Saturday, November 29, 2008

Claude Levi-Strauss: 100!

Happy Birthday to the amazing and inspiring Claude Levi-Strauss. He turned 100 yesterday...

“He represents an extremely subversive vision with his interest in populations that were disdained. He paid careful attention, not touristically but profoundly, to the human beings on the earth who think differently from us. It’s a respect for others, which is very strong and very moving. He knew that cultural diversity is necessary for cultural creativity, for the future.”

Read the whole NYTimes article here.

(Is it just me, or does he look like William S. Burroughs...? See two posts below...)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shop Shop Shop!

Jeff needs to pay his storage unit fee...!

Just what everyone wants: Angry Vegan T-Shirts!

[Addition: It is SAFE to shop our products...Amazingly sad, the zealousness of consumption lead to death...
From the NYTIMES:
Published: November 28, 2008

A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after being trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a frenzy.

The 34-year-old employee, who was not identified, was knocked down by a crowd that broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y., and surged into the store. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 6 a.m.

The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to the hospital for observation.

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started pulling the doors from their hinges and rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hands to keep them from being caught in the crush.“

They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”

The Nassau County Police said the man’s exact cause of death had not been determined.

On Friday, Wal-Mart released a statement saying that the man who was killed had been working for Wal-Mart through a temp agency. The company called the death “a tragic situation,” and said it was working with police.

“The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.]

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By William S. Burroughs
(Thanks Andrew M!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Really. Palin disturbs me...

Her smile with the slaughter going on behind her is really kind of freaky...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It is not just Palin...

US officials flunk test of Amerian history, economics, civics

Thu Nov 20, 2:24 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.

The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

Among the questions asked of some 2,500 people who were randomly selected to take the test, including "self-identified elected officials," was one which asked respondents to "name two countries that were our enemies during World War II."

Sixty-nine percent of respondents correctly identified Germany and Japan. Among the incorrect answers were Britain, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

Forty percent of respondents, meanwhile, incorrectly believed that the US president has the power to declare war, while 54 percent correctly answered that that power rests with Congress.

Asked about the electoral college, 20 percent of elected officials incorrectly said it was established to "supervise the first televised presidential debates."

In fact, the system of choosing the US president via an indirect electoral college vote dates back some 220 years, to the US Constitution.

The question that received the fewest correct responses, just 16 percent, tested respondents' basic understanding of economic principles, asking why "free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government's centralized planning?"

Activities that dull Americans' civic knowledge include talking on the phone and watching movies or television -- even news shows and documentaries, ISI said.

Meanwhile, civic knowledge is enhanced by discussing public affairs, taking part in civic activities and reading about current events and history, the group said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mark Cuban's First Big Mistake...

I love it...I was reading on Huffington Post a post by Mark Cuban yesterday. He was talking about "Obama's First Big Mistake." Oh Cuban says, Obama's relying too much on brain power! The anti-intellectual bent continues, this time on the left. Cuban goes on to state that he is ready to help. BUT: then: BAM, today Cuban is hit with insider trading charges.

Cuban's Post:
President-Elect Obama's First Big Mistake

Its great to see President-elect Obama aggressively taking on the economy prior to his taking office. Unfortunately, the economic advisory team that he has put together looks more like a semester's worth of great guest speakers for an MBA class than an economic advisory team that can truly help him.

There are a lot of great minds on the list:

Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Laura Tyson, who served as Clinton's top economic adviser; former Fed Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson; Time Warner Inc. Chairman Richard Parsons; former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William Donaldson and Xerox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Anne Mulcahy.

Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Roel Campos, an ex-SEC commissioner, and Warren Buffett are also on the advisory board.

Notice anything missing?

Not a single entrepreneur. Yes Warren Buffett started a business, but he will be the first to tell you that he "doesn't do start ups". Which means there isn't a single person advising PE Obama that we know of that knows what it's like to start and run a business in this or any economic climate. That's a huge problem.
[read whole post here]

Well, now today, ouch! Now, "That's a huge problem," Cuban!

From Reuter's:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, was charged with insider trading in shares of Inc, an Internet search engine firm, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Monday.

Cuban, one of the five finalists to buy the Chicago Cubs pro baseball team, faces civil charges by acting on nonpublic information and selling shares of to avoid more than $750,000 in losses, the SEC alleged.

According to the SEC, invited Cuban to participate in a stock offering that would be conducted at a discount to the market price after he agreed to keep the information confidential.

However, within hours of receiving information, Cuban called his broker and told him to sell his entire position in the company, the SEC alleged.

When the offering was publicly announced,'s stock price dropped 9.3 percent from the prior day's closing price.

Calls to Cuban's lawyers were not immediately returned. has since changed its name to Copernic Inc.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai, Robert MacMillan; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What...?! Money wins elections?!?!

Many thanks to CorpseBoy, my old friend and chess nemesis from Ventura County for showing me It is a great web page that shows what we all know: money wins elections. Even more importantly, it shows where the money comes from (and, accordingly, who will want to have a say in policy). And to add to the unsurprise, many of our Democrat and Republican friends in Washington take PAC money from the people that want to receive the big bucks from the bailout.

I like this quote: "When policy-making resumes in Washington, citizens, activists and the media should vigilantly 'follow the money' to ensure that these representatives always remember that voters, not contributors, elected them."

Hopefully we all won't be so enamored by "The Change" (sounds like a M. Night Shyamalan film) that we get distracted from following the money.

Check it out:

Here is one example of the articles they run...

Money Wins Presidency and 9 of 10 Congressional Races in Priciest U.S. Election Ever
Published by Communications on November 5, 2008 3:19 PM
WASHINGTON -- The historic election of 2008 re-confirmed one truism about American democracy: Money wins elections.

From the top of the ticket, where Barack Obama declined public financing for the first time since the system's creation and went on to amass a nearly two-to-one monetary advantage over John McCain, to congressional races throughout the nation, the candidate with the most money going into Election Day emerged victorious in nearly every contest.

In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning, according to a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The findings are based on candidates' spending through Oct. 15, as reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Continuing a trend seen election cycle after election cycle, the biggest spender was victorious in 397 of 426 decided House races and 30 of 32 settled Senate races. On Election Day 2006, top spenders won 94 percent of House races and 73 percent of Senate races. In 2004, 98 percent of House seats went to the biggest spender, as did 88 percent of Senate seats.

"The 2008 election will go down in U.S. history as an election of firsts, but this was far from the first time that money was overwhelmingly victorious on Election Day," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said. "The best-funded candidates won nine out of 10 contests, and all but a few members of Congress will be returning to Washington."

Overall, 95 percent of House incumbents and 93 percent of senators won re-election on Tuesday. (This includes incumbents who lost their primaries but does not account for several other races featuring incumbents, such as the Minnesota Senate race, where a recount is pending in the contest between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.) In the prior 10 years and five election cycles, an average of 97 percent of House members and 86 percent of senators won re-election.

Average Pricetag for House Seat Exceeds $1 Million

The average cost of winning a House race in 2008 was nearly $1.1 million, based on pre-election finance reports, and almost $6.5 million for a Senate seat. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat running in Ohio's 11th District to succeed the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, spent the least to win a House seat--just over $46,000 at last report. For the Senate, Wyoming Republican John Barrasso was the bargain-buyer, spending $1.4 million on his re-election.

Funds received and spent in the final days and hours of the 2008 campaign will not be reported to the FEC until Dec. 4, but as of Oct. 15, all congressional candidates who ran this cycle had spent almost $1.4 billion in the last two years. The Center has estimated the total cost of the 2008 elections for Congress and the White House at $5.3 billion, including candidates, national political parties and outside issue advocacy groups. That would make '08 the most expensive U.S. election ever.

"The politicians who were just elected potentially owe their campaign contributors billions of dollars for helping them win," Krumholz said. "When policy-making resumes in Washington, citizens, activists and the media should vigilantly 'follow the money' to ensure that these representatives always remember that voters, not contributors, elected them."

The national party committees reported spending more than $865 million--$440 million by Republicans through Oct. 15 and $424 million by Democrats. Issue advocacy groups--commonly called 527 committees--spent nearly $200 million to influence federal elections and issues, with liberal interests accounting for about 60 percent of that.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama and the War on Brains (From NYT)

Changing times for the anti-intellectualism of the US? Let's hope so...

Click here for the whole NY Times article.
Obama and the War on Brains
Published: November 9, 2008

Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.

We can’t solve our educational challenges when, according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth ofAmericans believe that the sun orbits the Earth.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Summum Rules!

Free Speech! Post the Seven Aphorisms of Summum!

Ah, this all is very entertaining for me, I mean, all they want is equal space on public property next to the Ten Commandments...the Golden Ratio, nectar brandy, mummification of small animals...what's not to love?

Read more about the Summum here on Wikipedia.

From the New York Times:
PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah — Across the street from City Hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects — a wishing well, a millstone from the city’s first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.

In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

The city declined, a lawsuit followed and a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment required the city to display the Summum monument. The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in the case, which could produce the most important free speech decision of the term.


The Summum church was founded in 1975, and it contains elements of Egyptian faiths and Gnostic Christianity. “Summum,” derived from the Latin, refers to the sum of all creation.

Followers of Summum believe that Moses received two sets of tablets on Mount Sinai and that the Ten Commandments were on the second set. The aphorisms were on the first one.

“When Moses came down from the mountain the first time, he brought the principles of creation,” Mr. Temu said. “But he saw the people weren’t ready for them, so he threw them on the ground and destroyed them.”

Summum’s founder, Corky Ra, says he learned the aphorisms during a series of telepathic encounters with divine beings he called Summa Individuals.

Mr. Barnard has represented the Summum church for many years. “They’re odd,” he said of his clients, with an affectionate smile. “They’re strange. They’re different.”

Bernie Aua, the church’s vice president, said the court case should not turn on how his religion was viewed.

“We have this thing called the Constitution,” Mr. Aua said. “The fact is, it’s a public park. And public parks are public.”

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hikaru Nakamura!

Hikaru Nakamura, my favorite US chess player, won the Cap d'Agde 2008, beating former world champ Anatoly Karpov and perennial world top-ten player Vassily Ivanchuk along the way...stoked me out, what a great player...and at the end of the video when he speaks, I love it that he mentions everybody was rooting for Ivanchuk and that he knew they were probably disappointed...He TOTALLY dominated Ivanchuk in the final game in what looked at first to be a drawish ending...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

More on Meat

For those of you who think I might be a little off base on the meat industry: This was just posted at the New York Times about two hours ago.

Wage violations, child labor violations, bad check writing, cruelty to animals...


Troubled Iowa Meatpacker Defaulted on Loan, Bank Says

Published: November 1, 2008

A federal judge has appointed a temporary receiver for a kosher meatpacking company in Iowa after a bank said that the company had defaulted on a $35 million loan and that it had written $1.4 million in bad checks.

The loan foreclosure against the company, Agriprocessors Inc., was the latest in a cascade of troubles that have come after nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May at its plant in Postville, Iowa. On Thursday, Sholom Rubashkin, the former chief executive, was arrested in Iowa on federal charges of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Cedar Rapids, First Bank Business Capital of St. Louis claimed that Agriprocessors had failed to maintain enough cash in designated bank accounts to stay current on the revolving loan it took out in 1999. The lawsuit was first reported Friday on the Web site of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper.

The suit also claims that Agriprocessors violated the loan terms by diverting nearly $1.4 million from First Bank accounts to another bank to issue payroll checks on Oct. 24. First Bank learned that those checks were returned for insufficient funds, the lawsuit says.

The suit says Agriprocessors had begun to fall behind on the revolving loan during the quarter that ended March 31, suggesting that its financial woes predated the raid, which decimated its workforce.

The bank asked the judge to appoint a receiver immediately, saying that a bank representative had been expelled from the Postville plant after a meeting on Thursday. The judge, Linda R. Reade of Federal District Court, appointed the temporary receiver late Friday and set a hearing for next Wednesday.

The bank reported that Agriprocessors owed $188,000 to an electrical company and warned that electricity to the plant could be shut off, causing “millions of dollars of fresh and frozen products” to spoil. The suit says millions of chickens “are in danger of starving to death if not fed.”

Aaron Rubashkin, the company’s owner and the father of Sholom, put up $2.2 million in collateral, in addition to some of the property at the huge Postville plant, and Sholom Rubashkin put up $1 million, the suit says.

Last week, Iowa authorities levied $10 million in fines against Agriprocessors for wage violations, and Aaron and Sholom Rubashkin are facing criminal charges for child labor violations.

Lawyers for the company could not be reached for comment.

Bill O'Reilly...the sane one on his show?