XIAM007

Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 22 July 2011

Vegas showgirls strut their stuff to save you money - to protest the city’s mandatory resort fees -

Vegas showgirls strut their stuff to save you money - to protest the city’s mandatory resort fees -



In truth, the event was more marketing effort than protest march — an oh-so-Las Vegas stunt put on by Caesars Entertainment to highlight the fact that the company doesn’t charge such fees at its Las Vegas properties.
In that regard, the company, which owns Caesars Palace, Bally’s Las Vegas and five other Sin City casinos, stands in marked contrast to local competitors that charge anywhere from $5 to $25 per day for newspapers, bottled water and other amenities whether guests use them or not.
The protesters, um, performers included nearly 50 dancers from the Jubilee! show at Bally’s Las Vegas, who strutted down the Strip carrying placards and chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4, resort fees are no more; 5, 6, 7, 8, hidden fees I truly hate.”
They were joined by local headliners, including Marie Osmond and illusionists Penn & Teller, who also expressed righteous outrage over resort fees. The fact that they all perform in Caesars properties was presumably just a coincidence.
The rally wrapped up at Bally’s, where Osmond unveiled a “No Resort Fees” countdown clock claiming that visitors could save up to $1.16 per second, $100,000 per day and $3 million a month by staying at Caesars resorts and not paying resort fees.
Read more - http://overheadbin.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/07/22/7144638-vegas-showgirls-strut-their-stuff-to-save-you-money#.TioeLtoY1F4.email

Burglars at Toronto home may have picked up a superbug with them - home’s owner has C. difficile -

Burglars at Toronto home may have picked up a superbug with them - home’s owner has C. difficile - 


TORONTO Police say suspects in a Toronto house burglary didn’t get any loot, but may have taken a superbug with them.
Police say the home in the area of Bayview Avenue and Governor’s Road was broken into on Thursday.
And police say the suspects should see a doctor immediately as the home’s owner has C. difficile.
Investigators say anyone involved in the break-in should turn themselves in and get medical help.
The owner of the residence, who was not there at the time, has been diagnosed with the bacterial infection, which has been tied to at least 24 deaths in hospitals across Ontario since late May.
Read more - http://www.thespec.com/news/ontario/article/567920--burglars-at-toronto-home-may-have-picked-up-bug

Debt Crisis Being Used as Shock Doctrine to Steal More Money from the American People -

Debt Crisis Being Used as Shock Doctrine to Steal More Money from the American People - 


noted in 2008:
The powers-that-be have used the “Shock Doctrine” to pass anti-American, fascist legislation while the public was in a state of shock.
This applies to economic shocks, as well as physical attacks like 9/11.
Indeed, right now, Paulson and Bernanke are using the shock doctrine to try to ram through legislation that would help out the fat cats at the expense of taxpayers, and give the government control over the free market.
But there is some resistance. For example, Senator Leahy and the New York Times are questioning Paulson’s use of shock and awe:
  • Senator Leahy said “If we learned anything from 9/11, the biggest mistake is to pass anything they ask for just because it’s an emergency”
  • The New York Times wrote:
    “The rescue is being sold as a must-have emergency measure by an administration with a controversial record when it comes to asking Congress for special authority in time of duress.”
    ***

    Mr. Paulson has argued that the powers he seeks are necessary to chase away the wolf howling at the door: a potentially swift shredding of the American financial system. That would be catastrophic for everyone, he argues, not only banks, but also ordinary Americans who depend on their finances to buy homes and cars, and to pay for college.
    Some are suspicious of Mr. Paulson’s characterizations, finding in his warnings and demands for extraordinary powers a parallel with the way the Bush administration gained authority for the war in Iraq. Then, the White House suggested that mushroom clouds could accompany Congress’s failure to act. This time, it is financial Armageddon supposedly on the doorstep.
    “This is scare tactics to try to do something that’s in the private but not the public interest,” said Allan Meltzer, a former economic adviser to President Reagan, and an expert on monetary policy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. “It’s terrible.”
The Tarp bailouts were passed using apocalyptic – and false – threats. For example, as I’vepreviously reported:
The New York Times wrote last year:
In retrospect, Congress felt bullied by Mr. Paulson last year. Many of them fervently believed they should not prop up the banks that had led us to this crisis — yet they were pushed by Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke into passing the $700 billion TARP, which was then used to bail out those very banks.
Indeed, Congressmen Brad Sherman and Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if Tarp wasn’t passed:











That is especially interesting given that the financial crisis had actually been going on for a long time, but – instead of dealing with it – Paulson and the rest of the crew tried to cover it up and pretend it was “contained”, and that it was obvious to world leaders months earlier that it was not a liquidity crisis, but a solvency crisis (and seethis).
Bait And Switch
The Tarp Inspector General has said that Paulson misrepresented the big banks’ health in the run-up to passage of TARP. This is no small matter, as the American public would have not been very excited about giving money to insolvent institutions.
And Paulson himself has said:
During the two weeks that Congress considered the [Tarp] legislation, market conditions worsened considerably. It was clear to me by the time the bill was signed on October 3rd that we needed to act quickly and forcefully, and that purchasing troubled assets—our initial focus—would take time to implement and would not be sufficient given the severity of the problem. In consultation with the Federal Reserve, I determined that the most timely, effective step to improve credit market conditions was to strengthen bank balance sheets quickly through direct purchases of equity in banks.
So Paulson knew “by the time the bill was signed” that it wouldn’t be used for its advertised purpose – disposing of toxic assets – and would instead be used to give money directly to the big banks?Senator McCain also says that Paulson pulled a bait-and-switch:

Sen. John McCain of Arizona … says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.
“Obviously, that didn’t happen,” McCain said in a meeting Thursday with The Republic‘s Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. “They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors. . . . What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street – I guess it was trickle-down economics – that therefore Main Street would be fine.”
Even the New York Times called Paulson a liar in 2008:
“First [Paulson’s Department of Treasury] says it has to have $700 billion to buy back toxic mortgage-backed securities. Then, as Mr. Paulson divulged to The Times this week, it turns out that even before the bill passed the House, he told his staff to start drawing up a plan for capital injections. Fearing Congress’s reaction, he didn’t tell the Hill about his change of heart.
Now, he’s shifted gears again, and is directing Treasury to use the money to force bank acquisitions. Sneaking in the tax break isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, either.”
What tax breaks is the Times talking about? The article explains:
A new tax break [pushed by Treasury], worth billions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: to encourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: “It couldn’t be clearer if they had taken out an ad.”
Indeed, all of the other “emergency” economic and monetary measures – like quantitative easing – didn’t help the American people, but just helped the richest 1%. And most of the bailout and “easy” money went to foreign banks (and see thisthis and this).The Same Thing Is Happening With the Debt Ceiling
The same thing is now happening with the debt ceiling.
We know that the productive actions which would reduce the debt and fix the economy are not being discussed. See thisthisthisthisthis and this.
What is being discussed would just steal more money from the American people and give it to the richest 1%. For example, Congress is planning on selling off “unused federal property”. Selling off and privatizing public assets and resources is a core tactic in shock doctrine schemes.
As Matt Taibbi shows, another tax holiday for big corporations is one of the main focuses of discussion in D.C.
MSN Money reports:



The plan proposes three [tax brackets] (we now have six) and would lower the top rate — and the corporate tax rate — from 35% to a range of 23% to 29%. That would be great news for rich folks. “That could provide a windfall for wealthy taxpayers because the 35% tax bracket currently applies to taxable income above $379,150,” said The Associated Press.

There are numerous other giveaways to the biggest fatcats, which will be paid for by slashing social security and otherwise fleecing the elderly.
Robert Borsage notes that the proposed debt agreement:

Would add to unemployment in the short term, increase Gilded Age inequality, leave seniors more vulnerable, and shackle any possibility of rebuilding America. It puts the burden of deficit reduction on the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, endangers jobs and growth, and lards even more tax breaks on the rich.
The Nation writes:
The [proposed debt ceiling agreement] proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.
How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?
All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media.
***
This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get.

And Senator Sanders points out today that there is no shared sacrifice by the top 1%, but that the government may take from the poor and middle class in numerous ways for years to come:
There will be major cuts in Social Security … Medicare … Medicaid and other health care programs … education … nutrition program[s] … environmental protection.
***
There are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those cuts are written in black and white. What about the revenue? Well, it’s kind of vague. The projection is that we would rise over a 10-year period $100 billion in revenue. Where is that going to come? Is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this economy? Is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not clear at all. I want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? It may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be taxed. That’s a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your I.R.A.’s, your 401(k)’s.

Note: As usual, it’s not liberal-versus-conservative, but the top 1% versus the rest of the country, and you versus the giant corporations. See thisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthis,this and this.
And – no – the top 1% are not using the money to create more jobs. It’s being used forprostitutes and other hanky panky.

Read more - http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/07/debt-ceiling-crisis-being-used-as-shock.html


Oslo Bombing: Why Would “Terrorists” Attack Near-Empty Office Building on Public Holiday? -

Oslo Bombing: Why Would “Terrorists” Attack Near-Empty Office Building on Public Holiday? -


Daily Mail reports: Fortunately, it is a public holiday in Norway and the offices are less busy than a normal weekday.
Why would “terrorists,” who presumably want to kill as many people as possible, choose to bomb the building on a day when they know it will be almost empty?
Comment from a reader:
I’m from Norway and here are some little reported facts:
1) Fact: A person dressed as a cop has shot and killed at least 5 members of the youth organization of the governing labour party in their convention at Ut√łya. He is now captured.
Comment: False cops? These are professionals. The shootings happened at the same time as the explosion, but far, far away from each other (several houres + you have to take a boat to get to the island).
2) Fact: The explosion took place downdtown in the height of the holliday, with all the surrounding buildings (many important press, union and governmental buildings, including the labour party) being almost empty. At a normal day thousands would have been killed and wounded. Today, only a handful dead and wounded.
Comment: Why would terrorists choose a timing with less impact? Now, if this is a black-operation in order to influence opinion, it makes sense.
3) Fact: My friend’s father is a dynamiter blaster expert by profession. He has worked with explosions for 35 years. He noticed that the ground was raised so that the armouring which had been below the ground now lay above the ground. For this to happen the explosion have had to happen UNDER the ground, like if a gas tube had exploded (there was road/sewer work in the exact area for several days prior to this). When the ground is raised like this, as was apparant on the news, it can not have been a car bomb like the media speculates. People have been smelling sulphur all over downtown.
Comment: Who had the resources to get access underground? Not the fundamentalist simpleton, to be sure.
4) Fact: After less than one hour the police concluded that it was a “bomb”.
Comment: How can they have determined this so quickly? There has been complete chaos, people are evacuated and even corpses was not removed within an hour. How could they determine this so quickly? How could they rule out an accident in the gas pipes? This smells fishy.
Read more - http://www.prisonplanet.com/norway-blast-near-prime-ministers-office-in-oslo.html

Rasmussen SHOCK POLL: Barack Obama 41% Ron Paul 37%... -

Rasmussen SHOCK POLL: Barack Obama 41% Ron Paul 37%... - 


Congressman Ron Paul may be a long shot to win the Republican presidential nomination, but he runs competitively with President Obama right now.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 37% of the vote, while the president earns 41%. The Texas congressman joins Mitt RomneyMichelle Bachmann, and Rick Perry as candidates within hailing distance of the president at this time.
Rudy Giuliani is another potential candidate who is considered a long shot for the nomination but is competitive with the president. The former mayor of New York City trails Obama by five, 44% to 39%.
But the real story in the numbers is that the president continues to earn between 41% and 49% of the vote no matter which Republican is mentioned as a potential opponent. This suggests that the race remains a referendum on the incumbent more than anything else.
Obama posts a 12-point lead over former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, 44% to 32%. 
Two Republicans can’t even get to 30% against the president. Businessman Herman Cain and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who served as Obama's ambassador to China, each earn 28% support. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, considered unlikely to run by most observers, trail the president by seven and nine points respectively. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum trails by 14.
Obama
42%
Romney
43%
July 14-15, 2011
Obama
44%
Christie
37%
July 5, 2011
Obama
44%
Perry
39%
July 6-7, 2011
Obama
46%
Bachmann
39%
July 8-9, 2011
Obama
48%
Gingrich
30%
June 24-25, 2011
Obama
41%
Paul
37%
June 26-27, 2011
Obama
44%
Pawlenty
32%
June 28-29, 2011
Obama
49%
Cain
28%
June 30-July 1, 2011
Obama
44%
Huntsman
28%
July 2, 2011
Obama
45%
Santorum
31%
July 10-11, 2011
Obama
44%
Guliani
39%
July 12-13, 2011
Obama
47%
Palin
38%
July 16-17, 2011
In reviewing the data, please note that Romney benefits from being perceived as the frontrunner. In 2004, the last time an incumbent president stood for reelection, Vermont Governor Howard Dean was the early Democratic frontrunner, and he polled best against George W. Bush.  Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was always a few points behind. However, once Kerry became the frontrunner in early 2008, his numbers became as good as Dean’s.
Polls conducted a year-and-a-half before an election provide a snapshot of where things are today but give little indication of what the mood might be on Election Day. If the economy substantially improves before November 2012, the president will be heavily favored to win reelection. If the opposite happens and the country endures a double-dip recession, just about any Republican challenger would be favored. If the economy stays as it is today, the race could be very competitive.
A good measure of the president’s reelection prospects is his Job Approval rating among likely voters. His final vote total is likely to be very close to his final Job Approval figures.
Romney leads the polls for the GOP nomination among Republican primary voters. However, it is far too early for the polls to give a sense of who is likely to emerge as the Republican nominee. In 2008, John McCain never took the lead in a national primary poll until December 31, 2007.
Read more - 

Ford, others wiggle new models into New York's taxi fleet -

Ford, others wiggle new models into New York's taxi fleet - 


At long last, Ford has managed to get its Transit Connect car-truck approved for use as a New York City taxi. But the party won't last for long.


The Transit Connect, Ford Taurus, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Impala have all been added to the list by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission for use by taxi operators. But they can only be bought until Nissan starts producing its NV200 van "Taxi of Tomorrow." Nissan won the competition, but won't start making the vans, seen at right, until October, 2013.


Ford pushed hard to get its Transit Connect, which is growing in popularity as a utility vehicle for plumbers and flower deliverers, named as the Taxi of Tomorrow -- and lost. It was considered important for the automaker's pride because Ford is about to lose its lock on the taxi industry with the phaseout this year of the venerable Crown Victoria sedan, long the mainstay vehicle for New York's taxi fleet. The Transit Connect, shown above, is an entirely new type of vehicle for the U.S. -- with the space of a truck but the driving characteristics of a car.


"For decades, Ford has been synonymous with New York City taxis, and we are pleased residents and tourists now will benefit from our next-generation vehicle," said Mark Fields, Ford president of The America.


Read more - 
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2011/07/ford-transit-connect-new-york-city-taxi-crown-victoria-nissan-nv200-ford-taurus/1

Toronto's mayor promised to restore the supremacy of the automobile — but record traffic is getting in the way -

Toronto's mayor promised to restore the supremacy of the automobile — but record traffic is getting in the way - 


Toronto's populist mayor Rob Ford was apparently wrong when he famously declared that "the war on the car is over."
It's not, and surprisingly, the latest salvos have come from people he would normally count on for support. 
Ford swept into the top job in Canada’s largest city last fall on a wave of anti-elitist sentiment. He tapped into anger among voters in the sprawling, postwar suburbs, who resented the leafy, transit-friendly and oh-so-cosmopolitan downtown area.
Ford's first official act was to rescind a car registration tax, leaving a $64 million hole in city revenues. He also torpedoed an extensive, cross-region light-rail transit plan and, just last week, orchestrated the removal of bike lanes along one of Toronto’s main north-south arteries.
All this is aimed at restoring the supremacy of the automobile, and rewarding the base that elected him: people who drive to work, usually by themselves.
Unfortunately, these are the very people who are strangling Toronto’s economy and it’s not just bike-riding "pinkos" who are saying it.
Last month, the city’s blue-chip Board of Trade reported that Toronto had, at an average of 80 minutes, the longest commute time among 24 global metropolitan areas (even worse than notoriously congested Los Angeles). It warned bluntly that gridlock was rapidly destroying Toronto’s competitiveness and called for measures aimed squarely at picking the pockets of motorists — including roads tolls and parking fees — to dissuade them from taking their cars.
The board’s report comes on the heels of similar public musings by the man Ford himself appointed to sketch out a new transit plan. Gordon Chong told the Toronto Star that tolls and other congestion charges may be unavoidable.
Read more - 

A new study out Friday shows that Obama is relying more on Wall Street to fund his re-election than he did in 2008 -

A new study out Friday shows that Obama is relying more on Wall Street to fund his re-election than he did in 2008 - 


Does Wall street have a problem with President Barack Obama?
Not so you'd notice where it counts—in his reelection effort.
Plenty of high visibility figures have complained about Obama on everything from Wall Street reform to potential tax increases to his anti-fat cat rhetoric.
But a new study by the Center for Responsive politics out Friday morning shows that Obama is relying more on Wall Street to fund his re-election this year than he did in 2008.
A copy of the study was obtained in advance by CNBC.
In fact, the Center found that one-third of the money Obama's elite fund-raising corps has raised on behalf of his re-election has come from the financial sector.
"Individuals who work in the finance, insurance and real estate sector are responsible for raising at least $11.3 million for Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee," the Center reported.
All of Obama's bundlers have raised a minimum of $34.95 million.
A "bundler" is a person tasked by the campaign with rounding up contributions from people in his or her business and personal network.
Obama and the DNC combined are on pace to blow away the amounts Obama raised from Wall Street donors in 2008. At the current pace, Obama and the DNC will far surpass his 2008 Wall Street fund-raising numbers both in raw dollar amounts and as a percentage of what he raises overall.
During his 2008 presidential bid, bundlers who worked in the finance, insurance and real estate sector were responsible for a minimum of $16 million, according to the Center's research. That's about 21 percent of the $76.5 million estimated minimum amount that these top fund-raisers brought in for Obama's presidential campaign.
Read more - 

Thieves Steal 100 Storm Drain Covers In Sacramento... - city workers have begun welding the replacement grates in place -

Thieves Steal 100 Storm Drain Covers In Sacramento... - city workers have begun welding the replacement grates in place - 


Suspects have stolen more than 100 storm drain grates in Sacramento in recent weeks, forcing city workers to rush to replace them and leaving residents at a loss to explain by the culprits’ motives.
Natomas residents said at least 13 of the cast iron grates went missing overnight Wednesday, and city workers have begun welding the replacement grates in place.
The covers cost about $63 each to replace, but it is unlikely that thieves snatched the metal to sell for scrap. Although prices for recycled copper have jumped to about $3.25 a pound, cast iron can only sell for about a penny if you can find a recycler willing to pay for it.
At least one cover disappears a night, according to city officials, but suspects take as many as 15 in other nights.
The city of Sacramento has already paid at least $5,300 in materials alone.
Read more - http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2011/07/21/thieves-snatching-natomas-storm-drains/