Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Forgotten Conqueror

In twenty-five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century. Whether measured by total number of people defeated, the sum of countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of the Mongol warriors' horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary, from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map Genghis Khan's conquests include 30 countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which was comprised of no more than one hundred thousand warriors - a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era.

In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of his personality, charisma and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the Constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continent. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation.

the above from
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
by Jack Weatherfoord
Three Rivers Press, © 2004 by Jack Weatherford
ISBN 0-609-80964-4

My comment: Why is it that we seem to know so little about the man who "smashed the feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth" replacing it with a system based on individual merit and achievement? Believe it or not, and contrary to what you probably have heard, Genghis Khan believed in the rule of law and abolished torture. He refused to hold hostages and was the first to make it a policy to grant diplomatic immunity to ambassadors and envoys, even from those with whom he was at war. Did I forget to mention that he also invented the first international postal system? The census?

We know a lot more about men who accomplished far less, Alexander, whom we call the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon. Could the answer simply be Eurocentrism in the face of a world of history?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Hoping he fails ...


Republican "holds" in the Senate, Bloomberg reports, are preventing two key economists from joining the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.

Goolsbee, who has a reputation for competence and centrism, and Rouse, who specializes in education policy, are hardly the most controversial figures. Unless one of them has tax or nanny problems, they are likely to be approved by unanimous consent. If there were ever a time when our country needed economists like a fire needs firefighters, this is it.

... read the rest after the click.

My comment: Hoping he fails and doing everything they can to see that he ... and we ... fail. A little more of the Audacity of Nope? After dominating policy for 8 of the last 8 years (NO, the Democratic majorities in Congress weren't veto proof ... check the record of Bush vetoes ... one between 2001 and 2006, eleven in 2007 and 2008.) and having their philosophy and policies totally discredited, the still have the cahones ...

War on the Rich?

The bogus GOP claim that Obama is trying to bleed wealthy Americans.

By Daniel Gross in Slate

To hear conservatives tell it, you'd think mobs of shiftless welfare moms were marauding through the streets of Greenwich and Palm Springs, lynching bankers and hedge-fund managers, stringing up shopkeepers, and herding lawyers into internment camps. President Obama and his budgeteers, they say, have declared war on the rich.

On Tuesday, Washington Post columnist (and former Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson argued in an op-ed that "Obama chose a time of recession to propose a massive increase in progressivity—a 10-year, trillion-dollar haul from the rich, already being punished by the stock market collapse and the housing market decline." The plans are so radical, "there will not be enough wealthy people left to bleed." CNBC's Larry Kudlow wrote that "Obama is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds." Other segments on the financial news network warn of a tax on the rich, a war on the wealthy. My personal favorite was a piece from, which had to be rewritten and reposted because the original was so poorly done. (The revised version isn't much better.) It quotes a dentist who is contemplating reducing "her income from her current $320,000 to under $250,000 by having her dental hygienist work fewer days and by treating fewer patients. [That way, she] would avoid paying higher taxes on the $70,000 that would be subject to increased taxation if Obama's proposal is signed into law."

It's hard to overstate how absurd these claims are. First, let's talk about the "massive increase in progressivity" that Gerson deplores. It consists largely (but not exclusively) of returning marginal tax rates to their levels of 2001, before Gerson and the epically incompetent Bush administration of which he was a part got their hands on the reins of power. Obama wants to let marginal rates for families with taxable income (not total income, but taxable income) of more than $250,000 revert from 33 percent to 36 percent, and to let the top rate—currently 35 percent on family income above $357,000—revert to 39 percent. (Here are the current tax tables.) There's also talk of capping—not eliminating, but capping—deductions on charitable giving and mortgage interest.

... there's lots more dispelling the right wing myth. Check it out on Slate after the click.

The Roots of Anti-Liberalism

by Dan Agin

[Dan Agin is Emeritus Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago. His scientific interests are biological psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral genetics. He's the author of the trade book Junk Science: How Politicians, Corporations, and Other Hucksters Betray Us (St. Martin´s Press/Thomas Dunne Books,2006) (paperback edition 2007) (Spanish edition, Ciencia Basura, 2007). His forthcoming book is More Than Genes: How the Fetal Environment Shapes IQ and Behavior (Oxford University Press, 2009). ]

With all the current prattling by conservative hacks about "liberals" and "liberalism", as if caring about the conditions of other people is a horrible attitude, you would think the more intelligent among the hacks would understand the lessons of history. Or is that too "liberal" for them?

Without the lessons of history, our future may be a dark time. And of lessons, history has plenty to offer us--about ourselves, our children, and the roots of anti-liberalism.

In its baldest expression, anti-liberalism is not caring about your neighbors, the people of your city, the people of your country, or the human species. You care about "country" or "freedom" or "business"--but not about people. You paint yourself as a "rugged individualist" or a "philosophical conservative" or, more recently, as a political and social "moderate"--because these days "moderate" may be a safer label at dinner parties. But no matter the label, it's all anti-liberalism and striking in the way the lessons of history are so conveniently ignored.

Anti-liberals have their slogans. "Self-reliance" and "fiscal responsibility" and various other anti-liberal slogans fly around the media like intoxicated pigeons, but if one looks behind the slogans they are all part of the political mechanics of anti-liberalism.

The Roots of Anti-Liberalism: Part I

The Roots of Anti-Liberalism: Part II

The Roots of Anti-Liberalism: Part III

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Health care is a privilege according to some Republicans

President Obama held a health-care summit today at the White House where he made clear that reform was an administration priority. "If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy and get our federal budget under control, then we have to address the crushing cost of health care this year, in this administration," he said. But he'll face some serious Republican opposition, as this clip from MSNBC makes clear.

Tennessee Republican was on the network this morning, railing against any health-care reform effort as a move toward "socialism" and "class warfare."

"Health care is a privilege," Wamp went on to say. "It's not necessarily a right."

... more after the click.

My comment: Does he really mean to say that some people have no right to health care?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Cost of Life

Source - Health Care Cost per Capita from the UN, Life Expectancy Statistics from CIA World Fact Book (2008 Est.)

The chart above compares the per capita health care cost of the most expensive health care systems on the planet with the average life expectancy by country.

I wonder who's getting the best value for their money. It doesn't appear to be us.

Hell Explained by a Chemistry Student

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term.

The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well :

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle 's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle 's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over! The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'


[Tip o' the hat to Iwona for sharing this one.]

Teddy Kennedy, Knighted

A Welshman (Prime Minister Brown)

delivers an English Knighthood

to an Irishman (Senator Kennedy)

Only in America!

(Thanks you Tweety)

And we're only at the beginning of a long, long haul

from WSJ

Twenty percent of all U.S. residential properties that had a mortgage on them were underwater at the end of December, with mortgage debt greater than what the homes were worth, according to a report released Wednesday by First American CoreLogic.

That's more than 8.3 million mortgages that were upside down at the end of the year, compared with 7.6 million three months earlier. It's a problem that is expected to get worse as home prices continue to fall.

... read the rest in the Wall Street Journal after the click.

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it

In 1936, during the campaign for his second term in office as President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech that President Obama might give today ... almost word for word.

... or listen to the speech on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Truth, Justice and the American Way

from Dave Johnson -

Try this: start or edit a Wikipedia article that includes information that might be unfavorable to conservative corporate interests, perhaps in the area of tort reform (incl medical malpractice, etc) or trade/protectionism, etc. Try adding citations to studies that show that tort reform is a corporate-funded effort to keep people from being able to sue companies that harm them... I tried it and it was removed in a few minutes.

Or try to edit the entry on Protectionism, perhaps adding something like the words "unfair competition" as in protecting America jobs from unfair competition from countries that exploit workers. Someone did this the other day and the edit lasted a few minutes before it was removed because it changed the "long accepted definition of protectionism." In other words, the idea that our standard of living should be protected from competition using exploited workers is unfair goes against the corporate-interest meaning of the term.

... read more after the click

Republican Pork

Red States Gobble Up Omnibus Earmarks

(Earmarks can be requested individually, with other members of Congress or along with the president.)

Senate Democrats and Republican ate roughly the same amount from the government trough on a solo basis, although Democrats have one and half times as many members. Democratic members secured about $677 million in individual earmarks; Republicans brought home $669 million. Those solo figures, however, don't tell the entire story, because about six billion more was requested by groups of lawmakers.

... read the rest after the click.

My comment: A couple things that should be understood about "earmarks":

1.) Earmarks don't add money to a spending bill. They only direct how already allocated money will be spent and THAT MUST be decided ... somehow.

2.) Just because a spending project may be some Senator's or Congressman's "pet project" does not, in and of itself, make the project a bad thing. An 'earmark" for a Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska (a Republican earmark, incidentally) is wasteful spending. It would create short term jobs, but, in the final analysis, it would accomplish nothing productive in the long term. On the other hand, an earmark for a light commuter rail between Tuscon and Phoenix in Arizona - which could very easily be an earmark (I haven't checked, but it's been an issue out here for some time - and universally opposed by Republicans in Arizona) would a.) create short term jobs, b.) cut back on fuel consumption (green), and c.) reduce traffic on I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix, one of the most dangerous stretches of Interstate in the country (public safety). All of that would be a good thing - unless you're an Arizona Republican. Both B and C have positive long term economic effects.

In order to judge an earmark, one must actually read it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hypocracy at its Finest!

Porn in the USA: Conservatives Are Biggest Consumers

8 of Top 10 Porn-Consuming States Voted Republican in 2008 Presidential Election.

... a little more about that on ABC News after the click.