Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Do Neo-Cons Want A War With Iran?

This is a real, non-rhetorical questions. The Neoconservative movement is generally pro-war and specifically in love with the idea of war in Iran (and of course Iraq, but they got that one done already). The current anger of negotiations and an interim agreement with Iran on uranium enrichment is just the lasted chapter in the "bomb bomb Iran" fever from the hard right. This post from Juan Cole details some of that history

In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings. The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11.

But I'm not enough of an expert to judge either the current deal or the hawkish position, so I'd love to hear comments and discussion.

More Data Showing the ACA Works (if the website works)

Turns out the law that worked in Massachusetts is working in California and will almost certainly work for the nations as a whole once the website is fully functional. The latest data from California, the largest state in the nation, show pretty darn great numbers. Krugman: "enrollment is surging. At this point, more than 10,000 applications are being completed per day, putting the state well on track to meet its overall targets for 2014 coverage....Equally important is the information on who is enrolling. To work as planned, health reform has to produce a balanced risk pool — that is, it must sign up young, healthy Americans as well as their older, less healthy compatriots. And so far, so good: in October, 22.5 percent of California enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly above that group’s share of the population." But the website is most definitely not working. Which is, after this long, really inexcusable and ridiculous and does highlight systemic problems with Federal government contracting and project management. But it will work eventually, I think there can be little doubt on that. Despite whatever incompetence is at work, it's still just a software application that's already been shown as completely feasible in the various state exchanges. So the eventual success of the ACA seems highly likely. The damage this debacle will do politically in the mean time may be pretty large. Update: And this is what happened when I tried trouble shooting my problems with the site today with the "Live Chat" support feature. After a few minutes of a clueless guy asking me about pop-up blockers I got: [12:17:19 pm]: No such user exists [12:17:20 pm]: No such user exists [12:17:20 pm]: No such user exists [12:17:20 pm]: No such user exists [12:17:28 pm]: No such user exists

Friday, November 22, 2013

David Blaine and Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford's awesome reaction to this trick almost makes up for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Right Wing Hypocrisy: Casino Edition

Billionaire casino owner and right wing political power house Sheldon Adelson loves FREEDOM! He even founded the political lobbying group Freedom Watch and supports freedom loving liberarians like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker. But it turns out, he loved freedom right up until it might cut into profits. So he's "hired an army of lawyers and lobbyists to try to convince Congress to ban online gambling". That's a bit too much freedom for Shelley A. But in case you think that's the height of hypocrisy for a conservative freedom lover, wait till you hear WHY he says he opposes online gambling. Not, of course, because it would be competition for his many casinos. No way. “My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out," said Adelson. So you see, gambling is immoral. That is, gambling outside of Mr. Adelson's casino's is immoral. Inside them, it's quite wonderful. I think he may have single-handedly created a new branch of ethical philosophy I will name Location Based Morality.

Guess who just successfully signed up for Obamacare

No, not me. John Boehner. If he was a real conservative, he would have refused to get health insurance through tha ACA. We all know if't rife with death panels (sorry, i mean DEATH PANELS!!!!!) and communism etc. But I guess when it comes down to brass tacks, real conservatives still want health insurance. Newsflash to the GOP, so does everyone else.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Filibuster Reform Imminent?

Harry Reid is on the Senate floor calling for a change to the filibuster rules, ending it for non-Supreme Court Judicial and executive branch appointments. This is being driven most recently by the refusal of the GOP to allow Obama to make any appointments to vacant DC Circuit Court posts. They are explicitly blocking the appointments not based on the nominees' qualifications, but simply because they don't want a democrat to be able to appoint any judges at all to this important court. It's a blatant abuse of Senate rules and power which really can't be allowed. Obama won re-election and this is merely another attempt to nullify the results by no-democratic means. Elections have consequences, or at least they are supposed to. The GOP's obstructionism undermines democracy and makes the government unable to function. According to TPM, "What we expect is that Reid will in the next few minutes bring up one of the Obama judicial nominees for a vote. When Republicans filibuster, Reid will formally call for a rules change and bring it to a vote. Senate Democrats will prevail on a simply majority vote and the filibuster as we know it will no longer apply to executive branch nominees and judicial nominees below the Supreme Court." So, baring some last minute deal, I think this is going to happen today. And considering Reid and McConnell already made such a deal and McConnell almost immediately reneged, think this might actually happen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What You should Be Reading (if you want to be like me)

Which I assume you do.
I went was looking at some old posts (i'm a great writer, by the way) and saw an old list of some good blogs/sites I put up a couple years ago and thought it was time for an update. Only a couple from the 1st list are making the cut this time. 1) Kevin Drum at Good magazine, great blog. He's practically the original policy wonk blogger. 2) Paul Krugman at Economist, Nobel Prize winner and all around nice guy (despite his well known shrillness), Krugman is a clear thinker and writer who follows the data and the economic model instead of being wed to an ideology. That said, his politics are very liberal and his predominantly New Keynesian models generally (though not always) lead to policy prescriptions that are match. But he's also been the most accurate political/policy pundit based on a recent study. In fact, it turned out liberal pundits far outperformed their conservative counterparts. As Stephen colbert once sai, facts have a well known liberal bias. 3) Slashdot. As the tag line says "News for Nerds. Stuff That Matters". 4) is a pastiche of awesomeness from around the web, with recent link to a video of 17 year old Biggie Smalls rapping to a story about the high school coach virtually never punts and always on-side kicks (and has won 3 state titles). 5) Wonkblog, Ezra Klein's blog at the Washington Post. 6) Wired Magazine 7) Calculated Risk - indispensable blog for finance and related issues. That's it for now.

GOP's Latest Variation on Nullification

"But now, Dems have already agreed not to change the rules once, and the filibustering continues, even though Republicans admitted when the last deal was reached that they were wrong to block Obama from staffing the government. And now, the GOP position is not grounded in an objection to Obama’s nominees or to the function of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; it’s grounded in the argument that Obama should not have the power to fill these vacancies on the court at all. As Jonathan Chait argues, Republicans may not have even thought through the full implications of the position they’ve adopted. But Dems have, and taking it to its logical conclusion, they believe Republicans have presented them with a simple choice: Either they change the rules, or they accept those limits on Obama’s power. And that really leaves only one option."

Salary History, Schmalery History

So apparently a new thing (at least new to me) is companies asking not for salary requirements in job applications but your salary history.  Personally, this seems like ridiculous BS to me.  It cedes unfair advantage to one party in salary negotiations and doesn't set employee compensation based on the value of their work.  What do you, my loyal readers think?  Discuss.

Number Theory Awesomeness

"On May 13, an obscure mathematician garnered worldwide attention and accolades from the mathematics community for settling a long-standing open question about prime numbers. Yitang Zhang showed that even though primes get increasingly rare as you go further out along the number line, you will never stop finding pairs of primes separated by at most 70 million. By the end of May, mathematicians had uncovered simple tweaks to Zhang's argument that brought the bound below 60 million. Then Terence Tao, a winner of the Fields Medal, mathematics' highest honor, created a 'Polymath project,' an open, online collaboration to improve the bound that attracted dozens of participants. By July 27, the team had succeeded in reducing the proven bound on prime gaps from 70 million to 4,680. Now James Maynard has upped the ante by presenting an independent proof that pushes the gap down to 600."

I always thought number theory and related proofs were pretty neat. But I can't even complrehend how you prove there are an infinite number of prime pairs spereated by no more than 70 million, and then interatively advance the gap down to 60 million, 4680 and 600.  I'm too stupid to understand the proofs (and too smart to try), but the gap sizes seem extraordinarily arbitrary for number theory proofs.  It's like saying "I can't prove that there are finite cows in the world, but i CAN prove there are at least 294".  It's not really like that at all, but that's the best I could come up with.

Bonus number theory proof joke:
    Several scientists were asked to prove that all odd integers higher than 2 are prime.

    Physicist: 3 is a prime, 5 is a prime, 7 is a prime, 9 is an experimental error, 11 is a prime. Just to be sure, try several randomly chosen numbers: 17 is a prime, 23 is a prime...
    Engineer: 3 is a prime, 5 is a prime, 7 is a prime, 9 is an approximation to a prime, 11 is a prime,...
    Mathematician: 3 is a prime, 5 is a prime, 7 is a prime, therefore by induction......

Non World Cup All Star Team

Via for my soccer loving friends, an all star roster of the best players who won't be playing in the world cup.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Vogons Got Nothing On This Guy

Via Kevin Drum,

From Paul Ryan, who's apparently hard at work on a conservative plan to fight poverty: 
"You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul. Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people."
Is Ryan's goal to destroy poverty or poetry?

JPMorgan Chase $13 billion Settlement could be an opportunity for Jersey City

According to the settlement, "$2 billion in relief, the person said, JPMorgan has agreed to reduce interest rates on existing loans, offer new loans to low-income home buyers and keep those loans on its books. The bank will also receive credit for demolishing abandoned homes and other efforts focused on curbing urban blight".  Considering JPMorgan has 2 entire office building in Jersey City, it seems like a perfect place for them to direct some of those funds to curb urban blight.  It's a win-win, letting them satisfy their settlement agreement and improve their own neighborhood backyard, so to speak.  

Will Google Glass Actually Be Useful?

I know there'a lot of skepticism about google glass, but I'll throw my lot in with the optimists' camp.  Things like the stupid android watch from samsung are useless.  It is just a smaller, crappier interface for the phone you already have in your pocket.  Glass, with it's heads up display interface, opens up a huge range of new applications and improved user experience for existing ones.  With it's limited battery life, high cost and still somewhat kludgy physical design, I don't thing the first gen Glass will be a big huge hit sales wise, but in 2 to 3 years I expect it's successors to be a big deal.  Here's a quick rundown of some new apps from Wired.



Notorious BIG freestyling in Bed Stuy at age 17

Kid was already a pimp.

A Pattern of Insane Behavior

So murdering douchebag (yeah I know he was legally acquitted) George Zimmerman is at it again, with his most recent escapades ending with his arrest on charges of felony aggravated assault.  His girlfriend called 911 and said he smashed her belongings, pointed his shotgun at her and then forced her out of her house.  In court today he claimed she was the aggressor and "went crazy on him".  Sounds kind of familiar, huh? This is the same asshole who already has a felony assault on a police officer, a restraining order from another ex for domestic abuse, and was accused of assaulting his father in law and pulling a gun on him too.  Oh yeah, he also shot and killed an unarmed 17 year old kid walking home alone.

So, how much stupid, criminal, violent shit does this guy have to do before people who have been defending him and his gun rights admit he might just be a fucking asshole who got away with murder?  Maybe if he actually shoots his wife or girlfriend or father in law?   No one else saw exactly what happened, certainly not me, but at some point you look at a pattern of crazy, violent behavior and say "yeah. that guy is a psychotic asshole who probably murdered Trayvon Martin".