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Sunday, December 18, 2011


"The illiterate of the future will not be
the person who cannot read. 
It will be the person who does not know
how to learn." 

- Alvin Toffler, American writer-futurist (1928- ).

"Stick by those you have elected"

Michael Green commented on his own link.
George Clooney:

“I’m disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama, quite honestly, I am.
Democrats eat their own. Democrats find singular issues and go, ‘Well, I didn’t get everything I wanted.’

I’m a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you’ve elected.

If he was a Republican running, because Republicans are better at this, they’d be selling him as the guy who stopped 400,000 jobs a month from leaving the country. They’d be selling him as the guy who saved the auto-industry. If they had the beliefs, they’d be selling him as the guy who got rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ who got Osama bin Laden. 

You could be selling this as a very successful three years.”
‎"...all too often his switchbacks have been so expedient as make you wonder how stupid, or shortsighted, (Mitt Romney) thinks the electorate is." 
WHERE IS THE LOVE? by Joe Klein Dec. 12, 2011 -

President Obama's Saturday Statement


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  In the last few weeks, I set out a simple principle:  Congress should not go home for vacation until it finds a way to avoid hitting 160 million Americans with a tax hike on January 1st.  Extending the payroll tax cut that shows up in people’s paychecks every week is an idea that I proposed in September as part of the American Jobs Act. 

At a time when so many Americans are working harder and harder just to keep up, the extra $1,000 or so that the average family would get from this tax cut makes a real difference when you’re trying to buy groceries or pay the bills, make a mortgage or make a repair.  And all kinds of independent economists agree -- the number-one challenge facing businesses right now is a lack of demand from consumers, which is why more people spending money means companies that are more successful and more able to hire more workers. 
Today, Congress has finally agreed to extend this middle-class tax cut into next year.  And they’ve also agreed to another part of my jobs plan, extending unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who are out there trying as hard as they can to find a job.  This is spending money that also benefits families and businesses and the entire economy.  And it’s a lifeline that would have been lost for more than two and a half million people in the first two months of next year if Congress had not acted. 

So I'm very pleased to see the work that the Senate has done.  While this agreement is for two months, it is my expectation -- in fact it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year.  It should be a formality.  And hopefully it’s done with as little drama as possible when they get back in January. 

This really isn’t hard.  There are plenty of ways to pay for these proposals.  This is a way to boost the economy that has been supported by these very same Democrats and Republicans in the past.  It is something that economists believe will assure that the economy and the recovery is on a more stable footing than it otherwise would be.  And my preference, and the preference of most Americans, is that we ask the wealthiest few Americans to pay their fair share and corporations to do without special taxpayer subsidies to cover some of the costs.  But I think that it's important for us to get it done. 

We’ve got a lot more work to do for the people who sent us here.  But today, I’m glad that both parties in Congress came together, and I want to thank them for ensuring that as we head into the holidays, folks at home don’t have to worry about their taxes going up. 

So I had a chance to talk to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell.  I thanked them for their cooperation on this issue.  I'm looking forward to the House moving forward and getting this done when they get back on Monday.  And hopefully we're going to be able to make sure that when everybody gets back next year we extend this further all the way to the end of the year.

Thank you very much, everybody.


FTC hits Comcast CEO Brian Roberts with $500,000 fine

Brian Roberts was fined by FTC
The Federal Trade Commission has fined Comcast Corp. Chief Executive Brian Roberts $500,000 to settle antitrust charges.

The fine arises from Roberts' violation of a merger notification requirements in the Hart Scott Rodino Antitrust Act relating to the cable giant's pruchase of AT&T's cable systems in 2002.

Specifically, Roberts was allowed to acquire shares in Comcast up until 2007. After that, he was required to give notice anytime he received more company stock. However, he continued to receive Comcast securities after that date without notifying the agency. In August 2009, Comcast caught the misstep and notified the FTC of the violation.

The FTC said the violation was "inadvertent and technical" and "apparently due to faulty advice from outside counsel." Roberts did not gain financially from the violation of the company's agreement, the FTC said.

“Comcast and Mr. Roberts appreciate the acknowledgement by the Federal Trade Commission that this was a technical and inadvertent violation that was self-reported, promptly corrected, and did not involve any financial gain to the Company or to Mr. Roberts," Comcast said in a statement, adding that the company has "put in place additional safeguards to ensure that an inadvertent violation does not occur in the future.”

Tyco CEO resigns from Comcast board
Justice slaps John Malone with $1.4 million fine
Comcast and Time Warner Cable venture into home security business
For the latest entertainment industry news, go to the LA Times Blog by clicking here.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Brian Roberts

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

An oil drilling platform has capsized in the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia's east coast, leaving four people reportedly dead and 49 missing. The Emergencies Ministry said in a statement Sunday that there
were 67 people aboard the platform as it was being towed about 200 kilometers (120 miles) off the coast of Sakhalin Island in stormy conditions. It said 14 people had been rescued. Russian news agencies later cited ministry officials as saying the bodies of four people had been found. Weather is prohibiting any attempt to slow what is described as a "massive oil spill."

Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, has died. He was 75. His assistant Sabina Dancecova says Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic. Havel was his country's first democratically elected president after the nonviolent "Velvet Revolution" that ended four decades of repression by a regime he ridiculed as "Absurdistan." As president, he oversaw the country's bumpy transition to democracy and a free-market economy, as well its peaceful 1993 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Pope Benedict XVI has made an emotional visit to Rome's main prison to meet with detainees and give them hope with calls for an easing of prison overcrowding and greater dignity for inmates.Benedict spent an hour and a half at Rome's Rebibbia prison Sunday, fielding questions from a half-dozen inmates who spoke of their despair at being kept in crowded cells, away from family, and of having repented for their crimes.The pope decried Italy's overcrowded prisons and urged the government to overhaul the system so that prisoners aren't subjected to a "double punishment" by serving time in unsufferable conditions.  Benedict said he hoped his visit to Rebibbia would not only give encouragement to the prisoners as Christmas nears, but would draw
attention to their plight.

Israel says it is set to release 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second and final phase of a swap that brought home an Israeli soldier after five years in captivity.  Israel has agreed to exchange a total of 1,027 prisoners for Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Gaza militants in June 2006. Schalit returned home in October when Israel freed the first batch of 477 prisoners. Sunday's release will complete the deal with the Hamas militant group. In October's release, Israel agreed to free dozens of Palestinians involved in deadly attacks. Under the Egyptian-brokered agreement, Israel chooses the prisoners in the second group, meaning that most are serving light sentences or near the end of their terms.

The Philippine Red Cross says the death toll from a storm that ravaged a wide swath of the south has risen to 652 with 808 others still missing. Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang reports that flash floods set off by Tropical Storm Washi killed 346 people in Cagayan de Oro city and 206 in nearby Iligan city. Deaths were also reported in five other southern and central provinces. Pang said more people have reported missing relatives, including 447 in Iligan and 347 in Cagayan de Oro.

South Korea's visiting president has pressed his Japanese counterpart to resolve a long-standing grievance regarding Korean women forced to serve as sexual slaves during World War II. President Lee Myung-bak said Sunday in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto that the issue of so-called comfort women remains a "stumbling block" in bilateral relations, according to a pool report posted on the president's website. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated Japan's stance that the matter has been settled between the two nations. Japanese officials have apologized in the past to the women. But victims say they also want reparations and prosecution of wrongdoers.  Noda said the two leaders also talked about free trade and security matters during their meeting.

There were some whoops and hugs but otherwise, the departure of the last U.S. troops from Iraq was low-key. They rolled out across the border into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak. The nearly nine-year war cost some 4,500 American 100,000 Iraqi lives. One officer crossing the border today says his "heart goes out to the Iraqis" amid lingering linger about the country's security and its future as a U.S. ally.

Troops and protesters have been battling for a third straight day in Cairo, pelting each other with rocks in
skirmishes near parliament in the heart of the Egyptian capital. At least 10 protesters have been killed and more than 400 wounded in the three days of violence. Royal officials say Prince Harry showed up at a
London police station to help a friend who had been mugged. Harry's Clarence House office says the 27-year-old prince went to support a friend who was reporting a robbery. British media say Thomas van Straubenzee was robbed in a south London street while on the phone with Harry, who raced across the
city to help. When he could not find Van Straubenzee, Harry went to the local police station, where he gave a witness statement. Police said a mobile phone was recovered after the Nov. 30 robbery. A suspect has been arrested and bailed. Harry, an army helicopter pilot, recently returned from a two-month training exercise in the United States,much of it based at Nellis AFB here in Las Vegas..

President Barack Obama says he's pleased that the Senate has voted to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless
benefits for two months. But yesterday's Senate action would also force Obama to decide within two months whether to allow construction of a 1,700-mile pipeline from Canada to Texas. And the battle isn't over. The House votes tomorrow and some Republicans are opposed.

The White House has joined the NAACP and other groups in battling new state laws that require stronger ID, not just voting but at registration, limits early voting, limits voting on Sundays, The laws suppress minority voting, voting by those who are poor, in many cases those who do not own vehicles or ways to get to distant polling places.

Two thirds of all states are attacking a hundred and fifty years of  progress in access to the polls, most all part of the Republican swing in 2010. Conservatives say the laws are to protect the integrity at the polling places, despite the lack of evidence of mass voter fraud or any real problems. Of course I am Chicago where the dead frequently voted in Democratic and Republican Elections (cemetery votes began under the Mob, which controlled the city government by electing Republicans to office).

Depite bitter cold, thousands took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg for a second weekend of protests over Russia's fraud-tainted parliamentary vote. About 4,000 supporters of the Communist Party rallied just outside the walls of the Kremlin on a snowy Sunday afternoon. They demanded a re-count of the vote and the government's resignation. In St. Petersburg, a rally in a central square drew about 3,000
people from various political parties and movement. Protesters chanted: "Russia without Putin!" Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade. The protests were small compared to nationwide rallies held in at least 60 Russian cities last weekend, including an unprecedented gathering of tens of thousands in Moscow.

The United States is poised to announce a significant donation of food aid to North Korea this week, the first concrete accomplishment after months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic contacts between the two wartime enemies. An agreement by North Korea to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program will likely follow within days.     

A British Conservative lawmaker in Britain has been fired as a parliamentary aide for attending a friend's Nazi-themed stag party.  The Conservative Party reports that Aidan Burley had "behaved in a manner which is offensive and foolish" and had been removed as parliamentary private secretary to the transport minister. The party says Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into Burley's behavior. Last week a newspaper ran a picture showing Burley with a man dressed in an SS uniform at the party. Burley said he felt "deep regret" about the event, at which guests toasted the Third Reich. In a letter to the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, he offered an "unreserved, wholehearted and fulsome apology" and said he had "made the wrong choice not to leave" the party.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part I

Blogger, the service used for this blog, has altered its code. This blog has been impacted. The directory, links and static information for this blog should be seen at the right hand side of this post. If not, then scan down toward the end of the blog and you will find the links. GRRRR!!  Why do programmers mess with something that work?

The best way to restore the proper format is to search for a specific topic (box at top of blog), or to refresh by hitting the "home" tab at the top. They may or may not work.

One of the heroes of Czechoslovakia's non-violent "Velvet Revolution" has died. Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who became his country's first democratically elected president, was 75. His plays, including the "memorandum" looked a bureaucracy and social oppression, with many of them doing so in a humorous ways. In the "Memorandum" the government imposed a new "simpler" language to make it easier for people to communicate. It reflects fiction, such as George Orwell's 1984, and real life examples such as the new "simplified" Chinese in China and alterations made to Korean in North Korea. The lower the vocabulary of the people the greater control the government and big business interests over decisions and everyday life. Some say this is happening the US, with decreasing language literacy and an increase in multi-lingualism limiting the ability of citizens to communicate effectively with each other.

The U-S has ended its involvement in Iraq -- after nine years.  The last troops are leaving the country -- and entering neighboring Kuwait. 500 US soldiers became the last combat troops to leave Iraq. We have troops remaining "in country" and a large number of civilian private security contractors to protect a very large embassy and private enterprise US presence. 

As US troops leave Iraq, they leave behind the largest US embassy in the world. Now, it is up to the State Department to pay for it and staff it.  The Department is hiring about 5,000 private security contractors.  Critics complain about this behemoth and say the State Department should think about a smaller footprint and puts its resources elsewhere.  The state department operates everything from full service hospitals to food courts, schools to Iraqi police training centers. One US Mission sits minutes from the border with Iran, within minutes of any potential invasion. The world's largest US Embassy and diplomatic missions around the country will remain heavily defended by US Marines. 

The US is not out or Iraq, but our combat mission is over and all troops related to that mission are now gone, ending the "war" in just short of nine years.

The BBC reports on posters and chanting in Iraq, making out leaving much closer to Vietnam than the leaving in victory as painted in US media. Posters showing Americans fleeing into the desert, or marking off tired and beaten, show up around the country, with slogans thanking their government for "kicking the invaders" out.

The cost of the war may never be known. American troops killed will soon be a fixed number, unless we are forced to return to protect the sizable number of Americans remaining in Iraq. The cost of education and other services for vets can be calculated, however the variables now include a jobless recovery back home, long term injuries (both physical and emotional) never seen in previous conflicts, and the political cost of two long wars fought by professional soldiers, with no draft or other easy to see impact on the home front.

The US officially has officially declared the end of its war in Iraq. One legacy of the war: improvised explosive devices - IEDs. They became the weapon of choice for insurgents in Iraq, and changed the way the US fights wars. 

At one time, marriage and divorce were dictated by romance -- the falling in and out of love.  Nowadays, those decisions are being increasingly influenced by economic factors. Living together prior to marriage, often for years, has become a common practice, not for moral or religious reasons, but because of the cost of setting up and keeping the marriage commitment. The potential need for one party to have to move or relocate, income fluctuations and what younger people see is evidence from parents or other older couples, have led to the decision that being a full "married" couple without the legal ties may make sense. In addition other factors, from government aid to the ability to qualify for student grants and aid, the cost of the dream wedding many still expect, and a shift in morality have taken their toll on the institution of Marriage.

Gambling is a national obsession in Spain, which runs the biggest lottery in the world, a holiday tradition. Tickets for the annual Christmas drawing called 'El Gordo,' or 'The Fat One,' go for nearly 300 euros apiece -- and yet more than 90 percent, 9 out of every ten Spaniards buy tickets, or a share in one. Despite Spain's dismal economy, 'El Gordo' ticket sales are up 15 percent so far this season.  Spain's jobless rate is 21%, as high as 41% in specific groups such as ethnic males under 35, but they find the money to spend on the tradition. Thursday there will be a 5 hour special celebrity telecast, with orphan children singing the winning numbers. Historically the lottery was the only way out of poverty. Prizes range between twenty and $250,000 Euros. It brings billions into the Spanish economy at a time when the government needs the money.

Several polls of South Carolina voters show that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a roughly 2-to-1 lead over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the state. Governor Romney spent Friday and Saturday campaigning with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has given him her endorsement.  Historically the odds of a governor's endorsement in South Caroline leading to win run 50/50.

ID's and birth certificates are not as easy to gain as it may seem to wealthy white business people and politicians. There is a relatively high cost to poor citizens in most states, birth certificate records may not be easy to find or may have been lost in fires or floods. The cost and time delay in gaining a copy of your birth certificate has gone up as many states use private contractors to process the information. Travel and accessibility regulations limit seniors and those with disabilities in their ability to meet upcoming primary and caucus regulations. Adding fuel to the fire that most all of the states where new stricter regulations, allegedly passed to keep "illegals" from voting, have Republican legislatures and governors. That turns the issue of proof of identification and proof of registration a very Republican against Democrat issue, going into a key presidential and congressional election year.

 From NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday comes the story of a new book on movies, worth picking up for the film fan in your family. A new list of the top 100 cult films of all time includes midnight screening favorites like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "The Big Lebowski," as well as movie classics like "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life." the feature takes a look at what  it takes to become a cult film with Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik , authors of the new book, "100 Cult Films."