Thursday, February 25, 2010
The best example is regarding interstate insurance. To prevent all insurance companies from relocating to the state with the least regulation they want to set some minimums, but then Republicans cry "regulation". But Obama then pointed out that they wanted regulation that limited malpractice payouts.
The unfortunate thing is that whenever there was a substantive exchange, the next person to talk would use it as a platform to repeat campaign talking points. Obama pointed this out after McCain did it. The democrats mostly just repeated problems they heard from constituents or said they wanted to work together to solve problems. Then again, they mostly agreed on the bills that passed each chamber.
Here's the real problem Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said after the summit: "I just don't think the president was listening even though he invited us to hear our ideas. He actually consumed more time than all of the Republicans combined or all the Democrats combined and much of it was responding to our ideas. So it wasn't a matter of just inviting us down to listen to our ideas he wanted to argue with us."
Yeah, I'm sorry he didn't want just to listen, he wanted to engage you in meaningful conversation. That must be rough and you're probably not used to it.
My problem was that not once did I hear a Republican respond to a point that Obama (or a Democrat though it was mostly Obama) made. Obama replied to substantive points over and over, pointing out places where they might agree, but Republicans never commented on his points.
In fact at the same press conference, Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was asked "Senator was this a waste of time?"
He replied "I wouldn't call it a waste of time, it was a good discussion. You had in the room, I think, most of our, virtually all of our really knowledgable people on the subject so I wouldn't call it a waste of time"
But then there was this wonderful followup: "Senator, not to be argumentative, it sounds like you think it was a waste of time. You just said to us, at the end of an all day meeting, the same thing you said early on in the healthcare summit. What was gained by all those hours?"
McConnell said: "Well, the President kept saying the same thing too. I think it's pretty clear on this big important issue we had very strongly held opinions on both sides and we think the best way for this to be resolved is to pay attention to the people who sent us here, who are saying overwhelmingly 'Do not pass this bill'".
Jon Stewart will have a lot of fun.
Information is Beautiful writes SnakeOil? Scientific evidence for health supplements "A generative data-visualisation of all the scientific evidence for popular health supplements by David McCandless and Andy Perkins." I'm not sure of the data (though I have no reason to doubt it) but the graphic is concise.
Steven Strogatz's Opinionator Blog in the New York Times is introducing math one concept at a time. With only four entries so far, it's a great series. The first one introduces numbers with Sesame Street's approach. The second counting and prime numbers by layout out rocks in patterns. The third introduces subtraction which brings up negative numbers and in making that concept concrete he brings up genes and geo-political alliances! The fourth describes division which forces fractions and irrational numbers. Nice stuff.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Last weekend I went to Philadelphia to visit some friends. Unbeknownst to Paul, his wife had planned a surprise 40th Birthday Party. This was the cake a friend of theirs made. The theme is because he's a triathlete. The bike and shoe are modeled on his real bike and shoe. It not only looked great, it was delicious.
"If you watch the popular CBS sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory' about a group of brilliant but socially inept science postdocs, you're familiar with the work of UCLA Physics Professor David Saltzberg.
Professor David Saltzberg, left, with 'Big Bang' creator/executive producer/writer Bill Prady right after a taping. - Courtesy of CBS. As science consultant for the show, Saltzberg is one of the rare experimental particle physicists whose work gets attention from 12 million people a week. It's a decidedly different experience compared to his usual pursuits: smashing atoms with the world's biggest particle accelerators and traveling to Antarctica for astronomy experiments related to subatomic particles such as neutrinos.
But since 2006, when a 'friend of a friend of a friend' got him involved with the show, Saltzberg has taken on such tasks as dropping scientific details into scripts and introducing actors to real UCLA physicists. In an interview with UCLA Today's Alison Hewitt, he talks about his sideline job."
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Al Gore Joins Richard Branson in Backing GreenRoad "Driving is the third most deadly profession after deep sea fishing and working in a coal mine. Not only does driving more safely save lives but research shows it can also save 10% on annual fuel costs, and alleviate a good chunk of the $230 billion professional fleets spend on crashes each year. Enter GreenRoad: a system that helps professional drivers drive more safely and as a result save their company a lot of money.
The GreenRoad system looks simple from the outside: There’s a two-inch device on the dashboard that starts the day with a green light. If a driver brakes hard, swerves or turns recklessly, the light turns yellow. If the driver continues to drive erratically the light stays yellow. If it gets worse the light turns red. That’s it. But like a lot of apparently simple ideas, there’s a lot more going on under the hood."
Top-secret Zero-emission Bloom Box Revealed (Kind of) "It's not much to look at, but a Bloom Box is basically a fuel-cell power plant the size of a door stop that can power a house year-round; larger ones, meanwhile, can power just about anything. In the words of Bloom's CEO, their little boxes could entirely replace the grid as we know it."
"Sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, but according to last night's 60 Minutes spot by Lesley Stahl—the first behind the scenes look at the technology—its potential is huge. Google has been quietly powering one of its data centers with four of these magic boxes for 18 months, and FedEx, Walmart, Staples, and eBay have been trying out the technology as well. eBay's CEO says they have already saved $100,000 in electricity costs in just nine months."
"So how does it work? They take some beach sand, bake it into a ceramic disk, and then coat each side with proprietary green and black inks. Then they stack these disks, separated by cheap metal plates, and feed oxygen onto one side, and fuel onto the other. The two combine in the cell and presto: emissions-free electricity."
The Numbers Behind the Academy Awards. "The Academy Awards are one of the most celebrated awards shows in the world. From red carpets to the latest fashion, the Oscars are about so much more than movies. But what does it really mean to put on a show like the Academy Awards? What kind of money goes into them, and what really happens to stars’ careers after they win an Oscar? Here’s a numerical look at how much the Academy Awards cost, who wins, and what winning might mean for an actor’s career."
Kim Morgan writes about Roman Polanski in Roman The Great's Eight...Kitty Cat "With the excitement that the filmmaker has not lost his touch, here's a look at eight of Polanski's greatest (a nearly impossible task for me since I love nearly every picture he's made -- even the 'minor' ones. And please leave me alone about Macbeth and The Fearless Vampire Killers, Frantic, Death and the Maiden, all of which I love). Through both real life and cinematic tragedy and triumph, absurdity and horror, sensuality and perversion, beauty hideousness, what a long, strange and brilliant trip it’s been Mr. Polanski." There are several I still need to see.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The Health Care Blog writes: A Look Inside: The Massachusetts Health Reform Law.
Slate says Expiration dates mean very little "Not only are expiration dates misleading, but there's no uniformity in their inaccuracy. Some manufacturers prefer the elusive 'Best if used by,' others opt for the imperative 'Use by,' and then there are those who litter their goods with the most unhelpful 'Sell by' stamps. (I'm happy my bodega owner is clear on when to dump, but what about me?) Such disparities are a consequence of the fact that, with the exception of infant formula and some baby foods, package dates are unregulated by the federal government. And while some states do exercise oversight, there's no standardization. A handful of states, including Massachusetts and West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., require dating of some form for perishable foods. Twenty states insist on dating for milk products, but each has distinct regulations. Milk heading for consumers in Connecticut must bear a 'Sell by' date not more than 12 days from the day of pasteurization. Dairies serving Pennsylvania must conform to 14 days. "
Jeffrey Rosen has an interesting article in The New Republic, Roberts Versus Roberts, Just how radical is the chief justice?
"Some of Roberts’s liberal colleagues have suggested that Roberts is a very nice man but that he doesn’t listen to opposing arguments and can’t be persuaded to change his mind in controversial cases. If so, he may have thought he could produce a unanimous court by convincing liberals to come around to his side, rather than by meeting them halfway. In the most revealing passage in his concurrence in Citizens United, he wrote that ‘we cannot embrace a narrow ground of decision simply because it is narrow; it must also be right.’ But the great practitioners of judicial restraint had a very different perspective. ‘A Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory,’ Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his most famous dissent, in Lochner v. New York. ‘It is made for people of fundamentally differing views.’ Holmes always deferred to the president and Congress in the face of uncertainty. He would never have presumed that he knew the ‘right’ answer in a case where people of good faith could plausibly disagree."
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I have now seen all 5 films nominated for Sound Mixing. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was abysmal. If you're going to make a movie without a plot, don't make it 2.5 hours long. The only good thing I can say about it is that seeing it made Rob's Transformers 2 F.A.Q. even funnier because it's all completely accurate with no exaggeration at all.
I might now rethink my yearly attempt of seeing all Oscar nominated films. Then again, the Academy should rethink about nominating crap like this. I'm not convinced the sound mixing was better than other films.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Boston.com writes Carnival 2010: "Once more, it is Carnival Season in many countries around the world with a Roman Catholic heritage. Celebrations and parades are put on just prior to the observance of Lent. Over the past few weeks parades and celebrations have taken place throughout Europe, the Caribbean and South America. An estimated 730,000 foreign tourists, many fleeing snowy winter conditions in Europe and the United States, traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for this year's celebrations. Collected here are a handful of images from some of the elaborate celebrations of this Carnival season."
Monday, February 15, 2010
"You could make it yourself if you want, as every single bit of information pertaining to the project has recently been published in the form of a book called Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made. It’s ten books in one (literally, with nine books sitting inside one enormous carved out fake book), limited to 1,000 copies, and costs £450. All the location scouting photos, all the research pictures, costume tests, correspondence with historical experts, Kubrick’s script – everything’s in there. It’s amazing. I went to the HQ of the publisher Taschen; they let me touch it. They wouldn’t give me one for free for some reason."
This came up in conversation Sunday and I always forget how it works. According to the Academy's site:
"Members from each of the branches vote to determine the nominees in their respective categories – actors nominate actors, film editors nominated film editors, etc. However within the Animated Feature Film and Foreign Language Film categories, nominations are selected by vote of multi-branch screening committees. All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees."
"The Academy’s entire active membership is eligible to select Oscar winners in all categories, although in five – Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film – members can vote only after attesting they have seen all of the nominated films in those categories."
So the nominations are done by branch but the voting lets the entire academy (over 6,000 members) vote for all the awards.
Update: Vanity Fair explains Preferential Voting: Good for the Oscars, Good for Democracy: "The Academy grabbed our attention this year by expanding the best-picture nominees to an all-inclusive field of 10. But amid all the blog-iation about whether or not this devalues Oscar, no one seemed to notice that the Academy also switched to a preferential voting system for the best-picture category. "
Sunday, February 14, 2010
"Carbon dioxide is “essentially harmless” to human beings and good for plants. So now will you stop worrying about global warming?
Utah’s House of Representatives apparently has at least. Officially the most Republican state in America, its political masters have adopted a resolution condemning “climate alarmists”, and disputing any scientific basis for global warming.
The measure, which passed by 56-17, has no legal force, though it was predictably claimed by climate change sceptics as a great victory…."
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Nine - This is a musical, based on the broadway play which was based on Fellini's 8 1/2. It has an amazing cast but isn't an amazing film, it gets kinda tedious and the songs aren't particularly memorable. It was nominated for 4 Oscars: Art Direction, Costumes, Original Song and Supporting Actress, Penelope Cruz. She was good and the small roll had some range, but I don't see why she was nominated. There was one great shot that I wish lasted longer; the director, Guido was on stage and a movie screen test was projected into the air around him as he danced through it. There's no great reason to see this and I have 8 1/2 waiting for me on my TiVo.
Crazy Heart - The story of an alcoholic country singer named Bad Blake who once was well known and is now touring bowling alleys and other small town venues. He complains about his protege who is now playing stadiums and offers help, but Blake hasn't written a new song in eight years. A single mom interviews him for an article and they begin a kind of relationship. Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are nominated and they are well deserved. Bridges dysfunctional Blake is completely natural and believable. I didn't care much for the music, though the main song is nominated.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - This is best described as a Terry Gilliam film and CGI is definitely something he should have explored sooner in his career. I chuckled every time a Monty Python cartoon came to life in it. The story is about a traveling carnival-like show that actually leads to people imagining new worlds. And there's a contest with the devil. This is famously Heath Ledger's last role. He plays Tony, a man with a mysterious past who joins the show. He's really good, in a toned down Joker like performance. For the other world scenes Gilliam replaced him with different actors for the different worlds. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrel are somehow the obvious choices and work really well into the story. I thought it was a bit long and wished the narrative were a little stronger, but that's to be expected with Gilliam. Still when you see his visions, you understand the nominations for Art Direction and Costumes.
The Last Station - A drama about the end of Leo Tolstoy's life where his followers and wife battle for the royalties to his books. Christopher Plummer is up for Supporting Actor and Helen Mirren is up for Best Actress. James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti do well and no one tries a Russian accent. Ebert's review covers all the elements well, though I didn't get too drawn into the story.
Temple Grandin - This is an HBO biography about Temple Grandin who I had not heard of. She a high functioning autistic who has transformed the livestock industry with her work. Claire Danes does a magnificent job playing her and would probably get an Oscar nomination if the film were eligible. The story and story telling were both compelling. Well worth seeing.
Long Day's Journey Into Night - Directed by Sidney Lumet, written by Eugene O'Neill based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play. Katharine Hepburn got the only Oscar nomination (for Best Actress) but Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell are all excellent. It's long and it took a while for me to get into it but I did and really liked it. It covers a day in a hugely dysfunctional family of addicts. Things spiral more and more out of control as the causes of their troubles are shown to be more and more complex. It's a master class in acting (and of addiction) and I want to see it again.
Bad Day at Black Rock - I'd seen this many years ago while going through a Spencer Tracy phase and had really liked it. I saw it again and still do. It's a modern western set just after World War II directed by John Sturges. Spencer Tracy plays an army vet who visits a tiny desert town looking for someone named Komoko, however the town is immediately suspicious of him. They start off unhelpful and then get belligerent. It's small story, with traces of High Noon, told with great economy and with an underlying social message or two. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin play thugs in early roles and the always fun Walter Brennan plays a doctor. Maybe I think it's better than it actually is, but this is one of my favorites.
The Color Purple - I'd somehow never seen this before. Whoopi Goldberg's first role and she's great in it as Celie Johnson who suffers from poverty, incest and abuse. Don't see this in a double feature with Precious. Danny Glover's Albert is as vile as Mo'Nique. The same year he was in Silverado and Witness, which is a very impressive year. I know this film as the one that got 11 oscar nominations and didn't win any. Glancing over the competition, Out of Africa won 7 and I don't remember the film well. It seemed like a weak year, but I can kind of understand it (though I would have given Witness and Ran more awards). It's directed by Spielberg and you see his touches throughout, but it's very uneven in the emotional journey.
Paris Blues - Get this cast: Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll and Louis Armstrong. It's directed by Martin Ritt (who also directed Hud) and the Oscar nominated jazz score is by Duke Ellington. Newman and Poitier are ex-pat jazz musicians living in Paris and Woodward and Carroll are on vacation. There isn't much plot, in fact barely any at; they meet and start dating (and a friend of Newman's has a drug problem). But there is great music, some nice b/w shots of Paris and really amazing star power. Seriously, it's somehow almost worth watching this just to see the actors stand there. The jazz score is great. I'm not sure it's memorable, but it was fun to watch.
"A new study provides further evidence suggesting many companies tweak quarterly earnings to meet investor expectations, and the companies that adjust most often are more likely to restate earnings or be charged with accounting violations. The study, which examined nearly half a million earnings reports over a 27-year period, reached its conclusion by going beyond the standard per-share earnings results that are reported in pennies and analyzing the numbers down to the 10th of a cent."
"The authors' conclusions rest on a simple piece of statistical analysis. When they ran the earnings-per-share numbers down to a 10th of a cent, they found that the number '4' appeared less often in the 10ths place than any other digit, and significantly less often than would be expected by chance. They dub the effect 'quadrophobia'."
Factcheck.org covers the ad. "Does it? Not exactly. The bill (H.R. 4173), which passed the House with no Republican support, does say that "in unusual and exigent circumstances" the Federal Reserve can, with approval from an oversight council and the secretary of the Treasury, loan money to help prop up financial entities. And such monies are capped at $4 trillion. But the Federal Reserve already had such authority — with no stipulated cap on the amount it could loan. And banks that "fail," as the ad says, could be dissolved by regulators, according to another provision in the bill. Any money needed for the dissolution would come from a $150 billion fund formed at least partly by fees collected from large financial institutions."
"I am sick to death of listening to people who have no freakin’ clue what they are talking about, go on and on about how reading someone their Miranda warning means they won’t give you actionable intelligence."
"A Miranda warning is merely a reminder of list of rights that an arrestee has. The person arrested ALREADY HAS THESE RIGHTS upon arrest. The reading of the warning does not confer the rights upon the arrestee."
"An arrestee can refuse to speak at any point, before or after being read their Miranda rights. Likewise, they can continue to speak AFTER being read their rights. Most do. An arrestee’s request for a lawyer is the ONLY thing that limits an interrogation; the arrestee can make this request before or after being read their rights. Once the person asks for a lawyer, interrogation must cease until the lawyer arrives, but may resume thereafter if the lawyer consents; arrestees’ lawyers often consent because it’s in their client’s best interest to cooperate."
What Makes a Great Teacher?. "For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can’t. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data."
The Science of Success. "Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people."
and Michael Kinsley on Cut This Story!, "Newspaper articles are too long."
Friday, February 12, 2010
"On Tuesday, as part of Michelle Obama's anti-childhood-obesity campaign, Let's Move!, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched an exciting new tool: the Food Environment Atlas. Developed by the USDA's Economic Research Service in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, the National Farm-to-School Network, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the atlas allows anyone with an internet connection to create custom maps of their food environment. What's more, it even makes the data sets embedded in the atlas available for download."
"Barber was aboard the Canadian research icebreaker Amundsen, checking on ice in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Western Canada. The ship was well inside a region the satellites said should be choked with thick, multiyear-old ice. 'That's pretty much a no-go zone for an icebreaker of the Amundsen's size,' says Barber. But the ship kept going, at a brisk 13 knots — its top speed in open water is 13.7 knots — and even when it finally reached thick ice, he says, 'we could still penetrate it easily.'
In short, as Barber and his colleagues explain in a recent paper in Geophysical Review Letters, the analysis of what the satellites were seeing was wrong. Some of what satellites identified as thick, melt-resistant multiyear ice turned out to be, in Barber's words, 'full of holes, like Swiss cheese. We haven't seen this sort of thing before.'"
Ward Shelley's New Paintings show large maps of the evolution of various art topics.
EJ Fox says: "My new years resolution is to make an infographic on every This American Life ever made. The idea is to expand and add context to the stories and information contained in the shows. Basically, anything I am curious about while listening to the pieces."
Sumedicina is a "Data fiction project. Story telling with information graphics." There's a Flickr set or there's the project site.
"Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.
In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that 'a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records' that show where a mobile device placed and received calls."
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"While health care reformers argue about what it would take to ‘break the curve’ of health care inflation, the state of Maryland has done it, at least when it comes to hospital spending.
In 1977, Maryland decided that, rather than leaving prices to the vagaries of a marketplace where insurers and hospitals negotiate behind closed doors, it would delegate the task of setting reimbursement rates for acute-care hospitals to an independent agency, the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission.
Such adjustments are never perfect, but in this case, it appears that the Commission is treating hospitals equitably..Since the program started, the Wall Street Journal reports that Maryland hospitals have enjoyed a steady profit margin, unlike hospitals in other states that often make more money during boom years and less during a recession. Statewide hospital profit margins average 2.5% to 3%.—just enough of a surplus to give hospitals maneuvering room when setting budgets. Before the commission was established, Maryland hospitals were losing money covering the uninsured.
What is most remarkable is how state regulation of prices has contained costs. When the program began in 1977, the state’s hospital costs were 25% higher than the national average. Today, Maryland’s hospital costs are 2% lower than the national average. Meanwhile, over the same span, Maryland boasts the nation's second-slowest increase in hospital costs ."
It's worth reading the whole article.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
"Well the future is now. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan recently disclosed that he received a whole body scan at the airport. But contrary to the stated policy of the British government, this image was not immediately discarded. Instead, airline personnel apparently printed it out."
Update: This might be a hoax.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
He also has a very good post ,Goldman Sachs vs. the Taxpayers about a NY Times article from the weekend. "In the New York Times this weekend, Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story write about how Goldman Sachs both helped along the collapse of AIG and profited from it at the same time. Basically, Goldman acquired lots of mortgage-backed securities they thought were likely to tank, then bought CDS contracts from AIG to insure against that decline."
Nice to see actual details making it to the light of day.
First, a nine minute video:
Then there's more detail in this 2009 year end summary by James Hansen and others, If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?. it starts...
"The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature records, in the surface temperature analysis of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The Southern Hemisphere set a record as the warmest year for that half of the world. Global mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1a, was 0.57°C (1.0°F) warmer than climatology (the 1951-1980 base period). Southern Hemisphere mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1b, was 0.49°C (0.88°F) warmer than in the period of climatology."
"The global record warm year, in the period of near-global instrumental measurements (since the late 1800s), was 2005."
"Because it was Super Bowl week--and I happened to be watching a rebroadcast of the New York Giants' amazing Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, in which his son Zack made the tackle on the final kickoff of the game--I checked in with Steve DeOssie, an acquaintance of mine who also won a Super Bowl ring for the New York Giants, back in 1991. Steve is very politically active and astute, and although we don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, I respect him a lot and his opinions."
DeOssie said: "Much of the media seems to be missing the point or the cause of the election. On the right they want to believe it was anti-Obama or anti-healthcare. On the left they try to spin the idea that it was just about the poor performance of Coakley. Having been to at least 20 of Scott's campaign events I can tell you it was none of those reasons. The most consistent attitude was that people wanted to slow down the process. There was a natural reaction even in the most liberal of states to not want anything forced on them the way the healthcare seemed to be. People up here were not anti anything except the healthcare process. They saw it as sneaky and underhanded. Even in Massachusetts, people did not want something that unknown forced on the country. Either way I am glad the process will slow down some but I will not put even a good friend like Scott on that political pedestal like some people are trying to do."
Schaller talks about the closed meetings, deal-making and speed of the process and then says:
"Meanwhile, Obama is now participating in a bi-partisan commission and publicly debated House Republicans live on television in their backyard--and without any notes written on his palm. These actions are unlike anything that was done by the Bush Administration, which had to be shamed by 9/11 victims into agreeing to even have a commission to investigate the pre-attack intelligence failures of our government, nor did Bush visit a caucus of House Democrats to defend the claims of Al Qaeda-Iraq connections or how exactly that yellowcake or mobile weapons labs on the back of 18-wheelers managed to get into Saddam's hands. So we will have greater transparency, and that’s a good thing as an end in itself. But does anyone want to bet that a highly-transparent policy process, and certainly one that departs dramatically from the politics of the past decade, will be sufficient to end conservative complaints?"
"As I've been digging deeper into the data I've gathered on 210 million public Facebook profiles, I've been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged. My latest visualization shows the information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there's a line between them.
Looking at the network of US cities, it's been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster. For example Columbus, OH and Charleston WV are nearby as the crow flies, but share few connections, with Columbus clearly part of the North, and Charleston tied to the South
Some of these clusters are intuitive, like the old south, but there's some surprises too, like Missouri, Louisiana and Arkansas having closer ties to Texas than Georgia. To make sense of the patterns I'm seeing, I've marked and labeled the clusters, and added some notes about the properties they have in common."
I saw him on Bill Moyers Journal last friday and found him just as vague. He said something like we need to give Congress the power to restore it's institutional integrity, make is so people don't perceive it as corrupt. He skipped whether it was actually corrupt or what that power would be. He was on with a libertarian from Reason and ultimately said they agreed on things but I'm pretty sure they didn't.
He did write this article in The Nation, How to Get Our Democracy Back and it's the most clear description of what he thinks must happen to make Congress a functioning organization again.
"But the problem in Washington is not lobbying. The problem is the role that lobbyists have come to play. As John Edwards used to say (when we used to quote what Edwards said), there's all the difference in the world between a lawyer making an argument to a jury and a lawyer handing out $100 bills to the jurors. That line is lost on the profession today. The profession would earn enormous credibility if it worked to restore it."
"But it is this part of the current crisis that the dark soul in me admires most. There is a brilliance to how the current fraud is sustained. Everyone inside this game recognizes that if the public saw too clearly that the driving force in Washington is campaign cash, the public might actually do something to change that. So every issue gets reframed as if it were really a question touching some deep (or not so deep) ideological question. Drug companies fund members, for example, to stop reforms that might actually test whether "me too" drugs are worth the money they cost. But the reforms get stopped by being framed as debates about "death panels" or "denying doctor choice" rather than the simple argument of cost-effectiveness that motivates the original reform. A very effective campaign succeeds in obscuring the source of conflict over major issues of reform with the pretense that it is ideology rather than campaign cash that divides us. Each of these causes is a symptom of a more fundamental disease. That disease is improper dependency. Remove the dependency, and these symptoms become--if not perfectly then at least much more--benign."
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
"Shelby is holding Obama's nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track." One is "a $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers" the other, "an improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI...which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008".
There you go, a Republican blocking 70 appointees unless he gets his pork for his state. Don't tell me they're trying to be bipartisan. And it's not just one lone Republican, the leadership is doing anything about it. "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office first doubted the story was true. Later, after Shelby confirmed it, McConnell's office refused to talk about the holds."
In his speech Thursday to attendees, former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because 'we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.'"
Yup, they're just racists.
The Republican Plan, I: People Will Die. "Ryan realizes that “the deficit problem is a health-care problem,” which he agreed to in an interview with Klein. That’s good. He realizes that to solve the deficit you have to do something about Medicare. That’s good. He also puts forward a logically coherent conservative position. That’s good in itself and especially refreshing after the Bush era (and the unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit) and all the recent posturing of the Republicans as defenders of Medicare (Mitch McConnell: “Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want.“) Ryan’s plan is basically to cut Medicare like never imagined before."
"The Roadmap takes the opposite approach: it puts all the risk of rising health care costs on beneficiaries. In concept, it takes the current amount that the government spends on Medicare and turns that into vouchers that are distributed to individual beneficiaries, who are then free to buy whatever health insurance they can in the free market. The vouchers are designed to grow slower than equivalent insurance would cost"
The Republican Plan, II: You’re On Your Own. "But, Paul Ryan would argue, the Roadmap is going to bring down the cost of health care, so the fact that we’re providing less support won’t matter. Put another way, he might say, Obama’s plan also counts on bringing down the cost of health care, so why can’t I make the same assumption? There are two problems with this argument."
"The Roadmap pins cost reduction on one thing, and one thing only: eliminating the tax exclusion on employer-provided health care. I think this is a good idea, and I suspect that Peter Orszag does, too, but couldn’t push it through for political reasons. But the idea that it’s going to solve the health care cost problem alone is the kind of fantasy people have when they’ve only taken one semester of high-school economics and think the world works just like textbooks."
"In the Democratic plan, if it turns out health care costs don’t fall as fast as they hope, the deficits stay high and they try again. In the Republican plan, deficits fall and people die. In one case, the government budget bears the risk; in the other case, ordinary people bear the risk."
The Republican Plan, III: Comic Relief. "The Roadmap brings up the issue that there is little price transparency in the health care market." Their solution is modeled on SEC and FASB since 1973, that is self-regulation. "Enron? WorldCom? Self-regulation? FASB, the SEC, and the securities industry are their example?"
James Kwak began his posts saying, "The CBO says that it will balance the budget and even eliminate the national debt by 2080. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias have commented on it. Klein says, “I wouldn’t balance the budget in anything like the way Ryan proposes. His solution works by making care less affordable for seniors. . . . But his proposal is among the few I’ve seen that’s willing to propose solutions in proportion to the problem.” Yglesias says “it’s totally unworkable.” But they’re both being much too kind."
"Nearly 3,000 pages of e-mails that Todd Palin exchanged with state officials, which were released to msnbc.com and NBC News by the state of Alaska under its public records law, draw a picture of a Palin administration where the governor's husband got involved in a judicial appointment, monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions, received background checks on a corporate CEO, added his approval or disapproval to state board appointments and passed financial information marked 'confidential' from his oil company employer to a state attorney."
Here are some examples, though if you click through to the actual letters, I find these descriptions a little excessive:
*The governor coached her staff on how to disguise the amount of electrical work needed at the mansion to hook up her new tanning bed.
*Palin and her staff stewed over the refusal of the state Public Safety Department to provide a plane so the children could fly to Todd's family's home in Dillingham; after all, they were going to attend a bill signing, so the travel requests could be justified. Sarah Palin called the decision "outrageous," and an aide said it provides "a great excuse to privatize" the governor's jet service.
*The manager of the Palins' travel schedule searched for a public event to use as justification ("I just need one") to charge the state for an airplane flight for Palin's daughter, Willow, who made the trip but had missed the event given as its justification.
*When Sarah Palin complained that the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote a critical editorial after she did them the favor of meeting with the editorial board, Todd Palin advised the press chief to "take the news miner off the press release address list for a few days, see how long it takes them to realize their not on the list."
*"Man, that gossip crap bugs me," Sarah Palin wrote after the Anchorage Daily News wrote about mansion repairs in its Alaska Ear political column. "Any time it has anything to do with home or family, it's irritating." A press aide apologized, saying the columnist did not to call check out stories before publishing. The residence director added, "Reminds me of junior high school, where hormonal teenagers are always looking for the drama. ... I'll do my best to avoid giving them any news nuggets.""
Thursday, February 04, 2010
If only they cut taxes more...
PBS has offered very little explanation of what will replace these shows, saying only that they will announce changes sometime this month. But one line-up change many PBS viewers will see this February is the addition of Ideas in Action--a show produced by the George W. Bush Institute, part of the new presidential library in Dallas."
I missed the petition, but there was a response. "FAIR presented a petition with more than 11,000 names to PBS on January 13, calling for worthy replacements for the exiting programs Bill Moyers Journal and Now. In all, 14,462 people signed the petition, including names added after it was delivered to PBS. In a January 22 response, PBS described its new Friday night offering, Need to Know, but gave no indication of whether the program will continue the hard-hitting tradition of its predecessors."
He called out the Republicans for demonizing the level of debate without actually calling them out on it. He said it was both sides, I think it's just that the GOP is better at it. All he had to do was
mention death panels in the last answer to make his point. He called himself a centrist and that's certainly true, in spite of how he's portrayed. He didn't propose truly progressive health reform (a government run or even single payer system) and the stimulus wasn't as much spending as a progressive would want and included lots of tax cuts. He also called them out that they can't complain that they don't get 100% or 80% of what they want. He could have add that they are the minority party, but he didn't, which was probably better. Bipartisan means ideas from both sides (well it will have to be to get votes from both sides) so compromise is key. And it's clear his policies have been that.
Many people there complained that things weren't getting passed Pelosi and I know she's demonized by the right, I just don't know enough about the procedure to know if it's true. Given the talking points of death panels, climate change is a lie, socialism, worse deficits than republicans, and everything else, my first instinct is to doubt it. Which is just what Obama said.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
9 The Hurt Locker
8 Inglourious Basterds
6 Up in the Air
4 Star Trek
4 Nine *
4 District 9
3 The Young Victoria *
3 The Princess and the Frog *
3 Crazy Heart *
3 An Education
2 The Messenger
2 The Last Station *
2 The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus *
2 The Blind Side *
2 Sherlock Holmes
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox
2 A Serious Man
2 The White Ribbon *
1 Which Way Home *
1 Un Prophète *
1 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen *
1 The Secret of Kells *
1 The Most Dangerous Man in America *
1 The Milk of Sorrow *
1 The Lovely Bones *
1 The Cove
1 Paris 36 *
1 Julie & Julia
1 In the Loop
1 Il Divo
1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
1 Food, Inc.
1 El Secreto de Sus Ojos *
1 Coco before Chanel *
1 Burma VJ *
1 Bright Star
1 Ajami *
1 A Single Man
I'm really glad for The Hurt Locker and am thrilled that In The Loop got a screenplay nomination. I wish Peter Capaldi got a supporting nod (certainly over Damon). I wish Where the Wild Things Are got something, but am not surprised. And A Serious Man should have done better, at least Cinematography (over Harry Potter).
Of the 5 films nominated for best foreign language film, I've only even heard of one (The White Ribbon). Of the docs nominated I've only seen Food Inc. and The Cove and I would have put The Good Solder over The Cove easily.
I have 20 films to see and I can't believe I'm going to see Transformers 2 (it got a sound nomination). Maybe I'll put that one off (though it's one of the few on Netflix now).
There are also 15 shorts nominated (doc, animated, live action) and I haven't seen any of them either, though theCoolidge will be showing them.
Best documentary short subject
China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin
Best animated short film
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper
A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best live action short film
Instead of Abracadabra
The New Tenants