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The Top Comment du Jour from the NYTimes article on killing the social insurance policies

The NYTimes writes with astonishment and confusion that Americans are not willing to eat their poisoned mushrooms where social insurance programs are concerned.  For some weird reason, they sent more liberal minded Democrats to Congress next term and those Democrats appear almost to be willing to represent their voters.  It looks like Americans who have for decades paid Social Security taxes, a Surplus tax (done because we are too menny) and Medicare taxes, are not buying the idea that Social Security is a drag on the deficit or that the burden to fix Medicare must fall solely on the shoulders of working people.

This in spite of the relentless media messaging that tells them that they must sacrifice more skin.  Maybe waiting until people have lost their careers, savings and houses in the biggest financial catastrophe since the Great Depression is not the best time to apply so much pressure to Americans that they cry mercy, especially since most of them won’t have big enough pensions (if they have them at all) to retire on.  You’d think the masters of the universe would have figured out by now that if you reduce or eliminate pensions and force everyone to “save” money in insecure and risky 401K programs that those dullards would naturally hang on to their social insurance programs with their dear lives and the politicians who are eager to cut a deal would start facing resistance.  Never fear, they’ll probably just threaten to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, plunging the housing market into a further slump.  That’s more immediate than cutting Social Security and so Americans will take the deal.  I can almost see Mitch McConnell winding up for that pitch.

Whatever.

What I really liked was this comment in the Readers’ Picks section of the article.  This sucker from commenter Kevin Rothstein got over 350 recommendations.  It’s at the top of the list, which should tell the NYTimes what is really bouncing around in Americans’ heads:

Enact Medicare for all. Stop the political nonsense. Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security. Cut the defense budget in half. Leave Afghanistan now. Close most of our overseas military bases. Spend money on upgrading infrastructure. Invest in alternative energy. End our dependence on fossil fuels. Bring back tax rates prior to Reagan. There. Problem solved.

This is not rocket science.  Here’s another one from reader TS:

Mr Pear, Social Security and Medicare are NOT entitlement programs. It seems that the right has defined them as such but, as with many other issues, that doesn’t make it true. Anyone who draws a paycheck has SS and Medicare deducted. If the interest from those funds were untouched by greedy lawmakers they would be more than solvent. I PAY into Social Security. I PAY into Medicare just as I would an insurance policy. I’m not entitled to these benefits, I EARNED them.

Pretty much.   There’s more where that came from in the reader’s picks.  Oddly enough, the editor’s picks are calling the social insurance programs “entitlements” and think that we need to balance any cuts in “entitlements” with increased taxes and other cuts in spending.What’s really amusing is that those comments are getting less than half of the recommends than the reader’s picks.  So, I think we have to conclude that the unending propaganda and redefinition is not working.  The jig is up.  Americans know when they’re being conned.

We are assigned a Social Security number at birth.  That’s when we enter into the social compact to make sure we all have something to fall back on in case some young 28 year old asshole banker gambles away our futures, or our working parent dies or we develop a chronic condition and can’t work.  It’s sinful to take our money for decades, make promises based on actuarial data, take MORE money to cover a shortfall and then at the last moment, when there’s no way or time to make up the difference, pull the rug out from under a generation of Americans just so that we don’t raise taxes on the insanely wealthy.  To do that would be fraud and I’m agin’ it.

******************************

Later, a theory on what’s really behind the push to raise the retirement age and cut social security payments.  It’s only partially about taxes.

The NYTimes editorial fearmongering women for Obama

Maureen Dowd, one of only two females out of 12 op/ed columnists at the NYTimes

I guess the ladies will have to rescue Obama after all.  Today’s NYTimes editorial is all about those meanie Republicans who want to reinstate the Mexico City Rule and take away all our reproductive rights.

First, it should be noted that if you don’t want to lose your reproductive rights, don’t vote for downticket Republicans.  Oh, sure, there are pain in the ass anti-choice Democrats who should NEVER get another term but there are far, far more Republicans who are adamantly anti-choice.  And anti-labor.  And anti-consumer protections. And pro-neo-feudalism. And pro-war and authoritarianism.  And anti-Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  By the way, did you know that Medicare only got passed in the 60s when the number of Republicans in Congress was decreased to such an extent that they didn’t have the critical mass to obstruct it?  Yep, you can look it up.  Here’s a BBC-4 Witness segment on the birth of medicare and what it took to get it passed.

In short, just about everything Americans like had to be passed when Republicans were down for the count.  Otherwise, their method is obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.  It’s what they do.  So, if you vote for a downticket Republican or a Tea Party Republican, that’s what you’re going to get.  They’re into austerity and redistributing wealth -upwards.

Does that mean you should vote always for the Democrat?  Well, until there are more third party downticket candidates, yeah, probably.  I don’t like it either.  But for sure, voting for a downticket Republican is going to mean more austerity for YOU and not for their rich friends.  You can choose to ignore the evidence and history if you want but them’s the facts.

Second, who is in the White House makes absolutely no difference this year.  I know Democrats say that it does but there’s no evidence of that.  We’ve had 4 years of Obama and he unmasked himself during the first debate.  He doesn’t fight for Americans.  He capitulates to Republicans.  He doesn’t exercise his veto pen enough and he was quite happy to leave the Bush Conscience Rule on the books.  Oh, sure, he tweaked it but he didn’t remove it.  And in my opinion, removing it is significant.  As long as the Bush Conscience Rule is around, women will never be sure that their reproductive decisions can’t be overridden by someone else.

Now, I understand why the NYTimes would be carrying Obama’s water.  It’s not that the Times is particularly liberal.  But the paper of record does tend to put a socially forward face on it’s wealth protection policies.  It doesn’t like to think of itself as backwards like the Republican bible-thumpers and who could blame it?  It’s gauche and stupid and deliberately ignorant to be a Republican supporter these days.  Sorry, Republicans, but that’s the truth.  Of course, none of that matters if you win, right?  Then you can shove your ignorance on everyone else and make them eat it and that will make you feel better.  But it means that you WILL impose austerity on everyone, including yourselves, if you vote for downticket Republicans.

But at the top of the ticket?  Makes not a damn bit of difference.  And the reason it particularly makes no difference to women is because no one has to take women seriously.  They can scream about reproductive rights until their blue in the face.  Without someone taking you seriously, you get nowhere. And in the past four years, no one has been taking women seriously.  And a lot of the blame for that can be attributed to the Democratic leadership.  They allowed a pattern of sexism to develop since 2008 that has been unprecedented.

Let’s just put aside the 2008 primaries where Obama routinely attempted to diminish his opponent by saying things like,” periodically when she’s feeling blue“* Hillary goes negative, it was Obama’s intention when he took office to make sure the jobs programs were tailored for men because he was concerned that they would feel bad if they were encouraged to go into pink professions like nursing (It’s in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men).  And he also made the White House a “hostile working environment for women” (Anita Dunn said this in Suskind’s book)  He also ignored the advice of Christine Romer, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren, each one of whom had to go through Tim Geithner to get anything done.  Tim Geithner, if I recall correctly, was one of the guys who piled on Brooksley Born, the head of the CFTC back at the end of the Clinton years who wanted to regulate derivatives.

Obama was the guy who hired Larry Summers who once famously said that women didn’t have the same intellectual capacity in math and science as men. (guys, don’t try to sugar coat this.  I’ve read the transcript and he sure as hell said that and meant exactly what he said.)

The whole atmosphere in the past four years has changed towards women.  Tell me, ladies, am I just imagining that?  Are men more likely to act like you don’t have a brain, treat you dismissively and cut you off in conversations?  I’m talking about just conversations on the phone not in person where they can’t see whether you are too old to pay attention to.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m already prepared to battle when I place a phone call.  I’ve seen it happen to women at work and just casually.  We have lost whatever mojo we fought so hard to get over the past 50 years.  No wonder the Republicans think they can run over our reproductive rights.  We don’t count anymore and there are very few champions in the Democratic party who are powerful or interested enough to stick up for us.  It would be nice if we had more women running for Congress this year as Democrats but even that is hard to find.  The Democratic leadership in Maine decided it would put their money behind a guy who wasn’t even in their party rather than run a woman from their side for the Senate seat that Olympia Snowe is vacating.

We can’t even get above 17% representation in Congress, which is one of the lowest female government representations in the developed world.  It shouldn’t be any wonder why nothing that is important to us gets passed.  We can’t get economic reforms we like, the jobs programs we like, the wars we hate to stop or protection of our social insurance programs.  No one takes anything we want seriously because we don’t have the critical mass in Congress to change anything.

We have fewer women in government than Pakistan

Voting for Obama isn’t going to change that.  In fact, the only thing that will change that is running more women for office and in order to do that, we need to get more authority. And in order to do that we need to have a greater voice in the opinion pages of the countries papers and online news sources.

And if that’s going to happen, maybe it should start with the New York Times, which has a male to female ratio of op/ed writers of 10:2.  That means that men are 5 times more likely to have their concerns represented on the New York Times editorial page every week than women.  And one of those women is Maureen Dowd whose schtick has been to pile on the women that the guys hate.  That seems to be a survival strategy. (And how did that work out, Maureen?)  I can’t think of one unambiguously feminist voice on the pages of the Washington Post or New York Times on a regular basis nor do I see any parity at all when it comes to representation.

So, if the New York Times feels so strongly about the fate of women’s reproductive rights, now would be a good time to add more women to its editorial lineup.  May I suggest dumping Douthat or Brooks?  Or both?  Then, hire someone like Digby. I’m a little tired of the Ezra Kleins, Kevin Drums and Matt Yglesias types getting all the peach positions.  It’s time for the New York Times to practice what it preaches and hire some women.

Otherwise, I can’t take it seriously.

*You know the level of sexism is bad when Andrea Mitchell notices.

David Brooks is in poor taste

He doesn’t appear to possess empathy or good manners.  Nor does he know when it’s best to say nothing at all.  He was not brought up well.  His parents failed us.

Mostly, he speaks for a whole stratum (I hesitate to call it “class”) of people who pay him to rationalize their stinginess to the “help” and make excuses for them in mainstream publications and TV for not wanting to be in any way responsible for their fellow Americans.

I find his presence as the spokesperson for the arrogant rich to be sickening and offensive to the rest of us. Judging from the way Brooks moralizes, one would have expected him to aspire to a career that benefitted humanity.  Alas, this is not the case.  Those lines of work do not pay well.

I am astonished at how well Brooks is paid for writing drivel a couple of times a week.  Why, I do that on a daily basis and get paid nothing at all.

His tenure at the New York Times is making Judy Miller look good.

Oh, if we could only afford the opera…

Tuesday: Disgusting

Awhile back, when the Occupy Movement was at its zenith, I speculated on why the naysayers were concentrating on the cleanliness aspect of occupation sites:

Speaking of theories, I have a new one about Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ads against Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic Senate candidates.  It has to do with cleanliness.  This is based on a limited number of data points but if the hard core Fox News lovers I know are any indication, there are lot of people who are very fastidious about their bodies.  Chalk it up to a long gone era when virginity was prized (for some weird reason that bears no resemblance to reality) and nice girls didn’t indulge in unorthodox sexual activity.  Home Ec was not an elective.  Fastidiousness, cleanliness, keeping one’s personal habits and thoughts tidy or at least being ashamed of them- all very important.  Holy hemiola!, have you ever heard one of them go off about homosexuality??  It’s all about the dirtiness, *physical* dirtiness, that they dislike.  Now, I’m not sure that the typical Fox News viewer always felt this way about a little filth but for some reason, they are now.  Some conditioning from 5 decades ago has been pricked and Rove knows how to work it.  And just think about all that mud at Woodstock…

This is the video from the Crossroads foundation:

Looks like I was on to something.  Yesterday, an article in the NYTimes explained our human reaction to disgusting things and how that reaction can be used politically:

Disgust is the Cinderella of emotions. While fear, sadness and anger, its nasty, flashy sisters, have drawn the rapt attention ofpsychologists, poor disgust has been hidden away in a corner, left to muck around in the ashes.

No longer. Disgust is having its moment in the light as researchers find that it does more than cause that sick feeling in the stomach. It protects human beings from disease and parasites, and affects almost every aspect of human relations, from romance to politics.

[...]

Speaking last week from a conference on disgust in Germany, Valerie Curtis, a self-described “disgustologist” from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described her favorite emotion as “incredibly important.”

She continued: “It’s in our everyday life. It determines our hygiene behaviors. It determines how close we get to people. It determines who we’re going to kiss, who we’re going to mate with, who we’re going to sit next to. It determines the people that we shun, and that is something that we do a lot of.”

It begins early, she said: “Kids in the playground accuse other kids of having cooties. And it works, and people feel shame when disgust is turned on them.”

Some studies have suggested that political conservatives are more prone to disgust than liberals are. And it is clear that what people find disgusting they often find immoral, too.

It adds to the popularity of disgust as a subject of basic research that it is easier to elicit in an ethical manner than anger or fear. You don’t have to insult someone or make anyone afraid for his or her life — a bad smell will do the trick. And disgust has been relatively easy to locate in the brain, where it frequents the insula, the amygdala and other regions.

Toldja.

If you found yourself initially sympathizing with the Occupy Movement but stayed away from the sites because you found yourself disgusted with the thought of coming in contact with filth, lice and STDs, you’ve been pwned by some savvy political operatives who were probably retained by the 1% to trash the reputation of the nascent movement.  Granted, some of those sites weren’t allowed access to toilets and their campsites were crude.  But I never witnessed mounds of trash or vermin in Zuccotti park when I visited the site on multiple occasions.  In fact, it was kept very clean with makeshift recycle stations made of recyclable cardboard and broom stands.  Once I detected the scent of pee in one corner of the park but at the GA that evening, the issue was addressed: If you have to pee in the middle of the night, get your ass out of your sleeping bag and go find an open bathroom.  Don’t pee in containers.

I now suspect that the feelings of disgust were very deliberately generated in the media and youtube videos in order to keep people from going down to the occupation sites and seeing that the Occupiers were just ordinary, everyday people.  That’s the last thing the small evil group to which no one we know belongs wants.  They don’t want us to mingle and start sympathizing with each other.  That would mean visitors would go back and tell their friends and they would bring two people and so on and so on.  Nooooo, that’s not a good thing.  Too many people feeling a sense of community against the 1%?  Before you know it, they would be turning off their TVs, feeding the poor, sympathizing with the unemployed and demanding the immediate arrest and indefinite detention of the bankers who are perched on Wall Street thinking they are untouchable by the long arm of the law.  Obama might have to *do* something about it.  We can’t have that.

By the way, the NYTimes is particularly good at making us disgusted with the unemployed.  They perfected the front page story of the unemployed that featured middle aged, obese and unattractive women.  Well, who wants to be one of *those* people?  It’s sort of a carry over from the days when trashing Hillary supporters as being middle aged, uneducated, working class women ala Roseanne Barr.  It makes it so much easier to f%^& them over when you think of them as low class losers, right? If you are wondering why there is so much antagonism towards the unemployed, you can thank the New York Times for doing its part. In fact, I don’t know anyone who looks like the people the Times featured as the typical unemployed person, including myself.  Everyone I know who is unemployed is a former labrat with a fistful of degrees and none of them have a severe weight problem, lank, greasy hair or a slovenly appearance.

I expect to see more of this kind of thing.  I think the researchers are right about conservatives being more sensitive to disgust and it’s relationship, in their minds, to immorality.  Conservatives are easily disgusted by the thought of sex between men and sex in general.  Oral sex?  Instantly generates a gag reflex in them.  (In fact, I don’t like giving advice to Republicans but if anyone’s interested in taking Gingrich out of the running, they might want to repeat the stories about him getting blow jobs in the front seat of his car.  It will turn women over the age of 70 right off of their Newters kibble.) It doesn’t help that they get messages from their religious authorities about how dirty fornication is. Think “Purity Balls”. This is something you will probably not be able to overcome in the social conservative’s mind.  It’s so hardwired from decades and decades of guilt tripping and punishment and an almost Pavlovian conditioning linking filth with sex that it’s just not worth the effort.

Frankly, I don’t know *what* will finally be the thing that gets through to them.  What will it take before they realize that their own upbringing, generational history and backgrounds have  been used against them to create the most unequal distribution of power and wealth this country has ever known?  I have no idea but I’d hate to find out.

Friday Spaced-Out News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!

I’m getting a slow start today. I’ve been surfing around, and there is quite a bit of news out there, but no overarching theme that I can see. I’m a little spacey though, as I always am at the end of a semester.

I usually get to the point where I’m running on adrenalin, and as I get close to the end, I can feel that my body and mind are just about ready to shut down for a couple of days. I still have a little work to do, so I’m trying to stay alert and keep that adrenalin flowing just a little bit longer.

The British election ended this morning in a “hung Parliament.” I don’t know too much about British politics, so I hope someone else may be able to explain what all this means.

Map of election results at the Independent

BBC: What next for each party in event of a hung Parliament?

The constitutional convention states that – in the event of no party winning a majority – the sitting prime minister remains in place until he decides he cannot form a government and chooses to resign.

After returning to 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown has said it is his “duty to play his part” in securing a strong and stable government in the next few days.

He has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell to arrange for the Civil Service to provide support on request to parties engaged in discussions on the formation of government.

It is likely he will approach the Liberal Democrats to try and agree some form of coalition deal – a stance backed by senior Labour figures.

But it sounds like the Libdems have already sided with the Tories:

Cameron has ‘first right’ to form government, says Nick Clegg

David Cameron was today offered the keys to 10 Downing Street, after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the Conservatives had the “first right” to seek to form a government in Britain’s first hung Parliament since 1974.

The Conservative leader will give his initial public response in a statement at 2.30 this afternoon, but it was thought far from certain that he would accept any deal with the Lib Dems which included reform of Westminster’s first-past-the-post voting system.

I’m clueless–someone please help me understand this.

Some creepy news related to the health care deform bill: Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

The chairman of the Democratic Party in PA has issues a “stern warning” to party members, and says a win for Sestak in the primary would be “cataclysmic.”

As polls show Sestak, a second-term House member from the Philadelphia suburbs, cutting Specter’s advantage to single digits, Chairman T.J. Rooney told POLITICO in an interview that “if we want to keep this seat in Democratic hands, the only person capable of delivering that victory is Arlen Specter.” [....]

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showed Specter’s once formidable double-digit lead narrowing to only 8 percentage points, 47 percent to 39 percent. By midweek, the tracking poll sponsored by Muhlenberg College and the Allentown Morning Call showed Specter ahead by only 5 percentage points.

“Momentum is clearly on Sestak’s side at this point,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Well, I’m rooting for Sestak anyway. I just don’t see Arlen Specter as much of a Democrat.

Some interesting commentary on The New York Times’ biased coverage of the BP oil spill: A Gusher From the Newspaper of Record by Richard Ward at Counterpunch.

A couple of days ago I sent a comment in response to an article written by John M. Broder and Tom Zeller Jr. (“Gulf Oil Spill is Bad, but How Bad?” 5/3/10) that sounded like it could have come from the BP public relations department, downplaying the effects of the blowout in The Gulf of Mexico. Arguably the worst part of the article was a gross factual error stating that the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait in 1991 released 36 billion gallons of crude into the Persian Gulf. My comment: “Whoa! The Iraqis released nowhere near 36 billion gallons of crude in the Persian Gulf. The highest estimates are 500 million gallons. Somebody needs to activate the NYT’s fact checker. This is a real gusher. What’s going on here?”

The Times did not print this. A few hours later I tried again. Same comment, same result. Either they chose not to publish it or it wasn’t getting through. The next day I tried again, a sort of experiment, commenting on another article about the blowout, this time adopting a decidedly different tone: “Let’s all calm down and get a grip. In three weeks all this will be a memory. The best minds in the business are dealing with this. Relax people. Kudos to the Times for presenting us with a balanced point of view.” Not only did they print the comment, they put it in their highlight section, “a selection of the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.”

Speaking of gushers: Actress Scarlett Johansson Gushes She’s Drunk the ‘Kool-Aid’ of ‘Amazing’ Obama. Johansson:

admitted on Wednesday night’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson that she was amongst those who “drank the Kool-aid” at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday where she found him “amazing” and “hilarious.”

Obama administration continues its fight against the first amendment: Pentagon Bans Four Journalists From Guantanamo Bay for revealing name of witness.

The four journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. They are not being thrown off the base, but, as of now, they are barred from returning. [....]

While the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, issued an admonition yesterday for reporters to respect the anonymity of the classified witnesses, he did not rule that any reporter here had violated the protected order. The decision to block the four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay is a matter of policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And those four are not the only ones within the press corps here to have reported Interrogator #1’s name.

Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge.

Huffpo: Senate Votes For Wall Street; Megabanks To Remain Behemoths

A move to break up major Wall Street banks failed Thursday night by a vote of 61 to 33.

Three Republicans, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Ensign of Nevada, voted with 30 Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in support of the provision. The author of the pending overall financial reform bill in the Senate, Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, voted against it. (See the full roll call.)

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

I guess most Senators would rather bring down the system than give up their campaign contributions from Wall Street.

Newsweek: Why the Media Ignored the Nashville Flood

As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.

Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines—the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill—the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results—many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”

Mike Allen at Politico says Obama will nominate Elena Kagan to SCOTUS next week, and he will also ask for a line-item veto (Dear God, no!)

NYT: Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans

Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all and left their imprint in the human genome, a team of biologists has reported in the first detailed analysis of the Neanderthal genetic sequence. [....]

Scientists say they have recovered 60 percent of the genome so far and hope to complete it. By comparing that genome with those of various present day humans, the team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role in human evolution, they said.

Experts believe that the Neanderthal genome sequence will be of extraordinary importance in understanding human evolutionary history since the two species split some 600,000 years ago.

The article also includes comments from a number of archaeologists and paleontologists who are skeptical of the conclusions of this study.

Here’s a new movie documentary that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That’s all I’ve got this morning. What are you reading? Please share. And have a fabulous Friday!!!!

Will the iSlate save journalism?

The tubez are all abuzz over Apple’s upcoming announcement on January 26.  Gadget enthusiasts all around the world are speculating about what Apple’s Steve Jobs is going to pack into the new iSlate, if that’s what it’s called.  There’s an online document of the alleged specs that have us scratching our heads and salivating at the same time.  The screen is either going to be 7.5 inches or 10 inches.  (Whip out your big ten inch, Steve!)  Other fantasy document specs include a 120 GB hard drive, a new OS called Clouded Leopard (Jeez, we should have seen that one comin’) and a built in projector.  OooooOOOOOoooo!  That one has piqued my curiosity.  It kind of makes sense too.  If the screen is only big enough to type on a touch screen, how will you view the content?  Ohhh, project it onto something.  D’oh!

Steve Jobs, if you’re out there, I promise to be your best friend if you let me review one of them big ten inches.  And I’ll be nice.  Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not but there are a lot of gearheads out there who think a WiFi Newton on speed is not really necessary, especially if you have a laptop or iPhone.  I can envision busloads of schoolchildren dumping their lead weight laden backpacks for iSlates.  Maybe there’s a way to turn this sucker into an electronic notebook device for labrats that they can use to jot down how many moles of whatever they used for their reactions and that they can upload to a server later.  And I guess the skeptics haven’t been through an airport in the last 9 years where you have to dump the contents of your carry-ons whenever some authority figure demands it.  Who wouldn’t want the convenience of a neat  device you can carry in your hands that is a little bigger than a Kindle while you listen to your music through your stereo bluetooth as you stand in the Security line reading a document your downloaded from your cloud account or a copy of the NYTimes from the iTunes store?

Now, about that media content the iSlate is supposedly going to deliver in living color.  The newspaper industry is hurting.  What Craigslist hasn’t snatched from the classified section, the internet has downloaded for free.  Of course, the newspapers have brought some of this down on themselves.  Someone at the Times with a degree from Acme Business School made the idiotic decision to charge for the Op/Ed columnists a couple of years ago at the same time that  blogs started teeming with good Op/Ed writers while leaving (what should have been) the news content unguarded on the net.  The real assets of the newspaper business, should they care to invest in them, are the news collecting bureaus around the world.  There’s no substitute for actually being there, as we have learned from the Iranian protest movement and Twitter.

With Twitter, the news certainly looks fresh and has the immediacy of being there but there’s virtually no way to make sure that what is being posted is true and not a plant.  Unfortunately for the Times, there’s no way for us to tell if they’re just reporting propaganda either.  Remember Judy “Gorgeous Glass” Miller and her quaking Aspen friends who were all connected at the roots?  Was that a bizarre story or what?  When the paper that writes the stories becomes the story, it starts to lose credibility.  I know that I dropped my subscription specifically because of Judy Miller.  But it I had a subscription today, I would probably have cancelled it this morning when I found out that Arthur “Punch” (or is it “Pinch”?) Sulzberger, the Times publisher, is friends with Steve Rattner who is trying to primary Kirsten Gillibrand by running Harold Ford Jr. for Senator of NY.   Great!  Just what we need.  Another pandering male conservative Democrat because female senators are so plentiful. I don’t even know Pinch (or Punch) and I already dislike the fact that he feels he can arrogantly use the power of his mighty ink to scuttle Gillibrand simply because his friend Caroline Kennedy didn’t get the plum appointment when Hillary resigned.  It makes him look vengeful, petty, selfish and careless.  Sort of like Arthur Frobisher or some other self-centered and corrupt uber rich person with a conscience that only extends to his own personal wealthy clique.

Would I pay a subscription for the NYTimes on an iSlate?  I guess it would all depend on the content.  I lived for a couple of years without Paul Krugman or had to get his column via backdoor means.  I suppose if Punch (or Pinch) would leave the writing and editorializing to the real journalists and if I could be certain that those journalists weren’t part of some bizzare neocon plan to take over the world, I might cough up a few cents every day to read it on an iSlate.  But I hope that Jobs is busily getting the rights to a bigger movie library to project onto a nearby wall.  I wouldn’t bet my company on the likes of Punch or Rupert Murdoch.  They can’t be trusted.

“On Being Sane in Insane Places”: Sarah Palin and the Rosenhan Study

The media doesn't "get" genuine

The media doesn't "get" genuine

In 1973, David Rosenhan, a sociologist, conducted a study (Warning, PDF file, scroll down) of the difficulty people have in overcoming being labeled as having a mental illness. Rosenhan and seven colleages got themselves admitted under false names to different mental hospitals around the country by claiming they were hearing voices, a common symptom of schizophrenia. Once they were admitted to the hospitals and diagnosed as schizophrenic, these “pseudopatients” behaved completely normally and were completely truthful about their life histories.

Despite the fact that these people did not act “crazy” in any way, they were kept in the hospitals for periods of time ranging from 9 to 52 days. None of the mental health professionals who examined the pseudopatients ever detected that they were sane, although other patients noticed and sometimes accused the pseudopatients of doing undercover research.

Once they had been given the schizophrenic label, everything the pseudopatients did or said and even their personal histories were interpreted by psychiatrists and other hospital staff as reinforcing their diagnoses. For example, some of the pseudopatients took notes during their time in the hospital. This innocuous behavior was interpreted as delusional and a sign of deep psychological disturbance.

So how does this relate to the situation Sarah Palin finds herself in? Palin is a perfectly normal person who got sucked into the insane world of presidential politics. It has been determined by the talking heads and media mavens of Washington and New York that Sarah Palin wants to be President. No one knows for sure if this is true, but now that she has that label, everything she says or does is interpreted to relate to her supposed presidential ambitions. Based on their assumptions about Palin, various talking heads, reporters, and bloggers have also labeled her ignorant and unqualified. Continue reading

Witnessing the Courage of Iran, Part 2

BBC photo from Tehran today

BBC photo from Tehran today

Here is a new thread on the courageous Iranian protesters and their fight for freedom. Please use the comments to post any news you have and to discuss the ongoing situation.

Roger Cohen has a new report from Iran at the New York Times. He thinks Ayatolla Khamenei may have miscalculated with yesterday’s hardline speech followed by the bloodshed today.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.

He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.

Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.

He has taunted millions of Iranians by praising their unprecedented participation in an election many now view as a ballot-box putsch. He has ridiculed the notion that an official inquiry into the vote might yield a different result. He has tried pathos and he has tried pounding his lectern. In short, he has lost his aura.

Cohen also notes the continuing involvement of Iranian women in the protests. Continue reading

To Paul K with love

So Krugman says:

The magazine cover effect

I’ve long been a believer in the magazine cover indicator: when you see a corporate chieftain on the cover of a glossy magazine, short the stock. Or as I once put it (I’d actually forgotten I’d said that), “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first put on the cover of Business Week.”

. . . . Presumably the same effect applies to, say, economists.

You have been warned.

Could he be talking about this from Tennessee Guerilla Women?

Newsweek Cover: “OBAMA IS WRONG: The Loyal Opposition of Paul Krugman”
Paul Krugman — who as far as I can see is right about everything — is on the cover of the forthcoming Newsweek. The choice of the cover story — Obama’s Nobel Headache — is explained in a letter to readers by Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham.

Joseph Cannon isn’t going to forget. . . . (and neither will I) Continue reading

Wednesday: The NYTimes grinds its ax on Gillibrand

Does she know the man in the middle is a wetback from Britain??

Does she know the man in the middle is a wetback from Britain??

They are just not going to get over it.  Caroline Kennedy was their girl.  The great heaving mass of aging Baby Boomers besotted with Camelot is going to hurl its ire at New York’s interim senator until she goes away, just like they did to Hillary Clinton.  For all we know, Hillary’s ability to snag the Secretary of State position is driving them to these extremes.   She eluded their grasp. It now appears that the Times doesn’t really care if a Democrat keeps the senate seat just as long as it isn’t Gillibrand.  After all, the NYTimes did not give her their blessing.  Therefore, it will pursue a mean spirited and destructive personal vendetta against Gillibrand until she yields or is defeated.  Die!, you evil upstate wench!

Today, Gillibrand is being racked for being an anti-immigrant crusader:

Ms. Gillibrand, a Democrat, opposed any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, supported deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws, spoke out against Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses and sought to make English the official language of the United States.

Still, Ms. Gillibrand has not backed down from her long-standing opposition to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, which has left some immigrant advocates wondering whether she would support any law that would establish a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

In Washington on Tuesday, the new senator elaborated, saying, “I don’t support amnesty because I don’t think it will work.” She added that the amnesty bill was “fatally flawed.”

She said, for example, that “the guest worker program all but guaranteed illegal immigration.” But she suggested one alternative might be to allow consecutive five-year work visas, with the ability to apply for permanent residency at the end.

Ms. Gillibrand also said that she would support finding ways to speed up the reunification of immigrant families; some of them can wait as long as eight years.

“They should get rid of the backlog,” she told reporters in the Russell Senate Office Building.

Damn!  I happen to agree with her on the guest worker program.  It always seemed to me like a backdoor way of creating a permanent underclass of cheap labor with no rights.  I suppose my position “borders on xenophobia” as well.  I could be wrong about this but as conservative as she seems on immigration, it appears that some of her positions are being deliberately taken out of context.  For example, when she says she wants to increase funding for enforcement of immigration laws, does she mean she wants more ICE squads rounding up factories full of Mexican chicken pluckers or does she mean she wants the chicken plucker factory owners trembling with fear whenever they attempt to hire an illegal?  The article is vague on this point, perhaps deliberately so.  Oh, and she wants to speed up reunification efforts.  Well, that seems positively heartless.   Maybe she is secretly hoping to deport her own husband as well.  Those Brits will do just about ANYTHING to stay in the states including marrying an up and coming politician. Logical consistency is not necessary.  They’ll throw everything and see what sticks.

She represented a conservative district.  She had some pretty unpleasant conservative positions.  But she’s also a fierce defender of unions and new deal programs.  She has a couple of years to make a transformation from being the rep from a beautiful but rural section of New York to being a senator who represents the vast majority of New Yorkers who are progressive.

But all of that is beside the point.  The Times is out to get her.  They are going to smear her within an inch of her life on everything she says or does.  All voters are equal but some voters, with access to large amounts of ink, paper and bandwidth, are more equal than others.  The NYTimes is now slapped with junk bond status, the result of Pinch Sultzberger’s cludgy and stupid management decisions.  He retained Judy Miller, who had to have been cooperating with the Bush war machine.  He charged subscription fees for the Op/Ed columnists, who are virtually worthless in a burgeoning blogosphere, while giving away his most valuable commodity, the news.  Then he allowed his paper to be turned into an Obamarama special for nearly a year.  Didn’t anyone stop and think that these decisions might end up alienating a good hunk of the target audience?  Lately, even the news has taken on a nasty negative tone.  Can’t they just report and save the editorializing for the Op/Ed pages?  Or are the years of practice in propaganda just too hard to shake so that it has to creep into every bloody article?  The only thing worth reading anymore at the Times is Krugman and occasionally Kristoff.  Everyone else needs to take Obama’s advice and “change!”  Pretty soon the only thing the paper will be good for is kindling.

Going after Gillibrand is just going to drive more readers away.  Give it up already.

For those of you who want to even the score, Gillibrand is now accepting donations for her Senate run.

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