Thursday, December 1, 2011

Judge Rejects Obama's SEC Coverup

Security and Exchange Commission

Judge Rakoff

“A Modern Major Law Clerk”

"I laugh at all my judge’s jokes, and listen to his endless spiel.

I never pay the slightest heed to his reversals on appeal.

And even in those moments when it looks like he has gone berserk,

I smile and say, “More coffee, Judge?” – a perfect district judge’s clerk!"

-Jed Rakoff, 2000 edition of the “Courthouse Follies.”

Jed Saul Rakoff was born in Philadelphia, on New Years Day, in 1943. In high school, he was captain of the debating team. He graduated with honors in English literature from Swarthmore College (where he was student-council president and editor of the newspaper) in 1964, and earned his Master of Philosophy from Balliol College at Oxford University two years later. He thought about pursuing journalism and becoming a reporter before going to Harvard where he received a Juris Doctor, cum laude (a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law, with honor), in 1969, where he was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. He has received honorary degrees from Saint Francis University and from Swarthmore College.
Swarthmore, in conferring his honorary degree, noted that Judge Rakoff is "broadly recognized as a legal thinker, scholar and judge who not only elucidates and enforces the law, but interprets, defends and challenges it in light of the principles of ethics and social justice that it is designed to serve" and that his opinions "are cited as models of intellectual clarity and judicial vision by lawyers and judges throughout this nation."
And in his spare time he's taken up ballroom dancing.
On October 11, 1995, Judge Rakoff was nominated by President Bill Clinton to fill a seat on the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York vacated by David N. Edelstein. He was confirmed by the Senate on December 29, 1995, appointed on January 4, 1996, and entered on duty on March 1, 1996. On December 31, of last year he assumed senior status.
"He has always been a feisty person," says Todd Rakoff, the judge's younger brother, a law professor at Harvard University. "He's not at all afraid to mix things up, to put it colloquially, but I would say also that I think he really cares about getting it right, and I think he views the law as an instrument of justice."
Monday Judge Rakoff made national headlines... again, for throwing out a proposed $285 million settlement between the Security Exchange Commission (SEC), the supposed watchdog agency for the federal government (which is responsible for regulating the securities industry, the nation's stock and options exchanges, and other electronic securities markets in the United States. It is thus the watchdog agency for the American people as well), and Citigroup, Inc. the world's largest financial services network, with $3.77 billion in profit for its last quarter.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Citigroup stuffed a $1 billion mortgage fund that it sold to investors in 2007 with securities that it believed would fail so that it could bet against its customers and profit when those values declined. The fraud, the agency said, was in Citigroup’s falsely telling investors that an independent party was choosing the portfolio’s investments. Citigroup made $160 million from the deal and investors lost $700 million.
I emphasized the word fraud in the above paragraph. "In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation." -Wikipedia.
Now I emphasized that word, strangely enough, for a reason. Everyone pretty much agrees that fraud is a crime. I certainly do. Those committing crimes, when prosecuted, are usually punished commensurately to the seriousness of the crime. If you and I were caught and prosecuted for defrauding investors out of $700 million dollars (assuming you are not a big time Wall Street executive, or ex-Bush administration official) we would most likely get a stiff prison sentence, a big fine, and then have to face civil charges as well.
Well the SEC and Citigroup worked out a little deal. The big bank would pay the SEC a whopping $285 million dollars, 7.5596816976127315% of its last quarterly profits, promise not to do it again, and then the matter would be settled. Citigroup would be allowed to go back business as usual, and the SEC would go back to investigating other cases. Oh yeah, and Citigroup would not have to admit that it did anything wrong, or that it broke the law in anyway. Not having to admit fault would come in handy in the future when all of those Citigroup investors who were defrauded sued it in civil court.
As it has in other recent cases involving Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and others, the SEC proposed to settle the case by levying a fine and allowing it to neither admit nor deny the SEC’s own findings. Such settlements require approval by a federal judge.
This time they got Jed Rakoff.
"As an institution, I think they have a very distinguished history," Judge Rakoff says of the SEC, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "That doesn't mean they're right in every case."
Judge Rakoff’s concern was that the SEC did not provide any facts for the court to use to vet the settlement.
That should concern all Americans because without any admission of guilt, or innocence for that matter, there is no way to know if the remedies... including fines and pledges by Citigroup not to violate antifraud laws in the future, will indeed protect investors and ensure the integrity of markets.
Banks like the “no-admit/no-deny” clause, because if they had to admit to wrongdoing, they would invite additional lawsuits by their investors. As stated above, the SEC has claimed that settling rather than prosecuting allows it to obtain timely compensation for victims and to move on to other cases. That is partly true. It also has another, probably intended, affect, and that is to give these large, multinational, Washington lobbying, political campaign contributing, corporations what amounts to a free pass. 7.5596816976127315% of one quarter's profit, is a hell of a lot of money, but small potatoes for an entity such as Citigroup.
The title of this post ties President Obama to the SEC. The President appoints the SEC's five commissioners, which head the SEC, thus Obama is ultimately responsible for the SEC's actions, or lack thereof. The Obama administration now has a history of letting domestic criminals slide (he just assassinates foreign criminals), and what I mean by "slide," is letting guilty parties get off scott free from being prosecuted, tried, and punished. I'm very sorry to say that, but it's true. Not choosing to prosecute the former administration for obvious and admitted war crimes, and actively stifling attempts by foreign governments to do the same (Spain), is a clear example of my accusation (observation really). It would appear that the SEC is just following along with a course set by the White House in allowing large Wall Street firms, or large business firms in general, to get away with almost anything, which allows said corporations to continue to lobby and contribute to political campaigns.
In a welcome move Judge Rakoff wasn't having any of it.
The SEC, Judge Rakoff argued, “has a duty, inherent in its statutory mission, to see that the truth emerges.” But it is difficult to tell what the agency is getting from this settlement “other than a quick headline.” Even a $285 million settlement, he said, “is pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup,” and often viewed by Wall Street firms “as a cost of doing business." He said that the $285 million deal was “neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest.”
"Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud, but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?" he wrote in an order last month, which led to Monday's ruling.
I agree. Why should it?
Here's his full 15 page opinion, if you're interested:
The SEC said that it disagreed with the judge’s ruling but didn't say whether it would appeal it, or try to refashion the settlement, or prepare to begin a trial, as the judge ordered, which would begin on July 16th.
Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s Director of Enforcement, said in a statement that the Citigroup settlement “reasonably reflects the scope of relief that would be obtained after a successful trial,” and that the decision “ignores decades of established practice throughout federal agencies and decisions of the federal courts.”
Well maybe... and maybe now is the time to start ignoring decades of established practice throughout federal agencies (what's good for the Supreme Court (Citizens United) is good for Judge Rakoff apparently). Maybe it's time for something new. Like real justice. Isn't that one of the stated goals of the Occupy movement?
Citigroup said it also disagreed with the judge’s decision, adding that it would fight the charges if the case indeed went to trial.
Good for them! I wish the smug little bastards well.
Other judges are not obligated to follow Judge Rakoff’s opinion of course, but the ruling could severely undermine the SEC’s enforcement efforts if it eventually blocks the agency from settling cases in which the defendant does not wish to admit to the charges.
Good! I'm generally against the practice of plea bargaining, which this SEC proposed settlement essentially is, and which is used extensively by the justice system to save time and money.
Cases as large and significant, and symbolic as this one... they need to go to trial. Just saying.
As for Judge Rakoff, he's no stranger to controversial cases. In the past he essentially restructured the communications giant WorldCom after the SEC accused it of fraud, he rejected a similar deal between the SEC and Bank of America ordering them to trial, and once found the death penalty unconstitutional, among others.
The death penalty ruling proved to be unpopular within certain circles.
Rakoff said he got a lot of negative mail after that ruling. But he only received a direct threat once when an apparently drunk man reached him by phone at the courthouse, referring to a ruling he didn’t even recognize, stating, “I’m going to murder you!” As the judge tried to keep him on the phone so it could be traced, he realized the man was referring to another judge’s ruling in another case.
“I was so tempted to say, ‘Let me transfer your call.’”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 12 Year Old Girl Who Shamed The World

12 years old addressing UN summit

All grown up

Gaining a little weight

Continuing her work

With Dad

Happy Birthday Severn!

I love children... other people's children. I always smile when I see them on the bus doing children things. Sometimes they smile back at me.
I've related previously one of, if not the greatest thing that has ever happened to me while living near downtown Los Angeles.
Alright, if you insist... here it is again:
I told this story to my lovely case manager once in a nearby McDonalds restaurant while waiting for her iced coffee (vanilla). I told her this: One day, several years ago, I had made my way to the bus stop near the corner of Sixth and Central, on the northeast corner, to be exact. At the time it was raining quite hard, and a little river of water was rushing on the street near the sidewalk, rushing into the storm drain. Fairly soon an 18 bus pulled up to the stop... and me, and opened its forward door. Inside was a beautiful little Hispanic girl, who couldn't have been any more than four or five years old, all dressed up for the inclement weather, looking just adorable. Her mother was at the top of the steps, busy with the driver. The little girl came down the steps, looked at me, looked down at the rushing water in the street below between her and the sidewalk, then looked back at me. And this is what happened. She gave me a great big smile while raising both of her little arms way up toward me, thereby demanding that I pick her up and safely transport her across the watery abyss onto the safety of the sidewalk. At this point in my story, Erin went, "Ahhhhh." I dutifully did as the little girl demanded, settling her gently onto the sidewalk. Her mother came down and thanked me, and they continued on their way. I got on the bus and continued on my way. And I'll always remember that as one of the greatest things.
Why do I like children? I like them because they are pure and true, and honest. The younger they are the more honest. They are curious and trusting. Maybe too trusting. They are innocent which is the opposite of being corrupt. They tend to care about issues that affect them in a most direct way. The are unabashedly egocentric. And they are cute... most of the time. As a matter of fact their "cuteness" is a survival mechanism for making adults, including their own parents, look out for them for they are essentially helpless for many years after being born.
And they represent our future. They are our replacements, and therefore are precious and should be treated that way. They are a resource, one that needs to flourish if our species is to maintain itself.
And considering our species as it stands today, the future generations of human beings are going to have to make very hard decisions, and part from the established norms their parents so persistently adhered to. They have to change, quite frankly, or the human species will perish, pulling down a whole bunch of other species along with it.
What were you doing when you were twelve years old, dear readers? I vaguely remember what I was doing only because my father had died the previous year, thus providing an important event in my life my memory can rally around.
When I was twelve my dear mother was in the process of selling the liquor store my father had owned, the store just across the street from Universal Studios. Fairly soon after that I would start taking days off from school, start drinking and smoking, and generally creating a hell on Earth for my mother who was busy trying to make a new life for herself and certainly didn't need my nonsense.
But such is life. We had to go through what we had to go through I guess. I survived my teenage years, as did my mother, and eventually turned into the great success and self actualized individual I am today. But enough about me.
Some twelve year olds took a much different route. Some, like Severn Cullis Suzuki, while attending elementary school, at age 9, founded the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO), a group of kids dedicated to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues that affected the entire planet.
That was when she was 9. She was just getting started.
When she was 12, she and a few of her ECO members paid for their way to the Earth Summit, a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3rd to the 14th, in 1992. She was the natural spokesperson for her group, and she made an address to the assembly. She was very honest, sincere, non-confrontational, eloquent, and truthful.
In 1992 I was at the Salvation Army in Pasadena trying to get my life together. Severn Cullis Suzuki was busy trying to change the world.
We have to be honest here. It appears that she was indeed influenced to some degree by her family. Her mom, Dr. Tara Cullis, is a writer, and "has been a key player in environmental movements in the Amazon, Southeast Asia, and British Columbia." Her dad, David Suzuki, is the well known Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist. He is the host of Canada's longest-running documentary series, "The Nature of Things," having recently celebrated his 30th anniversary on the show, which is seen in over forty countries. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment. In 2009, Mr. Suzuki called for putting the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, in jail, apparently for his mismanagement of environmental issues.
Here's a promo for the television program:
And a link to the David Suzuki Foundation:
Which his wife is co-founder and president of.
Obviously Severn's parents were a bad influence on her.
Also obviously, considering Severn and David's last name, they are of Irish ancestry. However this did not stop Canada from interning David and his family during World War II when he was 3 years old. Until I read of his life I had not known Canada had followed the United States in the deplorable action of jailing it's own citizens based simply on racial distinctions.
In June 1942, the government sold the Suzuki family's dry-cleaning business, then interned Suzuki, his mother, and two sisters in a camp at Slocan in the British Columbia Interior. His father had been sent to a labor camp in Solsqua two months earlier. Suzuki's sister, Dawn, was born in the internment camp, where they all remained until the end of the war.
I researched for this post yesterday, shortly before I wrote it, which I'm doing right now. Ironically, I came across this story that I found on the Internet machine.
"Thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II and became some of the most decorated soldiers in the nation's history were given an overdue thank-you from their country [USA] Wednesday when Congress awarded them its highest civilian honor.
Nearly seven decades after the war's beginning, Congress awarded three units the Congressional Gold Medal. In all, about 19,000 Japanese-Americans served in the units honored at a ceremony."
The video of 12 year old Severn became very popular, no doubt due in a large part to her youth, her sincerity and earnestness, her ability to place blame where it belonged, and her ability to clearly communicate her message.
For some reason the video has made a resurgence lately which is why I'm writing about her now. I just found out about it, and her, a little while ago.
The video is often titled, "The Girl Who Silenced the World for Six Minutes." I think whoever came up with that title was taking a little poetic license, as there is no record of the world being completely silent at any point in June of 1992. She certainly silenced the people of the UN that were attending the Rio conference, as you can see in the video.
I'm not going to go into detail concerning the exact issues Severn brought up 19 years ago. She is perfectly able to do that herself in the following video clips. She did bring up a point that I found exceptionally interesting which is the concept of the world's leaders, governments, businesses responsible for the exacerbation of climate change and global warming as participants in inter-generational crime. Criminal acts that will not affect those who generate the effects of climate change, but will affect their progeny in disastrous and irreversible ways.
All of us are guilty, some more than others.
The UN delegates to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, listened to Severn politely, were duly impressed by this earnest young lady, and then promptly forgot about her message and warning, going back to business as usual. The proof of this being the current state of our environment and the continuation of use of our atmosphere and oceans as sewers for industrial waste, and the dumping of greenhouse gases from the exhaust emissions from our vehicles. We have continued to be inter-generational criminals.
That hasn't stopped Severn.
The year after the Summit she was honored in the United Nations Environment Program's Global 500 Roll of Honor. At the age of 13 Doubleday published her book "Tell the World," a 32-page book of environmental steps for families. She graduated from Yale University, with a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology. She followed in her father's footsteps and co-hosted "Suzuki's Nature Quest," a children's television series that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2002. And as the following videos document, she has continued in her work with the environment.
This is Severn's speech at the University of BC in Canada on October 2008.
Here Severn speaks as the international ambassador for the conservation group RARE:
And speaking about the upcoming Earth Summit 2012, again taking place in Rio:
Here is the website she mentioned:
In 2010 Severn was the main character in the documentary film "Severn, the voice of our children." Below is the film's website:
Here is a written interview that appeared in the May 2011 issue of ZME Science:
And a little lecture to round things off:
Severn, what a lovely name. When I have a daughter I'm going to name her Severn too (if whoever the mother is lets me).
She's very pretty as well... for a girl.
Girl. She's all grown up now, and today celebrates her 32nd birthday.
She lives with her husband and son on an island off the north coast of British Columbia, where it's cold and rains a lot.
And now, with the awakening of the Occupy movement around the world, the issues that she has fought so hard to promote throughout her life, throughout the lives of her mother and father, will undoubtedly come to the forefront of a new global consciousness, one that will not, and can not be ignored.
Happy Birthday Severn!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brooklyn Mills

Lovely Brooklyn

Yoga! I do this every morning

Fund Raiser with Local Businessmen. Thanks Guys!

"If however, we continue to ignore the tremendous problems that the world faces, as is our custom, and are going to continue in this pattern of unrestricted population growth, I need to point out that we need more cheerleaders. They bring nothing but joy and happiness into the world... and cheerfulness, as their name would imply. Less politicians, pizza CEOs, bankers, Republicans, Tea Baggers, war profiteers, hedge fund managers, Texas governors, Representatives from Minnesota, reality show TV contestants and hosts, and more cheerleaders. They're much more energetic and easy to get along with than Mitch McConnell for instance, who's always causing trouble.
My friend Mike after reviewing this post, said he likes cheerleaders too. This pretty much proves my point." -Richard Joyce, Joyce's Take, "7 Billion For Halloween," Oct 31, 2011.

"Cheerleading originated in the United States, and remains a predominantly American activity, with an estimated 1.5 million participants in all-star cheerleading. The growing presentation of cheerleading as a sport to a global audience has been led by the 1997 start of broadcasts of cheerleading competition by ESPN International and the worldwide release of the 2000 film Bring it On. Due in part to this recent exposure, there are now an estimated 100,000 participants scattered around the rest of the world in countries including Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom." -Wikipedia.

So there's approximately 1,600,000 cheerleaders on the Earth today. 1,600,000. 1,600,000 out of 7 billion. That's only 0.022857142857142857% of the total population of humans on the planet. That's way less than one percent!
COME ON PEOPLE! We can do better than that!
That's one of the reasons why Brooklyn Mills' story is so important, other than the terrible disease this beautiful young woman has contracted at such an early age, and the lousy predicament the Health Ministry of Canada has put her and her lovely family in.
Brooklyn. What a lovely name. It reminds me of a snow crested New York City for some reason. I don't know why.
Brooklyn used to be a cheerleader (picture above) at Oakville Trafalgar High School, in Oakville, Ontario. That's in Canada. If the Canadian high school grades are the same as they are (or were... it's been a long time since I was in high school) in the States, then she was a senior in the twelfth grade, and probably looking forward to going to college, where hopefully she would have continued her cheerleading career. However, one morning in October of 2009, Brooklyn woke with horrible lower back pain. She didn't know why. Neither did her parents, Rebecca and Kris Mills.
In a few months she became severely debilitated. She needed a wheelchair to get around, and was taking heavy pain medication. Her mom and dad moved a hospital bed into the living room because it hurt too much for Brooklyn to walk or move around (the medication for pain she was taking, her mother said, was of the kind that is often given to cancer patients in their final stages, and her body was atrophying from being confined to bed).
She was only 16 years old.
The lower back pain Brooklyn experienced took them from their pediatrician to countless doctors and specialists. She was hospitalized at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in Hamilton and then after related symptoms were recognized through a cardiologist, the diagnosis of EDS was made.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, is a genetic disorder of connective tissue that seriously affects joints and blood vessels, weakening the muscles and making the patients vulnerable to infections. A rare disease, which in it's most prevalent form affects only 1 in 5,000.
In a peculiarity of the Canadian health care system, being under the age of majority, she was not allowed to enter intensive pain management programs. While the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota... that's in the United States... did agree on letting her participate in an intensive pain-management program that didn’t include taking any narcotic drugs, the nearly $50,000 cost of treatment was denied by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
In February of this year the Mills family and friends held an entertainment/auction with the proceeds going toward Brooklyn's treatment (another picture above).
“It was incredible,” Rebecca said. “We had over 700 people participating and got $32,000 in fundraising.”
The event made Brooklyn's admission into the narcotic-free pain management program possible.
For nearly a month, Brooklyn worked long days with other teens affected by chronic pain, learning a holistic approach to pain management in a medical setting and under medical supervision. Her family was nearby, Rebecca staying at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
The Mills family gladly paid the $50,000 for the cost of the pain clinic, money of which they have not been reimbursed by the Ontario health system. As a matter of fact, they’ve been refused twice.
The pain management regimen worked... for a short time. She regained the ability to walk and even continued her studies at Oakville High. She relapsed in about a month though, around April and May.
The Mayo Clinic couldn’t do anything about it anymore. Brooklyn was admitted to a hospital in Toronto for 8 weeks. She was back in a wheelchair, and needed to be fed through a tube. Her condition appeared hopeless. But her parents wouldn’t quit. Why would they?
Brooklyn’s case was sent to a specialist in Maryland, back in the States. The Mills were told that their daughter had brainstem/spinal issues that needed surgical treatment. Brooklyn was moved to Maryland for treatment where she had four major surgeries involving her brainstem/spinal cord, and a few minor ones. That was last October. While she is healing from surgeries, Brooklyn can now walk a little, and her psychological condition is getting better too.
“It may be four to six months that she heals from surgeries,” Rebecca says. “There was a time when she went almost blind and her limbs would go numb, losing sensitivity to touch. But she is gradually getting better, though ESD is likely to stay with her for long, for the kind of disease that it is.”
Like many of us here in the United States who have no insurance, or are under insured, a major obstacle toward Brooklyn's recovery was the cost of her treatment. While her local community as well as the general public has been very supportive of the family, the Ontario government still has to decide whether it will bear the costs incurred by her treatment in the US. Rebecca has said that they do need money for their daughter’s treatment but they are not going to ask for donations until they learn from the Canadian government if it will do the right thing and cover the costs, and how much they will cover.
“All we need for now from the people is prayers,” says mom.
Meanwhile, as Brooklyn Mills struggles to get her life back. Her courage, stamina, and drive are certainly a major inspiration to me, as I'm sure they are to you, dear readers.
Here is a link to a petition asking Ontario’s health minister to cover Brooklyn’s medical care for EDS.
And links to two sites concerning her disease (if you insist on donating toward Brooklyn's recovery, please do so at the first link below, as the Mills family has associated themselves with the ILC Foundation. Thank you.):

Why am I advocating for this one girl when literally millions are in need throughout the world? There are several reasons really. First I like her. Her courage, stamina, and drive are an inspiration to me. Second It breaks my heart to hear about, or see her so ill. This young, beautiful girl... this woman, she's over 18 now, should be out enjoying life and befuddling the minds of boys which young ladies do so well. Third, I can advocate for those other millions as well, all at the same time, and will continue to do so. And fourth, but not last (this list is not exhaustive), she's a cheerleader! And maybe her future daughter will follow in her moms footsteps.
And as I've said so many times we need all of the cheerleaders we can get (...and bellydancers)!
They bring nothing but joy and happiness into the world... and cheerfulness, as their name would imply.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fox News: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Bill O'Reilly

Sean Hannity

Greta Van Susteren

Shepard Smith

Niel Cavuto

Mike "Fried Squirrel" Huckabee

Chris Wallace

Brit "Hound Dog " Hume

Fox & Friends

"Food Product" Megyn Kelly

A. E. Newman

There is a disturbing tendency in our national media to equalize everything having to do with the two major political parties in the United States. The Mainstream Media's Misguided Obsession With "Objectivity," as Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor for Jacobin Magazine put it in his article.
For instance, just after it was announced that the so-call "supercommittee" could not come to a bipartisan agreement to locate areas in the national budget to cut, and enact revenue increases in order to lessen the deficit by some 1.2 trillion dollars over ten years, the corporate (mainstream?) media reported that both sides, the Republicans and the Democrats had equally failed in their task.
Well that's just not true. Even with just a cursory glance at the situation the simple facts that the Republicans were intractable in regards to not allowing revenue increases in the form of tax increases for the wealthiest among us, on the table. Not at all! This is nothing new. They've done the same thing over and over again. The very same thing! It's always the same thing... no tax increases for the wealthy even though their taxes are at the lowest point since the 1950s. Their pledge to ass-hat Grover Norquist, and pressure from their Tea Bagger base (if that is indeed their base. The Republicans may be bowing to a small faction of their real base, which may come to haunt them come 2012 election time).
So, the Republickans idea of bipartisanship remains "we give nothing, you give everything... or we'll take all the toys and go home." And I'm not exaggerating. Often when I watch the Repubs at work on C-SPAN I feel like I'm watching an episode of Romper Room, or Sesame Street.
Be that as it may, the "mainstream" media blames both sides when it is often very clear one side is mainly at fault (the Republicans). They tend to ignore the facts, or don't delve into the subject with any depth, or ignore President Obama when he clearly identifies the culprits, their actions and motives. You have a large powerful political party whose leaders stated goals are to limit the President to one term above all other considerations, and the national media doesn't take that into account.
This type of behavior has spilled over to to news programs that pit Republican pundits with Democratic pundits, who battle it out with little regard for discovering the truth behind the questions of the moderator. Why? That would be just too much work, and television hosts don't really want to offend any particular side as they are afraid of losing access to, I don't know... whoever. The host of NBC's Sunday morning program, Meet The Press, David Gregory, has openly stated it's not his job to fact check the various guests he has on the program. Apparently it's his job to just ask pointed questions and allow his guests to spew out whatever garbage they want to without fear of consequence.
This is not journalism. "Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience." -Wikipedia. To investigate and inform, which implies seeking the truth and reporting it.
The Fox Propaganda Network, which some misguided people call Fox News, is the most popular "news" cable network currently operating in the United States. That's a shame. It says a lot about our country.
So does this:
"As of January 2011, the Democratic Party-affiliated Public Policy Polling reports that Fox News Channel is the second-most trusted television news network in the country, with 42% of respondents reporting they trust the network, compared to other major news channels (behind PBS which stands at 50%, and ahead of NBC at 41%, CNN at 40%, CBS at 36%, and ABC at 35%). Simultaneously, Fox News Channel is also ranked the most distrusted news channel in the country, with 46% of respondents reporting they distrust the network (behind PBS at 30%, NBC at 41%, and CNN, CBS, and ABC each at 43%)."
Why would anyone distrust Fox News? A news organization... ideally... is supposed to be an impartial entity that reports the news impartially. That's the definition of reporting.
But Fox doesn't do that.
“Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party,” said Anita Dunn, the former White House Director of Communications.
I have to agree. And most everybody else does too! It is hardly a secret that Fox, owned and operated by hacker Rupert Murdoch, and operated by former NBC exec Roger "Human Saggy Balloon" Ailes displays a marked conservative bias. It not only displays a marked conservative bias, it also actively promotes and advertises conservative ideas and events, the formation of the Tea Baggers being a prime example.
Well MSNBC does the same for the left, liberal, progressive side, I hear you saying. And you would be absolutely right in saying that. But there's a major difference between the two. Or differences.
MSNBC's liberal bent is in direct response to the rights domination of the media, through talk radio to the Fox Propaganda Network.
MSNBC does not promote propaganda, but reports, as best it can as far as I can tell, in an unbiased fashion. Yes, I can hear all of you right wingers laughing your ass off at my last statement, but your laughter rings hallow because deep down you know I'm right.
And most importantly, MSNBC, and most other networks other than Fox use what are known as "facts." Pieces of realty that can be independently verified by multiple sources. Fox doesn't bother with these things. Facts give Fox a big headache, because, well, facts most often do not promote the untenable positions that Fox often wishes to promote, for instance like Newt Gangrich would be a good president. If facts do not support Fox's position or world view Fox tosses them out and spews forth what are called... lies.
Fox "News" has a marked tendency to misinform their own audience. And they get away with it each and every day.
"Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals." -New York Times editor Howell Raines
Attitudes have changed in recent years which allow this type of behavior from a major "news" organization. I believe this is due in large part to the media being controlled largely by major corporations, like News Corp, or Disney, or National Amusements, or General Electric, which tend not to concern themselves very closely with little things like ethics, or public opinion. And since the media is controlled by these corporate entities dissension is controlled by them as well (this type of "fuck you, we're going to do whatever we want" attitude has also spilled out into other areas, our judicial system being a case in point. Some of our Supreme Court Justices who will remain nameless (Thomas and Scalia) think it's perfectly acceptable to attend social functions for businesses and political factions that they may have to rule on in the future without recusing themselves. This type of behavior is without precedent. But what would you expect from a court that gave us Citizens United?)
But Fox stands out among the rest. As I stated, Fox tends to misinform their viewers in order to promote their political agenda. The lovely organization, Media Matters, which some at Fox have demonized as some kind of terrorist organization simply because it reports back on exactly what some at Fox have said or done, verbatim (that's all they do. That's all they've ever done. But Fox doesn't like that) has documented this point repeatedly.
Anyway, here's some examples of how Fox may... bend the truth (lie):

On climate change: "A new study confirms that Fox News systematically paints a distorted picture of climate change, with the effect of worsening political polarization. Published by The International Journal Of Press/Politics, the study examined primetime cable news broadcasts from 2007 and 2008, and found that Fox "discussed climate change most often," but "the tone of its coverage was disproportionately dismissive... Fox broadcasts were more likely to include statements that challenged the scientific agreement on climate change, undermined the reality of climate change, and questioned its human causes... An internal email revealed, Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directed Fox journalists in December 2009 to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed... Fox has also tried to manufacture a number of pseudo-scandals by distorting climate science research, misrepresenting or disavowing the temperature record, and seizing on any opportunity to distract from what the National Research Council has called "a strong, credible body of evidence" supporting manmade climate change... Fox News is a loud, popular, and influential network that is reinforcing its viewers misconceptions about climate science. The study concluded that "to the extent that Fox News presents a different view of reality than does CNN or MSNBC, the knowledge and opinions of the networks' respective audiences will likewise tend to polarize."

Lowering taxes increases revenue says Fox... not really says everyone else (except the Tea Baggers and Republicans in Congress of course):
"If there's one thing that Republican politicians agree on, it's that slashing taxes brings the government more money. "You cut taxes, and the tax revenues increase," President Bush said in a speech last year. Keeping taxes low, Vice President Dick Cheney explained in a recent interview, "does produce more revenue for the Federal Government." Presidential candidate John McCain declared in March that "tax cuts ... as we all know, increase revenues." His rival Rudy Giuliani couldn't agree more. "I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues," he intones in a new TV ad.
If there's one thing that economists agree on, it's that these claims are false. We're not talking just ivory-tower lefties. Virtually every economics Ph.D. who has worked in a prominent role in the Bush Administration acknowledges that the tax cuts enacted during the past six years have not paid for themselves--and were never intended to. Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, even devotes a section of his best-selling economics textbook to debunking the claim that tax cuts increase revenues." -Time, 12/6/07
Paul Krugman, After Reagan's 1981 Tax Cuts, "Revenues Are Permanently Reduced Relative To What They Would Otherwise Have Been." In a July 2010 post on his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that "the revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend." He added, "This is exactly what you would expect to see if supply-side economics were just plain wrong: revenues are permanently reduced relative to what they would otherwise have been." -The New York Times, 7/15/10
Economic Policy Institute: Bush Tax Cuts "Added $2.6 Trillion To The Public Debt Over 2001-10." In a September 26 article, Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) wrote: A spending-cuts-only approach is regressive in that it forces the brunt of deficit reduction on the backs of poor and working families while ignoring a prime culprit of the budget deficit: the expensive, ineffective, and unfair Bush-era tax cuts. These top-heavy tax cuts added $2.6 trillion to the public debt over 2001-10 and will add $3.8 trillion to deficits over the next decade if fully continued." EPI, 9/26/11. On and on.

Kristol, O'Reilly Suggest That President Obama Has No Deficit-Reduction Plan.
Bill Kristol: "Where Is President Obama? ... Where's His Proposal?" From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
BRET BAIER (host): "Do you buy that the Democrats were that united in their own proposal, going forward in the supercommittee, that it was actually a real deal?"
BILL KRISTOL: "Well, where was the Democratic proposal? The House Republicans passed a budget, the Paul Ryan budget, which would cut much more than 1.2 trillion. Senator Toomey put out a proposal, which we've seen a fair number about of the details of, which would have gotten to 1.2 trillion. Maybe I'm unaware of it, but is there a Democratic proposal that we've seen? Where is President Obama? He's up there, 'Oh, this is a disgrace. It's terrible, It's irresponsible.' Where's his proposal? Where's his proposal? I didn't notice him coming back from Asia, or not even -- or even before he went to Asia and saying, 'OK, here's how to do 1.2 trillion.' It's a total abdication of leadership on his part." -Fox News, Special Report, 11/21/11.
O'Reilly: "Where Is President Obama On Leadership? He Should Have Laid Out His Vision." From the November 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "We, the people, well understand the chaos in Washington. The Democrats, generally speaking, want to spend. They often get elected by promising entitlement to minorities, to unions, to special interest groups. The Republicans want a much smaller government. They want to strangle what's in place now by denying it revenue. The GOP also wants President Obama out of there, so they are not likely to compromise much. In the meantime, little gets done. The debt grows larger, the economy weaker. And where is President Obama on leadership? He should have laid out his vision for spending cuts, but he didn't. In fact, he's MIA. Running around with the Indonesians, having fun in Bali. Meantime, Washington is collapsing. Mr. Obama should be showing leadership, demanding trillions in spending cuts." -Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/21/11.
In September, Obama Released the Plan "For Economic Growth And Deficit Reduction." Obama's plan assumes $1.2 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act passed in August, and reduces the deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next decade:
"The Budget Control Act that I signed into law last month will cut annual Government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in savings. As part of this jobs bill, I am asking the Congress to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. In addition, I believe that the Congress should seize the opportunity that this new Committee presents and do much more so that we can put the country on a sustainable fiscal path, which is critical for our long-term economic growth and competitiveness.
For this reason, I am sending to the Congress this detailed plan to pay for this jobs bill and realize more than $3 trillion in net deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Combined with the approximately $1 trillion in savings from the first part of the Budget Control Act, this would generate more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. This would bring the Nation to the point where current spending is no longer adding to our debt and where our debt is no longer increasing as a share of our economy--an important milestone on the way to restoring fiscal discipline and moving us toward balance." Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction,, September 2011.

Fox & Friends claimed that alleged White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez had been "tied to [the] Occupy" movement, even calling him the " 'Occupy' shooter." In fact, investigators have reportedly "found no connection between him and the Occupy protesters."

Following a live report from New York City's Zuccotti Park in which protesters chanted "Fox News lies," Fox Business host Gerri Willis claimed that Fox is simply "trying to cover the story just like everybody else." However, Fox hosts and contributors have pushed lies, smears, and attacks about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Such as:
"ACORN Playing Behind Scenes Role In 'Occupy' Movement." claimed that ACORN, which disbanded in November 2010, is playing a "behind [the] scenes role" in Occupy Wall Street. Fox alleged that the group New York Communities for Change (NYCC) -- which is led by a former ACORN official -- is paying people to join protests and collecting money to fund OWS activities.", 10/26/11.
Fox & Friends Promoted "We Are The 53 Percent." While Fox was baselessly claiming the Occupy Wall Street protesters do not pay taxes, Fox & Friends hyped a counter movement launched by CNN contributor and conservative pundit Erick Erickson, a website called, "We are the 53 percent." -Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/11/11.
Everybody pays taxes. If not income tax, then payroll tax, sales tax, Social Security Tax, on and on.
Special Report's Baier Claimed Protests Were Supported By Ayatollah Khamenei And Hugo Chavez. Special Report anchor Bret Baier claimed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "threw his support behind protesters" at Occupy Wall Street. A day later, he also claimed that the protests had "elicit[ed] support" from Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. -Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/11/11.
These two have mentioned the OWS protests, but that hardly constitutes "support." And what difference would it make if they had?
"When the Associated Press reported on October 20, 2004, that Iran had endorsed President Bush for re-election, Special Report tried to discredit the claim two days later, according to Nexis transcripts."

Hannity Graphic Labeled Protesters "Lunatics Of The Left Wing." During the September 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity, an on-screen graphic aired while the co-hosts discussed the protests, reading, "Lunatics of the left wing."

On and on and on and on. For years this kind of crap has been going on (remember the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies... er, I mean Truth? Fox may not have started these lying morons, but they sure as hell promoted them)

Last week another study ( ) conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University made the case that the more you watch Fox "News," the less you knew about the real world in which we live in. In fact it pointed out that those who don't watch any news programs at all know more about the real world we live in than Fox "News" viewers.
Media Matters: According to the new survey, Fox "News," is "very, very good at misinforming people. And it's very bad at reporting the news.
In other words: Propaganda? Yes. News? Not so much.
For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all..... Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news."
This is hardly the only poll to come to the same, or similar conclusions:
--2009, health care reform. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Fox fans were overwhelmingly misinformed about the proposed health care reform:
"In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly."
--2010, global warming. Stanford University, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, released a report titled "Frequent Viewers of Fox News Are Less Like to Accept Scientists' Views of Global Warming."
It concluded:
"More exposure to Fox News was associated with more rejection of many mainstream scientists' claims about global warming, with less trust in scientists, and with more belief that ameliorating global warming would hurt the U.S. economy."
Furthermore, in December of last year "another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.
In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just aint so:

91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

The conclusion is inescapable. Fox News is deliberately misinforming its viewers and it is doing so for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. The GOP benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate. The results were apparent in the election last month as voters based their decisions on demonstrably false information fed to them by Fox News." -Mark Howard of News Corpse, "Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid."
And to be fair, for the purposes of full disclosure... Mr. Howard continued:
"By the way, the rest of the media was not blameless. CNN and the broadcast network news operations fared only slightly better in many cases. Even MSNBC, which had the best record of accurately informing viewers (emphasis mine), has a ways to go before it can brag about it."
Stupid, "Lacking or marked by lack of intellectual acuity." That's one definition.
When confronted with the results of this study, Chris Wallace, the Host of Fox News Sunday, just smiled that smarmy little smile of his that got Bill Clinton so pissed off, and went on as though that particular discussion just didn't matter. It was of little importance to him.
The facts seem to always be of little importance to Fox so-called News.
The sad part about this story is that the audience for Fox "News" do not seem to mind being lied to. They seem perfectly happy to be misinformed, and misinformed toward the goal of fulfilling the political agenda of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, and other corporate interests, much to their own determent. Much against their own best interests.
Fox viewers are not only being misinformed... they are also being manipulated.
We'll discuss why people may be susceptible to this kind of manipulation soon.
But for now I hope it is of some small interest to them that they are.
And admitting that truth may be the first step to regaining some sense of direction, some sense of independence.
Not in a Republican and Tea Party fantasy, but in the real world. The world that matters. The world we and our children live in.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Message from the General Assembly of Occupy Portland

Occupy L.A. on Spring St.

Occupy Portland

Last Friday instead of walking across the 6th Street Bridge in the morning, as is my custom, I choose to wait until later in the day, around 11:30AM, or so, and walk the six or seven blocks to the south lawn of City Hall, where Occupy L.A. has been camped since the 1st of October.
I usually stop by on Saturdays to see what I can see, but since this was the day after Thanksgiving, and nothing but prison programs were on MSNBC (because as everyone knows, there is no news on the weekends and holidays), I decided to visit on Friday instead.
Besides, I had heard that the Los Angeles chapter, one of the last major encampments left in the Occupy movement, was going to be evicted soon.
It hadn't changed much since I had been there last. If anything more tents had crowded into the 1.2 acre park. Some enterprising individual had actually made a count (a good of a way to pass the time as any I suppose) and came up with a total of 485 tents, mostly the small dome type that can be seen in the second picture above (taken on the west side of City Hall, along Spring Street). Someone had erected a large wooden box like structure which had been painted liberally (no pun intended) in mural fashion, the Federal Reserve building facing the front. One out of three people had a dog it seemed. Pit Bulls seem to be in fashion.
It was business as usual at Occupy L.A. No one was speaking about leaving anytime soon. I even experienced my first "Mic Check," when an energetic young lady invited those who were interested, in participating in an upcoming Flash Mob (how do they do these things? There has got to be a hell of a lot of rehearsal time involved, for the ones I've seen are choreographed to the tee). However, Mic Checks don't seem to be necessary as amplification devices are allowed at Occupy L.A. One young man was reading something from Dr. Martin Luther King through a bullhorn while sitting on the south steps, although I couldn't really make out what it was he was saying. Maybe that's why they have them, for clarity's sake.
I walked around the building and saw a couple of signs worth noting.
"If bank regulations were followed as well as Park rules we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place."
"Don't make me come down there..." -God
I hadn't seen a police presence in the encampment before, but on this day two uniformed LAPD officers exited the building and ambled about the people and tents. No one was doing anything illegal... other than occupying the park... and the officers were fairly well ignored. The L.A. movement has enjoyed an amicable relationship with the police and local politicians, unlike most other cities we've heard about recently. What makes Los Angeles different. The past.
From the beating of Rodney King in 1991 to a May Day celebration gone bad four years ago in nearby MacArthur Park, the Los Angeles Police Department has suffered from a pretty poor reputation of turning to the quick use of violence, ofttimes seemingly unnecessary violence, that's not only been promoted on the city streets but in popular culture as well (for instance in the 2004 Academy Award winning film "Crash," the term "trigger happy L.A.P.D." comes to mind).
So Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief of Police William Bratton have played it very cool with the occupiers. Why wouldn't they?
Until now. The L.A. protesters have been given a deadline of 12:01AM Monday morning, the 28th. Some campers say they're not going anywhere, some say it's time to leave citing the unpredictability of the L.A.P.D. as a motivating factor.
We shall see.
Well we've discussed this aspect before, but as our friend Naomi Wolf wrote about in her article:
There appear to be indications that the Department of Homeland Security had a hand in orchestrating the recent bout of violent police crackdowns in cities such as New York, Oakland, and Seattle (the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the DHS had participated in an 18-city mayoral conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests).
This would implicate President Obama as well. The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, should be held responsible for what her department does. Ms Napolitano holds a cabinet level position, which means her one and only boss is the President (although she is answerable to Congress as well). It would be a sad day indeed if it were proven that Obama and Napolitano had a hand in the violent suppression of peaceful protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
But why would they do this? What is so threatening about the Occupy movement?
Wolf thinks the answer lies in what she has learned about the movement's objectives, such as drafting "laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors."
She contends that DHS is attempting to influence city mayors to crackdown on their Occupy encampments and crush the movement because they are demanding that Congress close a loophole which allows said members to profit from their own legislation, or insider trading on information that passes through their committees, apparently with the blessings of the White House.
We'll undoubtedly hear more about this as the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as other agencies which may eventually get involved, make further investigations into the matter.
But whatever the DHS does, or the White House, or mayors, the Occupy movement is not going to disappear. It's too big to stop now, whatever form it takes in the future (I for one do hope that it does become politically active in some respect). Too may people, too many Americans are involved in the cause now, if not physically, then in spirit. The Occupy movement is our best chance for real change to the system that has been dragging down the average citizen for more than 40 years now.
Though the tent city that was the physical base of Occupy Portland built on October 6, 2011 was dismantled forcefully on November 13, Occupy Portland itself continues. Below is a statement from the general assembly of that movement, and I repeat it here verbatim because it is pertinent, thought provoking, informative, powerful, and eloquent.
And as I've said before... the Occupy demonstrations, protests, and movement isn't going anywhere.
Thank God.

In Tahrir Square, citizens calling for a civilian government are being maimed and murdered by those same forces which helped them in their struggle for freedom. Many of the weapons used by these forces are imported from an American company, Combined Tactical Systems. We call on this company, which openly deals with tyrants, to cease this trade, and for the people of Jamestown, PA, home of CTS, to call for the same.

In Davis, CA, Lieutenant John Pike used pepper spray at close range on peaceful, seated students. We stand with those students and faculty who call for a system-wide strike on the UC campus, and who call for the resignation and punishment of Lieutenant Pike and the chancellor of UC, Linda Katehi.

In New York City, the NYPD has destroyed the free-speech encampment of Liberty Plaza, detained and arrested journalists unlawfully, and acted, generally, like brutes. We condemn these actions and remind the NYPD and mayor Bloomberg that the people will not abide peacefully so long as they are not free.

In Seattle, one week after the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a “resolution recognizing and supporting the peaceful and lawful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Seattle police used pepper-spray on lawful demonstrators, including two senior citizens, a priest, and a pregnant woman. This woman has since miscarried, citing a kick in the stomach and a blow from a bicycle by Seattle police as a probable cause. We condemn this atrocious behavior and ask that anyone, regardless of their stance on the sentiment of these demonstrators, join with us insofar as we hold that violent suppression of lawful protest is categorically unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.

In Portland, in part because of a negative public response to the paramilitary actions of Multnomah County police forces, Police Chief Mike Reese has announced that he will no longer be running for mayor. We ask that all funds collected by his fundraising committee, “Friends of Mike Reese” be reallocated to more useful organizations: those that help the houseless and otherwise economically underserved. We also ask that any officers who have benefited from the glut of overtime pay as a result of Chief Reese’s unnecessary deployment of police forces create a fund for the benefit of these same organizations.

We remind the people of Portland and the people of the world that we have come together to address the deepest problems of our economic and political system, and that these problems have no easy solutions— especially when those openly seeking the solutions are painted as filthy, ignorant, violent hooligans by those with a vested interest in maintaining the current broken system. We remind them who we are: mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, the unemployed and underemployed, students, teachers, government employees, laborers, and pensioners. We remind them, two months after this movement began, and on the eve of the most lucrative commercial day of the year, to not lose sight of the original animation of this movement.

We remind them that unregulated greed is not a solid foundation for an economy; that self-interest does not constitute a system of ethics; that gambling with the livelihoods of Americans should not be rewarded with bailouts and bonuses; that we should not turn for solutions to the same bankers and executives who created our problems; that our representatives are to serve not the private interests of their financiers but the public interests of those who elected them; that those interests are not served by a politics which refuses even to discuss its own corruption, but instead scapegoats anyone at hand: liberals, conservatives, immigrants, minorities, and the American citizens whose homes and savings were used as pieces in a private game. We remind them that all of our actions are manifestations of our indignation at this corrupted system. We remind them that we cannot change it without their help.

These things which we have called for, these manifestations of our indignation—the resignation of Lieutenant Pike and Chancellor Katehi, the reappropriation of Portland Police funds, the condemnation of all who suppress and aid in the suppression of lawful demonstration—these are not the limits of our fight.

We fight against a political culture that has placed the needs of the American people beneath the appetites of thieves whose gambling for short-term profit has devastated the economy and the lives of millions around the world. In solidarity with all who have suffered from the recklessness of unregulated business and the corruption of government by commerce, we demand an end to a politics controlled by wealth and perverted to serve corporations legally bound to care only for profit.

We will not stop until this corruption ceases.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is There Life On Mars? Are We Martians?!

Ready for Launch


Curiosity (right) Compared to Rovers Opportunity
(left) and Sojourner (center)

My Name's Going to Mars... Again!

Gale Crater

Landing Site Inside Gale Crater

The Way to Land a Really Big Rover


In a little less than three hours from now The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) sitting on top of an Atlas V541 rocket (supplied by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing) will blast off from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. As it's name implies its destination is our second closest planetary neighbor, Mars. If everything goes well (Earth has launched more than three dozen missions to Mars, which is more like our planet than any other in the solar-system. Yet fewer than half of those missions have succeeded) it should take approximately eight and a half months to get there, hopefully landing inside Gale Crater between August 5th, and 20th of next year. It's total cost to the American tax payers is around 2.5 billion dollars... American, none of that Hong Kong stuff.
The MSL contains a big rover inside called "Curiosity," named so because it wants to learn things, mainly what it wants to learn is if Mars could have evolved microbial life at some point in it's history, which would be a very interesting discovery. It won't be looking for actual present day life unfortunately, but only if the conditions existed for life to once have come about on our smaller neighbor.
Why do we care if there was once life on Mars, or if there is now, and why are we spending so much money to find out? Good question dear readers, I'm glad you asked. It is very important because as of now we only have one example of life evolving anywhere in the universe, and that's here on Earth. If we found life on another planet like Mars, or Saturn's moon Titan which has its own atmosphere, or in the under-ice oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa, then we will have for the first time verifiable evidence of life being able to independently evolve somewhere else in the solar system... and universe.
And we can learn a lot from that. Life that evolves on a different planet will have evolved with a much different set of evolutionary pressures and conditions, so it would be of great scientific interest to be able to compare a true extraterrestrial form of life to our terrestrial form. An extraterrestrial life form may have evolved using a whole different chemistry, for instance not using carbon as the basic organic building block for its form of life, or not using DNA at all.
And there's another reason which might be of interest to some... all of us here on Earth, every living thing as a matter of fact, may be descended from life which originated on Mars, by extension making us Martians, as the above picture of myself and lovely Erin appears to indicate.
I'll get back to this in a little while.
And if we don't find any trace of life, or learn that there were no conditions in the past (like free flowing water on the surface of Mars) conducive to the evolution of life, then we learn that life is rare, and may be rare throughout the universe, and therefore precious, and not to be wasted on stupid ass wars, or large scale poverty, or dramatic climate change that we can mitigate if we put our efforts toward that goal.
The MSL mission has four goals really: To determine if life could have ever arisen on Mars, to characterize the climate of Mars, to characterize the geology of Mars, and to prepare for human exploration.
"The rover will analyze dozens of samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet's climate and geology is essentially "written in the rocks and soil" -- in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover's on board laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the Martian environment was like in the past."
Curiosity is going to spend a year doing those things... Martian year. A year on Mars equals 686 Earth days, or a little less than 2 Earth years. It will have an onboard power source, a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator that will use the heat generated by a little decaying plutonium-238 converted into electricity, providing constant power during all the seasons and throughout the day and night, unlike the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which rely on solar power.
As you can tell from the pictures above Curiosity is pretty big (for a rover). It's about the size of your average mini Cooper automobile at approximately 10 feet in length, 9 feet wide. It weighs 1,984 pounds, which includes 176 pounds of scientific instruments.
Because Curiosity is so freaking big it will not be able to use the airbag assisted landing system that Spirit and Opportunity used to set down on the surface. It will use a technique that has never been tried before, what is called the sky crane touchdown system that was illustrated in the animated short film above. It's all very exciting, and because we've never done it before, it's also very dangerous.
Curiosity's wheels are designed to leave a tread pattern which will leave an impression on the Martian surface spelling "JPL" for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Morse code. I don't know why. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology is managing the project for NASA, so I guess the tread pattern thing is a form of advertising for... well I don't know exactly who the advertising is aimed at really. It confuses me and makes my head ache.
Oh yes... my name is going to Mars again. It's already up there you know. In 1997, the Pathfinder mission, which included the Sojourner rover, and what has been renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, which was the lander, included a microdot with the names of the then current membership of the Planetary Society, the non-government, civilian space advocacy group founded by Dr Sagan, planetary scientist Bruce Murray, and astronautics engineer Louis Friedman in 1980. I of course was a member and thus my name has been sitting on the Martian surface, on Mars' Ares Vallis, in a region called Chryse Planitia in the Oxia Palus quadrangle to be exact, for over 14 years.
And it's going there again! The opportunity to have your name sent along with the Curiosity rover was open to the public for years if you happened to know about it. I did happen to know about it and submitted my name and received a certificate very similar to the one above that states my name is being sent to Mars.
Now I'll have my name in two different locations on the planet Mars, all ready for someone to find at some future date (if they don't wait to long. Mars does have an atmosphere, although a thin one, so the possibility... the certainty that erosion will occur and sandblast all our names to hell exists) if they happen to have a microdot reader.
Speaking about that Martian atmosphere, it consists mostly of carbon dioxide. Humans can't breath carbon dioxide. Plants can, but we can't, which would make living there very difficult. It's cold there as well. Really cold. And there's little protection from the sun's ultra violet light radiation because there's no ozone in the atmosphere, so if man ever does go there, which we plan on doing eventually, we're going to have to bring spacesuits and heaters and stuff like that. Air too.
Be that as it may, we're finding things in the atmosphere of Mars that really shouldn't be there at all, like methane.
In January of 2009 a team of researchers reported that the bursts of methane originated from three specific regions in the planet’s northern hemisphere, where it was midsummer. The gas came out at a rate of 0.6 kilograms a second, the scientists said, and the plume contained 19,000 metric tons of methane. That's a lot of methane.
Now methane falls apart easily when acted upon by ultra violet radiation, which would occur rapidly in the Martian atmosphere. That means the methane that was detected had to have originated recently.
There is only a few ways methane could enter the atmosphere of Mars. One of them is inorganic, consisting of geothermal chemical reactions involving water and heat in volcanoes or underground hot springs. Despite Mars having the largest volcano in the solar system, Olmpus Mons (14 miles high, twice the size of Mt. Everest), evidence for recent volcanism on Mars is scarce.
The other possibility is biological. Living things excrete methane. Cows do it. Horses do it. I did it once. Girls do it though they won't admit it.
On Earth, a class of bacteria known as methanogens breathes out methane as a waste product. So there could be living organisms near the surface of the planet, probably near areas where water is located beneath the surface as well.
Or there may not. We don't know. The one time we did send an experiment to Mars to look for microbial life forms, the Viking landers of 1976, the results were ambiguous, meaning we really couldn't tell if the chemical reactions observed were due to living organisms, or non biological systems.
And as I've already said, another experiment to look for biological activity was not included on the MSL mission. I don't know why. It hasn't been included on the next two planned Mars landers either, although they may be canceled due to budget considerations, which would be a crying shame.
So what are we to conclude from this. Obviously the federal government knows there is life on Mars and doesn't want anyone else to know about it.
So dear readers, please get out your pens and paper, or your Email machines, and contact your Congress people and demand they put a halt to the great Martian cover up!
Because they could be trying to hide the fact that we are all (Republicans expecially) descendents of Martian microbes.
The sun and the planets formed at the same time about 4.6 billion years ago (sorry all of you Christian people who believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old. You are almost certainly wrong. Man did not live with the dinosaurs... despite the Flintstones). But because Mars is smaller than Earth, it cooled faster, and it probably would have been hospitable for life earlier. That raises the interesting possibility that pieces of Mars containing microbes were blasted into space by asteroid impacts and later landed on Earth, seeding life here.
Meteorite ALH84001, was discovered in the Allan Hills region of Antarctica in 1984. It is believed to be one of twelve meteorites to have landed on Earth which originated from Mars. ALH84001 became dislodged from the surface of Mars about 16 million years ago, floated in space until it struck the Earth 13,000 years ago. Scientists have discovered what they think are micro fossils inside the rock. Micro fossils indicate past life, which in this case would have come from Mars. This discovery prompted the news conference with then President Clinton that can be seen in the motion picture "Contact," based on the novel written by Carl Sagan.
Small world.
This is called the Panspermia hypothesis, which stipulates life did not evolve from chemical reactions in the oceans of ancient Earth, but was brought to this planet from space seeds, via meteoroids, asteroids and planetoids.
Now I and a lot of others believe that the so-called fossils found in ALH84001 are simply too small to be derived from living organisms. However, if the Panspermia theory is eventually found to be true, which the government may be trying to keep from us for purely political reasons (whose going to run on the Martian ticket?!), then we all (or at least some of us) may be in fact be Martians.
I certainly think Newt Gangrich is. Michelle Bachmann for sure. Mitt probably. Who on Earth would name their child Mitt for God's sake. Everybody from Texas certainly.
So be careful who you vote for dear readers. They may not only be un-American. They may be un-Earthian.

Here's the NASA Mars Science Laboratory site incase you're interested:

Addendum: I'm happy to report that the Mars Science Laboratory successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral right on time at 10:02AM EST. Have a good trip MSL and Curiosity!