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: Mambo Italiano Muthafukkerz…

1091f45df98358d48611af8ac49be2dbGood Morning

Well, another storm is hitting here in Banjoville. The weather people are saying we should get a total of 6 to 12 inches of snow when it is all said and done.

Down south things are a lot worse…if you have not seen the big headlines over at Huffington Post or Drudge, take a look at this:

Via Drudge

HISTORIC ICE STORM UNFOLDS IN SOUTH...
GEORGIA WARNED: 'CATASTROPHIC'...
SEEN FROM SPACE...
Hundreds of flights cancelled...
Roads deserted...
Panicked Shoppers Fight Over Food...
Nor'easter Could Be 'Biggest Of Season'...
'Snow Rage' Afflicts Storm-Weary Locals...

And HuffPo

SOUTH BRACES FOR ‘CATASTROPHIC’ STORM

Deadly ice and snow storm bears down on U.S. South | Reuters

The storm could be “a catastrophic event” of “historical proportions,” the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Georgia, said of the latest blast of wintry weather to hit the region.232ee103789d0f5b43c9f78b0272a458

Conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with up to an inch of ice predicted in parts of Georgia and central South Carolina.

Two to 6 inches of snow fell in north Georgia on Tuesday, with another 5 to 9 inches expected by Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Darbe.

But Darbe said ice was the bigger worry, with a quarter to three-quarters of an inch expected in the area that includes metropolitan Atlanta.

[...]

Officials were quick to make plans for dealing with the weather after being criticized for inadequate preparation before a storm two weeks ago. That storm paralyzed Atlanta area roads and forced more than 11,000 students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.

Oh you bet your ass they were ready this time…

0211 Luckovich cartoon: Drift away | Mike Luckovich

021114-toon-luckovich-ed

In other news, House Approves Higher Debt Limit Without Condition – NYTimes.com

f827bc9e35771965e33b76c555d00cdcEnding three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.

The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.

I guess you could say hell froze over?

2440946b7e4be9ef6ce9a7a6cd0d3a66Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions.

“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”

e6cca4e1507cba937018309733ea71a1The NYT article goes on to say it was a victory for the President and the Dems…but considering the shit we have dealt with the last few years, and those poor people who will be dealing with lower food stamp funds, how can that be a victory?

Meanwhile in West Virginia, another spill is causing the citizens grief: ‘Significant’ slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek

More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a “significant spill” from a Patriot Coal processing facility.

Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.

83a0b790e2e248e98e6d1edde44bf60a“This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill.”

“When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.”

That is disgusting. I don’t think the people of West Virginia will ever be able to drink the water again.

For a little laugh, here is my favorite actor of today…I know the reason for the video is not funny, it is disgusting, but of all the other “black actors doing commercials” it is good to see Sammy call the asshole out:

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne – Salon.com

Local TV stations have a reputation for goofy unprofessionalism and quirky hiccups.  This segment at KTLA in Los Angeles is something so much worse. Veteran entertainment reporter Sam Rubin begins his interview by asking about Jackson’s Super Bowl commercial, and things get real ugly real quick.

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne

“What Super Bowl commercial?” responds a flabbergasted Jackson.  ”See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” (Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in “The Matrix” for a Kia spot.) “We don’t all look alike!”

He then goes on to list other black actors in commercials, who he is not.

8c717a1dd36b6aae4951ef50a11320b6Of course, the news reporter is not the only one who was tacky as hell, as you can “hear” from the video at the link:

Just as uncomfortable as Rubin’s attempts to brush off the blunder by saying, “Really my big mistake … let’t talk about ‘Robocop,’” are the hoots and howls coming from Rubin’s peers who clearly don’t get how terribly offensive this “mistake” is.  Rubin later apologized and claimed he was referring to a commercial for Jackson’s upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  Regardless, the incident (and Jackson’s blunt response) is a reminder of Hollywood’s serious race problem that was starkly evident at the Golden Globes.

You can see the look on Jackson’s face at the end, it really does show how tired he is of all the shit.

I noticed yesterday y’all were talking in the comments about books you were reading, I just started to read this one about cuss words as discussed in this link here:  Here’s the first recorded instance of the F-word in Englishec888f05da4ae0857ec3302f256c8421

And it’s a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.

Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit.”

Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in English

But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:

a35537fa19bb5c218d174c664d71b9a6It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.

So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.

Did you all see the big joint news out of New York and Italy?  I’ve got a few articles on this mass arrest from both Italian and US sources:

1cdfa6e0951abf54ce7b61e71e1a944dNdrangheta ‘snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade’ – GazzettaDelSud

Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra’s historic five families in New York, investigators said after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday. “This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the ‘Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra”, Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from Guyana to Europe via the ‘Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.

According to the Gazzetta Del Sud, this ‘Ndrangheta Mafia even used Mexican cartels in a joint venture in their set-up to traffic cocaine.

32d48f11ed5ab3975b8c39d2b2614db6As for the US side of the take down: Arrests in New York and Italy Thwart Mob Drug Scheme, Authorities Say – NYTimes.com

“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Franco Lupoi said, according to prosecutors who say the conversation was recorded by investigators.

On Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrests of Mr. Lupoi, the owner of a Brooklyn bakery, and six other people in New York on charges that included narcotics trafficking and money laundering and that were the culmination of a two-year undercover F.B.I. investigation. In Italy, the police announced the arrests of 17 people in connection with the investigation.

8e67a16549cf6808c98b6d9a565c7a8bWhat made the case remarkable were not the charges but the defendants’ links to the ’Ndrangheta, the organized crime group based in Calabria that is notorious for kidnappings and for its success importing cocaine into Europe.

More from the LA Times: Italian-U.S. Mafia drug trafficking ring busted, FBI and police say

The FBI and Italian police said they had broken up a global heroin and cocaine trafficking ring Tuesday after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabrian Mafia group and associates of New York’s notorious

Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States after a two-year operation that relied on both wiretaps and an American undercover agent named by investigators as “Jimmy,” who is said to have infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. Seventeen of the arrests were made in Italy and seven in the United States.

8c0b6ff431fc394939ef5694f77cf6c4Those arrested in the U.S. were arraigned before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn. The men, some of them suspected of being members of the Gambino and Bonanno “families,” were listed as using various street aliases such as “Lello,” “Freddy,” and “Charlie Pepsi.”

I am sure more information will be coming forward, but…

The coordinated sting halted the planned shipment of more than a ton of cocaine from Latin America to Italy in liquid form, smuggled with help from Mexican cartels in coconut and pineapple cans, law enforcement officials said. They put the street value at $1 billion.

One more link…on the additional discovery of ‘Ndrangheta connections with the Far East heroin trade: Gambino, Bonanno family members held in joint US-Italy anti-mafia raid – CNN.com

Raffaele Grassi, head of the Criminal Unit of the Italian State Police, told reporters that the operation demonstrated 8729a9e910772d09d68639720e66b252that the “‘Ndrangheta is one of the strongest organizations in the world in illegal drug trade.”

He cited its sophisticated network of contacts and its ability to adapt and find new markets, including “expanding beyond Italian borders.”

Grassi said that historically, the Gambino family had had ties with the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. But their involvement in the illegal traffic of heroin, known as the “Pizza Connection,” was dismantled or severely curtailed in the 1980s, he said, and they are now trading mainly cocaine.

36ffef735f803acdb7b518b6a6be3800The latest operation, according to Grassi and FBI officials, shows that the mafia families of the “new continent” are still seeking and relying on “old country” connections — which is why investigators dubbed the operation “New Bridge.”

According to Grassi, the Italian-American mafia families “need this new bridge to connect and support the traffic of cocaine.”

While the existence of a connection between the Calabrian mafia and U.S. mafia families has been well known, Tuesday’s operation shows its great strength and reach, investigators said.

One of the more alarming discoveries to emerge from the operation was evidence that ‘Ndrangheta has also reached out to the Far East in the heroin trade, another investigator said.

While on the subject of the Mafia, 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Characters In The Godfather – Listverse

It’s one of the immutable laws of nature: You’re channel surfing, and there, between some cooking show and an infomercial, you come upon The Godfather. Even though you own the deluxe Blu-Ray DVD box set with three weeks’ worth of special features, you are glued to that station until the credits roll. And if it’s the first in a Godfather marathon, your day is shot. f3f4d36dad5c94c3549ef3e8bd4f06b6You’re not moving, except to warm up some frozen lasagna between Godfather 2 and Godfather 3.

The Godfather is a classic of American cinema, and Godfather Part 2 is considered by some an even better movie. This story of the patriarch of a New York crime family, and his son who takes over the “family business,” is largely based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, with director Francis Ford Coppola and Puzo producing new material for the films.

Puzo based many of the characters on the real underworld players he heard about growing up and working in New York City.

That thing about getting stuck watching the trilogy on TV, it is so true…it just happened to my mom and me last week, and it was on one of those channels with the commercials.e75c78c0ba7781f147ec6225ad95e9cb (So you know how annoying that can be, and how “glued” we were to stick it out for the three full movies.)

In wrapping this post up, I will end with this tune…a perfect finale to a mob focused post. I know that I have used this song before, but what can I say…

If you gonna be a square
You ain’t a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!

Rosemary Clooney – Mambo Italiano Lyrics

Have a wonderful day, and if you are in the storm’s wake, please stay safe and warm.

And be sure to share with us, what is on your reading list today?


Wednesday Reads: I’m Fukuppy! Nice to meet you.

e821cd587ddb9da9bbe88ae9c293f546Good Morning…

Eeek….What an absolute mess we have going here in the U.S.A…Damn.

I can’t even bring myself to link to any stories on the crap in DC just yet, so I will start with a company called Fukushima Industries and a bit of “Fukushima-ed up” P.R.: Lost in translation: Japan’s ‘Fukuppy’ firm rethinks its egg-shaped mascot after online ridicule

Japan’s Fukushima Industries said Tuesday it was rethinking its “Fukuppy” mascot, after the Internet erupted in sniggers over a name that recalls the catalogue of mishandling at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Osaka-based refrigerator maker, whose name derives from its founder and has nothing to do with the area hit by an atomic catastrophe, has been ridiculed on social networking sites for the name it gave its egg-like mascot, which has blue wings and red feet.

Fukuppy AFP

“I’m Fukuppy. Nice to meet you,” the smiling character with a human face tells visitors to the company’s website. “I think I’m kind with a strong sense of justice but people say I’m a little bit scatterbrained.”

Fukushima Industries unveiled “Fukuppy” in April, blending the first part of the company name — Fuku — and the end of the English word “happy,” saying it represented the corporate philosophy of being a happiness-creating company.

But the striking moniker was mistaken for “an inappropriate word among people in English-speaking places or its meaning was misunderstood on the Internet,” the company said in a statement.

“We sincerely apologize for worrying many people and creating misunderstanding among them,” the company said, adding: “We will look into the name, including a rethink of it.”

Wow, let me tell you something….that “Fukuppy” is Fucked-uppy!

Seriously, I can understand a company that is named “Fukushima Industries” and has nothing to do with the “Fukushima Nuclear Powerplant” would want to have some kind of mascot/slogan/gimmick that would separated it from the disaster…not seemingly mock it. I mean…think of just how many “troubles” Fukushima has had, especially with their not so forward way of being “truthful” about these situations, a “scatterbrained” Fukuppy egg with wings ain’t gonna fucking cut it! (Yeah, that firm laid a big egg with that one if you ask me.)

Anyway, here is something Fukuppy (i.e. fucked up) for y’all this morning: Once-in-a-decade typhoon reaches Japan, tracking towards Fukushima nuclear plant. Yup, you read that headline correctly…why don’t you go and read it again…

Satellite image of Typhoon WiphaAt least three people in Japan have been killed as Typhoon Wipha, described by forecasters as “the strongest in 10 years”, passed close to Tokyo.

Around 30 people were unaccounted for on Izu Oshima Island, which lies in the Pacific 120 kilometres south of central Tokyo, after five houses were destroyed or swept away by a series of landslides and floods according to the national broadcaster NHK.

The storm, which has not made landfall, is tracking along Japan’s east coast on a path which will take it towards the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The operator of the plant says it has released some rain water that was trapped inside its barrages, but the radiation reading was within safety limits.

Photo: A NASA satellite image shows Typhoon Wipha over Japan. (AFP/NASA )

That can’t be good, can someone tell me how the hell can this be considered within safety limits?

I was out of town in Atlanta all day yesterday, so I do not know if this story was even mentioned in the comments, via the Kansas City Star: Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family

Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with Coleman’s 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.

Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.

The incident sparked outrage in the community, though the worst of it was directed not at the accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left, retreating east to Albany.

Coleman had hoped the move would allow them to heal in peace, that the 40 miles separating the towns would be enough to put an end to their bitter saga.

Now, though, as she stared at the charred remains of her house, the distance didn’t seem nearly enough.

Oh…it is disgusting….and it is a long read. You may want to bookmark it and come back to it when you have a mindset to read it.

There are other developments in this story too:

Online group Anonymous takes aim at Missouri town over sex assault case | Reuters

The online activist group Anonymous said on Tuesday it would launch a “Twitter storm” and stage a rally in a Missouri town to protest the dropping of sex charges against two ex-high school football players in an incident involving a 14-year-old girl.

Missouri lawmakers respond to Maryville sexual assault case

The Maryville, Mo., sexual assault case has taken the internet by storm, including two hasthtags on Twitter, including #JusticeForDaisy.

On Tuesday afternoon, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder tweeted out a statement regarding the investigation.

In the statement, Kinder calls on the state’s attorney general and Nodaway County prosecutor to revisit the case.

“I hope that responsible officials will join me in this call for a grand jury to make the final call on whether criminal charges should or should not be filed,” Kinder said in the statement.

He worries the case could taint the reputation of the State of Missouri.

You can read the full statements at the link but this is something:

“Since Sunday I have read with growing dismay the media accounts of the Daisy Coleman case in Nodaway County. I make no claim to knowledge of all the facts. Still, facts revealed in exhaustive media reports, including the 4,000-word piece in the Kansas City Star, raise all kinds of questions that it is now clear won’t be put to rest.

These questions will fester and taint the reputation of our state for delivering impartial justice to all.

“I am disappointed that the Attorney General would wash his hands of the matter through a brief statement by a spokesman. The appalling facts in the public record shock the conscience and cry out that responsible authorities must take another look. I call on Attorney General Koster and Prosecutor Rice to join me in asking that the Circuit Court convene a grand jury to review all the evidence, hear all witnesses, and issue a decision as to whether charges should ensue.

“I hope that responsible officials will join me in this call for a grand jury to make the final call on whether criminal charges should or should not be filed.”

Then you have this asshole: Missouri sheriff: My department performed ‘flawlessly’ in rape case that attracted Anonymous’ attention | The Raw Story

The Missouri sheriff accused of not following up on a rape case that has drawn the ire of the hacker group Anonymous defended his department’s actions while also criticizing Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) for joining in the call for revisit the case.

Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old

For the Polk County sheriff’s office, which has been investigating the cyberbullying suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl, the Facebook comment was impossible to disregard.

In Internet shorthand it began “Yes, ik” — I know — “I bullied Rebecca nd she killed herself.” The writer concluded that she didn’t care, using an obscenity to make the point and a heart as a perverse flourish. Five weeks ago, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a seventh grader in Lakeland in central Florida, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement factory silo after enduring a year, on and off, of face-to-face and online bullying.

The Facebook post, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said, was so offensive that he decided to move forward with the arrest immediately rather than continue to gather evidence. With a probable cause affidavit in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling them the “primary harassers.” The first, a 14-year-old, is the one who posted the comment Saturday, he said. The second is her friend, and Rebecca’s former best friend, a 12-year-old.

Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony and will be processed through the juvenile court system. Neither had an arrest record. The older girl was taken into custody in the juvenile wing of the Polk County Jail. The younger girl, who the police said expressed remorse, was released to her parents under house arrest.

This social media stuff…geez, these things have gone on all the time, I mean bullies and rapes go on as they did before….but with such easy ways of posting or bragging about the rapes or bullying. I just don’t know, it makes me so sick and frightened for my daughter (more so than my son) to go out anywhere with anyone…even a group of her girlfriends.

I am rambling…it is because I am tired as I write this post. The rest of the links in dump fashion:

Georgia becomes first state to charge $5 for Lifeline phone…

Georgia has become the first state to charge low-income residents $5 a month for what is now free cellphone service aimed at assuring the poor have access to basic communications.

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve the measure amid a pending federal lawsuit from a national wireless telephone group. If left unchallenged, however, the fee will be implemented Jan. 31, 2014.

The controversial decision comes after reports of fraud and abuse in the federal cellphone program, called Lifeline. The program was created during the Reagan Administration and expanded in 2005 to cover mobile phones.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that as many as one in six people receiving free cell phones did not meet income or other need-based requirements to receive the free or discounted phone service. The reports of fraud prompted PSC member Doug Everett to call for tighter oversight on the Lifeline program in Georgia.

“Who’s going to really take care of this program … who’s going to audit the telephone companies to make sure they are trying to do what is right,” Everett said.

Commissioners Everett, Tim Echols and Bubba McDonald voted for the measure. Commissioners Chuck Eaton and Stan Wise voted against it.

Of course a “Bubba” would vote for it. Ugh…

I guess I have to put this link in here now: Influential Heritage group urges U.S. House to kill fiscal bill

Heritage Action For America, an influential conservative group, on Tuesday urged House of Representatives Republicans to vote against their leaders’ latest bill to fund the government and raise U.S. borrowing authority.

The private group said that the legislation, which was scheduled to be voted on late on Tuesday, fails to “stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root.”

In calling the upcoming vote a “key vote,” the group is warning lawmakers that it will look at their positions on this legislation in considering whether to encourage candidates to run against them in Republican primary campaigns next year.

Can’t Heritage be charged with Treason for fuck’s sake?

Wow, take a look at  this monster fish:

18-Foot Oarfish Found Off Catalina Island, Considered A ‘Once-In-A-Lifetime Discovery’ [PHOTO]

oarfish

Jasmine Santana, a snorkeler swimming off Catalina Island in Southern California on Sunday, came across an 18-foot oarfish that she helped drag to shore.  Facebook

Lots of links on that article, be sure to check it out.

More pictures (including close up of head) and video here: Monster Oarfish, 18 Feet Long, Called ‘Discovery of a Lifetime’

Hey, turns out it wasn’t “cave man” but “cave women” who painted on walls:

Prehistoric cave prints show most early artists were women - This is a link to an NBC article…has some color pictures.

Women leave their handprints on the cave wall- This one is a more in-depth piece from a science mag phys.org…you will probably find this one more interesting.

Did y’all see this fan letter Anthony Hopkins wrote to Bryan Cranston: Anthony Hopkins’ ‘Breaking Bad’ Fan Letter To Bryan Cranston Is Awesome

And lastly, anyone looking for that perfect costume this Halloween? Are you a “ginger” aka red-haired with freckles? Then this may be the costume for you:

Ginger Bread Man

Mental Floss

Gingers may or may not have souls, but they do have clever costumes.

Now that is “Fukuppying” Awesome!

Have a great day, and please share what you are thinking and reading about today.


Sunday Reads: GOP and Agnotology

This vintage ad about sums it up...look at the symbolic GOP elephant and his poison can...

This vintage ad about sums it up…look at the symbolic GOP elephant and his poison spray can of DDT …

Good Morning

Agnotology. New word, for me at least…read this explanation and tell me if it strikes a chord with you. (Emphasis mine.)

Agnotology is the study of culturally induced ignorance.

Agnotology refocuses questions about “how we know” to include questions about what we do not know, and why not.

Londa Schiebinger, in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1 Sep. 2005.

Historians of science have tended to focus on the processes by which scientific knowledge gets accepted. In recent decades, some scholars have come to see that processes that impede or prevent acceptance of scientific findings are also important. Such processes include the very human desire to ignore unpleasant facts, media neglect of topics, corporate or government secrecy, and misrepresentation for a commercial or political end. They often generate controversy, much of it ill-informed. Examples include the health implications of tobacco and of genetically modified plants, the safety of nuclear power, the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the existence or extent of man-made climate change.

Seriously, by that definition alone, and with those examples…you could just say that Agnotology is the study of Republicans.

While we are going through a GOP induced hell here in the states, some parts of India are living a real hell…being hit by one of the strongest typhoons in years. Cyclone Phailin makes landfall in India

A huge cyclone that has forced as many as 500,000 people to flee their homes has made landfall in eastern India.

Map of India

Winds were measured at 200 km/h (125mph) as Cyclone Phailin hit the coast near Gopalpur, Orissa state, at about 21:15 (15:45 GMT).

Authorities had predicted a storm surge of at least 3m (10ft) that was expected to cause extensive damage.

Officials say they are better prepared than in 1999 when a cyclone killed thousands of people in Orissa.

Cyclone Phailin has been classed as “very severe”, and the head of India’s Meteorological Office, LS Rathore, said it would remain in that category for six hours before losing strength.

An hour before Phailin made landfall, winds were over 150 mph.  New York Times is reporting that over 800,00 people have been evacuated…We will learn more as the morning progresses, I will post updates in the comments below.

Heading toward Russia, there was some violence at St Petersburg when a Russian gay rally ends in fights and arrests.

The clashes began after a protester had her rainbow flag ripped from her hands [Reuters]

Sixty-seven people were arrested after fightes broke out between gay rights activists and opponents at a rally in the Russian city of St Petersburg, according to local news sources.

Several dozen activists for  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual rights had gathered in the centre of the city for a sanctioned LGBT rally, which was held on what activists termed as “international coming out day”.

They were far outnumbered by the anti-gay demonstrators, including several dressed as Cossacks and Orthodox priests, who had occupied the site of the planned demo.

Fights broke out after anti-gay protesters tore a rainbow flag from a woman’s hands, and police then moved in to arrest those involved. They eventually detained 67 people from both sides, Russian news agencies reported.

The Winter Games are going to be one shitty scary mess.

Back here in the states, there was an arrest yesterday in a famous unsolved murder case out of New York City. New York police arrest man in 1991 ‘Baby Hope’ killing

New York City police have arrested a cousin in the killing of a 4-year-old girl dubbed “Baby Hope,” whose body was found crammed in a picnic cooler in 1991, police said on Saturday.

Conrado Juarez, 52, early on Saturday confessed to sexually assaulting and then smothering the girl, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told a news conference.

Police detained him at a Manhattan restaurant on Friday, more than 22 years after the girl’s death, he said.

The girl, dubbed “Baby Hope” by investigators, was never reported missing and was only recently identified.

Kelly named her as 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo.

Her bound, asphyxiated body was discovered stuffed underneath cans of soda inside a blue-and-white cooler alongside the Henry Hudson Highway in northern Manhattan in July of 1991. She had been starved and sexually abused, police said.

New York police announced on Tuesday they had identified the girl’s mother after following through on a tip they received over the summer. Her identity was confirmed through DNA testing and she was cooperating with the investigation, they said.

Finally some closure for the people who have worked this case for all these years, because it is obvious the family didn’t give a damn about this little girl at all.  Police say Juarez’s sister, who is dead, helped him dispose of Anjelica’s body. More information at this CNN link: NYPD arrests man in killing of ‘Baby Hope’

Update on Dartmouth: Dartmouth Suspends Wholesome Frat Over Hazing Emails

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Governor Deal may be under investigation. Read this AP report from North Georgia Access…it is a long article. I wonder if anything will come of it.: Attorney who raised questions about ethics complaints against Deal contacted by FBI  

I saw this next link via Google News from my hometown of Tampa: 10 News Investigators find memo warning about terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes | wtsp.com Strange…and again not a lot of news on this in other media outlets.

Of course, if you want to see what is up with the shutdown: Senate leaders take over government shutdown talks – The Washington Post

Hey, I mentioned yesterday that I was having some problems with my gmail account, well…here are two links that you need to read if you use Facebook or Google:

Facebook Removing Option To Be Unsearchable By Name, Highlighting Lack Of Universal Privacy Controls | TechCrunch

“Who can look up your Timeline by name?” Anyone you haven’t blocked. Facebook is removing this privacy setting, notifying those who had hidden themselves that they’ll be searchable. It deleted the option from those who hadn’t used it in December, and is starting to push everyone to use privacy controls on each type of content they share. But there’s no one-click opt out of Facebook search.

Your Face May Appear in a Google Ad Soon- Mashable

If you’ve ever been appalled to see yourself or your friends used in a Facebook ad, then you’re not going to like Google‘s new terms of service.

The company updated its TOS on Friday to allow an adult user’s profile name and photo to appear in reviews and advertising starting Nov. 11.

And let me tell you, it is a bitch to find the dashboard on Google where you can fix this shit!

We have a personal connection to the PBS Frontline “League of Denial” that aired this past week, Boston Boomer’s brother created the trailer that angered the NFL so much they pressured ESPN to drop out of the project….well here’s a round-up of responses to the show via The Dish: The Football Fan’s Dilemma « The Dish

I think you will find this infographic from Huffpo interesting: The Geographic Inequality Of Death Row (INFOGRAPHIC)

October 10 marks the 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the United States remains one of the top five countries in the world for executing its citizens — along with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International. The 43 executions we carried out last year happened in just nine states; 15 of them were in Texas.

I am going to move on to the better part of today’s post…nothing depressing or disturbing.

There was this article at The New York Times which touched a personal side for me. Growing Up With a Disabled Sibling

Some research suggests that growing up with a disabled sibling can also infuse a person with a greater sense of responsibility, patience and compassion for others. Some siblings may be inspired to go into a helping profession, like medicine, teaching or public interest law. Others translate their early experience with disability into a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the wide spectrum of human differences. I confess to keeping my own list of successful and accomplished people who have a sibling with Down syndrome, which includes the Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce (now himself disabled by a traumatic brain injury), the actor and singer Jamie Foxx, the actress Eva Longoria, and Amy Chua of “Tiger Mom” fame (and a Yale Law School professor).

That is just one paragraph I want to point out, you have to read the whole op/ed. It is great.I guess it is for me because I know the outcome of growing up with a disabled sibling…in my situation, Denny and I were always a package deal. So I see the hope in that piece.

There are some cool pictures at this link: We Could Stare At These Defaced Bills All Day

And hey…check it out: [VIDEO] ‘Remington Steele’ Reboot — NBC Plans Sequel I used to love that show, Pierce Brosnan was so damn hot.

Oh, and since this is October, two links on horror movies:

Future Recall: 10 Cage-Free Horror Films on the Web (Netflix, AMC, youtube) that span time… – Bright Lights After Dark

A Very Brief History of a Very Famous Mask – She Blogged By Night

And one on Classic Movies from the 50′s:

moviemorlocks.com – Biting the Hand That Feeds You: Movies About the Movies In the 1950s

Finally, this last article…which proves that an animal without a backbone is more intelligent than one of those Republicans, or at least the octopus can assist in the Agnotological study of the Republican Brain:  How the Freaky Octopus Can Help us Understand the Human Brain – Wired Science

If you were to measure octopus smarts by the number of neurons the creatures have (500 million to our almost 100 billion), they’d come up pretty dull. But forget that metric. The octopus’s neurons aren’t even concentrated in its head; about two-thirds of its “brains” are distributed in its arms, dedicated to the fine operation of these limbs and each of their hundreds of suckers. The rest of the neurons are split between a central brain—surrounding the esophagus—and large optic lobes behind the eyes. Like we said: alien.

But somehow octopuses do things that suggest they’re brainier than plenty of animals with backbones and more familiar nervous systems. Here’s an easy one: Lots of octopods have learned to twist off standard jar lids. But in 2003, biologists at the Seattle Aquarium challenged Billye, a female Enteroctopus dofleini—a giant Pacific octopus—with a childproof bottle, the kind that can baffle even the smartest Homo sapiens. Billye figured out the push-and-twist trick in a little less than an hour. And in subsequent attempts, she popped those tricky tops in a mere five minutes.

Is the vertebrate brain optimized for intelligence? Ask the octopus. | Robert Eikelpoth/Corbis

This is just the beginning of their abilities. Octopuses in the wild may be using tools—a feat that, not so long ago, was considered the exclusive domain of humans (though now we know it’s the province of other species too, like dolphins and some birds). Researchers have observed octopuses off the coast of Indonesia collecting—and awkwardly carrying—coconut shell halves along the sandy seafloor. For a shelter on the go, they whip out the two pieces of shell, swoop inside, and snap the pair shut. “That’s a spectacular example, because it really does suggest foresight,” says Jennifer Mather, who studies animal behavior at Canada’s University of Lethbridge. “In terms of cognition, that’s pretty good.”

Have a great Sunday!

Stop by and share what you are reading and blogging about today.


Wednesday World War Zimmerman and Other Shoot First, Ask Later Stories

1e38816a7f94b410206ab6d18c5a5011Good Morning

Uh, this post will be a quick one. I have another staph infection and the dermatologist cut deep this time, so I really do not feel good at all! (I will try and stop by later, but I may just be too dang tired or hurt to get online.)

First we will start with some links that will probably enrage you, like they did me. Sorry if these stories are repeats, I am writing this post blind…not having read up on the blog or the comments.

Hey, check this out…in my state of Georgia: Man’s Family Says They Called 911 For Paramedics, But Police Showed Up And Shot Him Instead

A 911 call for medical assistance ended in the fatal shooting of Georgia resident Jack Lamar Roberson Friday. Roberson was acting erratically after possibly overdosing on his diabetes medication, leading his fiancé to call for paramedics and an ambulance. Instead, Roberson’s family charges that police showed up and killed the 43-year-old in front of his mother, fiancé, and 8-year-old daughter.

Waycross Police said they were responding to reports of a man trying to commit suicide and that he had become combative. Police Chief Tony Tanner said Roberson lunged at officers with weapons and refused to drop them.

Roberson’s fiancé, Alicia Herron, disputes the police story, comparing the scene to a “silent movie.”

“He didn’t have nothing in his hands at any time or period at all before they came, any time while they were here, anything. They just came in and shot him,” Herron told First Coast News. “He didn’t say nothing, the police didn’t say nothing, anything, it was like a silent movie. You couldn’t hear anything, all you could hear were the gun shots go off and I seen them going into his body and he just fell down.”

Roberson’s mother, Diane, lamented, “I saw my son go down with his hands up in the air, Lord Jesus, he had nothing in his in hands, we don’t even own a decent kitchen knife and they shot my baby down.”

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution the GBI is investigating the man’s death..and the officers have been placed on standard administrative leave. Supposedly an overdose of diabetic medication can bring about the side effects that Roberson was exhibiting, from the TPM link above:

An autopsy was performed Monday, but results have not yet been released. If Roberson did indeed overdose on his diabetes medication, he may well have been experiencing the tell-tale symptoms of intense anxiety and a general sense of confusion.

Such a sad ending…where the hell do these cops get their training?

So, you may have heard about this other story out of Georgia…I read about it early yesterday morning on the North Georgia Access site...but it was only a quick blurb, Huffpo has more here:

An email shared among the members of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at Georgia Tech was quickly condemned Monday after it began spreading online.

The email, with a subject line of “Luring your Rapebait,” was posted online by TotalFratMove Monday, and in turn picked up by several other websites. It was apparently an attempt by an active member of Phi Kappa Tau to explain how members of the house could get laid at parties:

Ok, if it is before midnight … A group of girls is standing around, grab a bro or pledge bro and go talk to them. First, introduce yourself and get their name, ask if they are having a good time, and then ask if they want anything to drink. If they say yes, walk them to the bar and tell them what we have to drink. If they say no and they look like they are in a sorority, ask them if they are in a sorority (DUH). If not, choose one of the following: where are you living, where are you from, have you been here before, how are classes going, or where all have you been tonight. Then proceed to have a conversation. IF THEY ARE HAMMERED AT ANY POINT BEFORE MIDNIGHT, JUST SKIP THE CHIT CHAT AND GO DANCE.

The email’s author is apparently really excited about the prospect of dancing, and a couple paragraphs later he explains dancing to him is essentially just having a lady grind against a brother’s crotch. Then he instructs how to “escalate”:

Try to twist her hips around to face you and dance front to front. FROM THERE THE OPTIONS ARE UNLIMITED! You can make-out with her (tongue on tongue), you can stick your hand up her shirt (not right away though), you can go for a butt grab (outside or inside the shirts), or use your imagination. ALWAYS START WITH THE MAKING OUT!!!! NO RAPING.

The writer lays out what he calls “the 7 E’s of HOOKING UP!” They include “Encounter,” “Engage,” “Escalate,” some words describing male arousal, and then “Expunge (send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished. [sic].” He concludes, in all capital letters, “IF ANYTHING EVER FAILS, GO GET MORE ALCOHOL.”

(Read the whole email at TFM.)

Georgia Tech has known about these emails for a couple of weeks now, but they will not comment on the matter. You can read more at the link.

There is another Fraternity email “discovery” this time its Dartmouth: Dartmouth’s Most Wholesome Frat Bros Send The Classiest Emails

For about a year, the brothers of Dartmouth College’s Beta Alpha Omega—the straight-laced fraternity that famously hosted Rick Perry after a Republican debate in October 2011—have corresponded about house debauchery, fraternity rituals, and other key topics using Google Groups, apparently to avoid using Dartmouth’s own servers (and the eyes of college administrators).

We recently discovered that whoever set it up forgot to lock it down, enabling anyone to find a complete, updating archive of Beta’s internal conversations on Groups.google.com. We’ve dug up the choicest excerpts below.

(Update: The Google group is now locked. We’ve uploaded an archive of the emails mentioned here to DocumentCloud.)

I guess you can imagine where this is going?

Nothing here is particularly shocking. Within the fraternity system, this is how bros bond. But it’s a bit less funny when your house is under suspicion for supplying alcohol to a rapist.

We came across the list-serv while researching Beta’s involvement in a sexual assault that took place on Dartmouth’s campus. On Saturday the house threw a rager at its Hanover, New Hampshire mansion, where, according to a college-wide email, brothers served a male guest and Navy sailor who later that night allegedly raped a female student.

In an email sent to brothers on Sunday afternoon, the chapter’s president warns:

I hope you all saw this email from earlier this afternoon. If ANYONE has any information about this, or knows anyone who might, please let me know asap. This could very quickly get very bad for the house if we do not get on top of it.

The concern (albeit for the house’s reputation, rather than the victim’s safety) is understandable: The fraternity was kicked off campus in 1996 after a series of violent/homophobic/sexist incidents involving pledges and other fraternities, and is rumored to have installed hidden cameras throughout the house for the purpose of watching other brothers copulate with sorority sisters. (Perhaps the progenitor, in a much more extreme form, of the house’s taste for creepshots.)

You can read the rest of the disgusting “stuff” at the link…it makes me think about the story in the New York Times, where young college women are looking for this kind of hook-up. Remember that?

More twisted shit…from the politicians this time: The Latest Voter Suppression Fad: Two Tiers

Remember this phrase: two-tier voting. You may be hearing more about it.

Officials in Arizona and Kansas are making preparations for elections with two categories of voters. There will be those who provided proof of citizenship when they registered to vote, and will therefore be able to vote in all local, state, and federal elections. And then there will be those who did not provide proof of citizenship when they registered. Those people will only be able to vote in federal contests — if at all.

In both states, the preparations underway are reactions to the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the legal battle over Arizona’s 2004 voter identification law, known as Proposition 200. While the headlines in June painted the ruling as a blow to Proposition 200, officials in both Arizona and Kansas have chosen to focus on the leeway the Supreme Court left them. Kansas State Election Director Brad Bryant laid out the argument in an email he sent to county election officers at the end of July.

“As the Supreme Court made clear, its decision applies only to ‘federal registration forms’ and covers only federal elections,” Bryant wrote, according to a copy of the email provided to TPM. “States remain free to require proof of citizenship from voters who seek to also vote in state elections.”

Using that logic, both states have made moves toward two-tier systems.

More at the link…you can read about how this new system is going into effect in Kansas.

I guess you can see the rest will be in link dump format.

Then you have this nut, from Arizona: GOP Lawmaker: National Park ‘Thugs’ Carrying Out Work of ‘De Fuhrer’

Brenda Barton, a Republican state representative in Arizona, took to her Facebook page Monday evening (possibly because her own website is down) to decry the National Park “thugs” who were “carrying out the order of de Fuhrer”:

Barton was upset over the closure of the World War II Memorial and other national parks, shuttered last week due to the ongoing government shutdown. The Arizona lawmaker called upon local pair-having sheriffs to intervene and prevent the park rangers from arresting visitors.

Barton wasn’t finished, either, going on to call Obama “this man in the People’s House” and an “Imperial President”:

Arizona Democrats were quick to point out the irony of Barton’s objection to the closures, as it was her party that precipitated the shutdown.

Geez, what an idiot! Wait, check that…batshit right wing lunatic! But I mean what do you expect right? Arizona is The only state that stopped welfare payments.

Now a look at what judges can do: Can a Teen Get an Abortion if She Doesn’t Have Parents to Give Consent? That’s Up to the Judge | Care2 Causes

Or a priest? For Minn. Catholics, Troubling New Abuse Scandal – ABC News

Or a government website? Problems with Healthcare.gov Likely More Than Just Traffic | Geekosystem

Speaking of which, I am sure you’ve seen this from a couple of nights ago: Stewart Grills Sebelius on Obamacare: ‘Level of Incompetence That’s Larger Than What It Should Be’ | Mediaite

I have to add a few cartoons to this post, they are too good to put off until Friday.

How to Save the Republican Brand – Political Cartoon by Jen Sorensen, Self-syndicated – 10/08/2013

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - How to Save the Republican Brand

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 10/07/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

House of Horror by Political Cartoonist Jeff Darcy

138511 600 House of Horror cartoons

Weekend at Boehners by Political Cartoonist Mike Luckovich

138522 600 Weekend at Boehners cartoons

ted cruz’s vision by Political Cartoonist Bill Schorr

138531 600 ted cruzs vision cartoons

Seriously…it may be a joke, but it seems like the truth to me: Headline of the Day | BobCesca.com

Here’s something you won’t see every day or even every generation.HemorrhoidsPoll

I have no idea how something so depressing can be so funny, but I’m laughing.

Here’s the context of the poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Voters say they have a higher opinion of hemorrhoids than Congress, by 53% to 31%.

Yup, I’m laughing too…

http://southparkstudios.mtvnimages.com/shared/news/2013/oct/southpark-s17e03-press-release.jpg?width=207Finally, tonight is the South Park episode that tackles George Zimmerman.   Go to that link to see the clip to the show, also check out a link to a script written by a fan a few months ago, it actually is pretty sweet.

From the clip it looks like Cartman is dressed like Brad Pitt from World War Z…guess we will just have to wait and see what Trey and Matt come up with later tonight.

Okay, what ever happens today…I hope you all talk about it in the comments. So, what are you reading and thinking about this morning…afternoon…or evening?


Monday Reads

Red-Blue-intro

Good Morning!

I’ve made plans to go to Seattle next month again to stay with my dad and hope that I can also spend time looking for the possibility of a job since my daughter is joining a small ob/gyn practice about an hour north of Seattle.  It’s hard not to long for the safety of a blue state given what’s been going on recently and given the conversations that I have with people that safely dwell in the Faux News Reality of Welfare Queens,  Pedophile Gays, Scary Black People in Hoodies, and Invading Mexicans.  I’ve been in a long Facebook conversation trying to explain the Affordable Care Act details and why the exchanges are not “government-backed” insurance until I’m blue in the face.  No amount of numbers convinces them that all the jobs are not becoming part time.  I was just told I obviously don’t have common sense if I don’t see the Affordable Care Act as a giant give away to lazy poor people even though I’ve tried to explain that Medicaid still exists and it still is the plan for poor people.  There just exists this ever deepening divide between the realities of Red and Blue States.  Did Nixon’s Southern Strategy doom our Democracy?

In a merciful twist of fate, Juan Linz did not quite live to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died last week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief executive, was inherently unstable. In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.

Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had loads of moderates, and conservative whites in the South still clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two parties were already sorting themselves into more ideologically pure versions, leaving us where we stand today: with one racially and economically polyglot party of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary party. The latter is currently attempting to impose its program by threat upon the former. The events in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.

Traditionally, when American politics encountered the problem of divided government—when, say, Nixon and Eisenhower encountered Democratic Congresses, or Bill Clinton a Republican one—one of two things happened. Either both sides found enough incentives to work together despite their differences, or there was what we used to recognize as the only alternative: gridlock. Gridlock is what most of us expected after the last election produced a Democratic president and Republican House. Washington would drudge on; it would be hard to get anything done, but also hard to undo anything. Days after the election, John Boehner, no doubt anticipating things would carry on as always, said, “Obamacare is the law of the land.”

Instead, to the slowly unfolding horror of the Obama administration and even some segments of the Republican Party, the GOP decided that the alternative to finding common ground with the president did not have to be mere gridlock. It could force the president to enact its agenda.

It used to be that elections came with the usual majority rules ramifications.  This current group of Tea Party insurrectionists evidently has changed that equation.  The question now is what can we do about it?

And as the saying goes, elections have consequences. It’s how Democratic victories in the 1930s paved the way for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, how Dem victories in the 1960s led to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, how Republican victories in the 1980s resulted in Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, how Democratic majorities in 2006 and 2008 led to Obama’s health-care law, and how the GOP’s midterm wins in 2010 extracted spending-cut concessions from Obama the following year.

Yet what’s extraordinary about this current political fight is that Republicans are seeking another round of concessions — over the president’s signature domestic achievement — after losing the last election, which was viewed in part as a referendum on the health-care law.

“It’s as if Ted Cruz slept through the entire 2012 cycle,” a senior Democratic aide tells First Read. “It’s not like Obamacare, spending and debt weren’t major issues in 2012. They were central — and we won.”

Nevertheless, Cruz and House Republicans maintain that Obama and the Democrats must negotiate over the health-care law to re-open the federal government. And House Speaker John Boehnersays Democrats must negotiate to raise the debt ceiling. “The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation,” he told ABC News. “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”

I found that Boehner comment about the lack of votes to be really strange given that he seems to think that the Democrats in the House and their votes do not matter.  What exactly is the conversation and why should the rest of the country have it when we thought we decided that about a year ago during the election?  Why is Boehner willing to weaponize the debt ceiling again?  (This is the same Jonathan Chait article I referenced above.)

The debt ceiling turns out to be unexploded ordnance lying around the American form of government. Only custom or moral compunction stops the opposition party from using it to nullify the president’s powers, or, for that matter, the president from using it to nullify Congress’s. (Obama could, theoretically, threaten to veto a debt ceiling hike unless Congress attaches it to the creation of single-payer health insurance.) To weaponize the debt ceiling, you must be willing to inflict harm on millions of innocent people. It is a shockingly powerful self-destruct button built into our very system of government, but only useful for the most ideologically hardened or borderline sociopathic. But it turns out to be the perfect tool for the contemporary GOP: a party large enough to control a chamber of Congress yet too small to win the presidency, and infused with a dangerous, millenarian combination of overheated Randian paranoia and fully justified fear of adverse demographic trends. The only thing that limits the debt ceiling’s potency at the moment is the widespread suspicion that Boehner is too old school, too lacking in the Leninist will to power that fires his newer co-partisans, to actually carry out his threat. (He has suggested as much to some colleagues in private.) Boehner himself is thus the one weak link in the House Republicans’ ability to carry out a kind of rolling coup against the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Boehner’s control of his chamber is tenuous enough that, like the ailing monarch of a crumbling regime, it’s impossible to strike an agreement with him in full security it will be carried out.

The standoff embroiling Washington represents far more than the specifics of the demands on the table, or even the prospect of economic calamity. It is an incipient constitutional crisis. Obama foolishly set the precedent in 2011 that he would let Congress jack him up for a debt-ceiling hike. He now has to crush the practice completely, lest it become ritualized. Obama not only must refuse to trade concessions for a debt-ceiling hike; he has to make it clear that he will endure default before he submits to ransom. To pay a ransom now, even a tiny one, would ensure an endless succession of debt-ceiling ransoms until, eventually, the two sides fail to agree on the correct size of the ransom and default follows.

This is a domestic Cuban Missile Crisis

Texas Demagogue and Senator Ted Cruz is already pushing the crisis forward. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday said changes to President Obama’s signature healthcare law should be tied to a debt ceiling increase.

The Texas Republican said any deal on raising the nation’s borrowing authority should include some “significant structural” plans to reduce government spending, avoid new taxes and “look for ways to mitigate the harm from ObamaCare.”

“The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Of the 55 times Congress has raised the debt limit, Cruz argued that 28 of those times Congress has attached “very stringent requirements,” many designed to reduce spending, including the 2011 sequestration plan.

So, a debt-ceiling increase should “respond to real harms coming from ObamaCare,” Cruz said.

Cruz said Republicans have leverage because of “so many nasty partisan jabs from Democrats” proving that “we’re winning the argument —Obamacare isn’t working.”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reiterated on Sunday that the federal government will run out of borrowing authority on Oct. 17.

And the world thinks we’ve completely lost it.00-02a-12-10-11-political-cartoons-tea-party  Here’s a taste of the German press as excerpted by Der Spiegel.

Munich’s national Süddeutsche Zeitung offers a slightly more depressing take, pointing blame at all sides. “What has already been apparent in America for a few years now is the self-destruction of one of the world’s oldest democracies. And the great tragedy here is that this work of destruction isn’t being wrought by enemies of democracy, greedy lobbyists or sinister major party donors. America’s democracy is bring broken by the very people who are supposed to be carry and preserve it: the voters, the parties and the politicians.”

The argument? The Republicans who have brought Washington to stillstand are repeatedly and democratically elected by voters and given a mandate to block. The parties themselves are fomenting an increasingly radicalized culture that deepens political, societal and geographic divisions in the country, argues the newspaper. And finally, there are few politicians in America who are willing or capable of thinking beyond their own electoral constituencies.

“At the moment, Washington is fighting over the budget and nobody knows if the county will still be solvent in three weeks,” the paper concludes. “What is clear, though, is that America is already politically bankrupt.”

The Brit magazine The Economist says that the US is ‘ungovernable’ and is demonstrating that our current situation is “no way to run a government”.

America enjoys the “exorbitant privilege” of printing the world’s reserve currency. Its government debt is considered a safe haven, which is why Uncle Sam can borrow so much, so cheaply. America will not lose these advantages overnight. But anything that undermines its creditworthiness—as the farce in Washington surely does—risks causing untold damage in the future. It is not just that America would have to pay more to borrow. The repercussions of an American default would be both global and unpredictable.

It would threaten financial markets. Since American Treasuries are very liquid and safe, they are widely used as collateral. They are more than 30% of the collateral that financial institutions such as investment banks use to borrow in the $2 trillion “tri-party repo” market, a source of overnight funding. A default could trigger demands by lenders for more or different collateral; that might cause a financial heart attack like the one prompted by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. In short, even if Obamacare were as bad as tea-party types say it is (see Lexington), it would still be reckless to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to repeal it, as some Republicans suggest.

What can be done? In the short term, House Republicans need to get their priorities straight. They should pass a clean budget resolution without trying to refight old battles over Obamacare. They should also vote to raise the debt ceiling (or better yet, abolish it). If Obamacare really does turn out to be a flop and Republicans win the presidency and the Senate in 2016, they can repeal it through the normal legislative process.

An FBI hostage negotiator has some hints on how to deal with petulant Tea Party bomb throwers.

red blue americans

So how did it get to this point? “Its fear-driven behavior,” says Voss. “They get angrier because they feel they’ve been defeated. People notice losses twice as much as they notice wins. It’s a sports metaphor you hear all the time: ‘I hate losing more than I like winning’…I think there’s a very strong sense of loss on their part over what they refer to as Obamacare and resentment over that is carried forward.”

But hostage negotiators aren’t the type to give up hope. “Ultimately, everybody wants success. And there are a lot of definitions of success,” Voss says. “Bottom line, they want to be made to look like they were effective and got things done for their side. So it’s a matter of refocusing on what’s in everybody’s best interests.”

He’s looking to the Obama White House to help start the reset: “I would ask them to start saying, ‘I understand that the people on the other side of the table have the best interests of the American people at heart.’ Simply recognize that. Everybody wants to do what’s best for the American public. Those sorts of statements repeated on a regular basis, it’s the start of dialogue. It’s not concession; it’s the beginning of dialogue.”

But the prison siege mentality Voss describes is exacerbated by an absence of strong calming leadership in the congressional GOP. “Those guys are sitting on the sidelines,” Voss says. “There are quite a few Republican politicians that I have a tremendous amount of respect for that are exceedingly silent these days.” He mentions House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: “I’ve never heard anything out of Mike’s mouth that wasn’t really thoughtful and nuanced.”

Another possible constructive calming voice on the conservative caucus could be former President George W. Bush. “I think there’s a possibility that he would be somebody that you would talk to behind the scenes, and potentially an intermediary himself. I think he absolutely has the ability to be a stabilizing influence.”

But how to do you deal with the hyper-partisan congressional bomb-throwers? “Well it’s like a game of tic-tac-toe with the tantrum throwers,” Voss says. “In tic-tac-toe, if you’re going second, the best you can possibly do is tie—if you play the game. There’s a first-mover advantage. The minute you stop playing that game the first mover advantage goes away. So you don’t play their game at all. That’s the way you respond.”

So, the craziness continues and escalates.  If things come apart at the seams, I do not want to be stuck in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Someone throw me a lifeboat?

12a1bf95197ac350395e31d539a1c17dGood Morning

Well, I don’t know where that title came from, well actually I do. I am watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Lifeboat. (Damn, what an opening for a film…Lifeboat (1944) — (Movie Clip) Those Nazi Buzzards)

Such a good film.

I have plenty of links for you this morning, here they go, in link dump fashion.

Let’s start with the GOP…

The title of this first link by Lawyers, Guns and Money says it all: House GOP: Never Waste A Crisis By Neglecting to Punish Women!

Another predictable demand has been added to the GOP’s ransom note:

House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.

Yeah, that is just another twist of the screw.  Not that any of this will pass, which brings me to this next article from Business Insider: How A Government Shutdown Will Hurt The Economy

After you take a look at that overview, you can read a refresher of Idiot America, including an excerpt of a FDL interview with Charlie Pierce when the book first was published: The Three Great Premises of Idiot America Take Center Stage

These are good times for those who practice wingnuttery and those who observe them. With the release of the latest IPCC report on global climate change and the ever-more-likely crash and burn that is the Congress of the United States and its handling of the budget and its apparent willingness to refuse to pay the bills that they have incurred under past appropriations, the wingnuts have a feast spread before them to dine upon, as demonstrated by the speechifying of Ted Cruz on the floor of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

Sadly, we can’t simply enjoy our popcorn as we watch: wingnuttery exacts a cost, either in the idiotic policies and practices they foist upon society (see almost anything enacted at the urging of the NRA), or in the time and energy that must be wasted to beat back these idiocies (see Krugman, Paul “the Shrill One”). No, popcorn is not an option.

It’s no surprise, then, that my thoughts have been turning to Charles Pierce.

Four years ago, the inestimable Mr. Pierce put forward The Three Great Premises of Idiot America:

1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

Every Sunday morning, The Three Great Premises of Idiot America are trotted out on the Sunday morning talk shows, and this weekend should be an excellent proof of Pierce’s wisdom. Again, see “Cruz, Ted.”

Some of you may remember this quote from Pierce:

At the FDL Book Salon chat with Charlie when the book first came out, watertiger asked a question that has only become more urgent over the last four years: “How do we extract ourselves from this ‘perception is reality’ paradigm? Is there a way out?” Charlie’s answer, likewise, has become ever more urgent as well:

WT, I’ve given that a lot of thought and the best answer I can give is that we, as citizens, simply have to do better at self-government. We have to distinguish between entertainment and information. Our powers of discernment have to be sharpened. And, it should be said that, at many of its highest levels, my business has fallen green-room-over-teakettle on this very question. Any journalist who accepts “perception is reality” as axiomatic is committing professional malpractice. Our job is to hammer the reality home until the perception conforms to it.

If only…

But here is an idiot for you, from No More Mister Nice Blog: CONGRESSMAN CULBERSON’S ANALOGY: OUTRAGEOUS, BUT NOT COMPLETELY INACCURATE

Yes, this is appalling:
During a meeting of the House Republican Caucus, Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) compared the relentless Republican effort to defund Obamacare to the heroic efforts of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who overpowered terrorists who had gained control of the plane.

https://twitter.com/BenjySarlin/statuses/383999610865602560

I don’t agree with the rest of this post, about the tweet being not “completely inaccurate.”

But the analogy isn’t entirely off base.

Remember what happened on the “Let’s roll” flight, United Flight 93? A lot of ordinary people died, and a target in D.C. was spared. The target was apparently the U.S Capitol, where Congress works.

As a result of what the Republican are doing now, a lot of innocent ordinary citizens will be harmed. You know who probably won’t be harmed? Members of Congress. They’ll still be paid. And most of them probably won’t lose their seats — only three House Republicans lost seats in 1996, after the last shutdown.

Ordinary citizens suffering while members of Congress are spared? Yes, there are some similarities between then and now, even if they’re not the ones the congressman had in mind.

That is a stretch to me. Because the assholes in Congress are acting like terrorist holding the US economy hostage…as this cartoon from Luckovich so perfectly illustrates: 9/29 Luckovich cartoon: Kindred souls | Mike Luckovich

092913-toon-luckovich-ed

While we are on the topic of terrorist, did you see the cover of this weeks Newsweek? Newsweek Cover About Female Suicide Bombers Features Tampon Dynamite

ku-bigpic

Newsweek Pakistan’s latest cover story is on the rise in female suicide bombers. And, so, naturally, this week’s cover features the words LADY PARTS emblazoned over the image of tampons with lit fuses where the removal string would normally be. That’s some TIME-level trolling, Newsweek. Kudos, I guess.

The good news is that Newsweek’s bombpons cover allows you to tick off several squares on Deliberately Provocative Magazine Cover Bingo. The bad news is that everyone on staff cringed when we saw it.

Alright, now for the links associated with women…

Study: Everyone hates environmentalists and feminists – Salon.com

Why don’t people behave in more environmentally friendly ways? New research presents one uncomfortable answer: They don’t want to be associated with environmentalists.

That’s the conclusion of troubling new research from Canada, which similarly finds support for feminist goals is hampered by a dislike of feminists.

Participants held strongly negative stereotypes about such activists, and those feelings reduced their willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted,” reports a research team led by University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir. This surprisingly cruel caricaturing, the researchers conclude, plays “a key role in creating resistance to social change.”

Writing in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Bashir and her colleagues describe a series of studies documenting this dynamic. They began with three pilot studies, which found people hold stereotyped views of environmentalists and feminists.

In one, the participants—228 Americans recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk—described both varieties of activists in “overwhelmingly negative” terms. The most frequently mentioned traits describing “typical feminists” included “man-hating” and “unhygienic;” for “typical environmentalists,” they included “tree-hugger” and “hippie.”

Another study, featuring 17 male and 45 female undergraduates, confirmed the pervasiveness of those stereotypes. It further found participants were less interested in befriending activists who participated in stereotypical behavior (such as staging protest rallies), but could easily envision hanging out with those who use “nonabrasive and mainstream methods” such as raising money or organizing social events.

Go to the link and read the summary of some of the results…it really is interesting. Especially when you consider the recent poll using the Obamacare vs. Affordable Care Act.

This by Scott Lemieux at LG&M: Why David Gilmour’s Sexism Matters (And Criticizing it is Valuable Free Speech)

Some good news out of Florida: Retrying the “warning shot” case – Anderson Cooper 360 – CNN.com Blogs

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. She tried to use the “stand your ground” law in her trial. But a judge just ordered a new trial. The panel debates what role the controversial law may play in the retrial.

For a smooth move to the science part of the post…there is this story about women dancing ballet: The ballerina brain could hold a key to treating chronic dizziness

Years of training cause structural changes in a ballerina’s brain that help her stay balanced in the pirouette, said a report Friday that may aid the treatment of chronic dizziness.

Brain scans of professional ballerinas revealed differences from other people in two parts of the brain: one that processes input from the balancing organs in the inner ear, and another responsible for the perception of dizziness.

Most people, after turning around rapidly, feel dizzy for a period thereafter.

This is because of the fluid-filled chambers of the ear’s balance organs, which sense the rotation of the head through tiny hairs that perceive the fluid swishing about. The fluid continues to move for a while after the spin — which creates the perception that one is moving when still — hence the dizziness.

Ballet dancers can perform multiple pirouettes with little or no feeling of dizziness — a feat that has long puzzled researchers.

The pirouette sees a dancer execute one or more full-body turns on the toe or ball of one foot.

“Ballet dancers seem to be able to train themselves not to get dizzy, so we wondered whether we could use the same principles to help our patients,” Barry Seemungal from Imperial College London’s medicine department said in a statement on the study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

For the study, Seemungal and a team spun 29 ballerinas around in a rotating chair in a dark room, and did the same with 20 female rowers of similar age and fitness levels.

The women were asked to turn a lever on a small wheel attached to their chair in rhythm with the spinning sensation they experienced after the chair was brought to a halt.

For the dancers, the perception of spinning lasted for a”significantly” shorter period, said the study.

The researchers also looked at the women’s brains with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.

They found that the part of the cerebellum which processes the signal from the balancing organs, was smaller in the dancers. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“It’s not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance,” said Seemungal. “Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input” — allowing them to continue dancing after spinning around in a pirouette and complete a performance without losing their balance.

“If we can target that same brain area or monitor it in patients with chronic dizziness, we can begin to understand how to treat them better.”

And light sabers: Scientists ‘bind light together’ to create new state of matter resembling lightsabers

The physicists were exploring the properties of photons – an elementary particle that is the most basic constituent of light and all other types of electromagnetic radiation – when they managed to create molecules formed from photons bound together.

The discovery is startling as it goes against what scientists have previously believed to be the signature quality of photons: that they are massless particles that do not interact with each other. The capacity to create molecules out of photons has been described by the physicists involved as “pushing the frontiers of science”.

“Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other,” said Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin in a press release published at phys.org.

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules.”

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Lukin added. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

And a segue to history…artsy stuff: Landmark study explores Hispanic Baroque while reinventing digital humanities research

Inspiring everything from Las Vegas to Lady Gaga, Hispanic Baroque is every bit an influence on modern day trends as is hip-hop and hipsters. And yet, tracing the cultural complexity that Hispanic Baroque has spawned for centuries has proven an unenviable task. Until now.

A landmark study by The Cultureplex Lab at Western University has explored Hispanic Baroque like no previous research project of its kind. By combining traditional research tools of the humanities with complex data analysis from the sciences, Cultureplex Lab principal investigator Juan-Luis Suárez and his team have developed new methodologies which have ignited research capabilities of this ever-influential cultural phenomena (and all other research for that matter), figuratively – not literally – transporting the game-changing study through space and time.

A stitch in time- via Medievalist.net

…the local mayor of Mayenne was well aware of another, less obnoxious Norman tradition: their fondness for strip cartoons. He commissioned a bande desinée to tell the story in pictures of Mayenne and our spectacular discoveries. The result was entertaining and educational propaganda: Mayenne was placed at the centre of French history, yet demonstrated itself as a model of European co-operation Those who lived in Mayenne could be proud of their town; those who did not should pay it a visit. The grand-daddy of all strip-cartoons, the Bayeux Tapestry, was made over 900 years earlier. It is a remarkable survival, that was recorded in 1476 in the Inventory of Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux as: ‘a very long and very narrow strip of linen, embroidered with figures and inscriptions representing the Conquest of England, which is hung round the nave of the church on the Feast of Relias’.

The Tapestry (or, more accurately, embroidery) has been subject to scholarly scrutiny for a couple of hundred years, so one might be excused for believing that the last word had been uttered and that we know all about it. Not so – Bayeux Tapestry scholars seem to reinvent the object of their desire almost every decade. But the answers to their questions remain elusive. Who commissioned the tapestry? Who made it, where and when? Where was the Tapestry first displayed? Was the message of the Tapestry outright Norman propaganda or a more evenhanded attempt at Anglo-Norman reconciliation? Even that great English myth, supposedly familiar to all schoolchildren, King Harold’s arrow in the eye, remains a matter of debate.

Click here to read this article from Minerva

Another article from Medievalist.net: From Flax to Linen: Experiments with flax at Ribe Viking Centre

The archaeological record shows that linen was an important part of Viking Age clothing. Linen cloth developed gradually from being virtually nonexistent in Scandinavia at the start of the first millennium AD, to being an important part of fashion during the Viking Age a thousand years later.

The importance of linen is also very visible among the many re-enactors of the period, and every self-respecting ”leisure Viking” will own at least a shirt or a skirt of linen. Re-enactment is also done professionally, as part of the tourist related activities in Visitor centres and museums across the country. Ribe Viking Centre is such an open-air visitor centre, recreating authentic milieus from Ribe and its nearest surrounds during the Viking Age. The centre also works as a teaching institution, where young people, for which the normal school system is not currently a viable option, can get a different kind of schooling experience, and therefore be helped further on in the educational system. Both staff and pupils on Ribe Viking Centre are therefore dressed as “Vikings” during the tourist season, where they work with different crafts across the site, recreating a living experience of the Viking age, at least in aspects. In this they make a valuable regional contribution to the tourism industry as well as playing an important role in social and educational aspects of contemporary society. From the University side, we have gained much respect for the professionalism and success with which both tasks are handled on an everyday basis at the Viking Centre.

The main parts of the garments worn at Ribe Viking Centre are made from linen. Visitors to the Centre will therefore be met with a vision of the Viking Age, where linen is a very dominant part of the fashion during the period. But it this true? Or possibly one should better ask: What kind of effort would such an extensive use of linen represent? One thing that we did notice during our work at the Centre was that while visitors could readily appreciate the effort behind the buildings and the crafts shown at the centre, the clothing was a more invisible factor, even though the making of clothes must have been an important part of life in the Viking Age. The work presented in the following helped illustrate just how important it must have been.

Click here to read this article from the Ribe Viking Centre

Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad, two sweet links for you:

From Cult Series To Game-Changer: ‘Breaking Bad’ Goes Out On A High via Deadline.com

‘Breaking Bad’ Predictions: What Do You Think Will Happen In The Series Finale?

Those are both long articles, as for the one about the predictions, my own prediction follows that of :

Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly

The great thing about “Breaking Bad” is that creator Vince Gilligan and his team of subversive, demented scribes have always managed to give fans exactly what they want, while also surprising them. (I knew, for example, that Gus Fring’s number was up, but I did not see THAT particular moment coming.) So in trying to predict what the final episode will bring, it’s hard to divorce it from what I hope it will bring. There’s a big machine-gun in play. Someone is going to get mowed down while saying hello to Walter White’s “little friend,” and the most likely victims will be Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a.k.a. the neo-Nazis who executed Hank, enslaved Jesse, and slaughtered his would-be girlfriend Andrea. But their reign of terror is not over yet. Before Walt gets to them, they will exact a little more agony on his existence.

Finally, we have the specter of Gray Matter, raised in the last episode after lying dormant for many seasons. Will Walt finally right the injustice of his lack of credit for the creation of this tech giant? Who cares! Nobody — except Walt, and that’s all that counts in his world. I could see his old partners going down in a hail of gunfire as he starts his final kamikaze mission.

Last week, we saw jittery Lydia (seriously, does she drink only decaf tea?) urging Todd to tidy up the Skyler situation with extreme prejudice. This is a big, big “Breaking Bad” no-no. When you slaughter innocents, that’s awful enough (and one could argue about whether Skyler is really a bystander anymore). But the even bigger sin is hypocrisy. Remember when Walt ran down the drug dealers who were targeting kids? It was one of his bravest, most self-sacrificial moments. But then the very next season, Walt was slipping poison to little Brock as a means of manipulating Jesse. This is when he crossed over into straight-up evil-doer territory, and that — truly — is when he began earning all the horror that has fallen down around him. Lydia once begged Mike (now enjoying his retirement in Belize) to spare her life while her daughter played in a nearby room. He spared her, and now she is pointing Todd’s gun at another woman, another mother, and telling him to pull the trigger. I expect her to die horribly, but not by the ricin capsule. That would be too fast, and too easy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her karmic payback come at the end of Walt’s smoking M60, probably while she begs for her life. Gilligan emphasizes violence in the abstract. Count on seeing one very bloody pair of Louboutins.

Todd will go down trying to protect her. This psycho’s puppydog crush gives him a kind of misguided honor he lacks in almost every other circumstance. After casually offing the innocent (there’s that word again) dirtbiking kid Drew Sharp, and blowing Andrea’s brains out last episode, we — I — need to see this guy suffer. He’s too shallow a human being to suffer as mightily as a Walt or Jesse, so I think his comeuppance will come in the form of futility. He’ll do some grand, selfless gesture of gallantry to protect Lydia and will be unceremoniously wiped from the Earth. Or, she might sell him out, push him in front of a bullet meant for her. Whatever the case, his death will bring a moment of comic relief to the finale. At least, I hope so.

Skyler … Skyler, Skyler. She, Walt Jr. (now going exclusively by Flynn, I’m guessing) are not going to have an A-1 day. I think Gilligan will spare the toddler Holly. This is a ruthless show, but he has broken the audience’s heart so often, especially in this last run of shows, I have to believe he will cut us some slack on the baby. Flynn, however … He took a bold stand against his narcissistic old man. He’s one of the few, unadulterated good-guys on this show. That makes him ripe for death. The death of their eldest, honest, and somewhat naïve son will be the ultimate punishment for the Whites. I’m guessing he will die sacrificing himself to save his mom and sister — a noble death, one that means something. The opposite of Todd, in another words. He will face it boldly and unafraid (the exact opposite of his old man.)

If Skyler survives, she will go forward in pieces. Walt …? Death isn’t a punishment for Walt, it’s a release. I’m not sure there is a punishment great enough for him. It’s far too late for him to be redeemed, but I do think Gilligan and Co. will find a way to at least make him penitent. We have not seen Walt be truly sorry. I’m not even sure what that would look like in a mind as twisted as his. He thinks of himself as a king, and kings liked to be buried with all their belongings. Walt’s belongings, apart from the money he lost to the neo-Nazis, are his family. He has always considered himself above them, their keeper, and it would not surprise me to see him engineer a reunion with them (if, say, Walt Jr. survives). That ricin tablet? I can envision a scenario where he seeks to bury himself alongside his family, taking all of them with him. Don’t drink or eat anything he “cooks” for you, White family!

There is a chance Jesse will be spared this reckoning and escape with his life – such as it is. But probably not. One thing we haven’t seen in this show is a large meth explosion. Since he is being forced to cook for the Nazis, engineering that kind of blast – even if it kills him, too – might be one way of cleansing the earth of these motherf*ckers.

Oh, and as October is just around the bend: Haunted October 13 Film Guide (TCM, 10/1-10/19) – Bright Lights After Dark

October is the best month in the world: you can wear your cool jacket and sweater combo, but you’re not freezing cold yet, there’s no ‘family’ holiday looming at the end of it to undo what sanity you’ve managed to accrue over the last 11 months, there is only the looming darkness of Halloween and Daylight Savings, the merciful twin blanket set of disguise and darkness.

And of course, there’s the horror movies. The speeding darkness and chill draws ghosts and candelabras, witches, demons, and monsters to our cinematic desires like a magnet. And TCM is there.  As are we at the Bright Lights After Dark, where we turn those bright lights way, way, way down, all the better to scare you.

But Halloween isn’t the time for just any kind of horror movie, not the time for giant bugs, Godzilla, radio active waste, torture porn, serial killer procedurals, etc., but the horror of the past… of the unconscious, the Freudian Gothic, of long dead relatives rising from their tombs to drink the blood (and, if they’re played by Paul Naschy, fondle the breasts) of the living. It is the time of murderous devolved cannibals in the basement fed by Lon Chaney, or Lovecraftian mutants fed by Boris Karloff who doesn’t really need that wheelchair because he’s grown his own ghost legs. It is the time for Vincent Price, 70s ESP pre-slasher cycle variants, and for old school Universal Lugosi films, and 60s Hammer Chris Lee films. And TCM has them.

Rather than just list them all, blah blah, I decided to pick out the best, rarest, most worthy dozen and just present the date / time of their showing/s, and a link or few words of descr. attached to a movie poster (unless the poster is weak)…. I skipped all the ‘essentials’ casual fans are familiar with already, such as Bride of Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, and The Wasp Woman. I want to point out the late night/early morning rarities, the ones worth recording.

All times listed Eastern Standard…. the best Standard in the world.

You go and check that list out!

Ending with Hitch, have y’all ever seen this sculpture over in London?

Hitchcock's Head. A statue of Alfred Hitchcock's head at the Gainsborough Studiosapartments. http://www.concretecentre.com/main.asp?page=513

It is located where Hitchcock filmed most of his movies in England: Gainsborough Studios.

Now there are condos/flats built that surround this Buddha like statue of Hitchcock’s head, check out this one listed for almost one million dollars: 2 bedroom apartment for sale in Gainsborough Studios London, N1, N1

84061_TM115_IMG_11_0002_max_620x414

Isn’t he wonderful!

Damn, if I won the lottery I think I’d have to buy one of these condos, sight unseen…

Y’all have a great day, and post some links and thoughts in the comments.

(BTW, you want to see a cool review of Lifeboat? Take a look at Tired Old Queen below.)