Archive for April, 2010

Well Economy Crashed, SEC Staffers Viewed Pornographic Images

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

The link
It makes me very angry that people who are so incompetent have high level jobs, whereas people who could potentially be more productive cannot even find steady work. It is largely this nepotism which ruined it for everyone.

WASHINGTON — Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog says.

The SEC’s inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The memo says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2 1/2 years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.

The staffers’ behavior violated government-wide ethics rules, it says.

It was written by SEC Inspector General David Kotz in response to a request from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

The memo was first reported Thursday evening by ABC News. It summarizes past inspector general probes and reports some shocking findings:

– A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

– An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense, and received a 14-day suspension.

– Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.

– The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said it was “disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse.”

He said in a statement that SEC officials “were preoccupied with other distractions” when they should have been overseeing the growing problems in the financial system.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment Thursday night.

About 16 percent of men with Internet access at work admit to looking at online porn while at the office, according to a 2006 survey by Websense Inc.

Former SEC spokesman Michael Robinson said he shares the public’s outrage about SEC staffers who enjoyed porn on the taxpayer dime when they were supposed to be keeping the markets safe.

“That kind of behavior is just intolerable and atrocious,” said Robinson, now with Levick Strategic Communications. He said he expects SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and her team are “very focused on” the issue.

Schapiro has had other worries in recent days. She has been parrying Republican attacks after announcing civil fraud charges Friday against Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Agency officials had hoped the charges would mark a new era of tougher oversight of Wall Street. They followed high-profile embarrassments including the failure to catch Ponzi kings Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford.

But soon after Goldman charges were filed, Republicans began questioning the timing of the announcement. The news came as the Senate prepared to take up a sweeping overhaul of the rules governing banks and other financial companies.

Republican lawmakers also accused the SEC of being influenced by politics. The SEC’s commissioners approved the Goldman charges on a rare 3-2 vote. The two who objected were Republicans.

Schapiro is a registered independent who has been appointed by presidents of both parties.

A new forum – the beer barell

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The link
Those who are offended by alcoholism should probably skip this, but for everyone else, here is a “low brow” entertainment forum.

80% of Americans do not Trust the Government

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Here is an interesting topic written in the news room and discussed on the forum.

I can tell you that I believe it. The average person really does not trust the government. And for good reasons.

Iranian Official – Promiscuous Women Cause Earthquakes

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The link
If promiscuous women did cause earthquakes, Iran is not the place they would be occurring with high frequency.

This is what happens in a theocracy. The link between cause and effect is severed. When science is rejected, then superstition replaces it.

This is why serious “progressive thinkers” hope that one day theocracy will go by the wayside, just not through strategically flawed and costly American invasions. And not in the name of Republican Democracy which is too liberal even in a more educated region like USA.

BEIRUT – A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Iran is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric’s unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

Seismologists have warned for at least two decades that it is likely the sprawling capital will be struck by a catastrophic quake in the near future.

Some experts have even suggested Iran should move its capital to a less seismically active location. Tehran straddles scores of fault lines, including one more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) long, though it has not suffered a major quake since 1830.

In 2003, a powerful earthquake hit the southern city of Bam, killing 31,000 people — about a quarter of that city’s population — and destroying its ancient mud-built citadel.

“A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance. Why? Because calamities threaten us,” Sedighi said.

Referring to the violence that followed last June’s disputed presidential election, he said, “The political earthquake that occurred was a reaction to some of the actions (that took place). And now, if a natural earthquake hits Tehran, no one will be able to confront such a calamity but God’s power, only God’s power. … So let’s not disappoint God.”

The Iranian government and its security forces have been locked in a bloody battle with a large opposition movement that accuses Ahmadinejad of winning last year’s vote by fraud.

Ahmadinejad made his quake prediction two weeks ago but said he could not give an exact date. He acknowledged that he could not order all of Tehran’s 12 million people to evacuate. “But provisions have to be made. … At least 5 million should leave Tehran so it is less crowded,” the president said.

Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsooli said prayers and pleas for forgiveness were the best “formulas to repel earthquakes.”

“We cannot invent a system that prevents earthquakes, but God has created this system and that is to avoid sins, to pray, to seek forgiveness, pay alms and self-sacrifice,” Mahsooli said.

Goldman Sachs Accused of Fraud by US Government

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The Link
One who is concerned with populist issues in the United States of America must applaud the Government for what it has done. Granted, the entire system has not realized itself to be fraudulent, but it is a step away from denial. The Government is solving a major problem here.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government on Friday accused Wall Street’s most powerful firm of fraud, saying Goldman Sachs & Co. sold mortgage investments without telling the buyers that the securities were crafted with input from a client who was betting on them to fail.

And fail they did. The securities cost investors close to $1 billion while helping Goldman client Paulson & Co., a hedge fund, capitalize on the housing bust. The Goldman executive accused of shepherding the deal allegedly boasted about the “exotic trades” he created “without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!”

The civil charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission are the government’s most significant legal action related to the mortgage meltdown that ignited the financial crisis and helped plunge the country into recession.

The news sent Goldman Sachs shares and the stock market reeling as the SEC said other financial deals related to the meltdown continue to be investigated. It was a blow to the reputation of a financial giant that had emerged relatively unscathed from the economic crisis.

Goldman Sachs denied the allegations. In a statement, it called the SEC’s charges “completely unfounded in law and fact” and said it will contest them.

The SEC is seeking to recoup the money lost by investors and impose unspecified civil fines against Goldman Sachs and the executive, Fabrice Tourre. The SEC could enter into settlement negotiations over the amount if Goldman changed its stance and decided not to fight the charges in a trial.

The SEC said Paulson paid Goldman roughly $15 million in 2007 to devise an investment tied to mortgage-related securities that the hedge fund viewed as likely to decline in value. Separately, Paulson took out a form of insurance that allowed it to make a huge profit when those securities’ value plunged.

The fraud allegations focus on how Goldman sold the securities. Goldman told investors that a third party, ACA Management LLC, had selected the pools of subprime mortgages it used to create the securities. The securities are known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations.

The SEC alleges that Goldman misled investors by failing to disclose that Paulson & Co. also played a role in selecting the mortgage pools and stood to profit from their decline in value. Two European banks that bought the securities lost nearly $1 billion, the SEC said.

“Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party,” SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said in a statement.

But Goldman said in a statement that it never mischaracterized Paulson’s strategy in the transaction. It added that it wasn’t obliged to “disclose the identities of a buyer to a seller and vice versa.”

The charges name only Goldman Sachs and Tourre, who was a vice president in his late 20s when the alleged fraud was orchestrated in 2007. Tourre, the SEC said, boasted to a friend that he was able to put such deals together as the mortgage market was unraveling in early 2007.

In an e-mail to the friend, he described himself as “the fabulous Fab standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!”

Tourre, 31, has since been promoted to executive director of Goldman Sachs International in London.

Stanford University spokeswoman Elaine Ray said a student by the name of Fabrice Tourre received a master’s degree in management science and engineering from the school in 2001.

A call to a lawyer for Tourre, Pamela Chepiga at Allen & Overy LLP, wasn’t returned.

Asked why the SEC did not also pursue a case against Paulson, Khuzami said: “It was Goldman that made the representations to investors. Paulson did not.”

Paulson & Co. is run by John Paulson, who reaped billions by betting against subprime mortgage securities. He is not related to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman CEO.

John Paulson was among the first on Wall Street to bet heavily against subprime mortgages. His firm earned more than $15 billion in 2007, and he pocketed $3.7 billion. He has since earned billions more, largely by betting against bank stocks and then buying them back after their shares plunged.

In a statement, Paulson & Co. said: “As the SEC said at its press conference, Paulson is not the subject of this complaint, made no misrepresentations and is not the subject of any charges.”

Goldman, founded more than 140 years ago, built a reputation as a trusted adviser to investment banking clients and for sending top executives into presidential Cabinet posts.

In recent years, it shifted toward taking more risks with its clients’ money and its own. Goldman’s trading allowed the firm to weather the financial crisis better than most other big banks. It earned a record $4.79 billion in the last quarter of 2009.

The complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan “undermines their brand,” said Simon Johnson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Goldman critic. “It undermines their political clout. I don’t think anybody really values being connected to Goldman at this point.”

He continued: “There are many people who — until this morning — thought Goldman Sachs was well-run.”

The SEC’s enforcement chief said the agency is investigating a wide range of practices related to the crisis. The prospect of possible legal jeopardy for other major financial players roiled the stock market.

Goldman Sachs shares fell more than 12 percent Goldman and lost $14.2 billion in market capitalization. The Dow Jones industrial average finished down more than 125 points.

The SEC appears to be taking a particularly aggressive approach with Goldman. Typically, cases are resolved by firms agreeing to a settlement before the charges are made public, said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University.

“The SEC has changed its style,” Coffee said. “They wanted to tell the world what they thought Goldman had done wrong.”

The charges come as lawmakers seek to crack down on Wall Street practices that helped cause the financial crisis. Congress is considering tougher rules for complex investments like those involved in the alleged Goldman fraud.

President Barack Obama vowed Friday to veto a financial overhaul bill that doesn’t regulate mortgage-backed securities and other so-called derivatives. Legislation in Congress would for the first time regulate derivatives, whose value depends on an underlying asset, such as mortgages or stocks. Senate Republicans oppose the bill.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is “pleased that the SEC is departing from the lax enforcement of the Bush administration and is returning to the SEC’s proper role of protecting investors in the marketplace,” spokesman Steven Adamske said.

The biggest loser in the alleged fraud was ABN Amro, a major Dutch bank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which acquired major portions of it in 2007. The SEC said the Royal Bank of Scotland paid Goldman $841 million to unwind ABN transactions.

IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG, a German commercial bank, lost nearly all its $150 million investment, the agency said. Most of the money the banks lost went to Paulson in a series of transactions between Goldman and the hedge fund, the SEC said.

IKB was an early casualty of the financial crisis. It issued a profit warning in 2007 saying it had been hurt by U.S. subprime mortgage investments. IKB was sold in 2008 to Dallas-based Lone Star Funds.

Ed Trissel, a spokesman for Lone Star Funds, declined to comment on the case.

The SEC charges come after Goldman Sachs denied last week it that bet against clients by selling them mortgage-backed securities while reducing its own exposure to them.

In an annual letter to shareholders, Goldman said it began reducing its exposure to the U.S. mortgage market in late 2006.

AP Business Writers Alan Zibel in Washington, Stevenson Jacobs in New York and Ashley M. Heher in Chicago contributed to this report.

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Thursday, April 15th, 2010

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Muslims, Jews and Christians are Lying about Exodus

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The link
The whole story never happened. Some guy just made it all up, and then Muhammad and Israelites stole the story.

The whole history of the so-called Abrahamic people is a fabrication. For those who do not know, Muslims like to claim that the Jewish prophets were in fact Muslims instead. The Jews fabricated it, and then the Muslims stole the fabrication.

I personally consider paganism to be great and I consider the Pharaoh to be a hero!

What does it tell you when you realize that the bourgeois faction of Jews has been fabricating stories about persecution since the Old Testament, and continues to do so today. Being race realists, socialists, Marxist-Leninists, and technocrats, we look down upon neo-nazis and their websites, but that does not mean that I accept that “spokesmen” within the Jewish community have some special authority, just because of who they are. To accept that authority would be to accept nepotism, and nepotism is associated with inferiority.

Many scholars have quietly concluded that the epic of Moses never happened, and even Jewish clerics are raising questions. Others think it combines myth, cultural memories and kernels of truth.

By Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times April 13, 2001

It’s one of the greatest stories ever told: A baby is found in a basket adrift in the Egyptian Nile and is adopted into the pharaoh’s household. He grows up as Moses, rediscovers his roots and leads his enslaved Israelite brethren to freedom after God sends down 10 plagues against Egypt and parts the Red Sea to allow them to escape. They wander for 40 years in the wilderness and, under the leadership of Joshua, conquer the land of Canaan to enter their promised land.

For centuries, the biblical account of the Exodus has been revered as the founding story of the Jewish people, sacred scripture for three world religions and a universal symbol of freedom that has inspired liberation movements around the globe. But did the Exodus ever actually occur?

On Passover last Sunday, Rabbi David Wolpe raised that provocative question before 2,200 faithful at Sinai Temple in Westwood. He minced no words. “The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all,” Wolpe told his congregants.

Wolpe’s startling sermon may have seemed blasphemy to some. In fact, however, the rabbi was merely telling his flock what scholars have known for more than a decade. Slowly and often outside wide public purview, archeologists are radically reshaping modern understanding of the Bible. It was time for his people to know about it, Wolpe decided. After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. To the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua’s fabled military campaigns never occurred–archeologists have uncovered ash layers and other signs of destruction at the relevant time at only one of the many battlegrounds mentioned in the Bible.

Today, the prevailing theory is that Israel probably emerged peacefully out of Canaan–modern-day Lebanon, southern Syria, Jordan and the West Bank of Israel–whose people are portrayed in the Bible as wicked idolators. Under this theory, the Canaanites took on a new identity as Israelites were perhaps joined or led by a small group of Semites from Egypt–explaining a possible source of the Exodus story, scholars say. As they expanded their settlement, they may have begun to clash with neighbors, perhaps providing the historical nuggets for the conflicts recorded in Joshua and Judges.

“Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” said William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona and one of America’s preeminent archeologists. Dever’s view is emblematic of a fundamental shift in archeology. Three decades ago as a Christian seminary student, he wrote a paper defending the Exodus and got an A, but “no one would do that today,” he says.

The old emphasis on trying to prove the Bible–often in excavations by amateur archeologists funded by religious groups–has given way to more objective professionals aiming to piece together the reality of ancient lifestyles. But the modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University, set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories of the patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua’s conquests ever occurred. In the hottest controversy today, Herzog also argued that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, described as grand and glorious in the Bible, was at best a small tribal kingdom.

In a new book this year, “The Bible Unearthed,” Israeli archeologist Israel Finklestein of Tel Aviv University and archeological journalist Neil Asher Silberman raised similar doubts and offered a new theory about the roots of the Exodus story. The authors argue that the story was written during the time of King Josia of Judah in the 7th century BC–600 years after the Exodus supposedly occurred in 1250 BC–as a political manifesto to unite Israelites against the rival Egyptian empire as both states sought to expand their territory. Dever argued that the Exodus story was produced for theological reasons: to give an origin and history to a people and distinguish them from others by claiming a divine destiny.

Some scholars, of course, still maintain that the Exodus story is basically factual. Bryant Wood, director of the Associates for Biblical Research in Maryland, argued that the evidence falls into place if the story is dated back to 1450 BC. He said that indications of destruction around that time at Hazor, Jericho and a site he is excavating that he believes is the biblical city of Ai support accounts of Joshua’s conquests. He also cited the documented presence of “Asiatic” slaves in Egypt who could have been Israelites, and said they would not have left evidence of their wanderings because they were nomads with no material culture. But Wood said he can’t get his research published in serious archeological journals.

“There’s a definite anti-Bible bias,” Wood said. The revisionist view, however, is not necessarily publicly popular. Herzog, Finklestein and others have been attacked for everything from faulty logic to pro-Palestinian political agendas that undermine Israel’s land claims. Dever, a former Protestant minister who converted to Judaism 12 years ago, says he gets “hissed and booed” when he speaks about the lack of evidence for the Exodus, and regularly receives letters and calls offering prayers or telling him he’s headed for hell.

At Sinai Temple, Sunday’s sermon–and a follow-up discussion at Monday’s service–provoked tremendous, and varied, response. Many praised Wolpe for his courage and vision. “It was the best sermon possible, because it is preparing the young generation to understand all the truth about religion,” said Eddia Mirharooni, a Beverly Hills fashion designer.

A few said they were hurt–”I didn’t want to hear this,” one woman said–or even a bit angry. Others said the sermon did nothing to shake their faith that the Exodus story is true.

“Science can always be proven wrong,” said Kalanit Benji, a UCLA undergraduate in psychobiology. Added Aman Massi, a 60-year-old Los Angeles businessman: “For sure it was true, 100%. If it were not true, how could we follow it for 3,300 years?” But most congregants, along with secular Jews and several rabbis interviewed, said that whether the Exodus is historically true or not is almost beside the point. The power of the sweeping epic lies in its profound and timeless message about freedom, they say.

The story of liberation from bondage into a promised land has inspired the haunting spirituals of African American slaves, the emancipation and civil rights movements, Latin America’s liberation theology, peasant revolts in Germany, nationalist struggles in South Africa, the American Revolution, even Leninist politics, according to Michael Walzer in the book “Exodus and Revolution.” Many of Wolpe’s congregants said the story of the Exodus has been personally true for them even if the details are not factual: when they fled the Nazis during World War II, for instance, or, more recently, the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Daniel Navid Rastein, an Encino medical professional, said he has always regarded the story as a metaphor for a greater truth: “We all have our own Egypts–we are prisoners of something, either alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, overeating. We have to use [the story] as a way to free ourselves from difficulty and make ourselves a better person.”

Wolpe, Sinai Temple’s senior rabbi, said he decided to deliver the sermon to lead his congregation into a deeper understanding of their faith. On Sunday, he told his flock that questioning the Jewish people’s founding story could be justified for one reason alone: to honor the ancient rabbinical declaration that “You do not serve God if you do not seek truth.”

“I think faith ought not rest on splitting seas,” Wolpe said in an interview. “For a Jew, it should rest on the wonder of God’s world, the marvel of the human soul and the miracle of this small people’s survival through the millennia.”

Next year, the rabbi plans to teach a course on the Bible that he says will “pull no punches” in presenting the latest scholarship questioning the text’s historical basis. But he and others say that Judaism has also traditionally been more open to non-literal interpretations of the text than, say, some conservative Christian traditions.

“Among Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews, there is a much greater willingness to see the Torah as an extended metaphor in which truth comes through story and law,” said Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Among scholars, the case against the Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago. That’s when Finklestein, director of Tel Aviv University’s archeology institute, published the first English-language book detailing the results of intensive archeological surveys of what is believed to be the first Israelite settlements in the hilly regions of the West Bank. The surveys, conducted during the 1970s and 1980s while Israel possessed what are now Palestinian territories, documented a lack of evidence for Joshua’s conquests in the 13th century BC and the indistinguishable nature of pottery, architecture, literary conventions and other cultural details between the Canaanites and the new settlers. If there was no conquest, no evidence of a massive new settlement of an ethnically distinct people, scholars argue, then the case for a literal reading of Exodus all but collapses. The surveys’ final results were published three years ago.

The settlement research marked the turning point in archeological consensus on the issue, Dever said. It added to previous research that showed that Egypt’s voluminous ancient records contained not one mention of Israelites in the country, although one 1210 BC inscription did mention them in Canaan. Kadesh Barnea in the east Sinai desert, where the Bible says the fleeing Israelites sojourned, was excavated twice in the 1950s and 1960s and produced no sign of settlement until three centuries after the Exodus was supposed to have occurred. The famous city of Jericho has been excavated several times and was found to have been abandoned during the 13th and 14th centuries BC.

Moreover, specialists in the Hebrew Bible say that the Exodus story is riddled with internal contradictions stemming from the fact that it was spliced together from two or three texts written at different times. One passage in Exodus, for instance, says that the bodies of the pharaoh’s charioteers were found on the shore, while the next verse says they sank to the bottom of the sea.

And some of the story’s features are mythic motifs found in other Near Eastern legends, said Ron Hendel, a professor of Hebrew Bible at UC Berkeley. Stories of babies found in baskets in the water by gods or royalty are common, he said, and half of the 10 plagues fall into a “formulaic genre of catastrophe” found in other Near Eastern texts.

Carol Meyers, a professor specializing in biblical studies and archeology at Duke University, said the ancients never intended their texts to be read literally. “People who try to find scientific explanations for the splitting of the Red Sea are missing the boat in understanding how ancient literature often mixed mythic ideas with historical recollections,” she said. “That wasn’t considered lying or deceit; it was a way to get ideas across.”

Virtually no scholar, for instance, accepts the biblical figure of 600,000 men fleeing Egypt, which would have meant there were a few million people, including women and children. The ancient desert at the time could not support so many nomads, scholars say, and the powerful Egyptian state kept tight security over the area, guarded by fortresses along the way.

Even Orthodox Jewish scholar Lawrence Schiffman said “you’d have to be a bit crazy” to accept that figure. He believes that the account in Joshua of a swift military campaign is less accurate than the Judges account of a gradual takeover of Canaan. But Schiffman, chairman of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, still maintains that a significant number of Israelite slaves fled Egypt for Canaan. “I’m not arguing that archeology proves the Exodus,” he said. “I’m arguing that archeology allows you, in ambiguity, to reach whatever conclusion you want to.”

Wood argued that the 600,000 figure was mistranslated and the real number amounted to a more plausible 20,000. He also said the early Israelite settlements and their similarity to Canaanite culture could be explained as the result of pastoralists with no material culture moving into a settled farming life and absorbing their neighbors’ pottery styles and other cultural forms.

The scholarly consensus seems to be that the story is a brilliant mix of myth, cultural memories and kernels of historical truth. Perhaps, muses Hendel, a small group of Semites who escaped from Egypt became the “intellectual vanguard of a new nation that called itself Israel,” stressing social justice and freedom.

Whatever the facts of the story, those core values have endured and inspired the world for more than three millenniums–and that, many say, is the point.

“What are the Egypts I need to free myself from? How does the story inspire me in some way to work for the freedom of all?” asked Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades. “These are the things that matter–not whether we built the pyramids.”

Bob Herbert on the Recession

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The link
This article contains some facts and figures that I have not yet seen elsewhere. I figured it is worth a read for the average guest who reads this website.

Nancy Pelosi, at lunch, was making the point that this latest recession was not a typical cyclical downturn.

“This is a different creature,” she said, “and it demands that we see it in a different way.”

The evidence is stark. More than 44 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six months or longer, the highest rate since World War II. Perhaps more chilling is a new analysis by the Pew Economic Policy Group that found that nearly a quarter of the nation’s 15 million unemployed workers have been jobless for a year or more.

Everything in Washington is a heavy lift. The successful struggle to pass last year’s stimulus package fended off an even worse economic disaster, and the Democrats have managed to enact their health care initiative. But the biggest threat to the health of the economy — corrosive, intractable, demoralizing unemployment — is still with us. And the deficit zealots, growing in strength, would do nothing to counter this scourge.

Ms. Pelosi acknowledged that “there is always a calibration” between concerns about deficit reduction and the spending that is necessary to substantially reduce unemployment. But she believes there are several fronts on which Congress and the Obama administration can — in fact, must — still move forward: on infrastructure and green energy initiatives, for example, and assistance to states hobbled with fiscal crises of their own.

The crippling nature of the joblessness that has moved through the society like a devastating virus has gotten neither the attention nor the response that it warrants. One of the more striking findings of the Pew study was that a college education has not been much of a defense against long-term unemployment.

“Twenty-one percent of unemployed workers with a bachelor’s degree have been without work for a year or longer,” the report found, “compared to 27 percent of unemployed high school graduates and 23 percent of unemployed high school dropouts.”

Whole segments of the U.S. population are being left behind, even as economists are touting modest improvements in some categories of economic data, like the creation of 162,000 jobs in March. Jobless workers who are 55 or older are having a brutal time of it. Thirty percent have been jobless for a year or more.

Blue-collar workers are suffering through a crisis characterized as a “depression” by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Blue-collar job losses during the so-called Great Recession surpassed 5.5 million, and many of those jobs will never be seen again. This disastrous situation will not be corrected, as analysts at the center have noted, “by a modest recovery of the U.S. economy over the next few years.”

We need to pay less attention to the Tea Party yahoos and more attention to the very real suffering of individuals and families trapped in an employment crisis that is unprecedented in the post-Depression era. I’ve been in inner-city neighborhoods where residents will tell you that hardly anyone at all is working at a regular job.

The recession only worsened an employment picture that was already bleak. In a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka spoke movingly about Americans “trying to hold on to a good job in a grim game of musical chairs where every time the music stopped, there were fewer good jobs and more people trying to get and keep one.”

More than eight million jobs vanished during the recession, a period during which three million new jobs would have been needed to keep up with the growth of the population. “That’s 11 million missing jobs,” said Mr. Trumka.

Right now there is no plan that can even remotely be expected to result in job creation strong enough to rescue the hard-core groups being left behind. These include: long-term unemployed workers who are older; blue-collar workers of all ages; and younger people in the big cities, in the rust belt and in rural areas who are jobless and not well educated.

It is not possible to put together a thriving, self-sustaining economy while so many are being left out. As Mr. Trumka noted, “President Obama’s economic recovery program has done a lot of good for working people — creating or saving more than two million jobs. But the reality is that two million jobs is just 18 percent of the hole in our labor market.”

Ms. Pelosi spoke about “jobs creation” with a tone of urgency and commitment and seemed undeterred by the fact that a big new jobs bill seems hardly feasible in the current political environment.

“You can do smaller pieces,” she said. “You can break the task up into segments, into discrete pieces of legislation. If size is a problem, we should not let it be an obstacle.”

The Fed, Allen Greenspan attacked on MSNBC

Monday, April 12th, 2010

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Free Media Productions to Expand in Next Few Months

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

My ability to market this project has been greatly limited the last two years as I was largely sidelined by the bad economy and therefore forced to live with my parents, who do not want to be associated with anything political. However signs are showing based on the quantity and quality of interviews that I soon may gain Independence, and with the freedom to live alone, you can count on a big “recruitment drive” and more “real life content.” Totally new political dissidents will be recruited not from “other websites,” but from “real life.”

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