Category Archives: Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends Vol 22

Odds and EndsEven though I don’t get nearly enough time to read normal stuff, I find things are piling up without my having the time to write articles about them. So it is time for another edition of “Odds and Ends.” And in this case it is indeed a varied collection of things from cat gun safety to productivity to the Gymkhana Girl, so I guess we ought to get to it.

The Only Thing that Stops a Cat With a Gun…

Elizabeth sent me this article, Cat Shoots Owner With 9mm Handgun. This happened all the way back in 2005, but apparently, Joseph Stanton of Michigan was cooking with his loaded gun sitting on the counter. One of his cats jumped up on the counter, knocking the gun off, causing it to discharge, shooting Stanton in the lower torso. He seems to have survived and no cats were harmed.

What I find interesting about these kinds of cases is that they show how one-sided people are about looking at benefits and risk. I’m sure that Mr Stanton, like most gun owners, felt that he was safer for having that loaded gun around. I suspect he had visions of some intruder coming to attack him. But the truth is that the odds of some accident (like your cat jumping on the counter) are far more likely. This is why I don’t have a gun; I play the odds.

Night Owls Are Diseased

Over at Vox, Brian Resnick reported, Late Sleepers Are Tired of Being Discriminated Against. And Science Has Their Back. It turns out that chronobiology shows that we all have our own internal clocks, and some people are getting tired (!) of being expected to live according to other people’s idea of the proper time to be active.

I’ve never thought about any of this in terms of when I wake up. Growing up in a family inclined toward late nights, I’ve always seen it in terms of when I was awake. But I’ve lived a charmed life in that I’ve gotten away with going my own way. At most places I’ve worked, I’ve been important enough that management was willing to put up with my eccentricities. But even if that were not the case, it’s kind of hard to get too upset. There are a million ways that the majority oppresses the minority; just look at the world from the perspective of left-handed people. What’s more, I don’t find this chronobiology all that interesting because I’ll always felt my sleep patterns were biological.

Now, of course, I have no problem. I go to sleep late and wake up early. It’s because I’m old and apparently my brain doesn’t need as much time to process information. That’s probably helped by the fact that I rarely leave this room.

Spying Makes Us Timid

Glenn Greenwald reported, New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear, and Self-Censorship. It’s not a shock. If people know that they might be under surveillance (We all know that we might be now, right?) it tends to makes us more conformist. And you have to wonder if that isn’t the main point. Would the world be notably less safe if the NSA wasn’t recording and storing every conversation we were having?

This reminds me of something that internet titan Eric Schmidt was asked back in 2009, “People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they be?” He replied, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Oh yes! That’s the way to run a democracy! It’s an especially chilling statement when you consider how cozy Silicon Valley has been with the government and how the government’s greatest spying accomplishments have been to disrupt anti-war groups.

Gymkhana Girl

In the first episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look, there were three skits about the crime fighting duo Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit. It makes fun of lopsided superhero combinations. I keep returning to Marvel’s the Avengers, where you have a god teamed up with a guy who is apparently really good with a bow and arrow. I’ve discussed it before, but I learned something new:

At the end, after the BMX Bandit is killed, the announcer tells us to tune in next week for the adventures of “Angel Summoner and…” But I couldn’t make it out. It sounded like “Jim Conner Girl.” The woman reminded me of the women on the old British television series The Avengers. I got the joke: they were teaming up Angel Summoner with yet another inappropriate character. But it still bugged me that I didn’t know what a “Jim Conner Girl” was.

Finally, I looked it up. The word is not “Jim Conner” but gymkhana. And that is “competitive games on horseback.” In other words, they switched from someone who was good at riding a bike to someone who was good at riding a horse. And that, well, is hilarious.

Cheap Labor Leads to Low Productivity

Dean Baker wrote a really good article last week, Reason #4 for Weak Productivity Growth: Labor Is Cheap. Like most economics in the public sphere, it ain’t complicated. Productivity has been low for a long time. And a big reason for that is that businesses have little reason to invest in automation because they can get labor so cheap. If you want to increase productivity, make the political environment more conducive to unionization.

It’s funny that most people (Most Democrats too!) like to blame inequality on automation. But if that were the case, per capita productivity would be high. As I’ve written about a lot, if the rich were smart and farsighted, they would want more economic equality because it is better for everyone. But they aren’t smart and farsighted; they are just greedy.

Land of the Lost

I was given a bag of DVDs — most of them television shows of my youth. Of particular interest was the first two seasons of Sid & Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost. I liked that show when I was a kid, so I sat down and watched the first seven episodes. It’s curious. The stop-motion animation is really good. But it’s so disjointed, going from filmed animation to videotaped segments on tiny sound stages. I could go on and on about things that are wrong with it. But it does have a certain charm, even after all these years.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m glad to get some tabs down, although I could easily add five more entries here.

Odds and Ends Vol 20

Odds and EndsWe’ve got some interesting things here. This volume of Odds and Ends is a bit screwed up because of my recent computer problems. I now have three different hard drives where things are stored, so I’ve lost a couple of funny things. One was a joke Jim Webb sign having to do with his lack of time at the debate. The other was the Gettysburg Workout, which I think had something to do with Paul Ryan taking over as Speaker of the House. Whatever. Let’s get started.

Raise Rates Before US Reaches French Employment Levels!

I love this graph from Paul Krugman for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that this bigoted American idea that the French are lazy is just wrong. But it also shows just how far we are from full employment. Still, the Federal Reserve is almost certain to raise interest rates next month and stop the employment growth that we are seeing. If you still believe we live in a democracy, it is time to wake up my friends. It was a pleasant dream we had, but it was only ever that: a dream.

France vs US Employment

Television Commercials From the 1960s and 1970s

This is a 17 minute long collection of television commercials. It’s pretty amazing for people of my age. What’s perhaps most remarkable, however, is that ads haven’t changed that much. They’ve become more slick in terms of production. But the approach to advertising is the same. There has been no revolution in that way. It’s also interesting to see beloved actors like George S Irving (White Owl cigars), Vic Tayback (Parkay margarine), Nancy Walker (Bounty paper towels), John Houseman (Smith Barney), Ricardo Montalbán (Chrysler Cordoba), Bobby Short (Charlie by Revlon), James Harder (Fig Newton), David Naughton (Dr Pepper), Geoffrey Holder (7-Up), Mickey Spillane and a bunch of other people (Miller Lite), and of course, Orson Welles (Paul Masson). If you notice any others, mention them in the comments. Obviously, you can’t mention the three who gave their names!

Health Inequality

This graph is from a paper on health inequality. The data are from 2007 — so before Obamacare. I think it is shocking in how well it correlates with the red state and blue state maps. The truth is that most of the conservatives I read are of the intellectual variety. But when you look at this graph, it’s clear how much nonsense that all is. Conservatives are just selfish and don’t care about anyone but themselves. And as a result, people die. It is not the case, as most centrist pundits claim, that we are just arguing over the best way to meet the needs of everyone. Conservatives don’t care about that at all. They just care about how much wealth they can accumulate, and screw the rest.

Average Life Expectancy by County - 2007

Angels In The Outfield

James Fillmore always seems to get embarrassed when I highlight his work, but his article on the two Angels In The Outfield films is really good. I had wanted to just cross-post it here, but I don’t want to get in a copyright dispute with SB Nation. So just click over and read his article, it’s really good. If James has anything to feel bad about, it is that he didn’t offer the article to me first.

Racist Liberals

This 12 August 1996 cover of New Republic comes via Matt Bruenig. Over the last year, I’ve been really pleased with the magazine. But during the 1990s, it was horrible. And this racist cover is amazing. How do I know it is racist? Well, how do we know that woman is on welfare? How is it that “The Editors” signified that this woman was on welfare? By making her black. Notice that this is 8 years after the Willie Horton ad. And it is coming from a “liberal” publication. And the welfare “reform” bill that they thought the president should sign has been a catastrophe. But I doubt any of those editors is suffering as a result of it.

New Republic - Welfare Reform

That’s all for today. I had some other things, but they were from Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And the images I created are on my backup computer. And I can’t get them from the show because CBS, in its greedy stupidity, only allows non-subscribers to watch the last five episodes. So we’ll have to leave this edition of Odds and Ends on kind of a downer. Oh well. You’ll survive.

Odds and Ends Vol 19

Odds and EndsAll day today, I’ve been seeing articles that I’d like to comment on but don’t feel like there is enough to say for a full article. And then I thought, “What about another Odds and Ends?!” This is exactly the situation that I originally started the series for. Just the same, in this case, it may just be that I’m tired. I stayed up very late last night and then didn’t sleep well. You would think it would be because I was drinking, but I was actually working. Oh well.

Peak Uber?

Michael Hiltzik brought my attention to something interesting, Has Uber Already Peaked? There is a new study out by some investment types that looked at what’s going on in New York. Apparently, at this point, Uber drivers are as likely to cannibalize each other as the regular taxicab drivers. It looks like the reason for this is that Uber has saturated the market with its drivers and they quickly find that they don’t make much money. It comes as no surprise that this “new economy” job — despite the fact that all the upfront costs fall on the worker — only pays about minimum wage.

Mathematical Genius

John Nash was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century — a century that had some great minds. You know, he’s the guy in A Beautiful Mind. He is known primarily for his work in game theory, and as such, he’s had a great influence beyond mathematics — most especially economics. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. He was also mad as a hatter.

In 1948, Nash apparently asked physicist Richard Duffin to write him a letter of recommendation for graduate school. The letter is wonderfully on point:

Richard Duffin Recommendation Letter for John Nash

Trump Got Boring

Matt Yglesias got it exactly right in an article last week, Donald Trump Used to Be the Most Interesting Person in Politics, but His Tax Plan Made Him Boring. As I said many times around here, Trump’s actual policies were better than any of the other Republicans running for president. His rhetoric was bad on certain issues, but his policies were no worse than the others. And on economics, he was talking like an actual populist. But then he brought out his tax plan and it was not qualitatively different from Jeb Bush’s — it was just worse. And you have to wonder: if this is what a self-funding Republican is for, it must be that the party is not dysfunctional because of its dependence on courting billionaires. They just really believe all their supply side claptrap.

Airbnb Thinks You Should Trust It

I’ll end with another Michael Hiltzik article, No surprise: That Airbnb Study of Rentals in LA Isn’t What It Seems. Airbnb put out a study claiming that its influence did not incentivize the transfer of long-term rentals into short-term rentals. But the company implied that it had analyzed data with a UCLA professor, when all that he had done was go over their procedures — he’s never seen the data and does not vouch for it. Of course, no one has seen the data. Airbnb won’t make it available — even to government regulators. So should we trust them? The business community does not have a good record of putting out objective research that just happens to prove that the best thing is for them to do exactly what they want to do.

That’s all for now folks. Have a good evening and I’ll check in with you in the morning.

Odds and Ends Vol 18

Odds and EndsRight now, my other job involves rewriting all the pages of an old website that was rather tedious in its prime. A lot of the work I do does not involve tech, but most of it does. And I have found that one thing tech writers most lack is a sense of narrative — the idea that they are telling a story. Trying to create a narrative by rewriting the pages from scratch is rather easy to do; trying to do it through editing is difficult indeed. So I thought I would take a break and quickly write an Odds and Ends.

Ironic Political Ad

After last week’s Republican presidential debate, most of the sane viewers laughed when Jeb Bush said, “There’s one thing I’ll tell you about my brother: he kept us safe!” I just assumed this would be forgotten by the next day, or at least that Jeb would try to bury it. But no! He made a political ad out of it:

Jeb Bush Ironic Political Ad

This is bizarre. Here is George W Bush, standing on the rubble of the worst foreign attack on American soil ever. It was an attack that happened while Bush was president. It was an attack that he did not keep us safe from. Is irony dead? Or are Republicans just that ignorant? Or are they just so convinced that they are “strong” that George Bush protecting us is axiomatic: George Bush protected us because he was a Republican and they protect us?

Chicken Hawk Dick Cheney

Speaking of Bush, I found this somewhere. It was probably over at Job’s Anger — but I’m not going to go over there and find the exact link — especially given I’m not sure. This does sum up Cheney. The thing is, Cheney and Trump are about the same in terms of doing whatever they want and feeling no culpability whatsoever. I do wonder if they aren’t both psychopaths — in the technical sense.

Dick Cheney: Chicken Hawk

Hats for Sale

This is an image from Esphyr Slobodkina’s excellent children’s book, Caps for Sale. I find it so charming now. But when I was a kid, I thought this odd little peddler with all those hats on his head was evil. Slobodkina wrote a sequel to the book that is not quite as good, but still very charming, Circus Caps for Sale. My friend Andrea tells me this style of image is an example of foreshortening. What that means is that all the perspective is screwed up. That’s something I’ve come to greatly admire as I’ve gotten older. Regardless, you should really check these books out. I’m sure they are in your local library. My library has 20 copies of the first book, but only four of the second.

Hats for Sale

Real Life Facebook

I don’t know where this came from, but it is very amusing. It shows how bizarre Facebook behavior is. I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week. She told me she had been feeling great, but then she went on Facebook and saw all the great things her “friends” were doing and got really depressed about her life. I thought that was interesting because this is a known phenomenon. I tried to explain that people don’t post the bad things that happen in their lives. It’s all about mythologizing what your life is. None of this made her feel better.

Real Life Facebook

That’s all for today kiddos. I’ve got to get back to the grind. Talk to you later!

Odds and Ends Vol 17

Odds and EndsI’ve got to make this quick. I worked most of the day editing an article about computer hackers. It was kind of interesting and I took some real crap writing and turned it into something that wasn’t bad. This is, of course, the greatest success that an editor can have. But as it is, I’m kind of behind on giving love to Frankly Curious. And it is Sunday as I write this, so there isn’t a whole lot to write about.

Back in Odds and Ends Vol 15, I labeled it “Cool Images Edition.” But that now seems the way that these things are going to be from now on. And I have a whole bunch to post today. So let’s get started.

Opium Dreams

I’ve been hired to write the introduction to the re-release of Claude Farrère short story collection, Black Opium. In doing some research, I came upon this quite dazzling picture called, Opium Dreams. It is a photo manipulation by Kassandra. I think it is the best illustration I have ever seen of what it is like to sleep while under the influence of opioids. I’m going to assume that the little creatures below ground are dormice. And they are working away, even though the young woman is asleep. That’s very true. It’s like the wheels (or dormice) are continuing to work away. The opioids do not provide good sleep. But in addition to being insightful, this is such a gorgeous image:

Opium Dreams - Kassandra

Right after Christopher Lee died, I got a hankering to watch, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The main story is about Holmes falling in love with a woman who turns out to be a Russian spy. They had been traveling together undercover as Mr and Mrs Ashdown. At the end of the film, Holmes makes a deal to allow her to return home. But then, many months later, Holmes’ brother Mycroft sent him a letter informing him that the spy was caught by the Japanese government and executed. But it ends with, “It might interest you to know that she had been living in Japan these past months under the name Mrs Ashdown.” It’s very poignant. But you all know what a softy I am about this kind of stuff.

Here are my best efforts to combine the letter, which were panned and so required my meager skills in PhotoShop.

Sherlock Holmes Letter 1
Sherlock Holmes Letter 2

The Stewart Children

This one came from The Daily Show, but I have no recollection when or in what context. Clearly, Jon Stewart is making fun of his height. Martha Stewart is not that tall, but she is taller than Jon Stewart — and me.

The Stewart Children

Squab Story

Clearly, this is from Real Time With Bill Maher. I assume it is about the news that ISIS had banned pigeon breading because their genitals were offensive. This is just weird, because pigeons don’t have genitals the way we do. They have cloacae and so don’t bread like humans at all. Whatever. The main thing is: a pigeon in a burka. It’s hilarious. Pigeons are generally hilarious. I love pigeons.

Pigeon in a Burka

Political Signs for White People

This one showed up on Google+. Usually, political signs have to be pithy. But often we white folk have to have things made very clear to us. This woman stepped up to the plate admirably.

Black Lives Matter -- For White People

That’s it for today. If you like this kind of stuff, you might want to check out Ted McLaughlin’s blog, Job’s Anger. Every night, around midnight Texas time, he posts about ten things. Some of them are analysis and he provides great visualizations of recent polling data. But most of it is cartoons and other visually interesting things. I have him in my RSS feed, so it’s nice each evening to have all of this stuff come in. Check it out.

Odds and Ends Vol 16

Odds and EndsIt is time to clean out some of the old stuff that is cluttering up my computer for another installment of Odds and Ends. This is mostly images. And it was coming upon that last image that got me to post all this now. I somehow didn’t want it sitting on my hard drive; it’s such an amazing political statement.

Otherwise, this is just a grab-bag — as usual.


Someone posted this following cartoon about bullying on Google+. I find the style quite compelling — and familiar. But I haven’t been able to find out who the artist is. It’s very sweet. On the other hand, if that were the extent of bullying, we would have a far kinder society.

Bullying - Father's Birthday

Radical Republicans

I’ve already written about the extremism of the Republican Party, A Conservative’s Disingenuous Desperation. But I found the following graph in an article by Christopher Ingraham, This Astonishing Chart Shows How Moderate Republicans Are an Endangered Species. It is taken from the standard Vote View data that everyone is aware of. But this graph shows what has happened to the parties. It takes the range of views in the parties at any given time and then ranks individuals where they are relative to their own parties. And the results are jaw-dropping:

House Non-Moderates - Vote View

I also really like the title of the graph, which is a reference to the play No Sex Please, We’re British — which was apparently also made into a movie.

Rat in the Box

In 1983, Firesign Theater made the mistake of making a film, Nick Danger in the Case of the Missing Yolk. It has its moments, but actually seeing the ridiculousness that I had always imagined while listening to their records made it all seem too obvious — too forced. If you want, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube. But the only thing I was really taken with was what I think is a very cute rat image in the commercial for “Rat in the Box”:

Rat in the Box

Edward Snowden

Charlie Pierce was nice enough to remind us, There Would Be No USA Freedom Act Without Edward Snowden. It’s amazing that we know so much because of Snowden and Chelsea Manning, yet the mainstream media have been really reluctant to acknowledge that. It reminds me of a segment on Piers Morgan Live with James Risen, Glenn Greenwald, and Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin takes the really annoying line that Snowden should be thrown in prison for decades, while admitting that such discussions are good. Risen responds, “We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it wasn’t for him.” The same thing is true of the USA Freedom Act. But instead, Snowden isn’t mentioned and Rand Paul gets all the credit.

Rick Perry

On Thursday night’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart offered up the best campaign slogan ever for Rick Perry:

Rick Perry - Risk the Consequences

Still Not Asking for It

I found this over at the Amanda Taub page on The Over-Think Tank. I was struck by just how powerful it is: a single picture that destroys the idea that rape or other forms of physical and verbal assault are somehow earned. I do, however, wish this young woman weren’t smoking!

Still Not Asking for It

I had wanted to finish off this edition with the most recent image of Pluto, but we continue to get very little to look at. But I will continue to provide updates about the planet as they come in — probably as their own articles. Otherwise, we are finished with this installment of Odds and Ends. I will see you next time.

Odds and Ends Vol 15 — Cool Images Edition

Odds and EndsThis is a special edition of our Odds and Ends posts. I’ve been collecting random images from the internet. I’ve been wanting to do something with them, but I haven’t found a use. And they are sitting around in the place I put temporary images before uploading them to Frankly Curious. So they are just in the way. And if I find a permanent place to store them, they are as gone as if I had just deleted them. But they are pretty good. I’ll do my best to provide context.

Nixon: Prince of the Deep

First up is an image from The Daily Show in a segment called, Start Wars — a pun on Star Wars. It is about the Iran nuclear deal, noting the hypocrisy of Republicans in wanting to control the president regarding treaties but not wars. One of those treaties is the Law of the Sea Treaty. James Inhofe said that it would make us relinquish sovereignty of “70% of the world.” Jon Stewart responded, “As you know, America currently owns the oceans ever since President Nixon blew on Neptune’s fabled conch shell and became Prince of the Deep.” That went along with the following wonderful image:

Nixon as Neptune

Bigotry Buddies

Next we have two images from The Nightly Show. The first is from a bit on Ferguson Police Bias. During it, Larry Wilmore joked about a television series featuring George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson called, “Bigotry Buddies.” I’d watch it:

Bigotry Buddies

Blacks Do the Darndest Things!

The second is from Tuesday night’s excellent show on the Baltimore situation, What a Riot. A Fox News commentator said, “We got two stores right now, this guy’s walking out with a Colt 45 poster and then he’s burning it but you certainly got a lot of free liquor there that’s going on in the five finger discount here.” Wilmore responded that the clip was from the new show, “Blacks Do the Darndest Things!”

Blacks Do the Darndest Things!

Mystery Insect

This next one comes from a great photographer I follow on Google+, Robert Langdon. He is out of Florida, and does these amazing backlit shots. I don’t know that much about photography — just enough to be really impressed by his work. One day recently, he posted the following unidentified insect. But even more than the identity of this little charmer, is what that silver ball is underneath her. If you all have any thoughts, let me know.

Mysterious Insect by Robert Langdon

You can also check out Robert Langdon at Fine Art America.

Hipster Flintstones

And finally, we have have something that came to me from someone I follow on Google+, but I don’t remember who it is. But it is everywhere on the internet. Still, I thought it was pretty good. It is also self-explanatory. But I will note one thing: there is nothing to indicate Jesus in this image. Perhaps they are just celebrating the winter solstice?

Hipster Flintstones

That’s all for now kiddos. But we’ll be back later with another loose collection of things whenever it seems appropriate.

Odds and Ends Vol 14 — Special Torture Edition

Odds and EndsThis is a special “torture report” edition of Odds and Ends. There has been so much great reporting on it that I could easily put out ten quotes posts. But I don’t want to do that. I think we all understood in a general sense what was being done. It is important that it be laid out now, as disgusting as it is. See my article on the subject yesterday, Torture Report Shows We Are Unjust and Creepy. I have to say, I can’t get over how every time we misbehave in this way, we show ourselves to be sexual perverts. I don’t think it is a surprise that this is what comes from a country that is almost 80% Christian. Paul the Apostle had real sexual issues and he poisoned the Christians who came after him.

We Have Seen the Enemy…

Charlie Pierce wrote a downright poetic response to those who refuse to accept what we have done and attempt to minimize it, The Torture Report and What it Says. Here is his summation:

Anyone who still believes [that the report is off base because CIA agents are “patriots”] is an idiot and a coward and I have no time for them.

I no longer take seriously anyone, in or out of government, who talks about “the debate” over whether the United States tortured people. The only debate left is the debate over whether or not it will remain the policy of this nation to torture people, or to outsource the job of torturing people, or to otherwise commit moral and national suicide by euphemism.

Anyone who still believes there’s a “debate” over whether or not the United States, using techniques previously used by the Japanese Imperial Army, the Gestapo, the North Korean People’s Army, and the KGB, tortured people is an idiot and a coward and I have no time for them. Not any more. Debate’s over. We became what they think we are. And worse. This is not debatable and, alas, it is anything but a surprise.

Pierce also wrote two other articles worth checking out: The Torture Report and What it Means and The Torture Report and What Comes Next.

False Equivalency

You may have seen Bob Kerrey’s ridiculous USA Today OpEd, Partisan Torture Report Fails America. How did it fail America? By not including the Republicans after they refused to be part of the investigation! Ed Kilgore hit this one out of the park, A Textbook Case of False Equivalency:

When Republicans “check out” of a bipartisan process because they cannot control it, it is by definition the fault of the Democrats for not finding a way to prevent it.

Lord-a-mercy. When a former Democratic senator — a former college president, for God’s sake — succumbs to this kind of “logic,” is it any wonder Republicans keep blowing things up so they can scream for fire trucks?

A Little Help From Our Friends

The Washington Post put together this color-coded map so you can follow along in the torture report to know where the atrocities were committed. Fun for the whole family!

Color Coded CIA Black Sites

That’s the great thing about invading a country — so much room to stretch out your torture program. But there’s more! Check out Max Fisher’s article at Vox, The 54 Countries That Helped the CIA With Its Torture-Linked Rendition Program. It’s not just Poland! But note: at least France and Norway are clear!

54 Countries That Helped CIA Torture

But don’t worry. That’s only 28% of the nations on earth.

How Despicable Are We? Let’s Count Some Ways!

Dylan Matthews at Vox put together, 16 Absolutely Outrageous Abuses Detailed in the CIA Torture Report. You will be aware of some of them, of course. It provides the relevant text from the report, but here’s the list:

  1. The CIA put hummus in a detainee’s rectum
  2. Interrogators forced detainees to stand on broken feet
  3. CIA interrogators threatened to sexually assault the mother of a detainee
  4. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded at least 183 times
  5. KSM and Abu Zubaydah nearly drowned to death during some of their torture sessions
  6. Abu Zubaydah lost his left eye in CIA custody
  7. The CIA conducted torture sessions knowing they’d worsen detainees’ injuries
  8. Detainees were kept awake for as long as 180 hours — over a week
  9. CIA interrogators broke down a detainee until they judged him “clearly a broken man”
  10. The interrogations probably killed at least one person
  11. The CIA tortured people before they even tried asking them to cooperate
  12. CIA interrogators objected to the torture but were told to keep going by senior officials
  13. At least 26 out of 119 known detainees were wrongfully held
  14. The CIA lied to the White House about the effectiveness of torture
  15. The CIA refused to vet participants in the torture program who had admitted to sexual assault
  16. They refused to impose disciplinary sanctions on an interrogator involved in a detainee’s death

Number 11 goes right along with what I’ve always said: torture wasn’t about getting information; it was about being “tough.” I’m so ashamed. But I’ve got to remember that no matter what we do, America Is Awesome!

Once a Liar…

The New York Times has reported that CIA Director of Public Affairs, Bill Harlow, claims that the CIA disagrees with the report, “We don’t think it’s true.” Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Jon Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution noted that, Organizer of Told CIA’s Most Blatant Lie about Iraq and WMD:

Bill Harlow told the CIA’s most blatant lie about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, just weeks before the US invaded in March, 2003. Here’s what happened:

By the end of February, 2003, the US case for war with Iraq was disintegrating. That February 15th had seen demonstrations of millions across the world in the biggest antiwar rallies in human history; the British parliament was showing signs it might vote against participating in the invasion; and most crucially, the UN had found no trace of WMD in Iraq.

At that point Newsweek published what was, to the Bush administration and CIA, the most terrifying story possible — that Iraq likely had no WMD, and the United States knew it.

What Newsweek revealed was that in 1995, when Hussein Kamel — Saddam’s son-in-law and head of Iraq’s WMD programs — had defected to Jordan, he told the UN, CIA and British intelligence that in fact Iraq had no WMD left.

According to Newsweek, “The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.” But the story quickly gained traction online, and when Reuters followed up on the Newsweek story, they went to Bill Harlow…

He then quoted Harlow from the Reuters‘ story saying, “It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.” Schwarz continued:

There’s absolutely no ambiguity here; Harlow was lying through his teeth. He wasn’t addressing what Iraq was doing in 2003, or even whether what Hussein Kamel had said in 1995 was true. Rather, he was simply addressing what Kamel said, something that the CIA knew with 100% certainty.

But it doesn’t matter. No one in the power elite like Bill Harlow is ever held accountable. They can lie and be caught again and again, but they are still treated as though their opinions matter. It’s an outrage Harlow isn’t in prison, much less being quoted as an authority by The New York Times.

Bleed for Me

This Dead Kennedys song is from 1982, when I thought we just supported countries that tortured. How far we’ve progressed! Backwards.

Odds and Ends Vol 13

Odds and EndsIs it ever time for a new Odds and Ends. I have so much stuff lying around, my desktop is getting out of hand. It’s interesting though. When I first started this series, it was to present stuff that I didn’t have much to add to. But I think everything today represents stuff I have an awful lot to say about. But enough is enough!

Third Languages

One of Frankly Curious‘ friends Infidel753 Blog turned eight this last week, so congratulations! I think that according to Catholic dogma, this means the blog is now officially responsible for its sins. But since Infiden753 (the human, not the site) is quite an outspoken atheist, it will be consigned to fire that never dies along with him. On the plus side, that’s where all the cool people go.

I found the following graph from the most recent of Infidel753′ great link round-ups. He does this kind of stuff much better than I can, because I just can’t stop myself from going on and on. Anyway, for this one I don’t have much to add. English is the most used language in the United States. Spanish is the second. [Spanish is not the most popular language in every state; see the article. -FM] But what is the third? Well, Slate put together a really great map of the third most used language in each state, Tagalog in California, Cherokee in Arkansas.

Third Most Used Language By State

Check out the article because there is a lot more to it. For those who don’t know it, “Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a quarter of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by the majority.”

Kevin Sorbo: Christian Racist

Via The Young Turks, actor Kevin Sorbo called the protesters in Ferguson “animals.” On his Facebook page, he wrote, “It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.” From my perspective, he made matters far worse when he apologized on TMZ. You can see it all in this video, which I completely agree with.

What I find interesting is that Sorbo is an outspoken Christian. Why is it that Christianity in this country is so often tied to racism? I’m not just ranting here. We know that the foundation of the religious right was racism and not abortion—an issue protestants really didn’t care about until well after Roe v Wade. I understand that for most Christians, their religion has almost nothing to do with theology. It is just a cultural signifier: they are the “right” kind of people. But how is it that their beliefs can be in direct opposition to the Gospels? I don’t get it.

Everyone In America Is Middle Class

Anat Shenker-Osorio proposed to answer an interesting question earlier this month, Why Americans All Believe They Are “Middle Class.” I’m afraid her answer was not all that interesting, however. She noted that regardless of how much money people get, they still see other people who they consider rich. On the other side, she posits that because even the poor have things that once were only available to the rich, people feel like they are living the middle class dream. I suppose those are true enough.

I’m more interested in the fact that only 2% of Americans consider themselves part of the upper class. Including upper-middle class still only gets you to 17%. That means that at least 15% of the people who are technically in the upper class claim they are in the middle class or below.What I hate about this is that people in the upper class have very nice standards of livings at the same time they tell themselves (And the world when a pollster calls!) that they are just a working stiff.

Ayn Rand and L Ron Top “Best Novels” List

Speaking of delusional people, in 1998, Modern Library published a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It’s filled with the sort of things you would expect: Joyce, Fitzgerald, Nabokov. But the following year, they did a non-scientific poll of readers and got their opinions. In the top ten novels include four by Ayn Rand and three by L Ron Hubbard. It also includes The Lord of the Rings, which as you may be aware, is not a novel; it is three. But Rand and Tolkien being in the top ten reminded me of this quote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

The books in the bottom 90 of the list are much more like the editors’ choices. But there are some odd choices like The Satanic Verses. Also there are seven Robert Heinlein novels. That’s interesting because I don’t think much of him as a writer or science fiction thinker. Also: he was very conservative with a military outlook on life. But he was nice Philip K Dick, so there’s that.

Judicial Confirmations

A few months back (See how it is?), Jonathan Bernstein wrote, McConnell’s Nuclear Blunder Haunts Republicans. At that time, there were fewer than 80 unfilled judicial vacancies. Bernstein’s point is that the McConnell game of just grinding the process to a halt has ended in the Republicans losing any power they had in the process. By blocking every nomination that came by, the Republicans have lost the ability to stop the handful that they have actual problems with.

Of course, it probably doesn’t matter for long. The Upshot‘s Senate Forecast now gives the Republicans a 65% of taking the Senate. Up until recently, their model has been pretty positive toward the Democrats. In fact, back in June it gave the Democrats almost a 60% of keeping the Senate. But no more. The only good news is that the model still predicts the most likely outcome to be a 51-49 division. If that holds, the Democrats will certainly take the Senate back in 2016—barring economic catastrophe.

Are Liberal Billionaires Good?

Even further back in time, Paul Waldman asked, Are Liberal Mega-Donors Just as Bad as Conservative Mega-Donors? My answer to this question is: in general, yes. He is pretty much on board with that, but he notes that this is really just a process story and what most people care about is results. He gives a great example:

Let’s say, for instance, that a billionaire had a company that developed a new energy technology that was so remarkable it provided low-cost, zero-carbon energy that could power every car, home, and business on earth, putting an end to the need for all fossil fuels and stopping climate change in its tracks. And he swooped into the election, spent half a billion dollars, and got a whole bunch of people elected who would ease the way for approval and adoption of his technology. And then let’s imagine that his girlfriend gave TMZ a tape on which he said that he didn’t give a crap about the planet, all he knew was that this was going to make him so much money he could spend the rest of his life snorting blow and having Nazi-themed parties at his estates while reclining on rugs made of baby harp seal pelts.

In that case, you’d have 1) a distorted election, producing 2) a wonderful result for humanity, 3) done for atrocious reasons. How would you feel about it?

I would only add that this is generally not the option. The reason we want to get money out of politics is that the big donors are not doing things that are good for our country. And it doesn’t matter in the least to me that the Koch brothers on the right or George Soros on the very moderate left think they doing what is best for the country.

Whitey on the Moon

And finally, this Gil Scott-Heron song “Whitey on the Moon” has been going through my head. The song was release in 1970, right at the time of the Moon landings. You can’t help but accept its logic: the Apollo missions were about the white elite class’ self-aggrandizement when there were so many problems here on the ground. Just the same, that was a time when the federal government was really trying to do something about poverty. What’s more, the Apollo missions were an expression of the best that humanity is. Still, I appreciate the resentment of this song:

That’s all for now. I’ll talk at you later today…

Odds and Ends Vol 12

Odds and EndsThis installment of Odds and Ends is going to be a bit strange I’m afraid, as you will see shortly. The first two items have been sitting around forever. And it reminds me that I need to create a special category for these, because the first two have nothing to do with politics. But we will get to politics shortly. Be prepared though, there is a big chunk of movie review in the second item. So buckle up, grab a cup of coffee, and read on!

  1. The French phrase “Les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire” literally means “Happy people have no history.” But there are a number of ways this can be interpreted. What it seems to actually mean is, “Happy people don’t make history.” There are two sides to this as far as I’m concerned. First, it is only the discontented who invent things or make great art. Pretty much all creativity is the result of someone who is not happy with what they find in life. And then there are all those “great” historical figures who don’t seem to be happy based upon the fact that they spend so much time killing people. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.
  2. Recently, I watched Dark Shadows again and so I had a better idea just what was going on in it. You may remember that I wrote about it over two years ago, Tim Burton’s Big Mess. Like most things, I had forgotten I had written it and largely had forgotten the film. So as I watched it, I went through the same process again—but with more insight. There are two problems with the film. First, it really is weak as pure entertainment. Second, and much more importantly, the politics of the film are some of the most vile stuff I’ve ever seen on the screen. So here are some additions to the previous article:

    As Entertainment

    A big problem with the film is that it is a mess structurally with far too many loose ends, plot holes, and things that make no sense whatsoever. But let’s leave that aside. That seems to be the consensus of other film reviews and I don’t think I have a lot to add to it.

    All the humor in the film is based upon two things. First, there is the fish out of water; Barnabas Collins is 200 years out of time. Second, there is the “proper gentleman” humor. I don’t think the film has a single joke that doesn’t date back at least a half century and probably more. An example of this is where Barnabas sees Karen Carpenter singing on the television and yells, “Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!” It works well enough because it’s Johnny Depp and we like him. But what kind of a writer puts such things in a script? The second kind of humor we see when Barnabas goes to his niece for romantic advice. I’m getting bored just writing about it.

    As Propaganda

    The propaganda aspects of the film are so much worse. When I first saw the film, I speculated that Barnabas was not in love with Angelique because of the class difference. I don’t know why I even questioned this. It is quite explicit. And it is clear that the filmmakers understood that they had a problem with it because at the end of the film, Barnabas gives a short speech about how he couldn’t love her because she only wanted to possess him. Blah, blah, blah. This creates a very big problem. Barnabas likes Angelique well enough to have sex with her, but not enough to take seriously as a mate.

    Then, after he spurns her, we are introduced to Josette—a woman we have no reason to think is deserving of being Barnabas’ love other than that she is blond and seems to be of the same social class as he is. Angelique has cause to be upset. I don’t think it is a misreading of the film to see misogyny. Angelique becomes more evil as she becomes more independent. And Barnabas’ choice for a mate was exactly the kind of woman that a late 18th century man would want. But she becomes the 20th century heroine?

    What’s more, Angelique’s behavior is understandable given what we know of human psychology. People who have nothing have more of a tendency to latch on. It isn’t surprising that a poor girl would want to possess him. But the entire film goes out of its way to see the world only from the perspective of the landed gentry. It’s just terrible. This is a story that Americans, of all people, want to watch? I guess so, because the film was modestly successful. And there has been talk of a sequel. If that happens, I’m afraid someone is going to have to put a stake through Tim Burton’s heart.

  3. You are probably aware that there has been a lot of right wing freak out about a change in immigration law enforcement that Obama has not yet done. I wrote about it last week, Reform Republicans Only Sound Reasonable—It’s in the Job Description. Well, Jonathan Chait chimed in the other day to say that Obama shouldn’t do what many think he will do, because norms matter. His argument is that if Obama breaks this norm, Republican presidents will later use this norm to, for example, “stop enforcing the payment of estate taxes.”

    I was glad to see that Brian Beutler at New Republic pushed back in a big way, The Liberal Fear of Obama’s Executive Action Is Irrational. It’s rather a long article, and well worth a full read. But basically his argument is the same as my argument was for filibuster reform: future Republican presidents will break norms regardless of what Obama does. Beutler even points out that Bush 43 didn’t enforce environmental laws. So what’s with all the worrying?

    Let me just add, that regardless of what Obama does, future Republican presidents will use him as an excuse for whatever they want to do. It is what they always do. As I’ve argued for a long time now: given that the moderates Clinton and Obama were both called socialists, they might as well have supported actual liberal policies. Democratic moderation and even conservatism is always met by the right with shouts of, “Socialism!”

  4. In truly terrifying news, RT reported, Water Reserves in Western US Being Drained Underground—NASA Study. Basically, as bad as things are with surface water here in the west, it is looking far worse in terms of our ground water supplies:
    The study by NASA and the University of California, Irvine found that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. It is the first time researchers have quantified the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states, NASA said…

    In the nine-year study, the basin—which covers Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California—lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total—about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers)—was from groundwater, according to a statement by NASA on the project.

    My main global warming concern other than biodiversity is rainfall. The whole thing does seem so hopeless. I’m sure that conservatives will continue denying the problem until well past the point of avoiding enormous damage—which is where we may already be. But here in the Home of the Free and the Land of Unaccountable, I’m sure these same conservatives will never have to admit that they had been wrong. I know that it’s kind of petty, but as our world is collapsing, will it be so much for all the deniers to admit being aggressively wrong? All I want is an opportunity to forgive them before the roving gangs kill us.

  5. Mark Ames has been doing some great reporting on the past of the libertarian Reason Magazine. Last month, he wrote, As Reason’s Editor Defends Its Racist History, Here’s a Copy of Its Holocaust Denial “Special Issue.” It’s amazing. It starts with this quote from the 1976 issue, “The German concentration camps weren’t health centers, but they appear to have been far smaller and much less lethal than the Russian ones.” If you don’t feel like reading it, here is an excellent interview with him on The Majority Report:

As Mr Moose Puppethead says, “Ha cha cha cha!”

Odds and Ends Vol 11

Odds and EndsHowdy, friends and neighbors! I gotta tell you, I was not planning to do an Odds and Ends today, but we are more than overdo. You know who does a great Odds and Ends kind of thing? Our friend Infidel753. And we’re not just talking politics either, or even mostly. I get a lot of great stuff from him. By the way, I asked him about that 753 thing and he responded, “The 753 refers to 753 BC, which is the traditional (though likely apocryphal) date of the founding of Rome. I’m interested in Classical history, as I hope my occasional posts about it show.” So there you go. I probably should have known that, but as you all know, I have this thing about numbers, which probably blinded me to its historical significance. I think you can guess what number I would follow with that series: 7, 5, 3… Anyway, like a reasonable person, he just provides simple introductions to articles whereas I am forced (it is the way of my people) to yammer on and on. So on I yammer.

  1. For years, everyone rolled down the windows of their cars when it got hot, because the air conditioner was assumed to consume so much energy. But then, the air conditioners got more efficient, or at least we were all fooled by those Car Talk guys, and we learned that it actually used less energy because cars are so aerodynamic when the windows were rolled up. So I was very interested to read Joseph Stromberg over at Vox, who tells us, Why Rolling Down Your Cars’ Windows Is More Fuel Efficient Than Using AC. Now maybe this isn’t always true. If you have a super aerodynamic car and you are traveling down the road at 100 mph, then okay, maybe use the AC. But for normal people: use the windows. Plus: your dog will like it more, not to mention your Komodo Dragon. (Anyone know that film reference?)
  2. This next article is so old, it is from when Matt Yglesias was still at Slate. (Since then, he’s moved to Vox where his work is arguably even better.) This article tells us something I already knew, but which won’t change our vindictive society in the least, Big Data Says You Should Hire Criminals. Basically, ex-cons are more productive on average. No one knows why exactly. One theory is that ex-cons are just glad to have a job and so they try harder. I don’t doubt that’s part of it. But also a big part of it is that ex-cons are (to use a term from pool hustling) working under speed. If there are two candidates for a job that are identical in every way except that one of them has a felony drug possession charge, you know which one is going to get hired. So if two people are doing the same job and one of them is an ex-con, he’s undoubtedly more skilled, more intelligent, more everything, really. People (white people anyway) think that people who break the law, serve their time, and then its over. It isn’t. It is held against you for the rest of your life. We are a cruel and stupid people.
  3. Being a short man, I know that it sucks to be short. Women generally prefer tall men, even though in my experience sex is better when you are roughly the same height. (Just saying.) In the business world, you are ignored. If you try to be assertive, you are said to have a Napoleon complex. And by the way: two brief points about the Napoleon complex. First, Napoleon is not short; that myth was the result of a unit conversion error. (Damned imperial units!) Second, psychologists have studied this supposed complex and have found that it doesn’t really exist. One study “discovered that short men were less likely to lose their temper than men of average height.” But mostly, they don’t find any difference.

    Well, one thing about being short is very good: you live longer. A 50 year study of 8,000 men found that shorter men live longer—especially very short men—5’2″ and below. It is thought that we only have so many cells to create in our lifetimes and being short requires fewer.

  4. This is very interesting. Jason Jones of The Daily Show went to India to study democracy there, in a multi-part segment, India Jones and the Election of Doom. Now, despite all the recent bad coverage, India has a vibrant democracy—a hell of a lot better than ours. But in the segment, he hired a journalist to write a paid article in the Millennium Post, Poll shows US Number A-1 Star Jason Jones does best Indian Election Coverage. Well, it was taken down. When the editors found out, they wrote, Dear Readers. And then, Moutussi Acharya wrote an opinion piece, Jon Stewart, America’s Biggest News Douche. Clearly, the article comes out of annoyance about the Jason Jones piece. But it makes a number of valid points, including the contention that the show has to twist itself in knots in order to maintain its impartiality. I would also note that usually when going after liberals, the show just isn’t as funny. But that could well just be my perspective.
  5. If The Upshot is supposed to replace FiveThirtyEight at The New York Times, it has failed completely. Because The Upshot is far, far better than FiveThirtyEight ever was—and currently is, unless you are into sports, where it is probably great. Anyway, a week and a half ago, Michael Paulson wrote, Americans Claim to Attend Church Much More Than They Do. Well, that’s hardly a shock. According to the article, “Americans continue to report high levels of belief and participation—more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit, and nearly 40 percent report weekly attendance at a worship service, numbers that have remained relatively unchanged for decades.” But it isn’t really about God. It is about this stupid American idea that being religious makes you a good person. Given how negative public Christianity is, I hardly think that’s true. But some researchers decided to check out how much people lie about their church attendance. They compared telephone surveys where people had to speak to other humans to online surveys where they didn’t. And they found that people reported a lot less church attendance when they weren’t trying to impress another human. Only 9% of white evangelical protestants (You know: the most hateful but also devout of the Christians.) admitted on the telephone to rarely or never going to church; online, the number almost doubled to 17%. Overall, 43% of Americans admitted that they rarely or ever went to church. The biggest disparity was among my fellow Catholics, who reported 15% on the phone and 33% online. But that’s to be expected; the great thing about being a Catholic is that getting forgiven is built right into the program!

    Speaking of Catholics, Brandon Ambrosino over at Vox published an article that didn’t surprise me, Catholics Are a Lot More Liberal Than Evangelicals. Part of this is the confessional. But I think a bigger part of it is that the Catholic Church doesn’t encourage people to read the Bible. All that Protestant garbage of finding God in that book of ancient folk tales only confuses people. And so they grab onto it in the most pathetic, simplistic, childish way. The Bible becomes literally true and inerrant. And what can they grab onto? Not the Holy Trinity, that’s one that professional theologians grapple with their whole lives. No, they grab onto homosexuality being a sin and women being subservient to men. No wonder the most explicitly protestant believers (the Evangelicals) are the most screwed up. I so wish there were an actual Christian God so that at some point, these people would be taken aside and told, “You know: you really blew it! You should have spent a lot more time on the Sermon on the Mount and a lot less on Leviticus. But you are forgiven, now go get your wings and harp…”

  6. You probably know Stuart Margolin as Angel on The Rockford Files and perhaps also that he is a big television director. But my friend Pow Wow reminded me that he is also a singer and songwriter. There isn’t much of him online. But here he is doing Chuck Berry’s great “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”:

Well, that’s enough for now. I’m going to have to create a category for these posts. Right now I put them in politics, but that isn’t right. They are their own thing. Anyway, until next time!

Odds and Ends Vol 10

Odds and EndsI just have a few shorts bits for you today. As usual: they are just things that I didn’t have a lot to say about but which are interesting. I have to say: I’m getting tired of talking about Republican racism. But the fact remains that racism seems to be all that they have to offer. In fact, Paul Krugman made that exact point in his column today, That Old-Time Whistle. There is also a great artist and a little microeconomics that may make a train ride much more pleasant.

  1. War of Southern Racism: There’s a whole lotta racism going on in the Republican Party, ain’t there? This time it is the genial Mike Huckabee. On 12 March, he was speaking to Susan B Anthony List. Now the SBA List might sound like a liberal group, but it is actually an extremist anti-choice group. Because, you know, the first thing people think of when they hear the name “Susan B Anthony” is abortion. Unless you listen to historians, who claim that Anthony did not spend any time on the abortion issue at all. Egghead scholars; who needs em?! But you get the idea: they are conservative extremists and so Mr Huckabee must have felt right at home. And that’s why he said, “I don’t believe I can own another person, I thought we settled that after the Civil War, or as some people in the South when I was young used to still call it, the War of Northern Aggression.” Ha ha ha! What a card that man is! But maybe Dave Weigel will want to explain how that isn’t racist. He should, actually; he’d have a hell of a lot better a case than he had with Paul Ryan.
  2. Potato Famine: Speaking of Paul Ryan, Timothy Egan wrote a great article in The New York Times, Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia. It turns out that Ryan’s great-great-grandfather fled the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s for the opportunity (and food) in America. Ryan is rightly proud of this legacy. But he also doesn’t seem to know much about it.

    The famine was the result of years of English abuse of the Irish peasantry leading to their dependence upon potatoes as a food source. When potato blight hit the island, the people starved. But as John Mitchel wrote, “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.” As Egan notes in the article:

    A great debate raged in London: would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

    Sound like anyone you know? Maybe the great-great-grandson of one of the Irish who escaped the famine? During the 2012 campaign, Irish historian John Kelly wrote, “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine—and hurt them badly.” I recommend reading the whole article; it is excellent.

  3. Homeward Bound: In case you don’t know, Andrea runs a couple of other blogs, one of which is ALE Designs, where she presents interesting artists who she comes across. There is always fun stuff there that is worth checking out. But a couple weeks ago, she featured collage artist Catrin Welz-Stein. She does wonderful, haunting, surreal work. You can see a bunch of her work on her Red Bubble page. But here is a great example of her work, Homeward Bound:
    Homeward Bound - Catrin Welz-Stein
  4. Monopsony: I don’t know a lot about microeconomics, probably because (1) I only took a single course in economics and (2) I’m not really interested in markets as such, but rather in the policies affecting all markets. But there is a very interesting microeconomic concept that I do find interesting: monopsony. This is a market where there are many sellers but only one buyer. Without strong unions, we have this in the labor market. Think about it: when McDonald’s advertises a job, a hundred people apply for it. That obviously gives McDonald’s the ability to dictate terms. Thus, McDonald’s effectively has a monopoly in the labor market. Pretty much all employers do. The next time you are forced to talk to some idiot conservative who claims that we can’t raise the minimum wage because “it’s just simple supply and demand,” throw the concept of monopsony at him. He’s probably never heard of it and so will stutter. This will give you the opening to change the subject to something he may know something about—like the weather.
  5. The Good News: At 84 years old, it isn’t great news that Fred Phelps is near death. It would have been great news if he had died much younger, before he was able to poison the world and abuse his children. But it is nonetheless good news that we may soon be rid of the hateful preacher. The news comes from Nathan Phelps, his son who escaped the hatred of his father’s church and is currently an LGBT activist in Canada. It isn’t his death that matters, of course. As I noted about Andrew Breitbart, I don’t know Fred Phelps. But his absence from our society will be a public good.

That was fast! And I got rid of a whole bunch of Chrome tabs. Onward we go!