The UK press (and much of the international media) is all a-twitter about the UK being 'isolated' in the wake of Cameron's veto of the 'save the Euro with more of the same' treaty.
What is so bad about isolation? Isn't isolation rather a good thing when there is an outbreak of plague? Issac Newton certainly thought so.
All the talk this week has been about this mornings eclipse, so I thought I'd showcase our Science Bookshelf. Here are a couple fun science lessons I found in my reading this week. In Seattle (and locations at the same latitude)the time of sunset moves up early each day until we get to Winter Solstice. The effect has to do with the tilt of the Earth's axis and you can read more here.
Did anybody get to see the eclipse? We we too cloudy to be able to watch it. At certain latitudes, you might have been able to see the Sun & the Moon in the sky again at the same time (!)
It's been an exciting week in our small town. The local paper, Seniors Sunset Times, ran an front page article about the bookstore and it certainly has gotten us some local notice.
This past Saturday was the First Annual Ho Ho Hoquiam with a cocoa & tree stroll so that folks could vote on the best decorated tree in several categories. I had had the idea of decorating with birds and bird titles, but it was the hand knitted Angry Red Bird that helped me snag the title of "Funniest Tree".
And, finally, if you'd like to keep up with news of the publishing industry and whatever catches his fancy, check out Dan's Book Booth column at thepoliticalcarnival.net
I'll leave you with appropriate Seasonal Salutations. How's your War on Christmas going?
One day after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced her decision to overrule the Food and Drug Administration's recommendations on emergency contraception, President Obama addressed the matter, saying that while he had nothing to do with the decision, he fully supports it:
I will say this, as the father of two daughters. I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine. And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able?alongside bubble gum or batteries?be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect. And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.
It is understandable that when he speaks about girls' sexuality, Barack Obama can't help but think of his own daughters. And feel protective of them. And want for them to never be in such a position where they require emergency contraception to prevent an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.
But part of what was most disturbing about Obama?s statement was his reliance on language that reveals his paternalistic approach to women and their health. [...]
The notion that in aggressively conscribing women?s abilities to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy Obama is just laying down some Olde Fashioned Dad Sense diminishes an issue of gender equality, sexual health and medical access. Recasting this debate as an episode of ?Father Knows Best? reaffirms hoary attitudes about young women and sex that had their repressive heyday in the era whence that program sprang.
Americans don't need a daddy-in-chief who turns squeamish at the thought of their sexuality. While squeamishness may be an understandable emotional reaction, it doesn't prevent pregnancy or disease. Instead, it does enforce the kind of ignorance that leads to a greater risk of pregnancy and disease.
Americans of all ages need to understand sexuality?the science, not the moralistic shaming in the name of God or decorum. The information and protection they need should be as accessible to them as possible because that's how you prevent pregnancy, disease and poor decisions.
And President Obama's squeamishness certainly has no place in a national discussion about health and human services. As Traister explains:
This discomfort might be comprehensible from an emotional, parental point of view. But these are not familial discussions; this is a public-health policy debate, and at a time when ?16 and Pregnant? airs on MTV, the fact that a daddy feels funny about his little girls becoming grown-ups has no place in a discussion of healthcare options for America?s young women.
Barack Obama may cringe at the idea of his daughters sneaking off to the store to buy emergency contraception and a pack of bubble gum. But preventing his daughters from being able to purchase emergency contraception won't protect them. And it won't protect any of the other young women in America who may find themselves in the position of needing access to emergency contraception in order to prevent an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.
This may be unimaginable to Barack Obama, as the father of two daughters, but as the president of the country, he should understand that not every American girl has a father or other adult in her life she can trust to help her when it comes to her sexual health, and that if a teenager has had unprotected sex and wants to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, blocking her access to emergency contraception won't prevent her from having sex. Instead, it will only increase the risk that she will become pregnant.
The only way to promote safe and healthy sexual practices and to reduce disease and unplanned pregnancy is to put squeamishness aside and ensure that every sexually active American has access to the education and contraception they need to protect themselves.
And that's something Barack Obama, as the father of two daughters and as president of the United States, should support.
This week's good, bad and ugly below the fold.
This is what I love about the people who are occupying these different venues. Is there a better metaphor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce than a human red carpet?
This was from the U.S. Chamber holiday party last night, and if there was ever a better venue for the 99 percent to confront the 1 percent, I'm not sure what it might be.
"This is Bruce Josten's let-them-eat-cake moment," Christie Setzer of Chamber Watch told Mother Jones, although the publication reports she refused to directly approach Josten.
The event was one of several protests that took place in Washington, D.C. this week. On Monday, unemployed protesters from across the country gathered in D.C. for a week of demonstrations dubbed "Take Back the Capitol," during which thousands of Americans occupied the offices of several members of the U.S. House and Senate and swarmed K Street to speak out against the influence of corporate lobbyists on the nation's political discourse.
A report released on Wednesday from the non-partisan Public Campaign found that 30 major U.S. corporations have spent more money lobbying Congress than on paying federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, an example of the undue influence Occupiers argue has corrupted the American political system.
In the 2012 campaign cycle, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has used their resources to alter a photograph of Senator Sherrod Brown to make him look like a wild-eyed lunatic. They are backing the evil SOPA initiative to kill the internet with big lobbying dollars, lobbying against food and consumer product safety regulations, and will likely throw a lot of money at the Massachusetts Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and the bankers' handmaiden, Scott Brown.
Did anyone actually dare to walk on the red carpet? According to ThinkProgress, no, though Bruce Josten stood in front of it to greet his guests as they arrived.
Diana Taylor is perhaps most famous as the arm candy of New York City's top plutocrat Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She is however, an accomplished woman of her own means, and was on the GOP's short list to challenge new Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat in 2010.
She also sits on a handful of corporate boards, including Brookfield Properties, the real estate holding company that owns the land Zuccotti Park was built upon. Another seat she fills is on the prestigious Sotheby's Art Auction house board. Sotheby's is currently in midst of a four-month lock out over union contract disputes with their art handler's union. Art handlers do the work of physically moving the art around and ensuring the art is kept safe. At issue? Sotheby's wants workers to give up their 401ks. Local 814 President Jason Ide also tells the New York Observer:
?They?re trying to shorten the work week to 36 hours, which is an average of 2.5 hours per week, really harsh overtime cuts, they?re trying to replace us skilled workers with temporary guys, uh what else. Oh! This is really weird ? I didn?t even know this was legal ? they wanted us to waive our rights to report any legal violations on their part. As an individual you can?t file violations through the union, which is how we do things. Apparently they just want us not to be able to file them at all.?
?We take care of Rembrandts, van Goghs and Picassos. [...] We?re highly trained. I?m convinced that if we stay out here and we fight and we let people know what?s happening here, we will prevail.?On Nov. 14, students from NYC's Hunter College joined Local 814 in solidarity carrying signs that said "Occupy Sothebys." Some arrests resulted. Dave Buccola reports back:
I can?t help but be impressed by what?s happening. The rank and file of organized labor, labor leadership, students, people across the political spectrum both young and old are coming together in bold and dynamic ways to stop business as usual.via FacebookLocal 814 protests Nov 15/FacebookFrom Sotheby'sIsBadForArt.com:
In 2010, Sotheby?s sales increased by 74 percent to $4.8 billion. And recently, Sotheby?s reported its most profitable quarter in the company?s 267-year history.Yep. Times are good for the 1 percent, from WNYC, New York Public Radio:
Recovering from a dismal 2009 in which the auction house suffered a $6 million loss, Sotheby?s had a very successful 2010, with a net income of $161 million, according to a Sotheby's spokesperson. Consolidated sales were up 74 percent from the previous year in 2010, and CEO William Ruprecht?s pay more than doubled to $6 million as a result of the high earnings.
?We were a big part of that success,? said Ide. ?And they came to us and asked for cutbacks. It doesn?t make sense.?
You are on the board of Sotheby's. Are you on the board of Sotheby's? Are you going to ignore what's happening in your name? Are you going to ignore what's happening? Mrs. Taylor you have the power to do the right thing. Will you please tell us why you're not doing the right thing? Tell us why you're not doing the right thing.
Please speak to us. We're families that are going to lose our health care here. We want to go back to work, we're hard working New Yorkers. We're respectful people. We want our jobs back.
I have one thing to say to you. I have had one conversation with [Sotheby's CEO] Bill [Ruprecht] about this, and I told him if he accedes to any of your demands I will resign from the board. That's all I have to say to you. Thank you.The things that people will resign over. Over "any" concession to the union? You really mean to say it's your way or the highway, Ms. Taylor? Is it really so hard to go back to the bargaining table and break off a few more pennies for the working class?
Hat tip to @Elana_Brooklyn.
In Iowa tonight, a surging Newt Gingrich said he won't meet Romney's fire with fire. Read our just-filed report from Urbandale,Iowa. [...]
Read The Full Article:
James B. Stewart is, like, a smart dude. His bio says that he "shared the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 1988, when he was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal." That was, um, twenty-, uh, thirty-, no, well, like a lot of years ago. When they had VHS tapes and mastodons and shit. And no iPhones!! Primitivo, man.
But what a sweet, big-hearted guy. He shared the Pulitzer ("Hey, dudes, I could never have done it on my own!"), for "explanatory reporting." He explains stuff. To the rest of us, who are The Stupids. Here's the rest of his bio. He's a way privileged white dude. I'm, like, totally amazed. Privileged white dudes are the best. They keep telling us that, so I figure it must be true. I mean, they have the most stuff, man. And they make movies. Making movies is da bomb. Ask Jimmy Cameron, an awesomely smart, rich, white dude. Who, like, saves whole worlds. Privileged white dudes make lots of movies, including about funny shit like rape. Really privileged white dudes have a totally unique slant on things. I figure that's because they can do whatever the fuck they want. Like rape women and children. Or destroy whole countries.
Or even, like, create whole countries. That is so awesome, man! Those privileged white motherfuckers set up an entire country just for themselves. They killed all the people who were already there, enslaved a gigantissimo bunch of other people, and made sure only privileged white motherfuckers, who were men (which was, like, totally a coincidence), could run things. And this is true even when the privileged white motherfuckers look like they aren't white. Only supercool, way smart white dudes can think up shit like this. You try it. See? You can't. We're dumb fucks, man. C'mon, it's the truth. The truth will set us free. Free to be poor, dumb fucks.
And Stewart -- I like to call him JamB, which is like a totally cool nickname (doncha love the capital B at the end, cuz it's his middle initial, man -- that is so cool, it is, shut up, man) -- he teaches business journalism. At Columbia! I'm groveling, JamB! You are amazing! And he writes a column for The. Fucking. New. York. Times. His column is called "Common Sense." Isn't that sweet? I think it's sweet. It's like he's saying, "Yeah, I'm like so much better than you that we're not in the same universe. I'm like a kind visitor from another world, like in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Klaatu barada nikto! Do what I say or I'll, like, kill you, man! Hahahaha! Just kidding, dude. I call my column 'Common Sense' so you'll think I'm not really all that special -- it's just common sense, see? You can do it, too. Except you can't. Nope, no sirree, no way, not gonna happen. You need a smart, rich guy like me to explain shit. But we're really all the same. Except we aren't. But if I come across like just another not-special dude, you won't mind so much when I totally fuck you over! Hahahaha! Hey, man, kidding. Like I would ever do that! C'mon, dude, relax."
It's like those people who call themselves "Dr." whatever. Dr. Phil. Dr. Laura. The "Phil" and "Laura" is so you think they're like your best bud, just a pal you hang with. The "Dr." is to remind you that they're "experts." So they're smart and shit, they're authorities, and you should listen to them and do what they say. Then, when they fuck you over, you won't mind so much. See how that works? You don't get to be rich and privileged by being a dumb shit.
So okay, here's JamB's latest "Common Sense" piece, all about Corzine and MF Global. This is how JamB starts:
Are customer accounts at brokerage firms safe?JamB is, like, stunned. He's totally amazed. The protection of customer assets is "considered a sacred obligation." That's what some privileged dude at the SEC told JamB, and it's what JamB had believed. These are way smart dudes, and they are as innocent as fucking lambs. These innocent lambs are being taught life lessons, man. Life lessons are harsh. The privileged smart dudes are sad.
Until the collapse of MF Global, that?s a question I thought I?d never have to ask.
How could such a thing happen? I had always assumed it was impossible and that strict internal controls existed at all brokerage firms so that firm officials couldn?t tap segregated customer funds even if they were willing to break the law. Thanks to MF Global, it?s now apparent that isn?t necessarily true. ?If people are determined to misuse customer funds, they will misuse them,? said Ananda Radhakrishnan, the director of the division of clearing and risk at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.This is how JamB announces -- in the holy pages of The. Fucking. New. York. Times. -- the discovery of A Great Truth: Criminals commit crimes, like, ah, er, um, stealing.
This week, the [Commodities Futures Trading Commission] issued new rules restricting how client assets can be invested, which had grown under C.F.T.C. interpretations to include sovereign debt and transactions known as ?in-house repos,? or repurchase agreements, in which a firm contracts with itself to use customer assets as, in effect, interest-free loans to finance its inventory of Treasury bonds. MF Global was apparently a heavy user of in-house repos, and before his firm collapsed, Mr. Corzine had argued strenuously against the C.F.T.C.?s proposal to ban them.Now that is cool. You make deals with yourself using other people's money. It's, like, total genius. Only supersmart white dudes (or not-white dudes who actually are white dudes, heh-heh, chortle, snicker) can do stuff like that. You can't do it. I can't either. Boo-hoo us.
How did the customer assets ever leave the segregated accounts to begin with? In testimony on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Mr. Corzine only added to the mystery. He said that transferring customer funds was ?a complex process? and, asked who could execute such a transfer, said ?I wouldn?t know probably who that person is.?"Hey, Jonny, how come there are like twelve bloody, mutilated, dead bodies in the bed you slept in last night?"
While Mr. Corzine said he had ?no intention? of authorizing any transfer of segregated funds and ?didn?t intend to break any rules,? he left open the possibility that someone might have thought he did.
Ah, but the Democrats will investigate the Bush administration's endless crimes. The investigations will restore honesty, decency and "true" American values to government. All the universes will be saved! Do people actually believe this nonsense? All such investigations will be exactly like all other government investigations of itself. People seem congenitally incapable of grasping that all politicians are now part of the same corrupt system, which aims only to protect itself and its existing prerogatives, as it simultaneously seeks to expand them. (The exceptions in the political class are so few that they don't matter.) In the end, all such investigations and committee hearings will conclude just as the 9/11 investigation concluded (and any other investigation you care to name): some criticisms will be made, general fault will be found but no one in particular will be condemned in terms that might cause distress, and some new guidelines and regulations will be proposed and enacted. Neither party wants to judge the other too harshly or cause irreparable harm: they don't want to, because they count on the same consideration in return. Both parties are happy to accede to this deal, for it is precisely how their system continues on its merry course, guaranteeing their lives of immense comfort and privilege, together with their hold on power. Many of the rest of us, both here and abroad, will be screwed, maimed or dead -- and just when exactly did that concern the governing class?That is, like, fucking timeless, man.
And then, in a year or two or five, and as on every other similar occasion, inventive ways will be found to circumvent the brand spanking new guidelines and regulations -- and the corruption and dishonesty will continue pretty much as before, via new routes and avenues. It's all a charade, by means of which politicians, the major media, and "serious" commentators (and bloggers) can convince themselves of their own virtue, that this time they really mean it, and that everything will be different now. An interesting question is how many times people can fall for such complete bullshit, and still be regarded as serious, credible or intelligent to any degree at all.
It helps to perpetuate the charade -- one that encompasses every aspect of domestic and foreign policy -- that most people know nothing of history, either our own or that of other countries. It's as if none of it ever happened before. For most of these people, it's as if nothing ever happened before. No wonder they so easily believe that this time will be different. For them, there are no other times at all. Everything is new to them, even and especially their own iniquity.
What's coming up on Sunday Kos ?.
During an interview with the Jewish Channel released yesterday, Newt Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an “invented people,” a position that was seen as essentially denying the Palestinians’ right to a state. Gingrich also said in the interview that the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, which the New York Times notes “has pledged to respect Israel?s right to exist,” really harbors ?an enormous desire to destroy Israel.” A Gingrich spokesperson today clarified that the former Speaker supports a Palestinian state, but seemed to suggest that he stands by his original claim:
?Newt Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state,? the spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said in a statement.
?However, to understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history, which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing during the recent interview with The Jewish Channel.?
The Times reports that “Middle East experts said the views that Mr. Gingrich originally expressed were inaccurate and counterproductive.” Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said the comments suggested that Gingrich is not really a supporter of Israel:
Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel, said that if Mr. Gingrich believed that Palestinians did not have a right to an independent state, ?as implied in his language, then he?s not pro-Israel at all.?
?Because the government of Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu supports a two-state solution,? Mr. Indyk said. ?The people of Israel ? an overwhelming majority of them ? support a two-state solution, in which there would be an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure state of Israel.?
PA prime minister Salam Fayyad reportedly called Gingrich’s original remarks “extremely trivial, demeaning and ridiculous,” adding, ?Even the most extremist settlers of Israel wouldn?t talk in such a ridiculous way.?
Tax revenue in Kentucky is still falling, and Gov. Steve "Toast of the DNC" Beshear cuts state services rather than make his corporate buddies pay their fair share.
State general fund receipts were down 2.8 percent from the previous November, state budget officials announced Friday.
Total revenues for November were $728.7 million, down from $749. 5 million the previous year. However, state revenues need only to increase by a total of .7 percent in the remaining seven months of the fiscal year in order to achieve the official revenue estimate of $8.8 million set by the Consensus Forecasting Group, a group of independent economists who predict how much revenue the state will generate.
The Louisville-based parent of such companies as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell paid no net corporate income taxes to states over the past three years, even as it generated more than a billion dollars in profits for shareholders, according to a new report.
Yum Brands is one of 68 companies nationwide that paid no state corporate income tax in at least one of the past three years, according to "Corporate Tax Dodging in the Fifty States, 2008-2010" a report released Wednesday by economic justice advocacy groups.
Twenty of those companies averaged a tax rate of zero or less during the 2008-10 period, including Yum Brands, according to the report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice.
"The report's findings are troubling," said Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, which also helped produce the report. "At a time of record corporate profits, many large corporations are avoiding paying their fair share for the public services from which they benefit. By deepening Kentucky's budget woes, corporate tax avoidance directly harms our ability to provide quality education, improve health and build a foundation for a strong economy."
Yum Brands officials did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday. According to the report, Yum paid a state income tax rate of negative 2 percent in 2008, 0.3 percent in 2009 and 0.9 percent in 2010, for a three year rate of negative 0.4 percent.
But they won't, because their buddy Steve is covering for them.
And you have your governor serving as a public apologist for that mess.There's all kinds of bad tax news About Yum! Brands this week. You've already read all about it.
So what does Governor Steve Beshear do? Puts out this press release and has his communications staff press media outlets - like this one - to write about it:Gov. Beshear Announces Long John Silver's, A&W Restaurants to Keep Global Headquarters in Kentucky
Nearly 100 high-paying, professional jobs to be located in Louisville, Lexington
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 8, 2011) - Governor Steve Beshear today announced long-time Kentucky corporate citizens Long John Silver's and A&W Restaurants will keep their worldwide corporate headquarters in the Commonwealth, which means that nearly 100 jobs will stay in Kentucky.
Louisville-based YUM! Brands is set to sell the two companies in the next few weeks.
LJS Partners, a newly formed entity, plans to acquire the stock ownership of Long John Silver's, along with the franchise agreements and trademarks of more than 1,300 restaurants. The company plans to establish its headquarters in Louisville, creating 60 jobs and a more than $3.8 million investment in the Commonwealth.
A&W Restaurants, which is set to be acquired by A Great American Brand, will return to its roots in Lexington, creating 30 jobs and a nearly $1.9 million investment.
"Long John Silver's and A&W Restaurants could have located their global headquarters anywhere, but chose to remain Kentuckians. This speaks volumes about the strong, cooperative partnership that exists between the state, Lexington and Louisville officials and our existing business community," Gov. Beshear said. "Together, our efforts will allow both corporate headquarters to grow faster and larger, as well as expand the international reach of their brands."
Surprising that your tax dollars would be used for corporate CYA, isn't it?
ThinkProgress has documented the repeated tax dodging of large corporations, some of which, like GE, have gone entire years without paying taxes despite hauling in massive profits. Now, that phenomenon has spread to the states, where many corporations have largely avoided paying state corporate income taxes despite growing profits. Some companies, like DuPont, avoided state taxes altogether, paying nothing from 2008 to 2010 even as its profits piled up.
But DuPont wasn't alone. According to a study from Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 68 corporations avoided state taxes entirely for at least one year from 2008 to 2010, costing state governments at least $42.7 billion, as the New York Times reports:To gauge how much Fortune 500 companies are paying in corporate income taxes, the study looked at the 265 of them that are both profitable and disclose their state tax payments. It found that 68 reported paying no state corporate taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2010. All together, the study found that the companies reported $1.33 trillion in domestic profits from 2008 to 2010, but paid states only about half of what they would have if they had paid at the average corporate income tax rate of all states - reducing their state taxes by some $42.7 billion.
As the Times notes, the share of state revenues coming from corporate taxes has steadily declined since 1980, from about 10 percent then to less than 6 percent now. And despite Republican rhetoric calling for lower corporate taxes on the national level, America's rate there remains low as well. Corporations continue to sit on huge amounts of cash without investing in job creation, but GOP politicians and corporate leaders have called for even larger tax giveaways.
Meanwhile, the lost tax revenue would have gone a long way toward plugging budget holes that were instead filled by cutting education, social services, and programs that helped states' most vulnerable and needy residents.