Thursday, June 25, 2009


Obama is going to try and push through a universal healthcare bill. If it's anything like the stimulus bill, it will be another disaster. If I remember correctly, there were 1400 pages in that one, that essentially no one had a chance to read before voting on. Whatever happened to those promises of transparency and public review of pending legislation?

No one really knows whats in the President's healthcare proposal. Is he going to tax healthcare benefits? He slammed McCain for this idea during the campaign. How is it going to work? Who's going to pay for it? Are we going to model it along the lines of Medicare? Or is it the VA model? There's two wonderful examples of government efficiency for you.

Without a doubt, the system needs to be reworked from the ground up. I don't know of any good proposals out there right now. I do know that we should approach a government-run single payer model with extreme caution.

And then there's this:
President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people — like the president himself — wouldn’t face. . . Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn’t seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he’s proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get. The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if “it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care."

Apparently, government-run health care (like paying taxes) is only for little people.

Hope and change!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Measured response


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I SO get it now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

WalMart makes you skinny

Oh man. There is a study coming out of UNC which seems to suggest that people with access to WalMart/Sam's /Costco may actually be skinnier than those who don't shop at such stores.

In this summary, the study (which was assessing links between obesity and discount retail stores) actually showed that access to WalMart was associated with a lower body-mass index and a lower probability of being obese. Further analysis which included other discount retail giants seemed to confirm the effect; interestingly enough, WalMart's positive effect on weight was most pronounced for women, the poor, African-Americans and people who live in urban areas. There was also a positive correlation between better eating habits and the presence of discount club stores.

There are a few explanations given by the study authors. First is the substitution effect, whereby a change in prices relative to one another leads to, for example, cheaper salad prices (as compared to chip prices).

Another suggested explanation is the income effect. "If Wal-Mart sells food at lower prices--even if our incomes don't change--every dollar can buy more. Therefore, we're richer."

Is this a definitive study? Nah--not by a long shot. I kind of think of it as one of those "caffeine studies"--you know, the ones that come out every few weeks that have caffeine intake first associated with heart disease, then lower blood pressure, then increased mental acuity, or a variety of conflicting and seemingly unassociated outcomes.

It is interesting that the "conventional wisdom" would have it that big bad WalMart makes poor people fat and sells "bad food." Why do we believe this? I don't know. It's a commonly held belief. WalMart is often portrayed as the big bad monster destroying local communities and devouring the people that live in them. I do know that I have been surprised by what I am able to buy at the WalMart here in Rockettown. It's not Whole Foods, but it's not hard to find a variety of healthy foods to eat.

You can choose to believe what you want about WalMart. But this study won't exactly back up your prejudices.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terminate--with extreme prejudice . . .

. . . is the line spoken by the enigmatic gentleman in "Apocalypse Now," referring to the request to kill Col. Kurtz. Obviously it's meant to be an example of tortured government speak.

The good folks at Talking Points Memo are a little more blunt. In an article posted under the anonymous byline "The Insolent Braggart," the question is pointedly asked: At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers?

I kid you not.

Unfortunately, clicking on the link will not bring up the article. Instead, you get a "File Not Found" listing. Maybe the good folks at TPM want the post to just go away. However, Climate Depot was able to get a screen capture and posted the screed in its entirety.

A snippet (edited for impoliteness):
So when the right wing f***tards have caused it to be too late to fix the problem, and we start seeing the devastating consequences and we start seeing end of the World type events - how will we punish those responsible. It will be too late. So shouldn't we start punishing them now?

Nice. Classy. Remember, this isn't a commenter from the extreme edge of the TPM universe, this is a published article.

And it's really not an extreme position, as The Insolent Braggart has a lot of company. From the Climate Depot article:
NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity.” Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors” In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail... for all of eternity."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown “into jail.” In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

They told me that if McCain were elected, people would be jailed for having opinions that the government didn't agree with . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tiananemen Square

Tomorrow (June 4th) is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. To re-cap, sensing the feelings of deep, radical change that were sweeping the Communist world in 1989, some 100,000 Chinese students gathered in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989, protesting for the continuation of market and political reforms that had been taking place under the leadership of Hu Yaobang, a pro-market, pro-democracy official who had just died. The protests widened across the country, but the gathering in Beijing captured world attention.

The Chinese government declared martial law, and made several attempts to send troops into the square, all of them met with resistance by both the students and the Beijing populace. Some of the most powerful images from Tiananmen Square include the Chinese goddess of democracy statue, and, of course, the lone man standing against the line of tanks. The video of him, repeatedly moving to line himself up with the tanks as they tried to drive around him is absolutely riveting. Finally, on the night of June 3-4, armored personnel carriers and armed troops surrounded and entered the square, firing and killing indiscriminately.

The estimate of the number of those killed is varied, as one might expect. The official Chinese government number is a paltry 241. More reliable estimates place the death toll any where from 1000 to 7000. The actual number, like the fate of that lone man, will never be known. However, we should bear in mind, as this article by Claudia Rosett states, "the high-end estimate of the number killed in the Tiananmen uprising is dwarfed many times over by the millions of Chinese who died under the horrific communist experiment of Chairman Mao: forcibly collectivized, rusticated, starved, executed outright or dispatched to the torments of China's prison camps, the laogai."

Some of the reactions to the massacre have been disturbing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein self-righteously compared the massacre to the shootings of 4 students at Kent State in 1970, a statement which is perhaps one of the most egregious examples of moral equivalency.Charles Freeman, who was recently tapped as President Obama's head of the National Council of Intelligence (nomination subsequently withdrawn), said in 2006 that the" truly unforgivable mistake" the Chinese authorities made at Tiananmen was not the brutal massacre of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, but rather "the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." The Chinese communists were not "rash," but rather "overly cautious." That's right--you're overly cautious if you shoot down peaceful demonstrators.

Recently Secretary of State Clinton went out of her way to let China know that the United States will not let human rights concerns hinder our cooperation with China. Maybe that's how diplomacy is supposed to work, maybe that's the kind of treacle that the State Department has to spit out in order for the world to keep turning. I hope not. What happened 20 years ago, where an oppressed populace stood up for democracy and freedom, is too important to forget.