Saturday: 18 million

Hillary, the advocate. For 18 million and counting…

Morning, newsjunkies.

What a difference a few election cycles make… did you catch this from a week or so ago?

Samantha Power, October 2013:

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview broadcast Thursday that she regrets calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a “monster” during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“I regretted it pretty much every day since,” Power told NBC’s “Today.”

Interesting timing, that. The creative class-er set are gunning for their continued relevance in the Democratic party looking toward 2016 and beyond, and it’s been pretty clear that the comments coming out of the Obama ’08 veterans about Hills 2016 are at least partially  self-serving in that vein. (Past is prologue, and as Peter Daou reminded back in April–anyone calling Hillary inevitable in 2016, really isn’t the strongest of Hillary allies.)

Nonetheless–good for Power for saying the above anyway. Still have yet to hear of Axelrod’s regret over blaming Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on Hillary Clinton, but hey. I’m a realist. *wink*

Additionally, I think it’s good any time anyone on the D side reflects on 2008-present and recognizes that going after your core constituencies of women, working class, and older voters isn’t a good strategy strategically in the long term or morally ever.

Moarr, from the Power link:

“It just completely broke my heart that there is a fair amount of negativity heaped upon her that I find massively unfair,” she told “Today.” “And the idea that I could have contributed in some way to that narrative is just terrible.”

Power said apologizing to Clinton in person was “very emotional” for her.

Again, good for her and for women’s political participation in general, including Power’s herself. Hopefully. *Fingers crossed.*

Because, if this lesson isn’t retained–understand, this is the kind of negativity that we reinforce and exponentially multiply any time any of us calls any woman in politics a monster.

I was especially thrilled to hear this very un-monster like statement make it into the headlines and thus into our public discourse this morning, and of course from, of all people, our Hillary:

Hillary Clinton has called for a “sensible adult conversation”, to be held in a transparent way, about the boundaries of state surveillance highlighted by the leaking of secret NSA files by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a boost to Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister, who is planning to start conversations within government about the oversight of Britain’s intelligence agencies, the former US secretary of state said it would be wrong to shut down a debate.

Clinton, who is seen as a frontrunner for the 2016 US presidential election, said at Chatham House in London: “This is a very important question. On the intelligence issue, we are democracies thank goodness, both the US and the UK.

“We need to have a sensible adult conversation about what is necessary to be done, and how to do it, in a way that is as transparent as it can be, with as much oversight and citizens’ understanding as there can be.”

THANK YOU, Madame Secretary! I have been waiting for someone more versed on the matter than me to make this point and make it forcefully. Awhile back I attempted to write a post on the competing issues of privacy vs. security–though I had tried to wade through the mass of expert opinions and viewpoints on the issue of surveillance in this country, including those contained within articles bostonboomer had been kind enough to send me at my request, I just felt woefully out of league in discussing the subject. It helps (well at least it helps me personally) to hear an emeritus [sic] stateswoman say we need to have a debate–that it would be wrong to shut it down. With Hillary having been on the frontlines of a sort of World Apology Tour in the aftermath of Wikileaks, it feels good to hear that she recognizes the complexity of the issue and doesn’t just dismiss out of hand concerns about privacy, the public’s right to have oversight over its government, etc. I would not expect any less from the woman who as a young Hillary Rodham cut her legal and political teeth working on the Watergate investigation.

Here’s an interesting open letter to Hillary in the Monterey County Herald:

Dear Hillary:

I’m a beleaguered elementary school teacher fighting in the California front-line trenches and I need to give you a guilt-ridden, heartfelt apology. Although I embraced most of your political positions, I felt at the time I had to vote strategically. When it mattered most, I voted for Barack Obama. But it ate my soul because you were the only candidate against No Child Left Behind.

NCLB destroyed public education. It was the biggest of bamboozles, gutting science and social studies for more than a decade, and the whole intrusion of private involvement (testing) in public education has been one of extracting money from classrooms. Race To The Top and Common Core are destructive subtractive chaotic cousins to NCLB.

I teach fifth-graders in a little town near Monterey. My kids are 10 years old. Last year, five students had dead parents. I had 30 kids, so that means one of six had a dead parent. Cancer, cars and gangs were the culprits. This year, I have 31 kids. Two of them soil themselves regularly. Remember, they are 10 years old.

One of my parents warned me her child has Tourette’s syndrome and will upon whim scream, “Chicken!” Nine of my students have set foot in a jail or prison to visit a family member. One of my favorite former students was incarcerated at age 13. He is 30 now and has spent 17 years in and out of prison. At the moment, he has two strikes and is on the run.

I have four special education kids in my class. The pull of gangs is all-powerful here. A few years ago, a former student’s mother was gunned down in a gangland slaying in nearby Salinas. The same child’s grandmother was shot in the face in another gang incident.

I boil over and fester when I hear any mention of “failing schools.” I teach in a desperate community of abject poverty. Poverty is the failure, not the bricks of my building nor the many noble and heroic teachers who have chosen to work in my school. Making teachers accountable for testing results with the abominable life conditions here is a disconnect so large the country is lucky teachers are not engaged in open rebellion. And the money lost to testing, test preparation, test result trainings, test motivation and test-improvement- consultant-magic-dances is repugnant.

All is focused on language arts and math. Nothing else matters, as it is not tested. Result — a diminished curriculum, no music, art, band, restricted field trips, if any. But unctuous consultants show up with paycheck regularity, drive-by checklists in hand. It is, as Diane Ravitch writes, a “Reign of Error.”

Therefore, Hillary, I apologize for voting strategically last time. Obama sang his song, “Yes, We Can,” but the reality is, “Nope, He Didn’t.” We need a president with brains and testicles — figuratively, that is. Bush qualified in one respect, but was shy in gray matter. Obama has brains, but many disappointed supporters wonder what is below the belt.

It is up to you. We need a president with brains and more. That would be you. Please, just remember the teachers and help us help our desperate kids.

 

Paul Karrer teaches in Castroville.

Do you think the above is emotional “hurt feelings” over 2008?

I don’t think Obama is the worst president in American history. In fact I was pretty adamant about Hillary not being the type to primary Obama in 2012, and precisely because I didn’t think he was a “monster” that needed to be removed from the presidency by extraordinary means that virtually no white male president before him ever had to face. (and, yes, I’m aware of the history with LBJ, but that’s really an exception that proves the rule.)

Yet, Obama is a moderate Republican president in all but name. Can’t we do better as a Democratic party? Because, I agree very much with this blog headline from WaPo in spirit: Hillary Clinton could win all 50 states running against Banana Republicans in 2016.

But, that only approaches some sort of realization in practice if we push this Democratic party to the left and make them prove they are an actual meaningful alternative to the Republicans. Just my two, anyway.

Also, too: Figuratively and literally, I think it’s time for ovaries over brovaries. Wendy 2014 and Hillary 2016.

Your turn in the comments, Sky Dancers. Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday Nite Lite: Hey big dummy…

…them little dummies are making you look dumber.

Evening Y’all!

Just a few today, the first one made me think of Sanford and Son, even though there was nothing “Sanford” about it:

Big Dummy – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 10/11/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Big Dummy

Spreading democracy – Political Cartoon by Bruce Plante, Tulsa World – 10/04/2013

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Spreading democracy

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 10/11/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

STOOGES IN CONGRESS by Political Cartoonist Randy Bish

138687 600 STOOGES IN CONGRESS cartoons

10/10 Luckovich cartoon: On second thought… | Mike Luckovich

101013-toon-luckovich-ed

Tea Bug by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

138658 600 Tea Bug cartoons

Smokin’ Bishop by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

138695 600 Smokin Bishop cartoons

Russian Olympic torch by Political Cartoonist Jeff Darcy

138661 600 Russian Olympic torch cartoons

League of Denial by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

138644 600 League of Denial cartoons

10/13 Luckovich cartoon: What’s in a name? | Mike Luckovich

101313-toon-luckovich-ed

Koch Boys by Political Cartoonist Randall Enos

138663 600 Koch Boys cartoons

It’s an open thread…


Friday Reads

tumblr_m606wf7J3K1rrnekqo1_1280 Good Morning!

I think most of us that have lived awhile can attest to the fall in lifestyle and standards of living in the country.  I think it’s been rather obvious that it’s much more difficult to “get ahead” more than at any other time in recent U.S. history.  I ran across some interesting articles that sort’ve validated my gut feeling so I thought I’d share them with you.  I hope you don’t find them too depressing.  The first one indicates that the longevity of U.S. women just isn’t what it used to be. Why are U.S. women dying younger than their mothers?

Whether you think the Affordable Care Act is the right solution or a dangerous step toward tyranny, it’s hard to dispute that the U.S. health-care system is broken. More than 48 million people lack health insurance, and despite having the world’s highest levels of health-care spending per capita, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among developed nations, lagging behind in key metrics like life expectancy, premature death rates, and death by treatable diseases, according to a July study in theJournal of the American Medicine Association.

For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.

“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”

Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.

I’ve always thought that the American Lifestyle that you find touted on TV and at most restaurants and stores is really at odds with living well.   Here’s an interesting vandongenkees-lucieandherpartner-inkblueskylist of items that also reminds me why I always wanted to just stay in Europe whenever I visited there. Are Europeans better at just living life?  Here’s one of the statistics that makes me realize how overworked the U.S. worker is and why we all just sort’ve wear out at some point in time.

Europeans:

The top seven nations in the world, in terms of time off? All European. Austrians get 35 (35!) paid days off per year. Nobody criticizes them for being lazy.

Americans:

Meanwhile, the U.S. is the sole developed nation that requires no paid vacation time or holidays by law.

There’s a lot of fun comparisons there including cars, cheese, and sports.  The link is good for a few smiles.

So, I lot of people subscribe to the idea of peak oil.  I’ve always thought I’d really rather go solar or some alternative for energy in the future since fossil fuels have such incredible problems.  I’m not all that concerned about an oil shortage, but a cocoa bean shortage?  That’s a completely different matter!!!

The world will officially run out on October 2, 2020.

Industry experts met in London last week to discuss the impending meltdown.

Confectionery giants revealed there are just not enough cocoa plantations across the globe to feed the demand.

They warned we would need the ­equivalent of another planet Earth to fill the gap needed to keep the chocolate ­industry going.

Prices are set to soar over the next few years as chocolate becomes harder to get hold of.

As a result many big-name ­companies are ­expected to fill bars that are smaller in size with more nuts and fruit because they are cheaper to produce.

Chocolate taster and expert Angus Kennedy said: “There will be a chocolate shortage and there isn’t a solution to the problem. Seven years is what we think we have left.

“Experts have worked out we need 2.3 globes to accommodate man’s needs for chocolate in terms of forestry and space.

“We need another Earth basically if we carry on at this rate. We are ­destroying the whole thing.

“The problem we’ve got is that much of the space that was used for cocoa ­plantations is no longer there.

“The Chinese love their cars and they have found that rubber makes more money than cocoa and at a much quicker pace.

“Cocoa farms are being chopped down and turned into rubber ­plantations because they get a ­better yield.

“If you plant a cocoa plant you get cocoa beans in four years, which means the farmers are ­waiting four years for a profit so ­obviously they think ‘What is the point?’”

Manufacturers from all over the world including Iran, Belgium, Lebanon, Germany and Switzerland met at the British Library last week for the annual Chocolate Industry Network Conference where they heard the worrying news.

3307_o_matisse_musiqueAt all curious about real US CIA agents in clandestine service?  Try reading this article at Newsweek.

After a stint in the Marines, Archibald began his CIA career as a weapons man in the agency’s special activities division – the “knuckle-draggers,” as they’re known around headquarters – during the Bosnian civil war. From there, he made it into the agency’s elite spy corps, rising to the rank equivalent of general in Pakistan.

How Archibald got his new job remains a mystery to everyone Newsweektalked to. One source thought he’d caught the eye of David Petraeus, whose brief tenure as CIA chief was short-circuited in 2012 by an extramarital affair. Other agency veterans think current CIA director John Brennan liked the former Marine’s non-confrontational style. Bonus points: There was not a whiff of scandal in his background, unlike that of the acting chief, who was closely identified with harsh interrogations and passed over in favor of Archibald. She stayed on as his deputy.

One agency veteran has a more nuanced take on the appointment: “Brennan is his own clandestine ops chief.” Another added, “[Brennan] doesn’t like anyone to argue with him much.”

But there are plenty of things to argue over, insiders say, starting with the layers upon layers of assistants to deputy assistants that clog the agency’s chains of command. Many agency old-timers are also dismayed that the CIA’s core mission of spying on major adversaries seems to have been eclipsed by constant commando raids and drone strikes against terrorist targets. All that, they contend, diverts the agency’s finite resources, time and attention from finding out what’s really going on inside Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, China’s weapons labs or Iran’s nuclear program.

What does Frank Archibald think? Sorry. We can’t ask him.

Today is payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers.  What will they get?

The paycheck federal workers have been dreading hit bank accounts across the region Friday, representing salaries cut in half for most idled employees. The next payday will be all zeros, and with furloughs dragging on, civil servants are settling into a financial crouch, slashing expenses, canceling vacations, tapping retirement savings and taking second jobs.

“We have no income coming into the house right now, but the bills haven’t stopped,” said John Ferris of Falls Church. He is in a two-furlough marriage; both he and his wife, Lena, are locked out of jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency. With both of their paychecks dwindling, the family of six has put a scalpel to the household budget.

They’ve cut out restaurants and expensive groceries. Gone are the motel stays at their kids travel softball tournaments; instead, they drive all night. But the most painful cut has been a furlough of their own, laying off their autistic son’s longtime reading specialist.

“He’s been with our family for years, and I love him to death, but I thought, ‘Wow, how am I going to pay him if we don’t have paychecks coming,’ ” Lena Ferris said. She worries that one of the shutdown’s lasting aftershocks could be her son’s having to adjust to a new tutor. “He needs money, too,” she said of the tutor. “I’m worried he’s going to start working for another family.”

Federal workers say they were hugely relieved by last week’s House vote toguarantee the missed pay after the furlough’s over. But that hasn’t eased their anxiety over the bills stacking up in the meantime. Some parents are stretching to pay for day care they don’t need just so they don’t lose their slots while waiting to go back to work. All around the region, the furloughed are looking for money to satisfy their creditors or begging fauvism3them for more time to pay their bills.

“A lot of our members have been asking to skip a payment,” said Pamela Hout, chief executive of the Census Federal  a Credit Union. Her staff has been working a few hours a week at the nearly deserted Census Bureau headquarters in Prince George’s County to meet the demand. “We’ve been accommodating them; all they have to do is show us their [furlough] letter.”

I need to add one more thing before I sign off this morning.  This is the month that we need to renew our domain and our ability to customize things here.  The bill is about $100  per year so just a bit of a donation to the blog would be much appreciated.  The specialized font comes due in about a month after that so any thing above that will be held until that comes due!!!  Thanks so much!!!

So, that’s my little bit of this and that on a Friday.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Psychological Approaches to the Current Political Situation

Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA

Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!

Today I’m going to focus on some psychological studies and psychological ideas that relate to the news of the day.

A recent study by two social psychologists at The New School in NYC, found that reading literary fiction improves Theory of Mind, or the “ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions” as well as the “capacity for empathy.”

From Scientific American:

Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies in which they divided a varying number of participants (ranging from 86 to 356) and gave them different reading assignments: excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing. After they finished the excerpts the participants took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The researchers found, to their surprise, a significant difference between the literary- and genre-fiction readers.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. The study was published October 4 in Science….

The results suggest that reading fiction is a valuable socializing influence. The study data couldinform debates over how much fiction should be included in educational curricula and whether reading programs should be implemented in prisons, where reading literary fiction might improve inmates’ social functioning and empathy. Castano also hopes the finding will encourage autistic people to engage in more literary fiction, in the hope it could improve their ability to empathize without the side effects of medication.

There’s a little more detail on the study at the Guardian books blog:

“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” said Kidd.

Kidd and Castano, who have published their paper in Science, make a similar distinction between “writerly” writing and “readerly” writing to that made by Roland Barthes in his book on literary theory, The Pleasure of the Text. Mindful of the difficulties of determining what is literary fiction and what is not, certain of the literary extracts were chosen from the PEN/O Henry prize 2012 winners’ anthology and the US National book awards finalists.

“Some writing is what you call ‘writerly’, you fill in the gaps and participate, and some is ‘readerly’, and you’re entertained. We tend to see ‘readerly’ more in genre fiction like adventure, romance and thrillers, where the author dictates your experience as a reader. Literary [writerly] fiction lets you go into a new environment and you have to find your own way,” Kidd said.

As the authors admit, one problem with this study is determining what is “literary fiction” and what is “genre fiction.” In some cases, there is quite a bit of crossover in the selections they used. For example, they classify Louise Erdrich’s The Round House as “literary,” and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, as “genre” fiction. But The Round House has characteristics of a “thriller,” in that its subject is crime; and Flynn is a fine writer, and Gone Girl is in many ways a “writerly” work with a heavy focus on characters’ thinking processes and internal dialogues.

The Guardian quotes a psychologist who objects to Kidd and Castano’s use of Theory of Mind tests to measure the effects of reading different types of fiction.

Philip Davies, a professor of psychological sciences at Liverpool University, whose work with the Reader Organisation connects prisoners with literature, said they were “a bit odd”.

“Testing people’s ability to read faces is a bit odd. The thing about novels is that they give you a view of an inner world that’s not on show. Often what you learn from novels is to be a bit baffled … a novel tells you not to judge,” Davies said.

“In Great Expectations, Pip is embarrassed by Joe, because he’s crude and Pip is on the way up. Reading it, you ask yourself, what is it like to be Pip and what’s it like to be Joe? Would I behave better than Pip in his situation? It’s the spaces which emerge between the two characters where empathy occurs.”

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting study. Now if we could only get the Tea Party folks and super-rich Wall Street types to read more literary fiction!

Harvard Bookstore, Harvard Square

Harvard Bookstore, Harvard Square

The results of another social psychological study, this one at Duke University, showed that people with “extreme” political views have a sense of superiority over people with different views. From Psych Central:

Duke University investigators examined whether one end of the American political spectrum believes more strongly than the other in the superiority of its principles and positions.

They found both sides have elements of “belief superiority,” depending on the issue.

When asked about nine hot-button issues, conservatives feel most superior about their views on voter identification laws, taxes and affirmative action. Liberals feel most superior about their views on government aid for the needy, torture and not basing laws on religion.

The study is found in the online edition of Psychological Science.

Investigators questioned 527 adults, (289 men, 238 women), ages 18-67, about the issues. They then examined whether those who endorse the extremes of conservative and liberal viewpoints demonstrate greater belief superiority than those who hold moderate views.

The study asked participants to not only report their attitudes on the nine topics, but also how superior they feel about their viewpoint for each issue.

According to Diana Reese at the Washington Post, 

The study was inspired by the 2012 presidential election campaign. “We were looking at things like comments on blogs and pundits and politicians on TV,” Dr. Kaitlin Toner said in a phone interview. “It seemed like there were a lot of people who felt very certain that their views were correct but they contradicted one another and there’s no way that everyone could be 100 percent correct all the time.” Toner, the lead author on the study, did the research while a graduate student at Duke….

Don’t confuse belief superiority with dogmatism, though. The latter is “a personality trait,” Toner explained. “It’s a measure of inflexibility….You’re holding a belief rigidly and won’t change.”

In other words, you can hold “superior” beliefs that you’re right and the rest of the world is wrong about a particular issue, but still be able to change your mind, unless you’re dogmatic about your viewpoint.

Previous research has shown that conservatives tend to be more dogmatic, and Toner said their study found the same results, with dogmatism increasing as views moved to the right of the political spectrum.

Another social psychologist from Duke University has a post at HuffPo called The Psychology of Being Online, in which he discusses several studies of the ways in which people react to being in virtual world. You can check them out at the link.

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

Here’s a fascinating article by Justin Fox at the Harvard Business Review. It’s based on behavioral economics–a sort of combination of economic and psychological theories. Fox attempts to explain our current political/economic impasse using game theory. You should read the whole thing, but here an excerpt:

Some portray it as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Warren Buffett says it’s “extreme idiocy.” I’d like to recommend another way of looking at the government shutdown and the looming battle over the debt ceiling in Washington. It’s a game, played by flawed-but-not-crazy human beings under confusing circumstances. In other words, it’s an interaction among “agents” who “base their decisions on limited information about actions of other agents in the recent past, and they do not always optimize.”

That quote is from economist H. Peyton Young’s “The Evolution of Conventions,” one of several works of game theory I plowed my way through this week in an attempt to find a way to think about the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. My reading made the dynamics at work in Congress and at the White House a bit clearer — and thus slightly less maddening, if not less ominous.

The debt-limit game

There are lots of different games being played in Washington at the moment, but the main one I have in mind pits the Democratic White House and Senate against the Republican House of Representatives over the federal budget. The deadlocked players have already landed us in a partial government shutdown, but it’s the 18th since 1976 and thus really not that big a deal. The far bigger stakes involve the federal borrowing limit that is due to be breached in a couple of weeks if Congress doesn’t approve an increase. Without further borrowing, much higher taxes, or draconian spending cuts — none of which may be possible or even legal on short notice — the government might not be able to service its existing debts, leading to a default. Congress has never allowed this to happen, so the consequences are unknowable, but they could be really bad.

Now go read the rest if you’re interested, and see what you think.

Here’s another interesting article that combines economic and psychological approaches by Douglas T. Kenrick of Psychology Today: Cruzonomics: The Problem of Free Market Psychology,

Senator Ted Cruz is a fan of the classic model of economic decision-making: sometimes called the Rational Man* view.   On this view, every one of your decisions is designed to maximize “utility” – which translates loosely into personal satisfaction.  If it feels good now, or will make you feel good later, choose it!  Advocates of this position believe that we are, in general, pretty facile at processing information, and at coming to shrewd self-serving decisions.  If you read the book Freakonomics, the authors explain how even seemingly senseless decisions, like changing one’s occupation from computer technician to prostitute, or living at home if you are a drug dealer, are well explained by economic incentive structures.  We are all, on this view, continuously operating like the high-roller in the movie Wall Street, who, while considering a shady deal, asks: “What’s in it for moi?”

Ask NOT what you can do for your country…

On this view, selfishness is not a bad thing.  On the contrary, it is a virtue.  The intellectual patron saint of free-market economics is Adam Smith, who argued that an “invisible hand” moves us toward mutually beneficial arrangements when everyone pursues his self-interest.  For example, if consumers freely compare different fruit vendors at the market place, they will choose the one who charges the lowest price, but the price will not fall below the farmer’s costs of production, or he will go out of business.

But there are a few problems with the Rational Man view.  One is that people often fail to act in ways that economists regard as perfectly rational.  For example, there is a laboratory game called the Ultimatum Game.  Imagine that an experimenter hands you $100 and instructs you to divide it between yourself and a stranger in the next room.  You can divide it any way you want, but there is one stipulation: If the bloke in the next room doesn’t like your offer, nobody gets anything.  What should you offer?

And if you happen to be the bloke on the receiving end of such an ultimatum, how low an offer should you accept?

Again, I hope you’ll read the whole thing and share your views.

The science fiction section at City Lights Bookstore

The science fiction section at City Lights Bookstore

Finally, check out this sociological/psychological essay at Salon, by Michael Lind: Tea Party radicalism is misunderstood: Meet the “Newest Right.” Again, I can’t really do the piece justice with an excerpt, but here’s a taste:

To judge from the commentary inspired by the shutdown, most progressives and centrists, and even many non-Tea Party conservatives, do not understand the radical force that has captured the Republican Party and paralyzed the federal government. Having grown up in what is rapidly becoming a Tea Party heartland–Texas–I think I do understand it. Allow me to clear away a few misconceptions about what really should be called, not the Tea Party Right, but the Newest Right.

The first misconception that is widespread in the commentariat is that the Newest Right can be thought of as being simply a group of “extremists” who happen to be further on the same political spectrum on which leftists, liberals, centrists and moderate conservatives find their places. But reducing politics to points on a single line is more confusing than enlightening. Most political movements result from the intersection of several axes—ideology, class, occupation, religion, ethnicity and region—of which abstract ideology is seldom the most important.

The second misconception is that the Newest Right or Tea Party Right is populist. The data, however, show that Tea Party activists and leaders on average are more affluent than the average American. The white working class often votes for the Newest Right, but then the white working class has voted for Republicans ever since Nixon. For all its Jacksonian populist rhetoric, the Newest Right is no more a rebellion of the white working class than was the original faux-populist Jacksonian movement, led by rich slaveowners like Andrew Jackson and agents of New York banks like Martin Van Buren.

The third misconception is that the Newest Right is irrational. The American center-left, whose white social base is among highly-educated, credentialed individuals like professors and professionals, repeatedly has committed political suicide by assuming that anyone who disagrees with its views is an ignorant “Neanderthal.” Progressive snobs to the contrary, the leaders of the Newest Right, including Harvard-educated Ted Cruz, like the leaders of any successful political movement, tend to be highly educated and well-off. The self-described members of the Tea Party tend to be more affluent and educated than the general public.

Read the rest at Salon.

I hope you’ll find something useful and/or enlightening among these psychological approaches to our current crazy political environment. Now what stories are you focusing on today. Please share your ideas and links in the comment thread.


Blessed are the Poor or maybe not …

So, ya’ll know I’m not a deist or a christian. But, I do know a lot about the theology having studied it and basically grown up a Presbyterian by default. I say0-20090514_CHARITY.large.prod_affiliate.91default because I was baptized Presbyterian mostly because my mother’s golf partner at the country club was the Presbyterian minister’s wife.  The next time we moved, I was the only one in the family that stuck with the church thing mostly because the best music program in the city was in the Presbyterian church because the minister’s wife was a serious piano teacher.  The minister was great.  He drove around in an orange fiat convertible with a tweed jacket, a golf tam, and leather gloves.  When he wasn’t writing his sermon about what to do the next time you were sitting in the locker room at the country club, he was at the country club golfing.  I have to admit to being kind’ve of an outlier in my family since I’m not a millionaire. I’ve seen what kind of trivial concerns the rich tend to have and I really don’t want to be a part of it.  I’d much rather appreciate my daily bread instead of a pair of manolo blahniks.

I just don’t care that much about money.  I have very simple needs plus I’m a Buddhist and that’s sort’ve a lifestyle thing with us. I say all this because I have been on both sides of the income spectrum and I actually chose downward mobility.  However, I didn’t want to choose poverty.  That’s a more difficult thing to avoid these days; especially if you’re an aging woman in a red state where the governor hates all teachers and professors.

I guess I was the only rich republican kid that read the four woes listed in Luke 6:24–26 that start with “Woe to you…” when I was a good little Presbyterian in sunday school.

…who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
…who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
…who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
…when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

So, given Republican officials are cross-waving christians and just sort’ve wear the entire thing on their sleeves self righteously, why is there a war on poor people?  I also read the four beatitudes in that same sermon on the plain in Luke’s gospel that starts out  “Blessed are you…”

…who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
…who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
…you who weep now, for you will laugh.

I frequently wonder if their new testaments don’t have those particulars.  I do have to say that most of my jaunty minister’s sermons had to do with it being easy to forget about reality when you’re sitting in a country club. (I think he may have been reminding himself.  You should’ve seen the manse.)  Maybe that is the thrust of the problem that we’re witnessing a bunch of self-professed christians declare war on the poor.

American conservatives for the past several decades have shown a remarkable hostility to poor people in our country. The recent effort to slash the SNAP food stamp program in the House (link); the astounding refusal of 26 Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage in their states — depriving millions of poor people from access to Medicaid health coverage (link); and the general legislative indifference to a rising poverty rate in the United States — all this suggests something beyond ideology or neglect.

I also missed the part where Jesus wanted fetuses to come unto him but poor children and their mothers could just go to bed hungry.

poor_peoples_campaign_flyer_fullI left Nebraska nearly 20 years ago to discover a little something different in life down here in New Orleans.  About 10 years ago, I bought a very modest house in the ninth ward of New Orleans.  My neighborhood is undergoing incredible gentrification and I have to admit that I could not afford my house any more.  Neither could any of the neighbors that were here when I moved here.  I actually think this is part of a bigger plan to stop the poor and the black from returning to New Orleans but that is another post for another day.

There is a deliberate strategy of punishing the poor put into place by many southern, Republican governors that profess to be pious Christians.  This includes my hyper-charismatic Catholic converted Bobby Jindal and both of the freaky Republican governors of the surrounding state.  Their position on providing a medicaid expansion to the state to heal the poor is basically let them die in the poorly run privatized hospitals that Jindal sold to his donors at a really cheap price. I guess you have to be a leper to get health care according to biblical fundamentalists.

While Republicans in Congress weren’t able to defund Obamacare, many Republicans at the state level have found a different way to block low-income Americans from receiving cheaper health insurance. An estimated eight million Americans will remain poor and uninsured even after Obamacare is rolled out, due to the decision of many Republican governors and state legislators to reject the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid.

When the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare last year, it also issued a less-noticed ruling that states could opt-out of the law’s Medicaid expansion, which broadened eligibility requirements for the program and provided federal funds to help pay for it. As this essentially amounted to free money until 2016 — at which point the federal government would pay for “only” 90 percent of the expansion — you’d think it’d be a no-brainer to accept it, right?

Well, not if you’re Rick Perry! Or Scott Walker, or Nikki Haley, or Bobby Jindal, or a ton of other red-state governors who decided to forego helping their poorest residents get health insurance because, well, that could alienate the GOP base voters next time they face a primary.

In total, 26 states have rejected the expansion, including the state of Mississippi, which has the highest rate of uninsured poor people in the country. Sixty-eight percent of uninsured single mothers live in the states that rejected the expansion, as do 60 percent of the nation’s uninsured working poor.

In general, states that rejected the expansion also have stricter eligibility requirements for Medicaid. While the 24 states that agreed to expand the program have a median income limit of $12,200 for Medicaid applicants, the limit is $5,600 —less than half the federal poverty level — in the states that rejected it.

Since when did faith in an unfettered market replace faith in the gospels they profess mightily to follow?

One piece of the puzzle seems to come down to ideology and a passionate and unquestioning faith in “the market”. If you are poor in a market system, this ideology implies you’ve done something wrong; you aren’t productive; you don’t deserve a better quality of life. You are probably a drug addict, a welfare queen, a slacker. (Remember “slackers” from the 2012 Presidential campaign?)

Another element here seems to have something to do with social distance. Segments of society with whom one has not contact may be easier to treat impersonally and cruelly. How many conservative legislators or governors have actually spent time with poor people, with the working poor, and with poor children? But without exposure to one’s fellow citizens in many different life circumstances, it is hard to acquire the inner qualities of compassion and caring that make one sensitive to the facts about poverty.

A crucial thread here seems to be a familiar American narrative around race. The language of welfare reform, abuse of food stamps, and the inner city is interwoven with racial assumptions and stereotypes. Joan Walsh’s recent column in Salon (link) does a good job of connecting the dots between conservative rhetoric in the past thirty years and racism.  She quotes a particularly prophetic passage from Lee Atwater in 1982 that basically lays out the transition from overtly racist language to coded language couched in terms of “big government”.

Finally, it seems unavoidable that some of this hostility derives from a fairly straightforward conflict of group interests. In order to create programs and economic opportunities that would significantly reduce poverty, it takes government spending — on income and food support, on education, on housing allowances, and on public amenities for low-income people. Government spending requires taxation; and taxation reduces the income and wealth of households at the top of the ladder. So there is a fairly obvious connection between an anti-poverty legislative agenda and the material interests of the privileged in our economy.

Many in the U.S. have fallen below the poverty line since the last recession because of loss of jobs combined with the increasing amount of income inequality in this country.  It is really through no fault of their own.  So, why do these memes and canards about the poor persist? 

The bottom 1 percent in the U.S. live on an income that is one six-hundredth of the average for the richest 1 percent of Americans. They live on less than the average GDP per capita of a low-income country such as Afghanistan, Mozambique, or Haiti. And they live at or below the national poverty lines of such countries as Ghana, Congo, and Mongolia. Despite living in one of the richest countries in the world, the bottom 1 percent of Americans see incomes below the global median. The more successful disabled beggars of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia earn more than $2 on a good day, according to the International Labor Organization.

It is true that from an objective standpoint, living on $2 in a richer country is associated with better outcomes than living on $2 in a poor country—you are more likely to live in a house with basic utilities, and your children are less likely to die. In those terms, extremely poor Americans have it better than similarly poor Ghanaians—especially because the poorest in America will spend more than $2 a day even if their incomes are considerably below that. On the other hand, Ghanaians living on $2 a day are around average in their society; they don’t face the social stigma and exclusion of being so far removed from “normal” living standards.

Despite the physical and social costs of poverty, we have done a terrible job at raising the incomes of the poorest Americans over the past 20 years. The proportion of America’s households that live on less than $15,000 a year is as high as it was in 1989, while the proportion on more than $200,000 has gone up by two-thirds. That may be one reason for the country’s sluggish growth over that time—there isevidence that greater income equality is associated with stronger income growth for all.

There’s a solution to America’s extreme poverty problem. The example of countries where considerable proportions of the population live on less than $2 a day, as well as historical experience in the U.S., show that the most powerful tool to make poor people’s lives better is simply to give them cash. Brazil’s program of cash transfers, called Bolsa Familia, reduced inequality and increased both school enrolment and the number of poor people who were working. Perhaps we should try something similar in the U.S., providing an income floor for all Americans.

I’m going to give you a flashback from the past–1968– in an old conversation between William F. Buckley and Noble Prize winning economist Milton Friedman who was a big free market advocate back in the day.  This is his suggestion of negative income tax.

I’m not showing you this to say it’s the way to go, I show you to ask a few questions: Would this conversation even be possible today? Have you seen any conversations recently on policies from the party of jaysuz and guns that provides any suggestions on how to actually help the poor?

Now, even fairly upper middle class and working and middle class children with university degrees still face an opportunity gap.

America faces an opportunity gap. Those born in the bottom ranks have difficulty moving up. Although the United States has long thought of itself as a meritocracy, a place where anyone who gets an education and works hard can make it, the facts tell a somewhat different story. Children born into the top fifth of the income distribution have about twice as much of a chance of becoming middle class or better in their adult years as those born into the bottom fifth (Isaacs, Sawhill, & Haskins, 2008). One way that lower-income children can beat the odds is by getting a college degree.[1]Those who complete four-year degrees have a much better chance of becoming middle class than those who don’t — although still not as good of a chance as their more affluent peers. But the even bigger problem is that few actually manage to get the degree. Moreover, the link between parental income and college-going has increased in recent decades (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). In short, higher education is not the kind of mobility-enhancing vehicle that it could be.

It seems that more of us are facing more uphill battles.  It makes me wonder why the social activism and political activism of a Martin Luther King or a Cesar130122-wpfp-chartChavez who fought for rights of the poor has declined?

Two factors seem to be relevant in explaining the political powerlessness of the poor. One is the gerrymandering that has reached an exact science in many state legislatures in recent years, with unassailable majorities for the incumbent party. This means that poor people have little chance of defeating conservative candidates in congressional elections. And second are the resurgent efforts that the Supreme Court enabled last summer to create ever-more onerous voting requirements, once again giving every appearance of serving the purpose of limiting voter participation by poor and minority groups. So conservative incumbents feel largely immune from the political interests that they dis-serve.

It would seem that more and more of us have interests aligned with poor folks.  That is why the Republican party has also upped it’s race-baiting, women-baiting, GLBT-baiting, and immigrant-baiting.  It is continuing to splinter the vast economic interests of the many into many morality plays.  Even the Catholic church–a long time advocate of the poor and disenfranchised–has spent more effort on stomping on the secular rights of women and GLBTs than its usual role of ministering the poor. So, many social institutions have simply fallen prey to the same kind of divide and set-one-on-the other attitudes stoked by the money and the greed of folks like the Kochs.

I have no idea how these distortions have take center stage in our country to the point where our war on poverty has turned to a war on the poor.  I can only think that those of us that fall into the category of having a shrinking pie are like dogs fighting over scraps thrown under the table by our 1 percent masters.  It’s time for us to regain our perspective, if not our moral base.


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?


Tonight on Frontline — League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

The long anticipated Frontline documentary “League of Denial” will be shown on PBS tonight from 9-11PM. A book with the same title by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru was released this morning. I hope you’ll watch it either on TV or on-line. The show examines the problems of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in professional football.

The NFL is not at all happy about the program. In fact, as I reported recently, ESPN was originally a partner with Frontline on the documentary; but after the trailer (produced and edited by my talented brother, John MacGibbon) was released, ESPN abruptly pulled out of the projectmost likely because of pressure from the League.

You can watch the trailer here.

There is lots of coverage of relevant topics at the Frontline site. Here’s a recent story on the doctor who made the connection between football and TBI: The Autopsy That Changed Football

Growing up in Nigeria, Dr. Bennet Omalu knew next to nothing about American football. He didn’t watch the games, he didn’t know the teams, and he certainly didn’t know the name Mike Webster.

That changed in 2002 when Omalu was assigned to perform an autopsy on the legendary Steelers center. Webster had died at 50, but to Omalu, he looked far older. Football had taken a punishing toll on his body. It was Omalu’s job to measure the damage.

As a neuropathologist, Omalu was especially interested in the brain. Inside Mike Webster’s brain, he’d make a startling discovery: a disease never previously identified in football players. The condition, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was the first hard evidence that playing football could cause permanent brain damage. Players with CTE have battled depression, memory loss, and in some cases dementia.

“I had to make sure the slides were Mike Webster’s slides,” Omalu told FRONTLINE. “I looked again. I saw changes that shouldn’t be in a 50-year-old man’s brains, and also changes that shouldn’t be in a brain that looked normal.”

Omalu published his findings, believing NFL officials would want to know more. They didn’t. In public, league doctors assailed his research. Omalu’s conclusions confused the medical literature, they argued. In a rare move, they demanded a retraction.

You can use this as an open thread or a live blog to comment on the documentary. I plan to watch it tonight, and I hope you’ll join me.