Saturday, December 13, 2014

Claude Monet


"I have painted the Seine throughout my life, at every hour, at every season. I have never tired of it: for me the Seine is always new." Claude Monet

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) has 50 paintings by Monet entitled "Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River". And like Monet said above he never tired of it. To me Monet's paintings, usually of water lillies, were associated with places of pain. They were prolific on the walls in dentists and lawyers offices.

Before he became obsessed with water lillies he was enthalled with the river Seine and except for a brief period when he lived in London he lived the majority of his life on or close by this river. The exhibit at the MFAH emphasized his skill with light and weather. This I had never noticed in the 'places of pain'. So that's why I have changed my mind regarding his talent. He even goes back and forth between various styles. The most obvious are abstract to impression back to abstact.


Here is a similar style to one of Turner's paintings:



One of Monet early mentors, I forget who, tutored him on the skill of clould painting:


So here is mine:

Well, one can always change one's opinion and Monet's "Impression of a River" changed mine. I will keep this in mind the next time I see Monet's water lillies in 'places of pain".

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's Not My Job

One of my friends is facing a serious medical crisis concerning her adult daughter and a friend of my cousin has taken his mother to the ER. The latter individual has observed several incidents among ER staff that impacted his mother's care. One of the observations was the "it's not my job" syndrome.

So whose job is it? It's YOUR job. Don't be a passive patient nor a passive observer. Raise hell. One of my sisters made a doctor cry over the care of our father. She is not a doctor, but like Supreme Court Justice Potter said in 1964, he can't intelligently define hard-core pornography, but he knows it when he sees it. Thus my sister could recognize gross medical incompetence. Also, if you are a medical professional you have an ethical obligation to confront and report incompetence.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This & That, August 6, 2014

HERE WE GO AGAIN?

I have blogged recently concerning the plethora of auto loans to unqualified persons. Now we learn the government is also becoming concerned.

Back tracking a bit to our recent past, do you remember these terms: subprime loans, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, too big to fail, and Troubled Asset Relief Program?

Here is how they were all connected:

  • Unqualified applicants were given loans at high interest to buy homes.
  • Banks mixed these high risk loans with good loans into something called Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO'S) and sold them to investors. The banks did not tell the investors that there were some very bad loans included in the CDO'S. 
  • Prudent investors bought insurance from insurance firms like American International Group (AIG). In exchange for premium payments to AIG they were insured against defaults on their CDO investments.  The insurance policy was something called a Credit Default Swap (CDS).
  • When the unqualified borrowers of  housing loans defaulted, so to did the CDO"S and because investors had insurance against such a failure they put in claims with AIG for full payment.
  • The defaults on the bad housing loans cascaded throughout the financial system and ended up with the federal government rescuing all parties considered too big to fail. This included the auto industry, Wall Street banking and investment firms and AIG. The final total of the rescue via the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) still doesn't have a bottom line, but it is in the trillions. 
Recently there is talk of the same thing happening in auto sales.


  • Unqualified applicants are being given loans at high interest to buy cars.
  • Banks are mixing these auto high risk loans with good auto loans. 
  • The new thing is that bank analysis, credit rating agencies and insurance companies are warning investors of the risk. That was not the case during the housing bubble.
  • Also the government is getting involved in investigating the auto loan business.
Still it is reported that, "This year, G.M. Financial sold investors a roughly $730 million bond made up of auto loans that carried an average annual interest rate of about 13 percent."

SOURCE:
NYT; Focusing on G.M. Unit, U.S. Starts Civil Inquiry of Subprime Car Lending, by Michael Corkey and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, August 4, 2014

THE RIGHT TO FARM

Well, I thought there was a right to farm, but not in Missouri according to a coalition of farm groups and agra corporations. The primary villain is the Humane Society of America.

Out of state funding from the Humane Society and others are lobbying state legislatures in various farm states to pass laws and/or give their agricultural regulators additional power to regulate, among other things, a minimum space between livestock and control genetically modified crops. 

To fight this, the coalition mentioned above, has put together an amendment to the state constitution:

While the amendment mentions possible litigation, there appears to be no conflict with existing federal agricultural laws or regulations. 

Voting begins today, August 5, 2014.

UPDATE ON VOTE:
August 6, 2014: OzarkFirst.com reports the Amendment won by 2500 votes. The Missouri Secretary of State will probably do a recount.

SOURCE:



Sunday, August 3, 2014

This & That, August 3, 2014

WAIT … WHAT?

On April 15, 1963, Anna Marie Yocum was murdered at her home. Robert John Dowlut, age 17, was tried and convicted for second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On April 1, 1968 he was release on orders of the Indiana Supreme Court, and a new trial was ordered. This new trial never took place.
Mr. Dowlut went on to become the general counsel for the National Rifle Association and a respected advocate for the expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In 1931, Harlon Carter, age 17, shot and killed 15 year old Ramon Casiano, a Mexican-American in Laredo, Texas. That case was overturned by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Mr. Harlon, later came to be the Chief Executive Officer for the National Rifle Association from 1977 to 1985 and a respected advocate for the expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

There are extenuating circumstances (serious ones) regarding the two killings. And you can read them in the sources noted. I just thought it was an interesting footnote to two very competent and successful advocates for the expansion of Second Amendment rights for individuals.

Most recently a decision was made to allow citizens to carry guns outside their homes in Washington D.C.. The justice in this case said that previous higher court decisions supported his decision. Much of these previous judgements were directly or indirectly due to the efforts of Robert Dowlut and Harlon Carter.

Sources:

Mother Jones; The NRA'S Murder Mystery: One Court Sent Him To Prison For Shooting A Woman, Another Set Him Free Over Bad Police Work. Was The NRA'S Top Lawyer Railroaded-Or  A "Bad Guy With A Gun?", by Dave Gilson

Wikipedia; Harlon Carter

Syracuse.com; Syracuse senior federal judge tosses DC ban on carrying handguns in public, away from home, by Catie O'Toole, July 27, 2014



AND THEY WALK AMONG US

I don't want to diminish this by editing of paraphrasing and possibly water down the comments so:


"KKK joins immigration debate with calls for "corpses" on the border
With thousands of undocumented children amassing at the U.S. border, Robert Jones, Imperial Wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, doesn’t want amnesty. He wants “corpses” on the border. “If we can’t turn them back, I think if we pop a couple of them off and leave their corpses laying at the border maybe they’ll see we’re serious about stopping immigration,” Jones said."

Photo: Al Jazeera America
(Notice the agency that took the photo? This should impress are friends and enemies abroad)


SOURCE:
Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2014. 




THE SPACE BETWEEN

Hypothermia it seems, can save you as well as kill you. There appears to be a space in between that is neither life as we define it and death as we define it.

We're not talking here about cryonics. If you have opted for cryonics, then sweetheart, you are graveyard dead. 

No, we are looking at the space in between. It's a space doctors have known for years. They have used this space for people in cardiac arrest. And if you get knifed or shot in Pittsburgh, there is a doctor there that plans to drain all your blood and replace it with saltwater. 

So, tell me , if you could be put in suspended animation when would you want to be walking around again? What do you foresee the downside might be if you returned 50 to 100 years from today? Would you be alone? If you are a senior citizen now, how would 'those people' treat you?

I personally want to go back in time, not forward.  Unfortunately that is not an option yet.



SOURCE:
New Republic; Science Is Changing What It Means to be Dead: If you could freeze yourself until a future age, are you sure you'd want to?, by Judith Shulevitz, July 24, 2014


AMERICA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT

Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are the chief executives for JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs respectively. Both of these men are making big bucks for their companies and shareholders and themselves by actively helping American corporations renounce their American citizenship for lower tax bills abroad. You may have read about this increasingly new scheme called 'inversion'. It appears to be a win-win-win for firms like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, corporations, and shareholders. The only losers are you and me.

Guess what, it's legal. The brouhaha is over money, especially corporate taxes that will no longer go into the United States Treasury. There are attempts in Congress to stop inversions and to even make the prohibition retroactive. My take is that any attempt to thwart inversions by legal means will fail. I can't see lower courts upholding these legislative prohibitions and certainly not the Supreme Court.

Possibly, a change in tax laws will slow down the process, but that may involve reducing corporate tax loopholes and corporate subsidies. Oh, and yes both JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were bailed out by you.


SOURCE
New York Times; Banks Cash In on Inversions Deals Intended to Elude Taxes, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, July 28, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"I'M FAMOUS Y'ALL"

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. The other day he wrote an article about the ubiquitousness of narcissism. A little over the top since a narcissistic personality disorder is much more serious than the examples Mr. Pitts discusses. Nonetheless, he addresses some minor but serious trending behavior globally.

The lead of the article concerns a teenage girl who took a cheerful selfie of herself in front of the entrance to Auschwitz. As Mr. Pitts notes, Ms. Mitchell is not alone in disconnecting between a horrible, bloody event and her current if fleeting fame. Indeed the President himself has been photograph with his smiley face on at a memorial service for Nelson Madella. "First lady Michelle Obama sits apart from them wearing a somber, funeral-appropriate expression that says clearly, “I don’t know these people.”

As I write this, I am saying to myself, 'Get over it'. But, like Pitts, it's irritating.
Good Times At Austwitz 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 24, 2014

ONCE A SUCKER …

Did you know that the best targets for scams are persons who have been scammed in the past. It sure surprised me upon reading Susan Antilla's article in the New York Times today. She talks about 'Sucker Lists' in their various forms. Probably the most nefarious of these lists are compilations of previous 'suckers' who suffer from 'illnesses like Alzheimer's'.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Then there's this. Someone is leaking or is hacking the profiles of immigrant children being held in detention to con artist. The con artist uses this information to contact relatives living in the U.S. and posing as immigration specialists elicits fees to speed up processing for release of the children to the relative.


HI THERE, I WANT TO DISCONNECT MY SERVICE




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What The News Across The Nation(s), July 22, 2014

RODNEY DURHAM SAYS HE IS,  NOT SURE HOW I GOT THE LOAN 



Stop me if you heard this story before.

Guy goes to a used car dealer to buy a car. He hasn't worked since 1991 and he has filed bankruptcy in the past. No problem says the salesman, "I can put you in that baby right over there for $$$$. Now sign right here."

Several months later, the guy's car is repoed by the bank partner of the used car dealer. The bank, you see, has an arrangement whereby they assume the loan (Interest on the loan is maybe 23/24%). These high risk loans have been bundled into tranches sold to investors like your pension fund or your mutual fund or insurance companies, heck maybe even the city you live in bought some. The problem is this is the same game played with sub-prime mortages and lead to the 2008 financial crises and the 'too big to fail' bail out.

New York Times reporters, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery note that big investors buy these tranches which contain some toxic sub-prime loans because of the high returns on their investment. The higher the risk, the higher the payoff. But not to worry as the movers and shakers assure us, "... that the risks are not great, saying that they have indeed heeded the lessons from the mortgage crisis. Losses on securities made up of auto loans, they add, have historically been lo
w, even during the crisis."

Finally, remember when people were losing their homes and sleeping in their car? Well, "In the case 
of Marcelina Mojica and her husband, Jonathan", they are keeping their car and sleeping in a homeless shelter.

Again, stop me if you have heard this story before.


Owning People

There is a company out in California called Fantex that sells stock in professional athletes. It's just getting off the ground and so far has sold stock in two professional football players. I don't know much about this, but it's kind of a bet on future earnings of the athlete. These future earnings include salary, memoirs, movies, etc.

BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN OF WALL STREET

So two things are going on that the general public is not aware of and if they were aware, would have a difficult time in connecting what happens on Wall Street with the price of their can of corn.

Currently there is a coerced trend among firms to force employees into mandatory arbitration.  A recent and well covered case concerns the extensive and long history of sexual harassment by Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel. Arthur Bryant reports on the case on the ACS blog article American Apparel Hides Sexual Harassment and More through Mandatory Arbitration. Mr. Bryant quotes Stephen Davidoff Soloman of the New York Times, "Corporate America has been ably aided by the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly upheld the right of companies to enforce arbitration agreements…".  It appears that while the Supreme Court may be leaning towards mandatory arbitration decisions to trump a person's day in court I can't tell if it is a settled question by the Court. The article by Mr. Soloman goes into much more detail than does Mr. Bryant's article regarding the sexual harassment history of Dov Charney.

The other new thing is a push by Wall Street firms to inhibit or stop whistle blowers from blowing the whistle.  The Dodd-Frank Bill encourages whistle blowing with monetary rewards should whistle blowers information prove corporate wrongdoing . Countermeasures being initiated by Wall Street firms include mandatory confidentiality agreements. So far as I know none of these mandatory confidentiality agreements that pertain to whistleblowing are being honored by the SEC. And I know of no specific court cases. However, the proliferation of such confidentiality agreements seems to indicate some emiment legal action.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

That Public Education Thing

THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE

Frontline on PBS last night had an interesting program called Separate and Unequal. It concerns a disturbing trend in public education. This particular program focuses on the East Baton Rouge Parish public school district. Briefly parents whose children go the these public schools want to create a new city called St. George and also create their own school district. The program only last about 28 minutes so I won't recap it. Suffice to say an overwhelming majority of potential citizens of the City of St. George are white and described as affluent.

GEORGIA ON MY MIND

Here is another disturbing educational topic. It's from The New Yorker magazine written by Rachel Aviv, entitled Wrong Answer [I can't guarantee the link]. The reporting concerns the well covered cheating conspiracy of a superintendent, sub-superintendents, principals and teachers in Atlanta. The disturbing part of this article is Rachel Aviv's interpretation of the conspiracy as a kind of the 'devil made me do it". The devil in this case being the No Child Left Behind initiative. I don't know much about these various tests that hold superintendents, principals and teachers accountable for the progress of their students. Yet many of these school officials accepted bonuses and awards. They gave up on students and rationalized an easy way out. Rather than looking at methods to assist high risk students they cheated them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This And That, July 15, 2014

THE LAST HOMO STANDING

Rick Potts, Director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program and two of his colleagues postulate that human evolution was not linear. Remember this graphic:

In fact several genus Homo species roamed around at the same time and indeed their remains have been found in common locales. How our guy made it over the other guys was via adaption. That in itself is nothing new as adaption seems to be a ubiquitous feature of all living things. The thing is that adaption, according to Potts et al. was to climate change especially among the genus Homo. This begs the question what will our species look like in the far, far future? 

I'LL BE WATCHING YOU

Quentin Fottrell for Market Watch's, Lunch Break reports that 80% of divorce cases have involved the use of social media and a one-third of these cases contain the word 'FACEBOOK'. Fottrell goes on to say, "As global positioning technology improves, so too are the apps that track our movements, and those of our loved ones."
There are 5 apps that you can use legally to spy on your spouse. If you want to know more about them find out yourself.

GOLDMAN'S BRAZIL VOODOO DOLL

Three times Goldman Sacks has picked Brazil to win the World Cup and each time (2006, 2010 and 2014) they haven't. This time Goldman's model had an all-time high probably of 48.5%. 

THE DISASSEMBLY LINE

To avoid tariffs, German car maker Damiler disassembles brand new assembled Mercedes and Freightliners, packs up the parts, and sends them on their way to the United States where they are re-assembled again and then shipped off to dealers for sale. Jack Ewing reports in the New York Times, that this practice is a remmant of a United States revenge move from the 1960's when the German and French governments created trade restrictions on the importation of American chickens.

Beam me up Scotty!




Saturday, July 12, 2014

This and That, July,12, 2014

Surviving Hopelessness Together, Surviving Fame Apart

Remember the 33 Chileans that were trapped in a mine for 69 days back in 2010? Well, Hector Tobar has written a very interesting account of their survival. It's not  necessary one of heroics as much as it is of human interactions under extreme stress. Also the surprising reactions to knowledge that their ordeal would soon be over along with their 15 minutes of fame accompanied by material and monetary rewards.

A Spy's Guide To The "Elements Of Style'

At first it seems somewhat comical, but it makes sense that the CIA should not be any different than other large bureaucracies. I remember when I was tasked to answer all congressional letters for the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. A certain condescending style was required with as little information as possible. Quite tricky, but quite important. Woe to me if it elicited a negative response from a Congressman.

So, the CIA also has very strict guidelines. Some seem trivial, but I would imagine over the years these seemingly minor rules have evolved from experience. Here are some taken from Quartz writer Michael Silverberg:

  • Keep the language crisp and pungent; prefer the forthright to the pompous and ornate.
  • Do not stray from the subject; omit the extraneous, no matter how brilliant it may seem or even be.
  • Favor the active voice and shun streams of polysyllables and prepositional phrases.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the structure of both.
  • Be frugal in the use of adjectives and adverbs; let nouns and verbs show their own power.
regime: has a disparaging connotation and should not be used when referring to democratically elected governments or, generally, to governments friendly to the United States.
+

tortuous (adj, twisting, devious, highly complex)
torturous (adj, causing torture, cruelly painful)
+
while: as a conjunction, usually has reference to time. While the President was out of the country, the Army staged a coup. It can, with discretion, also be used in the sense of although or butWhile he hated force, he recognized the need for order. Avoid using while in the sense of and.
+

number of: a phrase that is too imprecise in some contexts. A number of troops were killed. (If you do not know how many, say an unknown number.)
+

casualties: include persons injured, captured, or missing in action as well as those killed in battle. In formulating casualty statistics, be sure to write “killedor wounded,” not “killed and wounded.” (See injuries, casualties.)
+

nonconventional, unconventional: Nonconventional refers to high-tech weaponry short of nuclear explosives. Fuel-air bombs are effective nonconventional weapons. Unconventional means not bound by convention.Shirley Chisholm was an unconventional woman.
+

war crimes (n)
war-crimes (adj)
+

lay, lieLay means to put, place, or prepare. It always takes a direct object. Both the past tense and the past participle are laid. (The President ordered his aide to lay a wreath at the unknown soldier’s tomb. The aide laid the wreath two hours later. Yesterday a wreath was laid by the defense minister.)
+

affect, effectAffect as a verb means to influence, to produce an effect upon. (The blow on the head affected John’s vision.Effect, as a verb, means to bring about. (The assailant effected a change in John’s vision by striking him on the head.Effect, as a noun, means result. (The effect of the blow on John’s head was blurred vision.)
1

disinformation, misinformationDisinformation refers to the deliberate planting of false reports. Misinformation equates in meaning but does not carry the same devious connotation.
+

celebrity copycatting: can lead one up the garden path because those emulated are not always pure of speech. A venerable newscaster persists in mispronouncing February (without the first r sound) and has misled a whole generation. Another Pied Piper of TV is given to saying “one of those who is”—joining many others who are deceived by the one and forget that the plural whois the subject of the verb (see one). The classic copycat phrase, at this point in time, grew out of the Watergate hearings and now is so firmly entrenched that we may never again get people to say at this timeat present, or simply now (see presently).
+
Capitalize the W in October War or Six-Day War because either term as a whole is a distinguishing coined name, but 1973 Middle East war or 1967 Arab-Israeli war is distinguishing enough without the capital W. Avoid Yom Kippur war, which is slangy. Do not uppercase the w in Korean war, which was “undeclared”; the same logic applies to Vietnam war and Falklands war, and a similar convention (if not logic) to Iran-Iraq war.
+
die: is something we all do, even writers who relegate world leaders to a sort of Immortality Club with phrasing like the President has taken steps to ensure a peaceful transition if he should die. Reality can be recognized by inserting in office or before the end of his term, or even by saying simply when he dies.
+

Free World: is at best an imprecise designation. Use only in quoted matter.
+

Use parentheses to set off a word, phrase, clause, or sentence that is inserted by way of comment or explanation within or after a sentence but that is structurally independent of it. This style guide (unclassified) will be widely disseminated.

Smoking Is Dangerous, But Not As Dangerous As World War II




In 1939,  a German researcher published the first study that linked tobacco to cancer.
In 1943, two German scientist not only confirmed the previous study but established a direct connection between tobacco and lung cancer.
Further research linked passive or second hand smoke to non-smokers and tobacco. Hitler and his propaganda machine created an anti-smoking campaign. There were no penalties for smoking but it was not condoned by the Nazi Party.
As Tracy Brown Hamilton points out in the Atlantic article, "The Nazis' Forgotten Anti-Smoking Campaign" these efforts were made for the 'chosen folk' and not the Jews or any other 'sub-humans'. Nonetheless the harmful effects were well documented years before and many deaths after these studies.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 10, 2014

The Hunger Games aka The World Cup

From the beginning of Brazil's preparation for hosting the World Cup to the thankfully approaching end of this fiasco it has reminded me at times of a Mexican novella and more lethally the Hunger Games.

Now we learn that Argentina fans have taken to the streets to protest an American hedge fund's refusal to take a 70% loss on a loan to the Argentine government. Which by the bye, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Argentine President, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, threatens to default on the $95 Billion loan. Wanting the government to pay what it owes was characterized by the Argentine Supreme Court as "extortion".

In any event, the wingnuts of Argentina have taken to the streets in national support of defaulting on financial obligations. We note that negotiations are still ongoing, but given the name calling and threats to default by the Argentine President, (negotiations tentatively end July 30, 2014), we can only say "pay up or shut up' and don't ever come calling again for money.

If you care to get into the weeds on the history of the loan consider the Economist article A Victory By Default, March 3, 2005. My focus here is really on the absurdness of the World Cup.

                                            Does he look like macroeconomics kinda guy?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Wait, What? … Permanent!

"Five years past the end of the Great Recession, the share of adults with jobs has barely recovered, inflation remains below the level the Fed regards as healthy, and economic output remains weak. Officials are increasingly convinced that some of this damage is permanent — or at least, that it cannot be fixed by holding down borrowing costs — but they differ on the depth of the damage."

June Meeting, Federal Open Market Meeting (The above quote was gleaned from minutes of this meeting recently released.)
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"I May Have To Move In With You"

This was said by a Detroit retired municipal employee to her grandson.

I discussed the Argentine debt and now onto the municipal debt of the City of Detroit. Causes are abundant, but like many municipalities, including Houston, pension costs are dragging down cities to possible bankruptcy. It's not the unions fault here. The pensions were secured through negotiations with local governments. It was a 'I'll worry about it tomorrow' attitude on part of elected officials. Well tomorrow is here in Detroit and I am certain other cities and municipal unions are watching the proceedings closely.

To sum it up pledges by private and public entities have been conditionally made to save Detroit.  Among the pledges include J. P. Morgan's pledge of $100 million and the State of Michigan pledge of $200 million. In return employees are being asked to vote "YES" to reduce pension payments by 4.5% and withdraw lawsuits against the city. So far it appears that the "YES" vote is prevailing. If it doesn't succeed the pledges will be withdrawn and everything is up for sale in Detroit including the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Tomorrow, July 11, 2014 is the deadline for voting.
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Counting The Wages Of Sin

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank wants more integration and uniform reporting on the health of the economies of member nations. In the spirit of implementation of President Draghi's wishes the statistical arm of the European Union, Eurostat, will require by September, 2014, all member nations to include in their Gross National Product (GNP) "an accounting of trade in sex, drugs and other underground businesses as part of an overhaul of economic measurements …".

The reasoning behind this requirement is that the lower debt to GNP ratio, the healthier the national economy of the country. This being the case, I suppose, the easier to get loans from the European Central Bank? Using GNP as an indicator of economic health is a much debated topic among economists, but you go with what you got.

Some member nations have demurred either in whole or part. For instance France is not going to include drugs and prostitution in their national GNP. These are often enhance by sexual slavery and give a "veneer of economic legitimacy". Italy has wisely decided to forego asking the Mafia for economic data.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy … Well Maybe Worry A Little Bit

There was a movie made about them and there was a madman who tried to exterminate them. They were called: Swing Kids



Swing Kids were primarily composed of upper class teenagers who liked anything English and/or American, especially swing and jazz music. That was about it except they lived in Nazi Germany and made fun of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi regime. Also, much of the music they liked was Negro music. During the early years the Swing Kids seemed to be tolerated, but as the war began the government started to see these kids as a counterculture to the Nazi way of life. This culminated in a letter dated January 26, 1942 from Heinrich Himmler to his chief henchman Reinhard Heydrick:

My judgment is that the whole evil must be radically exterminated now. I cannot but see that we have taken only half measures. All ringleaders (...) are into a concentration camp to be re-educated (...) detention in concentration camp for these youths must be longer, 2-3 years (...) it is only through the utmost brutality that we will be able to avert the dangerous spread of anglophile tendencies, in these times where Germany fights for its survival.

And so it was that they were rounded up and shipped off to the camps.

In 2007, about 230 Iranian upper class youth and young adults were arrested for attending a 'satanic' concert. 

In 2014 Iranian authorities arrested Iranian youth for making a Happy Dance video.



Source:
Music and the Holocaust: Swing Kids Behind Barbed Wire
http://holocaustmusic.ort.org/politics-and-propaganda/third-reich/swing-kids-behind-barbed-wire/

Iranian morals police arrest 230 in raid on 'satanist' rave
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/06/iran.roberttait

Arrests over the happy dance video in Iran reflect hardliners' frustration
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/06/iran.roberttait

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 8, 2014

Lots of money, high priced assets, low returns. easy loans. Sound familiar?

Paul Kruger doesn't think it's anything to worry about. In his opinion piece, Beliefs, Facts and Money, he opines that printing money is not the problem, lax regulation in the markets is the problem. When the Federal Reserve began printing money, it did not go into circulation, but was instead kept in banks. The regulators had raised the lending bar high enough to thwart the 'easy money' practices that lead to the Great Recession of 2008.

Today, Neil Irwin reports that interest rates are low, asset value is high and returns on these asset investments are low. What he portends is an 'everything' asset bubble. We see it happening in Houston. Commercial construction is booming. The price per square foot of existing commercial space is rising, yet investors are buying. Where is the money coming from to finance these acquisitions? Banks mostly. Some corporations have held onto cash also during the downtime but now the race is on and demand is exceeding supply.



Sources:
NYT: Beliefs, Facts and Money, July 6, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/opinion/paul-krugman-conservative-delusions-about-inflation.html

NYT:Welcome to the Everyting Boom, or Maybe the Everything Bubble
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/opinion/paul-krugman-conservative-delusions-about-inflation.html

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Worst Job In The World

Nearly one billion people defecated in the open. Who counted?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….
United Nations Expands Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

The permanent staff of the UN Secretariat who have entered into a same-sex marriage will now be legitimized if the ceremony took place in a jurisdiction in which same-sex marriages are legal. In the past the UN only recognized the marriage if the home country allowed it.

This must be really irritating to the newly elected General Assembly President from Uganda. Speaking of Uganda and their harsh anti-gay laws let it be known that a white evangelical, named Scott Lively was instrumental in the legislation.

Mother Jones: Meet the American Pastor Behind Uganda's Anti-Gay Crackdown
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/scott-lively-anti-gay-law-uganda
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Monday, July 7, 2014

All I Want Is A Womb Somewhere

The United States is the world class destination for couples, domestic and overseas, who want a child but for whatever reasons cannot or will not conceive one the old fashioned way. Only the rich need apply however. The draw is our "sophisticated fertility clinics, experienced lawyers,  a large pool of egg donors and surrogates, and, especially, established legal precedent."

First let me say I have taken liberally from the NYT article listed under Sources. Next let me say that if you read the article, and it is a long one, you may find yourself reflecting on a few things.

Here are some that I am reflecting upon:

"How much will a surrogate be paid for a cesarean section, multiple births - or loss of her uterus?"

"What if the intended parents die during the pregnancy?"

"How long will the surrogate abstain from sex?"

"If she needs bed rest, how much will the intended parents pay to replace her paycheck, and cover childcare and housekeeping?"

What happens to the baby if the intended couple get a divorce before the baby's birth?

Ever heard of "selective reduction'? I sure haven't. It arises in cases of multiple births … get it, selective reduction.

The United States leaves surrogacy up to the states. Some allow it and some don't. In Canada and  Britain a surrogate can only get her expenses paid or socalled 'altruistic surrogacy'. In California surrogacy is considered a business and thus for profit. Ah those free market guys, huh?

Speaking of the business angle, one guy from China wanted 'five gestational surrogates' he planned to keep two babies and sell three.

One surrogate's fetus was found to have a brain cleft. The intended parents were not in the market for a defective child and told the surrogate to get an abortion.
There is more to this story. The surrogate could not bring herself to abort and found a couple who would take the child. Later she says, "I found them on Facebook, and there's no trace of him, so I think they gave him up for adoption ... " "I don't know where he is, and it kills me every day."

Some couples from overseas sometimes can't get their home country to accept a citizenship application for the surrogate child.

China still has a one child policy so a hukou, which is a household registration card, cannot be issued.  I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing it has something to do with enforcing the one child policy.

And finally there is something called 'social surrogacy'. This occurs when a woman wants a baby but without all the interruptions to her career and/or her figure.

Source:
Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/us/foreign-couples-heading-to-america-for-surrogate-pregnancies.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%5B%22RI%3A7%22%2C%22RI%3A15%22%5D

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Morons of Fernald

In 1953, the directors of the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts sent this letter to the parents of children residing at the school:

"In previous years we have done some examinations in connection with the nutritional department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the purposes of helping to improve the nutrition of our children and to help them in general more efficiently than before.

For the checking up of the children, we occasionally need to take some blood samples, which are then analyzed. The blood samples are taken after one test meal which consists of a special breakfast meal containing a certain amount of calcium. We have asked for volunteers to give a sample of blood once a month for three months, and your son has agreed to volunteer because the boys who belong to the Science Club have many additional privileges. They get a quart of milk daily during that time, and are taken to a baseball game, to the beach and to some outside dinners and they enjoy it greatly.

I hope that you have no objection that your son is voluntarily participating in this study. The first study will start on Monday, June 8th, and if you have not expressed any objections we will assume that your son may participate."

Unbeknowest to the parents a partnership between the school, MIT, and the Quaker Oats Company was being launched for three reasons:
  • The school was getting paid for supplying the kids. 


  • Quaker Oats got an opportunity to prove that indeed nutrition from Quaker Oats was absorbed quicker than from their rival Cream of Wheat.

    • MIT was conducting experiments pertaining to the absorption of radiation. 
    Yep, all three of these entities cooperated in lacing oatmeal with radioactive material.


    Sources:
    Seeking Freedom From Label At Last
    http://richgibson.com/radioactiveoatmeal.html

    C-Span, Lectures in History: U.S. Cold War Human Radiation Experiments
    http://series.c-span.org/History/Events/Lectures-in-History-US-Cold-War-Human-Radiation-Experiments/10737444323/

    History of the Walter E. Fernald Development Center
    http://www.city.waltham.ma.us/sites/walthamma/files/file/file/fernald_center_history.pdf

    Task Force Reports on Fernald Studies
    http://tech.mit.edu/V114/N28/fernald.28n.html

    Friday, July 4, 2014

    What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 4, 2014

    I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE VALUES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


    The New York Times published a survey by American National Election Study (A.N.E.S.) and found that the Silent Generation (age 69 to 86) were more into the symbols of our nation, i.e. the flag, than the younger generations. Not by much, but still a generational difference and the survey noted these feelings are sustained over a person's life time.

    Younger generations appear to skip the symbols and value the values straightaway. If the survey is accurate the younger generations take the values more seriously and expect the nation to follow through on the ideals of equality and opportunity.

    NYT: Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic. At Least, in Some Ways, July 4, 2014

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/upshot/younger-americans-are-less-patriotic-at-least-in-some-ways.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 3, 2014

    July 3, 2014

    SHOP TIL YOU DROP

    I found this site while reading about something else. It's called Chippmunk.

    About Us

    Online Savings. Re-imagined

    ChippmunkTM is a savings search engine that will help you shop smarter — and save you time and money.
    We get savings information from stores and compile it right here so you can quickly see which stores are offering the best deals for you. We do this with something called the CouponRankTM algorithm. (And you thought your high school calculus course was a waste of time.)
    We publish only valid, working coupons and offers so you don’t have to wade through a bunch of duds before finding the mother of all deals. When you know what’s out there, you can be confident that you’re really getting the best deal. And who knows, you might even discover a new favorite place to shop!
    We want Chippmunk to be the first place you look when you begin shopping. Try it! We think you’ll like it.
    http://www.chippmunk.com/tst/h3/


    RIP CURRENT; RIP TIDE; UNDERTOW

    What with Arthur coming to your July Fourth picnic as an uninvited guest I thought you on the East Coast might want to know the difference of several water dynamics that can propel you and your loved ones out to sea. Don't get cocky if you live on the Gulf Coast, because our turn is coming.

    AP: Arthur's widest effects, July 3, 2014

    http://hosted2.ap.org/MAGRE/4e06196a1f11442a96197ec8174afd24/Article_2014-07-03-Arthur-Rip-Currents/id-81c04a1c73654f2c9dcfe1830df9abe0

    SOCCER IS FOR BITCHY LITTLE GIRLS

    I think Ann chuckles as she writes some of this stuff. I remember when George Will of the Washington Post trashed blue jeans and was inundated with violent and very few witty responses. I suspect George is not as media savvy as Coulter, so he probably hid out at an 'undisclosed location'.

    POLITICO: Ann Coulter strikes again on soccer hate, July 3, 2014

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/ann-coulter-soccer-world-cup-response-108551.html?hp=l5

    WAIT A MINUTEMAN

    As we are on the eve of Independence Day, I thought the status of readiness to defend and protect the nation was appropriate.

    Willing but unable, that's what the Army increasingly is finding among potential recruits. It's not only physical, it's also intellectual. Too much weight and too little education makes for 'unfit to serve'.  So much remedial preparation would be necessary for recruits to even get into condition for boot camp (physically and mentally), that the Army doesn't want to expend the effort. As the article points out diet and education is now in the national interests.

    ARMY TIMES: Most U.S. youths unfit to serve, data show, November 3, 2009
    http://www.armytimes.com/article/20091103/NEWS/911030311/Most-U-S-youths-unfit-serve-data-show

    HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Unfit for service, July 2, 2014
    http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Unfit-for-service-5596682.php





    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    What's The News Across The Nation(s) - July 2, 2014

    HUH?

    Facebook’s disclosure last week that it had tinkered with about 700,000 users’ news feed
    as part of a psychology experiment conducted in 2012 inadvertently laid bare what too few tech firms acknowledge: that they possess vast powers to closely monitor, test and even shape our behavior, often while we’re in the dark about their capabilities.
    NYT, July 2, 2014, The Bright Side of Facebook's Social Experiments on Users

    Fat Cats
    LOS ANGELES (AP) - It's not just a people problem: Growing rates of obesity in pets have led to the emergence of fat farms offering "pawlates," "doga" and "Barko Polo," doggie versions of Pilates, yoga and Marco Polo to help slim down man's best friend. In the U.S., 53 percent of dogs are overweight or obese, up from 45 percent four years ago. In cats, the figure is almost 58 percent, said Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention in Calabash, North Carolina. Overweight pets can suffer diabetes, joint problems, heart disease and decreased life expectancy, just like obese people, he said.

    Associated Press, July 2, 2014

    Tech High























    The Guardian, July 2, 2014

    FREE BLAGO! … WELL, MAYBE



    “any criminal conviction in U.S. history” other than Blagojevich’s in which a politician was convicted for trying to trade one job for another.

    Politico, July 1, 2014