Monday Reads

Good morning!

It’s another one of those holidays where we’re heels if we don’t go out and spend some cash on cards, bad food, and overpriced flowers.  If all else fails, you can celebrate birthdays of dead presidents and buy a mattress!   So, I did one thing dealing with a ‘heart’ last night and I didn’t even have to pay.  I watched Masterpiece Theatre.  This is something I’ve done for decades. My mother and I conspired to tape all the Upstairs Downstairs when I had a Beta player.   What a valuable collection that’s turned out to be!!  Anyway, this new one is by William Boyd who chronicles the life  of  writer Logan Gonzago Mountstuart.  It’s called ‘Any Human Heart’. I enjoyed the first part so I’ll undoubtedly watch more.  It included Hemingway reading poetry and Edward and Mrs. Simpson playing through during a game of golf.  It was introduced by the usual announcement of the attempt by the Republicans to kill this type of programming and Big Bird.  I already know the Louisiana contingent of Republicans will all say yes to offing Big Bird and the two remaining Democrats will say no.  No point in my writing any of them.   I’d like to have my own version of the Hyde amendment where I get to defund the department of defense and the pentagon and fund anything PBS and planned parenthood want to do.  Wanna join my movement to pass the Big Bird Amendment?

So, my fear of future food prices has been matched by that of Nouriel Roubini.  I just read today that food inflation in India was reaching somewhere between 18-19% annually.  I guess it’s getting worse for food importing Japan.

Yes, rising costs for commodities such as wheat, corn and coffee might do what trillions of dollars of central-bank liquidity couldn’t.

Yet the economic consequences of food prices pale in comparison with the social ones. Nowhere could the fallout be greater than Asia, where a critical mass of those living on less than $2 dollars a day reside. It might have major implications for Asia’s debt outlook. It may have even bigger ones for leaders hoping to keep the peace and avoid mass protests.

What a difference a few months can make. Back in, say, October, the chatter was about Asia’s invulnerability to Wall Street’s woes. Now, governments in Jakarta, Manila and New Delhi are grappling with their own subprime crisis of sorts. This one reflects a toxic mix of suboptimal food stocks, exploding demand, wacky weather and zero interest rates around the globe.

It’s not hyperbole when Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the U.S. financial crisis, says surging food and energy costs are stoking emerging-market inflation that’s serious enough to topple governments. Hosni Mubarak over in Egypt can attest to that.

Revolution any one?  Since it’s hitting 70 this week, it’s time to start up the garden and the green house again.  The frost really did the banana trees in so I’ll likely be out in the back with a machete and odd straw hat while you’re reading this. Hopefully, this time I won’t be buzzed by spy planes and stealth choppers.  I still haven’t forgotten the black Apache helicopters overhead two years ago–way too close to my martial law Katrina experience–testing out a more of the same thing drill.  That will stay with me for some time.  I guarantee. That was the same time congress introduced a law to set up FEMA camps too. (See all the links.)  I wonder how long before they try a few more of those ideas out again.

The NYT shared ‘The Dirty Little Secrets of Search’ yesterday. I thought I’d share them today.

The New York Times asked an expert in online search, Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media in New York, to study this question, as well as Penney’s astoundingly strong search-term performance in recent months. What he found suggests that the digital age’s most mundane act, the Google search, often represents layer upon layer of intrigue. And the intrigue starts in the sprawling, subterranean world of “black hat” optimization, the dark art of raising the profile of a Web site with methods that Google considers tantamount to cheating.

Despite the cowboy outlaw connotations, black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google. The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and “white hat” approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.

“Actually, it’s the most ambitious attempt I’ve ever heard of,” he said. “This whole thing just blew me away. Especially for such a major brand. You’d think they would have people around them that would know better.”

Media Matters reports that Shirely Sherrod will sue Andrew Brietbart for his role in her firing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  You may recall that his organization significantly edited a speech she gave to make her sound racist.  Sherrod’s attorneys are arguing that he damaged her reputation.  She needs to sue him down here in New Orleans where we don’t cap damages and she’s likely to find a sympathetic jury.  Breitbart one bit of pond scum I’d like to see drained from the pool.

Breitbart, who first posted the clip on July 19, 2010, at his site, had been under scrutiny after it was revealed the clip misrepresented Sherrod’s message during a speech in March 2010 before a group of NAACP members.

Fox then posted an online article reporting on the clip, linking to Breitbart’s video. Breitbart did not seek comment from Sherrod prior to his report; Fox News also gave no indication that they had done so. She was forced to resign later that day.

Breitbart has recently claimed that Sherrod was not fired because of his video but because of her part in the 11-year-old Pigford case, in which black farmers sued for discrimination against the Agriculture Department.

He stated such a claim again on Thursday in an interview with Media Matters, in which he admitted he had no proof of the assertion, revealing it was a theory.

Sigh.  He’s also committed my most pet pet peeve.   Yet another idiot that doesn’t know the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. Don’t they teach the Scientific method any more?  Couldn’t they put out an idiots guide out so folks like this can buy a clue?  Hey, Andrew!!  Here’s something for Your Idiot’s 3X5 card.

  • S: (n) hypothesis, possibility, theory (a tentative insight into the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena) “a scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory”; “he proposed a fresh theory of alkalis that later was accepted in chemical practices”

Yes.  A Scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory.  Could we please stop using these words as interchangeable please?

So, speaking of a hypothesis and scientific testing, every wonder what kinds of things extra testosterone can do for some one?  Science Daily reports that a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. shows it reduces empathy.

Professor Jack van Honk at the University of Utrecht and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge designed the study that was conducted in Utrecht. They used the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ task as the test of mind reading, which tests how well someone can infer what a person is thinking or feeling from photographs of facial expressions from around the eyes.

Mind reading is one aspect of empathy, a skill that shows significant sex differences in favour of females. They tested 16 young women from the general population, since women on average have lower levels of testosterone than men. The decision to test just females was to maximize the possibility of seeing a reduction in their levels of empathy.

The researchers not only found that administration of testosterone leads to a significant reduction in mind reading, but that this effect is powerfully predicted by the 2D:4D digit ratio, a marker of prenatal testosterone. Those people with the most masculinized 2D:4D ratios showed the most pronounced reduction in the ability to mind read.

Jack van Honk said: “We are excited by this finding because it suggests testosterone levels prenatally prime later testosterone effects on the mind.”

Simon Baron-Cohen commented: “This study contributes to our knowledge of how small hormonal differences can have far-reaching effects on empathy.”

I wonder what impact that will have on those new drugs pushing for testosterone therapy?  How many women and gay men may want the men in their lives to just say no?

Okay, so I saved the worst for last.  I was watching Candy Crowley yesterday sorta, kinda.  When I got back from making another cup of coffee there was this face on the screen on the screen blathering one of my other pet peeves.  (See picture on the right.) Within about 2 minutes, I was mumbling to myself wondering where these dumba$$ republicans get their complete and total lack of information on the economy.  He was on about the usual STUPIDa$$ meme that the federal government has to get its budget in order like a household.  So, completely stupid!  Households can go bankrupt.  Their debts come due.  Governments of stable, developed nations are assumed to operate in perpetuity plus they have the ability to goose the economy through job initiatives which can take care of budgets really quickly.  Then, there’s the fact we have general price deflation right now and they could still print up money.  Governments are NOT households, idiot!!   So, much to my chagrin and naivete, the dude I was ready to toss nerf balls at was actually Obama’s new Budget Director, Jacob Lew.  I swear, he sounded like some Republican Congressman.  He was defending these cuts in terms I wouldn’t believe could come from a Democratic pol.  Later on Sunday, I found out they were Obama’s cuts and then later than that, I found it Obama’s budget Direct that was defending them on State of the Union.  I guess every other Democratic pol was embarrassed to defend these kinds of stupid cuts.

“What [the budget] says is that we really do what every American family does: we have to start living within our means,” Lew said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Lew outlined a series of targeted cuts including $125 million from a fund to restore the Great Lakes. He also said graduate student loans would accrue interest while students are in school. As it stands now, interest doesn’t start accruing until after a graduate student completes his or her program.

Lew stressed that while interest will accrue while a student attends graduate school, the student will not have to pay that interest until he or she graduates. “Interest will build up, but students won’t have to pay until they graduate,” Lew said. “It will not reduce access to education.”

“It’s not possible to do this painlessly,” Lew said. “We made some tough choices.”

I’ll repeat what I said last night. How about we get rid of abstinence ‘education’?  How about all those subsidies to religious organizations who try to ungay gays and try to covert alcoholics from substance abuse to religious abuse?  Can we please close down all of the military bases in Europe and Japan now?  I think both WW2 and the Cold War are over.  How about we just leave Iraq and Afghanistan?  Can we defund anything that creates a check for GE, Halliburton, or KBR?  Hell, I have a $Billions of them … just ask me.

Oh, and here’s something from NPR on ‘The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day’.  It was a pretty bizarre Roman mating and fertility ritual in its earliest days.  They don’t have any cards that reflect this, however.  As per usual, the Roman Catholic church later co-opted it as an excuse to promote one of its numerous celebrity martyrs.

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

50 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I’d like to hear Obama’s budget director explain why it wouldn’t have made more sense to end the Bush tax cuts on the rich and superrich. Actually I probably wouldn’t want to hear his argument, because it would probably be based on discredited claims drawn from Reaganomics.

    I heard this guy on CNN this morning. He defended the cuts in heating subsidies for poor people by claiming that the price of energy has gone down and so they no longer need the assistance.

    We are living in a nightmare that we can’t wake up from.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Defending the cuts in heating subsidies, fuel prices are down, they don’t need it…what a joke.

      Last night my husband and I got into one of our “discussions” on politics. He is one of those Wall St. GOP fanatics, and me, you all know where I stand. Even after losing his big time Wall St. job, bankruptcy, foreclosure on the house, (and now that he is working at Walmart) he still has the same ideals as he did when he was commuting everyday into NYC. He actually told me last night that, the government should not reward people for having 5 kids. Welfare people need to get a job…social security is costing the government too much…people should only get paid from social security the amount they put in. I think you all get the picture. The stuff he was saying was maddening.

      I can understand his frustration about social security.(How ever I don’t agree with him.) He said that during the years he worked on Wall St. (93-03) he contributed the maximum amount to social security, and he will probably never see a dime of it. He is probably right.

      But that thing about rewarding people with lots of kids…WTF? I was tired, and just could not argue back. After 20 years, I am not going to change his views away from the dark side. Yet, the views he was expressing last night are more popular than ever.

      A nightmare is right, feels like I am running towards a door at the end of an endless hall. Ugh.

      • cwaltz says:

        What has the government rewarded me with?
        (Disclosure: I have 4 kids)

        A tax break? Uh they give tax breaks for millions of things like vehicles, energy efficient
        appliances, homes, “gifts”, etc, etc.

        So what was his larger point.

        furthermore white collar workers like your husband have a far better chance at ever seeing a dime then the “ditch digging” types like my husband. Longetivity for blue collar workers is much lower than their white collar counterparts.

        It sounds like your husband is falling for the divide and conquer philosophy the oligarchy needs to succeed to continue to loot and pillage. His ire should be directed at the government rather than at the lower end of the economic rung like minorities immigrants, or union folk. I wish him lots of luck at the world’s largest retailer, I worked there for 3 years and it was quite the depressing experience. They made the military look organized and less bureaucratic.

      • mjames says:

        Divide and conquer, that’s the game. The have-nots against the have-nothings. Yes, he’s got it: our economic mess is caused by those very powerful folk at the very bottom. Right. Let’s take away their heat and their air conditioning. They already don’t have access to “healthy” food; it’s too expensive. Good. Let them eat junk. Then, when they get sick from worry and stress and eating junk and no time for exercise, let’s make the cost of health care prohibitive. Let’s take away their homes too. They must be punished.

        When the only thing that’s free and fun is sex, and when there is no meaningful discussion of pregnancy prevention and what having children really entails, well, then, sex it will be.

        How about this? Give a job to anyone who wants a job. A job that pays enough for the person to live. This country needs plenty of repair. That would increase the tax revenue for sure. Provide universal health care. Dismantle the health insurers entirely. Stop with the military BS. Cut the budget by 95%. Hell, dismantle Wall Street too. It’s all a giant shell game anyway and always has been. Insider trading, baby. That’s for the rich only.

        Give a decent education, from preschool through college – free – to anyone who wants it. Nice clean schools, food, arts, athletics, computers, after-school programs. Oh, and some basic sex education. How about that? Teach about the fact of overpopulation. How about that? Start a high school teacher’s salary at $100,000.

        In closing, I say to your husband, “Where are the jobs for these welfare crooks, pray tell?” College grads can’t even find jobs.
        I don’t know how you stand it, Minkoff.

      • mjames says:

        Well, I just posted, only to see cwaltz just posted the same thing, with the same words “divide and conquer.” Right on.

      • dakinikat says:

        The other thing is that he’ll see more than a ‘dime’ of his social security. There’s plenty of it out there. They’ll either make him work longer to get it or reduce the levels, but with the amount of money still coming into social security … assuming no more of the BS holidays and that the unemployment rate doesn’t skyrocket and eventually returns to normal, he’ll see something. There’s still way too many paying into the system for it not to pay something even 40 or 50 years out. With his background, he should be able to go look at the trust fund cash flows and figure that out.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Hey, try living with him…it has been on bumpy ride.

        I sometimes think that he says things like the 5 kid penalty just to turn the screw. And you are right about Walmart cwaltz, just this weekend his former manager (and official mentor) had a heart attack in the store. Just 6 months ago, his regional died in another store, heart attack too.

        The real point I was trying to make, is that his opinion is in the majority these days. And that trying to change the minds of the “conservative” group seems impossible. Here we are, part of the poor class that he speaks so flippant about and he still doesn’t get it.

    • renartthefox says:

      “We are living in a nightmare that we can’t wake up from.”

      BB > There are some that are awake, and see the true forms of the monsters, I am not sure which is worse, to be dreaming everything is o.k, or awake and watching it all. feh

  2. Minkoff Minx says:

    Thanks for the link about Google, I have already started working on the lag time for the site..just FYI.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    I never thought I would live to see the day where my government would be putting the needs of its most vulnerable citizens by the wayside in favor of the wealthy. It just never occurred to me that this upside down way of thinking would be finding purchase and encouragement within the ranks of our elected officials.

    And it never occurred to me that a Democratic president would be at the helm.

    This is becoming like a chapter out of “Alice in Wonderland”.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Glenn Greewald: Journalists angry over commission of journalism.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    OT good news —

    It is 45 degrees here!!

  6. Branjor says:

    “Reading the mind in the eyes”

    Here’s this kewl test I found for it:

    How well do you do? I got 34 out of 36.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    This is what a “Democratic president” looks like. What I can’t figure out is why the GOP hates him so much. He’s one of them!

    • bostonboomer says:

      From that post:

      Indeed, the driver of the deficit is tax cuts. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that as a result of the tax cut deal, the projected deficit in Obama’s budget will reach a “record” level of $1.6 trillion this year, though that figure, relative to the size of the American economy, is far lower than many other governments around the world, according to data compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency. And the relative deficit is well below the levels of the 1940s, a time of economic prosperity. “President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget proposal projects this year’s deficit will reach $1.6 trillion, the largest on record, as December’s tax-cut deal begins to reduce federal revenues, a senior Democrat said Sunday,” the Journal reported Sunday evening. (The deficit is only a record if it is neither adjusted for inflation nor considered relative to the size of GDP.)

      A closer look at surveys suggests that when people say they are concerned about the deficit, they are actually worried about the economy.

      • dakinikat says:

        If they’d lower unemployment, a huge part of the deficit would naturally go away. It’s ridiculous to hear them talk this way with no real plan to deal with unemployment.

      • Owen says:

        Kat, the plan is to kill the workers. its obvious. They say “we need jobs not govt. spending” knowing full well that the best way to get jobs is govt. spending to CREATE jobs…..

    • TheRock says:

      How hard-hearted must a person be to make these decisions? Cutting aid that provides heat to people in the winter? Cutting Women’s health and nutrition programs? Really?


      Hillary 2012

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Protests are spreading. Police attacked demonstrators in Bahrain

    • dakinikat says:

      More power to all of them. I hope it begins to shoot down some of these horrible stereotypes people have about the MENA area and Muslims. They’re waking up a hell of a lot faster than our fundies ever will.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      oxfordgirl 1:54pm via TweetDeck

      Today the protester have concentrated on khamenie, they want regime change, not just tp replace Ahmadinejad #IranElection #25Bahman

      oxfordgirl 1:37pm via TweetDeck

      Enduring America, great round up #IranElection #25Bahman

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    For a man as indecisive as this one, he sure rushed to the plate to get these enacted.

    I think most of us are beginning to share a sinking feeling en masse.

    • bostonboomer says:

      When it comes to screwing the middle classes and lower, Obama is extremely decisive.

      When it comes to supporting ordinary people who want democracy, not so much.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I’ve said it before, he is only concerned with his own sort of “people.” He always has been, and to think he fooled us it completely ridiculous. There were millions who knew the kind of person he was.

  10. Fannie says:

    What is this, Obama’s Bound to Starve Budget?

    • dakinikat says:

      Seems like it … you should check this out from The Nation: The Obama Budget: Challenging or Co-Opting the GOP?

      The New York Times has posted a quick summary of what the budget does and does not do. The budget includes additional funds for education, high-speed rail, a national wireless network and a National Infrastructure Bank, which Democrats and Obama supporters will like. The document also rejects the advice of the Administration’s deficit commission and does not tinker with Social Security or Medicare, which will no doubt anger deficit hawks in both parties. At the same time, the president is proposing painful cuts in heating assistance for low-income families, block grants for community development and Pell Grants for needy students—all things that Democrats would no doubt criticize if a Republican president proposed them.

      Can we start hearing some people saying that we don’t have a real Democratic president now? Please?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Here’s another quote from Berman’s article:

        The cuts the president has outlined barely offset the tab of temporarily extending the Bush tax cuts, which added $858 billion to the deficit over two years, including $125 billion for Americans making over $250,000 and slashing the estate tax. If Obama ends up once again extending the Bush tax cuts in 2012, the savings he envisions in the current budget will be completely nullified. Meanwhile, his unwillingness to play hardball with the GOP last year will result in increased hardship in real time for millions of Americans who are struggling to survive this recession. We’re living in odd times when a Democratic president is okay spending billions of dollars on an unpopular and seemingly unwinnable war in Afghanistan but has no problem cutting heating aid for poor Americans in the midst of the coldest winter in memory.

        How much do you want to bet Ari Berman voted for Obama?

  11. Fannie says:

    Tell me something, if we did away with all private insurance, how much would we save?

    • bostonboomer says:

      One hell of a lot!

    • dakinikat says:

      I’ve seen estimates of up to 30 – 40% right off the bat. That’s just for standardizing the paper work and causing the prices to settle down to a single price point. It would probably be more once consumers started looking beyond just pricing insurance to other things.

  12. Minkoff Minx says:

    Eat The Future –

    There is a lot of talk on the wires about this new budget of Obama and the GOP.

    If you didn’t understand that logic, you might be puzzled by many items in the House G.O.P. proposal. Why cut a billion dollars from a highly successful program that provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant mothers, infants, and young children? Why cut $648 million from nuclear nonproliferation activities? (One terrorist nuke, assembled from stray ex-Soviet fissile material, can ruin your whole day.) Why cut $578 million from the I.R.S. enforcement budget? (Letting tax cheats run wild doesn’t exactly serve the cause of deficit reduction.)

    Once you understand the imperatives Republicans face, however, it all makes sense. By slashing future-oriented programs, they can deliver the instant spending cuts Tea Partiers demand, without imposing too much immediate pain on voters. And as for the future costs — a population damaged by childhood malnutrition, an increased chance of terrorist attacks, a revenue system undermined by widespread tax evasion — well, tomorrow is another day.

    In a better world, politicians would talk to voters as if they were adults. They would explain that discretionary spending has little to do with the long-run imbalance between spending and revenues. They would then explain that solving that long-run problem requires two main things: reining in health-care costs and, realistically, increasing taxes to pay for the programs that Americans really want.

  13. foxyladi14 says:

    Happy St. Valentines day.Skydancers 😦

  14. pdgrey says: The way “media, etc.,” talk about Social Security has been going on a long time. Now the “Democrats” are saying the same lies.

  15. Boo Radly says:

    Have not been able to keep up with reading all comments so delete if this is old news – sounds like a good thing:

    AP Enterprise: Gulf claims process under fire

    An Associated Press review that included interviews with legal experts, government officials and more than 300 Gulf residents found a process beset by red tape and delay, and at the center of it all a fund administrator whose ties to BP have raised questions about his independence.

    Now, the dissatisfaction has reached a fever pitch: Lawmakers in Washington are demanding the White House step in, the Louisiana governor and others want a federal judge to intervene, and the people most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster are threatening to line the courthouse steps if they don’t get the changes they seek from administrator Kenneth Feinberg.


    It’s a long article – one example of a commercial shrimper is maddening. Hope Feinberg’s methods are closely questioned now and the process quickens to get these people help they deserve.

  16. pdgrey says:

    Well, after reading about all of the cut, cut, cut, hear comes a scrub clean of Geithner in The New Republic. “You have the Treasury Secretary of the United States, three years after a major financial crisis, saying out loud that what’s good for Wall Street is good for America”. I am just about ready to give up.

    • dakinikat says:

      Isn’t Geithner a Republican? Why is he and then Bernanke–also a Republican–two of the three most important decisions makers. Then of course, there’s defense sec Gates who is also a Republican. We have Chicago players playing politics and Republicans making policy. What a messed up situation!

      • pdgrey says:

        It’s all so sad. It makes you wonder, who really is a democrat these days. “yup, we’re down the rabbit hole and being led by mad hatters”.

  17. dakinikat says:

    File this under I certainly hope not!

    Democratic senators slow to embrace Obama’s budget

    Why would Dems want to embrace a Rethug plan?

  18. Beata says:

    Anyone who is enjoying the Masterpiece Theatre production of William Boyd’s “Any Human Heart” should read his novel “Restless”. I think it is his best work.