Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cuter Scooter

I saw the one-way rental bicycles in Paris this summer. Some of my co-workers actually used them and thought they were a wonderful idea. Now Milan has done Paris one better by doing the same thing with scooters.

But beyond that it looks like the manufacturer has made big strides by reducing the component parts count from 1000 to 150 thereby reducing the price. Working smarter not harder.

Scientists Tell Pelosi: No More Ab-only Funding

Perhaps this is sign of returning sanity in Congress.


If this is the angle that Lott is exploiting, we can expect there to be a few more Republican resignations before year's end.

Parable of the bird feeder

A dear relative of mine sent the following parable as a part of a Thanksgiving communication. He considered it to be appropriate somehow.
I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. What a beauty of a bird feeder it is, as I filled it lovingly with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table ... everywhere!

Then some of the birds turned mean. They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud. They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore. So I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be ... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now let's see .... Our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, and free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.

Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands. Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families; you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor; your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English.

Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to "press one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Just my opinion, but maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.
If you agree, pass it on; if not, continue cleaning up the poop!

That lit my fire pretty good and I responded with the following:
We wouldn't be having all this discussion about illegal immigrants if they were white Canadians. Racism against dark people who sound funny is the fuel of the immigration debate. It's a politically correct cover. Every single person I've encountered who is up in arms about the bad things illegal immigrants are doing to America is white and privileged. Sometimes they are good people otherwise and just can't face the fact that different sorts of people give them the willies. The people in Temple (the Texas hometown of my youth) who set up a private swimming pool didn't think they were racists. The just didn't want to share water with those icky black people. It can be a sneaky thing.

In Paul Krugman's new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal" (which I highly recommend), he did a study of how Republicans have been able to win elections despite being the party of rich, white folk. The data made it clear that won by finding the right euphemisms to appeal to closet racists who would otherwise have nothing in common with the Republican agenda.

I am no longer content in letting those euphemisms go unchallenged. So I stand by my position.

You and I differ because I think that the evidence shows (cf Krugman above) that by-and-large big government has been a good thing. Your generation especially benefitted from big government in the form of the New Deal and the GI Bill. Unions were strong and poor and middle-class incomes were at a peak that hasn't been seen since. Tax rates on the wealthy were high. The range of incomes between the richest and the poorest was sufficiently narrow that Krugman labels the era the Great Compression.

Today, thanks to the Republicans and complicit Democrats, big government functions more as a pipeline for big business and special interests. The farm bill is a case in point. The way it is currently structured it is filled with subsidies for inefficient and archaic practices that tend to benefit agricultural middlemen and corporate entities instead of farmers. For example, when we provide food aid to foreign countries the grain must come from government surplus stockpiles and be shipped on American-flagged ships. With demand for corn so high that it is driving up food prices at the grocery there are no surpluses any longer. So we buy grain on the open market here at high prices. The tiny fleet of ships that are American-flagged then transport the grain at high rates because they have an unassailable monopoly. When the grain arrives it rarely is what is appropriate for the local economy so the recipient NGO's have found that it works better to sell the grain on the international market and use the money to buy local products that support the local farmers. The right way to do it would be just to give the NGO's money directly. But this byzantine process lines middleman pockets all along the way with your tax dollars.

Big government isn't evil. Just big government by the richest 1%. And others who aspire to that.

The conversation continues in the comments. Please free to add your two cents.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No More Recess Appointments

The Democratic Congress is playing hardball with the White House. By a strategy of pro forma sessions Congress can be "in session" without actually doing any work. This prevents the White House from being able to make recess appointments of people that would certainly fail Senate confirmation. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Skin Stem Cells

From FuturePundit:
"They are happy about this result because it probably will make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. But the result also seems to show that the difference between embryonic stem cells and other cells is just different settings on a few genetic switches in the cell. So doesn't this result make embryonic stem cells seem less magical and less supernatural?"

Out on the Edge of Town...

We have a modest facility that is seeking out the secrets of the universe. Read about LIGO.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peak Oil

The Wall Street Journal admits that peak oil has arrived.

Allocate Your Resources Like a Honey Bee

When rules and heuristics can't cut it in a world of ever-changing demand, dance: "Tovey and Nakrani set to work translating the bee strategy for these idle Internet servers. They developed a virtual “dance floor” for a network of servers. When one server receives a user request for a certain Web site, an internal advertisement (standing in a little less colorfully for the dance) is placed on the dance floor to attract any available servers. The ad’s duration depends on the demand on the site and how much revenue its users may generate. The longer an ad remains on the dance floor, the more power available servers devote to serving the Web site requests advertised."

Making the Case for Vaccination

Last year, there were no reported deaths in the U.S. from measles, diphtheria, mumps, polio, or rubella (German measles), according to research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reducing the Violence in Iraq

Now that the Brits have pulled out of Basra, where's the bloodbath? Actually violence is down 90 per cent. Yes, that one tenth of what it was when the British were present. It seems that Iraqi's can govern themselves quite nicely when given the chance.

OK, US, now it's your turn.

Telling Actions

What does it say when your internet fund-raising takes a jump when you refer to a certain political opponent as a bitch? I'm glad I don't have to suck up to those sorts of folks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Simple Rules

A few simple rules can create behavior in a swarm that almost looks like it has a mind of its own. Researchers have demonstrated that once you understand the simple rules that govern the behavior of individuals much of swarm behavior can be explained.

Now, to only translate that into politics.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a Horse Race

In Iowa the polls are so close among the three leaders that anyone could win it. I like that.

The Bush War and the Bush Tax

Thank you, George and his legion of enablers. Your pointless war is going to cost me and my grandchildren a whopping $1.5 trillion that we didn't need to spend.

Creative Destruction

Courtesy of a reference by my man Krugman here's an article that points out that while America is ahead of the world in medical innovation the reason isn't the high prices we pay. It's the government research infrastructure that deserves the credit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Correction: Three Republicans to vie for Hankins seat

Word is it that Carol Moser is going to throw her hat into the Republican ring for the Washington 8th LD seat. If Shirley Hankins actually decides to run again, that would make a 4-way primary with Rick Jansons and Sean McGrath. Wow! That should make for an interesting campaign.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conscience of a Liberal

Paul Krugman's new book should be a call to arms for those wish to improve the lives of low and middle income Americans. Every once in a while there comes along a fresh viewpoint that changes everything. Paul is first to say that his conclusions were not what he expected to find but he was driven to them by the data. Our country can do better than it is doing now because it's done it before.