Mooning the Supreme Court for their “town prayer” decision ….

This is for you, Supreme Court…at least for the conservative justices…

(ok, I admit that when I was taking yoga class our teacher tried to lead us in this type of stretch. I was walking into class (several minutes before it started and the teacher was facing away, practicing this…she looked between her legs, saw me and said “hi” and I think I kind of giggled..)

Still, back to the decision, which was 5-4:

In a major decision on the role of religion in government, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Constitution allows town boards to start their sessions with sectarian prayers. The ruling, by a 5-to-4 vote, divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, and their combative opinions reflected very different views of the role of faith in public life, in contemporary society and in the founding of the Republic.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that a town in upstate New York had not violated the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian and who sometimes used distinctly sectarian language. The prayers were ceremonial, Justice Kennedy wrote, and served to signal the solemnity of the occasion.

The ruling cleared the way for sectarian prayers before meetings of local governments around the nation with only the lightest judicial supervision.

Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court speaking at an event in Washington in 2012.Sidebar: For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With’MAY 5, 2014
The decision built on one from 1983 that allowed prayers at the start of legislative sessions. The two sides on Monday disagreed about whether town board meetings, which include not only lawmakers and spectators but also citizens seeking to do business with the government, are meaningfully different from legislative sessions.

The issue wasn’t that there was a type of prayer of some sort, but that the prayers at this meeting were deeply sectarian. However the town council did say that they attempted to recruit a variety of chaplains.

I am not qualified to rule on constitutionality, of course.

Interestingly, though I don’t like this decision, I am probably not as upset as those of minority faiths. To me, one form of superstitious mumbo-jumbo is not much different than another. I treat public prayers with an eyeroll. But to other “believers”, one person’s prayer might be blasphemy or evil.

Example: check out this prayer said before a rally for then candidate McCain; when they said this I had to work to keep from laughing out loud.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | big butts, religion, Republican, SCOTUS, social/political, spandex | , | Leave a comment

Big money, fragile egos, broken hearts and heart monitoring….

Workout notes I took it easy today; just 2200 yards (2000 m) of swimming:
warm up 250’s: 4 x 250 on the 5.
4 x (100 drill/swim with fins (fist drills, balance drills), 100 swim)
200 in 3:22 (I was hoping for faster)
100 back (fins)
50 fly kick
2 x 25 fly (no fins)

I moved the weight workout to tomorrow (after the on-campus 5K run)

Weather: cold, damp, dark…though it is supposed to clear up a bit tomorrow. Athletically: I fear that we’ll move from the 40’s to the 80’s in a week without time to adjust. I am going to have to do some of my running while overdressed.

Speaking of sports: those this “tape on” gadget is designed for health purposes, I can see coaches using it (is x mpm really your lactate threshold pace?).

Speaking of hearts: Yes, emotional trauma does take a physical toll; there is evidence for this in humans and other animals.

Blogging I did write last night, but not here. I wrote this. Though this math has been well known for a long time, it is very clever and relatively easy to implement.

But I have a few things to say today.

Money and politics Yes, the recent Supreme Court ruling allows for wealthy individuals to contribute to MORE people (it removes the cap one individual can give, though it leaves in place the amount that one can give DIRECTLY to a single campaign…of course there are ways of getting around this.

But this might encourage people to give directly to campaigns (where there is disclosure) instead of to the soft-money PACS (no disclosure required). This article is interesting, but my wild guess is that the very wealthy will merely do both.

Of course, those with power and influence want to keep using it without…well...meanies saying anything bad about them:

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page owns the deluded self-pitying billionaire screed genre, and today, it brings us Charles Koch. From the outside, Koch would appear to have it pretty good. He owns a vast fortune inherited in substantial part from his father. He commands enormous political influence, with hundreds of politicians and other political elites at his beck and call. But Koch’s view of himself is as a kind of ragtag freedom fighter hunted nearly to extinction.
Here is Koch attempting to explain the major source of his grievance:

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

So the trouble is that his critics attempt to “discredit” and “intimidate” him and employ “character assassination.” All these terms appear to be Koch synonyms for “saying things about Charles Koch that Charles Koch does not agree with.” In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy.

Those damned peasants don’t know their place! 🙂 I suppose that when you are that rich, you can buy whatever you want. So what else is there except for…well…the public just adoring you?

Paul Krugman puts it very well:

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | health, science, SCOTUS, social/political, swimming | | Leave a comment

Suckers, Flat Columns and Martian Oceans

Workout notes
AM: 6 mile walk (5 mile Cornstalk Hill course, with 1.2 mile flat neighborhood loop. Some issues with the piriformis (minor).

PM: 2200 yards: 10 x 25 fist, 25 free, 10 x 25 3g, 25 free, 10 x 100 on the 2: 25 fly, 75 free. Note: 1:55, 55, 53, 50, 50, 47, 47, 45, 46, 45, 200 cool down (150 back, 50 side). Started easily on the fly/free set and picked it up.

Very cool: it appears that Mars has underwater oceans (via Richard

According to a new study, Martian meteorites contain a surprising amount of hydrated minerals, which have water incorporated in their crystalline structures.

In fact, the study authors estimate that the Martian mantle currently contains between 70 and 300 parts per million of water—enough to cover the planet in liquid 660 to 3,300 feet (200 to 1,000 meters) deep.

“Basically the amount of water we’re talking about is equal to or more than the amount in the upper mantle of the Earth,” which contains 50 to 300 parts per million of water, said study leader Francis McCubbin, a planetary scientist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.[…]

McCubbin’s team found water while analyzing meteorites that had been blasted off the Martian surface by asteroid impacts and sent careening to Earth.

The meteorites are basaltic, which means the rocks must have formed from deep magmas brought to the surface during volcanic eruptions.

By carefully examining a mineral called apatite, McCubbin’s team found hydroxyl ions—a form of water that contains an oxygen atom bound to a hydrogen atom.

The presence of hydroxyl means that standard water—oxygen bound to two hydrogens—was also present in Martian magma. But because the hydroxyl is more tightly bound to rock than ordinary water, the ions remained behind when the rest of the water boiled out of the cooling lava.

From the amount of hydroxyl in the meteorites, it’s possible to reconstruct how much water is in Mars’s interior, McCubbin added.

“We’re using apatite as a hydrometer to record how much water was in the rock before it degassed,” he said. For instance, similar studies of lunar apatite in 2010 found that the moon’s interior is a hundred times wetter than previously thought.

Furthermore, he said, the Mars meteorites examined in the new study came from extremely young basalts, only 150 to 350 million years old.

Much more there, including stuff about how water could have erupted to the surface.

Media: this snarky piece in Gawker claims that Thomas Friedman really has only one column, or rather, column template.

Blogs: the bloggers at Cosmic Variance write about their ground rules and PWN the trolls.

President Obama

Yes, I keep getting e-mail messages asking for money. I am someone who gives a little bit every month. But I really don’t like the “give and have a chance to have dinner with the Barack” (or go here ore there with Mitt; Romney’s campaign does something similar).

Yes, I’d find it exciting, but I don’t pretend that I, individually, would have a unique insight to give. Yes, the President, on occasion, will give a random citizen a handwritten note in return for an e-mail. Frankly, if I won such a lottery (and yes, chances would be extremely remote), I’d pay my own airfare and tell him to spend that money winning the election.

On a somewhat more serious note, someone that I deeply respect, President Jimmy Carter, takes President Obama to task over human rights violations, including the drone strikes. I suggest reading this New York Times op ed.

I’ve struggled with these drone strikes for a long time. The negatives are obvious: innocent people are sometimes killed or wounded, and who decided who is to be killed? What about due process?

On the other hand: we are in a war with Al Qeada and have been for some time, and they aren’t a classic military nor are they conventional criminals. There are really two options: kill them or capture them. Is the latter really an option? I can see it being an option if we discover them in a country that has a functioning police force/government that will cooperate. But that isn’t where they hang out.

And if we don’t kill them when we have a chance, what do we say to their next victims (often Muslims in other countries)?
So, I didn’t criticize President Bush when he started this program and I don’t criticize President Obama for running with it…though this is a hard moral decision that must be made with the utmost care.

This big debate on health care and what we think about the upcoming SCOTUS decision really boils down to this: is it the proper function of government to tax everyone to ensure the well being of the less fortunate? The health insurance mandate does that. This Andrew Koppelman article in Slate discusses this and the “tough luck” wing of libertarianism. Note: mandates were discussed in the 2008 Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton favoring them and Barack Obama not favoring them. However President Obama let Congress write the law and he mandate was included as a possible way to get Republican support since this was initially a Republican idea.

Of course, Mr. Romney argued for mandates to eliminate free riders rather than to distribute risk (insurance works by getting lots of people in the pool, most of who won’t need it for expensive procedures).

Now when the decision comes out, will the public understand the decision? Probably not, argues Nate Silver in the New York Times:

Meanwhile, the level of public knowledge about the bill is relatively low. Many Americans do not know what exactly the bill does, or they have mistaken impressions about it. Dislike of the bill may reflect overall dissatisfaction with the direction of the country — and suspicion about government’s role in making sweeping reforms — as much as anything else.

In fact, a fair number of Americans do not seem to think that the health care bill exists any longer. About a quarter of Americans think the bill has already been repealed, while another quarter aren’t sure if it has been.

The take-away is simply that to the extent there are political implications from the court’s ruling, they are likely to stem from the headlines and not the fine print. If the court strikes the individual mandate while leaving the rest of the bill intact, for instance, Republicans will still have a strong talking point – the Supreme Court has ruled Mr. Obama’s most ambitious policy unconstitutional – even though this might represent a decent policy outcome for Mr. Obama as compared to a more sweeping ruling.

Economy Again
Paul Krugman talking at a book signing party; his piece runs 22 minutes; the rest is questions and answers (which was pretty good too)

It is a great way for confused conservatives to learn some economics!

June 27, 2012 Posted by | astronomy, Barack Obama, economy, health care, Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, republicans, science, SCOTUS, swimming, walking | Leave a comment

Pushing on….

Workout notes I started my run at just after 6 am; I ran the cornstalk hill out and back plus an extra 1.3 mile loop; 6.4 miles total (untimed).

Then my weight workout, taken at a slower pace with

leg weights (3 sets of lunges, 3 circuits of push-back, adduction, abduction),
8 x 20 sit ups,
rotator cuff (dumbbell, pulley)
rows: 15 x 180, 2 sets of 10 x 230 (Hammer machine)
pull ups: 4 x 10 (two with palms facing each other)
bench press: 10 x 135, 8 x 165 (lost control on rep 8), 4 x 175, 4 x 175
incline press: 10 x 135, 8 x 135
dumbbell military: 15 x 45, 13 x 45
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls (Lifestyle machine); 3 sets of 10 x 70. Love this machine.

This about sums it up.

April 3, 2012 Posted by | health care, political humor, political/social, SCOTUS | Leave a comment

Fact Checking, hominoid feet, mandates and anti-science…conservatives…er people…

Workout notes
Yoga with Ms. Vickie (uninspiring workout; I just wasn’t into it) followed by 1:08 worth of running. 21 minute warm up, 3.24 miles around the goose loop, 13 minute wind assisted run back. Call it 6.5 miles (easy). It was slightly chillier than it had been recently and somewhat windy; still great weather by “March in Illinois” standards.

Speaking of weather: so can we expect a hot “April/May” period followed by a brutally hot summer? Well, if past data is any indication….not really. The short: in the past, “warm March” does not correlate with “warm April” though this year might really be different.

Humor (I love the “butt” remark)

I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin killing some. Yes, I am astonished that Zimmerman has not been arrested as yet and his story makes no sense to me. BUT, some of the “arrest Zimmerman” crowd are saying things that make no sense at all. Here is such a case: listen to what Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC.

[…]If trayvon martin had thrown a punch, you’re talking about a citizen unarmed throwing a punch at an armed man who was following him. Why wouldn’t stand your ground protect trayvon martin ? Why does have the right to impede on him, which the evidence is clearly beginning to look like it’s not. What’s most distressing is we have to explain why it is problematic for an armed adult to kill an unarmed child.

Emphasis mine. Note: evidently the transcript is generated automatically; Ms. Perry speaks more eloquently than this.
I have no problem with anything she said, except for the last sentence.

Come on, Ms. Perry: had Mr. Martin really been attacking you, I don’t see it as problematic at all why you might shoot him. He was a 17 year old boy, and I can assure you that I was far stronger and more dangerous (physically) when I was 17 than I am now. Just check out the football recruits for a NCAA team some time. That statement is stupid.

Still, I think that this kid was being hassled while minding his own business and that Mr. Zimmerman needs to be arrested (and yes, there is a lot I don’t know, so my opinion is, by definition, not an informed one).

Human evolution
There is new information available about a hominoid that lived about the same time as Lucy, though this one spent time in trees.

Conservatives and Science Yes, it is easy to show that conservatives are more likely to reject evolution and climate science than liberals, and that holds true if one corrects for education level.

But liberals are more likely to embrace nonsense and woo (e. g. homeopathy). I see it this way: conservatives tend to make type II errors (fail to reject a false null hypothesis) whereas liberals tend to make type I errors (reject a true null hypothesis).

Try an experiment: walk into a Unitarian church and see if anyone embraces creationism or denies climate change. Then look at their “adult education” programs; you are likely to find talks on subjects like Reiki, dousing, and the like.

Fact Checking
I have mixed feelings about sites like Fact or Politfact. Their written analysis is usually pretty good; I do use that. But their “grading” scheme is bogus (example: is Paul Ryan proposing to “end Medicare as we know it”? I say “yes” and someone else might say “no”; to me, the yes/no part is opinion. What isn’t opinion is that Mr. Ryan proposes replacing the current Medicare system with a private insurance backed system; whether one calls this an “overhaul of the current system” or “ending the current system and replacing it with another system” is really a matter of semantics.
Anyway, I found this article about “Fact Check” sites (in the United States) to be very good. Upshot: the analysis of the news is important; unfortunately people all-too-often used “fact check” to label someone a “liar” or “truth teller”. Yes, Paul Krugman has a point about Politifact, but I still think that their analysis is pretty good.

Speaking of health care: it sure looks as if the health care mandate will be struck down. But will some of the law be allowed to stand?

NOTE The health care plan that Barack Obama campaigned on did NOT have a mandate; Hillary Clinton’s plan did. Mr. Obama thought that if the insurance was a good enough deal, people would want to buy it and there would be enough business to offset the costs of “free riders” (who would get hit with big penalties if they got sick..)

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, environment, evolution, health care, hillary clinton, media, politics, racism, science, SCOTUS, social/political, yoga | Leave a comment

1 June 2010 (am)

Workout notes Yoga class, then 4 miles at Jubilee Park with Vickie. I did 20 minutes easy (included some light drills) then 40 minutes of 1 on, 2 off, then 2 on, 1 off.

Injury notes: I noticed that my shoulder really made noise when I racewalked with my arms in the proper position; it sounded a bit like water in an ice cooler (swishing sound). That is probably why I have some right shoulder ache; hence I can probably do a few lifting exercises but I should walk “hiking style” with my arms at my sides for a while or only raise my arms when I walk slower. I’ll focus on posture and feet.

Speaking of yoga:

[…] Dr. Karen Mustian of the University of Rochester Medical Center decided to put a favorite practice of cancer survivors — yoga — to the test. In a paper she will present at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in June, Mustian designed a standardized program based on hatha yoga — a slow-moving form of the discipline — and tested its effect on improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.

Called YOCAS, the four-week program involved sessions of hatha and restorative yoga twice a week for 75 minutes each, in combination with breathing exercises and meditation. Among the 410 participants, who were divided into yoga and traditional follow-up care groups, those practicing yoga recorded nearly double the improvement in sleep quality and reduction of fatigue compared to those not practicing yoga. They also reported better quality of life overall, Mustian says. “And the yoga group had all of these benefits while reducing their use of sleep medication,” she says. […]

Mustian points out that not all yoga programs may necessarily have the same effect as those that the study discovered. She worked with yoga experts to generate a series of specific yoga exercises and postures that are targeted to address fatigue and sleep issues. But, she says, “clinicians could recommend to their patients that they might want to try taking gentle hatha yoga or restorative yoga classes, or one that combines these two techniques along with breathing exercises and mindfulness.” Now, she says, there is scientific proof that the benefits are worth the effort of seeking these programs out.


There appears to be truth here.

World Events: Israel’s attack on Gaza relief boats: I haven’t said much about this. The reason is that I am not very optimistic that the United States will do anything about it; our country is too tied to Israel:

The violence on the flotilla headed for Gaza would seem to be unambiguously bad news for Israel. In boarding a civilian ship carrying humanitarian aid supplies, and involving themselves in an incident that led to at least ten civilian deaths, it seems clear that the Israeli Defense Forces have incurred a political cost for Israel that far exceeds whatever national interest they thought they were protecting. Europe is outraged, Turkey is cutting off ties, and an explosion in the occupied territories looks possible.

It’s never easy to make guesses about what will happen in Middle East politics. But I think we’re blowing the event out of proportion — not in its moral gravity, but in its likely immediate political consequences.

First of all, the most crucial relationship Israel has is with the United States, and there isn’t much indication yet of that this will alter that relationship. The hard consensus at the elite level in favor of tolerating whatever Israel wants to do rests on a soft consensus in American public opinion. Both are likely to survive this in some slightly diminished form, as they’ve survived the two Lebanon wars (complete with thoroughly unprovoked massacres), the small Gaza war and the formation of an Israeli government including a quasi-fascist foreign minister. […]

Seeing conservatives rally to Israel’s defense and liberals agonize and waffle, Americans who are paying even moderate attention will probably just figure that this is more of the usual. While the Obama administration has been trying to apply pressure to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we’ve yet to see any willingness to expend significant political capital on the effort. This latest might give President Obama more leverage, and lend weight to his warnings that Israel is undermining its own long-term political standing. But it seems equally likely that it won’t have any significant short-term consequences, and Israeli conservatives will figure that everything turned out for the best.

Social: Nicki’s Nest has an interesting link: did this school bus driver overstep in confronting this student on her bigotry?

Religion Here is another case of a Muslim country invoking the death penalty for someone leaving Islam. One cannot justify this.

Nature: I’ve never seen anything like this:

Yes, is a sinkhole in Guatemala City.

Elitism I am not one of those who complains that the Supreme Court of the United States consists of graduates from the elite law schools. Here is why. Hat tip: Legal Satyricon Note: I don’t see a colorful backpack with OBAMA on it as evidence of “Idiot America”; after all one of my running shirts is tie-dye and has Ronald Reagan on it (from a 1997 race):

Some political figures ARE popular icons.

And, conservatives should NEVER throw stones about Idiot America:

Note: some of these photos predate the “teabagger” movement; the “morans” photo was taken while President Bush was in office.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, education, Friends, injury, Judicial nominations, Middle East, political humor, politics, politics/social, racewalking, religion, Republican, republicans, republicans politics, SCOTUS, training, walking, yoga | Leave a comment

So the Sex Lives of SCOTUS Justices are Fair Game

What about Justice Scalia? Michale Kinsley wants to know:

Let me be clear: the issue is not the fact that Scalia has chosen to have nine children. That is his personal business. The question is whether he is an extremist advocate of the so-called “Nine Children Agenda.” Can he deal open-mindedly with children’s issues when he has so many himself? Can he persuade his children to recuse themselves when appropriate (or, in the vernacular, “Just shut up, will you? I’m trying to write an opinion here. Sweetheart, could you please come and take him…stop climbing up my leg…watch it with that glass of water, buddy…no, that’s some condemned prisoner’s brief that daddy has to reject, so don’t …would somebody please take this kid…LOOK OUT for the… Jesus H. Christ, how am I supposed to get any work done”?).

Speculation is already rampant about why Scalia chose nine children over a more conventional lifestyle. Is he a sex maniac? That suspicion naturally arises. But perhaps once he started, he just never got around to stopping. Or maybe he just likes children. In recent days, Scalia’s friends have rushed to his defense, going out of their way to portray him as a model of sexual restraint. “Every Friday a bunch of us used to go down to this bar to pick up women,” one of his college roommates recalls. “We’d always ask Nino if he wanted to join us, but he always said he was too busy studying. Frankly, we thought he was gay.”

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Judicial nominations, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics, SCOTUS, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

12 May 2010 (am)

Workout notes 2650 swim; 500 pull (easy), 10 x (25 fist, 25 free) on the 1, 10 x (25 3g/25 free) on the 1:10, 10 x 50 free on the 1, then 3 x (100 pull, 100 paddle) + 50 back pull cool down.
Yes, this was the last morning swim of the semester and there were two women in little bikinis there! 🙂 Ok, then two stinky guys showed up. 😦

Afterward, I went upstairs, walked 2 miles (3.2 km) on the track at a 14:xx pace (some “form” 200 meter) then finished with 1 treadmill mile on an incline: 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and focused on bending my knees.

Local at 6:15 the city had a riding power mower mowing the median in front of our house. Our neighborhood is never quiet during the day; there is a constant drone of power tools and lawn mowers. Reason: most people here can afford a lawn service or the landlords (who rent to students) contract out the lawn work. So during the day, there is ALWAYS droning and the whine of engines; you don’t hear this as much in the other neighborhoods I walk in.

I suppose this is one reason I love the long walks on trails; it is one of the few times one actually gets some semblance of quiet.


Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house

Bill O’Reilly snivels about most Americans not being to name the 9 Supreme Court Justices. Ok, here is my confession: I could only name eight: Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Ginsberg, Stevens and Sotomayor. I missed one of the liberals: Breyer. But guess what: O’Reilly got it wrong too! He thought that Souter was still on the SCOTUS.

H Y P O C R I T E.

Now about Kagan: yes, some conservatives are lampooning her lack of physical attractiveness.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

This is Justice Scalia:

(yes, he is a brilliant man)

This is from a tea-party rally in 2009:

Really conservatives: when it comes to physical unattractiveness, you have no room to throw stones.

Fun: A fellow progressive atheist blogger shows off her Joe Biden “HCR is a BFD” shirt. Yeah, she looks great in it.

(surf to her blog to see the full sized photo)

Politics The UK had their elections. No party won a majority but the Conservatives won a clear plurality. So, after negotiations, the Liberal Democrats (who ARE liberal) formed a coalition government with them. Evidently, liberal-conservative coalition governments are not that uncommon in Europe.

Economy This is interesting: Senator Lincoln Blanche is under fire and is likely to be one blue dog who loses her seat. But she has a good idea. Robert Reich explains:

Right now, the biggest battle in bank reform is over a provision introduced by Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas that would force the giant Wall Street banks to give up their lucrative derivative trading businesses if they want the government (i.e. taxpayers) to continue insuring their commercial deposits.

The five biggest Wall Street banks have had the derivatives market (derivatives are bets on whether the price of certain assets will rise or fall, bets thereby “derived” from asset prices) almost entirely to themselves. Last year their revenues from derivatives trading totaled a whopping $22.6 billion. Their advantage comes from their large size, plus government insurance of their commercial deposits that allows them to raise money more cheaply than other financial institutions.

Derivatives lie at the point where the basic saving-and-lending function of commercial banking meets the private casino of Wall Street investment banking. You and I subsidize the biggest players in the casino who, precisely because we subsidize them, have grown too big to fail. The Glass-Steagall Act once prevented the casino from using commercial deposits, but since 1999, when Glass-Steagall was repealed, the game has exploded. That’s part of the reason the giants on Wall Street could make wild bets that ended up threatening the entire economy, costing millions of Americans their jobs and savings, and requiring a massive taxpayer-financed bailout.

Lincoln wants to force the banks to put their derivatives into separate entities that aren’t subsidized by you and me. This is just common sense. Her move would also end the big banks’ monopoly over derivatives, thereby reducing their risk to the financial system. It would also cut dramatically into the big banks’ profits.

Professor Reich thinks that her idea has a chance of becoming law; surf to his blog (link above) to see his political analysis.

PZ Myers gets it right: violence is not free speech:

Lars Vilks, the cartoonist who drew Mohammed as a dog, has been attacked while lecturing on free speech. He was not seriously harmed. There is a video clip showing the attack, the chanting spectators, and the police quelling the mob.

Surf to the blog to see the “offending cartoon”; it really isn’t much. Also: hat tip to the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Biden, blog humor, Blogroll, economy, Friends, health care, Joe Biden, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, republicans politics, SCOTUS, superstition, swimming, training, walking | Leave a comment


Personal commentary On some websites, I’ve seen some people lampoon Kagan’s appearance (e. g., unattractive). Often those doing the lampooning are themselves, well, rather unattractive unless you find belly buttons pointing at the ground attractive.

Hey, if you have an issue with her and don’t like her due to one issue or another: fine. Make the criticism. But what is the deal with appearance? She wasn’t nominated to be a Hooters server.

About the issues:

Democratic Convention Watch has a nice “point/counter point”.

There is some trepidation from the left: (see the discussion here); some feel that she is too soft on First Amendment issues; rather than taking “here is a line on what is protected speech” she seems ok with asking “why is the government seeking to regulate this speech” which man First Amendment advocates see as a “slippery slope”.

Others see here as being “too accommodating”; this would tend to give validity to right wing arguments.

Of course, much of the right wing attacks are nonsense; Media Matters has a collection of these here.

Some have pounced on a remark that she made about agreeing with Justice Marshall about the original Constitution being flawed (he was talking about slavery).

One wonders if the GOP would have attempted some sort of filibuster no matter who the President nominated; Senator Leahy lampoons this.

One interesting point: it seems as if Republican nominees become “foam at the mouth rightwing radicals” when they are nominated but the more liberal nominees tend to run away from their ideology. We liberals are still timid rabbits.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Judicial nominations, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics, SCOTUS | Leave a comment

10 May 2010 (am)

Injury notes The shoulder seems better; slight ache behind the knee at night.

Posts: here is an interesting take on current politics:

Here’s Evert’s Nutshell, which hit me in a road-to-Damascus eureka moment:

Angry left-wingers mutter to themselves: “Rich people are ripping me off.”

Angry right-wingers mutter to themselves: “Poor people are ripping me off.”

With this nutshell in hand, I believe I can explain even the all-over-the-place Tea Party movement to you. I hazard to suggest we’ve hereby arrived at the basic fact of American Politics 101. In fact, I believe Evert’s Nutshell best explains everything anybody ever wanted to know about American politics. Keep this nutshell in mind, and you’ll understand everyone from Barack Obama to Jim De Mint to Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh to Firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher to your neighbor.

If you’re in any position of power, like the folks I just mentioned, who believe they’re too smart and powerful to be ripped off by anyone, the nutshell changes emphasis. It becomes this:

Power people on the left declare to themselves: “I must help the poor people — and middle-class people — who are being ripped off by rich people.”

Power people on the right declare to themselves: “I must help the rich people — and middle-class people — who are being ripped off by poor people.”

Some power people even believe a little in both statements, which is what makes a guy like Obama confusing, especially to the left.

Anyway, if you get this, you get today’s American politics.

SCOUTS Evidently the President has a nominee. Here is a “good/bad” (expect to see these arguments) and here is an analysis of her record of hiring women and minorities. You can see more here. Of course the purity trolls won’t be pleased but they never are.

Education: here is an interesting read on the experience of Chinese teachers in the United States. Of interest:

Zheng Yue, a young woman from China who is teaching her native language to students in this town on the Oklahoma grasslands, was explaining a vocabulary quiz on a recent morning. Then a student interrupted.

“Sorry, I was zoning out,” said the girl, a junior wearing black eye makeup. “What are we supposed to be doing?”

Ms. Zheng seemed taken aback but patiently repeated the instructions.

“In China,” she said after class, “if you teach the students and they don’t get it, that’s their problem. Here if they don’t get it, you teach it again.”

Ms. Zheng, 27, is teaching Chinese in Lawton — and learning a few things herself about American culture — because of a partnership between an agency of China’s Education Ministry and the College Board.

China wants to teach the world its language and culture, and Ms. Zheng is one of about 325 guest teachers who have volunteered to work for up to three years in American schools, with their salaries subsidized by the Chinese government. A parallel effort has sent about 2,000 American school administrators to visit China at Beijing’s expense.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | education, injury, Judicial nominations, politics, politics/social, SCOTUS | Leave a comment