A Few Short Items

For those of you keeping track of such things, Tiger Wood’s wife is reportedly leaving the house and going after a divorce.   ABC News reports:  ‘A source close to Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, told ABC News.com Wednesday that a “divorce is 100 percent on.”‘  Wood’s wife is withdrawing from wedlock just one day after Tiger was named “Athlete of the Decade” by the AP.

A smiling Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is battered and bandaged but leaving the hospital and heading home, after being smashed in the face with a souvenir replica of a cathedral.

Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver  Chris Henry is dead following a domestic dispute.  Apparently his fiancee was driving away in a pickup truck.  Henry, apparently jumped in the bed of the truck but then fell out, sustaining injuries which proved to be fatal.   Chris Henry, was 26.

The Chinese people will probably know nothing about any of the above, as their national censors have just instituted new and more stringent controls over what you can do with the Internet in China.

“The authorities say that the stricter controls are intended to protect children from pornography, to limit the piracy of films, music, and television shows, and to make it hard to perpetuate Internet scams. But the measures also appear designed to enhance the government’s already strict control of any organized political opposition.” -NY Times

And finally……. “In the top story of the day, General Wallace Nasami, head of the emerging nation of Nibia,
denied his new government was a dictatorship and promised free elections as soon as each
citizen of the small country learned to play a musical instrument.” -Les Nessman / WKRP Radio News

“Start Building The Ark Honey, These People Just Can’t Agree…”

The majority of the world’s credible scientists,  people with advanced degrees who actually know what they’re talking about, have warned that global warming is a real and present danger.  So why are they still bickering in Copenhagen?  Because that’s what people do.  Being proactive is not prominent among homo sapiens.

Conversely, it appears to be our nature to ignore impending danger until it’s crashing down upon our heads.   Well this time it’s not impending danger, it’s impending doom.  You know, doom?  That’s bad.   Real bad.  Like the Congress of the United States failing to pass healthcare reform legislation that includes a public option.  That’s bad too, because their failure is going to kill people.

Writing about the greed and ego-driven failures of the men and women on Capitol Hill seems to be all but pointless, because the members of the Senate don’t seem to care.   They don’t seem  to be listening to anyone, other than their corporate masters who keep forking over millions in bribe money to ensure that healthcare reform will either fall victim to death in the womb or be born as a sickly and pale child giving the country reform in name only.

Unlike our national legislators who have been bought off, most of the world’s scientists remain genuinely concerned about facts and accountability.  With that in mind, it’s probably worthwhile to include the following editorial from the British newspaper, the Guardian.  It was originally published in 56 newspapers and 20 languages.

“Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation”

“Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.”  -The Guardian 12/07/09

Tiger Woods – “Athlete of the Decade”

 Tiger Woods

photo: wiki commons 

He may be having problems on the homefront but Tiger is still the man when it comes to chasing a little white ball around.   Members of the Associated Press have just selected Woods as their “Athlete of the Decade.”

“He won 64 times around the world, including 12 majors, and hoisted a trophy on every continent golf is played. He lost only one time with the lead going into the final round. His 56 PGA Tour victories in one incomparable decade were more than anyone except four of golf’s greatest players won in their careers.” -AP

mysql? Didn’t Even Know I Had One

Following a few days of severe frustration, I am once again able to post on this blog.

My “mysql”  (pardon the redundancy) database was corrupted, you see,  and it needed repairs.   I was afraid of touching the thing as I had no prior experience with “mysql” (or anybody’s sql) and it sounded like some deep blue geek operation that only someone with the proper training and experience should be messing around with.

So I emailed my web hosting people.  The same people that recommended “WordPress” for my blog.  In fact, I installed it directly from their website.  Easy as pie.  Until things went wrong again.   The first time they went wrong, I re-installed WordPress, which caused me to lose everything I had written.  Everything.  Always back up your writing…  And now my “mysql” (whatever the hell that is) was corrupted.

Oh joy.

Fearful of losing the entire blog again, I didn’t touch it for several days,  which is how long it took my web site hosting support people to get back to me with their answer to my request for help.   Their answer, was that they would be happy to help me for a fee.  A fee?  You mean, like an hourly fee?  This didn’t make me real happy.

I emailed them back and told them that since they had recommended “WordPress” which I had in fact, installed directly from their website, and since it was their “mysql” database and not mine that was refusing to cooperate with WordPress, it was only reasonable that they should intercede on my behalf and fix the damn thing at no additional expense to me.   I was already in “blog withdrawal” which was bad enough.  Now they wanted to add a monetary cost to my psychic injury?  Not good, friends.  I let them know about my dissatisfaction with what I saw as their lack of customer support and told them I was considering leaving them and going with someone else, which I am, even though I have my blog up and running again.

The blog is back because I repaired the “mysql” database myself.  Didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but I did.  I installed an application to interface with the database and mostly, I just fooled around with it until I found an option to repair the database.  I clicked on it, and it worked.  I lost only a few posts in the process.

I’m still thinking about parking my website and blog somewhere else.   I figure it’s only a matter of time before the “mysql” database decides to do something strange again.   In the meantime, I’m not sure whether I am expecting too much from my website hosting company.  If so, and paying for tech support is getting to be the norm,  then a guy has to be pretty heavily into computing before he attempts using WordPress, because apparently you will eventually come face to face with the complicated and potentially hazardous world of mysql.   WordPress, is a wonderful blogging application but good luck to you and God bless us everyone if you are forced to become entangled with mysql.

If any of you geeks out there have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Geothermal Drilling Stops In CA

In what looks like a setback to President Obama’s push to go green, a company going after geothermal energy in northern California, has shut down its federally funded drilling operation.

The New York Times reports that AltaRock Energy, has pulled it drilling rig and informed the federal government that it’s abandoning the project.  The newspaper reports the project was shut down “…a day after Swiss government officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007.”

With talks on global warming underway in Copenhagen, the timing on the cessation of drilling here in the U.S. is at the very least, interesting?

Palin Zings Shatner

Sarah Palin, made an unannounced appearance on Friday night’s “Tonight Show” and traded barbs with William Shatner. The bit was obviously scripted top to bottom by Conan O’Brien’s writers giving Palin a humorous depth and sophistication she’s never had before.   It makes me think that with the right help this woman could be a serious contender on the national stage.

Happy Holidays From The U.S. Senate

Our wonderful U.S. Senate has gone the extra mile (poor guys are working so hard on our behalf) and hopes to have a health care reform bill hammered out before Christmas.  God bless those wonderful public servants. And God bless our wonderful insurance industry.  And God bless smilin’ Joe Lieberman and his blue dog crew.  It’s the Senate’s job to look out for them too and it appears that’s just what our fine senators are doing.  Tucked away in their shiny new bill under a clause captioned “No lifetime or annual limits” the literary laureates of the Senate have included words that would give insurance companies the right to place annual limits on benefits for serious illnesses, like cancer and, well, who knows what else?  Anything the insurance companies want to place limits on?

Your United States Senate.  They’re always on the job.  Looks like another big win for the insurance industry could be just days away, but hey, they need to make a living too.  Consider it a holiday greeting from those wonderful folks on Capitol Hill.

Get Off Mr. Obama’s Back

 Barack Obama Among many sad episodes in recent American history, one of the saddest is the move by those on the right to criticize President Obama for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of the critics act as though Mr. Obama has awarded it to himself.  He has not.   The decision on recipients comes from a selection committee.  Beyond that, there is the great honor of having our nation’s leader being chosen as a recipient.  It’s an honor and a public relations coup for both the President and the country, at a time when international cooperation is a critical component in the fight against the international terrorist conspiracy that continues to threaten the U.S. and the world.

This goes beyond reasonable political differences.  For members of the party of “NO!” to attack the president on this front is simply shameful.

Iraqi Insecurity

 bombing in iraq

photo: u.s. dod

A couple of statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,  point to the futility of prolonging the United States engagement in his country, and why George W. should have taken a deep breath and stepped back from the precipice (like his father did) before sending troops into that tribal mess.

Maliki, says political infighting is preventing the country from appointing a new security minister.   A particularly  sore spot right now, what with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arriving shortly after the deaths of 127 people in a series of bomb attacks on Baghdad.  An al Qaeda affiliated group is claiming responsibility for the bombings.  Maliki is quoted by the AFP as saying, “The intelligence services cannot appoint any chief because there is no political consensus on it.  Every party wants to be in charge of this service.”

Another comment from Maliki, about Osama bin Laden, speaks volumes  with regard to the mindset of some Iraqis.  “Now if I detain Osama bin Laden, some people will ask, ‘Why did you arrest him? He is a mujaheed (religious fighter)’,” Maliki reportedly said of disputes between political groups that he said were causing violence.”

Saddam may be gone but tribal differences remain.  These guys can’t even agree on a security minister.   Seems like that would be kind of ….ah…..basic?

Iraq has been without an national intelligence chief for several months.   Maliki, fired his security chief in Baghdad on Wednesday, following the bombings.

4,685 coalition forces  and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war.   More than 31,000 coalition forces have been wounded in action.   The Iraqi Government has reported that 5 million kids, nearly half the country’s children, are now orphans.

Wolinsky Named Editor At Daily Variety

Congrats to old friend and colleague from the Los Angeles Times, Leo Wolinsky.   After 31 years at the Times, Leo has landed at Daily Variety where he will be responsible for all editorial content.

“After many years on the forefront of news gathering, I feel so fortunate to be joining a great organization like Variety,” said Wolinsky. “The entertainment industry is undergoing dynamic changes and it’s exciting to be there to help chronicle the next chapter in its rapid evolution. Whether it be movies, television, theater or music, tremendous economic, technological and sociological forces are impacting culture around the globe as never before. No one is positioned to tell that story better than Variety.”  -Daily Variety

Leo is one of the really good guys, a top pro from the Times, who helped build the paper into what it was when it was pulling down two to five Pulitzers a year.

Brits Bite Banker’s Bonuses

A big huzzah! to the Brits for placing a 50% tax on 2009 bonuses  of more than $40,800 paid to bankers.   Finally, somebody is landing on these guys that screwed up the world’s economy but continue to award themselves with huge paydays.

” The levy represents the most direct attack on bank bonuses anywhere in the world. All banks in Britain – including the London-based subsidiaries of foreign banks — will be affected, whether they took government funds or not.” -NY Times

In the U.S. meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has announced an extension of the 700-billion dollar “TARP” bailout to October of 2010.  “History suggests that exiting prematurely from policies designed to contain a financial crisis can significantly prolong an economic downturn.  The government expects up to $175 billion in repayments from rescued companies by the end of next year,” Geithner says.

Gee, that’s great Tim, they’re paying back $175 billion on the $700 billion in TARP money that was handed to them because they’re too big to fail.   To be fair, the guys at the Treasury Department think they’ll eventually be able to recover all but $42 billion of the $370 billion they gave to Wall Street.   So we’ll only be out a measly $42 billion.  What the hell is that?  Next to nothing, right?  And is that projection based upon reality or is it just something they’re hoping for, while the boys at the top continue washing down their Beluga with the finest champagne?

According to a piece in the NY Times, big government can do just so much when it comes to pulling in the reigns on all the money the financial wizards are awarding themselves in spite of their monumental failures.

“And the American International Group is contractually obliged to make bonus payments of nearly $200 million in March 2010. The company has promised to try to reduce that amount by 30 percent. But once again, there is nothing Mr. Feinberg can do because those bonuses were already written into contracts — and there is a high likelihood that the bonuses will create another furor in Congress, just as they did earlier this year.” -NY Times

Oh really?  Why not follow suit with the British, and impose that same 50% tax here in the United States?   Now that would have some real meaning.  It would definitely prove to all those regular work-a-day American taxpayers that the Obama Administration is taking their side in this as opposed to simply funneling more money to the greed-driven fatcats on Wall Street with their history of treating hard earned tax dollars like monopoly money and then paying themselves off when they fail.

Of course it probably wouldn’t work here in the U.S., because all of this falls under the category of economic theory which is something most of us regular non-economist folk will never be able to understand.   Or at least that’s what the high rollers want you to believe.   It makes it so much easier for them to continue getting away with economic murder.  Looked at the interest rates on your credit cards lately?

Springsteen Backs Gay Marriage

 bruce springsteen

                     photo: wiki commons

The New Jersey Senate will be voting on a gay marriage bill on Thursday.    The bill squeaked its way though a state senate committee by just one vote on Monday.  The following is from Bruce Springsteen’s website-

A BRIEF STATEMENT FROM BRUCE
“Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I’ve been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I’ve long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, “The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is — a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.”

Mildest Pandemic Ever?

Some are now predicting that the horrible swine flu, er, excuse me…..the H1N1 Flu pandemic (can’t call it swine flu anymore because the pork industry is getting its underwear in a bunch)  will prove to be “the mildest since modern medicine began documenting influenza outbreaks.”

 “A typical flu season is associated with an average of 36,000 deaths in the United States, and an estimate released in August by a presidential advisory panel that Lipsitch was involved in predicted that the 2009 H1N1 virus could kill 30,000 to 90,000 in this country.  ‘Those were the best estimates we could make at the time based on the data available at the time,” he said. “We now have much better data to make estimates from.’ ” -MSNBC

It’s being reported that around 4000 Americans have died from the H1N1 flu in 2009.   However, it’s difficult to put a real number on the fatalities as there appears to be no accurate count, just estimates.

A question remains as to why this was presented to the American public as though we were about to be subjected to a smallpox epidemic as opposed to a potentially serious outbreak of the flu.   Should the CDC give more consideration to context with regard to future “pandemics?”

I know it’s not possible to determine how any given virus is likely to mutate but this was a flu bug, not the plague,  and we are living in 2009 with modern hospitals,  I-V drips and antibiotics.   It’s not the same situation that existed in 1918.  Context is important.

 

Expanding Medicare (sort of)

 u.s. senate

Members of the millionaire’s club (the U.S. Senate) are talking about expanding medicare coverage by letting people aged 55 to 64 buy into the plan with their own money until 2014, when the new health care bill kicks in.   It’s a way to reach a compromise with those senators who have been bought off by the insurance and pharma industries and who, consequently, refuse to follow through on the public option most Americans want. 

Here’s a great idea from comedian Robin Williams.  The senators should be required wear corporate endorsement patches on their suits.  You know, like the Nascar drivers.  That way we could all tell who they’re really working for.

It appears most in Congress are working for a few corporate bosses and not the millions of Americans who thought they were voting for a major change when they went to the polls.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics,  from 1998 -2009, the pharma and health products industry was at the top of the list for dumping cash on the Congress, with their lobbyists turning over $1,760,225,789.   The insurance industry is in second place with $1,309,425,963.

If these guys can afford to pay out that much in bribe money, imagine what we could save with adequate federal regulation?   However, this kind of compromise may be unavoidable as a necessary first step in knocking down the current greed-driven system of health care delivery.  Three billion dollars buys a lot of loyalty.