Monthly Archives: October 2012

The craziest, most nail-biting elections in U.S. history


In case you haven’t been paying attention: The presidential election is shaping up to be very, very, very close. The scenarios are mind-boggling. One possibility: Mitt Romney could win the popular vote but lose what counts: the electoral college. It would be fitting revenge for Democrats still angry about the Bush-Gore debacle from 2000. The opposite could also occur: Obama, popular in voter-rich California, New York, and Illinois, could win the most votes but be edged out in the electoral college.

Perhaps the craziest of all is the possibility of Romney and Biden winning. You heard that right: a Romney-Biden administration. Imagine, if you will, that Obama and Romney wind up with an electoral college tie of 269-269 (a very slim possibility). It takes 270 to win. So what happens?

The House of Representatives decides. Under Article 12 of the Constitution, each state gets one vote, according to which party dominates that state’s House delegation. There are more Democrats in California’s House delegation, and more Republicans in Texas’, for example. And so forth.Since more state delegations in the House are controlled by Republicans, there’s no question who they’d award the presidency to: Mitt Romney.

But the VP would be picked by the Senate. And the Senate is controlled — and is likely to be controlled after election day — by the Democrats. Who would they vote for? You guessed it: Joe Biden.

Bizarre (or hilarious) as that would be, it would hardly be unprecedented. The election of 1800 was equally screwy, and the contests of 1824 and 1876 were also ones for the books. All three make the 2000 mess seem almost like a picnic. Judge for yourself:

1800: Thomas Jefferson vs. Aaron Burr

In the early days of the republic, electors each cast not one, but two electoral votes for president. Adding to the confusion: There was no such thing as “election day” as we know it now. States voted whenever they felt like it over a period running from April to October. It was a long, drawn-out, and often confusing process.

The republic was just 24 years old when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr squared off against President John Adams and Charles Pickney. Yet electors gave both Jefferson and Burr — who were on the same ticket — 73 electoral votes apiece. Adams got 65, and Pickney 64.

So what do you do in the event of a tie? The Constitution said the House of Representatives would decide. Since Jefferson and Burr got the most electoral votes, the former running mates suddenly became rivals. Voting went on for days, with ballot after ballot. Finally, after 36 ballots, the tie was broken: Thomas Jefferson was declared the president-elect. Aaron Burr was declared vice president. But Jefferson, at this point, didn’t trust Burr and gave him nothing to do.

In an unrelated matter, by the way, Burr later shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, in a duel.

1824: John Quincy Adams vs. Andrew Jackson

Jackson (you know him from the $20 bill) crushed John Quincy Adams, the son of our second president, John Adams, in both the popular vote (41 percent to 31 percent) and in the electoral college (99 to 84). Yet Adams won. How could Adams lose both the popular vote and electoral college yet win the White House?

Unfortunately for “Old Hickory,” as Jackson was known, there were two other men on the presidential ballot in 1824: William Crawford of Georgia, who received 41 electoral votes, and Henry Clay of Kentucky, who got 37. Because the four men received a combined 271 electoral votes, Jackson had a plurality but not a majority. He needed 136, but had only 99.

Once again, it was up to the House. Because the 12th Amendment to the Constitution said that only the top three presidential candidates could be considered, Clay was out. He threw his support to Adams, and on Feb. 9, 1825, the House gave Adams 138 electoral votes. John Quincy Adams — loser of both the popular vote and, at first, the electoral college — would become the sixth president of the United States.

Now, a story like this can’t be told without a little dirt. After all, it’s presidential politics. Just before the results of the House election became public, an anonymous letter appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper. Said to be from a member of Congress, it accused Clay of selling his support to Adams if Adams made Clay secretary of State. Jackson and his supporters were outraged over what they called “the corrupt bargain.”

Clay did indeed become secretary of State in the Adams administration.

This is also a cautionary tale. You’ve got to be careful what you wish for. John Quincy Adams hated being president. He called it the “four most miserable years of my life.” One reason: He was hounded at every turn by Jackson and his supporters. In 1828, both would clash again when Adams sought re-election. This time, Jackson got his revenge, crushing Adams in both the popular vote and winning a majority of the electoral college. Adams later spent 17 years in Congress — the only president to do so after leaving the White House.

1876: Samuel Tilden vs. Rutherford Hayes

It happened again: A candidate lost after getting the most popular votes and the most electoral votes on election day.

In addition to snagging 51 percent of the popular vote, New York Gov. Samuel Tilden (D) won 184 electoral votes — one short of winning the White House. His rival, Ohio Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes (R), won just 48 percent of the vote and 165 electoral votes. Here’s the catch: Twenty other electoral votes in several states were disputed and went uncounted. The states: Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oregon.

In all three southern states, it looked like Tilden won the popular vote. But there were allegations of fraud (ink-smeared ballots and bribery) and voter intimidation. Chaos ensued. In Florida, for example, the Republicans said they won by 922 votes. Democrats say they did — by 94 votes.

Meantime, in Oregon, both Democrats and Republicans agreed that Hayes won the state. But when the Democratic governor found out one Republican member of the electoral college was a federal worker (a postmaster) and ineligible to serve, he replaced him with a Democrat. The Republican elector promptly resigned his post office job and said that as a private citizen, he would cast his electoral college vote for Hayes.

All four states submitted two sets of electoral vote counts each to Congress, all with different results. To untangle the mess, Congress set up an electoral commission: five members of the House, five members of the Senate, and five Supreme Court Justices.

By the way, there’s absolutely nothing in the Constitution saying this is how an election standoff was to be resolved. After much maneuvering, the commission voted along party lines — 8 to 7 — to award the disputed electoral votes, and the presidency, to Hayes.

But it still wasn’t over. Democrats threatened to filibuster the counting of electoral votes to keep Hayes from winning. In 1877 — just weeks before inauguration day — Democrats gave in, with one big string attached. Republicans must agree, they said, to withdraw all federal troops from the South. This was just a decade after the civil war. The GOP agreed — and thus the Compromise of 1877.

And you thought Bush-Gore was messy…

http://theweek.com/supertopic/election2012/93/2012+Elections

via The craziest, most nail-biting elections in U.S. history – The Week.

via The craziest, most nail-biting elections in U.S. history – The Week.

GOP Consultant Behind Fake Sandy Tweets – His false information made it into news broadcasts


Shashank Tripathi on the left of picture

NEWSER) – A Twitter user who spread false information as superstorm Sandy battered New York City has been unmasked by Buzzfeed as the campaign manager for Christopher Wright, the Republican House candidate from New York’s 12th congressional district. Among the rumors started by hedge fund manager Shashank Tripathi, using the name “ComfortablySmug,” were that all power in Manhattan was being shut down and that the New York Stock Exchange had flooded.

Tripathi’s rumors spread widely and were reported by several media outlets, forcing utility and transportation officials dealing with the crisis to take time out to deny them. Tripathi, who hung up on journalists requesting comment, has now tweeted a “sincere, humble and unconditional apology” for his “irresponsible and inaccurate” tweets and has resigned from the Wright campaign.

via GOP Consultant Behind Fake Sandy Tweets – His false information made it into news broadcasts.

via GOP Consultant Behind Fake Sandy Tweets – His false information made it into news broadcasts.

Hurricane Sandy 2012: Bloomberg warns New York faces ‘days’ in darkness


One in four New York buildings without power… and Mayor Bloomberg warns Manhattan blackout could last for days

Infrastructure in America‘s largest city struggles to resume business after post-tropical storm causes damage

Homes damaged, streets flooded and city plunged into darkness, causing misery and chaos for millions of residents

Floodwater causes electrical substation to explode, causing power outages in Manhattan

Residents demand answers as officials remain vague over when New York can expect to get back on its feet

City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says 750,000 New Yorkers are without power

Mayor admits it could take up to five days to have the city’s subway system running again

Governor Andrew Cuomo: ‘It was as bad as anything I have experienced in New York’

via Hurricane Sandy 2012: Bloomberg warns New York faces ‘days’ in darkness | Mail Online.

U.S. Prosperity Slides in Index That Ranks Norway No. 1 – Bloomberg


The U.S. slid from the top ten most prosperous nations for the first time in a league table which ranked three Scandinavian nations the best for wealth and wellbeing.

The U.S. fell to 12th position from 10th in the Legatum Institute’s annual prosperity index amid increased doubts about the health of its economy and ability of politicians. Norway, Denmark and Sweden were declared the most prosperous in the index, published in London today.

With the presidential election just a week away, the research group said the standing of the U.S. economy has deteriorated to beneath that of 19 rivals. The report also showed that respect for the government has fallen, fewer Americans perceive working hard gets you ahead, while companies face higher startup costs and the export of high-technology products is dropping.

“As the U.S. struggles to reclaim the building blocks of the American Dream, now is a good time to consider who is best placed to lead the country back to prosperity and compete with the more agile countries,” Jeffrey Gedmin, the Legatum Institute’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The six-year-old Legatum Prosperity Index is a study of wealth and wellbeing in 142 countries, based on eight categories such as economic strength, education and governance. Covering 96 percent of the world’s population, it is an attempt to broaden measurement of a nation’s economic health beyond indicators such as gross domestic product.

The Legatum Institute is the public policy research arm of the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based private investment group founded in 2006 by New Zealand billionaire Christopher Chandler.

Global Prosperity

The report shows that even amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, global prosperity has increased across all regions in the past four years, although the sense of safety and security is decreasing amid tension in the Middle East and fear of crime in Latin America.

Norway and Denmark retained the pole positions they held last year in the overall prosperity measure, while Sweden leapfrogged Australia and New Zealand into third. Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland rounded out the top ten. The Central African Republic was ranked bottom.

In its sub-indexes, Legatum named Switzerland the strongest economy and home to the best system of governance. Denmark is the most entrepreneurial and New Zealand has the best education, while health is best in Luxembourg and Iceland is the safest. Canadians enjoy the most personal freedom and Norwegians have the greatest social capital.

Hard Work

With President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney tussling for the White House, Legatum said the U.S. economy declined two places from last year to 20th. It found that 89 percent of Americans believe hard work produces results, up from 88 percent last year, and the government’s approval rate dropped to 39 percent from 42 percent.

Plagued by the euro-area debt crisis, 24 out of 33 European nations have witnessed a decline in their economic score since 2009, according to Legatum. On the prosperity scale, Greece recorded the biggest drop in 2012, falling 10 places since 2009 to 49th. Spain held on to 23rd place.

The U.K remained 13th, one place ahead of Germany, and Legatum predicted it will overtake the U.S. by 2014 as it scores well for entrepreneurship and governance. Nevertheless, the status of its economy remains a weakness as it slid five places to 26th on that score and job satisfaction is low.

Asian Scores

In Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan all ranked in the top ten for their economies and the top 20 overall. So-called tiger cub economies Vietnam and Indonesia also rose. Indonesia experienced the largest gain in prosperity of any country since 2009, jumping 26 positions to 63rd.

Switzerland, Norway and Singapore topped the economy sub- index, which measures satisfaction with the economy and expectations for it, the efficiency of the financial sector and foundations for growth. In a gauge of entrepreneurship, Denmark ran ahead of Sweden and Finland for the strength of innovation and access to opportunity.

Switzerland also topped the rankings for best government. It was followed by New Zealand and Denmark in a measure determined by the effectiveness and accountability of lawmakers, the fairness of elections, the participation of people in the political process and rule of law. The highest marks for education went to New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Luxembourg, the U.S. and Switzerland were graded the best for health treatments and infrastructure as well as preventative care and satisfaction with the service. Iceland, Norway and Finland topped the chart for safety and security; Chad, Congo and Afghanistan ranked the lowest on that index.

Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians enjoy the most freedom and social tolerance, Legatum said. Norway, Denmark and Australia had the highest scores for social capital as monitored by social cohesion and family and community networks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Kennedy in London at skennedy4@bloomberg.net

via U.S. Prosperity Slides in Index That Ranks Norway No. 1 – Bloomberg.

via U.S. Prosperity Slides in Index That Ranks Norway No. 1 – Bloomberg.

Mitt Romney Adviser Says Jeep Jobs Added In China Are Jobs Not Added In U.S.


WASHINGTON – When Mitt Romney told a crowd in Ohio last week that he had read a report saying Jeep was “thinking of moving all production to China,” there was at least a potentially defensible explanation.

A Bloomberg story published the previous Monday had stated that Fiat, which owns Chrysler, “plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in that country.”

A line was added to the Bloomberg story after it was published stating that Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia, was referring to “adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.” The Romney campaign told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that the update was after Romney made his remark on Thursday. It’s not clear whether that’s true or not, but what is known is that Chrysler refuted press reports about the Bloomberg story before Romney spoke Thursday evening in Defiance, Ohio.

What has confounded many political observers, and provoked a spirited counteroffensive from the Obama campaign — including their own TV ad — is why the Romney campaign then aired in Ohio a TV commercial that implied the auto bailout had hurt the auto industry and that Chrysler was sending U.S. jobs to China. Chrysler told HuffPost the company has added 11,200 U.S. jobs since going through a managed bankruptcy backed by federal bailout dollars in late 2008 and early 2009. And while Chrysler is going to make Jeeps in China for the Chinese market rather than selling U.S.-built models in China, the company said it is expanding production rather than shifting it, adding shifts and hiring workers in the U.S. at the same time.

via Mitt Romney Adviser Says Jeep Jobs Added In China Are Jobs Not Added In U.S..

via Mitt Romney Adviser Says Jeep Jobs Added In China Are Jobs Not Added In U.S..

Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters


With less than one week before we find out how voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington will decide on ballot measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol, polls indicate there’s a very good chance at least one of these states will make history by enacting the world’s first-ever marijuana legalization law.

While the movement to reform marijuana laws has been steadily picking up steam in recent years, with rising national polling support and a growing number of states allowing for the medical use of marijuana, having the voters of a state opt to legalize and tax marijuana for adult use would propel the issue to the forefront of the mainstream political scene like never before.

The three legalization initiatives on state ballots are not only drawing support from a large number of voters, but are garnering endorsements from newspaper editorial boards, civic groups, civil rights leaders, celebrities and even some members of law enforcement.

But guess who else is speaking out in support of changing marijuana laws? Check out the slideshow below for a top 10 list of the most unexpected allies in the fight against marijuana prohibition.

These quotes are sourced from the new website http://www.MarijuanaMajority.com, which compiles quotes and videos from prominent people across the political spectrum who support reforming marijuana laws.

via Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters.

via Tom Angell: 10 Most Unexpected Marijuana Reform Supporters.

Mise Éire (I am Ireland)


The Republic of Decay, a place now so dire that even the monkeys decline offers of bananas.

The three pillars of the Establishment, the financial institutions, the political organizations and the Church stagger on unwittingly oblivious to the realities of life. Their epicurean menu is corruption, lies, arrogance, greed, sleaze, sodomy, deceit, nepotism, distortion of the truth, gross incompetence. The list can go on and on forever.

When can they learn to tell their Citizens something that resembles the truth?

Observe them.

The Financial Institutions: The Dracula’s of nowhere sucking the nation’s blood dry- The crutch of capitalism-that an inherently unstable system which periodically falls off the rails and when it does who pays? Well, the 2% who control the wealth do not. The payees are as always the inevitable underclass.

Their level of incompetence defies belief.

Take, for example, simple basic maths, Division, addition, multiplication, subtraction, for short DAMS. Well, the boys from Dams appear to have come up with a “constant” that allows their cash shortfall figures to spiral upwards on a never-ending charge of woe. Right now, it is not in their interest to stick a finger in the dam to restrain the flow. Do we take it; they do not understand simple maths or are they pulling the wool over our eyes? D.A.M.S is an acronym for a shadowy group known as the as the drawee artistic math’s society? This group of people is found in the highest echelons of business and normally operate at a level above that of the Golden circle. Figuratively speaking these people can paint any picture they wish but primarily their drawings are to their own advantage. These avaricious bastards would skim cash off the bones of a dead rat, but they will never get their fingers dirty.

The Church: This Frankenstein Monster lends solace to the fiends of banking, shares its virgin but sexually satisfied bed with both government and Bourgeoisie and in the meantime buggers the children of the poor and expects the state to pay for their criminal enjoyment and the state duly obliges.

The Political Organizations have become a collective of brain-dead zombies. Their place of residence is a mausoleum called Sinisterhouse house, which serves as the Rotten Island Parliament building.

The primary function of these humourless dead beats is looking after their own self-interest, which takes up seventy-five percent of their time.

Taking care of the interests of the financial institutions takes another twenty percent of their time.

Performing minor functions- like proposing bills to erect streetlights in the two-horse village of Ballysilly and to fill potholes in marginal electoral areas, this takes up a tiresome 5% of their time.

To be a member of this collective, no qualifications are required, but it does help if you understand the term the gravy train. Those currently in Government amply illustrate this where few ministers have any credentials whatsoever for doing there jobs.

Le Grand Dame, The sex symbol of the parliament  is the leader of this group.

This entity makes bullish attempts to explain that the country’s economy is on the road to recovery, this notion relates to nothing more than his careful consideration. His only notable achievement is impoverished thinking based on the mantra; all will be well?

The entity prays fervently every day for economic miracles.

He has visions of the Sherkels and Dragi flapping their wings over the skies of Rotten Island where they shower the country with a deluge of monetary bills that astonishingly transform the country into a fictionally, financially viable sensation. He will proclaim these events to be a miracle of his own making, he will ask us to admire the quality and wonderment of his efforts. This entity has disturbed fantasies of success, which are always just around the corner.

This leader of our illustrious small nation bestows on himself the honour of being the highest paid Prime Ministers in the world with a take home check greater than any other leader. To augment his Government, he has a drone army of civil servants, who are the most highly paid in the world and ironically turn out to be the least productive. A talent that his compatible to that of their leader

He has huffed and he has puffed, but he still does not comprehend that the house is already a busted flush.

That dear citizen is Rotten Island today a golden triangle of cognasty, a three-headed dog of darkness. No figurehead to rally behind, no Orpheus to lead us out of this triangulated underworld, no Che Guevara to kick-start a revolution, no rising star to guide us into the future.

Part 2

JOHNNY CITIZEN

Johnny Citizen: Where does he fit in, well he is the lamb who is there to be fleeced?

He pays the bankers bills.

He pays the church bills.

He pays the Government bills.

Moreover, he will pay for anything else the ghouls will screw up now and in the future.

Why is Johnny citizen so sheepish? Short and simple, he abandoned his protectors the trade unions. His living standards improved. He suffered the illusion of getting fat and rich on an enduring monetary upward rocket. He played golf, and he had his overseas holidays to exotic places. He inflated himself with notions of self-importance.

He drinks XO brandy in his local bar and guffaws with his friends, sure wasn’t it far away from this we were raised, whilst a glow of self-satisfaction crosses his face. When foreign workers came to fill low paid jobs, he developed a xenophobic state of mind, something he understands well. Why as an immigrant youth did he not suffer xenophobia from the hands of the foreigner? Even so, he will maintain he was a worker. The assortment coming to our beloved shores nowadays is nothing but a bunch of scroungers and malingers. He will assert that the Government must put a halt to this inward flow of migrant spongers. As things fell apart in his esteemed homeland, he failed to notice that the hard-working idlers were first to leave to seek work elsewhere, which contributes to a reduced tax, take which in turn Johnny will have to make up.

What are the prospects for his children? They are in the stew pot; they are the future fodder for the controllers of capital to devour and spit out at will.

What hope can he have, not much?

However, what happens if Johnny citizen wakes up from his slumbers? If he is sharp, he will link chains of events together, he will have questions, he will want answers, and of course, he will request down to earth solutions to uncomplicated problems.

He will question why he is paying the outlandish bankers debt.

He will swiftly conclude, that the notion he should do so is preposterous.

Moreover, he will state in a loud voice.

The bankers lent money, which they did not have in the first place, to people who did not have the resources to pay it back.

This is reckless trading, which is an offence-Off to jail with them.

Better, still off with their heads

He will question how the Government of his dearly beloved fatherland could make a deal with the church of pederasts who cruelly and callously buggered the children of his native land.

He will conclude, that the concept that he should pay, is unbelievable.

In addition, he will state in a loud voice. The full rigor of the law must apply to these fiends.

The crimes of the Frankenstein church are hideous. Off to Jail with them, better still off with their heads. He will question how our Politicians and civil servants contrived to make such a mess of our cherished Republic that became the envy of many. A nation held up as a shinning example to emerging states now derided and cruelly laughed at by the nations of the world.

He has observed former double-dealing Prime ministers questioned in the dock over misdeeds, which they strenuously denied, but were even the mongrel dogs in the street knew they were lying through their teeth. He will have seen friends and cohorts of these people questioned by the law.

He will conclude, self-interest coupled with corruption was the name of their game.

He will holler –

These people failed in their duty to represent us, corruption and self-interest were rife.

Off to jail with them all, better still off with their heads.

Johnny citizen will have noticed that those who controlled the money represented less than two percent of the population. He will comprehend that the gap between those with capital and those with limited money had not narrowed at all. For the money the statues quo remains, control of capital is God.

Our citizen friend now realizes his lot is to be nothing more than to be the bonded serf of capitalism.

He comprehends with a heaviness of mind that the free market reduces everything to matters of money and thus exploitation, Direct, brutal, blatant. Our citizen is now a commodified extinction to the machines of capitalism. He is the disposable part of the equation. He will deduce, construe that once we learn how to control the monarchy of capital and production, we are then on our way to a better life. He will postulate there must be a greater division of wealth; it can no longer be the preserve of a tiny minority. Governments must control this; it must be for the benefit of the citizens? Pervasive social corruption must cease. As he reads and researchers, he begins to understand the injustices of the system as applied to the working person.

He will learn that of the world’s top 100 economies based on GDP That fifty-one of them are corporations and are not countries. He will see and understand quite quickly the dangers these people pose to the illusion of his freedom.

He will learn that corruption is rife in these companies.

He will learn that business is not ethical and decent.

He will learn that industry does not care for its workers.

He will learn that the well-being of the people is secondary to monetary gain.

He will learn that much of industry out source’s production to the cheapest labour point. He will realize his job is no more than a movable commodity.

He will learn that the result of all of this is wealth consolidation, communal stratification, labour abuse and exploitation, Tactical corruption. He will realize that he is witnessing a form of covert dictatorship by the rich.

He will learn not to trust people in the system.

He will learn that the number of poor people in the world increases daily.

He will learn that the worker’s lot is a miserable lot.

He will learn that as each day passes the national depth of our sovereign country increases, and he knows and expects further tax demands on his income. He speculates on the percentage of the nation’s resources spent on servicing the nation’s debt. He foresees disaster.

He will learn that if we get out of the current predicament that the cycle of bust and boom is likely to intensify due to the mechanisms of the banking system.

Our good friend Johnny citizen compiles endless lists, which he uses as conversation pieces when he discusses the affairs of the nation. He converses with his friends in the pubs, hotel lobbies, eateries and the fun palaces of the land. Each conversation inevitably ends with the expression, well fuck the lot of them, what can we do about it?

Our friend has at least verbally expressed himself. He is most likely fated never to play a part in altering the system but perhaps; just maybe he did plant a few acorns in heads that someday, might grow.

What happens to Johnny Citizen? Does he disappear into foggy shadows will he survive? Does anyone care?

Copyright John Foley

When corporations bankroll politics, we all pay the price


Illustration: Daniel Pudles

‘Despite attempts to reform it, US campaign finance is more corrupt and corrupting than it has been for decades.’ Illustration: Daniel Pudles

It’s a revolting spectacle: the two presidential candidates engaged in a frantic and demeaning scramble for money. By 6 November, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will each have raised more than $1bn. Other groups have already spent a further billion. Every election costs more than the one before; every election, as a result, drags the United States deeper into cronyism and corruption. Whichever candidate takes the most votes, it’s the money that wins.

Is it conceivable, for instance, that Romney, whose top five donors are all Wall Street banks, would put the financial sector back in its cage? Or that Obama, who has received $700,000 from both Microsoft and Google, would challenge their monopolistic powers? Or, in the Senate, that the leading climate change denier James Inhofe, whose biggest donors are fossil fuel companies, could change his views, even when confronted by an overwhelming weight of evidence? The US feeding frenzy shows how the safeguards and structures of a nominal democracy can remain in place while the system they define mutates into plutocracy.

Despite perpetual attempts to reform it, US campaign finance is now more corrupt and corrupting than it has been for decades. It is hard to see how it can be redeemed. If the corporate cronies and billionaires’ bootlickers who currently hold office were to vote to change the system, they’d commit political suicide. What else, apart from the money they spend, would recommend them to the American people?

But we should see this system as a ghastly warning of what happens if a nation fails to purge the big money from politics.

v

via When corporations bankroll politics, we all pay the price | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise – Matt Taibbi – Taibblog – True/Slant


The Holy See’s reaction to both stories has been swift. An unsigned editorial this week in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano attacked the New York Times by name, accusing the paper of willfully ignoring the “truth” of Ratzinger/Benedict’s record and of attempting “to instrumentalize, without any foundation in fact, horrible episodes and sorrowful events uncovered in some cases from decades ago.” The media, it continued, showed a “despicable intent of attacking, at whatever cost, Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators.”

Earlier in the week, New York’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, used his blog to dismiss the New York Times reports and defend the pontiff’s record by arguing that authorities outside the church also are culpable. Stories about sexual abuse by priests were “fair” if “unending,” he wrote. But he condemned the media for portraying child sexual abuse “as a tragedy unique to the church alone. That, of course, is malarkey.”

via A pope with a problem – latimes.com.

Anyone who’s interested in losing his lunch should read the above-mentioned blog entry by New York archbishop Timothy Dolan in defense of Pope Benedict; the archbishop’s incredibly pompous and self-pitying rant is some of the most depraved horseshit I’ve ever seen on the internet, which is saying a lot.

One expects professional slimeballs like the public relations department of Goldman Sachs to pull out the “Well, we weren’t the only thieves!” argument when accused of financial malfeasance. But I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through Dolan’s retort and it dawned on me that he was actually going to use the “We weren’t the only child molesters!” excuse. Dolan must have very roomy man-robes, because it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly. But this is exactly what Dolan does; he bases his entire defense of the Church on the idea that others are equally culpable. The relevant section of his piece:

What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”:  How about these, for example?

–    “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;

–    “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;

–    “Doctor Asserts Judges (or PoliceLawyersDistrict Attorneys, TherapistsParole Officers) Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since we now know the sober fact that no one in the healing and law enforcement professions knew back then the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the now-taken-for-granted conclusion that abusers of young people can never safely work closely with them again.

The most revolting part of this response is the last bit about how “no one knew… back then” the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the fact that child molesters cannot be allowed near children ever again once caught. Dolan is trying to get us to focus on the 1962 case, but the truth is that as recently as this last decade, the Church’s doctrinal office elected to proceed with church trials for less than 10% of the 3000 cases of abuse reported to them between the years of 2000 and 2010.

And just a few days after this blog entry of Dolan’s, the Times would come out with another story indicating that the current Pope, then a Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial. The inaction of Ratzinger’s office resulted in Murphy being allowed to die “in the dignity of the priesthood,” which was his wish as expressed in a letter to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in January 1998.

So while schools, parole officers, judges, lawyers and therapists may have been deficient in their understanding of child abuse back in 1962 (although I’m sorry — it could have been 1562, if someone molested my child and was allowed back in the priesthood, I’d be reaching for an axe), the Catholic church is alone among all of them in continuing to not get it since then. Despite massive public scandal over the course of what now is decades, they continue to deflect and shield child molesters as a matter of institutional routine. The ugliest part of the New York Times story wasn’t even the involvement of Ratzinger in this mess but the fact that three successive archbishops failed to do anything about Murphy, a man who apparently molested upwards of 200 children.

(And not only did he molest these children, but he clearly was not forthcoming about his crimes when examined by experts in sexual abuse . In the notes of one such expert there is a telling notation: “Denies sexual contact with anyone not named in outside complaints, i.e. admits to sexual contact only with those accused of!” The expert included that exclamation point, too.)

So this monster who was known to the highest authorities in the church to bea monster was allowed to die an active priest who was allowed to work with children for 24 years even after he was exposed, until the end of his life. For Dolan then to lay all this off on 1962 mores is disgusting all by itself and totally disingenuous.

But even worse — what does Dolan’s whiny deflecting and excuse-making say about the church as an arbiter of ethical values? These pompous assholes run around in their poofy robes and dresses shaking smoke-filled decanters with important expressions on their faces and pretending to great insight about grace and humility, but here we have the head of the largest Diocese in America teaching his entire congregation that when caught committing a terrible sin, the appropriate response is to blame the media and pull the “All the other kids were doing it, too!” stunt!

I was raised Catholic but stopped going to church at the age of 12. I was a complete idiot at that age with regard to almost every other area of human knowledge, but even I knew back then that the church was a scam. There are good and decent people working as individual priests, but the institution as a whole is a gang of cheap charlatans preying on peoples’ guilt feelings (which of course are cultivated intentionally by the church, which teaches children to be ashamed of their natural sexuality) in order to solicit a lifetime of contributions.

When I see a Catholic priest chanting his ridiculous incantations and waving his holy smoke over someone’s gravesite or at a wedding, the vibe I get is exactly the same as the one I get watching a plumber groan and moan and babble gibberish about all the different things wrong with your kitchen pipes, when in reality all he had to do was replace a washer. It’s the same as picking up your car after an oil change and listening to the mechanic rattle off a list of charges totaling thousands for the nineteen extra things he looked at under your hood, just out of concern for your safety… And when you protest, no, there was nothing wrong with my alternator, I’m not paying for that, he tries to bullshit you — oh, yes there was, trust me, if we hadn’ta fixed that, your car woulda died on the highway within a week.

That’s all the church is. They’re a giant for-profit company using predatory salesmanship to sell what they themselves know is a defective, outmoded, basically unnecessary product. They’ll use any means necessary to keep their market share and if they have to lie and cheat and deflect and point fingers to keep the racket going, they’ll do it, just like any other sleazeball company.

But I think it’s time we started considering that what the church is is even worse than that. It’s possible we should start wondering if the church is also a criminal organization that in this country, anyway, should be broken up using RICO statutes.

One of the few areas where I agreed with George Bush was in the notion that a country providing safe haven to terrorists should itself be treated as a terrorist organization. Morally this isn’t a difficult one to figure out; a country that keeps house for a bin Laden and doesn’t assist other countries in trying to catch him is a rogue state, one that should be booted out of the community of nations.

We don’t permit countries that harbor terrorists to participate in international society, but the Catholic Church — an organization that has been proven over and over again to systematically enable child molesters, right up now to the level of the Pope — is given a free pass. In fact the Church is not only not sanctioned in any serious way, it gets to retain its outrageous tax-exempt status, which makes its systematic child abuse, in this country at least, a government-subsidized activity.

Somewhere underneath all of this there is a root story that has to do with celibacy. The celibate status of its priests is basically the Catholic church’s last market advantage in the Christian religion racket, but human beings are not designed to be celibate and so problems naturally arise among the population of priests forced to live that terrible lifestyle. Just as it refuses to change its insane and criminal stance on birth control and condoms, the church refuses to change its horrifically cruel policy about priestly celibacy. That’s because it quite correctly perceives that should it begin to dispense with the irrational precepts of its belief system, it would lose its appeal as an ancient purveyor of magical-mystery bullshit and become just a bigger, better-financed, and infinitely more depressing version of a Tony Robbins self-help program.

Therefore it must cling to its miserable celibacy in order to keep its sordid business scheme going; and if clinging to its miserable celibacy means having to look the other way while children are serially molested by its sexually stunted and tortured employees, well, so be it.

If you look at it that way, the church’s institutional behavior is far worse than is commonly believed. It’s not just a matter of an intractable bureaucracy responding too slowly or too insensitively to some scattered accidents of fate. This is more like the situation of a car company that continues selling a cheap but faulty brake system because it has calculated that it stands to make more money selling the cars than it does to lose in lawsuits. The only difference is, a car company can fix the brakes if it wants to. What the Catholic church is selling is by definition faulty. It can’t change, or it will be out of business. So even if not changing means kids will be continue to be molested, it doesn’t change.

I think Chris Hitchens said this once, and I agree with him; if I were a person that made that kind of moral choice, I think I’d have to kill myself. But these guys not only don’t kill themselves, they go out in public ranting about how wronged they are and how they’ve been fucked over by the evil New York Times for airing out their dirty laundry. Again, I admire the balls, but seriously, they must know the game is almost up. Sooner or later people are going to catch on, the state is going to make a move, and there’s going to be a hell of a lot of church property going up for auction along with the seized Escalades of DEA-busted drug dealers. Or maybe not in this lifetime — but one can only hope.

via The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise – Matt Taibbi – Taibblog – True/Slant.

via The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise – Matt Taibbi – Taibblog – True/Slant.

Mean Streets-Accommodation Crisis


An accommodation crisis faces Irish people coming to live and work in Britain. As we reported last week many Irish workers are arriving with little awareness of the high start-up costs and the shortage of accommodation. In the most extreme cases they can run out of money very quickly, have no access to benefits and find themselves homeless or sleeping rough, a report from the Crosscare Migrant Project warned. And when people do find somewhere to live they end up paying large sums for poor quality, cramped accommodation with little hope of moving up the property ladder because of the high deposits and advanced rent payments demanded by private landlords.

Today we reveal the extent of the problem nationwide — with other major cities including Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, reporting a massive housing problem. And we also highlight the human cost of the crisis, with the sobering story of one young man’s depressing experience. In London, Leslie Ryan, a housing officer at the London Irish Centre said: “People underestimate the initial expense involved in moving to Britain. People stick it out for a long time at home. They hope to avoid immigration, spend a lot of their savings in Ireland and then arrive here strapped. People might think £1,000 is enough money to arrive over with. It’s not.”

In Liverpool, Breege McDaid, from Irish Community Care on Merseyside, said: Landlords are stricter, rents are higher, there’s a lot of low quality accommodation and a lot of Irish people want to live in the city centre. People don’t have the fall back position of staying with family and friends because their support network is at home. And when they do find somewhere to live the accommodation can be smaller than what they are used to. Space becomes a side issue.”

And in Birmingham, Norah Cox from Irish in Birmingham, said: “Prices have gone up, availability is less and there’s not much building going on.” The impact on emigrants, as our special report this week reveals, can be devastating. Newly-arrived Stephen Ward, from Co. Down, explains how he was almost driven to despair trying to find somewhere to live — before he was eventually directed to an Irish housing support organisation in London. Meanwhile, there are warnings that things are going to worsen…

Advisory services are now pointing to the introduction of benefit caps in April 2013 which will have a harsh impact on people living in social housing. The austerity-driven measure will drive more and more people into an already over-subscribed and cramped private housing market place, it is predicted. Adding to an already dire situation with potentially catastrophic circumstances for not just the Irish in Britain but everyone looking for somewhere to stay in the country’s overcrowded towns and cities.

Stephen Ward has been sleeping on a sofa at a friend’s house for nearly three weeks. It wasn’t the start to London he expected; but then he didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find somewhere to live. This is London, after all!

Picture the scenario. From the window of the aeroplane the city stretches out to infinity in every direction — a grand stage for a glut of reality TV shows like Location, Location, Location, Property Ladder and Homes Under the Hammer. Finding somewhere to live? Piece of cake! So the plane lands, you grab a copy of the Evening Standard, have a quick scan of the property listings, toast your new town with a few scoops, then settle on the sofa to nurse a sore head — just for a few days until you find your feet. The days pass, so do the weeks and before long you’re not toasting your new home but cursing it. Your neck hurts from the arm of the couch, your feet ache from tip-toeing about all the time and your new room doubles as the recreation area by day as well as that not so comfortable rest area by night. Welcome home? Correction, welcome to your new life in Britain. Stephen is not alone.

For many Irish people arriving in Britain, this is very a familiar story. Because London’s streets are not paved with gold, but people…and lots of them. Free movement around Europe and the draw of London’s durable economy has made Britain the convenient country of choice for the continent’s upwardly mobile — not just plane after plane-load leaving from Ireland.

But when it comes to housing, supply is short, demand high. Ditto rent and council tax costs, not to mention the financial outlay needed to get to the first rung of said Property Ladder. In some areas the outlay feels like it could plug a budget deficit. Irish welfare groups based in Britain and support agencies in Ireland say securing accommodation is now the single biggest issue facing Irish emigrants to Britain. Money is tight, while property finite, often small and sometimes of poor quality. The market place is full of home-run opportunities for landlords while the bleachers are bulging with desperate would-be tenants, trying to enter the field of play. You can buy your way in…if you have enough money. Many don’t. Many arrive unprepared, armed with neither money nor knowledge of how things work and the time it takes for a wheel full of spokes like National Insurance and Bank Account numbers to turn.

Stephen had ticked the boxes when he arrived and had a big mark in the one that counts, or so he thought. He had secured a nursing job in a hospital before he arrived from Banbridge in Co. Down. He thought that everything else would fall neatly into place. A few days on the couch, a bit of rooting about on the web after collecting that coveted first paycheque — but the weeks passed while he waited for the hospital to clear his paperwork and before long he was out of cash and sofa time. “I ended up in a desperate situation,” he says. “With a job lined up I thought everything would fall into place. But after a few weeks I just about had enough money to get the Tube up to the London Irish Centre in Camden. I was close to tears to be honest. I didn’t figure it would take so long for my paperwork to be processed and didn’t bring enough money from Ireland to get me through that start-up period. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

The experience chimes with a recent report by Crosscare Migrant Project which revealed that finding somewhere to live and arriving with enough money to live in the interim are among the most acute problems faced by thousands of newly-arrived emigrants. “People underestimate the initial expense involved in moving to Britain,” says Lesly Ryan, a housing officer at the London Irish Centre. “People stick it out for a long time at home. They hope to avoid emigration, spend a lot of their savings in Ireland and then arrive here strapped. People might think £1,000 is enough money to arrive over with. It’s not.”

One man who knows just how tough the property market has become is William MacGowan who has worked as an auctioneer in North West London for the last 22 years. MacGowan said the current demand for housing far outweighs supply. He is extending his business reach further into Greater London in order to secure accommodation for his clients. “It is the most competitive I have seen the market in over 20 years,” he says. “There’s nearly nothing to be had in North West London right now. The opening up of Europe has made Britain far more accessible, banks aren’t lending money to build and there’s just not enough accommodation to meet the needs of all the people coming in. The shortage of work means it’s more of an issue because people just don’t have the money. Tenants are in a worse position to do deals with landlords and the day is gone where you would have a list of properties to choose from. People think because of the size of the cities here they are going to have a huge choice but London can become a very small place when you are looking for somewhere to live. When you are on a budget you take whatever you can pull-off.”

And it is not just London that faces a housing crisis. Breege McDaid from Irish Community Care in Merseyside said securing accommodation for Irish clients in Liverpool has become an issue. “A lot of people are fine but it’s a big area for us because it’s more difficult now. Landlords are stricter, rents are higher, there’s a lot of low-quality accommodation and a lot of Irish people want to live in the city centre. “People don’t have the fallback position of staying with family and friends because their support network is at home. And when they do find somewhere to live, the accommodation can be smaller than what they are used to. Space becomes a side issue.” It’s a similar story in Birmingham. Norah Cox from the Irish in Birmingham said there is a shortage of property there too and more and more people coming into the city. “Prices have gone up, availability is less and there’s not much building going on. It’s not just Irish people who are being affected. It’s everybody.”

Back in Camden, the London Irish Centre directed Stephen to Innisfree Housing Association, who provide supported accommodation for their clients, 60 per cent of whom are Irish. “I lived in London before, for seven years,” explains the 27-year-old, “but returned to Ireland for two years, so when I was coming back I knew what the property market was like but I just ran out of money. I was skint. But the guys in Innisfree managed to find me a room in one of their houses in West London. There are five other people in the house and all of them came there through Innisfree. They provide support with the deposit and you just start paying rent once you are working. “It was a comfort to know I’d be living with other Irish people, people who know where you are coming from, have similar interests in sports like the GAA, and music. You would have concerns about sharing space with so many people, but it’s something you have to accept as part of city life here.

“The cost of accommodation means you will have to be earning big money before you can afford to have your own place. But the bedrooms are big, there’s a garden. The people are nice, hard-working.” Jean O’Rourke, a Housing Officer with Innisfree, explained you need both money and time to adjust. “The initial start-up costs of finding somewhere to live would surpass most people’s expectations. Paying a month deposit and typically, six weeks up front, that’s the first thing people don’t realise. Then there’s the actual experience of actually living here, of adapting to big city life. Houses and flats are typically small, people live in less space than they are used to and the standard of accommodation is not always very high.”

Take it from Stephen Ward, the best approach is to do your planning before you leave. “To be fair, you’re at nothing if you arrive in Britain now with a couple of grand in your back pocket,” he says. “You need that much to get you through the settling in period, to cover your deposit and rent up-front. If you don’t…well, there are some great support services or you better find a friend with a good sofa.”

via Mean Streets.

via Mean Streets.

Hurricane Sandy- Pictures from Monday Night


 

 

 

Lower Manhattan goes dark during hurricane Sandy, on Monday, as seen from Brooklyn, N.Y. Sandy continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.

A deluge floods the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel in Manhattan as Hurricane Sandy made its approach in New York on Monday.

John Minchillo / AP

Water floods the Ground Zero construction site on Monday in New York after Sandy came ashore to the south.

Fire and rescue personnel lead a boat of ConEd power workers through flood waters after their power station was flooded Monday night.

Vehicles are submerged on 14th Street near the Consolidated Edison power plant, Monday, in New York.

Rising water, caused by Sandy, rushes into a subterranean parking garage, Monday, in the Financial District of New York City.

Manhattan flooding

Here’s another shot that is said to be 14th Street and Avenue C:

 

Mitt Romney’s Gift of a Rolex


Mitt Romney in a moment of generosity gives his current wife a gift of a Rolex Watch.

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