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.

Nice Picture, Now What Do You Really Look like?

Food In Real Life is a one design blog examining how closely food resembles it's packaging or other advertising renditions and appearances.

Not surprisingly most items aren't up to snuff (you must already have heard that they use glue for milk when shooting cereal boxes, and that they place each sesame seed on a burger bun with tweezers before the shoot) but there are a few (think pop tarts and Uncle Bens) that are fairly accurate.

Bonus points for the tastiness reviews.

(via EMD)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Catch And Release

Carl Safina talks about why we shouldn't take the biggest fish we catch home to eat while on a great little fishing trip with Andy Revkin.

(Not Quite) All The Right Moves

Since I'm now at Duke University studying environmental management, the dealings of Duke Energy (particularly when related to climate change etc) are increasingly catching my eye.

So good for Duke Energy for leaving the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy after the group continued to fight efforts to pass climate change legislation. Duke Energy also deserves credit for leaving the National Association of Manufacturers for the same reasons earlier this spring.

Good to see that Duke Energy, which has been an industry leader in supporting climate change legislation, is making good on it's talk. Hopefully this trend will continue and it won't turn out to be a huge green-washing fiasco.

When we get comprehensive climate change legislation and Duke Energy stands behind it I'll dispense with the caveat in the title.

(via TP)

The Nightly News

I don't watch the nightly news very often, truth be told our tv currently receives no signals so I don't watch a lot of television period. But it's still worth noting that Charles Gibson is leaving the ABC anchor chair and Diane Sawyer will (finally) be taking over the job.

This will be the first time ever that two of the three main evening news anchors are women.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Terminate Robo-calls

Well not every single last one just yet, but starting today (September 1) you can report most robo-call solicitations to the FTC, which now requires that solicitors obtain your written permission before robo-calling you...

American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year," said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. "Starting September 1, this bombardment of prerecorded pitches, senseless solicitations, and malicious marketing will be illegal. If consumers think they're being harassed by robocallers, they need to let us know, and we will go after them.
(via HTWW, click thru for the number to call to complain)