Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Data Decade

I think historians will look back at the 2000s and call it The Data Decade, and here's why:

–Percentage of U.S. households with a broadband connection in 2000: 6.3%

–Percentage of U.S. households with a broadband connection in 2008: 63%

–Number of e-mails sent per day in 2000: 12 billion

–Number of e-mails sent per day in 2009: 247 billion

–Revenues from mobile data services in the first half of 2000: $105 million

–Revenues from mobile data services in the first half of 2009: $19.5 billion

–Number of text messages sent in the U.S. per day in June 2000: 400,000

–Number of text messages sent in the U.S. per day in June 2009: 4.5 billion

–Percentage of U.S. households with at least one digital camera in 2000: 10%

–Percentage of U.S. households with at least one digital camera in 2008: 68.4%

–Percentage of U.S. households with at least one MP3 player in 2000: less than 2%

–Percentage of U.S. households with at least one MP3 player in 2008: almost 43%

–Number of pages indexed by Google in 2000: 1 billion

–Number of pages indexed by Google in 2008: 1 trillion

–Number of Google searches per day in 2001: 10 million

–Number of Google searches in 2009: 300 million, estimated

–Number of total Wikipedia entries in 2001: 20,000

–Number of Wikipedia entries in English in 2009: 3.1 million

–Number of blogs in 2000: less than 100,000

–Number of blogs 2008: 133 million

–Minimum free hard-disk space needed to install Windows 2000: 650 megabytes

–Minimum available hard-disk space needed to install Windows 7: 16,000 megabytes (16 gigabytes)

–Amount of hard-disk space $300 could buy in 2000: 20 to 30 gigabytes

–Amount of hard-disk space $300 could buy in 2009: 2,000 gigabytes (2 terabytes)

The Seventh Sense’s Annual* Best-of-the-Decade Awards

BEST TV SHOW:  The West Wing.  Good dialogue, funny, serious, rich charactors.  It suffered and got inconsistent when Sorkin left, but overall, it's run was no longer or shorter than it needed to be.

BEST MOVIE:  Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  No, I'm not a rabid fan, but I think these movies were simply the most entertaining of the oughts.  Nods to Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Children of Men, Chicago, A Beuatiful Mind and The Departed.  Best Documentary was Man On Wire.  Best Foreign Film was Amilie.

BEST ACTOR:  Denzel Washington.  Started off the decade with Training Day and was consistently good in even the badder films. 

BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep.  Just couldn't do wrong.

ACTOR WHO "OWNED" THE DECADE:  George Clooney.  A busy actor, and given the amount of movies he made, it's surprising how good most of them were.  Not a bad decade for Johnny Depp either, who was pretty busy and always unique.

ACTRESS WHO "OWNED" THE DECADE:  Amy Adams, for my money.  Just something about her.

BEST "HOTTIE": Scarlett Johansson

BEST BOOK: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

BEST NON-FICTION BOOK:  The 9/11 Commission Report.  It read like a novel.

BEST (NEW) PLAY:  August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

BEST (NEW) BROADWAY MUSICAL: Into the Heights.  With Spring Awakening close behind.

BEST SONG:  Chicago by Sufjan Stevens

BEST SPORTS STORY:  2004 Red Sox beating their 84 year World Series drought.

BEST REPUBLICAN SEX SCANDAL:  Mark "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford, although I have to acknowledge Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig.

BEST TV NEWS OUTLET: CNN, which shows you how bad news is these days.

BEST TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION:  Flash drives and other storage techniques, allowing for iPods, smartphones, DVRS, etc.

BEST INTERNET THING:  Google.  So important and Internet-changing that we almost take it for granted.

* Not really "annual"; that wouldn't make sense

And now…. the decade in seven minutes:

Top Ten Things That I’m Looking Forward To Seeing In 2010

(10)  The media trying to tear down some icon, and failing miserably.  "Sully" Sullenberg is my guess.

(9)  Sarah Palin trying to be taken seriously as a political thinker now that she's had some time to crack a few books on the current issues of the day.

(8)  The 2004 Red Sox.  Not the same guys of course.  Just the same outcome.

(7)  Huge improvements in medicine, including a cure for cancer.  Okay, it may be too early yet for a cure for cancer, but given that we will have had a year of stem cell research, I expect to see the beginnings of some medical technology breakthroughs toward the end of 2010.

(6)  Carl Kasell on my home answering machine.  I don't have a home answering machine anymore, but I'd get one just for this.

(5)  A more organized life, and lower numbers on my bathroom scale.  Sigh, don't get me started.  I could say more, but this is as personal as I get on this blog.

(4)  Windows 7 actually being fairly decent.

(3)  The realization by everybody that Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't automatically get to have his shows on Broadway simply because he's Andrew Lloyd Webber.  "Love Never Dies" (i.e., Phantom of the Opera II) will die.

(2)  The Teabaggers versus The GOP Establishment during the 2010 elections.  Oh, pass the popcorn.

(1)  Glenn Beck's inevitable on-air implosion and meltdown

Also:

The return of Pee Wee Herman
A really good NY weekend

Top Ten Things of 2009 That I Would Like NOT To See in 2010 Thankyouverymuch

(10)  People getting rewarded for doing bad jobs.  I'm talking mainly Wall Street executives and people who run their company into the ground, then get bailed out by taxpayers, and then get huge bonuses as part of their executive compensation package

(9) People who cannot deal with the fact that Obama is President.  The birth certificate thing has played itself out.  It was funny for a while; now it's just annoying.  Yes, folks — a black man is president.  Deal with it.

(8)  Twitter.  Yeah, I said it.  It's a fad.

(7)  Lady Gaga or any woman "singer" who autotunes and acts outrageous and dresses oddly to hide the fact that she's actually rather talentless.  Remember how big Gwen Stefani was two years ago?  Yeah, me neither.

(6)  Idiots who take firms stands on issues about which they clearly know nothing.

MEDICARE350x338 

(5)  The media making a two-day story into a three-day story by wondering aloud if they are making too much of the story.  "Tonight on Focusline: Is the media overplaying the Tiger Woods story?  For the next three hours, our panelists will explore this topic in detail…." — Media, here's a tip: when you start asking the question "are we making too much of ____", the answer is a resounding YES.  Move on.

(4)  Celebrity gossip passing as "news".  I like celebrity gossip as much as the next person.  Okay, probably not as much, but I don't hate it.  But it is not news, and you can't call yourself a news organization when more than half your time is devoted to celebrity gossip.

(3)  Inconsistency.  You can't be against something that Obama does when Bush did the very same thing and you applauded it, unless you can make a distinction between the two events.  Period.

(2)  Reality shows that have nothing to do with reality.  Speaks for itself.

(1)  Attention-seekers and those that give them the attention they seek.  OctoMom, Balloon Boy, White House Party crashers, Joe "You Lie" Wilson, Kanye "Imma Let You Finish…" West, etc.

Runners-up:

Kim Jong-Il

What’s The Fuss About Full Body Scanning Equipment In Airports?

Conservatives hate it and the ACLU hates it.  And for the same reason: privacy invasions.  I'm talking about very modern scanning devices in airports which allow TSA authorities to see what you may be carrying under your clothes, without you having to actually remove your clothes.  Nobody seems to like these things, which is why Democrats and Republicans in Congress overwhelming voted against them.

But why?  Let's think about this.

First of all, from our perspective, it's just like walking through those little airport metal detectors we walk through now.  Big deal.

And the people who will get to see our "naked" bodies? 

Well, first of all, we won't be completely naked in the way we might imagine.  To those viewing us through these machines, we will look something like this (although, presumably, without the weapons).

Blog_Body_Scanner 

Ooooooh.  How titillating.  (Not!) 

And by the way, the person looking at your image (it will be a woman for women passengers, and a man for male passengers) will be in another room so you won't even have to look them in the eye if you have body issues.  Nor, of course, will the images of you be flashed on some big public screen for everyone and God to see.  I mean, is this what people think will happen?

In truth, these poor TSA people will be looking at thousands of pounds of excess fat and flesh everyday — I hardly think we should worry about them getting all worked up, positively or negatively, about anyone's "naked" body.  If anything, those TSA security workers deserve our sympathy.

In fact, it takes a certain amount of arrogance to think that a TSA officer, who will view hundreds of vague naked images everyday, is going to give a damn (in a good way or a bad way) about the size or shape of your boobs or genitalia.  I mean, really.

Xray_specs And come to think of it, is the full body scanning equipment any less invasive than someone waving a wand at you, or patting you down, or a dog sniffing at your crotch?

So I hardly think this is a huge invasion.  And what do we get in return?  Well, the Christmas Day underwear terrorist would never have gotten on board.  That ought to tell you.

Seems to me like implementation of this equipment is a no-brainer.  But…. this is America, land of the prude.  We'd rather explode in a fireball of flesh and metal airplane parts than let someone have a glimpse at a gray computerized representation of our whatsits and yahoos.

Sick Of This

I could have picked any number of conservative pundits harping on the same theme.  But I'll take Byron York over at the Washington Examiner.  He writes:

Some Obama defenders are sending around new articles from the Huffington Post and the Politico arguing that President Obama is being subjected to a double standard of criticism for his handling of the Detroit terrorism incident.

In "Obama takes the heat President Bush did not," the Politico's Josh Gerstein writes that when shoe-bomber Richard Reid struck on December 22, 2001, "it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks…and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate."

Now, Gerstein continues, despite "striking" similarities between the Reid case and the Detroit incident, Obama has become the target of "withering" criticism from Republicans and some in the press. How to explain the "double standard"? The Huffington Post's Sam Stein writes that the "bellowing" from Republicans over Obama's performance "seems as much about political posturing as legitimate national security concerns."

And Gerstein et al are right.  But continue, Mr York…..

Here's another answer. The most basic underlying question in the public discussion of Obama's handling of the Detroit case is whether the president and his administration take the threat of terror seriously. During the campaign, Obama and other Democrats accused the Bush administration of playing to the nation's fears about terrorism. Obama promised a different, lower-key approach. So after the Ft. Hood incident, he downplayed the by-then obvious possibility that the murders of 13 people were an act of Islamic terrorism, and after the Detroit matter, he said nothing at all and made a point of playing golf after hearing about the botched bombing. Obama's aides even explained to at least one sympathetic reporter that the decision to play golf was a calculated, tough, and wise response to the incident and that the president was "projecting his calm" on the American people.

Then, when Obama got around to making a public statement about the matter, he called suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab an "isolated extremist" — a statement that later proved to be incorrect.

Yeah, this is one of the rightwing lies itself.  Obama, in the very same statement, didn't leave at the conclusion that this was an isolated extremist, but rather, he added: “A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism, and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”  York conveniently omits this.

And then the president had to go into damage control mode, trying to undo the impressions left by the Secretary of Homeland Security, who claimed the system "worked" in the Detroit incident, and by unnamed administration officials who argued that the security system had performed properly by not placing Abdulmuttallab's name on a no-fly list.

Another rightwing lie.  The Secretary of Homeland Security said that the response system worked, which (incidentally) it did.  When there is an attempted terrorist attack, a number of things happen immediately to make sure that it's not a nationwide thing, like 9/11.  It didn't leave any "impressions" on anyone who bothered to listen to what she actually was saying.

So an answer the public's most basic question — is the president serious about this? — was emerging, and the answer did not look good for the administration. That's why Obama and his team have been scrambling.

And they're not scrambling, because they're not buying into the premise of the question (which, by the way, the "public" isn't asking, only the conservative talking heads).

Compare that to the shoe bomber incident. By December 22, 2001, when it happened, George Bush, in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had:

** gone to war in Afghanistan

** instituted extensive security measures at airports

** created the office that would later become the Department of Homeland Security

** begun aggressive interrogation of terrorist suspects

** begun the "warrantless wiretap" program targeting international communications of suspected terrorists

** declared his intention to take Osama bin Laden "dead or alive"

You may agree or disagree about the wisdom of effectiveness of any of those actions. But did anyone, on December 22, 2001, doubt that George W. Bush was serious about using all the powers of the U.S. government to strike back at the terrorists who hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Did anyone doubt Bush's resolve?

Today, does anyone have such confidence in Barack Obama? That — and not some "double standard" — is why there are so many questions about the president's handling of the Detroit incident.

So apparently, to satisfy York and his ilk that he took the Christmas terrorist attempt "seriously", Obama would have to start a war someplace, engage in tough cowboy talk, and lead the nation in a collective pants-wetting while chipping away at the Constitution.  That's what these rightwing yahoos want.

These guys don't get it, even after reading those above-referenced articles in the Huffington Post and the Politico.  They seem to think that the ONLY "serious" way to respond to an attempted terrorist attack is to respond just like Bush did, in manner and demeanor and policy.  Well, either like Bush, or Bill Pullman in Independence Day.  Perhaps Obama needs to strut around an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to show that he's "serious".  Like al Qaeda cares?

It just demonstrates what very very very small minds are at work here — these are people who cannot possible understand, say nothing of disagreeing with, alternate viewpoints.  Obama is a grown up.  He's taking care of business.  He's not grandstanding.  He's not inviting panic.  And he's not in a freaking action movie.  Geez.

UPDATE — The White House responds to these attacks from Cheney and other Republicans:

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Ricky Gervais Scares Elmo?

This is one of the best things I've read on the Intertubes in a while.

Basically, it is an article on a parenting website called Parentdish.  The author focuses on a Sesame Street skit in which Ricky Gervais appears at Elmo's bedside to sing him a lullaby.

Read the article, watch the video, and then read the comments.  Here.

The Odds Of Inflight Terror

Really, I think too much is being made of the Christmas Airflight Underwear Bomber (as I now call him).  Yes, it was almost successful, and yes, maybe we can always beef up our homeland security here and there.

But let's not get spastic.  It's not like this is going to start happening every freaking day.  And here's a big chart that makes my point.

Odds-of-airborne-terror2

Speaking Too Much

Sometimes, even in innocuous posts, the writers at National Review Online reveal their true nature.  Take for example this seemingly harmless excerpt from a post by Mike Potemra at National Review Online:

Coincidentally, I have over the past couple of months been watching DVDs of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I missed completely in its run of 1987 to 1994; and I confess myself amazed that so many conservatives are fond of it. Its messages are unabashedly liberal ones of the early post-Cold War era – peace, tolerance, due process, progress (as opposed to skepticism about human perfectibility).

Wait, what?

Peace, tolerance, and due process are liberal?

So that means conservative values are what — war, intolerance, and avoiding the law?

Wow.  Just wow.

GOP Hypocrisy Alert

The Republican exploitation of the failed terrorist airline bombing attempt continues.  Perhaps none of it is worse than the exploitation by right-wing Congressman and gubernatorial aspirant Peter Hoekstra (R-MI).  He sent out a fund-raising letter today (the text of which can be found here), which says in part:

For almost a decade I have been a leader on National Security and at the forefront of the war on terror. I understand the real and continuing threat radical jihadists pose to our great state of Michigan and our great Nation.

I have pledged that I will do "everything possible" to prevent these terrorists from coming to Michigan.

But I need your help.

If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.

Hoekstra says the U.S. needs to be more forward-leaning in its approach to terrorism and put into place the latest technology for dealing with it, according to the AP.

But what Hoekstra hopes you don't know is that he voted against that very technology he now campaigns on:

… A full 108 Republicans voted against the conference version, including Boehner, Boehner, Hoekstra, Pence, Michelle Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Darrell Issa, and Joe Wilson.

The conference bill included more than $4 billion for "screening operations," including $1.1 billion in funding for explosives detection systems, including $778 million for buying and installing the systems.

Why didn't the Associated Press, or his fundraising letter, mention that?

And While The Right Is Quick To Condemn Obama For The Almost Terrorist Attack…

…perhaps they should read this:

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents.

Hmmmm.  Refresh my recollection someone.  Who was President in November 2007?

You see, the right wing wants to condemn Obama for trying terrorist suspects in civilian court.  But these two guys?  They were released in 2007 from Gitmo into the hands of Saudi Arabia on the condition that they undergo — no, I am not making this up — art therapy.  Who knew that Dick Cheney was such a patron of the arts?

Right Wing Exploits The Northwest Airlines Terrorism Episode

The Village Voice wrote my post for me.  Some excerpts:

Napolitano has not been too sharp in her response to the incident, but her statements that the TSA performed well in the aftermath of the incident ("once this incident occurred, everything happened that should have"), and that there is at present "no indication" of a wider plot behind the crotch-bombing, seem like unremarkable bureaucratic attempts to calm fears after a widely-publicized attempted terrorist attack.

Rightbloggers, for obvious reasons, are less interested in calming fears than in exacerbating them, and proclaim, as is their wont, that the Obama Presidency has failed and that America will only be safe when it has come to an end.

Some merely blocked out Napolitano's repeated distinction that the system worked well after the incident, and read it to mean that letting Abdulmutallab on board with his crotch-bomb was part of the plan.

"WTF?" cried Be John Galt. "The system is SUPPOSED to seat terrorists wearing explosive clothing right next to the fuel tanks???" "What system worked?" said Weasel Zippers. "The only thing that stopped him was the fuse on the bomb malfunctioned…" "If the 'system' had 'worked,'" said Michelle Malkin, "Abdulmutallab would have been barred from the U.S…" "Maybe she's not talking about OUR system at all," said deadenders. Etc.

Debbie Schlussel claimed that Napolitano was "already declaring that Abdulmutallab wasn't involved in any larger terrorist plot," which is a great stretch from Napolitano's "Right now we have no indication that it is part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues" — to which Schlussel actually linked her charge — but Schlussel isn't running Homeland Security, thank God, and thus had no need to be careful about her wording.

Robert Stacy McCain went further, claiming that Napolitano's cautious statements meant the Administration was planning to play a "Lone Nut Card" to absolve its friends in Al Qaeda. "So far, I've seen no evidence of the 'victim card' being played on behalf of Abdulmutallab," he admitted, "but this Associated Press biographical profile of the suspect portrays him as having had a 'saintly aura' as a student in England. Give the media time, though. Their best spinmeisters are still on holiday."

***

During all this the President remained on his Hawaii vacation, and even played golf, which predictably enraged rightbloggers who, despite their contempt for him, decided that Obama intervention was desperately needed.

"When Muslim terrorists attack, Muslim Presidents play golf," said Bare Naked Islam. "NEROBAMA HAS GOLFED MORE HIS FIRST YEAR THAN BUSH IN 8 YEARS," claimed Reliapundit. "AND HE'S IN HAWAII PLAYING GOLF – WITH NO TIME FOR CHURCH ON CHRISTMAS EVE." "In retrospect," said National Review's Jim Geraghty, looking for a pattern of Democratic malfeasance, "it's rather amazing that President Clinton never visited the Twin Towers after the 1993 bombing…"

Some returned to the "My Pet Goat" gag they used after the Fort Hood incident. "No mention as to whether or not he was reading 'My Pet Goat' between holes," said Say Anything. "Who knows, maybe he was reading My Pet Goat," said For His Glory.

"Actually," said Cassy Fiano, "this is far worse than 'My Pet Goat,'" because Bush "immediately gave a press conference addressing the attack at the school" after his children's-book reading, while Obama was "sitting around in a mansion with his family… Instead of addressing the scared country, he went to the gym and then played golf," which led to the widespread national panic we are now experiencing.

It's a good thing we have right wing bloggers to lend their perspective and make this episode stand for what it should stand for (in their eyes): an indictment of everything Obama-related.

Blogosphere aside, it should be that Republicans are pointing fingers at the Transportation Security Administration for the near-success of this attack.  That is their wont, but I should also add that there is no head of the TSA, because South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has a hold on the appointment of a TSA chief, over his concern that the new administration could allow security screeners to unionize. 

Furthermore, Republicans have cast votes against the key TSA funding measure that the 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security contained.  In the June 24 vote in the House, leading Republicans including John Boehner, Pete Hoekstra, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan voted against the bill, amid a procedural dispute over the appropriations process.  A full 108 Republicans voted against the conference version, including Boehner, Hoekstra, Pence, Michelle Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Darrell Issa and Joe Wilson.

The conference bill included more than $4 billion for "screening operations," including $1.1 billion in funding for explosives detection systems, with $778 million for buying and installing the systems.

But it's Obama's fault, right?

They Would Have Died That Day, But Instead….

…. they found each other.  Awwwwww:

While waiting in La Guardia airport for his flight back home to Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 15, 2009, Ben Bostic happened to notice Laura Zych, a chic, pretty brunette. She ended up on the same plane, but not the same row. “I would have totally forgotten about it,” he said later, “if it weren’t for the things that happened.”

What happened, of course, was that Ben and Laura’s flight, US Airways 1549, collided with a flock of geese shortly after taking off and suffered engine failure. Forced to make quick decisions, Captain Chesley Sullenberger steered the rapidly descending plane onto the Hudson River. He made a spectacular, flawless landing. Within minutes, the passengers and crew had filed out on the wings, and ferryboats of all types were en route to rescue them. Everyone survived. It was, as Governor Paterson called it later that day, a Miracle on the Hudson.

Bostic and Zych were on separate rescue boats; they didn’t formally meet until 60 Minutes arranged a tearful reunion with many of the passengers, along with Sullenberger and the crew, down in Charlotte in February. At that time, many passengers were still suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder, but the gathering helped. Then, in July, Kristy Spears (seat 8A) hosted a reunion in her home outside Charlotte. Zych (seat 17B) met up with Amy Jolly (seat 14C), whom she had befriended through a survivors’ Facebook group. Bostic hung out with them, but had to leave early and drive out of town for another party. Late that night, they persuaded him to drive back, and Zych offered to let him crash at her place. “I didn’t think of it until the next day, but it was the second time I crashed with them,” says Bostic, who calls going back into town that night “one of the best decisions I’d ever made.” He and Zych ended up talking on her porch until six in the morning. “I had to work the next day. And I didn’t care! At that time, that’s exactly what I wanted to do.” The couple have been dating ever since.

See?  Not all airline disasters have bad endings….

The Dumbest Response to The Detroit Terrorist Bombing Attempt

From the New York Daily News:

I'm for tighter restrictions if that is what is needed, but this doesn't make sense.  It's silly thinking: "Terrorist did X; therefore, we must ban X." 

Think about it.  If this new restriction were in place over the Christmas holidays, what would the Northwest flight terrorist have done?  Answer: He merely would have set off the bomb earlier in the flight! 

So if — IF — the TSA is going to restrict what you can have on your lap, why do it for only last hour of the flight?  It seems to me that even the dimmest terrorist can find a work-around for that.

UPDATE — it gets worse.  There's talk of bans on all electronic devices on international flights.  Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast comments:

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, we've been "tightening airport security" in ways that chase the most recently-used tactic, and don't take at all into account that there's no limit to the ingenuity that people who are not only willing, but eager to die are going to use. Richard Reid tries to ignite explosives in his shoes, and we have to take off our shoes. Someone tries to mix an explosive using toiletries, and we can't take anything larger than 3 ounces on a plane….

[So now…] if your five-year-old has to pee during the last hour of the flight, too bad. If you want to carry a handbag and your laptop bag, too bad. And none of this is going to make one iota of difference, because those who would try to bring down jetliners have already come up with a new and different way to get explosives on planes. How much of checked baggage is really checked for explosives again? And are we going to start doing cavity searches? What makes the TSA think that a guy who seeks martyrdom is going to balk at carrying plastic explosives in his rectum? Is this where we're headed? Cavity searches for everyone? What is this, Beavis and Butthead Do America?

The Decade… In Icons

Courtesy of the New York Times

Click to embiggen:

Custom1

RELATED:  Paul Krugman writes the only interesting decade retrospective that I've read to date.  His basic thrust is that the decade, for all it's ups and downs, amounted to a big nothing:

[F]rom an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

It was a decade with basically zero job creation. O.K., the headline employment number for December 2009 will be slightly higher than that for December 1999, but only slightly. And private-sector employment has actually declined — the first decade on record in which that happened.

It was a decade with zero economic gains for the typical family. Actually, even at the height of the alleged “Bush boom,” in 2007, median household income adjusted for inflation was lower than it had been in 1999. And you know what happened next.

It was a decade of zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early: right now housing prices, adjusted for inflation, are roughly back to where they were at the beginning of the decade. And for those who bought in the decade’s middle years — when all the serious people ridiculed warnings that housing prices made no sense, that we were in the middle of a gigantic bubble — well, I feel your pain. Almost a quarter of all mortgages in America, and 45 percent of mortgages in Florida, are underwater, with owners owing more than their houses are worth.

Last and least for most Americans — but a big deal for retirement accounts, not to mention the talking heads on financial TV — it was a decade of zero gains for stocks, even without taking inflation into account. Remember the excitement when the Dow first topped 10,000, and best-selling books like “Dow 36,000” predicted that the good times would just keep rolling? Well, that was back in 1999. Last week the market closed at 10,520.

So there was a whole lot of nothing going on in measures of economic progress or success.

Merry Christmas

Light blogging continues through the holiday season.

I'll be travelling — totally stalkable here (although not ALL the time).

Proud of the Bubs.

Independent Cinema Coming To Winston-Salem

About time, too.

I heard it on the local NPR this morning.  A new arts cinema is opening — 2 screens, 160 seats, beer, wine, and a whole bunch of movies you’ve probably never heard of — all in downtown Winston-Salem.

It's called Aperture Cinema and as the video shows, it's coming together fast….

Their first showings are scheduled for January 2010.  They'll be showing A Town Called Panic…

and New York, I Love You

More details here.

Boston University LipDub

Over 120 students and the BU Dean of Students cut loose a little during final exams a few days ago to make this:

LipDubbing is, of course, the newest fad.  Even ministers of the Sarkozy government in France are doing it, so can a White House LipDub be far behind?

The fad is still young, but I think Bloomingdale High School's is still top-notch:

Why We Are Where We Are

Conservatives have been going full force in blaming Obama for the exploding deficit.  And it's true, the stimulus package did mushroom the deficit.

But the thing to remember is that Obama inherited a huge deficit from Bush and a crummy economy (the two are not necessarily the same).  And the stimulus spending, while adding to deficit woes, was necessary to prevent a complete economic collapse.

But if one is truly concerned about the deficit in future years, one needs to understand that the stimulus spending was a short-term addition to the deficit.  It's impact in future years will be neglible.

12-16-09bud-f1This chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains it all.  It breaks down the major contributors to the deficit — both the deficit now, and in future years.

As you can see, both the TARP bank bailout (under Bush) and the stimulus funding will have, ten years out, a limited impact on the deficit.

What will have the greatest impact?  The tax cuts passed by Bush and the Republican Congress.

In 2012, Democrats will argue (quite correctly) that TARP and Obama's stimulus had less of an impact on the present deficit than the fiscal policies of George Bush.  And they would be quite right.

So it's quite clear that, in the long run, the only way to reduce the deficits is to reverse the Bush-era tax cuts of the 2000's.  If Republicans are serious about this, they would agree.  But I suspect they will not become deficit hawks and/or, they will continue to blame Obama for the huge deficits that Bush created.

Time, Please Define “Mattered”

It's that time of year when Time magazine comes out with its "Person of The Year" accolade, usually to much guffawing and consternation.  And to be honest, the Time award thing really has gone downhill since I won it in 2006.

So Time chose Ben Bernake this year, which is a fine choice, to the extent that he embodies the whole economic crisis thing.  Sure a hell of a lot better than any of the four runners-up, which included — for real — Usain Bolt.

So I won't take issue with Bernake.  What truly struck me was the list that Time compiled of the 25 "People Who Mattered" in 2009.  I have no idea what makes Time think some of these people "mattered".  I'm talking about Adam Lambert, "The Twitter Guys", John and Kate Gosselin, Jay Leno and David Letterman, Taylor Swift, among others.  I mean, I can give a pass to Glenn Beck — I guess he "mattered" in these sense that he weighed heavily in the national dialogue, albeit in a destructive and silly way.  But those others?  Really?

Fortunately, Time readers seem to have a better bead on what "matters", more so than the Time editors.

How To Be Nicole Scherzinger (The Middle Judge In “The Sing-Off”)

  1. If the singing group is all women, be sure to say they were "sassy but classy".  In fact, say it two or three times.  Unless, of course they weren't, in which case you tell them that you wished they could have been more "sassy" and/or "classy"
  2. Make a reference to the fashion of the era of the song.  For example, if they sing something from the fifties, say how much you wanted to put on bobbie socks and go shagging.  If they sing something from the seventies, say how much you wanted to don an afro and boogie down on the disco floor.
  3. Song titles are easy to incorporate in your criticism, because you can figure out in advance what you will say.  For example, if they sing "Come Sail Away", then you can say how they really did take you on a boat ride.  If the song title has any fire or heat references, you can tell them how HOT (get it?) they were.  Puns, as we all know, are a sure-fire audience-pleaser. 
  4. Similarly, always tell that Latino group that they "took you" to Puerto Rico.  They never get tired of hearing that.
  5. Don't invite comparisons between you and Paula Abdul.  For example, show up sober.
  6. Don't engage in any legitimate music criticism as if you were someone scholared in serious music theory.  Ben Folds will show you up and own your ass.  Come to think of it, so will the Boyz To Men dude.  Let's face it — you wouldn't know a tonic note from a gin-and-tonic, so just stick to how the song made you feel, because nobody can dispute your feelings
  7. "You rock" works too, whether you say it once or twenty times.  If you're comfortable with the idea, you can modify the phrase a little, as in "you guys rock" or "you were really rockin'".
  8. But be sure to leave the really hip language ("that was fly", "that was dope") to the Boyz To Men dude.  He can get away with it better than you can.
  9. A little self-promotion of the Pussycat Dolls here and there won't bother anybody.  God knows you need it.
  10. If you want to sound clever, refer to it as someone's "instrument", not as someone's "voice".  As in, "Melanie, you have a lovely instrument and it rocked".  I know that's confusing because we're incessantly reminded that there are no instruments (really, there aren't any at all), but in this limited instance, it's okay to use that word.
  11. Other phrases that work, provided that Ben Folds or the Boyz To Men dude don't say them first, include: "You made it all your own", "You deserve to be here", "You're already winners", "This is what a cappella is all about", and "I can't believe there weren't any instruments".  Note that these phrases also work particularly well when you want to say something nice following a less-than-stellar performance. 
  12. You can also eat up your alotted time by adding "…am I right, audience?" to any of those phrases mentioned above.  It's a virtual lock that 5 to 10 seconds of audience applause and "woots" will follow.  Just be sure not to start off your criticism with "Am I right, audience" — it has to come after you've used one of those phrases.

I've been a fan of college a cappella for the last ten years.  Of course, I was a fan of the Bubs when I was at Tufts (it's required).  It was an interesting time in the evolution of college a cappella.  The Bubs were already considered the best a cappella group among the New England college circuit (and in New England, there's a college every half mile, so that's saying something).  But during the time I was at Tufts, the Bubs were taking the genre to a different level. 

Prior to that time, most of the college a cappella groups, the Bubs included, had a repertoire that included traditional standards.  The most "contemporary" anybody got was "Happy Together".  The Bubs had already infused their act with humor and charm, which already set them apart from, say, the stale Yale Whiffenpoofs, but during the time I was there, they started adding movement and contemporary songs.  Marti, a friend of mine, was the Bub president, and I remember him talking about doing "Thriller", something unheard of.  And not just the song, but the dance as well.  He did it, and it was a hit not only at Tufts but at other campuses where the Bubs toured.  And that set the standard for the next couple decades (I worked with the Bubs on stage movement here and there).

But once I graduated, I never paid much attention to college a cappella until about ten years ago when I happened to hear the Bubs's studio recording of "Owner of A Lonely Heart".  And the innovation there was the "mouth percussion" which added a whole new dimension.  There was also overdubbing and a few electronic tricks which made the studio recordings simply unbeleiveable.  I doubt this was a Bubs innovation, but I dug in a little more and realized that most college a cappella groups were doing, and the sound was amazing.  And soon my iPod was full of the stuff.

I've always wondered what the reaction would be if college a cappella went mainstream, so I'm happy for "The Sing-Off".  Of course, that show embraces all kinds of a cappella, not just the "contemporary college" kind.  But I am glad to see it is out there.  And I'm glad to see that the Bubs are still considered among the best of the bunch.  There's a lot of good groups out there.  The Socal Vocals (not to be confused with their alumni group, which is on the Sing-Off) is consistently good.  University of Michigan always has a good sound in the co-ed category.  For all-women's groups, the UNC Loreleis actually is a fairly strong group.  BU's Dear Abbeys, an all-male group, is currently my favorite.

The problem with ALL these groups, and The Sing-Off's presentation of them, is that they simply cannot replicate LIVE what they do in the studio, where overdubbing and remixing ensures a pitch perfect end-product.  But for those who are curious, iTunes and many websites have good samplings of outstanding recordings.

Look At This, Joe Lieberman

Jackie Kelly, 61, with cancer:

Kelly was a stay-at-home mother who raised her six children and went on to help raise her grandchildren, while her husband John worked as a truck driver for 50 years.

When John Kelly, 68, retired he was able to go on Medicare, but Kelly was not old enough.

With no private insurance, the couple was also told she didn’t qualify for social security disability because she had never worked.

When John Kelly went to Welfare, he was told his pension checks were too high for his wife to get benefits.

The family paid for Kelly’s treatments out-of-pocket until the costs recently became too much to bear.

She was treated at Christ Hospital in Jersey City through charity care and Compassionate Care Hospice treated her at home in recent weeks for free through its foundation.

She died yesterday.

I could add more, but the Rude Pundit covers it all:

Think about that: John and Jacqueline Kelly were like apple pie, they fit so perfectly into the mold of ideal Americans that conservatives propagate. John was able to support his family doing a job that he stayed dedicated to. Jacqueline chose to stay at home and raise a large family. This is also death by sexism in that we live in a nation where full-time motherhood is not valued as a job and never has been. The myth of the American dream is always, always revealed as the lie it always was, and those who continue to foist it upon us are the ones least willing to make it be true. Where were all the alleged Christians, who are now so ready to kill health reform legislation? Where was the charity that's supposed to take care of such things? There was some, but not enough to get her the medical care that might have saved her.

You know who stepped up to help the Kelly family? Professional wrestlers. Yeah, Total Mayhem Pro Wrestling held a fundraiser for Jacqueline about a week ago, raising $4000 for medical expenses. That money will now be used for a funeral.

Pulls at your heartstrings, no? Really gets that lump in your throat going, this story of love and failure? Jacqueline Kelly was one of millions of Americans who would have qualified for help in just about any of the health care reform measures that actually seek to insure people. She'd have qualified for the public option. She'd have qualified for Medicare buy-in. In almost any other country in the developed world, and even in some in the undeveloped part, her care would not have even been an issue.

We are overwhelmed, yes, by tale upon tale of the sadness and horror brought on by this country's willful neglect of its citizens because we need to please some mad god of capitalism. And because we need to soothe the vanity of politicians, like Joe Lieberman.

Sexting Survey Results

Let's break it down, shall we?

Nearly one-sixth of teens who own cell phones have received nude or nearly nude images via text message from someone they know, according to a new survey on "sexting" from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Okay.  This doesn't necessarily mean they have received nude or nearly nude images of friends/classmates, does it?  Might this be the 21st century equivalent of passing around Playboy pictures?

The national telephone survey confirms parent and teacher worries that young people are using cell phones to send out and receive sexually explicit images of themselves and of romantic partners.

Ah, well I guess that answers that question.

The 800-person survey, released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group, found 15 percent of cell-phone-owning teens ages 12 to 17 had received nude or nearly nude photos by phone. Four percent of the teens said they had sent out sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves.

So basically, you have a very small percentage of teens sending out sexually explicit images of themselves to a wider circle.  I guess that's better than the other way around.

Older teens were more likely to send sexual images through text messages than younger teens. Four percent of 12-year-olds reported sending sexually suggestive images by text message, while 8 percent of 17-year-olds reported texting nude or partially nude photos.

Presumably, that number goes back down once you hit 50 years old.

The Pew survey suggests teens who pay their own cell phone bills and who have unlimited text messaging plans are more likely to engage in sexting than those who use phones owned by their parents or have restrictions placed on how frequently they can text.

This makes sense, too.

However, teens whose parents searched through their cell phones were no more or less likely to send and receive sexually explicit text messages than those whose phones were kept private, the report says.

Presumably, teens' parents aren't saavy enough to know where to find those photos and texts (or they get erased or downloaded before the parents do their checking).

Boys and girls surveyed were equally likely to say they engage in sexting.

Well, the younger generation understands gender equality better.

The survey results were paired with focus-group interviews of 74 teens in three cities to create Tuesday's report, titled "Teens and Sexting." The report is not the first to try to quantify teenage sexting, a practice that is still so new and little understood that it's difficult to say if it is on the rise or decline among teens.

Let me stop here and say that I'm not too terribly distressed at this survey so far.  Fifteen percent is a relatively low number.

Teenage sexting usually is done as part of a relationship or would-be relationship between teens, the Pew focus groups found.

That doesn't quite jibe with the notion that 4-8 percent are sending the sexts, and 15% are receiving them.  Unless…

Some teens send sexts only to people with whom they are in a relationship; but those messages often are forwarded to people outside the relationship, especially after a breakup, according to the interviews.

Ah, lovely.  Real classy.  Hopefully, teens will learn the lessons from other unfortunate teens.  Then again, no teen ever thinks their relationship is going to end.

"It doesn't take that many people creating these images for a lot of people to see them," said Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and author of the sexting report.

No, I wouldn't think so.  Welcome to the digital age.

Lenhart said the focus groups highlighted the fact that teens look at sexting in a range of ways. Some teens interviewed by Pew said sexting was no cause for concern.

"I only do it [sexting] with my girlfriend b/c we have already been sexually active with each other. It's not really a big deal," one high school boy wrote in a Pew focus group.

And that's probably true, pal, until you run for office thirty years from now.

Others said sexting is part of teenage culture — partly because it can be more convenient or less intimidating than traditional dating.

"Most people are too shy to have sex," another high school boy told Pew. "Sexting is not as bad."

And that's probably true, pal, until you run for office thirty years from now.

Still others quoted in the report acknowledge the dangers of sexting — including the fact that recipients of naked pictures can easily forward them to friends or post them on the Internet to fuel a grudge.

"This girl sent pictures to her boyfriend. Then they broke up and he sent them to his friend, who sent them to like everyone in my school. … It ruined high school for her," one older high school boy wrote in the survey.

Imagine my surprise that this happens.

Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said it's that fine line between private and public that's least understood, but should be of the most concern for teens and their parents.

"Things go from private to global in a nanosecond in this world," he said.

Albert's group published a survey in 2008 that found 20 percent of teens age 13 to 19 said they had texted or posted online sexy photos or videos of themselves.

The number of kids who are sexting should concern parents enough to make them talk to their kids about the dangers of sexting, but should not cause them to panic, he said. Any behavior, including sexting, that contributes to a culture of casual sexual encounters should be of concern to parents, he said.

He urged parents not to blame cell phones for the trend.

"To me, blaming the technology is like blaming an automobile for drunk driving," he said. "It is not the product, it is not the technology that is the problem. It is the judgment of the people using the technology."

The prevalence of sexting coincides with greater cell phone use among teens in general. In a 2004 Pew Internet survey, 18 percent of 12-year-olds said they owned a cell phone; in a 2009 follow-up, 58 percent of kids age 12 reported having their own mobile device.

The Pew report on sexting also underscores the complicated legal climate surrounding teenage sexting.

Teens in some states, like Florida and Pennsylvania, have been prosecuted or threatened with prosecution on child pornography laws because they sent out nude images through text messages, the Pew report says. Ohio is considering legislation to criminalize sexting between minors; Vermont and Utah have downgraded penalties for first-time sexters, the report says.

Parents should concentrate on making their kids aware of the potential legal and emotional ramifications of sexting, Albert said.

Avery Murphy, an 18-year-old member of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's youth leadership group, said the increasing popularity of phones with cameras seems to be behind the sexting trend as much as anything.

She suggested parents talk to their teens about appropriate cell phone use when their kids first get cell phones. But don't overdo it, she said, because teens generally understand the dangers of sexting.

And James Lipton is always there to help out, being the teen role model that he is.

"Parents think it's happening more than it actually is," she said. "It's not seen as very normal by teenagers."

Yeah, that's why I say too.  Fifteen percent really isn't an epidemic.  I think MOST kids have more sense than we give them credit for.

The Sing-Off

As a Tufts alumni and fan of a cappella, I was eager to see The Sing Off and I wasn't disappointed.

But I didn't think it was necessary for the host to mention several times that the competitors were singing without instruments.  Even if I didn't know what a cappella meant, I would have figured that out within the first few minutes of the show.

Asheville Seeks To Prevent Atheist From Serving On City Council

Here I was thinking Asheville was one of the more progressive little big towns of North Carolina, but nope.  Opponents of a man named Cecil Bothwell are seizing on an obscure law to argue he should not be seated as a City Council member today.  The North Carolina Constitution, according to this newspaper report, states that a peson is not qualified for public office if he or she doesn't believe in God, and Mr. Bothwell (opponents claim) does not believe in God (For his part, Bothwell says he more of a "post-theist", but claims it is irrelevant anyway).

I found uit hard to believe that the North Carolina Constitution contains such a requirement, but yes, it's true.  Right there in Article VI, Section 8:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Second, with respect to any office that is filled by election by the people, any person who is not qualified to vote in an election for that office.

Third, any person who has been adjudged guilty of treason or any other felony against this State or the United States, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of a felony in another state that also would be a felony if it had been committed in this State, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of corruption or malpractice in any office, or any person who has been removed by impeachment from any office, and who has not been restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law.

Now, Article VI of United States Constitution clearly states that "“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  And since federal law trumps state law, Cecil Bothwell's opponents don't have a legal leg to stand on. 

In fact, this exact same issue with the same fact pattern went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961.  The state was Maryland and the job title was notary public rather than city councilman, but otherwise, everything else was the same.  The case was Torasco v. Watkins and the court unanimously found that such constitutional provision requiring a belief in God violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution:

There is, and can be, no dispute about the purpose or effect of the Maryland Declaration of Rights requirement before us – it sets up a religious test which was designed to and, if valid, does bar every person who refuses to declare a belief in God from holding a public "office of profit or trust" in Maryland. … We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person "to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.

What strikes me about the Asheville controversy is that it is SO clear-cut.  This issue was resolved legally almost 50 years ago.  Seriously, do we have to re-argue slavery, too?

Asheville actually is VERY progressive, but there is a small vocal (and aging) demographic of ultra-conservatives in its citizenry.  The city council is almost ALL progressives; this objection to Mr. Bothwell is just the death cry from a dying breed.  Still, it makes me shake my head in disbelief.

I’ll Weigh In on This

And by "this", I mean this.

It seems to me that if your neighbors are accusing you of being "white trash", then spraying painting the side of your house with Hitler references tends to re-enforce their point, not yours.

Hitler%20sign 

Just sayin'.

Why I Hate These Magazines

Mens-health-rips-off-mens-health-29987-1260468438-19

….because they're recycled crap.  I mean, how much times care you write about great abs and great sex and not repeat yourself?

And women's magazines (Cosmo, etc.) are worse

Health Insurers Bribe Facebook Users

This is a little complicated to explain, but bear with me.

On Facebook, there are games you can play that require money to advance. They are simulation games — like running your own farm, or rollercoaster theme park, or mafia crime family, or something like that.  Of course, these games doesn't involve real money, but fake money — usually given names like "FarmBucks" or something (I don't know for sure — I don't play games on Facebook).  You get this "virtual currency" by winning it through the games, or by paying real money for it.

Anyway, the health insurance lobby has found a way to gin up support for their cause — or worse, to make it appear that there is support for their cause.  An industry group called Health Reform Right is now providing this "virtual currency" to Facebook players who take a survey.  That survey is then forwarded to the Facebook player's congressional representative with the words:

"I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have."

It's basically "astroturfing" (a term used to describe creating a false grassroots movement).

It's not illegal to pay somebody to pretend to be a supporter of a cause.

But it's clearly not above-board.

So naturally, the health insurance lobby is doing it.

Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please

Sarah Palin weighed in on climate change this week in a painfully bland op-ed in the Washington Post.  (No, of course she didn't actually write it — Bill Kristol, I'm guessing, did).  It was largely a rehash of one of her Facebook posts on the subject, where words like "science" and "experts" were put in scare quotes.

On Laura Ingraham’s radio show today, Palin continued her attack on climate change. But when Ingraham asked if she would be willing to debate Al Gore on the issue, Palin demurred, saying that if it was in the wrong “forum” she would “get clobbered”:

INGRAHAM: Would you agree to a debate with Al Gore on this issue?

PALIN: Oh my goodness. You know, it depends on what the venue would be, what the forum. Because Laura, as you know, if it would be some kind of conventional, traditional debate with his friends setting it up or being the commentators I’ll get clobbered because, you know, they don’t want to listen to the facts. They don’t want to listen to some reasonable voices in this. And that was proven with the publication of this op-ed, where they kind of got all we-weed up about it and wanted to call me and others deniers of changing weather patterns and climate conditions. Trying to make the issue into something that it is not.

INGRAHAM: But what if it’s an Oxford-style, proper debate format. I mean, he’s going to chicken out. I mean, if you challenge him to a debate, do you actually think he would accept it?

PALIN: I don’t know, I don’t know. Oh, he wouldn’t want to lower himself, I think, to, you know, my level to debate little old Sarah Palin from Wasilla.

Yeah, Sarah — I don't think the question of whether or not you will get "clobbered" depends on the forum or the debate rules.  Okay, maybe you might win the swimsuit competition, but if it was the kind of debate in which you were to argue your position with supportable facts, well, yeah — you might have some problems there.

But anyway, I think this is something I would like to see.  Pay good money to see.  Let's make it happen.

Stimulus Spending In Forsyth County

I don't want to create problems for anyone, but $221,000 seems like an awfully big chunk of stimulus money to go to a psychiatrist's office (Christopher Spaulding PSY.D). [Source]

Recovery.gov states that the purpose of the loan was:

TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESS CONCERNS BY PROVIDING LONG TERM FINANCING THROUGH THE SALE OF DEBENTURES TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR

and also says there was a separate $6,000 loan. 

I think that's the largest stimulus award from the Small Business Adminstration to a Forsyth business.  It's probably legit, but I'm not sure it will stimulate that many jobs — it looks like a one-person (plus staff) operation.

Obama In Norway

It is a little awkward that Obama is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize just weeks after announcing that he is sending more troops into Afghanistan.  To his credit, he didn't shy away from addressing this elephant in the room when he received the Prize in Norway today:

Peaceprize And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Now these questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease — the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

And over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers and clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

***

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Basically, he's saying that it's the Nobel Peace Prize, folks, not the Nobel Pacifist Prize… and that war is sometimes necessary to preserve the peace.

Well, I guess he has to say that, and there certainly is an unfortunate truth to what he says.  However, it only highlights the position held by many that Obama may not have been the best choice for the Peace Prize.

I think, however, he shows himself more worthy of the award toward the end of his speech, when he embraces the so-called "Superman theory" of American warfare — i.e., as the world's remaining superpower, we should behave more like Clark Kent rather than Jack Bauer:

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant — the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard.

And moments later:

We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their fundamental faith in human progress — that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what's best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present condition makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."

Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. (Applause.)

All in all, I believe it was a good speech that threaded the fine line between acknowledging the world as it is, while aspiring to a world that could be.

UPDATE:  The Rude Pundit makes an interesting observation:

Here's how you know the way things have changed. In his September 14, 2001 speech at a prayer service for 9/11 victims, George W. Bush said that America's "responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." And today, Barack Obama, in contrast, offered a less utopian view of the future: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes."

That goes back to the leader-as-tough-talking-movie-hero vs. leader-as-realist issue.  Republicans love the former; hate the latter.

Our National Discourse

You know the state of political journalism is in sorry shape when you read things like this:

This morning, Gore appeared on MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell read from Sarah Palin's Facebook page to ask the former vice president questions about climate change.

I'm getting a lot of use out of this graphic:

BangHeadAgainstWall

House GOP Strikes A Blow In The Fictional War

The War on Christmas, as you probably know, is a ginned-up war against those who show their hate for Christmas by banning the word "Christmas".

Of course, nobody in reality bans the word Christmas, although some businesses like to acknowledge other holidays during the, you know, holiday season.  Still, to some on the right, even the acknowledgement of other holidays and other religions is, of course, nothing less than the equivalent of a public urination on Baby Jesus himself.  Hence, the hyped-up "War on Christmas".

Today, several house Republicans took a bold stand by adopting a non-binding resolution, (H. RES. 951), to make it clear that Congress isn't one of those Christmas-haters.  It reads:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

Take THAT you people who want to ban references to Christmas.  Obviously, the resolution will pass, but I hope before it does, some smart Democrat attaches an amendment that includes support for the use of symbols and traditions of Channukah and Kwanzaa.  Let Republicans vote that down.

Republican Sex Scandal of the Week: Hypocrisy Alert

Republican Missouri State Senator Rod Jetton fired a state lawmaker from his committee chairmanship in 2007 because the lawmaker had changed a bill in order to end a state ban on gay sex.  You can read Jetton's defense of his actions from a 2007 editorial here.  In it, he boasts "I have fought attempts by liberals to repeal the gay sex ban for years". 

Also in that 2007 editorial, Jetton laments how, thanks to his colleague's actions, gays can have sex (what Jetton calls "deviate sexual intercourse") in Missouri.

Uh-huh.

Flash forward to Monday.  Seems the (now-former) state senator has more than a passing familiarity with "deviate sexual intercourse":

The former speaker of the Missouri House has been charged with a felony after what looks like a bout of sado-masochistic sex that went way too far.

Details are still unconfirmed, we should note. But a woman appears to have suggested to police that Rod Jetton, a Republican who now works as a political consultant, may have slipped something into her drink, then beat her up during sex, after she failed to use the safe word they had agreed upon as a signal to calm things down.

Here's what we know: The woman, who lives in Sikeston, Missouri, told police that Jetton and she spoke by phone on November 15th about their plans to have sex that night, according to the blog of a TV station. Several hours later, she says, he went to her home with two bottles of wine. According to the woman, Jetton poured the wine in the kitchen, out of her view. He then returned to the living room and handed her a glass. While they were watching a football game, the woman says, she started 'fading' in and out and lost consciousness several times.

The woman added that she and Jetton had agreed on the phrase "green balloons" as a "safe word" that she could use if things got too rough during sex. That's not uncommon among people who enjoy sex that involves dominance and submission.

But somehow things seem to have gotten way out of hand. The police report continues: "[The woman] recalls Jetton hitting her on the face very hard. She then remembers waking up, lying on the floor and Jetton was choking her. [The woman] said she did not know what happened with her memory because she had been drunk but had never had the blank spots in her memory."

According to the formal complaint filed against Jetton, he "recklessly caused serious physical injury" to the woman "by hitting her on the head, and choking her resulting in unconsciousness and the loss of the function of part of her body."

Jetton then stayed the night, says the woman. When he woke up, she says, he kissed her and said, "You should have said green balloons." He then left and hasn't returned.

So, in the Jetton world view, consensual gay sex is "deviate"; beating that crap out of woman during sex in which you slipped her date rape drugs… not so much.

UPDATE:  Yeah, this was particularly nasty….

Is Same Sex Marriage “Inevitable”?

In this article of Politico, Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage (which oppose SSM), states that:

"The events of the last few months have put a serious dent in the idea that gay marriage is inevitable."

In this post here, she expands on this view, giving eight reasons why gay marriage is not inevitable.  It's an interesting look into narrow-minded thinking:

Maggie's Top Eight Reasons Why Gay Marriage Is Not Inevitable

1. Nothing is inevitable.

We are talking about the future here. It's weird to have  "reporting" that something that has not yet happened will certainly happen. The future is never inevitable.

My response:  Well, she's technically correct: nothing is 100% guaranteed "inevitable", including gay marriage or the Rapture.  But she's taking issues with the parameters of the argument, not the argument itself.  A pretty weak opening for her list.

2. Young people are not as unanimous as most people think.

In California, the young-adults vote split 55 percent to 45 percent. Is it so hard to imagine 5 percent of those young people changing their minds as they move through the life cycle?

My response:  It's not hard to imagine that 5 percent of those young people will change their minds as they get older, but it's not hard to imagine that MORE than 5 percent might changes their minds the other way.  Meanwhile, a new generation will crop up.  And is it hard to imagine that their support for gay marriage will be 60-40?  70-30?

The point here is to look at trends over time, not one snapshot in time and then "imagine" it might be different in the future.  Maggie's blinders prevent her from looking at the fact that, while young voters in California favored SSM 55-45, it was balanced the other way a generation earlier, and so on and so on.  Because each succeeding generation — in California and everywhere — is less and less opposed to homosexuality in general, the trends lead to the conclusion that gay marriage is inevitable.  Maggie apparently doesn't do "trends".

3. The argument from despair is bait and switch.

They are trying push the idea that gay marriage is inevitable, because they are losing the argument that gay marriage is a good idea.

My response: "They" being….. who? 

Listen, conjuring up fictional bad motives on the part of those with whom you disagree?  That is desparate.

4.  Progressives are often wrong about the future.

Here's my personal litany: Progressives told me abortion would be a dead issue by today, because young people in 1975 were so pro-choice. They told me there would be no more homemakers at all by the year 2000, because of the attitudes and values of young women in 1975. Some even told me the Soviet Union was the wave of the future. I mean, really, fool me once shame on you. Fool me over and over again . . . I must be a Republican!

My response:  This is classic "somebody told me X and they were wrong, so therefore I'm right now".  Whoever these unnamed people are who told Maggie certain things (and I frankly don't trust Maggie to accurately reflect those conversations), they certainly don't represent the progressive viewpoint.

But as for abortion, it IS a dead issue from a public policy standpoint.  It stands zero chance of being overturned.  That doesn't make it uncontroversial.  It's like taxes.  We talk about them and complain about them, but is there a reasonable likelihood that they will go away?  No, of course not. 

Same with abortion.  If abortion viewpoints are so different compared to 1975, then tell us Maggie why aborytion is still legal everywhere in the United States?

And by the way, Maggie – young people in 1975 were pro-choice…. and guess what?  The young people of today still are.

5.  Demography could be destiny.

If there is one force that directly contradicts the inevitability argument, it is that traditionalists have more children. Preventing schools and media from corrupting those children is a problem, but not necessarily an insoluable one. Religous groups are increasingly focused on the problem of how to transmit a marriage culture to the next generation (see the USCCB's recent initiatives). 

My response:  What Maggie and so many of her ilk ignore is this: almost every single gay person is the child of a traditional marriage.  They didn't become gay because of corrupt school systems or the media.  Many, in fact, had traditional and religious influences in their early life.  Yet….. here they are.  Culture didn't create gays, and a change in culture — the kind of change that Maggie recommends — isn't going to make the tide go in a different direction.  And if there is one thing that history does teach us is this: attempts to turn culture into one of intolerance have a 100% failure rate…. inevitably.

6. Change is inevitable.

Generational arguments tend to work only for one generation: Right now, it's "cool" to be pro-gay marriage. In ten years, it will be what the old folks think. Even gay people may decide, as they get used to living in a tolerant and free America, they don't want to waste all that time and energy on a symbolic social issue, anyway. (I know gay people who think that right now). I am not saying it will happen, only that it could. The future is not going to look like the present (see point one above). Inevitability is a manufactured narrative, not a fundamental truth.

My response:  No, generational arguments don't work "only for one generation", particularly when it comes to matters of civil rights and equality.  And wishing doesn't make it so.  Look at the advancements of women and minorities over the course of, say, the past 5 generations.  Any backsliding there?  Any reversals?  No, the march toward equality always go forward — sometimes slowly, and sometimes with obstructions.  But it never moves backward.

Also, I don't know anyone who supports gay marriage because it is "cool" or trendy.  That's an insult.  Everyone I know supports it because it is simply the right thing to do, especially for a country built on the notions of freedom and equality.  Those are enduring values that mean something; they're not "cool" for a generation or two.

7. Newsflash: 18-year-olds can be wrong.

Should we really say "Hmm, whatever the 18-year-olds think, that must be inevitable," and go do that? I mean, would we reason like that on any other issue?

My response:  Wow.  Is that dumb.  Nobody is reasoning like that.  Again, Maggie is trend-blind.  The fact that young people (not just 18 year olds) over time, not to mention older people (especially those of a libertarian bent), increasingly don't give a rat's ass about other people's sexual preferences, is something that can't be ignored.

8. New York's highest court was right.

From Hernandez v. Robles

The dissenters assert confidently that "future generations" will agree with their view of this case (dissenting op at 396). We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives. We therefore express our hope that the participants in the controversy over same-sex marriage will address their arguments to the Legislature; that the Legislature will listen and decide as wisely as it can; and that those unhappy with the result — as many undoubtedly will be — will respect it as people in a democratic state should respect choices democratically made.

My response:  Right or wrong, this doesn't address the inevitability argument — in fact, the New York Court was explicitly avoiding weighing in on the inevitability issue (they even said so!).  So this doesn't even count as a reason why inevitability of gay marriage is supposedly wrong.  All this does is address a separate issue — whether change, if it is to happen at all — should come through legal interpretation of the Constitution, or through the legislative process.  An issue, to be sure, but a side issue.  And I think Maggie knows that.

UPDATE — New York magazine weighs in on this too.  Their take:

More Fox Flubs

Isn't it funny how the "mistakes" that Fox makes always seem to err against Obama or liberals?

Here's a clip from yesterday in which Obama announces that the TARP bailout cost U.S. taxpayers $200 billion less than we originally thought.  That's good news, right?  The bailout's addition to the deficit is $200 billion lower?

Still, Fox can't get it right.  Watch:

Wasn't it only a couple of weeks ago that Fox announced a "zero tolerance" policy for on-air mistakes?

The Headline Says It All

So we had a massive economic breakdown last year, and we're still suffering for it.  And it was primarily due to banks trading toxic assets, which was something they could do because there was no financial regulation to stop them.  The big boys of Wall Street played with matches; the economy burned.

So naturally, we don't want this to happen again, right?  We want to not only get out of this hole, but be sure we do't fall into it again, right?  Makes sense.  We need to pass some tough financial regulations so that the Wall Street fatcats don't lead us again into another depression.

Guess who is going to try to prevent this happening?

The headline says it all: "House Republicans Huddle With Lobbyists to Kill Financial Reform Bill."

House Democrats are seizing the oppotunity to paint Republicans as what they are — politicians beholden to corporate interests:

Democrats launched a coordinated offensive Tuesday in support of the financial regulatory overhaul.

They have recast the issue as "Wall Street reform" and promise a "barrage" of advertisements and news stories in the districts of vulnerable Republicans who oppose the bill, depicting them as the obedient servants of Wall Street. […]

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) blasted out a fundraising appeal Tuesday through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) saying Republicans oppose the bill in hopes of continuing to reap contributions from Wall Street banks.

"House Republicans now oppose financial regulation because they have learned nothing from the current economic crisis," Frank added.

Those who don't learn from the past are forced to repeat the past.

Gay Marriage Issue Shifts To New Jersey

After defeats in Maine and New York, I'm not optimistic about the New Jersey Senate passing same-sex marriage legislation tomorrow.  But The Boss is behind it, so maybe….

A BRIEF STATEMENT FROM BRUCE
Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, "The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is — a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law." I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.

Health Care Reform News

Well, this much I understand: the Senate defeated the amendment which attempted to ban all abortion-related healthcare coverage from the public option.  So that's good.

The other piece of news escapes me.  It seems that the public option didn't have the votes in the Senate, so a compromise was worked out.  What is it?  This:

Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could ‘buy in’ to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress. If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the ‘public option’ in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago.

So it seems to me that we get a two-tiered system: (1) an expansion of Medicare for those 55 and up, and (2) for everyone else, a national not-for-profit plan run by insurance companies but overseen by the OPM.  And if #2 ends up sucking, we get the "public option" run by the government.

I guess it is a good thing although I'm not sure that insurance companies offering a national health benefit plan, which will (I assume) compete with their OWN plans, is workable.  I just don't like insurance companies in the loop.  But I'll keep an open mind.

Logic

Michael Steele, GOP chairman in Politico:

Over 2.8 million jobs have been lost since President Obama’s began to experiment with his deficit funded stimulus package.

That's like saying that the house continued to burn even after the firemen showed up and opened their hoses on it; therefore, the firemen and the water are at fault.

The truth is that the stimulus has worked and is working.  And who says so?  Three independent financial advisors whose job it is to provide this advice to their clients:

Popup

So, to recap…. have jobs been lost since Obama infused the economy with the stimulus?  Sure.  Have fewer jobs been lost than without the stimulus?  Yeah, about twice as few.  We would be looking at 14% unemployment right now….. but for the stimulus.

Oddly enough, Steele goes on to talk about health care and how it "will cost nearly $1 trillion dollars after ten years of implementation".  Setting aside the overinflation of that figure, Steele then says something odd:

Hold on. Before we wave goodbye to that trillion, maybe we should ask ourselves: If our economy is still struggling next year, shouldn't we invest that trillion bucks into creating jobs? 

Wait a second.  He's now admitting that spending money creates jobs?

Margaret and Helen Review “Going Rogue”

One of the most enchanting blogs on the intertubes is Margaret and Helen, a joint blog by two octogenarian women who have been friends for 60 years (one lives in Texas, the other in Maine).  Grandson Matthew designed the blog; Margaret and Helen provide the content — well, Helen mostly.  They're very witty (Below the fold, I've posted Helen's Thanksgiving rules from a recent post).

Anyway, Helen had a particularly pithy review of the first chapter of Palin's "Going Rogue" which is a fun read.  An excerpt:

Margaret, I tried to come to this with an open mind.  Really I did, sweetheart.  I wanted to believe that there really was something of substance to someone who captured the imagination of millions.  Even Barbara Walters has Sarah on her Top 10 list for the year.   But it’s just not there, Margaret.  Substance.  She has none.  Not even with a ghost writer.  I mean how much respect can you have for a woman who describes the birth of her first son by writing, “Oh.  My. Gosh.  I thought I was going to die…  Had any woman ever hurt this much?  I didn’t think so.”   Is it possible her ghost writer is a man?

But honestly, why am I so nasty about this woman?  First I called her a bitch and now I am suggesting her knees are together about as often has Hillary Clinton appears in public with Bill.   Look.  There I go again sounding like a dime novel.  But her entire attitude and approach to life – the sheer hypocrisy of it all – just really gets my goat.   Consider the following excerpt from the book which refers to a State Trooper who pulled her over for an illegal joy ride on a snow machine:

“It was Christmas Day;  we were out in the middle of nowhere, a couple of kids on a snowmachine up against a big dude with a gun and a badge.  I couldn’t help but wondering about his priorities, if he really didn’t have more important things to do, like catching a bad guy, or helping a poor old lady haul in her firewood for the night.  Looking back, maybe that was my first brush with the skewed priorities of government.”  Page. 18

And that, dear Margaret, sums up my issue with Sarah Palin and so many others like her.  They are so quick to look for the “bad guys” in everyone else never seeing the one staring back at them in the mirror each morning.

Here’s hoping Chapter Two has something worth writing about because I’ve only got a few years left on this earth and I hate that even a few hours are being wasted on this exercise in fertility. Pun intended.  I mean it.  Really.

Read the whole thing.

EPA: Greenhouse Gases Endanger Human Health

Epa-1-1-1 That may not sound like news, but it is.

Believe it or not, this was an open question under the Bush Administration.  In fact, during the Bush Administration, the EPA did nothing to regulate.  It was so bad that several states (like Massachusetts) and environmental groups tried to sue the EPA to do its job.  The EPA at the time argued that it did not have the authority under the Clean Air Act do regulate greenhouse gases.

The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 2007 that the Clean Air Act did oversee greenhouse gases provided that the EPA concludes that greenhouse gases do endanger human health.

A new administration has taken the shackles off of the EPA, and today they are planning to announce that, in their view, greenhouse gases harm humans and therefore the EPA will start regulating them.

Speaking of the environment, all eyes are on Copenhagen this week.  Kyoto didn't work out so well; the new agreement (one hopes) that will incolve China and other developing countries might be better.  Krugman is optimistic; I am not.

UPDATE:  Matt Yglesius writes that business groups are freaking out over the EPA's newfound commitment to control carbon emissions, adding that the EPA's power to seriously make effectatious changes in this area is overblown.

Tea Party More Popular Than Republican Party

A Rasmusson poll:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.

Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

For this survey, the respondents were asked to assume that the Tea Party movement organized as a new political party. In practical terms, it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process—written by Republicans and Democrats–provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties. The more conventional route in the United States is for a potential third-party force to overtake one of the existing parties.

Palin Left College In Hawaii Because Of The Slighty-Eyed People

Seriously…. what would cause a young woman to quit college in Hawaii?

In The New Yorker review of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, Sam Tanenhaus touched on the reason, as re-reported here in The Huffington Post:

Palin, though notoriously ill-traveled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. "Hawaii was a little too perfect," Palin writes. "Perpetual sunshine isn't necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls." Perhaps not. But Palin's father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: "They were a minority type thing and it wasn't glamorous, so she came home." In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, "because it was much like Alaska yet still 'Outside.' "

Well, if it's true, I'm sure that will endear her to her base even more.

Why We Need Health Care Reform

This says it all:

Aetna Forcing 600,000-Plus To Lose Coverage In Effort To Raise Profits

Health insurance giant Aetna is planning to force up to 650,000 clients to drop their coverage next year as it seeks to raise additional revenue to meet profit expectations.

In a third-quarter earnings conference call in late October, officials at Aetna announced that in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009, they would be raising prices on their consumers in 2010. The insurance giant predicted that the company would subsequently lose between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.

"The pricing we put in place for 2009 turned out to not really be what we needed to achieve the results and margins that we had historically been delivering," said chairman and CEO Ron Williams. "We view 2010 as a repositioning year, a year that does not fully reflect the earnings potential of our business. Our pricing actions should have a noticeable effect beginning in the first quarter of 2010, with additional financial impact realized during the remaining three quarters of the year."

***

Aetna actually made a profit in 2009 but not at levels that it anticipated.

So over half a million people will lose health care coverage because this insurance company's profits weren't big enough.  They only made a 7% profit.

Consider that, while you also consider that 45,000 per year annually die because of a lack of health insurance.

What will it take for teabaggers to wake up and realize that the only "death panels" are located in insurance companies?

Quote Of The Day

Here it is, from the (I'm assuming, Republican) mayor of Arlington TN, on his Facebook page, referring to Tuesday night when Obama announced an increase in troops to Afghanistan:

"We sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load…..try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose…"

Riiiiight.  I'm sure that Obama, the Joint Chiefs of staff and other military bigwigs, as well as Obama's secret cadre of Muslim advisors, all got together in the Situation Room at some point and pored over the TV Guide, just to find the best time to ruin the plans of hick Peanuts fans.

BONUS — At another point he wrote, "you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different…….."

Yeah.  "Property" in the original Constitution included slaves.  Nice point, bubba.