Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Huh-Huh-Huh-Huh. You Said You Were Bi(-Partisan)
Comparing them to the GOP is, of course, an insult to the legacy of Beavis and Butthead. It should not, like, stand or something.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Speech
From our President. Straightforward. Honest. Didn't talk to us like we were stupid. A nice change from the last 8 of these. Sounds like Jindal's insurgent presidential campaign got off to a rocky start in his response. I missed that part. What did you think?
With all the things that have to go right, it's a wonder missions like this ever work. Sounds like this satellite would have been helpful had it made it to orbit.
A NASA satellite to track carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere failed to reach its orbit during launching Tuesday morning, scuttling the $278 million mission.
The satellite fell back to Earth, landing in the ocean just short of Antarctica.
The carbon observatory was to precisely measure levels of carbon dioxide — the heat-trapping gas that is driving global warming — in the air. Scientists had hoped the new data, covering the entire planet, would help them improve climate models and better understand the “carbon sinks” like oceans and forests and that absorb much of the carbon dioxide.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did you see the Oscars? What did you think? Other than that, what have you been listening to, watching, reading?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You're Not Depressed; You Don't Sleep Well
New Scientist magazine reports that some researchers believe we have it backwards when it comes to sleep.
Take anyone with a psychiatric disorder and the chances are they don't sleep well. The result of their illness, you might think. Now this long-standing assumption is being turned on its head, with the radical suggestion that poor sleep might actually cause some psychiatric illnesses or lead people to behave in ways that doctors mistake for mental problems. The good news is that sleep treatments could help or even cure some of these patients. Shockingly, it also means that many people, including children, could be taking psychoactive drugs that cannot help them and might even be harmful.

No one knows how many people might fall into this category.
It's an accepted belief that during our sleep we play out the reality of our conscious lives. What if in fact, the reverse is true? Read the whole thing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Taxes Are Cut

Friday, February 20, 2009

This post of Kevin Drum's is pretty interesting, and since I don't have anything interesting to say today, I'll just send you there. Here's the upshot: the per capita number of people we lock up today is actually the same as it was in the 1940s and 50s, *if* you add up all the people in prison and all the people in mental institutions. You can make the case that what we are doing now, to send our prison incarceration rates through the roof, is make criminals out of people that 50 or 60 years ago we institutionalized. Of course, it doesn't exactly work out like that. But the charts pretty convincingly hint at it. And either way, pretty fascinating to find out that when you add up the 2 numbers, it's about the same as it was back then, they've just swapped places in prominence.

In addition, the article he points to makes reference to the fact that most prison population studies (hmm...anyone reading this blog have an interest in that sort of thing and can comment intelligently?...feel free) are questionable as a result.
Since practically none of our studies on prisons, guns, abortion, education, unemployment, capital punishment, etc., controls for institutionalization writ large, most of what we claim to know about these effects may be on shaky ground
Check out the charts if nothing else.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Will Anti-Stimulus Governors Have the Nerve to Turn Down Money?
It's a good question. Seems like some are at least acting like they're considering it.

All across the country, the last vestiges of Republican fiscal policy are stubbornly hewing to their misguided principles - proven failures or not - at the expense of their struggling states. See California. Lucky for that state, Arnold has been supportive of the stimulus all along. Unlucky for them, they're in such a deep pile of shit that the federal money will be just a drop in the bucket.

But as for the other GOP Governors, who so bravely stuck with their national party and opposed the recovery package, will they be so consistent as to turn down the federal money they claim is so damaging to the American economy? Looks like all the nut-jobbiest potential presidential candidates are contemplating just that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Please Help
Maybe it's my current bout with a cold, but for some reason, despite my strong instincts to loathe Alex Rodriguez, I am finding myself almost sympathetic. And with his pretty plain admission of steroid use, and his apologies to reporters, I'm maybe even gaining for him a tiny bit of rrr... respe.... well I can't quite say the word, but you get the idea. Needless to say this is difficult for me to experience. In addition to his being a pretty-boy celebrity, A-Rod is, you know, a Yankee. Not hating him with a passion is causing me some concern. Can somebody please help? Tell me how this is all self-serving on his part? How he still is probably not being honest? Maybe voted for McCain? Anything?
Today, the 2nd Circuit ruled that New York City's ground-breaking law mandating that restaurants advertise the caloric content of all items on menus and menu boards is a-ok. The Restaurant Association argued the requirement violated the First Amendment rights of restaurant owners to, I guess, not tell us what they're serving.

The local government here in Nash-Vegas is considering similar legislation. Of course, inevitably, establishments will mis-represent their data. Still, seems like a good idea to me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

I haven't seen a movie in forever. Anything out there?

Sweet Irony
Alex Ross did a pretty unexpected thing: he wrote a best-selling book about 20th Century art music. "The Rest is Noise" is now not only a good book, it's also an engaging blog on the same subject. Yesterday, he pointed out that the stimulus bill managed to include $50 million in funding to support jobs created in the arts that may be threatened due to the economic downturn, and slippage in support for the arts by communities and philanthropists. This money made it through, he notes, despite the efforts of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who never met an arts appropriation he liked. I will let Ross describe the irony from there:
Sen. Coburn is the father of the outstanding young soprano Sarah Coburn, who has appeared many times at opera houses supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year the younger Coburn went home to Oklahoma to sing in Lakmé at the Tulsa Opera — a production made possible in part by a $15,000 grant from the NEA.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's For Your Health!
A special Valentine's Day link, issued without comment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Johnny O
Always nice to see the old high school in the news. On a slightly similar note, it was nice to exit the hockey game last night to run into a group of muscly, probably intoxicated teenagers who apparently just got their jollies from punching some wimpy looking other teenagers in the face.

What's wrong with boys?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scientists Are People Too
Thanks to Faye and Stevie T for sending me to stories about an investigation revealing a vaccine-autism link researcher made up some of his data.
THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.
But hey at least we know now, right? No harm, no foul?
Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper’s impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire “herd immunity” from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

[UPDATE: Now a court weighs in.]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Senior Citizens
Are negotiating the stimulus bill deal that may determine the fate of the economy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. [UPDATE: They're done.]

Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama Press Conference Blogging
I'm watching close - mostly just in case someone gets a question in about religion. There are a few issues up in the air these days. Obviously, the economy and stimulus bill are top priority and wouldn't shock me if that's all he is asked about.

It is nice isn't it to have a President who's not afraid to go in front of the press in prime time and answer questions. But it does carry risks - which is why Bush hardly ever did it. Hopefully there's no screwups. But it really should be a regular presidential event, especially in times of crisis.

Note: Chuck Todd just told me on MSNBC that "stimulus" is too complex a word for the American people to digest. How many more words will we lose to the scrapheap of elitism?

UPDATE: Oh great...Chris Matthews just told me that the President is sure to have to answer a question about...wait for it... A-Rod's admitted steroid use. *Sigh* Also, we will apparently have to hear about the dress code in the Oval Office, and more hand-wringing over what precisely his mistake was in handling Daschle...that's if Chris gets his way's hoping not. Are there not enough legitimate questions about the stimulus bill, Iraq, Afghanistan, energy policies, and the future of health care legislation to fill a press conference? Maybe I won't watch after all...

UPDATE 2: Ah...I see after 15 minutes that the President has already mastered the art of the long, long answer (which, some might note, didn't respond to the question). Well-played, sir.

UPDATE 3: Random complaint. I don't like the way he refers to cabinet members as "my treasury secretary...." Why not "the", or "our"? But, surely, I have more important things to complain about. Will keep looking...

UPDATE 4: Ugh... an A-Rod question. Dude, you are on national TV asking a historic President any question you like during his first press conference amid historically troubling times and that's what you came up with?

UPDATE 5: All in all a strong performance. One question though: has anyone else noticed that he has changed his metric about job creation? He doesn't talk about "creating" 4 million new jobs anymore. He talks about "creating or saving" 4 million, a nuance that most pundits are breezing past. How could the stimulus possibly be proven ineffective on the job front now? Can't he always claim he saved 4 million? As matter how many are lost, if it weren't for the bill, we would have lost 4 million more? It's a sure winner.

UPDATE 6: In case you missed it, read the transcript here.
What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. He's Just Not That Into You
2. Taken
3. Coraline
4. Pink Panther 2
5. Mall Cop
3 kids' movies and a chick flick!?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Krugman on the Senate Deal
First the really bad news, then some hope that Obama can dip back in for more before long. But will he?

I'm hoping we get half of those state aid cuts back in conference committee. It's the definition of compromise after all.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Inheritances Can Be Tricky
Author Stephen Amidon speculates about the possible, well-intentioned temptation of Tom Daschle, and of all of us, in an op-ed in the NYTimes today.
The Deal
Jeebus, what is left in the stimulus that everyone agrees on if this is the stuff they're cutting out to gain....3 lowly Republican Senators' votes??
The biggest cut, roughly $40 billion in aid to states, was likely to spur a fierce fight in negotiations with the House over the final bill. Many states, hit hard by the recession, face wrenching cuts in services and layoffs of public employees as they struggle to comply with laws requiring them to balance their budgets.
In addition to the large cut in state aid, the Senate agreement would cut nearly $20 billion proposed for school construction; $8 billion to refurbish federal buildings and make them more energy efficient; $1 billion for the early childhood program Head Start; and $2 billion from a plan to expand broadband data networks in rural and underserved areas.
Of all the things to renovation money? Those are construction dollars that can put people to work right away, while rebuilding necessary structures everyone agrees are crumbling. It's a win-win. And the energy efficiency work on federal bldgs? That saves money in the long run, and conserves energy. And money for states could help stave off tens of thousands of layoffs and budget cuts of essential services all across the country. I would think those 3 areas would be the no-brainers. But we have to cut them to plead for favor with the disgraced, soundly defeated party? And even then, just 3 of them??

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nice To See
A little fire. Speaking to the Democratic Caucus tonight.
Not Confidence-Building
And not a good idea, to piss off Zinni. Come on, Obama team, get your act together.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Laugh til You Cry
Not much time this morning. Back to class in 12 minutes. So I'll crib from TPM a funny sequence of posts. First go to this one, and you really have to watch the horrifying video to see what Republicans care about, and then this one, the very funny - no, painfully funny - response.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I wonder how much smaller the deficit would be if only we could get politicians to pay the right amount in taxes (before they get nominated for cabinet posts). You gotta figure the IRS bills of the ones who actually face confirmation are just a drop in the bucket, compared to all the officials who "forget" to pay taxes on their nannies, their gifts, etc..

At the same time, the tax code is not exactly confidence-building in its clarity. It can be complicated enough for an honest person to have trouble sometimes figuring out exactly how much they are supposed to pay. In the hands of dishonest people - or even just cagey opportunists - it's practically an invitation to cheat.

But when you're a high profile politician there are just a few standard ethics-related things you know you have to avoid if you want to keep your job: 1) don't cheat on your wife; 2) don't drink and drive; and 3) watch out for gifts: don't accept ones you're not supposed to, and pay taxes on the others. Most of us don't routinely think of the tax implications of gifts we receive. These guys do. It's one of only 3 things they have to worry about.

Monday, February 02, 2009

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Must-See TV?
Guess who's on Letterman tonight?

Anyone read the novel by Shusaku Endo? Looks like it will be Martin Scorsese's next film, after he finishes Shutter Island, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel.

The Boss
I thought it was one of the better Super Bowl halftime shows, though that may not be saying much. What did you think?

The Grotrian Pianolina
One of the coolest musical tools ever on the Internets.

Weekend Box Office
1. Taken
2. Mall Cop
3. The Uninvited
4. Hotel for Dogs
5. Gran Torino