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People per Doctor

» Oh, wow: A map of people per doctor. (via br(2) Comments  / [ 11/05/07 ]

The Economic Nightmare of Halloween

» Bloomburg: The Economic Nightmare of Halloween

The first law of economics would be that lump-sum transfers are more economically efficient than in-kind transfers. If you are going to give a gift to somebody, you should just give them the money. They will be a better judge of the best way to spend it. If instead, you give them a specific good, then you make them worse off, unless you somehow miraculously anticipate what the recipient would purchase if he received the money instead... Halloween is no time for thoughtful, targeted gift-giving. At Halloween, each house on a typical American block picks out one type of candy, and they give that exact same candy willy-nilly to everyone who shows up at the door. It's an economic nightmare.

(via WSJ Economics Blog [ 10/31/07 ]

On the popularity of the supply-side orthodoxy

» New Yorker: James Surowiecki why the orthodoxy of supply-side economics remains so popular in the Republican party, despite clear evidence that tax cuts—surprise—shrink government revenue.

Saying today that tax cuts will increase tax revenues is not like saying that bombing Iran constitutes a sensible foreign policy, or that education vouchers will wreck the public schools. It's more like saying that the best way to treat sick people is to bleed them to let out the evil spirits.
[But] the absurd idea that tax cuts pay for themselves is based on an idea that is not at all absurd, which is that tax rates can have an impact on people's behavior.

I've never bought the idea that wealthy people will just refuse to make more money if they are taxed too heavily. When's the last time you saw a movie star—or a hedge fund manager—refuse cash so that they can be taxed at a lower rate? That's senseless.

And let's be clear that the very rich are making much of their money from investments, not from work. People may change their investment strategies to maximize profits, but that's not the same as choosing not to create wealth (ie - "value for society") because they won't be able to keep enough of it.  [ 10/23/07 ]

Man uses pig-latin to organize his gang

» Comedy Gold: A 29-year-old man in Sydney, Australia was taped using a code language to organize his buddies into "reprisal gangs" the day after rioting.

"Ring up a few boys - bring 'ankshays' and 'atbays'," he is recorded as saying. [...]
The police statement explains that Pig Latin moves the first consonantal sound of a word to its end and then adding "ay", turning "shanks" into "ankshays" and "bats" into "atbays."

(via sos(1) Comments  / [ 08/23/07 ]

Did Bush Just Repeal the Fifth Amendment?

» Did Bush Repeal the Fifth Amendment?

Although the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that "No person shall ... be deprived of ... property, without due process of law," on July 17 President Bush issued an executive order authorizing the Treasury department to seize any and all property belonging to individuals who "pose a significant risk" of committing violent acts that undermine the "peace or stability" of Iraq. The action does not require congressional approval.

This out of control administration. (2) Comments  / [ 08/07/07 ]

How Do You Escape From a Sinking Car?

» How Do You Escape From a Sinking Car? Mainly you have to keep your head and remember just a few things. Read it, learn it, live it. (3) Comments  / [ 08/03/07 ]

How the US press got it wrong - for the last 7 years

» Brad DeLong asks the question I've been asking for the last 8 years: What the hell has the US press been doing during the Bush presidency? As I've said here before, I really think the press has played a significant role in contributing to the mess we're in, by their consistent (and lazy) under-reporting of world and national events. Maybe nothing would be different today if they had done their jobs, but at least we would have been clear about what was happening as it transpired.

And as Brad very rightly points out, even now the press really is making excuses more than it's taking responsibility. (2) Comments  / [ 05/08/07 ]

The History of the Minimum Wage: Graphs

» Oregon State University: The History of the US Minimum Wage, in graphs. Very interesting. (via dm [ 05/07/07 ]

Tornado damage in Greensburg Kansas

» Good God. Have you seen the aerial photographs of Greensburg, Kansas following the tornados there? Unbelievable. The accompanying story is grim: Greensburg is gone; its future, unknown.

The wind that took Greensburg away came in a wedge tornado nearly a mile and a half wide. Ninety-five percent of Greensburg took off with it.
Greensburg has at least eight dead so far. A ninth person was killed in Stafford County. As is usual when a wedge tornado rolls through wooden dwellings, some of the dead were found some distance from the torn foundations of their homes. [...]
Some townspeople survived by huddling in bathtubs, or in cold convenience store coolers, or by lying flat on the floorboards of their cars, or by crouching in musty-smelling basements. One survivor, Julie Harshey, hung on to her doorknob as the wind took her off her feet; she watched dishes fly out of her cupboards.

The American Red Cross is on the scene. You can donate to their National Disaster Relief Fund online or by mailing a check to American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. (via br)

Update: A reader asks: "Do you know of anyone who is collecting used clothing for the people of Greensburg?" If you know the answer, please leave the information in comments. Thanks. (14) Comments  / [ 05/06/07 ]

Leisure Time Inequality

» An economic mystery: Why do the poor seem to have more free time than the rich? Scroll down to Monday, Mar. 12, 2007 on this page for a series of rebuttals.  [ 04/30/07 ]

Google Earth is mapping Darfur atrocities

» Google Earth has teamed with the US Holocaust Museum to map the atrocities in Darfur. Now what? What if you created a transparent society, but nobody cared? Take a look at the project yourself, and please, please care. Email your Congressional representative with this link, or call and demand that the US take action. "When it comes to responding to genocide, the world's record is terrible. We hope this important initiative with Google will make it that much harder for the world to ignore those who need us the most." Sara Bloomfield, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (1) Comments  / [ 04/12/07 ]

Fire Don Imus

» I'm always surprised when a celebrity makes a racist slur of some kind and then apologizes in the face of all the outrage. Seriously. I don't know a single person who would use the language Don Imus did, or go on an anti-Semitic bender when they are drunk. It's not that I'm carefully selecting my acquaintances. I simply don't know people who talk that way.

And it's not that I live on the liberal West Coast, either. I grew up in a conservative home in the Midwest, and respect was one of our family values, as it was for the families who lived around us. No one I knew growing up, children or adults, talked that way. I would have been in huge trouble if I'd ever used a racial epithet.

So the controversy surrounding Imus puzzles me. He's too old to have his mouth washed out with soap. Fire him. (9) Comments  / [ 04/10/07 ]

The Overton Window

» I had never heard of the Overton Window, but I'm glad Rafe pointed me to this:

For a lot of reasons, not all of them bad, most people don’t like feeling like they’re disconnecting themselves from the majority of their fellow human beings... [F]or most people, being perceived as an eccentric outlier is something to be feared. This isn’t fundamentally because most people are corrupt, it’s fundamentally because most people are social animals, and feeling connected with the pack is critical to our sense of well-being. This is why “moving the goalposts” works, even when those doing so barely bother to conceal it.

This particular discussion focuses on politics (and that's important) but this is one of those ideas that will resonate in every aspect of your life: at work, when dealing with your kids, affecting social change, and so on. Read the whole thing. (via rc3)

Update: It dawned on me a few minutes ago when reading the Wikipedia entry that the Overton Window is related to my usual argument in favor of certain radical groups: they open up an avenue for discussion and consideration. People may reject PETA's premise, for example, that animals should never be used in testing of any kind. But in doing so, those same people may decide that—while medical testing on animals is acceptable—certain forms of testing on animals in the manufacture of cosmetics should be eliminated.

Come to think of it, I suppose this is the purpose Ann Coulter serves for the far right. She's so very extreme that almost anyone else appears to be reasonable by comparison. See? I told you this was an idea that kept on giving.

Update: Jason Kottke links to a good introduction to the Overton Window by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

A politician’s success or failure stems from how well they understand and amplify the ideas and ideals held by those who elected them. [...] Therefore, they will almost always constrain themselves to taking actions within the "window" of ideas approved of by the electorate. Actions outside of this window, while theoretically possible, and maybe more optimal in terms of sound policy, are politically unsuccessful.
[...] So, if a think tank’s research and the principles of sound policy suggest a particular idea that lies outside the Overton window, what is to be done? Shift the window.

 (5) Comments  / [ 04/05/07 ]

Sub-Prime mortgages are starting to fold

»  Mortgage crisis overwhelming credit counselors. "We knew it was going to be bad, but we didn't think it would be this bad. [...] All the predatory lending that has gone on, all of the pushing of exotic loans on people of color, female-headed households, families with children, people with disabilities -- it's all coming home to roost." Kaye Britton, a foreclosure counselor. (3) Comments  / [ 03/23/07 ]

Is torture really better than death?

» Dahlia Lithwick argues that the Bush administration has taken a seemingly reasonable line of argument and applied it in such a way that —by their reasoning—they have the power to do pretty much anything they want. "Look, death is worse than torture, but everyone except pacifists thinks there are circumstances in which war is justified. War means killing people. If we are entitled to kill people, we must be entitled to injure them." John Yoo, former legal counsel to the Bush administration and professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. (3) Comments  / [ 03/22/07 ]

Hillary 1984

» A Hillary Clinton/1984 Apple Super Bowl ad mashup is on YouTube—but no one knows where it came from. ["Hillary 1984" represents] "a new era, a new wave of politics ... because it's not about Obama. It's about the end of the broadcast era." Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute(2) Comments  / [ 03/19/07 ]

Which microlender makes the best use of my $20?

» Slate: Which microlender makes the best use of my $20? is a good rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of 6 microloan charities. In November, Cool Tools founder Kevin Kelly offered his own rundown of microlenders [ 03/15/07 ]

Why does daylight saving time save energy?

» Slate Explainer: Why does daylight saving time save energy? Remember to spring forward on Sunday!

A grammar note: According to, it is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time. That is all. (2) Comments  / [ 03/09/07 ]

Never Forget

» Never Forget. (via sos(1) Comments  / [ 03/09/07 ]

The old 'role-playing ate my brain' defense

» So awesome: A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard. Dear Judge: throw the book at him. Even elves are required to abide by the law. (via br(1) Comments  / [ 03/08/07 ]

Tohono Nation Indians help the US track drug smugglers across the desert

» How is the US Drug Enforcement Agency battling drug smugglers in the Arizona desert? By enlisting the Shadow Wolves, a Native American tracking unit [ 03/07/07 ]

Is the US geographically unable to perceive global warming?

» Is the US geographically unable to perceive global warming?  [ 03/02/07 ]

How professional writers and political hacks changed blogging for the worse

» In light of the recent resignation of the Edwards bloggers, Garret Vreeland offers a thoughtful perspective on the culture of blogging—both what it was and what has changed as partisans (for whom making a point matters more than being fair) and professional writers (for whom editing is writing) enter the stage. A good read, highly recommended.

A side comment: What are politicians to do? Thoughtful, evenhanded analysis simply doesn't drive traffic as effectively as outrageously stated opinions. It's unlikely that political campaigns will even be able to identify the bloggers who can provide them with good thinking, good writing, and comparatively inoffensive archives, since their more strident brethren will be the ones at the top of everyone's blogrolls.

Some of these standards will inevitably change. Too many people are living online now, and that means a paper trail. No one is always at their best. At the same time, I hope it will start to dawn on some of the newcomers that they are publishing, and lead them to moderate accordingly.

A second comment: Hiring these particular bloggers was the equivalent of hiring Molly Ivins to write for your campaign—except without her years of experience, and without the filter of the editors who taught her how to moderate even brash opinions to appeal to the broadest possible audience. You might have loved Molly Ivin's writing, but she was at her best speaking truth to power, not speaking on behalf of the powerful. (3) Comments  / [ 02/19/07 ]

Reaping what the political blogosphere has sown

» Wow, does Reid get this right.

It's your right to express your political opinions in the harshest manner you can muster, dump ad hominem all over your opponents, and cuss at will. It's your blog, and your right to try and make a difference with how ever many read it in whatever way you please.
This is the price. When you can really make a difference, it will come back to bite you....

Update: Rafe weighs in: Your permanent record(2) Comments  / [ 02/14/07 ]

How to fix campaign finance forever, for $50

» How to fix campaign finance forever, for $50: the secret donation booth [ 02/05/07 ]

In Praise of Security Theatre

» Bruce Schneier: In Praise of Security Theatre [ 01/25/07 ]

What happened to the cruise ship passengers that disappeared in transit?

» It sounds like the title of an Agatha Christie mystery, but this is no joke: Death on the high seas.

Last year the cruise industry reported that 24 passengers had disappeared between 2003 and last March. The information emerged after a US Congressional subcommittee found itself with an unlikely task: to examine the threat posed to citizens by booking a cruise holiday. Since then, at least 10 more passengers and two crew have been reported missing or overboard, including one Scottish pensioner lost in the Atlantic last November. These figures do not include known suicides and those who, for one or reason or another - a drunken argument, perhaps, or misplaced bravado - are known to have deliberately jumped. Of those who have gone mysteriously missing, some may have killed themselves; other incidents may be alcohol-related mishaps; but in at least one case, the death of a 52-year-old woman on the Island Escape in Italy, something more sinister may have gone on.

 (2) Comments  / [ 01/18/07 ]

When is your personal MLK Day?

» When is your personal Martin Luther King Day?

February 14 this year is my "personal MLK day." That is the holiday I dreamed up on which a person has lived 14324 days so far, the number of days that King lived in total. The personal MLK day may be used as a time of reflection on what you have accomplished and want to accomplish.

 (2) Comments  / [ 01/17/07 ]

Why the American people no longer support the war in Iraq

» Streets running in blood—it's biblical in scale. This is why the American people no longer support the war in Iraq. It has nothing, I'm sad to say, to do with principle.

And poor CNN. The header on this story is "Iraq: Transition of Power". They were so, so with the program when it all began, and now they're stuck with this lamentable endorsement of Administration spin, while events spin completely out of control on the ground. At what point will the editors decide it's time to change the title of this particular "Special Report"? (5) Comments  / [ 01/16/07 ]

What George W. Bush could learn from Steve Jobs

» What George W. Bush could learn from Steve Jobs. (via rc3oi(2) Comments  / [ 01/10/07 ]

My hero

» The word gets bandied around a lot, but this, in my opinion, is a hero(2) Comments  / [ 01/03/07 ]

The Bill of Wrongs

» Dalia Lithwick: The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006. What will our children think when they look back on our complacency during this time? (3) Comments  / [ 01/02/07 ]

Humana's Bait and Switch

» This is terrible: "The more than two million senior citizens nationwide who signed up last year for Humana Inc.'s least expensive Medicare prescription drug plan face average premium increases of 60 percent -- and in seven states, increases of 466 percent -- starting tomorrow . The higher prices will affect about 50,000 seniors in Massachusetts, where premiums are going up by 130 percent, from $7.32 to $16.90 a month. [...] 'You have to state the obvious,' said David Shove , a stock analyst with Prudential Equity Group in New York. 'You sell something cheaply and get a lot of customers, and then you raise the price to improve the profitability.'" (2) Comments  / [ 12/31/06 ]

Under Dems, House will work 5-day-weeks during 2007

» The horror! In the coming session, Congress will be scheduled to work 5 days a week; if you count 6:30pm Monday to 2pm Friday as "5 days".

By the time the gavel comes down on the 109th Congress on Friday, members will have worked a total of 103 days. That's seven days fewer than the infamous "Do-Nothing Congress" of 1948.
Hoyer said members can bid farewell to extended holidays, the kind that awarded them six weekdays to relax around Memorial Day, when most Americans get a single day off. He didn't mention the month-long August recess, the two-week April recess or the weeks off in February, March and July.

And, predictably:

"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

 (6) Comments  / [ 12/06/06 ]

Godwin's Law, temporarily revoked

» The N-Word: Unmentionable lessons of the midterm aftermath.

The relevance of Third Reich Germany to today's America is not that Bush equals Hitler or that the United States government is a death machine. It's that it provides a rather spectacular example of the insidious process by which decent people come to regard the unthinkable as not only thinkable but doable, justifiable. Of the way freethinkers and speakers become compliant and self-censoring. Of the mechanism by which moral or humanistic categories are converted into bureaucratic ones. And finally, of the willingness with which we hand control over to the state and convince ourselves that we are the masters of our destiny.

Then there's this:

The Bush-era fourth estate has come up short not only against the Big Lie of "fair and balanced" news but also against its equally cunning cousin: the Small Inaccuracy used to repudiate the damaging larger truth. CBS crumbled under the administration's mau-mauers over Memogate, while Newsweek managed to withstand the hazing it took for its Koran-in-the-toilet item—which, like the substance of Dan Rather's offending report on Bush's National Guard career, was not only accurate; it was old news. But why didn't the national media go on the offensive and re-educate the government, and the public, about the inevitable if regrettable price of a free press? Mistakes will be made in the proverbial first draft of history, and holding reporters to a standard of perfection would inhibit them from performing the vigilance crucial to our democratic system.

It is the part played by the press in all this that may frustrate and infuriate me the most. I have been dismayed for the last 5 years as they basically have refused to do their job. And I hold them partially responsible for the state we're now in. (Thanks, jjg!) (3) Comments  / [ 11/30/06 ]

Ben Stein on taxation, the deficit, and class warfare

» Ben Stein: In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning? (via jko(1) Comments  / [ 11/29/06 ]

Presidential Tag Clouds

» Chirag Mehta has a created a Presidential Speech tag cloud that allows you to see the frequency of word use in speeches, official documents, declarations, and letters written by the Presidents of the US from George Washington to George W. Bush. Move the slider to watch President Bush's language change from the start of his administration until now. The rise of the word "terrorism" dates - not from the time of the September 11 attacks - but to 2003, the year we invaded Iraq. In his 2002 State of the Union address, the largest word is "freedom" (followed by "afghanistan", "weapons", and "tax"). In 2003, "terrorists" is huge, followed by "weapons" in the second tier ( then "saddam", "hussein", "iraq", and "economy"). (1) Comments  / [ 11/13/06 ]

Nancy Pelosi's First 100 Hours

» Nancy Pelosi's first 100 Hours.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds &mdash "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.
To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. [...] "We believe in the marketplace," Pelosi said of Democrats, then drew a contrast with Republicans. "They have only rewarded wealth, not work."

I'm all for it. Let's see if she can do it.

 (2) Comments  / [ 11/08/06 ]

Report voting problems here

» Via Q Daily News: "One public service announcement: if you have any problems voting (electronic voting machines that malfunction, officials that wrongly prevent you from casting a ballot, whatever), the National Campaign for Fair Elections has set up a toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE. The group has monitors and attorneys on-hand to help deal with problems as they arise, so it's probably worth giving them a call with any issues." Please post this on your blog and pass it on. (1) Comments  / [ 11/07/06 ]

November 7, 2006: Vote!

» Today's the day: Vote!  [ 11/07/06 ]

Vanity Fair: Neo Culpa

» This is a really interesting observation: Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes. Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute [wikipedia] freedom scholar.

Update: When I say "interesting" I mean "What a strange thing to say". If it's true, what does that say about the Administration? If it's not true, just what is Mr. Ledeen implying?  (1) Comments  / [ 11/07/06 ]

The Difference Two Years Makes

» The Difference Two Years Makes. Be sure to vote tomorrow.  [ 11/06/06 ]

Big Oil Battles Alternative Energy Tax

» Taxing the oil companies to fund alternative energy research? That's what California's Proposition 87 would do, and the oil companies are threatening higher gas prices if it passes—even though the initiative stipulates that the tax can't be passed on to consumers. (3) Comments  / [ 10/26/06 ]

Jet Blue: Yikes

» Last year, Jet Blue ignored FAA regulations in a "pilot fatigue test" designed to see if their pilots could maintain alertness while working longer-than-allowed shifts. What an idiotic move. Even if test results show that pilots can safely work more hours—even if FAA regulations change as a result of Jet Blue's testing—what I'm going to remember is that Jet Blue is willing to do safety experiments on unsuspecting, paying customers. (via rc3oi [ 10/25/06 ]

Ethics Lesson

» Compare and contrast: "On advice of counsel, [Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid] said, he gave the Ritz-Carlton Christmas fund $600 in 2002, $1,200 in 2004 and $1,500 in 2005 from his reelection campaign. Federal election law bars candidates from using political donations for personal use. Reid said he did no such thing but will reimburse his campaign "to prevent this issue from being used in the current campaign season to deflect attention from Republican failures."

Warren Buffet to his top managers, regarding ethical behavior: "Let's start with what is legal, but always go on to what we would feel comfortable about being printed on the front page of our local paper."  [ 10/17/06 ]

A trial to rival Jarndyce vs Jarndyce

» The NYTimes recently ran this article on a trial that seems determined to rival Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.

They were charged with murder in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, where the clocks sometimes seem to serve a decorative function. [...] Lawyers have asked to seal the case; invoked the Federal and State Constitutions; alluded to Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson; asked for joint trials; asked for separate trials; asked for psychological tests; asked to withhold the results of those tests; and then asked for new psychologists. [...]
Justice, when it arrives, comes by famously slow means, and the Brooklyn courts offer no special chariot. And defense lawyers often stall as a tactic, knowing that witnesses can disappear or forget details, and that the passage of time, in general, is bad for prosecutors. But the case of People v. Nixzaliz Santiago, through a series of redundant arguments and colorful court filings, has elevated inaction to something approaching spectacle, on display every few weeks with no end in sight.

  [ 10/05/06 ]

We live in shameful times

» The New York Times lays it on the line:

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Update: Dahlia Lithwick weighs in:

Last time Congress rubber-stamped a major terrorism-related law no one had bothered to read in the first place, we got the Patriot Act. [...] But that's not all. Congress doesn't want to know what it's bargaining away this week. In the Boston Globe this weekend, Rick Klein revealed that only "10 percent of the members of Congress have been told which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act." More troubling still, this congressional ignorance seems to be by choice. Klein quotes Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, as saying, "I don't know what the CIA has been doing, nor should I know."

Update: Rafe weighs in, and points to a piece from former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky that eloquently lays out the personal, practical, and moral implications of sanctioning even occasional "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment of prisoners.

Remember when the Abu Ghraib photos shocked all of us? The story then was that a few inexperienced/rogue soldiers got away from themselves, acted on their own, that it was a complete and utter anomaly. In the last few weeks, the pro-Administration stance has been that such treatment is sometimes necessary, and that humiliation, for example, isn't that big of a deal anyway. (Read Jeff's contributions to this thread to see what I mean.)

And we have just concluded a national debate about whether we need to uphold the Geneva Conventions by codifying the President's right to authorize these very practices.

We have lost the war on torture. It's devastating. (2) Comments  / [ 09/28/06 ]

Pandering to the American public

» Its common practice for world editions of the same publication to run covers that correspond with local interests. So why is Newsweek doling out bad news to everyone in the whole wide world—but us? (via rc3(1) Comments  / [ 09/26/06 ]

Crackdown on illegal immigrants leads to a shortage of farm workers

» What do you know? The crackdown on illegal immigration has led to a shortage of produce pickers this year.

The tightening of the border with Mexico, begun more than a decade ago but reinforced since May with the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops, has forced California growers to acknowledge that most of their workers are illegal Mexican migrants. The U.F.W. estimates that more than 90 percent of the state’s farm workers are illegal.

  [ 09/25/06 ]

E. coli is the result of modern farming practices

» More on E. coli on spinach and in the digestive tracts of cattle.

But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier, at least for humans. Your stomach juices are not strong enough to kill this acid-loving bacterium, which is why it’s more likely than other members of the E. coli family to produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and, in rare cases, fatal kidney failure.
It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms.

thanks, MollyMagnet!  [ 09/25/06 ]

Two farmers talk about organic spinach growing and harvesting

» Andy Griffin, the former owner of Riverside Farms, one of the spinach growers implicated in the recent E.coli breakout, has written a very informative post on spinach harvesting and why he got out of the baby greens business. (via mn)

Every sealed bag of pre-washed greens is like a little green house. The greens inside are still alive, as are the bacteria living on them. If the produce in the bag is clean, great, but if it isn’t the bacteria present has a wonderful little sealed environment to reproduce in, free from any threat until the dressing splashes down and the shadow of a fork passes over. Frankly, I think convenience is overrated.

And my most recent CSA newsletter has a bit to say about organic spinach growing practices.

Many media outlets, and so-called experts, have failed to understand the details of this event. [...] [T]hey have tried to make a connection between organic produce and animal manure, a potential source of E.coli. Fact: It is a violation of federal law, the National Organic Standards Act, to use raw animal manures on a crop that will be harvested within 120 days of application of the manure. No organic farmers are using raw animal manures on their spinach fields anymore, if they ever did. It  is far more likely that a conventional farmer would use raw manures —there are no regulations prohibiting the practice for anyone other than organic farmers. The FDA never insinuated this connection; they are intimately familiar with the organics law.

 (2) Comments  / [ 09/22/06 ]

A Simple Test on the Practicality and Morality of Torture

» Rafe poses a simple test on the practicality and morality of torture. And as usual, he's right. Update: And here's a short statement condemning the practice, "Torture is a moral issue" from the National Council of Churches. It absolutely is. Signatories include former President Jimmy Carter, Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, and Purpose Driven Life Pastor Rick Warren. It's time the faith community spoke up about this. (2) Comments  / [ 09/21/06 ]

Spinach Substitutes

» NY Magazine: Spinach Substitutes. (via rw [ 09/20/06 ]

Race + Income + Location = Lifespan

» Race, income, and location all have profound effects on your health and lifespan according to a new fascinating study from the Harvard School of Public Health concludes "the differences are so stark it's as if there are eight separate Americas instead of one".

The longest-living whites weren't the relatively wealthy. [...] They're edged out, by a year, by low-income residents of the rural Northern Plains states, where the men tend to reach age 76 and the women 82. Yet low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley die four years sooner than their Northern neighbors.

Here is the editor's summary and the original paper itself (which is, by the way, freely available to be read and distributed by the public.)  [ 09/19/06 ]

Bluegills detect toxins in city water supplies

» San Francisco, New York, and Washington have installed the "Intelligent Aquatic BioMonitoring System" developed for the Army to detect toxins in the water supply before it can reach the populace. It's most sophisticated sensor? Bluegills(2) Comments  / [ 09/19/06 ]

Renew your passport now

» As a personal security measure, Bruce Schneier says its time to renew your passport before they start inserting RFID chips in all of them. He figures the security issues will be mostly worked out by the time you need a new one again, in 10 years.  (1) Comments  / [ 09/19/06 ]

Pete and Condi, sitting in a tree...

» The diplomacy circuit is kind of dry. So, when an attractive, accomplished Secretary of State seems to enjoy her time with an a foreign minister who is "the closest thing to eye candy on the diplomatic circuit", it's easy to see why reporters would start asking speculative and wishful questions about their relationship. "It was a well lighted dinner, with electricity-based lighting." Sean McCormack, US State Department spokesman, in response to persistent questions about a working dinner that included the Secretary of State, the Canadian Foreign Minister, 14 aides and 6 security guards.  [ 09/14/06 ]

Expert says militant Islamacists are more like a cult than an organized enemy

» "I spent the hours before Bush's speech moderating a discussion of the meaning of Sept. 11, which was hosted by the World Affairs Council here. One of the panelists was Marc Sageman, a man who comes to these issues with an unusual background -- he was a CIA case officer in Pakistan and then became a psychiatrist. I found in his comments a similarly unusual clarity. Sageman argues...that we are facing something closer to a cult network than an organized global adversary." (via rc3oi [ 09/14/06 ]

You Did What You Could

» Nearly 5 years ago, my niece's 2nd grade class made cards to send to the NYC firefighters who had worked so hard to save people at the World Trade Center after the attacks. Of course hers made me cry. Today it made me cry again(3) Comments  / [ 09/11/06 ]

9/11 Conspiracists and Why they Believe

» Time: Why the 9/11 Conspiracy Theories Won't Go Away.

A Scripps-Howard poll of 1,010 adults last month found that 36% of Americans consider it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that government officials either allowed the attacks to be carried out or carried out the attacks themselves. Thirty-six percent adds up to a lot of people. This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.

  [ 09/11/06 ]

The ugly truth about ARMs

» Yikes! More on those Adjusted Rate Mortgages—and how they are going to fuel the bust.

There's no way to camouflage what Harold, a former computer technician who asked BusinessWeek not to publish his last name, is about to face. He's disabled and has one source of income: the $1,600 per month he receives in Social Security disability payments. In September, 2005, Harold refinanced out of a fixed-rate mortgage and into an option ARM for his $150,000 home in Chicago. The minimum monthly payment for the first year is $899, which he can afford. The interest-only payment is $1,329, which he can't. The fully amortized payment is $1,454, which his lender, Washington Mutual gets to count on its books.

(via rc3oi(1) Comments  / [ 09/07/06 ]

Real Estate POP!

» It would appear that the real estate bubble is starting to deflate. Fortune outlines four housing myths and why you should not believe them.  [ 08/31/06 ]

In spite of the statistics, home prices may be falling

» The latest statistics show a slowdown in home sales, but a slight uptick in home prices. What gives? Incentives to the buyer ranging from vacation time-shares, to free upgrades, to cash back. What that means is that, in spite of the statistics, home prices may in fact be falling. "We don’t have any house price indexes that get it right." Todd Sinai, associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  [ 08/31/06 ]

US rice supply contaminated with GM rice

» "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced [last week] that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption." Is anyone surprised by this? (3) Comments  / [ 08/25/06 ]

What the terrorists want

» Bruce Schneier: What the terrorists want.

It's time we calm down and fight terror with antiterror. This does not mean that we simply roll over and accept terrorism. There are things our government can and should do to fight terrorism, most of them involving intelligence and investigation -- and not focusing on specific plots.
But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches.

I'll also note that those Americans who reacted to the 9/11 attacks by becoming virulently anti-Muslim have granted Osama his dearest wish.  [ 08/24/06 ]

Mortgage insurers ask Feds to restrict risky loans

» Mortgage insurers are so alarmed by the proliferation of interest-only and "option" mortgages, they are asking Federal regulators to restrict them.

About 70 percent of the people who take out an option adjustable-rate mortgage, which lets the buyer avoid paying even the full interest on the loan [Ed: !!!!], end up paying the lowest permissible amount each month, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which regulates banks. The amount unpaid is added to the mortgage balance, so borrowers end up owing more than when they started. Having no equity in a home increases the risk of foreclosure, especially when housing values fall and houses are hard to sell.

It's like the credit card writ large. (2) Comments  / [ 08/23/06 ]

Hybrid premium recouped in 3 to 6 years

» With the rise in gas prices, hybrid owners can expect to recoup the extra cost of their vehicle in 3-6 years, a new study says. (3) Comments  / [ 08/23/06 ]

Gladwell: The Risk Pool

» Malcolm Gladwell: The Risk Pool. What’s behind Ireland’s economic miracle—and G.M.’s financial crisis? (1) Comments  / [ 08/22/06 ]

Jimmy Carter on the Bush Administration

» Der Spiegel interviews Jimmy Carter.

There's no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Under all of its predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of preemptive war. Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis. Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state, which I describe in the book. This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this. The other principle that I described in the book is basic justice. We've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.

  [ 08/21/06 ]

Why African-Americans Can't Swim

» Why African-Americans can't swim [ 08/18/06 ]

Why Bush v. Gore should not disappear into a legal memory hole

» Bush v. Gore has started to disappear into a legal memory hole—and why it should not.

The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms," the court declared, "the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another." If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

  [ 08/17/06 ]

New bill designed to get fresh produce into neighborhood bodegas

» Proposed federal law would help corner stores stock and sell healthy food.

The "Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act", introduced into the House in late July by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)...refers to a small business grants help bodegas stock produce and market healthy items, as well as funding local education campaigns to spur purchases. In tackling the issue of access, the bill addresses one of the most salient critiques one can launch at food gurus like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan: That for many Americans, the issue isn't about finding a locally grown, organic apple. It's about finding an edible apple, period.

Of course, Waters and Pollan are all about local access to food for all, so just dismiss that particular straw man as a writer's flourish. Read it anyway.  [ 08/17/06 ]

The Gates Foundation and the Buffett Billons: Complicated

» Bill Gates’s Charity Races to Spend Buffett Billions. The rule is, they have to spend every nickel to get the next year's allotment. And that's a lot of money.  [ 08/16/06 ]

Bruce Schneier on terror

» Bruce Schneier: Focus on terrorists, not tactics.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.
But only temporarily.

  [ 08/14/06 ]

Deconstructing the TSA Security FAQ

» Timothy Noah has a few observations about the new TSA Security FAQ.  [ 08/14/06 ]

Foiled terrorist plot foils US travellers

» I knew the foiled terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic planes would cause major disruptions for air travellers, but get this: My husband is at an airport right now in a security line that extends out to the parking garage. There's no telling what time he'll get home, or if he'll be able to make it home tonight at all.

BTW, you're going to want to keep up with Bruce Schneier's commentary on this new attempt and its repercussions, both today and as the government releases new information. (1) Comments  / [ 08/10/06 ]

Are US contracters in Iraq using forced labor?

» In June, the US State Department released its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2006. One paragraph from the State Department report caught the eye of the folks at Free the Slaves:

A recent DOD investigation...identified a number of abuses, some of them considered widespread, committed by DOD contractors or subcontractors of third country national (TCN) workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses are indicative of trafficking in persons....

It sounds incredible, but this is from the US State Department itself. Do read the Chicago Tribune articles listed here to draw your own conclusions about what is happening, and whether the US is doing enough to prevent the use of forced labor by DOD contracters.

Then there's this, from May of this year: "For security reasons, the new embassy is being built entirely by imported labor. The contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., which was linked to human-trafficking allegations by a Chicago Tribune investigation last year, has hired a workforce of 900 mostly Asian workers who live on the site."

Free the Slaves has begun investigating these charges, and are compiling their findings on a new blog(1) Comments  / [ 08/09/06 ]

Anthony Kennedy charges the Bar Association to sell justice to the world

» Dahlia Lithwick: Anthony Kennedy's surprising charge to the American Bar Association. "He wants to define 'rule of law' so we can start to peddle the concept worldwide. It is not enough to sell the world on the U.S. Constitution, he says. That is merely a set of 'negative commands.'"  [ 08/09/06 ]

Iraq Culture Smart Card

» Slate explains the Iraq Culture Smart Card, a 16-panel breast-pocket sized card distributed to Marines to explain the local culture.  [ 08/07/06 ]

More likely lawful than not?

» A new Senate report that finds so many of America's most wealthy citizens use offshore tax shelters that the US government can't hope to control the misconduct. Two billionaires are portrayed in the report as victims because their "professional advisers assured them their deals to avoid taxes were more likely lawful than not." Um. "More likely lawful than not"?  (3) Comments  / [ 08/03/06 ]

Livestock Boondoggle Program

» I'm sure you've already heard about the Livestock Compensation Program .

In all, the Livestock Compensation Program cost taxpayers $1.2 billion during its two years of existence, 2002 and 2003. Of that, $635 million went to ranchers and dairy farmers in areas where there was moderate drought or none at all, according to an analysis of government records by The Washington Post. None of the ranchers were required to prove they suffered an actual loss. The government simply sent each of them a check based on the number of cattle they owned.

  [ 08/03/06 ]

Why the US Obsession with Fidel Castro?

» Is anyone else baffled by the US obsession with Castro and his illness? (Cuban immigrants aside: of course they have strong feelings about events in their country of origin.)

Our entire relation with Cuba is an artifact of the Cold War, and that's been over for years. At that time, Cuba represented the Soviet Union in our own hemisphere, a possible foothold for the Communists who were bent on taking us over. Once the Soviet Union fell, why didn't we instantly normalize relations with Cuba, in effect saying "You, yourself, are actually not a threat. You're just a teeny little country." That's far more powerful than this vestigal fear—in fact, our outdated policy imbues Cuba with more authority than any objective measure ever would. Do you think Castro hasn't noticed that he still terrifies the United States? (2) Comments  / [ 08/02/06 ]

Stop illegal immigration with higher minimum wage

» What's the most effective way to curb illegal immigration? Raise the minimum wage(1) Comments  / [ 07/26/06 ]

Partisans see bias even in the same newscast

» Researchers have found that partisans on both sides of an issue will see bias against their side even when they are watching in the same news report.

The tendency to see bias in the news -- now the raison d'etre of much of the blogosphere -- is such a reliable indicator of partisan thinking that researchers coined a term, "hostile media effect," to describe the sincere belief among partisans that news reports are painting them in the worst possible light. [...] The best-informed partisans were the most likely to see bias against their side.

 (2) Comments  / [ 07/25/06 ]

Iran, Israel, and Iraq

» Three from Robot Wisdom:

  [ 07/25/06 ]

The perils of hitting back

» All cultures seem to allow for retribution: an in-kind act to repay an affront and to balance things out. But studies suggest that people tend to remember the causes of their own actions, and the consequences of other peoples'. To complicate matters, volunteers instructed to respond to a physical touch with equal force typically respond with about 40 percent more force than they had just experienced. It all adds up to this: He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn’t(1) Comments  / [ 07/25/06 ]

Bush cuts IRS estate tax lawyers

» Bush cuts the number of estate tax lawyers working in the IRS. Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a “back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax.” I guess there's more than one way to skin a cat.  [ 07/24/06 ]

Poor neighborhoods have higher rates of disease

» A new study concludes that residents of Chicago's South and West sides—a "food desert" with ample access to fast food restaurants, but very few grocery stores—are more likely to die prematurely and at greater rates from diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity. [bugmenot] Overall, the worst food choices fell in African-American neighborhoods. "The new study is a sequel to a 2005 report that found that poor residents of Chicago's South Side live in a 'commercial desert' where they have little access to major grocers, pharmacies or other retailers, but have plenty of liquor stores and fast-food restaurants." (via batc [ 07/20/06 ]

Study: The Ghetto Tax is real

» Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution has discovered that the Ghetto tax is real. "[P]oor urban residents frequently pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in extra costs for everyday necessities. The study said some of the disparities were due to real differences in the cost of doing business in poor areas, some to predatory financial practices and some to consumer ignorance." The study is available online [ 07/20/06 ]

Spike Jonze interview with Al Gore

» Wow. I'm with Rafe: Why wasn't this Spike Jonze film interview of Al Gore shown during the 2000 election season? It's 15 minutes long. Save it for your lunch hour or when you get home. You'll be glad you saw it.  [ 07/19/06 ]

Progressive Realism

» NYT: An American Foreign Policy That Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With. Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, outlines his approach to foreign policy: progressive realism.

This sounds harsh, but it is only acknowledgment of something often left unsaid: a nation’s foreign policy will always favor the interests of its citizens and so fall short of moral perfection. We can at least be thankful that history, by intertwining the fates of peoples, is bringing national interest closer to moral ideals.
Harnessing this benign dynamic isn’t the only redemptive feature of progressive realism. [Hans] Morgenthau emphasized that sound strategy requires a “respectful understanding” of all players in the game. “The political actor,” he wrote, “must put himself into the other man’s shoes, look at the world and judge it as he does.”
This immersion in the perspective of the other is sometimes called “moral imagination,” and it is hard. Understanding why some people hate America, and why terrorists kill, is challenging not just intellectually but emotionally. Yet it is crucial and has been lacking in President Bush, who saves time by ascribing behavior that threatens America to the hatred of freedom or (and this is a real time saver) to evil. As Morgenthau saw, exploring the root causes of bad behavior, far from being a sentimentalist weakness, informs the deft use of power. Realpolitik is reality-based.

 (4) Comments  / [ 07/17/06 ]

Recommended: The Immigration Equation

» A Little Weekend Reading: The Immigration Equation probes the immigration debate through the lens of two economists: David Card, a Canadian who believes that "immigration is no big deal and that a lot of the opposition to it is most likely social or cultural" and George Borjas, a Cuban immigrant who believes he has proven that immigrants hurt the economic prospects of the Americans they compete with. It's a thought-provoking and subtle examination of a complex issue.

That stark contrast conveys, to economists, two important facts. One is that Mexicans are supplying a skill level that is much in demand. It doesn't just seem that Americans don't want to be hotel chambermaids, pick lettuce or repair roofs; it's true. Most gringos are too educated for that kind of work. The added diversity, the complementariness of skills, that Mexicans bring is good for the economy as a whole. They perform services that would otherwise be more expensive and in some cases simply unavailable.
The Americans who are unskilled, however, must compete with a disproportionate number of immigrants. One of every four high-school dropouts in the U.S. was born in Mexico, an astonishing ratio given that the proportion of Mexicans in the overall labor force is only 1 in 25. [...]
That's the theory. But economists have had a hard time finding evidence of actual harm.

  [ 07/14/06 ]

Ben Stein on the state of the US economy

» Lawyer, writer, actor and economist Ben Stein looks at the economic landscape and gasps in horror.

We are mortgaging ourselves to foreigners on a scale that would make George Washington cry. Every day — every single day — we borrow a billion dollars from foreigners to buy petroleum from abroad, often from countries that hate us. We are the beggars of the world, financing our lavish lifestyle by selling our family heirlooms and by enslaving our progeny with the need to service the debt.
I don't see this — except for the taxes — as a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It's just the way we live today. Drunken sailors from the Capitol to the freeways. Heirs living on their inheritance and spending it fast. The titans of corporate America getting as much as they can get away with and hiring lawyers and public-relations people if there is a problem. It is later than anyone dares to think.

(via htstw [ 07/13/06 ]

What history taught Bill Clinton about the presidency

» What Bill Clinton learned from his predecessors about being president, and his formula for fairly judging any president. "I really think the circumstances determine where you are ranked — whether you have big wars, like the Civil War or World War II. But there are three or four tests you can apply to any president, which are much fairer than ranking them where the deal is rigged based on the time in which they served." William Jefferson Clinton, Forty-Second President of the United States.  [ 07/11/06 ]

Media Literacy: Illustrating the News

» Media Literacy Moment: In May, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, wrote the President a four-page letter warning him that the failure to disclose secret intelligence activities to Congress may be a violation of the law. The activities were disclosed to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee by whistleblowers. But that's not why I called you here today.

I wanted to point out the photograph that accompanies the article (or did when I read it Sunday morning). It is typical of a photo selected to illustrate an article of this type: President Bush, caught in an uncomfortable moment, his back turned to photographers, head down, as if, perhaps, in shame.

But click through to the picture and you'll see that the caption reads "President Bush attends a Sunday morning church service in Washington, July 9, 2006". Now read the picture: President Bush, caught in a private moment, his back turned to photographers, head down, as if, perhaps, in prayer.

Context is everything in interpreting this photo, which was chosen—not to document the moment when Bush was confronted with his wrongdoing—but to illustrate a [repentant/wronged/uncommunicative/ashamed/angry/take your pick] response to the news.  [ 07/10/06 ]

Guatanamo tactics were apparently derived from SERE training

» An Army document proves that Guantánamo interrogators were taught by instructors from a military school that trains U.S. soldiers how to resist torture. The most enlightening part of this article is the description of mock prison camps in the "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape" (SERE) school, from a retired Army Ranger who passed the course in 1994. American soldiers are subjected to a variety of abuses in an attempt to prepare them for possible capture by the enemy.

In addition to sexual humiliation, psychological duress is a big part of the program and comes in a variety of flavors, including an overall assault on a soldier's values. Mock interrogators desecrated an American flag, stepped on a copy of the Constitution, and "kicked the Bible around," the Ranger said -- an echo of the abuse of the Koran alleged at Guantánamo. Soldiers were ridiculed for their lack of knowledge of the Constitution and U.S. history. "They begin to preach propaganda and attack your institutional base," the Ranger said. "Everything about SERE school is a mind f***."

We imagined a most terrible enemy, then, in a time of great fear, modeled ourselves on that creature. It's almost literary in its tragedy. (4) Comments  / [ 06/30/06 ]

Dems grow a teeny-weeny spine

» Oh, it's about time. Democrats vow to block Congressional pay raise until the minimum wage is increased. I didn't think they had it in them.   [ 06/28/06 ]

Billionaire Buffett gives away his fortune

» Warren Buffet is giving away his fortune—most of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. What a great day.  [ 06/26/06 ]

Believers of all religions work to hasten the return of the Messiah

» Around the world, devout Muslims, Jews, and Christians—especially Christians—are taking steps to fulfill the prophecies of their own religion in order to hasten the coming of the Messiah. It's fascinating to compare both the messianic prophecies and the individual attitudes towards other religions. (2) Comments  / [ 06/26/06 ]

Was the 2004 election stolen? Was too, was too.

» A Little Weekend Reading: Mark Crispin Miller responds to Farhad Manjoo's dismissal of the Rolling Stone article that alleges the 2004 election was stolen—and he's having none of it. Worth reading, particularly for his analysis of the media's response to the allegations. Interestingly, Salon refused to run his piece.

Bill Anthony, the Democratic chair of Franklin County's Board of Elections, has quietly contradicted what he said both to Manjoo and Baker, telling Bob Fitrakis, on the record, that he does believe Bush/Cheney stole Ohio, largely by fiddling with the numbers in the rural counties in the state's Southwest (a major vote-theft, as Kennedy explains in Rolling Stone). [...] Bob Hagan, a Democratic state senator from Youngstown, tells of having had his own e-vote for Kerry flip to Bush -- a glitch that wiped out Kerry votes throughout Ohio (and at least a dozen other states), and yet the Democrats told Hagan not to mention it: "The Kerry campaign said, 'Leave it alone. Don't talk about it. It's not something we want to get out.'"

(via rw(1) Comments  / [ 06/23/06 ]

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Was, too

» Ernest Partridge argues that Salon's rebuttal to evidence of fraudulent behavior in the 2004 election ignores most of the charges made.

Manjoo complains that Kennedy commits "numerous errors of interpretation and ... deliberate omission of key bits of data." But "the whole story" cannot be told in the allowed space. Even so, with his 206 endnotes, RFK makes a valiant attempt. More telling are Manjoo's omissions. [...] I found at least twenty key elements of Kennedy's case for fraud that were totally ignored by Manjoo.

  [ 06/15/06 ]

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Yes.

» Must-read article of the year: Was the 2004 Election Stolen?. "Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen. You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb." Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling.  [ 06/05/06 ]

Was the 2004 election stolen? No.

» Over at Salon, Farhad Manjoo says No, it wasn't. You'd better read them both and see where you think the preponderance of evidence lies..  [ 06/05/06 ]

The Caliphate would unite world Muslims

» The Caliphate: One nation, under Allah, with 1.5 billion Muslims [ 05/23/06 ]

Moroccon female preachers designed to stem extremism

» Morocco has just graduated its first team of women preachers to be deployed as a vanguard in its fight against any slide towards Islamic extremism. [ 05/23/06 ]

Piano found on Britain's highest mountain

» Members of the John Muir trust have found a piano near the top of Britain's highest mountain. A biscuit wrapper found beneath it is the only clue. "We have a constant battle against litter being left on Britain's highest mountain—but this elevates being a litter lout sky high into a completely different category." Sandy Maxwell, volunteer group organiser. (via dm [ 05/22/06 ]

The Yemeni poet who sells peace to his people

» In poetry-loving Yemen, tribal bard takes on Al Qaeda - with his verse. "Other countries fight terrorism with guns and bombs, but in Yemen we use poetry. Through my poetry I can convince people of the need for peace who would never be convinced by laws or by force." Amin al-Mashreqi, a Yemeni poet who is fighting Islamic militancy with poetry.  [ 05/15/06 ]

The Conservative case for Network Neutrality

» The Gun Owners of America has sent out an op ed piece to conservative news outlets explaining why it agrees with, in the fight for network neutrality.

The real problem is that we are under a distorted market from the get-go. Government is setting the rules. The result has been a government-supported oligopoly. We are lucky that those controlling physical access to the Internet have been forced to give every purchaser of bandwidth equal access – it doesn’t matter whether Gun Owners or the Brady Center is purchasing a T-1: all T-1 purchasers pay the same for the same level of service. And moreover, the phone company has to tough it if they don’t like what is being done with that bandwidth.

  [ 05/12/06 ]

6th graders protest sale of National Forest

» In a letter-writing campaign, 6th graders protest proposed tree cutting. "What is the deal with cutting down the Croatan National Forest? How would you like it if we cut down some trees around your house?" Haley Wester, a 6th grader, in a letter to Undersecretary Mark Rey, expressing concern about his proposal to sell 309,000 acres of National Forest.  [ 05/11/06 ]

Republicans use scare tactics to raise money

» In a recent fundraising letter, Elizabeth Dole sought to rally the faithful with the warning that if Democrats "seize control of the Senate" they will "call for endless investigations, congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of President Bush". Wait, the Republicans don't approve of that?   [ 05/10/06 ]

Diabled youngsters are ballerinas for a day

» This one will have you smiling all week: a ballet class for 3 to 7-year-old girls with cerebral palsy and other debilitating physical conditions. "Ballet made me realize I can still do stuff that other kids can do. [...] Even if you feel scared, it's the same for anything: If you don't try, you'll never know what you can do." Veronica Siaba, 7.  (1) Comments  / [ 05/09/06 ]

Bush instructs USDA to sell Iraq policy

» Department of Agriculture employees have been instructed to incorporate talking points on Iraq into their speeches. Scratching your head? The email includes several helpful segues, like "Several topics I'd like to talk about today — Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu . . . but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask about . . . progress in Iraq." The examples are hilarious — but they all come round to assuring you that the President has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq. (via usfp [ 05/09/06 ]

VNR use is more widespread than thought

» Remember Karen Ryan? A media watchdog group tracked 36 Video News Releases for 10 months and found that 77 stations aired nearly 100 VNRs, without revealing they had been produced by PR agencies, and not by journalists. "I was stunned by the scope. The public has a right to know who is trying to persuade them." Jonathan Adelstein, FCC commissioner.  [ 05/05/06 ]

Study shows middle-aged British are more healthy than Americans, on less money

» A new study shows that, though they spend half as much on healthcare, the middle-aged English are healthier than their American counterparts. In fact, the health of the poorest Britons was about equivalent to that of the wealthiest Americans.  [ 05/04/06 ]

US government: 'Taliban is not a terrorist organization'

» CSM: The US does not consider the Taliban to be terrorists. "The Afghan Taliban is better organized today than it was in 2001. They have more recruits [and they] have been able to take advantage of the lawlessness, the criminal gangs, and the corruption in the government." Kathy Gannon, the former Associated Press bureau chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan. (1) Comments  / [ 05/03/06 ]

Network Neutrality: What's at stake

» Salon has an excellent article that explains network neutrality and what is really at stake if the Telcos get their wish. For an analogy, think of the way cable companies operate. Have we seen competition emerge amongst cable companies within individual cities and neighborhoods? Do they always choose the programs you want to see for "Basic cable"? Do you have any recourse if they decide not to carry a particular station you want to watch? Now imagine that same state of affairs when you surf the Web. If this issue is new to you, it's worth your while to understand why the Telcos are lobbying Congress so hard. (via rc3oi(1) Comments  / [ 05/03/06 ]

Gardening at Gitmo

» Gardening at Gitmo. (via rc3oi [ 05/02/06 ]

Flickr: A Day without Immigrants

» Flickr photos arranged by "Interestingness": A Day Without Immigrants [ 05/02/06 ]

Happy International Workers Day

» Happy International Worker's Day.  (1) Comments  / [ 05/01/06 ]

The Smithy Code Revealed

» The Smithy Code revealed [ 04/28/06 ]

Greenpeace Co-Founder embraces Nuclear Energy

» A Co-Founder of Greenpeace makes the case for nuclear energy. (thanks, Mark!)

It's thoughtful and plausible, though I'm sure an anti-nuclear activist could make a counter-argument that sounds just as plausible to me, since I know almost nothing real about the subject. I do think there's a bit of technophobia entwined with people's objections (as with their objections to GM crops and cloning). A death by radiation sounds horrible.

I honestly wish the government would spend the equivalent money on super-insulating people's houses and maybe subsidizing alternate energy sources before spending the money on nukes, though. (4) Comments  / [ 04/27/06 ]

'DaVinci Code' Justice embeds 'Smithy Code' in ruling

» When Justice Peter Smith's handed down his ruling on the "Da Vinci Code" copyright case, he embedded a secret message in the text, decipherable only by figuring out his own "Smithy Code". (thanks, jjg!) (1) Comments  / [ 04/27/06 ]

The Magdalene program

» The Reverend Becca Stevens has created an amazingly successful program to change the lives of women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse by treating them like precious objects. "I wanted to treat people with dignity and respect, to have a lovely place where women could feel the extravagance of being loved, and that they are worth something." The Reverend Becca Stevens, founder of the Magdalene community.  [ 04/20/06 ]

Sellling God to a captive audience

» A captive audience for salvation The largest private company running prisons and jails in the United States has formed partnerships with eight national Evangelical Christian ministries, but observers are raising questions about its constitutionality — and effectiveness. "Once you get into the program it will grab you. Doing time is hard.... This is the best place to be in the facility because there's more peace." Harold Harris, repeat offender and member of one of his prison's "God Pods".  [ 04/19/06 ]

The Great Pyramid of Bosnia

» A wealthy Bosnian has raised £100,000 to excavate a triangular hill in the Visoko valley, in the hopes of proving it is manmade. Experts ridicule the idea that there was a high culture in the area 12,000 years ago. "We're talking about a huge construction effort here. The size of this pyramid will shock the archaeological world. It's substantially higher than the Great Pyramid of Egypt." Semir Osmanagic, financier of the Visocica hill excavation.  [ 04/18/06 ]

More on Flickr-powered collaborative photojournalism

» Emily Turrettini notices the difference between the Flickr slideshow of the CPE protests I linked here last week, and other CPE photo compilations on the Web, which depict a much more peaceful event. She wonders whether the slideshow photos depicting vandalism were taken during the French riots in November, and then deliberately mis-tagged "CPE", but I don't think that's the case. The slideshow I linked was organized by "interestingness", which is likely to skew to the sensational. The "most recent" slideshow presents a much less dramatic series of images. Note that neither is a measure of "importance" or "fairness", values that will likely always require human editorial judgement.

Of course it would be easy to deliberately mis-tag photos as they were uploaded. I posted here about the inherent limitations of tagging back in January 2005. At the time, others joined me in commenting on the potential to game the system. But Flickr is still a relatively unknown phenomenon, and I would be surprised if, at this point, anyone is trying to game it for political gain. That will likely change once Flickr becomes more widely known. Perhaps the automatic inclusion of GPS and time/date information when photos are uploaded would provide enough information to allow viewers to make more accurate assessments.

Emily is correct when she says "Caution and good judgment must prevail, not only toward the traditional media, but with regard to collaborative citizen journalism as well" — but that applies equally to the other sites she links. Organizations that participate in an event will document just one version of the event: their own. This version might be carefully constructed to present a particular narrative of the event and of the organization's role (think of the narratives routinely presented by political parties). At its least contrived, organizational records will consist of of "our favorite moments" — the parts participants themselves most want to look back on. This is right and natural and how we all organize our personal memory-markers. It is one reason I've argued that narratives must be written by a third party in order to be classified as "journalism" instead of memoir.

People photograph that which they think is "interesting". Photographers then apply another filter of "worthness" before they upload their photos to the server — or show them to friends. Every photograph has a point of view. Every series of photos creates a narrative. It will never be complete, or unbiased. Even so, barring a large-scale misinformation campaign, Flickr photos of any event should, in aggregate, represent a relatively impartial account of what could be be captured on film.

That lack of editorial control provides some protection against any person or organization seeking to control the narrative of any given event. Everyone's photos are published, regardless of their political standing or intent. Given enough participants, Flickr's inclusive nature will work against anyone deliberately skewing coverage of an event.

We need to be on guard against fraud. We need to create technological systems that will support transparency and reduce distortion. But in the end, one of our best weapons against deliberate manipulation and misinformation may be the simple, non-technical principle of inclusion. In fact, the framers of our Constitution were onto this 200 years ago. It's a little thing they liked to call "a Free Press".  (7) Comments  / [ 04/17/06 ]

What is the price of female equality?

» A Little Weekend Reading: Working Girls, Broken Society is a terrible title for a really smart article . "While the benefits of career equality are axiomatic, its negative repercussions are wilfully ignored. In a contentious essay that is sparking fierce debate in Britain, a King's College professor argues that we must confront the losses to society when women choose work over family."

Politicians, journalists and businessmen often emphasize the negative economic consequences of any barriers to female participation in the workforce, and of losing half the country's best brains to the kitchen sink. Of course they are right, and I am in no hurry to go back there myself.
But it is striking how little anyone mentions, let alone tries to quantify, the offsetting losses when women choose work over family. This is stupid.

(via dm(8) Comments  / [ 04/14/06 ]

Slot machines are better monitored than voting machines

» In the United States, slot machines are better monitored than voting machines (via rc3oi(1) Comments  / [ 04/13/06 ]

On the problems of defining a principled political stance on immigration

» Andrew Leonard takes a look at the convoluted positions partisans have been twistered into by the immigration debate. [Commercial required to read article.] (via rc3oi [ 04/12/06 ]

How Flickr single-handedly invented collaborative photojournalism

» What is collaborative journalism? I would define it as news reporting, enabled by the Internet, done by a dispersed, unorganized group of people — or a group that spontaneously (and temporarily) organizes around their interest in a particular event. It's a compelling idea, but unfortunately — and in spite of many millions of blogs and wikis and online forums — actual examples are few and far between.

I had believed that was because most people are just not that interested in reporting the news, but I was wrong. Most of us can't wait to "break" a story to our friends, whether we've just witnessed a car accident, a celebrity sighting, or discovered that friends who were dating have broken up.

I'm beginning to suspect that what citizen reporters lack is the proper tool. Because the Flickr slideshow of photos of the French employment riots [Flash required] amply demonstrates that, on Flickr at least, collaborative photojournalism is thriving. That success is at least as much a product of Flickr itself as it is a product of the contributing photographers.

For those who don't know, Flickr allows members to upload photos to a public viewing area, and then "tag" them to denote their subject matter. Flickr then rates each photo according to "interestingness", a quality that is based on the ways in which other users interact with that photo. No one (outside of the Flickr team) knows exactly what that algorithm is based on, but I would guess that it measures things like the number of times each photo is viewed, the number of times another member calls it a favorite, the number of times it's emailed to others — those sorts of things.

The above slideshow consists of all public photos with a certain tag. So the first thing Flickr is doing is aggregating them. Then they are arranged by "interestingness" which means that the best photos (as judged by the community) come first. It also means that as new photos are added to the stream, it will continue to change, and more interesting photos will percolate to the top. If you haven't looked at a Flickr stream before, you'll be astonished by the high quality of these photographs.

Now, with or without Flickr, there would be people out on the streets watching the riots. But I would judge that Flickr members are now more inclined to document what they see, knowing that they can share it with others when they get home. I don't know what tools could make it this easy for other kinds of journalists to assemble a compelling story in pieces, but clearly Flickr has made something possible for photographers that was not possible before. [Updated to more clearly distinguish between written journalism and photojournalism.] (via rw)

Update: More on Flickr-powered collaborative journalism(8) Comments  / [ 04/11/06 ]

Boycott Sew Fast/Sew Easy

» Boycott Sew Fast/Sew Easy claims that the Sew Fast/Sew Easy, Inc is attempting to shut down local Stitch and Bitch groups (which they apparently see as rivals) by asserting that they were the first to coin the term "Stitch and Bitch" in 1997, and thus own the term. However, in her social history of knitting, No Idle Hands, Anne Macdonald writes of World War II knitters, "In Akron Ohio, twelve young women, who moved in with their parents or in-laws when their husbands went overseas, gave their elders a free night once a week to attend 'Stitch and Bitch Club' meetings." That dates the term back to at least the 1940s. Boycott Sew Fast/Sew Easy has a good timeline detailing numerous prior uses of the term. Knitting lawyers: who wants to step up the plate on this one?  [ 04/10/06 ]

Combatants for Peace

» Former Palestinian and Israeli fighters have joined together to create a new organization called Combatants for Peace. After being kept secret for a year, the group makes its public debut in Jerusalem April 10, which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Palestinian Prisoners Day. "It's a paradox. You hear a man talking about how he shot, killed, damaged your neighbor's house. But you feel empathy for him. You realize that we are all from the same background, but just from different sides. The soldier wanted to protect his people, and so did we. But we've all discovered we were wrong in how we did it." Bassam Aramin, one of the Palestinian co-creators of Combatants for Peace. (1) Comments  / [ 04/07/06 ]

Building a Better Anti-War Machine

» Former Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter on designing for success: The Art of War for the Anti-War movement. "It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a 'movement,' let alone a winning cause. [...] In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue." (via rc3oi [ 04/07/06 ]

Retiring Town Clerk

» Read this lovely story about retiring Boxborough town clerk Virginia Richardson, who has held the job — and run for office unopposed — since 1969. How will we ever replace these women when they are gone? "Ginny was a rural housewife, and she has knowledge that is slipping away — the sewing and canning and raising livestock. But she was also town clerk and part of this technical age we have entered into. [...] To me, she is Boxborough's town clerk. I don't ever remember another one." Selectwoman Kristin Hilberg. (thanks, jessamyn!)  [ 04/06/06 ]

Hide it not under a bushel.

» How shall we rebuild New Orleans? With hills(3) Comments  / [ 04/05/06 ]

What comes around....

» Returning favor, Indonesians aid Katrina's victims. "I was nervous about coming because I thought that Americans were mean to everyone. But everybody has been so nice and they want us to feel good here." Triayu Prastiwi Kodrat, a relief worker with Church World Service-Indonesia.  [ 04/04/06 ]

Afghanistan Apostasy

» Why Afghanistan should not have dismissed the apostasy case. (via dm [ 04/03/06 ]

NYT: Trachoma

» The New York Times continues its excellent series on nearly-eradicated diseases with a look at Trachoma [ 04/03/06 ]

We tried to explain this to you 2 years ago

» Notes for Converts, Jane Smiley

Bruce Bartlett, The Cato Institute, Andrew Sullivan, George Packer, William F. Buckley, Sandra Day O'Connor, Republican voters in Indiana and all the rest of you newly-minted dissenters from Bush's faith-based reality seem, right now, to be glorying in your outrage, which is always a pleasure and feels, at the time, as if it is having an effect, but those of us who have been anti-Bush from day 1 (defined as the day after the stolen 2000 election) have a few pointers for you that should make your transition more realistic.

 (1) Comments  / [ 03/31/06 ]

Women to Africa: Thanks, we can do it ourselves

» Newsweek has a tremendous article on the challenges facing Africa, and the courageous women who are entering public service, determined to repair decades of corruption. "If I left after the shooting, I'd look like a coward. I told my family, 'Let me strive to complete my five years'." Dora Akunyili head of Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control on why she kept her post after an assassination attempt by the counterfeit drug cartel she was trying to shut down.  [ 03/29/06 ]

On covering Iraq

» Must-See TV: When Howard Kurtz accused Lara Logan of being among the journalists who concentrate on negative stories in Iraq at the expense of the positive, she gave him an earful, and you absolutely have to see it to believe it.   [ 03/29/06 ]

Iraq's sadistic new civil war

» The details: Jeffrey Gettleman returned to Bagdhad after a year, and found a changed Iraq. It's rough to read. It's rougher being there. I opposed the invasion, but I'm not sure I agree with Scott Rosenberg's conclusion that it's time to get the hell out. We moved Iraq from a terrible situation to one that is even worse. Don't we have a responsibility to repair it somehow? (via sr(3) Comments  / [ 03/29/06 ]

BellSouth to cut off emergency wifi to NO

» BellSouth is on the verge of convincing the Louisiana legislature to shut down a free emergency wi-fi network New Orleans has provided for residents following Hurricane Katrina. "If I have to go to jail, I guess I will.... But we simply cannot turn off these few lifelines we have to our city and businesses." Greg Meffert, CIO of New Orleans. (via c'ist(1) Comments  / [ 03/28/06 ]

Bird Flu Investment Advice

» Um."Investment bank Bear Stearns has advised investors to start dumping airline and retail stocks in favour of blue-chip utilities as a hedge against bird flu." (via rw [ 03/23/06 ]

Sioux to SD: Thanks, we can do it ourselves.

» Go Grrrl News: In response to South Dakota's new law banning abortion, Cecilia Fire Thunder, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has announced that she plans to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Whump's reaction is right: a move from tribal casinos to tribal medicine can only benefit everyone. (4) Comments  / [ 03/23/06 ]

Children Tackle Water Crisis

» While bureaucrats struggle to find solutions at the World Water Forum, a parallel Children's Water Forum is bringing together young people from around the world who have addressed local water shortages with their own creative solutions — like the 13-year-old from Nepal who leads a club that helps communities pay for toilets with microfinancing. "There's no diplomacy in their dialogue. It's all very direct and very honest." Vanessa Tobin, chief of UNICEF's water and sanitation section, on the young people's interactions with delegates.  [ 03/23/06 ]

Mango Love

» Madhur Jaffrey on the real benefit of the new US nuclear and trade pact with India: Mangoes. (via jch [ 03/23/06 ]

Reflect Circles for Participatory Community Development

» This is neat: In 60 countries around the world, Reflect circles are providing members of poor communities with a structure to cooperatively tackle development projects and in the process, to advance their education. It's participatory community development! "In the Reflect methodology, a group identifies a community problem — AIDS, sexual violence, poverty, or some other ill — and then decides how to help solve it. The education comes subtly. Maybe the group decides it wants to improve members' writing ability to draft petitions. Or perhaps it aims at better math skills to run the business side of a community garden."  [ 03/22/06 ]

Polio eradication faces complex obstacles

» NYT: Rumor, Fear and Fatigue Hinder Final Push to End Polio. "The drive against polio threatens to become a costly display of all that can conspire against even the most ambitious efforts to eliminate a disease: cultural suspicions, logistical nightmares, competition for resources from many other afflictions, and simple exhaustion. [...] As the polio campaign has shown, even the miracle of discovering a vaccine is not enough."  [ 03/21/06 ]

Is Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic?

» Is Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic? "A pandemic flu outbreak in any part of the world would potentially cripple supply chains, dramatically reduce available labor pools. In a world where the global supply chain and real-time inventories determine most everything we do, down to the food available for purchase in our grocery stores, one begins to understand the importance of advanced planning."  [ 03/20/06 ]

Avian Flu arrives in France

» This is a fascinating article about the arrival of the Avian Flu virus in France, the search to determine how it is spreading (the path more closely follows train lines than birds' migratory patterns), and the struggle to prevent it from spreading further. A cat in Germany has been found with the virus. In France even ultralight planes are banned fron flying over suspected disease vectors for fear they will startle infected birds which will disperse over a wider range. Once again, Guns, Germs, and Steel has informed my understanding of these events as a long-standing feature of human evolution. Many of our diseases (mumps, measles, smallpox, AIDs) originated in animals. We may be witnessing the latest one as it emerges. If Avian Flu does jump to humans, I believe it will be the first one we have tracked from the animal stage.  [ 03/20/06 ]

Abu Ghraib Outrage

» A Little Weekend Reading and Reflecting: It's hard to look at the Abu Ghraib pictures, but I feel that we Americans have a duty to know what has been done and is being done in our name. Even if you can't bear to click through the thumbnails to see the full-sized images, at least read the accompanying articles that explain what happened, and the events surrounding the abuse. Jeanne d'Arc has looked at all of them, and she has some very thoughtful observations on how these soldiers got from who they were to who they became. She's quite honestly much more empathetic and forgiving than I think I can be.

I can't even imagine the kind of rhetoric that would be flying around if the prisoners in these photographs were Americans being held by any other nation at all. So it's important to know what, exactly, happened. I am ashamed and outraged that this was done by our people on our behalf. That each of these abuses was done in proxy for me. And that those responsible are still in office and on the job. (via rc3oi [ 03/17/06 ]

Utilities are keeping state taxes

» NYT: "An examination of regulatory filings by The New York Times shows that companies with electric utilities in at least 26 states have pocketed money intended for income taxes, and that utilities can legally do so in 21 more states." (via dm [ 03/16/06 ]

More Mad Cow Disease

» A third case of Mad Cow disease has been found in Alabama. Predictably, the USDA and National Cattlemen's Beef Association say this is evidence that the voluntary program is working. Public-interest groups say voluntary programs are not enough, and are urging Congress to make permanent bans on allowing "downer" cows into the human food supply, and to extend it to pigs and other livestock. Frankly, I'm shocked to discover that this was a temporary measure. "There is no reason to play Russian roulette with the food supply, nor is there any reason to torment nonambulatory livestock by dragging or pushing them into slaughterhouses with chains, bulldozers, or forklifts." Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. (3) Comments  / [ 03/15/06 ]

Palestine's Radical Matriarch

» The revolutionary matriarch of Hamas. Mariam Farhat, who lost 3 militant sons in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has recently been elected to the Palestinian legislative council. She now hopes to enforce stricter Islamic practices in her state, and to resist the Israeli occupation by any means necessary. Moderate Muslims are not so sure. "People are so willing to die for this, and then these people become untouchable and much like a taboo. I think we can bring her down to earth by having her in parliament." Eyad Serraj, the head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.  [ 03/15/06 ]

Growing up Bin Laden

» Osama Bin Laden's niece, an aspiring musician, is about to get her own reality show [ 03/13/06 ]

Parental Notification may modify behavior when there are no alternatives

» Contradicting the NYTimes study, researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York have found that abortion rates declined significantly among Texas girls after the state enacted a parental notification law, though girls 17 1/2 or slightly older were 33% more likely to have an abortion in the second trimester in order to escape the notification requirement. "[Lead researcher Ted Joyce] said [the NYTimes] analysis had a different outcome because it included two states with tiny populations, one state where the law was overturned, and two states near areas where abortion is easily accessible without parental involvement."  [ 03/10/06 ]

Imagining a New Gilded Age

» What a new 'Gilded Age' may bring. It's interesting that the future imagined here is reactionary and intolerant, whereas the last Gilded Age led to widespread support for unionization and the Progressive Movement. The chart at the end really illustrates the wealth trend. "The richest of the rich, the top 1/1,000th, enjoyed a 497 percent gain in wage and salary income between 1972 and 2001. Those at the 99th percentile, who made an average $1.7 million per year in 2001, enjoyed a mere 181 percent gain."  [ 03/09/06 ]

US Savings Lowest Since Depression

» For the first time since the Great Depression, the US savings rate is in negative numbers. "A lot of us are approaching retirement and a lot of us are approaching it with much too little saved up. They're either going to depend on Social Security, which is hardly a good bet given the state of the federal government's finances, or they're going to be taking early retirement at the age of 75." David Wyss, an economist with Standard and Poor's.

I found the 3 questions the Kinder Institute of Life Planning ask their clients to be interesting:

  [ 03/09/06 ]

Housing is a lousy long-term investment

» Wanting to take a truly long-term view of real estate values, a Dutch professor studied the price of real-estate transactions over four centuries on the Herengracht canal, and discovered that, adjusted for inflation, real property values rose only 0.2 percent per year. "It's true that economic and social conditions were different back then. But major crises do happen, and we can't necessarily predict them. Will bird flu be a major disaster? Will there be more hurricanes? I don't know. Nobody knows." Piet Eichholtz, a professor of real-estate finance at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. (thanks, jjg!)  [ 03/08/06 ]

Obama on Energy Independence

» Sen. Barack Obama has a plan for US energy independence, and boy is it smart. Someday I will vote for him for President. (via rc3oi [ 03/08/06 ]

Soda makes you fat

» Reports to be published in two scientific journals this week will argue that soda is not just a co-factor to obesity, it is a cause. They've amassed an impressive arsenal of evidence (I particularly like the jelly bean study). "I think that's laughable," said Richard Adamson, a senior science consultant to the American Beverage Association.  [ 03/07/06 ]

Parental consent marginally affects abortion rates

» A New York Times analysis of the states that enacted parental notification and parental consent laws from 1995 to 2004 found no evidence that those laws had a significant impact on the number of minors who got pregnant, or, once pregnant, the number who had abortions. "I see far more parents trying to pressure their daughters to have one. As a parent myself, I can understand. But I say to parents, 'You force her to have this abortion, and I can tell you that within the next six months she's going to be pregnant again.'" Jane Bovard, owner of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.

I guess the interesting thing to me is that if parental consent doesn't significantly affect the rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion (and there is some evidence that abortion rates go up in states that adjoin those that require parental consent), then there's less reason for many pro-lifers to support these laws, and for pro-choicers to oppose them. Of course, these are two "bright-line" groups. There is no room for nuance in this debate. Comments?  [ 03/07/06 ]

The ethics of stolen documents

» National Geographic's announcement that it will publish a translation of the stolen Gospel of Judas has brought an ethical question to the forefront: Is it right to pay for and publish stolen documents for the purpose of spreading knowledge? Or will such actions create incentives for thieves? "The present owners can't sell it because they don't have, in international law, a legal title to something that was stolen. They're trying to sell the sensationalism of the Gospel of Judas to get as much back as they can from whatever they paid for it." James Robinson, author of The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel [ 03/07/06 ]

Bringing Human RIghts to Foreign Policy

» After Christian groups noticed the success of the Jewish community in helping Soviet Jews, they turned their attention to an effort that is now bearing fruit: the evangelization of US foreign policy. "A 20-year civil war [in Sudan] actually ended in large part due to the activism of evangelicals and their alliance with others, including Jewish groups. It's an unheralded story, but it's also a historical fact." Allen Hertzke, author of Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights [ 03/06/06 ]

Guantanamo = Bush Administration Lawlessness

» If only we could get them interested in human rights at home. "Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law. The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts." Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. (via b&s, who has much more here [ 03/06/06 ]

Abortion rights, ZOOM!

» Wow. First South Dakota, now Mississippi. All at once that rhetorical fear-mongering in the Planned Parenthood and NOW fundraising letters is starting to sound like cool, accurate assessment.  [ 03/02/06 ]

The Clinton Administration set the stage

» Clinton's Guantanamo. (via b&s [ 02/28/06 ]

Flu Wiki on CNN

» Hey, the Flu Wiki made CNN! Remember, you saw it here first [ 02/27/06 ]

First Transgendered EU Parliamentary Member

» A transgendered candidate for the Italian Parliament (considered a sure winner in her race) says she will dress conservatively if elected because she wants to be seen as a serious politician. "Parliament is not a theatre, it’s not a discotheque. It’s already revolutionary that a transgender gets into parliament. It wouldn’t be useful to provoke in such a stupid way." Vladimir Luxuria, Italian Parliamentary candidate.  [ 02/23/06 ]

SCOTUS unanimously approves religious hallucinogenics

» In his second opinion on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts affirmed that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God. Tell me: what does this portend for the Roberts court?  [ 02/22/06 ]

Religious leaders reject Intelligent Design

» Protestant and Catholic leaders are speaking out against the Intelligent Design movement, joining scientists who have been battling to remove the ideology from science classes across the United States.  [ 02/22/06 ]

America's Long War

» America's Long War.

Looking beyond the Iraq and Afghan battlefields, US commanders envisage a war unlimited in time and space against global Islamist extremism. "The struggle ... may well be fought in dozens of other countries simultaneously and for many years to come," the report says. The emphasis switches from large-scale, conventional military operations, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, towards a rapid deployment of highly mobile, often covert, counter-terrorist forces.

(via rw [ 02/17/06 ]

Bush New Media Rules

» PressThink: Dick Cheney Did Not Make a Mistake By Not Telling the Press He Shot a Guy. Rosen has this nailed.   [ 02/17/06 ]

Evangelical Greens

» Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative. "As Christians, our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to love our neighbors and to be stewards of God's creation. The good news is that with God's help, we can stop global warming, for our kids, our world and for the Lord." The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of a megachurch in Longwood, Fla., in a television spot that links images of drought, starvation and Hurricane Katrina to global warming. (via jc [ 02/13/06 ]

The Power Law Rules Social Problems

» A Little Weekend Reading: Malcolm Gladwell reflects on homelessness, pollution, and bad cops and the problems of the power law. (via jc)   [ 02/10/06 ]

OBL Reading Club

» In an effort to understand one of the most influential men in modern history, 10 professors at Vanderbilt University have created an Osama Bin Laden reading club. There's been so little careful reflection on how bin Laden thinks. For most of us, the media presentations ... have been 30- or 40-second summaries, [but] it struck us that he couldn't have all that power if he were simply a sociopath.... What he did was monstrous, but ... he can't be stupid." Volney Gay, director of Vanderbilt's Center for the Study of Religion and Culture. (via rw [ 02/02/06 ]

DIY African Irrigation

» Glyvyns Chinkhuntha is a self-taught Malawian farmer who has used limited resources to create a home-grown irrigation system that feeds a lush farm in the midst of Africa's drought. His prescriptions for African farming: education, independence from Western aid, freedom from debt, and stewardship of resources. "His irrigation system is a four-tiered network of berms that gets its water from the river. Each channel is the width of a hoe. By simply moving a clod of dirt here and there, Chinkhuntha directs water to thirsty plants."  [ 02/01/06 ]

US Legacy Healthcare & Reform

» The Economist: Desperate measures: America's health-care crisis is a terrific explanation of the US legacy healthcare system and current proposals for reform.

This system is a legacy of the second world war, when firms, hamstrung by wage controls, used health insurance as a way to lure in workers. It means that, according to census figures, around 174m Americans get health coverage from their own, their spouse's or their parents' employer. Another 27m buy health insurance individually, for which they do not get a tax subsidy. The government picks up the tab for 40m elderly and disabled Americans (through Medicare) and about 38m poor (through the state-federal Medicaid scheme). That leaves around 46m uninsured, though many of these, whether students or workers, go without insurance by choice. In practice, they get emergency care at hospitals, which is paid for by higher premiums for everyone else.

(via rw [ 01/27/06 ]

High tide floats all yachts

» A new study shows that in 38 states, during last 20 years the incomes of the top fifth of families grew faster than those of the bottom fifth.

[W]hen wealthier families see their incomes rise at a faster pace than everyone else, their spending can create what [Cornell economist Robert Frank] calls an "expenditure cascade." That is, the demand for bigger and better homes or safer cars can create new standards for those lower down on the economic scale.
But since their incomes aren't growing as fast, they have a hard time keeping up, leading to what Frank calls "welfare loss." For example, as home prices rise, it becomes harder to afford a home in a neighborhood with good public schools.

  [ 01/27/06 ]

What the Alito hearings mean for abortion activism

» This recent CSM article on the Alito hearings is notable for one quote: "The abortion issue is one that we can win, and we know it now." Manuel Miranda, Chair of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative and libertarian groups, referring to the failure of the Alito hearings to rouse public opinion on the issue. (I can get my head around Libertarians, and I can get my head around pro-lifers, but I sure have trouble putting the two together.)  [ 01/24/06 ]

Free to be, You and Me

» CSM: US celebrates its most misread freedom. "American Muslims often tell me how much they appreciate the freedom to practice Islam the way they want to, which they couldn't do in their native country even though it was a Muslim nation. But then they say, 'What is this nonsense about the separation of church and state — why do we need that?' They don't understand that's why they have their freedom." Charles Haynes, of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.  [ 01/20/06 ]

Evangelical Warmongering

» NYT: Wayward Christian Soldiers is a remarkable piece by an American evangelical who is troubled by the role his movement played in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American people. "Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. [...] Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine." (via dm)   [ 01/20/06 ]

Raw News

» Want to know what actually happened? No Comment is a source for unedited news video with original sound. (via rw [ 01/19/06 ]

Troubling Trends

» What's wrong with the economy? The rich are getting richer and everyone else is falling a little behind. (via dm [ 01/17/06 ]

New Medicare is a Train Wreck

» WP: The States Step In As Medicare Falters."[I]nterviews with two dozen people — state officials, pharmacists, advocates for seniors, and Medicare clients — revealed a host of problems. Many poor seniors were never enrolled or were enrolled in plans that do not cover their medications. Others received multiple insurance cards, creating confusion at the pharmacies. Some were charged the deductible and unaffordable co-payments. And some, such as Laurine League, left empty-handed." We could use some accountability here. (via rw)

Today the Bush administration directed insurers to provide a 30-day supply of any drug that a beneficiary was previously taking. "Despite these problems, Dr. McClellan said, Medicare is now covering one million prescriptions a day. With the latest corrective actions, he said, 'all beneficiaries should be able to get their prescriptions filled.' In the past, such predictions proved to be premature. New problems appeared as old ones were solved, and some insurers were slow to carry out federal instructions."  [ 01/16/06 ]

Vreeland on Alito

» Garret Vreeland on Samuel Alito [ 01/13/06 ]



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