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Medical update

Saw my doctor this morning (who bitched constantly because under their new computerized system, she has to re-enter my entire medical history herself into the software program– the business manager doesn’t want the office staff to do it) and she told me that although she would order the tests, she thought it was unlikely that I had diabetes.

“You’ve been getting blood work pretty regularly for the past five years, and we haven’t seen anything abnormal,” she said. “And neuropathy is not usually seen in the diagnostic stages.”

So what is the numbness and tingling from? She concurred with the physiatrist that it might have to do with the herniated disks in my neck, and now I’m supposed to get an MRI of my neck.

I keep saying how hard blogging is on the body, and the only people who agree with me are … other bloggers.

Art by Panhandle Slim…

The Cure Drip Drip

Panhandle Slim

Jobs Report….

Very meager gains in last month’s employment numbers.

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.3 million, and the

unemployment rate, at (U3) 7.3 percent, changed little in August. The

jobless rate is down from 8.1 percent a year ago….

In August, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27

weeks or more) was about unchanged at 4.3 million. These individuals

accounted for 37.9 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months,

the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 733,000…

In August, 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor

force, down by 219,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not

seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force,

wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime

in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because

they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.


Among the marginally attached, there were 866,000 discouraged workers

in August, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are

not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not

currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available

for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the

labor force in August had not searched for work for reasons such as

school attendance or family responsibilities.

The U6 numbers, that factor in people who work part-time even though they want full-time jobs and discouraged workers who want jobs but have given up looking within the past year in the calculation is at 13.7%.

Georgia is at 8.8%, U3. Ugh.




Cory Booker


Noam Scheiber with an excellent piece in the New Republic about the rising political star:

Booker’s aides insist he is a progressive at heart; it has just taken time for him to modulate his message for a national audience. “I think people grow … in terms of the way you understand how you can fix problems,” says a staffer. This may be true: For example, Booker quickly backtracked after his Bergen Record comment on Social Security. Yet the most alarming feature of Booker’s politics isn’t his proto-Rubinism. It’s a more primitive instinct—a skepticism of government that flourishes in certain (usually right-of-center) circles of financial elites. Naturally, Booker doesn’t quite put it this way. Often his skepticism is merely the subtext of a riff about some heroic collaboration with a deep-pocketed donor.

But it’s clearly there. “We in Newark have said that, if we as a government just try to solve our problems, try to rely on our state legislature, and just try to rely on the federal government … we’re never going to solve our problems,” Booker explained at an Aspen Institute discussion in 2011. “[W]e have to find a way to partner with other sectors.” He added that Americans “have obligations to make sacrifices above what we do in just paying taxes” and ticked off examples of philanthropists pouring money into Newark. “We now have the largest parks expansion [in America],” he said. “Not because of government action. But because of the courage of average American citizens [i.e., donors] to say, ‘I’m going to show that we can create global change right here in my neighborhood.’ ”

Don’t get me wrong: If I were mayor of Newark, I’d be looking for money anywhere I could find it, too. As Booker points out, you certainly wouldn’t want to wait for funds to trickle in from Trenton, or from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. What I wouldn’t do is elevate this ad hoc hole-plugging tactic into a governing philosophy. Even his Aspen co-panelist Gavin Newsom, a fellow moderate who is the lieutenant governor of California, seemed to flinch during Booker’s monologue on the subject. (“Where I’ll disagree with Cory is I think it was by government action,” Newsom interjected.)

Kevin Griffis, Booker’s spokesperson, says that a Senator Booker would try to “think creatively about whether or not he can use his convening power … to bring the same innovations you’ve seen work in Newark” to other parts of New Jersey, even the country. To point out just one flaw in this plan: If corporations were less keen on using loopholes to save billions in taxes, we wouldn’t need to rely on the millions they donate to charities and cities like Newark. No doubt the country’s biggest corporations will be keen to embrace a freshman senator who preserves their cushy arrangement. And Booker will have plenty of chances—closed-door negotiations, dead-of-night amendments—to vindicate their enthusiasm.

The far bigger problem, though, is that Booker’s philosophy simply doesn’t scale, to borrow a word he has learned from the tech sector. Most mayors don’t have a fraction of the star power and connections that Booker does, something he’s happy to note. (“I don’t mean to sound immodest,” he told his local paper. “But [the private donors] all say, if you run the schools, we will come to Newark.”) And even if there were a hundred mayors who could match Booker’s wattage, there aren’t nearly enough check-writing billionaires to make much of a dent in their to-do lists. Only the federal government and a handful of states have those kinds of resources.

Outside the context of a local politician struggling to fund his agenda, Booker’s worldview—the mild suspicion of government initiative, the trivialization of paying taxes as a way to bring about change, the sanctification of corporate do-gooding—is a few ticks to the right of a Clinton-era New Democrat. Really more like enlightened Paul Ryan-ism. There are definitely worse philosophies. But it’s not exactly progressive.

Don't forget to lock up the bike, you lovebirds.

From Tuesday’s Philadelphia Daily News:

Cops in Center City are trying an unusual approach to thwarting bike thieves: They’re letting them steal bikes. Undercover cops… set up stings – like the one Aug. 15 observed by the Daily News – leaving an unlocked “bait bike” out somewhere and then waiting for someone to take it.

They’ve logged more than a dozen arrests this way this year for a pesky quality-of-life crime that historically has had low arrest rates.

It’s great that a local paper devoted time and space to bicycle theft in Philly, where riders have been making slow but steady progress in forcing drivers to share the roads with them. Too bad the reporter didn’t mention some of the reasons why bike theft is so rampant.

Start with the fact that city government and private businesses have done a lousy job of creating parking space for the growing number of riders in Center City and other popular biking areas. Some racks and corrals have been installed, and some poles fitted with metal rings, but finding a safe outdoor spot to lock up can still be a challenge. It’s not uncommon to see a bunch of bikes mashed together and somehow locked to the same pole.

Also, cops rarely put much effort into trying to catch bike thieves, despite the crude entrapment strategy described in the Daily News story. I had more than a half-dozen good bikes stolen in Philly over the past ten years and reported each theft. The cops who responded to my complaints shrugged then off, and in some cases laughed in my face.

The Daily News reporter called bike theft “a pesky quality-of-life crime,” an expression that both hints at police indifference and points to a big contradiction in the story. Is pesky the right word, given that “11,000 bicycles were reported stolen from 2007 through 2012 in Philly”? Bikes are as important to cyclists as cars are to drivers, but would the Daily News describe the theft of a gas-guzzling Hummer as pesky? And what if the bike owner catches up with the thief and someone gets his head bashed in? Still a pesky crime?

Give the Daily News credit for calling attention to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and StolenBicycleRegistry.com and the Facebook page called Philadelphia Stolen Bikes. Otherwise, the story was mostly a puff piece for the Philly police.

Footnote: Philly might have more bike commuters per capita than any other major city in America, so it’s nice to know city officials are at least working with the Bicycle Coalition to install more racks.

Strike could lengthen war

Patrick Regan is a professor of peace studies and political science at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, who studies violent armed conflict and its resolution:

A significant amount of research, including my own, demonstrates that military interventions from outside states lengthen and make bloodier civil wars. Much of this evidence is the result of statistical modeling of all civil wars and any associated interventions. The data include roughly 1,000 interventions into 100 civil wars over the last 60 years, with research carried out by multiple research teams.

The results point to patterns in what happens when states intervene to try to help their preferred actor, and the results are strong and consistent that interventions rarely work to promote peace or reduce violence. For example, my own research has shown that the likelihood of a civil war lasting for four years without an intervention is 37%, but if there is an intervention the likelihood that it lasts for four years is 60%. The intervention accounts for the 50% increase in the length of the war.

Longer wars are generally bloodier. Examples might include the Nicaraguan war in the 1980s, and the Syrian war up to this point. The meager support for the rebels has allowed them to push harder against the government, and whether or not we support the government, the killing and the war’s duration has only increased.

[…] Even if a U.S. missile strike reflects inadvertent help for the rebels, history does not point to a good outcome for U.S. policy.
The only pathway by which external interventions consistently make for shorter or less bloody wars is through diplomatic efforts to broker a peace agreement. The same modeling evidence suggests that the war in Angola, 1975-1991, could have been shortened by nearly 10 years with well-timed diplomatic interventions.

It’s a miracle


For the past several years, due to tennis elbow (more like cut and paste elbow), I couldn’t straighten my left arm. It wasn’t very painful, it just wouldn’t straighten out no matter what I did (massage, acupuncture, stretching) and it bothered me — I felt deformed!

Well, last week, I walked into something (I forget what) and really slammed my arm, right where the big lump was. I felt a “pop”, and it was gone! And now I can straighten my arm!

I showed it to my physiatrist yesterday.

“Why aren’t you ever normal?” he said, and laughed.


So this NYTimes video is making quite a splash across the internets. I don’t understand why anyone’s surprised.

Didn’t they see the video of the Syrian rebel eating the heart of a Syrian soldier he killed? Or the many execution videos they’ve been posting for the past year or so? This is what war is. Once a war begins, the line between “good guys” and “bad guys” becomes very, very blurred. That’s why it’s important to be as cautious as possible before getting involved — because as we’ve so often learned (although apparently not often enough), the cure may be much worse than the situation we’re attempting to remedy:

The Syrian rebels posed casually, standing over their prisoners with firearms pointed down at the shirtless and terrified men.

“If they regard anyone associated with the old regime as evil, one can only imagine what they will do if they come to power.”

The prisoners, seven in all, were captured Syrian soldiers. Five were trussed, their backs marked with red welts. They kept their faces pressed to the dirt as the rebels’ commander recited a bitter revolutionary verse.

“For fifty years, they are companions to corruption,” he said. “We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.”

The moment the poem ended, the commander, known as “the Uncle,” fired a bullet into the back of the first prisoner’s head. His gunmen followed suit, promptly killing all the men at their feet.

This scene, documented in a video smuggled out of Syria a few days ago by a former rebel who grew disgusted by the killings, offers a dark insight into how many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the regime they are trying to overthrow.

The Assad regime is just as brutal — maybe more. And injecting ourselves into this mess solves what, exactly?


We’ve been reporting for several years about the extraordinary levels of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, where little information was released about what was going on, and there were few opportunities for representatives of civic and other groups to meet with negotiators to present their point of view. More recently, there have been some indications that this lack of transparency is fuelling increasing discontent among some of the participating nations.

In order to get the trade deal sewn up by the end of this year, and before resistance spreads further, the negotiators have decided to hold ‘inter-sessional’ meetings for the remaining unresolved areas. But as this article from Scoop explains, these won’t be like routine TPP meetings, with their routinely unhelpful levels of opacity:

Detective work indicates that informal ‘inter-sessional’ meetings on six chapters are scheduled within the next four weeks — all in North America.

‘ “Inter-sessional” is a misnomer’, says Professor Kelsey, ‘because they are not planning any more formal sessions. There will be no access for the media or stakeholders to these smaller meetings.’

‘Past inter-sessionals have been shrouded in secrecy to ensure we can’t find out what’s happening and we don’t have access to those negotiators who see value in talking with us.’

‘The last three years of the TPPA have been widely condemned for their lack of transparency. The process is now going further underground’.That is, rather than opening up TPP in response to widening criticisms, its negotiators will now be meeting in complete secret, presumably until they emerge with some kind of a deal, however bad. Since no information will be released about those gatherings behind closed doors, and there will be no opportunities to convey concerns to the participants, the public in whose name all these talks are taking place will have no way of knowing what is going on or of offering its views. It’s the ultimate in arrogant, “we know best” negotiations where citizens are expected to accept what is given, no discussion allowed.

H/t Steve Duckett.

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