05/14/2011 archive

Random Japan



A Maritime Self-Defense Force member whipped out his tool in a Yokohama video shop in a successful bid to get arrested for exposing himself in public. He was not keen on being sent to Iwate to retrieve bodies killed by the March 11 tsunami.

A Japanese fashion blogger/medical student “Tokyo Panda,” extremely popular on Chinese online shopping site Taobao, is doing her part for tsunami victims by posting photos of herself in various outfits online and then selling the clothes to raise money for charity.

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are “under pressure to reduce electric power consumption in anticipation of a power shortage this summer.” The theme parks reportedly use 10 times more power than the Tokyo Dome.

A fundraising effort organized by Tokyoite Gary Bremermann raised ¥100 for every beer sold with the money going to help kids in Tohoku.

Meanwhile, a new internet phenomenon known as “slacktivism” has sprung up in the wake of March 11, gaining popularity in Japan. Combining slacker and activism, the term means “to casually engage in social activism at little cost or effort … leisurely philanthropic activities.”

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, 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.

Cooking With Green Garlic


This was green garlic, freshly harvested. By now it should be available at most farmers’ markets. At some stands, the bulbs look a lot like spring onions, or even leeks, because they haven’t set cloves yet. Once the cloves appear, the garlic looks more familiar; still, the green stems will be attached, and you must remove several layers of moist skin to get to the cloves.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Green Garlic

Inspired by a classic pasta dish, this recipe includes chicory, a bitter green much loved in southern Italy.

Asparagus With Green Garlic

Serve this skillet dish with grains, pasta or eggs.

Green Garlic, Potato and Leek Soup

A very pale green springtime cousin of vichyssoise, this purée is comforting when served hot, refreshing when cold.

Beet Greens, Green Garlic and Barley Gratin

Use any kind of barley, brown rice or arborio rice in this Provençal gratin.

Rice Bowl With Spinach or Pea Tendrils

This easy skillet dish is filled with sweet spring vegetables.

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.

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

Charles M. Blow: H.I.V. S O S

That’s the way scientists describe a striking and incredibly encouraging new finding of a large clinical trial released on Thursday that found that H.I.V.-infected people who took antiretroviral drugs were 96 percent less likely to pass on the disease than those who didn’t.

This is an extraordinary finding, coming in the year of the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic in America.

This now shines a harsh light on the cruelty-creep and passion-drift by federal and state governments whose lack of financing and fealty in the fight against AIDS has had the effect of either starving or restricting support, services and prevention efforts for people with H.I.V. and those at risk of contracting it.

Glen Greenwald: The Bin Laden Dividend

Numerous people have argued that one potential benefit from the death of Osama bin Laden is that it will enable the U.S. Government to diminish its war commitments in that part of the world and finally arrest the steady erosion of civil liberties perpetrated in the name of the War on Terror (as though any of that is the government’s goal).  By contrast, I’ve argued from the start that the bin Laden killing is likely to change nothing of any significance, except that — if anything — the resulting nationalistic pride, the vicarious sensations of power and strength, the substantial political benefits for the President, and the renewed faith in military force would be more likely to intensify rather than arrest these trends.  But that was definitely a minority opinion.

As but one example, this person (cheered on by Democratic Party commentators) — aside from falsely attributing to me numerous statements I never made, and thereafter refusing to post my response in the comment section — chided me for failing to realize that “Bin Laden’s death also makes things like closing the gulag at Guantanamo Bay seem likelier and more possible” and that it also “marks what could be the beginning of the end of many of the evils that Glenn Greenwald has consistently written about over the past decade, the opportunity to reassert the principles he determinedly wants to defend.” Andrew Sullivan argued that, in the wake of the bin Laden killing, “Obama will have the leverage to shift strategy drastically [in Afghanistan] in the coming year” and that the “average American” will conclude that “it is time to leave. With our heads high. And justice done.”  Numerous commenters and others have similarly insisted that bin Laden’s death will spawn reversals in America’s War on Terror policies over the last decade.

David Sirota: Has America Become a Nation of Cowards?

If the mission to neutralize Osama bin Laden were a blockbuster movie, the screen would have almost certainly faded to black as soon as the accused terrorist’s death was announced. No doubt, the credits would roll to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and then a big “The End” would appear.

Alas, real life is not one of Hollywood’s many Pentagon-sponsored flicks — and as hard as President Obama tried to portray last week’s events as proof “that America can do whatever we set our mind to,” the mission and its cloudy aftermath have raised troubling questions about the “whatever” part.

Eugen Robinson: The Death of the bin Laden Myth

Years from now, I believe, we will look back and say the elimination of Osama bin Laden changed everything. To borrow Churchill’s assessment of the Nazi defeat at El Alamein, “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Attempted terrorist attacks in the name of fundamentalist Islam will surely continue. Most will be amateurish failures, such as the alleged plot disclosed Thursday in which two homegrown would-be jihadists-now in the custody of New York City police-ineffectually aspired to blow up a synagogue. Tragically, we are bound to see attacks by genuine terrorists as well. Some may succeed.

Still, it’s hard to overstate the significance of bin Laden’s killing. Operationally and psychologically, he defined the Age of Terror-not just for Americans and other targets of his depredations but also for the terrorists who followed his writ. With his last breath, an era died.

John Nichols: The Post-Wisconsin Game Plan

Mary Kay Henry had just spent a day talking with many of the thousands of Wisconsinites who had packed the State Capitol in Madison for the February protests against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposals to scrap collective bargaining rights and slash funding for public education and services. Now, as she waited in a legislative hearing room that had been turned into a makeshift studio for a Pennsylvania labor radio show, the new president of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union was marveling at what she had seen. “It’s inspiring, so inspiring, but we have to pay attention to what’s happening here,” she said, in a calm, thoughtful voice. “We’ve got to take this national, and we’ve got to keep the spirit, the energy. We’ve got to do it right.”

Henry was not just speaking in the excitement of the moment. Even before the Wisconsin uprising and ensuing demonstrations in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Maine, SEIU had been drawing the outlines of a Fight for a Fair Economy campaign that would use the resources of the union to mobilize low-wage workers-be they union members or not-into a movement aimed at transforming a national debate that has been defined by conservative talking points and ginned-up Tea Party “populism.” After the frustrating experience of trying to get the Employee Free Choice Act through a supposedly friendly Congress in the first two years of President Obama’s administration, Henry and a growing number of labor leaders are coming to recognize that simply electing Democrats is not enough. A memo that circulated in January among members of the union’s executive board declared, “We can’t spark an organizing surge without changing the environment, so that workers see unions not as self-interested institutions but as vehicles through which they can collectively stand up for a more fair economy.”

Davis Swanson: Afghanistan: War Without End?

Obama promised no open-ended occupation – and to draw down forces from July. A 2.5% cut is hardly an encouraging start

Afghanistan was supposed to be the campaign promise that President Barack Obama actually kept. He said he would escalate that war, and sure enough he did. Is he now going back on promises he’s made as president, by proposing to withdraw 2.5% of US forces in July?

Here are the relevant promises:

   “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home … [O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended – because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” – President Barack Obama, 1 December 2009

   “I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture.” – President Barack Obama, 15 April 2011

   “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.” – Vice President Joe Biden, quoted in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise

But let’s first review how we got here. When loyal Democrats heard candidate Obama say he would escalate the war as president, they mistakenly understood him to say he would end it. Progressive bloggers have planned a panel for next month to discuss their disappointment with this “broken promise” that was actually kept.

0 Days without a category error.

(h/t lambert)

Unfortunately, they’re also Democratic budget ideas.

Seniors, Guns and Money

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: May 12, 2011

(T)he truth is that older Americans really should fear Republican budget ideas – and not just because of that plan to dismantle Medicare. Given the realities of the federal budget, a party insisting that tax increases of any kind are off the table – as John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says they are – is, necessarily, a party demanding savage cuts in programs that serve older Americans.

The great bulk of federal spending that isn’t either defense-related or interest on the debt goes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The first two programs specifically serve seniors. And while Medicaid is often thought of as a poverty program, these days it’s largely about providing nursing care, with about two-thirds of its spending now going to the elderly and/or disabled. By my rough count, in 2007, seniors accounted, one way or another, for about half of federal spending.

Between an aging population and rising health costs, then, preserving anything like the programs for seniors we now have will require a significant increase in spending on these programs as a percentage of G.D.P. And unless we offset that rise with drastic cuts in defense spending – which Republicans, needless to say, oppose – this means a substantial rise in overall spending, which we can afford only if taxes rise.

Which brings me back to those Republican freshmen. Last year, older voters, who split their vote almost evenly between the parties in 2008, swung overwhelmingly to the G.O.P., as Republicans posed successfully as defenders of Medicare. Now Democrats are pointing out that the G.O.P., far from defending Medicare, is actually trying to dismantle the program. So you can see why those Republican freshmen are nervous.

Tax Hikes Good!

Investors Say Tax Hike Needed to Cut Deficit

By Mike Dorning and David J. Lynch, Bloomberg News

May 13, 2011 12:00 AM ET

Global investors, by an almost 2-to-1 majority, believe the U.S. government won’t be able to substantially cut its budget deficit without raising taxes, rejecting a core stand of congressional Republicans.

Some suggest that tax increases are necessary because policy makers are unwilling to touch Social Security and health- entitlement programs such as Medicare, which together make up more than 40 percent of the federal budget.

“With entitlements sacrosanct by virtue of the electoral base (seniors and the poor), the only real option is higher marginal and progressive taxation,” Alfredo Viegas, director of emerging markets fixed-income strategy for Knight Libertas in Greenwich, Connecticut, says in an e-mail.

For all the concern about the deficit in Washington, bond market yields in the U.S. are lower now than when the government was running a budget surplus a decade ago. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was 3.22 percent at 5 p.m., New York time, yesterday, below the average of 7 percent since 1980 and the average of 5.48 percent in the 1998 through 2001 period, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader.

Twenty-two percent of poll respondents say there is a “big risk” that the deficit in the next two years will trigger a market crisis resulting in dramatically higher interest rates. That figure is up from January’s 18 percent, yet lower than November’s 24 percent.

The “U.S. is spending too much on energy and defense,” says Ivaylo Penev, a portfolio manager with Elana Fund Management in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a poll participant.

Colbert Nation

Frankly I think he’s funnier than Jon and more on point too.  Friday he took his case to the Federal Election Commission.  On Wednesday he talked about it on his show.

Stephen Colbert at the FEC? Really.


5/13/11 9:54 PM EDT

Technically, the request(s) asks the commission whether the airtime and other costs associated with any shows on which he promotes his hypothetical PAC would be considered a contribution from Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom, or whether they would be exempted from campaign finance rules and disclosure requirements.

That so-called media exemption allows newspapers, blogs, radio show hosts and others considered media to urge votes for or against candidates.

So, as Colbert explained Wednesday “I did the right thing and I exploited a loophole,” adding “there is critical legal distinction between a PAC and a super PAC. One has the word ‘super’ in its name. So I took Colbert PAC and I made it Colbert super PAC.”

Yet, Viacom’s lawyers balked at that solution as well, Colbert said, declaring in overstated exasperation “I hate my parent company! They never let me do anything. Everyone else’s parents companies let them do it. Karl Rove is a paid employee of Fox News and he gets to talk about his Super PAC, American Crossroads all the time.”

Potter explained to Colbert that Viacom is likely skittish that if their airtime or administrative costs are “counted as a contribution, they would have to show it on the FEC reports. There might be a complaint or an investigation about whether they showed enough and they would have to turn over their internal bookkeeping and potentially reveal Viacom secrets.”

“Why wouldn’t they (the FEC, take me seriously)?” he responded. “I’m making an actual request. I want to find out whether I actually have to list Viacom and the fact that I have a show as a gift in-kind. And if I don’t, I can’t wait to use the resources of my show.”

If nothing else, it could help the cause of campaign finance advocates by highlighting the ability of corporations to spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates, and – as Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen describes it – expose “the clear conflict of interest that Fox media has as they allow political figures to promote their PACs on a supposedly neutral media outlet.”

On This Day In History May 14

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.

May 14 is the 134th day of the year (135th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 231 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1796, Edward Jenner, an English country doctor from Gloucestershire, administers the world’s first vaccination as a preventive treatment for smallpox, a disease that had killed millions of people over the centuries.

Edward Anthony Jenner (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English scientist who studied his natural surroundings in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Jenner is widely credited as the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, and is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Immunology”; his works have been said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu witnessed the Ottoman Empire practice of variolation during her 1716-1718 sojourn in Istanbul, where her husband was the British ambassador. She brought the idea back to Britain. Voltaire, a few years later, recorded that 60% of people caught smallpox, with 20% of the population dying of it. In the years following 1770 there were at least six people in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) who had successfully tested the possibility of using the cowpox vaccine as an immunization for smallpox in humans. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty had successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity in his wife and two children with cowpox during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner’s work some twenty years later that the procedure became widely understood. Indeed, Jenner may have been aware of Jesty’s procedures and success.

Jenner’s Initial Theory:

The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called “the grease”, and that this was transferred to cows by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox.

Noting the common observation that milkmaids did not generally get smallpox, Jenner theorized that the pus in the blisters which milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected the milkmaids from smallpox. He may have had the advantage of hearing stories of Benjamin Jesty and others who deliberately arranged cowpox infection of their families, and then noticed a reduced smallpox risk in those families.

On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, a young boy of 8 years (the son of Jenner’s gardener), with material from the cowpox blisters of the hand of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide hangs on the wall of the library at St George’s medical school (now in Tooting). Blossom’s hide commemorates one of the school’s most renowned alumni. Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.

Jenner inoculated Phipps with cowpox pus in both arms on the same day. The inoculation was accomplished by scraping the pus from Nelmes’ blisters onto a piece of wood then transferring this to Phipps’ arms. This produced a fever and some uneasiness but no great illness. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, which would have been the routine attempt to produce immunity at that time. No disease had followed. Jenner reported that later the boy was again challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.


Smallpox is more dangerous than variolation and cowpox less dangerous than variolation.


Infection with cowpox gives immunity to smallpox.


If variolation after infection with cowpox fails to produce a smallpox infection, immunity to smallpox has been achieved.


Immunity to smallpox can be induced much more safely than by variolation.

Ronald Hopkins states: “Jenner’s unique contribution was not that he inoculated a few persons with cowpox, but that he then proved they were immune to smallpox. Moreover, he demonstrated that the protective cowpox could be effectively inoculated from person to person, not just directly from cattle. In addition he tested his theory on a series of 23 subjects. This aspect of his research method increased the validity of his evidence.

He continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, who did not publish the initial report. After improvement and further work, he published a report of twenty-three cases. Some of his conclusions were correct, and some erroneous – modern microbiological and microscopic methods would make this easier to repeat. The medical establishment, as cautious then as now, considered his findings for some time before accepting them. Eventually vaccination was accepted, and in 1840 the British government banned variolation – the use of smallpox itself – and provided vaccination – using cowpox – free of charge. (See Vaccination acts). The success of his discovery soon began to spread around Europe and as an example was used en masse in the Spanish Balmis Expedition a three year mission to the Americas led by Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. The expedtition was successful and Jenner wrote, “I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”

Jenner’s continuing work on vaccination prevented his continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament and was granted £10,000 for his work on vaccination. In 1806 he was granted another £20,000 for his continuing work.


In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component. And although it was declared eradicated, some samples still remain in laboratories in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, and State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.

The importance of his work does not stop there. His vaccine also laid the groundwork for modern-day discoveries in immunology, and the field he began may someday lead to cures for arthritis, AIDS, and many other diseases of the time.

Six In The Morning

It’s a go: Spillway to inundate Cajun country

25,000 people hurriedly pack their things and worry that their way of life might soon be drowned

Associated Press  

BUTTE LAROSE, La. – In an agonizing trade-off, Army engineers said they will open a key spillway along the bulging Mississippi River as early as Saturday and inundate thousands of homes and farms in Louisiana’s Cajun country to avert a potentially bigger disaster in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm’s way when the gates on the Morganza spillway are unlocked for the first time in 38 years.

“Protecting lives is the No. 1 priority,” Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said aboard a boat from the river at Vicksburg, Miss., hours before the decision was made to open the spillway.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 13, 2011-


Popular Culture (Music) 20110513. Magic Bus: The Who on Tour

First of all, this is really a very poorly titled record album.  It had nothing to do about being on tour.  It is actually their first compilation album on Decca, their American label.  When this came out in 1968, the way that songs were released was a bit different than later, but it looks like, in the digital age, we are sort of returning to the older ways.

Back then, the single ruled (actually, they were doubles, 45 RPM vinyl pressings with an “A” side (the “good” song) and a “B” side (the ugly cousin)).  That ceased to be the norm after around 1969 or so, when the album started to dominate and singles were released in accordance with how well specific tracks on the album got airtime.

In any event, this is a compilation from many singles the The Who had released over several years.  It had a companion in the UK, and we shall discuss that presently.

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