Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stockmen and bondsmen

Now that the Dow has closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 2008, I wonder if the Times is going to redo their famous chart showing the stock market difference between Democratic and Republican presidents from October 2008:

Given that it's already up 56% since Barack Obama took office three months after that, it might even lead a person to suspect that the Times has a liberal bias and is waiting till October 2012 to do it. If things carry on as they have been doing, that's going to be pretty graphic, as they say.

But speaking of liberal biases, I now have a new idea on the foundational difference between Democrats and Republicans that is directly related to this news. Like so many others who have grown to feel that the liberal-conservative classification doesn't apply any more, I have been talking for quite a while now in terms of a conservative party that we have to vote for and a crazy party that explains why we have to vote for the conservative party, but I'm not really satisfied with that either.

Partly because it's still fun to vote for Democrats, because they're still so truly forward-looking in so many little ways, whether we're talking about same-sex marriage or [jump]

Stratfor the memories

Clown Bluey entree.
Kos exploded around lunchtime yesterday with news from the WikiLeaks dump of internal mails from the global strategies espionage firm/paranoid travel magazine Stratfor, and the revelation that Israel had destroyed all of Iran's putative nuclear weapons facilities sometime late last year. It was wonderful watching how the wisdom of crowds works—by the time I was done with lunch just about the whole mob of us had come to realize that the story was just idle gossip and [jump]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grapple from the Apple

In a sane world, it would be the New York City United Federation of Teachers local that would be clamoring for the city to release the test score–based teacher ratings to the public, while the Department of Education would be begging to keep them a secret, because it only takes a glance at the numbers to see how stupid and unserious these numbers are, using the scores of tests that have been totally discredited in the first place, leaping all over the map for any individual teacher from year to year, and with incredible error margin spreads of 35 percentage points for the math scores and 53 (!) for English.
“No principal would ever make a decision on this score alone, and we would never invite anyone — parents, reporters, principals, teachers — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone,”
said Shael Polakow-Suransky of the DOE, trying to be reassuring, but why would they make any use of it at all? The numbers are basically arbitrary, and should not play any role in principals' decisions whatever. The fact that they have used them shows, really, what bad faith the mayor and his chancellors have been bringing to the table in this long debate.
Photo from Village Voice.

Also in a sane world, if the city's police force wants to investigate potential terrorists, instead of infiltrating Muslim student organizations all over New Jersey they could try infiltrating the FBI, because pretty much every terrorist plot they have uncovered over the past x many years has had an FBI informant right in the middle of it—doing practically all of the work, too. There's a pattern there.

Up a slippery slope

The irrepressible Rick Santorum was chatting with folks at James Dobson's American Heartland Forum in Columbia, Miss., February 3, when he got to the subject of slippery slopes and the example of the Netherlands, where, he said, elderly people feel the need to wear bracelets saying "Do not euthanize me" to keep safe from the murderous medics prowling the cities:
Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, but half the people who are euthanized every year — and it’s 10 percent of all deaths for the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily, at hospitals, because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital, they go to another country, because they’re afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go into it with sickness.

You can hear the audience gasping in horror: Those poor old folks! But it's not true, [jump]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday breakfast links

Juan Cole, whom we depend on for interpretations of mid-East events, has been adding something quite new to his bag of tricks: translations from the Persian of Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami (1048-1131), better known to the rest of us as Omar Khayyam. Unlike the heavily scented Victorian versions of Edward FitzGerald, Cole's translations are as clean and crunchy as celery, sometimes funny and always bracing:
If a stranger proves faithful,
I adopt him into the family.
But if a relative sins,
I take a dim view of him.
If poison proves helpful,
it is actually an antidote,
and if an antidote attacks me,
it is really a toxic sting.
I don't think we know when they're going to show up, you just have to follow the blog.

The Friendly Bear. Persian miniature, 18th century.

The above illustration is from the extraordinary blog (multilingual, but mostly in English, sometimes not quite idiomatic) Poemas del río Wang, and a very lengthy post on bears, which ranges from an excerpt from a dialogue by Erasmus in which a bear and a lion discuss correct Latin pronunciation to a very recent short-short story translated from the Czech.

 Gill Mann at Rumproast offers an answer to the age-old question of what if Michael O'Hanlon were an advice columnist. The Brookings Institution wunderkind warrior (actually in his 50s, but tousle-haired as ever) would definitely have his own distinctive voice.

The website Letters of Note collects letters by the famous and not-so-famous, from Billie Joe Armstrong to E.B. White and so on, including this masterpiece, written or dictated in August 1865 by the freedman Jourdon Anderson and addressed to his erstwhile owner, Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, in response to an invitation to come back and work on his farm.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cheap shots and chasers 2/24

Cantor Can’t Explain Why Americans Oppose GOP Agenda

The story itself doesn't quite live up to the headline—Cantor wouldn't acknowledge that Americans oppose his agenda, of course, so he just didn't answer the question—but isn't it fun to imagine him losing that perpetual sneer for a moment, scratching his head, and telling the interviewer, "Honestly, I don't have a clue. Strangest thing I ever saw, in fact."

 in fact, this big battle that I’ve, uh, totally won with Keith Olbermann by the way, like, not only won once but twice and three times… uh, there were individuals saying, [high voice] “Oh what about the Virginia rape? The rapes that, the forced rapes of women who are pregnant?” What!?
Wait a minute, they had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy.
What Dana doesn't realize is that most boyfriends don't have stainless steel penises.
Chris and Dana Loesch. From Riverfront Times. You'll remember Chris as one of the tastefully wigged rappers at the CPac convention a couple of weeks ago.

In a nice little human interest story about a Rodeo Drive screening room (Oscars color commentary), Susan Stamberg mentioned that the subject matter of the film The Flowers of War is "the Rape--some have called it--of Nanking". (Audio here.) That's NPR's recalibrated objectivity policy: when they say they don't want to seem biased to conservatives, they include Japanese conservatives, some of whom prefer to call it the "Blind Date of Nanking", where the two parties had a nice time but decided it wasn't really going to lead anywhere.

Japanese soldiers practice their bayonet technique in Nanjing, on live Chinese prisoners. From Dismal World.

And in other moderation news, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has hired a special PR firm to help them deal with the fallout from the foundation's unintentional attempt—well, it wasn't everybody's intention—to do something bad to Planned Parenthood: Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), founded by former Democratic pollsters (doesn't say what the "former" applies to) Mark Penn and Doug Schoen. Penn's strategy is as yet under wraps, but rumor has it he'll be raising an entirely meaningless slogan and subtly suggesting that Planned Parenthood uses cocaine.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's something about a bishop...

There's something about a bishop...
There's something about a bishop that is
comical but at the same time deeply unnerving.

From Flavius Josephus, at Byzantine, Texas. The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Bulgaria's commission charged with announcing the names of people who collaborated with the country's former communist-era secret services announced on January 17 2012 that 11 out of 15 members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's governing body, the Holy Synod, had worked for State Security....
Galaktikon was agent Misho; Domitian, agent Dobrev; Ignatii, agent Penev; Yoanikii, agent Kirilevich; Grigorii, agent Vanyo; Yosif, agent Nikolov; [jump]

Request for signatures

The Australian government is contemplating plans for a marine reserve of a million square miles, but they need expressions of international support; you can send one through the very international Avaaz, at http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_coral_sea_4/?vl.
Image from Supergreenme.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Welcome Whiskey Firefolks!

Thanks, and drop by any time!
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Insider poopology

Time Saving Truth from Falsehood. By François Lemoyne, 1737.

Just about the same time as I got the message from Mara Liasson that the new rules on insurance coverage for family planning were all part of Obama's 11-dimensional election strategy which involves getting Rick Santorum the Republican nomination—actually it's not her fault, I made most of it up—the august Markos was coming up with a similar idea: that Democrats should go vote for Santorum in the upcoming primaries and caucuses that allow it, starting with Michigan, by way of, if not actually nominating Santorum, at least making Romney's victory as painful and exhausting as possible; he called it Operation Hilarity.

High-minded Kossacks rose, however, in protest against the plan, which smacked [jump]

Monday, February 20, 2012

Really Tom watch: Presidents' Day edition

Mustache snow globe. From gifts.com.

Just when I realized I hadn't done anything to commemorate Presidents' Day (I always think of it as Nixon's Birthday, movable because Nixon wasn't exactly born), out comes Really Tom Friedman with the original version of his Sunday column in the Times, with all the fire and fervor those copy editors leach out of his prose, and on a presidential subject, calling for a centrist third party candidate!
As I’ve said many many many many times before, and not only because my iPad’s word processor gets its default style stuck on “antedated David Broder schtick,” America’s two parties are in no shape to undertake the radical reformation of capitalism necessary to make us thrive in the 22nd century. Santorum and Obama are symptoms of a national disease: idea-having. One has the big idea that marginal tax rate increases should fund increased safety-net and infrastructure spending. The other believes that Jews have horns full of diamonds. My point is, there has to be something in between those two positions, some path between boring old reason and the wild farragoes of what I’m only assuming was a failed lobotomy.
 So have a happy—at this point in the day perhaps it should be have had a happy holiday and get some sleep.

What are bad writers for? (addendum)

While I was preparing my effusions on the literary efforts of James Poulos, I was not alone. Hordes of bloggists leapt at Poulos's text like hounds on the umbles (actually, no; the hounds get random bits of flesh, which might be a better metaphor anyway, while the umbles are reserved for the servants, baked into umble pie; but I digress); in addition to the links given in the earlier post I should mention TBogg, SEK, Betty Cracker, and Rich Yeselson. But the most startling approach is undoubtedly that of Doctor Habilitatissimus Michael Bérubé, who laid down a claim that Poulos's writing is not merely not bad but actually in some sense—well, extraordinary; "modern," he says, "perhaps on the very cusp of the post-modern," citing as evidence the following text:
to the growing discomfort of many, that framework hasn’t come anywhere close to answering even the most basic questions about what women are for — despite pretty much universal recognition across the political spectrum that a civilization of men, for men, and by men is no civilization at all, a monstrously barbaric, bloody, and brutal enterprise. Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua [jump]

Hook that drive and you could land in the moral hazard

If somebody were to turn over a very large amount of cash to me, I could not only pay off all my credit card debt and the mortgage, but buy a new, much larger apartment, with a washer and dryer, and a big pantry with a chest freezer.
Sausage. From Free-Extras (?).

Then I'd do my basic shopping at Costco, and buy a whole free-range chestnut-fed pig from a gentleman farmer and make my own sausage, and that's not all. I'd start getting really
good clothes—especially shoes—so that I wouldn't have to buy them so often, and season tickets to the opera and the Philharmonic, and memberships in all the museums. Jesus, being rich can save you so much money!

All the people with power keep telling us that a national economy is just like a family, meaning that the nation has to sit down around the kitchen table (assuming it can afford [jump]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Who says?

Everybody keeps telling us that small business is the "engine of job creation" in the United States, but it's not so clear. Following up a post from Ontario at Kos:
According to Who creates jobs? Small vs. large vs. young by John C. Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, and Javier Miranda, NBER Working Paper No. 16300 (2010), small business is not that much of a job creator. Looking at Census Bureau data for the decade from 1992 to 2005, they found that
businesses tend to create jobs in proportion to their importance in the economy. Thus, large mature firms—those more than ten years old and with more than 500 workers—employed about 45 percent of all private-sector workers and accounted for almost 40 percent of job creation and destruction in this study.
 Where small size of the firm had an effect, it wasn't because it was small but because it was new:
The real driver of disproportionate job growth, they find, is not small companies, but young companies. It is the startup firms that generate the surge of jobs that earlier research attributed to small companies.
After which they sell out to Microsoft (that's the program), or fold and put together a job-creating emo band or gourmet taco truck.

Call for retroaction!

Paleo at Daily Kos notes a speech where Rick Santorum more or less called for the abolition of public schools. You say you're not surprised? Fine, but what I want to call attention to is an unusually upfront example of what I have called "retroactionary" ideology, the place that's so far right it's physically impossible—the belief that rather than just reverting to the way things used to be (the reactionary way) we should literally aim backwards in time.
Aristotle as depicted in the 1493 Nürnberger Chronik, from Wikipedia's article on "Anachronism"

It was in a talk yesterday, in Columbus: [jump]

Hurts me more than it does who?

Say what you will about those ayatollahs, you can't deny they have a sense of humor. To punish the European Union for imposing an embargo on Iranian oil, effective July 1, Iran's oil ministry has announced that it has stopped selling oil to Britain and France right away, with hints that Spain, Italy, and Greece could follow. Crude oil prices went up to $103 a barrel in US markets yesterday, "up 12 percent in the last 6 weeks and up 21 percent from a year ago" according to the Fairfax News (they had the most vivid numbers). That way the Europeans will get an early chance to find out if they really like the sanctions or not so much.
Peak Oil. From Howe Street.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What are bad writers for?

Roy Edroso has been inviting us to savor the writing of James Poulos, at the Daily Caller, on the topic of "What are Women For?", a question you may never have asked yourself.
Witches at work. From A Blurred History.

Thers, whose opinions I normally revere, insists for some reason that James Poulos does not truly deserve to be called the worst writer on this or any other Internet (his italics); he thinks [jump]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cheap shots and chasers 2/17

Said the pediatrician: I'm afraid he's going to be severely conservative, Mrs. Romney—but with suitable care and a loving home environment there's no reason he shouldn't have a fulfilling life...

 Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields Special Nerd Handshake

Now that Michelle Bachmann's not running for president any more, she's back to her old job of making the other Congresspersons look sane by comparison. From Huffington Post:
The House and Senate both approved a payroll tax cut bill on Friday that would extend unemployment benefits through 2012.
But according to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the extension is hardly the bill's crowning achievement.
"They're extending unemployment, too, but the big thing that we get is no longer can a welfare recipient walk into a strip club and get money out of an ATM machine to pay for a lap dance," she told conservative radio host Mark Levin on Thursday night. "Now, I'm not making this up. That's the big thing that we get out of this bill."

And remember these?

At a Santorum rally in Tacoma, Paul Constant (h/t Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice) reports a little crowd taunting a lone freedom-from-religion protester,
pinching their noses and miming as though they were swatting away flies. "I can't stand the smell of this guy," one fly-swatter said, adding, "it's like he's got garbage in his pockets." An old woman told the nose-pinchers, as she squeezed past the whole scene, "Watch out for the maggots." Another woman clucked her tongue, and told her friends, "If you're an atheist, you'll just believe in anything."
Just shoot me.

Anthony Shadid

The death of Anthony Shadid, 43, of asthma, as he was working undercover in Syria, was an enviable one in a classical-Greek sense, in that it was so glorious—a kind of dramatization of his bravery and commitment, when he was at the height of his powers as reporter and writer. For the rest of us, it's pretty bad news. Partly because of his knowledge of Arabic, but even more because of his curiosity about and concern for ordinary folk in the war zones, he captured again and again the things we really needed to know about Baghdad and the other dangerous places where he made himself at home, in a way hardly anybody else came close to. 
Achilles and Ajax playing dice. Black-figure amphora by Exekias, late 6th c. B.C.E., from Heritage Key.

The idle 'prentice

The idle 'prentice executed at Tyburn. From William Hogarth's Industry and Idleness (1747).

The Times this morning, Landon Thomas, Jr., was all on about the young people of London who are never in their natural lives going to have jobs—
Perhaps the most debilitating consequence of the euro zone’s economic downturn and its debt-driven austerity crusade has been the soaring rate of youth unemployment. Spain’s jobless rate for people ages 16 to 24 is approaching 50 percent. Greece’s is 48 percent, and Portugal’s and Italy’s, 30 percent. Here in Britain, the rate is 22.3 percent, the highest since such data began being collected in 1992.
And indeed it's horrible, the sequence of stories of... Hang on a minute, when did Britain [jump]

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Insider Poop Watch

NPR sports analyst Mara Liasson, covering the "caucus-race" trial heats in the coveted White House Stakes competition, said something unexpected--I guess that's news in itself:
Talking Head Makes Original Observation
Effects on Market Uncertain

Anyway, she said President Obama is responsible for the recent froth in the candidacy of Rick Santorum; the announcement of new regulations on health coverage of birth control has brought the "social conservatives" to a boil and they're out in force, with their mistrust of the Mormon and longing for purity. So I'm like whoa, as the young folk say, could Obama be doing this on purpose? Keeping the Republicans undecided, or worse, trying to get Santorum the nomination? Some of that 11-dimensional chess?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Airborne Elephant Watch: Egypt

And it's time for another of our irregularly scheduled discussions of things that are undreamt of in Thomas Friedman's philosophy or, as his next book is likely to call them, Flying Elephants.
From Squidoo.com.
Today's case starts with the Egyptian minister of planning and international cooperation, and an old pal of Suzanne Mubarak's, Fayza Abul Naga, who is said to be the person mainly responsible [jump]

Loves them just the way they are

Potato Eaters, by Albert de Vos. From Tim Harrison's blog.

Whoever said that "God must love the common folk—he made so many of them" (Dr. Google seems to be stumped on this one, with a pretty big majority going for Abraham Lincoln, but not one of them citing a source) was being snarky, but the panelists on Fox News's The Five were being something else yesterday; they said in effect that liberals must hate the poor because they are attempting to exterminate them—as ThinkProgress reports it, [jump]

Happy news

Jeremy Lin Meme. From JerseyChaser.

Jeremy Lin—Linsomnia! Lintoxication!—and the newly competent Knicks won their sixth game in a row, the first one with Amar'e Stoudemire back from his brother's funeral. Welcome back Amar'e! I couldn't watch the game on the television since my cable company and their network are having one of those greed competitions, but I saw the extraordinarily dramatic last couple of minutes over my son's shoulder on his computer. I also got to hear the Tweets celebrated on ESPN:
Dave McMenamin, Lakers Beat Writer
The Lakers’ players lounge just erupted when Lin hit that big 3. World Peace emerged and ran through the locker room yelling ‘Linsanity!!’
Preoccupied as I was with car bombings, I totally forgot that World Peace was not world peace at all but merely Metta World Peace, that is the Artest formerly known as Ron, and so got the impression that Lin's feat was even more consequential than it actually was, though I couldn't have said why world peace would choose the Lakers' players lounge as the venue for its appearance anyway.

The Jeremy Lin of Wagner singing (calm, modest, extremely hard-working, and then out of nowhere spectacular beyond reason), Jay Hunter Morris, brought the two-year unfolding of the Met's and Robert Lepage's new Ring cycle to a close with his Siegfried in Götterdämmerung. At the close, world peace actually did emerge on stage, although that was written into the orchestral score and had little to do with the singing.

Morris did have a couple of moments of vocal weakness, one unfortunately at the heartbreaking moment when Siegfried dies in a preposterously difficult sotto voce head tone. Deborah Voigt, who I was worried about a year or so ago when her Brünnhilde voice in Walküre sounded a little dry to me, did not seem to have any weakness at all. Happy Valentine's Day, Debbie! Watching them "live in HD" at the old Ziegfeld on 54th Street, and seeing their faces closer than the folks in the $300 seats, I have been impressed through the whole series (unlike this guy) by the quality of the acting, which sometimes achieves a depth that you really don't imagine coming from singers (especially Iain Paterson as Gunther and Hans-Peter König as Hagen).
From act 2 of Walkure.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just the facts, Ma'am

Stately bungalows of Aurangzeb Marg. From bornrich.com.

As you know, yesterday afternoon Tal Yehoshua-Korene, who works along with her husband at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, was riding up Aurangzeb Road on her way to picking up her children from school when the rear of the car blew up. She was badly injured, with shrapnel in the spine, and is in critical condition; her driver and two other people were hurt as well. A security camera picked up the image of a young man in leather jacket on a motorcycle riding up to the car while it was waiting at a stoplight, just a few seconds before the blast, and "placing something" on the trunk; it's thought that it must have been a bomb mounted [jump]

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's not about contraception (addendum)

Matter of fact, you know that transportation bill into which the Roy Blunt not-about-contraception legislation is to be folded as an amendment? It has another remarkable provision that
would strip several thousand workers within the rail-industry of their federal minimum-wage and overtime protections, potentially making low-wage jobs pay even less.

Maud, says here Medicare comes from the Government!

Holiday collage by the Chicago Imagist Don Baum. From Archives of American Art Blog.

I haven't seen much response to yesterday's Times report about the poor but conservative and their dependence on government money, but it's pretty extraordinary reading. It's not your Tea Party clowns who really think Medicare isn't a government program, it's people [jump]

It's not about contraception, it's about over (but it'll be back!)

Noting Minority Leader McConnell's plans to push the Roy Blunt bill to permit any employer to deny family planning coverage in their employees' health insurance plans, John Cole is reduced to sputtering:
I’m simply speechless. I honestly can not believe that in this day and age, the GOP is going to go all out and wage this war. This has nothing to do with religious liberty, and this is just a war on women. They are just done pretending they are anything but religious zealots and fanatics.
With all respect and affection for this great blog artist, I don't think so—not "just" a war on women, though women are clearly the primary targets.  I think [jump]
Bishops are very concerned about blogs. From Abbey Roads.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Federalism and "Federalism"

Cadenette wig. From Probert Encyclopedia.

This is a Rectification issue that makes me really crazy; today's trigger is a perfectly goodhearted and well-written and useful Kos diary by DemFromCt on the Great Contraception Crisis story that happens to quote a Republicanish opinion piece by one Alan Weil in the New England Journal of Medicine to the effect that
Under the principles of federalism that have guided the development and implementation of policy in this country since it was founded, there are three potential benefits associated with permitting states to make these decisions with respect to the EHBs...
And then DemFromCt goes on to use "federalism" in this sense through the rest of the piece. Which is by no means an unusual occurrence.

But it isn't right. The word "federalism" as it was used by the Founding Fathers who [jump]

Farmers' Market Sunday

Photo by Harry.

Normally I go to Union Square on Saturdays for my locovore fruits and vegetables, but yesterday I was at the opera-at-the-movies for the Götterdämmerung marathon, so today I trucked down to the Natural History Museum, where I can go on foot. Pickings were not unexpectedly slim (animal foods and breads are way too expensive), although I left behind some very photogenic kale because I didn't feel like cooking it.

But the guys who were selling the kale (and the broccoli rabe and red onions, pictured) had another treat, which was the music they were playing in their little white pavilion. I thought I'd pass it on. They had much better sound, but I've got video:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Queen's bishop to mate in two

Jizo statue—representing an unborn child—at the Hasedera temple in Kamakura, Japan. By Don Lee, from the website Sacred Destinations.
I think I may have the crude outlines of a solution to the problems of America's Catholic bishops, currently facing potential martyrdom in that they may be forced by an unfeeling government to buy insurance that covers the abomination of birth control pills, with no co-payment, for the employees of Catholic institutions that have a lot of non-Catholic employees, such as church-owned universities, hospitals, and charitable foundations.

An unfeeling federal government, I should say, because as we have repeatedly noted [jump]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Freedom of independence!

Album cover by Micah Buzan.

I just want to keep savoring that bit of word salad for a while as created in a collaborative effort by Rick Santorum, reporter Michael D. Shear, and a shamefully inattentive Times copy editor:
“It’s not about contraception,” Mr. Santorum said. “It’s about economic liberty. It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of liberty. It’s about government control of your lives, and it’s got to stop.” [In fact, as noted in the previous post, the Times report is incorrect: Santorum said "freedom of religion", not "freedom of liberty".]
In the first place, if "it" is the government proposal for having health insurance plans cover contraception, exactly how is it not about contraception but is about freedom of speech?

Is it a new definition of speech, like the way in Buckley v. Valeo money is speech, [jump]

Cheap shots and chasers 2/10

Updated 2/11/2012
“I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” Mr. Romney said after listing his accomplishments in Massachusetts. (Times)
Gosh, sounds scary—and did his insurance cover it?

From the CNN transcripts:
PAUL: If you had an honest bailout, the people who owned those bonds would have been protected. But he turned ownership over to the unions. So, that is not fair. He used force to transfer -- he was wrong to break the contract.
MORGAN: ...would you honestly look at them in the eye and say they had to have that child if they were impregnated?

PAUL: No. If it's an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room. I would give them a shot of estrogen or give them --
If it's a dishonest rape, you see—one where the cad starts out by taking her to an hotel and plying her with a small port wine--then it's her lookout. It's the same the whole world over, it's the poor what takes the blame; it's the rich what gets the pleasure, and that's why they call it conservative.

And you can't leave out Rick Santorum, at the CPAC:
... he hammered Mr. Obama for policies that he said had undermined the country’s future and the liberty of its citizens. As an example, Mr. Santorum cited the president’s recent decision requiring that health insurance plans offered by religious-affiliated hospitals, universities and charities provide female employees with access to free birth control.
“It’s not about contraception,” Mr. Santorum said. “It’s about economic liberty. It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of liberty. It’s about government control of your lives, and it’s got to stop.”
 Sure, Mr. S., and what about my unalienable right to entitlement? And the pursuit of following things?
I heard the sound on NPR: Santorum did not say "freedom of liberty" but "freedom of religion", which actually does make some sense—an argument I don't understand myself but which has been made by a lot of people.

The phrase was a mistranscription by the Times's Michael D. Shear writing for their online campaign diary The Caucus, and not noticed by any copy editors. I don't blame Shear, who is probably not getting much sleep, but the copy editor deserves a great big wag of the finger. I'm leaving this post as is in the name of copy editors everywhere (it's not a job, it's a vocation, and you keep doing it your whole life whatever your title may be).

He's a tenther!

Uncredited, from the National Catholic Register.
Archbishop is out there with former part-time Governor Palin and the rest of the Tenth Amendment rights-reserved-to-the-states crowd, as suggested by this, quoted from the Times:
“Never before,” Archbishop Dolan said, setting the tone, “has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”
 See, before it was only state governments forcing individuals and organizations to go out and violate their consciences!

Also, too, free exercise of religion does not rank first:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It's the establishment clause that comes first, thanks, and I think that implies that free exercise of religion does not include bishops of any particular denomination dictating exceptions to the law.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's the principal of the thing (update)

The Puzzle of Boys. From Chronicle of Higher Education.

The study I wrote about last January purporting to show that small high schools are better than large ones now exists in online published form (I don't know since when, but it is dated January 2012)—
"Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City's Small Public High Schools of Choice", by Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman (a different coauthor from the one named in the Times story)—and there are some new things to say about it.

The first thing is that it doesn't purport to show that small high schools [jump]

Don't make a federal case out of it!

But they did. You know all those state laws I have been babbling about? The ones that mandate employer-provided health insurance to include family planning? and that the Roman Catholic bishops have had to learn to live with? in spite of their howls of terror and despair at a new law mandating the same thing nationwide?
Bishops emerging from cave. From Inside the Hotdog Factory.
Turns out these laws are simply implementing a rule that has already been nationwide for 12 years: Joan McCarter at Daily Kos (quoting Mother Jones) reports that
In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today ...
What's new in the new law is the fact that there's no co-pay, since the Affordable Care Act requires preventive care to be dispensed free—oh, and that religious exemption that the more progressive state laws added, just because they wanted to be nice.

So what was it the bishops were upset about again? It was OK to have contraception as long as you shelled out the $25 a month? The religious exemption as it was just made them hungry for more? Didn't have anything to do with the Kenyan Muslim socialist Mau-Mau name on the bill, did it?

Bibi guns

There is important Iran news (h/t voteforobamain2012 at Kos) breaking this morning from NBC News, of all places: Anonymous US officials have confirmed that the group responsible for murdering Iranian scientists is the MEK terrorist group (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) encamped in eastern Iraq--anti-Ayatollah and equally anti-Shah before that, a tool of Saddam Hussein in the war with Iran and now a tool of Israeli foreign policy.

It's not exactly news that that's who the killers and their paymasters are. [jump]
Persian warriors. Pergamon Museum/Vorderasiastishes Museum, Berlin; image from  Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Really Tom watch

I weary somewhat of repeating this, but if you are reading Thomas M. Friedman in the New York Times, you are not getting Really Tom Friedman in the cloud, and I do mean cloud.

Look at China. While they were busily denouncing traitors to Communism, or having Great Leaps Forward, or goosing the numbers on Five Years’ Plans, they stayed poor, and more importantly they stayed boring. Seriously. If you have no idea what China was like after the Cultural Revolution, go watch John Adams’ Nixon in China on YouTube. Sooooo Booooring. Many dissidents willingly went to jail just to have the sensory experience of torture.

At least that’s what I read in my “Historic China Enthusiast Book of Guidance in Travels English Vergin” which I picked up last week in Vladivostock. As this booklet reminds us, it’s important to think of people less as beings with values, than as groups with interests. And it’s important to remember volcanoes. For like volcanoes, people are impossible to understand or reason with. They flow like magma beneath the crust of authoritarian regimes, as in Syria, and when they come to the surface who knows what kind of poisonous vapors they’ll release. And that’s the mote in your eye.
I honestly don't know why I love the guy—he's as ignorant as Proust's M. Norpois, or even Chris Mathews, who said

        • on Hardball that all employees at Catholic schools and hospitals ARE Catholics. He argued the point strenuously for several minutes.
          Then he stepped back and said, well, everyone at HIS school was Catholic.
          Really, Chris?

(h/t/ my friendly interlocutor at Kos, Brooke in Seattle)—and he wears that idiotic mustache, and he still hasn't blogrolled me. Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas, I guess.
From MomAdvice

Call for signatures

The man Think Progress refers to as the first democratically elected leader of a 100% Muslim country, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, has been deposed at gunpoint in a military coup, according to the Guardian, by supporters of the longtime dictator Maumoon Gayoom. Nasheed, in addition to his importance for the development of democracy in the Indian Ocean region, is also remarkable for his seriousness and effectiveness in alerting the world to the dangers of global warning; one of the lighter moments in that career is when he held an underwater cabinet meeting, above, in 2009 to call attention to where his country is going to be if we cannot do something about the carbon-caused changes in the world climate (the Maldives is at its highest only a couple of meters above sea level).

ThinkProgress notes that
Global climate grassroots organization 350.org has established an urgent petition to ask the international community to help ensure Nasheed’s safety.
so I am passing that on. Please have a look. 

Left behind—but not quite as far as it was

I've been spending a lot of time on obnoxious or wicked Israelis, and it's only fair to note that there is more going on than that, including one of the great socialist organizations of history, the Histadrut labor federation, roaring back today with a general strike against the government habit of hiring low-wage contract workers from the Israeli equivalent of temp agencies instead of union members. Interestingly enough, the government is more right-wing than the private employers' organization, the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations,  which has already done a deal with the federation.

Fourth meeting of the Hapoel Hatzair movement, about 1909. David Ben Gurion is possibly in this photo, first at the left in the second row from the bottom. From Labor Zionism at MidEastWeb.org.
This follows up on the federation's decision, after days of agonizing back and forth, to join last summer's vibrant protests against housing conditions— [jump]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oh, one other thing—money really does help!

We've just been talking about it, right?

According to a report issued Friday by the Bruce Baker for the Albert Shanker Institute, "Revisiting The Age-Old Question: Does Money Matter In Education?" (h/t Huffington Post)
Does money matter? Yes. On average, aggregate measures of per-pupil spending are positively associated with improved or higher student outcomes. In some studies, the size of this effect is larger than in others and, in some cases, additional funding appears to matter more for some students than others. Clearly, there are other factors that may moderate the influence of funding on student outcomes, such as how that money is spent – in other words, money must be spent wisely to yield benefits. But, on balance, in direct tests of the relationship between financial resources and student outcomes, money matters.
Do schooling resources that cost money matter? Yes. Schooling resources which cost money, including class size reduction or higher teacher salaries, are positively associated with student outcomes. Again, in some cases, those effects are larger than others and there is also variation by student population and other contextual variables. On the whole, however, the things that cost money benefit students, and there is scarce evidence that there are more cost-effective alternatives.
Do state school finance reforms matter? Yes. Sustained improvements to the level and distribution of funding across local public school districts can lead to improvements in the level and distribution of student outcomes. While money alone may not be the answer, more equitable and adequate allocation of financial inputs to schooling provide a necessary underlying condition for improving the equity and adequacy of outcomes. The available evidence suggests that appropriate combinations of more adequate funding with more accountability for its use may be most promising.
Read up on the evidence yourself, and pass it on.

Crazy kind of loving there...

Segregation Map of Kansas City, Missouri, Census Year 2000, by the photographer Eric Fischer; each dot represents 25 people, color-coded by race: pink is White, blue is Black, orange is Hispanic and Latino, and green is Asian.
Somebody at Kos posted a discussion of a Very Disturbing Report on Education today, produced by the Cato Institute and proving or purporting to prove that increased school funding doesn't help to improve educational outcomes. Oh, dear, I thought, and took a look at the report itself—Money and School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment by one Paul Ciotti—to see if I could find some holes in its methodology.

Well, I didn't need to worry myself about that in particular, since it turns out that the thing was published in 1998, that's 14 years ago, and actual scholars have had time to identify all the holes already. And have done so, too.

Ciotti's report is the story of the lawsuit filed in 1977 by the Kansas City Board [jump]