Wednesday Reads: 2011-2012 Sandwich

Good Morning!

There are just a few days left in 2011, and for all we know 2012 is going to be the last year we gotta deal with. Right?

I never knew what the source was for the traditional New Year’s Eve Kiss, but,

According to English and German folklore, the first person you encounter in a new year — and the nature of this encounter — sets the tone for the rest of the year. A kiss is about strengthening ties you wish to maintain in the future. If a couple celebrating together doesn’t take the time to lock lips, it doesn’t bode well for the relationship.

Hmmmm…My grandmother also used to throw a pot of water out the back door, something about washing away the bad luck from the previous year. It never worked for her, Granny had to have the worst luck of anyone I know. The idea that a New Year’s kiss strengthens ties is a positive way to begin 2012…perhaps some of the GOP Clowns will start puckering up?

Oh wait, they’ve been kissing the base’s ass all along. Perry switched his stance on abortion yesterday, and since I’ve brought this up…let’s stick with the right’s war on women for one more link.

The GOP’s 10 Most Extreme Attacks On A Woman’s Right To Choose An Abortion

2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are ThinkProgress’s nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose.

From redefining rape to defunding Planned Parenthood, see what 10 bills made the list…

In other Women’s Issues news, Egypt has banned the military’s forced practice of “virginity test.”

An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the country’s military rulers to stop the use of “virginity tests” on female detainees, a practice that has caused an uproar among activists and rights groups.

The virginity test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters, and the army cleared the square by force. The rights group Human Rights Watch said seven women were subjected to the tests.

The ban came a week after public outrage over scenes of soldiers dragging women protesters by the hair, stomping on them and stripping one half-naked in the street during a fierce crackdown on activists.

The people of Haiti lost an important human rights advocate this past week, Death of Dominican activist leaves void in movement for rights of people of Haitian descent

Sonia Perez was the undisputed champion of people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic, fighting deep discrimination and helping them get birth certificates, housing and education.

Her passing earlier this month of a heart attack at age 48 has left many activists wondering who will carry on her work at a crucial time.

“I don’t see who can replace her,” said Edwin Paraison, who worked with Pierre and was Haiti’s former minister of Haitians living abroad. “Sonia is the kind of woman who is born once a century.”

People of Haitian descent, or even just darker skin, have long been condemned to menial jobs, subject to deportation and denied access to school and jobs in the Dominican Republic.

In 30 years of activism, Pierre helped countless people obtain birth certificates over the resistance of government officials. She led marches and organized rallies, fighting for better conditions for people in the sugar cane camps, or bateys, where she grew up.

You may remember Sonia Perez standing next to Michele Obama and Hillary Clinton when she received the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2010. The passing of Perez at such a young age is so sad…she has left many wondering who will step up to take on the battle she can no longer wage.

Yesterday, NorthWestRain posted a link to an article in Esquire…I just wanted to bring it up to the front page because it really is a powerful read: American Class System – We Are Not All Created Equal, by Stephen Marche – Esquire

There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.

Go read it…America is the land of the haves and have nots…I wonder if these two Fed governors Obama has nominated will help matters or just make them worse: Obama taps economist, banker as Fed governors

President Barack Obama will nominate Harvard economist Jeremy Stein and Jerome Powell, an investment banker and former Treasury official, to the two empty seats on the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting board of governors.

The White House’s pick of candidates, who have Democratic and Republican credentials respectively, may help speed their nomination through Congress amid a sluggish economic recovery that has failed to put a major dent in the unemployment rate, now at 8.6 percent.

While neither has laid out detailed views on monetary policy, Stein wrote a paper earlier this year suggesting he would back the Fed’s unconventional efforts to keep down long-term borrowing costs, which have been controversial in Washington. The Fed for over three years has adopted an array of radical measures to keep interest rates low and spur recovery.

Stein, who previously worked for the Obama administration as an adviser to the Treasury secretary and a National Economic Council staff member, specializes in stock price behavior, corporate investment and financing decisions, risk management and capital allocation inside firms. He declined to comment on his nomination.

The choice of Powell, who served at the Treasury during President George H. W. Bush’s term in the late 1980s and early 1990s, could be aimed at mollifying Senate Republicans. They blocked Peter Diamond, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, saying the Nobel prize winner was not qualified for the job and was too sympathetic to government intervention in the economy.

Powell is a lawyer by training and worked at Dillon, Read and Bankers Trust Co. after leaving the senior Bush administration and before joining Carlyle Group. His knowledge of financial markets could help him fill the gap left by Kevin Warsh, a former Morgan Stanley executive who acted as Chairman Ben Bernanke’s point-man for crisis negotiations.

I am sure Dakinikat will have something to say about these nominations…right Dak…hint…hint. 😉

In the hacking world, an Anonymous group is planing to publish emails stolen from Stratfor, aka Strategic Forecasting Inc.

Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group said they are getting ready to publish emails stolen from private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting Inc, whose clients include the U.S. military, Wall Street banks and other corporations.

[…]

Antisec has already published what it claims are the names of thousands of corporate and government customers, as well as email addresses, passwords and credit card numbers of individual subscribers to its services. Customers on the list published by Antisec include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil Corp, Goldman Sachs & Co, Interpol, Thomson Reuters, the U.S. military and the United Nations.

[…]

“Stratfor is not the ‘harmless company’ it tries to paint itself as. You’ll see in those emails,” Anonymous said via Twitter.

The group said it would release those emails once it had finished formatting them for distribution and prepared more than 9,000 “mirrored” copies. Creating that many copies of the file would allow the hackers to distribute it more quickly and also make it more difficult for authorities to shut down servers holding the data.

I guess time will tell. I doubt Wikileaks will be involved in the distribution, but this hack makes me think of Biden’s remark about terrorist acts. Especially with the Manning Hearing going on, it will be interesting to see what happens.

This Christmas, my husband got a Kindle Fire…it replaces his 1st Generation Kindle that we got back when Amazon first released the Kindle in 2007. He has always been happy with his Kindle, in fact it was his satisfaction that prompted me to get a Kindle of my own. I thought at 79 bucks…yes, it will pay for itself.  I had not paid any attention to the prices of the Kindle books, I thought they were still at the reasonable price of $9.99. What a shock it was to find out that many Kindle ebooks are more expensive than a paperback. So this next link actually addresses this change.  The great ebook price swindle

Publishers have two major distribution methods. One is traditional wholesaling: sell the book to a middleman, who typically adds a mark-up to customers, but sometimes discounts a book below cost as a “loss leader” to attract more business for items that aren’t discounted in this way.

The other model is called the “agency” system. In this case, publishers set the price and the bookstore merely handles the sale to the ultimate customer, for a set fee or percentage of the transaction.

The “big six” US publishers all sell their physical books via the wholesale model. After years of wholesaling digital editions as well, they moved to the agency model for ebooks, with Random House becoming the final publisher to switch early last year. The publishers had been increasingly angry about Amazon’s selling of new bestsellers at the loss-leading price of $10 (actually, $9.99), worrying that the giant online company was setting customer expectations at a too-low price point and undermining the sales of physical books.

Apple played a role in this switch, by essentially telling the publishers it wanted the agency model for its own online bookstore, which services the iPad and iPhone. And Apple co-operated in what was the inevitable result for e-books everywhere: higher prices to consumers.

Not just higher prices, but vastly higher; many ebook bestsellers on Amazon (and in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store) jumped 30% to 50%, from about $10 to $13 or $15 or even higher, as publishers imposed higher list prices for the digital versions. And in case after case, the ebook price for a new book was close to, and sometimes even higher than, the Amazon price for a hardcover. Remember, Amazon still has the right to discount from list price for physical books, as it has always done. Meanwhile, publishers have dictated that ebook prices will be the same as they charge for paperbacks (around $10 these days).

The article points out that these new e-book prices are a rotten deal for consumers…no kidding. And to think that Apple played a roll in this price increase really pisses me off. So greed is ruining the one luxuries I had in life, reading books with the ease of accessibility on a Kindle…sounds like an Occupy Random House is needed…what do you all think.

Now, I’ve got two creature feature articles for your enjoyment…

Invasive black tiger shrimp prove a genuine threat to Gulf shrimp populations.  I’ve seen these things being sold at the grocery store or our local Banjoville Walmart…I had no idea they were so invasive and such a threat to native shrimp.

Fisheries managers say there’s an invasive species lurking in the Gulf of Mexico that could have a negative impact in the Coastal Bend.

The black tiger shrimp, marketed by seafood markets as tiger prawns, eats other shrimp and recently reappeared as a concern among state biologists and seafood industry officials.

The highly aggressive giant shrimp, which can be a foot long and weigh nearly a pound, can carry diseases that native brown, white and pink shrimp may not have the immune system to fight, said Art Morris, a fisheries biologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife.

The numbers of Tiger Shrimp caught in the Gulf has increased since Katrina, the theory being that a Tiger Shrimp farm was affected in the storm causing a large population to be released into the Gulf. Tiger shrimp are the most common shrimp raised in farms worldwide.

Here is another creature story that I had not heard of before:  The hunt for Mokele-mbembe: Congo’s Loch Ness Monster

The search for Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster is world famous. Far less well-known is the hunt for a similar creature, Mokele-mbembe, which is reputed to live in the remote north of Congo-Brazzaville. But how strong is the evidence?

“I checked maps, and the data on the maps was white. It said, ‘insufficient data to delineate terrain’. Well that got me!” says Dr Roy Mackal, a retired biologist from the University of Chicago.

“It’s the end of the world. It gives you a feeling of a surviving prehistoric time.”

Sort of makes me think of the Lost World…

The Mokele-mbembe is reputed to be a large reptile-like creature, with a long neck, and long tail.

Map showing Likouala in Congo

Despite being a herbivore, it is said to roar aggressively if approached by humans. Some say it has a single horn, which it uses to kill elephants.

Many a Western explorer over the years has been gripped by the tantalising possibility that they could discover a creature – a formidable one at that – that has remained, as yet, unknown to science.

To date, there have been more than 50 expeditions to the region, but no scientific evidence, unless you include the large claw-shaped footprint recorded by a French missionary in 1776.

The only photographic images have been so fuzzy, they prove nothing.

But there is no shortage of eyewitness reports.

[…]

“Certainly mythology surrounds it,” says Adam Davies, a British man who spends his spare time and money travelling the world in search of undocumented species, and has twice gone to Africa on the trail of the Mokele-mbembe.

“But when you put it to people, ‘Is this a real creature?’ they become quite affronted… and they consistently came out with physical descriptions.”

There have been other instances where creatures that seemed to be more fantasy than reality have turned out to exist.

The most often cited example is the okapi – a cloven-hoofed mammal with zebra-like stripes on its legs, which lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just to the east of Congo-Brazzaville.

In the 19th Century, there was talk among Westerners in Africa of the existence of an “African unicorn” and the explorer Henry Morton Stanley – who had earlier tracked down the missing missionary, Dr David Livingstone – reported seeing a mysterious donkey-like animal on a journey through the Congo in the late 1880s.

It was only in 1901 that the okapi was properly documented and identified as a relative of the giraffe.

“I’d put Mokele-mbembe in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster,” says Bill Laurance, professor at James Cook University in Australia, a conservation biologist and an expert in tropical rainforests.

“My gut sense is that the likelihood of the creature actually existing today is small.

“However, one thing you learn early on in science is never say never. We are still discovering new species all the time.”

Well, these biologist only have one more year to break the mystery of the Mokele-mbembe. Yup, that brings us are back to the year 2012…

So I will end with this Mike Luckovich cartoon that gives us a peek at what the end of the world may bring…

 mike122811

A Gingrich election would definitely bring about the end of the world. Forget the brooms kid…and start stocking up on supplies.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…it’s the end of the world as we know it…it’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine!


17 Comments on “Wednesday Reads: 2011-2012 Sandwich”

  1. purplefinn says:

    Thanks for highlighting the “We Are Not All Created Equal” article. This is the true end of the American Dream. The American Dream isn’t about getting rich, it’s about the ability to achieve through effort – aka opportunity. It’s opportunity that’s being squeezed out of our system.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, very meaty for this usually dead news week. Yes, Steve Jobs is responsible for the rise in e-book prices. What an evil man he was! However, you can still get plenty for Kindle books cheaply, and the newer book prices do go down after awhile. I’d rather have an e-book than a mass market paperback any day. I’m trying to get rid of my books, not add more cheap paperbacks to the piles.

    • ralphb says:

      Jobs really was an insufferable prick I think. I can’t understand all this “genius” talk about him. He really wasn’t an inventor, more like a control freak marketing dip who played around with the buttons on a GUI built by someone else. I hate their closed business model though I also hate the mediocrity of Microsloth.

      • quixote says:

        He was a marketing genius. That’s all. And he had very good taste so when he promoted someone else’s design, it was generally a damn good one. Other than that, I’m not sure he was actually a human being. Aside from being an insufferable prick, apparently he parked his I’m-too-important-to-bother-with-license-plates sports car in the handicapped spot, just to prove that nobody could make him stop doing that. Or something. A minor action, but a sign of a damaged soul, as far as I’m concerned.

      • northwestrain says:

        Years ago when a lot of Elec. engineers were trying to decide Apple or Microsoft — the Apple stores were so rude and condescending to the Electrical/computer engineers. So most Engineers went to Microsoft — also the pricing of the Apple computers was on the high side.

        Apple computer almost went belly up — now they make expensive toys.

        I don’t have an ipod nor iPhone nor iPad — won’t have one.

        Apple computers were marketed for the non technical — whereas Microsoft sort of encouraged the geeks who love to disassemble things and then find a way to make the electronics work better.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      That is good to hear BB, I received some “crisis” money from SSI…and got myself the kindle with that. While moving this past month, I realized just how many books we have, boxes and boxes. Those paperbacks do add up.

  3. quixote says:

    About that class society, a nice antidote headline in yesterday’s LATimes: The San Francisco solution: To improve the economy, pay workers more.

    … the city has also required many employers to provide their workers with health benefits and all employers to offer paid sick time.

    Critics have derided the mandates as anti-business job killers. But San Francisco’s economy has proved resilient. The city’s unemployment rate was 7.8% in November, well below the 11.3% statewide rate. Over the last year, San Francisco… [has] created 3,900 new jobs ….

    We’ve been told lately that the only way to get the economy back on track is to cut, cut, cut — workers and their pay and their benefits. Oh, and cut, cut, cut — taxes for the wealthy, the so-called job creators.

    But maybe there’s something in the water in San Francisco: Better wages, better benefits — and new jobs?

    … Who knows, maybe San Francisco is on to something. And it might just work better than cutting the taxes of all those job creators. [emphasis added]

    • northwestrain says:

      Interesting about SF going against the starve the worker current — at the same time the logic is so obvious — putting more money into the economy by paying workers a living wage.

      SF has really changed from the 60s — when the SF ultra conservative leaders/elected leaders refused to fly the UN flag. (The UN’s embryo days were in SF). Oakland accepted the UN flag for SF and the UN ceremony was held in Oakland (Jack London Square).

      It would seem that some of the answers on how to survive the depression can be found in SF and in North Dakota! re: DAK’s post on North Dakota’s innovative banking system.

    • ralphb says:

      No magic there, higher salaries stimulate the economy and lead to higher demand for all kinds of products. Keynesianism works, damn it!