* EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WALL STREET, IN ONE BRIEF TALE
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
If there was ever a news story that crystalized the moral dementia of modern Wall Street in one little vignette, this is it.
Newspapers in Colorado today are reporting that the elegant Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado, will be closed to the public from today through Monday at noon.
Why? Because some local squire has apparently decided to rent out all 94 rooms of the hotel for three-plus days for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
The hotel’s general manager, Tony DiLucia, would say only that the party was being thrown by a “nice family,” but newspapers are now reporting that the Daddy of the lucky little gal is one Jeffrey Verschleiser, currently an executive with Goldman, Sachs.
At first, I couldn’t remember where I knew that name from. But then I looked it up and saw an explosive Atlantic magazine story, published last year, called, “E-mails Suggest Bear Stearns Cheated Clients Out Of Millions.” And then I remembered that piece, and it hit me: Jeffrey Verschleiser is one of the biggest assholes in the entire world! […]
* THE YEAR OF RATIONAL PESSIMISM
By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate
NEW YORK – Someone recently quipped that the best thing about 2011 was that it was likely better than 2012. By the same token, while there has been much concern about America’s political gridlock, something worse for America, and for the world, could have happened: the Republicans could have prevailed in their program of austerity-cum-redistribution to the wealthy. Automatic cuts won’t happen until 2013, which means that the economy in 2012 will be spared, ever so slightly.
Two more positive notes for 2011: America seems finally to have awakened to the yawning gap between the rich and the rest – between the top 1% and everyone else. And youth-led protest movements, from the Arab Spring to the Spanish indignados and the Occupy Wall Streeters, have made clear that something is very wrong with the capitalist system.
The likelihood, though, is that the economic and political problems that were so manifest in the US and Europe in 2011 – and which have so far been tremendously mismanaged – will only grow worse in 2012. Any forecast for the coming year depends, more than usual, on politics – on the outcome of the US gridlock, and on European leaders’ ability to respond to the euro crisis. Economic forecasts are difficult enough; but when it comes to political forecasts, our crystal balls are even cloudier. That said, here is my best guess.
European leaders repeatedly proclaim their commitment to saving the euro, but those who could have repeatedly said that they are committed to not doing what is needed. They have recognized that austerity will mean slower growth – indeed, a recession is increasingly likely – and that, without growth, the eurozone’s distressed countries will not be able to manage their debts. But they have done nothing to promote growth. They are on a death spiral. […]
* SHOULD THE TIMES BE A TRUTH VIGILANTE?
By Arthur S. Brisbane, NYTimes
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.
Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage. […]
* ARTHUR BRISBANE AND SELECTIVE STENOGRAPHY
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
The New York Times‘ Public Editor Arthur Brisbane unwittingly sparked an intense and likely enduring controversy yesterday when he pondered — as though it were some agonizing, complex dilemma — whether news reporters “should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.” That’s basically the equivalent of pondering in a medical journal whether doctors should treat diseases, or asking in a law review article whether lawyers should defend the legal interests of their clients, etc.: reporting facts that conflict with public claims (what Brisbane tellingly demeaned as being “truth vigilantes”) is one of the defining functions of journalism, at least in theory. Subsequent attempts to explain what he meant, along with a response from the NYT‘s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, will only add fuel to the fire.
Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky both have excellent analyses of the Brisbane controversy — which, as they point out, sparked such intense reaction because it captured and inflamed long-standing anger toward media outlets for mindlessly amplifying statements without examining whether they’re true. As Stephen Colbert put it in his still-extraordinary 2006 speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home.” While reporters typically react with fury over the suggestion that they are stenographers, Brisbane was essentially posting that this is all they are, and then earnestly wondering aloud whether they should be anything more than that, as though it was some sort of exotic or edgy suggestion.
That most reporters faithfully follow the stenographer model — uncritically writing down what people say and then leaving it at that — is so obvious that it’s hardly worth the effort to demonstrate it. There are important exceptions to this practice even at the most establishment media outlets, where diligent and intrepid investigative journalism exposes the secret corruption of the most powerful. But by and large, most establishment news coverage consists of announcing that someone or other has made some claim, then (at most) adding that someone else has made a conflicting claim, and then walking away. This isn’t merely the practice of journalists; rather, as Rosen points out, it’s virtually their religion. They simply do not believe that reporting facts is what they should be doing. Recall David Gregory’s impassioned defense of the media’s behavior in the lead-up to the Iraq War, when he rejected complaints that journalists failed to document falsehoods from Bush officials because “it’s not our role“ and then sneered that only an ideologue would want them to do so (shortly thereafter, NBC named Gregory the new host of Meet the Press). […]
* DOWNTOWN WILL BE ON LOCKDOWN DURING NATO, G-8 SUMMITS
By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times
A large security perimeter will prevent motorists from driving and parking on some downtown streets during the NATO and G-8 summits, but the host committee agreed Wednesday to cover the cost of lost parking meter revenues.
The 75-year, $1.15 billion lease that privatized Chicago parking meters requires the city to compensate the concessionaire — at the newly increased downtown rate of $5.75 an hour — whenever metered spaces are temporarily taken out of commission.
In the case of the May 19-21 event expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders to McCormick Place, that compensation could be substantial.
Specific boundaries will be dictated by the U.S. Secret Service and won’t be known until four weeks before the event. But city officials acknowledged Wednesday that parts of the downtown area would be off-limits to motorists to protect visiting dignitaries. […]
* OCCUPY SAN DIEGO: ARRESTED FR FELONY COMSPIRACY
By Horace Boothroyd III, Daily Kos
At the Mayor’s State of the City Address at least three members of Occupy San Diego were arrested for felony conspiracy when they mic checked the Mayor.
What is felony conspiracy you ask?
182. (a) If two or more persons conspire:
(1) To commit any crime.
(2) Falsely and maliciously to indict another for any crime, or to
procure another to be charged or arrested for any crime.
(3) Falsely to move or maintain any suit, action, or proceeding.
(4) To cheat and defraud any person of any property, by any means
which are in themselves criminal, or to obtain money or property by
false pretenses or by false promises with fraudulent intent not to
perform those promises.
(5) To commit any act injurious to the public health, to public
morals, or to pervert or obstruct justice, or the due administration
of the laws.
(6) To commit any crime against the person of the President or
Vice President of the United States, the Governor of any state or
territory, any United States justice or judge, or the secretary of
any of the executive departments of the United States.
Did anyone see the above occurring in the video below? I sure missed it
183. No conspiracies, other than those enumerated in the preceding
section, are punishable criminally.
I’m sure that the mayor and the police did not read this as there is nothing about embarrassing a public figure in this list of felonious acts. Again the police make up a faux crime to justify the suppression of free, abet inconvenient, speech. As you can see in the video the Occupiers did not make a disruption that prevented the mayor from performing his speech. They only mic checked enough to make their voices heard and stopped. […]
* MONSANTO: A TRUE STORY
Monsanto is the sad story of imbecile opportunists trying to get wealthy off of a very bad idea:
Scientists know more than anyone else that Earth is a very fragile place. We thought stories like Monsanto only happened under regimes such as Hitler’s or Stalin’s. Never could we have imagined that the problem would actually be caused by our fellow citizens at home. Its’ not like people haven’t heard about Monsanto; there is just as much information about the issue, as there is disinformation. This is the Information Age we live in, we have to dig to find out lies, no matter how ridiculed they are by the “Corporatized” status quo; a status quo which obviously prefers to consume and debilitate our Global Village. They do that, instead of actually promoting a better way of life for all Earthlings. The same stupidity and myopic visions caused the mass Nazi graves, and has hid from Americans, that America has killed more people than Nazis and Communists, combined. That is the problem with money; it can turn an absolute blind eye on issues, no matter how out of hand those issues become (and no matter the flag or political ideology). The People can resist, but eventually after enough bombs and dead family members, they give in to Capitalist hope. That is the systemic reoccurrence some professors chose to mention about Capitalism; eventually, no matter the system, as long as it is Capitalist (meaning the use of monetary trade and wealth accumulation/property ownership) turns to Fascism. The basic principle of owning property leads to Fascism, a good example of that, is slavery in America.
I finally found out the truth about Monsanto on a French/German Channel called Arte(through a friend of mine); and since I never write articles unless I am absolutely certain of what I have to say, here are the fruits I bear. […]
* ARE PESTICIDES BEHIND MASSIVE BEE DIE-OFFS?
By Tom Pilpott, MotherJones
For the German chemical giant Bayer, neonicotinoid pesticides—synthetic derivatives of nicotine that attack insects’ nervous systems—are big business. In 2010, the company reeled in 789 million euros (more than $1 billion) in revenue from its flagship neonic products imidacloprid and clothianidin. The company’s latest quarterly report shows that its “seed treatment” segment—the one that includes neonics—is booming. In the quarter that ended on September 30, sales for the company’s seed treatments jumped 28 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
Such results no doubt bring cheer to Bayer’s shareholders. But for honeybees—whose population has come under severe pressure from a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder—the news is decidedly less welcome. A year ago on Grist, I told the story of how this class of pesticides had gained approval from the EPA in a twisted process based on deeply flawed (by the EPA’s own account) Bayer-funded science. A little later, I reported that research by the USDA’s top bee scientist, Jeff Pettis, suggests that even tiny exposure to neonics can seriously harm honeybees.
Now a study from Purdue University researchers casts further suspicion on Bayer’s money-minting concoctions. To understand the new paper—published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One—it’s important to know how seed treatments work, which is like this: The pesticides are applied directly to seeds before planting, and then get absorbed by the plant’s vascular system. They are “expressed” in the pollen and nectar, where they attack the nervous systems of insects. Bayer targeted its treatments at the most prolific US crop—corn—and since 2003, corn farmers have been blanketing millions of acres of farmland with neonic-treated seeds. […]
* FIXING AMERICA’S FOOD PROBLEM
By John Olen, Economy in Crisis
Recent recalls of contaminated beef have placed food safety back on the radar of many Americans. Food safety incidents such as this should have Americans looking at the weaknesses in the food delivery system. One of the biggest weaknesses related to our food safety is our inability to properly check the increasingly large amount of food entering the country. This leaves Americans vulnerable to chemicals, drugs, and disease at the home dinner table.
With its current system, the United States is failing to properly protect the food its citizens eat. We import nearly 20 percent of all the food that we consume; yet we check less than 2 percent of the food coming into this country. This discrepancy leaves the door wide open for outbreaks of disease, or the possibility of adverse effects down the road from chemical contaminants.
There are certain foods that we get almost exclusively from overseas. We now import more than 80 percent of our shrimp and other seafood. Two thirds of our fruits and vegetables also come from foreign sources. These are far from fringe items, meaning that Americans encounter them on a daily basis, but are largely unaware of their source or their safety. […]