“Mitt Romney is a welfare queen. [...] without the tax-breaks given to interest payment, the private equity business model would never have been born. Those tax-breaks are nothing but a taxpayer subsidy, paid for by everybody else picking up the slack for Mitt Romney and his crony corporate raiders.” – Mitt Romney, ‘welfare queen’ (via theamericanbear)
As of five years ago, when this diagram was made, drillers had made a 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometer) shaft. (Illustration courtesy Nicolle Rager-Fuller, NSF) via: NationalGeographic
You might recall the post a couple days ago about the Russian team of scientists in the Antarctic who hadn’t been heard from in several days. RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency, published a story today that said the team had finally breached the lake, implying they’ve actually been in contact with someone. However, their source is unnamed:
After decades of drilling , Russian scientists have finally managed to pierce through Antarctica’s ice sheet to reveal the secrets of a unique sub-glacial lake, Vostok, that has been sealed there for the past 20 million years, a scientific source said on Monday. “Yesterday, our scientists stopped drilling at the depth of 3,768 meters and reached the surface of the sub-glacial lake,” the source said. – Russian Scientists Drill to Sub-Glacial Antarctic Lake | Science | RIA Novosti
Great? Not so fast say other scientists:
…Mahlon C. Kennicutt II, a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University who leads several Antarctic research groups, said the report should be viewed with skepticism until an official announcement is made.
“I would be surprised if it was announced officially this quiet. Also, the one source [in the article] is unnamed, so it is hard to tell,” he said.
Montana State ecologist John Priscu echoed Kennicutt’s caution. “There are a lot of rumors going around about penetrating the lake, and we need the Russian program to make the official announcement,” Priscu told National Geographic News via email.
And this from MSNBC: It appears there has been no official confirmation of the team’s success. There are no press releases on the website of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, the government agency that oversees the country’s polar science expeditions.
You would think the announcement would be on their own website. I wonder if the American scientists are more skeptical about the Russian team breaching the lake or their having made contact with someone?
Sidenote: also learned from that RIA Novosti story, there are rumors of a Nazi secret base there. Seriously?
With the current events happening at Lake Vostok, an old theory saying that German Nazis may have built a secret base there as early as the 1930s, has resurfaced.
It is thought that towards the end of the Second World War, the Nazis moved to the South Pole and started constructing a base at Lake Vostok. In 1943, Grand Admiral Karl Dontiz was quoted saying “Germany’s submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuehrer on the other end of the world,” in Antarctica.
According to German naval archives, months after Germany surrendered to the Allies in April, 1945, the German submarine U-530 arrived at the South Pole from the Port of Kiel. Crewmembers constructed an ice cave and supposedly stored several boxes of relics from the Third Reich, including Hitler’s secret files.
Romney Campaign Spins Low Turn Out - [E]ven though Romney topped 50 percent of the vote for the first time in this primary season in [Nevada], his vote total was more than 25 percent lower than it was in 2008, and his percentage of the vote fell slightly as well.
[...] The good news is, he’s the clear frontrunner who just racked up two more wins in Florida and Nevada by large margins.
The bad news is, the more voters see Romney, the less popular he becomes. Consider this tidbit from the new Washington Post/ABC News poll:
Overall, 55 percent of those who are closely following the campaign say they disapprove of what the GOP candidates have been saying. By better than 2 to 1, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him. Even among Republicans, as many offer negative as positive assessments of him on this question.
Mitt is an unappetizing combination of Douchtastic and Gafferific, with a heaping scoop of Used Car Salesman and a sprinkle of Boss You Always Hated. Adding in Trump’s endorsement only exacerbated the problem. Every time Romney talks, these qualities ooze, distastefully, onto any surface that he’s propped for show. It’s so bad that he’s been reprogrammed to not “talk” to the
live audiences supporters commoners — since that’s when he oozes the worst. The handlers now push the start button and once the “Vote for Me” program ends, Mitt’s steered offstage remotely.
Mitt Romney answered his last question from a voter three weeks ago, the Washington Post reports.
“Out are 55-minute town hall meetings. In are 15-minute stump speeches at buffed-up rallies. There are rope lines and hot lights, giant flags and Secret Service agents with wires in their ears. The objective: appear presidential, avoid gaffes and convince Republicans that they have no reasonable option left but to rally around Romney’s winning candidacy.”
“He has pivoted from a retail campaign based on convincing people at his events that he has a command of the issues to a made-for-television spectacle where the people are simply props helping project an aura of momentum and inevitability to a national audience.”
Privatization as a way of avoiding constraints and accountability measures has two particularly troubling consequences. First, the government can use independent agents to do things that they themselves cannot do, betraying the whole point of keeping government in check. Especially in the world of surveillance, this practice can act as a way to get around constitutional protections enjoyed by citizens.
Second, accountability measures that have evolved through decades of public law are jettisoned when a service leaves the public sector, allowing companies to do the government’s work in a network of secrecy. Ways the public keeps a check on the government, from the Freedom of Information Act to the Administrative Procedure Act to whole regimes of other transparency laws, do not bind outside businesses.
[...] A regime of privatization shifts the debate away from the functions of government towards the allocation of those functions. For all the talk about innovation by outside contractors, what privatization largely does is preserve the scope of government services while looking for efficiency gains. And since the scope of what the government does is held constant, the real gains come from minimizing costs.
Take prisons, for example. With the addition of privately run prisons, the debate narrowly focuses on how much to spend on prisoners. Minimizing costs here will often be the result of simply providing less of a good at a worse quality, and the debate will focus on the optimal extent of these privatization contracts. Meanwhile, the greater question of when the state should imprison people fades to the background.
What’s actually public about these responsibilities disappears from the conversation. Privatization assumes that cost quantifying solutions are more fundamental to government than any discussion of ethics or values. The move away from democratic accountability is particularly worrisome because in many of these fields, the ultimate motivator of private markets, the profit motive, is in direct conflict with the public administration. The basic values, concepts and institutions of liberal democracy — political participation, elections, equal distribution of individual liberties, checks on concentrated power — do not work towards economic competitiveness.
1) Comedians in the GOP – If the economy is clearly on the rebound by the Fall — still a big if — Republican arguments for the presidency will start to get really comical. This morning Gov. McDonnell (R) of Virginia — a major rising star — said the improving economy is due to Republican governors, not President Obama.
2) Poll: Romney narrowly trails Santorum in Minnesota caucuses - Minnesota has 40 delegates at stake in its non-binding caucuses, which will select delegates to the Republican convention to choose the party’s candidate to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November. Minnesota is among three heartland states voting on Tuesday, along with Missouri and Colorado. PPP said Tuesday has the potential to be a big day for Santorum, who has had a lead in Missouri and is running second in Colorado.
3) Newt Gingrich said Sunday that an “age of austerity” is the wrong solution for the economy and would “punish” the American people. He said he prefers “pro-growth” policies instead. The comments appear to pour cold water on the modern Republican belief that austerity and growth go hand in hand. - Newt Gingrich, on “Meet the Press”
4) 2012 Chrysler Bowl Commercial – It’s Half Time America
5) Avoiding Congress’s fiscal bombs - the total debt load in the U.S. —which combines both public and private debts — has fallen by 16 percent, leaving the U.S. further along the painful deleveraging process than any other major economy. [...] That doesn’t mean the public sector’s deficits should, or can, be ignored. As the McKinsey study says, history suggests that recovering from a financial crisis requires a two-stage deleveraging process: First, the private sector sheds debt while the public sector adds debt and drives growth, and then the private sector drives growth while the public sector sheds debt. But as the IMF notes, American policy, right now, has this backward: “The risk of too rapid short-term adjustment stands in marked contrast to the continued lack of progress in clarifying a medium-term consolidation strategy.”
6) How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ’1 Percent’ - They “fired” the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different. Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn’t find oil, but that didn’t stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls “an enviable standard of living.”
7) How Rich Donors Could Get Billions from Taxpayers - Mitt Romney has apparently succeeded in setting up a $100 million trust fund for his sons, tax-free. As President George W. Bush put it in rejecting calls to raise taxes on the wealthy duiring his 2004 reelection campaign: “The really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway.” If the Republican presidential candidates and their fabulously wealthy SuperPAC donors get their way in cutting income taxes, eliminating the capital gains taxes and ending the estate tax, Bush’s really rich won’t have to work very hard to dodge Uncle Sam. If the Kochs and the Waltons succeed in getting the best government money can buy, the rest us will have to pay for it.
8) Morning CheckUp - Study finds Tennessee will see savings from reform: “Health care reform will reduce the number of uninsured Tennesseans by more than half and cut uncompensated care and bad debt by $2.3 billion, but the newly insured could put a strain on the state’s health care system.” [The Commercial Appeal] Health care employment to skyrocket through 2020: “Job growth in the healthcare sector will outpace other sectors through 2020 predicts new statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS’ employment projections find that total employment is expected to grow by 14.3 percent through 2020, resulting in 20.5 million jobs. Healthcare and social assistance should see the most gain with 5.6 million jobs.” [Healthcare Finance News]
9) Weekly Standard Rolls Out The Iraq Argument For Iran - Did you enjoy the Iraq War? Well, the Weekly Standard wants to do it again, with a new article arguing that sure, Obama got Bin Laden killed and has arrested or killed 20 of the most wanted Al Qaeda terrorists, but never mind because Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. No, seriously. [...] The Obama administration is dealing with Iran as the rogue state it is, working with the international community to try and get them in line. The Standard is arguing here for a return to the Bush era where the U.S. government used the magical terrorism wand to short circuit any and all discussion in order to do stupid things like invading sovereign nations based on cooked-up intelligence…