I knew the British are a bit prudish but this is crazy.
[via Disturbing the Peace: On the inalienable right to “excessively noisy sex” - Reason Magazine by Brendan O’Neill]
“It turns out that Orwell was suffering from premature speculation. It was not in 1984 that a major Western government made the “sex impulse”—the grunting, groaning sex instinct—into a police matter; it was in 2009. Here in the U.K., to add to our existing panoply of Orwellian measures—5 million closed-circuit TV cameras that watch our every move; “speaking cameras” that warn us to pick up litter or stop loitering; the government’s attempt to recruit child spies to re-educate anti-social adults—we now have the bizarre and terrifying situation where a woman has been arrested for having sex too loudly. In modern-day Britain, even the decibels of our sexual moaning can become the subject of a police investigation.
At the end of April, Caroline Cartwright, a 48-year-old housewife from Wearside in the northeast of England, was remanded in custody for having “excessively noisy sex.” The cops took her in after neighbors complained of hearing her “shouting and groaning” and her “bed banging against the wall of her home.” Cartwright has, quite reasonably, defended her inalienable right to be a howler: “I can’t stop making noise during sex,” she told The Daily Mail. “It’s unnatural to not make any noises, and I don’t think that I am particularly loud.”
Pleasurable groaning and bed banging are common noises in crowded towns and cities across the civilized world. Most of us deal with them by sticking a CD in the stereo. Those who complain are normally told to stop being prudish or to have a discreet chat with the creators of the offending sex sounds. So how did Cartwright’s expressions of noisy joy become a police case, scheduled to be ruled on at Newcastle Crown Court, one of the biggest courts in the north of England? Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an anti-social behavior order (ASBO)—a civil order used to control the minutiae of British people’s behavior—that forbade her from making “excessive noise during sex” anywhere in England.”
So, if she wants to bark like a dog while having sex, she needs to book tickets on the Eurostar to Paris.
U.S. Adviser’s Blunt Memo on Iraq - Time ‘to Go Home’ - NYTimes.com by Michael Gordon]
“A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”
The memo offers a look at tensions that emerged between Iraqi and American military officers at a sensitive moment when American combat troops met a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, the first step toward an advisory role. The Iraqi government’s forceful moves to assert authority have concerned some American officers, though senior American officials insisted that cooperation had improved.
Prepared by Col. Timothy R. Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi military’s Baghdad command, the memorandum details Iraqi military weaknesses in scathing language, including corruption, poor management and the inability to resist Shiite political pressure. Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans.
“As the old saying goes, ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ ” Colonel Reese wrote. “Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose.””
From the Reese memo:
“The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:
1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.
2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki
3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.
4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.
5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.
6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.
7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.
8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.
9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.”
So, let’s get out before it all implodes.
Don’t let the hyperbole fool you: the recent house bill on food safety is not a fundamental change. It merely increases inspections and allows the US government to order recall of foods, a power that it really had anyway, for all intents and purposes.
The underlying story is that food safety isn’t possible, given our reliance on globally distributed, industrial food processes.
[via House Approves New Food-Safety Laws by William Nueman]
“The measure would require the Food and Drug Administration to conduct inspections every 6 to 12 months at food processing plants that it deems high-risk. These could include plants that have experienced food safety problems in the past or that handle products that spoil easily, like seafood.
Lower-risk processing plants would be inspected at least once every three years, and warehouses for packaged foods at least once every five. Backers of the legislation have complained that at present, some facilities go a decade or longer between F.D.A. inspections.
To help finance the inspections, the bill would impose a yearly fee of $500 to be paid by food processing plants, with a $175,000 cap for large companies with multiple plants. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the fee would generate $1.4 billion over the next five years, covering about 40 percent of the F.D.A.’s costs in carrying out the expanded inspections and other requirements in the bill.
The measure would also give the agency the power to order recalls of tainted food. Under its current authority, it can only ask companies to recall their food products.
Among the bill’s other provisions are heightened inspection requirements on imported foods, a mandate that records of processing plants be made available to inspectors and investigators, and a requirement that processing plants develop elaborate safety plans meant to head off problems before they arise.”
Baloney. The next time a few hundred people get sick from some adulterant in child formula, or the more natural but equally deadly E. coli or salmonella outbreaks, there will be another push to increase inspections, and that will fail again.
The only way to increase food safety significantly is to decrease the complexity of food production: less processing of foods, more regional food with fewer hand-offs in production.
We cannot clean up all the plastic we are producing, so we will have to stop producing it.
[via Sea of Trash - Pollution in the World’s Oceans by Donovan Hohn]
“Not even oceanographers can tell us exactly how much floating scruff is out there; oceanographic research is simply too expensive and the ocean too varied and vast. In 2002, Nature magazine reported that during the 1990s, debris in the waters near Britain doubled; in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica the increase was a hundredfold. And depending on where they sample, oceanographers have found that between 60 and 95 percent of today’s marine debris is made of plastic.
Plastic gets into the ocean when people throw it from ships or leave it in the path of an incoming tide, but also when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow. Despite the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, the U.S. still releases more than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm runoff every year, according to a 2004 E.P.A. report. Comb the Manhattan waterfront and you will find, along with the usual windrows of cups, bottles and plastic bags, what the E.P.A. calls “floatables,” those “visible buoyant or semibuoyant solids” that people flush into the waste stream like cotton swabs, condoms, tampon applicators and dental floss.
The Encyclopedia of Coastal Processes, about as somniferously clinical a scientific source on the subject as one can find, predicts that plastic pollution “will incrementally increase through the 21st century,” because “the problems created are chronic and potentially global, rather than acute and local or regional as many would contemplate.” The problems are chronic because, unlike the marine debris of centuries past, commercial plastics do not biodegrade in seawater. Instead, they persist, accumulating over time, much as certain emissions accumulate in the atmosphere. The problems are global because the sources of plastic pollution are far-flung but also because, like emissions riding the winds, pollutants at sea can travel.
In 2001 a peer-reviewed scientific journal called The Marine Pollution Bulletin published a study, whose undramatic title, “A Comparison of Plastic and Plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre,” belied its dramatic findings. The lead author — a sailor, environmentalist, organic farmer, self-trained oceanographer and onetime furniture repairman named Charles Moore — went trawling in the North Pacific convergence zone about 800 miles west of San Francisco and found seven times as much plastic per square kilometer as any previous study.
“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean,” Moore later wrote in an essay for Natural History, “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.” An oceanographic colleague of Moore’s dubbed this floating junk yard “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” and despite Moore’s efforts to suggest different metaphors — “a swirling sewer,” “a superhighway of trash” connecting two “trash cemeteries” — “Garbage Patch” appears to have stuck.
The Garbage Patch wasn’t merely a cosmetic problem, nor merely a symbolic one, Moore contended. For one thing, it was a threat to wildlife. Scientists estimate that every year at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when they entangle themselves in debris or ingest it. “Entanglement and ingestion, however, are not the worst problems caused by the ubiquitous plastic pollution,” Moore wrote. Plastic polymers, as has long been known, absorb hydrophobic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, like dioxin, P.C.B.’s and D.D.T. Highly controlled in the U.S. but less so elsewhere, such substances are surprisingly abundant at the ocean’s surface. By concentrating these free-floating contaminants, Moore worried, particles of plastic could become “poison pills.” He also worried about toxins in the plastic itself — phthalates, organotins — that have been known to leach out over time. Once fish or plankton ingest these pills, Moore speculated, poisons both in and on the plastic would enter the food web. And since such toxins concentrate, or “bioaccumulate,” in fatty tissues as they move up the chain of predation — so that the “contaminant burden” of a swordfish is greater than a mackerel’s and a mackerel’s greater than a shrimp’s — this plastic could be poisoning people too.
The hardest question to answer about the Garbage Patch, it turns out, isn’t whether plastic threatens animals and ecosystems, but what, if anything, can be done about it. “We haven’t been able to hatch up any good ideas,” Flint admitted. Albatross chicks don’t forage on land, she said. In fact they don’t forage at all. Their parents do, flying far and wide across the Pacific, swooping down to snatch morsels off the surface, which they bring back home and regurgitate into a hungry chick’s mouth. That’s where all the detritus in that Greenpeace ad came from. Even if we were to clean every beach in the world, it wouldn’t keep albatrosses from stuffing their offspring full of plastic. “You’d have to clean the entire ocean,” Flint said.
As nearly everyone I spoke to about marine debris agrees, the best way to get trash out of our waterways is, of course, to keep it from entering them in the first place. But experts disagree about what that will take. The argument, like so many in American politics, pits individual freedom against the common good. “Don’t you tell me I can’t have a plastic bag,” Seba Sheavly, the marine-debris researcher, says, alluding to plastic-bag bans like the one San Francisco enacted last year. “I know how to dispose of it responsibly.” But proponents of bag bans insist that there is no way to use a plastic bag responsibly. Lorena Rios, an environmental chemist at the University of the Pacific, says: “If you go to Subway, and they give you the plastic bag, how long do you use the plastic bag? One minute. And how long will the polymers in that bag last? Hundreds of years.”
“The time for voluntary measures has long since passed,” says Steve Fleischli, president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of environmental watchdogs to which, it should be noted, the Gulf of Alaska Keeper does not belong. (Waterkeeper officials have objected to GoAK’s use of their brand, but Pallister insists that their objections are without legal merit. “They’ve trademarked ‘Riverkeeeper,’ ‘Soundkeeper,’ ‘Baykeeper,’ ” he told me, “but not ‘Alaska keeper.’ ”) Fleischli would have us tax the most pervasive and noxious plastic pollutants — shopping bags, plastic-foam containers, cigarette butts, plastic utensils — and put the proceeds toward cleanup and prevention measures. “We already use a portion of the gasoline tax to pay for oil spills,” Fleischli says. Such levies shouldn’t be seen as criminalizing the makers and sellers of plastic disposables, he argues; they merely force those businesses to “internalize” previously hidden costs, what economists call “externalities.” This market-based approach to environmental regulation, known as extended producer responsibility, is increasingly popular with environmental groups. By sticking others with the ecological cleaning bill, the thinking goes, businesses have been able to keep the price of disposable plastics artificially low. And as Pallister learned at Gore Point, the cleaning bill may be greater than we can afford.
We still have limited tax dollars to spend and scarier nightmares to fear. No one — not Pallister, not Moore — will tell you that plastic pollution is the greatest man-made threat our oceans face. Depending whom you ask, that honor goes to global warming, agricultural runoff or overfishing. But unlike many pollutants, plastic has no natural source and therefore there is no doubt that we are to blame. Because we can see it, plastic is a powerful bellwether of our impact upon the earth. Where plastics travel, invisible pollutants — pesticides and fertilizers from lawns and farms, petrochemicals from roads, sewage tainted with pharmaceuticals — often follow. Last June, shortly before my voyage in the Opus began, Sylvia Earle, formerly N.O.A.A.’s chief scientist, delivered an impassioned speech on marine debris at the World Bank in Washington. “Trash is clogging the arteries of the planet,” Earle said. “We’re beginning to wake up to the fact that the planet is not infinitely resilient.” For ages humanity saw in the ocean a sublime grandeur suggestive of eternity. No longer. Surveying the debris on remote beaches like Gore Point, we see that the ocean is more finite than we’d thought. Now it is the sublime grandeur of our civilization but also of our waste that inspires awe.”
We are drowning our seas in a sea of plastic, and we will drown.
Mysteriously High Tides on East Coast Perplex Scientists by Alexis Madrigal]
“From Maine to Florida, the Atlantic seaboard has experienced higher tides than expected this summer. At their peak in mid-June, the tides at some locations outstripped predictions by two feet.
The change has come too fast to be attributed to melting ice sheets or anything quite that dramatic, and it’s a puzzle for scientists who’ve never seen anything quite like it.
“The ocean is dynamic. It’s not uncommon to have anomalies like this but the breadth and the intensity and duration were unique,” said Mike Szabados, director of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s tide and current program.
The unexpected tidal surge is subsiding, has reduced its reach from the entire coast, and is now concentrated just in the mid-Atlantic states.
NOAA is rushing to study the data in an effort to understand what happened. Szabados’ office is already putting the finishing touches on a report that will be released next month on the wind and current patterns that appear to be correlated with the tidal surge.
Szabados said that two main factors appear to have contributed to the extra high tides. First, there were steady winds out of the northeast throughout this anomaly. Second, the ocean current running from Florida up along the coast weakened. While the associations between these phenomena and the tides are provocactive, it’s too early to tell how fully they explain this unexpected tidal event.
“I’m quite sure that there will be more intensive analysis of this event. By no means will this report be the definitive answer to anything,” Szabados said. “Further assessment of this event should be encouraged to better understand the phenomena.””
Two feet more than usual. Yikes.
“First of all, nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I’m tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody, you know?” - Barack Obama
But we should be talking about that exact thing.
We need to nationalize health care, and to guarantee health care — not health insurance — to every American.
We are the only industrialized Western nation to not offer this as a right, and instead, we have rigged the system so that billions are made, and we have the highest expenses for health care in the world, and we ate 50th in actual health and longevity.
There may be a simple reason why the Obama administration’s efforts to get mortgage holders to renegotiate with homeowners are not taking off. They are collecting fees, even when mortgages aren’t being paid or foreclosed.
“… experts say the administration’s incentives are often outweighed by the benefits of collecting fees from delinquency, and then more fees through the sale of homes in foreclosure.
“If they do a loan modification, they get a few shekels from the government,” said David Dickey, who led a mortgage sales team at Countrywide and Bank of America, leaving in March to start his own mortgage advisory firm, National Home Loan Advocates. By contrast, he said, the road to foreclosure is lined with fees, especially if it is prolonged. “There’s all sorts of things behind the scenes,” he said.
When borrowers fall behind, mortgage companies typically collect late fees reaching 6 percent of the monthly payments.
“For many subprime servicers, late fees alone constitute a significant fraction of their total income and profit,” said Diane E. Thompson, a lawyer for the National Consumer Law Center, in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee this month. “Servicers thus have an incentive to push homeowners into late payments and keep them there: if the loan pays late, the servicer is more likely to profit.”
She cited Ocwen Financial, which reported that nearly 12 percent of its income in 2007 came from fees to borrowers.
Data on delinquencies reinforces the notion that servicers are inclined to let problem loans float in purgatory — neither taking control of houses and selling them, nor modifying loans to give homeowners a break.
From June 2008 to June 2009, the number of American mortgages that were 90 days or more delinquent soared from 1.8 million to nearly 3 million, according to the realty research company First American Core Logic. During that period, the number of loans that resulted in the bank taking ownership of the home declined to 245,000, from 333,000.
As a home slides toward foreclosure, mortgage companies pay for many services required to take control of the property and resell it. They typically funnel orders for title searches, insurance policies, appraisals and legal filings to companies they own or share revenue with.
Ocwen established its own title company, Premium Title Services, in part to keep more of the revenue from foreclosures, said Ms. Golant, who helped start it.
“It was hugely profitable,” she said. “Premium Title would charge for the title when it got transferred to Ocwen, then charge again when it got transferred to the new buyer, and then sell title insurance. It was easy money.”
Mortgage companies not only gain this extra business through their subsidiaries, but also collect reimbursement for the payments when the houses are sold.
The investors who own bad mortgages accept whatever is left. Investors typically do not notice how much they give up to the servicers, because fees are embedded in complex sales.”
So we have to rework the laws so that they don’t collect these fees in foreclosures. Then they will work to get the mortgages restructured.
On a typical day, a third of the adults (34%) in the United States take a nap.
“And finally, New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. You know, if conservatives get to call universal healthcare “socialized medicine,” I get to call private, for-profit healthcare “soulless, vampire bastards making money off human pain.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: But, Bill, the profit motive is what sustains capitalism! Yes, and our sex drive is what sustains the human species. But we don’t try to f*ck EVERYTHING. It’s okay for some things to remain non-profit. Just like when it comes to sexual relations, some people are off limits, like your cousin or your sister…or, if you’re a leading Republican, your wife.
Now, it wasn’t that long ago that when a kid in America broke his leg, his parents took him to the local Catholic hospital, the nun stuck a thermometer in his ass, the doctor slapped some plaster on his ankle and you were done. The bill was $1.50, plus you got to keep the thermometer.
But, like everything else that’s good and noble in life, some bean-counter decided that hospitals could also be big business. So, now they’re not hospitals anymore. They’re Jiffy Lube’s with bedpans. The more people who get sick and stay sick, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they’re always pushing the Jell-O.
Did you know that the United States is ranked 50th in the world in life-expectancy? And the 49 loser countries where they live longer than us, oh, it’s hardly worth it; they may live longer, but they live shackled to the tyranny of non-profit healthcare. Here in America, you’re not coughing up blood, little Bobby; you’re coughing up freedom.
The problem with President Obama’s healthcare plan isn’t socialism. It’s capitalism. When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? “Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what’s in it for Blue Cross-Blue Shield.”
And it’s not just medicine. Prisons also used to be a non-profit thing. And for good reason. Who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition, you’re going to have trouble with the tenants. It is not a coincidence that we outsourced running prisons to private corporations, and then the number of prisoners in America skyrocketed. There used to be some things we just didn’t do for money.”
What Maher doesn’t say here is the worst part: the people making billions out of the system we have today are paying hundreds of millions to the campaigns of congress people who have free health care, and who are making millions legislating health care.
I despair at democracy, because the people with money have every incentive to rig the game.
And so we have all the congress people telling us we have to be afraid of losing our own doctors, that we can’t afford this. How can all the leading industrial countries of the world do it? Why doesn’t someone (Obama?) call their bluff. They are lying, and they could care less.
[via Newly Empowered, Kurdish Leader in Iraq Asserts His Agenda by Sam Dagher]
“The president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, on Tuesday rejected proposals by the United Nations to resolve Iraq’s explosive internal border disputes, and reiterated his determination to proceed with a contentious local constitution.
Mr. Barzani, newly empowered after winning an estimated 70 percent of the vote in the region’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday, made the remarks in his first interview with the news media since the vote.
“Regrettably, the recommendations of the United Nations are unrealistic,” Mr. Barzani said, referring to a report by the United Nations in April outlining options for the settlement of territorial disputes that threaten Iraq’s fragile stability. They included making Kirkuk Province — including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk that is claimed by Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Turkmens — into an autonomous region.
American officials have repeatedly stated their support for a United Nations-brokered solution.”
So where is Joe Biden on this? He was the candidate that advocated trifurcation (supported by Leslie Gelb) as an end state for Iraq.
The US policy is to keep Iraq in one piece. However, we actively supported Kosovo’s separation from the Serb Republic, based on a rationale of security and safety for the Kosovars. There is no good history of Iraq’s love for Kurds, and their is no reason to believe that in a larger Iraqi state they will retain the autonomy that they have grown used to over the past 20 years.