Friday Reads: American Business Model is ruining Higher Ed

Good Morning!

e7dbf8dedc4ef651_largeI’ve been watching the death of higher education in Louisiana as Sociopathic Governor Jindal continues his war on 99%of humanity in search of higher office.  Right wing Donors are the only folks worth subsidizing and saving in Jindal’s sick mind.  I was thinking the other day that I was glad that the girls graduated before it’s gotten to this point.  Youngest daughter experienced a bit of the issue at the end of her undergrad degree since class offerings were decreasing. I’ve also been thinking about the Duquesne adjunct professor who died last year in abject poverty. I think that I’ve most likely seen my future.  Here’s a refresher about her death last August.

On Friday, Aug. 16, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor who’d recently lost her job at Duquesne University at the age of 83, suffered a cardiac arrest on a street corner in Homestead, Pa.* Vojtko collapsed yards from the house where she had lived almost her entire life. She was rushed to the hospital, but she never regained consciousness. Vojtko died on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Two and a half weeks later, Vojtko’s lawyer, Daniel Kovalik, published an op-ed about Vojtko called “Death of an Adjunct” in thePittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kovalik wrote that “unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits, and with a salary of $3,000 to $3,500 per three-credit course.” (In fact, for many years, she’d earned less—only $2,556 per course.) She’d been receiving cancer treatment, he said, and she’d become essentially homeless over the winter because she couldn’t afford to maintain and heat her house. Then, in the spring, she’d been told that her contract wouldn’t be extended after the current semester. A social worker from a local government agency had been tipped off that she might need help taking care of herself, which horrified Vojtko—“For a proud professional like Margaret Mary, this was the last straw,” according to the op-ed.

Her recent life hits way too close to home for me.  I’ve noticed the rise of administration in higher education and how they seem to be embracing the largesame kind of things that are wrecking secondary education.  They want standardized testing and proof that the professor is doing their job to the point that I feel like I’m a lowly graduate student with an absentee professor.  I spend a lot of time grading things that I’m pretty sure are not contributing to anything but some administrator’s report that justifies their high salary and position.  I can also tell that many colleagues just do it arbitrarily and not too well because my students are obviously doing the same old things like recycling other people’s homework and other people’s papers.  I remind you that I only teach graduate students and those at the end of their career and those doing an academic degree that should be tougher than something like an MBA.  So, all of this leads up to this link from a speech by Noam Chomsky who relates the hiring of faculty to that of the Walmart hiring paradigm. Faculty are basically now mostly temps.  Business like workers who live in fear and insecurity. They also like them exhausted.

That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Wal-Mart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a  corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.

vintage_classroom_college_university_students_professorAlso part of the business model is making sure you’re as miserable as possible and that your assigned management baby sitter loads you down with so much nonsense that even when you don’t have anything productive to do, you have to pretend you are. Chomsky sums up the goal of all this.

Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. That’s a disciplinary technique. I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free. In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free. Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything. Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.

And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control. And it’s very similar to what you’d expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; they’re not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functions—that’s the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; that’s the way they work.

The Corporate apparatchik are the only ones that gain from a workforce that behave and think like sheep. There are so many examples of intellectual BeuysAchberg78laziness these days on the part of so-called professionals that I could spend a weeks worth of posts on it.  But, let’s just start with a few recent ones.  Ever read BuzzFeed?  Well, it seems one editor lifted material from Yahoo. I wonder who taught him that Yahoo is an appropriate source?

Yahoo! Answers, one of the great artifacts of Internet history, is intently studied at viral news website BuzzFeed, where its trove of half-literate questions (and even less literate answers) has supplied material for at least fifty different posts and listicles. One BuzzFeed editor, however, has streamlined this aggregation process to its vanishing point: Simply copying text from Yahoo! Answers and pasting it, without attribution, into his own work.

Two pseudonymous Twitter users pointed out today that BuzzFeed’s Viral Politics editor, Benny Johnson, has periodically lifted text from a variety of sources—Wikipedia, U.S. News & World Report, a random press release—all without credit. The users, @blippoblappo and@crushingbort, supply convincing evidence that Johnson slightly reworded various sentences to make them his own.

I struggle daily with telling students that none of those sites are appropriate sources. But, under the pressure of grading deadlines and having to give them tons of busy work, it sure is tempting just to throw my hands up and pass so that I can spend less time and maybe approach the minimum wage.

The funny thing is that the costs of higher education focused on by the press are cost of tenured faculty.  What they don’t seem to understand is that a lot of faculty–especially those in the really low paying subject areas–generally run to administrative jobs for wages.  A lot of the money is also going to fancy dorms, student centers, and leather chair laden classrooms for executives so the university can attract the cash cow students.  I really don’t think people–like whoever wrote this article in The Economist--actually look at where the money goes.  They believe that online education is going to be the norm in the future.

In the meantime, a second generation of MOOC is trying to mirror courses offered at traditional universities. Georgia Institute of Technology and Udacity have joined forces with AT&T, a telecoms firm, to create an online master’s degree in computing for $7,000, to run in parallel with a similar campus-based qualification that costs around $25,000. Mona Mourshead, who runs McKinsey’s education consultancy, sees a turning point. “If employers accept this on equal terms, the MOOC master’s degree will have taken off. Others will surely follow,” she says.

Although some companies have authored online courses (Google, for instance, has made a MOOC on how to interpret data), established universities still create most of them. To encourage them to spare their best academics’ time to put the courses together, online-learning companies must give them a financial incentive. EdX says it is “self-sustaining” but provides no details of its revenues. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last year that edX lets universities use its platform in return for the first $50,000 generated by the course, plus a cut of future revenues. An alternative model that it reportedly offers is to charge $250,000 for “production assistance” in creating a course, plus further fees every term that the course is offered. Coursera reveals only its revenue from certification—around $4m since its launch in 2012—for which it charges students between $30 and $100.

Some have struggled to make a business out of this. Last year Udacity underwent an abrupt “pivot”, declaring that the free model was not working and that from then on it would sell professional online training. Although web-based courses are much cheaper than on-campus ones, they will not retain ambitious students unless they replicate the interaction available in good universities. Making teachers available for digital seminars and increasing the level of interactivity could help. So would more detailed online feedback. Improvements like these raise costs. So a more varied MOOC-ecology might end up with varying price-tiers, ranging from a basic free model to more expensive bespoke ones.

The universities least likely to lose out to online competitors are elite institutions with established reputations and low student-to-tutor ratios. That is good news for the Ivy League, Oxbridge and co, which offer networking opportunities to students alongside a degree. Students at universities just below Ivy League level are more sensitive to the rising cost of degrees, because the return on investment is smaller. Those colleges might profit from expanding the ratio of online learning to classroom teaching, lowering their costs while still offering the prize of a college education conducted partly on campus.

Notice that last suggestion still says that the cost of the professor is the problem not all the supporting infrastructure and bureaucracy.

The problem that I have with all this is the underlying assumption that the private, corporate business model is efficient, effective, and lower cost.  The deal is that most of the lower costs come from de-professionalizing almost all employees in the hierarchy and de-emphasizing personal service.  Everything is consolidated away from service provision.

Anyway, I doubt I’ll visit this topic again anytime soon, but I did want to offer up the nightmare that’s become a university teaching job. I have to say I get ready to get my social security more and more every day.  This is no longer the stuff written about in Wallace Stegner and John Updike books. I’ve started to feel like an overworked and insecure cog in a wheel over which I have no control.  Yup, that’s the stench of American Business.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Serenity When?

il_fullxfull.565541671_9lyh-001Good Morning

Things are heating up all over, in a literal, political and actual sense.

Meanwhile I feel as if I am stuck inside a glass tube of Vaseline…where I cannot move or see and I feel trapped in a situation were everything is close around me. Yesterday, my mom found out she needs to take insulin shots…she is now diabetic. But the Medicare does not cover her prescription for the shots. It is 300 bucks a month. WTF? I don’t understand this crap at all.

There’s ther stuff going on that I can’t get into now, so just letting you know that things are real shitty here, and I may need to take a break for a few days to get my bearings.

9d334a8fa3274a3df6a3e9e9bf2ec996Now for today’s links…

I don’t know what to make of this headline from the New York Times:

Obama Is Said to Consider Selective Airstrikes on Sunni Militants

President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen rather than an aerial bombardment, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

e91350319bb40c2aab792d8a540788abSuch a campaign, using either drones or fighter jets, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days, until the United States gathers adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.

Even the most ambitious aerial campaign envisioned by administration officials would be far more limited in scope than the one conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians.

It all makes my head hurt.

e96d30047c9c5f4947085064d49e6198But what deserves a laugh is the latest from Glenn Beckistan: Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right,’ We Should Never Have Gone into Iraq | Mediaite

Glenn Beck led off his radio show on Tuesday morning with a stirring monologue about all the ways he believes the left and right can come together to “heal” America. As part of that, Beck suggested that perhaps all Americans can come together to recognize the blunder that was invading and occupying Iraq in 2003 — an act that he now regrets having supported.

After listing the Veterans Affairs Department scandal and the fight against Common Core standards as two ways in which the left and right can unite, Beck asserted that “maybe we could come together now on this nightmare in Iraq.”

He then took a contrite tone and admitted [emphasis ours]:

a090d350dd917b6e633dfe19e03091cfFrom the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t. At the time I believed that the United States was under threat from Saddam Hussein. I really truly believed that Saddam Hussein was funding terrorists. We knew that. He was funding the terrorists in Hamas. We knew that he was giving money. We could track that. We knew he hated us. We knew that without a shadow of a doubt. It wasn’t much or a stretch to believe that he would fund a terror strike against us, especially since he would say that. So I took him at his word.

[...] Now, in spite of the things I felt at the time when we went into war, liberals said: We shouldn’t get involved. We shouldn’t nation-build. And there was no indication the people of Iraq had the will to be free. I thought that was insulting at the time. Everybody wants to be free. They said we couldn’t force freedom on people. Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.

Well, blow me down!

7186393d1bfd14d036ee5764c304f357Here’s another shocking bit of right-wing reactions to scratch your head about…first the news bit: U.S. captures suspected ringleader of 2012 attack in Benghazi | Reuters

The United States said on Tuesday it had captured a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador and ignited a political firestorm in Washington.

President Barack Obama said in a statement he had authorized the operation in Libya on Sunday, in which U.S. special operations forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah. He told an audience later in Pittsburgh that Khatallah was being transported to the United States.

“Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans,” he said in a statement. He said Khatallah would “face the full weight of the American justice system.”

Khatallah’s capture was a victory for Obama, who has been accused by Republicans of playing down the role of al Qaeda in the 2012 attacks for political reasons and being slow to deliver on promises of justice.b927fc4895c9c064bdf334851355cd57

 

Which is all well and good, but as Maddow made clear on her show last night:  U.S. Got the Suspect and ‘Benghazi Central’ Fox News Doesn’t Care? | Mediaite

For the past 21 months in a row, conservative media outlets have kept hammering away at Benghazi, saying the Obama White House covered something up, accusing the president of dredging up other issues to distract from Benghazi, and crying foul that no one has been brought to justice for the attack. Well, today one of the alleged perpetrators of the attack was captured by U.S. special forces, and so Rachel Maddow was absolutely bewildered to see the reaction on conservative media from Drudge Report to “Benghazi Central” Fox News, ranging from either ignoring the big news or furiously spinning it as a negative for the administration.

Maddow reminded viewers that the “all-Benghazi, all-the-time Fox News Channel” is the network that basically started ignoring President Obama‘s speeches and press conferences unless he starts talking about Benghazi. And the reaction on Fox News today to the news was to question the suspicious timing of the capture.

Maddow was amused that “the take on Fox News is that’s not actually news” after all the time and space they’ve devoted to hammering away at Benghazi, and now “they have to make it bad news, they have to make into maybe a scandal itself.”

Damn Fox News.

One more Foxy link for you, only this time it deals with Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton on FOX News with Greta Van Susteren and Brett Baier | Still4Hill

Hillary walked right into the mouth of the dragon and shot her fire extinguisher all over the flames.

In fact I did not expect Greta to be hard on her,  and she was not except that once the record got a little stuck on a Fourth Amendment question.  Later, Greta admitted that despite all prior interviews with Hillary she did feel stressed and later wished she had had more time.  For my money they could have given Greta Brett’s time.

In response to something from Brett, she suggested that people read the unclassified ARB Report.

2844923605445baeeb949f9ef3b62ed5Still4Hill has a link to the report at her blog, go and check it out. There are also video clips of the Greta and Bret interviews there as well…

Another Hillary link: Hillary Clinton notes distance from Obama on Syria rebels | Reuters

Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out her differences with President Barack Obama on Tuesday over his decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels, as neighboring Iraq struggles to cope with extremist spillover from Syria.

“We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president,”

Clinton said in a CNN interview.

The former secretary of state said she, along with the then heads of the Pentagon and CIA tried but failed to persuade Obama to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but that the White House resisted.

Clinton said it was not clear whether arming moderates in Syria would have prevented the rise of the al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has swept toward Baghdad aiming to build a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian border.1f774b3e4531d99d0b6b08fe7b6a4105

“It’s very difficult, in retrospect, to say that would have prevented this,” she said. She said it is too soon to tell whether American policy in Syria was a failure.

 

The countdown is began and ended here in Georgia as the BBC is picking up on the story:  Georgia in first US execution since botched attempt

The US state of Georgia is set to execute the first person in the US since a botched lethal injection in Texas in April.

Marcus Wellons, who raped and killed a 15-year-old in 1989, is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday evening.

A last-minute appeal over the source of the drugs is with the US Supreme Court.

Wellons is one of three set to die in the next 24 hours, after nine executions were stayed since one in Oklahoma went wrong seven weeks ago.

de679001e55f03779d2fd45f39445118Officials in Oklahoma halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after he began making noises, and he died of a heart attack less than an hour later.

Like Oklahoma, Georgia refuses to say where they are obtaining drugs for lethal injections, or if they are tested.

Lawyers for Wellons, as well as others on death row, have challenged such secrecy in court.

 

Well, the execution went on as expected: UPDATE: Marcus Wellons has been executed | www.ajc.com

Since I am writing this post only a few minutes after his death has been confirmed I will update this story in the comments below.

One thing all these stories have threaded together is a subject of hard news…Why Audiences Hate Hard News—And Love Pretending Otherwise – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic

You may not realize this, but we can see you. Yes, you. The human reading this article. We have analytics that tells us roughly where you are, what site you’ve just arrived from, how long you stay, how far you read, where you hop to next. We’ve got eyeballs on your eyeballs.3df8e0446c3c42d7ee36e40dcaba96a0

Why is it so important that digital news organizations track which articles you’re reading on our websites? The obvious answer is that it teaches us what you’re interested in. The less-obvious, but equally true, answer is that it teaches you what you’re interested in.

If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you’d just keep lying to us—and to yourself.

Here’s what I mean by lying. This year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked thousands of people around the world what sort of news was most important to them. The graph below shows the responses from Americans. International news crushed celebrity and “fun” news by a margin of two-to-one. Economic and political news finished even higher.

It is an interesting thing…as far as what is most important compared to what the people actually read.

Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.

31907593da272ba27746cd5b018e949aAudiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera America, shared survey data suggesting that 40 to 50 million people were desperate for in-depth and original TV journalism. Nine months later, it averaged 10,000 viewers per hour—1.08 percent of Fox News’ audience and 3.7 percent of CNN. AJAM, built for an audience of vegetarians, is stuck with a broccoli stand in a candy shop.

The culprit isn’t Millennials, or Facebook, or analytics software like Chartbeat. The problem is our brains. The more attention-starved we feel, the more we thirst for stimuli that are familiar. We like ice cream when we’re sad, old songs when we’re tired, and easy listicles when we’re busy and ego-depleted. The Internet shorthand for this fact is “cat pictures.” Psychologists prefer the term fluency. Fluency isn’t how we think: It’s how we feel while we’re thinking. We prefer thoughts that come easily: Faces that are symmetrical, colors that are clear, and sentences with parallelisms. In this light, there are two problems with hard news: It’s hard and it’s new. (Parallelism!)

 

63de3f122b93c22f070d5c889ce23d52Okay that is taking some choice paragraphs here and there…just go and “read” the whole thing at the link. It has graphs and list too.

Since we are talking about people who lie about reading news stories, what about something dealing with handwriting. What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – NYTimes.com

Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

b9438217088e3382bb42b00ef2dfc63d“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.”

Could there be a connection be handwriting, news reading habits and education development?

A 2012 study led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again.

The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.

By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.

Dr. James attributes the differences to the messiness inherent in free-form handwriting: Not only must we first plan and execute the action in a way that is not required when we have a traceable outline, but we are also likely to produce a result that is highly variable.

That variability may itself be a learning tool. “When a kid produces a messy letter,” Dr. James said, “that might help him learn it.”

Finally, the last “news read” I have for you today could fall in the “fun” category. Stamp sells for record $9.5 million in New York

David Redden, Sotheby's Vice Chairman, holds the British Guyana One-Cent Magenta after it sold for USD$ 9,480,000 (with buyers' premium) at Sotheby's June 17, 2014 in New York

Stan Honda/AFP

David Redden, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman, holds the British Guyana One-Cent Magenta after it sold for USD$ 9,480,000 (with buyers’ premium) at Sotheby’s June 17, 2014 in New York

An incredibly rare 19th century postage stamp, a tiny one-cent magenta from British colonial Guyana, sold for $9.5 million in New York on Tuesday, setting a new world record.

Bidding began at $4.5 million and it took just two minutes to sell the stamp to an anonymous bidder on the phone, although the auction house Sotheby’s had valued the tiny specimen of British colonial memorabilia at $10-20 million.

09664cc10b3bb4c3414e849cae7d1d1f“With the premium the stamp has just sold for approximately $9.5 million, which means it has set a new world record price for a stamp,” David Redden, Sotheby’s director of special projects, told a packed room in New York.

Can you believe it? 9.5 million dollars? Wow…

So what “candy” are you reading about today?

Although I know most of you here read “vegetables” all day long.


Wednesday Reads: Of Saints and Bastards

ddd66aca71973596df57574f0881d534Good Morning

Can you feel it? A Minkoff rant coming to ya? Yeah, it is…so just roll with it, you may find this post all over the place.  But then y’all know how I get when this happens so, I will just get on with it.

First off, this shit with the Supreme Court and public prayer at town meetings. You know…what the fuck happened to a moment of silence? Do they still do that? I mean if you are going to take time out to pray a little, do it to yourself on the quiet…if you want to…because this shit SCOTUS just ruled on gives the Christian right to fuck over anyone who isn’t born again. By that I mean you too Catholics! Which is something I think those who do vote “Republican” and are Catholic seem to fail to grasp.

8ac55ef11b2cc7c8c1b9540fea3aee5dYou see them, especially here in small towns like Banjoville. They are high and mighty evil bastards who feel above you and actually discriminate against those who are not “born again.” That means those of the Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal faith…Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, oh you all know what I am talking about.

They will say the most horrible things to kids too…shit that is beyond fucked up! And…they teach their children to behave just like them. It is an endless cycle of disgusting behavior in the name of Jesus. (Excuse me…Geeezus.)

eb11a16fe7a5384b4e86a0bf7fc7b397All this shit about prayer in schools, is not for any other prayer but theirs.

It is only their religious freedom they are concerned with.

It is only their “God” or “Gawd” they consider real and therefore legitimate.

So many conservatives who are not in line with the “christian” way of believing do not get this…they don’t realize that these assholes are not really speaking for them. They vote for these bastards because they only see them as the politician who spouts on about praying in school, and other conservative value shit…but they don’t see the big picture behind it.

a32871be6d96eeced3ed0e75ed850df9And why am I picking on these Jesus freaks? Because these are also the people who are the hypocritical bastards, and act the least charitable. They are hateful motherfuckers and prejudice and judgmental too. They say horrible things with an air of snotty intolerant Baptist superiority. (This is from my experience here in the Southern bible belt.) Both men and women are misogynistic as hell, the women are not supportive of other women within their circle and the girls are awful to other girls who are, “not one of them.”  They take any reason and twist it, manipulate it into a reason for Geezus. It is unbelievable the way they can justify their behavior…I don’t know how they can do it and consider themselves “good Christians.”

This is the backbone of the GOP, the conservatives who are changing the laws in this nation bit by bit. The assholes that are cutting out all social programs and any hope for a future in areas of science and discovery. I can honestly say these people are ruining this country. Maybe that is taking it too far, I don’t know. But what the fuck is wrong with these people?

e2d8e675cee866b319ff8ab454586944I am afraid, really I am.

I see what a small town mentality is like and I see it is taking over our Supreme Court. It has taken over our House of Representatives and it damn well can take over the Senate.

Gawd help us…what the hell are we going to do?

Here then are the links for today, there are a lot of them so some are in link dump fashion.

First a group of stories illustrating some of the talking points above.

Rep. Paul Ryan targest Poor as his “Signature Issue”, and I do Mean Targets (Cartoon) | Informed Comment

jamiol_ryan

House Bill Cuts Transit, Housing Assistence | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

12e7e1c43296ee7d6181fd1d740d8415House Republicans have unveiled their version of the transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) appropriations bill and, not surprisingly, it cuts funding by nearly $2 billion.

The bill cuts TIGER grants, a favorite of many lawmakers, by $500 million to a total of $100 million. It does not allow funds for bike and pedestrian paths.

The FAA is funded at $7.3 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a reduction of $193 million. There is no funding for high speed rail, an Obama priority.

To cut costs, Amtrak would be required to put overtime limits on employees and not use federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more peak fares.

All together, the House bill would set spending at a level nearly $8 billion less than what President Obama requested for the next fiscal year.

Opposition to the president’s request isn’t earth shattering news, but House Republicans going out their way to eliminating funding for bike paths and railway while instituting overtime limits for Amtrak employees is certainly illuminating.

Republicans have a big problem with pedestrian-friendly urban and mass transportation. You know, hallmarks of socialism; liberal stuff.

3f20c6490c97520e66e8717d740763e0The Next Frontier In The War Over Science

The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.

Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014,” the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can’t be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.

For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.

“We have a system of peer-review science that has served as a model for not only research in this country but in others,” said Bill Andresen, the associate vice president of Federal Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is, does Congress really think it has the better ability to determine the scientific merit of grant applications or should it be left up to the scientists and their peers?”

f2aa4c688c823841910abdcc9598cb8dIn recent weeks, the Obama administration and science agencies have — in less-than-subtle terms — offered up similar criticisms of the FIRST Act. At an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum on Thursday, presidential science adviser John Holdren said he was “concerned with a number of aspects” of the bill.

“It appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science,” Holdren said.

Meanwhile, in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before, the National Science Board released a statement in late April criticizing the bill. As the oversight body to the National Science Foundation, the NSB traditionally stays out of legislative fights. So when it warned that the FIRST Act could “significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas,” advocates said they were surprised and pleased.

020a840156d10a50de9992d936837a44“The fact that the NSB commented on legislation, I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual,” said Barry Toiv, a top official at the Association of American Universities. “And we think that speaks to the really serious problems posed by the legislation.”

Susie Madrak » Blog Archive » See how that works?

Despite all the pissing and money about the district wasting money on outrageous teacher salaries and pensions, seems the real problem is the Santa Claus provision our Republican-dominated legislature ticked away into state law. This is, of course, contrary to the right-wing wisdom shared on our local newspaper site, but oh well! Nobody cares about schools, anyway:

4f3c895075c53c60acaad56051b652d4Unless the Philadelphia School District raises more than $200 million extra in a hurry, Moody’s Investors Service warned it will cut the district’s bond rating — which is already down at Ba2, junk status, forcing the district to pay extra when it borrows money — because the district’s proposed $2.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year will “materially imperil its ability to provide students with an adequate education.”

Without $216 million in additional funding, Moody’s analyst Dan Seymour wrote in a report to clients, the district threatens to increase the average class size to 41 students and lay off more than 1,000 staff. ” This is credit negative because a further deterioration in education services will likely result in additional student flight to charter schools and other alternatives,” further reducing district revenues, Seymour added. 3 in 10 Philadelphia students already go to charter schools.

a6f650feced450bed9e37fa50896f502“Rising charter school enrollments have been a drag on the district’s finances, as state law mandates that public school districts pay the costs of sending students to charter schools. Driven largely by charter school tuition costs, the district’s costs per pupil have increased 70% since 2004. Further enrollment declines would exacerbate the district’s financial pressure as charter schools capture a larger share of the district’s expenditures,” Moody’s adds.

Conservatives Have Free Reign In Kansas. It’s Failing. | The Daily Banter

In Kansas, Republicans dominate the state government. They have the Governorship (Former Senator Sam Brownback), the State House (92-33 for the GOP), and the State Senate (32-8 for the GOP). Democrats don’t have a say in this blood red state that went 60%-37% for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Brownback and his buddies have enacted all manner of conservative economic policy in the state. Cutting taxes, etcetera. What is the result? Guess.

Citing a sluggish recovery from the recession, risk inherent in the governor’s tax plan and uncertainty over the Legislature’s ability to keep cutting spending, one of the nation’s two major debt rating agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating Thursday.

Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.

f6964ca89bbb0e9540a1331bb4cc1a61As Businesweekexplained, “the immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state’s finances without noticeable economic growth.”

Even with the cut in taxes, big companies like Applebee’s and Boeing have moved out of Kansas.

As a result, the most recent polling there shows Brownback’s approval rating down to 33%, while he’s slightly behind the Democratic challenger.

In Kansas, they can’t (honestly) blame liberals for this. They’ve been given a free hand. They were able to enact whatever they wanted, and it has been a miserable failure at a time when other states – including very blue Democratic states like here in Maryland – have been recovering from the Bush recession.

Why?

Because conservative economics doesn’t actually work. It is a faith based program untethered from reality. The numbers don’t add up and it is destructive to societies.

90d80323549f4203fba1e32825e491c9Charlie Crist Says He Became A Democrat Because Of GOP Racism

It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

[...]

Crist was savaged on the right when, as governor in 2009, he hugged Obama. He said earlier this year that racism motivated the outrage over the embrace.

1a2968938471c1f5fb9ce8980f223146“I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American,” Crist, who’s challenging Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), said during an appearance on “The Colbert Report.”

Just 7 percent of journalists are Republicans. That’s far fewer than even a decade ago.

A majority of American journalists identify themselves as political independents although among those who choose a side Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one, according to a new study of the media conducted by two Indiana University professors.

Write Lars Wilnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana, of their findings:

Compared with 2002, the percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Democrats has dropped 8 percentage points in 2013 to about 28 percent, moving this figure closer to the overall population percentage of 30 percent, according to a December 12-15, 2013, ABC News/Washington Post national poll of 1,005 adults. This is the lowest percentage of journalists saying they are Democrats since 1971. An even larger drop was observed among journalists who said they were Republicans in 2013 (7.1 percent) than in 2002 (18 percent), but the 2013 figure is still notably lower than the percentage of U.S. adults who identified with the Republican Party (24 percent according to the poll mentioned above).

Image courtesy of The American Journalist in the Digital Age

That link about the journalist is more for information purposes. Read what else Cillizza thinks too at that link.

 

8c2a3f14e9851505e3f1992043567145Los Angeles now spending more on Wall Street fees than on maintaining roads | PandoDaily

Los Angeles councilman Paul Koretz has called for banks NY Mellon and Dexia to return $65 million in “unfair profits and termination payments” they received between 2008 and 2014. This follows a report (embedded below) revealing that the city spent more than $200 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013 alone.  Koretz says he may push the city to take punitive action against the financial institutions involved if they do not renegotiate the deal.

a63f17097d9b76b0c8b35d6fe18f5a72The report, published by the union-backed Fix LA Coalition, notes that “the City of Los Angeles last year spent more on Wall Street fees than it did on our streets.” Indeed, the report notes the city “paid Wall Street $204 million in fees, spending only $163 million on the Bureau of Street Services.”

The fees are connected to the controversial interest-rate-swap deal cemented by Los Angeles in 2006. It is a deal similar to those engineered by Wall Street in cities across the country. Those deals have made headlines in recent years in some of the country’s most high-profile municipal budget crises.

For instance, a recent study by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville found that an interest-rate swap deal was a primary driver of Detroit’s fiscal crisis. Noting that the banks used the city’s bankruptcy to demand “upwards of $250-350 million in swap termination payments,” Turbeville concluded that “a strong case can be made that the banks that sold these swaps may have breached their ethical, and possibly legal, obligations to the city in executing these deals.” (A court recently reduced the amount the city has to pay Wall Street to unwind the deals).

 

28e2e3ff15881c293a7bd3a3c9b36dcdBorder Patrol rarely punishes agents accused of abuse, study shows | Courts & Crime | McClatchy DC

A new report by an immigration watchdog finds that the United States’ largest federal law enforcement agency rarely punishes its agents for their mistreatment of immigrants and American citizens.

The report by the American Immigration Council found that 97 percent of abuse complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers resulted in no disciplinary action once an investigation had been completed. Those included a complaint from a pregnant woman in El Paso, Texas, that she had miscarried after a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach, and several complaints from women that they had been forced to bare their breasts while in custody.

The survey also found that many complaints against U.S. border agents take years to resolve. The council reviewed 809 complaints filed in the three years from January 2009 to January 2012. But of those, only 485 had been investigated and resolved. The remainder are still under investigation, including a nearly 5-year-old allegation of forced sexual intercourse lodged July 30, 2009, against a Border Patrol agent in El Centro, Calif.

a53e10fafb6c21876f0987f47a562693Among the cases that were still “pending investigation, the average number of days between the date the complaint was filed and the last record date provided in the data set was 389 days,” the report said.

“This absolutely confirms the experiences of our border families and communities,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Regional Center for Border Rights in New Mexico. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now the largest law enforcement agency in the nation, and yet this massive buildup of border enforcement resources has not been matched with adequate accountability and oversight.”

And about that SCOTUS decision:

64379ac1050440ca30257e0e75359f39With the Supreme Court’s Help, Religion Creeps Toward the State – Garrett Epps – The Atlantic

The 5-4 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway shows how far the ground has shifted under the Establishment Clause in the last 30 years.

Supreme Court: Tear Down This Wall!

Yesterday’s ruling in Greece v. Galloway is an affront to religious equality, but it also reflects the poisoned fruit of a bad precedent.

Symposium: Town of Greece v. Galloway going forward : SCOTUSblog

Symposium: Dismantling the wall that should separate church and state : SCOTUSblog

Symposium: Thoughts on Town of Greece – if the kilt fits : SCOTUSblog

In fact for SCOTUSblog coverage look here: Town of Greece v. Galloway : SCOTUSblog

1393a34602c9fa0037e721e27659418bWith all this shit that happened yesterday, and the recent other shit like the repeal of some key parts of the Civil Rights Act, this next article should come as a surprise: Supreme Court popularity rebounds, survey says | Suits & Sentences | McClatchy DC

 

The Supreme Court’s popularity has rebounded, with more than half of U.S. residents surveyed now voicing a favorable view of the justices, a new survey finds.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted last month among 1,501 adults, found that 56 percent have a favorable view of the court, while 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Last July, only 48 percent held a favorable view of the court. That rating was among the lowest ever recorded by the court, though still well above the abysmal poll numbers earned by Congress.

Intriguingly, 63 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of the court led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., compared to 54 percent of Republicans.

 

Take a deep breath…I know I have to. More after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Percy, I must know…going to hell in a handbasket?

il_fullxfull.501863041_7c1zGood Morning

It has been a busy week…Bebe has her first official boyfriend, that means she went on an official date where he drove and everything.

So you can see why I have been a little distracted.

All this back and forth reminded me of this old skit from Saturday Night Live, that aired on March 30, 1985.

I saw this episode live when it aired all those years ago and one of the lines remained in the back of my mind…I quote it quite frequently.  In fact, I used it on Bebe to find out her relationship status just a few hours ago.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 15 -- Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Guest as Bull, Martin Short as Percival Dickerson, Jim Belushi as cellmate during 'House of Shame' skit on March 30, 1985 -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Episode 15 — Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Guest as Bull, Martin Short as Percival Dickerson, Jim Belushi as cellmate during ‘House of Shame’ skit on March 30, 1985 — Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

 

Here is a description of the scene with a couple of photos I could find, it sucks there is no video clip available.

SNL Archives - Episodes - Details

SNL Archives – Season 10 Episode 15

Number one: Fin-de-Siecle Prison Homosexuality. As I recall, the title of the bit when it aired was Shame Of The Prisons. Martin Short plays a terrified new prisoner named Percival, and his cellmate is the threatening Jim Belushi. Belushi doesn’t ravage him immediately, because he says, “I can’t have you until The Bull has had you.”

Guest plays The Bull as a gallant Gaylord Ravenal sort of character, and the first date is just a walk in the moonlight, with genteel idle chit-chat, until The Bull finally turns and asks “Percy? I must know this. Will you wear my ring… and be my bitch?”

"Sweetheart of Sigma-Chi" by Edward Eggleston, circa 1919

“Sweetheart of Sigma-Chi” by Edward Eggleston, circa 1919

Short goes back to his cell and he and Belushi start acting like high school girls, thrilled to discuss the particulars of a date.

Bold quote is my emphasis, and actually I believe what Guest says to Short is “Will you wear my pin… and be my bitch?”  Which goes along with the old fashioned idea of short getting “pinned” by the Bull…it was funny as hell.

I tried so long to find pictures of just that set-up. Like that first image up top, but no luck. The rest of the illustrations are various couples. Meh…

Ah…now we will just move on to the links for this morning’s post. They start with the South and move through child rearing to fruit and hand-baskets. Hopefully the stories will be new to you…

This first link should be introduced with the joke…if your local Waffle House is held up by a man in overalls wielding a pitchfork…you might be a redneck. Man accused of robbing Waffle House with pitchfork

He’s accused of using a weapon to force Waffle House employees into the back of a restaurant so he could steal money.

But it’s the weapon he used that really caught witnesses’ attention. The suspect was carrying a pitchfork.

The suspect, identified as Jeffrey Willard Wooten, 50, was wearing coveralls and a ski mask when he entered the Buford Highway breakfast eatery Thursday night, according to Norcross police. After forcing employees into a back room, Wooten went after cash, police said.

“When he realized he couldn’t get the cash register open, he took the whole cash register and exited the store . . with his pitchfork,” Norcross police Chief Warren Summers told Channel 2 Action News.

Torch-Mob-FrankensteinI think the best part of the story however is that the employees got a piece of him, uh…see here:

Outside of the Waffle House, Wooten allegedly dropped his pitchfork, according to police. But he held on to the cash register.

Two restaurant employees than grabbed the pitchfork and used it to smash the back window of Wooten’s truck, police said. Wooten may have been injured while attempting to leave the restaurant.

“It wouldn’t be an offensive weapon in your garden, but it was in a Waffle House,” Summers said.

It also is a deadly weapon when used during riots in Transylvania.

But if that seems crazy to you, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Y’all ready for a WTF moment? Alabama’s chief justice: Buddha didn’t create us so First Amendment only protects Christians

Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.

“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

He then noted that he loves talking to lawyers, because he is a lawyer who went to “a secular law school,” so he knows that “in the law, [talking about God] just isn’t politically correct.” He claimed that this is why America has “lost its way,” and that he would be publishing a pamphlet “this week, maybe next” that contained copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, thereby proving that all the people “who found this nation — black, white, all people, all religions, all faiths” knew that America was “about God.”

5706146b5338f1d6e109719b394dd90dOh, the batshit nutjob’s speech gets worse, look at this jewel:

Chief Justice Moore later defined “life” via Blackstone’s Law — a book that American lawyers have “sadly forgotten” — as beginning when “the baby kicks.” “Today,” he said, “our courts say it’s not alive ’til the head comes out.”

“Now,” he continued, “if technology’s supposed to increase our knowledge, how did we become so stupid?” Discussing Thomas Jefferson’s use of “life” in the Declaration of Independence, he said that “when [Jefferson] put ‘life’ in there, it was in the womb — we know it begins at conception. Why aren’t we going the right way instead of the wrong way?”

He later said the “pursuit of happiness” meant following God’s law, because “you can’t be happy unless you follow God’s law, and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy.”

Video at the link. It all is too ridiculous to even discuss. Makes me think of Chris Rodda who wrote the book Liars for Jesus. Wonder what she would say about Moore’s bullshit.

Next up, another In Deep South where GOP Rejected Obamacare, tens of 1000s die Unnecessarily every Year | Informed Comment

The Center for Disease Control house found that 900,000 people a year die of five leading causes every year in the US, and that 20% to 40% of these deaths are preventable (i.e. 180,000 to 360,000 needn’t die). The five are heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke and unintentional injury. Smoking cigarettes contributes to several of them.

What is striking is that the preventable diseases occur at a much higher rate in the Deep South than in the rest of the country, especially in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. AJC.com notes that only 2% of Oregon’s heart attacks are considered to be “preventable” by the CDC, but 58 percent of Mississippi’s are.

Graphs and picture goodies at the link, plus lots more, so go read it.

More news and “stuff” after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads: Dizzy, Ditzy, Link Dump

chapa2

Good Morning

This is going to be exactly what the title says…nothing more to say about that.

I have saved these links over the last few days, they may be a little stale but hopefully you will still find them somewhat interesting.

And since I am completely out of it, this link dump is in no particular order.

D.H. Lawrence Righteously Rages Against Misogyny in Newly Discovered Essay

A lost D.H. Lawrence essay in which the famed author issued a major takedown to a misogynistic contemporary has been found in a library in New Zealand.

Dr. Andrew Harrison, an English professor at the University of Nottingham, discovered the essay while doing research in the online archive of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. The essay was buried among the papers and correspondence of John Middleton Murry, a writer and editor who was married to the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. Murry’s papers were recently acquired by the library. Lawrence had written the 185-word essay in a letter to his friend Murry. It was never published, and its existence was unknown to scholars until now.

You can find more information about the essay here, but check this out….

Lawrence wrote the piece some time in late 1923 or early 1924 in response to an essay published in Adelphi, a literary magazine Murry edited. That essay, which ran under the byline “JHR,” was a viciously misogynistic treatise called “The Ugliness of Women.” Its author argued that “in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil: evil such as man — a simple creature for all his passions and lusts — could never dream of in the most horrible of nightmares, could never conceive in imagination.”

Continued JHR, “No doubt, the evil growth is derived from Eve, who certainly did or thought something wicked beyond words.”

Murry invited readers to respond to JHR, and Lawrence — a regular contributor to Adelphi — did so.

Lawrence argued that JHR was projecting, basically:

The hideousness he sees is the reflection of himself, and of the automatic meat-lust with which he approaches another individual…Even the most ‘beautiful’ woman is still a human creature. If he approached her as such, as a being instead of as a piece of lurid meat, he would have no horrors afterwards.

Meat-lust! The revolutionary idea that women are human! Advice about how to approach the opposite sex that would still work today!

Ever wonder about, What Happens to Your Email When You Die? Google’s Got a Solution Google Announces Inactive Account Manager | Geekosystem

And another item from Geekosystem, this is a picture and I absolutely love it!!!!!

Pen and Paper, that dude takes my breath away! I think you could find a couple more kids using paper and pens in that picture, but the yellow shirt just stands out.

Another picture for you, the fiber artist in me had to save it:

Image of the Day: April 10 – NYTimes.com

An artisan hanging freshly dyed strands of multicolored thread used in Hindu rituals, at Lalgopalganj, a town in Allahabad district of Uttar Pradesh.

An artisan hanging freshly dyed strands of multicolored thread used in Hindu rituals, at Lalgopalganj, a town in Allahabad district of Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking of Fiber Art: A Box of Sheep – NYTimes.com

This week, a sheep arrived in a box. Not the whole sheep, which is still, I hope, grazing happily in a pasture somewhere in northeast Washington State. Only its fleece. I’ve raised many animals but never sheep. My dad, who raised them as a farm boy, left me with a vicious prejudice against them, and the only sheep I saw as a boy did nothing to counter it. They stood — a dim, ghostly flock — in a grove they had denuded entirely of grass and undergrowth. It occurs to me now that this was the fault of the farmer, not of the sheep, who have no more interest in eating bare dirt than I do.

I bought the fleece because I’ve been away from the farm for a couple of months and because it’s just the right amount of commitment. No feeding, no herding, no vet bills; no wondering: What have I done? If I were home, it would have been all too easy to drive up the road, pick up a few lambs and turn them loose in the pasture — the beginning of another trial-and-error episode in livestock management. These episodes get easier and easier because the pigs, horses, chickens, geese and turkeys have taught me so much. Still, none of them are sheep.

I set the box on the kitchen table, opened it with a knife and folded back the newspaper inside. The scent of sheep rose like a genie from a bottle — a genie who used a lot of lanolin.

There is something so comforting and joyful and soothing in the smell of lanolin.

Of course you have to click these links to read the rest of the stories, I mean, that goes without saying.

Did you see this crap?  Albany Teacher Gives Pro-Nazi Writing Assignment – NYTimes.com

Or how about this idiot? Justin Bieber at Anne Frank House: ‘Hopefully She Would Have Been a Belieber’

…Bieber wrote in the guestbook: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

I found this image on Pinterest and there was no information available. The website page it went to was no longer loading so I wrote to Lawrence University (the only clue I could sort out) to find out more about it….it was thrilling to get an email back from Leslie Walfish, Director of the Galleries, Wriston Art Galleries. I am quoting the email below with the image…

Otto Wirsching, 1919

Otto Wirsching, 1919

Dear JJ Lopez Minkoff,

Thank you for your interest in our Otto Wirsching print from Vom Totentanz Anno 1915. The particular print you have asked about is part of a portfolio created by Wirsching in 1919.

The following information was previously on the website that you mentioned, please let me know if you need more information:

Otto Wirsching

Born, Nuremberg, January 29, 1889; died Dachau, December 1919

While Wirsching’s life and career were short, he left behind several notable sets of graphic works that demonstrate his devotion to the tradition of German woodcut. The son of a Nuremberg pharmacist, Wirsching studied for three years at the School of Arts and Crafts there. In 1907, he came to Munich, where he worked with Hugo von Habermann (1849-1929). In the summer of that year, he walked to Italy and Corsica; during this time he made copies in the Uffizi. He continued his travels through Spain and North Africa, living as a vagabond. Despite his thorough knowledge of Mediterranean art, Wirsching’s greatest artistic inspirations were the paintings and woodcuts of the great German masters of the Renaissance; he studied these works avidly at Munich’s City Library. When he returned to Munich at the beginning of 1913, he moved to the nearby village of Dachau, since the 1980s an important artists’ colony of the naturalist school. When war broke out, he served in the artillery, but was back in Dachau by 1916. Here he painted and also perfected his skill as a graphic artist, creating a fanciful style that translated his knowledge of the German Masters into a modern idiom. He became a leading artist of the new Dachau school, which took on a more Expressionist mode. He supported himself by making woodcut ex-libris and greeting cards for members of Munich’s artistic circles. He married in Dachau the Hungarian painter, Ankara Kowatsch. Signs of the mental instability–no doubt exacerbated by the unrecognizable presence of a brain tumor–began to appear in 1916 or 1917. He continued nonetheless to produce woodcut series and illustrations for books, as well as paintings which incorporated traditionally religious and mythological motifs into contemporary settings. While placing a new print into the press, he fell dead to the ground, the victim of a stroke. A dissertation on his woodcuts was completed in 1923, evidence of the strength of his artistic vision and its influence on Munich artists immediately following World War I.

The Death-Dance Anno 1915/10 Pictures (Vom Totentanz Anno 1915/10) 1950

According to Theime-Becker, this portfolio was the most significant of the many “death dances” produced during the First World War. In its style, one recognizes immediately Wirsching’s international allusion to the medieval German masters of the woodcut. His choice of images, however, is distinctly modern: the figure of Death, in the traditional form of a skeleton, confronts a variety of contemporary figures who will meet their doom as a result of the devastation of this new war. The first plate shows a peasant in the field learning of the declaration of war from his newspaper; Death appears over his shoulder and steals the farmer’s scythe. In another plate, Wirsching shows Death leading a spy by a rope, depicted as the obvious Jewish stereotype of the moneylender–evidence of the prevalence in German society of this anti-Semitic view. Perhaps the most griping image is that of the corpse-fleecer, one of the vandals who ransacked the bodies on the battlefields for gold teeth and anything else of value. In Wirsching’s depiction, Death surprises the fleecer himself in the field of corpses. As a whole, Vom Totentanz is a grim indictment of the evil of war and man’s innate inhumanity to man. By alluding so directly to the hallow stylistic tradition of the German Totentanz, Wirsching’s philosophical message is all the more damning.

Sincerely,

Leslie Walfish

Leslie Walfish

Director of the Galleries

Wriston Art Galleries

Lawrence University

Last week Legendary ballerina Maria Tallchief died at 88

Born in 1925 to a father from the Osage tribe and a mother of Irish-Scottish descent, Tallchief was one of the first Native American ballerinas to achieve such prominence with major companies.

Her pride in her heritage led her to refuse pressure common at the time to change her name to a more marketable, Russian-sounding version — for example turning Tallchief into Tallchieva.

She grew up initially on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma, where her family’s life had been revolutionized by the wealth that came with the discovery of oil on tribal land.

Highly musical, she took piano and ballet lessons, and at eight, when her family moved to Los Angeles, her dancing turned serious.

In 1942, she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a leading touring company, and it was there that she grew close Balanchine, who was the choreographer. They married in 1946 and divorced in 1950.

She was the prima ballerina at New York City Ballet, where Balanchine was also choreographer. Her appearance in the “The Firebird” in 1949 assured her stardom.

This is video of Tallchief dancing The Firebird.

Hey, I was happy when I saw this little headline last week: The pros and cons of going braless

Scientific research on the effect on bras on the sagging of boobs backs up the old feminist call for women to ditch the harness

I don’t care if this next study is done by a male professor, I never wear bras anyway…and I could care less if they sag all the way down to the floor.

Anyway, Bras: a male professor is no expert

Bras being flung in the air in Paris

French professor Jean-Denis Rouillon has said ‘breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity’. Photograph: Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor of sports science at Besançon university, has spent 15 years studying the anatomy of 330 women, and come to the conclusion that bras are a “false necessity”. So, clever him and stupid women.

Except, wait. Rouillon isn’t any kind of expert at all, because he doesn’t have breasts. He reckons that “medically, physiologically, anatomically breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity”. But women don’t wear bras for medical, physiological or anatomical reasons. We wear them for psychological, aesthetic and practical reasons. Bras stop our breasts from wobbling about in a Don’t Forget for a Second You’ve Got Breasts manner, allowing us to forget them. Otherwise we’d be cupping them in our hands every time we broke into a trot to catch a lift.

Rouillon says that his research shows the nipples of women aged 18-35 rose by an average of 7mm when they went braless. He fails to understand that one of the many comforting things about bras is that you rarely have to think about where your nipples might be. Women are encouraged to fret about their breasts enough. The last thing we need is some fool telling us that we need to think about them, and their welfare, a great deal more.

Gotta give you a link on prehistoric dwarfism: BBC News – Study backs ‘hobbit’ island dwarfism theory

Plus a little history: Speaking up for women’s voting rights: From the archive, 15 April 1892 | From the Guardian | guardian.co.uk

And, a bit of nature: Spring flowers along the Appalachian Trail | Today’s Image | EarthSky

Photo credit: Jane Wildoner

EarthSky Facebook friend Tom Wildoner posted this photo yesterday. He wrote:

Spring flowers along the Appalachian Trail and Swatara State Park in Pennsylvania. What a great weekend for hiking in PA.

Thanks so much for posting Tom!

Last week I went to Atlanta for my EEG and on the way back we stopped at the Walasi-Yi Center, on Blood Mountain which is a stop on the Appalachian Trail…here are some pictures I took, the shoes are from folks who have put at least 500 miles on their boots. There are also some pictures of hikers just starting out on the trail:

No spring flowers yet, we must be at a higher elevation.

Since I am sharing pictures, here is one from last week….early in the morning facing east, looking out at the farm next door.

041120131494

Pretty isn’t it?

Have a wonderful day….think of this as an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: Beg, Borrow, Steal…Maybe Blackmail Will Do?

wake the hell upGood Morning

My fingers are tingling like they are being poked with hundreds of little pins, and since we have some rain coming towards Banjoville…my arthritis is acting up as well. So, this morning’s post will be more along the lines of a link dump.

In this morning’s Orlando Sentinel, there is an op/ed that is outright propaganda, check it out: Editorial calls on Congress to approve chained CPI

But the president’s proposal deserves bipartisan support, no matter what the polls say. It’s an incremental yet meaningful step that acknowledges the need to include Social Security — the biggest federal program at more than $800 billion a year, and growing — in any balanced deficit-reduction plan.

Obama and Congress have cut deficits, but not enough to keep the national debt from growing as a share of the U.S. economy. They’ve largely left entitlement programs, including Social Security, off the table.

More debt means higher interest payments, less money for investments that would grow the economy, and more vulnerability to foreign creditors.

The president’s proposal would tie increases in Social Security and other benefit programs to an inflation index known as the “chained CPI” — a name only a bureaucrat could love. Many economists say the chained CPI is more accurate than the government’s current index, which overstates inflation.

Tying Social Security to the slower-growing inflation rate would reduce total annual benefits for the average 65-year-old retiree by only $50, though the reduction would compound over time to $1,147 a year by the time the retiree hit 85.

But the president’s proposal would prop up benefits for the poorest and oldest retirees. Targeting help to seniors in most need beats sticking with a system for everyone that overstates inflation and adds billions to the government’s bottom line.

Switching to the chained CPI would save at least $130 billion in Social Security payments over 10 years. It also would improve the fiscal fitness of the program, which is now paying out more in benefits than it is collecting in payroll taxes. The money to close the gap gets borrowed, which means that — contrary to claims from some advocates — Social Security adds to the deficit.

The chained CPI could save another $200 billion or more over the next decade outside of Social Security. How? By slowing spending growth in other benefit programs. And by adding to revenues by gradually moving more Americans with increasing incomes into higher tax brackets.

Obama is taking flak within his party for his proposal. For liberal Democrats, Social Security cuts are as bad as tax hikes for conservative Republicans.

But the president says he won’t go through with the switch unless Republicans go along with more tax increases. The GOP should be willing to close loopholes for corporations and the wealthy — especially if it’s in return for the kind of entitlement reform that Republicans have demanded from Obama.

There are a few comments already pointing out how stupid the author of the editorial is, you know…since Social Security is not a “debt” and all that shit.

sorgfelt at 5:47 AM April 10, 2013Social Security is an independent fund supplied solely by our contributions, and does not add to our national debt in any way, shape or form.  The author of this piece is either grossly uninformed and/or a pawn of the corporate entities who want to cut the business owners’ part of the contributions to Social Security.  It is utterly despicable that this article could be written and anyone could be led to take it seriously.There is one connection to the national debt: Congress has seen fit to borrow money without interest from Social Security to pay for our stupid, illegal wars.  That in itself is a travesty.  And to use that as an excuse to raid Social Security is despicable.
Florence Perry at 5:42 AM April 10, 2013It infuriates me when people call Social Security “an entitlement”.  It is not.  We put our hard earned monies into it, and it is our monies.  The government decided to borrow that money and now has to pay it back and called it “an entitlement” so they can cheat us out of our money.  You should get your facts straight Sentitnal (sic).

Madamab has a post up this morning that ties into this so be sure to stop over at Widdershins: Activist/Feminist Wednesday: Obama Goes After Social Security (And Women) | The Widdershins

Perhaps you don’t need math to be a politician these days? But there is some discussion as to whether you need it to be a scientist: Do you need to know math for doing great science? | The Curious Wavefunction, Scientific American Blog Network

There was a bit of a scare this morning, when an official tweet was sent accidentally by a town in Japan: Yokohama mistakenly tweets North Korean missile launch

Officials in the Japanese city of Yokohama were left red-faced on Wednesday after mistakenly announcing the launch of a North Korean missile to 40,000 followers on Twitter.

The city, south of Tokyo, prematurely fired its Tweet just before noon (0300 GMT), announcing “North Korea has launched a missile” with blank spaces to indicate the exact time.

“We received a call from one of our followers who had noticed the mistake. We had the Tweet ready and waiting, but for an unknown reason it was dispatched erroneously,” said a city official.

The city retracted the Tweet about 20 minutes later and apologised to followers of @yokohama_saigai, the official said.

Japan is on full alert ahead of an expected mid-range missile launch by North Korea, with Patriot missiles stationed in its capital to protect the 30 million people who live there.

Twitter is a big deal over in Japan, so this tweet was taken very seriously.

Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, History is getting an overhaul in their school systems, and it is not a good one, per the BBC:  Draft history curriculum ‘list-like and too narrow’

A draft history curriculum for England is “list-like”, “prescriptive” and omits “the histories of Britons who are not white Anglo-Saxons”, says a report.

The group, Curriculum for Cohesion, of teachers, academics and employers calls the draft “unteachable, unlearnable and un-British”.

They warn that if adopted the curriculum may alienate pupils from ethnic and religious minority groups.

I guess these people realize that History…will teach us nothing…/snark.

Makes me think of our very own GOP:

Clay Bennett: Intellecticide – Clay Bennett – Truthdig

Remember that event during the Occupy Wall Street protest, when the NYPD destroyed the Occupy Library? Well, they now have to pay damages. City To Pay $365,000 For Occupy Library – Business Insider

A New York City court has ruled that the city shall pay $366,700 for a destructive raid on Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park encampment.

Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to evict protestors — some of whom had camped there for almost two months — from Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District.

The police threw away 5,554 books from the Occupy library and destroyed media equipment in addition to removing tents, tarps, and belongings.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that the NYPD’s actions violated the protestors’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

The city will pay:

  • $47,000 in damages and $186,350 in legal fees for The People’s Library.
  • $75,000 and $49,850 in legal fees to Global Revolutions TV for damaging their “computers, wifi hotspots and similarly related live-streaming equipment.”
  • $8,500 for trashing the bicycle-powered generators that protestors built to light up the park after police held their other generators.

Wonderful to see that justice prevailed in this case.

I have some movie links for you now. This coming week the movie Camille will air on TCM: Wednesday, April 17 @ 09:00 AM (ET)

Set photograph, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

Behind-the-scenes photograph taken while shooting the film Camille, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

I love this film, it is beautiful.

Mike Luckovich had a very sweet tribute to Roger Ebert:

Mike Luckovich: RIP Roger Ebert – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

This next link is just about some interesting movie trivia:

8 Pseudonyms Famous Writers and Directors Used in Movie Credits | Mental Floss

However, one pseudonym that is missing is a favorite of mine, from the movie The Bank Dick:

The Bank Dick (released as The Bank Detective in the United Kingdom) is a 1940 comedy film. W. C. Fields plays a character named Egbert Sousé who trips a bank robber and ends up a security guard as a result. The character is a drunk who must repeatedly remind people in exasperation that his name is pronounced “Sousé – accent grave [sic] over the ‘e’!”, because people keep calling him “Souse” (slang for drunkard). In addition to bank and family scenes, it features Fields pretending to be a film director and ends in a chaotic car chase. The Bank Dick is considered a classic of his work, incorporating his usual persona as a drunken henpecked husband with a shrewish wife, disapproving mother-in-law, and savage children.

The film was written by Fields, using the alias Mahatma Kane Jeeves (derived from the Broadway drawing-room comedy cliche, “My hat, my cane, Jeeves!”), and directed by Edward F. Cline. Shemp Howard, one of the Three Stooges, plays a bartender.

In 1992, The Bank Dick was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Mahatma Kane Jeeves….what a riot!

Boston Boomer sent me this link last week:

Meet the Tarantula as Big as Your Face : Discovery News

It’s big, it’s hairy, and it’s venomous.

The newest spider to give arachnophobes the willies, a tarantula named Poecilotheria rajaei has been discovered on the island nation of Sri Lanka.

With a leg span of 8 inches (20 centimeters) and enough venom to kill mice, lizards, small birds and snakes, according to Sky News, the crawler is covered in subtle markings of gray, pink and daffodil yellow.

Here is a picture of this monster:

Oh boy!

In another link BB sent me, related to spiders….this one is so damn cool: A Golden Spider-Silk Textile | The Art Institute of Chicago

Strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders (Nephila madagascariensis) were woven together to make this dazzling textile, the only one of its kind in the world. Completed in 2008, the panel’s story underscores the globalism that is characteristic of many textile genres in Africa. Created by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, the loan of this rare textile celebrates the opening of the Art Institute’s redesigned galleries of African art and Indian art of the Americas.

The idea of harnessing spider silk for weaving is an age-old dream that was first attempted in a methodical way in France in the early 18th century. In the 1880s, Father Paul Camboué, a French Jesuit priest, brought the dream to Madagascar. Intrigued by the strength and beauty of the silk produced by the island’s golden orb spider, he began to collect and experiment with it. In 1900 a set of bed hangings was woven from spider silk at Madagascar’s Ecole Professionelle and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (today the whereabouts of those hangings are unknown). But the idea of creating an industry that could compete with Chinese silk (produced from silkworms) proved unrealistic.

Please go read the rest of this fascinating story at the link…and look at some of the photographs below:

SpiderSilk_lg

Colour of the Moment – Spider Silk Yellow Gold | Significant Colour

http://significantcolour.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/untitled-3-copy.jpg?w=370&h=

Spider silk cape goes on show at V&A | Art and design | guardian.co.uk

Golden spider silk cape

A model wearing the golden spider silk cape. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

It has taken eight years and more than a million Madagascar Golden Orb spiders to create a work of art “with the quality of a fairy story”. And it goes on display at London’s V&A museum this week.

Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, a textile artist and a designer-entrepreneur respectively, have created a shimmering golden cape from spider silk, a fabric not woven in more than a century.

Golden spider silk cape at the V and A | Yes I Like That

Isn’t that spectacular?

I will end this post with a funny nature story…Scheming chicks blackmail doting parents for more food

Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said Wednesday. When hungry, pied babbler fledglings flutter from the nest to the ground, where predators roam, and start screeching to highlight their plight, said a study published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “This stimulates adults to increase their provisioning rates,” the science team wrote. “Once satiated, fledglings return to the safety of cover.” The strategy is dangerous, as the birds are not good flyers at this tender age and at particular risk of predators on the ground. But the short-term risk of being caught is probably lower than the long-term costs of being small and weak, said the paper. Pied babblers have high reproductive rates and competition for mates is high. Weaker birds are often kicked out of the nest by siblings, putting them at a huge disadvantage in the race for survival and procreation.

More information: The influence of fledgling location on adult provisioning: a test of the blackmail hypothesis, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2013.0558

Now that is one ballsy move if you ask me!

So what are you reading about this morning?


Friday Nite Lite: Dope-A-Max Edition

546d436494f69d9a94d1bd725afbaf8aHey Y’all!

I can’t believe it is Friday! This spring-break week has gone by so fast for me. It could be that it is because I have been asleep for most of it, as most of you know….I had a seizure a while back. The doctor put me on Topamax, which I started to take on Monday.

It is amazing to me just how a small dose of medication can give a person such a wide range of side effects. I am being worked up to a full dose, and the tingling in my fingers and toes is supposed to become less noticeable in the weeks to come…but damn it is freaky!

It feels like my hands and feet have fallen asleep…and no amount of movement will wake them up. Not only that, but my eyes feel as if they are popping out of my head. (That is when I am awake, because this medicine is knocking me out.) Like I said, these side effects are supposed to diminish with time. And to be honest, this is nothing compared to the shit I experienced with Keppra.

Anyway, I take my dope-a-max twice a day, and it really kicks in when I usually write the evening reads post. So for the next couple of weeks I am going to take a break from the weekly evening news round-ups. However, I can’t stop the Friday Nite Lite post, those are my favorite ones of the week. Soooooo, I am writing this post at 6:30 in the morning on Friday, before I take my pill.

Here are your cartoons for the week, I think it is safe to say we all need a laugh tonight!

I am going to start with three from my man Luckovich, he has been on a roll lately and damn if these aren’t fabulous.

4/3 Luckovich cartoon: Last man standing | Mike Luckovich

040313-toon-luckovich-ed

4/4 Luckovich cartoon: Book report | Mike Luckovich

040413-toon-luckovich-ed

4/5 Luckovich cartoon: I object! | Mike Luckovich

040513-toon-luckovich-ed

That one about Dubya’s Library made me laugh like hell!

The rest of these cartoons are in no particular order…hope you enjoy them!

Kim Jong Un War by Political Cartoonist Rick McKee

129722 600 Kim Jong Un War cartoons

Riot!!!!!!

Totally Safe Schools by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley

129727 600 Totally Safe Schools cartoons

Deadly Weapon

129611 600 Deadly Weapon cartoons

Distinguishing Armed Schools from Prisons by Political Cartoonist Jeff Parker

129661 600 Distinguishing Armed Schools from Prisons cartoons

Ain’t that the truth?

N Koreas Low Tech Threat by Political Cartoonist John Darkow

129720 600 N Koreas Low Tech Threat cartoons

Evacuate Rodman by Political Cartoonist Jeff Koterba

129488 600 Evacuate Rodman cartoons

Yesterday we lost one of the most outstanding film critics ever…Roger Ebert.

Roger Ebert by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

129732 600 Roger Ebert cartoons

ROGER EBERT REST IN PEACE by Political Cartoonist Randy Bish

129739 600 ROGER EBERT  REST IN PEACE cartoons

This next cartoon is about a little news item from a couple of weeks ago…Taken For A Ride by Political Cartoonist Tim Campbell

129687 600 Taken For A Ride cartoons

And finally…

Start Me Up by Political Cartoonist Steve Nease

129761 600 Start Me Up cartoons

50 Years of the Rolling Stones? Damn…has it been that long? It’s enough to make a grown man cry…

This is an open thread.