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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.


The Commentariat -- Dec. 14, 2012

Comments are open. In the spirit of the season or something, be nice. When appropriate.

Tim Egan, on the merits of a liberal arts education. Egan notes that Rick Scott (RTP-Fla.), America's Worst Governor, could use some. Education, that is.

Frank Rich on Michigan, too-big-to-jail & Prop 8.

AND Good News, Reefer Nation:

Cliff Notes

Same Ole, Same Ole. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday evening to try to bridge a vast gap between the parties on taxes and entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. The meeting broke up after about an hour with no immediate sign from either side that there had been a breakthrough."

Here's a bit of good news. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he has been told that raising the Medicare eligibility age is 'off the table' in deficit talks, limiting the scope of entitlement reform." CW: Our thanks to all the wonks who ran the numbers & repeated ad nauseum what a stupid idea it was to ever put upping the age "on the table." And love that "context" from Bolton about "limiting the scope of entitlement reform." It appears the "context" here comes from GOP talking points.

Paul Krugman: "This is not a negotiation in the normal sense, in which each side makes proposals and they dicker over the details; instead, Republicans are demanding that Obama read their minds and produce a proposal they'll like. And Obama won't do that, for good reason: he knows that they'll just pronounce themselves unsatisfied with whatever he comes up with, and are indeed very likely to campaign in 2014 attacking him for whatever cuts take place."

** David Atkins in Hullabaloo: "Any story about who should 'sacrifice' given [economic] realities must contain ... context, or the journalist tells a gross lie of omission. When the poor and elderly on fixed incomes are asked to give up needed benefits in exchange for pittance tax increases on the wealthy, it's not a fair trade. It's not even close to a fair trade. Good journalism tells the truth by providing context."

CW: the Washington Post Editors write another "soak the poor" editorial, blaming Democrats for being so rigid about "entitlements" that they're unwilling to make the poor & middle class pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. Maybe the Post editors should be required to add a disclaimer to the bottom of their deficit-hawk editorials; something like "This editorial comes to you courtesy of Pete Peterson."

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "Washington's efforts to tame the federal deficit, state officials fear, could end up further whittling away the federal aid that states depend upon...." CW Solution: just send aid to the states where governors & legislatures don't rail against "out-of-control government spending." Too bad, Red States (and Florida, too).

Oops! Stupid Democrats Falling for Stupid Republican Tricks. Jennifer Haberkorn & Manu Raju of Politico: "A growing number of Democrats in the Senate are ready to offer up a key concession on Medicare to try to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff: higher premium payments for wealthy seniors.... even though Democrats are open to [means testing], they are saying no to increasing the eligibility age on Medicare; no to touching Social Security; and no to cutting into Medicaid programs that cover the poor and disabled. Many of these concerns were voiced directly by liberals to White House economic adviser Gene Sperling in a closed-door Senate Democratic lunch on Thursday." CW: why is this a trick? Because Republicans want nothing more for "entitlement" programs to be means-tested. Right now Social Security & Medicare are popular because everybody benefits or anticipates benefits. But make these programs means-tested & Republicans will treat them as gifts/"redistribution of wealth" from "responsible" people to blah people & other ne'er-do-well 47 percenters.

In 1982, Ronald Reagan sat down with the Democrats and they had a deal -- a $3 cut in spending for every dollar they raised in taxes. Guess what? They raised the taxes, and they never cut the spending. -- Oft-repeated story told during "fiscal cliff" negotiations

CW: I'm not always a fan of the Washington Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler, but he does a masterful job here. I'd give him four thumbs up for this:

It is time to abandon this myth. Reagan may have convinced himself he had been snookered, but that belief is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the deal he had reached. Congress was never expected to match the tax increases with spending cuts on a 3-to-1 basis. Reagan appeared to acknowledge this in his speech when he referred to outlays (which would include interest expenses), rather than spending cuts. In the end, lawmakers apparently did a better job of living up to the bargain than the administration did. -- Glenn Kessler

More Stupid GOP Tricks. N. C. Aizenman of the Washington Post: ideological anti-ObamaCare Republican governors have opted out of running health insurance exchanges, thus broadening the Federal government's reach in their states. Yo, Tenthers, so much for states rights!

Jeremiah Goulka, a "former Republican," on what the GOP can -- and won't -- do to make itself relevant again. Here's an interesting -- and scary -- stat from the report: "Romney would have won New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado if he had captured even slightly higher shares of the Hispanic vote and he could have won in the Electoral College if fewer than 200,000 voters in key states had switched their votes." CW: Now I don't feel so stupid for fearing, two weeks before the election, that Obama would lose. He was, technically, within 200K votes of losing. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Paul Krugman, on the same subject: "... Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they've seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want -- hence their inability to make specific demands [in the 'fiscal cliff' "negotiations"]. It's a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream."

Driving the GOP death throes is the party's insistence upon proffering policies tied to theories that have long been disproved. Case in point: trickle-down economics. More rational beings are finally beginning to strike back -- Sahil Kapur of TPM: "On Thursday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service republished an analysis that found no clear relationship between marginal high-end tax cuts and economic growth. The report, initially published in September, was retracted later that month after top Republican senators complained about it.The new version (PDF) stands by the larger conclusion." CW: If civil servants can stand up to McTurtle, Inc., surely the POTUS can, too. ...

... Steve Benen: "Good for the CRS. It's safe to assume McConnell's office will throw another fit -- the notion that cutting taxes on the rich necessarily boosts economic growth is a bedrock tenant of contemporary conservative thought -- but free inquiry and intellectual integrity demand that accurate government reports see the light of day.... We just can't have public offices' scholarship being stifled because Republicans find reality politically inconvenient."

Susan Rice, in a Washington Post op-ed, elaborates on her decision to withdraw from consideration for the position of Secretary of State. ...

... She doesn't mention any of this stuff: David Dayen of Firedoglake: "... the reality is that [Susan] Rice made more enemies than friends in her attempt to mend fences on Capitol Hill. And her family investments in the oil and gas industry, her long record of war advocacy and too-close-for-comfort relationship to global dictators left her without champions in her own party to beat back the various attacks. In the end, the President must not have seen this as a hill to die on. The real damage here is the perception that if the conservative noise machine makes enough noise, eventually they will succeed at their goals." ...

... CW: notice how Dayen sticks to important, substantive issues in his critique of Rice. Let us turn now to Newsweek, where Lloyd Grove never mentions these issues, but does some extensive reporting on what a bitch Rice is. (Grove used to be a gossip columnist for both the WashPo & New York Daily News.) So his hit job doesn't sound so bad, Grove finds people to say nice things about Rice, too. We'll call it a "balanced hit job." If Grove's piece seems vaguely familiar to you, you may be thinking of "analyses" of the personalities of Sonia Sotomayor & Elena Kagan after their nominations to the Supreme Court. Girls -- especially girls of color -- are supposed to "know their place" & be extra polite to the white boys who are their betters. (Kagan is actually a world-class schmoozer, so Robin Givhan of the WashPo wrote a two-page piece on Kagan's failure to cross her legs while schmoozing, "as most women do.") I expected this kind of sexism in 1972, maybe even in 1982. But now? ...

... David Sanger & Jodi Kantor of the New York Times put a much different spin on Rice's "blunt" style.

If You're Not Beat to a Pulp or Stabbed or Something, It's Not Rape. Adam Martin of New York magazine: the California Commission on Judicial performance has admonished Orange County Judge Derek Johnson for giving a light sentence to a rapist in 2008 because, he said, "if someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down.... The victim in this case, although she wasn't necessarily willing, she didn't put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape." Orange County is the West Coast Center of Right Wing World.

John Gramlich of Roll Call: "House Republicans have quietly raised the value of a contract with a private law firm that is handling the chamber's Supreme Court defense of" DOMA. The contract's new maximum is $2 million. "Although the latest lifting of the contract cap occurred almost three months ago, House Democrats -- and the public -- were in the dark about the move until this week.... [Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi blasted House Republicans in a statement Thursday for 'wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst,' she said. 'Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.'"

Michael Kelley of Business Insider: "NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime. Known as the 'double tap,' the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders."

Local News -- Race to the Bottom

Actually, not so much a race as a slow, steady slog. Nick Carey & Bernie Woodall of Reuters report on how Michigan legislators -- with a little help from their deep-pockets robber-baron friends -- mustered the votes & ensured Gov. Rick Snyder's cooperation in passing right-to-work legislation in Michigan. Includes a near-death appearance from Andrew Breitbart.

This is nonsense of course, but what the hell. Daily Kos is running a petition drive urging South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to appoint Stephen Colbert to the Senate seat which Jim DeMint is vacating. Anything to annoy Southern Republicans.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new standard for soot pollution on Friday that will force industry, utilities and local governments to find ways to reduce emissions of particles that are linked to thousands of cases of disease and death each year."

New York Times: "Facing indictment for breach of trust and fraud, Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned his post Friday afternoon amid mounting political pressure,upending the campaign landscape five weeks before national elections."

President Obama speaks on the school killings in Newtown, Connecticut:

Hartford Courant: "Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Associated Press." The Courant is livestreaming Fox Connecticut coverage. ...

... ABC News: "More than two dozen people, mostly elementary school children, were shot and killed at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school this morning, federal and state sources tell ABC News. The massacre involved two gunmen and prompted the town of Newtown to lock down all of its schools and draw SWAT teams to the school, authorities said today. One shooter is dead and a manhunt is on for a second gunman." ...

... The New York Times' "The Lede" has live updates with live coverage from MSNBC. Here's the direct link to MSNBC coverage. ...

... AND here's the New York Times' main story.

Washington Post: "The United States authorized on Friday the deployment of 400 troops to man two Patriot missile-defense batteries along Turkey's border with Syria, a move that could put American troops near the front lines of the Arab country's escalating civil war. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta signed the order authorizing the deployment of the batteries Friday morning while flying from Kabul to this military base in southern Turkey." ...

... He Didn't Say What He Said. AP: "Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday denied that a top diplomat said Syrian President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country, a statement that had been interpreted as signaling a shift in Russia's assessment of the situation."

Guardian: "A prominent Senate select committee has voted to approve a 6,000-page report of its investigation into controversial interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA during the so-called 'war on terror' that is believed to show that the methods, widely denounced as torture, produced little valuable intelligence.... The majority Democratic members of the committee were joined by one Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, in backing the report. However, lack of co-operation from the remaining Republican members of the panel could prevent the document ever seeing the light of day."

Al Jazeera: "Rival sides in Egypt's political crisis are staging rallies in Cairo a day before the first round of voting begins on a contentious draft constitution."

AP: "Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don't often trust scientists on the environment."

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Reader Comments (14)

Trust this is innocuous enough for the rebirth. A response to last night's Egan, sent to the Times last night but still not posted this AM.

"Too many factors pushing the liberal arts, history in particular, off the plate of our mental menu to mention. You name two of them. I would add that governance by corporate metaphor has deliberately fostered a belligerent disdain for anything we cannot assign a simple dollar value to, measuring everything's worth only in terms of the bottom line of the next quarterly report.

That approach is dangerously short-sighted and hence antithetical to letting any knowledge, understanding or appreciation of history into our lives or the classroom. History takes a longer view; the yardsticks it provides provoke thought and ask uncomfortable questions. Anyone familiar with the locals' response to the invading American army in the New Mexico of 1846, for instance, could hardly have been surprised at the Iraqis' behavior toward us once the shock and awe had run its course. Combat operations are over, we heard. Hardly.

I'd also suggest too many have forgotten labors' storied history in this country, its struggles and hard-won victories. Certainly the Right to Work frenzy in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana could not have occurred if people did not live in an ahistorical vacuum.

When neocon Francis Fukuyama (wrongly) said our era marks the end of history, he was right for the wrong reason. Instead of referring to the triumph of market capitalism, he should have meant we are no longer in touch with our past.

Make no mistake. Others' ignorance is the Right's best defense."

Thanks, Marie, and welcome back, all.

As I told Marie and the redoubtable Sister, I missed you.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes. I'm glad you addressed Egan's column, because I've been thinking about "what a liberal arts education means to me." I'm not just talking about formal education, either. Like most Reality Chex readers, I'm something of an autodidact, always trying to expand and adjust my worldview. I'm constantly surprised at how little I know, sometimes about basic stuff. It wasn't till last year or so that I learned that Lucretius, a Roman poet of the first century BCE wrote about -- based on Epicurean philosophy -- a theory of evolution that Darwin would have recognized (I don't think Darwin ever acknowledged Lucretius' poem). This nugget, discovered late in my life, finds its place in my view of who we are & how we got to this place in this culture. (Thomas Jefferson had five copies of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things.") I'm sure I'll be making more adjustments soon enough. It is all, I think, part of a liberal arts education.


December 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Another school shooting. This time it looks like little children, kindergarten students, have been shot and killed. But never fear. Wingnuts are on the way to save the day. Everybody remain calm. This is no time to politicize this tragic event. It's just another unfortunate thing.

Too bad it happened, but if those 5 year olds had been carrying weapons, this would never have happened. If all the teachers had had their concealed weapon permits and came to school every day armed to the teeth, this wouldn't have happened.

Just ask Wayne LaPierre.

And once more we'll all get to see the gigantic, enormous, glow in the dark yellow streaks down the backs of all those congressional water carriers as they all tut-tut about how terrible, blah, blah, blah, but make NO mention of gun control or the problems of our out of control gun culture.

I read a comment online from one wingnut who was carrying on about how liberals will latch onto this to try to push their horrible agenda (you know, the agenda of wanting to try to save lives). Well just how horrible is the agenda of people who want MORE arms in every home in this country? "Criminals will always have guns!" they scream. It sounds like some kind of natural disaster from which there is no escape. Yes, it's true that someone who really wants a weapon can probably find one. But is it absolutely necessary that all they need to do is go to a gun show and buy weapons out of the trunk of a car?

It appears that the shooter in CT was a dad. Now barring the possibility that he was a career criminal with a cache of weapons in the garage, if he hadn't already had a gun (or two) handy, at the ready, maybe this wouldn't have happened. Maybe whatever was going on with him would have resolved itself in some other way. Perhaps badly as well, but probably not with the death of a score of children.

Everyone who continues to back the NRA's resistance to having even a discussion about gun control has blood on their hands today.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


The Lucretius poem is wonderful. And thanks to a liberal arts education that valued things that seem not to have value anymore, I was able, at one point, to attempt my own translation. I fell down on a lot of the more obscure stuff, but at least, thanks to reasonably decent training in Latin in high school and later, on my own, such a thing is possible.

I have to agree with Ken, and I've arrived at the same conclusion, that ignorance is the right's best friend. As long a voters are fed pablum and lies, as long as their ability to think critically is regularly short-circuited by intolerant gibberish and fundamentalist cant, the right can get away with making outrageous, entirely indefensible claims, as they did largely with impunity during the recent election.

Another reason for their hatred of teachers and public education. Much better to indoctrinate a generation of little wingnuts by writing their own textbooks and deciding what type of subjects should and should not be taught. The right's plan of political domination has extended to membership on school boards across the country where they can mainline ignorance straight into the cerebral cortexes of millions of children.

That is, if they survive the shootings.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


I couldn't agree more. I'm sure there will be cries from the NRA ( if there aren't already) about if an armed citizen in the Oregon shooting had only... I get so tired of this nonsense from the gun lobby and ther legislative enablers.

18 children dead! Why?

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbarossa

The land of the free and the home of the scum!. I was just thinking of sending a letter to the editor of my local paper asking them to conduct a survey of Republicans who lost everything to Sandy to see how many were going to refuse money from that socialist government. I won't waste my time, because after the shooting I don't give a fuck about this country anymore.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb


Last week I heard a story on NPR about the peripheral businesses surrounding the disembowelment of the areas of North Dakota sitting over the Bakken Shale. One guy, a self professed conservative libertarian, was taking advantage of the influx of workers to set up housing in mobile homes and trailers and renting them out. He lived far west of North Dakota (I don't recall the exact location) and often spent $1,000 in airfare on his weekly commute until he discovered that Amtrak ran a line into the Bakken region. He claimed to be vehemently opposed to government subsidized transportation but he had no problem taking advantage of that subsidy to save himself a bundle ($100 ticket by train). So I guess the evil guvmint isn't quite so horrible as long as he benefits.

The hypocrisy is stunning. If he was truly opposed to government subsidies of transportation (or anything else), he would, in order to be ideologically and philosophically consistent, shun such travel options.

In similar way, Republican governors who want to demonstrate how hard core they are will reject setting up insurance exchanges in their states knowing full well that the hated government will do it for them.

Same thing for Republicans who scream about the necessity of right to work legislation, but as has been pointed out in a link Marie provided the other day, the non union workers who benefit in such states also benefit from the collective bargains struck by unions without having to pay a dime for those advantages. Republican politicians, for years, have loved the phrase "No free lunch".

Except, as always, when it benefits them.

Hypocritical assholes.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The latest mass gun violence, now in Connecticut: The shooter's mother was the teacher in the kindergarten classroom ~ he killed her and most of the 18 students killed were in that class. Horrific and beyond grief.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMushiba

There is a good article by Stephen Greenblatt in The New Yorker on Lucretius. A fuller account is in his book 'The Swerve' about Poggio and the rescue of De Rarum Natura from extinction.

For the importance of Lucretius in the development of the Theory of Evolution I recommend 'Darwin's Ghosts' by Rebecca Stott.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercowichan's opinion

@cowichan. Thanks. The link to Stephen's New Yorker article is here. I'd have to check, but I think this may be the intro to his Pulitzer-winning book The Swerve. Definitely covers a lot of the same stuff, anyway.


December 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

While American politicians fight over tax rates on the wealthy, in Britain peasants are revolting over multinationals using loopholes to avoid paying taxes. A good explanation of some forms of international tax avoidance is in the Economist today:

I am always amazed that Democrats even begin to discuss tax rates when, in the US, there is such a huge gap between official rates and effective rates. Corporate tax rates of 34-35% but on reported profits of $200 billion US corporations paid taxes of $20 billion a couple of years ago. The rich are taxed at 35%, except of course they aren't. Now that Romney is not going to be president he can modify last years return, claim the full amount of his charitable deductions, and pay 9.2% of his multi-million dollar income in tax. If Obama spends 2013 getting a new immigration law he should dedicate the remainder of his term rewriting tax law so that rates more closely reflect reality. Then parties can have a meaningful discussion of how much who should pay.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercowichan's opinion

This shooting in a town so close to my son's and family so that we pass by it on our way to visit them has left us limp with grief. My eyes are swollen from crying––and part of that crying is sheer fury at our gun besotted country and I understand Marvin's throwing in the towel at this point. To think this sick fuck and his brother managed this horrific act because they could get their hands on guns as easily as ordering them off the internet with no back ground check is bizarre. I just signed a petition demanding our congress to take up gun control –––let's see if the killing of small children will move anyone to move on this issue.

And thanks Marie for reinstating our commentaries. I missed my buddies.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Yes! The Rolfe Humphries translation of De Rerum Natura is wonderful! I love Lucretius, not only the evolution parts but the analysis of human nature which is so spot on. Most comforting are the "Nothing comes from nothing...and nothing is ever destroyed" passages. When I studied philosophy in my liberal arts college, the texts emphasized the science of the atom as important. But his statement of the Epicurean philosophy is the best part. One passage is a favorite:

Fools have more love and admiration, always
For things their blindness sees in hidden meanings;
They base their truths on what can sometimes tickle
Their ears, or what is soaked in sweetish sound.

Rolfe Humphries, The Way Things Are (1968), 38.

And about Marie's point that we must have lifelong learning--after I retired I became ashamed about how little I knew about the Middle East and thus read the Koran and a number of books to straighten that out. However, I cannot quite get hold of the who's who in today's Middle East politics. It seems to change too often.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralphonsegaston

Once again, we turn inward to bemoan our own losses, and it will take a long time before some national columnist compares the 28 dead in Newtown to the hundreds of thousands of children killed in the ongoing wars in Africa, the MidEast and the Balkans.

As Adam Smith said, "I care more about my littlest finger that for the lives of ten thousand Chinamen."

We're only evolved to absorb the life events of 150 tribal members, not the collected disasters of 300 million or 7 billion.

That's why our children in our town are so important, but in a larger sense, we have no real right to mourn them more than the Afghani or Iraqi children. Or their moms and pops.

December 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOrmond Otvos

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