Friday, December 20, 2013

Homeschooling anti-social?

Hot button issues like Senator Cafaro's proposed legislation in Ohio often brings out passionate commentary. And, sadly, too often, over-the-top, mean-spirited, little-better-than-name-calling vitriol.

However, there can often be thoughtful discussion woven through the midst of all the garbage.

I was impressed by the following interchange on Matt Walsh's blog as a result of his post Wednesday on Senator Cafaro's proposed legislation.

imsargarepa wrote:
I think there is an ideology associated with some brands of homeschooling (and I sense this from you) that is a dangerous current in American society. Here’s why: how lovely that you are financially and intellectually able to educate your children in your home. Good for you. There are MANY, MANY, a MAJORITY of families who can’t. When families like yours continue to pull out of the public sector, you take with you valuable resources, energy, and parental support that could benefit the community as a whole. While there are some valid and good reasons to homeschool, I consider the practice, in general, to be incredibly selfish, shortsighted and individualistic. Way to teach your children to be a part of something greater than themselves and their own ideals.

What I fear more than the dystopia of which you speak is a generation of children who have never heard any other perspectives than those of their extremist parents.
And LYM replied:
Do you put your children in failing inner city schools? Or do you use schools with the highest academic standards whose participating homes you can afford? If you don’t put your kids in the worst schools, you are pulling out of their tax base and taking with you the valuable resources, energy, and parental support that could benefit that community as a whole. While there are some valid and good reasons to go to non-horrible schools, [should I quote back to you what you just wrote?] "I consider the practice, in general, to be incredibly selfish, shortsighted and individualistic. Way to teach your children to be a part of something greater than themselves and their own ideals."

Truly, unless you have had personal contact with schools like this (I have), you have NO IDEA how much they could benefit from a family like yours participating in it. How selfish that you go to a school where students can afford their own lunches, buses get the kids to school in time for the first bell, and teachers aren’t sworn at by, or swearing at, children every hour!
imsargarepa responded:
Yep. My husband [and I] do, in fact, live purposely in the inner city and send our children to the local school, which is not by anyone’s standard a stand out institution. Our school is 80% free and reduced lunch; however there is no swearing at or by teachers at our school. My children are thriving there despite many problems we encounter there. It’s a very real world situation. We try to pour ourselves and our resources in to making a difference where we can, with what we have.
And, once more, LYM replied:
If it is not a charter school, and truly is an inner city school, kudos to you for putting your money where your mouth is. With my honest admiration in mind, though, I have two points for you.

The schools I am talking about are 100% free (not even reduced) breakfast and lunch. Yes, the students swear at and hit the teachers. Daily. Yes, one of the school buses arrives half an hour late for school, every day. Yes, the 6 year old is bullied and beaten regularly (no one does anything), but is somehow expected to know what a declarative sentence is (developmentally inappropriate expectation). No, the middle schooler does not know who the first president of the US was. No, the high schooler making A’s in history does not know who George Washington was. Yes, the school calls CPS on parents because a child regularly loses her glasses and doesn’t tell the parents she lost them again, resulting in yet another pointless months-long investigation. Yes, the principals and teachers have been indicted for cheating scandals. Yes, 50% of the students are pregnant before graduation, if they graduate.

Now, with that in mind, would you put your children in *that* school? If not, why not?

My point is that there is a scale of what any individual is called to do on a given issue. And that brings me to my second point. I cloth diaper, make my own cleaners of baking soda & vinegar, compost, recycle, buy organic food from local farmers only, refuse to buy synthetic fabrics or new clothes made by sweat shops, and as a result of all my efforts, put out only one bag of trash per week for 7 people. Is it right for me to go around saying that any of my friends who do less are incredibly selfish and short-sighted? NO. We all have causes that tug at our hearts, and we throw ourselves into the things about which we’re most passionate, even while recognizing that there are other causes deserving of attention. We can’t all do everything, and we shouldn’t go around verbally assaulting those being called to work on something else, or work on the same issue in a different way.

I homeschool my children not because I’m selfish or individualistic (actually, I find that homeschooling them has created much more community-minded children than the dog-eat-dog public school peer-herd mentality in which I was educated), but because I feel that is the best way for me to produce well-rounded, compassionate, generous, extremely well-educated human beings for the next generation. I help inner city families who wish to get out of the atrocious schools I mentioned to homeschool. You help them by putting your children into the pit with their children, and I trust that your judgment is correct that the net effect is positive both for them and for your children. I help them by helping them to get out of the pit. Who am I and who are you to say that the other has made the wrong, selfish, short-sighted choice?

Peace be with you.
As with so many things in life--whether haircuts and hair color, clothing, cars, sporting events, other forms of entertainment, exercise, health, food, drink, vacations . . . and just about anything else on which we might spend our time or money, some of us are willing to invest more . . . and some of us are willing to invest very much less.

So the question becomes: must everyone else toe my party line? Or . . . ????

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Petition | Sen. Capri Cafaro: Withdraw Ohio Senate Bill 248

Yay! Perfect response to Senator Cafaro's misguided proposed legislation . . . from Petitioning The Governor of OH Sen. Capri Cafaro: Withdraw Ohio Senate Bill 248.

To my homeschooling friends: Let's write to the senator; but let's make sure we have our fact straight!

I thought I should write a Post Script to my previous post about the Ohio State Senator who believes potential homeschoolers require greater scrutiny.

My point in showing the various factual errors in Matt Walsh's blog post was not to disagree with his goal. But it was to encourage homeschoolers, when we write to Senator Cafaro, to get our facts straight.

Oh. And one more fact to keep in mind: She is female. Walsh used the masculine pronoun when referring to her ("To make his case, Senator Capri Cafaro . . ."). It would be rather uncool to refer to her as a male!

If you want the wording of the actual legislation, go here.

Boy! If they placed that kind of regulation over the public schools, I think Walsh is correct: virtually all government schools would have been shut down long ago! (And can you imagine the backlog on Social Services to interview every teacher, every administrator, and every student in every school in Ohio?)

Abuse at home and/or school; who is being regulated?

This just in courtesy Matt Walsh
[Ohio State Senator Capri Cafaro] wants to require all homeschool parents to undergo a Social Services investigation [before they will be permitted to teach their children. Her proposal comes following] the child abuse death of a 14 year old kid. Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died last year after his mother pulled him out of school to hide his abuse from authorities. The boy was finally beaten to death by the mother’s boyfriend. . . .

[Teddy]’s abuse was already reported to Social Services. Social Services failed to act, and now, in response to THEIR OWN failures, politicians want to give them MORE power. . . .
Walsh has more to say about tyranny in Ohio. But then he brings up something that completely blew me away. VERY disturbing.
[I]f the rare case of an abusive homeschool parent can serve as an indictment of homeschooling, why can’t the more common case of a sexually abusive teacher serve as an indictment of public schools? By this politician’s . . . logic, all government schools should have been shutdown long ago. In fact, there was a 2004 study titled Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, commissioned by the Department of Education. It received no attention from anyone, but the findings were terrifying: nearly 10 percent of all public schooled students had been raped, abused, or sexually harassed by teachers someone at school. Over two percent by teachers. teachers [NOTE: I made the correction, here, based on the fact that I actually read the referenced study. (Walsh never referenced it directly. He merely referenced a Psychology Today article that referenced the study. I was the one who replaced the link in the article to the actual study by Charol Shakeshaft. If you go to the original study, see pp. 16ff (PDF pages 24ff) and pay particular attention to the paragraph that straddles pp. 17 and 18 (25 and 26). There you will read, "This analysis (Shakeshaft, 2003) indicates that 9.6 percent of all students in grades 8 to 11 report contact and/or noncontact educator sexual misconduct that was unwanted." Many reports--like Walsh's--have run with that number alone. They have not gone on to note (what appears three sentences later, in the same paragraph) that "Of students who experienced any kind of sexual misconduct in schools, 21 percent were targets of educators, while the remaining 79 percent were targets of other students" (emphases added; JAH). Multiply 9.6% by 21 percent and you wind up with 2.016%. So--adding in one more caveat made by Shakeshaft (p. 17 (25)), that her "findings can be generalized to all public school students in 8th to 11th grades at a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points"--we can conclude that approximately 2 percent of all students may, indeed, be sexually abused or harassed by adult educators at school using "civil and criminal definitions of sexual abuse and harassment." --I find that figure more believable. But every bit as much disturbing!--JAH] [NOTE (23 January 2014: Following Melissa's comment on 22 January, I re-read the article and did some further study. Walsh was correct all along. My emendations of the text of his article were unwarranted. Please see my follow-up article here.]


That makes the sex scandal in public schools many, many, many times more prevalent than the abuse epidemic in the Catholic Church. It’s not even close, actually. The Hofstra researcher who conducted the study had this to say: “The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” [Quote found here. NOTE: It is well worth your while to study the larger context in which the quote appears. The multiplier might be far lower than that. Perhaps "only" 5 or 10 or 50. As the author of the article writes: "Ms. Shakeshaft acknowledged that the accuracy of such comparisons might be thrown off by any number of factors, including undercounting of youngsters abused by priests. But that uncertainty only underscores the need for better research on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the schools. . . ."Educator sexual misconduct is woefully understudied." Despite all of these qualifiers, I think Walsh's point remains. --JAH]

And homeschool kids are the ones at risk?

Add school shootings, gang violence, fights, bullying, and administrative abuse in the form of zero tolerance policies that brand and label young kids as criminals, and public school is clearly a much more dangerous proposition.

But what serious attempt have our politicians made to curb the sexual abuse of kids in public schools? It’s hard to address a problem if you’ve decided that the problem doesn’t exist.

Some teacher’s unions even think teachers ought to be given cash rewards after being found guilty of serial rape. A severance package for a man who sexually abused a young boy for three years? That’s not just “inappropriate,” that’s co-conspiratorial, as far as I’m concerned.

The government has no place pointing the finger of suspicion at parents. We are the ones who have every possible reason to be suspicious of them. The vast majority of us are doing our best to raise our kids in a hostile environment; an environment made all the more hostile by the very government entities that pretend to be concerned about the health and safety of our children.
If you got this far, I hope you are as enraged as I am at the duplicity. Something about the pot calling the kettle black. Or people in glass houses throwing stones. Or, simply, justice, even playing fields, and getting your own house in order.

But Walsh continues. He's on a roll. Why not?

We have a problem, America. We seem to be under the impression that our kids are safer in government buildings than they are in our homes. We have succumbed to a brainwashing campaign. . . .

Homeschooling laws vary by state. Some have virtually no regulations, some make moderate efforts to “keep tabs” on those dangerous homeschooling terrorists, while others are ruthless in protecting and expanding their government education system. In these states, homeschooling parents have to (among other things) register their curriculum with the education department, and even endure home visitations from government agents.

Surely, we can all see how terrible that is, can’t we? A government agent invading your house to investigate what information you’re passing on to your child? Can any substantive notion of freedom coexist along side such a thing? Extremist that I am, I don’t think homeschool parents should be required to make any effort to “check in” with any government agency, no matter how convenient they make the process. But even if you aren’t ready to meet me there, even if you can’t quite get on board with full parental liberty, aren’t we at least on the same page that homeschool parents shouldn’t be treated like sex offenders on parole?
I'll buy that!

Full original article: Politician: “Let’s treat all homeschool parents like felony child abusers” | The Matt Walsh Blog

A little girl’s simple science project turns into an eye-opening discovery of what's in the food her family eats

Here, 8-year-old Elise tells the story of her experiment:

Mom wrote, in the comments section: "This was an innocently discovered conclusion.  No agenda ahead of time.  In fact. . . this opened our eyes and changed the way we eat in our family!!"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mean? or the "perfect solution to obnoxiously loud public cellphone conversations"?

I don't think I'd have the chutzpah to do what Greg Benson does here.

From The Perfect Solution to Obnoxiously Loud Public Cellphone Conversations

And the "outtakes":


Going against the flow. SOMEONE has to speak up! Will it be you? Or me?

Powerful video (watched at 2.5x using Enounce MySpeed)

Yay for the powerful women who refused to stand by silently. Most moving portion begins at about 6:28 . . . but you have to watch the build-up. The whole thing is strong, but if you're in a rush, start at about 4:47.


WWYD Employee With Down Syndrome Insulted By Customers - YouTube

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make piano learning fun with Piano Wizard Academy - Great Christmas Present!

I've known about Piano Wizard Academy for years. After all, I helped Sonlight negotiate the agreement by which they acquired the rights to sell the product.

But I learned something tonight that I had never known before. Check out this video by Chris Salter, the developer of the Piano Wizard program:

Jed, a profoundly mentally handicapped young boy, took three weeks to learn Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star under the tutelage of this video-game-style learning program. . . . At the time (he was seven and a half years old), he could hardly speak; he couldn't do a four-piece toddler jigsaw puzzle. Now, two and a half years later, he is playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, and Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik two-handed, and his mom figures he's ready to participate with other children in a regular classroom.

The story itself is delightful. But, from my perspective, it "merely" provides one more reason to take a games approach to education when it makes sense.

What's so special about the Academy that it helped Jed? And why might you want to give such a gift to your children or grandkids?

Find out more here.

And NOTE: Right now--till Thursday noon (MST), Sonlight is offering a a great deal on the Academy. You get the Academy, plus a free keyboard (Retail value of $149), free FedEx two-day shipping (to the Lower 48), plus several other bonuses.

Check it out.

N.Y. Times columnist admits raw milk is cure for allergies

In A Cure for the Allergy Epidemic?, an opinion column by Moises Velasquez-Manoff in the New York Times, Velasquez-Manoff notes that
In Europe, the consumption of unpasteurized milk has repeatedly correlated with protection against allergic disease. In America, 80 percent of the Amish studied by Dr. Holbreich consume raw milk. In a study published earlier this year, Dr. Schaub’s group showed that European children who consumed farm milk had more of those regulatory T-cells, irrespective of whether they lived on farms. The higher the quantity of those cells, the less likely these children were to be given diagnoses of asthma. Here, finally, is something concrete to take off the farm.
Brian Shilhavy of Health Impact News, who brought this article to my attention, does such a great job of summarizing the significance of what Velasquez-Manoff wrote. I quote him directly:

So the conclusion therefore should be that more people should drink raw milk to prevent allergies, right? Nope.
None of these scientists recommend that people consume raw milk; it can carry deadly pathogens. Rather, they hope to identify what’s protective in the milk and either extract it or preserve the ingredients during processing.
In other words, let’s certainly not advocate what we can see plainly works. Direct-from-the-farm raw milks sales would upset the Dairy Industry and their market for processed dairy products, and also bring about a loss of profit for the makers and marketers of all those allergy medicines. Instead, wait for us to develop something that is not natural so we can patent it, and then we will approve it and sell it to you. In the meantime, we’ll keep propagating the “raw milk is dangerous” myth, because fear is a great motivator.
Read the comments following Velasquez-Manoff's article, and you realize there are, quite likely, additional factors at work in the allergy field-"Amish children are much less exposed to petrochemicals and plastics and many items in the urban household." "No discussion of urban air pollution and how that might interact with seemingly beneficial microbes, more prevalent in rural air because there is less pollution." "[The] article . . . does not even mention the possible benefit of consuming probiotic and prebiotic foods to enhance the microbiome and hence improve immune response." Etc.

So. Okay. Other factors may be involved.

But I would like to call your attention to the infographic at the top of the page. And note, too, that there are good reasons to question claims such as the one that "Government studies have shown that the chances of getting sick from raw milk and raw milk products is increased by 30% [due to such bacteria as] Salmonella, Listeria and E.Coli."

Don't know what "government studies" this person was referring to. BUT . . . I would want to note that there are reasons to question this--what seems to make sense on the face of it--claim about bacteria. After all, pasteurization is all about killing bacteria, isn't it?

I urge you to read the other side. Great book by Dr. William Campbell Douglas, The Raw Truth About Milk . . . or, for a very much more abbreviated introduction to the idea, This "Scary Drink" May Resolve Your Troubling Health Issues by Dr. Joseph Mercola.

One last word: Is it illegal to purchase raw milk in your state? Perhaps you can buy a share of a cow, pay a farmer to care for your cow and milk it in your behalf, then drink the raw milk that your cow produces. . . .

Raw whole milk. Been drinking it, now, for about three years. It's now so much a part of our lives, I kind of forget about it . . . other than to consider how delightful it is.


Dear Judge: I know he killed four people, but he suffers from Povertenza . . .

Dear Judge,

I know that Davontaye’s actions caused the deaths of four people. But please don’t give him life in prison. He suffers from Povertenza. You may not know about this condition but Povertenza is an illness that people from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds have.

Due to the inability to access quality education and employment, Davontaye’s development has been stifled. This leads to poor decision making and I would further argue that since his neighborhood sees so much death and destruction, that he may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in addition to Povertenza.

Judge, it is clear that Davontaye can not be held responsible for his actions. He needs rehabilitation, not prison. Prison would only worsen his mental condition. . . .

So begins this excruciating article.

Who would buy such an argument?

Apparently, the judge who sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years' probation after he drove drunk, killed four people, and left one of his friends paralyzed. After all, said his defenders, he suffers "Affluenza"--the results of his socialization within a family that provided no limits to his behavior through the years due to his family's seemingly unlimited financial resources.

Justice, anyone?

And for more horrors, read the original: Please Excuse Davontaye, He Suffers From Povertenza | Our Legaci

Thanks to Rebecca Meyers for the link.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Two anniversary celebrations today . . . are you celebrating either one?

The Federal Reserve is celebrating its 100th anniversary today (few days early).  "Strange" that it is on the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. . . .

See The “other” anniversary that’s far more important for the bigger story.


Who says men don't cry?

14- and 15-year old Nigerian school girls may have found affordable electricity . . . using urine!

Four Nigerian school girls claim they spent the equivalent of only $64 to build a system that captures enough hydrogen from a liter of urine to power an electric generator for six hours.


Longer, thoughtful and informative article on

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Amazing Argentinian "New Coke" Ad

So many brief--sometimes not even quite a full second long--moments in the lives of parents. I had to watch portions several times over. The dad's expressions beginning at 0:40 totally blow me away. How did he ever capture so many emotions in such a brief few seconds? I was sure it was horror . . . and then . . . --I'd better not give it away. And then to watch how his mouth is shaped and the sound of the music . . . !!!

It's exquisitely produced. Unbelievable. And what great acting.

Well worth the 60 seconds it takes to watch it the first time. And maybe a second and third 60 seconds as well. . . .

And the commentary by the creators is well worth reading, too:

This New Coke Ad Totally Captures The Reality Of Early Parenthood | Co.Create | creativity + culture + commerce

Chicago's Magical Piano - What a beautiful, heartwarming, at times funny and other times revealing video!

You're on Candid Camera!

Surprises throughout.

And for the back story, check out Andrew Blendermann/Blenderful Music, beginning November 30th.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Multiple stories of interest . . . about banking

The latest edition of Uncommon Wisdom Daily gives us a good idea of how top officials of the U.S. government think about international entanglements . . . and about just how far the United States has gone down the path against which a modified and partially spurious statement attributed to Thomas Jefferson was intended to warn us.
[The modified and/or spurious Jefferson quote:
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered...I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies... The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."
Reality: There is no evidence he actually said these exact words, though there is good evidence he said things very close to what we read in the last two sentences. And once you understand the meaning of the last two sentences, you realize that the first sentence is a restatement of the sentiments.

I should note, too, that not only are banks private corporations, but the Federal Reserve, itself, is a private corporation. Despite whatever small influence the federal government may have upon choosing its leaders, it is a for-profit institution owned by private shareholders.

Be that as it may, let us return to our story. . . .] 
Brad Hoppmann of Uncommon Wisdom Daily says "Reports this week say President Obama will name Stanley Fischer as the next Federal Reserve vice chair."

Who is Stanley Fischer? What's his background?
  • He was born in Northern Rhodesia--now Zambia--in 1943.
  • His family moved to Southern Rhodesia when he was 13.
  • A short time later, they came to the U.S.
  • He lived and worked on a kibbutz in Israel for a short time.
  • He acquired his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics at the London School of Economics (1962-66).
  • He earned a Ph.D. in economics from MIT (degree granted in 1969), then taught at the University of Chicago from 1969-73, and MIT from 1973-88 and 1990-94. Among his proteges: Ben Bernanke. (Fischer was Bernanke's Ph.D. thesis advisor.)
  • Fischer acquired U.S. citizenship in 1976.
  • He served as
    • chief economist at the World Bank (1988-1990);
    • First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF; 1990-2001);
    • Vice Chairman of Citigroup, President of Citigroup International, and Head of the Public Sector Client Group at Citigroup (2001-2005);
    • Governor of the Bank of Israel (2005-2013).
  • In order to take on the Bank of Israel role, he was required to become an Israeli citizen . . . which he did--though without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

    [NOTE: One must renounce foreign citizenship when acquiring U.S. citizenship. However, if you are a U.S. citizen and the other country from which you are seeking citizenship does not require you to renounce your U.S. citizenship, you can remain a U.S. citizen while gaining the second (third, fourth, etc.) citizenship. Indeed, this kind of dual citizenship is a fairly common practice. There are many dual-citizenship U.S. citizens. The U.S. federal government is delighted to get whatever tax revenue it can extract from its citizens, wherever they live.]
Hoppmann says top bankers are excited that Fischer could become a governor of the Federal Reserve. Why?
I suspect it is because he aggressively chopped interest rates in Israel, bought mass amounts of foreign currencies and created new liquidity at every chance. Bankers love all those ideas and would love to see more of them from the Fed.
Yellen, he says, "has reportedly approved the choice and Obama already made the offer to Fischer."
Between his university and central bank experience as well as a senior executive stint at Citibank, Fischer is a classic banking insider. His appointment, if it happens, will further blur national borders at the top echelons of global monetary policy.
Nothing official, of course. But the word is out there--not just from Brad Hoppmann, but on Fischer's Wikipedia page as well.

What's going on? Why all this semi-kinda-almost official, but not quite, discussion?

Hoppmann writes: "The White House could have leaked Fischer’s name to gauge reaction — just like they did with Summers and Yellen earlier this year."


Then there's the slow, rolling, ongoing NSA scandal. I've been reading this for months, how the NSA's tentacles being so ubiquitously ensconced in U.S.-based technology means that U.S.-based technology companies may soon find themselves at a disadvantage in the global market--here this one industry where U.S. companies had traditionally been at the forefront. Their (our) government may be about to do them in.

Well, says Hoppmann, just yesterday we received some more signs that that is exactly what is happening. "[On Thursday,] Cisco (CSCO) chief John Chambers reduced his company’s profit forecast and protested that Cisco does not give any government access to private data.

"Unfortunately," Hoppmann continues, "with all we know now it is hard to believe him."


And, finally, from the same newsletter: "JP Morgan Chase is in negotiations to pay Bernard Madoff fraud victims up to $2 billion in restitution."

????!!!! --I thought Madoff was the guilty party! (????)

Apparently he and his firm weren't alone. (!!!???)

Apparently, the Monsanto of the banking industry was also involved?!?

(Apparently, I've not been paying attention. See here, here, and here.)

"The payment," says Hoppmann, "is part of a deal to let the bank avoid pleading guilty to criminal charges in connection with Madoff. Score another win for Jamie Dimon."

. . . And while we're on the subject, maybe I should turn your attention to a couple of paragraphs from the last of the three "here, here, and here" articles referenced two paragraphs above:
JPMorgan is close to paying about $2 billion to settle claims that, as Madoff's main bank for many years, it ignored blatant signs that Madoff was up to no good, the New York Times reports. As part of the deal, JPMorgan will also enter what's known as a deferred prosecution agreement, where everybody will agree that the biggest U.S. bank broke criminal laws and also that prosecutors don't plan to do anything about it, as long as JPMorgan keeps its nose clean. . . .

The NYT makes a big deal out of how this is the first time a big Wall Street bank has entered a deferred prosecution agreement, but just two years ago JPMorgan entered a "non-prosecution agreement" to settle antitrust charges. This settlement sounds awfully similar to a deferred prosecution deal: The bank was not hit with criminal charges as long as it kept to the straight and narrow for the next two years.

JPMorgan seemed in danger of violating that 2011 agreement when it was accused of manipulating electricity markets between 2010 and 2012. The head of its commodities trading division, Blythe Masters, was also accused of making false and misleading statements to federal energy regulators, a charge the bank denied. In the end, no criminal charges were brought against the bank in that case, either -- which was not only a relief for the bank, but also for prosecutors, noted Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil at the time of that settlement this summer.

"An allegation that JPMorgan employees had been untruthful to the energy regulator’s investigators could have forced prosecutors to consider whether JPMorgan had breached the terms of its earlier settlement agreement -- which is serious stuff," Weil wrote. Prosecutors might then have actually had to indict JPMorgan, a prospect that apparently terrifies them.

In all of these cases, the bank has denied criminal wrongdoing. It has said often that its employees "acted in good faith" in the Madoff case. But in two of these three instances, prosecutors at least had enough on the bank to bring these deferred- or non-prosecution agreements, which is apparently the gold standard for criminal actions against a company these days.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a rare moment of candor, admitted earlier this year that some banks are too big to prosecute. The fear is that an indictment could hurt the bank's ability to do business, which could be bad news for the global economy, given how large and interconnected the bank is. Holder later walked back those remarks, followed by Bharara's declaration that criminal prosecutions were always on the table.

So far prosecutors are giving us no reason to believe they have the appetite to back up their words with actions.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Let's use this case as a turning point to end the war on women."

I was infuriated earlier this morning when I read Alexander Cohen's summary (see "Criminal Record" here) of the case against the police in Miami Gardens, Florida--officers who repeatedly arrested a man for trespassing . . . while he was on the property and at work at the store where he was employed! Indeed, it was his own employer whose videotapes--shot to protect the store and its customers from the depradations of the police department!--that caught the police repeatedly mistreating employees and customers at the store where Earl Sampson is employed.

But that story was nothing compared to The world's worst punishment for rape? at

If you agree with the proposal, I encourage you to sign the petition!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

One of those things that just makes me shake my head and want to cry . . .

Are people REALLY this uneducated? (Sadly, I have no doubt: YES. They are.)

First two posts seem cute. But then you start realizing, no, these things are serious. . . .  

Click through for more than 20 additional such posts . . . many of which are way--WAY--worse.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A scary view of Putin

Dictator Rising! (And Taking Oil Along for the Ride) | Uncommon Wisdom Daily

As has been the case for centuries, men and women who are seeking profits will often uncover and follow the most fascinating stories of "what's happening" around the world . . . because those stories can often lead to profits. Personally, I tend to ignore most of the specific investment advice. But I love to follow the stories, especially the "big picture" stories. This story isn't pleasant. At all. But it has a strong ring of truth. And I believe it would behoove citizens of countries around the world to keep their eyes on it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sweetie . . . Sign the petition!

Upworthy showed this video. I urge you to watch it. As the guy who posted it says, "This video is safe for work but will hurt your stomach."

But the point is not merely to get you upset. It is to get you to take action: sign the petition. I signed.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Wealth Inequality in America

Amazing. Gripping. I watched at 2.5x using Enounce MySpeed.

And then I began thinking about what the guy says and what the charts show. And I realized there's something slightly--or, actually, majorly--wrong about what we see and hear.

The charts have to do with wealth distribution: that's "stuff owned" v. "stuff [including money] owed." But most of us think in terms of money, cash, and, most importantly, income and cash flow.

Indeed, the presenter himself seems to be thinking about these last matters (even though he says he is focused on wealth) when he says (4:59), "While the richest one percent take home almost a quarter of the national income today, in 1976 they took home only nine percent, meaning their share of income has nearly tripled in the last 30 years." Or, "I'm sure many of these wealthy people have worked very hard for their money, but do you really believe that the CEO is working 380 times harder than his average employee? . . . --Not his lowest-paid employee. Not the janitor. But the average earner in his company. . . . --The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour."

As soon as we get into earnings, we are in a very different realm from wealth. Very different. And, in fact, we may be--but probably aren't (though, I think, we should be)--talking about income and cash flow . . . which topics raise additional issues like the relative benefits of working for pay (i.e., actually earning one's money) or "simply" "enjoying" the "benefits" of taking government largesse. . . . --Which raises questions both about government- (i.e., taxpayer-) dependent bankster recipients of government-sponsored corporate welfare . . . as well as those who earn $60,000 a year or less . . . and for whom government-sponsored personal welfare is also highly attractive. (On this latter topic, see Tyler Durden's article, Is This Why Americans Have Lost The Drive To 'Earn' More? which is based largely on statistics and graphs from a presentation by Gary D. Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Pay particular attention to the graph on p. 8 in this presentation about "The Welfare Cliff"; quite eye-opening.)

[Please understand, I agree with the presenter's implicit criticism of multi-hundred-times-the-average pay-scales for corporate CEOs. Such pay-scales seem absolutely crazy to me. But let us not implicitly criticize. Let's make the criticisms explicit. And let's do it thoughtfully and in a manner that makes our thinking stand out as valid.]

Beyond the confused statements above, I would want to criticize the presenter's implicit criticism and his wording here (at 5:13): "The top one percent own half the country's stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The bottom 50 percent of Americans own only half a percent of these investments, which means they aren't investing; they're just scraping by." --Really? You have to own stocks, bonds, and/or mutual funds so as not to "scrape by"? I beg to differ!

The presenter closes, "We certainly don't have to go all the way to socialism to find something that is fair for hard-working Americans. We don't even have to achieve what most of us consider might be ideal. . . ." Agreed.

But then the last sentence: "All we need to do is wake up and realize that the reality in this country is not at all what we think it is." --And I think: Really? What difference will that (i.e., "waking up and realizing the reality") make?

I wish I knew of a real solution to whatever real problem we are seeking to address.

Still. It is pretty amazing to see how little so many seem to own . . . and how much others own.

The question is, "Then what?"

I don't know if I've ever heard a political figure talk so personally from the heart. Amazing. Makes me feel bonded to him as a human being.

As Upworthy said, ignore the politics. This is just a man talking about grief.

Vice President Biden talks to TAPS--Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization for the families of members of the military killed in action.

There's something profound . . . and profoundly moving . . . about having someone talk about deep tragedy and how it impacted them.

Watched at 2.3x regular speed using Enounce MySpeed (which, by the way, is still available [for a short time yet?] at 20% off using discount code 20R8MYSPD). [Oh. And some have asked: Should I get the "Regular" or "Premium" edition? Honestly: I don't see why or how the Premium version makes sense. --My opinion.] Save your time while watching almost any video online.

Gutsy interview. Amazing interchange.

Indian movie star Mallika Sherawat is pressed--and pressed and pressed--for describing Indian society as repressive toward women. She doesn't back down.

NOTE: The "headline" on this video (about her "shout[ing]") is very misleading. I prefer the headline Upworthy placed on it: They weren't happy with what she said. So she said it again.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The ongoing train wreck demise of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency.

Great article from the Nestmann Group, ostensibly about Bitcoin, but really much more about the continuing demise of the U.S. dollar: Is Bitcoin Becoming the Anti-Dollar?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

What are those spots on the dam?

This somewhat ordinary dam in a National Park in Northern Italy is hiding something. Can you see what it is?

Click through for the full story!  Pretty amazing.

Take a close look at the nearest spot on the second photo on the page, and you may get an idea of what those spots are. . . .