Penguin sweaters

The horrible oil spill off Tauranga in New Zealand affected vast numbers of birds, in addition to all the other catastrophes. Some of those birds are little blue penguins. Some of the birds could be cleaned off in time and have been saved.

But it’s essential to prevent the birds from trying to preen their crude oil-covered feathers before the people can bathe them. And for that, there are penguin jumpers. (Or, in the US, “sweaters.”)

little blue penguins in knitted sweaters, looking alert and important. Original photographer unknown.

I’m not sure why two self-important birds make me feel happy, but they do.

Crossposted to Acid Test


Halloween Evening Reads… Stories and Tales

Happy Halloween!

There is one song that represents this holiday for me…

Today’s reads are going to be on the light side, so let’s get the party…

Political Cartoons from Mike Luckovich

mike103011

Just could not resist that cartoon…for obvious reasons!

Now a few ghost stories:

Georgia has tons of haunted tales, especially in Savannah and Atlanta…but there are some creeps in Gainesville Georgia, and this Hunt for a haunt will take you there.

But what makes these frights so interesting for us…why do we need to be scared out of our wits?  BBC News – The rise of the Halloween haunted house

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/56380000/jpg/_56380025_haunted_464.jpg

For millions of people, no Halloween would be complete without a visit to a haunted house, another element in a seasonal industry that appears to be defying the recession. But what makes people pay good money to be scared out of their wits?

[…]

These people know their frights. But then Halloween has always been a big deal in the US – Americans spend $1.8bn (£1.1bn) on costumes alone – and a visit to one of more than 2,000 haunted houses around the country is increasingly part of it.

Haunted houses began in the 1970s at charity events and have since grown into a $500m (£312m) a year industry.

If Haunted Houses aren’t your thing…then maybe a tale or two?

Southern Ghost Stories, Folktales, Myths and Legends from The Moonlit Road.com

I especially find the Civil War stories the most spooky…

It reminds me of a story my dad told me. He was working on an old house in Dunwoody, GA, that was on property occupied by the Yankees during the Siege of Atlanta. When my father was staying overnight on the grounds, he would hear a girl’s voice calling out for Ruby….Ruby….Come to the Bridge…

He would see a young black girl in a worn dress, something out of the past…and she would holler…Ruby, Come to the Bridge…After many nights of the same creepy vision and calls, he went outside and said Ruby was no longer there…she had gone…he never heard or saw the girl again.

Months later he was talking with the owner, and it turns out the house and grounds were part of the Underground Railroad, and there was old ruins of a bridge that would have crossed the creek that ran through the woods near the house…The ruins were hidden by foliage and brush in the same area my father saw the young girl calling out.

I wonder if Ruby every made it north, because someone has been searching for her near the bridge for a long long time.

So any of you have some scary tales, or stories of ghostly apparitions?  Let’s hear them…post a spooky story below…and have a wonderful night!


For your consideration …

Herman Cain at the National Press Club Today.

Advice from Infamous Conservative Republican on these kinds of candidates.


The Marvel Of Coincidence

Days after the shocking crackdown of Occupy Oakland members, a police action that resulted in serious head trauma to Marine Vet Scott Olsen, Google revealed US law enforcement requests, January through June 2011, to ban videos showing police brutality and/or allegedly defaming law enforcement officials.  These requests were subsequently rejected by Google.  From the Google’s released Transparency Report:

Observations on Content Removal Requests

  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.

Had we not had access to the recent You Tube videos from Oakland, we would have been left in a ‘he said/she said’ predicament with no way of knowing how extreme the Oakland police were on the night of October 25 [unless, of course, you were an eye witness] or left to the mercy of the sadly slanted reports in the mainstream media. Traditional press outlets first ignored, and then quickly wrote off the OWS protests as lame complaints, coming from of a bunch of spoiled brats.  There is little acknowledgement of the Movement’s growing support or the very real anger and disgust of the American public. The discontent is not difficult to categorize–corruption, malfeasance, and collusion of Government and Wall St. at the expense of ordinary people.

Add another ‘strange’ coincidence, this one noted at Cannonfire, header reading: “Ain’t That A Coinky-Dink.”

Joe Cannon tapped a brief blog piece indicating the weird, spectacular confluence of events: that ABC and CBS, both stations providing live feed to the October 25th night’s proceedings, just happened to require helicopter refueling at the precise moment the police prepared their attack on the protesters. And so, the major stations had no film footage of the actual melee.

Astounding, yes?  Btw, this story was picked up and circulated around the Web, but I fail to recall the astonishing coincidence being reported by the MSM. I mean we get stories about the face of Jesus revealed on tacos, pistachios and ancient shrouds.  But this?  Nada.  Inquiring minds might ask—Why?

Fortunately, we did have those videos taken by on-the-ground witnesses.  We even have first hand accounts, the vast majority of which are like this one. Unflattering, to say the least.

But the magic of coincidence seems to come in bundles and bunches. In this case it’s the magic number 3 [although there certainly may be more lurking out there].

On Wednesday, October 26th the Protect IP [intellectual property] Bill S. 968 was released from the House without any appreciable changes that had been noted in the initial Senate version—vague language, broad application, all in the name of protecting copyright infringement.  In addition, a companion piece of legislation Stop On-Line Privacy Act [SOPA] also coming out of the House would require internet providers to ‘disappear’ certain websites, effectively blacklisting domains, all under the aegis of IP protection.  Even better, service providers would be required to ‘monitor’ and police their users’ activity.

From Open Congress the following Summary appears:

Open Congress Summary

“This bill would establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be “dedicated to infringing activities.” The DOJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have “only limited purpose or use other than infringement,” and the DOJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site. It would also make unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty up to five years in prison. This bill combines two separate Senate bills – S. 958 and S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act — into one big House bill.”

What could go wrong?

And what an amazing coincidence that Congress, a body that has been paralyzed, unable to pass any legislation for the benefit of the American public, has suddenly, so expeditiously gotten its act together to push through Blacklisting legislation that curtails and restricts Internet use.  Not only that, but this legislation coincides with the precise moment that Americans around the country have gathered in our streets, courtyards, and before a variety of City Halls to give voice to public grievances, and ‘coincidentally’ effects the source from which we [the general public] primarily learn about these protests and view subsequent video.

Coincidence upon tumbling coincidence.  I am gobsmacked, I tell you. Color me worried. And just a tad suspicious, too.  What about you?


Halloween Reads

Happy Halloween!

I suppose I should get right to the news reads, but instead, I thought I’d make some use of the day to bring us up to speed on the Halloween spirit!  Halloween’s roots were in Samhain which was an ancient Celtic holiday!  Like nearly every other holiday, it was co-opted as the Romans moved to conquer as much as they could and romanize the world with their culture and religions.

Samhain was considered a magical holiday, and there are many stories about what the Celtics practiced and believed during this festival. Some say the spirits that were unleashed were those that had died in that year, and offerings of food and drink were left to aid the spirits, or to ward them away. Other versions say the Celts dressed up in outlandish costumes and roamed the neighborhoods making noise to scare the spirits away. Many thought they could predict the future and communicate with spirits as well during this time. Some think the heavily structured life of the Pagan Celtics was abandoned during Samhain, and people did unusual things, such as moving horses to different fields, moving gates and fences, women dressing as men, and vice versa, and other trickeries now associated with Halloween. Another belief is that the Celtics honoured, celebrated, and feasted the dead during Samhain. A sacred, central bonfire was always lit to honor the Pagan gods, and some accounts say that individual home fires were extinguished during Samhain, either to make their homes unattractive to roving spirits, or for their home fires to be lit following the festival from the sacred bonfire. Fortunes were told, and marked stones thrown into the fire. If a person’s stone was not found after the bonfire went out, it was believed that person would die during the next year. Some Celts wore costumes of animal skulls and skins during Samhain. Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern “trick or treat” practice.

Many of the costumes we think of today actually originated in festivals celebrated during medieval times.

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.” 

Yet there is no evidence that souling was ever practiced in America, and trick-or-treating may have developed in America independent of any Irish or British antecedent. There is little primary Halloween history documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween — in Ireland, the UK, or America — before 1900. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising (see below) on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Another isolated reference appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. Ruth Edna Kelley, in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe’en, makes no mention of such a custom in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America.” It does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term “trick or treat” appearing in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939. Thus, although a quarter million Scots-Irish immigrated to America between 1717 and 1770, the Irish Potato Famine brought almost a million immigrants in 1845–1849, and British and Irish immigration to America peaked in the 1880s, ritualized begging on Halloween was virtually unknown in America until generations later.

Treats:

Thomas Sargent, Nobel Prize winner in economics is mad at the WSJ for trying to characterize him as a non-Keynesian after he won the award!

Professor Sargent described himself as a scientist, a “numbers guy” who is “just seeking the truth” as any good researcher does.

“If you go to seminars with guys who are actually doing the work and are trying to figure things out, it’s not ideological,” he said. “Half the people in the room may be Democrats and half may be Republicans. It just doesn’t matter.”

The “non-Keynesian” label irks him particularly. “That’s just off base,” he said. “Keynes was a very good economist. He was brilliant. He had wonderful insights. His work has inspired me many times.”

Professor Sargent’s own writings are sprinkled with pithy quotations from Keynes. In January 1986, the professor wrote a Wall Street Journal article, “An Open Letter to the Brazilian Finance Minister,” analyzing that nation’s fiscal crisis. In form and substance, it was explicitly modeled on a very similar letter written by Keynes to the French finance minister 60 years earlier. One point of this exercise, he said, “was to get people to actually read Keynes.”

Still, early in Professor Sargent’s career, he was known as one of the founders of the “rational expectations” school, which has sometimes been thought to be un-Keynesian. He says it actually “tied down an important loose end in the kinds of theories Keynes was building.” Keynes, he said, believed that expectations were all-important in determining economic activity, but didn’t have the mathematical tools needed to nail down all his concepts.

Today, Professor Sargent says that in some ways he actually is a Keynesian, but he qualified that claim, too. “I’m happy to say I am a Harrison-Kreps-Keynesian,” he said, citing work by two scholars at Stanford, J. Michael Harrison and David M. Kreps. They developed a theory of speculative investor behavior and stock-bubble formation that subtly modifies rational expectations “in a beautiful way” and “captures Keynes’s argument, makes it rigorous, and pushes it further,” he said.

Fundamentally, he said, “What I really don’t like is oversimplification.” He tries to think things through, he said, and avoid having “one slogan fighting another.”

Recipe for Best Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Penuche Glaze

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Have ready some ungreased baking sheets.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy.
Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract.
In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Mix flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture.
Drop tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.
Remove warm cookies and transfer to racks.
Let cool completely for a least one half hour, then frost with glaze.

For Glaze:.
In a medium saucepan, heat butter and brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute or until slightly thickened. Beat in the milk. Blend in confectioner’s sugar until the glaze is smooth and spreadable. Using a silicone basting brush, which I love and use religiously now, or a butter knife to spread glaze on cookies is the best tip. Please note; this glaze will harden fairly quickly. I suggest that you keep the saucepan over the stove on the lowest heat possible to prevent it from hardening.

Tricks:

 Herman Cain went on TV Sunday saying that Planned Parenthood should be called “Planned Genocide’ because their goal Is To ‘Kill Black Babies’.  He’s now under scrutiny for sexual harassment charges in past.  Can we just say the man hates women and get it over with?

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is standing by his assertion that reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood is carrying out the “planned genocide” of African Americans.

In a March speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Cain said the organization’s mission was to “help kill black babies before they came into the world.”

On Sunday, CBS host Bob Schieffer asked the candidate if he still believed that statement.

“Yes,” Cain replied. “I still stand by that.”

“Do you have any proof that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?” Schieffer wondered.

“If people go back and look at this history and look at [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from,” Cain insisted. “Look at where most of them were built. Seventy-five percent were built in the black community and Margaret Sanger’s own words — she didn’t use the word genocide. She did talk about decreasing the number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.”

Anti-abortion activists often misquote Sanger as saying, “[W]e want to exterminate the Negro population.”

But in full context, the quote has the opposite meaning. In a 1939 letter to pro-birth control advocate Clarence J. Gamble, Sanger argued that black leaders should be involved in the effort to deliver birth control to the black community.

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs,” she wrote

Hope you have a fun day!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


What part of “Stop Stealing!” is hard to understand?

Bank of America has now jumped the shark, gone right over the top, past the frozen limit, and exposed themselves.

This ought to be unbelievable. It only makes sense if the bank robbers are running the bank. Bank of America has transferred assets it acquired during its takeover of the Merrill Lynch brokerage to its deposit-taking arm.

Let me unpack that a bit. shyster playing a shell game

Banks, officially, put people’s savings into safe investments. The FDIC insures those savings in case the banks fail, but to prevent that outcome there are strict regulations about how banks can only put that money in safe investments.

Brokerages, officially, exist to broker any transactions on any market. Those can be the staidest of riskfree investments, like Treasury bonds, or interesting things like ultrashort inverse contracts derived from the SP 500 basket of stocks. “Derivatives” may be two, three, four, or even more meta levels above the real underlying things they represent, such as a stock or tanker load of oil. With some derivatives, you can make many times the amount of your own money that’s tied up in the trade, or, likewise, you can lose more than everything you own. That means (duh, right?) they’re risky. They have legitimate functions, such as hedging other risks or providing a way to bet on being right, but nobody ever pretends they’re safe.

Nor is there any universe in which it is up to the FDIC (=taxpayers) to make them safe by writing blank checks to cover them.

So what does BofA do? It takes bets made by Merrill Lynch — bets which were fine for a brokerage — and makes them part of the regular bank assets that are covered by the FDIC. By the magic of modern accounting, the taxpayer gets to cover wild stock market gambles that didn’t pan out.

There’s another wrinkle here. In the old high-flying days, financial institutions would sell derivatives to customers, e.g. one expecting price to go up, and then the institutions would, for their own account, buy the opposite derivative! There are two betrayals. It’s their fiduciary responsibility to tell their customers that the firm is itself investing in a fall in price. And it’s wrong to rake in money from customer commissions as well as customer losses on those same trades. It’s called a conflict of interest. It’s a big no-no.

After the crash, when it became clear that betting against the customer was fairly common in the financial industry, regulations were put in place against what’s called “proprietary trades.”

So what is BofA’s excuse for what it’s done?

Bank of America spokesman Jerry Dubrowski said the bank’s derivatives trades are subject to risk-management controls and are client-driven, not proprietary trades – meaning the bank is not betting with its own money.

In other words, it’s okay to stick taxpayers with the bill for somebody else’s failed stock market gamble because the gamble itself was not a criminal breach of ethics.

Hello? It’s the gambling that is not insured. We don’t really care who did it. And the fact that it wasn’t criminal gambling only makes it one of the few things for which BofA won’t need a lawyer.

The scariest part is that for all I know, the gross rip-off may be legal. Most of the laws for banks were written before they could turn themselves into FDIC-insured gamblers.

Bank of America posted a third quarter profit — i.e. just for the months of July, August, and September — of $5.9 billion.


Move on over Uncle Clarence Thomas …


An exclusive from Politico:  Two women accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior

During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.

In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.POLITICO has confirmed the identities of the two female restaurant association employees who complained about Cain but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.

You remember Clarence Thomas right?  No wonder Cain calls him a ‘mentor’ and an influence!!

Virginia Thomas’ now-famous phone call to Anita Hill has had at least one consequence that she can’t have intended.  It’s prompted a former paramour of her husband’s to dish salacious and troubling detailsabout the Supreme Court justice’s past to the Washington Post.  And many of those details are in sync with accusations that emerged around Clarence Thomas’ contentious 1991 confirmation hearings.

“He was obsessed with porn,” Lillian McEwen, tells the paper.  “He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting.”

McEwen also said that the conservative Thomas was constantly on the make at work.  “He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” said McEwen. “It was a hobby of his.”

She added that he once told her he had asked a woman at work what her bra size was.

Here we go again!  Why are all right wing men pervs?