Friday Reads: Late Edition

Good Afternoon!

download (2)I’m running really late today despite coffee and all the usual things I use to face the morning.  I seem to be in need of hibernation.  I’m not sure if it’s the ugly political situation or just the challenges of doing any little thing these days.  Have you noticed how businesses are basically set up to take your money efficiently and create hell for you under any other circumstance?  Calling them is to enter a hell realm.  Even when you do reach a person, there seems to be little they can do but offer sympathy and customer service surveys.  Why are businesses so damned rotten these days?  Is it because they are coddled while the rest of us have been basically dropped from the master plan?

I’m going to do a little sharing of local stuff juxtaposed on some national news because I’ve been noticing how difficult life is becoming for regular people.  Here in New Orleans, we’re chasing tourist dollars by destroying the culture that brings them here and basically driving off the workers that do the daily stuff of dealing with them.  I’m beginning to think that the entire plan of the Aspen Institute is to turn every major city into a seamless, architecturally bland, sea of guys sporting manbuns.  We seem to be selling our treasure to the highest out-of-town bidder who then remakes it into something totally new Portland or new Seattle or  new Brooklyn. Then, we all have to indulge boorish burbies in all the places we used to use to escape them.

Here’s a great example.  This nice old home used to be the equivalent of a hostel owned by a friend of mine. It was called the Mazant Guesthouse and was heavily used by Europeans because it had no A/C, a communal kitchen, and was extremely cheap.  The first thing the new owners did was try to tear down the backhouse.  Thankfully, the historic commission stopped them.  Now the entire property is just another reminder of the folks city government is trying to attract to all parts of the city including our personal, private backyards.   Asking price?  $1.65 million.  You could’ve bought entire blocks here for that just a few years ago.  So, you can imagine what that’s done to the rental market and what that’s doing to property tax valuations.

imageThis revitalization includes sanitizing the city’s really awful past as an outpost of the Confederacy and Lost Cause by removing statues that used to attract more pigeon shit than attention. We tear down a very historical Woolworth’s with an intact counter that was central to the Civil Rights Movement and no one mourns that at all.  We had an opportunity to put a great Civil Rights museum downtown for a real tourist experience.  But no, we spend time removing rather than preserving the sites to use them to elucidate the awful past.  We’d rather have a Dave and Buster’s than a National Jazz Park. 

Several items came to my attention today that show the master plan is to transform us into the destination of the manbun crowd  and that is having all kinds of unintended consequences.  The example sits right next door to me.  Two guys from NJ charge $180 a night for one side of a double that’s been redone to look like a badly decorated boutique hotel inside and barely maintains a semblance of its historical past outside.  It used to be home to two families.  Some NJ guy bought the family home across the street and it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen now. It was an arts and crafts double but now it looks like some weird, awkward Cape Code monstrosity and it’s selling for way over $.5 million. Both homes were stripped of their historic architecture during renovation. My guess is some out of town rich people will Air BNB the arts & crafts double too which is currently illegal and against zoning laws. It used to be a rental when I moved here but was a single family dwelling until it sold.  A barber who worked down in the quarter lived there.  Regular folks that are renters aren’t here any more.  But, don’t take my word for it.  New Orleans now ranks second as the worst market for renters in the nation. 

New Orleans is gaining notoriety among America’s mid-sized cities as a place where renters must devote an increasing share of their income to housing expenses.

Make Room, a campaign by nonprofit affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners, extracted Census data to rank the top “10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters.” New Orleans was No. 2.

According to Harvard’s data, 35 percent of renters in the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner statistical area devote 50 percent or more of their income to rent and utilities, only slightly less than top-ranked Miami where the rate was 35.7 percent.

The Make Room initiative was launched in May 2015 to push for policy changes and additional resources for cities where the lack of affordable housing is acute. Angela Boyd, the campaign’s managing director, said the effort seeks, in part, to debunk misconceptions that affordable housing is an issue only for coastal cities and targets renters in need of subsidies or government assistance.

“Some people think affordable housing is for the homeless or residents of public housing, but it also takes into account moderate income (renters),” Boyd said. “These are people who are probably already your neighbors.”

I wonder how all those restaurants are going to find help when there are no more places for their employees to rent in the city at the wages they can pay?   While the city is hassling over statues and renting its lampposts to hang fetus fetish propaganda, there’s vladimir-putin-man-bun-funny-meme-hairvery little discussion of things that are really wrong here.  We may be good at attracting celebrities to film stuff and buy houses, but we’re absolutely forgetting the majority of our population in the rush to be cool for pennies on the tax dollar.

On Wednesday night, Douglas Brown allegedly jumped over the counter of a New Orleans Subway after ordering a sandwich, according to the Times-Picayune, but was foiled in his attempt to nab the cash register drawer because it was tethered into place. Instead, he grabbed a bunch of cash and ran. He was detained 25 minutes later.

 It’s unclear who will represent Brown. Yesterday, the Orleans Public Defenders refused to take his case. The underfunded office, which says it represents nearly 85-percent of all defendants in the parish but has a budget just half the size of the district attorney, simply can’t handle any more.

“Our workload has now reached unmanageable levels resulting in a constitutional crisis,” Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a December statement, giving one month’s notice that they would start refusing some clients charged with felonies carrying long sentences. “As Chief Defender, I can no longer ethically assign cases to attorneys with excessive caseloads or those that lack the requisite experience and training to represent the most serious offenses.”

This week, Bunton’s office made good on that pledge and began refusing clients. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last night filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Bunton and Louisiana State Public Defender James Dixon on behalf of plaintiffs who were assigned public defenders but then placed on a waiting list.

“So long as you’re on the public defender waiting list in New Orleans, you’re helpless. Your legal defense erodes along with your constitutional rights,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, in a statement. “With every hour without an attorney, you may forever lose invaluable opportunities to prove your innocence. You also may be forced into a crippling choice between waiting months for counsel or doing bail and plea negotiations yourself. The damage to your case can be irreparable.”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu maintains that while the city has increased its funding of the office that they have “barely kept pace with state funding cuts,” the Times-Picayune reports. The defenders contend that “the additional local funding is enough to stave off mandatory furloughs, but not enough to provide representation in serious felony cases that is constitutional or ethical.” Bunton and Dixon could not be reached for comment.

abraham-lincoln-man-bun-hairstyle-funnyThe total focus on re-imagining New Orleans  appears to include putting street cars everywhere and making sure no road goes unfixed endlessly as long as it is  uptown.  I’m not sure it includes a vision of much else.  We seem to be highly focused on accommodating a certain segment of American society to the exclusion of a nearly everything else.   From what I can see, we’re really not “winning” in any sense but Charlie Sheen’s or whatever it is Mayor Landrieu has in mind.  He did come to us as the LT. Governor whose sole job is to fixate on tourism.  Maybe that’s the issue he just can’t move beyond.  I really don’t know. But, as far as I can tell, the development we’ve been getting recently is really killing exactly what we’ve been good at doing for a very long time.

Does resilience mean dumping your core competencies and the things that make you unique for the latest trendiness?

What happens when a city because a laboratory for hair brained schemes like charter schools and whatever you call this urban development trend that seems to be making us some blander version of ourselves?  One of our issues has been the lack of health care for so many people.  I’m hoping that the state’s move to now accept the Medicaid Expansion will help these kinds of statistics.  Meanwhile, we can only look at the skeleton of Big Charity Hospital which was once the hallmark of a civilized nation.

Indeed, Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish, a report prepared by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Orleans Parish Place Matters Team, in conjunction with the Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, noted that “Life expectancy in the poorest zip code in the city is 54.5 years, or 25.5-years lower than life expectancy in the zip code with the least amount of poverty in the city, where it is 80.”

I’m beginning to think the entire “sharing” economy is basic piracy.  I came across this at AJ and was appalled that folks would do this on both supply and demand side of AIR BnB.  I swear this corporation is just an international crime syndicate that makes money off of illegal and destructive activities.

Airbnb may be the next high-profile target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, following media reports this week that the online accommodation service includes listings from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are advertised as being in Israel.

Anyone staying in an Airbnb-listed settlement property “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements and therefore aids and abets the crime,” said John Dugard, professor of international law, and a former Special Rapporteur to the UN on Palestine.

“The same applies to making money from property built on illegal settlements.” Airbnb takes a commission on property rentals, and so is profiting from Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Hosts who list properties via the company are required to provide accurate locations. As such, stating that settlements are located in Israel – when they are in fact illegal under international law because they are built on occupied territory – is a violation of the company’s terms.

I would like to think that just because you can make money off of something doesn’t mean that you should do it, the government should allow it, or there should be legal businesses encouraging it.  But then, it seems state and local governments are also doing anything to quit providing services to citizens while heavily subsidizing private businesses for whatever reason.  At what point do we decide that businesses and rich people should pony up their fair share of the bill of living in a civilized country,state and city of laws, institutions and regular people?

The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”

Economic theory states that we should tax nuisance activities heavily to both discourage them and to collect funds for the damages they inflict on the citizens around them.  (Think any kind of pollution.) Subsidies are to be given to those manbunwashingtonsquareactivities that won’t occur–even though they are highly beneficial to society–because they won’t provide profits to private businesses. (Think public transportation and education.)  It’s a really basic and simply theory that’s been proven useful time and time again. There are some things we really do want to tax the hell out of because we want less of it and we want to recover the damage it creates. Many rules and regulations exist to protect current property owners and stakeholders.   Here’s a brief little lesson on Pigouvian Taxes and subsidies that’s worth a watch that gives you a good idea of the costs and benefits.   I’m not sure why the entire concept has gone out of style.  Perhaps it’s because the Aspen Institute doesn’t find it trendy enough. Although my gut says it’s likely because lobbyists and political donors prefer to be enabled rather than held accountable.

Anyway, what I think I can say is that we’re making it difficult (e.g. taxing) for the wrong people to exist in society and we’re subsidizing the folks that are just making things worse.  I believe this is why there’s such disgruntlement at working, poor, and middle class income levels.

The question now, is how do we really change this?  When are we going to stop selling our society to any bidder for any sleazoid reason in the name development?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Monday Reads

Well, it’s Monday again!

I thought I’d highlight two women’s attempts to get “justice” today. One woman didn’t really get her day in court. The other one has overstayed her time in court. For that matter, she’s overstayed her 15 seconds of infamy. biden-stays-on-message

The reason that I would never vote for Joe Biden for President can be summed up by one woman’s name: Anita Hill. I will never ever forget his role that led to the seating of Uncle Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Here’s a reminder for all of us.

It’s hard to know, but the reason Thomas is sitting silently on the Supreme Court – for 22 years and counting – can be traced back to Biden. If you’ve seen the new documentary, “Anita,” it jogs your memory clearly and cleanly regarding what went down. Of all the Senate Democrats, Biden failed most miserably. The close 52 to 48 vote might have broken differently if he had displayed grit under fire.

Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, authors of “Strange Justice,” note Biden was pleased with his “highly unusual exposure rate” after it was all over. Sorry, but Biden is a bit too easily flattered and fooled.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was a searing experience building to a crescendo over several days. As chairman, Biden virtually handed the gavel to Thomas at a critical point. He allowed three senators – Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson and the late Arlen Spector – to viciously besmirch Anita Hill, a painstakingly proper law professor who came forward to testify that Thomas had sexually harassed her with lewd language and social invitations as her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the documentary, Hill emerges content with a new lease of life, with no regrets about telling her truth. As the documentary points out, it became a question of her character on trial, when Thomas was the subject of the hearing and often out of the room. When he came back, he furiously declared the hearing a “high tech lynching,” a statement that rocked the row of senators into silence. Of course, even if it was wrong, this hostility packed quite a punch.

The coup de grace was accompanied by Biden’s nervous assurances: “You have the benefit of the doubt, Judge.” There was no legal precedent for such a claim on truth or guilt in a Supreme Court hearing. But Biden kept saying that fateful phrase on national television. The late Sen. Robert C. Byrd challenged Biden publicly by saying the country should have the benefit of the doubt. Byrd was a lone voice in the wind, which was blowing Thomas’s way.

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We owe some of the worst Supreme Court Decisions ever to the seating of this rubber stamp of right wing religious pomposity and anti-intellectualism. This brings me to another woman who is a wholesale tool of the same faction of right wing whackadoos.

It seems we will never be rid of Kim Davis whose exit from jail last week was one of the most appalling displays of a woman on some kind of high or with some serious emotional issue being enabled by men that should be held to account. People were fat shaming and slut slamming her, but has any one really looked at that drugged out look on her face recently? She looks like a woman possessed by many demons.

Her lawyers are filing yet another frivilous suit and she’s started work this morning announcing that no one has the right to do any thing with marriage licenses in her office because of her “conscience” which seems to pick and choose which sentences in her version of the new testament are worthy.  It may be time for officials in Kentucky to ask for Rule 11 sanctions against her attorneys as well as throw Miss “I’m above the law” back in jail.  She doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not her but her position that’s issuing the license. She’s an interchangeable cog that needs to be changed.

Her lawyers are actually challenging Scalia’s written opinion that it’s not her free speech here but the speech of her position and the government she serves. But then, she’s got lawyers that are on some kind of jihad and it’s evident that she’s along for the ride. It’s getting difficult to hear her ramblings and pronouncements.   Rule 11 holds attornies responsible for frivolous lawsuits and it’s time to give it some serious thought.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis returned to work this morning for the first time since being jailed for disobeying a judge’s order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples, saying she wants her name and title removed from the licenses currently being issued by her office.

Choking back tears at a news conference before her return to work, a defiant Davis said she is faced with a “seemingly impossible choice … my conscience or my freedom,” referring to her opposition to same-sex marriages.

“I’m no hero,” she added.

That last statement is the most truthful thing she’s said the entire time. Watching her these days is definitely like watching some one under the influence of a powerful drug or mental illness.  If she really thinks that she’s doing any justice to her religion then she’s sorely mistaken.  She’s also saying that her deputies have no authorization to issue “authorized” licenses and that they’re not really being authentically issued based on this latest friviolous lawsuits despite what Kentucky laws says.  Again, it’s time to hold her lawyers accountable and get her off center stage.

Despite her assertion that her deputies don’t have her authority to issue marriage licenses, Rowan County Deputy Clerk Brian Mason issued a license this morning to the first same-sex couple to apply after Davis’ return to the office. Davis never left her office during the process.

Davis also told reporters this morning that she wants the licenses to indicate that they are being issued under federal authority.

She returned to work today nearly one week after being released from jail for failing to issue marriage licenses over her religious objection to same-sex marriage.

Davis filed an appeal Friday that asks for another delay in issuing the licenses. If the court does not respond before Davis returns to work, she will have to choose whether to allow her office to continue issuing licenses or again disobey the judge who already sent her to jail.

This is getting ridiculous.  This is exacty what Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote about in her dissenting opinion in the Hobby Lobby Case.  We’re beginning to see our courts stack up with the our country suffering fools gladly.

The exchange between the two Justices gets to the heart of the issue in Hobby Lobby. When do religious convictions allow individuals (or corporations) to excuse themselves from obligations that are binding on everyone else?

A sampling of court actions since Hobby Lobby suggests that Ginsburg has the better of the argument. She was right: the decision is opening the door for the religiously observant to claim privileges that are not available to anyone else.

What we have here is that the same people that once said that granting any civil rights to the GLBT community was basically setting up special privileges that are now clogging up the courts asking for special privileges.   It’s also funny that one of the big causes Republicans is their jihad against trial lawyers and frivolous law suits, yet this is exactly the fruit of the frivioulous lawsuit poison tree.

168754_600It’s important to realize exactly what a state religion does to its minorities.  I’m going to use a real case of Christians being treated radically different. This example is how Israel treats its Christian minority. The answer is very unfairly. The Pope has issued a complaint.  Hopefully, some one else will notice this cause and do something about a real instance of injustice and realize that our rule of law is about extending existing rights to people.

Thousands of Arab schools in Israel went on strike on Monday, their 450,000 pupils remaining at home, as the Israeli government geared up for a major showdown with its large Palestinian minority.

The trigger for the strike is the Israeli government’s decision to starve 47 independent schools, set up originally by the international churches, of the state funding they have received for decades.

The schools, among the best in the country, have effectively been forced to shut indefinitely, their 33,000 pupils unsure when or even whether they will return to their classrooms.

On Sunday, thousands of families came from across Israel, from cities like Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle and occupied East Jerusalem, where the schools are located, to protest noisily outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The schools have run up huge debts since educational officials began cutting their budgets seven years ago, from 75 percent of the funding received by state schools to just 29 percent today. To open this academic year, they need about $50mn; the government is offering $5mn.

Talks over the past 18 months with the education ministry have gone nowhere. As Monday’s solidarity strike shows, Netanyahu’s government is taking on not only the church schools and the small Christian population of about 150,000, but all of the country’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, who make up a fifth of the population.

Israel is also risking a diplomatic confrontation with the Vatican and other international churches.

Last week Pope Francis raised the matter during a visit by Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, to the Holy See. Rivlin promised to find a solution, though the government itself shows no signs of budging.

Christian leaders in Israel have hinted that they may try to shut important holy sites, such as the Basilica of the Annunciation Church in Nazareth and the Mount of Beatitudes next to the Sea of Galilee, in retaliation. This, they hope, will bring the issue to the attention of pilgrims and tourists, adding to the pressure on Israel.

Education officials, however, are hoping they can limit support for the schools by advancing a seemingly reasonable argument: if the church schools want government money, they should join the state education system.

In truth, however, the move is not being advanced on economic grounds. There are far more sinister motives for the crackdown on the church schools, observers note.

Nadeem Nashif, director of Baladna, an organisation in Haifa promoting the rights of Palestinian youth, warns that the Netanyahu government’s main goal is to end the educational autonomy of these schools.

Organized, state-sponsored religions are dangerous.  You can recognize the theocrats among us.  Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down Planned Parenthood once again.  It’s been shown they’ve done nothing wrong but their outrage blindly continues as they fight to control women’s lives and health decisions and poor women’s access to health services.

Congressional Republicans say they are determined to shut Planned Parenthood down, regardless of whether it broke any laws.

In more than two months of investigations, members have yet to turn up evidence that Planned Parenthood acted illegally, the same conclusion reached by a half-dozen state investigations. The Department of Justice has so far declined to launch a formal probe.

Several Republicans acknowledged this week that they may never find proof of wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood — but said it doesn’t matter.

“I don’t know whether we’re ever going to be able to answer that question, whether it was illegal for them to do what they were doing,” Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said during the House’s first hearing on the topic Wednesday. “I don’t know if it was illegal … but it was immoral, what was seen on that video.”

Republicans have long been fierce critics of Planned Parenthood, which is the nation’s largest provider of abortion services. Under the law, the organization is banned from using federal funding for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity.

Stirred by outrage over secretly recorded videos at Planned Parenthood, Republicans opposed to abortion rights say it’s time to end federal funding for the group once and for all.

“The issue is not whether there’s been a crime committed or not,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas.) told the same group at the hearing. “This issue is whether or not taxpayers should fund Planned Parenthood. That’s the issue before this committee.”

Three House committees and six states have investigated Planned Parenthood since it was first targeted by the undercover videos in July. The Energy and Commerce Committee has interviewed two Planned Parenthood officials as well as officials from three tissue procurement companies that have partnered with the organization: Stem Express, Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. and Novogenix Laboratories.

As our country become progressively less religious and less Christian, why do we continue to we have to continually pay to keep the hysterics of this minority on the front burner?  It’s because they’ve totally co-opted one of the two major (sic) political parties who also has access to a lot of money that could care less about any thing other than getting more money.  We’re seeing a political season of incredible meanness with less emphasis on actual policy and more on singling out people to blame and hate.

Jeb-a-SnoozerJeb Bush just announced VooDoo Economics version 4.1 last week and it hid the media with a dull thud.  The same sick, tired formula that has wrecked havoc all of the three times it was tried is back on the front burner with the establishment republican candidate and all we see is one woman with lawyers who file one frivolous lawsuit after another.   Where’s the sense of priority here?   We’re seeing some things on this from print media but where’s the TV time from all the midle class folks ousted into poverty for these kinds of wreckless policy prescriptions?  Jared Bernsteins highlights the arguments we find in the print media.

  • John Cassidy of the New Yorker points out that neither of the Bush boys listened closely enough to their dad: “[Won’t Jeb’s] plan inflate the deficit…? Not in the make-believe world of “voodoo economics” — the term that Jeb’s father, George H. W. Bush, used in criticizing Ronald Reagan’s tax-cutting plans during their G.O.P. primary tussle, in 1980.” By sprinkling supply-side fairy dust, along with, to be fair, some of the minor offsets I noted in my earlier piece, “these policies will unleash increased investment, higher wages and sustained four per cent economic growth, while reducing the deficit,” according to the candidate. But as Cassidy reminds us: “Anyone whose memory extends back to the seventies and eighties will find this language depressingly familiar. The original iteration of voodoo economics didn’t merely involve cutting taxes and directing the bulk of the gains to the ultra-wealthy…The ‘voodoo’ accusation arose from the claim that, because the policies would encourage people to work harder and businesses to invest more, a lot more taxable income would be produced, and the reductions in tax rates wouldn’t lead to a commensurate reduction in the amount of tax revenues that the government collected.”For the record…didn’t happen.

Here comes the sneaky sound of the same old same old.  Every one is trapped in culture wars trying to figure out why a few shrill religious extremists can’t just go mind their own damned business while the plutocrats sneak in with a plan to rob us all blind.  Wake the fuck up people!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: A blunt look at things.

1320965117exhaustedGood Afternoon

We have a variety of links for you today. Typical of an average Sunday…unfortunately, I could not muster up the creativity and string a theme together. So the images will have to do, they are from the website BluntCard.com. (I think some of them are funny…hope you do too.)

Anyway, let’s get this shit rolling.

Whether Jewish Refugees in ’30s or Syrians today, USA Falls Short of own Ideals | Informed Comment

22-year-old anti-Nazi song rises to the top of German charts to show support for refugees – Europe – World – The Independent

1308950027wrongnumber‘Spurred on by the Fear of Death’: Refugees and Displaced Populations during the Mongol Invasion of Hungar – Medievalists.net

Sensitized by the grim headlines which daily announce the appalling plight of twentieth-century refugees in eastern Europe, I was motivated to investigate the behavior and conditions of medieval refugees fleeing the Mongols. In reviewing the sources I was struck by the abundance and vividness of the surviving evidence. My original plan was to study the Hungarian situation in comparison with similar experiences of other peoples who had been invaded by the Mongols, then to follow this with a comparative treatment of Hungarian refugees with parallels elsewhere in medieval Europe. This had to be discarded when I learned that the presumed secondary literature on this topic meager and peripheral. The systematic historical study of medieval refugees is yet to be written. The question of what where the experiences of medieval refugees appears seldom to have been raised and even less often answered.

Click here to read this article from De Re Militari

 

Okay enough on that…up next, a big ass hole: Crater in Russia triples in size in ten months to become 120m wide sinkhole – Asia – World – The Independent

Crater in Russia triples in size in ten months to become 120m wide sinkhole Asia World The Independent

The latest images taken by helicopters shows that earlier reassurance from an expert inspecting the site in April that the hole was “more or less stable” was incorrect, the Siberian Times reports.

The images show the nearby homes are now at risk of collapsing into the hole but local officials have said that no one is in physical danger.

1246840609mommaThe hole was caused by flood erosion in a underground mine…maybe this is what that sinkhole in Louisiana looks like under all that water?

Let’s look at another hole: Greece crisis: Cancer patients suffer as health system fails – BBC News

As Greece careers towards another election later this month, the country’s healthcare system is continuing to crumble.

Funding for state-run hospitals has been cut by more than 50% since the debt crisis started in 2009.

They suffer from severe shortages in everything, from sheets, gauzes and syringes, to doctors and nurses.

1302384066bitcheaccelerantTake a look at that article it is really good.

Skyscrapers correlated with economic doom – Business Insider

Nothing suggests the height of human achievement and economic prowess quite like a skyscraper.

The newly completed 2,073-foot-tall Shanghai Tower is officially the second-tallest building in the world (behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) and the tallest in China.

And taller skyscrapers are planned, such as China’s Sky City and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower.

But as “cool” as all of these buildings are, glitzy construction booms have historically coincided with the beginnings of economic downturns, according to Barclays’ “Skyscraper Index.” (For all you economics wonks out there, basically, skyscrapers can be considered a sentiment indicator.)

Using Barclays’ index, we pulled together 10 skyscrapers whose constructions overlapped with financial crises.

 

getoutFrom Lawyers Guns and Money:

Guatemala 

This Francisco Goldman article in The New Yorker is a good run-down of what is going on in Guatemala.Citizens finally came together to stand up to the kleptocracy that has run the country since the end of the civil war of the 80s. Protests have brought down Otto Pérez Molina after already taking out most of his administration. This is a great moment of democratic protest in a nation where political violence has been endemic for a very long time.

Book Review: Adam Rothman: Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery 

…we are in a renaissance of excellent historical writing for a general public that wants to read something more than hagiographic narratives. Add Adam Rothman’s Beyond Freedom’s Reach to the list. Rothman tells the story of Rose Herera, a New Orleans slave whose children were spirited away to Cuba by her master during the Civil War. Centering kidnapping in the slave experience, Rothman takes what could be a fairly slender story based upon a relative paucity of evidence to build a tale of great bravery and persistence within a rapidly changing world where African-Americans had relatively little power even in the immediate aftermath of the war.

lookinatQuick look around the US political scene:

Imagine If Hillary Clinton’s Security Detail Had Done This | Crooks and Liars

Fetid Jackass Open Thread: Your Modern GOP » Balloon Juice

Foxified: CNN Taps Sarah Palin And Hugh Hewitt For 2016 Campaign Coverage | News Corpse

A White Supremacist Holds an Entire American City Hostage – The Daily Beast

Feds will investigate after Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington state is hit by arson

lovevodkaAn update on a story from a while back….Cops Who Killed Man with Down Syndrome Over a Movie Ticket Blame Paramedics Who Tried to Save Him | Alternet

…the case of Ethan Saylor.

Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, was at a movie theater with a health care aide watching “Zero Dark Thirty.” The movie had finished, but Ethan didn’t want to leave the theater after the film ended, hoping to watch it again.

The cinema manager, angry that the mentally-handicapped man didn’t quite understand that one ticket is only good for one viewing, called three off-duty-deputies who were moonlighting as security guards. The cops decided to forcibly evict Saylor from the theater, refusing to listen to his aide, who had already contacted Saylor’s mother in an effort to defuse the situation.

idontgiveashitYou must remember this story….

Instead, as is all too common the case, the cops got violent, taking Saylor to the ground and piling on top of him as they attempted to handcuff him. In the process, this young man’s trachea was fractured, and he died of asphyxiation.

The autopsy report indicated that Saylor died from asphyxiation, and had sustained a fracture to his larynx, with the coroner listing his cause of death as homicide.

While Saylor’s death was ruled a homicide, an internal “investigation” cleared the three officers, Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris, of any wrongdoing. No charges were brought against any of the officers involved in his death.

Much to the dismay of almost everyone involved in the case, a Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the deputies after their review of the case.

After the failure of the state to hold these officers criminally accountable for Saylor death, as is often the case when law enforcement kills a citizen, the family filed a wrongful-death suit against the deputies.

whereisshegoingAs you would expect, that suit is not going very well…

According to a report in The Frederick News Post:

In the initial complaint, filed in October 2013, Saylor’s family alleged violations of his civil rights and of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the state, county sheriff’s deputies and the companies that employed the men as security guards at the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 theater.

A year later, a federal judge dismissed all of the claims against the theater company, and also dismissed a simple negligence claim against the deputies and a wrongful-death claim against the state.

Claims that the deputies — Richard Rochford, Scott Jewell and James Harris — were grossly negligent and that the state failed to train them were allowed to go forward.

While the family is certain that the fractured larynx was a result of the violent altercation, defense attorneys for the cops claimed in their latest court filings that the injuries found on Saylor were from the paramedic’s efforts to save his life, and not their brutal attack.

sassOne of the experts identified by the defense was Dr. Jeffrey Fillmore, the emergency department physician who treated Saylor at Frederick Memorial Hospital. According to court filing by the defense, Fillmore would testify that the autopsy and other evidence are not consistent with asphyxia as the cause of Saylor’s death.

On Tuesday, attorney for Saylor’s family, Joseph Espo, told the AP that his expert witnesses disagree with almost everything in the filing by the deputies’ attorneys. Records indicate that those witnesses include a disabilities expert, a police liabilities expert, a pathologist and another medical doctor.

Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this case is the fact that Saylor was an avid fan of law enforcement and was reportedly fascinated by police. Some may argue that the cops did not intend to kill Ethan, but the fact that they couldn’t de-escalate a simple situation over a movie ticket, and instead resorted to deadly violence speaks to the corrupting sickness that is prevalent in policing today.

heyIt is disgusting.

More crazy in the judicial system:

Jailed at 17 for a drug crime in 1988, Rick Wershe Jr is still behind bars. Why? | US news | The Guardian

A Surreptitious Courtroom Video Prompts Changes in a Georgia Town – NYTimes.com

An explosion of cellphone videos has brought renewed attention to police practices, provoking criticism, indictments and talk of criminal justice overhaul. Courtroom videos of judges in action, however, are far rarer.

But one surreptitious video in a small-town Georgia court has led to an overhaul of court practices there. The video showed the judge threatening to jail traffic violators who could not come up with an immediate payment toward their fines.

preciousangelsNext grouping, science-ish links:

Here’s What the Earth Will Look Like After All the Ice Melts | Mother Jones

Supermoon And Lunar Eclipse Will Wow Skywatchers On Sept. 27: What Time To Look Up : SCIENCE : Tech Times

UFO Watchers Abuzz Over ‘Ships’ In Orbit Around The Sun : SCIENCE : Tech Times

Life with HIV has changed enormously. It’s time public perception followed suit | Tom Hayes | Comment is free | The Guardian

On with some reviews of movies that look like something we all would find interesting:

The Resonance and Relevance of ‘Suffragette’ | Women and Hollywood

1262661979hateyouEach September brings severe disappointment for those of us interested in seeing women taken seriously in the Oscar race. And by that, I mean women on screen and behind the scenes. It seems that the conversation for some time has been about important men doing important historical things and changing the world, while the contributions of women were made as wives and assistants. They weren’t the center of the action. It is worth noting that, last year, none of the best-picture nominees had a female protagonist and only one had a female director.

“Suffragette” bursts onto the screen and shows the power and presence of women in history. AND it is written, directed and produced by women. It is a movie that shows us a struggle that few know anything about — the women’s battle for the vote in the UK — but that is resonant today, in this country, because of the assault to voting rights going on right now. It is a reminder that, not too long ago, women had no power, no access to money and were thought to lack the brains to participate in issues related to governance. We still have much to do on the issue of women’s rights. Girls around the world are not being educated because they are girls. Girls are sold into marriage. Women are not allowed to leave their homes in places, women are still raped and assaulted everywhere and we are not paid equally.

blurbsdangerousTelluride film festival day two: Suffragette, He Named Me Malala and Anomalisa – video reviews | Film | The Guardian

‘Suffragette’ Review: Carey Mulligan Fights for Women’s Rights | Variety

Black Mass review – compelling true crime drama is mighty comeback for Johnny Depp | Film | The Guardian

I don’t know how to end this post, so just consider it an open thread.


Friday Reads: Economic Anemia

Good Morning!

MuslinVoodooDoll-2Since I’m in the middle of revamping my course for Graduate Finance Students in International Finance and reviewing textbooks and the usual stuff, I thought I’d focus on the economy for the morning.

One of the most awful results of the Reagan years has been the creation of mainstream paranoia over policy using  data evident from the scientific method, intellectuals and academics that spend years researching and learning theory and empirical evidence, and the idea that government can’t ameliorate issues through policy but is somehow a potential enemy of the governed.

This kind of paranoid drivel used to be the realm of militia types like Clive Bunday and John Birchers like the Koch Brothers and father.  It had no place in mainstream discourse until Reagan started pumping up the idea that poor people game the government and the government games every one else.   Its now spread to Christian extremists, the NRA, and most of the Republic Party.

Let me give you the latest example of someone who is possibly going to be a Senator from Iowa.  Joni Ernst is doing the Sharon Angle thing of declaring any government issue she doesn’t like her potential enemy and any one supporting that view as a potential target of her nice little gun that she carries with her everywhere. 

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst made the remark a little more than a month after gunman James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Ernst’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment about the remark on Wednesday evening.

Earlier this year, Ernst released an ad in which she points a gun at the camera and vows to “unload” on Obamacare.

We’ve also experienced this massive attempt to rewrite secondary school textbooks and curricula to reflect the deeply held philosophical and religious views of these folks rather than theory or empirical evidence brought about by hundreds of years of research and scholarship.  This also ignores primary documents that show just the opposite to be factual.

But, facts be damned, there’s children’s minds to warp.  Biased ideas are not at the center of legitimate academic pursuit. Folks that follow agendas tend to live at the edges of universities and most departments are quite embarrassed by them. I spent time in a department where one research professor’s favorite pursuit was proving that iqs and brain sizes among varying races were the reason for underachieving groups in an economy.  All DNA evidence shows that race is a social construct but this guy spent a life time trying to show the relationship between brain sizes of races and incomes and jobs.  So, most time when you see folks that believe this stuff, they reside some where on the fringes.  However, since the Reagan years, there’s been a major attempt by right wing religious zealots to teach propaganda and there’s been a rather significant increase in the level of ignorance on things from incoming freshmen.

This is happening even in economics where you would think that paranoia about “communism” would’ve gone away since the fall of the USSR.  Not true, however.  They prefer to fear imagined boogey men and to set up  imagined fairy tale rescuers over doing policy that’s be proven effective in years of empirical study.

The standards’ authors are clearly fans of the free enterprise system, consistently emphasizing the advantage of American capitalism over other structures.

For example, the high school standards state that students should be able to “understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation and its application in the marketplace.” The middle school standards clearly promote free enterprise capitalism over other economic systems, saying that students should be able to “compare and contrast free enterprise, socialist, and communist economies in various contemporary societies, including the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system.” Finally, the standards connect capitalism with the conservative ideal of limited government, asking students to be able to “explain why a free enterprise system of economics developed in the new nation, including minimal government intrusion, taxation, and property rights.”

It really takes very little time spent in economics to realize that political constructs are not economic constructs. For example, the United States economy was founded on Mercantilism which began with monopolies, charters, grants and largess of royalty and aristocracy.  The concepts of Capitalismimages (3) and of Communism had the same roots and they were a lot more philosophical than ever real.  Even, now, we have a modified market system.  There has never EVER been a “free market” system or “communism” in an economic sense.  Socialism is just one end of a modified market system and still relies heavily on private ownership of the majority of factors of production.  Most facets of government policy are to make a market behave closer to a free market model because it can’t possibly d0 so under one factor, characteristic, or situation that exists. I mean really, who wants to leave the market for uranium to the free market?  That’s just an extreme example.

The problem is that dogma has overtaken reality among folks that now find themselves in office.  It’s bad for the country.  It’s bad for business. It’s bad for nearly every one.  The one thing that’s becoming abundantly clear since the Clinton Presidency and definitely during the Obama Presidency is that the Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street and Big Business.  It’s not the Republicans.  No where is this more evident than economic reports written by the private sector.  Today’s Republicans scare the shit out of big business and finance.  The last few battles to keep the federal government and the deficit funded has nearly caused market meltdowns twice. You also don’t see them complain about increasing the minimum wage or decreasing the current level of income equality.  NO REALLY.   This means Chris Christie is really going to have some ‘splaining to do over this statement. 

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Thursday panned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments that he’s “tired” of the minimum wage debate.

“Chris Christie’s got his head in the sand if he’s getting tired about the minimum wage,” Perez said according to Bloomberg Politics.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have led the push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and the issue has made its way onto the campaign trail this year.

“Chris Christie needs to talk to his economists, who will tell him that 70 percent of GDP growth is consumption,” Perez said Thursday.

The criticism came just days after Christie said he was “tired of hearing about the minimum wage” at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference on Tuesday.

“I really am,” the Republican governor and potential 2016 hopeful said. “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.'”

“Is that what parents aspire to for our children?” Christie asked. “They aspire to a greater, growing America, where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much great success than they have, and that’s not about a higher minimum wage.”

Before the Labor secretary chimed in, the remark drew fire from other Democrats, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest even quipped during a briefing Wednesday that people living on a minimum wage are those who are really tired.

Christie also used his time at the podium to make a 2016 prediction.

“I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor,” Christie said. “We’ve had this experiment of legislating .. and getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty.”

voodoo-doll-670So, this kind’ve talk is really making the economists of Wall Street and of huge corporations very nervous.  They’re quite aware that today’s Republican Party is tanking the economy.

Even though Republicans depict themselves as the party for business and banks, it turns out that the GOP’s economic policy is detrimental to their bottom lines and continued existence; particularly rising costs and stagnant wages since the Bush-Republican Great Recession. What both bankers and retailers really want instead of tax cuts, deregulation, and more Republican austerity and budget cuts are better incomes for all Americans that will lead to increased consumer confidence and greater purchasing power to trigger higher business profits. What they have learned after thirty years of “trickle-down” is that the trillions of dollars taken by the 1%, especially since 2009, have failed miserably to stimulate the economy. Instead, they demand more buying by the masses that Wall Street firms and analysis of 65 of the nation’s top retailers claim will only happen with, as President Obama preaches, growing the economy from the middle-out.

For example, in a report last month titled Inequality and Consumption, Morgan Stanley economists said, “Despite the roughly $25 trillion increase in wealth since the recovery from the financial crisis began, consumer spending remains anemic. Top income earners have benefited from wealth increases but middle and low income consumers continue facing structural liquidity constraints and unimpressive wage growth. To lift all boats, further increases in residential wealth and accelerating wage growth are needed.” Republicans completely disagree and either resist consideration of raising the minimum wage or promote abolishing it altogether. According to the Republicans, increasing income inequality must continue and it is crucial that they convince the population that no wage is too low. It is a belief the Koch brothers espouse but it is rapidly losing favor in circles whose survival depends on a population of consumers.

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) rating agency concurred with Morgan Stanley’s economists in their August report, How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, And Possible Ways To Change The Tide, and strongly advised the federal government to create “a path toward more sustainable growth, that in our view, will pull more Americans out of poverty and bolster the purchasing power of the middle class. A rising tide lifts all boats…but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.” To “lift all boats,” S&P suggests a “high degree of rebalancing” that includes increased “spending in the areas of education, health care, and infrastructure to help control the income gap that, at its current level, threatens the stability of an economy still struggling to recover.” Contrary to wisdom of real economists concerned with America’s economic survival, Republicans across the country have been laser-focused on their austerity crusade to cut spending on education, infrastructure, and healthcare including the cruel heartlessness of refusing free Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the call from both banks and businesses to increase the minimum wage and spending on essentials for a robust recovery, congressional Republicans have obstructed and outright blocked each and every attempt by the President and Democrats to stimulate the economy. Despite trailing every developed nation on Earth in infrastructure, Republicans consistently refuse the President’s calls to increase spending on desperately-needed infrastructure repairs including roads, bridges, public buildings, and sewers that numerous economists, including some highly respected conservatives, say is crucial for job-creation, increased consumer spending, and a vibrant recovery. Increased consumer confidence, and spending, is something all economists agree is for the good of the country’s economy but can only happen if incomes rise for the majority with higher wages and more well-paying jobs.

I’ve said this a million times but it’s true.  If you have an economy that’s 70% reliant on consumer spending for growth and 99% of the population has stagnant to falling real income, you’re going to run into trouble.  Especially since a huge part of that 99% spends high levels, all of, or beyond black-voodoo-dolltheir income and wealth levels.  Years and years of evidence has shown that consumers are the real job creators.  No business hires workers if no one is buying their goods and services.  Rich people–especially with some of the horrid changes we’ve had in the tax code during the Dubya years–are spending more and more of the income and wealth on gambling paper for paper profits.  This does not create anything of value in a real economy but it sure creates asset bubbles and the potential for financial meltdowns.   One has only to survey retailers to figure out the relationship between incomes of the middle and working classes and their bottom lines and their hiring plans.

Former Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon, whose company had seen consumer traffic drop for six straight quarters and same-store sales drop for five quarters, explained in July 2014 that “we’ve reached a point where it’s not getting any better but it’s not getting any worse—at least for the middle (class) and down.” Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, put retailers’ feelings best when he said, “consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail ‘funk.’” The culprit is obvious: low wage and income growth for the middle class. Median household income in 2013 stood 8 percentage points below its 2007 prerecession level.

The simple fact of the matter is that when households do not have money, retailers do not have customers. The failure of incomes to keep up with the growing cost of college, child care, and other middle-class staples leaves even less money for retail spending. A previous analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that this so-called “middle-class squeeze”—stagnant incomes and the growing cost of middle-class security—leaves the median married couple with two kids with $5,500 less to spend annually on food, clothes, and other essentials that retailers sell.

Or, as officials of J.C. Penney—whose sales fell 9 percent in 20136—put it when listing the risks to its stock value: “the moderate income consumer, which is our core customer, has been under economic pressure for the past several years.”

Moreover, retail spending—which includes spending on everything from clothing to groceries to dining out—has broad implications for the entire economy since it accounts for a large fraction of consumer spending, which itself makes up 70
percent of U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP.

Even Walmart is concerned even while not paying living wages, not providing good benefits, and not creating an environment where a worker feels secure about his/her future.  Now the weird thing is that fringe economists are still overly scared about inflation and high taxes.  These things, however, are not at the top of any one’s concerns that would be invited on any Fox News program.   Here’s a headline from Forbes: “Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat!”.  In 2012, a number of books evaluated the results of the economy under Democratic vs Republican administrations.  The results are startling.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is attributed with saying “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.“ So even though we may hold very strong opinions about parties and politics, it is worthwhile to look at historical facts. This book’s authors are to be commended for spending several years, and many thousands of student research assistant man-days, sorting out economic performance from the common viewpoint – and the broad theories upon which much policy has been based. Their compendium of economic facts is the most illuminating document on economic performance during different administrations, and policies, than anything previously published.

The authors looked at a range of economic metrics including inflation, unemployment, corporate profit growth, stock market performance, household income growth, economy (GDP) growth, months in recession and others. To their surprise (I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Goldfarb) they discovered that laissez faire policies had far less benefits than expected, and in fact produced almost universal negative economic outcomes for the nation!

From this book loaded with statistical fact tidbits and comparative charts, here are just a few that caused me to realize that my long-term love affair with Milton Friedman‘s writing and recommended policies in “Free to Choose” were grounded in a theory I long admired, but that simply have proven to be myths when applied!

  • Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year)
  • Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end)
  • Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents
  • The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations

The Obama economy is actually surprisingly good given that a large number of good economic policies have not been enacted due to Republican political kung fu.images (4)

It was no joke on Thursday when I asked Austan Goolsbee, a pretty fair amateur comic, to rattle of key economic indicators that are trending in very positive ways right now.
“Jobs created. Weekly U.I (jobless) claims. Unemployment rate. Auto Sales. Gas Prices,” said Goolsbee, former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a onetime winner of the annual “D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity” contest.

And, yet, as a headline in Politico.com also noted Thursday, “Economic Anxiety Dominates 2014.” So what’s really and truly up? What explains the disconnect between seemingly very strong numbers and the lack of love for Obama and the Democrats?

“You can’t brag about the economy because people can’t feel it,” said Thomas Bowen, a Chicago-based Democratic political and policy consultant.

“I’m sure (some) Democrats have polled this: ‘The recovery isn’t working for you.’ That’s why they’re not running on the economy improving.

Not long after, I was driving past a state unemployment office along a rather somber commercial strip on Chicago’s Northwest Side. The parking lot was full. And then I mulled the folks I know working part-time involuntarily or sticking with jobs they don’t especially like out of fear of the limited alternatives.

“You’re talking about indicators in the last six months,” said Bowen. “But look at the start of the recession until today. We’re just getting out of the hole from jobs losses. And the jobs aren’t the same. They’re not higher paying construction jobs.” “Not all indicators equate with average folks,” said Anna Greenberg, a Washington-based Democratic pollster.

“Wages and salaries are stagnant,” she said. “Yes, the stock market is up and the jobless rate down. But the cost of living is up and you may not have more money.”

images (5)So, a lot of economists like me remain very confused.  It’s not like there’s not support by people and businesses for good policy like infrastructure projects, improving the terms of student loans so more folks can access higher and continuing education, and a reasonable minimum wage.  The cities and states that have raised the minimum wage are even those that are doing well among states.   States that have raised their minimum wages have better job growth.

New data released by the Department of Labor shows that raising the minimum wage in some states does not appear to have had a negative impact on job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.

In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

The Associated Press writes:

“In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61 percent.

“Nine of the 13 states increased their minimum wages automatically in line with inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Four more states — Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — approved legislation mandating the increases.”

The AP notes: “[The] state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition” to the camp in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don’t establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

” ‘It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster,’ said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data ‘isn’t definitive,’ he added, but is ‘probably a reasonable first cut at what’s going on.’ “

So, it just appears that there’s a huge portion of the United States electorate and elected that would rather live in their dream world of imaginary beings and dogma than have their lives made better by using what we know and what we’ve learned.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Math, Dogs and Sheep

375e9572d0d05ab551464d4e043e2d29

Good Mid-Morning

Just a quick thought this morning before we get to the links. Yesterday Boston Boomer linked to an article about Janet Yellen, and there were a few sentences that made me stop and think. Which is really something because usually when it comes to articles containing anything associated with numbers, my brain tends to retreat like a coward who is being bombarded by incoming aerial livestock.

la vache in flightBut seriously…the article Boston Boomer linked to was from CNN. Here is the quote:

CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

ae0607c9a034b49a4870b3b008599168The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Emphasis mine.

Okay, maybe I am a bit hypersensitive, but why the specific mention about her getting only one vote. Is this something new? I was under the impression that whenever Greenspan or Bernake or Geithner spoke…it was as if the all powerful Oz had spoken. Doris from the Outer Hebrides by Ron Gilmore, via Flickr. Doris took a shortcut through the fern grove!!Especially with Greenspan, I mean that guy was the equivalent of verbal Dow Jones Industrial Average “pusher” in that whenever he opened his mouth…he spewed economic commentary uppers or downers.

Anyway, if this is not a big deal…then just forget about all that shit and continue with the post. As it is, the thread is late this morning. I got distracted finding images of sheep on Pinterest. Oh well, you know what that means…another dump. Link dump that is….

The latest news:

Two Men Abducted, Drowned in Philadelphia River, Third Man Escapes, Police Say – ABC News

The bodies of two men who had been bound were found today dumped a Philadelphia river, while a third man who had been repeatedly stabbed narrowly escaped the abductors believed to be responsible for the double homicide, authorities said.

The survivor, a 20-year-old man, was taken off the street by four or five men early this morning and thrown into the back of a van, police said.

He was then stabbed about nine times, in the torso and legs, Philadelphia police said, and his hands were tied behind his back with duct tape and his ankles were bound as well. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth, and once in the van, he realized there were two other people in the van who had also been bound, police said.

Valais Blacknose SheepAll three were taken to the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, where they were thrown into the water, police said, noting that the two other people were tethered to some kind of weight and drowned in five to ten feet of water.

This is a new story obviously so no real info as of yet…cops say they may have surveillance video of abduction.

And you may be one of the millions without internet service: Time Warner Cable Suffers Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable suffered a nationwide outage on Wednesday morning, leaving many users unable to access the Internet.

The company issued a statement to Mashable, acknowledging the outage and reporting that much of its service had been restored. TWC said the service outage was due to an issue with its “Internet backbone” that occurred during routine maintenance.

At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services. As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online.

sheepish by karena goldfinch on FlickrTWC outage leaves 12M people without Internet access — and it’s only going to get worse

On Tuesday, Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission $1.1 million for failing to disclose a “substantial number” of outages affecting its customers. Now today, the company announced that it is suffering from multiple outages affecting 12 million people.

Making matters worse is that many of those consumers probably didn’t have much choice when they signed up for the service, given Time Warner Cable’s effective monopoly in a number of its markets. As I wrote when I compared its service against the only other option for Internet service in my area,

The problem is, there are no options for someone living in the boonies. If they want to connect to the Internet they have to use something like [Finger Lakes Technologies Group, a regional Internet provider]; there are no other options. […] So far as choices go, it’s clear that people who live in small towns like this one are totally screwed.

This is a problem all across the country. Many people have access to just a handful of ISPs, many of which are regional offerings that pale in comparison to their national counterparts, which enjoy a monopoly on the high-end service market in many of the places they operate.

8fcbafa0f238f79808e0fe22f6071cf6That problem will only be made worse if Time Warner Cable is allowed to merge with Comcast and become what Netflix called the “nation’s largest onramp to the Internet.” The combined company is unlikely to care much about leveling the playing field and allowing other ISPs to give consumers more options for Internet service. It’ll just amass as much power as it can.

Does that seem like a company that’s going to solve problems that lead to outages affecting 12 million people around the United States? Hell, even with the scant competition they have now, both Time Warner Cable and Comcast have done little to make their services better. As I wrote in May, the companies are the least-liked in every industry in which they operate. (Surprise!)

We have this problem with Windstream being the shitty internet service monopoly here in Banjoville.

Next: Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’ | Al Jazeera America

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and some 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is that of the U.S. military. Still, even though the Pentagon shies away from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered a scathing assessment of Israeli tactics, particularly in the battle for Shujaiya.

Eduardo GageiroOne of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at FOX News caught Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Rain of high-explosive shells

The secretary of state’s comment followed the heaviest bombardment of the war to that point, as Israeli artillery rained thousands of high-explosive shells into the neighborhood of Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. A high-ranking U.S. military officer told this reporter that the source of Kerry’s apparent consternation was almost certainly a Pentagon summary report assessing the Israeli barrage, on which the Secretary had been briefed by an aide moments earlier.

Irving Penn - A young Berber shepherdess of the Aït Yazza people in the High Atlas, with a newborn lamb.According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions —a minimum of 258 artillery pieces in all, according to this officer’s estimate — had pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during the seven-hour period marking the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.

Twice daily throughout the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation, a select group of senior U.S. military and intelligence officers at the Pentagon received a lengthy written summary of Israeli military action in Gaza. The reports — compiled from information gleaned from open sources, Israeli military officers with whom U.S. officials speak and satellite images — offered a detailed assessment of Israel’s battlefield tactics and the performance of its weaponry, a considerable portion of it supplied by the United States.

Although these reports shy away from offering political judgments on the operation, a number of senior U.S. military officers who spoke about the contents of those daily reports with this reporter were highly critical of some of the IDF’s tactics, particularly in the Israeli ground invasion of Shujaiya. An official spokesman at the Pentagon declined to comment on the contents of this article.

65d7b88498df7aae340ab92e8d434944More at the link.

50 years later, SNAP proves its continuing vitality | Opinion | McClatchy DC

Even as SNAP policies and procedures change with the times, the program’s core mission remains the same. When the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1964, it aimed to provide better nutrition to low-income households while benefiting our agricultural economy. Fifty years later, research shows SNAP is still doing just that.

For example, SNAP benefits boost the economy by creating markets, and spurring economic growth and jobs in urban and rural communities at grocers, superstores, farmers’ markets, military commissaries, manufacturers and farms. And because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed, they are spent quickly – 97 percent of benefits are redeemed within the month of issuance – and therefore have great positive economic effects. Moody’s Analytics and USDA estimate that the economic growth impact of SNAP ranges from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits.

“Leapsheeping Lambs” by Roeselien RaimondOne component of SNAP that needs to change and hasn’t is the amount of the monthly benefit allotment. While we know the program is capable of reducing food insecurity, improving the health and well-being of recipients, and ultimately saving taxpayer dollars on avoided healthcare costs, it could work much better. Current benefits are based on assumptions developed in the 1930s for emergency diets. That plan is now woefully outmoded on every front from nutrition to practicality. Multiple studies, including the USDA’s own analysis of a recent (temporary) boost in benefits, show the value of a healthier allotment.

OSheep at Stanton Drew by elaine's life in images on Flickrver the course of any 50-year period, change is inevitable. Since August 1964, SNAP’s strength has been recognizing and responding to those changes. Today, the program’s mission is as necessary as it was 50 years ago: providing relevant, vital help to boost nutrition, economic security and health among seniors, children, people with disabilities, and unemployed or low-income working families. This is an anniversary worth celebrating.

Black Agenda Report is out, and here is their coverage of the “events” at Ferguson | Black Agenda Report

bc9ea1ec82f69b079338d510cc7d8751Did y’all see the latest in ironic pro-gun nut death by gun shot? DEATH BY MISADVENTURE | Gin and Tacos

On Tuesday a 39 year old firearms instructor was fatally shot near Kingman, AZ when the nine year-old girl he was instructing on the use of an Uzi submachine gun lost control of it…while it was on full automatic. This resolves once and for all the question of whether it is a good idea to give a nine year old girl who appears in the linked video to weigh about 20 pounds (note: the video shows only the events leading up to the fatal incident, but does not include the incident itself) a submachine gun set on full auto. The facility, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, caters to the vacationing yahoo crowd:a8f7be7a6c29bdbc291eb3f61896b6df

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The instructor had, among others, the following hilarious pro-gun images posted on his Facebook wall (h/t Balloon Juice)

a5f4ebc59149f626d77d94a1c1c14bb4Go to the link to see the images and commentary that this man had posted on his wall. It is the typical shit…

What about a look at what makes Houston…colorful? Immigrants reshape Houston, America’s most diverse metropolis | Al Jazeera America

In the past 20 years, Houston — that most Texan of Texan cities — has come to look more and more like the taxi drivers. Between 1990 and 2010, Greater Houston added more than 2.2 million people (PDF) and now boasts a population of more than 6 million (the city proper has 2.2 million residents). The metropolitan area has eclipsed New York and Los Angeles to become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States.

4240f24bd326893a797d4327d5d943e9A joint report published last year by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas (PDF) found that Greater Houston scores highest on the Entropy Index, which measures diversity according to the presence and relative proportions of the four major racial groups (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). All five Houston counties have become more diverse over the past two decades, with increased numbers of Hispanics (from 21 to 35 percent) and Asians (from 3.4 to 6.5 percent), a stable population of blacks (about 17 percent) and a decrease in whites or “Anglos” (from over 50 to under 40 percent), though rates of residential segregation remain high.

Oh boy, it is really getting late…here are the rest in real quick dump format:

A lamb jumping over a trough, 1950Video shows police shot Ohio man ‘on sight’ as he leaned on toy gun in Walmart, attorney says

Dueling demands in Walmart shooting case | WDTN

Scarlett Johansson designs shirt for Planned Parenthood | TheHill

Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge

Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson Monologue | Mediaite

ec7c81f2b4f070513900f2313f8e5f3a– Another Ferguson? Young Black Man Shot In Chest With Hands Cuffed Behind Back. Police Say Suicide.

The Emmys Censored the Punchline of That Last Robin Williams Bit

Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma Hog-Tied And Injured A Young Child, Lawsuit Alleges

50 Shades of Grey: Harmful to Your Health? | Care2 Causes

It’s being hailed as a “provocative new study” worthy of Christian Grey himself — a group of researchers have just published an article in Journal of Women’s Health claiming that women who read “50 Shades of Grey” are at a higher risk for domestic abuse, disordered eating, a high number of sexual partners and even binge drinking. But don’t throw your romance novel to the curb just yet: The study is another example of the good old “correlation does not equal causation” trope.

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During the study, a group of scientists surveyed 655 18-to-24-year-old women online, a third of whom had read some or all of the ’50 Shades’ series. They asked them questions about their personal sexual practices, their experiences of partner victimization such as sexual and psychological abuse, and binge drinking. When they adjusted their findings for age and race, researchers learned that women who had read at least the first book in the series were more likely to report partner victimization, cyberstalking, fasting and using diet aids. 5b03d93e5435018f1fdedd169a22f7caWomen who had read all three books in the series were also more likely to report having five or more sexual partners in their lifetime. Their conclusion? There is an association between reading the series and negative health outcomes for women.

At the Guardian: The 100 best novels: an introduction | Books | The Observer

They are at week 49: The 100 best novels: No 49 – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925) | Books | The Observer

You can see the past weeks here: The 100 best novels | Books | The Guardian

A border collie herding sheep at the Rockefeller Center, 1948. Photo for LIFE magazine by George Silk.Now for the article that explains the title of this post: BBC News – ‘Two simple rules’ explain sheepdog behaviour

The relationship between a shepherd and his sheepdog has always seemed almost magical, but scientists now say it can be explained by two simple rules.

Researchers have used GPS data to reveal the mathematical secrets of how sheepdogs do their job.

The new model helps to explain why one shepherd and a single dog can herd an unruly flock of more than 100 sheep.

It could be used to help develop “shepherd robots”, for controlling crowds or cleaning up an oil spill.ce2d03bff1e703b2b3fce681272fc1ea

The first rule: The sheepdog learns how to make the sheep come together in a flock. The second rule: Whenever the sheep are in a tightly knit group, the dog pushes them forwards.

NERC fellow Dr Andrew King of Swansea University helped to design backpacks fitted with highly accurate GPS technology. These trackers were attached to a flock of sheep and a sheepdog.

“What’s so interesting about this is how simple the rules are,” Dr King told the BBC.

“At the beginning we had lots of different ideas. We started out looking from a birds eye view, but then we realised we needed to see what the dog sees. It sees white, fluffy things. If there are gaps between them or the gaps get bigger, the dogs needs to bring them together.”

Sheep Bridge by Mountain Mike on FlickrAccording to Dr King, sheepdogs are making the most of the “selfish herd theory” to bring the animals close together and move them where they want.

“One of the things that sheep are really good at is responding to a threat by working with their neighbours. It’s the selfish herd theory: put something between the threat and you. Individuals try to minimise the chance of anything happening to them, so they move towards the centre of a group.”

A colleague, Dr Daniel Strombom from Uppsala University in Sweden, used the GPS data from the collars to develop computer simulations. This enabled them to develop a mathematical shepherding model.

The algorithm displays the same weaving pattern exhibited by sheepdogs. It helps to solve what has been called the ‘the shepherding problem’: how one agent can control a large number of unwilling agents.

John Hooper. The Shepherd, 1982.The research was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Read the rest at the link…and how they are working to use this information in other ways.

This made me look for a couple of more sheepy links:

Shrek the runaway sheep is a shear celebrity – Telegraph

29 Apr 2004

Shrek, the New Zealand merino sheep which spent the last six years on the run from his owners, finally had his long-postponed encounter with a pair of shears last night.

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Shrek the sheep is shown before, during and after being sheared

 

The woolly creature was shorn of his 15-inch long, 59lb fleece during a live television broadcast.

Viewers around the country watched eagerly to see the wool carefully snipped away by a former world champion shearer, Peter Casserly.

Despite his years as a hermit, Shrek was as meek as a lamb and co-operated fully.

“He is probably looking forward to getting this lot off,” Mr Casserly said confidently as he got to work.

 

And from 2012, Shepherds around the world – in pictures | World news | theguardian.com

They used to be an important part of the global economy but with the increase of estates the need for shepherds has declined. However, the tradition does still exist in many parts of the world

 

That one is just a gallery…so go and enjoy it.

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Sorry this is so damn late!

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Saturday Reads: A li’l bit of This and That

Good Morning!

I thought I’d just try to put up a bunch of interesting articles that I’ve read recently, so I’m pretty sure there’s no theme here.  I guess we’ll see as I meander into each of them.

Economics started out as the study of Political Economy. Many of its early thinkers were definitely more essayists than researchers using data and vintage-science-picture-5statistical methods to look for trends.  The study of what we call frictions–or things in markets that cause them to stray from a perfect model—has been really important since we’ve learned to use data to empirically test theoretical models and constructs.  It’s interesting to go back to many of these early philosophical writers and notice that their gut feelings–as expressed in their essays–are as germane now as they were then. Karl Polanyi critiqued early market Capitalism in the 20th century in “The Great Transformation.” Polanyi argued that the idea of an efficient market economy was basically as utopian as its Marxist counterpoint.  Two sociologists have written a book that revisits the Polanyi critique.  Is the Free Market an impossible Utopia?  This is from an interview with the two researchers.

Polanyi’s core thesis is that there is no such thing as a free market; there never has been, nor can there ever be. Indeed he calls the very idea of an economy independent of government and political institutions a “stark utopia”—utopian because it is unrealizable, and the effort to bring it into being is doomed to fail and will inevitably produce dystopian consequences. While markets are necessary for any functioning economy, Polanyi argues that the attempt to create a market society is fundamentally threatening to human society and the common good In the first instance the market is simply one of many different social institutions; the second represents the effort to subject not just real commodities (computers and widgets) to market principles but virtually all of what makes social life possible, including clean air and water, education, health care, personal, legal, and social security, and the right to earn a livelihood. When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue.

Free market doctrine aims to liberate the economy from government “interference”, but Polanyi challenges the very idea that markets and governments are separate and autonomous entities. Government action is not some kind of “interference” in the autonomous sphere of economic activity; there simply is no economy without government rules and institutions. It is not just that society depends on roads, schools, a justice system, and other public goods that only government can provide. It is thatall of the key inputs into the economy—land, labor, and money—are only created and sustained through continuous government action. The employment system, the arrangements for buying and selling real estate, and the supplies of money and credit are organized and maintained through the exercise of government’s rules, regulations, and powers.

By claiming it is free-market advocates who are the true utopians, Polanyi helps explain the free market’s otherwise puzzlingly tenacious appeal: It embodies a perfectionist ideal of a world without “coercive” constraints on economic activities while it fiercely represses the fact that power and coercion are the unacknowledged features of all market participation.

tumblr_n30dq5LmdH1qbn5m1o3_500I have another study for BB.   This one was published in the July issue of Cognitive Science.  The authors found that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional.  Children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”  

In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”

However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.”

And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events.”

The researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.

Archaeologists have found an 8000 year old skull containing residual brain matter. Girton Laboratory

Archaeologists in Norway have found what could potentially be an 8,000-year-old human skull – which contains traces of brain matter.The finding at a site in Stokke, Vestfold, could shed light on life in the Stone Age, a period that lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 6000 BC and 2000 BC.It was among a number of discoveries unearthed during the excavation, The Local reported.

It is too early to tell whether the bone remains are those of a human or an animal, but early tests have dated the skull to around 5,900BC, placing it within the prehistoric Stone Age period.

Gaute Reitan, dig site leader, told NRK that the “one of a kind” skull contained a grey substance that appeared to be brain matter.

But he said it was not possible to confirm if it belongs to a human.

mad-scienceThe Guardian reports that the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists are scurrying to cover up their guilt in the shoot down of the Malaysian commercial jet killing hundreds of people.

The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn. The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.

Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.

Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.

“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 ft or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russia separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.

So, I still can’t discern much of a pattern here but I just found all these links very interesting.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!  Quelle Surprise! Pop Culture is still Misogynist, Racist, and Homophobic!

Pige-Manga-BWI found some interesting reads over the weekend so I hope you’ll enjoy them!   They are all sort’ve stories that actually reflect a lot of the things that fascinate and entertain me.  I love strategy games and have been playing them on line for quite some time  Actually, it’s been since the early 1990s when most of the games were simply text oriented.  I also love animation art, and books, and of course, music. So, here’s a little bit on that and a little bit of stuff that has to do with social justice too.  If I do a have a consistent train of thought here it is that so much of what should be entertaining and could be informative can sow bad seeds.  I’ve a few examples where the pop and geek culture are taking on hard topics. Some are  successful and examining crucial human stories.  Some rely on the same old misogyny, racism, and homobigotry.

Japanese Manga is a way many creative people in Japan explore how they feel about a variety of things. This article is about a new manga book on the lives of the Fukashima plant workers.

A manga that describes the reality of daily life at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant through the eyes of a worker is enjoying popularity.

“Ichiefu” (1F), written by Kazuto Tatsuta, 49, first appeared in autumn 2013 as a serial comic in the weekly magazine “Morning,” published by Kodansha Ltd. Ichiefu stands for the Fukushima No. 1 plant among locals.

The comic was published in book form on April 23. The publisher shipped a total of 150,000 copies of the first volume, which is an unusually large number for a little-known manga artist.

Tatsuta said he changed jobs repeatedly after graduating from university. At the same time, he also worked as a comic strip artist.

It was when he was considering another job change that the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami occurred, triggering the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant.

While seeking a better-paying job, Tatsuta also wondered what part he could do as a citizen of Japan to help. As a result, he began to work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from June 2012 for a total of six months.

“Ichiefu” describes the situation at the plant in great detail. The descriptions of equipment, such as the masks and protective gear the workers used, and the procedures they took to measure radiation levels make readers feel as if they are there and reading actual worker manuals.

The comic also depicts intimate practices only workers there would know. For example, the workers always say “Be safe” to each other before starting their shifts.

Each of the workers was also required to stop working when his dosimeter issued a fourth warning sound.

I quit playing a few games last year that I had really grown fond of because of the rampant misogyny and homophobia of many of the white male manga-dark-warriorplayers.  I had repeatedly asked them to constrain their language, behavior, and what they posted.  I am fortunately playing a game right now where that’s not the case.  I am still one of the few female players in my alliance.  I believe I am one of two but I have found that I generally enjoy better game play if I am in an alliance where there are many openly gay men.  This NPR article summarizes a series of articles that are focused on white male privilege in the online game atmosphere.

In video games, sexism often comes in the form of male-dominated storylines and character archetypes. In the video game community, it takes a more menacing shape.

It ranges from attempts to silence female critics to the harassment of fellow players. Some harassment even goes so far as phone calls and rape threats, as one female game developer found out last year.

“The issue is often framed as a women’s issue, but sexual harassment, sexism and misogyny in gaming is not a women’s issue — it’s a gaming community issue,” says Jonathan McIntosh, a producer for the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Web series.

Last week, McIntosh wrote a piece for gaming website Polygon about what he calls the “invisible benefits” that males experience while playing video games. In the post, he lists 25 effects of “male gamer privilege.” Here’s a sample:

  • I can choose to remain completely oblivious, or indifferent to the harassment that many women face in gaming spaces.
  • I am never told that video games or the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I am male.
  • I can publicly post my username, gamertag or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender.
  • I will never be asked to “prove my gaming cred” simply because of my gender.
  • I will almost always have the option to play a character of my gender, as most protagonists or heroes will be male by default.
  • If I am trash-talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male nor will my gender be invoked as an insult.
  • My gaming ability, attitude, feelings or capability will never be called into question based on unrelated natural biological functions.

So far, the reaction to his post — both in the more than 700 comments on the piece and elsewhere — has been relatively civil. As McIntosh pointed out on Twitter, he doubts it would have been as civil if he had been a female writer raising the same points.

“I’m saying the same thing that women have been saying for years,” McIntosh says. “There’s nothing in my piece that’s really new, it’s just that it’s coming from me. If my name was Joanna McIntosh … I’d be called irrational, I’d be called hysterical and I’d be called too sensitive.”

One other thing that I did not mention last week but I would like to mention this week is the rape scene between the Lannister twins in Game of Thrones.  The same scene in the book actually was rough but consensual.  

There’s been a lot of discussion, Internet rage, and general overall hoopla following Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, as the television show made the most shocking book-to-screen deviation to date. *Spoiler free for future books.*

Jaime and Cersei finally had their reunited love scene, and suddenly for book readers, Jeyne Westerling seemed like a small cinematic sacrifice to make in comparison. I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion on whether or not this scene constitutes as rape. Smarter people than I have alreadydonethat.

What we have to work with in the scene is what the characters said and did because we can’t know how they felt. And whether or not the scene was intended to come across as consensual sex, the way the scene was cut by the director makes it definitive to the audience that it was not consensual. Cersei repeatedly said no while Jaime forced himself on top of her and answered that he didn’t care as his creepy voiceover carried out onto a shot of Arya staring at mountains. If that’s all we know about the scene, then yes, in the television show Jaime raped Cersei.

The “debate” about the rape has been nearly as upsetting as the rape itself.  I liked this take clearly stating that rape is not a “narrative device”.

In some ways, it’s useful for television shows to acknowledge the extent of sexual violence in our culture. These narratives allow necessary stories to be told. But the execution is too easy. From daytime soap operas to prestige cable shows, rape is all too often used to place the degradation of the female body and a woman’s vulnerability at the center of the narrative. Rape is used to create drama and ratchet up ratings. And it’s rare to see the brutality and complexity of a rape accurately conveyed on-screen. Instead, we are treated to an endless parade of women being forced into submission as the delicate and wilting flowers television writers and producers seem to want them to be.

download (9)I am still wondering why there seems to be a renaissance in misogny, racism and homobigotry.  You would think that the sports arena would have made better strides against racism given that teams and fans are fully integrated to the idea that there are players of many races.  However, it seems the real money and power behind the bread and circuses are still those rich, horrid, white men.  We talked about the Clippers’ owner last week.  There is, of course, more on that.

Deadspin has acquired an extended, 15-minute version of the conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano. If the original nine-minute tape acquired by TMZ left any questions about Sterling’s opinions regarding minorities, the audio here should remove all doubt that he’s a doddering racist with views not too far removed from the plantation.

The Clippers themselves showed some class this week in a protest that was priceless.  There will undoubtedly be more coming and hopefully the NBA can find a way to strip Sterling of the franchise.

The Clippers gathered at center court before a118-97 Game 4 loss in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there. They then warmed up wearing inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo. During the game, players wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.

In other news, water is still wet and Sarah Palin is still one of the dumbest people on the planet.  This is the money quote she gave the NRA: ‘Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists’.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) defended the controversial enhanced interrogation technique of waterboarding this weekend, and implied that the practice would still be commonplace “if I were in charge.”

“They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad,” she said at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting on Saturday evening, referring to prisoners. “Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

The remark stands in stark contrast to the opinion of her former running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The former Republican presidential nominee, who spent more than five years in a prison camp during the Vietnam War, has repeatedly denounced the practice, which he says is torture.

In her speech, Palin praised the NRA, a group whose members “are needed now more than ever, because every day we are seeing more and more efforts to strip away our Second Amendment rights,” she said.

I am still waiting for some examples of how any government in the US is stripping away the second amendment rights.  I do, however, have thousands of examples of how women are losing their right to self determination.

My last offering this morning is yet another in depth article on the demise of the middle class in the USA.  Middle class Americans are an endangered species.

Wages for millions of American workers, particularly those without college degrees, have flat-lined. Census figures show the median household income in 2012 was no higher than it was 25 years ago. Men’s median wages were lower than in the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, many of the expenses associated with a middle-class life have increased beyond inflation. This includes college tuition, whose skyrocketing cost has laid siege to a bedrock principle of the American Dream: that your children will do better than you did.

recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia found that 40 percent of those calling themselves middle class felt less financially secure than they were just a few years ago. Forty-five percent said they worry “a lot” about having enough money stashed away for retirement, and 57 percent said they worry about meeting their bills. Less than half said they expect their kids to do any better.

Fewer Americans find themselves in the heart of the middle class with every passing year.

In the mid-1970s, the majority of Americans were in the middle, with 52 percent earning the equivalent (in today’s dollars) of $35,000 to $100,000. Today, according to census figures, the share of households earning under $35,000 is virtually unchanged, 35 percent. The shift has occurred in the other two categories. Households with incomes over $100,000 have doubled, to 22 percent, while less than 44 percent are in the middle cluster.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?