No problem here

Coke and caffeine junkie executive Katie Bayne:

Q: What do you drink daily?

A: I might have a mini Diet Coke while cooking breakfast for my family. After the kids leave for school, I go for a run and then have a Powerade Zero. At work I may have a Diet Coke in the morning and in the afternoon, Gold Peak Tea. In the middle of the afternoon, I may have an 8-ounce Coke. I’d rather have that than a candy bar or cookie for a pick-me-up.

Q: What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?

A: There is no scientific evidence.

Q: Critics say Coke is pushing sugary drinks in China and India and will cause obesity there just like here.

A: Every person in those countries is different and should be able to choose what’s right for them.

We’re No. 1!

Go Phillies!

This is an angst-free season. They stink, we know they stink. We don’t have to worry about where they are in the rankings – they’re either at or right next to the bottom. But, as my brother says, a day at the ballpark is still a nice day.

Connecting Google dots

It’s pathetic that there’s such a close correlation between racism and Obama’s chances, but it doesn’t surprise me. The people I know who really hate Obama are the same people I’ve had to berate for sending me racist email jokes for years. Yet faced with the economic crash, even some of those people voted for Obama with a rationale that was something along the lines of, “the Republicans have screwed up so bad that I have to vote for the black guy.” The president is going to have to figure out some useful way to peel away some of these voters again, or he’ll lose:

Barack Obama won 52.9 percent of the popular vote in 2008 and 365 electoral votes, 95 more than he needed. Many naturally concluded that prejudice was not a major factor against a black presidential candidate in modern America. My research, a comparison of Americans’ Google searches and their voting patterns, found otherwise. If my results are correct, racial animus cost Mr. Obama many more votes than we may have realized.

Quantifying the effects of racial prejudice on voting is notoriously problematic. Few people admit bias in surveys. So I used a new tool, Google Insights, which tells researchers how often words are searched in different parts of the United States.

Can we really quantify racial prejudice in different parts of the country based solely on how often certain words are used on Google? Not perfectly, but remarkably well. Google, aggregating information from billions of searches, has an uncanny ability to reveal meaningful social patterns. “God” is Googled more often in the Bible Belt, “Lakers” in Los Angeles.

The conditions under which people use Google — online, most likely alone, not participating in an official survey — are ideal for capturing what they are really thinking and feeling. You may have typed things into Google that you would hesitate to admit in polite company. I certainly have. The majority of Americans have as well: we Google the word “porn” more often than the word “weather.”

[…] A huge proportion of the searches I looked at were for jokes about African-Americans. (I did not include searches that included the word “n*gga” because these searches were mostly for rap lyrics.) I used data from 2004 to 2007 because I wanted a measure not directly influenced by feelings toward Mr. Obama. From 2008 onward, “Obama” is a prevalent term in racially charged searches.

The state with the highest racially charged search rate in the country was West Virginia. Other areas with high percentages included western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York and southern Mississippi.

Once I figured out which parts of the country had the highest racially charged search rates, I could test whether Mr. Obama underperformed in these areas. I predicted how many votes Mr. Obama should have received based on how many votes John Kerry received in 2004 plus the average gain achieved by other 2008 Democratic Congressional candidates. The results were striking: The higher the racially charged search rate in an area, the worse Mr. Obama did.

Hormonal and moody

This does not surprise.

News from the world of science with some pretty grim implications for the global economy as it currently exists: men — rational, level-headed, decisionmaking men — aren’t actually very well equipped to handle important financial decisions at all; it’s like they’re getting the male equivalent of their periods, but all the time. In fact, men are so beholden to their volatile hormones that their prominence in the world of finance may actually doom the whole system to inevitable, testosterone-fueled collapse.


A new book postulates that the nature of financial markets combined with the physiological effects of testosterone make for a veritable clusterfuck of overreaction, which ends up exaggerating both good and bad news and artificially prolonging both booms and busts. This conclusion is based on research that analyzed traders’ spit during several market sessions which found that men working in the high-risk, high-reward setting of the world of finance experience hormone fluctuations that could seriously interfere with their ability to make good decisions. Per Bloomberg,

This simple fact should have big implications for how we think about markets. Market participants aren’t the rational automatons of most financial theory. They are biological organisms responding with a neural and physiological apparatus designed millions of years ago. If what happens in markets affects hormones, these in turn alter behavior and feed back into the markets.


In other words, The Invisible Hand exists, but it can’t come to the phone right now because it’s on some powerful pain killers after it got mad and smashed through a plate glass window and needed like 50 stitches. And actually, it might be more accurate to refer to The Invisible Hand as The Invisible Testicles.

I’d say this probably applies to politics, too.

Post migraine

Is there anything quite like not having a migraine anymore? It’s hard to explain to non-sufferers just how weird you feel after the acute attack; after all, your brain was just performing some pretty strange tricks:

The effects of migraine may persist for some days after the main headache has ended. Many sufferers report a sore feeling in the area where the migraine was, and some report impaired thinking for a few days after the headache has passed. The patient may feel tired or “hungover” and have head pain, cognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, and weakness.[18] According to one summary, “Some people feel unusually refreshed or euphoric after an attack, whereas others note depression and malaise.”[19]

Usually (not always) I can minimize the worst symptoms if I stop trying to read (since, you know, you have a pulsating blind spot in your field of vision). But I was trying to look up how to use apple cider vinegar as a remedy, and it just made things worse. Plus, I still had work to do.

My migraines are frequently (but not always) stress related. Yes, I had another job interview yesterday. The immediate trigger, however, seems to be light — usually directed into my weak right eye from its peripheral vision. Certain kinds of patterns – for instance, I once got a migraine while sitting in an office from the way the light reflected off the venetian blinds.

They happen so infrequently (once or twice a year) that I forget about them — until they strike again, and I’m reminded that I’m at the mercy of my own physical wiring. It’s also a reminder of my own mortality:

Women who experience auras have been found to have twice the risk of strokes and heart attacks over nonaura migraine sufferers and women who do not have migraines.[72][73] (Note: Women who experience auras and also take oral contraceptives have an even higher risk of stroke).[74] Migraine sufferers seem to be at risk for both thrombotic and hemorrhagic stroke as well as transient ischemic attacks.[75] Death from cardiovascular causes was higher in people with migraine with aura in a Women’s Health Initiative study, but more research is needed to confirm this.

This was the second in two weeks, so hopefully I’m done for a while.

What we’ve lost

As James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And if people don’t start to feel things getting better, it makes it that much harder to get a win this year. Fortunately, polling shows that a substantial number of voters, even those who are unhappy with Obama, still blame most of the problem on Republican obstructionism—because with numbers like this, he’ll need every vote he can get:

The average American family lost 38.8 percent of its wealth from 2007 to 2010, with the biggest losses concentrated among households with the most assets tied to their homes, a Federal Reserve study shows.
Median net worth declined to $77,300 in 2010, an 18-year low, from $126,400 in 2007, the central bank said in its Survey of Consumer Finances. Mean net worth fell 14.7 percent to a nine-year low of $498,800 from $584,600, the central bank said today in Washington.

“The impact has been a massive destruction of wealth all across the board,” said Lance Roberts, who oversees $500 million as chief executive officer of Streettalk Advisors LLC in Houston. “What you see is an economy that’s really very, very stressed for the bottom 60 to 70 percent of the population that’s struggling just to make ends meet.”

The declines in household wealth in the course of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression have held back the consumer spending that makes up about 70 percent of the economy. Fed policy makers led by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke meet next week to consider whether the central bank needs to add to its record stimulus after employment grew at the slowest pace in a year in May.

The Fed has already taken unprecedented steps to boost the economy as it battled the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009, slashing its key interest rate almost to zero and purchasing $2.3 trillion in debt to lower long-term borrowing costs. Even so, the jobless rate has stayed above 8 percent since February 2009, compared with the central bank’s long-range goal of 4.9 percent to 6 percent.

“Although declines in the values of financial assets or business were important factors for some families, the decreases in median net worth appear to have been driven most strongly by a broad collapse in house prices,” Fed economists wrote in the report released today.

Tonight

I’m recovering from a migraine. Nominate your own music video suggestions in the comments.

The GOP clown car

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. “Aw Shucks” Huckabee, Lady Ann Coulter-Crazy, Van Jones and Ed Rendell were on This Week with George Stephanopoulos yesterday.

Poor Ann. She starts blathering inanity, Van Jones and Ed Rendell jump on her statement and she clutches her pearls. “All you mean boys are interrupting me! Please, someone help poor little me!”

But I also love when she says that Bill Clinton is very frustrated with the “far left” President Obama. Host George Stephanopoulos, of course, remains silent when the proper response would be hearty laughter. But he adheres to the Very Serious Journalist Code of The View From Nowhere.

And she also asks where are the Democrats upset about drone attacks when we were all howling about everything George Bush did! (You’ll have to excuse Lady Ann, she doesn’t get out much. Her servants bring her booze now.)

I also love the part where she waxes rhapsodic about Mitt Romney and his magical touch (I get an icky feeling just thinking about it):

COULTER: Then, at Bain — I mean, about, what 75 percent, 80 percent of the businesses that were going to bankrupt, he does turn around. He’s a green eyeshade kind of guy. He will do what no president, not even Ronald Reagan, has ever done, and that is go through the budget and cut the spending. And there’s a lot to be cut.

And the Olympics, which was also going bankrupt and is an enormous business. And the Midas touch man comes in and turns around this nearly bankrupt institution. It is not just Bain. It is everything he touches.

And then she wriggled erotically in her chair. Okay, maybe not, but it felt like it.

Yes, the Olympics were going bankrupt until Mitt glommed onto $1.5 billion in FEDERAL MONEY to cover himself in glory. And a lot of that money went to pay off corrupt organizers who were caught taking bribes – just to make them go away. (Several of them have since resurfaced as Romney campaign donors).

Hounddog Huckabee also says this, with a completely straight face!

HUCKABEE: You know, I like — anybody he picks I believe is going to be the result of a very thoughtful and methodical choice. The one thing I admire most about Mitt Romney is that he is not a guy that just acts out of some impetuous visceral reaction. He’s very thoughtful, methodical.

He will make what would really be a very careful business decision. And whoever he selects, I believe, will be the result of a very thoughtful process. And we’ll all get behind him as a Republican.

Yes, Mitt Romney is a robot, and the Republicans just don’t care!

The entire episode was so bizarre, I think you’d be best served by the Bobblespeak Translations:

Stephanopoulos: please bash Obama for me

Huckabee: the private sector is not fine!

Jones: losing in Wisconsin is good because it gave Obama a wake-up call

Coulter: the entire country is enraged against public school teachers! [ psychotic laugh ]

Rendell: bashing firefighters? really?

Huckabee: I love firemen but first we must fire teachers who make $100,000 if you include
all benefits which is outrageous

Jones: Republicans won’t pass their own bills so they can blame Obama for failing

Stephanopoulos: are you saying they are rooting for failure?

Jones: no I’m not – I’m saying they are creating failure!

Coulter: firefighters have huge pensions!

Rendell: would you fire firefighters?

Coulter: [ lunatic chortle ]

Stephanopoulos: Should Obama attack Bain Capital?

Rendell: first Mitt says he created 10,000 jobs and then it was 100,000 – which is it?

Huckabee: Romney was not supposed to create any jobs at all and he wassuccessful at that

Coulter: Mitt Romney has the Midas touch!

Jones: didn’t Midas destroy everything eventually

Coulter: [ sociopathic chuckle ]

Stephanopoulos: let’s use Bill Clinton to bash Obama!

Huckabee: Bill Clinton was a great President!

Stephanopoulos: you tried to impeach Clinton and called him a murderer
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