Daily Archive: 03/02/2013

Mar 02 2013

Random Japan

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LOST AND FOUND

Six months after the environment ministry declared the Japanese river otter extinct, officials in Ehime are planning “a full-fledged search” for the creature in response to reports of recent sightings.

JR Central began operation of the new N700A shinkansen-the first bullet train that can run on autopilot.

A group of Japanese and French scholars claims that Echigo-ya-a kimono shop that grew to become Mitsukoshi department store-was the “world’s first large-scale retailer and the biggest store throughout the 18th century.”

Tokyo Station and New York’s Grand Central Terminal are set to become “sister stations” at a ceremony in the US this month.

A 73-year-old Ibaraki restaurateur discovered 31 photographic plates depicting the attempted coup d’état in 1936 known as the “February 26 incident.”

Mar 02 2013

Changing The Name But Not The Game: Up Dated x 2

Or as Shakespeare’s Juliet said, “what’s in a name? that which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet.” Not quite.

In this case calling chained CPI, “superlative CPI to make it more palatable to the voters and politicians who oppose it as a cut to future Social Security benefit, does not make it any less noxious or toxic:

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Click image to view it in full size

Spending savings from superlative CPI with protections for vulnerable     $130 B

As Pres. Obama’s idol, Pres. Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

No, Barack, we will not be fooled by you.

Up Date: 3/3/13 23:18 AM EST: Post and learn. It seems that there is a “superlative CPI”, from letgetitdone in a comment at Corrente:

Hi TMC, There is a “superlativeCPI ,” but it’s not “the chained CPI” which is really “the Catfood CPI.” An actual superlative CPI, would cost adjust for the higher proportion of seniors’ household budget they must spend on rapidly increasing health care costs. It would also adjust for living area. so that seniors who live in high cost areas, can remain there if they choose, rather than moving to lower cost areas where their meagre SS pensions don’t go very far. In the real world, living costs in New York City are 2 1/2 times more than living costs in say, rural Kansas or the UP of Michigan. SS payments should be adjusted for these important regional differences.

Up Date: 3/6/13 12:39 AM EST A cut is a cut. I want to thank Hugh at Corrente for this explanation.

Then there is the Chained CPI which is a modification of the CPI-U. It is being pushed by the anti-old, austerity-minded as a replacement for the particular version of the CPI-W I just described above which already tends to understate inflationary effects on Social Security recipients. And there is the annoying Administration reference to it as the superlative CPI. Again context is important. The CPI survey collects information on prices. These are first averaged individually by geographic area. This is called “lower-level aggregation”. The example which they use is the price of one item (apples) in one locality (Chicago). The BLS then does what it calls “higher-level aggregation” (note the use of the comparative): the price of apples regionally and nationally, the price of food nationally, the price of all items nationally, etc. The Chained CPI involves another level of analysis and what must follow the comparative but the superlative? (..)

http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpisupq…

The example used is that the CPI-U and the CPI-W have prices for pork and beef. What the Chained CPI seeks to measure is, in the event of a price increase in pork, the effect of consumers switching to beef. The BLS example is, of course, innocuous. The one some of us are more concerned about is seniors being forced to choose between beef and cat food. Substitution basically reduces the effects of inflation. Calculating a CPI based on it will inherently be lower then others (CPI-U and CPI-W) which do not. What it ignores, some would say deliberately, is quality of life. (..)

http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpieart…

What is important to understand is that the various schemes to cut the size of the Social Security COLA, including the one currently in place are cumulative. You have no doubt heard of the miracle of compound interest. Well, what these schemes amount to is negative compound interest being charged against our seniors. What is always left off the table is the question of what constitutes a living retirement, perhaps because it would lead to the related discussion of what constitutes a living wage. Instead we get a numbers game, divorced from the very social issue the number is supposed to address.

Mar 02 2013

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

A Rainbow of Root Vegetables

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Since root vegetables and tubers keep well and can be cooked up into something delicious even after they have begun to go limp in the refrigerator, this week’s Recipes for Health should be useful. Root vegetables, tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are called yams by most vendors – I mean the ones with dark orange flesh), winter squash and cabbages are the only local vegetables available during the winter months in colder regions, so these recipes will be timely for many readers. [..]

Sweet winter vegetables also pair well with spicy seasonings. I like to combine sweet potatoes and chipotle peppers, and this time in a hearty lentil stew that we enjoyed all week.

Martha Rose Shulman

Leek Quiche

A lighter version of a Flemish classic.

Spicy Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew With Chipotles

The combination of sweet potatoes and spicy chipotles with savory lentils is a winner.

Roasted Carrots and Scallions With Thyme and Hazelnuts

Toasted hazelnuts add a crunchy texture and nutty finish to this dish.

Carrot Wraps

A vegetarian sandwich that satisfies like a full meal.

Rainbow Potato Roast

A multicolored mix that can be vegan, or not.

Mar 02 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

William K. Black: Rep. Conyers Needs our Support to Kill the Sequestration’s Austerity

We have been strangling the economic recovery through economic incompetence — and worse is in store because President Obama continues to embrace (1) the self-inflicted wound of austerity, (2) austerity primarily through cuts in vital social programs that are already under-funded, and (3) attacking the safety net by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The latest insanity is the sequester — the fourth act of austerity in the last 20 months. [..]

Obama continues to want to “force” a “grand bargain” in which he proposes to make large cuts to social programs, some tax increases, and reductions in the safety net. Again, Obama can easily break with this strategy of choking our economic recovery by supporting a clean bill that would kill the sequester instead of our economy.

The good news is that Representative John Conyers has made the Obama’s task simple by sponsoring exactly that clean bill in the one sentence form many of us have been urging: “Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is repealed.” Amen.

I propose that we launch an effort, open to all, to support Conyers’ bill and demand that our representatives in the House and the Senate promptly enact it.

New York Times Editorial: As the Cuts Hit Home

House Republicans were elated this week when their leader, John Boehner, made it clear that deep, automatic spending cuts would begin as scheduled on Friday. Incredibly, some consider the decision a victory.

As the cuts take effect, they will inflict widespread hardship. But some Americans will be hurt more than others, and the people who will be hurt the most are those who are already struggling. In the months ahead, an estimated 3.8 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months face a cut in federal jobless benefits of nearly 11 percent – or about $32 a week – all from the recent average weekly benefit of $292. And an estimated 600,000 low-income women and toddlers will be turned away from the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC. [..]

Why are the Republicans are so happy when they should be ashamed?

Robert Reich: The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.

Robert Borosage; Washington’s Sequester: Into the Vast Inane

Someone asked the Master about the principles of … traveling into the vast inane.

– From the Bao Pu Zi, AD 320,

Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China

Welcome to the vast inane.  Today the “sequester” – mindless, across the board cuts of military and domestic spending designed to be abhorrent – will go into effect. Republicans claimed a “big victory” as House Speaker John Boehner shut down any negotiations and sent the House home.  The cuts will cost jobs and add to the headwinds facing the economy.  The sequester will be followed by operatic melodrama over keeping the government open after the end of March and keeping the government from defaulting on its debt beginning in the middle of May.

Jon Soltz: Sequester, Our Military, and the Confused GOP

On the dawn of sequestration, Republicans are still in deep disagreement over how it will affect our military, and in even deeper disagreement over how to handle it. One thing they do seem to agree on, though, is that they aren’t willing to close corporate tax loopholes to avoid it.

To the disagreements, just the other day, Senator John Cornyn flip-flopped on his position, saying that sequestration won’t affect national security, because, he claims, overall funding for the Pentagon will go up. First of all, that’s patently false. Second of all, it’s a change in tune from 2011, when he called sequestration cuts, “arbitrary and reckless.” On the other side of the party, you have senators like John McCain, who warn of impending disaster for the military, if the cuts go through. Calling the cuts “unconscionable,” McCain said, “Across-the-board cuts are the worst and most cowardly way to approach this situation.”

David Sirota: Mental Health: Time to Stop White-Knuckling It

As anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack well knows, one of the most difficult aspects of managing anxiety disorders is having to do it in secret for fear of being labeled a freak. I can personally attest that such a fear often makes the problem worse, compounding generalized worry with the specific concern that you will be ostracized.

This is why the last year has been so important for the 40 million Americans like me who the National Institute of Mental Health says periodically suffers from anxiety-related disorders. It was a year that saw these all-too-common ailments emerge from the shadows.

Mar 02 2013

Funny, eh?

Mar 02 2013

On This Day In History March 2

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 2 is the 61st day of the year (62nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 304 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1836, the Republic of Texas declares its independence as in a nation from Mexico.

Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S. state of Texas, as well as parts of present-day New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming based upon the Treaties of Velasco between the newly created Texas Republic and Mexico. The eastern boundary with the United States was defined by the Adams-Onís Treaty between the United States and Spain, in 1819. Its southern and western-most boundary with Mexico was under dispute throughout the existence of the Republic, with Texas claiming that the boundary was the Rio Grande, and Mexico claiming the Nueces River as the boundary. This dispute would later become a trigger for the Mexican-American War, after the annexation of Texas by the United States.

Establishment

The Republic of Texas was created from part of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. Mexico was in turmoil as leaders attempted to determine an optimal form of government. In 1835, when President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolished the Constitution of 1824, granting himself enormous powers over the government, wary colonists in Texas began forming Committees of Correspondence and Safety. A central committee in San Felipe de Austin coordinated their activities. In the Mexican interior, several states revolted against the new centralist policies. The Texas Revolution officially began on October 2, 1835, in the Battle of Gonzales. Although the Texians originally fought for the reinstatement of the Constitution of 1824, by 1836 the aim of the war had changed. The Convention of 1836 declared independence on March 2, 1836, and officially formed the Republic of Texas.

Mar 02 2013

All Things Not Being Equal

(h/t Crooks & Liars)

BusinessWeek

Since 1979, after-tax income grew 277% for the top 1%.  For the bottom fifth, after-tax income grew by only 18%.