Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Coming Storm

It's starting to 'rain' but no one knows if or how long it will continue. That will be determined by a huge cultural and economic shift brought on by the changing demographics in this nation of ours.

While people are wringing their hands over the Affordable Health Care Act, many don't realize it is doing exactly what the President set out to do and that is redistribute wealth. The tectonic shift that is causing the most grief is among those with incomes just above the cutoff for subsidies. It's the DMZ of the beginning of this huge social change.

I know people at the other lower fault line who make just enough money to be exempt from food stamps, food pantries, medicaid, etc. They have been living in this purgatory for years. It is at these fault lines where the battle will rage.

Ironically at the extremes are the 42 million people living below the poverty line of about $18,000 and receiving assistance from various welfare programs and the super rich who don't need assistance and can pay out of pocket … thank you very much from the members of these groups.

Both of these groups live off the subsidies provided by the middle and upper economic classes.

Source: NYT, "New Health Law Frustrates Many In Middle Class", by Katie Thomas, Reed Abelson and Jo Craven McGinty; 12-20-2013.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

True Believers

Several times in past blog postings I have referred to true believers. This concept was first introduced by Eric Hoffer in his 1951 book, The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements. 

Hoffer was reflecting on how fanatical movements begin and sustain themselves. These movements, both political and religious, were made up of people with low self-esteem. Quoting from Wikipedia, one contributor states, that such movements "arose under predictable circumstances: when large numbers of people come to believe that their individual lives are worthless and ruined, that the modern world is irreparably corrupt, and that hope lies only in joining a larger group that demands radical changes."

Hoffer was examining the rise of the totalitarian governments of Hitler and Stalin which he described as  "madhouses".  There are many, perhaps too many, examples in human history of these "madhouses" of "human psychology". But, like most things in life even the true believers vary in degrees of true
'believerism'. I suspect that even within Hitler and Stalin's organizations were varying degrees of commitment. The real true believers in the movements are those at the sharp end of the spear. These are the suicide bombers, the Sovereign Citizens movement, and even individuals acting alone in violent ways.

What happens when the sharp end of the spear is broken in these "madhouses"? What happens to the true believers? Within the Nazi movement post war members kept the 'dream alive' for a time by regrouping into secret organizations. Others started right wing parties that were regrouping in the open but with a more tempered nationalist agenda.

I recently finished a book by Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War. I don't recommend it but Kinzer describes the brothers as true believers. He doesn't label them as such, however his bullet points of their psychological proclivities is on point with Eric Hoffer's concept.

Here then is Mr. Kinzer's criteria for true believers:


  • People are motivated to accept accounts that fit with their preexisting convictions; acceptance of those accounts makes them feel better, and acceptance of competing claims makes them feel worse.

  • Dissonance is eliminated when we blind ourselves to contradictory propositions. And we are prepared to pay a very high price to preserve our most cherished ideas.

  • Moral hypocrisy is a deep part of our nature: the tendency to judge others more harshly for some moral infraction than we judge ourselves.

  • Groupthink leads to many problems of defective decision making, including incomplete survey of alternatives and objectives, failure to examine the risks of the preferred choice, poor information search, selective bias in processing information, and failure to assess alternatives.

  • We are often confident even when we are wrong…. Declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.

  • Certain beliefs are so important for a society or group that they become part of how you prove your identity…. The truth is that our minds just aren't set up to be changed by mere evidence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gay Rights And Religious Colleges

Baylor, located in Waco, Texas is a Baptist University. On October 24th the Student Senate proposed a change to the Sexual Misconduct Code.

From the Houston Chronicle, I quote;
     "The old code, last updated in 2007, contained a list of actions banned as 'misuses of God's gift' that includes 'sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts'. The new proposed change takes out the phrase 'homosexual acts' and replaces it with 'non-marital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.'"

I don't know what it means, but "within the Baylor community it is seen as progress" towards non-discrimination.

Kyrie O'Connor, the Chronicle reporter, said that, "Baylor issued a stunningly opaque official statement, and members of student government are not allowed to talk to media."

Should you want more 'clarification' of the student discussion I refer you to the student newspaper, The Lariat. Here is a sample comment of an open forum from student Jailyn Parnell:

“It is not saying that Baylor is OK with homosexuality, or that students will all of a sudden be more welcoming,” Parnell said. “It is saying that we are not going to pinpoint homosexuals. It is saying that homosexual acts are wrong but heterosexual acts committed outside of marriage are also wrong. It is making it more equal.”

Today I find it all to be a mute point as the student body President vetoed the change and the Student Senate could not muster the two-thirds vote to override.

Further Reading:

Gay Rights and Religious Colleges




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Twitter And Breaking News

Matthew Ingram's article on GOGAOM reviews a study done by IBM on Twitter 'coverage' during the evolving reporting in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy. It is no surprise that much of the early Twitter feeds were wrong. Some were rumors, but some were reporting information derived from police scanners, which were also wrong. I tend to follow CNN and they got it initially wrong.

During the reporting of the Benghazi attacks, I followed coverage via BBC radio. Their reporter was on the ground in Benghazi and got in touch with the landlord of the U.S. Consulate. He lived next door to the consulate and watch the whole thing from his window. His accounting was that a peaceful crowd of demonstrators gathered in front of the consulate and shortly after an armed group in pick-up trucks ran them off and began attacking the building. Never heard anymore about his guy and his account. I don't know if his witness was accurate or not as things began spinning off on who was at fault.

Anyway, in this day of instant reporting I, like Mr. Ingram, suggest that whatever source you follow, take it with skepticism and maybe even follow multiple sources. In any case it may take one or two days before an accurate report begins to form from the myriad sources we must deal with today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Let's Go To Hell And See If It Is Really That Bad

I believe that in any relationship a catharsis is sometimes needed. The relationship with our government has reached that point.

Let's just let the government stay shut down and let's just default on our debt and let's just see if Hell  really exists. We will all have 'skin' in the game. As citizens let's 'call the bet' on the politicians and if they lose make them pay.

It's no longer about the machinations of the politicians it's about us being fed up with the  lack of governance.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Abortion and RU486

From The Christian Science Monitor, we learn that the Supreme Court of the United States wants the Oklahoma Supreme Court to review their ruling on Terry Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice.

What confuses me here is that the U. S. Supreme Court wants the Oklahoma Supreme Court to determine if RU486 is banned by the Oklahoma legislature. The Oklahoma Attorney General seems to have a different take. He says that the legislature just wants to insure users of RU486 follow the FDA label directions from 2000. These directions restrict use to 49 days after the last menstrual cycle.

The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice counters that their are new procedures that extend the  period from the last menstrual cycle from 49 to 63 days and the State of Oklahoma is in effect violating Roe v. Wade.

Now, I cannot find any new label revisions on the FDA web site changing 49 days to 63 days. The last revision (Revision #4) was on June 8, 2011 and label instructions still limit use to 49 days.

So where does this 63 day thing come from? It comes from the National Abortion Federation: "Depending on the prescribing physician's protocols, mifepristone and misoprostol can be used for early abortion up to 63 days after the start of the last menstrual period."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where Are The Better Angels?


"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."
Mark Twain


Sleep eluded me for awhile last night. I was overjoyed by Tampa's victory over the Texas Rangers. I like it when Dallas teams lose at baseball, football, basketball, croquet … well just anything. Can't explain it, it's a Houston thing. I had to quit watching college basketball. It became an obsession. I think that started back in 1958-59 when my high school won the state championship.

Some of you may not have had a restful night because the government shut down. I don't care about the shut down … none of my teams are playing. These are people you elected, who care only about being re-elected. To be re-elected they need enormous amounts of money and must obligate themselves to enormous amounts of favors. Sure they must listen to their constituents, but their constituents only listen to pundits and talking heads with whom they agree. These pundits and talking heads make enormous amounts of money from people who want you to vote for those candidates who will subsequently owe them enormous amounts of favors. You are thus responsible for the silly state we find ourselves in today.

 I am very pessimistic. From whence comes my pessimism? Not from the politicians, the money men, or the 'lame' stream media. It comes from you, my fellow citizens. You are being manipulated and played by selfish people who have no interests in your day to day struggles. There is a TV show called 'Newsroom" in which the character, Will McAvoy, calls the Tea Party the American Taliban. A bit over the top for my taste. It isn't the Tea Party that is an existential threat to our nation it's an uniformed electorate manipulated by those forces I have previously mentioned. You, my friends, are lazy citizens, being played and don't realize it.

If you cannot rest tonight it's your fault. If I can't rest tonight, it's because Pittsburgh lost to Cincinnati.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

UGLINESS

Many, many years ago I had sort of an epiphany after reading "Animal Katabu" by Jean Pierre Hallet, et al. Within the pages was a passage on ugliness. Hallet believed there was no such thing as an ugly animal. They had no say in there appearance and were what they were. Humans simply constructed the concept of 'ugliness' within themselves. I started applying this to works of art in all its forms. Some art doesn't suit me and I try to reflect on the 'why of it'. Sometimes I can and sometimes not so much. But, I never call the appearence of something 'ugly' instead it just doesn't suit me.


This all came back to me whilst reading Muccia Prada's comments regarding her Feminist collection. I can appreciate her creativeness, but it just doesn't suit me.


(GO TO THE ABOVE LINK TO VIEW THE COLLECTION)

Blogger's Note: This blog, Sketch42, is by Nicole Cohen and worth a look see. Her newsletter is varied and entertaining.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Live Maine Lobster



Economics is a social science rather than a science-science. That's because it really studies human behavior and thus hypotheses and theories are unpredictable. I don't care how many formulae are in academic papers, economists are not scientists. For example, one of the basic tenets of economics is the law of supply and demand. Kinda touted around like the law of gravity. Yet, there is that old bugaboo of human behavior that screws up the law.

Take the lowly lobster for example. We learn from James Surowiecki in the August, 2013 New Yorker, that the wholesale price of lobster has dropped from $6.00/lb. to $2.20/lb since 2005. Still the price at restaurants has not decreased. Many experts attribute [I like that phrase] the abundance of lobsters to global warming, others probably blame President Obama. Nonetheless this oversupply is reeking havoc among the Maine lobstermen. This is not the first time lobsters have been aplenty. Back in the day (Colonial New England), Mr. Surowiecki tells us that, "servants, as a condition of their employment, insisted on not being fed lobster more than three times a week."

So what is breaking the law of supply and demand in restaurants? Surowiecki believes that lobster is not a commodity but a luxury item and thus price is associated with enjoyment. Past studies have shown that low prices of previously expensive luxury items creates suspicion among retail consumers. Restaurants are not a commodity business per se. Sure it is a tough competitive venture but quality perceived or real is the factor for success, and price is associated with quality.

"Commodity producer, by contrast, can make lots of money if the conditions are right, but their fate ultimately depends on the broader economy. Restaurants are trying to insulate themselves from the market; lobstermen are at the mercy of it."

I thought that if I ever had a band I would call it LIVE! MAINE LOBSTER!






Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Howdy God





"Cowboy churches are local Christian churches within the cowboy culture that are distinctively Western heritage in character. A typical cowboy church may meet in a rural setting in a barn, metal building, arena, sale barn, or old western building, have its own rodeo arena, and a country gospel bandBaptisms are generally done in a stock tank. The sermons are usually short and simple, in order to better to be understood by the parishioners. Some cowboy churches have covered arenas where rodeo events such as bull riding, team roping, ranch sorting, team penning and equestrian events are held on weeknights. Many cowboy churches have existed throughout the western states for the past forty or fifty years, however just in the past fifteen or so years has there been an explosion of growth within the “movement”. Prior to 1980 there were no less than 5 cowboy churches in Texas, now the number exceeds 200, and there are an estimated 750 nationwide. There has been no definitive group that established the movement; rather it seems to have had a spontaneous beginning in diverse areas of the country at nearly the same time. Some of these cowboy churches are an outgrowth of ministries to professional rodeo or team roping events, while the roots of many can be traced back to ministry events associated with ranch rodeos, ranch horse competitions, chuck wagon cooking competitions, cowboy poetry gatherings and other “cowboy culture” events." From Wikipedia

If you want to know more about Cowboy Churches go to their network here.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Patent Trolls

Last week I wrote about a domestic terrorist group [my judgement] that uses lax lien laws to harrass public officials. Today I want to inform you of another domestic threat composed of individuals known as patent trolls.

"Patent trolls are companies that buy software patents -- bits of coding found in every corner of the Web, really -- and then sue the businesses and entrepreneurs who have derived income, however indirectly, from their use. Silicon Valley is riddled with these suits, and it was there that the term was coined; there are trolls under every bridge, demanding their unearned share of the tech boom profits." [Read more here.]

These individuals not only troll the internet but also small and large businesses looking for opportunites to sue. Guess who pays this increase in the 'cost of doing business'?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lien On Me and The Taking of Things

Lien On Me

"Sovereign Citizens" are a domestic terrorists group. Somewhat unorganized but very violent and disruptive of our judicial system. They game the Constitution and/or ignore it, which ever suits their purpose. Currently they are filing bogus liens against public officials. Apparently under the Uniform Commercial Code the authenticity of the lien is of no import. Behind this tactic is a scheme to destroy the victim's credit rating and to force them to spend sometimes thousands of dollars in legal fees to get the lien removed. If you have never heard of "Sovereign Citizens" check out their activities here and here. 


The Taking of Things

It appears that in some areas of the country, what's mine is actually the local D.A.'s and sheriff's. Here in Tenaha,Texas, for example, you cannot only forfeit your DVD player but also your kids. This is because of something called civil forfeiture. It has a noble history. Forfeiture of property from wrongdoers is a instrument of law enforcement. Bust a drug lord and take his stuff, use it or sell it and enhance your budget to continue the good fight. In Tenaha however it's not drug lords or even minor wrongdoers. It's citizens being stopped and their property taken for personal use by a local D.A. Lynda K. Russell and her cohorts. Your can read more about the abuse of civil forfeiture here.

[I was wondering why the Sovereign Citizens don't use their lien strategy on Lynda? But why do that when Lynda is destroying the rule of law without their help.]

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The "Worried Well"

Yesterday whilst reading the NYT, a survey popped up, soliciting my opinion on the Times including brain exercises in their paper. I did not care for it nor was I willing to pay to use brain exercises. I may have stated previously that I enjoy my dementia. Every day is a new day and I never see repeat TV programs.

Anyway, coincidentally, this week's New Yorker, has an article by Patricia Marx, who did a survey of the brain exercise business. What with baby boomers worried about losing their minds the brain exercise industry is becoming a profitable enterprise. Ms. Marx took many tests and visited many brain exercise gurus, which I will not go into. But, suffice to say they were varied in quality and veracity and of course $$$$. [I was born before those people and believe me it was much nicer. More parking spaces, shorter lines, etc.]

Apparently there is fear out there among the boomers: "Am I, like so many of my gang, just one of the 'worried well'? (A 2011 survey found that baby boomers were more afraid of losing their memory than of death.) Should I get out a crossword? Learn to play bridge? Chew gum? Take a nap? Drink more coffee? Eat blueberries? Give up tofu?"

Back to the money part of this cerebral prevention enfeeblement business. Marx reports that Sharp Brains 2012 survey showed that more than a billion consumer dollars was spent on consultants and brain exercises. Sharp Brains also projects that by 2020, consumers will spend in excess of six billion dollars.

So let me just conclude with this, "To everyone who has solved today's crossword puzzle: Sorry, but that is no guarantee that you will end up less nutty than the rest of us."




Monday, July 29, 2013

Disruptive Technologies

I have been reading several articles regarding 'disruptive' technologies in various industries. Here are a few:

Newspapers: Free online content is not only impacting print editions but also online editions that have paywalls. There is also some difficulty in attracting advertisers to mobile devices. Consumers apparently don't pay attention to the ads on these devices.

Telecommunications: Verizon has refused to repair their legacy lines post-Hurricane Sandy. Cell phones are taking the place of these old technologies of copper wires and telephone poles.

Oil Refiners/Environmentalist: The 15% blend of ethanol (E-15) is cutting into retail gasoline refining. And environmentalist think too much acreage is being diverted for ethanol production. There is also a debate that E-15 may damage internal combustion engines.

Utilities: The electricity generation industry is panicking over the increasing use of solar power and federal subsidies that encourages solar power enterprises. They are also concerned about 'net metering.'
Industry spokesmen are becoming hysterical. They see an existential threat to the national grid.

Television: I am morphing into more content viewing via my Apple TV. Here's why, less and shorter commercials. You still need the cable provider, that's true, but 'disruptive' technologies like Aero are already here.

There will be much lobbying to thwart the progress of these 'disruptive' technologies. So stay tuned and watch which state and federal politicians advocate for the industries mentioned, especially the utilities and refiners. Newspapers have accepted the 'disruption' and are working on innovative ways to compete both on and off-line. Telecommunications is also less combative and offering their customers viable and economical alternatives.

It seems that the utilities in particular are strongly opposed to government subsidies to solar enterprises. But, we should note that Congress has for years protected the utility industry with both subsidies and tax advantages. State governors also have a tendency to appoint commissioners friendly towards utilities to state regulatory boards.

Some of these industries are already playing the "too big to fail deck". We, as a nation can't abide this internal war on innovation. There will be blood i.e. realignment of job skills, education needs some serious revamping and the old industries either will be pushed aside or adapt with more capital re-directed to R&D and less to dividends and executive bonuses.

As an aside, people wonder why large financial institutions are fined and do not have to admit guilt for insider trading and/or other criminal acts. People wonder why prosecutors only go after the 'little guy". Well, they are gun-shy after busting Enron. In that case there was serious collateral damage. Arthur Andersen, one of the 'big five' accounting firms, was indicted for its part in the scandal. The indictment was subsequently reversed, yet 30,000 employees lost their jobs. Not only did innocent Enron employees lose jobs and retirement investments but so did Arthur Andersen employees and who knows how many other innocents lost their jobs and retirement nest eggs? So this is one of card's that will be played in the industries 'too big to fail deck'. A recent exception is an indictment against the hedge fund SAC.

I have been using quotation marks (') around the word 'disruptive' because I think it an unfortunate choice to described innovation technology. I wonder if there are technologies sitting on corporate shelves somewhere that could have been developed years ago but were considered too 'disruptive' for the corporation's future?

'The times they are a-changin'.

Sources:

Newspapers: Newspaper Monopoly That Lost Its Grip

Telecommunications: After Hurricane Sandy, Verizon Takes Hostages

Oil Refining: Corn Ethanol Use In Gasoline Under Review

Utilities: On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

Television: Spreading Disruption, Shaking Up Cable TV

Financial Services: Corporate Crime and 'Collateral' Damage

Friday, July 19, 2013

The "Lookism" Thing

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has banned boys with a Body Mass Index of 40 or above from this years Jamboree. When I read the headline in the Houston Chronicle I was aghast … aghast I say. But referring to USA Today, where the article originally was reported, fills in the details. This years Jamboree is being held this week in West Virginia and is to be a physically rigorous gathering. Scouts and their parents were given advanced noticed regarding the 40 or over BMI cutoff and also being 100 pounds over their individual ideal weight. There is no mention of handicapped scouts in the article.

But then I was aghast again by another 'lookism' article that appeared in the Opinion Section of the NYT on July 16, 2013, entitled "Fired for Being Beautiful".  James Knight, a dentist, in Fort Dodge Iowa, fired his dental assistant, Melissa Nelson because her  "… beauty was simply too tempting to pass unnoticed and that he was worried he would have an affair with her."

Here is Melissa Nelson.


So here is James Knight.


And here is James the stud again.


So are we done here, you know better than that … enter the lawyers. A sex discrimination case was filed in an Iowa district court and it was dismissed. The court determined that Ms. Nelson was not fired '… because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr. Knight.' 
It seems the good doctor informed his wife of his 'urges' and she insisted that he fire Ms. Nelson. 

Again, enter the lawyers, who appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court's judgement. According to the court an employee, "… may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an 'irresistible attraction.' ''

Are you aghast yet?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Beer Index





Heard on NPR's program Planet Money.

It was an interview hosted by Melissa Block. It concerns the Federal Reserves Beige Book. No numbers, no contradictory economic theories. People call up the 'lumber guy', for example and ask him … "How's business?" So it's just full of antidotal stories that gives an overall picture of the economy. Now the Beige Book is online so you can read it here.

So what about this Beer Index thing?

Several years ago while compiling the Beige Book people notice an advance warning about the coming housing market crash. It had to do with the decrease in convenience store beer sales reinforced by a downward trend in the beer distribution business. Construction workers stopped buying six-packs after work. "Why?", you ask. Because it was inferred, and proved to be correct that these guys were not working anymore.

So as the title of Melissa Block's  program state, if you want to know about the economy try the "Ask Your Uncle Approach To Economics."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Immersion Journalism

Never heard of immersion journalism until last Sunday. Some journalist were discussing it on a C-SPAN book TV program. Although, I may never have heard the terms before, unbeknownst to me, I  had previously read an immersion journal article. It was an amazing New York Times article called 'Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek' by John Branch. Some of you have viewed it already. I say viewed because with immersion journalism it's more than reading, it is a 3D interactive non-fiction experience. Immersion journalism differs from gaming formats. For one thing it is long form journalism. Visual enhancements are integrated into the reporting.

There is a lot of hand-ringing within the newspaper and magazine business regarding loss of advertising revenues, and problems with profitable mobile advertising. Well, stop the moaning an jump onto and put your readers into long form immersion journalism.

I guess I should warn you that the term is not exclusive. Some reporters use this term to describe a reporting style where you immerse yourself in the story sans the interactive features. Anthropologists and sociologists have done this for years it's called participant observation. It's more of a longitudinal reporting. What we are talking about here is an evolution in newspaper and magazine reporting. It may or may not be longitudinal but in will always be integrated with interactive features.

If you want to know more about immersion journalism  Wikipedia has a comprehensive description.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

“The bride, 97, is keeping her name.”

Margaux Laskey is one of my favorite NYT writers. She writes wedding announcements in the Sunday paper and had her own wedding announcement in 2010.



A recent example of her excellent writing is entitled, "A Life Graced With Love and Notes". I'm not kidding, I DO like to read Margaux's wedding announcements. She is like a feature writer and much of her writing is poetic. I know it reads like those Christmas letters we used to get from friends … do people still do that? But, why not? Marriage is a celebration and those who can afford it get Margaux to present their love for each other to a world-wide audience. I wish Christina and Simon a happy life. 

By the way here is the announcement from the title of this post, A Lifetime of Happiness, Part 2

Now there is some criticism of this section of the NYT, the most notable probably is an ex-Gawker writer Katie Baker. Katie lets us in on the format and a scoring system she calls NUPTIALS to use when reading these wedding essays. 

Names
Universities
Parents
Tropes
Identifiers
Avocations
Locales
Special Situations

So yes they are somewhat pretentious and an easy target for those with a satiric bent, but try and write one about you and your mate. 


Monday, July 15, 2013

Mountains and Oceans

In the July/August, 2013 issue of The Atlantic, Shell Oil Company has a very interesting advertisement that I guess they call Scenarios.

Shell's President, Marvin Odum, introduces Scenarios thusly, "So how can we best make choices now that will look smart 20 years in the future? 50 years, 100?"

Again Mr. Odum, ""Mountains"foresees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures, while "Oceans" describes a more prosperous yet volatile world. Two very real possibilities; two very different sets of outcomes; two thought-provoking futures that need to be considered by decision-makers everywhere."

Okay, "Mountains" brings to my mind barriers and obstacles, while "Oceans" is a wide expanse of smooth sailing, so to speak. Not too subtle Mr. Odum, but I might be prejudging.

Each scenario has the requirement of political co-operation and each scenario has a competitive component. Both to my mind have winners and losers. I don't see a level playing field in either scenario so in the end we are where we are now.

If you wish to know more go to www.shell.com/scenarios.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Corruption

The BBC is presenting a series on world-wide corruption via its radio program, but it also has an interactive website here. On this link you will find a corruption index.  Click on the percentage legend to the left of the map and see what percent of those responding to the survey by Transparency International said they paid a bribe for favors.

Surprise, surprise … political parties, police, judiciary, legislative bodies and appointed officials are the most corrupt, in that order (On the right side of the above map is a vertical link, 'Which Public Body Is Seen As The Most Corrupt'). Once on that map you can click on the categories. For my Australian friends the Media pops up as the most corrupt.

Other Source:

Transparency International Spells It Out: Politicians Are The Most Corrupt



Treason

Quit commenting in the comments section of your local on-line news source that Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden should be tried for treason and the same goes for Nidal Hasan and Barak Obama. They can't be tried for treason.

WHAT!!

Yep, for decades we have been killing many, many people around the world and they have been killing us, but no declared war has been fought by the United States.

Treason is the only crime stated in the Constitution that is 'defined and has a standard for conviction'… Article III, Section III. And a citizen can only be tried for treason if we are in a state of war and only Congress can put us in that state and they haven't done that since 1941.

Other Sources:

Constitutional FAQ

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Bring Up The Bodies"

Just when you think we can't possibly harm each other more then we already have, along comes
K. L. A.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where In The World Is John Burns?

John Burns


This is not a post for everyone because it's an inside the New York Times water cooler stuff and probably only fans of the "Grey Lady" will appreciate it.

John Burns was a recurrent presence on TV news, reporting from trouble spots around the globe. A kind of male Christiane Amanpour. He also wrote in depth feature articles for the NYT and was very good at his craft. Then he disappeared for awhile only to resurface as a 'helper' to Rachel Donadio in Rome reporting on the election of Benedict XVI.

Last Sunday, I was watching posthumous Q&A interview on C-SPAN with Michael Hastings a Rolling Stone's reporter and author. [Go to 'Watch This Program' on the right side of the web page.] During the interview Hastings said some alarming things about John Burns. Burns was a mouth piece for the military and Stanley McChrystal and his reporting my have been biased in that regard (my interpretation). So, is this why he was bumped up to London bureau chief? And now we learn that Burns has been moved from that position to writing about "enterprising stories about the world of sports."

If you have an interest in this topic, Google: Michael Hastings on John Burns



Monday, July 1, 2013

Running Them Out Of The Temple

Social Security, now will automatically deposit my Social Security check in something called Direct Express. It is managed by Comerica and there are fees associated with using this debit card. Recipients of Social Security do have an option of direct deposit to their bank accounts and Coemica has a reasonable fee structure, so no grips here ... yet.

However, my experience is that there is an erratic acceptance of the Direct Express card both on-line and at box stores. Netflix won't take the card (I don't care because I have issues with Netflix.), AT&T thinks it's a gift card, Capital One will only take on-line payments from bank accounts. This requires me to pay fees for money orders which in effect is a forced usury fee to use my own money.

I am much better off than the people in this article. How outrageous to exploit minimum wage workers with fee after fee after fee. (Chase Bank will raise your interest rate on credit cards if you don't use them.) Exploiting the lower class both financially and politically has become a national past time of the financial and political elite in this country. Next in line is the ever shrinking middle class,

The working class in this country has no advocates anymore. Labor unions are going the way of the dinosaurs and politicians, even at the local level, are more interested in accumulating money from large contributors for re-election than representing the larger constituency, thanks to the Supreme Courts idiotic Citizens United judgement  The most insidious aspect of this dynamic is that the victims of this downward spiral support this. Just read the comment sections of your local on-line newspaper edition. This support is based on a confused ideology combined with a self-destructive Schadenfreude without a critical examination of its corrupting, narcissistic nature.

Friday, June 28, 2013

CAN YOU READ THIS? ⬇


Rachel Jeantel can't because there is some doubt about the necessity these days regarding cursive writing. Jeantel has some serious legal problems but that's not my purpose to discuss today. Today I am interested in the educational movement to do away with cursive writing.

Technology has questioned the need for cursive. At one time cursive's purpose was to speed up communication when printing each individual letter was too slow as more people began to communicate via letters, etc.

"Cursive, also known as scriptjoined-up writingjoint writingrunning writing, or handwriting is any style of penmanship in which the symbols of the language are written in a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster." [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursive]

Now with text messaging and social media cursive is going the way of the LP album. At first I was shocked to learn of cursive's eminent demise. But as I type this post and email friends I understand the educators reluctance to use class time for a tool that is rapidly becoming out dated. Google Blogger doesn't even have a cursive font that I can use in the title page of this post. Online searches have cursive fonts available if you want to pay for them. Cursive may be on my Pages software, but it's not labeled as 'cursive'. 

My concern is that historical documents in cursive will require future historians to learn cursive writing in order to read the original historical documents. It will be like learning a foreign language. I can imagine graduate history students taking advance courses in CURSIVE 500.



Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Tolerable Imbalance

"Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More"  Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III.

Preserving our freedoms is not written in stone nor on parchment. Preserving our freedoms is daily and never ending. It is not absolute either. Without security we have no freedom so once again we must decide a tolerable imbalance.

Today we find ourselves as collateral damage to terrorism and even more so to domestic terrorism. Our freedoms seem to be increasingly eroded in favor of safety. The historical record is rife with examples of dilemmas such as we face today. Our fear is that once given up they are never given back.

So today, on the Sunday news shows, the question will arise on expanding or contracting the breach. Instead of platitudes and quotes from the past we must once again address the question of tolerable imbalance.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Privacy Statements

"I Agree"

I agree to every privacy statement that pops up on sites I want to view. I have yet to read one and I'll bet the farm that I am not alone here.

Malcolm Burnley, writes in the June, 2013 issue of The Atlantic,  that the average length of privacy statements is 2,514 words and if you read every privacy statement that pops up in a year it 'would take you 10 full days'.

Now comes along a start-up called Disconnect. You can read about it from the previous link but here are some features that Mr. Burnley high lights in his article, "You've Been Warned". Disconnect kind of reads the Privacy Statement for you.




Green indicates that a Web site either does not allow third-party tracking or notifies you if you are being tracked. Orange means you might be unknowingly observed (for example: Amazon vs.Kayak).



Green indicates that a Web site uses your data only in ways you actively consent to or would expect given the service the site provides. Orangemeans your data might be shared or used in ways that should give you pause (Google vs. The New York Times).


The number on the green icon indicates how many months a site will retain your data. The infinity sign on the orange icon means that your data may outlive you (Twitter vs. Facebook).


This graphic taken from Malcolm Burnley's article in The Atlantic (June, 2013)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

God, Morality And The American Dream

Put your big boy pants on because I'm going into the weeds.

No, not really. Philosophical discussions have no end and that is the only definitive philosophical statement one can make with philosophical certainty.

I am looking at some seemingly disparate sources: A. O. Smiths New York Times review of Gatsby, Pain & Gain, Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring; Henry Kissinger and a Sherwood Anderson short story from "Winesburg, Ohio".

A.O. Smith addresses the movies mentioned above as a progression of America's entitlement culture. Not the perceived entitlement some people attribute to only the poor, but to all of us. It began with the mythical American Dream of freedom for purposes of not just worship, but acquiring things. At first it may have been land. Today it's 'a headlong embrace of materialism' without a stable moral perspective. Smith also calls it 'commodity fetishism'. I have attended Lakewood Church here in Houston on several occasions and Joel Osteen skillfully melds a moral perspective into material success. Nuances connecting God, Morality and The American Dream can be overlooked by some and lend rationale to others who strive harder for the latter.

Robert D. Ryan, authors an article entitled, 'The Statesman, In Defense Of Henry Kissinger', (The Atlantic, May, 2013). In his defense of Kissinger's foreign policies, Ryan reminds us of the times in which they took place. 'Other, luckier political leaders might later discover opportunities … where before there were none.' Thus, ' Ensuring a nation's survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality. Discovering the inapplicability of Judeo-Christian morality in certain circumstances involving affairs of state can be searing. The rare individuals who have recognized the necessity of violating such morality, acted accordingly, and taken responsibility for their actions are among the most necessary leaders for their countries, even as they have caused great unease among generations of well-meaning intellectuals who, free of the burden of real-world bureaucratic responsibility, make choices in the abstract and treat morality as an inflexible absolute.'

Sherwood Anderson published Winesburg, Ohio 1919, there were still Civil War veterans alive and active in their communities. I note this to show how far back Anderson's following observation goes and its relevance to contemporary discussions going on today:

"The beginning of the most materialistic age in the history of the world, when wars would be fought without patriotism, when men would forget God and only pay attention to moral standards, when the will to power would replace the will to serve and beauty would be well-nigh forgotten in the terrible headlong rush of mankind toward the acquiring of possessions, …"

See? It's what I am addressing today, May 18, 2013. Anderson seems to separate God from moral standards and I am not certain this can be done without a beginning point be it God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Confucius, Emerson, etc.

Here is another observation regarding the media. Sound familiar? Remember this was written in 1919.

"In the last fifty years a vast change has taken place in the lives of our people. A revolution has in fact taken place. The coming of industrialism, attended by all the roar and rattle of affairs, the shrill cries of millions of new voices that have come among us from over seas, the going and coming of trains, the growth of cities, the building of the interurban car lines that weave in and out of towns and past farmhouses, and now in these later days the coming of the automobiles has worked a tremendous change in the lives and in the habits of thought of our people of Mid-America. Books, badly imagined and written though they may be in the hurry of our times, are in every household, magazines circulate by the millions of copies, newspapers are everywhere. In our day a farmer standing by the stove in the store in his village has his mind filled to overflowing with the words of other men, The newspapers and the magazines have pumped him full. Much of the old brutal ignorance that had in it also a kind of beautiful childlike innocence is gone forever. The farmer by the stove is brother to the men of the cities, and if you listen you will find him talking as glibly and as senselessly as the best city man of us all."

T. S. Elliot describes the still point of the turning world in his poem the Four Quartets. It is undefinable, it is where everything occurs yet nothing changes.

"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

Matisse


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Conversation

Doctors are experts on the dying process. Their education doesn't take years. I suspect they learn more about the dying process in less time than it takes to learn the basics of their profession. So why do they put off The Conversation and knowingly perform unnecessary and unwanted treatment? Most of which occurs at the end of life.

Jonathan Rauch in his May, 2013 article for The Atlantic, "How Not To Die", provides several interconnected reasons. In American medical training we instill in our prospective physicians a 'war on death'. Rauch says, "Unwanted treatment is a particularly confounding problem because it is not a product of malevolence but a by-product of two strengths of American medical culture: The system's determination to save lives, and its technological virtuosity." Doctors who come here from India have marveled at the technological resources available to them but at the same time see serious shortcomings in patient/doctor interaction. Where medical training is not as technologically available patient/doctor communication is very important for hands on diagnosis and treatment. Encompassing this communication may entail The Conversation. U. S. trained doctors know about The Conversation and also know when their patients are dying, but they are not good at telling the patient and his family or don't even use it as part of their practice. When it is used it should be, explained '… patiently and in plain English, his condition and his treatment options, to learn what his goals were for the time he had left, and to establish how much and what kind of treatment he really desired.'

Albert Mulley, addresses the war on death as applied to those knowingly dying, "Sometimes you block the near exits, and all you've got left is a far exit, which is not a dignified and comfortable death."

Rauchs article features a doctor Angelo Volandes and his efforts to bring The Conversation into the patient /doctor treatment protocol. It has made a small, very small penetration. I have left out a significant  portion of this article so if you want to know more go here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Running On Empty? … No Not Ever.

Most of us are familiar with the Peak Oil concept. I am going to over-simplfly it here because it's not what I want to elaborate on.

Essentially, peak oil is a bell curve:

A guy named M. King Hubbert, predicted in 1956 that all the 'easy' oil will soon be used up and as exploration and production becomes more and more difficult, the industry will peak and then decline. 

In an article by Charles C. Mann* (May, 2013 The Atlantic) we learn of another school of thought emanating from of all places the U.S. Geological Survey. Vincent McKelvey was a geologist for this government agency and he agreed with the first half of the Hubbert hypothesis, that the easy oil would eventually disappear. But, by McKelvey's reckoning, we would never run out of fossil fuel. McKelvey and his acolytes believed that:

"Even as companies drain off the easy oil, innovation keeps pushing down the cost of getting the rest. From this vantage, the race between declining oil and advancing technology determines the size of a reserve-not the number of hydrocarbon molecules in the ground. 
This perspective has a corollary: natural resources cannot be used up. If one deposit gets too expensive to drill, social scientists (most of them economists) say, people will either find cheaper deposits or shift to a different energy source altogether, Because the costliest stuff is left in the ground, there will always be petroleum to mine later."

With in the above quote I have 'bolded' cost and expensive. These are the driving forces of the oil industry. Not the availability of the resource nor the effort to extract and refine it. 

Fracking is not new, it has been used as a means to get at oil since the 1940's. What is new is innovations that enhance its effectiveness and efficiencies. It makes the effort worth the cost. I do not dismiss the environmental impact on ground water and subsidence. My point is to support the McKelvey Corollary. In this vein we should probably discuss the energy return on energy invested  (EROEI). Simply put, how much energy is needed to produce energy? This is a very important cost and determines whether certain fossil fuels and alternative energy sources are marketable. For example:

OPEC oil is 12 to 18
     12 to 18 barrels of oil are produced for every barrel of oil used to produce it
Tar Sand
     4 to 7 barrels
Natural Gas Fracking
     6 times better than OPEC oil
    16 times better than Tar Sand

Charles Mann starts off his article with new sources of fossil fuels. We tend to overlook other sources in this category. Mann discusses something called methane hydrate. Japan seems committed to this resource and you can read more about it here

We all know about alternative non-fossil energy sources and their EROEI is not as efficient, but I believe innovation will work here also and eventually although they may cost a bit more, retail buyers will see the greater good and opt for renewables as the prices continue to decrease.

FURTHER READING;



*Arthur of 1491.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Happiness is love. Full stop."

The Grant Study began in 1938.. It was ongoing for 75 years and cost $20 million. It was part of a larger project The Study of Adult Development. Essentially the study tracked the lives of some 268 Harvard graduates and  "332 disadvantaged non-delinquent inner-city youths who grew up in Boston neighborhoods."  As an aside, Wikipedia informs us that among the Harvard group was a future president, John F. Kennedy. [Be advised that as of today the last update on Wikipedia was November 29, 2012.] The study was finally concluded and George Vaillant, the last director published a book summing  up and elaborating on the findings, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study (2012). 

Scott Stossel, revisits the study's results in The Atlantic Monthly's, May 2013 issue.


  • Men who had “warm” childhood relationships with their mothers earned an average of $87,000 more a year than men whose mothers were uncaring.
  • Men who had poor childhood relationships with their mothers were much more likely to develop dementia when old.
  • Late in their professional lives, the men’s boyhood relationships with their mothers—but not with their fathers—were associated with effectiveness at work.
  • On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment of vacations, and increased “life satisfaction” at age 75—whereas the warmth of childhood relationships with mothers had no significant bearing on life satisfaction at 75.
Thank You, Mommie Dearest

FUTHER READING:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Donovan Campbell: Is This What Jesus Sounded Like?

Every once in a while someone comes along that's too good to be true and they usually are. The jury is still out on Donovan Campbell, but having seen people like him rise before … color me skeptical.

He is every mother's dream. Clean cut, brave, charismatic, very smart, charming and good looking. Donovan has a wife and two daughters and as I heard him speaking, I wondered what life was like living with someone wound as tight as he? You can read a bit about him here. But he has several other self-promotion sites on line.

He speaks a lot about virtue and leadership qualities much of which he learned at Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS). Without a shred of evidence, I believe he has a hidden agenda. I think Donovan wants to become a movement leader where he can maximize his following and implement his virtuous beliefs in the real world. Some would call this 'magical thinking'.

What's the potential danger? Everything he says is true to some extent. The quality of virtue does seems to be in decline and pervasive among leaders in churches, schools, politics, business and even us ... the wretched of the earth. The danger of people like Mr. Campbell is that they really, truly believe that they have the 'answer' and there is a hunger out there for someone with the 'answer'.

At this moment in time criticism or even questioning him will not be popular. His message is bullet proof. What worries me is the potential of a movement of true believers based on his core beliefs. Heaven on earth movements do not tolerate us sinners and that my friends seems to be Mr. Campbell's hidden agenda.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Music Section: George Jones Is Not Charlie Rich

George Jones died last week. Country music lost a mover and shaker and a legend, but he is not Charlie Rich.

I got them confused as I was looking for some jazz songs by Jones. There are none. It was Charlie Rich, aka The Silver Fox, who was an accomplished jazz vocalist's and his adherence to what we now call 'crossover' limited both his fame and fortune.

"Charlie Rich was simultaneously one of the most critically acclaimed and most erratic country singers of post-World War II era. Rich had all the elements of being one of the great country stars of the '60s and '70s, but his popularity never matched his critical notices. What made him a critical favorite also kept him from mass success. Throughout his career, Rich willfully bended genres, fusing country, jazz, blues, gospel, rockabilly, and soul. Though he had 45 country hits in a career that spanned nearly four decades, he became best-known for his lush, Billy Sherrill-produced countrypolitan records of the early '70s. Instead of embracing the stardom those records brought him, Rich shunned it, retreating into semiretirement by the '80s." [Read more here]

Ever heard of 'countrypolitan' before? 

The last 331/3 (You explain it to everyone 45 and under.) I owned of Charlie's was the 1975 album "Every Time You Touch Me I Get High". On it were two of the Billy Sherrill produced songs. Lush is an understatement, but they work very well alone and with a bottle of wine as does Jackie Gleason's LP "Music For Lovers Only".

Back to The Silver Fox, here are two of selections of his 'countrypolitan' songs:

Every Time You Touch Me I get High

This song was written by Charlie and Sherrill and released in 1975

Since I Fell For You

Buddy Johnson wrote this in 1945. Wikipedia tells us that the song didn't take off until Lenny Welch recorded it in 1963. Since then it has become a standard and performed by many great singers. But here's The Silver Fox.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Puppet Masters

I was listening to a discussion of the immigration bill this morning on NPR's "On Point". It was noted that now some senators are concerned about background checks.

Background checks during the gun legislation was pooh-hooed as expensive, not effective, etc. This was in the face of overwhelming public opinion in favor of universal background checks.

The only why I can make sense of this silliness is that "all politics is local" is no longer applicable to insure re-election. Thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings all politics is anything but local. Influential, extremely wealthy individuals and now corporations from various parts of the nation are in control of local politics. Philosophical inclinations are primarily libertarian/conservative, but liberals in Hollywood and the East Coast (i.e. Mayor Bloomberg) have used their personal fortunes in attempts to sway politicians in distant areas of the country. Just today we learn that Max Baucus is retiring because he is facing an expensive election challenge. This happens even though he voted against the recent gun control legislation in hopes the out-of-state puppet masters would not challenge him.

Probably, although not in my lifetime,  the citizens will wake up to the fact that money trumps constituent opinion and that the only remedy is both term limits and election financial reform. I am for shortening campaigns, make them clearly issue oriented, with very tight constants on financial contributions limited exclusively to individuals who have verifiable legal residence within the boundaries of the particular jurisdiction.

Presidential elections would also be shortened and clearly issue-oriented, but federally financed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Style Section: Heeeeeeeeee's Back

Today we learn that Christian Lacroix, primarily known for his pouf dresses and jackets during the late eighties and into the nineties is making a kind of comeback. His website posts a cozy men's fashion show from January, 2013. But, Jacob Bernstein reports in the NYT that Mr. Lacroix is working on "a 15-piece couture collection for Schiaparelli to be shown in Paris this summer."

Schiaparelli's website is a Spring, 2012 newsletter, however Style.com tells us that the new owner of the Schiaparelli house, Diego Della Valle, did confirm a July, 2013 show by Lacroix. 

Do we have a preview … no, but we have Katharine K. Zarrella's brief interview with Lacroix in which she describes the show as one of a series of interpretations of Schiaparelli's designs.


OF FURTHER INTEREST:
THE ART AND FASHION OF ELSA SCHAPARELLI (May not link on a mobile device.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Style Section

I have never read the Style Section in the New York Times nor any fashion magazine… never, ever. However, I have a friend who claims that everyone knows the Style Section is the best section of the NYT. So today I looked it over and she may be right.

Fashion just has never seemed relevant to my world. Unbeknownst to me I seem to have a seasonal style. In the summer I have been mistaken for a camp counselor and in the winter I have been offered change by strangers who believe I am homeless.

Back to the Style Section and specifically to this article by Eric Wilson. It dawned on me that style is art  with the big exception that big bucks are risked on the taste of the designer (I know… duh?). Mr. Wilson does a great piece on Hedi Slimane and pulls the curtain back on the business end of haute couture. That's the part I like. Fashion is not the ephemeral, trivial occupation I once thought. It is a competitive, bitchy, diva-driven, cut throat business. I now have more interest and respect for those who 'make it' in this business.

Hedi Slimane

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The "Truth Dump"

"Omitting risks from a consent form these days is relatively rare, experts said, as institutions often want to reduce the chances that they will be sued. The result is voluminous forms that do more to protect the institution than to empower the potential subject." One medical ethics person calls this the "truth dump".

Yet, Sabrina Tavernise, reports to us, that in a study conducted on premature babies, parents were not informed that eye disease, blindness and death could result from their child's participation in the study. They were informed however that a possible abrasion to the baby's skin could occur from an oxygen monitoring device.

Reporter Tavernise goes on to note that in a 13 page letter from the Office of Human Research Protections investigating the study, researchers were aware of possible consequences.

I don't have a problem with the study, because I have no expertise to criticize it, but the informed consent form was, in my opinion, a deliberate scheme to keep parents ignorant of the risks. The University of California at San Diego was the institution that actually wrote the consent form but it was reviewed and approved by all 23 institutions involved in the study.

So to make everything okay, Dr. Richard B. Marchase, said: "… he had assured the office [Office of Human Research Protections] that in the future, “we will to the best of our ability let the subjects or their parents know as thoroughly as possible what previous studies suggest in terms of risk.” He added, “We are going to be very sensitive to that going forward as we look at these consent forms.”

I think we will be hearing more on this.