Friday, February 4, 2011

Test post

So this it's a test post using the new Blogger app for Android. Hopefully I will be more prolific with a new method to post, but I wouldn't advise holding your breath...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama v Bush, Oil Spill v Katrina

So, I keep hearing some of the news pundits make statements about the BP oil spill being "Obama's Katrina"... as if there was some comparison between the sending a discredited ex-horse trader to deal with one of the largest natural disasters in this nation's modern history, and a 3 to 5 Cabinet level departments response to a man made disaster caused in part by the previous Administration's failure to regulate an industry egged on by that same Administration's nonsensical environmental policy, non-existent energy policy, and its incestuous relationship with the energy industry. But in case you weren't clear about the comparison, let's compare speeches:

First this:

President Obama uttered three words on Thursday that many of his 43 predecessors twisted themselves into knots trying with varying degrees of success to avoid: “I was wrong.”

He strode into the East Room to mount a robust defense of his handling of the largest oil spill in American history, reassuring the nation that he was in charge and would do “whatever is necessary” to stop and clean up the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But by the time he walked out an hour later, he had balanced that with a fairly unusual presidential self-critique.

He was wrong, he said, to assume that oil companies were prepared for the worst as he tried to expand offshore drilling. His team did not move with “sufficient urgency” to reform regulation of the industry. In dealing with BP, his administration “should have pushed them sooner” to provide images of the leak, and “it took too long for us” to measure the size of the spill.

“In case you’re wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility,” Mr. Obama said as he concluded the news conference. “It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right away or the way I’d like it to happen. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn’t be any confusion here. The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged.”

(from )

Compared to:

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.


and this:

It isn't easy picking George Bush's worst moment last week. Was it his first go at addressing the crisis Wednesday, when he came across as cool to the point of uncaring? Was it when he said that he didn't "think anybody expected" the New Orleans levees to give way, though that very possibility had been forecast for years? Was it when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., a full four days after the storm made landfall, and praised his hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael D. Brown, whose disaster credentials seemed to consist of once being the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association? "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," said the President. Or was it that odd moment when he promised to rebuild Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's house--a gesture that must have sounded astonishingly tone-deaf to the homeless black citizens still trapped in the postapocalyptic water world of New Orleans. "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house--he's lost his entire house," cracked Bush, "there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

from (,9171,1101329-1,00.html)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In response to a comment...

In response to a comment from a friend on my Facebook page, I am posting this lightly edited comment here as it is too long for Facebook to handle...

I am more than happy to engage in some political debate as long as you keep in mind that I have a thick skin and I expect the same of my opponents. I love the intellectual exercise of political debate, and though I don’t expect to change many minds, as it’s my belief that in general, only a small percentage of the population is truly “on the fence,” I can always hope.

That being said, I don’t want to get into a point-by-point debate over the substance of the various accusations leveled by either side. Suffice it to say that while many on both sides of the partisan divide are correct in pointing out that neither candidate has been completely objective and both have, at times, stretched the truth, it is fairly clear that if we were to compare apples to apples, McCain and Palin have gone so far off the reservation that even prominent conservative commentators such as David Brooks of the NY Times, Ross Douthat of the Atlantic, and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post (not to mention Fox News, and even Karl Rove, of all people) complaining about the tenor and the conduct of their campaign. The level of obfuscation and deliberate avoidance of the issues has reached a level that a Fox News (!) commentator just today called “unprecedented.” I also feel compelled to point out that the sources you cited/linked to are far from objective; perhaps your energy would be better spent taking the time to cross-check your accusations on a more objective site such as , a non-partisan media & political watchdog site rather than reading the poorly researched and unreasonably partisan cheerleading of a few right wing apologists.

I think there are 2 primary issues at stake here… first is your basic political philosophy. In general, it’s been my observation that while both progressive/Democratic and conservative/Republican administrations end up spending lots of money bailing out the corporate interests that keep them in office, the difference comes in their approaches to those corporate interests, and their approaches to the people they claim to serve. However, in general, conservatives want to deregulate business on the premise that doing so will cause economic growth, but seek to regulate human behavior. In contrast, progressives generally seek to shield personal behavior from the regulation of government and attempt to regulate the behavior of big business to protect the average citizen from their collective and focused avarice. For myself, I have never believed in the idea of “trickle down” economics, and will never believe that the government can legislate the right choices for people. However, I strongly believe in a government that acts on behalf of its citizens, providing in times of need, protecting the vulnerable, giving voice to those who would otherwise be drowned out in the river of commerce and trampled by the unfettered rush to profit.

The second issue is, which candidate do you believe represents the government that you want? If you want a government that is beholden to big business, worships commerce and profit above all else, and seeks to enact laws that invade the privacy of the individual, casting aside the very spirit of the living Constitution that is the core of our country’s existence, then John McCain and Sarah Palin are your candidates. Their words and actions have made it more than clear that they are qualified to turn this country into the corporate sponsored theocracy that would be proud to hold its head up along side the likes of Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. I, on the other hand, seek something different, and hope for something more. I don’t necessarily agree with every policy and platform that Barack Obama and Joe Biden espouse. However, within their campaign, I see a genuine goodness, and a real effort to change the course of this country by at least trying to tackle such problems as insuring the 50+ million citizens who languish without healthcare coverage, and curbing the rapacious activities of the financial sector, which have, in the past 10 days (and to the terrible detriment of generations of taxpayers to come), laid bare the bankrupt policies of ultra-free-market capitalist (read conservative) economics.

So there you have it… and I ask you, where do you fall? Are you here to help your fellow man? Or climb over him to turn a profit?

Angry about the Bush bailout proposal...

This line is contained in Section 8 of the proposed bailout legislation: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? We are going to give them $700B in spending authority and have no way to review it? No way to even oversee it? It's a blank check to rape the system (and by extension, every taxpaying citizen in the country) and cover it up as you go along, all in the name of "rescuing the economy." We clearly need to do something to clean up the mess of years of fiscal conservative deregulation, but giving them license to screw us further without any way to hold them responsible is ludicrous. And the Administration that proposed it should be slowly and carefully spit roasted over an open fire (after an long and proper trial that observes every one of their constitutional rights, and bankrupts them and their families).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Semi-Random Walk Through My Muddled Brain...

So, after nearly 4 years since my last post on and a myriad of changes in my life and in the world of blogging, I’ve decided to start writing again… writing… now there’s a word to consider for my first posting. It seems to me a strange thing to describe what I/we do any more as writing, since so little of the composing of words into sentences, paragraphs, and larger forms actually takes place with the physical act of placing pen or pencil to paper. So much of what we do now occurs with computers and word processing programs, keyboards or voice recognition software, or even PDA’s and thumbpads, that to call it writing seem so… oh, I don’t know… perhaps “quaint” isn’t exactly the correct word, but something like that.

Yet, in many ways, though we compose pages upon pages of text on our laptops or other devices, stored in little mysterious 1’s and 0’s on some device we don’t understand, it doesn’t seem quite real in some way until we see it reduced to ink and paper. There is a comforting physicality to seeing our words printed out by pigmented chemicals onto a surface of dried, partially digested wood pulp that cannot be matched by any Sony e-book or 30 inch LCD monitor, no matter how safe or secure or redundant that hardened, fireproof 4-disk RAID drive array is. And it is not just in terms of paper and pixels… this divergence in desire also is evident in my quest for a Breitling or a Panerai watch, knowing that I cannot keep time nearly as well as that Timex or Citizen. Or my search (on eBay) for a [reasonably priced] Thorens turntable with a Shure V-15 cartridge to play a vinyl album that would barely take up a few measly megabytes on my uselessly capacious iPod that I wanted so badly.

It’s not that I am some Luddite or some nostalgic, balding, pudgy, middle-aged schmuck pining for the good old days (though I am balding, pudgy, and middle-aged, a topic for another posting in the distant future… and the schmuck part has surely been debated at length). I lust after the latest technology as much as the next geek, dreaming up ways that I can finagle the latest gadget and electronic toy, standing like a drooling idiot in front of that 150 inch 1080i widescreen HD plasma screen playing the latest version of Blade Runner as I caress the programmable universal remote in my hand and try to figure out if I can connect my home and office networks so that I can surf the ‘Net, watch a movie and answer my Bluetooth enabled PDA all at the same time. But I am equally, if not even more so, drawn to the seemingly backward and time-challenged technology of gears and cogs, paper and pen, film and projection booth.

So, the question I present is this: How does one resolve the tension, bridge the chasm, as it were, that results from this dichotomy? Is there a way to explain why the feel of a Parker Centennial flowing thoughts across a 35 lbs. acid free paper is so comforting to me and yet I still lust for a touchscreen surface and handwriting recognition software? Why do I want to get up in the morning and wind my watch by hand but obsessively consult the website to get the correct time down to the thousandths of a second? Perhaps that’s our limitation as humans… our inability to divorce ourselves completely from our five senses. Though we dream big, we are anchored… no… grounded by what we can feel, see, hear, taste or smell. Perhaps in some small way, it gives us reference and perspective, a means by which to measure ourselves and our experiences.

And what of this new generation and their progeny? What will be their realities? Will they see these limitations as useless and quaint? Growing up in a time when paper has been replaced by displays, and film replaced by CGI; when the food they eat and the smells they emit have been replaced by this homogenized, sterilized, over-analyzed, steroid enhanced mocha-chino sea of products that has been evaluated and test-marketed to the n-th degree… how will they ground themselves? What will be their measuring sticks, their references? Or will they just see this as just another backward thinking tether to the past, a drag-on-my-life anchor they are more than willing to cast off on their journey to the stars?

By the way, you should expect more of these mental ramblings in future posts…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Date: 2004-02-19 15:52 Subject: distressed

It still fascinates me (much like watching a particularly gruesome train wreck fascinates me) that Bush supporters, even veterans, are more than willing to overlook the shortcomings of their own candidate’s service record in order to smear the record of the opposition. They would certainly never tolerate any similar questioning of their own records, and even a simple look at the comparative records of Kerry and Bush casts a glaring light upon the weakness of the alleged “military service” of the incumbent. They would be much less likely to question the propriety of the medals awarded veterans of Panama, or Grenada (where more personnel were issued commendations than actually were participating in the invasion itself), then the commendations awarded Senator Kerry.

Additionally, it seems to me that most of us are able to remember schoolmates, roommates, and even friends from many years ago, let alone fellow squad or squadron members, yet not one person can recall serving with George W., son of a U.S. Congressman, despite his protestations to the contrary. And while the fact that he or anyone else served with the ANG is nothing to be ashamed of, how he obtained his cushy, very desirable, and ultimately avoidant, job piloting obsolete jet fighters over the Caribbean through wealth, power, and connections despite his obviously substandard qualifications and how he conducted himself in that position serves as an object lesson on the type of man he is. And yet how disappointing it is that he and his similarly “service-minded” cronies (Cheyney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc) are so willing and eager to put young lives at risk today.

Perhaps it is because some cannot forgive Kerry’s subsequent opposition to the Vietnam War, a grossly unjust conflict that even the most hardened veterans would admit was mismanaged by the political masters of the time. Or perhaps they simply cannot see beyond the rhetoric and posturing of the self righteous and self proclaimed anti-terrorist and anti-WMD ideologue to truthfully consider the qualifications of a man who stated outright that he did not wish to serve his country overseas, who may or may not have even been present for his much reduced Air National Guard duties, who regularly and glibly serves up the half truths about his service record as easily as he does about the existence of WMD’s and the effectiveness of his tax cut programs to stimulate jobs and economic growth, and who has deliberately co-opted and abused his position of power to manipulate intelligence information and put American service personnel at risk.

So, which man do you want to lead this country for the next 4 years? Is this what we really want it to boil down to… medal counting and service records? Or is this just more smoke and mirrors about what is really at risk… the needs and wants of the People vs. the needs and wants of the privileged and powerful?

Brothers in Arms?
George W. Bush and John Kerry both spent their mid twenties in uniform. The similarities end there.

John Kerry
February 18, 1966:
A senior at Yale, Kerry commits to enlist in the Navy.

December, 1967:
Kerry is assigned as an Ensign to the guided-missile frigate USS Gridley. After five-months aboard, he returns to San Diego to undergo training to command a Swift boat, used by the Navy for patrols in Vietnam.

June, 1968:
Kerry is promoted to Lieutenant.

November 17, 1968:
Kerry arrives in Vietnam, where he is given command of Swift boat No. 44, operating in the Mekong Delta.

December 2, 1968:
Kerry gets his first taste of intense combat, and is wounded in the arm. He is awarded a Purple Heart.

January, 1969:
Kerry takes command of a new Swift boat, completing 18 missions over 48 days, almost all in the Mekong Delta area.

February 20, 1969:
Kerry is wounded again, taking shrapnel in the left thigh, after a gunboat battle. He is awarded a second Purple Heart.

February 28, 1969:
Kerry and his boat crew, coming under attack while patroling in the Mekong Delta, decide to counterattack. In the middle of the ensuing firefight, Kerry leaves his boat, pursues a Viet Cong fighter into a small hut, kills him, and retreives a rocket launcher. He is awarded a Silver Star.

March 13, 1969:
A mine detonates near Kerry's boat, wounding him in the right arm. He is awarded a third Purple Heart. He is also awarded a Bronze Star for pulling a crew member, who had fallen overboard, back on the boat amidst a firefight.

April, 1969:
According to Navy rules, sailors that have been wounded three times in combat are eligible to be transfered to the U.S. for noncombat duty. Kerry is transferred to desk duty in Brooklyn, NY.

January 3, 1970:
Kerry requests that he be discharged early from the Navy so that he can run for Congress in Massachusetts' Third District. The request is granted, and Kerry begins his first political campaign.

February 1970:
Kerry drops his bid for the Democratic nomination and supports Robert F. Drinan. Drinan, a staunch opponent of the war, wins the race and goes on to serve in Congress for ten years.

June 1970:
Kerry joins Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and becomes one of the group's unofficial spokespeople.

April 23, 1971:
Kerry helps to organize a huge anti-war protest outside Congress, earning a place on president Richard Nixon's "enemies' list." He joins a group of Vietnam veterans who throw medals and campaign ribbons over a fence in front of the Capitol.

April 23, 1971:
Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He tells lawmakers: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

November 10, 1971:
Kerry quits Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

April 1972:
Kerry moves to Massachusetts' 5th District to run for Congress again. He wins the Democratic nomination but loses to Republican Paul Cronin, in part because of his anti-war views.

November 1972:
After losing the election, Kerry is hired as a regional coordinator for Cooperative for American Relief to Everywhere(CARE).

September, 1973:
Kerry enrolls at Boston College Law School.


George W. Bush

February, 1968:
A senior at Yale, Bush takes an Air Force officers test. He scores in 25th percentile in the pilot aptitude portion, and declares that he does not wish to serve overseas.

May 27, 1968:
Bush enlists in Texas Air National Guard. Aided by Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes, he jumps over waiting list. He pledges two years of active duty and four years of reserve duty.

June 9, 1968:
Bush's student deferment expires.

September 1968:
After basic training, Bush pulls inactive duty to act as gopher on Florida Senator Edward J. Gurney's campaign.

November 1968:
After Gurney wins, Bush is reactivated and transferred to Georgia.

November 1969:
Bush is flown to the White House by President Nixon for a date with daughter Tricia.

December 1969:
Bush transfers to Houston and moves into Chateaux Dijon complex. Laura lives there too, but they don't meet till later.

March 1970:
Bush gets his wings.

June 1970:
Bush joins the Guard's "Champagne Unit," where he flies with sons of Texas' elite.

November 3, 1970:
George Bush Sr. loses Senate election to Lloyd Bentsen, whose son is also in the "Champagne Unit."

November 7, 1970:
Bush is promoted to first lieutenant. Rejected by University of Texas School of Law.

January 1971:
The Texas Air National Guard begins testing for drugs during physicals.

Spring 1971:
Bush is hired by a Texas agricultural importer. He uses a National Guard F-102 to shuttle tropical plants from Florida.

May 26, 1972:
Bush transfers to Alabama Guard unit so he can work on Senator William Blount's reelection campaign. According to his commanding officer, Bush never shows up for duty while in Alabama.

August 1972:
Bush is grounded for missing a mandatory physical.

November 1972:
Bush returns to Houston, but never reports for Guard duty.

December 1972:
In D.C. for the holidays, Bush takes 16-year-old brother Marvin drinking and driving. Confronted by father, Bush suggests they settle it "mano a mano."

October 1, 1973:
The Air National Guard relieves Bush from commitment eight months early, allowing him to attend Harvard Business School

Date: 2003-12-19 17:58 Subject: Interesting article I found on while attempting to study...

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomized controlled trials
Gordon C S Smith, professor1, Jill P Pell, consultant2
1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, 2 Department of Public Health, Greater Glasgow NHS Board, Glasgow G3 8YU

Correspondence to: G C S Smith


Objectives To determine whether parachutes are effective in preventing major trauma related to gravitational challenge.

Design Systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

Data sources: Medline, Web of Science, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases; appropriate internet sites and citation lists.

Study selection: Studies showing the effects of using a parachute during free fall.

Main outcome measure Death or major trauma, defined as an injury severity score > 15.

Results We were unable to identify any randomized controlled trials of parachute intervention.

Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomized controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticized the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organized and participated in a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.