“In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate rules.” —Bernard Madoff, money manager, Oct. 20, 2007
About a year later, Madoff—who once headed the Nasdaq Stock Market—told investigators he had cost his investors $50 billion in an alleged Ponzi scheme.
When I was a kid, I bothered small critters by shooting at them with my slingshot. Those critters were lucky that I didn't have the skills of Slingshot Man in the video below.
Based on a article by Stacy Kronquest, here's a look at how Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue rewards his political allies. The transfer of wealth to politically-connected people continues.
In November 2008 Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue awarded a 50-year development contract of Jekyll Island to real-estate developer Mercer Reynolds. Jekyll Island is called “Georgia’s Jewel” because of its miles of priceless beachfront land and breathtaking natural surroundings.
The barrier island was purchased by the state in 1949 as a place for Georgians to enjoy as a state park. It is the state's land, but it was signed over for the next 50 years to a developer with deep political connections.
Mercer Reynolds is known in Republican circles as a fundraising guru. In 2004, as George W. Bush’s campaign finance director, Reynolds raised several hundred million dollars for the President’s reelection campaign. His development in north Georgia, Reynolds Plantation, includes a Ritz Carlton and multi-million dollar vacation homes.
“There’s something wrong here,” says former Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) board member Senator Boshears, who recently was removed from the Governor-appointed JIA board. “Do we allow a fat cat developer to make millions of dollars for no other reason than to enrich themselves and their political cronies?”
State Senator Jeff Chapman of District 3, says that the other developers who bid on the contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars offered better deals for the state. “It was a rigged process right from the start,” says Chapman. Boshears, who is the former senator of District 3, says that once Reynolds was awarded the contract and negotiations began, he was discouraged from asking questions, describing a veil of secrecy. “It was completely the Governor’s decision,” says Boshears.
Senators Chapman and Boshears say separately, but with equal conviction, that the Jekyll Island contract is a rotten deal for the people of Georgia.
Frank Mirasola, former president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, tells reporters “I can only conclude that there are conditions in the agreement that are so heinous as to require total secrecy."
The 50-year contract gives Reynolds beachfront property to build a 160-unit timeshare with profits estimated to be $100 million from sales totaling $137 million.
TVA Coal Ash Disaster – December 22, 2008 - CBS News
CNN — A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.
Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.
The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.
The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.
The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.
"We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes," TVA said in a statement released Tuesday.
TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Video footage showed sludge as high as 6 feet, burying porches and garage doors. The slide also downed nearby power lines, though the TVA said power had been restored to the area.
Francis said Environmental Protection Agency officials were on the scene and estimated the cleanup could take four to six weeks.
via Fred First
Google Adwords expert Perry Marshall shares some fascinating thoughts on Christmas relating equality, technology and spirituality. Excerpts below.
The United States Declaration of Independence makes a world-shattering declaration that transformed the modern world:
"We hold these things to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
In his book "Democracy in America" (1835) Alexis de Tocqueville carefully traces this statement and its idea of equality backward through history and lands at Galatians 3:28, the words of St. Paul:
"In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free. All are equal in Christ Jesus."
Before Paul said this, no one had ever made such a bold and sweeping statement. No one. Not the Babylonians, not the Egyptians, not the Greeks, not the Chinese. The concept of equality came first from Paul.
This idea got planted in western civilization and began to grow and develop, little by little dismantling slave trade, sowing the seeds for democracy and spurring technological and political progress.
If you live in a democracy and you're thankful for the ability to vote, if you're thankful that people generally consider you and themselves to be just as good as anybody else, then thank Paul. And his Rabbi, Jesus.
Because – despite what the Declaration says – equality really is NOT self evident. At least it wasn't to any of the ancient world prior to 2000 years ago. On the surface, we're all different. Some are stronger. Some are smarter. Some have more money. Some are politically connected. Some are more savvy.
But when Paul said this, he was declaring that there is an underlying *spiritual* reality, that yours and my true identity doesn't come from accomplishments or money or power but from our Heavenly Father. That once we know that true identity we're no longer slaves to money and power and accomplishments and the 'natural' order of things.
If you read the history of science over the last 500 years, the only reason science succeeded in the West – after getting started but failing in Greece, Rome, China and in the Arab world – is that Christian theology understood God to have created the universe to operate according to fixed discoverable laws. Theology made that prediction, then people had a philosophical basis for having a scientific method.
In his fascinating book "The Victory of Reason" historian Rodney Stark further explains that the forward march of technology began after the fall of the Roman Empire and has marched steadily forward ever since. Equality implied that slavery was wrong, so people had to develop technology in order to free their slaves and still get the work done. So… part of the inspiration for inventions like water wheels was a belief in dignity and freedom and the rights of the individual.
Technology is supposed to empower people, not enslave them. Because, as Paul said, in Christ, all are equal.
In 1445, Johannes Gutenberg invented the world's first movable type printing press. He didn't know it, but he was unleashing a revolution that continues to this day. Even the mighty Internet in the 21st century is just an extension of Gutenberg's original, revolutionary machine.
The first book he printed was the Bible. And that led to controversy, too, because Luther translated it into German, the people's language, instead of Latin, the lingo of the religious elite.
Suddenly, ordinary folks could not only afford a copy, but they could read it for themselves instead of getting some guy's slanted interpretation. Soon the cat was out of the bag–there were copies scattered all over Europe.
When people started to read it, they were alarmed at what they saw, because between the covers of this book was an amazing story that had seemingly little to do with the politics and shell games they saw in some corners of organized religion.
Luther wrote a list of 95 accusations against the church — priests taking bribes and granting 'indulgences', an institution setting itself up as a 'middleman' between man and God.
He argued that God didn't need a middleman, or a distributor, or an agent, or a bureaucracy. People could go direct to the source.
This little 'schism' in Worms Germany unleashed a firestorm of protest and permanently changed the way people approached education. No longer was a big, faceless institution responsible for your spiritual progress — YOU were. Now that you had the knowledge in your hands, you were accountable before God to do something about it.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, says that capitalism is out-of-date due to crooks using technology to steal.
…capitalism had a good run, but it will soon be done. Socialism will be too expensive to maintain as the world economies slow, and communism won't be making a comeback. The economies of the future will be something new.
Capitalism was conceived before the Internet, and before the gears of commerce became computerized. The system could absorb a lot of con artists because they didn't have the ability to steal fast enough to cripple the system. As you know, that has changed. Crooks in expensive suits now have the ability to swindle trillions, collectively, thanks to the efficiency of the system. And idiots in expensive suits can do even more damage.
The economy is now too complicated for even the regulators to know when a con or a huge mistake is happening. The balance of power has swung to the crooks and the market manipulators. Even if we could regulate away these problems, it's already too late. There isn't enough money left to support the planet under the current social systems, at least not when the boomers start retiring and unemployment starts climbing.
I miss the beauty of Virginia in the winter.
Photo by D L Ennis
Otter Creek after the rains is running at normal levels and reflecting the blue sky in December…Best viewed large.
Some impressive guitar work here.