August 16, 2012

Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

By Steve Hynd,

 After four years on this site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

August 15, 2012

Good Bye

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Steve will have a post tomorrow but I would like to give my own goodbyes.  We are closing down Newshoggers.  It's the second blog I've shut down although my first one still lives.  This Newshoggers won't be so lucky, it will go away in the next couple of weeks although we will have an archive here. It;s still a work in progress and I hope to have it all archived before it is eliminated from the typepad server.  I will say good bye but hello at the same time as I will still be posting at The Moderate Voice. Thanks for your support over the years.

August 13, 2012

HCR -- Service robots in nursing homes (Germany)

By John

August 11, 2012

Weekend Book Review - Ayn Rand and the World She Made

Commentary By Ron Beasley

With the Ayn Rand cultist Paul Ryan becoming the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate today I thought this might be a good opportunity to republish my reveiw of the Ayn Rand Biography by  Anne C. Heller from 2010.


Greenspan-Rand The picture on the left may represent the beginning of the deregulation frenzy that resulted in the current world wide economic disaster. It was taken in 1974 by David Hume Kennerly and pictured are President Gerald Ford, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, Rand's husband Frank Conner and Greenspan's mother Rose Goldsmith. The occasion was Alan Greenspan being sworn in as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The significance of the picture is that Ayn Rand is there next to her disciple Alan Greenspan but to understand the significance you must understand Rand herself and her philosophy. Anne C. Heller helps us do that with her excellent biography of Rand, Ayn Rand and the World She Made.

I recommend this book not because I agree with anything Ayn Rand stands for but because it's a really good read and it's necessary to understand Rand and undererstand how we arrived where we are today. Heller makes it clear that Rand and her life are much more interesting than any of the creations in her fiction and there are times you forget that you are not reading fiction. I am going to concentrate on Rand's early life in this review – it's important because narcissists and sociopaths like Rand are either created early if not born that way.

Alyssa Zinovievna Rosenbaum was born in St Petersburg, Russia in 1905 of Jewish parents. While it's often said that it was the Bolshevik revolution that was responsible for Rand's philosophy and world view according to Heller the foundation for Rand's philosophy predates the revolution.

When Rand was five or so, she recalled, her mother came into the children's playroom and found the floor littered with toys. She announced to Rand and Rand's two-and-a-half-year-old sister, Natasha, that they would have to choose some of their toys to put away and some to keep and play with now; in a year, she told them, they could trade the toys they had kept for those they had put away. Natasha held on to the toys she liked best, but Rand, imagining the pleasure she would get from having her favorite toys returned to her later, handed over her best-loved playthings, including a painted mechanical wind-up chicken she could describe vividly fifty years later. When the time came to make the swap and Rand asked for her toys back, her mother looked amused, Rand recalled. Anna explained that she had given everything to an orphanage, on the premise that if her daughters had really wanted their toys they wouldn't have relinquished them in the first place. This may have been Rand's first encounter with injustice masquerading as what she would later acidly call "altruism." Her understanding of how power can be acquired by a pretense of loving kindness would grow only more acute with time.

Perhaps it's little wonder, then, that from the age of four or five onward, Rand developed a keen sense that anything she liked had to be hers, not her mothers, the family's, or society's, an attitude that readers of her 1943 novel The Fountainhead will recognize in the perverse and complicated character of Dominique Francon. As a corollary, she claimed not to care about being approved of or accepted by her family and peers. Since she generally wasn't accepted, the proud, intelligent child appears to have learned early to make a virtue of necessity. In her twenties and thirties, she would construct a universe of moral principles built largely on the scaffolding of some of these defensive childhood virtues.

The second influence in Rand's life came when she read a serial in a French Boys magazine, The Mysterious Valley. It was there that Rand met Cyrus Vance, a handsome and heroic figure and in Rand's eyes a hero in every way. Rand would spend the rest of her life looking for a Cyrus Vance and creating him in her fiction.

Rand herself was an elitist who lived on cigarettes, amphetamines and chocolate. Elitism was also what she was marketing in her novels. Her characters like Galt and Roark were unbelievable because they were little more than abstract principles personified. Her vision of capitalism was simple and had a grade school like quality to it.

But Rand has impacted us all and still does. The principal architect of our current economic crisis, Alan Greenspan was a disciple for most of his life but after looking at the havoc he had created had to recant. (Via Digby)

"I have found a flaw" in free market theory, Greenspan said under intense questioning by Representative Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. "I don't know how significant or permanent it is," Greenspan added. "But I have been very distressed by that fact."

Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

But she still has her followers in important places today like the Republican's wonder boy, Congressman Paul Ryan.

It's important to know what motivates the enemy and the Rand cultists are still with us.  As Digby notes Rand's followers are passing out free books.  For that reason this is an important read for anyone concerned about how Ayn Rand is still an influence.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher for this review.

A Paul Ryan Post

By John Ballard

This is my Paul Ryan post. Rather than a string of entries about Paul Ryan, I have decided to just have one and add to it as the days pass.


► 8/11  This list from the Milwaukee paper looks like a good place to start. (Links at the source.) 
As they say, you can't make this stuff up! 

Interest group rankings

  • American Conservative Union: 92% lifetime score (2011) 
  • American Civil Liberties Union: 0% (2011) 
  • The John Birch Society: 70% (2011) 
  • Citizens Against Governmental Waste: 95% (2010) 
  • League of Conservation Voters: 20% lifetime score (2011) 
  • National Journal: Conservative Foreign Policy score: 57% (2011) 
  • National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, guns rights positions: A (2010) 
  • AFL-CIO, labor positions: 28% (2011) 
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: 6% lifetime score (2011) 
  • NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby: 25% (2012) 
  • Family Research Council, social issues: 90% (2011) 
  • Vietnam Veterans of America: 100% (2011) 
  • National Organization for Women: 13% (2008) 
  • National Federation of Independent Business: 90% (2011) 
Source: Project Vote Smart

►  "One of US Republican VP pick Paul Ryan's favourite pastimes involves shoving his fist down the throats of giant catfish."

Rep. Paul Ryan loves noodling catfish  (June 9)

Ryan said he planned to head to Oklahoma on Sunday and take his children fishing on Lake Texoma, then indulge in another favorite activity in the afternoon: “I’m going to go out with some of my Okie friends, and I’m going to do something that I’ve been doing for a number of years, and that’s called noodling catfish.

“And I want to say something to you Texans — because you understand freedom, you now legally recognize a man’s right to catch a catfish with his own bare hands.”

How Stuff Works...

If you're lucky, a catfish will swim out and, in an attempt to defend its nest or escape, will bite you. Some catfish may just nip at your fingers, but others will clamp onto your entire hand. Although catfish don't have super-sharp teeth, those teeth are plentiful. They curve inward, and noodlers say they feel like coarse sandpaper. The sandpaper feeling alone might not be so bad. But after a catfish clamps down on something, it tends to spin, which can rub your skin raw.

If the fish doesn't clench your hand, you'll need to pull open its mouth to get a good grip. Then, wiggle your fingers to work them into the fish's gill cover, the respiratory area on the sides of the fish's head. Grabbing it by the gills makes it more difficult for the fish to bite you during a struggle. It also helps you hold on a bit tighter. Once you get a firm hold on the fish, pull that prize to the surface. A flathead catfish could weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 22.7 kilograms) or more, so this is no small task.

More gory details at the link. Get ready, Mr. Biden. 

►  Widow's peak -- Wikipedia 

Images[1]Images[1]A number of fictional people have a widow's peak. In stories and on film this trait is often associated with a villain; Count Dracula is an example. Eddie Munster – from the television program "The Munsters" – also had this distinctive hairline. Another villain depicted as having widow's peak hair is The Joker from "Batman" comic books and films.Hannibal Lecter is described as having one in the novels that feature his story. Villainous Natasha Fatale from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" has a widow's peak.

Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005
Read. Blink. Read again. Is he serious? #HeadDesk

Th_HeadDesk[1]Roubini: "Gutting Social Security with privatization rather than reforming it sensibly is demented as equity returns have been 0% for the last decade."



Climate Denier, Conspiracy Theorist, Koch Acolyte

A favorite of the Koch brothers, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He has implied that snow invalidates global warming.

Meet Janna Little Ryan, Who Wants To Be America's Second Lady
She's a former Washington, D.C. lawyer and lobbyist with deep roots in Oklahoma Democratic politics. Her husband, Rep. Paul Ryan, just became Mitt Romney's running mate.

==> This is not a hit piece. It's an excellent survey of Mrs. Ryan's backstory -- respectable educational and professional (if politidcal) roots. 

► 8/12 Paul Ryan: Randian poseur
Salon -- Mitt Romney couldn't have chosen a better example of the fakery at the heart of today's GOP By Joan Walsh

...Paul Ryan represents the fakery at the heart of the Republican project today. It starts with the contradiction that Mr. Free Enterprise has spent his life in the bosom of government, enjoying the added protection of wingnut welfare benefactors like the Koch brothers. If Herman Cain is Charles and David Koch’s “brother from another mother,” as he famously joked, Ryan is the fourth Koch, swaddled in support from Americans for Prosperity and other Koch fronts. The man who wants to make the world safe for swashbuckling, risk-taking capitalists hasn’t spent a day at economic risk in his entire life.

► Less than twenty-four hours after the announcement of the Ryan pick I am thinking about another presidential election offering a famous "Choice, Not an Echo" in 1964. A Google search turned up a delightful link featuring part of Barry Goldwater's website announcing in his own words his decision to run for president against LBJ. As in this year's election the famous book by that title describes "how the liberal 'Rockefeller Republican' wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party's choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination."

Does this ring any bells?

I’ve always stood for government that is limited and balanced and against the ever increasing concentrations of authority in Washington. I’ve always stood for individual responsibility and against regimentation. I believe we must now make a choice in this land and not continue drifting endlessly down and down for a time when all of us, our lives, our property, our hopes, and even our prayers will become just cogs in a vast government machine.

AuH2oI was once asked what kind of Republican I was. I replied that I was not a “me-too” Republican. That still holds. I will not change my beliefs to win votes. I will offer a choice, not an echo. This will not be an engagement of personalities. It will be in engagement of principles.

I believe that we can win victory for freedom both at home and abroad. I believe that we can be strong enough and determined enough to win those victories without war. I believe that appeasement and weakness can only bring war. I’ve asked and will continue to ask: Why Not Victory–why not victory for sound, constitutional principles and government–why not victory over the evils of communism?

I’m convinced that in this year 1964 we must face up to our conscience and make a definite choice. We must decide what sort of people we are and what sort of world we want–now and for our children.

My candidacy is pledged to a victory for principle and to presenting an opportunity for the American people to choose. Let there be a choice–right now and in clear, understandable terms. And I ask all of those who feel and believe as I do to join with me in assuring both the choice and the victory.

And choose we did. That year the electorate buried Mr. Conservative in a historic landslide

And wouldn't you know, there at the bottom of the screen, was an advertisement for the Romney-Ryan campaign. 

You can't make this stuff up. 

August 10, 2012

Romney: Stop Hitting Me

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Romney is tired of the Obama campaign being mean to him. He wants his business record and taxes to be off the table during the campaign even though it's his business record he's running on.  

Talking about candidates' personal finances is hardly novel, nor is it irrelevant — how candidates make their money, however much or how little they've earned over the years, is not only fair game but a legitimate line of inquiry. The question of tax returns is also not new (to that end, Romney has said he would also release his 2011 taxes, but has yet to do so, with less than three months to go in the race). 

What is surprising is hearing a candidate say, essentially, "stop hitting me." As the folks at First Read note, this would seem to be something of a concession that the negatives are bothering the candidate, whom a round of new national polls shows running at a deficit that exceeds the margin of error.

In addition to being a rediculous request it is really bad politics. It makes him look weak and voters don't want a weak President and Comander In Chief.

August 09, 2012

People Just Don't Like Him

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Roger Simon asks a question:  Shouldn’t Mitt Romney be ahead by now?  A good question since the economy is still in the tank.  He answers his own question - people just don't like Mitt.

As I have written for years, I have a simple — OK, simple-minded — way of determining who is going to win the presidency: The more likable candidate wins. Not always, but almost always.

On Aug. 2, a survey published by the well-respected Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found Obama was leading Romney by 51-41 percent for the presidency, the eighth time in a row since January that Obama has led Romney by between 4 and 12 percentage points.

But more importantly by my Simple Simon standard of likability, Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 37/52 compared with Obama’s 50/45. Which means Romney had a net unfavorable rating of 15 points while Obama had a net favorable of 5 points.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll showing 40 percent of voters approving of Romney and 49 percent disapproving. When it came to Obama, 53 percent of voters approved and 43 percent disapproved.

Which gave Romney a net disapproval of 9 points and Obama a net approval of 10 points.

Two different polls don’t exactly establish a solid pattern, but the Romney people must be very, very worried.

Romney said in that Des Moines auditorium, “The American people are tired of being tired.”

But if the recent polls are correct, the American people also may be tired of Mitt Romney.

(Bold Mine)

Romney's problem is there is not much he can do about.  He is a pompous plutocratic sociopath - that's who is is and to the best of my knowledge there are no personality transplants.  People simply don't like him or trust him.


The latest FOX News poll gives Obama a 9 point lead over Romney - 49 to 40.

Out of this world - literally

Commentary By Ron Beasley

NASA has released some more photos today that include this color photo that shows the eventual target, Mt Stark in the background and the blast marks from the descent.


We will not have any high resolution pictures for a week because they will be doing a software upgrade which will take several days.  What an accomplisment.

August 07, 2012

Pussy Riot Report by Julia Ioffe

By John Ballard

297px-Pussy_Riot_by_Igor_Mukhin[1]Julia Ioffe is an American writer living in Russia. Her Twitter messages are a sparkling, delightful stream. Often they are in Russian and I resort to Google Translate to find out what she's saying, but her observations are keen and insightful. This report on the recent trial of Pussy Riot can be read as an extension of their, um... performance art.

Pussy Riot v. Putin: A Front Row Seat at a Russian Dark Comedy

Though Pussy Riot’s goal was to challenge Russian society through performance art, they were soon to discover that Putin’s state insisted on imposing its own distinct political aesthetic. “Of course, the indictment came down on Forgiveness Sunday,” Petr Verzilov said, referring to the fact that the criminal charge coincided with the day that Russian Orthodox believers ask each other’s forgiveness before the beginning of Lent. “The people in the Kremlin are obviously given to small acts of theatricality.”

THIS WAS PERFECTLY clear on the first day of the trial, which kicked off with statements from the defendants, read out by their lawyers. The young women, who sat in a cage of bulletproof glass (known colloquially as “the aquarium”) apologized to the Orthodox believers they had offended; Tolokonnikova called it “an ethical mistake.” Alyokhina, herself an Orthodox believer, apologized but also expressed her dismay at the lack of Christian forgiveness. “I thought the Church loved all its children,” she said in her written statement. “But it turns out it only loves those children who love Putin.”

And that’s where the loftiness ended and reality began to disintegrate. The judge overruled the defense’s motion to call any of its thirty five witnesses at the trial: the reason given was that it was too early, but she ended up rejecting the motion again and again throughout the proceedings. The prosecutor began to mutter his way through the indictment, using phrases like “imitating the Gates of Heaven” and “songs of an insulting, blasphemous nature.” The girls, drifting off in their aquarium, stood accused by the Russian state of being motivated by “religious hatred,” of “demonstratively and cynically putting themselves in opposition to the Orthodox world” and of “trying to devalue centuries of revered and protected dogmas” and “encroaching on the rights and sovereignty of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Somewhere else in there was a statement about how the young women of Pussy Riot had shaken “the spiritual foundations” of the Russian Federation, which, until that point, had given the distinct impression of being a secular state.

Readers owe it to themselves to take a moment to enjoy this entire article. I'm sure the original performance was more exciting, but this report is almost as entertaining. And for Ioffe it's better than the GOP clown show selecting a candidate -- a story that just keeps on giving.  

August 06, 2012

And The Gold Goes To NASA

Commentary By Ron Beasley

It's appropriate that the MSL, Curiosity Rover, landed during the Olympics.  It was a gold medal for NASA.  I'm an engineer and I know that if anything can go wrong it will.  But nothing went wrong.  They were even able to to get a picture of the descent.

Is that cool or what?  It will be a couple of weeks before Curiosity  gets down to work and it will incease our knowledge of not only the Red Planet but the solar system.  But the real story is the engineering itself.  This is a real example of American exceptionalism.  It's not how many countries we can invade and occupy but ideas that make the United States exceptional.  I have been both a hardware and software engineer and I find this accomplishment  nothing less that amazing.  



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