February 10, 2010 archive

More change from the states: New Mexico joins the Move Your Money campaign

Yesterday, the New Mexico House of Representatives unanimously decided to move the states’ money into small banks and credit unions, becoming yet another example of the fact that progressive change will not come from the top down.

In the context of the larger movement against the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street, this is a dramatic repudiation of that behavior from a somewhat unexpected source.

The bill enables a possible switch of $2-5 billion of state funds into CUs and small banks.

If enacted, the municipal funds bill, in the works since last year and still subject to a Senate vote, would represent a setback to large national banks, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which have had a lock on such funds.

The altered view of New Mexico lawmakers in favoring local control of state funds, officials said, follows national mention of the New Mexico effort in the “Move Your Money” campaign of New York pundit Arianna Huffington in her online Huffington Post columns.

Speaking of “Change we can Believe in”

I just came across this article in Mother Jones, which is a bit horrifying:

Walters’ discovery that her home had been sold out from under her marked the low point of a four-year fiasco that began when Ocwen Loan Servicing became her mortgage servicer in late 2004. Through no fault of her own, Ocwen incorrectly processed or lost dozens of Walters’ payments and charged her more than $2,000 in late fees and thousands more in additional charges-all without notifying her. The Florida-based company tried to foreclose on her three times. After she paid more than $10,000, Walters figured things were settled. But Ocwen had other ideas.

Please read the entire article, it’s a tale of shocking usury, which we’re used to by now, but what is more telling to me is the reaction of various agencies of the Federal government, which I am mournful to remind people who believed in Barack Obama, he now heads.

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 37 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Damaged Haiti market collapses with people inside

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

1 hr 36 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Rescuers searching for scavengers trapped inside a half-destroyed supermarket when it totally collapsed found no signs of life on Wednesday, as casualties continued to mount from Haiti’s January 12 earthquake.

Sparks lit up the night as workers used heavy-duty saws to cut through tangled steel and concrete in an attempt to reach up to eight people believed to have entered the damaged Caribbean Market building before it came crashing down on Tuesday.

Rescuers earlier thought they had detected at least one person alive inside, and at one point asked for silence so they could listen for survivors using ultra-sensitive listening equipment.

Mainstream Female Columnists Fail Men and Women Equally

Many bloggers, including me, have expressed frequent consternation at the lack of substantive female voices in the mainstream media.  On that note, there are times when I wonder what both Kathleen Parker and Maureen Dowd are both smoking and inhaling.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee routinely write columns crafted with such a flagrant disregard for coherence or original analysis that I wonder how they even ended up with a job.  Both of these writers are supposed to be the apex of serious journalism and with it the mouthpiece of womanhood and womens’ concerns.  It seems as though both conservative and liberal women are getting the short end of the stick, though I’m hardly surprised at the revelation.  And it isn’t just women who are suffering from such inadequacy.      

Martin Austermuhle, writing today at dcist, points out the sloppy logic of Parker’s latest column in The Washington Post.

Parker asserts that shoveling is something men just need to do, like it’s hard-wired into our genetic code. “What do men want?” she asks. “Shovels. Men want shovels, the bigger the better,” she responds.

“Women can’t be blamed for wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, but smart ones have done so without diminishing the males whose shoulders they might prefer on imperfect days. Add to the cultural shifts our recent economic woes, which have left more men than women without jobs, and men are all the more riveted by opportunities to be useful,” she observes.

According to her profound analysis on the matter, the minute we simple-minded men see a flake of snow, we go running to the nearest shovel. “Man is never happier than when he is called to action, in other words. That is to say, when he is needed,” she posits. Of course, she does add that women will shovel, but she only admits as much to avoid “sexist stereotyping.” Yeah. That’s like prefacing a homophobic joke by saying, “But some of my best friends are gay!”

I frequently use personal examples in my posts and diary entries, but I am always careful to try to use facts and other sources to bolster my claims.  There is great power in the personal, but Parker proves that the personal can be used very wrongly to stand in for objective truth.  Ignoring societal conditioning in favor of innate biological programming is a tactic frequently employed by the Right, particularly as a means of keeping gender distinctions frozen in time.  Even so, there are a few undeniable elements of our behavior that must be chalked up to the undeniable fact that some of us have two X chromosomes and some of us only have one.  Yet, relying too heavily on that fact fails to take into account that we are distinct from other animals in that we have highly advanced brains and reasoning abilities.  Since the beginning of time, humankind has been imposing its own version of reality beyond purely biological imperative and survival instinct.        

The feud between Parker and Dowd is well-documented and I don’t need to add much more to it.  Unsurprisingly, both columnists manage to miss the point altogether when they cobble together a collection of stale arguments and pseudoscience to make their case.  They end up on opposite ends of a great existential divide, managing to be equally wrong in the process.  Contrary to what Dowd says, men are necessary, but it should be added that they are necessary in ways beyond shoveling driveways or providing emergency manual labor.  Contrary to what Parker says, it’s not biologically determined that men are born snow shovelers and ditch diggers.  

Later in the column, Parker at least makes an effort to try to state that she isn’t homophobic or dismissive of the fact that gay men are equally capable of being “masculine”, but the conclusion she draws is bizarre, at best.  If it wasn’t so strangely rendered, I might take more offense to what it implies.

As for Craig, he’s been happy the past 25 years with Jack, who, though he pleads a bad back, cooks a mean stroganoff, from which I have benefited twice since the snows began.

Doubtless, such displays of manliness — which in my view include feeding the hungry — are, like the weather, passing divertissements. And these jottings are but a wee contribution to the annals of gender study. But if one should ever stop pondering the malaise of modern woman long enough to consider what men might want, the answer is obvious to any except, perhaps, the U.S. Congress.

Give a man a job, and he’ll clear a path to your door.  

Her convoluted conclusion seems to be that women have focused too selfishly on their own empowerment that they’ve failed to understand or appreciate the contributions of men.  With it comes an underlying assumption that men feel confused these days because their time-honored roles in society have been somehow denigrated or tarnished since women started demanding equal rights, equal pay, and basic equality.  If only things were this simple.  If only women had anything remotely close to the same degree of parity with men.  If only, for example, there was some set standard of what all men wanted or what all women wanted, for that matter.

One can’t just make a blanket statement based on absolutes.  Men are not some monolithic entity any more than women are.  Surveying the women and men with whom we work, live, and interact will reveal that gender distinctions are not distributed exactly the same for everyone.  In that spirit, it is equally wrong-headed to reduce men to violent brutes or women to flighty fashionistas.  A major problem everyone faces is that we are forced to conform to gender roles that are designed for one-size-fits-all settings when we are all different sizes, shapes, and proportions.  If gender were a set of clothes, we’d be tugging on it constantly, hoping that with enough effort it eventually would cover us properly.  And so long as we impose simplistic identity upon complex humanity, it never will quite work.        

The major problem at play here is that Feminist groups and women’s rights groups tend to often to couch their analysis in overly-academic terms.  I can vouch for this personally.  This means that pop-feminist analysis like Parker and Dowd ends up shaping the perception of most people, as though these sorts of stilted descriptions are some objective picture of the way things really are.  But these two aren’t even the worst offenders.  At least these columnists usually mean well and usually at least aim high.  Meanwhile, aside from “serious” analysis, a perversion of Feminism leads women to believe that there is something empowering in being publicly sexual or in adopting the same pose of their chauvinistic brethren.  Objectification by any other name, this is an attitude reflected ever more frequently in popular culture.  But instead of focusing on whether or not it’s a good thing that now Tween aged girls are dressing provocatively rather than like the children that they are, or whether we’re including people of color into our depictions of feminine identity, or whether transgender citizens are treated with the respect they deserve, instead we get into the eternal back and forth about whether the cause of women’s rights has done more harm than good and whether men are suffering as a result.          

This degree of navel-gazing does no one any good.  Periodically, it might be helpful if we engaged in a respectable dialogue about how far the rights of women have come, where the movement is headed, and what we all might take from it.  However, if this territory is mined constantly without anything especially novel or even interesting to report from it, then we forget that there’s much more to Feminism and gender equality than the tit-for-tat that never ends.  Gender is a construct of the human mind and it is so pervasive that its impact effects us in ways that are both exceptionally glaring and maddeningly minute.  The complexities of civilization and the human mind have given rise to a huge amount of interrelated information to be combed through, but if we fail to survey it in totality, then it does us no good.  The mysteries of men and women will remain so forever.  We might not solve them all, but we’d be a damn sight closer to a greater understanding than we are now, instead of focusing so narrowly on one particularly yawn-inducing issue.

down and out in atlanta

I attended a job fair last weekend, and I can scarcely recall a more depressing and desperate scene. It was extraordinary really, a thousand unemployed educators, young and old, queued up, sixty at a time, for a chance to speak with someone, a chance to place a piece of paper in someone’s hand, and to look a prospective employer in the eye. The faces I saw looked desperate and more than a little scared.

I’m growing more tired and discouraged and depressed by the job hunt with each passing day. Each day that is exactly like the last: wake up, read the news, drink my coffee, scan the classifieds, go to the gym, eat a little something, stay up late watching Star Trek and the X-Files, go to bed and give my woman a kiss on the cheek. Rinse and repeat.

The sad thing (or, more properly, the tragi-comic thing) is, I’m unemployed by design. I left a pair of jobs that I had held for two years to move to Atlanta, to be close to my lover, my woman, who is an assistant professor at a local university. She’s someone I’ve known for almost a decade, and we’ve seen each other off and on for much of that time, though we have rarely lived in the same city, or even the same part of the country. It was time for one of us to make a sacrifice, and I offerred myself up. I knew at the time that leaving two steady jobs during the worst job market since the 1940s was folly.

But the heart has its own reasons.

It is emasculating, however, to rely upon her income, I feel like so much less of a man, it’s a withering, wilting little worm of a thought. So I stay at it, day after day, decrypting scams, feeling a lift when I apply for something that is appealing, and an absence when it doesn’t pan out.

I hold the lazy in high personal regard. But I’m not like that myself, not really. The Protestant Ethic is in my marrow, despite my protestations. My parents were upper-middle class and educated, but every one of my ancestors prior to that worked with their hands, in the fields, behind the wheel of a truck, for generation upon generation, as far back as I can know. My Dad was born in a tar-paper shack, the son of a sharecropper. My mom rode a horse to the corner store. Her parents hunkered down every winter, when construction work dried up, with food carefully stowed away from the garden the previous summer.

And I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve picked strawberries, and worked in a sawmill. I’ve installed cabinets and built a pole barn. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to raise chickens and break horses. My first real job was working a hydraulic press in a small factory, at 15. For the past couple of years, in addition to my teaching duties, I worked for an environmental company, and we did all sorts or very dirty and dangerous jobs.

Now I’m trying to get a job, though I remain wary of scams that seem all too common among the listings. Any company that would have you pay your own expenses, or provide your own capital equipment, likely isn’t much of a company at all. I read a job listing yesterday that required the applicant to have a credit card with at least $1000 limit in order to cover travel expenses. You get to pay for the privilege of having a job. Imagine that.

So that’s all I have to say, I don’t really expect or want any sympathy, by reading this you’ve counseled me already. What I want is a job, something to do when I wake up in the morning. At this point, almost anything would do.  

(2/10/2010, cross-posted at Daily Kos, first diary at Docudharma!)

Pony Party: Snowpocalypse II

Oy vey gevalt.

It’s been coming down for almost 24 hours now as I type this…and the wind has picked up, meaning drifts.

There’s a guy across the street with a snowblower, but from the way it looks right now, you’d have to shovel or snow-blow at least every hour to have any hope of maintaining a semi-clear sidewalk.

The road crews are out, but even the main streets aren’t that great b/c it just keeps coming down.

South-central PA, just above the Mason-Dixon Line, isn’t used to this.  Snow, yes, but not this volume of snow.

Wanker of the Year: Barack Obama.

Yeah, it’s only February, but since we may not survive beyond Spring anyway, it seems appropriate to “hydrate my powder” now.

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

What a soggy biscuit!  What a clammy douche!  What a sopping towelette dispenser!   What a water-logged noodle!  What a squishy fricking cucumber!  What a spongy encephalitis!   What a nasal rinse gone wrong!

In all my tear-stained honesty: This guy is hopeless.  A swamped boat.

Consider my powder adequately hydrated.

I hope Lord Eschaton, Earl of Atrios, Duncan of Black sees fit to commend my moistened outrage.

Update: Pre-empted!

One of the Elephants in the Room

I’ll be mercifully brief. I just listened to a program on KPFA which is an interview with Michelle Alexander speaking of her new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Basically, her contention that the 5 fold increase in incarceration in this country is thew way the elites have managed to use prisons as a means of social control as industries have moved away from population centers and left in its wake unsustainable ghettos. Which were invaded, starting under Reagan, by federally subsidized efforts to incarcerate a high proportion of African-American men through the spectacularly disproportionate application of drug laws against the poor and, largely, ignoring the white middle-class. SWAT Teams were sent in and funded to roust people out of their beds, seize and confiscate their property and deprive them of their civil rights.  

2010 Obama Agenda Survey

YeeHaw!  This will be fun!  I was going to regurgitate the questions with my answers to them but it is much like poll questions which make absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Plus I do know I am so far outside of the Bell Curve worldview wise most people just don’t get it.

Here is a link to the original for reference.


I have in my hands the Massachusetts survey and my question 1. is different.

It reads

Do you agree with Barack Obama and the democrats that taxes should be raised for the sake of “fairness” regardless of the negative impact it is likely to have on the economy.

Stop the Nuclear Weapons Spending Hike

In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama called nuclear weapons the “greatest danger to the American people.” Yet his 2011 budget proposes a major increase in spending on the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Incredibly, President Obama proposes to spend $600 million more on nuclear weapons than did George W. Bush in his final year.1

Tell President Obama to cut the nuclear weapons budget, not increase it.

Obama's proposed new nuclear spending boost will enable construction of new facilities that would allow the U.S. government to develop new nuclear warheads in the future. That flies in the face of Obama's professed goals of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Nuclear bombs are a grave threat to life on Earth — that's why we need the president to walk his talk.

Tell President Obama today: cut the nuclear weapons budget, don't increase it.



1. Carol Driver, “Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama ups spending on nuclear weapons to even more than George Bush.”  Daily Mail, 1/30/10.


Too Big To Sail: Cup Race Canceled Again

The America’s Cup sailboat race’s first round has once again been canceled due to the fickleness of winter weather crossing the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  On Monday, it was a lack of wind off the coast of Valencia, Spain, today, it was too much wind, over 15 knots, which was causing waves 4 to 6 feet high, or up to nearly 2 meters.  The winds Wednesday were gusting up to 25 knots. ( A knot is 1.15 miles per hour, aka .514 meters per second.  per wikipedia, 1 meter per second = 2 knots is a fast way to make the conversion from European meters per second, when they use it to describe windspeed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K…  )

Since these fancy, triple hulled sailboats used to compete in the Cup can attain top racing speeds of up to 3 times the wind’s, the race is not allowed to proceed with the insurance company’s blessings unless the wind is under 15 knots, to keep the boats at 45 mph or under, and the wave chop needs to be 3 feet or less.  The America’s Cup race goes 40 miles at a time, 20 miles out, turn, and 20 miles back, for 3 races to determine the winner.  The Swiss are the current defenders of the Cup, with their boat the “Alinghi” and an international team formed by Ernesto Bertarelli.  (Alinghi is an invented name and does not translate into something cute from Italian.)

A photo of the United State’s entry, the Oracle trimaran, at dock can be seen here. Note the size of the outrigger to the right side, and the thickness of the center sail mast rising out of the middle:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/spo…

Another photo of the Oracle, under sail and airborn except for one outrigger touching the water (why one does not want big waves to be smacking the thing under speed) can be seen here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T…

An excellent story on the effect of even tiny variation in wind speed on these 2 huge, swift, but delicate racing machines can be found here:   http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…  

If the boats can’t withstand the weather-  the mast can snap at the base, and the sails can literally fall off.

Under normal sailing conditions, the load at the base of the mast on Alinghi V is 100 tonnes, equivalent to a fully laden Boeing 757 sitting on the top of the mast that is supported on a metal ball barely bigger than the tow hitch on a family car. Even a modest gust of wind or a small wave can see this load rise dramatically.


For Alinghi’s opponents aboard USA-17, BMW Oracle Racing’s radical trimaran, the issue is more about the complexity of the 230ft wingmast that towers above the boat. Arguably more suited to stronger winds, its Achilles’ heel lies in the number and complexity of components that are required to control the wing. A small failure could quickly lead to a chain reaction and a catastrophic failure.

The race will again be attempted to start on Friday.


http://www.sacbee.com/830/stor… (subscription required, merely linked for attribution)


This morning about 4:00 a.m., I was gloriously asleep.  I have become an insomniac, probably due to worries and aging.  So when I get a solid five hours – it’s heavenly.  So there I was sleeping for a change, instead of watching the Russian news channel or worrying about my snow removal bills when I felt something wet on my face.  I turned and opened an eye and both of my dogs were pressed to my bed watching me closely.  What’s wrong?  What’s up?  Is someone at the door?  They both jumped on the bed and from that position stared at my face.  (Buster put his face under my arm like he does when his nefarious enemy, the German Shephard, George, walks by our window.) They wouldn’t move as I tried to sit up – and then – the bed started shaking as though someone was pulling it toward the window.  The dogs remained quiet but drew closer.  Oh it couldn’t be – an earthquake in Chicago, no!  

But indeed it was, about 4am the suburbs of Chicago felt a 4.3 earthquke – epicenter about 50 miles northwest in Sycamore/Virgil, Illinois.  I checked out the weather channel immediately and there it was. No damage reported. Then – back to the Russian channel where I feel more at home.

Two things:  I have something to add to my list of worries: an earthquake.  And aren’t dogs wonderful!

Three things actually:  Looks like that five hours will be an even more rare and beautiful thing in my dream future.  

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