Sunday, December 14
Thursday, December 4
Saturday, November 29
American consumer: YOU FAIL.
Tuesday, November 11
Monday, November 10
Wednesday, November 5
Saturday, September 27
Friday, September 12
Monday, September 1
Monday, August 18
Monday, August 11
Friday, August 8
The plaintiffs make clear their motives:
"Obviously we didn't want [people making cartoons we find offensive] to continue, so [another goal was] perhaps to discourage people from further maligning our prophet and our religion... We wanted this to have a deterrent effect."
Wednesday, August 6
The GPS-equipped devices also allow for remote disabling by "cutting off the oil or electric supply," effectively shutting down the engine and keeping it from being restarted."
Tuesday, August 5
Friday, August 1
Thursday, July 31
Tuesday, July 22
"A recent study by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank warned that the 'proliferation and variety' of such laws mean householders can no longer 'realistically be aware' of their rights and legal obligations." Ya think?
Monday, July 21
Broken down a bit by Jim Lindgren...
So – if Obama means what he says – his civilian national security corps would cost at least another $100 billion a year, and perhaps as much as $500 billion a year. With total federal income taxes of $935 billion in 2005, Obama's proposal would mean using up to half of all federal income tax revenues just to fund his promise “to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the military.
Three quick reasons to fear this even if you really like the guy proposing it:
2. Invasiveness- what part of the country wouldn't be covered by a corps?
3. Imagine this army of "armies" under the control of a president you don't like so much.
Friday, July 18
"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."
Wednesday, July 16
That is, for the average American, the government keeps every dollar the worker earned earned from January 1, 2008 up until yesterday.
Tuesday, July 8
So do we really expect Congress to learn from history, or do we expect them to blame the speculators?
The bulbous root is the only commodity for which futures trading is banned. Back in 1958, onion growers convinced themselves that futures traders (and not the new farms sprouting up in Wisconsin) were responsible for falling onion prices, so they lobbied an up-and-coming Michigan Congressman named Gerald Ford to push through a law banning all futures trading in onions. The law still stands.
And yet even with no traders to blame, the volatility in onion prices makes the swings in oil and corn look tame, reinforcing academics' belief that futures trading diminishes extreme price swings.
Since 2006, oil prices have risen 100%, and corn is up 300%. But onion prices soared 400% between October 2006 and April 2007...
Thursday, July 3
Things to help you remember your love for America: great economic freedom; being able to eat what you want; being able to be an offensive jerk without speech police; growing freedom to love whom you want; still the place for science and genius.
Things that remind you of your disappointment with America: the low (48th) ranking in Press Freedom; not being able to eat what you want; our share of scary cops; 35 years of bad drug policy.
The founding of most nations, if you go back far enough, revolves around some guy with an army beating some other guy's army and carving out a kingdom for himself based on the spoils. That, and ethnic identity (England, i.e., land of the English).
I think it's pretty cool that country I call home was founded on some really awesome ideas, as imperfectly realized as they may be.
Tuesday, July 1
Friday, June 27
Thursday, June 26
Wednesday, June 25
Tuesday, June 24
Friday, June 6
In 1960 fewer Americans lived in suburbs than in central cities or the countryside. Ten years later the suburbs had overhauled both; by 2000 they contained more people than the cities and countryside put together.
...the white population of big-city suburbs grew by 7% between 2000 and 2006. In the same period the suburban Asian population grew by 16%, the black population by 24% and the Hispanic population by an astonishing 60%.
As the suburbs become more mixed, some inner-city areas are turning less so. Los Angeles ... and New York ... both added whites and lost blacks between 2000 and 2006.
...the Brookings Institution ... calculates that 45% of the jobs in America's 100 biggest metropolitan areas are found more than ten miles from the downtown core.
The popularity of such confections [outdoor lifestyle retail centers] suggests that Americans want to spend time in places that look like cities but feel like suburbs. They hint at a broader pattern: cities and suburbs are converging.
Since 2001 the number of violent crimes in suburban areas has risen by 10%, according to the FBI. ... it is a poor record compared with America's big cities, which have cut violent crime by 17%.
Tuesday, June 3
Wednesday, May 28
"Shanghai and Beijing ... have become urban riots of aesthetic and technical flair, with skylines that are futuristic, inspiring, and sometimes sublime. [However]... The bulk of construction in China is not of the showcase variety, with the celebrity Western architects jet-classed in for consultations and photo ops. Instead, the vast majority of recent building has been non-descript, cheap and almost entirely ungoverned by safety standards or minimum building codes."
Friday, May 23
And on the Che movie from Cannes... "In between the two periods covered in “Che,” Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed."
Artists and politics - why so often such a bad combination?
Thursday, May 22
Tuesday, May 20
Monday, May 19
Friday, May 16
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.): "Obviously, I have been very disappointed in the comments coming out of the White House. But we do have a strong vote in both the House and the Senate, and I think that shows you that in a complex piece of legislation like this, and it truly is because it touches so many different areas of so many different aspects of agriculture and food production, as well as nutrition and conservation and energy, that there is something in this bill for every member of the House and every member of the Senate."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY): "I believe saying no to the farm bill is saying no to rural America."
Writing for the California high court, Chief Justice Ronald M. George first found that the exclusion of gays from marriage violated their fundamental right to marry, thereby drawing strict scrutiny from the court. This meant that the state would have to produce a compelling reason to bar gays from what the court deemed "the most socially productive and individually fulfilling relationship that one can enjoy in the course of a lifetime." In a crucial move, Chief Justice George rejected the state's argument that tradition was such a reason. Allowing tradition to thus entrench itself, he said, would have allowed for laws barring interracial couples. And, as he noted, the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on interracial marriage in 1948, almost two decades before the U.S. Supreme Court did in Loving v. Virginia.
Thursday, May 15
The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.
Wednesday, May 14
Friday, May 9
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the bill. Congressional leaders plan to bring it to the House and Senate floors next week for votes that could test the depth of support for it.
The package, the product of weeks of closed-door bargaining, is stuffed with plums for key constituencies. Dairy farmers will get as much as $410 million more over 10 years to cover higher feed costs, and negotiators tucked in an annual authorization of $15 million to help "geographically disadvantaged farmers" in Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.
The bill assures growers of basic crops such as wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans $5 billion a year in automatic payments, even if farm and food prices stay at record levels.House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) acknowledged that the payments are "very hard to explain to our urban colleagues."
Wednesday, May 7
Monday, May 5
The committee does not consider that genetic engineering of plants automatically falls into this category, but its majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to 'lose their independence' - for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce.
Friday, April 25
Thursday, April 17
Or are you a Hillary supporter who's down because she's been getting raked for months?
Maybe you're a McCain supporter.... aw, how much does our next president even really matter?
You take this in good light or bad light, depending on who you want to win and who does.
Here's one reason why the "president doesn't matter that much" might make you feel good.
Wednesday, April 16
Monday, April 14
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.The truth hurts. It hurts to say it and it hurts to hear it.
And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Thursday, April 3
Numbers 2 (decentralization) and 4 (enable people to act on their own to help) are the ones I immediately like.
1. For relief and recovery efforts and ensure that its role [the private sector] is officially recognized as part of disaster protocols.
2. Decentralize government relief to local governments and non-governmental organizations and provide that relief in the form of cash or broadly defined vouchers.
3. Move the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
4. Reform “Good Samaritan” laws so that private-sector actors are clearly protected when they make good faith efforts to help.
Good job, internet, for showing Wal-Mart the asshole-ness of its ways. (via Digg)
Now, internet, how's that Scientology attack going?
Tuesday, April 1
This extraordinary delegation of authority ... saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. The results are recounted in a new paper on the disaster written by Steven Horwitz, an Austrian-school economist at St. Lawrence University in New York. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency fumbled about, doing almost as much to prevent essential supplies from reaching Louisiana and Mississippi as it could to facilitate it, Wal-Mart managers performed feats of heroism. In Kenner, La., an employee crashed a forklift through a warehouse door to get water for a nursing home. A Marrero, La., store served as a barracks for cops whose homes had been submerged. In Waveland, Miss., an assistant manager who could not reach her superiors had a bulldozer driven through the store to retrieve disaster necessities for community use, and broke into a locked pharmacy closet to obtain medicine for the local hospital.Empowered, decentralized actors - people on the local level given the authority to act - and the resulting response was leagues ahead of what FEMA was doing. This isn't testimony to Wal-Mart per se, but to the power of local, community actors as being in the best position to respond to disaster - look how well they did it!
Of course these managers would do everything they could to help these people - it's their freakin' home town(s)! Contrast this urgency with the disinterest of a remote FEMA bureaucrat in Washington who's never been to Gulf Coast... is the resulting difference any surprise?
(Note: The article I linked to takes this to a certain anti-federalization level, which you may or may not agree with. Personally, I'm always shocked at how many people who railed against FEMA in the case of Katrina support the same disinterested and distant federal government in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and many other projects of this nature.)
Friday, March 28
The modern world, which prides itself on being a repudiation of the irrationalities of a culture that could give rise to an Inquisition, was in fact forged in the fires of those irrationalities, and we can still feel their heat.This sentence from James Carroll's Constantine's Sword is extraordinarily insightful and can be generalized to many problems of modern life: Racism, the fight against scientific rationality, cultural hegemony, religious conflict, the list goes on... In fact, with a slight re-wording I think it becomes even more relevant:
The modern world, which prides itself on being a repudiation of the 'irrationalities of culture', was in fact forged in the fires of those irrationalities.How long before rational thought runs the world?
Thursday, March 27
Alternet: "Wal-Mart Sues Brain-Damaged Employee".
Wall Street Journal: "Wal-Mart Prevails in Case to Recover Health Costs".
However you spin it, it's tragic when 'policies' prevent corporate drones from doing the right thing. You can only alienate so many people... You can only bankrupt so many suppliers... You can only shutter so many competing stores... Before the general tide of public opinion turns against you. (Thanks, Rose.)
Monday, March 24
Thursday, March 20
Here is a chair. Regardless of who you support, or what you think of Obama, I want you to sit here, right here on this chair and consider something wonderful. To wit:
It is possible that we will have a President who not only will speak in full, complete sentences, but who will do so in a manner that is eloquent, and who will also be articulate and eloquent in delivering words he is intelligent enough to know, understand, and use in a speech he is capable of writing himself.
Tuesday, March 18
Then I walked around downtown after our city's parade and saw all the stupid drunken idiots, and I reconsidered. St. Patrick's Day is stupid.
Thursday, March 13
If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.- Robert Jackson. On Spitzer and prosecutor discretion...
Wednesday, March 12
Tuesday, March 11
Monday, March 10
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. ... The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.
The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct.
Thursday, March 6
Wednesday, March 5
Tuesday, March 4
Monday, March 3
Friday, February 29
The Washington Post highlights the same comparison in the second paragraph of its story about the report, saying "the United States leads the world in both the number and percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving far-more-populous China a distant second."
The source for the Chinese estimate is the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London, which in turn relied on the Chinese government's numbers. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting that we should be skeptical of anything a totalitarian-cum-authoritarian government says about touchy, potentially embarrassing issues like how many of its citizens it imprisons. The official number at the end of 2005 was 1,565,771, but the King's College report says that does not include "more than 500,000 serving administrative detention in re-education-through-labour camps," according to the Chinese government's own count; "350,000 in a second type of administrative detention...for drug offenders and prostitutes," according to a U.S. State Department estimate; or pre-trial detainees, whose number "is not known but has been estimated at about 100,000." Assuming those numbers are correct (a big assumption), "the total prison population in China is about 2,500,000." That still gives the U.S. a higher incarceration rate, but not a higher total number of prisoners. And if the Chinese government actually had a few million people in re-education camps, instead of the half a million it claims, how would we know?
Thursday, February 28
Tuesday, February 26
Monday, February 25
Sunday, February 24
Friday, February 22
Monday, February 18
Tuesday, February 12
Picture the life of a young Urdu-speaking woman brought to Yorkshire from Pakistan to marry a man—quite possibly a close cousin—whom she has never met. He takes her dowry, beats her, and abuses the children he forces her to bear. She is not allowed to leave the house unless in the company of a male relative and unless she is submissively covered from head to toe. Suppose that she is able to contact one of the few support groups that now exist for the many women in Britain who share her plight. What she ought to be able to say is, "I need the police, and I need the law to be enforced." But what she will often be told is, "Your problem is better handled within the community."This is England ?
Sunday, February 10
Friday, February 8
But is the current selection of bio-fuels a net good for our planet?
It's complicated, to say the least (and I'm not even getting into the economics of government mandates like that here). Excerpt:
The new studies examine a different part of biofuel equation, and both suggest that the emissions associated with the crops may be even worse than that.
One analysis looks at land that is switched to biofuel crop production. Carbon will be released when forests are felled or bush cleared, and longer-term emissions created by dead roots decaying.
This creates what Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy and colleagues call a "carbon debt". Emissions savings generated by the biofuels will help pay back this debt, but in some cases this can take centuries, suggests their analysis.
If 10,000 square metres of Brazilian rainforest is cleared to make way for soya beans – which are used to make biodiesel – over 700,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released.
The saving generated by the resulting biodiesel will not cancel that out for around 300 years, says Fargione. In the case of peat land rainforest in Indonesia, which is being cleared to grow palm oil, the debt will take over 400 years to repay, he says.
Wednesday, February 6
I watched some returns, saw CNN make some early predictions, and got to hear Huckabee, Romney, and Clinton preach to their choirs a bit.
Interesting similarities between Clinton and Romney - both talking about responsibility in the same breath as promising a new bevy of goodies for us. Romney says we shouldn't look to Washington to solve all our problems just before offering to do so. Hillary talks about fiscal responsibility before listing a bunch of programs more expensive than anything in American history.
Call me skeptical about these solve all problem attitudes...