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Pull Up a Chair on The Day of the Dead

By: Elliott Saturday November 1, 2014 3:11 am

Rabbit, Rabbit.
Well here’s me making the pancakes, ¿what are bringing to our Day of the Dead fiesta?

autumnal calavera

Panqueques de los Muertos

 

Party In The Spirit

By: Elliott Friday October 31, 2014 6:37 pm

I love Halloween, fun for all ages and everybody – unless you take it too seriously, in which case, more candy for the rest of us!! YAY!1!

I saw the Mystics Knights of the Oingo Boingo ten years prior to this concert. Great fun, came in from the back of the theater, brass blaring – and the red hair, that I vividly remember.

Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party – 4/25/1987 – Ritz
via @__digitalnative
 

Here’s the Friday 1987 Halloween party concert:

Oingo Boingo live Friday Halloween ’87 show (full show)

Playlist:
1. Dead Man’s Party, 2. Home Again, 3. Dead Or Alive, 4. Who Do You Want To Be , 5. Private Life, 6. Help Me, 7. We Close Our Eyes, 8. My Life, 9. Sweat, 10. Grey Matter, 11. Gratitude, 12. Stay, 13. Winning Side, 14. It Only Makes Me Laugh, 15. Pain, 16. No One Lives Forever, 17. Just Another Day, 18. New Generation, 19. Not My Slave, 20. Insects, 21. Elevator Man, 22. Wild Sex, 23. Capitalism, 24. Nothing To Fear, 25. On The Outside, 26. Goodbye, Goodbye
 

Happy Hallowe’en!

 

Big Media Companies, “What are they afraid of?”

By: spocko Friday October 31, 2014 4:14 pm

For Halloween I’m reminded of a book reading I attended in San Francisco where I asked Matt Taibbi what companies like Goldman Sachs were afraid of. His answer was, “Not journalists!” then he laughed. Next he said, “They are worried about a few left over SEC regulations that they haven’t bought off yet.”

Yesterday I read that Matt Taibbi has left First Look Media before the launch of the Racket, the digital magazine he was hired to create seven months ago. The Intercept did a story about what they say happened.  Of course I’m waiting for the Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz to comment on this so I can hear from the disgraced other side. I’ll bet “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” and he will “leave it there.”

As I read the Intercept story I wondered if people at various companies that were to be the subject of the Racket are breathing a sigh of relief. Are they laughing? It appears that Taibbi leaving was a combination of a personality misfit with “the corporate form” and the need of Silicon Valley folks to always be thinking about ROI.

The damage control people at these companies might want to hold off on the champagne popping. Taibbi will find an outlet to write for and the Racket isn’t dead, but it has serious labor pains.  These things happen. Remember the News Corp iPad Online venture The Daily?  Murdoch dropped $60 million on it and it was shuttered after two years. 

If ROI is in Omid’s Silicon Valley start-up DNA he should have thought outside the box (or law) like Rupert Murdoch. He could have used his knowledge of the upcoming stories on companies to short their stock before the story dropped. Hmmm, would that be illegal? Not if he told his congressperson about it and he makes a trade on the info. It’s good to have happy congress people as your allies.

If only Omid understood that to mold national attitudes, topple dynasties and pressure politicians you have to lose lots of money for a long, long time. If you want to have your parent corporate entity make money, use other sub-entities known to create revenue like cartoon shows, test prep companies or a businesses that sells stuff on-line. But Murdoch’s goals aren’t the goals of everyone who gets into the media business.

The Public Interest, RIP

Expecting the media to “serve the public interest, convenience and necessity” is out. The marketplace rules are in.  The TV and radio spectrum, as well as the Internet we created, aren’t considered under the trusteeship model anymore because the lobbyists argued a broadcaster’s commercial success would be indicative of the public’s satisfaction with what they are delivering. 

Under that model First Look Media should be using their news reporting and constitutionally granted 1st Amendment power to generate revenue for shareholders, just like Roone Arledge taught ABC and the rest of the networks to do. Suddenly news divisions weren’t a cost center anymore, but a profit center. Everyone loves profit generators, and by everyone I mean Wall Street and corp execs whose bonuses are tied to revenue or stock price.

If you look at what the big media companies are afraid of it hasn’t been getting busted for failing to serve the public interest for decades. They know they aren’t going to lose an FCC license. They might get a fine, but it’s just a Cost of Doing Business in the short term and something the lobbyists will fix in the long term. FTC problems might cramp their style when it comes to ad revenue, so they pay attention to that.  SEC regs could be a problem, if anyone at the SEC actually started prosecuting people. It’s hard to believe that the SEC would go after someone who buys their pixels by the barrel and hires lawyers by the trainload, but maybe someone at the SEC will notice some problems they need to be addressed.

What makes the parent companies nervous is if the people working in the news divisions start thinking they have to actually follow left over rules and regulations. Or that they are journalists who have to ‘serve the public interest’ vs. make money on their specific programming.  Murdoch can explain to the media entities parts of the bigger companies that a parent company loosing 100′s of millions on something like the New York Post is a smart business move because of his big picture. Because of that, they don’t worry about generating standalone revenue.

They are also afraid that the big investors might think the parent company doesn’t have their journalists and news divisions under control.  If the parent company gets a whiff that someone in the media group is trying to dig too hard or isn’t playing ball, they will get a Arthur Jensen to Howard Beale call where it is explained how the world really works.  

For example, if your biggest sponsor makes cars, you really shouldn’t be doing stories that make them look bad, even if the cars kill people. But sometimes you can’t ignore the truth, so you wait for an excuse like a settlement lawsuit where someone else makes the case. “Hey I wasn’t the one calling them “killer cars” I’m just reading the court transcript!” 

Luckily during that period of reporting the hard truth, before the pull back into the quest for profit, some sunlight can shine through the cracks. There are still good people in the media who believe in a better “Big Picture” than Murdoch’s. It takes courage and support from others who also see the problems and want to help. Other times journalists “embedded” in the MSM need an excuse to do a good job in the face of the howls for quarterly profits or fear of offending advertisers.

After talking to Taibbi I started asking a similar question of people who have been covering corporate corruption and personal mendacious acts that hurt Americans. “What are they afraid of, and how can we make those fears come true?”

I’m sorry for these media labor pains, but I look forward to future sunlight from Taibbi, First Look Media and the Racket, because we all know what sunlight does to vampire(squid)s.

Happy Halloween!

Boston Bombing News: How Far Do You Trust the Justice System?

By: lauraw Friday October 31, 2014 1:56 pm

A recent Tsarnaev status conference featured a protest which included Ibragim Todashev’s mother-in-law Elena Teyer and Muslim Observer blogger Karin Friedemann. Metro talked to the protesters, and also interviewed a bystander who believes in the American justice system:

Grad student Sean Hughes, who debated with Tsarnaev’s supporters outside Moakley Courthouse, believes massive support either for or against the Tsarnaevs is premature. “It’s really easy to fall into conspiracy theories…We have… a ton of evidence that only privileged eyes have seen. There are certainly going to be inconsistencies that seem ‘suspicious.’ Despite all the evidence they claimed they had, I walked away from the courthouse today with one question unanswered: if the evidence was so damning, why isn’t his defense team using it?”

Well, Sean, perhaps because the trial hasn’t started yet. Or, perhaps because the defense has witnesses to protect, and needs to tread delicately at this point?

Most people don’t want to know about the FBI’s well-documented history of dirty tricks. So, they write off those who dare to question the veracity of alphabet agencies as “conspiracy theorists.”

Conspiracy theorists are usually very, very sure about their theories. I’m not that sure about anything. But, like leftcoast, I am troubled that no “so-called investigative reporters are willing to look beyond the official narrative by digging deeper or channelling their inner Bernstein or Woodward to rule out the many questions…” Since most journalists won’t do this, someone has to!

In addition to hints of the FBI’s creative attitude toward the truth, the BMB case highlights several other disturbing facts about our current justice system.

Unfair treatment of Muslims and other minorities. Karin Friedemann told Metro she “believes the Tsarnaevs are being persecuted because they are Muslim .. .there are hundreds of Muslim prisoners in jail and most of their trials are based on innuendo and bigotry with the absence of any tangible evidence.” A quick browse of her blogsite turned up one example; I’m sure she has documented others.

Bangladeshi-American Shifa Sadequee liked to chat on the Internet about everything from Islam to Freemasonry. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, he researched ways to help the Afghan people, and found himself accused of joining the Taliban. He “was held for three years in solitary confinement without trial, during which time he was pressured to testify against his friends in exchange for a plea bargain. He refused.

“…The religious debates of teenagers were taken out of context to paint them as terrorists and to preemptively prosecute them. Yet the actual chats remained classified as ‘secret evidence’ and were not presented to the jury.” Shifa was eventually convicted and sentenced to 17 years; a massive mail campaign helped to reduce this sentence from a possible 60 years. His brother said: “When ethnocentrism guides in the making and application of the law, jurors and courts/judges will always find certain groups ‘guilty.’ ”

“Legal” Witness Tampering. Thank you omramzey for the link to Harvey Silverman’s commentary on Aza and Robel:

…delaying the sentencing of a guilty party until after he testifies against an alleged co-conspirator or other individual has become common practice in criminal trials, especially in the federal courts. Comparing this practice to witness bribery … is actually to underestimate the tactic. It is closer to the crime of extortion … The practice of rewarding witnesses for favorable prosecution testimony (or, conversely, punishing witnesses who will not go along) has … become “business as usual” … This practice should be stopped. It would after all, constitute a crime if engaged in by anyone other than a prosecutor.”

BTW, I believe that testimony which Aza or Robel might provide about their friend’s “demeanor after the bombing” is a meaningless red herring. Yes, Dzhokhar socialized, as he normally did, and probably used drugs and/or alcohol (also normal). He also did an unusual amount of sleeping, and a mechanic who saw him on Tuesday said he seemed nervous. (Well, he had just survived being very close to a large explosion.) So… “Nervous? Must be guilty. Normal? Guilty and callous.” Every smile a smirk. What, exactly, was he supposed to be doing?

Coerced, False Confessions. Thank you Jane for the link to this article, which quotes one of the Phillipos jurors as saying that Robel’s confession “was very powerful proof for her and the other 11 jurors.”

Ignorance is bliss. Back in April 2013, I too assumed that if Dzhokhar confessed, he must be guilty. I’ve learned a few pertinent facts since then.

The Innocence Project has documented 321 people who were convicted, sometimes sentenced to death, only to be later exonerated with DNA testing. (The overwhelming majority of these cases involved African American suspects.) IP states: “False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 27% of cases. Looking only at the homicide cases, false confessions are the leading contributor to wrongful convictions, contributing to 64 (62%) of the 104 homicide wrongful convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence.”

Police Chief Magazine says that false, coerced confessions are “rare,” but one of their sources estimated up to 840 per year. (Isn’t that too many?) They note that juveniles and people with mental limitations are especially vulnerable.

Conditions which can produce a false confession include: duress, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, sleep deprivation, manipulation, threats, denial of counsel, and failure to read Miranda rights.

Dzhokhar was interrogated by a team which uses military, not civilian, criteria. His requests for a lawyer were denied. He was sleep deprived, handcuffed, and dosed with Fentanyl, a narcotic 40 times more powerful than heroin. He wrote (sometimes incoherent) answers to questions. Those questions have not been provided for the defense counsel or jury’s inspection.

Robel was interrogated numerous times without a lawyer. A “good agent” offered to protect him from the “bad agents” waiting outside the door to hurt him. At the trial, one of the interrogating agents actually admitted his job is to “get confessions,” er, that is, “get at the truth.”

Missie Baker of TBMB writes “…the scenario most likely to lead to a false confession… occurs when the interrogator is convinced the individual is guilty.” Also: “The police may feed the suspect bits of information which (can then be) incorporated into a confession.”

This TBMB article also contains the tale of an innocent Muslim who made a false confession in the wake of 9/11. Among the reasons for his confession were threats to the safety of his family, which one cannot rule out in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Isn’t it odd that his interrogators led him to believe that his brother was still alive?)

IP, PCM and TBMB agree that ALL interrogations should be electronically recorded. The police magazine states that universal recording “is not only feasible, but may have an overall benefit to the criminal justice system.”

I’m sure that most police and most attorneys are honest and committed to justice. But our legal system can be abused, and often is … especially when the suspects are not rich, and not members of “favored” groups. And, most especially when the suspects are accused of terrorism.

SBA Spokesman Terry Sutherland’s Halloween Costume Is The Invisible Man

By: Lloyd Chapman Friday October 31, 2014 11:35 am

SBA Press Office Director Terry Sutherland has become invisible to the press in one of the biggest whirlwinds of fraud and controversy the SBA has faced in quite some time.

Over the last few months the SBA has been hit with one bad story after another and yet Terry Sutherland who admitted he was “assigned” to take over the SBA Press Office is nowhere to be found. As one of the Pentagon’s top public relations executives for over two decades, Sutherland was likely selected to do damage control on the widely reported diversion of billions of dollars in federal small business contras to Fortune 500 firms and hundreds of the largest corporations in the world.

Sutherland did not accompany SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in a congressional hearing where members of the House Small Business Committee lambasted her for including billions in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Chevron.

Sutherland has also had no response for journalists after SBA Inspector General uncovered that the SBA significantly inflated their small business goal statistics by including billions of dollars’ worth of contracts to ineligible firms.

Terry Sutherland had no comment on a story published by the Washington Post titled, “How 8,500 large companies will become small businesses overnight.”

In August, the SBA was forced to release over 2000 of Sutherlands emails after they were requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the American Small Business League (ASBL). Sutherland’s emails seem to indicate he actually works out of his home and not SBA headquarters and is still closely associated to the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. The ASBL intends to intensify their FOIA campaign to uncover more information on Terry Sutherland, the SBA Press Office and other SBA executives. We expect to uncover evidenced the SBA Press Office is working to discourage journalists from reporting on the rampant fraud that has been uncovered at the Pentagon in a wide variety of SBA managed programs.

I am confident once we receive all of Sutherland’s emails and phone records we will likely prove the SBA Press Office has also launched a major campaign in conjunction with one or more of the largest public relations firms in Washington to keep journalists from reporting on the ASBL’s successful campaign to expose fraud and abuse in federal small business programs primarily at the Pentagon and do everything possible to keep me off national television.

I have heard first hand accounts from journalists how the SBA Press Office will use a wide variety in tactics such as conference calls to intimidate and threaten journalists and their tactics to kill stories on the rampant fraud that has been uncovered by the SBA’s own Inspector General, the GAO and virtually every television news channel such as NBCCBSABCRTTVCNNMSNBCCNBC and Fox News.

Several journalists has published stories agreeing with me that there is a definite plan to quietly close the SBA by combining it with the Department or Commerce or by raising small business size standards to such a high level that federal small business programs will essentially be dismantled and legitimate small businesses will be driven from the federal market place.

My goal is to get enough information on the SBA under the Freedom of Information Act to get the FBI and the General Accounting Office to conduct a thorough investigation of the SBA to find the specific individuals that have been responsible for cheating American small businesses out of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts for over 15 years.

Thousands of people in Washington like Terry Sutherland think of they are automatically American heroes just because they were in the military. My goal is to educate all the flag waving Pentagon types that cheating the American people out of the trillions of dollars in federal contracts they should be receiving by law is anything but patriotic.

Stories about fraud, waste and missing trillions at the Pentagon have become common. Like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on September 10, 2001, when he described how America’s real enemies are not outside our borders, “The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes. Not the civilians, but the systems. Not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them.”

My guess is even after Halloween is over Terry Sutherland is going to try and stay invisible. I’m going to continue to use the Freedom of Information Act to make sure Terry and everything at the SBA and the Pentagon are as transparent as possible.

Louisiana health officials deserve a Darwin Award for catastrophic stupidity

By: Masoninblue Friday October 31, 2014 11:28 am

Cross posted from the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

Good morning:

I nominate Louisiana health officials for a Darwin Award. In what has to be one of the most insanely stupid, anti-science and fear driven decisions ever made, Louisiana health officials have decided to sabotage the world’s best hope for the discovery of a cure for Ebola and other hemorrhagic and tropical diseases as well as the development and implementation of practical and effective policies for dealing with outbreaks of those diseases.

Yes, I kid you not. The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is scheduled to have its annual conference at the Sheraton New Orleans this weekend, but the researchers who have spent time in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone studying the outbreak recently will not be attending the conference because, if they do, the Louisiana health officials are going to quarantine them in their rooms for 21 days.

NPR reports,

Dr. Piero Olliaro had big plans for the conference.

“This is the place to be,” says Olliaro, a researcher at Oxford University who specializes in setting up clinical trials to test drugs in the developing world. “It’s once a year. This is where you get to meet all the others.”

Olliaro was going to present several papers on his recent work involving treatments for malaria and river blindness. But two weeks ago he was in Guinea for the World Health Organization scouting a site to test an experimental Ebola medication.

Yesterday Olliaro got a letter from the Louisiana health department saying that anyone who’d been in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea in the past 21 days would be quarantined.

The letter goes on to say, “We see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans simply to be confined to your room.”

Fear is the mind killer.

We will never know, but the inspiration for a cure to Ebola that might have come from the cross-fertilization of ideas that occurs at meetings like this one will not happen for another year.

Meanwhile, the catastrophic suffering and loss of life will continue to increase exponentially.

In Case You Were Wondering What Folks Who Rate Subprime MBS as AAA Think of the Creditworthiness of the U.S. Government

By: Dean Baker Friday October 31, 2014 5:53 am

The Washington Post has the answer. It devotes an article to Moody’s assessment of the financial situation of the U.S. government.

Most people probably know of Moody’s as one of the credit rating agencies that were paid tens of millions of dollars to rate mortgage backed securities as investment grade during the housing bubble years. It’s not clear when its assessment of creditworthiness supposedly became more credible.

Anyhow, the ostensible good news is that Moody’s says we don’t have anything to immediately worry about, the debt to GDP ratio is coming down for now.

“But — and you knew this was coming — there are dark clouds on the horizon. By 2018, the ratings agency expects annual deficits once again to surpass 3 percent of the size of the economy and to keep getting bigger. By 2030, debt held by outside investors is on track to rise from the current 75 percent of the size of the economy to 88 percent, an alarming increase that ‘likely would bring negative pressure’ on the nation’s sterling AAA credit rating.”

Moody’s then gives us a number of suggestions that include cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits in order to avert this rise in the debt to GDP ratio to 88 percent. If you were wondering how bad it is to have a debt to GDP ratio of 88 percent, it is not a difficult question to answer. It turns out that there are many countries who already have debt to GDP ratios that are higher than the ratio that Moody’s is warning we could hit in 2030 if we’re not good.

There is Italy with a debt to GDP ratio of 136.7 percent and Spain with a debt to GDP ratio of 98.6 percent, according to the I.M.F. Even worse, we have Japan with a debt to GDP ratio of 245.1 percent. Even our good friends across the pond in the United Kingdom have a debt to GDP ratio of 92.0 percent.

Needless to say the markets are punishing these countries for their fiscal recklessness. As of October 30th, Spain had to pay an interest rate of 2.16 percent on its 10-year bonds, profligate Italy paid 2.46 percent. The United Kingdom had to pay 2.23 percent and Japan, hold your breath, had to pay 0.47 percent interest.

Look, we have real problems. Millions of people still can’t find jobs and the weak labor market is redistributing income upward. And we should be worried about global warming. This stuff about long-term budgets is just brought to you by Jeff Bezos and his Wall Street friends because they want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

No one should be taking economic advice from folks who rate subprime mortgage backed securities AAA.

#FixEurope Autumn Campus: Nourishing Ideas

By: GREYDOG Friday October 31, 2014 5:50 am

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

Activists and young intellectuals from across Europe came from all directions and gathered in the heart of Europe, at a centuries-old castle near Berlin, Schloss Wartin, for the #FixEurope Autumn Campus. European Alternatives, who organized the meeting, set up the agenda to discuss problems that Europe faces and find possible “solutions” that might bring about a better future for all of us. We shared, we learned, we explored, and most importantly, we discussed all kinds of issues that Europe is facing today.

Dozens of people gathered around a table of vegetarian grill raised their glasses to a better future in the hopes of a more complete Europe. People seemed eager to discuss matters that they think are vital for the future of the continent, and suddenly it seemed to become much easier to solve any problem the old continent might have. Once the path to discussion and dialogue is open, rational people should be able to find a way to overcome whatever problems are affecting the whole area and be able to give an answer to those who claim that there can never be an answer.

When participants were asked to simply note down the things they think need fixing in Europe, the list just went on and on. The list was getting almost as long as the history of the castle. Yet in fact this should not discourage any Europhile. It is merely an opportunity to see what happens when there is a very unilateral understanding of integration and of the European unification plan.

Our delightful host’s food was served in the main hall, and as we waited impatiently while enjoying tunes from the piano, one wondered at how many new ideas were popping up in everyone’s head at that moment. Every single minute was inspirational among this group of creative and impressive people in a calm and quiet atmosphere, without an Internet connection. Ideas actually got jotted down and new ones spread around on the tables – faster than the circulation of the food, I must say.

Issues that are swept from attention, things that people perhaps had not paid enough attention to previously, were brought up on the agenda. For once we could spare all the time in the world for a few days, as there was no WiFi zone to bring us the distraction of the “unread 666 messages.” Glasses and bottles clinked, new ideas kept popping up right in the middle of the sounds of nature. Much-needed peace and tranquility surrounded the activists. In the darkness and cold of the night, old projects were talked of, bringing about new project proposals.

The premiere of the Transeuropa Caravan took place at the castle with the participation of all the activists on the campus. There’s no need to add that it was inspirational, revealing certain local problems that parts of Europe experience and that most other parts would not even hear of were it not for such initiatives for bringing Europe closer to all its citizens.

We had gathered in Berlin with one major aim: to target and tackle problems that affect Europe in general. We left Schloss Wartin with thousands of new ideas and a great deal of inspiration and motivation to get to work. The end of the Campus was a joyful ride back to the Berlin city center, where we had the chance to attend a conference at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, which opened with a keynote speech by Saskia Sassen. She talked about all the crisis moments that we can see very clearly all around us, especially the housing bubble and gentrification tactics in most major cities. Sustainability has become one of the primary topics for us all.

After all the talks and discussions, we the activists of European Alternatives at the #FixEurope Campus meeting, can agree with the slogans of the streets “this is still the beginning…”

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/