September 30, 2008

Obama suggests expanding FDIC coverage to save bailout plan

"The majority of American families should rest assured that the deposits they have in our banks are safe," Obama said in a statement put out by his presidential campaign.

"That is why today, I am proposing that we also raise the FDIC limit to $250,000 as part of the economic rescue package — a step that would boost small businesses, make our banking system more secure, and help restore public confidence in our financial system."

Yes, because the everyday Joe has $250,000 in the bank.


This is smoke and mirrors being used to hide the fact that he's in the back pocket of big business and is trying to protect the wealthy.

Look, I don't want my tax dollars going to bail out banks that made risky loans and are now going under. Why protect stupidity? What incentive is there to not make risky loans if the government is just going to bail you out?

Read more.

Let Risk-Taking Financial Institutions Fail

Let the poorly managed, overly risk-taking financial institutions fail! Always remember that Wall Street and the real economy are not the same thing.

Read more.

September 29, 2008

Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer

The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.

The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.

Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.

Um, duh. Bravo to Congress today for rejecting the bailout.

Read the rest.

September 22, 2008

Mobile phone use 'raises children's risk of brain cancer fivefold'

Professor Hardell told the conference – held at the Royal Society by the Radiation Research Trust – that "people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20" had more than five-fold increase in glioma", a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system. The extra risk to young people of contracting the disease from using the cordless phone found in many homes was almost as great, at more than four times higher.

Those who started using mobiles young, he added, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, benign but often disabling tumours of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness.

By contrast, people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50 per cent more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.

Read more.

Europeans on left and right ridicule U.S. money meltdown

"Greenspan was considered a master," Tremonti declared. "Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most. . . . It is clear that what is happening is a disease. It is not the failure of a bank, but the failure of a system. Until a few days ago, very few were willing to realize the intensity and the dramatic nature of the crisis."

Read more.

September 18, 2008

Software spots the spin in political speeches

Skillicorn has been watching out for verbal "spin". He has developed an algorithm that evaluates word usage within the text of a conversation or speech to determine when a person "presents themselves or their content in a way that does not necessarily reflect what they know to be true".

Read more.

Biden calls paying higher taxes a patriotic act

Although Republican John McCain claims that Obama would raise taxes, the independent Tax Policy Center and other groups conclude that four out of five U.S. households would receive tax cuts under Obama's proposals.

That's because their plan targets those that make over $250,000 a year.

Read more.

September 12, 2008

Proposed new FBI rules draw civil liberties worries

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern the rewritten rules had been drafted in a way to allow the FBI to begin surveillance without factual evidence to back it up.

It said that under the new guidelines, a person's race or ethnic background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes will institute racial profiling as a matter of policy.

Read more.

Saudi cleric says 'depraved' TV moguls may be killed

A senior Saudi cleric has issued a religious decree saying the owners of television networks broadcasting "depravation and debauchery" may be killed, Al-Arabiya television reported on Friday.


"It is lawful to kill ... the apostles of depravation... if their evil cannot be easily removed through simple sanctions," Luhaidan said, according to excerpt of the remarks broadcast on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya.

Read more. Practice religion less.

September 8, 2008

How to Create the Perfect Fake Identity

Let me start off by saying that I'm making this whole thing up.


Call it "identity farming." You invent a handful of infants. You apply for Social Security numbers for them. Eventually, you open bank accounts for them, file tax returns for them, register them to vote, and apply for credit cards in their name. And now, 25 years later, you have a handful of identities ready and waiting for some real people to step into them.


Here's the real question: Do you actually have to show up for any part of your life?

Read more.

September 5, 2008

File Sharing Lawsuits at a Crossroads, After 5 Years of RIAA Litigation

Despite a fallow legal landscape, most defendants cannot afford attorneys and settle for a few thousand dollars rather than risk losing even more, Beckerman says. "There are still very few people fighting back as far as the litigation goes and they settle."

"It costs more to hire a lawyer to defend these cases than take the settlement," agrees Lory Lybeck, a Washington State attorney, who is leading a prospective class-action against the RIAA for engaging in what he says is "sham" litigation tactics. "That's an important part of what's going on. The recording industry is setting a price where you know they cannot hire lawyers. It's a pretty well-designed system whereby people are not allowed any effective participation in one of the three prongs in the federal government."

Settlement payments can be made on a website, where the funds are used to sue more defendants. None of the money is paid to artists.

Now, isn't that interesting? None of the settlement money goes to the artists. Zero. Zip. Nada. So, if none of that money is going to the artists (and remember, we're told that downloading songs only hurts the artists) does that mean that the RIAA is getting filthy rich off of other people's work? Oh, wait. Yes, it does. But you already knew that.

Nobody can credibly dispute that file sharing systems are a superhighway for pirated music. "There is no doubt that the volume of files on P2P is overwhelmingly infringing," says Eric Garland, president of Los Angeles research firm BigChampagne. But critics of the RIAA say it's time for the music industry to stop attacking fans, and start looking for alternatives. Fred von Lohmann, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the lawsuits are simply not reducing the number of people trading music online.

"If the goal is to reduce file sharing," he says, "it's a failure."

It's difficult to admit that your business model is outdated when mega-fortunes have been made off of it for decades.

Read more.

No Questions, Please. We'll Tell You What You Need To Know.

According to Nicole Wallace of the McCain campaign, the American people don't care whether Sarah Palin can answer specific questions about foreign and domestic policy. According to Wallace -- in an appearance I did with her this morning on Joe Scarborough's show -- the American people will learn all they need to know (and all they deserve to know) from Palin's scripted speeches and choreographed appearances on the campaign trail and in campaign ads. Here's the exchange:

Watch the video and read more.

Senator Biden Wrong: AIPAC Does Represent the Government of Israel

Accused of not backing AIPAC sponsored legislation, Biden told reporters, "They think they know the Senate better than I do. They don't know the Senate better than I do...AIPAC does not speak for the State of Israel."

The outspoken Senator Biden, often compared to president John F. Kennedy, is wrong. Newly declassified documents reveal that before his death, JFK's most pressing concerns were registering the Israel lobby as foreign government agents and inspections of the Israeli nuclear weapons program.

Read more.

September 2, 2008

DNA breakthrough can identify an individual in a public place

They have found a way of picking an individual’s DNA out of a mixed sample – even when that sample is contaminated by the DNA of up to 200 others. The method works even when the DNA of interest is only 0.1 per cent of the sample. At present, it is hard for forensic investigators to detect an individual’s DNA if it constitutes less than 10 per cent of a mixture, or if many other people’s DNA is present.

This means that it is almost impossible to identify a suspect’s DNA out of, for example, a collection of skin cells from the handrail of a public staircase. The new method could resolve this problem.

Read more.

Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

Read more.

Gov. Sarah Palin - just another dirty politician

The top 10 things you should know about Sarah Palin:

I think we can add an 11th one: she was once a member of AIP (Alaskan Independence Party).

Check 'em out.

The Myth of Sarah Palin as Tax Cutter and Budget Cutter

During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%.

She inherited a city with zero debt, but, despite the increase in taxes,left it with indebtedness of over $22 million.

Read more.

Is McCain Getting Set to Dump Palin?

And the Palin mess is getting uglier by the minute. The NY Times Tuesday reports that, in addition to Palin's daughter being five months pregnant, she's hired a private lawyer to defend her in her abuse-of-power investigation; was a member of a political party seeking Alaska's secession from the Union; and that her husband Todd was arrested 22 years ago for drunken driving. Jeez, the Republicans sure have a distorted view of "family values," huh? With McCain's temper, we can only imagine how much yelling and screaming must be going on behind the scenes right now.

But McCain likely has only himself to blame. Word on the street is that no one in his vice presidential selection committee but him wanted Palin. He wanted his pal Sen. Joe Lieberman, but hastily switched plans last-minute in a likely act of desperation following Obama and the Dems Denver blowout. His move, purely political to seduce Sen. Hillary Clinton's disaffected women supporters, hardly is a "country first" strategy. If McCain was/is so concerned about country, he wouldn't be pushing to put it in the hands of the very inexperienced Palin in the event something were to happen to him. He'd give us someone like Sen. Joe Biden, the Dems' VP nominee.

Will the "token" fall?

Read more.

Will she even survive the week?

Oh, most likely. But the very fact that the question needs to be asked – and I'm not the only one asking it, believe me – indicates what a joke Sarah Palin has already become. Wednesday night, she'll speak before an audience that (mostly) loves her – delegates to a GOP convention tilt heavily toward the socially conservative. That will sustain her for the week. But whether she'll survive the month of September seems a genuinely serious question.

The "token" will speak.

Read more.

A Disappointing Finish for Americans at Education Olympics

The United States won the most medals of any country at the summer Olympic Games in Beijing, but it turned in a dismal performance at the Education Olympics. Americans took home only one medal from those games, for an embarrassing 20th-place finish, ahead of only Germany, Hungary, and Iceland. The top medal winners across all 58 education events were Finland (35 medals), Hong Kong (33 medals), and Singapore (16 medals).


The folks responsible for the first Education Olympics are the policy wonks at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C. Michael Petrilli, who oversees national education research projects at the institute, apparently caught the Olympic bug and decided to see what would happen if, instead of competing in pole vaulting or in the 400-meter swim relay, Americans competed in academic challenges.

Read more.

Sarah Palin’s Preacher Problem. End Times Coming?

I did a drive-by of Palin’s church when I was traveling through Wasilla yesterday, not realizing the furor that would be churning the blogosphere less than 24-hours later about a speech Palin delivered there only three months ago. Here’s what she said regarding the war in Iraq.

“Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God.”

Jesus. I'm sure "God" gets tired of being used in such ways.

Read more.

Lieberman hails McCain's record, criticizes Obama

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick eight years ago, on Tuesday criticized Barack Obama's national security record and hailed Republican candidate John McCain's, a clear boost to the GOP.


Although his vote in the Senate gives the Democrats a narrow majority, he has riled former party members again this year by criticizing Obama and endorsing his longtime friend McCain.


"He's going to be punished by the Democratic Party and he knows it. But he wants to do it because he thinks he's the best candidate for president," Kean said.

No he's doesn't. He's supporting his "longtime friend McCain." Which probably means if McCain gets elected, then Joe "I'll do anything" Leiberman will get appointed to a nice position.

Hey Joe (apologies to Jimi Hendrix there), I guess you'll do or say anything to try and make you believe that you are important. You are not.

Read more.