Category Archives: anger

Bhagavad Gita, Unfortunately

It’s out there, you know, the alternative to happiness and hope – reality.  Waiting silently like a shadow- calm and patient.  All the while knowing that you will be coming to it- sooner or later.  Reality does not chase you.  The illusion of safety leads to the sloth of complacency.  There is no guarantee that anything is permanent or has any truth behind it.  Lies kill hope, inaction kills potential, and regret fuels the memory.  That’s when reality wraps its cold and often unyielding arms around you- reassuring you that now is when you have to deal with what is been just over the horizon – waiting on you to forget it exists.  Beauty and happiness only stay your eventual embrace of the reality of what being alive is truly about.  Pain.

life_is_pain_by_shifty

I suppose the alternative to sucking it up and trudging along in your miserable state is to simply give up. On the surface it is an attractive option.  For instance, sell what you have and say, “Fuck it.”  Buy a used Winnebago and head to Montana.*  Is that really an option with two kids, 2 jobs, and a mortgage you cant afford anymore?  Nope.

So what do you do?  More specifically, what do I do?  Reality is really kicking my ass – and its winning.  Life is painful now.  I feel it.  I feel tired, angry, unlucky, alone, sad, and powerless.  I can not fix what is wrong.  I can only adjust to what other people, other people’s decisions, and other people’s whims allow for me.  I work all the time at a job I hate.  I supplement that income with a job that takes a lot of time away from my kids- I wrestle with the question, “Is the income worth the absence from my kids?”  Now, without that income my kids lose (They will lose more that what they are about to be losing very soon.)  So, that answers that.

I would imagine by now, dear reader, that you are waiting on the, “…but I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.” part of this post.  I am sorry I can not give you that.  I can not lie and say that I will find some self worth or inner strength from what is happening now- and will continue to happen for quite a while.  I am crumbling.  I feel it.

I will give you one last thought that echos in my head every night before I willingly close my eyes – “I just want everything to be O.K.”

I am trying to make it O.K.  I just don’t know if I am making any progress.  It does not feel like it.  I am scared.

If I were to tell a Hindu about how my life is right now  a response would be close this, “Your current situation is the exactly correct situation for you to be in, given you soul’s previous action. Experiencing current suffering also satisfies the debt incurred for past behavior.”   I don’t know if that is true, I don’t believe it is, but just in case it is “As It Is””**  I would like to apologize to my wife and kids for putting them here.  I am sorry we are where we are and wish I could better our situation.

* The winnebeago would break down in Iowa and ole reality would be there waiting on you- not good

** sorry, couldn’t resist

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Fox News’ Washington News Chief Admits to “mischevious speculation”

Bill Sammon, who’s responsible for the network’s Washington coverage, linked Obama to socialism many times during the 2008 campaign, but didn’t believe the allegation, he acknowledged.

Bill Sammon, managing editor of Fox News Washington, at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, when he was a reporter for The Washington Times. (The Washington Times / Landov)

In the final stretch of the 2008 campaign, a Fox News executive repeatedly questioned on the air whether Barack Obama believed in socialism.

Now it turns out he didn’t really believe what he was saying.

Bill Sammon, now the network’s vice president and Washington managing editor, acknowledged the following year that he was just engaging in “mischievous speculation” in raising the charge. In fact, Sammon said he “privately” believed that the socialism allegation was “rather far-fetched.”

These remarks, unearthed by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters, raise the question of whether Sammon, who oversees Washington news coverage for Fox News, was deliberately trying to sabotage the Democratic presidential candidate. He has come under fire before for memos he sent to the network’s staff that have seemed less than fair and balanced.

Sammon’s admission came on a 2009 Mediterranean cruise—cabin rates ranged as high as $37,600 per couple—sponsored by conservative Hillsdale College. Here is what he said, according to an audio recording:

http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf

“Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to ‘spread the wealth around.’ At that time, I have to admit that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.”

That he did—on several occasions.

On Oct. 14, 2008, Sammon said on the air that Obama’s “spread the wealth” remark “is red meat when you’re talking to conservatives and you start talking about spread the wealth around. That is tantamount to socialism.”

On Oct. 21, he told Greta Van Susteren: “I have read Barack Obama’s books pretty carefully, and he in his own words talks about being drawn to Marxists… Now all this stuff’s coming out about whether he’s a socialist. I don’t know why anyone is surprised by it, because if you read his own words and his sort of, you know, orientation coming up as a liberal through college and a young man, it’s not a huge shock.”

Sammon, a former Washington Times reporter, also made sure his troops got out the word. On Oct. 27, he sent an email to staffers highlighting what he described as “Obama’s references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists” in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father.

In an interview, Sammon says his reference to “mischevious speculation” was “my probably inartful way of saying, ‘Can you believe how far this thing has come?’” The socialism question indeed “struck me as a far-fetched idea” in 2008. “I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation.” He doesn’t regret repeatedly raising it on the air because, Sammon says, “it was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media”—and by 2009 he was “astonished by how the needle had moved.”

Sammon notes that in the same talk on the cruise, he pointed out that George W. Bush had his own stimulus package and had spent half the TARP bailout money: “I was talking about both sides being big spenders.” (True; he also told the cruise guests that “when it comes to spending money, Obama makes Bush look like a piker.”)

In that speech, Sammon said he eventually concluded that what he had thought was baseless speculation among Obama’s socialistic views turned out to be accurate:

“Now imagine my surprise when this year, I witness President Barack Obama standing in the cross hall of the White House and having taken over the American car industry, look into the camera, and announce to the nation essentially, that he would personally vouch for the warranty on your car’s muffler. All of a sudden, the debate over whether America was heading for socialism seemed anything but far-fetched…The debate over whether America is headed for socialism seems all too real, especially to those who still believe in capitalism.”

During last year’s health-care debate,Sammon urged Fox News staff in a memo to “please use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible.” He acknowledged that the phrase “public option” was “firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon,” so when it was necessary to use it, he wrote, add the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.” And “here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’” Many Fox News journalists followed suit, using terminology that Republican pollster Frank Luntz had pushed on the network.

In an interview at the time, Sammon defended the memo and said his 25-year record as a newspaper reporter demonstrates that he hasn’t favored either side. “Have I said things where I take a conservative view? Give me specifics,” he said.

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast’s Washington bureau chief. He also hosts CNN’s weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.

Dan Savage and The Truth

Dan Savage writes for The Stranger in Seattle, WA,  His article is titled Savage Love.  This is a letter sent to him and his reply.  Read it and really think about yourself.

In Your Image

October 14, 2010

By Dan Savage

I heard an interview with you about your It Gets Better campaign. I was saddened and frustrated with your comments regarding people of faith and their perpetuation of bullying. As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage, I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man who took his own life.

If your message is that we should not judge people based on their sexual preference, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man.

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are all imperfect, fallible, and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people.

Please consider your viewpoint, and please be more careful with your words in the future.

L.R.

I’m sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments.

No, wait. I’m not. Gay kids are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings.

A question: Do you “support” atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there’s no “Christian” movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or people divorcing and remarrying. Why the hell not?

Sorry, L.R., but so long as you support the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, it’s clear that you do believe that some people—straight people—are “better or more worthy” than others.

And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children. The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not “sinners.” Gay and lesbian children.

Try to keep up: The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of “faithful Christians,” and the lies about us that vomit out from the pulpits of churches that “faithful Christians” drag their kids to on Sundays, give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your children—having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools. You don’t have to explicitly “encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we’re seeing the fruits of it: dead children.

Oh, and those same dehumanizing bigotries that fill your straight children with hate? They fill your gay children with suicidal despair. And you have the nerve to ask me to be more careful with my words?

Did that hurt to hear? Good. But it couldn’t have hurt nearly as much as what was said and done to Asher Brown and Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas and Cody Barker and Seth Walsh—day in, day out for years—at schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God, but in the image of the hateful and false “followers of Christ” they call Mom and Dad.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=5135029

Countrywide…unfortunately.

Countrywide Financial’s former CEO and founder Angelo Mozilo’s  2003-8 haul : $470 mil.

Total fine he is to pay: $47.5 mil. (Apparently, The fine for pioneering a mortgage system that has crippled our housing economy and sent this country into this current recession- is approx 10% of what you earn in your last 5 years on the job.)

Background:  The SEC alleged that Mozillo, along with two other colleagues, failed to reveal risks that the company was taking around that time. The civil charges however were related to claims that he had personally misled the market by wrongly assuring investors that his company was a premier quality mortgage lender that was able to avoid the excesses of many of its competitors. As well as this, Mr Mozilo was also found guilty of selling company shares in deals where inside knowledge of Countrywide Financial’s actual troubles wasn’t revealed. After Countrywide Financial crashed, Bank of America rescued it by purchasing 4 billion in non-voting shares.  Mozilo setteled.

This is absolute insanity. …and I used to work for him, err Countrywide Financial when all this was going on.  It was a miserable experience for me.  The middle managers yelling (no, really) at you to increase production (“production” means convincing a person that knows NOTHING about loans or mortgages to take the loan they were being offered because is only gonna happen RIGHT NOW so they better take it) Unreasonable lending practices…when I started at CW you could get a mortgage with a 520 credit score!  I had a complete lack of job satisfaction/security due to fact that ole CW flaunted the ability to replaced you at a moments notice.  It was horrible.  I go to sleep knowing that I never sold a loan to a person who couldn’t afford it.  I can not say I did not hear about co-workers, managers, and other people talk about loans they floated or got approved that were…How can I say this…illegal, unethical, and wrong.  I heard about documents that were sent in to be used for evidence of income that were manufactured by the client on the coaching of the CW employee.  I would over hear conversations about how big this months check was going to be due to the number of sub-prime units that employee had closed on that month.

(Did I report any of it to my managers?  YES  Did anything happen?  NO)


The feeling of quitting that job: FREEDOM!

That experience sickens me when I think about it.

Unless you work or worked in a Fortune 500 company as a peon and tried to work your way up, you really have no idea about what corporate greed is and how it REALLY DOES prey on innocent, uneducated people.  I quit shortly before the recession “officially” started because I hated my job, hated my then GF, and had no other reason to stay in that god forsaken hell hole.

 

Oh, and here are some additional Mozilo/ Countrywide info for you from the Wall Street Journal:

Countrywide’s reaction to the crisis was to push for more market share in the first half of 2007, aiming to benefit from the collapse of rivals. That backfired when Countrywide could no longer find buyers for many of the loans it had originated, leaving the company stuck with billions of dollars of high-risk mortgages. Former executives say Countrywide, which still accounts for about one in every seven home loans made in the U.S., was so focused on increasing volume that it neglected quality control.

Mr. Mozilo made things worse for himself by postponing his retirement and by making frequent, heavy sales of Countrywide stock. He offered discounts on loans to friends so frequently that FOA — for Friends of Angelo — became a familiar loan type among employees. He was quick to dismiss criticism from analysts and shareholders.

When asked last year about proposals to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on compensation, he said: “The shareholders have no clue” how much Countrywide needed to pay to attract talent.

When an analyst fretted in 2004 about Mr. Mozilo’s sales of Countrywide stock, he snapped that those who had construed his share sales as bearish were “losers.” Mr. Mozilo stepped up those sales in late 2006 and unloaded more than $130 million of stock in the first half of 2007. That undermined confidence in the company, demoralized some of his own employees and drew a continuing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also faces a rash of lawsuits from investors, borrowers and state regulators.

Mr. Mozilo has said his stock sales were lawful and defended his right to dispose of what he regards as well-earned compensation. The problem in America, he said in an interview last year, is that “people are reviled if they make what people think is too much.” In Mr. Mozilo’s view, “if anybody makes a billion dollars, that’s America. That’s terrific!”

One final comment:

Mr. Mozilo, It is not “terrific” if that billion dollars is made on the sweat, blood, and ignorance of other people, you asshole.

Happy Monday!



Pay Day Loans and The Circle of Poverty

There are those “people” in this world that take advantage of people (any retail establishment, insurance company, or mortgage broker)  and then there are those that take advantage of the people who legitimately have no other viable recourse left and are grabbing at any straw they can to survive.  These predators are the worst people in this world.  I read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler recently.  That book has taught me more about poverty than anything else I have ever read.  The American experience of working, not one, but two full time jobs and still existing under the poverty line is an unacceptable, yet a REAL facet of many American’s lives.  The book speaks about the “circle of poverty” and how one act a poverty stricken family takes leads to the next act that keeps them in poverty.  It is truly sad.  When I read this article and had to share it with you.  Read, Think, Get Smarter

Legal Usury

The skeevy business of payday loans.

By Timothy Noah

Roughly 20 years ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, I wrote a news article for the Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s plans (later codified in legislation during the Clinton administration) to distribute food stamps and other government benefits electronically. Poor people would have debit cards and could have immediate access to the funds they needed. This was a more novel idea than it sounds today, because speedy, point-of-sale credit card terminals still lay in the future. In those distant days, when you went to the supermarket, you had to bring cash or write a check.

The Bush appointee I interviewed was very excited about the new scheme for one simple reason: It was going to put check-cashing companies out of business. This was an industry despised even by Republicans for exploiting society’s least advantaged by charging them outrageously high fees. Instant access to cash would eliminate this market. I don’t remember exactly what the Bush appointee said, but his overall message was loud and clear: Good riddance to a sleazy and predatory business.

Two decades later, check-cashing companies are still around and a thriving new sleazy and predatory business, the payday-loan industry, has grown up beside them. Payday loans replace check-cashers’ outrageously high fees with usurious interest rates. What neither the Bush appointee nor I anticipated was that the same technology that sent welfare moms and retirees their government benefits in the blink of an eye could give a new kind of predatory lender instant access to unwary customers’ bank accounts. Electronic banking giveth and electronic banking taketh away.

I thought about all this on Oct. 4, when the Federal Trade Commission announced that the co-founder of Swish Marketing Inc. paid $850,000 to settle charges that he allegedly debited customers’ bank accounts without their knowledge. According to the FTC, Swish operated Web sites that guided consumers to payday lender sites. (One of them piously named “Christian Faith Financial“; never mind Matthew 21:12.) To get the loan, you filled out a form giving the lender access to your bank account. That’s a bad idea, but standard practice for payday lenders, and perfectly legal. The illegal part (according to the FTC) was what followed. When you submitted your application, you were automatically sent to a Web page with a button that said “Finish matching me with a payday loan provider!” (example here). This Web page also happened to offer consumers the chance to acquire four additional items. Three of these offers were pre-clicked “No,” but a fourth was pre-clicked “Yes,” which was easy to miss. This fourth offer was for the purchase of a debit card on which you could load $2,500, in the unlikely event that you happened to have $2,500. (If you had $2,500 why would you be applying for a payday loan?) Just to purchase the empty debit card cost $54.95. Some sites billed the debit card as a “bonus offer” and revealed the $55 charge only in tiny type. In any event, it was very easy for the borrower to miss entirely the fact that in applying for a payday loan, he or she was also letting a separate company reach into his or her bank account to extract $55 to pay for an unrelated product that he or she almost certainly didn’t need.

The attorney for alleged perp Jason Strober said in a press release, “We are confident that [he] would have prevailed in court.” Strober settled only because “it became too expensive to continue fighting.” Strober, meanwhile, has created a blog, Prosmallbusiness.org, whose first entry states that the FTC’s “power to destroy businesses they don’t like is truly scary.”

It may or may not give Strober solace to learn that under the recently-passed Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the FTC will yield jurisdiction over payday loans to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose overseer, Elizabeth Warren, really, really hates payday loans. In a 2008 paper coauthored by Oren Bar-Gill of New York University Law School, Warren offered payday loans as a key example of “a credit product that can impose substantial costs on imperfectly informed and imperfectly rational borrowers.” Typically, she explained, you pay a $30 fee for a two-week cash advance on a $200 paycheck, which amounts to an annualized interest rate of 400 percent. That’s not particularly high for this type of loan; some of them go up to 780 percent. Thirty bucks “is unlikely to bankrupt any consumer,” Warren conceded, but the payday lender is counting on the likelihood that many customers will roll the loan over for another two weeks, and then another. Ninety percent of the industry’s profits come from suckers who do this five times or more over the course of a year. “This is very expensive credit,” Jean Ann Fox of Consumer Federation of America told me.

Indeed, interest rates don’t get more insanely high than this. That raises the question: Isn’t usury illegal? It turns out the federal government imposes no statutory maximum on interest rates. Many states do, and some states (for instance, New York) ban payday loans altogether. But under federal law, payday lenders who don’t commit outright fraud may operate with impunity. Well, almost. The Pentagon got fed up with its recruits getting ripped off by payday lenders and in 2007 got Congress to make it illegal to extend such loans to members of the military. But civilians remain fair game.

Indeed, one of the sketchier provisions in Dodd-Frank affirmatively prohibits Warren’s new agency from setting a maximum interest rate on payday loans. This was inserted at the behest of Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. (The payday-loan business was reportedly born in Corker’s home state and continues to thrive there.) You might think the banking industry would pressure Congress to shut down payday lenders because they give lending a bad name. But a recent report by National People’s Action, a network of community activist groups, and the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative revealed that big banks extend $2.5 to $3 billion in financing to payday-loan companies. Wells Fargo is in especially deep.

“The payday industry WELCOMES regulation,” according to Payday Loan Industry Blog, operated by Trihouse Enterprises, which owns 16 payday-loan stores. “It helps the industry legitimize their industry, it manages the few unscrupulous payday loan operators that exist in all industries, and it creates a level playing field for consumers.” Implicit in this assertion is the confident belief that no regulator would dare put them out of business. The authors don’t seem terribly worried that Warren will prove that assumption wrong. Do they know something we don’t?

Gender Based Discrimination

Consider this hypothetical scenario:

You take an outing to the grocery store to buy food for your family.  Upon your arrival you see an empty parking spot RIGHT BY THE ENTRANCE.  Your mind screams, “SCORE!”  Your giddiness is smashed when you approach the parking spot and a sign reading “Reserved for customers who happen to be buying milk,”  staring you right in the face.  Your lactose intolerant body has betrayed you by its inability to digest a cow’s milk.  You curse your un-evolved stomach as you drive to the other side of the known world in search of a parking spot so you can feed your family.

HORRIFIC ISN’T IT.

As a new father, I am the victim of discrimination.  I, like all men, are discriminated against due to something that we can not control – our gender.  We men are not catered to when it comes to all things pregnancy.  When you have a spare 4 hours, enter your local book store and count all the books about being a good parent  that are written for women.  The next day when you have a spare 23 seconds, go back and count the books written for men who want to be a good parent.  It is a staggering difference.  You will find that many of the books written for women stress emotional bonding with your child coupled with research from years of child rearing.  The books written for men usually involve illustrations involving stick figures making less than happy faces while changing a diaper and some type of list.  The intellectual bias is staggering.  WAIT WAIT WAIT … men have earned this, haven’t they?  Raising a newborn is a woman’s job. Right?  Was that last sentence offensive to you?  It should be.  That feeling of “I KNOW YOU DIDN’T” that you are experiencing right now is what I felt when I saw this as I was pulling into a CHOICE parking spot yesterday.

I just needed milk, milk officer!

As I drove away to another spot, my mind would not leave this alone.  I mean why not change it to read “Stork Parking for New Parents and Mothers to Be”  Why choose to omit the father who is bringing his infant with him.  As I approached the doors, I decided to ask about that sign and what would happen if I, as a man, brought my infant to this store and dared to park my Jeep in that coveted spot.

Being a small town, I knew the woman who happened to be working when I came in.  With a smile, I asked about the sign and what would happen if I parked there with my new infant.  Flatly, she said, “nothing.”  Taken aback and shocked about the lack of penalty, I repeated the facts.  “So, I can park there as long as I have my kid with me.”  The reply was a firm, “Yep.”  I also asked the manager on duty, his comment was something similar to,” We at ___, want to provide the most comfort for our new mothers who shop with us…”  When he said the word “mothers” my eyebrow raised.  He saw the question coming, and said, “…and fathers.”  I thanked him and paid for my goods and went to my Jeep.

I looked at the sign as I drove away, and I felt worse.  Apparently, men who are fathers do not factor in the decision on what to have printed on signs that will be placed in front of stores nationwide?  They do not care if you, a man, park there but they will not nor even consider using a gender neutral word on the sign?  Are men such horrible parents to newborns that we aren’t even in the equation of consideration when it comes to preferred parking at stores?  Other places get it…

...again gender neutral

Gender Neutral...

…again gender neutral…

Why can’t men get the same billing in the parenting department?  Why do men get such a bad rap?  Has the world not evolved to the point that the man’s role in the parenting and care of a newborn is equal to that of women?

For instance, Canada

Some places get it.  Some fathers have ascended.  When will American men earn  respect of shop owners and corporate conglomerates and actually have a  DAD WITH CHILD PARKING sign considered?  I honestly think that those days are still far into the future.  Infants and newborns have a stigma attached to them.  Mothers care for the babies.  Men don’t. That very stigma is the cause of the discrimination I now face.

I don’t know what to do to combat the lack of respect that people of my gender face.  However, I do have an idea about what to do about those signs.

Vive la égalité!

Dehumanization on the radio!

Oh my. Inés V. just let us know about a contest on WTVN, a conservative talk radio station in Ohio (reader Scapino clarifies that the conservative tone is mostly due to syndication of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not really the local DJs). Just…see for yourself:

Inés says,

This campaign is a response to Columbus mayor Michael Coleman who boycotted AZ by banning all city-funded travel after SB1070, and the mayor is depicted as a holder of a green card [that’s him shown on the ID card].

It’s an astounding example of dehumanizing undocumented immigrants — being a proud American is linked to “illegals” (a term that somehow seems more stigmatizing than terms like “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” even — a linguistic erasure of personhood altogether) being scared, presumably of all the proud Americans they encounter, and the lucky winner gets to go “spend a weekend chasing aliens”. It’s like you’re getting to go on a safari.

Groups in Columbus have organized a response and will be delivering letters to the station this afternoon, before the contest ends, in protest.

I’d add more commentary, but what can you really say?

Original

The Daily Beast: 11 Extreme Oil Spill Solutions

BP officials told the House on Wednesday that the Deepwater Horizon oil well failed a key test on the morning of the April 20 explosion. The test revealed that gas had built up unevenly in the pipe; it’s now believed that a surge of gas caused the explosion. Separately, Representative Bart Stupak is expected to announce that the House has discovered “four significant problems” with the blowout preventer, including “a significant leak in a key hydraulic system.”

Garbage, fire, nuclear bomb explosion—these are possible solutions to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? The Daily Beast looks at 11 of the most out-there ideas proposed so far.

Peat Moss

Is the fact that it worked in Norway a good reason to give peat moss a try? The hyper-absorbent moss has been used to generate moisture, and the panhandle county of Escambia, Florida, has proposed dropping it into the Gulf. Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk, a Norwegian company, developed a series of products based on peat moss to be used in oil spills, after it was used to clean up a spill off the coast of Norway in 2009.

Oil Corral

BP’s engineers have suggested a giant underwater cone, but one amateur engineer has a different solution: to create a permeable cone placed over the leak. By creating the malleable cone, Rick Lewis hopes it reduces pressure in the deep sea environment. In this model, some of the oil will leak out from the structure.

Berms

State and local officials in Louisiana started dropping sand bags in the water, and U.S. National Guard teams in Alabama arrived on Dauphin Island, a tiny barrier island, to build a sand berm, intended to back the oil from moving any closer to the mainland.

Garbage

Don’t laugh: BP’s COO proposed creating a chamber over the leak and shooting garbage into the space to plug it. Plans to create a four-story dome to cap the leak fell apart after crystals formed when the gas combined with water, so officials hope the smaller chamber filled with garbage will be a stronger structure. Newsweek also has a post up highlighting some of BP’s crazier schemes.

Nuclear Bomb

Norway offered one solution; here’s another from Russia . Komsomolskaya Pravda, a major Russian daily, suggests an old Soviet trick: small nuclear blasts. According to the newspaper, it’s such a useful solution that it was used five times by one company in the Soviet Union.

Surfactants

A scientist from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis proposes spraying these soap-like substances, which would work like dishwashing liquid. Dr. Gabriel Filippelli said surfactants disperse the oil in the water and work as a nutrient for the bacteria.

Hair

The much-publicized hair solution has been proposed by a California-based ecological charity. Philippine officials initially came up with the idea in 2006 but backed out at the last minute. Instead, rice stalks were attached to bamboo poles and used as makeshift brooms.

Woodchips

Green Energy Recourses Inc. offered 100,000 tons of wood chips for containment. The company proposed placing woodchips inside a containment boom and through honeycomb structures to absorb the oil as well as collect it. One difference from peat moss: It won’t sink to the bottom; it would need to be collected from the surface. But the woodchips could help generate electricity at power stations.

Fire

Stop gas with fire? It’s not the most extreme idea out there. BP conducted five controlled burns last week to try to burn the oil off.

Hay

The Florida panhandle town of Walton has already started spraying hay into the water if it arrives at the shoreline. A popular YouTube video has surfaced this week showing viewers how to use hay to disperse oil.

Hot Tap

Another solution from BP: Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) would be used to tap into the riser and pump oil out of it and onto the surface through a pipe. It’s admittedly more dangerous, as it drills another hole into the rig.

Correction: This story originally referred to surfactants as suracants.

Read it here

I hoped it would get better – but it didn’t.

Texas schoolchildren will be required to learn that the words “separation of church and state” aren’t in the Constitution and evaluate whether the United Nations undermines U.S. sovereignty under new social studies curriculum.

In final votes late Friday, conservatives on the State Board of Education strengthened

Don McLeroy

requirements on teaching the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers and required that the U.S. government be referred to as a “constitutional republic” rather than “democratic.”

The board approved the new standards with two 9-5 votes along party lines after months of ideological haggling and debate that drew attention beyond Texas.

The guidelines will be used to teach some 4.8 million students for the next 10 years. They also will be used by textbook publishers who often develop materials for other states based on those approved in Texas, though Texas teachers have latitude in deciding how to teach the material.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said after the votes Friday that such decisions should be made at the local level and school officials “should keep politics out” of curriculum debates.

“Parents should be very wary of politicians designing curriculum,” Duncan said in a statement.

But Republican board member David Bradley said the curriculum revision process has always been political but the ruling faction had changed since the last time social studies standards were adopted.

“We took our licks, we got outvoted,” he said referring to the debate 10 years earlier. “Now it’s 10-5 in the other direction … we’re an elected body, this is a political process. Outside that, go find yourself a benevolent dictator.”

GOP board member Geraldine Miller was absent during the votes.

The board attempted to make more than 200 amendments this week, reshaping draft standards that had been prepared over the last year and a half by expert groups of teachers and professors.

As new amendments were being presented just moments before the vote, Democrats bristled that the changes had not been vetted.

“I will not be part of the vote that’s going to support this kind of history,” said Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat.

At least one state lawmaker vowed legislative action to “rein in” the board.

“I am disturbed that a majority of the board decided their own political agendas were more important than the education of Texas children,” said Rep. Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat.

In one of the most significant curriculum changes, the board diluted the rationale for the separation of church and state in a high school government class, noting that the words were not in the Constitution and requiring students to compare and contrast the judicial language with the First Amendment’s wording.

Students also will be required to study the decline in the U.S. dollar’s value, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

The board rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D., and agreed to replace Thomas Jefferson as an example of an influential political philosopher in a world history class. They also required students to evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.

Former board chairman Don McLeroy, one of the board’s most outspoken conservatives, said the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed to the left after years of Democrats controlling the board and he just wants to bring it back into balance.

Educators have blasted the curriculum proposals for politicizing education. Teachers also have said the document is too long and will force students to memorize lists of names rather than learning to critically think.

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