Bad Deeds for 4/27/2010

 

The Party of No … Credibility – American right-wing leaders are responding to complaints about their adherents’ insults, threats, and acts of violence by claiming that such problems occur on the left as well. Of course, they don’t dare to compare and quantify such behavior.

To keep on top of urban myths of all kinds, I subscribe to the Snopes.com update list, and I noticed a pattern there that I thought deserved to be examined more arithmetically. It struck me I was seeing a lot more rumors about President Obama, and a lot more false rumors, than I remembered from earlier years. So I ran the numbers, as of this week.

· After eight years in the White House (with Snopes.com around all that time), George W. Bush has been the subject of 47 internet rumors. After less than two years in office, Barack Obama has been the subject of 87, or nearly twice as many.
· Even more telling is the relative accuracy of those stories. For Bush, 20 rumors, or 43%, are true. Only 17, or 36%, are false. The remainder are of mixed veracity (4), undetermined (4), or unclassifiable (2).
· In contrast, for Obama only 8 of the 87 rumors, or 9%, are true, and a whopping 59, or 68%, are whoppers. There are 17 of mixed veracity and 3 undetermined.

This evidence accumulated over ten years shows a shameful but undeniable fact of American politics: Our right wing now contains a lot more liars, and a lot more folks who spread lies out of gullibility or wishfulness, than our left wing.

 

Back in the USSR; Oh, I Mean Arizona – An Arizona man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway. He was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

 

Big Oil Fought Off New Safety Rules Before Oil Rig Explosion – BP and TransOcean have aggressively opposed new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling — which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry.

There were 41 deaths and 302 injuries out of 1,443 incidents from 2001 to 2007, according to the study conducted by the Minerals and Management Service of the Interior Department. In addition, the agency issued 150 reports over incidents of non-compliant production and drilling operations and determined there was “no discernible improvement by industry over the past 7 years.”
As a result, the agency proposed taking a more proactive stance by requiring operators to have their safety program audited at least once every three years — previously, the industry’s self-managed safety program was voluntary for operators. The agency estimated that the proposed rule, which has yet to take effect, would cost operators about $4.59 million in startup costs and $8 million in annual recurring costs.

The industry has launched a coordinated campaign to attack those regulations, with over 100 letters objecting to the regulations — in a September 14, 2009 letter to MMS, BP vice president for Gulf of Mexico production, Richard Morrison, wrote that “we are not supportive of the extensive, prescriptive regulations as proposed in this rule,” arguing that the voluntary programs “have been and continue to be very successful,” along with a list of very specific objections to the wording of the proposed regulations.

The next day, the American Petroleum Institute and the Offshore Operators Committee, in a joint letter to MMS, emphasized their preference for voluntary programs with “enough flexibility to suit the corporate culture of each company.” Both trade groups also claimed that the industry’s safety and environmental record has improved, citing MMS data to show that the number of lost workdays fell “from a 3.39 rate in 1996 to 0.64 in 2008, a reduction of over 80%.”

The Offshore Operators Committee also submitted to MMS a September 2, 2009 PowerPoint presentation asking in bold letters, “What Do HURRICANES and New Rules Have in Common?” against a backdrop of hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico. On the next page, the answer appears: “Both are disruptive to Operations And are costly to Recover From”.
(So who you gonna’ believe: Big Oil or your lying eyes? – JLV)

 

New Study Shows Chernobyl Radiation Killed Nearly One Million People – Nearly one million people around the world died from exposure to radiation released by the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl reactor, finds a new book from the New York Academy of Sciences published today on the 24th anniversary of the meltdown at the Soviet facility
The authors said, “For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power. Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundred-fold the radioactive contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
“No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe,” they said. “Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere.”

Yablokov and his co-authors find that radioactive emissions from the stricken reactor, once believed to be 50 million curies, may have been as great as 10 billion curies, or 200 times greater than the initial estimate, and hundreds of times larger than the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The proportion of children considered healthy born to irradiated parents in Belarus, the Ukraine, and European Russia considered healthy fell from about 80 percent to less than 20 percent since 1986.

Numerous reports reviewed for this book document elevated disease rates in the Chernobyl area. These include increased fetal and infant deaths, birth defects, and diseases of the respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, nervous, endocrine, reproductive, hematological, urological, cardiovascular, genetic, immune, and other systems, as well as cancers and non-cancerous tumors.

In addition to adverse effects in humans, numerous other species have been contaminated, based upon studies of livestock, voles, birds, fish, plants, trees, bacteria, viruses, and other species.
Foods produced in highly contaminated areas in the former Soviet Union were shipped, and consumed worldwide, affecting persons in many other nations. Some, but not all, contamination was detected and contaminated foods not shipped.

The authors warn that the soil, foliage, and water in highly contaminated areas still contain substantial levels of radioactive chemicals, and will continue to harm humans for decades to come.

 

Conservatives Are Seeing God’s Punishment Everywhere – First there was televangelist Pat Robertson who in January told his audience that the Haitian earthquake was punishment for Haiti’s founders having signed a “pact with the devil.”

Then came radio host Rush Limbaugh, who last week suggested that the Iceland volcano was “God’s punishment” for the US passing health care reform.

Now a Texas state representative has taken the notion a step further, declaring that an elected official — rather than a natural disaster — is a sign of God’s displeasure.

“I believe that Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today,” Rep. Leo Berman of Texas’ 6th district told the audience at a Glenn Beck appearance in Tyler, Texas. Berman added, “But in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.”

Berman, whose comments were first reported on by the Tyler Morning Telegraph, appeared alongside a number of other prominent Texas conservatives at the Oil Palace arena on Saturday night, including Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Perry “described Beck as a national leader of a powerful group sending a message to the current administration and Congress about Washington, DC, how to control spending and Americans taking their country back,” the Morning Telegraph reported.

“I consider myself proud to be in that army,” Perry said.

Rep. Berman has built a track record of controversial comments. Last year, activists launched a now-defunct Web site, CensureLeo.com, after Berman told a Chinese-American lawyer to “kiss his a$$” and “go home,” presumably to China.

In 2007, Berman delivered what one blogger called a “hate-filled speech” in which he claimed that “illegal immigrants were bringing Polio, the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, Chagas Disease and Dengue Fever to the United States in alarming numbers,” the Capitol Annex reported.

 

Brazoria County Commissioner’s Court Rewrites History – The Brazoria County Commissioner’s Court voted 5-0 to recognized April as “Confederate History and Heritage Month in the State of Texas.” And while it included that “morally abhorrent practice of slavery” portion as one of its Whereases, the very next paragraph has this:

“Whereas politically correct revisionists would have Texas children believe that their Confederate ancestors fought for slavery when in fact most Texans joined the Confederate armed forces to defend their homes, their families and their proud heritage as Texans…”

I have to ask this: who but a blindingly rabid racist would vote for and then sign a document that contains that language?

 

Rick Perry Is One of Worst Governors According to National Ethics Watchdog Group – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the nonpartisan watchdog group that has hounded politicians from both parties, this morning chose Perry as one of “the nation’s most incompetent and unethical governors.”

The list of 11 governors — including nine Republicans and two Democrats — is composed of elected officials “who have pushed their states’ best interests aside in favor of their supporters, families, political parties and bank accounts,” CREW said in its announcement.

CREW singled out six Perry controversies:

· Allegedly disregarded campaign finance laws and aided a business that was especially generous to his campaign
· Refused to operate transparently, and has blocked access to information related to a death penalty case
· Rejected federal stimulus funds in a manner that appeared to put partisan politics ahead of the interests of the citizens of Texas
· Has perpetuated the revolving door between government and special interests
· Accepted travel and campaign donations from a business that received benefits from his official actions
· Used campaign funds for a personal trip with questionable relevance to his campaign for office

 

Perry Campaign Balks at Debate with Bill White – Gov. Rick Perry’s Republican re-election campaign is balking at debating Democratic challenger Bill White. WFAA and The Dallas Morning News is trying to woo the two into a televised debate this fall. White has accepted that invitation, along with a separate one from Dallas public television station KERA.
A Perry campaign spokesman tells WFAA-TV of Dallas-Fort Worth that the governor wants White to release income tax returns for the past six years.

White campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon says the demand shows Perry doesn’t want to face White in debate, but Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner says forcing White to be open to scrutiny is the real issue.

White has released his 2009 tax return and promises to release returns each year he runs for or holds statewide office, just as Perry has.

 

Goldman Sachs Made Money Off the Souring of the Very Securities it Had Peddled to the Market – As homeowners were falling behind on their subprime mortgages, wreaking havoc for investors that owned slices of their mortgages in securities peddled by Wall Street, Goldman Sachs was “well positioned,” according to internal company emails from top executives.
The firm had “the big short,” declared chief financial officer David Viniar — Goldman Sachs was making money off the souring of the very securities it had peddled to the market.

The internal emails released Saturday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations paint a picture long known by most of the country, yet never before so vividly and explicitly articulated by Goldman officials. (Scroll down to see the full text of the emails.) As early as May 2007, as homeowners were being crushed under the weight of subprime mortgages, the most profitable firm on Wall Street had long taken out a form of insurance on those delinquencies.
The firm made money on the upside — originating, securitizing and selling subprime mortgage-based securities to investors — and on the downside, thanks to the insurance.

“Bad news,” a May 17, 2007, email began from one Goldman employee to another. A security the firm had underwritten and sold had just lost value, costing Goldman about $2.5 million.

Further down in the email, the employee, Deeb Salem, wrote “Good news…we own 10mm protection…we make $5mm.”

The firm made $5 million betting against the very securities it had underwritten and sold.

 

Senate Republican Leader Calls for the Abolition of Fire Departments (Sort Of) – It’s crucial to avoid disorderly bank collapses, just as it’s crucial to avoid out-of-control urban fires. But, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, doesn’t seem to understand that. So, here’s an analogy of what McConnell said about financial reform:

On Tuesday, McConnell called for the abolition of municipal fire departments. Firefighters, he declared, “won’t solve the problems that led to recent fires. They will make them worse.” The existence of fire departments, he went on, “not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of burning buildings; it institutionalizes them.” He concluded, “The way to solve this problem is to let the people who make the mistakes that lead to fires pay for them. We won’t solve this problem until the biggest buildings are allowed to burn.”

Letting banks fail — as opposed to seizing and restructuring them — is a bad idea for the same reason that it’s a bad idea to stand aside while an urban office building burns. In both cases, the damage has a tendency to spread. In 1930, U.S. officials stood aside as banks failed; the result was the Great Depression. In 2008, they stood aside as Lehman Brothers imploded; within days, credit markets had frozen and we were staring into the economic abyss.

Proposed reform legislation gives regulators “resolution authority,” which basically means giving them the ability to deal with the likes of Lehman in much the same way that the F.D.I.C. deals with conventional banks. Who could object to that?

Well, Mr. McConnell is trying. His talking points come straight out of a memo Frank Luntz, the Republican political consultant, circulated in January on how to oppose financial reform. “Frankly,” wrote Mr. Luntz, “the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” And Mr. McConnell is following those stage directions.

It’s a truly shameless performance: Mr. McConnell is pretending to stand up for taxpayers against Wall Street while in fact doing just the opposite. In recent weeks, he and other Republican leaders have held meetings with Wall Street executives and lobbyists, in which the G.O.P. and the financial industry have sought to coordinate their political strategy.

So don’t be fooled. When Mitch McConnell denounces big bank bailouts, what he’s really trying to do is give the bankers everything they want.

Regards,

Jim

 

 

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About Jim Vogas

Texas A&M Aggie, Retired aerospace engineer, former union member, Vietnam vet, Demcratic Party organizer, husband and father.

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