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    • Looks like Scottish Independence is a “No”
      The calls are coming in. Assuming they are correct, I think this vote is a mistake, and I note that having been given a clean vote to leave and a chance to live their own values, but having given in to fear; for me, at least, Scottish complaints about privatization of the NHS and other [...]
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No, they really don’t get it, Digby

Digby has a post about a rather nasty but extremely to the point ad that the Republicans are running.  It’s of a woman discussing her bad boyfriend and how he made promises he didn’t keep and now she wants nothing to do with his friends.  And, you know, we’ve used that same metaphor here at The Confluence.  The other one is “Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourselves”.

The difference is that we’re liberals.  Yep, we’ve never been onboard the Obama bandwagon because we knew he was bad news.  That didn’t stop the other Democrats from jumping into bed with him.  I would have distanced myself a long, long time ago if I had been a Democrat running for Congress but who listens to us?

Oh, that’s right.  We’re liberals.  Wait, I already said that. But you know, you don’t have to be a knit-your-own-sandals type to be bashed by your own side as being insufficiently servile to the Obama mystique.

It’s sad that I have to keep repeating it though because suddenly we’ve become Rush Limbaugh listeners.  How did that happen??  I’ve never listened to Rush in my life except in those clips at Media Matters- that I chipped in to help fund back in 2006.

Apparently, I have swallowed the line that all slutty women want is for government to pay for their free birth control too, is that what you’re saying, Digby?  After all the stuff I wrote about the red beanie gang, the forced conversion of women to Catholicism and the defense I made of Sandra Fluke?

The Democrats have got a real problem.  There is a war on women, no question about that.  But they have done nothing to fight back.  In fact, they made it worse by tying themselves to Obama and his campaign, which, incidentally, was the most sexist political campaign that I have ever seen.

I don’t know how many women this ad will appeal to.  I am of the opinion that “friends don’t let friends vote Republican” but Democrats are not giving me a whole lot of material to work with.

If I were Democrats, I’d be uncomfortable too but blaming the victim is uncalled for.  But they are so taken in by their own self-delusion that they just don’t get it.

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Here’s a little reminder of what they put us through to get Obama into office:

 

Occasionally, even Stiglitz gets it wrong

If you can name these guys (collectively and individually), you might be a Joneser. 

In Saturday’s post, I mentioned briefly that Stiglitz was in Australia recently warning the Aussies not to import American ideas regarding privatization and capitalism.  You can watch the video here.  It’s about an hour and a half long but it’s pretty good.

He also touched on the plight of the over 50 crowd.  Actually, he says that the problems the over 50’s are facing are spreading downward to people in their 30s and 40s.  He says that the guys in charge of the country have written the over 50 crowd off in terms of the market and jobs in general.  Well, that would explain a lot, like why it is so difficult to get an interview.

But where Stiglitz gets it wrong would be when he says that we lack the technical skills to succeed in this environment.  He says that the economy thinks we are a “disposable commodity” and “technologically obsolete”.

I’d just like to set the record straight here.  I am what commenter r u reddy refers to as Generation Jones.  That is the generation that is wedged in between the baby boomers and the millenials.  Most of us were too young to be radicals.  We lived through the Civil Rights Era but were more likely to attend integrated schools.  We were the bussed generation.  We were the generation that didn’t experience the gender divide between wood shop and home ec. We were the ones who faced the first cuts to post secondary school education.  We didn’t get income averaging or interest deductions on our income taxes.  We were the generation that had to pay more for our social security in the surplus fund. (There’s a quiz to see if you belong.  Check it out here.)

And we were also the generation of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  We cut our teeth on Lotus, basic and the original Macs.  In many of our first jobs, we were expected to know how to create macros, run lab equipment with computers with tiny RAM and floppy disks to collect data.  We had to learn VMS to run the VAX, Windows to write reams and reams of reports with Microsoft Office, and Unix, followed by linux, to configure web accessed databases.  Younguns got it easy.  I remember the first days of the web when we had to use ftp at the command line to check the temperature of the cokes in a CMU vending machine, when there weren’t any search engines, and we had to write online tutorials with nothing but HTML tags and we liked it.  But when new technology came along to replace the insufficient, kludgy and tedious, we embraced it and learned it like everybody else.  We’re not the baby boomer managers who wouldn’t know linux if it bit them in the ass.

I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone sometimes when I get interviewed by someone and they say, “Do you really know how to use Microsoft Office and Email?”   I keep thinking that they must be addressing someone standing behind me.  Of course I know Microsoft Office and Email. Do I look Amish to you?  There’s not an office application, database application, web based application, email application, fill in the blank, that I haven’t used regularly, configured, played with until I got bored or haven’t been able to figure out given a few hours and a lot of questions. (never read the manual)  I imagine that the vast majority of my generation is well adapted to technology and hasn’t met a gadget they didn’t want to overpay apple to possess.

So, I’m not sure who Stiglitz is referring when he says the over 50s have a problem with technology  but it sounds like conventional wisdom, that beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.  I really wish Stiglitz wouldn’t perpetuate the myth that Generation Jones isn’t technically able and, therefore, have no prospects.  It is hurting us.

Here’s my beautiful theory: the wealthy do not want to be encumbered with taxes to pay for anyone’s retirement.  They’re owners of equity, not the actual owners who made arrangements or were forced into a government enforced retirement plan back in the day.  If these over 50 year olds spend a decade or more in low level jobs at subsistence wages so they end up taking less in social security payments than they might have otherwise, problem solved!

I’m still collecting data on this.  I might open up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track.

The Narcissism Epidemic

A brief note before I start: The right has a habit of finding significant trends and memes and then overusing or distorting the meaning of terms in order to desensitize populations that might be getting a clue.  I suspect this is going to happen with the term narcissism. Once it starts to make an impact and the general population to see connections, expect the right wing to start conflating, confusing and overusing.  It’s what they do.  We might assume that we’ve hit a nerve when it happens.

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Anne Manne is an Australian author who recently gave a talk on the predominance of narcissism in the most unequal cultures.  (See video below) This is a pretty good talk and gives some insight into how narcissistic, low empathy cultures are created, and asks whether those cultures can right themselves before the effects of climate change become irreversible.

We can’t rule out the role of helicopter parenting styles in the epidemic of narcissism.  Both of my kids grew up in an era when children were neither seen nor heard on the streets of our ultra safe New Jersey suburb, though I think it was worse for my younger daughter.  Every kid is scheduled to within an inch of their lives in career enhancing activities and competitive sports.  See Freerangekids for more horror stories about our warped American childhoods and how the culture of “stranger danger” has kept children from exploring their environments, making new friends and, probably, prevented them from developing empathy for people who are not like themselves.  Thank you, Fox News.

She briefly touches on religious and malignant narcissism at the very end of this video when referring to ISIS and says something very insightful about how religious narcissism works.  In essence, when you claim “all good” to yourself, looking down on non-believers as undeserving, the result is the dehumanization of others who do not share your belief.  When that happens, it’s much easier to behead others.  I am immediately reminded of end-times religions that claim that non-believers will be annihilated at the second coming.  And these religions make it quite clear that it doesn’t matter how “good” a non-believer is because “good deeds” do not count.  They are saved by grace alone and that requires surrendering reasoning to pure, unquestioning belief.

As Tony Robinson pointed out in his documentary on The Doomsday Code, this is a dangerous trend because adherents are so caught up in the anticipation of the end times that they may exacerbate bad conditions or allow them to go unchecked.  The resulting spread of inequality and evil reinforces their concept that the “system of things” is spiraling out of control and the second coming is imminent.  Consequently, religious narcissists may be quite content to sacrifice the poor and disenfranchised in the name of bringing on the end.  They may be even more tolerant of rising inequality because it represents another sign of the end.  This is how people like Glenn Beck survive and make millions.  It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to figure out that uber capitalists and corrupt political parties can take advantage of this complacency to grab more resources for themselves and permanently ensconce themselves at the top of the food chain. When the history books are written, the rise of fundamentalist eschatological Christianity is going to be a significant factor in the rise of extreme inequality.

It is also very difficult to combat because the eschatological mindset is almost impervious to reason.  In this respect, fundamentalist eschatological christianity is similar to ISIS.  It has no empathy for the feelings of people unlike itself.

Manne also briefly mentions that Joseph Stiglitz visited Australia recently (maybe it’s this video?) and warned it to not to import American values especially with respect to privatization and capitalism.  Stiglitz apparently thinks we are out of control.  The end timers must be peeing themselves with excitement.

Here is Manne’s talk:

Be Brave, Scotland

Update: Check out this Trendsmap from today’s vote for independence in Scotland.  It’s a real-time interactive map tracking people who voted Yes.  Pretty cool. It looks like the Yes vote is turning out strongly.

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Go, Scotland, Change your feet, er, fate.

 

And now a word from one of our Scottish ancestors, Thomas Jefferson, from his most famous work, The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

We average citizens have put up with a lot in the last 6 years since the bankers blew up the world.  There  will be (has been) a lot of handwringing about currency and oil revenues and fear.  I suspect all people who choose independence face similar fears.  Will it be ok afterwards?  Can we still be friends?  How will I make a living?

But if you don’t choose independence, you have to live with the current system- indefinitely.  And abusers never stay contrite for long.

Set an example for the rest of us.  Our midterms come up in November when we will have our own chance to throw the bums out.

 

The Origins of Cruelty- another post about narcissism

The world is full of narcissists.  For a period of time during the last century, malignant narcissism appeared to be kept in check.  Our collective consciousness was raised by the after effects of the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the Space Age.  Brutality and cruelty happened in other countries, like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Malawi.  South and central America went down the wrong path for several decades and some countries there are still struggling with dictators, corruption and violence.  But for the most part, the world grew away from barbarism.  We held each other accountable.

It started to turn around in the late 70s again, just about the time of the oil embargoes and Ronald Reagan and the “moral” majority.  And now, 80 years after the Great Depression, we’ve reversed much of what was accomplished during the New Deal.  Except for Social Security, the rest of the progressive governmental structures that were created then are hollow shells.  Even the post office is struggling to maintain it’s position as a public service and it is much older than any Depression era program.

We know what happened, we feel its effects, as anyone trying to get a job, working a job and supporting a family knows.  But we don’t know the origins of how it happened.  That is, we don’t know what it is about our human nature that caused our current powerlessness and inequality.

I was watching a video this morning about the dark triad of narcissism, antisocial behavior and borderline personality disorder because I’m getting more and more interested in what the bad guys have been up to.  In that video was another clip from the movie The Spanish Prisoner featuring Steve Martin.  In the clip, a friend of his is telling him how he invented something for a company and has an informal arrangement for compensation and credit.  Martin tells him that the informal arrangement is worthless and that he should have gotten the details down on paper and verified with a lawyer.  The friend is too trusting and then Martin tells him this:

 

We’ve probably had this happen to us at some point in our lives.  For example, it explains why employment has been so stressful lately for many of us, especially temp workers.  A temp worker has no legal rights and the employer has no legal obligations.  In such a situation, it’s easy to take advantage of the temp and treat them cruelly.  In fact, the employer is prompted to be more cruel because the fact that he has no legal obligation makes taking advantage of the worker the smart thing to do.  You’d be a fool to not use your resources to get ahead of your competitors.  But to do so will generate a certain amount of guilt in the employer.  Morally, it’s wrong to exploit a person.  The resolution of this problem is to dehumanize the worker.  As long as the worker is stupid, uneducated, ugly, poor, unpopular or possessing in some other human defect, it is ok to be inconsiderate of them and to take advantage of them.  It should come as no surprise that the number of temp positions has increased steadily in recent years or that many of those in temp positions or insecure part-time positions have to face uncertain hours, sleeplessness, poor pay and undignified behavior from the companies they work for.  This trend will continue until there is law to curtail it.

Let’s look beyond the workforce.  Let’s look at what happened in Ferguson.  The police force has access to a lot of military style weapons and transportation devices.  That equipment costs money, as do the officers themselves.  It all has to be paid for somehow.  The state of Missouri might not be footing the bill.  Let’s get the money from people who are easier to shake down.  No one cares about African Americans.  It would be stupid of us to not take advantage of this situation.  And they deserve to be treated badly.  They wouldn’t be living in Ferguson if they weren’t so stupid, shiftless, lazy and violent thugs.

How about firemens’ pension funds?  Stock analysts, money managers and bankers are under no obligation to protect their clients’ funds more than lining their own pockets.  It would be stupid for Wall Street firms to not work both sides of a deal.  Those firemen are just a bunch of meat puppets represented by fools.  They deserve to be treated badly for not being smart enough to go to Harvard and Princeton and then go to work on Wall Street.

And let’s think about this in political terms.  The reason why no bankers go to jail or are held accountable is because each grievous infraction goes to a negotiated settlement.  One by one, the legal obligations that the banks and large corporations have towards the rest of us are stripped away.  It is perfectly understandable that these businesses are going to push the envelope and demand all they can get.  But we have seen from past presidencies that it is not the norm for the executive branch to crumble in the face of stiff resistance.  Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt took on forces as just as powerful and determined and did not succumb.  So, we can only imagine what level of contempt there must be in the administration towards average Americans that would allow them to assuage their guilt.

This is what I have been referring to when I said back in 2008 that if the Democrats did not resist the voting irregularities, sexism and demonization of half its party during the campaign, that it would not have standing with the people who forced themselves on us.  It’s also why those of us at The Confluence rejected the demonization and dehumanization of Sarah Palin.  We don’t have to like her politics to see that when the party activists went down that road, they were engaging in a thoughtless barbarism that had the potential to seep into other aspects of their politics and turn them into tools of malignant narcissists.

Anyway, I go on too long again.  I just thought it was an interesting clip that describes clearly why we have laws and regulations and why this country flourished when we had consent of the governed to constrain our baser natures and why we should oppose people who try to get around those laws and legal obligations.

Too many of us have been fooled into thinking we don’t need them.

The Instapaper Queue: September Edition

Straw goes here: Drinking Canadian milkshake

It’s time to see review what was interesting to me in the past several weeks.  Sometimes, these selections surprise even me.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

But before that, I’m still in awe of Ken Burns and his documentary on The Roosevelts.  I don’t know how he did it but he managed to get George Will to champion the New Deal.  Will even admits that FDR stopped stimulating the economy too soon in 1937.  It’s hilarious how Will becomes the voice of reasonable liberalism in this documentary.  I can just imagine what he’s thinking now that it’s being broadcast.  But it’s political genius.  Take one of the most visible conservative twits in America, who has never met a government program he didn’t despise or poor person he wasn’t able to be indifferent to, and make him say laudatory things about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his policies.  It wouldn’t have quite the same impact with Paul Krugman providing the commentary. It’s too easy to pass Krugman off as a shrill socialist.  But making Will explain how the New Deal saved the country from Depression is demonically brilliant.

Now, onto our regularly scheduled instapaper queue review:

First up, here’s a post from Digby about the lack of foreign policy credentials among the potential Republican candidates for president in 2014.  It’s not what Digby says that annoys me, it’s the quote she includes from Chuck Todd.  Here’s the money quote:

Now here’s why I think Mitt Romney, it’s funny you bring this up, because I think the reason why Romney 3.0 has gotten traction is less about Romney, and more about the current issues of the day. I think the Republican 2016 field as we thought we knew it, think Scott Walker, think Chris Christie, think Marco Rubio, think Bobby Jindal, you know, throw those names in. I think if you have issues like national security front and center, that’s an incredibly shrinking, I feel like all of those guys are suddenly shrinking in stature. None of them, if the chief criticism of Barack Obama by a lot of people is you know what, he just wasn’t experienced enough, he just didn’t have a grasp of everything you needed to know to be able to be commander-in-chief, right?

HH: Yeah.

CT: That’s among, particularly among the conservative criticisms. Well then, how does Scott Walker fit into that? How does Chris Christie? How does Bobby Jindal? How does Marco Rubio? You know, they don’t, and so suddenly, Mitt Romney, while not having a lot of experience on foreign policy, certainly running for president and certainly now he can go back and say hey, I made these points against the President, and I look a little more prescient today than maybe some people thought three years ago.

Once we were racists because we didn’t think Obama was ready to be president.  Now, we are conservatives.  The insults just keep on coming.  On the other hand, the rest of the left seems to be particularly slow.  They apparently can not be taught.

Sidenote: I’m constantly surprised that regular Americans would find any Republican candidate fit to be president, regardless of foreign policy credentials.  Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln and Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize that mob masquerading as a political party.

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Here’s a funny short post by Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker explaining why Bernie Sanders can’t get elected president.  The System is set up to spit out people with integrity.  Says Borowitz:

“Bernie Sanders’s failure to become a member of either major political party excludes him from the network of cronyism and backroom deals required under our system to be elected,” said Davis Logsdon, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Though that failure alone would disqualify Sanders, the fact that he is not beholden to a major corporate interest or investment bank would also make him ineligible.”

Because of his ineligibility, Logsdon said, the Vermont Senator would be unable to fund-raise the one billion dollars required under the current system to run for President. “The best source of a billion dollars is billionaires, and Sanders has alienated them,” he said. “Clearly he didn’t think this through.”

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Olive Garden isn’t doing so well these days.  Maybe it’s because there has been a shocking deterioration in the quality of the food in the past 10 years?  (Just going by personal experience) No, says hedge funds invested in the Darden Group.  It’s the unlimited salads and breadsticks.  Ok, they have other suggestions too but most of them involve further cost cutting, which I suspect is behind the less than stellar cuisine lately.  Maybe hedge funds should stay out of the kitchen.

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There were THREE articles in The Atlantic about the plight of sleeplessness on the workforce:

Americans won’t relax, Even late at night or on the Weekend

Thomas Edison and the Cult of Sleep Deprivation

When you can’t afford to sleep.

The last one is about low wage workers holding down 2 or 3 jobs to make a pitiful living get no sleep but the other two suggest that someone(s) at The Atlantic needs a break.

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Robert Kuttner at the American Prospect speculates what Scottish independence might mean globally in Could Scottish Independence Set off a Cascade of Secession?  And if Texas and other southern states decides to secede, is it wrong to be giddy about it?

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Vox is trying to figure out which party will win the Senate and can’t figure it out in Why Election Forecasters Disagree about Who Will Win the Senate.

I blame the Democrats for failing to provide the electorate with a compelling reason to vote for them.  Really, people, we’re talking about that crazy mob on the other side.  It shouldn’t be this hard.

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This one is for RSB: How to get over your Ex.  The experts agree, trying to get back with your ex usually doesn’t work.  Get some psychological scar gel and move on.  There’s a reason why you broke up in the first place.

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From Reuters, Pennsylvania Mother who gave daughter abortion pill gets 18 months in prison.  I’ve suggested in the past that women might have to take an RV into the desert and manufacture their own RU-486 but it was mostly tongue in cheek.  (or was it?)  It will be harder to shut down than meth labs.  When all is said and done, that’s they way abortions are going to go in the future.  You don’t want to be pregnant?  Take the cure.  There’s no stopping it.  It will be the quickest way to shut down abortion clinics than any crazy Right to Lifer has imagined.  No more screaming at shocked young girls, no more political football.  That being said, for this medication to be safe, it has to be given before 12 weeks.  The sooner the better.  It’s really important to know the gestational age of the fetus to avoid complications.  I’m not sure what went wrong with this mother daughter partners-in-crime pair but I hope this is a lesson on how NOT to do it.

I feel very sorry for this family.  It’s an all around bad situation.

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Vox has 8 Facts That Explain What’s Wrong With American Health Care.  Number one reason: it costs too damn much.  Note that Obamacare didn’t do anything to curb health care costs like most nations with successful health care policies have done.  No, it simply straitjacketed the country into paying for it- with public money, and without a public option.  It ain’t no New Deal, let’s not kid ourselves.

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From Vickie Garrison’s blog No Longer Qivering on Patheos, another entry in the Quoting Quiverful series, Birth Control Pills are for Selfish Women?  Yes, women who take birth control want to have fun without consequences.  We’ve heard that before.  But what’s the buried message?  Men can selfishly have fun without consequences and have an actual life with independence and that’s Ok.

Why do women actually get taken in by this stuff?

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From the Boston Globe, What’s Fueling Wage Inequality in the US?  From the article:

You might think of low- and middle-wage workers as falling behind in not one but two different races. First, their wages aren’t growing as fast as the wages of higher-income workers. Second, even when the economy does grow, that growth is increasingly flowing to wealthier households that have capital to invest.

Why, you ask?  I think we could go back to Karen Ho’s anthropological study of Wall Street in Liquidated to find the roots of the growing wage gap in the past 60 years.  Another factor is the Culture of Smartness.  Part of it has to do with the idea that people who work, particularly people who work with their hands, are the equivalent to people engaged in “trade” in a Jane Austen novel.  Those 18th and 19th century notions are making a comeback.  It makes it very hard for scientists to get ahead.  For one thing, the best ones are introverted and don’t sell themselves well.  For another thing, they use their hands to explore what is in their heads.  It’s kind of hard to do science any other way.  We used to do research the opposite way before the Black Death and the Enlightenment.  And what was the world like before then?  “poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

Don’t expect the Investment Class to develop a heart.  History shows that they don’t without some stiff persuasion.  But basically, the reasons why wages are falling for most people in the country is because we let it happen.

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Grain Piles Up, Waiting for a Ride as Trains move North Dakota Oil.  Who needs bread?

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Hillary beats everyone in 2016.  Water is wet.  Everyone has been waiting 8 years for her to be president.  It’s 8 years too long and probably too late but she’s the favorite.  Woebetide the party activists and party that tries to stand in the way of the American people this time.  Not saying she is going to usher in a liberal paradise or anything.  I’m just saying American are fed up.  They want the change they were promised but didn’t get in 2008.

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Ebola patient, Kent Brantley says “God Saved My Life”.  Well, he would say that, given that he’s a Christian missionary. He also received the serum from Mapp that we have discussed previously.  He’s an N of 1 and no one’s sure that the monoclonal antibody treatment actually worked. More data required.  I’d like to see clinical trials of God vs Serum.  Could be instructive.

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I think I’ll stop there for now.  There are a few more items in the queue. One probably deserves a post all to itself.

Gotta go.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Damn you, Ken Burns

You’ve created another maddeningly addicting documentary, this one on The Roosevelts.  I’m going to be tied to this computer for every spare moment until the final minutes of the whole fourteen hours.  I have rooms to paint and lawns to mow.

How did you get George Will to talk in favor of government regulation?  Did you torture him first?  Was it a trick of clever editing?

Highly recommended.  Check your local PBS station for scheduling or watch it online at pbs.org.

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