10/16/2010 archive

Random Japan


Participants in Chiba’s Ohara Hadaka Matsuri (“Ohara naked man festival”) got a jolt when lightning struck, injuring 34 people carrying shrines, two of them seriously.

In a bid to crash Apple’s iPad party, Sharp is rolling out its new portable e-reader called Galapagos. The company says the tablet will be “adopting a unique evolutionary path of using Japanese technology and design to match the needs of the Japanese user.” (Does that mean we will now be spared grown men reading pornographic manga on the train?)

After paying ¥17 million a year for the naming rights to Miyashita Park in Shibuya-ku, Nike came up with the catchy “Miyashita Nike Park” moniker.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness 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, IMany Health Care Workers Won’t Get Flu Shots

Poll Shows 28% of Health Care Workers Aren’t Planning to Get Vaccinated This Year cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

Beyond Pesto: New Ideas for Basil

Basil contains flavonoids that are believed to have some antioxidant properties; it’s an excellent source of vitamin K, and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.

Pots of Basil will also keep away flies although it is unclear why, possibly the fragrant oils. The oils have also shown to inhibit the growth of some pathogenic bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics.


Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed With Pesto

Ellen’s Lemon Basil Salad Dressing

Spaghetti Squash Gratin With Basil

Risotto With Green Beans

Provençal Tomato and Basil Soup

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Eugene Robinson: Looney, and That’s No Debate

OK, I want to make sure I understand. Two years ago, with the nation facing a host of complex and difficult problems, voters put a bunch of thoughtful, well-educated people in charge of the government. Now many of those same voters, unhappy and impatient, have decided that things will get better if some crazy, ignorant people are running the show? Seriously?

I thought I had come to terms with the whole tea party thing, I really did. I convinced myself that it could be analyzed as a political phenomenon, an expression of disaffection, a reaction to economic, social and demographic change that leaves some Americans anxious and unsettled, blah blah blah. But then came Wednesday’s debate in Delaware-featuring Christine O’Donnell, uncut and uncensored-and all my rationalizations crumbled. This isn’t politics, it’s insanity.

I know that O’Donnell is likely to lose to Democrat Chris Coons. But until Election Day-at least-we’re supposed to take her seriously as the Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Sorry, but I just can’t do it anymore.

Nor can I pretend that Carl Paladino, the raging bull from Buffalo, is qualified by experience or temperament to be governor of New York. Or that Sharron Angle, whose small-government philosophy is so extreme as to be incoherent, could possibly make a worthwhile contribution as a senator. Or that Rich Iott, whose idea of weekend fun is putting on a Nazi SS uniform and gamboling through the woods, is remotely acceptable as a candidate for the House.

Steven G. Bradbury and John P. Elwood: Call the Senate’s bluff on recess appointments

. . . the Senate cannot constitutionally thwart the president’s recess appointment power through pro forma sessions.

The Senate, of course, does not meet as a body during a pro forma session. By the terms of the recess order, no business can be conducted, and the Senate is not capable of acting on the president’s nominations. That means the Senate remains in “recess” for purposes of the recess appointment power, despite the empty formalities of the individual senators who wield the gavel in pro forma sessions.

The president should consider calling the Senate’s bluff by exercising his recess appointment power to challenge the use of pro forma sessions. If the Senate persists, then the federal courts may need to resolve the validity of the Senate’s gambit.

The alternative will likely be greater gridlock in Washington. This practice will inevitably become the standard operating procedure, and the recess appointment power could become a virtual dead letter — undermining what the Founders viewed as an essential tool for the effective functioning of our government.

Come on, President Obama, call them on this Game of Chicken.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Working Families Party: Still Fighting for Working People

Since its founding in 1998, the Working Families Party (WFP) has emerged as New York State’s liveliest progressive political force. It has helped Democrats take back both the US Congress and the State Senate by bringing disaffected Democrats, union members and independents into a coalition with insurgent Democratic candidates.

In 2009, a WFP-backed slate of unusually good progressive candidates for New York City Council, Comptroller and Public Advocate (Nation contributor Bill De Blasio) all won in a landslide. And this September, the party helped defeat notorious state senator Pedro Espada, who had held Albany hostage by threatening to become a Republican and almost single-handedly blocked tenants’ rights legislation from coming to the floor.

That means New Yorkers voting the WFP line on November 2. If you vote for Cuomo, for example, do so on the WFP line rather than the Democratic line. If you select both bubbles only the majority party will receive your vote, and the WFP needs to reach that 50,000-vote threshold to continue receiving its own line on the state ballot.

The WFP is also on the ballot in five other states-Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, Delaware and South Carolina. In Connecticut, votes on the WFP line could be the margin in some high-profile races like Attorney General Richard Blumenthal versus Linda McMahon for US Senate, and Democrat Dan Malloy versus Tom Foley for Governor.

So if you can vote for the WFP this election, do it. And all of us can tell our friends and colleagues about this once-ragtag group of unions, community groups and progressives that has grown into a force, electing progressive candidates and advancing progressive causes.

US Chamber of Commerce to Unemployed: “Stop Whining”

The US Chamber of Commerce has told unemployed Americans to “stop whining” about job out sourcing to foreign countries. It is here to stay.

Tom Donahue, President and CEO of the US Cahmaber of Commerce:

There are legitimate values to outsourcing, not only jobs, but work.

Yes, there are “jobs and work”, just not for Americans living in the US. Perhaps we should all immigrate to India or Nigeria.

The Chamber of commerce is now putting out ads attacking Democrats who want to stop the bleeding of jobs oversees and close the tax loop holes that make it profitable for companies that out source. The Chamber is also claiming that they are not using foreign funds to pay for theses ads but refusing to open their books to the FEC thus avoiding campaign finance laws which finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads

More Validation

What You Don’t Know about "Mortgagegate" Could Crush the U.S. Banking System

By Shah Gilani, Contributing Editor, Money Morning

October 15, 2010

(T)he odds that a financial tsunami will result from Mortgagegate are building each day. If this storm strikes with its full fury , it could be the kind of credit-crisis aftershock that undermines the tentative handhold that the U.S. recovery is so desperately clinging to.

Here’s the problem. In creating MERS, these institutions actually changed the land-title system that this country – for much of its history – has relied upon to determine legal ownership status of land titleholders.

MERS is facing class-action lawsuits and civil racketeering suits around the country and their members are being individually named in all these suits. One suit alleges that MERS owes California a potential $60 billion to $120 billion in unpaid land-recording fees.

How Wall Street Hid Its Mortgage Mess

By WILLIAM D. COHAN, The New York Times

October 14, 2010, 7:30 pm

This is where things got interesting. Clayton provided the inquiry commission with documents that summarized its findings for the six quarters between January 2006 and June 2007, when mortgage-underwriting standards were arguably at their worst and the housing bubble was inflating rapidly. Of the 911,039 mortgages Clayton examined for its Wall Street clients – a sample of about 10 percent of the total mortgages that the banks intended to package into securities – only 54 percent were found to meet the underwriting guidelines. Standards deteriorated over time, with only 47 percent of the mortgages Clayton examined meeting the guidelines by the second quarter of 2007.

So, did Wall Street throw all those mortgages back into the pond as being too risky for securities they were going to sell to clients? Of course not – many were packaged right into their product. There were degrees of nefariousness: Some Wall Street firms were better about including higher-quality mortgages in their mortgage-backed securities than others. For instance, at Goldman Sachs, 77 percent of the nearly 112,000 mortgages reviewed met the guidelines, while at Citigroup only 58 percent did. At Lehman Brothers, which later filed for bankruptcy, 74 percent of the mortgages sampled and then packaged up as securities met underwriting guidelines.

In fact, the banks probably weren’t disappointed at all by the shaky status of many of these loans: in part because they could use the information that some of the mortgages were rotten to get a discount from the mortgage originators on the price paid for the entire portfolio. The people who should have been concerned were the investors who bought the securities from the Wall Street firms. But the amazing revelation of the Sacramento hearing was that the investment banks did not pass this very valuable information on to their customers.

The Mortgage Morass

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: October 14, 2010

Now an awful truth is becoming apparent: In many cases, the documentation doesn’t exist. In the frenzy of the bubble, much home lending was undertaken by fly-by-night companies trying to generate as much volume as possible. These loans were sold off to mortgage “trusts,” which, in turn, sliced and diced them into mortgage-backed securities. The trusts were legally required to obtain and hold the mortgage notes that specified the borrowers’ obligations. But it’s now apparent that such niceties were frequently neglected. And this means that many of the foreclosures now taking place are, in fact, illegal.

This is very, very bad. For one thing, it’s a near certainty that significant numbers of borrowers are being defrauded – charged fees they don’t actually owe, declared in default when, by the terms of their loan agreements, they aren’t.

Beyond that, if trusts can’t produce proof that they actually own the mortgages against which they have been selling claims, the sponsors of these trusts will face lawsuits from investors who bought these claims – claims that are now, in many cases, worth only a small fraction of their face value.

And who are these sponsors? Major financial institutions – the same institutions supposedly rescued by government programs last year. So the mortgage mess threatens to produce another financial crisis.

But always remember that as large as the problem is for the banksters your proximate problem is that you may not have clear title to your property if it’s registered with MERS and not the town, city, county, or state.

On This Day in History: October 16

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

This Day in History: October 16 October 16 is the 289th day of the year (290th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 76 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy St. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. It was raided 9 days later by the police. She served 30 days in prison. An initial appeal was rejected but in 1918 an opinion written by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals allowed doctors to prescribe contraception.

This was the beginning of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921,  which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. in 1942. Since then, it has grown to 850 clinic locations in the United States, with a total budget of approximately US$1 billion, and provides an array of services to over three million people.

Dealing with sexuality, the organization is often a center of controversy in the United States. The organization’s status as the country’s leading provider of surgical abortions has put it in the forefront of national debate over the issue. Planned Parenthood has also been a party in numerous Supreme Court cases.

In scanning through the articles on Margaret Sanger, I found this bit of trivia quite amusing

In 1926, Sanger gave a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. She described it as “one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing,” and added that she had to use only “the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.” Sanger’s talk was well-received by the group and as a result “a dozen invitations to similar groups were proffered.”

Morning Shinbun Saturday October 16

For foreclosure processors hired by mortgage lenders, speed equaled money

By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Zachary A. Goldfarb

Washington Post Staff Writers

Saturday, October 16, 2010; 12:57 AM

Millions of homes have been seized by banks during the economic crisis through a mass production system of foreclosures that was set up to prioritize one thing over everything else: speed.

With 2 million homes in foreclosure and another 2.3 million seriously delinquent on their mortgages – the biggest logjam of distressed properties the market has ever seen – companies involved in the foreclosure process were paid to move cases quickly through the pipeline.

Popular Culture 20101015. The Who. A Quick One While He’s Away

It seems that I get the most response from this series, which I enjoy writing immensely.  However, entertainment is sort of trivial compared to science, so I urge everyone to read the series about science and technology that I post on Sunday evenings, Pique the Geek.  No matter.  The Who are one the most important bands to release music, and I am glad to write about them.

I suspect that many of you will not recognize this excellent piece of music, since it was first released in 1966, before The Who became a sensation with the release of Tommy in 1969.  However, Pete Townshend always called it the parent of Tommy, and I think that it is just wonderful.

To make my point about how much influence that The Who have had in popular music, I have included several covers that many consider to be important bands these days.  Many of those are good, but no one could do it better than The Who did in the day, or even later.  In case you do not know, I will give you a lineup of the band from the first video.

Prime Time

Yankees @ Rangers.  Their aces aren’t going to pitch against each other unless the series goes deep and then the Rangers will be on short rest.  The Yankees will look to get an easy away victory tonight so they can close out at home.  I predict Yankees in 5 because their offense is clearly superior.  My offensive observation is I don’t think their pitchers are any better than the Phillies (with the exception of Rivera) and like all Junior League clubs they’re longball prima donnas who were never taught how to put to put together an inning with base hits and running nor stop one with their glove work.

Designated hitter my ass.

There are other things on TV but why would you want to watch them?


Dave has David Duchovny and Amy Sedaris.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Sarkozy sends in riot police to break fuel blockade


43 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – President Nicolas Sarkozy dispatched riot police Friday to reopen fuel depots blocked by strikes against pension reform, as the fuel pipeline to Paris airports was cut and all France’s refineries shut down.

But even as officers forced open the barricades at some depots, strikers threw up new pickets at other fuel distribution centres across the country to fight against moves to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Riot police made 16 arrests and used tear gas as they fought running battles with youths who pelted them with stones and overturned cars during street protests by high-school students in the central city of Lyon.