Month: March 2012

Huh, I Interviewed There

RedX Defense, where we now have allegations of self dealing on DARPA contracts:

Top Pentagon research arm Darpa gave a well-connected firm millions of dollars to build bomb-detectors — despite deep internal reservations about the technology involved. After years of work and millions spent, the company’s sensor was less effective than “a coin flip” in spotting homemade explosives, in the words of one military insider.

By itself, the washout wouldn’t be terribly remarkable. Darpa’s charter is to try out risky technologies, many of which don’t pan out. It’s that dedication to high-risk, high-reward projects that leads to breakthroughs like GPS and the internet. But these contracts were given to RedX Defense, a company partially owned by outgoing Darpa director Regina Dugan and led by Dugan’s family. Agency bosses were repeatedly told that investing in RedX was a waste of time — and moved ahead with the contracts anyway. The bottom line, says a second source familiar with RedX’s work: “The technology just didn’t work.”


Then, in July of 2009, Dugan was named the director of Darpa. Her father, Vince, became RedX’s CEO. Her sister, Christina Haney, worked as vice president of marketing. Some Darpa employees assumed Dugan would sell her shares in RedX, since the firm continued to pursue contracts from an agency now headed by its co-founder and former chief executive. Dugan didn’t sell those shares, however. Nor did she forgive the $250,000 loan she gave to RedX.

Dugan did officially recuse herself from any business dealings between the agency and the company. An internal Pentagon review later found that the recusal was “consistent with the letter and spirit of relevant laws, regulations, and policies governing conflict of interest,” according to Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokesperson. But the move wasn’t consistent with Darpa’s recent history. Under previous director Tony Tether, contracts that posed a potential conflict of interest were passed to someone higher up in the Pentagon hierarchy, who would theoretically be immune to pressure from subordinates. Instead, Dugan left the decisions about RedX to her employees — people acutely aware of their new boss’s background and her family ties to RedX.

A few weeks after Dugan assumed command of the agency, her family firm submitted a proposal to fund MAE WEST for $3.5 million. The proposal ignited a firestorm within the agency, one source familiar with the inspector general’s investigation says. Not only was the company tied to the new director, there were glaring gaps in the proposal — everything from the schedule of experiments to the scientific approach involved. Nevertheless, this source contends, agency deputy director Ken Gabriel told employees to put the RedX proposal at the “top of the list.”

“No other program had this kind of pressure,” the source adds. “Or even this much interest.”

Dogs still work better than anything else, FYI.

The revolving door is spinning awfully fast.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Scott

Bummer of a birth mark, Scotty

The recall elections for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, his Lt. Governor, and 4 state Senators is now officially on:

The recall election ordered Friday for embattled first-term Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker quickly turned into a possible rematch when the Democrat he narrowly defeated in 2010 announced he was jumping into the race.

Walker expressed confidence he would hold on to his seat shortly after the Government Accountability Board ordered the election, after more than 900,000 signatures were collected supporting a recall in the wake of Walker’s push against union bargaining rights. It marks only the third recall of a governor in U.S. history.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced hours later he would challenge Walker, shaking up a Democratic primary race that had been led by union-backed candidate Kathleen Falk. Barrett has publically clashed with unions who were urging him not to get into the race.

In an email to supporters, Barrett said he would begin campaigning immediately to win the primary that looms just 39 days away on May 8. The general election is June 5.

What’s More, a federal court, invalidated significant portions of his union busting bill today as well:

A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 – which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees – are unconstitutional.

Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers.

Seven major public employee unions had challenged the fact that Act 10 dramatically narrowed what could be bargained by general employee unions, an required those unions to recertify every year, by an absolute majority union while denying the same unions voluntary union dues deductions for payrolls.

The court sided with state officials in upholding limitations on what can be bargained, but found the two other provisions violated the union members’ equal protection and First Amendment rights, considering that the same rules did not apply to unions for public safety workers such as police and firefighters.

I’m not sure how the election is going to go, though my guess is that it will flip the state senate, since it’s now a one senator margin.

In a very real way, the recall against Scott Walker may be the most important election of this cycle, because if he loses, it will create a bright line in the political process.

Of course, if he wins, the Republicans will take it as carte blanche, even if they lose the Senate.

What the F%$#?

Keith Olbermann just got fired by Current TV:

The cable channel indicated that he had failed to honor the terms of his five-year, $50 million contract, giving the channel the right to terminate it. Starting Friday night, the former New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer will take over Mr. Olbermann’s 8 p.m. time slot.

In reading the statement from Current TV (Below, after break) it appears that he was simply too difficult to work with.

I can’t imaging that it’s ratings.  He really put the network on the map.

This is a recurring issue in his career, and he really needs to address this.

From current:

To the Viewers of Current:
We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.
Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.
We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily — especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.
As we move toward this summer’s political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press (“Full Court Press” at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller (“Talking Liberally” at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).
We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Gov. Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.
All of these additions to Current’s lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal — the goal that has always been central to Current’s mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voices are too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.
Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
Current’s Founders

Olbermann’s statement:

My full statement:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.

It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Good Point, Yves

Yves Smith discovers an interesting data point on just how badly our healthcare system fails as a market.

The issue has always been two thing, information asymmetry, and the need for immediate services, because when you have a pneumothorax, you are not going to compare prices.

Well her data point is the fact that a study has shown that the happier you are with with your doctor, the more likely you are to die:

There is an important study in the Archives for Internal Medicine last month, which escalates an ongoing row as to whether patient satisfaction is in any way correlated with positive medical outcomes. The answer is yes, and the correlation is negative.

This finding is of critical importance, not just in understanding why American medicine is a hopeless, costly mess, but also as a window into how easy it is for buyers of complex services to be hoodwinked by their servicer provider, whether via the provider being incorrectly confident about his ability to do a good job or having nefarious intent.

Let’s deal with health care case first. The study in question was large scale, of 52,000 patients from 2000 to 2007. This summary comes from the Emergency Physicians blog (hat tip Julie W):

Results of the study showed that patients who had the highest satisfaction ratings spent 9% more on health care and prescription medications than did patients who had the lowest satisfaction ratings. In addition, the most satisfied patients had a 26% greater risk of death compared to least satisfied patients. When patients in poor health were excluded, the risk of death for these highly-satisfied “healthy” patients increased to 44% more than their least-satisfied counterparts.

In commentary accompanying the article, Dr. Brenda Sirovich suggested that discretionary testing is likely the cause of both the increased costs and the increased mortality in highly satisfied patients. Patient perceptions, even if medically inappropriate, drive testing and treatment. Antibiotics are harmful in patients with viral infections, yet a substantial subset of patients are not satisfied without an antibiotic prescription for their colds. Large studies show no link between PSA screening and either overall survival or prostate cancer survival. However, any patient whose life has been “saved” by a PSA screen is often quite satisfied. In both scenarios, there is no perceived negative effect from treatment. Patients will recover from their colds with or without antibiotics. Patients likely would not have died from their prostate cancer even if it was left untreated.

Here’s hoping that Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts just love their doctor.


The FBI had to rush and arrest Khalifah al-Akili after he sent out an email to his friends and the Guardian newspaper that he was being targeted for entrapment by them:

The arrest of a Pittsburgh man described as a Taliban sympathiser has sparked allegations that the FBI deployed a notorious confidential informant used in previous controversial stings on suspected Muslim radicals.

Khalifah al-Akili, 34, was arrested in a police raid on his home on March 15. He was later charged with illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for drug dealing. However, at his court appearance an FBI agent testified that al-Akili had made radical Islamic statements and that police had uncovered unspecified jihadist literature at his home.

But, in a strange twist, al-Akili’s arrest came just days after he had sent out an email to friends and local Muslim civil rights groups complaining that he believed he was the target of an FBI “entrapment” sting. That refers to a controversial FBI tactic of using confidential informants – who often have criminal records or are paid large sums of money – to facilitate “fake” terrorist plots for suspects to invent or carry out.

In the email – which was also sent to the Guardian before al-Akili was arrested – he detailed meeting two men he believed were FBI informants because of the way they talked about radical Islam and appeared to want to get him to make jihadist statements. According to his account, one of them, who called himself Saeed Torres, asked him to buy a gun. Al-Aikili said he refused. The other, who was called Mohammed, offered to help him go to Pakistan for possible Islamic radical training. Al-Akili also refused.

It looks like the FBI was was trying to manufacture some more terrorists, and when this guy started realized that some weird sh%$ was going down, and emailed the press, they busted him.

Let’s be clear, he is being charged with breaking the law. It is allied alleged that as a felon, he did break the law when he fired a friend’s rifle at the range 2 years ago, but he’s being held without bail because prosecutors are alleging that he is a terrorist.

This isn’t making us any safer, and I cannot imagine how this can do anything but feed distrust of law enforcement among among American Muslims.

It’s Jobless Thursday!

Another really good week, with initial jobless claims falling 5,000 to 359,000, (well sort of, last week’s numbers were revised up from 348K to 364 K, so apples to apples is a little bump up), with the 4 week moving average fell 3,500 to 365K, with continuing claims falling by 41K to 3.34 million, and extended claims fell 79K to 3.24 million.

Of course, there is a proverbial turd in the punch bowl in all of this, which is that all of these figures are seasonably adjusted, and we’ve had the mildest winter in the United States pretty much ever so we might be seeing a lot or economic activity that would normally be in April or May.

I guess we’ll find out then.

Since When Do 71 Year Olds With a History of Heart Disease Get Heart Transplant?

I wish Dick Cheney the best of luck on his recovery from his heart transplant, but from what I understand of the protocols, someone who has had his of at least 4 first heart attacks at age 37, should not even be on the list.

That being said, I want him to lead a good long life, and that he lives long enough to see the decay of his reputation, much like Alan Greenspan has gone from Maestro to goat.

Rupert Needs to Be Banned from Broadcast Ownership Right Now

The latest news is that News Corp paid hackers to help people steal the broadcasts of its primary competitor:

Part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire employed computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in Britain, according to evidence due to be broadcast by BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday .

The allegations stem from apparently incriminating emails the programme-makers have obtained, and on-screen descriptions for the first time from two of the people said to be involved, a German hacker and the operator of a pirate website secretly controlled by a Murdoch company.

The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky.

The allegations, if proved, cast further doubt on whether News Corp meets the “fit and proper” test required to run a broadcaster in Britain. It emerged earlier this month that broadcasting regulator Ofcom has set up a unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1% owned by News Corp, meets the test.

No, News Corp is not “fit and proper” to broadcast in the UK.

David Frum is Right


If the healthcare mandate is illegal, so are the mandatory private retirement funds that are so dear to the right wing think tanks is illegal too.

So, if SCOTUS strikes down Obamacare, there is a silver lining.  It takes Social Security privatization off the table.

In fact, it might have the effect of ruling out a lot of the misguided “Market Based Solutions.”

World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, My Ass

Now that Olympia Snowe is leaving the Senate, she is complaining that she did not get enough face time from Obama:

Retiring moderate Republican senator still prizes “bipartisanship” over actually passing legislation

Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe has finished grading the president’s report card. President Obama gets an “F” in bipartisanship, where “bipartisanship” is defined as “constantly stroking the fragile egos of self-important Senate moderates.”

Snowe is not seeking reelection because the Republican Party wholly merged with the conservative movement and then began enforcing much stricter party discipline than it had in the past, and she would likely lose a primary election to a more right-wing candidate. But in her high-minded version of what happened, she is leaving because of “partisanship,” an evil spell cast on the formerly fraternal and cooperative United States Senate by comity-hating wizards.


So instead of cap-and-trade, we got nothing. Instead of the DREAM Act, we got nothing. If healthcare reform had failed, we’d have nothing. If Snowe’s stated goal was to maintain the status quo, because she doesn’t care about immigration and doesn’t believe in climate change, then she’d be totally doing a very good job. But she claims to care about climate change and want to do something about immigration, which leads me to believe that she’s horrible at being a senator. It is the incompetent political maneuvering of “moderates” like Snowe, and not “partisanship,” that leads directly to Senate inaction. If what she needed, in order to be swayed to the side of passing legislation to address problems, was for the president to make a much bigger public show of courting her, then she’s a bizarre and repulsive specimen. Being against everything because people aren’t paying you enough attention is so much worse than being against everything on principle.

The Senate is not a great deliberative body.  It is a support group for narcissistic sociopaths.

Even more than the insane members of the Senate *cough*Jim Demint*cough* *cough*Tom Coburn*cough*, it is those who worship at the alter of bipartisanship, because their efforts are nothing more than preening for an imagined audience when there are real issues that need to be addressed.

The problem is that the Senate is a broken institution, and it has been for some time, because of people like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, etc. who value the appearance of being reasonable over actually being reasonable, and care not a fig for being effective representatives of the citizenry.

Why I am Not Covering the Scotus Arguments Over Obamacare

Because I think that the law and precedent is clear, and the only questionis whether there are 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 justices who are corrupt enough, and partisan enough, to vote to strike down the act.

If Kennedy votes not to strike down, I think that he takes Roberts with him, giving a 6-3 decision, but if he swings the other way, so does Roberts.

The Chief Justice will not be on the dissenting side of this vote, because of the optics, not because of the law.

Roberts may be a corrupt partisan hack, but he only uses the secret sauce when it makes a difference in the final decision.

My guess is that it will be 4-5 to strike down much of the law, but if not, it will be 6-3 supporting it.

What must be noted though is that this is not a matter of law. The law has been settled for at least 60 years.

The only question is how corrupt the 5 right wing justices are.

Well Here’s Some Interesting Information

In the matter of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, we have a new development.

It appears that the detective originaly assigned to the case wanted to arrest him for manslaughter:

The lead homicide investigator in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News.

But Sanford, Fla., Investigator Chris Serino was instructed to not press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney’s office headed by Norman Wolfinger determined there wasn’t enough evidence to lead to a conviction, the sources told ABC News.

Police brought Zimmerman into the station for questioning for a few hours on the night of the shooting, said Zimmerman’s attorney, despite his request for medical attention first. Ultimately they had to accept Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. He was never charged with a crime.

Serino filed an affidavit on Feb. 26, the night that Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, that stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.

The fact that Zimmerman’s dad is a retired judge makes this decision even more suspect.

Then there is the fact that Martin’s body remained listed as a John Doe in the coroner’s office for 3 days, while repeated calls to his cell phone went unanswered. (Maybe that would have allowed them to identify the body)

Whatever else happened, given the Sandford, Florida PD’s long and notorious record of corruption and racism, it’s tough to conclude that their handling of the case was racially tinged.

BTW, Lawrence O’Donnell was going to interview Zimmerman’s lawyer, but when he realized that it wasn’t going to be softball questions he fled the studio.

O’Donnell then asked the questions of the empty chair, and they were very basic questions:

  • Who is paying you? Who hired You? When, exactly, did they hire you?
  • Does George Zimmerman have a job? Does he have any property? Does he own anything?
  • Did you represent him when he was arrested for assault on a police officer in 2005? Did you represent him in a domestic violence case in 2007 when his girlfriend accused him of assault?
  • You said Zimmerman got a broken nose, can you show us photos of him that night with the broken nose, or even the next day?
  • You said Zimmerman’s clothes had grass stains and other evidentiary material … do you have that garment, can you show us what happened to it?”

These are not unexpectedly hard hitting question.  Certainly they are a bit hostile, but if you are doing the media rounds as his lawyer (to my mind always a bad decision) you have to be able to answer these questions.

One of the interesting things here is just how hard the right is trying to smear this teenager.

It’s an article of faith among them that there is no longer any racism in the United States, and the obvious racism here kind of gets in the way of that.

I Am So Jealous

It’s a long story, but I was discussing journalism with someone today, and uttered a Yiddishism, and he replied, “Sy Hersh is the only guy who speaks Yiddish to me.”

I’m jealous. It would make my day if the dean of investigative journalism, Seymour Hersh, called me an “Ill conceived son of a wombat.”

And We Are Supposed to Trust the Cable Companies Because?

Yes, they are moving to the gated garden, where favored vendors receive priority bandwidth:

It looks as if Comcast is preparing to move from a limited beta test to a wide release for its long-promised Xbox Live streaming video app, with some details appearing on the company’s support pages. Probably the biggest revelation about the service is that streaming Comcast’s On Demand videos through the Xbox 360 will not count towards customers’ 250GB monthly data limit.

Comcast says the Xbox app gets special treatment because the video is “being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet.” This gives the service a potentially large advantage over not just other video streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, but also over Comcast On Demand content streamed through the company’s website and mobile apps, both of which count against the data limits.

Enjoy your 3rd party streaming while you can, because it is not going to work reliably much longer.

I expect them to start f%$#ing with 3rd party IP telephony in the next few years as well, so buh-bye Skype.

H/t Harold Feld.

Orwell Much?

It looks like Samsung has come up with a telescreen that has cameras and microphones that it can use to watch you:

Samsung’s 2012 top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer new features never before available within a television including a built-in, internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition. While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

While Web cameras and Internet connectivity are not new to HDTVs, their complete integration is, and it’s the always connected camera and microphones, combined with the option of third-party apps (not to mention Samsung’s own software) gives us cause for concern regarding the privacy of TV buyers and their friends and families.

Samsung has not released a privacy policy clarifying what data it is collecting and sharing with regard to the new TV sets. And while there is no current evidence of any particular security hole or untoward behavior by Samsung’s app partners, Samsung has only stated that it “assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable” in the event that a product or service is not “appropriate.”


A Samsung representative showed how, once set up and connected to the Internet, these models will automatically talk to the Samsung cloud and enable viewers to use new and exciting apps.

These Samsung TVs locate and make note of registered viewers via sophisticated face recognition software. This means if you tell the TV whose faces belong to which users in your family, it personalizes the experience to each recognized family member. If you have friends over, it could log these faces as well.

In addition, the TV listens and responds to specific voice commands. To use the feature, the microphone is active. What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off.

Seriously Eric Arthur Blair must be spinning in his grave at sufficient velocity to power all of Totnes on Devon.

Yes, we have a TV that watches you back, just like Big Brother in 1984.

Any bets on how long before the NSA hacks the cloud that this interfaces, so they can spy into people’s homes?  Certainly, the TOS described here would allow it, so perhaps they would not even have to hack into the system.  They just need to twist some arms at Samsung.


H/t Slashdot.

It Looks Like Ion Drive is Going Commercial

Following the success of the Dawn Spacecraft in exploring the asteroids, I suppose that it was inevitable that ion propulsion would hit the commercial satellite industry:

It’s no secret that Boeing’s space systems unit is aggressively pricing bids in an effort to grow its commercial business segment as government spending flags. But even the most bullish observers were taken aback by an estimated $400 million deal just signed with Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and Satellites Mexicanos (SatMex) to build the first all-electric commercial telecom spacecraft intended for launch to geostationary orbit.

The technology—which uses light-weight xenon-fueled ion thrusters rather than conventional chemical propulsion to maneuver a spacecraft into position—is promising. Imagine cutting in half a satellite’s weight, and subsequently its launch costs, which can top $100 million depending on the size of the spacecraft. All-electric satellites could potentially save fleet operators hundreds of millions of dollars in annual launch expenditures, with potentially no impact to their satellites’ capability or performance.

The downside is that while most commercial communications spacecraft are expected to be on station and making money within a few weeks of launch, new all-electric satellites could spend up to six months using slow pulses from ionic propulsion systems to maneuver into their final orbital slot—months when the spacecraft is not generating any revenue. This might not pose a problem for large operators with established revenue streams who can accommodate the lag in revenue as they incorporate new satellites into fleet-replenishment programs. But it could put small companies at a disadvantage as they sacrifice up to half a year’s income waiting for the spacecraft to enter service.

In either case, employing an all-electric spacecraft requires getting an early start on the capital-spending cycle to accommodate the lengthy orbit-raising process.

“It is easier for a company with a large fleet that has to anticipate replacement satellites several years in advance to tolerate the several months it takes for an electric satellite to reach position once it has separated in orbit,” says Romain Bausch, chief executive of Luxembourg-based SES, the world’s second-largest fleet operator by revenue.

Basically, chemical maneuvering thrusters have something like a hundred times more thrust, but have about 100x lower ISP (fuel efficiency).

The downside to ion propulsion close to earth is time, but the lines cross for anything farther the earth-moon system.

Welcome to Belly Rave*

Poverty is growing more rapidly in the suburbs than in either urban or rural areas, this is not something that we have experience in handling:

In many of America’s once pristine suburbs, harbingers of inner-city blight — overgrown lots, boarded up windows, abandoned residences — are the new eyesores. From the Midwestern rust-belt to the burst housing bubbles of Nevada, California and Florida, even in small pockets of still affluent regions like Du Page County, Ill., the nation’s soaring poverty rates are visibly reclaiming last century’s triumphal “crabgrass frontier.” In well-heeled Illinois towns like Glen Ellyn and Elgin, unkempt, weedy lawns blot the formerly manicured, uniform and tidy landscape.

The Brookings Institution reported two years ago that “by 2008 suburbs were home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country.” In the previous eight years, major metropolitan suburbs had seen poverty rates climb by 25 percent, almost five times faster than cities. Nationwide, 55 percent of the poor living in the nation’s metropolitan regions lived in suburbs.

To add insult to injury, a new measure to calculate poverty — introduced by the Census Bureau just last year — darkens an already bleak picture: nationally, 51 million households had incomes less than 50 percent above the official poverty line, and nearly half of these households were in suburbs.

When juxtaposed with the structure of the suburbs, poverty may be even more problematic in the burbs, particularly in terms of things like transportation.

I’m not saying that the suburbs are heading toward a dystopian world of suburbs as gang infested slums, the there does appear to be a change in the status of suburbs.

*Seriously, if you haven’t read Gladiator At Law, by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, you should.