Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Texas Gov. Rick Perry calls Social Security bankrupt 'Ponzi scheme' -

Texas Gov. Rick Perry calls Social Security bankrupt 'Ponzi scheme' - 

Gov. Rick Perry stopped off in the Alamo City on Tuesday for a bite of barbecue and a bit of promotion for his new book — and called for completely repealing President Barack Obama's health care legislation while he was at it.In his 12-minute speech at Augie's Barbed Wire Smokehouse Bar-B-Que near Brackenridge Park, Perry took on the federal government, from health care reform to Social Security. Perry pushed for a repeal of Obama's health care legislation “in its entirety.”
“You can't go through this piece by piece. You need to repeal it in its entirety,” he said. “Then let's have them start anew from the premise that the states can better handle these questions.”
Perry criticized President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and an early 20th-century “progressive era” movement that “gave the federal government access to our wallets via taxation.”
Calling the New Deal “a glut of federal programs,” Perry said the creation of the Social Security system did very little to end the Great Depression.
“Unfortunately, the New Deal has essentially become the third rail of American politics that indiscriminately kills the political careers of any leader bold enough to criticize it or any program it created,” he said.
In a post-speech news conference, Perry further attacked Social Security — as he did in his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington” — and said he did so to create a “national dialogue.”
“I want people to be afraid not to talk about that Social Security is bankrupt and is a Ponzi scheme and if you've got a young 20-something-year-old, they know for a fact that they're not ever going to see that,” he said. “So let's fix it.”
Perry's speech, in which he also railed against government intrusion into citizens' lives, focused largely on national issues. He's been on a whirlwind tour since winning an unprecedented third term as governor, under the auspices of promoting his anti-Washington book — making appearances on CNN, Fox News and Comedy Central's “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Perry is consistently asked if he's ramping up for a run for president. He denies it.

Executives Collect $2 Billion Running U.S. For-Profit Colleges - 26 times the compensation of a traditional university -

Executives Collect $2 Billion Running U.S. For-Profit Colleges -  26 times the compensation of a traditional university - 

Strayer Education Inc., a chain of for-profit colleges that receives three-quarters of its revenue from U.S. taxpayers, paid Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Silberman $41.9 million last year. That’s 26 times the compensation of the highest-paid president of a traditional university.
Top executives at the 15 U.S. publicly traded for-profit colleges, led by Apollo Group Inc. and Education Management Corp., also received $2 billion during the last seven years from the proceeds of selling company stock, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. At the same time, the industry registered the worst loan-default and four-year-college dropout rates in U.S. higher education. Since 2003, nine for-profit college insiders sold more than $45 million of stock apiece.Peter Sperling, vice chairman of Apollo’s University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit college, collected $574.3 million.
Education corporations, which receive as much as 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial-aid programs, are “private enterprise that’s almost entirely publicly funded,” Henry Levin, director of Columbia University’s National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, said in a telephone interview.
Students at for-profit colleges are defaulting on their loans at three times the rate of those at private, nonprofit institutions, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, which is tightening regulation of the industry. The graduation rate for first-time, full-time candidates for four- year degrees at for-profit colleges is 22 percent, compared with 55 percent at state colleges and 65 percent at private nonprofit universities.
‘Public Trough’
“For-profit colleges are reaching into the public trough to finance luxurious lifestyles at the expense of people who are going to have to pay back loans,” said Levin, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York.
John G. Sperling, Apollo’s 89-year-old founder and executive chairman, received $263.5 million from stock sales during the last seven years. Robert B. Knutson, retired CEO and chairman of Pittsburgh-based Education Management, the second- largest for-profit college chain by enrollment, got $132.4 million. Dennis Keller and Ronald Taylor, former co-CEOs of DeVry Inc., a Downers Grove, Illinois-based for-profit higher education company, together collected $110.4 million in stock proceeds.
‘Appropriate’ Rewards
Industry executives deserve to be rewarded because of their records as entrepreneurs and the performance of their companies’ stock, said Harris Miller, president of the Washington-based Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities, which represents the industry.
“If a company has done well, and the market has rewarded executives, that’s totally appropriate,” Miller said in a telephone interview. “These guys were in it for the long term. They believe in the sector. They weren’t in it for a quick buck.”

Moscow Prison Installs Sunbeds, Skype to stay in touch with relatives, and spa facilities like mud baths -

Moscow Prison Installs Sunbeds, Skype to stay in touch with relatives, and spa facilities like mud baths - 

Butyrka prison

A notorious 19th-century prison in central Moscow is installing sunbeds, Skype and spa services for its long-suffering inmates. 

Those perks were not afforded to Butyrka prison's previous inmates -- famous names like Adolf Hitler's nephew Heinrich and the Soviet writers Isaak Babel and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Babel was executed at Butyrka in 1940. Solzhenitsyn was freed. He won the 1970 Nobel Prize in literature. Four years later, he was exiled.

Butyrka's reputation is for the kind of abuse and squalid conditions Solzhenitsyn chronicled. But the prison has come under increased scrutiny since another famous inmate, Sergei Magnitsky, died behind bars there last year. The 37-year-old lawyer for Russia's biggest equity investment fund was jailed after implicating Russian officials in alleged tax fraud. He was denied adequate medical treatment at Butyrka, and the Federal Prison Service acknowledged that it was at least partially to blame for his November 2009 death. He had been suffering from gallstones and other untreated illnesses. 

Since then, prison officials have launched an informal campaign to improve their image, including the announcement of new perks for Butyrka inmates. 

"We are developing additional medical services ... and even sunbeds will be put in place," prison director Sergei Telyatnikov told state-run radio station Vesti FM, according to Reuters. 

Telyatnikov said inmates will also have access to sophisticated medical equipment, including ultrasound systems, which Magnitsky's lawyers say could have saved his life. Prisoners will be allowed to use Skype to stay in touch with relatives, and could even have spa facilities such as mud baths in the future, Telyatnikov said. 

He said the sunbeds would be installed by the end of the year, but inmates will have to apply for permission to use them and will have to pay for the service, the BBC reported

The changes at Butyrka have caused a stir in the Russian media, with the opposition website Kasparov.ru saying, "Nearly a year after Magnitsky, the prison is doing all it can to prove that it has improved its conditions,"according to Agence France-Presse. The site is run by former chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov. 

One expert has said that a "sunbed is not a priority need" for a prisoner. "This looks like some kind of joke," Zoya Svetova, a Russian prisons expert for the New Times weekly, was quoted by AFP as saying.

Earlier this year, Russia's prison service acknowledged that almost half of the inmates in its care are seriously ill, including many who are HIV positive but receive no treatment.

Congratulations, America. Torture Has Led You On a Wild Goose Chase, Destroyed the Rule of Law and Made You Less Safe -

Congratulations, America. Torture Has Led You On a Wild Goose Chase, Destroyed the Rule of Law and Made You Less Safe -

There are numerous headlines this week about torture:
But these headlines make no sense unless they are put in context and given historical background:
  • Everyone claiming waterboarding is not torture has changed their tune as soon as they were exposed to even a small dose of it themselves. See thisthisand this

Archaeologist: Beer brings people together - and it might also be responsible for the rise of human civilization -

Archaeologist: Beer brings people together - and it might also be responsible for the rise of human civilization - 

Over the years, beer has brought countless people together. But researchers now say beer isn't just responsible for sparking new friendships and relationships -- it might also be responsible for the rise of human civilization.

Archaeologists believe that when Stone Age farmers in Southwest Asia began harvesting grain -- a process long considered to be a precursor to the advent of civilization -- they weren't doing it to produce food.

Instead, they say agriculture's early seeds were sown in an attempt to brew beer, according to LiveScience.com.

Scholars believe Neolithic groups in the Natufian culture began settling down and farming cereal grains about 11,500 years ago. But archaeological evidence reportedly shows that barley and rice were only minor parts of the diets of early humans -- leading researchers to believe they might have been used for drinks at parties.

Considering how hard it is to turn grain into food and how far some Neolithic people traveled to obtain grain, archaeologist Brian Hayden at Canada's Simon Fraser University believes early man might have stockpiled grain to make beer that was served at feasts.
It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden told the website.

And as uncivilized as a beer-fueled party might seem today, Hayden says those sudsy feasts laid the groundwork for the rise of civilization.

"Feasts are essential in traditional societies for creating debts, for creating factions, for creating bonds between people, for creating political power, for creating support networks, and all of this is essential for developing more complex kinds of societies," he said.


Yankees Legend Reggie Jackson -- #1 With the Bat, #2 in the Field - admits he once crapped his uniform mid game -

Yankees Legend Reggie Jackson  -- #1 With the Bat, #2 in the Field - admits he once crapped his uniform mid game -

Mr. October stopped by the grand opening of a NYC SoupMan (Reg is an investor) -- the place that inspired Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode -- and told us, he once had to change his uniform in the middle of a game because he crapped himself ... and it wasn't even his first bathroom-related breakdown!

Check out the video -- dude's full of it ... literally.

click here to watch the video - http://www.tmz.com/videos?autoplay=true&mediaKey=9323da09-8bb0-4e5f-85b3-b1d1719d08af&isShareURL=true

Weigh over 350 lbs.? You eat free here - Heart Attack Grill - and the waitresses wear barely-there nurse outfits -

Weigh over 350 lbs.? You eat free here - Heart Attack Grill - and the waitresses wear barely-there nurse outfits - 

The Four Horseman have just crested the Sierra Nevadas and are currently barreling toward Phoenix.
Once there, Death will head straight to the Heart Attack Grill Diet Center, where a lot of his work is already being done. Famine will hang around outside town, feeling lonely and trying to buy the Coyotes.
The Heart Attack Grill gets a lot of credit for audacity, though not much for good sense. Its latest promotion offers a free meal to all customers weighing more than 350 lbs.

If you’d like to save money on groceries (and spend three times that much on antihypertensives), you’ll be able to reach your goal alarmingly quickly on a diet of “Double Bypass Burgers” and “Flatliner Fries.”
If you have a stubbornly efficient metabolism, upgrade to the Quadruple Bypass Burger – 2 lbs of beef, three layers of cheese and four bacon rashers adding up to an Elvis-esque 8,000 calories.
“Along with a cold beer and cigarette, it’s a diet you can stick to for life,” their ads promise.
Yes, ‘life’. Or, put another way, ‘six or seven months.’ The filterless Lucky Strikes are menu items.
Hospitalization is a theme at the Heart Attack. The waitresses wear barely-there nurse outfits. There are wheelchairs on hand in case you actually keel over. It’s funny, if you think whoopee cushions in a funeral home are funny.
The “Dr. Jon” seen advising you to try the diet in the ads? That’s Jon Basso, owner of the five-year-old Grill. He used to work as a nutritionist for Jenny Craig. No, really. He did. Does Jenny Craig do excommunications? And where exactly would the power of Christ compel this guy to go? He’s already slinging burgers in the desert.
The star of their ads, 570 lb. Blair Rivers, seems pleased by the results. Or maybe that’s the early, eurphoric stages of grease-induced coma.
Clearly, the Heart Attack Grill loves the attention. But this morning, not everyone was laughing.
“(I)n a society spending $316.4 billion to fight heart disease each year, has Heart Attack's new campaign taken the joke too far?” Time Magazine wondered, not really wondering at all.
On Tuesday morning, the Heart Attack Grill’s phone was off the hook.
“Yeah, they’re all over the news today,” confirmed Rich Myers, who works at the Discount Tire next-door to the lard emporium.
So, do you eat there often?
“No,” Myers said. “Never.”
Why not?
“Honestly? It kinda scares me.”