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.

13 November 2007

dead culture

Borders announced it will install wide-screen televisions on the walls of its bookstores.

Maybe I'm confused, but isn't Borders a bookstore? What do TVs have to do with reading?

comments on commentary

"Pelosi's talk of a "green" U.S. Capitol is especially phony when she refuses to allow the House of Representatives to vote on proposals to increase fuel-economy standards for vehicles. Higher mpg standards -- the average fuel economy of new cars, trucks and SUVs has not risen since 1988 -- are a million times more important to preventing artificial global warming than symbolic actions such as those being taken at the Capitol. Stricter mileage rules would not only reduce U.S. payments to Persian Gulf dictatorships but also make a significant dent in greenhouse gases because greenhouse emissions are proportional to fossil fuel burned. Yet while Pelosi announces lofty promises about a renewable Capitol, she won't schedule a vote on the strict new mileage standards backed by figures as diverse as President Bush and Barack Obama."

I'm quite convinced that the supposed Green movement has been throughly hijacked by some other agenda at this point. I don't see how the 'carbon offset' program is worth anything at all for environmental purposes, as it does nothing to actually reduce pollution and its supposed global warming effects. Nor does it do anything to increase energy independence and with this being the primary front made by 'greens' in this country, it leaves open isolationist thinking that we should be drilling for our own oil and screw the rest of the world. I'm not sure that drilling for our own resources is required, though it surely doesn't hurt as much as these greens claim it does. But without some reasonable measures to actually reduce energy dependence on other countries (ethanol won't cut it, it takes too much energy to produce at this point), these pointless debates will continue and Congress will continue to be ineffective and worthless.

As I understand the Constitution, it is the Congress that is to be the source of both tentative natures, to restrain the whims of the populace (and the executive), and also to be the foundation of change for innovative solutions to the problems of the public. Right now it appears to be trying, and failing, to restrain the whims of the executive and ignoring completely the whims and needs of the populace. Politics may be a dirty business, but it is supposed to achieve results. Results like these belong on the unemployment ranks.

Further comments on the environmental hypocrites:
As regards Gore's wasteful home energy utility bill.
"Members of Gore's species require high power levels to maintain human form." -- classic. Goes back to the Simpson's episode with Kang and Kodos taking over for Dole and Clinton...
"The former vice president is doing everything he personally can to cause global warming, so he can claim is predictions came true." --This is a personal favorite, as it correlates with my idea that fatalist people do what they can to create their own fate.
"We stand by our allegation that he is a sinister kingpin of international rare-bird smuggling." -- I don't think anyone would think of Al Gore as a kingpin of anything other than nonsense. But since the Norwegians apparently mistook his fraudulent claims as scientific advice that advanced the human species in a necessary and cooperative manner, he must have something that he can hold over them.

11 November 2007

upset city

While it is pleasant in Ohio country to hail from Illinois right now (that would be the 2nd college football game I actually watched this year, 3rd total for football), I'm more amused by USC's heralded basketball team, or at least heralded freshman, losing to Mercer (@ home even). If anyone can tell me where Mercer is located without googling it or having attended it, I'll be impressed. At least most people in Ohio could identify Illinois as a state somewhere nearby and know Chicago as the capital (yes I know it isn't). Basketball this sort of thing happens more often, but it's still hilarious when it does. Obviously it does happen more often, as Kentucky lost at home too earlier in the week to another tiny school (Gardner-Webb).

09 November 2007

oil money


Two things popped out of interest in this one. One, why are other countries continuing to pursue oil reserves and development when the country most dependent on oil is not, even off its coast where a country several thousand miles away is drilling. Very strange energy policy on our part. And two was the 2nd to last paragraph. It's a gem.

"If the best-case scenario happens, this discovery would make Petrobras' reserves overcome those of Shell and Chevron and put Petrobras behind only Exxon and British Petroleum,"

Notice how the company is described. Look again. Yes, there's no mention of country. Sure BP has British in there but 1) Britain is an island, not a country and 2) BP is everywhere. Multi-national corporations are entities in and of themselves. Especially energy companies. The idea that each company has reserves rather than countries possessing oil reserves in the ground or sea around their territory is apparently not a conscious development for our leaders or even media.
Elsewhere in the story the oil reserves were to be auctioned off in parcels for development and continued exploration. This was the only mention of the government's involvement. Government ownership of land is really the only way the government itself profits from the energy markets without internal taxation on the oil and gasoline itself. They can't very well tax what they send overseas. That money goes to the corporation. Which technically is taxed, but in reality, not so much. Some money is gathered by the government but the money is recouped by raising prices on consumers. So I guess the government gets its money but we get screwed. Good idea there.

08 November 2007


I had another odd thought where the Colbert train was derailed. Supposedly some of Obama's supporters came out against this 'farce'. On the theory that they draw support from the same audience (mostly people who know what facebook/myspace is because they're of the age bracket that popularized them). Here's the problem right now with that theory. Nobody has been able to show that twenty-somethings vote in large proportions. Something strange like the Colbert candidacy is needed to energize their attention towards politics enough to act and carry out a vote. So I'm not hopeful that any candidate who is relying on the broadest support base of twenty-somethings is a viable candidate nationally.

Next thought which occurred to me is that if this was such a farce, and something that was unnecessarily silly during what should be (and I agree here, it should be) a relatively serious issue, it occurs to me to ask what's so screwed up about the current system that people were at all interested in this. In fact, it looks to me like the farce is the popularity/beauty contests that candidates go through to become elected. Very little of their own opinions and thoughts are shown on any issue. Questions are rarely insightful and meaningful, answers are even less so. Rote prattling on about how bad America has it or how great America would be if only they elect 'me' does not impress me. Debates used to be meaningful forums where ideas were dissected for the impressment of the audience of a particular forum and the subsequent involvement (and perhaps manipulation) of public sentiment. Now they become free mudslinging events where the slightest misstep of any real idea emerging is treated as a cause for assault.

The main reason Hillary deserved to be berated after her response the other night for example wasn't that she is right or wrong on that issue (I think she's wrong, but I'm like everyone else, not quite sure what she really thinks of it). It's that she waffled on it within seconds. She didn't seem to have any idea what she wanted to do with it, and it's an issue that didn't just appear out of thin air. It's been around for the past several years, where she was supposedly in Congress to deal with it at the federal level. At the very least however, the fact that something emerged which appeared to be a real answer should have been sufficient. Instead she caved to what she thought (or rather what she knows) public sentiment is rather than understanding what might be in the public's best interest (which is probably not quite the way they're doing it in NY). I'm not quite certain she knows much about that public beyond which event she is speaking at on a given day and which organization she has to pander to that moment. But then that was a formula for successful election before. I don't consider Bill Jeff a poor presidential period on the basis of the various 'scandals'. I'm still miffed about his foreign policy track record and lack of integrated trade and labour policies. I would think a Rhodes scholar would understand more than just how to run a balanced budget and claim success for it (and the stock bubble). There were some flashes of ideas that might have been more useful socially, such as a series of debates on the topic of race and racial disharmony. But that's not enough for me to feel any better about the future under his wife's reign instead.

In any case, I suppose we're not electing any comedians anytime soon. Which probably means that the whole farcical scene will play on rather than anyone getting up to shout out that the emperor has no clothes. It almost feels like we should just clad a young lady in pure samite and have her lob a scimitar at random and whoever catches it would be king rather than a mandate from the masses.

07 November 2007

top topics

CNN poll listed the top topics of 'interest' in the 08 election cycle.

1) Economy. I'm not sure what this means. Most people have no idea what the economy does or how it works, other than that they either have or do not have a job that they like and provides for their lifestyle. There are however several major economic issues that must be either resolved or at least addressed by major candidates. Right now none of the major candidates is proposing any solutions to social security (that have chance of passage, privatization didn't make it with a Republican Congress and President, which doesn't bode well, Dems have no workable solution right now). None of them are offering solutions to the AMT or the tax structure in general. Nobody is discussing the problems of economic instability, such as job transitions, temporary employment, or our massive foreign debt. Outside of the illegal immigrant question, nobody is discussing productivity and strengthening the American labour force. So nobody is talking about the economy basically.

2) Iraq. I guess I can see how this is a major issue, but if people think it's bound and determined to change quickly based on who gets elected they're in for a rude shock.

3) Health care. Again. Nobody seems to be able to address actual problems other than to say more Americans need it. The root issues involve reform over how health care is purchased in this country. Candidates seem to be at least aware of this issue and have a variety of 'plans'. I remain skeptical that any will pass and highly skeptical of any plan that doesn't involve free market solutions with perhaps some tighter regulation or oversight over how insurance companies operate. But that regulation could be done with tougher state laws and a few simple federal laws allowing things like interstate insurance. The idea that we need a socialized health care plan with state funding is ridiculous. HMOs are bad enough.

4) Terrorism. Unless I missed something, outside of Paul and maybe Obama nobody is talking at all about the roots of this problem. Maybe some people are afraid but I stopped paying attention once the Patriot Act passed. I know this anti-terrorist stance is little more than the anti-drug war with a different title and new ways to harass our citizens. Rather than a genuine attempt to reduce and possibly eliminate terrorist threats.

5) Iran. I guess Iran is the second biggest foreign problem after Iraq that we have. I'm not quite sure what we should be doing here because our military capacity to deal with Iran is fairly limited without international support. Which we don't have. And our diplomatic capacity is likewise limited without support. Which we don't have. Maybe they want to talk to us, but I doubt it. We certainly don't want to talk to them it seems.

6) Gas prices. Mostly these are annoying. What people should be worried about is long-term energy policy. Which we don't have. Either we should be trying to find our own energy to reduce the price or we should be trying to get off of gasoline and oil in the relatively near future.

7) Poverty. This is really the economic issue. How do we create opportunity and jobs that provide more opportunity? That really asks how do we provide growth in our economy. It does not ask, how do we take care of poor people. We know and accept this to be a problem that our society shoulders through its charitable nature and public funding. The long term is how to reduce poverty so we don't have to be charitable. Which is an economics problem.

8) taxes. People always whine about taxes. We do have to reform them, especially the AMT. Maybe this can be done, but I'm not hopeful.

9) Immigration. I'm surprised this is so low with all the xenophobic media out there.

Guess what I don't see on here. Education reforms. Energy policy. Foreign trade and labour issues. Maybe these are less important to the common person's mind, but they're high on the list of public needs. I also don't see abortion, gay marriage and 'family values'. Good riddance.

05 November 2007



Anyone else think it's mildly ironical that Bush is telling someone else that they're undermining democracy?

Anyone else think Pakistan should have been the second country to invade after Afghanistan (if there has to be invasions, they were 3 actually, Saudi being 1, Afghanistan 2)? What they have nukes and F-16s instead of decaying chemical weapons and no air force? There were 3 countries with relatively moderate Islamic roots and governments prior to 9/11. Turkey is acting more belligerent over the Armenian massacres resolution (which bowed to the pressure and didn't pass) and just elected a harder Islamist government (albeit with the curious free-market reform attitude that we like). Pakistan has gone steadily into military hardliners in order to satisfy our anti-terrorist demands and continue repressing extremist elements that have grown up in the wake of Afghanistan. And then there's Indonesia. Which actually seems to be doing relatively fine, mostly because Islam is a bit wacky and less invasive there (more like Christianity worked in Europe post-Reformation, apart from the wars) in comparison to the Arabic countries. 2 out of 3 are failing because of our policies forcing more active and repressive policies in response or cooperation.

It is true that terrorist elements and religious extremism need to be combated, even actively suppressed and destroyed by force if need be. But Islamic countries had some positive ability to repress the more dangerous jihadist root sub-culture of terrorists which we tossed aside by ignoring the culture gap. We have seemed to assume that other countries live by the 'there is an American inside of everyone' routine which isn't quite accurate. Islam, for better or worse, maintains a strong and visible presence in Middle Eastern life. There are definite problems with its track record as regards many things (women in particular). Some of these things are reforming, slowly. In some places, much more rapidly. Moderate interpretations of Islam will never quite match the idealized separation of church and state that Americans are grappling with (and often failing ourselves). But it can maintain levels of personal freedom and it certainly has no qualms about raising standards of living through economics and trade. In the long term, it's far easier to recruit suicide bombers and other free radicals from a society in militant repression and economic depression than in a land rife with more positive opportunity. We have mistakenly believed that freedom is more important than opportunity or hope. In this error, we're fostering a new generation of extremism in places we would have never even seen or thought of. Pakistan at least has some hope of democracy (Bhutto for example) and prosperity instead of endless terror. But it's not reasonable for us to be telling others that they're endangering democracy when we don't seem to be able to defend it here.

01 November 2007



And people don't take me seriously? While pundits complain about the 'mockery of the political process', the exposure that that political process has had as a result highlights the need for more interesting candidates anyway.