Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Movie Downloading: Industry SNAFU All Over Again

Years ago, when Napster was on its way out and a multitude of other P2P programs were popping up the recording industry screwed up so badly in their handling of things that CD sales continued spiraling downward. Hell, I even ranted about it in my then budding webpage. Apple saved the music industry. Now the film industry is making the same mistakes. I'm talking about cost and freedom of use.

Cost to go to movie: $5 to $15, depending on location, age, student id, etc. Cost to rent: $1 to $5 (better w/ netflix). Cost to purchase DVD: $7 - $12 for older and $15-$25 for new releases. Cost to download a movie: $20-$30.

If you own the DVD you can watch the movie on any DVD player--TV to Computer to portable DVD player. If you are so inclined and have the software you can record the movie to your hard drive, compress it and store it as a back up elsewhere (yes, you can do this if you've only rented as well, but I'm talking legal here). If you purchase a download you can: watch it on a computer, burn a DVD that will be playable...only on a computer! Also you can have no extra features or packaging and you have to cough up an extra buck for the DVD-R. So, basically, downloading gives you fewer options/features for more money.

The result: people will download illegal copies instead, or they will rent and record. If the movie industry wants people to pay for downloading they need to realize that people want options and reasonable prices. The cost to download needs to be less than the cost to purchase a DVD (or a VHS copy, really), and the use of the downloaded copy needs to be equal to a DVD (playable on any DVD player and transferable). Apple has already demonstrated that when these criteria are met people will pay and illegal downloading will lessen. Until the greedy bastards in the movie industry make sense I would like to encourage people to increase the amount of illegal downloading they do. Yes, piracy is wrong, but so is treating consumers like sacks of cash with no options and no opinions.

People don't download illegally because they are bad people, they do it because there is not a sensible downloading alternative. Piracy will never end, but it can be reduced if corporate USA would unclench its collective sphincter and treat consumers as intelligent decision making people...well, at least not treating them like indentured servants. Free market economies require choice and if that choice is not available people will go around the legal markets to get what they want.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Politics as it Could Bee

The current system for getting an individual into the halls of power in the government no longer functions in the citizens' best interest (and by citizens I mean nation). The problem is money. Blogs have made a fair amount of headway in fundraising and that may, in time, reduce the problem, but even that won't eliminate it. The problem is that only the most involved (at least on a mental level) contribute even a small amount. More and more people are doing that, but they are still a minority of the population. Moreover the most involved often have an issue or leaning that may not be representative of the whole of the nation. So I think we should take a cue from the spelling bee. The solution to money in politics is a political bee.

In the political bee every man and woman (of age) who wishes can fill out a few simple forms, pay a processing fee (say $100) and enter any race they choose. Individual communities would hold thier local political bee, which would involve a short speach from each candidate and a town hall style debate. The whole event would be televised on the local tv stations and available for viewing online, and voting would happen the next week. Candidates could campaign, but there would be spending limits (at this level, say $1000--more upon moving to the next rounds up to around $25 million for a national campaign & state races topping at $10 million) and any candidate found in violation would be disqualified, even after the vote, up until the next vote--at least one month later. Subsequently, voluntary reporting of violations would result in a fine of $1 for every $1 over the limit, and non-disclosed violations discovered would result in in jail time of one day for every $10 over the limit and a permanent national ban on running for office. No excuses, there are too many people in this country to tolerate any corruption. We can find someone else. The one month grace and voluntary disclosure rules are sufficient to find mistakes and the penalties enough to ensure candidates pay attention (note: exceptions for deliberate campaign sabotage, and those that do so face 2x penalties). Each level after that would have a similar setup with only one candidate advancing.

Tournament style politics where winning is most closely associated with having a solid platform and being able to convey that platform, because, let's face it, charisma is of huge importance in politics. It could also result in more local interest. Now anyone really could run. Any American citizen really could be president.

Another possibility would be an "American Idol" style with an initial vetting process, but that would subjugate us to the political leanings of a handfull of judges, and we know how well the 2000 debacle in FL turned out for us.

Wanted: Good Politicians

I'm not sure, of course, but it seems that something happens to people that go into politics. I think it is in large part that there is an inner circle mentality that one cannot escape if one hopes for success. Look at McCain. For years I considered him among the best senators in this nation. I was envious of people living in AZ who had him as their representative. In 2000, for reasons passing understanding, the Republicans anointed a mouth-breather legacy to run for president in liu of a man who was nearly universally respected (GOPers, Dem's, Indi's...). Now, with the 2008 election in view, and many people wanting Sen. McCain to run again, he has turned into the very thing he seemed to stand against.

He--a former POW--campaigned heavily for Dubbya in 2004--a war-avoiding reservist who had swift boat attack dogs chewing on his opponent--a decorated Veitnam vet. He told Americans that they would not be willing to work as hard as immigrants for $20/hr (which is a pretty hefty amount, considering many American citizens work for far less) and rebuffed an audience member who dared to disagree. He suggested at a straw poll that republicans cast votes for Dubbya in 2008 as a show of support. I'm not sure if party leaders have something on him or if he wants so badly to get the party nod that he has decided that prostituting his views is acceptable or if he really believes this crap. In the end republicans still won't vote for him, and now dems won't either.

In the house the black caucus is going pit bull on Pelosi for asking for the resignation of a bribe accepting, corrupt politician, whose defiant stance only makes voters more irate. It has nothing to do with him being black, just like it had nothing to do with Cunningham being white, or DeLay, or any of those that Abramoff bedded with money. It has to do with them being crooks. They need to be gone. There are still good congressmen and women (Sen Feingold jumps to mind), but too many are corrupt, and most have done nothing illegal.

Sen McCain has (most likely) done nothing against the law, but he has become corrupt in his values and his public interactions. The same with the members of the congressional black caucus, most of the leadership (Dem and GOP), and countless others at all levels in all branches. Corruption for a politician is not restricted to impropriety (or the appearance thereof) but is when the office, the positions held, and the perceived importance of self supercede the needs and desires of the constituents who put them there, whom they claim to represent, and who are America. We need Americans to remember that talking about values is not the same as having them, and those haves are the ones we need in office.

Monday, May 29, 2006


This is long, but a decent read. Nothing really mind altering, just a bit of focus on our responsibility now that another Memorial day has come and gone and our troops are still without the focus of responsible government.

An Aside From a Sad Blog

Molly's Page is a blog written by the mother (family) of a girl named Molly who was badly torn up by a Hummer limo at her senior prom this year. My uncle teaches at the school, and I heard about it in a round about manner from my aunt. Go to that site or a Denver news site if you want to learn more. I want to talk about this quote from that site:

"The first ammendment was created as a check and balance of the government, not a carte blanche for [news agencies] to increase your advertising revenues."

True. The media are rude sonsabitches. This got me to thinking about what would happen if the family took them to court and the Supreme Court would end up making a similar pronouncement. It seems like only good things at first. Tabloid news would be all but out of business, and we would no longer be subjected to hours of meaningless garbage in the coverage of a pretty girl who has disappeared/been kidnapped/died/... I mean, how many times and ways can people say "We don't know, and are still studying the case"? 99% of what is presented in the news today is fluff and filler. Real reporting happens, but once it does there are hundreds of junk follow ups and op-ed pieces and the real journalism is banished from our collective minds. As journalists and news outlets scratch and claw in search of audiences we lose interest and important matters go unresolved and no one is held to account. But here is a strange thing. If it weren't for tabloid reporters and personal space invaders there would be even more of this garbage reporting on real news. Moreover, if the personal lives of citizens were labled off limits then why not the personal lives of politicians? A politician has legal encounters with contributers and receives presents, then votes in favor of their legislation...can't report it. What pitifully small amount of accountability that there is now would be out the window.

So, yes, there are creeps and rude, almost inhuman people that are part of the news media. Many have no shame and don't see a problem with harassing a family who has suffered from some tragedy, but we can't stop them in a blanket statement. On an individual basis, maybe, they could be held back, but any restriction would only open the door to more in the future. It may not result in 1984 type control of the news but we would lose something. Every right that gets stripped from anyone/thing leaves a hole. Most of the time it is small and unnoticed, but sometimes even small holes can cause catastrophic failure, and often in places you wouldn't imagine.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Barry Bonds: Ruining Baseball

The steroid infused homer bashing that was credited with bringing fans back to the game after the greed induced 1994 strike is now turning them away again. Most notably in the person of Barry Bonds. Now, steroid use was not against the rules in MLB (though I think if something is against the law then rules shouldn't need to be made for it) when 60-300 home runs/player/season were being hit, so I've heard "he didn't do anything wrong." I belive that owners were more than happy to have steroids on the bench as they result in fans in the stands. I think that every homerun record set over that period should be stricken from the books. That is only because, though I prefer it, the Onion's solution won't go through.

This post was entirely to get you to go and read that Onion article (and this short one).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Expensive is relative.

Near the end of this article is the following:

"Most Americans, about seventy percent, according to the survey, do not think $3.00 a gallon is 'too expensive' for gasoline. In other words, $3.00 a gallon for gasoline would not cause them to take serious measures to curtail their usage. About half think $4.00 a gallon would be 'too expensive.' "

If most Americans had been asked about $3/gal gas 3 years ago they would have been defiantly opposed. When prices creep upwards on things people buy regularly those people do not take as much notice until their credit card bill is notably more out of control than it was. If gas prices were to increase by a penny every two weeks or so and would hit $4/gallon in about four years, then people would say $4 was not "too expensive." If it were to be $4 tomorrow then a year or so later they would probably say that $4 is not "too expensive." Expensive is relative. The problem is where the money goes.

The cost of gas, right now, is market driven. That is to say that consumers have set the cost at $3/gal through supply and demand. Around $2 of that is profit (going back several steps to oil companies, not to the gas station) if the government were to impose a $1.50/gallon tax then the price would correct for this after a short while and remain at ~$3/gallon...only the oil companies would lose money. The government could take the money from such a tax and use it to fund renewable energy or to build up/improve public transportation. At the least they could put money into road work to relieve congestion (which would improve fuel efficiency).

Even if gas prices would go up some, if the alternative is faster global warming, can we really afford not to do these things. Really, expensive is relative.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Now a Balance of Power is Important

So it's alright for the president can run roughshod over constitutional rights for ordinary citizens and can be rubber stamped by congress with little oversight--no need for a balance of power there. But a corrupt congressman has his office raided by FBI agents with a court approved warrant and now we need checks and balances?!? First off, there is no way this guy should remain in the US House. Guilty or innocent (and it's looking like if he is declared innocent it will be on a technicality, not based on true innocence) he needs to resign. Perception is politics. The perception in this case will not be reversed. True or not, he has become a stain that will taint the November elections for his whole party. Whether the charges are true or not, his current behavior is corrupt, though not illegal. The really odd thing about this all is the reaction from republicans.

The GOP seems aghast that an investigation into corruption would result in a warranted search of a congressional office. Warrentless wiretapping? Oh, that's fine, but we can't have corrupt politicians investigated by the FBI if that is going to result in them going to a judge, getting a warrant and searching the offices of the corrupt politicians. Where will we (I mean they) hide evidence against us (them) if not there?!? It seems that the GOP is terrified that their stall tactics on corruption against their buddies will fail if the federal police are allowed to investigate. Think about congressional investigations into corruption this way: a college professor has uncovered cheating by several students in one of his classes (the obvious kind). If this were congressional rules the prof would tell the rest of the class that there was cheating, give the evidence, and then pass the cheaters with the hope that their classmates would do something about it. The cheaters would then help others cheat and the class would be content that there was not any unfair advantage and everyone would get the exact same grade with the professor powerless to do anything about it. That is bullshit. This is why Congress policing itself and cracking down on corruption is a joke. It's political meaningless drivel, and both parties are playing it. Real corruption is not the illegal activities of a handfull of congressmen and women, it is the complicity of the rest of them demonstrate by doing nothing to fix it.

I did not get this finished until evening, and saw this in the meantime. Pretty much says a similar thing.

Amnesty International

So they think the US, China and Russia all use national security as an excuse to abuse human rights. Really, that's no surprise. Neither is it untrue. There is some harsh language and there is quite a bit of scathing criticism. Of course, it won't matter. Hell, Rove is probably the only administration person in this country that will actually read everything they have to say...and that is only so he can figure out the best way to make it sound as though their statement is an indication that we are doing the right thing and winning the "war" on terror. Bush and cronies will mostly hear about this from Fox news which will certainly be highly critical of Amnesty International and the statement and talk about how patriotic security is (as opposed to liberty).

So their comments and report are useless. Everyone who agrees has already been of that mind, and those who like Bush won't read it and won't care. If Amnesty International wants to be effective they really need to take a harder hitting approach. Maybe kidnapping the leader of a country they know is abusing human rights, or, if that is not possible, one of that leader's children. Then keep them without a hearing and release a statement to the world that by complicitly calling that leader "dad" or "father" the son/daughter has been on the side of the human rights abusers. At least it would be ironic.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hello, I am Nigerian Royalty

Maybe I've just been lucky, or maybe I'm just not a poorly thrown nerf ball (the old, super light foam kind) away from being unable to feed myself, but I have little sympathy for most victims of internet scams. The 14 yr old scammer (from Nigeria) put it this way: "White people are too gullible. They are rich, and whatever I gyp them out of is small change to them." Also in that article there was a comment about scamming being "a form of reparation for the sins of the West." Generally speaking, if you are not so stupid as to send $10k for legal fees to get $1 million back, and you keep an eye on your finances (credit cards and the like) then you have little to worry about.

Incedentally, I was recently among the claimants in a class action suit and my share of the multi hundred million dollar settlement is $5 million. Unfortunately, it will take a year before that comes through and I really need cash now, so, though it begrudges me to do so, I will turn it all over to others for only $100,000. I realize that is a large sum, so anyone who can spare $1000 now will receive thier cut of the $5 million (that's $50,000). If I do not find 100 investors then all money will be returned, as less than I said would be useless. The $100,000 is important. I don't want to go into detail, but suffice to say I've made some bad decisions, I know, but I don't think my family should suffer for them. I would say please, but I am not begging, your return will come-- 5000% in fact (well 4900% plus principle). Thank you for your support. Paypal accepted (verified accounts only, please).

Whoda Thought Eh?

Canada is sabotaging environmental efforts. Kyoto has too many problems to be functional. It would probably be best if it died and a new environmental treaty/pact was formed, but I don't see that happening. If it dies, it will be dead.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On Stupidity

I think things and people are stupid. That is probably pretty clear by now. But there are subtleties associated with it that are probably not. People who disagree with me are not, just because of that, stupid. They are wrong, but not necessarily stupid. Stupid people are not the ones who disagree with me, they are the ones who have no real reason for thinking whatever they do (about an issue...whatever), whether or not they agree with me. Let's take an example: the estate tax.

The estate tax is a tax for very rich people and it's purpose is to, somewhat, prevent the perpetuation of wealth that leads to a practical aristocracy. We now look at two people who support its permanent repeal. The first is a disgustingly wealthy CEO. He has nearly one hundred million dollars in assets and he wants his children to never have to work or be productive members of society. The second is a middle class working father who makes around $35k and lives paycheck to paycheck. He doesn't trust the government, and when he heard about the "death tax" he became angry. When he heard other politicians try and justify it by saying "estate tax" and claiming it didn't affect him, he progressed to irate. He votes republican and wants to see the "death tax" eliminated because people shouldn't be taxed for dying.

They are both wrong, but only the second fellow is stupid--and very much so. The CEO, while wrong is not necessarily stupid. He is viscious greedy.

I hope this has clarified: disagreeing with me makes you wrong, not stupid. Stupidity comes from someplace much deeper and will present itself with every one of your opinions whether or not they are the right ones.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Might as Well Face it

Your addicted to little electrons and photons flying around the world carrying information--good and bad--and presenting it to you on a computer monitor: i.e. the internet. The internet addiction story was right above another one presenting the results of a survey: workers would give up coffee before internet access.

...I'm no longer interested in this post. I think I'll go surf for videos of fat kids dancing or something. I need coffee.

Faith: Political Capital

Politicians are developing a greater love of talking about [their] faith. It gives a sense of openness and normalcy from people who are genereally perceived as neither. It typically strikes me as more of a political maneuver than a sincere effort at honesty, but I'm a tad cynical when it comes to politicians. I suppose the problem is when they see (or represent) themselves as defenders of faith, doers of God's work. Throughout history any leader who believed/proclaimed themselves to be "ordained by God" or to be doing the work of God has subsequently done some horrible, inhumane thing, which is often times in direct opposition to the words of God in which they proclaim belief. So it goes today.

God wanted George W. Bush to be president (in his mind and words). W goes to war against a nation that had done nothing to us. W decries those who disagre with his methods/ideas. W talks about/supports: killing terrorists, capital punishment, retribution, revenge. W widens the gap between rich and poor, by giving to the rich. W supports writing discrimination into the constitution. W opposes proper care for our elderly, and opposes (scientific) work that could help the lives of many thousands. W backs off environmental standards that help improve quality of life and lead to better futures for children/grandchildren. W professes that he is a devout Christian, but he does NOT act like one.

The major crux of politicians talking about God is that it means they don't care about [some aspect of] humanity. If someone says they want to help the poor, there is no need to invoke God to defend that, everyone will see it as a good thing. If someone wants to deny an entire group of people (say, homosexuals) rights, then they must declare it as God's will to gain the favor of others...and to hush those that oppose. "Holy wars" are far easier to gain support for than are oil/land grab attempts. Faith is not a bad thing in and of itself, and politicians should not be ashamed of theirs, but the second it gets brought up anything political that follows should be considered quite suspect.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I remember reading 4-5 yrs ago an op-ed piece on how Iran was a success story for democracy in the middle east. Things sure seem different today. In proclaiming that they are not children president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is acting more like one than he ususally does. Of course it is not as though the administration in this country behaves in any more mature of a fashion. I have always felt that people who wish to be in positions of power are the people least qualified to be there. The rhetoric resulting from power happy fools is destructive and idiotic.

"Ooo, I have a nucular[sic] arsenal and you don't and I'm gonna talk about using it just to scare you so as to ensure you don't get one." "Yea, well, I'm just going to keep on doing whatever I want because the world hates you already and will even more if you do anything." "So? Caring what the world thinks is for panty-waist peacemongers." yadda, yadda, yadda...

A couple more back and forths and Mahmoud will probably go straight for the throat with an "I triple dog dare you to bomb us." Yes, this will be a bit of a breach of ettiquete--he will certainly skip the triple dare, but also, in all likelyhood the double dog dare--but I'm sure you've noticed how quickly things escalate now days.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Frickin' Weather

Actually, it is back to being nice today, mostly, at least with respect to temp, but it was so cold at the tail end of last week and through the weekend that my dog, who is perfectly content to lay down in/eat/roll around in the snow, wanted a bit more warmpth (see above).

(Please note: this is an unusual post for me, I know. These will happen from time to time if I have a particular motivation to share this case a picture I took. This is not, in any way, a response to being called "cute" by an extraordinarily perceptive woman in a comment a few posts down. ...This may, however, lead to me having to explain some things, to someone, for reasons, various ones, that I'm not telling you. Just look at the puppy damn it.)

Town Defines "Family"

Black Jack, MO has a law on the books that defines who can and cannot live together. It states that more than three people cannot live together if not related by "blood, marriage or adoption." So if a couple is not married and has at least two kids, they cannot live together. Let's nevermind that a couple could be married in a church, but not legally (don't trust the state). Let's ignore that there exist plenty of people who do not believe in marriage (it is more about property than love, well, from a legal perspective). I'm surprised the law doesn't also specify that the married couple can be black, white, or asian but no combination of that. Seriously, how backasswards is this place? I know it's in Missouri (misery), but it is near St. Louis (an ok town), so I would think that the people would be in the middle ground in terms of common sense. Maybe the citizens will rise up and demand that it gets changed... Huh, uh, what, I think I nodded off there and had a crazy and very short dream sequence in which Untied States citizens behaved in a responsible manner and actually thought about something. Oh, well, back to the real world.

Snow Takes Over, Gets First Planted Question

So Tony Snow did his first televised press briefing and it finished with the perfect sympathy drawing planted question: why does he wear a "LIVESTRONG" bracelet? Under most circumstances I would consider this an ask him casually afterwards kind of question, but, no, not with this administration. Someone made sure that got asked, and toward the end, too so that the last impression left was Tony emotionally discussing his cancer survival story. Yea, yea, how rude of me. He had cancer, it was scary, he lived, and now he supports efforts to find a cure. Fine, whatever, except for a couple things: this is exactly the kind of crap that Karl Rove does all the time. I have no doubt in my mind that his cancer story was even part of the reason he was chosen for the job (the other being that he was at Fox, and a direct spin pipeline probably simplifies things a bit).

The other thing is the obviousness of the bracelet versus the administration's record on health, well, science in general. One dollar gets you a yellow rubber bracelet. Large donations can get you some tax benefits. Federal funding is out of the question, though. We need that money to pay rich people to invest in the stock market, because God--and therefore our president--knows that they would never invest in the most profitable (legal) investment available without tax incentives. This is the look like you care but don't actually do anything about it politics that was gloriously demonstrated in the state of the union address earlier this year.

Tony may be a great guy (considering his current and former jobs, that is not likely, but it is still possible) but his story is being used to try and get Bush better numbers at the polls. Period. If you don't get that then you haven't been paying attention for the past five plus years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Our Newly Expanded Border

For more than one hundred years the US-Mexico border has been about 1900 miles long (wiki), 1250 of that along the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. As of last night, the President of this nation has informed us that the US-Texas border is (or was while he was governor) 12,000 miles long! I know things are bigger in Texas, but who would have thought that one mile in most states is 10 there? 12,000 miles is approximately one half of a trip around the world (at the equator). No wonder we can't secure this border! I mean, 12,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover...and that's only in Texas.

Monday, May 15, 2006

DaVinci Follow-up

Here is the thing that really bugs me about the Church's reaction to this whole thing: even if it were all true, the message is the same. Should anyone believe any of [the book]? No. If it were to somehow all be proven as fact should that change any aspect of one's faith? Hell no. Jesus' message was one of compassion. Forgive, love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, turn the other cheek, help the poor, put love and compassion for all of mankind above any rule laid down by humanity. These are the consistant lessons of the new testament (all things that are the opposite of the actions of the religious right in this country). In the Gospels it is neither stated nor even entoned that sex is a vile thing, that procreation is its only purpose, that gay sex leads to hell, or that women are any less than men in any fact throughout the gospels we see Christ treating women as equals. He speaks with them in public, he has consort with sinful women (typically assumed to be prostitutes), he treats women as human beings--he treats them with respect. (Jesus also never says to forgive those who wrong you seventy times seven times, then kill them, but that's another rant.)

So the book paints the Church in a poor light. But, hey, frankly, the Vatican hasn't really done a whole lot to not deserve it. In practice, in the Catholic Church, women are inferiors. They are not allowed to become priests, which is more than enough to demonstrate the practical inferiority in treatment. Further, birth control and abortion views are far more anti-female than anti-male (fundamentally this is not, necessarily, true, but in perception and practice it is). Historically the anti-sex view of the church was also an anti-female practice. Men were almost expected to have sex, even if not married--heck there was even a pope who (was rumored to have) had sex parties at the Vatican where he would bring in prostitutes and the men would compete to see who could copulate the most (he counted the # of ejaculations), and you thought the church was stuffy. Point is the Catholic Church has never been a particularly friendly place for women, especially those who have been sinners, and who hasn't. Even the strides that were made in the 20th century to make the Church more open to its secular body didn't do anything, specifically, to improve the standing of women. The closest the church has come to leveling the playing field is to emphasize that masturbation is a sin (in perception this affects men more), and I don't know that I've met a Catholic male, willing to discuss it, that doesn't consider this ridiculous (the typically given reason would actually make not having sex at least ~once/week a sin for any male past puberty...and wet dreams used to be considered sinful too).

I think the primary drive to success for the book is its overt statement of the equality of the sexes (the glory of the female) and the lack of shame regarding sex. Now there are a whole bunch of ways things are better when people do not succumb to every sexual desire that they have, and abstinance certainly has benefits, but so long as sex is seen as sinful and shameful, and women are treated as inferiors within the Catholic Church The DaVinci Code will continue to have success and more people will come to look with increasing disdain upon the Vatican. If the Church spent more effort fixing the problems rather than decrying a work of fiction, maybe there would be no reason to fear that people may read (view) it as fact.

No Child Left Behind*

*Unless you live in: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Washington, the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico...and maybe also in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia or Wisconsin.

So states that have not complied with the new law (in large part due to lack of $$) will be forced to do so by the feds by having their federal funding cut. If you didn't have enough money to get the job done before then the obvious solution is to provide less money and more demands. So what we need to do, as a nation, to fix this is to take all of the money that the federal government would return to the states for education, and give it to the wealthy (individuals and corporations). Tax cuts for the rich may not exactly solve the problem, I know, shocking, but it will ensure that the poor (who are most affected) will be even less likely than they are (I think it is a negative probability at this point) to have a voice in the media or government that would affect a positive change in their lives.

The Bush administration solution for a squeeky wheel: break it off, and convince people not only that the cart is still moving but going faster than ever.

The Vatican is Funny

A senior official at the Vatican has denounced Dan Brown's novel (The DaVinci Code). For the two of you who aren't familiar, and don't read this either, I won't explain the book, but I will say:! It is not a true story; it is not a research paper (the movie is not a documentary). I'm pretty sure that the vast majority are fully aware of that and read (and watch) it with that awareness. People who take it as "Bible Truth" probably have issues with killing folk after playing GTA (grand theft auto). Of course the saying "Bible Truth" is not fact either. The Bible relies heavily on metaphor and symbolism. Deeds are written down tens to hundreds of years after they happened by people who were not there, and were often times several people (or generations) removed from the acutal events. It has also been edited by many people, including just about every translation up until the printing press was invented. The Bible is a historical document in much the same way as Gilgamesh or Beowolf or the Illiad or any other ancient story you can think of is. There is truth there, but fact is often lacking.

The other gripe presented in the article is that the media is responsible for people's wacky view of reality because of how heavily it promotes things that are not truth. As evidence that the media eschews truthiness for "'voluptuous pleasure'...[Cardinal Paul Poupard] noted that the mass media showed no interest in an extensive Dictionary of Religions he edited with contributions from many leading experts in the field." Um, so beacuse the media didn't go into a frenzy about a Dictionary of Religions, they don't like truth? Yea, yea, the guy is 75 and French, I suppose he is allowed to be a bit eccentric, but doesn't it seem a tad ironic that this guy is just as detached from reality as the goobers who think DaVinci Code is a work of non-fiction?

There will be a follow up...later.

Monday, May 08, 2006


If the drug benefits thing has an enrollment deadline, then that should be a clue there is something wrong.


A friend of mine--Michael--bought the complete series on DVD and I get to borrow/view them. I had seen an episode or two when it originally aired. I liked it, but I have a tendency to be very hit and miss with remembering when things are on and the like. I enjoyed the movie (Serenity) a great deal and am on a bit of a kick that may lead to me purchasing the film (and maybe the series).

The series was voted the best space sci-fi ever (unscientific poll on the website of New Scientist magazine). Most fans of the genre probably already know about it, but even if you are not, it is worth seeing. The feel is so different from most sci-fi's that it really does not feel like one. (Anime fans should think "Trigun" or, even better, "Cowboy Bebop.") So check it out, already.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Everyone's Huffy

The president, the press, the pundits...and why? Because of Steven Colbert's little speach at the correspondents dinner. Please read the full transcript, because it is funny in its own right. What is even funnier: the silence from the room that greeted it. I've read "speak truth [truthiness] to power" quite a bit with regard to this. I like Colbert and his show, and I can't even begin to imagine what posessed (someone) to schedule him to talk at this event. Was the person unaware of what the definition of "satire" is and thought Colbert was pro-administration? Did they think that he would tone down and play nice when he makes a habit out of interrupting and insulting his guests?

As for the response, does the press really think it is not culpable for failures of informing the American public? Is Bush so insulated that he doesn't know that he is generally considered a laughing stock of a president by anyone with the ability to pronounce "nuclear" properly (you know, like it's written)? I'm not sure thinking is a really good idea here as it is obvious that none of those who are offended did any. I suppose just read what he said, laugh, cry, and hope things get better soon.

Life or Death

So the verdict is in on Moussaoui: life in prison, no parole. Right up-front I'll say I do not believe in the death penalty. It is impossible to apply fairly; those who can afford council will not be sentenced to death (they may not even be convicted). Poorer people in death penalty cases are far more likely to be sentenced if innocent. With the legal system in this country, it will never be a just solution. Even that aside the death penalty is premeditated murder (i.e. first degree murder). In what way does a society demonstrate that it is better than a murderer if they murder the guilty? Humanity is what we should strive for in justice. We can prove our moral, ethical, human high ground by refusing to stoop to the level of the killer.

Back to Mouissaoui... I do not think he would have been a martyr if he had been sentenced to death. I think that he would have said "I lose" no matter what the verdict had been. I think that, until he is truly sorry for what he did, until he can be tormented by the memories of the deaths he caused, he will never receive an appropriate punishment. He may never get there, but excecution would have made it more certain that he would not.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

TV for Babies

When I first heard about the videos made for babies I just thought they were stupid. I was right, of course, and now a child advocacy group has filed a complaint with the FTC. The videos are supposed to make babies smarter producing your own little Einsteins. Of course most existing evidence says that watching tv (content does NOT matter) is bad for very young children (under 2 yrs). ...But nevermind that. I wasn't going to post on this until I read this statement from one of the manufacturers:

"[The complaint with the FTC] is making the assumption that parents don't know what they're doing and can't make an intelligent decision for themselves...It's time we let the parents make these decisions."

two words: Britney Spears. Heck I'll even toss in a few more: childhood obesity epidemic. Yea, it's really clear that parents are capable of making intelligent decisions for their children. Hell, they can't even make intelligent decisions for themselves (look who was elected president). When given the choice between a commercial blitz and sound, or at least available, scientific evidence, commercials win. Yes, there are plenty of parents who do make good choices for their children, but they aren't buying the videos in the first place; the companies making these products don't make any money off of "intelligent decisions," they profit from the stupid.

At the same time, I'm not sure that the videos should be labled as evil, or whatever the group wants, because it seems to me that it is just Darwinism at work. Stupid parents are likely to have stupid children (anyway) and we need waste disposal engineers in this country, especially if were going to kick out all the illegal immigrants.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fun with Facts

Those from The CIA World Factbook to be exact.

My cousin, Rachel is in Ghana right now. So far as African nations go Ghana is pretty well off (despite the droughts). It is still highly dependent on international aid, but it has abundant resources, an AIDS problem that is less than much of Africa, and, I find this depressing, a distribution of income that is better than the United States. That's right an African nation which used to be named Gold Coast, which has gold, diamonds and oil, and, therefore, huge potential for exploitation actually has less disparity between rich and poor--in terms of income--than the United States (don't believe me, go to the factbook, this is the CIA's data, not mine). If you are a poor person in the world you have more financial power (w/in your country) if you live in Ghana than you do if you live in the United States.

Bush's new motto should be: "Tax cuts: bringing the golden age of colonial Africa to the new world."

(Yes, I am aware of issues with using the gini coefficient, but they do not mean it is wrong...oh, and that is a wiki article that seems to be somewhat slanted.)


Several times a year we are subjected to studies which illustrate how poorly educated/aware our youth are. This one is on geography. It points out how grade school/high school/college aged youth in the US can't point out Iraq on a map, or Israel, or Louisiana, or... There have been plenty of other polls on how Americans can not identify their US representative or Senators or Supreme Court justices...or how people think intelligent (inelegant) design should be taught in a science classroom. To a certain extent these types of polls show a shortcoming in the education system or in the concernedness of the American people, but they also tend to hide the fact that there is a ton of information out there and we can not know it all. "One person's trash is another's treasure," is a statement that can be applied to knowledge as well as material objects. Just because I feel that a basic understanding of "what is science?" is important doesn't mean that others will feel the same. I can point out reasons why I am correct (and I am), but that doesn't mean others will care. The same is true of geography, or politics, or religion. People who have memorized the bible (or at least many select verses) may feel that those who have not are in no position to question matters concerning religion. Highly educated people have a tendency to consider rote memorization as a base form of intelligence and a waste of time and effort.

There is not a *good* conclusion. No one can know everything. When it comes to geography it is not hard to stump me--I can easily get Vermont and New Hampshire flipped around, smaller African nations and countries whose names have changed can be cause for puzzlement, and I doubt I could name the capitals of more than 20-30 world nations. Knowing history and geography certainly help. Iraq is the cradle of civilization. Iran was once the center of one of the most powerful empires in human history (the Persian). The landscape--both political and geographical--may have changed, but to think that that history is meaningless is like saying that Americans don't really care about the Constitution anymore (yes, I know GW doesn't but most of us do), better yet try telling a Texan that their state is not a "whole other country." People are proud of their history, even when that history is so far distant that it seems to be irrelevant to us.

And there is always the internet. A certain amount of factual knowledge is necessary, a fair amount more is very helpful, but for anything not related to what one does in life there is a philisophical question about whether any information should be memorized if it can be looked up in 30s on-line. I think yes, but I think discussion is fun, and more so if the internet doesn't need to be referenced every few minutes. Discussion does require some facts (whether or not they are specifically referenced) so minutiae and other stuff is good to know, even if other people will cite the source as "your ass," but in the end what facts are important to have memorized is a value statement for a group or individual. Of course, not looking like an idiot is one of most people's values.


I like baseball. Not because I think the game is terribly exciting, but because it is a great way to spend an afternoon. A sunny day, the background buzz of a few thousand fans milling and shouting (or hollerin', depending on where you are), a cold beer an a hot dog, the seventh inning stretch, pitching changes, about one second of excitement for every minute of game passed, but no clocks timing everything. Lazy, relaxed, fun. I remember going to Arlington Stadium to watch the (Texas) Rangers play back when Nolan Ryan was on the team and a seat in the outfield was under $10. They were bleachers. Long expanses of aluminum brought to somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 degrees by the summer sun of Dallas/Fort Worth. For someone wearing shorts (as I did pretty much every day of every summer) sitting down was an involved maneuver so that the backs of my thighs didn't end up blackened. Unless Nolan was pitching (those games were packed requiring advanced purchase and extra early arrival) we would arrive with plenty of time before the first pitch, and then spend all of that time walking from the car to the ticket office; we would get tickets go in and have our pick of the remaining seats (usually a lot). Then we would take out binoculars, open the cooler and ready gloves for the home runs that would, I was sure, come right to us.

Attending a ballgame today is nothing like that. Sure, it's similar, but it's similar in that way that you know something is wrong but just can't place it. I am going to see the Sox-Royals this Saturday. Tickets were $55 apiece--since the Sox won the World Series all the good seats at good games (for time or opponent) were bought out by crooked resellers. I'm hoping to go to some games during the week and pay face, which for the bleacher area is...$27. Monday nose-bleed seats are still a good deal at $7, and I'll probably do that if I am not going to entertain someone else. My real problem, and this goes for most "events" is the cost of food and beverage...

$7 for a beer! For a Bud?!? I am in no way a beer snob, but I can get a 12 pack of quality beer for ~$15. I can buy 30 cans of PBR for $12, High Life is a dollar more for the same. Hell, even if I did want to stoop to Bud I can still get a case for about $17. The beers you get at the ballpark are typically pints (that's 16 oz, for coversion from cans multiply by 3/ a case is 18 pints and my 30 packs are 21.5 pints) but that's still less than $1/beer. Since the grocery store can manage to turn a profit off of that and every penny over that is just extra cash for the hogs that means that beer at the ball park has more than 600% markup! That's more than wine at pricy restaurants! Relative markups for soda (pop, coke) are the same if not more...soda is cheeeeeeaap. Then the you remember when I said we brought a cooler to the games in Texas. Well, you can't do that almost anywhere anymore. Soft sided coolers are allowed at the Sox ballpark (no, I won't call it by name), but zero beverages/beverage containers are allowed. Thirsty: drink water from one of the fountains, or pay out the ass.

The only tennable solution is to kill off a six pack/person before going to the game, not so that you don't get anything to drink while there, but so that you don't mind the cost as much, because, ya know, it's baseball, and so "Hey, beerman!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fed Debt Solution

People have talked about it before, but it has happened in Puerto Rico. The government was shut down due to lack of money. Think about this: if our legislators had to take a salary of $0 and no benefits every time the U.S. budget went into the red it would never go their again...ever. I know things happen sometimes. The big push to capture Osama, hurricane Katrina (and Rita), the tsunami. Of course they are not responsible for balooning the national deficit. Huge tax cuts to the wealthy of us, an irresponsible war, a mess of a department in Homeland Security are among the real reasons we are in debt. Now, there is quite a bit of pork still in government, and there probably always will be, but by holding the government responsible by hitting their wallets (even if the wealthy senators don't care, their aids just might, and I wonder how much can be accomplished then), then maybe we can trim some of it and find out real priorities as well. You want the millionare investors to pay less in taxes, ok, sure, no school for Johnny, no meds for grandma, and the highway construction is going to have to be stalled there. Maybe if people were really given a choice between education and $300 savings per year in taxes they would take education. Maybe if people were told that the government could take care of health care for an extra $500 per year and insurance would no longer be needed (saving families at least $1k/yr) they would vote to have their taxes increased. I mean people vote to build stadiums for athletic teams with tax money (this is so wrong), so why wouldn't they ok a specific tax hike?

Specifically they would be voting for people who had no bones about saying they would increase taxes. So let's get back to that talk that brought the GOP into office in '94: the ballenced budget ammendment. That's right, it was a GOP idea, that the government would have to maintain a ballanced budget. If they wanted to cut taxes, they would have to cut spending. If they needed to increase spending (say in time of need/war) then taxes would have to increase. What kind of unpatriotic American would say no to a tax increase that would allow our government to properly equip our troops or that would help evacuees from New Orleans? Too bad we know the answer: a friend of Bush.