Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview with Evan Bayh

Ezra Klein has been landing some pretty good interviews of late. Even though he (often in the case of Paul Ryan) overtly disagrees with the interviewee. Today is with the soon to be retired Democratic Senator from Indiana: Evan Bayh. All and all a good read, though nothing earth shattering.

Mostly, however, it shows Bayh as a progressive at heart, despite his often having been demonized by progressives. I'm sure that there are still policy areas in which he is significantly more conservative than an average Dem, but it seems like he has his head on straight when it comes to how things should operate in the Senate, notably when it comes to deciding committee chairs.

The filibuster has been hammered all over the place lately, but one of the things that is also a bit of a sticker for many progressives is that Republicans do committee chairs much better than Democrats do. The result is ancient out of touch Dems, largely from places that are less progressive (like Montana and Iowa) chairing very important committees and forcing compromises that much of the base dislike in return for: absolutely nothing. Joe Freaking Lieberman is a committee chair and he hasn't been a Democrat in practice for a while.

I would prefer that chairs be determined by drawing names from a hat.

I should note that the seniority crap is pretty similar in the House, though that has notably changed under Pelosi to allow for some junior members to actually be more effective legislators. (typically the first termers have very little power, and can't affect legislation much, and so end up having a harder reelection fight than more senior incumbents). Not that house members with seniority were appreciative of the change.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Money Incentives

Just an interesting read.

I Find the Similarities Eerie

"Eerie" is a weird word, much like "weird" so I'm appreciative of the opportunity to use it.

The background to the title is the eerie comparison between the description of Asperger syndrome and me (I'm like a hypochondriac, but for ambiguous syndromes that could apply and won't likely land me in a hospital).

Although individuals with Asperger syndrome acquire language skills without significant general delay and their speech typically lacks significant abnormalities, language acquisition and use is often atypical. Abnormalities include verbosity, abrupt transitions, literal interpretations and miscomprehension of nuance, use of metaphor meaningful only to the speaker, auditory perception deficits, unusually pedantic, formal or idiosyncratic speech, and oddities in loudness, pitch, intonation, prosody, and rhythm.

Hmm..Verbositiy check; abrupt transitions, check; literal interpretations, check; miscomprehension of nuance, not sure; use of metaphor [...], check; auditory perception deficits, check; pedantic, check (when not meaning pedestrian); formal/idiosyncratic, check; oddities in [...], check.
People with Asperger syndrome often display behavior, interests, and activities that are restricted and repetitive and are sometimes abnormally intense or focused. They may stick to inflexible routines, move in stereotyped and repetitive ways, or preoccupy themselves with parts of objects.

Oh dear God, yes. Well, not so much the "inflexible routines" part but really, yea.

Of course the big one with Asperger's is the lack of demonstrated empathy. I hesitate on this one, because I don't know exactly how to figure it. But, in the end, I really don't empathize well. Mostly I fake it because I can and do understand well. Really, though, I have to force myself to understand that when a friend is upset about something, she may not be so keen on listening to me bitch about some unrelated thing or that he may not be in the mood to play a game or watch a movie.

Plus, I am a scientist. Autism of some sort is practically a given.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I'm Seeing More Riders

I take the train (SEPTA regional rail) to work on a semi-regular basis--I'll drive if I sleep late or need my car for something during/after work e.g. When I first started, shortly after I moved a year back, an average morning would see the train car I rode on roughly 1/8th occupied and an average of 5 people on my shuttle from the final train stop. Now I would put the train car at more than 1/4 full (nearly one person in every bench) and probably 8-12 people on the shuttle.

I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I do like the trend.

Friday, March 05, 2010

President of the United States

The office is defined in Article Two of the United States Constitution.

Section 1, Clause 8:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Then there is a lot of outlaying presidential powers like Commander in Chief and that they can pardon folks and direct a cabinet. Then some bit on dealing with the Senate (advice and consent) with respect to appointments and treaties. Then we get to the meat (tofu for DFH's)--

Section 3: Presidential Responsibilities
  1. He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;
  2. he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
  3. he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;
  4. he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and
  5. shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
I would like to point out the fourth and fifth clauses above. Yes, the President must give a State of the Union, and can convene congress, and be the US representative to the world but those last two are how laws are enforced in this country. Congress creates laws, and the President enforces them. The Judiciary is essentially the arbitrating body in this, but clause 5 factors in to how justices are named (with the advice and consent of Senate, whenever Tom Coburn allows it).

So for all the bluster about health care and Obama and the like: as of now those have nothing to do with his job. If they get passed and signed into law they will become a part of his job. In the mean time, things like prosecuting torturers and granting honest to god trials to accused criminals (even the dark skinned Muslim ones held in Gitmo) are his job.

President Barack Obama isn't doing his job.

I feel that this needs to be reiterated as often as possible, but if Obama neglects those things that are critical to preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States, if he refuses to allow for the rule of law for people labeled terrorists and for those who tortured them then he is NOT worth reelecting to the presidency. It may be that that will result in an even worse president, but I cannot bring myself to vote for a president who abdicates this most critical of responsibilities.

Yea, the Constitution's Fucked...

KSM: no civilian trial for you. Of course, now Republicans will all love Obama and vote for lots of legislation he supports and also everyone will get their very own puppy (to practice torture on obviously).

And, yes, like almost always, I do like Glenn Greenwald's take and by "like" I mean "agree with and get very depressed by."

Finally, apparently, Wolf Blitzer is still refusing to comment on whether he is a child molester or pedophile. I'd love to believe that he is neither, but his silence on the issue is speaking volumes.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

"Real Food"

I like cooking. I'm not so keen on the cleanup but I like cooking (and eating the things I've cooked...usually).

I feel a certain smug superiority when I cook. It is healthy. It is cheap. I tend to cook with minimum prepared ingredients (I use almost exclusively dried beans e.g.). Mostly though, it tends to taste better than much of what I can get out.

Still, I think these people are idiots. There is nothing inherently wrong with "processed" food. Bags of frozen vegetables are "processed" food. The bag of frozen okra I cooked up with tomato and onion said: "Ingredients: Okra" and nothing else. The fact that the okra was chopped and flash frozen made it processed. It also made it easier to ship longer distances and made it so that it was less likely to rot on a shelf and go to waste. Frozen foods in general are less wasteful than fresh...which wouldn't so much matter if all groceries composted their produce waste.

Now, it is certainly true that we have a wealth of overly processed food in this country and I would never argue that cheeze wiz is a good thing to eat, and there is something environmental to be said about eating local as much as possible--especially with fresh produce and meats which have more limited shelf lives and so much reach the shelf faster. Eating "real" foods that exclude, e.g., lowfat milk and dried pasta, is, on the other hand, pretty fucking stupid.

One of the things I read in the article mentioned a steak and baked potato meal. Seriously? I've got a chicken chili at home that has some processed foods (canned tomatoes, dried beans, olive oil) that I know is better for a person than would be a steak and potato dinner. The tomatoes I stewed with the okra were from a can, and that was certainly healthier than either the steak or baked potato (actually that whole meal which added pan fried chicken thighs and baked sweet potato was healthier than the steak/potato combo-more fiber, more vitamins, less saturated fat, more antioxidants, and probably more good fat as I used x-virg olive oil in the okra).

So long as the ingredient list of whatever it is you are eating is made up of food, it's fine. Even some of the unidentifiable shelf extenders are not bad: they mean less waste. I am more into not wasting food than I am into making sure I get lots of fresh or "never frozen" anything. I tend to get a lot of frozen veggies, canned tomatoes and dried beans/grains because they keep for ever. I run through onion, carrots and celery like crazy, and other root veggies have long shelf lives, so I can get those in the produce section, but I don't like waste, and the first thing mentioned was to throw away a bunch of food.

Pretentious, wasteful, earth-hating, holier-than-thou type idiots.