October 7th, 2012

Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Secret Cold War tests in St. Louis raise concerns

Secret Cold War tests in St. Louis raise concerns

Doris Spates was a baby when her father died inexplicably in 1955. She has watched four siblings die of cancer, and she survived cervical cancer.

After learning that the Army conducted secret chemical testing in her impoverished St. Louis neighborhood at the height of the Cold War, she wonders if her own government is to blame.

In the mid-1950s, and again a decade later, the Army used motorized blowers atop a low-income housing high-rise, at schools and from the backs of station wagons to send a potentially dangerous compound into the already-hazy air in predominantly black areas of St. Louis.

Local officials were told at the time that the government was testing a smoke screen that could shield St. Louis from aerial observation in case the Russians attacked.

But in 1994, the government said the tests were part of a biological weapons program and St. Louis was chosen because it bore some resemblance to Russian cities that the U.S. might attack. The material being sprayed was zinc cadmium sulfide, a fine fluorescent powder.

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  • omgmar

Henninger: 2012's Sure Losers—Young People

Let's revise the old saw about how people are politically liberal when they're young and conservative as they grow older. It's beginning to seem truer to say that when you're young, you are basically nothing.

Yes, it's true that opinion polls show Barack Obama holds a strong lead over Mitt Romney among voters under 30. Does this mean they all cleared time to watch the presidential debates? I doubt it. More likely a lot of young "voters" had something better to do, such as using that 90 minutes to re-watch re-runs of "Everybody Loves Raymond" on the TV Land channel.

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The Pew Research Center released a survey last weekend that had some startling data about young voters' level of interest in the 2012 election and in politics generally.

The enthusiasm that inflated the Obama hope-and-change bubble is leaking. The share of voters under 30 who are paying very close attention to this election is 18%. At this time four years ago, high interest was twice that. This time, most may not even qualify as voters: Only about 50% are certain they are registered to vote, the lowest such number Pew has measured in 16 years.

Needless to say, Mitt Romney is not picking up what Barack Obama has lost. Four years ago, about 75% of under-30s calling themselves McCain supporters had given a lot of thought to that election. This year's Romney leaners have a focus rate of about 60%.

What these numbers show is a process of political disconnection among under-30s. And why not? This is the bitter fruit of a reality familiar across low-growth Western Europe: Youth unemployment is breeding youth disengagement. Over the past four years, the unemployment rate for Americans age 16 to 24 has been twice the rate for the general population. Currently it's about 17%. For young blacks it's 28%.

Some might say employment data can't be driving political disengagement because 80% of them are working. Well, they're sort of working. A detailed study of job status earlier this year by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University found that more than 53% of college graduates under 25 last year wereunderemployed—working in jobs unequal to their college or post-graduate attainment.

The depressive effects of having no job or a junk job for a long time have been well documented. As an economic proposition, it means also that many in this generation are falling way off the curve for lifetime earnings, savings and debt pay-downs. Call it Generation Jobbed.

Western Europe is about a decade ahead of the U.S. in showing the path downward once a low economic-growth rate gets locked in, as may be happening here. Where we could be headed politically was suggested by a small but telling story this week from France, where chronically high youth unemployment sits at about 22%.

Recently, three 30-something Frenchmen—an entrepreneur, a TV journalist and a rap singer—began a campaign called "Barrez-Vous," which means "beat it." Emigration is the only answer, they said, because France is in the grip of a "sclerotic gerontocracy that is collapsing a little more every day." (Website: http://barrez-vo2.us/site/)

"Sclerotic gerontocracy"? Who might that be? If you're 30, it's the brain-dead class in possession of your politics. The French "Beat It" movement is onto something. Whether in Europe or the U.S., the air is filled with cries to solve various debt calamities. Look closely, though, and you'll notice that virtually any political "solution" on offer to the euro crisis or U.S. debt will essentially force people age zero to 35—jobs or no jobs—to spend their lifetimes paying off the rolled-over debt that bails out the politicians and guarantees benefit flows to the older half of the population, which will escape to worry-free graves before the crisis returns.

It may be true that what's left of the 2012 youth vote is largely left-leaning remnants that will fall in behind Barack Obama. Still, they should ask the French "barrez-vous" people about Mr. Obama's campaign offer of cut-rate interest on tuition loans.

With virtually free higher education, Europe's low-growth utopias have the world's largest, best-educated population of jobless young people. With four more years of below-average growth under Barack Obama almost a certainty, cheaper tuition will mainly send more graduates into a desert of unemployment or underemployment. Hi, I'm Marty and I'll be your waiter for the next 40 years.

I'm always struck when Barack Obama says that no matter what system we choose, he personally is going to be fine. That's true.


Pride & Prejudice

Stop harassing disabled people and start helping us to rejoin society

'Don't waste taxpayers' money making sure that we haven't been miraculously cured'

So the Labour government, fresh from its second landslide victory, has decided that it's time to bear down on the terrible scourge of disabled people – those scrounging, terrors that are such a drain on society. People like me, perhaps. Now, I know that fraud within the benefit system is something that must be stamped out but, as a wheelchair user of 20 years, I do feel that Alistair Darling is picking on a group who are more innocent than most. I mean, I'm sure that the number of people faking it by pretending to be chronically physically or mentally disabled doesn't exactly threaten to destabilise the Government's finances.

In truth, there are two main problems with the idea that all the disabled people should be getting out there into work. First, although there are companies out there screaming for skilled staff, are they looking for people who have spent most of their adult life being left out of the workplace as a hidden statistic?

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GA Congressman: evolution is "lies from hell"

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's view that the theories of evolution and the big bang are "lies straight from the pit of Hell" is getting more exposure than he might have expected, thanks to a video that was made at a church-sponsored banquet in Georgia and distributed by a progressive political watchdog group.

The Georgia Republican is already well-known as an outspoken conservative Christian, due in part to his unsuccessful campaign to have 2010 declared "the Year of the Bible." But the latest comments have taken on an extra dab of controversy because Broun, a medical doctor, calls himself a scientist in the video and chairs the House Science Committee's panel on investigations and oversight.

The video clip, distributed by the Bridge Project, was taken from a longer version recorded on Sept. 27 during the 2012 Sportsman's Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. Here's a transcript of the Bridge Project's snippet:

"God's word is true. I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory [sic], all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don't believe that the earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says.

"And what I've come to learn is that it's the manufacturer's handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that's the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I'll continue to do that."

Broun's comments were greeted with applause, and they probably reflect how a lot of his constituents feel about the same issues. He's assured of re-election in any case, due to the fact that he has no Democratic Party challenger in next month's election. But how will Broun's latest pronouncements play out on a national stage? Will they have any effect on the presidential campaign?



OP: Ajdklfakjldjafkldkjl I cannot even with this immense load of bullshit. It is truly horrific that assholes like this are ELECTED TO PUBLIC OFFICE. And on a regular basis, no less. 

P.S. I had a hell of a time getting the formatting in this entry not to be totally effed up, so if it doesn't come out right let me know...

The Gang
  • acmeeoy

Iran sanctions now causing food insecurity, mass suffering

The Economist this week describes the intensifying suffering of 75 million Iranian citizens as a result of the sanctions regime being imposed on them by the US and its allies [my emphasis]:

"Six years ago, when America and Europe were putting in place the first raft of measures to press Iran to come clean over its nuclear ambitions, the talk was of "smart" sanctions. The West, it was stressed, had no quarrel with the Iranian people—only with a regime that seemed bent on getting a nuclear bomb, or at least the capacity for making one. Yet, as sanctions have become increasingly punitive in the face of Iran's intransigence, it is ordinary Iranians who are paying the price.

"On October 1st and 2nd Iran's rial lost more than 25% of its value against the dollar. Since the end of last year it has depreciated by over 80%, most of that in just the past month. Despite subsidies intended to help the poor, prices for staples, such as milk, bread, rice, yogurt and vegetables, have at least doubled since the beginning of the year. Chicken has become so scarce that when scant supplies become available they prompt riots. On October 3rd police in Tehran fired tear-gas at people demonstrating over the rial's collapse. The city's main bazaar closed because of the impossibility of quoting accurate prices. . . .

"Unemployment is thought to be around three times higher than the official rate of 12%, and millions of unskilled factory workers are on wages well below the official poverty line of 10m rials (about $300) a month."

Pervasive unemployment, inflation, medicine shortages, and even food riots have been reported elsewhere.

That sanctions on Muslim countries cause mass human suffering is not only inevitable but part of their design. In 2006, the senior Israeli official Dov Weisglass infamously described the purpose of his nation's blockade on Gaza with this candid admission: "'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman justified the Iran sanctions regime this way: "Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that."

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The Gang
  • acmeeoy

Obama gets ready to sell out Social Security

The Raiders of Your Lost Retirement are busy laying plans in Washington. Will Obama help them if re-elected?

Watching Wednesday night’s presidential debate, you’d have to be a crack political code reader to know what Obama was really saying about Social Security. It was quick. It was subtle. But it was one of the most telling moments of the debate.

First, let’s get a few things straight. Social Security is solvent. It’s America’s most successful retirement plan to date. It’s extremely popular across party lines. Social Security adds not a penny to the deficit. And, as Nancy Altman has argued, it's “the poster child for fiscal responsibility.” The program is prudently managed, cost-effective, and carefully monitored.

Obama could have mentioned these facts and cheered the success of a program that Democrats – and all Americans -- should be proud of. Instead, the discussion went like this:

“Lehrer: Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?

Obama: You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It's going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker -- Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill.”

Ladies and gentleman, that was the sound of your president offering to screw you on your retirement. This revealing exchange was followed by some politically strategic talk by both candidates about how current retirees shouldn’t be worried, because, as we all know, their votes are needed in the short term. But the rest of us? Be very, very worried.
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