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UNDERNEWS: August 16, 2011

UNDERNEWS: August 16, 2011

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it

THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW

Eternal fundamentals of leadership (Rev. 8/14/11)

Sam Smith

I have been trying to understand the new eternal fundamentals of leadership according to the likes of Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and others who see government and non-profits as badly in need of corporate principles. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Please copy it promptly as I may be laid off later today with this post removed.

• Fire, don't inspire
• Test, don’t teach
• Statistics are just another form of adjective. Use them at will
• Treat everyone – including citizens, patients, students, teachers, and volunteers – as corporate employees.
• With enough public relations, personal relations aren’t necessary.
• Internal organization is far more important than external programs
• Statistical margins of error don’t apply when numbers improve. Acceptable progress need only be a decimal point away.
• Dismantle, don’t build
• Civility reflects inability
• Reserve all creativity for budgets and annual reports.

More great ideas of Rick Perry

Culled from Rick Perry’s book, Fed Up, by Matthew Yglesias

According to Perry Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”

Establishing Medicare in 1965 and expanding it to include prescription drugs in 2003 are examples of “an irresponsible culture of spending in Washington.”

Criticizing the Security and Exchange Commission’s rulemaking process under the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, Perry asserts that “if the Constitution were shown the appropriate respect, Washington regulation writers wouldn’t have to worry about underrepresented views, because they wouldn’t have control over them in the first place”

Further reiterates his view that all federal financial regulation is illegitimate, listing the SEC on page 44 as part of a “federal alphabet soup” in which “undemocratic unelected Washington bureaucrats” are “now (dubiously) empowered to dictate their own preferences to the American people.”

Rather than simply citing chattel slavery as an exemption to his “states’ rights are good” principle, Perry argues that slaveholder activism in the 1850s was an example of big government federal overreach. “In many ways it was was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated in the run-up to the Civil War,” he argues, citing the Fugitive Slave Act and completely ignoring the human rights of the enslaved African-Americans of the south.

The eyes of US are on Texas

1. Texas leads the nation in the percentage of its population without health insurance (2010).
2. Only one state covered a smaller share of its poor population with Medicaid (PDF).
3. It's also number 1 in the percentage of children who lack insurance (2009).
4. Texas ranks dead last in the number of women who receive early prenatal care (2010).
5. It has the sixth highest rate of infectious diseases in America (2010).
6. It ranked 35th in the share of its children being immunized (2010)...
7. ...And 40th in overall health (2010).
8. Texas had the ninth lowest level of health care spending per person (2010).
9. Texas ranked 36th in the nation in terms of its high school graduation rate (2010).
10. It has the lowest share of the population aged 25 and older holding a high-school diploma of any state (2008).

From out overstocked archives. . . .

There is a religious test for high office and here it is

Sam Smith

From an earlier campaign

We are once again being treated to that remarkably self-serving and hypocritical myth that there should be no religious test for high office. For one thing, it's a lie: if you aren't religious, you don't get high office. For another thing, if you are religious, you spend a good deal of your campaign convincing some voters just how faithful you are while trying to fool the rest into thinking that it doesn't make any difference. In both cases, the unusual aspect of the test is that no one is meant to think it exists.

As yet another public service, the Review proposes to bring the religious test out of the closet and into the debate in a reasonable fashion, helping the voter judge the relative worth of various candidates' Leave No Apostle Behind programs.

RELIGIOUS TEST FOR HIGH OFFICE

Does the candidate belong to one of the kookier sects such as Scientology or Mormonism? What does this suggest about the candidate's ability to deal rationally with real situations and the quality of that candidate's judgment?

Is the candidate a saint in the church but a devil under cover? As Mahalia Jackson put it, "I can't go to church and shout all day Sunday, come home and get drunk and raise hell on a Monday."

Does the candidate try to appear highly religious to one set of voters and highly broad minded to another?

If the candidate is Episcopalian, to which branch does he or she belong: the high and crazy, broad and hazy or low and lazy?

Which aspects of the candidate's own religion or its history will that candidate openly condemn?

Is faith used by the candidate as a space filler for the absence of facts or is it used as a false replacement for facts?

Does faith primarily influence the candidate by providing positive values or by supplying wildly unsupportable information posing as truth?

Would the candidate support the end of discrimination against secularists? For example, would the candidate support an atheist opening sessions of the Senate and would the candidate host idea breakfasts as well as prayer breakfasts at the White House?

Does the candidate think God talks to him? How does one distinguish this from the heard voices that lead others to be committed to mental institutions?

Does the candidate believe God is responsible for improvements in poll numbers? Does the candidate agree with Mike Huckabee's assessment: "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people?"

If, as Mitt Romney claims, "We are a nation under God, and we do place our trust in him," and if as Barack Obama says, "What role does [religion] play? I say it plays every role." then shouldn't there be a religious test of candidates so we can tell who God trusts the most?

Since there supposedly isn't a religious test for high office, why does Mike Huckabee run TV ads proclaiming himself a "Christian leader?”

Why does the media use the term "pro-family" to describe Republican policies when the divorce rate in heavily GOP states in the Mid West is higher than in God-forsaken Massachusetts?

If there is no religious test than why are issues like abortion and gay marriage so important, since the about the only people worried about them are religious fundamentalists?

Mitt Romney says, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." What section of the Constitution is that in? What if one seeks freedom from religion?

If there is no religious test for high office, why does a new president have to take an oath using a Bible?

Former Salt Lake City mayor divorces himself from Democratic Party

Deseret News - One of Utah's most liberal politicians has divorced himself from the Democratic Party. In a harshly worded email, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson this week asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to remove his name from its list.

"I'm done with the Democratic Party. As I said on Amy Goodman's show a couple years ago, I've put my 'Proud Democrat' coffee mug in storage. I think now I'll just throw it in the garbage and have done with it," he wrote.

Anderson said in an interview that he thinks people are fed up with the Democratic and Republican parties, Congress and the Obama administration to the point of being ready to do something about it.

"I think the answer is a new political party that actually will advocate for and promote the interests of the public rather than the narrow interests of the wealthy who bought and paid for not only Congress but the White House," he said.

Though he doesn't have plans to run for office, Anderson said he would be interested in working with others to form a new party.

A good chunk of the letter deals with what he sees as the party ignoring torture and war crimes at the highest level of government.

"The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper," he wrote. "It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party."

Wikipedia - "Under his mayorship, the city has purchased wind power, increased recycling, and is converting its fleet of city vehicles to alternative fuels. Anderson has supported initial measures to make the city more bicycle-friendly and pedestrian-friendly while opposing "monster" home rebuilding projects in the historic Avenues and Sugar House districts. He helped manage the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and is a major proponent of downtown revitalization projects. He is an ardent opponent of tobacco use and has supported legislative measures limiting smoking; conversely, he is one of the most outspoken public critics of Utah's strict alcohol laws (state law permits the sale of alcohol only in restaurants, private clubs, and state-run liquor stores).

"Anderson opposes English-only legislation, supports gay rights and same-sex marriage, and has launched living wage initiatives. This is notable in the state that in the 2004 presidential election gave George W. Bush his greatest percentage of the vote of any state in the Union. .

"In 2000, Anderson had Salt Lake City police officers end their participation in the DARE. program. He was characteristically blunt, telling DARE. officials: 'I think your organization has been an absolute fraud on the people of this country ... For you to continue taking precious drug-prevention dollars when we have such a serious and, in some instances, growing addiction problem is unconscionable.'.

"Anderson attracted praise and scorn in August 2005 when, after accepting an invitation from the Bush administration to participate in a visit by the President, he sent an e-mail to local advocacy leaders calling for 'the biggest demonstration [Utah] has ever seen' to protest Bush's appearance at Veterans of Foreign Wars' national convention at the Salt Palace. Speaking to a rally in Pioneer Park (in downtown Salt Lake City), Anderson justified his protest against Bush, suggesting that the 'nation was lied into a war.'". . .

"Incidentally, Anderson was raised LDS but is no longer associated with the church."

Lenders stlll engaged in criminal acts

Jim Hightower, Common Dreams - Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, . . were caught falsifying thousands of documents and taking illegal shortcuts that were causing innocent families to lose their homes. They had to pay fines, make restitution, suspend foreclosures, and pledge to clean up their act.

To foreclose on someone's home, an authorized bank employee must sign the foreclosure document, swearing that the facts in it are true. But that requires hiring people to review each case. To avoid that cost, they take an illegal shortcut by signing the name of someone who has not read the document and might not even exist.

In one Massachusetts county, for example, the signature of "Linda Green" has recently appeared on some 1,300 foreclosures. Curiously, her signature was written in many different styles, and she had many different titles. Also, there's no Linda Green presently working in the mortgage banking company involved. Meanwhile, state officials say that robo-signing is, once again, "an epidemic" all across the country.

It's a federal crime to do this, yet no bank or banker has even been charged. Until we put a CEO in jail, the banking barons will never learn their lesson.

92% of Foreclosures in New York Lack Proper Documents

Pentagon working on war with China

Stephen N Glain, Salon - This summer, despite America’s continuing financial crisis, the Pentagon is effectively considering trading two military quagmires for the possibility of a third. Reducing its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan as it refocuses on Asia, Washington is not so much withdrawing forces from the Persian Gulf as it is redeploying them for a prospective war with its largest creditor, China.

According to the defense trade press, Pentagon officials are seeking ways to adapt a concept known as AirSea Battle specifically for China, debunking rote claims from Washington that it has no plans to thwart its emerging Asian rival. A recent article in Inside the Pentagon reported that a small group of U.S. Navy officers known as the China Integration Team "is hard at work applying the lessons of [AirSea Battle] to a potential conflict with China."

How Bachmann bought the Iowa straw poll

Paul Krugman - Headlines on FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, and all over the web should have been “Randy Travis Wins Ames Straw Poll Edging out Ron Paul” instead of headlines which touted Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s victory. Bachmann spent upwards of $1 million, paid for over 6000 tickets, paid for Grammy Award winning, country musician Randy Travis to show up, and bussed in Randy Travis fans in order to secure 152 more votes than Congressman Ron Paul. Michele Bachmann’s camp handed out flyers, which stated that in order to see the entertainment, you had to vote for her first.

Though she may have won the Ames Straw Poll, Bachmann will not be able to bus in country music fans for a free show for a vote scheme at the Iowa Caucus in 2012.
Obama vs. FDR
David Michael Green, Information Clearninghouse - Franklin Roosevelt, easily the most transformative figure in American history, gave us a New Deal, which was quite literally that. Roosevelt and his fellow travelers in and out of government changed the essential terms of political economy in America, such that it was no longer a game entirely for the benefit of the wealthy. Mind you, those rich folks still did real well, thank you very much, and it is correctly argued that Roosevelt actually saved capitalism from capitalists – so, when it comes to FDR, we’re not talking about Leon Trotsky here. But Roosevelt’s program changed the rules of labor relations, taxation, government spending, regulation and so on, a reform that had the ultimate effect of redistributing wealth in America, so that the richest among us no longer had it all. And, in the process, this massive sea change in public policy also created a giant middle class that had not existed before, and launched an era of prosperity in this country that may have no equal across all of human history . . .

For fifty years there was a broad consensus in America around the values of the New Deal and the lessons learned from the period preceding it. That consensus began unraveling in the 1980s, and has continued to do so ever since. The essential narrative of the last thirty years is the story of the dismantling of the New Deal, and with it the broad and shared prosperity that Americans once enjoyed. This process has occurred piecemeal, because it had to, because in fact both the deal of the New Deal era and the values it personifies are highly popular with the American public. . .

The Obama presidency, on the other hand, has been crushing to the spirit, and more so because even disappointed liberals still don’t get it, thinking he’s a wimp or a lousy poker player, when in fact he is – like Clinton before him – just another kleptocrat, come to sell out not just the country, but also the ideology of liberalism and the political party which once embodied those principles. Most horror story politicians would be satisfied just to wreck their country in the name of personal narcissism. Obama is additionally destroying a set of crucial and hard-won ideas along with a political party in the bargain.

He is the anti-FDR in every meaning of that term. FDR saved the country. Obama is burying it. FDR created the Democratic Party as we (used to) know it, once probably the most formidable political machine in American history. Obama is dragging it curbside. FDR gave America its social contract. Obama is dismantling it. FDR reveled in the hatred of the greedy thuggish scum who despised him. Obama keeps hoping they’ll like him and invite him over for a beer if only he lets them pass his limp body around the jail cell one more time. FDR was America’s greatest president. Obama is undoubtedly one of its worst.

What is most disheartening is that Americans don’t even understand the experiment they’ve been subjected to these last thirty years. They seem to get the fact that it has failed, but they don’t know what “it” is. How many people know that regressives have won more or less every single economic policy battle of the last three decades, from taxes to trade to labor relations to deregulation to privatization to subsidies and beyond? . MORE

Police blotter: Teen vampire

Gawker - Lyle Bensley, a 19-year-old from Galveston, Texas, broke into a complete stranger's apartment early Saturday morning wearing only his boxer shorts. He then walked into the resident's bedroom, and began making "growling and hissing noises" while "biting and hitting" her, according to Galveston police.

The woman escaped and ran into the parking lot, taking refuge inside a car driven by a neighbor. Bensley beat on the car as it drove away. After a short chase, the police apprehended Bensley, who told them: "I'm a vampire, and I've been alive for over 500 years."

"He was begging us to restrain him because he didn't want to kill us," Galveston Officer Daniel Erickson said. "He said he needed to feed."

Just wondering

If Rick Perry is elected president and then he decides again that he wants to secede, do we have to go with him? - Josiah Swampoodle

How political punditry works

Glenn Greenwald - How punditry works: 3 weeks ago, Jonathan Bernstein, in the WashPost, mocks the idea as "sillÿ" that Pawlenty is in trouble ("It's time to buy Tim Pawlenty stock. . . . He remains a very viable candidate in a field without many of them")

Then, when Pawlenty drops out a mere 3 weeks later, Bernstein goes to his blog and declares that it's "no great surprise" -- he expected this all along! -- never mentioning his very recent, very wrong proclamations to the contrary.

Encourage you kids to go into political journalism: it's the most accountability-free profession on the planet.

Scotland Yard hacked Blackberrys during riots

Guardian, UK - Scotland Yard stopped planned attacks by rioters on iconic sites across London hours before they were to take place after they managed to "break into" encrypted social messaging sites, it has emerged.

Attacks on the Olympics site, upmarket stores in Oxford circus and the two Westfield shopping centres in east and west London were plotted using BlackBerry Messenger.

Detectives made the breakthrough hours before the planned attacks after scouring the mobile phones of people who had been arrested during the riots. It gave them access to the messages planning riots and looting, which were bouncing around the heavily encrypted BlackBerry Messenger service.

In effect by last Monday afternoon they were able to monitor BlackBerry messaging, and send extra officers to disrupt attacks on the high profile sites in the capital – attacks that would have heightened the sense of threat and danger felt by Londoners.

Bachmann fibs about her family

Politicall Wire - "On her victory lap of Iowa yesterday, Straw Poll winner Rep. Michele Bachmann paid repeated tribute to her local roots, and repeatedly mentioned her family reunion that day, citing it as an excuse for her late arrival at a local party event in Waterloo," Ben Smith reports.

"But Bachmann's mother and two cousins told Politico's Emily Schultheis that Bachmann didn't attend the reunion, though her husband and children did. Her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, didn't respond to two emails asking for an explanation of the disparit

Sleepers

"As the world is getting faster and crazier, I've noticed sleepers around the streets, just everywhere," writes photographer Romain Philippon. "Of course, I also see some poetry and dreamings in all of that, but the contrast is so interesting to me, people trying to escape to their condition…" Philippon is self-publishing a book on the topic called "Inconscience". The Boston Globe has posted eight of these great shots.

Why is the media dissin' Ron Paul?

Jon Stewart provides a great two minutes of proof.

GOP Platform

Rick Perry is now saying that any more emergency efforts by Ben Bernanke to resuscitate the economy would be "almost treasonous."

GOP race to the bottom

So you won't have to bother, we;re keeping track of how often GOP presidential candidates say or do something silly, mean or dumb. Here are the current rankings of the worst contenders:

1. MICHELLE BACHMANN
2. RICK PERRY
3. RICK SANTORUM
4. HERMAN CAIN
5. SARAH PALIN
6. NEWT GINGRICH

More than a quarter milllion organic farmers sue Monsanto

Grow Switch - More than 270,000 organic farmers are taking on corporate agriculture giant Monsanto in a lawsuit . Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the family farmers are fighting for the right to keep a portion of the world food supply organic¬and preemptively protecting themselves from accusations of stealing genetically modified seeds that drift on to their pristine crop fields.

On loving trains

Sam Smith

There is considerable irony in a newspaper that decries cutting subsidies of business class trains (a.k.a. high speed rail) as “harebrained” also running an article that argues that “The link between trains and autism is well documented. . . People with autism have difficulty processing and making sense of the world, so they are drawn to predictable patterns, which, of course, trains run by.”

In fact, only once in her article, did New York Times reporter Christine Haguney suggest that there might be some other reason for loving trains, conceding grudgingly that “Of course, not every child taken with Thomas the Tank Engine has autism..”

Otherwise, Haughney offers us passages like:

“Like many children with autism spectrum disorders, Ravi is fascinated by trains and buses, entranced by their motion and predictability.”

“The link between trains and autism is well documented. Autism refers to a spectrum of disorders that typically includes impairment in social interaction and sometimes includes stereotyped interests, like trains. People with autism have difficulty processing and making sense of the world, so they are drawn to predictable patterns, which, of course, trains run by.”

“That explains why children with autism tend to be attracted more to subways, which travel on back-and-forth tracks, with little variability, than to planes, which move in more variable fashion.”

No one apparently had told Haughney the views of the editorial board of the Times or that Barack Obama who, until the deficit crisis, was talking about spending $50 billion on his toy high speed trains.

The article is another example of how we are increasingly redefining human normalcy in ways that leave out things like imagination, creativity, fun, unique enthusiasm, and adventure.

Or, more seriously, how we sedate with prescribed drugs any inclination to rebel, protest or organize against what one’s government is doing. We may be the first country to collapse in part because of Prozac.

Autism has been described as including traits such as:

• Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
• Limited interests or preoccupation with a subject
• Repetitive behaviors or rituals
• Lack of empathy
• Inflexibility or rigid thinking
• Fear of changes; sameness in daily routines
• Perseveration, i.e. inapplicable or repetitive verbal responses.

In fact, one is much more apt to find such behavior in Washington - either in government, the media or with lawyers and economists - than one is with train enthusiasts. I have, for example, never met anyone who loved trains who behaved as strangely and socially dysfunctional as both sides in the recent debt ceiling dispute.

The closest to an exception would be my Harvard radio station friend, GWH, who once broadcast the complete daily New Bedford fish tonnage report in the manner of a funeral oration, complete with strident symphonic background. GWH also managed, prior to graduation, to redesign all rail passenger service in Florida, the existing schedule not being to his satisfaction.

He became a minister and I pretty much lost track of him after graduation until he phoned me in Washington and, with no other greeting, announced, "Sam, this is GWH. I have just bought the observation car of the Royal Blue. If you care to have a drink with me, and some others you may come to Track 17 at Union Station at 5 pm." I did. Long after, I asked GWH what had happened to the observation car of the Royal Blue, a famed Baltimore & Ohio express train. He told me that he had written without avail to several presidents of railroads seeking a siding. Finally he wrote a letter to the head of a short line that went like this:

Dear Sir: I am a poor Methodist minister and I need a place to park my observation car. Can you help?

The short line president responded with a deal. He explained that no one had ever prayed for his road and if GWH would promise to do so, he could have a siding. The arrangement worked for several years but then "the president of the short line began to covet my observation car and I finally sold it to him for three times the price I had paid for it." A long pause. "Of course, I immediately stopped praying for his railroad and it shortly went bankrupt."

Despite what a narrow minded therapist might think, this was definitely someone worth having on this earth.

And GWH was certainly was not typical of train enthusiasts in whose circle I have proudly been in since I was a small child. And I am not alone. A Wikipedia listing of famous train fans includes Joe Biden, Johnny Cash, Kevin Costner, Walt Disney, Antonin Dvorak, Frederick IX of Denmark, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, and Harry Truman.

Growing up, I loved everything about trains. I talked to conductors. I collected train schedules, eventually filling a whole file box that I recently gave to a university archive.

Many of the earliest photographs I took with my Brownie Hawkeye were of box cars and trolleys; sometimes just blurry shots of empty track. There were trains I never saw but loved anyway, like the bullet-nosed Union Pacific streamliners. And to sit in the observation car of the Royal Blue was a totally convincing replica of heaven.

Yet, in some ways, ordinary trains were even better. They made strange noises and were pulled by huge steam engines. And, of course, between Washington and New Haven there was the GG1, the beautiful double-ended electric locomotive designed one year before my birth by Raymond Loewy and still in service more than three decades later. With five thick gold stripes arching like a scrunched rainbow from coupler to coupler, the GG1 was the mainstay of the Pennsy's main line, the love of those who ran them, steel heroes to young children, and faithful workhorse for the railroad.

The adjective beautiful before the noun locomotive is semantic deadheading. I've never seen a locomotive that wasn't beautiful. Even the first primitive efforts, devoid of proportion with their boilers plopped unceremoniously on a flatbed over wheels too close together, had charm -- whimsical, failed behemoths puffing through the landscape.

The locomotive soon lost its ungainly appearance. It was discovered that there was no functional inconsistency in making locomotive a work of art. From cowcatchers to flaring stacks to the arrangement of circular, cubical and cylindrical forms, the locomotive provided America with its first modern sculpture. And the GG1 was one of the best. As Loewy said, "It looks like it is moving when it is standing still."

I early subscribed to Edna St. Vincent Millay's view that "there isn't a train I wouldn't take no matter where it's going." Such an opinion required not only a sense of romance, but considerable endurance, for love of trains was often unrequited. Trains could be dirty, cold, hot, late, cancelled, overcrowded, or sit for hours in a wheat field for no fathomable reason. I would quickly learn, for example, that the silver temperature control knobs in Pullmans were either dummy switches or that the legends on them had been printed in random order. But such annoyances were more than balanced by the pleasures of standing in the vestibule with the top of the Dutch door open feeling the air and the country rush by. Or watching from the last car as the roadbed disappeared into a point. Or pasting your nose to the window and seeing the engine pull you around a curve. Or peering into the backyard of America. Or climbing into the top bunk. Or getting off the train in the middle of nowhere and wondering with another passenger what the problem was.

It ran in the family. Growing up we travelled mainly by train. And one of my uncles had, as a child, taken my grandmother’s attic and turned almost the whole thing into a switching yard for his model train outfit, building the large scale tracks himself. He once got caught playing hooky from elementary school so he could go watch workmen laying some real track.

When he died, his own house was sold with its complex model rail system intact for it would have been too hard to dissemble. He was an early creator of computer systems for banks, and while this all sounds suspiciously autistic, he was also an extremely nice and sociable gentleman, and attractively normal enough to be briefly married to one of Hollywood’s leading film stars.

Another train buff was the father of a good friend of mine. A native of Ireland, he was an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. George Smith worked in leather in his spare time, earning the nickname, Pocketbook Smith.

Years later when my family and I stepped aboard one of Amtrak's new Metroliner - then with its engineer's cab in the front car - I asked the conductor whether he had known Pocketbook Smith. He had and it was a magic question because shortly after departure our two small boys were invited to sit on the engineer's lap as he drove the train at 100 miles per hours. They even blew the horn. It was a clearly illegal act but then everyone liked Pocketbook Smith.

As a historical matter, we couldn’t have had America without trains.

As an emotional matter, Bruce Catton put it well: “There is the headlight, shining far down the track, glinting off the steel rails that, like all parallel lines, will meet in infinity, which is after all where this train is going.”

As a philosophical matter, trains represent a unique blend of beauty, adventure, fascination, and impressively designed structure, whether in the rails, timetables, or the cars themselves. In a strange way, railroads are a metaphor for a sane and good life. You know when something’s going to happen, you know where’s it’s going and it’s a lot of fun and excitement anyway.

Finally, one must consider the alternatives. There is little joy in a freeway and no one has written a truly affectionate ode to roads since Route 66, long before the modern superhighways arrived.

As for aircraft, fondness for them may not represent autism, but just about every other dysfunction one can come up with.

Endless lines, lousy service, being strapped to a chair most of the flight, $50 just to check a bag, unpredictable and uncomfortable motion and the fondling of one’s private parts by government agents is hardly the sort of alternative for trains that a competent therapist should recommend.

I suspect one reason politicians and editorialists favor high speed rail over, say, bringing our general rail system to a level equal to what it was a hundred years ago is because of their lack of empathy towards the working classes that couldn’t afford the high speed tickets, their limited interests, their inflexibility and rigid thinking. A much better field to plow for therapists.

In any case, I know they are a lot less fun to be around than those who love trains.

Flash mob raids 7-11 in DC suburb

MidNightRider2001- A 7-11 in Montgomery County, Maryland was hit by a flash mob on August 13, 2011. The clerk activated a silent alarm, but police waited until the mob left the store before responding. Further, according to the video, the officer refused to investigate the crime, and only viewed this incident as shoplifting. VIDEO

From someone who knows Rick Perry

Glenn W. Smith, Fire Dog Lake - Rick Perry and I go back a ways. As a reporter in the 1980s, I covered his undistinguished years in the Texas House. As a staffer to a Democratic lieutenant governor, I sat in meetings with him and watched him getting teased by his colleagues for his vanity. He clearly loves him some Rick Perry. He’s reported to shave his legs. Something about jogging speed. It’s earned him the name, “Nair Do Well,” but maybe shaved legs are de rigueur among the coyote-whacking-while-jogging set.

Here’s an odd fact: Rick Perry loves to criticize the federal stimulus package. But without the billions in federal money Texas received in 2009, Perry would have had to raise taxes to cover Texas’ budget deficit. Had he raised taxes, he would now be dead in the water in the GOP primary. President Obama, in a sense, paid for the campaign viability of his most likely 2012 opponent. Still, if Rick Perry can be president, I can play center field for the New York Yankees.

The Perry candidacy would pit a secessionist Southern governor against the nation’s first African-American president. Just pause and think about that a moment.

Perry tries to distance himself from his public flirtations with secession. A recently uncovered video, however, shows he was thinking about secession even before he mentioned it at a Tea Party rally in April, 2009. Perry is using racist code when he speaks of secession. Anybody who thinks it is about the size of government or economic populism is kidding themselves. With his secession remarks, Perry is calling the Klan.

It remains a mystery that so many libertarian-leaning Americans overlook the authoritarian ambitions of America’s Right.

Molly Ivins called him “Governor Goodhair” in reference to his Marvel comic book hairdo. He’s learned to speak in short, clipped sentence fragments like George W. Bush did, a practice that guards against “wordrobe malfunction” that would graphically display a rather flat-brained intellect.

Twice now Perry has won elections by running ads that call his opponents cop-killers.

Perry is all about obedience to authority, his authority and the authority of corporations to run our lives without interference or oversight. Libertarians – and the rest of America – had better wake up to the place Perry’s ruthlessness and discipline will take us.

White corporations controlling minority groups through funding

Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report - How did billionaire Bill Gates, who is heavily involved in the hijacking of Africa's food supply, and the privatization of education here in the US get to be the keynote speaker at the National Urban League's annual meeting in Boston the week before last? The answer is that the Urban League is utterly dependent on the generosity of corporate donors, and Bill Gates is potentially among the biggest.

"Not only is Bill Gates a cousin," gushed academic Henry Louis Gates at the Urban League convention in Boston last week, "Bill Gates a brother." Bill Gates, of course, is the founder of Microsoft, and one of the wealthiest men on earth. Invited to deliver the keynote address at the National Urban League's annual meeting in Boston last week, the billionaire lectured the assembled on education and poverty, although Gates is not qualified to teach an hour in any classroom in the land, and has certainly never been poor.

Bill Gates has never been a friend of black people anyplace on earth. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a large investor in Monsanto, the company that invented genetic engineering, actually creates hunger on the African continent and undermines the food security of African nations by pushing genetically modified crops upon reluctant African farmers and their governments. If African farmers can be locked into planting patented crop varieties, instead of planting and saving their own seed as they have the last ten thousand years, they will be obliged to buy the expensive and environmentally destructive pesticides these frankenfood crops require, along with paying yearly license fees.

Inside the US, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a key player in the drive to privatize public education. Gates Foundation staff helped write the guidelines for the Obama Administration's Race To The Top program, under which states and school districts, in order to receive any federal education funds at all, had to hire consultants, often from the same Gates Foundation to write the detailed plans for closing thousands of neighborhood public schools, implementing high stakes testing and turning teachers into the cowed, insecure and casual WalMart style workforce preferred by private, often for profit charter school operators.

So how did the National Urban League become the mouthpiece and cheering section for corporate experiments on black school children at home and the hijacking of the global food system in Africa? The answer is that like the NAACP, the National Committee on Black Civic Participation, the National Council of LaRaza, the National Conference of Black State Legislators and even the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Urban League is now and has for some time past been completely dependent on corporate donations to keep going. Those that pay the bills, call the shots.

Physicians waste huge sums dealing with insurers

University of Toronto - U.S. physician practices could save nearly $28 billion per year if they could bring costs associated with dealing with health insurers and payers more in line with Canadian physician practices, says a new University of Toronto study in the August issue of Health Affairs. Although Canada and the United States have very different health systems, the new study sheds light on how U.S. practices could streamline inefficiencies and reduce administrative costs to improve care and reduce burdens.

According to the study, U.S. physician practices spend $83,000 per doctor every year interacting with health insurers and other payers, compared to $22, 000 for Canadian physicians, who only deal with a single payer. On average, U.S. doctors spent 3.4 hours per week interacting with health plans while doctors in Ontario spent about 2.2hours. Nurses and medical assistants, spent 20.6 hours per physician per week on administrative duties compared to their Canadian counterparts, who only spent 2.5 hours.

“The major difference between the United States and Ontario is that non-physician staff members in the United States spend large amounts of time obtaining prior authorizations and on billing,” said Professor Dante Morra of medicine and his co-authors.

Morra and colleagues say high administrative costs in the United States are due to the large variety of payers that practices must deal with. Each has different plan requirements, insurance formularies, and rules for billing and claims submission, which impose huge burdens on practices. Conversely, Canadian physicians generally interact with a single payer that offers one product and are subject to fewer managed care requirements.
Perry and Bachmann seek heretical Christian domination of society

Michelle Goldberg, Daily Beast - Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.

Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult.

A recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “What makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians¬certain Christians¬are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”

In many ways, Dominionism is more a political phenomenon than a theological one. It cuts across Christian denominations, from stern, austere sects to the signs-and-wonders culture of modern megachurches. Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.

More colleges offering organic agriculture and sustainability programs

The average age of a U.S. farmer is 57 … About one-quarter of all farmers today have bachelor’s degrees and close to 70 percent have some college coursework. That’s up from just 4 percent of farmers and ranchers who had college degrees in 1965.

Stats: Fertility rates

Earth Policy Institute - Fertility rates tend to be highest in the world's least developed countries. When mortality rates decline quickly but fertility rates fail to follow, countries can find it harder to reduce poverty. Poverty, in turn, increases the likelihood of having many children, trapping families and countries in a vicious cycle. Conversely, countries that quickly slow population growth can receive a "demographic bonus": the economic and social rewards that come from a smaller number of young dependents relative to the number of working adults.

For longer term population stability the goal is to reach replacement-level fertility, which is close to 2 children per woman in places where mortality rates are low. Industrial countries as a group have moved below this level. Some developing countries have made progress in reducing fertility, but fertility rates in the least developed countries as a group remain above 4 children per woman.

Stupid Fish & Wildlife Service tricks

Natural News - When 11-year-old Skylar Capo from Fredericksburg, Va., recently rescued a baby woodpecker from being eaten by her family's cat, she had no idea that the compassionate deed would nearly land her mother in jail. According to WUSA 9, a secret agent from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, after witnessing Skylar and her mother Alison with the bird at a local Lowe's Home Improvement store, tracked the family down and slapped it with a $535 fine and potential jail time for illegally taking a protected animal species.

Skylar first spotted the woodpecker in the backyard of her father's home where she had been staying. Observing that the family cat was about to pounce and eat the bird, Skylar immediately ran outside to save it. But because they were unable to find its mother, Skylar and her mom decided to take the bird home and release it back into the wild after a few days.

On the way home, however, the two made a stop at a local Lowe's Home Improvement store to pick up a few things, and their innocent hospitality was met by the cold, heavy hand of overzealous bureaucracy. Due to the intense heat of the day, Alison and Skylar decided to bring the woodpecker inside the store to keep it from dying, only to be spotted by a secret FWS agent that confronted them and flashed her badge at them.

The agent nervously explained that it was illegal to take woodpeckers from the wild because they are a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Alison responded by explaining her unawareness of this fact, and indicated she and her daughter would release the bird back into the wild once they got back home.

At this point, Alison believed she had done everything necessary to comply with the law, and even took the time to contact FWS to let it know she had released the bird. But the same FWS agent that confronted her and Skylar showed up unannounced at the family's doorstep about two weeks later with a state trooper, and issued the family a citation. Alison refused it, and was later sent a notice to appear in US District Court, as well issued as a $535 fine.

"I feel harassed, and I feel angry," said Alison to WUSA 9. Her daughter also expressed concern that doing what they thought was the right thing for the bird almost landed her mother in prison.

Several months later, however, after much inquiry into the matter, the federal agency issued a formal apology for its actions and explained that the charges were supposed to have been dropped. FWS claimed it had made a "clerical error" by failing to both remove the citation from its system, as well as contact the Capos and let them know that they were actually in the clear.

The collapse of WASP society

Philip Weiss - Last weekend we had a houseguest, a member of my wife’s extended family in Philadelphia, and when we were sitting in the kitchen one morning he said, What happened to the WASPs? I asked him what he meant, and he said the following:

“The WASPs ran the country for 3 or 4 centuries, but I am not talking about power, I'm talking about society. Society is really all that matters, and WASPs had a cohesive society. Now that is gone, and over. And in fact some of the things I see today inside what is left of that society are pathetic and sad. Young people with nothing to do, no path for them. So the drugs and the idleness-- I think it’s all part of the end of that world.”

Do you grieve for its passing? I asked.

“No,” he said. “Things change. Orders change all the time. It’s the nature of society. And besides, we had a good run.”

I told him about a man I know whose male forbears, for three generations, had been English professors. Then the rules changed for academic advancement, the meritocracy came in, my friend was completely intimidated by that new way, and he absented himself. He has frittered his life away, but the thing is, when you go over to his house, he can quote Shakespeare as well as anyone, and explain the meaning of the book of Genesis. He’s a scholar, but in drydock.

My wife's relation nodded and said he saw it at a granular level. WASP society was built of many things, it was an entire fabric, like any society. There were neighborhoods, there were stores, and schools and clubs and churches and retreats. Everyone knew everyone, and kept up on the gossip. There was a set of distinct values that you could count on everyone having. And money was at the bottom of it; the trusts were at the bottom of it. The trusts kept families together and kept people coming back to their communities. Now even the trusts are dwindling. Many of them are used up. And that has helped to dissipate WASP society. There is nothing to come back to. And so the communities themselves are drying up and frittering away. The associations and values are breaking up.

Of course intermarriage has something to do with it. The clubs and retreats are still there, but they are not nearly so distinct any more. Not just ethnically. But the values and manners, and understandings, they are disappearing. And at the heart of it is an economic collapse. . MORE

Sam Smith, Why Bother? -Over lunch one day, I asked journalist Stephen Goode – among the few in the trade who still regards history as extending beyond last year -- how he would describe our era. Without hesitation, he said it was a time of epigons.

An epigon, he explained, is one who is a poor imitation of those who have preceded. The comes from the Epigoni -- the afterborn -- who were sons of the seven Greek chieftans killed in their attempt to take Thebes. The kids avenged the deaths by capturing, but destroying, Thebes, and were generally not considered quite up to the old man.

Being around epigons is like being trapped at a bad craft fair where everything you see seems to have been made before, only better.

In anthropology class I was first introduced to the then revolutionary notion that progress was not inevitable, that there can be an ebb as well as a flow to cultures. I remember in particular an American archeology course in which we studied the steadily improving design of a certain tribe's pottery. As time passed, the browns and the blacks and the whites and the zigs and the zags became ever more intricate and appealing.

But then cultural entropy set in and it all started to go the other way. The art became epigonic, a poor imitation of its predecessors. In short, the tribe simply forgot what it once had known.

Pocket paradigms

It helps to separate our moral decisions from those of religious form, not because they are necessarily exclusive, but because it allows us to see morality out of costume.- Sam Smith

Women's image in media much more sexualized, but not men's

Science Daily - A study by University at Buffalo sociologists has found that the portrayal of women in the popular media over the last several decades has become increasingly sexualized, even “pornified.” The same is not true of the portrayal of men.


Erin Hatton, PhD, and Mary Nell Trautner, PhD, assistant professors in the UB Department of Sociology, are the authors of “Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone,” which examines the covers of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2009 to measure changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular media over time.

After analyzing more than 1,000 images of men and women on Rolling Stone covers over the course of 43 years, the authors came to several conclusions. First, representations of both women and men have indeed become more sexualized over time; and, second, women continue to be more frequently sexualized than men. Their most striking finding, however, was the change in how intensely sexualized images of women¬but not men¬have become.

IBM finds new way to rip off cities

IBM press release. So now the mythical ten year budget figures that everyone treats as gospel will be augmented by mythical 25 year urban projections by IBM

IBM introduced new analytics software and services to help cities predict the result of policy decisions and their positive and negative spill over consequences up to a quarter century in the future.

System Dynamics for Smarter Cities is designed to help mayors and other municipal officials reduce the unintended negative consequences of municipal actions on citizens, as well as uncover hidden beneficial relationships among municipal policies. A more thorough understanding of how policies affect each other over time will enable officials to reduce or avoid negative results before they happen. Leaders will also be able to "double down" on policies that are projected to have positive ancillary results.

Using sophisticated analytics, System Dynamics for Smarter Cities addresses the dynamics among the complete spectrum of municipal policies and their effect on citizens, such as the association between:

Public transportation fares and high school graduation rates
Obesity rates and CO2 emissions – while somewhat surprisingly average vehicle MPG has little effect
Average health and attractiveness of the city to businesses
Population density and wellness
Taxes/fees collected and electricity consumption
Farmers markets and economic growth

As a decision support system, the solution provides an intuitive interface that enables government officials to create countless "what if" scenarios that quickly model the effect that a proposed policy change could have on the city as a whole and its citizens.

Here's how it works: a project starts by using the existing dynamic engine which contains over 3,000 equations from past work with cities. At the beginning of a new engagement with a municipality, IBM government experts conduct a series of knowledge-gathering workshops with dozens of people who have expertise about that particular city, including economists, educators, police officers, city planners, demographers, elected officials, business leaders, electric and water utility providers, real estate developers, transportation experts, health care providers, and other community leaders. This vital information – representing decades if not centuries of hard-won expertise -- is codified and combined with existing government data such budget allocations, number of K-12 students, unemployment rates, population growth and density, number of grocery stores, vehicle miles traveled, and city GDP to create a deep corpus of information about that city.

Next, the input from city subject matter experts and data is analyzed with software specialized for determining how systems evolve over time, incorporating feedback and delay. The resulting system of simultaneous differential equations is calibrated and evaluated against up to 10 years of historic data from the client city. The result is a model that builds on experiences from past clients but uniquely simulates the dynamics of the client city. For instance, the dynamics surrounding water policies might look very different for a city like Phoenix than it would for Seattle. The revenues of a city that relies on a sales tax will have different funding cycles and patterns over time from one that uses a property tax. Yet each can be represented in the system dynamic model.

A guide to election frauds

Political note. . .

To the extent that the Iowa straw poll is important, it is largely because the mass media claims it so. For example, ABC News posted to the false headling, "Straw Poll Turns GOP Field Upside Down." In fact, only 16,000 voters were involved, more than a few of whom got free food and/or transportation provided they voted for the donor of these items.

Word: The mega rich

We mega-rich should not continue to get extraordinary tax breaks while most Americans struggle to make ends meet. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. - Warren Buffett

High school seniors spending up to $5000 for professional photos of themselves

Austin Statesman, TX - It's back-to-school time, and many seniors are doing photo sessions marketed as experiences customized to fit their style, personality and interests. Today's teens go to great lengths to get the perfect photographer, a professional makeup artist and the perfect backdrop and pose. Packages come with props and on-location settings.

And they are willing to pay for it.

Photographers like Dustin Meyer offer "commercial shoots" that last three to four hours.

"Our average sale for a senior is $1,200 to $1,500, but some parents have spent up to $5,000," Meyer said.

Study; New gas MPG rules wll cost over $6000 per car

|Motor Trend - How much will a 56.2-mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard cost consumers? On average, $6714 per car (in 2008 dollars), says the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "This model requires a 20 percent PEV (plug-in electric) market share to meet the standards-drastic by any measure," CAR says in its analysis.

Meanwhile. . . .
Internet sightings

The financial crisis has hit so hard, I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail

Furthermore. . . .

JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. -

A soldier's widow says his fellow Army Rangers wouldn't do anything to help him before he took his own life - after eight deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.. . ."It was just horrible. And he would just cry," says Ashley Hagemann. Ashley says her husband Jared tried to come to grips with what he'd seen and done on his eight deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan."And there's no way that any God would forgive him - that he was going to hell," says Ashley. "He couldn't live with that any more."

Obama's judicial appointments are more diverse than any other president. Nearly half his ninety-seven confirmed nominees, according to the New York Times, are women, compared to 23 percent under Bush and 29 percent under Clinton; 21 percent are African American compared to 7 percent under Bush and 16 percent under Clinton; 11 percent are Latino, compared 9 percent under Bush and 7 percent under Clinton; and 7 percent are Asian American, compared to only 1 percent under both Bush and Clinton. Obama has appointed two women to the US Supreme Court, including the first Latina, and the first openly gay man to the federal bench in the Southern New York district.

Sesame Street says Bert & Ernie aren't gay

Facebook changing college roommate selection

Bachmann tries to redefine "submissive"
CBS - In 2006, Bachmann said her husband had told her to get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. "Tax law? I hate taxes," she continued. "Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'"

Asked about the comment by CBS News' Norah O'Donnell , Bachmann reaffirmed that to her, "submission means respect, mutual respect."

Bachmann is either lying or dumb. For example, the Collins Thesaurus lists the following synonyms for submissive:

"meek, passive, obedient, compliant, patient, resigned, yielding, accommodating, humble, subdued, lowly, abject, amenable, docile, dutiful, ingratiating, malleable, deferential, pliant, obsequious, uncomplaining, tractable, acquiescent, biddable, unresisting, bootlicking (informal), obeisant"

Sesame Street says Bert & Ernie aren’t gay

TMZ - A petition emerged online urging the creators of Sesame Street to marry the two puppets -- but the Sesame Workshop just posted a message on its Facebook account, writing, "Bert and Ernie are best friends."

The statement continues, "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."

"Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics ... they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."

Groups petition nuke agency to suspend new licenses until Fukushima examination is complete

45 groups and individuals from across the nation are formally asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to immediately suspend all licensing and other activities at 21 proposed nuclear reactor projects in 15 states until the NRC completes a thorough post-Fukushima reactor crisis examination comparable to the process set up in the wake of the serious, though less severe, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

The petitioners also are asking the NRC to supplement its own investigation by establishing an independent commission.

Emergency action by the NRC is necessary because a number of the pending licensing proceedings are approaching completion.

An attorney for the petitioners, Diane Curran, said: "NRC violated the law by re-licensing the Vermont Yankee reactor at the same time it launched an investigation into whether U.S. safety and environmental standards are strong enough in light of the Fukushima accident. The National Environmental Policy Act requires the NRC to learn and apply the lessons of Fukushima before it allows another reactor to operate. By establishing a Task Force and ordering the investigation of the regulatory implications of the Fukushima accident for U.S. reactors, the NRC has obligated itself to consider those implications in all prospective licensing decisions. We demand that the NRC establish a credible process for studying and applying the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, in keeping with the precedent created after Three Mile Island."

Word

Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest - The strike recently launched by CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers against telecom giant Verizon Communications has significance that goes far beyond the terms of their contract negotiations. It is one of the only arenas in which an effort is being made to shore up rather than erode the living standards of American workers¬living standards that are supposed to be the backbone of an economy that we are constantly told is based on consumer spending. Also adding to the importance of the walkout is that it is targeting an employer that is emblematic of much that is wrong with corporate America today. . . . If this strike is successful, it will send a strong message to all corporate assassins that U.S. workers will not roll over and die.

GOP candidates ranked by personality

Sane and intelligent if often wrong
• Romney
• Paul
• Huntsman

Heretical Christian extremists & hate mongers
• Perry
• Palin
• Bachman
• Santorum

Good at making pizzas, bad at everything else
• Cain

Sleaziest
• Giuliani

Done, but with no place else to go
• Gingrich

Dumbest
• Palin
• Bachmann
• Santorum

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

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