Saturday, February 28, 2015

Segregation and Dot Counts: What History Tells Us about Resistance to Progress

by Nomad

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the story behind this photograph? The young woman's name is Dorothy Counts.

We tend to think of the 1960s as the Era of the Social Movement but in fact, the great sweeps of reform began a decade earlier. The movement. it's true, reached its zenith during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. However, the impetus for social change began as a result of a constitutional challenge mostly that eventually made its way to the high court. 

It was the culmination of a campaign by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its legal offspring, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, against the doctrine of “separate but equal.” 

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Quote about Income Equality...from 1908

by Nomad

Income Inequality Crosby

The book, Labor and Neighbor: An Appeal to First Principles, was publish in 1908, one year following the untimely death of its author, Ernest Crosby.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Texas Draft Law Forces Legally-Dead Pregnant Women to Deliver Unwanted Babies

by Nomad

One Texas legislator seems determined to stop at nothing to protect the life of the unborn. Even if it means keeping a clinically-dead mother alive long enough for the baby to be born. 

Fort Worth boasts one of the most conservative legislators that Texas has produced. Republican Rep. Matt Krause is the son of a Tyler, Texas pastor for- I kid you not- at Green Acres Baptist Church. 

Before entering politics, Krause was a intern and then Texas director of Liberty Counsel which is a non-profit legal and educational organization that, according to its mission statement, is committed to “restoring the culture one case at a time by defending the sanctity of human life, the traditional family, and religious liberties.”

His background therefore undoubtedly played a part in his decision to draft legislation that would open up a lot of complicated questions about patient and family rights versus the rights of the unborn. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Molly Ivins on America's Long Struggle

by Nomad

Image: Molly Ivins w Quote

American Enough: The Surprising Genealogical Trail of President Barack Obama

 by Nomad

President Obama
Looking into the President's family history is like looking at a snapshot of American history, as far back as the first decades of its colonial period when the disgraceful practice of slavery was being rationalized and legalized.

Back in 2012, several news outlets, including the New York Times, mentioned one interesting side-note about the Barack Obama story. Since his father was Kenyan and his mother was white, it had been long assumed that Obama had, unlike most African Americans no connection to the dark history of slavery. Apparently, this was not the case. 
At least not, however, on his father's side, but on his mother's, it's another story.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Anti-Vaccination Controversy: What the Amish and the Romans Have to Teach Us

 by Nomad

The question is pretty basic when it comes to the controversy about vaccinations. Are we really committed to progress or will be surrender to an illusion of past stability and simplicity?

The anti-vaccination movement is a good reminder that progress is not a steadily upward climb. It's something we tend to forget sometimes. This safe and convenient means of prevention to a disease that has ravaged civilization should, according to common sense, be hailed as a victory of humanity.
Instead it is viewed with superstitious suspicious and ignorance. 
In fact, the whole idea of progress is actually a quite recent phenomena and shouldn't be taken for granted.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Future Tense: Between Huxley or Orwell

 by Nomad

Originally posted on
The question is: Which of these visions of the future are we closer to?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Barbara Jordan Remembered

by Nomad

Today, February 21, marks the birthday of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Charline Jordan, arguably one of the most influential black women in American political history.

Representative Jordan from Texas was the first in many categories: the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction, the first black woman elected to Congress from the South. Additionally, in, July 1976, she became the first African American woman to deliver a keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention.

In fact, on an individual level, it's hard to find, in one person of this period who symbolized the breadth of American diversity. She was an African American, she was a woman and, although it was an aspect of her life she preferred to remain undisclosed, she was most likely a lesbian.

On that basis alone, she had a right to speak on behalf of many people. She once said of the first words of the preamble of the Constitution:
It is a very eloquent beginning. But when the document was completed on the seventeenth of September 1787 I was not included in that “We, the people.” I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in “We, the people.”:

Friday, February 20, 2015

This Day in History: When Bankers and Big Business Betrayed a Nation

 by Nomad

When we look back at this date- February 20- we see it was a critical day in modern history. Eighty-two years ago today,  Hitler made his pitch for campaign financing to the leaders of banking and industry. It turned out to be a smashing success.

On this day in 1933, the Nazi party arranged a secret meeting between Adolf Hitler and 20 to 25 industrialists at the official residence of Hermann Wilhelm Göring, the minister of the interior in Hitler's government, 

The aim of this secret meeting was to allocate campaign financing for the Nazi party in the crucial upcoming elections. 

A German economist, banker, liberal politician Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht acted as a liaison/host for the event. As a fierce critic of his country's post-World War I reparation obligations, Schacht became a supporter of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. He served in Hitler's government as President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics. 

Until his fall from grace in 1937, Schacht proved to be a useful tool for the regime and its rise to absolute power.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gay Cure Therapy and How the GOP in Texas Officially Endorses Consumer Fraud

by Nomad

Try to picture this. The official party platform of a key state giving its stamp of approval for consumer fraud, namely a kind of therapy which has been thoroughly discredited by professionals and is possibly dangerous.

What does this say about the ethics of that party?

Quackery Therapy

This week, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. BarsioJr. ruled  against the gay conversion therapy provider Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). His official ruling in the case filed by Southern Poverty Law Center against the company states:
It is a misrepresentation in violation of [New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act], in advertising or selling conversion therapy services, to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent thereof.
David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director, commenting on the court decision,
“For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured. This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients. Gay people don’t need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this.”
Over the years, organizations, mostly religion-based, were set up  to push  conversion therapy. The idea was that homosexuality was something that could, or needed to be fixed. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Texas Religious Leader Says Watching "Fifty Shades of Grey" is a Sin

 by Nomad

Advertising WomenNomad takes a look at the  rather ridiculous hysteria  surrounding a recent film, dealing with S&M and sexual submission.

It was pretty predictable that some heads would explode as soon as British author E. L. James' 2011 erotic romance novel came out as a film. The subject matter was just a little too hot for some people. 
A thoughtful depiction of a consensual S&M relationship was, for many tightly wound conservatives apparently pushing the envelop too far.  
It was just a matter of good taste either. 

Sin with a Mainstream Appeal
According to the Catholic Dioceseof El Paso, Texas, it's is a sin to watch the film "Fifty Shades of Grey." At least, that's what  El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz has written on in a post in his website.
"I’m not going to tell you that you may not go to see the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m just going to tell you to do so would be a sin."
Seitz says he considers the film to be little more than "pornography with a dangerous and degrading mainstream appeal." That hasn't stopped the newly-debuted film from having a phenomenal opening weekend. In fact, with a heap of juicy publicity like that Sietz should be on somebody's payroll. 

The bishop takes the long standing view that there can be no passive participation in pornography. Just being a viewer is an act of endorsement and form of approval. 
That right there is a sin.

Monday, February 16, 2015

John Adams vs. America's Encroaching Oligarchy

 by Nomad

John Adams, second president of the United States, well understood the dangers of people like the Koch Brothers and the judges. legislators, educators, and members of Congress that worship at their feet.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tim's Place: Where Dreams Come True and Hugs are Free

 by Nomad

As owner of the "World's Friendliest Restaurant," Tim Harris offers a free hug and an example of his positive attitude to his customers.

When Tim Harris opened his Albuquerque, New Mexico restaurant in 2010, one of his goals was to create the "World's Friendliest Restaurant."
In addition to diner favorites, which includes delicious home-style Southwestern/American dishes. Tim's Place also serves up something else: a personal hug to every customer. 

That special attention is guaranteed to, as he puts it, “improve your lease on life.” Harris has, by his reckoning, served more than 32,400 hugs and he is only getting started.
He told one reporter:
“I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends.” 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Search for Christian Converts

by Nomad

The Browder Affair and the Death of Russian Economic Reform 3/3

by Nomad

Part One
Part Two

In this final installment of the series, we examine how foreign investor Browder was about to find out that Russia could be a very dangerous place to do business. In many ways, it was, for opportunity hunters of the West, to be the end of the fantasy of Russian reform.

By November 2005, Russian official had just about had enough of William Browder's crusade to clean up corruption. Officials in Moscow decided to demonstrate to this upstart from the West, this shareholder activist, who held all of the cards.

End Game

Returning from a business trip, Browder was denied re-entry at the Moscow airport. He suddenly found himself in the ridiculous position of having to do business in Russia as an exile. It was the beginning of the end with his love affair with Russia and his admiration for Putin.

After a decade of successful investments in Russia, Browder was blacklisted by the government and was officially listed as a "threat to national security." The reason for this, The Economist wrote, was actually because Hermitage had interfered with the flow of cash to "corrupt bureaucrats and their businessmen accomplices".
Browder exiled himself to London and was forced to pay $230 million tax bill.

In June 2007, the endgame began. As the head of the law firm representing Hermitage, Jamison Firestone later told reporters, dozens of police officers "swooped down on the Moscow offices of Hermitage and its law firm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In the Ranks of the Insane

by Nomad

Roman Aureilus

The Bottom Line: A New Reason Why it Pays Corporations to be Socially Responsible

  by Nomad

A recent study suggests that corporations that take an active interest in social cause may increase the work performance of the employees.

Some economists are still asking whether corporations should be getting themselves involved in social issues at all.

Albert Einstein once said that it was "every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it."

Duty and obligations aside, a new study by the University of Southampton, may give business owners an even more practical reason to work on social causes. It can increase productivity by up to 30 per cent.

The Selfish Benefits of Giving
Dr Mirco Tonin, the lead author of the study, said that  while the use of bonus and stock options have long been used as an incentive to improve worker performance, there's another lesser-known motivating factor.When workers are given a social incentive such as a charitable donation linked to their job, says, Tonin,  performance increases by an average of 13 percent, rising to 30 per cent among those who are initially the least productive.
"Our results provide empirical support for the growing recognition that some workers are also motivated by advancing social causes through their efforts."
The study also found that  performance was enhanced to a greater degree when workers could decide how much of their wages they wished to contribute.   More than half of the study participants chose to give a proportion of their pay to the charity they choose when the donation were optional.
"We find that offering subjects some discretion in choosing their own payment scheme leads to a substantial improvement in performance," says Dr Tonin. "This suggests that firms willing to introduce corporate giving programs may want to consider giving employees the opportunity to 'opt in.'"
The study Corporate Philanthropy and Productivity: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment will be published in the forthcoming edition of Management Science.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Browder Affair and the Death of Russian Economic Reform 2/3

 by Nomad

Part One of this series

In Part two, we pick up the story of the crusader investor, William Browder. As an activist shareholder whose business model was based on exposing corruption, Browder was about to meet his Waterloo with the Russian global energy giant, Gazprom.

The Payoff and the Payout

William Browder's mission to expose and clean up corruption within Russian corporations was not based on any altruistic motives. On the contrary, it was an application of basic capitalist principles. simply a way of increasing the value of the companies in which he owned stock.
A corporation cleared of corruption was bound to be more efficient and in practical terms, more accountable to its shareholders. Furthermore, it was bound to be more profitable.

However when it came to Gazprom, Russia's oil giant, that practical idea was to hit a snag. When Browder's investment fund  Hermitage Capital Management (along with other minority shareholders) launched its anti-corruption campaign, it would turn out to be, in fact, an indictment against the whole Russian way of doing business.

A Washington Post article in December 2000 reports the growing concern by foreign shareholders. Accountability was, they discovered, an illusion.
The huge natural gas monopoly Gazprom, one of Russia's largest enterprises, has transferred hundreds of millions of dollars in assets outside the company in recent years while signing lucrative deals with a firm largely owned by Gazprom's current and former directors, executives and their relatives, documents show.
(The article- though predictably complex- lays out a pretty good case for widespread corporate abuse that would have made Enron executives blush.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Destiny in the Making: President Obama Made History 25 years Ago Today

by Nomad

A quarter of a century ago, one soft-spoken student with a sense of destiny took his first steps into the public spotlight. His name was Barack Obama. 

Twenty five years ago, Barack Obama was elected the Harvard Law Review's first black president. Here is the New York Times announcement.

(Hat-tip to my long lost cousin, Angel.)

Uninsured Texas and ObamaCare: Republicans in Washington Ignore Realities Back Home

by Nomad

Nearly a million Texans have signed up for Obamacare since November surpassing all expectations. Although Texas is the uninsured capital of the nation, Texas Republicans in Washington are leading the crusade to gut affordable health care for all Americans.

Three days ago, the House of Representatives under Republican control, passed a bill attempting to shut down the Affordable Care Act. It was an exercise in futility and was the 56th vote to repeal the controversial healthcare reform. Even in the unlikely event, it passes the Senate, President Obama stands poised with his veto pen in hand to kill the legislation.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, the Republican heartland, it was a completely different story. Since open enrollment began on Nov. 15, nearly a million Texans have signed up.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning Observer, this year's enrollment figures are up by a third compared to last year's statewide enrollment campaign. Marjorie Petty, Texas regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. is quoted as saying.
"This is the second year, and I think we’ve surpassed the numbers that were expected"

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Turkish Court Delivers Surprising Verdict to Negligent Gynecologist

by Nomad

After a gynecologist  at a private hospital in Istanbul  failed to successfully perform tubal ligation,  the Turkish courts have handed down a surprising verdict. The doctor has been ordered "to pay all expenses for a child, born after the failed operation, until it reaches adulthood."

Back in 2008, a 37-year-old woman, (identified only by the initials S.I,) told her doctor that she and her husband did want any more children. At that time she was carrying her second child. The physician advised her that, following the birth, he would conduct a tubal ligation operation. Following the operation, that seemed to be the end of the story.
However, a year later, much to the woman's dismay, she learned that, she was once again pregnant despite the sterilization.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Browder Affair and the Death of Russian Economic Reform 1/3

by Nomad

Here's a three-part post on the investor who led a crusade to clean up corrupt newly-privatized companies in Russia. The Browder affair ended up leading to an international crisis, the death of one man, another man in fear for his life. 

Meet William Browder, once the head of a London-based investment fund called  Hermitage Capital Management. In his prime, Browder became the poster child for a new kind of investor, one that was ready to seize the moment and jump into the emerging Russian market.  At one time, it was considered where bold investors went.

Today, Browder is  reportedly in fear of being kidnapped by Russian criminal syndicates working with the Kremlin. His story may sound like a thriller novel but it also serves as a warning to any foreign investor thinking about doing business in Russia. 

The Backstory

The story William Browder, it has been said, reads like a real-life LeCarre novel. It is, in fact, much more than that. In many ways, the Browder case reflects everything that went wrong with the hope and promise of Russia in the post-Soviet era. 

Browder is, without question, a complex character. It's in his genes. He is the grandson of Wichita-born Earl Browder. (Another biography made for film) Earl was certainly a man of strong political beliefs when to be a Communist was a dangerous thing to be.

During World War I Browder served time in federal prison as a conscientious objector to conscription and the war. Later he became a union organizer and later in 1927 went to Moscow, married a Russian woman named Raissa. Afterward, upon his return to the US, Earl became the head of the Communist Party in the United States.
Around 1933, Earl was already warning.
"There is little doubt that Hitler will rearm Germany and, with the help of the Western capitalist powers, unleash war against the Soviet Union."
Felix Browder, Earl's son, and father of the subject of this story became a noted Princeton mathematician.
From those roots, Earl's grandson, William Browder, drew his impeccable credentials as a hybrid communist-capitalist for the post-Soviet age.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

William Jennings Bryan vs. Tea Party Anarchists

by Nomad

Income Tax Willima Jennings Bryan

Drug Patent Extortion: Indian Court Defeats Corporate Greed in Hepatitis C Cure

by Nomad

An Indian court has thrown a monkey wrench in an American pharma's plan to reap exorbitant profits from its Hepatitis cure.

Last year, we reported about a breakthrough in the treatment of one from of Hepatitis C.
This orally-administered drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), was, from the clinical trial reports, not a life-long treatment, like HIV drugs but a genuine cure for the disease itself. The therapy required a 12-week therapy but at the end, the patient would be free of the disease.

In 2012, when Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) announced the final trial results conducted with Gilead Sciences for the treatment of hepatitis C (HCV), the news seemed too good to be true. A 100% cure rate within 12 weeks. The possible side effects, such as, headache, fatigue, and nausea, were minor compared to other treatment drugs.
All good news? A victory for modern medical science, right?
Not quite.

According to a press release by Médecins Sans Frontières
The oral drug, which first received regulatory approval in the US in November 2013, and has been priced by Gilead at US$84,000 for a treatment course, or $1,000 per pill in the US, has caused a worldwide debate on the pricing of patented medicines. A study from Liverpool University showed that sofosbuvir could be produced for as little as $101 for a three-month treatment course.
Although the corporate decision was widely criticized at the time, the pharma companies seemed determined to put the profit margin at the top of its priority. Some say that decision was indefensible.

Challenge in Indian Court
According to one report, this example of what some see as corporate extortion has been challenged in Indian courts.  The Indian authorities have taken a strict approach to granting pharma exclusive patents in favor of generic production.  In a recent patent decision, the Patent Office Controller of India rejected the patent application by Gilead on the grounds- admittedly weak- that the drug was not unique.

Why Palin's Incoherent Iowa Speech is Just the Beginning of Republican Humiliation

by Nomad

After Palin appearance in Iowa, many Republicans snapped awake from their hypnotic trance and asked "Who is this character?" It's a little late in the day, of course. As one columnist points out, looking at the next wave coming out of Texas, the fun has only just begun.

There's no denying it. Sarah Palin's speech in Des Moines had a lot of conservatives shaking their heads in dismay. Could it be possible that they have finally awaken from their "long infatuation" with that woman from Wasilla? 

Jim Schutze, writing for the Dallas Observer, has an interesting op-ed piece on that very subject. It seems that when it comes to Palin, the thrill is definitely gone.
Schutze quotes conservative Matt Lewis in The Daily Beast :
"It's worth considering that maybe her early critics saw some fundamental character flaw -- some harbinger of things to come -- that escaped me."
Harbinger, shmarbinger!
It might have escaped you, Matt, but the truth about Palin and her character flaws was pretty damned obvious to the rest of us. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

How a Community Quilt Project Reveals the Other Side of Selma

by Nomad

Selma, Alabama might have a long dark history of strife and discord, but one project underway is a symbol of unity for the Alabama town. 

Journalist Alaina Denean, writing for the Selma Times-Journal, explains how the residents of the Alabama town have been working on a quilt as a sign of their united community.

Selma has a long history, much of which centers around discord, confrontation and  defiance against injustice. The quilt project recognizes this history but is also a symbol of harmony by as equal contributors. Selma has, the organizers say, changed for the better.
The quilt, when finished, with be part of an upcoming walk on Sunday March 1.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Texas Lawmaker Decides Muslim Americans Must Now Swear Allegiance to United States

 by Nomad

One legislator's policy discriminating against Muslim Americans raises questions about what religious liberty actually means in Texas. 

A couple of days ago The Dallas Morning News reported about Texas state Representative Molly White and a new policy she adopted.  From now on, she decided, all Muslim visitors to her government offices will be required to renounce terrorism and to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States. If not, she has stated that she would not meet with them.

"We Don't Want You Here"
White's policy came in response to the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day in which some 200 Texas Muslims attended. They were  to speak with legislators about their goals for the session. 

The events were hosted by the Texas chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR). The meeting was supposed to be “an opportunity for community members to learn about the democratic political process and how to be an advocate for important issues.” 
Like any other lobbying organization,

Before the rally, Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director for the  CAIR,  explained to reporters the main problem was a lack of contact between Muslim Americans and the lawmakers  Carroll explained:
“The problem that even the lawmakers have—they don’t know Muslims. They’ve never been to a mosque, they’ve never talked to any Muslims more than likely and all they see is what they see on TV.
Instead the were greeted with an example of the democratic political process at its worst and in disarray. The Muslim Americans (which included dozens of middle and high school students) were met by roughly 30 self-identified Christian protesters. The protesters who heckled " shouting “we don’t want you here,” and holding signs that said “no Sharia.” They also held flags and signs like ”One God,” and “Remember 9/11.”