Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m going to start out with an economics link today because I really get mad when partisan politics pushes an agenda that puts ignorance ahead of unbiased studies.  This is a prime example of why I no longer trust a single Republican to do what’s best for our country.  Congress asked for a study from the CRS –a nonpartisan, highly respected research source for Congress–on the relationship between high tax rates for high incomes and economic activity. It didn’t produce the results sought by Republicans so they squashed it.  I’ve shared a lot of studies over our years together that show the same thing including one a few weeks ago.  This is just one study showing that taxing rich people really doesn’t hurt the economy.   This just makes me want to scream.

The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.

The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency’s economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, cited the study a week and a half after it was withdrawn in a speech on tax policy at the National Press Club.

But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation.

“This has hues of a banana republic,” Mr. Schumer said. “They didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.”

Republicans did not say whether they had asked the research service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, to take the report out of circulation, but they were clear that they protested its tone and findings.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Mr. McConnell and other senators “raised concerns about the methodology and other flaws.” Mr. Stewart added that people outside of Congress had also criticized the study and that officials at the research service “decided, on their own, to pull the study pending further review.”

Senate Republican aides said they had protested both the tone of the report and its findings. Aides to Mr. McConnell presented a bill of particulars to the research service that included objections to the use of the term “Bush tax cuts” and the report’s reference to “tax cuts for the rich,” which Republicans contended was politically freighted.

They also protested on economic grounds, saying that the author, Thomas L. Hungerford, was looking for a macroeconomic response to tax cuts within the first year of the policy change without sufficiently taking into account the time lag of economic policies. Further, they complained that his analysis had not taken into account other policies affecting growth, such as the Federal Reserve’s decisions on interest rates.

“There were a lot of problems with the report from a real, legitimate economic analysis perspective,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee’s Republicans. “We relayed them to C.R.S. It was a good discussion. We have a good, constructive relationship with them. Then it was pulled.”

The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical.

This is just one of a series of topics important to our future where we can depend on Republicans to ignore data, theory, and scientific evidence.  The worst ones come within the hard sciences like those dealing with in utero fetal development and climate change but this is just more of the same.  They want their ideology and have no regard for empirical evidence found through scientific research that shows just how wrong they really are.  More evidence that Republicans are insidious.

So, it’s Friday and we’re going to entertain my weird obsession of learning about people through graves and grave goods yet again.  Here’s my secret treasure trove of links and how Hurricane Sandy has exposed an interesting grave site. 

Superstorm Sandy  shut down Archaeology News for two days, and uprooted a tree in New Haven, Connecticut, that revealed a human skeleton. Authorities think the burial dates from the colonial era, when the site was used as a cemetery. The tree was planted in 1909 to commemorate the 100thanniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

In the 1950s, a skeleton with metal spikes  through its shoulders, heart, and ankles was found in central England, but a report on the discovery has just been made available. The burial dates to between 550 and 700 A.D. Such treatment of the dead was considered to be appropriate for individuals thought to be capable of returning to life and causing problems for the living. Scholars are no longer sure where this particular rare burial is located. “Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the punishment of being buried in water-logged ground, face down, decapitated, staked or otherwise was reserved for thieves, murderers, or traitors or later for those deviants who did not conform to society’s rules: adulterers, disrupters of the peace, the unpious or oath breaker. Which of these the Southwell deviant was we will never know,” said archaeologist Matthew Beresford.

Guess we’ll have to wait to see what they think about this newest find.

So, I think we need a little more female representation, experience and wisdom in our government so I’m so happy to see that Tammy Baldwin is ahead in Wisconsin and will play a key role in what goes on in the Senate in the upcoming Congress.  She’s been targeted by the worst of the worst and is running against Tommy Thompson who is a Republican favorite son.

New polls show Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, with a four-point lead over her Republican challenger, former governor Tommy Thompson, in a race which may determine control of the Senate and had previously been considered a lock for Republicans. If Baldwin is elected she would likely follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold and be one of the more independent and progressive members of the U.S. Senate.

Outside groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity are spending millions on ads tagging Baldwin as “too liberal” for Wisconsin, and a variety of Democratic groups have criticized Thompson for his work at a lobbying firm with ties to outsourcing, helping make the state’s close Senate race the second-most expensive for outside money in the country and themost expensive in state history. The intensity of the race has also made it exceptionally negative , underscoring how close the race has become and its national importance.

Another race that is exciting is in Illinois where Tammy Duckworth will most likely take down Joe Walsh who is one of the worst of the worst Tea Baggers.  However, tons of big money is flooding into the race so we need to show Tammy all of our love and support.

Though the latest polls say U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh is likely to lose to Democrat Tammy Duckworth next week, key members of Chicago’s corporate community and a couple of huge super PACs are coming to his aid, leading to a furious exchange of verbiage over whether at least the spirit of the law has been broken.

The corporate cash comes from the Exelon Corp. PAC, the Hospira Inc. PAC and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer John Carpenter, each of whom donated $2,500 to Mr. Walsh’s campaign committee in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this week.

There’s nothing particularly controversial in those donations, though some Republicans say privately that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

But much bigger cash — and a much larger flap — has arisen over a late $1 million “independent” expenditure on Mr. Walsh’s behalf by the Missouri-based Now or Never super PAC.

If you’ll recall, Now or Never spent $2 million and said it was “seriously considering” dropping in another $2.5 million here, but then said it changed its mind. But last night, the group sent reporters an email saying it had changed its mind again and decided to spend another $1 million on anti-Duckworth TV ads.

“This is a resource and opportunity-based reversal,” Now or Never spokesman Tyler Harber emailed me. Recent negative reports about Ms. Duckworth “presented us with an opportunity to deliver an effective closing message.”

But Mr. Harber didn’t respond when I asked him who paid for the late blitz. That’s pertinent because earlier this year, Now or Never had been getting the vast bulk of its funding from another group, Americans for Limited Government, which does not disclose its funding. And the Duckworth campaign says ALG Chairman Howard Rich and his wife both have donated to Mr. Walsh’s personal campaign committee in the last year, raising questions of whether the ALG/Now or Never spending truly is uncoordinated, as the law requires.

Please send the Tammys some money!!  Donations to Tammy Baldwin can be sent here.  Donations to Tammy Duckworth can be sent here.

The CSM has an interesting article up on Penn State’s former President–Spanier– who was indicted for a variety of things related to Sandusky’s horrible, serial, long term acts of  child sexual assault.  I find this an interesting set of law suits given similar actions by Bishops and others from Catholic Archdioceses all over the country and the hierarchy of the Boy Scouts. Both organizations have engaged in similar patterns of behavior when confronted with the sexual assault of young boys on their watch and have not been confronted with the same tough legal retributions.  Schultz here refers to a now retired VP who is yet to be charged.  Hasn’t there been evidence of prior knowledge and cover-up in other institutions?  Why can’t we protect our children and decrease the incidence of sexual predators in our society?

Schultz kept a file about the 1998 and 2001 incidents involving Sandusky at his campus office and told staff members never to look in the file, Kelly said.

It was removed from the office on the day charges against Sandusky were announced and delivered to Schultz’s home.

The file’s existence, along with other information relevant to the grand jury investigation, was not disclosed until after Spanier was fired and trustees ordered full cooperation with the probe, she said.

Unbelievable.

I’m going to end with a thought from a female Buddha since I’ve just about had it with male energy after reading that article.  She’s an emanation of female wisdom and wow, do we need some of that today.

‎”When you arrive at the extinction of reality, there is nothing but the spontaneity of pure potential. There is no other way to dance in the sky.”

- Yeshe Tsogyal (757–817)

Anyway, those things have been on my reads list.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Morning Reads: A little this and a little that

Good Morning!

Today’s a good day to let sleeping dogs lie!  Man, is it hot down here in the South. I can’t replace Wonk’s Saturday morning pithiness, but here’s my shot at it.

I read this in my hard copy of The Economist and thought I’d share it. It appears we are hardwired to be generous and cooperate.  Maybe somebody ought to break that news to the Homo Idioticus species now residing in the District Beltway.

At the moment co-operation is the most fashionable subject of investigation. In particular, why are humans so willing to collaborate with unrelated strangers, even to the point of risking being cheated by people whose characters they cannot possibly know?

Evidence from economic games played in the laboratory for real money suggests humans are both trusting of those they have no reason to expect they will ever see again, and surprisingly unwilling to cheat them—and that these phenomena are deeply ingrained in the species’s psychology. Existing theories of the evolution of trust depend either on the participants being relatives (and thus sharing genes) or on their relationship being long-term, with each keeping count to make sure the overall benefits of collaboration exceed the costs. Neither applies in the case of passing strangers, and that has led to speculation that something extraordinary, such as a need for extreme collaboration prompted by the emergence of warfare that uses weapons, has happened in recent human evolution to promote the emergence of an instinct for unconditional generosity.

We’ve also seen how the elderly are going to be treated by the current group of knuckle draggers occupying the District Beltway. Did Bronze Age elderly fare any better? Cambridge researcher Jo Appleby compared the graves of children to old people to get some clues. She found distinct difference in grave goods in many categories of people including sex, age, and presumed social status.

When Appleby compared the items in the graves of older people with the items in the graves of younger people, she turned up some intriguing patterns. In the earlier period, older women tended not to be buried with certain objects that appeared more frequently in younger people’s graves. But the elderly weren’t left with nothing, Appleby said.

“They had really good numbers of objects, and they had some of the richer objects, it was just that particular things weren’t found with them,” she said. For example, unlike their younger counterparts, older women didn’t get buried wearing necklaces made of dog teeth.

Later, in the newer cemetery, this age differentiation vanished. Women wore different items than female children, but the age at which a woman died made no difference in her grave goods.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with her Canadian counterpart  John Baird to discuss a possible US pipeline for oil from Canadian oil sands.  The process of removing oil from sands is expensive and damaging to the environment so in many quarters this is controversial.  It also should be noted that pipelines are known to leak and this is going to head down through some pristine ranch, farming, and recreation territory. However, Canada has been up to its knees in the process for some time–destroying a lot of wilderness in places like Alberta–and would like to see the cash from a pipe that extends from down to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.  It would pass through six states.

The US government will decide by year’s end whether to issue a permit for a proposed $13 billion oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.

The 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer) Keystone XL pipeline proposed by TransCanada would begin in Alberta in western Canada and pass through the US states of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before ending up in Texas at the Gulf of Mexico.

An extensive review has been performed, featuring analysis and assessments, as well as looking over public comments.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in this process and we expect to make a decision on the permit before the end of this year,” Clinton said during a press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.

Baird described a “good discussion” with the chief US diplomat on the matter, adding that Clinton “listened respectfully.”

“It is a very important project not just for our government, but I think for Canadians and the future of the Canadian economy,” he said.

The US State Department says it expects to release a final environmental impact statement on the proposed pipeline by mid-August.

A Republican-led congressional committee voted at the time for a resolution urging Clinton to “immediately approve” the project, which would guarantee oil access for the US.

But a number of environmental and citizen groups have launched a fight against the pipeline because of the oil’s origin. The unconventional oil sands of Alberta require energy that produces a large volume of greenhouse gasses.

Okay, it’s still hot down here. That hasn’t changed since you read the first bit.  Frankly, I think it’s hotter.  Slate has an article with a good heading up and it’s called  Can a Heat Wave Make You Insane? If you ask me, the answer is yes. Let me introduce you to some folks I know that seemed pretty normal when they moved down here to the tropics from way up north.

It depends on how hot it is, and whether you’re mentally stable to begin with. Intense heat increases the risk of dehydration, and even mild dehydration can affect the brain. A study published this summer tested two dozen college-age men and found that a loss of 1 percent body mass via exercise-induced sweating (replaceable with three glasses of water) decreased their cognitive performance and increased levels of anxiety.

Dramatic overheating can also lead to heatstroke, symptoms of which progress from confusion and irritability to hallucinations, violent behavior, and delirium. In animal models, overheating causes some neurons to become more excitable, which might underlie the psychiatric effects. Most of these are transient—cool off and they go away—but heatstroke may lead to long-term brain damage. (It can also kill you.) You won’t keep hallucinating for years to come, but you might end up a little clumsy or slur your speech. Case reports of long-lasting personality changes (similar to those caused by traumatic brain injury) also exist, but this complication appears to be rare.

Those of you with tinfoil hats may want to consider changing to something a little less metallic because a major geomagnetic storm is hitting Earth right now. Those of you up north should check for the infamous Northern Lights.  Evidently Seattle is set to get some so if you’ve got the rare clear sky up there, check them out. I already called the sister and she’s checking them out from her weekend retreat on the Puget Sound.

A massive solar storm hit Earth on August 5, raising the possibility of auroras being visible even at relatively low latitudes, as well as potential disruptions to communications satellites and GPS devices.

“My estimate is we will probably get aurorae in the northern tier of the U.S.,” physicist Brian J. Anderson told the Baltimore Sun’s meteorology blogger. “We might be able to see it in the Baltimore-Washington area if it [the magnetic field in the solar storm] turns due south.”

According to spaceweather.com, the burst of radio static which reached the earth on the evening of August 4th — prior to the main electromagnetic blast — was “so powerful that receivers on Earth picked it up after sunset.” Events of that kind are extremely rare, and radio astronomers have never been able to offer a conclusive explanation for how they happen.

So, you want to see a picture of the real Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?

Lucy Vodden was the subject of a painting brought home from nursery school by a young Julian Lennon, who showed it to his dad, John, and told him it was “Lucy — in the sky with diamonds”.

Julian got back in touch with Lucy a few years agi when he heard that she was battling Lupus, an auto-immune disease.

Now, a plaque commemorating the woman who inspired the Beatles’ hit, will be placed in Liverpool in memory of Vodden who died in 2009 at age 46. (See the original painting below)

Following her death, Lennon became heavily involved with St Thomas’ Lupus Trust, which commissioned the plaque, and he become the Lupus Foundation of America’s Global Ambassador.

Okay, I need another glass of ice tea.  The big question is if I can face a drive in a hot car to the grocery store.  So, now it’s up to you. What’s on you reading and blogging list today?