Friday, July 31, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) You can almost hear the conservatives chuckling to themselves "Heh, Indeed". So let me get this straight, asshole: a program that was funded for three months runs out of money in just a week (a program that conservatives basically went nuts over), attesting to the wild popularity of the program, and you folks somehow think this is a failure? I think it's a testament to the fact that, deep down, Americans want to do better: they want better cars, they want to be environmentally responsible, and they want to help the economy.

They get it, you don't. Now shut up.
Of course, conservatives made up shit about what beers were drunk. Not so much, however. Turns out, only the Presidents had an imported beer, a Bud Light (now owned by a Belgian company). Biden had a non-alcoholic Buckler (by Heineken...designated driver?), Crowley a Blue Moon (division of Adolph Coors (BEEGSHMILE!) company, but believe it or not, also an import now), and Gates had a Boston-based Sam Adams, the only American light beer to be awarded a gold medal at a German beer competition that had no light beer category. And of course, the only frikkin' American beer served at the summit!
But let's face facts: non-alcoholic American beers are piss-poor quality, and Bud is so American it would be hard to ignore the company.
Conservatives point to the "cash for clunkers" program and mock Congressional reform of healthcare. I'm not getting this. Has there suddenly been an uprising of senior citizens outraged over the massive bureaucracy and governmental interference in Medicare?
4) Conservatives have mocked the rise in unemployment as the only economic news that counts. It's not. unemployment lags the economy by about six to eight months. Blame Bush.
5) "We promise to try not to kill people" Maybe the neo-cons should have taken the same oath.
7) Apparently, Google is NOT omniscient.
8) There's a trope among conservatives with regards to allowing people to sell their organs (this came up in light of Steve Jobs recent liver transplant). This is why it is a bad idea.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Flu WHO?

I'm a little surprised at the muted, if any, outrage from the right about this:

A complicated list of who should get pandemic flu vaccine in the fall is now set. When the vaccine starts arriving in September, first in line will be pregnant women; the caretakers of infants; children and young adults; older people with chronic illness; and health-care workers.

That's the advice of a 15-member committee of experts, which met all day Wednesday at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to advise the federal government on vaccine policy.

The priority list names targeted groups and suggests the order in which they should be vaccinated. While acknowledging the potential for confusion, the committee chose the strategy because of the possibility that the epidemic will be peaking within four to six weeks of when the vaccine becomes available.

This crisis has the confluence of a no-win situation for the Obama team, which is why I was certain this would be a softball for the right wing nutbags to tackle.
Think about it: An insufficient vaccine availability (Obama's Katrina) forces the government to ration health care (socialized medicine) which favors the poor, the ill, and women (welfare) over a crisis that hasn't begun to truly impact the United States (UN domination of US sovereignty) so why are we spending so much time and money and exerting such energy over a non-existent crisis (global climate change)?
I mean, damn, throw a birth certificate angle in there, and you have a feast for Republizombies!
There have been a million swine flu cases already diagnosed in the United States with just over 300 deaths reported and it's still the summer and far from flu season. The production schedule for vaccines has about 40 million doses being delivered in September, 80 million more in October, with another 80 million by the end of the year.
Argentina reports 100,000 cases in the middle of their winter, with at least 50 confirmed deaths. Argentina's population is roughly 1/8 the size of America's, so you do the math.
In other words, in the middle of our summer, hardly flu season, we've paced the outbreak of one of the worst outbreaks in the Southern Hemisphere winter. And that's after Argentina all but shut down for a week: businesses closed, travel was discouraged, and people were encouraged to remain at home.
Quarantine, in other words.
Once schools reopen in the fall, we can expect a tremendous spike in the number of cases, and we clearly will not have enough vaccine to get to school kids right away, particularly as this strain of flu seems to hit young people much harder than people over 18 (24 is the priority age for the vaccine, to inoculate college students).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World's Dumbest OpEd

And considering it's published in the Wall Street Journal, that's a mighty large field to beat out! Meet Thomas Franks...

The essential point about Gates-gate, or the tempest over last week's arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., is this: Most liberal commentary on the subject has taken race as its theme. Conservative commentators, by contrast, have furiously hit the class button.

Liberals, by and large, immediately plugged the event into their unfair-racial-profiling template, and proceeded to call for blacks and whites to "listen to each other's narratives" and other such anodyne niceties even after it started to seem that police racism was probably not what caused the incident.

Conservatives, meanwhile, were following their own "narrative," the one in which racism is often exaggerated and the real victim is the unassuming common man scorned by the deference-demanding "liberal elite." Commentators on the right zeroed in on the fact that Mr. Gates is an "Ivy League big shot," a "limousine liberal," and a star professor at Harvard, an institution they regard with special loathing. They pointed out that Mr. Gates allegedly addressed the cop with that deathless snob phrase, "you don't know who you're messing with"; they reminded us that Cambridge, Mass., is home to a particularly obnoxious combination of left-wing orthodoxy and upper-class entitlement; and they boiled over Mr. Gates's demand that the officer "beg my forgiveness."

OK, so far, that's not a bad assessment of the situation. Although I might quibble with the terms "most," certainly the loudest and most public voices have focused on those two issues. And now, for the brain fart:

Conservatives won this round in the culture wars, not merely because most of the facts broke their way, but because their grievance is one that a certain species of liberal never seems to grasp. Whether the issue is abortion, evolution or recycling, these liberal patricians are forever astonished to discover that the professions and institutions and attitudes that they revere are seen by others as arrogance and affectation.

The, uh, facts broke their way? Honeychild, the facts most certainly broke against the arresting officer and one wonders exactly why the conservatives in this country, the alleged bastion of individual rights and freedoms, aren't taking up Gates' cause.
After all, if he had been arrested for brandishing a weapon at a police invasion of his premises and assault on both his private property and his person, it would be Ruby Ridge all over again!
Oh. Wait. Randy Weaver was white. It's different for white people shooting at Federal agents. I forgot.
The facts, Mr. Frank, are that the originating 911 call made no mention of the suspect's race, except when prompted and even then, Gates or his driver were misidentified as possibly "Hispanic" (direct quote).
And yet, somehow, "two black men (were reported)" appeared in the initial police report. This, despite the firm denial by the complainant (Lucia Whalen) that she ever mentioned the race of anyone.
Those are the facts. Furthermore, since when has insulting other words, exercising your First Amendment right to be a jerk...been an arrestable offense? Detestable, perhaps. But it is not an arrestable offense for anyone, standing on their own property, to call a cop names.
After all, one would think they've heard a lot worse from traffic violators, yet county and town jails all across this nation are studiously empty of boneheads with quick tempers, mouthing off to the cop who stopped them for a taillight violation.
But wait! There's more from Mr. Franks!

The "elitism" narrative routinely blind-sides them, takes them by surprise again and again. There they are, feeling good about their solidarity with the coffee-growers of Guatemala, and then they find themselves on the receiving end of criticism from, say, the plumbers of Ohio.

Elitism, in this case, meaning a man who teaches at Harvard University is not entitled to the same basic Constitutional protections that, say, a limousine-riding Ph.D. columnist for the Wall Street Journal is. Especially if said teacher is uppity and black. But I digress.
But then again, limousine-riding Ph. D. columnists for the Wall Street Journal would hardly deign to share a beer with anyone, much less the house Negro at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, would they? Or is he just jealous that The Man is keeping a white man down?

UPDATE: Harvey Silvergate continues the discussion of the Constitutionality of Gates' arrest.
Sgt. Crowley had every right to check on what was reported as a possible break and entry. But as soon as he realized that the occupant was entitled to be in the house, he should have left. He admits in his own police report that he was indeed able to ascertain Professor Gates' residency and hence right to be in the house.

As for Professor Gates' inquiries into the officer's identity and badge number (as Gates describes the confrontation) or his tirade against the officer (as Crowley reports), the citizen was merely--even if neither kindly nor wisely--exercising his constitutional right when faced with official power. Even if Professor Gates were wearing a "Fuck You, Cambridge Police" jacket, the officer would have been obligated to leave the house without its occupant in handcuffs.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No, No, NO!

Just when you think we might actually make progress on national healthcare reform...

[Senator Max] Baucus [D-Stupidtown] says his group will produce the bill that best meets Mr. Obama's top priorities, broadly expanding coverage to the uninsured and curtailing the steep rise in health care spending over the long term, what policy makers call "bending the cost curve."

Still, if the three Democrats and three Republicans can pull off a grand bargain, it will have to be more conservative than the measures proposed by the House or the left-leaning Senate health committee. And that could force Mr. Obama to choose between backing the bipartisan deal or rank-and-file Democrats who want a bill that more closely reflects their liberal ideals.

Already, the group of six has tossed aside the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, which the president supports but Republicans said was a deal-breaker.

Instead, they are proposing a network of private, nonprofit cooperatives.

They have also dismissed the House Democratic plan to pay for the bill's roughly $1 trillion, 10-year cost partly with an income surtax on high earners.

The three Republicans have insisted that any new taxes come from within the health care arena. As one option, Democrats have proposed taxing high-end insurance plans with values exceeding $25,000.

The Senate group also seems prepared to drop a requirement, included in other versions of the legislation, that employers offer coverage to their workers. "We don't mandate employer coverage," Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and one of the six, said Monday. Employers that do not offer coverage may instead have to pay the cost of any government subsidies for which their workers qualify. In the House, centrist Democrats have temporarily stalled the health care bill, many lawmakers want to see what Mr. Baucus's group produces before voting on tax increases in the House bill.

What's the point in gutting our current system if we're only going to replace it with a NEW AND IMPROVED FAILED SYSTEM!!!
What's the point in reforming healthcare if the reform basically involves putting the foxes in charge of the hen house and letting the wolves walk away scot free?
Look, I understand that things in this country have to be done in small steps, like turning a battleship around in a harbor, but this is not even a step forward so much as a move to the side! Meanwhile, millions of Americans will die this year because of inadequate heatlh insurance, bad medical treatments because of bad insurance policies, and inadequate attention to preventative measures that could significantly improve not only the longevity of Americans, but the quality of that life, allowing us a more productive citizenry to help move this country forward.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Bad News, Worse News

An interesting study was released by the University of Hawaii overnight:

Atmospheric carbon increased 70 percent during the period known as Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago, said Richard Zeebe. Yet it was less than expected to explain a rapid increase in temperatures, he said in an interview.

"This constitutes an enigma because carbon dioxide released cannot account for the entire warming. This means something else contributed significantly to the warming," he said.

"We're not saying carbon dioxide is not important," he emphasized. "It is very important. Current and future warming is almost entirely due to carbon emissions. There is no doubt about this."

The right wing will probably crow loudly about this, in their Crow Magnon style, but this is even worse than anticipated.
See, if global climate change correlates with an increase in temperature, and that increase in temperature (which has been shown) is correlated with a rise in atmospheric carbon, then any fluctuation from that means that predictions going forward based on that mechanism are suspect.
Which might be good news IF temperatures had risen less with a rise in carbon than anticipated in history.
This study indicates something far more insidious, although you won't read about it in the news much. The implications of this story are the very real threat of a feedback loop that actually creates more warming than the levels of atmospheric carbon would dictate.
For example, it's very hard to measure atmospheric methane in ocean sediment cores-- carbon gets to the bottom of the ocean as unicelled organisms which process it in photosynthesis die and drop down-- but methane is even more of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This study showed that a 70% increase in atmospheric carbon created a 16 degree rise in global temperatures. This was a rise that would be predicted with a tripling of carbon dioxide levels.
Scientists predict now that CO2 levels will double this century. We're in for nasty weather, not just this century, but for milennia to come.