Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do C.D.O.’s Have Social Value?
Republican Tim James is running for governor of Alabama, and he hates foreign languages. In this ad, he sneeringly announces, "This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it."
The NY Post (an otherwise sappy newspaper) scored points this morning with this apt headline about Goldman Sachs...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A recent photo...
"Let the good people of Arizona walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal."
Blood vessel growth genes found in yeast, genes associated with deafness in plants, and genes associated with breast cancer in nematode worms.. Deep homology and finding genes in odd places...
M.I.A.'s new song nicely bookends the Arizona immigration law. Note: The film is very violent...

Friday, April 23, 2010

A movie I would like to watch...
A bushel of facts about the uniqueness of human pubic hair. (via).
Some of my new photographs here.
LRB has a good one on "delusory parasitosis"...
I was convinced that I was infested. ‘Infested’ was the word, I thought, as well as ‘contaminated’. The pubic lice multiplied to a plethora and became imaginatively licensed to inhabit my entire body. They crawled on my arms, my torso, my legs, my hair, sometimes my face and neck. They had become all-rounder lice. Not even lice, if someone had pointed out the impossible ethology I had invented for them. They were … I didn’t know what they were, but they were. Insects, lice-like, flea-like, tic-like crawling creatures that lived on me, and indeed, in me. I thought they burrowed under my skin and emerged to wander about on the surface in the dark of night or under cover of my clothes. I felt them, tickling me in specific parts, and the redness I saw when I finished scratching my skin convinced me that they were there (so easy now to write that rational sentence). I saw them, always out of the corner of my eye. I became most distressed at night. I
Woman's Body: An Owner's Manual from the new 'Sex issue' of Granta... Guardian discusses the issue here.
The Anachronism is an award-wining Steampunk short about two children who discover the wreck of a giant squid submarine on a beach near their home. (via).
Ending the Slavery Blame-Game - an op-ed in the Times this morning on the messy subject of reparations to descendants of slaves... Overly, overly simplistic and puerile view (just my thoughts)...

While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others.
For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley’s pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ted Kaufman, a United States Senator for Delaware writes to the President and makes the case for breaking up big banks...

"That's why I believe we must separate commercial banking from investment banking activities, restoring a modern version of the Glass Steagall Act to end the conflicts of interest at the heart of the financial speculation undertaken by megabanks that are "too big to fail." We further should limit the size of bank and non-bank institutions, something Senator Sherrod Brown and I will propose in legislation we plan to introduce this Wednesday. Otherwise we will continue to hear these mega-banks claim they are merely "market-makers," and no one who deals with them should trust whether the very creator of a financial product they sell is secretly betting against its success."
New study says being fat is bad for your brain... Here are 10 ideas to solve obesity...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jon Stewart calls them 'These Fucking Guys' - apt for Goldman Sachs' geniuses and their recent shenanigans. I read the following bit in the Times this morning that summed up the situation perfectly...

From here: Adam Smith taught us that the point of a robust capital market is to direct capital to its best and highest use, where, combined with labor, it will produce the goods and services most valued by society. Asset bubbles are a problem, but at least mortgage-backed securities enabled people to live in their overvalued houses. The Goldman “Abacus” transaction involved “synthetic” collateralized debt obligations, derivatives whose value rose and fell with the value of real C.D.O.’s elsewhere. It produced no goods or services, financed no consumption — nothing at all. Money that could, and should, have been used to add value to society was not invested; it was squandered as surely as if the parties had wagered on a horse race. Legitimate hedging is one thing. Gambling with people’s savings, university endowments and municipal funds, on the other hand, should be a crime. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A day in the life of Obama (as envisioned by a typical Republican)...

7:30 AM: on way to Oval Office, Obama ducks into private chapel, slipping off shoes and prostrating self while facing Mecca. He chants high-pitched, ululating prayer to Allah in foreign tongue then before leaving, bows before busts of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Saul Alinsky.
2 PM: Quiet ceremony in Rose Garden, where elders of Kikuyu tribe give Obama plaque honoring him as first Kenyan to become President of U.S.
11 PM: Bong hits, anal sex, then sleep.
2:25 AM: Succubus enters bedroom, mounts sleeping President and has her way with him while whispering demonic instructions for next day.
The SECs 'kiss of death' to Goldman Sachs... When are we going to see a criminal investigation against the Wall Street 'fat cats'?
The "kiss of death" message is deliberately sent on Fridays to chill the bones of criminals. Some criminals wait in anxiety during the weekend until Monday to consult with their attorneys about what to do next. Other criminals or SEC targets like Goldman Sachs don't want to wait until Monday. So they make rash decisions and major errors in prematurely reacting to the "kiss of death" message to their own peril and find themselves in legal quicksand.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When being fat was a circus show...

Text of SEC's complaint against Goldman Sachs... Goldman Sachs charged with fraud by SEC...

About time someone took a closer look at "the great vampire squid"..

From here: According to the complaint, Goldman created Abacus 2007-AC1 in February 2007, at the request of John A. Paulson, a prominent hedge fund manager who earned an estimated $3.7 billion in 2007 by correctly wagering that the housing bubble would burst. Goldman let Mr. Paulson select mortgage bonds that he wanted to bet against — the ones he believed were most likely to lose value — and packaged those bonds into Abacus 2007-AC1, according to the S.E.C. complaint. Goldman then sold the Abacus deal to investors like foreign banks, pension funds, insurance companies and other hedge funds. But the deck was stacked against the Abacus investors, the complaint contends, because the investment was filled with bonds chosen by Mr. Paulson as likely to default. Goldman told investors in Abacus marketing materials reviewed by The Times that the bonds would be chosen by an independent manager.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Pulitzer prizes were announced. This piece Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? by Gene Weingarten was especially striking...
"Death by hyperthermia" is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just... forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us. Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?
A pictorial delineation of Indian castes from 1837. (via).

Monday, April 12, 2010

The New York Times describes  Ms. Malinda Costello's sexual abuse at the hands of one Mr. Stephen Kiesle (a Catholic priest) when she was 7 years old:
Mr. Kiesle first playfully invited her to sit on his lap, part of a youthful demeanor that he fostered... But Ms. Costello says Father Kiesle’s touching and tickling soon progressed to fondling her chest and genitals. “He told me the devil was inside me,” she said, adding that the priest sometimes cast his actions as an exorcism. 

Mr Ratzinger (the current Pope) dismissed the abuse case thus:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and a top Vatican official — had signed a 1985 letter telling that Father Kiesle’s case needed more time and that the “good of the universal church” should be considered in coming to a decision. 

The usual suspects are now calling for the Pope's imprisonment...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A truly fascinating essay on our current condition and a way out...
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. (via).

Friday, April 09, 2010

ZigBee - a technology that may find its way into more devices than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combined...
"The rule that Catholic priests must be celibate is responsible for the crisis in the church. Now is the time to challenge that requirement. From the United States to Ireland to Germany, the widespread abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic priests has done enormous damage to the image of the church. It also reveals the depth of the crisis." - Why Celibacy Should Be Abolished...
Consciousness, meditation and the Dalai Lama - on the perceived connection between science and religion... (via).
Qajar art pictures here.
Put a Fork in Greece, It's Done.
'Trailhead' - a fascinating story I read a couple of months back - came to my mind this morning when I had noticed an small anthill struggling to survive on a less used sidewalk on my way to work...
"White feminists are dealing with the oppression they receive from white men, while women of color are oppressed by men of color as well as white men, as well as by many white women." - An interesting interview with writer Alice Walker...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Doctors with Ownership in Surgery Center Operate More Often... (via).
Vanity Fair compares five of America’s most volatile fringe groups: the Tea Party, Goldman Sachs, the Republican National Committee, Ron Paul acolytes, and the Animal Liberation Front.
Memristors. More here.
Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations. Read more here. (via).
Indian attitudes explored in an interesting essay by 2009 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, V. Ramakrishnan.
Fun fact of the day in light of the recent incident where F-16 escorted a plane to the ground because an on board air marshal found an individual smoking a cigarette illegally in the airplane:
More air marshals have been arrested since 9/11 (for crimes like smuggling explosives, domestic violence, drunk driving and human trafficking) than the number of people arrested by the marshals. The $860 million spent on the service amounts to about 4.2 arrests per year, at a cost of $200 million per arrest. (via).
I still think having an air marshal on board random flights is a good thing...
After chili grenades came sound bullets.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The recent decision by a federal court asserting that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce internet providers to give equal treatment to all traffic flowing over their networks can lead us down a slippery slope towards metered internet access. In the wake, I am sure wireless data plans could also get metered. Capitalism at work - as usual...
Did the Universe start from a Singularity?
The rules of Scrabble are being changed to allow the use of proper nouns. Place names, people's names and company names or brands will now count.
Alaska Natives are accusing the Catholic Church of using their remote villages as a “dumping ground” for child-molesting priests. (via). Meanwhile this morning, the Times came out with (yet) another story of a man who had molested a girl in the U.S. and is safely spending time in India...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Collateral murder - no, this is not a video game.
On a related note, this morning, the Times reported on the military's role in killing Afghani women...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I like articles by Steven Strogatz.
A Sobering View Of Macro Economic Reality.
The day after the hedge fund results were released, the government reported that unemployment was stuck at 9.7 percent, with 15 million Americans out of work. For most people with a job, average earnings fell by 2 cents an hour in March, to $18.90. To add insult to injury, some hedge fund managers and, more commonly, private equity fund managers are able to pay a much lower rate of tax than the typical working professional. The tax disparity results from an outdated rule that lets a money manager in a private partnership treat a chunk of his fees as if they were long-term capital gains, taxed at a special low rate of 15 percent. Read more here.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cartoon from a recent New Yorker...

Vatican demonstrates a preemptive move.
When debtors are too poor to pay their credit card bills, big banks on Wall Street deduct the monies owed directly from their already meager paychecks in a process called pay garnishment... Don't you love the naked greed of capitalism?
The case of Sidney Jones shows how punishing the system can be. In January 2001, Mr. Jones, 45, a maintenance worker from California Crossroads, Va., took out a $4,097 personal loan from Beneficial Virginia, a subprime lender now owned by HSBC, the big bank. He fell behind, and Beneficial sued. Mr. Jones did not appear in court. “I just thought they were going to take what I owed,” he said. By default, Beneficial won a judgment of $4,750, plus $900 in lawyers’ fees, with the debt accruing interest at 27.55 percent until paid in full. The bank started garnishing his wages in March 2003. Over the next six years, the bank deducted more than $10,000 from Mr. Jones’s paychecks, but he made little headway on his debt. According to a court order secured by Beneficial’s lawyers last spring, he still owed the company $3,965, a sum nearly equal to the original loan amount.
Taxonomies for a new world - Gawker performs the challenging task of classifying 'shit' and its variants used as a figure of speech.
Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)...
When it comes to its role in the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs has a message for the world: Not guilty. Not one bit...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Theodore Dalrymple on Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect. "For many years I believed that how a man dressed was unimportant; it was the man within that counted, not the man without. My belief excused me for being myself rather scruffily dressed, which was very easy and convenient for me in terms of effort required. But I now think that I was mistaken, for it does not follow from the fact that outward appearance is not all-important that it is of no importance at all. The small matter of cleaning one's shoes, for example, is not one of vanity alone, though of course it can be carried on to the point of vanity and even obsession and fetish. It is, rather, a discipline and a small sign that one is prepared to go to some trouble for the good opinion and satisfaction of others. It is a recognition that one lives in a social world. That is why total informality of dress is a sign of advancing egotism. (via).
'Silhouette - Study No. 1", a new oil painting..