Thursday, August 30, 2007

u has fluffy literachur

oh, hai. we were just going through your library, looking for some good books. it's important to start reading to the youngsters early on.
can't have them growing up to become illiterates who es-chew [es-shoe?] the classics.

On the bright side, they've all moved out of the bedroom [yesterday], completely, which means that I can shampoo the carpet, move the bed [now that it's not sheltering terrorists], and put up the last set of bookshelves. Also, mom cat has eschewed the kitten-sized litter pans I had put out, and has them using the big-cat litter boxes that I've installed in the library [which would be the breakfast nook in a normal person's abode].

Allowing them to scatter their toys and my books all over the library floor seems a small price to pay in return for the increased efficiency in toilet training and and the fact that the dog, curmudgeon cat, and I can finally sleep in peace and quiet with the bedroom door closed.

On an entertaining note, mom cat has also introduced them to the dog-and-big-cat water bowl, which is now serving double duty as a tiny-cat wading pool.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My new favorite blog

Arms Control Wonk, mostly because I've been ignoring Iran and its nuclear program, but feel like I should become a bit more informed. I didn't make it very far before I ran into this article

The Global Range of Iran's Ballistic Missile Program
, by
Uzi Rubin

A couple of excerpts:

Since 1991, the United States has replaced Iraq as threat number one for Iran. The Iranian military's reference threat scenario is a massive U.S. military action against Iran, aided by U.S. allies in the region including the Gulf States and Israel, which they see as an outpost of the United States.

The Iranians are realists. They don't aim to win a set piece battle against the United States. They know it's impossible. Their policy is to deter the United States and its allies by threatening a war that will cause such damage at such a price that this option will become unacceptable to the United States. With this perspective, they are not focusing their efforts on renovating their quite large armed forces. Rather, they are investing very smartly in deterrence enhancers and force multipliers. Replacing obsolete equipment has secondary priority.


In 2006, the Iranian political leadership seems to have moved beyond the needs of self-defense and is now talking about global power projection. At a recent conference in Berlin, one of the deputies to Iran's foreign minister called upon the world to recognize that Islam comprises 25 percent of humanity and should occupy its rightful place in decision-making in world affairs and in the allocation of the world's resources. Statements like this are not about self-defense.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that Islam should roll back 300 years of Western ascendancy. He was speaking in the name of Islam, not in the name of Iran. At the same time, there is talk about the greatness of Iran, with its 6,000-year-old civilization. The Iranians are trying to retrieve the old glory of the empire and at the same time become the leaders of world Islam. The development of long-range missiles is a key element in building up Iran's power to assume such a leadership position.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stuffing the ballot box.

A proposition: If the Yes votes should somehow outnumber the No votes, I'll put up another gratuitous cats and sex post for y'all. Vote early and often.

Gonzo resigns. Vick apologizes.

Edwards, on Gonzalez: Better late than never.
Ventre, on Vick: You apologized for everything except what's important - the dogs.

There have been worse Mondays, I suppose.

Holey fuck!

I started off reading a blog post about Karl Rove and ended learning about frenum ladders. It really is what it sounds like it is. You can look it up yourself: NSFW. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The scary part is that it wasn't an entirely illogical progression, going from Rove to body modification.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

At least he asked

Jeff Miller, my Congressperson, has this poll on the front page of his website:

Would you pay a 25% higher Federal tax bill for National Health Care coverage?

Hmmmm... I pay about $5000 in taxes per year, if you want to go high and count Social Security as well as income tax. Another $1250 per year would be a real bite. Some 289 of my neighbors agree and aren't willing to take that bite.

But speaking of bites... Back when I had insurance, that was costing me $5000 per year and when I needed it and tried to use it, what I got was cancelled. I also got hit with medical bills equal to about two years worth of my entire income, expenses that the insurance company had pre-approved, should have paid, and weaseled out of.

Would I pay $1250 per year for guaranteed medical care?

Oh Hell Yes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pissant provocateur, me.

ellroon: tag, you're it.
hipparchia: [blushing, because secretly i like validation as much as the next blogger does] hmph. i don't do these things.

The originator of this one, it turns out, echoes one of my own sentiments: that government should be divided. Also, thanks to DWSUWF, I now know what I am politically: a Dividist.

The Rules of the Partisan Pissant Provocateur Award:
  1. Copy and link to this post (meaning these rules and the Award icon).
  2. Reflect on five bloggers who cause you to gnash your teeth when reading their posts, but who you nevertheless feel compelled to return to and read time and again. Write a short sincere (or not) paragraph about each one.
  3. Make sure you link this post so others can read it and the rules.
  4. Go leave your chosen bloggers a comment and let them know they’ve been given the award.
  5. Put the award icon on your site.
  6. Did I mention you should link this post?
This award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have motivated you to unleash fire breathing partisan posts of your own. Carefully crafted logical arguments and good writing are a bonus but don't overlook particularly sharp satire, biting snark, or a high octane flamer. Try to keep the quality high, but in a pinch, feel free to substitute your basic journeyman partisan hack.

Let's get the terminology straight. We are not using the Merriam Webster definition of a pissant. We are instead using the Urban Dictionary's second definition:
Pissant - Little person blog with big attitude.

The following bloggers all have larger readerships than I, which makes it awfully hubristic of me to call them pissants, but if I chose blogs whose readership is smaller than mine, they wouldn't be worth reading. I'm obsessive enough to read catfood labels and toothpaste tubes, but I won't force you to do so. I chose 6 blogs so as to be able to break one of the rules [and also because governement should be divided].

The women. Smart. Outspoken. Their blogs make me gnash my teeth, not because I disagree with anything they say, but because they tackle issues like this and this so that I don't have to. Feminists all. You have been warned.

Trailer park feminist
In her own words: Trailer park is a 26-year-old (formerly teenage) mommy, wife, and feminist, liberal voter, living in Austin, Texas. If there are more voices like hers out there, representing the new wave of feminism, then feminism is in good hands.

Kindly Póg Mo Thóin
In her own words: Zuzu is fabulous. And she is. Truly.

Reclusive Leftist
In her own words: Dr. Violet Socks is a shadowy figure who, according to some sources, may not actually exist. Her former life as a bonne vivante and circus performer has now given way to a reclusive existence focused on writing and research. What could anybody possibly add to that?

The men. Thay're smart too. I may read tiny bloggers sometimes, but never stupid bloggers.

The Daily Whim
In his own words: [1] I used to think tomatoes were made from ketchup, in molds.
[2] I believed pencil sharpeners removed the old point, and replaced it with a fresh one. I came for the Michael Vick stories and stayed for the dry wit and gorgeous photos.

Who is IOZ
In his own words: IOZ is just a buddy helping his buddies out. Almost-anarchist, writes better than you do, cooks better than you do.

Build It From Scratch
In his own words: There are dog people. And then there are cat people. Puppylander is a dog person. Scratch my belly. Check for lint. Another almost-anarchist. I've had many a lengthy e-mail and IM, um, discussion with him on his blog topics already. I really need a hot key labelled post this convo to puppy lander's blog comments.

ps. i'm not tagging anybody. if you're any of the above and want to participate, please do, but otherwise feel free to pretend you weren't here.




Two kittens in the foreground, three-and-one-half pairs of eyes in the background.
It's official: I have become the cat lady.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius

The Washington Post website has a useful database, where you can check up on all your Senators and Representatives and see who voted how on which issues. The link to this one, HR 3222, Making Appropriations for the Department of Defense for the Fiscal Year Ending September 20, 2008, and for Other Purposes, arrived in my e-mail inbox a few hours ago.

Not only can you see how many Republicans and how many Democrats voted for or against a bill, but you can sort them by state or gender, both possibly useful information, and by boomer status, which doesn't strike me as useful so much as interesting.

And yes it's true, you can even sort by astrological sign. Congress as internet dating site. Fitting, somehow.

You can skip all the stuff in the middle if you want, but I did like the end of the video.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

“Share the Wealth”: Huey Long Talks to the Nation

Huey Long first came to national attention as governor of Louisiana in 1928 and U.S. Senator in 1930. He ruled Louisiana as a virtual dictator, but he also initiated massive public works programs, improved public education and public health, and even established some restrictions on corporate power in the state.

Huey P Long was a colorful character, and one whose story I sort of knew but didn't really, so when Nick mentioned him in a comment on Louisiana's politics, I decided to go look him up. I really liked that "established some restrictions on corporate power" when I read it, so I took a few minutes to listen to the speech. Turns out the guy was, among other sorta kinda neo-Marxist leanings, an even more ardent redistributionist than I am. Way cool.

Bunter, light my fire and turn down the bed.

I once had a job where I got to play at being a jet-setter. Planes took me back and forth across the country, often at the drop of a hat. Shuttles and limos took me to my hotels, hotels that were already selected, reserved, and paid for, without my lifitng a finger. Hotels that served free continental breakfasts and I could order room service for supper and just put it on the bill. Hotels where the sheets and towels were washed and changed and the rugs vacuumed everyday. By people who were not me. Other lesser beings ferried me to work, or rented me cars [to my specifications], cars that when they needed maintenance or repair disappeared and new ones magically appeared in their place. These same lesser mortals also took my laundry somewhere and brought it back - clean, folded, or hung on hangers [again, done to my specifications]. I ate every lunch at a new restaurant, or went back to the same favorite cozy little bistro everyday. I met fascinating people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and accents, in cities and towns I'd never even heard of. My bank account grew at a rate that it had never seen before [and hasn't seen since].

I worked insane hours, but the rest of the life was intoxicating.

So, yeah, even though this is much more my idea of a real camping trip, just once I'd like to see the wilderness the way the rich people do.

God'll get you for that, Walter.

China sells us poisoned pet food and toxic toothpaste, we sell deathtraps to Africa and South America. Some sellers even use eBay. Now, I know people who have bought or sold cars and even airplanes on eBay, but aww c'mon, do they really sell school buses there too? Why, yes, yes they do.

"We're half as good at birth control

for cars as we are for people."

That quote is from the following video :
Transportation: Oil, Hydrogen, Biofuels, and Coal, 2006
[about an hour long, more if you sit through the q&a]

Some numbers I found fascinating [I haven't fact-checked any of them]:
  • The world uses one cubic mile of oil per year.
  • The US uses 10,000 gallons of oil per second.
  • There are 800,000,000 vehicles in the world today, 400,000 of which are hybrids.
  • At the current growth rate there will be 2 billion vehicles in the world in 2050.

The second speaker, Amory Lovins, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, mentions the website for his book, Winning the Oil Endgame, so I provide you some links here. I'm a bit skeptical of some of the ideas promulgated by RMI, but it's worth listening to the video and browsing their website.

found the video here, of all places

If you're tired of the whole energy debate, you can find all kinds of other interesting stuff from the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Please knock like a human. Don't break the door.

Shadow World

an introduction
a writeup in the Philadelphia Inquirer

h/t mr.fundamental, in comments

Crookeder than a dog's hind leg

Louisiana politics, that is. And possibly the Army Corps of Engineers too, though they're probably more in the mold of when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Pretty much everybody now, even the Corps and the crookedest of politicos, recognizes that the only way to save New Orleans is to and quit building levees and channels and to restore the wetlands.

That last may be an impossible task by now, with so much of the land south of New Orleans sunk into the gulf over the years, no new sediment from upriver washing down to rebuild the delta, and much of the water supply for the remaining land suffering from saltwater intrusion. The huge cypress swamps that used to lie between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, providing a buffer against storm surge, are gone. They're not likely to come back anytime soon either. Cypress trees love standing around in water up to their knees, but not if it's got salt in it.

Which may explain why, even though every-fucking-body knows it's not the right answer, they're planning to spend all the money building the Great Wall of Louisiana.

Or maybe it's still just crookedness-as-usual.

If you thought scientists were dangerous... should see what their jobs are doing to them.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Closing a loophole opened the floodgates

Dan, of Pruning Shears:

No conservatives have the courage to say the changes wrapped a tiny loophole change (foreign-to-foreign communications that pass through American infrastructure) up with enormous and unconstitutional executive power grabs. Some argue FISA itself is the problem, conveniently ignoring the alternative enforcement mechanism - Congressional oversight - can be neglected by the legislature or contemptuously ignored by the executive. (If nothing else Bush has demonstrated the value of bureaucracy: It forces process and documentation.) The current crisis can be laid at the feet of both the left and the right - I’ll get to liberals next week - but conservatives bear a larger share of the blame. Their uniform blind obedience has been the primary enabler of tyranny’s lengthening shadow.

the rest of the essay on conservative betrayal

Just as long as they're not Pintos.

Lutz said GM and A123 hope to have the first full lithium-ion battery pack ready for testing in the Volt by mid-October and a battery ready for use in test vehicles — called mules — by the end of the year. GM plans to have batteries ready for road testing by next spring.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyways, the new and inproved lithium-ion batteries, and therefore the new and inproved electric cars, will be available once they figure out how to keep the batteries from exploding.

Oh, geez, you guys, thanks for noticing.

Because these things disappear behind subscription walls sometimes, I steal the whole thing for you here.

The Farmer’s Nightmare?
Published: August 10, 2007

Only a few years ago, ethanol was just a line in a farm-state politician’s stump speech — something that went down well with the locals but didn’t mean much to anyone else. Now, of course, ethanol is widely touted — and, within reason, rightly so — as an important part of America’s search for energy independence and greener fuels. One day, we may be using cellulosic ethanol, the kind derived from grasses. For now, the ethanol boom is all about corn. And the real question is whether that will finally kill American farming as we know it.

Farmers in the corn belt have watched the coming of the ethanol boom with an ill-concealed excitement. They’ve invested in small-town processing plants, and they’ve happily seen the price of corn fluctuate steadily upward. But land prices have also moved steadily upward. Land set aside for conservation is being put back into production. And a bidding war has broken out over acreage, a war that farmers are sure to lose to speculative investors.

In short, the ethanol boom is accelerating the inequity in the rural landscape. The high price of corn — and the prospect of continued huge demand — doesn’t benefit everyone equally. It gives bigger, richer farmers and outside investors the ability to outcompete their smaller neighbors. It cuts young farmers hoping to get a start out of the equation entirely. It reduces diversity in crops and in farm size.

For the past 75 years, America’s system of farm subsidies has unfortunately driven farming toward such concentration, and there’s no sign that the next farm bill will change that. The difference this time is that American farming is poised on the brink of true industrialization, creating a landscape driven by energy production and what is now called “biorefining.” What we may be witnessing is the beginning of the tragic moment in which the ownership of America’s farmland passes from the farmer to the industrial giants of energy and agricultural production.

Oh, barf. More later.

Dear Fraser Institute:

This is how you report on drug pricing. I've cherry-picked just the one table [above] from the report, but you'll note that the VA, which negotiates with Big Pharma, gets substantially lower prices on some very pricey drugs, while Medicare, which does not negotiate anything, pays through the nose.

The Bush administration has once again successfully defended the rights of the poor beleaguered drug companies from those predators, the patients.

Oh, wait... I may have the predators confused with the prey, which is easy enough to do in our current only-huge-multinational-corporations-can-has-welfare climate. Fortunately there's this report The Choice: Health Care for People or Drug Industry Profits to help clear up a muddied picture. Some cherry-picked tables for you, on just exactly where Big Pharma chose to spend those billions of dollars that we shelled out in 2004:

I had another anti-Fraser Institute post planned for tonight, but fortunately Cliff dropped by in the comments below and saved me from myself. If you missed it, he links to a couple of his blog posts rich in keeping an eye on the opposition so hipparchia doesn't have to Fraser Institute debunking.

The Masters of Mendacity

The Fraser Institute's Fighting Retreat on Healthcare

He's got a whole slew of posts on the Fraser Institute, in all its shenanigans, and healthcare, Canadian and American. Just in case I'm not already drowning you in this stuff on my own.

Also, Who funds the Fraser Institute?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why are these people allowed to do math?

In their own words----
The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Our mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals.
Which all sounds just lovely: more competitive markets and less government intervention and epecially that last part about the welfare of individuals. I'm all about the welfare of individuals, but the big-L Libertarians, who would have you believe that they're all about the welfare of the individual too, are either lying to you or they're not exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier.

I was researching another topic, thinking the Fraser Institute might have something to say about it [they do], when I stumbled over this little gem: Canada's Drug Price Paradox 2007. Self-annointed healthcare wonk that I am, I couldn't let it pass without comment.

Apparently Canadians pay about twice what we do for a generic prescription [we pay $9.39 on average for generics], but only about half what we pay for a name-brand prescription drug [they pay $51.12 on average for name brands]. According to FI, this is because the Canadian government artifically props up the prices of generic drugs. If Canadians were allowed to buy generic drugs as cheaply as we do, they'd save a ton of money.

Unfortunately, the author assumes that [a miracle occurs] the name-brand prices in this hypothetical free drug market will be just what they are now in the controlled Canadian drug market, even as the generics fall to American levels and that the percentage of Canadians [44% right now] choosing generics over name brands moves closer to the American percentage [63% of us].

Yep, apply the American model and those upper prices will be staying down at Canadian levels, not shooting up to astronomical American levels. I'm thinking the only way that will happen is if the evil manipulative Canadian guvmint steps in and artificially holds down the prices on name-brand drugs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nothing beats curling up with a good book

This one [the same one?] made it all the way out to the living room today before succumbing to a nap attack. I dub thee Christopher [as in Coloumbus] but that's The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide there, so I might have to go with a more galactic moniker.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fur therapy

Al Gore: The Limits of Executive Power

Highlights from his speech to the American Constitution Society, Jan 2006:

Transcript and link to video of the entire speech here.

Sign the petition, 108,562 people already have [as of this posting].

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Counting kittens

How many? I can't tell. Still. Even though I think there might be only four, this place is getting a distinct air of St Ives about it. If I start collecting wives next then maybe I'll at least have somebody to do the vacuuming for me.

I've started "taming" these little guys early. Mom cat believes strongly in benign neglect as a kitten raising philosophy and it seems to be working. I almost never see her in the same room with them, but they're always clean, dry, well-fed, and sleeping in a pile whenever I reach under the bed as far as I can and lay hands on them.

Today was a big day for one or two of them. Yes, that one kitten's eyes are open in the picture. And that one or another one crawled out from under the bed and out into the hallway in search of breakfast early this morning, squeaking as loudly as it could [which wasn't very].

I and almost-cats thing1 and thing2 were standing in the hallway, at once bemused and entertained by squeaky kitten. The dog, ever the auntie-of-helpless-kittens, was trying to gently steer squeaky kitten back in the direction of the nest, but squeaky kitten's motor skills, while admirable, are still uncertain and resulted in a complete tour of about one square foot of carpet.

Eventually mom cat moseyed on over, but she just sat down and watched the rest of us, with a bit of a Mona Lisa smile on her face. Curmudgeon cat has taken the approach If I can't see them, they don't exist and offered advice, loudly, from another room.

I eventually restored order in the fiefdom by picking up squeaky kitten myself and putting the little wanderer back under the bed. Mom cat sighed, rolled her eyes at me, and slipped under the bed. All squeaking stopped abruptly, so presumably breakfast waas served.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pruning Shears

My new favorite blog, if just for the name alone, where you can check to see if your Representative and Senators voted for the latest iteration of FISA. Write them, call them, e-mail them if they did. Contact information provided for you.

Links to some discussions of The New and Improved FISA. I like the one at Obsidian Wings.

While we're on the subject of crumbling infrastructure, you can look up your bridges too.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Clouds over the Everglades (1950)

TAP interviews Dr Steffie Woolhandler

Roger Bybee, writing for The American Prospect, talks with Dr Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, on whether or not we've got a snowball's chance in Florida of switching to single-payer health care system.

Polls of doctors in Minnesota (Feb., 2007) and Massachusetts (2004) both show a remarkable 64 percent favoring a single-payer plan. What accounts for this historic shift in the sentiment of doctors, when you think back to how the American Medical Association successfully mobilized doctors in every community to block Harry Truman's health reform effort? This new polling seems extraordinary; both because doctors' support for single-payer is just slightly below the general public's and because doctors are presumably much more knowledgeable about health systems than the average citizen. How do you see things developing among doctors and the health industry?

The opposition in Truman's era was the medical profession, and the AMA still is opposed even though a high percentage of doctors support a single-payer plan.

But now there are two other powerful forces: the health insurance industry [that emerged since the Truman plan] and the pharmaceutical companies. Under a single-payer plan, the government steps into the pharmaceutical pricing picture with a lot of bargaining power, so both of these forces feel threatened.

It's ironic that hospitals aren't more supportive. The health insurance industry would be put out of business, so it's life or death for them. But hospitals would still be there. Some for-profit hospitals oppose national health insurance, and our plan calls for reconversion to non-profit status. With the non-profit hospitals, I think opposition to single-payer is mostly fear of change. I think that they can live with a single-payer national health insurance plan, so I don't see them as our biggest enemy.
Read the rest of the interview here.

Wait! Wait! Don't tell me!

Old news perhaps [2005] from the Heritage Foundation Policy Blog:
  • 900,000 Canadian patients are on the waiting list to get into hospitals at any one time.
  • 90,000 patients in New Zealand are the waiting lists at any one time.
  • 1 million people are waiting to get into British hospitals at any one time.
  • Funny, they don't have any waiting list numbers for the US.

Populations of those countires [all numbers are July 2007 estimates from the CIA World Factbook]:
  • Canada, pop 33,390,141
  • New Zealand, pop 4,115,771
  • UK, pop 60,776,238
  • US, pop 301,139,947
I can hear Dr Sanjay Gupta's exploding from here, mixing data from both different sources and and different years bad! but I'm going to do it anyway:
  • Canada 900,000/33,390,141 >> 2.7% of the population is waiting to get into the hospital
  • New Zealand 90,000/4,115,771 >> 2.2%
  • UK 1,000,000/60,776,238 >> 1.6%
  • US 0-46,000,000/301,139,947 >> somewhere between 0% and 15%, but goodness only knows what the real number is, because while the other countries have transparency in their government-run health care systems, insurance companies here don't have to tell anybody anything.

The Heritage Foundation's other big whine:
  • Only half as many Canadians as Americans get dialysis, per capita.
  • Only a third as many Britons as Americans get dialysis, per capita.
  • The American rate of coronary bypass surgeries is 3-4 times what it is in Canada.
  • The American rate of coronary bypass surgeries is 5 times what it is in Britain.
  • Britain has half the number of CAT scanners per capita as in the U.S.
  • One-third of women diagnosed with breast cancer in France and Germany die from it.
  • Almost one-half of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and New Zealand die from it.
  • About one-fifth of American women diagnosed with breast cancer die from it.
  • One-fourth of Canadian men diagnosed with prostate cancer die from it.
  • One-half of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK die from it.
  • Less than one-fifth of American men diagnosed with prostate cancer die from it.
And yet, the people in those countries all live longer than we do:
  • Canada 79.43 years
  • France 78.76
  • New Zealand 77.82
  • UK 77.66
  • Germany 77.44
  • US 77.12

Global cooling is here!

And I got proof.

Every spring [starts in February] I foolishly plant little pots of herbs and sometimes even boxes of flowers. Every summer [starts in April] they all die of heatstroke. In 2005 and 2006, the plants were all dead by sometime in May. This year they made it to mid-June.


All is not quiet on the western front. The global warming deniers [skeptics! call us skeptics!] are having kitten fits over Sharon Begley's Newsweek article The Truth About Denial. We've mostly known all this before, but she gathers it all up into one neat general-public-friendly package.

For once, it seeems that the illiberal MSM may have bowed to lefty pressure to give equal time to the dark green side. Cool.

NB Amy Ridenour, conservative think tanker, isn't exactly a fan of sane health care policy.

Kozy as 2 kittehs

in a cookie jar

Oscar, LOLcat of Death

This is Charley

Doubledog Films

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang $148,000

Do want.

In the wake of Katrina. Still.

You can read about the video, how much longer the FEMA trailer parks are going to stick around [barring another storm], and how the insurance companies are doing their part to help [not].

On that note, New Orleans musicians aren't having an easy time of it either.

Madame Speaker

Speaker of the House website:

blog: The Gavel

Game on.

Tetris and minesweeper are my two favorite [desktop] computer games. Ever. I can't wait to see this version of minesweeper. I hope somebody [other than me] does one.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Taste test?! Surely there's a better description.

CLEVELAND, OH – In the political equivalent of a “blind taste test” taken by more than 67,000 participants, an independent website surveying public attitudes on various issues is reporting that Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is the first choice of a phenomenal 53% of respondents.

I seem to be in the 53%.
Kucinich 61
No Child Left Behind
Gravel 57
(you have no disagreements with this candidate)
Obama 36
Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Same-Sex Marriage
Edwards 31
Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Clinton 31
Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Biden 29
Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Same-Sex Marriage
Dodd 26
Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action
Richardson 24
Death Penalty, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage

Not too sure about this survey-- [1] after the YouTube debate, I liked Gravel less, and Edwards and Richardson more, than I had to that point; [2] I'm never in the majority. Anyway, if you want to take the survey yourself, here ya go.


Friday, August 03, 2007

from Managed Care Matters [a pro blogs on healthcare]

Joseph Paduda will possibly be out of work if things go my way, healthcarewise. He's obviously on the side of keeping private health insurance alive and well in the US, but nonetheless has a good rundown on what's not wrong with universal coverage.

Now, if we can only convince all the privateers that government-run single-payer universal coverage is the key to wealth and happiness, we're set.

The series, in order:

The top 10 reasons universal coverage is bad

Health policy -- a question of philosophy or finance?

Universal coverage -- part 3

Universal coverage is bad -- part 4

Universal coverage is bad -- part 5

Universal coverage is bad -- part 6

Universal coverage is bad -- part 7

Universal coverage is bad -- part 8

Universal coverage is bad -- part 9, socialism

Rudy Giuliani on health care

Rudy Giuliani doesn't know how many of the currently uninsured will have coverage under his proposed healthcare plan, but he thinks it might not be all of them:

Also, he's clearly not living on the same planet as the rest of us:

He's in Cedar Rapids [median household income $48,ooo], Iowa [median household income $45,000], talking about giving everyone tax exemptions up to $15,000 on their health care costs, and that their health insurance might be $9,000--$8,000--$7,000--$10,000 or it might go as low as $6,000, with $3000 in a health savings acoount.

I'm not sure, but I think the woman who asked him the question: What are the private companies doing to lower our healthcare costs? might just have heard: When I'm President your healthcare is going to cost you one-third of everything you've got.

It's almost too much to hope for, but Rudy Giuliani might be the best secret weapon we've got for winning over hearts and minds to the dread Socialized Medicine. The rest of us aren't making all that much more than the good folks in Iowa.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's the Crude, Dude

book, by Linda McQuaig

review, by Stephen Lendman
[practically book-length itself]

Debunking David Pimentel

Quote of the day, from Ethanol Under Fire, David Pimentel [down the page a bit]:
Actually it's Big Ethanol and Big Corn that are under fire by Big Oil, though Big Corn and Big Agriculture are a major client of Big Oil. We tend to think they might all deserve each other.

Anyway, it's a webpage of commentary about and links to debunkings [by reputable folks, it looks like] of Pimentel's ethanol, uh, research. I haven't read all of it, but, here, I give you some points:

you can see the entire PDF here

That last bullet item, DDGS, dry distillers grains with solubles, highlights the fact that maufacturing processes, including the production of gasoline from crude oil, rarely produce just one product. The very same bushel of corn that's feeding your cars is also feeding your cows, [and bringing other good stuff to your life]. Ethanol advocates say you have to count some of that input energy towards producing the cattle feed [and other products], instead of counting all of it towards producing motor fuel.

It's a valid argument. I don't know yet if the Pimentel refuters are calculating the same for fossil fuels -- how much of the input energy goes towards producing the other products that happen when you make gasoline -- but I hope to find out.

Much as I applaud his conservation-mindedness, and yes, he's right about one thing -- all our energy usage is essentially a net consumption of the earth's finite resources, no matter what form that energy takes -- life really is too short to spend in the company of David Pimentel. I'll mention briefly a couple of other points and then hope to not think of this guy again, for a while at least.

  • The rising world demand for ethanol is destroying the rainforests. It's a valid concerm, that Brazil [and probably other places suited to growing sugar cane] will mow down the world's rainforests to raise fuel crops, and it's one I worry about too, but even on this topic there's debate.
  • We're taking food out of the mouths of the poor kids in Africa. Not really. Most of the corn grown in the US goes to feeding our cows and other food animals. Most of the rest of of the corn we consume in the US is in the form of alcoholic beverages and processed food items. We don't export a lot of our corn, but what we do export goes mostly to the cows and other food animals of the [already well-fed] European countries. Only a tiny fraction of it ends up nourishing the bodies of starving children in third world countries. If you truly care about the children, you'll become a vegan and a teetotaller.
  • We might start mowing down our own forests to turn into cornfields. A distinct possibility. Cut back on your consumption of just about everything, and vote for people who will actually do things to save the environment.

Aside to Arch: ultimately you may prove to be right, and I wrong, about teh burdz and teh kittehs, but Stanley Temple's "research" [and unfortunately also his reach] is on a par with Pimentel's.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"... famines are complex social phenomena,

... and a lack of food is seldom the reason why people starve."

something i stumbled over while researching corn just now

David Pimentel and Tad Patzek

Critics of ethanol-as-fuel often point to studies done by these two prolific, vocal, and zealous anti-ethanol crusaders. If you see any report or article or blog post that cites either Pimentel or Patzek, whether directly or indirectly, you need to turn on your bullshit detector.

It's not that they don't put a lot of work into their work, they do, but some of it's fuzzy, some of it's poorly reasoned, and some of it's downright controversial.

A f'rinstance. They calculate the "oil equivalent" of the labor that goes into farming corn [and other ethanol-producing crops]. They figure up how many calories of food a farm laborer eats and how many gallons of gasoline a farm laborer uses to get from home to the fields and back, and then set this equivalent to X number of liters of oil and add this to the total energy put into producing the resulting ethanol [8000 liters/year/hectare here].

That's all fine and dandy, I like thorough analyses as well as the next number-cruncher [and maybe more], but they never once do any such figuration on producing an equivalent amount of gasoline. Oops. In fact, I've spent the last two years, ever since Slate lauded their anti-ethanol ethos here, trying to find out how much energy goes into producing the gasoline you use.

This is the best I've found so far [and it's not great, so remember your grain of salt]:

  • It takes 0.74 BTU of fossil energy [coal + natural gas + petroleum] to produce produce and deliver to the gas pump 1 BTU of ethanol from corn.

  • It takes 1.23 BTU of fossil energy [coal + natural gas + petroleum] to produce produce and deliver to the gas pump 1 BTU of gasoline from petroleum.

NB: As far as I can tell, nobody's found a link between Pimentel and Big Oil, but Patzek has ties.

Just sayin'.

First, a disclaimer or three...

It's a blog, not professional journalism, but like the professional journalists [ought to] do, I'll indulge in a bit of disclosure:

I have opinions. You're entitled to them.
It's why I blog. I make no claims to fairness or balance, but I will sometimes try to back up my opinions with supporting materials, but they'll be supporting materials that I've gleaned from the internet.

Oil, biofuels, wevs.
Whatever carbon-based energy choices you make, I and my family will profit from you, just so long as you continue to burn, baby, burn! We grow the corn and soybeans that go into biofuels and we have ties to the petroleum industry.

I like my anonymity.
Or what little of it I've been able to preserve to this point. This is pretty much the extent of disclosure you're going to get from me.

So, rather than litter the comments to ellroon's ethanol post with lengthy and rambling dissertations, I'll just babble boringly [and perhaps only ocassionally] about ethanol and related subjects here in my own blog.