moldybluecheesecurds 2

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding airport security that works

Schneier on Security:
"Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers."

This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.

EDITED TO ADD (12/26): Only one carry on? No electronics for the first hour of flight? I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks."


Read the original article for more on how the TSA response to this failed terrorist attack would do little to prevent THE SAME EXACT THING.

More inconvenience for honest passengers with no additional security. Stupid.

The Odds of Airborne Terror

FiveThirtyEight:
"Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why I read Paul Krugman's blog

He's a Nobel prize winning economist, excellent writer, and defender of all things progressive.  But really, you should read his NY Times blog because he embeds Monty Python video clips into his posts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New research: Sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup alter human metabolism, digestion

Grist: "Scientists have proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks [high fructose corn syrup] can damage human metabolism and is fueling the obesity crisis."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can we believe the published results of studies sponsored by drug companies?

MinnPost: In a meta-study of drug company studies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this was what an independent researcher found:
"[The analysis] found all the studies that had ever been published where one NSAID was compared to another. In every single trial, the sponsoring company’s drug was either equivalent to, or better than, the drug it was compared to: All the drugs were better than all the other drugs. Such a result is plainly impossible." [emphasis mine]
O, ye of little faith. Drug companies clearly hail from Lake Wobegon, where all the drugs are above average.

Can we believe the published results of studies sponsored by drug companies?

MinnPost: In a meta-study of drug company studies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this was what an independent researcher found:
"[The analysis] found all the studies that had ever been published where one NSAID was compared to another. In every single trial, the sponsoring company’s drug was either equivalent to, or better than, the drug it was compared to: All the drugs were better than all the other drugs. Such a result is plainly impossible." [emphasis mine]
O, ye of little faith. Drug companies clearly hail from Lake Wobegon, where all the drugs are above average.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Get your facts straight on climate

Are you a climate skeptic? The BBC provides a point-by-point rebuttal of most of your sacred cows:
BBC News - The arguments made by climate change sceptics

Friday, December 04, 2009

Everyone in the U.S. should have to take a con law class

Or at least read this post on Constitutional Chicanery

Afghan War 2: Escalate Education, not Troops

Op-Ed Columnist - Johnson, Gorbachev, Obama - NYTimes.com:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned in his report on the situation in Afghanistan that “new resources are not the crux” of the problem. Rather, he said, the key is a new approach that emphasizes winning hearts and minds: “Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent troops; our objective must be the population.”

So why wasn’t the Afghan population more directly consulted?

Estate tax debate reveals loads about values

The estate tax says that when a rich dude dies, a portion of his estate returns to the commons and the rest goes to his descendants.

Due to a provision signed by President GW Bush (a beneficiary of aristocracy), the estate tax rate had been decreasing (from 55% to 45%) and the threshold increasing since 2001 (from $1 million to $3.5 million). It was set to expire next year, and then come back at 2001 levels in 2011. Republicans want to repeal it completely.

Read about the current legislative battle here: latimes.com, but the entire estate tax issue can be boiled down to this quote from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas):
"We need to reward people who work the hardest and work the smartest in the hope of handing their nest eggs down to their children." [emphasis mine]
I'm liberal and therefore I subscribe to the notion that Americans should start on a level playing field and have an equal opportunity to exploit their innate talent. You can't have equal opportunity when folks who get rich from talent and hardwork get to pass all their money to their descendants (because then you can be rich and lazy).

If rich parents want to pass their kids a legacy, how about the values of working hard and getting smart, rather than a trust fund and a Beemer.



Note: rich folks still get to pass on half of their estate. We're not talking about making paupers of princes, but keeping princes out of American democracy.

Escalating the Afghan War is a mistake

I thought that a new president, made popular in his own party by his opposition to a dumb foreign war, would be more likely to tread carefully with foreign entanglements. There were hints that he would not be so careful, in his proposal to increase the size of the standing Army and Marines (to do what, get involved in more military morasses?).

But the play in Afghanistan is a sad repetition of history, and the last superpower to make this move left on the eve of their fall. This Star Tribune opinion piece highlights it:
StarTribune.com: "It is fitting that President Obama announced his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan on the 30th anniversary of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's decision to do the same. The two events are joined at the hip."
Let's hope these conjoined decisions can be separated before the end.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This is one tax we should all like

NYTimes.com:
It's called the financial transactions tax, and it would add a tiny fee to each stock trade or currency exchange processed. For the typical American, it'd be negligible - pennies.

But for firms that make their money on the daily ups and downs of foreign currency exchange or stock prices (and accomplish nothing of social value in doing so), it would end the waste. After financial firms started the worst economic downturn since the Depression with speculation with mortgage derivatives, this seems like a gimme.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Don't make a baby during corn growing season

Twin Cities Daily Planet: "Not to get too personal, but if you're thinking of making a baby anytime soon, you might not want to wait until spring. That's the conclusion one could draw from a recent analysis that correlates atrazine contamination spikes with the time of year a baby is conceived and increased rates of birth defects."
his is a much better argument for opposing corn ethanol than the utterly ridiculous assertions about food prices. We don't eat feed corn.

The Industrial Lawn

This is a term I've learned from a distance learning course called the Sustainable Lawn.  It refers to the industrialization of the modern lawn, from sod production, to chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to powered lawn care equipment. 

Americans spend $40 billion a year on 41 million acres of lawn.  This video, Gimme Green, explores some of the externalities of this fascination.

Tacoma Suspect Is Killed by Police Officer in Seattle

NYTimes.com: "SEATTLE — A man suspected of fatally shooting four uniformed police officers was shot and killed early Tuesday by a Seattle police officer who chanced upon him during a routine patrol."
No surprise here. There was no way that he was going to live to get a trial after shooting four police officers in cold blood.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Industrial Thanksgiving

A fascinating piece on Wired.com about the impact of industrial food processing on your Thanksgiving food:

"A 1990 patent secured by food processor Swift-Eckrich (now Armour Swift-Eckrich) describes a method for freezing turkeys faster than traditional air-chilling. Salt, water and propolyene glycol — a major and generally nontoxic component of airplane de-icers — are cooled down to less than minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the propylene glycol and salt lower the freezing point of the water, the liquid remains unfrozen. The turkeys are either sprayed with the solution or immersed in it, in a tank like the one below."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two thoughts on health care

First, where do people get the notion that America has the best health care system?  I suspect that they really mean it's the best one they know.  And they should know better:
The United States ranks 31st in life expectancy (tied with Kuwait and Chile), according to the latest World Health Organization figures. We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the United States is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland.
As my friend RL notes, we have to be careful of cherry-picking our rankings.  But whether or not we're the best in a select group of industrial nations, we are definitely not number 1.

Then there's the hyperbole of health care opponents.  A selection:
Critics storm that health care reform is “a cruel hoax and a delusion.” Ads in 100 newspapers thunder that reform would mean “the beginning of socialized medicine.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page predicts that the legislation will lead to “deteriorating service.” Business groups warn that Washington bureaucrats will invade “the privacy of the examination room,” that we are on the road to rationed care and that patients will lose the “freedom to choose their own doctor.”
Oops, wrong debate.  As the Times' Kristof points out, these are statements from the Medicare debate in the 1960s.  They were wrong about Medicare and they're wrong about the current health care bill. 

Of course, they do illustrate a third point: hyperbole is not a new tactic in politics.  Something we should all keep in mind.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I die, burn me and use the heat

Clean Break: "The amount of natural gas and electricity used to cremate one body is the equivalent of driving a car from coast to coast...Given this post-humus environmental footprint — and given our concern about climate change — innovation in this area is on the rise. In Denmark and Sweden, some municipalities are taking the waste heat from their local crematoriums and using it as part of their district heating systems."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where Should I Eat? A Fast Food flowchart

Fast Food Edition (Flowchart): "With this simple to follow flowchart you will never have to decide which to listen to, your brain or your stomach. Now you can save those precious braincells for better decisions…like plaid or argyle…"
Click through to see a hilarious step-by-step process to select your next meal in a hurry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Amazon.com: Laptop Steering Wheel Desk: Electronics

Amazon.com: "Wow is this thing great! I use it as a 'mini-bar' when the friends and I go out to the bars. I can quickly fix multiple shots of tequila for myself and the friends as we drive from one bar to the next."
You should definitely check this out, especially the product images and reviews...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Deficit spending moralism

NYTimes.com: "I’d be a little more forgiving of the nonsense if all the people screaming about the deficit were sincere. And some are. But many, if not most, are perfectly happy to incur huge unfunded liabilities for the wars they want to fight, and/or to eliminate inheritance taxes for the heirs of multimillionaires. It’s only deficits incurred to help working Americans that get them all moralistic."
Ditto.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Baby Einstein Videos make Baby DumbStein

There's a reason people call it an idiot box.
MinnPost: "a 2007 study involving children (some in Minnesota) aged 8 to 16 months found that for every hour a child spent watching a Baby Einstein or other type of baby-oriented DVD or video, the child understood six to eight fewer words than same-aged babies who didn’t watch them." [emphasis mine]
Einstein didn't watch TV when he was a kid.

Social Isolation is not a technology problem

The conventional wisdom is that people who spend too much time on the web or their phone increase their social isolation. Turns out it isn't that simple. In fact, technology-connected folks are actually more socially connected (as measured by metrics such as visiting parks and cafes, and volunteering for local organizations).

But the tradeoff seems to be social connectedness outside your geographic area:
NYTimes.com: "People who use social networks like Facebook or Linkedin are 30 percent less likely to know their neighbors and 26 percent less likely to provide them support."
What about neighbors who you also know on Facebook?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CDC says sick people should stay home, but in the U.S. that means giving up a paycheck

Wonk Room: "Actually, almost 50 percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. have no paid sick days. A survey last year by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that “68 percent of those not eligible for paid sick days said they had gone to work with a contagious illness like the flu.”" [emphasis mine]
And once again, when it comes to health care, "The U.S. is the only developed country without a policy mandating some form of paid sick leave."

This is just embarrassing.

The British Go Bank-Busting — Is There A Lesson For The U.S.?

Wonk Room: "Indeed, as Felix Salmon put it, for these companies to be successful, they need to be boring"
I think that collateralized debt obligations serve no useful social purpose. Holding money and lending money do. Let's make banking boring again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Liberalism watered down

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. October 31, 1936. Speaking at Madison Square Garden to people who got in free. “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.”
Liberalism circa 2009
Barack Obama. October 20, 2009. Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser that cost $30,400 to get in. “If there are members of the financial industry in the audience today, I would ask that you join us in passing what are necessary reforms. Don’t fight them.”


Thanks to DM for the quotes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vaccination should be mandatory

There are a lot of people opting out of children's vaccination these days, mostly because the greater fear is the unknown rather than the devastating illnesses (now largely eradicated) that vaccines protect against.

It's sad, because it shows that widespread information (via the internet) does not always mean truth floats to the surface. As described in a Wired article about this anti-vaccine movement...

An Epidemic of Fear: "The bottom line: Pseudo-science preys on well-intentioned people who, motivated by love for their kids, become vulnerable to one of the world’s oldest professions. Enter the snake-oil salesman."
How do you address the myths this salesman creates? After all, vaccines (with or without the thimerosal preservative) are not linked with autism.
To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this is true. None. Twelve epidemiological studies have found no data that links the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine to autism; six studies have found no trace of an association between thimerosal (a preservative containing ethylmercury that has largely been removed from vaccines since 20011) and autism, and three other studies have found no indication that thimerosal causes even subtle neurological problems.
The science is clear, but the public debate is far from it, no thanks to a media establishment more interested in controversy than truth.

And the big losers are the children, who are now being needlessly exposed to completely preventable diseases.  That's why vaccination should be required.  Because it's irresponsible of government to allow people to risk their children's lives based on pseudoscience. 

We mandate seatbelt use and car seats.  This is no different.

Sen. Franken nails the problem of medical bankruptcy

This is brilliant commentary from Minnesota's junior senator:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What will your refrigerator reveal about you?

From Smart Grid to Big Brother? : TreeHugger: "Smarts grids and smart appliances are gaining a lot of mindshare these days. The main stated benefits are: A more efficient use of energy, and a higher capacity to handle intermittent renewable power sources (such as wind and solar). But there is another important issue that gets shoved under the rug: Privacy."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

'Daily Show' Destroys CNN Fact-Checking

Daily Show: As usual, a humorous but yet deeply insightful examination of network news and its inability to find fact.

Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Monday, October 12, 2009

Let Congress Go Without Insurance

Kristof: "In January 1917, Progressive Magazine wrote: “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance.' More than 90 years later, we still have that distinction."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A final chat with the Metrodome

ESPN's Jim Caple calls it the most underrated building in the game, and he gets it right:

"Why, just look at the past three days here. A sold-out baseball game Sunday. A sold-out 'Monday Night Football' game. A sold-out baseball game this afternoon. Three sellouts and two sports in three days? Beat that, Wrigley Field. The only thing I'm missing is a tractor pull."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Twins win game, AL Central

This says it all:


Using Firefox to maximize productivity

I'm on the web constantly for work, so I'm always on the lookout for add-ons and tools to smooth my work day. Here's a few of my favorites:

Dad’s Life or Yours?

Their dad dying of kidney failure, his two sons can't donate to save him because they'll lose their insurance. And that means...
NYTimes.com: "After all, new research suggests that lack of insurance increases a working-age person’s risk of dying in any given year by 40 percent"

Monday, October 05, 2009

TruStone Financial gets it right

Two weeks ago I blogged my frustration with my credit union's ATM locator, since it only had a text list of machines that accepted deposits.  I had already solved their problem (using a nice free service called MapAList) and had tried to share it with customer service reps by phone and email, to no avail.

Well, within 24 hours of posting my problem and solution, a TruStone VP had responded to my post:
I have seen your blog post about how we display the...ATM locations that accept deposits, and I couldn't agree with you more. Your map makes it easy to see everything at a glance.

We created the list format in an attempt to save people time so that they did not have to access the maps available on two different ATM network sites (NYCE and Co-op). But you're right, we should have created a map too.

We appreciate the suggestion and we’ll update our website to include a map. We’re sure other members will appreciate it, too.
And now?  There's a map of ATMs accepting deposits in my town. 

Nice.

Fox News Polling: The question was okay (but only alone)

Fox has been asking about Obama's health care plan, with a very unbiased question. But they've led up to it with Republican talking points, and this biases responses. A nice lesson in objective opinion polling for the "fair and balanced" news network.
FiveThirtyEight: "when you ask biased questions first, they are infectious, potentially poisoning everything that comes below. I don't particularly care if Fox News wants to ask leading or even outrightly biased questions -- but they have to ask them after any questions they expect the policymaking community to take seriously."

Are we subsidizing big banks over smaller, better competitors?

Big banks lent out money at higher interest rates during the credit crisis, even as they sucked up federal subsidies. The analysis by Dean Baker might just be a coincidence of the credit crunch, but it could also be a $34 billion subsidy to big banks at the expense of small ones.
NYTimes.com:"AMID all the talk about systemic risk regulators, consumer protection and other fixes to our fractured financial system, there is a troubling silence on what may be the single most important reform: how to rid ourselves of banks that are so big and interconnected that their very existence threatens the world"

Chamber of Commerce going out of business

National Journal Online: The Chamber has spent a lot of money denying that climate change has human origins and that we should do anything about it. Well, not so many businesses agree:
"Apple Computer is the latest company to quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the group's stance on climate change legislation, highlighting the ongoing internal dissension within the business lobbying group on its advocacy approach to legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gases."

This is (literally) bull shit

NYTimes.com:

There are regular outbreaks of food-borne illness, and one of the prime causes is E. coli in ground beef. And why is there bacteria from cow feces in our hamburgers?
"The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings [for E. coli] a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”"
Sales is our first priority. Safety's a close second.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some things you think you know about Iran (but for which evidence is shaky)

Informed Comment: here's one excerpt:

Belief: The West recently discovered a secret Iranian nuclear weapons plant in a mountain near Qom.

Actuality: Iran announced Monday a week ago to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had begun work on a second, civilian nuclear enrichment facility near Qom. There are no nuclear materials at the site and it has not gone hot, so technically Iran is not in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, though it did break its word to the IAEA that it would immediately inform the UN of any work on a new facility. Iran has pledged to allow the site to be inspected regularly by the IAEA, and if it honors the pledge, as it largely has at the Natanz plant, then Iran cannot produce nuclear weapons at the site, since that would be detected by the inspectors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted on Sunday that Iran could not produce nuclear weapons at Natanz precisely because it is being inspected. Yet American hawks have repeatedly demanded a strike on Natanz.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How not to talk to your kids

The worst thing for your child's self-esteem might just be all that generalized praise.  This amazing essay looks at the psychology of praise and the importance of letting kids know that it's the effort that matters, not looking smart.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is it time for cellphones on planes?

NYTimes.com: Foreign airlines have moved ahead and offer connectivity for mobile phone users, should the U.S. too?
"Despite dire warnings that cellphone use on planes would unleash social turbulence and possibly even violence in the cabin, there have been remarkably few complaints so far, industry executives and passengers say."

Friday, September 25, 2009

The menace of the public option

SF Chronicle: "Of all the current assaults on our noble republic, perhaps none is more dangerous than the public option - specifically, the public library option."

As good an argument as you will read for why there's nothing for the private sector to fear from a public health care option.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TruStone Financial Deposit ATMs in Minneapolis

If you don't bank here, you don't care, but I can't stand that my credit union only has a text list and not a map of it's ATMs that accept deposits.  Here, TruStone, I did it for you:

JFF uncovers soup scandal

This soup is about 40% of my diet right now, so I went out and bought what I thought were two varieties of noodle soup today. Think again.

Here's the front of the box. Notice that the one on the left has 40% more noodles!


Seems great, right? Let's look a little closer:



Hmm, that seems odd. Why would you get fewer servings from the "more noodle" variety?




AHA! You get 40% more noodles because you make the soup with 25% less water.

Okay, it's not just that. Package 1 (on the left) actually weighs 176g to the 141g of the original noodle soup (Package 2).

So, instead of a pure marketing scam, we also get a fun math question (in multiple parts, as are all good math questions). You may work with others, but please do your own work or you won't learn anything.

Souper Math Question #1
Part a) How much of the package weight is the noodles (for Package 1 and Package 2)?
Part b) If an individual noodle weighs 0.5g, how many noodles are there in each package? Per cup of soup if prepared according to the directions?
Part c) What is the actual % increase in noodle density from Package 2 to Package 1, if both packages were prepared with 4 cups of water?

What better way to out yourself

Ahmadinejad defended the recent Iranian "election" at the U.N. yesterday, calling it "glorious and democratic." If he'd ever experienced a democratic election, he'd know they are not glorious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Looking to Healthy Banks to Lend to the F.D.I.C. - NYTimes.com

NYTimes.com:

This is what we call irony. The FDIC, protector of your bank deposits and banks alike, has been drained by all the bank failures and now wants to borrow from banks to keep going rather than assessing the banks. Reason #1 this is a bad idea:
"Bankers worry that a special assessment of $5 billion to $10 billion over the next six months would crimp their profits..."
Cry me a river. This fund exists to protect depositors, not banks with poor decision making. Plus, what happens if the banks lend to FDIC? They get interest!

The only possible reason that borrowing from healthy banks seems like a good idea is that it's fairer to the good banks, who are otherwise assessed along with the failing banks.

Thoughts?

Friedman: Real Men Tax Gas

NYTimes.com:

When almost every other developed nation has taken greater strides to pursue renewable energy and reduce dependence on foreign oil, Friedman's final question has an uncomfortable answer:
"Who are the real cheese-eating surrender monkeys in this picture?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

'Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin' made some people really mad. Why is that?

MinnPost: "As Gary Taubes, author of 'Good Calories, Bad Calories,' put it in New York magazine, back in 1932 Mayo Clinic counseled the obese to rest more, given that the energy they expended through added activity wasn’t likely to compensate for the extra energy they would go on to consume afterwards."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pee here for better tomatoes

MinnPost:
"The results suggest that urine with [or] without wood ash can be used as a substitute for mineral fertilizer to increase the yields of tomato without posing any microbial or chemical risks,"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Behaviors are contagious

NYTimes.com: "as Christakis and Fowler put it in “Connected,” their coming book on their findings: “You may not know him personally, but your friend’s husband’s co-worker can make you fat. And your sister’s friend’s boyfriend can make you thin.”"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Toxic Waters - A Series on (not so) Clean Water

New York Times: "Almost four decades after Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the rate of water pollution violations is rising steadily. In the past five years, companies and workplaces have violated pollution laws more than 500,000 times. But the vast majority of polluters have escaped punishment."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pawlenty backtracks further on his states rights argument

Of course he does, because it was a calculated political shout-out to the South, having little to do with law or reason.

MinnPost: "STEPHANOPOULOS: So just to be clear, are you suggesting that any parts of the plan as the president has laid it out are unconstitutional?

PAWLENTY: Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a legal issue."

This is not health care to be proud of

The Body Count at Home: "After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Actually, it is in the bill

MinnPost: Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty is helping spread the old lie about health reform and illegal immigrants. Not in the bill, Tim? Let's check the text:
"H.R. 3200, Section 246 is TITLED: NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS. And it states:

'Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.'"
QED. And STFU.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pigeon Faster Than S. African Net

Slashdot: "'The results are in: it's faster to send your data via an airborne carrier than it is through the pipes."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why?

FiveThirtyEight: "The regression line finds that, for every point's worth of increase in the unemployment rate, approval of labor unions goes down by 2.6 points."

Financial regulators are turds

What happens now:
Coffee, donut, and tank of gas: $40
Overdraft fees: $105
Getting shafted by your financial institution: priceless

Oh, but we're getting bold now that banks are making $27 billion a year on the Card Game. With growing bank abuse of overdraft fees:
"regulators plan to introduce new protections before year’s end. The proposals do not seek to ban overdraft fees altogether. Rather, regulators and lawmakers say they hope to curb abuses and make the fees more fair."
Fair? Banks are reordering transaction postings to maximize overdraft fees. No shit!

But let's not be hasty and ban these wankers (after all, they do put up $37 million in campaign contributions in 2008 alone - thanks opensecrets.org).

So here's your compromise regulation: "a bank shall deny all transactions that cause a customer's account to be overdrawn without the express consent of the customer for each transaction, with the customer being informed of the cost of the fees at the time of consent."

Seem hard? We have cell phones. Call me. Give me a chance to tell you what I think of that overdraft fee at the time of charge. And stop fucking with my check register.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

People like government health care better

NYTimes.com: "Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high."
So, why don't we want an option for public insurance?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Health reform could save marriages

A woman's husband was diagnosed with progressive dementia, and as his mind deteriorated the medical bills were likely to mount significantly.
NYTimes.com: "The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: “Maybe you should divorce.”"
Wow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

If a Starbucks doesn't say "Starbucks," is it local?

Hometown Peninsula: "In one of the more brazen attempts by a corporation to disguise itself as a locally owned business, Starbucks is un-branding at least three of it Seattle outlets. The first of these conversions, reopening this week after extensive remodeling, will be called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. All of the signage and product labels will bear this new name. The Starbucks corporate logo will be no where to be seen."
Clearly, the intent is to appear like a local coffee shop while being part of a national chain, taking advantage of people's preference to support a local business. Wow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Want a Public Plan? Well, What Do You Think of Medicare? - washingtonpost.com

washingtonpost.com:

Plan designed by the government? Check. Government bureaucracy? Check. Subsidized? Check. (Medicare does not have to fund itself solely by charging premiums to its members; instead, it is largely funded by a payroll tax levied on all workers.) Able to drive private insurers out of business? Check. Medicare dominates the over-65 market.

If you are against the public option, you should be deeply, fundamentally, bitterly against Medicare.

Two on health care

From FiveThirtyEight, how to poll properly on the public option:
This is the Quinnipiac poll, which asks:
Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
This is a perfect question.
From Minnpost, health insurers reaping a bonanza:
The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums. "It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Open letter to friends and family

xkcd - Tech Support Cheat Sheet:

To everyone I've ever helped, please print this (courtesy of xkcd)...



...and bookmark this link.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ideological supremacy or the supremacy of idiocy

I used to think we had a system of two parties that struggled for ideological supremacy based on competing worldviews.  Now I feel like one party is simply striving for the supremacy of idiocy.  Here's what's actually in the health care reform bill in the House:
  • A health insurance exchange so that Americans can select from comparable health care plans from private providers
  • A public option, based on Medicare, so that private providers have to compete against a plan that does not have an incentive to reduce its "medical loss ratio"
  • Subsidies for people to buy insurance, for those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level
  • Regulation that ensures people can get coverage even if they have "preexisting conditions" like pregnancy.
And here's what the opposition (Republican leaders and pundits) have said in response:
  • "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" (note: government runs Medicare)
  • It will "pull the plug on Grandma" (referencing made-up death panels that are in fact end-of-life counseling provisions introduced by a Republican)
  • "Socialized medicine" (note: not only inaccurate, but deliberately glosses over that the *American* VA medical system is...socialized medicine and that Medicare is socialized insurance.  Oh, and where do you think Social Security comes from?)
  • "You'll lose your private insurance, even if you don't want to."  (note: a lie)
There are legitimate, ideological reasons for Republicans to oppose this plan.  I'm a Democrat and I can think of some, e.g. government shouldn't compete with private providers, government shouldn't subsidize health care because it's not a right. 

But maybe I expect too much from a party represented by hysterical talk radio men and the Alaskan coming of McCarthy...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The secret weapon

He cries in the car, every time.  But we are now armed with the silver bullet.  Twinkle Twinkle...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Things Republicans have taught me in discussing health care

  1. Consistency is unimportant, but stridency is.
  2. Knowing the definition of words you use does not matter.
  3. Lying about who provides your health care does not matter, particularly when people like their government provider more than their private one. (yes, in America).
  4. It's great fun to tell outright lies about health care legislation...
  5. ...especially when the "death panels" were actually proposed by a Republican to help families make tough end-of-life decisions...
  6. ...And (referring back to #1) let's not forget that Republicans have no problem with government interfering with end-of-life decisions.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

FACs

We've had little BAF for 3 months and I've decided that friends after kids (FAC) tend to fall into five categories:
  1. Radio Silence - these folks seem happy to see you at parties (before you have to leave early to hit bedtime) but the last time they called, you didn't have a dependent.  
  2. Nice Haircut - you give my child about as much attention as you would a new hairstyle.  Excited to see the change and eager to move on.  We still like YOU, but that little creature interrupts my punch line.
  3. So you're Gay - this lifestyle change may not be exactly what you'd choose for yourself, and you try to be supportive.  However, the questions are somewhat strained.  "Does he sleep through the night?"; he might, but we like him when he's awake, too. 
  4. We're so Happy for You! - we hang out, you're patient when the baby fusses, and flexible with our topsy turvy schedule.  You're supportive and helpful.  But it sometimes seems like you feel our life is more circumscribed than we do.
  5. This Kid is Great (and how are you?) - you love the new guy and so do we, but it's not all about him.  Getting together is an effortless flow between interacting with BAF and adult conversation.  Hanging out with you helps us feel like parents and people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  
I'm glad for all the friends we have, regardless of category, but a special thanks to our friends tonight for being Category 5. 

Socialized Medicine for Dummies

FiveThirtyEight: This is one of the best descriptions of the health care conversation I've seen. Lots of graphics, for the previously fact-impaired.
"The really weird thing about Canada is, even though the government is paying the bill, they aren't actually providing the health care itself. Instead, they have private doctors for that, just like we do here."...We'd never do something like that in this country, except for old people who don't know any better.

...This is what they call "socialized medicine". If you're in Britain, your doctor is probably a socialist. Just kidding! But he does work for the government. The government pays his salary and buys all his tongue depressors and urine cups. Even old people wouldn't fall for that one over on this side of the "pond", so we only do it to our veterans.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wall Street: Stealing Pennies to Make Billions

[Note: video was fixed and post updated]

This...

Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else’s expense.

...sounds an awful lot like this:



And I think Jennifer Aniston's character had it right:



If you like these clips, please go buy this movie.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Frost Nixon

I saw the movie Frost Nixon this weekend, a dramatization of the landmark interviews between David Frost and former President Nixon in 1977, in which Nixon uttered the timeless line "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."



The movie is fantastically worthwhile, and is a worthy Hollywood adaptation of the real thing, which you can preview here: Frost Nixon

Small States Mean Corporate Senators

FiveThirtyEight:

A fascinating analysis showing that senators from small states are much more reliant on corporate money for fundraising.

Being a partisan, I'd also like to point out in terms of PAC money as a portion of fundraising, 8 of the top 10 senators are Republican, while 32 of the 35 senators with the least PAC money are Democrats. Democrats get money from and represent people, not big business.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Enough airplane time to get to Hawaii, but I'm on my couch

Time spent near airplanes: 9 hours
Times boarding pass scanned: 4
Miles traveled: 3

Refills of McDonald's drink: 4 (or 5)
Diapers changed: 2




 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why markets can't cure healthcare

From a Nobel economist: Paul Krugman

The only article worth reading re: Gates

The whole incident smacked of "24 hours news cycle," but if you must know something about the Henry Louis Gates stuff in the news, get it from this article: Hard Truths and the Teachable Moment

Just What is Socialized Medicine?

It's not Canada. Though not the main point of the article, it's a good point to deliver, from FiveThirtyEight:

Socialized medicine is Great Britain, where the government owns the hospitals and pays the doctors. Socialized insurance is "single payer," e.g. Canada, where the government is the insurer.

Obama's preferred plan is a public insurance option (one of many "payers"). We're not remotely socialized, though the evidence suggests we'd be better off if we were closer to it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Traders Profit With Computers Set at High Speed

I should create a whole category for "Wall Street strategies to make money by making nothing." From NYTimes.com:

The rise of high-frequency trading helps explain why activity on the nation’s stock exchanges has exploded. Average daily volume has soared by 164 percent since 2005, according to data from NYSE. Although precise figures are elusive, stock exchanges say that a handful of high-frequency traders now account for a more than half of all trades.

...The rise of high-frequency trading helps explain why activity on the nation’s stock exchanges has exploded. Average daily volume has soared by 164 percent since 2005, according to data from NYSE. Although precise figures are elusive, stock exchanges say that a handful of high-frequency traders now account for a more than half of all trades.


Figuring out how to trade faster than others is not adding to society's wealth, and it should be outlawed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Graphical humor

Of course, my favorite one involves the word "buttcrack." My son has no hope...
17 Relevant Charts and Graphs [Pics]

Hat tip to Aaron Gleeman

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Democratic President? Inconceivable!

This is why I love reading Paul Krugman

Finding drug users in the wastewater

Schneier on Security:
"Addiction specialists were not surprised by the researchers' central discovery, that every one of the 96 cities - representing 65 percent of Oregon's population - had a quantifiable level of methamphetamine in its wastewater."
The privacy implications are very interesting, as is the potential to track drug use.

Yes, They’ll Even BS You about the *Weather*

Firedoglake:
"I've long considered that if conservatives thought it would Strike a Blow Against Liberal Fascist Treason they would lie about, like, the weather -- 'it's raining out!' 'No it isn't!' 'Then, uh, why is water falling out of the sky?' 'Socialism!'"


Read on for an amusing account of one conservative blogger's blatant lies about his local weather in an attempt to deny climate change.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unreformed health care: minimize health, maximizing profit

Health Care, Less Funny:
: next person to claim the private sector does health care better gets a punch in the face.

There's a measure of profitability that investors look to, and it's called a medical loss ratio...it's a measure that tells...how much of a premium dollar is used by the insurance company to actually pay medical claims. And that has been shrinking...in the early '90s...95 cents out of every dollar was...used by the insurance companies to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just slightly above 80 percent.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Strategic options for climate change mitigation

One of my favorite graphics of climate change solutions:

A party line vote on health care IS a political consensus

NYTimes.com:
"WASHINGTON — A party-line Senate committee vote on legislation to remake the nation’s health care system underscored the absence of political consensus on what would be the biggest changes in social policy in more than 40 years."

Actually, a party-line vote is reflective of a political consensus - that 72% of Americans (and 50% of Republicans) support a health care plan with a publicly-run option to compete with the private sector.

When one party is completely out of touch with America, you can have a political consensus on a party line vote.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Watch what you watch

Lifehacker: "One test found that children aged 7 to 11 who watched a half-hour cartoon that included food commercials ate 45 percent more snack food while watching the show than children who watched the same cartoon with non-food commercials."
If this holds true for other things advertised, I must buy an unholy amount of home improvement material and carpet when I watch baseball.

Government already pays the plurality of medical bills

For those who hate "socialized medicine," there seems to be An unknown country:
It’s a country where there is, indeed, a substantial private health insurance industry, which pays 35 percent of medical bills. But the government pays a larger share — 46 percent. (Most of the rest is out-of-pocket spending.) The country is called the United States of America.

Monday, July 06, 2009

An army of $

MinnPost:
"When, why, and how did the United States of America become the land of mercenaries?"
This is a great essay that looks at the challenge of meeting our military goals with a volunteer army (conclusion: we don't, but we pay a lot of mercenaries to fill the gap).

Speaking of public > private

Paul Krugman once again illustrates how government kicks the private sector's ass on health care Administrative costs.

the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that administrative costs under the public Medicare plan are less than 2 percent of expenditures, compared with approximately 11 percent of spending by private plans under Medicare Advantage. This is a near perfect “apples to apples” comparison of administrative costs, because the public Medicare plan and Medicare Advantage plans are operating under similar rules and treating the same population.
And in case that simple-yet-true explanation is insufficient, Krugman provided more context for his comparison in a later blog post.

Might private, not public, be the dirty word?

An interesting look at the knee-jerk love of the private sector, even when the public sector cleans its clock, from David Morris:
"Today 'private' has become a positive, even boosterish word, while 'public' carries a shady undertone. 'Private sector' has become synonymous with efficiency and innovation, while 'public sector' connotes bloat and unresponsiveness, even corruption"

...Everywhere we look it is the private, not the public, that has proven bloated, inefficient and corrupt.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4th Air Quality alert

Judging by the air in my town, thisState Advisory Issued in Advance of July 4th Fireworks Displays would have been warranted here, too.

Seriously, folks, just go watch the city display and give it a rest.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Why its time for the EPA to look at endocrine disrupters

Or, as Kristof puts it, It’s Time to Learn From Frogs:

In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into “intersex fish” that display female characteristics. This was discovered only in 2003, but the latest survey found that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.

Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.


Click for more on endocrine disrupters.

Supreme Court finds discrimiation against white firefighters

This decision could have long-lasting impacts on the ability of public and private entities to use affirmative action or other techniques to keep their workforce diverse. Check out the excellent analysis from the SCOTUSblog

This is no time to balance budgets

That ’30s Show: Paul Krugman is noting that during the depression, hints of recovery led FDR to cave to budget hawks, leading to a plunge back into depression.

"just a few weeks ago, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, published an article on the “lessons of 1937” — the year that F.D.R. gave in to the deficit and inflation hawks, with disastrous consequences both for the economy and for his political agenda."


Krugman's analysis is that we not only need to stay the course, but increase the stimulus. The math makes sense. The first stimulus saved 3.5 million jobs, but we're in an 8.5 million job hole. There's a lot of ground left to cover.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?

A fascinating study reported on in the Well Blog, examining how short bursts of intense activity can have as much of a physical health improvement (by some measures) as long activity.

I thought it interesting what they said about running:

There’s a catch, though. Those six minutes, if they’re to be effective, must hurt. “We describe it as an ‘all-out’ effort,” Gibala says. You’ll be straying “well out of your comfort zone.” That level of discomfort makes some activities better-suited to intense training than others. “We haven’t studied runners,” Gibala says. The pounding involved in repeated sprinting could lead to injuries, depending on a runner’s experience and stride mechanics. But cycling and swimming work well. [emphasis mine]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farm Fetish

From Kung Fu Monkey:

He wants to know why we spend so much time interviewing farmers on newscasts to get a sense of what Real America thinks. A sample, from CNN:

ANDERSON: We stopped by the Lebanon [Kansas -- ed.] hotspot, Ladow's Market, where one local told us Hollywood just can't relate to a farming way of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've never been back in here to know what it's like to actually have to make a living doing this.

You know what, Unidentified Male? You're right. I don't know what it's like to have to make a living farming. NOBODY DOES.
His analysis only gets better...
For chrissake, only 17% of Americans live in rural settings anymore. Only 2 million of those people work on farms or ranches (USDA figures). Hell, only ten percent of the average farm family's income even comes from farming anymore (did you know that? I didn't. Funky).
Compare that 2 million this this final Monkey fact:
Four million people in the US play World of Warcraft.
Of course, I have no idea how many of them are in farming.

When statisticians go too far

FiveThirtyEight:
Only here could you find a table trying to correlate the various types of pantsless transgressions with the offender in an attempt to understand the public call for resignation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An open letter to audiobook readers

Dear voice actor,

First of all, I really admire your work.  Audiobooks are really fun to listen to and I enjoy the fact that I listen slower than I read, so I savor a good book more.

However, I have a beef.  Many books in the science fiction / fantasy genre come in series, with the same characters reappearing over several books.  I don't understand why the reader changes from book to book, only that it happens.  So, to those readers who are not the first to read a given series,  please answer me this:

Why in God's name do you not listen to the prior audiobooks before recording yours?  And if you do, is there some perverse and ego-driven rationale for changing the pronunciation of every proper noun in the whole book? 

It's bad enough that your voice sounds so different from the first guy and that I already had my ridiculous preconceptions about the pronounciation of characters, cities, and magical items skewered so thoroughly when listening to the first book.  Why must you pour salt in my open, nerdy wounds? 

And is there some law about audiobooks that says "thou shalt not ask the author," who, if you recall, actually penned the tale you are now reading?

Because he's particularly egregious, here's spit in the eye of the reader of David Eddings' Tamuli series, Kevin Pariseau, for changing the pronounciation no fewer than 20 names: Berit, Bevier, Ulath, Stragen, Ehlana, Dolmant, Emban, Chyrellos, Elenia, Myrtai, Danae, Khalad (is he Arabic now?), Platime, Deira, Alcione, Arcium, Azash, Annias, Thalesia, Cimmura.  I have no doubt you would have mangled the protagonist's name - Sparhawk - except that it doesn't lend itself to your perverted sense of language.

Fiscal Conservatism? Try stupid

Dear public radio,

When a Republican governor attempts to reject the federal stimulus dollars for his state, he is not "burnishing his fiscal conservative credentials," he is an idiot.  Basic macroeconomic theory (read: Keynes) tells us to increase government expenditures via direct spending or tax cuts to help mitigate an economic downturn.  Doing otherwise, and thus increasing the pain and suffering of your citizens by deepening the recession is not only dumb - how can politicians who claim to believe in markets have so little understanding of them? - it is immoral.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A public option is crucial for health care reform

The debate isn't really a debate, except in Congress, as nearly three-quarters of Americans support a government-provided option for health insurance, to help negotiate lower prices and keep private insurers honest.

So why is Congress, controlled by supposedly liberal Democrats, stalling on the key component to universal, affordable health care? From FiveThirtyEight:
"Can we actually see -- statistically -- the impact of lobbying by the insurance industry on the prospects for health care reform? I believe that the answer is yes."
Check out the link. It's a stunning indictment of the role of money in the health care legislation, with a strong statistical correlation between insurance PAC donations and lower support for the public health option.

Save the planet for 18 cents a day

Paul Krugman Blog: In his latest, Krugman notes that the Congressional Budget office estimates the cost to the economy of Waxman-Markey at 18 cents per person per day. That sounds like affordable environmental policy.

The kooks continue to use the economics as a shield for their real argument, which Krugman illuminates:

"we need to be clear about who are the realists and who are the fantasists here. The realists are actually the climate activists, who understand that if you give people in a market economy the right incentives they will make big changes in their energy use and environmental impact. The fantasists are the burn-baby-burn crowd who hate the idea of using government for good, and therefore insist that doing the right thing is economically impossible.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This forecast comes with education

With your average forecast, you get temperatures, precipitation, and maybe a few corny jokes. Paul Douglas still gives you corny jokes, but how often does your weather include cloud types, a NASA photo of an African thunderstorm, and a link to Latin cloud meanings from the weather notebook?

Check it out.

"Tear Down This Cyberwall!"

Mr. Zhou, the son of a Chinese army general, said that he and his colleagues began to develop such software after the 1999 Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong (which the authorities denounce as a cult). One result was a free software called Freegate, small enough to carry on a flash drive. It takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site.

Freegate amounts to a dissident’s cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer.


A fascinating piece on the use of technology to help spread democracy and opposition to totalitarian regimes. The sad note is that the Chinese-American hosts of this program may have to cut off Iranian use because their servers are overloaded.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stealing the Iranian Election

The Iranian "election" returns Ahmadinejad to the throne. Read on for six facts (if you needed any) that illuminate the election theft.

Hat tip to Eric Black at Minnpost.

Stimulus history lesson - Paul Krugman

This is what we call a graphical smackdown.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Canada would be a great thing for the U.S.

Nicholas Kristof:

The swift boating of Obama's health care plan has begun, with comparisons to the scary Canadian system (note: the ads always seem to leave out the buses of seniors going to Canada to get affordable prescriptions).

How bad is the Canadian system? The Kristof article has this anecdote from an American who had a stroke while working in Canada:
There were two patients to a room, and conditions weren’t as opulent as at some American hospitals. “The food was horrible,” she said...

[But] “They never spoke to me about money,” she said. “Not when I checked in, and not when I left...” [emphasis mine]
She now pays the equivalent of just $49 a month for health care

She had a relapse while visiting in the United States, and the story was different:

Ms. Tucker fainted while on a visit to San Francisco, and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital. But this was in the United States, so the person meeting her at the emergency room door wasn’t a doctor.

“The first person I saw was a lady with a computer,” she said, “asking me how I intended to pay the bill...”

Nothing was seriously wrong, and the hospital discharged her after five hours. The bill came to $8,789.29. [emphasis mine]
I think it's time we ask for a better health care system.

Menu psychology - no $, more $

Consumerist:

"Have you ever noticed that the menus in nice restaurants leave the currency signs off prices, or spell them out in words rather than Arabic numerals? The intended effect is pretty much what you would assume - to remove the association between prices on the menu and actual money. Now, there's actual academic research showing that half of this theory is true."
The research compared menus priced with "$20", "20" and "twenty," and surprisingly, it was in establishments where the menus priced with "20" that people would generally spend more.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A day of animal death

This was not a happy day for wildlife around me.

It started this morning, on a long trip to a meeting in a rural community. For much of the morning, we trailed a semi on a 2-lane road. As we came through a small town, we had slowed to 30mph. A dog was romping with two attendants along the right side of the road, when suddenly he dashed into the street toward the semi. He turned sharply as if intending to parallel the truck, and then darted into the gap under the trailer. He didn't make it, the rear trailer wheels catching him across the hindquarters and rolling him under. I'm not sure if I'm more upset having seen the truck roll on or his owners rushing into the street to scoop him up and then desperately looking around, subconsciously aware that nothing could be done.

Tonight the circle of life played out in my front yard, as our faithful feline defender, Nora, took up the mantle of her predecessor, Leo. "Slayer" had discovered a baby bunny, disabled it, and was in the process of finishing the job as we lef the house.

Goal for tomorrow: not witness the death of an animal

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Table of Condiments"

Lifehacker:

A clever play on words to tell you when various foods go bad.

Women more likely to be elected in male-dominated districts

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right:

"Although women are still having a relatively tough time getting elected in general -- they represent just 17 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress -- Congresswomen, as opposed to Congressmen, are more plentiful in areas where the male-to-female ratio is higher."
This is a fascinating analysis of how females tend to have greater electoral success in states and districts where the male:female ratio is higher. It holds true across all partisan leanings, though the more Democratic the district, the higher the success rate for female candidates.

No underlying demographic was able to explain the discrepancy, though the author wonders if more women run for office in male-dominated areas than otherwise...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The man who exposed illegal wiretapping

He lost his job and is threatened with jail for exposing the government's illegal action, while those who worked with the government (phone companies) were given immunity.

A Whistleblowing Patriot | shadoweyes:

"Thomas Tamm is a similar patriot who deserves to be honored - and treated with as much respect as any other person who puts the welfare of the many above himself at great risk to himself. Newsweek ran 'The Whistleblower Who Exposed Warrantless Wiretaps.'

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance."

Monday, June 01, 2009

The financial crisis, nutured in the early 1980s

Op-Ed Columnist - Reagan Did It - NYTimes.com:

Paul Krugman finds the financial policies early in the Reagan Administration - the loosening of mortgage restrictions in the 1982 Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act - started laying the groundwork for shifting America from a nation of savers to debtors.

"the prime villains behind the mess we’re in were Reagan and his circle of advisers — men who forgot the lessons of America’s last great financial crisis, and condemned the rest of us to repeat it."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nation building - due to "American exceptionalism"

MinnPost - The end of American exceptionalism:

"The centerpiece of U.S. national security policy going back basically to the late 1940s is what I call the sacred trinity. Three big principles.

Principle number one: That the United States configures its forces not to defend the United States, but for global power projection.

Second principle, the United States, uniquely, unlike any other country in the world, maintains those forces and establishes a global military presence -- not simply the huge network of bases but overflight agreements and access to ports and that kind of thing -- to facilitate the projection of power.

And then the third principle is this principle of global interventionism.

I see nothing in the Obama administration that is going to question those three principles. In that sense, the continuities vastly overwhelm the discontinuities between Obama and Bush.'"


It's a fascinating essay that suggests that the United States will continue to get embroiled in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan - even under presidents like Obama - because of a philosophical belief about America's role in history and the world.

When a Nobel Prize winning economist blogs

Economics and Politics - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com:
"Yglesias, discussing the woes of right-wing think tanks, alerts us to quality Heritage research: “Pentagon Should Battle Pirates and Terrorists with Laser Technology”.

But the research is sorely lacking — not a mention of putting the lasers on sharks.

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with [bleep] laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The latest New Yorker cover, drawn on the iPhone

Cover Story: Finger Painting:

"Jorge Colombo drew this week’s cover using Brushes, an application for the iPhone, while standing for an hour outside Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square."


See the video of his drawing:

Twins' Mauer and Morneau truly American League's dynamic duo so far

I don't normally blog about sports, but I'm a big fan of baseball and the Minnesota Twins, and this merits sharing. Twins catcher Joe Mauer is batting .444 since returing to the lineup at the beginning of May, and has hit more homers this month than in most of his full seasons. Aaron Gleeman puts that performance in perspective:
"[Mauer] could go into an 0-for-39 slump and still be hitting .300."


Damn.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - State of Paralysis - NYTimes.com

"California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America."


A fascinating look at California's self-imposed budget crisis and the potential ramifications for addressing major social challenges through the political system.

You can get more of this flavor from Minnesota, where the Republican governor is "unalloting" the state budget after he resolutely vetoed all budget measures from the state's DFL majority, all in the name of preserving his already soiled "no taxes" pledge.

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: The Ultimate Tax on Harmful Activity?

Should the progressive income tax be switched to a progressive consumption tax?:

"Under a progressive consumption tax, each family would report its income to the IRS and also its annual savings, much as many now document their annual contributions to 401(k) and other similar accounts. A family's income minus its annual savings is its annual consumption, and that amount minus a large standard deduction—say, $30,000 for a family of four—would be its taxable consumption. Rates would start low, perhaps 20 percent, then rise gradually with total consumption. For example, a family that earned $60,000 and saved $10,000 would have annual consumption of $50,000, which, after subtracting the standard deduction, would mean taxable consumption of $20,000. It would owe about $4,000 in tax, about the same as under the current income tax."


I like pigovian taxes (taxing bad things to pay for good things), so I'm curious how this might compare to a carbon tax, for example.

Frank at fivethirtyeight follows up this post with more on the reaction and implications, one of the latter perhaps being a de-escalation in the "keeping up with the Joneses" that takes place in America. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When jumbo soda, long movies, and the internet mix

RunPee.com Suggests the Best Movie Bathroom Breaks - Bathroom Breaks: "If you're checking out 'Star Trek' this weekend, right when Capt. Pike says, 'Chekov, you have the con,' you've got about three minutes of exposition ahead that you can probably pick up on later."

Who still likes the GOP? No one

MinnPost - GOP has lost ground in 25 of 26 demographic categories: "the really devastating analysis, published yesterday, shows that Repubs lost ground in 25 out of 26 demographic subgroups, by race, region, income, education, marital status, etc."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Have you seen the new sunscreen arms race?

It used to be that buying sunscreen was a boring affair, an annual visit to that particular store aisle on your way to the first summer barbecue. But now, there's an arms race in sunscreen reminiscent of the blade-count battle in men's disposable razors (a race that the Onion eerily predicted).  SPF 30?  It's for chumps.  How about Neutrogena's SPF 100+?

Of course, it's all marketing shill:
The difference in UVB protection between an SPF 100 and SPF 50 is marginal. Far from offering double the blockage, SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. (SPF 30, that old-timer, holds its own, deflecting 96.7 percent).