bad cable show without a zapper. 

Some scientists believe that at the rate things are going, process people and virtual people will eventually evolve into species reproductively incompatible with the rest of us. There are already reports of process people and real people mating and producing only sterile offspring ~ a sort of mule that understands all the main policy points. - Sam Smith


It's what you learn after you know it all that counts -- Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver

October 30, 2014

William Burroughs getting in the Halloween spirit

Down East Notes

Town of Freeport, ME

On Monday evening, October 27, 2014, the Maine State Police informed Freeport’s Police and Fire Departments that Ms. Kaci Hickox would be stopping in Freeport for one night on her way to her home in Fort Kent. Ms. Hickox is a healthcare worker who recently returned to the United States after caring for Ebola patients in West Africa. Ms. Hickox garnered national attention when she was temporarily detained in New Jersey before being released to travel home to Maine.

Freeport Town Officials were informed by the Maine State Police that:
  •   Ms. Hickox would remain in voluntary quarantine at a private residence during her time in Freeport;
  •   Ms. Hickox was traveling with a health care worker from Maine Department of Health and Human Services who would be monitoring her for any signs of illness; and
  •   There was little to no danger to the public since Ms. Hickox was asymptomatic, and Ebola is only transmissible when patients are displaying symptoms.
Town Officials followed all appropriate protocols and contacted the appropriate State agencies including the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Emergency Management Agency. Ms. Hickox departed Freeport on October 28, 2014, and, according to news reports, arrived in Fort Kent later that same day.

There is no reason to believe that this incident represents a threat to the public health of our community. However, we are sending out this notice because there has been significant interest in this case and it is important that Freeport’s residents are kept informed.
If you have any questions regarding the Ebola virus, please do not hesitate to contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention at 1-800-821-5821 or visit their website at: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/

The new Middle Ages

Some readers may recall our occasional thesis that we are living in a new Middle Ages in which the masses are up against a relatively few paranoid lords in well moated castles aka Washington and NYC. We were please to find that Monty Python was on this case some time ago.

Mid and late career teachers are underpaid

Center for American Progress:

  • Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state.
  • Teachers with 10 years of experience who are family breadwinners often qualify for a number of federally funded benefit programs designed for families needing financial support. We found that mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. What’s more, teachers have fewer opportunities to grow their salaries compared to other professions.
  • To supplement their minimal salaries, large percentages of teachers work second jobs. We found that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. (Note that teachers typically have summers off, and the data on teachers who work second jobs do not include any income that a teacher may have earned over the summer.)

What's happening

What happens when you criticize Teach for America?

Over 214,000 doctors won't participate in the new plans under the Affordable Care Act analysis of a new survey by Medical Group Management Association shows. It's about a quarter of the total number of 893,851 active professional physicians reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The 29 states where you can still be fired for being gay

Just 21 percent of student newspapers at public, four-year universities update their websites five days a week, according to an interactive tool launched Thursday.

61% of Americans think we give too much aid to Israel

Info on your zip code

FBI comes up with new assault on Constitution

Guardian - The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement in order to seize significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violate first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

How corporations staged a coup against America

Vox - In September, a proposal to amend the US Constitution to allow tougher campaign finance and election spending restrictions went down to defeat in the Senate, on a party-line vote. Now, a new analysis by Common Cause rounded up the latest lobbying filings to find which interest groups disclosed lobbying against this amendment.

There are no great surprises on this list. The Koch brothers' network and the US Chamber of Commerce currently raise millions of dollars of dark money to affect elections, and their opposition to campaign finance restrictions is well-known. Other conservative interest groups, including the NRA, the National Right to Life Committee, and various religious right groups are also on the list.  The ACLU's opposition to the amendment might seem odd to some, but they've long opposed many campaign finance restrictions as an infringement on speech rights.

Meanwhile, government reform groups, environmental groups, the NAACP and unions — most of which tend to have progressive sympathies — lobbied in favor of the constitutional amendment. But the broad opposition among conservative groups is the key problem for campaign finance reformers. Change is unlikely to happen as long as campaign finance reform remains such a partisan and polarized issue — which means the money will keep on pouring in.

US kept jailing people despite drop in crime


White House coverup of the day

Washington Post - Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev noted how the White House stopped giving details on the fine wines served at state dinners, an opaque measure that she exposed in this story. In pursuing the piece, said Talev, she got the runaround from White House press officials, making her “so mad at them.”

Word: The space explosion could have been worse

Karl Grossman - This event underlines again the folly of using nuclear power in space — something the United States and Russia are again actively planning. An explosion on launch is not unusual — indeed, one out of 100 rockets fail on launch. But, consider if radioactive materials were on board — as will be the situation for the proposed U.S. and Russian nuclear space shots.

A veteran investigative reporter, Grossman has been a recipient of the George Polk Award and other honors for his journalism. He is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury.

The real Clinton story: 1982

Stories the media doesn't tell you about the Clintons and the state that made them
A DEA report uncovered by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard will cite an informant claiming that a key Arkansas figure and backer of Clinton "smuggles cocaine from Colombia, South America, inside race horses to Hot Springs."

The London Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Prichard writes, "Basil Abbott, a convicted drug pilot, says that he flew a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into Marianna, in eastern Arkansas, in the spring of 1982. The aircraft was welcomed by an Arkansas State Trooper in a marked police car. 'Arkansas was a very good place to load and unload' he said."

IRS agent William Duncan
and an Arkansas State Police investigator take their evidence concerning drug trafficking in Mena to US Attorney Asa Hutchinson [currently running for governor]. They ask for 20 witnesses to be subpoenaed before the grand jury. Hutchinson chooses only three.

According to reporter Mara Leveritt, "The three appeared before the grand jury, but afterwards, two of them also expressed surprise at how their questioning was handled. One, a secretary at Rich Mountain Aviation, had given Duncan sworn statements about money laundering at the company, transcripts of which Duncan had provided to Hutchinson. But when the woman left the jury room, she complained that Hutchinson had asked her nothing about the crime or the sworn statements she'd given to Duncan. As Duncan later testified, 'She basically said that she was allowed to give her name, address, position, and not much else.' The other angry witness was a banker who had, in Duncan's words, 'provided a significant amount of evidence relating to the money-laundering operation.' According to Duncan, he, too, emerged from the jury room complaining 'that he was not allowed to provide the evidence that he wanted to provide to the grand jury.'"

Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine - According to l.R.S. criminal investigator Duncan, secretaries at the Mena Airport told him that when major drug dealer Barry Seal flew into Mena, 'there would be stacks of cash to be taken to the bank and laundered." One secretary told him that she was ordered to obtain numerous cashier's checks, each in an amount just under $10,000, at various banks in Mena and surrounding communities, to avoid filing the federal Currency Transaction Reports required for all bank transactions that exceed that limit. Bank tellers testified before a federal grand jury that in November 1982, a Mena airport employee carried a suitcase containing more than $70,000 into a bank. "The bank officer went down the teller lines handing out the stacks of $1,000 bills and got the cashier's checks." Law-enforcement sources confirmed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were laundered from 1981 to 1983 just in a few small banks near Mena, and that millions more from Seal's operation were laundered elsewhere in Arkansas and the nation.

Bill Clinton wins back the governorship.

Real economics: Wages

Among all employees nationally, 56 percent are hourly workers, and 32 percent of these, or more than 21 million, earn less than $10.10 per hour, according to University of Virginia researchers in the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Demographics Research Group.

The Labor Department
reports that the 13 states that raised their minimum wage in 2014 have added jobs faster than those that didn't.

The rate of poverty level wages for women has declined over the last last three-and-a-half decades, especially among those 35 to 44 years old.


Congressional Research Service - The peak value of the minimum wage in real terms was reached in 1968. To equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968 ($10.69), the current minimum wage’s real value ($7.25) would have to increase by $3.44 (or 47%).

40% Of US workers now earn less than 1968 minimum wage


Tipped workers haven't seen a pay raise since 1991

Economic Collapse Blog: Today, approximately 20 percent of all children in the United States are living in poverty. A higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

- Factor by which the average compensation for CEOs of fast-food companies has increased since 2000: 7


Pocket paradigms

A real simple rule on privatization: Ask the following question: Is this something about which citizens should have a say? If the answer is yes, don't privatize. - Sam Smith


The day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.

... The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." . . . A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. - Martin Luther King Jr