B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

2016 Iowa Caucus Over

Cash For Gold
Cash For Electoral Gold…

I confess I follow American presidential elections as closely as some people follow sports. In many ways, modern American politics is covered like a sporting event, or season. Like I have many times in the past, I’ve created a spreadsheet to keep track of the delegate count, including super delegates. Don’t judge.

The short-fingered vulgarian didn’t win, despite leading in polls. I would say it is pretty safe to be suspicious of polling data in our modern mobile phone era. However, the actual delegate count is pretty minuscule: Cruz has 8, Trump and Rubio have 7. No wonder Trump’s concession speech wasn’t that fiery. How many millions did John Ellis Bush! Bush spend to get that one delegate? Yikes.

 Iowa Caucus 2016 Results

A few random snippets in response to last night’s Iowa Caucus results

Charles Pierce warns us of Rubio-mentum:

I got back from Haysville in time to listen to Marco Rubio declare his magnificent victory as the show horse in the Republican field. I will grant you that he surpassed everyone’s expectations—including my own—by clearing the 20 percent mark on Monday night. I even will grant you that he is probably the choice now of every Republican terrified of He, Trump and utterly skeeved out by Tailgunner Ted Cruz. Some of the others might get some run in New Hampshire. (Not Jeb-!-, please god. That would be cruel.) But this looks like a three-man race now, and the Rubio campaign did a masterful job pitching that notion over the last four days before the caucuses, and much of the elite political press bit for it. Now, Rubio was up there, defining himself as The Alternative in a political environment already primed by his campaign to believe it.

We’re going to hear a lot of it going into New Hampshire and going forward. I suspect we might hear a bit less about Rubio’s having turtled on immigration and his enthusiastic embrace of every euphemism for “torture” that can be found in the thesaurus. If the Republican “establishment” is going to groom him, those are the topics that are going to be limited to the inside voice, at least until we all get to South Carolina, where Rubio once again can run as the fanged chameleon that he is. But, give him credit. The man’s got a campaign that knows its business.

 

(click here to continue reading Media Crowns Marco Rubio the Real Winner in Iowa.)

One of These Things Is Not Like The Others
One of These Things Is Not Like The Others

continuing with the sports metaphors:

In a handful of Democratic caucus precincts Monday, a delegate was awarded with a coin toss.

It happened in precinct 2-4 in Ames, where supporters of candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disputed the results after 60 caucus participants apparently disappeared from the proceedings.

As a result of the coin toss, Clinton was awarded an additional delegate, meaning she took five of the precinct’s eight, while Sanders received three.

Similar situations played out at various precincts across the state, but had an extremely small effect on the overall outcome, in which Clinton won 49.9 percent of statewide delegate equivalents, while Sanders won 49.5 percent. The delegates that were decided by coin flips were delegates to the party’s county conventions, of which there are thousands selected across the state from 1,681 separate precincts. They were not the statewide delegate equivalents that are reported in the final results.

The statewide delegate equivalents that determine the outcome on caucus night are derived from the county-level delegates, but are aggregated across the state and weighted in a manner that makes individual county delegate selections at a handful of precincts count for a tiny fraction of the ultimate result. 

(click here to continue reading Sometimes, Iowa Democrats award caucus delegates with a coin flip.)

more on Democratic confusion:

There was still confusion on Tuesday morning over the razor-close results of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, with Bernie Sanders’s campaign planning an internal conference call to decide whether to ask for a recount.

Mr. Sanders said on his flight to New Hampshire late Monday night, after a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, that he would ask the Iowa Democratic Party to reveal the raw vote count underlying the percentages it reported showing Mrs. Clinton defeating Mr. Sanders, 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent.

Asked by an MSNBC reporter if he would contest the vote count, Mr. Sanders said, “Honestly, we just got off the plane and I — we don’t know enough to say anything about it.”

Overnight, the Iowa Democratic Party said in a statement that the count from a single precinct was still outstanding, though it appears that even if all its votes go for Mr. Sanders, it would not change the overall results.

The state party does not report raw votes. Caucus attendees at each of 1,681 precincts elect delegates to a county convention, who in turn will elect delegates to a state convention. The results from caucus night are reported as “state delegate equivalents,’’ expressed as a fraction. After 171,109 Iowans turned out, larger than almost all projections, the party said Mrs. Clinton won 699.57 delegate equivalents and Mr. Sanders had 695.49. A single precinct, Des Moines 42, worth 2.28 delegate equivalents, had not been counted.

Also unclear was the fate of the 7.68 state delegate equivalents won by Martin O’Malley, who suspended his campaign on Monday after his dismal showing — the former Maryland governor received less than 1 percent of the Iowa vote..

(click here to continue reading Confusion Over Final Tally in Iowa Democratic Caucuses – The New York Times.)

Clown Runs For Prez (Trump)
Clown Runs For Prez (Trump)

Steve Johnson of the Trib notes that the short-fingered vulgarian isn’t that much of a reality show star, more of a middle-of-the-pack guy:

Donald Trump is many things, but “reality star genius” is not one of them.

One of the oft-spoken assumptions of this oddball campaign season — the one that gets its first real results with Monday’s Iowa caucuses — has been that Trump was a TV reality star and therefore canny about manipulating media. This, supposedly, has given him an edge over the rest of the candidates in the Republican presidential field, who are merely politicians and a brain surgeon.

But the ratings history over the 12 years of his two reality shows, “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice,” tells a different story. Reality participant, perhaps. Reality middle-of-the-packer. Person on TV.

But NBC put it into its Thursday night prime time lineup, once revered as “must-see TV,” and the long slow decline for that network was underway. “The Apprentice” didn’t help: Its ratings declined steadily each year after that, to 11th place overall in its second season, then 15th, then 38th. When, after its sixth season in 2007, it finished as the 75th-most-watched show (with 7.5 million viewers on average), NBC decided to scrap real people as contestants and bring on celebrities close enough to rock bottom to appear on a reality show where success depended on ingratiating themselves to Trump.

The celebrity show did better, but it has been middle of the pack all the way, with finishes ranking from 46th to 84th before Trump announced his candidacy and NBC replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump a ‘reality star genius’? TV ratings tell different story – Chicago Tribune.)

 one explanation of Trump’s second place showing…

Iowans clearly took Trump being AWOL as a snapshot of how erratic a Trump Presidency could be. At a time as perilous as this (with a possible Recession on the horizon, low wages, broken borders, a ballooning deficit, ISIS and urban crime), Iowa’s GOP voters gave a strong vote of confidence to the comparatively more emotionally stable Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Televised Fox News and CNN exit polls showed that 45% of Iowa GOP caucus voters made up their minds in the last three days. And, of these voters, most broke for Rubio and Cruz. Because Trump skipped the debate – proving Cruz’s claim about his “New York values” – he did not get a chance to make a direct pitch to these late-breaking voters, far more of whom watched the Fox News Des Moines debate than Trump’s hastily assembled and concurrent Des Moines fundraiser for vets.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Lost Iowa.)

More Spare Change
More Spare Change

Oh, here’s Bush’s dollar count: 1 delegate at a cost of over $14,000,000. The real winners are political consultants, television, radio stations, and other media outlets. 

Jeb Bush and his allies spent more than $14 million on ads in Iowa but failed to break 3 percent of the vote total on Monday night — a setback for a campaign already struggling with diminished expectations and anemic support.

“In hindsight, it was probably a lot of money wasted,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College, in an interview.

(click here to continue reading Jeb Bush spent $2,800 for every vote he got in Iowa – Vox.)

In the new math, coming in third place is a victory:

First up was the perpetual load billed as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who emerged at his headquarters to announce, “So this is the moment they said would never happen.” Well, no. He was polling in third place, and that’s where he finished. Apparently that’s enough for victory.

He went on:

“For months, for months they told us we had no chance. For months they told us because we offer too much optimism in a time of anger, we had no chance. For months they told us because we didn’t have the right endorsements or the right political connections, we had no chance…. But tonight, tonight here in Iowa, the people of this great state have sent a very clear message.”

Once again, he came in third, which is where the Real Clear Politics average has had him ever since Ben Carson’s numbers started nosediving around mid-December.

What Rubio was really saying — through the perpetual vocal quaver of alternately traumatized patriotic horror or beatific patriotic awe he has sported during every public speech since 2010 — was that he needed to repudiate the Cruz/Trump argument that this was a two-man race and prove that a third person was involved. But, “I showed ’em all by coming in third!” isn’t much of a sales pitch.

(click here to continue reading The Electability Spin Machine | Rolling Stone.)

Santorum
Santorum

Rick Santorum isn’t running to win, just to get a talk show:

Monday night’s Iowa caucuses were especially rough for former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who polled at less than one percent four years after winning the contest.

But adding insult to injury, MSNBC managed to find a Santorum precinct captain who didn’t even vote for the long-shot candidate – because his pen ran out of ink.

As the unnamed chair pulled up a photo of the precinct’s vote tally sheet on his phone, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted there was an “X” by Santorum’s name.

“What, you didn’t vote for him?” Hayes asked.

“As I was writing down, my pen ran out of ink,” the man answered, turning red in the face. “I was like, I can’t just ask somebody for a new pen while I’m doing this.”

(click here to continue reading Santorum Precinct Chair Didn’t Even Vote For Him: My Pen Ran Out Of Ink! (VIDEO).)

Clinton’s narrow victory doesn’t really mean that much:

Clinton still has a problem with liberals and progressives.

But what Sanders did do was bring in more liberal voters to buoy him. Twenty-eight percent of voters described themselves as very liberal — a 10-point jump from 2008. Sanders won those voters by 19 points. Clinton had a 6-point edge with the 40 percent of voters who described themselves as somewhat liberal.

Her real strength was with middle-of-the-road Democrats — but unfortunately for her, that share had significantly dropped. This year, just 28 percent of voters identified themselves as moderates, down 12 points from 2008. She had a 23-point edge over Sanders with that bloc, though.

(click here to continue reading Iowa Caucus Results: 6 Things That Explain How It Happened : It’s All Politics : NPR.)

even though Clinton has structural advantages, including a compliant national media:

But if you want maximal spin, just raw, thick tar spin, look to the Democratic Party and a legion of electability-policing flunkies.

What Bernie Sanders did Monday night was incredible. Until very recently, even a good showing would have sufficed to confirm his candidacy’s seriousness, and any characterization of his loss as critical merely demonstrates how rapidly the goalposts can be moved when narratives need to be upheld.

At the start of last May, he was 54 points behind in Iowa to Hillary Clinton, a frontrunner with the most open path to the eventual nomination in primary history. Sanders is a cranky old Jewish man from a tiny state and proudly considers himself a socialist, which in the rarified air of Beltway Centrism and in the swamp-gas of an America that still thinks the Cold War can be lost at any moment is somehow a more revolting word than “pederast.”

With the exception of a few pro-Biden holdouts, almost the entirety of the Democratic Party establishment and the big money lined up behind his opponent, including veteran organizers and advisors. The Democratic Party chair scheduled a tiny number of debates on broadcast evenings so hostile to reaching a mass audience that their only purpose must have been minimizing exposing the electorate to any names that aren’t Hillary Clinton’s. Against this apparatus, Sanders decided to refuse to use super PAC money.

Meanwhile, every dead-eyed hack angling for a gig taking “Socks II” for walkies in the new Clinton administration has responded to Sanders’ rising popularity with the Clinton-endorsement equivalent of Marge Simpson holding up her excised frontal lobe in a jar and groaning, “It’s bliiiiiiiiiiiissssss.”

You have Ezra Klein really taking it to some bozo named Ezra Klein over Sanders’ health care plan. Along with assists from The Atlantic and The New Republic, Salon has gone balls-to-the-wall stupid peddling a mythic creature named the Bernie Bro whose existence is about as well documented as Prester John’s. 

The most substantial claim is that Bernie Sanders has some fans on the Internet who are assholes. Which puts him in exclusive company with literally everything. The same thinkfluencers who argue that Bernie Sanders needs to take personal responsibility for people he’s never met being rude to journalists on the Internet (who are already berated and ridiculed by fans of everything else) are also filling column inches by doing the human-dignity equivalent of reaching a whole arm through a buzzing garbage disposal to latch onto yet another slime-slicked take festering in the U-bend and explaining why Hillary Clinton does not need to explain anything further. She doesn’t need to justify that Iraq War vote again, or the destabilization of Libya, or that desire to go hog wild in Syria, or that 1990s support for welfare reform that hit women hardest, or those 1990s tough-on-crime policies she endorsed along with private prisons, or those speaking fees at Goldman Sachs or that opposition to reinstating Glass-Steagall. 

Against this habitual sycophancy, you have a 24-hour news and legacy media structure that has consistently pushed the “conventional wisdom says that a socialist like Bernie Sanders can’t win” line to hammer home the message that Bernie Sanders can’t win underneath a veneer of objectivity. It’s not advocacy, after all, if you’re only saying what everybody thinks. Even if your job is literally to help shape how everybody thinks.

Against all that, Bernie Sanders fighting Clinton to an essential draw in a state in which his opponent held a huge advantage in terms of local political operators and influencers is nothing short of extraordinary. Which, combined with Sanders’ 18-point lead in New Hampshire, means it’s time to crank up the RPMs on the spin cycle fast enough to rip apart space-time.

(click here to continue reading The Electability Spin Machine | Rolling Stone.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2016 at 11:32 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Double Door In Danger Of Closing

Tour Bus Double Door
Tour Bus Double Door

Wicker Park would seem weirdly empty without the Double Door, I hope they win their lawsuit…

Joe Shanahan, co-owner of Double Door, one of the anchor clubs during the rise of the Wicker Park music scene in the ’90s, is facing eviction. But in his first public statement on the monthslong legal battle, he vows he won’t go quietly.

“We’re not going down without a fight,” he said in an interview. “We’ve done the Rolling Stones, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Flaming Lips, Greg Dulli and so many important artists there. It supports the community. We want to stay.”

Shanahan, who also owns the Metro in Wrigleyville, has been one of the pillars of the Chicago music community for decades. He opened Double Door with partner Sean Mulroney in 1994, just as Wicker Park was gaining international recognition as a hub for the city’s emerging bands and artists, including the Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Material Issue, Eleventh Dream Day and countless others.

The fight, which continued this week in Cook County Circuit Court, touches on whether Double Door gave the landlord proper notice that it wished to extend the lease. Schiff introduced documents that included a lease extension request letter from Double Door’s Mulroney dated April 24, more than 180 days before the lease expired, as required by the contract. Strauss’ attorney, Bonita Stone, said the landlord never received the letter and that she wanted to question Mulroney.

The Double Door attorney also contended in court papers that Strauss was operating as a partner of the club and was receiving monthly dividend checks for most of 2015. The landlord “breached his fiduciary duties” to the club, according to the Double Door complaint.

 

(click here to continue reading Double Door won’t go down without a fight – Chicago Tribune.)

Double Door Liquors
Double Door Liquors

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2016 at 9:38 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,

Homes Near Whole Foods Stores Appreciate Faster

Save Ten Percent with Pippin
Save Ten Percent with Pippin…

The real estate website Zillow has published a book which analyzes home values based on certain factors, such as the proximity to a Whole Foods, or Starbucks, etc. In a shocking coincidence, there are 2 Whole Foods within a mile of me (and three more slightly more than a mile away), there are 2 Trader Joe’s about a mile away, and a mind-boggling 44 ((!!) Starbucks within 1 mile of me, all per Google Maps. Perhaps there is a synergistic effect on property values, and a wealthy businessman from Shanghai will offer to purchase my place sight unseen for way, way above market value enabling me to retire to a private island in the Caribbean to work on my screenplay, or something. Do you know any wealthy industrialists with a desire to own a loft?

Your local grocery market has a lot to do with what happens in your local housing market, according to a new analysis by Zillow featured in the paperback edition of Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate (Grand Central Publishing, Jan. 26).

Specifically, Zillow found that homes grow more rapidly in value if they are closer to a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foodsi. Between 1997 and 2014, homes near the two grocery chains were consistently worth more than the median U.S. home. By the end of 2014, homes within a mile of either store were worth more than twice as much as the median home in the rest of the country.

“Like Starbucks, the stores have become an amenity in their own right – a signal to the home-buying public that the neighborhood they’re located in is desirable, perhaps up-and-coming, and definitely improving,” said Zillow Group Chief Economist Stan Humphries. “Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the stores may actually drive home prices. Even if they open in neighborhoods where home prices have lagged those in the wider city, they start to outperform the city overall once the stores arrive.”

“The grocery store phenomenon is about more than groceries,” said Rascoff. “It says something about the way people want to live – in the type of neighborhood favored by the generations buying homes now. Today’s homebuyers seek things in neighborhoods that weren’t even in real estate agents’ vocabularies a generation ago: walkability, community, new urbanism – and maybe we should add words like sustainable seafood and organic pears.”

Zillow analyzed the values of millions of homes near dozens of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to conclude that grocery stores and home values are definitely related.

According to the Zillow analysisii, the median home within a mile of a future Whole Foods store appreciates more slowly than other homes in the same city before the store opens. In the months before the stores open, the trend reverses and flips, so that after the stores’ opening dates, homes near Whole Foods appreciate more quickly than other area homes.

The analysis clearly shows that homes near the stores appreciate more quickly than homes in the city as a whole. That means the two brands are very good at choosing locations that will appreciate faster in the future, or are actually spurring home appreciation growth – or some combination of the two.

(click here to continue reading Homes Near Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Stores Appreciate Faster – Jan 25, 2016.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2016 at 9:10 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

Hillary Clinton and her Email Faux Scandal

The Clintons, The Russians and Uranium
The Clintons, The Russians and Uranium…

Another part of the Clinton legacy from the 1990s, sadly, is that there is an entire industry devoted to creating faux scandals about the Clintons. Tiresome, tedious, but 99% of these breathlessly reported scandals and investigations and breaking news reports turn out to just be garbage.

Josh Marshall tackles the classified email faux scandal:

One of the greatest failings in journalism is the way that ideas, theories, nonsensical paranoid fears get ‘out there’ and then talked about, critiqued and so forth and yet there’s no point of stepping back where a considered, knowledgable, even common sense view would say that the entire concept is simply far-fetched, ridiculous or even impossible.

But as a legal matter, the chances of Hillary Clinton facing any kind of indictment are very, very low.

Start with the fact that as far as we know, she is not actually even being investigated for anything, let alone facing a looming indictment. The simple facts, as we know them, just don’t put her in line for an indictment. The first reason is the facts, which rest heavily on intent and reckless negligence. The second is tradition and DOJ regulations which make professional prosecutors very leery of issuing indictments that might be perceived or in fact influence an election. This was my thinking. But as the press coverage has become increasingly heated, I started trying to figure out if there was something I was missing – some fact I didn’t know, some blindspot in my perception. So I’ve spoken to a number of law profs and former federal prosecutors – based on the facts we know now even from the most aggressive reporting. Not like, is this theoretically possible? Not, what the penalties would be if it happened. But is an indictment at all likely or is this whole idea very far-fetched. To a person, very far-fetched.

So why the press coverage? I think it’s a combination of reasons. The most irreducible and perhaps most significant is simply prestige reporter derp and general ignorance of the legal system. Second is journalists’ perennial inability to resist a process story. And third, let’s be honest, wingnut page views.

As I’ve said, the political calculus and potential political damage is a different matter altogether. There is little doubt that this whole on-going controversy, along with stuff in the background about the Clinton Foundation, have hurt Clinton badly on public estimations of her honesty and trustworthiness. But again, on the possibility of an indictment, most of this chatter is just plain ridiculous – a mix of ignorance and tendentiousness.

(click here to continue reading The Wages of Derp are Derp. Lots of it..)

As I’ve mentioned many times, if HRC does become the Democratic nominee, I’ll most likely vote for her, albeit reluctantly, just as I held my nose and reluctantly voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

2016 Elections: Did Trump Kill the GOP? – POLITICO Magazine

Stop Hillary by Doug Henwood
Stop Hillary…

Speaking of Clinton, I sincerely doubt the Clinton’s have changed much from their political stances in the 1990s: basically positioning themselves as “Rockefeller Republicans”, criticizing the left wing as much as or even more than criticizing the right wing. For instance, this is what a longtime Clintonite believes:

Douglas Schoen, founding partner and principal strategist for Penn, Schoen and Berland, and a former pollster for Bill Clinton.

The Republican Party has clearly lost its direction, and I dare say its soul. Anything Republican elites want, the base of the party instinctively opposes, as the rise of Trump and Cruz clearly demonstrates. Trump and Cruz have won support specifically because of the antipathy of the party establishment to both of them. The party dominates nationally with the exception of the presidency, yet is in danger of suffering an implosion and a possible (though not certain) historically large national loss.

That being said, one of the GOP’s great assets is a similar, though less extreme, process playing out in the Democratic Party. A large percentage of the Democratic base has rejected free market capitalism, which is at the core of how we organize our society and arguably guarantee and enhance our core values of freedom and liberty. The two leading Democratic presidential candidates are competing with one another to see who can demonstrate a greater commitment to redistributive politics and policies, instead of articulating a forward-looking vision for America.

I believe both parties are in a state of flux and fundamentally out of touch with what the broad mass of the American people wants: an inclusive pro-growth agenda and a cost effective social safety net, along with a politics built on results-oriented policies, instead of partisanship or ideology. Hence my strong commitment to prospective independent candidate Mike Bloomberg making a bid for the presidency.

(click here to continue reading 2016 Elections: Did Trump Kill the GOP? – POLITICO Magazine.)

Did you catch that? The Democrats are in trouble because they are rejecting plutocrats, and market capitalism. I don’t know where the evidence of this is, except for in the fever swamps of NewsMax and Fox News, where this former Clintonite spews his BS.

Douglas Schoen is an American political analyst, pollster, author, and commentator. He is a political analyst for Fox News and a columnist for Newsmax. …He believes that lower taxes would be a successful Democratic strategy, opposed President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, warned the Democratic Party to reject the Occupy Wall Street protest, and recommended that President Obama not run for reelection in 2012.

…While still a high school student, he canvassed the Upper West Side for Dick Morris…Schoen went to high school with Mark Penn and then worked together with him on The Harvard Crimson.

He has worked on the campaigns of many Democratic party candidates including Ed Koch and Bill Clinton, and on behalf of corporate clients. He also did work for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and following her defeat became associated with the People United Means Action movement of disaffected Clinton supporters who refused to support Barack Obama.

(click here to continue reading Douglas Schoen – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Yeah, that guy. Sure he’s criticizing Hillary, but more so the Dems, and he’s a Clinton guy through and through…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Short-fingered Vulgarian Named Donald Trump

Donald Trump Is A Swine
Donald Trump Is A Swine

I used to subscribe to Spy Magazine for a few moments in my callow youth, and I remember this epithet of The Donald, but had forgotten about it until recently…

[Donald Trump] has one proven weakness over the course of his four decades in overly public life: stubby fingers.

Trump has presumably had short fingers for as long as he’d had fingers, but it wasn’t until 1988 that anyone called attention to it. That year, Spy magazine began the practice of needling Trump at every  opportunity by referring to him in virtually every story as a “short-fingered vulgarian.” (“Queens-born casino profiteer” would also do.) Trump defended his honor in the New York Post, stating that “my fingers are long and beautiful, as, has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body.”

In an essay last fall, former Spy editor Graydon Carter revealed how much this pissed Trump off: To this day, the Republican presidential front-runner continues to mail Carter photos of himself, and “[o]n all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers.” …

On Friday, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska even joined in on the fun, responding to an insult from Trump by joking, “you’d think I asked Mr @realDonaldTrump abt the length of his fingers or something important like that.”

(click here to continue reading What Donald Trump’s Short Fingers Mean for His Presidency | Mother Jones.)

Short Fingered Vulgarian - Spy - April 1988

and Graydon Carter’s article includes this laugh line:

Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer. He thinks nothing of saying the most hurtful thing about someone else, but when he hears a whisper that runs counter to his own vainglorious self-image, he coils like a caged ferret. Just to drive him a little bit crazy, I took to referring to him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in the pages of Spy magazine. That was more than a quarter of a century ago. To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby. The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: “See, not so short!” I sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, “Actually, quite short.” Which I can only assume gave him fits.

(click here to continue reading Why Donald Trump Will Always Be a “Short-Fingered Vulgarian” | Vanity Fair.)

Donald Trump in Spy Magazine April 1988

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Posted in humor,politics

Tagged with ,

Hope Outdoor Gallery was uploaded to Flickr

Austin, TX

The HOPE Outdoor Gallery (HOG) is a three-story educational art project located at 11th & Baylor Streets in Austin – one of the largest outdoor galleries in the USA. This project was developed to provide muralists, graffiti artists and community groups the opportunity to display large scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive and educational messaging. In addition, the project activates and beautifies a dynamic yet underutilized space with a great view of Austin! The project was officially launched by the HOPE Campaign in March 2011 with the support of Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant Art.
via
http://ift.tt/Ubcrd8

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/DF6Yq1

I took Hope Outdoor Gallery on January 18, 2016 at 07:07AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on February 01, 2016 at 09:40AM

Written by eggplant

February 1st, 2016 at 9:52 am

The NBA Team That’s Bullish on the Opera

Civic Opera Building
Civic Opera Building

Personally, I’d be happy to run into Pau Gasol at the Lyric Opera of Chicago or similar location, he seems pretty cool, probably an interesting conversationalist. Not all athletes are dumb jocks, especially not those who have made it to the professional level. Those mouth-breathers we all knew in high school might have been muscle-bound knuckleheads, puffed up on testosterone and vainglorious, but they didn’t have the intelligence and drive to make it to a professional sport career, or at least none of the idiot jocks I knew in high school.

Anyway, despite this not being one of the Chicago Bulls better seasons, so far, I do hope that Pau Gasol re-signs with the team this summer.

NBA players have too much time and too little to do. When they’re not in a basketball arena, the rest of their days are spent watching television, refreshing Twitter and fine-tuning their ability to fall asleep faster than almost anyone on earth.

Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic would rather go to the opera. Or the symphony.

This season, for the first time, Gasol and Mirotic both have been starters for the Chicago Bulls. But around town, they’ve become known as something else: the city’s biggest patrons of the arts. Gasol and Mirotic are regulars at the opera house. They have been backstage guests of the symphony orchestra. Officials from the city’s highbrow cultural institutions say they can’t remember professional athletes coming to any of their performances—let alone as many as these Bulls.

No one in the NBA is as openly obsessed as Gasol. The 7-foot all-star keeps Mozart and Chopin recordings on his phone, and he needs to think carefully before naming some of his favorite operas: “Carmen,” “La Traviata” and “Tosca,” which he has seen three times. He may be the only professional basketball player ever who says he enjoys watching operas evolve.

Opera Reminiscence’s 1829
Opera Reminiscence’s 1829

The abundance of culture in Chicago is actually one of the reasons Gasol plays for the Bulls. Gasol grew up around music in Barcelona, but it was only when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers that he went to the opera for the first time. It turned out to be something of a day spa—a place where he could escape from the world. “Especially during the season,” he said. “It takes my mind off basketball.”

Gasol, who is friends with the legendary tenor Placido Domingo, has made the arts such an essential part of his life that they played into his decision to sign with the Bulls as a free agent last year, he said. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf introduced Gasol to the right people at the Lyric, and it wasn’t long before he was a familiar face at operas, concerts and musicals across the city. “I’m a big supporter of arts and culture,” Gasol said. “I think they’re traditions that we need to continue to pass on to younger generations.”

(click here to continue reading The NBA Team That’s Bullish on the Opera – WSJ.)

Ruled by Bureaucracy
Ruled by Bureaucracy

Unload the Culture Truck
Unload the Culture Truck

The Civic Theatre - TRI-X 400
The Civic Theatre – TRI-X 400

Civic Opera Hovse
Civic Opera Hovse

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 8:31 am

Posted in Arts,NBA,Sports

Tagged with ,

Half the Foreign Policy Experts Signing Clinton’s Anti-Sanders Letter Have Ties to Military Contractors

What If None Of Your Dreams Come True?
What If None Of Your Dreams Come True?

If Hillary Clinton does win the Democratic nomination, I’ll support her, reluctantly, since as right-wing as Ms. Clinton is, at least she isn’t as bad as the idiots and end-of-timers running as Republicans this cycle. Not the most enthusiastic endorsement, but there is a long list of Clinton policy proposals that I disagree with.

For instance, Clinton is signaling that she will continue to be pro-war…

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a letter this week in which 10 foreign policy experts criticized her opponent Bernie Sanders’ call for closer engagement with Iran and said Sanders had “not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security.”

The missive from the Clinton campaign was covered widely in the press, but what wasn’t disclosed in the coverage is that fully half of the former State Department officials and ambassadors who signed the letter, and who are now backing Clinton, are now enmeshed in the military contracting establishment, which has benefited tremendously from escalating violence around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

Here are some of the letter signatories’ current employment positions that were not disclosed in the reporting of the letter:

(click here to continue reading Half the Foreign Policy Experts Signing Clinton’s Anti-Sanders Letter Have Ties to Military Contractors.)

Personally, I’d rather we invest in infrastructure improvements instead of more weapons systems.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 8:18 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Soho House Developer Plans Another Hotel for Fulton Market

Urban Melodrama
Urban Melodrama

And the real estate hits keep coming…

The red-hot West Loop/Fulton Market District’s hospitality scene is showing no signs of slowing down as Shapack Development is set to unveil a Morris Adjmi-designed 11-story hotel proposal at the northwest corner of Lake and Green Street. Fresh off the success of their acclaimed 40-room Soho House, the Chicago-based developer is upping the ante with a 165- to 171-room project just one block south at 832-850 W. Lake, a site currently occupied by a low-rise meat packing business and parking lot. According to a conversation with Crain’s, developer Jeff Shapack confirmed the new development will include ground floor retail and dining, parking on the second floor, office space on the third and fourth floors, and hotel rooms up to the building’s 11th level rooftop deck. The hotel operator has not been announced, but with both the nearby Ace and Nobu hotels also in the pipeline to meet the area’s surging demand for hip lodging, a boutique brand would be a good guess for Lake and Green as well.

(click here to continue reading Soho House Developer Plans Another Hotel for Fulton Market – Hotel Boom Town – Curbed Chicago.)

This location is slightly outside of the new Fulton Market Historic District boundaries, I wonder if that was planned.

Fulton Market District
Fulton Market District

Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2016 at 8:08 am

Ten Posts A Day

Tweet!
Tweet!

I tweeted a joke the other day:

and while I never did fulfill my desire to scarf down a bag of Cheetos and/or a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, I did decide that maybe I should challenge myself to write ten blog posts. In the dark ages, before Twitter and Facebook, before the corporate media began to emulate the blog model, et al, I did post a hell of a lot more content here. Ten posts was not a particular daily metric I tried to achieve, I was happy with five posts, but ten happened every once and a while. Now, to be honest, I’m not a long-winded person, so it isn’t like I typically write five hundred or a thousand words of my own per post, I’m more of a blogger of the Kottke school, pointing you to read something interesting somewhere else, while liberally quoting from the original source.  

I did other things yesterday too, but I didn’t post my tenth post until 7:30 PM. If blogging was a job, each day of work would typically be a long day.

Pippen Peruses the Newspaper
Pippen Peruses the Newspaper

According to Erica Berger, insisting upon ten posts a day means more click-bait articles, more shallow articles, less actual journalism will be practiced.

Every journalism student knows they are supposed to shine a spotlight on the issues that matter.   It’s a sad truth that some of our greatest reporters have had to bail out in search of a saner or more impactful job.   But it’s hard to do that when your boss wants you to churn out 10 posts a day. And when journalists are expected to maintain an active social-media presence and share their thoughts on every fresh twist in the 24-hour news cycle, it’s difficult to find the time to identify the stories that truly need telling.

(click here to continue reading The next generation of journalism students have no idea what they’re getting into – Quartz.)

Luckily, I don’t have that kind of pressure, other than self-imposed, so don’t expect to see any listicles posted here.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 30th, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Ted Cruz could be disqualified

Romans Discussing Motor Scooters 1993
Since the issue of Natural Born Citizenship is of personal interest to us, we’ve been following closely the many discussions of the issue. An incredibly large number of news articles include a misleading phrase like:

Monmouth University asked Republicans nationally how they felt about Cruz’s eligibility to be president, given his birthplace. (Legal experts broadly agree that it is not an issue.) Nearly all Republicans felt confident that Trump is a “natural-born citizen” — the requirement for serving as president.

(click here to continue reading The increasing signs that Donald Trump’s ‘birther’ attack could be hurting Ted Cruz – The Washington Post.)

Did you catch that parenthetical: Legal experts broadly agree that it is not an issue. Except that statement is demonstratedly not true. There are no Supreme Court cases to cite because there are none, not because they are hidden or obscure. And legal experts are not in broad agreement.

or this aside, also from The Washington Post:

Legal scholars agree that Cruz meets the Constitution’s natural-born citizenship requirement, though it is untested in the courts.

(click here to continue reading Trump says Cruz’s Canadian birth could be ‘very precarious’ for GOP – The Washington Post.)

or this one from USA Today/Arizona Republic:

The legal consensus would appear to deem Cruz eligible to be president, as most legal scholars use historical context to interpret the intentions of the constitution’s framers.

(click here to continue reading Fact Check: Ted Cruz on constitutional clarity of ‘natural-born citizen’.)

Yeah, not so much. You get the idea, notice for yourself how many news articles will slip in a variation of “nothing to see here”.

Standing in the Shadows of Others
Standing in the Shadows of Others

On the other hand, there are smarter journalists like the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman, who writes, in part:

There is no dispute that the Texas senator was a U.S. citizen from birth, since his mother was an American. Donald Trump has raised questions, though, about whether Cruz, being born in the great state of Alberta, qualifies as “a natural born citizen.”

Cruz dismisses the issue. “It’s settled law,” he says. “As a legal matter it’s quite straightforward.”

In fact, it’s never been settled, it’s not straightforward and some experts don’t agree with his reading.

The fact that it was Trump who raised the issue made it deeply suspect. But though it’s unlikely that anything coming out of Trump’s mouth is true, it’s not impossible. And his claim that this is an unresolved question that could end up throwing the election into doubt happens to be correct.

When it comes to parsing the crucial phrase, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has noted, “No Supreme Court decision in the past two centuries has ever done so. In truth, the constitutional definition of a ‘natural born citizen’ is completely unsettled.”

Tribe says that under an originalist interpretation of the Constitution — the type Cruz champions — he “wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on U.S. soil to be a ‘natural born citizen.'”

Nor is Tribe alone among experts. University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner says, “The ordinary meaning of the language suggests to me that one must be born on U.S. territory.”

Chapman University’s Ronald Rotunda, co-author of a widely used constitutional law textbook, told me a couple of weeks ago he had no doubt that Cruz is eligible. But when he investigated the issue, he concluded that under the relevant Supreme Court precedents, “Cruz simply is not a natural born citizen.”

 …

Catholic University law professor Sarah Helene Duggin wrote in 2005, “Natural born citizenship is absolutely certain only for United States citizens born post-statehood in one of the 50 states, provided that they are not members of Native American tribes.”

Steven Lubet, a Northwestern University law professor, spies another possible land mine. Cruz qualified for citizenship because his mother was an American citizen (unlike his father). But “under the law in effect in 1970, Cruz would only have acquired U.S. citizenship if his mother had been ‘physically present’ in the United States for 10 years prior to his birth, including five years after she reached the age of 14,” Lubet wrote in Salon.

 

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz could be disqualified. GOP, is that worth the risk? – Chicago Tribune.)

Running and Running, Yet Standing Still
Running and Running, Yet Standing Still

In other words, this does not seem to be a settled matter, and it will not be until the SCOTUS takes the case, after someone with proper standing asks them to.

probably not this guy:

A Utah man has filed a federal lawsuit against Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, claiming he is not a natural-born citizen and thus, cannot be President of the United States.

Walter Wagner filed the lawsuit on his own in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. He claims Cruz’s parents were seeking Canadian citizenship at the time of his birth.

(click here to continue reading Utah man suing Ted Cruz claiming he’s not a natural-born citizen | fox13now.com.)

and probably not this guy either:

An 85-year-old Houston trial lawyer has had enough of political debate over whether Sen. Ted Cruz’s Canadian birth affects his presidential eligibility, deciding Thursday to attempt to raise the issue in court.

Newton B. Schwartz, Sr. filed a complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court in Texas asking for a judgment concerning whether Mr. Cruz can run or serve as president.

Now a leading Republican presidential candidate, Mr. Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1970 to an American mother. His U.S. citizenship is not in doubt, but the Constitution sets out a requirement that the president and vice president be “natural-born” citizens. The phrase is left undefined by the Constitution and the question of presidential eligibility has never been firmly settled by the Supreme Court.

A former assistant U.S. attorney, Mr. Schwartz in an interview said he was surprised “nobody else filed it.” Mr. Schwartz in the complaint names himself as the plaintiff – noting in the complaint he was filing it “pro se and pro bono,” legal jargon meaning he would represent himself free.

“This 229-year question has never been pled, presented to or finally decided by or resolved by the U. S. Supreme Court and by any other U. S. Court of Appeals,” the lawsuit said.

Filing the case may be the easy part. Mr. Schwartz must now convince a judge he has standing, or the right, to bring the case and then that he has raised an issue the court must decide. He claims he has standing based on his eligibility as a voter in the Texas presidential primary and the November general election.

(click here to continue reading Houston Trial Lawyer Files Lawsuit on Ted Cruz’s Presidential Eligibility – Washington Wire – WSJ.)

No Alien is Illegal
No Alien is Illegal

There is also the irony that the target of the Natural Born controversy is Mr. Smug himself, Teddy Cruz…

The more natural reading of the language and original understanding of the “natural born” citizenship requirement therefore would seem to be that one needed to be born, as the 14th Amendment put it, “in the United States,” rather than that one had an American parent. The Constitution, as opposed to any statute, prescribes birthright citizenship, not lineage, as the constitutional definition of acquiring citizenship at birth. Any statute expanding that definition to take into account the massively increased mobility of American citizens since the rural agrarian roots of the Constitution in 1787 would provide a means of automatic naturalization. In short, the framers of both the original Constitution and the 14th Amendment seem to have distinguished between constitutionally and legislatively conferred citizenship. Those who acquire their citizenship by virtue of birth in the United States are, according to the 14th Amendment, constitutionally conferred citizens, which also seems to be the original understanding of “natural born” citizens. All others must secure their citizenship through legislative enactment, i.e. naturalization, whether with or without any required process or prerequisites.

The irony, of course, which cannot be lost on Sen. Ted Cruz, is that under the Constitution anyone born in the United States to a set of undocumented immigrants has a much clearer and more certain legal entitlement to run for president of the United States than he does. No wonder Cruz has railed against birthright citizenship, even though it is expressly contained in the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, a document he swore an oath of office to uphold.

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz Is Not a ‘Natural Born’ Citizen According to the Constitution – US News.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 30th, 2016 at 10:33 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

America’s Future Is A Future of Failing Infrastructure

Like An Approaching Train
Like An Approaching Train…

America needs the political willpower to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and soon. Tax cuts for the wealthy don’t help when you need to replace lead pipes serving drinking water, nor do tax breaks for wealthy corporations help rebuild bridges about to collapse.

The L-pocalypse is coming, the early effects of the L-pocalypse is here. The New York City subway train is the most direct route between Brooklyn and Manhattan, servicing some 300,000 people every day. News recently leaked that the city’s transit authority, the MTA, is considering shutting the train down as early as 2017 for between one and three years to repair floodwater damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. That prospect understandably has many of those who live, work, or own businesses in north Brooklyn quite upset; Thursday’s meeting of the “L Train Coalition” at Brooklyn Bowl made clear that the dialogue between concerned citizens, elected leaders, and the MTA is going to be contentious, at best.

The upcoming plight of a gentrified neighborhood in New York City is mainly a local story, sure, but as infrastructure crumbles around the United States, pollution worsens, and as climate change brings us ever-increasing and severe natural disasters, cities around the country are going to be faced with very expensive problems for which there are no good solutions.

Surely, similar town hall meetings are playing out around the country, where residents are upset that, through a combination of underfunding, tax cuts, climate change, and simple aging, services that are taken for granted such as functioning roads, subway systems, and lead-free drinking water are no longer a given.

(click here to continue reading Williamsburg’s Angry Town Hall Meetings Are the Future of Failing Infrastructure | Motherboard.)

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky
A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

and in microcosm: the water infrastructure of Flint, MI:

Poor political decisions caused the crisis, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if the lead pipes weren’t there to begin with. The current solution is a stopgap—spiking the water supply with an anticorrosive chemical. But if the powers that be want to eliminate the risk completely, they will ultimately have to replace all the lead plumbing. A September estimate, only recently released by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, puts the cost of replacing all the lead pipes in Flint at $60 million. And the project will take 15 years.

The basic challenge: dig up several thousand miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies. Oh, for Pete’s sake. People can only take bottled water baths for so long. “I don’t understand, are they only going to fix four pipes a day?” says Harold Harrington, business manager of Flint’s plumber’s union, the United Association Local 370. He says with the right kind of investment, the city—or state, or whoever ends up taking responsibility—could move a lot faster.

Most of the corroded pipes in Flint—20,000 to 25,000 in total—are what is known as service lines. These are one inch in diameter, and connect homes to the larger, main pipes running under the middles of streets. (The mains are cast iron.) Because Flint is in Michigan, and Michigan is a very cold place, the service lines have to be buried about three and a half feet deep, below the frost line. “But most of the main pipes are between five to seven feet deep, so the service lines are at a similar depth,” says Martin Kaufman, a geographer at the University of Michigan-Flint. So that’s the basic challenge: dig up several hundred miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.

Before calling in the backhoes, somebody needs to figure out where all those pipes are buried. Not just which houses they’re in, either. Remember, the pipes are an inch wide, and buried under roads, sidewalks, and front lawns, beneath lattices of cables, fiber optic wires, and gas lines. Digging in the wrong place would be both dangerous and expensive. Kaufman is one of those in charge of figuring out where all the lead pipes are buried, but the pipelayers of yore didn’t do him many favors. “The recordkeeping of the city is not very good,” he says. “They kept information on three by five index cards, a lot of which are smeared.” The only definite way to check if a pipe is lead or not is to scrape the pipe’s interior as it comes into the house. “If the residue is gray and nonmagnetic, it is lead,” he says.

Replacing a typical service line takes three people. “You need an operator to run the equipment, one guy hand digging to make sure you don’t get into any other utilities, and another guy getting the floor busted out in the basement,” says Harrington. As long as they don’t run into any problems, the whole job should take the team about half a day. Harrington estimates that he could reasonably call in about 20 such teams to work full time until the job is done. Assuming the rate is forty pipes a day, roughly 249 days a year (nights and weekends, y’all), the Flint plumber’s militia could bang the job out in just over two years.

Harrington says digging up and replacing a forty foot length of lead pipe costs around $3,000. This does not take into account externalities like repaving streets and sidewalks, fixing any damage done to the home, and resodding lawns. Multiply $3,000 by 20,000 pipes and you get $60 million dollars—which suggests that the figure quoted in Michigan governor Snyder’s email is probably a lowball.

(click here to continue reading Here’s How Hard It Will Be to Unpoison Flint’s Water | WIRED.)

Water Pumping Station
Water Pumping Station

How many communities in America need new water lines? Nobody is quite sure, but it is a lot. 

It’s a problem that’s much bigger than Flint: there are millions of lead pipes all across America, putting children at risk of stunted growth, brain damage and a lifetime of diminished potential. Just this week, residents of Sebring, a town of 8,000 in rural Ohio, were told not to touch their tap water out of lead fears similar to Flint’s.

“This is a situation that has the potential to occur in however many places around the country there are lead pipes,” Jerry Paulson, emeritus professor of pediatrics and environmental health at George Washington University, said in an interview. “Unless and until those pipes are removed, those communities are at some degree of risk.”

Roughly 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service lines that are at least partially lead, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Service lines are the pipes connecting water mains to people’s houses. Lead ones are mostly found in the Midwest and Northeast.

Despite the life-altering consequences of lead poisoning, there is no national plan to get rid of those pipes. A top reason for continuing to use lead service lines instead of immediately digging them up is that utilities can treat water so it forms a coating on the interior of the pipes — a corrosion barrier that helps prevent lead particles from dislodging and traveling to your faucet. But if the water chemistry changes, the corrosion controls can fail. 

(click here to continue reading Lots Of Cities Have The Same Lead Pipes That Poisoned Flint.)

What Infrastructure Crisis?
What Infrastructure Crisis?

In the old, can-do America, both political parties would agree that fixing dilapidated infrastructure would be a good national goal, and would seek consensus on how to ramp up the work force and financing for the project. In the sad, tired America of the 21st C.E., seemingly only Bernie Sanders even brings the topic up. Consider all the good paying jobs, in communities all around the country, that would benefit from fixing roads, bridges, sewer lines, power grids, water lines, bullet trains, and so on and so forth. Why is it a partisan struggle to even discuss the future? Sure, we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, or even more, but so what? Do Wall Street corporations and the oil industry really need more tax breaks to remain in business? 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

Johannes Kepler Had An Interesting Life

Johannes Kepler 1610

Johannes Kepler had an interesting life; not only was his mentor the infamous silver-nosed drinker, Tycho Brahe, but his mother was tried as a witch…

More than 300 years after Salem’s famous trials, American popular culture remains preoccupied with the supposed witches of 17th-century Massachusetts. But we do not hear much about the women accused of witchcraft across the ocean during the same period in Württemberg, Germany. In “The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler’s Fight for his Mother,” Ulinka Rublack, a professor of early modern history at the University of Cambridge, introduces us to one of these witches, Katharina Kepler, who was tried in Württemberg in 1615-21.

Katharina was the mother of Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the Scientific Revolution that had begun to sweep Europe. In 1609, as court astronomer to Emperor Rudolph II of Prague, Johannes used the remarkable naked-eye observations of his predecessor Tycho Brahe to discover that the planets orbit the sun in paths that are elliptical—overthrowing the belief in circular orbits that had held since Aristotle’s time and strengthening the arguments for a heliocentric universe. Johannes was a deeply religious Lutheran whose scientific work was imbued with spiritual beliefs. He cast horoscopes, listened to the “music of the spheres” and understood the cosmos to be a living organism possessed of a soul. Like most people of his time, he believed in the existence of witches.

Witchcraft trials in Germany were family affairs. A woman prosecuted as a witch had to rely for her legal defense on her husband, if she had one, and on her brothers and sons, if she did not. Widows were frequent targets of such accusations, because their right to engage in commercial activities—denied to other women—gave them an independence that went against the social order. Many widows, including Katharina, earned money as healers, using strange herbs and incantations. People feared the power of these women.

Katharina’s first accuser was her own son Heinrich, a ne’er-do-well who had returned home after 25 years of fighting as a mercenary throughout Europe. Angered that she did not have enough food on hand to satisfy him, he “publicly slandered her as a witch,” as Ms. Rublack recounts, and died soon afterward. His comment would come to haunt the trial, which was prompted by a persistent neighbor of Katharina, who claimed that she had become lame after drinking one of Katharina’s potions. Once Katharina was charged, other disturbing facts came to light, such as her request that a gravedigger exhume her father’s head so that she could fashion the skull into a drinking vessel. Hearing this, even Johannes wondered if there was something to the allegations.

What happened to Katharina Kepler is a morality tale about the dangers faced by independent, strong-willed and sometimes disagreeable women in Germany in early modern Europe. It is also a valuable reminder that the Scientific Revolution was made by men with deeply held spiritual, religious and metaphysical views, including the belief that there were witches all around them—even, perhaps, at home.

(click here to continue reading Science, Sorcery and Sons – WSJ.)

More grist for the biopic…

Stop The Witchcraft
Stop The Witchcraft

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Books,religion

Tagged with ,

Gilead Gouging Prices of Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs. 

Have we reached a tipping point for drug pricing yet? Seems close, at least, to a public consensus that pharmaceutical companies cannot set prices so high they shock the conscience. We have to weigh public health against private profits.

The attorney general of Massachusetts said on Wednesday that she had opened an inquiry into whether Gilead Sciences had violated state consumer protection laws by charging too much for its hepatitis C drugs.

The notification, which was contained in a letter to the company from the attorney general, Maura Healey, is the latest challenge to the practices of Gilead, which has become the largest and most profitable biotechnology company by dominating the market for drugs used to treat both H.I.V. and hepatitis C.

On Tuesday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that treats patients with H.I.V. and AIDS, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate patents covering the new version of Gilead’s mainstay H.I.V. drug, tenofovir. The lawsuit also says that Gilead, to maximize product life span but to the detriment of patients, delayed the introduction of the new, safer version of tenofovir until the old version was about to lose patent protection.

The hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, are widely considered breakthroughs — curing most patients in 12 weeks with few side effects. But Sovaldi has a list price of $1,000 per daily pill, or $84,000 for 12 weeks, and Harvoni costs $94,500. Those prices, and the great demand for the drugs, have strained the budgets of state Medicaid programs and prison systems, forcing many of them to restrict treatment to those most seriously ill.

In her letter to Gilead’s chief executive, John C. Martin, Ms. Healey said her office was examining whether Gilead’s pricing would be an “unfair trade practice,” in violation of Massachusetts law.

“Because Gilead’s drugs offer a cure for a serious and life-threatening infectious disease, pricing the treatment in a manner that effectively allows H.C.V. to continue spreading through vulnerable populations, as opposed to eradicating the disease altogether, results in massive public harm,” she wrote, referring to the hepatitis C virus by its initials.

One motivation for Ms. Healey’s letter was a class-action lawsuit filed against Massachusetts’ Department of Correction asking for more inmates to be treated for hepatitis C. Ms. Healey’s letter said that treating everyone at the list price of Sovaldi would “easily exceed our entire budget for prisoner health care.”

(click here to continue reading Gilead Faces Fights Over Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs – The New York Times]

More to come on this topic, I assume…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 3:04 pm