Monday, February 28, 2011

Obama Calls Their Bluff
Pres says: Yeah sure, states, let's amend the health-care bill. You are all free to opt out of reform mandates ASAP. If you can....
The legislation would allow states to opt out earlier from a range of requirements, including the mandate, if they could demonstrate that other methods would allow them to cover as many people, with insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, as provided by the new law. The changes must also not increase the federal deficit.
Good luck with that.
The Myth of the Useless Bureaucrat
Krugman points to a compelling Washington Monthly piece making the case that huge cuts to the government payroll doesn't help us reduce the deficit; it increases it. The Nobel Prize-winning economist adds:
...any private corporation would have no trouble understanding the argument that you need more auditing, more supervision, to keep costs under control. But when it comes to government, the myth of the useless bureaucrat persists.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

See Mother Jones' "Eight Charts that Explain Everything That's Wrong with America."
A Computer is Not in a Situation
Stanley Fish on Watson

Monday, February 21, 2011

Too Quiet
I'm as big an Obama cheerleader as they come, but the administration is being too quiet on this Wisconsin moment. It's time to show unqualified support for organized labor and collective bargaining rights. The President's first statement was strong and got to the point - that it seemed the Governor was attacking unions. Since then, nothing. Protesters in Madison deserve better.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan - the least intelligent nerd since Revenge II - finally agrees with Michael Moore about something: the protests in Wisconsin over the brand-new Governor's plan to end the collective bargaining rights of public employees, including teachers, have brought the spirit of Cairo to America. The thing is, Ryan thinks that's a bad thing....

Whose side was he on in Egypt, anyway? Maybe a reporter could ask him.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quote of the Day
"You guys (Americans) are evil," he says with a laugh. "Canada's the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don't need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you're broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard's baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby's premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home."
Click the link to see who, if you dare.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
Mother Jones offers a cogent, informed, sane analysis. Both the good news and the bad.
Fox Geezer Syndrome
Via Kevin Drum, this is a must-read, if your parents have become batshit conservative crazy in the last 2 years. Luckily, I'm not in that boat, but maybe you are, or someone you know is. Pass it on.
It's not every day that you get to watch a successful revolution unfold over the course of a few weeks. And it's only these days that you can watch it from the comfort of a coffee shop as reports stream in over Twitter, as I am doing now, with Bob Dylan in the background, singing "everybody must get stoned". Either appropriate or not, for the moment, not sure.

Considering this new era of revolution, below find some of my favorite celebratory tweets of the morning, instead of the usual clip from some prestigious newspaper.

@NickKristof: Omar Suleiman says that #Mubarak has quit, armed forces in charge! People power wins -- for now....

@theharryshearer: 3 weeks to take down a dictator. Time well spent.

@SultanAlQassemi: I love you Egypt.

@theharryshearer: Dear George W. Bush: this is how the Middle East gets re-made. No invasions necessary.

@davidcorndc: Number of Egyptian civilian deaths during revolution: approx. hundreds. Number of Iraqi civilian deaths during war: 100,000 or more. #Egypt

@AP_Ken_Thomas: CAIRO (AP) _ Egypt's ElBaradei: "This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated."

@davidcorndc: Glenn Beck just ran to the Safeway to buy more canned goods. #Egypt #caliphateacoming

@dcdebbie: Never forget, it took the courage of a 26 year old woman to start this revolution: #Egypt [me: the video this link refers to is now posted above.]

@kagrox: Egyptian people greet selves as liberators.

@SCClemons: Feels odd to be cheering for a military government in #Egypt w/total power. Actually, I am not cheering for that. Lots could still go wrong

@LaraABCNews: Chants in Tahrir: 'Muslims, Christians, We are One.' This is the rebirth of a country, with a feeling that anything is possible #Egypt

@brianbeutler: McCain conflicted. Happy Mubarak's gone, but furious about all the gay high-fiving in the salons of Georgetown.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Whose Turn Is It?
Monopoly Live is a new version of the same old game, with one big difference - a big-brotherish electronic monitor towering over the board to tell you whose turn it is, which space you should occupy, how much money you have, basically squeezing the last drops of fun out of it.
The tower, powered by 4 AA batteries, bathes the board in infrared light, and a camera can see reflectors placed on each game piece. To roll the die, you hide your game piece from the camera by cupping your hand over it, and the computer rolls, complete with fake dice sounds. It then watches to make sure you land on the right property. There are new random events like a horse race, auctions, or a gas tax, and there’s an option to pay a bit more to upgrade your utilities so they are green.
What's the point of being an actual big brother now, if some electronic gizmo is going to eliminate all opportunities for bullying, pointing out mistakes, running the game as we see fit, etc?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Don't Buy the Smurfberries
How can this possibly be legal?
Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs' Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple....But like a growing number of parents, Madison's mom, Stephanie Kay, was shocked to find very real charges from iTunes show up in her e-mail box days later.
The app can cost money to download of course, and most of them do, but I didn't know iPhone apps could subsequently charge money to your iTunes account. But more basic than that, you can charge real money for imaginary fruit?

Friday, February 04, 2011

We Are All Egyptians
That's the title of Nick Kristof's op-ed in today's NYTimes
At Tahrir Square’s field hospital (a mosque in normal times), 150 doctors have volunteered their services, despite the risk to themselves. Maged, a 64-year-old doctor who relies upon a cane to walk, told me that he hadn’t been previously involved in the protests, but that when he heard about the government’s assault on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, something snapped.

So early Thursday morning, he prepared a will and then drove 125 miles to Tahrir Square to volunteer to treat the injured. “I don’t care if I don’t go back,” he told me. “I decided I had to be part of this.”

“If I die,” he added, “this is for my country.”
What Mubarak's disgraceful end has done is bind up all peace-loving, freedom-loving citizens of the world in unity with the protests. Any hesitations that were there before - he has at least been a helpful US ally, and maintained a peaceful border with Israel - have fallen away with the brutality of his hired hands.

Rooting for a movement like this, from the safety of America, is tricky. The people could be crushed; the resulting government could be no better. Something indeed worse may come of it for the people of Egypt and the world - some ruler even more oppressive and more dangerous. But that caution hardly seems to matter now. Hundreds of thousands have stood up to their dictator in peaceful rebellion. Greeted with a downpour of rocks and nail-studded clubs, firebombs and razors, they stand there still. What other choice do we have than to believe in and hope for them?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Removing the Witnesses
It's getting ugly.
The concerted effort to remove journalists lent a sense of foreboding to events in the square, where battles continued between the protesters and the Mubarak supporters, who human rights workers and protesters say are being paid and organized by the government.
Shameful and sad, not just because of the horrifying violence and brutal thuggery of the moment, but because of its certain long-lasting impact: hatred, division, and mistrust among the Egyptian people. That's no way to start a new government. Violence is no way to eliminate opposition, it's a way to ensure it, likely for generations.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Food: Eat Less, Make it Yourself
The new USDA Dietary Guidelines are out, including some shockingly good advice. The NYTimes reports:
As the nation’s obesity crisis continues unabated, federal regulators on Monday issued their bluntest nutrition advice to date: drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables and cut down on processed foods filled with sodium, fat or sugar.

More important, perhaps, the government told Americans, “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” Many Americans eat too many calories every day, expanding their waistlines and imperiling their health.
A great site I just found - Food Politics - breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly in the report. There, Marion Nestle notes:
The report translates its advice (pages 62-68). It translates “Cut back on foods and drinks with added sugars,” a nutrition euphemism, as:
Drink few or no regular sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks. Eat less cake, cookies, ice cream, other desserts, and candy. If you do have these foods and drinks, have a small portion.
But it translates “Cut back on solid fats” in yet another euphemism: “Select lean meats and poultry, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.” This, no doubt, is to avoid the politically impossible “eat less meat.”
In related news, here's some free advice: follow Michael Pollan on Twitter!