September 6, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


Recovery will require Depression-repairing level of effort, Obama tells national convention (Associated Press, September 6, 2012)

With unemployment at 8.3 percent, Obama said the task of recovering from the economic disaster of 2008 is exceeded in American history only by the challenge Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced when he took office in the Great Depression in 1933.

...that our current 64% employment participation rate, while off slightly from the boondoggle peak at 67% in the late '90s, is at the level it reached in the later half of Reagan's first term, at which point it was a historic high.  In 1940, after the New Deal had been in full swing for almost a decade, the rate was 52%  Even excusing the President's assertion as typical political rhetoric it is economic lunacy.
Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Is American atheism heading for a schism? : A new movement, Atheism+, has prompted non-believers to spit venom at one another rather than at true believers (Peter McGrath, 9/02/12,

It took 700 years from Constantine renaming Byzantium in his own honour to papal legates circulating letters of anathema that split the Roman and Orthodox churches. Atheism, in its public, online life, has started exchanging internet anathemas - perhaps we should call them inathemas - in little more than a decade.

People are being told to wipe the spittle off their chins, take their heads out of their asses. The Life of Brian's lines about the various fronts for the liberation of Judea are being oft-recycled. 140 character brickbats are being thrown on Twitter under #atheismplus.

PZ Myers, soft-spoken in person but trenchant in print, said of A+ critics:

"It really isn't a movement about exclusion, but about recognising the impact of the real nature of the universe on human affairs. And if you don't agree with any of that - and this is the only 'divisive' part - then you're an [***]. I suggest you form your own label, '[***] Atheists", and own it, proudly. I promise not to resent it or cry about joining it. I just had a thought: maybe the anti-Atheist+ people are sad because they don't have a cool logo. So I made one for the [***] Atheists: A*"

Fellow Freethought blogger Richard Carrier goes further. When one commentator suggests "atheism does not have the luxury of kicking people out of its movement", Carrier gives him a rare old quilting in most splendid prose:

"Yes, it does. Atheism+ is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned."

How like Pope Leo's letter to the patriarch of Constaninople in 1053 accusing him of "many and intolerable presumptions, in which if - as heaven forbid - he persist, he will in no way retain our peaceful regard". Even at this most serious moment for the future of Christianity, the pope managed to resist the urge to call the patriarch immoral scum, an [***] and a [***].

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Verdict is in: Obama levels more personal attacks (John F. Harris and Alexander Burns, September 6, 2012, Politico)

With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign.

Obama, who first sprang to national attention with an appeal to civility, has made these kind of attacks central to his strategy. The argument, by implication from Obama and directly from his surrogates, is not merely that Romney is the wrong choice for president but that there is something fundamentally wrong with him.

What's the guy supposed to do?  He has achieved next to nothing; there's no difference between him and his opponent politically; and he has no personal substance.  So too did GHWB think that his own contempt would suffice to beat Bill Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Evolution could explain the placebo effect (Colin Barras, 9/06/12, New Scientist)

ON THE face of it, the placebo effect makes no sense. Someone suffering from a low-level infection will recover just as nicely whether they take an active drug or a simple sugar pill. This suggests people are able to heal themselves unaided - so why wait for a sugar pill to prompt recovery?

New evidence from a computer model offers a possible evolutionary explanation, and suggests that the immune system has an on-off switch controlled by the mind.

It's always comic genius when they write a computer program to render the desired effect and miss the implication.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Biden's Speech Likely to Spotlight Strengths, or Foibles (PETER BAKER, 9/05/12, NY Times)

On Thursday evening, at least, it is reasonably certain Mr. Biden's script has been well scrubbed and he will stick to it, as he did four years ago when he talked about his roots and the perils of Republican rule. Bumped out of his own night in the spotlight by former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Biden will introduce Mr. Obama before all of the broadcast networks tune in (NBC will show it; CBS and ABC will not).

...but we're supposed to trust him with the vice-presidency?  Among the many sad things we'll recall Mr. Obama for, one of the saddest is that he surrounded himself with such lightweights in his Administration, in apparent fear of being over-shadowed.  Of course, it's not helpful that his predecessor had the strongest cabinet since Washington.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


Obama Hits Hustings on His Own (LAURA MECKLER, 8/31/12, WSJ)

In 2004, President George W. Bush directed his re-election campaign to do all it could to help other Republicans on the ballot. "I don't want a lonely victory," he told aides.

In 2012, President Barack Obama is taking a more solitary route.

The Obama campaign is primarily focused on winning the 270 electoral votes needed to gain a second term. The president does almost no fundraising for Senate or House candidates and hasn't transferred money to other party election committees. His numerous campaign offices rarely coordinate with local candidates or display signs for anyone but Mr. Obama.

At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer--or even vote--for other Democrats running for office. Sometimes, he mentions other politicians in the room without noting that they are seeking re-election. He rarely shares the stage with other candidates.

W had things he wanted to do in office.  The UR just wants the office.
Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


Catholic Church condemns 'price-tag' attack on monastery, urges Israel to change 'culture of contempt' (Nir Hasson, Sep.04, 2012, Ha'aretz)

The Catholic Church condemned the so-called "price-tag" attack against a Christian monastery on Tuesday, with high-ranking church offices denouncing the "teaching of contempt" against Christians prevalent in Israeli society. [...]

Monks residing at the monastery noticed the burning door on Tuesday morning, and called police after extinguishing the flames. Graffiti sprayed on the monastery walls included the words "Migron," and "Jesus is a monkey."

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Amazon's New Kindles Include Tablets, Insanely Cheap Prices (Dan Nosowitz, 09.06.2012, Popular Science)

 There's now a backlit Kindle, just like the Nook Simple Touch With Glowlight. Like the Nook Etc With Etc, the backlit Kindle has an appended name--Paperwhite. This kind of backlighting is great--it glows softly for nighttime or low-light use but it's still a good old electrophoretic (E-Ink) screen, so when it's daylight, it's easy on the eyes. That'll cost $119 for the Wi-Fi-only model and $179 for the 3G. The screen itself has been upgraded; it's sharper and turns pages faster. The cheapie Kindle, which we love (and we were namechecked loving it! Thanks, Bezos), is even cheaper at $69, and has the new screen (though no backlight).

Then there's the Kindle Fire. Last year's Kindle Fire was updated with some better hardware and a lower price, at $159. There's a new 7-inch model called the Kindle Fire HD, with a better screen, better processor, double the storage (it's now 16GB), all that stuff, at $199. And there's a big boy, an 8.9-inch tablet also known as the Kindle Fire HD, I think. It's squarely aimed at the iPad--Amazon is touting the quality of the screen, the responsiveness of the apps, all that stuff. There are even some cool ideas, like X-Ray, which lets you tap on the screen while in the middle of all kinds of apps to get more information. Click on an actor's face while watching a movie and it'll take you to their IMDb page, for example. Pretty sweet! The Wi-Fi-only, 16GB model will cost $299.

The 8.9-incher also has a 4G model, which'll cost $50 a year for 250MB per month. That's not a lot of data, but it's also really not a lot of money. It'll also have a bunch of cloud storage and a $10 app store credit. That one'll run $499, and given that it has 32GB of storage and 4G, it's waaaay cheaper than the equivalent iPad.
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Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


Bob Woodward Book: Debt Deal Collapse Led to 'Pure Fury' From President Obama (RICK KLEIN, Sept. 05 2012, ABC News)

[A]t a critical juncture, with an agreement tantalizingly close, Obama pressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal -- a miscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he'd already gone.

The president called three times to speak with Boehner about his latest offer, according to Woodward. But the speaker didn't return the president's phone call for most of an agonizing day, in what Woodward calls a "monumental communications lapse" between two of the most powerful men in the country.

When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obama lost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a "flash of pure fury" coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obama gripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it.

"He was spewing coals," Boehner told Woodward, in what is described as a borderline "presidential tirade."

"He was pissed.... He wasn't going to get a damn dime more out of me. He knew how far out on a limb I was. But he was hot. It was clear to me that coming to an agreement with him was not going to happen, and that I had to go to Plan B."

...who'd never passed any legislation.  On the other hand, it suggests how close the sides are on the grand bargain that either nominee will sign next year.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Our Pool password is: ericjulia

First game is tomorrow (Wed) night.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM

King Arthur Flour Celebrates Grand Opening Of New Bakery, Store & School In Norwich 

The celebration begins with an open house September 20 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring complimentary pizza and beverages, plus short guided tours of the new facility. Throughout the weekend guests can enjoy baking demonstrations, kids' activities, free samples, raffles, and celebrity chef appearances, including a demonstration from Joy Wilson (blogger and cookbook author Joy the Baker) on Saturday at 1 p.m. King Arthur Flour long-time employee-owner, writer, and baker PJ Hamel and former owner and cookbook author Brinna Sands will also be on hand demonstrating a recipe and signing cookbooks on Saturday. Families can experience the joy of baking together on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with hands-on dough-shaping and cookie and cake decorating activities. In addition, the first 200 customers to come in after 8 a.m. Friday through Sunday will each receive a free loaf of bread. Details are available at

King Arthur Flour broke ground on its $10 million expansion in June 2011 and completed construction on its new baking destination on schedule in July 2012. The company continued all bakery, retail, and educational operations throughout the year-long project.

King Arthur Flour is America's oldest flour company and premier baking resource, offering ingredients, mixes, tools, recipes, educational opportunities, and inspiration to bakers worldwide. The employee-owned company is headquartered in Norwich, Vermont. Learn more at
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Posted by orrinj at 5:20 AM


Obama's Scant Democratic Bench (Josh Kraushaar, September 4, 2012, National Journal)

The problem, as Davis explained to me, was that most of the Democrats' minority representation comes from House members who hail from overwhelmingly liberal, majority-minority districts. Most of these members of Congress don't have the broad political coalition to appeal to a wider swath of voters. Of the 13 nonwhite House Democrats speaking at the convention, only three have even an outside shot at future statewide office: Reps. Xavier Becerra and Judy Chu of California, and Donna Edwards of Maryland.

At the municipal level, Democrats have some up-and-comers, but all face uncertain paths to higher office--a recognition that it's a steep path from city hall to serving on a national ticket. 

The Democrats' keynote speaker on Tuesday night, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, is touted as a rising Hispanic star. But the uncomfortable political truth is that Castro, if he seeks higher office in Texas, could be stymied in a state that is dominated by Republicans and that doesn't feature a single Democrat holding a statewide office. 

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is also a rising star in the party, but he burned bridges with the Obama campaign after taking it to task for its attack on Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital. If he were to run for governor, he would face a tough race against Republican incumbent Chris Christie in 2013. He may wait until 2014 to run for the seat currently held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Hometown Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, another impressive up-and-comer, passed up a golden opportunity to run for governor of North Carolina after Bev Perdue decided not to seek reelection this year. There aren't many openings coming up for him: Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is running for reelection in 2014, and the next gubernatorial and Senate race openings aren't until 2016.

For all the hype about the historic nature of President Obama's presidency, he has brought along with him precious few Democrats who present the same post-racial appeal he showcased in 2008. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 AM


The Siege of Academe : For years, Silicon Valley has failed to breach the walls of higher education with disruptive technology. But the tide of battle is changing. A report from the front lines. (Kevin Carey, September/October 2012, Washington Monthly)

Last August, Marc Andreessen, the man whose Netscape Web browser ignited the original dot-com boom and who is now one of Silicon Valley's most influential venture capitalists, wrote a much-discussed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. His argument was that "software is eating the world." At a time of low start-up costs and broadly distributed Internet access that allows for massive economies of scale, software has reached a tipping point that will allow it to disrupt industry after industry, in a dynamic epitomized by the recent collapse of Borders under the giant foot of Amazon. And the next industries up for wholesale transformation by software, Andreessen wrote, are health care and education. That, at least, is where he's aiming his venture money. And where Andreessen goes, others follow. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investment in education technology companies increased from less than $100 million in 2007 to nearly $400 million last year. For the huge generator of innovation, technology, and wealth that is Silicon Valley, higher education is a particularly fat target right now.

This hype has happened before, of course. Back in the 1990s, when Andreessen made his first millions, many people confidently predicted that the Internet would render brick-and-mortar universities obsolete. It hasn't happened yet, in part because colleges are a lot more complicated than retail bookstores. Higher education is a publicly subsidized, heavily regulated, culturally entrenched sector that has stubbornly resisted digital rationalization. But the defenders of the ivy-covered walls have never been more nervous about the Internet threat. In June, a panicked board of directors at the University of Virginia fired (and, after widespread outcry, rehired) their president, in part because they worried she was too slow to move Thomas Jefferson's university into the digital world.

The ongoing carnage in the newspaper industry provides an object lesson of what can happen when a long-established, information-focused industry's business model is challenged by low-price competitors online. The disruptive power of information technology may be our best hope for curing the chronic college cost disease that is driving a growing number of students into ruinous debt or out of higher education altogether. It may also be an existential threat to institutions that have long played a crucial role in American life.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM


The night the Democrats lost control of the Israel message (HAVIV RETTIG GUR, September 6, 2012, Times of Israel)

One indication of the scale of the concern was the surprise and anger among Democratic leaders themselves as they heard about the platform changes, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New York Senator Chuck Schumer appearing bewildered and saying they knew nothing about them, and Congressmen Eliot Engel and Howard Berman issuing statements expressing anger and opposition to the new text.

According to CBS News, corroborated by National Jewish Democratic Council head David Harris, President Barack Obama, too, was surprised and upset by the changes, and immediately ordered a voice vote reinstating language into the platform that affirmed Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (Never mind that the Obama White House formally refuses to name Israel's capital when asked.)

But the damage was not yet done.

In calling for the voice vote from delegates to reinstate the term "God" -- in an excised phrase from 2008 that "gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential" -- and the sentence about Jerusalem as Israel's capital into the platform on Wednesday, Democratic leaders were taken aback by vociferous shouting of "boos" and "noes" in the half-empty Time Warner Arena in Charlotte.

The vote had to be taken three times before convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa could declare the changes passed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 AM


Dems Show Progressive Means Status Quo (Jonathan S. Tobin, 09.04.2012, Commentary)

Heading into this week's Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn't really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can't count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves "progressives," that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 AM


The President's Fountain of Youth Is Drying Up  (KARL ROVE, 9/05/12, WSJ)

Then there are voters ages 18 to 29, among Mr. Obama's most important supporters in 2008. The roughly 23.7 million "millennials" who voted in 2008 were 18% of the electorate, up 2.9 million voters over the previous presidential race. They gave Mr. Obama 66% to Sen. John McCain's 32%, according to exit polls. This margin of roughly eight million votes was a major chunk of Mr. Obama's overall edge of 9.6 million.

But youthful enthusiasm for Mr. Obama has waned. In October 2008, 78% of voters 18-29 told Gallup they would definitely vote that year. Now it's 58%.

There's also evidence that fewer younger people are registered. A November 2011 study from Tufts University found that 43% of the decline in Nevada's voter rolls since 2008 came from voters ages 18-24. Similarly, while North Carolina's rolls rose by 93,709 over that period, more than 48,000 younger voters were dropped from the rolls, 80% of them Democrats.

Mr. Obama's lead over Mr. Romney in the latest JZ Analytics poll among voters ages 18-29 is 49% to 41%. If young voters turn out this fall in the same numbers as in 2008 and give Mr. Obama this eight-point margin, it will take 2.8 million votes from Mr. Obama's total and add more than 3.3 million to Mr. Romney's tally.