Saturday, January 19, 2008

Health Care in the United States

Parsing out the positions of the candidates from both parties ...

Here's an interactive graph that allows you to see how important each aspect of health care in the US is to each of the candidates currently running for president. It's an interesting handle on priorities. The graph even allows you you plot your own opinions so you can see who lines up best with what you think about the importance of health care in the overall scheme of things.

Check it out here ...

(Of course, my friends who read this blog in Europe and other parts of the world will find this an amusing exercise. My condolences to you as you suffer the pain and frustration of socialized medicine. You realize you'll roast in hell with all the other commie bastards, right?)

Giuliani Gibberish

by Robert Schlesinger

The annals of political rhetoric are full of forgettable phrases and more than the average amount of vacuous rhetoric. H.L. Mencken once wrote of Warren Harding that his inaugural address was "so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it," that it drug itself out of the "dark abysm ... of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh."

Few high-profile pols plumb that particular abysm these days, but Rudy Giuliani's ad-writers seem intent on exploring those lost lingual lands. His latest ad, running in Florida (of which he is running for president), asserts that on -- wait for it -- 9/11, "When the world wavered, and history hesitated, he never did."

Ignore for a moment the Rudy-was-stronger-than-the-rest-of-the-world rhetoric. History hesitated? What in heaven's name does that mean? Time was in danger of grinding to a halt until History's Mayor sprang into action? This is what's commonly known as ... gibberish. Gold-plated nonsense.

The rest after the click ...

My comment: Maybe it's the times. I don't know but, I often find myself yelling at the television. The phrase most often heard? "WTF did THAT mean?!?!?!

Sometimes I think that I am one of the last people on the planet who has an honest love of words and their power to convey real meaning. I admire the Winston Churchills and Abraham Lincolns of the world who have been able to rally whole nations in their darkest hours with a speech ... and to phrase some of the most worthy wit in just a few simple words. Words are powerful things and they should be treated with respect.

Winston Churchill, in describing a particularly pompous opponent, once quipped, "There but for the grace of God ... goes God."

Are you listening, Rudy?

Friday, January 18, 2008

US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs

Strange Maps ... one of the most fascinating blogs I've come across. Be careful, if you like maps (and I like maps) you may have trouble breaking away from this one.

Quick question


Did Bill Clinton pass up a chance to kill Osama bin Laden? Was Bill Clinton offered bin Laden on "a silver platter"? Did he refuse? Was there cause at the time?


Probably not, and it would not have mattered anyway as there was no evidence at the time that bin Laden had committed any crimes against American citizens.

More details after the click ...

Some reporters should drop out of the campaign

By Martin Schram - Sacramento Bee

Along with the handful of presidential candidates who dropped out so far, voters might be better served if a hundred or so of my political-reporter and pundit colleagues dropped out as well – and were replaced by journalists whose beats are about national security, economics, environment and health care.

More after the click ...

Virginia Ain't Just for Lovers

PS: I'll hate you forever if I have to explain it to you.

Huckafrudy MittCain for President

In that the Republicans can't seem to settle on which of their candidates they dislike the least, perhaps someone should take a run at a genetic splicing experiment that would join them all together in to the perfect Republican candidate. A little something for everyone?

(Idea stolen from here.)

George W. Bush's Kleptonomics Led Us To Recession

by Joseph Palermo

In April 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pointed out while he was dealing with the wreckage of the Great Depression:
"America a century ago was regarded as an economic unity. But as time went on the country was cut up, bit by bit, into segments. We heard about problems of particular localities, the problems of particular groups. More and more people put on blinders; they could see only their own individual interests or the single community in which their business was located. . . . Economists are still trying to find out what it was that hit us back in 1929. I am not a professional economist, but I think I know. What hit us was a decade of debauch, of group selfishness -- the sole objective expressed in the thought: 'Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.'"

During the 1920s a political-economy experiencing increased productivity did not allow its benefits to "trickle down" to the broad mass of working people. Too much money went into too few hands too quickly. America in the Teapot Dome-Harding-Coolidge-Hoover years, was a lot like America in the Abramoff-Bush-Cheney-Greenspan years.

Now that Wall Street has finally hit the skids as a result of the disastrous class-warfare policies the investor class and its puppets in the form of George W. Bush and Alan Greenspan unleashed on the American people, maybe -- just maybe -- all of those Republican charlatans who were pushing hard for Social Security privatization will finally shut their traps and admit that their ideologically-driven assault on the vestiges of FDR's New Deal was a failure and a fraud.

The rest after the click ...

An Open Letter to the Reverend Governor Huckabee

Dear Most Reverend Governor,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said "in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man a woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16). Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Yours truly,

Would same sex bestiality be constitutional too?

from Huffington Post by Peter Smith

This just in from a concerned American:

Dear Reverend Governor Huckabee,

My pet schnauzer Winston and I have decided to make life's journey together. We want to be married. The sooner the better. You know how impetuous young lovers can be.

There is only the small question of constitutionality, and we were wondering if you could clarify it for us.

We know you feel that making homosexual marriage constitutional might lead to making man-animal marriage constitutional. So our question is this:

If same sex marriage between human beings makes man-animal marriage constitutional, would it make same sex man-animal marriages like the one Winston and I plan constitutional too? Or did the Founders think that Winston or I would have to undergo gender change surgery before the United States of America would recognize our union?

It's a thorny issue, I know. One that both Winston and I are sure has flummoxed many a religious and constitutional law scholar over the years. Perhaps you yourself pondered it in theological school or in your role as Governor of Arkansas.

If you are unable to parse the subtleties of the point, perhaps you would be so kind as to ask Justice Scalia when you see him? As a devout Catholic, a judge and a hunting man, he no doubt loves God, the law and hunting dogs. Maybe he's had an opportunity to give the question some thought.

Thank you so much, Reverend Governor. And look for an invitation to our upcoming wedding in the mail. As for ideas for a present, I'm registered at Crate & Barrel and Target. Winston is registered at Petco.

Yours truly,

Shep St. Bernard

Source ...


Part of a small project with a local makeup artist ... producing a portfolio segment of Geisha variations.

We started right after Christmas. Bebe, the model, is Vietnamese. More to follow.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Evolution really works

or watch the video here ...

Where to start?

AUSTIN, Texas -

Everything's big in Texas — big pickup trucks, big SUVs and the state's big carbon footprint, too. Texans' fondness for large, manly vehicles has helped make the Lone Star State the biggest carbon polluter in the nation.

The headquarters state of America's oil industry spewed 670 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2003, enough that Texas would rank seventh in the world if it were its own country, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The amount is more than that of California and Pennsylvania — the second- and third-ranking states — combined.

A multitude of factors contribute to the carbon output, among them: Texas' 19 coal-burning power plants; a heavy concentration of refineries and chemical plants; a lack of mass transit; and a penchant among ranchers and urban cowboys alike for brawny, gas-guzzling trucks — sometimes to haul things, but often just to look Texas tough.

More after the click ...

My comment: Pro-lifers with a suicidal lifestyle ... with the added pro-life bonus of the most efficient death row in the country.

In 2007, 42 persons in 10 States were executed -- 26 in Texas; 3 each in Alabama and Oklahoma; 2 each in Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee; and 1 each in South Dakota, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona.

It would appear we have lots more than just "GW" for which to thank Texas.

Thought for the day

FOOL, n.

A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war -- founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican government. He is from everlasting to everlasting -- such as creation's dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man's evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human civilization.

Ambrose Bierce
from "The Devil's Dictionary"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another Family Values Patriot

Former Mich. congressman indicted in terrorist fund-raising conspiracy

January 16, 2008

WASHINGTON — A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fund-raising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al Qaeda and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

A 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying — money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Siljander, who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987.

Source ...

Wexler calls for hearings

Last night, Congressman Wexler took the House floor, calling for hearings on Rep. Kucinich's Articles of Impeachment for Vice President Dick Cheney.

or watch the video here ...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Theocracy on the March

In December, Governor Huckabee offered the following on Meet the Press, words which obviously are no longer operative:

“The key issue of real faith is that it never can be forced on someone. And never would I want to use the government institutions to impose mine or anybody else’s faith or to restrict.”

I say "no longer operative" because today Mr. Huckabee says:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And thats what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

So ... kiss the separation of Church and State good-bye. If you believe in anything other than his interpretation of God's standards, you a$$ is grass ... 'cause Mike has a monopoly on the truth. He knows what the truth is ... even if you don't ... and if you don't agree with him, believe me, you don't know.

Lets recap. Here are some other nations run by the religious ... believers that they have the one true faith:

  • Iran
  • Afghanistan under the Taliban
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Spain killed Jews who didn't convert to the Catholic interpretation of "God's standards"; those who didn't covert were either killed by the Inquisition or driven out of the country
  • In England, Catholics were executed for holding the "wrong" understanding of "God's standards"
I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea to emulate those countries.

Pop quiz


In the last year, the major TV networks asked the presidential candidates 2,679 questions. Pop quiz: How many were about global warming?

A) 514—after all, it's one of the top issues facing the country
B) 165—as many as were asked about illegal immigration
C) 3—the same number asked about UFOs

If you guessed 3, you're right: Reporters asked as many questions about UFOs as they did about the climate crisis—the biggest threat to our planet.

Check out the petition ...

The petition to the reporters says: "The American public deserves to know where all the candidates stand on the climate crisis and the solutions they propose to address it. Asking those questions is your responsibility."

The U.S. public holds Big Business in shockingly low regard.

Robert Weissman
on HuffPo

A November 2007 Harris poll found that less than 15 percent of the population believes each of the following industries to be "generally honest and trustworthy:" tobacco companies (3 percent); oil companies (3 percent); managed care companies such as HMOs (5 percent); health insurance companies (7 percent); telephone companies (10 percent); life insurance companies (10 percent); online retailers (10 percent); pharmaceutical and drug companies (11 percent); car manufacturers (11 percent); airlines (11 percent); packaged food companies (12 percent); electric and gas utilities (15 percent). Only 32 percent of adults said they trusted the best-rated industry about which Harris surveyed, supermarkets.

These are remarkable numbers. It is very hard to get this degree of agreement about anything. By way of comparison, 79 percent of adults believe the earth revolves around the sun; 18 percent say it is the other way around.

There's even some stuff that suggests the American public would like to take another look at government regulation ... the rest after the click ...

My comment: I guess this has to be filed under "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

But then, doesn't he sun revolve around the earth? and doesn't the Universe revolve around us?

Ignorance is Bliss

on Foreign Policy In Focus

Here's the secret to the last seven years of foreign policy disasters coming from Washington. President Bush has become an acolyte of Timothy Ferriss.

Haven't heard of Ferriss yet? He's the motivational author who champions a four-hour work week. In order to slim down his schedule, Ferriss recommends a low-information diet. "I never watch the news or buy the newspaper," he writes. "I read the headlines through newspaper machines as I walk to lunch each day. My selective ignorance has never caused a single problem for me."

Ferriss has become a guru to many who are overwhelmed by the modern disease of TMI (Too Much Information). Even the lords of Silicon Valley, many of whom have helped make TMI an epidemic, are now putting up little altars to Ferriss in their offices.

No one has yet explored the impact of Ferriss on Washington. But "selective ignorance," based on a cursory understanding of world events, is a powerful explanation for the failures of U.S. policy in Iraq. We knew so little about Iraq before invading it. We knew even less, it seems, when we tried to occupy it. And we continue to be ignorant of Iraqi realities as we desperately search for a face-saving way out of the debacle. The low-information diet also helps to explain the administration's inability to understand the Israeli-Palestinian problem or why a hard-line policy toward Iran is such a disaster.

It's not just the Bush administration, of course, that has gone on the low-information diet. Large swathes of the media have cooperated in this strategy by reducing the actual news content from their reporting.

The rest of the thought after the click ...

My comment: This doesn't bode well for the idea of an educated electorate. How can one make informed decisions if one willfully retains their ignorance of what's going on around them. Curiosity seems to be dead.

We are surprised by developments in the world, but we have no good reason to be surprised.

It seems Ferriss is an advocate of the antithesis of "get a life". He's outsourced most of his. Someone else is living most of it for him. Does the term "intellectual bankruptcy" apply?

Ready to bet on the future?

Join the PopSci Predictions Exchange.

Welcome to the PPX, the first place to bet on the future of science and technology. It's easy and free: Log on, and we'll give you POP$250,000 in our virtual PopSci Dollars. Use that money to buy propositions you think are likely to happen. If other traders also want to buy, that proposition's price will go up, and you'll make PopSci bucks. Expand your portfolio with bets on energy, space, consumer technology and extreme science, and compete against other players for prizes and bragging rights. Ready to get started?

Of course, PopSci isn't the only place where one can find Prediction Markets. Here's a piece about the Google Prediction Markets from the NYTimes Freakonomics column.

Here's what Google has to say about their market ... and prediction Markets in general:

We designed the market so that the price of an event should, in theory, reflect a consensus probability that the event will occur. To determine accuracy of the market, we looked at the connection between prices of events and the frequency with which they actually occurred. If prices are correct, events priced at 10 cents should occur about 10 percent of the time.

In the graph below [edit: follow this link], the X-axis indicates the price ranges for the group. The orange line represents the average price, which is how often outcomes in that group should actually happen according to market prices. The purple line is how often they did happen. Ideally these would be equal, and as you can see they're pretty close. So our prices really do represent probabilities - very exciting!

You can find the rest of the piece here.

Wiipedia has a piece on the history, theory and accuracy of Prediction Markets.

I personally find the idea fascinating. Of course, I've always wanted to have a crystal ball. Don't we all?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Gulf of Tonkin Will Be Tough to Repeat

by Ray McGovern

When the Tonkin Gulf incident took place in early August 1964, I was a journeyman CIA analyst in what Condoleezza Rice refers to as "the bowels of the agency."

As a current intelligence analyst responsible for Russian policy toward Southeast Asia and China, I worked very closely with those responsible for analysis of Vietnam and China.

Out of that experience I must say that, as much as one might be tempted to laugh at the bizarre, theatrical accounts of last week's incident involving small Iranian boats and U.S. naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, this is – as my old Russian professor used to insist – nothing to laugh.

The situation is so reminiscent of what happened – and didn't happen – from Aug. 2-4, 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin and in Washington, it is in no way funny.

At the time, the U.S. had about 16,000 troops in South Vietnam. The war that was "justified" by the Tonkin Gulf resolution of Aug. 7, 1964, led to a buildup of 535,000 U.S. troops in the late Sixties, 58,000 of whom were killed – not to mention the estimated 2 million Vietnamese who lost their lives by then and in the ensuing 10 years.

Ten years. How can our president speak so glibly about 10 more years of a U.S. armed presence in Iraq? He must not remember Vietnam.

Get the rest after the click ...

My comment: "He must not remember Vietnam." Do you suppose that might be a thinly veiled put-down directed at the head of an administration who never served in combat (though he says he did) ... or any of the others in that administration who, as Dick Cheney said of his absence from Vietnam service, "... had other priorities."

Read a little more about the Tonkin Gulf here.

Family Values based Sex Education

or watch the video here ...

Responding to Recession

By Paul Krugman
New York Times

Suddenly, the economic consensus seems to be that the implosion of the housing market will indeed push the U.S. economy into a recession, and that it’s quite possible that we’re already in one. As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about plans for economic stimulus.

Since this is an election year, the debate over how to stimulate the economy is inevitably tied up with politics. And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy?

In fact, recent statements by the candidates and their surrogates about the economy are quite revealing.

More insight after the click ...

My comment: Don't go quoting the party line, "tax cuts pay for themselves" unless you've actually, PERSONALLY looked up the numbers. (Hint: For the most part, they just simply don't.)

Some solutions are more obvious than others

Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, is famous throughout the entertainment industry for being self-righteous.

At a recent U2 concert in Glasgow, Scotland, he asked the audience for total quiet. Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, 'Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.'

A voice with a broad Scottish accent from the front of the crowd pierced the quiet: 'Well, stop foockin doin' it then, ya evil bastard!'

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Something is Terribly Wrong

Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles

New York Times

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

My comment: Cutbacks in vet care may save money, but it costs lives. Support for the troops means more than just a rousing chorus of rah-rah-rah and a sticker on the car. It involves proper medical care, sometimes for years after the war is over.