Friday, April 29, 2011

Dallin Oaks (paraphrased) We don't like gays and we're not sorry about it.

Long, long article here about aversion therapy at BYU. Hint, the participants had to sign releases stating that they knew that they would be shocked and that they would be given pornography to view. The reading is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

The picture is of Brigham Morris Young, Brigham Young's son.

Dallin Oaks, then, here, here, and here; in the thick of things.

Dallin Oaks, now:
"The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions," Oaks says. "While we have no position about what the medical doctors do, we are conscious that there are abuses and we don't accept responsibility for those abuses."

Notice that Apostle Oaks doesn't say that he didn't know what was happening; he doesn't say that he discouraged (or encouraged) showing pornography to suicidal kids while shocking their genitals (and now shocking our consciousnesses), he merely says that it isn't his fault.

Looking at this in a lawyerly fashion, this non-apology is pretty close to an admittance, and a refusal to be accountable for his actions.

Wet Joseph or in a cage match vote for the "wicked boys" over God

“To convince the unbelievers that he [Joseph Smith] did possess supernatural powers he announced that he would walk upon the water. The performance was to take place in the evening, and to the astonishment of unbelievers, he did walk upon the water where it was known to be several feet deep, only sinking a few inches below the surface. This proving a success, a second trial was announced which bid fair to be as successful as the first, but when he had proceeded some distance into the river he suddenly went down, greatly to the disgust of himself and proselytes, but to the great amusement of the unbelievers. It appeared on examination that plank were laid in the river a few inches below the surface, and some wicked boys had removed a plank which caused the prophet to go down like any other mortal.”(Hamilton Child's Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chenango County, NY for 1869-70)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ah, Italy

I ran across this building picture serendipitiously. Where's it from? Dunno; but the pic name itself is italian. And the building is lovely. More of this in the USA, please.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Things don't change

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” -- Plutarch

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blues and Bach for Easter

I have been attempting to find a mighty fine blues song to celebrate Easter. But, unless your Jesus is a backdoor man, the pickings are mighty slim. Here's something beautiful, biblical, and not even blasphemous.

Bach, handily enough, wrote a legitimate Easter oratorio (BWV 249, for those keeping track), and it is stunning. Here's a taste:

Wonder if he'd be more popular today if his name were easier to spell

Reinhold Niebuhr, "Moral Man & Immoral Society", written in 1932, describes this moment in US history:

[A] laissez faire economic theory is maintained in an industrial era through the ignorant belief that the general welfare is best served by placing the least possible political restraints upon economic activity. ... Its survival is due to the ignorance of those who suffer injustice from the application of this theory to modern industrial life but fail to attribute their difficulties to the social anarchy and political irresponsibility which the theory sanctions. Their ignorance permits the beneficiaries of the present anarchic industrial system to make dishonest use of the waning prestige of laissez faire economics. The men of power in modern industry would not, of course, capitulate simply because the social philosophy by which they justify their policies had been discredited. When power is robbed of the shining armor of political, moral and philosophical theories, by which it defends itself, it will fight on without armor; but it will be more vulnerable, and the strength of its enemies is increased.

When economic power desires to be left alone it uses the philosophy of laissez faire to discourage political restraint upon economic freedom. When it wants to make use of the police power of the state to subdue rebellions and discontent in the ranks of its helots, it justifies the use of political coercion and the resulting suppression of liberties by insisting that peace is more precious than freedom and that its only desire is social peace… If psychological and social scientists overestimate the possibilities of improving social relations by the development of intelligence, that may be regarded as an understandable naiveté of rationalists, who naturally incline to attribute too much power to reason and to recognise its limits too grudgingly. Men will not cease to be dishonest merely because their dishonesties have been revealed or because they have discovered their own deceptions. Whenever men hold unequal power in society, they will strive to maintain it. They will use whatever means are most convenient to that end and will seek to justify them by the most plausible arguments they are able to devise.

Founding Fathers more socialist than you might think

The founding fathers were well aware of the problems with great disparities in income and took steps to make life more equal for all.

"In a letter to James Madison in 1785, for instance, Thomas Jefferson suggested that taxes could be used to reduce “the enormous inequality” between rich and poor. He wrote that one way of “silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.” "

“The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the general government are levied,” Jefferson wrote in 1811. “The poor man, who uses nothing but what is made in his own farm or family, will pay nothing. (With) our revenues applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings.”

from Here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Wealth Flows Up

I've been trying to figure out why the wealthy get wealthier unless there's some strong societal pressure to keep things even kind of equal. Turns out I'm not the only one. Here's a study, complete with calculus, explaining all about it.

Basically, the answer is inheritance. And capital. If you have inherited money, then you can use that money to make more money--you have a head start. Inheriting social position is at least as useful, in that you have a built-in set of people to help you along.

Here's an article discussing wealth inheritance specifically in the US. It comes to the conclusion that between 45% and 80% of all US wealth is inherited. Nice, if you choose your parents carefully enough.

And, another paper:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have I mentioned lately how good it is to be rich?

The real beneficiaries of the explosion in income for top earners since the 1970s has been not the top 1 per cent but the top 0.1 per cent of the general population. Since 1974, the share of national income of the top 0.1 per cent of Americans has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 per cent of the total, a truly mind-boggling level of redistribution from the have-nots to the haves.
From The London Review of Books.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

If our sons die to protect their interests they should have to pay more taxes.

That's what it is, after all.  The whole weight of the American military is used to protect the interests of the wealthy amongst us, and to enhance (through privatization) those interests.  Gah.  Tax the wealthy some reasonable amount. And reinstate the estate tax to some reasonable level. 

Badly done drawing of how much fun it is to be Halliburton feedback loop:

If people die for you, actually die for you and your interests, don't you owe them something?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bach my way

It's a new world; I follow where his fugues go. It's a rather windy road. Along one of those turns, I ran across "Sacred Masterpieces/Cantatas," a 22 CD set of Bach's church music; including the magisterial Mass in B minor and the equally adjective-worthy St. Matthew's Passion. Along with a harpsichord-full of motets, odes, cantatas and the occasional piece Bach would dash off at lunch. 53 bucks. Everyone run out right now. I don't have the money, but I could not resist. Imagine zombie djinn muttering "Bach" when all the other zombies are saying "brains" and looking at me funny.

Willard Milton Romney

Is running for president. I think there should be a truth in names act, to go along with the new Arizona birther bill. But wait! Romney hasn't released his birth certificate yet, so maybe he can't run in Arizona. Where was he born? Detroit? Really? But his dad was born in Mexico. Milton is clearly as much an illegal alien as Obama. I sense a controversy. Sorry, Willard.

Choice is bad.

Not that kind of choice; that's wonderful, magical, and life-saving. Bad choice is me with Blogger templates. So many choices; so many of them terrible.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Deficits = Prosperity; Surpluses = Depression

Economics is hard.  That whole "humans behave rationally" axiom that economists rely on has always made me suspicious.  More than suspicious, actually.  Humans are not rational; we're herd animals, we're part of a crowd.

History, however, can tell us how humans, faced with certain conditions, have behaved in the past.

All through the Bush years, no one paid any attention to the fact that the US government was spending money first like a drunken Yale fratboy and then like a drunken Harvard MBA.  Now Obama is president, all of a sudden everyone is worried about our deficit.  Why?  Really, why?

ith one brief exception, the federal government has been in debt every year since 1776. In January 1835, for the first and only time in U.S. history, the public debt was retired, and a budget surplus was maintained for the next two years in order to accumulate what Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury called “a fund to meet future deficits.” In 1837 the economy collapsed into a deep depression that drove the budget into deficit, and the federal government has been in debt ever since. Since 1776 there have been exactly seven periods of substantial budget surpluses and significant reduction of the debt. From 1817 to 1821 the national debt fell by 29 percent; from 1823 to 1836 it was eliminated (Jackson’s efforts); from 1852 to 1857 it fell by 59 percent, from 1867 to 1873 by 27 percent, from 1880 to 1893 by more than 50 percent, and from 1920 to 1930 by about a third. Of course, the last time we ran a budget surplus was during the Clinton years. Has any household been able to run budget deficits for approximately 190 out of the past 230-odd years, and to accumulate debt virtually nonstop since 1837? As discussed above, there are firms that grow their debt year-after-year so it is conceivable that one might be found with a record of “profligate” spending to match the federal government’s. Still, the claim might be that firms go into debt to increase productive capacity and thus profitability, while government’s spending is largely “consumption”.
Fourth, the United States has also experienced six periods of depression that began in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, and 1929. Therefore, every significant reduction of the outstanding debt, with the exception of the Clinton surpluses, has been followed by a depression, and every depression has been preceded by significant debt reduction. The Clinton surplus was followed by the Bush recession, a speculative private-debt fueled euphoria, and then the collapse in which we now find ourselves. The jury is still out on whether we might yet suffer another great depression. While we cannot rule out coincidences, seven surpluses followed by six and a half depressions (with some possibility for making it the perfect seven) should raise some eyebrows. And, as we will show below, our less serious downturns in the postwar period have almost always been preceded by reductions of federal budget deficits.


List of Recessions in the US

US budget--historical

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jeff Buckley knows it's over; the Smiths, not so much

Considering the life of Jeff Buckley, this song is simultaneously perfect and just about impossible to listen to.
The sea wants to take me. I know it's over, still I cling. If you're still funny, why are you on your own tonight? And if you are so clever, why are you on your own tonight, and if you are so very entertaining why are you on your own tonight? Love is natural and real, but not for you and I, tonight.

Bonus (and so obscure) cover:

One more: Who knew these existed?

Sorry, world.

Sorry, world--politicians--global warming deniers--people listening to U2 unironically; I judge you harshly because I come from a place of love.

(Just trying out my new meme.) ((GeeBee tells me I'm the only human who thinks that U2 is, uh, how do I say this, uh, LAME. Maybe knowing that will make the post make marginally more sense. Then again, maybe not.))

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. --Mark Twain

Procrastination is one of the delights of life.  How I savor these last few days before taxes are due.  Such a rush!  Some people ski, or jump out of airplanes, or surf; I get all that fun and more by waiting until the last minute.  Plus, no special clothes are required.
Favorite activity while procastinating? Either daydreaming or listening to "Daydream Nation". If I'm feeling particularly driven, I may do both simultaneously, not to brag.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Queen Elvis

Perhaps inspired by fried chicken sushi, I decided that we all should listen to some Robyn Hitchcock. Sadly underrated.   What do you need to know about him?  There was a documentary about him called "Sex, Food, Death, and Insects."  Nuf said.

People get what they deserve
Time is round and space is curved
Honey, have you got the nerve
To be Queen Elvis?

Fried Chicken and Sushi

I thought I'd post something not too depressing for a change.   I mean, the sun is shining,  my syringa unknown pink bush, (see below)

is attracting bees, both europeanized and bumble, and miss hummingbird is out.

Plus, a new restaurant, Uchu, that will be serving sushi and fried chicken (!!!!) will be opening soon just a few blocks from our house. I can't wait. Rumor had it that it was to open today, but GeeBee and I just strolled on past and no sushi for me. I really want to see sushi made with rice and a chicken drumstick all wrapped in seaweed, with dots of sriracha. (As an aside, did you know that drumsticks have a butt and a shaft? True Story.) I should be able to think of an amusing name for it, but all I've got is either a "Moon over Tokyo roll", or a "Tombstone Blues roll"; the sushi's not yellow, it's chicken. Sigh.
Or, there's always the McNuggets Roll.

Why I fear for my beloved country, part zillion

Because we're losing the middle class.  And when it goes,we spiral down fast until we're at third world status.  Other countries have gone down the exact same path we're trodding, with dependable--bad--results.

Mexico in the 70's was building a middle class until it slashed spending on transportation, health care, and education.  Poof.  As an article from 2002 in the New York Times said:
The development of a middle class was a shining achievement of the Mexican revolution, said the historian Lorenzo Meyer. Incubated in a closed economy that was driven by state-owned monopolies, the middle class grew steadily from the 1920's to the 1970's. Faced with declining economic efficiency and a mounting public debt, successive presidents opened Mexico's protected economy, igniting an industrial revolution that turned the country into one of the world's leading exporters.
In an effort to reduce its external debt, the government simultaneously slashed spending for higher education, transportation and health care - all traditional pillars of middle-class life.  Found here.

Your defect is a propensity to hate everybody

The inadvertently untrustworthy narrator is one of the joys of fiction. Who can forget Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice who holds such a high opinion of himself:

"My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding." Dear reader feels slightly different. Dear readers, a host  of Mr./Mrs. Collinses! (Hostess, acually; as proper ladies I'm sure they would insist on the gendered form.)  Here is a sample:
"I hope she forgives me my judgment. It comes from a place of love.”

I think I'm going to adopt that as my new meme. Even though it has this slight hint of the off-color; like that time we heard, from a nearby campfire, someone singing "Jesus, come unto me."

(Judgmental--but only because she comes from a place of love--lady to the left.  On edit, this isn't really fair to Emily, over there.  She isn't cruel, she's just a bit inept.)

Of course I have my own bizarre list of reasons to look down on others.  Groups I feel free to mock:  those that wear polo shirts unironically, those that listen to Herbie Hancock (sorry, George); those unenlightened souls that don't realize the color orange is a neutral; heretics--heretics, I say--that use salted butter.  The list could go on. But my mockery should be forgiven, as it comes from a place of love, the place might even be a McMansion, even.

Monday, April 11, 2011


My daughter left home, my home, recently. With no children to worry about I've transferred my neuroticism to an innocent little bird. A hummingbird, to be exact. I think it's an Anna's female, but all those darn hummingbird females have metallic green backs and whitish throats. Plus they move very fast.

She flits around outside my dining room window pretty much every morning. I worry.

Picture, certainly not mine, found here.

Thomas Jefferson believed in progressive taxation.

‎"Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785.

I hope we come up with a fail safe plan to piss off the few that forgave us

The Hawaiian Supreme Court in 1993 declared that gay marriage was required by the Hawaiian Constitution. The Mormon Church tried to join the lawsuit in opposition but were not allowed as they didn’t have standing. That is, they wouldn’t be harmed.

The Proclamation on the family was used by the Mormon church to prove to the Hawaiian court, and provided in its entirety as an appendix, that preventing gay marriage was an essential feature of Mormonism. The timing is such that it appears that the proclamation was written to provide standing to the Hawaiian court.

From the the LDS church amicus brief in Baehr v. Miike against gay marriage in Hawaii:

 “A decision by this Court to strike down the requirement that marriage must be between a man and a woman will substantially and irreversibly weaken this venerable and indispensable institution, and thereby cause great harm to society as a whole. Homosexual marriage is
wrong, both from a moral and social point of view. Its recognition will have grave consequences for every individual, for every family, for every community, for every state, and for American society.”

"Homosexual relationships will not and cannot provide the essential
benefits to society that the traditional family has, and therefore should not be accorded the preferential status of marriage. Recognition of homosexual marriage will trivialize the traditional family - the basic building block of society - thereby having deleterious effects upon society as a whole. At a time when the traditional family needs more protection than ever before, Hawaii's prohibition on homosexual marriage is surely narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest. This Court should therefore rule in favor of the State.”
The brief can be found here:

For a detailed timeline, see here.

If you're wondering about the post title, see here:

I was at that show, back when I was cool. You can see GeeBee's profile in the opening seconds of the video.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yet another oil bubble

The price of oil has risen, yet again, because of speculation. How long must we sing this song? True price of oil, currently, without speculation? $32, according to Dan Dicker.

Dan Dicker, who has spent nearly three decades in the oil market, has a profoundly disturbing explanation of why the price of oil, and the gasoline that comes from the crude product, has risen so dramatically in recent months. It turns out, Dicker says, that the price has nothing to do with supply and demand for oil. It's the financial market for oil, filled with both professional speculators and amateur investors betting on poorly understood oil exchange-traded funds, who have ratcheted up the price of gas to such sky high levels.

"There is no supply issue going on here - what you have is the perception of the possibility of a supply issue," Dicker says. "A whole bunch of people are pouring money into an oil market trying to take advantage of what they perceive to be a real risk in supply. It's a marketplace that I argue should not be allowed to be wagered on like a stock or bond."

See full article from DailyFinance: