Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

There was a terrible oil pipeline explosion in San Martin Texmelucan, Mexico.

A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves.

The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat.

Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones.

The disastrous accident is being blamed on thieves who were attempting to steal crude oil.

Investigators found a hole in the pipeline and equipment for extracting crude, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.

“They lost control because of the high pressure with which the fuel exits the pipeline,” he said.

The oil flowed more than half a mile (one kilometer) down a city street before diverting into a river. At some point a spark of unknown origin caused both to erupt in flames.

I found that story on Fox News. I’m not sure how much attention it will get in the U.S. Cudos to Fox for covering it.

The National Journal has a preview of what we’re in store for in 2012 if we can’t dump Obama and find a qualified, electable liberal to replace him. According to the author, Ronald Brownstein, there are two types of Republicans who might run for president: “managers” like Mitt Romney and “populists” like Sarah Palin.

The most prominent populists are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The leading manager is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, although he could face competition from such current governors as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, and, conceivably, New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich straddles both camps but leans toward the populist side. Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a self-described “Sam’s Club” Republican with an equable manner, also straddles the line but probably tilts toward the manager camp, as would Sen. John Thune of South Dakota if he ran. Conversely, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry reverses his decision and joins the race, he would enter as a full-throated populist.

No matter which type we get stuck with, it’s going to be a nightmare.

The two groups disagree on some issues (trade, aid to banks), but the most important differences between them are cultural and stylistic, not ideological. The populists thunder; the managers reassure. The populists stress their social values; the managers tout their economic competence. The populists rage at the elite; the managers mingle easily with them.

To their supporters, the populists represent a cultural statement: Who they are is more important than what they will do. For the managers, that equation is reversed: Their biggest selling point is their agenda, not their identity.

Of course, Obama might be able to get some of his base back now that Congress has suddenly handed him DADT repeal. IMHO, Obama didn’t really want it, but he’ll take the resulting bump it will probably give him. It’s not clear yet what results the tax cuts will have on Obama’s popularity. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.

Also at the National Journal, there’s an interesting piece by Michael Hirsch: Obama Tried to Placate Liberal Economists

At a White House news conference on December 7 in which he announced a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama chastised his liberal base for sticking unrealistically to their “purist” positions.

What the president didn’t say was that a few hours earlier he had met with and tried to assauge some his most vociferous liberal critics — economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary.

Excuse me? Why the hell did it take so long for this story to get out?

“He didn’t really respond,” said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base. Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”

Um…presidentin’ is hard. Part of the job is influencing “the narrative.” Maybe if Obama had actually tried, he could have accomplished something. But why try? Might as well just relax, play basketball, and vacation in Martha’s Vineyard wine tours, enjoying Hawaii, and let the other Reaganites control “the narrative.” The article even harks back to Obama’s praise of Reagan during the primaries.

We just have to dump this loser!

There’s a great post on Washington’s Blog arguing for a causal connection between income inequality and the crashes of 1929 and 2008.

…recent studies by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are waking up more and more economists to the possibility that there may be a connection.

Specifically, economics professors Saez (UC Berkeley) and Piketty (Paris School of Economics) show that the percentage of wealth held by the richest 1% of Americans peaked in 1928 and 2007 – right before each crash…

Please go read the whole thing.

Raw Story reports that a new study supports the hypothesis that the “Supreme Court is becoming a tool of corporate interests.”

A study has found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has undergone a fundamental shift in its outlook, ruling in favor of businesses much more often than previous courts.

According to the Northwestern University study, commissioned for the New York Times, the Roberts court has sided with business interests in 61 percent of relevant cases, compared to 46 percent in the last five years of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who passed away in 2005….

Meanwhile, a second study, from the Constitutional Accountability Center, has charted the growing influence of the US Chamber of Commerce on the courts. The chamber started filing amicus briefs with the top court three decades ago in an effort to prompt more business-friendly rulings.

According to the study, the Roberts Supreme Court has sided with the Chamber 68 percent of the time, up from 56 percent under the Rehnquist court, and noticeably higher than the 43 percent during the relevant part of Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court, which ended in 1986.

Fox News reports the results of another study, one that finds that “Prime Time TV ‘Objectifies and Fetishizes’ Underage Girls”

According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.

PTC’s report, entitled “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV” is based on a content analysis drawn from the 25 most popular shows in the 12-17 demographic throughout the 2009-2010 television season.

“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave.”

“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Winter said.

I have to say, this study reflect what I’ve noticed in the small sample of TV I expose myself to. Prime time is sure different than when I was a teenager.

At the Washington Post, there’s a story about (surprise!) hypocrisy in the Senate.

The Senate Armed Services Committee prohibits its staff and presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation from owning stocks or bonds in 48,096 companies that have Defense Department contracts. But the senators who sit on the influential panel are allowed to own any assets they want.

And they have owned millions in interests in these firms.

The committee’s prohibition is designed to prevent high-ranking Pentagon officials from using inside information to enrich themselves or members of their immediate family.

But panel members have access to much of the same inside information, because they receive classified briefings from high-ranking defense officials about policy, contracts and plans for combat strategies and weapons systems.

Of course it’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a wide open invitation to corruption.

Since I’m a psychologist, I’m going to throw in a story about psychological research. The author, Tyler Burge, is a professor of philosophy at UCLA. He discusses one of my pet peeves–the way brain imaging research is glorified in the media, even though it’s really just based on correlations between brain activity and specific behaviors. While the results of these studies can be interesting, they aren’t sufficient to actually explain human behavior.

Burge writes:

Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.

Discussing psychology in neural terms makes a similar mistake. Explanations of neural phenomena are not themselves explanations of psychological phenomena. Some expect the neural level to replace the psychological level. This expectation is as naive as expecting a single cure for cancer. Science is almost never so simple.

Correlations between localized neural activity and specific psychological phenomena are important facts. But they merely set the stage for explanation. Being purely descriptive, they explain nothing. Some correlations do aid psychological explanation. For example, identifying neural events underlying vision constrains explanations of timing in psychological processes and has helped predict psychological effects. We will understand both the correlations and the psychology, however, only through psychological explanation.

Unfortunately, Burge wants to replace the evidence from brain imaging research with perceptual research. Okay, but perception doesn’t fully explain human behavior either.

I could make the same argument for other psychological fields. For example, what about child development? One problem with research on brain structures is that every child’s brain develops differently, depending on the experiences the child has with his or her environment. The brain is so flexible that each human brain is truly unique–even though there are obviously many similarities across individuals.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article. Check it out if you’re interested in psychology.

Soooooo… what are you reading this morning? Please share!


79 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. purplefinn says:

    Thanks for the round-up, BB. This caught my eye from NPR:

    Pentagon Health Plan Won’t Cover Brain-Damage Therapy for Troops by T. Christian Miller and Daniel Zwerdling

    December 20, 2010

    During the past few decades, scientists have become increasingly persuaded that people who suffer brain injuries benefit from what is called cognitive rehabilitation therapy — a lengthy, painstaking process in which patients relearn basic life tasks such as counting, cooking or remembering directions to get home.

    Many neurologists, several major insurance companies and even some medical facilities run by the Pentagon agree that the therapy can help people whose functioning has been diminished by blows to the head.

    But despite pressure from Congress and the recommendations of military and civilian experts, the Pentagon’s health plan for troops and many veterans refuses to cover the treatment — a decision that could affect the tens of thousands of service members who have suffered brain damage while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    http://www.npr.org/2010/12/20/132145959/pentagon-health-plan-wont-cover-brain-damage-therapy-for-troops?ft=1&f=1001

    I suggest that George W. Bush and Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney pay for it until the insurance companies pick up the tab.

    • purplefinn says:

      I have no idea why everything is in italics.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That is disgusting. Thanks for posting that link, Purplefinn.

    • NW Luna says:

      I see; it’s all due to the horrendously expensive fees by those speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and other medical team members:

      the high cost of cognitive rehabilitation, which can cost $15,000 to $50,000 per soldier.

      OMG. Even at 50K apiece, bet we could pay for that with a miniscule % of that tax cut to billionaires. That tepid “must cover both sides” stance of the NPR article ignores that cognitive rehab therapy is standard treatment for brain injuries that result in impairment of function. Hey, it can even help someone get back working again instead of being on disability. I practice in a medical center with this type of program (non-military); it’s no cure-all but makes a huge difference.

      I worry about what will happen with thousands of troops coming back with traumatic brain injuries and no treatment.

      • joanelle says:

        Hmmm, gee Luna then if we didn’t send the troops over there in the first place we wouldn’t have to deal with the “high cost of cognitive rehab”

  2. TheRock says:

    Nice roundup B! The hour from my departure here at work fast approaches, though sleep is not in my near future (gotta deal with my own fledgling company til about 11am. John Smart has an excellent post about the now repealed DADT law.

    http://johnwsmart.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/question/

    The Post also has a post about it as well….

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/19/AR2010121903719.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

    Dak, might like this one from the post blog….

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/12/extreme-inequality-helped-cause-both.html

    And finally, I am a big Bill Belichick fan, so their success is my tonic!

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Video-Pats-315-pound-offensive-lineman-returns?urn=nfl-298035

    Have a great day!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Patriots rock!! I can’t believe how well they are doing this year. I thought it was going to be a lost season. You have a great day too, and get some sleep.

  3. paper doll says:

    BB of all the GOP listed, Mitt Romney is the most serious and the crazed fundies wing won’t come out for a Mormon( imo) …if that GOP list is all that they are putting forward, in my opinion, the powers that be want Barry part two(and why wouldn’t they? He’s been hugely successful for them so far) and the GOP slime machine swift boats will be in dry dock again . Saying yes to every GOP wet dream and branding Dem is how he’ll hold on to the White House…. that seems to be thier strategy.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I know. To be honest, Romney is a lot like Obama anyway. He doesn’t have any core values that I can see.

      • paper doll says:

        He doesn’t have any core values that I can see

        Indeed that’s why he appeals to the Upper Crust at all…. that is serious contender 101…you must have no core values…however why let a white guy GOPer trash the US as we have known it when they can have a supposed Dem AA guy do it….I wish I felt BO would be a one term POTUS …but look at the alternative… So we go from frying pan to the fire and back again. I won’t vote for either…but the US voter has been expertly boxed in.

        • bostonboomer says:

          I’m just not convinced that a Republican would be worse than Obama. Isn’t it possible the Dems would fight Social Security cuts if they were proposed by a Repub. instead of an AA supposed Dem?

          • paper doll says:

            I think with the GOP in the White House, the best the Dems would do would be to wait two days before caving….like they did all though out in 06-08. Bush’s 2004 Social Security push was pushed back by the US public and hard. The Dems did their usual wet pants and show belly….

            What has the Dems in a spin with Obama is he does not provide them with any cover whatsoever …there’s no hand wringing or looking like one maybe fighting before the cave in …it’s all back room deals they aren’t even invited to witness. I’m waiting for Obama to switch parties officially ….and he would, but it’s so convenient to have everyone pretend he’s a Dem. As Alibe points out , Fox is now praising him…the reinstall of Obama has begun . Wait till they start calling him Churchill

          • RalphB says:

            They didn’t cave to Bush on SS privatization or Medicare cuts. In fact, the GOP wouldn’t bring them up with Bush in office. Remember that when Obama calls for cuts in SS in the State of the Union.

          • paper doll says:

            Well Bush certainly tried after right after his 2004 reinstall with his Social Security “listening ” tour….( omg, remember when they had buzz words behind him at appearances! lol! ) the trouble was every time he opened his mouth, the American people said ” hell no! ” louder to the turn SS over to Wall St., plan they were trying to put over then. Bush was great at unintentionally sinking it! ….my point is : Whether there is a GOP or DEM President…Dems won’t stop the destruction of SS. At the very most , they will wring their hands as they cave. It has to be the public if anyone is to stop it . But the powers that be learned from Bush’s dismal tour…don’t bother persuading the public…do whatever you want over a weekend …

          • RalphB says:

            You may be right but I hope people can apply enough pressure to stop it again. If a solid GOP majority is against it, I don’t know that Congress will do it. Republicans fear their voters.

          • joanelle says:

            BB said: “I’m just not convinced that a Republican would be worse than Obama”

            Wait a minute – I’ve been thinking all along that they were in the same party anyway so…

      • dakinikat says:

        Romney’s sudden embrace of the anti-choice crowd is particularly odious.

  4. Laurie says:

    “He didn’t really respond,” said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “

    I can’t believe the candidate for hope and change could have said that with a straight face…

  5. Sima says:

    Blah. The Senate passed the Food Safety Bill, again, on Sunday.

    I’m really, really torn on this one. Some food advocates say it’ll make food safer and reign in Big Ag. Others say it won’t.

    Considering it has bi-partisan support to be forwarded (again) to the House, considering all the Big Ag names that supported it, I’m thinking it won’t do much, if it all, to stop Big Ag.

    If it actually gets funded, maybe it’ll do something. If it doesn’t, I expect the FDA and Homeland Security to come down really, really, really hard on small to medium sized farms and food processors (Testor amendment or not) because they are easy, cheap, picking and will generate headlines that make it seem like the government agencies are doing their jobs. And Big Ag’ll reap the benefits because there will be few alternatives left.

    Am I cynical, or what?

    I do hope they struck the provision in the House bill that made it illegal to have wildlife on the farm. I have read that they did, and read that they didn’t. That one provision, if no other, showed me personally how little lawmakers know about real life.

    Linky:
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2010/Dec/19/senate_passes_food_safety_bill__again.html

    • bostonboomer says:

      How can it be illegal to have wildlife on the farm? That’s weird.

      • Sima says:

        Well, it was in the original house bill. They were scared that wildlife might poo on the crops, and then that poo would infect the crops… I dunno, the whole thing was insane. Like I said, it shows how far from actual food raising these people are.

        Lemme find a link…
        http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20100530/articles/5301027

        For example, one of the rules the FDA proposes is to keep wild animals off the farm. The goal is to eliminate animal waste from contaminating the food. But many believe implementing the regulation would be nearly impossible, and the science of contamination is not fully understood. Farmers have used manure as a fertilizer for centuries and were never concerned about contaminating their crops.

        “Keeping animals out is unfortunately not grounded in science,” North Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Executive Director Roland McReynolds said. “We don’t know how pathogens get from the soil to the plants.”

        Also, the FDA requires food manufacturers to document their entire operation and follow required practices. Machines must be cleaned on a regular basis, workers must wear sanitary clothing and food must be tested for contamination.

        Farmers say that is an unfair burden. A small family farm with only a couple employees does not have the resources to document everything like a large corporate farm. They follow safe practices, and the evidence is when the public trusts them to grow their food locally.

        And: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/04/03/03greenwire-small-farms-fear-bearing-brunt-of-new-regulati-10431.html

        A new California program that regulates leafy greens illustrates how small farmers who practice sustainable methods can be the unintentional targets of laws aimed at industrial offenders, Baden-Mayer said.

        After investigators discovered that a 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach may have been linked to animal feces on California farmland, the state developed new industry standards that advocate ripping out wild areas on farms to discourage wild animals from entering.

        “Organic standards specifically say you are supposed to cultivate the wild land on your farm, and having the area filter water has a lot of benefits,” Baden-Mayer said. “One of the principles is just that — we’re going to farm in a way that’s not disruptive to nature.”

        While participating in the regulatory program is voluntary, E. coli-wary retailers are increasingly demanding compliance.

        Farmers are seeing the same trend in voluntary FDA and Agriculture Department standards called “good agricultural practices,” which include several common-sense measures such as hand-washing but can dock farms points if they sit within 2 miles of livestock.

        Critics say the rules unfairly penalize small farmers who grow crops and raise cattle on the same farm, while failing to address what they believe is the root of the E. coli problem — large, mismanaged feedlots that cram cattle together and spew waste runoff.

        It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. My farm, for instance, has a huge wetland that attracts thousands of water birds in the winter. It goes away in the summer, although we don’t cultivate it. The neighbor (who also has the wetland in the winter) has his cows on it during the summer. So who wins? The environment police or the food police?

        • bostonboomer says:

          That’s an insane idea. How could even large farms document every time a bird lands on their property and poops? And some animals might still get by even an electric fence. We’re going to hell in a handbasket.

        • Fannie says:

          I do observe poo on my land, I want to know whose poo it is, but I am sure as hell not going to report my findings to the government.

          I just recently spotted some strange poo, it wasn’t my dog, nor my cats,
          nor my deer, and it wasn’t a mountain lion. Too small to be bear poo,
          and since I’ve not seen bear nearby in over 30 some odd, doubt it. Several
          trips to the woods that surround me, I found more of the same looking poo. Must be a whole family pooing. A closer study of this poo, and observations in early morning, it’s the fox family. Haven’t seen them in my back yard ever, but they are here pooing.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’ll bet you don’t noticed every bit of bird poop though.

          • Laurie says:

            We’ve just had snow over here. I live on the outskirts of a small town close to Florence. I was looking out at the snow on the tops of walls and stuff like that- it’s about 8 inches deep-and all of a sudden I realized that there were no bird footprints on it anywhere.

            As a child I’m sure I can remember bird marks on snow-what has happened to the wild world?

          • NW Luna says:

            Fannie, if you ever get fox pics, do share!

          • Sima says:

            Oh heck yea, we get scat on the farm all the time. I ignore most of it, when it’s interesting, I have a look.

            We’ve coyotes that run through the pastures, fox and birds and other animals that live in the fields, myriads of rodents of different kinds (no city type rats though), bald eagles, hawks, water birds, ducks, song birds, bear and apparently, way down at the bottom, cougar. And we have deer on the fringes, rabbits, pheasants…

            Well, that gives an idea of how ‘easy’ it would be too keep the animals out.

    • dakinikat says:

      Gosh! Hope you’re planning to post on this!!!

      • Sima says:

        I will, I think they struck that rule, because it was so obviously insane.

        But I’m sure it’ll come back in various ways.

    • NW Luna says:

      Sima, that link says:

      “…require larger producers to follow tougher rules for keeping food safe.”

      which implies that small producers would be exempt. Can’t tell without reading the actual text.

      And how can anyone keep all wildlife off all their acreage?

      • NW Luna says:

        Oh, and watch out for that wild bumblebee poo!

      • Sima says:

        Yes, it does imply that smaller producers would be exempt. But I’ll only believe it when I see it in practice. That’s the problem, the devil is in the details. After it passes the House, again, and I’m sure they’ll pass it, Big Ag wants it very badly it seems, then the fight starts anew; the fight over how the regulations and rules are actually implemented, who’s affected and how.

        The bill requires the FDA to consider scale and small farmers, it doesn’t require them to be fair or reasonable or nice to them. That’s why the amendments were added, to try and help this out. This is where I’m wary. The language is too broad, too wishy-washy and has too many loopholes. It’s easy to distort and very hard to understand.

    • joanelle says:

      real food doesn’t need any additives – if it doesn’t have a mommy or a daddy – don’t eat it i.e. fresh vegies, fresh dairy, real meat,

  6. fiscalliberal says:

    Obama’s snarky comments after meeting the “liberal” economists are those of a bully who is caught without his que cards. My view is that he expected to have them bow down and they would not give him the press conference of compliance, so he got bully snarky.

    They stood up to power. God – he is so weak on framing the issues. His picking up on Reagan totally forgets that he talked conservative but was in fact a big pork barrenl spender. I really wonder if he understands that he is getting rolled by the Republicans. I guess the best sting is one where the person does not evern realize it

    The term ” failed community organizer ” is so appropriate.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What I want to know is why Krugman and others kept this meeting a secret, even while they were writing columns about the issue. We need to know when the President is leaning on the press.

      • dakinikat says:

        I would hope it is because they are trying to have some place at the table. I think that by not saying anything, it would at least give them some input to policy. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.

        • Minkoff Minx says:

          Yes, I am with Dak on this one. The thing that gets me about the silence, is the speaking on condition of anonymity. They just do not want the powers that be know who is leaking it.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    Obama felt that after he was officially “crowned” in January 2009 that this was all that was needed to “lead”. Instead of taking on the issue that was foremost, jobs, jobs, jobs, he decided to work on “healtcare reform” instead, thus putting on display his total lack of awareness of what constitutes priorities. This was just the beginning.

    Turning this issue over to Pelosi and Reid he showed just how little interest he had in actually sheparding the legislation and dealing with the “Party of No” as he collected the Nobel Peace Prize for having done -well actually nothing at that time – to have earned it. Congress went on to rip one another to shreds while he gallivanted all over creation with little or no awareness that it was leadership the public demanded not rock star concerts thrown on his behalf.

    He has managed to put the nation back into the hands of the hated GOP who will turn legislation into a joke in the next two years as they act to protect their corporate donors and slide more easily into the arms of the social conservative fundies they will need to assure them of a full GOP House and Senate along with a possible presidential pick that may very well be a Romney or Palin to secure their grip.

    Actually, the voters will have little to gain from an Obama victory for the WH and a fully staffed GOP congress. This man has shown he has little interest in a good old fashioned fight based on principle since he lacks even that much as we have witnessed so far.

    All he has managed to do so far is break a barrier and that in itself is not enough to want 4 more years of this brand of governing. People by and large are rapidly turning away.

  8. Fannie says:

    Thanks for the report on Mexican oil blast, I had not heard about it. I am aware that gas prices are creeping up, and no one seems to be reportiing on that either.

    I am just sorry for Mexican neighbors, like us, they just can’t seem to catch a break.

    • joanelle says:

      Fannie said: “I am aware that gas prices are creeping up” – whoa, I’m not sure where you are Fannie but they are jumping up by leaps and bounds here in the NJ metro area.

      • Sima says:

        The prices are rising like crazy here too.

        I did notice our local news had a story about the oil blast, I read it first there.

        • Fannie says:

          Today I did hear them talking about the price of gas, and I could have sworn it was the same reason Bush gave several years ago, here we go
          again.

  9. Alibe says:

    I was watching FOX this AM. It is a good place to see Obama’s strategy in place. It is rather simple. I am seeing the Right, and Fox New, had conspired to paint Obama with the Socialist brush for the first 2 years. Obama governed as a Republican the past 2 years. Then, when the Congress flipped, as they knew it would, Fox claims that Obama has moved to the center. They are praising his brilliance in seeing the need for this. (obviously this was the plan) Now the right will be able to influence both candidates and they will both be Republicans, Obama and Romney? Or whoever they decide to have run. The left will be frozen out entirely… Both in governing in the next two years and in the selection of a Presidential candidate. DADT will be he only bone to the left. I personally see no bone to the left. The right gets a bigger pool of fools to fight these insane wars and the right gets a great fundraising tool. Win…win! And will gays really be able to be out and open in the Military? I doubt it. It will be a true “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. They might not attempt to drum everyone out who is gay but it will be a club to hold over any gay military person. In my mind, this repeal will guarantee no opposition to Obama from the left. It will be hard to explain how the repeal of DADT will really hurt the left and help the right. But you know we are screwed…both gay and straight who hate these wars and Obama.

  10. Branjor says:

    He discusses one of my pet peeves–the way brain imaging research is glorified in the media, even though it’s really just based on correlations between brain activity and specific behaviors.

    That’s been a pet peeve of mine for years. And it’s not only glorified in the media, it’s sometimes used by various mental health professionals to convince skeptical patients that their problems are brain based in the sometimes mistaken belief that the patients aren’t scientifically sophisticated enough to see through it. Very unethical behavior, IMO.
    Also, in relation to the popular belief that “brain chemistry” causes certain “mental illnesses”, it sort of like finding an excess of adrenalin in the bloodstream of someone experiencing great fear and concluding that the excess adrenalin is the cause of the fear (not the fact that the individual just saw a mack truck bearing down on her.)

    • NW Luna says:

      Many theories about brain anatomy and biochemistry are evidence-based, but they can be carried to excess.

      For example, the hippocampus area of the brain is often smaller in persons who’ve undergone horrendous experiences: war orphans from Bosnia, prisoners of war. It’s also usually smaller in persons with long or serious depression or anxiety. However, given safer surroundings, good food, and compassionate caregivers, or anti-depressant medication or mental-health therapy, the hippocampus will increase to normal size.

      But humans aren’t machines, and there is a great deal of inter-individual variation. One can’t look at just 15 subjects and make sweeping conclusions. And one must always look for confounds. For example, does a person have increased norepinephrine (adrenaline) just when the Mack truck went out of control, or is it at totally unrelated times? I once found that a very anxious patient had increased norepi from an adrenal tumor. That is a very rare situation though.

      Although these days, I wonder about persons who don’t have any anxiety.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        NWLuna, I am so glad you are a regular participant in the discussion. 😉

      • Branjor says:

        Really interesting about the hippocampus studies, Luna. It does show that smaller size of it is correlated with wartime trauma and depression, but not that the trauma and depression are caused by the smaller size. Not surprised that safer surroundings, good food, compassionate caregivers and mental health therapy would act to increase its size to normal, but surprised that antidepressant meds would.

        Yes also about the elevated norepi, colloquially known as adrenalin. In the great majority of cases of course the mack truck would be the cause of it, but it’s not impossible that she may also have increased norepi at other times due to something else, such as the adrenal tumor. It just bothers me when psychiatrists conclude that a biochemical abnormality is the cause of a person’s problems and just treat them with meds and not psychotherapy.

        Just for interest, a woman with the opposite problem, no fear even when she should be scared, due to a genetic disorder:
        http://www.aolnews.com/2010/12/19/scientists-study-woman-with-no-fears/?icid=maing|main5|dl1|sec2_lnk2|32295

        • NW Luna says:

          Yes, the physical abnormality was a result of the psychological and physiological trauma, not the reverse.

          On my part I was surprised initially that so many studies supported that counseling could work as well as meds! But now I find it fascinating and wonderful. The “anti-depressant” meds should really be named “neurotransmitter modulators,” as that is likely part of their mechanism of action. Counseling must result in some neurotransmitter level changes, and doubtless others. The subject of neuro-psycho-biochemistry-anatomy is so complex and we know so little.

          • Linda C says:

            While I was working in private practice we had a woman brought in by her family. The doctors at another hospital did PET scan and told the woman she had moderate alzheimer’s and that she shouldn’t drive and be placed in an assisted living facility. Clinically she was very functional. We sent her for a driving exam and she passed with flying colors. We treated her depression and she improved further. Obviously some of these doctors were providing a diagnosis on the basis of a scan, but also were using the scan for treatment recommendations. I often wondered if they actually sat down and talked with her.
            Now I am working in forensics. Many of the inmates come in with a diagnosis of “schizophrenia” and or “bipolar disorder” from a community psychiatrist. What an absolute joke and a total disservice to the inmate as a human being. They tell me all of the medication they have tried and none of it has worked. The inmate meets none of the criteria for such a diagnosis but does meet criteria for Antisocial or Borderline Personality D/O. Since personality disorders are very difficult to treat it is easier for a psychiatrist to misdiagnose and prescribe treatment for a non-existent condition. Believe it or not a few inmates have actually thanked me when I explain what they have, some of the theories of why it develops, and that therapy is going to help them more than medication.

          • NW Luna says:

            Alzheimer’s is not diagnosed based on a scan! And never, never, never diagnose anything based on one test. I shudder hearing about so many clinicians missing this common-sense guideline.

            Especially if it’s a scan. Whether XRays or MRIs, the imagine scans are notorious for matching up oh, about 30-50% with the clinical picture. Lots of people with back pain and normal MRIs and vice versa. I’ve MS patients with MRIs that look hideous and they are working full-time in demanding, (really) creative jobs. Some have hardly anything on their brain MRIs but nobody’s home upstairs.

            You just have to sit down and talk with your patient. Remember that old-fashioned saying “the history will give you 90% of what you need for a diagnosis”?

            Scans are overused. Technology gets reimbused for very nicely; that’s the problem. Cognitive skills — meh, not so much.

          • bostonboomer says:

            Good point. In my opinion, antidepressants make it easier for depressed people to make behavioral changes–but only if the person takes action to make changes. Simply taking antidepressants won’t magically alter behavior and/or brain chemistry.

            As I said in the post, the human brain is incredibly plastic. This is true even in very elderly people. Brain structure changes as people have new experiences. There is a great deal of recent research on this, and has required textbooks to be rewritten again and again over the past 10-15 years.

            At one time it was considered gospel that human beings are born with a certain number of neurons and new ones never form. We now know that even people in their 70s can form new neurons in response to new experiences–not just new connections between neurons, but brand new brain cells.

            There are also some experiences that must happen during a particular time period during development. This is true of language development.

  11. Laurie says:

    More pics of the Mexican pipeline disaster:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12035399

  12. dakinikat says:

    I must be a bad influence. I have BB posting econ links now.

  13. Fannie says:

    BB, I notice when I park my truck the bird poo, and I know chicken and turkey, duck and goose poo………but as far as the tree birds, I always look at the bottom of my shoes before I enter my house, and there it is.

  14. Fannie says:

    Laurie, get youself a 50lb sack of poultry food, and toss it over the snow, they will come.

  15. Minkoff Minx says:

    Great roundup BB, awesome finds too! I am a little slow this morning, need to catch up!

  16. Minkoff Minx says:

    The Ten Worst Media Disasters of 2010 | Worst Media Disasters of the Year | Video | Mediaite

    Check this one out:

    This year’s winners include a politician threatening to kill a reporter, a movie star threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, a Prime Minister killing his own political career, and a CEO trying to “top kill” an oil spill.

  17. Minkoff Minx says:

    Well, Shep finally is saying exactly who was the one that blocked the 9/11 responders. He interviewed Gillibrand and Pataki…I will post a link when they are done.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Here is the link to the interviews:

      http://video.foxnews.com/v/4469087/new-hope-for-911-heroes/

      Oh, and this link in no way means that I am pushing the whatever it is that Fox is trying to sell in the ad. (Especially the Mormon stuff.) So, just ignore that bit.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        And just one more…Shep Smith 9/11 First Responders | George Pataki | Video | Mediaite

        The 9/11 First Responders bill still hasn’t passed the Senate, Sen. John Kyl is “skeptical about that bill,” and Shepard Smith is outraged. Today, he addressed the bill again with former New York Governor George Pataki, and it’s safe to say he’s still not happy.

        Smith was so unhappy, in fact, that he read off a list of Republican senators the show contacted…who then declined to speak with him about the issue. There were several especially prominent names on the list, including Jim DeMint, Mitch McConnell, and the aforementioned John Kyl. And the list of those who never responded in any way was just as notable, with names like Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain. It’s safe to say that no one on those lists caqme out of this segment looking particularly good.

  18. dakinikat says:

    Joe and Barrack wave bye bye to 2010!!!