Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Terrorists Have Won" (Internal Mainly As The External Ones Are Largely Imaginary) "Hedge Fund Republic" - "Praise Junkies": Uniquely American

Listen to this fine jam between Gregg and Dickie while you read this essay. You'll be appreciative of these blues by the end (if you can't really see it now). P.S. These guys vote liberal/progressive. From my buddy at Living Lies we get the unvarnished truth about that sacred mortgage chain of ownership that used to be ensured legally by title companies of integrity. Remember Title Insurance? You know, that policy you used to have to buy at closing because it ensured that the proper chain of ownership had been maintained to your new prize possession? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Casablanca anyone? Pandora’s box is opening. Here is where the pedal hits the metal. The people at the closing knew full well about the securitization of the receivable, knew full well that they weren’t preparing any documents of transfer of the mortgage, knew full well that the money wasn’t coming from the pretender lender on the mortgage papers, and should have known that the standard underwriting practices were not being followed because they were getting instructions from third parties. Their agent frequently was the closing and escrow agent. And their policy of title insurance is supposed to cover the quality of title — after a detailed examination of the title record and the proposed transaction. TITLE COMPANIES ARE THE HIDDEN “RATING AGENCIES” AND SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE TITLE CHAOS THAT NOW CLOUDS OVER 60 MILLION TRANSACTIONS SPANNING A DECADE.

When you go to the airport, do you have any faith in those poorly-paid, sad agents of TSA who are going to safeguard your flight by subjecting everyone to a massive invasion of privacy? No? Join the crowd. And if you hadn't figured it out yet . . . Richard Forno will assist you. And I'm sure you've thought of this yourself, but exactly where was that term "Homeland" used so pointedly and viciously before? (And, gee, if even Matt the Neo-Addled has put two and two together . . . I guess this means "a change is gonna come" now that even rightwingnuts (including Kathleen Parker!) are riled up.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
"The Terrorists Have Won"
'Porno Scanner' Scandal Shows the Idiocy of America's Zero Risk Culture By Richard Forno November 18, 2010 The lede on the Drudge Report most of Monday showed a Catholic nun being patted down at an airport security checkpoint, with the caption starkly declaring that "The Terrorists Have Won." He's right.

Ten years after 9/11, Americans who fly are facing a Faustian choice between subjecting themselves to a virtual (and potentially medically damaging) strip search conducted in questionable machines run by federal employees or a psychologically damaging pat-down of their bodies.

Osama bin Ladin must be giggling himself silly this week. But what should we expect in a society that requires adults to wear bicycle helmets while pedaling in the park, provides disclaimers of liability on TV advertisements, or prints warnings on fast-food coffee cups? The name of the game is zero risk. Not risk mitigation, or accepting responsibility for one's actions, but risk aversion. It's a failure to acknowledge that we can't protect against everything bad that can happen to us, so we must protect against everything we think might -- might - be harmful at some point.

It's living in fear. TSA has established itself as the lead federal agency charged with perpetuating this risk-averse culture at airports around the country. The proof is evident over the past ten years:

Because of the Shoebomber, we have to remove our shoes. Thanks to the Christmas Crotchbomber, we are subjected to invasive scanning or government-mandated molestation. Because there's a potential for explosives in liquid or gel form, we've got the "Three Ounces in A Baggie" rule. Wearing a sweater or bulky fleece hoodie? Take it off (along with your shoes and belt) so it can be examined. Or frisking Granny, or asking toddlers to drink from their Sippy-cups to make sure it's really Mommy's milk inside. And let's not forget the thankfully defunct prohibitions on knitting needles, insulin syringes, matches, lighters, or standing during the last 30 minutes of flights to Washington, DC.

All in the name of protecting the homeland. Given this latest round of homeland hysteria, I must ask again - what happens after the next 'new' attempt to smuggle something onto a plane? Actually, we know the answer: another item will go on the Prohibited Items List and additional screenings of passengers will be conducted, followed by more patronising security-speak from our Department of Homeland Insecurity asking law-abiding folks to give up more of their privacy and personal "space" in the interest of Homeland (er, "State") Security.

Big Brother, meet Big Sister. With all her Homeland Security Lobbyists along for the ride. Where does it end?

Due to this nationalised risk aversion and a docile public, we're now living in a country that subordinates law abiding travelers to quasi-law-enforcement employees of a government agency empowered to make up the rules as it goes along and arrest/fine those who question, challenge, or refuse to comply with their demands while impeding their travel within this great country. What does all of this do to our nation? Our way of life? Our way of thinking as citizens?

Perhaps this is intentional, and we're being conditioned to accept the actions of TSA and embrace a zero-risk mentality on our society. What else can explain the statement made earlier today by TSA Director John Pistole that citizens who protest what they see as government transgressions into their privacy are being "irresponsible"? Calling us irresponsible when protesting this latest round of TSA actions is no different than our being labelled unpatriotic when protesting or questioning some of the provisions in the controversial USA PATRIOT Act. Same stuff, different Administration.

The American public needs to recognise the nature of the terror threat and accept a certain level of risk in their lives and travels instead of kowtowing to every reactive security 'enhancement' proclaimed by TSA as necessary to protect the country. In terms of airport security, we are the laughing stock of the industrialised world, and an embarrassment to knowledgeable security professionals.

The tragedy of 9/11 wasn't the attacks of that day, but what has happened to America in the years since. Which begs the question: who should we be afraid of, really - "them" or "us?"


The TSA’s “porno scanners” are a gross invasion of privacy. After the House voted down invasive porno scanners, the TSA ignored the will of Congress and bought the machines anyway, wasting $25 million in stimulus funds to create just a single job. Sign the Petition: Investigate the TSA

(Richard Forno is a security researcher in the Washington, D.C. area.)

Some pretty knowledgeable commenters give the government boys a run for their logic money.

1. "The tragedy of 9/11 wasn't the attacks of that day, but what has happened to America in the years since." The tragedy of 9/11 was /is the OFFICIAL CONSPIRACY THEORY"

Period. 2. If Osama Bin Laden is laughing this week then someone must have dug him up and then physically moved his lips, cheeks, and belly because they guy has been dead for probably 6 years or more.

3. When will the nitwits stop talking about 'terrorists' and pay more attention to the clues that point to state sanctioned false flags:

"According to Haskell, upon landing the FBI prevented passengers from leaving the plane for 2 to 3 hours, and then they were moved to a crowded customs room. Haskel's states that 'During this time period, all of the passengers had their carry on bags with them. When the bomb sniffing dogs arrived, 1 dog found something in a carry on bag of a 30-ish Indian man. This is not the so called 'Sharp Dressed' man. I will refer to this man as 'The Man in Orange'. The Man in Orange, who stood some 20 ft away from me the entire time until he was taken away, was immediately taken away to be searched and interrogated in a nearby room. At this time he was not handcuffed. When he emerged from the room, he was then handcuffed and taken away. etc.' "

Don't look here for TSA support. I think they are the uniquely American version of Kristallnacht* (except that for us overachievers it has to happen over and over (before we finally get the point)).
Nick Kristof Wrongs Banana Republics!!!
Nick Kristof calls us (US) names. As well he should. And in the pages of the New York Times!
November 17, 2010 A Hedge Fund Republic? By Nicolas D. Kristof Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point. That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.

The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States. Since then, we’ve reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.

At a time of such stunning inequality, should Congress put priority on spending $700 billion on extending the Bush tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 a year? Or should it extend unemployment benefits for Americans who otherwise will lose them beginning next month?

One way to examine that decision is to put aside all ethical considerations and simply look at where tax dollars will do more to stimulate the economy. There the conclusion is clear: You get much more bang for the buck putting money in the hands of unemployed people because they will promptly spend it.

In contrast, tax cuts for the wealthy are partly saved — that’s both basic economic theory and recent history — so they are much less effective in creating jobs. For example, Republicans would give the richest 0.1 percent of Americans an average tax cut of $370,000. Does anybody really think that those taxpayers are going to rush out and buy Porsches and yachts, start new businesses, and hire more groundskeepers and chauffeurs?

In contrast, a study commissioned by the Labor Department during the Bush administration makes clear the job-creation power of unemployment benefits because that money is immediately spent. The study suggested that the current recession would have been 18 percent worse without unemployment insurance and that this spending preserved 1.6 million jobs in each quarter.

But there is also a larger question: What kind of a country do we aspire to be? Would we really want to be the kind of plutocracy where the richest 1 percent possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent?

Oops! That’s already us. The top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America’s private net worth, according to figures compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The bottom 90 percent owns just 29 percent. That also means that the top 10 percent controls more than 70 percent of Americans’ total net worth.

Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley who is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality, notes that for most of American history, income distribution was significantly more equal than today. And other capitalist countries do not suffer disparities as great as ours.

“There has been an increase in inequality in most industrialized countries, but not as extreme as in the U.S.,” Professor Saez said.

One of America’s greatest features has been its economic mobility, in contrast to Europe’s class system. This mobility may explain why many working-class Americans oppose inheritance taxes and high marginal tax rates. But researchers find that today this rags-to-riches intergenerational mobility is no more common in America than in Europe — and possibly less common.

I’m appalled by our growing wealth gaps because in my travels I see what happens in dysfunctional countries where the rich just don’t care about those below the decks. The result is nations without a social fabric or sense of national unity. Huge concentrations of wealth corrode the soul of any nation.

And then I see members of Congress in my own country who argue that it would be financially reckless to extend unemployment benefits during a terrible recession, yet they insist on granting $370,000 tax breaks to the richest Americans. I don’t know if that makes us a banana republic or a hedge fund republic, but it’s not healthy in any republic.

Of course, you've made plans to see Matt Damon in Inside Job, the documentary about how Wall Street brought down our economy? According to Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive, it "Is a Must See." I believe it. And I just got the word from Crooks and Liars that it doesn't matter that all of GM's recovery PR is sugarcoated pablum. Lucky babies! What matters is that jobs were saved stateside (as well as all the new jobs created overseas and in Mexico for the new GM!). NeoCons win again as we now get reduced wages along with increased taxes to pay for the long-planned-for bailout of the wealthy financiers. Yay for the auto titans! (And baby, have the NeoCons ever won!) Well, all righty then. We've even got Obama's smartest Yale Skull & Bones newbie (not so new anymore though) to explains it all to uz: Gotta love that whiteboard! And have you noticed the deterioration of what used to be the "smart" kids in America? Seems that praise is about the worst of the new drugs that are now being used to induce apathy and listlessness in once-smart students. My guess is that you don't praise everything. Just the undertakings that embrace having to put forth some real effort. One of my favorite writers, Po Bronson, explicates this syndrome for us in New York Magazine. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
Thomas hangs out with five friends from the Anderson School. They are “the smart kids.” Thomas’s one of them, and he likes belonging.

Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. Not just from his parents but from any adult who has come in contact with this precocious child. When he applied to Anderson for kindergarten, his intelligence was statistically confirmed. The school is reserved for the top one percent of all applicants, and an IQ test is required. Thomas didn’t just score in the top one percent. He scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.

But as Thomas has progressed through school, this self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, ‘I’m not good at this.’ ” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two — things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.

For instance, in the early grades, Thomas wasn’t very good at spelling, so he simply demurred from spelling out loud. When Thomas took his first look at fractions, he balked. The biggest hurdle came in third grade. He was supposed to learn cursive penmanship, but he wouldn’t even try for weeks. By then, his teacher was demanding homework be completed in cursive. Rather than play catch-up on his penmanship, Thomas refused outright. Thomas’s father tried to reason with him. “Look, just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you don’t have to put out some effort.” (Eventually, he mastered cursive, but not without a lot of cajoling from his father.)

Why does this child, who is measurably at the very top of the charts, lack confidence about his ability to tackle routine school challenges?

Thomas is not alone. For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

But a growing body of research — and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system — strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work — a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders — paints the picture most clearly.

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles — puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

Read on to find out how we might have been making our "smart" kids dumber. (No, sweetheart. I'm not picking on you. You are a very smart young woman. And all that whining about how difficult everything was has now paid off due to all of your hard work and unyielding efforts. Love, Mom) * The Times of London wrote at the time: "No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenceless and innocent people, which disgraced that country" . . . . Kristallnacht was followed by further economic and political persecution of Jews, and is viewed by historians as part of Nazi Germany's broader racial policy, and the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. ___________

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