Monday Reads

flowersGood Morning!

I’ve been trying to find some things other than politics to post about since I have to admit to being very depressed about the state of affairs right now.  I really think there is little hope for many of us in the reddish states because the religious right is just going nuts!  I’m hoping more people start taking to the street over the situations in Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas.  That is just the start.  We’re very unhappy with our governor here in Louisiana but that’s not doing much in the way of making him listen to the people.  He is too busy looking out for his political interests.

So, here’s a few things to think about.
There has been a lot of evidence about the benefits of meditation.  I’ve meditated for a very long time and I can attest to the results that I’ve experienced.  Here’s some information from an experiment that finds that meditating is associated with compassion and empathy. These are certainly two very Buddhist outcomes.

We recruited 39 people from the Boston area who were willing to take part in an eight-week course on meditation (and who had never taken any such course before). We then randomly assigned 20 of them to take part in weekly meditation classes, which also required them to practice at home using guided recordings. The remaining 19 were told that they had been placed on a waiting list for a future course.

After the eight-week period of instruction, we invited the participants to the lab for an experiment that purported to examine their memory, attention and related cognitive abilities. But as you might anticipate, what actually interested us was whether those who had been meditating would exhibit greater compassion in the face of suffering. To find out, we staged a situation designed to test the participants’ behavior before they were aware that the experiment had begun.

WHEN a participant entered the waiting area for our lab, he (or she) found three chairs, two of which were already occupied. Naturally, he sat in the remaining chair. As he waited, a fourth person, using crutches and wearing a boot for a broken foot, entered the room and audibly sighed in pain as she leaned uncomfortably against a wall. The other two people in the room — who, like the woman on crutches, secretly worked for us — ignored the woman, thus confronting the participant with a moral quandary. Would he act compassionately, giving up his chair for her, or selfishly ignore her plight?

The results were striking. Although only 16 percent of the nonmeditators gave up their seats — an admittedly disheartening fact — the proportion rose to 50 percent among those who had meditated. This increase is impressive not solely because it occurred after only eight weeks of meditation, but also because it did so within the context of a situation known to inhibit considerate behavior: witnessing others ignoring a person in distress — what psychologists call the bystander effect — reduces the odds that any single individual will help. Nonetheless, the meditation increased the compassionate response threefold.

Although we don’t yet know why meditation has this effect, one of two explanations seems likely. The first rests on meditation’s documented ability to enhance attention, which might in turn increase the odds of noticing someone in pain (as opposed to being lost in one’s own thoughts). My favored explanation, though, derives from a different aspect of meditation: its ability to foster a view that all beings are interconnected. The psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo and I have found that any marker of affiliation between two people, even something as subtle as tapping their hands together in synchrony, causes them to feel more compassion for each other when distressed. The increased compassion of meditators, then, might stem directly from meditation’s ability to dissolve the artificial social distinctions — ethnicity, religion, ideology and the like — that divide us.

Pull up a cushion!  There is plenty of room beside me!bird

Noam Chomsky says that we need a global movement to save the global commons.  That would be the air we breathe, the oceans, the planet itself and all things that are being subjected to destruction by the profit motive of a few.

The blurring of borders and these challenges to the legitimacy of states bring to the fore serious questions about who owns the Earth. Who owns the global atmosphere being polluted by the heat-trapping gases that have just passed an especially perilous threshold, as we learned in May?

Or to adopt the phrase used by indigenous people throughout much of the world, Who will defend the Earth? Who will uphold the rights of nature? Who will adopt the role of steward of the commons, our collective possession?

That the Earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person. The different reactions to the crisis are a most remarkable feature of current history.

At the forefront of the defense of nature are those often called “primitive”: members of indigenous and tribal groups, like the First Nations in Canada or the Aborigines in Australia – the remnants of peoples who have survived the imperial onslaught. At the forefront of the assault on nature are those who call themselves the most advanced and civilized: the richest and most powerful nations.

The struggle to defend the commons takes many forms. In microcosm, it is taking place right now in Turkey’s Taksim Square, where brave men and women are protecting one of the last remnants of the commons of Istanbul from the wrecking ball of commercialization and gentrification and autocratic rule that is destroying this ancient treasure.

We have heard about all kinds of abuse of prisoners in the United States. Most of the egregious examples have come from a few generations ago.  Or have they?  This is another nightmare story about private “contractors” and government.

Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.

From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.

The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.

Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison’s infirmary during 2007, said she often overheard medical staff asking inmates who had served multiple prison terms to agree to be sterilized.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” said Nguyen, 28. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”

Read more here:


Here’s a very interesting profile of the Judge that makes the decisions on FISA.

The chief judge of America’s most powerful secret court is a 64-year old man who has said his path toward the law began in part when he was stopped by police in the early 1960s simply for being black, and who once said he became a lawyer to “make an impact on the quality of life for people of color in this country.”

Reggie Walton is the Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose 11 members are appointed directly by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Revelations of broad spying by the National Security Agency have drawn unusual attention to the Court, which the New York Times reported Sunday “has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data.”

Walton has not spoken publicly about his role, and did not respond to an inquiry from BuzzFeed: People who know him spoke largely on the condition of anonymity. But in little-read interviews and in decisions, footnotes, and statements from the bench, Walton has offered clues at a worldview whose contours mirror the growing public comfort with an expansive role for law enforcement in Americans’ lives. A judge who one former clerk described as “fair but harsh” in his sentences, he has shown a liberal streak on social policy from incarceration to drug crime, but has been dismissive of questions about the limits of executive power.

A 1993 interview with author Linn Washington paints a picture of a man who views the law and government as having a sweeping role in creating “social change.”

As a district court judge in Washington, DC, Walton has been a part of some of the most high profile cases in recent history, including the Roger Clemens steroid case and the leak case against Scooter Libby — an experience that left a mark on the former Democrat.

“I saw how mean-spirited people can be,” he told George Vecsey in 2011, complaining that “the liberal establishment” attacked him “because I am a Bush appointee and a registered Republican.” (Walton hasn’t spoken publicly about his political conversion; he said in the 1993 interview that he was a Republican when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a federal seat, in 1981.)

Genetic Evidence and analysis continues to amaze me with findings on links to our distant relatives.  Here’s some of the latest work done on Native Americans.  (Yes, it involves grave yards!!!)

Ancient people who lived in in Northern America about 5,000 years ago have living descendants today, new research suggests.

Researchers reached that conclusion after comparing DNA from both fossil remains found on the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada, and from living people who belong to several First Nations tribes in the area.

The new results, published today (July 3) in the journal PLOS ONE, are consistent with nearby archaeological evidence suggesting a fairly continuous occupation of the region for the last 5,000 years.

So, that is a little this and that for your Monday!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

48 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. From that link up top, about the CA prisons: Valley State institution’s OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich…

    In an interview with CIR, Heinrich said he provided an important service to poor women who faced health risks in future pregnancies because of past Caesarean sections. The 69-year-old Bay Area physician denied pressuring anyone and expressed surprise that local contract doctors had charged for the surgeries. He described the $147,460 total as minimal.

    “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Heinrich said, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”


    • NW Luna says:

      Perhaps Dr. Heinrich should have surgery to protect himself from the risks of future procreative attempts …..

  2. Pilgrim says:

    Please read Daniel Ellsberg’s piece in today’s Washington Post.

    • bostonboomer says:


      • Pilgrim says:

        Sorrry, Boomer, I don’t know how. Washington Post. Easy to find.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Never mind. I read it last night.

          • Pilgrim says:

            I’d be interested in your thoughts about it.

          • bostonboomer says:

            It’s similar to a couple of other op-eds he has published lately. I respect Ellsberg, but saying NSA is equivalent to East German Stasi is ludicrous. NSA doesn’t even have an operational role. They collect data. It’s not at all clear that Snowden would be treated like Bradley Manning, who was active military and being tried in military courts. Can you name any civilian leaker that has happened to?

            Unfortunately Ellsberg fails to explain why Snowden is only releasing material designed to hurt the U.S. by revealing foreign espionage. That is not what Ellsberg did. Just because Ellsberg says something doesn’t mean I have to swallow it whole. I don’t believe in gods.

            Now here’s an excellent post on the massive surveillance state that has nothing w/NSA or the feds. Did you know your license plate is metadata? If you have a fast pass, your location is known at all times. And so on. Very interesting. I did you a favor of reading Ellsberg, please do me the favor of reading this.

            View at

          • NW Luna says:

            Even in pre-computer days, anyone could copy down the license plate # of a car, go to the state dept of motor vehicles, and find out who owned that vehicle. There’s a lot of personal data which has been available to anyone which we didn’t pay much attention to before when correlating it had to be done manually. It’s much easier now with computerized cross-referencing and online information.

          • Pilgrim says:

            I do appreciate your statement of your point of view, Boomer.

            As Ellsberg opined, this is not the America of his former tim

            I have read the piece you indicated.

            Thank you.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I know you love to one-up me, Pilgrim. I don’t mind.

          • Pilgrim… do you think Snowden has done more good than bad?

            Personally, not directed toward anyone in particular, but just cuz I feel like ranting…Lol. I really feel like Snowden muddied the waters the way he has gone about things… made it unnecessarily confusing if not outright suspicious. I appreciate that Ellsberg has a -less- jaundiced view of Snowden than I do, but the whole thing with Greenwald and Snowden gave me the creeps from the get-go personally. I would love for this to be a whistleblowing of the security/spy state rather than some weird collusion or unwitting collusion with China et al, but– just because I want that, does that mean everybody who purports to be a whistleblower is in fact a whistleblower? It feels like there is a lot more complexity involved in this debate and the polarized sides for/against Snowden just won’t accept the rest of us who are perplexed really by the actual implications of the specifics of this situation, rather than supporting Obama/spystate or just wanting to focus on the (self-indicated) whistleblower to take attention off Obama/spy state. I oppose the Obama Administration’s spying on us (as I did under Bush, and would even do so when Hillary takes her throne I mean presidency in 2017) but I don’t exactly cotton to the libertarian ideology that seems to be behind Snowden/Greenwald/etc motivations.

          • Pilgrim says:

            It’s interesting what you “know”, Boomer, and how you see and take things.

          • Oh and btw Pilgrim: that was a genuine question and I look forward to your answer.

            I just ranted cuz the same argument about Snowden seems to happen everyday 😉

          • Pilgrim says:

            Mona, as to your question, do I think Snowden has done more good than bad. To that, I guess I would have to say yes, probably, time will tell.

            I appreciate the sincerity of your question. I assume you impute the same sincerity to me in whatever little statements I have made, which have not been meant in any nasty way.

            But it it’s just an echo chamber that’s wanted, well, count me out. Various points of view can be helpful. I haven’t often entered discussion here, and will be even more careful not to do so.

            This is something I’ve noticed in you, Mona: You seem always to approach others with respect, and people appreciate that (I do).

          • Pilgrim, I did take your comments at their word as a discussion point. 🙂

            It’s really not that easy to take a position contrary to the dudebro blogosphere though (in this case, it’s overwhelmingly for Snowden/Greenwald)… I admire and am grateful to BB for catching all the conflicting stuff and pieces in the news that aren’t adding up with Snowden, Greenwald, etc. She’s taken heat on behalf of the frontpage team for saying it on the frontpage. I’ve only had the wee-courage to voice my criticisms in the comments, even though I share much of her critical take of Snowden.

            I think we can have disagreement here without impugning each other’s intentions–even we frontpagers don’t agree on our share of issues. I almost held my nose to vote for Obama, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it–especially when Jill Stein kept winning me over each day. I know others felt differently. I respect that.

            Point being: Disagreement is not a bad thing! I would encourage people to speak up.

            Just–and this is a general word to the wise and not directed toward anyone in particular–don’t get into personal attacks. I’ll personally trash that stuff.

          • bostonboomer says:


            Here’s what you did: You posted a request that I read an article (no link) and comment on it. I read the article carefully and gave you my opinion on it, as requested. It took some time and effort. I shared another article with you (link included) and you announce that you’ve read it–no comment or reaction whatsoever.

            I consider that pretty rude, especially because if you read my posts and comments you had a good idea what my reaction would be before you asked. It’s offensive, it’s not the first time, and I won’t fall for it again.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Teresa Heinz Kerry was flown to Mass General Hospital last night. I heard this morning that she had a stroke and is in critical but stable condition.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Today’s Google “doodle” is a UFO video to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the Roswell incident.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a good translation from the German of the interview that Edward Snowden gave to Laura Poitras and Jacob Applebaum (friend of Julian Assange) while he was still in Hawaii.

    • Is it me or does Snowden seem media-hungry?

      • bostonboomer says:

        What’s interesting to me is that Wikileaks/Assange was in on this from the beginning. Jake Applebaum is a famous hacker. I wouldn’t be surprised if he helped Snowden or gave him hints about where to look for the stuff they wanted.

        • I agree. but why all these interviews? I don’t know, it just seems off to me. I get that he’s trying to own the story, but in doing all these interviews he keeps making himself the story… seems strange to me, if you want the whistleblowing to be the focus…

  6. bostonboomer says:

    The scariest thing about the FISA court is that Chief Justice Roberts is in charge of naming the judges. Now that’s scary!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Breaking: Venezuela embassy in Moscow has received Ed Snowden’s application for asylum. (via Twitter)

    • bostonboomer says:

      I think that may have been a false alarm. I haven’t heard anymore about it.

  8. phl0 says:

    From the blog of Susan Simpson, a civil litigator practicing in Northern Virginia:
    Zimmerman’s Statements are the Defense’s Own Worst Enemy

    “If there were one or two anomalies in his story, or perhaps only three or four, then the rest of Zimmerman’s story might be taken as roughly reliable, with some allowances made for a reasonably inexact recounting of a fight. But taken all together, with the outright contradictions combined with the weight of the many implausible claims, the veracity of Zimmerman’s story as a whole cannot be accepted, and the parts that are not directly contradicted by the evidence cannot be assumed reliable.”

  9. NW Luna says:

    Love the illustrations for this post, kat.

  10. RalphB says:

    I believe this is worth passing around. Offers some practical advice on strategy going forward.

    NYT: My Mother’s Abortion

    BOULDER, Colo. — ON June 25, I sat with my mother and sister in the gallery of the Texas State Senate to support Wendy Davis, a Democratic senator, in her filibuster against legislation that would limit abortions after 20 weeks and impose new regulations that would leave just a few abortion clinics open. …

  11. RalphB says:

    While brogressives worry about NSA spying, we should be worried about a more immediate danger to civil liberties.

    Salon: “Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”: The new warrior cop is out of control

    • bostonboomer says:

      OMG!! The Library of Congress has all my tweets! And everyone else’s I’m freaking out here. I’d better go post about it on Facebook!

    • bostonboomer says:


      I hope you’ll read the blog post I linked to above @ 1:16PM

      • RalphB says:

        BB, those are some of the reasons I’ve taken the NSA spying in stride. On top of the surveillance methods mentioned in that article, there is the vast use now of red light cameras at intersections. Surveillance is really wide spread and getting worse, all while we worry about our facebook info.

  12. You posted that owl pic for me, didn’t you? 😉

  13. NW Luna says:

    The story on DNA correlations between remains from 5,000 yrs ago and contemporary persons is interesting. Skeletal remains nicknamed “Kennewick man,” dated at approx 6,000 yrs ago were found in 1996 on the Columbia River in eastern Washington.

    There was fair amount of negotiation and cultural conflict between those who believed the remains were of their ancestor and should be reburied with reverence, without any study, and those who wanted to study the remains including through invasive, though limited and careful, sampling. DNA can’t be obtained without destruction (removal of a sample) of some part of the remains. (This is a hugely complicated issue which can’t be done justice to here.)

    Ultimately there was DNA analysis done, but too little DNA was left for meaningful results. It’s hoped that future DNA analysis techniques may be able to do more. Analysis of skeletal traits showed minimal correlation to modern American Indian groups and a mix of Asian and Caucasian traits. Human migration patterns must have been complicated. But I like thinking that we are all inter-related.