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
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?
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
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....
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.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
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.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
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
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
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.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
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
Monday, November 05, 2007
Yes, you really can impeach the bastards. Now.
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
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.
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!
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 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.
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:
Sunday, November 04, 2007
And inspired by Operation Mosquito, I've started another letter-writing campaign.
How 2 Months Spending in Iraq Could Be Put to Better UseExample 9: Job Training and Vocational Education
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.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
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.