Friday, February 25, 2005

Cross-Post time

I put up a piece over on Running Scared. Feel free to click this and go read it, if you're interested in my opinion about whether or not drugs like Celebrex and Bexxtra should stay on the market.

Conflicted at Heart

Friday Not-My-Pet Blogging

Gizmodo has a piece on a hamster-powered MIDI sequencer.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Morality Quiz

Am I a bad person if I'm thinking the words "Pope death watch"?

Author of a Vision

Warning, this starts out cohesively enough, then just devolves down to my usual pap about respecting others.

Hat tip Middle Earth Journal

Different Era, But Same Talk

Leon Hadar talks about Bush's vision of a New World, and he calls Natan Sharansky the author of that vision. I'm vaguely unsettled by this, because Natan Sharansky was an important figure to me when I was in my teens, he was the example Russian Jew Prisoner. We all wore bracelets with the names of Jewish men and women detained in the Soviet Union. Our goal was to raise world awareness of the unjust incarceration of people whose only crime was that they remained Jewish in a state that had forbidden religion. Well, maybe it worked. Natan Sharansky was freed, and was able to emigrate to Israel, and we all rejoiced. Now, His book is the professed favorite bedtime reading of GWB.

Hadar describes how the idea of advancing democracy is akin to advancing a Messiah, a concept that will save the world. This is "Big Picture" thinking, and the small details...
Forget those "little details": you know, no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no Saddam-Bin Laden ties; the anti-American insurgency; Abu Ghraib; the rising political influence of the Shiite clergy; signs of civil war. What counts is the march towards victory of democracy in Iraq and the spread of freedom and liberty in the entire Muslim world. The theocracy in Saudi Arabia? The military regimes in Egypt and Pakistan? These are just two more examples of those "small details."
Although I am not actually a proponent of forcing democracy on people who haven't asked for it, I am a big fan of it, as a general rule. I love that I live in a society that gets to vote on things, important things, and I truly believe that no matter what corruptions live on the seedy underbelly of our government, the choices made by the people steer the way that our country moves.

Governments and ideologies evolve. People don't just wake up one day and think, "Hey, how come I don't live in a democracy?". Loyalty to leaders, and religious beliefs hold strong. How can anyone think that someone who has lived in a heterogeneous society all their lives would suddenly want to change all the rules so that people they consider to be unclean in the eyes of god are suddenly considered equal, and not punishable by the law? The concept of separating church and state is beyond immediate grasp.

People don't all necessarily gloss over this, but an attitude of superiority begins to rear its ugly head. Hadar describes Sharansky's vision as that of Israel as "parent", watching over the Arab nations until they're ready. As if they haven't grown up yet. This is not caring for other nations, this is occupying them. Despite the fact that having antagonistic vies about how people should live their lives causes conflict and violence, we can't just assume that we're the ones who are right, and that the rest of the world should get with the program. That nullifies the very nature of the diversity that we (the US) claim to celebrate. It stomps on the rights of the people of the world. Israel, no matter how much I love and respect Israel, is not a parent figure who can control the misbehaving Arab countries, they're just citizens of the world. We're all just citizens of the world.

I do understand the mindset that allows a person to think that because they really do want the best for everyone, that it's all right to impose new rules on people, and once they see how nice it is when everyone plays by those rules, that they'll be happy. I also understand that this simply isn't true. Forcing your ideology, no matter how "right" you're sure you are, is wrong.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Thought for the Day

No matter how cool some people might think the concept, the United States cannot possibly fight the entire world and win. No one's that big.

Benefits, Schmenefits

Taken pretty much whole cloth from an email a friend sent me:

The source is The Democrats, so it's biased, but it's still fun.

Pretty sure that Mike posted it over on Running Scared, too, but hey, in case you missed it.

It's depressing, of course. Good thing I have actual private accounts that I plan on living on after I retire.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Short Exposition

I'm feeling cynical today, and not very loquatious, so just a short bit based on a conversation I had last night.

Every government is at some level corrupt. It just is. Deal with it.

Some forms of corruption disregard the needs of the community so blatantly that all forms of decent support collapse, and places become real cess-pits.

Some "corrupt" officials understand that they live in the communities that their decisions are affecting, and so they use their underhanded, often illegal methods to actually get things done. Alongside the legal, above-board ones, of course. I won't say that most governments are corrupt on all levels, that's just silly. There's plenty of honest people out there, it just seems that most often they're not the ones pushing for power.

New Jersey, most of the time, has the kind of corruption that gets things done. If you're stuck with it anyway, it might as well be the productive kind.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Does anybody besides me find the following headline just a little inflamatory?

Truce-Bound Israel Stops Razing Palestinian Homes

Geez - take sides, much, Dan Williams? I admit I take sides, but nobody's paying me. The article, at least, is a bit more even-handed. I specifies that the homes belonged to Palestinian militants, and that the reason Israeli government gives is that it discourages attacks.


At Least There Aren't Any Ration Coupons

Yesterday afternoon over at Shakespeare's Sister, Mr. Furious posted a nice little bit that starts like this:
So Bush-supporting farmers don't like the raw deal they're being given with Bush's proposed budget?
That's Farmers Who Backed Bush Upset With Budget in case you missed the one-word link, there.

Know what I see when I read that article? I see yet another factor in the equation of why it's going to get more expensive to live in this country, really fast. There's less aid for farmers in a year when there's a Hessian fly infestation. Goodbye, reasonable wheat prices. And have you seen the price of milk lately? Staples are up, up, up. Aid is down, down, down. Deficit is up, spending must go down.

I'm thinking that it's really the beginning of a wartime economy.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Not My Cup of Tea

But that doesn't matter!

Justice Dept. Fights Ruling on Obscenity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - In a case representing a major test of the Bush administration's campaign against pornography, the Justice Department said Wednesday that it would appeal a recent decision by a federal judge that declared federal obscenity laws unconstitutional.
Seems that there was a criminal case against a California video distributor for violating federal obscenity laws. It's a company that does, indeed provide what some would label as "hard core". Personally, I'd label it, "offensive".
The examples given in the article are "scenes of simulated gang rapes and other attacks on women". I don't want to watch that. I certainly don't know if any of my friends want to watch that.
Louis Sirkin, a Cincinnati lawyer representing the pornography distributor, said he believed the judge's opinion would be upheld.

"You can't legislate morality," Mr. Sirkin said. "You have to let people make their own personal decisions, and that's the important principle at stake in this case."...

...Judge Lancaster interpreted that ruling to mean that "public morality is not a legitimate state interest sufficient to justify infringing on adult, private, consensual, sexual conduct even if that conduct is deemed offensive to the general public's sense of morality."
That's it, right there. No, I don't want to buy this stuff, but this is a free country, and sometimes freedom means that people are allowed to do things that others find repulsive. Buying filthy videos doesn't hurt anyone. If the people participating in them are all there willingly, and the filmmakers aren't misrepresenting themselves, then they should be allowed to conduct business. There's just a fundamental difference between disgusting and illegal, and we, as Americans, have to respect that. It's part of what makes us a great country, right?

I find myself defending the most outrageous, unusual cases I can find, all for the purpose of making sure that the small, everyday freedoms remain safe far, far inside the container.

(Cross-posted at Running Scared)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Man Down

Jazz over at Running Scared has injured his left hand and is light on today's posting, so I felt it was my duty to get something posted over there. Go on over and read it if you like.

Not a Fan Letter

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I'm the Only One in the World...

...who wants higher taxes.

So I was talking to my dad, and he starts telling me (again) that some sort of poll named Tom Kean the best New Jersey governor in recent memory. Apparently, tied for worst were McGreevey and Florio. This brought me to the realization that people are idiots.

Not about Kean - he was a very good governor, really. He was pretty (in my mind, at least) moderate, and fiscally responsible, and the state had a budget surplus when he was in charge. Good thinking, and good work.

And McGreevey, OK, I can see why people think he was the worst. In my mind, he wasn't actually the worst, but possibly one of the most recognizably corrupt. That's pretty bad. Real estate scandals, inappropriate appointments, and of course the whole "my governor is a gay American" thing, they don't speak well of the man. I don't think that he was a bad legislator, I just think that his personal conscience took a vacation without leaving a forwarding address. Not good thinking.

But Florio? People hated Florio because he raised the NJ sales tax by a whopping... 1%. One percent! It wasn't making that much of a dent in our damn pockets! I think it was 3 seconds after she got sworn in to office that Christie Whitman repealed that tax and brought us back down to 6%. I know that she's very moderate in many of her views, but she got elected the "traditional" Republican way - promise to cut taxes. And then she did. (Which actually, kind of speaks well about her character, but I'm talking about fiscal policy, here)

Why were people so up in arms about one more penny on the dollar? I know that a lot of folks say "I earned it, I want to keep it", but do they think that government programs pay for themselves? Because they don't! It's not getting cheaper to run the state, people, it's getting more expensive, just like everything else on earth, except DVD players. What would have happened if we had kept the extra sales tax? Would we be $4 billion dollars in the hole today? Probably not. I'm not saying that we'd have a surplus, but I'm sure it would have helped a great deal.

Republicans talk about streamlining government, but when push comes to shove, you see them spending just as much as Democrats - but with tax cuts, so less money is coming in. If we're going to have state-run programs that everyone seems to feel are a right, instead of the privilege that they actually are, then someone has to pay for it. I'd prefer the money to come from big business, but in today's climate that's not going to happen. And when it comes down to the choice of my state racking up billions of dollars in debt or me paying $107.00 for that wireless Ethernet adapter instead of $106.00, well, I'm willing to suck it up.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Another Good Point

Blogger would not let me in at *all* yesterday. That having been said, check this out:

Truth: The Great Liberal Conspiracy over at Shakespeare's Sister.

I love the way she digs in to a subject and just keeps going until you see how well thought-out her arguments are. She's not just spouting the first thing that comes to mind, her opinions are based on a healthy mixture of fact and experience. And yet, she seems so young! :o)

Take this excerpt for example:
There was a time when pointing out blatantly obvious political maneuvering would not have warranted charges of being a conspiracy theorist. We used to have a healthy mistrust of our government; we assumed that the flaws of humankind weren’t checked at the doorways of the White House and the Pentagon. When the shit hit the fan, we assumed that the people involved might do less than ethical things in the pursuit of self-preservation.

Check out the rest for yourself, it just makes sense.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Complete Lack of Respect

Prince Charles to Marry His Lover Camilla

Lover? Isn't that a little rude at this point?
I mean, OK, he ran around on his wife. No one else on earth ever did that. And, of course, his wife died, but after they divorced, and no one ever blamed him. So, now, he lives with the woman whom he supposedly has loved all along, and the press decides that slapping a label on the relationship is a way to go.


Last I checked, he wasn't actually running England, was he? Why does the press care so much?

Interesting (to Me, at Least)

(Via Dail Kos:)

Franken expected to make announcement on candidacy

Al Franken to stop just making fun of politicians and actually become one. Huh.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Trying to Remain Hopeful...

Israel Set to Reopen Gaza Border After Truce Summit
While Palestinian militants said they were not bound by President Mahmoud Abbas's formal truce pledge, they said they would continue to show restraint for now -- and both sides sought to capitalize.
Argh. I knew it. Why are they not bound by an elected leader? Oh, because they have no leader but Allah! And whomever brainwashed them, of course. Still, despite the refusal to acknowledge leadership, they did say that they would stop blowing stuff up... for now.
Israel's heavily fortified Erez crossing at Gaza's northern end will be reopened and hundreds of Palestinians will regain employment in Erez's Israeli-run industrial zone.
Well, that's a good thing, at least. Allowing people to resume the jobs that provide them their livelihood is always a good step. I do indeed believe that the average Palestinian would like to just live their lives in a bullet-free manner, going to a job, coming home at night to their family, maybe catching a movie on a day off, or visiting friends.
Leaders of both sides agree Sharon's plan to "disengage" from conflict by evacuating Gaza this summer could kickstart the "road map" process if done in coordination with Palestinians. Yet with Sharon intent on keeping most of the larger West Bank, which Palestinians regard as the core of the viable state they seek, few expect diplomacy to yield a permanent peace deal in the near future.
...and there's our deal-breaker. I personally can't make up my mind about the West Bank. I'm of three minds; part of me thinks that the West Bank is part of Israel, and that these people have no right to it at all, part of me thinks that Israel should just give the damn land to them, if it will bring peace, and part of me thinks that Israel could indeed give up the West Bank, and that the fighting would continue, anyway. Still, because I do feel that most people in the world *don't* want to live their lives in a constant state of battle, I think that maybe there's a chance that people can work out some sort of a peaceful coexistence. It's a long shot, but I'm trying to remain hopeful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Paint with a thinner brush

Not everyone in a certain place and time will feel the same way about the events taking place there. History will almost always be truncated to only include the majority, but majorities do not mean "unanimous agreement". A post over at Alternate Brain has reminded me of that.

Give Peace a Chance

Palestinians, Israel announce cease-fire

Well! A cease-fire! Bless my buttons! That's amazingly good! And yes, my tongue is in my cheek, but only a little tiny bit.

I've mentioned in the past, and my mind hasn't been changed, that no one is really in charge of the people who call themselves Palestinians. There are a million groups, and none of the really violent fringe ones have ever seemed willing to honor any kind of cease-fire agreed to in the past. But wait -
Rice also announced Monday that U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Ward will act as a security coordinator and will visit the region in the next few weeks. Ward also will work on Mideast security issues with Egypt and Jordan, she said.

"Gen. Ward's mandate is on security, which after all, really has to get established and has to be moving forward in order for us to make progress," Rice said.

Ward's responsibilities will include helping the Palestinians train and equip their security forces. Among his duties, Rice said, would be monitoring compliance with Israeli and Palestinian security agreements.

"We are very clear that the parties need to live up to their obligations," she said. "We won't hesitate to say to the parties when those obligations aren't being met."

Palestinian security forces? Could this possibly mean what I think it does? That Palestinians are willing to admit that they have some responsibility to police their own people, and to try and prevent terrorist forces within their midst? Because that's the only way that peace in this region can ever work. Simply decrying terrorism in public forums is not enough, Palestinians must actually work to stop terrorists in their own ranks. Do they really want to?

Now, the next problem is, of course, getting the Israelis to stop the violence, too. How do you convince a group of soldiers who've lived their whole lives looking over their shoulders every minute to stop shooting at the suspicious? Reactions like that have kept them alive up until now, for more often than not, people were trying to kill them. Go ahead, call me paranoid, but I spent 7 months of my life in Israel, just being a student, and I got to see 2 real bombs left in the street and I once moved carefully in the opposite direction of a grenade attack one night in town. Sure, I got held up by bomb threats dozens of times and only 2 were real, and I was in town every night for 5 months, more or less, with only one grenade attack... I think you can see what I'm saying. It's been a violent place, people aren't used to the idea of not shooting.

I once again bring up the issue of feelings and desire. These people have been raised to hate each other. Hate. Not the namby-pamby idea of hate that we here in the U.S. use to express strong dislike, but the kind of hate that inspires you to try and end others' lives. We can say that there's a cease fire, but do the people want it? Is the desire for peace just something that is given lip service, because its real meaning has been lost amongst ancient feuding that outsiders can't understand? I kind of think so, and that's what makes me so pessimistic about this "road map". I'd like to see peace, but I haven't lived with the anger all my life.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Post-Superbowl blogging

Having a busy morning, haven't even had a chance to check out the proposed budget yet. I did, of course, take the time to go look at the Carnival of Cats over on Running Scared. I can't believe I forgot to take cat pictures!!

And, of course, I read the MSNBC article about the Superbowl and it's commercials. I was watching until half time was over. I adore Paul McCartney completely. I don't care if he was brought in because he's so "safe", he's really wonderful. I'm not 60, by the way, I just think that. Anyway, I also paid attention to the commercials, after all, they're usually really something. My favorite was the FedEx/Kinkos one, which is a little embarrassing because that's the main competitor for the company I work for, but it was a really good ad. The article talks also about the sub/hero/grinder* sandwich ads:
Finally, in the battle of hot, toasted sandwiches, it was Subway's couple in a car over Quizno's talking baby.
I totally agree. The talking baby with the hot girlfriend disturbs me, but the Subway ad was good for a lot of laughs and flirting for the rest of the evening. Many jokes were made about better places to do that, and purposeful misunderstanding about whether we meant "making out" or eating sandwiches. And, of course, explaining it like that completely kills the joke.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Ay, Carrumba

I was just reading The Rude Pundit. Did you know that there's a Republican Senatorial Hispanic Task Force? I didn't! Holy crap, there's an Uncle Tom finding task force.

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have said that.

But I'm so hopping mad that the Republicans have stolen the wind right out from my party's "look how progressive we are!" sails.

I'm gonna go meditate on some pollyanna crap like "any progress is, in fact, progress".

Friday Plankton Blogging

New species of plankton have been found in the deepest part of the ocean!

New organisms found in deepest seas

Aren't they cute!

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Convoluted Quoting

Shakespeare's Sister has an excellent, excellent point about the State of the Union Address, that Ron has commented on over at Running Scared. It's about freedom, and how equality is *supposed* to be all wrapped up with it together.


Point one - I did not watch the State of the Union Address. I'm guessing that Bush talked about Social Security reform, and freedom being on the march. Feel free to email of comment if you think I missed anything important that I can't catch up on with my news reading.

Point two - I was reading Cynical Nation this morning, and he linked to an article about privatizing Social Security, and how the concept was brought up during the Clinton Administration. So I read it, and I thought, "Oh, good, the arguments against it were the same even when a president I liked was in office". So cheer up, Bush fans - it's not just the man I object to, it's actually the policy! Yay! You know, I bet GWB's very nice to chat with at a dinner table, when it comes down to it. You can't become the leader of the free world without knowing how to at least be polite over plates of rubber chicken.

Which brings me to a tangent, which is not a point at all: when Dr. Phil interviewed GWB and Laura on the teevee, I couldn't help but think how much of an ass Dr. Phil is and I hardly noticed how much GWB infuriates me at all. I so dislike watching Dr. Phil for too many reasons to even start listing them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Medicine, As I See It

Reading "Are Health Savings Accounts Good Medicine?" I've come up with my own answer to the question: Not really.

I'm a person with health issues. I get a lot of medical things done on a regular basis. I can tell you right now that I'd be less likely to do them if the cost was coming out of my own money. It's not that I don't want to take care of myself, it's just that medical procedures cost so very much. Take, for instance, my hospital stay of last April - I was there for 6 days, and the insurance company reported that the last 3 were "unnecessary" and "alternate arrangements" could have been made for my care. I objected, by the way, seeing as I was being fed through an IV and feeling pretty damn bad. But my point is that the cost for those three days came to roughly twenty-seven thousand dollars. Just thinking about setting up a payment plan for that much makes me dizzy. There's no way I'd have that much in a personal health savings account, and I make a fairly decent living. What would a less fortunate person do?

The article quotes a doctor, Dr. William J. West, Jr., an obstetrician/gynecologist in Reading, Pa.. Doctor West says
"When I deal with a patient who has a health savings account, we make decisions about treatments together and we discuss costs," West says. "This is likely to mean doctors practice less defensive medicine, because if you have discussed a treatment with a patient they have agreed to it, it's harder for them to sue you over it."
Whoa. I forget that people treat doctors like some sort of magic person. I talk about treatments with my doctor and discuss costs *now*. Shouldn't this always be the case? Shouldn't the biggest concern be the most efficient, proper way to solve whatever health problem you're facing? My doctor and I discuss outpatient treatments vs. inpatient, and name-brand drugs that have no generic equivalent vs. a similar drug that does, and whether or not it will do the job.

Now, if the "deductible insurance policy to cover major medical needs" part of this plan would have covered my $27,000 bill, then maybe the health care spending account wouldn't look so bad to me, but I'm suspicious. I don't trust insurance companies to pay for the things that the policies say that they will, and I suppose that the spending account idea just makes me think that they'll even less willing to hold up their end of the bargain. I know it's complicated, and that our lawsuit-happy society is equally to blame, but in this case, I'm looking out for me first.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Lifestyle Issues

Mu at Running Scared has pointed out that Medicare now covers Viagra. OK, it's a lifestyle issue, no less valid that medications that relieve mild pain... yeah. That *better* be on a case-by-case basis.