Thursday Reads: Day After Christmas Edition

day after xmas

Good Morning!!

Thank goodness it’s over! Now we just have to hold on until 2014 begins and the “holiday season” will recede into memory once more. Can anyone explain to me why we do this every year? Isn’t it all just a big con to allow American corporations to steal more of the ever-scarcer money of us 47 percenters? No matter how much I try to ignore it, I can’t help but be affected. There just isn’t any way to truly opt out unless you want to become a hermit with no social life at all.

I guess part of my problem is that my feelings about “the holidays” are so mixed. I have happy memories, longings for closeness, and heartfelt love for my family; and these feelings are stimulated every year by this orgy of commercialism and sentimentality. I’m grateful that I have a big family to love and be loved by. I’m grateful for all the hugs! But somehow every year “the holidays” wear me out.

I went to bed around 9:30 last night, but I still feel tired. Why? It has to be emotional, because I haven’t been doing heavy labor or anything. I also think I caught a little cold and so that is making me feel lethargic too. Anyway, it’s over for one more year.

This is going to be a quickie post, because there’s very little happening in the news and because I’m just plain tired. I hope all of you enjoyed yourself over the past couple of days, and that you emerged in one piece.

I liked this reminder from Michael Tomasky of what the ACA really means for our country: America Joins the Developed World, Thanks to Obamacare.

I’m sitting here very early Christmas Eve morning staring at a chart from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You know the OECD—they’re the people who keep all those annoying stats about how the United States is 17th in this and 32nd in that, the kind that alas aren’t very surprising anymore except that they do make us shake our heads and wonder how we managed to come in behind even Belarus.

This chart is on an Excel spreadsheet, so I can’t provide a link, but it shows access to “health insurance coverage for a core set of services, 2009.” It then lists the 34 OECD member states, showing percentages of citizens with “total public coverage” and with “primary private health coverage.”

health care chart

In 19 countries, 100 percent of the population is covered via public insurance. In 11 more, more than 95 percent are covered the same way. So all but four countries basically provide universal or near-universal public coverage. In Turkey, Mexico, and Chile, between 70 and 80 percent are covered—also publicly. In the United States, that number is 26.4 percent. That’s the seniors, the veterans, and the very poor who get direct public health care. We then add 54.9 percent who get private coverage. No other country even bothers with private coverage at all, except Germany a little bit (10.8 percent). Our two numbers add up to 81.3 percent, ranking us 31st out of the 34. The rest of the advanced world, in other words, with not all that much fuss and contention, has come around to the idea that health coverage is a right.

As I think back over 2013, in my sunnier moments, I try to think of it as the year that future historians will point to as the time when the United States finally and grudgingly started joining this world consensus. Sometime in the 2030s, after Medicare for all has passed and we’re finally and sensibly paying taxes for preventive cradle-to-grave care, people will note—with pride!—that the long process started with Obamacare…

That’s progress, folks. As much as Obamacare isn’t really what we wanted, it’s a start toward bringing this country into the civilized world. Next steps: get rid of the death penalty and cut down on gun violence.

Another interesting think piece by James Poulo at The Daily Beast: The Music Industry Is Dying? Great.

You know the kind of people who say “I’d never bring a child into this world?” That’s how some people feel about bands. That’s how I felt, for about five years. My first band—complete with the Rolling Stone music director handling management, and the ex-Napster COO ready to handle legal—melted down so “unexpectedly” that I fled to Washington, D.C., to write and to study political theory. Screw the music industry, I thought. This is doom.

But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a Beltway Boy. I had a chance to move back to Los Angeles, and I took it. I hooked back up with my drummer. And we started writing new songs. And we started a new band.

And somehow, strangely, my life isn’t over yet.

That’s not to say there aren’t head-check moments. They happen every day.Shouldn’t you call it an early night? Shouldn’t you spend this time catching up on email? Doesn’t that riff rip off Capital Cities?

And then the big one: Isn’t the music industry more screwed than ever?

Fortunately, I have legitimate professional reasons to read up on the endless Internet debate at the intersection of music policy, music technology, and musical artistry. And the more I keep tabs on the dueling judgments of people like industry lifer Bob Lefsetz, ex-Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen, Talking Heads guru David Byrne, and the University of Georgia’s David Lowery (ex-Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker), the more I realize that the so-called demise of the music industry can actually work for musicians as a moment of liberating grace.

And for the rest of us, it can open our eyes to a form of economic life that doesn’t fill us with resentment or depression.

If you’re intrigued, check out the rest at the link.

Did you know an American was abducted by al Qaeda in Pakistan two years ago? I didn’t. From CNN: Captive American Warren Weinstein feels ‘totally abandoned and forgotten’.

Saying he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten,” kidnapped U.S. government contractor Warren Weinstein called on President Barack Obama to negotiate for his freedom in a video released by al Qaeda on Christmas.

The 72-year-old Weinstein was abducted from his home in the Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011.

In the 13-minute video provided to the Washington Post, Weinstein appeals to the President, Secretary of State John Kerry, the American media, the American public and finally his family.

“Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here,” he said. “And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”

Here’s another story I should have known about. Why didn’t I? From CNN: Alan Turing, code-breaker castrated for homosexuality, receives royal pardon.

Alan Turing, a British code-breaker during World War II who was later subjected to chemical castration for homosexual activity, has received a royal pardon nearly 60 years after he committed suicide.

Turing was best known for developing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German machines. His work is considered by many to have saved thousands of lives and helped change the course of the war.

“Dr. Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science,” British Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement Tuesday. “A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

Turing’s castration in 1952 — after he was convicted of homosexual activity, which was illegal at the time — is “a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” Grayling said.

Two years after the castration, which Turing chose to avoid a custodial sentence, he ended his life at the age of 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Another take from Peter G. Tachell at Huffington Post — Alan Turing: Was He Murdered By the Security Services?

I have this week written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging a new inquiry into the death of the scientist Alan Turing, who has been finally granted a royal pardon for his 1952 conviction for homosexual relations.

Turing is generally believed to have been committed suicide following his conviction and chemical castration. However, the original inquest into his death was perfunctory and inadequate. Although it is said that he died from eating an apple laced with cyanide, the allegedly fatal apple was never tested for cyanide. Moreover, he was in an upbeat mood at the time of his death and making plans for the future – not the typical profile of a person who takes their own life.

A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death – including speculation that he was murdered by the security services.

Although there is no evidence that Turing was killed by state agents, the fact that this possibility has never been investigated is a major failing. Even if the security services did not kill him, did they pressure him and did this pressure contribute to his suicide?

From Think Progress, here’s your daily dose of stupid from the ongoing War on Women: Judge Who Once Called Rape Victim ‘In Control’ Sentences Abusive Boyfriend To Write ‘Boys Do Not Hit Girls’.

Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh’s controversial remarks about a 14-year-old rape victim inspired a national petition and protests when he suspended the rapist’s jail sentence in August to a mere 30 days. This week, in a different case, Judge Baugh required an abusive boyfriend to write “Boys do not hit girls,” 5,000 times, in addition to a six-month jail sentence.

Pacer Ferguson, the man forced to write “boys do not hit girls,” had punched his girlfriend during a 2012 argument, fracturing her face in three places that still cause her occasional pain. According to the Billings Gazette, Baugh sentenced the man to the maximum time allowed for his misdemeanor assault and he must also pay the victim’s medical bills. While a jury acquitted Ferguson of more serious charges that would have led to a longer sentence, he will spend eight years in state prison serving a concurrent sentence for a robbery.

At least he’s going to jail, unlike the rapist Baugh let go with barely a slap on the wrist.

Before this case, Baugh had sentenced a former teacher for raping a 14-year-old who committed suicide before the trial. When Baugh delivered the sentence that reduced the man’s possible 20-years in jail to one month, he determined the victim was “older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. The remarks sparked outrage calling for Baugh’s removal. Insisting that his remarks may have been inappropriate but the sentence was not, Baugh apologized, “What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing.”

Finally, a science story that once again emphasizes that we humans are part of the animal kingdom: Human Hunting Behaviour Similar To Sharks And Bees.

Human hunter gatherers have been found to apply similar foraging movements and tactics during hunting that many other animals such as sharks and honey bees do, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published in a study.

The foraging behavior of animals from sharks to honey bees can be turned into a mathematical model which also describes human hunter-gatherer movement, scientists said. But when you encounter animals that are considered pests, hire immediately for pest and wildlife control. Bats in your attic? Skunks and raccoons under your front stoop? Call Platinum Wildlife Removal for all your Oakland County wildlife control needs. They offer bat removal, bird control, racoon removal and more 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Levy walk, a pattern that is found in the movements of many animals, has been found to replicate the Hadza tribe’s movements while hunting, said University of Arizona scientist David Raichlen.

What the heck is levy walk?

“It shows up all across the world in different species and links the way that we move around in the natural world. This suggests that it’s a fundamental pattern likely present in our evolutionary history,” said Gordon.

The Levy walk consists of a series of short movements in one area and then a longer trek to another area. Humans make use of it during visits to amusement parks, according to PNAS.

The article doesn’t explain it to my satisfaction, but here’s a scholarly paper (PDF) about it. I haven’t read it yet, but I do plan to take a look at it.

If you happen to stop by Sky Dancing Blog today, please leave a comment or a link to a story you’re following today. Take care everyone, and have a great day. Also visit Salesforce.com, we are the world’s #1 customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Our cloud-based applications for sales, service, marketing, and more don’t require IT experts to set up or manage — simply log in and start connecting to customers in a whole new way.
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38 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Day After Christmas Edition”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Another annoying thing I failed to avoid: Eddie Haskell’s Snowden’s “alternative Christmas message.”

    Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book — microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go.

    Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves — an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

    Only an elitist obsessed with computers and the internet could say something like that. “Sensors in our pockets?” Guess what, Eddie? The vast majority of children in this world are desperate for food and shelter and other basic needs. “No conception of privacy?” Do you mean no one will be allowed to go into a room, close the door, and read a book anymore? Does he really believe the NSA is watching when we do that?

    The only person more annoying and self righteous than Snowden is Glenn Greenwald. What on earth do the cult members see in them?

    • bostonboomer says:

      If only I had the freedom not to have to hear from Eddie Snowden for a few days! How much do you want to bet that he has never even read Orwell?

      • Fannie says:

        Hope your energy lifts with some good weather ahead, and good news. I certainly enjoyed sharing all the good food I cooked with neighbors and family. I got a ton of raves for my old fashion macroni and cheese, and New York Cheesecake (Christmas Eve), and home made tomales, and chicken enchiladas, Mexican fried rice, and refried beans (Christmas Day). Have just enough leftovers for hubby’s dinner tonight. The grandkids were so excited, and pretty much got what they wanted. Bella was enjoying weather in southern California, it being 81 degrees, so we will celebrate with her after new year. And yes, I got caught up in the Target hacking (I purchased one item there), and now everybody’s got my zip code, and all my information, including pin number. Off to the Bank to deal with it………….wonder what
        Snowden has got to say about that shit? Huh Fast Eddie? Oh, also got caught up in the UPS
        stoppage, will be waiting for my new camera………got everything to go with, but the camera.
        Wonder how the republicans feel about these companies (Target and UPS) letting us down, being hit by hackers. Who would have thought? Obamacare, they have been hacking and bashing the website for months. Maybe they’d like to talk to Americans who are without power for 5 days now, thousands, and thousands are affected, and it’s not good for their health, many are dying from misusing generators, and elderly can’t take it for much longer. Why don’t we hear from them on this problem. They are so concerned about the brotherhood of Duck,Duck, Duck.

        And you are right BB……….what about those without food and shelter, and the unemployed left out in open without employment insurance. Snowden hasn’t said a damn thing of importance, and to get his so called PEACE out message on Christmas Eve was something I couldn’t stomach. He sounded like he was president of Russia or something.

    • RalphB says:

      Snowjob is an idiot dudebro, at best.

  2. Hola! Hope y’all had a happy day yesterday. Bebe is still sick, she sounds awful. I need to go and take care of her…but here is a quick link for you this morning. Over-the-top amenities help luxury homes stand out – latimes.com

    Yeah feast on that and then remember that in a few short days this will happen: Six Myths About Food Stamps | The Poverty Line, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com

  3. List of X says:

    Happy holidays to everyone! I’m not following any stories today – but it’s good to hear about Turing. Though, what took them so long? It’s not like homosexuality was legalized yesterday.
    Oh, and big news in Russian media today is the impending divorce of Barack and Michelle, except that the source of the story was the National Enquirer.

  4. RalphB says:

    Washington Monthly: After Obamacare

    A frenzy of hospital mergers could leave the typical American family spending 50 percent of its income on health care within ten years—and blaming the Democrats. The solution requires banning price discrimination by monopolistic hospitals.

    The shocking ignorance of the pundit class is absolutely grotesque! Did no one know that hospitals have been been merging since before Obamacare? For example, the Seton chain has bought a bunch of hospitals over the past decade along with other growing chains. It’s blatantly obvious the punditocracy has no idea what happens in real life for Americans. I’m just disgusted by them!

    • NW Luna says:

      Yeah, just like blaming rising drug prices on Obamacare. Hey, PHarma has been raising prices for decades. So have all sorts of other businesses. Idjits.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Hi! I get exhausted this time of year too. The endless assault to buy crap is just terrible. Plus, it seems weird to just have a few days a year where people think they should spend time with their families. Why don’t we promote these kinds of things all year round instead of putting them in terms of doing things that are expensive and require huge amounts of effort?

    • NW Luna says:

      That would make too much sense. I’m glad I opt out of the vast majority of “christmas” trappings. I do observe the solstice time, to mark the swing back to longer days and shorter nights — it’s something which resonates, in a way, in me. But I have fairly plain decorations (lights and evergreens, bright berries from what’s still on the bushes in my garden). I never enjoyed the groaning holiday table scenes. And all that ambiance of frenzied consumption is anxiety-provoking.

      I do like that we hear more about giving gifts of experience — such as concerts, museum passes, art workshops — rather than yet more stuff.

      But each year I often wish I could go to another planet between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

  6. Fannie says:

    Right on Ralph – just read where the GOP thinks all this talk of extending unemployment benefits and minimum wages is a distraction from Obamacare failures.

    I can name one hospital in California that has been sold 5 times in the last 15 years, and bet Dak can come up with those in New Orleans. Can tell you about their prices, and foul management has cost the poor more than the rich.

    • RalphB says:

      It always costs the poor more than the rich. I believe that’s the main idea behind our current society.

  7. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce has some good ones today, if you haven’t already visited the invaluable blog.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/

  8. dakinikat says:

    States Refusing Medicaid Expansion Will Lose $8 Billion a Year in Federal Aid – See more at: http://aattp.org/states-refusing-medicaid-expansion-will-lose-8-billion-a-year-in-federal-aid/#sthash.uvHjzG22.dpuf

    • RalphB says:

      If you estimate that your income will be over the FPL and thus qualify a subsidy to pay for private insurance– if your actual income at the end of the year is lower than FPL, you don’t have to pay anything back. And in many cases the federal subsidy will be enough to cover the entire cost of private insurance on the marketplace.

      A little known feature of the ACA, not a bug.

  9. dakinikat says:

    WTF is wrong with people?

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/ohio-teacher-tells-african-american-student-we-do-not-need-another-black-president/

    According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gil Voigt was suspended without pay from Fairfield Freshman School on Monday, the first step necessary for termination. The teacher has 10 days to ask to for a hearing before the school board or a referee.

    Superintendent Paul Otten told the Journal-News that the incident occurred while Voigt was speaking to an African-American student who had presidential aspirations.

    “We do not need another black president,” Voigt reportedly said.

    “He was talking to some students and said some things that were racially insensitive,” Fairfield City Schools Board President Dan Murray explained. “We take diversity in our school district very seriously with tolerance of people who are different. We just felt this teacher had crossed the line.”

    Voigt has also received four other reprimands in recent years, including one for an “inappropriate racial comment” in 2008.

    • RalphB says:

      Apparently a lot more people than I previously thought are just racist. Either that or they hate Obama because he’s a Democrat and use his race as one more “wrong” thing about him. Of course, that would have to bleed over into their general opinion of people, which would just make them racist. So…of course “it’s not about race because it’s never about race” per Charlie Pierce.

  10. RalphB says:

    Perhaps some assholes are putting on a Duck Dynasty cruise?

  11. dakinikat says:

    Interesting and not unexpected correlation.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12002578

    When white people report racial discrimination: The role of region, religion, and politics

    Abstract
    Scholarly interest in the correlates and consequences of perceived discrimination has grown exponentially in recent years, yet, despite increased legal and media attention to claims of “anti-white bias,” empirical studies predicting reports of racial discrimination by white Americans remain limited. Using data from the 2006 Portraits of American Life Study, we find that evangelical Protestantism increases the odds that whites will report experiencing racial discrimination, even after controlling for racial context and an array of social and psychological characteristics. However, this effect is limited to the South. Outside the South, political affiliation trumps religion, yielding distinct regional profiles of discrimination reporters. These findings suggest that institutions may function as regional “carriers” for whites inclined to report racial discrimination.

    Highlights
    ► Evangelical Protestantism predicts racial discrimination reporting among white Americans. ► This effect of religious tradition holds net of a host of controls, but is limited to the South. ► Outside the South, partisan affiliation drives reporting above and beyond other factors. ► These findings suggest distinct institutional roots of racial resentment and ultraconservatism.

    • RalphB says:

      OMG, that’s so obvious if you’ve been paying attention. It’s all about those who practice perpetual victimhood. Right wing websites and Fox push that BS constantly.

      • dakinikat says:

        Here’s a great little local op ed from Falls Church.

        http://fcnp.com/2013/12/24/the-duck-dynasty-flap/

        Many, many passionate, abundantly Biblically-cited sermons, teachings and theological treatises permeated the American south for hundreds of years arguing that slavery and racial discrimination represented God’s order of creation. There were many Biblical passages about “slaves being obedient to their masters,” and similar things, cited to strengthen such cases.

        No one wants to go back and read those now, and how their fury often incited lynchings and angry kangaroo courts that convicted the oppressed of crimes that their white masters committed, even up through the recent period when interracial marriage was ferociously condemned.

        Over in Germany earlier in the 20th century, imprisonment and mass genocide against the Jewish people were being justified on similar “Christian” grounds.

        The long and short of it is that the “Duck Dynasty” people are remnants of those old days, and, for my money, what was said about racial minorities in the Jim Crow South were the most offensive because of how they were rooted in that history, a history in which prejudice and hate were sanctioned in the name of religion.

  12. RalphB says:

    Axelrod made a funny…

  13. bostonboomer says:

    History Shocker! Ayn Rand Helped FBI Find Communist Influence In ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

    Read more at http://wonkette.com/537531/history-shocker-ayn-rand-helped-fbi-find-communist-influence-in-its-a-wonderful-life#tOuIzh0hDlRIKpmM.99