Friday, November 30, 2012
November 14, 2012
Posted by: Chuck Marr
President Obama today clarified an important, and often misunderstood, point: the so-called “middle-class Bush tax cuts” also benefit high-income people. So, if the House were to approve the Senate-passed bill to extend the middle-class tax cuts (as the President favors), “that would prevent any tax hike whatsoever on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income,” he said at his press conference.
That’s because the middle-class tax cuts do not just apply to people making less than $250,000 but to incomes — for everybody — up to $250,000 ($200,000 for singles).
In fact, as this chart based on Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center data shows, extending the “middle-class” tax cuts would be worth about $12,000 next year to people making between $200,000 and $500,000.
----- [see link above for chart]
The following link shows tax brackets and rates under several scenarios.
Notice that most people don't pay the same tax rate on their whole income.
There is no tax on your standard exemption and your taxable deductions.
Your taxable income is divided into brackets. You actually pay different rates on different parts of your income. You usually don't have to worry about it because the IRS has already done the calculations and provided tax tables to use.
So when we are told that people who have an income of $398,350 and up have a tax rate of 35%, actually what is happening is that the amount of their income included in exemptions and deductions is zero, the amount of their taxable income up to $398,350 is less than %35, and only the part of their taxable income over $398,350 is taxed at 35%.
Scenario 1: Tax cuts under the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all
Rate Single Filers Married Joint Filers Head of Household Filers
10% $0 to $8,950 $0 to $17,900 $0 to $12,750
15% $8,950 to $36,250 $17,900 to $72,500 $12,750 to $48,600
25% $36,250 to $87,850 $72,500 to $146,400 $48,600 to $125,450
35% $398,350 and up $398,350 and up $398,350 and up
Scenario 2: Tax brackets under the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for all ...
Scenario 3: Tax brackets under the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for high-income ...
When there is talk about tax rates on the very rich, it is about marginal tax rates. The tax rates apply only on income above a certain amount. So for the first part of their income, their taxes remain the same. I recently posted about how it works. I'll republish it so people can refer to it easily if they want.
November 30, 2012
But there’s one piece of classic Noonanalia that merits special attention. After a couple of graphs suggesting that Republicans need to realize their aversion to higher taxes on the wealthy has been repudiated by voters (a rare moment of clarity!), she turns and argues against Obama’s proposal for higher taxes on the wealthy by illustrating she is among the remarkably large number of pundits who do not understand marginal tax rates:
Mr. Obama wants to raise tax rates on those earning $250,000 or more, as we know, on the assumption that they are “the rich.” But if you are a man with a wife and two kids making that salary and living in Westfield, N.J., in no way do you experience yourself to be rich, because you’re not. You pay federal payroll and income taxes, state income and sales taxes and local property taxes, and after the mortgage, food and commuting costs you don’t have much to spare.
Tighten the squeeze on that couple, and they’ll change how they live. They’ll stop sending the struggling son to a neighborhood tutor, they’ll stop going out to dinner once a week, they’ll cut off the baby sitter, fire the guy who once a month does yard work, and hold back on new clothes. Also the guy will peruse employment ads in Florida and Texas, potentially removing from blue-state New Jersey his heartening, taxpaying presence.
The fictional burgher living the virtuous life in New Jersey on a quarter-mil of taxable income would not, of course, pay a dime in higher taxes under Obama’s proposal. He would, in fact, get a major tax break compared to what he would face under current law, like everyone else, on the first quarter-mil he earned. But even if reject that construct and with it the idea that the Bush tax cuts were never designed to be permanent, Mr. Jersey would still be held harmless. Those higher rates that supposedly threaten the “struggling son,” the local restaurant, the babysitter, the yard man, the clothing retailer, and the State of New Jersey would only affect the money he earned after $250,000.
You’d think someone with a column in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, could grasp how this works. But I suppose everything Peggy Noonan needs to know she learned in that Golden Era that ended in 1989.
No surprise to me.
November 30, 2012 11:00 AM
by Daniel Luzer
Here’s an interesting finding. You know those bubble tests public school teachers hate? The ones that are supposed to measure learning and improve education quality? They may, effectively, do the opposite.
Standardized tests now widespread in America’s public elementary and secondary schools may be hindering students’ ability to succeed in college, according to a new paper.
Several studies, using several different methodologies, have shown that the state tests do not measure the higher-order thinking, problem solving, and creativity needed for students to succeed in the 21st century. These tests, with only a few exceptions, systematically overrepresent basic skills and knowledge and omit the complex knowledge and reasoning we are seeking for college and career readiness.
But it’s not just that the tests don’t measure or facilitate the acquisition of the skills needed for success after high school. As the report explains “the misrepresentation of standards by most current accountability tests has had negative effects on teaching and learning, especially for poor and minority students.” The tests drive changes in education, for sure, but they’re likely driving the wrong changes.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the proliferation of standardized tests unleashed by the No Child Left Behind Act have actually made college students or American workers less talented, but it sure doesn’t help.
By Aviva Shen posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Nov 29, 2012
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) became the public face of vote suppression this year for his overreaching election directives, which restricted early voting hours and forbid election officials from counting legitimate votes. Though President Obama won the state, Husted has not halted his efforts. With two House races heading to a recount, Husted is now facing accusations that he is illegally tossing provisional ballots. These House races will determine whether state Republicans get a super-majority to put constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Democratic vote.
According to the state reps, some ballots were put in plain manila envelopes instead of provisional ballot envelopes, rendering them invalid. Additionally, they say Husted is rejecting ballots covered under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which allows voters who have moved to a different address within the same congressional district to vote at their former precinct.
Even more ballots are likely to have been wrongly discarded because officials are using a database already proven to be flawed and incomplete to determine the voter’s registration status.
Besides these possible breaches of federal election law, Husted is also tossing innumerable ballots that were thrown into question by poll worker error through no fault of the voter. A federal judge tried to stop him, declaring “I don’t want to see democracy die in the darkness on my watch.” But the conservative Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that allowed Husted to throw out these votes.
Science Stunner: Greenland Ice Melt Up Nearly Five-Fold Since Mid-1990s, Antartica’s Ice Loss Up 50% In Past Decade
By Joe Romm on Nov 30, 2012
A major new international study reconciles “an ensemble of satellite altimetry, interferometry, and gravimetry data sets” to determine polar ice-sheet ice loss with the highest accuracy to date. The study, “A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance” (subs. req’d) was published in the journal Science Thursday.
In a landmark study published Thursday in the journal Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories report the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years. Together, these ice sheets are losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). About two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica….
“Both ice sheets appear to be losing more ice now than 20 years ago, but the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s,” [JPL's Erik] Ivins said. “In contrast, the overall loss of ice in Antarctica has remained fairly constant, with the data suggesting a 50-percent increase in Antarctic ice loss during the last decade.”
By Jackie Weidman and Whitney Allen on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm
On November 27th, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced new and returning House committee chairmen (and yes, they are all men). Some of these congressmen will run committees with jurisdiction over federal climate, energy, and environmental programs. This includes funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Clean Air Act, balancing the use of our public lands between energy production and recreation, and determining the infrastructure needs of a nation that now faces unpredictable extreme weather threats linked to climate change.
The vast majority of these chairmen voted for legislation that would dismantle EPA’s ability to limit industrial carbon pollution, and for retention of special tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas, coal, and electric utility companies have cozied up to many of these chairmen, giving them roughly $3.8 million in campaign contributions over the course of their careers.
Meanwhile, many climate-related extreme weather events have severely afflicted Americans over the past two years, including in their home states. Record-breaking drought and heat waves, severe floods, and heavy storms wreaked havoc for the families living in the chairmens’ backyards. Scientists predict that these weather events will become more frequent and/or severe if the industrial carbon pollution responsible for climate change remains unchecked.
Let’s take a look at some of the Republicans who will oversee federal climate, energy, and environmental programs over the next two years, as well as their campaign contributions from the industries responsible for most climate pollution:
Rep. Sam Graves (Missouri) — Small Business Committee
In a May 2010 op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rep. Graves claimed that limiting carbon pollution is “out of touch with the people who keep this country running.” Yet, the farmers, ranchers, and small business owners he refers to in his column dealt with crippling drought conditions this summer across Missouri and the Great Plains, a disaster that Midwestern scientists say “is consistent with an observed warmer climate.”
Rep. Frank Lucas (Oklahoma) — Agriculture Committee
In his first term as committee chair, Rep. Lucas voted to prevent the Department of Agriculture from helping farmers adapt to a changing climate that will include more droughts, heat waves, and heavy storms. Meanwhile, his home state of Oklahoma suffered from 8 extreme weather events that each caused at least $1 billion in total damages each.
[See link above for more]
Irony Alert: American Petroleum Institute Calls For Obama To Aid ‘Economic Catastrophe’ Due To Warming-Fueled Drought
by Katie Valentine on Nov 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm
This summer’s historic drought hasn’t let up (in fact, it’s actually expanding in some areas) and it’s causing a lot of trouble in regions whose economies are driven by major bodies of water.
The drought, coupled with a seasonal dry period, has caused water levels on the Mississippi River to fall to near-record lows, which has hurt the Mississippi shipping industry badly. If water isn’t replenished soon (which doesn’t look likely, according to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center), the major waterway may be closed to cargo companies in the coming weeks. Right now, the river is about 13 feet deep in many places, which is 15 to 20 feet lower than normal. If it dips to around 9 feet – which National Weather Service hydrologists predict could happen by Dec. 9 – protruding rocks will make it nearly impossible for barges to pass. A closed Mississippi – or even closed portions – would mean companies would have to find other ways of shipping crops, fuel and other goods throughout the country.
on Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups and organizations sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to declare emergency in the region and calling for “immediate assistance in averting an economic catastrophe in the heartland.”
Ironically, many of these organizations have refused to acknowledge a growing problem behind the Mississippi’s water woes. Climate change will impact water levels in the U.S. for years to come: science has shown that a warming earth will likely lead to more frequent and more intense droughts like the one the U.S. is experiencing now.
“The drought that we are currently experiencing is consistent with an observed warmer climate,” said a group of Iowa scientists in a group statement earlier this month.
But these organizations actively fight against climate policy: the Chamber of Commerce, API and the National Association of Manufacturers were three of the major opponents of the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.
The Mississippi River isn’t the only body of water that’s still being affected by the drought. The Great Lakes are also losing water: levels have fallen to near-record lows in Lakes Michigan and Huron, and water levels in Lakes Erie, Ontario and Superior are below average. Like on the Mississippi, shipping is a major industry in the Great Lakes region, and water levels have a major effect on its success.
Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, told the Wall Street Journal that the loss of water depth between this year and last means a 1,000-foot vessel is carrying about 1,200 to 1,500 fewer tons per load. The drought is also affecting other industries in the Great Lakes: low water levels in some places are causing marinas to be too shallow for boat docking, with the Army Corps of Engineers estimating that about 30 Great Lakes harbors will need attention in the next couple of years.
A recent Center for American Progress report, “Heavy Weather” indicates that droughts and heat waves in 2011-12 alone will cost the U.S. $40 to $88 billion. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground reports that the damages could be as high as $150 billion.
With water levels down in many of America’s major waterways, it looks like the costs of this year’s drought will only increase.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
And it is hard to get a job when you are older, even when not recovering from a severe recession.
By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Nov 27, 2012
Several CEOs — under the guise of a campaign known as “Fix the Debt” — have recently called for cuts to Social Security and other entitlements. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, for instance, said that “there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised.” “The solutions [to the fiscal cliff] are – it’s the retirement age; means testing Social Security and Medicare,” said Aetna CEO Mark Berolino. “We just need to get leadership.”
Of course, these CEOs have little cause for concern if government retirement assistance is cut, as they have millions of dollars squirreled away in their personal retirement accounts:
– The 71 Fix the Debt CEOs of public companies have average retirement assets of $9.1 million. Of these 71 CEOs, 54 participate in their company‘s retirement programs and have collective pension assets of $649 million, or more than $12 million per CEO — enough to generate a $65,873 pension check each month for life. In contrast, the average monthly Social Security check for retired workers is $1,237.
– A dozen of the Fix the Debt executives have more than $20 million in their individual company retirement accounts. If each of these CEOs converted their assets to an annuity when they turned 65, they would receive a monthly check for at least $110,000 for life.
Blankfein has nearly $12 million in retirement assets, while Bertolini has $1.5 million. Adding insult to injury, many of the CEOs calling for cuts to the social safety net are underfunding their workers’ retirement accounts:
Of the 71 publicly held Fix the Debt member companies, 41 provide employee pension funds for their workers. Of these, only two have sufficient assets in their pension funds to meet their expected obligations. The rest have underfunded their worker pension funds by $103 billion, or about $2.5 billion on average.
Since 1985, 84,000 pension plans have been eliminated. And now these CEOs are coming after the government programs upon which the elderly, and many others, depend.
Note that a majority of voters this year voted for Democratic members of the U.S. House, but Republicans won a majority of seats because of gerrymandering after the 2010 census.
This was enabled by people either not voting during the off-year elections of 2010, or voting for Republicans as a "protest" that President Obama wasn't able to wave a magic want and make everything great. The next census is in 2020, and most states will not do redistricting before then.
By Zack Beauchamp on Nov 28, 2012
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced the new House committee leaders: a full slate of white men. While many of these Congressmen are holding on positions they’ve already got, there are a few new faces sitting in the Chairperson’s seat. What follows is ThinkProgress’ guide to the views of five of the new committee chairs on the issues they’ll be in charge of, which range from climate change to immigration to financial regulation:
Lamar Smith (Texas) — Science, Space and Technology
Like his predecessor, Rep. Smith is a climate change skeptic. Smith refers to supporters of the scientific consensus as “global warming alarmists” and has criticized the media for not giving equal time to warming skeptics. His official website does say warming is occurring, but does not, as the consensus does, cite human activity as the cause. Unsurprisingly, Smith received significant donations from both Koch industries and the oil and gas sector in his most recent campaign.
Jeb Hensarling (Texas) — Financial Services
Rep. Hensarling will be the point Republican on anything relating to the financial sector, but his candidacy was underwritten by Wall Street: banks donated more than seven times as much as the next largest industry to Hensarling’s reelection campaign. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hensarling wants to take down the Dodd-Frank regulations and thinks taxing the financial industry is “frankly ludicrous.” Hensarling has also called Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid “cruel Ponzi schemes.”
By Rebecca Leber on Nov 28, 2012
On election night, polluter-backed candidates lost in some of the most expensive races targeted by polluters, despite outside ad spending that tallied to $270 million.
The American Petroleum Institute already has 2014 in its sights, and it is spending aggressively to protect the oil industry’s multi-billion-dollar tax breaks. Three weeks since election day, API has spent $3 million on TV ads, according to a ThinkProgress analysis of Kantar Media’s CMAG data. That is already $1 million more than what API spent in the final two months of the election, as part of its “I’m an Energy Voter” campaign.
A bulk of the spending, $600,000, targets specific senators over Big Oil’s $4 billion annual tax breaks, all of whom are up for reelection in 2014. All but two voted in March to end oil subsidies, a vote blocked by 47 senators who have taken more than $23.5 million from the oil and gas industry.
Ending the industry’s tax breaks would not affect Americans’ gas prices, or kill jobs. Factcheck.org writes that “nonpartisan congressional analysts and industry experts say higher taxes would have little or no effect on gasoline prices.” And at the same time oil enjoyed low tax rates and earned high profits, Exxon, Shell, and BP still shed 17,500 jobs.
ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips have paid federal tax rates well below the 35 percent top corporate rate. ExxonMobil, for instance, paid a 13 percent tax rate in 2011, after drilling deductions and benefits, and 14 percent on average between 2008 and 2010.
Since November 6, the states seeing at least $20,000 worth of API ads have either a senator or governor up for reelection in 2014:
----- [see link above for list of senators targeted by the ads]
Nov. 28, 2012
By Miguel Llanos, NBC News
Projections for sea level rise in coming decades could be too conservative, experts warned Wednesday, saying they found that the rise over the last two decades is much more than predicted by the U.N. scientific body tracking climate signals.
In a peer-reviewed study, the experts said satellite data show sea levels rose by 3.2 millimeters (0.1 inch) a year from 1993 to 2011 — 60 percent faster than the 2 mm annual rise projected by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for that period.
"This suggests that IPCC sea-level projections for the future may also be biased low," the team wrote in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The experts also said the IPCC was just about spot on with its predictions for warming temperatures.
The IPCC earlier estimated that seas rose by about 7 inches over the last century, and its most recent report, published in 2007, estimated a range of between 7 and 23 inches this century — enough to worsen coastal flooding and erosion during storm surges.
But the IPCC report did not factor in a possible acceleration of the melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
The IPCC "assumed that Antarctica will gain enough (ice) mass" to compensate for Greenland ice loss, the new study's authors noted, but more recent studies have shown that "the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are increasingly losing mass."
Rahmstorf told Reuters his best estimate for sea level rise was between 20 inches and three feet this century, possibly more if greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide surged.
The results confirm that global warming, which was predicted by scientists in the 1960s and 1970s as a consequence of increasing greenhouse concentrations, continues unabated at a rate of 0.16 °C per decade and follows IPCC projections closely.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:22 PM GMT on November 26, 2012
Perhaps the most stunning images in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were the sight of the roller coaster from the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey lying in the Atlantic Ocean. The images reminded us that hurricane storm surges are capable of causing tremendous destruction along the coast, and one of the main concerns on how global warming might affect hurricanes is the potential for stronger hurricanes to create larger storm surges. We expect that global warming should make the strongest hurricanes stronger, since hurricanes are heat engines that take heat energy out of the ocean and converts it to wind energy. These stronger winds will be capable of piling up higher storm surges. However, it is controversial whether or not we have observed an increase in the strongest hurricanes, since hurricane winds are hard to observe. Our long-term hurricane data base is generally too low in quality and covers too short a period of time to make very good estimates of how climate change may be affecting hurricane winds. However, a new 2012 paper, "Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923" by Grinsted et al., looked at storm surge data from six tide gauges along the U.S. coast from Texas to New Jersey, and concluded that the number of moderately large hurricane and tropical storm surge events has increased since 1923. Moderately large storm surge events are on pace to nearly double by the year 2100, compared to 20th century levels. Moreover, 1-in-9 year to 1-in-30 year Katrina-level storm surge events are twice as likely to occur in warm years compared to cool years, and thus global warming may be able to dramatically increase the frequency of highly damaging extreme storm surge events. Since sea level is steadily rising due to global warming, these future storm surges will also be riding in on top of an elevated ocean surface, and will thus be able to do even greater damage than in the past. Expect to see many more shocking storm surge damage photos in the coming decades, unless we wise up, retreat from areas highly vulnerable to storm surge, and invest in increased shoreline protection measures.
A Wall Street Journal editorial hid the relative health of Social Security, in order to argue that immediate cuts to the program should be part of any deficit reduction deal. In fact, economists say that Social Security is not a major driver of deficits. Unfortunately, mainstream media have not reported this fact, which has given the Journal cover to push for Social Security cuts.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out: "While the United States does have a long-run budget problem, Social Security is not a major factor in that problem." Social Security does face a shortfall between the revenue the program receives and the estimated benefits it will pay out beginning in 2034. But Center for Budget and Policy Priorities economist Kathy Ruffing has also noted that, far from being in crisis, Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years would be almost completely restored by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.
Unfortunately, the Journal is not the only media outlet hiding the relative health of the Social Security program.
A November 25 Washington Post article on progressive resistance to conservative demands for Social Security cuts falsely claimed that Social Security's costs are "skyrocketing" and "fast-growing." In addition, a New York Times article reported that Republicans were pushing for Social Security cuts to restrain the deficit while the White House said the program "is not currently a driver of the deficit," but made no attempt to ascertain whether Republicans or the White House were correct.
And the Post and Times misleading reporting on Social Security provided the Journal cover to push for major cuts to the program.
November 27, 2012
By BILL ESTEP — Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
The mother of a Laurel County, Ky., high school student has filed a complaint against a teacher who wrote "You can't be a Democrat & go to heaven" on her classroom whiteboard.
The teacher, Kendra Baker, wrote the statement denigrating Democrats in her room at South Laurel High School the week after the Nov. 6 election, said Mary Gilbert.
Gilbert's daughter, Chelsea, 17, was in Baker's psychology class.
"I feel like she was bullied by a teacher," Gilbert said of her daughter.
Gilbert said she filed a complaint against Baker with the state Education Professional Standards Board, which issues credentials to teachers.
Gilbert said the problem started before Baker wrote the statement on her board. The day after the election, there was discussion in Baker's psychology class about the presidential vote.
President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but in Laurel County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 3 to 1, Romney trounced Obama by a vote of 18,151 to 3,905.
During the classroom discussion, Baker made remarks in class against same-sex marriage, Gilbert said.
Chelsea Gilbert, an admirer of Obama, told Baker she was offending people, Mary Gilbert said.
There are gay students in the class, Gilbert said.
Gilbert said Baker responded by telling Chelsea she would someday have to take her parents to the emergency room and watch them die because of the president's health care reform law, commonly called Obamacare.
The exchange upset Chelsea, who came home crying, Gilbert said.
I have known conservatives who wouldn't be bothered at all that other people have to live like this.
I suggest reading the whole article at the link below. Very informative.
By Mac McClelland on Mon. February 27, 2012
[from comments in the article, Mac is a woman.]
"Don't take anything that happens to you there personally," the woman at the local chamber of commerce says when I tell her that tomorrow I start working at Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc. She winks at me. I stare at her for a second.
"What?" I ask. "Why, is somebody going to be mean to me or something?"
She smiles. "Oh, yeah." This town somewhere west of the Mississippi is not big; everyone knows someone or is someone who's worked for Amalgamated. "But look at it from their perspective. They need you to work as fast as possible to push out as much as they can as fast as they can. So they're gonna give you goals, and then you know what? If you make those goals, they're gonna increase the goals. But they'll be yelling at you all the time. It's like the military. They have to break you down so they can turn you into what they want you to be. So they're going to tell you, 'You're not good enough, you're not good enough, you're not good enough,' to make you work harder. Don't say, 'This is the best I can do.' Say, 'I'll try,' even if you know you can't do it. Because if you say, 'This is the best I can do,' they'll let you go. They hire and fire constantly, every day. You'll see people dropping all around you. But don't take it personally and break down or start crying when they yell at you."
Several months prior, I'd reported on an Ohio warehouse where workers shipped products for online retailers under conditions that were surprisingly demoralizing and dehumanizing, even to someone who's spent a lot of time working in warehouses, which I have. And then my editors sat me down. "We want you to go work for Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc.," they said. I'd have to give my real name and job history when I applied, and I couldn't lie if asked for any specifics. (I wasn't.) But I'd smudge identifying details of people and the company itself. Anyway, to do otherwise might give people the impression that these conditions apply only to one warehouse or one company. Which they don't.
The computers screening us for suitability to pack boxes or paste labels belong to a temporary-staffing agency. The stuff we order from big online retailers lives in large warehouses, owned and operated either by the retailers themselves or by third-party logistics contractors, a.k.a. 3PLs. These companies often fulfill orders for more than one retailer out of a single warehouse. America's largest 3PL, Exel, has 86 million square feet of warehouse in North America; it's a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL, which is cute because Deutsche Post is the German post office, which was privatized in the 1990s and bought DHL in 2002, becoming one of the world's biggest corporate employers. The $31 billion "value-added warehousing and distribution" sector of 3PLs is just a fraction of what large 3PLs' parent companies pull in. UPS's logistics division, for example, pulls in more than a half a billion, but it feeds billions of dollars of business to UPS Inc.
Anyhow, regardless of whether the retailer itself or a 3PL contractor houses and processes the stuff you buy, the actual stuff is often handled by people working for yet another company—a temporary-staffing agency.
The culture is intense, an Amalgamated higher-up acknowledges at the beginning of our training. He's speaking to us from a video, one of several videos—about company policies, sexual harassment, etc.—that we watch while we try to keep our eyes open. We don't want to be so intense, the higher-up says. But our customers demand it.
From the temp agency, Amalgamated has ordered the exact number of humans it should take to fill this week's orders if we work at top capacity. Lots of retailers use temporary help in peak season, and online ones are no exception. But lots of warehousing and distribution centers like this also use temps year-round. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than 15 percent of pickers, packers, movers, and unloaders are temps. They make $3 less an hour on average than permanent workers. And they can be "temporary" for years. There are so many temps in this warehouse that the staffing agency has its own office here.
Amalgamated has estimated that we pickers speed-walk an average of 12 miles a day on cold concrete, and the twinge in my legs blurs into the heavy soreness in my feet that complements the pinch in my hips when I crouch to the floor—the pickers' shelving runs from the floor to seven feet high or so—
Indeed, and I'm working for a gigantic, immensely profitable company. Or for the staffing company that works for that company, anyway. Which is a nice arrangement, because temporary-staffing agencies keep the stink of unacceptable labor conditions off the companies whose names you know. When temps working at a Walmart warehouse sued for not getting paid for all their hours, and for then getting sent home without pay for complaining, Walmart—not technically their employer—wasn't named as a defendant. (Though Amazon has been named in a similar suit.) Temporary staffers aren't legally entitled to decent health care because they are just short-term "contractors" no matter how long they keep the same job. They aren't entitled to raises, either, and they don't get vacation and they'd have a hell of a time unionizing and they don't have the privilege of knowing if they'll have work on a particular day or for how long they'll have a job. And that is how you slash prices and deliver products superfast and offer free shipping and still post profits in the millions or billions.
"This really doesn't have to be this awful," I shake my head over Skype. But it is. And this job is just about the only game in town, like it is in lots of towns, and eventually will be in more towns, with US internet retail sales projected to grow 10 percent every year to $279 billion in 2015 and with Amazon, the largest of the online retailers, seeing revenues rise 30 to 40 percent year after year and already having 69 giant warehouses, 17 of which came online in 2011 alone. So butch up, Sally.
"You look way too happy," an Amalgamated supervisor says to me. He has appeared next to me as I work, and in the silence of the vast warehouse, his presence catches me by surprise. His comment, even more so.
"Really?" I ask.
I don't really feel happy. By the fourth morning that I drag myself out of bed long before dawn, my self-pity has turned into actual concern. There's a screaming pain running across the back of my shoulders. "You need to take 800 milligrams of Advil a day," a woman in her late 50s or early 60s advised me when we all congregated in the break room before work. When I arrived, I stashed my lunch on a bottom ledge of the cheap metal shelving lining the break room walls, then hesitated before walking away. I cursed myself. I forgot something in the bag, but there was no way to get at it without crouching or bending over, and any extra times of doing that today were times I couldn't really afford. The unhappy-looking guy I always make a point of smiling at told me, as we were hustling to our stations, that this is actually the second time he's worked here: A few weeks back he missed some time for doctors' appointments when his arthritis flared up, and though he had notes for the absences, he was fired; he had to start the application process over again, which cost him an extra week and a half of work. "Zoom zoom! Pick it up! Pickers' pace, guys!" we were prodded this morning. Since we already felt like we were moving pretty fast, I'm quite dispirited, in fact.
"Really?" I ask.
"Well," the supervisor qualifies. "Just everybody else is usually really sad or mad by the time they've been working here this long."
It's my 28th hour as an employee.
I probably look happier than I should because I have the extreme luxury of not giving a shit about keeping this job. Nevertheless, I'm tearing around my assigned sector hard enough to keep myself consistently light-headed and a little out of breath.
Lots of the volumes are stored on the second and third floors of this immense cement box; the job descriptions we had to sign off on acknowledged that temperatures can be as low as 60 and higher than 95 degrees, and higher floors tend to be hotter. "They had to get fans because in the summer people were dying in here," one of the supervisors tells us. The fans still blow now even though I'm wearing five shirts. "If you think it's cold in here," one of my coworkers told me when she saw me rubbing my arms for warmth one morning, "just hope we don't have a fire drill." They evacuated everyone for one recently, and lots of the fast-moving employees had stripped down to T-shirts. They stood outside, masses of them, shivering for an hour as snow fell on their bare arms.
Time is not a thing I have to spare. I'm still only at 57 percent of my goal. It's been 10 years since I was a mover and packer for a moving company, and only slightly less since I worked ridiculously long hours as a waitress and housecleaner. My back and knees were younger then, but I'm only 31 and feel pretty confident that if I were doing those jobs again I'd still wake up with soreness like a person who'd worked out too much, not the soreness of a person whose body was staging a revolt. I can break into goal-meeting suicide pace for short bouts, sure, but I can't keep it up for 10.5 hours.
"Do not say that," one of the workampers tells me at break. Workampers are people who drive RVs around the country, from temporary job to temporary job, docking in trailer camps. "We're retired but we can't…" another explains to me about himself and his wife, shrugging, "make it. And there's no jobs, so we go where the jobs are."
Amalgamated advertises positions on websites workampers frequent. In this warehouse alone, there are hundreds of them.
"Never say that you can't do it," the first workamper emphasizes. "When they ask you why you aren't reaching your goals—"
"Say, 'It's because they're totally unreasonable'?" I suggest.
"Say you'll do better, even if you know you can't," she continues, ignoring me. "Say you'll try harder, even if the truth is that you're trying your absolute hardest right now, no matter how many times they tell you you're not doing good enough."
We will be fired if we say we just can't or won't get better, the workamper tells me. But so long as I resign myself to hearing how inadequate I am on a regular basis, I can keep this job. "Do you think this job has to be this terrible?" I ask the workamper.
"Oh, no," she says, and makes a face at me like I've asked a stupid question, which I have. As if Amalgamated couldn't bear to lose a fraction of a percent of profits by employing a few more than the absolute minimum of bodies they have to, or by storing the merchandise at halfway ergonomic heights and angles. But that would cost space, and space costs money, and money is not a thing customers could possibly be expected to hand over for this service without huffily taking their business elsewhere. Charging for shipping does cause high abandonment rates of online orders, though it's not clear whether people wouldn't pay a few bucks for shipping, or a bit more for the products, if they were guaranteed that no low-income workers would be tortured or exploited in the handling of their purchases.
most people really don't know how most internet goods get to them. The e-commerce specialist didn't even know, and she was in charge of choosing the 3PL for her midsize online-retail company. "These decisions are made at a business level and are based on cost," she says. "I never, ever thought about what they're like and how they treat people. Fulfillment centers want to keep clients blissfully ignorant of their conditions." If you called major clothing retailers, she ventured, and asked them "what it was like at the warehouse that ships their sweaters, no one at company headquarters would have any fucking clue."
Further, she said, now that I mentioned it, she has no idea how to go about getting any information on the conditions at the 3PL she herself hired. Nor how to find a responsible one. "A standard has to be created. Like fair trade or organic certification, where social good is built into the cost. There is a segment of the population"—like the consumers of her company's higher-end product, she felt—"that cares and will pay for it."
If they are aware how inhumane the reality is. But awareness has a long way to go, and logistics doesn't just mean online retail; food packagers and processors, medical suppliers, and factories use mega-3PLs as well. And a whole lot of other industries—hotels, call centers—take advantage of the price controls and plausible deniability that temporary staffing offers.
"Maybe awareness will lead to better working conditions," says Vinod Singhal, a professor of operations management at Georgia Tech. "But…" Given the state of the economy, he isn't optimistic.
At today's pickers' meeting, we are reminded that customers are waiting. We cannot move at a "comfortable pace," because if we are comfortable, we will never make our numbers, and customers are not willing to wait. And it's Christmastime. We got 2.7 million orders this week. People need—need—these items and they need them right now. So even if you've worked here long enough to be granted time off, you are not allowed to use it until the holidays are over. (And also forget about Election Day, which is today. "What if I want to vote?" I ask a supervisor. "I think you should!" he says. "But if I leave I'll get fired," I say. To which he makes a sad face before saying, "Yeah.") No time off includes those of you who are scheduled to work Thanksgiving. There are two Amalgamated-catered Thanksgiving dinners offered to employees next week, but you can only go to one of them. If you attend one, your employee badge will be branded with a nonremovable sticker so that you cannot also attempt to eat at the other.
I suppose this is what they were talking about in the radio ad I heard on the way to work, the one that was paid for by a coalition of local businesses, gently begging citizens to buy from them instead of off the internet and warning about the importance of supporting local shops. But if my coworker Brian wants to feed his new baby any of these 24-packs of Plum Organics Apple & Carrot baby food I've been picking, he should probably buy them from Amazon, where they cost only $31.16. In my locally owned grocery store, that's $47.76 worth of sustenance. Even if he finds the time to get in the car to go buy it at a brick-and-mortar Target, where it'd be less convenient but cost about the same as on Amazon, that'd be before sales tax, which physical stores, unlike Amazon, are legally required to charge to help pay for the roads on which Brian's truck, and more to the point Amazon's trucks, drive.
I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:
Link to White House petition for justice dept. to investigate this:
By: Rmuse November 15th, 2012
Throughout the campaign, there were questions why Willard was seeking the White House when he apparently had no real convictions other than, as Mrs. Willard stated, “it’s our turn, it’s Mitt’s time,” and arrogance aside, there had to be some reason he sought the highest office in the land, and it appears there was at least one very specific reason the public was not aware of.
It is absolutely true that Romney was looking forward to cutting his own tax liability to zero, privatizing the federal government, handing the Social Security Trust to Wall Street, and waging perpetual war, but with a plethora of investigations and allegations of corruption into his finances on the horizon, appointing a friendly Attorney General was certainly a primary reason for seeking the presidency. To date, Romney’s legal troubles include fallacious FEC and SEC disclosures, an investigation into him and his son’s connection to an $8.5 billion Ponzi scheme, and concealing over $15 million from the auto-bailout, and now his surrogate’s malfeasance and perjury in the eToys bankruptcy case.
Exactly ten days ago, this column reported on a Delaware bankruptcy court’s failure to enter an Emergency Motion into the public docket that included Bain Capital and Romney operative’s perjury and corruption in the eToys bankruptcy case. At the time it appeared the judge was protecting Romney and Bain Capital by suppressing the Motion in expectation he would win the election and have the Motion tossed out of court leading to the question; “is Romney’s main impetus for seeking the White House to appoint an Attorney General who will guarantee that all charges against him will go away?” Well now that he lost the election, it appears the allegation had merit because on November 7, the day after his crushing defeat, the Delaware bankruptcy court judge entered the motion into the public docket and scheduled a hearing for December 4, 2012; all on the same day.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Public release date: 26-Nov-2012
Contact: Jussi Seppälä
University of Eastern Finland
A low intake of folate and vitamin B12 increases the risk of melancholic depressive symptoms, according to a study among nearly 3,000 middle-aged and elderly Finnish subjects. On the other hand, non-melancholic depressive symptoms are associated with an increased risk for the metabolic syndrome. Based on these new observations, melancholic and non-melancholic depression may be separate depressive subtypes with different etiologies in terms of proinflammation and diet. The study was the first to look at these depressive sub-types separately.
"The findings have practical implications in the care of patients with depressive symptoms. For example, it may be wise to avoid medication causing weight gain among patients with non-melancholic depression, whereas melancholic depressive symptoms may call for a closer look at the quality of the patient's diet," says Mr Jussi Seppälä, MD, Chief of the Department of Psychiatry of the Hospital District of Southern Savo.
Melancholic depression involves typical depressive symptoms, such as a depressed mood. Non-melancholic depression is characterized by other types of symptoms, such as low self-esteem and feelings of worry and anxiety.
Among subjects with the highest folate intake, the risk for melancholic depressive symptoms was almost 50 per cent lower than among those with the lowest intake. In addition, among those with the highest vitamin B12 levels, the risk for melancholic depressive symptoms was almost three times lower than among those with the lowest levels. Both findings are new. A similar association with non-melancholic depressive symptoms was not observed.
Another novel observation is that the risk for the metabolic syndrome was twofold among those with non-melancholic depressive symptoms, as compared to those with melancholic symptoms or those with no depressive symptoms.
Public release date: 26-Nov-2012
Contact: Edd McCracken
University of Edinburgh
A large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.
A report from the University of Edinburgh Business School has found that the more groups of people in someone's Facebook friends, the greater potential to cause offence. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.
Stress arises when a user presents a version of themself on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online 'friends', such as posts displaying behaviour such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.
As older people join the site, this has become an increasing problem as their expectations may be very different from those of younger users.
Some 55 per cent of parents follow their children on Facebook. Likewise, more than half of employers claim not to have hired someone based on their Facebook page.
Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent), and colleagues (65 per cent).
The report also discovered that more people are Facebook friends with their former partners than with their current relationship partner. Only 56 per cent of users were friends with their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse online, compared with 64 per cent of exes.
If you want to get rid of unwanted, negative thoughts, try just ripping them up and tossing them in the trash.
In a new study, researchers found that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the thoughts as well.
On the other hand, people were more likely to use their thoughts when making judgments if they first wrote them down on a piece of paper and tucked the paper in a pocket to protect it.
“However you tag your thoughts -- as trash or as worthy of protection -- seems to make a difference in how you use those thoughts,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
by Sarah Gardner
Marketplace for Monday, November 19, 2012
Cranberry growing has been a tradition in Massachusetts since the 1800's, when sea captains started cultivating the berry to ward off scurvy. Today Massachusetts is No. 2 in cranberry production, second only to Wisconsin. But climate change is forcing growers in the state to re-think their business.
Michael Hogan, CEO of A.D. Makepeace, a large cranberry grower based in Wareham, says for now cranberries are still a viable crop in Massachusetts. But climate change is making it much tougher to grow there.
"We're having warmer springs, we're having higher incidences of pests and fungus and we're having warmer falls when we need to have cooler nights," Hogan says.
Those changing conditions are costing growers like Makepeace money. The company has to use more water to irrigate in the hotter summers, and to cover the berries in spring and fall to protect them from frosts.
They're also spending more on fuel to run irrigation pumps, and have invested heavily in technology to monitor the bogs more closely. It's also meant more fungicides and fruit rot.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:
Wyndham Wallace , May 24th, 2011
For the last few years, most of the music industry – in all its forms, from record labels to artist managers, from music publishers to concert promoters – has been railing against illegal downloading, arguing that such activity is bringing the business to its knees, and pursuing those engaged in it, whether websites like The Pirate Bay or individuals, for every penny they believe they are owed
But while fans have been warned that without traditional income streams investment in new acts will be harder, musicians have at the same time been told by the wider industry that there are still plenty of opportunities for them to make a living if they reverse long held principles: touring is now where the money is and records, cheap or even free, should be used to promote live performance. In addition, licensing music to TV, film and advertising, the prevailing opinions insist, is no longer a dirty business and can provide significant opportunities to claw back income while social networking allows direct to fan marketing that cuts out the middle men who previously took their cut.
All the time the industry talks of money: money it's lost, money it's owed. It rarely talks about the effects upon artists, and even less about how music itself might suffer.
But if the industry wants to talk money, let's talk money, albeit the ways that developing musicians are encouraged to make up the loss of sales income in order to ply their trade. Someone's got to bring this up, because it's not a pretty picture. Consider, first, direct-to-fan marketing and social networking, said to involve fans so that they're more inclined to attend shows, invest in ‘product', and help market it. In practise this is a time-consuming affair that reaps rewards for only the few. Even the simple act of posting updates on Facebook, tweeting and whatever else is hip this week requires time, effort and imagination, and while any sales margins subsequently provoked might initially seem higher, the ratio of exertion to remuneration remains low for most.
Still, if an act can find time to do these things, or has the necessary capital to allow others to take care of them on their behalf, then they can hit the road. Touring's where the money is, the mantra goes, and that's the best way to sell merchandise too. But this is a similarly hollow promise. For starters, the sheer volume of artists now touring has saturated the market. Ticket prices have gone through the roof for established acts, while those starting out are competing for shows, splitting audiences spoilt for choice, driving down fees paid by promoters nervous about attendance figures. There's also a finite amount of money that can be spent by most music fans, so if they're coughing up huge wads of cash for stadium acts then that's less money available to spend on developing artists. And for every extra show that a reputable artist takes on in order to make up his losses, that's one show less that a new name might have won.
Touring is also expensive. That's why record labels offered new artists financial backing, albeit in the form of a glorified loan known as ‘tour support'. Transport needs to be paid for, as do fuel, accommodation, food, equipment, tour managers and sound engineers.
Furthermore, touring, especially in the early stages of a career, is exhausting. It might be fun, but as anyone who's been on the road will admit, it can be a far from glamorous grind that leaves musicians drained, incapacitated and far from creative. It also seems off kilter that those gifted at writing and working in the studio should be sent out on the road rather than rewarded for just that, especially since records, in whatever format, are the ties that help bind fans to artists. There are also those for whom it's not viable, or at the very least a challenge: those suffering from stage fright; those – mothers, for example – whose family situation requires them to remain at home; those skilled at writing songs but not so adept at performing them.
It gets worse. The first people to give up will be those with the least money. This, some argue, will sort the wheat out from the chaff: serious musicians don't give up that easily. But this is clearly nonsense. Serious musicians might not give up, and some may thrive – if the cliché is true – because they have suffered. But if they can't afford to tour, record, build a website and pay those required to supervise their business, let alone pay their rent, then they won't make music their priority and potential stars will be lost to us. Their guitars will gather dust, picked up to fill quiet time or, perhaps, to be strummed for friends in small bars. Maybe they'll win fans, but most won't be able to do anything with that fact. A developing act can't tour anywhere unless it can afford to get there, and its products won't be bought unless it can tour, because these days that's one of the few ways to gain attention amidst the shrill shriek of marketing. The first hurdle any musician must now leap is financial: can they afford to pursue the dream?
The majority that succeed will be those well connected enough to receive funding, or those from financially comfortable backgrounds. This might explain the number of upper middle class artists that have made their mark recently,
and there's one further concern: those whose voices most need to be heard are often the ones least powerful, and musicians have frequently done far more than provide us with music. They've articulated thoughts that need to be heard. They've drawn our attention to injustices in the world just as they've highlighted the beauty of life. They have helped bring together communities and given them a common voice. They have spoken out and stood up for their principles, demanded change and sometimes achieved it. Our failure to find a satisfactory method in which their privileged situation – as commentators – can be protected could be very damaging. Though it inevitably sounds like a conspiracy theory, it may be more than coincidence that governments have taken so long to address the problems that the music business is facing. Music has provided a voice of dissent, and governments don't like that. By failing to ensure that musicians have the same right to be paid for their work as anyone else, they're helping to ensure that only the least controversial acts survive: those of independent wealth, often tied to the establishment; the ones that are happy to prop up the capitalist system with their advertising music; the ones who are happy to pander to the masses; the ones for whom business is their main drive and music simply a means to make their fortune. Failure to compensate those whose work is more specialist, more confrontational, more subtle, more challenging, is an act of complicity in the silencing of social and political debate. Though democracy won't allow for musicians to be gagged, it can still price them out of the market.
Perhaps the industry's in league with this too, its eyes on a more insidious long term goal: after all, big business doesn't work for the people. The people work for big business. If a world can be created where most musicians simply can't afford to exist from their work, then that'll leave the ones who do exactly what they're told thanks to the promise of fame and fortune. It's already happening on TV (especially talent shows), in movies, even in bookstores: the slow, pernicious silencing of alternative perspectives buried beneath a storm of loud, obnoxious yelling about nothing.
CEO Council Demands Cuts To Poor, Elderly While Reaping Billions In Government Contracts, Tax Breaks
Ryan Grim 11/25/2012
The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed.
The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies' tax bills.
Many of the companies recommending austerity would be out of business without the heavy federal support they get, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which both received billions in direct bailout cash, plus billions more indirectly through AIG and other companies taxpayers rescued.
Just three of the companies -- GE, Boeing and Honeywell -- were handed nearly $28 billion last year in federal contracts alone.
At Honeywell, Cote practices what he preaches. Between 2008-2010, the company avoided paying any taxes at all. Instead, the company got taxpayer-funded rebates of $34 million off of profits totaling nearly $5 billion.
25 November 2012 by Michael Marshall
In a small patch of the Southern Ocean, the shells of sea snails are dissolving. The finding is the first evidence that marine life is already suffering as a result of man-made ocean acidification.
"This is actually happening now," says Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. He and colleagues captured free-swimming sea snails called pteropods from the Southern Ocean in early 2008 and found under an electron microscope that the outer layers of their hard shells bore signs of unusual corrosion.
As well as warming the planet, the carbon dioxide we emit is changing the chemistry of the ocean. CO2 dissolves in water to form carbonic acid, making the water less alkaline. The pH is currently dropping at about 0.1 per century, faster than any time in the last 300 million years.
Lab experiments have shown that organisms with hard shells, such as corals and molluscs, will suffer as a result. To build their shells, corals and molluscs need to take up calcium carbonate from the water, but more carbonic acid means more hydrogen ions in the water. These react with carbonate ions, making them unavailable to form calcium carbonate.
We just saw millionaires and corporations decide to spend record millions of dollars on the campaign of their candidate instead of investing in workers and creating jobs.
So I don't want to hear any GOP leaders claim that the wealthiest among us can't pay their fair share of taxes.
Sounds like the kind of thing Romney's company, Bain, did.
I didn't plan this, but it's appropriate that this article is in proximity to the one on cheating on teacher's tests, which also mentions rising rates of student cheating.
When the power elite cheat, they help set the tone for the rest of society. Promising pensions in exchange for smaller salaries, then not funding the pensions, is cheating. And you also get businesses cheating each other, as in the firm that HP bought, which lied about how well it was doing.
By Michael Hiltzik
November 25, 2012
Let's get a few things clear. Hostess didn't fail for any of the reasons you've been fed. It didn't fail because Americans demanded more healthful food than its Twinkies and Ho-Hos snack cakes. It didn't fail because its unions wanted it to die.
It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else.
Take the notion that Hostess was out of step with America's healthful-food craze. You'd almost think that Hostess failed because it didn't convert its product line into one based on green vegetables. Yet you only have to amble down the cookie aisle at your supermarket or stroll past the Cinnabon kiosk at the airport to know that there are still handsome profits to be made from the sale of highly refined sugary garbage.
It's true that the company had done almost nothing in the last 10 years to modernize or expand its offerings. But as any of the millions of Americans who have succumbed to Twinkie cravings can attest, there has always been something about their greasy denseness and peculiar aftertaste that place them high among the ranks of foodstuffs that can be perfectly satisfying without actually being any good.
Hostess management's efforts to blame union intransigence for the company's collapse persisted right through to the Thanksgiving eve press release announcing Hostess' liquidation, when it cited a nationwide strike by bakery workers that "crippled its operations."
That overlooks the years of union givebacks and management bad faith. Example: Just before declaring bankruptcy for the second time in eight years Jan. 11, Hostess trebled the compensation of then-Chief Executive Brian Driscoll and raised other executives' pay up to twofold. At the same time, the company was demanding lower wages from workers and stiffing employee pension funds of $8 million a month in payment obligations.
The company had known for a decade or more that its market was changing, but had done nothing to modernize its product line or distribution system. Its trucks were breaking down. It was keeping unprofitable stores open and having trouble figuring out how to move inventory to customers and when. It had cut back advertising and marketing to the point where it was barely communicating with customers. It had gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions from its unions, and spent none of it on these essential improvements.
But the firm emerged from bankruptcy with more debt than when it went in — in with $575 million, out with $774 million, all secured by company assets. That's pretty much the opposite of what's supposed to happen in bankruptcy. By the end, there was barely a spare distributor cap in the motor pool that wasn't mortgaged to the private equity firms and hedge funds holding the notes (and also appointing management).
In any event, the $989 million in pension liabilities Hostess ended up owing various union funds, according to its bankruptcy filing, didn't accumulate in secret, like termite damage. It accrued because Hostess and its sister bakeries judged their retirement obligations to be relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Now that the bill has come due, Hostess blames the workers for demanding what they were promised.
Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests
By Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press
It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.
For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.
Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver's licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.
The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.
Mumford "obtained tens of thousands of dollars" during the alleged conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Among those charged is former University of Tennessee and NFL wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who is accused of employing a test-taker for a Praxis physical education exam. He was charged in late October with four counts of Social Security and mail fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and is out of jail on a $10,000 bond. He has been suspended by the Memphis City Schools system.
"There's a never-ending war between those who try to maintain standards and those who are looking out for their own interests."
Cheating on standardized tests is not new, and it can be as simple as looking at the other person's test sheet. The Internet and cell phones have made it easier for students to cheat in a variety of ways. In the past few years, investigations into cheating on standardized tests for K-12 students have surfaced in Atlanta, New York and El Paso, Texas.
Still, most of the recent test-taking scandals involved students taking tests, not people taking teacher certification exams. Cheating scams involving teacher certification tests are more unusual, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
Schaeffer notes that a large-scale scandal involving teacher certification tests was discovered in 2000, also in the South. In that case, 52 teachers were charged with paying up to $1,000 apiece to a former Educational Testing Services proctor to ensure a passing grade on teacher certification tests.
Kingston, the university professor, said prospective teachers may not be confident in their knowledge base to pass the test. Or, the cheaters may believe they are smart enough to pass on their own but also know they are poor test takers.
Kingston said his research has shown that cheating on exams is getting more prevalent.
"The propensity to cheat on exams both through college and for licensure and certification exams seems to be increasing over time," said Kingston. "People often don't see it as something wrong."
Saturday, November 24, 2012
By Rebecca Leber on Nov 24, 2012
Hurricane Sandy’s $50 billion damage demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s largest cities to the effects of global warming. Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations diplomat for international climate negotiations, said Sandy serves as “yet another wake-up call” for the U.S. to cut carbon pollution.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Figueres made the case for why it’s in the country’s best interest to lead with urgency:
FIGUERES: First, from a domestic perspective, why would the United States allow other countries to pursue the technologies of the future while the United States stays with the technologies that are becoming every day more obsolete, hence losing its future competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world?
More than 30 countries have already taken steps well beyond the U.S., instituting caps on carbon pollution or a carbon tax, including Europe, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, and Mexico. As Figueres says, it is not a choice between lower pollution and economic growth, since climate change devastates businesses and American security.
Friday, November 23, 2012
So is there a real island, discovered or not, that is someplace else, that was just mismarked on the maps?
By Frances Cha, CNN
updated 11:24 AM EST, Fri November 23, 2012
An international scientific expedition has revealed a South Pacific island roughly the size of Manhattan and clearly marked on online maps and marine charts does not, in fact, exist.
The 'undiscovery' of the island -- which until now was midway between Australia and New Caledonia -- highlights how much there still is to learn about the oceans, scientists say.
PFC Bradley Manning has been charged with "aiding the enemy". When in reality, he has shine the light on the corruption and politics that is found in the flawed foreign policy of this country. President Obama has went on the record that PFC Manning "broke the law" and has thus violated Article 37 of the UCMJ. A call for the immediate release and pardon of PFC Manning to his family is here by demanded of this government by the undersigned below.
July 30, 2012
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, tweeted a startling statistic to his followers on July 22, 2012: "Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."
From 2007 to 2010, typical families lost 39 percent of their wealth, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years. In 2007, the median family net worth was $126,400. In 2010, it was $77,300, according to the survey.
Where the Waltons fit in
Six members of the Walton family appear on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Christy Walton, widow of the late John Walton, leads the clan at No. 6 with a net worth of $25.3 billion as of March 2012. She is also the richest woman in the world for the seventh year in a row, according to Forbes. Here are the other five:
No. 9: Jim Walton, $23.7 billion
No. 10: Alice Walton, $23.3 billion
No. 11: S. Robson Walton, oldest son of Sam Walton, $23.1 billion
No. 103: Ann Walton Kroenke, $3.9 billion
No. 139: Nancy Walton Laurie, $3.4 billion
That’s a grand total of $102.7 billion for the whole family.
Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California-Berkeley, compared the Waltons’ cumulative net worth with that of the overall population, as cited in the Survey of Consumer Finances. (She used the Waltons’ wealth from 2010, which was valued at $89.5 billion.)
Allegretto found that in 2007, the wealth held by the six Waltons was equal to that of the bottom 30.5 percent of families in the U.S. In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families.
That 41.5 percent represents nearly 49 million families, notes Josh Bivens at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. While median family wealth fell by 38.8 percent, Bivens wrote, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73.3 billion in 2007 to $89.5 billion in 2010, or about 22 percent growth.
Public release date: 21-Nov-2012
Contact: Jyoti Madhusoodanan
Public Library of Science
Male-organized symposia have only half as many women presenters as symposia organized by women
Women scientists in primatology are poorly represented at symposia organized by men, but receive equal representation when symposia organizers are women or mixed groups, according to research published November 21 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Lynne Isbell and colleagues from the University of California, Davis.
The authors analyzed women scientists' participation at major scientific conferences for primate scientists and anthropologists, where symposia are largely by invitation but posters and other talks are initiated by participants. They found that within the field of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. Their analysis also shows that symposia organized by men on average included half the number of women authors (29%) than symposia organized by women or both men and women (58 to 64%).
They describe their results as particularly surprising given that primatology is a field with a significant history of women scientists. In their discussion of these findings, the authors say, "Regardless of the cause of gender bias against women in invitations to prestigious symposia, its discovery requires attention in a field that is exemplary in being gender-blind in so many other ways."
Lynne Isbell adds, "It is difficult to imagine in this day and age that a gender bias by men against women in primatology could exist, but the evidence clearly reveals the sad truth. If it is still happening in a science that is so heavily represented by women, what does that mean for other sciences where women remain in the minority?"
Public release date: 21-Nov-2012
Contact: Eileen Petridis
The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)
CLEVELAND, Ohio (November 21, 2012)—Moving 6,000 or more steps a day—no matter how—adds up to a healthier life for midlife women. That level of physical activity decreases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a diabetes precursor and a risk for cardiovascular disease), showed a study published online this month in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.
Although other studies have shown the value of structured exercise in lowering health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, this study has shown that habitual physical activity—whether it comes from exercising or just activities of daily living—has the power to improve women's health.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2012) — In the 1960s and 1970s, classic social psychological studies were conducted that provided evidence that even normal, decent people can engage in acts of extreme cruelty when instructed to do so by others. However, in an essay published November 20 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, Professors Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher revisit these studies' conclusions and explain how awful acts involve not just obedience, but enthusiasm too -- challenging the long-held belief that human beings are 'programmed' for conformity.
"Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe -- typically under the influence of those in authority -- that what they are doing is right," Professor Haslam explained.
Professor Reicher, of the University of St Andrews, added that it is not that they were blind to the evil they were perpetrating, but rather that they knew what they were doing, and believed it to be right.
These conclusions were partly informed by Professors Haslam and Reicher's own prison experiment, conducted in 2002 in collaboration with the BBC. The study generated three findings. First, participants did not conform automatically to their assigned role; second, they only acted in terms of group membership to the extent that they identified with the group; and finally, group identity did not mean that people simply accepted their assigned position -- it also empowered them to resist it.
Although Zimbardo and Milgram's findings remain highly influential, Professor Haslam argue that their conclusions do not hold up well under close empirical scrutiny.
Professor Reicher concludes that tyranny does not flourish because perpetrators are helpless and ignorant; it flourishes because they are convinced that they are doing something worthy.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2012) — Just 10 minutes spent in the back seat of a car with a smoker in the front, boosts a child's daily exposure to harmful pollutants by up to 30%, reveals research published online in Tobacco Control.
Pollutant levels exceeded those found in restaurants, bars, and casinos, the study showed.
Children are very vulnerable to the effects of second hand smoke, because most of this occurs in cars and private homes -- locations not covered by outright public bans on smoking -- say the authors.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Is she related to Mitt Romney?
By Rebecca Leber on Nov 21, 2012
Fox Business kicked off Thanksgiving eve with a joke about food stamps. Discussing Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker’s challenge to live on food stamps for one week, Fox pundit Andrea Tantaros said that living on a $133 monthly allowance for food would make her look “fabulous.” Meanwhile, a record number of Americans actually rely on this budget, for less than $1.50 per meal.
STUART VARNEY (HOST): Could you live on $133 per month for food?
TANTAROS: I should try it because do you know how fabulous I’d look? I’d be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds, it really does. I’d be looking great.
Far from a diet, not having enough food to eat is a harsh reality for 50 million people. The average Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) household has a monthly income of $731, and 76 percent include a child, elderly or disabled person. Without SNAP, even more Americans would go hungry.
By Aviva Shen posted from ThinkProgress Health on Nov 21, 2012
Every year for the past 13 years, biotechnology giant Monsanto Company has sued about 11 farmers per year for patent infringement of their genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. Many of these farmers have had to pay a settlement to the corporation even when their fields were accidentally contaminated with GM seeds from a neighboring farm. Monsanto simply outspends the defendants, dedicating $10 million a year and 75 staffers for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting farmers. Farmers who have sued Monsanto back have been soundly defeated.
Monsanto is likely to continue this winning streak with an assist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which released a final report Monday absolving the biotech industry of contamination of non-GM seeds with their products from other fields. The USDA report concludes that organic and other non-GM farmers should simply buy insurance to protect against GMO contamination.
Essentially, Monsanto can sue these farmers all they want for patent infringement, but they are immune to challenges from organic farmers whose products are contaminated by GMOs. As one dissenting committee member commented:
Any farmer/seed grower contaminated will not want to disclose the contamination because they are illegally in possession of a patented material and could be subject to legal action for theft of intellectual property. The committee refused to ever recognize this fact.
The report is just the latest example of the USDA’s cozy relationship with the biotech industry. In fact, the agency has never denied a single application for GM crop approval. Monsanto’s power extends beyond the USDA — also on Monday, the Department of Justice dropped their antitrust investigation into Monsanto’s near monopoly on the nation’s seeds. The stalled Farm Bill in Congress also contains a so-called “Monsanto rider” that would entirely deregulate GM crops and allow Monsanto to basically approve its own product.
By Amanda Marcotte
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012
Pro-choicers have been accusing conservatives for decades of valuing fetuses more than actual born children (and exponentially more than post-pubescent women), and now state legislators in Michigan are considering proving them right. The legislature held a hearing on Tuesday for House Bill 5684 and 5685, which would "allow taxpayers to claim a dependency exemption for a fetus that has completed at least 12 weeks of gestation as of the last day of the tax year and that has been under the care and observation of a physician since at least 12 weeks of gestation." Yep, tax exemptions for fetuses.
This bill really demonstrates the exciting new extremist direction of anti-choice nuttery—the bill author's Todd Akin-style imagined reality, where OB-GYNs are fetus doctors instead of lady doctors, is particularly charming. But what makes this even more offensive than the norm of offensiveness we've grown used to is that Michigan just slashed a bunch of tax relief for actual children. Michigan Republicans took the hatchet to the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care subsidy, a move that directly hurts families who are trying to house, clothe, and feed children unfortunate enough to have developed beyond the fetal stage into the living, breathing person stage. If Michigan passes this new bill, it can only be taken as a direct statement that fetuses have far more value to Michigan than children.
By David Edwards
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Maine news anchor team resigns on air over ‘unbalanced news’ (via Raw Story )
Two anchors who have worked at Maine sister television stations, ABC affiliate WVII and Fox affiliate WFVX, for a combined 12 years cited “unbalanced news” after they surprised staff on Tuesday by tendering their resignations on the air. At the end of the 6 p.m. newscast, Cindy Michaels and Tony…
More than 600 small business owners and executives wrote a letter to every member of Congress urging them to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy under any deal brokered to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."
"As businesses owners, none of us hire more employees simply because someone gives us a tax cut. We hire more employees when our customers demand more of what we have to sell," the letter reads. "When a teacher, firefighter, or construction worker building public infrastructure loses his or her job, many of us also lose a customer."
The letter also emphasizes that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy do not generally aid small businesses, and suggests that the money could be better spent on infrastructure projects, education, or other efforts to strengthen the economy.
"Those who claim that tax cuts help small businesses are guilty of identity theft," the letter continues. "Less than 3 percent of tax filers with any business income make over $200,000 (individuals) or $250,000 (couples) per year, and many of those are not small business owners, much less small business owners with employees. They include K Street lobbyists, Wall Street investment partners, big business CEOs paid to sit on the boards of other big corporations, and wealthy people renting out their vacation homes."
I suggest you read both of the articles reference below in their entirety, at the given links. Very informative and thought-provoking.
The first article credits publicity and law enforcement scrutiny for preventing the presidential vote from being stolen in 2012 in Ohio.
The second article reports on claims by hacktivist group Anonymoust that they foiled an attempt by the Republicans to steal the election.
It will be interesting to see future developments.
As a retired computer programmer, I know it would be possible to program voting machines to steal an election, then erase that part of its code.
Considering the other dirty tricks Karl Rove has pulled, there is no reason to doubt he would try to rig the vote in this way if he could.
Why Rove failed to deliver Ohio on Election Day: What happened in Ohio – this time around
November 12, 2012
Was the "fix" in on Election Day in Ohio? The questions surrounding Election Day activities in Ohio and Karl Rove’s now-infamous meltdown on Fox TV election night are causing a buzz in the election integrity movement.
Of course we do not know for sure what happened in Ohio – but we do know the circumstances were eerily similar to election tampering techniques the Free Press discovered after the 2004 election.
One major similarity was Rove's insistence to his colleagues on Fox News that the media consortium’s exit polls were wrong in Ohio. This is the same claim he made in 2004 concerning Ohio and 2000 in Florida.
Curiously, the Ohio Secretary of State’s vote tabulation website went down at 11:13pm, as reported by Free Press election protection website monitors, and mentioned by Rove on the news. This was one minute earlier than the time on election night 2004 -- when Ohio votes were outsourced to Chattanooga, Tennessee -- and then the vote flipped for Bush. This isn’t just a Free Press claim, but is well-documented by Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Craig Unger in his book Boss Rove.
This time, the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) vote tabulation site went down as on election night as well.
Earlier in the day, I filed suit in both federal and state courts seeking to remove uncertified and untested “experimental” software patches from county vote tabulators in at least 25 Ohio counties. Election Systems & Software (ES&S) installed the last minute software on county tabulators linked to the secretary of state's office. Coincidentally, Warren and Cuyahoga counties were two of the counties targeted with the software patch.
When the Free Press investigated Bush’s implausible 2004 victory in Ohio, we discovered ES&S and Triad technicians had placed similar last-minute unauthorized patches on tabulators in an estimated 44 Ohio counties.
All the counties that Rove mentioned on Fox News had irregularities and funny numbers in 2004.
So why didn’t Rove’s guy Romney win Ohio as Bush did in ’04? All the voter suppression tactics and usual dirty tricks seemed to be in place. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was the new Blackwell and Romney the new Bush, but Rove proved to be the same old Rove –- operating from his 2004 election theft playbook.
This time, after Columbus Free Press articles appeared about voting machines tied to Romney and scurrilous software patches installed on Ohio tabulators, 60,000 people emailed the U.S. Department of Justice with a change.org petition requesting an investigation of Ohio. Justice Department personnel as well as FBI agents were on the ground on Election Day in Ohio looking not only for voter suppression but also for electronic election tampering.
Election protection activists blanketed the state with a visible Video the Vote project that was based out of Columbus and also included Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Although the judges in the software patch cases denied the temporary restraining orders, the cases are still open. However, the story of the Free Press lawsuit was announced the day before Election Day, was picked up by the Associated Press, and appeared in more than 500 newspapers. Just prior to Election Day, the best reporting in Ohio was ironically coming from Channel 19 -- Fox News in Cincinnati. Also, at 12:23am on Election Day morning, Forbes.com posted one of the greatest anti-vote tampering deterrent articles in U.S. history. Essentially, they outlined the shaky electronic voting technology and how it might be used to tamper with votes in the United States’ foremost swing state. On the page, linked above, Forbes links to the Channel 19 Fox News report.
Under the glare of intense light activated from law enforcement, media and election protection activists, no one seemed willing to tamper this time with Ohio’s vote totals – despite the unrelenting magical numerology of Rove. This time, reality and fact-based numbers prevailed.
(Updated November 13, 2012)
Anonymous, Karl Rove and 2012 Election Fix?
Monday, 19 November 2012 16:02 By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks
At around 11:25 pm EST on election night, Karl Rove knew something had gone terribly wrong.
Rove was supremely confident that the numbers coming in from Ohio throughout the night that favored President Obama weren’t indicative of who would win Ohio when all the votes were ultimately tabulated by the state's computers. With a quarter of the vote still out there, Rove was anticipating a shift to the Right just after 11 pm, which, coincidentally, is exactly what happened in 2004.
That year, John Kerry and the entire nation were watching Ohio just after the 11pm hour. Florida had just been called for George W. Bush and according to the Electoral College math whoever won Ohio would win the election. And considering that exit polls from the state showed John Kerry with a substantial lead, there were a lot of tense moments for Karl Rove and the Republicans that night.
Then the clock struck 11:14pm, and the servers counting the votes in Ohio crashed. Election officials had planned for this sort of thing to happen and already contracted with a company in Chattanooga, Tennessee called SMARTech to be the failsafe should the servers in Ohio go down.
As journalist Craig Unger lays bare in his book, Boss Rove, SMARTech was drenched in Republican politics. One of the early founders of the company was Mercer Reynolds who used to the finance chairman of the Republican Party. SMARTech’s top client was none other than the Bush-Cheney campaign itself and SMARTech also did work for Jeb Bush and the Republican National Committee. And it was Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, who ensured that SMARTech received the contract to count votes on election night should the servers go down, which they did at exactly 11:14pm.
Sixty long seconds later the servers came back up in Ohio, but now with vote rerouted through SMARTech in Chattanooga. And, coincidentally, Bush’s prospects for re-election were suddenly a lot brighter. The vote totals that poured into the system from SmartTECH's computer in Chattanooga were flipping the exit polls on their head. The lead Kerry had in the exit polls had magically reversed by more than 6%, something unheard of in any other nation in the developed world, giving Bush the win in Ohio and the presidency for another four years.
“Curiously, the Ohio Secretary of State’s vote tabulation website went down at 11:13pm, as reported by Free Press election protection website monitors, and mentioned by Rove on the news. This was one minute earlier than the time on election night 2004 -- when Ohio votes were outsourced to Chattanooga, Tennessee -- and then the vote flipped for Bush…This time, the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) vote tabulation site went down as on election night as well. In his rant on Fox, Rove argued that Fox News should not confirm Ohio for Obama until votes came in from the southwest Ohio GOP strongholds of Delaware, Butler and Warren counties and suburban Cincinnati. It was after the crash of the secretary of state’s site in 2004 that improbable vote totals came in from Republican counties in southwest Ohio – particularly Butler, Clermont, and Warren counties. These three counties provided more than Bush’s entire Ohio victory margin of 119,000.”
Only this time, when the servers came back up, the votes never flipped. President Obama’s lead held and he went on to win, while Karl Rove - and Mitt Romney - watched in slack-jawed amazement.
And if that’s the case, why did the plan to steal the election not work?
Here’s where the story gets really interesting.
Just a few weeks before Election Day, the hacktivist group Anonymous issued a video statement against Karl Rove. Anonymous is notorious for numerous cyber actions against the Justice Department, the Pentagon, the Recording Industry of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and even the Church of Scientology.
In the video released prior to Election Day, Anonymous warns Karl Rove that he’s being watched. “We know that you will attempt to attempt to rig the election of Mitt Romney to your favor,” a black-robed figure in a Guy Fawkes mask says in the video. “We will watch as your merry band of conspirators try to achieve this overthrow of the United States government.”
The figure then warns Rove that Anonymous is “watching and monitoring all your servers,” and goes on to say, “We want you to know that we are watching you, waiting for you to make this mistake of thinking you can rig this election to your favor…If we catch you we will turn over all of this data to the appropriate officials in the hopes that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Then, just two days after Election Day, as the Republican Party was in full-blown despair and Karl Rove was trying to figure out what went wrong, Anonymous released a press statement claiming it did indeed prevent an attempt by Rove to steal the election for Mitt Romney.
But, according to Anonymous, ORCA had nothing to do with getting out the vote and everything to do with rigging the vote.
“We coded and created, what we call The Great Oz. A targeted password protected firewall that we tested and refined over the past weeks. We placed this code on more than one of the digital tunnels and their destination that Karl's not so smart worker bees planned to use on election night.”
Anonymous alleges these “digital tunnels” were leading to servers in three different states. The release goes on to detail what happened on election night as Rove’s operatives attempted to access these tunnels. “We watched as Karl's weak corrupters repeatedly tried to penetrate The Great Oz. These children of his were at a loss-how many times and how many passwords did they try-exactly 105.”
So might this have really been the reason for Karl Rove’s shock on election night? Under the guise of sophisticated get out the vote operation, had Rove and the Republican Party actually built up a massive system to steal the Ohio election, just like in 2004, only to have it thwarted at the last minute by a group of computer hackers?
If this is true, then the implications are enormous and could take down the entire Republican Party and finally wake Americans up to the fact that our privatized vote system is shockingly flawed and insecure.
In their press release, Anonymous concludes, “We have a warning for Karl – sail again at your own peril. We may just put all the evidence into a tidy little package and give it to a painfully bored nemesis hanging out in a certain embassy in London.”
In an era of internet lulz and digital false flags, we must demand proof for these sort of claims made by Anonymous. But given Karl Rove’s history with elections in Ohio and the known vulnerabilities with our corporate owned electronic voting machines, there may be both smoke and fire with these election night allegations.