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Word Crimes

We’re all guilty.  I’m a repeat offender, especially when it comes to prepositions.  Sometimes my nouns and verbs don’t relate to one another and I hate to edit.  But at least I know when to use ‘I’ versus ‘me’.  Interior design bloggers routinely get that wrong and it drives me crazy, especially when the blogger in question majored in English and not Interior Design. (I’m talking to you, Emily Henderson.)

Weird Al Yankovic has a new album called Mandatory Fun and it has already rocketed to the top of the charts.  This song goes out to Brooke whose grammar is perfect all of the time.

 

Speaking of interior design, I made this pendant light for my kitchen using a garden spheroid thing that was on clearance from at Target and a pendant light kit from Home Depot.  I’m planning to replace the light bulb with an Edison style bulb. Check out the cool pattern on the ceiling.  It was accidental.  The kitchen is almost finished.

2014-07-24 19.27.09

Happy Pioneer Day

Today is Pioneer Day, a sort of holiday for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons.  As you may know, I’m not religious at all but I find uniquely American religions interesting.  Mormonism grew out of the Second Great Awakening, a protestant revival movement that came into being as a response to deism and the enlightenment.  If we want to know where the religious liberty mantra of fundamentalist evangelicals got its start, we should probably revisit this era in our nation’s history.

The geographical locale for the hotbed of religious fervor was in western New York state, otherwise known as the “burn over district” because by the time the Civil War came along, everyone there had been converted to something and had burned themselves out.  It was this area where the Millerites waited out the end of the world.  Their legacy survives in the Second Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It was here that the Shakers built their first communities.  This is where utopian experiments were tried.  And it was in Seneca Falls where the American feminist movement started. 

Joseph Smith was born in Vermont but his family settled in Palmyra, New York when he was young and he was still in his teens when he had angelic visions.  He must have been incredibly charismatic.  He was also a canny organizer and knew how to get his followers to vote en bloc in order to influence local election outcomes.  It was that ability to mobilize his saints to vote that got him into trouble and had him tarred, feathered and chased from town to town, state to state, with all his saints in his wake.

He finally ended up in Nauvoo, Illinois.  How many of us have ever heard of Nauvoo?  At one time, it was one of the most populous cities in Illinois.  There were something like 12,000 saints living there during Smith’s era.  It was in the mid 1840s that Smith started to either experience megalomania or was severely tempted by forces unseen.  He made some sketchy real estate investments, experimented with plural marriages and destroyed a printing press all while referring to himself as a general and declaring his intention to run for president.  It didn’t end well.  He was shot to death while trying to escape from the local jail where he was being held for trial on a first amendment violation.

His saints had a succession crisis but the bulk of them rallied around Brigham Young and they headed out of Nauvoo on the way to the west where they were determined to live by their faith without interference.  Some of them used handcarts to transport their belongings.  It was an arduous journey.  

 

 

The Mormons are currently undergoing a sort of reformation. It isn’t of the Church’s making but there are a growing number of progressive members who are forcing it upon the church leadership.   So history repeats itself but this time it is turning back to reason.  The LDS church is no longer growing.  More and more members are leaving, troubled by the hierarchy’s slow evolution on the subject of homosexuality and women in the priesthood, as well as faithful members disturbed by what the church is covering up in Joseph Smith’s biography.  I’ve been listening to these dissident voices at the podcast MormonStories, hosted by John Dehlin.  What I find is a rich cultural tradition that is uniquely American, forged in the fire and fervor of religious revival, and hardened by pioneers making their way across America to live in Zion.  After the religion is stripped away, the Mormon experience is still a forceful one that brings people together and whose ancestors shared a common story that is as powerful as any religious mythology.

I’d like to have the progressive and secular Mormons on my side.  They’re a determined bunch.

This song, Come, Come, ye Saints, was written by Mormon poet William Clayton in Iowa on his way from Nauvoo to Utah.  The music is based on an old English folk tune, All Is Well.  Enjoy.

We want answers from the pols: Why do Americans have to put up with Exploitative Profit Mining?

(This was written in steam of consciousness mode.)

This is an invitation to the politicians out there to answer this question.  Why are Americans expected to tolerate exploitative profit mining by the wealthy and well connected?  Why are we supposed to just sit here like crops to be harvested?  As soon as there is even a teensy bit of disposable income, that we are supposed to sock away for the future, some capitalist on steroids has to find a way of siphoning it off for his own use and profit.

We all know the game is rigged and yet we’re expected to put all of our precious savings in the stock market or in the hands of fund managers or pay a steep tax penalty to cover our living expenses if we have the misfortune to suffer periods of extended unemployment before we turn 59.5.

We’re all expected to get a college degree if we have even a prayer of getting a good job but then we are tied to these monstrous student loan debts or we spend years pursuing a PhD in a difficult subject only to find we have to take a series of $37K/year jobs.

We’re all expected to pony up hundreds and thousands of dollars for lousy health care policies and an ACA that has separated the country’s workers into two classes.  But the minute we ask for a fairer system that imposes cost controls on medical costs and profit limits on insurers, you’d think we were being irreligious.  Same with internet providers who can’t be bothered to improve their infrastructure even while they intend to reduce competition and split the proceeds from mergers amongst their shareholders.  Apparently, there is no one in Congress or the executive branch who thinks it is possible to stop what consumers think of as destructive mergers and loss of net neutrality.  Why are we expected to put up with that?

Every business and industry has figured out how to extract the maximum amount of pain and we rely on Congress to help us have a say in the matter and they do nothing to stop the extraction.

There’s got to be a better reason than the fact that campaign finance reform is broken.  We want answers as to why we are expected to tolerate the intolerable.

It’s one damn thing after another and no one is buying the excuse that nothing can be done because of the Republicans.  We’ve been watching this unfold for more than a decade and we haven’t even seen you Democrats putting up much of a fight.

Why does exploitative profit mining seem so unstoppable among the politicians that we elected to keep the playing field level so that we can all benefit from the fruits of our labors?

We want answers.  Feel free to use the comment thread below to provide them.  I think we have a right to expect a response of some kind.

Come on, Al Franken.  We supported you from the beginning.  What say you?  How about you, Elizabeth Warren?  And you, Hillary Clinton?  Enough of the foreign policy.  We want to hear about domestic issues.  What are you going to do about this?

Another fine product from Jane Caro

Jane Caro is a former advertising executive and now a public speaker in Australia.  Her presentations cover many topics but she’s particularly outspoken about politics, education and feminism.  Some of you might remember a former video of hers on how politicians can gain the trust of their constituents.  I think it might be this one where Caro was one of 4 panelists talking about political spin from an advertising branding point of view. Pick her up at minute marker 19:00-ish.*

This latest one is about feminism and not being “nice”.  According to Caro, and our own site statistics, we must have been doing something right in 2008 because the push back, name calling and ostracism was ferocious.  She also makes a point about women on the internet that I have been trying to emphasize for some years now.  When it comes to the blogosphere, the internet is the best friend women ever had.  It is the great equalizer.  Yeah, your potential allies can leave you off their blog rolls and the trolls can be hostile pains in the asses.  But they can’t shut you down.  Nope, you can go on saying one irritating thing after another and if you don’t like the comments you get, well, they’re just pixels on a monitor.  They can not hurt you.

Anyway, enjoy the latest from Jane Caro.

 

I found Caro’s eight rules of political branding.  Before the purists out there get all bent out of shape that using advertising is somehow “dirty” in politics, know that to get elected, you need to advertise yourself and show the voters that your services are worth purchasing for a length of time.  Politicians that do not advertise do not get elected.  It goes with the territory.  Here are the Eight Rules:

1.) Underpromise and overdeliver.
2.) Be voter centered. Convince your voters that you put them first. Take risks in defense of what you believe even if it may cost you personally.
3.) Don’t sacrifice what your core voters always liked about you to buy new voters.
4.) All voting decisions are made emotionally and then post-rationalized. There are two emotions that change behavior: Hope and Fear. If you want to change behaviors, get to know what are the voters’ hopes and fears.
5.) While voting decisions are made emotionally and are post-rationalized, you must give voters ammunition to defend their choice.
Policy is important.
6.) Raise voters’ morale and your own. We want to vote for people who look like they want the job and once they’ve got the job, look like they love the job.
7.) Lower voter anxiety about YOU.
8.) Voters want politicians to love their constituency.

What’s in my Instapaper queue?

It’s getting crowded in the Instapaper queue.  Time to clean it out.  This is what I’ve found interesting lately:

1.) The Dragons of Inaction is a 2011 paper from the journal American Psychologist listing the reasons behind the resistance to climate change claims.  As you may expect, resistance can be grouped into ideological and non-ideological causes.  One of the most interesting causes is mistrust.  We should expect that the people most likely to benefit from climate change denialism will play on trust issues in their target audience.  The conclusion section is light on recommendations but I thought it would be a good exercise to learn how the Fox News crew might put this information to use.

2.) An Ominous Health Care Ruling is the latest editorial by the NYTimes on the two Obamacare rulings yesterday regarding subsidies.  The editorial board is remarkably frank, given its boosterism for the ACA:

The 2-to-1 decision issued by the panel hinged on how to interpret language in the Affordable Care Act that most experts agree was poorly drafted and would ordinarily have been corrected by a Congressional conference committee. In this instance, there was no conference committee because the law was passed on a take-it-or-leave-it vote in the House to avoid a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

But then it reverts to form at the end by stating that regardless of what Congress did or didn’t do by rushing the bill through, the judiciary has a responsibility to not use ideology as an excuse to take subsidies away.  IMHO, the ACA perfectly demonstrates my former advanced inorganic chemistry prof’s saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” In other words, we are all potentially screwed by the effects of this bad legislation until Congress decides to do it over the right way.  When it has time.  And when it also has the rare astronomical convergence of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a majority in the House and a president in the White House who, you know, actually gives a crap.  Maybe some time next century. Maybe that was the plan.

3.) In A $650Million Donation to Psychiatric Research, we find research into the causes and a cure for bipolar disease funded by a billionaire with deep pockets who also has a son afflicted with the condition.  It’s great for people with bipolar spectrum disorder but not so great in that it takes a private person to fund it.  The reason so many pharmaceutical companies are pulling out of psychiatric research is that it’s incredibly expensive and there is an extra hurdle to jump when it comes to the brain.  It’s called the blood brain barrier and it gives drug designers and medicinal chemists fits because only compounds with certain physical properties can cross this barrier and they are devilishly hard to make and get approved.  So, you know, there’s not so much profit in it for Big Pharma.  And now we have to rely on billionaires with a personal stake.  {{sigh}}

By the way, the recipient of this largess, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, is primarily a computational biology outfit.  That will be very useful for tracking down the genetic causes and systems biology associated with bipolar spectrum disorder and schizophrenia but biologists don’t make the drugs.  That’s what medicinal chemists, structural biologists and drug designers are trained to do.  It will be curious to see going forward whether the Broad Instituts recruits more of these specialties or decides to farm them out.  Farming it out would be a mistake, I think, since project teams need to see the same material and work on it together.  On the other hand, if Broad doesn’t mind hiring modelers remotely, I am available.  ;-)

4.) The Atlantic posted an article on The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.  In short, being acutely attuned to the emotional states of everyone around you might be great for salespeople but it sucks for people working in professions that require concentration and contemplation.  For the latter group, paying attention and kissing up to the people around you is a distraction.  The resulting effects on the working environment of those people expected to play the EQ game when they don’t have time for it are predictable. From the study cited in the article:

Cote’s team assessed how often the employees deliberately undermined their colleagues. The employees who engaged in the most harmful behaviors were Machiavellians with high emotional intelligence. They used their emotional skills to demean and embarrass their peers for personal gain.

Seen that happen with my own eyes.  Depressing but all too common, especially in the uber-competitive environments engineered by biz school grads and propagated throughout the industries they manage.

5.) The website, Ask the Headhunter, has a video for those of you who can’t get through the HR filters that you are required to navigate to apply for jobs.  If you are lucky enough to already have a job and haven’t been through this exercise in futility, it goes something like this: You see a job on a website for which you are (probably over)qualified and are directed to the company’s HR application system.  Then you spend hours per application uploading your resume and then reformatting it (god knows why the reformatting step is necessary but the OCR never gets it right.  Besides, didn’t you just upload a copy of your resume??).  Anyway, after you have edited and reformatted and written a brilliant cover letter telling the company all of the reasons why you would be more than perfect for the job, you never hear from them again.  Oh, sometimes you’ll get a form generated reply saying they received your information.

The truth is, there are filters that are set to weed people out and nobody knows what they are.  In some cases, the HR filter is set so unproductively that most applicants who qualify never make it to the resume review round.  That may be why so many employers whine they can’t get good help anymore.  If they would only hire people who could reset the filters for them they might get better candidates.  But to do that, they’d have to reset the filters themselves in the beginning and that takes vigilance, time and probably one FTE. It’s a vicious circle. Nick Corcodilos says to scrap the resume and don’t bother going through the HR application process.  The best way to get a job is to hang around people in your field or the area that you want to get into, and make connections.  In other words, you need to be a human with a face because HR filters do a lousy job of staffing and are probably not worth your time.

6.) Alistair McCauley reviewed the current production of the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake at Lincoln Center.  It’s not pretty but it is a fun read:

At the start of every dance, my heart would lift again, noting some marvelous feature of Bolshoi style. The communicative generosity of manner! The thick-cream legato flow and keen dynamic sense! The juicy red-meat richness of texture! The unaffectedly erect posture of the torsos and their gorgeous pliancy! The easy amplitude of line! The powerful sweep through space! Yet nothing availed. Each dance soon grew monotonous.

I can’t remember, is McCauley the critic who thinks all ballerinas could stand to lose a little weight?  Anyway, I’m not a fan of companies with a lugubrious ballet style.  Give me something livelier, and, er, probably not Swan Lake.

7.) I. Must. Have. This. Desk from CB2.  I am confident that my life and blogging will be improved by it.

And a heads up to you IKEA fans.  The 2015 Catalog is supposed to hit the interwebs tomorrow.  I can hardly wait!

8.) Finally, I am on the third part of the longest Audible book I have ever “read”.  It’s The Last Lion, a biography of Winston Churchill.  It’s excellent and probably more detailed than any biography has a right to be.  Highly recommended.  5 sponges.

So, I ran across a page on some of his predictions and inventions.  For example, did you know that Winston invented the tank and the onesie?  Ok, maybe not his finest hour.  But he was a great futurist.  Check it out.

The funny thing is, Churchill was never a great student but he had a formidable intellect.  He was definitely not Ivy League material in the most 2014 sense of the word.  That would have been a great loss for England if our current standards of performance were in effect then.  He might have ended up writing Op/Eds for WaPo and gone no further in life.

And here are a few Winston quotes for good measure:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Sound familiar?)

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

He made his share of mistakes and was on the wrong side of history as far as women’s suffrage was concerned (they turned out for him anyway).  He failed many times but he learned from his failures and he never surrendered.  Cool dude and an honest guy.  We need someone like him right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obamacare subsidy rules overturned by Republican judges.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

[...]

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

Done in by a drafting error.  Huh.

I think I am being too hopeful about it being the end of the beginning and that maybe the country will get serious about a national healthcare policy that includes true universal responsibilities and cost controls.  After all, if you’re still receiving insurance from your employer, there’s probably no rush on your part.  You probably feel either distant compassion for those of us poor souls who have to put up with this ACA crap or indignant that we are insufficiently grateful for the miserly coverage we are forced to pay for.

But the Republicans might have done us a favor for being the obstinate, selfish, mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising assholes that they are.  At some point, the sheer weight of all of this pigheadedness, coupled with insurance insecurity, may actually provoke a backlash against them and we could end up with Democratic congresspersons motivated to actually fix the gigantic flaws in this byzantine, unworkable and deeply unsatisfying act.

Well, we can dream.

Update: Top comment from the NYTimes article on the same subject shows the bitterness towards the Democrats who compromised too much:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 hour ago

Someday, our nation will adopt single payer. The Democrats in name only in Congress sold the people down-the-river by failing to adopt a public option.

The blame lies with Sen. Max Baucus and the former Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman, among others.

We also have a president who was not willing to argue forcefully enough for the public option, as Obama is also a centrist Democrat elected to maintain the status quo while pretending to offer hope and change, just as another centrist Democrat, from a town called hope, allowed Wall Street to hijack his better angels.

That’s assuming they actually had better angels, Kevin.

The Doomsday Code

I noticed a common thread on twitter tonight was from adults who were brought up in evangelical families.  That’s because one of the “signs of the end” is that the world would turn against Israel.  Evangelicals operating within a zionist eschatological framework have been waiting for this as a sure sign that the rapture, tribulation and second coming are upon us.  Many of us who have had to tolerate this stuff for years have been aware of how dangerous this kind of thinking is.  The reason it’s dangerous is because these religious zealots will tolerate, and in some cases, even promote, all kinds of evil because the worse the world situation is, the nearer their own salvation.

George Bush starts a crazy war?  Sign of the end.

Israelis bomb Gazans to smithereens?  They’ll all start converting to Christianity pretty soon.

Plutocrats rob billions from innocent people, leaving them impoverished in their retirement years?  There’s nothing we can do to stop corruption.

It’s just a symptom of the evil system of things that we live in.  They actually seem to be glad of all the suffering because it means their own salvation is nigh and, anyway, anyone who dies before the tribulation gets a second chance!  Isn’t that wonderful??

No. It’s demented.  Let’s not kid ourselves and be respectful of these lunatic beliefs that have the potential to propagate evil behavior without any checks.

If any of you are interested in learning about the Doomsday Code and why your Christian neighbor is looking especially anxious and giddy this week, look no further than this comprehensive documentary by Tony Robinson. Robinson has a thorough understanding of the code and spells out what it means to the rest of us towards the end of the video.  It’s long but it will tell you all you need to know and what the end timers are looking for in the near future. Why, Yes!, it is scary as all get out even if it is selfish, wishful thinking on the part of some very misguided people.  Imagine having the living daylights scared out of you 24/7 when you were a kid.  These people are not safe, their religion is more unhinged than Scientology and there are a lot of them in America.

Enjoy!

 

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