Later SDB Evening News Reads: So Ronery? Try Colonial Penn

Poster produced for the WPA, via Library of Congress.

Good Evening

I have a question that maybe you all can help me with. This past week my mother, father and I have been busy hanging up pictures and putting things in their place…yes we are still moving in, but at least it is looking more like home.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about WW2 veterans…this was my grandmothers and grandfathers generation. They are all gone, but our house is full of images and photographs of my grandparents, aunts and uncles,  items my grandfather brought back from the War, and even a couple pillowcases he sent to my grandmother while he was in France after D-Day. They all are wonderful memories that hang framed on the wall.

So while we are working on hanging all these things, my brother is in the living room watching his shows.  He has TVLand on all day, of course, most of the commercial sponsors of MASH, Bonanza, I Love Lucy, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son are aimed at the senior citizen generation. You know the ones,  AAPR/Medicare, Colonial Penn and catheter ads that used to target people of my grandparents generation. Since most of them have passed or will soon be moving on to greener pastures, it follows that those ads are now produced for the baby boomer generation…

My mom is 64 my dad is 65, my mom’s sister is turning 70 next year…they are the next big focus of future sales for “senior” products. So here is my question, why is it these commercials still use the same patronizing…stupid formula when pushing that Colonial Penn insurance? Isn’t this next generation supposed to be more educated than the last? I just can’t see the former hippie college graduate baby boomer watching these ads and saying, oh yes…I need that funeral life/death insurance policy for just pennies a day. It seems they would be more savvy than that.

I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, so let’s get down to some newsy links.

Have you seen the latest “lie” reported by Politifact? Paul Krugman had this to say about it:

This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare.

Steve Benen in the link above explains it, but let me just repeat the basics. Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system to buy private insurance — and not just that, a voucher system in which the value of the vouchers would systematically lag the cost of health care, so that there was no guarantee that seniors would even be able to afford private insurance.

The new scheme would still be called “Medicare”, but it would bear little resemblance to the current system, which guarantees essential care to all seniors.

How is this not an end to Medicare? And given all the actual, indisputable lies out there, how on earth could saying that it is be the “Lie of the year”?

Go to the link to see what the answer is…I’ll give you a hint, it has something to do with attempting to be “fair and balanced.”

In other GOP news, Gary Johnson has decided to officially run as a Libertarian. Hmmmm….I wonder what that means for Ron Paul?

Over in the swamp, the Senate is gone for the holidays, leaving those who would benefit the most from the payroll tax cut, and the extended long-term unemployment benefits, up shit creek without a paddle. Capitol impasse boosts chances of tax increase

The Senate is gone for the holidays, the House packed up to leave, and as a result the chances that working Americans soon will see a tax increase jumped sharply.

The Capitol emptied to an eerie quiet on Tuesday, with no signs of negotiations toward a compromise that would save an expiring payroll tax break. As of Jan. 1, the tax cut that has been in place all year is scheduled to return to 6.2% from its current 4.2%, meaning that biweekly paychecks on average will be $40 smaller. Long-term unemployment benefits for some 3 million people also are poised to expire. Doctors face an estimated 20% cut in Medicare payments.

That means things are going to get even worse for many people who have been struggling…and barely getting by.

There was an article in the NY Times this past week about the economy and consumption, it even had a cute graphic that went with a clever title, What Nail Polish Sales Tell Us About the Economy.

Illustration by Oliver Jeffers
Economics is all about consumption. People either spend money now or they use financial instruments — like bonds, stocks and savings accounts — so they can spend more later. A healthy economy is largely a result of a reasonable balance between consumption today and consumption deferred, and it’s pretty clear that balance has been ridiculously out of whack for a while.
[…]

Economists believe that what we feel about the state of the economy is best revealed not through what we say in surveys but rather through what we buy and exactly how much of it. There’s a lot of data available, though none come with a prepackaged psychological narrative attached. So analysts do the best they can, combing through our national shopping lists hoping to uncover clues. Sometimes they find remarkably helpful information in very unlikely places.

They also uncover plenty of cute facts that mean little. Consider this: 2011 was a banner year for the sale of insanely expensive fine wines at auction. Someone at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong, for example, bought 12 bottles of 1985 Romanee-Conti for a bit more than $150,000, or about $600 per sip. And the grand lesson this teaches us about the overall economy is . . . absolutely nothing. There’s some meaning in this anecdote about how the superrich — especially the newly superrich in China — are doing far better than the rest of us.

So what are some of the “shopping-based indicators” saying about Americans and the US Economy?

The results were mixed, but we did uncover some ominous signs. Lipstick sales used to go up when the economy went down, perhaps because women were searching for a cheap pick-me-up or an edge in a job interview. For reasons nobody quite understands, the lipstick indicator doesn’t hold up anymore, though nail polish sales now seem to reflect the economy very clearly (albeit inversely). A rise in nail polish sales indicates that we’re searching for bargain luxuries as the economy craters — and sales of nail polish are way up right now. Women’s underwear sales are down, which historically suggests intense frugality and more rough times ahead.

But we were encouraged by the number of optimistic indicators we uncovered. There is good news in cemetery plot sales. They seem to have peaked a couple years ago when desperate families were unloading unused holes in the ground (though cremation numbers are rising). Sales of cardboard boxes, because everything from electronics to clothing is packaged in them, should also be a strong indicator of economic rejuvenation. (Current production — enough to paper over the entire state of Maryland — portends recovery.) Sales of men’s underwear, one of Alan Greenspan’s favorite metrics for predicting growth, are also up. Sales of cheap spirits, which soared during the worst of the recession (people need an affordable way to self-medicate), have now stabilized, meaning, at the very least, that people can now afford better liquor.

Of all the indicators we looked at, one of the most consistently accurate was Champagne sales. The amount of French Champagne that Americans consume has predicted — with nearly 90 percent accuracy — the average American income one year later. Apparently, when we pop a Champagne cork, we know that good times are ahead (see chart). Champagne sales hurtled upward twice in recent history — at the peak of the Internet bubble in 1999 and during the heyday of the housing bubble in 2007. These were both followed by slowdowns as fewer people found reason to celebrate.

I realize that we have an amazing resident Doctor of Economics here on Sky Dancing, and Dakinikat always explains all things Economics so well…but I just thought these shopping indicators were kind of funny, because most of the folks (oops, sorry Pat) that live in my redneck of the woods still can’t afford the high price booze, or electronics in their cardboard boxes…and most of the men in Banjoville have holes galore in their underwear.  (My dad says poor people have holes in their socks, and rich people have holes in their cheese…)

My point being that things are still bad, and with this payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits both parties are determined to do away with, it is going to get worse.

I wanted to end on an up note, so here are a few items about North Korea that should make you laugh.

Kim Jong un Cartman
Kim Jong un Cartman © Peter Lewis, Australia, Politicalcartoons.com,Kim, kim jong il, kim jong un, korea, north korea, nuclear

Awesome yes?

Well, after seeing this obvious South Park inspired cartoon, it reminded me of a movie called Team America, that South Park creators made a few years ago.

If you did not see it, the entire movie is done with puppets…which are quite impressive.

Here are a couple of clips from the movie, staring Kim Jong Il,  I hope you enjoy them.

Have a lovely evening!

This is a scene from the movie Team America, when Hans Blix from the UN comes to inspect Kim Jong Ils palace to see if he has weapons of mass destruction.

And here is Kim Jong Il singing…I’m so lonely!


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

More news on the assault on the rights of US women and a case that may put Roe v. Wade back on the SCOTUS  Docket.  We’ve written of this one before; however, Newsweek has some extra analysis.  Jennie McCormick was arrested for using RU-486 to terminate a pregnancy in her home state of Idaho.  She got the pills from her sister and was reported to police by a friend.  So, what exactly is her crime?  Her pregnancy was a few weeks farther along than the one trimester.

McCormack, who thought she was about 12 weeks along, took the pills (the protocol involves two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol) the afternoon they arrived. The drugs are FDA-approved only for ending early-stage pregnancies; McCormack had no complications, but the pregnancy turned out to be more advanced than she thought—perhaps between 18 and 21 weeks, experts later speculated—and the size of the fetus scared her. She didn’t know what to do—“I was paralyzed,” she says—so she put it in a box on her porch, and, terrified, called a friend. That friend then called his sister, who reported McCormack to the police.

Although RU-486 is legal and the fetus was not yet “viable” (that is, old enough to live outside the uterus), Idaho has a 1972 law—never before enforced—making it a crime punishable by five years in prison for a woman to induce her own abortion. The day after police arrested McCormack, her mug shot appeared above the fold in the local newspaper. “It’s hard to imagine the humiliation and fear,” says her lawyer, Richard Hearn, who is also a physician.

The case was dropped weeks later due to lack of evidence. Without solid proof, such as the envelope in which the pills came, her confession wasn’t enough to sustain the case. But prosecutors retained the right to re-file charges. In response, Hearn got a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney. He also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. But all that took nine months to play out, and McCormack lurched into depression and became a virtual shut-in.

“You’d have to know the climate here,” says Hearn, “to fully imagine the amount of pressure Jennie is under, how hostile people can be, how isolated she is.” Next week, motions will be heard in federal court to certify the suit as a class action. Last week, the prosecutor filed a motion to have Hearn’s injunction lifted.

This is basically the new frontier of the back alley abortion.  Approximately 20 percent of abortions now involve pills abortion drugs.  They are 95% effective and many can be mail ordered over the internet.  Restrictions on abortion providers and funding all over the country may increase the necessity of using abortion drugs.  This could be a central case in the fight for women’s reproductive rights and our constitutional rights.

Last night North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died.  His third son will replace him.  Frontline has an interesting series of programs  on Kim that you may want to watch.

Speaking of Tin Pot dictators, John Boehner and his house republicans have blocked the payroll tax cuts.  Only tax cuts for billionaires seem to be acceptable to the minions of Grover Norquist.

In an interview on “Meet The Press” on NBC, John A. Boehner, the House speaker, said his members broadly opposed the two-month extension that passed the Senate 89 to 10 on Saturday, believing that it would be “just kicking the can down the road.”

“It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve the differences, and extend this for one year,” Mr. Boehner said. “How can you have tax policy for two months?”

The surprising setback threatened the holiday plans of lawmakers and President Obama, deeply embarrassed Republican leaders in both chambers and raised the specter of a year-end tax increase that economists have warned could set back the already fragile economic recovery

The House is to take up the Senate bill — passed in a rare Saturday session — when members return to Capitol Hill on Monday night. House leaders expect the bill to fail and their members to then consider and perhaps vote on an amended version that same night.

Horrifying violence in Egypt extends to women protestors.  Two women were photographed being brutally beaten and molested by Egyptian Security forces.

In a video broadcast on the internet, security forces dressed in riot gear are seen chasing a woman and beating her to the ground with metal bars before stripping her and kicking her repeatedly. One soldier stamps his foot hard on her chest.

Other images showed women beaten unconscious.

After being viciously beaten by the ten-strong mob, the woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.

Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.

She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.

But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.

Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.

But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.

I’m just glad we didn’t share our armed drone technology with Mubarak.

William D. Cohen has a killer essay up at Bloomberg called: Corzine Another Victim of the Alpha-Male Curse.

For years, I have wondered why, for some people, enough is never enough. For example, what could have possibly motivated Jon Corzine — a respected former senator, governor and Wall Street big shot with hundreds of millions in the bank — to take the top job at MF Global Holdings Ltd (MF) in the first place?

He was 63 years old, six months away from getting remarried. He was one of the few remaining high-profile Wall Street Democrats around, and an avid supporter of President Barack Obama. He was routinely mentioned as a possible successor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, if Obama were to win a second term.

Why couldn’t Corzine just enjoy his fortune, perhaps set up an eponymous foundation to do good works, bide his time and then use his connections to become Treasury secretary? He already had a cushy perch at Princeton University, where he invited any number of finance types to teach his class while he basked in their reflective glory. Life was good. (Disclosure: I once taught the class, although the amount of glory reflected is debatable.)

There’s a fascinating set of articles on the CERN particle collider and the hunt for The Higgs boson particle at The Economist.

The announcement, by Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli—the heads, respectively, of two experiments at CERN known as ATLAS and CMS—was that both of their machines have seen phenomena which look like traces of the Higgs. They are traces, rather than actual bosons, because no Higgs will ever be seen directly. The best that can be hoped for are patterns of breakdown particles from Higgses that are, themselves, the results of head-on collisions between protons travelling in opposite directions around CERN’s giant accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Heavy objects like Higgs bosons can break down in several different ways, but each of these ways is predictable. Both ATLAS and CMS have seen a number of these predicted patterns often enough to pique interest, but not (yet) often enough to constitute proof that they came from Higgses, rather than being random fluctuations in the background of non-Higgs decays.

The crucial point, and the reason for the excitement, is that both ATLAS and CMS (which are located in different parts of the ring-shaped accelerator tunnel of the LHC) have come up with the same results. Both indicate that, if what they have seen really are Higgses, then the boson has a mass of about 125 giga-electron-volts (GeV), in the esoteric units which are used to measure how heavy subatomic particles are. That coincidence bolsters the suggestion that this is the real thing, rather than a few chance fluctuations.

Bradley Manning begins his 4th day of his preliminary hearing.  The third day brought some interesting testimony on the atmosphere surrounding the sort of intelligence Manning saw.

However, the witnesses also said soldiers at the intelligence analysis center Manning worked at in Iraq routinely flouted the Army’s safeguards for classified information by playing music, movies and video games on computers that were part of the military’s secure network for classified information.

Some in the brigade even used a “password-crack program” to break into the administrator account and add software, a civilian computer contractor who handled Manning’s unit, Jason Milliman, testified.

“They thought they had full rights and were able to whatever they wanted to do,” said Milliman, who said he couldn’t stop the unauthorized practices because he had no authority over the soldiers.

Capt. Thomas Cherepko, who was in charge of the computer network at Manning’s base in eastern Iraq, said the presence of unauthorized programs on the classified computers was routine

Asked if the rules were “violated on a daily basis,” Cherepko said: “More or less, yes sir.”

Well, that should start things off today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: Is that a Giant Weta in your pocket, or are you just pretending to be Herman Cain…

Good Morning!

Minx here with you today and tomorrow…so let’s get the party started.

Well, it is an exciting day…this afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, LSU and UGA meet to decide who gets the championship of the SEC. This isn’t the only show in town…also happening today in Atlanta…Herman Cain’s big press announcement.

I am just going to go ahead and get some of the Cain stuff out-of-the-way. Here are a couple of links Boston Boomer sent me last night:  Cain launches website smearing accusers as ‘pathetic husbandless women’ | The Raw Story

Herman Cain’s struggling presidential campaign has created a new website that they say is a “fellowship of women dedicated to helping elect Herman Cain” — but the real purpose seems to be to destroy the reputation of his accusers.

While the website “Women for Cain” is chaired by Cain’s wife, Gloria Cain, it does not offer a single statement by her. Instead, it asks other women to share “thoughts and encouragement for Mr. Cain.”

The candidate has described the accusations of sexual impropriety as “character assassination on me,” but it may be the alleged victims whose characters are being assassinated with the comments his campaign has chosen to publish.

He is really trying extra hard to earn the women vote isn’t he?

Featuring a stock photo of women giving thumbs up — a photo that’s been used by numerous other websites — it quotes a woman named Barbara Dayan.

“Dear Mrs. Cain Don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages,” Dayan wrote. “These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them.”

[…]

“[A]s a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family,” Cheryl Vaglienti remarked. “They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…GO GET THEM HERMAN AND PLEASE DO NOT QUIT!!!!”

You can read some more comments “chosen” or should I say, “allowed” by Cain’s campaign. I don’t know, but my guess is Herman is writing his own material…if he isn’t then he must be friends with all these women, and giving them some “financial assistance,” you know…cause he is such a great guy.

In the next link, Herman Cain’s Marriage Shaken by Infidelity Charges – The Daily Beast

A close friend of one Cain’s two children explained that Herman and Gloria Cain’s marriage has seen its share of trouble over the years and his attraction to other women always played a huge role in the friction.

People Goria Cain

In this May 21, 2011 photo, Gloria Cain, left, accompanies her husband Herman Cain as he announces his run for Republican candidate for president in Atlanta. , David Goldman / AP Photo

“It never felt like a real marriage when I was around them,’’ says the friend. “Mostly he was always gone and his wife seemed to be OK with it. Not being together seemed the norm for their marriage, and Gloria didn’t seem to mind. His kids didn’t seem to mind either. ’’

The friend noted that when Cain was around, he seemed completely in his own world.

“He was king of his castle and no one questioned him,’’ says the friend. “It was an uncomfortable set-up for an outsider like me to be around. He was so indifferent to everyone. But I liked Gloria. She was warm and kind.”

Several people who know the Cain family say Gloria and Herman have even lived in separate residences over the years. “They stayed together for good face. They’re old school where you stay just because. Herman likes to give the appearance of living this holier-than-thou life. But it’s anything but,” says someone close to the family.

Well, there is a bright note to all this…it seems they have lived separate lives…for a long, long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cain backs out of the race, and Gloria finally files for divorce.

Hey, BTW, did you see the 1986 Human Resources video from Godfather’s Pizza? Herman Cain’s 1986 Sexual Harassment Training

In this 1986 sexual harassment training video for Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain explains the dos and don’ts of sex in the workplace.

Ha Ha Ha…got ya didn’t I?

More after the jump…

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