06/23/2012 archive

Random Japan



     Tamae Watanabe, a 73-year-old who broke her back in 2005, became the oldest woman to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. (Or, for fans of Monty Python, “The mountain with the biggest tits in the world.”)

   For the first time since stats were kept in 1988, the number of cellphone subscriptions in Japan is greater than the population of the country at 128,205,000, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has revealed.

   Many teachers at Japanese junior high schools are reportedly shakin’ all over since the education ministry made dance compulsory, with hip hop among the options. “Some of the teachers faced with the prospect of busting their moves in front of classes full of skeptical 12- to 14-year-olds are getting nervous,” said a report on The Asahi Shimbun website.

   Masaru Shishido, a 43-year-old actor who formerly played a superhero in the Super Sentai series on TV, opened a bar called Crystal Sky in Tachikawa where he has his waitresses dress like characters from the show and he “insists they call him Taicho (captain of the squad).”

Moyers, Taibbi and Smith on Banks

Contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith, creator of the finance and economics blog Naked Capitalism appeared with Bill Moyers on his PBS program, Moyers and Company to discuss How Big Banks Victimize Our Democracy.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s appearances in the last two weeks before Congressional committees – many members of which received campaign contributions from the megabank – beg the question: For how long and how many ways are average Americans going to pay the price for big bank hubris, with our own government acting as accomplice? [..]

Taibbi’s latest piece is “The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia.” Smith is the author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.

Full transcript

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

Soups That Taste Like Spring


I wanted comforting food this week that would showcase the wonderful late spring/early summer vegetables that are appearing in markets all over the country right now – great big bunches of chard with wide stems and lush leaves, tender leeks, the last of the fava beans, first of the green beans and the first of the summer squash, still small and delicate. I didn’t have a lot of time, and I wanted to make dishes that I could serve as the main dish for dinners throughout the week, so I did what the French do: I made soup.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Three-Bean Soup

White beans from the pantry and favas and green beans from the market are the basis of a beautiful and hearty dish.

Swiss Chard and Rice Soup

This is a simple and comforting soup that is especially delicious in the spring, when Swiss chard is at its sweetest and most tender.

Puréed Zucchini Soup With Curry

A little basmati rice contributes just the right amount of substance to this soup.

Fennel, Garlic and Potato Soup

A lighter, dairy-free version of vichyssoise, this anise-scented soup is good hot or cold.

Creamy Leek Soup

Adding dairy to this comforting soup would not be out of place, but it’s plenty satisfying without it.

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

New York Times Editorial: The Anti-Union Roberts Court

The Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Knox v. Service Employees International Union

(pdf) is one of the most brazen of the Roberts court. It shows how defiantly the five justices act in advancing the aggressive conservatism of their majority on the court. [..]

The court said the union infringed on the free speech rights of the nonmembers by not giving them the chance to prevent the use of their dues to support expressions of political views unrelated to collective bargaining. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with this narrow judgment only.

This produced a 7-to-2 ruling on that specific question. But Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing an opinion representing the conservative five only, went far beyond this principle, which has been settled law since 1986.

David Cay Johnston: America’s Long Slope Down

A broad swath of official economic data shows that America and its people are in much worse shape than when we paid higher taxes, higher interest rates and made more of the manufactured goods we use.

The numbers since the turn of the millennium point to even worse times ahead if we stay the course. Let’s look at the official numbers in today’s dollars and then what can be done to change course. [..]

We need to recognize that the tax cutters were snake oil salesmen, the Federal Reserve an enabler of damaging debts and that bilateral trade deals are written of, by and for global financiers, not workers.

To paraphrase the Huey Lewis song, we need a new policy.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: How to Fight Wall Street — and Transform a Nation

Eric Schneiderman was right.

New York State’s Attorney General told an audience at the Take Back the American Dream Conference that we need a “transformational politics” that will change the way we look at ourselves, our society, and our economy. [..]

Schneiderman’s distinction between “transformational” and “transactional” politics was also valid: Voters don’t just want to see a legislative accomplishment — any accomplishment — regardless of its impact. They want to see accomplishments that reflect who we are as a people, and which advance us as a society.

But transformation will need some involvement from the world of “transactional” activity, too. As I told the group, I can’t think of any single act that would be more “transformative” that the arrest of a senior Wall Street executive.

Daniel Denvir: Austerity-Crazed Republicans, Big Banks Are Killing Public Transportation

Americans have since the second world war built an entire way of life around the automobile. It turns out, however, that our faith was an unsteady one and, in the face of high gas prices and young people’s increasing preference for urban living, we are heading back to subways, trains, buses and trolleys in droves. In the first quarter of this year, we took an additional 125.7m trips on mass transit compared with the same time period last year – an increase of 5%.

Yet, Republican-led austerity is pushing public transit, like most everything public, into severe fiscal and physical crisis. All at the very moment when we want and need it the most. Nationwide, 80% of mass transit systems either did move to boost fares and cut services or considered doing so in 2010, according to the most recent report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Charles M Blow:  Bullies on the Bus

“Making the Bus Monitor Cry.”

That’s the name of the video. It’s more than 10 minutes long, but if you make it through more than three of them with your eyes not getting misty and your blood not boiling then you are a rock, or at least your heart is. [..]

But what, if anything, does this say about society at large? Many things one could argue, but, for me, it is a remarkably apt metaphor for this moment in the American discourse in which hostility has been drawn out into the sunlight.

Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at it’s ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

Davis Sirota: Don’t Fall for Corporate Blackmail

With states looking to raise taxes on oil and gas production and better regulate the most controversial drilling practices, we can expect industry to soon trot out its tried and true argument against such moves. As they did here in Colorado a few years back when our governor proposed a hike in severance levies, oil and gas companies will promise to leave any place where taxes or regulation increase.

Such blackmail deftly plays to our reflexive fears of job outsourcing-and those fears are understandable. Indeed, in a “free-trade” era that has seen corporate decision-makers dream of putting “every plant you own on a barge” and shifting production to the lowest-wage nations on earth (a direct quote from GE’s then-CEO Jack Welch), offshoring is very real in too many industries.

On This Day In History June 23

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 23 is the 174th day of the year (175th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 191 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin. Hopes for better U.S.-Soviet relations run high as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey, for a three-day summit. The meeting ended inconclusively, however, as issues such as Vietnam and the Middle East continued to divide the two superpowers.


With the United States gradually losing ground in the Vietnam War, the administration was looking for other solutions to the conflict.

On 5 June 1967 the Six-Day War began between Israel and the Arab states. The war led to an increase in Soviet-US diplomatic contact and cooperation; there were some who hoped this could continue to help the US solve the Vietnam war and other pressing international issues. Several days later the Soviet Union sent Premier Alexei Kosygin to New York to hold a speech on the then-ongoing Middle Eastern crisis at the United Nations headquarters. When the United States government was informed of this the Americans gladly welcomed Kosygin to a meeting between him and President Lyndon B. Johnson. On 13 June 1967 Johnson sought out J. William Fulbright, a Senator, at a White House reception. Llewellyn Thompson, then US ambassador to the USSR, believed that a conference could “start the process of moving toward an understanding with the Soviets”. Fulbright even believed that Johnson was reconsidering his Vietnam strategy. Later Fulbright wrote two letters to Johnson about the importance of a summit between the two nations. Johnson agreed, and wrote a letter in return, which said they were waiting for a Soviet response for US invitation. Walt Rostow, the National Security Adviser at the time, said it was a 20 percent chance of the summit having a good effect on Soviet-US relations, and only a 10 percent chance of the summit going awry.

The Soviet Political Bureau (Politburo) were divided over the usefulness of the summit. Andrei Gromyko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time and still not a member of the Politburo, was able to win support for it. Gromyko noted that Soviet-US dialogue which had been suspended in 1963 should be reactivated, despite the Vietnam War putting a great deal strain on the two countries’ relations.

Kosygin agreed to address the United Nations wished to conduct the summit in New York. Johnson, wary of encountering protesters against the war in Vietnam, preferred to meet in Washington, D.C.. Roughly equidistant, Hollybush was selected as a compromise. The summit took place at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Formula One: Valencia Qualifying

So, do you want to talk about tires?

Me either, but the engineers want to talk about tires because they’re very unhappy, calling them ‘unpredictable’.

Pirelli, for their part, deny this, saying that not only are they utterly reliable in their performance, but that durability and speed are consistent (though variable) throughout the range of racing temperatures which are beyond their control (being weather based and all).

All of this precipitated of course by Alonso’s spectacular late race, 7 place fold in Canada as he attempted to execute a skip pit advantage strategy that went disastrously wrong.

Please forgive my complete lack of sympathy for the Maranello crybabies of Scuderia Marlboro UPC.  The sad fact of the matter is that the Rules Committee is getting exactly the kind of competition they designed with 7 different winners in 7 races so far.  It’s a personal disappointment to me also since I’d prefer to see the possibility of a two stop vs. three stop, but I’d like a fuel weight strategy too and longer stops mean less ability to run away and hide in the lead.

So I entirely disagree with the concept that when you pit and for what is the dominant factor- they are like the weather, sucking equally and for everyone at the same time.  It’s still about qualifying to the extent of balancing saving tires and getting good position, a good start, and staying within a stop of the lead and out of trouble.

And if pit idiocy were eliminated McLaren would have a good team, so count your blessings.

Tomorrow’s broadcast is going to be challenging.  Tape delayed @ noon on Faux it makes my life miserable because the Speed Racecast at 8 am and that’s where I get my in-race positions.  I expect I’ll suffer through it like silent radio, taking periodic measurements.  Speed.com is supposed to live stream it too.

Two Headed Fish


Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, 1955


(I)n this novel corporate lawyers… have gained a stranglehold on the world. Business Law is an extremely lucrative career, while Criminal Law pays enough to afford some of the luxuries of life but not enough to save for the future.

Success means living in a luxurious automated “bubble home” constructed by “GML”, a corporation which is nominally public but whose shares are never traded openly. All work contracts include GML housing as part of the pay scale. Not having a contract job means having to live in a community such as “Belly Rave”, originally a post-war suburban development for returning soldiers, now a slum ruled by teenage gangs. Its original name was “Belle Rêve”.

For the common people, there are bread-and-circuses entertainments in the form of gladiatorial games of various kinds, with monetary rewards for the winners. Some games pit elderly people against each other armed with padded clubs, but others are more deadly.

(T)he “public assistance” system … ensures that nobody starves, without actually making life worth living. … (R)esidents indulge in a kind of barter, or petty theft, extortion, and gang crime, or simply anaesthetize themselves with liquor.

Wall Street… has become a hybrid stock-market and public casino.

The plan Bliss hatches is to bankrupt GML rather than indulge in a proxy battle. Mundin is dispatched to sabotage certain GML houses, including the model in the Smithsonian, at the same time spreading rumors through his political connections.

(T)hey return to Wall Street where Mundin starts a run on the market by carefully selling off large chunks of the GML stock. After a while the selling takes on a life of its own.

As the market collapses, the plotters are left with large amounts of cash, which they use to buy up GML and other companies at bargain prices. At the end they are counting their riches and savoring their triumph.

Not currently in print.  Copies in very good+ condition available @ Rudy’s Books for $2.50.

Popular Culture (Music) 20120622: More Moody Blues – Octave

Last time we discussed the peak and decline of The Moody Blues and in particular the studio part of the album Caught Live + 5.  I was going to stop with their studio material at that point, but several readers asked me to complete the Mark II band by including the music and my critique of Octave, Mark II’s eighth studio album.

For details about the production, release, and artwork on this record, please use the link just provided.  I think that you can already tell that I am not wild about this record, but it does have its moments.

I do find it to be exceedingly weak in comparison with their canonical material, and the passing of the Mellotron and Chamberlin leaves it without the signature, hauntingly beautiful sound of The Moody Blues.  Another thing that really bothers me is that they had a studio musician to sit in, and to me that is the antithesis to the canonical albums.  His name was R. A. Martin, and he played the exceedingly annoying saxophone parts and some less annoying horns.  In any event, we should just jump into the music.