Category: Culture

What the hacks in Congress really mean when they say – “Audit the Fed”

image

Remember “Audit the Fed”? It was the call that united populists of the right and left (and quite a few terrified centrists) around the cause of congressional investigators poking around the inner workings of the Federal Reserve, including its setting of interest rate policies.

And it’s back, with a new campaign from Senator Rand Paul (whose father led the earlier version) to push for a bill to do just that in a now-Republican-led Congress. But to make sense of the debate, here’s the simple fact you need to keep in mind: When people say they want to audit the Fed, what they really mean is “The Fed is doing things I disagree with.”

It’s easy to say that the Fed is a very secretive, mysterious institution. That has certainly been true historically, and in some respects remains true today. But in most of the ways that matter, the Fed is actually more transparent about what it decides to do, why and how it carries those policies out than almost any other institution in government.

…You can go to the New York Fed’s website and see the Fed’s securities holdings down to the individual exact bond holding. That’s how I know, for example, that as of Feb. 4 the Fed owned precisely $449.94 million worth of United States Treasury notes that mature April 30, 2015. The CUSIP code is #912828MZ0, in case you happen to know what a CUSIP code is (it is a numbering system to identify a particular bond or other security.)

Perhaps you don’t believe that information, and assume that the banksters at the New York Fed are lying to us all. Well, O.K., but keep in mind that those financial statements are audited already, in 2013 by Deloitte & Touche, one of the giant accounting firms that verify the books of virtually all major companies in America. Oh, and checking up behind them are the Fed’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, the same agency that Senator Paul would like to give greater powers to look into the Fed’s business…

After a monetary policy meeting, the central bank immediately releases a statement of several hundred words announcing what it has done, why and which of its officials voted against the action. Four times a year, the chairwoman, Janet Yellen, stands up immediately thereafter and takes questions from reporters for an hour or so. You may not like the answers, and she can duck a question as effectively as any public official, but she at least faces them.

Also four times a year, the Fed releases a bunch of details of Fed leaders’ forecasts, telling you what they expect to happen in the future with growth, inflation, unemployment and their own interest rate policy…

This legislation pressed by Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and their lying subalterns has only one purpose. They want to corrupt the independence of the Federal Reserve and put control of monetary policy into the dirty hands of Congress.

Can you imagine Congress – especially a version like the present crop of do-nothings – trying to construct monetary policy to drag our sorry butt out of the Great Recession? The recession resulted from Congressional refusal to lead oversight of the financial industry. The Fed had to construct what little rescue they could because our elected representatives were afraid to do anything useful on their own.

Now, they want to end the Fed’s political independence. And they lie – again and again – and call this an “audit”. Humbug!

Seeing Jesus’ face on your toast is perfectly normal – sort of

dog toast

Researchers have found that the phenomenon of “face pareidolia”–where onlookers report seeing images of Jesus, Virgin Mary, or Elvis in objects such as toasts, shrouds, and clouds–is normal and based on physical causes.

“Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed,” says lead researcher Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. “But our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face,” said Lee…

Researchers also found that people can be led to see different images–such as faces or words or letters–depending on what they expect to see, which in turn activates specific parts of the brain that process such images. Seeing “Jesus in toast” reflects our brain’s normal functioning and the active role that the frontal cortex plays in visual perception. Instead of the phrase “seeing is believing” the results suggest that “believing is seeing.”

I guess that explains why I keep seeing Sheila our Australian Shepherd on my morning toast. Some people believe in God. I believe in Dog.

Reichsführer Himmler’s Borghild Project – world’s first sex doll

The world’s first sex doll – or “gynoid” – was built in 1941 by a team of craftsmen from Germany’s Hygiene Museum in Dresden. The project was supervised by the famous preparator and technician Franz Tschakert. The ”Father of the Woman of Glass”, which happened to be the sensation in 1930’s Second International Hygiene Exhibit, used his skills and experience to create a kind of doll the world had never seen before.

The ”field-hygienic project” was an initiative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who regarded the doll as an ” counterbalance” (or regulating effect) for the sexual drive of his storm tropers. In one his letters, dated 20.11.1940 he mentions the ”unnessessarylosses”, the Wehrmacht had suffered in France inflicted by street prostitutes…

The project – called Burghild in the first place – was considered ”Geheime Reichssache” , which was ”more secret than top secret” at the time. Himmler put his commander-in-chief SS-Dr. Joachim Mrurgowsky in charge, the highest ranking officer of Berlins notorious SS-institute…

In July 1941, when Hitler’s army attacked Russia, an unknown but ambitious Danish SS-Doctor called Olen Hannussen took over from Mrurgowsky. Perhaps he was the one who changed Burghild to Borghild, which is nothing more than the Danish equivalent.

Hannussen pushed everybody forward to make the project a success. The ”galvonoplastical dolls” – manufactured in a bronze mold – were meant to follow the Storm troopers in ” desinfections-trailers” into the enemy`s land, in order to stop them visiting ”infection herds” – linke front-brothels and ”loose women”. At least, this was Himmler ‘s plan. A psychiatrist Dr. Rudolf Chargeheimer , befriended with Hannussen and also involved in the project, wrote him a letter to clearify the difficulties…

Between June 1940 – 1941 IG Farben had already developed a number of ”skin-friendly polymers” for the SS. Special characteristics : high tensile strength and elasticity. The cast of a suitable model proved to be more difficult.

Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty-ideal of the Nazis , i. e. white skin, fair hair and blue eyes. Although the team considered a doll with brown hair , the SS- Hygiene-Institute insisted on manufacturing a ”nordish doll”. Tschakert hoped to plastercast from a living model and a number of famous female athletes were invited to come to his studios, among them Wilhelmina von Bremen and Annette Walter…

In Tschakerts view the doll should be nothing more than a” female best form”, a ”perfect automaton of lust”, that would combine ”the best of all possible bodies”. The team agreed on a cheeky and naughty face , a look-a-like of Käthe von Nagy, but the actress politely declined to lend her face to Tschakert’s doll…

After Mrurgowsky’ s exit , Dr. Hannussen rejected the idea to cast a face from a living person. He believed in an ”artifial face of lust”, which would be more attractive to soldiers.

RTFA for all the foibles of Fascist design ideology. Like so many Nazi projects, the only bits that achieved artistry were copied. In this instance, copied from segments of real women.

A rape victim’s fight for justice in Nepal

Justice, Nepal
Click to enlargePhoto by Navesh Chitrakar

When Pooja Bohara heard that the two men who had dragged her into a toilet and raped her had been released from prison nine months ago, the Nepali teenager, seen above through a door of the Raksha Nepal rehabilitation centre, went into shock.

But despite being blamed and stigmatised by some in her community in western Nepal for reporting the rape and forced to seek refuge in the capital, the 17-year-old says she is not giving up her fight for justice.

“Society and some family members blame me. My uncle even suggested that I should be placed in a heap of straw and burnt to death, but my father was for justice,” said Bohara, sitting in the rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu.

“It is not our fault that we are raped. Victims should come out and tell their story to the courts and seek justice.”

The two men, who had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in March 2013, were acquitted by an appeals court last April due to a lack of evidence…

Growing awareness in Nepal of crimes against women has helped an increasing number of victims like Bohara to challenge a culture that often blames or shuns them into silence, say police and activists…

But despite improvements and greater awareness, most women still remain unaware of their rights and do not come forward to report crimes due to fears of stigmatisation, said Menuka Thapa, head of Raksha Nepal, the charity sheltering Bohara…

Mustering the courage to come forward and report violent crimes is just the first step in a long and often painful process to get justice. But Bohara is not waiting. The teenager has appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear her case later this month.

Another important chapter in Reuters’ “The Wider Image” series.

Judge rules perp’s upskirt creative freedom trumps girl’s privacy

An Oregon judge has ruled that a 61-year-old man did nothing illegal when he crouched in the aisle of a Target store and snapped photos up a 13-year-old’s skirt.

It was lewd and appalling, but not outlawed, Washington County Judge Eric Butterfield said.

“From a legal point of view, which unfortunately today is my job to enforce, he didn’t do anything wrong,” the judge said…

Patrick Buono of Portland didn’t dispute using his cellphone to take upskirt photos on Jan. 3 at the store in suburban Beaverton…

But his defense lawyer, Mark Lawrence, argued Buono didn’t violate the laws against invasion of privacy and attempted encouraging child sexual abuse, a child pornography count…

The privacy law bans clandestine photography in bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms and tanning booths, but the Target aisle was plainly public, Lawrence said…

The privacy law also specifies nudity, and the girl was wearing underwear, Lawrence said…

“Sure, she’s in a public place. But she had an expectation of privacy that a deviant isn’t going to stick a camera up her skirt and capture private images of her body,” Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney said…

Maloney said Buono took the photos hoping they would be explicit.

After the ruling, Buono shook his lawyer’s hand and hurried from the courtroom.

The differentiating feature in legal and illegal porn like this has always been participation, permission. And in the case of a minor, even a parent or guardian typically can’t give permission for an illegal act.

Poisonally, I think if the judge had the courage to defend privacy – a scarce enough commodity in 21st Century America – he’d have no shortage of defenders within and without the legal profession.

Ignore beancounters who say the unemployment rate is a lie

Gallup CEO Jim Clifton has discovered a shocking secret about unemployment: its definition.

Those Chicago guys didn’t even bother to hide this one in plain sight. It’s just sitting there in plain sight, right on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ homepage: only people who don’t have a job but are actively looking for one count as unemployed. That means someone who wants work but has given up looking for it because things seem so hopeless isn’t “unemployed.” Neither is someone who works part-time but can’t find the full-time job that they want. Or someone who does whatever odd jobs they can find. Add it all up, and our 5.6 percent unemployment rate is a “Big Lie,” according to Clifton…

If the unemployment rate is so flawed how come we pay so much attention to it? Well, because it’s the worst stat about labor market slack except for all the others. The problem is figuring out which people who don’t have jobs are really jobless.

Take discouraged workers. The unemployment understates how bad things are by ignoring them, but we wouldn’t want to count everyone who’s not working and not looking for a job as unemployed, would we? If we did, then we’d be saying that college students and stay-at-home parents and even retirees are just as unemployed as someone who’s sending out resumés everyday.

But even that’s not clear cut since some people go to school because they can’t find a job, and some people stay at home since child care would cost more than they’d make, and some people are forced into retirement. That’s why we look, for example, at the so-called prime-age participation rate—the percent of people between 25 and 54 years old who have or are looking for a job—to figure out far away we are from a real recovery. And by that measure, we still have a ways to go…

But even that’s imperfect because it doesn’t tell us why people aren’t looking for work. It could be that the crisis convinced more people to go to college, regardless of whether they could find a job now. That’d be good.

Or it could be that wages have been flat for so long and childcare’s gotten so expensive that it’s not worth it for people to work now or anytime soon. That’d be bad.

Or it could be both. But if either is true, it’d mean that the unemployment rate is more accurate than you might think. In other words, since we can’t read people’s minds, the best way we can tell what they want is to look at what they’ve done. That’s not entirely right, but it’s the least wrong.

So the unemployment rate’s not a big lie. But calling it one is.

All this crap got started back in the Nixon era. Yes, essential labor statistics were screwed with to make unemployment look like less of a problem. It’s called Republican arithmetic.

But, most of the whines since are just that. Beancounteers crying in their beer over a small fractional adjustment for whatever reason. Which has nothing to do with either cyclical or, especially, structural unemployment.

So, just tell your favorite whiner to put a cork in it and spend their time trying to find solutions instead of putting all their energy into a lament about people they ignore 99% of the rest of their lives.

Thanks to my favorite Recovering Republican

Yup – education is SO important

Dont-care

What if there was an election and no one showed up to vote – not even the candidates themselves?…That’s precisely what happened in the recent Hagerman, New Mexico, school board election…Three candidates ran unopposed: None received a single vote, not even their own.

It was a lack of opposition and not a lack of interest in education that kept the town’s 1,034 eligible voters away from the polls, said Superintendent Ricky Williams, who supervises the three-school district of fewer than 500 students.

The fact that the candidates were unopposed – and that the election was held in Roswell 26 miles away – may have had something to do with it, he said. Polling stations were not open in the southeast New Mexico community, a decision made by Chaves County…

None of the candidates for three open seats on the five-member school board was an incumbent, so each candidate needed at least one vote to be elected…

Cindy Fuller, Bureau of Elections chief for Chaves County, said that with no contested positions, no write-in candidates and no questions or bonds on the ballot, state statute permits the clerk’s office to handle the election. There were voting convenience stations in Roswell, she said, but not Hagerman.

That turned out to be not convenient enough

BTW, in the population center of the state, Albuquerque, less than 2.6 percent of voters showed up to vote for Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College board elections. Of 297,291 eligible voters, only 7,668 cast ballots.