space bike, wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors

Spacelander Bicycle

Spacelander Bicycle. Designed by Benjamin Bowden for a 1946 exhibition of British industrial design. While this great postwar example of streamline futuristic design was a critical success at the exhibition, Bowden had a difficult time finding a manufacturer who would put it into production. By the time it found a manufacturer in the U.S. in 1960, much of the public’s taste in this kind of style had changed. Only around 500 were sold. Though now it is was of the most highly valued old bicycles on the market.

Study finds wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement and narcissistic behaviors

According to a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month, wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors.

Paul Piff of the University of California at Berkeley told PsyPost “there is something about wealth that gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism).”

“Narcissism is a multi-faceted and complex construct, but that wealth is specifically associated with it suggests that as a person’s level of privilege rises, that person becomes increasingly self-focused – in a sense, becoming the center of their own world and worldview,” he explained.

“The studies in the paper measure narcissism in a whole host of ways, including measuring how likely someone is to stare at their reflection in a mirror (wealthier people do that more often). Even students who come from wealth, but have done little to create their own wealth (yet), report more entitlement. This suggests that wealth shapes an ideology of self-interest and entitlement that’s transferred culturally from one generation to the next.”

This is obviously not always the case, some people with wealth turn out to be great humanitarians. For those people the Spiderman message about great powers  being coupled with great responsibility does sink in with some people. I’ve experienced this quite a bit. There is an attitude of entitlement over the phone or in person – do you know who I am – I want what I want, I want it now and I deserve it because I am a executive VP or a wealthy lawyer or banker. Very strange behavior, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

beach walkway

beach walkway. I noticed this morning that the 6 am sunrises are gone and then along came the big yellow school buses. Summer will soon be gone.

This recent editorial is a good example of the culture of entitlement and narcissistic behavior that guides our economy, The Leveraged Buyout of America

According to legal scholar Saule Omarova, over the past five years, there has been a “quiet transformation of U.S. financial holding companies.” These financial services companies have become global merchants that seek to extract rent from any commercial or financial business activity within their reach.  They have used legal authority in Graham-Leach-Bliley to subvert the “foundational principle of separation of banking from commerce”. . . .

It seems like there is a significant macro-economic risk in having a massive entity like, say JP Morgan, both issuing credit cards and mortgages, managing municipal bond offerings, selling gasoline and electric power, running large oil tankers, trading derivatives, and owning and operating airports, in multiple countries.

A “macro” risk indeed – not just to our economy but to our democracy and our individual and national sovereignty. Giant banks are buying up our country’s infrastructure – the power and supply chains that are vital to the economy.

These assets – airports, toll roads, and ports; control power plants; and store and hoard vast quantities of commodities of all sorts – are being packaged as investment instruments, a bet on their future value, much like the collateralized debt obligations that contributed so much to the Great Recession of 2007. And their are doing it with your money, your deposits – the excess of deposits over loans – as collateral for borrowing. Once again making bets that they cannot pay, if like the housing market, values should go down.


duel after a masked ball, helper robots have emotional flaws

Duel after a Masked Ball

Duel after a Masked Ball by Jean-Leon Gerome (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904). Oil on canvas, 1857).


Helper Robots Are Steered, Tentatively, to Care for the Aging

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed Cody, a robotic nurse the university says is “gentle enough to bathe elderly patients.” There is also HERB, which is short for Home Exploring Robot Butler. Made by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, it is designed to fetch household objects like cups and can even clean a kitchen. Hector, a robot that is being developed by the University of Reading in England, can remind patients to take their medicine, keep track of their eyeglasses and assist in the event of a fall.

That sounds like what I am hoping for. Progress towards an agile, artificially intelligent robot to help me in my old age. Though there are already ethical issues. People with neuro-degenerative diseases are using robots and are talking to them in the frequent absence of human care takers. That might look like tragic-comedy in a movie or novel, but real life is another matter. These people think the robots can understand and sympathize with what they are saying.

“I felt like this isn’t amazing; this is sad. We have been reduced to spectators of a conversation that has no meaning,” she said. “Giving old people robots to talk to is a dystopian view that is being classified as utopian.” Professor Turkle said robots did not have a capacity to listen or understand something personal, and tricking patients to think they can is unethical.

That’s the catch. Leaving the questions of ethics aside for a moment, building robots is not simply about creating smart machines; it is about making something that is not human still appear, somehow, trustworthy.

Even if the robot is trustworthy i terms of not hurting the person or damaging property, it will be a while before there are C-3PO, emotionally aware robots who understand the story about your grand children and shows something like genuine empathy. Otherwise we are just tricking the naive or sick that they have a real companion that can listen.

Monet in front of his paintings (The Waterlilies) in his studios

Monet in front of his paintings (The Waterlilies) in his studios. 1920. Gelatin silver print by Henri Manuel (1874-1947).

A Right-Wing Mole at ABC News Jonathan Karl and the success of the conservative media movement

After a stint at the New York Post, Karl soon found his way to CNN, but he was still connected to ideological pursuits; he was a board member at the right-leaning youth-oriented Third Millennium group and at the Madison Center for Educational Affairs—which, like the Collegiate Network, seeks to strengthen young conservative journalism. After moving to ABC in 2003, Karl contributed several pieces to the neo-con Weekly Standard, such as his April 4, 2005 article praising Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as out to “make her mark with the vigorous pursuit of the president’s freedom and democracy agenda.

Recently Karl and ABC News pushed that fake e-mail that suggested some kind of White House cover-up of Benghazi. Maybe not a coincidence that Karl did not do much in the way of verification before passing along a fake e-mail to the public as “news.”

tulip blossoms wallpaper, you do not own your genes

tulip blossoms wallpaper

tulip blossoms wallpaper

I am surprised that this science-culture-ethics research paper seems to have gotten some traction on the net. I read a science news fed most days and often think, well that story is going to get a lot of attention, and other than a couple science bloggers, the story fails to generate much buzz. You Don’t “Own” Your Own Genes. Researchers Raise Alarm about Loss of Individual “Genomic Liberty” Due to Gene Patents That May Impact the Era of Personalized Medicine

Humans don’t “own” their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the “short sequence” patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Furthermore, the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study’s co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.

“If these patents are enforced, our genomic liberty is lost,” says Dr. Mason, an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and computational genomics in computational biomedicine at the Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell. “Just as we enter the era of personalized medicine, we are ironically living in the most restrictive age of genomics. You have to ask, how is it possible that my doctor cannot look at my DNA without being concerned about patent infringement?”

The U.S. Supreme Court will review genomic patent rights in an upcoming hearing on April 15. At issue is the right of a molecular diagnostic company to claim patents not only on two key breast and ovarian cancer genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — but also on any small sequence of code within BRCA1, including a striking patent for only 15 nucleotides.

In its study, the research team matched small sequences within BRCA1 to other genes and found that just this one molecular diagnostic company’s patents also covered at least 689 other human genes — most of which have nothing to do with breast or ovarian cancer; rather, its patents cover 19 other cancers as well as genes involved in brain development and heart functioning.

“This means if the Supreme Court upholds the current scope of the patents, no physician or researcher can study the DNA of these genes from their patients, and no diagnostic test or drug can be developed based on any of these genes without infringing a patent,” says Dr. Mason.
One Patented Sequence Matched More Than 91 Percent of Human Genes

Dr. Mason undertook the study because he realized that his research into brain and cancer disorders inevitably involved studying genes that were protected by patents.

Under U.S. patent law, genes can be patented by those researchers, either at companies or institutions, who are first to find a gene that promises a useful application, such as for a diagnostic test. For example, the patents received by a company in the 1990s on BRCA1 and BRCA2 enables it to offer a diagnostic test to women who may have, or may be at risk for, breast or ovarian cancer due to mutations in one or both of these genes. Women and their doctors have no choice but to use the services of the patents’ owner, which costs $3,000 per test, “whereas any of the hundreds of clinical laboratories around the country could perform such a test for possibly much less,” says Dr. Mason.

The impact on these patents is equally onerous on research, Dr. Mason adds.

“Almost every day, I come across a gene that is patented — a situation that is common for every geneticist in every lab,” says Dr. Mason.

Dr. Mason and his research partner sought to determine how many other genes may be impacted by gene patents, as well as the overall landscape of intellectual property on the human genome.

The general argument in favor of patenting genes is that some companies cannot make a profit off their research without a patent. This will come out of the mouths of Fox News talking heads as we’re all gonna die if you don’t have patents on genes. What researchers should be making a profit from is the treatment regime, if anything. To see how this gene patenting plays out just look at Monsanto’s patents on seeds. It does not look evil on the very front end. You buy some patented seeds that they created to survive being sprayed with the weed killer, that they also patented. The problem is that nature does not respect seed patents. The pollen containing the patented genes are blown into the field of someone who did not buy the patented seeds. That farmer cannot harvest that crop without paying Monsanto because the wind blew some of their genes into his/her field. The farmer that did not buy the patented seeds because the economic prisoner of Monsanto. Are cancer patients going to become the economic prisoners of companies that own the gene that requires a gene therapy on the patented genes. Monsanto also claims that in order to make a profit they must patent those genes. Simply put, I don’t care if Monsanto goes out of business and gee, I don ‘t know, we find a way to plant wheat, corn soy beans or whatever, like we did before Monsanto came along and got American, and increasingly European farmers into this cycle of dependence on them because of their weed killer. It is not the least been hyperbolic or melodramatic to say that if a corporation owns our genes they own life. Congress will never let it come to that? They already have by allowing the patenting of human genes and letting Monsanto claim they own even accidentally pollinated crops that have their genes in them.

plums, heavy patients and physician burnout, america’s nearsighted fortunate sons

This is from a post by someone who maintains a blog about Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) who apparently was friends with William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) – Mind, Mouth and Page – 36 (Plums)

AG: The poem I like best to illustrate his (William Carlos Williams’) point, his method, is something that he told me, I think, was simply, literally a note left for his wife (Floss), which, when he reread it in the morning, he picked up (on) and put in the book as another poem. “This is Just to Say” is the title. [Allen reads “This is Just to Say” in its entirety] – “This is just to say” [title] I have eaten/ the plums/ that were in/ the icebox/ and which/ you were probably/ saving/ for breakfast/ Forgive me. they were delicious/ so sweet/and so cold”. I think that’s one of his greatest exemplary poems, because, finally, it’s where life and poetry are identical. There’s no separation out.

And since it is easier to get the narrative rhythm of “This is Just to say”,

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I post some poetry once in a while yet I would not describe myself as a big poetry person. The poems that I do like tend to be written before 1970 – Frost, Dickinson, Whitman…the kind of stuff that makes so many high school students yawn. In one episode of Californication Hank says something about his daughter quoting a “minor’ Frost poem. There is no such thing. Just as there is no such thing as a minor Williams poem. Aspiring poets read the plums poem or The Red Wheelbarrow and think, I can do that, so simple, so plain. Then it pours out unto paper as someone trying too hard to be simple and unaffected.

bath chairs and pump room circa 1900, england. At one time public baths were a big deal in terms of personal hygiene and supposed health benefits of soaking in the warm mineral waters. There is a Bath, England that was and still is famous for its natural spring baths.

Doctor won’t treat anyone over 200 pounds. The doctor did not come across to me as being malicious and this was not an emergency. The woman who wanted to see the doctor was new patient and the doctor had started a new policy not to see new patients they are severely overweight. One of the reason the doctor started the policy was that handling overweight patients has caused some injuries to her staff. That is not the first time I’ve heard that. Acquaintances who work in hospitals feel a little guilty in confessing that they have come to recent people who are morbidly obese because of back injuries. Doctors are not legally obligated to see and treat new patients. That said I wonder if this could not be carried a little too far. You drink more than one beer a day, sorry I can’t see you until you reduce your daily alcohol intake. You’re not eating enough red meat, come back when you’re not anemic. That doctor and others may subconsciously be fighting what they feel are relentless problems. Health issues they see everyday and people just not listening to medical advice, The Root of Physician Burnout

According to psychologists, signs of burnout include decreased enthusiasm for work, growing cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. As the name implies, individuals suffering from burnout feel as though a fire that once burned inside them has dwindled, and perhaps even been entirely extinguished. In many cases, they report a sense of having “run out of fuel,” and like my colleague, feel as though they “have nothing left.”

Of nearly 7,300 physicians who participated in the Archives of Internal Medicine’s national survey, 46% reported at least one symptom of burnout, and the overall rate of burnout among physicians was 38%, as opposed to 28% among other US workers. The highest rates of burnout were reported among primary care physicians, including family physicians, general internists and emergency medicine physicians.

WW II work safety poster

In freaky stuff that people want to believe, Why the Gold Standard Is the World’s Worst Economic Idea, in 2 Charts. This is not some wacky libertarian-conservative fringe idea now, it is an official part of the RNC platform for 2012. Ayn Rand and modern conservatives, especially including VP candidate Paul Ryan are not the first to think that all economic issues, all failures on your part to get ahead, to even make a living are part of your moral failings as a human being. This is not to be confused with the general acknowledgement that some people are a little lazy. Paul Ryan and the Great Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852)

John Kelly, author of “The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People”, has posted a fascinating look at VP candidate Paul Ryan’s policy on public welfare by looking back at the Irish Famine.

It started in 1845 and before it was over more than one million men, women, and children would die and another two million would flee the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was the worst disasters in the nineteenth century—it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War.

Kelly points out that Ryan claims a direct Irish heritage, yet the VP candidate’s views are diametrically opposed to his own family’s story of survival. Ryan is compared with British who wanted to decimate the poor during famine.

between 1845 and 1850, repeated crop failures reduced the population of Ireland by a third. But crop failure wasn’t what caused the worst of it: a government economic philosophy called “Moralism” and speeches made in Parliament that are almost word-for-word like Ryan’s own speeches about his Republican budget are what made the famine catastrophic, causing needless deaths.

Let’s not let morally deprived ideas die, let’s polish them up and recycle them in order to have repeated disasters. If heads could really spin, Clueless Mitt Romney Cites Businesswoman Who Presided Over Huge Losses And Job Cuts As Model For His Cabinet. Aren’t those perfect free market mechanisms that punish failure supposed to be in play – that anyone has any respect for Meg Whitman’s business record says not.

We do not have a spending problem we have a revenue problem, Add It Up: Taxes Avoided by the Rich Could Pay Off the Deficit

Today’s video is dedicated to Mitt Romney, another fortunate conservative elite son who managed to miss all the fun. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son

CCR – Fortunate Son music video from xousod on Vimeo.

some stuff i have read recently, autumn dandelions wallpaper, louie and unintended meanings

A Nod to the Xenophobic, Lying Inventor of Spy Fiction

Beyond literature, the man’s true (evil) genius (William Le Queux b. 1864)) was as a propagandist. His paranoid novels and bogus pronouncements were aimed at convincing fellow Brits that England was infested with foreign agents. In fact, the flimsy evidence of German spying he stovepiped to a government subcommittee—a subcommittee that arose from anxieties he helped stir—prompted the 1909 founding of the British Secret Service Bureau (later a model for the CIA).

According to one study of paranoia there is only a genetic link a small percentage of the time. What the World Health Organization considers clinical paranoia is said to only affect, at maximum, about %2.5 of the population. With males in the majority. Yet so much of our cultural clashes seem propelled by paranoia. Everyone feels paranoid once in a while. But everyone feels relaxed once in a while as well. Why does one aspect of the range of human emotions drive so much hostility and ethnocentrism.

A High Holy Whodunit

One day this spring, on the condition that I not reveal any details of its location nor the stringent security measures in place to protect its contents, I entered a hidden vault at the Israel Museum and gazed upon the Aleppo Codex — the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible. The story of how it arrived here, in Jerusalem, is a tale of ancient fears and modern prejudices, one that touches on one of the rawest nerves in Israeli society: the clash of cultures between Jews from Arab countries and the European Jews, or Ashkenazim, who controlled the country during its formative years.

This is a long but fascinating read. Even those not particularly interested in religion should find the mystery and the history worth their time. Though it is difficult not to note the way religious beliefs, the same religious doctrines pulled followers in opposite directions.

autumn dandelions wallpaper

I have probably mentioned before that there are some qualities to admire in the Amish. Unlike Republicans they live a truly God centered life. While Republicans embrace the bloody revenge and justice of the Old Testament, the Amish have a more Sermon on The Mount perspective. Unlike conservatives such as Mitt Romney or these clowns, the Amish do actual work for a living. Amish Population Booms in US

The Amish, who represent a branch of the Anabaptist movement, shun most modern technologies and settle on farmland where they can live undisturbed by much of the world. Even so, Donnermeyer speculated that the availability of farmland may not be able to keep up with the Amish population boom, which might mean more Amish men will start looking for nonfarm jobs such as woodworking and construction trades.

Effort to Save Harlem’s Murals From a Grittier Time. Very good photo essay from the NYT Blog.

One of the first murals that Franco Gaskin noticed missing was of a weeping Martin Luther King Jr. He had painted the work about 18 years ago on the dreary metal front gate of an abandoned store where Dr. King was said to have had a book signing. Then his painting of a bountiful harvest outside a store called Family Fair Fruit that is now a Starbucks disappeared. Also gone was his vision of a phoenix flying near the sun outside a mom-and-pop store that became a Rite Aid.

Back when Harlem’s 125th Street was a far drearier commercial stretch, Mr. Gaskin, an artist who has gained global acclaim as Franco the Great, painted mural after mural on the storefront security gates. He ultimately painted about 200 of them.

Mural by Franco Gaskin aka Franco the Great

Joyce Carol Oates writes about Charles Dickens,

If Dickens’s prose fiction has “defects”—excesses of melodrama, sentimentality, contrived plots, and manufactured happy endings—these are the defects of his era, which for all his greatness Dickens had not the rebellious spirit to resist; he was at heart a crowd-pleaser, a theatrical entertainer, with no interest in subverting the conventions of the novel as his great successors D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf would have; nor did he contemplate the subtle and ironic counterminings of human relations in the way of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, who brought to the English novel an element of nuanced psychological realism not previously explored.

The bold seems to what is getting the most attention. Oates also states about Dickens, “Few would contest that he is the most English of great English novelists, and that his most accomplished novels—Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, Dombey and Son, Our Mutual Friend, and David Copperfield—are works of surpassing genius, thrumming with energy, imagination, and something resembling white-hot inspiration.” Not every writer can perform every trick. If a critic so desires there are always short comings to find. Dickens is not around to make notes, but this is where critics, even if they hate a writer, can be their best friend. They provide the opportunity to step back and reevaluate.

6 Things Mitt Romney Is Hiding – From missing emails to mysterious investments, his deep history of secrecy. They seemed to have missed listing Romney’s birth certificate. I’ve heard he was really born in Russia to some KGB agents who smuggled him into Utah via a midnight merchant ship landing at San Diego. Until he proves otherwise he is just a radical commie foreigner. Isn’t that what commies would do, wrap up some fundamentally UnAmerican ideology in the red, white and blue and call it patriotism.

Terry Gilliam’s daughter has started a blog, “Discovering Dad” aka delving into Terry Gilliam’s personal archive. Just one recent example of posts,

Discoveries of the day: 20 July 2012
So I went a little off piste today and dived into some of the Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life material.  I found incredible orignial illustrations and cut-outs for the opening titles animation sequence.

As one would expect everything is copyrighted or I would have posted at least a thumbnail sample.

I generally like program Louie and I like Parker Posey. Louis C.K. was the writer and was the director of the episode that Posey was in. They had meet at a social function and started discussing the role, so Parker and Louis know more about the intended narrative and how to interpret the roles they played than I do. As her dark, two-episode arc on “Louie” ends, the actress reflects on the ways men try to change women

Parker Posey: He’s too wrapped up in his own insecurities to really look at her.

Parker Posey: And he’s a creep too!

Willa Paskin: He’s a creep?

Parker Posey: You don’t think he’s a creep? He’s like skulking in there in a bookstore? Are you kidding? He’s telling her who she is! It’s somewhat sadistic, right? I mean he’s already written her dialogue for her. He comes up to her and he’s talking and what he’s saying is just like a mouthful of what he thinks she’s thinking. And she goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll go along, I’ll be your projection,’ you know?

So this guy is projecting and she senses that, why play games. If she knows who she is and doesn’t like games, why intentionally give him the wrong impression. It turns out later that she does have, as most people do once you get to know them, some emotional baggage. Probably beyond that to some deep emotional scars. With or without emotional scars a woman or a man has the right to vet people. But that is what meeting for coffee or lunch or a full fledged date is for. So from their first words, she was dishonest. Her life experience and what Louie was projecting may mediate too harsh a judgement, but this was probably not the best way to start with someone who on some level one finds appealing, or has the potential to be a date. Later she puts him through a series of trials – putting on a dress, buying a homeless man his prescription and running up a stair case to a roof top that was one of her favorite spots. As Fiona Apple knows, women are capable of toying with men that seem infatuated with them and also knows that taking advantage of that situation is not exactly the right thing to do. If the situation were reversed, with Louie running her through her paces, testing her, would we see it as Louie trying to awaken her – “She’s the one that’s changing him, waking him up to something, getting him out of his head and seeing something. You’re always wondering if Louie’s going to see what’s in front of him. She is trying to help him.” Replace the feminine pronouns with masculine. Not such a good way to approach things by way of these emotional litmus tests. People do test each other all the time, especially in romantic relationships. Some of it can be marked up to human insecurities or frailty, but the extent to which Parker’s character pushed it, reached the threshold of  emotional abuse. Louie and Parker know more about the intentions in play, but might be so connected to the material they cannot see where what they intended could be interpreted as something else. Something dysfunctional. You never know with Louis if or when he will go back and pick up a story line so it might also be his plan to portray a dysfunctional set of characters who don’t know what the hell they’re doing. If that is the case, good job.

parker posey from louie, episode 4 season 3. This is a screen grab from the last minute of that episode.

green succulent wallpaper, whitman’s birthday, the workers versus the rent seekers

green succulent wallpaper

Born today in May 31,1819: Walt Whitman. An exhibition on his life.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A NOISELESS, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

Analysis of this poem are everywhere on the net. They usually stress the human capacity, a near craving in the search for connections or at least a couple of truly meaningful ones. Though there is a sadness, a melancholy, “surrounded, in measureless oceans of space” that is a meditation about the human desire to fill up what can at times seem like the vastness of existence with some kind of contribution – labor, art, companionship, empathy. Others fell the void with delusions of noble violence, war and greed.

button-fly jeans wallpaper. best not worn to rock concerts or beer fests.

Adapted from The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz, to be published in June,

The “Rent Seeking” Problem

Here I need to resort to a bit of economic jargon. The word “rent” was originally used, and still is, to describe what someone received for the use of a piece of his land—it’s the return obtained by virtue of ownership, and not because of anything one actually does or produces. This stands in contrast to “wages,” for example, which connotes compensation for the labor that workers provide. The term “rent” was eventually extended to include monopoly profits—the income that one receives simply from the control of a monopoly. In time, the meaning was expanded still further to include the returns on other kinds of ownership claims. If the government gave a company the exclusive right to import a certain amount of a certain good, such as sugar, then the extra return was called a “quota rent.” The acquisition of rights to mine or drill produces a form of rent. So does preferential tax treatment for special interests. In a broad sense, “rent seeking” defines many of the ways by which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else, including transfers and subsidies from the government, laws that make the marketplace less competitive, laws that allow C.E.O.’s to take a disproportionate share of corporate revenue (though Dodd-Frank has made matters better by requiring a non-binding shareholder vote on compensation at least once every three years), and laws that permit corporations to make profits as they degrade the environment.

The magnitude of “rent seeking” in our economy, while hard to quantify, is clearly enormous. Individuals and corporations that excel at rent seeking are handsomely rewarded. The financial industry, which now largely functions as a market in speculation rather than a tool for promoting true economic productivity, is the rent-seeking sector par excellence. Rent seeking goes beyond speculation. The financial sector also gets rents out of its domination of the means of payment—the exorbitant credit- and debit-card fees and also the less well-known fees charged to merchants and passed on, eventually, to consumers. The money it siphons from poor and middle-class Americans through predatory lending practices can be thought of as rents. In recent years, the financial sector has accounted for some 40 percent of all corporate profits. This does not mean that its social contribution sneaks into the plus column, or comes even close. The crisis showed how it could wreak havoc on the economy. In a rent-seeking economy such as ours has become, private returns and social returns are badly out of whack.

Maybe he does in the book, but I wish that Stiglitz had gone more into how long the U.S. and western Europe (to some extent) can continue this descent into two economies. The worker economy that is making the same thing – adjusted for inflation – it was making thirty years ago, and the top one to ten percent who are making their money through rent seeking. It does not take a majority to continue the trend. Conservatives are a minority in the U.S. Senate and because of parliamentary rules they can and have held up any legislation that addresses deeper financial reform They have even been somewhat successful in blocking implementation of the financial reform we did pass in 2009. Since the rent seekers have more money they can also siphon off funds from the middle and working class by trying to pass an estimated 400 state level bills aimed at passing Jim-Crow-Lite laws aimed at women. The Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1863. Yet we did not have real emancipation until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those opposed to real capitalism, a system that incorporates economic justice, might not take a hundred years, but a half century wait is a real possibility without more progressives in Congress. Stiglitz addresses something that former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has hit on, as that Paul Krugman hints at, that if the 1% mentality about how the economy should run continues, it will take democracy down with it.

In a society in which inequality is widening, fairness is not just about wages and income, or wealth. It’s a far more generalized perception. Do I seem to have a stake in the direction society is going, or not? Do I share in the benefits of collective action, or not? If the answer is a loud “no,” then brace for a decline in motivation whose repercussions will be felt economically and in all aspects of civic life.

For Americans, one key aspect of fairness is opportunity: everyone should have a fair shot at living the American Dream.

May 25th was the anniversary of the Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Retro Film Featuring Original Archival Footage. Sadly all 68,000 tons steel used to build the bridge was supplied by the now defunct Bethlehem Steel.

Contraception rule is legal

The contraceptive coverage benefit does not substantially burden religious practice but rather preserves the religious liberty of individuals to make personal medical and moral decisions without interference from anyone, including their employers. In addition, it has been well established that the government has a compelling interest in protecting public health and remedying long-standing discrimination by ensuring that women receive contraceptive coverage through their health plans.

anne sexton’s toxic love, wildflowers arizona wallpaper, magic and the scientific method

This letter from writer-poet Anne Sexton to her daughter in 1969 is sad, though sweet as well. I know, Mother, I know

Dear Linda,

I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her “I know, Mother, I know.” (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.

And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) — I want to say back.

1st, I love you.

2. You never let me down

3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.

This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda — Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! — Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her — or she me! Silly Anne! So there!



Since I first came across the posting of that letter they updated it with this article-book review from the NYT that notes Sexton’s words, lovely, warm, caring – did not match her behavior according to her daughter, A Daughter Revisits Sexton’s Bedlam

Now, we have before us another account of that tempestuous life, from the point of view of her older daughter and literary executor, the novelist Linda Gray Sexton.

Given Ms. Sexton’s cooperation on the Middlebrook biography, there is little new in this book in terms of factual detail. What makes this memoir so powerful and affecting is its candid, often painful depiction of a daughter’s struggles to come to terms with her powerful and emotionally troubled mother. In these pages, Ms. Sexton grapples not only with her mother’s sexual and emotional abuse of her, but also with the psychological implications of her mother’s writing: the fact that Linda’s own childhood and youth were routinely mined for dramatic material by her mother, the fact that her mother spilled their family’s domestic difficulties for all the world to see.

One could say that Ann’s daughter Linda Gray Sexton got some justice by way of her own revelations. I think writers using very personal stories, their own lives and willingly or not the lives of their family and friends for literary fodder is an interesting issue. Most writers do so. Thomas Wolfe ( sometimes called the American James Joyce) did so famously in Look Homeward, Angel. Not only did he include his family in that thinly disguised semi-autobiography, he used the whole town ( Asheville, North Carolina) which was angry at him for years. In writers workshops and creative writing classes they all encourage honesty. Of digging down and committing to telling the truth as you know it. Our truths tend not to exist as islands. How does a writer reveal themselves and protect others while also maintaining that commitment to not gloss over the unpleasant, or embarrassing or tawdry.

american landscapes, nature, mountains, wildflowers, west

wildflowers arizona wallpaper

An intriguing way to get students interested in science. Might even for on friends as well, The Science of Magic Series

The concept is simple: perform a magic trick for your students, and then challenge them to figure out how it was done. In the process they will learn about and/or apply the scientific method.

They will observe the magic trick and then form hypotheses about how they believe it works. It’s not enough for them to think they know the solution; they’ll have to design experiments to test the validity of their hypotheses then present their results, positive or negative, to their peers. Since magic tricks can be complex, a single experiment will rarely be enough to completely reveal the secret. The students will have to refine their knowledge and repeat the steps while building on their own work, and that of their peers, to continue narrowing in on the correct answer. Along the way they may even discover or invent new techniques or even create whole new magic tricks based on the knowledge base that they have been building.

I think one of reasons conservatives and libertarians generally have contempt for science is that part of the scientific method is testing to see if what one believes is true can be supported by concrete evidence. Believing in things can be illuminating. They can be an integral part of the creative process. In science they tend to lean toward using the word intuitive. You might imagine first how something works, an extraordinary process. Though it is a process that is guided bu logic based on an accumulation of knowledge. When the German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé ( who had memorized the periodic table and knew the known properties of each as all good chemists do) was trying to unravel the shape and bonds of a benezene ring it is said ( only anecdotal evidence exists) that he first imagined that it might be like a ring of snakes, each biting the tail of the next.

black and white small boat on a lake

I don’t like burned biscuits either but come on, Cops Bust Dad Over Burnt Biscuit Rage

Incensed over a batch of burned biscuits, an Illinois man allegedly grabbed a meat cleaver, placed it under his son’s neck, and threatened to kill him, police allege.

The biscuit dispute Sunday morning resulted in the arrest of Harry A. Woods III, 43, for aggravated battery. Woods is jailed in lieu of $20,000 bond for the alleged attack on his 24-year-old son, who is also named Harry.

The biscuits (and some gravy) were intended to be part of breakfast for Woods and his family, according to Sergeant Charles Keshner of the East Alton Police Department. The 6’, 350-pound Woods is pictured in the above mug shot.

According to police (and a criminal information), Woods became angry after the biscuits were burned in the oven of his East Alton home. The biscuits had been placed in the oven by Woods’s teenage daughter, who told family members to keep an eye on them before she departed for a relative’s home.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) – Thinks Government Subsidized Education is OK for Him, Not for American Moms. Gov’mint programs are only for white conservatives, preferably male. Others, in this case a mother with two children trying to play by the rules and get ahead, need not apply.

Obama Administration Comes Out Against SOPA And Protect IP. Now if they just stay the course.

Obviously – see above – good cops come in handy. Bad cops are a nightmare – Seattle Police dash-cam video shows questionable conduct by officers

Mitt Romney and the Curse of Blackness

And no, I’m not talking about a single ambiguous, cherry-picked verse, either. I’d much rather that were the case. The sad truth is that the Book of Morman says it explicitly and in numerous passages: black people are cursed by God and our dark skin is the evidence of our accursedness.

Great photo essay that no one will click over to. Do I get blog credit anyway – America at Work.

Some things cannot be escaped – Road rage, big fish and space aliens. Written and Directed by Nick Khoo