Friday, July 16, 2010
by Jon Taplin
I have a suggestion for a nervous Democratic Party going into the November elections. They should run on a simple platform: End Corporate Welfare Now.
A story in this morning's New York Times brings this issue to Page One. The oil industry while ruthlessly fighting any sort of carbon tax, is the beneficiary of Billions in corporate welfare tax breaks and subsidies.
But an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.
According to the most recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 percent for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry.
It's not just Big Oil on corporate welfare. How about Big Agriculture.
The 2010 midterm elections are still four months away, but the drama has already kicked into high gear. The seemingly settled conventional wisdom would have us believe the Democrats are running for their lives, a perception that is reinforced by any number of polls indicating there are enough seats in play for the GOP to potentially retake majority control in the House. The Senate appears safe for the Democrats, according to these polls, but four months is a long time.
The idea that the GOP could take back the House was underscored on Sunday by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who went on "Meet The Press" and said, yeah, it could happen. House Democrats rose up in high dudgeon after Gibbs' remarks, not so much to say he was wrong but to say, hey guy, you're really not helping.
Before getting into how ridiculous it is that the Democrats could be in position to lose the House, it needs to be said that I don't believe it is going to happen. The Republican Party has become a preposterous farce, dominated by the likes of Sarah Palin and Michael Steele. The Tea Party movement is basically nothing more than a Trojan Horse filled with hard-core GOP base members whose views on everything from religion to the constitution to freedom of choice is not shared by roughly 75% of the general population.
They are the Taliban of American Christianity, and the only reason they have gotten so much ink is because the national press corps likes to take the easy way out whenever possible. Add to this the fact that the Tea Party has shot the GOP in the foot several times already by running off electable Republicans and nominating the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.
Apparently, Jenner has spent some time considering the current state of affairs in music. The former Cambridge University economics lecturer has some ideas on how the industry should proceed.
"Attempts to stop people [from] copying are clearly a waste of time," Jenner said on Wednesday at the Westminster eForum. "Not only are they a waste of time, they make the law offensive. It's very similar to prohibition in America in the 1930s."
The blog Music Ally covered the conference, and you can find more of what Jenner, 66, said there.
Written by enigmax
An anti-piracy group has revealed that when it comes to shutting down torrent sites, it is the undisputed king of the Internet. BREIN, which works on behalf of the Hollywood movie studios, says that not only has it shut down several Usenet indexers and streaming sites already in 2010, but hundreds of torrent sites too. There is torrent site carnage going on in The Netherlands and we've failed to report on any of it.
When it comes to reporting on BitTorrent-related news and issues, we try our very best to cover every angle here at TorrentFreak. Admittedly we can't cover everything and sometimes it's hard to constantly turn out positive articles which fill our readers with optimism that the Internet isn't about to taken over by evil corporate entities hell bent on web-wide file-sharing destruction.
Today, however, we have a big apology to make. We've let you all down and we've let ourselves down too by completely missing one of the biggest developing stories the BitTorrent world has ever known. We've totally neglected to cover what can only be described as a wholesale slaughter of file-sharing venues in The Netherlands, and for this we wholeheartedly apologize.
Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, who have previously given Mininova, The Pirate Bay, Demonoid and What.cd a hard time in varying degrees, have been busy. And when we say busy, we aren't messing around. During the last few months it's up for debate whether the group's staff have had time to sleep. If they've even stopped to eat it would be, frankly, somewhat of a surprise.
According to BREIN, which works mainly on behalf of the Hollywood studios but has branched out to work for other rightsholders in recent times, during the first half of 2010 it shut down a staggering 422 "illegal websites".
While the whole world was focused on the U.S. Government taking down less than 10 sites this year but making a huge song and dance about it, BREIN was quietly showing them how it's really done.
In addition to 5 Usenet indexers, 6 streaming sites, an FTP server, and 29 sites linking to material on one-click hosters, this most prolific and apparently effective of anti-piracy groups took down 384 torrent sites in the last 6 months. That's more than 2 torrent sites culled every day this year and we've failed to report on just about every one of them.
In an attempt to fill this gap, TorrentFreak contacted BREIN boss Tim Kuik for information but we didn't do very well at all. We were told that they aren't releasing the URLs of the sites since they only detail those that they take to court and naming them would only give them increased traction and popularity.
We also tried to find out their names through our own network but yet again we failed miserably. For this we apologize. A bloodbath going on under our noses, in our own community, we didn't even notice and we still can't give you details since it appears all the corpses have been buried in unmarked graves surrounded by a wall of silence.
The worst part is that this failing on our part is nothing new. All the signs were there a few months ago that BREIN was capable of carrying out yet another massacre in 2010, just as they did last year.
In 2009, BREIN said it shut down 35 eD2K servers, 38 streaming video sites and 14 Usenet portals/NZB sites. It also took responsibility for the destruction of an unprecedented 393 BitTorrent sites. We didn't notice, but strangely neither did anyone else.
So what were we able to find out about the closures?
"The take down most often takes place through the hosting provider," Kuik told TorrentFreak. "We also obtain identity details from the hosting providers but these sites tend to register under a false name. If the site changes to another hosting provider, we will contact that provider. In case all else fails we will go for blocking of the site by access providers. Currently there is court case pending about that."
If BREIN is allowed to continue this rampage there won't be any torrent sites left by 2012 and we'll be left with literally nothing to report on. TorrentFreak will die, but really we only have ourselves to blame. Nearly 800 torrent sites gone already and not a whisper from us? A shameful performance. We'll try to improve, for all our sakes.
By Ken Sundheim
I was poking around on the net and I published a blog post on a sales blog which had some comments asking as to why I only hire recent college graduates. The reason I hire recent college graduates and only recent college graduates is that they have not been ruined by corporate thinking. I need people who are really creative. If you give the right people certain goals and let them be creative as to how to get execute them, great things will happen. For marketing purposes, I need people who are great writers. The problem with this is that Corporate America, for the most part, does not know online marketing or social media. This is despite the fact that it is on all of their resumes. Because they do not know anything about this, they don't have their employees write.
Yes, I could hire someone who is great as writing and teach them online media, however they have a predisposition as to what good salesmanship should be.
Please don't misunderstand me, I do like when people tell me I'm wrong. As a matter of fact, I welcome that. However, I am young. I'm 29 years old and am putting a team together to make my company something great. Therefore, if I continue to add recent college graduates, I can properly mold them. I would never, in a million years, hire another recruiter.
So, how do I tell if recent college graduates will work hard? First, their education. I like students who have gotten into colleges which I did not get into. If a student graduated from a great school, that alludes to the fact that they may be hard, diligent workers. Yes, some students are extremely smart and got in through sheer intelligence. That's where grades come into the mix.
The AP and the "charging $12.50 to quote five words" meme
By Ryan Chittum
As I wrote last week, bloggers have repeatedly pumped the story that the AP charges us to quote its stories. Problem is, that story's just false and has been so since the meme first arose two years ago.
So how did this zombie lie come to be and why can't we put it to rest?
Danny Sullivan pointed out in comments that the AP has a somewhat-confusing copyright-licensing scheme (a third party service called iCopyright) linked at the bottom of each story. But that's no excuse for savvy blogs like techdirt and TechCrunch to repeat what they know to be nonsense. Techdirt's Mike Masnick said this in comments:
Sure the AP says it won't charge, but it has threatened bloggers with lawsuits, and it hasn't changed the iCopyright form. The reason that we keep pointing it out is to highlight the blatant hypocrisy of the AP's position.
lawsuits takedown notices aren't related to the charging-for-quotes story.
The AP sent Rogers Cadenhead (who also comments on my original post) takedown notices after his users put up several whole AP stories on Drudge Retort, along with snippets of several other ones. Cadenhead didn't dispute the first group, but said the second was fair use. He got a lawyer, the fight went viral, a guy who came to Cadenhead's aid got wrongly mauled by a blog lynch mob, and the AP quickly apologized for being "heavy-handed" in the dustup.
During the midst of this, a blogger spotted the iCopyright thing and started the "Associated Press wants to charge you $12.50 to quote five words from them" meme.
What is iCopyright? It's a third-party company that sells licenses for commercial use of copyrighted material. "Commercial use" being the key words herelike when a company buys reprints of a favorable story about it to use in its own marketing. The iCopyright site, alas, isn't exactly clear on who should pay for a license and why.
So the AP went on the record when this story first blew up two years ago saying iCopyright is not aimed at bloggers. And then it issued an official statement in August 2009 after another fake blog controversy was stirred upthis time over the false idea that the dastardly AP was going to try to prevent people from linking to its stories. Again, it said the iCopyright form was not for bloggers.
The irony here is that by making hay and getting pageviews out of this false controversy, the bloggers perpetuating this stuff are creating more of a chilling effect on the quoting of AP material than the iCopyright boilerplate itself ever would have, linked as it is in tiny type at the bottom of the wire's stories.
My friend and counter-cultural icon had been suffering from a couple of strokes, hospitals, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, anemia, infections, blindness, catheter, hearing aids, wheelchairs, psychosis, memory loss, diapers, constipation, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, fatigue and a chronically bed-ridden life that seemed to be no life worth living.
Tuli was a dedicated truthseeker, and I'd like to honor that quality with a couple of truths.
There was a rumor that Philip Roth had lifted the onanistically obsessed idea for Portnoy's Complaint from a song by the Fugs -- a band on the cusp of rock and punk, named after Norman Mailer's euphemism for fuck in The Naked and the Dead -- but this notion was disavowed by Fugs leader Ed Sanders, who assured me, "Philip Roth did not plagiarize a Fugs song. He came to a Fugs show in 1966, and I think he was inspired by Tuli, in top hat and cane, singing 'Jack-Off Blues.' Many times in reunion concerts, introducing Tuli singing that song, I have suggested that Roth got some of the impetus for Portnoy's Complaint from that time he was inspired by the Tuli tune."
And then there was Allen Ginsberg's famous poem, "Howl," in which Tuli had been the inspiration for this passage: "...jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer..." Friends reacted: Rex Weiner claims, "It never actually happened that way, but Tuli happened, and that's all that matters." And Michael Simmons says, "It actually was partly true. Tuli did jump and survive, but it wasn't the Brooklyn Bridge (Williamsburg, I think), but he was worried about wrongly influencing young people, so he'd refuse to talk about it later in life. I know because he told me."
Thelma Blitz, Tuli's devoted sidekick, corrects the myth in "Howl" that "Tuli just walked away after jumping off a bridge. In fact, he was taken to a hospital, severely injured, and wanted the world to know this so that no one would take a similar chance."
And we can all be grateful he survived for all these years.
Finally, from his daughter Samara: "We have arranged to hold a service for Tuli at St. Marks church in New York from 12-3 on Saturday, with a reception following shortly thereafter. We will have a viewing in a separate room at the beginning of the service for anyone who wishes to see him. We are still working on the details for the reception and will let you know shortly. There will be no religious element to the service, and Ed Sanders will be one of the main speakers, after which anyone who wants to can talk, sing, recite poetry, or whatever they like. Tuli will be buried at Greenwood cemetery in Brooklyn on Monday morning at 9 a.m. You are welcome to tell anyone who asks, the funeral is open to whoever wishes to attend."
In the You Thought YOU had Problems department, consider the case of Giancarlo Casagrande of Bergamo Italy. Earlier this year, an Italian Court ordered the 60 year old father to resume paying $492/month in living expenses for his 32 year old daughter who has been working on her graduate thesis for the last eight years. Casagrande and his wife divorced in 1997. As part of the settlement he was required to pay living expenses for his then 19 year old daughter, a full-time student residing with her mother. Years later, the expense became burdensome for him, as did his daughter's inability to complete her educational requirements. Much to the outrage of the sane population, the court ruled in favor of the young woman. Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet minister, Roberto Calderoli called the verdict "a slap in the face of good sense."
Millions of Americans feel Giancarlo's pain. We give to our grown children until it hurts. The trouble is, by the time it hurts we've given too much. A few years ago, our financial advisor cautioned us against catering to every one of our grownup kids' financial needs to the detriment of our retirement. I looked at her bemusedly and said, "But we can afford it." Her answer? "You only think you can afford it." She was probably right.
Our advisor's voice is but one in a choir of voices who sing the same song. There is no doubt among financial planners and economists that the children of Babyboomers have been the most indulged generation of all time. Objects of desire are ubiquitous and marketed to death. All I remember dying for in my teenage years was a stereo and a pair of white go-go boots. (If you don't know what those are you are actually young enough to benefit from the upcoming advice.) Today our teenagers expect cellphones and computers and video game consoles and ipods and expensive jeans. And that's just for the teenagers! The recession has made matters worse. Many of us have adult children who are unable to make ends meet. Practically everyone I know has helped with student loans or mortgages or down payments on new homes or credit card debt. Some pay rent on their children's apartments while the kids go for advanced degrees. Some have invested in their kids' new businesses while also paying for weddings. We pay airfare for visits back home. We pay for health insurance. Expert opinion is unanimous. We are crazy and this has to stop. Immediately.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, practically yells at you from behind your computer screen that it is unwise to sacrifice you financial wellbeing in favor of your children's. In an article titled, It's Okay to be Selfish: Your Financial Wellbeing Comes Before Your Children's, the CFP board claims that "we can no longer afford to think about our personal finances the way we did in the bubbly pre-recession days. Today there are new financial realities and we must re-examine some basic assumptions and consider some new approaches."
Apparently, the most important new approach is to put ourselves before our children.
We regularly hear from moms across the country who are mad about being paid less for the same jobs as men.
We have a fighting chance of moving the Paycheck Fairness Act forward right now. Send a note to your Senators today!
As one of the over a million members of MomsRising.org, I urge you ask Senate leadership to take immediate action to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this summer.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restored to women the right to go to court to challenge pay discrimination. But more is necessary to realize the promise of equal pay for equal work.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House, would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women and men to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin. In addition, the bill would improve the collection of pay information by the Department of Labor and the EEOC to enable those agencies to evaluate pay disparities; facilitate class actions in Equal Pay Act claims to ensure that the rules that apply to civil rights lawsuits generally also govern the Equal Pay Act; and spark the development of salary negotiation skills training.
Fair pay is especially critical in this tough economy because more and more women are the sole breadwinners in their families. On the whole, women working full-time, year-round make an average of 77 cents to every dollar that men make.  This means that the average woman loses $700,000 in pay due to gender discrimination in her lifetime. For women of color, this number can be even higher. That's a lot of money that would come in handy right now for America's women and families.
Now is the time for Congress to take the steps necessary to effectively address wage discrimination and eliminate loopholes that have undermined the Equal Pay Act's effectiveness.
Again, I urge to take immediate action to urge Senate leadership to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this summer.
This week and and next, U.S. Senators are deciding what's going to come up for a vote in the next month--and we need to let them know that the Paycheck Fairness Act needs to be on their action list.
By Mark Morford
According to this Chinese media story, monkeys can now operate the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun, and have the ability to identify and attack U.S. soldiers based on the appearance of their uniforms.
The report indicates the Taliban was inspired by none other than the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which it claims used peanuts and bananas to train "monkey soldiers" in Vietnam. This information was, in turn, attributed to a "British media" report from last month.
The story ends by saying, "A senior U.S. military source confirmed the existence of the Taliban monkey soldiers, military experts call armed monkeys 'monkey terrorists.'"
So we have a story built on rumor, with no named sources, quoting a media source of unknown origin. Personally, I think a clever monkey could be behind the whole thing.
Blogger Jeff Schogol, who calls himself "The Rumor Doctor" investigated the monkey terrorist claims.
NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told Schogol, "We have absolutely nothing that leads us to believe that this tale could be even remotely based in reality."
Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow Center for Biological Psychology, also is quoted as saying, "While you could train a monkey to shoot a gun, I certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere in the neighborhood after that. I rather doubt you could trust its aim," he said. "In addition, the noise would certainly scare most animals and make them stop."
Coe added that he'd heard rumors before about monkeys wielding grenades when India and Pakistan were at war, but no one has yet been able to prove that actually happened.
CNN put together a full video report on the supposed Taliban monkeys. You can watch it here.
by Steve Dale
Sadly, shootings occur too often in Chicago...but never a shooting like this. In Wellington, New Zealand shootings of any kind are infrequent.
On Saturday, July 10 -A dog accidentally stepped on the trigger of the .22 rifle and ended up firing at his 40-year-old owner.
The injured man was among a group of four who had just killed and butchered a domestic pig. They were climbing into a SUV to leave when the gun went off.
The man was flown to Whangarei Hospital , where doctors removed the bullet from his left buttocks.
Senior Constable Ian Anderson (is this what the lead player in Jethro Tull is doing these days?) said the man was lucky not to have been more seriously injured.
No charges will be filed - for there are no laws in New Zealand which deter dogs from using firearms.