Tuesday, December 30, 2008
After the Continental Army was driven out of New Jersey, an article titled "The American Crisis" was published in the Pennsylvania Journal, DECEMBER 23, 1776. Written by an aide-de-camp to General Nathanael Greene named Thomas Paine, General Washington ordered it read to the troops: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country... Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." Thomas Paine continued: "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly....Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated... God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction...who have so earnestly...sought to avoid the calamities of war." Paine concluded: "The whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back...by a few broken forces headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen... 'Show your faith by your works,' that God may bless you...I thank God, that I fear not." Via: American Minute I learned of the importance of Tom Paine while reading Washington's Crossing. Author: David Hackett Fischer. Excellent account of amazing true history.
Monday, December 29, 2008
How will they become one airline when they can't work together as two? Local News | Planes bump on ground at Sea-Tac | Seattle Times Newspaper:
Two flights bound for the Midwest from Seattle were canceled this morning when the passenger-filled planes backed into each other as they left their gates, airport officials said. No one was injured. A Delta 737-800 plane, Flight 1288 to Cincinnati, was backing away from its gate at the Concourse Terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, shortly before 7 a.m, according to airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. At the same time, Betancourt said, a Northwest 757-300 plane, Flight 620 to Minneapolis, was backing away from its gate at the South Satellite Terminal.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Interesting observation on Caroline Schlossberg's campaign to carry on Camlot. NY Daily News quoting: ... But a strange thing is happening on the way to the coronation. The wheels of the bandwagon are coming off. Fantasy is giving way to inescapable truth. * That truth is that Kennedy is not ready for the job and doesn't deserve it. Somebody who loves her should tell her. Her quest is becoming a cringe-inducing experience, as painful to watch as it must be to endure. Because she is the only survivor of that dreamy time nearly 50 years ago, she remains an iconic figure. But in the last few days, her mini-campaign has proved she has little to offer New Yorkers except her name. Her handlers and family enablers insist she feels no entitlement to the Senate job, yet there is no other possible reason to give it to her. Her name is the sole reason she even dares go for it. Camelot must be Gaelic for chutzpah. ... Kennedy apparently decided to go public to build support and scare off others, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose nasty divorce from her cousin still roils both clans. Kennedy also had to introduce herself to Democratic party leaders because, other than endorsing Obama, her politics were a mystery. But the minute she faced the routine questions that help define a candidate for virtually any office, she had nothing to say. There was no "there" there. "I just hope everybody understands that it is not a campaign but that I have a lifelong devotion to public service," she said during her first-ever visit to Rochester. "I've written books on the Constitution and the importance of individual participation. And I've raised my family. I think I really could help bring change to Washington." ... "I'm really coming into this as somebody who isn't, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party. I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. And, you know, and that would be obviously true with my relationship with the mayor.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
When it comes to science, Barack Obama is no better than many of us. Today he joins the list of shame of those in public life who made scientifically unsupportable statements in 2008. Science, News - The Independent: quoting: When it comes to science, Barack Obama is no better than many of us. Today he joins the list of shame of those in public life who made scientifically unsupportable statements in 2008. Closer to home, Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith faltered on the science of food, while Kate Moss, Oprah Winfrey and Demi Moore all get roastings for scientific illiteracy. The Celebrities and Science Review 2008, prepared by the group Sense About Science, identifies some of the worst examples of scientific illiteracy among those who profess to know better – including top politicians. Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama. "Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said. His words were echoed by Mr McCain. "It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said. "There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The collective wisdom of people who risked their own money beat every pundit on the presidential election. From one of my favorite science journalists - John Tierney at NY Times. Bettors Beat Pundits - TierneyLab Blog - NYTimes.com:
We debated the merits of collective wisdom earlier this year, after the bettors in the the Intrade online prediction market wrongly picked Barack Obama to win the New Hampshire primary. The bettors are looking more savvy now that the election’s over and the last undecided state, Missouri, has finally been called for John McCain. Once again, collective wisdom backed by cash has triumphed over conventional wisdom — at least when you compare the Intrade bettors with some of the pundits who get paid to make predictions. On the morning of Election Day, I printed out the expectations from the Dublin-based Intrade market as well as a roundup of predictions from nearly two dozen political consultants, journalists and academics that appeared at the Huffington Post. The Intrade bettors expected Mr. Obama to end up with 364 votes in the Electoral College — one less than he actually got. None of the pundits came so close. Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, came closest with prediction of 361; all the rest were off by at least 12 votes. Nate Silver, the much-talked-about statistician at FiveThirtyEight.com, underestimated Mr. Obama’s tally by 18 votes. Many of the pundits underestimated Mr. Obama’s total by more than 25 votes, like Chris Matthews, Arianna Huffington, and the strategists Paul Begala, James Carville and Alex Castellanos.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We got out of Los Cabos only an hour late. We had to pay big bucks for a taxi because Shuttle Express isn't doing home delivery. They wouldn't have trouble at our home a mile north of the Seattle city limites, but I don't blame them. And ... Seattle is leaving the streets frozen on purpose... The street department is not using salt... to save the fish!? Seattle Times Newspaper: [In Seattle] there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design. "We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York." The city's approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said. The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows. "If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."
Monday, December 22, 2008
We just might be stuck in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. You won't feel sorry for us if you take a look at Playa Grande Resort (means big beach). It's in a great location on the Pacific Ocean side of Land's End, but still walking distance to the marina and its shops, even for us lame people. Though we moved to a cheaper hotel for our last two days. Alaska Airline ceased all operations at the Seattle airport Sunday night. Of about 30 flights scheduled to arrive only 3 long hauls from Hawaii and Mexico arrived between 6 pm and midnight. See FlightStats.com by airline and airport. But they only go back one day, as far as I can find. Our flight is Tuesday at 4:30. Wish us luck - to be stuck here. No! To get home for Christmas. But, most of all, not to be stuck at LAX.
Update 12/24: Our flight went and only one hour late. It was canceled Sunday, so some people "had to" stay longer and others took their chances at LAX. I have been following the industry for over 30 years and here is what I would do if I were in their place. I would not go to the airport until I knew my flight was going.
- Go to FlightStats.com. First, look at your flight - its status. The problem is that airlines often don't want to tell the bad news. But they are better about it now, particularly because they get a worse mark on their record for a very late flight than for canceling. So check your flight for its expected departure status.
- An additional help: If the airline won't tell you, then look for clues! In some cases you can guess which flight the aircraft will do before your flight. Then you check for the departure of that previous flight at the airline's web site or FlightStats. For example, at Los Cabos the flight to Seattle is preceded by the flight from Seattle. (The problem with this method is you almost always need to be leaving for the airport by that departure time, so step 3.)
- Set alerts at FlightStats.com. FlightStats will send you email or call your cell phone when the status of the flight you choose changes. So you can get the update while you are on the road.
- But - don't go to the airport if there is reasonable doubt your flight will go. Stay in the sun by the pool or on the beach! And go online to change your flight or call the airline.
The photo [has been removed]: Land's End - the end of Baja California - at Cabo San Lucas. Sand under the arch, as pictured here, occurs only once every few years and only when both the Moon is closer to the Earth than usual and it is full or new moon. This occurred last week.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Charges that President Bush only acts "go it alone" fall flat against evidence he has had many major foreign efforts that have been carried out in cooperation with the beneficiaries and with other aiding countries. Paul Dobrianski has been involved in many of these efforts as Undersecretary for democracy and global affairs. "Every issue here has a vibrant multilateral component to it. But who has noticed? One problem has been that the efforts are not in the hard-policy head-line areas, but in soft, long-term efforts that go on quietly, without much notice. For example, they began efforts to aid Afghan women to start small businesses early on they met with two young women who were starting a micro-finance bank - only two. Their next meeting they had to meet in the cafeteria at the US Embassy because 80 to 100 women attended. The next meeting was at the offices of the women financiers. A little targeted assitance had a large effect. Trafficking of persons = Early in his administration Bush created an office to focus on this problem - the first in the world. Today dozens of countries have such offices. Congo Basin - In 2002 the US announced a major effort to protect the world's second largest rain forest. With 40 governments and other groups. Avian Flu - In 2005 Bush started international partnerships to combat this flu. Democracy - With US leadership the UN created the Democracy Fund to aid projects to further democracy. Africa - Bush increased health funding by 4 times. And his effort for HIV/AIDS in Africa dwarfs what Clinton did. We have friends who are working actively in Uganda who say that Bush has been very good for Africa. Source: "Bush was no unilateralist," Wall Street Journal, December 13-14, 2008.
When Congressman Jack Murtha was accusing our Marines of being cold-blooded killers, several of them were charged and going to be tried. Acquittal on the charges isn't enough for pork-spending Jack. He says they are guilty after they have been found innocent. CNS News
Although all of the charges have been dropped against all of the Marines – except for one – involved in the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) said he stands by his May 2006 remarks that the Marines involved “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This is great. Snowflake and Snow Crystal Photographs: These pictures show real snow crystals that fell to earth in Northern Ontario, Alaska, Vermont, the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. They were captured by Kenneth G. Libbrecht using a specially designed snowflake photomicroscope.
He has a book we saw in the bookstore. The variety is incredible.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
My response to Marginal Revolution Green buildings Seattle built a new "green" city hall a few years back and got a gold LEED certificate for it. Here is the press release. But... now the reality. The new building is WORSE than the old one. Seattle P-I
"Seattle's new City Hall is an energy hog - Higher utility bills take the glow off its 'green' designation "Seattle's new City Hall was designed with the environment in mind, using the most energy-efficient technologies. "But the building acts like an old-fashioned electricity hog. It has lofty public spaces and walls of glass designed to welcome citizens and suggest an open and transparent government. It also uses 15 percent to 50 percent more electricity some months than the older, larger building it replaced, according to Seattle City Light utility bills. "The high energy use is an embarrassment for the city at a time when Mayor Greg Nickels is urging municipalities across the country to cut their energy consumption and voluntarily comply with the Kyoto environmental protocols. City Council member
WSJ.com: Inside what's left of Wall Street, investment bankers are doing all they can to cope with a business that is disappearing before their eyes. Yes, there are tens of thousands of people still with jobs. They just don't have much work. Debt and stock markets are virtually shut, merger volume is down by 28%, and whole lines of structured finance are closed for good. Investment banking has since become a phantom realm, where everyone is busy but no one is doing anything. In this world, status is conferred by a quality meeting, not a completed transaction; a $700,000 salary is deemed generous; and an apocryphal story keeps circulating of a former J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. mortgage-securities banker now driving a forklift. "An entire generation has worked for 20 years, lifted up their heads, and it's all gone 'poof,' " says one Goldman Sachs banker. Indeed, last Friday J.P. Morgan quietly laid off a passel of Bear Stearns bankers. They thought they had found a safe harbor after Bear imploded early this year. For now, the coping is taking the form of prolific meeting-taking. Ten of 11 people interviewed described, with unexpected eagerness, how now is a good time to "connect with clients" or "build relationships." One boasted of spending just two days a month in the office, while another ex-J.P. Morgan employee boasted of two breakthrough meetings -- just hours before he was fired.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I intend to follow the effort to get control of our health-care system - government control. Can Tom Daschle put together a system that has the efficiency of the US Postal Service with the compassion of the IRS? Does he intend to? No. But he is likely to "succeed." During Clinton's term while Hillary's complete takeover failed they did get hold of the system of vaccines for kids. And it was a mess. Slower and more expensive than the various parts and pieces that together worked before. The following is by Brett Skinner of the Fraser Institute in Canada. They do excellent work in several areas, including health care. The Trouble with Canadian Healthcare - The American, A Magazine of Ideas
... the alleged superiority of single-payer health care is not consistent with the evidence. The reality is that, on average, Americans spend more of their income on healthcare than Canadians do but get faster access to more and better medical resources. Healthcare appears to cost less in Canada than in the United States partly because Canadian government health insurance does not cover many advanced medical treatments and technologies that are commonly available to Americans. If Canadians had access to the same quality and quantity of healthcare resources that Americans enjoy, Canada’s government health insurance monopoly would cost much more than it currently does. Our recent study comparing healthcare in the United States and Canada shows that the public-private U.S. system outperforms the Canadian system on almost all the key indicators of available healthcare resources. The United States even performs nearly as well as Canada in terms of providing “effective” health insurance coverage for its population. Americans spend 55 percent more than Canadians do on healthcare as a percentage of their national economy. But consider what Americans get for the money they spend: compared to Canada, the United States has 327 percent more MRI units and 183 percent more CT scanners per million population. The United States also produces 100 percent more inpatient surgical procedures per million population, and it has 14 percent more physicians and 19 percent more nurses per million population. U.S. hospitals are newer and better equipped than Canadian hospitals, and Americans have access to more new medicines than Canadians. Other important facts about single-payer health insurance in Canada that are seldom reported by the pundits or politicians include the following: • In 1993, Canadian patients waited an average of 9.3 weeks between the time they saw their family physician and the time they actually received the treatment they needed. By 2007, the average wait time had almost doubled to 18.3 weeks. The median wait time in Canada is nearly double the wait time that physicians consider clinically reasonable. • The Canadian single-payer system does not cover prescription drugs on a universal basis. Only about one-third of the Canadian population is eligible for various government-financed drug programs. The remainder of the population has private sector drug insurance coverage or pays cash for outpatient drugs, just like in the United States. • Public drug plans in Canada often refuse to cover new drugs. On average, only 44 percent of all new drugs that were approved as safe and effective by the Canadian government in 2004 were actually covered by government drug insurance programs in October 2007. Even for the small percentage of new drugs that are covered by public drug programs, patients have to wait nearly one year, on average, after government approval for public insurance to start covering these new drugs. • Consumers in Canada and the United States spend roughly the same proportion of their per-capita GDP on prescription drugs (1.5 percent in Canada compared to 1.7 percent in the United States). As a percentage of per-capita, after-tax income, the cost burden of prescription drug spending is slightly higher in Canada (2.5 percent in Canada compared to 2.3 percent in the United States). • Between the fiscal years 1997-98 and 2006-07, government spending on healthcare grew in all 10 Canadian provinces at an average annual rate of 7.3 percent, while total available provincial revenue grew at an average annual rate of 5.9 percent and provincial GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent. This level of government healthcare spending is unsustainable over the long haul. Supporters of the Canadian healthcare system like to point out that the American system fails to provide universal health insurance coverage. This is true. But it’s also true that Canada doesn’t do much better when it comes to actually delivering access to necessary medical care. Government data show that an estimated 1.7 million Canadians—in a country of around 33-34 million—were unable to access a regular family physician in 2007. Without access to a family doctor, a person can’t obtain regular primary care or referrals for elective specialty medical services. Moreover, that 1.7 million estimate does not include the many Canadians who have access to a regular family doctor but are on waiting lists for specialist treatment. Access to a waiting list is not the same thing as access to healthcare. When Canadians can’t get access to healthcare, they are no better off than uninsured Americans. For that matter, how many Americans are really uninsured? We often hear that 47 million Americans lack health insurance. Yet research in the United States has demonstrated that the actual number of “effectively” uninsured Americans is less than half that number, and that being uninsured is usually only a temporary condition. Indeed, the estimated percentage of the population that was “effectively” uninsured for non-emergency, necessary medical services in 2007 was not that different in the United States and Canada: 7.9 percent in the United States compared to at least 6 percent in Canada. Canadian patients who want to escape the delays in the public system are also barred from paying privately for healthcare services. In practical terms, Canadian patients are unable to buy quicker access or better care than the government health program provides. In this sense, Canadian patients on waiting lists are worse off than uninsured Americans, the latter of whom are at least legally allowed to use their own money or credit to buy healthcare. Ironically, while Canadian-style healthcare appears to be gaining support in the United States, it is losing support and legitimacy in Canada. In a 2005 case challenging Quebec’s government-run health insurance program, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the single-payer system a violation of a person’s right to preserve his or her own health. Similar cases are now underway in two other Canadian provinces. Ultimately, a single-payer system is probably the least effective way to achieve universal health insurance coverage. Canada has proved this in spades. The U.S. healthcare model may be flawed, but the Canadian model is far worse.
The graphic: I went from two crutches to one the first week of August and dropped the one around October 1. See broken pelvis.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Should we reward budget-busting irresponsibility? The states that were undisciplined and spent more than they took in want us to. Prodigal Governors by The Editors on National Review Online: The states have been on a spending jag, and now that the bills are coming due, Washington is hosting a parade of governors led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has demanded that the federal bursars “get off of their rigid ideologies” and write him a check for a couple dozen billion dollars. Tellingly, he compares the state of California to an “accident victim on the side of the road that is bleeding to death.” But this was no accident. Who was behind the wheel, governor? California’s projected budget deficit over the next 20 months is about $28 billion, or 26 percent of the state’s budget. Since taking over from Gray Davis, who didn’t exactly set the gold standard of fiscal discipline, Schwarzenegger has steered the state into a 40-percent increase in spending, some $41 billion a year. Arithmetically inclined readers may calculate that California’s spending increase under Schwarzenegger and the usual spendthrift Democrats in the legislature is a greater sum than the projected shortfall. Which is to say, if only Californians could return to the Gray Davis version of fiscal discipline, they’d be in the black. But spending under Schwarzenegger has grown at twice the rate it did under Davis. If this is the alternative, give us that old-time rigid ideology, the one that says Republicans were put on this Earth with a mandate to cut spending and lower taxes. Instead of looking to Washington for a handout, the prodigal governors should look to their more prudent brothers, such as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Noting on Tuesday that Texas currently enjoys a budget surplus, Governor Perry laid out his state’s formula for success: “Texas has created a business-friendly environment where 1,000 people a day move to our state to work and raise a family.” Montana’s Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, is no captive to conservative ideology, but he stewards a surplus as well, helped along by Republicans in the state senate. Even in Alaska, where 90 percent of the state’s revenue depends in some part on oil, the price of which has this year fallen by two-thirds, Governor Palin is managing admirably. Raising Wyoming’s taxes to subsidize Californians’ extravagance violates both prudence and federalism; we have 50 different states for a reason.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tom Friedman asks if the people of Pakistan strongly oppose the Mumbai mass killing. Op-Ed Columnist - Tom Friedman - NYTimes.com: ...if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets. So what can we expect from Pakistan and the wider Muslim world after Mumbai? India says its interrogation of the surviving terrorist indicates that all 10 men come from the Pakistani port of Karachi, and at least one, if not all 10, were Pakistani nationals. First of all, it seems to me that the Pakistani government, which is extremely weak to begin with, has been taking this mass murder very seriously, and, for now, no official connection between the terrorists and elements of the Pakistani security services has been uncovered. At the same time, any reading of the Pakistani English-language press reveals Pakistani voices expressing real anguish and horror over this incident. Take for instance the Inter Press Service news agency article of Nov. 29 from Karachi: “ ‘I feel a great fear that [the Mumbai violence] will adversely affect Pakistan and India relations,’ the prominent Karachi-based feminist poet and writer Attiya Dawood told I.P.S. ‘I can’t say whether Pakistan is involved or not, but whoever is involved, it is not the ordinary people of Pakistan, like myself, or my daughters. We are with our Indian brothers and sisters in their pain and sorrow.’ ” But while the Pakistani government’s sober response is important, and the sincere expressions of outrage by individual Pakistanis are critical, I am still hoping for more. I am still hoping — just once — for that mass demonstration of “ordinary people” against the Mumbai bombers, not for my sake, not for India’s sake, but for Pakistan’s sake. Why? Because it takes a village. The best defense against this kind of murderous violence is to limit the pool of recruits, and the only way to do that is for the home society to isolate, condemn and denounce publicly and repeatedly the murderers — and not amplify, ignore, glorify, justify or “explain” their activities. ... Why should Pakistanis do that? Because you can’t have a healthy society that tolerates in any way its own sons going into a modern city, anywhere, and just murdering everyone in sight — including some 40 other Muslims — in a suicide-murder operation, without even bothering to leave a note. Because the act was their note, and destroying just to destroy was their goal. If you do that with enemies abroad, you will do that with enemies at home and destroy your own society in the process
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Baghdad Jim McDermott is my own congressman. He is an underachiever: in 20 years there he has made some small successful initiatives for Africa, but nothing else. Oh, he must have helped Hillary with her health-care initiative in 1995 that made people rush for the Republicans and stay with them for 12 years. He has always been in favor of big government.
He was trusted to provide an ornament for the White House Christmas tree. Too much responsibility for him. The request was for a "red, white and blue patriotic theme." He donated an ornament with his photo on it and a blurb about impeaching President Bush.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Eric Liddell The Flying Man Mission Frontiers: In 1981, movie audiences in the USA and abroad were introduced to 1924 Olympic champion Eric Liddell through the ﬁlm “Chariots of Fire,” which went on to win four Academy Awards, including the award for best picture. The focus of this ﬁlm was on the events preceding and including those Olympic games in Paris.... What we are not told in that movie is that the second half of Eric Liddell’s life was every bit as inspiring as the ﬁrst half – although in a different way. Now that inspiring story is to be portrayed in a major motion picture to be called “The Flying Man.” The entire article is available in PDF form.
Time vis Yahoo! News:
Thailand's already turbulent political landscape was thrown into further turmoil Tuesday when the Constitutional Court dissolved the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and two of its coalition partners for electoral fraud. As the verdict was read that the government leadership, including the current prime minister, would step down, anti-government protesters occupying Bangkok's two main airports erupted into cheers and waived Thai flags. Red-shirted government supporters, who had gathered outside the court building to try and prevent the proceedings, dismissed the decision as a judicial coup d'etat.At the Suvumbarmi (sp?) Bangkok airport someone fired a grenade that killed a PAD supporter and injured some others. Thailand is very dependent on tourism and the international airport is a major international hub. So closing it (and the domestic airport Don Muang) hurts a lot! PAD calls itself pro-democracy, but they oppose elections. They want the elite to pick the government.