Wednesday Reads: Tuktuks, “Closet Cases” and Coke Heads

Indian-Coffee-PosterGood Morning

Eeek….more doctor appointments today. I can’t wait until all these things are over and done with, the family had to put off follow-up and re-check appointments because of the last few weeks of the kid’s school. So now these doctor visits or lab work or ct scans etc., seem to be scheduled every other day…it is exhausting.

Real weird news items for you today, check this out: Mammoth find: Preserved Ice Age giant found with flowing blood in Siberia

Russian scientists discovered a fully-grown female mammoth with blood and well-preserved muscle tissue trapped in ice in Siberia. The findings come amid debates on whether the extinct species should be resurrected using DNA.

Scientists say they have managed to find mammoth blood during the excavation of a grown female animal on the Lyakhovsky Islands, the southernmost group of the New Siberian Islands in the Arctic seas of northeastern Russia.
The dark blood was found in ice cavities below the belly of the animal. When researchers broke the cavities with a poll pick, the blood came flowing out. The fact surprised them because the temperature was 10C below zero.

It can be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryo-protective properties,” said Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Museum of Mammoths of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at the North Eastern Federal University as cited by Interfax news agency.

The blood was placed in a test tube and a bacteriological analysis of the sample is expected soon.
The muscle tissue of the animal was also well-preserved and had a natural red color of fresh meat, added the scientist. Such preservation can be explained by the fact that the lower part of the mammoth’s body was trapped in pure ice, while the upper part was discovered in the middle of the tundra. The trunk was found separately from the carcass.

The female mammoth was between 50 and 60 years old when she died…but dark blood flowing out? Wow, isn’t that amazing?  I wonder if this lower part of the mammoth will be preserved well enough to obtain better or complete DNA, then we can get to cloning these babies. I’d love to try spinning some of the fiber from a woolly mammoth.

Milton from Office Space

Milton from Office Space

More news of the “odd” variety, I guess even Al Qaeda has their own version of Milton: The Shortcomings of Al Qaeda’s Worst Employee

Al Qaeda’s mission may be “overthrowing godless regimes” and replacing them with Islamic ones, according to its handbook, but even that is still a tangible goal, and the group has corporate-style protocols for achieving it. And just like any corporation, Al Qaeda has to deal with personnel problems. On Tuesday, the Associated Press told the story of the group’s biggest human resources headache yet, in the form of Moktar Belmoktar, an ambitious regional commander in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who bridled under the group’s strict structure and, after AQIM sent him a letter detailing his shortcomings, split off to form his own organization. That scolding letter, which sounds remarkably like a corporate communique rebuking an out-of-line middle manager, was Belmoktar’s last straw. And the AP found a copy.

After he split from AQIM, Belmoktar went on to take credit for January’s hostage crisis at an Algerian gas field, and an attack on a French uranium mine in Nigeria this month, attacks he apparently carried out to show up his former AQIM managers and rivals. The AP found the copy of the letter to Belmoktar in a building in Mali formerly occupied by Al Qaeda fighters. It details his faults, from failing to file his expense reports to a lack of teamwork. The highlights, below:

Does not work well with others: “Abu Abbas is not willing to follow anyone,” AQIM wrote, referring to Belmoktar by his nom de guerre, Khaled Abu Abbas. “He is only willing to be followed and obeyed.”

Oh, that does not sound like Milton at all! No…that sounds more like, Nurse Ratchet.

Poor allocation of resources: AQIM’s Osama bin Laden-approved business model was to kidnap tourists and aid workers, hold them for ransom, then use the money to buy arms and carry out attacks. But Belmoktar didn’t manage his resources to their satisfaction, per the letter: “(The chapter) gave Abu Abbas a considerable amount of money to buy military material, despite its own great need for money at the time. … Abu Abbas didn’t participate in stepping up to buy weapons,” it says. “So whose performance deserves to be called poor in this case, I wonder?”

Not “stepping up” eh? Yes poor performance indeed…can’t argue with that.

Failure to achieve performance goals: “Any observer of the armed actions (carried out) in the Sahara will clearly notice the failure of The Masked Brigade to carry out spectacular operations, despite the region’s vast possibilities — there are plenty of mujahedeen, funding is available, weapons are widespread and strategic targets are within reach,” AP quotes from the letter. “Your brigade did not achieve a single spectacular operation targeting the crusader alliance.”

Wait, maybe that is more like Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross?

In other far out news stories: Mount Everest base jump marks 60th anniversary of first ascent

An extreme sport star from Russia has successfully completed the world’s highest base jump – leaping off the north face of Mount Everest.

Valery Rozov made the jump from a point 7,220m (23,680ft) above sea level.

The stunt took more than two years to plan and marked almost 60 years to the day the anniversary of the first ascent up Mount Everest.

Video at the link.

Remember that Egyptian Revolution from a couple of years ago? Egypt’s youths feel disenfranchised after revolution

Young activists who helped topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak say they have been politically sidelined by a society that favors the older generation.

Egypt‘s 2011 uprising was often referred to as a youth revolution, but two years after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office, many in the younger generation say they feel more politically isolated than ever.

The country is beset by severe political and social divisions as the struggle between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents persists.

Young activists across the political spectrum say they have been sidelined, prevented from participating in the leadership and management of post-Mubarak Egypt by a patriarchal culture that favors the older and supposedly more experienced.

“We received nothing of what we fought for and what some of us died for,” said Mostafa Sherif, 29, an unemployed mechanical engineer. “We did not get our freedoms, the rights for which people died, the economy is doing much worse than ever, and it seems like we’re in need of a new revolution.”

Joblessness among the young has been one of Egypt’s main and persistent issues for years. But with the economy’s steady decline since the 2011 uprising, job opportunities have dwindled further.

Officially, the unemployment rate rose to nearly 13% in the last quarter of 2012, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics said in its latest report. That’s up from 9% in a 2010 census. Many believe, however, that the true unemployment rate is much higher.

Pushed out of both the job market and the political sphere, many young people in Egypt are exploring alternatives.

“A lot of my friends are either looking for ways out of the country or have already left,” Sherif said. “We fought hard for too long and nothing came of it, so now we feel unwelcome, like there’s no space for us anymore.”

That is a long read, so click the link to the LA Times article and read the rest.

This next video from BBC is about a woman who drives a tuktuk… India’s Trailblazers: The female tuktuk driver

India and the country’s attitude towards women have been in the spotlight for some months, following a series of violent assaults.

But far from seeing themselves as potential victims, some Indian women are breaking into industries usually dominated by men.

As part of its series on India’s Trailblazers, BBC News spoke to one woman, who works as a tuktuk driver in Delhi.

That job takes guts. I tell you…

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/67/Autorickshaw_Bangalore.jpg/220px-Autorickshaw_Bangalore.jpgOne thing though, those tuktuks are cute. My dad is always going on about these little tuktuk things, that he would one day like to have a fleet of these cars/bikes/motorcycles that would drive people around Banjoville. It won’t work around here, not the kind geography or urban setting to keep a tuktuk busy.

Alright, almost done with the post, before I get to the final story…you may find this link interesting. The future of news, as viewed from 1993: What we got right, and very wrong – GeekWire

CompuServe logoTwenty years ago, we sat at the dawn of the web age (Mosaic, the first image-friendly, general-use web browser, was introduced later the same year). It was a time before widespread broadband, smartphones, social media, Google or Chat Roulette.

Reviewing the transcript from JForum’s Future Media board (written as individual email-like posts strung together over several weeks under the common subject line, “Are Newspapers Dead?”), the messages reveal impassioned predictions and obligatory snipes, and retroactively show how prognosticators could wind up off track, sometimes wildly so.

I’ve also been wrong. In a lengthy 1992 essay for Analog Science Fiction and Fact (later excerpted in the Seattle Times), I predicted that the coming plethora of news channels and “online” news would lead to a renaissance in original reporting to fill the increased news hole. It never occurred to me that the extra time would instead largely be filled by talking heads commenting on the reporting of others, an oversight that makes anything I wrote that did turn out to be correct (such as the democratization of information and the use of smart filters to select news) pale in comparison.

Here are historical views of the future of news from 1993, along with thoughts on where, and perhaps why, some went sideways:

Go see what was being kicked around on the CompuServe’s JForum (a.k.a. Journalism Forum) — dated May, 1993. You may find yourself laughing and shaking your head…

Okay, now let’s end with this:

5/29 Luckovich cartoon: Scandal | Mike Luckovich

052913-toon-luckovich-ed

And what goes for news these days?

Examiner.com Publishes Then Deletes an Unbelievably Deranged Wingnut Conspiracy Fantasy – Little Green Footballs

They’ve deleted it from their site now, but if you hurry you can still see Examiner.com’s freaky anti-Obama conspiracy fantasy in the Google web cache: Was President Obama High on Coke While Benghazi Burned? – Arlington Conservative | Examiner.com.

“Arlington Conservative” is Dean Chambers, the delusional nutbag responsible for one of the funnier websites in recent memory, Unskewed Polls. And he based his crazed hallucinatory article on something he read at Hillbuzz.org, where they’re even more unhinged than Dean Chambers.

It’s an absolute classic in the annals of whacked out right wing gay-sex-and-drugs fantasizing, bubbling up from the sub-Alex Jones far right. It has everything; homophobia mixed with a simultaneous sick fascination with gay sex, thinly buried racism, sheer insanity inspired by blind hatred turned up to 99.

That link to LGF has the full text typed out and quoted, here is just a little nugget to tempt you, go to the link to read the rest… seriously, go read the rest of this thing you won’t be disappointed:

While our consulate in Benghazi was attacked during the night of September 11 of last year, our fearless leader was allegedly hiding away somewhere getting “high as a kite” on cocaine. This is the speculation of Kevin DuJan, a self-described “gay conservative political analyst” writing for a publication called HillBuzz.

[…]

“If you’ve ever known anyone who is a drug addict, you’d see it’s obvious that Barack Obama was high on cocaine the night of Benghazi; it is the only logical explanation for his disappearance and the White House’s refusal to comment on what he was doing at the time. Since this was a night of great crisis for our country, the only logical reason that the White House won’t explain where the president was is if this man was high as a kite on illegal narcotics at the time.”

I’ll just end it on that note, but any “news” article that has this statement regarding the expertise of DuJuan’s fellow nut theorist named Justine, and I quote:

…ran in the same circles as friends of closeted gay men like Rock Hudson…

Uh, you know it will be…”juicy.”

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? If you have time, leave a comment below!


Wednesday Reads: Apples, Rands and 3D Printed Food

6791622240_8b616a368d_oGood Morning

Storms are building up right over Banjoville as I type up this post, so I will be very brief with the commentary.

(I am also very sleepy, so yeah…brief it will be.)

The Immigration reform panel was somewhat productive yesterday: Senate panel passes immigration bill; Obama praises move | Reuters

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved legislation to give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, setting up a spirited debate next month in the full Senate over the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation.

President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for this year, praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.

Hmmm….really?

By a vote of 13-5, the Senate panel approved the bill that would put 11 million illegal residents on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico, long a sieve for illegal crossings into the United States.

The vote followed the committee’s decision to embrace a Republican move to ease restrictions on high-tech U.S. companies that want to hire more skilled workers from countries like India and China.

In a dramatic move before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, withdrew an amendment to give people the right to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners for permanent legal status.

Leahy’s colleagues on the committee – Republicans and Democrats – warned that the amendment would kill the legislation in Congress. Democrats generally favor providing equal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual couples, while many Republicans oppose doing so.

Well, like I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t going to comment much….but yeah, I will say Obama is getting what he wants. Definitely.

Immigration Reform Amendment For Gay Couples Withdrawn

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to make what the New York senator called an “excruciating” decision on Tuesday to come out against including LGBT couple provisions in their immigration reform bill, citing the need to keep the fragile balance in the “gang of eight.”

Sounding disappointed, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) withdrew the amendment after debate during a markup on the bill.

“I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said. “So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”

Leahy brought up his amendments on same-sex couples during a markup of the immigration bill after some uncertainty that he would force discussion on it at all. Under current law and the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples cannot petition for legal status for the foreign-born partner, even if they’re legally married in their state. That means that thousands are forced to live separately for months or years, or even leave the United States to be with their partners.

Even with all the steps forward lately, in the form of so many states passing marriage equality laws…this immigration bill puts LGBT rights several steps backwards…again.

Oh, and just note by the way, 2 More Antigay Attacks Are Reported in Manhattan

Just hours after hundreds of people held a rally in Greenwich Village to protest the killing of a gay man last week, two men were violently assaulted in separate attacks in downtown Manhattan because of their sexual orientation, New York City officials said on Tuesday.

The attacks added to a troubling increase in reported antigay crimes in the city.

“It is a shame that we have to get together to talk about some things that should never occur, that we always thought, you know, we’d gotten beyond that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

If you missed news about that hate crime in the Village, read about it here: Killing in Greenwich Village Looks Like Hate Crime, Police Say  and here Charges Filed in Greenwich Village Killing.

In other news from yesterday, Apple was in the Senate’s spotlight, here are a series of links on that story:

In Disarming Testimony, Apple Chief Eases Tax Tensions – NYTimes.com

Senators accuse Apple of ‘highly questionable’ billion-dollar tax avoidance scheme

Reuters TV | Reuters Breakingviews: Apple feels global tax heat

Apple Added More To Its Offshore Holdings Than Any Other U.S. Company Last Year: Study

In 2012, Apple added more to its offshore profit holdings than any other company, according to a March report by Citizens for Tax Justice.

The company’s method of holding profits overseas isn’t new — and it’s not necessarily illegal — but it was the focus of a Senate hearing on Tuesday in which Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s tax strategies, which allowed Apple to pay a 2 percent tax on $74 billion in profits.

Apple of course isn’t the only company doing this. The tech giant, along with some of America’s largest companies, held at least $1.9 trillion in assets abroad, according to Bloomberg. General Electric, which held $108 billion overseas in 2012, topped Bloomberg’s list of U.S. companies with the most cash held offshore.

Apple chief calls on US government to slash US corporate tax

Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.

In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.

Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.

He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.

Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the “iCompany” by critics.

Cook’s testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.

Then you have Rand and his demand for an apology to Apple, Rand Paul: Senate should apologize to Apple for ‘spectacle’ hearing on taxes

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple’s methods for avoiding taxes.

“I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple,” Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Paul said he was offended by the “tone and tenor of the hearing.”

“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal,” Paul said.

The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.

What a Randian asshole that Rand Paul is…And, I still don’t get all this 3-D printer stuff…but here is another new way to use one of those special printers.

NASA asks: Could 3-D-printed food fuel a mission to Mars? – The Washington Post

NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the red planet it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.

The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food – Quartz

Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.

But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3D printing, envisions a much more mundane—and ultimately more important—use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.

Ubiquitous food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. Since a powder is a powder, the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules. We already know that eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, so why not get all our protein from insects?

If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers that are currently being used to make everything from jet engine parts to fine art doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff, says Contractor. That might not be the case once the world’s population reaches its peak size, probably sometime near the end of this century.

“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

Okay, is this like a step towards Solent Green?

I guess my mind, a comical combination of medicine induced haze, epilepsy impaired brain cells, crazy depressed emotional waves, medievalist mind at heart, twisted dark thought-provoking, sleepy, overweight, short, forty-plus woman can’t seem to grasp the concept behind these printers. Can someone explain to me, in the simplest of terms…what exactly are 3-D printers and how the fuck do these 3-D printer things work?

That is my question to you this morning. Y’all have a good day…hopefully things will be quiet and peaceful.


Wednesday AM: Justice for Marco McMillian

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Posted to Marco McMillian’s facebook page: “As we work for justice in the murder of Marco W McMillian we held a press conference in Clarksdale, MS on Thursday May 9, 2013. Please goggle Marco McMillian to get full details. Pictured from (L to R) Atty. Daryl Parks of Parks and Crump law firm, Marco’s mother, Patricia Unger and Sharon Hicks of the National Justice Collation”

Hey all, Mona here…I have missed you all dearly, my Sky Dancing newsjunkies! Had some life-things keeping me out of the regular loop. Funerals and graduations…endings and new beginnings. That kind of thing. And, lots and lots of soul-searching. But, I guess you could say I’m “back” now. For better or worse 😉 I’m going to just dive right in and get my feet wet in the blogging pond…I’ll be using the frontpage this morning to spotlight a topic I wish was getting more attention from the national media. Not to worry, though–JJ will have your Wednesday news round-up fix later in the day! So be sure to check back in for that.

So, how many of you have been following the Marco McMillian story? I know Bostonboomer had mentioned it before back when McMillian was discovered dead in February. Well, the family is now demanding answers. Via the NYT:

Mother’s Letter to Sheriff

Frustrated by the pace of the investigation into the death, Marco McMillian’s mother, Patricia Unger, wrote to investigators regarding unanswered questions in her son’s case.

Click over to see the PDF for yourself. Key excerpt:

It has been over two months since my son, Marco Watson McMillian, was found murdered on February 26, 2013. Within this time frame, my husband and I have only received two visits/correspondences from you. The visit took place on February 26, 2013. During this visit, you informed us that Marco’s SUV had been involved in an accident and that someone else was driving the SUV. You also stated that Marco was not in the vehicle and that you were trying to locate him. The second visit took place on February 27, 2013, during this visit you informed us that his body had been found.

Last month, my husband, Amos Unger, contacted you via phone inquiring about the investigation. You informed him that the investigation was still ongoing and that you could not release any information about the investigation because you were trying to conduct it in a professional manner. You stated that you did not want any leaks to take place due to the family making statements to the press/media. However, I do not feel like the investigation has been done with professionalism. Listed below are unanswered questions/reasons why I feel like this investigation has not been conducted in an ethical manner:

Patricia Unger goes on to list some pretty appalling ethical and professional breaches, such as:

  • The only identification of the body sought by the police from the family was through a cell phone picture.
  • The family has yet to be introduced to any actual FBI agents investigating the case.

The final point of concern she raises, in her own words:

It has been reported in the press/’ media that you have a suspect in custody, Lawrence Reed. It has also been reported that family members and/or friends have stated that Mr. Reed informed them that he killed Marco in a “gay rape panic”. in this case, suspect and motive have been determined, so why is there still an ongoing investigation? Have other facts/factors been discovered that warrant further investigation? Also, it has been reported that Mr. Reed confessed to killing Marco by strangling him with his wallet chain. in that case, strangulation was the cause of death, so why is it taking so long for me to receive the death certificate? 1 know that this is a matter for the State Medical Examiner, but i would like to know if another cause of death has been or is being taken into consideration.

Pardon my Fraaaaanch, but what the fraggle rock kind of investigation is this? If Patricia Unger’s charges are true , the investigation into her son’s murder makes Mark Fuhrman’s antics in the OJ case look like a paragon of ethics. (Ok, so I’m hyperbolizing, but you get the point.)

The family held a press conference last Thursday. The family’s lawyer, Attorney Daryl Parks, is from the firm that represented Trayvon Martin’s family.

The virtual silence in the national mediaseems deafening to me. Other than local news coverage, the link above from LGBTQNation website (of the standard press release type reporting from the AP), and the NYT link above to the actual letter by McMillian’s mother, I have seen scarce coverage of this story. I don’t have any cable or digital converter, thus I don’t have a constant 24/7 IV-drip of cable news…so maybe I’ve missed whatever blip about the family’s questions and press conference may have been buried on the network formerly known as CNN’s Headline News. Anecdotally, I asked my daily newspaper reading/cable newsjunkie mother if she had heard anything about it, and shockingly…though unsurprisingly…my bringing it up was the first she had heard of it.

Marco-McMillan-with-Obama-and-Clinton

I’ve had to go on McMillian’s FB pages (both as mayoral candidate and himself personally) looking for answers. As a case in point, I found the NYT link to his mother’s letter through his personal page.

Marco’s future in politics was bright. To the right you can see him with President Obama and Representative John Lewis, as well as with President Bill Clinton. That he was the first “viable” openly gay black candidate for political office in Mississippi is both incidental and monumental at the same time.

It makes me worry–however fear-driven that may be–for this guy I posted about ever so briefly on my baby blog, LetThemListen, last month:

Precisely, senator.senator

Alright, well I’ve said my piece. I’d love to hear your thoughts or anything else on your mind/reading list this morning. Take care and remember to stay tuned for JJ’s Wednesday Roundup later today.


Harvard Prof Continues to Embarass the Civilized World

homophobia2Niall Ferguson is one of those right wing “intellectuals” that continually proves why there are few intellectually prepared people to actually argue the idiotic causes of modern ‘conservatives’ cogently. Since there is no real case to be made, the conversation usually turns to some screed against some straw man or some persecuted out group.  Ferguson is a homophobe.  He can’t go long without finding some really stupid way to make being gay an issue in any thing that relates to his diatribes.  He really stepped in it this time. This is from Digby.

There’s a lot of chatter today about Niall Ferguson’s odious comments about John Maynard Keynes.

This is the gist of it:

An excerpt from Lance Roberts’ post at StreetTalkLive.com reporting a question from former PIMCO banker Paul McCulley (in bold) and Robertson’s notes on Ferguson’s response (its not clear whether these notes are verbatim or paraphrased):

Question By Paul McCulley

“The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs…in the long run we are all dead.”

Are we in a liquidity trap, are we at a zero bound of interest rates and stuck at 8% unemployment?

[Ferguson:] Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are NOT dead in the long run…our children are our progeny. It is the economic ideals of Keynes that have gotten us into the problems of today. Short term fixes, with a neglect of the long run, leads to the continuous cycles of booms and busts. Economies that pursue such short term solutions have always suffered not only decline, but destruction, in the long run.

Several details of Ferguson’s remarks that were included in the Financial Advisor story have not been confirmed by other sources. For example, Financial Advisor reported that Ferguson asked his audience how many children Keynes had and “explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of “poetry” rather than procreated.” Other sources have not reported that rhetorical question or the additional disparaging remarks in Ferguson’s answer to it. No full transcript or video of Ferguson’s remarks has yet emerged.

WTF? Read this for some folks attending the speech that twittered and blogs his comments.

Basically Keynes doesn’t get the future because he wasn’t a breeder?  This excerpt is from Henry Blodgett at Business Insider.

In addition to the offensive suggestion that those who don’t have children don’t care about the future or society, Professor Ferguson’s reported remarks are bizarre and insulting to Keynes on two levels.

First, this is the first time we have heard a respectable academic tie another economist’s beliefs to his or her personal situation rather than his or her research. Saying that Keynes’ economic philosophy was based on him being childless would be like saying that Ferguson’s own economic philosophy is based on him being rich and famous and therefore not caring about the plight of poor unemployed people.

Second, Keynes’ policies did not suggest that he did not care about future generations. On the contrary. … For the sake of both future generations and current generations, Keynes believed that governments should run deficits during recessions and then run surpluses during economic booms. Politicians have never seemed to be able to follow the second part of Keynes’ proscription — they tend to run deficits at all times — but it seems unfair to blame this latter failing on Keynes.

Ferguson is not the first person to suggest that Keynes did not care about the future, and this sentiment is normally tied to one of Keynes’ most famous sayings:

“… In the long run, we are all dead.”

Importantly, however, in saying this, Keynes was in no way suggesting that the future doesn’t matter. Rather, when this remark is read in context, it is clear that Keynes was chiding economists for ducking responsibility for their own lousy short-term predictions:

In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestuous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.

So if Ferguson is basing his assertion that Keynes didn’t care about the future on this line, his remark is even more unfair.

For those who are new to the larger economic debate that is the backdrop to these remarks, here’s a snapshot:

Professor Ferguson and other economists have been loudly and consistently warning for years that the deficit spending and debts of most developed countries will eventually end in disaster. Professor Ferguson and other “austerians” suggest that governments should immediately cut spending and balance their budgets, even if this results in a brutal short-term recession and exploding unemployment.

This “austerian” philosophy has been countered by the “Keynesian” philosophy advocated by Paul Krugman and others in which governments enact stimulus and run big deficits during weak economic periods to offset weak private-sector spending and help shore up employment, consumer spending, and social well-being until the private sector recovers. High debts and deficits are a long-term concern that needs to be addressed, Krugman says, but they do not constitute a near-term crisis that requires immense, self-inflicted, short-term pain to alleviate.

In the past five years, the experience of many countries suggests that Krugman’s philosophy is correct, and, as yet, none of the doom predicted by Ferguson and other austerians has come to pass. Meanwhile, countries like the U.K. and Greece, which have cut spending to try to balance their budgets, have been mired in multiple recessions (or, in the case of Greece, a depression). And, notably, because lower economic output leads to less tax revenue, these countries have not made much progress in balancing their budgets.

It’s pretty spurious behavior.  Ferguson has no intellectual, theoretical or empirical evidence for his deficit hysteria so when he has nothing to validate he views, he turns to homophobia.  So, he did apologize.  But it doesn’t mean much because he’s done it before.  That link goes to a page of one of his books.  He has a history of being a jerk on many levels.

Ferguson should be the last person to be casting aspersions on anyone else’s personal life, given that, while still married to someone else, he began an affair with author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and knocked her up. He then dumped his wife of over 20 years (they had had three children together) to marry Ali. What a heart-warming demonstration of traditional values!

Ferguson’s slur was ugly indeed — so much so that the no-doubt conservative audience fell into a stunned silence following his remark. But Ferguson — a man for whom the term “hackademic” would surely have been invented, had it not already existed — is part of a long right-wing hack tradition. He is far from the first to take this line of attack. Ferguson likely stole the “childless homosexual” epithet from British wingnut Daniel Johnson (who’s the son of another winger, Paul Johnson. Why do these demon spawn second generation right-wingers tend to be even more appalling than their progenitors? ). The great novelist — and famously nasty conservative — V.S. Naipul has characterized Keynes as a gay exploiter.

Over on this side of the pond, conservative author Mark Steyn attempted to smear Keynes’ ideas by referring to him as — surprise! — a “childless homosexual.” The American Spectator has repeated that slur, as has this contributor to FrontPageMag.com. George Will has also cast the “childless” aspersion (which is pretty clearly a dog whistle for “gay”) against Keynes. So did right-wing economists Greg Mankiw and Joseph Schumpeter. I am reliably informed that William F. Buckley used to gay-bait Keynes as well, although a quick internet search did not produce evidence of this.

Ferguson’s comments are idiotic and offensive on many levels. First of all, there’s his illogical ad hominem style of argument — could not an Oxford-educated Harvard professor done a little bit better? Then there’s the juvenile homophobia — OMG! this faggy fag economist who liked to talk about faggy subjects subjects like poetry and ballet with his wife! — when everyone knows only Real Men can do economics!

But it’s not only the homophobia that’s offensive, it’s the bitchy slur against childless people. I deeply resent the insinuation that, because I haven’t irresponsibly procreated, I care nothing about future generations and would cheerfully assent to the world going to hell in a handbasket.

Anyway, I should know not to take people like Ferguson seriously, but damn it!, the man gets a platform and is at an institution where he gets more status than he deserves.   He’s an obvious example of  affirmative action placement for assholes.  Rich, powerful”conservatives” moan about never seeing one of them in the communist land of academia so universities have to bring in some obvious propaganda-spewing asshole in to fill the ranks.  Ferguson is part of the affirmative action plan of the anti-intellectual intellectual right to stick their asshole views in academia even when they never stand up to rigorous peer review.  Too bad we’ve become so advanced in the idea of equivocation that serious hacks can crawl their way up to the public arena through academia simply because we have to make room for an invalid approach to life, the world, and the meaning of humanity and civilization.  Perhaps Ferguson should just get a shrink and work out his troubled young life in Brit public school with him/her instead of on the rest of us.