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Archive for the ‘WTF?’ Category

Go See ‘Blackfish’ Before Sea World Stops You

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 22, 2013

David Neiwert has the deets:

There’s an amazing and gripping new documentary out this week that — like The Cove — may prove to be at least a small turning point in how humans treat our fellow animals, wild and otherwise. It’s titled Blackfish, and it’s well worth your time.

And if the noises coming from Sea World — the chief target of the documentary — prove substantive, you may want to see it before it gets pulled from theaters under threat of lawsuit.

Blackfish is about an orca, Tilikum, at Sea World that since its capture off of Iceland in the early 1980s has killed three of its human trainers. It’s also about the basic cruelty of keeping orcas and other seagoing creatures in for-profit zoos.

Which is, of course, why Sea World’s owner is going all-out to kill the film:

In an unusual pre-emptive strike on the documentary “Blackfish,” set for release on Friday in New York and Los Angeles by Magnolia Pictures, SeaWorld Entertainment startled the film world last weekend by sending a detailed critique of the movie to about 50 critics who were presumably about to review it. It was among the first steps in an aggressive public pushback against the film, which makes the case, sometimes with disturbing film, that orca whales in captivity suffer physical and mental distress because of confinement. …

… It was also deliberating possible further moves, which might conceivably include informational advertising, a Web-based countercampaign or perhaps a request for some sort of access to CNN, which picked up television rights to “Blackfish” through its CNN Films unit and plans to broadcast the movie on Oct. 24.

… Asked whether SeaWorld was contemplating legal action against the film, G. Anthony Taylor, the general counsel, said decisions about any such step would have to wait until executives were able to more closely assess the movie. “Blackfish” made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January and has since screened at other festivals in the United States and abroad.

Sea World makes eight largely-bogus assertions (at least one of which, the claim that orcas live longer in captivity than in the wild, is an outright lie) that the filmmakers have dealt with here and here.

Neiwert adds this:

And let’s not forget just who those owners are: None other than our right-wing friends at the Blackstone Group, well noted for their attempts in cahoots with the Koch Brothers to astroturf such campaigns as “Social Security reform”, and whose CEO notably compared President Obama to Hitler for having the audacity to raise taxes on him and his fellow 1 percenters.

Aggravate these clowns, and go see Blackfish — soon. Here’s a list of screenings.

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Dutch Catholic Church rocked by castration scandal

Posted by Charles II on April 4, 2012

Via Scott Horton, an article by Leo Cendrowicz in TimeWorld:

The newspaper [NRC Handelsblad] said the castrations [which were done in the 1950s] were regarded both as a treatment for homosexuality as well as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse. The newspaper said 20-year-old Henk Heithuis had been surgically castrated on the instructions of Catholic priests in 1956 after he told police he was being abused at the Harreveld boarding school in Gelderland. Although the monks were convicted of the abuse, Heithuis was nonetheless sent to a Catholic psychiatric hospital and then castrated. He died two years later in a car crash. The newspaper adds there are strong indications that at least nine other young men were castrated around the same time, either for whistle-blowing or for supposed homosexuality.

There are also allegations that the practice was known to politicians at the highest level, including Victor Marijnen, who was Dutch Prime Minister from 1963 to ’65. In the 1950s, Marijnen was vice chairman of the Dutch Catholic child-protection agency and chairman of the Gelderland children’s home where Heithuis and others were abused. In that capacity, he intervened to have prison sentences dropped against several priests convicted of abusing children by writing letters to the Queen on their behalf.

Yes, they’re allegations until proven.

Posted in WTF? | 1 Comment »

Inventor of pepper spray denounces its use by police

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2011

One of the people who developed pepper spray in its weaponized uses for the FBI, Kamran Loghman, was so shocked by what he saw at UC Davis and in Seattle that he denounced the manner in which police are using it. He is the recipient of three patents, but has done everything from film making to martial arts to “alternative treatments for addiction and alcohol disorder.”

Here’s the summary from DemocracyNow:

We speak with Kamran Loghman, the expert who developed weapons-grade pepper-spray, who says he was shocked at how police have used the chemical agent on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide — including students at University of California, Davis, female protesters in New York City, and an 84-year old activist in Seattle. “I saw it and the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t police or students, it was my own children sitting down having an opinion and they’re being shot and forced by chemical agents,” says Loghman, who in the 1980s helped the FBI develop weapons-grade pepper -spray, and collaborated with police departments to develop guidelines for its use. “The use was just absolutely out of the ordinary and it was not in accordance with any training or policy of any department that I know of. I personally certified 4,000 police officers in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and I have never seen this before. That’s why I was shocked… I feel is my civic duty to explain to the public that this is not what pepper spray was developed for.”

He makes the point that pepper spray is ideal in the situation where a policeman is trying to subdue someone out of his mind on PCP, where the person who is pepper-sprayed can be decontaminated shortly thereafter. To use it on people who are sitting on the ground is unquestionably an abuse–a form of torture–and completely irresponsible in a situation where the police don’t have any clear means to decontaminate the person within a reasonable period of time. Two people at UC Davis were hospitalized. I suspect that these out-of-spec usages are likely to expose significant long-term damage, including permanent scarring of the airways and esophagus.

The idiots from Fox News called capsicum a “food product.” Well, yeah. So is LSD, opium, and atropine, all of which are dangerous when used in inappropriate dosages. Arsenic is natural, and aflatoxin is organic. What’s your point, Fox?

Posted in abuse of power, Fox Noise, Occupy movement, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Inventor of pepper spray denounces its use by police

Occupy Gretchen Morgenson

Posted by Charles II on October 14, 2011

Jeff Madrick and Frank Partnoy, writing in The New York Review of Books, call out Gretchen Morgensen and Joshua Rosner for their egregious attempt to re-write the history of the financial crisis:

Along with many other experts, the nine members pointed to considerable evidence that, despite large losses, these government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac], as they are known, bought or guaranteed too few highly risky loans, and did so too late in the 2000s, to cause the crisis. But in their new book, Reckless Endangerment, the New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson and mortgage securities analyst Joshua Rosner try to revive the issue of their responsibility.

The book boldly and passionately asserts that the risk-taking of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was a major element in causing the housing bubble. In particular, the authors blame the crisis on the goals set by the Clinton administration in the early 1990s to make lending “affordable” to more middle- and low-income home buyers. These goals were raised several times over the next dozen years so as to include more people, with the result that loans became cheaper. The authors write, “The homeownership drive helped to plunge the nation into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” They add, “How Clinton’s calamitous Homeownership Strategy was born, nurtured, and finally came to blow up the American economy is a story of greed and good intentions, corporate corruption and government support. (emphasis added)”

This bold claim, however, is not substantiated by persuasive analysis or by any hard evidence in the book.

The problem with this country is not the partisan tone of its politics. It’s that certain people feel empowered to lie with the certainty that they won’t suffer any repercussions. So, here’s my best effort to provide the appropriate repercussions: Morgenson and Rosner are liars.

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Posted in financial crisis, Media machine, mediawhores, WTF? | Comments Off on Occupy Gretchen Morgenson

Beneviolent Middle Kingdom

Posted by Charles II on August 23, 2011

Following up on the remarkable comment by the Chinese ambassador to South Africa to the effect that China is just a wonderful, peace-loving, benevolent trader bringing prosperity and culture to the benighted nations of the earth (assuming you ignore their actions in the Spratlys or Senkaku), this story emerges.

Briefly: Cosco, the Chinese shipper, chartered 17 or 18 ships from the Greek company DryShips and other companies owned by George Economou at a cost of half a billion dollars. Then the Chinese decided they didn’t want to pay for them. So, they didn’t. But they continued to use them, telling the world that it is withholding the money to maximize shareholder value.

Economou had one ship seized and several other Cosco ships have been “arrested” by other furious owners.

Presumably Cosco feels they’re getting screwed because the price of shipping dropped so radically after the onset of the Bush II Recession and that they’re playing hardball to get Dry Ships to re-negotiate. But maximizing shareholder value by freebooting whole container ships takes “poor socialization skills” to a whole new level.

By the way, the story of the remarkable 15th century circumnavigation of the earth by Zheng He, which the ambassador referred to, is not described quite as the ambassador would like. From Wikipedia: “a contemporary reported that Zheng He ‘walked like a tiger’ and did not shrink from violence when he considered it necessary to impress foreign peoples with China’s military might. … He also waged a land war against the Kingdom of Kotte in Ceylon, and he made displays of military force when local officials threatened his fleet in Arabia and East Africa.” The records of his voyages were all but obliterated, possibly because they were believed to have brought China disaster. In any case, an edict was issued (Hai jin), which severed Chinese communication from foreign nations and forced all coastal inhabitants to abandon their homes and move inland.

Posted in China, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | 9 Comments »

Shaving Washington with Occam’s Razor

Posted by Charles II on July 31, 2011

The general reaction that I hear about our current politics is that they’re all corrupt. In the colloquial sense, that’s probably true, although enough of those guys are lawyers that they’re careful to stay on the north side of the statutory line, Tom DeLay and his pals being the exception that proves the rule. But having met, dealt with, and especially watched a fair number of politicians over the years, I think there’s a better explanation.

What I notice is that politicians are, at least in person, charming people, but also narcissistic and shallow. They’re opportunists, constantly sniffing for a way to get ahead, and constantly seeking to ingratiate themselves. When they don’t have handlers around, they come out with stunning examples of ignorance. On Thom Hartmann, Bernie Sanders actually said that he doesn’t know what ALEC is. How can anyone in Democratic politics not have heard of ALEC? And Bernie Sanders is relatively engaged in the reality-based world. As we see, Michele Bachmann doesn’t even know where “the shot heard ’round the world” was fired. Is it really a surprise that so many politicians believe that lowering tax rates increases revenues, particularly when the Wall Street Journal and other respected publications tells them it’s so?

Predicting the consequences of the debt ceiling deal is not particularly complicated. In a normal year, the American economy grows by about 3%. Since our GDP is about $14T, that’s about $420B per year. At the moment, it’s more in the 1-2% range, or $140-$280B/year. So a debt deal that promises to cut $2.6T over ten years is promising to remove about $260B per year from the economy. Without any complicated calculations, this is enough to trigger a recession with almost certainty. Even in good times, this would cut the growth rate at a first approximation to about 1%. This is growth barely sufficient to keep up with normal population growth. So the debt ceiling deal is a bill essentially guaranteed to make the next ten years the worst American decade ever–with average growth worse even than 1930-39! And this is after perhaps the second worst decade ever. Growth from 2000-9 averaged 1.7%.

Now, it’s not quite that simple. Suppose this were a municipal budget. Cuts to police and fire are very likely not going to save money. Buildings that burn down do not produce tax revenue. Communities that have rising crime lose businesses. Other cuts may produce genuine savings. For example, police like to run up overtime as a means of improving their salaries. It’s fundamentally a corrupt practice, and stopping it could produce genuine savings.

So a lot matters about the details. In particular, politicians like to backload cuts because that puts it after the next election. They often have the goal of making sure that the total budget never declines, even if there are real cuts to programs favored by the opposition party. It’s very unlikely the Tea Party will fall for this.

But in this case, these considerations are probably less important than the long-term expectations that austerity creates. If you are a business dependent on consumers, are you more or likely to invest in the US? If you are a bondholder concerned about possible default of states and municipalities, do cuts in the federal budget increase or decrease your confidence? If you are a promising student, do you take the extra years to go to a four year college and grad school in hopes of getting a high-paying job? If you are a consumer, are you more or less willing to spend? So, the likelihood is that cuts of $260B/year will damage the economy by (SWAG) up to $400B.

Genuine austerity, in which programs are constantly reviewed to see if they are being run efficiently to deliver what the public wants is a good thing. One of FDR’s best points was his insistence on efficiency, since it created public trust that taxpayer dollars were being spent well. But fake austerity, where budget cuts are made for political reasons without regard to the long-term consequences? This is the kind of thing poorly-informed, narcissistic opportunists do.

It’s very difficult for me to get upset at Washington. These people will be reviled as the worst generation of politicians in our nation’s history: shallow, vain, grasping men (and some women) who– in a few short years– destroyed the strongest economy of the 20th century. Considering the verdict that history will deliver, any condemnation that I could add would seem gratuitous.

Posted in 'starving the beast', budget, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | Comments Off on Shaving Washington with Occam’s Razor

These Are The People Who Lobby For Tax Cuts

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 26, 2011

There seems to be a trend of sorts towards fawning thumbsucker press pieces devoted to talking up how the tiny minority of really rich people choose to practice conspicuous consumption, especially if it allows them to avoid interacting with their heirs and scions, packing them off and flying them out (instead of driving them, which of course entails spending time with them) to upscale summer camps in the Hamptons, or Maine, or Europe:

At Robert Lafleur Airport in Waterville, which is close to many of the private camps in the Belgrade Lake region of Maine, the assistant manager, Randy Marshall, brought on two extra people to help handle the traffic last weekend.

In Augusta, Mr. Kilmer usually creates a temporary lounge on parents’ weekend for the pilots and flight attendants who must wait for their clients to return from their children’s camps, so that they can depart later that afternoon. He has already received catering orders for return flights, which include fruit and sandwich trays for adults and sandwich boxes for younger siblings. One flier has already requested a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fruit cup with a single strawberry, a juice box, a banana and a cookie or brownie.

The popularity of private-plane travel is forcing many high-priced camps, where seven-week sessions can easily cost more than $10,000, to balance the habits of their parents against the ethos of simplicity the camps spend the summer promoting.

Meanwhile, there are camps out there for kids who likely don’t have parents at all, much less those capable of freely spending what would be a few months’ pay for half the people in this nation, and their wants and needs are a bit more elemental than a chartered private plane with in-flight catering:

Wish List

General Camp:
Camp truck
Copy machine
Flashlights
Batteries- various sizes
Bed linens
Sleeping bags
4+ Person tents
6+ Person tents
Bug spray
Sunscreen
Office supplies- copy paper, plain white small envelopes, stamps
Toiletries
Board games (Connect Four, Checkers, etc.)
Stickers and small game prizes
Paper goods (plates, cups, towels, napkins)
Plastic silverware
Industrial or restaurant size hand sanitizer

Arts & Crafts Department:
Construction paper
Markers
Crayons
Glue sticks
Craft supplies
Sewing supplies and fabric
Paint
Clay
Pottery paint, glaze and supplies

That’s a hint, folks.

Posted in WTF? | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on These Are The People Who Lobby For Tax Cuts

How Do Bachmann And Ryan Get Away With It?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 26, 2011

Look no further than the cowardly (and/or bought off) legacy media.

The thing about Bachmann and Ryan is that the mainstream press holds back the worst of their excesses. The press, for instance, doesn’t generally say flat-out that Ryan’s math is bullshit. And the worst stories about Bachmann — stories that could have kept her from winning her first election if the local corporate legacy media had reported them — were spiked.

But if either of these people were liberals, and tried to get away with such bullpucky, they’d have been laughed out of public life ages ago.

Once again: This is why I talk about the GOP/Media Complex.

Posted in GOP/Media Complex, IOKIYAR, Michele Bachmann, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, WTF? | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Tom Hackbarth: Adulterer, Girlfriend Stalker, Clinic Attack Plotter?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 25, 2010

It’s really, really hard to look at the recent exploits of Tom Hackbarth, the Republican state representative for District 48A (Cedar), and find an explanation that is anything other than creepy, if not downright sinister.

It seems that back on November 16, the anti-choice Hackbarth, who was openly carrying and displaying a loaded pistol on his waist, parked his truck next to the Planned Parenthood clinic on Ford Parkway in Highland Park. Since the clinic is under constant video and other surveillance in order to thwart attempts by anti-choicers to commit violence against it or the people who enter it, he was spotted immediately and police were on the scene to talk to him.

At that point, things got very interesting very quickly.

Hackbarth got very agitated when he was questioned at the scene, to the point where the cops thought it advisable to handcuff him and take away his gun — which, since he has a permit for concealed carry, was later returned to him. The cops described his behavior as like that of a stalker.

What was the eight-term legislator doing with a gun hanging around a Planned Parenthood clinic? Hackbarth, who says he is in the midst of a divorce, said he was looking for a woman he met online, someone he thought was cheating on him:

“She gave me some line of baloney, and I thought, ‘well, she’s fibbing to me.’ You could tell, and I thought, ‘well, I’m going to check it out.’ and I went there to see if she was around and her vehicle was not there.”

Interestingly enough, Hackbarth was unable to provide a phone number, street address, e-mail address, or even a last name for his internet girlfriend, whom he would only identify as “Linda”.

The incident has cost Hackbarth his position within the Republican leadership in the House, at least for now. We’ll see what happens next.

Posted in IOKIYAR, Minnesota, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | 2 Comments »

Whole Foods’ John Mackey Is Scum. Discuss.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 23, 2010

Tip of the hat to Blue Texan for passing this along:

Last August, John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, sparked outrage in the liberal blogosphere and a customer boycott by publishing a full-throated critique of Obamacare on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. He argued that the country should “move in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment,” and held up Whole Foods’ own health plan as an alternative: “Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.”

But it turns out that Mackey’s claims, which also fueled conservative opposition to the Democrats’ health-care bill, were misleading. In a memo that he sent to all employees last month, obtained by Mother Jones, Mackey concedes that Whole Foods is actually sinking under the weight of its health care expenses. In the past seven years, he writes, the cost of the company’s health care plan as a percentage of its sales has gone up 60 percent. This year’s tab is “equal to about 10% of the total Team Member compensation of $2 billion,” Mackey complains. “On average over the past three years we have spent more on health care costs than we have made in total net profits!”

It gets worse from there. Mackey pleads poverty and plans to cut back on coverage — even as Whole Foods profits shot up 58% in its latest quarter.

And yes, he’s a libertarian, in case you were wondering.

Posted in health care, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

 
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