07 October 2005

Rules are for the little people ...

At my alma mater, of course, the big people don't have time to deal with such mundane matters. 'Sides, they're all such wonderful human beings that they deserve to do whatever the hell they want, anyway. So there.

And y'all ought to be honored to pay for a year's paid vacation for the vice-presidential types every four years or so. I'm sure Charlene deserves it. For something. What's a hundred thou, give or take, amongst friends, after all?

Eat the rich. Just gnaw on the comfortable.


They're stranger than you probably knew, and symbolic to boot.

From the essay by David Lukas:

The most widely distributed tree in North America is a mystery. Called quaking aspen for the trembling of its leaves, it is anything but timorous or fragile. It is unfathomably ancient and enduring, approaching what has been called "theoretical immortality." It is a lifeform persisting over time without offspring, in suspended animation, waiting patiently through the dark passage of millennia for something we can only guess at.

06 October 2005

Bush: Worst President Ever?

Stephen Pizzo's "coming recession" article on AlterNet led me to an older article of his arguing the position that the current administration is our worst yet. From there I followed a link to the real prize, News for Real.

In my heart, I know he's right. Was it Nixon who used that (paraphrased) slogan? Anyway, I think I like him. Pizzo, not Nixon.

05 October 2005

Article by Cindy Sheehan

A brief report on her visit to DC.

England's approach to "homeland security"

There's no monopoly on supression of dissent--the UK reportedly equals or exceeds our efforts.

Wal-Mart helps make our nation a little safer

Watch what pictures you have developed at Wal-Mart. They take seriously keeping the fatherland homeland ( and the beloved leader thereof, of course) secure, according to an article in the Progressive.

03 October 2005

Wal-Mart resistance in the palouse

Local resistance

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development has posted a position paper on the "Big Wal-Mart Controversy" (Wal-Mart wants to bring one 'a them Great Big Mothers (GBMs for short) to Pullman).

They may manage to get some mitigation of the physical damage to the community (traffic, run-off, erosion, and the like), but I fear they will have a lot less luck with the social damage.

Still, every little bit helps in the resistance to BigCorpCapitalism [Godless Division], so wish 'em luck, boycott Wal-Mart, and consider more socially responsible companies for your shopping dollars. WinCo and CostCo come to mind.

Some Wal-Mart/Costco links

30 September 2005

The Forbes 400

What's it take to get on the Forbes 400 list of the biggest and baddest of our country's capitalist culture heroes? This year it's a net worth of US$900,000,000.

All told, The Four Hundred (wasn't that the title of an O. Henry collection? Or am I off by a factor of 10,000?) have a combined net worth of US$1.13 trillion. That's up for the third consecutive year, and an increase of more than 12% over last year.

Over US$2.8 billion apiece. The median is US$1.6 billion. How's that compare to the median net worth in the good 'ol US of A? I'll google ... no recent numbers, but a CNN Money article from 2003 gives the 2001 figures from the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances. It's a triennial survey, last results released in January of '03. Should be interesting to see what the new one shows this coming January. Mark that month on your calendar, kiddies. The data, I guess, would go through '04.

Anyway, the 2001 median family (household?) net worth was US$86,100. A little division gives an exchange rate that seems to indicate that each of The Exalted Four Hundred is worth over 18,000 of you median, middle-of-the-pack prole families. Which is as it should be. Of course, that's 2001 proles and 2004 billionaires, and the gap may have narrowed. But I doubt it.

Another blurb on the Forbes site announced that 10 list members had made charitable donations of US$25 million or more. Lessee, 1.6 billion is to 1.6 thousand (my net worth, if I'm lucky) as 25 million is to ... twenty five bucks? Wow. All hail their beneficent generosity. Pikers.

A few more Forbes articles look interesting, but I haven't gotten there yet:

Betaseron trial results

A press release by Schering AG, manufacturer of the Multiple Sclerosis drug Betaseron, reports drug trial results showing a 50% reduction in risk of developing clinically definite MS after a single attack suggestive of MS, supporting early treatment of people at risk for MS.

Previously, Betaseron had been shown to reduce the number (and severity?) of relapses in relapsing-remitting MS, and to slow progression of disability in secondary-progressive MS.

Labelling changes will be sought from "regulatory authorities" as a result of the study.

Energy Costs Drain Joe Six-Pack

Excerpted from the Alger Market Commentary in a Forbes article:
The fear is that higher energy prices will cut into consumer spending. Higher prices do not hurt companies much because energy costs tend to be a minimal portion of the cost of goods sold (about 2% of overall revenues according to Empirical Research). So the question is: How much do high energy prices impact consumer spending?
Overall, energy prices will account for about 6% of consumer spending by the end of 2005, which is higher than last year or at any point in the last decade, but is still almost 50% less than the peak percentage in the early 1980s. And consumer spending is slowing slightly, from a 4% growth rate in 2004 to an estimated 3.5% in 2005.
That's in the aggregate. When broken down a little further, there's some bad news:
Consumers in the lowest quintile, who are at or below the poverty line, have little disposable income and will be squeezed.
But not to worry:
Their spending, however, does not drive U.S. economic growth.
Slightly scarier:
The two middle segments will feel the pinch of higher energy prices more because of their relatively high levels of home and automobile ownership.
But praise be to the upper brackets!
[...] the upper two quintiles will be mostly unaffected because their disposable income is quite high relative to the increase in energy costs we are now experiencing. In pure-dollar terms, the spending of the upper two-fifths of consumers matters much more than the combined spending of the other three-fifths. It's the same 80:20 principle--the upper end contributes a disproportionate share.
So heave a sigh of relief, go back to whatever you were doing, and don't worry about a thing:
At the middle and higher-end, the bite of higher energy prices has not mattered much, and we do not believe it will. For these consumers, a significant part of their spending will be driven as much by desire as need. We are watching carefully how this group spends ("Do I need that new vacation house/new pair of running shoes/dress/car?"), because that will say something about which companies will benefit and which will be hurt. While the spending patterns of the upper income brackets may shift, we are not particularly worried that their spending will cease or even slow.
Year-to-date, an 8% drop in consumer discretionary stocks (the worst performing group in the S&P 500) is more than offset by the 37% rise in energy stocks (the top group in the S&P). It's comforting to know that something is coming out ahead.

Dollar stores, however, are gonna take a dive. Place your "sell" orders now, kids!

26 May 2005

Someone had to tell them the truth

Trial for Governor's Seat Set to Start in Washington
New York Times
So while Republicans will argue that most of the felons voted in the heavily Democratic King County, and therefore should be deducted proportionally from Ms. Gregoire's total, the Democrats will counter with their own experts who say that felons in the state tend to vote Republican.

The Republican base has always been nonunion, white, blue-collar males, and that's who the felons are in the state of Washington, said Paul Berendt, chairman of the state's Democratic Party.

Note he didn't say that felons are who the Republicans are in the state of Washington.

That would've been rude.

25 May 2005

Autism Inflation

A Forbes OpEd on autism
Autism's sharp rise is, in large part, a matter of definitions. Is a child with severe learning problems autistic? What about a child who is insensitive in social situations? What about children who have trouble communicating or seem to retreat into their own shells? These days a large number of children who fit any of those descriptions are likely to be tagged with the autism label, or their parents will be told that they have a disorder (like Asperger's syndrome) that falls somewhere in the autism spectrum.

No argument here, offhand, except that they say it like it's a bad thing.

This looseness of definition is getting in the way of medical progress. We will not find effective cures for autism until we add biological markers to behavioral symptoms in diagnosing children.

This, however, I'm not so happy with. I get too strong a feeling of the steam-roller of technological progress. Ve vill overcome this veakness! (Apologies to any German contingent) A lot of auties will tell you they don't particularly want to be cured, especially since that which would be cured can feel like a large part of one's very self.

The currently preferred treatment for children exhibiting early signs of autism is enrollment in intensive behavioral programs. These programs involve one-on-one interactions between the child and the therapist from 20 to 40 hours per week. Scientific studies of the most popular of these programs have shown modest results. Although intensive behavioral therapy can reduce the frequency of certain autistic behaviors for certain children, it does not cure the basic language and emotional deficiencies of most autistic children.

Those intensive behavioral programs can be sorta' controversial in their own right.

Jerome Kagan, professor of psychology at Harvard, and Robert Pozen, chairman, MFS Investment Management

Kagan seems to have had some experience on an advisory board of the Boston Higashi school, an intensive behavioral program that received some bad press of it's own a few years ago. (The bad press links to a reposting of a Wall Street Journal Online article from 2002.)

Pozen, of course, is that well-known expert on autism. psychology. mental health. disability. wealth, power and social security.

18 May 2005


Alexithymia. I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear about this. Heh.

Although in When a Patient Has No Story To Tell: Alexithymia, RenĂ½ J. Muller, Ph.D.:

  1. seems to have worked in an ER, hence probably saw an unrepresentative sample;
  2. lapses into severe shrink speak, but then, that is his audience, I guess;
  3. gives himself, to my ear, too much credit for insight into the psyches of his subjects;
still, I find it interesting.