Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lord Vader

Ok, this has to say something about capitalism and corporate greed, right?

And not just because I'm reading The Shock Doctrine.

(via kottke)

Physics; Not Just A Good Idea

Nope, they're laws for a reason.

If you've ever played Escape Velocity, watched Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, or any number of other space based shows or countless movies and books you should check out the rather long piece up on Gizmodo going over what actual space combat might look like.

Hint; entertainment doesn't really get it right...

First, pending a major development in propulsion technology, combat spacecraft would likely get around the same way the Apollo spacecraft went to the Moon and back: with orbit changes effected by discrete main-engine burns.

(via kottke)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mr. Walken's Neighborhood

This afternoon I fell down the rabbit hole that is Christopher Walken videos on YouTube. Don't ask how it happened, as usual it's a long story.

Never fear though, I brought this back for you...

Nice sweater too!

First Steps

Well Harry Reid managed to get 60 votes to clear the first truly important procedural vote in the final push to pass health care reform legislation through the Senate very early this morning.

The Plum Line has a good run down of the coverage.

It's worth noting that Republican Senator Tom Coburn on the Senate Floor last night called on the American people to pray that a Senator would not be able to make it to the Capitol to vote for cloture, Robert Byrd was wheeled in shortly thereafter to put the nail in the coffin.

Ezra Klein
has been taking a hard look at Republican obstructionism and the next steps as to the future of the filibuster and legislating in the Senate; with an assist from Paul Krugman in his column today as well.

Not The Best List Ever

The Onion has it's contribution to the yearly top ten list extravaganza up, The Top Ten Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years.

The list itself is pretty disappointing by Onion standards, item number five however is genius...

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World:

...According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God's most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings. "These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant," one Sumerian philosopher wrote. "They must be the creation of a complete idiot."
(via kottke)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Line In The Sand

Well Bernie Sanders is pissed and he says someone should have checked with him before they dropped all the good parts from the bill (ok, I'm paraphrasing a bit here)...

The Plum Line
has confirmed that Sanders is still not saying what his vote will be on cloture either...

Read This Now - Why We Need An Individual Mandate

Per the phrasing of and arguments over the individual mandate's (the requirement that everyone buy insurance) place and significance in the current Senate health care reform bill, Ezra Klein explains why we need the individual mandate...

Pick your favorite system. Socialized medicine in Britain. Single-payer in Canada. Multi-payer with a government floor in France. Private plans with heavy public regulation in Sweden, Germany and elsewhere. None of these plans are "voluntary." In some, there's an individual mandate forcing you to pay premiums to insurance companies. In some, there's a system of taxation forcing you to pay premiums to the government. In all of them, at least so far as I know, participation is required except in very limited and uncommon circumstances. And there's a reason for that: No universal system can work without it.
You should read the whole post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Getting Hot In Here

The voices on the left arguing that the Senate health care "compromise" should be burned down are getting louder and more boisterous and are turning on President Obama.

Today they spread to include progressive congressmen:

Here's Russ Feingold:

This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth.
And Anthony Weiner:
Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge? It’s time for the President to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the President to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate.
What's more the individual mandate, which is the clause in the Senate bill that allows the claim that it will insure 30 million more Americans is coming under fire as well.

Here's Digby with a scathing takedown:
And Obama can say that you're getting a lot, but also saying that it "covers everyone," as if there's a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don't get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn't make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn't even conservative, free market or otherwise. It's some kind of weird corporatism that's very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.

Nobody's "getting covered" here. After all, people are already "free" to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won't make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn't or didn't want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people's money against their will, saying it's for their own good. --- and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don't miss the money as much when they never see it.
I'd really like to make the rejoinder that it probably is worth continuing to fight to make this bill stronger in conference, and that passing it is a concrete first step and that the public option could be revisited via reconciliation in the future. But none of that actually counters what Digby has to say, her point is too simple and clear. Besides she's probably right.

Glenn Greenwald
, not surprisingly, has a post up taking a look at the White House's role, or lack thereof, in the health care battle which is worth a look as well. He pretty much points out that Obama supporters can't have it both ways; either he's got it all figured out and we should trust him to get it done - which means this is his bill, Obama owns it lock, stock, and barrel. Or he doesn't hold any sway over what congress or the senate does and he can't be blamed for the outcome - which means we never should have trusted him in the first place.

All of it makes me a little sick to my stomach. I would feel better if the proposal that's floating around out there somewhere came to fruition and Reid cut a deal with Snowe for her support of the now public option and medicare buy in -less bill, and then burned Lieberman, stripped him of his chairmanship and left him by the side of the road.

Other Business - The Climate Is Still Changing

While we've been preoccupied with the health care battles here in the US, the rest of the world has been paying attention to the Conundrum in Copenhagen.

In a fit of self interest, or at least school boosting, you should check out the Duke COP Blog being updated by students and faculty at the conference.

Closer to home, last week Senators Cantwell and Collins introduced a streamlined 39 page "cap and dividend" bill to tackle emissions. James Boyce has a succinct rundown at the Baseline Scenario (via EK) and the bottom line looks to be auction all permits and send a substantial portion of the funds back to each US household as a dividend.

Interesting stuff, and pleasingly simple which alleviates a good deal of most peoples problems with "cap and trade" proposals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Health Care Hootenanny

Well it certainly has blown up over the past couple of days hasn't it?

The bill coming out of the Senate (maybe) doesn't please most progressives, and once again Joe Lieberman (I-wretched narcissism) probably won't end up paying any price for his nonsensical objections and delaying tactics.

Really it gets to messy to go into detail about, particularly when I'm in grad school for environmental management, not public health.

Once again I'll send you over to Ezra Klein for the details, both on what an ass Lieberman is, how many more people will die if health care reform fails, and why this bill is better than nothing.

The biggest question that leaps to mind is whether the House will pass the Senate bill with the Progressive Caucus saying they won't vote for any bill without a robust public option. Steny Hoyer says he thinks it will get through.

Also worth noting that there are already plans making the rounds to get this passed and then come back for a public option or medicare buy in via reconciliation sometime next year.

The Plum Line links to kill or pass arguments from around the left.

I've probably said this before, but if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of health care reform you need to be reading what Ezra Klein has to say.

Put This In Your Top Ten List Pipe And Smoke It

Being the end of a decade (somewhere along the way we decided to call it the aughts? really?) this December is seeing an awful lot of top ten lists.

This may not be the only one I point you to but it is the one that you're most likely to have missed otherwise and the least likely to be duplicated.

So head over to Bad Astronomy and check out the Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009.

(via GeekDad)

Not Sure What This Kid Has Left To Ask For At X-Mas...

Wow, once again the internets are here to prove that some people have too much time on their hands...

And apparently money to pay that electricity bill, I bet they'll say it was worth every penny.

(via kottke)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Google Phone Lives

Shots of it are appearing in the wild, and if you're tech inclined at all you already know all of this. Google apparently gave it out to a ton of employees for 'dog-food testing' or 'dog-fooding' (no I haven't made those terms up, neither have I heard them before).

The initial reports are promising, and if I wasn't a broke grad student refusng to pay for a data plan I'd be feeling fairly excited...

Wired has the rundown.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Have A Look

Or a whole bunch of looks actually, at this photo project of 100 images in 100 days taken earlier this year in Glacier National Park as part of the celebration of the Park's centennial.

Here is my favorite from the first 50...

The photos were taken by Glacier Park Magazine editor Chris Peterson using a variety of camera platforms that would have been used throughout the Park's history. Be sure to visit the project's site; Peterson's mini-stories behind each image are delightful and revealing. Scroll all the way to the bottom if you'd like to see them in order from day 1.

(via TBP)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Read This Now - Too Good To Be True

I have just stumbled across and am really enjoying the Gaurdian's All The President's Emails series.

I bet you will too. It will spoil the fun if I give you a preview so just head on over there already...

It's A Bird, It's A Plane...

It's a cloud?

The photo is up on The Telegraph's site, apparently that's a lenticular cloud.

(via MR)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Explaining The Deficit

The words are the President's...

ROBERT KUTTNER: You know, most of the things that have been proposed today cost money, and there is this concern about the federal deficit. I hope that your administration will recognize, as I know you will, that it's possible, first of all, to reduce the deficit over time and sometimes in the short run realize that you need to increase the deficit. And I hope the concern about the deficit in the long run doesn't crowd out the need for additional spending in the short run. And I also think that some of these programs that increase jobs and increase GDP are probably the fastest way to get the economy back on a track that will reduce the deficit over time. It's certainly a better way to reduce the deficit than putting ourselves into a -- into a debtor's prison and assume we can deflate our way to recovery.

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think this is an important point. You know, we've been talking a lot about specific initiatives. There is a macroeconomic element to this whole thing. And so let me just amplify what was just said.

We have a structural deficit that is real and growing, apart from the financial crisis. We inherited it. We're spending about 23 percent of GDP and we take in 18 percent of GDP and that gap is growing because health care costs, Medicare and Medicaid in particular, are growing. And we've got to do something about that.

You then layer on top of that the huge loss of tax revenue as a consequence of the financial crisis and the greater demands for unemployment insurance and so forth. That's another layer. Probably the smallest layer is actually what we did in terms of the Recovery Act. I mean, I think there's a misperception out there that somehow the Recovery Act caused these deficits.

No, I mean, we had -- we've got a 9-point-something trillion- dollar deficit, maybe a trillion dollars of it can be attributed to both the Recovery Act as well as the cleanup work that we had to do in terms of the banks. In turns out actually TARP, as wildly unpopular as it has been, has been much cheaper than any of us anticipated.

So that's not what's contributing to the deficit. We've got a long- term structural deficit that is primarily being driven by health care costs, and our long-term entitlement programs. All right? So that's the baseline.

Now, if we can't grow our economy, then it is going to be that much harder for us to reduce the deficit. The single most important thing we could do right now for deficit reduction is to spark strong economic growth, which means that people who've got jobs are paying taxes and businesses that are making profits have taxes -- are paying taxes. That's the most important thing we can do.

We understand that in this administration. That's not always the dialogue that's going on out there in public and we're going to have to do a better job of educating the public on that.

The last thing we would want to do in the midst of what is a weak recovery is us to essentially take more money out of the system either by raising taxes or by drastically slashing spending. And frankly, because state and local governments generally don't have the capacity to engage in deficit spending, some of that obligation falls on the federal government.

Having said that, what is also true is that unless businesses and global capital markets have some sense that we've got a plan, medium and long term, to get the deficit down, it's hard for us to be credible, and that also could be counterproductive. So we've got about as difficult a economic play as is possible, which is to press the accelerator in terms of job growth, but then know when to apply the brakes in the out-years and do that credibly. And you know, we are trying to strike that balance, but we're going to need help from all of you who oftentimes are more credible than politicians in delivering that message.

Because we want to leverage whatever public dollars are spent, and we are under no illusion that somehow the federal government can spend its way out of this recession. But it is absolutely true that any of the ideas that have been -- been mentioned here are still going to require some public dollars, and those are actually good investments to make right now.

This comes from a Brad DeLong post, Paul Krugman got into the same territory in his column the other day, looking particularly at health care spending issues.

Bottom line, I'm really, really glad that this guy is our President right now. I might not always agree with everything he does, but the man is smart and well informed and I find that very reassuring.

Read This Now - An Ezra Klein Reader

Your assignment is to go catch up on what Ezra Klein had to say today. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he had one of the best blogging days I've ever seen. I was incredibly impressed with several of his posts.

This one, on the state of the Senate and legislating in today's climate and conditions and how that affects propositions such as health care reform, in particular...

The U.S. Congress is hostile not only to liberal power, but also to conservative power, and for that matter, to majority governance. The rules trump the election, trump the organizing, trump the 50-plus senators in support of the public option, trump all of it. Liberals will never have 70 votes in the Senate, and, in a useful symmetry for the purposes of coalition building, nor will conservatives, and nor, it seems, will people who want to make hard decisions to solve pressing problems. The story of the public option -- and of the preservation of employer-based health care, and the insufficient cost controls, and the protection of providers, and all the rest -- isn't just a story for liberals. It's a story about our system of governance and its inability to respond to problems even when you stack the deck in change's favor.
Klein has also touch on the filibuster, decision making, and inaction in the Senate today.

These three recent posts (but not from today) on the filibuster, the shaping of the modern filibuster, and negotiating in the Senate are well worth your time as well.

Read This Now - Media Maddness

How the World Works' take on the pending Comcast acquisition of NBC is well worth reading...

But there's the rub. Cable and the Internet have expanded options. The immediate downside: the flagship networks have been reduced to such dire gambles as running Jay Leno every night for an hour in primetime or turning themselves into ongoing lingerie ads. Still, that's OK, because we have somewhere else to go. But when a Comcast buys an NBC Universal, acting in defense against the proliferation of consumer choice, the clear signal is that somehow, some way, the new masters of the universe will be looking for a way to make us pay.
The parts on the negative effects of the proliferation of choices are particularly interesting; while I would mention TGIF instead of The Brady Bunch the dynamic is similar for my generation but probably completely different for folks just a few years younger than I.

That's Ms. Julia Child...

Luckily Julia brought her flame thrower along...

If you watched any of Food Networks next star chef or whatever they called that show compare the contestants reactions to on air failures and ribbing to just how smooth the master is.

(via EMD who informs us that the clip is from 1987)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quotes of the Day

I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity...

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Both quotes are from the same person, care to take a guess? How about a hint the speaker was President of the US and a famous General as well...

Dwight D. Eisenhower said that (not sure if the quotes came at the same time or at different occasions) Bob Hebert opens his column in the NYT today with them. He goes on to argue against ramping up US troop presence in Afghanistan calling it a tragic mistake but also the easier road politically.

It's especially frustrating to try and figure out what the right thing for the US to be doing in Afghanistan is now in light of the new Senate report revealing that in the very opening days of the US invasion Osama bin Laden was within the grasp of US soldiers who were denied the necessary reinforcements to capture him by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

You did a heck of a job Rummy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Which We Take A Musical Interlude...

Procrastinating during finals reading week can take some work, luckily the muppets are here to help...

(via Geek Dad who just got added to the RSS reader)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Charles Krauthammer Can't Handle The Truth

Krauthammer had another error filled fear-mongering anti health care reform column out this past week. Instead of taking it apart here I'll let the White House do the honors, yes that White House...

In today's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer takes great pains to paint a bleak picture of health care reform as "monstrous," "overregulated," and rife with "arbitrary bureaucratic inventions." The columnist's argument may be cogent and well-written, but it is wholly inaccurate.
Running on the White House blog under the heading "Reality Check: Column Ignores Facts about Health Reform" the post calls out Krauthammer's lies; yes the MSM and the WH will prevaricate and give them a nicer name but the fact of the matter is that Krauthammer knows the truth and he's giving his readers lies instead, lets call them what they are shall we.

The Plum Line says to expect more WH push back on media fallacies, let's hope they're right.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Goodbye Abe

Abe Pollin passed away last night. The now late great owner of the Caps and Bullets was a force in DC for years and one of the few sports owners who seemed to truly care about the city and fans that supported his teams.

Building the MCI Center (yes we're rolling old school with the names today) with his own money in a downtown DC neighborhood probably did more than any other single action to help the city and its denizens in the past several decades. It is a shame that other owners couldn't follow his example.

The WaPo has lots of coverage including a nice bit from Ted Leonsis, who thankfully does seem cut from the Pollin mold.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Read This Now - Because Rahm Said Too

If you've ever wondered what gets read at the White House, TPM has a peek inside at least for this week.

The President liked this blog post from Ron Brownstein and its summary of cost controls in the health care reform bill.

Rahm apparently told senior staffers not to come to the next meeting if they hadn't read the piece, don't worry you're welcome to keep reading this blog regardless.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Al Gore Is On A Rampage

On the airwaves of NBC at least, first 30 Rock now this...

Apparently it's 'Green Week' on NBC.

(via my friend KS)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Begun It Has...

End soon it will not I fear. The Democratic caucus in the Senate marshaled the requisite 60 votes tonight to pass a cloture motion opening debate on the health care reform bill (you are correct that makes no sense, unfortunately that's how the Senate rolls).

Now we're likely to get fairly endless debate and a ton more cloture votes, somewhere online today someone remarked that Harry Reid needs a cloture vote before he sneezes these days, with the smart money on the action coming to a head shortly before the State of the Union to give the President a deliverable.

Right now Lieberman (I-narcissistic asshole land) (Is Joe reminding anyone else of Ralph Nader a bit these days?) and Blanche Lincoln are threatening to filibuster a bill containing a public option and Bernie Sanders is making noises about whether he'll support a bill that doesn't contain the public option.

Ahh the Senate, gotta love me some parliamentary procedure!

Maybe He Should Have Said Excuse Me Mr. Nobel Laureate

I'd tell you to just go read War Room, but our interface is nicer than Salon's these days so you should stay here and laugh along with Al Gore...

Let's go far, quickly people.

Obama Goes Deep

A little hokey yes, but pretty cute too (hey kids and football almost always go over well). What's with all the slo-mo with the President though? This would be a much better spot if they just showed him tossing the ball around with the kids and the pros.

(via Salon, who's new look I'm not fond of. Lets just say I'm happier with google reader everyday)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Au Revoir Jean Claude

Jean Claude of Jean Claude & Christo fame has passed away.

Christo & Jean Claude's website has a brief note, the art will go on.

(via kottke)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Read This Now - Sen. Coburn Still An A-Hole

The NYT editorial board breaks it down...

(it's short so you get the whole thing)

November 16, 2009

Dr. No and the Wounded Veterans

A creative plan to help wounded veterans and their exhausted families adapt to the strain of long-term home care is on the brink of bipartisan approval — but for the familiar obstructionism of Senator Tom Coburn. This is one of the most deplorable displays by the lawmaker-physician, an Oklahoma Republican who relishes playing the self-styled budget hawk by putting attention-grabbing holds on crucial legislation.

The urgently needed legislation consolidates more than a dozen improvements in veterans’ health care — most notably a new assistance program for family members who wind up providing lifelong home nursing to severely disabled veterans. These vital caregivers — who sacrifice careers and put huge strains on their own mental health — assume an obligation “that ultimately belongs to the government,” Senator Daniel Akaka, the bill’s chief sponsor, properly notes.

The measure also expands benefits for women veterans who suffered sexual trauma on duty, extends veterans’ care in rural areas, tightens quality control at V.A. hospitals, and ensures that catastrophically disabled veterans will not be charged for emergency services in community hospitals.

The omnibus legislation drew unanimous committee approval. But Senator Coburn objected to quick floor passage, demanding that the five-year, $3.7 billion cost be offset with immediate budget cuts. The senator’s argument rings hollow in the face of veterans’ suffering and the world of deficit budgeting brought on by his party’s tax cuts and zealous war investments.

Now he is demanding balanced books for wounded vets? Sheer embarrassment should drive the senator into retreat as he trifles with veterans’ needs and burnishes his petty role as Dr. No.

When the board is on they're tough to beat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Read This Now - The Government Wants Your Land

Yeah so that Kelo eminent domain decision worked out really well, eh?

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.
I hate to say it, but man does this make Clarence Thomas look good. Maybe that just goes to illustrate how crazy the Supreme Court ruling was on this case...
Justice Thomas called New London’s plan “a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation.”
I also didn't know that 43 states changed their laws to bar similar eminent domain takings in the future.

Now You See Him...

Liu Bolin, the artist and subject of this image, is not truly an invisible man. He's just painted to look that way.

(That means no photshop, and be sure to follow the link for more shots, try to find him in the last image)

(via MR)

Tea Party Like it's 2009

So I'll let you watch this one and soak it in... Wait for it though it starts like you would expect but give the kid a chance...

"Columbus Go Home!!"

(via TP)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Read This Now - Environmental Takes

I almost called this post Things Are (Not) Getting Better All The Time, but that isn't really the point.

The point is to mention a couple of new articles from the past week...

The NYT has the continuing saga of the Pacific Garbage Patch or Trash Gyre or what ever the nom de jour is these days. Bottom line: it's getting bigger, which given the amount of waste we produce as a planet is too be expected...

The research team has not tested the most recent catch for toxic chemicals, but the water samples show that the amount of plastic in the gyre and the larger Pacific is increasing. Water samples from February contained twice as much plastic as samples from a decade ago.

And just when you thought the fuss had subsided Elizabeth Kolbert, who has been doing yeomen's work on the environment beat at the New Yorker, takes down the Superfreakonomics crew. Hard.
To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that “SuperFreakonomics” takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.

HTWW chimes in, recommending Kolbert's piece and trashing the DCMA take down notice served to Brad DeLong when he posted the Superfreakonomics climate change chapter (which can still be found out there on the internets if you know what you're doing).

Also DeLong has announced that in response to the take down notice served by HarpersCollins he will also be taking down his praise for and links to any HarpersCollins published works and will no longer recommend anything from the publisher.

(Kolbert will be discussing climate change in a live chat today at 3)

(NYT via EK, NY'er via kottke)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Read This Now - The Great Debaters

They don't reside in Congress, at least not these days, and I wouldn't go looking for them in the Senate either.

Ezra Klein
has the withering details, the truth hurts but it's good that someone is willing to say it.

Most members of Congress know virtually nothing about health care. Even the relevant committees only have a handful of knowledgeable legislators. Congress doesn't debate the legislation so much as debate its politics. Watching Congress consider this bill is like watching campaign ads being recorded. It's not like watching people talk about hard issues in a serious way. It's sad, actually.

Is This The Week That Twitter Really Arrived?

I'm not sitting here tonight breathlessly following the events on the house floor, but if I was I would be doing it on twitter. Of which Ezra Klein just opined "live tweeting is the new live blogging" in directing his readers to his twitter feed for ongoing coverage as well as offering a few other good sources to follow in the twittersphere, or whatever we're calling it these days.

Tonight's health care coverage coupled with the coverage of this past week's elections where the cable channels were widely panned, Dan Rather said (and I quote) "So much of what passed for political coverage last night was like watching a manure spreader in a windstorm." Has the consensus building that the place to be to follow politics is on twitter. Particularly if you are looking for decent, up to the minute, on the ground reporting.

It's entirely possible that we've just crossed a threshold into a new era of news delivery and a greater sense of legitimacy and import for twitter as a news medium.

If you were curious, yes I am on twitter (hcoppola) and no I don't actually post anything.

Ladies & Gentlemen Markos Moulitsas Is In The House!

Tom Tancredo is a hypocritical, disingenuous scumbag and Markos Moulitsas isn't having it...

The red meat comes about five minutes in when Tancredo claims that veterans tell him they don't like their government run health care and Moulitsas says that as a veteran and not a draft dodger he can speak to that issue and Tancredo is wrong.

(via Rick Hertzberg)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Have a Cat?

You'll love Simon's Cat even if you don't but cat owners out there these are for you.

Unfortunately the videos aren't embeddable so head to the youtube page or the website to meet Simon's Cat.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nuclear is Natural

Did you know that there are naturally occurring nuclear reactors in uranium deposits in Gabon?

Maybe I should say were since none are currently active (that we know about) and most of the 16 possible sites were up and running so to speak millions or billions of years ago. The short version is that water flooded the uranium deposits and somehow acted as a neutron moderator which set off the chain reaction for fission. Things heated up the water boiled off, things cooled down the water reflooded the uranium and boom more fission, apparently this cycle was repeated for approximately 150,000 years and none of them ever blew up.

I got the story from kottke, who linked to Wikipedia but then came back to offer this more interesting BLDGBLOG post which then goes on to link to a Scientific American piece which I haven't gotten to yet.

Needless to say this is very cool.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Still Worth Reading the Newspaper

I pick up a copy of the NYT pretty much everyday (it helps that my school provides them free of charge) and I thourgouly enjoy reading the paper and doing the crossword even if it takes me a few days to get to it.

Which brings us to this video...

Because I just got to the article in Thursday's Business section on how United lost this guys bags last week.

Welcome To Novemember

It's a rainy morning here and I'm spending my extra hour (perhaps unwisely) catching up on some online reading.

Among other things that I've skimmed, here are this mornings highlights...

Tom Pelton and Jennifer Jacquet (who's gone a bit off the deep end of late) both take a look at a recent Pew poll showing a decline in the number of Americans who believe that global warming is real. And no Tom, I'm not comforted by the fact that roughly the same percent of Americans also don't believe in evolution.

Tom Pelton also touched recently on enforcement issues being the make or break part of finally cleaning up the Bay; this is a fairly routine conversation for me and several of my fellow students who've also spent time on the Bay.

The WaPo ombudsman runs down reader reaction's to the Post's make over.

Glenn Greenwald raps David Brooks and Paul Krugman salutes neo-con bravery.

And now I need a fresh cup of coffee...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Read This Now - Pumpkin Smashing

After some All Hollows Eve document dumping (the Friday evening dump will never get old will it?) Andrew Cohen has a brief rundown...

Still, when this sort of corroborating evidence emerges into the light of public scrutiny, it becomes harder for those who deny the basic facts to continue to do so. The third or fourth draft of history is usually clearer than the first.

So, the trick this Halloween is the recognition that there are still plenty of liars and con men and rogues running around doing great damage to our legal and political and economic systems.

The treat this Saturday is the knowledge that they usually get busted in the end — and sometimes even before all the damage is really done.
(via TPM)

Breathe Deep Cubbies Fans

Sounds like ya'll just got a class act new owner. The storied franchise certainly deserves as much.

Check out Scott Simon's great interview with the new owner of the Chicago Cubs, Tom Ricketts, from Weekend Edition Saturday. Be sure to actually listen to the conversation, that is after all what makes NPR so great.

Now if he'd just buy the Skins too...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gotta Give It To The Governator

Arnold doesn't mess around, not only has he done a pretty decent job running California, he always comes up with a reason to keep watching.

This week he vetoed a bill and in his return letter to the State Assembly he called them out for focusing on "unnecessary bills." It probably didn't help that the bill's Author shouted "you Lie!" at Arnold during a recent public event...

The picture comes from Think Progress, who has all the details.

A little more direct than the presidential response, then again at least the guy didn't get terminated.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wait, We Really Have Trained Military Dolphins?

Apparently, this photo is the first thing that came up when I searched flickr for "usmilitary".

I'd noticed it as the credit link for a photo on Tom Ricks' blog and wondered if that meant that the military had its own flickr stream. While that question remains unanswered Johnny Nemonic fans can take solace in knowing that the mine clearing dolphins are out there...

The photo is from flickr user lakerae.

Fred Hiatt Can't Handle The Truth

Well, what else is new? You may be tempted to ask. This time around at least someone's willing to point out the lies (I'm sorry we call them suggestions in DCese).

Peter Orszag (on his White House blog no less) has the take down, and Paul Krugman allows as how Orszag was too kind by far.

Bottom line, Hiatt says specific cost controls are missing from proposed health care reform when in fact they are included.

At this point I'd say Hiatt's credibility is pretty much shot but hey this is the WaPo we're talking about here...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Read This Now - Muslim Brotherhood Better Watch Out For Kanye

Abu Aardvark has the details on the brewing feud between (and when I say between I mean that one side cares and the other is likely to have no idea the opponent exists, like some supposed sports rivalries) Egypt's (increasingly marginalized) Muslim Brotherhood and international pop star Beyonce.

Bottom line, ya should of thought twice before taking on the global hegemonic force that is Jay-Z and you know Kanye's showing up too.

(I kid, but seriously it's interesting and amusing at the same time)

(via news desk)

Getting Closer

Harry Reid has reportedly scheduled a 3:15 press conference this afternoon and is expected to announce the details of the health care reform bill that will hit the Senate floor.

Rumors currently have it including the state opt out version of the public option and a CBO score in the works.

We'll try to bring you a round up of reactions later tonight, it seems like only 8 or 9 months ago that the powers that be said this day would come 3 or 4 months ago...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Gonna Be A Long Season

I haven't even managed to watch a Skins game yet this year, partly due to a lack of TV (although that technological fix has been made) and mostly because everyone says don't bother it's just too painful.

You know things are officially really bad when The Onion comes a calling...

Redskins Hold Press Conference to Announce That They Are Still Sort Of A Football Team.

(via FB)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking the Sandbox to a Whole New Level

This is absolutely mesmerizing...

the amount of time and practice and trail and error in discovering what moves would be required to create the desired images boggles my mind.

(via kottke)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Read This Now - SuperFreakonnomics, A Super Waste of Your Time

I've been increasingly disappointed in the quality of the posting and general work and thought on the Freakonomics blog of late, and now with a new book out I've been wondering whether I should try and make time to read some of it.

Reviews on the climate change section lump the authors squarely in the George Will camp and that's not a good place to be if you'd like to remain a respected author or academician (Right wing editorialists being another breed altogether.) Which makes me think I have better ways to spend my now (grad school is a lot of work) more precious time.

To seal the deal lets turn to Ezra Klein who'd like to point out that the problem isn't so much that Dubner and Levitt get climate change wrong it's how they go about getting it wrong and that they make those same errors throughout the book...

But before people begin believing that the problem with Super Freakonomics is that it annoys environmentalists, let's be clear: The problem with Super Freakonomics is it prefers an interesting story to an accurate one. This is evident from the very first story on the very first page of the book...

You can go on and on in this vein. It's terrifically shoddy statistical work. You'd get dinged for this in a college class. But it's in a book written by a celebrated economist and a leading journalist. Moreover, the topic isn't whether people prefer chocolate or vanilla, but whether people should drive drunk. It is shoddy statistical work, in other words, that allows people to conclude that respected authorities believe it is safer for them to drive home drunk than walk home drunk. It's shoddy statistical work that could literally kill somebody. That makes it more than bad statistics. It makes it irresponsible.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Saving the Environment Can Save $ Too

Well this seems right up my alley, strangely I knew nothing about it until 10 minutes ago and now there are but a scant two hours left to get on board with this years theme and blog about climate change.

Luckily I was already planning on steering folks towards today's NYT piece on gas leaks in natural gas processing and delivery. It seems that ton of methane, the major part of what we commonly refer to as natural gas and a really scary greenhouse gas worse than CO2 scary, is pretty much constantly escaping. The leaks go largely unnoticed since they are only visible through an infra red camera and apparently most of the industry isn't aware of or doesn't care about the problem. Not only is this bad for the environment, it's bad for business as any lost gas costs the companies extracting and transporting it.

As Revkin and Krauss point out this ought to be a no brainer, patch the leaks, save gas, make more money, save the environment and score some good PR all in one fell swoop. At least a few companies have already gotten with the program, but it would make sense for everyone to be doing it. And if the companies don't come to that conclusion on their own this would be one of those situations where regulation forcing innovation really would be a good thing for everyone involved.

Visit the Blog Action Day website.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Gauntlet - Does Harry Reid Have A Backbone?

Last week the insurance agencies peeled off and hit the current leading health care reform plans hard.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid testified as a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the need to strip the insurance agencies of their anti-trust exemption.

Ezra Klein points out that Harry Reid doesn't have any qualifications to testify as a witness in this hearing other than he's the Senate Majority Leader and if the insurance agencies want to take a run at health care reform well then they better be ready for the repercussions.

If Klein is right, that's a pretty nice turnaround from Reid and the Senate Dem's who have shown very little spine to date.

Forget Photo of the Day

This site will keep you busy for a while and coming back to see more.

Vivian Maier's photographs were recently acquired at auction, around 40,000 of them from the 50's, 60's, and 70's in and around Chicago, previously unknown they are now being exhibited for the very first time online.

That's my favorite from the first dozen or so, if you're in to street photography you're in for a good time.

(via kottke)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good Morning Mr President, You're Now A Nobel Laureate

There's a lot of hubbub out there about whether President Obama deserves to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. You should take six minutes to hear what he thinks about it...

First I'd like to note that this was so far off the White House's radar screen they didn't have a speech ready (It isn't often you see Obama giving a speech that he clearly hasn't rehearsed and isn't intimatly familiar with) which is interesting, it also begs the question do winners get a heads up? Apparently not would seem to be the answer.

I'll just say that while Obama hasn't accomplished any concrete peace accords or disarmament or even managed to wrap up the fiasco in Iraq he has made significant strides in returning multilateralism and international cooperation to the forefront of global diplomacy and I am certain that the world is a safer and more peaceful place for his Presidency and leadership.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Read This Now - A Taste Of Their Own Medicine

Nick Kristof has had just about enough out of Congress on health care (finally) and proposes in today's column that if Congress fails to pass health care reform this year that members of Congress lose their health care (government run by the by) in an equal proportion to the number of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured...

Congressional critics of President Obama’s efforts to achieve health reform worry that universal coverage will be expensive, while their priority is to curb social spending. So here’s their chance to save government dollars in keeping with their own priorities.

Those same critics sometimes argue that universal coverage needn’t be a top priority because anybody can get coverage at the emergency room. Let them try that with their kids.

Some members also worry that a public option (an effective way to bring competition to the insurance market) would compete unfairly with private companies and amount to a step toward socialism. If they object so passionately to “socialized health,” why don’t they block their 911 service to socialized police and fire services, disconnect themselves from socialized sewers and avoid socialized interstate highways?
And you know what? He's only getting warmed up, go read the whole piece.

I Got Your AutoTune Right Here

AutoTune the News doesn't do it for me. Autotuning Carl Sagan on the other hand...

(via kottke)

Lawyers, Guns, And Money

Or Congress, Warplanes, School Lunches, And Money...

Apparently $1 billion is too expensive when it would go toward making school lunches healthier and more accessible to the nation's children, but $2.5 billion is just the right amount to spend on military cargo jets that the Administration and the military don't want.

I guess money only costs something when it would help children.

(via EK)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why A Public Option Is Necessary

Fox News's Shep Smith is making sense again, this time he's off the reservation taking apart Senator John Barrasso's (R-WY) asinine anti public option arguments...

(via TPM)

Wait, The Democrats Are In Charge?

Funny cause it's true, unfortunately that's also why it's so sad...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democratic Super Majority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grayson To House GOP - Go F**** Yourselves

Alan Grayson (D-FL) is calling 'em like he sees 'em. First he equated the GOP healthcare reform plan to "don't get sick" and if you do, do us all a favor and "die quickly".

Then Grayson stepped it up a notch after House GOP members complained and demanded an apology. Grayson took to the floor to apologize all right...

...only he apologized to the estimated 40,000 plus Americans who died last year in part because they lacked health insurance.

As several folks have already pointed out, the GOP is really going to attempt to take exception to Grayson's charge that they have no plan when a) they have no plan and b) the GOP has spent the past couple of months running around spewing blatantly fraudulent statements about the Democratic healthcare proposals (death panels anyone?)?

Give me a break already, actually give me universal healthcare and a public option already.

(via Salon)

Monday, September 28, 2009


Just like the Cos backed up President Carter on calling out the racism that underlies much of the crazy opposition to President Obama and his proposals, Rick Hertzberg has my back (not that I bothered to write this down before or that he's actually supporting something that he heard me say, but still) on having to appreciate Jimmy Carter just straight up not giving a damn and calling it like he sees it...

People keep asking me why I think Jimmy Carter said that he thinks that “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.”

The short answer is that I think he said it because he thinks it’s true.

The longer answer is: (a) President Carter is almost eighty-five years old. He doesn’t have time to dither. (b) He is a nonracist liberal who grew to manhood in the racist white South. (c) When somebody asks him a question, he answers it honestly. (d) He doesn’t necessarily calculate the effects of how a distorted version of his answer will play politically. (e) Nor does he necessarily give a damn.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Wow, 8% of the humans living on the earth are China Mobile wireless subscribers...

That is a very impressive stat, although I think it speaks more to just how many people there are in China than anything else. It's probably also representative of the increasing move away from landlines, especially as the gap in ease and cost of setting up wireless in rural areas vs. landlines continues to grow.

(via HTWW)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health Care Now

You Know kind of like George's dad and serenity, we all deserve this one...

From all those famous folks in the video and the not so famous ones at MoveOn.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Bottle Stands By You Mr. Walker

Great six minute long Johnnie Walker ad starring Robert Carlye in a single take...

The video comes via Eat Me Daily which also links to an interview with the director, Jamie Rafn.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Read This Now - A Taste Of Mortality

Garrison Keillor waxes poetic on his recent (mild) stroke and ensuing hospital stay, the state of our health care system, and the gentle professionalism of nurses.

He does end with a bit of bite though...

Two weeks ago, you were waltzing around feeling young and attractive, and now you are the object of Get Well cards and recipient of bouquets of carnations. Rich or poor, young or old, we all face the injustice of life -- it ends too soon, and statistical probability is no comfort. We are all in the same boat, you and me and ex-Gov. Palin and Rep. Joe Wilson, and wealth and social status do not prevail against disease and injury. And now we must reform our health insurance system so that it reflects our common humanity. It is not decent that people avoid seeking help for want of insurance. It is not decent that people go broke trying to get well. You know it and I know it. Time to fix it.
Visit Salon for the whole piece.

President You Are...

Barack Obama, not just the most powerful man in the world but also a Jedi Knight.

Visit kottke for the photos and story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Read This Now - Baucus Bill Teardown

The Baucus Bill on health-care reform from Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is out, and Ezra Klein is busy going through it with a fine tooth comb and gleefully breaking it down for his readers.

If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of health care reform this is must read stuff.

Klein also points out that the first draft of the bill currently available is in plain English instead of legislative language, this is apparently a Finance Committee tradition.

(ed. note: top link goes thru to the EK homepage since he's been coming out with new posts all afternoon)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Read This Now - Department Of Worst Case Scenarios

Ezra Klein links to Dylan Ratigan writing about the state of the financial world one year after Lehman Brothers collapsed and wonders if what we need is a Secretary of Nay-saying...

There's no cabinet-level agency dedicated to worst-case thinking (calling Secretary Roubini?), no Department of Buzz-Harshing whirring away somewhere on the periphery of the system. But that's what we need. Because the next economic crisis will look different. Overconfidence hasn't been banished from the financial system, much less the human psyche. Nor is there a regulatory measure capable of protecting against fads and convenient rationalizations. The result is we're giving regulators the power to stop bubbles, but not changing the necessary preconditions for bubbles. And granted, that's difficult to do. But at the least, we could create a louder alarm system, so it would be even harder for those caught in the excitement of the moment to say they never heard the warnings.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Read This Now - This Is Why You're Sick

Yea that's meant to be a riff on this is why you're fat. Micheal Pollan had a very interesting op-ed in the NYT this week examining the health insurance costs generated by America's poor eating habits, which are largely subsidized by the federal government these days (high fructose corn syrup anyone?). Specifically Pollan takes a look at what might well be the coming incentive for the health care lobby to square off against the agri-business lobby in an Alien vs. Predator worthy showdown on Capitol Hill...

But these rules may well be about to change — and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like “pre-existing conditions” and “underwriting” would vanish from the health insurance rulebook — and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change.

The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.
He also throws in a mention of the idea that moving towards regional 'foodsheds' could prove the most productive and healthy change possible for the American diet. Here in Durham we're working on a community supported fisheries project aimed in part at helping create and strengthen the area's 'foodshed'.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glee Rocks!

You should watch it on Hulu, no one wants to see actual ads.

You should also watch this video of Sam Tsui...

Johnny Mac Is Back

Not sure about all the background on this one, but if you're a tennis fan you're sure to enjoy...

(via kotkke)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Read This Now - Dear Mr. President

A touching final note from the late Ted Kennedy to President Obama.

This letter is everywhere and it's worth reading, so instead of the usual Read This Now instruction to click through you can read the letter here...

May 12, 2009
Dear Mr. President,
I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.
On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.
You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.
When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.
There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.
And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.
So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.
At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.
And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.
With deep respect and abiding affection,

This Is Why We Primary Dems

Arlen Specter's latest twitter update (can't bring myself to type in t***t):

This U.S. Senator is going to tell him (the President) emphatically that we need the public option.

(via TPM)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Searching For Extinctions

A couple of scientists have just published a paper in PLoS Computational Biology titled Googling Food Webs: Can an Eigenvector Measure Species' Importance for Coextinctions? Which is a fancy way of saying that by rejiggering Google's algorithm for page ranking it is possible to drastically simplify the calculations needed to model the potential impact of individual species extinction on overall ecosystem balance and possible collapse.

Stefano Allesina and Mercedes Pascual reworked the algorithm in order to apply it to food webs instead of web pages. Allesina told the BBC;

First of all we had to reverse the definition of the algorithm. In PageRank, a web page is important if important pages point to it. In our approach a species is important if it points to important species.
Here is the Abstract (click through for the whole article);
A major challenge in ecology is forecasting the effects of species' extinctions, a pressing problem given current human impacts on the planet. Consequences of species losses such as secondary extinctions are difficult to forecast because species are not isolated, but interact instead in a complex network of ecological relationships. Because of their mutual dependence, the loss of a single species can cascade in multiple coextinctions. Here we show that an algorithm adapted from the one Google uses to rank web-pages can order species according to their importance for coextinctions, providing the sequence of losses that results in the fastest collapse of the network. Moreover, we use the algorithm to bridge the gap between qualitative (who eats whom) and quantitative (at what rate) descriptions of food webs. We show that our simple algorithm finds the best possible solution for the problem of assigning importance from the perspective of secondary extinctions in all analyzed networks. Our approach relies on network structure, but applies regardless of the specific dynamical model of species' interactions, because it identifies the subset of coextinctions common to all possible models, those that will happen with certainty given the complete loss of prey of a given predator. Results show that previous measures of importance based on the concept of “hubs” or number of connections, as well as centrality measures, do not identify the most effective extinction sequence. The proposed algorithm provides a basis for further developments in the analysis of extinction risk in ecosystems.
Now that's a pretty cool example of Google living up to it's motto.

(via kottke)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This Is Why Al Franken Is A Senator

Senator Franken talks health care reform at the Minnesota State Fair...

This video is making the rounds this weekend, I got to it via War Room which reports that the group Franken is talking to "staked out" his booth and yelled at hem when he arrived.

Really nice to see some back and forth without screaming and nastiness and a Senator who actually is well informed and knowledgeable.