Monthly Archives: April 2010

Quote of the Week – From Charlie Crist

On turning Independent for the Florida Senate Election:

“Why not? If you’re going to do it, do it. Let’s go!”

- Crist told the St. Petersburg Times that he will not keep his Republican registration, and he will instead change to independent.

You go there, Charlie!

Oil Spill has Reached the Louisiana Coast

The spill in the Gulf is now expected to be bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The current expectation according to the EPA is 5000 barrels a day leaking from the  destroyed well. Sky Truth, an organization which has been providing the aerial images, thinks it is closer to 6000 barrels a day leaking (if you want to figure out how much oil that is, 1000 barrels equals 42,000 gallons).

British Petroleum, the responsible party here, is not yet able to stop the leak and has not determined what cause the original explosion from which 11 men are still missing.

Henry Waxman, whose Congressional committee is responsible for offshore drilling, is calling for more information and this could get in the way of the decision which President Obama made a short time ago to get back into offshore drilling.

Whatever the case, the spill has overwhelmed current methods of control.

I’m on the radio again tomorrow…

I’ll be on the radio with John Case tomorrow morning from 7:30 to 9:00 AM. Tune in to WSHC FM (the Shepherd University station), at 89.7. If you can’t get it on your radio you can listen in from the station’s web site.

I don’t know what we’re talking about or who the guest is, if any. Tune in and find out.

Non-Violent Protests by Palestinians, Israeli Activists and International supporters…

I think it is important to look at all sides of the Mideast problem… I am not thrilled with Netanyahu’s government nor with the American support for Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land while claiming to negotiate.

We rarely learn about non-violent protest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I guess because our press doesn’t want to come up against either the State Department or Israeli politicians.

Watch this if you have ten minutes to be disturbed:

Let’s see if Cartoonists will stand up in the face of Muslim religious threats…

I took this off Professor Jonathan Turley’s blog (http://jonathanturley.org):
clipped from jonathanturley.org

Seattle Cartoonist Declares May 20th as “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”

While a Saudi lawyer is suing in England over the Danish cartoon controversy (here), Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris has declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Norris took the action after the shameful decision of Comedy Central to censor an episode of South Park after Muslims threatened to kill the creators of South Park for showing Mohammed in a bear suit.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

She will have difficulty finding a publisher. While newspapers have supported the cartoonists in the Danish case, you will notice that no images of Mohammed appear in the leading papers, including pictures of the cartoon in articles discussing the controversy.

For the full story, click here.

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I have now put 18 fonts up for sale on the UTF Type Foundry site.

As of this morning, I added font number 18 for sale at the UTF Type Foundry site. I did this by putting up Bill’s Real Rubber Stamps, a font I get a kick out of using for child-influenced signs:

I also added Bill’s Universal Symbols yesterday.

I’m having a lot of fun getting back into the font business and a couple of hundred people a day are exploring the site… I’ve even sold a couple of the

BTW… all fonts come in packages containing both Mac and PC versions. Picture fonts come with keycharts. Deliveries are made by e-mail immediately upon making the sale. PayPal, credit and debit cards accepted.

If you get the chance and are looking for inexpensive printing and layout accessories, go to http://utftype.blogspot.com.

Keeping up with the Senate… The Dems won, but no one seems to know why.

Here’s the review of the situation from Salon. I’ll give you a clip here, but go in and read the whole thing:
clipped from www.salon.com

Media: We don’t know what happened — but Dems won

The lack of details regarding the deal Senate Democrats cut with Senate Republicans to allow debate to proceed on the financial reform bill is a bit worrying. But that has not stopped and will not stop the press from pronouncing this a “big win” for Democrats. They just might’ve won the privilege of making the bill less effective!

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., right, and the committee’s ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
But we don’t know what happened yet. Maybe when Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate would pull an all-nighter, that actually broke the Republican will to delay. Or maybe Chris Dodd, D-Conn., offered Richard Shelby some sort of minor, face-saving concession. Or maybe Richard Shelby won an actual concession.
According to “Roll Call,” “one Democratic source said Republicans had been promised votes on an unspecified number amendments.”
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Let’s see if this really happens (it was released to the AP 15 minutes ago)

OK… now that we have filibustered three times, perhaps the Republicans will let it get to 60 votes now (the vote to JUST get it on the floor for debate). Last vote was 56 to 42.

This clip from HuffPo:

clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are prepared to end their stalling tactics on new banking regulations and will attempt to change the bill on the Senate floor, Republican officials said.
Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking committee, said he has assurances that Democrats will adjust his banking regulation bill to address concerns that it perpetuates bailouts.
The concession sets the stage for Republicans to withdraw objections that have stalled the bill in the Senate.
The agreement does not bridge other significant differences between the parties on the bill.
Democrats tried three times to begin debate on the bill only to be thwarted by Republican opposition. Democrats branded the Republicans as Wall Street allies.

Shelby
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Filibuster Number Three

For the third time, the Republicans in the Senate have Filibustered the opportunity to get the new Wall Street reform bill debated.

Harry Reid, commenting on today’s Republican stonewalling:

“All the talk by Republicans about wanting to do something about this bill before it gets on the floor is really anti-Senate, anti-American. It appears they’re more concerned about taking care of the fat cats on Wall Street.”

Commenting on the situation, Senator Claire McCaskill, outlined what the Democratic strategy would likely be to get debate to the floor:

“I think we’re going to go all night. I think we’ve made the decision that this is important enough that we’re going to stay up through the night and ask continually the Republicans to allow us to debate this bill out and open in front of the public. We need transparency on Wall Street, we ought to start right here in Washington.”

So keep an eye on the Senate tonight (good night to flick back and forth to C-Span 2 to see who will give in.

Off to Frederick for a Job Interview this morning…

…Second one in two days. Maybe things are starting to turn around. I thought yesterday’s interview went pretty well, but I would prefer this company in Frederick… much closer to work at.

I’ll be back to the blog around lunch time if not before.

Politico reports on 4 Democratic Senators who are challenging Facebook…

This is the beginning of an article… you can read the whole thing HERE.
clipped from www.politico.com
Democratic senators: Facebook not protecting users

Four Democratic senators expressed concern Tuesday that Facebook is not being careful to protect the privacy of its users.

New York’s Charles Schumer, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, Alaska’s Mark Begich and Minnesota’s Al Franken have sent a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailing their worries.

“While Facebook provides a valuable service to users by keeping them connected with friends and family and reconnecting them with long-lost friends and colleagues, the expansion of Facebook – both in the number of users and applications – raises new concerns for users who want to maintain control over their information,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Al Franken (left) and Chuck Schumer were among the  four Democrats who penned a worried letter to Facebook's CEO.

The Democrats focused on three issues of concern: Publicly available data, third party data storage and instant personalization.

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Europe as Marge Simpson

I found this the other day and realized how symbolic marge Simpson is.

I’ll never think of Europe in the same way again.
Click on the graphic to see it at full size.
:)

This just in (6:06 PM):

clipped from tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com

After Weeks Of Negotiating, Republicans Block Debate On Financial Reform Bill
Senate Republicans followed through on their threat today to block debate on a financial regulatory reform bill authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). The final tally on the vote to break the filibuster was 57 to 41, with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) joining the Republicans, but failed to meet the 60 vote threshold required to end debate.
The move ratchets up a political food fight between Democrats and Republicans, with Dems on the offense, charging that the GOP’s decision to block progress on the legislation puts them on the side of Wall Street.
Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted no — a procedural move he had to make in order to bring the motion up again later.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said the vote “reveal[s] who believes we need to strengthen oversight of Wall Street, and who does not [and] force[s] each Senator to publicly proclaim whether party unity is more important than economic security.”
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Well… now we know who is siding with the Wall Street Pigs and who is working for the people.

Or perhaps you can look a it this way:

A Statement on Goldman Sachs

Here’s a brief clip from a Matt Taibbi article in the Guardian:

Last summer I wrote a brutally negative article about Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone magazine (I called the bank a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”) that unexpectedly sparked a heated national debate. On one side of the debate were people like me, who believed that Goldman is little better than a criminal enterprise that earns its billions by bilking the market, the government, and even its own clients in a bewildering variety of complex financial scams.

On the other side of the debate were the people who argued Goldman wasn’t guilty of anything except being “too smart” and really, really good at making money. This side of the argument was based almost entirely on the Randian belief system, under which the leaders of Goldman Sachs appear not as the cheap swindlers they look like to me, but idealised heroes, the saviours of society.

I think I have a stronger agreement with the criminal enterprise… for what you may think, go in and read the whole article HERE.

Waiting for John Case…

Monday morning having a great cup of coffee in Mellow Moods on German Street in Shepherdstown. I’m a little early… John Case is meeting me here at 10:30 after he drives his Monday morning radio co-host home…Monday being his Poetry Day. I don’t know what we are going to characterize our Friday show together with… right now I am just guest hosting with him no matter who is invited.

It’s raining outside… second day of rain. Last night. along with the rain we had thunder and lightning and a brief bit of hail as the weather passed quickly overhead and moved North and East. It was bad enough that the Satellite Television went out three or four times while I was watching Stephen Hawking’s show on the Universe on the Discovery Channel… got so involved I missed the first Arrested Development episode and some of the second on IFC.

Hawking got into the Universe and Time Travel and it was fascinating… showing why you can’t (or probably can’t) go back in time, but can go ahead in time. Why space travelers who fly away from the Earth for ten days before they return are only five days older than when they left. Something about the dependence of Time on Mass (in this case the mass of the planet) where weight of the Earth slows time down but the weightlessness of space speeds it up. Right now, as I approach 64 next month, it can go as slow as it wants to here!

Anyway… I’ll get off the blog for a while and start looking for work on line… I need to get a job very soon… I don’t really care where. This ongoing unemployment is screwing up my homelife… Elly is constantly mad at me… and economically destroying our future. This is going to be a tough place to be at 64… I don’t want early Social Security… I need work.

A Quote for the Day – From the Sunday Morning Talkers

“Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader had been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks actually bailing out the banks and that basically the argument boiled down to saying what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department, because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right. It’s an incredible… so anyone who says bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate Minority Leader.”

- Paul Krugman on ABC this morning.

Here’s an editorial I reprint from Truthout in its entirety:

Yes, Virginia, There is a Legitimate Case Against Free Trade

Sunday 25 April 2010

by: Ian Fletcher, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

There is a myth in wide circulation that the superiority of free trade is simply a settled question on which all serious economists agree. The flip side of this myth, of course, is that anyone who criticizes free trade must either be ignorant of economics, or the spokesman of some special interest which hopes to benefit from trade restrictions. Such critics are not only wrong, the story continues with admittedly impeccable logic, but profoundly worthy of public contempt, as they are necessarily either dumb or corrupt.

Unfortunately, this myth is just that: a myth, promoted by special interests which benefit from free trade, whatever the harm to the rest of the economy. Serious economists actually recognize a number of very serious criticisms of free trade – even economists who ultimately decide that free trade is better than the alternatives. They generally don’t talk about the flaws of free trade too loudly, for fear of provoking the public into supporting stupid forms of protectionism, but they certainly know they are there.

Thanks to recent developments in economics (most visibly signaled by Paul Krugman’s winning the 2009 Nobel Prize), these criticisms are becoming more serious every day. There is, in fact, an inexorable erosion of the credibility of free trade going on in the academy, not that you’d know it from watching the economists who show up on TV.

The rest of this article is just a wee bit technical. The point is not to baffle the reader, but to pry open the mysterious “black box” of free trade economics a little, and let non-economists in on the big secret that economists regard as dangerous to talk about too loudly: free trade economics is a package of mechanisms that, like any piece of machinery, can and do break down all the time. And when they break down, free trade ceases to be a good idea.

Let’s crack open that intimidating black box, shall we, and have a look at the machinery inside? Free trade has roughly ten very serious problems.

The first problem is the assumption that trade is sustainable. But a nation exporting non-renewable resources may discover that its best move (in the short run) is to export until it runs out. The flip side of this problem is overconsumption, in which a nation (like the present-day U.S., maybe?) borrows from abroad in order to finance a short-term binge of imports that lowers its long-term living standard due to the accumulation of foreign debt and the sale of assets to foreigners.

The second problem is that free trade increases inequality even if it makes the economy grow overall (which is itself questionable). Because free trade tends to raise returns to the abundant input to production (in America, capital) and lower returns to the scarce input (in America, labor), it tends to benefit capital at labor’s expense. Economists call this the Stolper-Samuelson theorem.

The third problem is so-called “negative externalities,” the economists’ term for when economic value is destroyed without a price tag being attached to the damage. Environmental damage is the most obvious example, but there are others, like the cost of writing off expensively-developed human capital (otherwise known as “people”) when free trade wipes out entire American industries.

The fourth problem is positive externalities, like the way some industries (mainly high technology) open up paths of growth for the entire economy. All industries are not alike, and the profits of an industry today do not necessarily predict the industry’s long-term value for the economy. Free trade can allow these industries to be wiped out because it ignores this hidden value, harming the rest of the economy for decades to come.

The next four problems concern the all-important Theory of Comparative Advantage, the theoretical keystone of free trade economics. This theory, invented by the British economist David Ricardo in 1817, says that free trade will automatically cause nations to specialize in producing whatever they are relatively best at, and that this will lead to the best of all possible worlds. To wit:

Problem number five is that Ricardo’s theory assumes factors of production are mobile within nations. Unemployed autoworkers become aircraft workers, and abandoned automobile plants turn into aircraft factories. But this doesn’t always happen, and when it does, it is often at considerable cost.

Problem number six is the assumption, in Ricardo’s theory, that the inputs used in production (like labor, capital, and technology) are not mobile between nations. His theory says that free trade automatically reshuffles a nation’s factors of production to their most productive uses. But if factors of production are internationally mobile, and their most-productive use is in another country, then free trade will cause them to migrate there – which is not necessarily best for the nation they depart.

Problem number seven is that Ricardo’s theory assumes the economy is always operating at full output – or at least that trade has no effect on its output level. But if trade puts people and factories out of action, this isn’t true.

Problem number eight is that Ricardo’s theory assumes short-term efficiency is the origin of long-term growth. But long-term economic growth is about turning from Burkina Faso into South Korea, not about being the most-efficient possible Burkina Faso forever. History has shown time and again that the short-term inefficiencies of a tariff, properly implemented, are more than compensated for by the long-term spur to industry growth it can provide, largely because growth has more to do with the industry externalities mentioned above (problem number four) than short-term efficiency per se.

Problem number nine is that Ricardo’s theory merely guarantees (if true, which is itself questionable due to problems five through eight) there will be gains from free trade. It does not guarantee that changes induced by free trade, like rising productivity abroad, will cause these gains to grow rather than shrink. So if free trade strengthens our economic rivals, then it may harm us in the long run by stiffening international competition, even if it was advantageous for us to buy goods from these rivals in the short run.

The final problem is that, in the presence of scale economies, the perfectly-competitive international markets presumed by the theory of comparative advantage do not exist. Instead, industries tend to be imperfectly competitive and quasi-monopolistic. Under these conditions, outsize profits and wages accrue to nations that host such industries. And free trade will not necessarily assign any given nation these industries.

Hopefully, the above list should convince the reader that free trade is, at the very least, an extremely complicated question, and by no means something that anyone is entitled to consider simply settled. Therefore, it is high time that free trade’s critics were given the serious hearing that they deserve. America desperately needs a full-fledged debate on whether to continue with its Cold War policy of free trade or return to the protectionism we embraced from Independence until roughly the end of WWII.

Truthout / CC BY-NC 3.0

Where do our visitors come from?

I took a look today on our international service to see where our visitors are coming from and here are today’s results as 0f 2:43 PM Eastern Time:

It’s interesting to note how man countries we are drawing users from.

A Glorious Dawn – Symphony of Science

Here’s a little treat for Sunday… a musical remix of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with input from Stephen Hawking as a music video. Enjoy.

The NY Times on Jon Stewart Vs. Fox News

Or, as Stewart says:
“I have not moved out of the comedian’s box into the news box. The news box is moving toward me.”

Here’s a clip, but the whole article is worth reading:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Jon Stewart’s Punching Bag, Fox News

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are long gone. Fox News Channel is Jon Stewart’s new enemy No. 1.

Last week that comedian did something that the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the morning show on Fox News, did not do: he had his staff members call the White House and ask a question.

It may have been in pursuit of farce, not fact, but it gave credence to the people who say “The Daily Show” is journalistic, not just satiric. “Fox & Friends” had repeatedly asked whether the crescent-shaped logo of the nuclear security summit was an “Islamic image,” one selected by President Obama in his outreach to the Muslim world. The White House told “The Daily Show” that the logo was actually based on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom.

Mr. Stewart routinely charges that Fox’s news anchors and commentators distort Mr. Obama’s policies and advance a conservative agenda. He reminds some viewers of the left-wing group Media Matters but much funnier.
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Last Week to get a This Free Font for supporting Under The LobsterScope…

April 30th is fast approaching and if you send $5.00 or more to support Under The LobsterScope by that date, you will get the regularly priced at $29.00 font, Bill’s Century Marks for FREE.  After the 3oth this font goes back on sale at the UTF Type Foundry site and you will have to pay full price for it.

Unlike many other blogs that ask for a few bucks, I send you a free, quality picture font (see Sample below) immediately after your donation of $5.00 or more… this offer is not available ANYWHERE ELSE.

Look, even a small donation of $1 or $2 would help (although $5 helps a whole lot more.) The amount is up to you. We accept contributions through PayPal and the credit/debit cards shown below.

All contributors of $5.00 or more receive a copy of my Picture Font, Bill’s Century Marks in versions for BOTH Macs and PC, plus a handy keyboard chart.

In May, I will be putting Bill’s Century Marks back in the “for sale only” and I will make a new font available. Over the past few months many of you have come on board with an average donation of $10.00 and were sent our previous Free Font, Bill’s Cast O’Characters… I hope you are enjoying it.

So please click on the “Donate” button below, help us out with $5.00 or more, and get Bill’s Century Marks for FREE:

Thanks,
Bill T.

Did Porn Cause the Financial Crisis?

Here’s a clip from a piece in Salon that’s worth going into and reading the whole thing:
clipped from www.salon.com

The SEC’s porn problem

Outrage abounds over news that top watchdogs surfed for smut as the economy tanked. Let’s not act so surprised

As the global economy crashed and burned, certain top staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission were busy watching porn. Instead of policing Wall Street, some were surfing for smut. This is the revelation making headlines today after the leak Thursday night of a summary of 33 probes of SEC employees using government computers to access pornography over the past five years. For the most part, the summary (PDF) resurfaces information that was already public; and it’s worth noting that it was requested by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, and is now being used as political ammunition by the GOP.
The summary includes salacious details about hundreds of images and videos stored on work hard drives. One resourceful fellow “used a flash drive to bypass the Commission’s Internet filter and successfully access a significant number of pornographic images.”
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These guys are never going to get it together…

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Republicans Block Start of Debate on Financial Bill

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort by Democrats to start debate on legislation to tighten regulation of the nation’s financial system, and the two sides traded bitter accusations about who was standing in the way of a bipartisan agreement.
The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, asked Republicans to agree to begin debating the measure, which would impose a sweeping regulatory framework on Wall Street and big financial institutions. But the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, objected, saying Democrats were pre-empting negotiations to reach a deal.
In response, Mr. Reid said he would call the first procedural vote on Monday in an effort to stop the Republican filibuster. That vote could test Republican resolve to oppose the measure in an election year, amid public dismay over big Wall Street profits and bonuses even as unemployment remains high.
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If it’s Harry against Mitch, then maybe we have the substance for a TV comedy here. As to seeing this as the workings of government, it is hardly humorous and we would all be better served if the needs of the country came before the crap of parties.

Cartoon(s) of the Week – Focus on Tea Partiers

There was a lot of Tea Party coverage this week…

Bruce Plante in the Tulsa World:

It’s that 100% that always pokes its head through.

- and -

Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronical:

… and the blind shall lead the blind.

- and -

Chan Lowe in the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

and their Medicare coverage….

I’m off to be John Case’s CoHost this morning…

In a little under an hour from the time I’m posting this I’ll be on the Winners and Losers program with John Case at WSHC FM (89.7 on our local dial).

If you are not a local, you can get the program at WSHC’s on-line site. Go to:
http://897wshc.org/listenlive.html and listen in.

I’ll be on until 9:30 AM. Hope you get to listen in.

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