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!