Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good-bye Ted

Edward Kennedy is dead. He passed away this morning at the age of 77. That leaves a very large empty chair from my youth. I can remember discussing Ted way back when as the most promising of the Kennedy brothers. We thought then he would definitely one day occupy the Oval Office. And then there came Chappaquiddick.

If there is a single quote which sums up Ted’s struggles it is from the days of the Reagan nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution."

This is the same vision of America embraced by the controlling right wing Evangelical Christian base of today’s Republican Party and it’s more of a nightmare than a vision.

It’s a nightmare that would turn back the social progress of the last 100 years. It’s a nightmare that requires constant vigilance and the unwavering resolve to fight at every opportunity if we are to prevent it from becoming reality. It’s the nightmare that black Americans don’t realize they’re supporting when they add their votes to those of the bigots to deny the right of Gays to marry. If someone else’s rights can be voted away, your rights can be voted away as well. The days of the bullet, the blood and the rope aren’t that long ago and many of the same people vilifying Gays would cheerfully bring them back.

The bad news is we’ve lost a leader in the fight. The good news is there are plenty of us left to carry on. Rest in peace Ted; thank you for the leadership and the inspiration and don’t worry, we are not going to lose this war. Victory is certain, the only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Accurate but Misleading

Plastered all over the Internet are the headlines of an AP article screaming “Millions face shrinking Social Security payments.”

Clearly that’s a headline that would strike concern in many of the retired folks living on a fixed income and just barely making ends meet. If you read the article however, what you discover is that the payments aren’t actually going down, but there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) this year because inflation has been negative.

Now the “shrinking” part comes in if you’re also enrolled in the Medicare Prescription Plan. The premiums there are expected to go up slightly and, since those premiums are normally deducted directly from the Social Security checks, the total amount after deductions would go down.

You will excuse me but this is what we call “Accurate but Misleading.” The amount of dispersible income in the check will decrease by the amount of the Medicare premium benefit but the Social Security payments themselves are not being reduced. By law they cannot be reduced.

I’m surprised at the AP. Normally their reporting is above reproach but this strikes me as sensationalism. Most people don’t make it past the headlines so now there are millions of people, including retired people, who think that Social Security payments are literally going down and they’re not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Atta Boy Barney

Representative Barney Frank absolutely unloaded on a lady at a town hall meeting that called Obama's Health Reform plans a Nazi policy.

Good for him. There is a time and aplace for that kind of extreme comparison but only if done knowingly as taking something to the extreme. I could be criticized for doing that myself but I'm not serious like this lady was. I use the comparisons, like when I compared Sarah Palin's "big lie" about Death Panels to the "big lie" philosophy espoused by Nazi propaganda, to make a point.

The point is that there is a limit and we need to be careful in our passions that we don't cross the line.

I was in D.C. during the week and took a tour of the capitol building. They show a film that talks about the give and take compromise necessary for making a democracy work. I couldn't help thinking that we're so divided that we're no longer capable of doing that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Again

It’s certainly the big topic for August so you will excuse me if I indulge myself.

First, let’s talk about Obama’s Health Care reform. I have two fundamental concerns that no one has yet been able to address. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re rushing into this with first compiling all the facts and considering all the implications. It just feels rushed to me.

I would have preferred a blue ribbon, bipartisan committee study for at least six months, and perhaps a year, that would have published a report and recommendations. If nothing else it might have held the lunatic fringe in place.

The other problem I have is that I’m not convinced this isn’t coming with a big bill attached to it and, as far as I know, no has yet explained exactly how it’s going to be paid for. This could also have been part of the report.

Now let’s talk about obesity. I’m 6’1” and weigh about 201 lbs. That gives me a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 26.5. Therefore, according to the National Institute of Health, I’ve officially overweight. Any BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight. Any BMI 30 and above is obese.

In order to get to “normal” weight, I would have to lose 12 lbs and tip the scales at 189. I don’t know where the hell those 12 lbs would come from. I am by no stretch of the imagination fat. As a matter of fact, prior to 1985 I would have been normal because the cut off back then was 27.8 for men and 27.3 for women.

Uh-huh, how the hell can the same calculation work for males and females? You people have noticed that men tend to have more muscle tissue than women and muscle tends to be heavier haven’t you? I’m also a bit surprised there’s no adjustment for age.

It’s a little hard to take this seriously when one has so little faith in the measuring stick. I’ve decided to see if I can get to 189. I expect it to be more than a little difficult but we shall see.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sarah Palin is an Idiot

Death Panels? Death Panels!!

I say ok the first time. As disgusting and absurd a statement as it was, hey we all say things we regret. But now, after time to think about it and hear the criticism, to reiterate the claim is beyond lunacy.

Look lady, if anything even approaching what you’re describing was to occur, I and 99% of the able bodied folks in this country would join you in storming the capital!

The “Advance Care Planning Provision” is a preventative measure similar to what many insurance companies have today.

For people with chronic or serious ongoing medical conditions, such as diabetes or a heart condition, the insurance company has someone contact you on a regular basis to enquire about your regimen and perhaps offer suggestions.

I get a call every six months or so from my provider just to check up on how I’m doing after my heart incident a few years ago. It’s a positive preventive measure which Palin is trying to turn into some sort of concentration camp health check.

It is absolute horseshit on her part and either she is an idiot, because she hasn’t checked the facts, or a liar who knows the facts but is trying to frighten people. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt by calling her an idiot.

The fact that everyone isn’t simply laughing in her face is an indication of how far this country has fallen. This is the BIG LIE in action; Hitler would be so proud. What’s next, Swastikas on the buildings?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Let’s Talk Health Care Reform

Well, I’d like to, but all the rhetoric flying around has sort of drowned out the rational debate.

I last talked about this in 2007 and, unfortunately, things haven’t changed all that much except now there appears to be a lot of off the wall accusations flying around. This nonsense has little or no basis in reality and the time being spent on this crap is preventing the discussion of the real issues.

Here’s the problem. The American Health Care system is broken, but it’s not broken for everyone. It’s not broken for the doctors and the companies who are making lots of money and it’s not broken for the upper 20% to 25% of the population who have adequate health coverage and are affluent enough to handle what’s not covered. If you think its more than 25%, you haven't looked closely at most insurance plans.

I’m in that category. I have access to private dental and medical care and I don’t need permission to see a specialist. My wife also has insurance and her plan is better than mine. Clearly I’m concerned about anything that would reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of our coverage.

Unfortunately, the media is so focused on the idiot factor I’m not sure if Obama’s idea is a good witch or a bad witch.

Something has gone terribly wrong in this country. More and more it seems to me that people are not gathering the facts before coming to a conclusion. They’re allowing wild accusations and total nonsense to establish their opinions and then allowing rhetoric to whip them up into an emotional frenzy of indignation about stuff that is flat out not true.

To make matters worse, they’re investing so much emotion into these ill considered positions that it becomes almost impossible to get them to consider the possibility that they may have jumped to a wrong conclusion based upon misinformation. Somehow they get everything all wound up in what they consider to be Patriotism and God and they simply cannot back down.

This is nuts.

Like I said, I’m not sure we’re going in the right direction but I sure as hell would like to learn a bit more about the RATIONAL arguments on both sides. Please, don’t yell about “socialism” when you don’t know what “socialism” is and don’t spout total nonsense like medical care will be rationed, or euthanasia will be mandatory, because I really don’t believe those options are on the table or in the cards at all.

Unfortunately, rational debate has been drowned out by right wing conservatives whipping up the under 80 IQ trailer park set with a lot of fictional horror stories.

Will you all please STFU so we can find out whether or not this plan is going to be a life saver or a freaking disaster. I’d like to decide based upon the facts rather than a crock of emotional horseshit but all I can hear is the bellowing of the ill informed.

Too many people in this coutry are complete assholes. Consider the moron in South Carolina that was screaming that the government should keep its hands off of his Medicare. Sigh, how do you reason with idiots that don't have a clue about reality and will believe anything that Fox News or Rush Limbaugh tell them without bothering to check the accuracy of what they are being told.

I fall back upon my opinion that universal sufferage is idiotic. You should have to demonstrate basic knowledge and the ability to apply critical thinking and rational analysis to problems in order to be able to vote. That would reduce the electorate in the Northeast and the West to about 40% of adults, in the Midwest to about 25% of adults and in the South to about 10%. That should solve most of our problems.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Global Warming

I’m kind of missing the thought process which dismisses Global Warming based upon ideology.

I’m no expert, but I can see and understand quantitative observations. The average temperature has been rising; the glaciers have been melting and the western snowpack has been disappearing.

These are simple observations that say nothing about WHY these things are occurring.

When you encounter someone who denies the fact of Global Warming before you even get to the question of the cause, you know you’ve met someone who is making his decision based upon ideology and not evidence.

These people are morons that should be ignored.

It may well be that the warming trends being observed are a short term aberration or part of a long term cycle that we can do little or nothing about. Even if it is due to human activity, it’s possible that curtailing those activities would result in a bigger catastrophe then letting it take its course.

These are all arguments that have been advanced by people who do not believe Global Warming is a big deal. I think they’re wrong, but I think we need to consider what they're saying. Unless of course the arguments are simply camouflage for ideology, but I don’t think this is true in most cases.

Personally I think that at least some of the warming trend is the result of human activities. I also think it’s possible to eliminate or reduce most of those activities without introducing an economic meltdown. As a matter of fact, Green Technology strikes me as a potential win-win economic bonanza.

Personally I have confidence that human ingenuity, not to mention greed, can overcome the problem. It strikes me that those who are fighting the hardest against the idea are those making big bucks with the current technologies and would rather not take the chance of getting their butts kicked by the emerging competition.

They’d rather endanger the planet, or at least a sizable part of the planet’s population, rather than re-compete even though they have all the advantages. I call that being a spineless coward.

Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree is the wide receiver from Texas Tech that made the highly publicized late game catch that beat the University of Texas. Clearly he is a talented young man with the potential of being a great pro football star.

Many of the pre-draft predictions were that he would be the first wide receiver to be selected in the 2009 draft. Imagine the delight of the San Francisco 49ers when Oakland bypassed Crabtree in favor of Darrius Heywood-Bey of Maryland. The 49ers grabbed Crabtree in the blink of an eye.

Ok, so far, so good. Unfortunately then things got a little sticky. You see the NFL tends to pay its rookie draft picks based upon the order they’re drafted. This means that normally Heywood-Bey, drafted first, would get more money in year one than Crabtree. But Michael is having none of that. He’s insisting that the Raiders made a mistake; that he’s the better receiver and he should be paid as if he had been drafted first like all the pre-game hype predicted. He’s even said he’s prepared to sit out the 2009 season and re-enter the draft next year if he doesn't get what he thinks he deserves.

The 49ers are trying to figure out how their dream pick turned into a nightmare.

If he’s really serious about sitting out 2009, and it’s not just a negotiating ploy, he’s getting some very bad advice. A year of inactivity would significantly reduce his perceived value and there is no way he would go in the first round next year. I’m betting Crabtree plays as a 49er this year. Either that or they can trade him to the Giants. I’m sure Eli would be willing to make up the difference from his $97 million windfall.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Insult to Poor Hillary?

I see on Yahoo that a pair of Washington Post reporters have issued an apology to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The two were the creative talent behind the Post’s “Mouthpiece Theater” video on its website and they appeared to go overboard last Friday with a joke about the type of beers politicians might drink.

The way Yahoo reports it, the joke centered on a statement to the effect that they “couldn't reveal to whom President Barack Obama would serve a drink called "Mad B---- Beer." The line was followed in the video by a brief picture of Hillary Clinton.

Now it wasn’t Hillary that complained, it was a group called Women, Action and the Media. They sent the Post a letter signed by 32 women calling the video "sexist" and "tasteless."

I have two thoughts about this episode. The first is cut it out and give me a break. Granted the joke was on the tasteless side, but it wasn’t that far over the line to trigger a major assault. Now we’ve got mea culpas all over the place including the two reporters and the Post’s executive editor. Not only that, but the “Mouthpiece Theater” has been terminated.

I get worse than that every day in jest. You give it back or shrug it off. We’ve gotten way to thin skinned in my opinion. Too many people think they’re too important to be able to laugh at themselves unless the joke is semi-complimentary.

My second thought is what do you think the blanked out word is? I thought at first in might be “Bimbo” but then I realized that “Bitch” fit as well.

I’m betting on “Bitch.” I can’t imagine anyone calling Hillary Clinton a “Bimbo.”

But hey, you know what? I WANT my Secretary of State to be either a “Bitch” or a “Son of a Bitch.” You need to be tough out there. It’s a mean nasty world and they’re the first line of defense. So I say "Give 'em Hell Hillary!"

APA Repudiates Gay Therapy

As reported by the AP, “The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.”

This isn’t a surprise. The APA has been leaning in this direction for a while and has now simply made it official. This places the APA squarely in the camp opposed to what is known as “reparative therapy” which attempts to change ones sexual orientation.

In an overwhelming 125-4 vote the APA’s governing board adopted a comprehensive report based upon two years of research. I originally reported on this effort in July of 2007 and at that time expressed some concern that the deck appeared stacked in favor of refuting reparative therapy. Well, the report certainly didn’t give the lie to that concern did it?

I also at that time predicted that the APA would recommend against reparative therapy so it looks like I finally got one right.

However the report doesn’t ignore the conflicts that can arise when ones sexual orientation conflicts with ones family, lifestyle or faith and suggests that “Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome."

The chairperson of the report, Judith Glassgold, suggested that “Both sides have to educate themselves better. The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

Needless to say, conservative Christians disagreed.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the largest organization promoting the possibility that sexual orientation can be changed, and whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ," while praising the parts of the report relating to respecting someone’s faith, suggested “Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

Well, if their feelings are going to change, it would probably happen without psychotherapy. Chambers claims to be someone who “overcame unwanted same-sex attraction.”

The problem of course is that that there is no evidence that reparative therapy works and the report makes this very clear. So what happens then to someone who desperately wants to change, is told he can, and then fails?

The inevitable drop in self esteem can lead to depression which in turn can lead to thoughts of suicide or the lashing out at others in frustration. The bottom line is that it’s a bad bet.

Of course Christians believe everyone is a wretched sinner undeserving of any self esteem anyway so perhaps for them it doesn’t matter.

This is the fall of another piece in the wall separating homosexuals from full equality. Slowly but surely the zeitgeist is moving. Like a glacier it’s moving. Still, victory is certain, the only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It all Depends on Where You Put the Commas

All this birther nonsense has led to an interesting observation. I was reading an article on the Huffington Post by Chris Kelly, that at first I couldn’t follow at all, to the effect that not only is Obama ineligible to be President, Ronald Reagan was as well.

It took me a minute or two to realize what the satiric article was saying. It centered on a literal reading of Clause 5 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution which states:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Most people, including myself, interpret the first part of the clause to identify two categories of individual as being eligible to be president. A natural born citizen OR anyone considered to be a citizen, natural born or otherwise, at the time the Constitution was adopted.

However, technically, that’s not what it says. The problem is the pair of commas isolating “…or a Citizen of the United States…”

Without those commas, the standard interpretation is clear. But they’re presence, it could be argued, changes the clause “…or a Citizen of the United States…” into a modifier or clarification of the first clause and it becomes “No Person except a natural born citizen at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution,” or in other words, “No Person except a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution” is eligible to be president!

Since all of the natural born citizens from the 18th century are no longer with us, this would restrict Presidential Candidates to only those born in states that were members of the Union when the Constitution was ratified.

Obviously, since they established the provision for new states in Article IV, Section 3, this can’t be what they meant, but it is sort of what they said. If they meant what most people interpret it to mean, they probably should have said something like “No Person except a future natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be…”

Well, so much for the idea of a literal interpretation of the Constitution and the trailer park morons in the birther (I REFUSE to capitalize it) movement.

Pew Science Quiz

Pew research has a science knowledge quiz posted to go along with its science report. There were twelve questions, five of which were True or False, and none of which related directly to Evolution. Although one, which asked about continental drift, was closely related to Evolution.

They were pretty simple questions that to my mind were more like general knowledge questions related to science than what I would call real science questions. Anyway, I managed to join only 10% of the public which got all 12 questions right. 54% of the public got at least 8 questions right which would be a passing grade.

Given that 5 questions were True or False and the others were multiple choice, typically from four choices, my pet goat Franky, choosing answers randomly, would be expected to get about 4 questions right. Incredibly 6% of the population did no better than a goat and 9% did worse!

The question the most people got right was “Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?” 91% of the public knew that it was aspirin.

The question that the fewest people got right was a True or False question that asserted “Electrons are smaller than atoms.” Only 46% got it right.

Men did better than women getting an average of 8.1 questions right while women got an average of 7.4 correct. Unsurprisingly, those with a college degree did better than those with a high school education or less, getting 9.5 questions correct compared to 6.6.

Those in the 30-49 got the most correct answers with 8.5. Those 65 or older did the worst with only an average of 6.5 correct.

Of the demographics listed, men, those with some college, college graduates, those in the 30-49 age range and those in the 50-64 age range would have passed assuming a passing grade was 65%. Only college graduates and those in the 30-49 age range would have passed assuming a passing grade was 70%. The highest grade would have gone to college graduates with a whopping 79%.

That would have been right on the border between a B- and a B.

The lowest grades would have gone to those 65 or older with a grade of 54% and those with a high school or less education with a grade of 55%.

Imagine if the questions had been hard?

The question that amused me the most however was another True or False question which asserted “The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.”

76% of the population got this question right by answering True. Now, unless a significant number of people answered this question strategically, in other words gave the answer that was needed rather than the one they thought was correct, how come only 61% accept Evolution?

Continental Drift is one of Evolution’s companion theories. It provides some of the strongest evidence for Evolution through the field of Geographic Biology. If you accept Continental Drift, and apparently 76% of the population does, then by definition you must know that Genesis is not an accurate representation of creation and Noah’s flood is a myth.

I find it hard to believe that 38% of the least education segment of the population, those that reject evolution, are intelligent enough to answer the Continental Drift question strategically. I think this is just another example of the inability of the average American to think things through and understand the implications of some of the things he believes.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Birthers

That’s the name being given to the group of Right Wing wackos that refuse to accept that Barack Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen eligible to be president.

I first wrote about this in June of 2008. At that time I thought it was just some of the trailer park set that didn’t understand the law. But this goes way beyond that.

These people have literally built a fairy tale and no amount of evidence or reason appears capable of dissuading them. It’s almost like a religion.

The latest is a purported Republic of Kenya birth certificate showing that Obama was born in the city of Mombasa in 1961. There are only two problems with that. First, Kenya wasn’t a Republic in 1961. It became independent in 1963. In that same year Mombasa, which up until that time was a part of Zanzibar, was ceded to Kenya.

In other words, the certificate claims Obama was born in a city that wasn’t a part of a country that wasn’t a country. This is their proof? One of the guys at Jennifer Nation States came up with an Australian Birth Certificate that makes it looks like an Aussie certificate could have been the base used for the forgery.

At least one right wing blog is now claiming that the birth certificate was forged by someone else in order to discredit the birther movement.

Unfortunately I’m familiar with the mind of the true believer. The more evidence you provide that they’re wrong, the more strongly they become convinced they're right. It’s crazy but that’s the way it works.

Let’s face it, when even Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are siding with Obama and saying you’re crazy, you’re crazy.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Father also Found Guilty

Just a quick update. The father of the 11 year old girl in Wisconsin that died of diabetes while her parents and family members prayed for her recovery has also been found guilty of reckless homicide.

Now we'll wait and see what type of sentence he and his wife receive. I'm predicting little more than a slap on the wrist. This country will endure a great deal of evil, even the death of a child, if its done in the name of religion.