31 December 2007

random bits of code


This is a good point. I've long since stopped locking doors. The focus has generally been on murder rates, which are the one people key on as a crime indicator. I'd guess that's fine, but murder isn't a terribly common crime as made by career hoods. It's usually a random act of violence in a domestic (or recently domestic) dispute or otherwise friendly arrangement gone astray. Rarely are people killed by people they've never met, Hollywood and media frenzy to the contrary. I'd be much more interested in statistics on rape (again, commonly committed by known, or at least partially known individuals), theft (again), and vandalism. But if the general trend is down on all fronts, as it does seem to be, I'd wish that people would stop worrying about it so much. There's only so much you can do to prevent random acts of violence from disturbing your environs. We'd be much better off worrying about the people we already know based on the statistics. Which is a scarier way to look at it. I guess we're fortunate the media doesn't report it that way.

Another random element. Studies were done on how corporate health plans are beginning to offer bounties for healthy behavior. In some cases a bounty of as little as $7 dollars (7!) can get people motivated to quit smoking or begin an exercise regime or diet. Generally the bounties are higher, particularly for inducing people to quit smoking. I'm glad to see some market effects on this problem. It would seem to me that insurance in health care should work similarly to vehicles or life insurance where there are often considerable underwriting litmus tests to effect lower or higher costs on the consumer. People who make unhealthy choices should get both a negative motivation with a higher rate, and a positive one with a bounty or calculated lower rate. With life insurance it's fairly easy to show someone how much less it would cost if they quit smoking (depends on the company, but it's a huge gap). The same is true if they were to lose weight (though there it can be more of a guessing game, and not nearly as significant) Maybe we're getting into the same situation with health insurance in the near future. Employers are faced with rapidly escalating costs and lost productivity from an increasingly unhealthy workforce. Desperation makes for useful creative solutions sometimes.

genital integrity


Whatever that phrase means, it's rather amusing.

I'd have to wonder as well why the circumcision rate is so high. Or, if I was to be culturally ignorant, ask why it's so low in the Western portions of the country by comparison (probably because the population is predominated by Latinos). Supposedly there were medical reasons to have this done, or at least, there are medical 'experts' who claim it should be done. Some of these even sound legitimate (things like a less-bacterial prone environment). But I'd have to ask, why if this is so 'good' do we call it mutilation when a woman is circumcised? It seems to me that it's fairly well mutilation either way. Doing the circumcision seems like removing someone's tonsils when there's nothing wrong with them. On the plus side, it does seem like the religious ritualistic aspects are fading. But they're being justified with mixed scientific views now instead. It always amazes me when religion and science become allies. (Intelligent design anyone?).

27 December 2007



Somewhere someone decided that she's a martyr. That's nice, but to what? The nation of Pakistan? Democracy?
One thing that pops out is that the intensity of attacks ramped upwards when she returned from exile. One wonders why this would be if she was a moderate democratic leader, until one realizes that religious fanatical extremists do not like moderate democratic leaders, especially female moderate democratic leaders. That are seen favorably by Americans.
My reaction to all this was that her death was probably inevitable by this cause. Sooner or later someone who was very insane from their irrational religious fears was going to act. And act they did. Keep in mind this is the same part of the world that kills Gandhis. A world where religious belief fuels hate is always going to have violence. It amazes me that some people are willing to work through this anyway, knowing what will happen to them, and their followers, and that precious little will be accomplished because it. Which I guess is the closest thing to martyrdom out there. I just don't know what the cause was yet other than to oppose some ineffective president-general who liked being in charge.

23 December 2007

arizona knows


Great, someone finally figured out what works. Harass the employers. Nobody needs giant prison facilities in the desert or fences. Just a natural barrier created by having to have some legal status in the country in order to work.
Now all we have to do is get rid of the xenophobia that comes with immigration and we're all fine.

22 December 2007

would you like fries with that


I'd have to agree with Dubner here. I haven't seen schools compared to French fries before either, and I don't think I'll be forgetting the analogy anytime soon either.

I'm inclined to agree. Standard tests are measuring sticks. Nothing more, but we've been treating them in some ways like they're back-breakers. Much as grades or marks have been treated for several decades, the idea that a poor(er) score on a test of achievement will relegate a student to a condition of failure is pretty silly. Likewise the inverse is true. It's just hard to see what a teenager is about to do because they themselves usually do not possess the foresight and maturity to know themselves.

The fundamental question has been how to test what a student has learned. The question has been changed to try to determine what a teacher has taught. I am fairly certain this might be a useful question to weed out terrible teachers, but really the students can do that anyway. Most good students will know within a few minutes that their instructor is an idiot or a genius. And then whether they can pass anything along that might be regarded as wisdom. The most fundamental and important question of education is what is imparted to the students. Not how or who does it. But what do they learn. What sorts of things and thinking attracts their interest and inspires them to dig deeper. Sadly I am quite certain for many the premise has become that education is a useless tool to another end (getting a job), rather than a tool to illuminate the world around ourselves. This is an unfortunate reality if true.
Additionally, the secondary question is what are we testing now then, if not what a student learns or a teacher teaches. And I think the answer is usually how good a student is at taking tests. It's very possible that good students become natural test takers because of the volume of tests and quizzes battering them throughout education. It's also possible that good students become the worst possible students, understanding that the 'educational objective' is excellent grades and scores and neglecting a proper education of exploratory knowledge in favor of exactly the sort of information needed to supply these limited objectives. If we were to ask how does an institution teach problem solving, it would seem to me that this is precisely the type of problem solving we're teaching. How to supply only what is required.

My biggest problem with all of this is that it has totally turned education on it's head. The idea is not how to provide the slowest or poorest performers with the most basic tools, but how to push the strongest and most brilliant minds to new heights and to resolve creatively new ideas and new problems. We're failing miserably at this necessary task by forcing teachers to focus their efforts on the students whose interest and aptitude is perhaps lower. It's possible, and indeed even noble, to turn some of these students around. I have no desire to see a person of capable mind wasted, it's not a pleasant experience I assure you. But it's always a bigger disappointment to me to see talented wasted than 'talent' developed.


I had something of a revelation about the purpose of history. The subject is not the dusty old past. It is the present. History is composed of stories about the dead and gone. There are great tales and mundane details supposedly comprising a tapestry of how people (or other things) lived. Sometimes this is reasonably successful at telling a story. But it is only a story. Very rarely is history a glimpse into how those things, even those simple and mundane things, made people feel or think. And usually such glimpses are told in their own stories; in letters or books or hieroglyphs.
What history really says is something about us. The people now. The living. What is it that we value, what is it that we feel. We project ourselves into that distant world and try to imagine what it would be like for ourselves. How would we fare? We often imagine that our technology or our culture is such of an advancement that we would fare well. We can see this pattern in the 'sordid' past by looking at things like Jefferson's affair with a slave girl. People look at such things with a curious eye, as though it means something powerful and painful. Perhaps it did at the time. But I doubt it. It looks to me like the behavior of powerful or intelligent men in their difficulty with sexual fidelity (or their need for such exercise). And little more than that. Even this viewpoint is merely that; a view from the present. Humans change, how our behaviors are viewed or interpreted matters greatly over time. But we assume they're essentially universals that can be communed with over history. It does not appear this is so. Otherwise people wouldn't have so much trouble understanding the Bible or the Qo'ran as interpretative works of fiction interposed over meaningful stories. The one is written hundreds of years later, and edited carefully by the powerful. The other is essentially edited by the historical events of the time, comprising a story of it's own with the position that prophetic things were happening. Both seem to have been essential tools in their day, codified processes of thought and feeling that have since passed their usefulness or have since been largely forgotten. The imprecision with which we use words to say what we mean or feel has long annoyed me. Sometimes all it takes is a look and we understand someone (or something) completely. But history doesn't allow those understanding looks. All we can do is guess at what people meant. And it is those guesses that say things about the present.
Perhaps in a way it says things about how we would like the future to look as well, much as often people of the past commented on dreams or aspirations of their own. I think it often says that people have changed. But in a way, sometimes the way we approach problems has not. The real use and function of history, the way I thought we were to use it, was to provide those glimpses into the past. It attempts to put to word or portray a view of the past, the dead and gone. And we, despite our best efforts to look forward, desire in a way to be connected with our past. We can understand that in our future is a time where we ourselves will be gone, or at least no longer matter. We want desperately for there to be a way to communicate who we were. Why was it that we did things? What was it we were doing? How the hell did we do that? And so on. Unfortunately we can't quite do it. When a story or book is composed, it says what the reader wants it to. Never quite what the author wanted to say. With a good story, that's often enough, as the author secretly (I think) wants the readers to think on anything. We would think it would be different for factual history. But it is often not the case. It says what we want it to, perhaps in way because that's what they wanted to do as well.

21 December 2007

now I know why I feel nauseous


Country and suicide. What a shock. That stuff is so distressing to the ears that I can imagine people becoming either suicidal or homicidal from prolonged exposure. Although, like most correlations, I suspect the type of people who are prone to listening to that noise (I refuse to acknowledge it as music), are likely to be depressive and suicidal to begin with. It's hard to say which is causing the other, but I can always say the way I prefer.

The chickens study makes sense. It does seem like preferences on facial features are somehow hard-coded, much like preferences with breeding attributes (hips).

For a good goof, check out the misplaced Ads.

huck finn strikes again

In other news, Huckabee apparently was involved with an article depicting Bush's foreign policy as an arrogant bunker mentality. Hmm. So what exactly isn't true about that statement that he's drawing heat for it from his GOP competition? Much as I don't like the guy politically, he does have a annoying capacity to say concise things that assault his political rivals or political inverses in accurate ways.

Let's examine. "If you're not with us, you're against us". Sounds pretty arrogant.

Building a fence on a border. Sounds like 'bunker' thinking to me.

Spending four years ignoring military realities on the ground that they're involved in an counter-insurgency campaign while alienating potential allies. Sounds like both.

It isn't totally accurate. We're doing some cooperative thinking to suppress DPRK (in case no one noticed, I find it much more amusing to refer to N. Korea as the 'democratic people's republic' when it has none of the three in actuality). But in so far as the 'important' direct American threat of global terrorism? We're not thinking very much about going outside of a bunker or we're just doing things arbitrarily.

So I don't see how it's 'an insult to the President' when it seems like a fair critique. Nor do I see that pulling punches directed at the President is very helpful in a democracy. Criticism is supposed to be liberally available for any public figure. Some of it might be useful, some can be ignored, and some is just accurate assessments of personal flaws, like arrogant bunker mentality thinking.

19 December 2007

budgeting pork

"Is 46 hours and 8 minutes enough time to read a 3,417-page bill?"

Apparently it is, because complaining that the final bill hasn't been read when it allocates billions and billions of federal tax dollars for spending is a taboo. I'd want to know where those billions were going. So without more ado than necessary, this is a list of last-minute pork added into the bill without debate.


Naturally, many of these are things that we'd need more information on to see what in fact they are for. But $156 Million for Homeland Security in earmarks, not including direct funding seems a bit much. $550 Million in defense earmarks is fairly high as well. Keep in mind these are things that were dropped in last minute, not simply pork that was debated at all and not things that were slipped into the DOT budget, which is the largest pork barrel bill out there usually.

Studying the nature of these earmarked millions, one finds that Congress uses them to essentially buy votes by pointing to a record of 'bringing home the bacon'. WSJ reported that veteran appropriator Rep. John Murtha had "rebuilt [his] hometown on earmarks," noting that "Johnstown's good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else." The point of federal spending is for large public works (like the highway system or overhauling infrastructure in general -- such as replacing fuel distribution setups for fuel cells if and when that happens), and for national issues, like defense or foreign trade. NOT for state matters. If one's home state needs more funds, they should find a way to increase their state revenues. What a tax funded pork system does is essentially create a race to see who can most screw other Congressmen over by allocating funds (that they don't really have, they're in debt up to their eyeballs) to one's home district or state before someone else does the same. The idea being, fuck North Carolina, we here in Ohio need more bacon. That's not the ideal American government and it needs more publicity as to how it got this way.

Continuing a list (these people love lists) was compiled as to reasons to oppose the budget as constructed. -- the list if you can't tell was made by a Republican.
1) 11000 wasteful pork projects. -- 11000, that's all?
2) 24.3 billion in gimmick spending. -- This means that they're playing with numbers to make it look like they're not spending money when they are and this is the total amount of pork spending in it. To say nothing of projects that are essentially wasted dollars that people believe are legitimate.
3) Weakens border security (doesn't fund fencing). --- Fences aren't going to protect our borders. Fund corporate raids and ID theft investigations instead.
4) Cuts national security to fund liberal social programs. -- National security is over-funded and some social programs might make sense.. but I'd like to know which is which.
5) Cuts abstinence funding to fund planned parenthood. -- Good start.
6) cuts labor oversight and funds labor unions. -- ouch. and double ouch. This combined with the attempt to make union ballots open instead of secret is not good news for American labor.
7) Cuts sex offender registry tracking by reducing US Marshals funding. -- I guess that's bad. It'd be easier if criminal databases were linked up nationally with greater ease.
8) Govt can sue English only workplaces. -- There are two problems here. One English only workplaces will not cater to immigrants, and thus lose market share anyway (self-discrimination often hurts the business itself). And two, most immigrants who come here will want to learn at least rudimentary English anyway, or if not themselves then their children will definitely. Concern over migrant workers from Central America isn't a big deal because they seem to work in fields that don't require English (such as actual fields). But the government shouldn't be suing people over their bigotry or stupidity. It's also possible that the 'English-only' business is in a field which would essentially require English anyway, and thus not be a 'discriminatory' tactic.
9) Spends millions to solve energy crisis, in DPRK. -- North Korea? That's a good place to spend money for energy.. I admire our attempts to resolve a 50+ year crisis. But we have millions needed for energy independence here as well. Still, it's probably cheaper to buy them out than to go to war.
10) Increases funding for National Endowment for Arts. -- I'm mixed on this. I don't think if someone can't produce something that people will buy and consume in their lifetime that the government should be a patron of 'arts' and step in. But I also don't see how an artist can easily step from a full-time profession to artistic endeavors without some assistance or several undesirable part time jobs in the meantime.

Another list here
1) Non emergency spending spent as emergency spending. For example
$100 million in emergency funding for presidential security at political conventions
--- Are that many people trying to assassinate the candidates?
$602 million for crop disaster assistance and livestock assistance, in spite of the fact that farmers had record incomes last year. --- we consistently spend billions of federal dollars on farming in this country. It makes no sense.
2) Threat to border security. --- Again, the emphasis is on the stupid fence. America should not be trying to become a gated community.
3) Restricts US energy sources -- not funding oil shale federally --- however what is implied therein is that oil shale is not viable commercially. Which means that technology and research should be done to accommodate that problem and not to subsidize the businesses that undertake the effort to produce it right now.
4) no funding for Iraq. -- This was addressed separately from what I understand.
5) Earmarks - -23 billion dollars worth of them. -- I love the fruit fly research in France for $200k.
6) Corporate welfare --- Technically the corporations are doing useful research on behalf of the government. But it's still pretty wasteful, especially when the program doesn't exist anymore.
7) Budget rescissions and gimmicked appropriations. -- I hate accounting
8) Nobody read the thing. It was passed in 24 hours by the House. And in about 48 hours by the Senate. I dare say that's a bit speedy.
9) Didn't fund nuclear weapons programs -- Who cares, we've got plenty of warheads.. but instead funded a House office building, NEA, AFL-CIO, and so forth. Which also none of these needed money.
10) Exceeded Presidential spending caps. -- Wasn't aware that the President gets to control the budget. Beyond vetoes that is.

To summarize, people whining about the bill mixed up their whining about earmarks with whining that Republicans don't control the earmarks. I'd prefer it if both parties could whine equally about the waste that goes on rather than indulge themselves of it while they can.

18 December 2007

efficiency .. standard?


I guess this is good news. 35mpg is somewhat better. But we don't have to have it for.. 12 years. I'm guessing we can produce that much ethanol as requested by Congress. But there's two issues I have with that. One corn ethanol isn't being shown to be any cleaner to use because it takes more energy to produce than sugar ethanol. And two, having the government require a certain amount of production smacks of a centralized economy. And we all know how that worked out. On the flip side of that though, it's certainly possible for American farming to grow that much corn. Considering we pay people not to grow stuff, it may work out that they get to grow something somewhat useful. The wood chips and switchgrass requirement I suppose is a wash, but again, it's still not energy efficient to convert those into fuels.
The plus side would be energy independence. Something that could have been addressed back in the 70s, 80s, 90s... Europe and Japan have made major strides for this by taxing the hell out of gasoline and other oil based products. I think this might have had the same effect as a weak mandate to improve fuel standards over a 12 year period. With a waiver included if it's 'implausible'.

Other matters. Oil companies essentially make less money (at least profit wise) on oil than the state and federal government do. So while they do get tax breaks, I'd like to see it reversed such that the oil company keeps the money for research and development (instead of the government). In other words, they get the tax breaks only if a percentage of profit is detailed for alternative energy or more fuel efficient products. Which would take care of the government attempts to fund such efforts themselves.

I'm not sure that new efficiency standards are needed for refrigerators and dishwashers, at least the newer ones. They seem to be moving in the efficient direction anyway. As a selling point if an appliance uses less energy/water to do it's function, a company can charge more for it up front, arguing that people will make up the difference later on. Thus such appliances which have met energy standards (like energy star) are encouraged already without any mandate that they do so. But on the other hand, undoubtedly public offices and buildings could use some efficiency updates. Though I'd dare say it's not the light bulbs that would be improved if it was up to me.

14 December 2007

modern mythology


Something tells me if we had a dispassionate media we might have a more involved public. Since our public has to go to such lengths to get actual information, most of it seems pretty lazy and contented to swallow whatever strangeness is offered at the news desk.

10 -- Airlines. One thought that came up, virtually any level of infrastructure has become utterly outdated -- bridges collapsing. Airplanes are running on 1940/50s technology. Water and sewer pipes are over one hundred years old. Not a good things. I'm not impressed that airlines are blameless. The behavior of airlines (as noted at times by the strange expulsion of young women on their clothing) is not helping either. But to hear the media, making a profit is a vile thing. Not when it comes to efficiently moving hundreds of people from one side of the country to the other. It would be better if they could hire 3rd party screeners (rather than government idiots) and take better care of our luggage. But that's about the only gripes I have right now.

9 -- Consumers should stop spending themselves into the poor house at the behest of these strange economic indicators that make no sense. Saving money is much more important in economic sense. While there are economic theories that say government should spend money, it's hard to say that even those theories make any sense. It is expected that there will be a good deal of spending, especially in retail sectors, at this time of year. I would rather see more savers (hint: stop buying me gift cards and just go with cash).

8 -- Stock market is always seen as some hideous monster that will devour people's money. Or it's only evil rich people with hedge funds that own stocks. When in reality, often through retirement accounts, most people own some stock somewhere. And as described, it's not overvalued as a whole. The global economy is huge and America's stake in it is still fairly large. On the plus side, people who panic about stocks have other ways to invest money or save it. But the long term prospects of stocks are what most people are 'investing' for. So who cares if it crashes once in a while.

7 -- Been there and done that. But seriously global warming causing allergies, wildfires (which happen predictably every few years.. ) and obesity? We're clutching at straws here.

6-- I'll eat what I want thank you. I do think that while we're subsidizing health care for the poor, it might make sense to make unhealthy choices more expensive (and thus subsidize healthy choices like quit smoking aids or local produce).

5 -- People who are losing their homes made screwy loans. It does sound like the facts that were quoted were wrong. I'm glad I never heard those numbers and instead had real information. It was inevitable that the real estate market would fall apart. The same thing happened in Tokyo some years ago. At one point the entire city was worth more than the entire continental US in book value. Obviously people didn't want to pay what someone claimed it was worth, as now in America. There was a reason why Japanese investors went nuts buying properties in America at crazy prices. It was still cheaper than what it was in Japan.

4 -- There's some truth here. Not everything green is cheap. But much of it is cheaper in the long run, if not immediately. Halogen lights/LEDs or hybrids are more expensive up front than their conventional alternatives. But they can pay for themselves over time easily enough. Recycling eventually should reduce the cost of new goods or at least provide used/recycled goods at reasonable prices as an alternative. Not everything green is bad either. But it's not always great press and great money. It might be useful if instead of a 'man on the moon' project, the government simply incentivized 'going green' in practical ways like purchasing fuel efficient vehicles and the construction of zero energy or alternative energy homes and so forth. Occasionally it's necessary to game the system (the free market I mean).

3 -- Lenders do need to release information in English. But really all they did was provide loans to people who wanted stuff or property and didn't want to be bothered with reading.

2 -- Free health care isn't free. It'd be nice if it was.

1 -- who cares. Do you have a job? Is there any reason to believe it won't be there next year? Aside from manufacturing, it's probably still going to chug along.

11 December 2007

media frenzy

"Nowhere has truth so short a life as in Sicily; a fact has scarcely happened five minutes before its genuine kernel has vanished, been camouflaged, embellished, disfigured, squashed, annihilated by imagination and self-interest; shame, fear, generosity, malice, opportunism, charity, all the passions, good as well as evil, fling themselves onto the fact and tear it to pieces; very soon it has vanished altogether."

Sound familiar?

goodbye Vick

Comments regarding the sentencing of Michael Vick. Somehow I wouldn't expect them to be logical.

  • Let me get this straight. Danny Heatley caused the death of a human being and receives probation. Vick killed dogs and received 23 months in jail. And people think this is logical?
  • This is so insane and stupid. People do this all day long and not going to stop. Black men are more likely to receive tougher sentencing than any race. One last point all those who are against dog fighting and Vick, I hope you don't eat meat if you do you are contradicting yourself. Haters!!!!!!!
  • Well it just proves how messed up this country is when you can get more time and be crucified for killing a vicious dog, but if you are a wife beater, child molester, or murderer, you can get off.
  • Both Vick brothers are examples of an incredible waste of talent. They were given more opportunity than they earned or deserved and only squandered it. They are far from being victims. What makes this story even more sensational is that they are actually being held accountable for their actions. No wonder people are having such a hard time digesting it - it rarely happens in any walk of life. Wouldn't it be nice to think accountability is a new trend. Don't hold your breath.
For those not familiar Danny Heatley is a hockey player who played in Atlanta and killed a man (a teammate and passenger) because he was slightly drunk and speeding. Vehicular manslaughter is a crime which is indeed severe. But he did not viciously intend for his actions to cause death and pain, they were merely criminally stupid. Vick's actions were intended to cause pain and death (to dogs). When he owns up to that mistake of judgment, people will look less harshly at him. Much of the reason a judge increased his sentence is that very problem.

The second one, people who are against dog fighting are being hypocritical if they eat meat? This requires no examination and recriminations for its stupidity is obvious. It might be true that black men are going to receive tougher sentences, this has been stated frequently and may have enough empirical data to make sense. But Vick actually is receiving a lessened sentence for his conviction than is typical. So it doesn't actually apply.

Vicious dogs have more and better lawyers than children and abused wives. But it is a fairly messed up country when scum who abuse women and children (or anybody else for that matter) get off. Of the things that matter however to the actual case itself, the fact that our country has a justice system problem and inequity is irrelevant.

I agree with the last point. The greatest crime being committed here is Vick against himself and his fans by making foolish choices with his time and money off the field. A man with such great athletic ability, for which he was well-paid, squanders this by choosing poorly the people he free associates with and how he treats them. That's pretty bad in and of itself. But Vick is no victim. He did this to himself.

romney courts scientologists?

"Mitt note: This summer, Romney said his favorite novel is the Battlefield Earth series by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. If you saw the really awful John Travolta movie "Battlefield Earth" and assumed it was another example of a movie not as good as the book -- actually, the movie was much better than the books, which number among the worst dreck ever to leave a printing plant."

Just looking at the man gives me the impression of a vapid and idiotic persona. This sort of information does not improve his standing.

10 December 2007



This is entertaining to watch politicians falling over each other trying to come up with some solution which is seen as helping the consumer. What would however be of the greatest benefit to the consumer is not 'bailout loans' or fixing interest rates on sub-prime mortgages. It's information, real information, on the nature and terms of their mortgages. People seem utterly mystified by the banking world as it is, and then those papers that sign over 15-30 years of lifetime seem completely bewildering. What's more, looking over who has sub-prime rates according to the research, it's people who'd already bought a house and were refinancing. People who had already done at least one decision, which may have been good or bad, and then decided to do something which may have been utterly stupid. Or at least, it was fine so long as housing prices continued to rise, a foolish assumption. What the government can do is provide in effect a standard loan disclosure such that a bank would have to provide, in English, the terms and conditions of a loan as agreed to. In the modern environment, it's possible to take one's business elsewhere if they don't like what they're seeing 10-15 years down the road.

For an idea what this would look like:
It's one page with two pages of explanation of terms. That's it. None of this 30 page of lawyerese crap.


That one's a big bigger story. But suffices to say, anything which alters the arrangement between school taxes and school districts such that money follows students and not the other way around is fine by me. The unions would be another problem, but one that can be marginalized in other ways.


This was an interesting perspective in that the 'diversity' culture that we've developed under the idea that schools and other publicly funded efforts blend our people is an utter waste of time. Which I already knew. But that one way to get around it was the prospect of school choice, giving parents both less belligerence and control (something which happens when choosing colleges for example).

For example, with all the evangelicals keeping their children home schooled, giving them a school which uses those 2000 year old teachings instead of modern science is fine by me. It will keep them backward and idiotic for easy identification.

09 December 2007

guns at church


Despite my complaining on the coverage for such things, I was secretly waiting for a disgruntled worshiper. Guns at church is the one thing left after shootings at malls and schools. Now the trilogy is complete and we can move on.

the war on sex


Again with the no sex parties. What the hell people? I guess the hangup is not the noise generated but the money being spent for live sex performances. Which seems rather silly because the money probably isn't being provided for one of the 'performers' to have sex with someone other than who they want to have sex with. As opposed to prostitution, which very likely would be people who they would not want to have sex with otherwise.

What confuses me most is this line:
"We're not about infringing on the rights of the Cherry Pit patrons or owners," Lewis said. "But now your right to have fun has infringed on everyone else's. And now you have to draw the line".... What line is being crossed? The right to have 'fun' is infringing on everyone else's how? Much like the drug war in this country, the war on sexuality is pretty much a war against individuality. Not a war to provide decency or morality, but instead a way to infringe on individual rights. For all the whining free market capitalists have toward democrats on things like schools and health care (and I consider myself in this group most of the time), that there's not equal outrage involving the war on drugs or strip clubs strikes me as political hypocrisy. Instead there's indignation that there isn't more being done to proscribe some moral authority and decency, which isn't really the government's job. A community wants to shut down a strip club, stop going. Protest in front of it legally. And so on. It will move out of town as a matter of course if there is no longer any financial gain to be made. The same would be true here. There are legal reasons to harass noisy neighbours who happen to be having a sex party. Use them if people are so upset. Most people are liable to simply find another venue or amend their habits such that they do not impinge on their neighbours complicity. But again, I'd have to ask, aside from noise, what is being done that so offends the neighbours that a line has been crossed?

There was, tucked down at the bottom of the story, some legal recourse I can agree with. It's hard to say that a private party is being held when there are dozens of cars coming and going up and down the street and around 100 people in attendance. I would personally have a hard time coming up with 100 people I know, so I can imagine that this is providing a bit of annoyance. I don't see how it's going to 'reduce property value' as one neighbour whined. Property values are dipping of their own accord more than likely. But it is hard to imagine having a private party with a cast of hundreds which requires some fiscal management to provide refreshments and so on. That's a bit much.

08 December 2007

sex is dirty, you will get syphilis and die


Abstinence is a nice idea.. sort of. I can readily understand that relationships where sex becomes a prominent part too soon can become rather less than optimal soon thereafter. Sex when it evolves as a part of a relationship is fine. Great even. Waiting for it (like for marriage) gives it some special prominence that it probably doesn't deserve. It's good to have sex, but considering how most people do, it's probably not the best thing in the world (I don't see this personally, but I can imagine given all the fuss it's given in comedy about how bad people are at sex. I can't imagine how bad everyone is the first time without practice, but it must be pretty bad because people are always laughing). Here's the problem with teaching abstinence as a solution to things like STDs and teen pregnancy. It doesn't do anything. It's not a solution. Teens have hormones. These hormones impede or otherwise short circuit regular decision making. It's possible to control one's self, admirable in many respects. But to expect all people to impose equal and high levels of self control as it regards sex, which combines both the raging hormones with confusing emotional and physical needs that have developed over puberty, is exceedingly unlikely. Teaching that there are consequences to our behaviors is of course useful. But teaching that there are ways to minimize those consequences and still experience a good deal of otherwise healthy behavior is ultimately smarter on a societal level. Because it's pretty clear that teens and young single adults are going to have a healthy level of sexual activity regardless of whether we tell them not to do it. And well should they because it can be a valuable, if sometimes painful, lesson for some. What it should not be accompanied with is the more serious (read: worse than embarrassment/emotional trauma) consequences of STDs or the complex decision of abortion/adoption resulting of a pregnancy. If some attempts are made to teach how avoid these problems, guess what, kids are generally smart enough to make some amends to their intended behaviors.

Personally, on the individual level, parents can try to impose some code of conduct as it regards sexual activity upon their children. To be fair, the most effective way to prevent such behavior is probably to generally be so overwhelmingly humiliating such that the child has no self-respect to begin with and therefore does not trust other human beings enough to let them have verbal contact, much less physical or sexual contacts. This is perhaps not the best way to raise a child with some hope for a prosperous and successful future however. Maybe it's functional if one wants to raise sociopathic killers or terrorists. But not so much for human beings. The easiest and least painful means for such imposition is to have some levels of communication between parents and children. Akward as it may be, talking about sex, in a serious manner, generally allows people to have some appreciation for the act itself that isn't limited to some lewd pornographic depiction of it, where children otherwise would learn about sexual activity in the modern world. Though they might emerge with some more creative sexual techniques and positions, they aren't going to learn very much about how sex is part of a relationship or the emotional damages it can cause to some if it's not. Women unfortunately are the ones with greater neurochemical responses to orgasms that lead to emotional responses. So naturally men need to either be not very good in bed or realize that if they do know what they're doing, they better have a plan on what to do after it's over. Because they may be stuck with this girl for a while if they don't, and that may be good, or it may be bad. I suppose like many things we say that it gets better over time..which might be true, but I think people get bored with it faster than it gets better. And if there isn't some structure in place that supercedes sexual intimacy, it's pretty much a waste of time personally.

Maybe it would help if instead of seeing sex as a weakness, akin to addictions like alcohol or drugs, sex was a wonderful form of recreation, engaged in between (generally two) people who have an accompanying intimate bond emotionally. This is not to say agape or pure love, but at least something like a genuine respect for the other person (s). We as a society are quick to depict sex, but it is rarely if ever shown in a positive manner. Sexual behaviors on TV or other mediums tend to emphasize aggressive and casual use of others, or provocative self-displays, rather than any manner of self or mutual respect. Whereas beer commercials always show men commisserating with his closest companions and a few dozen scantily clad women observing the latest great sporting event on a gigantic TV. As though this was an honest portrayal of beer drinking. Never is beer shown afterwards with someone having a raging hangover puking into a toilet after having pissed on some random dumpster the night before and waking up with no scantily clad women around, or if they are scantily clad, they themselves are probably in the same unpleasant condition, hungover and disorientated, thus in no condition for any pre-working/school sexual romp. This is essentially the type of extreme portrait shown as it regards sex in any overt manner on media. What sort of mixed messages are we to receive? Sex is great, but it's dirty and we shouldn't want it? But we do, because that beer commercial plays on that desire. So we have to suppress it and only expose our filthy lustful desire when we're intoxicated.. ? So yes, our society is full of it.

And until it loses this strange mixed signal, experts can continue to predict rises in teen pregnancy and STD transmission rates.


"Meanwhile, the government officials and activists that have flown to Bali will cause as much pollution as 20,000 cars in one year. Each delegate will produce an average of 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This total is the equivalent of 20,350 mid-sized cars. Some of the nations' delegates promise to offset their carbon footprint by planting trees or buying emissions credits. But scientists say that these symbolic actions won't do squat."

I'd like to focus on the overall workings of the 'carbon offset' programs. The rest of this needs no explanation, hypocrisy speaks volumes. Carbon offsets are essentially the fake environmentalist mentality that says "I can continue being a dirty rotten capitalistic pig who throws his garbage upon the ground, drive my SUV to the airport to jet off to exotic locations where upon I will meet with other 'important' people and describe how other people who do exactly as I do are evil because they do not plant trees or purchase credits to 'offset' their behavior." It's all phony and preposterous bluster. Planting trees or the amount of 'carbon credits' that would be needed are far in excess of what these people are doing or suggesting that we do. What would be more admirable is instead these people had conferences online, minimizing the polluting effects while using technology, actually reduced their lifestyles or found alternative means of powering them (or funded such means where they don't already easily exist) and so forth. Fake environmentalist behavior that claims such lofty aims as "I'm saving the planet, what are you doing?" is ridiculous. What environmentalism is really doing is not 'saving' the planet. It is intended to create a healthier balance between the interfering behaviors of man upon nature, or rather man's nature. What we might do to realize is that we are just as much a part of a fragile ecosystem that supports our own life. That's good, because we then realize we're just as weak and fragile and it might do to look around at human beings and our problems as a universal system. But what it does not do is say that human beings have the wherewithal to 'save' much of anything. We have power to preserve some things, some things we can influence or control, or at least mitigate. But then we see the power of nature in wildfires or hurricanes, blizzards, and so on. And we remember that we can't predict what the weather will do tomorrow with reliability. And we might relax, and realize that we're not going to save the planet because we don't even know how it works yet. It's very hard to fix something that is 1) maybe not even broken, and 2) doesn't come with a manual or some easily understood coding that allows one to take it apart bit by bit and see how it fit together in the first place. I advise doing something else instead. A bit smarter than trying to fix things that we probably won't have much effect on anyway.

What we can do is save what we have; conservationism is a healthy message. It helps strengthen internal economies by making them entrepreneurial and dependent upon natural resources inherent to their domains by adopting a stronger dependency on what's readily available and conserving what is not. In America's case, there is oil here. That's nice. But not nearly as much as we need. Which isn't. Conserving or replacing that huge volume of oil won't be easy, but no environmentalist plan based on 'carbon offsets' is talking about how to practically replace the fuels and engines of the world's vibrant and growing global economics. It's a giant scam for this reason, because if the people who want it aren't going to take it seriously enough to reduce their own lifestyles to avert 'potential disaster', then what are the rest of us to do?

I don't want to hear another lecture from the UN/Al Gore or any other phony environmentalist until they have energy neutral homes and 80-90% personal recycling, plus they're in a hybrid car pool (not a limo/private plane), and so on. They can afford these amendments. Why aren't they doing them? They should also not have conferences in Switzerland or Bali. They should all be in Darfur, Iraq, etc. Somewhere where it seems a bit hypocritical to say that the environment is man's biggest threat, when it is still clearly man's ever increasing ability to find ways to threaten himself physically.

06 December 2007

random acts of violence


Maybe if these people want to be famous, that's fine. .but find a better way to do than killing off others and then yourself. You don't even get to enjoy the full fifteen minutes, what with the condition of deadness you find yourself in after that.

Here's the real problem, ever since Columbine, shooters have noticed that shooting others is something that gets real recognition. Infamy, maybe, but at least it's something that has volume and attention to it. Much of the problem with people today has been that things are too quiet, too ordinary, or otherwise without merit. There's use in appreciation of peaceful times and the calm reflection it can bring. But reflection only works when one has something to reflect on. These people do not.

Maybe instead what these shooters should start doing is killing reporters and anchorman. Because unless those idiots stop giving so much attention to things that cause harm and dismay, and that are not part of some underlying importance but rather random acts of violence or even accidents (airplane crashes), we're going to keep getting these assaults in schools, malls and so forth from time to time. And there really isn't much we can do about it on any level to stop it.

05 December 2007

racist moms


This is surprising how? As I understand it, there's generally a parental 'role' for both mother or father. It can be satisfied by either party, but generally people might acquire the ability to interact and co-exist with others from their motherly relationship and tend to acquire self-temperance/control/discipline from the fatherly (this comes up most often in studies of prison populations, ie nobody sends father's day cards in prison, but mom almost always gets a card). Since generally racist tendencies are involved in not co-existing with others, it would tend to mean that we would blame mothers abstractly for this problem. Additionally, as the story notes, mothers still tend to pull the majority of childcare duties. Which gives them a good deal more influence on things like friendships, activities, and so on.

Please wake me when someone conducts a study that contradicts logical common sense.

speeding kills?


Speeding kills? The history of speed limits is based originally on engineer assessments of what the average traveled speed on a main road was. At some point, it was decided that reducing the speed traveled would increase fuel economy. Which I suppose it does. The net result however was that people continued traveling on roads at virtually the same speed. This turned out to be a cash cow for local or state governments. Supposedly studies were conducted that showed that lower speeds are safer. But in fact, the safest speed is the one that an average person will travel on a given road (regardless of what the actual limit is, it's whatever people are driving on it); excepting side streets where children (and pets) nix the arrangement. The result being: speed limits are usually too low by at least 5-10 mph in most places. What do most people admit to speeding at, yes 5-10 mph. What do most people get pulled over for, yes 10 mph over. Does any of this increase traffic danger? Actually no. When the limits were raised again, people resumed driving at rates that they always drove at, regardless of imposed limits. The net result however was that a large minority of actual law-abiding citizens also resumed driving at those rates, thus creating greater uniformity and safety. People who drive too slow are just as hazardous, if not more so, than people who drive too fast. A little publicized fact of traffic studies as it is generally lazier to say that driving too fast is deadly. It can be. But intellectually, a person driving fast generally has good conditions to do so, that being, no or few other cars (otherwise, they're probably doing something minutely dangerous). A person driving too slow is generally in the way, causing other cars to have to maneuver to get around them, which maneuvering is the easiest way to cause an accident. Driving fast in a nearly straight line, not so much. In any case, I'll go crawl back under my hole so as not to get a ticket myself. But needless to say, drive whatever traffic levels are going or permit. It's the safest way to travel.

04 December 2007

yell out fire next time


We do have some interesting things that come out as a result of free speech. I'm not in favor of going down the hallways firing at the fleeing teachers and executing the standing ones. So I think the O.P. as a sarcastic tone was a bit much. But I'm quite confident many teachers are lazy and ineffective. I've seen them.

That said, we do need some wiggle room on free speech. Sarcasm and dark comedy as well as blunt language and sexual innuendo (overt or otherwise) are not only not permitted and censored, but apparently a cause for detainment. I have no problem with someone taking the point of view of their opponents in an argument/debate and extending it to a radical view to make light of it or otherwise make a point.

Now as to why someone else didn't recognize this.. probably because they suffered through the same educational system that I'm calling out on a regular basis. It's not really the police's fault when someone files a complaint. Sort of, they could use some common sense as well. But in the trigger happy news environs we live in now, it's hard not to take such things with some seriousness as a public official. I blame the lazy view that such statements are posing direct threat rather than being an annoyance for other extremist views.

bush pc

Congress should fund troops "without telling our military how to conduct this war,

Maybe I'm confused, but considering that Congress is supposedly the only entity that can authorize war and authorize peace accords, it might be important for them to be have some influence over how the military conducts itself beyond just assessing funding. It's truly annoying to have the 'emperor' bothering the general once he has committed to battle, agreed. But the whole committing to battle and not committing to battle is a political question. While it's nice to win battles, it's important to understand what are we fighting for. And it's not clear what that is in Iraq and it never was. First it was WMDs, then freedom, and now. .terrorism? There's a laudable goal somewhere in building a free and stable country, but if you're building something, it helps to have a stable foundation on which to build and build from. A castle made of sand will just blow away eventually. Iran or Lebanon are much more ripe for democracy than Iraq will be for many years. Even Palestine is probably better equipped than Iraq.

Given what I've been seeing, it sounds like the 'surge' is having some effects. But it is not really a surge that is doing anything, because they radically changed tactics. Someone figured out that they were in guerrilla warfare and started behaving accordingly. There's a play book for fighting unconventional warfare. Much of it includes being active and present in communities that are threatened in order to provide at least a semi-positive image of troop disposition. Cooperation with locals allows for cutting off supplies of men and material, better reconnaissance, and a safer working environment for everyone. Sitting on forts and escorting diplomats or supplies through dangerous territory by shooting at anything that moves does not. I'm glad someone at the Pentagon was smart enough to figure that out..after 4 years. Unfortunately they apparently forgot to tell the mercs to behave.

"Bush had "knowingly" disregarded or misrepresented intelligence. "This is ... exactly what he did in the run-up to the war in Iraq, in consistently exaggerating the intelligence," -- This on Iran, after reports now that Iran has halted it's nuclear weapons program as of several years ago. It is true that any country with nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment facilities can build a nuclear weapon. But to do it under international scrutiny is fairly difficult. This was principally why I was not committed to Iraq in the first place because it was so difficult to produce such facilities and weapons under both sanctions and scrutiny. Why we rushed to believe intelligence suggests that we were willing to assume that Saddam was a bad guy, which he was. And that he wanted to do something dramatic, which he might. What we really should have done then is just put a bullet in his head or a bomb on the palace he was sleeping in, but that apparently is against our laws. Something about risking assassination of the President, even though that's only happened from domestic sources, and probably will continue to be so long as we have a huge military. If we're that worried about it, we could have taken the case to the UN and said "look the sanctions are only making Saddam and his cronies rich (as well as the UN). Why don't we just take care of this problem the old fashioned way and shoot the guy." Barring that, we could have sent people in to detain him for international tribunal (which if you notice, he was only charged with things that happened before the US started selling him weapons in the 80s to kill Persians but used against his own citizens as well). Occupying a country and attempting to build a regime that was favorable to our positions is not a tenable foreign policy stance (though it worked sometimes during the Cold War for a while, it always backfires; just look at Iran and anywhere in Latin America). Shooting international criminals however is probably fine.

"commented on the case of a 19-year-old Saudi Arabian woman who was gang-raped and then punished by a Saudi court which sentenced her to 200 lashes and six months in prison."
--- While it is true she was punished, her crime was not being raped. It would do to distinguish the inanity of strict shariah law. Her crime was meeting with an unrelated male alone, not being assaulted and raped by several men. Supposedly shariah law recognizes that rape is rather unpleasant at least, but given that the otherwise strict judicial code did not execute the rapists, or at least castrate them... I might have been mistaken. If they're willing to saw off people's hands for theft, then I'd think the least that could be done is cut off a rapist's tools as well.

today here and gone


This would be.. unfortunate? I don't know. It doesn't really have any blogging features and the whole viral advertising is really pretty annoying, if not down right creepy. Granted that gathering information on people is something even grocery stores and gas stations are doing now. The entire ID theft problem became national news when it was discovered that hundreds of thousands of people's confidential data was being accumulated and then sold by dozens of companies to just about anyone who asked for it. So the creepy factor is pretty low, given the environment and the accessibility of the web. The fact that advertisers would walk out on a website with several million members however gives one pause however. If so, I guess I'll have to make due with this teenybopper-infested wasteland and Google's equally creepy blogging sites where I get plenty of spam from Latin America and not much else (bad enough to get spam, but in Spanish?, when did that happen).

03 December 2007

32 is a bit much

There are 32 bowl games for college football. By my math, that's 64 teams. Virtually the same as the number for college basketball. I say that's overkill. I know people enjoy watching football. But a bowl game is essentially like a playoff game. Making the playoffs should be relatively hard. Since there are 120 teams in D1 football, over half of them make the "playoffs". This is a frequent problem with say the NBA or NHL playoffs with 16 teams out of 30, but those formats are somewhat different and are more ingrained as a playoff structure, whilst some of these bowls are relatively new. For comparison, if there are 65 teams making the playoffs for college basketball, out of 328, then statistically there should be 24 teams in bowl games. Accepting the consolation NIT tournament as a playoff, that improves the number to 36. 18 bowl games would be manageable and we would have more legitimate representatives. For example: Memphis vs Florida Atlantic? Southern Miss? And so on. About half the teams that are in bowl games did little more than play 6 or 7 cupcakes to get there and did almost nothing on a national scale to deserve attention by playing a game after the season ended, generally losing to the only good team they played all year, plus some conference opponents.

I'm not concerned with the whole 'we need a playoff in college football'. What we need is a more exclusive bowl system. Then we can talk about a playoff between the most elite teams. I personally like the idea of having the bowls first and having the teams reseeded and then having a second round between the top teams who survived those games. That seems like a better plan than letting OSU play LSU without qualification.

election results in, hugo is not a villain


Following up on the various dictatorial elections. Elections being a facetious term here. As it would appear, Russia still knows how to stage an election. Hugo, despite the pomp and bombast last week, does not. Generally dictators win elections in landslides. Not lose them in 50/50 splits. But oh well.


Not sure what all 69 referendums were. But I assume most had to do with expansion of presidential authority and nationalization of various industries.

One thought however which came to mind is that term limits really don't seem like a good idea. There's merit in the Cincinnatus tradition of stepping aside to go home and raise crops or some such. I admire that sort of duty and public discipline. But some people seem specially attuned to the spotlight of public discourse and service. I don't see the point in dismissing them automatically because they've 'been there too long'. There's plenty of reason to dismiss people who've been there too long, but it's not because of incompetence, it's usually because of graft, greed or myopia.

On the flip side, the entire premise of the lame duck Presidency during a second term has all sorts of grave consequences in the modern era. Clinton spent his entire second term searching for a legacy, or so the media would tell it. I'm pretty sure a President doesn't need to search for a legacy. But maybe CNN or Clinton himself knows different. In any case, it's not a very good idea to have a President searching for something identifiable instead of merely executing his office. It's actually inherently dangerous.

30 November 2007

hugo isn't a good name for a villain


I like how there's already a plan to deal with the imminent voter fraud. Well, we'll just cut off the oil. That amuses me. Why do we have to put up with that, oh that's right. .because we're still dependent on oil. Why is this? Because 1) we're not drilling off our own coast and instead letting China do that. And 2) because we haven't set up anything approaching an energy policy to overhaul or convert over to more renewable resources.

tv ads begin, one year early


I'm confused. Why don't more campaigns use the internet? I'd think it'd have to be cheaper and much easier to design items without as much constraint (30 seconds for example is a pretty short time frame). I'll buy that TV is a non-participatory arrangement that people more or less sit and be brainwashed by. That certainly lends some credibility for using TV spots. But the fact that the critical undecided/swing vote portion of the country doesn't generally watch commercials, or have tivo type devices that skip them anyway, probably means that TV isn't going to necessarily decide this election.

I do find the conservative frenzy over CNN stacking the youtube 'debate' amusing. For one thing, democrats are going to pose silly questions and accusations anyway. For another, I was under the mistaken impression that having a public forum for debate would mean that an actual question would be asked. That hope was dashed. Here's what I want to see in any debate: a debate. That's it. Is that too much to ask for? Too much to ask people with deliberate positions on leading the country (potentially) to argue over those positions rather than their childhood experiences and whether or not they inhaled?

I suppose we could resolve things the way Algerian (Muslim) immigrants do in France and start shooting at policemen.. for.. I don't know why. Just because. I suppose if one of the candidates passes out from all the running and screaming, I'd have something to hang my hat on. But it still wouldn't add much intellectually to this problem.



Ouch. I almost don't care KG only played 20 minutes. New York has not had a good year in sports. Boston, on the other hand. .is getting out of hand.

29 November 2007

haircut boy hates wal-mart and free will


In case anyone else needs further proof that Edwards is an idiot.

Some thoughts.
One: Obama has a plan that 'doesn't cover everyone'. Who doesn't it cover? Rich people? Middle class working kids? If we must attack it, the idea that it 'doesn't cover everyone' isn't a selling point by itself that makes me nervous. In fact it's likelier to make me agreeable with it, depending on who 'isn't covered'.

Hillary has a mandate. What a shock, given the details of hillarycare v1.0. But it can't be enforced. Also, not much of a surprise. Anyone care to guess what the non-compliance rate with car insurance is even when it's mandated by law. Any idea how to enforce it? I'll give a hint. There isn't a way to do it in the American governance system. We could do it, but it would be a bit fascist and people who actually comply with the law and have insurance would get annoyed at having to demonstrate this fact all the time.

Which means Edwards idea is rather silly on its face. We would be required to purchase health care insurance. Oh, okay. So maybe that's fine, but then how do some people pay for it. You know, poor people. And second, we are required to purchase it.. .but from where.. ? The government? Anyone checked a line at the DMV lately? How about looked at how Medicare or SS are doing fiscally over the next decade? What about public schools? No? Again a hint, the government is not very good at running things. In fact it's actually quite bad at it. Are we to expect that a government which cannot educate children at anything approaching world standards, can't provide a reliable pension from money we and our employers gave them to provide us in retirement (how that got messed up is a long story, suffices to say, they stole it), and can't even competently take our photos and issue us a tag for our cars in a reasonable amount of time is going to run an effective health care service? I don't think so.

It's the last line of the article that really gets under my skin. "You don't have that choice". Really? We're that unevolved that we don't get options anymore. Great idea.

The proposal at the bottom which appeared to be from a user was somewhat more palettable. Though I'm still holding out for someone who wants to gut the current free market insurance companies in general rather than replace them with a government payment system. I don't see how we should need a middleman to pay for our health care. The only advantage of insurance is that group rates allow for a discount in the event of actual needs for care. Largely this is because most people do not need care, or at least not in the large amounts that insurance is providing for. We should not be concerned about the visit to the doctor in a yearly or semi-annual checkup as a major spending decision. What is a good idea is something like a hospital price list. To give people an idea of the rates and charges so they can decide what they (and their insurance co) can afford. Two other issues. One, people should be able to purchase from any state or even another country for cheaper, more competitive rates on insurance (in general the reason the cost is so high is supply is constricted and demand is ridiculous, but if the supply is loosened up, this will help). And two, insurance should be flexible and simple enough to administer (ie, fewer and simpler forms for both patients and doctor's offices) so that HMOs go away. I don't see how in a digital era that forms can't be standardized and simplified by some regulatory body, even one within the insurance industry itself.

26 November 2007

lott gone

Good bye Sen Lott. We are most pleased to see you go. I'm personally quite tired of bigoted free spenders hiding as conservatives. Along with Hastert quitting, it looks like someone decided to usher out the GOP leadership that brought itself down. It might have helped if these people had some inkling as to limited government, the limitations extending to things like drug controls and sexual reproductive rights. But then, who am I to argue with it.

23 November 2007

black friday or are we insane


Funny how there was already a story analyzing the chaos. Know why? Because the chaos started on Thanksgiving night or, for some people, the afternoon of as they camped out. I was not one of those. I do enjoy some bargains, but I possess enough sanity not to place myself in the frigid snowstorm all night.

Instead waiting about a half hour to get into a store after it has already opened and get a few items and get out, while never going anywhere near a Walmart, is a bit smarter, if only slightly crazy. I shall call during this time the Vortex of Hel (yes, I'll go Norse on you) the store formerly known as the Mart of Wals. I don't believe in a fiery maw, or an icy shelf, but I do believe that legions of frenzied Christmas shoppers with no remaining shreds of human decency, bumping and clawing over meaningless products are undoubtedly a form of unmitigated human suffering, in this case, self-imposed. And for Jesus, no less. Ironic. So I will go nowhere near a Vortex and stick to groceries and online vendors for the next month now.

20 November 2007

huck you


It may be true that he's gaining ground. But he was flying on an airplane over the weekend and nobody seemed to know who he was. He's not recognizable. I'm not a fan of his stated positions on so-called moral issues (being a fairtax supporter cuts some of the edge off, only some though). But I can imagine his standing on these matters reverberating with some evangelicals during the elections. That thought is somewhat troubling to me. One thing I'm noticing with most of the GOP 08 candidates is that they suffer from a distressing set of inconsistencies. They seem to operate on the assumption of a common value set that is decreed rather than arrived at in the majority of the American population. That value set is beset with any number of logical inconsistencies and even morally slippery reasoning. The number of questions on torture and overly fascist illegal immigration stances during GOP debates for example seem a bit off kilter.

In reading some politics, one thing that stands out is that very few of these candidates seem able to offer anything other than "I'm not going to be Hillary" (this is true even among Democrats, including Hillary herself), which is precisely the thinking that delivered us a Democratic congress that hasn't done anything. It hasn't done anything because it's only agenda was "we're not Bush". I'm not sure that Americans are totally stupid (although I could be wrong), but I don't see them falling for the same trick within the same generational cycle.

In any case, Huckabee is somehow still around even after the infamous 'Do you believe in the theory of evolution" question early on. I think that speaks volumes for the viability of religion and politics and the need to somehow distinguish between the two.



I'm not in the NRA. I don't own a gun. And if I had one, I'd probably have to figure out how to use it before I could kill someone with it. Without indiscriminate random firing into a crowded street anyway. But there's some strange logic here. The idea of handguns being banned and illegal is somehow going to deter criminals from owning one? Criminals. Aren't they the same people who already violate laws? So they're going to automatically observe this one as well? It's a strange logic. I agree in some principle that reducing the number of guns available does reduce violent crime, if only by extension increasing the cost of purchasing illegal weapons for example. That makes some fundamental sense. There are two things that make more sense than an outright ban. First remove the common conditions which inspire criminals to violent activity with weapons to achieve their aims. Easier said then done, but it's considerably cheaper in the long run to offer hope, empowerment, and some changes that inspire prosperity than to continue to suffer the imposed prison sentence of a ghetto lifestyle. Second, provide some deterrence by harshly penalizing people who use guns, and people who provide tolerance for their use (the don't snitch crowd). This works on a few people, smarter crooks figure out ways to make ends meet without packing a piece unless it's really needed. Violence isn't needed in a world with volume internet scams.

To actual gun control advocates, I can and do appreciate the arguments. Hand guns and automatic assault rifles were not around in the late 18th century. Even had they been, the population density was such that they would make little profitable use except in defense of frontier establishments (thus why the Colt revolver did so well in the mid 19th century). But the trouble is that such weapons were designed with a military purpose, that is, solely to kill other human beings. With ruthless mechanized precision in some cases. With our society grown into much more of a mechanized, urbanized system, some levels of restriction on the types of weapons available to the common person seem inevitable. We do not, for example, commonly see someone strolling around with an RPG or a .50 cal heavy machine gun. Hand guns it can be argued provide some levels of basic personal defense, and certainly the perception that a community is armed and willing to defend its place of residence against such trivial attacks as vandalism or theft is likely to have some positive benefits in reducing crime as well. But even so, it's possible that people could simply have shotguns.

But on what grounds is someone claiming a need to defend themselves against the government when there are peaceful means to resist the will of said agency? I don't quite see that argument. I'm not in favor of unlimited gun control and aside from some basic regulations that restrict purchasing access for ex-cons or psych ward types, I'm not sure we need a major push to remove guns from our society. I think we need a major push to remove the desire to use violent measures to exact benefit or other criminal advantages. Without guns, the desire to do murderous things is simply limited to other weapons, or at least guns with a stated and mundane hunting purpose rather than human killing machines. But without some cogent argument in favor of anti-regulation and supporting 2nd amendment rights, the central argument of gun control is steadily going to gain ground and it will not remove the principle issues with their employment.

So to attempt to provide one. There are two elements to it. One is that the defence of one's property and livelihood against physical assault is ultimately up to the individual. The chief ability of police is not to prevent crime but to deter it by detaining and prosecuting those responsible for it. Individuals are already in a fortress mentality in America, but yet curiously seem willing to allow police or other agencies to come to their rescue during times of difficulty. Certainly a fire department is better equipped to put out a fire. A doctor is better equipped to treat a wound or illness. But to prevent careless injuries, most accidental fires, etc, that's a personal stake. It's not the states business to walk into our homes and point out to us every fire hazard or potential death trap. It's our own. The same is true for the deterrence and ultimate prevention of crime. To do this there are a variety of methods, security alarms, cameras, fences, locks, dogs, and if all else fails guns. If a criminal enters a property with the reasonable expectation that he/she may be killed as a result of their acts, they're likelier than not to find somewhere else to go. To me this is really the only reason not to impose a massive sweeping ban on weapons. Some of them the public can do without. But in the environment we've created, sometimes a loaded weapon may be the only thing making someone think about what they're about to do.

The second is more simple, but as the Constitution is the highest law, it does indicate a need for well-regulated militia. The implication, viewed in the historical terms of the day, is in part that the general population would be able to readily use weapons in defence of their homes and be able to do stand to in a collective way if need be. It's hard to see a need for militia what with a massive professional standing army (something not in the Constitution, but sometimes useful in statecraft). This I suppose is the most basic question up for consideration in the court. Does the 2nd amendment mean: regulated guns or regulated militias. It's hard to see the founding fathers arguing that people needed guns to stand up against their own government, as some 'militias' at the present argue. But with the Revolutionary War not far in their history, there was undoubtedly some thought to that problem. In any case, it's easy enough to point to the language of the text and make something approaching a cogent argument that government may be able to regulate and restrict access to purely 'offensive' lethal weapons, but they shouldn't be banning them.

In the aftermath of decisions like Kelo, I'm not encouraged that the Supreme court has taken up cases like these. But if the chief argument against such controls is as sensible as this, I can't say there was no attempt to defend the 2nd amendment.

mile high grounded


Perhaps fooling around on the plane isn't always a good idea. Especially in the present climate on airplanes. Kicking off women with short skirts and now this. Inconveniencing the whole plane because of some concerns over sex.

poverty breeds

"The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has come to the conclusion that poor people have more overweight kids. The health officials are attributing this to the fact that affluent communities have more public parks. Yes. That's right. There are more public parks in wealthier communities around Los Angeles and THIS is why their children are not obese."

As with most things in social order, there are a number of factors. The fact that poor people live in run-down neighborhoods and either have no access to parks or otherwise do not feel a safe inclination towards public exercise (can't imagine why that would be, potholed sidewalks and gunshots maybe?) is undoubtedly one of them. But it's hardly the only one. Public planning commissions don't really put parks in places without money for any number of reasons but one of them being that it costs more to maintain in an crummy neighborhood. Both higher maintenance and frequent patrolling is apt to be more extensive and required. I don't necessarily think this is a bad decision on their part, but I do understand the issue of cheap access to exercise as a problem.

The real issues with poverty and health as a linked concern are much more extensive. Diet is different, almost criminally deficient. Interest in 'dangerous' behaviors such as drinking, smoking, and other intoxications is higher. Teen pregnancy rates are generally higher along with the spread of infectious diseases (like STDs). Garbage or other waste is frequently on lawns or other public displays. Some of these have to do with general ignorance. Most of these issues have to do with the state of mind created by the conditions of having to live in squalor and thus not seeing any reason to give a damn. What we find is that yes, the society around poor people is an influential problem. But the people themselves often then self-destruct.

17 November 2007

How about this, punish the victims


I'm not totally familiar with the Qo'ran's wording, but I'm not quite sure how the victim is to be punished for the actions of others. The attorney for the victim is probably right, that such actions are 'sinful' or 'hateful to God', as rape is one of the few things (maybe the only thing) I'm rather prone to believe is always wrong (although in my case I don't need a fatwa, or a god, to tell me it's a bad idea). The punishment, based on the facts as presented (I'd have to be there at trial for a more thorough and confident judgment), should be death.

Instead the courts amended slightly upward the sentences and increased the punishment for the victim (whose crime was the unrelated charge of meeting with an unrelated male; must be hell to date there). My understanding of Saudi politics has been that their government has made some attempts to appease Western societies with regards to women, albeit very slowly and generally without much domestic fanfare. Evidently some members of their judiciary (which is undoubtedly stacked with Islamist clerics, seeing as the law there is Islam) were not happy with these modest reforms. Thus the contradictory step of punishing the victim.

16 November 2007

there's a multitude of them


Not sure if this plan will work, but kudos for trying something. People who aren't motivated to perform their jobs aren't going to do their jobs. Now I'm not suggesting that fear of losing a job is necessarily a motivating issue. Some people have better options or just don't care. But I am saying that not having it as a viable fear is pretty silly. In any profession, just because someone has been there a long time does not make them the best person for the job. There are some people who become quite skilled and almost invaluable members. And others who are just there for the paycheck. Teachers are usually not there for the paycheck, but after a few years, the pay starts to improve. I can't imagine that a feeling of lazy accomplishment wouldn't set in once tenure is achieved for some.

There are plenty of teachers who are highly motivated to perform the public good or to instill a basic sense of knowledge and learning in their charges. I admire these people, though I can't say I've had or seen a great many of them. Particularly where math and science were concerned. Too many rotes and too much focus on 'showing your work'. Sorry if I just look at a problem and intuitively understand what the answer is.

There are two counter arguments for this proposal. One was quickly addressed and that is that a bad principal or administration would turn the blame on teachers and start axing teachers. That's a valid concern because we see the same tactics in professional sports coaching. Bad year, fire an assistant. That blows out the flames over the off-season and makes people think that an underling is responsible. Sometimes they were. Often times they're not.

The one that is hinted at but unseen is how the issue of competence is achieved. Which is something difficult to study and discern with even supposedly objective and verifiable data to support these claims. It's simply impossible to rationally define what the stable outcome of a teacher's work is supposed to be because the students are a massive unstable variable. And it's unclear whether students are supposed to be able to pass a test or are actually judged to have learned something.

In any case, attacking the pillars of defense that incompetent teachers can hide and benefit behind (tenure, base pay, etc) is necessary to improve the standard bearers of education. I see no reason why bonuses can't be offered. Or a long-standing teacher fired after a brief stretch of uninspired years of teaching (with no attempts to correct this anomaly). What bothers me about this particular plan is that it is requiring a small army of lawyers to execute it instead of a simple agreement between administration and teachers that they should both faithfully execute their respective jobs.



Here's the issue. They took about two years too long to come down with the indictment. I don't see this coming down with an actual conviction. It will however end his career. Nice move.

Secondly, the Mitchell Report is supposedly due in about another month. I suspect at that point what we'll find is that a major percentage of players were using some banned substance. That Bonds is to be the scapegoat for an ineffective blind-eye policy toward steroids/HGH in general for both baseball and the government is really quite sad. He's undoubtedly guilty of using a banned/controlled substance to enhance his play and extend his career. And that's a choice that he shouldn't have made. But in the climate around him when this happened, I can't say I blame him totally. If everyone is cheating, the urge to compete is likely to drive many to cheat as well. He didn't really need to though. And that's the sad part of this whole thing. Tragedy is almost always of our own flaws, and so it is.

something for the violent fun seeker

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?"

Oh yeah. Assassin's Creed came out. Something for me to do.

'human rights'

A pointless question to pose to politicians, particularly in the present American mindset, but a useful for actual people. Basically when asked when or if 'human rights' trumps security, most of the politicos answered that security comes before rights with Richardson saying no and Obama delivering one of his now patented evasive rhetorics-
"Obama challenged the question, saying "the concepts are not contradictory.""

I was already thinking much the same thing however. Security, or at least the most basic expectation that one's life and property is not under constant undue physical danger, is technically a human right. If we have such things. True liberty demands that a society put aside some expectations for the provision of order, punishment or retribution, and so forth. The types of security we're talking about here are 'is America going to be bombed or attacked in a particularly nasty way again' Which really has very little to do with 'security' because the likelihood of American civilians dying from terrorist activity is dramatically low. On the list of 'preventable death' it's considerably lower than things like AIDS or heart disease. But those things no longer kill Americans in ways that attract headlines. The type of security I'm talking about is achievable. Most people actually would have it if they thought about it for a moment instead of letting the fear machine get to them. Is there danger from terrorism and should our country be active in trying to remove this threat? Sure. I agree. But being afraid of it and allowing it to impose a feeling of insecurity is roughly equal to being afraid of tornadoes. If one happens, yes you are screwed. And yes, if you live somewhere where they're more likely you should have a plan to deal with it, maybe even drill or practice it once in a while. But the likelihood of any one person being killed by a tornado is pretty low. As such, it should not intrude on one's feeling of security. The same is true for Americans and terrorists. Aside from combat troops and diplomats in hostile countries, our people are incomparably safer, and have been even with 9/11 and the various bombings that preceded it, than people all around the globe. If we are talking about 'security' there are communities in America which could use some, but it's not because of terrorism. It's because of the anti-drug war and policy and the subsequent billions of arms sales and human trafficking related to it.

So quit making 'security' an important topic. It is important, and most Americans have it. Leave it alone. Quit imposing this fortress mentality upon Americans, as though we must be a the national equivalent of a gated community for Americans to feel safe. It's overkill. A society which fears it's neighbours does not care for them either and becomes totally reliant on government for the provision of safety. We might want to remember that.

The next problem with this question was 'human rights'. This is another term which is thrown about as though it has equal inherent meaning to all people. I'd like to know what human rights they are referring to, those which do not include a basic sense of security. I'm fairly certain they are outlined in things like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. But I'd still like to know how 'health care' is a 'human right'. Certainly some protections against tyranny are human rights. Life, the condition of living, and the pursuit of our interests (within basic limits) are human rights. I suspect that health care is loosely related to living, but it's not a requisite. I could very well go the rest of my life without visiting a doctor. It's entirely possible for people to provide basic care for themselves, and to provide more extensive care privately, as a want. Purchasing health care is a want. It becomes a need when there are conditions which directly threaten life, and doctors, hospitals, and some clinics will provide care at those times. The rest of the time basic health care is actually more of a personal maintenance issue than the responsibility of society. Having a doctor provide it to us smacks more of laziness than anything else. Having the government pay for it, that smacks more of stupidity and laziness combined. Those two forces appear to be irrepressible when combined. I can do but little to resist the dark power they call forth. This was the principle retort of HillaryCare towards ObamaCare. That he doesn't cover everyone. Some people don't chose to be covered (I used to be one such person). It's cheaper sometimes to run risks. I'm not supporting Obama here because I'm not in favor of his plans either, but at least when one debates, they're supposed to actually make sense in their attacks toward one another's positions.

Other 'human rights' apparently include 'torture'. Or as it is lately defined, enhanced interrogation. Whatever, politicians apparently feel that changing the terms change the conditions or actions involved. This PC lingo has gone way too far and for the most part dehumanizes the landscape where political issues are concerned as well as creates confusing terms which now have mixed and thoroughly muddled definitions. Like 'human rights'.

Next problem with these debates:

"But it was more than an hour into the two-hour debate before the issue of energy came up." -- Did I miss something or did oil just pass $90/per recently? Aren't people all over the country pissed about gas prices and they're paying something like $5 a gallon in California now. Since they were in Nevada, perhaps this should have been a major issue to talk about. Not something to stuff into the middle as a filler topic. Perhaps instead of expending tremendous energy delivering pre-conceived and carefully studied political talking points and tag lines, we could have an actual debate concerning issues that actually impact American human beings and their lives for a change. 'Security', 'human rights' and mudslinging have little to do with Americans and thus the reason most Americans are dissatisfied with the present political process (and most if not all of the candidates for 08). Even where they do have much to do with American life, few candidates manage to connect them in a way which provides context and meaningful cause for debate. It's very frustrating to recall that a simple Texas yahoo with big ears and a bunch of charts is the closest thing we've had to actually debating anything.

14 November 2007

procession of topics


Scroll down to the article on virginity and delinquency. Supposed old wisdom says that sex and delinquency go hand in hand (I suppose it would help if delinquent was defined as a clearly criminal act, rather than simple rebellious behavior such as drinking or smoking). Anyway, the tag line here is classic. "Pop a cherry not a cap". As a bonus, the pot smokers are more likely to be physically active and have 'healthier' friendships than smokers or non-smokers. More fuel for the anti-drug crowd, oh wait..maybe not. Although this might explain why I wasn't very popular in schools, aside from the arrogant genius part.

Also a study which was somewhat widely reported posed the idea that being slightly overweight is healthy. While it is true that being slightly overweight may allow one to potentially live longer, I'm not convinced that living slightly longer is very important. Americans seem to have a quantity fetish. I do not. Quantity of life is less important than quality of life. This is probably why I don't concern myself with murder rates and battle casualties though, so it's best to aim for a middle ground.

It is however a good question if it's okay to eat like a pig if you don't get fat. I might have been interested in that answer except for that it principally dealt with the metabolic problems of people who cannot control their eating. I have the opposite problem. I forget to eat, so when I remember, I eat whatever and I consume a goodly quantity of whatever it was. I suspect this is not the healthiest way to eat, but it's probably better than forgetting to eat altogether. Likewise, in the sex analogy it uses to demonstrate our natural impulses, I don't 'forget' to have sex. But I do seem to have other things on my mind most of the time. Much like the rumbling of my stomach, there are reminders. But I'm pretty adapt at ignoring them without a persistent partner either making me eat something when I forget or seducing me when I'm wrapped up in some esoteric topic. Such as the following.

Interesting ethical question posed later with the detaching animal brains and putting them into robots or otherwise hooking them up to robots. I suspect that engineering is progressing in this manner in some way for humans in the long run anyway. Our bodies are frail and weak really. It's not surprising that it's easier to engineer a body over a brain. A brain has a veritable cornucopia of complex neuro-chemical/electro-chemical processes that would need to be copied or at least bypassed in appropriate manners. A body simply requires electrical stimuli (or some means of coordinating movement) and means of power or locomotion.

More ethical boundaries,
I'm sure this is a problem that is growing, but a husband having a virtual affair (and I might add, a very involved one at that) in a virtual interactive game is a bit different than watching TV. Added to that that ignoring real life at the cost of virtual one is a bit hazardous. I'm not quite sure why she wouldn't just leave, but that's not necessarily my place here.

Prenatal cures for homosexuality? I'm not sure that a prenatal cure is what we want for this. I believe that a fully formed adult should make the decision to alter their sexual orientation, not some religious wack-job parent. Are there social stigmas and potential problems with being homosexual? Yes there are. Should parents get to choose how to avoid them. No they should not. As with other natural urges and rebellious behaviors that parents seek to repress, rather than control, it would be best if parents have at least some openness to sex as it regards their children and allow the confusion of a teenage homosexual to pass more easily rather than the banishment of the idea of their existence in the first place. And then at some point someone will come along with gene therapy that works in adulthood and allow the repressed and frustrated or harassed adults to choose this strategy then at a responsible time and of their own personal volition.. Presumably it might also work in reverse as well, which may then finally satisfy radical religious claims (and sadly, still the claims of the majority public) that homosexuality is a choice, because then it would be.