Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is it Friday yet?

the painted cat

friday is too far away. i hereby declare today random cat blogging day.

the comment moderation thingy was a mis-mouse and i don't always check my e-mail. apologies.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blogging for Choice is so ... last week.

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

That's me, a day late and a dollar short. More accurately, a week late. The 34th anniversary of Roe v Wade was January 22, 2007, and feminists were blogging specially on that day. Me, I was too busy bitching about war to notice. Sigh. Bad feminist.

This year's assignment: tell us, and your readers, why you're pro-choice. I spent some time roaming through the blogosphere, reading some of the posts, but Dr Violet Socks' contrarianism is my favorite.

Mine [I prefer to call myself pro-abortion instead of pro-choice]:

Dude. It's my body. Keep your paws and laws off.

Axis of Evil

First they came for Iraq's nuclear weapons.
Then they came for Iran's nuclear weapons.
And we call Kim Jong-Il the crazy one?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Iran is next.

January 26, 2007 | An injured man left a Baghdad hospital after receiving treatment, after a car bomb in a Shiite neighborhood killed 26 people and wounded 54. The blast occurred shortly after two rockets slammed into the heavily fortified Green Zone.
(Photo: Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud / Reuters)

I found that photo and caption on the front page. When I clicked on the photo, it took me to this article.

It's the Kool-Aid, Stupid.

I haven't kept up my planned pace on my letter-writing campaign. I keep taking time out to look at some of the websites of some of the Senators.

Today I found this:
The Iraqis must pass an oil law and take other steps critical to achieving a political solution for the disputes between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds." [emphasis mine]

at Maria Cantwell's site.

I'll admit that when I first started reading about the Iraq oil production-sharing agreement issue, I was skeptical. Sounded like conspiracy theory material to me. Even when I first posted about PSAs recently, I wondered if I wasn't sipping on some Kool-Aid that I should be avoiding.

To be fair to Senator Cantwell, she's not the only politico I've seen quoted as saying approximately the same thing. I dunno. I think maybe the translation of that statement is:

All your oil are belong to US. We'll pull our occupation forces out of your country after you pass a law making it so.

I'm going to go drink some lavender chamomile tea now, and resume e-mailing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm annoyed again.

We are entitled to everybody's analysis of the SOTU speech, and the cherry-picked snippets of it they want us to have, both in writing and in video clips, but just try finding a full transcript or full video of it on the web. They're all behind walls where you have to pay, or at least register. So much for the watchdog media.

UPDATE and correction: CNN has a transcript, but I'm still peeved; the link to it was buried in one of their stories.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

If it's a xeno-DESERT, can't we just exit it?

speak softly and carry a big sticker

TenaciousK takes me to task in a comment on my post below for wanting to cut and run, and for not having any real suggestions.

Taking our toys and going home: it's not just egregious, or doubly egregious, it's monstrous, horrendous, barbaric, add on all the bad adjectives you can think of. We're already complicit in the genocide that's happening/going to happen. Too late to not be.

Will it be worse if we leave or if we stay? No way to ever know. We either stay there and count the dead, or we leave and count the dead. Either way, we tell ourselves that if we'd done it the other way, it would have been worse.

Has anybody asked the people in Iraq if they want our intervention? Or anybody's intervention, for that matter?

My guess is no, nobody ever asked. Way back before you or I were ever born, but still in rather recent history, some Western powers got together and drew some lines on a map: ... and this section shall be called Iraq ... and they just shuffled together parts or wholes of various tribes, clans. peoples, whathaveyou into one "country."

Because they're all Muslims, these people all look alike to us Westerners. What does it matter which of them gets assigned to live in which country? Hunh. To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: the Shi'ites hate the Sunnis, and the Sunnis hate the Shi'ites, and everybody hates the Kurds!

Suggestions? I have some, but nobody's going to like them.

Do we take our toys and go home? I'm fine with laying down our toys on the ground, leaving them behind in the sandbox, and slinking home. I'm fine with taking whatever monies we've appropriated and not yet spent and spending it on food, water, arms, and ammunition, dropping them out of the sky onto Iraqi soil as we airlift our soldiers out of there.

Do we stay and continue to provide intervention? Okay, but how about this: we stay long enough to broker a peaceful division of "Iraq" into at least three separate states, one for the Sunnis, one for the Shi'ites, and one for the Kurds. If we truly want to spread democracy in the Middle East, this might be the way to go.

Of course, the Kurds in Armenia and Turkey and Iran may all want to split off and make a whole new Kurdistan. And Iran may want to annex the Iraqi Shi'ites --- and their oil fields --- though it's unclear whether they'd like to be Iranians or have their own state, and if they have their own state Iran may forcibly annex them anyway.

We want to "stabilize" the Middle East because we want their cheap and easy oil. If for some reason we can't get our hands on that oil, we sure as hell don't want anybody else to get it. Whatever it is we end up doing to assuage our consciences, is mostly just going to assuage our consciences.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

To me. I may need bailing out.

I've been agitated for too long now, and it's time to turn the tables and become an agitator myself. I'm going to start by e-mailing everybody in Congress.

I invite you to join me. Borrow my letter[s], or write your own. I've added links in the sidebar over there for writing to Congress people. If I figure out a way to make that easier, I'll fix it.

Suggestions, comments, critiques, or criticim invited, but you'll have to make them here. I've turned off comments over there. It's not like I need yet another discussion forum to keep up with, much as like all y'all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

[taking a few days off]

Real life intrudes [I hate when that happens}. Unless we invade yet another country in the next day or two, I'll be absent from the blogosphere for a bit.

Fleiauu: A legendary Tongan princess.

[thanks, tk]

Ah, a flivverous start to a touchy subject: Does Tony Snow know more about feminism than Barbara Boxer? I hate to interrupt the Goat Rope Challenge, but as an ardent feminist, I'm having trouble letting this one go by without comment. Does it look like the White House spokesman even has a clue?!

Gloria Steinem calls it:
Not to the country's most prominent feminist, Gloria Steinem, who said Snow's remark "takes your breath away."

"It had nothing to do with feminism," Steinem told The Associated Press. "It was perfectly reasonable, and it could have come from anyone a grandfather as well as a grandmother. Sen. Boxer was trying to draw a parallel" between herself and the secretary.

Senator Boxer was correct. Neither she nor Rice -- no matter how badly each of them may feel about maimed and dying soldiers and grieving families -- neither of them truly has any hostages to fortune in this war.

Monday, January 15, 2007


in a perfect world repair people would show up on time and no blogger would smash the thumb on one hand and burn 3 fingers on the other in the same day, but shit happens.

there's more. back later.

Defining a just society

Medicare for all

I've been less than thrilled with idea of letting the government take care of my health, but it's a system we already have in place, and spreading the risks and the buying power over all 300,000,000 of us is appealing. The government might even let the doctors decide what treatment we should get, instead of letting accountants with both eyes on the bottom line deside who gets what care.

Really, in a just society, would even a for-profit business take such bad care of its customers? I think not, so file this one under the heading of our collective self-defense, I guess.

Defining a just society

Speak softly and carry a big stick

The world is a dangerous place, with dangerous people in it. Self-defense is a necessity. Internally, this means police, courts, judges, juries, jails, prisons, and mental hospitals. Externally, this means a standing military and all its accoutrements.

A society has all kinds of people in it, and a just society would make room for all of them, including those most inclined to be of the warrior mentality. We need protection, they need a job --- voila! --- police, jailers, military.

Where we need to be very careful is in deciding exactly when to call on the services of our professional warriors, and just how often. It's a resource that most definitely needs to be under-utilized. Diplomacy, negotiation, gentle guidance, often just carefully watching and analyzing a situation; all these need to be tried first.

One would have thought that the Constitution had established some checks on our powers to wage war, but between those of us who want to be kept safe and secure from every imaginable danger all the time and those of us who want to be warriors by proxy [not to mention those who expect to profit from conflict], we've instead over-utilized this resource, and stretched it to the breaking point.

Not to mention all the people we've killed and all the havoc we've now wreaked on a few other societies, none of which were an imminent threat to us.

Then there's the war on drugs, but you get the picture.


time for lunch. i think i'll go to taco bell. a just society would let me stuff my arteries full of lard on occasion.

Defining a just society


There would be trampolines. Actual trampolines as well as metaphorical ones. A just society would make room for people to have fun. Fun. Joy. Play. Creativity. Passion. And like the cute little graphic below, whre the lemmings dive off the cliff to find a trampoline that tosses them back up onto the next cliff, a just society would have safety nets for its citizens.

Defining a just society


We'd all eat real food, not attractively-packaged industrial waste. I'm all for recycling, using every possible bit of a resource, but do you really need to eat all that high-fructose corn-syrup? No, you do not. Let's turn it all into ethanol to run our cars. Fructose? Here, have an orange. Corn? Corn on the cob, roasted on the grill, beats granola bars any day of the week. Syrup? Mmmmmm, maple trees.

Food would be locally grown and consumed as much as possible.

Not shipping food long distances means that we use less fuel and emit less pollution bringing it to market. Not that I want to discourage trade. Trade is good. Apple trees, maple trees, grapes, wheat: these don't grow happily down here in the subtropics. I'll happily trade you some oranges, mangoes, papayas, and avocadoes for some apples, maple syrup, a jug of wine, and the makings of a loaf of good French bread.

Small local farms are one form of small business. Small businesses are good for the communities they serve and good for the people who run them. More on businesses in another section.

Food would be organically produced as much as possible. The regular and profligate us of pesticides and herbicides hasn't cut down on crop losses enough to justify that much use. Fertilizers have significantly increased the yield per acre for a lot of crops, but the micronutrient content [vitamins and minerals] of much of our produce is about half what it was 50 years ago. Now you need to eat twice as much food to get the same amount of nutrition. No wonder we're all so fat.

Food animals would be grown humanely. Like your bacon and eggs? With a glass of milk, maybe? Read about factory farms. Visit one. More on factory farming in another post on another day.

Defining a just society

Martin Luther King Day

In the same way that we've mostly forgotten George Washington's birthday, because we're accustomed to being our own country now, and Abraham Lincoln's birthday, because we've mostly gotten over the War of Northern Aggression, we'll have forgotten that we used to care about the color of a person's skin.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Goat Rope Challenge: Defining a just society

Some time back, I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Self-Absorbed Boomer, and was directed to the Goat Rope's challenge: Define a just society.

I cottoned on to the idea right away, but it has proven more difficult than I would have thought. Having put this off long enough, I now decree that my self-imposed project for this weekend, which just happens to include Martin Luther King Jr Day, is tackling that challenge. Possibly this will take me longer than a 3-day weekend, so I leave y'all with one plank from my platform:

There should be trampolines.

[tk: hello and thanks for all the lemmings]

Friday, January 12, 2007

The War On Lemmings

[thanks, tk]

With his plan to surge into The Cradle of Civilization, King George is sending hundreds of Americans to their deaths, and consigning thousands more to suffering [often grievous] injuries. Not to mention the remaining 300,000,000 million of us who are sitting here in our cozy homes, far away from it all, blogging contentedly, and who are about to get shoved off the cliff. I think it's possible we've already been shoved off the cliff, and just haven't hit the rocks yet.

Let's not send any more troops to Iraq.
Let's bring home now the ones who are already over there.
Let's stand up and fight like lemmings.

thanks for the alternative lemmings

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


See those little toy building blocks scattered in roughly parallel lines across the picture? They're pilings. Bridge pilings. From an interstate highway across a bay. The day after the surge. More pictures of the same devastation here.

This photo was probably taken only a few hours after the surge passed by. NOAA's tagline:
Turn Around,
Don't Drown.

The bay is about two miles wide where the bridge crosses, and the water is about 10-15 feet deep. People who know about this stuff estimate that it took a storm surge, a wall of water, 30-40 feet high to dislodge those huge concrete slabs.

Now that's a surge.

The only surge I expect to see from Bush's latest [ahem] plan [cough cough] is a surge in the number of flag-draped coffins arriving here in the US and rolling out of the bellies of big ol' jet airplanes. Not that we're going to be allowed to see those.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

PSA: It's the oil, stupid.

Prostate-specific antigen. Public service announcement. Production-sharing agreement.

Did I call it?

I did.

I think it's possible that Bush Jr really does see himself in the mold of Churchill, or Truman, or some other savior, and if he does, then he was cleverly manipulated, because I'm sure that CheneyCo are in it for the oil.

thanks be to DragonTat2 and Titan_Arum for the tip

Sunday, January 07, 2007

How to Pay For Cocaine and Heroin

Not to take away from the general discussion going on over at IOZ' How to Purchase Cocaine and Heroin post, but I did get into a side discussion with TenaciousK over the costs of addiction. Were one able to save drafts of comments, I would probably have posted this over there, but c'est la Blogger vie, no can do.

Both my work and my volunteer work have brought me into contact with drug users, addicts, crack babies, and the survivng family and friends of people who died from drug overdoses. I want all those drugs to just disappear from the face of the earth, particularly meth and the like. No matter how small, the human cost is too much.

Then again [and it pains me to be in sympathy with Rush Limbaugh on anything], I'm one of the 9% and I want to be able to walk into my local drug store and casually and anonymously buy syringes and morphine sulfate the way the rest of you can bebop in there and pick up a bottle of Tylenol for your occasional headaches.

Anyway, for a variety of reasons [a future post], I now agree: drop The War On Drugs, legalize all recreational drug use.

I haven't yet figured out where I stand on the various sub-arguments about control, regulation, taxation, availability, etc [also for a later post, if ever]. For now I just want to know:

how many people are going to need treatment for drug addiction and how do we pay for it?

Opponents are fond of quoting figures like $143.4 billion as the cost of the war on drugs, but they're figuring in stuff like lost productivity, which is all well and good for making a point, but I want to figure out where in the federal coffers we have money to be turned away from fighting drugs and toward treating drug users.

Believable estimates of what the federal government is spending on the war on drugs range from about $12 billion [various sources] to about $19 billion per year. From the National Drug Control Strategy, FY 2006 Budget Summary: the budget request was approximately $12.5 billion [of which approximately 26% was to be spent on treatment].

When SWAGing stuff, I like to truncate numbers to two-ish significant figures and lean toward the worst case scenario, so $12 billion it is. And as I said to TK in the comments over at IOZ' blog, if we tax the formerly-illicit drugs like we do alcohol and tobacco, I think that might bring in another $5 billion.

In 2002, the total US population was approximately 280 million people. At about the same time, probably 7 million people, age 12 years and older, needed treatment for drug use [table 16]. That's 2.5% of the total population.

It looks like maybe one third of the same age group has tried illegal drugs at least once in their lives. If drugs become legal, affordable, and widely available, and 100% of the population tries drugs, then we can expect maybe 7.5% of the population becomes addicted and will need treatment. That seems possible or even a bit high, as the same source where I got the 7,000,000 needing drug treatment also estimates that about 18,000,000 needed treatment for alcohol problems.

So, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$17 billion to treat 22 million people. That's a paltry $545-$772 to spend on each person needing treatment. Even if only 2.5% of the population needs treatment, it only raises it to maybe a couple thousand dollars per person per year.

I don't know how much it costs to effectively treat a drug addiction, but that doesn't sound like enough money.

This is depressing. I need some drugs.

I don't agree with everything Milton Friedman says here, but but I did appreciate the homily he launches into, about 16 minutes into the video:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like ... Vietnam!

[you thought i was going to say christmas, didn't you?]

Demonstrations! Conscientious objectors!

Thanks to roxtar for pointing it out.

Proof that the Big Guys are listening to me!

Just in time for the 2007 North American International Auto Show in -- did you have to ask? -- Detroit, Michigan.

Last year, in response to the Slate article subtitled GM's Suicide Pact with the United Auto Workers, I both raved and ranted about the Chevy Malibu. GM appears to have listened.

The 2008 Malibu will have "stability control" and "will compete with the Camry on fuel economy." OK, so maybe they didn't listen to me very much.

Dudes! That's good, but if you truly wanted to make the Malibu tree-hugger-friendly, you'd have equipped it with a biodiesel-ready engine and -- gosh! -- maybe even made it a Prius-like hybrid.

I didn't see a single damn word any-damn-where on improving those seats.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Health? Care? [thanking you once again, sydbristow]

Being one of the 46,000,000, I was going to unleash a rant provoked by this post, but I've changed my mind. Instead, I think I'll load y'all down with a little more light reading. After all, I'm going to be wading through all this, why should I deny everyone else the chance to?

I'm still leaning towards the "Medicare for All" approach, though there's many a detractor out there. Here's some stuff on [mostly] administrative costs:

Where do health spending dollars go?

Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs

National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare

Medicare's Hidden Administrative Costs

Additional Talking Points in Response to AHA's Study on Hospital Costs

Perspective: Administrative Costs of Private Health Insurance Plans

[ugh. an audit.]

The Incalculable Costs of Medicare

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part II

Bringing single-payer healthcare to America, the stealthier way

Urban Renewal by Katrina

Bob Herbert gets it partly right in The Not Wanted Signs [thanks, syd], but he ignores the multi-faceted reality and focuses instead on the low-hanging fruit: the feel-good heartstring-tugging downtrodden-little-people tear-jerker.

[Or maybe I'm just suffering from hurricane fatigue and I'm the one who can't see the urban jungle for the hurricane-felled trees.]

The Truth: Every city, large and small, piled high like Manhattan or barely a wide spot in the road, wants the poor to go somewhere else. And don't come back.

The rest of the truth, or some of it anyway: Nobody has enough money to rebuild New Orleans, and even if they did, it's going to take longer than a day. Longer than a year, even.

Maybe Bill Gates does, but he's not offering. FEMA could have had more money, not enough to rebuild, but maybe enough to help out a little more, but with the gutting of FEMA's coffers and management during the Creationism of the Department of Homeland Insecurity that's gone. And with all that money bleeding into and out of the War on Iraq the Terrible, no other government department has anything left to spend on unimportant stuff like people.

Dress Rehearsal: Florida, 2004, the summer that one state got zowied by four hurricanes. We get hit by hurricanes a lot, so we're better prepared than most, but still ...

Some Random Lessons, had y'all been paying attention

  • It took four months to get a new roof on my building, and eight months before the damaged units were habitable. This only happened because many, many non-English-speaking people, pesumably illegal aliens but no one was asking, came here and worked 14-hour days, 7 days a week. Those few hours they weren't working, they slept 5 or 10 or 15 in [often uninhabitable] houses or apartments or condos.

  • I live in what is probably a lower-middle-class neighborhood. The houses are elderly, but without the historical value that comes with great age. Many were not-exactly-cheaply built, but they were the affordable housing of their day. Now they're filled with retirees on fixed incomes, who have lived in them all their adult lives. And far too many of them still have blue roofs and plywood windows.

  • A lot of the houses that got destroyed in my city were ramshackle old houses in very poor neighborhoods, lived in by people who were just barely getting by, who had absolutely no money for upkeep. Most of these have been razed now, and the new "starter" homes being built cost 3-4 times the median household income for this area. None of the former inhabitants of these neighborhoods can afford to come back to them.

  • Some of the older, stable, middle-class neighborhoods that were wiped out are on the water [that figures]. These newly-cleared waterfront lots got snapped up by speculators and developers who are putting up big expensive condos and trophy houses.

  • Some of my better-off friends had their houses back in livable condition in about a year, but only because they paid for contractors and entire crews to come down here from places like Michigan fer-petes-sakes, paid their wages and housing.

  • The building materials just aren't there. We can't grow the trees fast enough to make all those 2x4s. We can't mine the gypsum fast enough to make all that drywall. Just about six months or so after the hurricane whizzed through here, I broke the toilet paper holder in my bathroom. I couldn't even replace that. There weren't any to be had.

  • It's been nearly two and a half years, but there are people here who have enough money to continue paying their mortgage and to rent or buy their trailers from FEMA, but they're still living in those trailers. These aren't mobile homes either, they're camper trailers. Some of these folks are still fighting with their insurance companies [who isn't?]. Some of them can't afford to rebuild to the new codes [and the law requires them to]. Some, I have no idea.

  • A math problem for you: multiply all this by the fact that New Orleans is [was?] 6 or 7 times more populous than where I live.

  • Have you forgotten Mississippi?

  • And Alabama?