Daily Archive: 03/03/2012

Mar 03 2012

Random Japan

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 KIDS THESE DAYS…

    The Tokyo Board of Education says elementary school students walk 30 percent less than kids did in 1979. The Board even went so far as to count the number of steps: 11,382 vs. 17,120.

   The education ministry says that the costs for parents to send children to high schools-both public and private-have never been lower.

   USA Today named the Texas Rangers’ new $60 million man, Yu Darvish, as the top young baseball player in America. Which is impressive, considering the 25-year-old has yet to throw a pitch in the majors.

   Tokyo officially registered its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The other hopefuls are Doha, Madrid, Istanbul and Baku, Azerbaijan.

Mar 03 2012

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.

Smoothies for Grownups

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   I never thought about adding vegetables to smoothies until I tasted a lunchtime smoothie my sister made that included spinach, pear and walnuts. These are ingredients I like in a salad, and it turns out they still work well together after taking a trip through the blender – especially with fresh ginger added to the mix.

   So this week I explored fruit and vegetable smoothies. I’d picked several pounds of oranges from a friend’s tree, so I used fresh orange juice as the liquid, and for each drink I combined one or two fruits with a vegetable. I didn’t use bananas, which so often go into my smoothies, as I don’t really like them with orange juice, and I didn’t add dairy to many of them. I was thinking the smoothies would make great snacks, but in fact these make satisfying meals. When I was testing and tasting, they were all I needed for breakfast and lunch. They’re packed with vitamins, especially C and A, beta carotene, and antioxidant-rich flavonoids.

Martha Rose Shulman

Mixed Berry and Beet Smoothie

The color alone is enough to cause cravings for this smoothie.

Pear and Arugula Smoothie With Ginger and Walnuts

Arugula may seem like a strange ingredient for a smoothie, but this combination is a real winner, a great lunchtime smoothie.

Pineapple, Orange, Granola and Carrot Smoothie

A small amount of granola contributes great texture to this tangy smoothie.

Arugula Piña Colada Smoothie

Pineapple and coconut milk are traditional partners in piña colada, so why not combine them in something that’s really good for you in this lunchtime smoothie?

Red Berry, Cabbage and Almond Smoothie

A high-anthocyanin red smoothie that also delivers the benefits of red cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable high in antioxidant-rich sulfur compounds, and almonds, a very good source of manganese and vitamin E.

Mar 03 2012

The Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero missed his self imposed, usual Friday deadline. The dog ate his homework. No, he just got a cold and wouldn’t get out of bed. This is what your Bloguero does on the very rare occasion when he has a cold. When he feels sick. He doesn’t call the doctor, and he doesn’t go to the pharmacy for something to knock out the unseen invader. No. He just gets in bed. Pulls the covers over his head. And he stays there. He explores in depth that fuzzy zone between awake and asleep, being thinking and dreaming. He doesn’t eat. He has soup. And broth. He drinks water. He travels only as far as the bathroom. He does not communicate with the outside world.

Today, after three days, he is much, much better. Thank you. The cough is almost gone, his nose is red but has stopped dripping as much. He is weak and spacey. Very spacey. Very altered.

At some point early this morning, your Bloguero had a dream.

In the dream, your Bloguero was driving his father, who passed away two weeks ago, to catch a train. He was an old man in the dream, just as he was before he passed away, in his 90’s, frail, frequently short of breath, entirely conscious, cogent, alert. First, your Bloguero was driving a VW bus with his dad. They had to abandon that and start driving another car. They failed to put Dad’s suitcase in the new car. They spoke briefly about it and headed for the station anyway without it. They’d come back and get it. Later. When they got to the station, your Bloguero simply could not navigate the parking lot. Every road went the wrong way. All the arrows on the pavement went the wrong way. All the turns were forbidden. Finally, frustrated, your Bloguero parked the car illegally, in a no parking no standing zone, and began to walk slowly with his Dad to the station. Dad has to walk pretty slowly because he gets short of breath from chronic heart failure. But there’s a problem. They didn’t know where the entrance to the station might be.

In the distance, they saw some uniformed men tending a parking lot, and there was a policeman there. They could ask them where to go. The sun was shining, it was bright, and it was hot. Your Bloguero had, as he had for the past few years, his Dad holding on his right arm, walking slowly with him, hanging on. Dad said, “We have 20 minutes.” Then he said, “I can’t go this fast. I have to stop. I have to wait.”  They stopped. And stood still in the hot sun. Who, your Bloguero wondered, was he to hurry his father? Who was he to be concerned about making the train? How dare he? Your Bloguero said, “I’m sorry, dad, I’m really sorry.” Your Bloguero woke up crying.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest of essays in The Dream Antilles. Usually it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now, it’s something else entirely. To see what essays were in The Dream Antilles in the past two week you have visit The Dream Antilles

Mar 03 2012

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”.

The New York times: Crushing Homs

After a month of merciless bombardment, the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have taken Homs, the main rebel stronghold. Many of the brave residents have fled the city or been killed, adding to a death toll now estimated at more than 7,500 since the unrest began. [..]

The United States, Europe, the Arab League and Turkey need to make that case to China and Russia every chance they have. And they need to keep tightening their own sanctions. At some point, the Syrian military and business elites will decide that backing the dictator is a losing proposition. The United States and its allies also need to use all of their influence and coaching to help the opposition form a credible, multiethnic government, one that will respect all Syrians.

Robert Resich: Bye Bye American Pie: The Challenge of the Productivity Revolution

Here’s the good news. The economic pie is growing again. Growth in the 4th quarter last year hit 3 percent on an annualized rate. That’s respectable – although still way too slow to get us back on track given how far we plunged.

Here’s the bad news. The share of that growth going to American workers is at a record low.

That’s largely because far fewer Americans are working. Although the nation is now producing more goods and services than it did before the slump began in 2007, we’re doing it with six million fewer people.

Why? Credit technology. Computers, software applications, and the Internet are letting us produce more with fewer people.

Hooman Majd: Starving Iran Won’t Free It

THERE’S an old saying, attributed to the British Foreign Office in colonial days: “Keep the Persians hungry, and the Arabs fat.” For the British – then the stewards of Persian destiny – that was the formula for maintaining calm; it still is for Saudi Arabian leaders, who simply distribute large amounts of cash to their citizens at the first sign of unrest at their doorstep.

But in the case of Iran, neither America nor Britain seems to be observing the old dictum. Keeping the Persians hungry was a guarantee that they wouldn’t rise up against their masters. Today, the fervent wish of the West appears to be that they do exactly that. Except that the West is doing everything in its power to keep the Iranians hungry – even hungrier than they might ordinarily be under the corrupt and incompetent administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mark Engler: Obama’s Broken Resolutions

In June 2007, on a warm Sunday in San Antonio, Texas, presidential candidate Barack Obama rolled up his white shirtsleeves and addressed a crowd of 1,000: ‘We’re going to close Guantánamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus,’ he said. The assembly cheered.

The senator repeated his vow the next month, and in subsequent campaign stops: ‘As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.’

In November 2008, after being elected, Obama went on the news show 60 Minutes. ‘I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo,’ he stated, ‘and I will follow through on that.’

It is now 2012. The US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba – which has held hundreds of prisoners without trial and has been the site of torture and abuse – remains open. In December, President Obama signed into law a National Defense Authorization Act that, according to the New York Times, will ‘make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law.

Subhankar Banerjee: How “Drill, Baby, Drill” and “Yes We Can” Got Married

American military prefers to make preemptive strikes. We know this. In America, corporations have enormous influence over the government-these days they essentially run the government. We know this too. And now a giant corporation has made a preemptive strike against nonprofit organizations. “Arctic Ocean drilling: Shell launches preemptive legal strike” is the title of a recent Los Angeles Times article. Shell’s legal attack is against REDOIL-a small indigenous human rights organization in Alaska and 12 environmental organizations fighting to stop dangerous drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Arctic Alaska-Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. This is historic.

On Thursday, I requested Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, D.C. about how she would respond. Following is the email statement I received from her:

   “In a true-life David vs. Goliath parable, Royal Dutch Shell, a foreign company that makes millions of dollars in profits per hour, is forcing Alaska Wilderness League, a grassroots-based nonprofit with the sole purpose of advocating for Alaska’s lands, waters and native people, into court-and seeking fees and costs against us. I suppose if you’re like Shell, and you have billions of dollars to throw around, you can engage in this desperate ploy, instead of proving on the ground that you can actually clean up an oil spill in Arctic conditions.

   My response to Shell is this: Alaska Wilderness League will not be bullied. We will take the time we need to evaluate whether Shell’s oil spill response plan, for the most aggressive course of Arctic Ocean drilling ever proposed in history, meets the letter of the law. We owe that much to the Iñupiat people who have thrived on Alaska’s Arctic coast for thousands of years, and the extraordinary Arctic ecosystem that is among the most vital in the world.

How did we get here? I’d suggest through a cruel marriage of two phrases. You perhaps never thought that two phrases could marry, right? And, that they can even produce babies, right? In America, anything is possible.

Charles M. Blow: Santorum and the Sexual Revolution

Rick Santorum wants to bring sexy back … to the 1950s, when he was born.

That is because Santorum seems to have an unhealthy fixation with, and passionate disdain for, the 1960s and the sexual freedoms that followed.

To fully understand Santorum’s strident rejection of the 1960s, it’s instructive to recall a speech and question-and-answer session he gave in 2008 to a course on religion and politics at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in Washington.

The speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly illuminating.

Mar 03 2012

The Passing of Youth

I felt a special twinge the other day when I heard that Davy Jones had died of a heart attack at age 66. I thought, “Wow, he was 66? Where has time gone?” I wasn’t alone. The baby boomer generation is aging more rapidly than we care to admit and Davy’s death was a cruel reminder of the passage or our youthful idols.

Davy Jones was the British member a contrived American Rock and Roll group for a 1966 television series that was not so much a parody of the more famous Beatles but a mimic of the group that appealed to a slightly younger fan base. Not quites as popular as the British counterparts but The Monkees had their appeal and their hit songs, “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer” which became a hit once again when it was redone by Smashing Pumpkins for the movie “Shrek”. Off and on over the years thanks to MTV and the cable network, “Nickelodeon“, “Monkee Mania” was reignited and there were several reunions and tours.

The Monkees were the “cool” group that used to hang around with Frank Zappa, a very young Jack Nicholson, boxer Sonny Liston, famous stripper Carol Doda, Glenn Campbell and members of The Byrds. Many of their songs were written by . Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and many other highly regarded writers. The musicians that accompanies the group were just as well known and accomplished, drummer “Fast” Eddie Hoh, Lowell George, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles and Neil Young. The Monkees, too, were accomplished musicians and played their own instruments. From a contrived TV group, they proved to the world that they were a bona fide group.

In February 2011, Davy announced another reunion, An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour, which would be his last. Davy sadly passed away on February 29 and with him died part of the youth of many of his fans.

The Wheel Turns. Blessed Be

Mar 03 2012

Wrong Finale

In two previous posts I’ve collected some of letsgetitdone’s reactions to Dylan Matthews’ Washington Post article on Modern Monetary Theory and the responses of other authors-

In this final installment is some of his extensive treatment of Dean Baker’s critiques.

In his first reaction to Dean Baker, letsgetitdone outlines 7 areas of specific differences between Keynesian Deficit Doves and MMT and their policy implications-

  1. Government deficit spending for recovery.
  2. Government fiscal policy over the business cycle.
  3. Long Term Deficit Reduction Planning.
  4. Long Term Deficit Reduction Projections.
  5. Funding Government spending.
  6. Social Security Solvency.
  7. Proposed progressive reform programs.

The end for MMT is achieving public purpose including full employment with price stability as one aspect of it. Since the MMT view is that fiscal policy is much more useful for doing this than monetary policy MMT focuses on how fiscal policy should be set.

Its general view is that alternative budgetary plans have to be assessed from the viewpoint of their anticipated outcomes, without regard to deficits or surpluses as outcomes valued in themselves. Of course, full employment is positively valued and unemployment negatively valued, but a whole range of valued outcomes is relevant for such assessments. Those are the ends, and fiscal policy is the means. Monetary policy and trade policy are also means, but are not nearly as important as fiscal policy in their effective short-term impact.

Baker wrote a second article which letsgetitdone also felt largely ignored the critical differences between MMT and Deficit Dove Keynesianism and this time responded with a 3 part piece-

In the first part he discusses these issues-

Like MMT Says: Monetary Policy Would Be Ineffective

I won’t go into the details here, but the bottom line seems to be that he thinks the Fed could add $20 Billion to aggregate demand mostly through mortgage refinancing arrangements.

My own bottom line is that what he outlines might work, but only proves the MMT point that monetary policy can do very little to help solve our present economic problems. We have about a 28 million person U6 employment problem, which could take as much as $1.2 Trillion in carefully formulated deficit spending. So, adding $20 Billion in aggregate demand to the economy makes very little contribution compared to the scale of the problem. It’s the proverbial drop in the bucket and justifies the lack of emphasis MMT places on this channel.

Expanding US Exports at the Expense of Decreasing Real Wealth?

The MMT argument is that as long as other nations are willing to send us more real wealth in return for dollars, than we send them, then that is a net benefit for American consumers. Certainly, our willingness to accommodate their desire to exchange exports for dollars has caused real damage to US industries, and the erosion of skills and capabilities among workers and has also cost the jobs of Americans.



In other words, the big negatives that are related to our positive current account balance with the rest of the world (colloquially known as our trade deficit) are costs that we don’t have to bear, according to MMT, to get the benefits of imports. We could employ Americans fully, our people could be developing new skills and experiences, our wealth in facilities and social conditions we all share could be vastly increased, if the Government used its capability to help us fulfill the opportunities the current account balances give us to turn to other things that badly need doing, rather than making televisions, toys, clothes, and all the other things we no longer make. MMT says that the Government’s deficit will equal private sector savings plus the current account balance. So, if both are high that makes room for large Government deficits, and, in fact, actually demands them, since if we try to reduce them the end result will be less real wealth coming from imports and less nominal wealth accumulated from savings.

letsgetitdone continues in the second part

Expanding US Exports at the Expense of Decreasing Real Wealth? (continued)

(W)hy do economists like Dean and Paul Krugman insist on relying on far-fetched scenarios to try to argue against simple truths that may apply today? The current account balance will probably be around 4-5% of GDP this year. As the economy recovers it will probably rise to 6% of GDP again, which represents a very real benefit to the United States. But there’s no reason to expect that this growth would continue indefinitely or ever reach 50% of GDP. Why should it? What are the dynamics that would drive things this way, and make other nations value the dollar so much, that they will keep their own populations barefoot?



Dean then continues with other arguments about re-balancing trade and its effects which are largely correct. But his remarks on the devaluation strategy not being “a beggar thy neighbor” strategy are only correct if we assume that such a strategy would not lead to negative compositional effects at the higher level of the international economic system.

If US attempts to devalue were followed by other nations responding in kind, then a race-to-the-bottom could result which would harm workers in all the major nations of the world. In this context MMT would probably say, don’t devalue. Instead use fiscal policy to fully employ all of your working people, and then let other nations devalue your currency as they please. There will be far less danger of a race to the bottom in this scenario, since your attempt to employ all of your own people to domestic tasks producing valued outcomes, can hardly be viewed as an attack on the desires of other nations to continue to export to you.

Is Work Sharing a Separate Channel for Raising Aggregate Demand?

I find myself in complete agreement with the proposals in the past few paragraphs and the arguments for the benefits of work sharing. I have only one problem with it, and that is why Dean classifies this proposal as a separate channel from the Government deficit spending channel?

From my point of view, making the standard work week 35 hours and mandating the kinds of fringe benefits they have in Europe and compensating workers directly with Government subsidies for the reduction of 5 hours of work per week they receive, is definitely using the Government channel to raise aggregate demand, since the increased demand comes from the Government subsidy assumed by the proposal. It’s not a proposal the economists developing MMT have put forward. But I’ve put forward a similar proposal, and I see nothing in it that is in conflict with MMT.

In the third part letsgetitdone concludes with a discussion of Dean Baker’s contention that MMT relies “exclusively” on the fiscal channel-

Pitfalls of the Fiscal Policy Channel

MMT doesn’t advocate wasteful spending, or digging holes for the sake of the activity, or spending money on projects and programs that will waste real resources or people’s lives. There is a risk that any spending, private or public, will be wasteful or involve an excess of real costs over real benefits. But that’s no excuse for avoiding private sector spending, so why should it be one for avoiding public sector spending when that’s called for?

The events of the last ten years show that both Federal spending on Wars, and private spending on financial adventures can be disastrous, but it was wasteful investments on fantasy sand castles that crashed much of the world economy; not deficit spending in the United States intended to achieve public purpose. In fact, that kind of spending has been starved for the past 35 years at least. And right now, there is no record of wasteful public spending that remotely compares with the record of wasteful private spending over that same period.



MMT, itself, it favors spending that can be justified based on projections of its real benefits and costs, not projections of its nominal benefits and costs to a Federal Government that can never have any solvency problem. MMT is against crony capitalism, and for prosecutions of banksters and fraudsters. MMT proposals in the health care area would not only improve health care outcomes and reduce private sector expenditures on health care but would also produce millions of new jobs in the health care sector, while putting the health insurance barons out of business. MMT stimulus proposals for ending the recession, include Revenue Sharing grants to States on a per person basis, so that States could re-hire staff laid off in response to the recession’s impact on tax revenues. It’s very doubtful that hiring back Police, Firefighters, Teachers, and other State Civil Servants would be viewed as wasteful to most people.

Dean’s Conclusion and Mine

(M)y view is that Washington in its current state doesn’t care about logical inconsistency, or rationality, or arithmetic. At this point it is a closed “village” of opinion. As Dean implies, points of view that have no currency in the village don’t get discussed, or ridiculed when they are. The question however, is how does a closed system like this change, since it is fairly closed to changes in viewpoint that may be necessary to use to solve its problems?

I think the answer to that question is raw failure that destroys confidence in the governing world view which is neoliberalism. The highly visible failure of neoliberalism in 2008 wasn’t capitalized on by this Administration. It was loyal to the neoliberal point of vew and followed the prescriptions of neoliberals for fixing the problems it created.

However, the failures of neoliberalism continue. We see the disaster in Europe now taking shape, we see the extreme discontent among so many in American society, including most importantly the young who cannot see any acceptable future. The stresses grow with each passing year of injustice and maintenance of levels of real unemployment that haven’t been seen in this country since the 1930s.



The worst of the anger is yet to sweep this country. When it does, when the banking system falls either in Europe or here, when the big banks are taken into resolution and the serious investigations start under a new Attorney General, the changing of the guard in Washington will come; and the old regime, along with their neoliberal paradigm, will be swept away. And it is then that MMT will be accepted in Congress and the Executive Branch sufficiently, so that its policies will get a chance. If those policies succeed, then neoiberalism will be gone, hopefully for good.

Mar 03 2012

On This Day In History March 3

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 3 is the 62nd day of the year (63rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 303 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1887, Anne Sullivan begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller flourished, eventually graduating from college and becoming an international lecturer and activist. Sullivan, later dubbed “the miracle worker,” remained Keller’s interpreter and constant companion until the older woman’s death in 1936.

Sullivan, age 20, arrived at Ivy Green, the Keller family estate, in 1887 and began working to socialize her wild, stubborn student and teach her by spelling out words in Keller’s hand. Initially, the finger spelling meant nothing to Keller. However, a breakthrough occurred one day when Sullivan held one of Keller’s hands under water from a pump and spelled out “w-a-t-e-r” in Keller’s palm. Keller went on to learn how to read, write and speak. With Sullivan’s assistance, Keller attended Radcliffe College and graduated with honors in 1904.

Helen Keller became a public speaker and author; her first book, “The Story of My Life” was published in 1902. She was also a fundraiser for the American Foundation for the Blind and an advocate for racial and sexual equality, as well as socialism. From 1920 to 1924, Sullivan and Keller even formed a vaudeville act to educate the public and earn money. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at her home in Westport, Connecticut, at age 87, leaving her mark on the world by helping to alter perceptions about the disabled.

Mar 03 2012

Popular Culture 20120302: Your Contraception

I must first offer my apologies to Peter Townshend.  Pete, sorry, but I think that you would probably approve of this.  Please know that I mean no disrespect to the original song.  This is just political satire using one of your standards.

Normally I do not write highly political pieces, that function being done far better by others here, but tonight is an exception.  I hope that this gets my feelings about how the Republicans have taken what should be a foregone conclusion and twisted it to try to make their point, whatever that point is.  I have tried to be witty and not mean with it, but when talking ’bout Republicans sometimes it is difficult to keep from getting mean.

Mar 03 2012

Priorities

It’s nice to see that Daily Kos is focusing on important things like Rush Limbaugh….

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…and not silly news stories like:

‘People keep falling sick’: How poor Indians are recruited for clinical drug trials

Volt production halted; 1,300 workers out of work

High health care costs: It’s all in the pricing

Red Cross says Syrian authorities blocked aid to Bab Amr; atrocities reported

High turnout reported in Iran for parliamentary elections

Miami valedictorian fighting deportation