winger crazy has its agenda, artist pencils wallpaper, breitbarting is another word for pravda

I was reading Gene Lyons take on President Obama’s release of his “certificate of live birth”. He notes that the whole birtherism movement is only part of a much bigger barrel of pure freak’n nuttiness – The futility of reasoning with crazy. This paragraph is just one example,

Alas that’s merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg where GOP delusional thinking is concerned. Judging by my inbox, a large proportion of angry white men also believe that the burst housing bubble and financial meltdown of 2007-8 were caused by — wait for it — President Jimmy Carter. A version of this poisonous myth has been popularized by syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell.

I do not mean this to be simply name calling or hyperbolic, syndicated right-wing columnist Thomas Sowell seems to have some severe cognitive disorder – several examples here. I may have mentioned the documentary “Inside Job” previously. For those who dread reading about economics it is a relatively painless way to digest some of the history of financial deregulation that lead to the U.S. housing bubble and the Great Recession. Some Democrats during the 1990s such as Larry Summers and President Clinton, hand in hand with Republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Phil Gramm, were clearly guilty of jumping on the deregulation bandwagon. Those really into the history of Democrats and the conservative Democratic Leadership Counsel ( recently disbanded) know that these people were the non-progressive branch of the Democratic Party. They did a lot of the kind of triangulations between corporate, Wall St and middle-class interests that frustrates progressive Democrats. A large number of Democrats bought at least partly into, and continued the deregulation of the banking system started by Reagan ( Reagan has the most recent and now third largest financial meltdown of modern times with the Savings and Loan scandals). If Sowell and his ilk want to present an honest history of the housing bubble and the history of who was involved and who passed what legislation, including Democrats, by all means do so. That is not his agenda. It has becomes the Right’s meme that the working poor caused the housing bubble. That liberals used the the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to force banks to make all the sub-prime loans. And that by extension the housing bubble was all Freddie Mac and Fannie Mays fault. Statistics show that regular banks made most of the sub-prime loans and that large Wall St financial houses such as Bears Stearns and Goldman-Sachs, for the sake of their derivatives and CDOs pushed banks to make loans to people across the economic spectrum on houses they could not afford. Did Liberals Cause the Sub-Prime Crisis?

First, consider timing. CRA was enacted in 1977. The sub-prime lending at the heart of the current crisis exploded a full quarter century later. In the mid-1990s, new CRA regulations and a wave of mergers led to a flurry of CRA activity, but, as noted by the New America Foundation’s Ellen Seidman (and by Harvard’s Joint Center), that activity “largely came to an end by 2001.” In late 2004, the Bush administration announced plans to sharply weaken CRA regulations, pulling small and mid-sized banks out from under the law’s toughest standards. Yet sub-prime lending continued, and even intensified — at the very time when activity under CRA had slowed and the law had weakened.

Second, it is hard to blame CRA for the mortgage meltdown when CRA doesn’t even apply to most of the loans that are behind it. As the University of Michigan’s Michael Barr points out, half of sub-prime loans came from those mortgage companies beyond the reach of CRA.

More here, Conservatives Can’t Escape Blame for the Financial Crisis

As the FCIC (Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission) staff reports demonstrate fairly conclusively, it was the shadow banking system’s unregulated private securitization of mortgages that caused the financial crisis, not affordable housing policies. The FCIC staff has done an excellent job of compiling the facts, and we encourage you to check out the FCIC’s comprehensive reports to date.

Freddie and Fannie accounted for a fraction of the demand for mortgage backed securities

Like birtherism these wild accusations about the cause of the housing bubble, which never have any authoritative evidence to support them, serve multiple purposes. They smear people, institutions and governing philosophies they do not like, and cannot win an honest debate on. Estimates vary,but a common figured used to estimate the amount of wealth that Wall Street’s fraud and thief cost the country is about $7 trillion. Not one person involved in the Wall St meltdown has been sent to jail. The media and most people are now convinced the U.S. is having problems balancing the budget because Obama went on some kind of spending spree. Or that the states or having budget problems because of excessive federal spending under Democrats. We do have a spending problem, we have a loss of wealth problem coupled with a loss of revenue problem. How are Republicans handling that situation. By claiming the middle-class and working poor have to make sacrifices. P.T. Barnum could well have been thinking of people who believe the Republican lies when he said there is a sucker born every minute.

Freddie and Fannie are not guilt free. They did misrepresent the value of their assets early in the Bush administration ( they were fined), but that was not part of the larger structural issues that lead to the housing bubble or the financial collapse of Wall St. The Federal Reserve of New York did its own investigation and also found that private banks were the largest originators of sub-prime loans – Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit. I doubt Sowell has read it since it is not in big block letters made with crayons.

dusty blue water drops wallpaper

Breitbarted Again? BigGovernment Uses Deceptively Edited Video To Smear University Professors – UPDATED and here, Breitbart Starts Big Push To “Go After Teachers” With His Trademark Deception

A week after he promised to “go after the teachers and the union organizers,” his website started running a series of choppy, heavily edited videos taken from labor studies courses taught at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The posts promoting these videos claim, among other things, that the professors “instruct students on how fear, intimidation, and, even, industrial sabotage are important and, often, necessary tools,” and that they teach their students that the US flag is “racist.”

But given Breitbart’s history of dishonesty and his declared intention to “go after” teachers and unions, do we have any reason to think Big Government’s claims are credible?

In a word, no. And in fact a quick review of the full context of these clips reveals that Breitbart is up to his old tricks again.

Brietbart’s little games may be wearing thin for all but the raw meat eaters. His little con game with Planned Parenthood didn’t work as well as the ACORN stunt. When the con comes down to fleecing the other cons, its game over.

designer colors

artist pencils wallpaper


kiwi tint trees wallpaper, condi rice learned nothing from rehab, scotus full frontal assault on basic rights

kiwi tint trees wallpaper

Just as a memory refresher Condoleezza Rice was Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term  ( during 9-11) and Secretary of State during Bush’s second term. This Q&A is a recent article from the NYT, Nobody Puts Condoleezza Rice in a Corner

Rumsfeld also implied that you were unfit for office. He wrote that you had “modest experience in the federal government and management.”
First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But I don’t know what Don was trying to say, and it really doesn’t matter. Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.

I wouldn’t ask Donnie Rumsfeld or rely on him to give me the exact time, much less than who he thinks is competent. Though he like most people, if Donnie swings his hammer enough times he will eventually hit a nail now and then, Claim vs. Fact: Rice’s Q&A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission

CLAIM: “I was certainly not aware of [intelligence reports about planes as missiles] at the time that I spoke” in 2002. [responding to Kean]

FACT: While Rice may not have been aware of the 12 separate and explicit warnings about terrorists using planes as weapons when she made her denial in 2002, she did know about them when she wrote her March 22, 2004 Washington Post op-ed. In that piece, she once again repeated the claim there was no indication “that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles.” [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04]

CLAIM: There was “nothing about the threat of attack in the U.S.” in the Presidential Daily Briefing the President received on August 6th. [responding to Ben Veniste]

FACT: Rice herself confirmed that “the title [of the PDB] was, ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'” [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]

CLAIM: “One of the problems was there was really nothing that look like was going to happen inside the United States…Almost all of the reports focused on al-Qaida activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and North Africa...We did not have…threat information that was in any way specific enough to suggest something was coming in the United States.” [responding to Gorelick]

FACT: Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that “In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States” to “carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives.” The report “was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August [2001].” In the same month, the Pentagon “acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” [Sources: Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]

CLAIM: “If we had known an attack was coming against the United States…we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it.” [responding to Roemer]

FACT: Rice admits that she was told that “an attack was coming.” She said, “Let me read you some of the actual chatter that was picked up in that spring and summer: Unbelievable news coming in weeks, said one. Big event — there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar. There will be attacks in the near future.” [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]

Like doctors and police officers, national security advisers are held – or should be held – to a higher standard when it comes to screw ups. Even if one gave Rice some generous leeway on what constitutes competence in terms of being up to speed on security threats, she not only failed, but did so repeatedly and then lied to Congress about her failings. Rice is intelligent. Sometimes intelligent people are distinguished from the average because they tell more plausible lies. Also from the NYT Q&A,

I’ve read that people consider you almost incapable of admitting a mistake. What do you consider to be the biggest of your career?
You know, I’ve done pretty well. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past that way.

You can’t think of just one?
I’m certain I can find many. It’s just not a very fruitful exercise.

One of humanity’s remarkable features is the ability to use our knowledge, experience and fact gathering skills to make reasonable assumptions about future events. Weather forecasters, ecologists and market analyst use these skills all the time. Looking back and learning from mistakes is equally as valuable  human trait – OK dogs, dolphins and birds do it too. Rice, according to the first part of her testimony is not too great at taking intelligence and making reasonable assessments and has little regard for evolving in terms of wisdom based on experience as well,

CLAIM: “The decision that we made was to, first of all, have no drop-off in what the Clinton administration was doing, because clearly they had done a lot of work to deal with this very important priority.” [responding to Kean]

FACT: Internal government documents show that while the Clinton Administration officially prioritized counterterrorism as a “Tier One” priority, but when the Bush Administration took office, top officials downgraded counterterrorism. As the Washington Post reported, these documents show that before Sept. 11 the Bush Administration “did not give terrorism top billing.” Rice admitted that “we decided to take a different track” than the Clinton Administration in protecting America. [Source: Internal government documents, 1998-2001; Washington Post, 3/22/04; Rice testimony, 4/8/04]

CLAIM: “There was a discussion of Iraq. I think it was raised by Don Rumsfeld. It was pressed a bit by Paul Wolfowitz.”

FACT: Rice’s statement confirms previous proof that the Administration was focusing on Iraq immediately after 9/11, despite having no proof that Iraq was involved in the attack. Rice’s statement also contradicts her previous denials in which she claimed “Iraq was to the side” immediately after 9/11. She made this denial despite the President signing “a 2-and-a-half-page document marked ‘TOP SECRET'” six days after 9/11 that “directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq.” [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04, 3/22/04; Washington Post, 1/12/03]

We know what happened to many animals from the Jurassic period. Rice seems to have a lot in common with them, especially the inability to evolve. I wonder if Condi is related to Mel Gibson.

The end of class action rights?

Advocates: Consumers ‘betrayed’ by high court ruling on class-action suits

Fine print in everyday consumer contracts can include provisions that require Americans to surrender their rights to file class-action lawsuits, the U.S Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, overturning a lower court ruling.

The ruling could have immediate impact on consumers’ ability to fight against companies when they feel their rights have been violated. It also raises questions about the future of class-action cases.

Consumer advocates roundly criticized the decision.

“(The ruling) is a devastating and far-reaching betrayal of the most fundamental principles of American justice,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a civil rights advocacy organization. “(The court) has effectively removed any incentive for corporations to behave within the law.”

When consumers sign up for everything from cell phone service to rental cars, terms of the contracts signed often compel them to forgo traditional legal mechanisms when a dispute arises, forcing them to mandatory binding arbitration instead.  Such provisions have been struck down in many state cases as “unconscionable,” with various courts deciding consumers could not be compelled to surrender basic legal rights granted by the state. That is especially true in what are known as “contracts of adhesion” — standard form contracts offered on a “take it or leave it” basis, where consumers have little bargaining power, the courts have said.

When most of us have a billing despite with a company we’ll make some effort to recover small amounts – file a compliant with the BBB or your state’s office of consumer affairs, but will generally let it go once it takes up too much time or becomes too aggravating. Class action suits are frequently those small amounts and small disputes applied to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. We all benefit because it causes corporations to watch themselves – thus saving us individually those small unfair or illegal charges for which we cannot get satisfaction. The Robert’s Supreme Court basically says that is over. You take what the company fells like giving you, if anything. Studies have found that forced arbitration only finds in favor of the consumer about 4% of the time. So arbitration is not going to be some last grasp savior of fair remedy. Corporations can no longer be held to account for shady, unethical or blatantly dishonest business practices because hey, it says in the fine print, you agree to their services on the condition they cannot be held liable. This ruling may also apply to an upcoming decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes “the company is asking the justices to dramatically limit the ability of potential plaintiffs to band together to pursue common claims based upon allegedly illegal conduct”. It may apply to situations where coal companies endanger their employees. The SCOTUS ( the five conservative Justices) have doubled down on the corporation as a person point of view. They have decided that a corporation is actually more like a medieval prince, above the law.

egoism is the essence of a lost soul, summer evening view wallpaper, how society benefits from regulations

I wish I had high praise for this essay – Philosophy Weekend: The Case Against Egoism.

An egoist may claim that when we do this, we act for our own individual benefit. This may be true, but once we commit to this collective behavior, our concern for our individual benefit begins to vanish. These are the moments when we realize that we have always been more than individual selves. We are collective selves, and the collective sense of self is often just as strong and dominant as the individual sense of self. To stretch the doctrine of egoism to accommodate this phenomenon is to stretch it beyond the point where it retains any meaning.

The doctrine of egoism is both descriptive (as a psychological theory) and prescriptive (as an ethical system). The flaw in the ethical system becomes clear once we consider that the individual is not even the basic unit of any ethical situation. The basic unit, according to our game model, is any individual or group of individuals that acts with intention. The language of ethical philosophy is itself flawed if it does not recognize the primary existence of collective units acting with singular intention, and treats them only at the individual level. Again, the best evidence that this is so is the functional evidence: a computer simulation model that does not assign attributes and aspirations to groups in the same way that it assigns them to individuals would not be able to reproduce lifelike behavior.

There is more at the link and Litkicks has a Kindle book based on the same subject at Amazon. The book – Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters)- is selling better than Mitt Romney’s snoozefest. One of their problems is the attempt to distinguish between self, acting solely in one’s own interests, the group and acting in the group’s interest. The line are fuzzy and even in behavior that becomes repetitive – giving a friend a ride – is motivated by shifting feelings. The same goal can be accomplished as a result of many different motivations. Each one may or may not have some benefit for the group. Technically I think psychologists have thrown out the word neurotic to describe certain kinds of behavior. For today we’ll assume it has its old definitions relating to compulsiveness, insecurity, anxiety, unwarranted guilt, general feelings of inadequacy – you can see why it is not helpful as a pure clinical term. In regards why we act the why we do it might be neurotic to always expect people to act with the purest of motivations. If an emergency room doctor treats me quickly because they have dinner date, the results are the same if they do so out of humanitarian reasons. Deeply ingrained psychological issues matter, especially over the long haul of life, but if it is a race than the best results regardless of motivations matter just a little more. This essay is not about the pluses and negatives of egoism, but gets to the benefits, the core fundamentals of the case against egoism-centric, The mathematics of being nice

You say there are five different ways in which we cooperate that give us an edge, in terms of natural selection. Tell me about them.
The first one is called direct reciprocity. This is when individuals have repeated interactions, so if I help you now, you may help me later. There is also indirect reciprocity, which takes place in groups. If I help you, somebody else might see our interaction and conclude that I’m a helpful person, and help me later. That’s a reciprocal process relying on reputation.

The third mechanism is when neighbours help each other – cooperators survive in clusters. This is called spatial selection, and it plays an important role, not only for people but for bacteria, animals and plants. Then there is group selection: it may be that our group of cooperators is better off than another group of defectors: here selection acts on two levels, because in our group there is more cooperation.

Group selection has had a tricky reputation, and has been attacked by evolutionary biologists. Do you think it has now been rehabilitated?
The introduction of the concept of group selection, some 40 years ago, was imprecise. But recent mathematical models explain very clearly when group selection can promote the evolution of cooperation. There must be competition between groups and migration rates should be low.

Unless I’ve lost count, there should be one mechanism left.
The last one is kin selection, which can occur when you help a close relative.

Those interested can read the rest and get into kin selection theory at the link. One of the closely related issues of being nice or rejecting egoism, is the use of punishment. This is another weak area for explaining the virtues of rejecting egoism. Many people think of punishing others as a group benefit. Jane took more than her share of food. Not punishing her will result in other people copying her behavior and it might show that the food owners are weak thus inviting more thief or even greater transgressions. We’re all punishment oriented, but some people especially so. Those people will always claim they must mead out harsh punishment for the good of the group. In reality, studies show they act out of some pretty primitive and selfish need to show supremacy, and often even the need to humiliate and display power to other group members. Despots, gang leaders, organized crime – all big on severe punishment and have little regard for forgiveness. To be clear, there are some good points in the LitKicks essay. Maybe its that I have a neurotic bias towards trying to quantify things as much as I can. This is part of the divide between scientists do philosophy and philosophers who tackle the philosophy of science. The former has the now decades old tendency to want to apply the rigor of physics to studies which do not lead themselves to tidy tangible measurement.

There is one group of people whose motivations are troublesome. People who fairly consistently only do the right thing out of fear. I tend to think they would benefit more from therapy than a philosophy lesson.

beach summer wall

summer evening view wallpaper

File this one away as a good addition to the arguments for regulation, The economic—and other—benefits of regulations

Is it really true, as many claim, that regulations damage the economy and undercut job creation?

First, studies have generally shown that that is not the case. Second, the current Congress essentially has amnesia about recent history. In the past few years, the movement to deregulate contributed to the development of a financial crisis that led to the loss of 8 million jobs, lax regulation substantially increased the likelihood of something like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster occurring, and the dangers of a weak FDA were underscored by  significant incidences of tainted food – from spinach to cookie dough. In these cases, the lack of regulation undermined the economy and particular industries. The potentially positive role that strong regulations can play in stimulating economic growth and a well-functioning economic system should also be considered.

[  ]…What do the criticisms of the high cost of regulations miss?

They miss a couple of things. First and foremost they are usually one-sided: We hear about the cost of the regulations without considering the value of the benefits. A series of studies over the past several decades find that the value of the benefits of regulations has consistently and significantly exceeded their costs. Also, the cost estimates typically made by the government and industry representatives have tended to be significantly overstated. When regulations are implemented they tend to be much less costly and more efficient than expected. In part, that reflects the adaptability of the American economy and the firms in it: Given a new regulation, they go out and spend time coming up with the best technology to respond.

Conservatives, and yes even libertarians are pro regulation, when it benefits their usually myopic narrow goals. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act would be an example. It helped increase the fortunes of a few thousand and is partly responsible for the current misery of a few million.

trump and the cult of personality, dancer, rand the monster lover

Shy or just thoughtful quiet personalities have surely marveled at the cult of personality. In popular culture, certainly the movies, our poor protagonist wants to be like the popular person, but in real life many people look at the spectacle of popularity, and in many cases, especially outside of high school wonder if the attention is matched by substance and merit. Such was and still is to some extent, Sarah Palin. Donald Trump seems to be latest entry, Emperor Donald Trump Has No Clothes

“I haven’t seen anybody do anything for a long time that’s really tough coverage on Donald,” says David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter formerly with the New York Times, who has written extensively about Trump’s net worth as well as his business dealings in the gambling industry in his book Temples of Chance [3]. “He’s done exceptionally well at getting the media to treat him on the grounds that he wants—which is he doesn’t mind if you poke fun at him [4] as long as you’re writing about him and making him sound important.”

The media does have s short attention span, content to create and eyeballs to attract for its advertisers. The public loves a spectacle. I’m not an anti-reality TV snob, but how much of the same old petty trash can a culture digest before it gets bad case of gas.

He’s also had more business bankruptcies [6] than wives, and Johnston says Trump’s bravado about his wealth and business acumen contradicts his real record. According to Johnston, Trump typically does two kinds of deals: he borrows more than 100 percent of the purchase price for real estate and takes a fee off the top; or he’s paid a fee to put his name on a building.

Johnston suggests that Trump’s fortune relied on government favors and stiffing his creditors.

“Ordinary casino workers who got into debt had their licenses yanked or in one case their wages garnished, but Donald was not held to that standard,” says Johnston.

As Johnston describes in Temples of Chance, in 1990 one of Trump’s advisers told the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that Trump was one day away from uncontrolled bankruptcy. The commission then approved a privately negotiated deal that relieved Trump of millions in debts. Why did the bankers go along?

“Government rescued Trump by taking his side against the banks,” Johnston says, “telling them that if they foreclosed they would own three seaside hotels that lacked casino licenses.”

Not everyone of them, but more times than it should, it seems that the modern “entrepreneur” is someone who has learned the system and how to game it rather than produce products or services of genuine value. Trump does not seem to care about leaving legacy of value.

black and white water color


Brain illness could have affected Stalin’s actions, secret diaries reveal

It’s one of the great questions of history, and indeed philosophy: what does it take to create a Hitler or a Stalin? What circumstances does it require to produce such evil? Newly released diaries from one of Joseph Stalin’s personal doctors suggest that, in Stalin’s case, illness could have helped to contribute to the paranoia and ruthlessness of his rule over the Soviet Union.

Alexander Myasnikov was one of the doctors called to Stalin’s deathbed when the dictator fell ill in 1953, and, in diaries that have been kept secret up to now, he claims that Stalin suffered from a brain illness that could have impaired his decision-making.

“The major atherosclerosis in the brain, which we found at the autopsy, should raise the question of how much this illness – which had clearly been developing over a number of years – affected Stalin’s health, his character and his actions,” Dr Myasnikov wrote in his diaries, excerpts of which were published for the first time in the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets yesterday.

Whether it is Stalin or Hitler or a serial killer it is common to use the word insane to describe them. The problem in ascribing Stalin’s or a murderers action to actual clinical insanity – due to a medical issue or not – is to deflect some responsibility for their actions away from conscious rational decision making. It seemed at times as though George W. Bush was insane, but that would be more descriptive of his actions, not his frame of mind. He made the decisions to be misleading, to exaggerate, to obscure facts.

How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon – The perverse allure of a damaged woman.

Alisa Rosenbaum (her original name) was born in the icy winter of czarism, not long after the failed 1905 revolution ripped through her home city of St. Petersburg. Her father was a self-made Jewish pharmacist, while her mother was an aristocratic dilettante who loathed her three daughters. She would tell them she never wanted children, and she kept them only out of duty. Alisa became a surly, friendless child.

Its hard to notice objects that are not in the room so it is not always noticed that Rand wrote very little about family. Families would require some selflessness and sacrifice. In most ways families, functional ones anyway, would be counter to most everything Rand wrote. Fine for loners, happy or bitter, but not what most people strive for. Young adults, freshly separated from real family, like to think of their friends as extended family. Their moral support away from home where they all look out for each other, even if not in perfect sit-com fashion.Very anti-Randian.

Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented “the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should.” She called him “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy,” shimmering with “immense, explicit egotism.” Rand had only one regret: “A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough.”

when memes are no longer ideas, grunge railroad tracks wallpaper

What Defines a Meme?Our world is a place where information can behave like human genes and ideas can replicate, mutate and evolve

What would it mean for a replicator to exist without chemistry? “I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet,” Dawkins proclaimed near the end of his first book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. “It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.” That “soup” is human culture; the vector of transmission is language, and the spawning ground is the brain.

For this bodiless replicator itself, Dawkins proposed a name. He called it the meme, and it became his most memorable invention, far more influential than his selfish genes or his later proselytizing against religiosity. “Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” he wrote. They compete with one another for limited resources: brain time or bandwidth. They compete most of all for attention.

The author of this article, James Gleick, and Richard Dawkins are both smart. They’re commonly referred to as intellectuals. I wouldn’t argue with that. So if they want to define their meme as an idea that thrives in petition. Is something that can be digested, regurgitated and digested again and again. Well, it is their idea and their definition. Though this would not be the first time a word and it’s meaning has also been extended upon,whittled, plastered over and grown some mold in its journey through the mob and time. Most popular memes seem to be shallow substitutes for ideas. I rarely have actual ideas  – Brownian motion, derivative calculus, Joycean prose,  the law of gravity, buttons for collars, rhythmic music – are all ideas. That someone is a jerk, that plaid on plaid doesn’t work, that net based social networks are an idea, that a tax-less society creates the most jobs and wealth, are all memes, not ideas. Which is the thing abut ideas and popular cuture that probably corresponds to some algorithm,  they become co-opted over time. At that point you have to make clear you are talking about the original concept, not the popular corruption.

slightly gothic

grunge railroad tracks wallpaper

I was searching for something related to taxes earlier today and found this post. It a relatively short space it puts to rest the pop meme the rich are beleaguered souls who are paying more than their fair share of taxes. More on Tax Fairness – We Pretty Much Have Flat Taxes Now

Yesterday, I showed  graphically how average income tax rates are actually lower than most people think.  In that last post, I introduced the idea that comparing income tax rates alone isn’t adequate. Since incomes below $106,150 are fully taxed for payroll taxes (Social Security/Medicare) but income over that threshold is payroll tax-free…

[  ]…So what do we learn from this?  It shows us that if we look at the overall tax system in the U.S., the complex patchwork system of federal-state-local income taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc., we are pretty close to having a flat tax system.

The graph is one of those a picture says a thousand words situations.

humans have bacteria types like blood types, the big wave wallpaper, gutting social security through the back gate

Bacteria Divide People Into 3 Types, Scientists Say

In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria. Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied.

[  ]…The microbes alter the gut so that only certain species can follow them.

Whatever the cause of the different enterotypes, they may end up having discrete effects on people’s health. Gut microbes aid in food digestion and synthesize vitamins, using enzymes our own cells cannot make.

Dr. Bork and his colleagues have found that each of the types makes a unique balance of these enzymes. Enterotype 1 produces more enzymes for making vitamin B7 (also known as biotin), for example, and Enterotype 2 more enzymes for vitamin B1 (thiamine).

The discovery of the blood types A, B, AB and O had a major effect on how doctors practice medicine. They could limit the chances that a patient’s body would reject a blood transfusion by making sure the donated blood was of a matching type.

There may be more bacteria-enterotypes in humans, but researchers have not studied very many ethnic groups. It would be interesting to know how these bacteria establish themselves in some people and not others. How your colony of bacteria affects your life. Some bacteria and most of the bacteria that lives in the human body is beneficial – a mutualistic symbiotic mutualistic. Is this why some people seem to resist some ailments while others get them. Does this explain obesity in some way or why some people are more energetic than others. Or why people react differently to the same oral medication.

summer wave

the big wave wallpaper

As of today anyway, the definitive article on Apple and its phone tracking, How Apple tracks your location without consent, and why it matters

Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden revealed their findings on Wednesday ahead of their presentation at the Where 2.0 conference taking place in San Francisco. The two discovered that the iPhone or 3G iPad—anything with 3G data access, so no iPod touch—are logging location data to a file called consolidated.db with latitude and longitude coodinates and a timestamp. The data collection appears to be associated with the launch of iOS 4 last June, meaning that many users (us at Ars included) have nearly a year’s worth of stalking data collected.

graphic art

water and rust wallpaper

Besides the ridiculous meme that rising revenue is not part of our federal budget problems is the Republican insistence they are not attacking Social Security. The least one can say about their full frontal assault on Medicare is that, if you read the numbers, it is almost an honest attack. They are coming at Social Security through the back gate, Paul Ryan and Republican Assault on Medicare Would Unravel the Value of Social Security Benefits

These cuts amount to a direct assault on the purchasing power of Social Security – as well as any other source of retirement savings a person has amassed. The government may as well send seniors their Social Security checks with a forwarding envelope to send right along to the private insurance companies waiting to collect! In the zero-sum world of retirement security programs, cuts in one program necessarily damage the goals of another. The Ryan plan threatens the entire foundation of programs we have established to care for our elderly for three important reasons…

By the year would eventually cut Medicare benefits by 75%. That means that most retirees – who are generally on a fixed income – will have to find some way to pay for these new out-of-pocket costs. Many seniors only have one other source of income, Social Security. So they’ll be using their limited income that would have gone for food, shelter and other essential, to pay for the extra insurance they need or paying medical charges directly. Children or the disabled who depend on Medicare will not even have Social Security to fall back on. The Ryan/Republican plan has a nice giveaway to corporations and contains yet another tax cut for the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

The other day I mentioned the heritage Foundation has a tendency to manipulate their numbers. They did that with their unbiased critical analysis of Ryan’s numbers – The Economic Effects of the Ryan Plan: Assuming the Answer?  . Paul Krugamn at the NYT caught them and instead of proving him wrong, they and their sycophantic conservative bloggers have  been calling him names. Sticks and stones and all that don’t change the math.

smoke and peppermint, path by the canyon wallpaper, douthat scares and racebaits

Looks like I’ll have to modify my views on third hand cigarette smoke, at least where developing infants are concerned, LA BioMed study finds ‘thirdhand smoke’ poses danger to unborn babies’ lungs

Stepping outside to smoke a cigarette may not be enough to protect the lungs and life of a pregnant woman’s unborn child, according to a new study in the American Journal of Physiology.

The study, by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed), found prenatal exposure to toxic components of a newly recognized category of tobacco smoke—known as “thirdhand smoke”—can have as serious or an even more negative impact on an infants’ lung development as postnatal or childhood exposure to smoke. Thirdhand smoke is the newly formed toxins from tobacco smoke that remain on furniture, in cars, on clothing and on other surfaces—long after smokers have finished their cigarettes.

“Thirdhand smoke is a stealth toxin because it lingers on the surfaces in the homes, hotel rooms, casinos and cars used by smokers where children, the elderly and other vulnerable people may be exposed to the toxicants without realizing the dangers,” said Virender Rehan, MD, a principal investigator at LA BioMed and corresponding author of the study. “Pregnant women should avoid homes and other places where thirdhand smoke is likely to be found to protect their unborn children against the potential damage these toxins can cause to the developing infants’ lungs.

Peppermint earns respect in mainstream medicine.

University of Adelaide researchers have shown for the first time how peppermint helps to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which affects up to 20% of the population.

In a paper published this week in the international journal Pain, researchers from the University’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory explain how peppermint activates an “anti-pain” channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

This is not a cure for IBS. Peppermint seems to act to relieve symptoms through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain sensing fibres.

scenic landscape

path by the canyon wallpaper

Con New York Times pundit Ross Douthat seems to have massaged some numbers in his latest column. Number manipulation is so common from the right – The Heritage Foundation, The American Free Enterprise Institute, Cato all seem to be using broken calculators. So this is only a  rare occasion where the biggest disservice done the public is in Douthat’s use of the numbers for some race baiting and class warfare, rather than the numbers themselves,

Historically, the most successful welfare states (think Scandinavia) have depended on ethnic solidarity to sustain their tax-and-transfer programs. But the working-age America of the future will be far more diverse than the retired cohort it’s laboring to support. Asking a population that’s increasingly brown and beige to accept punishing tax rates while white seniors receive roughly $3 in Medicare benefits for every dollar they paid in (the projected ratio in the 2030s) promises to polarize the country along racial as well as generational lines.

Ross is just looking out for “brown and beige” people. Declaring himself the new homey who is only echoing the virtues of Paul Ryan’s(D-WI) plan to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, as his way of looking out for the best interests of non-whites. Jonathan Chait points out the obvious demographic trend. It is non-whites who will be the larger group when they are covered under Ryan’s bare bones plan – you’ll get health care up to a certain amount and then its home remedy time or just die and decrease the surplus population. This is an issue that people pay attention to on some level, with people on the cusp of being seniors easily scared. Medicare is a kind of health care pool. If the resources are managed well, benefits will be there for everyone. Douthat is being less than genuine by not flatly stating his purpose. To make everyone believe that an increase in taxes to the rates under the last years of Saint Ronnie and the Clinton years will doom the economy, so buy into Ryan’s Medicare plan or there will not be benefits for anyone or at most a third of the benefits white baby boomers are getting. Douthat’s view from the NYT’s ivory tower is blinded to the possibility that most citizens do feel that we have a social contract ( Conservative tirades against boogeyman multiculturalism frequently have a social contract element implied. They just don’t like to use that term). We can largely go about our lives, but we do have some obligations to each other that most of us regardless of ethnicity are happy to fulfill. You do not even have to take the higher ideals route. You do your part so you can get your share, when you’re too old to throw stones from Ross’s front porch.

Someone tell Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) that his long-lost twin in maliciousness and hypocrisy has been found, While Slashing Social Services, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) Flew More On State Plane In 3 Months Than Predecessor Did In 13.