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Austerity: aka “eat your peas”

Dday has the rundown on the press conference this morning, which I missed. It sounds to me as if everything's where it was last week --- he wants a Grand Bargain and the Republicans are refusing to give an inch while he's pretty much willing to give away the store. (I haven't seen him draw a line in the sand, but perhaps I missed it.)
On cutting entitlements, he made his pitch thusly. “Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program… If you’re a progressive who cares about the integrity of Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid, then we have an obligation to make sure we make those changes required to make it sustainable on those terms… We won’t make progress on the values we care about without getting our fiscal house in order. If you care about those things, then you’ve got to be interested in figuring out how we pay for all that in a responsible way.” As for Social Security, which he acknowledged is not the source of any deficit problems, he basically said that, as long as we’re doing a big deal, we might as well throw that in. “The reason to include that in this package is, if you’re going to take a bunch of tough votes, you might as well do it now,” Obama said. He did not specify the changes.

So tactical or not, he’s certainly committed to a big deal that includes trimming benefits and some revenues, in a ratio massively tilted toward cuts. “I would want more revenues, and fewer cuts to programs for middle class families,” he said. “But that’s the point. I’m willing to move in their direction to get something done. And that’s what compromise entails.”

He concluded that getting the deficit conversation out of the way would enable the country to move with a laser focus to jobs and investment. I don’t know why anyone would think that deficits could be taken off the table forever, but that’s his argument.

The accusation that those of us who are upset about cuts to Medicare, medicaid and Social security don't care about the programs is especially clever, I have to admit. That will prove to be quite useful I imagine. For Republicans.

"I think it would give the American people enormous confidence that this town can actually do something one in a while," Obama said.

I think the President's goal is exactly what he says it is: to do Big Things.I just don't think it matters much what the substance of those Big Things is.

Trimming the Fat

Welcome to Austerity in America. We can afford tax breaks for millionaires, but can’t afford five-day school weeks.

-- Steve Benen, The Washington Monthly

In this week's Sift:

  • Is Obama on Our Side? What if President Obama isn't being out-negotiated by Republicans? What if he's getting what he wants?
  • The Hard Line. The Republican inclination not to compromise goes all the way down to the grass roots, where three kinds of fundamentalism are replacing the 20th-century conservative's respect for the status quo.
  • What "Spending" Really Means. Cutting government spending sounds good until you have to get specific. Do we want safe food and fire engines that work?
  • Short Notes. Fiore's biting animations. We had a revenue crash, not a spending orgy. New light bulbs and solar panels. The debt ceiling is constitutional. And Ohio says that poll workers don't have to be helpful.
  • This Week's Challenge. As I redesign the Weekly Sift blog, now is a good time to make your suggestions.

Is Obama on Our Side?

When Barack Obama's 2008 landslide carried such unlikely states as North Carolina and Indiana, and swept in large majorities in Congress, many progressives imagined a transformational presidency like FDR's. Katrina Vanden Heuval wrote:

[F]uture historians may well view Barack Obama's victory as the end of the age of Reagan and the beginning of something substantially new.

So far, it hasn't worked out that way.

Not that President Obama hasn't had accomplishments. The Bush economic crisis did not become a second Great Depression, as it threatened to do. With all its compromises, the Affordable Care Act is still a historic step in the right direction. Obama's two appointments have slowed down the rightward drift of the Supreme Court. In thousands of ways that don't make headlines, regulatory agencies have gone back to protecting the American people. On gay rights, President Obama has not led, but at least he has not stood in the way. The Iraq War has continued to wind down, our relations with other nations in general are less belligerent, and we finally nailed Osama Bin Laden.

That's not nothing. But by now the list of liberal disappointments has gotten long.

What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe.
  • No public option. Given the public option's popularity, a great speech might have made a difference to wavering Democrats in the Senate, but Obama didn't give one.
  • Ratifying Bush's power grabs. On Inauguration Day, the new president had a chance to define the Bush administration as an aberration and turn the corner. Obama could even have enforced the law and prosecuted Bush officials for ordering torture. Instead, he let his initial effort to close Guantanamo fail, and has continued to practice and has systematically defended in court many of the Bush administration abuses of power.
  • Afghanistan. To be fair, Candidate Obama portrayed Afghanistan as the good war that got ignored because we fought the bad war in Iraq. So Afghan escalation shouldn't have been a surprise. But we still have no coherent goal or exit strategy.
  • Libya. Again: goal? exit strategy? By ignoring the War Powers Act -- in defiance of the advice of his own top lawyers -- he's expanded executive power beyond even Bush.
  • Global warming. In a recent article in Rolling Stone, Al Gore credits Obama for at least starting to take action, but then says:
President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that "drill, baby, drill" is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
  • Taxes. When Republicans wouldn't extend the Bush tax cuts just for the middle class, Obama had a perfect place to make a popular stand. Imagine: "I wanted to keep your taxes low, but the Republicans blocked me to protect the millionaires." Instead he agreed to extend all the Bush cuts -- and didn't even get a debt-ceiling increase written into the deal.

And now, he seems ready to make significant concessions on Social Security and Medicare in those debt-ceiling negotiations he might have avoided. Like the public option only moreso, Social Security and Medicare are popular. There's a significant rabble waiting to be roused, if a silver-tongued president were so inclined. So far, nothing.

Explanations. In the beginning, progressives explained these disappointments with some combination of 1) He's doing the best he can given political reality and the power of the special interests and 2) He's a bad negotiator who compromises when he doesn't have to. Lately, though, a third explanation is getting louder and louder: 3) Maybe he's not really on our side.

Bringing up Explanation 3 -- even to deny it -- is the surest way to start a blood feud on a liberal web site like Daily Kos. Emotions run high. Some liberals feel strongly that Obama has betrayed them, while others are just as strongly attached to him.

The problem is: All three explanations work, and each explains things the others can't. For example, I think Obama was genuinely surprised by the popular resistance Republicans raised to closing Guantanamo. (Scary, scary terrorists were going to be housed in flimsy jails down the street from you.) Otherwise, why make a grand promise only to back off of it? And I believe he did (foolishly) expect Republicans to negotiate in good faith on vital issues like the debt ceiling.

True intentions. In spite of all the socialist and Marxist and big spender rhetoric from the Right, what if Obama has always been a centrist? Left and Right alike imagined that the centrist positions he campaigned on were masking a deeper progressive agenda, but what if they weren't?

From the beginning, the role Obama has written for himself has been to let liberals and conservatives fight it out in Congress, and then to come in at the end with a compromise. (The problem has been that liberals are largely shut out of the corporate media -- when was the last time you saw Dennis Kucinich on TV? -- so the public debate has been between the most moderate Democrats and the most conservative Republicans, with Obama coming in at the end to make a center-right compromise rather than a left-right compromise.)

I think the way he has handled entitlement reform tells us a lot. The Simpson-Bowles Commission Obama appointed to study long-term deficit issues was stacked from the beginning. (Digby kept calling it "the Catfood Commission".) When the commission was appointed, Unsilent Generation posted:

Despite protestations to the contrary, the commission exists primarily to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The commission’s slant is evident from the choice of its two co-chairs: former Wyoming Republican senator Alan Simpson, a long-time foe of entitlements, and Erskine Bowles, the middle-right former Clinton chief of staff.

It should have surprised no one when Simpson called Social Security "a milk cow with 310 million tits". And it should have surprised no one that the Commission recommended Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Presidents do this kind of spadework to cover unpopular actions they want to take later. It's where you can see presidential intention in its purest form. Obama has believed all along that Social Security and Medicare need to be cut. So while he's not likely to get on board with the Ryan privatization plan, he's also not likely to make a bold stand against cuts that he's been maneuvering towards from the beginning.

Framing is another place you can see presidential intention at work. The other side can force you to accept deals you don't like, but they can't make you repeat their deceptive rhetoric. Recently, though, Obama has said things like:

Government has to start living within its means, just like families do.  We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs

Paul Krugman comments:

That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.

My conclusion. Consider the possibility that Obama is a Clintonian centrist whose liberal actions have been forced on him by events. I don't think he's a bad guy or a traitor to the cause. I just don't think he's ever been a progressive.

Deep down, I think Obama wants to be the president who steers the center course -- fixing the long-term growth in entitlement spending without gutting the safety net. The ACA is part of that vision, because health-care inflation is the main long-term fiscal threat, and the private sector is never going to stop it. The near-depression forced a half-hearted stimulus on him, but expanding government services is not his fundamental inclination.

He never said it was.

Conservative columnist Ross Douhat on the deficit negotiations: "The not-so-secret secret is that the White House has given ground on purpose."

Rick Perlstein was all over this more than a year ago.

The Hard Line

Two articles this week explained why Republicans are (depending on your point of view) either (1) able to hold together on hardline positions, or (2) unable to compromise. Turns out, it's not just the party leadership or elected officials that are different, it's the rank-and-file:


NYT blogger Nate Silver looks more deeply at the polling data and concludes that while polarization is hitting both parties, it has a more profound effect on the Republicans. Republican is becoming identical with conservative, while the Democrats remain a coalition of diverse philosophies. So Democrats worry about alienating their moderates, while Republicans focus on energizing their base.

In The three fundamentalisms of the American right, Salon's Michael Lind notes a long-term philosophical shift in conservatism. William F. Buckley modeled the mid-20th-century conservative movement after 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke, who argued that people underestimate the values embedded in traditional practices, so change should be measured and thoughtful rather than sweeping and giddy.

But increasingly, 21st-century conservatism is built around fundamentalist reaction rather than thoughtful prudence. Christian fundamentalism (the Bible), constitutional fundamentalism (the Constitution and carefully selected quotes from the Founders), and market fundamentalism (Atlas Shrugged) each have a holy scripture that teaches unquestionable Truth. And that creates a problem for democracy.

Back when conservatism was orthodox and traditional, rather than fundamentalist and counter-revolutionary, conservatives could engage in friendly debates with liberals, and minds on both sides could now and then be changed. But if your sect alone understands the True Religion and the True Constitution and the Laws of the Market, then there is no point in debate. All those who disagree with you are heretics, to be defeated, whether or not they are converted.

A Burke-Buckley conservative respects the status quo, but to a fundamentalist the status quo already represents a fall from a lost Golden Age -- often an imaginary one.

It's tempting to respond to all three types of right-wing fundamentalist with scorn, especially when they make up facts about their respective Golden Ages. But in the long run scorn may be counterproductive. Fundamentalism is a reaction to a loss of identity and community. (No one who feels at home here and now pledges loyalty to a lost era or an ancient text.) Ultimately, fundamentalists need to be healed, not beaten down further. The candidate-Obama message of Hope and Yes We Can seems exactly right to me, if we can see it through.

This move conflicts with my healing strategy, but I'll be interested to see if it works tactically: The American Values Network points out that two of the right-wing fundamentalisms contradict each other. Jesus and Ayn Rand are not at all on the same page.

Less-extreme Republicans have finally started protesting against the hard line: David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, Robert Samuelson.

What "Spending" Really Means

Cutting government spending always sounds good until you start looking at specifics. In Wilmington, NC, "cutting spending" specifically means not replacing an ancient fire engine that tends to die when the firefighters need water pressure. In California, Arizona, and Nevada it means a shorter school year. And in parts of Idaho and New Mexico it means a four-day school week -- not for any academic reason, but because (as Rachel Maddow summed up) "In America now, we can't afford to keep all our schools open five days a week."

This 11-minute clip from Rachel's show on Wednesday is worth watching in its entirety, because it pulls together so much.

For example: Alto, Texas has scrapped its police force -- not just furloughed a few officers, but padlocked the door and sent the whole force home for a minimum of six months. Not because they're not needed -- even when it had police, Alto's crime rate was higher than the Texas average -- but because Alto is out of money.

On the federal level, the House has eliminated funding to test American vegetables for the E-coli strain that killed 50 people in Europe. Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston isn't worried: "The food supply in America is very safe because the private sector self-polices." But whether we're talking food or crime, self-policing only works up to a point. Somehow, even before the testing cutbacks, 3000 Americans died each year from tainted food.

State after state is laying off teachers -- not because they've found some better way to educate children, but because they can't afford to pay them. We're slashing transportation funding too, because high-speed trains belong in China, not America.

But don't tax the rich. We are eliminating all this stuff rather than raise taxes on anybody, even the wealthiest Americans. Republicans claim they are taking this stand because, as John Boehner says, "The American people don't want us to raise taxes."

Except that they do. Politifact did the research:

we found a number of polls that indicate people do want the government to raise taxes. That was most clearly the case when it comes to raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations.

Like these polls. Rachel quotes a poll saying that 81% of Americans would accept higher taxes on millionaires to cut the deficit. 68% could support eliminating the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 a year.

The American people also want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid. By a 60-32 margin, they said that maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits was more important than cutting the deficit. By 61-31 they said that Medicare recipients already pay enough of their medical costs. 58% think "Low income people should not have their Medicaid benefits taken away."

And don't tax corporations. A significant majority of Americans (56% on Question 36) say that corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes. And the most stunning poll result is this (Question 40): 61% say that corporations use tax breaks to pay higher dividends and bonuses; only 4% say they use the money to create jobs.

That jaundiced public perception is accurate. Rachel lists a number of large American corporations (Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, etc.) who pay significantly less than the official 35% corporate tax rate (GE: 7.4%) and have been cutting jobs rather than creating them. Moreover, American corporate taxes are low, not high: Compared to 25 other developed countries, only in Iceland are corporate taxes a smaller percentage of GDP than in the US.

Rich people, poor country. Let me sum up: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says "the people that put us here" want to change "the way the system works so that we’re no longer spending money that we don’t have." The question that goes unasked is: Why don't we have that money?

Is the United States a poor country now? Can we simply not afford to have police and full-time schools and safe food? Can we not afford to take care of Americans who are sick or old? To fix our potholes and keep our bridges from falling down?

Other countries manage to pay for such things. They aren't richer than the United States. The difference is that in America, billionaires and corporations have become so powerful that they can dictate to the government how much tax they are willing to pay. And those dictates are put forward by the corporate media as "the will of the people", even if (when you ask them) the people say the exact opposite. So if the billionaires and corporations are only willing to pay for four days of school a week, that's what we'll get.

At least as long as Eric Cantor believes that billionaires and corporate CEOs are the people that put him where he is.

Short Notes

Mark Fiore's animations are very sharp satires. Check out "Trickle Down Tales". And Tom Tomorrow is pretty good today too.

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee have put together a chart explaining what happened to the surplus in Clinton's final budget. It's mildly deceptive (everything except defense is adjusted for inflation and population growth), but ignoring the too-high defense number, it makes a great point: We had a revenue crash and the population got older, but there was no discretionary-spending orgy.

Last week I mentioned the possibility of Obama invoking the 14th amendment to ignore the debt ceiling. Lawrence Tribe has convinced me that's not a legitimate option.

Slate's tech reviewer loves the new LED light bulb. It lasts 20 years, uses about 1/5 the power, and emits the spectrum we expect from incandescents. The problem: They cost $20 each. Long-term it's a good deal, but people aren't used to thinking about light bulbs as investments.

What if your windows could be solar panels?

If Republican election-reform laws aren't about suppressing legitimate votes, then why does the new Ohio law say that poll workers don't have to direct confused voters to their correct polling places?

This Week's Challenge

I'm working on a redesign of the Weekly Sift blog, which I'll roll out on either next Monday or the one after. (Currently, is a bit of a mess, like any unfinished construction project.) If you have any suggestions for improving the blog, now is a good time to make them. Like: What do you think of this week's embedded chart and video? I'm thinking of doing a lot more of that.

BTW, what do you think of this as a logo? If you've been getting the Sift via email, what do you think of the new MailChimp mailings? Have you noticed?

The Weekly Sift appears every Monday afternoon. If you would like to receive it by email, write to WeeklySift at Or keep track of the Sift by following the Sift's Facebook page or the @weeklysift Twitter feed, where you get the Link of the Day.


Google+ runs out of disk space, floods inboxes with notification spam

Vic Gundotra
If you're one of the lucky ones who landed themselves a Google+ account, you might have felt a little less fortunate when your inbox was bombarded by repeated notifications. Vic Gundotra, the Goog's social mastermind, took to the fledgling service to apologize and explain what happened. Turns out the servers in charge of tracking notifications ran out of disk space for about 80 minutes -- causing them to repeatedly send and resend the same messages. In his Plus posting Gundotra admitted, "we didn't expect to hit these high thresholds so quickly, but we should have." Sure, it may have been annoying to get 17 alerts that your old college roommate added you to his circles, but we've got to give credit to Vic for owning this mini fail. The company better hope it can scale up capacity quick -- Google+ invites are still a hot property and it's got a lot of growing to do before it can truly compete with the likes of Facebook.

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Google+ runs out of disk space, floods inboxes with notification spam originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 11 Jul 2011 12:10:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Minnesota AGW Denialist Jungbauer Disembowled by Respected News Anchor Don Shelby [Greg Laden’s Blog]

I woke up this morning and the world was slightly different than it was the night before. Well, it probably always is a little different each day, but there are certain times when you notice this. I'm not talking about the bits of siding, roofing, and trees scattered about the landscape because of the very severe thunderstorm we had last night, although I suppose this is indirectly related.

If you are not a Minnesotan this will take some explanation:

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Playground Physics: Roller Slide Mystery [Uncertain Principles]

We took SteelyKid to the playground at one of the local elementary schools on Sunday morning. this one includes an odd sort of slide, made of dozens of rollers that are 1-2 inches in diameter (they're all the same size-- the range is just because I didn't measure them carefully). They're on really good bearings, and while it's kind of noisy, it's a reasonably smooth ride.

There is, however, one slightly mysterious aspect to this slide, clearly visible in this video that Kate was good enough to shoot for me:

SteelyKid takes something like 6 seconds to go down the slide, while it only takes me about 2 seconds to reach the bottom. This is kind of surprising, as it's the reverse of most of the other slides we go on-- usually, she handily beats me to the bottom on any set of parallel slides.

It's also not what you would expect for an idealized slide from introductory Newtonian physics. The acceleration of an object sliding down a ramp, even with friction, should not depend on the mass of the object. And yet, I very clearly go faster than SteelyKid does, and while I don't have the video to test it qualitatively, I'm pretty sure Kate's rate of sliding falls between SteelyKid and me.

So, the question for you is: Why does that happen?

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


There’s No Such Thing As Perfect Genome Sequence [Mike the Mad Biologist]

I recently was in a conversation with a collaborator who isn't in the genomics biz, and said collaborator remarked that there was a lot of online criticism of the quality of the genomic data that has been generated for the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak isolates. I've been following it very closely (not surprised by that, are you?), and I'm not sure what the collaborator was referring to. On some blog, in some comment, there probably is criticism, but these are the intertoobz: that sort of thing happens.

But then it dawned on me that much of what appears to be 'criticism' is probably just a realistic assessment of the quality of genomic data. To those not in the genomics biz, it probably looks pretty bad. For instance, in my first post about E. coli O104:H4, I described the possibility of errors:

In the outbreak strain, the icd allele matches icd136 exactly; however, the genome sequence lacks the last two bases. Given that the genome assembly is in over 3,000 pieces ('contigs'), I think this is missing data, not biology.

...In the outbreak strain, the recA allele differs from recA7 by one insertion. "Jan 91" has a sequence of AAAA, while the outbreak strain has a sequence of "AAAAA" (below, it's recorded as "aAAAA" to indicate the difference). With Ion Torrent (and other high throughput sequencing technologies), when you have 'runs' of the same nucleotide, such as "AAAA", it's not unusual for a base to be added or deleted, which could yield a 'false' "AAAAA." This could be sequencing error, but I can't rule out a real insertion (i.e., an extra A that's real).

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


What Not to Wear, Farmer Edition [Casaubon’s Book]

A reader, who asks to remain anonymous writes me that her graduate school boyfriend (soon hopefully to be fiance) has decided he wants a farm. He's looking for jobs in rural areas, and wants them to buy land together. The boyfriend grew up in rural Albania and is apparently pretty comfortable in agriculture. My reader, who grew up in suburban Michigan, is not. This is all new to her - she thought she was marrying a plain old potential academic (botany). The thought, as she puts it, that he might look at real plants in the dirt, rather than under a microscope and that said dirt might come to her house is a little disorienting to her.

Our fearless reader is game and willing. She's just nervous as heck. One of the things she is nervous about is what to wear. She worries she'll sound frivolous, but notes that she has spent decade of college and grad school acquiring the kind of cool, deliberately casual but artsy wardrobe that makes her look like the person she's intent on becoming (economic historian), and she doubts that this will be appropriate for her new life as a farmwife. What, she asks, do farmers wear?

I'm so glad she asked - after all, I am famed for my role in fashion. Actually, I really am, which is both funny and confusing. Despite the fact that I have no fashion sense to speak of, I did, in fact, coin the term "slow clothing" and am the official founder of the "slow clothing movement." Thus, although my clothing motto is (stolen from the late, great Molly Ivins) "Woman who wears clothes so she won't be nekkid," I do, in fact, get emails every year during fashion week from Milan, which just shows that the universe is a very weird place wink). With these qualifications (ie, none) I do feel I can help our reader - perhaps not by telling her what to wear in her new life, but by offering guidelines about what *not* to wear.

I have real experience to offer here - my loved ones assure me that I have worn just about every conceivable thing you shouldn't wear. Whether for reasons of aesthetic merit, appropriateness to the work involved or even minimal modesty (let us try not to recall the time I ripped the strap off a tank top I was wearing on some fence and well...)

This Saturday, for example, I certainly modelled what not to wear at my own farm. Coming home from synagogue and a lovely lunch with old friends, we found that Licorice, one of last year's doelings, had given birth to two gorgeous twin does (Tequila and Margarita). Not pausing to change my clothes in my excitement to check the new little ones out (cream colored pants, brown shiny t-shirt, bright Grecian blue short sleeved shiny shirt to go over the brown, blue and gold necklace, brown sandals), I went in to assess gender and health of these little babies. By the time I had ascertained they were incredibly cute, incredibly healthy and female, one of them had pooped all over my lovely cream colored pants, brown shirt and blue shirt. This would be a fine example of what not to wear.

The next day, when we had friends over for brunch, Marshmallow, Licorice's twin sister gave birth to the largest doeling I've ever seen, a breech with a huge head. By the time I had finished helping extract Kahlua from her mother (wincing with sympathy all the way, since I've also given birth to a kid with a huge head and bad positioning - fortunately this was the only time I've ever really had to pull a kid in 4 years of kidding), my khaki pants and previously clean blue t-shirt were covered with amniotic fluid (clear), Betadine solution (yellow), placenta (reddish brown when dried) and both goat and chicken manure (brown for the first, white and brown for the second).

All of this is just a way of saying "don't wear anything you like too much." A book I once read described the working clothing of a farmer as "schmatta" and that's about right. The clothes you wear to do serious farmwork bear little resemblance to the clothes you would see a farmer wearing in a picture of them doing farmwork, You want to wear your rattiest clothes for most of this. They will get filthy, sweaty, muddy, and gross in every conceivable way (and a few you probably haven't conceived of.)

My favorite summer working outfit on a day when we are definitely not having company is a pair of cotton pajama pants and a man's v-neck undershirt - light, comfortable and cool, not constricting, and I don't care what happens to them. If someone might see me, my favorite outfit is a brown cotton skirt (with a pair of shorts underneath it) and a t-shirt. My hair goes either up into a pony tail or under a scarf. The main exception to this is ifI am haying or loading hay, when I wear light colored, long sleeved cotton clothes - because hay and sweat mixed together are itchy. Exposed skin is bad when haying. Actually, my favorite haying clothes are white hospital scrubs - bought used, of course.

This is a matter of taste - my husband likes shorts to work in during the summer, but I do not, because I do most of the weeding, and I prefer to work my garden beds on hands and knees. i dislike picking little rocks out of my kneecaps, so something long enough to cover my knees is necessary (if you farm in the midwest where a large crop of glacial stone does not come to the surface every single winter, you might not care). Skirts are cooler than pants, and also, if not tight, more flexible for those inevitable times when you have to climb something.

I also like skirts in the winter, with leggings underneath them - warmer and more flexible. With the skirt and the headscarf I look, I think, rather Amish or old-fashioned, like my wardrobe has Laura Ingalls Wilder's stamp of approval, but it is very comfortable and convenient and there's no political flavor to it - just what suits me. I have a friend who does all her farm work in a bikini top and short-shorts (at least in summer) because that's what's most comfortable for her.

My reader mentioned LL Bean as the "supplier of agricultural clothing" - at least the one that she's familiar with. I do own some LL Bean clothes, and they are very nice, but the things you use for actual farming you will want to wear for other purposes for a while first. LL Bean is pricey - the clothes you are going to trash on the farm should be cheap. My favorite brand here is Le Goodwill (actually plenty of them do come from LL Bean, Abercrombie, etc...) There is absolutely no point in wearing new clothes into the field, unless, of course, you are in a photo spread that day.

There are a few things you will want. First, a big hat - the kind that keeps the sun off your face. if you have long hair, make sure you have plenty of ties to keep your hair out of your face, also. Second, you will want good winter clothing. Remember, you will be spending a lot of time outside in the winter. Third, good shoes. This is one thing we don't skimp on. Some people like muck boots, and I do for some things, but what I generally wear are solid men's (because they are cheaper as a men's size 8 than a women's size 10) slip-on work shoes. I like slip-on because my hands are often full of stuff. I like sturdy because every creature on the farm is inclined to step on toes and all of them are heavy (including my children). I get mine from Lands End, and wear out a pair a year, but it is well worth it to be comfortable.

If you are going to do a lot of winter outside work, Carharts are the fine clothing manufacturer that make winter coveralls - basically giant, super-warm snowsuits for grownups. These are worth the money if you are going to spend long hours outside cutting wood in February, or plowing. I have some (bought used again - if you are tall enough, as I am, it is much easier to find used mens Carharts than used women's), but I rarely wear them for routine winter chores. It just is too much work to get all dressed up in them just to spend half an hour doing chores. But different people feel differently about these issues.

You will want one each summer and winter "I am a farmer" outfit in case someone wants to take your pictures while handling your sheep or working in your garden or while running farm tours. Mostly, however, you will want a lot of cheap, sturdy clothing that you can wreck. Since most farmwork is done not in front of hundreds, but quietly off by yourself or with someone equally grubby, you can get away with this. Personally, I feel that never ever having to wear pantyhose again amply compensates me for the loss of income from my prior professions.

Male wardrobes have the same basic requirements female ones do - in fact, in my husband's and my case, we tend to share a large portion of the more fungible clothing (Eric is an inch taller than I am at 6'1 and thinner, but both of us can wear a man's large shirt pretty comfortably). The "take off the decent clothes first thing when you get home" rule should apply to both (It took multiple cleanings to get Eric's best suit pants clean on the day we came home from Yom Kippur Services in a rainstorm and he slipped in the mud while herding the goats out of the pasture.) This is one of those "duh" things, but it is harder to do than you'd think, because so often things are happening just as you arrive.

Some clothing articles are specific to different kinds of agriculture. If you are keeping bees, you will want some light colored clothing and to avoid polar fleece and fuzzy sweaters that make you look like a bear to the bees. If you are ranching and doing much of your work on horseback, you may want appropriate clothing for that. Different climates and cultural mores will probably shape what you wear as well. In my case, the most ubiquitous item of clothing is the headscarf I wear most of the winter - not because of religious or cultural issues with hair covering, but because my chickens roost in the rafters of the barn in the winter, and you don't want to walk underneath without a head covering. I advise clothing with pockets - another reason I so often end up in men's clothing, rather than women's (May I just say to any clothing manufacturers out there - what the hell are you thinking making so many women's pants with no pockets?!!!??!). Where else are you going to keep the jacknife, the eggs you picked up out of the hayloft (do not forget they are there, trust me), the pair of pruners and the hoof pick?

Another thing not to wear is most jewelry. This is not hardship for either Eric or I, who made a mutual pact early on in our marriage that neither of us had to wear our wedding rings if we didn't want to - and neither of us do. It has nothing to do with our marriage, but a great deal to do with our mutual distaste for cleaning crud out from under our rings. Some jewelry is actively dangerous, other bits are just annoying (my goats like to nibble anything dangly), and all of it can collect crud. This is again a matter of taste - I know people who farm in elaborate jewelry but it seems risky and inconvenient to me. If you are working with heavy machinery, it may be actively dangerous. I know two different women who were injured by catching necklaces in machinery in the last year.

I recommend a lot of spare gloves and mittens for winter wear in a cold climate - things get wet and iti s nice to be able to trade out. Extra work gloves are great too, since they tend to go missing. A firm household policy against tromping across the floor in one's barn boots, even though you are going right back also worth achieving (I'm guilty of this too).

My correspondent plans to locate in a cold climate, and they hope to buy a property with an extant farmhouse. The other bit of advice I'd give is that farmhouses are cold - old buildings tend not to be well insulated, and old houses tend to be designed so that you can warm central public areas, but where there is minimal or no heat in sleeping areas. Warm PJs, fleece bathrobes, down blankets and knit hats are the key to being comfortable in a badly heated house. Long johns are nice, although I do fine with cheap leggings and shirts I find at goodwill.

I do hope my reader finds this helpful - in short, what not to wear on the farm is anything that she's accumulated for any other aspect of her life. The good news is the acquisition of appropriately ragged clothing to do farm work in will not cost her much money. The question "what do you have in my size that is comfy, ratty and cheap" will get you pretty far in agriculture.

It would be easy to think of this as "letting yourself go" and maybe there's some of that. But I think Eric looks sexy swinging a scythe and soaked in sweat, or holding a baby goat in stained jeans and a decade-old t-shirt while I am doing vaccinations. And I'm lucky - on Sunday after I struggled to pull Marshmallow's baby while Eric held the doe, streaked with blood, manure and betadine, Eric hugged me and said "You were amazing! You are so beautiful!" You sure as hell can't buy that!

On the other hand, there's no need to get rid of all the other clothes. In a sense agriculture has made me appreciate the ritual of dressing nicely to go out for an evening or to shul - of putting on what we jokingly call "drag" (our civilized grownup people clothes) and noticing that we clean up good. When both of us dressed for teaching every day, I don't think we really noticed - the study in contrasts is part of the joy of the thing. Just as a shower feels glorious after an afternoon cutting hay, in a way it never can after an a day in front of a computer, there's something about farm clothes that make the occasional foray into dressing up more pleasurable, more delightful. Might as well save those funky outfits for a rainy (or sunny) day.


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Boggy Test Pit [Aardvarchaeology]


In the Lake Mälaren area of Sweden, you rarely find any large pieces of Bronze Age metalwork in graves or at settlement sites. When the beautiful larger objects occur - axe heads, spear heads, swords, neck rings, belt ornaments - they almost exclusively come from odd find contexts that I for one feel comfortable with terming sacrificial deposits. My current main project aims to find out the rules that decided where people made sacrificial deposits. This entails looking at the finds we already know of and try to trace the find spots, which is difficult as most finds were made about 1900 by members of the public. This strange time framing has to do with the fact that most of the sacrifices were made in wetlands, and the wetlands of the Lake Mälaren area were mainly messed with by the public during the decades to either side of 1900.

I want to be able to predict where these sites are and dig them in their untouched state, thus helping to reinvigorate a field of study that has languished for lack of new data for half a century.

This far into my studies, I'm not very optimistic about finding any useful regularities regarding the dry land sacrifices. They are a minority of the finds, and dry land occupies a great majority of the area involved. I'm afraid that any rules I may be able to propose will be too vague to tell me where to dig. But with wetlands, it may be another thing. Far more finds and a far smaller percentage of the area.

In the past weeks I have finished primary data collection on the known finds and run some simple numbers. Looking at finds that are at least potentially from wetlands by parish, Skogs-Tibble near Uppsala leads the field. And a closer look showed me that the numbers represent a belt of finds scattered through three parishes, from Österunda through Skogs-Tibble to Vänge, with some peripheral occurrences in parishes to the sides. So at this point in the evolution of my model, it's basically like this:

Look in the Skogs-Tibble scatter. In wetlands. About 1.5 km from burnt mounds and rock-art sites.

And that's what I did Friday. Near the site scatter's centre of mass is an oblong lake basin in Skogs-Tibble that has steadily been silting up since getting cut off from the Baltic some time in the Neolithic (current surface 37 m a.s.l.). Only at the centre is there still a small area of open water, while the rest is all bog. In 1891, someone found a bronze flanged-axe head of c. 1400 BC while digging at an unspecified point in the eastern half of the basin. Most likely the digging had something to do with drainage, that is, reclaiming strips of dry land along the basin's edges to improve forestry. I fought through the undergrowth at the basin's edge, had a look around, and then settled for a spot to sink a test pit.

You'll have to understand that I'm pretty new to wetland archaeology, which has never been a big pastime among my colleagues in the region. We don't really have a tradition. Opening that test pit was a first step for me in learning about how these places really look under the spongy ground surface. And I made a stupid mistake that I could have saved myself if I had remembered what I learned while digging at Djurhamn and Finnestorp in recent years. Maybe you'll laugh at me, but anyway:

A lake basin is usually deepest at the centre. And my pit was almost as near the centre of this basin as I could get without diving into the lake. I had to remove 1.5 metres of finely layered Phragmites australis reed-root peat before I reached open-water sediment. When I was finished, that pit was deeper than my wife is tall, and it was surrounded by an embankment of turves. And I was grimy from head to toe.

So, what did I learn? Well, in the reed peat were a few well-preserved (though very soft) sticks and other pieces of wood that showed no sign of human modification. They suggest drier woodland episodes. I only went beneath the peat on a 0.5 sqm surface, stooping in the shaft. There was no identifiable organic lake sediment, just a thin layer of coarse sand and sharp-edged gravel, then clean grey glacial clay that was laid down long before the Bronze Age. No artefacts. The spot has been a reed belt for thousands of years, probably since before the basin became landlocked.

Next time I'll spend comparable labour digging several shallower pits instead, closer to the respective basin's edge where the sediment pillar above the Bronze Age level is lower. Live & learn.

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Get The Coolest Domain Name Now – Best Tips, Tricks And Tools You’ll Need!

So you’ve come up with a splendid business project but become confused when it comes to choosing a domain name. A domain name is a very important element of a website and can be either help or hurt your online business. You may think how hard could it be to make up a single name? But this single word can often be crucial and has to be well considered before being accepted.

What should you keep in mind when thinking of a domain name? How do you find the right domain name quickly and efficiently? This article shares some useful tips about choosing domain names and presents some tools to find the exact domain name for your website.

Keep it short

While you could call your website thegreatestwebdesignblogintheworld it’s a good idea not to do so. Keep your domain name short and simple. Short domain names are easier to remember, faster to type and generally they’re better for your business. There may be some exceptions, however. For example, it’s acceptable to call your website fashionphotographyblog because it’s ordered and fpb might be even harder to remember, but for the most part – just keep it simple.

Keep it equal

Try to use the same domain name like you’ve named your website or business. It’s pretty important since people tend to think of a website after it’s name, not the domain. Naming your domain after your website’s name will give you an advantage and recognition. Don’t choose a domain like clothesandfootwear if your online shop is called shop x. It will be much easier for people to remember and recognize your website/brand if you use it’s name as a domain name.

Keep it unique

Try to be unique and memorable with your domain name. Don’t choose a domain name which might be easy to confuse with others or which might infringe on already existing domains/brands/companies. A unique and memorable domain name will pay you back when you’ll be looking for an audience. Having a unique domain name will also help you to develop your brand and image.

Keep it universal

When choosing a domain name you have to find the right balance between being specific and general. Try not to think about how your website looks right now but how it might look after two years. Think of possible growth, new niches and directions of development. The point is not to let your domain name limit your opportunities. For example, you start a blog about WordPress theme development and choose a domain name like wordpressthemeblog. After a while your blog becomes popular and you decide it would be a great idea to sell some WordPress themes. Your domain name kinda traps you saying that your website is a blog and nothing else. A domain name can keep you stuck in one specific field with limited potential to expand. Don’t bother yourself with this too much, however keep in mind that your website might end up quite different than you initially thought.

Keep it easy to remember

Besides being unique you have to think of a name that is easy to remember, especially if you’re starting an online business. If you have a unique, easy to remember domain it will be easier for people to associate your domain with your brand. It’s not always true that short is easier to remember, yet try to keep your domain logical and memorable. Short, unique and easy to remember are the main things to focus on when thinking of a domain name.


1. DomainTyper


DomainTyper allows you to search for your domain as fast as you can type. It’s a simple and easy way to check domain name availability. You can also use their domain name generator to create a nice and easy to remember domain. It randomly generates several .com domains.

2. Panabee


Panabee is the simplest way to brainstorm names for websites, mobile apps, and products. Availability is not the only thing you get – translations, phonetic variations, related terms, and more interesting stuff is offered.

3. Moniker


Moniker can help you find the right domain name – even if it’s already registered. With Moniker you can manage a domain or several thousand. Safely, securely and easily. Moniker has been offering domain registration for over a decade and their experience is unmatched.

4. Domainr


Domainr helps you explore the entire domain name space beyond the ubiquitous—and crowded—.com, .net and .org. When you type a search term into Domainr, you’ll see all the different possible domain names it creates.

5. Domize


Domize is the place to find your next domain name whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned collector. Domize offers unmatched speed and security to allow you to search quickly and in complete privacy. All queries are encrypted over SSL and never leave Domize’s servers.

6. NameStation


NameStation is a website for finding name ideas and available domains. People can get name suggestions, feedback and ratings from their friends. Businesses can collaborate and hold naming contests to engage customers.

7. NameTumbler


At Name Tumbler you can find great, generic domain names in minutes. All great domain names are not yet taken. Use Name Tumbler to quickly find that perfect domain name.

8. Domainit Suggestion Tool


Domain Name Suggestion tool by Domainit helps you to find domain names that are available.

9. Domain Exposer


Domain Exposer is a tool which helps you find available domain names. There are still chances to come up with a great name. Registering a new domain name is often cheaper than buying one from domain brokers. By combining your keywords with our group of common words it’s easy to get a new domain name. The tool checks the domain name availability for all the suggestions.

10. Pcnames


Based on your query, PC Names instantly checks whether .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us, .mobi and .name domain names are available. The domain search results will appear with 2-second delay for your convenience.

11. Namebio


Namebio is a searchable domain sales index. Here you will find domain sales comps, domain sales history, domain sales comparisons and domain sales comparables, domain auction results, and domain name resources as well as general domain information and tools.

12. DomainTools


DomainTools provides a directory that serves as a comprehensive snapshot of past and present domain name registration and ownership records. We also offer a comprehensive set of research tools that help you discover and monitor everything about a domain name.

13. Olddomains


At Old Domains you can find valuable domain names with history for cheap price. You can browse through thousands of old domains and get your own name idea based on interesting keywords. You can also check previous domain content to see if it was positioned for your own needs.

14. Wordoid


Wordoid is a webapp that strives to help you invent a good name. It makes up new words. Automatically. It knows how to create words in English or Spanish. It even knows how to create words in an imaginary language, constructed by blending two or more real languages together.

15. RhymeZone


With Rhyme Zone type in a word below to find its rhymes, synonyms, definitions, and more.

16. Word Mixer


Word Mixer breaks down words, mixes and matches fragments, and reassembles them to create unique words.

17. WordConstructor


Use this random word generator to generate new words or change existing ones for a domain name, a name for your child, company, pet or band.

18. Random Word Generator


By analyzing the frequency of pairs of letters in 45 402 different words Random Word Generator generates new words which, although they don’t have any meaning, are reasonably syntactically correct.



Use to quickly locate administrative and technical contact information for the owner of any domain name. Domain name results also include IP and IP location information, web server information, related domain availability, premium domain listings and more.

20. Flippa


Flippa is the number one marketplace for buying and selling websites. Website sellers come to Flippa due to it having the highest sales rate in the industry—largely due to the massive size and quality of the Flippa website buyer audience.

Do you know any more great tools you use to find your new domain name? Share it here!


Joe Mercola plays the religion card against vaccines [Respectful Insolence]

Remember Helen Ratajczak?

A few months ago, CBS News' resident anti-vaccine reporter Sharyl Attkisson was promoting Ratajczak's incompetent "analysis" of evidence that she views as implicating vaccines in the pathogenesis of autism entitled Theoretical aspects of autism: causes--A Review (which is available in all its misinforming glory here). I applied some not-so-Respectful Insolence to the idiocy contained within Ratajczak's article. One aspect of the article that I mentioned was how Ratajczak claimed that DNA from "aborted fetal tissue" in vaccines correlated with the rise of autism. The claim was, of course, utter nonsense, a rank lie promoted by the fundamentalist Christian wing of the anti-vaccine movement, and I've dealt with it before. Sometimes, that wing even goes so far as to publish its own crappy studies.

Which brings us to Joe Mercola.

The other day, Joe Mercola published on his very own wretched hive of scum and quackery an article entitled One of the Most Inexcusable Vaccine Revelations of All... In it, Mercola takes what Ratajczak wrote and turns up the stupid to 11 and beyond.

He begins by using the tried-and-true (or tried-and-not-so-true) health freedom method of invoking "informed" consent, or (as I've described it before) "misinformed consent":

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