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War against the American people

Obama says he’ll veto the National Defense Authorization Act. I think it’s unlikely that he signs it, but it’s scary that Democrats even supported it in the first place.

Chicken and carrots

Just ate my first vegetables in three weeks. Ate actual meat, too!

The umbrella man, part 2

More from Russ Baker on his strange connection to the JFK assassination.

Tribes

I’ve been fascinated with the DNA ancestry testing ever since I saw the National Geographic special, “The Human Family Tree”, about the Genograph Project. They take a diverse group of various ethnic people in New York, and trace back to their common origins. It’s so powerful, I’d love to see it made mandatory viewing in every school in the world – because when you find out that you’re related to everyone else, it’s a little silly to feel like any one group is better. So I thought this story about one man’s response to his DNA testing was illustrative:

Onorato’s best guess is that his people shuttled between southern and eastern Europe, driven by disease, religious persecution, changing weather patterns, and the search for fertile soil.

But where does that non-Caucasian blood come from, he wondered. Probably from slaves who’d been kidnapped from Australia and sold along the Silk Road, the trade route that linked Asia and the Mediterranean.

Does knowing this make a difference in how you see yourself? I asked.

“I have always thought of myself as a white Italian American from South Jersey, and I’m really 25 percent non-Caucasian,” he said. “I was very prejudiced. I don’t think I wanted to hurt anyone, but I wanted to be able to live where I wanted to and pick my friends. I definitely wasn’t very liberal with that stuff. I think as I grew up, that changed.

“My wife and sister say now I should be more sensitive to other people, which maybe I am. You always hear, regardless of religion, we’re all made in God’s image. Maybe we’re all mixed up and not that uniquely different.”

Secret Santa

When you’re a blogger, you become so used to bad news, you’re thrilled when something good happens. So I love to pass along stories like this one from the Reading Eagle. Enjoy!

Calling himself Secret Santa, an anonymous businessman doled out scores of $100 bills Tuesday in Reading, one of America’s poorest cities.

In all, about $20,000 was given out by the light-haired, clean-shaven man, who sported a red shirt and a red cap with the word Elf on the back as he was accompanied by police at a bus station and other locations.

The generosity brought at least two people to tears, as seen on a Reading Eagle video.

“There’s a lot of happiness that comes of this,” he says in the footage. “I get more out of this than they do.”

In the newspaper’s write-up, the man tells how he is following in the boot steps of Kansas City’s Larry Stewart, who gave away more than $1 million over 25 years as a Secret Santa. Stewart died in early 2007, shortly after revealing his identity.

“I promised him on his deathbed that I would continue the tradition,” the latest Santa said.

He plans to spread more cheer in other cities, accompanied by the likes of comedian Larry the Cable Guy, the newspaper said.

Well what do you know

The owners of Zuccotti Park owe more than $129K in unpaid business taxes. But of course, since the mayor sleeps with one of the board members, I’m sure it all works out amicably.

How to read the New York Times

We really are at the mercy of the people who report the stories. Not all of the misinformation is by design; some stories are simply too complex for a non-insider to grasp, and the creation and propagation of various derivatives is complicated even for most people who work in the financial field.

But Yves Smith does a great job taking down this Times reporter’s one-sided defense of the SEC’s attempt to let Citigroup off with a mere slap on the wrist. The bottom line is, when a reporter relies on the same old names in his or her Rolodex, their stories will reflect that.

Crazy

Digby on the NYTimes editorial board coming out in support of Medicare vouchers:

I don’t understand what world these people live in. Do these people honestly believe that the elderly, most of whom are already sick in one way or another or are destined to become so (after all, it’s a rare person who stays perfectly healthy and then dies peacefully in his sleep at age 92) should be forced into a more complicated system than that which already exists? It’s as if they are being accused of irresponsibly running up big bills and must be taught a lesson in prudence before they die.

I would love to know where this penchant for making the health care system even more complicated and unworkable comes from? And why does everyone have to be a “consumer?” We are citizens and human beings and when we get old we get sick, period. Making elderly people shop around in order to live is utter nonsense when we know that the only reason to do so is to keep our “privatized” system reaping profits every step of the way.

It’s the abstraction in all these debates that drives me crazy. People, not statistics. Patients, not consumers. Yes, health care costs are high and are absorbing more and more of our GDP, but the sick people are not the problem. Getting sick can happen to anyone and getting old is something that will happen to everybody (if they’re lucky). Treating being human as a problem is the problem.

Jet engines

I’ve often wondered why they don’t use some version of a giant blowdryer to melt snow, so this is very satisfying to me.

A visit to the food pantry

A mother stands in line for her daughter.

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