Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Resolutions 2008



Curmudgeon cat weighs his options, and resolves to continue with the solidarity [for now]


I resolve [once again] to make it through the entire year [ha!] without buying any more books




[does it count that I dashed out and bought 5 paperbacks right before the bookstore closed on New Years Eve?]

Been there, didn't do that, got the t-shirt anyway [and the coffee mug for good measure]

after all the eating, the unwrapping, the movie watching, comes the gallivanting:

the mule that i didn't ride



down into the canyon


that i didn't hike


the t-shirt that i got


i hiked
[dragged myself, complained, nearly passed out, & barely made it out of]
the grand canyon

Bah humbug

We don't generally do presents for Christmas, but this year was a bit different, and everyone was required to participate, even me, the Grinch of the family. But my loved ones both know me and love me, and they picked out the perfect gift: it's tiny, it's red, and it has a social conscience.

Now, if I can just figure out how to use iTunes [stop that laughing!]

I did well on the giving end too. The edibles were a big hit, as I knew they would be, and at least two of the toys got carried around by their recipients for multiple days. A gifting success if ever there was one.

One small hitch: the ginger ended up in the white chocolate and not even for crystallized ginger will I eat white chocolate. Fortunately a clan as large and diverse as ours will always have a few oddballs of questionable taste, and the ginger was the first to be consumed. I did manage to lay hands [and tooth] on half of a Starbucks-filled real chocolate one though and it is to die for.


Speaking of food and grinchiness, I heartily recommend both ratatouille and Ratatouille.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

[also, i got 18 of the 25]

1. What is your favorite word?
Gosh, there are so many: onomatopoeia... pterodactyl... polydactyly... antimonyarsenicaluminumselenium... quetzalcoatl... Tlaquepaque*... vicissitude... etouffee... wombat....

2. What is your least favorite word?
Pulchritudinous [and a couple of others that I won't list].

3. What turns you on?
I'm a sucker for voices, especially in accents that I don't hear very often.

4. What turns you off?
Hatefulness. Condescension runs a close second.

5. What sound or noise do you love?
Purring cats. Howling wolves. And while I don't especially like the sound of a 3hp planer with sharp blades cutting oak, I do love the smell.

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
Sitting in the back row, listening to the jet engines on a long plane ride.

7. What is your favorite curse word?
The Big F, of course. Most often used, though, is probably some version of dammit.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Being a Mythbuster, although it strikes me that Paul Krugman's got a pretty sweet gig.

9. What profession would you not like to do?
Any number of these.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I'm a bit skeptical that any of that exists, and if it does, being of the reduce/reuse/recycle mindset, I'd like it to be along the lines of reincarnation of one form or another. If I'm destined for the American Christian version though, I'm with Mustang Bobby [whose blog I stole this from]: I hope all my pets are waiting for me. On the other hand, I'm probably going straight to Hell.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Seventh Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

If you have to make a last-minute run to Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve,

for this, that, and the other, I can recommend donning full leathers and arriving on a Harley, even if it's all borrowed.

As it turns out, there are 4 shoe sizes in this family --- men, women, little kids, and hipparchia --- so no boots for me. The silver and white running shoes with mint green racing stripes subtracted a measure of fierceness from the overall look, but from the ankles up, I did cut a dashing figure.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What he said

Paul Krugman dissects Barack Obama's past and present attempts at bringing about health care reform. Obama tried to get universal health care legislation passed in Illinois several years ago, and was beaten up over it by the insurance companies [surprise, surprise], hence his conciliatory stance towards the industry now.

That's a good piece of history to know about, but this paragraph from Krugman's blog post sums it up.
The point is that if national health reform is going to happen, it will be as the result of a no-holds-barred fight of an entirely different order from what Obama saw in Illinois. The president’s role will have to be far more confrontational, involve far more twisting of arms and rallying of the public against the special interests, than Obama’s role as a state legislator in the Illinois case. And it will take place against a backdrop of fierce attacks not just from the industry but from Republicans who fear, rightly, that any kind of reform will move the country in a more liberal direction.

Dennis Kucinich is the candidate whose ideals come the closest to mine, but I think John Edwards is the candidate most likely to win this fight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

[from the inbox today]

Dear [hipparchia],

We have already reached 100,000 supporters. Thank You.

Now We Need Each of You To Send an Email to Ten More People to Get 250,000 Signed Up at WexlerWantsHearings.com by the End of the Year.

I can guarantee that your 100,000 voices calling for impeachment hearings will now be heard in Congress. Together, through our new Quarter Million Person Challenge, let's now set a new goal of 250,000 Americans signing up to demand action.

It has been just 5 days since I called for impeachment hearings for Vice-President Dick Cheney and already over 100,000 people - including you - have answered that call by adding your name as an impeachment supporter at
www.WexlerWantsHearings.com. This is a truly remarkable response that demonstrates the power that average, everyday Americans can have when we come together to pursue justice and accountability.

Never mind that the national media ignored my call and rejected an op-ed that I wrote along with my Judiciary Colleagues Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Netroots and citizen activists like yourself are spreading our message and demanding action.


Quarter Million Person Challenge

Our movement continues to grow by the hour and the day. But, with the media blackout, I need your help to grow our effort. With 100,000 supporters already signed-up, if each of you e-mail ten of your friends (a "Chain-ey letter") about
www.WexlerWantsHearings.com and the need for Cheney impeachment hearings we will reach over a million Americans and perhaps we can reach a new goal of 250,000 signers by the end of the year!!


Join Me Thursday Night on Blog Radio to Discuss Our Next Steps

On this Thursday at 9:00 p.m. (EST) and 6:00 (PST), please join me as I appear on live on the Internet to discuss my efforts to convince Congress to hold impeachment hearing.

Congressman Wexler Live on Blog Radio:

WHEN: Thursday, December 18, 9:00 pm (EST)/6:00 pm (PST)

WHERE: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fpc (a link will be posted at www.wexlerwantshearings.com and www.wexlerforcongress.com )

WHO: Rep. Wexler will appear live on Florida Progressive Radio with host Kenneth Quinnell of the Florida Netroots Caucus, Bob Fertick of Democrats.com, as well as Dave Lindorf, author of "The Case for Impeachment," and David Swanson with AfterDowningStreet.org.


More on the Media Blackout

The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, and Boston Globe have all rejected our op ed (though the Miami Herald just put an edited version in its "Letters to the Editor" section). We have heard from the editors of some of these publications and they are telling us that they are getting overwhelmed with phone calls and letters of complaint. (Well done everybody!)

In short - we need to keep the pressure on if this news will spread far beyond the Netroots community.


With warm regards,

Congressman Robert Wexler

www.WexlerWantsHearings.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have yourself a merry little Christmas now



Truffles!

In my next life, I want to come back as a feral cat, living in the alley behind IOZ' place.

Meanwhile, we are enjoined to fight the good fight and share recipes for the War on Christmas. For my part, I am going to play doting aunt and shameless tourist, and let other people do all the cooking this year.

I am not a complete barbarian though. I will be the geek bearing gifts [dibs on the crystallized ginger] just as soon as I figure how to use PayPal [stop that laughing!].

Sunday, December 16, 2007

1984 is, like, so 23 years ago



Filibuster!

update: whew! [temporarily]

The suicidal nihilists are coming to get us and they've got PMS!

If you can read all the way through this story without feeling at least a little bit sick, then maybe you need a new job.

Of *course* I think so!

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

I can has immunity?

Telecoms, mercenaries, providers of QATTs, who else shall we grant immunity to?

The Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (SAFETY Act)

The SAFETY Act provides important legal liability protections for providers of Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technologies – whether they are products or services. The goal of the SAFETY Act is to encourage the development and deployment of new and innovative anti-terrorism products and services by providing liability protections. For more details, see the SAFETY Act Final Rule.

New favorite blog

Bonobo Handshake

Show Your Blog Space Day







Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Doberman, a pit bull, a Yorkshire terrier, three cats,




and 30 men all live under a bridge in paradise.

via

Is your head on fire yet?

The story of stuff

h/t

Congressman Wexler: Impeach Cheney

i lifted this post in its entirety from fpc





Congressman Robert Wexler, one of Florida’s best politicians, has moved to the forefront in pursuing the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. Along with fellow members of Congress Luis Gutierrez and Tammy Baldwin, Wexler wrote an op-ed that he attempted to get major newspapers, such as the Washington Post, New York Times and Miami Herald, to print. When they refused, he turned to the blogosphere. Here is the text of that op-ed:

On November 7, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important hearings should begin.

The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to “unknowingly [pass] along false information.” In addition, recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction — this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Some of us were in Congress during the impeachment hearings of President Clinton. We spent a year and a half listening to testimony about President Clinton’s personal relations. This must not be the model for impeachment inquiries. A Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for President Clinton. In fact, the worst legacy of the Clinton impeachment – where the GOP pursued trumped up and insignificant allegations - would be that it discourages future Congresses from examining credible and significant allegations of a constitutional nature when they arise.

The charges against Vice President Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this Administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority support hearings according to a November 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70% of voters say that Vice President Cheney has abused his powers and 43% say that he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.

Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee can not proceed with impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings involve the possible impeachment of the Vice President – not our commander in chief – and the resulting impact on the nation’s business and attention would be significantly less than the Clinton Presidential impeachment hearings. Also, despite the fact that President Bush has thwarted moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of Americans — including children’s health care, stem cell research, and bringing our troops home from Iraq — the Democratic Congress has already managed to deliver a minimum wage hike, an energy bill to address the climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing whether or not Vice President Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence – not politics – should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history. For an Administration that has consistently skirted the constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.

To move this forward, Wexler created a new website WexlerWantsHearings.com. Check it out and sign the petition calling for the hearings. The goal of the petition is to get to 50,000 signatures in the next few days, let’s help them get way past that number.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dude needs help writing his petition


To: Al Gore

Mr. Gore,

Numerous scientists claim that the global warming experienced in the 20th century has nothing to do with man-made carbon dioxide, as you claim. Their arguments are compelling the yapping of a pack of hunger-maddened hyenas, and a debate would allow you to address these issues them an international stage on which to yap and prove that your arguments are based on far too many of them know nothing about science, rather than and are only playing at politics.

On March 14, 2007 Lord Monckton of Brenchley challenged you to debate your position on global warming, but and your refusal only strengthens their position makes them howl louder. We urge you to debate continue ignoring Lord Monckton of Brenchley, or to do otherwise admit would demonstrate that the causal link between man hyenas and global warming science is spurious. Such demonstration would be cruel and this blog is opposed to cruelty to animals, even the ugly ones.

Sincerely,

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

The intartubez are just full of global warming deniers these days. Some deny because they don't want us to stop driving our Hummers, some because they genuinely get taken in by these sincere and smart-sounding charlatans, some because they can only parrot what their overlords tell them to, and some because they just like poking hibernating bears with sharp sticks.

Anyways, I stumbled across this post [among many others] and started to say something in a comment there. As you can see, my "comment" got a bit out of hand. I didn't read all the comments there carefully, so forgive me if I repeat what somebody else has already said.


1. For the non-scientist [in comments] who asks to be pointed to a couple of good reference books to read: that's what Al Gore has put together for you. He made a movie of it, called it something something Inconvenient Truth. Something like that. Also, you should listen to Wendigo and Badtux.


2. If you're unwilling to take at face value what Gore, Wendigo, Badtux, et al are telling you, then you're just going to have to do your own homework.

You'll need to take a minimum of:
  • 2 years of college chemistry [for chemistry majors, not "chemistry lite"]
  • 1 year of college physics [for physics majors or engineers, not "physics lite"]
  • 2 years of college calculus with differential equations
  • 1 semester of advanced statistics
  • 1 year of either oceanography, meteorology, or possibly geology [and not "oceanography lite" or "meteorology lite" either]
In other words, if you want to evaluate the evidence yourself, you'll need a minimum of a 4-year college degree in one of the physical sciences, and it will need to be at the level expected of a student who plans to go on for a PhD in one of the physical sciences.


3. Scientific "consensus" is a bit of a misnomer. Scientists, especially the top-tier researchers, are a rather contentious lot, and they thrive on trying to prove that the other guys' research is flawed. They endlessly pick apart the methods, the data, the conclusions of their competitors, and believe every other scientist is a competitor; getting and keeping grants for funding research, especially if it is abstruse or esoteric research, is a dog-eat-dog world.

So, as the evidence piles up, when a "consensus" appears to form, you can bet that everybody first tried six ways from Sunday to not believe the conclusions.

Does this process sometimes go awry, and a lone dissenter [or small group of dissenters] eventually prove everybody wrong? Sure, it happens, but very, very seldom. This "little guy wins out in the end" story is a romantic one and we humans do like our romances. For this reason we need to be extremely vigilant before buying into whichever scenario makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.


4. Not everybody wants to get physics degree just to be able to decode this one issue, which is fine. A useful proxy for deciding how much faith to put into a particular study: who funded the work? This is not infallible either, but the denialists that have been funded by [to name one example] big oil companies have had their work shown up as shoddy science often enough to make this a useful piece of information to have when trying to decide who to believe. Sourcewatch. org is a good place to start.


5. Those dissenting scientists... where to begin?

5a. That post at Popular Technology.net... the first link in their list refers to the infamous and thoroughly debunked OISM petition signed by 19,000 scientists.

Yes, that petition did get signed by all those intelligent and eminent scientists. I was horrified to see that even a couple of my professors had signed it. Ack! I'd always thought they were smarter than that!

What happened was that they were duped into signing that thing. They all belonged to a fairly prestigious group of scientists, the National Academy of Sciences, iirc. It's going to look like I'm contradicting myself here, but in this case they did all more or less blindly agree with their fellow academy members. It's not really a contradiction though, because they thought they were endorsing a paper that their organization had produced after careful and thoughtful study of all the evidence.

What really happened was that ONE scientist high up in the organization had his own agenda and used the organization's stationery, mailing lists, etc to make his petition look official.

I refuse to go through that entire list in that blog post and do ALL your homework for you. Chances are good that your Google-mining skills are at least as good as mine and with a couple of hours here and there googling up the pros and cons on each one and applying some critical thinking to the evidence you find.

5b. The recent Bali conference, where some dude called Monckton [he's a global warming denialist] whined about the conference officials not accepting his credentials and trying to stifle his scientific dissent. Now, I'm all about fostering dissent, I'm hugely against censorship, and I know that a lot of smart people in this world do not have the "proper" credentials but they know what they're talking about anyway because they made a point of learning everything they could.
So I got all up in arms over this and was ready to take up the guy's case, even though I'd never heard of him [google, google!] Wikipedia says he's a business consultant. Uh oh. But some business degrees require huge amounts of advanced calculus and statistics and if he had been an amateur scientist since childhood on top of that, well, maybe he did know what he was talking about.

Hmmm, studied classics and journalism. Another red flag, but some classics programs include archaeology [science! math!] and some journalism programs allow a student to specialize in science reporting if they take some extra math and science courses. So, he could still know what he's talking about.

Nope. Turns out he's either a complete idiot or else he's lying to us, hoping that we're the complete idiots. Here's his paper on the "errors" he found in the IPCC report.

"Error" 1. He claims they made a 10-fold change in the results in the table that he drew their attention to. Well, they did, sorta. Their proofreading was sloppy and in the original table they didn't notice that some of their numbers were in meters/100 years and others were in millimeters/year. In the corrected table they put all the numbers in millimeters/year, but if you know even a little about meters, millimeters, etc, you'll see right away that the 0.31 m/century in the old table is the exact same quantity as the 3.1 mm/year in the corrected table [observed sea level rise from 1993-2003].

To put it into everyday terms, if yesterday I told you that a piece of string was 1 foot long and today I told you that that same piece of string is 12 inches long, did I lie to you? Did that piece of string grow 12-fold? No. Nor did the reported sea level rise change 10-fold when the IPCC fixed the table in their report.

"Error" 2. Okay, that first one is an easy mistake to make, losing track of where the decimal point ought to be, and Monckton might just be an excitable boy who did catch one mistake, but got in a hurry and made another one of his own.

Nope. In this one he proves that he knows nothing nothing about using what is really a very elementary equation. Or maybe he's sure that we'll be too intimidated by the funny symbols and squiggly lines to even try to understand it.

Assume unity, he starts off. WTF? There's no need to assume anything [unless you want to assume some calming yoga position before tackling math]. We've got all the numbers, all we need to do is plug them into the equation he gives us:

dF = 5.3 ln (380/360) = 0.26

So the change in the radiative forcing due to the 20ppm increase in carbon dioxide concentration [from 360ppm in 1995 to 380ppm in 2005] is 0.26 watts/square meter. He goes on to tell us a little later that the change in radiative forcing due to CO2 from 1750 to the present is a total of 1.6 watts/square meter. I'm going to take his word for it. [I'm also going to assume that 1750 would be just before humans started producing CO2 by burning fossil fuels, coal early on, oil and natural gas later]. Plugging these values into the simple formula for calculating % increase in anything:

0.26/(1.6-0.26) = 0.23/1.34 = approximately 19.5% increase

B-b-b-but, isn't that awful darn close to 20%? Why yes. Yes, it is. QED.

I haven't done a very neat job here of showing you how to calculate radiative forcing, me being a bit of a dinosaur and vastly preferring to do math with pencil and paper [or on a *chalkboard], so if you want to consult Wikipedia for a better explanation, please do.


6. Economists. They might actually have an argument to make when they talk about comparing the costs we'll impose on developing nations if we limit their use [and ours] of fossil fuels to the costs we'll impose on them if we heat up the planet, drown their coasts, and drastically alter the weather patterns they've come to depend on to grow their food.

So far though, they seem bent on proving only that humans are not hurrying the warming of the planet. I know they call it The Dismal Science, but for purposes of this discussion, I think maybe economists ought to quit thinking of themselves as scientists.

Those competing costs are going to be tough to calculate, because we don't have all the data we need, nor all the equations, and we won't get any do-overs. Whatever we decide to do or not do, we're stuck with it. See ya in 50 years or so, and let me know how it turns out for you!


7. - 9759650. So many more claims to debunk, so little blogspace.... I think I'll stop here.









* yes, i did say chalkboard. get over it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Letting wrongly-imprisoned folks out of jail is hazardous to the public.

From the NYT, on the recent decision to reduce the absurdly long sentences imposed for using crack cocaine:

Hard numbers are elusive, but statistics kept by the commission suggest that, on average, an eligible prisoner might have his sentence reduced by 17 percent, and that about 3,800 inmates would be eligible but not assured of release in the next year. But, addressing concerns about public safety, commission members emphasized that judges, newly empowered by a pair of Supreme Court decisions on Monday, will have wide discretion over which inmates will be granted leniency.


It will be interesting to see if the "which inmates will be granted leniency" turn out to be disproportionately white.

I'd like to see us decriminalize all drugs and spend all that money on treatment programs instead. Still, like Chris Kromm says, this is a step in the right direction.

Of course, one of the possible unintended consequences of dismantling the War On Drugs is that the SWAT teams won't have anything fun to do anymore. Hmmm... I wonder if web developers are next....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Board of directors

I am sooooooo predictable

[sigh... some days i am better at this blogging stuff, some days not so much]

Marcus Cole

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

An honest and chivalrous adventurer that pursues just causes, you would sacrifice much to help others.

I am a Ranger. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge and no-one may pass. We live for the One, we die for the One.

Marcus is a character in the Babylon 5 universe. You can read his profile at the Worlds of JMS.


I think I once had that very same haircut too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Voting in Florida

From a slightly-dated article in the NYT:

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions, even permitting inmates to vote. At the other extreme, three states, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, still have lifetime bans on voting by felons. Nine others bar selected groups of offenders for life.

[snip]

Felony convictions have left one in four black men barred from voting in five states: Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Virginia and Wyoming, said Ryan S. King, author of the report and a policy analyst at the Sentencing Project.

Recently Florida has taken steps to distance itself from those backwaters, Kentucky and Virginia, restoring voting rights for some felons. I think we should all be like Maine and Vermont, letting everyone vote, because even prisoners have to live here too, but it's a step in the right direction.

So, if you're a former felon, or you know someone who is, check here for more information on registering to vote in Florida.

More on felony disenfranchisement from The Sentencing Project.



Then again, a bunch of us Floridians apparently live in Duluth, Georgia.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007



Not all of the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but parts of it are and I am grouchy about this, incoherently so. I'm going to go crawl under a rock for a little while, until I get over it. I'll be back to pick up the dangling threads of conversation, but until then, I leave you with a kitten.



yikes, this batch are almost-cats now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Karma

CARMA
bad karma?

Is our childrens learning?




Florida, home of the lovably wacky and lightning rod for various and sundry wingnuts, is right now revising the state's standards for teaching science in the public schools, and predictably, the creationistas are frothing at the mouth. But then a miracle occurs and the Lakeland Ledger prints a good piece entitled Creationism — Evolution of a Flawed Notion [via].

Want to jump in? Here's a list of things you can do, or if you think you may fall under the rubric of Other interested person, have at it.

Meanwhile, is you smrter than our eighth grade science students? Take the test [PDF], check your answers [PDF]. When you're done with that, how do you stack up in math and reading?

Hard core, me



Whachoo lookin at?


there really was a brief span of time when i had the library put back together. i even vacuumed the carpet. not that anybody is ever going to believe me on either of these claims.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Uninsured? Need health care?

Get a PredatorCard!

Can't pay for all your health care up front? Have no fear, the doctor, lab, hospital, dentist, whoever will let you pay it off in installments. Except that apparently they're not exactly explaining to you that what you're signing isn't an agreement to pay them, it's an application for one of those usurious credit cards suitable only for [fleecing] the credit-unworthy.

Paul Krugman laments that they're treating patients like animals:
Remember, things like this don’t happen in any other advanced country. Only in America.


I have to agree on that only in America, but treating patients like animals? I wish. My veterinarian lets me pay off unexpectedly high pet care bills in interest-free installments and I'm getting a bulk discount on basics for the ever-multiplying cats. Humans should be so lucky.

Maybe if I learn to purr....

NATIONAL TAX BILL EATS INTO INCOME;

Study of National Industrial Conference Board Shows U.S. Second In Federal Tax Burdens. INCREASE IN TWO YEARS One-Sixth of Income Went to Taxes In 1921--15 Per Cent. Higher Than In 1919.

December 10, 1922, Sunday

Section: Real Estate, Page 134, 1123 words

A comprehensive study of the growth of public expenditures and taxation in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan and of the relation between taxation and national Income in these countries from 1903 to 1921 has been issued by the National Industrial Conference Board, 10 East Thirty-ninth Street, New York City.


A PDF of the full article can be had here but you'll probably have to register [free] to get to it.

Among other things, we learn that from 1903 to 1914 total expenditures of all public disbursing authorities in the United States increased from $22 to $35 per capita. Want to know how much that is in today's dollars? Here, let them do the math for ya.

That sumbitch needed killin

Have some more grits while yer at it.

reason.com has lost all their marbles

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, writing in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, would have us believe that single-payer health care is kookier than UFOs, and Ron Paul represents free-wheeling fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving


One of the great things about living here in almost-Alabama is that Thanksgiving day is warm enough for me to walk along the beach barefoot, but cool enough for the fluffy black dog to race around like a maniac. Some day I may even actually succeed at getting a good photo of a racing maniac.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be afraid

be very afraid

Dear Health Insurance Companies:

Y'all are afraid of competition from the government, eh?

I wonder how that could be.

Could it be because you won't sell your product to otherwise perfectly healthy individuals with only minor afflictions, even some childhood afflictions that they outgrew years ago?

Could it be because you will sell your product to a group, and then renege on the contract with the entire group? What? 8000 people isn't a large enough risk pool?

Could it be because you sell your product to an individual, but cancel them when they fall ill and need the coverage they've paid you for? And then reward your employees handsomely for it too.

Could it be because, instead of denying your customers coverage outright, you just drag the process out until they go away [downsized from their jobs, for example]?

Could it be because you're still trying to suck money out of your customers even after they die? [h/t]

Nah, can't be.

And yet, posses of your customers and former customers are forming against you, with blood in their eye and all manner of weapons to hand.

PS. Your brethren in the property and casualty business might want to go crawl back into their coffins too.

I wonder

Are these 3 guys running for President in hopes of snagging some of that guaranteed-issue, taxpayer-funded, affordable health insurance?

Because some people just need killing

Grits for Breakdast, on the death penalty: The missus thinks I'm going to "get in trouble" for writing this, but I think, as a practical matter, I'd prefer a death penalty privatized on a case by case basis at the discretion of 12 jurors than operated by the government itself. What do you think?

Me, I'm a native of the Lone Star state, now a long-time resident of the East Coast version of the Wild West, and I confess to a great deal of sympathy for this view of murderers and their victims:

The truth is that Texas's propensity for killing its citizens, and its leniency with some murderers, are both expressions of the a single principle. Texas doesn't execute murderers to show its regard for the value of life; it does so because some people (as the parable says) need killing. Sometimes the guy who -- in the eyes of Texas -- needs killing is the accused, and sometimes he's the complainant.

"He needed killin', and my guy was the guy to do it" has long been a viable defense in some Texas murder cases. These are cases in which the State often couldn't secure convictions despite being technically murder; it'll be even less able to secure convictions in the future from juries that know that, if they convict, prison will be the only option.



On the whole though, I'm opposed to anything that smacks of vigilanteism. I don't want to live in a place where people are allowed to, or feel compelled to, take the law into their own hands. But the reality is that some people do kill in self-defense and those people, unless they later get it into their heads that a bullet is the way to deal with everyone who irritates them, are not going to be a danger to me. Turn 'em loose on probation.

Besides, I just plain dislike killin' be it state-sponsored or not. The death penalty, like torture, ought to just be one of those unquestioned and unquestionable taboos that requires no further philosophical justification beyond Dude, we don't do that kind of thing here.

You can edit

but you can't hide.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Screens will be fed. Writers, not so much.



Let them eat pencils. No, not the writers, the CEOs of Big Media. Sounds like an inexpensive and fun way to support the striking writers, if you were looking for one.

If you scroll down the list at United Hollywood, you see TimeWarner is listed. No surprise of course, but I found this interesting item at Left in Alabama:
Cinram manufactures and distributes DVDs at their plant in a Huntsville industrial park. The shifts are long (12 hours) and the pay is low ($ 8/hr.) The company says they are unable to find willing workers locally and are importing about 1350 workers from Jamaica, Bolivia, Nepal, Ukraine and the Dominican Republic under H-2B visas.
From Cinram's webiste, buried in the Investor Relations section:

In 2003, we completed the largest strategic acquisition in our history. We acquired Time Warner Inc.'s DVD and CD manufacturing and physical distribution businesses, together with certain related businesses, in the United States and Europe, for $1,150.5 million in cash.

As part of the transaction, we also entered into exclusive, long-term agreements to manufacture, print, package and physically distribute DVDs and CDs for Warner Home Video and Warner Music Group in North America and Europe, and for New Line Home Entertainment, Inc. in North America. The transaction closed in October 2003 and increased Cinram's DVD and CD manufacturing capacity to over one billion discs per year. The purchase price was funded from banking facilities comprised of term loans totalling $1,025.0 million and revolving credit facility of $150.0 million. Accordingly, Cinram's revenue, earnings and earnings per share all reached record levels in 2003.

And they want to pay people $8/hour, in 12-hour shifts, and apparently with no benefits, in a city where the median household income was $44,000 back in 2005.

Also, according to the blog post, Cinram is getting some tax breaks for locating their DVD-making business in Huntsville. I suppose expecting them to hire local workers at decent living wages and providing benefits in exchange for a lower tax bill is too much to ask.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jonah Goldberg volunteers to get waterboarded. For 10 whole minutes.

Okay, so that's not exactly what he says *here, but he thinks he'd rather be tortured for 10 minutes than be killed outright. All the while, he's doing a sort of sideways Mukasey on the waterboarding is/is not torture question. Not to mention that he ends up invoking the ticking bomb scenario, in which case enhanced interrogation techniques would maybe be justified.

Dude, think back to when you were a kid, spending all day, everyday, all summer long at the local swimming pool. Water volleyball. How many back flips can you do off the high dive? Who can swim the farthest underwater on one breath? Marco Polo. Chicken fights. Dunking, which is what the chicken fights generally devolved into.

Dunking. Been there, done that, didn't get the t-shirt. It's not exactly waterboarding, but it'll do for illustration.

I was frequently the dunkee, being smaller than most of the other kids, and a good sport about it to boot, because escape was really easy, even from a big pile-on. There was that one time, though, when they held me down a mite too long, and I panicked and took a deep breath. Of water. Heavily chlorinated swimming pool water. At which point, panicked turned to berserk, and I escaped by injuring two of my assailants badly enough that they had to go to the doctor for stitches and tetanus shots.

So, I offer you a deal, Jonah. You volunteer for 10 minutes of real waterboarding, by people who really mean it, and I'll send you the t-shirt of your choice.

Then we can talk about First Principles.



* That's 10 or 20 or 30 minutes of your life you'll never get back if you watch the video. I provide the link not because I expect you to watch it, but just for completeness' sake.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What they said

Because I don't feel like doing my own thinking right now.

  • Income inequality. Molly Ivors proposes a New Millenium kind of WPA.
  • Universal health care. It'll kill our robust lead in medical innovation! No, it won't.
  • Thanksgiving. I've always disliked the idea of giving thanks by killing an animal and eating it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pennies from heaven



They're supposed to get paid 11 cents for every 200 trillion downloads, but they want more. Imagine that.

Probably even WalMart pays better than that.


Oh, and I couldn't resist:

I didn't cross his palm with silver either.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Judgment Day

On Nov 13, Nova will be airing a re-enactment of Kitzmiller v. Dover, the trial that exposed [Un]Intelligent Design as Creationism wrapped up in the fine feathers of [pseudo]science. Interesting factoid: the judge in the case, who sounds like a pretty smart dude, was appointed by Dubya.

I think I'll skip the TV show and read some more of the blog, which is geeky to the max on paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution, but ya gotta wonder about somebody whose only non-science blogroll entry is Ann Althouse.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blueprint for shutting down democracy

Cheney may be a waste of time,

but protecting the Constitution is not.



The point of impeachement, Rachel Maddow tells us, is not to punish the officeholder, Cheney in this case. The point of impeachment is to protect the office and the powers that are granted to that office by the Constitution.

Who do we get if we get rid of Cheney? Vice President Giuliani? Vice President Romney? Distinct possibilities, but it's the price we'll have to pay if we're going to stand up for the Constitution. Hell, we may even end up with Vice President Jeb Bush. Talk about your dynasties.

The Republicans stand to benefit if Cheney is removed from office, because his replacement will have the advantage of being an incumbent in the Presidential election, and this will also be part of the price we pay in defending the Constitution. So, in the spirit of opposition research, I offer you this, Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution interviews Jeb Bush.



Two things that Jeb gets right: Florida truly is the East Coast version of the Wild West, and you really can't be a Libertarian if you're a libertine. Because, like, y'know, if you're busy indulging in sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, the Robber Barons are going to have a hard time exploiting your Puritan work ethic to make them rich.

Do not believe anything they're saying about putative improvements in Florida's schools.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Very interesting voting in the House today

Kucinich introduces a privileged motion to impeach Cheney. Democrats tried to block it, Republicans voted to keep it alive. It's on its way to the Judiciary committee and Conyers isn't exactly thrilled.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dear Congresscritters:

Yes, you really can impeach the bastards. Now.

from Is a Presidential Coup Under Way? By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown.

The founders would be stunned that Congress has failed to assert itself. They saw checks and balances not as an option but as an obligation, a fundamental responsibility that goes to the very heart of each lawmaker's oath faithfully to support and defend the Constitution.

It's important to note that Congress is not a weak institution. It has powerful muscles to flex, including control of the purse, which Congress used in 1973 to tell Nixon, "No, we will not provide money for you to extend the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia." Nixon had to back off. Legislators also have clear constitutional mandates to oversee, probe, and expose presidential actions (remember the extensive Fulbright hearings in the '60s and the Church investigations of the '70s, for example). Members of Congress have wide-ranging subpoena power, as well as something called "inherent contempt" power to make their own charges against outlaw executive officials and to hold their own trials. And, of course, they have impeachment power -- which the founders saw not only as a way to remove an outlaw president (or veep or cabinet officer), but also as a means to compel a recidivist constitutional violator to come before the bar of Congress and to be held accountable. The process itself, even if it does not lead to conviction in the Senate, is educational and chastening, putting the executive branch back in its place.



more, brought to you by the doggerelist

John Edwards 2008, what's not to like?

I like Edwards a lot, especially of the "major" Democratic candidates, but he's apparently got his detractors [don't we all?]. Anyway, there's a blog, John Edwards 2008: What's not to like, that someone has been working on very diligently.

The point of the blog seems to be to collect all in one place every unfavorable reference ever made about John Edwards. On a quick jaunt through the place, I found a few red flags and some pretty flimsy stuff too. Just acouple of quick hits:

Edwards also favors expanding H-1B visas. Boo, hiss. But look up your favorite candidate, they mostly all seem to be in favor of it.

I was unimpressed with the attempted takedown of Edwards' remarks on Sicko [I think I found it somewhere in the health care category], but I did want to say some things about this one entry.

Now consider the health plans of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama. There are three important questions to be asked of each one:

Does the plan force anyone to choose between health care and other uses of money?

Does the plan force any provider of care to compete for patients based on price and/or quality of care?

Does the plan allow patients now trapped in schemes that ration care by waiting — Medicaid, SCHIP and emergency room free care — to have the same access to doctors, hospitals, clinics, etc., that privately insured patients have?

If the answer to the first question is “no,” the plan will not control costs. If the answer to the second question is “no,” the plan will not improve quality. If the answer to the third question is “no,” the plan will not increase access to care. And if the answer to all three is “no” — which I believe it is — the plan is hardly worth talking about.

If the answer to the first question is "no," the plan will not control costs?! Yes! Let's control costs by forcing people to choose between eating or going to the doctor! And if they would just have the courage and decency to just go ahead and die, that would save us even more money!

If the answer to the second question is “no,” the plan will not improve quality. I'll go to this hospital for my cancer operation, but wait the surgeon I want is only affiliated with that hospital, and the chemotherapy is best at this other hospital, and I'll need XYZ ambulance service to cart me around between them all.... For a more sober look at why treating patients as though they're consumers is just plain loony, check out Maggie Mahar's [author of Money-Driven Medicine] presentation, Why "Consumers" Can't Rein in the Cost of Health Care.

If the answer to the third question is “no,” the plan will not increase access to care. The problem with these people is that they really do not know that their health care is already being rationed. In a socialized system, the rationing-by-waiting-list, should it occur [and that's questionable in many cases], is transparent and usually as fair as possible. With for-profit health insurance, your care is also rationed, but neither the doctor nor the insurance company is going to tell you this. Furthermore, the rationing is not necessarily based on who most needs the care, but on what the insurance company feels is best for their profits. You'll never get the much-vaunted "cost transparency" so beloved of the conservatives because nobody is going to force the insurance comapnies to divulge their denial tactics.

Mitt Romney has an iPhone

TechCrunch interviews Mitt Romney on technology issues. He's for expanding H-1B visas and my impression is that he didn't understand the question on venture capital. Mark, comment #65, says so too. It's not my area of expertise, so you'll have to figure this one out without any help from me.

On H-1B visas, though, I've been paying at least a little bit of attention and have compiled some resources. Here's an informative rant, here's Google's recent testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee, here's an IT website with all the lowdown, and here's the infamous [bang bang] smoking gun video:

DFA poll, only a few hours left to vote

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New projects

After thinking on this conversation for a bit, particularly the part about growing up with Vietnam in my living room, I started this blog. Warning: graphic images.

And inspired by Operation Mosquito, I've started another letter-writing campaign.

For want of a nail...

...or $22 billion.

From the front page of the House Appropriations Committee website:

How 2 Months Spending in Iraq Could Be Put to Better Use
10/16/07
The President is trying to masquerade as fiscally responsible by manufacturing a fight over $22 billion (roughly 2 months in Iraq) in investments that will make this a stronger and better country. Every day we’re going to bring you one specific example of how Congress and the President differ on appropriations.

Example 1: Healthcare Access

Example 2: Education

Example 3: Transportation Infrastructure and Job Creation

Example 4: Medical Research

Example 5: Law Enforcement
-Law Enforcement Fact Sheet

Example 6: Block Grants - Helping States and Communities Alleviate Poverty and Promote Economic Development

Example 7: Energy Independence & Global Warming

Example 8: Homeland Security Grants

Example 9: Job Training and Vocational Education

Help! I'm talking and can't shut up!

Here, let me help you with that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cool

The Air Force is leading the way on alternate energy, allowing companies to run wind farms and solar
power plants on its bases. Cool. Unfortunately, they also want to include nuclear power plants in the initiative. Scary.

On the other hand, we do have lots of BBs we've got to do something about.

Do You Believe?



I do.

Kittens for Krugman




I know, I said I wasn't going to buy any more books, but then I read this review.

Update: Paul Krugman has crossed over to the Dark Side. He's cat blogging. Cool.