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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Daily Drift

Reflections on Life

Some of our readers today have been in:
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Cape Town, South Africa
Gdyna, Poland
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tirana, Albania
Kuantan, Malaysia
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Muar, Malaysia
Burgas, Bulgaria
Tbilisi, Georgia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Cairo, Egypt
Sukhumi, Georgia
Port Louis, Mauritus
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Cali, Colombia
Krusevac, Serbia
Karachi, Pakistan
Wroclaw, Poland
Dhaka, Bangladesh
London, England
Jakarta, Indonesia

And across the USA in cities such as:
Ansonia, Chippewa Falls, Colfax, Ishpeming, Morven, Potomac, Swampscott, Windsor Locks and more

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Today in History

1540   Henry VIII of England marries Catherine Howard.
1615   French explorer Samuel de Champlain discovers Lake Huron on his seventh voyage to the New World.
1794   Robespierre is beheaded in France.
1808   Sultan Mustapha of the Ottoman Empire is deposed and his cousin Mahmud II gains the throne.
1835   King Louis-Philippe of France survives an assassination attempt.
1863   Confederate John Mosby begins a series of attacks against General Meade's Army of the Potomac.
1868   The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees citizenship to all those born or naturalized in the United States, is adopted.
1898   Spain, through the offices of the French embassy in Washington, D.C., requests peace terms in its war with the United States.
1914   Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, beginning World War I.
1920   Pancho Villa surrenders to the Mexican government.
1932   The Bonus Army of impoverished World War I veterans is violently pushed out of Washington, D.C.
1941   A Japanese army lands on the coast of Cochin, China (modern day Vietnam).
1945   A B-25 bomber crashes into the Empire State Building in New York City, killing 13 people.
1965   President Lyndon Johnson sends an additional 50,000 troops to South Vietnam.

Why Liberals Are More Intelligent Than Wingnuts

Liberals think they’re more intelligent than wingnuts because they are
by Satoshi Kanazawa 

Speaker One:  I don’t even know what the sides are in the culture wars.
Speaker Two:  Well, your side hates my side because you think we think you are stupid, and my side hates your side because we know you are stupid.

It is difficult to define a whole school of political ideology precisely, but one may reasonably define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) in the contemporary United States as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others.  In the modern political and economic context, this willingness usually translates into paying higher proportions of individual incomes in taxes toward the government and its social welfare programs.  Liberals usually support such social welfare programs and higher taxes to finance them, and conservatives usually oppose them.
Defined as such, liberalism is evolutionarily novel.  Humans (like other species) are evolutionarily designed to be altruistic toward their genetic kin, their friends and allies, and members of their deme (a group of intermarrying individuals) or ethnic group.  They are not designed to be altruistic toward an indefinite number of complete strangers whom they are not likely ever to meet or interact with.  This is largely because our ancestors lived in a small band of 50-150 genetically related individuals, and large cities and nations with thousands and millions of people are themselves evolutionarily novel.
The examination of the 10-volume compendium The Encyclopedia of World Cultures, which describes all human cultures known to anthropology (more than 1,500) in great detail, as well as extensive primary ethnographies of traditional societies, reveals that liberalism as defined above is absent in these traditional cultures.  While sharing of resources, especially food, is quite common and often mandatory among hunter-gatherer tribes, and while trade with neighboring tribes often takes place, there is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes.
Because all members of a hunter-gatherer tribe are genetic kin or at the very least friends and allies for life, sharing resources among them does not qualify as an expression of liberalism as defined above.  Given its absence in the contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, which are often used as modern-day analogs of our ancestral life, it may be reasonable to infer that sharing of resources with total strangers that one has never met or is not likely ever to meet – that is, liberalism – was not part of our ancestral life.  Liberalism may therefore be evolutionarily novel, and the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to espouse liberalism as a value.
Analyzes of large representative samples, from both the United States and the United Kingdom, confirm this prediction.  In both countries, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be liberals than less intelligent children.  For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as “very liberal” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 106.4, whereas those who identify themselves as “very conservative” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 94.8.
Political ideology
Even though past studies show that women are more liberal than men, and blacks are more liberal than whites, the effect of childhood intelligence on adult political ideology is twice as large as the effect of either sex or race.  So it appears that, as the Hypothesis predicts, more intelligent individuals are more likely to espouse the value of liberalism than less intelligent individuals, possibly because liberalism is evolutionarily novel and conservatism is evolutionarily familiar.
The primary means that citizens of capitalist democracies contribute their private resources for the welfare of the genetically unrelated others is paying taxes to the government for its social welfare programs.  The fact that conservatives have been shown to give more money to charities than liberals is not inconsistent with the prediction from the Hypothesis; in fact, it supports the prediction.  Individuals can normally choose and select the beneficiaries of their charity donations.  For example, they can choose to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, because they want to help them, but not to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Chile, because they don’t want to help them.  In contrast, citizens do not have any control over whom the money they pay in taxes benefit.  They cannot individually choose to pay taxes to fund Medicare, because they want to help elderly white people, but not AFDC, because they don’t want to help poor black single mothers.  This may precisely be why conservatives choose to give more money to individual charities of their choice while opposing higher taxes.
Incidentally, this finding substantiates one of the persistent complaints among conservatives.  Wingnutss often complain that liberals control the media or the show business or the academia or some other social institutions.  Liberals do control the media, or the show business, or the academia, among other institutions, because, apart from a few areas in life (such as business) where countervailing circumstances may prevail, liberals control all institutions.  They control the institutions because liberals are on average more intelligent than wingnutss and thus they are more likely to attain the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life.

Non Sequitur

London's mayor leads Londoners in pro-Obama chant

To understand just how badly the Romney tour of 'England' has gone, take a look at this video of Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London
After making some remarks about 'a Mr Romney', Boris leads the crowd in a chant of 'Yes we can!". That isn't an accident, Boris knows that it was Obama's 2008 campaign slogan and so does most of the crowd he is addressing.

Mitt Romney is a clown who tries to appear clever. Boris Johnson is a clever man man who pretends to be a clown.

Its not just Boris who has gone rogue here. Cameron himself got in a jab, "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

Probably doesn't seem such a good idea to send your advance team out to suggest that Cameron's government would find it easier to get on with a white man right now.

Making a gaffe in London is one thing, the UK-US special relationship survived the shrub and it will survive Romney's campaign tour. But Romney is planning to visit Auschwitz and Israel next. A careless statement there could cost votes, and lives.

The truth hurts

Is there another reason for Romney's odd gaffes in the UK?

A reader had written to me about this a few weeks ago, but I didn't write about it. Joan Walsh just has.
But could it be more than entitlement and an odd personal style? I’ve found myself wondering over the course of the campaign whether Romney has some kind of personality disorder, so dissociated does he occasionally seem from the well-worn routines of normal human interaction. Maybe we should be asking to see his medical records and not just his tax returns. I don’t mean to be flippant about that or insensitive to any kind of problem he may struggle with. But his struggles are our struggles; he’s running to be our president. There is something very odd about Mitt Romney.
No need to be nice about it. He's Looneytunes.

Romney improperly leaks meeting with head of MI6

It's interesting that Mitt Romney leaked the fact that he met with the head of British intelligence's MI6, when not only are you not supposed to leak such information, but Romney has of late been bashing President Obama for supposed Obama administration leaks.

Not quite ready for prime time, is he.

Mitt didn't build it

Romney took $1.5bn from US Government for 2002 Olympics 

It seems that Mitt Romney, who of late has been crowing about the "fact" that lots of business ventures in America happen with absolutely no help from the government whatsoever, got his own help from the US government for the 2002 Olympics that Romney oversaw.

From Mother Jones:
As Romney chastises the president for pointing out that successful business ventures benefit from a larger social compact and accuses critics of pining for "free stuff," Romney is simultaneously touting an Olympic effort that, more than any other in American history, succeeded thanks to public investment—some of it sunk into questionable projects of marginal value to the Salt Lake games. "The $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars that Congress is pouring into Utah is 1.5 times the amount spent by lawmakers to support all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904—combined," Donald Barlett and James Steele reported for Sports Illustrated in 2001. Those numbers were adjusted for inflation.

Amazing Olympic Stories

If you aren’t already pumped up about the Olympics and need to be reminded of some of the amazing things that happen at the games, then you’ll definitely appreciate this collection of touching stories. My personal favorite:
At the 1936 Berlin Games, Japanese pole vaulters Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe tied for second place. The teammates were offered the opportunity to have a jump-off for the silver medal, but the two friends declined out of mutual respect for one another. For the purposes of Olympic records, Oe agreed to the bronze while Nishida took the silver.
Upon their return to Japan, the teammates came up with a different solution. The pair had a jeweler cut their medals in half and fuse them back together, creating half-silver, half-bronze pendants. The “Medals of Friendship,” as they’re now known in Japan, are enduring symbols of friendship and teamwork.
It’s hard not to get excited about the games after reading these fantastic tales.

The 21 Countries With One Olympic Medal

In some countries, if you win a bronze medal at the Olympics, you become a national hero -forever!
Despite making appearances at 12 Olympic Games since 1936, Afghanistan has secured just one medal — a bronze in Taekwondo at the 2008 Games. Rohullah Nikpai, who won the medal, was given a house by president Hamid Karzai and told reporters that he hoped the medal would “send a message of peace to my country after 30 years of war.”
There are 21 countries that have one only one Olympic medal -but that list may change soon.  More


The truth be told

You need roughly 20x your annual income saved in your retirement account

We're #1.
Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers. Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.
To maintain living standards into old age we need roughly 20 times our annual income in financial wealth. If you earn $100,000 at retirement, you need about $2 million beyond what you will receive from Social Security. If you have an income-producing partner and a paid-off house, you need less. This number is startling in light of the stone-cold fact that most people aged 50 to 64 have nothing or next to nothing in retirement accounts and thus will rely solely on Social Security.
Okay then, back to work!

Libor: Three Scandals in One

There is a Way to Reduce Rate Fixing  

The Libor scandal has sparked calls for stronger regulation of the world's most powerful banks.

Libor Reasoning

Did you know ...

That Portugal decriminalized all drugs 11 years ago

Twenty-nine states settle Medicaid Rx drug overpayment case

California and 28 other states have reached a $151 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging one of the country's largest drug wholesalers inflated prescription drug prices, costing the states' Medicaid programs millions in overpayments.

Court leaves ruling against big tobacco intact

A federal appeals court has left intact a court judgment against tobacco companies that they must do corrective advertising about the dangers of smoking.
Score one for the good guys!

Amid PR crisis top Chick-fil-A publicist dies

The Midland, GA-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A has been in the middle of a public relations firestorm over homophobic comments by its CEO. Today, the company's chief spokesman Don Perry died unexpectedly. Various news outlets are reporting the cause of death as a heart attack, citing Ross Cathy, owner of the fast food chain and family member of company CEO, Dan Cathy, as a source. The company's CEO has long made his wingnut, non-gay-friendly political positions known, but recent remarks against gay marriage sparked widespread protest. The company is now being sued by a former employee (PDF) over allegations of gender discrimination.

US hits citizen with $6,500 fine for visiting Cuba

Zachary Sanders, 38, traveled to Cuba as an unauthorized tourist 14 years ago. He was 23, and had been teaching English in Mexico. He decided to travel to Cuba for a couple of weeks in 1998. "I wanted to learn about how a socialist country worked in practice," Sanders says. "I had no illusions. ... I'm not like some diehard supporter of the (Cuban) government or anything like that." The U.S. Treasury Department penalized him for not having filled out the proper forms, and a long-running legal battle ensued. Today, Sanders reached a settlement with the government: he must pay $6,500 for his mistake.

Disney Says No To Santa

People usually get excited when Santa comes to visit, but not Disney "Bah Humbug" World!
When Thomas Tolbert, who looks just like Santa, came to visit the theme park, Disney officials asked him to look less Santa-ish:
"He said you can't be portraying Santa," said Tolbert, adding that Disney asked him to change into less "Santa-ish" clothing.
Tolbert said changing clothes did not help.
"I never had a red suit on. I never had a hat. I didn't have fur boots on, but that doesn't make Santa. The face and the persona is what makes Santa," Tolbert said. "They're looking at my face and they're looking at my features."
Tolbert said Disney told him to continue to turn children away -- no matter how curious they were.
"Disney had informed me that I must inform anybody who came up to me that 'I am not who you think I am, I am on vacation and please leave me alone,'" Tolbert said.
Mickey's getting a lump of coal for Christmas this year! More

Qaddafi's Spawn

What the Dictator's Demise Unleashed in the Middle East  

The military campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime has been hailed a success. In March, Permanent U.S. Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis wrote in Foreign Affairs that, faced with the humanitarian disaster in Libya, NATO "succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi." But all the celebration has covered up a worrying trend. The unrest surrounding Qaddafi's last months is now reverberating throughout North Africa and the Sahel -- a phenomenon that might be called Qaddafi's spawn.

In Early Italy: Ice Cream All the Rage

Ice cream and other iced deserts were so popular in Italy some 300 years ago, that ice was taxed like a staple food.  
  In Early Italy: Ice Cream All the Rage

Cambodians flock to 'magic' lottery log

A large log dug up in Cambodia has drawn thousands of visitors who believe it has healing powers and can predict winning lottery numbers.
Some 4,000 to 5,000 people have already been to see the 13-metre-long log (42 feet) that was discovered earlier this month when a family excavated a pond in western Pursat province, Prey Yeang village chief Hun Nov said. "They believe the log has magical powers," he said, adding that visitors were coming loaded with offerings such as pig heads and boiled whole chickens after some locals who touched the wood won money in the lottery.

"At least one hundred people a day visit the log to ask for lottery numbers and to cure their illnesses," he said. "They believe in superstition." Cambodians are highly superstitious, particularly in the countryside where people continue to merge animist practices with Buddhism.

Hun Nov said some believers rubbed talcum powder onto the wood, hoping to see lucky lottery numbers, and others drank water from the pond and smeared nearby mud onto their bodies in a bid to cure their ailments. While the village chief himself is not convinced of the log's powers, "We, the authorities, have no right to stop them," he said.

Mismatched Proverbs and Sayings

  • I’m so hungry I could ride a horse.
  • He’s no rocket surgeon. 
  • Cross my legs and hope to die!
  • That just opened Panda’s box. 
  • You couldn’t pay me to work on commission. 
  • You hit the nail right on the nose. 
  • I could smell that with one nostril tied behind my back.
  • The gunman was believed to be armed. 
  • You play ball with me, and I’ll scratch yours. 
  • It’s half of one, six dozen of another. 
  • He’s as nervous as a long tailed cat out of the bag.
  • We are the glue that keeps things moving. 
  • Put yourself in my pants. 
  • Shut your mouth and eat your dinner. 
  • All old people should be shot at birth. 
  • I know that area of town like the back of my head. 
  • Zero is better than nothing!
  • A little pain never hurt anyone. 
  • Is everyone else in the world a moron, or is it just me? 
  • Don’t worry; I’ve got an ace up my hole.
  • We definitely don’t want to nail ourselves into a corner.
  • Don’t look for a gift in the horse’s mouth. 
  • Hindsight is 50-50. 
  • You are never going to fail unless you try. 
  • He doesn’t know his hole from an ass in the ground. 
  • Thanksgiving is early this year because the first Thursday fell on a Monday.
  • We’re going to clean the competition’s lunch. 
  • The phone was ringing off its hinges. 
  • Can you tell me when my past due amount is due?