Sunday, December 31, 2006

Glad I'm not the only one...

Jane Hamsher voices the disgust that some of us have - not over Saddam's execution but over America's reaction. In particular, I find it interesting what he was specifically tried and executed for.

Saddam's life certainly brought me no joy, but the celebration of his death seemed gruesome and barbaric. An eye for an eye reveals the animal in man. I don't believe in Biblical Hell as many do, so to me this was no simple shortcut to a guaranteed destination for a damned soul. I'd have rather have seen him locked away in solitary to rot in a living hell and die of natural causes.

Meanwhile as wingnuts cream their pants over this "victory in the war on terror", I've got to ask: where the fuck is Osama, and why did we cut and run from Afghanistan to start another war?

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Easy

I've been quite busy lately (and for the forseeable future), so I've been waiting for a post that practically writes itself. Here you go:

President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Google Finance

I love geeks with a sense of humor! This animated overview of new features for Google Finance is great, with lots of little easter eggs strewn about, including a hidden jab at Yahoo.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

what Google is good for...

I haven't been happy with Google search performance for the past few years, but it still excells at helping me find random crap. Accidentally searching for "google sets" using the Google Image Search gave me this cool/geeky image, which I tracked back to this Wikipedia entry.

Sadly though Google Sets didn't turn up what I hoped it would with "Mullet, Volvo."

Go Texas!

Sometimes Texas gets a bad rap. So does New Jersey, right? But I had a great time while I lived there briefly, and it really went to show that interstate trash talk is as much a part of the American tradition as sports team rivalries. I was also suprised to see so many NJ plates on huge pickup trucks driven by people with mullets (though mullet-wearing volvo drivers didn't surprise me). Stereotypes are easily misplaced.

Still, things like this bother me about Texas, because the average outsider assumes it is commonplace. I was told many times in New Jersey that I didn't seem like I was from Texas at all, and they meant it as a compliment.

(linked from PinkDome)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I take it back....

I change my mind, TRex can be quite entertaining. I guess I was just in a bad mood. He wrote recently to discuss the outings of church-gays-in-hiding.

In a way, I guess I can sort of understand where these guys are coming from, though. Jesus Christ is the Elemental Boyfriend. Sensitive Jewish guy, big brown eyes, rich dad, and he loves you no matter what you do. He would die for you. And there he is, hanging (*cough*) out naked at the front of the church every week. You are encouraged to fasten your eyes upon his lithe, nude body and think about luuurrrrrve. Big lurrrrve. A lurrrrrrve that transcends time and even the bonds of death itself. It's got to send some pretty confusing messages to those poor men's limbic brains.
Hahaha :) God save the queens indeed!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Smart move

This past summer Democrats helped remove William Jefferson from his position of power on the Ways and Means committee. In my previous post (linked above) I should have been more restrained, because while the evidence seems compelling Jefferson is still innocent until proven guilty. In fact, he has yet to even be charged. But he is under investigation, and it's extremely important right now for Democrats to maintain a very firm stance against even the appearance of impropriety. I applaud the Democrats for policing their own, something Republicans rarely did.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kentucky's proud heritage may include stupidity...

... but it does not include the Confederacy. Steve Gilliard, a blogger with a strong command of history, points out that Kentucky never seceded from the Union. That doesn't stop hicks in charge of a Kentucky high school from displaying either their ignorance, racism or both. They prominently display the widely recognized "Rebel flag" throughout the school, but that flag is actually "the naval jack of the Confederacy, not the official flag." What has brought this unofficial flag to prominence in the south, especially parts that were never in the Confederacy, is hatred, though that may in fact also be their heritage.

Steve goes on to quote Ken Burns, director of the PBS documentary The Civil War, with this excellent excerpt:

Those flags were instituted in the 1950’s and there’s only one thing that happened in the 1950’s that would have caused the southern states to add the confederate flag. They took one of the battle flags, and it wasn’t even the most popular confederate battle flag, and made it the symbol of segregation and resistance to civil rights and codified it in their flags.
Yee haw, dumbassholes.

Nintendo Wii has a problem

This is quite an awesome PR "problem" to have:

We are investigating. Some people are getting a lot more excited than we’d expected. We need to better communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment.
...
If you are having so much fun that you start perspiring, take a moment to dry your hands.
Caution to parents - the Wii can be too much fun, and your kids may get a surprising amount of exercise! The YouTube video at the end is awesome.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I haven't readily admitted this to anyone...

...but I was one of these "salad day conservatives" that Digby speaks of. I actually bought into that crap for a brief period of self absorbsion. It's a pretty common post-highschool indulgence, a mental powertrip brought on by the opportunity to burn many expendible bridges as a social experiment in preparation for the it's-a-small-world "real world." While in it I was perplexed a great deal that my revered highschool English & History teacher, Allen/Allan/Alan (he's one of those people who doesn't have a known birthday) Johnson, the man who got me into all this, was also interested in the philisophies that influenced communism. I didn't have a sense of irony, and I apologize for my indescretion. As you can see with how highly I regard Digby, my school of thought now swims in a much different ocean of Kool-Aid.

Those of you who know me can imagine how my socially under-powered brain could have wandered into that trap. I make a lot of mistakes, but try not to make the same one twice.

a financial burden

Our country's finances are in need of some serious attention. We've let our government rack up a huge credit card debt and it keeps trying to find new ways to transfer the balance.

Our country has been spending too much money on frivolous things for far too long, and fiscal conservatives are likely to become more aligned with a liberal agenda than they ever imagined.

  • Thinking green has many benefits to efficiency and the bottom line for heavy industry, and often outweighs the cost of implementation - otherwise known as a good return on investment and improving operating margins.
  • Poor health care is an enormous liability to our country's productivity, and poorly managed health care is a tremendous expense in and of itself.
  • Illegal immigrants have brought more money to the Texas economy than they've burdened our state with expenses. $ Billions, in fact. Now we just need to sort out how to get them legal and documented so that the benefits aren't simply reaped at the state level at the expense of municipalities, and improve tax collection for these newly welcomed citizens such that we all come out ahead.
  • The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world - and not just per capita, because our 2.2 million in prison/jail outweights China's 1.5 million. China! Reducing prison expenses means loosening penalties for non-violent offenders and specifically liberalizing drug laws.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Catching up...

I'll start posting regularly again... eventually....

I know this is old news, but it's been swimming in my mind recently because it makes a pretty strong statement about the Christian Coalition. The opening two paragraphs say it all:

The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America has declined the job, saying the organization wouldn't let him expand its agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative group in January from Roberta Combs, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.
But this isn't the first time we've seen such blatant disregard for real issues, apparently because they're "too complicated."

As a side note, it should be apparent why Bush has done so little to support education in America. The more stupid people there are, the bigger his base.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"We support your war of terror!"

If you've got a strong stomach and a nasty sense of humor, go see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Finally we can have a laugh at how stupid bigoted Americans are!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

An enormous vehicle

Wow. I thought the Space Shuttle transport unit was the largest land vehicle, but I stand corrected.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fucking fascists...

I respect the necessity of law and order, but negative stereotypes often exist for a reason. Fucking pigs. You can read more about this story elsewhere in the news.

The biggest problem I see in common between politics, police, religion and capitalism is that people are drawn to positions of power and superiority over others. There's a bit of nature/nurture debate to what causes this human condition, but the reality is that this is an area dominated by testosterone. I tend to avoid people who treat life as a zero-sum game, and sadly this means that to a degree I have developed a persistent distrust of men (though most of my close friends are men). I still naively give everyone the benefit of the doubt, my cynicism is a result of being hurt too often.

(story courtesy of Digby)

P-Mate, a.k.a "She-Pee"

Wow, this is potentially NSFW but quite amusing! This Dutch (of course) company has more details, and links to where you can find it in the US. I especially like their artwork, which resembles Apple's iPod billboards. Links all courtesy of Slashdot, "News for Nerds, Stuff That Matters."

I wonder if the product's directions include anything about leaving the toilet seat up?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Missed out on all the fun

I was sick with a nasty stomach virus and missed out on all the election night fun. Instead I've been trawling through the post-election summaries and I've posted the good ones below. I'll likely add to this list over the next couple of days.

  • Democrats take majority of governorships - This means more candidates to choose from for the '08 race for President.
  • Ohio has been one of the largest areas of turnover including Governor, a number of House positions, and Senator, ousting Mike DeWine, who helped Bush significantly in making illegal wiretapping retroactively legal. Ohio has long been seen as a battleground state and was considered key in reelecting Bush in '04.
  • Lieberman kept his seat in Connecticut. This may actually be a good thing in the long-term of setting Democrats straight in how they handle their whiny compatriots. It also allows Dems to distance themselves from the always-independent Lieberman whose voting record did not reflect well on Democratic principles. It really all depends on this.
  • A write-in Republican candidate to replace Tom Delay's vacated seat managed to get an astonishing 42% of the vote considering her name: Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. She still lost in the traditionally heavy Republican district thanks in part to Tom Delay's redistricting effort that pulled Dems into his district with the confidence that he could still win. Oops.
  • From this article:
    In a triple setback for conservatives, South Dakotans rejected a law that would have banned virtually all abortions, Arizona became the first state to defeat an amendment to ban gay marriage and Missouri approved a measure backing stem cell research.
  • 5 states have voted to raise their minimum wage higher than the national standard, which was also a strong contributor to Democratic efforts to get out the vote (a.k.a. a bridge issue).
  • A recount in Virginia for Senate is highly likely, though I suspect Allen (R) will still lose to Webb (D) who holds a lead of less than 1%. A recount, if demanded by Allen, could take weeks.
So that's my update for now. I'm still keeping an eye on the two Senate races that will determine control of power there, but I'm happy to see that the pendulum has swung in time to save our country from long-term damage by the neocons. This is the first time in 12 years that Dems have taken a majority of House seats and a majority of positions as State Governor, and it sends a very powerful message to the out-of-touch legislators (and the remaining out-of-touch Americans that continue to vote for shitheads like Texas Governor Perry).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Howie Klein calls the plays

Howie Klein's runthrough here is interesting. He leaves only half of one sentence for Texas in this multi-paragraph article: "...I don't think anything will pan out in Texas; even Bonilla looks pretty safe."

Sigh.

Also my loyal readers (comprised of my other personalities) might have noticed that I have been linking less frequently to my originally inspiring favorite, Firedoglake. I've lost interest in that site, even though I still greatly respect the work of Jane and Redd. But they've intentionally changed the course of their project and attracted a more mainstream audience. Jane's blackface incident (want to know more?) and the subsequent reaction demonstrated that Firedoglake is now considered a representative of mainstream liberal bloggers, not just the noisy fray. Even 9 months ago, Jane would have stood up for herself explaining the satire involved in her portrayal of Lieberman's pandering. I don't believe she apologized, but she withdrew her visuals and made little comment from that point. Ned must have some good hush money.

I prefer unabashedly bold, opinionated writers like the Jane of yore, Steve Gilliard and of course "the inimitable Digby." I don't read Kos or Wonkette, and I've stopped subscribing to Huffington Post for a while now. They got good at displacing mainstream journalists and became such themselves. I almost had forgotten why I started reading news online exclusively, but I've returned to my roots and I'm happier with the condensed format and angle of attack.

I've also noticed that Redd is helping guide a noticeable shift to appeal to religious voters. That's probably the second worst quality of the site now for my tastes. The worst is TRex. I can't place why, but I find his writing style revolting. Howie on the other hand is one of the best they have to offer, and is why I continue to read that site aside from distant fondness.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An interesting study on sex

This study has a few surprises and is an interesting read:

School-based sexual education delays and does not hasten onset of sexual activity.
Apparently I was well educated. I also found this interesting:
Monogamy is the dominant pattern in most parts of the world. Men report more multiple partnerships than do women. Such men are more likely to live in developed nations.
This implies one or more of the following:
  • Men have more bisexual experiences than women.
  • Men lie to inflate their numbers, women lie to deflate theirs.
  • There are a small number of very, very promiscuous women.
On that last point, I recall reading a paper discussing how legalization of prostitution can actually help reduce the rate of disease transmittal. The article was interesting in its dry approach to a subject that usually makes people... agitated. I'll try to find it. The premise was that in modeling disease control, a pattern emerges when assuming a fixed degree of male promiscuity whereby an increase in promiscuous women (for example, with increasing numbers of prostitutes) actually reduces STD transmittal by reducing the risk from any single encounter. If I recall correctly, the model had a few points of optimally reduced risk; it amuses me that prostitution can be defined and optimized mathematically.

Legalized prostitution is an interesting topic to discuss with feminists (myself included) because you never know how they may respond. My broad take is that above all else I wish to trust people with their own decisions, and that these personal decisions should only be restricted as it impacts the health and well being of others as it becomes a gateway to increased STDs, crime, etc. This pretty much mirrors my beliefs about illegal drugs (and why dangerous alcohol abuse should be prosecuted more aggressively than simple possession of marijuana).

The article concludes with a "controversial" assertion by the authors of the study that deserves broader attention:
"The greatest challenge to sexual-health promotion in almost all countries comes from opposition from conservative forces to harm-reduction strategies." [Wellings et al.]

The researchers call for providing sexual health services to unmarried young women, supplying condoms, decriminalizing commercial sex and homosexual sex, and prosecuting the perpetrators of sexual violence.
On a final note, I find it oddly serendipitous that as I type this, I'm listening to Underworld's "Moaner".

Lazy copy & paste, for your enjoyment

In case you don't read Pink Dome and rely on me to filter the good parts for you, here's another great post:

Governor Perry traveled up to Washington D.C. to take money from the same people he's been campaigning against. Jason Stanford's response:

"Maybe this is the first step of Rick Perry's first vice presidential campaign. Polling in the mid 30s in a Red State is a natural springboard to failing on a national scope."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

No joke

On my drive to work this morning I saw a sewage pump truck (for septic tanks, porta-potties, etc.) with several W '04 stickers on the bumper.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Buying votes for a Democrat

In the Pink Texas pointed out an interesting Houston Chronicle article. It discusses potential vote-buying crimes being committed by Vietnamese-Americans implicitly supporting the Democratic candidate Hubert Vo, who is of Vietnamese descent. Their efforts stink of corruption in my opinion, and have no place in election politics:

  • The group, Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinity, has been running radio ads in Vietnamese "urging early votes at an Asian-American community center, and pointing out that $5 coupons available at the center can be used at a nearby mall."
  • The group sought feedback on the propriety of the ads, but then disregarded the suggestion to stop, instead seeking approval from "an official opinion." This sounds like a failed attempt at CYA, and they went up the chain hoping for approval from someone they could blame if they were later investigated.
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)3 tax status cannot make political endorsements, and the article suggests that the organization's support for get-out-the-vote is implicitly supporting the ethnically-aligned candidate. To avoid any accusations of misconduct they should have established a 501(c)4 and then explicitly promoted their preferred candidate.
The group has been doing a decent job of recovering at this point, cleaning up the mess before it taints the whole election. But they missed an opportunity to perform a well-targeted and proper GOTV effort, and they made their preferred candidate look bad.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tolerance in the Muslim world

This article is interesting: Muslims celebrate Eid with calls for tolerance

It's not unlike the Christmastime urgings from churches in the US to help the poor and love thy neighbor: it's a nice sentiment, but falls on deaf ears because ultimately the followers are going to resort to the fundamentals that are spelled out for them in a clear, divisive manner. Despite the fact that the word Islam has its etymological roots in the word for "peace", the Qu'ran devotes a great deal of attention to what is not to be tolerated, along with the "appropriate" level of aggression to be levied for each offense.

A moral guide by counterexample provides little guidance for the fundamental virtues of peace, and thus peace will remain beyond the interests of fundamentalists from any religion designed this way.

Crude language from a Democrat

This remark shows insensitivity atypical to Democrats that is unbecoming and inexcusable:

A Democratic congressional candidate said at a recent campaign event that he was late because he was "on Injun time,"
He apologized quickly, and surprisingly one tribe did not even take offense:
Bobbi Webster, a spokeswoman for the Oneida Nation, said tribal members were not taking Kagen's comment as disrespectful and were not seeking an apology.

"Tribal members say that themselves," Webster said. "It is not uncommon to hear somebody come in late and say, 'Oh-oh. I am running on Indian time.'"
I can't help but think that they would have been very offended if a Republican had said such a thing. Political brotherhood should not allow a politician to become sloppy and disrespectful, and while I personally enjoy the freedoms of being politically incorrect, I never do so in a public forum.

Sample Ballots, Austin Bond Propositions

Here are the sample ballots for Travis County, listing the Special/General Election ballot items and the Local Elections ballot items.

Here is the list of Propositions for Austin municiple bonds which are on the aforementioned local elections ballot.

PSA - locations for early voting, flu shots

Early voting locations.

Flu shot clinic locator.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good financial guidelines

I found this post from The Big Picture to be a fairly good overview of how to save money and invest for retirement. It appears geared towards the middle class population not living in a local housing bubble. The rules are fairly simple to follow, and presume that you already have discipline and simply need guidance or affirmation. Keeping up with the Jones is not an option for most people who wish to retire comfortably.

I already follow these rules fairly well but I need to correct two deviations I've made. The first car I bought was a new one, and while I paid cash it was still not financially responsible; it was a personal decision that was worth the cost to me then, but I hope to not feel the need to do this again. Second, I have waaaaay too much % of my stock portfolio in my current employer. This is more a side effect of selling almost every other holding I had, but when I reinvest I need to balance better.

Their agenda, spelled out for them

Digby has an excellent post about the supposed diasporic migrations of value voters away from the GOP. Some feel that the Democrats can attract these voters, and I've seen very specific discussions about how the Dem focus on such topics as reducing poverty and environmental ills are all resonant of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Digby warns however that "they are after all, conservatives." He quotes an interesting Washington Post piece that demonstrates why the value voters have so strictly latched on to a set of principles embodied by the GOP. These folks don't see the Democratic platform values as a threat, and here's why:

"I definitely don't like the widening of the agenda, because it muddies the water," said the Rev. Michael Haseltine, pastor of the 2,000-member Maranatha Assembly of God Church in Forest Lake, Minn.

"Be good stewards of the environment? Sure, but how? These tree-huggers and anti-hunters think it's terrible to kill animals. Oppose poverty? Sure, but what's the best way to do it? We can't solve everybody's problems for them," he said. "Family and life issues -- abortion, sexuality -- they're much more clear from the biblical standpoint."
The issues they focus on are clearly spelled out for them and require no thinking. This appeals to evangelicals, with infinite trust in the Bible, who don't wish to even try to explain their moral stance on its own merits. The GOP has aligned itself with a fundamentally unassailable, undebatable platform that must be the envy of modern think-tanks.

Digby explains that while we will happily caucus with others whose interests match ours on specific policy/legislation, we will not approach or embrace the evangelical movement aggressively because of their unbending, unthinking stance on gay marriage, stem cell research, etcetera. His post is entitled "Liberal Intolerance Of Intolerance", and helps explain my profile: "I try to be as open-minded as possible, but the only thing I will not tolerate is intolerance."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The rules of moshing

This isn't exactly relevant to much of what I post, but I know some readers who would enjoy it as much as I did: the rules of moshing. It mostly makes sense, but I have to say that moshes I've seen make no efforts to entertain the onlookers, unless you enjoy a stray boot to the head.

And I don't know about the "form of dancing" aspect. This isn't Capoeira. Moshers, at least in Austin, are usually thick fratboys bruisers or sturdy outcast goths, and they explore their mutual animosity in the pit.

BTW, Capoeira has an interesting history. From what I understand, it was basically a form of martial arts disguised as a tribal dance form, allowing African slaves in Brazil to pass along training of self defense without their masters' suspicion. It is a vigorous, elastic form of exercise that is becoming quite popular in the US; it's a little bit like t'ai chi with an attitude, yoga for non-yuppies, or west coast swing for closet metrosexuals.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kinky has a good health-care plan

I'm admittedly impressed by Kinky's detailed policy statement on health care in Texas, regardless of it having been modelled after another state (knowing who to emulate is an important part of success). Jobsanger has a summary and a link to Kinky's PDF.

I've got some questions though:

  • On CHIP:
    • Kinky's statement says: "Because TexasCare will take time to implement, Friedman said he would call for the immediate and full restoration of funding for the state’'s Children Health Insurance Program, which has seen dramatic budget cuts since 2003."
    • Jobsanger says Kinky plans to: "Restore full funding for the state's Children Health Insurance Program, until TexasCare is up and running."
    • But financing CHIP earns matching federal dollars, so we've been losing "free" money by not investing more into this program. Is Kinky suggesting CHIP is a good stopgap measure or an important ongoing part of TexasCare?
  • On reproductive health:
    • Reproductive health education and access to affordable prenatal care is a crucial first step in ensuring the health of our state's children, but I missed any mention of this topic.
    • Likewise family planning is an important part of helping ensure children are raised in a supportive environment both financially and emotionally. Does Kinky have a plan to ensure people aren't discriminated against for seeking Plan B at Walgreens or emergency contraceptive at a hospital? And for supporting the planned part of Planned Parenthood, and other means of reducing abortion? Somebody needs to publicly acknowledge that pro-lifers and pro-choicers do have one thing in common, which is that we all strongly wish to reduce abortion rates, and there are many things we can do together to accomplish this.
  • On emergency room overcrowding:
    • It seems to me to be commonly agreed that emergency room overcrowding is exacerbated by families with no health care (some times to avoid issues of legality) that have no access to preventative care. Does he feel his plan helps address this?
    • This overcrowding includes women who go into labor and have had little to no interaction with an OBGYN or prenatal care, have little to no records, and are not prepared for the challenge of birthing. Again, education and preventative care are both crucial here.
    • Lastly this problem of ER overcrowding has been identified as resulting from unavailability of family practitioners in off-hours and weekends. Is this something caused by the health care industry, insurance industry, or something that the state can address?
Okay, I'm done. I'm pleased that there's a plan from Kinky that I can attempt to analyze, since his platform has been very general (unique, but unspecific) on most topics. This should definitely get others talking more.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Endorsements for Gov. from two Chronicles

The Austin Chronicle endorsed Chris Bell today, despite tremendous local energy (initially) for Kinky that had me considering that possibility. From In the Pink Texas: "When Kinky (aka ‘Best Citizen!’) can’t even get a nod from the hometown socialists, it’s high time to pull out."

Here's the Chronicle excerpt they quoted:

Like many Chronicle readers, we initially welcomed the anti-Bush novelty of maverick Kinky Friedman. But however entertaining as a candidate, if Friedman were actually elected, the joke would be on everyday Texans. He has no real interest in the crucial details of governance. He has chosen positions out of whim and ignorance (such as martial law on the border, or quickly dissipating a budget “surplus” visible only to him). Along the campaign trail, he has made no effort to learn anything new or from his mistakes. (The last denizen of the Mansion with Friedman’s Know-Nothing approach to governance is now in the White House.)
Two reminders:
  1. Kinky voted for Bush in 2004. In fact, in accord with his image as an outsider to the political process this was his only vote in the past 12 years. He didn't even vote on the Texas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, despite claiming to being open and accepting of others. He had power as a voter and neglected to use it, and now he wants the power of Governor?
  2. Early voting starts next Monday, Oct. 23.

I feel like this some times...

This cartoon made me smile :)

I'm a contrarian investor because largely I'm a contrarian person. I see the weird side of things. I've always felt somewhat outcast; I don't see others as being above or below me, but rather sideways on a different plane. My paranoia and distrust of giddy group-think makes it hard for me to want to participate in the recent market rally. It's kind of like taking pride in being a member of the high school chess club instead of being the dunce who is dating the popular cheerleader. Or is this just rationalization?

I'm mostly cash, aside from a few heavy positions I'm comfortable with being quite long on. I'm still waiting for the market adjustment, a.k.a. "reversion to the mean" to give me a chance to buy stocks at better valuations. I plan to rebuy some that I got stopped out on like MOT, and others that never dropped enough to be attractive (I waited in vain for AAPL to hit $50, and it came within $0.16. Now it's up almost 60%. But those who beat themselves up over hindsight are the type to have bought into the dot-com bubble at its peak.)

Over the past year I have started to reinvest in a few select areas that I think have long-term potential for very solid growth. I'm up only 0.01%, thanks to two strong positions (up 5% and 17% this year) and two weak positions (down 10% and 6% this year).

I think of my mistakes as the cost of education, and I need to work on my timing. Like the Bear in the cartoon, I'm a little too eager to call a downturn. When I lose, it's by buying too early on the downside and selling too early on the upside (or setting limit orders that are too conservative/pessimistic). But that's far better in my opinion than buying too late on the upside and selling too late when a stock tumbles. My approach would not have gotten me burned on the dot-com bubble (had I any money then), but it would not have gotten rich either.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In bed?

I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant tonight and had an interesting cookie fortune. Well, the fortune wasn't interesting, but what I found on the back in place of the usual lottery numbers was:

Vote Nov. 7 for Prop 4
Invest in Austin's Creative Economy.
Sounds nice to me! Austin needs to invest in attractions like this to support the illusion that we're not really in Texas. This will help bring jobs via businesses who know they can't develop a local branch without local talent. For example, Austin is developing more of a movie industry each year - with a very independent twist - that appears to be bringing money to this city without diluting its image. Supporting local arts and cultural facilities helps this and may have immeasurable ancillary benefits.

Update: This article backs what I suggested. A $1 million investment by the city has brought $650 million to the local economy from more than 20 feature films shot here. The article goes on to discuss how the city's Austin Studios would benefit from the bond package:
Of the $31.5 million bond, Austin Studios would receive $5 million to fund basic upgrades like full soundproofing and air-conditioning for two of the five stages, improved security and safety and state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Texas leads nation in gay parents?!

This article is quite a shocker. Of course I'd not be surprised if Texas also leads the nation in intolerance of gay parents as a healthy family unit.

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ahh, they didn't disappoint. The "nutty evangelicals" are questioning the timing of a book that reveals how they are simply pawns to the GOP. They'd shoot the messenger before they would reflect on their own poor decisions; they're suggesting that the timing of this book reveals its political motives more so than any inherent truth.

Not afraid to be right

Dems shouldn't be afraid to embrace their "passion and anger" as described by Glenn Greenwald.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We can't make it here any more

by James Mcmurtry:

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Book: Bush aides called evangelical backers 'nuts'"

An interesting article from Dallas Morning News:

A new book by a former White House official says President Bush's top political advisers privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as "nuts" and "goofy" while embracing them in public and using their votes to help win elections.
Evangelicals aren't likely to start voting for other parties. But they may stop voting for the GOP, and that would be good enough. This article brings into question the sincerity of a Senate bill that Papa Hippie warned me about: S 3957 (from Talk to Action, a site I'll have to revisit).

But ultimately I have great faith in the willful ignorance and reliable stupidity of those who have allowed themselves to be played this hard for so long. I don't expect this revelation to affect the GOP's base.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

He's certainly full of it

On KVUE news this evening the reporters discussed Kinky's response to Chris Bell's suggestion that they team up to remove Perry. Bell knew he would be flatly rejected and was trying to make it appear that Kinky is clearly supporting the notion of Perry succeeding in his reelection bid. Kinky said something about being so angry he was squirting out of both ends. The anchors discussed and the female anchor said, "that's a Kinky zinger... and he's certainly full of it. I mean them!"

Bell vs. Kinky discussion

I tried responding to a post on Jobsanger about Bell & Kinky, but he's moderating his site very strictly now and I doubt my comment will be accepted. [Update: The comment was accepted along with several other interesting ones, and the discussion should be interesting]. So here it is:

I think Bell is trying to capitalize on Kinky's popularity with some liberals (esp. the younger generations) by choosing this time to say, "Okay, it's been a fun game but let's get serious now." The thing is, whether or not it's warranted it has recently become apparent that people are having a hard time taking Kinky seriously as a politician. This is Kinky's goal in fact - wanting to be seen as an outsider - but Bell is calculating on a "come to Jesus" moment at the polls where people vote with their gut on who can truly run our state best. Who that person is of course is still up for discussion, but Bell thinks it's him and is hoping that people will flake on Kinky despite his sustained poll numbers.

I think what this message shows is that Bell thinks now is a good time to siphon voters who have tuned into the race, plan on voting, but may have a last-minute change of heart. There's no way Bell could bring out the vote alone. So this move of his, while manipulative and typical of a seasoned politician, is not a sign of desperation but a sign of calculation.

What I find most odd is that Bell is essentially riding on Kinky's coattails to reach normally apathetic voters, and that a Dem is the "gut choice" instead of the brain choice. Kinky may tickle the brain with his refreshing political incorrectness, but Bell is such a boring policy wonk that you can't help but feel in your gut that he's got an answer for any of our state's current/potential problems - and answers are something which Kinky has had trouble with (or no interest in) delivering.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Faithful Republicans", by Digby

Digby has a great post on the evangelical support for Republicans, and I agree with his sentiment: don't count on evangelicals to be dismayed by piss-poor party leadership over the Foley scandal. They've rationalized their support for the GOP in so many contradictory ways that it's clear this isn't going to change their feelings. That's why they're called the "base", or ironically, the "party faithful."

In my mind there is simply nothing good to be had for America by allowing the GOP to stay in power, and thanks to the GOP's repeated, catastrophic fuck-ups many folks are tuning into this reality. They can't be trusted to do anything right.

This election will be very interesting. We'll get to see just how many unbending crazies there are in this country.

Holy Crap this is cool - and safe for work

Some days it seems the Internet doesn't have many surprises left in it. I've been trawling around its dark corners for quite a while, trying to find others with as quirky a sense of humor as mine. Sometimes I come across unsavory sites, but rarely am I shocked. While others shielded their eyes and put their therapists on speed dial, the first time I saw Goatse I laughed out loud for having been caught off guard by a fake link from a subversive poster on Slashdot. (incidentally this became such a common prank that Slashdot changed its format slightly to mitigate malicious use of their forums).

But today I found something truly cool, a sort of visual zeitgeist composed of a sea of floating bubbles of thoughts containing the phrase "I feel," collected from blog posts across the world. Play with it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

This made me laugh out loud

Take a quick peek:

http://pinkdome.com/archives/2006/09/mandatory_sensi.html

"Sturdy degenerates", or how I stopped worrying and love the fertile lower class

I get tired of getting crap for not wanting to have kids by people who believe that is it the duty of intelligent people to reproduce or else the "stupid, poor and exceedingly fertile" lower class will take over. You can almost hear the word "colored" whistling through their forked tongues. Today I read an article about how a Republican is actually advocating eugenics, an extremely questionable act of eliminating male and female reproductive rights for the "less desirable" elements of society.

Eugenics is thoroughly eviscerated in this interesting paper from Harvard: An Imagined Reality: Malthusianinsm, Neo-Malthusianism and Population Myth

Scrolling down to the section headed "Eugenics" reveals an interesting history of how eugenics has largely been favored by the wealthy to suppress the lower class. It starts by discussing the ironic birth of eugenics from the study of evolution.

A R Wallace, who CO-discovered the process of evolution with Darwin, argued in an essay, The Action of Natural Selection on Man :

    At the present day it does not seem possible for natural selection to act in any way so as to secure the permanent advancement of morality and intelligence for it is indisputably the mediocre, if not the low, both as regards morality and intelligence who succeed best in life and multiply fastest.

The article then points out the distasteful alignment this has with Hitler's "final solution":

Eugenics held great appeal for influential people on both sides of the Atlantic. A prominent eugenist in Germany wrote,

    Because the inferior are always numerically superior to the better, the former would multiply so much faster - if they have the same possibility to survive and reproduce - that the better necessarily would be placed in the background. Therefore a correction has to be made to the advantage of the better. The nature (sic) offers such a correction by exposing the inferior to difficult living conditions which reduce their number. Concerning the rest the nature (sic) does not allow them to reproduce indiscriminately, but makes a relentless selection according to their strength and health conditions [Hitler, cited in Bondestam 1980].

The 'correction' he offered to nature's lethal ways was called the final solution. Adolf Hitler included among others, Jews, communists, homosexuals and gypsies in his grand design.

The isolation of a socio-economic class is what this Republican from Charleston ultimately seeks. He is of the persuasion that policies such as these are well and good:
Let us note that the victims of all this 'scientific' hysteria were the weak, the powerless and the helpless. That the eugenist utopia continues to exert a powerful attraction, despite being shorn of its scientific halo, is evident in even current legislation and practice; regarding, for example, the introduction of hormonal implant contraceptives in the US. Women on welfare, with either a criminal record or a record of 'child neglect', must have Norplant implanted in order to be eligible for welfare. Thus the vast majority of women subjected to Norplant are blacks or hispanics [Srinivas 1992].
There's a very interesting segue into discussions of reproductive rights and personal choice, and the article presents an interesting history of the resistance to birth control as part of its overall analysis of population control ideologies.
Birth control propaganda was initially aimed at middle class women who sought to limit fertility. The philosophy was that it was physically possible and morally desirable for husbands and wives to control the size of their families; and that the ultimate decision to have one or more children should be made by parents and not by tradition, church or state. Soon, however, the ambit was widened....

[Margaret Sanger's] primary aim was to limit what she perceived as the excessive fertility of the poor.... "Large families", Sanger wrote, "are associated with poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, fighting, jails; the small ones with cleanliness, leisure, freedom, light, space, sunshine" [Greer 1984]. Her most famous book was the 1920 publication Women and the New race, an orthodox tract of eugenics : "First stop the multiplication of the unfit. This appeared the most important and greatest step towards race betterment."
The demographic of eugenics supporters has the same suspicious imbalance as the paucity of gays or blacks who identify with Republicans. It's truly no surprise to me that it was a Republican speaking recently in favor of eugenics; in contrast you can see the (D) ringing from this response by his superior in the state senate:

"What Larry Shirley needs to talk about is getting City Council to provide some recreational facilities and activities for these kids and creating an atmosphere conducive to a normal society," said [Robert] Ford, a former councilman [and current state senator].

"We've got all sorts of things for kids to do in my neighborhood in West Ashley. They need that downtown. But he's upset that kids aren't listening to their parents. So what's new?"

...

"Hasn't he heard, 'It takes a village'?"
Perhaps that's why I currently don't plan to have kids. I'm too tired of trying to imbue others with values they should have learned from their parents. But selective breeding of Republicans appears to have eliminated the capacity for empathy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Good on Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is finding ways to reduce costs that also benefit our environment. This reflects a general trend I've noticed whereby companies discover that thinking green is financially savvy as well.

US healthcare system doing very poorly

If you love our free market privatized health care system, just wait until our social security, schools and jails are privatized! Yippee, rampant capitalism!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Interesting investing opportunities

I saw two interesting articles courtesy CNNMoney's Disruptive Technologies.

The first is about a company called EEStor that has a novel, non-toxic mechanism for storing electrical energy that makes some very bold claims. I'm dubious in that I would expect a startup focusing on disruptive power storage technologies to take aim at existing markets such as (exploding) laptop batteries, cell phones, etc. What I find interesting is that they're located in Cedar Park, TX, a small exurb of Austin.

The other interesting article is about yet-another-social-networking site called Zopa that allows investors / lenders to be paired up with borrowers, with an average return of 7% with less that 0.05% rate of uncollectible debt, according to the article. It's not a bank and therefore has higher risk, but the management overhead is lower so they are able to offer higher yields directly to the lender. The thing I find most interesting about this is that it may supplement (or supplant!?) traditional Venture Capital by distributing the loan amongst a loose network of individual investors who are excited about the technology being developed. If they replace the "loan repayment" portion with issuing private stock shares or options then it may be a new model for pre-IPO fundraising. Imagine how much money YouTube could raise from individual "investors" contributing a week's salary to one of their favorite websites.

Agreed: "Okay, Seriously What the Fuck?"

I have to agree with the sentiment of "SuperWow!" at PinkDome, who posted this: "Okay, Seriously What the Fuck?" I've never fully trusted the media to show enough perspective of a situation to give you true insight, and instead they love to focus on sensational soundbites. But you simply can't spin the things those kids were saying! Wow.

A fun time at ACL

ACL Festival was terrific, and they made a lot of improvements from last year. It's still no Coachella, but it's getting there. I saw some great shows on Friday and Saturday, including the inimitable Willie Nelson! Standing to my left at that show was a burly bruiser who was dipping chewing tobacco. Cowboys and Hippies indeed!

But Sunday was the wildest day by far. Since it was my 5th consecutive night of live music (Thievery Corporation and John Digweed the two nights before ACL), I was exhausted. Mrs. Hippie joined me on Sunday, but since she was running a mild fever we decided to arrive late with the sole intention to get good spots for Tom Petty. After grabbing one water each we traipsed through the throng and found a decent spot for the pre-show, the Flaming Lips. We had no intention of leaving, neither for water nor for restroom breaks, and it appeared others were equally resolved. But when the Flaming Lips ended, many folks left to grab water and run to the bathroom one last time. We pushed forward.

When Tom Petty came on, it was phenomenal. I could see his effulgent smile from my spot only 50 feet away from the left speakers. Unfortunately the sound mixer crew had to crank up the output for the massive crowd of >50,000 viewers, and Mrs. Hippie and I succumbed to the nausea of the "Brown Note."

The brown note, according to an urban legend, is an infrasonic frequency that causes humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance.
...
The note was tested on the television show MythBusters using Meyer Sound subwoofers on par in quantity and quality with those used at major rock concerts.[1] The experimenters on the show tried a series of frequencies between 5 and 10 Hz at 120–160 dBSPL, but they were unsuccessful in producing the rumored effects. They all reported some physical anxiety and shortness of breath, even a small amount of nausea, but this was dismissed by the participants, noting that sound at that frequency and intensity moves air rapidly in and out of one's lungs.
Heh, to debunk this they had to find volunteers willing to crap their pants! Well we certainly retained more dignity than that. But our night had peaked and it was time to go. It was far better to see two songs up close than to see the whole set from a half-mile away. And I had a nagging feeling about the storms rolling in.

We fought hard to push back out through the dense crowd, but it's amazing how fast folks will clear space for you when you say "she's feeling sick!" about the cute girl you have in tow. We raced ahead as the sea of people parted before us, and when we found some room we donned our rain ponchos just as the first large drops of rain burst upon us. My camping instincts warned that the rain would be fierce.

Tom Petty finished his fourth song by the time the rain came, but we were just out of earshot. A friend later told me he stopped playing at that point while everyone stood in the rain; I think he picked back up again but I'm not sure. Mrs. Hippie and I were wet, but not soaked, by the time we made it under the Mopac bridge. The storm had subsided enough when we crossed the river that we decided to chill at Magnolia's and grab a bite to eat. Cabs were hard to find. Finally we made our way on foot back to the car, about two miles away from ACL.

ACL is never worth attending for the big names unless you're willing to battle the crowd for a good view. But as usual I found a great selection of new bands, some of them local, that made the whole experience worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lame!

Lame! But I do wonder if they can take a picture of the president that doesn't make him look like a chimpanzee.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Let's give them something to talk about

A lot of the blogs I read typically speak of Texas with disdain and don't feel that it has much to offer to progressive politics in America. On the contrary, I think that if we can make any inroads in education, health care, green energy, and socially liberal policies then it will be a sign that the pendulum is swinging away from the Republicans' dog-eat-dog version of capitalism.

People still fondly remember that Texas used to be a Democratic state, and I don't think it would take much for others to forgive Texas for its pollution, greedy energy companies, and worthless governor-cum-president. These blemishes came about from a handful cunning, cynically manipulative people (Karl Rove cut his teeth on dirty politics here), and I hope now that everyone sees how masterful these unpatriotic bastards have been at manipulating the system they have a bit more pity and patience with our state's slow progress.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Crazy fundies everywhere

Some say money is the root of all evil. Others believe ironically that religion is the root of all evil. Some prefer to direct their disdain at commies, islamo-fascists, eco-terrorists, illegal immigrants, capitalist pigs, lazy freeloaders, ... name any belief system or sociopolitical class and there's somebody who hates it.

But the problem isn't so much with belief systems as it is the fundamentalists within that invariably make the most noise, attracting negative attention with their unbending embrace of their "de-facto" supreme ideology.

The entire political spectrum is full of fundies, and the liberal/progressive sphere certainly has its share. But I sincerely doubt the possibility of a fundamentalist progressive movement as successful as the neoconservative rise to power.

Still it's important to keep a watch out for intense, undirected passion because it can transform into this: "US animal rights activists sentenced to 4 to 6 yrs"

Similarly, organizations like PETA don't have my support because of things like this:

They sound more like Ann Coulter than a well-reasoned institution devoted to improving quality of life instead of obsessing over each animal's death.

Manic Depression is a frustrating mess

(Lyrics from Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression)

My college roommate from freshman year once described his mom's severe bipolar disorder. When manic, she is phenomenally productive, creative and brilliant. When depressed she is unbearable, and unfortunately untreatable because her extremely sensitive brain chemistry would have a fatal reaction to existing treatments to bipolar disorder.

He informed me that he too had inherited this trait, which had already begun to reveal itself but would fully set in later in life. I think he may have been hiding behind this Jekyll persona to excuse his behavior as a stereotypical pre-med jackass. Jackass.

My manic-depression is more subtle, affecting my productivity and motivation more than my emotional state. It's a mostly self-induced problem resulting from my ADD and occasional inability to self-motivate, compounded by severe information overload. As a result I had cut back on posting temporarily until I found the right adjustments. But since this blog is an important outlet for me I will certainly continue to update it.

To make more time for posting I've cut back on my information intake from news/blog feeds. My 52 subscriptions generate around 250 posts per day (200 posts about 9/11 in the past week alone, and I'm sick of it). At 30 seconds per post it requires over two hours to read them all, giving me such a superficial scraping of the news that it's become a worthless investment of time. I'll let someone else separate the wheat from the chaff on sites like the Huffington Post, giving me more time to observe the weirder corners of the internet and bring my findings to you.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My new favorite Thanksgiving song

ADD warning: long song ahead

You can get the best of the web at mathowie's community blog.

This song is called mathowie's community blog, and it's about mathowie, and the community blog, but mathowie's community blog is not the name of the community blog, that's just the name of the song.

A stupid bumper sticker

Mrs. Hippie saw a bumper sticker this morning that said "If Mary were pro-choice, there'd be no Christmas." I feel the need to address this ignorance because apparently not everyone understands what it means to be pro-choice. Some pro-lifers seem to believe that a pro-choice woman is quite simply a selfish slut, an embryo death chamber on high heels. But abortions are risky, physically invasive and painful to the women who have them (hence the crude irony in this discontinued print from T-shirt Hell). It's obviously physically invasive to the embryo as well, however:

An embryo does not have the fundamental neurological capacity for sensory perception or self awareness, and cannot physically be considered a human being any more than an individual egg or spermatozoa could. Associating abortions with murder is a comparison that can only be made on a spiritual level, because the embryo is not deprived of consciousness, only the potential for such. Spirituality is not something that has been measured and determined scientifically. It therefore remains a belief which one must take on faith.

To posit the immorality of terminating an abstract spiritual entity is to assert the preeminent moral authority of your belief system. Such certainty is not innate, but is a product of our environment. A healthy human brain functions extremely well at making sense of our surroundings based on an existential understanding of our experiences. It does not however function well in an information vacuum. Our brains are sophisticated pattern-matching machines, and the only abstract, ideological frameworks we can successfully express to others are still observable and therefore falsifiable - even mathematics. Personal a priori frameworks such as abstract philosophy, spirituality and morality cannot be shared with others without the recipients' willful mental disengagement of potential incongruities therein. This is known as faith, and requires an unassailable belief of certain truths by the indoctrinated. There is therefore no impartial method for measuring the strengths or adjudicating the differences between various internal frameworks. Spiritually-derived moral authority is a contradiction in terms.

Now let me dispel the myth that pro-choicers are eager to have abortions. It is certainly true that abortions destroy the potential for life. So does the natural occurrence of menstruation and nocturnal emission. But once an embryo forms, many women report subtle sensations of the change in their body. Sometimes the sensations are not subtle at all. A biochemical association with the embryo occurs because of the major changes occurring throughout the body. A sociological attachment occurs for many women as well, with an understanding of the importance of motherhood to our own existence. It therefore requires extreme deliberation mentally, physically and emotionally for most women who choose to have an abortion. It takes a very difficult decision to confront these barriers, a decision to which most of us can never relate; hopefully we will ever have to.

We pro-choicers respect the independent, internalized spirituality that comes with self-awareness. Spirituality is a personal construct, and a priori deductions of morality cannot be applied beyond one's own actions. Humankind may never know the ultimate fate of an aborted embryo, and this uncertainty makes the decision even harder. But a personal decision such as this can only be made consistent within a personal framework, and qualified judgement is exclusively internal. I hope never to be exposed to such a difficult decision, but we must allow others the freedom to make their own moral judgements. And we can all hope they never have to.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My letter to ABC/Disney about 9/11 docu-drama

ABC/Disney recently completed its "docu-drama" about 9/11 and has been pre-screening it almost exclusively to conservative pundits for the past couple of weeks. This smacks of an agenda. Recent analysis has revealed numerous inaccuracies, some that directly conflict with the 9/11 Commission Report. Congressman John Conyers has been leading the charge to demand that ABC address these issues, lest it be seen as leveraging national sympathy for a partisan ulterior motive. Here's my letter to the Walt Disney CEO, submitted through this site:

Robert A. Iger
President and CEO, The Walt Disney Company

Dear Mr. Iger:

I'm writing a personal letter instead of using a template because I want to voice my strong concern about the way this topic is being approached. The simple fact that the 9/11 report was previewed exclusively by conservatives - especially highly-partisan recipients such as Rush Limbaugh - is enough to concern me a great deal about the message and factual content of this show. Further analysis by those who are also concerned has revealed several inaccurate dramatizations, including some which are inconsistent with the 9/11 Commission Report. Combined with the exclusivity of those selected to preview the show leads me to believe that these inaccuracies were intentional, and that ABC is intending to push a partisan message about the 9/11 tragedy. Not only is this irresponsible, it is very inappropriate to leverage national mourning of the 9/11 tragedy for an underhanded purpose.

Please come clean on this film, and repair the factual holes or withdraw the movie entirely.
You may send your opinions here, even if you simply register your agreement using a template letter. I'm not an eager signatory of petitions to Congress, but unlike Congress it seems that ABC may be receptive to public opinion. If you're tired of how our country is cynically manipulated and lied to, please voice your concerns.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thoughts on Health Care

Schwarzenegger plans to veto the health care coverage expansion for California. To contrast, here are some interesting articles on the economics of universal health care:

Competing for last place

Please encourage your female friends to vote this fall. Our state needs their vote.

A land where women are treated as property...

Sharia law is a miserable abomination, a strict perversion of everything great about humanity that distinguishes us from animals, including: compassion, equality and freedom. Recent grunting from thuggish oafs in Pakistan is once again bringing light to the grounds for which no Sharia-governed country can be trusted or respected in international relations. Unfortunately when it comes to human rights violations, the US can't be trusted either thanks to Bush and his neocon cabal.

But back to Pakistan: it is very disconcerting that we must rely so heavily on Pakistan as a major ally in the war on terror. The current president, General Pervez Musharraf, took control via a bloodless but nasty coup d'etat and he is not entirely popular with his countrymen. He is a moderate Muslim, and his alliances with the US are not well regarded by many in his country, especially those who still support the Taliban. His hold on power therefore seems very tenuous, bolstered only by strongarming the legal system to retroactively support his rise to power. And although he has a general 2/3 approval rating, there's tremendous risk if his government ever collapses. From the Next Hurrah:

I'm going to ask the Iran question, but I'm going to get at it sideways. You said that Iran is the biggest WMD threat out there. But Pakistan is a tremendously unstable country right now. And if Musharraf fell, Al Qaeda could get the bomb within 6 weeks. And al-Baradei has just said that Iran does not now have the bomb. So why is Iran the biggest threat? [emphasis mine]
A more detailed analysis of the Pakistan risk is discussed in this followup piece on the Next Hurrah.

But fear not, we can rely on Bush's presidential hand-holding skills to assure the people of Pakistan that he hates freedom, equality and prosperity too.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Making bad comparisons

There's a lot of chatter about how this midterm election cycle is a lot like 1994. The Democrats are poised to take over the House, and possibly even the Senate. But I don't like the comparisons being made to the voter unhappiness that brought the GOP into control of the House in 1994, because that plays into a powerful GOP narrative: "If you think we're fuck-ups, just wait until Democrats take control!"

That's really the narrative they're pushing, when you consider that they still accuse Dems as being weak on terrorism. In contrast, almost everything that the GOP has done - especially the war in Iraq - has undermined our nation's security and prosperity. But the message they peddle will still get voters to make decisions from the gut.

By the way, liberal "elitists" don't think they're smarter than conservatives. They just think they're smarter than conservatives' uninformed, unintelligent beliefs derived from emotion instead of intellect.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Coal power in Texas?

Texas is attempting to approve the construction of several new coal power plants. But our state has no emissions controls on carbon dioxide. This is likely why our state produces more carbon dioxide than Canada or the UK.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Plan B

Here's a link to commentary from a reader at Bitch, Ph.D about how difficult it has been to get emergency contraceptive, even as a prescription from her own doctor. Plan B should help prevent unwanted conception, which in turn will hopefully lower abortion rates. I predict that more attention will be given to the "sanctity of viable embryos," followed by the evils of menstruation and the sin of masturbation. Invariably the discussion will be strongly associated with religious doctrine. And the most vocal detractors of responsible family planning will be those with the most fundamental religious beliefs. Fundamentalism of any kind breeds violence and terrorism. People who support the agenda of divisive, intolerant attacks on personal moral choices are helping drive a personal hatred towards those with different beliefs. Intolerance is not what makes America great, and is not the mark of true Patriots because it is such a destructive force.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rising wages?

I was prepared to eat my own words about wage stagnation when I started reading this article: Household income posts first gain in 6 years. But the article quickly provides an alternate explanation:

Although real household income was up, wages and salaries lost ground. Wages for men fell 1.8 percent to $41,386; wages for women fell 1.3 percent to $31,858.

The difference between rising household income and falling wages and salaries may be traced to two factors, according to David S. Johnson, the chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division: Household income can include other sources of income, such as from stock dividends. And some households may have added low-income workers - they would raise the income of the household, but at the same time bring down the median wage.

That could explain why consumer confidence is at a 9-month low. Extra family members are taking odd jobs or returning to the workforce as underemployed, artificially boosting the employment numbers that Bush is so happy about. But consumers aren't buying it. There's a strong sense that something isn't right with our economy. The wealthy are proclaiming the benefits of tax reductions, businesses are showing record earnings again, and government tax receipts are increasing. But most Americans aren't so ebullient, and the talking points from this administration are more broadly distrusted.

Lastly, I wanted to point to an interesting post on a new blog I like, Job's Anger. The post discusses a trial balloon that Republicans are floating to test a way to turn the economic weakness against Democrats. From the Dallas Morning News:
But economic experts say the biggest reason for a six-year slump in median household income has been the migration of more low-income people into the region.
This is a classic (and cynically brilliant) Rove strategy of projecting his candidates' weaknesses as faults of the opposition. It insinuates that the "liberal" approach to immigration is behind the wage decline, so they are trying to turn this issue around on Democrats and attack on two fronts at once. It's clever, but nasty and counterproductive to our nation's pressing issues by associating the two issues when they've been unable to fix either.

I am not a morning person...

... so I found this hilarious!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chickenshit chickenhawks

A chickenhawk is an aggressively pro-war person who has no military experience and typically avoids all opportunities to serve.

A peacenik comes from the other end of the political spectrum, arguing that war is never productive, nor do the ends ever justify the means.

Both are very ideological positions. But chickenhawks are hypocritical in their desire to risk others' lives and not their own, and I've never heard a sincere and respectable justification for their ideology. On the contrary, most of their public statements fall into this pattern:

  • "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service." Dick Cheney was of military age and a supporter of the Vietnam War but he did not serve in the war, applying for and receiving five draft deferments. On May 19, 1965, Cheney was classified as 1-A , "available for service" by the Selective Service. On October 26, 1965 the Selective Service lifted the constraints on drafting childless married men. Cheney and his wife then had a child after which he applied for and received, a reclassification of 3-A, gaining him a final draft deferment.
  • "They may be with you for the first shots," Rove said of Democrats, "but they're not going . . . to be with you for the tough battles." Rove received his first deferment in 1969 "because of his enrollment at the University of Utah in the fall.... He maintained this deferment until Dec. 14, 1971, despite being only a part-time student in the autumn and spring quarters of 1971 (registered for between six and 12 credit hours) and dropping out of the university in June of 1971."
  • ... and now Anthony Mantova, a 24-year-old neo-conservative working for the Leadership Institute, who writes pieces such as “It is Time to Invade Iran." When confronted on his aggressive stance, Mantova "flatly refused to concede to serving the United States in the military. The money quote from these conversations came when Mantova berated me for what he said was my 'hillbilly, intellectually vacant and morally repugnant belief that 'those who call for war must serve.''"
Peaceniks may have their failings, but intellectual dishonesty is not one of them.

(source: the News Blog)