Anger as good news for the country

Come Home, America:
The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country

William Greider at PBS:

“We’re at a break point in our history,” he said. “And it’s not just the financial system, although that’s front and center. It’s the deteriorated economy, it’s militarism looking out in the world, trying to find the next war. It’s a lot of things coming at us, all at once. I believe, on the other side of all of these adversities, we can become a better country.

But to make that happen, Greider thinks, “People at large, I don’t care whether they’re middle class or upper class or working poor or union, non-union, have to find ways to come together themselves, perhaps in very small groups at first, and talk about their own stuff. Their experiences, their ideas their convictions, their aspirations for the country, themselves, their families, and then broaden out a bit, laterally. And have more people in the discussion. They don’t have to become a giant organization, but they have to convince themselves that they’re citizens…

“That’s kind of the mystery of democracy. People get power if they believe they’re entitled to power.

“America the Possible,” he calls it.

Cult preys

A Scientologist is chief of Sarah Palin’s 2012 campaign. What do you get when voodoo meets Xenu?

Several links at Metafilter’s ‘Perfect Storm of Stupid‘.

Sarah Palin understands the importance of religion in politics. That’s why the Political Action Committee preparing for her 2012 presidential bid is being run by John Coale – an OT-VII Scientologist. Coale – who switched his support from Hillary Clinton to John McCain during the 2008 campaign – originally turned to Scientology to get off drugs. He later introduced to the faith his wife – fellow attorney Greta Van Susteren. Together they assisted in the Church’s successful takeover of the Cult Awareness Network. (In her later role as a FOX News personality, Van Susteren has been an ardent defender of Palin herself.) In 1986, Coale developed a plan to help Scientology gain influence in Washington. While he reports that nothing came of it, a Scientology PAC currently operates as Citizens for Social Reform – helping to fight the Church’s war against psychiatry.

We must be sloppy

How many Americans get food poisoning each year: 87 million illnesses, 367,000 hospitalizations and 5,700 deaths.

These numbers just scratch the surface, listed only after a lab test at the CDC. Many sick people ‘just soldier on’.

Food poisoning affects roughly 25% of us every year and roughly 30% of people in industrialized countries; merely a tenth of disease is caused by salmonella. [AP rewrite of CDC data is here at Physorg]

There’s trouble in the system. Regulators respond after people are dead. Dumb.

a chlorine wash is frequently used

farm work
Should Public Health Prevention Start in the Field? : Get tough on enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act

StillTasty is a site of guidelines about how long to safely keep leftovers and other food handling tips. If in doubt, check it out.

Question: Are you supposed to rinse raw chicken before cooking it?

Answer: No — in fact, it’s not a good idea at all.

The United States Department of Agriculture advises against the practice of rinsing poultry or meat before cooking it. The problem is that when you rinse raw chicken, you’re allowing the bacteria that is present on the surface of the poultry to spread to everything else that’s nearby — including sink and counter surfaces, kitchen utensils and any other foods that might be within spattering range of the rinsing water.

Why do we forget jokes?

Could you remember a sequence of 26 letters?

Try it: etungfrxzanjkolpmidscqwytu

Can you recite the alphabet? abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

What if our alphabet wasn’t abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz but instead we were asked to learn etungfrxzanjkolpmidscqwytu? C’mon try it. A child could sing the ETU’s as easily as the ABC’s, don’t you think?

OK. OK. In fact, it’s the melody of the ABC song that makes learning the alphabet seem easy. The melody is a sequence, tied together in a pleasant sound, and our brain uses the song to store the letters.

A snappy melody made learning the alphabet seem easy. It’s the sequence.

If we told jokes with a song we might remember jokes too, but because jokes are designed to surprise us, they break any hope of remembering a pattern. No sequence. That’s what’s funny about a joke, turning where we don’t expect.

We remember the alphabet because we remember the song, but forget jokes because the sequence is broken. My explanation seems clumsy to me. Can you say it better?

More here, by Natalie Angier at NYTimes
Tip to MindBlog

Pulpit Birthing

A summary:

The birth rate of American teenage girls is more than double that in other industrialized countries, including Canada, and 10 times greater than in Japan and the Netherlands.

The difference is not solely due to the ethnic composition of the U.S. population: the white population also has higher birth rates than other countries.

And it’s not due to a higher abortion rate in Canada. In fact, unwanted pregnancies and births are more frequent in the U.S., as is the use of abortion.

Good information = informed choices

No, the main reason is that Canadian teens of all social classes get comprehensive information about contraception and about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. They get more sex ed in school, and can access high-school-based family planning counselling though the nurse. They can also always access universally free medical services, including visiting family doctor and special health clinics. And at all levels, there’s a more positive attitude towards the pill, and either cheap or free prescriptions for it.

Head On

The Sound Bite that matters:

Now, the alternative is to stand pat and to simply say, “We are just going to not invest in health care. We’re not going to take on energy. We’ll wait until the next time that gas gets to $4 a gallon. We will not improve our schools. And we’ll allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance. We will settle on lower growth rates, and we will continue to contract, both as an economy and our ability to — to provide a better life for our kids.”

There occurred an offloading

It was one thing to have Walter Cronkite to read the daily news. It might be very very different to live under a barrage of pundits.

Why? Because, the brain relinquishes responsibility when a trusted authority provides expertise.

Results showed that brain regions consistent with decision-making were active in participants when making choices on their own; however, there occurred an offloading of the decision-making process in the presence of expert advice.

A brain scan study shows that people who watch financial news channels and then decide how to invest are probably thinking less.

Plant Whisperer

Plants fight invaders with chemistry, but what molecules do they create and which are successful?

When I learned of his research, I dubbed Vancouver’s Saber Miresmailli ‘The Plant Whisperer’.

Plants emit a wide range of volatiles when they are infected with diseases or attacked by pests. It’s part of their defense mechanism and can attract useful predators and helpful parasites.

“For better results in pest management, we should shift our attention from pests to plants because they can provide us with more accurate and reliable information about their health.

“We just need to learn how to translate their signals and understand them.”

He’s building a database of gases and volatile oils that are emitted from plants and plants under stress. His early worked showed that the volatile oil of rosemary stopped spider mites. Now he’s looking forward to a new system of sensors for pest management programs – an intelligent scouting machine. Early stage detection requires translating plant signals using olfaction sensors, an electronic nose, to follow chemical cues. [pdf]

New ‘green’ pesticides are first to exploit plant defenses in battle of the fungi
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/acs-np030909.php

What can be left?

For most Americans, housing eats up an average of 15% to 25% of their income, but not residents in these California cities!

Metro Area Unemp Rate Home Price Housing Costs % Income
San Luis Obispo 8.00% $386,500.00 62.00%
San Francisco 7.50% $558,500.00 61.00%
Santa Cruz 12.60% $379,000.00 48.00%
San Diego 8.60% $320,000.00 42.00%
Santa Rosa 8.60% $314,000.00 41.00%
San Jose 9.40% $405,000.00 40.00%
Santa Barbara 8.30% $245,000.00 37.00%

Giant Clomping Looting

A good thing about this crisis is superb rants that occasionally appear.

Alex Steffan, honcho at WorldChanging:

Wall Street's fallen bullThere is a great cluelessness afoot in this land.

It’s padding around in Europe and Asia as well, but here in the U.S., it’s staggering around with giant clomping feet, and its favorite stomping grounds are the economic punditry centers of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

For most Americans, anger about the economy — indeed, sheer blind lynch-the-bastards rage — is not irrational at all. The American future has just been looted by a small class of thug investors. The average American makes less now than he or she would have in 1973, and probably works longer hours for worse benefits. That, on top of a grinding away of all manner of public goods — things regular people depend on, like schools and libraries and childcare, not to mention a functioning climate — has left the average American in a profoundly tenuous condition: and it was all done for the profit of a tiny percentage of the wealthiest people in this country.

Describing that reality is not class warfare, it’s history. In this situation, anger is a completely rational response.

Vigor and rules

Obama preps for G20:

All of our financial institutions — on Wall Street and around the globe — need strong oversight and common sense rules of the road. All markets should have standards for stability and a mechanism for disclosure. A strong framework of capital requirements should protect against future crises. We must crack down on offshore tax havens and money laundering.

Rigorous transparency and accountability must check abuse, and the days of out-of-control compensation must end. Instead of patchwork efforts that enable a race to the bottom, we must provide the clear incentives for good behavior that foster a race to the top.

I know that America bears our share of responsibility for the mess that we all face. But I also know that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people.

Following White House sites provides direct news, less edited than major media and before cherry picking by mere pundits.

Guide to genuine wealth

Alberta Economist Counsels Victims of Bernie Madoff:

“We are all playing in a casino. But there is this opportunity to get back to understanding the language of Thomas Jefferson… that once material needs were met, then the pursuit of enlightenment, the pursuit of happiness was the ultimate objective.

“If we reflect on that, it takes us to a whole new place. America, I think, has some deep soul-searching to do.”

I think Mark Anielski is saying these investors were hoarding, thus exposed rather than truly diversified, and merely rich, rather than invested in a quality life.

Special Olympics Bowl-Off

A Special Olympics bowler: “I can beat the president!”

Kolan McConiughey, a mentally disabled man considered one of the nation’s top Special Olympics bowlers, with five perfect games to his credit. He’d like to go to the White House and show the president a thing or two about how to roll strikes.

He bowled a 129. I bowl a 300.

So eager to scorn Obama, the media could more easily promote a Bowl-Off.

Old prisoners

Eighty-eight years old, nearly blind and deaf, her mind enfeebled by Alzheimer’s and in the terminal stages of kidney failure, Helen Loheac was refused parole to a hospice, as are most elderly and dying prisoners, and died shackled at her waist and ankles with two guards at her bedside.

They were spending about $250,000 a year on Helen, if you include the cost of two prison guards who would always accompany her when she went to the hospital for dialysis about three times a week.

Sister Terry Dodge believes that denying older women parole after they’ve done their time is just politics and profits. “They mature out of criminal behavior.”

Prisoners with cancer and hepatitis are treated with Tylenol and Motrin.

“I saw one woman with throat cancer, who kept getting denied parole, fall into her own blood and die.”

Despite a Supreme Court ruling that inmates have a constitutional right to health care, a federal judge finds that an average of one inmate a week was dying of neglect or malpractice.

Repubsurdity

Daniel Gross at Slate:

War on the wealthy?

To hear conservatives tell it, you’d think mobs of shiftless welfare moms were marauding through the streets of Greenwich and Palm Springs, lynching bankers and hedge-fund managers, stringing up shopkeepers, and herding lawyers into internment camps.

The bogus GOP claim that Obama is trying to bleed wealthy Americans… is $4.10 a day bleeding the rich, a war on the wealthy, a killer of innovation and enterprise?

A Little Layer of Light

“I keep thinking about the 90-year-old man who lost even his house and is bagging groceries. Then I think of the fact that I may have gotten paid with his money.”

An employee of Bernard Madoff’s legitimate brokerage operations, which were described by the fraudster in his plea agreement as being “successful and profitable,” has told The Daily Beast that they were in fact money-losers that acted as a front for his Ponzi scheme. “The three managers who ran parts of the businesses were getting $500,000 to $750,000 a year…. They mostly socialized, read the news. They would have been unemployable on the outside.”