moldybluecheesecurds 2

Monday, March 31, 2008

If you liked [Polish joke], you may also like...

Slashdot has the story today on UC Berkeley's joke recommender, called Jester. I was curious (and it's lunch time), so I gave it a shot. You get 8 filter jokes to rate before the system starts feeding you jokes tailored to your tastes. I'd say it works pretty well. Here's two of my favorites:
A group of managers were given the assignment to measure the height of a flagpole. So they go out to the flagpole with ladders and tape measures, and they're falling off the ladders, dropping the tape measures--the whole thing is just a mess. An engineer comes along and sees what they're trying to do, walks over, pulls the flagpole out of the ground, lays it flat, measures it from end to end, gives the measurement to one of the managers and walks away.

After the engineer has gone, one manager turns to another and laughs. "Isn't that just like an engineer? We're looking for the height and he gives us the length."

Don't read this if you prefer to keep your Disney characters pure.
Mickey Mouse is having a nasty divorce with Minnie Mouse. Mickey spoke to the judge about the separation. "I'm sorry Mickey, but I can't legally separate you two on the grounds that Minnie is mentally insane..." Mickey replied, "I didn't say she was mentally insane, I said that she's fucking Goofy!"

No more "juiced" milk

You have to hand it to Wal-Mart, they know how to respond to customer demand. With customers already indicating a preference for milk without rBGH (bovine growth hormones) - 80%, in this survey - Wal-Mart decided that they won't carry it any more. You'll only be able to buy milk from naturally lactating cows.

The FDA approved rBGH in 1993 and there have been some studies showing adverse effects in cows, though none in humans. On the grounds of its potential harm to cattle, rBGH is banned in Canada and Europe.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lowering the drinking age?

I just heard of a few state proposals to lower the legal age of drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants to 18 from 21. The proposals would leave the age for purchasing alcohol from a liqour store at 21. I can't decide if I think the former is:
  • A Good Idea, to bring college-age consumption into the open. "Better to have them do it in public than hiding in a dorm."
  • A Bad Idea, given that alcohol impairs healthy brain development all the way into your 20s (and thus we should want kids to drink less).
Thoughts? Reactions?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When only the wrong get callbacks

Krugman has an insightful piece about the state of America's ability to problem solve. For many of the major crises facing the country - the Iraq War, the financial crisis - those we ask for solutions are the very same ones who got us into the mess.
  • Alan Greenspan played down the subprime crisis and is being asked for advice on solving it.
  • President Bush and Cheney lied repeatedly about the Iraq War and got re-elected in 2004 (and still have their jobs).
  • And many major pundits keep getting airtime despite being wrong, wrong, wrong.
Heck, there's even a book on the subject.

To Bear Stearns stockholders: STFU

Dear Bear Stearns Whiners,

A week ago, your "investment bank" was in danger of going belly up because of really stupid gambles such as subprime mortgages and "highly leveraged" (read: debt-financed) speculation.

My government stepped in and gave $30 billion in loan guarantees to JP Morgan Chase to buy you out at $2 a share, saving you from bankruptcy.

This week, you whined that the price was too low. And so the Fed relented and said that JP Morgan could pay up to $10 a share.

Excuse me? But for the Federal Reserve and $30 billion in taxpayer collateral, you were about to be worthless. If you'd like to go without a bailout, be my guest.

So do us all a favor and shut the fuck up.


P.S. And for the Fed: what the fuck? Let them sink if they don't want $2 a share.

Two words from political theater: denounce, renounce

Bill Clinton says something dumb. The media wants to know if Hillary denounces him. Does she denounce him vigorously enough? How much vigor was there?

Obama's pastor says something dumb. The media wants to know if he renounces the words. The man himself. The church. Pastors. God.

The denounce/renounce game is stupid:
This denouncing and renouncing game is simply not serious. It is a media-staged theater, produced not in response to genuine concerns...but in response to the needs of a news cycle. First you do the outrage (did you see what X said?), then you put the question to the candidate (do you hereby denounce and renounce?), then you have a debate on the answer (Did he go far enough? Has she shut her husband up?), and then you do endless polls that quickly become the basis of a new round.
Get over it. I want to know how we're going to get out of Iraq, shore up our efforts in Afghanistan, rebuilding the American image abroad, provide universal health care, balance the budget, protect our borders, respect our immigrants, make college affordable, reduce carbon emissions, and save the whales.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bush administration cut red tape, and safety lines

Many people act as thought the subprime mortgage crisis and Bear Stearns collapse were inevitable motions of the "invisible hand." But the truth is that regulators deliberately turned their backs on the problem, touting the reduction of onerous regulation.

Nice work, fellas. Some Scotch tape is in the mail for all those regs you slashed.

Easter: the season of combat bunnies

KMF and I were at Easter Mass on Sunday and, as always, I like the people-watching aspect of church. Seated a short distance away was a family, with two kids between 3 and 7 (I'm lousy at kid ages). Probably for Easter, each had a small stuffed bunny clutched in their hands.

For the first half of the service, each held their own bunny. Somewhere in the middle, the younger girl somehow acquired her brother's bunny and had one in each hand. During a particularly lively musical interlude, both bunnies could be seen dancing furiously, often rising in unison above her head and then falling to the ground together.

This musical harmony didn't last. Shortly after the end of the song, the bunny battle began. At first they simply met in front of the girl, with a short tussle followed by one pinning the other to her leg. Then the victorious rabbit would leap high in the air and come crashing down - BODY SLAM! Lagomorph combat continued for several minutes until mom intervened.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sharia: a route to rule of law?

If you're like most Americans, this sums up your understanding of sharia.
To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed.
The author of a piece in this week's NY Times Magazine sets out to correct this fallacy and to discuss how sharia may actually be an aid to Islamic countries hoping to establish rule of law. He starts with the definition, noting that sharia is not actually a set of rules, but principles.
Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose. At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law...The word “Shariah” connotes a connection to the divine, a set of unchanging beliefs and principles that order life in accordance with God’s will.
He goes on to explain how sharia was used in a balance of powers in traditional muslim societies, with leaders subject to the law that was interpreted by scholars (much like today's executives are checked by judges). In other words, it was used as a check on abuse of power, a problem plaguing many muslim countries from Iran to Saudi Arabia.

Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Supreme Court considers 2nd Amendment in DC gun law case

The conventional wisdom is that federal courts have generally held that the 2nd Amendment is a collective right to bear arms via state militias (at least in all the radio commentaries I've heard today). That issue is being tested in a case heard before the court today, DC v. Heller. Get complete coverage, including audio and analysis from Scotusblog.

And if you're wondering why this debate is so heated in the United States, look no farther than my friend Gamerz Thinking, who posted a cool video that is - literally - a techno remix of gun sounds from the video game Call of Duty 4. Yes, America loves its guns enough to make a video, of a techno remix, of the gun sounds, from a military game, that simulates the use of firearms.

Star Wars: as described by a 3-year old


The current financial crisis: a crowded theater, a fire...

Paul Krugman has the most cogent and understandable assessment of the country's financial crisis on his blog. Today he upped the ante on clear explanations with this excellent metaphor about two kinds of bank runs:

In some cases, the bank run is a pure self-fulfilling prophecy: the bank is “fundamentally sound,” but a panic by depositors forces a too-hasty liquidation of its assets, and it goes bust. It’s as if someone calls “fire!” in a crowded theater, provoking a stampede that kills many people, even though there wasn’t actually a fire.

In other cases, the bank is fundamentally unsound — but the bank run magnifies its losses. It’s as if someone calls “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and there really is a fire — but the stampede kills people who would have survived an orderly evacuation.

We’re in the second case. The Fed has spent the last 7 months trying to assure people that there isn’t any fire. But there is.

Worse yet, thanks to decades of deregulation, the theater doesn’t have a sprinkler system - and the town the theater is in doesn’t have a fire department.

And if you're a Republican, we can't do anything because raising taxes to build a fire department would hurt business....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Domestic spying began BEFORE 9/11

Yeah, I got a shock when I read that. I figured the Bush Administration, for all its dictatorial hubris, had at least waited until after 9/11 to start assaulting civil liberties.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week. [link]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are we really still debating experience?

Apparently the Clinton campaign is asserting that John McCain is more experienced than Obama, with the conclusion that Democrats would be better off voting for the Republican Senator than Mr Obama(?). I already covered the inanity of the experience argument, but here's another taste.

From the Votemaster, a table of presidents ranked by greatness (a consensus among many different surveys) with their respective experience. An analysis freebie: the top ten presidents averaged 10 years experience; the bottom ten had 14 years. So much for learning from your mistakes. And then there's this anecdote:
Suppose you had to choose between two Presidential candidates, one of whom had spent 20 years in Congress plus had considerable other relevant experience and the other of whom had about half a dozen years in the Illinois state legislature and 2 years in Congress. Which one do you think would make a better President? If you chose #1, congratulations, you picked James Buchanan over Abraham Lincoln. Your pick disagrees with that of most historians, who see Lincoln as the greatest President ever and Buchanan as the second worst ever...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oil consumption mirrors economic growth

In a post on Peak Lite, Robert Rapier has an interesting chart showing how economic growth tends to be mirrored by an increase in per capita oil consumption. Makes you wonder what will happen in the coming years with $100 per barrel oil.