Friday, February 29, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I, NSA


I love spy stuff, especially the James Bondian variety, but I sure don't want my government using any of this stuff on me.

Obamanomics

[yes, i stole that]

RonKSeattle has a series of posts on Obama's economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, Jeffrey Liebman, and David Cutler. I've mentioned them before, but someone else has done the heavy lifting and collected all in one place everything you never wanted to know.

I don't know about the other two advisers, but Austan Goolsbee is the senior economist for the DLC, so whichever of the remaining two Dems we get, either Obama or Clinton, will perhaps be listening to him.

Markets just want to be free.

If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance,

you'll just have to shoot them with your guns.

awwwww


If you get a message about the video not being viewable from this site, try refreshing the page, or just go to the slideshow in the link below.

slide show

A kiss on the nose and an eye chart

I've been the recipient of bloggy goodness twice in one week, from both Catnapping and Michael. I'm generally reluctant to actually go around tagging other bloggers, so I think I won't this time around. However, if you find yourself in need of peace and love and a kiss on the nose, the board of directors will be happy to bestow them on you. Meanwhile, some excellent blogs for you to check out:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ouch.

Back in the day, when my friends all had posters of rock stars and heart throbs on their bedroom walls, I had maps and nautical charts. So it's particualrly humiliating that I didn't even make it through level 6 [of 12].

Update: Made it through level 9 on a retry. Whew. I feel better now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Flour

for your valentine.

I can has iTunes?

Why, yes! Yes, I can!

Goaded by Michael's recent musings, I decided to dig out my Christmas present and try my hand, once again, at loading iTunes onto this computer. Yay! Success! I've got precisely one CD handy at the moment, and after a few false starts, I even managed to get that transferred onto the iPod. And playing!

Yes, I do make my living as a computer geek, why do you ask?

Anyways, curmudgeon cat and I have gotten tangled in the cables, my singing has chased the other cats under the sofa, the earpieces hurt my ears, and I'm annoyed that I have to adjust the volume from one song to the next, but I really am looking forward to copying all my other CDs onto my new toy, so I'll celebrate by cheating on the iTunes meme:
  • How many songs total: 13
  • How many hours or days of music: whatever that adds up to
  • Most recently played: "10 Miles To Go On A Nine Mile Road"
  • Most played: It's on its second or third loop through the album now
  • Most recently added: Jim White "No Such Place"
  • Sort by song title: [reading from the label, not sorted]
    • First song: "Handcuffed To A Fence In Mississippi"
    • Last song: "Corvair Reprise"
  • Sort by time: [reading from the label, not sorted]
    • Shortest song: "God Was Drunk When He Made Me" 2:34
    • Longest song: "Christmas Day" 7:15
  • Sort by album: [no sorting needed]
    • First album: Jim White "No Such Place"
    • Last album: Jim White "No Such Place"
  • Search the following and state how many songs come up: [I haven't a clue how to do this]
    • just like:
    • fuck:
    • book:
    • fat:
    • springsteen:


And as long as I'm filling out surveys, there was this one tucked inside the CD case:

Hey,
Here are some questions that hopefully will allow us to serve your 21st century music needs better:

What Luaka Bop album did you purchase?
Jim White "No Such Place" [as if that weren't obvious by now]

Where did you buy this record? (We want to send someone by to pat them on the back.)
Good luck with that. I bought it directly from the artist at a free concert here.

What is your e-mail address so we can clog up your computer with concert announcements, new release news and recipes?
Mmmm, pie blogging!

How old are you? (I promise we won't tell anyone:
Under 20, 20-30, 30-40, Over 40
Why do I get the feeling I'm too old to be listening to Luaka Bop records? Although I notice they use the old-fashioned words "record" and "album" so maybe I'm in their target demographic after all.

Who did you last want to have sex with?
A man, A woman, Both
I see they left robots off the list. Probably just as well.

Read any good magazines lately?
Actually, yes.

Radio stations you can stomach:
The radio in my car doesn't work, I can't get radio reception at work [that's where all the CDs are living right now], and the cats are too much into What does this button do?, so the radio here isn't plugged in.

We will probably never mail you anything but just in case we get ambitious can you tell us where to send it:
Don't cut down any trees for me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Any excuse will do.

First, Iran was supplying Iraqi insurgents with bomb parts, then Iranians were fighting against us alongside Iraqi insurgents, then Iran was building nukes, and we had to designate their army as a bunch of terrorists because they were going to attack Israel.

Now Iran is on the verge of destabilizing our longtime friend and ally and source of oil -- Azerbaijan.

When do we get to put impeachment back on the table? It might be more useful if we do so before Bush orders an attack on Iran.

We [heart] Iraq

No, really.

Dear Superdelegates:

STFU.

Talk about your helicopter parents


The Great IBWO Hunt is on. I'm as excited as the next amateur ornithologist over the fact that there might still be ivory-billed woodpeckers, especially since there might even be some right here in the Florida panhandle. I'm all for spending a handful of tax dollars helping them recover, and yes, I'd like to see pictures and videos. I'd like to know that they're still out there.

On the other hand, while I can sympathize with the zeal, flushing them out with helicopters seems counterproductive. Even sending all those biologists into the swamps in kayaks and wading boots seems too intrusive. How about we just pay to set aside and protect those areas that are likely habitat and just check back in 20 years?


update: more about the aerial survey

Superbowl V

Massachusetts, home of competitive birding.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Because only the morally worthy deserve good health

From 10 Myths About Canadian Health Care, Busted
By Sara Robinson, TomPaine.com. Posted February 5, 2008.

9. People won't be responsible for their own health if they're not being forced to pay for the consequences.
False. The philosophical basis of America's privatized health care system might best be characterized as medical Calvinism. It's fascinating to watch well-educated secularists who recoil at the Protestant obsession with personal virtue, prosperity as a cardinal sign of election by God, and total responsibility for one's own salvation turn into fire-eyed, moralizing True Believers when it comes to the subject of Taking Responsibility For One's Own Health.

They'll insist that health, like salvation, is entirely in our own hands. If you just have the character and self-discipline to stick to an abstemious regime of careful diet, clean living, and frequent sweat offerings to the Great Treadmill God, you'll never get sick. (Like all good theologies, there's even an unspoken promise of immortality: f you do it really really right, they imply, you might even live forever.) The virtuous Elect can be discerned by their svelte figures and low cholesterol numbers. From here, it's a short leap to the conviction that those who suffer from chronic conditions are victims of their own weaknesses, and simply getting what they deserve. Part of their punishment is being forced to pay for the expensive, heavily marketed pharmaceuticals needed to alleviate these avoidable illnesses. They can't complain. It was their own damned fault; and it's not our responsibility to pay for their sins. In fact, it's recently been suggested that they be shunned, lest they lead the virtuous into sin.

Of course, this is bad theology whether you're applying it to the state of one's soul or one's arteries. The fact is that bad genes, bad luck, and the ravages of age eventually take their toll on all of us -- even the most careful of us. The economics of the Canadian system reflect this very different philosophy: it's built on the belief that maintaining health is not an individual responsibility, but a collective one. Since none of us controls fate, the least we can do is be there for each other as our numbers come up.

This difference is expressed in a few different ways. First: Canadians tend to think of tending to one's health as one of your duties as a citizen. You do what's right because you don't want to take up space in the system, or put that burden on your fellow taxpayers. Second, "taking care of yourself" has a slightly expanded definition here, which includes a greater emphasis on public health. Canadians are serious about not coming to work if you're contagious, and seeing a doctor ASAP if you need to. Staying healthy includes not only diet and exercise; but also taking care to keep your germs to yourself, avoiding stress, and getting things treated while they're still small and cheap to fix.

Third, there's a somewhat larger awareness that stress leads to big-ticket illnesses -- and a somewhat lower cultural tolerance for employers who put people in high-stress situations. Nobody wants to pick up the tab for their greed. And finally, there's a generally greater acceptance on the part of both the elderly and their families that end-of-life heroics may be drawing resources away from people who might put them to better use. You can have them if you want them; but reasonable and compassionate people should be able to take the larger view.

The bottom line: When it comes to getting people to make healthy choices, appealing to their sense of the common good seems to work at least as well as Calvinist moralizing.



h/t

Wexler is still working to impeach Cheney

from the email inbox---

Dear [hipparchia],

Our Constitution is under threat and the most basic principle of checks and balances is being undermined. Not since Watergate has a president so openly disregarded the will of Congress.

During hearings in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, I told Attorney General Michael Mukasey that I called for impeachment hearings because of the stonewalling and blatant abuses of the Bush Administration. He responded by stating that he will NOT enforce a contempt of Congress citation against Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten for refusing to testify before Congress. The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7M9sjRLCtQ

Alberto Gonzales may be long gone, but the Bush Administration continues its executive overreach with the new Attorney General.

We can debate the need for Impeachment hearings. We can argue its effects on the election or our agenda. But one thing is abundantly clear:

If Congress' right to require testimony is undermined, then our country's leaders - Democrat, Republican, or Independent - will be immune from accountability.

The power of the subpoena - to call officials before us - is one of the most fundamental safeguards in our system of government. To have it effectively discarded - by virtue of the President instructing Administration officials to ignore a congressional subpoenas and not even appear before Congress - is unprecedented. The idea that the Attorney General would willingly defend this position - despite Congress' constitutional right to call such witnesses, is outrageous.

Impeachment hearings could render this moot: The President, Vice President, and all officials under them would no longer invoke executive privilege. There would be no more smokescreens.

In one week, I will be delivering my letter calling for impeachment hearings to Chairman John Conyers. Already, 16 Members of Congress have joined my call, including 3 Judiciary Committee members. I am hopeful for more in the coming days, but it is important for you to reach out to your representative in Congress to express how you feel. You can view the current list of signers, here: http://www.wexlerforcongress.com/news.asp?ItemID=230

I do not know how Congress will react, but I do know this: I will pursue this course aggressively. I will not compromise away the constitutional role of Congress. Your support is invaluable. Please know that I am working everyday to ensure that the Bush Administration is held accountable.

Please continue to support this movement at www.wexlerwantshearings.com.

Yours truly,

Congressman Robert Wexler

DONATE



Paid for by "Wexler for Congress"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Calling all hurricane survivors!


You remember what it was like getting up the next morning after Hurricane _______ roared through in the night, stepping gingerly out the front door the next morning to check on the big old oak tree, wondering if it took out your car. Or your fence. Or your neighbor's house.

You remember what it was like when the National Guard rolled into town and started directing traffic at all the downed stoplights.

And the Red Cross brought ice! and water! and and food that heated itself! MRE's are fun to make fun of but after a few days of subsisting on Spam and Dinty Moore beef stew straight out of the can you'd run over your own grandma to get something that might vaguely resemble a meal.

So now our inland fellow bloggers and neighbors have been hit by their equivalent of our hurricanes and are in need of help. Some places to start ---


American Red Cross
Mid-South Chapter
1400 Central Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
901-726-1690


United Way of the Mid-South
phone in a donation at (901) 433-4300.

Live fast, die young, stay pretty

Cost less. Just don't go to Mississippi.

One of the problems with all the candidates' health care policies is that they all tout losing weight and quitting smoking as one of the keys to our being able to afford universal health care. Besides the holier-than-thou moralizing and the infuriating paternalism embodied in this approach is something I've long suspected, just from looking at my own family:

good clean living is not the key to a cheap and painless death.

If you got stuck with the genes for cancer, it makes no real difference if you get the disease at 50 or at 80, it's still going to cost about the same amount to treat it. If you got stuck with the genes for heart disease, it makes no real difference if your first heart attack is at 40 or 70, it's still going to cost about the same amount to treat it.

And if you didn't get any of those genes, but instead got stuck with the genes for Alzheimers, why in the name of all that is cost conscious did you not take up smoking at a young age and have the grace to die of lung cancer? Because Alzheimers, besides the emotional havoc it wreaks on its victims and their loved ones, is a truly expensive and often lengthy way to shuffle off this mortal coil.

So, now we can finally get off this 'personal responsibility' kick and lay the blame for out-of-control health care costs where it belongs: at the feet of the health-care-industry vultures --- pharmaceutical companies and for-profit insurance companies being good ones to start with.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It ain't over till it's over, but...

Update 2-6-2008: Facing South has a link to a more careful counting of the popular vote to date [for Democrats]: Obama, 7.8 million; Clinton, 7.7 million.


It's not scientific by any stretch, because
  1. not all the states whose primaries were held today have reported all their votes yet and
  2. as you can see above some states held only their Republican primaries/caucuses today but not their Democratic ones [and vice versa]
but the evidence is [partially] in. Whatever the electoral college may saddle us with, at least the people aren't letting race or gender interfere with reason. The approximate total number of votes for each leading candidate so far [in millions]:

Clinton 7.2 million
Obama 6.5

McCain 4.2
Romney 3.2
Huckabee 2.2

But the country isn't ready for a _______________ President!

Ha!

Both the black man and the white woman have just demonstrated that they've got what it takes to beat the white men.










Monday, February 04, 2008

All the candidates in this election have been bought

On ebay, that is. Barack Obama fetched the highest price: $455.



You can watch all the candidates being drawn here.


When I first spotted Jason's videos on YouTube, I thought: damn, he's got a good eye. Well, no wonder. From his bio on ebay:

Born in 1976, Jason Baalman was raised in Houston Texas. The early years were spent in studios under the mentorship of many artists. His work was first exhibited at the age of 8 and received numerous awards in juried shows throughout Texas. At the age of 10 he turned professional and competed at this level for another year. Art became a hobby at this time and continued as a self instructed passion. In 1995 Jason moved to Los Angeles to attend The University of Southern California where he studied Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience with a research emphasis in visual perception.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Uncle! Uncle!

I have to admit, when this came up last year, I was secretly on Atrios' and them's side. I haven't got a blogroll, I've got a linky planaria, and when I made a half-hearted attempt at dividing it and conquering it, it multiplied. Keeping up with it got to be sorta like cleaning out the litter boxes around here.

Plus, I like flying under the radar, so I don't really want to be linked by the big guys.

I do however, appreciate a little subversion now and then, when it's for a good cause, and since it's Mustang Bobby [well, really, it was Snowball] who got me hooked on reading blogs, I've decided to participate. Partially. I won't promise that if you link to me I'll get around to linking to you too, but I'll maybe take a stab at keeping up.

Besides, discovering and pointing out The Mahatma X Files deserves a good turn. I've added that one to my blogroll.

So, here ya go...



Blogs that I found today that are promoting Blogroll Amnesty Day that I've had in my blogroll for a while now:

Blogs that I found today that are promoting Blogroll Amnesty Day that I've been meaning to add to my blogroll for a while now:


A sampling of blogs from my blogroll that may or may not be participating in Blogroll Amnesty Day and that may or may not be in need of linky love:


[minor edits added later]

Skilled negotiator or Caspar Milquetoast?


Barack Obama is spreading the message of Hope and Change and other Warm Fuzzies and has co-opted John Edwards' rhetoric on Standing Up to Special Interests. Meanwhile, his actual record demonstrates something between incremental change and a willingness to go along with the status quo.

My guess, and I'm SWAGging it here, is that he's a skilled negotiator and not a pushover. In both health care access and nuclear power regulation, he's achieved a middle ground between citizens and corporations. But 'middle ground' covers a lot of the playing field, and unfortunately for us citizens, it looks to me like the little guys' goal posts are still a lot further away than the big guys' goal posts are.

For the record, I think Hillary Clinton is also a skilled negotiator and no Caspar Milquetoast either. Given the same situations, I think she'd have gotten much the same results.

Not that I want to sound like I'm hating on Obama more than Clinton. They're six of one, half a dozen of the other if you ask me. Obama has a timeline for leaving Iraq and Hillary doesn't, but her health care plan has mandates and Obama's doesn't. Either way, one of the glass ceilings will finally be cracked and that's a good thing.

Florida may have thrown away their delegates by having their primary ahead of time, but it did give me a chance to vote for a real Democrat without having to write one in and for that I am grateful.



Caspar Milquetoast

awwww


The story is sappy but it's a happy ending new beginning for [most of] the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's former dog-fighting operation.

I can has privacy?

“How much control should an individual have over their personal information?,” Phillips muses as he shows me around. “I think individuals should have more control than they do, significantly more control. Individuals ultimately should be required to provide their explicit consent for the use of that information."


You would think these would be the words of a privacy advocate. You would be wrong. The man behind Aristotle Inc, John Aristotle Phillips, values his own privacy, but buys and sells every little piece of data about you that he can get.

His metier is marrying voter registration lists to everything else and selling that information to politicians for microtargeting voters.

“What we do is help a campaign run more and more like an effective business,” Phillips says as he types on his laptop, bringing up on a large projection screen the profile of an actual voter in Atlanta, whom we’ll call John Smith.

Phillips hits a button and up pops Smith’s basic information—address, phone number, etc. A click of the mouse brings more personal information—his photograph, his age and occupation, the names of his adult family members, his party affiliation and approximate income. Another click summons the exact amounts of political donations he has made. Phillips clicks once more, and a kind of molecular model appears on-screen, showing every political donor and potentially influential person Smith is linked to, in Atlanta and beyond, with dozens of interlocking nodes. Each node leads to the profile of another voter, about whom Aristotle knows just as much or more.



And when he's not selling your data to politicians, he's selling it to anybody who's got a credit card.

Collies! Bassets! Mutts!

I can has immunity?


No.


Tomorrow the Senate votes on various formulations of the FISA bill, including whether or not to grant the telecoms immunity from prosecution should it be found they've been illegally spying on us.

And if you'd rather watch videos than read... Russ Feingold [below] and Keith Olbermann.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

You can be replaced

Robots will operate on you, take care of you, have sex with you [or without you], and go to war with you [or without you].