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      by Tony Wikrent North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Economist Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated that the real driver of innovation isn’t lone geniuses but state investment. [Wired, via The Big Picture 10-19-19] ….Mazzucato, an Italian-American economist who had spent decades researching the economics of innovation […]
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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.

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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?

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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?

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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!

 

 

 

 

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Not much to say

Mentally sunning myself by my infinity edge pool on the terrace on Santorini. Wake me when it’s over.

According to Katiebird, there’s a bit of a circular firing squad going on in Twitter.  Democrats are realizing they’ve gotten themselves into another fine mess with Obama.  And you can always measure the discontent by the appearance of anti-Hillary posts popping up here and there.  Apparently, she is now a neo-con, carrying out their secret agenda as crafted back in the Bush years.  Bwahahahahahaaaaah!

Of course, that’s not what the people promoting the neocon agenda conspiracy theory are saying. Because that would be wrong without explicit proof. It’s the classic, “I didn’t say it was your fault, I said we’re going to blame you” strategy.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.  Without the US and the most prominent Secretary of State leading them, the people of North Africa and the middle east would live contentedly, like dumb animals, having absolutely no idea that they are being politically and economically oppressed, satisfied with their lot in life.  They would never have a “Hey, we’re eating grass!” moment on their own.

I’m always amused by the Democrats who are dissatisfied with any kind of policy in the middle east.  No matter what it is, it’s *always* they wrong one.  Aggressive intervention against Iran is justifiably horrifying.  But so are sanctions to them.  What are we left with?  Sternly worded letters?  Maybe we should just ignore Iran and hope it goes away.  That’s fine with me except when kids are too quiet, I start to wonder what they’re up to.  Keeping an eye on them might be a good idea.  Is that OK with the Democrats?  Can we peer over our shoulders once in awhile and tell them to stop that and stay on their side of the car? Or is this too, none of our business?

But why not blame Hillary for all foreign policy problems that she most likely had an enigmatic part in?  Bay of Pigs?  Hillary.  Vietnam?  Hillary.  Bikini Atoll nuclear tests?  Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.  In fact, anyone who has gotten a radiation induced cancer since the Manhattan Project, that was probably Hillary’s doing.  Just call her Hiroshima Hillary.  She’s always secretly been a neocon.

And she’s married to the Big Dawg, who never gets tired of wheeling and dealing.  He’s interested in reforming Medicare because it’s going to start eating up our money at an accelerated pace soon.  Better get a grip on it before some Randy young Republican decides it would be easier on the wealthy to just abolish it altogether.  You know, rein in medical costs, maybe open it up to everyone and expand the pool with healthier individuals?  Stuff like that, stuff we haven’t tried yet.  I could see Bill Clinton doing a Mary Poppins, cheerfully conscripting some nitwit into doing something he wouldn’t do otherwise.  Or he could be entirely evil.

Hillary probably put him up to it.

Whatever.

People are going to believe what they want to believe.  Some Democrats have said that the result of the last four years wouldn’t have been different with Hillary in charge.  I beg to differ.  It’s surprising that the Obama fans can’t see the truth about Hillary.  It is this: The Bankers Didn’t Support Hillary.  No.  They supported Obama.  And Obama has been nothing if not attentive to their needs.

So, you know, you can blame the Clintons because they are convenient targets.  I have no doubt that the people who have taken over the Democratic party have analyzed what makes Democrats tick and can manipulate the message to make sure the Clintons look really, really bad.  And they’re not perfect, not by a long shot.  What humans are?   So, this is made somewhat easier.

But it still doesn’t solve the problem of Obama.  He’s the one who’s been at the helm for 4 years.  Somehow, I can’t even in my wildest imagination come up with a scenario where Hillary is as indulgent towards the wealthy and well connected as Obama has been.  I’ve tried making her out to be out of touch, neglectful of the unemployed, callous towards the hapless homeowner, solicitous towards the health insurance industry, indifferent to the rights of women and permissive towards the banking industry. I’ve tried but I just can’t.

I’ve lost interest in this campaign.  Maybe that’s by design.  Maybe both parties would prefer that the some of us sit it out this year.  You know and I know and Paul Krugman knows that regardless of who gets the office in November, we’re screwed.

Of course, there is a better candidate available.  But the Democratic loyalists keep getting played into scurrying away from her like she’s Kryptonite.  There’s still time, you know.  If you want to change the dynamic, you have to go bold.

In the meantime, I’ve got better things to do than watch the Democratic loyalists get played like a bunch of low information Fox News viewers, continually going against their own best interests.

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

Occupy wants to OccupytheDNC in Charlotte, NC.  Hmmm, if it’s anythng like Denver in 2008, expect for the city to be on lockdown with thousands and thousands of riot geared cops and the national guard ready to throw your ass into jail the minute you step off the curb.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea.  In fact, if I were the DNC, I’d go easy on Occupy for PR purposes.  At this point, it needs all the good PR it can get.  But what I anticipate is a lot of bloody heads, brutality and marginalization of people who are determined to give the 99% a voice.

The bloody heads and brutality I’ve come to expect.  It’s the marginalization by the Obama administration that I find indefensible.

Tuesday Morning: Falling Chips

How to speak to the public without a teleprompter for 15 minutes:

Yes, dear World, we passed her up for this (skip to 1:51 to hear Hillary’s response):

It appears that Obama is following Hillary’s foreign policy.

Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, WaPo is reveling in the damage that Wikileaks has done to our foreign policy.  Instead of investigating how such a breach could have happened in the first place (I am with myiq and Anglachel on this one.  An army private shouldn’t have this much access.  It’s unnatural.), the post is {{GASP!}} appalled that such a thing has ruined, RUINED everything we have tried to accomplish in the past 230 years.  And it was on Hillary’s watch.  Yeah, the paper of Sally Quinn must just love that.  But Benjamin Netanyahu has what seems like a logical assessment of the situation:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the WikiLeaks disclosures will make it harder for American diplomats to be honest in their assessments of political situations abroad and will inspire more caution among foreign leaders when they are dealing with U.S. officials.

“It’s clear this will happen,” he told the Association of Tel Aviv Journalists.

“Diplomacy is built on secrecy,” he added. “Journalism is built on revelations. And the result of what happened with WikiLeaks, in my view, is that it will be harder for you to do your work and it will be harder for us to do our work.”

That pretty much sums it up.  The leaked cables will make everyone more skittish that their every word will be reported.  Stuff will still need to be discussed, non-trivial tidbits passed on, intuition related, but now they’ll have to do it through Skype, where the encryption method has been only partially cracked.  Or they’ll be reduced to interpreting body language.  It’s not fatal and the countries that are “lamenting” the loudest are just taking advantage of an awkward situation.  The fallout reminds me of those days in middle school when one girl finds a note from another girl she thought was her friend and she now realizes that her “friend” has been talking trash about her to someone else and now everyone’s feelings are hurt. Oh, Please. Is this what countries around the world have been reduced to?  Petty sniping between adolescents?  Adolescents with nukes?   But diplomacy will go on, because it *has* to.

Moving on.  I take that back.  We must continue to observe that President Obama does not know what he is doing and that the Obots (who are even more clueless than Palinophiles) pushed him on us without thinking:

Obama Orders Pay Freeze for Federal Workers

Well, that ought to make all those surly clerks more user friendly.  Yes, stick it to virtually the only sector that has any kind of protection at all.  Do not try to impress on the public the consequences of this action, such as decreased spending during a recession, more unemployment and decreased tax revenue.  THERE!  That will show them nasty Republicans.  Obama will triangulate before it’s even necessary to triangulate AND he’ll pursue even more pointless and harmful policies that will add to the deficit and recession.  Take THAT, GOP!  You’re not going to push Barry around, nosiree.

Gawd, this is so depressing.

BTW, for an enlightening podcast on Barry’s childhood in Indonesia, check out this episode of Witness from BBC.  You’ll have to sit through a few painful moments of Barry reading from one of his bestsellers but the recollection of one of his Indonesian childhood friends is very interesting.  We should have seen this coming.

Merrill Goozner has a crack at the new liberal version of a deficit reduction plan.  He suggest that it may represent the “new silent majority”, that would be us, oh Best Beloveds, who no political party wants to be beholden to but who tend to vote anyway.  Here are the money quotes:

Some historical perspective: the debt-to-GDP ratio remained below 50 percent throughout the Great Depression; peaked near 120 percent after World War II; fell steadily to around 33 percent in 1980; but rose quickly after Ronald Reagan became president and continued except for a few years near the end of Bill Clinton’s term in office. It stood at 57 percent when George W. Bush became president and spiked to 93 percent as a result of the Great Recession that began late in his term.

The liberals want to stabilize near this higher number (no new additional debt, but no pay down, either) because they see a long-term role for public investment in rebuilding America. The Bowles-Simpson plan would use some of its new revenue (from eliminating tax expenditures like corporate tax loopholes and all middle-class tax expenditures like the home mortgage deduction) to both pay down debt and lower income tax rates across the board.

The Bowles-Simpson plan also preserves some room for spending on infrastructure and research and development. But it is nowhere near the amounts called for in the liberal plan, which would use the money raised from higher taxes on corporations (they only remove so-called tax expenditures when they benefit high-income households) to invest in “quality child care, infrastructure, public transit, rural broadband connectivity, and research and development.”

The liberal alternative also steps up a number of income transfer programs like the earned income tax credit. The cash comes from eliminating corporate tax loopholes and a new carbon tax. “Despite having a higher-than-average statutory tax rate, because of preferences embodied in the tax code the United States collects just 2% of GDP in corporate tax revenue, compared with 2.5% across other developed nations,” the report says. “We suggest several changes that would broaden the tax base for corporations, including eliminating fossil fuel production tax credits, limiting the deductibility of financial corporate debt interest payments, closing the dividend loophole for foreign source income, and removing active financing tax deferral for financial firms.”

Translation: tax oil and coal companies, big banks, and the overseas operations of multinational firms while discouraging corporate debt. Instead of using all of that money for deficit reduction, transfer some to low-and-moderate income workers, whose increased consumption will stimulate the economy, and invest in infrastructure that promotes long-term growth.

The plan asserts that too much of the public debate to date has focused on Social Security, which plays only a minor role in the long-term deficits facing the country. Then there’s health care, whose skyrocketing costs will turn everybody’s deficit reduction plans into so much confetti unless brought under control.

I like this guy.  Check him out.

Anyway, I have to hit the shower, sports fans.  It’s off to work, for as long as it lasts.  Might as well enjoy it.

I leave you with this ditty from the coolest girl at the lunch table, Gwyneth Paltrow, who in addition to being a talented actress and easy on the eyes, turns out to be able to sing and play a guitar.  The song says it all: we will get through this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday Morning Breakfast

A month from now, I will have lost the muffin top and will be lounging around somewhere in Maui drinking Bad Ass Coffee for breakfast.  I will toss my red hair in the trade winds and laugh, “ha-hahhhh!”  Until then, four more weeks in frickin’ New Jersey with an eighth grader who is making my life miserable because I decided to do an academic intervention and send her to an intense five weeks of algebra this summer.  (No, she didn’t fail anything.  She’s just an underachieving G&T kid who refuses to do her homework).  Seven more days of adolescent sturm and drang before she aces the final and killing her becomes a lot less attractive as a coping mechanism.  I can’t wait.

Bad Ass Coffee

Bad Ass Coffee

In the meantime, lean your surfboard against the wall, grab a cup of kona and read the news.

Corzine *still* trails Christie by 10+ points in the NJ Governor’s race.  {{smirk!}}  Karma’s a bitch, Jon.  Oh, by the way, Hillary hasn’t completely ruled out running for President but she says it’s really unlikely.

Obama has pulled out all of the stops and is asking the public to support his health care plan. First bloggers, now a direct appeal to the rest of us.  What’s the hurry?  It won’t take effect until 2013 anyway and as reform goes, it isn’t that great.  As long as we have four years to implement it, why not take it niiiiice and sloooow and work all of the bugs out of the system.  if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?  Color me suspicious on the rush job.  For instance, take this “Oh, really?” bit of BS:

With Republicans and some moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill balking at both the specifics of the legislation and Mr. Obama’s timetable for House and Senate passage of the bills, the White House is now trying to rally legislative support and public opinion by linking health care to the nation’s economic health and offering the promise of tangible benefits to Americans.

“If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said. “If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.” He acknowledged that Americans were anxious, saying, “Folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate.”

Folks are skeptical because for the vast majority of us, reform ain’t gonna happen.  We’ll be locked into our current plan and insurers can continue to maximize profits.  Costs and deficits are going to continue to rise for four more years until this baby takes effect and eve the Congressional Budget Office says the current plan will do nothing to curb costs.  The insurance industry seems to be getting a great deal out of this one.  Maybe that’s why they want to seal this deal before anyone finds out.  Call it Son of TARP.

And this is just silly:

At first, House Democrats were weighing a tax on Americans making more than $280,000 a year; now there is talk of imposing the tax on those households earning $1 million or more, an idea Mr. Obama said he favored because it would not put the burden of paying for the bill on the middle class.

“To me, that meets my principle, that it’s not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time,” he said.

Mr. Obama also signaled that he might be open to another idea under consideration in the Senate : taxing employer-provided health benefits, as long as the tax did not fall on the middle class.

I don’t think the middle class who make less than a million a year would mind a small tax increase if the quality of the health care insurance that everyone received improved.  You can make a small tax very attractive if the results are significantly better than what we’ve got.  Think Social Security.  That’s not what this bill proposes.  But it doesn’t surprise me that Obama would throw out this not-very-well-thought-out, disjointed statement. He doesn’t lead from principle.  He doesn’t lead.  He follows.  And it’s becoming clear that he is worried about media driven public opinion but not terribly worried about doing the right thing.  So what else is new?

Meanwhile, back in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, China and Kyrgystan (Kyrgystan??)…  There are a heck of a lot of foreign news stories on the frontpage.  What’s up with that?  Are these all turning into hotspots or are they just bright shiny objects?

The Birthers are back. Birther prophylactic: we are not nor ever have been associated with the birther movement.  It’s a pointless distraction.  I figure that the Clinton Campaign would have been perfectly within its rights to have Obama disqualified if he were not a natural born citizen.  It wouldn’t have been character assassination.  It would have been a constittuional issue.  But Bill Clinton himself said that Obama met the minimum requirements for being president, which I interpret to mean that they looked into it and there’s no THERE there.  I don’t know why Obama needs to produce the exact original of his birth certificate to satisfy the birther crowd but I can think of a really good reason why he wouldn’t: it makes the birthers look like a bunch of complete loonies if he occasionally stirs up the issue.  Birthers, please don’t try to defend yourselves on this blog.  We’re really not interested.

For those of you who are getting blindsided by the shifting frames of the media on who’s who in the Democratic caucus and who’s screwing up health care reform, check out The Blue Dogs Flunk Obedience School. In summary, Obama, who doesn’t have a political philosophy but for some reason really, really likes bipartisanship for its own sake, has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.  These DINOs come from conservative districts where voters are vulnerable to media messaging about tax and spend liberals.  So far as I’ve seen, our current Congressional session skews heavily to the right.  There’s still a lot of taxing and spending going on but nary a liberal intiative in sight.  And as long as the blue dogs remain unprimaried, that’s the way it will stay.

H1N1 is laying low for now but could be a real problem in the fall.  Still no need to panic.  Get your flu shot if you’re offered one, have your doctor’s phone number available if you get sick, ask your employer about plans in case of a public health emergency and follow your public health official’s guidelines to prevent spread of infection.  Let’s hope our precautions make this the biggest non-story of the year.

Podcasts of the day: I have heard it said recently that the world is undergoing a shift in consciousness in a way that is similar to the shift from polytheism to monotheism.  It is a shift away from traditional monotheism to a more logical, holistic vision of the universe and its source of wonder.  It was difficult to see this shift while the country was in the grips of the fundamentalist evangelical base and their Christ for Rich People stuff.  It’s funny that so many religious people vote for politicians who do not believe in holding people accountable for bad behavior.  I might be wrong but it feels like it is time for the country to regain its sense of ethical behavior.  And as we know from bitter experience, it isn’t always to be found in the pews of your nearest megachurch.  Here are several podcasts that have common themes though they aren’t all obvious at first. There is a lot of material to chew on about reason, first principles, inclusiveness and the evolution of the human spirit:

Melvyn Bragg’s in Our Time discusses the Vienna Circle’s Logical Positivism

Bill Moyer’s interviewed Robert Wright on The Evolution of God

Anything from Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith.  I have really become addicted to her podcasts. There’s something here for everyone, atheists included.  Tippet is the Terry Gross of the divine but what passes for divine these days may surprise you.   Most of her interviews are not overtly about religion at all but are more about how different faith and ethical  experiences allow individuals to view life, the universe and everything from a more holistic point of view. The Ecstatic Faith  of Rumi won a Peabody and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s poetic and beautiful.  But Tippett also explores The Biology of Spirit with neurosurgeon Sherwin Nuland, freelance monotheism with Karen Armstrong and a more modern form of logical positivism with Echard Tolle.  Her interview with Rick Warren and his wife Kay was fascinating.  The Warrens initially sound like shallow, corporate religious types and don’t quite shake that image with the listener in spite of all of their recent philanthropic efforts. Quite revealing in completely unexpected ways.  All highly recommended.

Heartless employer of the day: Drugmaker Wyeth, in the process of merging with equally heartless Pfizer, sent an email offering a resume writing workshop to all employees. (no link.  I was informed by some former colleagues) I love the way they are promoting the fiction that there are any companies, not in India and China, where their employees have any hope of actually finding a job.  All of the companies I know are in the midst of their own layoffs and endless hiring freezes, leaving projects short staffed and scrambling for outside contractors.  The Pfizer-Wyeth merger will result in the loss of thousands of scientific jobs, burdening further the unemployment rolls of NJ, PA, CT and NY.  I’m sure the workshop is  going to lead to greater productivity between now and when the real layoffs begin.  Just write off real drug development from that new behemoth for the next several years.  The Wall Street guys and the mega shareholders just won’t be satisfied until these companies are reduced to cheap, overseas scientific staff and a bunch of stateside marketers and executives.  So much for American innovation.  Contracting your brain trust from overseas is incredibly short sighted.  It’s like eating your seed corn.  Pretty soon, all that will be left are MBAs.  And what have they innovated lately?

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Post Debate Thread: Beautiful theories destroyed by Ugly facts

So, who won and why?  I watched the debate with the sound off and the impressions I get from each candidate are:

  • McCain- solid, unflappable.  A sure port in a storm.  He shows his thought on his face.  His eyebrows are very expressive.  He is both bemused and impish.  He will stand there an listen to you, taking it all in and have some internal monologue that he will decorate with humor, sarcasm and mischief.  I wish he would look at the camera more to appeal directly to viewers but this may be an artifact of addressing a chamber that is always half empty.
  • Obama- youthful, playful, like a young puppy.  He moves constantly.  His opening statement was good.  He looked into the camera and seemed intense and puposeful.  Then in the rest of the debate, he moved around from side to side.  He punctuates his words with head bobs in the style of a preacher, ala MLK or Jesse Jackson.  His style is very reminiscent of African American icons and statesmen, which is not a bad thing, but it is imitative.  He does not have the same solidity of McCain.  One imagines that a slight gust of wind could carry Obama away.

What did I miss?

Debate Live Blog: Thread 2

Join the debate.  What are you seeing and hearing?

To view Conflucian Style, try the following:

  1. First, watch it on C-Span where your propaganda filter is minimal.
  2. If you have a DVR, set the debate to record and watch it the first time through with the sound off.
  3. Then go through the DVR recorded portion, verrrrryyyy sloooowwwlly.  Take as much time as possible to parse every word until you get to its true meaning.

Go!

Debate Watching, Confluence Style

Tonight is the first of the presidential debates and we at The Confluence watch our debates a little differently.  We act like English is not our native language.  That way, you’re not so taken with the flowery turns of phrase.  I was reminded of a chapter in Oliver Sacks’ book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat where aphasics in rehabilitation watched a debate with Ronald Reagan in it and couldn’t stop laughing.  Without language, they were able to detect the subtle signals that the body and face give that indicate deceitfulness.  So, we also pay a lot of attention to body language.  Obama’s disrespect and contempt for Clinton just oooozed from the screen during his debates with her.  He didn’t have to say a word.  So, if you want to watch the debates Conflucian style, here’s what you do:

  1. First, watch it on C-Span where your propaganda filter is minimal.
  2. If you have a DVR, set the debate to record and watch it the first time through with the sound off.
  3. Then go through the DVR recorded portion, verrrrryyyy sloooowwwlly.  Take as much time as possible to parse every word until you get to its true meaning.

Have at it Conflucians!  This is a live blog thread.