Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Be Afraid, Always Afraid

I've been thinking this for some time:

Under the circumstances, investing additional resources in defending airplanes is unlikely to be a cost effective investment. It’s also worth underscoring the fact that flying in an airplane is much safer than driving. Insofar as stepped-up security makes flying both more expensive and more annoying, and therefore pushes more people to drive long distances, we’re going to cost lives rather than save them. And at the end of the day, you have to understand that terrorists are not going to weaken America by killing us all a hundred at a time with bombs. They do much more to weaken America by induces us to waste money and strangle our economy.

...even if airplanes were completely secure you could always kill people by detonating a bomb in some other crowded place. For example, you could blow something up in a crowded airport security line

No shit, people. Come out from under the beds. I know doing this will make the news channel sensationalists and political fear-mongers cry but, really, get a grip.

Monday, December 28, 2009


When I first heard about the so-called "Undie-Bomber" this weekend, I knew there was something familiar with the concept. Looking back in my archives, I discovered why:
My only other comment about flying is the total stupidity of making so many of use take off our shoes. Gimme a break. One guy has explosive shoes and we all forever have to take off our shoes? I can’t remember where I read this but someone pointed out that we all should be grateful the shoe-bomber wasn’t wearing explosive underwear instead.
That was from April of 2006. I now look forward to putting my briefs (not boxers!) in the security tray along with my shoes and belt.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Schock Thinks Torture is a Good Idea

In a cable news debate, area reps Aaron Schock “The Monkey” and Phil Hare talk about bringing Gitmo detainees to Illinois. In the process, Schock, the sniveling, fear-mongering coward that he is, endorses torture as U.S. policy. What a disgrace. Surely there is some despotic third world country he could better represent.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Starting Points

There are a million points of contention between people who support general healthcare reform and those who don’t. But the one I find most interesting is the starting point of most of the pro and con arguments.

Those, like myself, who support sweeping healthcare reforms start from the position that there are lots of people who do not have access to affordable healthcare and the goal is to make it available to them, to everyone. It’s about people first and money second.

Those who oppose HCR, start from the position that any reform must not cost anything. There can be no tax increases, no loss in profits to the pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies or medical providers. Reform, if any, must come without disturbing the monetary status quo. In other words, it’s money first and people second.

This second position really frustrates me because this really is a matter of saying “I’ve got mine, go fuck yourself” to those who don’t have access to proper healthcare. Additionally, there is simply no way to get this healthcare to the people who need it without messing with the financial tradition of the medical-industrial complex as it exists now.

Meaningful reform will have to take away some profit in some sectors to be affordable. While I’d be all for a Ponies For Everyone proposal where everyone could become rich off of healthcare and everyone could get healthcare, that’s not going to happen and we need to prioritize. I happen to want to put people before money as a starting point.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I’ll Take Afghanistan for One Million

I know this is incredibly simplistic math but if we are sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion, that means each troop sent there is costing us a million dollars. And, of course, each troop only sees an infinitesimally small fraction of that cash while he or she is the one being shot at.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Left Out

Atrios, commenting on Sarah Palin’s political star status:

…imagine if John Kerry had put Dennis Kucinich on the Veep ticket [in 2004] and then lost. Kucinich would have increased stature in the Democratic party, and probably be quite popular with "the base," but the press would mostly ignore him other than to occasionally sneer. I'm not equating Palin and Kucinich, just trying to imagine who might occupy a similar space on the left.
It goes beyond Palin. The right seems to come up with these functionally illiterate political celebrities on a regular basis. Think Joe the Plumber or Carrie Prejean. I suppose one could conclude there is a conspiracy among the liberal media elites (you know, any media that isn’t Fox News or talk radio) to turn these goofballs into celebrities to make the right look bad. However, that doesn’t really work since the rightwing media and the right itself (up to and including Republican presidential candidates) regularly embraces and promotes these people as serious political players.

And since every fair-minded person knows that things are exactly equal on the left and right (they always are), I’d like to know where the left’s idiot political celbs are? Where’s the lefty Joe the Plumber? It just doesn’t happen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to Just Give Up?

I really think this country is headed toward anarchy. With more and more people becoming detached from reality and believing almost anything they want to, there can’t even be the basis for foundational consensus. Add to this the growing belief that government is inherently bad in-and-of itself (i.e. not because it is increasingly becoming a tool of corporations and other monied interests), I see no other future.

Stupidity Celebrated

Oh it just keeps getting better.

Most of the Republican candidates for Illinois governor flatly reject the idea that human activity contributes to global warming, a position that contradicts the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists.

Five of the seven Republican candidates claim rising temperatures have nothing to do with pollution from cars, factories or power plants.

Honestly, I don’t know how much difference this lunacy makes since global climate change really needs to be addressed on a national and global scale. Still, this is just making it easier and easier to not take these guys seriously on anything. If you are this intellectually bankrupt, I don’t want you anywhere near the levers of power.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holy Wars

What Cenk says:

Predictably, after the Ft. Hood shooting some idiot conservatives are suggesting that we do some sort of loyalty exam for Muslim-Americans before allowing them into the US military. Who is "we"? Who gets to do this exam? What, presumably more American people like whites or Christians?

Why don't Muslim Americans decide which Christians get to enter the US military? Oh, does that sound offensive? Does it sound weird? Why should it sound any different than Christians getting to decide which other Americans they will allow into the US military?

A lot of people are rightfully making the point that you can not generalize about millions of Muslims in this country based on two guys. Just as you cannot generalize about all right-leaning white Christians (let alone all Christians in their entirety) based on what domestic terrorists like Tim McVeigh did, or Terry Nichols, or Eric Rudolph, or Scott Roeder or ...

But there is a more important point here. Muslims Americans don't have to prove a damn thing to you. They are Americans just like anyone else, whether
right-wing clowns like it or not. They are not 80% American. They are not 90% as American as you are. You don't get to judge how American they are.

Here is the inalterable fact that the right-wing of this country has to get used to - Muslim-Americans are 100% American. There are no degrees of how American you are. They have the same exact rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other American does. They don't have to answer to you.
This “debate” was all too predictable. Bigots are always ready to quickly generalize when an incident occurs that reinforces their bigotry. I knew this was coming as soon as the details behind the Ft. Hood incident were released. I suppose the best thing to do is let the bigots have their freak-out and a month (if not sooner) from now life will just go on, tragedies and all.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I’m Already Able To Endorse the Dem

Especially in light of the Blagojevich debacle, I’ve promised to keep an open mind on deciding on who to support for Illinois Governor next year. But I can already tell you that I can’t vote for any of these guys. That didn’t take long. What a bunch of idiots. Just, WOW.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Ad

Richard Roeper wonders what I wonder:

If you watched any football over the weekend, you probably saw a certain commercial for DirecTV once. Or twice.

Or 20 times.

For the last three years, DirecTV has been enlisting the services of actors who re-create a famous role in a familiar scene from a movie, before breaking character and telling us about the benefits of getting DirecTV.

I can't deny the effectiveness of the ads. There's something jarring and conversation-starting about seeing the still-beautiful but 50ish Christie Brinkley reprising "The Girl in the Ferrari" from "National Lampoon's Vacation," Charlie Sheen back in uniform as the Wild Thing from the "Major League" movies, or Naomi Watts (!) doing the "King Kong" thing again.

It was a little unsettling to see Craig T. Nelson as the father from "Poltergeist," interacting with his daughter Carol Anne, given that Heather O'Rourke, the actress who played the little girl, died at 13.

But the latest DirecTV ad -- the one that aired again and again over the weekend -- is even creepier.

In the spot, David Spade is playing Richard Hayden from 1995's "Tommy Boy." Thanks to seamless technology, Spade seems to be in the room with Chris Farley's Thomas Callahan III, who's doing his "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" bit.

As Farley spins around and does the routine, Spade looks at the camera and says, "Great. I'm here with tons of fun when I could be at home watching DirecTV . . . but no, I'm stuck with either cable, or that."

Farley rips the little coat, and Spade chuckles and says, "Never gets old."

It's been nearly 12 years since Chris Farley was found dead in an apartment in the John Hancock Building. Spade was Farley's close friend, but he opted not to attend the funeral. He was quoted as saying he couldn't "be in a room where Farley was in a

Now, though, Spade has put himself in a virtual room with the ghost of Farley.

Obviously, permissions had to be granted and rights obtained for a commercial like this to happen. And this certainly isn't the first time the image or video of a deceased celebrity has been incorporated into a commercial. Remember the late John Wayne for Coors? Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner?

I guess it gets people talking. But I'm just wondering if there's anyone who ISN'T put off by the Spade/Farley spot.
I was actually kind of shocked at the ad. It does seem tasteless for all the reasons Roeper mentions. Additionally, what was gained? While I was/am a Farley fan, particularly of his SNL work but less so of his movies, I still found the reference sort of obscure. Does even 10% of the audience get what’s going on, even a little? DirecTV and David Spade both showed really bad taste in doing this commercial.

What intrigues me about things like this is how it gets from concept, to production, to air without anyone pulling the plug. Before the 30 second spot was over, I knew it was bad. What happened during the months (or longer) of development that prevented anyone from getting how tasteless and obscure the project was? I just don’t understand how that happens.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post-Racism Racism

This is last week’s news, but I was fascinated by the story about the justice of the peace in Louisiana, Keith Bardwell, who refused to marry an interracial couple and then declared:

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
Yikes. Short of lynching someone, I’m not sure how much more racist you can get. But this guy is convinced he’s not racist. I encounter stuff like this routinely. People with racist attitudes have convinced themselves that they can’t possibly be racist. I think it goes something like this: Racism is bad. I’m good. Therefore I can’t be a racist.

I’m glad being racist carries a social stigma, but I’m afraid that’s just leading to an absurd level of denial (see Mr. Bardwell). Many of these same people are also convinced that we live in a post-racist society where only the white man can’t get a break due to “political correctness” or “affirmative action” or Jesse Jackson or ACORN or whatever. Ironically, their own feelings of victimhood in a country where your best shot at almost anything is helped by being a white male are actually a kind of racism.

Being a racist does not require you to be a member of the KKK or advocate a return to slavery. No, it comes in many shades and some more subtle than others.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just Say Boobs

This blog is getting (relatively) heavy traffic today because if you search Google Images for “Meghan McCain boobs”, the fourth pic listed is the photo I used in this post. The post was about Meghan’s fondness for Rep. Aaron Schock (the Monkey) and had nothing to do with the current interest in McCain’s chest. As far as I know, the woman in the picture with Schock is not Meghan McCain. However, I used the word “boobs” in the post and Google made the connection. And why are people searching for Meghan's boobs? Here's why.

Anyway, just for fun, here’s the picture again!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fact Checking Parody

This may be the single best take down of cable news I’ve ever seen. And as a bonus, it’s funny!

I spend most of my workday lunches in front of the TV flipping between cable news channels. I’m just trying to get me a little information! Mostly I’m frustrated and disappointed. That’s why I wind up spending time with C-SPAN, local cable access and the channel guide.

Update: This related bit from Matthew Yglesias who just got back from Europe.

I wasn’t unplugged by any means over the past three weeks. I kept blogging and kept reading blogs. I read the newspapers and I even watched the news on television. But what I watched was CNN International and BBC World News. There’s a world of difference between those networks and even the relatively staid domestic version of CNN. And at the office they had the sound on for Fox News. Bill Hemmer & co. were spinning half-truths, deceptions, and outright falsehoods at a staggering rate. Meanwhile you could see frenetic action on MSNBC and CNN and if I felt like really making myself dizzy could even follow the action on closed caption.

It makes you think about the strange influence that daytime cable news has on American politics. The three networks combined have an aggregate daytime audience of roughly zero. But even though the audience, looked at nationally, amounts to rounding error the networks are hugely popular among the tiny number of people who work in professional politics. Just like traders have CNBC and Bloomberg on in their offices, political operatives are constantly tuned in to what’s happening on cable news. The result is a really bizarre hothouse scenario in which people are basically watching . . . well . . . nothing, but they’re riveted to it. How things “play” on cable news is considered fairly important even though no persuadable voters are watching it. And cable news’ hyper-agitated style starts to infect everyone’s frame of mind, making it extremely difficult for everyone to forget that the networks have huge incentives to massively and systematically overstate the significance of everything that happens.

At any rate, it’s good to be back home but the slower pace and more relaxed and substantive style of BBC and CNN International is something I’ll miss.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Phone Zone

While I’m happy for the residents getting better cell phone service, I always thought it strange that there was this substantial dead zone along I-55 in that same area. Given the traffic on the interstate, I never could understand this. Hopefully, those days are now gone.

Chicago Ugly

Really? Number 4 on a list of The World’s Ugliest Buildings is the Harold Washington Library in Chicago? Really?

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I love it when the media discovers the world. The childlike awe and amazement is cute:

(CNN) -- Nearly one in four people worldwide is Muslim -- and they are not necessarily where you might think, according to an extensive new study that aims to map the global Muslim population.

India, a majority-Hindu country, has more Muslims than any country except for Indonesia and Pakistan, and more than twice as many as Egypt.

China has more Muslims than Syria.

Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon.

And Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya put together.

Nearly two out of three of the world's Muslims are in Asia, stretching from
Turkey to Indonesia.

The Middle East and north Africa, which together are home to about one in five of the world's Muslims, trail a very distant second.

There are about 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, according to the report, "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That represents about 23 percent of the total global population of 6.8 billion.
This story treats this information like a new ring has been discovered around Saturn. Who knew! What other secrets does our planet hold beyond our shores?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And Where Was Oprah?

Just to add a late bit to my snarky post from yesterday:

I was watching MSNBC at lunch today and they were broadcasting the news conference from Chicago on new efforts to combat teen violence. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, Chicago mayor Richard Daley and others were all there. This was all prompted by the senseless beating death of that honor student on the city’s (largely black) south side.

After they broke away from the live coverage, MSNBC had some woman commenter on (even though I’ve seen her before, I don’t know her name, only that she looks like she has the mumps) and her first observation was that Oprah Winfrey wasn’t at the news conference. The very first thing she wanted to know why was Oprah wasn’t there! She’s black and she’s from Chicago, so of course she should be there, I guess was here thinking. Which is the same stupid thinking I was referring to yesterday.

Related: More rural white on white crime in the news here in Illinois and elsewhere. Why aren’t white celebrities speaking out about this???

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rural White on White Crime Now Rampant

With white residents of small towns in Central Illinois shooting and beating each other to death (Ashland, Beason) I think it’s time to hold white community leaders accountable. I expect our media to ask all white people they come in contact with, no matter how unrelated to the incidents, what they think of the recent violence and what should be done about it.

Healthcare is Hard Pt. 4

Opponents of any single-payer health system here in the U.S. often point to the “well-known fact” that Canadians, faced with a medical dystopia in their own country, flock across the border to the US to get the healthcare of which they are deprived at home. I’ve even been told in person that I’m stupid for not believing this to be the case.

Well, just for the record, I post this study that “depicts this popular perception as more myth than reality, as the number of Canadians routinely coming across the border seeking health care appears to be relatively small, indeed infinitesimal when compared with the amount of care provided by their own system.”
And here’s a survey that indicates Canadians are very happy with their healthcare. Another poll shows Canadians overwhelmingly prefer their system to ours.

Now having said all that, it should be noted that as far as single-payer systems go, Canada’s seems to be among the worst. Many of what problems it does have come from being underfunded. Any move to a single-payer system here should probably not look to Canada as its primary model. Fortunately there are plenty of other national systems to look to, and when that day comes, and it eventually will someday, we have lots of tried and true options to choose from.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alternate Universe

Oh, I understand the tragedy of having a relative fall victim to cult of Fox News. There really is nothing even close to the wingnut alternate universe on the other side(s), no matter how hard you try to convince yourself these things are equal.

And I was going to link to and comment on this item supporting a military coup to solve “The Obama Problem” but all the attention Newsmax has gotten over it I guess moved them to take it down. Still much of the key text is available through the link above.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What’chu Lookin’ at Durbin?

While eating my lunch in front of the TV most workdays, I tend to flip around the various news channels trying to pick up on something that’s really news. But if it’s a car chase, celebrity gossip, pundit shout-fest kind of day, I often wind up watching the speechifying on C-SPAN or C-SPAN2. And every so often I come across our own Dick Durbin making his case before the Senate. I like Dick Durban and am usually interested in what he has to say, but he does something that bothers me: He looks directly into the Senate C-SPAN camera rather than directing his gaze toward the Senate floor. I know, there probably isn’t even anyone in the chamber while he’s talking but still, give me the illusion. I want to feel like I’m looking in on the proceedings not being addressed directly. I really don’t notice other senators doing this. Maybe they do, I just haven’t seen it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Healthcare is Hard Pt. 3

I’ve noticed something going on in the healthcare debate that seems to happen with some regularity in such discussions: Even if something “new” here has been done elsewhere quite successfully, there is concern in some quarters that it” either can’t be done or if “it” is done, dire consequences will result. While a single payer system isn’t going to happen in this country anytime soon (politically impossible, for now) it is not physically impossible. Nor are there the dire consequences predicted by opponents. How do I know? Well, every other industrialized country in the world does it in some form or another. Duh.

What comes to my mind is the smoking ban debate we had first here in Springfield and then statewide in Illinois. Naysayers predicted massive economic disruptions, slippery slope civil liberty violations and a plague of locusts. While they were making these silly arguments, we had living examples of this NOT happening in other states and even entire countries, some with rich smoking traditions. But somehow none of that real-life evidence counted.

In the healthcare debate we also have opponents that, while recognizing there are other single payer sytems around, are reduced to just making shit up about the medical dystopias created by these systems. Or, they cherry pick small flaws from several different national systems and create a new single-payer-at-large-system boogeyman that’s going to kill us all. But the great thing about having all these other examples from around the world is that we can do just the opposite: cherry pick the best to make our own system the best in the world.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wanted: Non-Moron Terrorists

Josh Marshall sez:

Michael C. Finton, aka "Talib Islam", seems like the type who might have been an able foot soldier in a plot organized by non-morons. But left to his own devices his lack of operational secrecy somewhat undermined his endeavors.

According to the FBI
release, after the Bureau learned of Finton's apparent interest in becoming a jihadi, the Bureau learned he was on parole and contacted his parole officer to find a parole violation that would allow them to search his home.

Agents found what seems to have amounted to a small literary shrine to John Walker Lindh. And then after Finton was released from jail, in a January 2008 interview with the FBI, Finton explained that he idolized Lindh. Faced with this evidence that Finton not only had an interest in becoming a terrorist but was also an easy mark, agents preceded to draw him into his own private terrorist plot that led this week to his arrest.

It makes perfect sense for the FBI to look for and try to roll up people looking to blow up buildings in the US. But these anti-terrorism cases are certainly more comforting when the would-be terrorists turn out to have been in league -- pretty much from the word go -- with government informants rather [than] actual operatives the government has never heard of.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Hate Decatur Terrorists

Good on the FBI for getting this guy. But let's not overstate the danger involved here. There was no danger in this plot. It was entirely controlled by law enforcement. There was never any danger this idiot was actually going to blow up Springfield at any time while this plot played out. The other terrorists were fake. The explosives were fake. The detonator was fake. And while the Decatur dumbass was enthusiastic about committing an act of terrorism, he was never in possession of any means to actually do so.

I'm not completely convinced this guy was actually smart enough to have ever pulled off an act of terror. No that it matters anymore because he was criminally willing to join in on someone else's plot. Even if it was fake.

Michael C. Finton, Terrorist Wannabe
I only bring this up because some people aren't able to distinguish between a plot and an actual threat. Someone can come up with some lame plan on paper to blow up the an airport but never have the ability to do so. The plot exists but the danger doesn't.

Which brings me to Congressman Aaron Schock. According to the SJ-R, Schock's office released this statement:
My office was notified today of the attempted terrorist attack on both the Federal Building and my Congressional Office in Springfield. I am incredibly grateful to the FBI for their fine work in preventing this terrorist attack.
Italics mine.

Ummm, Mr. Schock there was no terrorist attack to prevent. It was a sting. Your office was never in any danger. If you can't tell the difference between a threat and a plot, please resign and we'll get someone in there smarter than you.

Update 09/25/09: Lead story on a WMAY newscast this morning started out something like “Springfield could have been another Oklahoma City…” Sigh. Yes, if Oklahoma City had been hit with a fake bomb. At no time was there any real danger. AT…NO…TIME. Just because one guy believes he’s committing an act of terror does not mean an act of terror was really ever going to happen.

Bullet Point

This country is so fucked up:

NEW ORLEANS – Bullet-makers are working around the clock, seven days a week, and still can't keep up with the nation's demand for ammunition.

Shooting ranges, gun dealers and bullet manufacturers say they have never seen such shortages. Bullets, especially for handguns, have been scarce for months because gun enthusiasts are stocking up on ammo, in part because they fear President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress will pass antigun legislation — even though nothing specific has been proposed and the president last month signed a law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks.

Jason Gregory, who manages Gretna Gun Works just outside of New Orleans, has been building his personal supply of ammunition for months. His goal is to have at least 1,000 rounds for each of his 25 weapons.

"I call it the Obama effect," said Gregory, 37, of Terrytown, La. "It always happens when the Democrats get in office. It happened with Clinton and Obama is even stronger for gun control. Ammunition will be the first step, so I'm stocking up while I can."

So far, the new administration nor Congress has not been markedly antigun. Obama has said he respects Second Amendment rights, but favors "common sense" on gun laws. Still, worries about what could happen persist.

Demand has been so heavy at some Walmarts, a limit was imposed on the amount of ammo customers can buy. The cutoff varies according to caliber and store location, but sometimes as little as one box — or 50 bullets — is allowed.

At Barnwood Arms in Ripon, Calif., sales manager Dallas Jett said some of the shortages have leveled off, but 45-caliber rounds are still hard to find.

"We've been in business for 32 years and I've been here for 10 and we've never seen anything like it," Jett said. "Coming out of Christmas everything started to dry up and it was that way all through the spring and summer.

Nationwide, distributors are scrambling to fill orders from retailers.

"We used to be able to order 50 or 60 cases and get them in three or four days easy, it was never an issue," said Vic Grechniw of Florida Ammo Traders, a distributor in Tampa, Fla. "Now you are really lucky if you can get one case a month. It just isn't there because the demand is way up."

A case contains 500 or 1,000 bullets.
And, of course, a certain percentage of all this extra firepower is going to wind up on the streets. Some will get there by being stolen from law abiding citizens and some will get there more directly from less-than-law-abiding citizens. More guns! More ammo! Woo-hoo!


Yes, I was wondering what those things were flying up my nose…

Been wondering what those pesky bugs are that have been dive-bombing your eyes, flying up your nose and into your mouth as you try to enjoy your child's soccer game or a simple walk around the block?

And why they seem to be just everywhere?

Those pesky critters aren't just regular gnats, they are soybean aphids.

"They are a nuisance," said Dean Johnston, a naturalist with Forest Park Nature Center. "We just have to put up with them."

Johnston said the aphids seem in abundance because of the cool weather central Illinois has experienced this summer. And it's also the time of year when vegetation is beginning to rot.

"They like rotting vegetation," he said. "September typically is a high insect time, but when the frost comes, that ends it."

When aphids land on something, they probe it with their sucking mouthparts to see if it is good to eat. People with sensitive skin may feel a slight prick, but it is unlikely to leave a mark. Others are unlikely to feel anything at all.

However, Phil Nixon, an entomologist for the University of Illinois Extension Office, advises people not to wear yellow, or else they will attract even more of those tiny swarming bugs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Train Fax Blog

Rich Miller weighs in on the great Springfield / Union Pacific high speed rail controversy. The comments are many and contain some out-of-town perspective.


We don't know all the details yet, but I have a bad feeling about this one:

A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending.

Investigators have said little about the case. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.

I'll feel better if we find out this was just an unusual suicide, but I'm not betting on that being the case.

Sin Tax: Not Just Sentence Structure Anymore

I’m a fan of sin taxes. If the revenue needs to be raised, this has to be one of the least objectionable ways to do it. As a beer drinking, I pay plenty of sin tax and really don’t mind. Sin taxes are somewhat regressive but it’s on items that you not only don’t need, but are actually bad for you in anything more than small amounts. So sin taxes serve the dual purpose of raising revenue and (somewhat) discouraging consumption of something that isn’t good for you. There are limits, of course. Too high a tax only encourages a black market, so there needs to be a balance.

Recently there have been proposals floating around that would raise taxes on sodas and some other kinds of sweetened drinks to both help fight obesity and possibly to help fund healthcare reform. Count me as on board. Sure, it’s easy for me to say that since I drink about three sodas a year. But, as I said, I am already subjected to the sin tax on beer and I’m fine with that.

Of course, the soda industry is very much opposed to this idea and has been airing commercials reflecting this opposition. The one I’ve been seeing lately has a frazzled looking mom unloading the minivan while decrying the tax proposal. She says that while it’s just a few cents, that money adds up and it’s already hard enough to feed a family. Get that, FEED a family. When the fuck did giving your family soda constitute “feeding”. Lady, if you are “feeding” your family soda, you’re an idiot. Maybe they can drink water with the meal of Twinkies and Funyuns you “feed” them.

And here’s another consumer tip for those having a hard time “feeding” their families soda: you could save way more than the extra tax if you just buy off brand or store brand soda rather than one with a big name. You pay for the name. More than any sin tax.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marriage is So Gay

This is not a surprise

92 percent of Iowans "say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives.
…but how have the other 8% been affected? Maybe they're all wedding industry workers who have seen a substantial uptick in business.

BUT: 40% say they would vote for a gay marriage ban. I guess because that too has no effect on them. No bigotry involved there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Moon is Just a Candle-Lit Cake

I recently found this badly faded photo of me taken on my 9th birthday, July 15, 1969 - the day before Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida carrying the fist men to walk on the moon. I was intensely interested in the space program and my mother baked me a cake shaped like a rocket and included a moon cake next to it with a candle sticking out. The cake says “David 9”. Get it, like Apollo 11 but David 9.

My friend Dan and I are sitting in front of the green canvas tent we used camp in out in my backyard. I remember frequently not wearing a shirt in the summer as many boys and not a few men didn’t back then. You don’t see that nearly as much anymore.

BTW, I did not crop the photo to center myself, that's just the way it was taken. I'm glad I got it scanned before it completly faded away.

All in All, It's Just Another Beck in the Hall

Glenn Beck back when he was on Kids in the Hall:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama Wan Kenobi

I’m really not sure in what contest this picture was taken but I think all presidents should be able to properly handle a lightsaber.

What’s impressive is that Obama seems to understand the proper stance to be taken by a true Jedi Knight. Lesser presidents might have held the lightsaber awkwardly, conveying vulnerability to our enemies.

Healthcare is Hard Pt.2

Can we quickly get something straight? Medicare isn’t “going bankrupt” because the government manages it. Medicare is in financial trouble because…wait for it…healthcare costs keep skyrocketing. Imagine that!

Medicare’s overhead and administration costs (as a percentage) are actually a small fraction of the overhead and administration costs (and huge profits) of private insurers. Depending on how you calculate it, only 3% to 7% percent of Medicare money is spent on overhead and administration. The rest goes to paying for medical care. Insurance companies have overhead and administrative costs running in the 15 to 30 percent range.

Most things the government pays for are things the private sector isn’t all that well equipped to do. A private road system would be a messy, wasteful, redundant jumble, for example. Sort of like our current healthcare system. Conversely, there are things government would really suck at and it should stay away from. Making and selling TVs, for example. And while not getting a new plasma TV won’t kill you, not getting healthcare just might.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Duce Noose

I love this headline in the SJ-R:
Harsher discipline for next noose, Davlin vows
NEXT noose? I guess it’s not so funny considering a second noose appeared after the firestorm over the first noose. And it’s even less funny that top city officials need to contemplate the response to yet another noose incident. What the fuck is wrong with people in this city?

The other odd thing is that Mayor Davlin is suggested a graduated punishment scale not for the same people breaking the same rule but for anyone who breaks the rule. That’s weird. It would be like the fine for speeding going up a dollar every time someone (else) got a ticket.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lewd Obbs

In an earlier post I related how it was good that Fox News is finally corralling all of the crazy or less-than-honest TV broadcasters. But, silly me, I forgot one: Lou Dobbs.

Tea Time

WebMD seems to be a fairly trustworthy site. But I was a little surprised at how emphatic this article is on the benefits for drinking green and black tea. I’ve been drinking tea for about 12 years now and have always believed there was something to its health benefits. At least that seemed to be the consensus of most material I’ve read on the subject. But this article maybe the most affirmative I’ve read from a source seeming to have no commercial interest in promoting tea. Although its validity does worry me some when I read things like this:
Look at the world's big tea drinkers, like Japan and China. "They have much less heart disease and don't have certain cancers that we in the Western world suffer," says Weisburger.
Yes but there are a lot of dietary differences between the cultures, not just tea.

Still, I’ve never read anything that says that tea is anything but good for you. Its just a matter of how good. So I’ll stick with it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Healthcare is Hard Pt. 1

The healthcare reform issue is so massive that one blog post cannot begin to contain it. It’s one of those issues that I’ve had a long interest in and done much informal study on. Because of its size and complexity, I really haven’t been motivated to blog about it. That is, I don’t know where to begin. So I’ve decided to just post a bit here and a bit there. And even that isn’t going to give it a just treatment. Still, I want to say something. I don’t think I’ve seen an issue so full of misrepresentation by one side of the discussion as I have this one. It’s truly stunning. And while my little blog isn’t going to interject any sanity into the situation, posting on the subject will make me feel better.

There is no good place to start, so let me begin with a few personal stories on how crazy our current system is.

After getting out of college at age 22, I had no health insurance. At first, I worked a few labor and retail jobs, none of which offered any kind of insurance. I was making no money so I couldn’t afford to buy my own either. I was lucky and didn’t need any medical services during that period.

About five months after graduation, I got my first professional job and it offered a health plan. Hurray! Except that once I started working the boss explained to me that there was a three month waiting period before I could actually use the insurance. His advice was, and I quote, “Just don’t get into a car accident for three month. Heh, heh.” OK, never mind that my job would require a medium amount of driving. I supposed that if I got into an accident on the job I could sue, get workers comp or something. No big deal, I thought, I’ve gone five months without insurance I can go three more. I’m young and healthy!

Well, a few weeks into my new job I discovered I had developed a medical condition that would need attention. Attention as in surgery. I was smart enough to not go get it diagnosed right away because then it would never be covered by the company insurance. So I lived with the condition for until my insurance kicked in. I went to the doctor right away and sure enough he scheduled me for surgery. The surgery was minor and successful. I got the bill and the total cost was between seven and eight thousand dollars, if I recall correctly. The insurance picked up most of that and I think I wound up owing just under a grand. Now keep in mind that I was making a whopping $9,600 A YEAR at that time so even the 1K I owed was going to be tough (I made payments). So all’s well that ends well. Still, I feel I got lucky.

A couple of years later at that same company, a member of our small staff had a heart attack. After paying for most of his care, the insurance company dropped us (or raised rates so high that a new plan had to be found, I can’t remember which). So the boss got us into a new plan. And guess what? Another three month waiting period! Exciting! For us, the employees, this was out of blue. This time I managed to stay healthy and did not need to use any medical services. Whew!

After leaving that job to relocate to Springfield, I was again intermittently employed and did not have any insurance for nearly nine months. Again I got lucky.

The only other time since then I’ve been without employer insurance was when I worked for a consulting company for a year and they didn’t provide insurance as a benefit. I was paid enough (and single enough) that I could afford to buy my own but I still paid a hefty price for pretty crappy insurance. Not being in a group hurts –a lot. The funny part about that was my insurance company required a physical from one of their own nurses before my insurance would be applicable. So they sent a nurse out to my apartment which was essentially the second floor of a house that had been divided into an upstairs and a downstairs apartment. When I answered the door, and invited the (female) nurse “upstairs, she kind of freaked out and wanted to do the physical on the front porch. OK. That’s what we did right there on the front porch. I had a physical. On the front porch at a semi-busy intersection for all to see. Exciting!

Those are just a few of my own experiences with “THE GREATEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD”. I did OK throughout but I was lucky. And the things I described above are not things you will see happening anywhere else outside of the third world.

The Eyes Have It

I think I can follow the flu prevention guidelines pretty well. I wash my hands routinely, I keep sanitizer around, etc. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and I don’t think I can learn to not touch my eyes. I’m forever rubbing my eyes. They get itchy! Maybe I need to start wearing spiked gloves. If I don’t blind myself I’ll quickly learn not to touch my eyes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Twitter End

Having now engaged in a couple of political debates over the past few days using the limited capabilities of Facebook (I did not initiate them per my own ground rules), I now want to move on to a wonky discussion on the intricacies healthcare reform using Twitter. Make your point in 140 characters and be specific!

Both Sides Are the Same

It's exactly equal. It always is.

And this is lovely...

Update: This is good too:

Friday, September 11, 2009


I’m not sure why, but the only place I’ve seen the news that Norb Andy’s is reopening downtown is on Facebook. But then, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to local media outside of the SJ-R and WMAY. Still, I’m really happy Norb’s is back.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Split Cyber Personality

Well, as you have probably noticed (since you’re reading this) I’ve decided to fire up the blog again after a two month hiatus. And while I hope to post regularly, I doubt it’s ever going to be at the pace I used to post. For one thing, this blog used to be a mix of political and personal and some other stuff thrown in. The personal stuff is now permanently residing on Facebook. The political stays here and will not appear on Facebook. Everything else could show up in one or both forums. This works out well for me. Friends and family not interested in my political rantings can stick with Facebook to keep in touch. Political hooligans can hang with me here. Some of you will do both. For me, it’s the best of both worlds.


John Stossel is moving to Fox News. I’m shocked! Simply shocked, I tell ya!

With Glenn Beck and Stossel finally coming home, it’s good to know I can now find all my TV wingnuttery all in one place now. Stossel, unlike Beck, occasionally (when he isn’t flat-out lying) does make some sense. I suppose his libertarian credentials will serve him well at Fox. However, I look for him to become less and less reality-based over time there.

U Lie 2

Josh Marshall at TPM posts this message he received from a reader:
You note…that Joe Wilson's angry outburst was wrong on the substance. And that's an important point.

But I think it's worth contemplating that for a moment. What led Wilson to allow his "emotions get the best of" him and break with centuries of protocol to declare the president a liar? Innumerable presidential speeches have made selective claims or been parsimonious with the truth. And in this case, the claim actually bears up under scrutiny. So why this particular claim, and why now?

Wilson's outburst reflects something deeper. One recurrent theme of extremist assaults on the president has been the deep, visceral conviction that he's hiding an extremist agenda. The more moderate his rhetoric, the more reasonable his tone, the more detailed and specific his claims, the deeper this conviction grows. If you start with the presumption that the president is trying to foist his socialist agenda on an unsuspecting nation, then his apparent moderation and civility is actually further evidence of his duplicity. When nonpartisan groups substantiate his claims, it's because they're swallowing his transparent lies instead of revealing his real, hidden agenda. Every bit of apparent evidence that the president is reasonable only makes the situation more desperate - how to break through the illusion and reveal him for what he is?

We saw this dynamic recur again and again throughout the month of August, as anger boiled over at town hall meetings. Right wing activists insisted that they knew, to a moral certainty, what the plan was actually about, and demanded that their representatives acknowledge the truth. Such arguments are immune from rebuttal; at their very heart lies the esoteric contention that the real agenda is only implicit, hidden within the bill's provisions, and that seemingly benign clauses actually contain loopholes that will be nefariously exploited following its passage.

So when the president stood up and declared that the bills means what they say, Wilson simply couldn't contain himself any longer.
This is very true of the right’s healthcare argument. I’ve been party to discussions with wingers on this subject who just can’t be reasoned with. They start from a set of preconceived notions that bear no relationship to reality. The sad part is, this mentality seems to go way beyond just healthcare. There is a wingnut alternate universe that “exists” out there that only they can see. Fox News, talk radio, e-mail forwards all validate this other universe. Having a point of view or an opinion is one thing, living in a fantasy world is just dangerous.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

“You Lie”

Your modern Republican Party. But I'm sure a Democrat once thought to himself that George Bush was lying, so it's all even. No difference.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouts at the president
during his speech to the joint session of Congress.


Based on what the Union Pacific railroad is saying (via this SJ-R article), I’m fine with letting the project die. I never thought I’d say that about a high speed rail project, but you can’t just destroy a city. Of course, I don’t really believe UP has to be so inflexible, but if they continue to be, then let’s just forget the whole thing. And if that happens, I really hope UP doesn’t retaliate against the city in some way. I hate to think of what form that retaliation might take, but given their tone so far I would not be surprised if there was some.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Centrism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice!

There's nothing wrong with having opinions that aren’t all firmly attached to one camp (left) or the other (right). While what camp a political position is associated with usually makes ideological sense, I find it preferable to judge issues on a case by case basis and I respect people who do this rather than automatically going with whatever “side” they most identify with. For example, it’s not that unusual to find someone who is opposed to the death penalty (left) but also favors making abortion illegal (right). I’ve known strong environmentalists (left) who are also foreign policy hawks (right).

However, the people that kill me are the folks who triangulate to the exact center of any controversy for the sake of being dogmatically moderate. If the argument is whether the sky is blue (left) or the sky is yellow (right), these people will know that the sky is green. It has to be, it’s right in the middle!

I’m not sure where this mentality comes from. In some cases, I’m pretty confident it’s some sort of conflict avoidance device. “Look, you’re both a little right and both a little wrong, let’s hug!” Other times I think it’s a thought avoidance mechanism. “That issue sounds complicated; it’s easier not to think on it too much, back to the game!”

I can actually respect a well thought out and justifiable difference of opinion. But running to the middle safe zone all the time doesn’t cut it with me. This stance is also often (but not always) accompanied by an air of superiority. “Look, my powers of perception are all encompassing and I can see all sides. I pity you poor narrow-minded partisans!”

How about instead of instinctively running to the middle, you look at an issue, research it and form an opinion based on the facts you uncover. Yes, it sometimes takes some work and, yes, that means sometimes people are going to disagree with you and argue with you about it. Stand your ground. Or be persuaded; that’s OK too.
And what's really appalling is how much of the professional news media does a version of this centrist triangulation. Extending my example above, the newsperson at Big Broadcast News, Inc. will have Mr. Left advocating for the Blue sky and Mr. Right advancing that the sky is really yellow. The newsperson will often let both speak and then leave it at that never bothering to dig a little further, like going outside and looking up. That’s fair and balanced for sure, but not very informative.

Thoma Time Meets Miller Time

Well, WMAY gives in and abandons another local live time slot. Springfield will soon be treated to the syndicated Dennis Miller show from noon to 3:00 weekdays. I didn’t even know the not-funny comedian even had a radio show. He has a couple of defunct TV shows under his belt. And since his conversion to conservatism, he has been a favorite “entertainer” of the right. So I guess a talk show was inevitable.

As for WMAY, I’m assuming the firing of local on-air personality Mark Thoma (his blog here) and replacing him with a syndicated show, is largely a business decision driven by a bad economy. The irony is that for months, as we plunged into the current recession, WMAY’s general manager, Kevan Kavanaugh, in his regular radio editorials was proclaiming Springfield to be recession-free and business as usual. I guess he couldn’t just talk his way out of the bad economic times.

Anyway, everyone enjoy yet another syndicated wingnut blowhard!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Springfield: Boring By Design

Matt Yglesias explains our problem here:

But as someone interested in cities, it is interesting to think about the different ways in which this works. One model, seen in France and the UK, is of a single dominant city. Another model, seen in Italy, is where your capital is also your largest city (Rome), but the main financial and business center is elsewhere (Milan). Then you have your scenarios, seen in the US and Canada, where a capital is established someplace a bit random specifically to avoid choosing between major cities. This tends to lead to capital cities with a reputation as “boring.”

It’s interesting that in the United States it’s extremely common to see this done with state capitals. It’s very rare to see the Boston/Providence scenario where the state capital is put in the state’s major city. You also see some of the Austin/Olympia model where the state capital is also a college town. But the most common thing seems to be the Albany/Sacramento model of putting the state government in some pretty random town that rapidly attracts a reputation (whether deserved or not I couldn’t say in the case of most places, but Albany is pretty terrible and August, ME is far down my list of nice spots in Maine) for being unpleasant.
So see, it’s no accident that Springfield is what it is.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Department of Law

Palin: Even Dumber than Bush:

Palin said there is a difference between the White House and what she has experienced in Alaska. If she were in the White House, she said, the "department of law" would protect her from baseless ethical allegations.

"I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out," she said.
OMG, to think this woman was reasonably close to becoming Vice President of the United States. John McCain owes us all an apology.

Eugene Robinson says it best:

The reasons she gave for stepping down are not just contrived or implausible but literally nonsensical. She can most effectively serve the people of Alaska by ceasing to exercise the powers of chief executive? She worries that as a lame duck she would somehow be compelled to waste taxpayer money on useless junkets? In her "Don't Cry For Me, Alaska" news conference announcing her departure, the folksy non sequiturs -- "Only dead fish go with the flow" -- were like nuggets of Cartesian logic amid a tub of mush.

But I'm stating the obvious. The thing is, Palin's unsuitability for high public office has been obvious all along. Tina Fey got it right; the rest of us were far too reluctant to state plainly that the emperor, or empress, has no clothes.

There are basically two reasons the political class and the commentariat continue to speak and write about Palin as if she were a substantial figure whose presence on the national stage is anything but a cruel, unfunny joke. The first is fear -- not of Palin and her know-nothing legions, but of being painted as elitist and sexist.

The other reason Palin is taken more seriously than she deserves is that she has a
constituency. Heaven help us.
Even the stupid can have their following, I suppose. But really, George W. Bush and, even more so, Sarah Palin are clearly not up to the job of being president. In Bush’s case, there was Cheney who was actually running things. Not that that was anything short of a disaster from a policy standpoint (see Iraq), but at least the guy knew his way around Washington. But who would be Palin’s Cheney?