Friday, August 31

World's Richest Woman (Who Inherited Her Wealth) Says Poor Should Work Harder and Socialize Less

"'If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain,' she said in a magazine piece. 'Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.' ... 
"Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it. Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia's wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet."
Not so sure this is good advice on her part. If the poor stop having fun, they'll have nothing to distract them from revolting against the rich.

World's richest woman says poor should have less fun, work harder (LA Times)

Thursday, August 30

Paul Ryan's Anti-Randian Moment: Use Government Money to Bail Out the GM Plant in His Hometown

Matthew DeLuca writes:
"Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, was a leading member of a task force convened by the state’s Democratic governor in 2008, Jim Doyle, to save a once-flourishing automobile plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, according to state officials. 
"After General Motors announced on June 3, 2008 that it intended to close the nearly 100-year-old plant by 2010, Ryan joined a core group of about a dozen other Wisconsin officials from both parties in the GM Retention Task Force. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and the company suspended all operations at the facility by Dec. 23, 2008, eliminating 2,400 jobs. It has been in “standby” mode since. 
"In his role on the task force, Ryan—the House Budget Committee chair whose plans to reduce the size of government and with it the extent of what he’s called “crony capitalism” made him a national figure—negotiated directly with GM executives about a taxpayer-funded “incentive package” to try to convince the company to keep the plant in his district running."
So...let's keep the government small and out of our lives...except when we need the government to bail us out. Very consistent.

Paul Ryan Used Government Funds and Power to Try and Save GM Plant in His District (The Daily Beast)

Wednesday, August 29

Ron Paul Supporters Silenced at Republican National Convention

John Nichols writes:
"Paul was the Romney challenger who stayed in the race longest, and who won almost 200 delegate votes. (The actual delegate vote for Paul was hard to measure, as RNC officials only announced votes for Romney during Tuesday night’s roll call, but the Seatte Times counted 193 for Paul.) 
"Not that many years ago, coming second in the convention vote might have guaranteed Paul a convention speaking slot. 
"At this convention, it guaranteed him—and his supporters—treatmet so rough that his supporters, the largest dissident block on the floor, openly accused party chair Reince Priebus and his team of 'corruption.' 
"Paul backers had enough delegates and support in the states to have their candidate’s name put in nomination. But that didn’t count in the Priebus party. As the New York Times noted: "'Delegates from Nevada tried to nominate Mr. Paul from the floor, submitting petitions from their own state as well as Minnesota, Maine, Iowa, Oregon, Alaska and the Virgin Islands. That should have done the trick: Rules require signatures from just five states. But the party changed the rules on the spot. Henceforth, delegates must gather petitions from eight states.'"
 Looks like the GOP is no friend of Ron Paul.

His Supporters Treated 'Atrociously,' Ron Paul Refuses to Back Romney (The Nation)

Tuesday, August 28

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

Our children are 'digital natives'--young citizens born into a world immersed in technology:
"While many of us can bemoan this change in childhood and look back longingly on the time when baseball and outdoor activities were more prevalent than video games, the reality is that technology is here to stay and children are its consumers as much as adults, for better or for worse."
One would think that today's young people, being digital natives, would have an almost innate ability to use technology more effectively than their parents (who are 'digital immigrants'). This is not necessarily so:
"We, as 'digital immigrants,' remember writing research papers by reading through piles of journals, books, and archives of periodicals. When we approach online research, we realize how revolutionary the Internet is because we know what it was like before. We then apply those research techniques to online search engines, and find our tasks much easier to complete. Our students have no frame of reference of a 'pre-Internet' world. They are accustomed to working with intuitive electronics that provide instant gratification, and when they are not able to be 'done' quickly, they tend to become discouraged."
The challenge:
"This leaves us with the question of how to inspire students to look through Internet search results with tenacity, to approach new technologies that may require more problem-solving skills, and to address tasks that are not as instantaneously gratifying as playing video games. It is our role as teachers to help students develop the skills to problem solve independently and collaboratively use 21st-century skills while not relying on technology to do all of the thinking for them."
Being a Digital Native Isn’t Enough (Scientific American)

Monday, August 27

'Liberal Professor' Sends Video of Himself Being Liberal to Right-Wing Campus Group, Hopes to Claim Reward

Campus Reform, a right-wing college student organization, asked students to submit videos of 'liberal professors,' for which they would be awarded $100 if their submission led to a news story. Kieran Healy, a sociology professor at Duke, submitted a video of himself (in all his liberal glory) in hopes of claiming the cash. Now that this has gone viral, I think he's due his $100, don't you?

Bottom Feeders (

Friday, August 24

Does Mitt Romney's Flip-Flop on Gay Rights Make Him Malleable, or Simply a Liar?

So, do we believe the Mitt Romney of 2012, or the Mitt Romney of 1994?
"Mitt Romney earned huge cheers at a conservative conference in February when he bragged, "On my watch, we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage." But in 1994, running for Senate against Ted Kennedy, he told a local gay and lesbian paper he was even more pro-gay rights than Kennedy."
This Is How Proud Romney Was to Be Pro-Gay Rights in 1994 (The Atlantic Wire)

Thursday, August 23

Symantec: Religious Websites Have 3X More Malware than Pornographic Sites

Symantec's 'Internet Security Threat Report', published earlier this year, makes the following observation (p. 33):
"...religious and ideological sites were found to have triple the average number of threats per infected site than adult/pornographic sites. We hypothesize that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free – it’s not good for repeat business."
Internet Security Threat Report (PDF, Symantec)

Wednesday, August 22

Maureen Dowd Eviscerates Akin and Ryan

I suppose it's low-hanging fruit, but Maureen Dowd's column on the Todd Akin debacle in yesterday's New York Times is just too good to resist highlighting. Here are a few choice excerpts:
"Paul Ryan, who teamed up with Akin in the House to sponsor harsh anti-abortion bills, may look young and hip and new generation, with his iPod full of heavy metal jams and his cute kids. But he’s just a fresh face on a Taliban creed — the evermore antediluvian, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-gay conservative core. Amiable in khakis and polo shirts, Ryan is the perfect modern leader to rally medieval Republicans who believe that Adam and Eve cavorted with dinosaurs."
Ouch. Quoting a Standford professor:
"'The biological facts are perhaps inconvenient, but whether the egg meets the sperm is a matter of luck or prevention,' says Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology who directs the Stanford Program for International Reproductive Education and Services. 'If wishing that 'I won’t get pregnant right now' made it so, we wouldn’t need contraceptives.'"
And she brings in the thoughts of a Republican strategist:
"'Next we’ll be trying to take away the vote from women,' lamented Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who advised Romney in the 2008 race. 'How can we be the party of cool and make the generational leap forward when we have these recidivist ideas at the very core of our base?'"
Finally, I cannot help but include a concisely worded comment from New York Times reader "Ralph":
"The problem is not limited to Missouri. A number of voters are willing to consider voting for Ryan as VP; his views are every bit as retrograde as Akins'. The only difference is he is oblique, rather than honest."
Just Think No (New York Times)

Tuesday, August 21

Douglas Adams on Money and Unhappiness

"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."
From the late, great Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Monday, August 20

Todd Akin Continues the Current GOP Tradition of Celebrating Ignorance

Here's another one from the 'You Can't Make This Stuff Up' department. As we all know by now, yesterday Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) said the following on television:
"...from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Jezebel has concocted a fitting response to these frighteningly stupid remarks: The Official Guide to Legitimate Rape.

Friday, August 17

Apparently People Still Take Ayn Rand Seriously

Ayn Rand's books were a good read in high school--perhaps even into the early days of one's college experience--but it's hard to believe that grown-up, working adults still take them seriously. Steve Almond (writing at 'The Rumpus') provides a sufficiently eviscerating take on Paul Ryan's love affair for Rand:
"Rand’s sway over the male adolescent mind is not especially subtle. Her fairytales always feature some badass rich guy battling a bunch of nebbishes who spend their hours devising new impediments to progress and pleasuring welfare queens with golden vibrators. Nobody gets how brilliant the rich guy is, and how much better he wants to make the world and it’s so unfair! Also, he gets laid. ... 
"Rand geeks were made of stiffer stuff [than Vonnegut geeks]. They marched around pronouncing grave syllogisms and dreamed of omnipotence. They clung to a grand vision of personal destiny: science fiction as governed by Ronald Reagan. They honestly believed in the free market as the path to utopia. ... 
"Rand’s vision is a cartoon of capitalism, in which there is no poverty or environmental ruin or lack of equal opportunity. In her world, generosity is a false and malignant impulse. Nobody is just born rich. They must pursue wealth, and this pursuit is by definition a heroic one. Brave inventors and industrialists hold the key to paradise, if only they can throw off the shackles of religious superstition, liberal guilt, and bureaucratic tyranny. 
"In other words, Romney and Ryan have to convince voters that capitalism is not just an economic philosophy, but a moral system, and that any attempt to curb its appetites is therefore immoral."
The Week in Greed #11: The Ayn Rand Program (The Rumpus)

Thursday, August 16

We Are All Connected

This beautiful video illustrates the parallels between humanity and the rest of the natural world. 

Here is the link to the video on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 15

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

"'You fall through the cracks and there's nothing you can do about it,' said the 52-year-old home health aide. 'It makes me feel like garbage, like the American dream, my dream in my homeland is not being accomplished.' 
"Many working parents like Pico are below the federal poverty line but don't qualify for Medicaid, a decades-old state-federal insurance program. That's especially true in states where conservative governors say they'll reject the Medicaid expansion under Obama's health law. 
"In South Carolina, a yearly income of $16,900 is too much for Medicaid for a family of three. In Florida, $11,000 a year is too much. In Mississippi, $8,200 a year is too much. In Louisiana and Texas, earning more than just $5,000 a year makes you ineligible for Medicaid."
pdxbound writes, "As Jesus said, 'Only provide help for the old and weak if enough wealth can be transferred. If the individual is without sufficient wealth, let them perish in obscurity and humiliation.' Amen."

This apparently comes from the GOP version of the Bible.

Is a $5,000 salary too much for Medicaid? (CBS News)

Tuesday, August 14

Internet Habits and Mental Health

Following-up two recent posts (here and here) on internet addiction, recent research by computer scientists, engineers, and psychologists suggests that the mechanics of internet usage (frequency of email, online chat, streaming media, task-switching) may predict the tendency to experience depression.
"It turns out that very specific patterns of internet use are reliably related to depressive tendencies. For example, peer-to-peer file sharing, heavy emailing and chatting online, and a tendency to quickly switch between multiple websites and other online resources all predict a greater propensity to experience symptoms of depression. Although the exact reasons that these behaviors predict depression is unknown, each behavior corresponds with previous research on depression. Quickly switching between websites may reflect anhedonia (a decreased ability to experience emotions), as people desperately seek for emotional stimulation. Similarly, excessive emailing and chatting may signify a relative lack of strong face-to-face relationships, as people strive to maintain contact either with faraway friends or new people met online."
 What Internet Habits Say About Mental Health (Scientific American)

Monday, August 13

Paul Ryan Hasn't Really Crunched the Numbers

Paul Krugman writes:
"What Ryan is good at is exploiting the willful gullibility of the Beltway media, using a soft-focus style to play into their desire to have a conservative wonk they can say nice things about."
The Ryan budget plan's long-term spending projections are 'laughable':
"His plan projects an absurd future, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in which all discretionary spending, now around 12 percent of GDP, shrinks to 3 percent of GDP by 2050. Defense spending alone was 4.7 percent of GDP in 2009. With numbers like that, Ryan is more an anarchist-libertarian than honest conservative."
In the words of one commenter on Krugman's post: Paul Ryan is "a carefully crafted gee-whiz nice guy policy nerd facade concealing a machiavellian ambition and sociopathic policies perfectly aligned with ALEC. He is a consummate con-artist."

Friday, August 10

U.S. Corn Production Down Due to Drought--Ethanol Production Criticized

Following-up Tuesday's post regarding extreme temperatures: Corn production in the United States is down significantly because of this summer's high heat and lack of precipitation.
"On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its estimate for the corn crop by nearly 17% and raised the upper end of its price forecast by 39% to almost $9 a bushel. ...
"The drought has some in the U.S. clamoring for the Environmental Protection Agency to relax its ethanol production mandates. Currently about 30% of U.S. corn is diverted to ethanol production and critics say the policy drives up corn prices." 
Amid drought, USDA cuts corn crop estimate to 17-year low (LA Times)


Christian Lite
"I don't always read the Bible, but when I do... I only read the parts I like. Christian-Lite: Mostly Jesus Christ, without the evil stuff."

Why Is Everyone So Quiet about the LIBOR Scandal?

Huffington Post has a compendium of articles on the LIBOR scandal, and here is a link to the Economist's coverage of the topic.

Thursday, August 9

Classic Quotes from Rick Santorum: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Fortunately, we haven't heard much from Rick Santorum lately. His strong showing in the Republican presidential primary, however, likely means that he's going to stay on the scene for a while. Though I don't miss his narrow, bigoted outlook, I did enjoy the profound dumbness of some of the soundbites that came out of his mouth. Let's take a moment to refresh our memory:
"I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute," and, related, that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to "throw up."
"One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country..."
"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob."
"I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money." Only black people need a little help, I guess? 
"It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
"Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?"
"Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: it is single mothers who run a household. Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help, and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two-parent families, you eliminate that desire for government."
"This [gay marriage] is an issue just like 9-11. We didn't decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when? When the supreme courts in all the other states have succumbed to the Massachusetts version of the law?"
"The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom. They hate Western civilization at the core. That's the problem."
The stupid is strong with this one. And what's absolutely frightening is that he's completely sincere.

Previously on this topic...

Wednesday, August 8

Internet Addiction: How Software Developers Strive to Make "Compulsion Loops"

Following-up my previous post on internet addiction: Last month, The Atlantic had an interesting commentary by Bill Davidow on this topic.
"In the 1990s, concern over obsessive-compulsive behavior associated with computer games and the Internet began to grow. Until roughly 2000, compulsive behavior remained a side effect -- not an intentional element of game design and other Internet applications. Application providers were simply supplying customers with services that made their products more appealing.
"But before long, people were referring to their BlackBerries as CrackBerries, and parents were beginning to worry about the number of hours their kids spent on video games. We now believe that the compulsion to continually check email, stock prices, and sporting scores on smartphones is driven in some cases by dopamine releases that occur in anticipation of receiving good news. ...
"Internet gaming companies now openly discuss compulsion loops that directly result in obsessions, and the goal of other applications is the same: to create the compulsion to gather thousands of friends on Facebook, thousands of followers on Twitter, or be pleasantly surprised to discover from Foursquare that a friend you haven't seen for years is nearby." [Emphasis mine.]
Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction (The Atlantic)

Tuesday, August 7

NASA Scientists Link Recent Extreme Temperatures to Global Warming

"A new statistical analysis by NASA scientists has found that Earth's land areas have become much more likely to experience an extreme summer heat wave than they were in the middle of the 20th century. The research was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 
"The statistics show that the recent bouts of extremely warm summers, including the intense heat wave afflicting the U.S. Midwest this year, very likely are the consequence of global warming, according to lead author James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 
"'This summer people are seeing extreme heat and agricultural impacts,' Hansen says. 'We're asserting that this is causally connected to global warming, and in this paper we present the scientific evidence for that.' 
"Hansen and colleagues analyzed mean summer temperatures since 1951 and showed that the odds have increased in recent decades for what they define as 'hot,' 'very hot' and 'extremely hot' summers.  
"The researchers detailed how 'extremely hot' summers are becoming far more routine. 'Extremely hot' is defined as a mean summer temperature experienced by less than one percent of Earth's land area between 1951 and 1980, the base period for this study. But since 2006, about 10 percent of land area across the Northern Hemisphere has experienced these temperatures each summer."
Link to scientific paper: Perception of Climate Change (PNAS)

Monday, August 6

Happiness Is Not Just About GDP

Here's something you don't often hear in economic circles: In remarks to an international conference of economists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said the we need to improve our measurement of human well-being.
"'We should seek better and more-direct measurements of economic well-being,' as this is the 'ultimate purpose' of economics. ... National statistics like gross domestic product paint an incomplete picture of what many individuals are experiencing, he said. As economists continue to work on measuring well-being, there will likely be a greater recognition of the contributions of psychology, Bernanke said."
Frankly, that's good to hear.

Bernanke: Economists should focus on well-being (Marketwatch)

Sunday, August 5

America's Political Finance System is "Legalized Bribery"

"So why is it [American government] so broken? Let's consider the matter of money. When I left for Oxford in 1974, the total spent by all candidates for Congress, House and Senate, was $77 million. In 2010, it was $1.8 billion. Members of Congress spend up to 70 percent of their time raising money; that is their job; they become fundraisers far more than they are legislators. In that same year [1974], 3 percent of retiring Congressmen became lobbyists. Now it's 50 percent of Senators, 42 percent of House members. Critics from the left and right and middle alike call our political finance system one of 'legalized bribery.'" [Emphasis mine.]
To Make America Great Again, We Need to Leave the Country (The Atlantic)

Saturday, August 4

Republicans Aghast at Suggestion that We Eat Less Meat to Conserve Water

Much of the U.S. is suffering from extreme drought right now. In response, the USDA made a non-binding recommendation that its employees who want to conserve water could refrain from eating meat on Mondays. They were joining the "Meatless Monday" campaign, backed by thousands of cafeterias around the country. Well, some republicans didn't like this very much:
"...upon the release of the USDA newsletter, lawmakers who have pocketed massive campaign contributions from the meat-centric agribusiness industry were out in force — as if the agency had declared war on the American Way of Life. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, called the recommendation “heresy” and pledged to “have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told his drought-stricken constituents that “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate” for the USDA suggestion. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, proudly posted a photo to his Facebook page showing a Caligulian smorgasbord of animal flesh that his Senate colleagues were preparing to scarf down as a protest against USDA."
Where, oh where, is the pragmatism in our politics?

“Meatless Monday”: Where’s the beef? (Salon)

Friday, August 3

Let's Ask the Question: Did Mitt Romney Seek Amnesty for a Swiss Bank Account in 2009?

Why won't Mitt release his tax returns? Is there something in 2009 he doesn't want the world to see?
"Wealthy U.S. taxpayers, concerned about an Internal Revenue Service crackdown on the use of secret overseas bank accounts as tax havens, are rushing to meet a Thursday [October 2009] deadline to disclose those accounts or face possible criminal prosecution. The concern was triggered this summer when Switzerland's largest bank, caught up in an international tax evasion dispute, said it would disclose the names of more than 4,000 of its U.S. account holders. 
"The decision shattered a long-held belief that Swiss banks would guard the identities of its American customers as carefully as they did their money, and it raised concern that other international tax havens might be next. Under an amnesty program, the IRS is allowing taxpayers to avoid prosecution for having failed to report their overseas accounts. As a result, tax attorneys across the nation have been besieged by wealthy clients who are lining up to apply even though they will still face big financial penalties."
Did Mitt Romney Take the 2009 Swiss Bank Account Amnesty? (Slate)

Thursday, August 2

Chick-Fil-A Conservatives: Savor Your Moment--It Is Fleeting. The Future Is Coming for You.

In this silly Chick-Fil-A situation, a Christian has come out with a statement that implicitly ostracizes homosexual families. The rest of the world has stood up and shouted, "Hey, that's not a very nice thing that you said!" Christians are NOT being attacked, in this case they are ATTACKING! To twist this around as an attack on Christians' free speech is, simply put, a blatant lie.

From the depths of THE INTERNET:
"EAT YOUR CHICKEN. That's right. Enjoy it. Chow down. Get seconds and eat some more. Savor every bite. But before you swallow, look at it. Get a real good look at that fried bird on bread. Take a moment to really take it in. 
"'Cuz this is it. Your church leaders failed you. Your politicians ignore you. The media laughs at your demise and mocks you daily. Because you made gay sex your focus. All that insecurity about the life you chose, the company you keep, the future your children will choose. And it comes to this. A chicken sandwich. This is all the power you have left. A fast food sandwich.
"And you're banking all the power you have left on expressing yourself through an ephemeral media event. In two weeks no one will remember this, how you stood in a line for a sandwich in the hopes your little obsession might be noticed. And then it's over. 
"The future is coming for you, for your family. There is no stopping it. You cannot resist the inevitable, you cannot depend on your church or politicians to do anything but to keep selling you out. All you have left is this sandwich. Same-sex marriage will be a reality any day soon, like gays in the military; the legal wheels are already in motion. Gays in your children's schools. Gays on television and gays in the church and goverment. Because nobody with any power actually cares what gays do. Only you."

Wednesday, August 1

RIP Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal died Tuesday night at age 86. The Daily Beast has compiled a selection of some of his best quotes:
"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."
"Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so."
"Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent."
"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country— and we haven't seen them since."
Gore Vidal’s Best Quotes (The Daily Beast)