May 222013

DSM revisions are always an excellent inspiration to self-reflection. Of the new batch of disorders, for sure I have this one. What about you?

Does this mean I can write off my cleaning person as a medical expense?

“persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save the items and distress associated with discarding them,”

via 15 new mental illnesses in the DSM-5 – Slide Show – MarketWatch.

May 192013

Grim. Very grim. And they all probably have student loans as well.

Just 56 percent of college students complete four-year degrees within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study. Among the 18 developed countries in the OECD, the U.S. was dead last for the percentage of students who completed college once they started it ― even behind Slovakia.

via 11 Public Universities with the Worst Graduation Rates.

May 182013

NC is endorsing Rob Ford for mayor. Wait! He already is mayor. Well we endorse him anyway. All politicians should be this interesting and hang with Somali drug dealers.

Many Americans awoke this morning to discover that (a) the mayor of Toronto is a guy named Rob Ford, and (b) Rob Ford smokes crack. Gawker reported last night that a cell-phone video clearly showing Ford lighting up a crack pipe — which was supposedly filmed within the last six months, while he was mayor — was being shopped around for six figures. Gawker’s John Cook saw the video in person with his own two eyes, as did two reporters from the Toronto Star. Ford’s lawyer calls the video “false and defamatory” and asks, hilariously, “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?”

via 20 Things Worth Knowing About Rob Ford — Daily Intelligencer.

May 132013

At the beginning of American history, there was a slave class, not African-born but English, Scottish or Irish indentured servants who either sold themselves or had themselves sold for debt. They were called indentured servants.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012.

via Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream –

May 082013

You know maybe we could start with something easy. Forget background checks and keeping guns away from criminals, psychopaths and gerbils. Let’s start with keeping guns away from kids under the age of, say, six.

I know many of you probably think that’s an infringement of the child’s constitutional right to bear arms.

At the bottom of this article (click the link) is a list of recent child shootings, more than I had come across in my casual reading.

TAMPA — A 3-year-old boy who found a gun in a backpack and shot himself died Tuesday night, authorities said, a local addition to this month’s spate of child shootings nationwide.

The boy, identified by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office as Jadarrius Speights, was with his mother, father and uncle in Apartment 109 of the Avesta apartments at 13144 N 22nd St., just west of the University of South Florida.

The uncle, Jeffrey D. Walker, 29, had bought the 9mm gun at a gun shop and had left it in a backpack in a bedroom he shared with the boy, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

Carter said investigators believe the child found the gun and accidentally shot himself.

via 3-year-old boy fatally shoots self with uncle’s gun | Tampa Bay Times.

May 082013

The tip-off to trouble was a March inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., which earned the equivalent of a “D” grade when tested on its mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations. In other areas, the officers tested much better, but the group’s overall fitness was deemed so tenuous that senior officers at Minot decided, after probing further, that an immediate crackdown was called for.

The Air Force publicly called the inspection a “success.”

But in April it quietly removed 17 officers at Minot from the highly sensitive duty of standing 24-hour watch over the Air Force’s most powerful nuclear missiles, the intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike targets across the globe. Inside each underground launch control capsule, two officers stand “alert” at all times, ready to launch an ICBM upon presidential order.

via Air Force Stripped 17 Officers Of Ability To Launch Nuclear Missiles Due To Internal ‘Rot’.

May 072013

I applied under 293 different names — anything to leave this rat’s nest behind.


“With 78,000 applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history,” Mars One Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said in a statement. “These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants.” [Mars One’s Red Planet Colony Project (Gallery)]

via 78,000 apply to leave Earth forever to live on Mars – Science.

May 072013

The 2013 Save the Children Children’s Mother Index is just out. Read the stats. U.S. #30; Canada #22. Good old Finland is #1. I think what we have here is a clear argument that socialized medicine is contributing to world over-population by protecting babies and mothers.

Finland is the best place to be a mother, with the risk of death through pregnancy one in 12,200 and Finnish children getting almost 17 years of formal education.

Sweden, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands were also in the top 10, with the US trailing at 30.

Surprisingly, the report found that the US has the highest death rate in newborns in the industrialised world, with 11,300 babies dying on the day they are born each year.

via BBC News – DR Congo toughest place for mothers – Save the Children.

May 062013

This is awful, sure enough, but the WOODEN INSISTENCE in the media that such events are “accidental” is hilarious. If you leave two children alone with a loaded gun, the result just doesn’t seem accidental (as in “unexpected”).

Accident: An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm: car accidents on icy roads.

This is an example of serious language degradation (or loss of brain function).

A 13-year-old boy shot his 6-year-old sister with a handgun at their Oakland Park, Fl. home on Saturday, where they appeared to be unsupervised.

“The siblings had been home alone when the teen found the handgun,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella said, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The girl was taken to Broward Health Medical Center where she is listed in critical but stable condition. The incident appeared to be an accidental shooting, according to Moschella.

via 13-Year-Old Boy Shoots 6-Year-Old Sister In Florida | TPM LiveWire.

May 062013

At its convention in Houston, over the weekend, the National Rifle Association asked a vendor to take down a mannequin target that looked like President Barack Obama, Buzzfeed reported on Sunday.

The vendor, Zombie Industries, produces “life-sized tactical mannequin” targets that “bleed” when shot. Photographs of the company’s booth at the convention taken by Buzzfeed show that the company had several sample mannequins displayed for sale, including a clown, a “terrorist,” and a Nazi.

via Vendor Pulls ‘Obama’ Target From Booth At NRA Convention | TPM LiveWire.

May 032013

Nothing to get excited about. Many Americans are just taking time off from work “to consider their options.” Many have vast IRAs and savings cushions and are just waiting out the current anemic jobs situation till the really plum opportunities start to open up. I myself am waiting for that important call from “a major banking concern” asking me to step into a “senior management position.” (At which point I will shut down Numéro Cinq.)


The federal government’s latest snapshot of the unemployment rate offered few bright spots Friday. The economy added 165,000 jobs in April—slightly better than March’s revised number of 138,000 jobs. Unemployment went down one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.5 percent; and health care, retail trade, and the food-services industry added positions.

The glaring caveat to this jobs report is the huge number of Americans who remain out of the workforce. Called the “labor force participation rate” in wonkspeak, that number held steady in April at 63.3 percent—the lowest level since 1979.

via Forget the Unemployment Rate: The Alarming Stat Is the Number of ‘Missing Workers’ –

May 022013

No doubt this is mostly smart people getting sick to death of paralytic politics.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-age men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-age men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

via Suicide Rate Rises Sharply in U.S. –

Apr 292013

Education and politics both seem to have lost a rudder. I watched my son Jacob go through the University of King’s College Foundation Year Programme in Halifax, a reading year devoted to old fashioned Great Books and a history of Western Culture. It did not make him narrow-minded and racist; it taught him to think and gave him a basis of self-understanding upon which to reach out and understand the larger world while critiquing his own immediate surroundings. If I were a kid getting ready for university, I would be breaking down the doors of that little school.

Here is an interview with Yale Classics Professor Donald Kagan on the university and the culture wars (which we have lost).


Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. Curricula are “individualized, unfocused and scattered.” On campus, he said, “I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness.” Rare are “faculty with atypical views,” he charged. “Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values.” He counseled schools to adopt “a common core of studies” in the history, literature and philosophy “of our culture.” By “our” he means Western.

via The Weekend Interview with Donald Kagan: ‘Democracy May Have Had Its Day’ –

Apr 282013

So, in contrast to some other causes of death, terrorism doesn’t rank all that high. And, if you look at the country stats, most terrorism deaths currently take place in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the objective, statistical view. Which does have some impact, say, on how one generally calculates one’s vulnerability while drinking coffee at Max London’s in downtown Saratoga Springs. There is another calculation, the hypothetical calculation of a person killed in ANY terrorist attack ANYWHERE. In that view, the statistics don’t matter much.



Apr 272013

Here’s a link to a text by Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben whose theories about the contrary tendencies in states between supreme executive powers and legislative powers (the government vs the individual, more or less) are particularly apropos since the events of 9/11 created a fresh context for what he calls a “state of exception.” Something to think about.


The place—both logical and pragmatic—of a theory of the state of exception in the American constitution is in the dialectic between the powers of the president and those of Congress. This dialectic has taken shape historically (and in an exemplary way already beginning with the Civil War) as a conflict over supreme authority in an emergency situation; or, in Schmittian terms (and this is surely significant in a country considered to be the cradle of democracy), as a conflict over sovereign decision.

The textual basis of the conflict lies first of all in Article 1 of the constitution, which establishes that “the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it” but does not specify which authority has the jurisdiction to decide on the suspension (even though prevailing opinion and the context of the passage itself lead one to assume that the clause is directed at Congress and not the president). The second point of conflict lies in the relation between another passage of Article 1 (which declares that the power to declare war and to raise and support the army and navy rests with Congress) and Article 2, which states that “the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”

via A Brief History of the State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben.

Apr 202013

Speculative but deeply informed on context: Trust Juan Cole to provide a more nuanced analysis of the Chechen/Muslim matrix at the back of the Boston bombings. The novels of Conrad and Turgenev and Dostoevsky tell us more about the psychology of terrorism than a lot of the current media outlets.

The anger and embarrassment visible in the interviews given on Friday by the uncle and the aunt of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, are entirely understandable.

But I see clues here to family dynamics that may be important in understanding what happened. In Ivan Turgenev’s 1862, novel, “Fathers and Sons,” the old man’s son, Arkady, comes back home after studies with a friend, Bazarov, after both had adopted the radical philosophy of Nihilism. Their radicalism roiled the family for a while, until Bazarov’s death. (Later, in 1881, Nihilists assassinated Tsar Alexander II).

via Fathers and Sons and Chechnya | Informed Comment.

Apr 172013

Occasionally, the Omens Blog finds a story about which one need not be cynical. This one goes straight to the heart of gender issues worldwide. I love the movie title: Girl Rising.


While women’s schooling has been demonstrably related to child survival and other childhood outcomes beneficial to children in the developing world, the “cultural pathways” that underline these statistical connections have not been fully explored. Now, there is a very touching yet powerful documentary film, Girl Rising, which raises our awareness of this universal truth – by educating a girl, you can actually change the world.

via Asia Times Online :: Educating a Girl can save the world.

Apr 092013

Wait a sec! “Accident!” Loaded gun lying on a bed, party, 4-year-old wandering around — which part of this was the accident? What is the difference between “accident” and, say, “stupidity.”

On the other hand, there is the NRA argument: If all the guests at the party had been similarly armed, there is a chance they could have shot the 4-yr-old first and thus saved a life. Now there’s a thought.

NASHVILLE — Authorities say a 4-year-old boy grabbed a loaded gun at a family cookout and accidentally shot and killed the wife of a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy.

via 4-year-old grabs loaded gun at family BBQ and accidentally kills wife of Tennessee sheriff’s deputy | News | National Post.

Apr 042013

Now I get it. This is what happened to me this morning. I woke up feeling, you know, engulfed or engulped by something bigger than myself. I was feeling very low-mass last night.

The European Space Agency has witnessed a super massive black hole at the centre of a galaxy “eat” a “low-mass” object (“low-mass” in this case being something between a Jupiter-sized planet and a brown-dwarf star), saying the giant stellar phenomenon ”woke up” to gulp down the matter.

via NGC 4845: Watch a supermassive black hole eat a star | News | National Post.

Mar 262013

People always ask themselves why Canadians are so nice. Well, the answer is: HOCKEY!

This is a fascinating video, yes, but the darker subtext is that one of the teams playing was an Iroquois team from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, and the other team was from a white town with the comical name Tweed.


Mar 252013

And how much did his parents spend on this?

Harvard University has been stripped of a string of U.S. quiz championship titles after a cheating scandal was uncovered by organizers.

A competitor from America’s most coveted university was found to have accessed a website that listed questions that were to be asked in the National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT).

For three successive years, Andy Watkins, a member of Harvard’s “A” team, viewed pages that displayed the first 40 characters of forthcoming questions, NAQT officials said.

via Harvard stripped of championship titles as quiz bowl cheating scandal spreads | World | News | National Post.

Mar 242013

5pm Sunday night: This is what they are reporting in Cyprus where the ancient promise of guaranteed bank deposits is crumbling. Now imagine this happening here. Then: Buy gold! And run screaming for the exit.

Bank of Cyprus customers report ATM limits cut

Two Bank of Cyprus customers have reported that the amount of cash they can withdraw from an ATM has been cut today to €100 (or possibly a little higher)

Kosta Pavlowitch emailed me from the Cypriot capital:

The cashpoint i have been using for the past few days in Nicosia allowed €500 per day til Friday, then €300 yesterday, and today only €100.

And Steven Kimberley confirmed that his cash machine also refused to pay out €200 but would release €100 (suggesting the new maximum figure may be between the two).

This follows the news earlier today that Laiki Bank has lowered its own limit, reportedly to €100 (see 12.45pm).

A third reader, who is a Laiki customer, has told me that an ATM did release €260 earlier today, perhaps before the limit change was imposed.

via Cyprus in last-ditch bid to agree bailout – live | Business |

Mar 192013

Wait a sec! You can’t eat gold either.

As many commentators have pointed out, this move to grab money from bank deposits in Cyprus is a violation of the sacrosanct deposit insurance guarantee we all think keeps us safe. The fact is that if you save money in a bank, the authorities know exactly how much and where it is and can take it anytime (and call it a “levy” or a “tax”). This is not a good trend.

The original terms of the bailout called for a one-time tax of 6.75 percent on deposits of less than €100,000, and a 9.9 percent tax on holdings of more than €100,000. The moves are designed to raise €5.8 billion of the total €10 billion bailout cost — a condition imposed by Cyprus’s E.U. partners.

Under a new plan put forward by Mr. Anastasiades early Tuesday, depositors with less than €20,000 in the bank would be exempt, but the taxes would remain in place for accounts above that amount.

via Cyprus Set to Reject Bailout, Citing Tax on Bank Deposits –

Mar 132013

Come to think of it, what are the water quality standards where YOU live? How many dead pigs per gallon (dppg) are allowed in your municipality? Check it out. The results may surprise you. In most of North America, there are NO RELIABLE GOVERNMENT figures or standards governing dppg.

In a statement, Shanghai authorities said that 5,916 dead pigs had been removed from the river by Tuesday. But they said water from the river was safe, with water quality meeting government-set standards.

via BBC News – China pulls nearly 6,000 dead pigs from Shanghai river.