Thursday, December 25, 2008

Still here

Holiday insanity has hit, and is still hitting.

New posts soon, one hopes.

Have a good Krismas everyone.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What would you do if you didn't have a job?


Jennifer A. Slater explores that in an essay for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

If you’re currently unemployed, don’t despair — set aside a certain amount of time for scouring the want ads, making phone calls and doing your share of worrying — but then take a break from it. You are defined by more than your role as provider or by your occupation for that matter — there’s so much more. Don’t waste this opportunity.

What are some things you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for? Think of things you could accomplish that would make your life easier when you do go back to work. Here are some ideas:

She then goes on to list a series of ideas that will sound terribly familiar to stay-at-home-wives:

  • Cooking - "It became my mission to pore through my cookbooks and spoil my children with home-cooked meals that I had never had the time or energy to prepare."
  • Cleaning - " I cleaned my house! And I’m not talking just hitting the big spots — I mean really cleaned!"
  • Home upkeep - "Like anyone else I have a Honey-Do list. The only problem is, I’m the only Honey in the house"
  • Finishing projects, in her case a book - "This has been one of the most personally rewarding gifts I have received during this drought."
  • Learning new ways to be frugal - "I actually take time now to read the ads for sales and cut out coupons and then plan every week’s meals accordingly. What a concept! I honestly cannot believe the amount of money I’ve saved."
  • Spending time with your kids. - "why didn’t I do this before? Oh yeah, I was always working."
So, cooking for your kids = spoiling them now? Cleaning and maintaining your home is some how special? I can understand finishing a project, but I thought everyone knew about menu planning and saving money. They may not have the time to do it, but they knew about it.

That last one is the kicker for me. Have kids you never spend time with. Why have them in the first place?

She's floored that these things can actually be enjoyable, enriching, and contribute to society. Holy cr*p Batman, it's good to be a housewife!

The only problem being that she's a single mom with three kids, so she has to go back to work. Too bad she didn't think of this before she had them. Too bad the baby boomers (or the feminists or the corporate overlords, pick your arch enemy of the past 40 years) lied to her about how enjoyable, how simply
good, it is to take care of your home and family.

My suggestion to her, if she really doesn't want a husband (which is going to be hard to find with three kids anyway) would be to form a co-op house with some other single parents, of any kind of orientation. Because while those things are fun for you (I know, a shock) they are
amazingly good for your kids. A well-run home, healthy meals, and attention go a long way towards making good kids into good adults.

Take it from the housewives.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tolerance - Thou Shalt Not Steal

Photo copyright Freedom From Religion Foundation

From CNN.com:
Missing atheist sign found in Washington state
By Molly Simpson
CNN

(CNN) -- An atheist sign criticizing Christianity that was erected alongside a Nativity scene was taken from the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington, on Friday and later found in a ditch.
----
The incident will not stifle the group's message, Gaylor said. Before reports of the placard's recovery, she said a temporary sign with the same message would be placed in the building's Rotunda. Gaylor said a note would be attached saying, "Thou shalt not steal."

"I guess they don't follow their own commandments," Gaylor said. "There's nothing out there with the atheist point of view, and now there is such a firestorm that we have the audacity to exist. And then [whoever took the sign] stifles our speech."

According to the Seattle Times, and as seen in this photo:



Copyright Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times

The display consists of a small sign over on the left, near a large nativity scene, and there is supposed to be a menorah around there somewhere. So no, no one has driven Christ or Christmas away from anything. He's still right there, front and center. All we want is equal time.

I want to respond to this somehow, I do. But PZ Myers is calling for us all to take the high road and not declare open season on Nativity scenes. The point is freedom of speech is for everyone.

Personally I think it's fear based. When all you have is a myth that you have to misrepresent in order to even imply that it has any morality at all, threats abound.

Maybe posters nearby. It's a thought.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Five rules for being an adult

Five rules for being an adult. By Annie Lamott. With commentary

1. Have nothing wrong with you.
2. If you do have something wrong with you, don't admit to yourself.
3. If you cannot deny what is wrong with you, hide it from others.
4. If you cannot hide it, at least have the decency to not show up.
5. If you insist on showing up, be ashamed.

------

They sound horrid on first look. But once you get into them, they make sense.


1. Have nothing wrong with you.

You are an adult now. Dealing with your baggage is your own problem. So deal with it. Get thee to a doctor, a shrink, a spiritual adviser, what have you until your issues are worked out. This includes all the issues coming from/dealing with your deity. No one else is going to fix them for you, you have to do the work.

2. If you do have something wrong with you, don't admit to yourself.

If you have yet to do this work, and a situation comes up, emergent or social or otherwise, please try to ignore your issues for the duration and focus on the situation at hand. This means don't bring them up. Do not discuss your deity (including asking everyone to pray), do not discuss your elation/misery over the most recent election, do not comment on your looks or anyone elses, and so on. Don't even think such things if at all possible, so no hint of it will be picked up on by the people around you.

3. If you cannot deny what is wrong with you, hide it from others.

This is the lite version of #2. If you can't stop thinking it for the duration, at the very least don't share. We don't want to know. We have the situation to focus on.

4. If you cannot hide it, at least have the decency to not show up.

If you can't hide it and cannot or will not stop sharing stay home. This goes out especially to those who follow a deity that requires them to pass judgment on others, and those who have body issues that cause them to pass judgment on others. If my size or who I love or the way I dress or the manner in which I raise my children or how I vote or whether or not I submit to anything is something you feel that strongly about, if it is going to be your main focus, just stay home. Don't bother to come out. The adults have a situation to deal with, we do not have time or energy to put into your issue.

5. If you insist on showing up, be ashamed.

You're screwing up life for the rest of us, and making the situation worse. Really, you're acting terribly childish. You should be ashamed.

(h/t to Maggie @ Group News Blog)
--------

Update: According to Maggie Jochild, in the comments here:
The 5 Rules for Being An Adult are sarcasm, folks. She's pointing out how we try to live by impossible, inhumane standards. It's a case of "root out this beliefs inside you and ditch them", because, as she often points out, perfectionism is mental illness.

Because EVERYONE has something "wrong" with them. I read these as a manifesto against self-hatred, especially with regard to the "things wrong" which are utterly visible in our culture, like being nonwhite, being nonmale, being disabled, looking poor, being a child...
It is sarcasm and needs to be rooted out when it applies to such things as being non-white, non-male, disabled and so on. Things that just can't change, that just are.

In my opinion, however, they still apply when referring to such things as prejudice, sexism, homophobia, fatphobia, overt religiosity, and so on.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Well said

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving credit where credit is due

I tend to rant and rage against most practicing Christians, usually because the hypocrisy gets to me so much. One of the things that always drove me insane was how most pro-life groups stopped caring about the baby once it was safely out. I always wondered why it was so wonderful to save a baby, and then not concern themselves with all the children in foster care.

Finally, Focus on the Family is fixing that.

From their website:
Christians have a clear command to care for orphans, and there are many ways to get involved-like praying, giving, mobilizing your church, or adopting. Whichever you decide, we'll provide guidance and support as you walk down this incredibly rewarding path. So embrace the call, avoid the trap of thinking "someone else will help," and let's make the US a place where every orphan waiting in foster care has a family.

Our hope is that you begin to see the face of Christ in each of these children.
From the Denver Post
Adoption effort gets "phenomenal" results
By Electa Draper
The Denver Post
Updated: 11/26/2008 12:36:23 AM MST

About 250 families took the first steps toward adoption of the 790 children waiting in the state's foster-care system after Saturday's "Wait No More" event at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Religious organizations traditionally help with adoptions, state officials said, but the 1,300-person turnout at the one-day event, sponsored by Focus on the Family and New Life, was unprecedented.

It is two to three times the number of people who attend adoption orientations in the seven participating counties in one full year, said Dr. Sharen Ford of the Colorado Division of Child Welfare Services.

"It was phenomenal. It's never happened before that we had faith-based groups, county governments, the state and other agencies in one place at one time," Ford said. "People care about Colorado's kids."

In Colorado, more than 8,000 children are in foster care, said Denver Department of Human Services spokeswoman Laura Coale. Only 790 of them are available for permanent adoption because parental rights have been terminated in their cases, she said.

Focus on the Family's Orphan Care Initiative also will help adoptive families find resources after a child's placement.

"The ultimate goal is to have no children in foster care in Colorado," said Kelly Rosati, senior director of Focus on the Family's Sanctity of Human Life division.

Yes!! I have to applaud them in their efforts. This is a huge problem, and I am absolutely thrilled that they are putting their considerable resources toward solving it.

I disagree with Focus on the Family on just about every other point. But on this issue, right here, I finally have to give them credit.

Patriocentrics take note

Quite possibly that should be patriocentrics and other religious nuts. The bible might say "spare the rod and spoil the child" or some such nelly nonsense, but....

From USA Today
Police: Boy charged with killing dad vowed spanking limit

By Dennis Wagner, The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX — An 8-year-old St. Johns, Ariz., boy charged with double-homicide may have kept a written record of spankings by his parents, vowing that the 1,000th would be his limit, according to a police records released Friday.

A search affidavit by Sgt. Lucas Rodriguez says the child "is believed to have made ledgers and or communicated in the form of writings about his intentions. (The boy) told a CPS. .. worker that when he reached one thousand spankings. .. that would be his limit. (The boy) kept a tally of his spankings on a piece of paper."


In a statement to police a day after the Nov. 5 killings, the boy said he had been spanked the day before the shootings because he did not complete a school assignment.

Assuming that they started beating on the kid at birth he was being beaten every three days. If you assume they started when he was older he was being beaten every other day or perhaps daily.

Don't blame the kid for snapping. Not one bit.

And do not say that a spanking isn't a beating. You are hitting a child to cause pain, it's a beating. I don't care if it's open handed or done with some implement, I don't care if you are angry or calm, I don't care if your preferred parenting guru or some holy book told you it was acceptable, it's
BEATING and it's WRONG. Pure and simple.

Not only does it leave your children hateful and resentful of you, but it destroys their trust in you. So when the bullies want them to commit a crime for them or the bad man comes after them, they aren't going to tell you. They're afraid of you, they might tell you, the person who is supposed to love them and protect them, and you might hit them for it.

Is this the relationship you want with your children?

Do you want them waiting for the day they can leave? Counting the days until they turn 18/graduate high school so they can never look back?

Do you want them to dream of killing you? Do you want them to hate you that much?

Do you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ahead of the melamine curve

From the Washington Post:
Public health groups, consumer advocates and members of Congress blasted the Food and Drug Administration yesterday for failing to act after discovering trace amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula sold in the United States.
.....

The FDA found melamine and cyanuric acid, a related chemical, in samples of baby formula made by major U.S. manufacturers. Melamine can cause kidney and bladder stones and, in worst cases, kidney failure and death. If melamine and cyanuric acid combine, they can form round yellow crystals that can also damage kidneys and destroy renal function.

Melamine was found in Good Start Supreme Infant Formula With Iron made by Nestle, and cyanuric acid was detected in Enfamil Lipil With Iron infant formula powder made by Mead Johnson. A spokesman for Nestle did not respond to repeated calls and e-mails for comment yesterday.

Gail Wood, a spokeswoman for Mead Johnson, said the company does not think that cyanuric acid poses a health threat to infants. "Cyanuric acid is approved by the FDA to sanitize processing equipment," she said. "The risks of not sanitizing equipment are far greater than ultra trace amounts of residual cyanuric acid found in the formula."

......

Agency scientists have maintained they could not set a safe level of melamine exposure for babies because they do not understand the effects of long-term exposure on a baby's developing kidneys. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that infant formula is a baby's sole source of food for many months. Premature infants absorb an especially large dose of the chemical, compared with full-term babies.

Breastfeed, peeps, breastfeed. They released this article on Thanksgiving Day. Not that they were trying to hide it or anything.

Sometimes it's the small things



Old ironworkers ritual - plant the flag on top of the building - captured by a CNN camera crew waiting for a flight...

Amen Keef!!!


Go.

Read.

Here.

More of that old-time tolerance

This one is from Americans United, found via Pharyngula
Last Sunday, Dr. Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists interviewed Joann Bell on his radio show.
-----
As a mother in Little Axe, Okla., Bell experienced first-hand how government-sponsored religion can destroy a community.

In 1981, Bell had just moved to Little Axe and enrolled her children in the local public school system. At that time, school officials were allowing a teacher-sponsored student group called the Son Shine Club to gather before school to pray.

Though the fundamentalist Baptist meetings were supposedly voluntary, the school buses dropped students off 30 minutes before classes started. Those who were not attending the religious meetings had to wait outside the building, sometimes in the rain or cold. The Son Shine sessions also extended into first-hour class time, Bell said.

First break. First question, why was this running into class time? When I was teaching we had to fret over the INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES. According to the state of California we had to teach our students a minimum number of INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES every year, period. If we didn't meet the INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES no one was going on summer break. Snow days or flood days or what have you took away from the INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES and would have to be made up. So would things like certain presentations, class parties, and other happening. So whatever you wanted to do in your classroom you had to take the INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES in to account. I cannot imagine that Oklahoma would be any different.

If this Son Shine Club ran over into the actual school day it would be taking away from the INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES, which would mean that either the teacher was screwing up, and it was being allowed, or they were staying in class X #of days a year to cover for this. Either way, a far more serious issue than most realize, I think.

Question #2, why not have a playground monitor or volunteer teacher or someone covering the library or lunchroom to get these kids out of the weather while they waited?

Oh, riiiight, because the whole point was to coerce the kids into sitting down to listen to the mythology. Odds are they would never come in on their own. Says quite a lot for your omnipotent god and his message there.

One student told a reporter with the National Catholic Reporter in 1984, “If you wanted to be warm, you prayed.”

Moving on...

Bell, who was very active in the Church of the Nazarene, wanted to be able to teach her children about their own religion. But her kids began questioning their beliefs based on what they heard at school. When they came home with Bibles, Bell and another parent, Lucille McCord (a member of the Church of Christ), decided it was time to take it up with the school board.

Point, Bell was another Christian. This was Nazarene vs. Baptist. The Atheists had nothing to do with this one at this point.

The two women were met with hostility. Bell recalled that board members told her “they did things the way they wanted to. If I didn’t like it, that was my problem.” Those at the meeting chanted “atheists, go home!” and one school board member handed out homemade placards to the crowd that said “Commies Go Home.”

That was just the start. After contacting the ACLU and filing a lawsuit, Bell and McCord became the subjects of hatred and even violence. Bell’s house was burned down by a firebomb. McCord’s 12-year-old son’s prize goats were slashed and mutilated with a knife. Bell was assaulted by a school cafeteria worker who smashed her head repeatedly against a car door. (School authorities praised the cafeteria worker, and she was forced to pay a $10 fine and Bell’s hospital bills, community residents raised donations on the assailant’s behalf.) McCord and Bell were both mailed their own obituaries.

No comment

“When I began the suit, I just wanted to stop the religious services at school, but I supported the idea of nonsectarian prayer in the classroom during school,” McCord told the National Catholic Reporter. “Since I’ve seen what religion can do to a community, I don’t support any religious observance in school.”

Amen, sister! This is why I think all secular/athiests should just homeschool. Save you and your kids the stress. Given the christian tendency to want to eliminate real science and change history, your kids will be far better educated anyway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Quote...


...over in the sidebar. It's from an article on Ex-Christian.net, about a place called Calvary Temple. The good pastor, who likes to play with racing cars and married a 20 year old virgin at 55 when his wife died, sounded a lot like the men I grew up around. Then I read this...

At 61, Scott still has the air of the West Coast college football player he once was. He dresses informally, smiles easily and delivers his judgments not by banging the lectern but by using a tone of New Age calm.

In his sermons, he tells of his exploits as a young man, the lure of sports, girls and parties. Born in Monterey, Calif., he was raised in a home where religion wasn't practiced. He was born again at 20.

Yep.

I think she nails it

"A life well spent" James West Cope, 1878

For all that the blogger her is very, very Christian (any blog with "titus 2" or "Proverbs 31" in the title is very, very Christian) I think she hit a very good, secular nail on the head in this entry entitled "Why Modern Motherhood is So Much Harder than it Ought to Be". This section jumped out at me, but the rest is equally excellent:
We are handicapped by our society’s (begrudging at times) acceptance of mothers at home, but total lack of acceptance of women staying home without children. “There’s nothing to do,” the conventional wisdom goes, as if cooking, shopping, and laundry are so incidental as to fit nicely into cracks. The result of this is that, just like Jane in my story, most women don’t come home full time until they become mothers. What few of us take into account is that coming home after spending most of your life in school or at work is a MAJOR life change. We go from almost constant people contact and interaction to hours of solitude. We go from a life in which we are able to complete many tasks (like papers, and work projects) that we will not have to do again, to a world in which we will have to do most of our tasks over, and over, and over. We go from a world in which our work was evaluated by others, and our schedules were, at least to some extent, controlled by others, to a world in which we are almost totally responsible for our own time management, and in which we are only seeking to please our husbands and the Lord. This can be hugely bewildering. It was for me. I was very depressed for a long time when I first came home after graduating from college. It took me between one and two years to wean myself away from dependence on the constant feedback of school grades to confirm my worth.

Becoming a mother is also a MAJOR life change. The responsibility can be overwhelming at times. For the first time in our lives, another human being is completely dependent upon us for everything. This little person can’t even change his own position if he gets uncomfortable or bored. We have to completely adjust our schedules to take into account the baby’s needs, and often our own needs seem lost in the shuffle. Many women face difficulties learning to breastfeed, figuring out sleeping, and yes, even showering with a new baby to care for. Marriages are often in flux at this point, too, as relationships adjust to account for a third family member. On top of this, many of us face the postpartum hormonal roller coaster and the physical pain and exhaustion of recovering from the birth.

It is insane that our culture expects us to go through both changes at once. And yet, for many women, this is the norm. We’ve all heard of “stay at home moms.” “Stay at home wives” and “stay at home daughters” are oddities in most circles.

Go read. It's worth it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the "You can't make this up" file

From the American Family Association, the people who want the Christmas season exclusively for themselves...
Looking for an effective way to express your Christian faith this Christmas season to honor our Lord Jesus? Now you can…. with the “Original Christmas Cross” yard decoration. Light up your front yard, porch, patio, driveway, business, organization or church this holiday season with a stunning Christmas cross. This beautiful Christmas Cross is 5.5 feet tall, with 210 individual ultra bright lights. Decorate this holiday season with the Original Christmas Cross to remind your friends, family, neighbors, and all who drive by your home, office, or church of the real meaning of Christmas.
(found via Godis4Suckers)

Really people, do you not even bother to study history. At all?

(From Wikipedia.com)
In 1915, the same year Birth of a Nation was released, Leo Frank was lynched. Two months after his lynching, the lynchers burnt a cross. William J. Simmons, who founded the new Klan later in the same year, burned a cross at the mountaintop founding ceremony. Many of the participants in Simmons's ceremony were the same men who had helped to lynch Frank.

Many Christians consider it sacrilege to burn or otherwise destroy a cross. The Klan, however, states that it is not destroying the cross, but "lighting" it, as a symbol of the members' faith. [4]

You might want to think before you "light up" this cross on your lawn.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to the melamine problem



It made the NY Times. And don't I feel ahead of the curve.

Go on, check it out.

Our Home-Grown Melamine Problem.

When it comes time to munchkin, I'm going organic. Swear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What caused the mess


I have been noticing on the housefrau blogosphere, the growing meme that the economic mess was caused by the holy trifecta of ACORN, Democrats, and poor brown people. To wit, the Community Reinvestment Act, which required that banks treat poor brown people as badly as they treated poor white people, and not worse, forced banks to lower their standards, make all these subprime loans to people who didn't deserve them, and now look what happens. So we can all happily blame Carter/Reno/Obama/Clinton x2/ ACORN and whoever else we've disliked over the past 30 years.

Sadly, it's not true. The Community Reinvestment Act only said that if the banks were going to lower their standards, they had to lower them for everybody equally. Which they did, and did, and did some more. But if it was all a result of the subprime mess, well, we've allocated enough money to fix all of that already, a few times over. And yet, that's not enough and people are still losing their homes.

No, the real reason is far more complicated, and given the politics of the people involved, far more Republican. I give you, The Evolution of the Credit Default Swap in 7 easy lessons, by Devilstower:

Stage 1 (Perturbo mutans)
You have just made a loan to someone, and now you're nervous that this scoundrel might not pay. What to do, what to do? Ah, but you need not worry! I happen to have assets on hand that can easily cover your petty loan. What's more, for a small monthly fee, I'll be happy to provide you with insurance of a sort. Should the person to whom you've extended a loan prove unreliable, I'll shoulder the burden -- so long as you keep up the payments. Let's call this insurance a... credit default swap.

In 1999, these credit default swaps already existed, but they were a niche product. Only a fraction of banks employed them and then only on a fraction of loans. Without some knock to the system, swaps would probably have remained a relatively small player.

Stage 2 (Perturbo furtiva)
Knock, knock. In 2000 Republican economic hero, Phil Gramm, with the assistance of a small legion of lobbyists, created the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Along with ushering in the Enron disaster, this bill provided the one thing that credit default swaps needed to grow and mutate -- invisibility. Thanks to the CFMA, not only were credit default swaps unregulated, they were impossible to observe directly. Like black holes in deep space, you could only spot swaps by looking at how other things acted nearby.

So, now you've made a loan to someone, and you're worried about it. I want to offer you a credit default swap so I can collect the fee. Trouble is, I don't have the assets to cover your loan. So how can I... hold on, credit default swaps are so unregulated that no one says I actually have to be able to deliver on my promise. Hey, over here! Have I got a swap for you, and it's a bargain.

So now the CDS is a means of moving the risk, but the risk is still as high (or higher, since the original lender might have been better able to cover the loss). In fact, credit default swaps have gone from being a risk mitigator, to a risk magnifier.

Stage 3 (Peturbo veloxicresco)
You have a loan you're worried about. That's good, because lots of people want to offer you swaps. After all, you don't have to have any assets to issue a swap. The investment bank of First Me and The Change I Found In the Couch Cushions can offer swaps for all the debt at Morgan Stanley, and that's okay. I get free money for issuing the swaps, and the swaps have value on the books. So both me and my pal Mr. Stanley have values that are inflating faster than a tick in a blood bank.

Now you can get a swap for any loan you want, and with all the competition, the cost of these swaps is lower, and lower, and lower. Here's an idea: why not go out and make more loans, riskier loans. Why not offer anyone you can collar on the street a loan, no matter whether or not they can pay it off, not because some 30 year old law makes you do it, but because your friend the credit swap makes it perfectly safe!

So many people are offering these things that you could give a loan to Saddam while the bombs are falling without a care in the world. You can always get a swap.

Stage 4 (Fatum casus)
I have a swap. I really, really want someone to take my swap. Only even with every incentive I can offer, not enough people are loaning. Sure, there's a record amount of hypothetical money sloshing around the system thanks to me and my swaps, but it's still not enough. So what can I...

Wait a second. Swaps are unregulated. No one says I have to have enough resources to cover the swap, and even better, no one says I have to offer the swap to the person who actually made the loan! Hey buddy, see that loan over there? You may think it's iffy, but I think it'll hold up. In fact, I'm so sure it will, I'll sell you a credit default swap on it that pays off if it fails. You don't make the loan, you don't have to pay off on the loan, you don't have anything to do with the loan. You just pay me the fee. And if that guy loses his money, you collect. How sweet is that!

This mutation is enormous (see how the genera changed up there?). At this point, credit default swaps have become completely divorced from the original function. A single loan can be covered by multiple swaps. There's a complicated fiscal term for this. It's called gambling, and at this stage, that's all that remains of those little "insurance" policies. They no longer protect anyone from anything, they just offer a chance to place enormous overlapping side bets on everything.

Stage 5 (Fatum insanus)
I have swaps! Get your swaps here! Want a swap on a loan you made? Okay. Want to bet that the bozo in the next cube is making bad loans? We can do that. Want to bundle up some loans and bet on those? Buddy we can do better than that. I can give you a swap on the value of other swaps. Now we're really in business.

Who owns the original loan? Don't know, don't care. Who's actually responsible for the money if that loan should fail? Ehhh, can't really say. Has anyone noticed that a single bad loan could cause a cascade of swap calls that bounce around the system like a rocket-power pinball? Shut up.

Isn't anyone worried that this is the most massive house of cards ever constructed in human history? Lookit, what part of "we took 120 billion in bonuses out of this place in the last five years" are you missing?

Stage 6 (Fatum exicelebritas)
Hey, my loan went bad. Can I have my money from that swap, please?

Stage 7 (Fatum cerus)
Oh sh*t.


Yes, it's a simple as that. The bankers made up money so they could
gamble. They talked people into loans no one could afford so the bankers could gamble. They made everyone's life miserable by messing up the economy so bad that the only way to feel like you were at all keeping up was to max out your credit cards so the bankers could gamble.

We are all the victims here. Poor, middle-class, white and brown alike.

Come to think of it, maybe the Community Reinvestment Act is part of the problem. If it wasn't, maybe at least the poor, brown people wouldn't be in this handbasket with the rest of us.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another round of tolerance


(From RawStory via Orcinus)

Idaho students chant 'assassinate Obama' on school bus

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday November 12, 2008


Madison County, Idaho was once dubbed "the reddest place in America" by Salon, but that didn't make it any less shocking when elementary school children allegedly started chanting "assassinate Obama" on the school bus.

Matthew Whoolery told KIKD News he found out about the chanting from his second and third graders, who had no idea what the word "assassinate" meant.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," Whoolery stated. "I think the thing that struck us was just like, 'Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'"

Whoolery, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, is not an Obama supporter, but he was shocked that any public official would be threatened in that way. "I don't think that the majority of people in Rexburg have extreme ideas like that, but we were just surprised that it would go that far," Whoolery told KIKD.

The Madison County School District has sent out an email saying that students are to be told this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

Find more, and video, at the RawStory link above.

Children know. You can say you're tolerant, you're trying to be bipartisan, you're trying to get on with you life, but children always know what's really going on at home.

Nice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What I believe in - v.1.0

Cindy asked a question in comments. She wanted to know what an agnostic is and what I believe in. I think that's a good question to answer right up here. Hopefully I'll cover most topics.

I always like to start with a few defenitions. All from www.m-w.com, of course :
Athest:

Main Entry:
athe·ist           Listen to the pronunciation of atheist
Pronunciation:
\ˈā-thē-ist\
Function:
noun
Date:
1551
: one who believes that there is no deity
Agnostic
Main Entry:
1ag·nos·tic           Listen to the pronunciation of 1agnostic
Pronunciation:
\ag-ˈnäs-tik, əg-\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Greek agnōstos unknown, unknowable, from a- + gnōstos known, from gignōskein to know — more at know
Date:
1869
1: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable ; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god2: a person unwilling to commit to an opinion about something agnostics>
ag·nos·ti·cism           Listen to the pronunciation of agnosticism \-tə-ˌsi-zəm\ noun
Theist

Main Entry:
the·ism           Listen to the pronunciation of theism
Pronunciation:
\ˈthē-ˌi-zəm\
Function:
noun
Date:
1678
: belief in the existence of a god or gods ; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world
Deist
Main Entry:
de·ism           Listen to the pronunciation of deism           Listen to the pronunciation of deism
Pronunciation:
\ˈdē-ˌi-zəm, ˈdā-\
Function:
noun
Usage:
often capitalized
Date:
1682
: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe
------

I consider myself an Agnostic, simply because right now, with the tools we have, we will never know with 100% certainty that there is a deity out there. Dawkins argues in The God Delusion that any creator would have to have evolved as well, in the same way we have. I agree. He argues this is impossible I do not. I argue that it is entirely possible that at some point in the future we will develop a set of tools, be they scientific or mathematical, that will enable us to prove the existence of a deity one way or the other.

That said I think the probability of there being a deity out there is extremely slim. However, there have been a number of cases in my life where someone with scientific training has said "This is this. According to all the evidence we have, this is this, this means this, and this is what you need to commit to right now to deal with it." Every time I have said to them "I have time, this doesn't need to be committed to today. Let's let science work on it a while and see what they come up with." the story has eventually changed, and my life has been better for not committing.

So, I don't think we have to have to commit to the question of god or no god today. Let's let science work on it for a while, see what happens.

------

I consider myself a Deist. That is, I believe that if there is a god out there, he is neither imminent not transcendent. I believe he takes no account of the day-to-day doings on this or any other planet. At best, he set off the Big Bang and walked away.

I do believe in some kind of life after death. I don't believe in heaven, or hell, except what we make ourselves, but I do believe that something carries on.

------

I don't believe the bible is the revealed word of anyone. I believe the Old Testament is a collection of ancient mythology. I believe the gospels may very well have been commissioned. I believe Paul was a misogynistic, power-hungry politician, who's writings shouldn't be allowed around small children for fear of spreading his evil.

I have read the bible, cover to cover, more than once. Didn't help. I do not read the bible on a daily basis.

------

I consider myself culturally Catholic. That is, I was raised in a Catholic home and attended Catholic school. I even boarded in a convent-based Catholic high school. Because of this I am most familiar with, and so comfortable with, the Catholic liturgical year.

The same can be said about my husband and my mother. My in-laws are devoutly Catholic. We attend mass when we visit my in-laws.

I spent a number of years participating in my father's Pagan faith, until I decided there was no Goddess either. I met my husband through our Pagan "church", and we were married by a Pagan elder.

Because of our combined Pagan/Catholic background we tend to celebrate a combination of holidays from both faiths. We happily celebrated Christmas until the AFA decided to raise a stink, now it's Krismas for us. We celebrate Easter Sunday, as well as the equinoxes and solstices. Usually by changing the decorations in the house, we don't attend any religious rituals anymore.

We both volunteer. Not through church, obviously, but with our State Defense Force which assist the National Guard, and through the hospital where he works. In the past we've volunteered with out county Search and rescue, and with the American Legion, among others.

fwiw, I have both Christian and Pagan music on my iPod. But jazz is my favorite.

------

The big question that always comes up is "What about the children?". If my husband didn't work on Sundays we would attend services at the nearby Unitarian Universalist church. I taught Sunday school there for a number of years, and still have copies of their curriculum. I plan to use these to homeschool our children in all faiths, so that they will have the background to make their own decisions as they grow.

The UU congregation upholds these seven principals:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Or in the children's version:
1. Each person is important.
2. Be kind in all you do.
3. We're free to learn together.
4. We search for what is true.
5. All people need a voice.
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
7. We care for Earth's lifeboat.
Which works as a framework for the values we want to teach our children along the line. We believe children are inherently moral, not inherently depraved, and need only to learn how to apply that morality in ever increasing circles as they grow.

(For more on that I suggest referencing Dale McGowan's Best Practices #`1, and Best Practices #2)

------

And to cover a few hot topics...

I believe in the concept of a home manager, not because a myth told me so, but because it's good practice. I believe it leads to healthier families, healthier people, and eventually a healthier economy. I believe the concept of a home manager can be applied to a female-run home, a male-run home, or a collective home where multiple "families" are run by one person. I've seen all of the above work, and work well.

At the moments I'm dresses only. If I ever find truly comfortable jeans this will change.

I believe homosexuals should have the right to marry. In fact I believe in most cases they make better parents than heterosexual couples.

I believe in a woman's right to choose, because I don't want government coming between me and my doctor on any decision. That said, I think abortion is wrong. I agree with former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders when she said that the best form of birth control would be to teach young people about masturbation. However, that was before the internet. I think if you can't figure that out on your own now you shouldn't abort just for being stupid.

You can read her opinion on the topic here.

I would state my opinion on most Christian doctrine concerning sex and pregnancy, but I've already done a number of blog posts on that. You can just read back.

I do believe, if you are going to be pro-life, you should be pro-all life. That means being anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-AIDS research, and an environmentalist.

I think that the theory of Natural Selections is the best one we have, and that Creationism is a myth. I think that Global Warming is a real threat.

I voted Obama. Read down to find out what I think about Palin.

------

I think that covers everything. Any questions?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Excuse me

Found on CNN.com
Palin says she's be honored to help Obama
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday that she would be honored to help President-elect Barack Obama in his new administration, even if he did hang around with an "unrepentant domestic terrorist."

he Alaska governor said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she would be willing to help if Obama asked her for assistance on some of the issues she highlighted during this year's campaign, such as energy or services for special-needs children.

"It would be my honor to assist and support our new president and the new administration," said Palin, whom Sen. John McCain chose as his running mate in August.

"I speak for other Republicans and Republican governors, also," she said.

"They would be willing also to seize this opportunity that we have to progress this nation together, in a united front."

But asked moments later about some of the tough rhetoric she hurled from the stump, she said she was "still concerned" about Obama's ties to former Weather Underground member-turned-Chicago college professor William Ayers.

"If anybody still wants to talk about it, I will," she said. "Because this is an unrepentant domestic terrorist who had campaigned to blow up, to destroy our Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol.

"That's an association that still bothers me, and I think it's fair to still talk about it," she continued.

"However, the campaign is over. That chapter is closed. Now is the time to move on and make sure all of us are doing all that we can to progress this nation."
Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, have you not figured out BY NOW that no one gives two sh*ts about Ayers. He's OLDnd OLD NEWS, all right. We have CURRENT problems to deal with. Remember the wars we have going on? The fact that your Republican friends have a** raped our economy and are destroying any chance we have of getting off their golf buddy's oil teat? That going to the emergency room is not a cost-effective medical plan?

Woman, you are willfully ignorant, utterly hiedbound and completely out of touch.

YOU LOST!

Now shut up and go home.

And yo, CNN? Yea, you guys...remember that Pew Research Poll

Internet Now Major Source of Campaign News

Many more Americans are turning to the internet for campaign news this year as the web becomes a key source of election news. Television remains the dominant source, but the percent who say they get most of their campaign news from the internet has tripled since October 2004 (from 10% then to 33% now).

While use of the web has seen considerable growth, the percentage of Americans relying on TV and newspapers for campaign news has remained relatively flat since 2004. The internet now rivals newspapers as a main source for campaign news. And with so much interest in the election next week, the public's use of the internet as a campaign news source is up even since the primaries earlier this year. In March, 26% cited the internet as a main source for election news, while the percentages citing television and newspapers remain largely unchanged.

Do you really think interviewing ignorant, hidebound, losers who shopped their way through the campaign is going to help those numbers?

Really?

Christe people, catch a clue.

Well, yea, but....

So the American Family Association is at it again:
It's hard to believe that there are companies and individuals who want to ban "Merry Christmas" and replace it with "Holiday Greetings" because, they say, they don't want to offend anyone.
Yes, because it would be so easy to get confused. I had an argument about this with a friend one time. She was/still is I assume an uberChristian, and swore up and down that they, the great conspiratorial they, wanted to Paganize the holiday. Mostly she, and the AFA, were/are referring to the retail sector, where, you know, displays like this just scream Yule, or Hanukkah, or Diwali.

I had to point out to her that
they weren't trying to Paganize Christmas, being a devote Pagan at the time. I had yet to walk into a store and hear someone wish me a "Good Yule!" or a "Happy Hanukkah" or "Have a fun Diwali" or whatever. They were trying to commercialize and secularize the holiday season. Which might be egregious, but is not the same thing.

So with that red herring dropped, we come to the next line of the AFA press release:
Christians can take a stand and proclaim to our communities that Christmas is not just a winter holiday focused on materialism, but a "holy day" when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. We can do it in a gentle and effective way by wearing the “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas" button.
I agree that the focus shouldn't be on materialism, but does it being a "holy day" mean that the rest of us can't celebrate it too? Just hogging all the traditions and festivities for yourself, hm?

I hearby suggest that all my readers, of any non-Catholic/Christian persuasion use the appropriate greeting for the holiday. Happy Haunkkah, Good Yule, what have you. The holiday season is for
everyone, the AFA and it's followers need to know that it's our country too. They have to share.

Now, as for those of us who are of the Humanist/Atheist/Agnostic persuasion, what are we supposed to do? I give you....

Krismas!

What is Krismas?

Krismas is a secular holiday that celebrates the myth of Kris Kringle, commonly known as Santa Claus. It happens on December 25th of each year, and is also closely associated with Krismas Eve which occurs December 24th. Krismas is part of the "12 Days of Secular Celebration"

Krismas is about celebrating most of the modern mythologies surrounding Christmas, except for the mythology of the birth of Jesus as a savior.

Krismas is about giving gifts, especially those “from the heart”; it is about the magic of childhood; it is about peace on earth; and it is about goodwill towards humankind. It is about the universal truths of goodness that surround this time of year.

Who should celebrate Krismas?

Anyone who wishes to extract from Christmas all the traditions that they deem to be good, without needing to feel like they need to believe in the Jesus savior mythology might want to celebrate Krismas.

I suspect that many atheists, agnostics, neo-pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, or other non-Abraham followers may want to celebrate this holiday. Some Muslims and Jews may also wish to celebrate this holiday. There may even be a few “liberal” Christians who see the benefit of celebrating this holiday.

Why was the name "Krismas" chosen?

First and foremost, the name was chosen because it sounds nearly identical to Christmas. If someone had Trademarked the name “Christmas”, we’d probably be sued. But as far as we are aware, that name is in the public domain :-) The idea behind having a nearly identical name is that you can wish someone a Merry Krismas without needing to explain a whole new holiday, in fact the other person will probably just assume you said “Christmas”. So this holiday can blend into our current traditions very easily, without getting people who may not have the same beliefs as you all riled up. But you still don’t have to accept the part about Jesus being a savior, or even the existence of Jesus if you so choose.
(From the Krismas Wiki here)

Problem, solved! Keep wishing everyone a Merry Christmas Krismas, and be sure to spread the idea of Krismas far and wide.

I even give you a button:

Which should be linked to http://www.krismas.org Not the best button, perhaps, but it will do for now. And if you want to get away from the commercialization of Krismas, I suggest handmade/homemade gifts and decorations.

So, remember, as we ramp up to the holiday season, you share this country with people of all faiths. That means sharing the season too.

An argument for a home manager

I found an interesting article over at the NY Times, Money Is Tight, and Junk Food Beckons by Tara Parker-Pope. It's about a couple who ran themselves an experiment, living on $1.00 worth of food a day in the US, for one month.

The standout quote:
One of the biggest changes was the time they had to spend in meal preparation.

“If you’re buying raw materials, you’re spending more time preparing things,” Mr. Greenslate said. “We’d come home after working 10 to 11 hours and have to roll out tortillas. If you’re already really hungry at that point, it’s tough.”

One of my favorite arguments for having someone manage at home is that it's healthier for the budget as well as the body. Having someone at home means home cooking the bulk of the time.

Think about it, most people work an 8 hour day. That doesn't count lunch, of course, or commute time, factor those in and you're gone usually 11 hours. You come in the door, and you're tired, and your hungry, and so are your kids who have been gone that much time as well, and no one wants to go cook for 30 min to an hour to get to food. And
no one wants to clean up the mess afterward. How much easier to pick up drive-through on the way home, eat, and toss the mess.

With a home manager or homemaker in the family, dinner is on the table around the time you get home. If they're doing their job much of the mess should be cleaned up (no one is perfect, I usually have a mess lingering, but that
is the ideal.) And at a minimum the kids have been home for a few hours and have had a chance to mellow out. Even if said kids have been pulled in every know direction, and you're eating take-out because of it, it's a conscious decision on your part to enroll them in soccer/ballet/piano/what all, no? You have the option to make healthy, home-cooked meals a priority if you want to.

According to the article the average American spends $7/day on food. The husband and I eat very well on roughly half that. That right there is a big part of my "income" as a homemaker.

I don't like to use the term "housewife" too much because some of the Religiously Righteous like to proclaim that only a woman can care for a home, and caring for a home is the only job for women. Horse hockey! A woman can do it, a man can do it, a group of people can come together collectively and have one person do it for a number of smaller families (admittedly rarer, but I've seen a couple of households run like this and they ran very well.) The point is the
someone does it. Otherwise you're all just working to like the corporate pockets, spending far too much on food prep and upkeep and fuel and who knows what else, all the while trying to buy happiness. It just doesn't work.

So, reason #2 why Home Managers are a valuable part of society: They save money and help make people healthier by cooking at home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Head...Desk...repeat...again

No clue who took it, or exactly where, but you know...it doesn't even need a caption.

( h/t to dhonig)

Monday, November 10, 2008

More on tolerance

During the election I had an ongoing series on Conservative/Christian tolerance over on the Progressive Homemakers blog, to counter the idea that Progressives/Liberals were cruel and intolerant and Christians were all hearts and rainbows.

The series continues.

Now, I will not say that Liberals have been kind to Bush or the Republican party these past 8 years. We've made snarky comments:



We've pointed out his shortcomings:



We've disabused his leadership:



We've even called his actions criminal, and called for those actions to be answered:





However, to the best of my knowledge, we never, ever, went this far:



Note to whoever put that on CafePress: The Secret Service has been notified.

(All pictures but that last one, found on and copyright to Northern Sun. Go buy stuff and give them money. I do.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

You cannot have it both ways

I think this is going to become a regular series around here. Post pointing out places where people seem to expect to have it both ways, their cake and eat it too, their half of the world and mine...well, you get the idea.

Here we go.

--------

Our first entry is on early abortion. Very specifically abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, including the Morning After pill.

On the one hand, Conservative Christians and Pro-Lifers, including those in the medical field, claim that life begins at the moment of conception. As soon as sperm meets egg life has begun, and must be cherished. It's alive, it feels pain, it's a miracle. Ending that life is murder.

Unless you're having a miscarriage. In which case those in the medical field, including Conservative Christians and Pro-Lifers, will tell you it's a "chemical pregnancy", an errant bunch of cells, a mistake. It's not alive, it feels no pain, and it can just be flushed away. So not even alive it's not even worth mourning.

You cannot have it both ways.

Either it's a life, which deserves to be mourned like the loss of any other life, and you should be shoveling serious amounts of money at research to reduce the 10-35% of pregnancies that end in miscarriage. Or it's not a life, and someone should be able to remove that clump of cells as easily as they remove any other.

Pick one. You cannot have it both ways.

------

Our second installment today comes to us via the economy.

Anyone else remember the stories over the past few decades, on how American's have a negative savings rate? American's buy everything on credit, spending all their pay and then some. it's disgraceful, it's dangerous, it's simply wrong. American's need to be more frugal, more careful with credit, save for a rainy day. Isn't that what led to the current crisis, people buying houses they couldn't afford, putting all their furnishings on credit cards, then refinancing to pay off the cards, so they could charge more, and so on? Until they couldn't make the payments, then all those mortgages became "toxic waste" and all the banks got nervous and bam, here we are.

Except that not spending money may lead to a deflationary spiral, as shops lower prices to try to get you frugal sorts to please spend something.
In economics, a deflationary spiral is a situation where decreases in price lead to lower production, which in turn leads to lower wages and demand, which leads to further decreases in price. Since reductions in general price level are called deflation, a deflationary spiral is when reductions in price lead to a vicious circle, where a problem exacerbates its own cause. The Great Depression was regarded as a deflationary spiral.
(from Wikipedia)

You cannot have it both ways.

Either we save money, or we spend money. If we're careful with credit, if we're frugal, if we look for bargains and patiently wait for the best price we could put the country into a deflationary spiral. If we max our cards, tap our houses for money, spend more than we can afford, we put the country into a credit crisis.

Pick one. You cannot have it both ways. And while unlike our first option a middle way might be possibly, it's very fine and narrow and I think it's too late to find it anyway.

------

I have no doubt there will be more of these in the future.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Time Management for Anarchists

No really, it's here.

It's about the best, simplest, most straightforward how-to for time management I've seen. It's a short flash animation, so beware the sound effect. Really, just a tidy little thing.

Have fun with it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Point

A quote from gracchus, which I think needs more press:

The GOP is run by rich folks, and basically looks after their class interests; low taxes, no estate taxes, helping out business. However, there are not enough rich folks to elect a president, even if you count the toadies, the hangers-on, the wanna-bes and the folks who think they're rich but aren't. So the party has to use the religious right as its actual voters, and this group includes a fair number of folks who AREN'T rich.

To gather this group in, the GOP promises, but doesn't deliver, a return to a simpler age where abortion was done in back allies, gays were closeted family men who could be thrown in jail and the black folks and the Jews knew their place. It's been a 30-year exercise in stringing these folks along. The rich people who pay for the party have neither interest in making good nor incentive; once abortion is made nationally illegal a lot of the religious right probably won't bother turning up to vote.

Think about that last line:

once abortion is made nationally illegal a lot of the religious right probably won't bother turning up to vote.

Really, if you are one of the single-issue voters out there, one who started out not wanting either candidate because neither was firm enough on Row v. Wade, and who then embraced Palin simply because she didn't abort that baby, think about that. If abortion was illegal, would any of the rest matter enough to get you out to vote?

..
..
..

No, abortion will never be illegal in this country. The only way to end it is to end the need for it. With education, birth control availability, financial help for those who want to keep their babies, and both incentives and a serious cultural shift toward adoption as an alternative.

You know, the so-called liberal, socialist agenda.

Thoughts on Grace

No, not that Grace. Although she clearly had the kind of grace I'm referring to.

And not definition #1 either.
Grace

Main Entry:
1grace Listen to the pronunciation of 1grace
Pronunciation:
\ˈgrās\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin gratia favor, charm, thanks, from gratus pleasing, grateful; akin to Sanskrit gṛṇāti he praises
Date:
12th century

1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b: a virtue coming from God c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

2 a: approval , favor barchaic : mercy , pardon c: a special favor : privilege d: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency e: a temporary exemption : reprieve

3 a: a charming or attractive trait or characteristic b: a pleasing appearance or effect : charm c: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

4—used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop

5: a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks

6plural capitalized : three sister goddesses in Greek mythology who are the givers of charm and beauty

7: a musical trill, turn, or appoggiatura

8 a: sense of propriety or right b: the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful


synonyms see mercy


That kind of grace. A number of housefrou bloggers have shown such grace in the wake of the election, even while a few have called this a Socialist coup. I have to say, I admire the ones who have show such grace, it is a truly admirable quality.

Sadly, it's one I'm still working on. For now I have to agree with John Aravosis:
After eight years of having Republicans call me an un-American troop-hating fag-loving socialist, after months of John McCain embracing the hate to a level where his own supporters were calling out for Barack Obama to be assassinated, no one is going to be permitted to tell me with a straight face that "oh you know, both sides do it."

Your side was abominable. Your side was hateful. Your side race-baited. Your side gay-baited. Your side lied like we've never seen in recent presidential campaign history. Your side used a tax-cheat who would do better under Obama's tax proposal to be your everyman on the issue of taxes. Your side, in a veiled effort at race-baiting, said Obama doesn't put his country first. Your side had the audacity to call Obama a socialist. Your side suggested he was a Muslim. Your side suggested he was a terrorist. Your side suggested he was Osama bin Laden.

Spare me the crap about how both sides do it. You people are a disgrace, you've been a disgrace for eight long years, and all your hate and lying and venom and vitriol finally bit you in your collective fat ass.

To lying, race-bating and gay-bashing, as the list of negative traits, I have to add bilking the country out of trillions to line the coffers of churches and corporate sycophants, and elevating ignorance and illiterate stupidity to the level of virtues to aspire to. As exemplified by insisting that GW Bush and Sarah Palin, who apparently thought Africa was a country and had trouble identifying the countries in North America, were the kind of leaders you wanted, and wanted to be like. So that would be eight years of lying, race-bating, gay-bashing, swindling and embarrassing us as a nation.

All of which was not only acceptable but so preferable you wanted four more years of it, all because they claimed belief in the same mythology you hold to.

Hopefully I'll have the grace thing worked out by January. I'm trying.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Head...desk...repeat

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems."
(h/t to Wonkette by way of Pharyngula)

For commentary I'd like to open this up to a guest blogger

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let's look at this again, shall we?

I was watching the local news tonight, and they had a segment on kidney stones in children. From Johns Hopkins Medical:
Kidney stones in children-considered all but a medical aberration until recently-are now becoming a fairly common condition. It’s a growing and disturbing trend that has pediatricians at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and around the country, sounding the alarm.
However:

While doctors have yet to quantify the precise increase and tease out the factors behind it-better detection devices probably play some role-pediatricians agree that too much salt and too little drinking water in children’s diets are probably the main culprits.

“More and more children with kidney stones are coming to us,” says kidney specialist Alicia Neu, M.D., co-director of the kidney stone clinic at the Children’s Center. “While this is somewhat unexpected, it is not totally surprising given that so many other conditions are on the rise in children due to poor diet, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity to name a few.”

You see, in the US, it's always your fault. Your children should be on a lettuce and water diet and move constantly 12 hours a day, and if not, any illness they encounter is your fault.

Now the segment started by highlighting this problem. From Wikipedia:

The 2008 Chinese milk scandal is a food safety incident in mainland People's Republic of China involving milk and infant formula, and other food materials and components, which had been adulterated with melamine. With mainland China's wide range of export food products, the scandal has affected countries on all continents. By the end of September, an estimated 94,000 victims have been claimed;[1] four infants have died from kidney stones and other kidney damage.[2][3] The chemical appeared to have been added to milk in order to cause it to appear to have a higher protein content. The same chemical was also involved in a series of pet food recalls in 2007. In a separate incident, watered-down milk resulted in 13 infant deaths from malnutrition in mainland China in 2004.[4]

Let me pull a sentence out of that:

By the end of September, an estimated 94,000 victims have been claimed;[1] four infants have died from kidney stones and other kidney damage.[2][3]

So when children get kidney stones here, it's all because we're idiots who don't read or listen to the news or to our doctors. All of a sudden our children are eating massive amounts of salty foods, just over the past few years, even though they have been beating us over the head with the idea that our kids eat too much junk and are blowing up like balloons. Parents are all clearly dumb f*cks who just don't listen

But when it happens in Asia, it's the result of contaminated food products.

Again, from Wikipedia:

Chinese protein export contamination was first identified after the wide recall of many brands of cat and dog food starting in March 2007 (the 2007 pet food recalls), and eventually involved the human food supply. The recalls in North America, Europe and South Africa came in response to reports of kidney failure in pets. Initially the recalls were associated with the consumption of mostly wet pet foods made with wheat gluten from a single Chinese company. In the following weeks, several other companies who received the contaminated wheat gluten also voluntarily recalled dozens of pet food brands. One month after the initial recall, contaminated rice protein from a different source in China was also identified as being associated with kidney failure in pets in the United States, while contaminated corn gluten was associated with kidney failure with pets in South Africa.

The Chinese government was initially slow to respond. Both government officials and manufacturers went so far as to deny that vegetable protein was even exported from China and refused for weeks to allow foreign food safety investigators to enter the country.[1][2] Ultimately, the Chinese government acknowledged that contamination had occurred and arrested the managers of two protein manufacturers identified so far and took other measures to improve food safety and product quality.[3]

The first and most easily identified contaminant in the vegetable protein is melamine. However, melamine is not considered to be especially dangerous to animals or humans, and so investigators have continued to examine the role of other contaminants found to be present in the proteins, including cyanuric acid. Current research has focused on the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid in causing renal failure. Reports that cyanuric acid may be an independently and potentially widely-used adulterant in China have heightened concerns for both pet and human health.[4]

If it's not harmful to humans, why were those babies getting sick? Turns out it is harmful to one type of human, babies and young children.

The US FDA said that while in general, food containing melamine below 2.5 parts per million did not raise concerns, its scientists were "currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns."[203]

On October 3, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that up to 2.5 parts per million of melamine was safe for adults, but declined to set a standard for children. The FDA also implied it would not permit the sale of food deliberately adulterated (rather than accidentally contaminated) with melamine.[33] Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, Chairwoman of the House subcommitee which oversees the Food and Drug Administration subcommittee, said anything less than zero tolerance would not protect consumers.[34] DeLauro criticised the FDA's "acceptable level for melamine in food" was an insult to consumers, and would give the impression that the FDA was condoning intentional contamination.[35]

Note the date on that. Not quite a month ago.

And now the problems have been growing

The search widened when some manufacturers reported not using Chinese milk. The Sri Lankan manufacturer of Munchee Lemon Puff biscuits tested positive in Switzerland categorically stated that its milk powder or milk products were sourced only from Australia, Holland and Canada;[171] similarly, Pokka products without milk or its derivatives from China were found by Vietnamese authorities to be contaminated.[198]

Baking powder

Malaysian authorities determined that ammonium bicarbonate, not milk, imported from China was the source of contamination at Khong Guan and Khian Guan.[141] On 19 October, 2008 Taiwanese authorities detected melamine in 469 tons of baking ammonia imported from China. Samples tested showed up to 2,470ppm of melamine.[199] The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has ordered importers and retailers to withdraw all Malaysia-made Julie's brand of biscuits taken off their shelves. This was after AVA detected the industrial chemical melamine in 12 Julie's biscuit products imported from Malaysia.

Chicken and eggs

Japanese and South Korean authorities' tests on imported egg powder from China found melamine contamination. Japan found melamine in frozen fried chicken imported from China.[200] The South Korean supplies were traced to two companies in Dalian.[201]. On 26 October, Hong Kong authorities discovered 4.7ppm melamine in eggs produced in Dalian.[29] Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health, York Chow, suspected the melamine came from feed given to the chickens that laid the eggs.[202][29] On 29 October Hong Kong authorities announced that tests done on eggs imported from Jingshan Pengchang Agricultural Product Co. of China's central Hubei province found an excessive amount of melamine. The melamine concentration for the Jinshan eggs contained melamine of 2.9 parts per million.

On 28 October, 2008 Wal-Mart stores in China also began removing Kekeda brand eggs, produced by Hanwei Group. On 29 October, 2008 the Taiwanese Department of Health said that protein powder imported from China was found to contain 1.90 parts per million (ppm) to 5.03ppm of melamine. This is announced after randomly testing 13 batches of protein powder, six of which were contaminated with melamine. The companies that produced the powder were Jilin Jinyi Egg Products Co Ltd and Dalian Green Snow Egg Product Co, Ltd.

In October 2008, "Select Fresh Brown Eggs" imported to Hong Kong from the Hanwei Group in Dalian in northeastern China, were found to be contaminated with nearly twice the legal limit of melamine. York Chow, the health secretary of Hong Kong, said he thought animal feeds might be the source of the contamination and announced that the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety would henceforward be testing all mainland Chinese pork, farmed fish, animal feed, chicken meat, eggs, and offal products for melamine. [55]

Yes, the melamine got into fresh chicken and fresh eggs via contaminated chicken feed. It looks to me like it concentrates up the food chain. They also found it in baking powder. Both of those were found this month.

So, what are we supposed to do, especially if you're like me, trying for a pregnancy in the coming months and wanting to do what's best for your children?

Breastfeed. Then spend a lot more on groceries.

Buy fresh local, for one thing. It doesn't have to be organic, I called Umpqua, our regional dairy and asked them about glutens in their products. All the stuff they use is produced in the US, period. And preferably in Oregon. When you can't buy local buy organic, most of those farmers are smaller, and will answer questions if you call. Produce your own baked goods, breads, cookies, crackers from wheat products you know to be grown and processed in the US. For everything else, follow a gluten free diet. It's a pain, no doubt about it, but people with celiac disease follow it all the time, and they manage. I'll have a couple of links on what to look out for at the end.

Oh yea, isn't the government doing anything about this?
In October 2008, the U.S. FDA issued new methods for the analysis of melamine and cyanuric acid in infant formulations in the Laboratory Information Bulletin No 4421 [56]. Similar recommendations have been issued by other authorities, like the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare [57], both based on LC MS/MS detection after HILIC separation [58]
Funny how that timing works. Note, that just says infant formulas.

Just remember, if you don't have celiac disease, or any other medical reason for avoiding gluten in particular, you can eat wheat and baked good. What you need to do for your children is keep them away from gluten manufactured in China, since melamine contamination appears to be more common than the government or the media is letting on.. Since there's no way to tell from reading labels if the gluten in processed foods came from China, all you can do is avoid it all together.

I don't know what to do about baking powder. But that's a minimal thing in any diet.

Just remember, even if a food product is assembled in the US, it's components may have come from China.

They keep saying parents aren't feeding their children responsibly, well, maybe it's time we did.

-----
Wikipedia links referenced:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_pet_food_recalls
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_protein_export_contamination
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melamine#Testing_for_melamine_and_cyanuric_acid_in_food


http://www.dietsite.com/dt/Diets/FoodSensitivities/GlutenFreeDiet.asp
http://www.the-gluten-free-chef.com/foods-containing-gluten.html
http://diet.lovetoknow.com/wiki/List_of_Foods_Containing_Gluten