Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marching Orders

I've noticed when President Obama meets with billionaires, they have the good grace to pretend like they're human beings (plus it's good press.)

The ones who want to talk to the Republicans instead, well they don't have time for niceties, apparently.  They just want their orders followed.  Forget Davos, the real deal this weekend is in Palm Springs.

This weekend, at a posh resort near Palm Springs, California, two billionaire corporate titans will convene a semi-annual meeting of a politically well-connected set. It will include wealthy donors and powerful Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

At David and Charles Koch's meeting, attendees will discuss items like how best to promote free markets and how to help elect conservatives. Donors are expected to be asked to donate to conservative causes.

It will be conducted virtually in secret, with no press or public allowed and many attendees keeping event details on the hush.

That's fueled criticism that this gathering is a sort of secret cabal - a "Billionaires Caucus," critics say. Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, even said that the Koch brothers' meeting represents "a threat to our democracy."

Those and other criticisms were leveled during a Thursday telephone press conference for reporters organized by the liberal-oriented, nonprofit group, Common Cause. On Sunday, the group will hold events to counter the Koch's weekend conference: hosting a panel discussion titled, "Uncloaking the Kochs" and spearheading a protest rally, both near the Rancho las Palmas resort, the site of the Koch meeting.

A central issue inflaming this debate: the role of corporate money in politics, especially after last year's landmark Supreme Court campaign finance ruling. That decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, found that the "government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker's corporate identity." 

Hey, these guys already bought the ability to use their nearly unlimited financial influence on campaign politics.  I wonder what else they are getting for their "donations" to Republicans this weekend?  Make no mistake, the GOP leadership is getting their marching orders for 2012 from the people really in charge in America.

Tea Party populism will only go as far as the Koch Brothers allow it.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day Taco Bell's meat 88% beef, 35% beef, or what?

"Our reputation's been falsely tarnished," said Greg Creed, Taco Bell's president. He told CNNMoney that he's meeting with outside counsel to possibly take legal action on these "egregious" accusations against his beef.

"We clearly take this very seriously," he said, noting that a decision on legal action will be made in the next week. "We're reacting to this onslaught against our food and reputation."

The fast-food company said that its beef is "100% USDA inspected," and insisted that its meat mix is "88% beef and 12% Secret Recipe." But the lawsuit, filed in federal court within the Central District of California, claims that the mix is about one-third beef.

"We would like Taco Bell to stop referring to its products as beef products, when in fact they're not beef products," said the plaintiff's lawyer, Dee Miles, to CNN's Jeanne Moos.

Based on lab tests, the law firm said that Taco Bell's "beef" was actually less than 35% beef.

"Their number is so wrong, it's ludicrous," Creed said.

Well, somebody's certainly 100% full of crap here.   On one hand, considering Taco Bell makes millions of products daily, it's not like they can hide if somebody wanted to test it.  On the other hand, the thought of "besmirching Taco Bell's reputation" is equally laughable when the whole point of the chain is to sell cheap, mass-produced Mexican food.

It'll be interesting to see who's telling the truth.

Jeddah Gotta Be Kidding

As I said yesterday, the biggest, fattest domino at the end of the Tunisia-Egypt revolution chain is Saudi Arabia, and Saudi King Abdullah has just backed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Saudi Arabia’s state news agency reported that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud criticized the protestors (claiming they are instigated by "infiltrators") and strongly backed Mubarak.

The king said protesters were "exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction . . . inciting a malicious sedition” and that outside agitators “infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security."

"No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred," King Abdullah was quoted as saying. 

Needless to say, that's not going over well with the Saudi people.

Saudi authorities detained dozens of demonstrators yesterday who gathered in Jeddah to protest against poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through Saudi Arabia's second biggest city.

Mass messages were sent over BlackBerry smart-phones calling for popular action in response to the flood, an unusual move in the Gulf state.

Protesters gathered for about 15 minutes after Friday prayers on a main shopping street and shouted "God is Greatest" before authorities broke up the protest and detained participants.

If things go casters up in Riyadh and Jeddah, then you can kiss any hope of recovery goodbye here in the US, folks.  Five, six dollar a gallon gas is not exactly going to endear the American people.  After that, all bets are off.  Things at this point have the potential of getting very ugly, very quickly.

Be aware.

StupidiNews! Five Crazy Things Edition


Molly DeWolf Swenson is making news.  She was an intern for the Obama administration, and apparently sings pretty well, too.  Make your own jokes about her changing her tune, I was on punchline overload.  But good luck to her, she earned her way before the fact was known.

So Facebook has sidestepped the problem of how to control your mind and get you to buy things or recommend them to your friends. They don't need to control your brain to get you to advertise for them. They just need to know who your friends are, and what you're saying to them. Their ad placement algorithm does the rest.

The science of advertising is still scary, even if it isn't as effective as they would like.


A ten-year-old girl won a spelling bee without uttering a sound.  Tanu Shivaswamy suffers from cerebral palsy but her mind is in top shape.  With the help of an interpreter, she spells out her words using sign language.  It's cool if you teared up a little after reading the article.  I did.


"Your honor, my best guess is that he was either a dog in a former life, or never learned the art of shaking hands."  This is the best possible defense for a man who apparently tackles women joggers and buries his nose in their... rear.

The nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center reported Thursday that its investigation found "blueberries" that were nothing more than a concoction of sugar, corn syrup, starch, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and -- of course -- artificial food dye blue No. 2 and red No. 40. The offenders are well-known manufacturers such as Kellogg's, Betty Crocker and General Mills, and the fakes were found in bagels, cereals, breads and muffins. Some products contain real blueberries mixed with fakes.
This is disheartening on so many levels.  Blueberries have been popular for their antioxidants and other health benefits, and some of our largest food providers have been purposely covering this up.

Denial Really Is A River In Egypt

Lot of stuff this morning on Egypt to discuss.  First, President Obama has made his official statement on the matter, saying "All governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion."

Second, a report from the UK's Telegraph newspaper indicates America has been secretly backing regime change in Egypt for the last three years as part of the trove of WikiLeaks State Department cables.

In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.”

It said the activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”. The embassy’s source said the plan was “so sensitive it cannot be written down”.

Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organised by the US State Department.

Cairo embassy officials warned Washington that the activist’s identity must be kept secret because he could face “retribution” when he returned to Egypt. He had already allegedly been tortured for three days by Egyptian state security after he was arrested for taking part in a protest some years earlier.

Finally, protests continue today as demonstrators are not happy at all with Mubarak remaining in power in any way.

Thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria on Saturday after President Hosni Mubarak spurned demands that he end his 30-year authoritarian rule.

A Reuters witness said police used teargas and live ammunition against demonstrators in Alexandria. Protesters also gathered on a main square in the capital Cairo in defiance of military orders for them to disperse.

The fresh unrest broke out as Mubarak clung to power, replacing his cabinet in an effort to appease angry Egyptians, complaining about poverty, corruption and unemployment.

The president ordered troops and tanks into Cairo and other cities overnight and imposed a curfew in an attempt to quell the protests that have shaken the Arab world's most populous nation, a key U.S. ally, to the core.

Despite dozens of deaths in clashes on Friday, Egyptians said they would press on with protests until Mubarak quits.

"We are not demanding a change of cabinet, we want them all to leave, Mubarak before anyone else," said Saad Mohammed, a 45-year-old welder who was among about 2,000 people gathered in Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

Needless to say, things are getting deadly and quite serious in Egypt this weekend.  I'll continue to keep an eye on the news.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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