Friday, December 28, 2012

In the News: Amazing Kreskin’ Offers to Fix ‘Fiscal Cliff’

by Lori Montgomery, Washington Post, December 7, 2012

Finally, a light at the end of the “fiscal cliff” tunnel: The Amazing Kreskin is here to help.

Kreskin, billed by his publicist as the world’s most renowned mentalist, was a fixture on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in the 1970s. Now 77, he says he can break the stalemate over taxes and spending that has gripped Washington for much of the past two years.

All it would take is an hour in a room with President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) or their proxies.

“If I can, through mental suggestion and mental conditioning, bring both to a state of mind where I’ve lifted all the pressure, all the threats, all the money being offered and all the fears of the next election, I can bring them together to their unconscious level, and they will start to think in terms of compromising,” Kreskin said in an interview.

Kreskin made the offer via news release Thursday to fly to Washington and help with the cliff after observing what he described as a mounting crisis in government.

“I’m a little bit worried we’re in a crisis psychologically, too,” he said. “We’ve got to start thinking about each other.”

So, how would it work? On television and in his stage shows (after four decades in show business, Kreskin is still performing more than 200 times a year), Kreskin is famous for astounding feats of mind reading and mental dexterity. On former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show in 2009, Kreskin distributed 52 playing cards throughout the studio audience, and — by encouraging people to “talk to me” mentally about the cards in their hands — tracked down the person holding the very card that Huckabee had plucked from a separate deck moments earlier. (It was the three of clubs.)

“They don’t call you the Amazing Kreskin for nothing, do they?” Huckabee marveled.
Now Kreskin says he can look deep into the minds of Washington politicians and “envision” the “pathway” to a mutually acceptable compromise that he believes is buried there.

“Don’t give me that crap. These people have a sense of what has to be done,” Kreskin said. “I could bring out of them the mind-set to say, ‘Hell. Jesus. We’ve got to start to think together and to give and take.’”

Yes, he said, “partly I will” read their minds. But Kreskin said his gig in Washington would not be a typical performance.

“I do think I will know when they’re revealing and saying something that is true. And I’m going to confront them and say, ‘Let’s continue on this track that you honestly know is the right way.’ ”
Kreskin says he has no “clinical bias” in this case. He says he is neither liberal nor conservative, and that he doesn’t much care whether taxes go up or spending goes down, or how Washington solves this problem. But the problem, he says, has got to be solved.

“This is not as crazy as it sounds,” he said. “The bottom line is, what the hell have we got to lose? This is becoming a three-ring circus.”

The Amazing Kreskin (born January 12, 1935), born George Joseph Kresge, is a mentalist who became popular on North American television in the 1970s. He was inspired to become a mentalist by Lee Falk's famous comic strip Mandrake the Magician, which features a crime-fighting stage magician.

Huffingtonpost: Stan Lee Turns 90 Today

Today is the birthday of comic genius and wily television personality, Stanley Lieber, better known as Stan Lee. The Marvel writer and editor behind works such as "The Amazing Spiderman" and "The Incredible Hulk" is turning 90 years old this Friday, December 28.

stan lee birthday

A young Stanley Lieber began his comic career at Timely Comics in 1939 in New York. His initial duties included proofreading, erasing pencil marks and filling inkwells, but two years after this drudgery he enjoyed his first text-filler job in a 1941 issue of "Captain American Comics," writing under the pseudonym Stan Lee.

His first real career break arrived at 19 years old, when Timely editor Joe Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby left the company. Lee was subsequently given the post of interim editor, but it was his talent for writing and imagining epic heroes that earned him the permanent position of editor-in-chief, a seat he would occupy until 1972 when he was made publisher of Timely's later evolution, Marvel Comics.

Lee's truly creative era began in the late 1950s, however, when DC Comics spurred a trend in superhero stories, courtesy of characters like the Flash and the Justice League of America. Lee was given the task of creating a team of heroes similar to JLA for Marvel, the result of which was the Fantastic Four. Working mostly with Kirby as well as with Bill Everett and Steve Ditko, Lee went on to devise personalities like the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and, of course, the Amazing Spider-Man.

stan lee

In his later career, Lee dabbled in work for DC Comics, refashioning heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash for a series called, "Just Imagine..." His most recent endeavor is a new YouTube channel, aptly named "Stan Lee's World of Heroes."

We'd like to wish Mr. Lee a very happy 90th birthday.

A New Obsession: Vintage Vari-Vue "Flicker" Pinback Buttons

It all started with that hypno-coin......

Lenticular images were popularized from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s by the Vari-Vue company. Early products included animated political campaign badges with the slogan "I Like Ike!" and animated cards that were stuck on boxes of Cheerios. By the late sixties the company marketed about two thousand stock products including twelve-inch square moving pattern and color sheets, large images (many religious), and a huge range of novelties including badges. The badge products included the Rolling Stones' tongue logo and an early Beatles badge with pictures of the 'fab four' on a red background.

More from Wiki on Lenticular printing:

Albert King "As The Years Go Passing By" Live Sweden 1980

Introducing: Body Maps and the Insular Cortex

I finished off The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee -- it's a teriffic read.

Here's a review from Amazon that summarizes the book expertly.

An Excellent introduction to a complex and fascinating topic
A review by M.  L. Lamendola, 2007

This is an excellent book. The authors have a gift for making a complex subject understandable.

Another plus is that, like the best of nonfiction authors, they stick to the subject and rely on facts rather than opinion. This book provides a wonderful introduction into an area of science formerly limited to neurologists and other highly-trained specialists.

Central theme
The central theme of this book is that the brain maps the body. In fact, different areas of the brain contain different kinds of body maps with different functions. These body maps in the brain determine such things as how you perceive reality and how you respond to that perception. One of the most fascinating aspects is the plasticity of these maps.

For example, have you ever noticed that you can "feel" with the end of a tool? You put a wrench on a nut, and you suddenly have several important bits of information about that nut.

This is because your body map extends to include the tool. And it's why mechanics can accurately work without actually seeing what their hands or tools are touching. Body maps extend from the rider to include the horse and from the horse to include the rider. Lovers share body maps, and the book explores what goes on there also.

This book explores the effects of dysfunctional body maps, too, shedding light on such things as eating disorders and out of body experiences. And it looks at the interplay between body maps and culture, language, music, emotions, pain, and even parenting.

The brain and the body are not separate entities, but are intertwined, interdependent, and interfunctional. Understanding this fact is essential to understanding how and why body maps work. This book explains that lucidly.

You may have heard of the "little man" theory, or the homunculus theory. If not, perhaps you recall the drawing of the skull being opened to reveal a little man operating control levers. That drawing represents the theory. We all know there's not an actual physical person of tiny stature pulling levers in our heads. But it's commonly thought that the "me" of us is a central entity that works like that little man. Another common analogy for this theory is the symphony conductor.Because of this theory, many early researchers of body maps looked for the master map. As it turns out, there isn't one. There is no "little man," no master homunculus, no conductor, no central authority. The brain is a collection of homunculi or body maps working together. If this doesn't sound possible, think of an ant colony. There is no master ant giving out directions.

Each ant does its part in a concert of ants with no conductor. The many body maps of the brain are similarly independent yet cooperative. The brain also contains body maps that facilitate the communication between these disparate parts and the various body maps those parts use.

Summary of contents
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own consists of ten chapters.

The first chapter gives the reader the background about body maps and how they are everywhere in the brain.

Chapter Two talks about the little man theory discussed earlier in this review.

Chapter Three talks about how body maps filter and change incoming information to conform to what the map expects to see. You've no doubt heard the expression "People hear what they want to hear." That is a basic aspect of our brain, which is a prediction machine. It's always looking for matches. Just as politicians change the data to match their statements, so quite often does the brain change or filter information so that it matches what the brain expects to see. This is the basis for illusions, and we all know those work.

Sometimes these illusions don't serve us very well. One example the book uses is the anorexic who feels fat. This prediction thing isn't all bad -- many self-help experts advise us to imagine ourselves as having already achieved something or to take on some other enabling attitude.

Chapter Four takes the concepts of Chapter Three a step further, and looks at why mental practice -- long used by martial artists -- is nearly as effective as physical practice and why when both are done you get a 2 + 2 = 5 effect.

Chapters Five and Six explore what happens when body maps blur or break. Some of the manifestations are bizarre.

Earlier, I mentioned that when you grasp a tool your body map extends to include that tool. Chapter Eight includes a discussion of this in the broader context of where body maps end. 

Chapter Seven also talks about where body maps end, but more in terms of how they seek to exclude things that are not part of the body.

Sales trainers talk about mimicking other people to win their agreement. In Chapter Nine, we see why this works.

Deep in the brain is a structure called the insula. Only mammals have one. In humans, it's massive compared to those of other species (relatively speaking--in whales, body parts are just plain bigger on an absolute scale). The consensus now is the insula is the seat of emotional awareness. Chapter Ten, in discussing the insula, is a fitting last chapter because it is, at least to me, the most profound part of the book.

The authors tie everything together in the Afterword, but also raise additional questions that are worth pondering as we search for meaning and purpose in life.

Descartes concluded that because he thinks he must exist. Has your human mind has ever contemplated itself, trying to answer the question, "Who am I? Or have you wondered about where in your body your mind actually resides? The Body Has a Mind of Its Own will help you bring some fascinating information to bear on those concepts and many others. Not only is this book thought-provoking, but it helps explain thought itself. How you perceive reality may not be as straightforward as you once thought. Or still think, depending on your body maps.

Position of the insular cortex in the human brain shown in red. The parts of the frontal, parietal and temporal lobe that usually cover the insula are removed. The green line indicates the position of the central sulcus of the insula, which separates the larger anterior insular cortex (AIC) from the smaller posterior insular cortex.

One of the most mysterious regions of the human brain is the insular cortex, buried in the depth of the lateral fissure, which separates the frontal and parietal lobes from the temporal lobe.

For a long while, the insular cortex recieved little attention from neuroscience research.

Recently this has dramatically changed: an increasing number of recent studies address the functional role of the insular lobe. A number of reports have connected the insula to important high-level cognitive functions such as error detection, including social norm violation, general task monitoring, language processing, self-awareness and even consciousness.

Furthermore, the insula might play a crucial role in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as drug addiction (see for instance the recent New York Times article 'A small part of the brain and its profound effects'). Other studies have proposed more basic functions that might be supported by the insular cortex, including basic auditory processing, experiencing pain, the senses of smell and taste, and simple motor functions.

Marge's Little Lulu #19 January 1950

Bruce McCorkindale Re-Creation of Jack Kirby and Vince Coletta's Thor #145 Cover

Based on Thor #145, October 1967. I always loved this issue.

Grand Comics Database story synopsis: "Odin defeats Forsung and demands all Asgardians return. Thor refuses and his powers are removed (except his Asgardian Strength). The Ringmaster hypnotizes Thor into joining the Circus of Crime."

Fiscal Cliff Q&A: 25wds or less

Its Friday--  the end of the week; the last week of 2012..

The last posting (in all likelihood) for the calendar year...

The "Grasshoppers" are taking their winter vacations with their families; their minds a million miles away from anything meaningful...  Just Fa La La'ing

The "Ants" are also enjoying holiday festivities but also taking the time to check back here and other sites to keep informed on the news of the day..

So to the 'Ants', we dedicate today's posting...

Simple really: a quick Q&A on the Fiscal Cliff 'crisis' with each answer kept purposely to 25 words of less for brevity and to make for a quick weekend read while keeping you up to date...
Q: Will the 'Fiscal Cliff' be averted before January 1st?

A:  Don't bet on it... Anything possible but..  really, don't wager on it.

Q:  What does it mean if no agreement is in place?

A:  Means nothing really..  Any agreement can still made in say mid to late January and then backdated to Jan 1st.

Q:  So that 'deadline' of Jan 1st really was meaningless?

A:  Yes.  There are no sincere 'lines in the sand' where government is concerned.  Its all arbitrary.
Q: What is the Democrats' strategy for playing hardball?

A:  They feel they have political currency i.e. Obama's election-- no motivation to really make drastic compromises; in a way they're 100% correct

Q:  What is the Republicans' strategy for playing hardball?

A: Fear tea party candidates will defeat them in 2014 primaries. Also, they prefer new Congress deal with this; they possess more votes than now

Q:  Why are Republicans so inflexible about tax increases on wealthy?

A:  They honestly (wrongly) believe national wealth and prosperity Only occurs when they possess it in abundance and they trickle it down
Q:  Why does the media hype this non-event?

A:  It is what media does.  Plus it is corporate.  Corporations & wealthy don't want higher taxes.  Neither does Wall Street or Investors.

Q:  Certainly the Republicans know they will have to concede their fight for Bush tax cuts for all as part of an overall agreement, don;t they?

A:  Not necessarily.  Many Tea Party-ites would rather taxes dramatically go up based on no agreement then to make compromises at bargaining table.

Q: Why?

A: 1) The goal is winning midterms while blaming Obama for the supposed new recession; 2) They hate him personally & won't give an inch.
Q:  So what will this do to the overall economy?

A: Not much.  We've been in continual recession since 2007 so little change will be felt by masses.      Stocks will go down, then up, then down...

Q: Repeating from earlier, if what you say is true, why is the media making such a to-do about this situation of going over the 'cliff'?

A: Because taxes on affluent will go up; stock dividends tax rate-- Up... They don't represent mainstream values or economic priorities; They are stock market cheerleaders.

Q: Why does 'A&G' want the nation to drop off the proverbial 'cliff'?

A: After Fifty months of "winning", it is about time Wall Street, Investors and very affluent suffer in some way like the bottom 99% has.  No more catering...
Q:  In conclusion, what's the most important thing people should be taking out of this situation, if anything?

A:  We're all being manipulated; its a show; political posturing.  Reps & Dems... Congress & President-- all buddies and friends; Deal will ultimately be done.

~ We will return on Wed. January 2nd unless there is something relevant or important to write about..   So until then, Happy New Year to All!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Play or Pay: Reframing Magnetic Poetry "Put-Downs"

OK everyone, let's keep those neurons "young" and the neural connections growing by playing and learning. I got a "Magnetic Poetry" "Put-Downs" Kit as a gift on Christmas Day.

Rather than construct the snarky "Put-Downs," as designed, I decided instead to practice a bit of "reframing" as often outlined in the CBT playbook. So, I tried to conjure up positive phrases and affirmations from the original sardonic phrase-set offered. Below is my first attempt at a few "poetic thoughts" and inspiring affirmations. It's amazing how many hours one can spend  messing around with "Magnetic Poetry" on one's refrigerator/freezer door.

My photo here is a bit small. Among the word jazz  riffs I've cobbled together from the magnetic blocks so far are:

"initial misconceptions are when your thoughts probe nothing."

"how about ignoring whatever insignificant panic rises to work?"

"imagine the gene pool and young train of thought are circuses where you never grow up."

"out of chaos inflatable spinning disorder."

"set aside a special time to change your mind and personality."

"I will cherish myself and big ideas."

"a nice window but not enough."

Maybe not genius but Groovedelic for a few hours play.

Speaking Frank on Holiday Sales

Its' early Thursday morning.. we're back..  We hope everyone had a lovely Christmas holiday..  And now let's peruse the news...

More fiscal cliff nonsense... Will they?  Won't they?


Some articles on how overall holiday sales have been the worst since the 2008 crisis...  Gotta admit we're a little surprised it was admitted publicly... this is usually the type of news that has a positive twist or which you don't hear about until mid January at earliest..

Gee, we wonder why sales have been so poor?

Hurricane Sandy?   No..  It was terrible and it hit some communities unmercilessly but it was also two full months ago.. so that's a 'No'

Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving evening?   No  It was a poor idea and utterly inconsiderate to anyone who worked for those stores but that really didn't affect overall shopping numbers because statistics compiled based on overall sales and credit card usage isn't based on December alone-- it took Thanksgiving into account..  and Halloween too.
"Holiday-related sales rose 0.7 percent from Oct. 28 through Dec. 24, as compared to last year, according to data from Mastercard Advisors SpendingPulse. That was the lowest growth rate for that period since 2008, at the depths of the recession. " (NBC News)

And why does Wall St care?  It wants everyone spending as much as humanly possible to pump up the quarterly dividends of companies they're actively invested in, which translates to greater profit for them.

So why were sales so low?   People tapped out of cash?  People finally feeling the economic effects of long-term unemployment?  Fear of that pretend 'cliff'?

Possibly...  Maybe... and Doubt it....

We think it was very simple-- the sales were utter crap and people finally caught on to the tricks.

Back in 2008 after the market crashed and such, people were fearful to shop.. Didn't feel comfortable for the future and such really didn't shop in droves.  The department stores and other major retailers were desperate to get rid of inventory so you the consumer saw some genuinely good sales across the board--clothing to electronics to automobiles...
In 2009, these merchants were pissed off and determined to never let their profits be cut into this dramatically again... They had to re-condition the consumer to not expect or look for the sale...

So they drastically cut back quantities especially on higher-end ticket items.  'You want to buy X?  We'll we only have 2 in stock in this color/size so when its gone, its gone'...  and people got "played" by the merchants and basically gobbled this manipulation up..

In addition, at lower end stores, no longer were they going to wait until the 26th to mark merchandise 50% off... They were going to create phony faux sales... 40-50% off sales in early November.. and Black Friday.. and all of December..   just recycle the sales...  Macy's is pro at this...

What do we mean?  Example.. a black sweater retails at $140 so Macys will have a sale --40% off then add some "special" coupons to lower the price to say $65...   This "sale" will be offered on Halloween.. Veterans Day.. pre-Thanksgiving, Black Friday, early-mid December, etc... you get the picture...

So for every 14 days that sweater is available for purchase, perhaps 8 to 10 of them will be "sales"... the exact Same sale... And Only after these 8-10 pretend sales do not move the merchandise, will a store like Macy's perhaps add an extra 10% off
Then you had stores like Kohl's that issue 20% coupons literally every single day in one's email box which add up to 52 "sales" a year...  Trust us.. if you're eternally getting 20% off, that item is eternally inflated by 20%

And so between 2009 -2011, people bought into all this nonsense... And suddenly whether it be people running out of disposable income, feeling depressed by the state of things or just tired of the same bullshit tricks and games, overall people cut back on their spending and decided to wait for "real" sales...

Whether they get them in late December or January.. who knows..  retail stores can be stubborn bastards..  For instance one of our staff visited Target the day after Christmas.. it seems the wrapping paper and bows, etc were 50% off but the holiday candy was only 33% off...

Target stingily wanted to hold on to that 17% price differential as long as possible...  Certainly many people bought holiday chocolates at that discounted price making Target look smart... but then again the store was visited in late afternoon and was told there was "A LOT" of chocolate left considering most other holiday fare at 50% were completely gone.
Not to pick on Target but it made us think... last year on Black Friday, they sold iTunes cards at 20% off which is overall a good sale.  This Black Friday, they sold iTunes 4-packs normally $60 for $50 which works to a discount of 16.7% off.

Miserliness can be a subtle thing.

Holiday sales overall tend to be fake.  For instance, for all the hype and hoopla about "fantastic" Black Friday and Christmas sales on HDTVs, do you know when the best sales of the year Really take place??

Yes-- the week or two right before the Super Bowl.
Do you know when the best prices for laptops and non-Apple tables are offered?  Hint.. its not Black Friday or Christmas...

Yes-- Its the couple weeks in mid-late August before kids go back to school.

Any pay full price for calendars on Dec 24th when they'll be 33-50% off on Dec 25th and 75% off by January 21st?

We hope that stores will learn some lessons and next year offer better and more sincere savings & value to customers or make Black Friday something worthy to stand outside in the cold for...

But we doubt it...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmastime Facts N Tidbits

The entire 'Ants & Grasshoppers' team wishes a Merry Christmas to all our loyal readers & followers...

We will return either Wednesday 12/26 or Thurs 12/27 depending on if anything newsworthy occurs immediately after the holiday...

Below is a repost from Christmas 2010 full of interesting facts & tidbits about the holiday... Hope you all enjoy & see you very soon...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The tradition of burning a Yule log actually has its roots in ancient Scandinavia. Supposedly the Yule log was a source of good luck and its remnants were saved to inspire good fortune throughout the year. It was such a widely held belief that people even threw the ashes in wells to make the water safer to drink.

The annual Christmas pudding was more than just a tasty treat. Small items were placed in them which had the power to predict what the New Year would bring. Coins were associated with a gain in wealth, a ring was a sign of an imminent marriage and a button signified extended bachelorhood.

This idea actually goes back to the middle ages where the cake being served on the Twelfth Night would come complete with a hidden bean. Whoever found this bean was declared “king” for that one night.

If you counted all the gifts that were given in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” you would realize that the number of gifts being presented were 364 in total, thus a gift was given for each day of the year.

Christmas was illegal in England from 1647-1660. This was enforced by the then leader Oliver Cromwell who believed it was immoral to hold celebrations on one of the holiest days of the year. The celebration of Christmas was therefore a criminal offence which could lead to an individual being arrested if he or she was found guilty of condoning any revelry during the period.

The first President to decorate a Christmas tree was Franklin Pierce- 1856.

The evergreen tree, because it is perpetually green, has been used as a symbol of eternal life since the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.  The Scandinavians believed that the evergreen could even scare away the devil.  Decorating an evergreen tree in honor of Xmas became popular in the Middle Ages, especially in Germany.  The decorations then consisted of candles and wafers, to symbolize Christ and the Host.

Martin Luther is actually said to be the first person to put candles on a tree.  (The decorated wooden Xmas pyramid was also popular then!) The tree became popular in Europe and America in the 18th century and the Victorians started decorating them with candies and cakes hung with ribbon.

Woolworth (a department store) began selling manufactured Xmas ornaments in 1880 and the custom became big very fast.  The first electronically lighted Xmas tree appeared in 1882.

Rudolph" was actually created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion
Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve.

He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

Christmas is sometimes referred to as X-Mas because the Greek letter "x" is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos. "Xmas" therefore means "Christ's Mass." The abbreviation has been around since at least the sixteenth century and is not, as some people have claimed, an attempt to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas" and make it a secular holiday.
In the midst of World War I, At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. A German brass band began playing Christmas carols. Early, Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas".

At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers. The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of Soccer.

Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations. Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things. The Druids are also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime.

They regarded the mistletoe as sacred, made certain that it never touched the ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing that goes on under it. Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses.
A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the 17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolized the thorns in Christ's crown-of-thorns. Red berries symbolised the drops of Christ's blood. A wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated to birth of Christ.

Hanging the Christmas stocking on the hearth on Christmas Eve in the hope that it will be filled with presents the next morning is a custom that goes back about 400 years. It derived from the custom in Holland of children placing wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of St. Nicholas.

 The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas's for the donkey that carried the gifts. In exchange he would leave them a small gift such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Charlie Rose: A Smirk by Any Other Name..

Ah , smirkin' TV talking head Charlie Rose. To paraphrase the Bard,
"What's in a name? that which we call a smirk.
By any other name would be as sly."

On the Blogs: Top 10 Stigmatized Health Disorders

Please try to help  -- don't blame or shame!

by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Sickness and Shame

As if being sick weren't bad enough, some diseases come with a social stigma that can make sufferers hide their illness.

#10  Colon Cancer: Colorectal cancers are very curable in the early stages, according to the National Institutes of Health. Unfortunately, colon cancer often sneaks up without symptoms, and even if symptoms do show up, patients may be embarrassed to talk about diarrhea and abnormal bowel movements with their doctors. The best way to diagnose colon cancer is early screening, including colonoscopies.

Journalist Katie Couric tackled the stigma surrounding this bowel cancer straight on in March 2000 by televising her colonoscopy. Along the way, she proved that talking about hidden diseases can help people seek medical care. According to a 2003 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, colonoscopy rates went up after Couric's TV special. Before the campaign, a physician could expect to conduct 15 colonoscopies a month. For 9 months after Couric's on-air procedure, that number jumped to 18 colonoscopies per physician per month.

#9 Erectile Dysfunction: The stigma surrounding erectile dysfunction has lessened in recent years, thanks to hours of commercials depicting happy, wholesome couples dancing to the soundtrack of an announcer talking about pharmaceutical side effects. But it can still be tough for men to admit to sexual dysfunction. According to a 2010 review of sexual dysfunction treatments published in the journal Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, only half of men with erectile dysfunction get treatment.

Men with erectile problems shouldn't feel alone, however. According to the same report, 10 to 20 million American men have erectile dysfunction, and by age 70, about two-thirds of men have trouble achieving or keeping an erection.

#8 'Manly' Problems: If erectile dysfunction is surrounded by a stigma of unmanliness, some female disorders come with symptoms that challenge our cultural definitions of femininity. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormone disorder that can cause infertility and diabetes, among other medical problem, is often marked by excessive facial hair. That symptom can leave women struggling to shave, wax or otherwise hide their hirsutism.

Disorders like hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can be stigmatizing to both genders. But the disorder comes with extra baggage for women.

"You know, with women, you don't want to be someone who is sweaty," Sophia Wastler, a 36-year-old Virginia woman with hyperhidrosis, told LiveScience. "It's kind of more of a male characteristic than a female characteristic, so it's quite embarrassing."

#7 Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a chronic immune disorder that causes patches of cracked, scaly skin. These outbreaks can be hard to hide and understandably embarrassing. The embarrassment is multiplied by people who see psoriasis and shy away, mistakenly believing the disorder is contagious.

According to a 2008 survey by the National Psoriasis Foundation, 63 percent reported feeling self-conscious about their skin. More than half, 58 percent, said they felt embarrassed, and one-third said they limited their social interactions and dating because of psoriasis flare-ups.

#6 Irritable and Inflamed Bowels: Any disease related to excretion is bound to come tied in some sort of stigma. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) aren't exceptions. IBD is actually a cluster of syndromes, all marked by the inflammation of the intestines. IBS is a vaguer diagnosis, but the disorder is marked by intestinal pain, cramping and constipation or diarrhea without the inflammation that marks IBD.

In general, IBS patients feel more stigmatized by their disease than IBD patients, according to a study published online March 2011 in the journal Quality of Life Research. Among more than 200 IBS patients surveyed, 27 percent said they felt moderately or extremely stigmatized, compared with 8 percent of the more than 200 IBD patients surveyed. The difference may be because without a clear physical cause, IBS sufferers feel their disease is not taken as seriously.

#5 Obesity: Fat stigma has gone global. According to a 2011 study in the journal Current Anthropology, there are almost no cultures that don't associate obesity with laziness and gluttony, despite the fact that many of these same cultures once saw heftiness as a sign of wealth.

Those who would shame the overweight often say they're concerned about the person's health. If that's the case, shame is likely to backfire? A 2011 study in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly found that shame and stigma hasten physical decline in people who are obese.

#4 Leprosy:  Leprosy, or Hansen's Disease, looms large in the public imagination. The disease is thought to be extremely contagious and believed to result in body parts falling off.
Wrong on both counts. More than 90 percent of people who come in contact with the bacteria that cause leprosy will fight the disease off without symptoms and without becoming contagious (though humans may be able to catch the disease from close contact with armadillos).

The disease is also curable with antibiotics. And while the skin lesions caused by the infection can be disfiguring without treatment, fingers and toes don't just fall off. This myth likely got its start because nerve damage to digits can cause numbness, putting people with leprosy at more risk of accidental injury or amputation.

#3 Lung Cancer: Like obesity, lung cancer is a condition that people tend to blame on the victim. The link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer leads people to believe that sufferers bring cancer upon themselves. But in fact, thousands of people who have never smoked get lung cancer every year.

Besides, as Jamie Ostroff of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center pointed out at the 2009 World Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco, people who have smoked are no less worthy of lung cancer treatment than those who have never lit up. According to, the disease is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, killing more than 158,000 people each year in the United States.

#2 HPV: Human papillomavirus (HPV) infects the skin or mucous membranes, often asymptomatically. But some strains of the virus can cause cervical cancer in women, making them dangerous sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HPV can also cause genital warts.
HPV became a flashpoint in the GOP primary elections in September 2011, when Republican candidates criticized Texas Governor and frontrunner Rick Perry for issuing an executive order in Texas that would have made vaccination against HPV mandatory for girls attending school in the state. Many other vaccines are already mandatory in Texas, but the HPV vaccine is controversial because the virus is spread through sexual contact. Medical experts say that the vaccine is most effective when administered before a person becomes sexually active and potentially exposes themselves to the virus. But Perry's attempt to make the vaccine mandatory was shot down by social conservatives, who argue that getting vaccinated may spur teens into early sexual activity.

#1 HIV/AIDS: Perhaps one of the most famously stigmatized diseases ever, HIV/AIDS first appeared as a mysterious syndrome in mostly gay men in the early 1980s. Anti-gay activists blamed gay men's "immoral" behavior for the spread of the disease, setting up a persistent victim-blaming attitude.

According to a 1999 study published in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, 52 percent of Americans still associated HIV with homosexuality, despite the fact that by that time, only about a third of new HIV cases were contracted by gay men. In 1997, the same study found, 55 percent of Americans believed that most people with AIDS were responsible for their illness, and 28 percent went as far to say that most of them deserved it.

As late as 2006, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found significant confusion among Americans about HIV. According to the report, 37 percent of Americans erroneously believed that HIV could be spread by kissing, while 32 percent thought it could spread via shared drinking glasses.

Freddie King "Christmas Tears" 1961

Marge's Little Lulu #78 December 1954

And, Oh Yes, They Will Be Mine -- 15 Vintage Phantom Paperbacks

Read it and weep: the Winner's Curse:

Lee Falk. Group of Fifteen First Printing Mass Market Phantom Paperbacks. Avon Books, 1972-75. Toning and mild rubbing; otherwise,Very Good or better. From the collection of first fan, Jack Cordes.

Stock Market Like Music Instruments: 'Played'

Many people have expressed over the years, especially in recent times that the market is 'played' or rigged..  And to defend their point of view, they express as Example #1 the Fed's direct interference via the continual injection of tens of billions of dollars monthly...

These people are correct of course...

But if the rigging of the market was limited to issues of liquidity or algorhytmic trading, that would be bad enough..

It seems that the stock market has in addition, the ability to purposely and intentionally plummet at the whim and will of the financial elite.

Normally that would be absurd to believe, but as the reaction to the initial 2008 failed TARP vote and subsequent drop of 1550 pts in 2 days showed, it is quite doable.
As most may or may not know, Republican John Boehner, Majority leader of the House, tried to push forth a horrible 'Plan B' to supposedly solve the 'fiscal cliff' crisis, which narrowly passed the House but was dead on arrival for Senate approval, much less the President and Boehner himself realized he didn't even have enough votes in his own party to gain support..

Pretty embarrassing.

So now what has been the popular discussion at the financial 'water cooler'..

Something akin to 'maybe what we all need to scare these politicians into shape is a dramatic stock market drop like in 2008'

If that was simply empty wishful thinking, we wouldn't care..

But once again we refer back to 2008.
And Investors & money managers definitely reflect positive upon that event because it allowed them and friends/colleagues to receive $700 bn in taxpayer money without any questions as to where it was going or demands of repayment.

The one difference between then and now which may come into play, is back then Treasury Secretary under George W Bush and former Goldman Sachs head Hank Paulson desperately wanted that $700 Bn to be passed so clearly he manipulated things from behind the scenes after the initial failed vote to get such a co-ordinated and controlled market drop.

Currently those who want the market to collapse to scare Washington into a deal are on the outside.. Their 'guy' is neither the President or Treasury Secretary.   Certainly Tim Geithner has plenty of buddies on Wall St but it is not in Obama's interests to sabotage the stock market to force concessions, so that gives hope that the ploy will not be re-orchestrated.

Oh the markets may drop by many points if/once the reality of no cliff deal becomes apparent.  But it will be choppy... disorganized.. and the greed of Investors will trump any desire for unity to make a point..
In other words, without a 'united front', any dramatic drop in stocks will stimulate the mongrels to snap up the discounts which will push the market up and thus no sincere creation of public panic.

But it makes it very clear how dangerous it is for everyday people to place their money in the stock market, even with Bernanke keeping interest rates at near zero till 2015 at least and little other avenues to get a return on investment comparable to inflation.

A very quick word on interest rates..  The Fed can never raise them... Ever...  for every percentage point raised, it would cost the US govt and additional $250 billion in interest alone on their foreign debts.   So don't ever expect to see a return to the good ole' days of 4-5% interest on savings at the bank.

So that's where things stand this Friday, December 21st...

Congress has gone on vacation till after Christmas so let's all do so as well..  put all this in the back of your minds for a few days at least and enjoy this lovely holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plan B from Outer Space

Many apologies to those offended by the following statement:

Republican lawmakers are Scum!

Putrid, dirty, filthy, detestable, carcass-ridden scum...

Now we're not saying all Republicans are..  Just the lawmakers.

 "The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday narrowly passed a bill to cut domestic spending while protecting defense programs from a similar fate next year.

The measure, which Republicans said they crafted as a back-up plan in case broader "fiscal cliff" negotiations with President Barack Obama fail, will die in the Senate, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.

The bill passed 215 to 209.
The bill was one of two bills the House was set to vote on, which are being referred to as "Plan B" to averting the fiscal cliff."  (AP)

Now like the article states, it will not pass... even if it ever gets through the Senate which it won't, the President will veto it... So that's that..

So what makes the Republican lawmakers scum?

Is it as the first paragraph stated, that their gold is to cut domestic spending (to the bone if the could) while protecting the Defense budget?

Well, sure..

But there's more to it than that...
'Plan B' Would Actually Raise Taxes on the Poor  (CNBC)

Would it now...

"The non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that the average taxpayer earning $1 million or more in cash income would see their taxes go up by an average of $72,000. A small number of those million-plus earners will see a tax cut, due to an anomaly in the Alternative Minimum Tax.

But lower income earners will also see a tax hike. People making between $10,000 to $20,000 will see their taxes go up by an average of $262. People making $20,000 to $30,000 will see their taxes go up by $219."

What Nerve!  What Arrogant Gall!
~ "I vant to suckk poor-people's blood!"

OK.. let's stop there a moment to review...

According to Plan B, some multi-millionaires would pay LESS taxes, and those making $30k or less would pay More, with those making under $20k forced to pay MORE than those just above it..."

Are they Serious?!

Obviously the Republican legislative scum are...

Let's continue...
"Granted, those are minor increases. But drilling down deeper, you find that some of those low-income earners could see a sizable increase. One in five of Americans who earn less than $20,000 a year will see an increase of $1,070 -- a sizeable amount for low-income earners."

In fact, the only taxpayers who will get an overall tax cut under Plan B are those who earn between $200,000 and $1 million. People making between $200,000 and $500,000 will see an average tax cut of $301. Those making between $500,000 and $1 million will see their taxes go down by $164."

It really is infuriating..   Certainly it could be worse-- just imagine if the Evil Republicans controlled both houses and the Presidency!  But the sheer audacity of floating a plan that makes those with the least amount of money pay higher rates while lowering the wealthy... all under a bullshit guise of pushing economic prosperity..

Some people in Washington are rotten to the core...
We thought this statement in the CNBC article at the end was just pathetic..

"This is not to say that Plan B is good or bad."

NO?   You couldn't say?  That difficult to choose, ehh?

Once again, we hope and wish and pray and whatever else needs to happen for a fiscal cliff compromise to NOT be agreed to and that from it, Wall St howls...

And this Republican lawmaker deviance just begs a simple question:

Do they ever hope or wish to win the White House in the future... Ever??